The flurry of 2014 has calmed, with the real estate market leveling to “more normal” levels. I have to be honest that I was getting a bit nervous this past summer as homes in certain communities were selling at a frantic pace and many WELL above list price with multiple offers.
Many people love to see fast recoveries, but those of us that worked through and endured the market meltdown several years ago remember how dangerous a market “bubble” can be and I personally think we were headed there again. Fortunately (although many Sellers on the market right now may not agree and I certainly mean no offense) the feeding frenzy has subsided and it is getting a little easier and much less stressful for a Buyer to find a home.
My idea of a “perfect” real estate market? Not a Seller’s market or a Buyer’s market, just a slow and steady value growth market which benefits Sellers, Buyers and the respective communities they live in. A market where listing Agents and selling Agents work cohesively to make the transaction a “win/win” for all involved. And a market where lenders give sound and ethical advice to their clients so their home purchase becomes an easily sustainable part of their retirement or investment savings.
Get In Someone's Face (it's not what you think)
One of the most impactful books I have ever read is “The 7 Levels of Communication” by Michael Maher. I have embraced and adopted many of the principals of his system in my business and the results are proving to be exponential. He focuses on “The Communication Pyramid” in which 1 on 1 (face to face) meetings being the most effective in business, but I realized the truth of that in everyday life just this morning.
After getting YET ANOTHER few inches of snow during the night, this morning my snow blower pull cord broke on the first pull! That was at 6:00 am, so after shoveling our driveway I called the large local retailer/repair business and was informed it would be 24 hour turnaround time for the repair. So I immediately drove there to drop it off and after a cheerful good morning to the repair counter, I left 20 minutes later with the repair completed.
Face-to-face meetings are absolutely more effective than phone calls, emails and especially text messages! Put a smile on and get “in someone’s face!”
Demand is sky high due to a lack of homes available for sale and it continues to push prices higher. While so many people have complained that “mortgages are hard to get”, I just didn’t see that in 2013. Now I may be one of the few, but my clients ranged from $75,500 to $728,500 so my demographic is very broad and it isn’t like I was in a select market.
2014 is going to be an excellent year again for Sellers, our area values and for Buyers, but homes will be harder to find. Buyers have to be made aware that homes area a bit harder to find, but if they are patient we can find that perfect home for them! If you are a Seller and have been waiting for values & prices to come back, now is the time.
It Does Matter How People See You!
A bit of a twist for this week’s topic… When I was in my teens, I was given one of the best bits of advice from Mr. Pete Stanley, who was like a second father to me and the leading Realtor in the area for many years where I grew up. Pete ALWAYS looked his best and one day I commented on how he was always “dressed up.” I remember his words and expression today as clear today as I did then. He said, “you just never know when you have to make a good impression.” I just had that very instance happen again yesterday and I was ready. The result was new business. It’s more than just making a good impression – it’s how I best represent my clients. Thanks again Pete – you’re legacy continues.
Staging Your Home To Sell!
Want to sell your home quickly and for top dollar? Staging can help. Staging is presenting your home in its best and most appealing light to the majority of home-buyers.
In theory, staging isn't hard or costly, but in reality, many homeowners find it difficult because it's often hard to see something objectively when we love it.
An easy way to see effectively staged homes is to visit decorated models. Decorating a model is expensive, but builders are willing to invest the cost because they understand just how well a staged home sells.
Basic Staging Rules
#1 - Clean. Your home must sparkle! To achieve this level is often only feasible by hiring a cleaning crew. In fact, having a cleaning service return weekly while your house is for sale is probably a pretty good investment. Get your windows professionally cleaned inside and out too.
#2 - Fix. Got a dripping faucet or a cracked tile? These will send the wrong message to potential buyers. Getting them fixed before you put your house on the market is a smart idea.
#3 - Eliminate Clutter. The "50% Rule" requires that you eliminate the clutter in your home by at least half. This may be the hardest rule of all! We love our clutter - - it reflects our memories, hobbies, and values. But it doesn't sell homes! Clutter makes homes seem smaller and disorganized. (Have you ever noticed that the really expensive stores seem to have an expansive, clutter-free layout, while "cheap" stores are often a jumble of merchandise?) Even the ancient practice of Feng Shui has as a central focus the elimination of clutter.
#4 - Executive Neutral. Neutral colors sell. It's a fact. Try to convey an image of quality and neutrality. Potential buyers walking through your home want to imagine themselves as the owners. Staying high-quality, but neutral is safest.
#5 - De-personalize. Remove objects that your potential buyers won't be able to identify with. For example, political and religious items may turn off whole groups of buyers, because they cannot "imagine" your home as their home. Buying a home is an emotional decision, and you want potential buyers to make an emotional connection with your home by being able to "see" themselves in it.
Wondering if something is acceptable staging? Visit a model home to see if they do it. For example, can you leave your high-end, designer toaster out on your kitchen counter? Nope! You won't find a single toaster in the kitchens of model homes. Can you display an artsy topiary tree on your kitchen counter? Yes. Model homes do!
"Curb appeal." They say you can only make one "first impression," and people usually form their first impression within 30 seconds. What potential buyers see when they drive up to your house will be their first impression. This is a good place to spend a little extra time and money. Plant flowers, trim bushes, weed, pick up leaves, repaint your front door, replace tarnished house numbers or a dented mailbox, get a brand-new neutral doormat, park your old car somewhere else.
The entrance. The first glimpse inside your home should give potential buyers positive, uplifting feelings. Make your entryway as light and bright as possible. Leave all the lights in the house on. (Have you noticed that model homes do this?) Get rid of all area rugs. (Even authentic, high-quality carpets should normally be removed since they break up the expanse of floor space, making rooms look smaller.) Limit your cooking to very plain foods so odors don't linger. (No cabbage, garlic, or onions!) On the other hand, freshly baked chocolate chip cookie smells are just fine! They evoke a homey feeling for almost everyone
Kitchens sell homes, so the importance of making your kitchen appealing can't be underestimated. Clean and de-clutter! Anything taking up counter or floor space must go (the only exception would be the types of designer touches seen in model homes). Anything displayed on the refrigerator must go. If your cabinets are old, consider resurfacing them. If your counter knobs are old or out-of-date, replacing them can be a relatively inexpensive "facelift." If your cabinets are wood, get a wood tone touchup stick from your home supply store and fill in any nicks and scratches. Shelves and pantries must appear orderly and very spacious. Potential buyers will be turned off by kitchens that seem to have inadequate storage space. Put those extra items in your newly rented storage unit or give them away!
Bathrooms. Again, clean and de-clutter! You absolutely must get rid of any mildew/mold. If you have a glass shower door, squeegee it after every shower. A mold-and-mildew remover and a soap scum remover can work wonders. Glass cleaning products do a good job of cleaning windows and mirrors (but be careful if you have brass fixtures since ammonia will cause these to pit). Do not display any personal toiletry items! Remove all deodorant, mouthwash, electric toothbrushes, etc. and put them in your cabinet. (Model homes never, ever display such items!) Pick up all bath mats and rugs. Keep your soap dishes pristine. If you have bars of hand soap, they should look new. Get a new set of high-quality, neutral, fluffy towels and display them. (Model homes always do this!)
Rest of the House. Clean, repair, de-clutter, and de-personalize! You're going for that Executive but neutral look, since almost everyone can "see themselves" in a home like that.
Remove those knickknacks!
Remove enough items from your closet so you can hang a garment without touching the garment next to it - - this could be difficult. (Extra and out-of-season clothes go to your newly rented storage unit.)
Remove area rugs
Remove throw blankets
Remove throw pillows (or replace with "designer" pillows)
If your houseplants are anemic, remove them. Replace with high-quality silk plants or healthy houseplants in attractive containers (no plastic!).
Take a hard look at your carpets. Are they stained or worn? Replacing carpets is often an excellent investment because it gives your home that "new" look that everyone wants. (Buyers have notoriously poor imaginations, so replacing existing carpet with neutral carpet is usually a much better idea than offering a "carpet allowance.")
Leave all the lights on (No burned-out light bulbs!)
Keep wastebaskets empty
If possible, send your pets to stay with family or friends. As much as we love our pets, they can be a major negative distraction to potential buyers.
Leave your home before potential buyers arrive
Once you accept the challenge that you're turning your home into a "model home" to sell at top dollar and in record time, you've won half the battle. You'll be well rewarded for your efforts!
Tips for buying a house
The top 10 things you need to know when buying a home.
1. Don't buy if you can't stay put.
If you can't commit to remaining in one place for at least a few years, then owning is probably not for you, at least not yet. With the transaction costs of buying and selling a home, you may end up losing money if you sell any sooner - even in a rising market. When prices are falling, it's an even worse proposition.
2. Start by shoring up your credit.
Since you most likely will need to get a mortgage to buy a house, you must make sure your credit history is as clean as possible. A few months before you start house hunting, get copies of your credit report. Make sure the facts are correct, and fix any problems you discover.
3. Aim for a home you can really afford.
The rule of thumb is that you can buy housing that runs about two-and-one-half times your annual salary. But you'll do better to use one of many calculators available online to get a better handle on how your income, debts, and expenses affect what you can afford.
4. If you can't put down the usual 20 percent, you may still qualify for a loan.
There are a variety of public and private lenders who, if you qualify, offer low-interest mortgages that require a small down payment.
5. Buy in a district with good schools.
In most areas, this advice applies even if you don't have school-age children. Reason: When it comes time to sell, you'll learn that strong school districts are a top priority for many home buyers, thus helping to boost property values.
6. Get professional help.
Even though the Internet gives buyers unprecedented access to home listings, most new buyers (and many more experienced ones) are better off using a professional agent. Look for an exclusive buyer agent, if possible, who will have your interests at heart and can help you with strategies during the bidding process.
7. Choose carefully between points and rate.
When picking a mortgage, you usually have the option of paying additional points -- a portion of the interest that you pay at closing -- in exchange for a lower interest rate. If you stay in the house for a long time -- say three to five years or more -- it's usually a better deal to take the points. The lower interest rate will save you more in the long run.
8. Before house hunting, get pre-approved.
Getting pre-approved will you save yourself the grief of looking at houses you can't afford and put you in a better position to make a serious offer when you do find the right house. Not to be confused with pre-qualification, which is based on a cursory review of your finances, pre-approval from a lender is based on your actual income, debt and credit history.
9. Do your homework before bidding.
Your opening bid should be based on the sales trend of similar homes in the neighborhood. So before making it, consider sales of similar homes in the last three months. If homes have recently sold at 5 percent less than the asking price, you should make a bid that's about eight to 10 percent lower than what the seller is asking.
10. Hire a home inspector.
Sure, your lender will require a home appraisal anyway. But that's just the bank's way of determining whether the house is worth the price you've agreed to pay. Separately, you should hire your own home inspector, preferably an engineer with experience in doing home surveys in the area where you are buying. His or her job will be to point out potential problems that could require costly repairs down the road.
Tips for selling your home during the Holidays
Top 10 Tips for Selling Your Home During the Holidays
Attract homebuyers even during the holidays with these useful tips!
The holiday season from November through January is often considered the worst time to put a home on the market. While the thought of selling your home during the winter months may dampen your holiday spirit, the season does have its advantages: holiday buyers tend to be more serious and competition is less fierce with fewer homes being actively marketed. First, decide if you really need to sell. Really. Once you've committed to the challenge, don your gay apparel and follow these tips from FrontDoor.
Deck the halls, but don’t go overboard. Homes often look their best during the holidays, but sellers should be careful not to overdo it on the decor. Adornments that are too large or too many can crowd your home and distract buyers. Also, avoid offending buyers by opting for general fall and winter decorations rather than items with religious themes.
Hire a reliable real estate agent. That means someone who will work hard for you and won't disappear during Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year's. Ask your friends and family if they can recommend a listing agent who will go above and beyond to get your home sold. This will ease your stress and give you more time to enjoy the season.
Seek out motivated buyers. Anyone house hunting during the holidays must have a good reason for doing so. Work with your agent to target buyers on a deadline, including people relocating for jobs in your area, investors on tax deadlines, college students and staff, and military personnel, if you live near a military base.
Price it to sell. No matter what time of year, a home that’s priced low for the market will make buyers feel merry. Rather than gradually making small price reductions, many real estate agents advise sellers to slash their prices before putting a home on the market.
Make curb appeal a top priority. When autumn rolls around and the trees start to lose their leaves, maintaining the exterior of your home becomes even more important. Bare trees equal a more exposed home, so touch up the paint, clean the gutters and spruce up the yard. Keep buyers’ safety in mind as well by making sure stairs and walkways are free of snow, ice and leaves.
Take top-notch real estate photos. When the weather outside is frightful, homebuyers are likely to start their house hunt from the comfort of their homes by browsing listings on the Internet. Make a good first impression by offering lots of flattering, high-quality photos of your home. If possible, have a summer or spring photo of your home available so buyers can see how it looks year-round.
Create a video tour for the Web. You'll get less foot traffic during the holidays thanks to inclement weather and vacation plans. But shooting a video tour and posting it on the Web may attract house hunters who don't have time to physically see your home or would rather not drive in a snowstorm.
Give house hunters a place to escape from the cold. Make your home feel cozy and inviting during showings by cranking up the heat, playing soft classical music and offering homemade holiday treats. When you encourage buyers to spend more time in your home, you also give them more time to admire its best features.
Offer holiday cheer in the form of financing. Bah, humbug! Lenders are scrooges these days, but if you've got the means, then why not offer a home loan to a serious buyer? You could get a good rate of return on your money.
Relax — the new year is just around the corner. The holidays are stressful enough with gifts to buy, dinners to prepare and relatives to entertain. Take a moment to remind yourself that if you don't sell now, there's always next year, which, luckily, is only a few days away.