Paying Attention to the “Small Stuff” May Add Big Dollars to Your Bottom Line

I know the saying goes, “Don’t sweat the small stuff”, but when selling your home, the small stuff can add up quickly and may lead to a lower sales price. While making sure your house is clean and ready to show is critical, don’t lose sight of the details. Make sure to focus on fixing things that may distract buyers or raise a red flag during inspections before your home goes on the market.  When we live in a space every day, it’s easy to overlook small items like a leaky faucet or a wobbly toilet. Walk through your home and try to examine it with fresh eyes. The checklist below may help.

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1. Your Front Door

Most of us enter & exit our home through a garage or side door, so it’s easy to forget that your front door is a buyer’s first impression of your home.  Make sure you are putting your best foot forward.

  • Make sure the lock works properly and is easy to operate.
  • Ensure that front porch lights are operational and have working light bulbs.
  • Clean the door well and remove any cobwebs or leaves from the porch area.
  • Place a doormat both outside and inside the front door to eliminate dirt and water from damaging your flooring surfaces.

2. Kitchen & Bathrooms

As you know, kitchens and bathrooms sell homes. Even if you haven’t renovated these rooms, you can get the biggest bang for your buck by making sure they look fresh, clean and trouble free.

  • Fix leaky faucets and make sure that toilets are properly seated.
  • Remove small appliances and other clutter from counters to show off work space.
  • If the room has not been updated in awhile, consider a fresh coat of paint and some matching accessories (towels, throw rugs, shower curtain) to freshen it up.
  • Make sure that tile & grout is in good condition, replace tile or re-grout if neccessary.
  • Deep clean those major appliances & make them sparkle.

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3. Windows

  • Pull screens off windows & repair any holes or tears you may find. Re-screening is a simple and inexpensive process that you can do yourself or it can be done at your local hardware store. Store screens once they are in good condition since the house will look brighter without them.
  • Clean windows to let the in natural light in and let buyers have a clean view of the property.
  • Make sure windows are clear (with unbroken seals) and that they open, close and lock easily. Home inspectors will check each window during the inspection process.

4. Mechanical systems

  • Make sure to have your furnace and air conditioning units serviced and in good working order. They will both be inspected.
  • Check your water heater and water softener (if you have one) for leaks.
  • Do all of your light switches work? Do you have GFCI plugs in your kitchen & bath?

5. Walls

  • Check walls and woodwork for dings and repair where necessary.
  • If walls are filled with scuff marks, consider a fresh coat of paint in a neutral color.
  • Do you have lots of color on your walls? Consider repainting to a neutral palette. Color is personal. Even though you may love the red walls in your dining room or your lavender master bedroom, those bright colors may turn off potential buyers who may lower their offer price because they plan to repaint these rooms once they move in.
  • Has the wallpaper on your walls been there awhile? Wallpaper is one of the biggest turn-offs for younger buyers. If removing all the wallpaper is not an option for you, consider removing it from at least a few rooms like the living room, dining room or kitchen.

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6. The exterior & yard

Not all of us have a green thumb, but you can make the best of your home’s curb appeal by attending to just a few items.

  • Make sure the grass is mowed and that leaves are removed.
  • If you are listing in the winter, remove snow & ice from driveway and walkways.
  • Get rid of weeds in planting beds and put down a thin layer of fresh mulch.
  • Do you have mildew build-up on your siding or concrete surfaces? Make sure to clean them with a pressure washer. You can rent one to use yourself or have a local service provider do the job for you.
  • A lot of homes have piles of wood or extra building materials in the back yard.  Stack the wood neatly and either store or get rid of old bricks, stones and other building materials that you no longer need.
  • Check those gutters! Make sure they are clean and in good working order.

 

It is easy to lose sight of the “small things” when you list your home, especially if you have lived in it for a long time. Issues like a lock that sticks or a light switch that doesn’t work may not bother you, but they can be a big deal (especially if there are a lot of problems) to a potential buyer. By taking care of these issues before listing, you present your home in the best possible light and help ensure that you get the highest offer possible.

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Finding the “Right” Realtor

In a past article, I wrote about why using a Realtor is important in a real estate transaction whether you are buying or selling a home.  Once you have decided that hiring a Realtor to represent you is the right thing to do, the important question becomes who do you choose?

There are several things to consider when you are making a decision about the person who will help you make one of the biggest decisions in your life.  Before you get too far in the process, the first thing you should do is talk to friends and family to see if anyone has a Realtor they can recommend. You can also look online at websites like Zillow.com to find local real estate agents. Often these websites let you see how many transactions a real estate agent has completed in the past year and may also include testimonials from past clients. I recommend that you get at least 2-3 agents to interview before deciding on which Realtor you will hire.

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Before you begin the interview process, sit down and think about what is important to you in an agent. Check out the list below for some important attributes you may want to keep in mind.

Experience

You want to make sure that the person you hire has plenty of experience in the type of real estate transaction ahead of you. If you are selling, make sure that the Realtor you hire has sold listings in your area and price point. If you are buying, make sure that your agent is familiar with the area and can help guide you to make sure that you are making a good investment. Real estate transactions are complicated and you want someone in your corner who knows how to protect your best interests if issues crop up along the way. Being a full-time Realtor is tough and to survive & thrive in this business over the course of many years takes tenacity,  hard work and an ability to read the market correctly.  Having someone with this kind of experience can help ease the path toward your goal.

Rapport

This may go without saying, but you should like the Realtor you choose.  The process of buying and selling homes takes longer than you think and you will be spending a lot of time with your Realtor. You will be in contact with them on a weekly and sometimes daily basis.  Make sure your choice is someone with whom you enjoy spending time.

Trust

Finding an agent you trust is perhaps even more important than experience and rapport. Your Realtor is going to guide and advise you through perhaps one of the largest investments you will make in your lifetime. You need to be able to look your agent in the eye and know that they will be looking out for you and for your best interests in every stage of the deal.

Team vs. Solo Agent

Successful agents can work alone or choose work as part of a team. As a client, you have to decide which business model you prefer.

If you work with a solo agent, he/she will be involved in every detail of your real estate transaction. In most cases these agents represent both buyers and sellers so they have a really good handle on what is going on in the local marketplace at multiple price points.  While most solo agents with lots of experience are pros and do a good job juggling the multiple needs of their clients, keep in mind that they are just once person.  So, if your Realtor gets really busy or sick, you may have more difficulty getting an immediate response from them.

There are also agents who work in a team environment where different people manage the various parts of a real estate transaction. So for example, one agent may handle listing your home and a separate agent may assist you with the purchase of your new house. In addition, many teams have transaction coordinators that you will deal with once your home goes under contract. The advantage of a team is that you have more than one person helping you, so you should be able to get immediate attention to your needs. The downside of having a team is that you are working with multiple people, some whom you may never meet have met in person.

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Past Listings

If you are selling your home, make sure to go out and review the agent’s current and past listings online. Are the photos well lit and professional looking? Does the description of the property sound interesting and engaging?  The photos and property descriptions are the most important part of the marketing effort to sell your home online. You want to make sure that whomever you choose is able to make the most of your home’s first impression.

The Interview

Once you have narrowed your choice of Realtors, make sure to sit down with them in person and go over your needs and goals for this real estate transaction.  You should feel comfortable enough with them to express any concerns you have and ask questions about the process ahead of you.

If you are selling a home, ask them these questions to get a better feel for their business:

  1. On average how long do your listings remain on the market before selling? How does this compare to other agents?
  2. How does the final sales price compare to the home’s original listing price?
  3. How many listings have you sold in the past 12 months? Where where the homes located?

If you have not gotten this agent’s name as a referral from a friend or relative, ask the agent if you can speak to a couple of past clients to get their input on the Realtor’s strengths and weaknesses.

Choosing the right Realtor can be the most important part of buying or selling a home. The agent you select will, in many ways, determine the outcome of your transaction. A good agent will guide you through every step of the process and will help you overcome any hurdles that you face along the way. In short, your Realtor is your partner in this journey so take your time and choose your partner carefully.

If you are thinking of buying or selling, I would be happy to sit down with you and review your goals and tell you more about myself, my experience and how I can help you achieve your real estate dreams.

 

Determining What a Home is Worth

Figuring out a home’s value is a tricky but critical factor in any real estate transaction. Why is it so hard to do? The value of a home is affected by many factors, including its  age, location, condition, features and property size.  Other forces like comparable home sales, inventory levels and timing can also have an big impact on what a home is worth.

In a typical real estate transaction, three parties have to agree on the price in order to determine a property’s value. The seller, the buyer, and the lender must all come to terms on price in order for the deal to be successful.

The good news is that Realtors and appraisers, who help lenders determine the value of properties, have similar tools at their disposal in order to help determine what a home is worth.  The single biggest resource that all professionals use to determine the value of a home is recent comparable sales of similar properties.  What does this mean?  The best indicator of value is sales of similar homes sold within the past 6 months within the subject property’s neighborhood. In an idea situation, both realtors and appraisers would like to find at least 3 comparable homes when determining market price.

If there are no recent sales in the immediate neighborhood, then the search will expand to similar homes within the same school district, built in a similar time frame with features that resemble the subject property.

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The Importance of the Right Price for Sellers

Many sellers try to use the following formula to try and determine the value of their home:  Original purchase price + the retail value of all improvements and repairs made to the property since the date of purchase.  Unfortunately these two factors combined do NOT determine the current market value of your home.  While repairs and remodeling efforts certainly improve the overall value of your property, it is unlikely that you will recoup 100% of your out-of-pocket costs. It may be tempting then, to do nothing and simply save your money and avoid updating your home. Unfortunately, you will find that in this market, the value of your home may in fact decrease. Buyers today expect to see updates especially in bathrooms and kitchens.

So if you are thinking of selling your home, how do you determine what the right price should be? First, you should contact a few experienced Realtors and get their impressions of your home as well their recommendation for a listing price.  After touring your home, the Realtors should be able to present you with a competitive market analysis that will help guide them on the value of your home. Listen to their advice on pricing – they are in homes every day and have a really good grasp on the market. In order to maximize the value of your property, the Realtors may recommend things like replacing flooring, applying a fresh coat of paint or ideas on how to better stage your home. Sometimes just a few updates can drastically improve your home’s value in the eyes of buyers.

Above all, be careful not to overprice your home. It is temping to try and test the market to see if you can get a higher price.  Keep in mind that buyers and their Realtors are savvy and have a good feel for the competitive marketplace. If you set the listing price too high, you will find that there are few buyers coming to see your property. This will lead to a longer time spent on the market and will in turn lead to future listing price reductions as you try and tempt potential buyers to come and see your property. In the end, you may find that you will get less for the house that you would have if you had priced it correctly up front and taken advantage of buyer interest when your listing was new on the market.

Finally, keep in mind that your home must appraise for the contract purchase price. Although a buyer may agree to your price, their lender must also agree that the home is worth the price on the contract or the deal may fall apart. I wrote an article about the importance of the appraisal process here.

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The Importance of the Right Price for Buyers

It can be tempting especially in a seller’s market, when inventories are tight, to overpay for a home. Before writing an offer on a home, make sure your Realtor gives you a competitive market analysis for the property and listen to their advice on the current market value. Even if you fall in love with the property, don’t forget that the house must appraise for the price on the contract or your lender will not allow you to go forward with the purchase at the contract price.  You can read more about the details of the appraisal process here.

Even if you are lucky and get an appraisal above the true market value of the property, keep in mind that eventually you will need to sell the house yourself. If you overpay now, you may find that the house is not even worth your purchase price when you go to sell. Nothing is guaranteed in the real estate market and prices fluctuate. Remember that the housing crisis a few years back found many homeowners with mortgage values far higher than the market value of their homes.

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Whether you are buying or selling, your Realtor is a terrific resource on property values. Not only do they have access to the MLS system which catalogs all home listings and recent sales, but they are out in the market place and inside homes every day. Listen to their advice on pricing, since they have first hand experience.

Are you thinking of selling but aren’t sure of the value of your home?  Please contact me and let me put my almost 40 years of experience to work for you!

Looking at Homes Through the Eyes of a Realtor

With the proliferation of house hunting and home improvement shows, the average person has seen the inside of more homes than ever before. The upside with all this exposure is that home buyers today seem to have a firmer grasp on what they are looking for as they set out to find their dream home. The downside is that they may be less willing to look beyond the decor and surface finishes to see the real potential a property might offer their family.

As anyone who has spent time in the real estate market knows, purchasing a home is process that takes an open mind, patience and a good deal of compromise. Most buyers are working with a set price range and a long list of “must haves”.   It easy to imagine (especially for those of us who watch a lot of HGTV) that we will find our perfect home with every upgrade and amenity we desire within our budget, but the truth is there are always trade-offs that will have to be made.

When you start the process of looking for a home, make sure you work with your Realtor to identify items that you require in your new property vs. those items that you’d like to have.  I talk more about making that list here.  Before you start your home search, talk with your Realtor about the realism of your wish list as it relates to your budget. Your Realtor is an expert and can let you know what items on your list will fit within your housing budget so there are no surprises when you start looking at listings.

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Good Bones vs Flash

I figured it may be helpful to understand what I focus on as a Realtor when I walk into a listing with my clients. We I walk into a home for the first time, I focus on items that indicate how well it was originally built and maintained. Since I have lived and worked in the same area for almost 40 years,  I will often have my first indication of quality simply based on who originally built the home.

As I walk the property with my clients, I will focus on the exterior surfaces and windows, including the condition of the roof.  Once inside, I will look at the walls, doors and trim for signs that indicate how well the home has been maintained by its current owners. A home that has been well looked after by its current owners is less likely to be hiding issues that may come back to bite you down the road.

I am less concerned about the paint color on the walls or the condition of the carpeting. Those items can be easily and inexpensively updated. I will instead focus on the layout of the home. Will the current layout meet your family’s needs?  What about the property and location?  Will the location and yard work be a good fit for you?

Often, poor quality construction or amateur DIY remodeling jobs can be camouflaged by updated interior design or good staging. It is easy to focus on the beautiful decor of a room and imagine yourself living there.  It is your Realtor’s job to be able to see beyond the curtains and paint to the condition of windows and walls beyond.

While your budget may not allow for high end upgrades to kitchens and bathrooms, your Realtor should be able to help you find a home within your budget that will offer you the best quality your housing dollar can afford.  In the long run, having a well built home will save you from the constant drain a cheaply built or poorly maintained home will have on your wallet.  And while you may not have the kitchen of your dreams today, fewer maintenance issues and problems will allow you to save up for a remodel more quickly.

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New vs Existing

Often, my clients are trying to decide between building a new home or finding an existing home that will meet their needs. I wrote an article that has more details about what to consider here, but there are a couple of important things to think about.

There are home builders at every tier of the market, from starter homes to custom builders. If you have a sizable budget and plan to live in the house for many years, building a new home may be the best option for you.

But if you are working with a limited budget, I would always recommend buying an existing home. Why? You will pay a significant upcharge in order to build a new home vs finding an existing home of a similar size. It is similar to the cost difference you will find buying a brand new car vs. purchasing one that is just two or three years old.  You may find that you have to give up more items on your wish list to build a new home because the cost of upgrades can be very costly. And, although the idea of a brand new home can be appealing, you will have to live there for quite some time just to break even on your investment.

An existing home will help you stretch your housing dollar and afford a better quality home.  While an existing property may not be perfect, you will typically find that upgrades done well will add to the value of your home when you go to sell even if you find you need to move within a year or two of purchasing.

 

As you go through the process of buying a home, trust the eyes of your Realtor and listen to their comments as you walk through each property.  A Realtor’s experience and expertise allows them to look beyond the surface details to see the underlying quality and potential.  They will be able to guide you in finding the best home for your dollar.

If you are thinking about buying a home, please give me a call. I am always happy to be of service!

 

What You Need to Know About Home Inspections

After you’ve negotiated the contract for the sale/purchase of a home, you have two big hurdles ahead of you.  The first one you will face will be come in the form of a home inspection.  The second is the appraisal process which I wrote about here.  Both of these are potential places where your real estate deal can fall apart.  I have had more than 1 or 2 deals unravel this year due to the results of a home inspection.

What is a home inspection? It is a review of the electrical, plumbing, and mechanical systems within a house by a licensed whole house inspector.  Inspectors also check the interior and exterior structure of a property.

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Whether you are buying or selling a property, home inspections are stressful.  It’s important to note that both sides of transaction want good inspection results.  No seller wants to hear that the home they have been living in has electrical or plumbing issues and no buyer wants to purchase a home with major problems that will need to be repaired just as they are trying to figure out where to place their furniture.

Home inspections are a safeguard for buyers to make sure that there are no hidden problems with the property they want to purchase.  Since most buyers are not knowledgeable about all of the plumbing, electrical, mechanical and structural components of house, an inspection gives them a way to make sure that there are no habitability issues with their new home.

The home inspector’s checklist

On the exterior of the home, the inspector will be looking at the roof, chimney, and windows. They will look at the condition of the siding or masonry and will check for cracks, rot or peeling paint. Some inspectors will walk the grounds and look for potential drainage issues or things that point to foundation problems.

Inside the home they will be checking the appliances, HVAC system, as well as the electrical panel and outlets to make sure everything is operating properly. They will check under sinks for leaks, will make sure toilets and vanities are stable and that all sinks, tubs and showers drain properly.  Inspectors will also check ceilings for potential water damage and will make sure windows open and close properly.  In short, they will check the house from basement to attic to make sure that there are no surprises for the buyer.

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If you are a buyer…

Make sure to get references and do some research before hiring an inspector.  I have seen more than once how differently home inspections can go (on the same property) when conducted by two different individuals.  Inspectors are human, just like you and I. Not only can they make mistakes, but they have differing personalities. I have seen some inspectors who are alarmists and some who are reassuring.  Your Realtor should be able to provide a list of inspectors that he/she can recommend.

While it isn’t necessary for you to be present for the entire inspection, make sure you are there to discuss the results with the inspector. While it is important to know as much as you can about everything the inspector finds, make sure to focus your attention on the items that affect the safety and habitability of the home.  Your Realtor should be able to go through the report with you and help you decide which items on the report should be addressed and corrected by the sellers.

You may find that you need multiple inspectors. For example, not all home inspection companies can perform termite or radon inspections.  Another case where an expert might be warranted is if your whole house inspector suspects a problem with something mechanical or structural.  In that case, he/she may recommend that you get a licensed professional to take a closer look.

If you are a seller…

Make sure to take care of any known maintenance issues in your home prior to the inspection. Your HVAC system should be in good repair and all of the appliances that convey with the home should be clean and in good working order.  If you have noticed a leaking faucet or a toilet that runs, call your plumber and have the issues fixed before the date of your home inspection. Your goal is to have your home in the best shape possible for the inspector and the buyers of your property.

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The Post Inspection Addendum – Buyers

Once the inspection is complete and you have the report in hand, it is time to decide what, if any, repairs are needed. Work with your agent to make sure you are picking items that ensure the safety and habitability of your new home. While it may be tempting to ask the sellers to fix every item on the inspection report, keep in mind that you are not purchasing a brand new home. There are issues with every home on the market. Focus your efforts on the big items that are most concerning to you.

Also, realize that the seller may not agree to fix all of the repairs on the list.  The post inspection is a negotiation process, just like the one you went through when you went under contract on the home.

The Post Inspection Addendum – Sellers

While it may be tempting to dismiss the inspector’s findings as false or exaggerated, realize that the buyers are trying to make sure that their new home is safe and habitable. You are under contract with a buyer who likes your home and wants to purchase it. Work with your realtor and do what you can to fix the issues that are on the post inspection addendum.   Please remember that if you decide to walk away from the deal, you will have to disclose any issues on the home inspection report on your residential property disclosure that will be seen by anyone else interested in your home.

It is almost always in your best interest to try and work with the people on the other side of the table. That being said, you don’t necessarily need to address every issue on the report. Your agent can guide on the best course of action.

The End Result

The inspection period is critical in the successful sale of a home.  As long as both parties in the deal are flexible and focused on safety and habitability issues, negotiating this hurdle should be easier for everyone.

If you are thinking of buying or selling your home, I am happy to put my 40 years of experience to work for you!

 

 

Why an Appraisal is So Important

I have had more than a few deals fall apart – on both the buyer and the seller sides – because of a low appraisal.  The appraisal process is typically the last hurdle buyers and sellers need to overcome in order for a transaction to close.  Since I have had this issue rear its head several times over the past few months, I thought it worth writing an article.

What is an appraisal?

First of all, an appraisal is a good thing.  It enables both lenders and buyers to ensure that the price they are paying for a home is justified.  No one wants to overpay for a home and the appraisal process helps validate that the sales price agreed to on the real estate contract accurately reflects the true value of a property.

An appraisal is simply a report required by a mortgage lender, generated for them by a third party, to evaluate the market value of a home.  An appraisal is required in any deal that involves a mortgage company or bank.

How is an appraisal done?

Once a mortgage company orders the appraisal, the appraiser will make an appointment to see the house through Showingtime.  He/she will go to the property to inspect both the interior and exterior of the home.  While there, he/she will take photos and will look at the home’s general condition, as well as finishes and upgrades.  Once the tour of the property has been completed, he/she will then look at recent sales of comparable homes in the area by looking at several factors including:

  1. Recent sales in the neighborhood going back 6 months
  2. Size and condition of the subject home vs. other properties
  3. Year the home was built

Appraisers have access to the MLS and can view interior and exterior photos of similar homes to get a feel of what people have paid for comparable homes in the recent past. They will compare these recent home sales to the subject property to come up with a market value for the home under contract.

If you are a seller, that is why it is so important that your home is clean and “market ready” for your appraisal walk through. You want to put your best foot forward for the appraiser so that you minimize anything that can negatively impact the value of your home.

How much does an appraisal cost & how long will it take to get the results?

Typically, an appraisal costs $250.00-$400.00 in this area.  The buyer pays for the appraisal and it is typically reflected as one of the costs on the settlement statement at closing.

Depending on the time of year and the volume of appraisals that are happening, the buyer can expect to get the results from their lender anywhere from 3 to 10 days after the appraisal appointment.  The buyer’s agent will then share the results of the appraisal with the selling agent who will in turn share the news with the seller.

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What happens next?

If the home appraises for a value equal to or greater than the sales price on the contract, you have cleared your last hurdle. The mortgage company will proceed to work on final loan approval and both buyer and seller can look forward to closing.

What if the home does not appraise?

A “short appraisal” means that the appraiser found that value of the home was less than the sales price on the contract.  For example, the appraiser valued the home at $150,000, but the price on the real estate sales contract was for $155,000.  A short appraisal sends a red flag to the mortgage company or bank that the property is not worth the agreed upon price on the contract. In other words, in the bank’s eyes the buyer is overpaying for the property.

So, what happens next?  Typically one or both of the agents involved in the transaction will review the properties used in the appraisal to see if they agree that the appraiser used comparable properties.  Appraisers are human, and just like everyone else, they can make mistakes.  In some cases, appraisers may not be as familiar with an area or neighborhood as the Realtors involved in the transaction and may not have pulled properties that are truly comparable to the house under contract.  If this is the case, the Realtors can go to the mortgage lender and request a second appraisal. While considering whether or not to grant a second appraisal, the mortgage lender will want to see a listing of homes that the Realtors agree more accurately reflect the home’s value. It is important to note that there is no guarantee that the lender will agree to a new appraisal.  And, even if the bank does agree to a second appraisal, there is no guarantee that a second appraiser will come up with a higher value.

There are a few options if a second appraisal is not going to happen:

  1. The buyer & seller can agree to the change the sales price on the contract to the appraised value of the home.
  2. The buyer can increase their down payment to cover the difference between the appraised price and the sales price on the contract.
  3. The buyer and seller can agree to void the contract and go their separate ways.

If you are a seller and your home has a “short appraisal” you need to think hard about the price of your home. There is no guarantee that a second appraisal will increase the market value of your home. As much as we all love our homes and want the highest price possible, we cannot expect that anyone will pay us more than it is worth.  In addition, if this contract falls apart, there is no guarantee that you will get a higher appraisal from a second bank.  In most cases, it is in your best interest to negotiate with the buyer on a price everyone (including the mortgage lender) can agree upon.  You are almost at the finish line of this transaction and you need to think about the all of the consequences and costs associated with voiding this contract to put the house back onto the market again.

If you are a buyer, you need to consider if you are willing to pay more than the market value for this home.  If you are not planning on staying in the property for a long time, overpaying is certainly not in your best interest. There is no guarantee that property values will rise quickly enough to increase the market value of the home when it comes time for you to sell.  And pricing it too high to recover the cost of your over-payment will only subject you to an increased chance of a short appraisal when you are ready sell.  If however, you plan to live in the property for a long time & the appraised value is relatively close to the contract price you may want to consider paying a little extra to secure your “dream home.”

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The good news is that the majority of homes do appraise for the contract price. Most Realtors do a good job of performing their own market analyses whether they are representing the sellers or the buyers in a transaction.  In my experience, the majority of homes here in the Dayton area sell at a price very close to their true market value.

If you are curious about the market value of your home, just let me know!  I am happy to do a free competitive analysis and email you the results.

 

Photography: Make the Best Impression Online

Often, the first place a buyer will see your home is online.  Having pictures of your home that capture the attention and imagination of potential buyers is crucial. Creating a positive first impression is what helps to ensure that your listing pulls in as many buyers as possible to see your home in person. That is why it drives me absolutely crazy when I see dark or poor quality photography.

When you are interviewing Realtors for the job of selling your property, make sure you review the photography in their recent listings.  Are the photos bright and clear?  Do they give you a favorable impression of the home?  If not, then move on to the next agent. Many successful Realtors hire professional photographers who use their skills to show off the best features of your home.

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What can you do to help make sure the photos for your listing look great?

A lot of what makes a photo look good is a clean, uncluttered space. Sometimes a house can benefit from the services of a stager to make sure that furniture and accessories are placed to show off a home’s best features.  Your Realtor can help advise you if this is the case, but there is a lot that you can do to prepare your home for great photography.

Windows should sparkle, furniture should be dust free, and appliances should be clean. Make sure your carpets are clean and that wood floors are polished and shiny.  Your kitchen and bath counter tops should be clear of clutter. You want buyers to focus on the features of each room. We do not want them to be distracted by a pile of paperwork on the counter, perfume bottles on the vanity or magnets on your fridge.

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For the best exterior photos, make sure your lawn is cut and planting beds are free of weeds.  In warmer months, plant some annuals for a pop of color.  Clean your deck furniture, especially if you have a glass table, and make sure to place furniture cushions on chairs to make the area look more inviting.

Want some more hints? When my photographer enters a home, the first thing she does is turn on all the lights and open all the window treatments to bathe each room in light.  Some other things she does before taking photos include:

  •  Remove sponges, soap dispensers, small appliances, waste containers & paper towels from kitchen counters
  • Remove scatter rugs, tissue boxes, tooth brushes, toilet brushes, scales, plungers and waste containers from the bathroom
  • Hide remote controls, shoes & small toys from living spaces
  • Smooth bedding and fluff all bed pillows
  • Remove pet bowls, pet beds and litter boxes
  • Hide dirty laundry in bedrooms or laundry rooms

Making the best first impression online is as easy as hiring the right Realtor and putting in some prep work before the photographer arrives.  Great quality photos are key to ensure your home sells as quickly as possible.

Buying a Home in a Seller’s Market

This spring has been an unusual one here locally, but it is reflecting a trend we are experiencing nationwide in the real estate market. There is a notable lack of inventory, especially for homes priced between $125,000-$350,000.  There are many factors contributing to this trend including the high price of new construction, rising interest rates, economic uncertainty, and increase of investor owned rental properties in the wake of the housing crisis.

While this is an excellent time to sell your house, it certainly makes it challenging if you are looking to purchase. Most of my recent listings have sold within the first day or two, many with multiple offers.  Buying a home in a seller’s market requires a different approach and mindset. I have been guiding several buyers through this difficult market, and I thought it might be helpful to share some important tips that will help you buy the right home when inventories are scare.

1. Work with an experienced agent

It is critical to pick an agent with experience to help guide you during a market with low inventories. Having a knowledgeable person at your side who knows the market well and can offer sound advice will keep you from overpaying or making bad decisions.

2. Get a pre-approval letter

Because things move so quickly in a sellers market, you must be prepared to write a good offer as soon as you see a property. No seller will accept an offer without a pre-approval letter or proof of funds (if you are paying cash). Getting this information before you see a home will save you time and allow you to get your offer to the seller as fast as possible.

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3. Be prepared to see homes as soon at they hit the market

Your Realtor will set up your client portal which will allow you to see homes as soon as they hit the market. In a seller’s market, time is your chief enemy, especially when homes sell within hours of listing. Getting in to see a home as quickly as possible is key since your “dream home” may already be under contract two or three days from now.

4. Move quickly once you find a home you like

An experienced agent will have all the paperwork ready to write an offer in a tight market.  They will be able to guide you on pricing and will be able to provide advice on condition and insight on competition and recent sales. You will need to make a decision quickly. Taking a day or two to think it over probably means losing the house. This type of market can be very stressful for buyers since it requires very quick decision making. If you are a person who likes to take time to think things through, it may be best to wait until the market settles. Eventually, this market will change and inventories will once again increase, so waiting it out may be a better option for you.

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5. Present your best offer

If you have found the home you like and are ready to buy, make sure that your first offer is very strong. Keep in mind that when inventories are low, you may be in a multiple offer situation every time you write a contract. This is not the time to try and negotiate a bargain.  Don’t forget that pricing is not the only tool in your arsenal.  Financing, inspections, as well as closing and possession dates are other parts of the contract where you have the opportunity to win the deal. While you do need to be careful not to overpay, you certainly want to present an offer that will be hard for the sellers to refuse.

6. Write a personal letter to the sellers

This is a good idea in a tight market and can make all the difference. I am convinced that a well written letter from my clients to the sellers (written from the heart) won them the house in a recent deal. In a market where buyers are scrambling for the same property, a personal letter may give your strong offer an advantage over your competitors.

7. Be realistic about inspections and repairs

Deals fall apart all the time, especially over inspections and repairs. In a seller’s market, home owners feel emboldened and may be less likely to accommodate requests for repairs. You and your agent need to decide how to proceed once you receive the inspection report. If you are convinced this home is the one for you, you may have to accept that the sellers may do little to rectify problems found in the report, especially if they had multiple offers on the property.

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8. Be prepared to be flexible

Here I am talking flexibility in two different ways.  The first is being open to a wider range of homes in your search. While a certain neighborhood or home style may be your preference, you will be severely limiting yourself by not widening your view.  If you can be more flexible in your home search, the number of homes available to you will certainly increase.

Flexibility is also key once you find the home you want to purchase.  As I mentioned above, you may need to work with sellers on inspection results, as well as other factors such as closing and possession dates in order to keep the deal together.

9. Miss out on a home you like? Consider writing a back-up offer

I have had several agents present very strong back-up offers even after we are under contract. Those offers include a pre-approval letters, a strong price and in some cases a personal letter to the sellers.

If you see a home you know would work for you even though it is already under contract, have your agent inquire if the sellers would accept a back up offer.  If their current deal falls through due to financing or inspection issues, your offer would be next in line for consideration. If the sellers do accept your counter offer, make sure your Realtor stays in contact regularly with the listing agent to see how the deal is holding together.

Buying a home in a seller’s market is stressful and requires patience, quick decision making and a lot of flexibility. Although it may be tempting, you do NOT want to overpay for your new house, especially if you don’t plan on living there for more than 10 years. Having an experienced Realtor at your side to help you through the process can make it a lot easier on your mental health and on your bank account.

What Do You Really Need in a New Home?

The process of looking for a new home can be overwhelming, especially if you have not thought seriously about your priorities. Before you start looking, sit down and make a list of things that are really important to you in a new home. If you are married, your spouse should make a list separately. As you are putting together your requirements, use the following list to help:

1. Think about where you are currently living.

What do you like about your current residence? If you were change things, what would those things be?  Are you moving to gain more space, to downsize, or for a change in location?

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2. Consider your goals and plans for the next 5-7 years.

Make sure that your next home is the right one for your both your current and short term lifestyle needs. Will you be moving again? Do you plan to start or expand your family? Is your job and income relatively stable? If you are planning on having children in the next few years, make sure that your home has enough bedrooms or features a yard for playtime. If you think you may have to move for work in the near term, consider renting or make sure that you are buying a home with good resale potential.

3. What physical characteristics that are important to you?

Here I am talking about things like location, property size and neighborhood characteristics.  Also included within this category can be things that would require a lot of money to change like the number of bedrooms, the layout of the house, or overall square footage. While you can add-on to your new home or make structural changes, chances are you will not recoup those costs when it comes time to sell.

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4. Don’t forget about the details

What cosmetic updates or features are most important to you?   Think about the interior and exterior trims. Although new paint and flooring are relatively easy changes to make, you will need to leave room in your budget to allow for renovations. Are you handy? Do you mind living in a space while it is being renovated?  If the answer to either of those two questions is no, you may want to consider a home that has been recently updated.

5. Prioritize Your Needs

Once your list is complete, now it’s time to put it in order of priority.  If you have a spouse, sit together and review both lists. What features are important to both of you?  Think about trade-offs that you are willing to make.  For example, is location more important than granite counters in the kitchen?  Would you be willing to have a longer commute to ensure that you have updated kitchens and baths?  If not, then make sure location gets a higher priority on your list than having an updated kitchen.

Of course all of these priorities will need to fit within a budget and that is why it is so important to rank them before you get started. You will most certainly have to decide what you are willing to give up in order to stay on budget and make sure that your new home has the characteristics that are most important to you and your family.

The good news is that doing all of this ahead of time will make it easier for you to eliminate houses that won’t work for you and allow you to focus on finding the right new home for you.

If you are considering buying a new home, please contact me today.  I would love to help!

 

Survival Guide for Showing Your Home

When you are in the real estate market, few parts of the process are as stressful as living in your house while it is on the market. Making it “model home ready” at a moment’s notice may seem an impossible task.  While I can’t eliminate all of the worries about selling your house, the tips below can make it a much more manageable process.

1. Start packing!

Don’t wait until your home is under contract to start putting things in boxes. The time to start packing is before your house is on even on the market. Go through closets and dresser drawers and pack away off-season clothing and shoes. Not only will you make the job easier when your house sells, but your closets will look more spacious.

If you have children, tackle their toys.  Everyone knows toys have a way of spreading themselves throughout an entire house. Obviously it would be a bad idea to box up all the toys, but do your best to reduce the total number around your house. Toys and games that are not everyday favorites can get packed away while your home is on the market. I had good friends who moved out of state a few years ago. They culled back the number of toys that remained in their house while it was being shown. When they moved and opened the boxes of toys that had been packed away, it was like Christmas morning! Toys that had not seen much action in years became new favorites after they were unpacked in their new home. Not only will your house seem less cluttered, it will be so much easier to clean prior to a showing.

Don’t forget about your kitchen and bathrooms. Pack up seldom used appliances, extra sets of dishes or glassware and anything else that doesn’t get used on a daily basis. Make sure to label all boxes as you pack them so that things are easy to locate in the event you find yourself needing something that you have packed away.

If you are able to afford a storage unit, that is the best option for making your newly cleared home look as clutter-free and move-in ready as possible. If a storage unit is not in your budget, neatly stack boxes in an area of your basement or garage.

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2. Donate/Get Rid of Items You No Longer Need

As you are packing up your clothing and household items, make sure to purge anything that you know you do not want to bring to your new home. Donate toys and clothing to a local charity and throw away or recycle anything that is broken or cannot be donated.

Go through your pantry, junk drawers, garage and storage areas. It is amazing what can accumulate over time. Buyers will be looking at every area of your house for showings – even that unfinished space in your basement will get a serious once over. By packing and getting rid of items you no longer need, you are creating a clutter-free, and more spacious home which will appeal to buyers.

3. Give Your Home a Deep Cleaning

According to Trulia, “A clean house can gain you $5000-$10000 in your home sale.” and I can speak from experience that clean and well maintained homes sell for more than comparable homes that are dirty and cluttered. Prior to the listing, it is time to make your house shine. Baseboards, wood trim, doors, walls, floors, and light fixtures need a detailed cleaning. Appliances, faucets, shower doors, sinks and windows should sparkle.  Check corners and exterior light fixtures for spider webs and dust your HVAC registers. Your house needs to be 5-star hotel clean before it goes on the market.

The good news is that maintaining a clean house is much easier if you start with a clean slate. Map out a plan of attack to maintain your clean home and break it down into smaller segments to make it easier on yourself.

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4. Simply spaces

Work with your Realtor and identify any furniture or decorative items that should be eliminated from your living spaces. Removing furniture or packing away decorative items like pictures and collectibles may make your home easier to navigate and may make it easier for buyers to picture themselves living in the space.  There will also be less items for you to clean while your house is listed and less to pack when it’s time to move.

5. Pets

I know that pets are members of your family, but keep in mind that many buyers may have allergies or a simple dislike of animals. Others feel that animals put a tremendous additional wear and tear on homes. Do you have a friend or relative who can care for your pet while you sell your home? If not, consider other alternatives for removing your pet from the house during showings.  Doggie day-care or even a family walk with your pet during a showing can make your house more friendly to buyers.  A barking dog or an aggressive cat can put off buyers who may avoid parts of your home where animals are kept.

While cleaning your home, make sure to eliminate pet odors.  Having carpets professionally cleaned, washing pet bedding, emptying litter boxes and removing pet waste from your yard will all help reduce the odors that your furry family member may leave in your house.

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6. Some Tricks to Help You Maintain Sanity

Packing away and simplifying your living spaces are the two most important steps you can do to make your life easier during this time. Some other tricks to make your life easier include:

  1. Keep a pack of cleaning wipes in each bathroom to make it easier to do a quick wipe down of the space before a showing.
  2. Covered hampers and baskets can provide you with a quick place to stash things out of sight.
  3. Make your bed every morning before leaving your room.
  4. Wipe down kitchen counters after every meal and get in the habit of putting dishes in the dishwasher right away.
  5. Consider using a bathroom caddy for your shower items and other toiletries. You can then tuck the caddy out of sight in a cabinet to make your bathroom spaces clutter-free for showings.
  6. Get in the habit of putting things away as soon as you are done using them.
  7. Have the whole family help keep the house clean. For young children, consider giving a reward sticker every time a toy is put away where it belongs.
  8. If you have kids, plan fun family activities in advance so that you have places to go during showings.
  9. Work with your agent ahead of time if you would like a 2 hour notice (or more) before showings. Your agent can also block off a specific time of day when showings are off-limits. Just keep in mind, that the harder it is to see your home, the less buyers you may attract.
  10. Make sure to put all prescription medications and sensitive documents in a secure location.
  11. Make sure all laptops and computers are password protected.
  12. Make yourself a pre-showing checklist.

7. A Pre-showing Checklist

I am a list maker by nature. I find that lists help keep me on task and ensure that I don’t forget anything. Make yourself a pre-showing checklist of items to help you remember things to do before leaving the house for a showing. The list may include items like making the beds, cleaning off counters, turning on lights, flushing toilets or even picking up dog waste in the back yard.  Simply identify items that you are most likely to forget as you rush to prep your house and put them on the list.

 

While I can’t promise to alleviate all of the stress involved in the sale of your house, following the 7 steps above will help make the process much easier for you and your family.

Thinking of selling your home? I am happy to help you figure out the value and assist you as you prepare to get it on to the market. I have been in this business for more than 38 years and I would love to be of service.