Why real estate and home sales will rebound in 2015

home for saleThe recent stumble of the housing market recovery has been a head scratcher for many. Surely low interest rates and an abundant number of homes for sale should have been incentive for any home buyer. But alas, many have been disappointed by the 2014 housing trends; even with sparse anecdotes of quick sales and bidding wars. However, many are optimistic about the housing market for 2015 because of the combination of low mortgage interest rates, increased access to credit, and moderating home prices – which could transform reluctant “looky loos” into eager home buyers.

Don’t count on low mortgage interest rates, per se, to incentivize home buyers. Although interest rates have been historically low since shortly after the financial crisis, it seems to not have been an incentive on its own to purchase homes. Industry experts have tried to pinpoint the timing of rate increases since rates first dipped below 5% in 2010. And even though rates were anticipated to have jumped when the Fed tapered its asset purchasing program this year, rates continue to be relative to historical lows. The average mortgage interest rate according to the Freddie Mac Primary Mortgage Market Survey (freddiemac.com) is 4.01% (as of November 13th); yet home sale volume continues to lag behind 2013 figures.

Very low interest rates may continue into 2015. Back in 2012, the Federal Reserve Open Market Committee indicated that interest rates would remain “exceptionally” low through 2014. Fast forward to September’s Federal Reserve Open Market Committee meeting; the October Fed press release (federalreserve.gov) reported the FOMC maintaining the 0 to ¼ percent target rate, even for a “considerable time following the end of its asset purchase program…”

On the other hand, loosening mortgage credit underwriting could help some would-be home buyers; but it is unclear who would take advantage of such programs, and how it will help them. Tightened credit and underwriting standards that resulted from the financial crisis, along with government intervention in the form of the Dodd – Frank legislation, created regulation and stringent lending standards (such as comprehensive validation of financial standing and strict adherence to debt to income ratios); which critics point to as having hampered lenders from making loans. However, some lenders are beginning to introduce less restrictive mortgage programs, which may accommodate the self employed and those with high student loan debt.

Of course, home prices have been a point of contention between home buyers and sellers for a number of years. Home sellers seeking higher prices are sometimes thwarted by home buyers looking for affordability and value. The seeming home price tug-of-war that favored home sellers in 2013, appeared to turn back in favor of home buyers during late summer of 2014. The October 28th release of the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices (housingviews.com) reported further deceleration of home price appreciation. The National Index showed a 5.1% annual gain, which is lower than the 5.6% annual gain reported in July. The Washington DC region saw a 3.1% annual increase; but a 0% change in August, compared to the 0.1% change in July.

Additionally, the 15% increase in national foreclosure activity, as reported by RealtyTrac (realtytrac.com), could be a wildcard for home prices. It remains to be seen if the 26% increase in foreclosure activity in the D.C. metropolitan area from the previous year is a trend, or just a result of lenders clearing “shadow” inventory.

© Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

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Narcissistic real estate agents?

HousesA common criticism of real estate agents is that they are manipulative and often focused on their own needs rather the home buyer or seller. Could it be that real estate agents are narcissists? Samuel Lopez De Victoria, Ph.D. describes a narcissist in the World of Psychology blog (psychcentral.com/blog) as someone who is preoccupied with “self, personal preferences, aspirations, needs, success, and how he/she is perceived by others.”

In an industry that relies on self promotion, it’s not as easy as you might think to spot a narcissist; they initially don’t often come across as manipulative or self centered. Dr. Lopez De Victoria describes extreme narcissists as being able to portray themselves in many ways to attract others to get what they want, including: being the likeable “nice person;” being the “proper diplomatic” person that appears to care (but really does not); and of course, being the charming person.

Dr. Lopez De Victoria says that having some amount of narcissism is normal and even healthy. So even though most agents are not extreme narcissists, it does not address the remorse expressed by some about the agents they chose. Even though industry experts recommend interviewing several agents before buying or listing a home, the majority of home buyers and sellers do not. According to the National Association of Realtors® 2014 Highlights of the Profile of Buyers and Sellers (realtor.rog), 70% of home sellers and about 66% of home buyers only contacted one agent before listing or buying a home. Regardless of the remorse expressed by home buyers and sellers about their agent, maybe they would have chosen to work with other agents if given the chance.

Although interviewing several agents before you buy or sell a home won’t eliminate all remorse over your choice of agent, it can certainly increase the probability of your satisfaction. If you choose to interview several agents, you might consider having a conversation about their experience, knowledge, and expertise. Additionally, knowledge about the local neighborhood market and surrounding neighborhoods is extremely important because market trends are hyper-local. You should also talk about the agent’s specialized experience, if your buying or selling situation is unique.

You should also ask about the agent’s limitations. This is an area where some agents get themselves into trouble is by not knowing, or are unwilling to disclose their limitations to potential buyers or sellers. By discussing the agent’s limitations, you can understand what the agent can and cannot do as well as know when the agent will refer you to other professionals for advice; this can also frame your expectations.

To get some insight into the agent’s way of thinking and service, you might consider asking atypical questions too! Surely an agent is more than happy to talk about their accomplishments, number of sales, and even name drop a past client or two; but what about the listings that didn’t sell? Have they been fired by a client?

The ratio of expired to sold listings can be telling; is the agent focused on servicing your listing or is it a “numbers game” for them? If an agent is open to sharing those figures, ask for reasons why the listings didn’t sell; was it about price or the marketing? If an agent has a history of being fired, it could be a possible indication of issues with the quality of service, including over-promising and not meeting expectations.

© Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

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How home buyers and sellers have changed and remained the same

HomesThe National Association of Realtors® annual Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers is characterized as being a survey of home buyers and sellers that reveals “demographics, housing characteristics and the experience of consumers in the housing market, including the role that real estate professionals play in home sales transactions (realtor.org). The release of the Highlights of the 2014 Profile of Home buyers and Sellers on November 3rd by NAR provides insight into home buyer and seller behavior. I compare a small sample of data from three Profiles that demonstrates how some things have changed, and how some things have stayed the same.

The recent lack of first time home buyer participation is one of the issues that experts point to as holding back a full housing recovery, and has been highlighted by the 2014 Profile of Home buyers and Sellers. Only thirty-three percent of home buyers surveyed in 2014 were first time buyers, which the NAR points out as being below the “historical norm of forty percent among primary residence buyers.” Compared to 2003, NAR reported that forty percent of home buyers were first time home buyers. However, fifty percent of home buyers reported being first time buyers during 2010, which is most likely due to the first time home buyer tax credit that was offered at the time to stimulate home sales.

The 2014 survey revealed that home buyers searched on average for 10 weeks and viewed 10 homes; which is reduced from the 12 week average search indicated the year prior. The 2010 report also indicated a 12 week average search, looking at an average of 12 homes. But these home search stats are a far cry from the 8 week average search time viewing 10 homes reported in 2003.

As you might have expected, home buyer use of the internet has grown. In the 2014 survey, ninety-two percent of buyers reported using the internet in some way in the process. The first step for forty-three percent of home buyers was to look at properties online; while only twelve percent of home buyers initially used the internet for information about the home buying process. The use of mobile applications has significantly increased as technology allowed; fifty percent of buyers reported using mobile websites or applications. Compare this to 2010, when about ninety percent of home buyers reported using the internet; and in 2003 when only forty-two percent of home buyers reported searching for homes online.

Rather than eliminating real estate agents, the internet has changed the relationship between agents, buyers and sellers. Ninety-eight percent of buyers in 2014, who used an agent, viewed them as being a useful source of information. Eighty eight percent of surveyed buyers indicated they used an agent to purchase their home, compared to eighty-one percent in 2010, and eighty-six in 2003.

Ninety-one percent of surveyed sellers in 2014 reported their homes were listed on the MLS, but eighty-eight percent had assistance from real estate agents. Only nine percent of surveyed sellers sold “by-owner.” The 2010 seller stats are consistent with the 2014 Profile; while the 2003 survey indicated eighty-three percent of home sellers used an agent’s assistance to sell their home.

There are differences between buyers and sellers also.  Among the differences in how they choose their agent: the 2014 survey indicated that forty-four percent of home buyers, compared to thirty-eight percent of home sellers, found their agent by a referral through a friend or family.

© Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

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when selling home – stay away from gimmicks & listen to buyers

home sellingYou’ve probably heard a story or two about a home that was priced very low to “create a buzz” and illicit a bidding war. And in fact, there was a 2012 article in a local newspaper about such a sale in DC that touted the rebounding housing market. But guess what? A recently published study, with robust empirical data, suggests that such a strategy may not be the best for a home seller. Furthermore, the study suggests evidence that real estate agents who recommend under pricing as a strategy believe that homes listed for less – sell for less than comparable homes.

Bucchianeri & Minson (A Homeowner’s Dilemma: Anchoring in Residential Real Estate Transactions. Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization. May 2013: 76–92) collected and compared data related to “anchoring” (higher list price to prompt buyers to make higher offers) and “herding” (lower list prices intended to creating bidding wars) theories. Although actual sale prices may depend on location and time on market, the conclusions are that homes listed at higher prices sold for more than those that relied on bidding up the price. The authors suggest that sellers should think twice before under pricing their home to create a bidding war; and suggest that results from such strategies are typically anecdotal.

If setting a higher price may translate into a longer time on market, how could you know if you are priced too high or low? Listen to home buyers. A study conducted by Case, Shiller, & Thompson (“What have they been Thinking? Homebuyer Behavior in Hot and Cold Markets.” Brookings Papers on Economic Activity. 2012: 265-315) of 25 years of data in four metropolitan areas concluded that there is a strong relationship between buyer’s perception of price trends and actual price changes; the stronger the price trend (in either direction), the stronger the agreement among home buyers perceptions.

Home buyers’ short term and long term expectations of home prices can differ. And although Case, Shiller, & Thompson indicate that it is more difficult to gauge long term pricing expectations, they were undoubtedly impressed that buyers’ were “out in front” of short term home price changes. They stated, “…We find that homebuyers were generally well informed, and that their short-run expectations if anything underreacted to the year-to-year change in actual home prices.”

If deciding on your home’s selling price gives you a headache, Stefanos Chen wonders if taking a Tylenol could assist in making a decision. In his October 23rd Wall Street Journal article (Can Tylenol Ease the Pain of a Home Sale?), Chen reported of to-be-published research that indicates taking the pain reliever may ease the anguish associated with “loss-aversion” (an avoidance of a perceived loss).

Can acetaminophen reduce the pain of decision-making?” by DeWall, Chester & White is expected to be published in the January volume of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology (pages 117-120). The results indicate that those who took acetaminophen sold a mug (that was given to them 30 seconds prior) for significantly less than those who tool a placebo. Chen’s question whether taking a Tylenol could help a seller take a lower sales price is a stretch, considering that the study was limited to 95 college student subjects. Although further research is indicated, the study’s conclusions may have implications to lessening the “pain” of letting go of ownership.

© Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

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Trendy is not for home staging

interior designDeparting from the safety of natural materials and earth tones, big and bold interior design has become popular this year. Many designers have talked about 2014 as the year of using bright colors, brass and other yellow metals throughout the house. But if you’re selling your home, tread cautiously– because trendy may not be the best choices for staging your listed home.

Kelly Walters of HGTV (Color Trends: What’s New, What’s Next?; hgtv.com) talked about color use in the home, over the last ten years, being a reflection of our need for safety after 9/11 and the Great Recession. However, this is the year for change, and it’s reflected in the colors we choose for our interiors. A palette of gray hues is replacing the use of browns as the favorite neutral color; while reds, pinks, and violets are trending in popularity.

Using brass throughout the house has been the buzz during 2014. Kate Watson-Smyth reported the popularity of brass (Why brass is back as the new must-have metal for home décor; Financial Times, January 24, 2014; ft.com) as being a trend moving away from shine towards warmer tones. The use of brass and similar metals has also expanded from stylish bathroom finishes and hardware to fixtures as well as furniture.

Remember wallpaper? It’s back! Realtor® Magazine’s Barbara Ballinger wrote about how wallpaper has made a comeback. Relegated to accents, wallpaper is once again acceptable as wall covers (Wallpaper: Back in the Game; Realtor® Magazine, October 2014; realtormag.realtor.org). The new generation of wallpapers are eco-friendly and easier to use; inks are typically water based, while many papers are designed as “peel and stick” to be easily removed and reused.

Kitchens are important to many of us, and what could be better for the home chef than their own hydroponic garden. On her blog The Entertaining House, Jessica Ryan (jessicagordonryan.com) describes the Chef’s Garden Wall hydroponic system, “Fresh is the new green.” Because some kitchen hydroponic systems are low maintenance, you don’t necessarily have to be a gardener to have fresh greens at your finger tips all year.

Although trendy interior design may seem modern and stylish, it may not be the best choices when selling your home. Melissa Tracey wrote in her Home Trends Blog (5 Design Trends You May Want to Avoid in Staging; August 11, 2014; blogs.realtor.org), “Staging in trendy fabrics, colors, and finishes may offer up buyers a feeling that the home is up-to-date and move-in-ready. But getting too trendy can also backfire, particularly if it’s too personalized.”

And about those interior design trends I listed above? Tracey says to “steer clear.” Although wallpaper may be a tempting and easy way to brighten up a room, she says to stick with paint because wallpaper may interfere with a buyers’ vision of living in the room. And when painting, she says that trendy colors may be “too bold” for buyers; sellers should stick with neutral colors, using bolder colors as accents (such as pillows, rugs, and lamps). And although many designers are going all in on brass, it’s best to use it sparingly as accents when staging your home. The trend toward doorless kitchen cabinets is to be avoided, because buyers will undoubtedly ask “Where are the doors?” And finally, Tracey points out that the highly popular Tuscan and French Provincial themes are giving way to transitional and contemporary styles.

© Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

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Home designs for multigenerational families under one roof

For Sale“Wait long enough and it will come back in style” is a saying that typically applies to clothing styles and fashion. And unlike fashion trends, which typically relies on pop culture, fads, and a designer’s vision; home design trends are more practical and rely on changing life styles, advances in building technologies, and the development and/or use of new construction materials.

Although the idea of extended family living under one roof has not been commonplace for decades, multigenerational life styles have been trending in recent years. And this year, there was a surge in the demand of multigenerational home designs.

Consider a Pew Research Center analysis, as reported by Sally Abrahms in the AARP Bulletin (3 Generations Under One Roof, April 2013; aarp.org), that indicated multigenerational households increased 10.5 percent (which is about 16.7 percent of the U.S. population) between 2007 and 2009. She also cited a 2012 survey by the Pulte Group, that indicated about 32 percent of adult children plan to live with their parents.

Such surveys make sense, if you consider that our population is increasingly aging. And as long term care costs are increasing, there is growing pressure on adult children to take care of their parents during their waning years and declining health (as was once expected decades ago). Consider the cost of long term care as reported by Genworth Financial (genworth.com): the 2014 Maryland median cost of a private one bedroom accommodation in an assisted living facility is $40,800 per year; while the 2014 Maryland median cost for a semi-private room in a nursing home is $98,368 per year.

Besides the rising aging population, Abrahms also pointed out that multigenerational living is also due to the return of young adults to their parents’ homes. Also known as the “boomerang generation,” many pay rent and contribute to housing costs. About 75% of young adults aged 25-34 moved back with parents; as well 61% of young adults aged 25-34 who know of friends or family who moved back with parents due to lack of living arrangements, lack of money, and/or lack of employment.

In the past, the extended families that lived under one roof had little choice but to make the best use of a home typically designed for one family. However, home builders have taken notice of the trend in multigenerational households and have responded. Amy Taxin, of the Associated Press, reported (The family that stays together: Homebuilders are making room for more multigenerational households; Associated Press – The Washington Times, April 16, 2012) that builders are offering single family home designs with “…semi-independent suites with separate entries, bathrooms and kitchenettes. Some suites even include their own laundry areas and outdoor patios for additional privacy, though they maintain a connection to the main house through an inside door.

Taxin pointed out multigenerational housing options, which includes: Lennar Corp, which offered a 3,400 square foot home in the Las Vegas area that contained 700 square foot suites; and Standard Pacific Homes that rolled out the “casitas” idea which is independent living areas attached to the main house.

After many decades of the “break-away” family, a number of socio-economic factors have come together to bring about the reintegration of the extended family under one roof. The idea that multigenerational living is once again popular has created a new niche and trend for home builders and architects.

© Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

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Real estate, a dangerous profession

Bethesda Real EstateIf you asked anyone on the street to name the top dangerous professions, “real estate agent” is not usually considered. But the recent murder of Arkansas Realtor® Beverly Carter highlights, once again, the dangers of selling homes. Carter went missing in September after she planned to show a house, and her body was later found in a rural area.

Although the details of the murder is yet to be revealed, it feels reminiscent of the 2010 murders of two Ohio real estate agents killed in separate incidents within the same week. Vivian Martin was found on the floor of burning home, Martin’s death was found to be by strangulation. Andrew VonStein, was found shot in a vacant home (usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2010-09-22-real-estate-agents-ohio_N.htm).

Dealing with the public on a daily basis puts real estate agents in contact with a wide range of personalities and potentially dangerous situations. And although reports of general crime may not grab our attention until we hear about a life being taken prematurely, other daily dangers that agents may face can include stalking, robbery, assault, and rape.

Here are a just few reports from this year:

Over the summer, a Pennsylvania real estate agent was allegedly carjacked at gunpoint, then allegedly sexually assaulted and forced to stay in back seat. While the alleged assailants drove her SUV, it lost control and ran into pedestrians a fruit stand. Two Philadelphia men were charged with the deaths of three children and their mother, as well as the kidnapping, aggravated assault and sexual assault of the real estate agent (cnn.com/2014/08/08/us/philadelphia-carjacking).

The Charlotte Observer reported May 14th that a man was arrested and charged with rape, attempted rape, felonious restraint and kidnapping, and two counts of sexual assault. Police stated that the alleged assailant arranged to view a number of homes with the real estate agent the day before they met. The two drove together, and while in the first home the agent was choked and was threatened to be killed with a knife lest she comply. The agent was sexually assaulted in the home; the alleged attacker ordered her to take him to the second home, where she was assaulted again (charlotteobserver.com/2014/05/14/4910501/realty-firms-re-emphasize-safety.html).

Earlier this year, ABC-7 WJLA reported that a Maryland agent was robbed in a New Carrolton home.   Police stated that a man followed the agent into the vacant home, when a purse and other items were taken by threat of an alleged weapon (wjla.com/articles/2014/03/real-estate-agent-robbed-in-vacant-maryland-home-101466.html).

A recent story out of Arizona (kpho.com/story/25186878/foot-fetish-predator-targets-valley-real-estate-agents) tells of a buyer texting female real estate agents to see a home. Seemingly innocent, the would-be buyer would initially text the agents about a house listed for sale; however, quickly changing the topic to the agents’ feet and foot wear. As bizarre as this story may sound, one of the affected agents seemed to think that this foot-fetish pervert was harmless; she stated to in this CBS-5 KPHO story, “You very much have to trust your instincts and intuition…If something doesn’t seem right, ask questions…”

Most real estate agents are personable and service oriented, but don’t be surprised if your call to urgently see a home, with an agent whom you have never met, is answered with deliberate caution. The recent murder of Beverly Carter once again puts safety first in the minds of many agents and others in the industry.

© Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

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Home equity entitlements, home prices, and talk of external price controls

single family homeA home buyer who visited a recent open house told me that home sellers need to “let go of their perception of entitled equity.”

I will pause here for a moment, as you are no doubt trying to make sense of the last statement.

Was this visitor verbalizing that a seller’s home equity be measured and controlled? And the follow up question might be: “Since when is a home owner’s equity perceived as an entitlement?” Was the buyer saying that there should be outside intervention to determine the equity a home owner may net on their sale (so as to make housing affordable), much like rental controls that exist in some areas around the country?

Who makes the decision as to how much equity a home owner may realize (net)? Sure, one could argue that home equity is an intangible concept that comes from the perceived value of your home; where the value is relative until it is realized (liquidated). You could also say that equity is realized through liquidation of the home by either selling it (or cashing out with a mortgage or equity line of credit); the value being the price a buyer is willing to pay, (or the amount a lender decides so as to make a loan). So it seems that when it comes to home sales, market forces still (mostly) determines the sale price and the amount of equity (if any) the home seller nets from the sale. Simply put – buyers and sellers negotiate home prices; generally, buyer pushback on listing prices can pressure sale prices to decrease, much like high demand can pressures prices to increase.

Let’s give the open house buyer the benefit of the doubt; maybe having outside intervention was not what he meant by saying home sellers need to let go of their perceived entitled equity. Maybe he was using (or misusing) economic jargon to make a point by expressing his opinion that housing is currently overpriced.

As I wrote in August, if you want to know where the housing market is headed, ask a home buyer. And it seems as if this buyer is not alone in his sentiment, as the attitude that home prices are too high is (again) an increasing view among many home buyers.   It could be that the housing market is encountering what was experienced in 2009, when at that time there was a growing disparity between the price home sellers are asking and what home buyers are willing to pay. After all, it was during 2008-2009 when similar attitudes were strongly expressed, a time when rapidly falling home prices did not encourage home sales.

Quentin Fottrell pointed out in his pithy MarketWatch analysis of recent housing data (10 most overvalued (and undervalued) housing markets, marketwatch.com, 10/1/2014) that “Seven of the top 100 metro areas are overvalued by more than 10%, the highest number since the first quarter of 2009.” He also mentions that the last time this occurred was early in the housing bubble; but Fottrell says there should be little concern of current housing bubble because of the current economic environment (jobs and construction).

Conversations with home buyers are extremely valuable to home sellers for many reasons. What you might come away from this conversation is that there is continued push back on listing prices; and unless home sellers are responsive to pricing feedback, they should prepare for a long time on market.

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

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Don’t leave money on the table

money to close on homeA nagging concern that is often expressed by many home sellers is that they are leaving money on the table; in other words selling for too little. The dilemma often presented to a home seller is that if the home is priced too high, then there is risk eliminating potential home buyers; while at a lower price, there is risk selling at a less than desirable price.

Pricing a home is both a science and art. Skilled agents employ mathematical formulas as a foundation upon which to build a case for a range of sale price (the science); as well as demonstrating their ability of making price adjustments for variations in improvements, updates, as well as intangibles (the art).

But it may not necessarily be your home’s list price that can set you up to leave money on the table. Examining how your home is marketed, as well as your motivations and reasons for selling may reveal a weakness in your negotiation position as a result of convenience.

Selling a home can be disruptive to your daily life; and the prospect of having people, whom you’ve never met, traipse through your home can be unsettling. The typically limited and highly targeted private placement or pre-listing marketing may offer the convenience of limiting buyer traffic to your home, but its appeal is sometimes promoted to increase the potential of the agent receiving both sides of the commission. (continued below)

Before you agree to a marketing plan that promises exclusive home buyer targeting; consider that many experts make the argument that you can leave money on the table when limiting your home’s exposure to potential buyers. In a world where everything and everyone seems electronically connected, you can increase the buyer pool by taking advantage of every reasonable marketing opportunity (including the internet and local listservs, and electronic bulletin boards, and other acceptable marketing tactics).

The process of selling a home can also be emotional and time consuming; more so if you’re divorcing and selling marital property, or selling your parents’ or grandparents’ home (sometimes because of a move to an assisted living facility or to settle an estate). The convenience of a quick sale can be very tempting; but can also set you up for selling for too little. And if the home is in need of repairs, updating, and renovations, the pricing can be unclear and inaccurate adding to the pressure for a quick sale.

You might even be considering responding to an ad promising a fast home sale without real estate commissions, repairs or home inspections – which is alluring to be sure. However, consider that many of these operations are seeking to purchase homes at a fraction of retail value minus repair costs.

Unfortunately, there is no “real time” measure to determine if you’re selling your home for too little; and some home sellers often lament in hindsight selling at a lower price out of convenience. However, a little homework and investigation can at least better your negotiating position. Ask questions and understand the purpose, benefits and limitations of a private placement or pre-listing marketing. Additionally, you can get pricing guidance from a market analysis, obtained from at least two (three is better) neighborhood real estate agents. And finally, weigh the pros and cons of selling out of convenience to the process of selling on the open market (listing the home in the MLS).

© Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

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Retro-future of real estate – buyers like representation

For SaleWhen I wrote about the future of real estate brokerage seven years ago, I predicted that consumers would become increasingly reliant on the internet; while the process of selling homes would remain interpersonal. Once thought to free home buyers and sellers from real estate brokers, the internet has become ancillary to the home buying and selling process.

Some real estate experts point to home buyers’ perception of buyer agency as a reason for the integration of the internet into the buying process. The internet has become a prolific source of information that funnels buyers directly to listing agents. With information in hand, many buyers are seemingly ditching their agents when viewing homes; some thinking they can negotiate a sweat deal directly with the listing agent.

Consider this 2012 anonymous post from a popular real estate web site. The poster proclaimed to have fired their agent and on their own negotiated a $490,000 price, when a previous buyer backed out from a $515,000 contract. The poster stated that “it makes financial sense,” the rationale being that there is always a 6% commission built into the price. The post stated that the seller makes more money if there is no buyer agent to pay, even if the offer is lower; while also getting the listing agent to accept a lower commission.

The post’s rationale may seem ostensibly compelling; and if the tactic works, it most likely has nothing to do with commissions per se. The strategy of negotiating a better price based on commission falls flat when you understand how broker commissions are negotiated. Generally, commissions are negotiated between the listing broker and the seller before the home is listed; the negotiated commission is expressly stated in the listing contract. The commission belongs to the listing broker, not the agents. The listing contract is also specific to the amount of the commission to be split if the buyer is represented by a buyer broker. Trends in commissions vary; including variable commissions, which is an agreement to a reduced listing commission if the buyer is not represented.
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Of course this do-it-yourself (DIY) home buyer post (and many others like it) has garnered a lot of attention and unconfirmed corroboration. However, there is no additional information about this specific transaction; and two thoughts immediately come to mind, either: the home did not appraise at the higher price (this was 2012); or the buyer walked on the home inspection.

The truth is that many still value buyer broker representation, which goes beyond just finding a home and negotiating a sales price; and may include (among other responsibilities) identifying and guiding you through any obstacles that can arise during the transaction. Of course, not all agents are the same. If your agent is a strong negotiator, the probability on settling on a better price is higher; as well as other occasions during the transaction where negotiation is paramount – notably during the home inspection process.

What some experts proclaim to be evidence of a trend of home buyers purchasing sans a buyer agent, may actually be just a shift in buyer behavior. Sure, there will always be the “DYI” buyer trying to justify a price by reducing commissions. But the reality may be that, rather than ditching the buyer agent altogether, the internet has allowed many home buyers to put off signing a buyer agency agreement until they are ready to make an offer.

© Dan Krell
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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

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