The copious home sale contract

home sale contract
Home buying process (infographic from floridarealtors.org)

If you’ve recently bought or sold a home in Montgomery County MD, you probably recognized that the home sale contract was quite lengthy.  In fact, depending on the situation and additional addenda, a contract can be fifty-plus pages. It seems as if that the home sale contract gets fatter as every year passes. It’s no wonder why I am often asked “Why are home sale contracts long winded?”

Why is our home sale contract so long?  Our local home sale contract has a number of required addenda and disclosures.  There is a simple reason for this, but let’s look at the foundation and need for the contract.

It’s important to mention that property sale contracts around the country are not the same.  Every jurisdiction has their own criteria for a home sale contract.  A recent client who relocated from New Jersey shared their home sale contract, which was a fraction of the size of our local contract.  Likewise, a colleague asserted the same about the property contracts in Arizona, where he was licensed for a number of years.

Property sale contracts go back into antiquity.  Most likely, ancient contracts formed a basis of ancient record keeping.  These ancient contracts were also “promises” that were enforced in some manner that was keeping with the time.  For example, The History Blog (thehistoryblog.com) tells the account of the Mogao Caves which are located in the Gobi Desert and date back to the fourth century.  One of the caves held a cache of financial documents from medieval China, including property sale contracts and records!

According to the legal historian A. W. B. Simpson, modern English contract law has roots in the middle ages (A History of the Common Law of Contract: The Rise of the Action of Assumpsit; Clarendon Press; 1987).  The contract was founded in the concept of “assumpsit,” which was the basis for resolving “broken promises.”  Assumpsit allowed individuals to bring claims of broken promises to local courts.  Although the practice was traced back to the thirteenth century, court hearings were routine in the sixteenth century.  This model became the basis for enforcing a private contract.

It wasn’t until 1677 when the English Parliament enacted “An Act for the Prevention of Frauds and Perjuries,” known today as the Statute of Frauds.  According to Russell Decker, the Parliament enacted the law that required contracts to be written, because parties obliged by a contract were not allowed to provide testimony in court (The Repeal of the Statute of Frauds in England; American Business Law Journal; 1973; 11:1 p55).  The written contract was the “witness” to a promise.  However, most of the Statute of Frauds was mostly repealed in England in 1954.

The Statute of Frauds is still alive and well in the US and the basis for the real estate contract in Maryland.  Statute of Frauds is a subtitle of the Real Property Act of the Code of Maryland.  Section 5-104 Executory Contracts states: “No action may be brought on any contract for the sale or disposition of land or of any interest in or concerning land unless the contract on which the action is brought, or some memorandum or note of it, is in writing and signed by the party to be charged or some other person lawfully authorized by him.”

So ok, home sale contracts need to be in writing, but why are our contracts lengthy?  The reason is because many of the addenda and disclosures are generated because of statutory requirements to provide specific information in a contract of sale. Besides  the expected list of notices and disclosures (such as property condition), there is a compendium of additional required notices and disclosures that is found in Code of Maryland  Miscellaneous subtitle of the Real Property Act section 14-117 Contracts for Sale of Property.  Additionally, jurisdictions around the state include additional addenda and notices for home sales within the respective county and/or locality.  Of course, Montgomery County has added a number of disclosures and notices (such as the Utility Cost and Usage History Form and the Real Property Estimated Tax).

Make sure your agent is knowledgeable about the jurisdiction in which you are buying or selling.  As a buyer, you need to make sure you receive all the relevant notices and disclosures.  As a seller, you may incur a fine for non-disclosure of certain notices.

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2018/09/20/copious-home-sale-contract/

Copyright© 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.

Fast home sale tips

fast home sale
Average Days on Market (infographic from keepingcurrentmatters.com)

Although the volume of home sales is below last year’s figures, most homes are still selling.  Of course, home sellers would prefer to have a fast home sale. When meeting with potential listing agents, home owners are typically overwhelmed by agents promoting their broker’s technology.  But the research is clear that it’s not technology that sells homes, but rather your MLS listing content and the audience that can sell your home fast.

Three years ago, I introduced cutting edge research by Allen, Cadena, Rutherford & Rutherford (Effects of real estate brokers’ marketing strategies: Public open houses, broker open houses, MLS virtual tours, and MLS photographs; The Journal of Real Estate Research; 2015; 37(3), 343-369).  Although the study focused on the listing agent’s motivations about spending money on promoting your home, it did shed light on the effectiveness of marketing staples such as: broker open houses, public open houses, MLS photos, and MLS virtual tours.  Although these tactics may not promote a fast home sale, the study revealed that all four methods used together positively influence the home sale price.

They found that having six or more MLS photos increases the probability of a selling your home, as well as positively influencing the sale price.  Having a virtual tour can decrease the home’s time on market as well as increasing the probability of selling.  Having open houses can help sell your home at a higher price, but can take longer to sell.  Contrary to conventional wisdom, having public open houses can increase your home’s time on market up to twenty-five days, while reducing the chances of it selling by 6.1 percent!  Broker open houses also adds to the time on market, however increases the likelihood of selling your home.  The conclusion was that all four tactics should be considered as a package if your goal is to get top dollar.  However, if your goal is a fast home sale, your focus should be elsewhere.

Do pictures help with a fast home sale? A number of studies found that MLS photos and virtual tours have positive effects to home sale price, but are conflicted with regard to time on market.  However, a study conducted by Benefield, Cain & Johnson (On the Relationship Between Property Price, Time-on-Market, and Photo Depictions in a Multiple Listing Service; The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics; 2011; 43(3), 401–422) indicated that having more photos of the home’s interior can increase the time on market.

A study published this year suggests that getting more real estate agents to view your MLS listing can sell your home faster.  Allen, Dare, & Lingxiao (MLS Information Sharing Intensity and Housing Market Outcomes; The Journal of Real Estate Finance & Economics; 2018; 57(2), 297-313) found that just increasing the MLS listing view by one unit can increase the probability of selling your home by 5.7 percent, increase the sale price by 0.2 percent, and reduce time on market by 1.6 days.

A fast home sale

So, what does all this research mean to you if you’re selling your home?  First, consider that your agent’s marketing strategy will certainly affect your home’s sale price and days on market.  While possibly helping to get a better sale price, the research has demonstrated that having a broad marketing plan could increase your home’s time on market.  To decrease the days on market and increase the probability of a sale, pay attention to the pictures and audience.  Make sure your agent places high-definition photos of your home in the MLS, but limiting shots to the most relevant.  Also, make sure your agent has a plan to get your MLS listing in front of other agents.

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2018/08/16/fast-home-sale-tips/ ‎

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Home pricing psychology

home pricing psychologyPricing your home correctly is the foundation of a successful sale.  I have often talked about the science and art of pricing a home in various market conditions, but did you know home pricing psychology also plays a role?

With vast amounts of public data available on the internet, you may be tempted to price your home on your own.  However, keep in mind that unverified internet data can be inaccurate or outdated.  Moreover, the most recent sales data may not yet be available on your favorite real estate sites.  Asking a Realtor to help you analyze relevant comparables from the MLS can help you decide on a sales price that is in line with home buying trends.

The science of pricing a home is a straight forward method of analyzing the sale prices of similar neighborhood homes.  The analysis will provide you with a potential sales price range.  When selecting comparable homes, make sure that the homes are similar in style (colonial, split level, rambler, etc.).  Select comparable homes that are similar in size (usually within 15 to 20 percent of your home’s living area).  Also, try to find comparable sales that sold within the last six months to be relevant to current market trends.

The “art” of pricing your home is a process of fine tuning the sale price range derived from comparable homes.  Looking at various factors for each home, you can make adjustments on your calculated sale price range.  Interior differences, such as number of bedrooms, bathrooms, or having a finished basement, can change a sale price significantly.  Likewise, exterior features, such as a deck or fence, can also affect the price.

Let’s talk about your home’s condition.  Whether you like it or not, your home’s condition should be a major factor in determining a sale price.  You should be honest and objective when it comes to your home’s condition.  Have others offer their opinions about necessary updates and repairs.  Are there any comparables that are in similar condition?  You may have to make adjustments to correspond to deferred maintenance and lack of updates.

Home Pricing Psychology

To attract home buyers while trying to get top dollar, you may also have to apply home pricing psychology.  Of course, many of these home pricing psychology strategies are not sound or based on facts.  An example of this is the use of a “totem” price.  A totem price is when the second half of the number is a mirror of the first (e.g., 543,345).  This was a strategy that was highly touted during the “go-go” market of 2005-2006.

Until recently, there hasn’t been much research into the psychological effects of real estate pricing strategies.  An empirical study by Eli Beracha and Michael J. Seiler revealed how sellers can ask for a higher price without turning off buyers (The Effect of Pricing Strategy on Home Selection and Transaction Prices: An Investigation of the Left-Most Digit Effect; Journal of Housing Research; 2015; Vol. 24, No. 2, pp.147-161).  Their study revealed that “just-below” pricing can help you sell your home faster and get a higher price.  Just-below pricing is a strategy that lowers the price by reducing the left most digit by “1.”  However, they suggest that when using the just-below strategy in real estate, it should be rounded to the nearest hundred or thousand.  For example, if you decide on a list price of $450,000, then the rounded-just-below price will be $449,900.

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2018/06/05/home-pricing-psychology/

Copyright© Dan Krell
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Negative equity stats likely erroneous

negative equity
What is a short sale (infographic from lender411.com)

Before the Great Recession, there was the foreclosure crisis of 2007. That was the year that the housing bubble popped and home negative equity soared. Many home owners negotiated with their lenders to keep their homes, while others lost their homes to foreclosure. The Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 was one of the first measures to assist distressed homeowners during the financial crisis. The Act initially was to end in 2009 but has been extended annually. The Act was recently retroactively extended for 2017.

The purpose of the Act was to address tax liabilities that distressed homeowners faced when they tried to save their homes. Because debt forgiveness is typically considered taxable income, a mortgage balance reduction via mortgage modification or short sale would have resulted in a tax bill to a homeowner who was already experiencing a financial hardship.

Recent home equity gains in the housing market should help many home sellers who would have otherwise needed a short sale. Highlights from CoreLogic’s Q4 2017 Home Equity Report (corelogic.com) indicated that about 4.9 percent of mortgaged homes have negative equity (which is a huge improvement from the almost 31 percent reported in 2012 by Zillow’s Negative Equity Report). Additionally, CoreLogic reported that the national average of home equity gained by homeowners over the past year was in excess of $15,000. However, there is disparity in home equity growth by region.

Dr. Frank Nothaft, chief economist for CoreLogic stated:

“Home-price growth has been the primary driver of home-equity wealth creation. The CoreLogic Home Price Index grew 6.2 percent during 2017, the largest calendar-year increase since 2013. Likewise, the average growth in home equity was more than $15,000 during 2017, the most in four years. Because wealth gains spur additional consumer purchases, the rise in home-equity wealth during 2017 should add more than $50 billion to U.S. consumption spending over the next two to three years.”

The National Association of Realtors testified on March 14th to the U.S. House Ways and Means Subcommittee hearing on “Post Tax Reform Evaluation of Recently Expired Tax Provisions” to make the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act permanent. In his testimony, Realtor Barry Grooms discussed the plight of many homeowners who are surprised to find that they are upside-down on their mortgage despite national home price gains.

Grooms made an argument why the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act should be permanent.  The Act has been retroactively extended each year in recent years leaving many short sellers “sweating it out” until the end of the year.  Part of the decision-making process for a short sale is a potential tax liability. Many home sellers take the chance that the Act will be renewed retroactively. But others do not want to take the chance of incurring a large tax liability.

Negative equity statistics are likely to be erroneous. The number of homes with negative equity is probably under-represented due to deferred maintenance.

Yes, home prices have significantly increased, which has grown home equity. But the statistics for home equity assume that all homes are worth “retail value.” The retail value of a home is the full price a home can sell. In today’s market the home must be in better-than-average to excellent condition to sell for retail value.  We don’t know the real value of any home until it’s sold.

In his testimony, Grooms touched upon a number of issues why homeowners are selling for less than they owe. However, not addressed by Groom is the number one reason why homeowners are under-water and why many home sellers need to sell via short sale. Property condition. The property condition crisis was highlighted in a February 2013 article by the Harvard Joint Center of Housing Studies entitled “The Return of Substandard Housing.” The lack of updates and/or deferred maintenance in a home can significantly decrease its value.

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Home selling basics

home selling basics
Preparing for a home sale (infographic from nar.realtor)

It’s that time of year again.  Many home owners, just like you, are getting ready to put their houses on the market.  One thing I’ve learned over sixteen-plus years of home selling is that there are different strategies to achieve the same result.  Basically, there is no “one way” to sell your home.  But, if you look beyond the gimmicks and tactics promising to sell a home faster and for more money, the basics are essentially the same.  In other words, focus on home selling basics to increase home buyer traffic and possibly get a better price.

Prepare for home selling

Most would be home sellers don’t realize that selling a home is a process.  Preparing your home can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be.  Focusing on home selling basics will not only get you excited about selling your home, but can help your home sale results.

Preparing your home to sell can be a costly endeavor, especially if your home has a lot of deferred maintenance or lacks updates.  However, the obstacle of selling when your home is in need of attention can be overcome by pricing it with its condition in mind.

Regardless of your home’s condition, it should still be neat and clean.  This means decluttering.  Decluttering is a process of prioritizing and clearing out unnecessary items from your home.  Removing unneeded items and furniture from your home will make your home feel larger and organized.  You don’t necessarily have to throw out these items, you can decide to make charitable donations and/or store them until you move.

People talk about “Neutralizing” a home to take away personal affects from the home.  It basically strips away the things you did to personalize your home.  Neutralizing applies to paint schemes, decor, wall hangings, flooring, etc.  It may sound extreme, but neutralizing your home will allow home buyers to envision how they can live there. Although your proud how to show your personal touch by displaying trophies, awards, diplomas, family and personal photos, these should be removed because they can distract home buyers’ attention.

Should you stage your home?  Maybe.  Staging can be another home selling expense you’re not prepared for, but it can help sell your home faster.  You can hire a professional stager or interior designer for the total staging experience.  However, staging doesn’t have to be expensive.  Some staging or design professionals can provide you a list of recommendations for a nominal fee.  If you’ve already decluttered and painted a room or two, you’re well into the first phase of staging.  Although some home sellers decide to rent furniture for their home staging (which can also be expensive), it’s not an absolute.  Once you remove the unnecessary furniture, the remainder may just need rearranging.

Don’t let your home’s exterior can turn away potential buyers before they get inside.  Even if you spend lots of time and money on preparing your home’s interior, it may not matter if home buyers don’t make it inside.   Many home buyers decide if they like a home by its exterior appearance.

Improving your home’s curb appeal is similar to preparing the interior.  Take care of deferred maintenance and declutter the exterior.  Believe it or not, landscaping is a key factor to attract buyers when home selling.  Make sure the lawn is cut regularly, and don’t over-crowd the flower beds and shrubs.  Trimming back trees will not only add to your manicured landscape, but it will also make your home easier to see from the street.

Once your home is one the market, consider having an open house.  The open house is more important today than it has been in decades.  Consider that contemporary home buyers are taking control over their home search.  Besides searching listings on their own, many will visit open houses on their own as well.  Deciding to not have an open house eliminates many potential home buyers from seeing your home.

Home selling basics is about safety too.  Selling your home means having people whom you don’t know visit your home, mostly when you’re not there.  Having unknown people walking through your home increases the chance of things going missing.  Don’t tempt would be thieves by leaving money, jewelry, medicines, or any other valuables on display.  Don’t just put your valuables away, lock them in a safe place.

But in the end, home selling basics comes down to the price.  Home buyers are savvy and know value.  In this market, it’s easy to get big eyes and over-price your home.  Making the mistake of over-pricing your home can stretch out the days-on-market and test your nerves.  Instead, decide on a list price that is consistent with recent neighborhood sales of homes that are similar in size, style and condition.

Home selling basics

1. Make repairs
2. Declutter
3. Improve the curb appeal
4. Staging
5. Open house
6. Find a buyer

Copyright© 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.