Misguided house makeover

house makeover
House Makeover (Infographic by Allianz Australia Home Insurance allianz.com.au)

Do you really need to spend money to make money?  Deciding what renovations and updates to make prior to your home sale can be tormenting.  It’s easy enough to say that your home needs a facelift; but, the repairs, updates, and painting costs money – and usually lots of it.  The suggestion of making renovations and updates to your home before you sell is everywhere, it’s on TV, the internet, and magazines.  And if you ask friends and real estate agents, they will also give you a list of “must do’s.”  Regardless of how you decide to do a house makeover before the sale, chances are that you’re not doing it right.

There is no doubt that many home buyers are looking for a turn-key home.  If your home is not “out of the box brand new,” you probably need to freshen it up, as well as make some repairs and updates.  But before you embark on the house makeover by making those renovations, you need to ask yourself two important questions: “How much money can I realistically allot for a makeover?” and “How much am I expecting to net from my home sale?

Does a house makeover really get you top dollar? Spending money on renovations will certainly make the home sell faster, but not necessarily make you more money.  And there is no guarantee that the house makeover renovations you make are to home buyers’ tastes.  So if you’re goal is to get top dollar, don’t look at the sale price.  Instead keep your eye on your estimated net (the amount you’re left with after the sale minus total renovation costs).

Of course, the best way to maintain your home’s value is to perform regular maintenance.  It would certainly make the home prep easier too!  But the reality is that many home owners defer maintenance until they feel it’s absolutely necessary.  Deferring maintenance can actually cost more in repairs down the line, and lower your home sale price.  Spending money to correct all the years of neglected repairs and updates prior to the home sale won’t necessarily get you top dollar.

Not all buyers are looking for renovated homes.  One of Stephen B. Billings conclusions in his recent research (Hedonic Amenity Valuation and Housing Renovations; Real Estate Economics; Fall 2015, 43:652-82) was that during the past “healthy” housing market, there was a balance between renovated and non-renovated homes that sold.  However, he also found there was an increase in renovated home sales during the housing downturn of 2007.

Selling your home “as-is” would certainly decrease your sale price, but could net you the same or even more if weighed against extensive renovations of the house makeover.  Consider that you would only recoup a fraction of the cost of a minor kitchen and bathroom remodel; which averages about $20,122 and $17,908 respectively (according to 2016 Cost vs Value Report; remodeling.hw.net).

Concentrate on the basics of decluttering first. Decluttering can make your home look different and feel larger.  Decluttering can set the stage for fo you decide on renovations, and maybe even home staging.

If you decide on freshening up your home before the sale, start with the basics.  Focus on deferred maintenance, and make necessary repairs.  Consider a fresh coat of paint, and maybe new carpets.  Wood floors don’t necessarily have to be replaced or sanded; flooring professionals use state of the art processes to “renew” wood floors.

If you decide on a house makeover, focus first on making repairs and freshening your home. Work out a budget and get several quotes from licensed contractors.  Don’t automatically go for the cheapest quote, even if you’re on a tight budget.  Focus on quality, even if it means limiting the scope of work.  Poor workmanship can sabotage your home sale by making your home look shabby and in need of additional repairs and updates.

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.

Housing market 2017

housing market 2017
Housing Market 2017(infographic from RE/MAX National Housing Report remax.com)

There’s no doubt that 2016 was an outstanding year for real estate and the housing market.  In fact, National Association of Realtors chief economist Lawrence Yun was reported to say in a January NAR press release (www.nar.realtor) that the 2016 housing market was the best since the Great Recession.  There were 5.45 million total existing home sales in 2016, which exceeded 5.25 million during 2015.  What is necessary for a great housing market 2017, and how will it finish the year?

January’s sales were strong and Dr Yun stated in the press release that there is “resilience” in a “rising interest rate environment:”

“Much of the country saw robust sales activity last month as strong hiring and improved consumer confidence at the end of last year appear to have sparked considerable interest in buying a home…

Market challenges remain, but the housing market is off to a prosperous start as home buyers staved off inventory levels that are far from adequate and deteriorating affordability conditions.”

Home prices also surged during 2016.  A February 28th S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price NSA Index press release (spindices.com) indicated a 30-month index high, increasing 5.8 percent during December.  The Seattle, Portland and Denver regions were at the top during this period, posting gains of 10.8 percent, 10.0 percent and 8.9 percent respectively (the Washington DC region gained a respectable 4.2 percent).  David M. Blitzer, Managing Director and Chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices stated:

“Home prices continue to advance, with the national average rising faster than at any time in the last two-and-a-half years…One factor behind rising home prices is low inventory. While sales of existing single family homes passed five million units at annual rates in January, the highest since 2007, the inventory of homes for sales remains quite low with a 3.6 month supply. New home sales at 555,000 in 2016 are up from recent years but remain below the average pace of 700,000 per year since 1990. Another factor supporting rising home prices is mortgage rates. A 30-year fixed rate mortgage today is 4.2% compared to the 6.4% average since 1990. Another indicator that home price levels are normal can be seen in the charts of Seattle and Portland OR. In the boom-bust of 2005-2009, prices of low, medium, and high-tier homes moved together, while in other periods, including now, the tiers experienced different patterns.”

Of course, the record year was nowhere near the peak market pace of 6.48 million existing home sales during 2006.  However, the economics of the market during that time was different; being influenced by outside forces such as uber-easy money policies and overzealous speculation in the housing market.

The peak market sales records may be a benchmark of a sort.  But in retrospect, those numbers are a reflection of a distorted market where speculators bought and sold homes in record numbers taking advantage of the easy money and a seemingly guaranteed big money payoff (which was a factor in the steep home appreciation spike at that time).  It was a crazy time for housing, when homes were flipped in a matter of days.  Many investors were even making money on homes they never owned by selling their interest in their purchase contracts.  The result was that home buyers found themselves either priced out of the market, or borrowing more than they could realistically afford because of the fierce buyer competition.

After posting impressive housing stats for 2016, the expectations for housing market 2017 are high.  And not surprisingly home sales started the year on the same pace, as the NAR reported January’s existing home sales (homes that settled during January) increased 3.3 percent.  However, the pending home sale index (homes under contract and described by NAR as a forward looking number) showed a different picture with 2.8 percent decrease during January.  Of course in the absence of bad weather, some economists explain that the decrease in pending home sales are due to low inventory and rising interest rates.

Housing Market 2017

Some are concerned about the decreased prospects of future home sales, suggesting that there won’t be a repeat performance of record home sales during 2017.  The recent pending home sale index release is reminiscent of the index reported for January 2014, where the NAR reported that the pending home sale index dropped 9 percent following post-recession record year of home sales during 2013.  At the end of 2014, it was revealed that existing home sales dropped 3 percent from the previous year.  Reasons given for the decrease were low inventory and tight lending.

Many, like myself, remain optimistic for housing market 2017 because interest rates remain historically low, even with recent rate hikes; and mortgage lending has been the easiest since the financial crisis.  The sentiment for housing market 2017 is also shared by consumers; who conveyed increased optimism about the housing market in Fannie Mae’s 2017 Home Purchase Sentiment Index (HPSI).  The February 17th News release (fanniemae.com) indicated that the January’s HPSI increased 2 percent, which is 1.2 percent higher than the same time last year. Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae, stated:

“Three months after the presidential election, measures of consumer optimism regarding personal financial prospects and the economy are at or near the highest levels we’ve seen in the nearly seven-year history of the National Housing Survey…However, any significant acceleration in housing activity will depend on whether consumers’ favorable expectations are realized in the form of income gains sufficient to offset constrained housing affordability. If consumers’ anticipation of further increases in home prices and mortgage rates materialize over the next 12 months, then we may see housing affordability tighten even more.”

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Protect your valuables when selling your home

Preparing your home sale is more than just deep cleaning, decluttering, and minor repairs. Prepare and plan how to protect your valuables during the sale.

protect your valuables
Protect Your Valuables when Selling Your Home (infographic from Elders Real Estate realestatesevenhillsnews.com.au)

I often write about preparing your home for a sale.  Of course, that preparation is to make your home sell quicker and get the best price.  However, preparing your home is more than just deep cleaning, decluttering, and minor repairs.  Preparing and planning how to protect your valuables will not only keep the prying eyes of nosey home buyers focused on your home’s spaces – it can also thwart would-be criminals.

Homes for sale are prime targets for thieves, and your home is not an exemption.  Don’t make it easy for them.  It may sound obvious – use common sense.  However, you’d be surprised how many home sellers don’t lock up their valuables.  In my many years of selling homes, I have seen how home sellers can be careless by leaving credit cards, cash, medications, and financial statements on counters and desks.  There was one instance where the owner left their gun cabinet open!

And theft doesn’t only occur during open houses.  Your possessions can go missing at any time.  Anyone can have “sticky fingers,” even rogue real estate agents (agents have been arrested for stealing from a listed home).  A Washington State agent was caught stealing prescription medications last year.  Another agent faced criminal charges for stealing jewelry.

Additionally, criminals take the opportunity of an open house (and even virtual tours) to stake out your home; only to strike at a later time. So think about laying out your expensive china just to stage your home.

Yes, thieves are looking for anything of value in your home.  Besides jewelry and cash, they will take anything they think they can personally use or sell.  Medications are a commodity to thieves; and anything with personal identification can be used in ID theft.

I am often asked, “Should I install surveillance cameras?”  A few years ago, a home with surveillance cameras was not typical.  Seeing the cameras often turned off home buyers because they felt “creeped out” and didn’t like the idea of being watched.  However, in today’s cyber-world, where surveillance cameras are nearly everywhere, surveillance cameras have become increasingly commonplace.  Before you go out and install cameras in your home, you need to understand the legal implications by consulting with an attorney or privacy legal expert.

Don’t just put away your jewelry and other items of importance, lock them up!  If you’re not one of the millions of home owners who has a safe or strongbox, there are other options such as storing items in other locations (safe deposit boxes; someone else’s home; and even a rented storage unit).

Burglar alarms are a mixed blessing.  Besides deterring crime, real estate agents often set them off; which can be a nuisance and possibly result in a fine for you (more info on false alarms and fines can be obtained from the Montgomery County Police False Alarm Reduction Section).

If you haven’t already deployed crime deterrents in and around your home, consider using interior and exterior lighting.  Exterior lights can help identify night time visitors, as well as possibly deterring would-be thieves.  Consider using timers or motion sensing lights.   Motion sensing lights will activate the light when people approach your home.

Would-be thieves casing your home look for easy entry points.  Lock up your ladders and secure your shed so as not giving criminals the tools to get inside.

And although you may be told that lockboxes are fool proof, only allowing agents in your home – it’s the user that is the weak link.  Careless agents sometimes leave doors unlocked or open, or do not fully close the lockbox, leaving the key free to be used by any passerby.

Your agent can be part of your protection plan.  Consider having your agent accompany all showings.  Additionally, have more than one person during an open house.  This can not only help protect your valuables, but the direct agent contact may be influential in your home sale.

For more information on protecting your valuables, check out Montgomery County Police’s brochure “Home Security, Safety Tips to Keep Your Home and Valuables Safe.”

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.

Best home sale?

best home sale
Best way to sell a home? (infographic from keepingcurrentmatters.com)

As the housing market strengthens, consumer confidence in real estate increases.  Along with a stronger home sale market comes the increase of for-sale-by-owners (FSBO).  The obvious upside to selling a home on your own is to increase your net.  And a study conducted in 2009 may support your FSBO yearnings. But is FSBO the best home sale?

Research conducted by Hendel, Nevo, and Ortalo-Magné (2009; The Relative Performance of Real Estate Marketing Platforms: MLS versus FSBOMadison.com; American Economic Review; 99:1878-98) found that homes that sold on a FSBO website sold for as much as homes that were listed in the MLS.  However, homes that sold on the MLS did so with significantly fewer days on market.  The authors also found that a significantly higher proportion of home buyers bought homes listed on the MLS.  The research concluded that “FSBO attracts a particular type of seller…” A FSBO seller is very patient to wait for someone to pay for their higher priced home.

The research conclusion about sale price is contrary to annual surveys reported by the National Association of Realtors.  For example, the National Association of Realtor’s 2015 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers reported that the average home sale price for a FSBO was $185,000, while the average home sale price for an agent assisted home sale was $240,000.  Of course, the 2009 research indicated that homes that did not sell on the FSBO website were promptly sold on the MLS.  Besides being limited to a specific market, excluding “failed” FSBO sales from their data set could have skewed results and could explain 2009 study’s conclusion about sale prices. From NAR’s Field Guide to Quick Real Estate Statistics:

For Sale By Owner (FSBO) Statistics

  • FSBOs accounted for 8% of home sales in 2015. The typical FSBO home sold for $185,000 compared to $240,000 for agent-assisted home sales.
  • Most difficult tasks for FSBO sellers:
    • Getting the right price: 18%
    • Preparing/fixing up home for sale: 13%
    • Understanding and performing paperwork: 12%
    • Selling within the planned length of time: 3%
    • Having enough time to devote to all aspects of the sale: 3%

Going FSBO sounds simple and maybe the best home sale; but going it alone is not for everyone.  Selling a home is much more than putting a sign in the yard – especially if you are demanding top dollar.  Take your efforts up a notch to increase the probability of realizing your sales goal.  Among the many tasks that are essential for a successful home sale, consider a basic marketing plan.  Attract more buyers with professional high quality photos.  Prepare for buyers to visit your home by decluttering and making minor repairs.  You should also have a contract ready in case there is no buyer agent.  Even though you are selling FSBO, you still have to comply with federal, state, and local disclosure laws.  Be prepared for the details of the transaction, which include: negotiating home inspection repairs; providing sale comps to appraiser; dealing with the buyer’s lender and title company.

If going FSBO is intimidating, consider hiring a real estate agent that offers à-la-carte services.  The agent can assist you in many areas of your sale, only charging you for the pieces you need.  You can even pay a flat fee for a MLS placement of your sale.

If you’re like many FSBO’s, you’ll realize the value of a Realtor.  Real estate agents are housing and marketing experts that can assist you in setting a realistic sale price.  Besides freeing up your time, experienced agents can facilitate offers and are expert negotiators.  They know of latest home sale trends and are aware of any new legislation that can affect your sale.

The best home sale

You may find selling FSBO attractive.  But selling a home is in the details that are executed throughout the transaction.  The best home sale may actually be through a Realtor.  The research supports the notion that hiring a Realtor can provide a more successful and satisfying home sale than doing it FSBO.

As I wrote about FSBO’s in 2005:

How much money can you realistically save? …there as been a trend of negotiated commissions, so actual savings for a FSBO have been reduced….Additionally, FSBO’s are contracting and paying commission with more Realtors and their homebuyers in this environment of limited home inventory. In the end, the FSBO’s savings from Realtor commissions may be marginal.

… there are some real negative aspects of selling your home FSBO, such as time, expense, and contractual obligations.

How much is your time worth? Selling a home requires the application of time to tasks. Among the many tasks of selling a home, the top things that a FSBO may do include (and is not limited to) preparing the home for the open house, contacting the paper to advertise, putting up signs, meeting potential homebuyers, and negotiating contracts. The time quickly adds up.

Selling your home FSBO is supposed to save you money right? Well, there is a bit of expense that is necessary. A FSBO must have signs in the yard, as well as directionals (the small arrow signs) to point homebuyers in your direction. Additionally, you might consider paying the local paper for advertising, as well as paying for an internet advertisement (although there are many websites that will allow you to post for free). Another expense may be to have your attorney to prepare and review the contract…. It seems that the expenses also quickly add up.

…even FSBO’s are responsible to adhere to certain federal and local laws pertaining to the sale of real estate (i.e., equal housing, lead paint, Maryland disclaimer-disclosure, etc). This is the one area that FSBO’s get themselves in trouble because of the lack of knowledge and expertise. There is an increased liability potential.

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.

Greedy home seller tips

Don't be a greedy home seller
Pricing Strategy for a Home Sale (infographic from forsalebyowner.com)

When there is a buzz about home sellers being greedy, you know home sales are doing well.  So, not surprisingly, along with last year’s record home sales came the reports of greedy home sellers.  Are you a greedy home seller?  Or are you adjusting to a market where home prices are increasing?

Greed has developed a bad rap.  Surely there is an evolutionary basis for greed.  Many believe that early hominids promoted personal and group survival by being “greedy” (although disputed by some).  Those who hoarded food, so as to have more than enough, lived through difficult winters and droughts. During times of financial prosperity, greed is looked upon favorably.  However, in the aftermath of a recession, greed is thought of as the basis for fiscal calamity.  Immortalized in Gordon Geckko’s famous “greed is good” speech in the 1987 movie Wall Street, “greed” is a cinematic vehicle to show the fine line between a healthy desire to prosper and a corrupt drive to have more than enough.

Avoid being viewed as a greedy home seller by creating a realistic pricing strategy.  Creating a pricing strategy is an art and a science.  When selling a home, you have to determine the list price.  There are many factors to consider besides recent neighborhood sales, such as condition of your home, sales trends, mortgage interest rates, economic trends, etc.  Like other home sellers, you fall into a conundrum.  If you price your home too high, then it will limit potential home buyers who visit.  However, if you price your home too low to increase home buyer interest, you may not get the price you want.

Contrary to some assertions that a home’s list price doesn’t play a role in the sale, there is evidence to suggest that it really does matter.  Lu Han and William C. Strange determined that a lower list price does increase home buyer visits – but only to a point (What is the Role of the Asking Price for a House? University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management; 2012).  They concluded that there is a point at which the home price is perceived to attract too much buyer competition, which may turn off other home buyers.  Furthermore, their data shows that there is a negative relationship between a list price and the number of home buyers: meaning that the higher the list price relative to the neighborhood, the lower number of home buyer visits, and vice-versa.

If you fear being a greedy home seller by asking for a high price for your home, there is research to suggest that you’ll let go of the greed in order to make a deal.  A 2013 study by Nuno T. Magessi and Luis Antunes looked at how the emotions of fear and greed compete internally (Agent’s fear monitors the spread of greed in a social network; Proceedings of the 11th European Workshop on Multi‐Agent Systems EUMAS, 12-13).  They concluded that greed is mitigated by the fear of loss within the confines of a social network.  When applied to a home sale, the fear of not selling a home competes with the impulse to hold out for the high price.  Deducing further, there is a need to fit within one’s social network by trying to sell a home for the most money, and yet avoid the stigma of a failed home sale.

Don’t be a greedy home seller. RealtorMag described three common home seller mistakes in a 2015 post (3 Mistakes Sellers Often Make; realtormag.realtor.org; April 12, 2015).  Included were “Not being honest with the home’s history,” “Not making a better home presentation,” and “Being unrealistic about the home’s value.”  About unrealistic home value, it was said:

“…Despite tight inventories of homes for-sale in many markets, sellers still need to be careful not to get too greedy with their list price, say real estate professionals…Home owners tend to get a much lower price when they overprice a home at the onset and then drop the price several times. The longer the home lingers on a market, the more likely it will receive a deeper discount…”

If your home doesn’t sell, you must examine your pricing strategy.  Was the price realistic, or were you too greedy?

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.