Remodel instead of Move?

By Dan Krell

Moving up has been a right of passage for families for years. Families have been moving up for one reason or another, usually because of the need for space or just to move to a new neighborhood. However, spiraling home prices made many to re-think the usual move up, and instead make improvements on their homes. Rather than buying the four bedroom colonial they need due to a growing family, homeowners are adding rooms or enlarging the spaces they already inhabit.

If you are unsure of making improvements or selling your home, there are some factors to consider. ( lists the top reasons for remodeling and not moving as: 1) you like remodeling; 2) you like your home floor plan; 3) you like your neighbors; 4) you like your yard; 5) you have a great location; 6) you will get exactly what you want; and 7) you feel that it can enhance the value of your home. As you are trying to decide whether or not you remodel or move, you may find these reasons in line with your decision. This web site has lots of resources and information to help you make your decision.

If you decide to remodel rather than move, there are some considerations. According to you should consider how long you are going to be in your home, the costs involved, and the timing of the remodeling before you move.

If you are planning to stay in your home less than a year, you have to weigh the actual cost of the improvements against the return you may get on your upcoming sale. However, if you plan to be in your home for a few more years or longer, the return on your investment should not be as much of a factor as personal pleasure and comfort.

If you are concerned with cost vs. value, a great resource that every turns to for their annual report is Remodeling Magazine, which can be found at Remodeling Online ( According to Remodeling Magazine, return on investment depends on the value of the house itself, the value of similar homes in the immediate area, and the rate property values are changing in the surrounding neighborhoods. Some projects will recoup more than 100% of the original investment, however overall in 2004 the return of investment was 80.3%. The nationwide data they collect for their annual reports from Home-Tech Information Systems, a remodeling estimating software company in Bethesda, Md. HomeTech collects current cost information quarterly from a nationwide network of remodeling contractors, and its cost figures include a 40% margin. Costs are adjusted to account for city-to-city pricing variations.

The following are the top improvements listed in the Remodeling Magazine’s annual report in order of return on investment: minor kitchen remodeling -92.9%; siding replacement-92.8%; midrange bathroom remodeling- 90.1%; deck addition- 86.7%; upscale bathroom remodeling- 85.6%; and window replacement- 84.5%. You can view the rest of the 2004 report on the website.

Both selling and remodeling can be large propositions that can bring a lot of joy and regret. There are many resources at the library and the internet to help make your decision. Additionally, you should consult a local contractor and a Realtor to assist with costs of improvements and neighborhood home values.

This column is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice.
This column was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel 8/2/2005. Copyright Dan Krell 2005.

Home Selling Tips

by Dan Krell © 2005

It is not unheard of that homes in this market do not sell. Of course your home should be priced according to the comparables in the neighborhood, and progress should be gauged with the other homes on the market in the neighborhood. Before your home goes on the market, you might ask how to make the most of your sale. That means besides pricing according to the homes that are comparable, your Realtor should expect results within the parameters based on those sales also.

There are several aspects that go into a successful home sale. Of course, the first is to price the home according to the comparables in the neighborhood. The second is to consider the condition of the home. The third is to have a marketing plan. And lastly, you should have a close working relationship with your Realtor.

As I have said here before, you, the seller, should set the selling price. Your Realtor should advise you based the comparables in the community. Comparables are homes that match your home in style and size. If you have a three bedroom rambler, you should compare your home to other three bedroom ramblers in then neighborhood.

What does your home look like? Be honest. Although the other three bedroom ramblers sold for $400,000, their condition was in move in condition. Your home on the other hand, needs a lot of cosmetic work. The home needs to be painted, the roof has a leak, and the carpet is thread bare. How do you think this will affect the sale of your home? If you are trying to achieve a new high sale price, I would think again. A homebuyer looks at these deficiencies and thinks how much it will cost them to repair.

If your Realtor has not yet presented you with a marketing plan, ask for one. Your Realtor should have a plan of action to sell your home. Putting a sign in front of your home and crossing their fingers is not enough sell a home. As the market changes and homes are on the market longer, your Realtor should have a concrete plan to follow to sell your home. The plan should include new technologies, such as the virtual tour.

The final aspect that is important in selling your home is the relationship between you and your Realtor. Besides having confidence in your Realtor, you should feel comfortable expressing your needs and concerns. It is not a good sign if your Realtor becomes defensive when you express concerns and needs. Your Realtor, on the other hand, should be honest and timely with information concerning your home. Besides communicating the activity of the potential homebuyers, they should also keep you up to date with the neighborhood market keeping an eye on the other homes on the market.

As the local real estate market changes, fewer homebuyers will be beating a path to your door to pay you ten thousand dollars more than the last home. When you are interviewing Realtors to sell your home, you should consider asking them about pricing your home, the condition of your home, their marketing plan, and their idea of a working relationship. These steps won’t guarantee a sale, but it leads you down the right path.

This column is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This column was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel 7/25/2005. Copyright Dan Krell 2005.

Disclose, disclose disclose

by Dan Krell © 2005

It is not unreasonable for homebuyers to seek assurances about the homes they purchase. One method for obtaining a sense of confidence about the home is having a home inspection. Sometimes it is not as much as wanting to know what needs to be fixed as much as wanting to know what they were getting into, as one of my clients casually stated. However, home inspectors are not perfect and there are numerous conditions in the home that could go undetected.

In the past, it used to be buyer beware. As you could imagine there were many complaints and lawsuits that were filed with state officials which prompted them to enact a property disclosure law. Property disclosure laws have been enacted in about thirty states. Here in Maryland, the disclosure just changed this last Saturday (October 1). The previous law was around since 1994.

Before Saturday, homesellers, had the choice of either disclosing facts about their home or they could offer a disclaimer that the home was being purchase “as-is.” Among some of the items that would be included in the homeseller’s disclosure include, but is not limited to, plumbing, heating, electrical, and home structure. If there was any knowledge about any past or potential problems, the homeseller would disclose that information.

If the homeseller chose to not disclose any information, the seller chose to offer the homebuyer a disclaimer. The disclaimer stated that the homeseller did not warrant the condition of the property and the home was being purchased “as-is.”

It had been incorrectly thought by homesellers and some Realtors alike, that if the homeseller provided a disclaimer, the homeowner did not have to provide any information at all about the home-including relevant material facts about the condition of the home. In fact, some homesellers would offer a disclosure statement and still withhold some important material fact about the home which was not apparent.

Many law suits have been filed by homebuyers who, after years of living in a home, have discovered latent defects. The lawsuits typically claim the home seller and the listing agent knew about these defects. Latent defects, as presently defined by section 10-702 of the Real Property Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland, are 1) defects which could not be reasonably expected to ascertain or observe by a careful visual inspection of the real property and 2) would pose a direct threat to the health and safety of the purchaser or an occupant of the real property.
Like the previous law, the new disclosure law requires the homeowner to provide either the disclosure statement or disclaimer, except with a little twist. Since October 1, if the homeseller chooses to provide a disclaimer (sold “as-is”), the homeowner must still provide a statement that lists all latent defects in the home.

If you are selling your home or thinking of selling your home in the future, you should discuss the disclosure/disclaimer statement and the new law with your Realtor. If you have any doubt about your obligations as a homeseller or do not understand the disclosure law, you should consider consulting with your attorney.

I was taught the golden rule of disclosure to be: disclose, disclose, disclose. A problem that is disclosed to a homebuyer before they enter into a contract with you is a piece of information that the homebuyer will keep in mind as they purchase the home. However, a problem that is not disclosed remains a problem and has potential to become a law suit.

This column is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice.
This column was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel 10/3/2005.
Copyright Dan Krell 2005.

Real estate market report 2005

by Dan Krell © 2005

Many experts are not only talking about the real estate bubble, but how it’s about to burst. I was interested in finding out how many articles and proclamations exist about the bursting bubble, so I googled “housing bubble Washington, DC.” There were over 800,000 links to people and articles (some going back to 2002), talking about how the bubble is about to burst. Many talk about concerns of financial impact and others talk about a doomsday scenario when the bubble bursts. It sounds a bit negative if you ask me.

If you look at the mid year statistics, it seems that the Washington D.C. real estate market is still in full swing. You can decide for yourself based on the statistics for single family homes in Montgomery County. So, here is the mid-year report card, based on the statistics compiled by the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors (GCAAR). Homes listed for sale for June 2005 totaled 2,004, up from the 1,971 homes listed in June 2004, an increase of 1.7%. The fact that more homes are coming on the market sounds encouraging, however, the total active listings in June 2005 (homes listed for sale but not under contract) are down 4.5% from the same time last year. So, although the supply of homes being listed for sale rose, the actual amount of homes available on the market has reduced because there are homebuyers ready to gobble these homes up as they come onto market.

It seems as if the homebuyers’ appetites for homes are insatiable. The number of contracts and settlements are up for the period of January to June 2005 as compared to the same time period in 2004. The number of houses where status changed from active to contract during the first six months of 2005 increased 1.3% compared the first six months of 2004. Additionally, the number of homes that were settled during the first six months of 2005 increased 2.5% compared to the same six month period in 2004.

Interestingly, I would like to note the sales of homes that sold for $1,000,000 or more increased from last year. There were 389 of these million dollar plus homes that sold in the first six moths of 2005, compared to the 265 sold in the same time period in 2004, that is a 46% increase! So far, for 2005, the average sale price in Montgomery is $544,719. Compared to $477,937 for the same time period in 2004, it is an increase of $66,782! (These statistics can be found at the GCAAR website

Looking at the statistics above, you may ask yourself, “can prices continue to climb and record numbers of sales continue year after year?” Looking at the big picture, the real estate market is like all other commodity markets, such that it is subject to economic influences. Rather than having a bubble burst and having residue all over the floor, the real estate market may correct itself as economic factors change. Don’t get me wrong, a correction in the market is not pretty, but it does not mean the end of the real estate market either (does anyone remember the correction in the real estate market in the early 1990’s).

This column is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice.
This column was originally published 7/18/2005.
Copyright Dan Krell 2005.

Finding a real estate bargain

by Dan Krell © 2005

Many first-time homebuyers and investors I encounter always ask about foreclosures and handyman-specials. Essentially what they are trying to communicate is that they want a bargain. What are foreclosures and handyman-specials? In the past, it was assumed that if you buy a foreclosure or handyman special, you really got a bargain. Is this still true?

A foreclosure is a home that has been repossessed by the holder of the mortgage note, usually a bank. The process of foreclosure varies depending in which state the foreclosed home exists and what type of mortgage document exists on the home. To make a long story short, the home is either auctioned to the highest bidder, or the home is taken over by the bank to be sold on the market. The foreclosed homes that are put on the market are also called REO, which stands for real estate owned by bank.

Auctions for foreclosed homes are usually conducted at the courthouse by a local auctioneer. These types of auctions are also known as a trustee’s sale or substitute trustee’s sale. If you are interested in attending an auction, you can find the advertisements for the auctions in the local papers’ classified section. To bid on the home, you must have the minimum deposit in the form of certified funds. The minimum deposit is usually posted in the advertisement. If you are buying a foreclosed home at auction, you are essentially buying it “as-is” without the ability to view the interior.

When the bank has taken title to a foreclosed home, a Realtor is usually hired to list the home on the Multiple List Service (MLS). In this scenario, you have an opportunity to view the home before you decide to submit your offer. The home is generally sold “as-is.” Hopefully, you will have a Realtor of your own to advise you of the value and general condition of the home.

Generally, a foreclosed property has issues due to the time involved in the foreclosure process. Sometimes the previous owner will trash the home, or take the copper or other fixtures out of the home. Additionally, the home will be closed up with no utilities connected for months. This may lead to mold growth, water penetration, and/or other structural and environmental concerns.

A handyman special is typically a home that is owned by a person who either lives in the home or uses it as a rental property. The home is usually aged a bit, and has not been looked after or updated. Many times, a handyman special will require mostly a great deal of cosmetic work, such as painting, carpet, etc. Sometimes, there are some structural concerns, such as (but not limited to) replacing a roof, or fixing walls.

Overall, whether you are looking at a foreclosure or a handyman special, you will have to determine if the home is worth the price you want to pay. In addition to the acquisition cost, you will have to consider all the costs to repair the home, as well as the costs to make updates if necessary. It is also important to look at the recent comparables in the neighborhood to see if the price or adjusted price (price plus costs for repairs) is in line.

One final word; in this seller’s market, there are very few bargains. Foreclosures that once sold for pennies on the dollar, are selling at market price. Handyman specials are often marketed “as-is” and offered not much less than market price. The most important thought to consider is “can you see yourself living here.”

This column is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice.
This column was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel 6/27/2005.
Copyright Dan Krell 2005.