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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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.

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Home selling don’ts

home selling don'ts
Do’s and Don’ts of preparing a home for sale (from realestatestagingassociation.com)

When preparing for a home sale, the devil is in the detail.  You probably already know about the “do’s,” de-cluttering, curb-appeal, staging, and making necessary repairs.  But here are a few home selling “don’ts” that often trap home sellers into making mistakes:

Home selling is not about you. Don’t make a statement.  Now is not the time to be bold with renovations and staging; but rather stay focused on getting your home sold.  Stay away from trendy features, and bold designs.  Although bright and dramatic colors seem tempting, stick with neutral color schemes.  Besides making rooms feel awkward, making a statement with trendy fixtures and bold colors may turn off home buyers.  Bold style statements make home buyers fixate on the style, rather the space and potential of each room.

Home selling is not about being cheap. Don’t hire a contractor because they are the cheapest.  When it comes to home repair, the idiom “you get what you pay for” typically holds true.  Home buyers have a discerning eye and can spot poor workmanship.  Don’t be tempted to hire the unlicensed handyman to save a few dollars either; you and the future buyers won’t have recourse if there is a problem with the repair.  Don’t also be talked into a cheap renovation that is meant to appear as a luxury amenity.  Poor workmanship, sloppy installation, and/or inferior materials will turn away many home buyers.

Home selling is not about being amateur. Don’t assume all house painters are alike.  A good paint job can make a room look terrific and create positive emotions; while a poor paint job makes a room appear shabby and unstylish.  And even though you may be tempted to save a few dollars, don’t paint your home on your own – hire a professional.  The amateur paint job appears sloppy and has the telltale uneven edges, painted over light switches and receptacle covers, and painted shut windows.

Home selling is not about guessing. Don’t assume your prepping will bring you a big return on your investment.  If you deferred regular maintenance, you may have to make repairs regardless of the return.  Likewise, if your home is outdated, you may consider making some updates to lure home buyers.  Before getting in too deep on a prepping project, have a budget in mind and do a cost benefit analysis.

Consider checking out this year’s Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report (costvsvalue.com) to find out what updates and renovations make sense and which ones can bring you the biggest returns.  Although most renovations won’t bring you a dollar-for-dollar return, they may add to the overall aesthetic and make your home more appealing.  However, some renovations may not only lose money but can also blemish your otherwise beautiful home.  For example, adding a backup generator may seem as if it is a much needed amenity, however, the report indicated that for the Washington DC region, you would only recoup about 57.5% of the cost.  And it is possible that the home buyer will remove it because of it was poorly installed and too noisy.

The purpose of preparing your home before a sale is to not only to compel home buyers to make a top-dollar offer on your home, but to also get it sold quickly.  Consider planning out how you will prepare your home. Do the research.  Don’t fall into the traps that ensnare many home sellers because it can cost you. You may not only have to correct poor workmanship, but your negotiated sale price may be lower than expected.

Copyright © Dan Krell

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Selling your home is always about the price

From forsalebyowner.com

Pricing a home for a sale is not always easy. There is an abundance of empirical research that has confirmed the many variables that affect sales price. Some influences are manageable and some are not. The top factors to consider when pricing your home to sell include location, condition, features, and timing.

Your home’s physical location is one of the top factors that will affect its sale price. Although home prices vary from neighborhood to neighborhood, your home’s location within the neighborhood could also impact the sale price. Homes located on commuter routes typically sell for less because of the traffic and noise. Even homes located just off of the thoroughfare can be impacted by the perception of traffic and noise; the sale price could be lower than a similar home situated further away from the main road.

A home can sell for more when located close to neighborhood amenities; however, the price could drop if perceived too close. Neil Metz’s research (Effect of Distance to Schooling on Home Prices. The Review of Regional Studies 45.2 (2015):151-171.) indicated that homes located close to schools tend to sell for more. However, the opposite was found with homes within 1,000 feet from schools; the home sale price decreased as the distance from the school closed in from 1,000 feet (probably due to congestion and noise). This effect is typically true for other neighborhood amenities such as shopping areas.

home repairRepairing and upgrading your home prior to listing can increase the sale price. In contrast, deferred maintenance can not only deter home buyers – it could attract low offers; especially if the home has been on the market for a lengthy period. Many home buyers are looking for a “turn-key” home, where they don’t have to be concerned about immediate maintenance; while some are willing to put in the time and effort to personalize a home. If you’re making updates to your home, consider that the quality and installation of upgrades can impacts price as well; cheap fixtures and sloppy workmanship can have a similar affect as deferred maintenance.

Your home’s amenities can also impact the sale price. For example, features such as a finished basement or deck can be appealing and add value. Even green amenities can impact sales price. Research conducted by Cadena and Thomson (An Empirical Assessment of the Value of Green in Residential Real Estate. The Appraisal Journal 83.1 (Winter 2015): 32-40.) concluded that homes that were designated “green” increased sale price by 1%, while certified green homes increased sale price about 2%; however, energy efficient features increased sales price by about 6%!

Finally, your sales price can be affected by the timing of the sale. Miller, Sah, Sklarz, and Pampulov (Is there seasonality in home prices-evidence from CBSAs. Journal of Housing Research, 22(1) (2013), 1-15) conducted a comprehensive study of home sales that occurred in 138 Core Based Statistical Areas (CBSAs are geographic population centers set by the Office of Management and Budget for use by Federal agencies in collecting, and publishing statistics) from February 2000 to April 2011. They concluded that monthly price changes can vary through the year; and homes that sell during summer months (April through September) typically sell for more than homes that sell during the winter (October through March). However, they point out that the seasonality effect could be due to weather; there is less price variance in areas with less temperature variation.

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Feng shui and your home sale

Selling a home with feng shui.

Staging a Home
From greenhomegnome.com

It didn’t seem that long ago when feng shui was important to almost every home buyer and seller. And if Google Trends is an indication of relevance, the diminishing number of searches for feng shui over the last decade indicates reduced interest. Perhaps the bursting housing bubble shifted everyone’s attention; buyers’ were determined to get distressed properties at a deal, while sellers were determined to get a model home look through staging. Although seemingly having lost significance in the housing market, feng shui is once again becoming a top concern for buyers and sellers.

If you’re not familiar with the concept, Merriam Webster (merriam-webster.com) defines feng shui as “…a Chinese system for positioning a building and the objects within a building in a way that is thought to agree with spiritual forces and to bring health and happiness.” The International Feng Shui Guild (ifsguild.org) adds that feng shui is derived from the Chinese philosophy of Taoism and has been practiced for aver 5,000 years. Furthermore, it is based in science and nature to help you live a healthy and prosperous life!

You may already be familiar with some feng shui principles, as a few basics of home staging share similar tasks. For example, de-cluttering, maximizing space and creating a “light filled home” are some of the preparations prescribed to stage a home for sale. And according to feng shui principles, these undertakings are vital in channeling a home’s energy flow. Although there may be some crossover, take caution not to confuse home staging with feng shui; staging a home is not the same as following feng shui principles.

International Home Buyers
From Realtor.org

One of the reasons for the surging focus in feng shui is the increase of home buyers from China. According to the National Association of Realtors® (realtor.org), buyers from China represented about 16% of international home buyers, while purchasing an estimated $28.6 billion of real estate in 2014.

Feng shui is also important to Chinese-Americans, according to a recent survey conducted by Better Homes and Gardens® Real Estate and the Asian Real Estate Association of America (Feng Shui a Driver of Home Selection and Investment for Chinese-Americans; bhgre.com; August 11, 2015). The survey revealed that 76% of respondents are familiar with the principles, and half of those respondents practice feng shui, which is “…considered to dictate spatial arrangement and building design to produce a harmonious flow of energy.” When it comes real estate, consider that 81% of respondents indicated that feng shui influenced their buying decisions; and that 79% of respondents indicated that they would pay more for a home that follows feng shui principles. And if you’re selling a home, you should take notice that 75% of respondents indicated that they experienced at least one “deal breaker” conflict of feng shui principles in a home (infographic on home staging and feng shui).

home saleIf your home doesn’t exactly correspond with feng shui principles, consider offering a “Feng Shui Contingency.” Such a contingency was highlighted in a 2014 Realtor®Mag article about the Seattle housing market and the high concentration of buyers from China (Why You May Need the ‘Feng Shui Contingency; realtormag.realtor.org; September 22, 2014). Much like a home inspection contingency, many buyers are including a contingency to have a feng shui master approve the house. The good news is that some conflicting elements may be remedied (such as landscaping); however, others cannot (such as the home’s physical location and direction).

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