Holiday Home Selling

holiday home selling
Home staging during the holidays (infgraphic from nar.realtor).

Conventional real estate wisdom used to be that timing the market was the key to listing your home for sale.  Most home sellers tried to aim for the spring and early summer months to sell their homes.  In fact, June continues to be when most settlements occur.  However, selling strategies have changed over the last few years such that home sellers are confidently listing in the fall.  Many also hold nothing back to sell during the winter months.  But how about holiday home selling?

The holiday season is typically when the real estate industry slows to a crawl.  But it doesn’t mean that the housing market is closed!  Consider that there were 658 Montgomery County MLS listed homes that went under contract since the beginning of November.  This confirms that active home buyers are constantly searching for homes, and will certainly visit houses that are available during the holiday season.  The only obstacle for home buyers (and your home sale) is severe weather.  

Holiday home selling is not for everyone. If you have not yet listed your home for sale, you may consider waiting to list after Thanksgiving.  Or you may just decide to wait until the new year.  Your listing strategy should be based on your lifestyle.  Although the holiday season is often synonymous with joy and good cheer, many experience increased stress during this time.  If the holidays are a hectic time for you, the thought of the additional stress of selling your home may sway you to waiting the holidays out.  Keep in mind that, like any other time of the year, you still have to prepare your home for sale (which includes decluttering, repairs and staging).

If your home is already listed for sale, you have some choices.  It used to be the rule that if your home was still on the market approaching Thanksgiving that the listing would be pulled from the MLS until spring.  And as of the November 1st, 181 county homes have been pulled off the MLS.  You may decide to do the same. 

But keeping your home on the market during the holiday season is no longer taboo.  As I mentioned earlier, conventional wisdom is passé.  Some home sellers see an opportunity to sell during the holiday season as many homes come of the market.  Consider that since November 1st, there were 444 new MLS listings.  There are also another 46 homes currently listed as “coming soon.”

Obviously, if your home is vacant it’s easy to show.  However, you should still visit the home weekly to make sure it is clean and shows well.  But if you’re selling the home where you reside during the holiday season, you may want to think about showings and staging.  Talk to your agent about requiring home buyer appointments to view the home so you don’t have inopportune surprise visitors.  This will give you the flexibility and emotional space to have your home show its best while you enjoy the holidays.

What about holiday decorations and holiday home selling staging?  According to Melissa Dittmann Tracey, writing for the NAR blog (Should You Stage Homes for the Holidays?; nar.realtor; December 19, 2011), most real estate professionals tell their clients to stage with “holiday-spirit and glow.”  Although thirty-seven percent of professionals indicated that they advised holiday staging without religious decorations, twenty-eight percent advised their clients to also include their religious decorations.  Only eight percent of professionals surveyed advised to do generic staging without any holiday decorations.

Original article is published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2019/11/28/holiday-home-selling/

By Dan Krell
Copyright© 2019

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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.

Buyer agent commission controversy

buyer agent commission
Annual mean wage of Real Estate Brokers (infographic from bls.gov)

One of the hottest controversies in real estate that you have yet to hear about is who should pay buyer agent commissions. Agent commissions controversies have been around in one form or another for decades.  The commissions issue typically becomes front and center when the housing market is doing well.  This time, however, the buyer agent commission controversy is gaining steam and has the potential of changing (and possibly upending) residential real estate and online real estate platforms.

The debate is center in an anti-trust class action law suit filed against the National Association of Realtors and a number of major real estate brokerage brands.  As I reported last month, the law suit alleges that the defendants engaged in “anticompetitive practices.”  Among the alleged issues listed in the law suit, includes a “Buyer Broker Commission Rule” that requires buyer agent compensation for a home to be listed in the MLS. 

Regardless of how a listing agreement “structures” broker commissions, the perception and general acknowledgement is that the (buyer broker) buyer agent commission is paid by the seller.  The seller typically pays the listing broker a commission, which is shared if another broker represents the buyer.  This commission “pass-through” is responsible for the growth of online platforms selling home buyer leads and contacts.  It has also been responsible for the growth of real estate groups that act as “buyer mills,” which rely on high volume leads generated via online platforms and other means.  It can be argued that because of Buyer Broker Commission Rules, the billions of dollars that are generated and spent on home buyer leads (as well as buyer rebates) can be traced back to the home seller. 

Home sellers are not the only victims.  A study (jstor.org/stable/24887258) conducted by Joachim Zietz and Bobby Newsome (A Note on Buyer’s Agent Commission and Sale Price; The Journal of Real Estate Research; 2001, Vol.21 No.3 p.245-254) revealed that buyer agent commissions had a positive effect on home sale price, but only on lower-priced homes.  The conclusions suggested that buyer agents “do not act in the best interest of their clients because of the institutional structure of sales commissions.

Is it possible that the MLS perpetuates steering and anticompetitive behavior?  A recent study by Barwick, Pathak and Wong (Conflicts of Interest and Steering in Residential Brokerage; American Economic Journal; 2017, Vol.9 No.3 p.191-222) has shocking conclusions that resonates with those who are wary of the residential real estate industry.  The study pointed out that real estate commissions are higher the US than other industrialized countries.  The authors concluded, “Properties listed with lower commission rates experience less favorable transaction outcomes…they are 5% less likely to sell and take 12% longer to sell. These adverse outcomes reflect decreased willingness of buyers’ agents to intermediate low commission properties (steering)…”  They “provide empirical support for regulatory concerns” because the data indicates buyer agents will steer their clients towards homes paying higher commission.

Home sellers can learn from home builders about marketing and agent compensation.  Home builders figured out buyer broker commissions a long time ago.  They will not pay advertised compensation to buyer brokers who don’t show up with their clients.  And during hot markets, they pay a modest referral fee in lieu of commission. 

All things considered, the issue of buyer broker commission is a complex issue that depends on multiple factors, including market conditions.  However, increasing awareness is inventing new business models and lower buyer broker compensation expectations. 

Original located at https://dankrell.com/blog/2019/05/24/buyer-agent-commission-controversy

By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2019

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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.

Home buyer preferences

home buyer preferences
Trendy renovations (infographic from nar.realtor)

Homes can vary along a spectrum of many factors.  Size, style, location, are just the basic differences and are generally used by home buyers in their home search.  However, even similar homes in the same neighborhood can differ depending on the homes’ features.  Home buyer preferences and trends toward home features is usually the reason for price differences on similar neighborhood homes. This truth was validated by a study conducted by the National Association of Home Builders (How Features of a Home Impact Its Price; nahb.org; November 30, 2004).  If you’re selling this spring, consider home buyers preferences and current home buyer trends.

In past columns, I talked about how most home buyers in the current housing market want a turn-key home.  And that still holds true.  Home buyers still prefer to buy a new home.  However, buying a recently updated/renovated home is the next best thing.  Generally, homes with new kitchens, bathrooms, and flooring get multiple offers and sell very quickly.  Alas, updating and renovating a home takes time and money.  Discuss with your listing agent how making (or not making) updates and renovations affect your sale price. You may have to adjust your pricing expectations accordingly.

So, what tops the list of home buyer preferences? The National Association of Home Builders latest “Trends in Home Buyer Preferences” (nahb.org) indicates that the kitchen is a prime area of focus.  Current kitchen trends include a strong preference to either “traditional” or contemporary style cabinets.  The styling would depend on the kitchen overall (consulting with a design center would be helpful).  Additionally, water filtration has also become a desirable feature.  If not already installed, water filtration can be added when replacing a refrigerator, as it is now a common function of modern refrigerators.

In today’s growing awareness of environment and sustainability, it’s a given that home buyer preferences show a strong preference toward energy efficiency.  When updating, consider Energy Star (energystar.gov) certified appliances.  Energy Star appliances typically use 50 percent less energy than standard models.  Additionally, consider having an energy audit prior to listing your home.  The energy audit will reveal the home’s energy efficiency.  It will also highlight where improvements are recommended.  The report itself is useful to the home buyer, even if you don’t follow all the recommendations. 

New flooring is also important to home buyers.  The preference towards wood flooring has always been strong.  However, be aware that there are differences in quality of flooring products, as well as workmanship of installers.  Even if you purchase top quality hardwood, poor installation can actually negatively impact the sale price.  If you’re installing wood, tile or similar flooring, hire an MHIC licensed flooring contractor.  Your flooring contractor can also help with trendy flooring options.

As a home seller, you certainly consider your home as being special.  And you probably spent a good amount of money on customizing your home over the years.  However, a problem many home sellers encounter is that over customization and personalization can negatively affect the home sale price.  The truth is that home buyers have preferences too, and their preferences may not reflect yours. 

Home buyer preferences and trends are constantly changing.  Your listing agent should be able to help understand how current home buyer preferences and trends impact your home sale.  Additionally, consulting with a home staging or interior design professional can assist you with deciding on making relevant updates to your home.

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2019/04/27/home-buyer-preferences

By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2019.

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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.

Short sale is still relevant

short sale
Market conditions makes the short sale relevant (infographic from nar.realtor)

Believe it or not it’s been over ten years since the financial crises and Great Recession, and the short sale is still relevant! And this is why…

Coming on the heels of a dismal January, the National Association of Realtors March 22nd data release announced good news declaring a home sales “surge” during February (nar.realtor).  February’s closings increased 11.8 percent, compared to January!  But the bad news is that the number of sales also decreased 1.8 percent from last year. If you follow real estate news, you know that homes sales stats were disappointing during the winter. (Consider that 2018’s total existing home sales were lower than the previous year’s total, according to NAR’s statistics).  February’s adjusted annual home sale rate of 5.51 million is lower than the same time last year, and pales in comparison to the 6.48 million home sales in 2006.    

Although February was indeed a busy month, NAR’s March 28th data release of the Pending Home Sale Index predicts a slow start to the spring market.  Homes that went under contract during February decreased 1 percent from the previous month and decreased 4.9 percent from the previous year.  This “forward looking index” indicates that next month’s home sales may disappoint. 

But there is a silver lining.  Home sale prices continue to rise, meaning that home owner equity is not eroding. February’s median existing home sale price increased 3.6 percent from the same time last year.  And according to NAR’s statistics, home sale prices have risen for 84 consecutive months (which equates to 7 years of continued gains)!

There are many reasons for a short sale

Although home sale prices are rising, there are still many home owners who are underwater. According to Attom Data (attomdata.com), distressed home sales still account for 12.4 percent of all home sales.  Of course, this is far from the 38.6 percent in 2011.  And the percentage of distressed sale continues to decrease.  However, the number is still significant. 

It’s estimated there are millions of underwater home owners.  There are a number of reasons why home owners may be underwater, including (but not limited to) years of deferred maintenance, or a negative equity mortgage.  Many short sales today include investment properties.  Some home owners don’t know they are underwater until they list the home for sale. 

Although not as prevalent as in 2011, the short sale is still relevant!  Many underwater home owners don’t have to sell, as they are not financially distressed, and are happy to stay put for many years. However, some are compelled to sell for a number of reasons (such as divorce, bankruptcy, etc.).  Some underwater home owners may have a desire to move, but can’t because they are underwater (such as empty nesters and retirees). 

If you think your home sale may result in a short sale, get the facts.  Question what you hear from others and what you find on the internet.  There is a lot of information circulating about short sales.  A majority of the information is either misleading, erroneous, and/or outdated.  Consult with an attorney who negotiates sales to help you understand the legal aspects.  Also consult your accountant for the financial implications.

There is much to consider, and a lot at stake!  Be careful when considering your listing agent.  Due your due diligence and hire an experienced short sales agent that knows the process and is savvy about appealing lender values.  Many listing agents will give up on a short sale, mostly because it’s hard work. So most important, make sure your agent has a track record of getting the short sale to settlement.

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2019/04/18/short-sale-is-still-relevant

By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2019.

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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.

Creating home staging vision

home staging vision
Creating home staging vision (infographic from nar.realtor)

Although home staging has become entrenched in the home sale process, it doesn’t have to be a pricey way to prepare your home sale. Not only has it become part of the home seller experience, the home staging vision is now expected by buyers and their agents when they visit homes. 

The spring home sale season is the perfect time for the National Association of Realtors to roll out the results of their 2019 Profile of Home Staging survey (nar.realtor).  In a March 14th press release, NAR President John Smaby summed up this year’s profile by stating, “Realtors understand the importance of making a residential property as welcoming and appealing as possible to potential buyers. While every Realtor doesn’t use staging in every situation, the potential value it brings is clear to both homebuyers and sellers.” 

Staging may affect a home’s time on market, and it’s likely due to visual cues.  Meaning that home staging vision helps the home buyer picture themselves living in the home. More than half of the agents who responded to the survey indicated that home staging reduces time on market.  Forty percent of buyer agents said that home staging effects most buyers’ perceptions of a home.  Eighty-three percent of buyer agents believe that home staging vision makes it easier to visualize living in the home.

It’s not surprising that agents agree that the most staging attention goes to the living room, kitchen, master bedroom, and the dining room.  It’s not that these rooms have special significance, but rather it’s because it’s where people spend most of their time in the home.

The NAR survey also found that real estate TV shows has impacted home buyers’ views and expectations.  Thirty-nine percent of buyers indicated that they experienced a more difficult home buying process than what they expected.  Twenty percent of buyers reported being disappointed that homes they visited didn’t look like the ones portrayed on TV.  While ten percent believe that homes should look staged as they are depicted in TV shows. 

Not all agents stage the homes they list for sale.  Only twenty-eight percent of listing agents said they staged all sellers’ homes prior to listing them for sale.  Compared to the thirteen percent of agents who confessed that they only stage homes that they deem difficult to sell.

Does home staging affect sale price?  It was noted that all agents surveyed indicated that home staging affected their home sale positively.  Twenty-two percent of the agents reported an increase of up to five percent in buyers’ offers, while seventeen percent reported offer increases up to ten percent. Only two percent of the agents responded that it increased offers up to twenty percent.

But the idea of staging your home to get top dollar may just be traditional wisdom, as evidenced by NAR’s survey.  One of the few studies on staging revealed that indeed, staging does not have a significant impact on sale price.  Lane, Seiler & Seiler’s 2015 study (The Impact of Staging Conditions on Residential Real Estate Demand. Journal of Housing Research, 24,1. 21-35) concluded that although staging affects the home buying process and the buyer’s opinion and perception of livability, it’s not enough to result in a higher sales price.  The authors stated, “These results stand in stark contrast to the conscious (stated) opinion of both buyers and real estate agents that staging conditions significantly impact willingness to pay for a home. As such, the findings are new and useful to a large group of stakeholders (sellers and agents).”

Original published at https://dankrell.com/blog/2019/03/21/creating-home-staging-vision/

By Dan Krell
Copyright © 2019.

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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.