Selling Your Home in a Seller’s Market Better than it has been for 4-5 Years

For Sellers, it’s deja vu all over again!  Well, almost!  Prices aren’t quite as crazy as they were a few years ago, and lending/mortgage rules have definitely seen a change.  No more crazy loans to people who can’t pay them back!  Banks and lenders have learned a lesson!

But it’s good to be a seller right now.  Better than it has been for 4-5 years!  Most areas, San Antonio included, are seeing a return to a seller’s market–less than 6 months of inventory available for buyers.  Sellers are back in the driver’s seat, but there are still some things that sellers need to know and consider as they try to sell their homes.

Even though market conditions are favorable for you, Mr./Mrs./Ms. Seller, you are still competing with other properties.  Your home still needs to be not just for sale, but sellable.  Clean, in good condition, nice curb appeal, positioned correctly in the market.  All these things are still necessary to attract the right buyer.

Do you have your plans in place to move?  If you’ve gotten your home ready for the market, and if it’s positioned correctly, it should go under contract fairly quickly–depending on what’s happening where you are.  Are you going to be ready to move in 30-45 days?  If not, better figure something out!  Now!  This is what I call the best/worst/ case scenario!  Best case–my house sold in a week!  Worst case–my house sold in a week, I have to be out in 30 days!  Where do I go from here??

If you are fortunate enough to receive multiple offers on your home for sale, are you looking at all parts of the offer and not just the highest price?  Here are some other things to consider:
Is the buyer pre-approved for financing?
When does he want to close and take possession of the home?
Does he want seller concessions, e.g. help with closing costs, leave the refrigerator, etc.?
Does he want you to do additional repairs or replace carpet or other things prior to closing?

These items can make even a full-price or over-full-price offer less attractive than a lower price without all these additional costs to the seller.  Consider the whole package.

If you’re tempted to overprice your home and see if you can get your price, keep in mind that buyers today are very savvy!  They’ve already looked up your home online and gotten a Zestimate of its value.  They’ve seen the history of the property and know if you’ve started high and come down in price.  They know how long its been on the market.  They probably also know what you paid for the house and when you bought it.   They’ve done their homework and aren’t going to play that game any more.  Buyers want to make a smart decision too!

Here’s something else to keep in mind.  Builders are starting to build again. That means your competition is going to be not just the other homes in your neighborhood and area, but brand spanking new builder homes, with new everything, warranties, and all the amenities and features today’s buyers want.  Can  you compete with that?  If not, then better get your home out there and make it competitive before the competition heats up even more!

Bottom line for sellers:  Buyers are out, they’re looking, and they’re mostly ready to buy!  Position your home correctly in the market and you’re sure to find a buyer or buyers who want what you have.

Good luck and be sure you’re represented by a professional, full-time, market-savvy REALTOR®!

A Picture’s Worth …..

You know the rest!  Pictures are SO important when your house is for sale!  Studies show that 88% of buyers house-hunt online before they ever contact a realtor or get in the car to actually go see a house.  The photos that your REALTOR® posts online are the first showing for your house, and if they’re not inviting and show buyers what they want to see, Click!  They’re off to the next one!

Most REALTORS®, myself  included, are not professional photographers.  Digital cameras and smartphones have made it easier to snap pictures of  your home, but most of us do not have the sophisticated equipment necessary for magazine-quality photos.  That being said, there are some things that should be obvious and that all of us can do to make your house look its best online.   You, as the seller, should be sure your agent is doing all he/she can to show off your home.  Ask to see the pictures before they’re posted online and/or in the MLS.  If you don’t like some of them, ask to have them deleted and/or redone.  It’s your home, after all!

Here are some buyer turn-offs–make sure your home is not a victim!

1. Not enough photos!  Buyers looking online want to see inside pictures, and lots of them!  Most MLS systems allow up to 25 or more photos per listing.  Whatever is allowed, that’s how many pictures your agent should be posting.  Sometimes buyers are looking for a particular feature, and the more pictures you have out there, the better the chances they’ll be able to see if your home meets their needs.  So don’t settle for 1 picture or just a few.  Make sure your home’s MLS listing shows as many photos as allowed.

2. Bad lighting!  Buyers won’t choose  your home if they can’t see it!  Open the windows, turn on the lights, help your agent by throwing some light on the subject.  And check those photos as you go–it’s frustrating to get back to the office, download the pictures, and find out that this room or that area was too dark and didn’t show up well.

3. Missing photos!   Of course, you want to show as much of the home as possible, but buyers are mostly interested in kitchens, closets, bathrooms, outdoor spaces, and unique add-ons or appliances.  Focus on these areas and show several pictures of each to get buyers interested in seeing more.

4.  Clutter!  Clean up and clean out before pictures.  Buyers can’t see your home if pictures are full of your “stuff”.  Clear off counters in the kitchen and bathrooms, put away all your decorative knick-knacks, take down all those family photos.  Buyers want to see space, not stuff!  Put the dog out, keep the kids out of the room, tell kitty to go sleep somewhere else!   And, move the car out of the driveway, roll up the hose, pick up toys, etc.

Good luck with your listing!  Your pictures should be worth a thousand words!

Value vs. “Saleability”, part 2

So, if you read the previous post, the question was what is an appraiser looking for to help him/her determine the value of a home?  The appraiser looks at “the big picture”–how a home compares to others in the area that have recently sold.  It doesn’t matter what the guy down the street has listed his home for, or what you paid for the home 5 years ago–what matters is what other people have been willing to pay for a similar house in the last few months!  Appraisers consider recently sold properties and also the condition of your home relative to others around it.

Very often, a REALTOR® like me finds that a homeowner who wants to sell his home and an appraiser have a different idea of what’s valuable about a home.  There are many things that are “valuable” to a seller that don’t matter much to an appraiser!   These kinds of features may make a home more “sellable” but they don’t necessarily make it more “valuable”.  There’s a difference!  Here are a few areas where “saleability” may not add to “value” for an appraiser:

1.  A new roof.  No question that a new roof improves the “saleability” of a home.  It’s important to the function and it’s expensive to replace, so a home with a new roof adds appeal to a buyer, but to an appraiser, not so much.  Every home has to have one so the fact that yours is newer than the house next door doesn’t really matter.  However, if your roof  is older than what’s in the area and obviously in need of repair/replacement, that can definitely decrease the value for the appraiser.

2. The outside, i.e. curb appeal.  How does your home compare to the neighbors’?  If their homes and yards are nicely landscaped, well-maintained, and show no obvious signs of neglect (chipped paint,dead or overgrown plants and bushes, unkempt yard, etc.) and yours doesn’t, that can have a negative effect on the value for an appraiser.  Curb appeal is very important–it sets the expectation for the condition of the house as a whole.  If the yard looks neglected, that could indicate a lack of maintenance inside the home as well.

3. Remodeling projects, especially those that follow a current trend.   Those types of projects can actually decrease value.  What looks modern and stylish today will look dated and old in 5-10 years.  Think about your wardrobe–are you wearing what was “in” 5 years ago?  Probably not!  However, classic pieces never go out of style and can be updated with minor adjustments and accessories.  The same goes for your home.  Built-in entertainment centers were all the rage a few years ago–now, not so much.  Or what about cabinets?  What’s in, what’s out?  Dark wood, light wood, heavy carving, sleek and modern?  For permanent and expensive projects, stick with classic designs and save the trendy stuff for things that can be easily changed, like paint and accessories.

4. Swimming pool–this is a tricky one!  If most of the homes that the appraiser is comparing to yours have pools and pools are common in the area, then the fact that your home has one will not make it more valuable.  If pools are not common and  you have one, that also will not necessarily make your home more valuable.  Pools are not for everyone!  They increase your homeowners insurance premium because they’re considered an attractive nuisance.  They mean extra time and expense for ongoing maintenance.  They can definitely pose a safety risk for a family with children.  So a pool can (maybe) increase “saleability” for a seller, but not necessarily “value” for an appraiser.

There are many other considerations for an appraiser to weigh when determining the value of a particular home, but I hope this gives you some insight into the difference between what makes a home more “sellable” and what adds or takes away from its value.  If you have questions, by all means contact your REALTOR®, or me!

Value vs. “Saleability”

There’s one person in the homeselling process who has an enormous influence on whether or not a home sale can be completed.  Who is this person, you ask?  It’s the Appraiser!   At best, he confirms what buyer and seller have negotiated and what the mortgage lender has approved, the transaction proceeds, and everyone comes away happy!  At worst, the appraiser can derail a transaction and everyone comes away unhappy!  Often these days, the appraiser’s opinion of the value of the home in question sends buyer and seller and their realtors back to the negotiating table and, with luck, flexibility, and some skill, the transaction gets back on track, and everyone is able to walk away with most of what they wanted!

So who is this appraiser, and what does he do, and how does he manage to shake things up so completely?  The appraiser is a neutral 3rd party, who delivers an opinion of the value of the home in question for the lender.  The value is determined by the condition of the home and by comparing it to similar properties in the area which have sold recently.  The goal is always for the home to appraise at or above the sale price agreed on by both buyer and seller.  The lender will not lend a buyer more money that the property securing the loan is worth, so if the appraisal comes in low, there are basically 2 choices:  seller can lower his price to the appraised value and accept less for his property, and/or buyer can make up the difference between the sale price and the appraised value, or some combination of the two can be negotiated.  If buyer and seller can’t agree to new terms, then the transaction is cancelled, and everyone walks away empty-handed.  (Buyer is able to get his Earnest Money refunded).

So, you ask, what is an appraiser looking for when he/she is determining value?   I’ll answer that question in my next post…….stay tuned!

Getting Ready to Sell Your Home

By now, you’ve read/seen/heard lots of people, including me via this blog, tell you all about de-cluttering, cleaning, staging, etc. in preparation for putting your home on the market.  But what about repairs and other things that might give a potential buyer second thoughts?  Here are a few items you can and should look at prior to listing your home for sale and before a buyer’s inspector comes through–a few interior “hot spots” that can be easily fixed and give a buyer peace of mind.

Plumbing:

1. Leaks–Check every faucet and hose bib, inside and outside, for leaks and fix them.  It’s usually an easy and inexpensive thing to do and will pay off by not alerting a buyer to potential problems.  And remember to check inside cabinets also to be sure everything’s tight and drip-free.

2. Sinks and Drains–Be sure every sink and tub is draining properly and and that lines are clear.  To make sure, run water in several sinks and flush several toilets at the same time.  If things aren’t running smoothly and well, call the plumber!  Get those lines cleared.

3. Water pressure–While the plumber’s there, have him or her check your water pressure.  Or try running the dishwasher, washing machine, a sink, and the shower all at once.  If the water pressure is too low, you may need a bigger hot water heater.  Get one now, before you put your home up for sale.

4. Water heater–Speaking of the water heater, take a good look at yours and look under it.  If you see rust or leaks, replace the hot water heater now, because you can be sure a buyer will want that done as soon as his inspector reports that it’s leaking and/or rusty!

5. Septic tank–If you’re on a septic system, have the tank emptied and serviced at least 2 weeks before you put your house on the market.  In Texas, you’ll have to report on the last time the tank was emptied, and you certainly don’t want to have to have it done while your house is being shown!

Electrical
   You’re probably not going to be doing a lot of electrical work, but take a few minutes to locate your main electrical panel and just brush out the cobwebs and dead bugs, and wipe off rust and/or mildew.

Heating and Air Conditioning Systems:
Have your heating and air conditioning units serviced before you list your home.  Check for any problems that may be there or even potential problems and take care of them before a buyer’s inspector comes in.  Replace your filters, clean ducts, and make sure everything is clean and running smoothly.
Test thermostats and if they need to be replaced, do it now!
If you really want to check for problems, have your home pre-inspected.  Hire your own inspector (your REALTOR® can give you a list of names) and have your home inspected before you list it.  Then, you can take care of small things first and get estimates for any major repairs.  You will have to disclose the inspection report, but by doing so, you can point out the items that have been repaired and have an idea what a buyer’s inspector may be reporting.  Some buyers may even choose to accept your report and not hire their own inspector to save some extra money.

Being proactive in this area could strengthen your negotiating position and/or save you from the stress of unexpected problems.  Potential buyers will be confident that your home has been well-maintained.  Reducing everyone’s stress level leads to a smoother transaction and less hassle for everyone!  Everyone comes out happy!!

Go Green–Affordably!

If you’re selling your home, or thinking about doing so, you should know that most buyers these days are looking for energy efficiency.  New homes are being built with more energy-efficient materials and appliances, but older homes may not have some of the features that help lower utility costs.  Installing some of these features can make your home more attractive to potential buyers and save you money too!  Here are some easy things you can do to increase your home’s appeal in today’s competitive market.

Replace regular light bulbs in light fixtures with CFLs (compact fluorescent light bulbs).  They use about 1/5 the energy of regular bulbs and last about 12x longer!

Install low-flow showerheads that will save on water heating and use.

Install an ENERGY STAR qualified programmable thermostat.  This helps you regulate heating and cooling so your units don’t have to work so hard when no one’s at home.

Insulate your hot water tank.

Close the damper on the fireplace.  People forget this during the summer, and it will help prevent energy loss.

Repair water leaks.  Not only do these small leaks waste water, they also make a buyer think the home has not been well-maintained.  A big turn-off!

Add insulation to an attic.

Seal ducts.  Did you know that 20% of the air moving through your ducts can be lost due to leaks, holes, and poor connections?  Do you really want to heat and air condition your attic???

These are all simple things you can likely do yourself to save energy and lower those utility costs!

You can also contact CPS Energy in San Antonio (or your local utility if you’re not in San Antonio) to conduct an energy audit of your home.  Here in San Antonio, go to www.cpsenergysavers.com and check out all the ideas there.  You can do a self-audit and get $5 off your next CPS Energy bill!  I did that and I have someone coming to my home next week to do an energy audit!  CPS has a number of rebates available for installing more energy efficient appliances, windows, etc.  so check that out while you’re on the site too!

There are lots more small changes we can all make to help lower utility costs and reduce our energy use.  Hope these will get you started!

Summer time = be-safe-time!

Welcome to good ol’ summertime!  Although it’s now “official” since we had our longest day of the year last week, it’s been summer in San Antonio for awhile now, and the dog days are just getting started!  We all like to relax and enjoy some leisure time, but this is not the time to be lax on safety!  Of course,  we all are on guard about water safety, sunscreen, staying hydrated, and all the other things concerning our physical safety and that of our families!  But have you considered your financial safety?

Summer time means vacation for many folks and that puts travelers at increased risk.  Traveling means shopping, eating out, checking into hotels, and these are the locations thieves frequent to steal your personal information!  Here are some tips to remember so you’ll stay safe as you vacation and relax this summer:

Before you go:  Don’t post your travel plans on Facebook and social media sites–no need to advertise to thieves that your home is unoccupied for days!  And stop mail and newspaper delivery or arrange for a friend or neighbor to pick up for you so it’s not obvious to casual observers that no one’s home!   You might want to consider notifying your bank and credit card companies about your plans or set up alerts for unusual or excessive charges.  Also arrange for yard maintenance while you’re gone, including watering if you don’t want to come home to a brown yard!

What to take/not to take:  Travel light!  Do not carry all your credit cards.  Leave your social security card at home (safe and secure of course!).  Make copies of your passport and other travel documents.  Store phone numbers for your credit/debit card companies on your smartphone in case your wallet or purse is stolen.

While you’re traveling:  Use only secure internet connections in hotels and other public places.  If you must use public Wi-Fi or computers, do not access financial information or other personal sites on these unsecured connections.   If you’re carrying valuables, lock them up in the hotel safe.  That includes your passport, jewelry, electronics, other important documents.   Keep all your receipts.

When you return:  Cross check your receipts against your bank and credit card statements.  Remember to start your mail and newspaper deliveries back up!   Enjoy the memories you made with your family and friends and start planning for next year!

 

 

Mortgages and Veterans

I recently attended an all-day seminar at the San Antonio Board of Realtors called Welcome Heroes Home.  I learned a lot about the challenges faced by our military heroes, especially those who have sustained life-altering injuries and how those injuries affect not only themselves but their families as well.  These brave young men and women have unique challenges to face and now, unique needs when it comes to housing.  It was an informative, enlightening, and inspiring day of learning from these heroes and the people who work with, love, and support them.  Would that we all could face what they do with as much courage and can-do attitude!

Because of their injuries and the alterations required, these veterans have some special needs in housing.  Some need ramps, wide halls, lower counters, and other universal design items for easier wheelchair access.  Some who have sustained severe burns need extra air conditioning units.  Some veterans may be able to modify their existing homes; others may need to build new.  Some are relocating to new areas to be close to medical facilities.  There are many new challenges for these heroes and their families, and there is help available for them.

If you are a veteran, or know one, please click on the link below.  It’s a link to another blog site that gives some information about some of the mortgage options available to veterans, wounded or not.  There are resources out there for you.  One thing I learned in that seminar is that many veterans don’t know about all these resources.  Again, if you’re a veteran or if you know someone who is, please know there are people who want to help.   Contact me if you’re in or around San Antonio and I’ll point you in the right direction.

Thank you for your service!

Mortgages and Veterans.                                            

Spring has sprung! Sellers–get ready for those buyers!

It’s Springtime!  My favorite time of the year is here!  All the rain we’ve had in San Antonio has brought out a bumper crop of beautiful Texas wildflowers this year!  Love seeing the bluebonnets along the road and in fields and even in people’s yards!  Hope you’re enjoying them while they last!

Speaking of flowers and spring green, it’s time to take a good look at your curb appeal if your home is on the market or is going to be on the market.  First impressions are lasting and you never get a second chance to make one!   Sellers, it’s important to capture those buyers when they first drive up by showing off your home at its best!  Here are some things you can do (or hire someone to do) to boost your home’s curb appeal and get those buyers in the door!

First thing:  take a good look at your home!  Go across the street and really look at your house with “buyer’s eyes”.  We all have things that we get used to in and around our own home that we don’t even think about any more, but buyers notice!  Make a list of the things you see that could be improved.  And, don’t forget to walk around and look at the back and both sides as well!  Pay particular attention to these items:

Paint–paint makes a huge impact and is probably the first thing a buyer notices.  What does yours look like?  Does it need some touch-ups?  Maybe it needs a complete re-do.  My neighbors just sold their house and have moved.  New owners are already pulling out ’80’s carpet and inside counters, etc., but I’m really hoping they’ll also paint that forest green trim on the red brick house!  And maybe even replace the green roof!   Does your home look like a blast from the ’60’s, ’70’s, ’80’s, or ’90’s past?  Bring it up to today’s look.   Even if the house doesn’t need painting, a fresh coat on the front door, the trim, garage door, can really make a good impression.  Peeling paint raises concerns that the rest of the house may need work too.  Why not bring people in the front door with a good feeling?

Roof–same thing goes for your roof.  Of course, if it’s leaking in spots or has missing shingles, it must be repaired or replaced.  But even if it’s still functioning, if the roof looks old and worn, consider replacing it–that will really make a buyer feel good and confident that he won’t have to deal with that problem for a long time.  If finances won’t allow you to replace the roof, consider offering a credit to the buyer so he can take care of that after the purchase is completed.

Driveway and walkways–should be in good repair and nice and clean.  Above all, for safety’s sake, you want to make sure there’s a clear path to the front door.  If you don’t have one, then make one.  And be sure your driveway and sidewalks are smooth and do not present a tripping hazard.  Power washing will clean most stains off the driveway and leave sidewalks, concrete, decks, and pebble finishes clean and fresh.  Sidewalks and driveways can have cracks due to shifting soils, tree roots, age, or other reasons.  Fill in cracks and be sure steps are clearly visible.  Keep toys and other things off the lawn and keep walkways clear.

Landscaping–last summer was brutal here in San Antonio–hot and very dry.  Many people, myself included, lost some plants due to the drought and extreme heat.  If you did, remove them and consider replacing them.  If you didn’t lose the whole plant, trim away the dead parts and tidy up what’s left.  Plant some flowers for color and just to look pretty.  Ask someone at the garden center to help you select drought-tolerant plants.  Keep grass mowed and edged.  Oak trees are pollinating now and will soon be dropping their pollen all over.  If you have trees in your yard, keep your walks swept and leaves raked.

Clean–this is a great time of year to spring clean the outside of your home as well as the inside.  If you’re not painting, wash the trim and the outside of the home to make it look fresh and appealing.  Wash windows so that light comes into the home and views can be appreciated.  Hard water builds up on windows and makes everything look dull–clean those windows and let the sunshine in!  Remember to wash the screens as well.  Wash down decks, patios, patio furniture, everything that people will see when they look outside.  Even if you’re planning to take the patio furniture with you when you move, clean it up so things look fresh.  And keep hoses curled up and out of the way.  Remember to check your sprinklers and repair anything that’s not working properly.  If you have automatic sprinklers, the inspector will test them so get them repaired now.  Also, remember to clean and polish light fixtures, fans, anything else that people will see when they walk outside.

Exterior lighting–many homes are now being photographed in the evening with the outside lights.  I’ve seen many pictures in MLS of a home lit up at night.  Consider installing some solar lighting along walkways or uplighting trees.  If you have tired front porch lighting, replace it with something more updated.  Timers on outside lights can keep them on and turn them off at a set time.

Hope this has given you some ideas of ways to improve your curb appeal and get buyers excited about coming to see your home!  Now that you’ve got the outside looking great, be sure to carry the feeling right in the front door and your agent will be putting up a SOLD sign before you know it!   I’d love to be that agent!  Call or contact me if I can help!

Good luck, and Happy Spring!

Sue

Buyers, How to Turn Off a Seller!

My last post was all about how homesellers can turn off/turn away potential buyers.  Well, that street runs two ways!  Buyers, you can also do some things that turn off a seller and make that seller less willing to work with you.  Here are 3 things to keep in mind when you’re looking for a house and when you find “the one”:

1.  Extreme lowball offers.   Many (not all!) markets are still what we consider “buyers markets” these days–where available inventory is greater than the number of buyers actively looking to purchase a home.  This gives buyers a bit of an upper hand in negotiations, but let’s be reasonable and realistic here.  Buyers, you should consult your agent to find out what similar homes in the neighborhood have sold for recently.  While most sellers will likely be reasonable in considering a price lower than what they’re asking, they are probably not going to give away their home (and largest asset) for way less than current market value in the area.  And what’s worse–by making a lowball offer just to “see what they say”, you run a very big risk of turning them off so much that not only will they refuse your offer, they may refuse to counter and/or decide not to work with you at all!  So, you waste their time, your time, both realtors’ time, and in the end, everyone loses!  So make your offer based on the realities of the market in your area and in the neighborhood you’re interested in.  Forget the fantasy of  trying to score the “deal of a lifetime”–if you want the house, then be reasonable!

2. Mortgage “issues”.    Realtors are seeing this happen too often.  You find the house, you make an offer, negotiate the terms, get your offer accepted.  Yea, you think the hard part’s over!  It’s just beginning!  Now it’s time for you, the buyer, to put up or shut up–you have to apply and be approved for the mortgage loan you need to complete the transaction.  Things have changed a lot in the mortgage industry in the last few years!  Many buyers with jobs, good credit, and cash on hand are finding it difficult to obtain financing.  And if you have challenges with any of those things, it’s even more difficult, if not impossible!  So, buyers, what can you do?  Start the mortgage approval process before you ever go out looking for a house.  Get pre-approved for a loan and have that pre-approval ready to submit with your offer to purchase the home you want.  Know how much home you qualify for and stay in that price range.  Keep your financial affairs in order while all this is going on–don’t buy anything on credit, don’t open new credit cards, don’t fall behind in bill payments, and don’t change jobs until after you close on your new home!  Seller, be sure you ask for proof that your potential buyer can complete the transaction–get a copy of that pre-approval!

3. Trash-talking the seller’s home.   If you, the buyer, are trashing the seller’s home as a reason to offer less, you’re running the very big risk of making the seller mad and giving him reasons not to sell to you!  Plus, if you think it’s that bad, then why do you want to buy it in the first place??   If there are legitimate problems with the house that make you consider offering a much lower price than what the seller is asking,  then ask your agent to communicate your concerns in a professional and respectful way.  Chances are, the seller is aware of those issues already, and being respectful will keep communications open.  Remember, a seller has emotional ties to his home–many take your negative comments as a personal commentary on them, and may not be willing to work with someone they perceive as attacking them personally.

At the end of the day, everyone has the same goal–to sell or buy the house in question.  By putting yourself in the other party’s shoes, you can facilitate the transaction, communicate your position effectively and respectfully, and everyone ends up getting most of what they want!   Sellers sell, buyers buy, everyone wins!

Success to you!

 

Sue