Archive for January, 2014

Getting Ready to Sell: Staging

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

With the Spring selling season approaching there are likely sellers considering placing homes on the market. While this is great news, especially since there are still many buyers and low inventory levels, it is important for sellers to understand the current market before listing their homes. To get top dollar, all sellers should consider staging, and there are many different levels of staging – from simple decluttering and rearranging furniture, to heavy staging.image_023_mls

Today’s buyers have changed from the buyers of yesterday. They are more savvy, more on top of what they should expect in certain neighborhoods, and many know the comps and understand them inside and out. They are not likely to jump on something if they feel it does not make financial sense; for example, if a home shows well but has few upgrades, and other homes in the price range have more upgrades, buyers are more comfortable with walking away rather than trying to negotiate the price down. Even more so, they may simply note this after viewing the home online and not even bother to come see it.

Anyone who is considering selling their home should find a listing agent who can help determine the individual needs of the home so that it shows the best it can. Having your agent help you see things from a different perspective is a big help, as often it is hard to step back and view your own home from a potential buyer’s eyes. From adding more light to painting, rearranging furniture or decluttering, there are many things most sellers can do to help their homes show in the best light. Let’s look at different levels of staging.

No Staging. There are some homes that show like models. I just sold one, and I probably could have sold it to at least 10 other buyers. It was so pristine and showed so well that there was nothing that needed to be done. Of course, this is rare because most people do not live this way, but it was sure nice as a listing agent to market such a beautiful  home! Many sellers get staging going before they even contact a real estate agent, so by the time one comes the home already has improved on the showing meter. But others need assistance.

dreamstime_2647321Light Staging. Light staging is the easiest kind, and often costs no or very little money and effort. Keeping in mind that every room should be made to feel as spacious as possible, this is where cleaning and decluttering come in. Have your sellers take out stacks of magazines and books, extra furniture that makes the room feel smaller or crowded. Open window treatments and let in the light. Clear off tables and put away knick knacks. In the kitchen, try to get as much off the counters as possible – buyers want to see how much work space there is. Take down pictures if walls are covered with them, and only use a selective few pieces of art in each room.

Moderate staging: This involves a little more work than light staging, but with many of the same concepts. For moderate staging the seller might paint a room or several, plant flowers out front and spruce up the landscaping to heighten curb appeal, or even purchase a few pieces to place strategically around the home (like plants or artwork). If it is necessary to make bigger purchases the seller may want to consider hiring a professional stager.

Heavy Staging: This is where most agents recommend hiring a professional staging company. If the home has an unusual layout or is vacant or not fully furnished, or where the current furniture does not compliment the home (such as big chunky pieces in a small cottage), you may need to bite the bullet and call in reinforcements. It’s a small price to pay to stir up the interest from buyers (and of course your agent will be having professional photos shot once it’s all ready!)

It is important to keep in mind that if you are a seller who wants to get top dollar for your home, and likely sell it more quickly, you should definitely think about staging. Speak with your agent about what you need to do to get your home in tip-top shape.

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California Median Home Prices

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

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Should You Paint Your Home Before You Sell?

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

I have blogged already about my feeling that 2014 will be a great year to sell. Those sellers who have held off, waiting for values to go up, can reap the benefits of the 2013 price increases, as well as the growing buyer pool and lower inventory levels. But today’s buyers are definitely picky, and they usually know where they want to be (which neighborhoods, what amenities). To get top dollar for your home you really need it to be in the best showing condition possible.images

I have written several blogs about things sellers can and should do to get their homes in the best condition for sale. But in this blog I wanted to focus on painting. Paint is probably one of the cheapest things you can do to seriously enhance the desirability of your home. A fresh coat of paint says that your home is well maintained, and really makes buyers feel there is less they need to attend should they purchase the home.

Exterior paint: Drive through any neighborhood and look at the homes. You will immediately notice those that are in need of paint jobs and those that look fresh and clean. Curb appeal is a big factor in whether a buyer will consider making an offer. If you are unable to paint the entire exterior of your home, at least consider painting the trim, front door and garage (if you have a painted garage). Doing so will not create a big dent in your pocketbook and will really make your home look more attractive.

Interior paint: Color was always a big plus in the past, but interestingly enough I just learned from a local builder that most buyers of new construction today prefer white paint. That was somewhat surprising, but I have heard it elsewhere – white seems to be the new preference. It says clean and fresh.

When it comes to painting one piece of advice has and still rings true: avoid bright or loud colors. While you may love a red kitchen or purple bedroom, if the buyers viewing your home do not it makes the home less desirable. It is better to paint over those colors and keep it neutral, or just go with white. You never know what colors people prefer and can never please everyone, so keep it simple.

Of course, paint is just one thing you can do to get your home in the best selling shape. You also should consider decluttering, removing personal photographs, light staging if needed, touching up your landscaping (potted plants are great by the front door), keeping your home clean and letting in the natural light. For more ideas on what you can do to make your home more appealing click here.

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2014 Housing Market Predictions

Thursday, January 2nd, 2014

Happy New Year! I cannot believe 2013 is over – it seems to have gone by so quickly, and now it is time once again for my New Year’s housing predictions. I must say a few months ago I was not so sure what the market would look like in 2014, and I thought it might end up being a slow year. However, the last several months have altered my opinion and I am excited about housing in the coming year. Here are some of my thoughts as to what may happen.images

Buyer numbers will continue to stay strong. Judging from the frenzy in the last few months, combined with the low inventory levels common for this time of year, I think buyers will still be out there looking for property. The prospect of inventory surges has many buyers excited and ready to pounce. They especially will want to get into contract and lock down their rates before they begin to escalate, so I predict market times for desirable listings will continue to be shorter than normal (I am referring to the local North San Diego market, which has seen shorter market times in recent months – if you reside elsewhere check with your experienced real estate agent for specific data).

Interest rates will rise. You have all heard that rates will likely rise this year…it is pretty much inevitable. What we don’t know is when or by how much, and a lot of that depends on the economy in general (specifically jobs), and the strength of the housing market (which is multi-faceted – including resale, new construction, distressed properties, loan origination difficulties, etc.). The fact is that there will be escalations, and this tends to make potential buyers nervous, as they could price some out of desired markets and make loans harder to obtain. For this reason I think the buyer pool will stay strong and active. Capital Economics predicts that rates will reach 5% by year end, and 5.5% by the end of 2015. They also point out that higher rates could be a benefit to borrowers by causing a loosening in mortgage credit conditions due to fewer refinances.

dreamstime_988060Home prices will remain level or only increase slightly (“normally”). I am sure you have heard that the great climb is over, and I agree – prices will likely level off and only climb at normal paces – 4-5% a year. Capital Economics predicts that for 2013 home prices will be up by 11%, and that this year will slow to around 4%.

Investors will ease back, opening up inventory to first time and repeat buyers. The time for investors to snatch up great deals is pretty much over. There could still be some investor activity, but for the most part most investors will begin to back off . [If you are wondering where I get this information it is from my own investor clients, and from my first time homebuyer clients, who do not seem to have that cash buyer competition like they did for the last several years.] The exception is buy and hold investors, who need to sink their money somewhere for tax purposes. They will be looking for stable investments, and I think will focus on multi-unit properties like duplexes, triplexes/quads, and in some areas even apartment buildings. But looking at the big picture, I believe we will see less investor activity this year than we did in 2013 and especially 2012.

Distressed inventory will probably not rise. This category is a bit questionable because there are several factors in play that will determine what will happen to distressed inventory levels. For the most part, I think distressed inventory levels will remain lower, and in most areas we will not see excessive foreclosures and short sales. The surge in the market brought many homeowners out of negative equity, and allowed many to sell. Of course, changes in the economy (especially the job market) could have an effect on foreclosure activity. I also think the programs out there to help distressed borrowers could help people avoid foreclosure if used properly and early on. This prediction is based on the local market here in San Diego, and may be different in other markets.

Overall I believe this year will be another great year for the real estate market, and I am excited! Housing is still a great value, and the National Association of Realtors reports that housing has never been as affordable as it is now – in their past 40 year history. I hope you all have a wonderful year – good health and lots of happy times.

 

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