January 2012 Newsletter
Gay E. Rosen, ABR, CBR, CRS, CDPE, GRI, REOS, SRES
Licensed Real Estate Associate Broker
The Patient Market
Where to start? 2012 promises (??) to be more of the same as 2011. Okay.. What is that exactly?.. Well, it basically means that the buyers are still looking for those great bargains – and are willing to wait for them… and the sellers are realizing that this market is now becoming the normal market… where pricing, and being informed of the local area stats and pricing their home accordingly equals a sale . Sometimes a GREAT sale.
As of writing this, the Case-Shiller December 27th
Press release states that “The 10-City Composite is down 3.0% and the 20-City is down 3.4%.”
New York was one city that saw its annual rates improve in October over September, but it should be noted that prices still seem to reflect mid 2003.
“While the housing market has shown some small signs of life recently, we continue to believe a real recovery is at least a year and a half away. Our concern is that there will be a renewed pick-up in foreclosures as banks work their way through legal and logistical problems in foreclosing properties. We think that means more pressure on prices and no growth in construction in the single-family market.” Mr. Ethan Harris , Economist – as interviewed by Mr. Harlan Levy/Seeking Alpha 12.27/2011
So, it is important to be cognizant of all of these stats, but it is very important to realize that real estate is always local, and it is those local sales that will affect the price of your home.
I have to refer to this market as simply the patient market… I sincerely feel that 2012 will be much like 2011.… meaning the buyers are there, there will always be people who need to buy, and there will always be people who need to sell. Buyers feel that the real estate market will continue to decline, and so they see a property – perhaps visit it on-line, and then sit back, and wait for it to go down in price. They sometimes have a pre-conceived idea that if a home on a street sells for 5% less than the original list price, then every home should sell for 5% less not realizing there are many factors involved… This is where it is important to have an experienced agent discuss the local market with you.
First however, I think that when someone is contemplating the sale of their home, they should ask themselves their motive? Is it to make a large profit? , do they need to sell ?, are they testing the market? Do they have a job promotion? The taxes are too high? They are relocating? Better tax write-off? Might lose a nicer home if they do not sell now? Selling is a big decision. It can be traumatic, and so there should be a lengthy discussion between family members, agent/seller before placing the home onto the market. The agent will be investing his/her time on your behalf, and they are there to help and assist. No-one wants to waste their time. The agent is not there to just sell your home, but to rather market your home and obtain the highest sales price for you.
If you decide to sell, and as a potential seller you feel that your home is THE best home on the block, and warrants a higher sales price than Mrs. Smith’s home (who always leaves her garbage cans outside) ….and your research demonstrates that the last sold home on the street was X amount less than you feel your home is warranted …. Then here are a few suggestions so you can at least obtain the highest price possible in the most realistic way:
1) It is hard for many of us to be objective about our home. I have heard owners lovingly point out their flocked wallpaper, and 50’s kitchens as being ’top of the line’ when they were installed.. All agents have heard the following statements “ I will not give it away..” “I do not have to sell..” “My house is the best in the area” “My house is unique” “I have spent so much money renovating the house” – when in fact sometimes that renovation was actually maintenance. We all try to be solicitous, gentle but factual when we have to be truthful to those sellers – not wanting to hurt their feelings, but wanting to be honest. There is oft times an ego involvement too for the potential seller…because they love their home, and feel it is special… they expect all potential buyers to feel the same way…
Buyers are more than ever looking at stats. They are savvy, and sometimes quite brutal. It is important not to let a low bid upset you. There are buyers who are realistic, and many who aren’t. The same can be stated for sellers.
2) So, have an appraisal. It will cost about $500 but you will have firsthand knowledge of what your home is worth, and you could conceivably leave that appraisal on hand for the potential buyers should you like the results. Remember though that the appraisal is only as good as the most recent sales, and appraisers will only compare those homes that have sold 3-6 months previously. If the appraisal is lower than you thought, then this would be an indication of what to expect should you sell, and might help you to reconsider.
Still unsure? I have often taken out prospective sellers to view homes in the area so they can better understand the pricing process.
3) Prepare your home for sale… If you can’t be objective, then have a seller’s pre-inspection. Some inspection companies will offer a small discount, and you can have a licensed professional walk through the house with you, and offer good, sound advice on what you should/should not repair.
That aside, does your home need painting? Are the windows older? Is the furnace older? Do you have central air conditioning? How old is the roof? Do you have yearly maintenance on your home? These are all questions the buyers will ask, and look for ways to minimize your listing price if contemplating a bid. If you have an older home, but maintain it yearly, and have the records to prove it, then have those records on hand at the inspection. The inspector will love it, and can refer to those records in his report. IT all helps, and if it helps you save money, then all good.
If you still feel strongly about pricing your home at a set amount – against your agent’s suggestion, then be wary of perhaps losing those important first few weeks of excitement a new listing will produce. Buyers will always ask “How long has the home been on the market..” They are all looking for new ways to lower the price of your home (in their minds),,, so be careful. No appointments = too high… especially if the agent is offering open houses, broker’s open houses, writing blog posts about your home, and advertising on the major internet web sites. It is always better to be competitive in pricing so you attract more buyers, garner more excitement and hopefully obtain that great bid.
It is a well known fact that if homes are over-priced to begin with, they will end up obtaining a lower sales price as time goes by.. So… be careful..
4) Ask for a marketing plan from your agent. If the agent is very relaxed in his./her approach with no reports, no feedback … you deserve more, and should demand it.
I use a professional photographer, utilize a wonderful program enabling me to create my own little area video with both photos of the home complete with descriptions, area sites such as restaurants, points of interest, and I will write blogs, and even more blogs utilizing as many facts I have about the home to garner as much attention as I can. I will serve a luncheon to the local agents to advertise the listing, have an open house that first weekend, and give the impression that THIS is THE deal of the week, and for all to step forward before they miss out! Gone are the days when people will bid whatever amount was needed to secure the home of their dreams. Homes sell at market value, and the banks will be the first to let you know that fact should the house not appraise!
5) I love to look at the internet visitors to see the daily unique visits, the source of those visits, and many times it will be the same interested people who are searching and watching… When they feel the price has come down enough for them and their preconceived market value of the house, they step forward and then (hopefully) place a bid. As surprising as it may still seem, I still had multiple bidding on quite a few properties this past year also. The buyers needed to feel that the price was so enticing, they did not want to lose the house. It is always about the price, and the marketing of the property.
Don’t be dismayed! Choose a good agent, and the process will be a smoother one!
I am a strong advocate of open houses for my clients. I have sold 4 or so properties this past year at open houses… the buyers had their own agents, but first visited the house at an open house in a relaxed setting, thought about it, and then would return with their agent… But my point here is that buyers will do their own research, have easy access to the internet and all of the sites it offers for past sales prices for that house and neighboring homes, and while they still need the good counsel of their Realtor for negotiating purposes, they are quite savvy when it comes to value..
Some buyers will read that homes are selling at an average say of 95% of sales price, and so automatically feel they can offer 5% less on any home they like. Not true. It all goes back to recent sales, and perhaps that home you like might have had X amount reduced or already be priced to sell. Ask your agent to produce the local stats, and then you will have a better idea on what to bid. There are always exceptions to the rule of course. There could be a divorce, a pre-foreclosure, a relocation… but not always so listen to your agent! Remember that anyone can place a bid, but are you placing a bid or buying a home? A big difference. Everyone needs to be realistic.
Rates are so low, it is a great time in which to purchase a home, and the one point I would make to any buyer… don’t look for just the lowest priced home.. but rather the home you would like to live in for the next X amount of years, and then negotiate to get the best price for you on that home. If you love a home but still feel it is a little too high – remember – it must appraise…you will only be buying at market value.. So those extra dollars that bother you should not make that much difference.
An accepted offer in today’s market is still a meeting of the minds between seller and buyer… A buyer will always want lower, a seller higher… it is what is palatable to all parties.
Banks are proving to be more and more difficult, with more demands, and this is where buyers need the services of a good mortgage broker. Someone who knows what he/she is doing, and will follow through on every detail with the underwriter. Buyers should always ask their Realtor for some names of mortgage brokers in their area, and the same for attorneys too. It is important to utilize the services of a local real estate attorney, someone who will be around when you need them, is cognizant of the local laws, etc. Utilizing the services of a professional in any profession is important in today’s real estate market.
Thoroughbred Title Services offers all buyers a discount on their Title Insurance, but you must request your attorney to use their services. This company is an affiliate of Houlihan Lawrence. Sometimes, a bank appraiser might make an error.. They might not be local and knowledgeable about the local sales. It is okay to request a second appraisal if you feel that this has happened.
Be honest with your mortgage broker. You do not want to get a pre-approval under false pretenses having neglected to mention a few outstanding debts, and then discover a month later you aren’t qualified.. When the mortgage broker asks for all pertinent info (W-2 forms for 2 years, Income Statements, bank and savings statements, debts, pay stubs, etc.) give it – The mortgage broker can offer alternative ways of obtaining the best mortgage product, or ways to better assist you but only if you are totally honest with him/her. Obtain that pre-approval before you start searching for a property. I have known buyers who could not afford what they wanted, and have known buyers who could afford more …. It informs the agent that you the buyer are serious in looking for a property, and it will save you valuable time.
Ask your agent for several inspectors’ names. A good inspector is also very important. We can all see visual defects when touring a home, but it those latent defects that we cannot see. An agent isn’t an inspector nor should he/she purport to be one.. We also cannot offer legal advice – only your attorney can do that. However, a good agent will visit the Town Building department when you place a bid, and check on the square footage, the Certificate of Occupancy, look for any permit that is still open, visit the fire department for that underground oil tank, check on the taxes, etc. so you aren’t walking into a home purchase with your eyes closed. New York State is a Caveat Emptor State (Caveat Emptor – Latin – Let the Buyer Beware).
My last comment is a common one amongst agents. Once you have decided upon the house of your dreams (or the house you see yourself in for the next X amount of years), remember that when you invite mom, dad, aunt, uncle, cousins, step brother, cousin in law, and your mom’s best friend who is a part-time contractor over to see the house before you make your final decision….. Many times those same people feel they must give some advice – and oft times it is negative advice for whatever reason. They might have bought their home for $20,000 some 50 years ago.. and can’t see the value in the home you like…. I sometimes suggest that you take one of your ‘helpers’ to 3 homes that you have narrowed down in your search… not disclosing which one you have chosen.. Then, you turn around to your family friend and ask them which one would they choose? They have then seen 2 other comparable homes, sort of realize what you get for X amount… and then hopefully will make the same decision you have! Many times a home will ‘talk’ to you. It is an emotional purchase so some advice is good. Too much advice – not so good!
Buying a home should be a fun experience. Choose your agent carefully.