When Should You Sell Your Home?

Years of experience have led me to believe that the best time of year to put your Palos Verdes home on the market is March through July.   However, I decided I wanted to see some statistics from our Multiple Listing Service to support or dispute my theory.  Unfortunately, the study is not entirely scientific, as I am not able to see historical data about open sales like I am able to see with closed sales.  So, I took a look at properties in escrow as of today, May 17, 2013.  There are currently sixty-five properties in escrow (pending sales).  There were no pending sales in January; there were three in February; only two in March; twenty-seven in April; and thirty-three so far in May.

I recommend listing your home in the months of April, May, or June.  Another very slow month for open sales is August, as many take vacations that month and listing in July may be too close for comfort.

Other factors to consider include the number of competing properties on the market in your neighborhood; whether your home is in marketing condition; and of course, the price you will be asking.  Be sure to look not only at comparable homes that have sold over the last six to nine months, but also those that are currently pending.  Many home sellers believe they need to ask a higher than market price so they will have room to negotiate.  This strategy is not a good idea, as you may never get an offer to negotiate at all.  I think a good thing to remember is that it is hard to under-price your home.  If the asking price is less than buyers and their agents know it is worth, the property will most probably receive multiple offers, often for more than the asking price.   The bottom line is that properties sell at their market value.  Another thing to remember is, “timing is everything”.

 

You Can’t Sell It If You Can’t See It

Marketing a home can be extremely difficult if there are too many restrictions on the showings of the property.  I believe it is a good idea to have a plan that will enable the most showings of your property, which will probably bring the best price.  I am presently working with a buyer and plan to show properties that fit his needs during a three hour window.  Every home that I want show has instructions to meet the agent to show.  One property requires 48-hour notice to show.  The difficulty that arises is how to time the showings to allow the buyer to fully view the homes and try to calculate driving time from house to house.  I really do not want to have to say, “I know you like this house, but we have to go now so we won’t be late for our next appointment.”  If we are running ahead of time and reach the next house before the other agent gets there, I really do not want to sit in the car and wait.

When you list your property, it is wise to install a lock box.  The lock boxes we use today are electronic and our openers are updated daily.  In addition, the listing agent is e-mailed after the showing with the buyer’s agent’s name, contact information and showing time.  If you decide you really do not want to use a lock box, it might be a good idea to set apart certain times each day that an agent can call first and then just go to show your home.

Open houses for brokers are another effective way to show your home and these should be held throughout the listing period for maximum exposure.  I had a listing that I held open every week.  The last one brought only one agent, but she sold the house!  Public open houses should be held on Sundays, when you plan to be away for the afternoon anyway.  I always hold public open houses with my real estate partner so we can properly represent the property to multiple groups.  We require that each person log in to our guest book.

I know it is still difficult to have people streaming through your home.  Keep your home as clean as possible and then have a set regimen for what to do when you get an agent calling to show your home.  Clean the kitchen counters; make sure there are no dirty dishes in the sink; wipe down the bathroom sinks and toilets; make sure everything is put away.  One of my clients had five young children.  When an agent would call to show her house she would take a big garbage bag and throw any toys laying around and even half-eaten peanut and jelly sandwiches into it and toss the bag in the garage and off she would go.  The agents were able to show the house with little notice and it sold quickly.  Even if your home is not as perfect as you think it should be when shown, it is probably better to let the agent show it.  One listing I had was shown when the owner was not expecting anybody; she was very upset that there were toys strewn everywhere.  Well, that person bought her home for full asking price.  The important thing to remember is, “You can’t sell it if you can’t see it.”

 

How To Protect Your Home Investment

Housing prices are slowly becoming a bright spot in the economy with historically low interest rates continuing across the nation.  No one knows, however, where real estate prices will head in the future.  For many individuals, their homes will continue to be their largest asset and a major contributor to building net worth.  Like all investments, you should develop strategies to manage your home prudently.  Here are some “Do’s and Don’ts” to consider:

Don’t stretch to purchase the largest home you can.  The reason homes have contributed significantly to the net worth of many people is that owners retain any price appreciation on their entire properties, even though they only put down ten or twenty per cent of the purchase price.  This fact has caused many people to strain their budgets and purchase the largest home they can afford, hoping the increase in the value will more than offset the sacrifices made along the way.

Before embarking on such a strategy, be aware of all the risks.  If home prices start to fall, you could end up owing more than the house is worth.  If your budget is strained to the limit, you might not have money left over to contribute to a retirement account or college savings plan.  It may be better to purchase a home you can comfortably afford.

Do take into account all of your monthly home payments, not just the mortgage.  Include homeowner’s insurance, flood insurance, mortgage insurance, utilities, garbage collection, cable television, unexpected repairs, taxes and any other obligations.

Don’t take equity out of your home in the form of a home-equity loan or a higher mortgage balance without careful consideration.  While lower interest rates have allowed many homeowners to reduce their monthly mortgage payments, many have also opted to take equity out of their homes and stretch mortgage payments over longer periods.  One of the main advantages of home ownership is that it is a forced savings plan, with part of every mortgage payment going toward equity.  Resist the urge to take the equity and spend it on something else.

Do investigate refinancing when interest rates go down.  If the rate on your mortgage is more than one per cent higher than current interest rates, the cost of refinancing may be worth it.

Do make sure you have adequate insurance.  Your homeowners insurance policy should be sufficient to completely rebuild and refurnish your home in the event of a disaster.  Check with local contractors for the cost-per-square-foot to rebuild in your area.  Check the limits of your policy every year and increase them if needed.  You will probably want a guaranteed replacement clause, which pays for the entire cost of rebuilding your home.

Do inventory everything in your home.  Include everything in your home, systematically working your way around each room  Keep receipts for larger items with the inventory.  This will help substantiate a claim if your home and its contents are every destroyed.

Bottom line: On a long-term basis, a home is a good investment.  By properly managing it, you can make it even better.

Easy Steps for Removing That Musty Smell from Your Home

Because many of our Palos Verdes homes are on a hillside, lower stories are often below the grade and often there is mold growing in the rooms of the lower level.  This musty smell is repugnant to prospective buyers.  A few years ago, I learned from a home inspector that mold prefers natural materials on which to grow.  First, check inside the downstairs closets to see if there is mold on old leather jackets, boots, purses, shoes and remove them from the premises.  Next, visit your local Home Depot or Lowes and purchase bags containing a desiccant and hang them in the closets.  You will see shortly the amount of moisture there is in those spaces.  These bags will need to be replaced every month or so.  Open windows to get fresh air circulating throughout the lower level.  To add a very pleasant and not overwhelming scent, I recommend infusers that can be purchased at most department stores.  The plug-in varieties of deodorizers are obnoxiously strong and I would not recommend your using them.

Boost Your Home’s Value: 4 Projects with the Greatest “Bang for Your Buck”

No matter if the housing market is up or down, you always want to ensure home remodeling projects are wise investments.  According to Remodeling Magazine’s Cost vs. Value Report 2011-2012, there are several home improvement projects that will provide significant enjoyment to you now and could recoup a majority of your dollars whenever you decide to sell.

Beautiful bathrooms:  According to the report, a mid-range bathroom remodel ($16,000) can recoup up to 62% of the investment when it is time to sell…and in the meantime, add significant enjoyment with a new, relaxing retreat.  To start determine which updates matter most and how much assistance you will need for each.

Complex projects, such as structural, electrical or plumbing changes or installing countertops or flooring, may be best left to the professionals.  However, there are many updates you can tackle yourself.  Painting is an easy and ideal do-it-yourself task that can make a large impact with minimal cost.  Similarly, installing new faucets, accessories and showerheads can be simple, even for a novice. 

Classy kitchen:  Once you have updated your bathrooms, the kitchen is a rewarding home renovation that when done moderately can recoup up to 72% of your investment.  Based on your budget, you will need to determine whether to update with a lower-cost laminate or a higher-priced option, such as granite or marble, that can offer an upscale look, added durability and functionality.

Lighting, while functional, also adds a significant style element to a kitchen.  Replacing fluorescent fixtures with recessed cans or pendants will add ambiance and luxury to your room.  Update your old appliances.  Add a splash of paint to the walls and trim for a polished look.  Finish off the counter area with a new high-end kitchen faucet.

Envious entry:  It is the first thing your guests and future home buyers see when they approach your home, so if your front door is not appealing or does not have significant features, it is time for an upgrade.  A new entry door adds instant curb appeal for a minimal price and can recoup up to 60% of your investment.

When choosing a new door, fiberglass options are an ideal choice.  The material resists denting and scratching, is easy to maintain and can make your home more energy efficient.

Wonderful windows:  Similar to the front door, replacing your existing windows with new vinyl windows will give your whole home a new look and feel, both inside and out, and payback of up to 68% of your investment.  As a larger-scale project, this is likely a project left for the professionals.

Look to your local window distributor to refer you to a reputable contractor to ensure your new windows are installed properly.  When it comes to selecting windows, vinyl is an all-around excellent choice.  Unlike wood, vinyl windows resist rotting and do not require repainting.  Unlike aluminum, vinyl windows will never pit or flake.  Plus, you can enjoy a pay off immediately with increased comfort and lower utility bills, while potentially adding significant resale value to your home in the future.

 

Make cost-effective home improvements

Imagine walking into an important job interview looking like you just dragged yourself out of bed. You’d be unlikely to make a good impression and diminish your chance of securing the job.

The same goes for selling a home. First impressions are lasting. Some buyers won’t even look at the inside of a listing that doesn’t have good curb appeal.

Today’s buyers are picky. There is no sense of urgency in the market, so buyers are holding out for the best home they can find that will work for them for years to come. In some areas, there are a lot of homes for sale. It’s important to make sure that buyers will be attracted to your home before they even walk through the front door.

Fortunately, exterior improvements needn’t be expensive. The recent Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report 2010-2011 found that the improvements that yielded the highest return on the investment when sold were a new steel front door and a new garage door.

The average cost nationally for a new front door was $1,218; the return was 102 percent. The average cost for a new garage door was $1,191; the return was 83.9 percent. The top nine of 10 most cost-effective improvements nationally were for exterior projects. Curb appeal is as important as ever, and may be more so in this market.

The Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report is a collaborative report done annually by Remodeling Magazine and the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®. It compares construction costs with resale values, which are based on estimates from more than 3,000 REALTORS® and appraisers.

Sprucing up the front yard for sale needn’t be costly. Clean out weeds and dead plants. Add flowering plants for color and mulch to tidy up areas that aren’t heavily planted. Replace a lawn that has seen better days with less lawn and a border bed of flowering shrubs.

Do in-ground planting well in advance, if possible, so that plants have a chance to get established before your home goes on the market. If you have no choice and must plant at last minute, be sure to remove the ID tags from the nursery.

A deteriorated fence should be removed, repaired or replaced. Any peeling paint on the front walk and steps and house exterior and trim should be refreshed. The side of the house that gets the most exposure needs the most maintenance. If you’ve let it go, you’ll be docked dollars by the buyers unless you repaint where needed before you sell.

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: The amount returned on home improvement investments varies from one location to the next. It’s important to consult with your local real estate agent before you embark on an upgrade to make sure that you don’t overpay on an improvement that won’t generate the desired result. Most homeowners assume they’ll get their money back and more when they sell. In fact, most upgrade investments often don’t return 100 percent of the amount invested, particularly in a down market.

A minor mid-range kitchen remodel returns 72.8 percent nationally, according to the 2010-11 Remodeling Cost vs. Value Index. In the Pacific region of the U.S., you’re likely to recoup 84.1 percent.

However, a major upscale kitchen remodel pays back only 59.7 percent nationally and 66 percent in the Pacific region. It makes sense to take on a major remodel project only if you’re staying in your home and can enjoy the use of the improvements before selling. A deck addition ranked high on the list of popular exterior improvements. Although, nationally the cost recouped is only 72.8 percent, it may be an essential enhancement if your home has no outdoor living space and all the homes for sale in your neighborhood do.

THE CLOSING: Supply and demand in your local area will also impact how much you’ll recoup from your fix-up investments.