Six Paths to Success for Buyers in Tight Markets

In low-inventory markets, some buyers are having a hard time finding a home to buy. There are steps you can take to improve your odds of finding a home at a time when interest rates are at record lows and affordability is high.

One approach is to broaden your search. You should be clear about what it is you want to buy. But, homebuying involves making compromises. Just make sure you don’t give in on the essentials. You need a home that will last you for the long term. Avoid listings with major defects that will be expensive or impossible to fix.

The sorts of features you should be willing to give up, if necessary, are house style, or a large yard, which can be a maintenance drain. If you’re having no luck buying in your first-choice neighborhood, check out the adjacent areas. These could be the next turn-around neighborhoods when the overall housing market improves.

You could also do an about-face and consider condos rather than single-family homes. This might have the advantage of shortening your commute to work.

Ask your agent to cull the inventory of expired, withdrawn, and canceled listings that didn’t sell in the last year or two. These may not have sold because they were priced too high. If the sellers are still interested in selling, and aren’t locked into a lease, you might be able to work out a mutually acceptable price.

Be open to making improvements rather than holding out for a home that’s in move-in condition. Major fixers will probably be snapped up by investors to rehab and resell at a profit. This is a competitive market and not one for novice homebuyers.

However, if a listing isn’t receiving attention because of its dated décor, this could work if you intend to live in the property and not try to flip it for a profit. Be sure to work with an agent who has experience with cosmetic renovations, or consult with a decorator.

You’d be surprised what updated plumbing and light fixtures, new paint, floor finishes, appliances and improving the outdoor living can do to turn a dowdy listing into a comfortable abode. Just make sure you don’t tackle too much. You don’t want to over-improve for the neighborhood, and structural issues are taboo.

Don’t exhaust yourself by bidding on a house you can’t get. A home was recently listed for $985,000. Seventeen buyers made offers. It sold for $1.2 million. Underpriced listings are often bid up in a low-inventory market. Wait to make an offer until you find a listing that’s priced within your affordability range.

Don’t be afraid of accepting a backup offer if your bid isn’t accepted. The transaction fallout rate is pretty high in this market. Keep looking for another listing while you’re waiting to see if the first deal goes through.

All-cash offers tend to win in multiple-offer competitions. To be competitive, try to put yourself in a position to pay all cash. If you have savings you can tap and you can secure a private temporary loan from parents or borrow from a 401(k), you might be able to make a cash offer.

If your parents are providing some of the financing, ask them to write a letter that you can provide to the sellers that confirms your source of funds. This should be accompanied with documentation of the parents’ funds. You can refinance into a conventional mortgage later.

THE CLOSING: If the market where you’re looking is too hot, you can take the watch-and-wait approach. The market is always changing. When inventories increase, there will be more opportunities for buyers.

Lack of Homes for Sale Boosts Sales Prices

Tight housing inventory hurts September home sales

A continued shortage of available homes for sale lowered California home sales in September, while the median price reached the highest level in more than four years, C.A.R. reported this week.  Sales in September were down 5.2 percent compared with August and down 1.2 percent compared with September 2011.  The statewide median price of an existing single-family detached home inched up 0.3 percent from August’s $343,820 median price to $345,000 in September.  The September figure was up 19.5 from a revised $288,700 recorded in September 2011, marking the seventh consecutive month of both month-to-month and year-to-year price
increases.  September’s median price was the highest since August 2008, when the median price was $352,730.  The year-to-year increase was the largest since May 2010.
“For the state, at 3.7 months of supply, unsold inventory is still less than half what it would be in a normal market,” said C.A.R. Vice President and Chief Economist Leslie Appleton-Young.  “As a result of the constrained supply at the moderate and lower end of the market, sales of homes priced under $200,000 dropped nearly 28 percent, and homes priced $200,000-$300,000 fell more than 15 percent in September.  By contrast, in the upper price range, where inventory isn’t as much of an issue, sales of homes priced $400,000-$500,000 rose more than 14 percent, and those priced above $500,000 increased more than 15 percent.”

Home Seller Pitfalls to Avoid

Six years after the market peaked in 2006 and prices started to decline, many sellers are still in denial about the current market value of their homes.  It is difficult for most sellers to accept the reality of today’s home-sale market, whether they bought at or near the peak and will lose money selling today, or bought decades ago but are still stuck at 2006 prices.  One homeowner recently remarked that she was aware that home prices had dropped quite a bit over the last five years, but she felt that her home had not lost any value.

It is hard for homeowners to divorce themselves emotionally from a home they have enjoyed.  This is what sellers need to do so they can make rational decisions about a list price that will actually result in a sale.  This decision should be based on listings that have sold in your area that are considered comparable to your home.  Some sellers go to open houses to evaluate the competition.  If you are still emotionally wrapped up in your home, the exercise can be futile.  You return home feeling that the other homes are not as good as yours.

Put yourself in the buyer’s shoes.  Your house needs to be listed at a price that is enticing to buyers because it represents a good value.  In most areas, buyers are buying ibn a market knowing prices may continue to decline before the market fully recovers.

House Selling Tip: Be wary of real estate agents who tell you that your home will sell for a higher-than-supportable price just to get the listing.  Then they work on you over time until you reduce the price to market value.  Agents refer to this as buying a listing.

Its hard to resist the temptation of trying for a higher price than the comparables indicate.  However, you will not be happy if your home is on the market for months with no activity, and each time you drop the price it feels like too little, too late.  You can end up selling for less later if home prices in your area are still declining.

Listing your home based on what you want or or need to net from the sale will not motivate buyers to pay more.  Buyers pay market value.  They will not overpay in today’s market.

If your home needs a lot of work compared with the competition, you will either need to have work done before selling or discount your price accordingly.

For best results, be realistic about the current market value of your home and what preparation it needs in order to sell successfully in this market.

Probate Sales in California

The probate process is a court-approved process that is designed to sort out the transfer of a person’s property at death.  I have been involved with several sales of properties in probate, as the listing agent or the selling agent or both.  Probate sales are different from regular sales in that once an offer has been accepted by the administrator or executor of the estate, the sale has to be approved by the court, unless full authority to administer the estate has been granted unter the Independent Administration of Estates Act (IAEA).  It has been my experience that IAEA probate properties are easier and faster to market, as some buyers and agents are intimidated by the court-approved sales process, often because they do not want to fall in love with a home, just to be out-bid in court and also because they have not really bought the property until it is approved by the court.

Some tips for selling probate properties:  There may be a lot of personal property that was left by the decedent and the problem of removing furniture, etc., can be burdensome.  The last listing I sold was filled with old computers, old furniture and old CDs and DVDs.  The heirs should carefully go through the property and set aside items that are precious, such as family photos and other memorabilia.  There are companies that can remove the other unwanted items.  A property in probate is listed just like any other with the asking price based on recent sales in the neighborhood.  Where court approval is required, the price may be more attractive because the process is more lengthy and complicated cialis vente internet.  Once an offer is accepted by the personal representative, the attorney for the estate will set a court date, which is probably at least a month out.  During this waiting time, notices about the court date are placed in the local newspapers to attract additional offerers.  There is a statutory formula for the first overbid.  It is an additional amount equal to 10% or more of the first $10,000 and 5% on the amount of the original bid in excess of $10,000.  If the court receives an acceptable overbid, the court will ask for additional overbids.  The judge will usually establish minimum increments as to the additional overbids.  All overbids will be taken into account based on the gross amount of the bid. .  If you are a prospective bidder on a probate listing, it might be advisable to set a limit on the amount you will pay, in case the price is bid up beyond the value of the property.  This is a simplification of the process, and only an attorney can give proper advice.

Prepare Your House for Sale

Every seller wants their home to sell fast and bring top dollar.  It is not luck that makes that happen.  It is careful planning and knowing how to fix-up your home that will send homebuyers scurrying for their checkbooks.  Here is how to prepare your home and turn it into an irresistible and marketable house.

Disassociate Yourself With Your Home: Remember, once you put your home on the market, it becomes a house for sale-a product to be sold.  You must make the mental decision to let go of your emotions and focus on the fact that soon this house will no longer be yours.  This is an exciting time, and emotions can get the better of you if you do not take the time to make this separation, mentally and physically.

De-Personalize: Pack up those personal photographs and family heirlooms.  Buyers can not see past personal artifacts, and you do not want them to be distracted.  You want buyers to imagine their own photos on the walls, and they cannot do that if yours are there.

De-Clutter: People collect an amazing quantity of “stuff”.  Consider this:  If you have not used it in over a year, you probably do not need it.  If you do not need it, why not donate it?  Remove all books from bookcases, pack up those knickknacks, clean off everything on kitchen counters and put essential items used daily in a small box that can be stored in a closet when not in use.  Think of this process as a head-start on the packing you will eventually need to do anyway.

Rearrange Bedroom Closets and Kitchen Cabinets: Buyers love to snoop and will open closet and cabinet doors.  Think of the message it sends if items fall out.  Now imagine what a buyer believes about you if he sees everything organized.  It says you probably take good care of the rest of the house as well.

Rent a Storage Unit: Almost every home shows better with less furniture.  Remove pieces of furniture that block or hamper paths and walkways and put them in storage.  Since your bookcases are empty, store them.  Remove extra leaves from your dining room table to make the room appear larger.  Leave just enough furniture in each room to showcase the room’s purpose and plenty of room to move around.

Remove/Replace Favorite Items: If you want to take window coverings, built-in appliances or fixtures with you, remove them now.  If the chandelier in the dining room once belonged to your great grandmother, take it down.  If the buyer never sees it, he will not want it.  Once you tell a buyer they cannot have an item, they may covet it , and it could cause the deal to fall through.

Make Minor Repairs: Replace cracked floor or counter tiles, patch holes in the walls, fix leaky faucets and fix doors that do not close properly and kitchen drawers that jam.  Consider painting your walls neutral colors, especially if you have grown accustomed to purple or pink walls.  Take a long, hard look at any wallpapering in the house; if it is too bold in color, it will probably not appeal to most buyers.

Meake the House Sparkle: Wash windows inside and out, clean out cobwebs, re-caulk tubs, showers and sinks and polish chrome faucets and mirrors.  Consider removing window screens while showing the house for sale; this will allow for lighter rooms and prettier views to the outside.  Clean the refrigerator, wax floors and dust furniture, ceiling fan blades and light fixtures.  Hang up fresh towels (bathroom towels look great fastened with ribbon and bows).

Scrutinize: Go outside and open your front door.  Stand there.  Do you want to go inside?  Does the house welcome you?  Linger in the doorway of every single room and imagine how your house will look to a buyer.  Examine carefully how furniture is arranged and move pieces around until it makes sense.  Make sure window coverings hang level.  Does it look like nobody lives in this house?  You are almost finished.

Check Curb Appeal: If the buyers will not get out of their agent’s car because they do not like the exterior of your home, you will never get them inside.  Remember to keep the sidewalks cleared, mow the lawn and paint faded trim.  For a punch of color, plant yellow flowers or group flower posts together.  Use yellow to evoke emotion.  Make sure potential buyers can clearly read your house number.  If your mail box is unsightly, replace it with a new one.

There will be future posts with more tips for preparing and showing your home.

Five Budget-Friendly Bathroom Spruce-Ups

You have probably heard from friends, real estate professionals, and on television that bathrooms and kitchens sell houses.

But what happens if you are preparing your home for sale and you do not have the money or interest in spending thousands of dollars renovating bathrooms that you will not be around to enjoy?  Many sellers also report that their buyers feel more comfortable when the information from a pre-sale inspection is shared early on, even if the buyers choose to have their own home inspection as well.

There are many quick, easy, do-it-yourself ways to bring out the best in your home’s bathrooms that will impress buyers and leave your wallet intact.

Declutter
Cost: $0. Nothing makes small bathrooms look bigger and more luxurious than open space. Clear extra items like toothbrush holders and personal care tools off of counters to reveal wide-open countertops. Tidy up your shower and bath area and get rid of extra bottles.  If you do nothing else at all to your bathrooms, do the decluttering.

Paint
Cost: $25-$50. Give your bathrooms a facelift with a fresh, modern color. One can of paint from your local hardware store should be enough to cover most small bathrooms. Add a few tools like brushes, drop cloths, and rollers and you’re on your way. Pick up your favorite home décor magazine or search online for color inspiration.

Redecorate
Cost: $50-$200. Choose a new look and feel for your bathroom. Search your local discount stores, which offer great deals on home accents. Pick up some deluxe towels and rugs, soothing candles, and accent pieces to give your bathroom a relaxing spa feel. Consider an age- and gender-neutral theme to appeal to more buyers.

Update fixtures
Cost: $100-$300. Outdated fixtures can easily make your bathroom look dated. A small investment in new faucets, lighting, and even towel racks can bring your bathroom into this century and make older tubs, toilets, and sinks look new again.

Replace vanity and mirror
Cost: $300-$800. If your cabinets, surfaces, and sink are truly an eyesore, consider buying a new vanity. At your local home improvement store, you can find easy-to-install combination packages that include a standalone cabinet, sink, hardware, and instructions. Hang a new mirror and give your bathroom a fresh look.