Taking Care of an Empty House

Often we have listings of homes for sale or lease that are vacant for a few months.  Sitting vacant is probably one of the worst things that can happen to a house.  I make sure I or the owner visit empty listings at least once a week.  Here are some things to be sure to check.

Run the water: Every time I show the home or am checking the home, I run the water in the bathrooms, kitchen, laundry room, etc. and flush all the toilets.  If this is not done sewer gases will accumulate in the drains and when someone occupies the house and starts using the shower or toilet, a very foul odor will permeate throughout the house.

Run the garbage disposal: Some garbage disposals tend to freeze up when not used; run the disposal when you turn on the kitchen faucet.

Toilet lids: Another thing to be aware of is that if the lids on the toilets are closed, mildew accumulates in the toilet bowls and is unsightly for a prospective buyer or lessee.  Put the seats down but leave the lids up is my advice.

Air out the house: Open windows and doors periodically to get rid of that vacant house smell.

Check the smoke detectors: If you hear a chirping noise it is probably one of the smoke detectors needing new batteries; this is an aggravation for people viewing the house as well as being a possible breach of safety.

Be sure to lock all doors: One of my worst fears is that someone will move into a vacant home; it can take years to get them out.  Plus, think of how scary it would be to enter a house and find someone there.

Check the yard: Sometimes, the sprinklers get out of whack and some parts of the yard are not getting any water.  This leaves dead grass areas that are unsightly.

Check the gutters: Take a look at the rain gutters to make sure they are not full of leaves and other debris.  If the gutters are full and there is a rain storm, water will flow over to the edge of the roof and can cause a lot of damage.

Check around the front door: Remove any free newspapers, magazines or door hangers that have been delivered since your last visit.

Check the lights: Most showings are during the day, but some are after dark, and it can be pretty creepy for the agents and their clients if there are some lights that do not operate.  Usually, a light bulb just needs replacing.

 

 

Taking care of your empty house will likely bring a higher price in a shorter time.

 

Don’t List Your Home Until You Are Ready to Show It

I have noticed that many times in today’s market that a home is listed on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), but the property cannot be shown until after the first brokers open house or cannot be shown until a week from the date the listing was submitted.  The reason for this delay is often due to fact that the owner needs time to prepare the house for sale.   I urge all home sellers to be ready to show their homes on the date they are listed.  The way our MLS works is that agents with buyers for a house like yours enter their search parameters into the MLS and the buyer may be put on an automatic e-mailing system; when a house that matches a buyer’s criteria is listed on the MLS, he will be automatically notified, many times immediately after the listing was entered.  In today’s market there is a shortage of homes on the market in the Palos Verdes area and in the other South Bay cities.  Buyers who are looking for a home like yours are anxious to see it when it comes on the market.  Being told they must wait “takes the wind out of their sails”.

I recommend being totally prepared to show your home the minute it is put on the market.  There are possibly a number of prospects waiting and I believe your chances of getting top dollar for your home may be better shown to those motivated buyers than waiting to show until after brokers, who may not have buyers for your home, are allowed to stream through it.  If you list your home a week or so before you are ready to show it, the wording, “Will not be listed in the Multiple Listing Service until…” can be added into the listing contract and a waiver filed with our local association of Realtors.

Countdown to Home Buying

The market is improving; inventory is low.  Check this countdown list to make sure you are ready to purchase:

1.  Get Pre-approved.  You are pre-approved when your credit has been checked and confirmed and your income, assets and employment history have been verified.  Be careful; some so-called pre-approvals are not worth the paper they are written on.  I have received “pre-approval” letters from lenders and submitted them with offers to purchase only to find out later that the buyer was not able to obtain a loan.  Sometimes it is advantageous to work with loan officers at the bank with which you do business, as they have a vested interest in your continuing to do business with them.

2.  Temper your expectations.  Listing inventory in the Palos Verdes area and the entire South Bay is only 50% of what it was last year.  This means that if you want to stick to any sort of budget, you are not likely going to get everything you want or you will have to be patient.  Have a clear understanding of your needs, wants and wishes, so you will take action when the right home becomes available.

3.  Be ready to compete.  Unless you are willing to purchase a home an outlying area or in need of a lot of repairs, prepare yourself to make multiple offers and compete with other buyers in the market.

4.  Be prepared to act quickly.  When you find the home of your dreams, you need to be ready to rush to get it.  If you do not act quickly and start making preparations right away, you may find yourself left out in the cold when it comes time for your offer to be accepted.

5.  Watch your behavior at open houses.  Everything you do and say when in front of the listing agent (seller’s agent) or his representative will inevitably be shared with the seller and may come back to haunt you when your make an offer the purchase the home.  Both being too excited about the home or nit-picking the condition of the home can put you at a disadvantage at the negotiating table.

6.  Call your real estate agent.  Actually, this step should be first.  Contact me at 310-995-3754 or Katie@katiemuck.com as soon as you would like to begin the process!

It is a Great Time to Sell Your Home in Palos Verdes Estates

There were 33 home sales in Palos Verdes Estates during the first quarter of 2013, compared to 38 sales during the first quarter of 2012.

The median sales price in 2013 was $1,750,000 compared to $1,300,000 in the first quarter of 2012.

The average market time was 112 days compared to 133 days in 2012.

The inventory of homes for sale is down 50% since last year.  The lack of competing homes on the market; the increase of the median price; the decrease of days-on-market make this an ideal time to sell your home in Palos Verdes Estates.  Contact me for a complimentary market evaluation of your property. If you are a buyer, do not hesitate; I believe home prices will continue to rise this year.  Contact me for an appointment to see some of the outstanding homes in Palos Verdes.

 

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.”