Quick Updates to Your Home

It happens to all homeowners.  Rooms that once looked fresh and contemporary have aged themselves into drabness.  For some it is an excuse to redecorate.  For others it is a chore.  Either way, homeownership is an ever-evolving process.  As one project ends, another peaks its head around the corner.

To bring your rooms current, as well as to update worn and disheveled items, consider these five room freshening tips:

1.  Paint: Paint is number one on the list because it is relatively cheap and easy to do yourself.  Getting a professional finish is simple, thanks to a myriad of products now on the market for the do-it-yourselfers.  From tape to edgers to color changing paint, you are sure to get a quality finished product.  “In” colors change every few years, so be sure to do some homework on what hues are in style.  While you are at it, research zero-voc  (volatile organic compound) paint before starting your project.  Traditional paint leaches fumes into your home for years.  Zero-voc paint, however, exposes you to fewer odors during the painting process and fewer risky fumes in the years to come.  This is well worth the effort of searching out zero-voc and the cost difference per gallon is minimal.  Paint does wonders for hiding dirt, wear, and tear.  Bring your home into the new decade with a fresh coat.

2.  Trim: The current trend for trim in the rooms of a house is to be white instead of natural wood.  It is contemporary and clean.  If your trim work is in good repair, simply puttying holes, sanding scuffs and painting can update the look.  Dated trim that is too thin for your large rooms can be replaced with new baseboards.  An amateur handyman can tackle this task with table and coping saws.  Trim is all about getting the angle out correctly.  If you already have current looking trim, upgrade your room with crown molding.

3.  Cabinet Hardware: From oil-rubbed bronze to beautiful vintage pieces, old is in.  Hardware can easily be added to any existing cabinetry or changed to bring a new feel to a tired room.  Shop your local home improvement stores, online and at local auctions to find the pieces that truly speak to you.

4.  Decorative Accents: Curtains are the frame to any well-designed room.  Choose colors and patterns that fit the scale of your room.  Heavy curtains made from chenille or jacquard work best in large rooms with tall ceilings.  Lighter weight fabrics, such as silk and chiffon, are great choices for small or airy rooms.  Decorative pillows and throws are also an inexpensive way to change the accents of your room.  Bright is in; do not be afraid to play with color.

5.  Flooring: While flooring is not a simple fix and may require the help of a professional, it can make all the difference in a dated room.  Scratched and worn wood floors should be sanded and refinished to show the natural beauty of the wood.  Laminate wood flooring is an inexpensive and easy solution for homeowners who want a clean and modern update.  I recommend that you do not over-do this type of flooring; it should be in a room or two but not the entire house.

If your rooms are looking tired, be sure to wake them up with a few new colors, paints or accents.

 

 

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”.

 

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.

 

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.”

 

Real Estate Information for Sellers

Negotiation is back in style. It’s not uncommon for buyers and sellers to have many rounds of counteroffering back and forth before they arrive at a contract that is completely agreeable to all involved. When this is accomplished, the contract is ratified.

However, there is another important element involved in ratifying a contract. Until a residential purchase contract is completely signed, and the final signed documents are delivered back to the other party or that party’s agent, the listing is not sold.

Let’s say you decide to offer the sellers less than their asking price. They don’t accept your offer, but issue a counteroffer. Before you respond to the seller’s counteroffer, another buyer makes an offer. If you haven’t signed the sellers’ final counteroffer and delivered it back to them, they can withdraw their counter and sell the house to someone else.

Or they could decide to withdraw the counteroffer to you and issue a new one. This time it could be a multiple counteroffer if the sellers also decide to counter the other buyer’s offer. You end up in a multiple-offer competition, which often means paying more or not getting the house at all.

You can’t rely on verbal negotiations when you’re buying or selling real estate. To be binding on the parties involved, real estate contracts and the addenda to them must be written.

HOUSE HUNTING TIP: Timing is critical. If the seller issues you a counteroffer you can live with and you want the house, sign the document as soon as possible, even if the seller gives you several days to think about it. During that time, another buyer could make an offer and your counteroffer could be withdrawn.

After you sign the counteroffer, make sure that your agent delivers it to the sellers or their agent immediately. Whoever receives the document should sign to acknowledge receipt of the document so that there’s no question that the contract is ratified.

Then if another buyer wants to make an offer, you won’t have to compete or risk losing the house altogether. Once you have a ratified contract in place, the sellers can negotiate with other buyers, but only for backup position subject to the collapse of your contract.

Don’t let yourself be lulled into thinking that because the housing market is generally slow there’s no chance you’ll end up in competition. The best listings — ones in good condition and priced right for the market — can sell quickly, particularly in areas where the inventory is low.

Many buyers have busy work or travel schedules. Often you find the right house to buy at the least opportune time in terms of what else might be going on in your life. Make sure that your home purchase contract states that faxed signatures are binding. This could save you hours of driving in traffic to sign a critical document in time.

Sometimes faxes aren’t the answer. If you’ll be available only by phone or e-mail, consider giving power of attorney — one specific to buying a house in a certain area — to someone whom you trust completely. This person should not be your real estate agent. It should be someone who will be available on short notice.

Electronic signatures are becoming more popular. But, they haven’t become standard in the home-sale business. If a seller who has had no experience with electronic signatures is considering a couple of offers — one with electronic signatures and one that was signed in person — he would probably feel more comfortable accepting the latter.

THE CLOSING: That is, unless the price on the electronically signed offer is a lot higher!

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.