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6 Things That Turn Home Buyers Off

…and What Sellers Can Do To Prevent It!

We’ve talked about surprising home features buyers LOVE, and about why buyers aren’t biting on today’s market, despite it being highly affordable.  But we haven’t talked much about the characteristics of sellers, listings and homes that turn buyers all the way off.  Well, not until now!

Here are 6 big-time homebuyer turn-offs that make buyers cringe at the thought of your home, and action steps you can take to prevent your home from being an offender:

  1. Stalker-ish sellers. I know you think you’re being helpful, walking the buyer through your home and pointing out the wagon-wheel light fixture you made with your own two hands, the custom mural of a stingray you paid top dollar to have painted across your living room wall and the way the sounds of happy schoolchildren running across the front yard of your corner lot to get to the school in the next block lifts your spirits.  However, the buyers might be trying really hard to ignore, minimize or figure out how to undo the very features of your home you hold dear.  They also may want or need to have personal space and conversations with their mate or their agent while they’re viewing your home – you being there, especially walking right alongside them while they’re in your home, prevents them from being comfortable about doing this, or discussing all the things they would change if the home were theirs. In my experience, the more nitpicky a buyer gets about a house and the more detailed their list of things they would change, the more serious they are about considering making an offer on this place.What’s a Seller to do? Back off. Let your home be shown vacant, or leave the house when people come to see it.  If you need to be there, at least walk outside or go sit at the coffee shop down the way while prospective buyers view your home.  If the buyers have questions, their people will contact your people.
  2. Shabby, dirty, crowded and/or smelly houses.  You already know this one. Yet, buyers constantly marvel. The buyers who come to see your home are making the decision whether to choose your home for the biggest purchase they’ve ever made during the worst economic conditions most of them have ever experienced.  Your job is to get your home noticed – favorably – above the sea of other homes on the market, many of which are priced very, very low.What’s a Seller to do?  Other than listing your home at a competitive price, the only tool within your control for differentiating your home from all the foreclosures and short sales is to show it in tip-top shape. Pre-pack your place up, getting rid of as many of your personal effects as possible. Do not show it without it being completely cleaned up: no laundry or dishes piled up, countertops freshly washed, smelly dogs (I have a couple who smell on occasion – no judgment – but don’t show your house with pet odors) or litter boxes cleaned and/or out of the house.
  3. Irrational seller expectations (i.e., overpricing). Buying a house on today’s market is hard work!  On top of all the research and analysis about the market and situating their own lives to be sure they’ll be able to afford the place for 5, 7, 10 years – or longer, buyers have to work overtime to separate the real estate wheat from the chaff, get educated about short sales and foreclosures and often put in many, many offers before they get even a single one accepted.  The last thing they want to add to their task lists is trying to argue a seller out of unreasonable expectations or pricing.  And, in fact, there are so many other homes on the market, buyers don’t have to do this.  When they see a home whose seller is clearly clueless about their home’s value and has priced it sky-high, most often they won’t bother even looking at it.  If they love it, they’ll wait for it to sit on the market for awhile, hoping the market will “educate you” into desperation, priming the pump for a later, lowball offer.What’s a Seller to do? Get real. Get out there and look at the other properties that are for sale in your area and price range. Get multiple agents’ take on what your home should be listed at, and don’t take it personally if their recommendation is low. If your home has much less curb appeal or space or is much less upgraded than the house across the way, don’t list it at the same price and expect it to sell. If you owe more than your home is realistically worth, you may need to reexamine whether you really want or need to sell, or consider a short sale, if you simply have to sell.  Don’t be tempted into testing your market with an obviously too-high price, unless you’re prepared to have your home lag on the market and get lowball offers.
  4. Feeling misled. Here’s the deal.  You will never trick someone into buying your home. If the listing pics are photo-edited within an inch of their lives, or your home is described as an “approved” short sale when, in fact, the bank approved another offer, now withdrawn, but will require a new offer to go through any sort of approval process (even a truncated one), buyers will learn this information at some point.  If your neighborhood is described as funky and vibrant, as code for the fact that your house is under the train tracks and you live in between a wrecking yard and a biker bar, prospects will figure this out.  If the detailed information about your home, neighborhood or even transactional position (e.g., short sale status, seller financing, etc.) is misrepresented, the sheer misrepresentation will turn otherwise interested buyers off.  If you authorize your agent to “verbally approve” the buyer’s offer, don’t go back the next day demanding an extra $5,000. In cases where the buyer feels misled, whether or not that was your intention, running through the buyer’s mind is this question: If they can’t trust you to be honest about this, how can they trust you to be honest about everything else?What’s a Seller to do? Buyers rely on sellers to be upfront and honest – so be both.  If your home has features or aspects that are often perceived negatively, your home’s listing probably shouldn’t lead with them (like the ad I recently saw with the intro line: “this place is a mess!”), but neither should you go out of your way to slant or skew or spin the facts which will be obvious to anyone who visits your home.  Make sure you know what the listing of your home reads like, before it’s published to the web, and that a prospective buyer will not feel misled by it.
  5. New, ugly home improvements.  Many a buyer has walked into a house that has clearly been remodeled and upgraded in anticipation of the sale, only to have their heart sink with the further realization that the brand-spanking-new kitchen features a countertop made, not of Carerra marble, but brand-new, pink tiles with a kitty cat in the middle of each one (I saw this once, people – no joke).  Or the pristine, just-installed floors feature carpet in a creamy shade of blue – the buyer’s least favorite color.  New home improvements that run totally counter to a buyer’s aesthetics are a big turn-off, because in today’s era of Conspicuous Frugality, buyers just can’t cotton to ripping out expensive, brand new, perfectly functioning things just on the basis of style – especially since they’ll feel like they paid for these things in the price of the home.What’s a Seller to do? Check in with a local broker or agent before you make a big investment in a pre-sale remodel.  They can give you a reality check about the likely return on your investment, and help you prioritize about which projects to do (or not).  Instead of spending $40,000 on a new, less-than-attractive kitchen, they might encourage you to update appliances, have the cabinets painted and spend a few grand on your curb appeal.  Many times, they will also help you do the work of selecting neutral finishes that will work for the largest possible range of buyer tastes.
  6. CRAZY listing photos (or no photos at all).  Online, we’ve seen listing photos that have dumpsters parked in front of the house, piles of laundry all over the “hardwood” floors touted in the listing description, and once, even the family dog doing his or her business in the lovely green front yard.  Listing pictures that have put your home in anything but its best, accurate light are a very quick way to ensure that you turn off a huge number of buyers from even coming to see your house!   The only bigger buyer turn-off than these bizarre listing pics are listings that have no photos at all; most buyers on today’s market see a listing with no pictures and click right on past it, without giving the place a second glance.

What’s a Seller to do?  Check your home’s listing online to make sure that the pics represent your home well.  If not, ask your agent to grab some new shots and get them online.

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HUD FHA Condo Financing

HUD Announces New FHA Condo Financing Rules!

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is expected to release updated guidance tomorrow on FHA-insured condominium financing. The new rules should benefit your real estate clients and customers by allowing more buyers to obtain low down-payment mortgages on affordable housing options.

Specifically, the new rules will:

  • Extend FHA certifications on condo developments from two years to three years, reducing the compliance burden on condo boards.
  • Allow for single-unit mortgage approvals—often known as spot approvals—which will enable FHA insurance of individual condo units, even if the property does not have FHA approval.
  • Secure additional flexibility in the ratio of investors to owner-occupants allowed for FHA financing in a condo building.

The full guidance will go into effect in mid-October, 60 days from publication.

“Condominiums are often the most affordable option for first time home buyers, small families, and those in urban areas,” said NAR President John Smaby, in a statement issued to the media Wednesday morning. “We are thrilled that (HUD) Secretary (Ben) Carson has taken this much-needed step to put the American dream within reach for thousands of additional families.”

Since 2008, NAR has championed policy changes in condo lending. NAR has sought rules that would allow the owner-occupancy level to be determined on a case-by-case basis and that would extend the approval period for project certification to five years.

NAR’s existing-home sales report for June showed condominium and co-op sales at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 580,000 units, a decline of 3.3% from May and 6.5% from June 2018. With more than 8.7 million condo units nationwide, only 17,792 FHA condo loans have been originated in the past year.

“This ruling, which culminates years of collaboration between HUD and NAR, will help reverse recent declines in condo sales and ensure the FHA is fulfilling its primary mission to the American people,” Smaby said.

The full rule for single-family condo financing is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on Aug. 15, 2019, and available online at https://federalregister.gov/d/2019-17213, and on govinfo.gov.

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Updates & Upgrades Value to Sale

Why Expensive Renovations May Not Boost Your Sale

Though home improvement adds value to a property, your sellers don’t always have to undertake big projects to win a higher price at resale.

June 26, 2019  |   by Danielle Braff

As modest increases in inventory begin to attract more buyers to the market, it may seem wise for your sellers to undertake renovation projects to boost their competitive edge. Kitchen and bathroom upgrades, for example, are among buyers’ most desired features and can fetch a handsome return on investment, according to the National Association of Home Builders. But even as remodeling demand rises—the NAHB predicts home improvement activity will jump 1.6% and 1.1% in 2019 and 2020, respectively—some real estate professionals aren’t sold on the idea that renovating always fast-tracks a home sale.

There are two types of homes that sell quickly in today’s market: fixer-uppers and completely renovated properties, says Blayne Pacelli, a sales associate with Rodeo Realty in Studio City, Calif. You’ll need to pay attention to local market dynamics to determine the salability of each type of home in your area. For example, if your market has an abundance of investors, who typically renovate anyway for flips or rental properties, your sellers may not need to upgrade their homes in order to sell. Traditional buyers, however, may want a move-in–ready property.

In the Los Angeles neighborhood where Pacelli works, investors and traditional buyers are both aplenty. His renovation advice to clients depends on each one’s situation. “If a house is already fixed up except, say, one bathroom, I would suggest updating that bathroom to [appeal to a wide market],” he says. “If the bathrooms and kitchen need updating, I would leave them as is” and market the home to investors.

Weighing Your Options

There’s no doubt that home improvement increases property values, but renovating can be expensive—and there’s no guarantee your clients will recoup all of the costs at resale. With that in mind, you must help your clients decide: Is the expense of remodeling worth it? Small improvements rather than large-scale projects may suffice. “Timing matters as does the cost to renovate,” says Elisa Uribe, a sales associate with Golden Gate Sotheby’s International Realty in Oakland, Calif. “It is a seller’s market in our area. In some cases, minor changes such as interior and exterior painting and updating the landscaping can add a lot of curb appeal and make the house more appealing to a buyer.”

Uribe has also used virtual staging to present renovation options to buyers, relieving her seller of having to do the work. In March, she sold a client’s unrenovated three-bedroom, one-bathroom home, built in 1910, at the list price of $564,000. The sale occurred even though the seller had not updated the property’s exterior siding, windows, landscaping, and hardwood floor finishes.

The buyer was attracted to Uribe’s virtual staging of the home, which showed what it would look like with the updates and new furniture. Uribe also virtually staged the home’s layout with an additional bathroom to show buyers the renovation possibilities. “My client was out of state and didn’t have the time, or the funds, to update the house himself,” Uribe says. “The buyer was an investor who planned to update the property and put it back on the market fully renovated.”

Less Is More

Sometimes, some form of home improvement is necessary to elevate the profile of an otherwise undesirable property. In these cases, it may be best to choose simple projects with big impact, such as refreshing the paint or hardwood finish. James McGrath, co-founder of Yoreevo LLC in New York, says one of his buyers recently closed on a condo that had been extensively renovated. The seller, an interior designer, saved money by designing the remodeling projects herself, but she still spent $100,000 on the actual work, which included gutting the kitchen and bathroom among other changes, McGrath says. “If it’s not the highest price per square foot in the building’s history, it’ll be pretty close,” he says of the deal.

The renovated unit received a lot of foot traffic, with 60 to 70 showings. “That being said, the owner won’t make money on the renovation,” McGrath says. Though the renovation generated a higher price for the condo—which McGrath’s client bought for $690,000— it wasn’t enough to cover the seller’s remodeling costs, he adds. This is an example of why McGrath suggests that homeowners avoid big projects prior to selling.

Another renovation con: While the improvements may be a hit with some buyers, others may have different preferences and won’t pay a higher price for the work that was done. In fact, McGrath’s buyer brought in his own contractor because he wanted to replace the tile in the kitchen and backroom. Though the tiles were new and in pristine condition, the buyer had a different vision for the space, McGrath says. “Presumably, the seller would have gotten the same offer from [my buyer] had she not spent thousands of dollars on those tiles.”

Protect Clients’ Bottom Lines

You can help keep your sellers on budget by reminding them that “restoring the home to a good state of repair” is all that’s necessary before listing, says Michael Edlen, SFR, a sales associate at Coldwell Banker Pacific Palisades in Pacific Palisades, Calif. But that may mean something different in each market. In areas where buyers have the advantage, a seller may need to do more work on his or her home. “If an owner does not perform basic repairs, many buyers tend to ‘horribilize’ what they think they see and how much it could cost to fix it.”

If your client’s home needs an overall update, focus on the smallest items that have the biggest impact first and test it on the market before deciding to invest in larger projects. Updated light fixtures and window treatments, which are eye-catching accents, are often enough to move buyers, says Dawn Levy, a sales associate with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties in Atlanta. If your clients want to take it a step further, they can install new energy efficient windows, which can be costly but is a huge selling point with buyers, Levy adds. “A home with good bones that needs a cosmetic facelift is much more appealing to buyers,” she says. “Price point also plays a role here.”

Of course, the value of any renovation depends on your market. What works in one area may not work in another, so you must be knowledgeable about your specific neighborhood. In New York, for example, condos and townhomes that aren’t completely renovated typically don’t get much attention from buyers, says Eric Rosen, a broker with Halstead Manhattan LLC. “If the apartment or townhouse requires work, then the seller would be penalized,” he says. “This means that the property will trade for less than the repairs would have netted in a sale.”

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Thinking of Selling?

Key Questions for Owners Thinking of Selling

For many cities throughout the U.S. real estate markets, today undeniably favor sellers. With those markets that are particularly competitive, it can be very tempting to list your home even when you haven’t made a concrete decision to sell. Taking the plunge and listing can be an exhilarating decision, but doing so without asking yourself some important questions could leave you scrambling to figure out what you’re going to do should your home be a highly sought-after property.

If you’re toying with listing, ask yourself the questions below before you make your final decision.

How much is my home worth?

Unless you consistently check real estate prices in your area or are comparing comparable homes in your neighborhood, it’s likely you may not know the true value of your home. If you’re thinking of selling, it’s important to find out how much your home is worth. If you are dreaming of a new neighborhood, with the hopes that you’ll make a good amount of money off your current residence, do your due diligence and ensure your home is worth what you think. The last thing you want is to find out your home is worth less than you thought and your dream neighborhood is no longer an option. You can work with your local real estate agent to find out the current market value of your home.

How much is it going to cost me to sell?

When you list your home it can be easy to get caught up in the thoughts of how much you’ll make from selling, but selling a house does not come without costs. Selling can get expensive, especially when one considers all the outside factors that go into a home sale. Again, your local agent can help you understand the total costs (especially since many costs are dictated by where you live in the U.S. and other factors), but as a seller you can typically expect to pay these important items:

  • Agent commission (Seller typically pays Buyer AND Seller commission) (6%)
  • Staging and home preparation costs (1%)
  • Seller concessions (1-3% )
  • Repair costs (determined based on inspection)
  • Home ownership/overlap/moving costs (1%)
  • Closing costs (1-3%)

Sellers end up paying a fair share of the costs when it comes to the home sale/purchase. If all is said and done, and you’re only going to make $10,000 off your sale, is it really worth it to sell if your main goal is a good return on investment?

How long will it take to sell my home?

For some homeowners, a quick home sale is a reality if you live in a city with a competitive real estate market. But for many others, the time it will take your property to sell is really dependent on your where you live and the price and condition of your home. If your home is in excellent condition, it’s likely buyers will be immediately interested. If your house is in need of work, you might not see as many interested buyers. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the median number of days a home in the U.S. sat on the market hit a new low of 29 days in April 2017. With that being the national average, your local real estate market will have its own average (that is also impacted by the condition of your home and the listing price), so there’s no concrete answer as to how long it will take to sell your home, but if you have a home that buyers want, it could be pretty quick.

Should I make repairs?

While many owners may balk at the idea of fixing up their home to sell it, the truth is that making repairs or improving your home can help sell it faster. You by no means have to make repairs when you’re toying with listing your home, but fixing up any pretty blatant cosmetic issues may help your property sell faster. It’s even a good idea to hire an inspector prior to listing to know if there are any issues with the core components of your home to avoid any surprises when it comes to a potential buyer hiring an inspector. It’s important to remember that major items, like issues with a foundation, HVAC system, or any other major part of the home, can be total deal breakers for some buyers, so make a point to assess your home prior to listing to ensure you know what you can leave as is and what you may want to fix beforehand.

Do I know where I want to go?

This is pretty important, especially if you are inclined to impulsive decisions. For some, selling a home due to a job relocation or wanting to be closer to family provides a for sure destination. But for those thinking of selling with no idea as to where they want to go, it’s a good idea to start thinking about and looking at places to move to. In those markets where homes go fast, you’ll want to have a pretty solid plan as to the area/neighborhood you want to be in, and you’ll have to be willing to compromise if you can’t find a home in your dream area. Seller contingencies are common, so don’t feel like you have to have your home sold before looking at other properties – it’s better to be on top of this than leave it to the last minute and not have a place to go once your current home sells.

Choosing to sell can be a hard decision, especially when there’s lots to consider. If you need any help, or just want to talk to someone with current real estate knowledge, your local agent is more than happy to answer questions and provide information on your local real estate market. Reach out today if you’re thinking of selling!

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Housing Affordability

The Ultimate Truth About Housing Affordability

There have been many headlines decrying an “affordability crisis” in the residential real estate market. While it is true that buying a home is less affordable than it had been over the last ten years, we need to understand why and what that means.

On a monthly basis, the National Association of Realtors (NAR), produces a Housing Affordability Index. According to NAR, the index…

“…measures whether or not a typical family earns enough income to qualify for a mortgage loan on a typical home at the national and regional levels based on the most recent price and income data.”

Their methodology states:

“To interpret the indices, a value of 100 means that a family with the median income has exactly enough income to qualify for a mortgage on a median-priced home. An index above 100 signifies that family earning the median income has more than enough income to qualify for a mortgage loan on a median-priced home, assuming a 20 percent down payment.”

So, the higher the index, the more affordable it is to purchase a home. Here is a graph of the index going back to 1990:

The Ultimate Truth about Housing Affordability | Keeping Current Matters

It is true that the index is lower today than any year from 2009 to 2017. However, we must realize the main reason homes were more affordable. That period of time immediately followed a housing crash and there were large numbers of distressed properties (foreclosures and short sales). Those properties were sold at large discounts.

Today, the index is higher than any year from 1990 to 2008. Based on historic home affordability data, that means homes are more affordable right now than any other time besides the time following the housing crisis.

With mortgage rates remaining low and wages finally increasing, we can see that it is MORE AFFORDABLE to purchase a home today than it was last year!

Bottom Line

With wages increasing, price appreciation moderating, and mortgage rates remaining near all-time lows, purchasing a home is a great move based on historic affordability numbers.

Courtesy NAR & Keeping Current Matters

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Is a Lease-option Right For You?

Lease Options, Land Contracts & “Timed-Purchase” with Early Occupancy…

Options to purchase a home outside of getting financing today exist for about the same reasons.  The home seeker does not have the resources to buy a home at this time.  It could be a credit problem from bankruptcy or foreclosure, divorce, job loss, medical hardship, new career, starting a business, 1st time home buyer and even no credit at all.

The bottom line: You cannot buy right now, but you want a certain home or area, you don’t want to rent and you don’t want to move twice.

Like 96% of the buying public, you go online and search, dream and look for options to get what you want.  Getting into a home is no different except that you may be pressed for somewhere to live (quickly) depending on your circumstances.  So, you read about lease options & land contracts as a way to get into a home.  You may even read about so-called no money down schemes (we will address that later!).  But you wonder, are they too good to be true.  Can you really get the home you want at a price you can afford and finance/re-finance it later when your situation improves.

Simple Answer:  Yes, you can. That’s the good news.  The bad news is it is not without an added cost.

In most cases, the owners of nicer homes in better areas don’t want or need to offer terms. These homes sell at fair market value relatively quickly and the risk to the seller typically ends at closing. Sellers often need their proceeds from the sale to move on. Whether buying another home, paying off debt, or investing the sellers would need a good reason to offer terms. And whether you like it or not, sellers typically expect to make money on offer a buyer terms – they become the lender in this case and will be carrying the risk of the buyer’s maintenance, negligence and default if something goes wrong.  After all, the buyer is the one with credit problems or life circumstances.

Put Yourself in the Sellers Shoes

  • Lease option candidates are typically a credit risk or have other life concerns;
  • Owners of better homes are not interested in a regular lease/tenant relationship so the buyer must have intention to buy;
  • Buyers must have earnest money down – this would become part of their purchase money but it is typically not refundable;
  • Maintenance has to be on the tenant/buyer – can the tenant/buyer afford repairs;
  • Terms for monthly rent start minimally at interest only payments with a balloon clause to payoff the seller in so many months – this does not go towards purchase price;
  • The seller SHOULD want additional monthly payment as an incentive to complete the purchase – this extra money reduce down payment upon purchase, but is not refundable; and
  • The best deal for both parties is to include an incentive clause that rewards the buyer for closing prior to a deadline.

EXAMPLE:  A $200,000 home seller may want 5% down and 8% interest-only payment on a 24 month contract.  The seller is offering an incentive of 2x the amount paid monthly above the interest only payment for a payoff on or before 12 months into the contract, 1.5x the amount paid monthly above the interest only payment of payoff before 18 months and 1x the amount paid monthly above the interest only payment for a payoff on or before 24 month contract term.  The seller should also have a default clause at 24 months or a defined change in terms that penalizes the tenant/buyer to compel the fulfillment of the contract to withdraw and vacate – forfeiting their rights and moneys. The math here is pretty simple –

$10,000 Down, $1520/mo. Add $300/mo for overage and close within 12 months will make your down $15,400 at closing.  In buying the home, your new payment will be under $1000 at 4.5%.

The “incentive” to fulfill early serves two purposes especially if the buyer contributes regularly :
1)   If the tenant/buyer is serious about buying they should be improving their condition to be a good mortgage loan applicant AND they should be saving money for the purchase; and
2)  In paying in what they are “saving” in order to buy the property, they can report to the loan officer that they have additional funds towards purchase outlined by the contract.
The motivated buyer will add as much as they can each month above the required monthly payment as that would increase much faster than savings, go towards reducing their loan liability making them both a better applicant and requesting a smaller loan, and instill confidence with the seller.  It should be a win-win.

Buyer Beware of Your Misconceptions!

Too often, I hear agents and buyers asking why the seller needs a down payment or why the buyer needs to include a credit report, bank statements & employment verification.  Buyers have been mislead into believing that their credit history does not matter, or sellers should be happy with say 5% interest when the banks are offering ~1-2% on CD savings.  The answer is really simple, and you may not like it… more often then not, lease-option & land contract buyers are high risk.  Private owners simply cant afford to absorb the possible damages and costs like big lenders can.

The bottom line is that these can be a good situation for all parties when all parties perform. Your local professional Realtor can get you connected to a local title company &/or attorney to establish escrow, hold title &/or quitclaim documents and record liens where necessary.

More Info from BankRate: How Rent To Own Works

DISCLAIMER:  This is provided for informational purposes only. It is not legal or financial advice.  Interested parties should consult licensed professional practitioners in your locale in order to conduct business in accordance with local, state and federal laws.  Company, website and writer assume no liability for the use or misuse of any opinions expressed in this article.

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