The Markets Temperature

Are you starting to see the market cool down at all yet?

The answer to that question is both yes and no. In part it depends upon the price range that you are looking in or are selling in. Our homes priced under $500,000 are still selling quite readily and often with multiple offers. However, the buyer pool is definitely smaller right now. And at the higher end, while offers are still being received, the pool is much smaller than it was a couple of months ago. 

This does not mean that sellers are not doing well with their proceeds – they are. But if you are a buyer, what this means is that there is an opportunity for you to be able to buy a new home without having to compete with a dozen people. You may still be competing with a couple of other buyers. It’s still very important that you be fully preapproved for your home purchase so that you present yourself in the best possible light to the seller, but you have a much better chance of winning at this point in the year.  So if you’ve been sitting on the fence waiting for a chance to buy a new home in a more manageable market, this would be that market.  At this point we are definitely expecting another busy spring market so if you are hoping to buy, the fall market will be your very best opportunity to do so without the overwhelming crowds that a spring market brings.

If on the other hand you have been sitting on the fence hoping to see a downturn in the market so that you can jump in and get a buy, I wouldn’t hold your breath. There is absolutely nothing to suggest that we are going to see a downturn in our market. I have watched the market carefully for many many years now and just when I think that the housing prices are ridiculous and there has to be a softening coming, another selling season opens and prices are even higher. Excepting 2008, which there are no indicators to suggest will happen again in the near future, our prices continue to steadily climb (and even in 2008 we did not see a housing crash – we just remained stable for a year or two with no additional appreciation).

A home’s value is set by the market.  Value is always determined by what a buyer is willing to pay for your home.  Many factors come into play in setting that value.  Market value reflects quantitative factors such as:  # bedrooms, # bathrooms, # garages, placement of garages (attached or integral), lot configuration (large and functional back yard?  Cliff lot?), location of the home generally, age of roof, age of mechanicals.  Market value also reflects more qualitative items:  how updated is your home, and is it all new, or just refreshed?  What is the floorplan (open concept?) What are your wall colors?  There is always a range that value will land in, which we call the range of reasonable.  There is no ONE price at which a home will sell.  If there are many buyers seeking a home like yours, it will sell at the top of the range of reasonable.  If there are not, it will take longer to sell and may sell a bit lower in the range.  What the market does not consider in setting a value of a home is what you need from the home.  In 2008, many homeowners had used their homes as ATMs and withdrawn large sums of money for educations, vacations and cars.  When the market softened, there was not enough equity for them to be able to sell their homes and not be in a short sale situation. This fact, that a homeowner over-extended themselves on mortgages, is not the least bit relevant to market value.  The market is also not going to consider what you plan to do next.  If you plan to move to Los Angeles to be closer to family and are finding that the Pittsburgh market is not going to yield you enough to be able to buy in L.A., you will need to turn to other investments to make up any difference.

We are in a very robust market – your home is far more likely to garner more now – whatever that may be – than it could have in the past.   Forecasters are also suggesting that values will soften by year end.  My crystal ball is out for service, but what I can tell you is that every hot market eventually softens.  Waiting out the market so that you can get a price that the market is unprepared to deliver at this time may have you waiting many, many years, and during that time you may need to invest even more in your home in order to deliver to the market what it needs in order to deliver an acceptable sale to you. 

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    I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
     
     
    Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
    Associate Broker
    HOWARD HANNA
    REAL ESTATE SERVICES
    401 Broad Street
    Sewickley, PA 15143
    Cell: 412-779-6060
    Office: 412-741-2200 x238
    kbarge@howardhanna.com

    Things to Consider

    We hear selling a home can be a trying process. Any annoyances a seller should be expecting? 

    Below is a short list of many of the “joys” sellers might experience during the listing process.  Being aware that these are possibilities will hopefully help you take them in good humor if they happen to you!

    • The agent showing your home will miss appointments and not call or show up.
    • Appointments will be made and cancelled at the last minute.
    • Some showings will last about five minutes and some will last 3 hours.
    • There will be a day when I call you and say someone wants to see your house, and you are going to ask me when. And I will say: “Look out your windows, they are sitting outside now”!
    • Agents are going to knock on your door or even drive by, see you in the yard and ask if can they see you house.
    • Agents showing your home will forget to turn lights off.
    • Agents showing your home will let your pets out (best to remove them from your home for showings) or your neighbor’s pet in.
    • Agents will provide unhelpful feedback – buyers buy homes when they attach emotionally to a home and when they don’t, their feedback is often nonsensical.
    • Agents will not provide any feedback – incredibly annoying, I know.
    • Expect lowball offers (at least it is a starting point). If your home has been on the market for more than a month, there is a reasonable chance that you priced it too high – maybe the lowball isn’t as low as you think.
    • Things will come up on the inspection that you had no idea were wrong with your home and you will be sure the inspector made a mistake. A pre-inspection is a great way to protect yourself against this!
    • The buyer will make ridiculous inspection requests.
    • The buyer will ask to bring in contractors for estimates for work they want to do after the closing at the seemingly most inconvenient times.
    • The property might not appraise at what you are selling it for. In a hot market like this one, this is a real risk. Be prepared to adjust your price if your sales price is over the listing price and it doesn’t appraise.
    • The closing date on the contract may change.  Lenders and closing companies remain swamped right now – be open to the possibility of a delay.

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      I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
       
       
      Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
      Associate Broker
      HOWARD HANNA
      REAL ESTATE SERVICES
      401 Broad Street
      Sewickley, PA 15143
      Cell: 412-779-6060
      Office: 412-741-2200 x238
      kbarge@howardhanna.com

      Is It Priced Right?

      In your articles you often write “when it is priced right, it will sell.”  Our home is on the market, has not sold and we feel it is priced right.  Is this maxim always true? 

      The short answer is that it is not always true.  Some homes just take longer to sell than others.  If your home is “quirky” in its market, then it may take longer to sell, even if it is priced correctly. By quirky I do not mean dated décor or with deferred maintenance you have not yet completed. What I mean by quirky is, for example, if you are trying to sell a 2 bedroom home in a market that is nearly uniformly 3+ bedroom homes, that could slow down its resale. 

      However, if your home has been on the market for several months and is under $1.5M and has not sold, it is likely it is overpriced.  We have a tremendous backlog of buyers looking for homes in our area. It does take time for buyers to view and assess the possibilities of a home, but certainly not months.  As a general rule of thumb we like to say that if a home has had 13 showings with no offer or if it has been well-marketed for 13 weeks without an offer, an adjustment must be made to draw an offer.  In this hot market, it should take less time than that!  Sellers currently have expectations that the market should yield them tremendous premiums, and 2021 has certainly been the year of increasing prices, but it is overall still grounded in reality.  In the end, in this market if your home has not sold in the first month, you are likely aiming too high with your listing price. The three time-tested factors that determine sale-ability of a home are price, condition, and location.  Location cannot be changed but does have a big impact on price.   In Sewickley, even a block can dramatically impact whether a home sells quickly or not.  Condition can be adjusted and I suggest you read some of my prior articles on my Ask Kathe blog at www.kathebarge.com for important information on what buyers expect in today’s market.

      The final factor is of course price.  Depending on the price range your home is in, even a small adjustment can result in renewed interest in the home.  Additionally, if you have received constructive feedback regarding either deferred maintenance of dated décor, you will either need to adjust your condition or your price.  In the end, price is the key and if this market is not yielding you an acceptable offer, in all likelihood it comes down to one factor – it is not priced correctly and should be repositioned in the market.

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        I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
         
         
        Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
        Associate Broker
        HOWARD HANNA
        REAL ESTATE SERVICES
        401 Broad Street
        Sewickley, PA 15143
        Cell: 412-779-6060
        Office: 412-741-2200 x238
        kbarge@howardhanna.com

        Candid Camera

        We recently viewed a home that is on the market, only to find out the seller was taping the showing – we were stunned. Is this common?

        Welcome to the age of cheap technology!  If you are viewing a home, whether at an open house to at a private showing, these days you must assume that you are being filmed.  There are many systems that are available, from ring to nest to cameras installed as part of a home security system.  They are fairly inexpensive, are often not recognizable as cameras and frequently record sound as well as video.  Sellers typically install them as part of a home security or doorbell system – they are not usually installed just to spy on buyers and their agents.  Typically, homeowners have security in mind when they install these systems.  But when their home goes on the market, these systems do provide a handy way to see firsthand what people are saying about their home.  So yes, it has become reasonably commonplace to be filmed at a minimum around the doors of a home, but often inside as well. The owners can usually access these videos in live time on their tablet or phone, and they are also recorded for later review.

        Knowing this, I would suggest that you simply revert to old-fashioned good manners when viewing homes.  Don’t say anything near or in someone else’s home that you wouldn’t want to see on YouTube!  Don’t criticize the seller’s décor choices or the condition of the home – it may come back to haunt you if, after reviewing the inventory, you decide that it was in fact the best option for you, only to find out that you unintentionally offended the sellers.  Save all commentary for when you are back in the car with your agent.

        If you are viewing the home with children, be mindful of their behavior as well.  Keep them with you at all times. Be sure that they are not running or jumping inside of someone else’s home or touching their things. Have a hard time managing high energy children at an open house or showing?  Schedule a babysitter so that you can view the home without having to worry about monitoring their every move.  And in these pandemic times, it is best to wear a mask – if the seller requests masks, your agent can be charged with an ethical violation if you don’t wear one – even if you are fully vaxxed! In this day of minimal privacy and cheap technology, the best approach is to assume you could very well be on Candid Camera!

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          I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
           
           
          Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
          Associate Broker
          HOWARD HANNA
          REAL ESTATE SERVICES
          401 Broad Street
          Sewickley, PA 15143
          Cell: 412-779-6060
          Office: 412-741-2200 x238
          kbarge@howardhanna.com

          The Waiting Game

          We have been sitting on the sidelines for a while now waiting for a home that meets our wish list to come on the market – what’s coming this fall?

          You might be surprised to find out, you are one of dozens of prospective buyers sitting on the sidelines waiting for their ideal home to come on the market.  Nationally we are at a 20-year low in available housing inventory.  What is going on you might ask?

          Many blame it on the Baby Boomers! Seventy-eight percent of Boomers own their own homes, and 85% of them have no intentions to move within the next year.  This is tying up a significant portion of potentially available housing inventory.  Why aren’t Boomers moving?  Stated reasons range from being happy where they live and not wanting to uproot their lives, to having inadequate choices in empty nester inventory to escalating prices that make scale down homes more and more expensive.  Boomers are reportedly less interested in destinations like Florida and Arizona these days and are choosing to stay in the homes and communities where their family and friends are.

          In Sewickley, we have very few opportunities for scale down housing, and so Boomers are remaining in their homes.  As a result, our inventory continues to dwindle and there are very few new introductions.  There will likely be a few relocations, but with the low inventory and large backlog of buyers, I expect pricing will be high and bidding wars will continue. 

          To be successful in this housing market, if you define success as actually getting a home and moving, you are going to have to accept a few key premises.  First, you need to reevaluate your wish list and see what compromises you are willing to make.  We still have many nice homes on the market – they may not be a perfect match for you, but could you make one work?  You are more likely to receive a discount on a home that has been on the market.  Second, if you decide to wait and a home comes on the market that is a good fit for you, be prepared to act fast and bid high. Complete the preapproval process now so that your offer is as strong as possible.

          Our market is a steady one and I do expect we will see some new introductions as we move into fall, but your best recipe for success is one that includes reevaluation of the current inventory, compromise, fast action and generous, well crafted offers.

          QUICK SEARCH

            I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
             
             
            Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
            Associate Broker
            HOWARD HANNA
            REAL ESTATE SERVICES
            401 Broad Street
            Sewickley, PA 15143
            Cell: 412-779-6060
            Office: 412-741-2200 x238
            kbarge@howardhanna.com

            Market Timing

            We have heard the foreclosure market may be opening back up again – should we hold off on our home purchase so we can grab a “great deal”?

            There has certainly been some commentary lately about the fact that when the moratorium on foreclosures expires, there will be a backlog of foreclosures that ultimately hit the market. Pennsylvania has never been a state which has processed foreclosed properties very quickly and so I would not anticipate a large and immediate influx of foreclosed properties. I’m not sure I would count on the market being flooded with foreclosed properties, even if that is seen in other states.

            That said, there will ultimately be some properties that are foreclosed upon. However, there are several things to think about with these opportunities. First of all, the properties may or may not be in a neighborhood that you are interested in living in. If you are particular about where in the greater Pittsburgh metropolitan region you hope to purchase a home, hoping for a foreclosure in your desired neighborhood may be like looking for a needle in a haystack.  Second, even if a home happens to come available at an address that you find desirable, there is no reason to believe that there won’t be a dozens of other buyers as interested as you are, and the likely bidding that will ensue is likely to drive the prices up to current market prices.  In other words, it is unlikely that there will be “deals” to be had even on the foreclosed upon properties.  We are not in a recession – this is not 2008 – and we have experienced many months of a severe housing shortage – I expect foreclosed properties will not be the value opportunities they were in 2009/2010.

            Also please keep in mind that if you are contemplating a foreclosed property, you really do need to wait until it moves through the foreclosure process before trying to buy it. If you try to purchase it before the bank has taken ownership, you will be responsible for all liens on the property which includes back taxes and any other liens that may have been placed on the property by the prior owner.  These liens may take it well above the actual market value of the property, which is why it is generally advisable to allow the foreclosure process to be completed and the home to hit the MLS.

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              I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
               
               
              Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
              Associate Broker
              HOWARD HANNA
              REAL ESTATE SERVICES
              401 Broad Street
              Sewickley, PA 15143
              Cell: 412-779-6060
              Office: 412-741-2200 x238
              kbarge@howardhanna.com

              Market Adjustments

              We have read that the real estate market is beginning to cool down – is that the case locally?

              We have been in an incredible sellers market for the past six months now like nothing we have ever seen.  In prior articles I have written about the why: more millennials entering the home buying market (and at higher prices than you might guess for first time home buyers), boomers downsizing at a later and later age (whether advisable to delay or not), and new construction starts never having rebounded from 2008 are among the many reasons. And while these factors have not changed overnight, it’s expected that the market will eventually be able to meet the demand and it is in fact starting to do so.

              What we are seeing now is still multiple offer situations in the moderately priced and lower priced housing brackets, but rather than receiving 8 to 10 offers, sellers are typically receiving three or four offers and prices may still exceed the asking price but may not be quite as high as they were in May.  Even with three or four offers, buyers are still having to compete strongly for the homes they want, and many are resorting to tactics such as waiving appraisal contingencies, mortgage contingencies and in some cases (while probably inadvisable if the home hasn’t been pre-inspected), inspection contingencies.  In the million dollar market, we have started to clear some of our inventory but I would not describe the buying pool as “robust.” And in the ultra-high end market, we are seeing almost to no serious buyer traffic right now.  In these higher-end brackets, buyers do not have the same urgency that we see in the middle and lower-end brackets. They remain very picky about what they are looking for in a home and if the home does not meet their exact expectations, they will just sit on the sidelines and wait for the perfect match for them.

              So yes, I would say that the housing market has cooled since May, as we all expected it would. However, if you are a home seller planning to introduce a middle or lower-end home to our market this fall, I still anticipate that your home will be well received provided that you take the time to condition it well for the market (and, I highly recommend, pre-inspect your home).  If you have a higher dash and home to sell, then it’s imperative to develop a plan and a longer-term strategy to maximize your return – it is possible to still reap an excellent price at all levels of our market.  Reach out and I am happy to meet with you to discuss a strategic plan, at any price point!

              QUICK SEARCH

                I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                 
                 
                Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                Associate Broker
                HOWARD HANNA
                REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                401 Broad Street
                Sewickley, PA 15143
                Cell: 412-779-6060
                Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                kbarge@howardhanna.com

                The Final Walkthrough

                What should we expect from the Buyer’s walkthrough?

                Buyers conduct a final walk through right before they close on a home.  This is probably the first time they have seen their new home vacant.  If they find conditions they aren’t expecting, a seller can expect a bill at the closing or a last minute request to remedy the condition.  What kinds of things might come up?  There are many things that can cost a seller money at a walk through.  Here are a few. 

                If there is any damage to floors (even if it was there when a seller bought the home) and the damage was not listed on the disclosure, and it wasn’t obvious when the buyer walked through the occupied home (under rugs or furniture), a seller can expect that the buyer will expect the seller to pay for the repair/replacement when he discovers the issue, which could be a significant expense.  What should a seller do? Disclose. Disclose. Disclose! When listing a home, sellers should take the time to make sure the disclosure lists every possible issue with the home.

                If a seller leaves anything behind that isn’t attached or specifically included, a seller should anticipate they may be required to call a last minute hauler to remove the items.  If the items were there when the seller bought the home, that’s no excuse.  The house must be empty unless you have the buyers’ specific consent to leave the items behind.

                Forget to cut the grass in a few weeks?  A seller could be asked for a credit to have the lawn mowed.  Forget to clean the house?  If its not at least “broom swept clean” a seller could be paying a cleaning fee.  Forget to complete inspection repairs or forget to check the work and make sure it’s done correctly?  A seller can’t rely on the contractors to get it right – they must check the work – if its incomplete or incorrect, a seller will likely have to pay for the repair again.  Accidentally remove an inclusion such as the TV wall mount bracket?  A seller may have to pay for a new one.

                Take the time to make sure the home is exactly as you would want it were you moving in and be pro-active with your buyers if you discover any issues on your move out to avoid any closing table surprises.

                If BUYING or SELLING real estate is in your future, please get in touch with me and put my expertise to work for you!! As YOUR REAL ESTATE ADVOCATE, I will help you avoid pitfalls like those mentioned above.  412.779.6060

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                  I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                   
                   
                  Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                  Associate Broker
                  HOWARD HANNA
                  REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                  401 Broad Street
                  Sewickley, PA 15143
                  Cell: 412-779-6060
                  Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                  kbarge@howardhanna.com

                  Can you Take it With You?

                  Our home went under agreement quickly!  When we moved in we installed expensive hardware that we really love (door knobs, switch plate covers, towel rods, etc.). We would like to take it with us.  Can we substitute other items before we close?

                  Absolutely not! First of all, with a quick sale you likely got a high price or your home and when a buyer is paying top dollar, it is not appropriate to start pulling things out of your home!  Additionally, any item that is affixed to your home with a screw, nail, etc. must convey with your home unless you have specifically excluded it from your agreement of sale.  Unless you raise this question during negotiations and your buyer agreed prior to signing the agreement, the items must remain with your home.

                   

                  About 20 years ago I represented a buyer of a home that was remodeled with high-end Restoration Hardware items – cabinet knobs, towel bars… After we agreed on a price but before closing, we returned to the home to discover that the sellers had removed the expensive Restoration Hardware items and installed baseline builder items from Lowes.  This was not what my client had seen when they toured the home and not what they had agreed to purchase.  The seller ended up providing a $7000 reduction in the purchase price to make up for the items that had been switched.  I’m not sure if the buyer ever replaced the items – what is relevant was that the removal of the high end items made the home less valuable.

                  If you find yourself heading toward a closing and you are just realizing that there is something affixed to your home that has sentimental value that you forgot to exclude, you can certainly ask your buyer if they would agree to a substitution – most buyers will allow removal of a sentimental item if you replace it with a like value item.  Absent buyer consent or upfront exclusion, all affixed items must stay.  Items that are occasionally inappropriately removed include:  appliances, doorknobs, switch covers, towel bars, curtain rods, mailboxes, attached shelving and TV wall mount brackets.  Mirrors that are attached must stay. Those hanging on hooks can be removed if you have to have them (although most buyers do expect them to remain).

                  QUICK SEARCH

                    I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                     
                     
                    Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                    Associate Broker
                    HOWARD HANNA
                    REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                    401 Broad Street
                    Sewickley, PA 15143
                    Cell: 412-779-6060
                    Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                    kbarge@howardhanna.com

                    When Will the Seller’s Market End?

                    It seems like there have not been very many new homes coming on the market. Why do you think there is such an inventory shortage and when do you think it might change?

                    In my professional opinion, there have been many factors that have led to the current inventory shortage.  The first dates back to the recession of 2008. At that time many homebuilders got stuck carrying their spec homes for lengthy periods of time, which cut into or eliminated all of their profits. In order to hang on during this challenging period, builders cut back significantly on what they were building for the market, and to this day have not recovered to 2008 levels. With fewer homes being built, there are fewer opportunities for people to make moves. The pandemic has only compounded this problem. There are many shortages in electronic component parts that are causing shortages in appliance availability, for example. The cost of raw materials also skyrocketed during the pandemic, making it almost unreasonably expensive to build a new home. 

                    On top of this, we have a very large generation, the millennials, entering the home buying market for the first time. The millennials as a generation are comprised of 88 million individuals (as compared to the 80 million individuals that comprised the baby boomer generation), many of whom delayed buying a home until a bit later in life.  This very large generation, many of whom have double incomes, is now surging into our home buying market.  However, the baby boomers, the youngest of whom are now 56 years old, are often not ready to downsize, and when they are, they are often finding that there aren’t many acceptable alternatives to move to. Most boomers, when asked to describe their ideal Sewickley down-size opportunity, would describe a village patio home with a main level master suite and a small spot to be able to garden. We have very few homes that fit this bill.  Often their mortgages on their current homes are paid off making it reasonably affordable to stay put in their current homes and so many boomers are simply electing to age in place. The lack of affordable and appealing scale-down opportunities is a pervasive theme across our market generally (not just Sewickley) and is contributing to the chokehold on inventory availability.

                    Unfortunately, I do not see any of these factors changing in the short term. To release the chokehold on area inventory, we are going to need to see builders jumping back into construction (which will require a decrease in materials pricings and an increase in the willingness of laborers to show back up to the job). We are also going to need to see some of the baby boomers moving out of their bigger homes, whether it be to a local down-size community or to warmer weather! In the meantime, buyers are going to have to adjust their expectations and be more willing to accept homes that may not check all of their boxes, and will probably have to allocate more funds to get into these homes as sellers are well aware of the captive market buyers are in.

                    QUICK SEARCH

                      I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                       
                       
                      Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                      Associate Broker
                      HOWARD HANNA
                      REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                      401 Broad Street
                      Sewickley, PA 15143
                      Cell: 412-779-6060
                      Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                      kbarge@howardhanna.com

                      Keep the Bigger Picture in Mind

                      It seems buyers can be very picky on home inspections.  What should a seller expect? 

                      What a Seller needs to be prepared for on a home inspection needs to be evaluated in the context of the entire deal!  Both buyers and sellers need to keep things in perspective.  If a Buyer got a great deal on a home, then the inspection should be more about major things that the Buyer could never have known about.  If a Seller got top dollar for a home, the Seller should expect to be very generous on the inspection resolution with the buyers.  Sellers do need to expect that a buyer paying asking price or above will expect the inspection items to be addressed by the Seller unless the Seller had disclosed them on the Disclosure.

                      The Disclosure is a Seller’s friend.  What a Seller discloses is supposed to be outside the scope of inspection requests.  These are items that the Buyer should be taking into account when making their initial offer.  Therefore, when filling out the Disclosure, Sellers will want to review it carefully to be sure it is thorough.  Inspectors do not miss anything these days, so it will be far less of a financial blow to a seller if all possible issues are noted up front.

                      Of course, a pre-inspection may be a Seller’s best approach for a smooth transaction for all parties.  While a seller will spend approximately $400 up front, it gives you a chance to repair or disclose the issues before they possibly destroy a deal.  Remember, if buyers and sellers can’t come to a resolution about inspection concerns, the deal is terminated and both parties move on.  Sellers, you obviously want to sell or you wouldn’t be undergoing the joy of preparing your home for showings.  Keep the big picture in mind and understand that unless you are giving your home away, your buyer will expect you to fix what you didn’t disclose.  Don’t like the sound of that?  Pre-inspect so you know what you will have to address upfront.

                      QUICK SEARCH

                        I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                         
                         
                        Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                        Associate Broker
                        HOWARD HANNA
                        REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                        401 Broad Street
                        Sewickley, PA 15143
                        Cell: 412-779-6060
                        Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                        kbarge@howardhanna.com

                        Appraisal Contingencies

                        With all of the bidding wars happening in this hot market, should we put an appraisal contingency in our offer?

                        Appraisal contingencies are added to agreements when buyers are concerned that their offer may be over market value.  If you are getting a mortgage, they really aren’t necessary if you are putting 20% or less down on your home.  Your bank will need your new home to appraise so that your debt percentage is not greater than 80%.  If it doesn’t appraise, you will either have to throw in more cash or reduce the sales price of the home, or the bank will refuse to fund the loan.

                        If you are paying cash for your home, or have a small planned mortgage, your only protection from over-paying is to insert an appraisal contingency into your offer. If the home fails to appraise, you will have the option of terminating the agreement if you choose, or possibly re-negotiating the price.  While this may sound like a fool-proof option, when we are in a hot market, with limited inventory and limited options for buyers, the goal is to reduce the number of contingencies to make your offer more appealing, not to add more! When evaluating whether they want to take their home off the active market to work with your offer, a seller will weigh all of the components, and an appraisal contingency weakens your offer as it is one more hurdle the seller must overcome before they can proceed to closing.

                        There is a definite risk that in a hot market you could overpay for a home.  Homes are in many circumstances selling for tens of thousands of dollars in excess of the list price. Unfortunately, this may be what it takes to get a home.  Inserting an appraisal contingency will only weaken your offer and could cause you to lose a bidding war. The best course of action if you want to win is to ask your agent to prepare an analysis of comparable sales and use that to determine your best offer, leaving out the appraisal contingency and hopefully succeeding in your bid to buy a new home.

                        QUICK SEARCH

                          I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                           
                           
                          Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                          Associate Broker
                          HOWARD HANNA
                          REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                          401 Broad Street
                          Sewickley, PA 15143
                          Cell: 412-779-6060
                          Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                          kbarge@howardhanna.com

                          What Is Today’s Desired Style?

                          Is there a preferred style that is more desirable to buyers?

                          Six months ago, I would have told you that buyers overwhelming preferred the gray and white aesthetic. You know the look. White as the base color for “hardscapes” like tile, countertops and cabinetry with gray as the primary color (and perhaps a few pops of color reflected in easy to change items such as throw pillows).

                          How times have changed!  Today, the answer is – buyers just want a home, and if the home is well-conditioned, they seem to be looking past style and focusing on whether their baseline needs, such as the number of bathrooms, bedrooms and garages are met. Design aesthetic and color schemes have become much less important in this sellers’ market.

                          The next obvious question then would be does that mean that any home will sell in this market? And the answer is yes, as long as it is properly priced for condition. What we are seeing in this market is some homes are coming on priced as if they were completely remodeled and in perfect condition when they may in fact not be.  Buyers are paying seemingly ridiculous prices for many homes on the market. However, the common thread amongst homes that are being snapped up quickly and achieving market high prices are that they are perfectly conditioned and well remodeled or are priced in line with the condition and updates that they do have.

                          In the end, this is an extremely strong sellers’ market in which sellers are receiving more money for their homes and they would have even six months ago. However, while the prices that are realized may not be a function of the design aesthetic of the home as it perhaps was last year, it is still a function of how recently and fully updated the home is and how pristine the condition is, both mechanically and from a cleanliness perspective.

                          QUICK SEARCH

                            I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                             
                             
                            Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                            Associate Broker
                            HOWARD HANNA
                            REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                            401 Broad Street
                            Sewickley, PA 15143
                            Cell: 412-779-6060
                            Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                            kbarge@howardhanna.com

                            Color Trends 2021

                            We are planning to update the color palette in our home.  What are the “in” colors these days?

                            Gray (and its many shades including greige) have been in-style for so long now that its hard to imagine it ever going out of style.  Gray is still quite popular with buyers – homes painted in a gray/greige and white color palette almost universally fly off the market.  However, the incoming trend is strongly leaning towards the whites.  White comes in so many shades – and even straight out of the can white is quite a nice and refreshing color.  In some cases, white is being combined with an accent wall in a gray tone or other neutral, and this can work quite well.

                            Of course, like any other color, it is critical that you choose the correct shade of white to compliment your trim. It is easy to end up with the walls clashing with the trim if you are not careful! An easy solution is to paint the walls the same color white as your trim!  Don’t let the shades of white fool you – there are so many hues of white, and before you paint be sure to look at the undertones in the white to determine which undertone you prefer – a tiny hint of gray? Pink? Green? Unless you use the white straight out of the can, there will always be an undertone.

                            White is also a very popular base for countertops and tile.  Ideally, they are not pure white – most popular are those that use white as the base color and then include other neutrals such as the grays and browns.

                            Where to start your painting?  Strong colors are not currently where the market is, so it’s best to begin repainting the rooms that are currently wallpapered (also not popular with buyers unless the wallpaper is pretty new and very trendy) and rooms that are painted the strongest colors.  In an ideal world, you will ultimately create an interior aesthetic that, while every room does not need to be the same, the colors blend nicely together.

                            QUICK SEARCH

                              I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                               
                               
                              Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                              Associate Broker
                              HOWARD HANNA
                              REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                              401 Broad Street
                              Sewickley, PA 15143
                              Cell: 412-779-6060
                              Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                              kbarge@howardhanna.com

                              High-End Must-Haves

                               

                              What are the most popular “must haves” in higher end homes?

                              The pandemic has certainly shifted the most sought after features on a buyer wish list a bit, and it will be interesting to see how this continues to evolve as we achieve higher percentages of full vaccination and start moving back to “normal.”  Right now, pools are at the very top of the wish list for high end buyers.  As people have migrated away from larger social scenes and toward family-only or small group events, pools have skyrocketed in their popularity, which is not typical in climates like ours where pools have such a short season.

                              Other sought-after features in higher end homes include large kitchens. The appliance selection is less critical as long as they are stainless or panel-front.  Commercial grade ranges are always a hit, but if the home has a cooktop and double ovens, that will work as well.  The brands are less important than the look.  White kitchens remain our most popular, but whatever the cabinet color, the trend has definitely swung toward lighter countertops. 

                              A complete wish list would also include a home gym, a home office (two is even better), at least three garage bays (more is better in this case), a large walk-in closet in the owners’ bedroom (two walk-ins are strongly preferred), and a luxury owners bath with large shower, separate free-standing soaking tub and double vanities.  Other popular items include upper level laundry rooms,  lower level movie rooms, wine cellars and covered outdoor patio spaces (and outdoor kitchens and/or fireplaces).  As more boomers enter their retirement years, main level owners’ suites have also become quite popular (and very hard to find in this area).

                              QUICK SEARCH

                                I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                 
                                 
                                Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                Associate Broker
                                HOWARD HANNA
                                REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                401 Broad Street
                                Sewickley, PA 15143
                                Cell: 412-779-6060
                                Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                Seller’s Market


                                We keep reading that now is a seller’s market.  Do you agree?

                                YES!  We currently have the perfect storm for a seller!  We have been experiencing historically low inventory for several months.  It has been suggested that as a great portion of our population is fully vaccinated, we may see an influx of inventory.  Some sellers, who may have been on the fence about having prospective buyers in their home because of COVID may start to feel more comfortable once we achieve higher vaccination levels and may be more willing to put their homes on the market.  Some homeowners have seen COVID as an opportunity to retreat to homes they own elsewhere and, returning to Pittsburgh, are deciding they would prefer to remain in their alternate location on a permanent basis. Some have simply taken a longer vacation to a new location and decided to make that home – with the rise of telecommuting it is now possible to work in remote locations.  Whatever the reason, we are expecting a return to more normal inventory levels as we move through 2021, and with that will likely come a cooling in demand – so if you are a seller, NOW is your chance to get your best price from our market.

                                Also in a seller’s favor are the low interest rates.  Rates have creeped up a bit and have seemed to stabilize again – still at historically low rates.  Low rates allow a buyer to afford more home, while still paying the same each month.  This supports the increasing prices we have seen.  If rates continue to climb, that will likely soften the prices a buyer is willing to pay.

                                It is worth noting, however, that the perfect storm is really happening in our middle market and below.  High end homes have not been experiencing the same demand this spring, and are not as affected by interest rate fluctuations. Our high end market is its own entity – yes, it is fair to assume that if you were ever going to achieve your desired price, it would be in this very robust market.  But we simply don’t have the same influx of buyers in this price range, and those that we do have tend to be very exacting about what they want in their new home. If yours is a high end home, then its important to be patient – the market does surge in the high end as well – its just less predictable! 

                                QUICK SEARCH

                                  I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                   
                                   
                                  Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                  Associate Broker
                                  HOWARD HANNA
                                  REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                  401 Broad Street
                                  Sewickley, PA 15143
                                  Cell: 412-779-6060
                                  Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                  kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                  Multiple Offers

                                  Are you still seeing multiple offers on homes these days? 

                                  Yes, we are, depending on location, condition and price range.  Multiple offers are primarily coming in the under $500,000 market.  If your home is in a higher price range, that does not mean that you won’t get an offer, and it doesn’t mean that it won’t be a good offer – but you may only get one, and you may need to wait for it – the market does not always offer instantaneous results.  The market is still strong, just not as crazy as it was a few weeks ago – more homes are coming on the market and the buyer demand is starting to be satisfied.

                                  Multiple offers, over-asking-price offers and full-price offers are also far more likely in our hottest neighborhoods and historically most popular locations.  Additionally, sellers who have conditioned their home for market, both in staging and making changes to meet current buying trends, are most likely to be those with multiple and/or full price offers.  It is very important, however, to keep in mind that your initial asking price will dictate whether or not you receive a high offer.  If you choose to challenge the market with your asking price, and are at the top of your neighborhood, it’s unlikely your home will be snapped up or will receive an asking price offer – you may need to be patient and wait for a buyer who sees the value as you do.  On the other hand, if you price with last year’s prices, or shoot below market, you are far more likely to spur a bidding war.  Yes, we are selling at premium pricing on premium products, but this typically happens because the asking price feels a little on the low end to buyers to begin with. So my best advice to sellers is to take the time to condition your home to meet market expectations and then price carefully – no one wants to give their home away, but do be careful not to overshoot the market’s historic guidance on pricing.

                                  Buyers – you still have a lot of competition out there.  If you are looking for a historically hot property (based on size, location or price range), you still need to plan to be very aggressive with your offers if you want to win!

                                  QUICK SEARCH

                                    I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                     
                                     
                                    Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                    Associate Broker
                                    HOWARD HANNA
                                    REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                    401 Broad Street
                                    Sewickley, PA 15143
                                    Cell: 412-779-6060
                                    Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                    kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                    What’s My Home Worth?

                                    How exactly do we know what our home is worth?

                                    A home’s value is set by the market.  Value is always determined by what a buyer is willing to pay for your home.  Many factors come into play in setting that value.  Market value reflects quantitative factors such as:  # bedrooms, # bathrooms, # garages, placement of garages (attached or integral), lot configuration (large and functional back yard?  Cliff lot?), location of the home generally, age of roof, age of mechanicals.  Market value also reflects more qualitative items:  how updated is your home, and is it all new, or just refreshed?  What is the floorplan (open concept?) What are your wall colors?  There is always a range that value will land in, which we call the range of reasonable.  There is no ONE price at which a home will sell.  If there are many buyers seeking a home like yours, it will sell at the top of the range of reasonable.  If there are not, it will take longer to sell and may sell a bit lower in the range.  What the market does not consider in setting a value of a home is what you need from the home.  In 2008, many homeowners had used their homes as ATMs and withdrawn large sums of money for educations, vacations and cars.  When the market softened, there was not enough equity for them to be able to sell their homes and not be in a short sale situation. This fact, that a homeowner over-extended themselves on mortgages, is not the least bit relevant to market value.  The market is also not going to consider what you plan to do next.  If you plan to move to Los Angeles to be closer to family and are finding that the Pittsburgh market is not going to yield you enough to be able to buy in L.A., you will need to turn to other investments to make up any difference.

                                    We are in a very robust market – your home is far more likely to garner more now – whatever that may be – than it could have in the past.   Forecasters are also suggesting that values will soften by year end.  My crystal ball is out for service, but what I can tell you is that every hot market eventually softens.  Waiting out the market so that you can get a price that the market is unprepared to deliver at this time may have you waiting many, many years, and during that time you may need to invest even more in your home in order to deliver to the market what it needs in order to deliver an acceptable sale to you. 

                                    QUICK SEARCH

                                      I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                       
                                       
                                      Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                      Associate Broker
                                      HOWARD HANNA
                                      REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                      401 Broad Street
                                      Sewickley, PA 15143
                                      Cell: 412-779-6060
                                      Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                      kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                      Housing Shortage

                                      We continue to look at homes on the Howard Hanna website and have noticed there doesn’t seem to be many homes coming on the market. Just wondering if we’ve missed the peak of the spring real estate season? Have you found that there are typically more houses coming on the market in early summer as school ends? 

                                      Historically, our market peaks in April, so if you have been watching our market all spring, you would have noticed the surge in April and the much more modest introductions in May. We will continue to have properties come on the market during the summer months, but fewer than we see in the spring months. The late summer is not a typical time to see new introductions, but they will pick back up after Labor Day.

                                      However, if you are one of the many buyers sitting and waiting for their perfect Village home, this may be a good time to reevaluate your priorities.  Inventory is at an all time low and if your goal is to move into our community, you may need to start making compromises. With our continued Village development and all of the exciting new amenities as well as the top-ranked school district, Sewickley has become an extremely popular community choice for buyers.  Homes have been selling like hotcakes!  Not because they are perfect homes but because buyers are making compromises on their wish list and choosing homes that will work despite their imperfections.   Some might need updates.  Some might not have the desired lot size or configuration. Some might not have enough garages or even a garage.  Some might have too few bathrooms or a less than typical bedroom configuration. Some might be in a noisier location. Some might check every box but be a slight drive “up the hill” where we still have a wonderful selection of fantastic homes available.  If Sewickley is your dream, it may be time to start thinking about how to work with one of the many wonderful homes still available rather than sitting on the sidelines as values continue to increase and you get even less for more.

                                      Considering a move outside Sewickley?  It is true that the North Hills have a larger selection of inventory due to the larger population base, but the prices are no lower and they are struggling with an equally tight inventory.

                                      One final thought:  If you are a seller and you have been sitting on the fence about selling your home, now is the time to call me! 

                                      • We have a severe inventory shortage across many price ranges and many eager buyers. 
                                      • This spring market will yield your very best possible price. 
                                      • The fall market is much more typically a buyers market, so lets get your home on the market today!

                                      QUICK SEARCH

                                        I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                         
                                         
                                        Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                        Associate Broker
                                        HOWARD HANNA
                                        REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                        401 Broad Street
                                        Sewickley, PA 15143
                                        Cell: 412-779-6060
                                        Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                        kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                        Inspect Your Options

                                        The market is very hot right now and we are having no luck winning a bidding war.  Should we waive inspections?

                                        It’s certainly true that waiving inspections will make your offer much stronger than a competing offer in which the buyer is inspecting the home. Most sellers would gladly choose an offer waiving inspections over one that is not. However, before you make such a bold choice, you do need to consider the consequences.

                                        If the seller has pre-inspected the home, then you have a reasonably limited amount of exposure should you choose to buy without inspections. Most home inspectors are pretty thorough and so while there are always things that a home inspector misses, a pre-inspection should give you a good sense of what you are buying. After reviewing the report, if you feel that the report is thorough, it may be a reasonable risk to waive inspections, understanding that doing so may open you up to unanticipated expenses. However, this may be a way to help you win a home that is receiving multiple offers.

                                        If the home has not been pre-inspected, then it’s quite risky to make an offer without planning to inspect the home. If you happen to be a contractor and you feel comfortable assessing a home on your own, that’s one thing. But if you don’t have any experience with contracting or any experience with being involved in the maintenance of your own current home such that you feel very comfortable assessing the conditions of homes, you may be poorly equipped to get a handle on the condition of the home you’re buying. You could be looking at tens of thousands of dollars of unexpected expenses, depending on the size of the home. This is something you would need to weigh in deciding whether or not that’s an acceptable risk to you in order to be the successful bidder. It’s not a course of action I would recommend, but you may decide it’s the only way you’re ultimately going to get the house you want.   If that’s the case and you do move forward waving inspections, you do need to keep in mind that if you later find problems with the home, the only person responsible for taking care of the cost of related repairs is you – not the prior owner, and not the Realtors.  So do proceed with caution!

                                        QUICK SEARCH

                                          I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                           
                                           
                                          Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                          Associate Broker
                                          HOWARD HANNA
                                          REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                          401 Broad Street
                                          Sewickley, PA 15143
                                          Cell: 412-779-6060
                                          Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                          kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                          Pocket Listings


                                          We have noticed that several homes have sold lately before they have hit the MLS. Are these “pocket listings” a good way to sell your home?
                                           

                                          If a home sells before it hits the MLS, as a “pocket listing” as they are often called, it is highly likely that the seller could have sold the home for significantly more money, particularly in this market. The MLS exposes a home to a large number of prospective buyers in a very short amount of time. This widespread exposure is what has the potential to drive the price up for the seller.

                                          A “pocket listing” is more like a secret sale. The agent you are dealing with may have a buyer that is willing to buy your home, but if it’s that easy, chances are you could have received more money if the general public had a chance at your home, and a bidding war could have possibly ensued. If an agent is being straightforward with the seller and discusses the strategies involved with using the market pressure of the MLS to drive in a higher price, it’s a rare seller who will willingly leave money on the table.

                                          So why do we occasionally see these seemingly “secret sales” taking place? Some sellers perceive these pocket listings as a good thing – some don’t want to be hassled with multiple showings, some don’t want the general public to know their home is available for sale. If a seller’s goal is to maximize financial return, however, a pocket listing, or accepting an agreement of sale before the home is marketed in the MLS, is rarely the best strategy.

                                          So no, my 22 years experience indicates that a pocket listing is usually not in a seller’s best interests. The highest returns I have seen sellers achieve occur in scenarios when they have used strategies to maximize the excitement within the buying community through proper pricing, excellent conditioning and staging and full MLS exposure.

                                          QUICK SEARCH

                                            I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                             
                                             
                                            Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                            Associate Broker
                                            HOWARD HANNA
                                            REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                            401 Broad Street
                                            Sewickley, PA 15143
                                            Cell: 412-779-6060
                                            Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                            kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                            The Demand for Supply

                                            Why don’t we see new inventory hitting the market – has spring not sprung?  

                                            The freeze is over and our real estate market should be opening with new introductions as I write. In fact, I have new introductions coming this week! That said, there is a glut of buyers looking for homes in our market across nearly every price range. We have been starved for inventory for quite a long time now. Forecasters are predicting that we will see greater mobility from baby boomers in the coming year, and that will undoubtedly bring more inventory into our market. However, it seems that natural fallout from the pandemic has included some potential sellers hunkering down and preferring to just stay put for the time being, and others who might be in homes that are probably too big for them at this stage of life appreciating, at least for now, the additional space that their larger home offers.  

                                            I expect this will be a very tight year for inventory because even though I suspect we will see introductions, the buyer competition is going to be fierce. To every potential seller out there I would note that if you are considering a move in the not too distant future, this particular market is one in which you could extract a premium, and I would be more than happy to meet with you to help you strategize how to take advantage of this unique blip in our market.  We will ultimately see more inventory introduced and that will cause prices to level out again so this would be the ideal time to take advantage of premium prices generated by our lack of inventory. To those buyers out there sitting on the fence, I would suggest that there are some very nice homes currently on the market and this would be a great time to lock in one of those homes. If I had a crystal ball, I suspect it would tell you that we are not going to see an excessive amount of introductions in this spring market and homes that have been sitting on the market for longer periods of time will surprisingly end up with multiple offers. Why not buy one of those homes now and avoid the unpleasantness associated with a bidding war? 

                                            This is definitely a market in which strategic planning, whether as a buyer or a seller, is key. If a real estate move is in your future, I would be more than happy to meet with you confidentially to develop a plan for your success! 

                                            QUICK SEARCH

                                              I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                               
                                               
                                              Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                              Associate Broker
                                              HOWARD HANNA
                                              REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                              401 Broad Street
                                              Sewickley, PA 15143
                                              Cell: 412-779-6060
                                              Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                              kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                              To Repair or Not To Repair

                                              Sometimes it seems like everything is breaking around our house and we get behind on repairs. Isn’t there some level of wear and tear buyers of “previously enjoyed” homes are expecting to have to accept?

                                              The process of selling and buying a home involves many fine lines. How far do you take preparing your home for sale? Do you really need to address all of the items suggested by your agent, the home stager or the home inspector who did a pre-inspection? Do you really have to attend to everything your family has broken or worn out over the years? Anything that could come up on an inspection, if you know about it, really must be repaired or disclosed. My vote is repair. Even with items that are very obvious, when an inspector gets involved, he may blow the issue out of proportion and something that might have cost you $1000 to repair before you listed ends up costing you $3000 on the inspection request. If it’s something an inspector might find, you can bet he will find it and you will be expected to cover the cost of repair anyhow, so you might as well repair upfront.

                                              Many buyers actually get quite nervous during the home inspection (also known as buyers remorse). If you happen to get one of these buyers, it is possible that they could walk away from your deal if the inspection concerns feel too weighty to them. After you actually receive and negotiate the offer, the last thing you want to do is lose the buyer over items that you could have fixed but that you didn’t think anyone would notice or care about! In today’s market, they notice, they care. Sometimes they are willing to let you pay for the repair. Sometimes they just walk. Don’t take any chances. If you suspect it is likely someone would seek a repair, get it done!

                                              Buyers, as much as I advocate for sellers to take care of the wear and tear items on their homes, it is important for you to be reasonable on your inspection requests as well. If you see an item that needs to be fixed while you are touring the home, take that into account when you make your offer and do not revisit it on the inspection. Inspection requests are supposed to be for items you didn’t know about and didn’t have a chance to adjust for in making your offer. Again, it’s a fine line buyers also walk in deciding what are fair and appropriate inspection requests of a seller.

                                              QUICK SEARCH

                                                I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                                 
                                                 
                                                Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                                Associate Broker
                                                HOWARD HANNA
                                                REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                                401 Broad Street
                                                Sewickley, PA 15143
                                                Cell: 412-779-6060
                                                Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                                kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                                STRATEGIC BUYING

                                                Why does it seem like there are no new homes coming on the market! 
                                                 
                                                Your perceptions are correct!  We have less than one half of the homes we had on the market at this time last year.  At the time of this writing, we have only 61 homes actively available in the Quaker Valley School District, with only 34 of those being priced at 1million or less! In 2020, we sold 252 homes in the Quaker Valley School District with 225 under 1million. I suspect the reason you are not seeing more inventory is because people who are willing to sell their homes have no where to go.  Unless you are leaving the region or moving into a retirement community such as Masonic Village or Sherwood Oaks, you might be interested in taking advantage of this market that is yielding record prices but can’t figure out how to make it happen! If you are one of those potential sellers who has a plan to depart, give me a call so we can devise a strategic plan to drive in the best price and terms for you! Now is NOT too early — right now buyers are shopping for late spring/ early summer closings!  Its been an exciting spring market so far — as you will see below, my first three spring opportunities sold the first day they were available and for top dollar!  NOW is the time to join this exciting market! 

                                                QUICK SEARCH

                                                  I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                                   
                                                   
                                                  Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                                  Associate Broker
                                                  HOWARD HANNA
                                                  REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                                  401 Broad Street
                                                  Sewickley, PA 15143
                                                  Cell: 412-779-6060
                                                  Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                                  kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                                  Move Out and Move In!

                                                  We’ve been cooped up in our house for nearly a year now with this pandemic and are feeling like it’s time for a change. Your thoughts?

                                                  We are in the absolute best sellers market I have seen here in western PA in my 22 years in the business! We have less than one half of the inventory in our MLS right now than we had last year, which was also a historic low.  Prices are rising faster than the algorithms that predict price can keep up with.  This is fueled in part by historically low interest rates, which we do anticipate will hold through this selling season – but I would not count on 2.5% interest rates being the norm forever. Buyers are able to afford more with these low rates, which is supporting the increasing prices.  We are also seeing an influx of coastal buyers – most of these people have a prior connection to our region – many of them are returning “home” to be closer to family.  I honestly have lists and lists of buyers seeking a home for their families in our area.  So YES!  If the pandemic has caused you to reassess your home or your lifestyle, there is no better time to reach out to me than TODAY to discuss the possible sale of your home.  Sadly, my crystal ball is out for service so I can’t predict 2022 or forward, but what I can tell you is that now is a great time to be a seller.

                                                  The big question is of course where are you going to go?  If you have dreamed of moving to a warmer location, now is the time to dive deeper into that dream and make it a reality.  If you want to move to be closer to your family in another city, also a great time to make that happen! If you are working in another city remotely and just sticking around Pittsburgh and waiting for the pandemic to end, now is the ideal time to pack up and make that move.  If you own multiple homes and aren’t in the Pittsburgh region too often anymore, now is a great time to liquidate  your Pittsburgh area housing investment and invest elsewhere.  If however you aren’t leaving the area and you don’t own another home to move to (at least temporarily until the housing market changes courses and becomes a buyers market again – and yes, the market ebbs and flows – we will see another buyers market in the future), then we should chat about what options might work for you here in Pittsburgh!  Please reach out to me and lets start a conversation about how I can help you achieve the highest possible price for your home and make your real estate dreams a reality!

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                                                    I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                                     
                                                     
                                                    Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                                    Associate Broker
                                                    HOWARD HANNA
                                                    REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                                    401 Broad Street
                                                    Sewickley, PA 15143
                                                    Cell: 412-779-6060
                                                    Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                                    kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                                    2020 Year In Review

                                                    Now that 2020 is coming to a close, do you have any reflections on the year in real estate?

                                                    2020 is a year we will all be happy to see in the rear view mirror, and that day is coming soon! In March, we were all worried that the pandemic would result in a major down turn in real estate, and for a couple of months, the market barely had a pulse.  But when we moved out of the “red” zone, the market came crashing back like nothing we have ever seen before.  While there was a huge influx in inventory that resulted from the near zero level of new listings in the “at home” months, there was an even larger crush of buyers looking for a new home, and the summer months were plagued with bidding wars at many price points.  The lower price ranges saw significant appreciation as buyers vied for an opportunity at an affordable home in our school district, but even the two million dollar market saw more sales than it had in several years.  In most years, our market slows down in August, but not this year. As we head toward the holidays, we don’t have the extreme over-supply of buyers that we saw this past summer, but many homes are still selling fast and for top dollar. 

                                                    As we move into the new year, buyers are getting anxious.  We are seeing minimal new inventory (not unusual this time of year) and they are justifiably anxious about whether there will be a nice selection in the spring.  Being “stuck” at home, many homeowners have taken the opportunity to fix up the home they live in, and there is a real possibility that more people may be staying put for 2021 and enjoying the fruits of their labors. In the coming months, buyers will need to be prepared to compromise on their must haves and act fast if they see something that meets most of their wish list.  And of course sellers, please reach out to me right away if you are thinking of selling this spring.  Interest rates are low, prices are up and demand is high – there has never been a better time to sell.

                                                    As 2020 comes to a close, I wish you all a fabulous holiday season. It has been my great pleasure to work with so many in our community during this unusual pandemic year and I am looking forward to continuing to do so in 2021, a year we all have high hopes for! The Herald will not be published over the holidays, but you can check out my website, www.AskKathe.com, for continued real estate advice every week!

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                                                      I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                                       
                                                       
                                                      Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                                      Associate Broker
                                                      HOWARD HANNA
                                                      REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                                      401 Broad Street
                                                      Sewickley, PA 15143
                                                      Cell: 412-779-6060
                                                      Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                                      kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                                      Show that Holiday Cheer

                                                      If our home is on the market, how long is it ok to keep our decorations up? 

                                                      In this incredibly dark time of the year, and even more so in this difficult holiday season as we continue to muddle through this global pandemic, festive holiday décor certainly helps to brighten everyone’s day, so if your home is on the market, it is certainly a good idea to tastefully decorate for the holidays.  This year might be the year to embrace an inflatable (maybe a large Santa for example) to bring a little extra levity to the neighborhood! Even if your home is vacant, a seasonal wreath on the front door is a nice touch to welcome guests.  We have been unusually busy this fall, so presentation remains important, even when its cold and snowy outside.

                                                      Once we start 2021 (and yes, we are all quite eager to put an end to 2020), if your home is on the market, it is important to have your holiday decorations down and stored as quickly as possible, ideally by January 2nd! Our spring market should jump into high gear as soon as we hit mid-January.  Buyers themselves will have put the holidays behind them and will enter the new year with a new sense of urgency to find their new home.  Once the holiday celebrating has past, decorations quickly look tired, so take them down and store them for another year.  If you enjoy door wreaths, that could remain as long as it is more “wintery” and less holiday.

                                                      And don’t forget my other wintertime showings tips – lights on for showings, and use the highest acceptable wattage.  Keep walks and driveways free of snow and ice. If you’re not going to be out or too long, a fire in the fireplace is also a nice idea. Thermostat at a warm, cozy temperature (Buyers will not embrace a home if it feels chilly). Boot mats by the front door to save your floors.

                                                      Enjoy the holidays – stay warm and safe!

                                                      QUICK SEARCH

                                                        I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                                         
                                                         
                                                        Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                                        Associate Broker
                                                        HOWARD HANNA
                                                        REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                                        401 Broad Street
                                                        Sewickley, PA 15143
                                                        Cell: 412-779-6060
                                                        Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                                        kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                                        A Proactive Step to Inspections

                                                        If there was one thing you would advise us to do to our home as we continue our months “at home,” in this global pandemic, what would that be? 

                                                        Whether you are planning to sell your home this coming year or not, the best thing you can do to your home is a home inspection! We all live in our homes but rarely take the time to stop and give them a careful look. Weather beats up the outside of our homes year round. Caulking fails, flashing fails, paint peels and exposes wood to rot. We forget to clean our gutters on a regular basis – gutters and downspouts fill with decaying debris, causing water to back up into our homes and cause mold problems. We forget to have our furnaces serviced and fittings loosen and cause condensate to leak and rust our furnaces. The list goes on and on. Simply living in and not doing a regular check up on your home, you are leaving it open to the possibility of major repair bills later and major depreciation in your investment’s value. A home inspection will give you a to do list of projects to tackle throughout the year to keep your home in great shape and maintain its value!

                                                        You may not think about this until you go to sell your home. Some of the wear and tear may be obvious to a buyer, who will typically have checked out every available home, be able to see signs of your “benign neglect,” and pass on yours because of its comparatively negative condition. Even if a buyer doesn’t’ notice at first, there is no doubt that a home inspector will notice! After working hard to get your home sold, you may find yourself in the all too common situation of being presented with a long list of inspection requests that you need to complete in order to hold your deal together, or worse yet, a buyer who backs out of your deal because the house needs “too much work,” leaving you in the position of having to fix everything and start all over again. A homeowner should expect simply keeping a home in acceptable condition will cost them $3,000 – $10,000 a year, depending on the size of the home – some years will be more if its time for a major project, and some less. If you’re not investing this, chances are someday you will when you are faced with a long list of inspection issues.

                                                        So while you remain “at home” waiting for the day the vaccine arrives, why not give your home a check up and attend to its needs! Give me a call if you need the names of reputable local inspectors.

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                                                          I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                                           
                                                           
                                                          Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                                          Associate Broker
                                                          HOWARD HANNA
                                                          REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                                          401 Broad Street
                                                          Sewickley, PA 15143
                                                          Cell: 412-779-6060
                                                          Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                                          kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                                          A Grateful Time


                                                          This time of year we all take the time to give thanks for all of the wonderful things in our lives.  I have much to be thankful for.  The obvious chart toppers are good health, wonderful family and friends, and of course, a warm home to come home to each day. 

                                                          My gratitude extends much deeper, however, to all of the people I work with every day that make real estate transactions so seamless for my clients – from the best mortgage brokers and closers to incredible home inspectors and handymen, contractors, electricians, roofers… that I can count on to give their best to my clients.  With them by my side (or on speed dial) I have been able to provide the highest level of service to those I work with, and for that I am grateful.

                                                          My gratitude, however, extends even further – to forces I can’t control.  We have been very fortunate to have historically low interest rates for a very long period of time, and a taxing structure that still favors home ownership as an investment vehicle to some extent.  I am always reminded that Uncle Sam, through the mortgage interest deduction, effectively pays a portion of my mortgage every month. Through the system as structured, we are not only able to own homes for less than we could pay to rent them, but at the same time we are building equity which will be there for us when we retire and are seeking that nest egg to purchase our retirement home with.

                                                          Are you taking advantage of all that is available to you?  It’s hard to imagine that there will ever be a better time to increase the size of your nest egg in real estate – it just doesn’t get any cheaper to buy than it is today.  If you’re ready to downsize and cash in your nest egg, it’s an absolutely ideal time – inventory is low, interest rates are low too and we have buyers waiting in line for Sewickley homes. 

                                                          In fact, the lines of buyers are so long that if you would consider selling your home, I would be even more grateful!  The spring market starts in January – the time to sell is now!

                                                          2020 has been a year we would all love to forget, but before we say goodbye to 2020, even with all that has been so challenging this year, we have much to be thankful for this holiday season!

                                                          QUICK SEARCH

                                                            I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                                             
                                                             
                                                            Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                                            Associate Broker
                                                            HOWARD HANNA
                                                            REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                                            401 Broad Street
                                                            Sewickley, PA 15143
                                                            Cell: 412-779-6060
                                                            Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                                            kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                                            Holiday Showings


                                                            Our home is on the market – is it ok to show it decorated for the holidays or should we take it off the market?

                                                            Buyers who are shopping during the holidays are some of the most serious buyers we see each year – most people don’t bother spending their precious holiday time looking at homes unless they have a need to buy. So keeping your home on the market over the holidays is generally a good idea!

                                                            Decorating for the holidays while your home is on the market is also not a bad idea – homes often look their best decorated for the holidays – as long as a few basic guidelines are followed. Briefly stated, when decorating this holiday season, keep your decorations more neutral and reasonably simple.

                                                            Start by taking a more minimalist approach. You may have bins and bins of holiday decorations like I do, but when your home is on the market, its best to leave some of those decorations packed away. Choose decorations that have less of a religious theme. Snowmen, evergreen wreaths, poinsettias and nutcrackers, for example, have broad appeal. Be careful that the decorations that you do choose compliment your décor.   You may have changed the color scheme in your home since buying your holiday decorations and it’s important that they don’t clash! Don’t over-decorate the exterior of your home either. A few well placed, tasteful strands of lights or an attractive evergreen wreath can add sense of warmth to your home, but keep your inflatables packed up!

                                                            If you bring in a tree, make sure it doesn’t overwhelm the room. This year a tall, skinny tree might be the best choice so that the room doesn’t feel small. And of course, consider using decorations to highlight some of your home’s special architectural features, such as using candles to draw attention to an attractive fireplace.

                                                            When showings are scheduled, a brewing pot of mulled cider or a plate of freshly baked cookies is not only seasonably appropriate but will go a long way toward creating an inviting feel for your buyers. And don’t forget – even if you normally keep your thermostat down, be sure to turn it up for showings so that buyers are comfortably warm!

                                                            QUICK SEARCH

                                                              I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                                               
                                                               
                                                              Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                                              Associate Broker
                                                              HOWARD HANNA
                                                              REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                                              401 Broad Street
                                                              Sewickley, PA 15143
                                                              Cell: 412-779-6060
                                                              Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                                              kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                                              Setting The Stage to Sell Your Home

                                                              I’ve heard a lot about having my home professionally staged – I think my home is well decorated – is it something I need to do?

                                                              Home staging is more about marketing a home and less about interior design. Your home could be beautifully decorated and poorly staged. The distinction is critical if your main focus is getting your home sold. Interior design is often about creating a home that reflects you personally and showcases your personal effects. Home staging is about decluttering, neutralizing and showing off your home’s best qualities. It is after all, your home that you are selling, and not your stuff!

                                                              Home staging consultations generally cost less than $400 and are well worth the investment when you consider the size of the asset you are selling and your hoped for gains. Home stagers often stage hundreds of homes each year and are very familiar with how to tweak a home to make it as appealing as possible to today’s buyers. We’ve all heard stories about home sellers in California who pack their entire homes up and bring in a new home of rented furniture to stage the home to sell. Home staging does not have to involve renting expensive furniture. It is sometimes an excellent idea however—if you bought your “dream home” and didn’t have time to furnish it with furniture appropriate to the home’s value, for example, renting furniture is likely a sound investment and will give the home the feeling that it is of a higher caliber. Most of the time, however, a home stager will work with what you have, although some of it may find its way into storage for the duration!

                                                              Offended at the concept of stripping your decorating from your home? It is important to keep your end goal in mind – you are moving. This is not about impressing your friends. It’s about showcasing your home so that prospective buyers appreciate all that it has to offer. A home’s positive attributes are often missed buyers when they are too busy focusing on your stuff. Whether they like your stuff or not, you want them admiring your home – not what you have in it. Home staging is designed to make your home – that which you intend to leave behind – sparkle – a stager eliminates, rearranges and augments to enhance the impression buyers have of your home. So yes, no matter how beautiful your décor, I strongly recommend a home stager, and working with your agent as you implement what she recommends!

                                                              QUICK SEARCH

                                                                I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                                                 
                                                                 
                                                                Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                                                Associate Broker
                                                                HOWARD HANNA
                                                                REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                                                401 Broad Street
                                                                Sewickley, PA 15143
                                                                Cell: 412-779-6060
                                                                Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                                                kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                                                School:Home Value Ratios


                                                                Do you think living in a top ten school district adds value to our homes?

                                                                Absolutely! There is no doubt in my mind that living in the Quaker Valley School District, ranked in the top ten in Western Pennsylvania, adds both value and sale-ability to our homes. We are fortunate to live in a district with well state-of-the-art elementary and middle schools and a hard-working board that continue to work to keep the caliber of our schools at a very high level.

                                                                How do these impressive rankings translate into more money for you? Families moving into Pittsburgh have been a significant force behind our home sales for decades. Buyers with children almost universally start their home search considering school districts. Our school district not only offers top numbers, but it is small and can afford more personal interactions between families and faculty. This personal touch makes Quaker Valley both unique and a highly sought-after school district for people moving to Pittsburgh.

                                                                Relocation buyers are not our only customers. We see dozens of home sales each year to families living in other Pittsburgh communities where the school districts are not as acclaimed looking to improve the educational opportunities for their children. Pittsburgh neighborhoods that seemed fun and exciting to DINKS give way to sensible communities with outstanding schools like Quaker Valley once kids come along.

                                                                And yet we are a small community, with limited housing options. As our educational performance continues to shine, living in Quaker Valley continues to be a strong draw for buyers coming from both near and far, and yet we only have so many places to house these buyers. The increased demand for housing in the District has continued to push our housing prices up, and that has become particularly evident in some of our more affordable price brackets, which are feeling less affordable each year.

                                                                So yes, absolutely – living in such a highly acclaimed school district is a very important component of housing value and driving more and more families to explore the possibility of living here. Despite our new construction, the very limited nature of our housing inventory, when combined with the strong demand resulting from the excellent reputation our school district has maintained, is continuing to put strong upward pressure on our housing values.

                                                                QUICK SEARCH

                                                                  I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                                                   
                                                                   
                                                                  Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                                                  Associate Broker
                                                                  HOWARD HANNA
                                                                  REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                                                  401 Broad Street
                                                                  Sewickley, PA 15143
                                                                  Cell: 412-779-6060
                                                                  Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                                                  kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                                                  What’s Your Contingency Plan?

                                                                  With all of the bidding wars happening in this hot market, should we put an appraisal contingency in our offer?

                                                                  Appraisal contingencies are added to agreements when buyers are concerned that their offer may be over market value.  If you are getting a mortgage, they really aren’t necessary if you are putting 20% or less down on your home.  Your bank will need your new home to appraise so that your debt percentage is not greater than 80%.  If it doesn’t appraise, you will either have to throw in more cash or reduce the sales price of the home, or the bank will refuse to fund the loan.

                                                                  If you are paying cash for your home, or have a small planned mortgage, your only protection from over-paying is to insert an appraisal contingency into your offer. If the home fails to appraise, you will have the option of terminating the agreement if you choose, or possibly re-negotiating the price.  While this may sound like a fool-proof option, when we are in a hot market, with limited inventory and limited options for buyers, the goal is to reduce the number of contingencies to make your offer more appealing, not to add more! When evaluating whether they want to take their home off the active market to work with your offer, a seller will weigh all of the components, and an appraisal contingency weakens your offer as it is one more hurdle the seller must overcome before they can proceed to closing.

                                                                  There is a definite risk that in a hot market you could overpay for a home.  Homes are in some circumstances selling for tens of thousands of dollars in excess of the list price. Unfortunately, this may be what it takes to get a home.  Inserting an appraisal contingency will only weaken your offer and could cause you to lose a bidding war. The best course of action if you want to win is to ask your agent to prepare an analysis of comparable sales and use that to determine your best offer, leaving out the appraisal contingency and hopefully succeeding in your bid to buy a new home.

                                                                  QUICK SEARCH

                                                                    I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                                                     
                                                                     
                                                                    Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                                                    Associate Broker
                                                                    HOWARD HANNA
                                                                    REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                                                    401 Broad Street
                                                                    Sewickley, PA 15143
                                                                    Cell: 412-779-6060
                                                                    Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                                                    kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                                                    Making a Seller’s Market Your Buying Opportunity

                                                                    We have been waiting for a while for some new homes to come on the market –are you anticipating more listings soon?

                                                                    It has in fact been a very active summer season and it sure does feel like inventory is very low.  In fact, we currently have ONLY 82 listings available for sale in the Quaker Valley School District – in most years that number would be approximately 200!  So when we say that we need listings, we mean it!

                                                                    Yes, we do expect that there will be more homes coming on the market in the new year. While March & April tend to be our largest listing months every year, we have had a few introductions recently and as a general rule they have flown off the market.  We have a tremendous amount of pent up demand.  There are dozens of buyers in every price range sitting on the fence waiting for their “perfect” listing.  If you are one of those buyers, you should expect that you will have some stiff competition as we are seeing bidding wars with multiple offers in many price ranges. So make sure you have your financing in order and be prepared to move quickly if you see something that looks like it could work.

                                                                    If you are one of the many Village dreamers we have out there, start thinking now about what compromises you might be willing to make to get a home.  As Pittsburgh grows, our inventory is not keeping up with housing demands and we will continue to see a tighter and tighter housing market and increasing prices.  Compromise will be necessary to even get into a home here.

                                                                    Finally, if you are thinking of selling your home, I have said it many times before, but PLEASE reach out to me! I offer completely confidential consultations and strategic plans to maximize your returns, with a nearly 22-year proven track record.  There is no better time to be selling your home!

                                                                    QUICK SEARCH

                                                                      I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                                                       
                                                                       
                                                                      Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                                                      Associate Broker
                                                                      HOWARD HANNA
                                                                      REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                                                      401 Broad Street
                                                                      Sewickley, PA 15143
                                                                      Cell: 412-779-6060
                                                                      Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                                                      kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                                                      Why Now Is The Time To Buy!

                                                                      We are looking to buy a new home – where is the market these days?  Do you have any advice for buyers?

                                                                      We have had an unbelievably strong summer market – unlike anything I have seen in my nearly 22 years in business.  Homes are often selling with multiple cash offers in a day or two for over the asking price. If you want to buy now, you need to go into every home with the assumption that you will pay asking price at a minimum – unless you are willing to sit on the sidelines for a week or two and see if the market feels the price is too high.

                                                                      Why is this happening?  We have had an extreme shortage of inventory for years now and its only getting worse – we simply don’t have enough homes available for sale.  Interest rates have never been lower and people who have rented are taking the opportunity to jump into the market and lock in a 30 year mortgage at an unheard of rate.

                                                                      Does this mean you will overpay?  Quite possibly, if you need to sell in the next 1-3 years, you might be challenged to return 100% of your investment.  But none of us has a crystal ball, so you never know.

                                                                      Is it better to wait out this surge?  Probably not.  There is no end in sight, nothing that suggests that we will see a sudden influx of inventory.  If you want a new home, you are just going to have to jump into the market.

                                                                      So how do you win?  First, you must be fully preapproved by a reputable local lender. Once you are fully preapproved, it is possible to waive your mortgage contingency so that you can compete with cash deals. You also have to have confidence in the price you are paying so that you can waive the appraisal contingency. You need to anticipate that you will pay at least asking price and may have to bid over the asking price of the home in order to get the home. Finally, you will want to consider whether you are willing to waive your inspections. The vast majority of buyers who are winning in bidding wars right now are waiving all inspections.  The best place to start is with an experienced buyers agents such as myself who can give you the very best, up to the minute advice on how to approach each house in its individual neighborhood.

                                                                      QUICK SEARCH

                                                                        I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                                                         
                                                                         
                                                                        Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                                                        Associate Broker
                                                                        HOWARD HANNA
                                                                        REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                                                        401 Broad Street
                                                                        Sewickley, PA 15143
                                                                        Cell: 412-779-6060
                                                                        Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                                                        kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                                                        Why NOW is the Time to Move!

                                                                        With all that is going on in the world, why should we consider a move now?

                                                                        I know it might seem counter-intuitive, but local market indicators suggest there has never been a better time to be in the market for a move. Why buy now?  Here are my top reasons!

                                                                        1. Interest rates are unbelievably low! Fixed 30 year loans under 3%?  Yes! You can buy more and spend less!
                                                                        2. We have some very nice homes available to purchase – its been a long time since I have seen so many nice choices.
                                                                        3. Some buyers are concerned about economic uncertainty right now and sitting on the fence. However, the economic factors associated with the housing crash in 2008 are not present now, so while the economy may slow down, we are not anticipating housing prices to drop.  Take advantage of other buyers’ hesitation and buy now before you find yourself in a multi-party bidding war.
                                                                        4. Housing prices have continued to rise in our local markets despite the pandemic and economic uncertainty. If you are sitting on the sidelines, there is a good chance you will pay more at a later date!

                                                                        I have outstanding opportunities across all price brackets.  Why buy now?  Check out more reasons below!



                                                                        Here’s a “Why Buy Now” synopsis and direct link for each featured property:

                                                                        208 Chestnut Road
                                                                        Why Buy? 2 acre Village lot, full guest house, incredible architecture & space!

                                                                        10 Thawmont
                                                                        Why Buy: Incredible privacy on 5 acres yet walkable to Village, stunning great room!

                                                                        1799 Locust Road:
                                                                        Why Buy?:  Completely remodeled in the highly sought-after North Allegheny school district!

                                                                        814 Hill Street
                                                                        Why Buy? Top to bottom flawless renovation & addition in the heart of the Village!

                                                                        622 Broad Street
                                                                        Why Buy? Stylish central Village home with 4 bedrooms, new baths, 2 car garage!

                                                                        5 Little Sewickley Creek
                                                                        Why Buy?  Hard-to-find wooded privacy in Sewickley Village, stylishly remodeled!

                                                                        52 Timberhill
                                                                        Why Buy?  Unparalleled craftsmanship and privacy w/ 11000 SF on 10 stunning Heights acres!

                                                                         321 Merriman
                                                                        Why Buy? 42 rolling acres in Sewickley Heights afford unique privacy, with a stunning estate home!

                                                                        141 Beech Ridge
                                                                        Why Buy?  The best buy in town with salt water pool complex, indoor courts & more – a sport-lovers dream!

                                                                        201 Bunker Hill
                                                                        Why Buy?  Exceptionally large home for the money, with 7 spacious bedrooms, and a pool!

                                                                        49 Woodland
                                                                        Why Buy? Hard-to-find newer construction in Village w/ harder to find main level master and attached 3 car garage!

                                                                        2486 Matterhorn
                                                                        Why Buy?:  Sought after North Allegheny Schools, backs to woods, perfectly maintained!

                                                                        213 Chestnut
                                                                        Why Buy? Incredible space over 4 finished levels w/ 5BRs, 3 baths and a large flat yard!

                                                                        307 Grant
                                                                        Why Buy?  Fabulous central Village neighborhood, large flat yard, stylish remodel!

                                                                        16 Highview
                                                                        Why Buy?  Summertime fun with the pool and new deck, open floor plan, incredible value!

                                                                        434 Maple
                                                                        Why Buy? Made-for-modern lifestyles large & spacious home on a flat lot with room for a pool!

                                                                        137 Sebago Lake
                                                                        Why Buy? Love to golf?  The course is right out back!  Plus all components recently refreshed!

                                                                        1314 Linden
                                                                        Why Buy? The most charming carriage house on a large, private lot backing to woods!

                                                                        604 Pine Road
                                                                        Why Buy?  Amazing central Village neighborhood with unparalleled charm, nicely remodeled!

                                                                        TO SEE MORE DETAILS ON THESE AND OTHER PROPERTIES, PLEASE CLICK HERE

                                                                        QUICK SEARCH

                                                                          I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                                                           
                                                                           
                                                                          Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                                                          Associate Broker
                                                                          HOWARD HANNA
                                                                          REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                                                          401 Broad Street
                                                                          Sewickley, PA 15143
                                                                          Cell: 412-779-6060
                                                                          Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                                                          kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                                                          The Effect of the Economy

                                                                          What impact do you think the recent economic downturn will have on our local real estate market?

                                                                          This is the million-dollar question right now.  There seems to be no doubt that real estate consumers are a little less confident this week.  But will we see an actual downturn in our market?

                                                                          My hope is that this will simply result in a temporary delay in our spring season.  Before the most recent events, we had an incredible amount of excess demand and low inventory, resulting in frequent bidding wars and many disappointed families who lost out on yet another home.  I have personally experienced that on several of my listings – several offers but only one home to sell.  Those buyers are still out there – maybe focused on other things, but still out there.  If you are a buyer, I would encourage you to press forward in your search for a home. The reality is that much of your competition may be focusing on other aspects of their lives right now and you may have a better chance of actually succeeding in buying a home without having to compete with multiple bidders.  Interest rates are low – it remains a great time to buy!

                                                                          I do not expect values to plummet, so if you are planning on sitting on the sidelines waiting to see how low they go, you are probably going to lose out on some great homes. When we saw our economy falter in 2008, we did not see a drop in housing prices.  We also did not see continued appreciation, but we were very stable.  Pittsburgh has historically been a very stable real estate market—we don’t have a spike in values – just a steady climb – so we are unlikely to see a significant drop.

                                                                          Sellers, I encourage you to continue to ready your homes for sale.  Our spring market surge may happen slightly later this year – and that will be good news for those of you who are still organizing your closets, attics, basements and garages.   You only have one chance to make a great first impression – now is your chance to make sure you are doing just that!

                                                                          5 Little Sewickley Creek

                                                                          New Listing -Located on over a 1.377 acre wooded lot in a quiet Sewickley neighborhood, at 5 Little Sewickley Creek you can have it all: the Sewickley community without the headaches of an older home, a nicely maintained, high-quality home that has been beautifully remodeled, wonderful privacy with plenty of space between you and your neighbors yet close to the  Village! Extensive remodel includes 3 renovated baths! Beautiful new hardwood floors unify the main level of the home! Two wood-burning fireplaces. Private back deck is ideal for warm-weather entertaining. Remolded eat-in kitchen with smudge-proof stainless appliances. Convenient main level mudroom/laundry attaches to two car garage. Walk-out lower level is a blank slate ready for your custom finishes! $650,000

                                                                           

                                                                          622 Broad Street

                                                                          New Listing -Stylish modern amenities are seamlessly combined with historic architectural details to create a fabulous central Sewickley Village home. Surprisingly spacious main level. You will love: 2 gas log fireplaces, convenient main level laundry, 10’ ceilings on the main level, covered front porch, fully fenced yard, 2 car garage, incredible expanded and remodeled master bedroom with brand new (2020) luxurious master bath dressing room, remodeled hall bathroom and powder room, new, stunning lighting, remodeled kitchen with granite tops and stainless appliances. Fabulous Village location with sidewalks that lead everywhere – an easy walking distance to all Village amenities. $699,000

                                                                          QUICK SEARCH

                                                                            I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                                                             
                                                                             
                                                                            Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                                                            Associate Broker
                                                                            HOWARD HANNA
                                                                            REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                                                            401 Broad Street
                                                                            Sewickley, PA 15143
                                                                            Cell: 412-779-6060
                                                                            Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                                                            kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                                                            Representing You Near and Far!

                                                                            We are planning to buy a second home in another location.  How can we find a great agent to work with there?

                                                                            You might be surprised to learn that I can help you with this!  No, I am not licensed in other states, but I can help you find a great agent wherever you are thinking of buying (or selling) a home.  And yes, I do have access to resources not easily available to the general public to do that for you and have done it for many others!

                                                                            It is a daunting task when you are looking at a real estate market from afar to figure out which agent will best serve your needs, and yet you know from your experience here how important that is! Here’s how I can help!  First, I would want to chat with you about what you are looking for in your new location.  Understanding your goals with respect to that home will help me refine the agent selection process.  Then I will get to work finding you the best match for a buyer’s (or seller’s) agent.  I can do this by utilizing networking communities I have developed through the certifications that I have earned over the years, including my ABR (Accredited Buyers Representatives), CRS (Certified Residential Specialists), CNE (Certified Negotiation Experts) and SRES (Senior Real Estate Specialists), all nationwide groups to which other highly-qualified agents belong throughout our country.

                                                                             Once I identify a few candidates for you, I will do the screening work for you, reviewing their experience both online and with an over-the-phone interview.  In a short interview I will be able to get a quick sense of whether the agent will be a good fit for you! Because I do this every day, I am able to quickly cut through all of the online noise, such as the paid Zillow ads where you will see not necessarily the most qualified agents but instead the ones most willing to pay to get themselves in front of you, and find you the best agent for your specific needs.  Additionally, most websites hide the identity of the listing agent in order to be able to sell your lead to agents willing to pay for them, so simply going online and contacting who appears to be the listing agent on homes that you like will likely be unhelpful.

                                                                            So why hassle with trying to sort through all of the online information on your own when I can easily sort this all out for you!  If you need a Realtor in another location, reach out to me – I’m happy to help you!

                                                                            49 Woodland Road 

                                                                            Recently remodeled main level master suite! Convenient attached 3 car garage! Spacious white kitchen with granite tops and appliances!  Four finished levels of living space!  Open concept kitchen/family room! Large side yard offers great out door space!  Private, yet in a prime Village neighborhood! 49 Woodland offers a unique opportunity for newer construction in the heart of Sewickley Village.  Please join me for my open house Sunday 1-3PM.  $1,550,000.

                                                                            307 Grant Street, Sewickley

                                                                            Incredible central Village home in a phenomenal neighborhood with flat, fenced yard, 2 car garage.  Newly remolded kitchen and baths.  Upstairs features 3 bedrooms, 2 baths.  The main level includes living, dining and family rooms, eat-in kitchen and den.  Charming covered back porch.  $725,000.

                                                                            QUICK SEARCH

                                                                              I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                                                               
                                                                               
                                                                              Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                                                              Associate Broker
                                                                              HOWARD HANNA
                                                                              REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                                                              401 Broad Street
                                                                              Sewickley, PA 15143
                                                                              Cell: 412-779-6060
                                                                              Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                                                              kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                                                              Now the Fun Continues!

                                                                              We’re first time home buyers.  Where do we begin? (continued from last week)

                                                                              For those of who just picking up the conversation today, check out my blog at www.askkathe.com to read the past two weeks’ introduction to the home buying process.  If you are following along, so far you have gotten pre-approved for your mortgage, researched and chosen a buyer’s agent to be your advocate, saved money for your down payment, shopped for a home and gotten one under agreement.  Now the fun continues!

                                                                              Once you have a home under agreement and have deposited your hand money, you will be ready to schedule your inspections.  Your buyer’s agent should provide you with guidance in finding reputable home inspectors.  You will want to consider scheduling a general home inspection as well as inspections for radon, wood boring insects (termites), mold, and possibly of the sewer lines.  If the home has a septic system you will absolutely want to fully inspect the system – they are quite costly to replace.  If there is a well on the property, you will want to test both the water quality and the capacity of the well.  You may also need to have specialists evaluate aging components such as the roof.  You generally have 10 – 14 days to complete your inspections and at the end of that period, you will need to make a request of the seller if you would like any items addressed.  To reach a successful conclusion of inspection negotiation, it’s a good idea to keep some simple tips in mind.  First, anything on the disclosure should have been considered when you were making the offer – its not a great idea to revisit disclosed items.  For example, if the seller disclosed that the roof is at the end of its useful life, asking for money toward a new roof is unlikely to be well received. The same can be said for items you could have easily seen.  If the inspector notes that the driveway is cracked and you should have seen it while visiting the home, asking for the seller to pay for a new driveway will also not be well received.  So when deciding what, if anything, to request of the seller, eliminate disclosed items and things you noticed when visiting the home and then turn your focus to the items that concern you most.  Of course, if there were multiple offers and you were the winner in a bidding war, you may not be able to ask for much if anything as there is likely another buyer on standby!  Ultimately, you and your seller will need to reach a compromise on the inspection issues and that agreement will be formalized in a written addendum to your Agreement of Sale.

                                                                              At the same time you are working through inspections, you will also need to make application for your financing.  This must be complete (in other words, you must have all of your paperwork to your lender) within 7 days of the final Agreement of Sale.  Applying for a mortgage these days can seem quite challenging – be prepared for the lender to ask for what will seem like a mountain of documents.  And do NOT make any major purchase until after you close on your home – changes to your outstanding debt at this point could affect your ability to qualify for a loan at all!  Once you get through inspections and mortgage application, it should be smooth sailing.  We will cover the final step in the process next week!

                                                                               

                                                                              307 Grant Street, Sewickley – NEW LISTING! 

                                                                              Incredible central Village home in a phenomenal neighborhood with flat, fenced yard, 2 car garage.  Newly remolded kitchen and baths.  Upstairs features 3 bedrooms, 2 baths.  The main level includes living, dining and family rooms, eat-in kitchen and den.  Charming covered back porch.  $725,000. Join me for our open house Sunday, 1-3pm.

                                                                               

                                                                               

                                                                              213 Chestnut Road

                                                                              Beautifully remodeled Sewickley Village Victorian with high ceilings, open floorplan and fabulous original architectural detailing.  Wonderful newer master suite with stylish newer bath.  Four finished levels of living space including lower level gameroom. Flat backyard, two car detached garage.  In a wonderful Village neighborhood, within a very easy walking distance to Village shops and restaurants. $795,000

                                                                              QUICK SEARCH

                                                                                I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                                                                 
                                                                                 
                                                                                Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                                                                Associate Broker
                                                                                HOWARD HANNA
                                                                                REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                                                                401 Broad Street
                                                                                Sewickley, PA 15143
                                                                                Cell: 412-779-6060
                                                                                Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                                                                kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                                                                Let the Fun Begin!

                                                                                We’re first time home buyers.  Where do we begin? (continued from last week)

                                                                                For those of who just picking up the conversation today, check out my blog at www.askkathe.com to read last week’s introduction to the home buying process.  If you are following along, so far you have gotten pre-approved for your mortgage, researched and chosen a buyer’s agent to be your advocate, and hopefully saved money for your down payment.  Now the fun begins!

                                                                                Once you are preapproved for a loan and have determined what price range you are comfortable shopping in, you can start your home search.  Typically this begins with an online search – your buyer’s agent should set you up to receive new properties as they become available. As interesting homes come on the market, you will want to tour them immediately.  In most price ranges, we have an extreme shortage of inventory and those who snooze tend to lose.  It is important to have seen enough properties upfront so when you see the right one, you know it and are ready to make a move.  When evaluating homes, it is also important to be realistic.  There is no perfect home, so establish your list of criteria upfront.  If a home achieves 7 out of 10 wish list items, in real estate we call that a home run. If you are going to hold out for all 10, a move is probably not in the cards for you in the short run.

                                                                                Once you find a home that works for you, in this market you do need to anticipate a bidding war is a realistic possibility.  Interestingly, even homes that have sat on the market for seemingly prolonged periods of time will often receive more than one offer at the same time, so if you find a home that peaks your interest, do not delay in making an offer.  Any delay could end up costing you money if another buyer comes along!  If there are multiple offers, you must put your best foot forward out of the gate. I have written many articles in the past on how to do that, and they can be found in my AskKathe archives on www.askkathe.com, but briefly stated, you should not assume you will get a second chance – work with your buyers offer to make the highest, “cleanest” offer that you can out of the gate, and consider including a personal letter to the seller telling them why you love their home and hope to make it yours – that personal touch will often sway a seller when they are reviewing multiple similar offers.

                                                                                Once you have a home under agreement and have deposited your hand money (anticipate 1%-5% of your purchase price depending on your price range), you will be ready to schedule your inspections.  Next week I will talk more about inspections and how to get through them!

                                                                                 

                                                                                16 Highview Drive

                                                                                Start planning now for your fun this summer — 16 Highview offers a beautiful inground pool, ideal for warm weather entertaining, a NEW deck and 3.8 acres of privacy, yet sited in a mature Sewickley neighborhood.  With over 4100SF of living space plus a finished lower level, the home features an open floorplan ideal for entertaining.  Newly remodeled kitchen, 3 car garage, main level bed/bath for guests, walk-out lower level, sauna, wine room, screened porch & more!  Remodeled throughout and ready for immediate occupancy! $595,000.

                                                                                 

                                                                                52 Timberhill

                                                                                Amazing privacy on 10+ acres in Sewickley Heights, this custom designed and built home offers 11,000+ SF of exceptional living space set on a stunning parcel of land.  Gorgeous outdoor venues are ideal for warm weather entertaining, including resort-like pool and stunning patio with fireplace.  Additional exceptional features include 3 bedrooms including luxurious master suite and nanny/in-law suite, soaring ceiling lines, massive stone fireplaces, finished lower level gameroom and exercise studio, 5 car attached garage, huge custom kitchen open to family spaces and more!  An exceptional opportunity.  $5,900,000

                                                                                QUICK SEARCH

                                                                                  I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                                                                   
                                                                                   
                                                                                  Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                                                                  Associate Broker
                                                                                  HOWARD HANNA
                                                                                  REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                                                                  401 Broad Street
                                                                                  Sewickley, PA 15143
                                                                                  Cell: 412-779-6060
                                                                                  Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                                                                  kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                                                                  First Steps for the First Time Buyer

                                                                                  We’re first time home buyers – where do we begin? 

                                                                                  Buying a home is one of the best choices you can make.  Rather than paying money to your landlord so that he can be closer to owning an asset outright each month, when you make your monthly payment each month a portion actually goes to your benefit – when you sell the home someday, as long as the market is in a good place, that money is refunded to you (called equity) and you can use it to buy again.  It is, in effect, a forced savings plan and over time you can amass quite a large amount of savings while you are simply doing what you would have done otherwise – paying for housing each month.

                                                                                  To buy a home, however, you must have two things to start:  a down payment and good credit.  There a host of specialty loan products for first time home buyers far too extensive to review here, but figure on saving no less than 2.5% of the purchase price for a down payment if you are able to use an FHA product or 10% if you are going to use a typical mortgage.  Credit scores are also key.  Again, there are many things you can do to help or hurt your credit as you prepare to buy your home.  Do not open any new credit – don’t buy any new cars. Pay all bills on time.

                                                                                  When you think you are ready, start by finding a full-time buyers agent.  We now have Buyer’s Agency in this state and you need someone looking out for you from the outset.  Check the agent’s website, review references, interview if you wish.  Make sure you understand what the agent will do for you and be sure you have done your homework and are selecting the best agent for your needs.  Once you select an agent, you will need to sign two documents:  a Consumer Notice, informing you of your rights, and a Buyer Agency Agreement, whereby you actually hire the agent to work for you.  While the seller still pays the commission, an Agreement is still required to create the legal relationship whereby the agent is working for you and not the seller.

                                                                                  Your agent should then refer you to a mortgage broker for a pre-approval.  The broker will review your assets, liabilities and credit and give you a written statement of how much you can afford to buy.  This step cannot be skipped.  There is no sense looking at homes you can’t afford.

                                                                                  With pre-approval in hand and agent on board, you are now ready to begin the home buying process…stay tuned next week and I will continue to walk you through the process…its when the fun begins!

                                                                                  141 Beech Ridge Drive

                                                                                  Beautifully remodeled newer high-end custom construction home nestled on 8 private acres in Sewickley. Newly painted interior. New carpeting. New lighting.  Newer designer kitchen. Updated/new baths. Half-court indoor basketball court, full racquetball/squash court, complete locker room facilities including sauna, 60’x30’ heated in-ground concrete salt water pool w/ stone waterfalls, patio w/ outdoor fireplace, 6 bedrooms, 5 full & 4 half baths, 9 fireplaces, 6 garage spaces, two kitchens, wine room, roof-top observation deck, new home theater.  Simply remarkable! $3,500,000

                                                                                   

                                                                                  321 Merriman Road, Sewickley Heights

                                                                                  An exceptional opportunity to live on 42 gently rolling acres in very desirable Sewickley Heights.  Beautifully remodeled, this classic historic colonial perfectly blends sophisticated living, modern amenities, and stunning architectural details throughout!  Featuring 6 bedrooms, 7 full and 2 half baths, this home boasts a grand entry hall, large open kitchen and inviting two-story family room, well-cabineted butler’s pantry, two mudrooms, handsome private den, spacious formal rooms, main-level gameroom with three walls of windows, large bedrooms and fabulous master suite with dressing room. Glass doors open to charming patios which spill out onto the sprawling lawns!  Wonderful pool, outdoor kitchen and living space with impressive outdoor fireplace offer ideal venues for warm-weather entertaining and fun!  Four car garage. $4,250,000

                                                                                  QUICK SEARCH

                                                                                    I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                                                                     
                                                                                     
                                                                                    Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                                                                    Associate Broker
                                                                                    HOWARD HANNA
                                                                                    REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                                                                    401 Broad Street
                                                                                    Sewickley, PA 15143
                                                                                    Cell: 412-779-6060
                                                                                    Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                                                                    kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                                                                    An Acceptable Level of “Wear & Tear”

                                                                                    Sometimes it seems like everything is breaking around our house and we get behind on repairs. Isnt there some level of wear and tear buyers of “previously enjoyed” homes are expecting to have to accept? 

                                                                                    The process of selling and buying a home involves many fine lines. How far do you take preparing your home for sale? Do you really need to address all of the items suggested by your agent, the home stager or the home inspector who did a pre-inspection? Do you really have to attend to everything your family has broken or worn out over the years?

                                                                                    Anything that could come up on an inspection, if you know about it, really must be repaired or disclosed. My vote is repair. Even with items that are very obvious, when an inspector gets involved, he may blow the issue out of proportion and something that might have cost you $1000 to repair before you listed ends up costing you $3000 on the inspection request. If its something an inspector might find, you can bet he will find it and you will be expected to cover the cost of repair anyhow, so you might as well repair upfront.

                                                                                    Many buyers actually get quite nervous during the home inspection (also known as buyers remorse). If you happened to have gotten one of these buyers, it is possible that they could walk away from your deal if the inspection concerns feel too weighty to them. After you actually receive and negotiate the offer, the last thing you want to do is lose the buyer over items that you could have fixed but didn’t think anyone would notice or care about! In today’s market, they notice, they care. Sometimes they are willing to let you pay for the repair. Sometimes they just walk. Don’t take any chances. If you suspect it is likely someone would seek a repair, get it done!

                                                                                    Buyers, as much as I advocate for sellers to take care of the wear and tear items on their homes, it is important for you to be reasonable on your inspection requests as well. If you see an item that needs to be fixed while you are touring the home, take that into account when you make your offer and do not revisit it on the inspection. Inspection requests are supposed to be for items you didn’t know about and didn’t have a chance to adjust for in making your offer. Again, its a fine line buyers also walk in deciding what are fair and appropriate inspection requests of a seller.

                                                                                    321 Merriman Road, Sewickley Heights

                                                                                    An exceptional opportunity to live on 42 gently rolling acres in very desirable Sewickley Heights.  Beautifully remodeled, this classic historic colonial perfectly blends sophisticated living, modern amenities, and stunning architectural details throughout!  Featuring 6 bedrooms, 7 full and 2 half baths, this home boasts a grand entry hall, large open kitchen and inviting two-story family room, well-cabineted butler’s pantry, two mudrooms, handsome private den, spacious formal rooms, main-level gameroom with three walls of windows, large bedrooms and fabulous master suite with dressing room. Glass doors open to charming patios which spill out onto the sprawling lawns!  Wonderful pool, outdoor kitchen and living space with impressive outdoor fireplace offer ideal venues for warm-weather entertaining and fun!  Four car garage. $4,250,000

                                                                                     

                                                                                    49 Woodland Road

                                                                                    Boasting newer kitchen and baths in a sought after Village neighborhood, 49 Woodland offers a unique opportunity for newer construction in the heart of Sewickley Village.  The main level master offers hard-to-find convenience – with 3-5 additional bedrooms upstairs. The beautifully remodeled white kitchen opens to family room and sunroom, with 3 walls of windows overlooking the private backyard.  The three car attached garage offers another hard-to-come buy amenity in the Village, as does the finished lower level! $1,625,000.

                                                                                    QUICK SEARCH

                                                                                      I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                                                                       
                                                                                       
                                                                                      Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                                                                      Associate Broker
                                                                                      HOWARD HANNA
                                                                                      REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                                                                      401 Broad Street
                                                                                      Sewickley, PA 15143
                                                                                      Cell: 412-779-6060
                                                                                      Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                                                                      kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                                                                      Finding It Online

                                                                                      We’re hoping to move in the New Year and are beginning our search online – is there anything we should keep in mind?

                                                                                      The majority of buyers will shop online during their search for a new home, and many will actually begin their search there, like yourselves! The real estate industry has come such a long way in the 20+ years since I started in this business. Back in what feels like a different century (perhaps because it was), we used bulky multilist books that were delivered every other week to find homes for our clients. If you were in good with your agent, she might lend you a coveted book to take home and peruse! Now you can access the entire nation’s real estate inventory on national websites such as realtor.com in the comfort of your own home!

                                                                                      The internet has made it incredibly easy for buyers to do some preliminary research for a new home. It does have its limitations, however, which is where your expert real estate agent can fill in the gaps.

                                                                                      Online listings, if managed by a good agent, will always look amazing. Wide-angle lenses and professional photographers are employed, as well as photo-editing software, to make a home look as attractive as possible online. It’s worth keeping in mind that pictures may lie – be careful not to screen out potential homes just because the photos aren’t fabulous – rely instead on the wisdom of your agent. If she has listened to your feedback and is familiar with the inventory, she will be your best screen for which homes are better than they appear, and which may be worse.

                                                                                      Online listings also don’t give you much of a sense of location. While google earth may help with some of this, until you actually drive by a property, you may not be able to tell physical lot characteristics that may be a positive or a negative to you. Online listings also can do little to convey a sense of neighborhood or community. Again, that is where your real estate professional should be able to fill in the picture for you.

                                                                                      Finally, online listings are only as good as the agent who enters the data – there may be information about the property that is not entered into the MLS, either by agent oversight or by simple lack of space, that might make a home more desirable to you. Information such as camera security systems, water softener and purification systems, high-efficiency mechanicals and smart home systems may have real value to you and is rarely listed online. Online shopping is a great way to familiarize yourself with the market, but a local real estate expert is your best course of action once your curiosity grows more serious.

                                                                                      106 Raintree Lane

                                                                                      Fabulous newer Sewickley home checks every box! The huge yard offers plenty of play space! Inside, the open floorplan is ideal for daily living and entertaining. Upgraded kitchen with granite tops and stainless appliances is open to family room with fireplace and large breakfast room with walls of windows overlooking the yard. Finished lower level with full bath is ideal for indoor fun! Upstairs there are four bedrooms including a spacious master suite. Wonderful attached garage. Main level laundry. Fabulous deck off kitchen/breakfast room is wonderful for warm-weather entertaining. This is a well-built S&A home with a great yard, a great floorplan and a great sense of style! $555,000

                                                                                      321 Merriman Road, Sewickley Heights

                                                                                      An exceptional opportunity to live on 42 gently rolling acres in very desirable Sewickley Heights.  Beautifully remodeled, this classic historic colonial perfectly blends sophisticated living, modern amenities, and stunning architectural details throughout!  Featuring 6 bedrooms, 7 full and 2 half baths, this home boasts a grand entry hall, large open kitchen and inviting two-story family room, well-cabineted butler’s pantry, two mudrooms, handsome private den, spacious formal rooms, main-level gameroom with three walls of windows, large bedrooms and fabulous master suite with dressing room. Glass doors open to charming patios which spill out onto the sprawling lawns!  Wonderful pool, outdoor kitchen and living space with impressive outdoor fireplace offer ideal venues for warm-weather entertaining and fun!  Four car garage. $4,250,000

                                                                                      QUICK SEARCH

                                                                                        I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                                                                         
                                                                                         
                                                                                        Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                                                                        Associate Broker
                                                                                        HOWARD HANNA
                                                                                        REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                                                                        401 Broad Street
                                                                                        Sewickley, PA 15143
                                                                                        Cell: 412-779-6060
                                                                                        Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                                                                        kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                                                                        Selling During the Holidays

                                                                                        Our home is on the market – is it ok to show it decorated for the holidays or should we take it off the market?

                                                                                        Buyers who are shopping during the holidays are some of the most serious buyers we see each year – most people don’t bother spending their precious holiday time looking at homes unless they have a need to buy. So keeping your home on the market over the holidays is generally a good idea!

                                                                                        Decorating for the holidays while your home is on the market is also not a bad idea – homes often look their best decorated for the holidays – as long as a few basic guidelines are followed. Briefly stated, when decorating this holiday season, keep your decorations more neutral and reasonably simple.

                                                                                        Start by taking a more minimalist approach. You may have bins and bins of holiday decorations like I do, but when your home is on the market, its best to leave some of those decorations packed away. Choose decorations that have less of a religious theme. Snowmen, evergreen wreaths, poinsettias and nutcrackers, for example, have broad appeal. Be careful that the decorations that you do choose compliment your décor.   You may have changed the color scheme in your home since buying your holiday decorations and it’s important that they don’t clash! Don’t over-decorate the exterior of your home either. A few well placed, tasteful strands of lights or an attractive evergreen wreath can add sense of warmth to your home, but keep your inflatables packed up!

                                                                                        If you bring in a tree, make sure it doesn’t overwhelm the room. This year a tall, skinny tree might be the best choice so that the room doesn’t feel small. And of course, consider using decorations to highlight some of your home’s special architectural features, such as using candles to draw attention to an attractive fireplace.

                                                                                        When showings are scheduled, a brewing pot of mulled cider or a plate of freshly baked cookies is not only seasonably appropriate but will go along way toward creating an inviting feel for your buyers. And don’t forget – even if you normally keep your thermostat down, be sure to turn it up for showings so that buyers are comfortably warm!

                                                                                         

                                                                                        601 Academy Avenue, Sewickley – NEW LISTING!!

                                                                                        Stunning remodel of this signature Sewickley Village home!  Huge rooms, beautiful new white kitchen, remodeled baths and unparalleled architectural interest combine in a home you will enjoy living in and a location you will absolutely love!  Located in one of Sewickley’s most popular neighborhoods with tree-lined streets and sidewalks to everywhere.  Amazing, flat and private yard, detached garage with finished space above! $1,675,000

                                                                                         

                                                                                        49 Woodland Road

                                                                                        Boasting newer kitchen and baths in a sought after Village neighborhood, 49 Woodland offers a unique opportunity for newer construction in the heart of Sewickley Village.  The main level master offers hard-to-find convenience – with 3-5 additional bedrooms upstairs. The beautifully remodeled white kitchen opens to family room and sunroom, with 3 walls of windows overlooking the private backyard.  The three car attached garage offers another hard-to-come buy amenity in the Village, as does the finished lower level! $1,625,000.

                                                                                         

                                                                                         

                                                                                         

                                                                                         

                                                                                        QUICK SEARCH

                                                                                          I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                                                                           
                                                                                           
                                                                                          Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                                                                          Associate Broker
                                                                                          HOWARD HANNA
                                                                                          REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                                                                          401 Broad Street
                                                                                          Sewickley, PA 15143
                                                                                          Cell: 412-779-6060
                                                                                          Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                                                                          kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                                                                          The Power of Compromise

                                                                                          We would like to move to Sewickley.  Are there any affordable homes anymore?

                                                                                          Of course there are!  But Sewickley, particularly in affordable price ranges, has become a very competitive market.  It seems the secret is out – many people know about our very unique combination of a highly rated school district and a charming, walkable shopping district.  Every agent I know has a list of buyers waiting for affordable homes to become available!

                                                                                          What does this mean for you as a home buyer?  First, its critical to make sure you are fully pre-approved for a mortgage.  If you are fully pre-approved (having submitted all of the supporting documents to your lender), you may be confident in your ability to get a mortgage and feel comfortable waiving your mortgage contingency, which will make you a much more competitive buyer if there are multiple offers.

                                                                                          Second, keep your offer as “clean” as possible.  Try not to add in special requests or inclusions that sellers don’t usually leave with a home (such as furniture). Keep your inspection period as short as possible, or consider waiving inspections altogether if it is a newer home.

                                                                                          Third, keep your offer prices up.  If you love a home, that is no time to lowball a seller.  Even if a home has been on the market for a while, we often receive multiple offers at the same time. You don’t save anything when you make a low offer and you don’t get the home.

                                                                                          Finally, be open to compromise.  If a home meets 7 out of 10 of your wish list items, consider it a home run. In a tight market like we are in, if you hold out waiting for your perfect 10, you will likely find yourself sitting on the sidelines.  To get a Sewickley home, you may have to give up a garage, or a two car garage. You may need to take on a few projects.  You may need to accept that there is no master bathroom or no main level family room.  You may need to accept that the basement ceilings are lower and so any “game room” is a little more basic.  You may have to accept a less open floorplan or a longer distance to the center of town.  But remember, once you close you will make it your home, flaws and all, and will absolutely love being a part of this vibrant community!

                                                                                           

                                                                                          515 Spanish Tract 

                                                                                          Amazing privacy, peace and quiet in this gorgeous mid-century modern home sited on 8 exquisite acres in close-in Sewickley Heights.  Incredible remodel features a main level master, main level laundry and attached garage — this house easily functions for those seeking one level living.  Four additional bedrooms, four additional baths, wonderful walk-out lower level and stunning indoor pool with waterfall.  An amazing peaceful home with exceptional amenities.  $1,495,000.

                                                                                           

                                                                                          141 Beech Ridge Drive

                                                                                          Beautifully remodeled newer high-end custom construction home nestled on 8 private acres in Sewickley. Newly painted interior. New carpeting. New lighting.  Newer designer kitchen. Updated/new baths. Half-court indoor basketball court, full racquetball/squash court, complete locker room facilities including sauna, 60’x30’ heated in-ground concrete salt water pool w/ stone waterfalls, patio w/ outdoor fireplace, 6 bedrooms, 5 full & 4 half baths, 9 fireplaces, 6 garage spaces, two kitchens, wine room, roof-top observation deck, new home theater.  Simply remarkable! $3,500,000

                                                                                          QUICK SEARCH

                                                                                            I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                                                                             
                                                                                             
                                                                                            Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                                                                            Associate Broker
                                                                                            HOWARD HANNA
                                                                                            REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                                                                            401 Broad Street
                                                                                            Sewickley, PA 15143
                                                                                            Cell: 412-779-6060
                                                                                            Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                                                                            kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                                                                            Mortgages: Local or Online?

                                                                                            We are planning to buy a new home soon – we see advertisements for internet lenders offering what seem to be below market rates. Is this too good to be true?

                                                                                            If you are simply refinancing an existing mortgage debt, you MAY be ok choosing an internet lender.  You just need to be very careful that, before you apply to refinance your loan, you receive from the lender a full disclosure of all the costs and not just the rates. Oftentimes I see lenders have exorbitantly high fees connected with low rates.  In a sense, you are buying down your rate by paying high fees upfront.  Be sure to compare them on the same day to a couple of local lenders and understand what you are paying to get the quoted rates.  The reason you must compare rates on a singular date is because rates go up and down continuously and a rate may seem lower simply because you called a particular lender on a date rates dropped.

                                                                                            If you are buying a home rather than refinancing, I do NOT recommend that you use an internet lender.  They do not tend to be familiar with area norms and that can cause you more headaches than you can imagine.  There is a long list of particularities to PA Agreements of Sale and the last think you want to do is have your closing delayed (while your movers are standing at the curb) while you wait for your lender (who does not have a local presence that you can  visit personally to address any issues) to sort things out.  As they are not familiar with our Agreements and processes, internet lenders may also impose requirements on you to “fund your loan” that are not requirements generally imposed by local lenders that may disadvantage you later.  Finally, internet lenders often do not understand that PA Agreements of Sale declare “time is of the essence” inside the contract – what that means to you is that if you miss your closing date because the lender isn’t ready to close, the seller does have the legal right to declare you in default, keep your hand money and sell the home to someone else.

                                                                                            When buying, why take a risk?  Rely on your trusted Realtor to help you find a local lender who offers the most competitively priced loan products and delivers exceptional customer service.  Realtors cannot accept referral fees from lenders, so you can be sure we are motivated only by knowing you will have an outstanding transaction.  Feel free to reach out to me for help finding you the best local lender to meet your financing needs!

                                                                                            213 Chestnut Road

                                                                                            Beautifully remodeled Sewickley Village Victorian with high ceilings, open floorplan and fabulous original architectural detailing.  Wonderful newer master suite with stylish newer bath.  Four finished levels of living space including lower level gameroom. Flat backyard, two car detached garage.  A very easy walking distance to Village shops and restaurants. $795,000

                                                                                             

                                                                                            518 Irwin Drive

                                                                                            Exceptional opportunity to own one of Sewickley’s landmark homes! Recently remodeled with a current design aesthetic, this notable home is architecturally impressive and yet incredibly comfortable for today’s lifestyles.  Outstanding main level space includes a huge kitchen open to a large family room, spacious “homework room” adjacent to the kitchen, and living room, dining room and den.  Finished lower level. 6 bedrooms, 4.5 baths PLUS a nanny/in-law suite.  Incredible yard with room for a pool.  So close to all Village amenities and yet giving you the perfect amount of privacy.  $2,700,000.

                                                                                            QUICK SEARCH

                                                                                              I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                                                                               
                                                                                               
                                                                                              Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                                                                              Associate Broker
                                                                                              HOWARD HANNA
                                                                                              REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                                                                              401 Broad Street
                                                                                              Sewickley, PA 15143
                                                                                              Cell: 412-779-6060
                                                                                              Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                                                                              kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                                                                              Buying an Investment Property

                                                                                              We would like to buy an investment property – something that we can fix up and then rent.  Any tips?

                                                                                              Real estate rental properties can be a great way to diversify your investment portfolio and create an income stream for retirement, if you hold your properties long enough! During your ownership, if you have invested properly, the tenant’s rent should be covering your mortgage and taxes and maybe even generating some cash.  Over time, the rent will have purchased you a home and the income stream becomes cash in your pocket, or the home an asset you can sell and invest in something else (Retirement home? Child’s education?)

                                                                                              However, before you run out and start buying investment properties, there are a few things you should consider beyond the financial aspects. First, consider where you want the property to be.  Lower priced properties may not be in our best school districts, and while there are always people looking to rent, the rents will be lower.  Also consider the risk of non-payment.  The lower rent properties may also bring tenants with riskier jobs which could increase the possibility of having to evict tenants.

                                                                                              Consider your own location as well.  Do you want a long drive to the property if there is an issue?  Are you planning to stay local or might you be transferred, raising the question of whether you should sell the property?  If you are not planning to manage the property yourself, how much will property management cost you and how will that impact your profits?

                                                                                              Finally, and most importantly, consider how much “fixing up” you are willing to do.  Investors frequently underestimate the amount of time and money it will take to create a property that is actually desirable to renters.  You need to anticipate dedicating a significant amount of your personal time if it is a project.  The concept of calling a general contractor will deeply erode your profits – the best investments are the ones you are personally involved in at a high level. Also keep in mind when making your improvements, this is not going to be your personal home.  Your choices should be what the mainstream market wants and should be the least expensive choices that still convey an appropriate level of quality. Investment properties should not be your opportunity to put your personal stamp on a home – save that for the home you plan to stay in! If you would like to consider an investment property further, give me a call – I can help you with that! 412.779.6060

                                                                                              52 Timberhill – New Price!! 

                                                                                              Amazing privacy on 10+ acres in Sewickley Heights, this custom designed and built home offers 11,000+ SF of exceptional living space set on a stunning parcel of land.  Gorgeous outdoor venues are ideal for warm weather entertaining, including resort-like pool and stunning patio with fireplace.  Additional exceptional features include 3 bedrooms including luxurious master suite and nanny/in-law suite, soaring ceiling lines, massive stone fireplaces, finished lower level gameroom and exercise studio, 5 car attached garage, huge custom kitchen open to family spaces and more!  An exceptional opportunity.  $5,900,000

                                                                                               

                                                                                              22 Woodland Road – New Price! 

                                                                                              Outstanding opportunity to live on Woodland Road in Edgeworth!  The contractors just left this handsome brick colonial!  With newly remodeled kitchen and hall bath, this beautiful home is move-in ready! 5 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, 2 car attached garage, large eat-in kitchen, spacious family room, beautiful sunroom, main level laundry and more!  In an ideal neighborhood close to Village shops and amenities.  $1,025,000

                                                                                              QUICK SEARCH

                                                                                                I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                                                                                 
                                                                                                 
                                                                                                Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                                                                                Associate Broker
                                                                                                HOWARD HANNA
                                                                                                REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                                                                                401 Broad Street
                                                                                                Sewickley, PA 15143
                                                                                                Cell: 412-779-6060
                                                                                                Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                                                                                kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                                                                                Disclosing the Ghosts

                                                                                                I’m superstitious and want to avoid buying a haunted house.  Does a seller have to disclose that information?

                                                                                                We live in an old town, with homes dating back to the early 1800s.  With old homes comes a lot of history, and sometimes a ghost story or two.  While approximately half of our states do require disclosure of paranormal activity, Pennsylvania is not one of those states.  Pennsylvania also does not currently require a seller to disclose if someone has died in a home, although they cannot affirmatively lie if asked.

                                                                                                Many other states have adopted far more comprehensive disclosure laws.  In our neighboring New York, paranormal activity must be disclosed.  In California, any death in a home in the preceding three years must be disclosed.  And in Massachusetts, the law is even more comprehensive, requiring disclosure of paranormal activity, as well as whether the home was ever the site of a felony, suicide or homicide or whether someone with HIV ever lived in the home.

                                                                                                Our disclosure simply asks whether there are any material defects, which is defined as anything that could significantly impact value. Material defects would clearly include any major problems with the physical structure, as well as pending tax assessments and disputes over property boundaries with adjoining landowners.  But what about those ghostly apparitions or eerie cries in the night?  According to a well-known California appraiser who specializes in diminution of value, a well-publicized murder can reduce value by 15% – 35%.  Does a ghost reduce a home’s value and need to be disclosed?  Right now, the answer is no in Pennsylvania, although sellers wishing to avoid lawsuits would be well advised to disclose anything that could be seen as stigmatizing a property, including paranormal activity and deaths in the home.  For some buyers, value actually increases with the prospect of living among ghosts.  But before disclosing the ghost in your attic, be sure there isn’t a rational explanation for what you are experiencing.

                                                                                                Buyers, if you don’t want to move into a haunted home, what can you do to protect yourself in the absence of required disclosure?  You can start with the internet – do a thorough search of the property address and sellers’ names.  That will likely turn up information on any more recent concerns with the property.  You can also pay for a property report at Diedinhouse.com, but I can’t vouch for its accuracy. Some recommend burning sage to rid the home of spirits, and if all else fails, you can always call Ghostbusters!

                                                                                                305 Chestnut Road, Edgeworth – New Listing 

                                                                                                Utterly charming historic Village colonial set on a large lot with fully fenced backyard and private back patio, ideal for warm weather entertaining.  Nicely remodeled throughout.  Large kitchen with huge walk-in pantry and mudroom. Finished lower level includes large walk-in closet and full bath. Beautiful architectural detail and wood floors throughout. Dramatic ceilings, sun-drenched rooms.  $475,000  See more…

                                                                                                 

                                                                                                 

                                                                                                 

                                                                                                415 Orchard Street – New Listing 

                                                                                                A fabulous renovation of this incredibly spacious Village home.  Three finished levels including lower level with full bath. Beautifully renovated kitchen with breakfast “café,” coffee bar, mudroom with lockers.  Beautifully finished wood floors. Delightful covered front porch.  Quiet back patio. Fenced rear yard is ideal for pets. Exceptional condition throughout.  $795,000  See more…

                                                                                                QUICK SEARCH

                                                                                                  I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                                                                                   
                                                                                                   
                                                                                                  Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                                                                                  Associate Broker
                                                                                                  HOWARD HANNA
                                                                                                  REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                                                                                  401 Broad Street
                                                                                                  Sewickley, PA 15143
                                                                                                  Cell: 412-779-6060
                                                                                                  Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                                                                                  kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                                                                                  Making the Right Choices When Remodeling

                                                                                                  We are thinking of renovating our master bathroom – is that a good investment to make? If you are thinking of remodeling a portion of your home, it is important to first consider what is currently going on inside your home from a design perspective. It is not possible to overstate the importance of consistency in design when selling a home.  Buyers uniformly respond favorably when a home flows in a consistent “theme” through the home.  What does this really mean? In an ideal world, your color palate would move smoothly from room to room.  Every room does not have to be the same color, but the colors should harmonize.  In other words, you should not be using both the 1980s burgundy & green palate along with today’s grays and browns in the same home.  As soon as you begin to move a newer color palate in, the old one must disappear completely. Smaller details must also blend seamlessly.  If you like the nickel and chrome (silver based) colors, use them throughout for cabinet knobs, lighting and bathroom/kitchen fixtures.  Do not choose nickel for one bath and brass for the next. Buyers will subconsciously feel the home needs work as they will sense the lack of consistency.  The same is true for the bathrooms themselves.  If you decide to renovate your master bath, that does not mean you need to renovate every bath, but you would be well-advised to plan your master bath so it also harmonizes with what is already in your home.  If the “hardscapes” in your baths (counters, floors) are in the beige family, it would be a bad idea to do your master in white carerra marble, no matter how “in” that might be, unless you are prepared to update all baths.  Choose instead travertine, beige granite or a beige based marble that will blend more smoothly with your existing baths.  The impact to a buyer of “wonderful new master bath” will have the added benefit of helping to harmonize the entire home and will make the entire home feel more updated.  So yes, renovating bathrooms are an excellent investment, as long as your investment harmonizes with the rest of your home and does not make everything else look dated.  If that happens, you may be walking down a slippery slope where you need to take on more than just the master bath in order to recoup your investment!

                                                                                                  49 Woodland Road –   New Listing! Boasting newer kitchen and baths in a sought after Village neighborhood, 49 Woodland offers a unique opportunity for newer construction in the heart of Sewickley Village.  The main level master offers hard-to-find convenience – with 3-5 additional bedrooms upstairs. The beautifully remodeled white kitchen opens to family room and sunroom, with 3 walls of windows overlooking the private backyard.  The three car attached garage offers another hard-to-come buy amenity in the Village, as does the finished lower level! $1,625,000.    See more…   

                                                                                                   

                                                                                                   

                                                                                                   

                                                                                                  213 Chestnut Road Beautifully remodeled Sewickley Village Victorian with high ceilings, open floorplan and fabulous original architectural detailing.  Wonderful newer master suite with stylish newer bath.  Four finished levels of living space including lower level gameroon. Flat backyard, two car detached garage.  A very easy walking distance to Village shops and restaurants. $825,000  See More…

                                                                                                  QUICK SEARCH

                                                                                                    I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                                                                                     
                                                                                                     
                                                                                                    Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                                                                                    Associate Broker
                                                                                                    HOWARD HANNA
                                                                                                    REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                                                                                    401 Broad Street
                                                                                                    Sewickley, PA 15143
                                                                                                    Cell: 412-779-6060
                                                                                                    Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                                                                                    kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                                                                                    Finding the Sweet Spot

                                                                                                    Dear Kathe:

                                                                                                    You often write about making sure to price our home correctly for a better chance of a successful sale.  How do we do that?

                                                                                                    We all know the story of Goldilocks – be it the porridge being too hot, too cold or just right, or the beds being too big, too small or just right, or the chair being too hard, too soft or just right, the winning combination was not an extreme but the “just right” spot in between.

                                                                                                    The same is true when pricing homes, and in particular, Signature homes.  Price them too low, and they fly off the market, most likely far below a price you could have achieved. Price them too high and they sit for months or years. The trick is finding that sweet spot in the middle that will drive in an offer in a reasonable time, maximizing your return.

                                                                                                    But how to find this sweet spot?  If I could invent an App for that, I would be rich!  Zillow has tried, but their Zestimates are often hopelessly flawed for unique communities like Sewickley, and particularly for our Signature homes.  A computer in a remote location simply cannot translate all of the high-end amenities you may have added to your home into a realistic number. Human judgment is required. And yet your agent may not have the most objective opinion – you may be friends, for example, and he may not want to hurt your feelings. And it is certainly not wise to rely on your own opinion – we are least objective about our own homes!

                                                                                                    That is where the appraiser comes in. Having your home pre-appraised may be your very best course of action. For approximately $450, you can have an objective analysis that will not only allow you to most accurately price your home but will allow you to say to buyers “this home was priced based on an independent appraisal.” That will carry a lot of weight when buyers are assessing how realistic your price is and usually drives in a price close to the appraisal.  Please do note, this appraisal must be independent of a refinance – it must simply be done for pricing guidance for it to be truly objective. But if you take the time to get it “just right” out of the gate, after the buyers have tried on all the “too highs” yours will be the one they pick!

                                                                                                     

                                                                                                    188 Sweetwater Drive –  New Listing

                                                                                                    Kiss old house “problems” good bye and still live in Sewickley!  Sound too good to be true?  Check out 188 Sweetwater Drive.  Only 6 years old, this wonderful home is sited on an awesome half-acre lot at the end of a cul-de-sac in a fabulous Sewickley neighborhood!  Incredible outdoor spaces include Trex deck, patio and two firepits, all backing to natural woodlands. Three finished levels include huge finished lower level with full bath.  Gorgeous design aesthetic throughout unifies this incredible open floorplan.  4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, 3 car attached garage. $599,000.  See more…

                                                                                                     

                                                                                                     

                                                                                                    518 Irwin Drive – Home of Distinction

                                                                                                    Exceptional opportunity to own one of Sewickley’s landmark homes! Recently remodeled with a current design aesthetic, this notable home is architecturally impressive and yet incredibly comfortable for today’s lifestyles.  Outstanding main level space includes a huge kitchen open to a large family room, spacious “homework room” adjacent to the kitchen, and living room, dining room and den.  Finished lower level. 6 bedrooms, 4.5 baths PLUS a nanny/in-law suite.  Incredible yard with room for a pool.  So close to all Village amenities and yet giving you the perfect amount of privacy.  $2,900,000. See more…

                                                                                                    QUICK SEARCH

                                                                                                      I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                                                                                       
                                                                                                       
                                                                                                      Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                                                                                      Associate Broker
                                                                                                      HOWARD HANNA
                                                                                                      REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                                                                                      401 Broad Street
                                                                                                      Sewickley, PA 15143
                                                                                                      Cell: 412-779-6060
                                                                                                      Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                                                                                      kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                                                                                      To Remodel Or Not

                                                                                                      We’ve lived in our current home for 16 years and have kept up with maintenance but haven’t done much else – how much remodeling do we really have to do before putting it on the market?

                                                                                                      You’ve lived in your home long enough that you have probably “used up” a lot of the value that you bought with your home and will need to restore some of that value if you hope to protect your original investment.

                                                                                                      Carpeting is a really good example. I’m sure you are aware that colored carpeting must be replaced with neutrals, but even the most neutral of carpets should be replaced if they are 16 years old. Even if you don’t have pets and absolutely never eat or drink outside the kitchen, avoiding spills that could stain, after 16 years your carpets will have had more than a lifetime of use and the value that might have been there when you bought the home is long gone. In fact, the old carpets might even have a negative impact on price, even if there are not visible stains. The buyers will assume that they need to be replaced and will deduct their view of what that will cost from what they are willing to pay you for the home. Several of the “big box” stores have affordable neutral carpets in stock for quick delivery and installation, making this aspect of prepping a home for market reasonably straightforward.

                                                                                                      You should also consider whether you have used up all of the realistic useful life that might have remained in your mechanicals. For example, if you haven’t replaced the water heater in 16 years, then even if it was new when you bought it, you have used up all of its value – it has outlived its expected useful life. It would probably be a good idea to replace it with a new water heater – you benefited from 16 years of use from the old one – when you replace it you should think of it as simply restoring the home to its functionality before you used its systems for the past 16 years. The same can be said for furnaces – while their useful life is longer than a hot water heater, if its pushing past 20 years old, buyers are not going to look favorably on it. In fact, as you can imagine, this thought process can be applied to anything with a predictable useful life, such as kitchen appliances and roofs.

                                                                                                      How much remodeling you will need to do after living in the home for 16 years will depend on how quickly you want to sell it and how aggressive you want to be on price, but the higher the price you hope to achieve, the more “pre-listing” remodeling you should do, returning old mechanical systems to a full life expectancy for the new owner.

                                                                                                       

                                                                                                       

                                                                                                      49 Woodland

                                                                                                      Located on one of Sewickley’s most sought-after streets, with sidewalks to everywhere and within a very easy walking distance to Village shops and restaurants, this home is in impeccable condition and offers an outstanding opportunity for your family! 5 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, garage attached by breezeway, newer slate roof, gorgeous private yard, large eat-in kitchen, two gas log fireplaces and so many more wonderful amenities make this home a Sewickley Village best buy! $1,000,000   See more…

                                                                                                       

                                                                                                       

                                                                                                      625 East

                                                                                                      625 East Drive is the opportunity of a lifetime! Tastefully remodeled, elegant yet comfortable! Located on one of Sewickley’s finest streets. Built and maintained with impeccable attention to every detail. Richly appointed throughout. Beautiful kitchen loaded with amenities. Private study. Family room with arched windows flood the room with light. Restful owners suite with luxurious his and hers baths. Amazing dressing room. Four to five additional bedrooms, three laundry areas, finished lower level with game room and home gym. Two-car garage with bonus room above. Beautiful, private grounds with large stone patio. $2,500,000  See more…

                                                                                                      QUICK SEARCH

                                                                                                        I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                                                                                         
                                                                                                         
                                                                                                        Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                                                                                        Associate Broker
                                                                                                        HOWARD HANNA
                                                                                                        REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                                                                                        401 Broad Street
                                                                                                        Sewickley, PA 15143
                                                                                                        Cell: 412-779-6060
                                                                                                        Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                                                                                        kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                                                                                        Giving the Buyer Space

                                                                                                        My home has so many special features.  I think it would be best if I were at showings so I could explain them to prospective buyers.  Is that ok?

                                                                                                        When you are selling your home, its normal to think that only you can fully convey your home’s fine qualities to a buyer.  This leads some sellers to consider the possibility of being home for showings, so that they can make sure that the buyer prospects appreciate all of the home’s amenities.  While this may seem sensible to a seller, nothing could be further from the truth!

                                                                                                        When buyers visit your home, it is important that they be allowed the space to imagine the home as their own.  This starts, of course, with home staging, so that the home is not overly personal when the buyers arrive.  But it extends to allowing them to tour the home alone with their buyer agent.  For buyers to buy a home, they must bond to a home.  For buyers to bond to a home, they need to be free to relax in your home and chat with their agent about what they would do to make the home their own.  This will not happen if you are present. So what can you do to make sure they appreciate your home’s qualities?  Hire a listing agent who will design a custom brochure for your home that is available when buyers visit your home.  Such a brochure is your best ammunition – they can take it home and recall all of your home’s wonderful features and get their questions answered as well.

                                                                                                        Giving the buyers their space extends to the home inspections as well.  The period during the home inspection is one of normal buyer remorse.  Did we buy the right home?  Will a better home become available? Allowing buyers the freedom to return to your home alone will allow them to bond again to your home and stay committed to it during the sometimes difficult inspection process.

                                                                                                        In fact, the only time you should interact with your buyer is at the closing.  From initial showing to return visits, inspections and walk-throughs, you should always vacate your home and give the buyers their space!

                                                                                                         

                                                                                                        1410 Pennsylvania Ave- NEW PRICE

                                                                                                        Looking for a change of pace? How about a move into the city? Rare Gothic Revival
                                                                                                        home on Pittsburgh’s North Side showcasing remarkable architectural features and
                                                                                                        grand rooms. Meticulously renovated. 11’ ceilings on main level, hardwood floors,
                                                                                                        grand staircase, impressive fireplaces and woodwork. Remodeled kitchen with
                                                                                                        48” Wolf commercial grade gas range, well-designed and appointed butler’s pantry/mud room.
                                                                                                        Master suite w/ dressing room is a dream come true! Beautifully remodeled bath includes
                                                                                                        marble floor, soaking tub, custom shower w/ seamless glass enclosure. Three add’l bedrooms
                                                                                                        and two new baths plus upper level laundry room, game room. Professionally landscaped yard,
                                                                                                        private back patio, covered front porch. 2 car garage. $659,000   See more…

                                                                                                         

                                                                                                        439 Oliver
                                                                                                        Located in one of Sewickley’s most sought after neighborhoods, once inside you will be surprised how big this home is! Beautifully remodeled, it offers three spacious finished levels of living space, including a main level bedroom suite! The newer kitchen is open to both the dining area and large family room. Walls of windows overlook the beautiful backyard – French doors open to the private patio. A convenient mudroom provides access to the attached garage. The lower level includes a finished game room, full bath, fifth bedroom and a spacious storage/mechanics/laundry area. Close proximity to all village amenities and schools. Freshly painted interior…move in and enjoy all that Sewickley has to offer. $665,000  See more…

                                                                                                         

                                                                                                         

                                                                                                        QUICK SEARCH

                                                                                                          I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                                                                                           
                                                                                                           
                                                                                                          Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                                                                                          Associate Broker
                                                                                                          HOWARD HANNA
                                                                                                          REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                                                                                          401 Broad Street
                                                                                                          Sewickley, PA 15143
                                                                                                          Cell: 412-779-6060
                                                                                                          Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                                                                                          kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                                                                                          Neutral is the Way to Go!

                                                                                                          Everyone says we need to “neutralize” our home before we try to sell it, but what does that mean?

                                                                                                          If you watch HGTV or read my weekly articles, you likely know how important it is to neutralize your home before you sell. But what exactly does that entail? Paint color is obvious. Your home is far more likely to sell for top dollar if its painted in a neutral color palate. This does not mean your home must be nothing but white. It does, mean, however, that you should remove most strong colors in favor of “colored” neutrals – colors such as greige or light gray. A colorful room or two is fine as long as the color was chosen in the past couple years (trends in color change quickly, but when you live with a color daily and are not in the design business, you probably don’t realize when a color is no longer “in”).

                                                                                                          Neutral colors in floor coverings is also key. Colored carpets are extremely difficult to sell. Be careful with ceramic tile –when it goes out of style, it is painfully obvious that you have dated tile and its expensive to replace. However, neutralizing a home goes beyond paint color and floor coverings. Consider the age of your most likely buyer. Buyers these days in their 20s, 30s and 40s as a general rule favor clean lines to florals. If you have floral drapes, silk flower arrangements or large floral prints on your upholstery, this could be a real turn off to a buyer even though these items do not convey with the home. The impression says dated even if the structure itself is not. This is pretty simple to address, however. Pack these things up – you are moving – get a head start.  Drapes are great for decorating but unless they are very recently installed, they are unlikely to help your sale – most buyers prefer to see your windows. Slipcover furniture if it’s fabric trends toward yesteryear’s design styles.

                                                                                                          Neutralizing also goes to removing personal effects – family photos being the most obvious. And of course, its important to neutralize odor. If you have pets, keep litter boxes perfectly clean and pet beds, blankets and toys frequently laundered. Have a friend double check – you should not be able to tell you have a pet when you enter your home. If you smoke, don’t smoke inside. If you like to cook with spicy food, avoid it while your home is on the market. If musty odors emanate from your basement, run a dehumidifier 24/ 7. If your refrigerator stays with your home, make sure it is clean and smells fresh.

                                                                                                          A neutralized home may seem impersonal to you, but try to remember, you are moving! While it may not be your style, it is far more likely to attract a buyer and a good price!

                                                                                                          439 Maple Lane New Price – Its time to think summer! It might be cold outside, but come spring you will love the endless hours of family fun you can have in this incredible pool complex! Heated pool, hot tub and bar will make your new home party central! A top-to-bottom remodel of this timeless Edgeworth colonial, with gorgeous new white kitchen with granite tops open to stunning dining room. Hardwood floors unify great room, study, entry hall and mudroom. Up to eight bedrooms, 4.5 baths, 3 car detached garage. $1,275,000

                                                                                                           

                                                                                                          16 Highview It’s time to start planning your summer pool parties at 16 Highview! Nestled on a private 3.87 acre lot in an established neighborhood and featuring a beautiful in-ground pool, the views of sunsets off the back deck are spectacular! Exceptionally open floorplan is ideal for entertaining! Newly remodeled kitchen features granite countertops and stainless appliances. Two story great room. Main level also features a large den/home office, inviting dining room, laundry adjacent to the kitchen, inviting screened back porch and main level bedroom with remodeled full bath, perfect for a nanny or in-law! The upper level is home to a large master suite with en-suite bath and two additional bedrooms. The lower level is finished with two gamerooms, full bath, sauna, wine room and three car garage! $625,000

                                                                                                          QUICK SEARCH

                                                                                                            I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                                                                                             
                                                                                                             
                                                                                                            Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                                                                                            Associate Broker
                                                                                                            HOWARD HANNA
                                                                                                            REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                                                                                            401 Broad Street
                                                                                                            Sewickley, PA 15143
                                                                                                            Cell: 412-779-6060
                                                                                                            Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                                                                                            kbarge@howardhanna.com

                                                                                                            The Pre-Inspection Power

                                                                                                            I’ve heard that agreements on many homes have fallen through lately from home inspections – why is that?

                                                                                                            Our market has traditionally been one where buyers know they are buying old homes and allow the seller some leeway in not presenting a “perfect” home from an inspection standpoint. However, in many parts of the country, this is not the case. Sellers are expected to remedy all issues noted by home inspectors prior to closing. As more and more people migrate here from other parts of the country, our prices are going up, but so are the buyers’ expectations as to a seller’s responsibility for concerns discovered on a home inspection. At the same time, inspectors are getting significantly more particular. And so yes, it is absolutely possible to have purchased a home only two years ago and have new concerns arise that clearly existed and were overlooked when you bought your home. And yes, it is equally possible that you will be expected to fix them and if you refuse, your sale might fall through.

                                                                                                            This can often leave a seller feeling like they are the unlucky one who got stuck holding the “hot potato.” As the years pass, the list of “hot button” issues mounts and if you are the owner when the issue is discovered, you will be the one paying the bill even though the home was bought and sold many times in advance of your ownership. These hot button issues include items such as old sewer lines, radon, mold, damp basements, lead water lines, asbestos (fireplace inserts, duct tape, pipe wrap or flooring) knob and tube wiring and pushmatic electric panels. If your home has any of these issues, you should figure you will be the one footing the bill and address them before they become an issue on a home inspection.

                                                                                                            The best way to prevent an inspection fall through or an unexpected bill for defects is to have your home inspected before you put it on the market. A pre-inspection will allow you the opportunity to fix those items that can be fixed and disclose the rest to save yourself from a laundry list of requests. Be sure not to ignore the small stuff that comes up or that you know is wrong. For example, when I list a home, I specifically ask sellers if all of their windows open, stay open, shut and lock, and if any are cracked or have broken seals. Sellers more often than not disclose no issues with their windows and yet it is one of the most frequent inspection deficiencies. Take the time to do your homework – get your home inspected – repair or disclose any possible concerns – and save yourself from a long last-minute repair list and potentially even from losing your sale.

                                                                                                            518 Irwin Drive –  New listing!

                                                                                                            One of Sewickley Village’s most spectacular homes, this classic estate is majestically sited on a nearly one acre lot within easy walking distance of Village amenities – an oasis in the middle of our vibrant walking community. Beautifully appointed and maintained, it showcases rich architectural elements, including a breathtaking spiral staircase that connects all four finished levels of this amazing home. Incorporating an updated design aesthetic, this home seamlessly interweaves its historic architectural beauty with modern amenities including the beautiful huge kitchen open to the fabulous family room, mudroom connecting to the heated garage, “homework” room adjacent to the kitchen, finished lower level gameroom and home gym, and above-garage guest suite. A very special Sewickley Village opportunity. $2,900,000  See more…

                                                                                                            16 Highview

                                                                                                            It’s time to start planning your summer pool parties at 16 Highview! Nestled on a private 3.87 acre lot in an established neighborhood and featuring a beautiful in-ground pool, the views of sunsets off the
                                                                                                            back deck are spectacular! Exceptionally open floorplan is ideal for entertaining! Newly remodeled kitchen features granite countertops and stainless appliances. Two story great room. Main level also features a large den/home office, inviting dining room, laundry adjacent to the kitchen, inviting screened back porch and main level bedroom with remodeled full bath, perfect for a nanny or in-law! The upper level is home to a large master suite with en-suite bath and two additional bedrooms. The lower level is finished with
                                                                                                            two gamerooms, full bath, sauna, wine room and three car garage! $625,000 See more…

                                                                                                            QUICK SEARCH

                                                                                                              I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
                                                                                                               
                                                                                                               
                                                                                                              Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
                                                                                                              Associate Broker
                                                                                                              HOWARD HANNA
                                                                                                              REAL ESTATE SERVICES
                                                                                                              401 Broad Street
                                                                                                              Sewickley, PA 15143
                                                                                                              Cell: 412-779-6060
                                                                                                              Office: 412-741-2200 x238
                                                                                                              kbarge@howardhanna.com