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