Sounds Too Good To Be True

Sounds Too Good To Be True

We would like to buy a new home soon but interest rates seem very high – we see advertisements for internet lenders offering what seem to be below market rates.  Is this too good to be true? 

If you were simply refinancing an existing mortgage debt, you MAY be ok choosing an internet lender.  You would 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.  Often times I see lenders have exorbitantly high fees connected with low rates.  In a sense, you would be buying down your rate by paying high fees upfront.  You would want to 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.

Since you are buying a new 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 thing 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 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!

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
    Don’t Let the Interest Rates Stop You

    Don’t Let the Interest Rates Stop You

    Interest rates jumped up again. Is it time for us to just wait until spring and hope they start to come back down? 

    If you are a buyer, the real estate market offers you a great opportunity right now! Don’t be fooled by the higher interest rates – this is an awesome market for you to buy in! Why? Because all of the people who you would have been competing with are afraid of the interest rates and sitting by the sidelines.  This allows you to have a competition – free opportunity to buy a home!  Just six months ago, buyers would have been overjoyed to have an opportunity to buy a home without competition, to have had an opportunity to have had an offer accepted on the first home they offered on instead of their seventh, to have been able to purchase a home at asking price rather than asking price plus 10 percent!  Do not miss this golden opportunity – there are some very nice homes available right now. You can refinance later with a convenient no cost refinance loan – get the house now! Once rates start to come back down, the buyers (who have all been sitting by the sidelines with you) will come racing back into the market, and bidding wars will be back. Make the smart move – buy now.

    And as a side note, I do not feel we will see a “crash” in prices.  Inventory remains at record lows and those homes that are selling continue to increase in their sales prices to new record highs, despite the increasing rates.  This is not 2008 – I am not anticipating any “deals” to be had this spring – if anything the natural increase in the buyer pool we see every spring will boost prices because of the extreme lack of inventory.  Feel free to reach out to me and we can strategize on how you can take the most advantage of the current real estate market while you still can!

    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
      A Market Shift

      A Market Shift

      We see recent projections forecast a housing downturn.  What do you think? 

      You are correct – Goldman Sachs recently released a paper forecasting that the US housing market will see a downturn. Their reports predicts that new home sales will drop 22%, existing home sales will drop 17% and the housing GDP will drop 8.9% this year and that the decline will continue in 2023. This downturn is attributed to rising interest rates that were implemented to combat inflation.  They have also noted that pandemic trends for second homes are fading.  That said, the report does not anticipate a downturn in prices – just demand – and suggests given other economic factors at play that the market will remain flat for most regions.  

      What does this mean for home sellers?  It means a return to traditional marketing. In other words, home sellers need to anticipate that they will need to take the time to condition their homes for market, stage their homes, and present their homes in an appealing way for buyers. Gone are the days, at least for now, when buyers are so desperate that they are going to buy homes in any condition just to get a home. Sellers also need to anticipate that it may take longer to find a buyer for their home — typically in Pittsburgh most homes would take between 120 and 150 days to sell in traditional market. Home sellers need to adjust their expectations and not anticipate that their home will likely be sold in one week.  It will also be very important to price your home correctly and not take giant stabs at the market just to see if it might stick. It probably won’t stick. Appraisers are starting to doubt valuations on homes and we are starting to see some appraisal failures. For you sellers out there, it will be very important for you to pay greater attention to whom you choose as your listing agent. Marketing techniques and agent experience will become all the more important in generating a successful sale of your home. Take the time to do your research and choose an agent with great experience in all kinds of markets.   

      Buyers – I seriously doubt that this is going to become a buying a free-for-all like we saw back in 2009. There is no anticipation that there is going to be a downturn in pricing in Pittsburgh. But the good news is you may be able to buy a home with less competition and you may even be able to get a small discount. You still need to plan on being well qualified when you go in with your offer.  And again, choosing a buyers agent with significant experience who can help you to understand market trends and where you should be offering will be critical to a successful home purchase. 

      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
        Understanding the Home Inspection

        Understanding the Home Inspection

        We find the inspection process confusing – do we have to fix everything in the inspection report before we close on our home or just the repairs the buyer requested?

        The home inspection report is the document from which your buyer works to make their repair requests of you.  Some buyers will ask for everything and others will ask for only those items that they think are important. They may let some things go, for example, if they are planning on renovating an area and anticipate fixing those items as a part of the renovation.   

        Once you and your buyer agree on a list of repairs, these are memorialized on an addendum.  It is that addendum, called a Change in Terms Addendum (“CTA”), from which you work when completing your repairs. You need not refer to the inspection again unless the CTA references it. You do, however, need to make sure that you do everything on the CTA exactly as specified, so be sure to read it carefully and provide a copy to your contractor(s).  For example, if the CTA says that you will have GFCI outlets installed by a licensed electrician then you need to make sure you hire a licensed electrician, and not your favorite handyman, to make the repair! If the CTA says you must paint to match existing then you need to take a sample of the existing paint to the paint store and color match it – don’t rely on old paint in cans – paint fades with age and it won’t match.  Be very careful to be sure you are complying with the terms of the CTA – if you do not, or if your contractor does not, your closing may be delayed or postponed until the work is done as specified. Along those lines, be sure to review your contactor’s work when complete and make sure that he actually did what you agreed to do on the CTA.  If not, request that he return before it becomes a walk-through issue. 

        And of course, be sure to get paid receipts from all contractors, or if they have not been paid, notify the closing company so that they can be paid at closing.  All repairs must be paid for before ownership changes hands so be sure to stay on top of your bills, and provide receipts to the buyers agent.  

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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

          Giving Buyers Their 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! 

          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

            Online Home Searches Have Drawbacks

            We’re hoping to move in 2023 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 internet has made it incredibly easy for buyers to do preliminary research for a new home. It does have its limitations, however, which is where your expert real estate advisor can fill in the gaps.

            Online listings, if managed well by the listing agent, will always look amazing. Wide-angle lenses and professional photographers are employed, as well as photo-editing software and virtual staging, 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 advisor 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 and high-efficiency mechanicals may have real value to you and is rarely listed online.  Thus, while online is a great place to start, it’s a great idea to choose your real estate advisor early (and you can also research qualifications on his/her individual website)!

            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

              Timeless Updates

              We aren’t ready to move but want to update our home – what are the best choices for paint colors and flooring changes, assuming we may want to move in the next few years?

              New paint colors must harmonize with the rest of your home, unless you plan to repaint the entire interior of your home, so any suggestions need to be taken in the context of what else is going on inside your home. My best suggestion for a currently fairly timeless paint color is Benjamin Moore’s Edgecomb Gray. This color blends with virtually every shade of white that might be on your trim and nearly every color flooring that might be in your home.  It is really more of a greige than a gray and, like a chameleon, changes color a bit depending on what is in the space and what kind of light is filtering in through the windows.  However, if your home is a palette if golds, for example, this color might not be the right choice!  Trending now is white on white (with trim and walls painted the same or nearly the same shade of white), but this is a design style that is best incorporated throughout the entire home, and not just a singular room.  If you have wallpaper in your space, then it’s a very good investment to have it removed (do not paint over it, no matter what the painter tells you) and painted in a color that coordinates with your design aesthetic. Wallpaper overall remains a difficult sell.

              As to flooring, real wood floors remain the best investment you can make. They are timeless and easy to refinish if they become worn or if the buyer prefers a different color. I highly recommend choosing a medium tone brown, not too yellow, red or dark and preferably in ¾” thickness.  If engineered wood floors are what your budget requires, choose one that the manufacturer indicates can be refinished at least once, and keep a few extra pieces on hand in case you damage any through normal wear and tear. Bamboo is another great option and there are on-line suppliers that offer a variety of shades in ¾” planks – it is very resilient, environmentally friendly and installed can look like hardwood. I do not recommend that you choose the latest trend, “LVL” (luxury vinyl flooring), for anything beyond the basement level of your home. These are plastic floors, and if your home will likely sell for over $500,000, these floors will not be appreciated on the main or upper levels. Finally, carpet in a neutral tone plush (no berber, no mixed colors) is acceptable as long as they are clean and stain free.  If you stain them during the remaining time in your home, you would need to replace them again before you sell 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

                Selling It Empty

                We plan to move out of our home before we put it on the market.  Any thoughts on selling an empty home?

                Some homes definitely sell more readily vacant – my last home was one of them – and so I definitely do not dissuade sellers from emptying their homes before selling them, but there are some important tips to keep in mind! 

                If you are emptying your home, then empty it.  Do not leave behind the items you don’t want.  Do not leave behind soaps, shampoos, chemicals, lawn fertilizers… Empty is empty.  So please plan on a complete clean out.  If you need help finding people to help dispose of items, give me a call!

                It is critical to be sure that once your home is empty, you bring in a handyman to make sure that everything is in good order.  Holes should be patched and touch-up painted, scuffs eliminated, carpets and windows cleaned, all lightbulbs working … When there is no furniture to look at, the condition of the home is all the more important.

                Make sure you have a plan for upkeep of your empty home.  The yard must be regularly maintained, including weeding, leaf and snow removal.  The interior tends to be easier to keep up, but do be sure you arrange for a periodic quick clean.  It is also a good idea to hire a neighbor or friend to check your home regularly to make sure that there has been no crisis at your home (such as a broken water pipe).

                Be sure to keep your home properly conditioned (warm enough in the winter and cool enough in the summer). I have actually seen mold grow inside a home when sellers do not keep the air conditioning running in warm weather in their vacant homes – this will cost far more to clean up than the air conditioning bill!  Finally, consider putting lights on timers so when buyers drive by in the evening, your home does not appear dark and unloved!

                Selling a vacant home is not a bad thing, but it is important that you follow these tips to be sure your home is presenting well to prospective buyers!

                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

                  Make it an Easy Walk Through

                  How do home sellers protect themselves from big walk through bills from a buyer? 

                  Buyers conduct a final walk through right before they close on a home.  This is probably the first time they have seen your home vacant.  If they find conditions they aren’t expecting, you 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 you money at a walk through.  Here are a few.  If you have any damage to your floors (even if it was there when you bought the home) and you failed to list the damage on your disclosure, and it wasn’t obvious when you walked through your occupied home (under rugs or furniture), you can expect that the buyer will expect you to pay for the repair/replacement when he discovers the issue, which could be a significant expense.  What should you do? Disclose. Disclose. Disclose! When you list your home, take the time to make sure your disclosure lists every possible condition issue with your home.

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

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

                  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

                    Going Neutral

                    Is it necessary to neutralize our home to sell it and what exactly 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 harvest beige 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 litterboxes 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 smells fresh. Whatever the source of odors, remove them — your home should be odor free.

                    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!

                    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

                      Inspection Expectations

                      What kinds of items would be viewed as “hot buttons” for home buyers on inspections? 

                      If you are a home seller, there is an ever increasing list of items that you will be expected to address if any are discovered on your home inspection.  Given that, if you are thinking about selling your home, it would be a good idea to determine if any of these conditions exist at your home and remedy them prior to listing your home.  Items that sellers are generally expected to address these days include:

                      Radon:  if your home exceeds 4.0pCi/l, you will be expected to remediate the radon, even if it was a low reading when you bought the home.  Radon varies over time. The estimated cost for a system is approx.. $1300.

                      Mold:  If there is mold anywhere at all, you will be expected to have it remediated. Basements and attics are the most obvious places mold hides out, but be sure to check showers and under sinks.

                      Electrical:  If you have knob and tube wiring, you will likely be paying for it to be removed and replaced, unless you price your home with a rewire in mind and disclose its presence. If your home has any Pushmatic brand electrical panels, buyers will also expect those to be replaced.

                      Broken Seals:  if you have thermopane windows, doors or skylights in your home, buyers will expect you repair the broken thermo seals.  This is evident because the windows have a cloudy look to them.  There are a few companies in Pittsburgh that can do this reasonably affordably. 

                      Septic/Sewer:  Sewer lines are the newest “must do” inspection.  If a buyer finds roots in your sewer line, at a minimum you will be expected to clear the roots from the line, but if they are bad you will be expected to line or replace the line.  This can be extremely costly so I highly advise that you camera your own lines in advance of selling and get them in good shape.

                      You can be certain that if any of these conditions exist in your home, you will be expected to remedy the condition unless you disclose its presence and price accordingly. 

                      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

                        Demystifying the Inspection

                        We find the inspection process confusing – do we have to fix everything in the inspection report before we sell our home or just the repairs the buyer requested?

                        The home inspection report is the document from which your buyer works to make their repair requests of you.  Some buyers will ask for everything and others will ask for only those items that they think are important. They may let some things go, for example, if they are planning on renovating an area and anticipate fixing those items as a part of the renovation. 

                        Once you and your buyer agree on a list of repairs, these are memorialized on an addendum.  It is that addendum, called a Change in Terms Addendum (“CTA”), from which you work when completing your repairs. You need not refer to the inspection again unless the CTA references it. You do, however, need to make sure that you do everything on the CTA exactly as specified, so be sure to read it carefully and provide a copy to your contractor(s).  For example, if the CTA says that you will have GFCI outlets installed by a licensed electrician then you need to make sure you hire a licensed electrician, and not your favorite handyman, to make the repair! If the CTA says you must paint to match existing then you need to take a sample of the existing paint to the paint store and color match it – don’t rely on old paint in cans – paint fades with age and it won’t match.  Be very careful to be sure you are complying with the terms of the CTA – if you do not, or if your contractor does not, your closing may be delayed or postponed until the work is done as specified. Along those lines, be sure to review your contactor’s work when complete and make sure that he actually did what you agreed to do on the CTA.  If not, request that he return before it becomes a walk-through issue.

                        And of course, be sure to get paid receipts from all contractors, or if they have not been paid, notify the closing company so that they can be paid at closing.  All repairs must be paid for before ownership changes hands so be sure to stay on top of your bills, and provide receipts to the buyers agent.

                        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

                          Using an Appraisal Contingency

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

                          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

                            Understanding the High-End Market

                            It seems that high end home sales continue to lag as compared to the rest of the market.  Thoughts? 

                            Our high-end market in the Quaker Valley School District is moving more slowly than the rest of the market, and this is particularly apparent when homes under $1 million are selling fast and at premium prices.  Speculation abounds as to why that is the case.  Many attribute that to the fact that our tax system was restructured several years ago to allow for a larger standard deduction and lower marginal rates but at the cost of limiting the deduction for property and income taxes to a combined total of $10,000.  Our property taxes are high in Western PA as compared to many parts of the country and that will impact expensive homes, with the possibility of the highest taxes, the most.

                            Buyers may need a general mindset adjustment. As a whole, our income taxes in PA are lower than the majority of states.  Our earned income tax here in Sewickley is only 1%, compared to 3% in the city of Pittsburgh. We do not have sales tax on clothes or food as many states do.  So while our property taxes may be on the high side, we are in a far better position overall than many residents of metropolitan areas with similar advantages to Pittsburgh.  Property taxes are just a cost of living, and if your bucket list includes the amenities of a higher-end home, the taxes are what they are.  The sooner our marketplace accepts this reality, the sooner our higher end homes will start selling again!

                            However, other high-end Pittsburgh markets are selling more readily than ours and while this article is not a political commentary, the reason most often cited by high-end buyers choosing against Quaker Valley is the school situation.  No one likes controversy – why move into it if you don’t have to?  If we can make unified forward progress, that may buoy our high-end market.

                            In the meantime, our middle and lower end market segments are moving fast and often with many offers.  Homes in these segments that are priced appropriately for condition and amenities are often selling with multiple offers, and in a very short amount of time.  These market segments are accelerating quickly in their pricing.  Waiting for the home to show up on your Zillow search is likely going to be too late.  If a move is something you’ve been considering, give me a call and we can strategize on how you can best meet your needs in this complex market we find ourselves in! 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

                              Protecting Against Overpaying

                              How do you guard against overpaying in this competitive market? 

                              You have a good reason to worry about prices in the market that we are in.  Currently it seems that prices have risen at least 10% in some price brackets since the new year.  That’s an incredible amount for the Pittsburgh market which typically appreciates at the rate of 1 to 2% per year. That increase is not being seen a crossed all price brackets – the million dollar plus market has as a general rule seen less. However, the majority of our homes are still seeing multiple offers and the prices are still coming in over the asking price.

                              Given the current state of the market, there is a high likelihood that those participating in some of the more intense bidding wars going on right now are going to end up overpaying for their homes. If they remain in their homes for 5 to 7 years, however, that should not be an issue. We should see enough market appreciation in a 5 to 7 year period to make up for any premium that might be paid in the current market. 

                              If you are getting a mortgage, the appraisal required by the mortgage company provide some level of protection. However, most appraisers are trying to make their appraisals come in where the market is presently, so that doesn’t exactly protect you from the “bubble” we may be experiencing. Additionally, if you are involved in a multiple offer situation, to be the winning bidder you will probably have to offer some level of “appraisal gap coverage” meaning that you agree to accept the appraisal at a lower number than the purchase price, should that occur.   So, you will not benefit from the typical protections afforded by an appraisal.

                              In the end, the answer to your question is that if you are buying in this market, you are just going to have to come to peace with the fact that you may need to do what appears to be overpaying in order to get a home for you and your family. However, in the end, even if the market does settle down a bit, as long as you are not planning to move in the near future, the market will eventually catch up with any premium you might have to pay.

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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

                                Impact of Interest Rates

                                How are rising interest rates impacting home sales? 

                                Rising interest rates are definitely impacting buyers.  Many buyers are having to step down their affordability levels and focus on homes that are less expensive homes than those they might have considered three months ago.  If you are a buyer and have been looking for more than a month, it’s a good idea to check in with your lender and request a new pre-approval and cost estimate so that you can be comfortable with what your payments will look like at the higher rates. 

                                For most sellers, however, the rising interest rates are not impacting home prices. We continue to sell homes astonishingly quickly and at record prices.  The pool of buyers considering a home may be different, but their number is not less.  At the present time, it does not appear that the notable increase in interest rates has impacted our market in the “affordable” ranges at all. 

                                However, the high-end market (over $1.5M) has always been much more susceptible to broader market factors such as interest rate increases.  There has been a notable (and hopefully temporary) decrease in high-end activity in recent months and rising interest rates may be playing a key role in that decline (along with the volatile stock market and other concerning world events). If your home falls into our high-end market, you may need to exercise patience with our market as your time on the market will likely be more in line with historic norms as compared to the current “flash sale” market we are experiencing in the $1.3M market and below.

                                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

                                  Waiving a Home Inspection

                                  The market is so hot right now and we aren’t having any luck getting a home – should we waive home inspections? 

                                  You are correct –the market under $1million is very fast paced right now, and in many instances, the winning bidder has waived home inspections.  That does seem to be what it may take to “win” right now but I cannot recommend that you make that choice.  Now several months into the “waive inspections” craze we are starting to hear stories about the expected fallout from this hasty decision.

                                  From the seller’s perspective, I highly recommend that you have your home pre-inspected and repair or disclose the relevant items.  While an inspection might cost you upwards of $500, it is money well spent toward a smooth closing.  If you have pre-inspected your home and provide the report to prospective buyers, you are doing your part to make sure your buyer is well-informed.  In the absence of a pre-inspection, I do not recommend that you accept an offer from a buyer who has not inspected your home.  I have started hearing from home inspectors that disgruntled buyers are seeking post closing inspections to find problematic items and sue the sellers for failure to disclose. You don’t want that to be you. If you have not pre-inspected, we can discuss strategies to allow a buyer’s inspection and still protect you.

                                  From a buyer’s perspective, as we all imagined would happen, the post-closing stories are starting to mount about buyers who purchased without an inspection and are now having all sorts of forseeable issues – roofs leaking, furnaces failing… If you are going to make this risky choice, you need to do so knowing that you will be assuming the risk of potentially tens of thousands of dollars of issues The contract specifically states that your inspection is your opportunity to find issues – if you waive that, you will be fighting an uphill battle to recover against anyone. Before you make an offer without an inspection contingency, you really do need to ask yourself if you are prepared to absorb those costs!

                                  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

                                    Don’t Make a Stink About Sewer Inspections



                                    Our neighbor just had to replace their sewer line – is that a common home inspection repair?
                                     

                                    Sewer lines have become as radon was 20 years ago – today’s hot button for home buyers. In some boroughs (Mt Lebanon, for example) the borough now requires that before a home seller can transfer ownership, the sewer line must be scoped and must be without issues. Here in the Sewickley area, we do not have any boroughs imposing any such requirement on home sellers yet, but many buyers today do have a scope performed of the sewer line as part of their home inspection. And yes, if issues are discovered, they do expect the seller to remedy them. If a sewer line needs to be replaced, the cost will likely be between $5,000 and $10,000.

                                    Sewer lines are not something we think about on a daily basis. As long as we don’t have back-ups, we assume that all is well with the line. But this is not necessarily the case. With older homes, sewer lines were made of terracotta pipe and this can break easily and can also be easily infiltrated by tree roots. If you live in an older home and haven’t replaced your sewer line, there is a good chance you have some issues.

                                    Paying for a sewer camera test is not anyone’s idea of a good time, but if you are contemplating a sale of your home, it is probably a smart, pro-active thing to do. If you discover a problem in advance, there may be some cost-effective options for you to solve the problem without a full replacement of the line. Sewer lines can often by lined with a plastic liner. Tree roots can often by removed by hydrojetting. If you wait for a buyer to perform the test, you may get stuck with a full new line — the buyer might not accept one of the compromise options. So its best to explore the sewer line now, before it becomes an issue, and make any needed corrections.

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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 Effects of Rising Interest Rates

                                       

                                      What impact do you think rising interest rates will have on the real estate market? 

                                      I can’t tell you how many years the Fed has been warning us that they are going to raise the interest rates, and then nothing happened. But now, it looks like it is finally happening. Less than one year ago, conforming loans with good credit could be procured at rates below 3% fixed. Now they have inched up to 3.75% for conforming loans. While these are still historically great rates, the days of mortgage interest rates in the 3% range appear to be gone and we are slowly inching upward.

                                      What impact will this have on the market? Typically, when rates increase the market slows. Buying power decreases – a buyer will qualify for a smaller mortgage amount when rates are higher. Even if a buyer qualifies for a loan amount, they may not want to pay the added amount each month attributable to the higher rate. Many buyers are cognizant of how much they don’t have available to spend on quality of life purchases, such as dinners out, when they have larger mortgage payments. This boils down to the fact that they may be unwilling or unable to buy at a price they could have last year, and this could depress housing prices.

                                      However, this is counterbalanced by the fact that we are in a market with record low levels of inventory, so it is highly unlikely that interest rates will have any effect on housing prices in the short run. If anything, rising rates should cause buyers to move quickly and lock in homes and mortgages before rates continue to climb. And this would be the most sensible short-term response to rising rates. Buyers – rates are actually going up! The time to act is now!

                                      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

                                        Sensible Repairs

                                        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 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.

                                        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

                                          Investment Properties

                                          We are interested in diversifying our portfolio and purchasing rental properties – any thoughts?

                                           The first thing to keep in mind when considering a rental property is how you intend to pay for it. Rental properties are investment properties and subject to different lending rules than the home that you live in. Therefore, a lender will expect that you put more down as a down payment on a rental property and you will pay a higher rate of interest. Typically, lenders are looking for no less than 20% down on your purchase.  And of course until you establish yourself as a successful landlord, your income is going to need to be sufficient to support the mortgage on your primary residence as well as any debt on your rental investments.

                                          The second thing you need to think about is what kind of tenant you are interested in renting to. If you are hoping to rent to a family who might be in town for a couple of years with a temporary job assignment, then purchasing an apartment building with one and two bedroom apartments is unlikely to attract the type of tenant you hope to find. In that scenario, you would be looking for a single-family home in all likelihood (or possibly a townhome) in a good school district such as Quaker Valley. If you are hoping to find young professionals, you might look for something closer to downtown that has a trendier vibe to it.

                                          You also need to take a look at the return on investment that you are seeking from the property. You will need to consider how much you are putting down on the property, how much you were paying in interest on any mortgage that you take out, your property taxes, maintenance of the building, any homeowners association fees, and any utilities that might be the responsibility of the landlord (these are typically utilities that are not separately divided in the particular structure, such as water).  Putting together a spreadsheet with all of the expenses and your expected income will help you to determine whether or not the anticipated net income is worth the risk of investment to you.  Be sure to build in some vacancy months – most properties are not leased 100% of the time.

                                          Finally, you need to give some thought to how you will manage the property. Are you going to hire a property management company to handle that for you, or will you be more hands-on? Who is going to handle maintenance requests when something goes wrong? The beauty of being a tenant is that if something breaks, it’s not your responsibility to get it fixed. But as the landlord, are you going to be taking care of the repairs and if not, do you have a reliable handyman on-call that is willing to handle those items for you. If you are planning for others to manage the property on your behalf, you will need to build those costs into your financial projections as well.  If investment properties are something you would like to consider, feel free to reach out to me and we can discuss these opportunities further.

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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

                                            Finding An Affordable Home

                                            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!

                                            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

                                              Home For The Holidays!

                                              Everything you could ever need, in one home, to live an exclusive life of leisure, luxury, convenience and privacy. This spectacular 11 acre Sewickley Heights estate is less than 1 mile from the heart of Sewickley Village and yet here, you will feel in a world all your own! 6 bedrooms, 7 full & 2 half-baths. Fully equipped chef’s kitchen, expansive family room. 2 home offices. Main level owners’ suite with private den and outdoor patio,  spa-bath. Main level laundry, mudroom, attached 3 car garage, home gym, wine room. In warmer months, enjoy poolside entertaining with the walk-out lower level gathering space with kitchenette and two locker rooms that opens onto the lush lawns, heated inground salt-water pool with poolside terrace and sport court. Entertaining is magical on the expansive stone terraces, with covered outdoor living room and outdoor built-in kitchen. Easy access to the Allegheny Country Club, Pittsburgh region luxuries, easy access to I-79 and the Pittsburgh airport. $3,750,000.

                                              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 and Retirements

                                                Senior couple having finance problems,they are using laptop for online payments.

                                                We are planning for retirement and thinking of paying off our mortgage – is this a good idea? 

                                                When it comes to personal finances, there is never a one size fits all answer. Financial advisors will often tell you that investing in the market will, over the long run, yield you a greater return than the interest rate you are paying on your mortgage (this has certainly been true in recent years what interest rates have been historically low).  However, markets are unpredictable and unless you are leaving your funds in a savings account at a bank, there is no guarantee you will not have a negative return in the market (see, for example, 2008). Additionally, if you pay off your mortgage, you are not getting the tax benefits of the mortgage deduction (available for mortgages up to $750,000 in size).

                                                However, the counter argument is equally, if not more, compelling for many people. Without a mortgage, you are freed from having to worry about whether you have enough cash each month to pay your mortgage. Without a mortgage, your monthly expenses will likely be significantly lower. This not only allows you peace of mind, but would also allow you more monthly cash to spend on things you want to spend on, whether they be trips, gifts, or just more “experiences.”   If you ever sell your home, you will have a much larger nest egg to move to your next residence, whether it is to be closer to children or grandchildren in another location or whether it is into a retirement community (many of which do you have substantial deposit requirements).  Finally, there is no “risk” to the return you will get by paying off your mortgage. You know what your interest rate is on your mortgage and how much of a savings you will get each month when you pay it down.

                                                However, it is never advisable to completely deplete your savings just to pay off a mortgage. If paying off your mortgage would substantially reduce or eliminate your emergency fund, then it is not a good idea.  If, however, you still have a few years until you retire and are able to pay down the mortgage at a significantly faster pace by increasing your monthly payment or by making a lump sum payment each year (perhaps designating a portion of a bonus that you receive toward your mortgage payment), tell me this is absolutely an option you should give some serious consideration to.

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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

                                                  To list or not to list

                                                  We are planning to sell our home but have an opportunity to sell it before it goes into the MLS – what are your thoughts?

                                                  Many people often think that it’s a great idea to sell before their home hits the MLS – you certainly save yourself the hassle of having to get your home completely ready for what could be a large number of showings. However, in this market, the multi list is really a sellers best friend for many reasons and I do not advise any seller to sell their home “quietly.”

                                                  Many homeowners have been bombarded with love letters this fall letting them know that, should they decide to sell, there is an eager buyer waiting to buy. Any realtor who is actively involved in our market will also likely have at least one buyer for just about every price category out there. All of these people would absolutely love the opportunity to be able to purchase a home without competition from other agents and buyers. But this is highly unlikely to be in a seller’s best interests.

                                                  The multi list is a very powerful tool when selling your home. It, and all of the attendant publicity, gives you the opportunity to cast a very wide net for buyers.  With the extensive publicity, any serious buyer is going to be highly likely to produce an outstanding offer. They will not waste time trying to decide whether or not your home is the right home for them. You are also far more likely to get a higher offer from multi list exposure as buyers feel the pressure from the market and will produce higher offers to inure they get the home. It is true that some people simply do not need every last dollar out of their home and may be comfortable leaving what could be tens of thousands of dollars on the table in order to get a quick sale, and you may be that benevolent home owner that wants to give somebody a break, but that isn’t most home sellers I speak to. Additionally, without multi list exposure, should you put your home under agreement with a buyer through a “secret sale” you are much more likely to get a long list of inspection requests.  Therefore, I highly advise that you select an agent experienced at handling the intricacies of multiple offer situations and get your home in the MLS!

                                                  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

                                                    Simplifying The Mortgage Process

                                                    Do you have any tips on how to get through the mortgage process as smoothly as possible? 

                                                    I certainly do!  Below are a few pointers on what you should not do if you want your mortgage to move smoothly through the process!  This is critically important these days when competition is more intense for homes!

                                                    • Don’t quit your job
                                                    • Don’t change your job
                                                    • Don’t get a promotion
                                                    • Don’t buy any large ticket items (like five hundred dollars or more!)
                                                    • Don’t make David Copperfield deposits (all funds need to be traceable)
                                                    • Don’t forget to tell anyone making a funds gift to you that you will probably need a gift letter and some proof (usually a bank statement) that they had the money to give
                                                    • Don’t forget to tell the lender about child support, alimony, wage garnishments or any other payroll reduction
                                                    • Don’t co-sign for even a candy bar!
                                                    • Don’t schedule a vacation before we close (especially a cruise)
                                                    • Don’t order Direct TV, Cable, Telephone or any utility that will pull a credit report unless you want to write a letter of explanation about the credit report to the mortgage company
                                                    • Don’t change your name during the mortgage process
                                                    • Don’t go window shopping and let people pull your credit

                                                    Assuming that seems pretty straight forward to you, below are a few more choices some buyers make that make the process more difficult than it needs to be:

                                                    • Not being up-front with your loan officer (hiding information)
                                                    • Finding a lender on the internet that offers an unbelievable low interest rate
                                                    • Using a 100% Online Lender
                                                    • Not using the name on drivers licenses for mortgage docs (use Jr. and Sr. if required)
                                                    • Not telling your lender if you lose your job before you close
                                                    • Not shopping for the lowest costs and best rates
                                                    • Delaying paperwork because you are irritated by the frequency and number of requests from the mortgage company

                                                    Take these pointers to heart and you will greatly simplify your mortgage process!

                                                    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

                                                      Financing Your Retirement Home

                                                      We are moving toward retiring and downsizing.  Is there anything we should be thinking about as we move toward this goal?

                                                      One very important thing for you to consider is how you plan to pay for your retirement home. If you are thinking you want to finance your home with a mortgage, you are going to need an income stream that the lender can use to qualify you for the loan.  Simply having a large bank account is not enough – the lender will need to see that your assets are generating enough income to pay for the mortgage and associated home ownership costs.  You may not have your assets invested in income producing investments and may instead be invested in appreciating assets.  Lenders will not consider capital gains when qualifying you for a mortgage, although they will generally look at your social security income if you are receiving that.  Many buyers are surprised by this issue, and find themselves retired with no regular income stream and unable (probably for the first time ever) to get a mortgage.

                                                      You do have options of course!  You could plan your downsize move BEFORE you retire so that you still have your employment income stream that can be used to qualify for a mortgage.  It is very important that you have not announced your retirement before purchasing the retirement home, however.  The lender will verify your continued employment right up to your closing date, and if they hear from your employer that you are retiring, you may lose your loan.

                                                      You could also plan to pay cash for your retirement home.  If you plan to go this route, you will want to make sure you have saved sufficient funds.  If you are planning to use your equity in your current home to buy your retirement home, you will need to consider how to bridge the gap between selling your existing home and buying the next one – there are many options available to you.  If you are planning a retirement and a move, please reach out to me in advance – I can help you strategize for a successful transition on all fronts.

                                                      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 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. 

                                                        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

                                                          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.

                                                          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

                                                            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.

                                                            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

                                                              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!

                                                              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 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.

                                                                  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 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

                                                                      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

                                                                        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

                                                                            What to Do With “Stuff”

                                                                            We would like to start cleaning out our home but don’t know what to do with all of our stuff – any ideas?

                                                                            The first thing you need to assess before you begin your clean out is whether you have any collectibles – anything of real value.  Generally speaking, this does not include your furniture, unless you have some very high-end antique pieces.  Used furniture is very hard to rehome unless it is a trendier Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, West Elm or Arhaus piece. Yes, we all have a few of those solid mahogany pieces, such as the Chippendale dining room chairs, and it’s just not what people are looking for these days. If you have a trendier brand name, you may be able to get some money for it but if not, you will probably be lucky to give the pieces away or resell them at a very small profit.

                                                                            To the extent that you have high value items, if they are extremely high value, then there are a few auction houses that would handle that for you and get you the top dollar possible with their online auctions.

                                                                            Assuming you don’t have any very high value items, the next decision you will want to make is how much effort you want to put into selling your items. The easiest option is to donate the items to charity. There are many organizations that will come and pick them up at your home (although I have noticed some organizations are charging a pick up fee these days).  Of course, you can always drop the pieces off at the organizations. The Presbyterian Church is also planning to run their Day on the Lawn again this year and have drop off days scheduled throughout the summer.

                                                                            If you were hoping to get some money for your items, then you will need to think about how much effort you want to put into this endeavor. The most cost-effective alternative to sell your own things is to sell them through either craigslist, ebay or Facebook marketplace. However, this does take a time commitment on your part.  If you really do not want to expand any effort, then there are several organizations locally that will pick up your items and auction them online. Typically they will keep 30 to 40% of the proceeds, but that may be worth it to you to not have to “lift a finger.”

                                                                            Finally, if you have items that are just not salable (for example, old car seats) there are also local organizations that will come and haul the items away for a small charge. There is even one local organization which will haul everything away for you and then separate out what is salable (and will sell them for you), donatable (and will donate them for you) and simply trash. If you would like more information on how to connect to any of these organizations, feel free to reach out to me anytime!  Good luck with your clean out!

                                                                            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

                                                                              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

                                                                                    Prepping To Sell

                                                                                    We are hoping to put our home on the market soon.  Any ideas for quick fixes that will help sell it fast? 

                                                                                    The easiest and least expensive thing to do when getting your home ready to put on the market is to start packing and decluttering your space. You’re going to have to do this anyhow in order to move and so you might as well get ahead of the game and start before your home goes on the market. Take a few minutes to consider whether you actually want to pay to move the items you are boxing up. If there our items you haven’t used in years (or maybe haven’t even taken out of the box since your last move), this might be a great time to donate them to a local charity. Otherwise, create more space by packing items that do not otherwise add to the “magazine appeal” of your home. If you have room in the basement or garage to make a small neatly piled stack of these boxes, that is OK. If not, or if the stack gets too large, I recommend getting an offsite storage facility. Be sure to put away any particular personal items. These would include religious items, political items and most family pictures.

                                                                                    Once you have the cluttered (and be sure to leave a few items for decorative interest – it should not look like a stripped down shell of a home), take the time to do a deep clean of your home.  Even if you have a weekly cleaning, the chances are there are many areas they just don’t have time to clean every week, such as HVAC return air vent covers, bathroom vent fan covers, baseboards, lighting fixtures… Online there are many resources for what not to miss in a deep-clean and this is a great place to start!

                                                                                    This time of year, another inexpensive yet wonderful way to increase the appeal of your home is to add annuals to your landscaping. Pots of well-watered, beautiful and colorful flowers go a long way in making a home feel inviting.  Be sure to keep your lawn well mowed, weeds out of your landscaping beds, beds mulched and shrubs nicely trimmed. The outside of your home is visible 24/7 and so it’s important to always keep it looking great. A fresh coat of paint on the front door and surrounding trim is also some thing you will not want to overlook. This is a very simple item to address and yet it is the first thing a buyer sees when they approach your home. It’s very easy for front doors to get tired looking, so take a look at yours and make sure the paint is fresh.

                                                                                    These simple and inexpensive steps will go a long way to adding value to 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

                                                                                      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!

                                                                                                            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

                                                                                                              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!

                                                                                                              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

                                                                                                                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.

                                                                                                                  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

                                                                                                                    Home Appliance Advice

                                                                                                                    We need to replace our appliances.  Any recommendations?

                                                                                                                    It’s a great time of year to be buying appliances – you may be able to grab a great black Friday deal!  However, do be prepared for a wait – the pandemic has brought on an “appliance shortage” and you may need to wait several months for yours!

                                                                                                                    When choosing new appliances, my first recommendation is that you choose Energy Star certified appliances for several reasons. First – check with your electric supplier before you shop, but rebates are available from many electric