The Markets Temperature

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Things to Consider

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

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

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

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

      Is It Priced Right?

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

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

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

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

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

        Candid Camera

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

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

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

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

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

          The Waiting Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

          QUICK SEARCH

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

            Market Timing

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

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

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

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

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

              Market Adjustments

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

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

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

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

              QUICK SEARCH

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

                The Final Walkthrough

                What should we expect from the Buyer’s walkthrough?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                  Can you Take it With You?

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

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

                   

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

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

                  QUICK SEARCH

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

                    When Will the Seller’s Market End?

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

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

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

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

                    QUICK SEARCH

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

                      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.

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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 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 companies when you purchase designated Energy Star appliances. Second – you will save money every month on your electric bills. Third – and most important from my perspective – younger buyers tend to be concerned about energy efficiency and often ask for utility bill information on homes they are considering. Energy efficient appliances are a selling point and will enhance the value of your home (don’t forget to point that out when you list!) As more young buyers enter our buying market (and they are buying across all price ranges), this could be an important differentiator for your home.

                                                              I still recommend that you choose stainless appliances. While there are many options out there including some pretty interesting colors, I still see buyers responding most favorably to stainless. Sure, they might be harder to care for (you will need a can of stainless polish in your cleaning cupboard), but the look is still quite appealing and “professional.” There is, however, one circumstance when I do not recommend stainless for replacement appliances. If your kitchen has another color appliance (white or black, for example) I do not recommend replacing only one appliance with stainless. If there is one thing buyers uniformly dislike it is mismatched appliances (unlike color, mixing brands is fine). So if you currently have white appliances and don’t think you will be replacing the other appliances soon, stick with white. Even though white (or black) does not have the same appeal that stainless does, a kitchen with two white (or black) appliances and one stainless is the least appealing of all!

                                                              Finally, it is worth noting that it is more the look than the brand that is important to buyers. As much as we all like to think the high-end brands are important to people it’s not what I am seeing on the selling side. If the appliance has a good look, buyers are not stopping to ask what the brand name is! So choose the brand that appeals to you – be it a budget decision or a features decision – and enjoy it while you are still in the 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

                                                                Setting The Stage to Sell Your Home

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

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

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

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

                                                                QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                  School:Home Value Ratios


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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                                  QUICK SEARCH

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