Downsizing Options

We are thinking of downsizing, but can’t find a place to go.  Any ideas on how to approach this transition?

If you’ve been sitting on the sidelines this spring waiting for your downsizer to come on the market, you may be feeling disappointed right now.  We continue to have an extreme lack of inventory, and have for years in this particular category.  Here are some options for those of you who want to downsize to consider:

If you are looking for patio homes, we have a limited inventory in Sewickley, with Elmhurst (one available) and Sewickley Ridge (nothing available).  However, we do have nearby communities that have wonderful patio homes including options off Nicholson Road in Franklin Park and Ohio Twp, all still in “15143” including Diamond Run, The Fields of Nicholson and Traditions Sewickley Ridge.  We also have townhomes in Sewickley Village (one currently available), some with elevators, townhomes in Sewickley Heights manor, townhomes in Moon overlooking Sewickley and townhomes in Ohio township (still “15143”).  If you are looking for that illusive Village ranch, you may be waiting a while and looking at a large project to bring it up to modern standards, or paying a high dollar amount, as some of our smallest but well done homes are selling in the 700,000s.  We often have ranch opportunities outside the Village however.  We also have a nice selection of condos.  If you are hoping to spend a lot of your time traveling, while a condo may seem on the small side at first, it may be all you need if you won’t be in Sewickley all year.  For those with larger budgets, the new condos on Centennial are a very nice option. 316 Beaver Street and the Linden have undergone a smart remodels and offers stylish in-town condos.  The Brittany and Normandy provide additional options.

Perhaps you would consider a new adventure for your downsize?  We have had many local families move into the city, with some cool options to choose from.  If you are really looking to shake up your life, and don’t have a need for our school district, moving into the city might be a fun avenue to explore.

Early fall can be a very strong market.  We are encouraging homeowners who are considering a move to list this fall!  If your buyer is out there and we can’t find your ideal downsizer, there are the options of a delayed closing to give you more time, as well as an interim rental.  Give me a call if you would like to explore this further!

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 Basement Tells More than You Know

    After renovating our home, all that remains is our basement. How important is it (or worth it) to clean this space up and how far should we go?  Would I get the return on my money? 

    A basement often reveals more about a home than any other part of your home. It is therefore, more important than you might think that your basement present well. Most of what needs to be done to basements doesn’t need to be very expensive. Your basement should be easy to access. Whether you are staying or selling, excess clutter is not your friend –if you have a damp basement, it will harbor mold. Clean out now while the weather is nice! Your basement must be dry. If your basement just feels humid, then you must run a dehumidifier 24/7. If you have ever had water seepage in your basement, you will need to solve the problem. The quickest, easiest and most common fix is to make sure your gutters are kept clean, your downspouts are properly diverted at least 3 feet away from your foundation and that when it rains, water does not drain toward your home (in which case you would need to add soil to change the slope around your home). If that doesn’t work, you will need to invest in a professional waterproofing company.

    Your basement should be light and bright – adding a few extra bulbs to the ceiling is something easily done inexpensively that will dramatically improve the feel of your basement. A fresh coat of paint on the floor will also help and is cheap to do (use porch floor paint). Glass block windows are a good investment – they are not very expensive and they add extra security and protection against termites and water intrusion to your home (I recommend including a vent block in each window so you still have the ability to circulate some air). Cleaning up old and unused wiring and plumbing is also a good idea if you have a handyman who can do it cheaply for you – it will certainly make inspections go more smoothly.

    Getting your basement up to basic safety and code standards will also save you on inspections down the road. You should have a smoke detector near the furnace, any plugs should be GFCI outlets and if your basement connects to the garage, the door connecting them should be a steel door. Some of the more expensive fixes are unlikely to yield much of a return. Some people choose to spray their ceilings black – it’s a fun effect but unless the basement is being finished, it is unlikely to yield dividends. Others choose to parge their walls – this actually makes a sandstone foundation look much better, but unless you can do it yourself, it can be expensive.

    QUICK SEARCH

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

      Inspection Expectations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

      QUICK SEARCH

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

        Demystifying the Inspection

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

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

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

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

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

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

        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

          Using an Appraisal Contingency

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

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

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

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

          QUICK SEARCH

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

            Understanding the High-End Market

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

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

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

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

            In the meantime, our middle and lower end market segments are moving fast and often with many offers.  Homes in these segments that are priced appropriately for condition and amenities are often selling with multiple offers, and in a very short amount of time.  These market segments are accelerating quickly in their pricing.  Waiting for the home to show up on your Zillow search is likely going to be too late.  If a move is something you’ve been considering, give me a call and we can strategize on how you can best meet your needs in this complex market we find ourselves in! 412.779.6060

            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

              Protecting Against Overpaying

              How do you guard against overpaying in this competitive market? 

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

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

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

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

              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

                Impact of Interest Rates

                How are rising interest rates impacting home sales? 

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

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

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

                QUICK SEARCH

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

                  Waiving a Home Inspection

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

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

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

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

                  QUICK SEARCH

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

                    Don’t Make a Stink About Sewer Inspections



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

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

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

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

                    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

                      Security Camera Do’s & Don’ts

                      We have security cameras in our home – is it ok to leave them on when we show our home?

                      Video recording is permitted, except in areas where people have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as a bathroom. In those areas, you may not record.  Audio recording is much trickier, and most security cameras these days record video and audio.  In the state of Pennsylvania, audio recording requires the consent of all parties being recorded.  Therefore, the best practice, to protect yourself from any legal consequences, is to disable audio recordings of your showings.  This does not mean that you cannot listen in – you can!  It means you cannot make an audio recording of the showing.

                      Some sellers are just curious and want to know what people are saying about their homes.  Some won’t be able to figure out how to disable the audio recording component of their system.  In those cases, it is important that you prominently disclose that the property has video and audio surveillance. This needs to be done in a conspicuous way – you should post a notice at your entry door as well as someplace immediately visible on entry – I create a fun little sign with a smiley face that says “smile – you’re being recorded. Property is protected by audio/video surveillance.”  When people enter your property having viewed the signage, it is deemed implied consent to the recording. It is also important that you make sure that your Realtor clearly indicate that there is audio and video surveillance in the MLS Realtor comments as well as in the lockbox instructions, if applicable.  Do not forget to fully disclose your cameras to your agent (this should be done the first time your Realtor comes over, as recording anyone without their consent is illegal – not just the prospective buyers!) Over-disclosure is a good thing when it comes to recordings!

                      If you are a buyer, you should of course assume that every property you view is protected by audio and video recording and be sure to keep your comments to yourself until you are back in your car (many homes have extensive exterior surveillance as well as interior surveillance, so talking near the home is generally not a good idea!)  Keep interior conversations positive, but don’t say more than you would want to say directly to the seller in advance of submitting an offer!

                      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