Making a Seller’s Market Your Buying Opportunity

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

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

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

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

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

QUICK SEARCH

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

Why Now Is The Time To Buy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

QUICK SEARCH

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

The Importance of a Survey

Should we get a survey in connection with our new home purchase or can we rely on the seller’s old survey?

Often buyers do not order a survey of their new home and while this saves a buyer at least $400 – $500, ordering a new survey when you buy a home is a good investment. Surveys are valuable because they will show you whether there are any boundary issues with the property that might be expensive to fix later. For example, the neighbor may have built his new shed slightly over the property line. Getting that fixed might strain neighbor relations and cost you money. Better to let the current owner handle it before closing. Surveys can also reveal undisclosed easements across your property. You might find out that the neighbor has the legal right to have their driveway on a piece of your property or that the neighbor has a right to use your driveway to get to their property. While you may be ok with shared use, it is certainly something you want to make an informed decision about and not something you want to find out after the fact.

Surveys are also valuable because they show you where you can build and where you can install items such as decks, patios, pools and sheds. These can be expensive to undo if you make a mistake and end up on your neighbor’s property – better to make an upfront investment in a survey and get it right the first time. Surveys are essential if you are planning to install a fence or invisible fence. In these situations its actually an excellent idea to have the surveyor return to “stake” the property line so that you are certain you don’t put your fence on your neighbor’s land.

Finally, without a survey, at closing your title insurance company will issue a policy with “survey exceptions,” meaning that if you later find out there is an issue, the title insurance policy will not pay to resolve the issue. In order to get the best possible title insurance coverage, it is important to get a new survey.

When you are moving toward closing on your new home your settlement company will ask you whether you want a survey and I recommend that you respond yes!

 

106 Raintree Lane – NEW LISTING!

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

 

256 Thorn – NEW LISTING!! Open House- October 13th, 2019

Landmark Sewickley Village Home in Incredible Central Sewickley Village Location. Stately Stone & Shingle Masterpiece has been completely remodeled and seamlessly blends today’s modern amenities with gorgeous architectural detailing only found in the most elegant of homes! Magazine perfect high-end kitchen is fully loaded and open to the incredible family room & breakfast room. The most perfect pergola topped outdoor patio with custom log-burning fireplace is ideal for your warmer weather entertaining. 3 car garage. Just steps from the Village shops and restaurants.  Open Sunday 1-4pm. $1,550,000  See More…

 

 

QUICK SEARCH

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

Is Remodeling Necessary?

We’ve lived in our current home for 20 years and have kept up with maintenance but haven’t done much else – how much remodeling do we really have to do before putting it on the market?

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

Carpeting is a really good example. I’m sure you are aware that colored carpeting must be replaced with neutrals, but even the most neutral of carpets should be replaced if they are 20 years old.  After 20 years your carpets will have had more than a lifetime of use and the value that might have been there when you bought the home is long gone. In fact, the old carpets might even have a negative impact on price, even if there are not visible stains. The buyers will assume that they need to be replaced and will deduct their view of what that will cost from what they are willing to pay you for the home. Several of the “big box” stores have affordable neutral carpets in stock for quick delivery and installation, making this aspect of prepping a home for market reasonably straightforward.

You should also consider whether you have used up all of the realistic useful life that might have remained in your mechanicals. For example, if you haven’t replaced the water heater in 12 or more years, you have used up all of its value – it has outlived its expected useful life. It would probably be a good idea to replace it with a new water heater. The same can be said for furnaces – while their useful life is longer than a hot water heater, if its pushing past 20 years old, buyers are not going to look favorably on it. In fact, as you can imagine, this thought process can be applied to anything with a predictable useful life, such as kitchen appliances and roofs.

How much remodeling you will need to do after living in the home for 20 years will depend on how quickly you want to sell it and how aggressive you want to be on price, but the higher the price you hope to achieve, the more “pre-listing” remodeling you will need to do, returning old systems to a full life expectancy for the new owner.  Of course, if you are willing to discount the price upfront to allow for more than enough room for the needed updates, you can skip the remodeling and move straight toward listing your home!

515 Spanish Tract 

Simply spectacular renovation of this inviting home – nestled on 7+ private acres in close-in Sewickley Heights.  Expansive windows bring the stunning natural surroundings into every room. Open floorplan, with new kitchen, baths, flooring, windows, roof, generator… four outdoor venues to enjoy the beauty of the location from.  5 bedrooms, 4.5 baths. Incredible pool. Turn-key ready for you! $1,750,000.  See more….

 

 

63 Thorn

Expertly remodeled, 63 Thorn paints a modern landscape on a charming traditional palate to create an exceptional home for the millennium home buyer. Sited on a large lot with fully fenced back yard. The expertly designed and crafted kitchen (which is open to the family room) is flooded with light from an entire wall of windows that bring the private backyard into this warm and inviting space.  The dining room has also been opened to the back yard through an impressive wall of windows and doors, and spills effortless out onto the new back deck.  The second level is home to a new master suite with large closet and spa-like private bath.  Four additional bedrooms, two full baths and a convenient second floor laundry room complete the upper levels.  $1,399,000  See more…

QUICK SEARCH

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

Asking the Right Price

How long should a seller wait to reduce the price of their home?  Is it ok to start at a higher price and reduce the price later?

There are many “rules of thumb” in real estate that provide suggestions as to when a price reduction is appropriate. One of the most common is after “13 weeks or 13 showings.” In other words, if your home has been on the market for at least 13 weeks, or if it has had at least 13 showings, and you haven’t received an offer, there is a good possibility that it is priced too high and should be adjusted. However, there are many scenarios in which a price reduction is not warranted.  First, you need to consider whether there are any buyers in your market segment.  If other homes are selling readily and your home is not, then you need to re-evaluate your price.  However, if nothing is selling and there are just no serious buyers in the market, then reducing your price is unlikely to spur on a sale.  You also have to consider whether there are factors that are holding back your sale that could be corrected for less money than you would lose by reducing your price.  For example, if your home has dated carpeting or wallpaper, it may be more cost effective to change the carpet or remove the wallpaper.  Reducing the price is unlikely to incent a buyer to take down your wallpaper or change out the carpeting  — no one wants to do the work these days, so it might just fall on you in order to draw the offer. Additionally, if your home is in need of a more significant renovation, such as a new kitchen, reducing the price is not necessarily solving the problem – you are just putting your home in a pool of less qualified buyers who also probably don’t want to take on the project. In this scenario your two best options are either to reduce to below market so a buyer senses a deal and is willing to take on the project, or be patient and wait (the months or years) for a buyer to come along who appreciates your house as it is. Generally speaking, it’s a far better plan to price correctly out of the gate than to push the market and have to reduce later.  If you take a more conservative approach to pricing, you also have a good chance of a bidding war.  Reducing later is highly unlikely to bring buyers who have previously considered your home back to the table – they have moved on.  Even the 13 weeks may be too long if there are strong market signals that you came on too high.  My best advice is to trust the judgment of a local real estate professional when it comes to pricing – you only have one chance to make a first impression!

172 Bradford Road – New Listing!  On a nearly 2 acre wooded lot in Bradford Woods, this home is exceptionally convenient to Route 19 and I79 and yet is nestled in a quiet neighborhood in world all its own.  With private patios and decks, lush lawns and mature landscaping, its an idyllic setting just minutes from Pittsburgh and Sewickley Village. Originally a charming cottage, this home has been expanded to over 3000SF plus a finished lower level and a 3 car detached garage! Offering 4 bedrooms including a huge main level master with sitting room and fireplace, its systems were all recently updated – new roof (2015), HVAC (2014) and water heaters (2019).  $475,000.  See more…    

17 Linden Place  – Exclusively By Kathe  – New Listing 17 Linden Place perfectly merges the ideals of Sewickley Village living! Sited in a quiet neighborhood on a tree lined street with sidewalks to everywhere and on a large flat yard, yet just steps from Sewickley Village shops! Offering a completely neutral palate ready for your custom touches. Upstairs are four generous bedrooms and two nicely remodeled baths. On the main level the eat-in kitchen offers white cabinetry with granite tops, and flows into the adjacent family room with wood-burning fireplace and through doors onto the patio. The lower level is finished with exceptional indoor play space and bath. An exceptional amenity is the 4 car garage with unique apartment above!  $750,000.See more…   

QUICK SEARCH

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

Selling Made Easy

Selling our homes seems like it will be a very stressful endeavor.  Is there any way to make it any easier on us?

Once you have lived long enough, you realize that if there is something to be done, there is usually an easy way and a hard way.  When it comes to selling your home, why not make it easy? If you make it easy, you are far likelier to have a successful transaction.

First and foremost, make access to your home easy for buyers.  Use a lockbox and always be ready to show.  Busy agents with serious buyers don’t have time to track down keys held by listing agents, or worse yet, schedule showings around your listing agent’s schedule. You can’t sell if you don’t show – make it easy with lockbox access (which notifies your agent immediately every time it is accessed) and be ready to accommodate last minute showing requests.

Make negotiations easy.  When you do receive an offer, do not get upset or offended.  Every buyer approaches negotiations differently.  Some will need to give you long letters explaining their analysis of value.  Don’t take it personally – just understand that it is a unique opportunity to understand how buyers perceive your home.  If one buyer is bold enough to tell you, the chances are there are others with the same concerns.  While you likely put your heart into the home, you are leaving and need to detach.  Be pleasant and non-defensive in your response and try to focus on the one or two points in the offer that concern you the most.  The more flexible and good-natured you appear, the easier it will be to get and keep the buyer in the deal.  Be easy to reach during negotiations as well.  The more protracted the negotiations, the greater the chance the buyer’s interest will wane and you will lose the deal.

Make inspections easy.  I have said this many, many times, but if there are conditions that exist that are called out by the inspector and they were not on your disclosure, you should expect to pay for them or lose your deal.  You can make this very easy on both you and the buyer – have your home pre-inspected – then a buyer can make an offer knowing the condition at the time of offer and you should sail through the inspection.

Sound easy?  It is!  Keeping these simple concepts in mind will make your home sale much easier.

 

120 Fox Hill

NEW LISTING!!!  Sited on a 1.4 acre park-like lot with gorgeous views of the Sewickley Heights golf course, this fabulous custom built colonial has been remodeled top-to-bottom and features stylish kitchen and baths, open floor plan filled with natural light from walls of windows, finished lower level gameroom, new roof, new driveway, newly refinished floors, new lighting and so much more! $685,000.  See more…

 

 

213 Chestnut Road

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

QUICK SEARCH

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

Shhh…It’s A Secret

We are ready to put our home on the market but are private people and would prefer not to have the home in the MLS. Could you just show it if you hear of a prospective buyer?

I may be repeating myself here, but in this hot spring market, it really is an important message. There is simply nothing more powerful for driving in a high offer for your home than listing it with a real estate agent who is fully engaged in the marketing and selling of your home! Yes, you did ask a realtor, so you probably expected that answer, but here’s why.

First, Sewickley loves a secret sale. Everyone loves knowing what no one else knows yet, and buyers feel really special if they get the first chance at your home. But that secret sale is unlikely to drive in your best offer. What credibility do you as a seller have for pricing your own home? All homeowners love their homes and most feel they are worth more than the comparable sales. A real estate agent with a proven track record for pricing homes correctly is going to add an air of credibility to your asking price.

Buyers at secret sales will also automatically go for the “you don’t have a realtor” discount. In other words, you are saving nothing by not listing your home with an agent – the buyers will discount their offer to you based on what they think you would have spent in commissions. So your net will be the same (at best) as if you did have a realtor and yet you don’t have an advocate on your side helping you through all of the tricky scenarios that come up in selling a home.

Secret sales are also just that – they are not publicized city wide. There could be a buyer in the South Hills waiting for a home like yours and without a full market press, they will probably never find your home and may buy another, frustrated that “nothing” is on the market.

But most important of all – buyers at secret sales don’t feel the market pressure that a real estate agent can bring to your home. If there is a potentially interested buyer and they see your home marketed absolutely everywhere, they will assume that there are many other buyers out there and they are more likely to succumb to the pressure of the market and perceived competition and pay you more. If it is a secret sale, they can take their time, think carefully, and ultimately will either talk themselves out of buying altogether or talk themselves down in price. Neither is a good answer for you.

So don’t take any chances – if you are serious about selling, list your home with an experienced full time agent and engage the power of our larger market to drive in your best deal. Give me a call today and we can develop a strategy that is tailored to your specific  needs and goals!

 

1486 Beaver RoadNEW LISTING –  Incredible opportunity to own a nearly new home in Sewickley Village! Within easy walking distance of Village shops and restaurants, this custom designed and built home checks every box! The open floor plan is ideal for both entertaining and daily living. The two story great room

with impressive stone fireplace is open to the well-equipped magazine-perfect kitchen! Convenient main level laundry, attached 3 car garage,  finished walk out lower level, main level features a second master. 5 bedrooms, 4.5 baths. $850,000.  See more…

 

22 Woodland Road – NEW LISTING – Located in Sewickley’s premier neighborhood with tree lined streets and sidewalks to everywhere! Spacious custom built brick colonial on large, park-like lot. Hardwood floors unify main and upper levels. Outstanding amenities include NEW slate roof, main level laundry, attached 2 car garage, finished lower level, private back patio, park-like backyard, gorgeous 4-season sunroom, two gas log fireplaces, large rooms, exceptionally well maintained throughout.  A fabulous opportunity to buy this incredible location.  $1,000,000  See more…

 

QUICK SEARCH

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

Look In Your Pipes Before Your Sign Goes Up

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, 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.

16 Highview Drive – NEW PRICE – Wouldn’t it be sweet to spend your summer this year poolside in your own backyard? You will love the beautiful inground pool and 3.8 acres of privacy offered by 16 Highview, while living in a mature Sewickley neighborhood. With over 4100SF of living space plus a finished lower level, the home features an open floorplan ideal for entertaining. Newly remodeled kitchen, 3 car garage, main level bed/bath for guest, walk-out lower level, sauna, wine room, screened porch & more! Remodeled throughout and ready for immediate occupancy! $625,000.  Read more…

 

 

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

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

Better Not Wait ‘Til Spring

We’ve been thinking about starting our search for a new home but were wondering if we should wait until more homes come on the market this spring?

The spring market is here (although with the forecasted low temps for this week it may slow things down a bit)! Buyers are definitely buying right now, so if you think a move is in your future, despite the cold temperatures, the time to get started is now! We have seen homes that have been sitting for months go under agreement in the past couple of weeks, some with multiple offers, and our inventory is dwindling.  We still have many nice options available for you to consider, and this is a far better time to buy than March, April or May.

Why, you may wonder?  We have such a severe inventory shortage with lines and lines of buyers waiting for homes to come on the market. Many homes are selling in just a couple of days, before many buyers have a chance to get out and take a look.  As we head into spring this will only get worse. While none of us have crystal balls, there does not appear to be an avalanche of inventory coming on the market in the coming weeks. I expect by March 1st the bidding wars will begin in earnest for well-conditioned, well-priced homes. (As a side note, even with the inventory shortage that we have now had for well over a year, this is Pittsburgh and not California – buyers still exercise a healthy dose of common sense in making their buying choices and don’t tend to overpay – it is still important to price based on historic sales and not exceed recommended pricing by sizeable amounts). If you don’t want to end up in a bidding war, where there can only be one winner and it may not be you, shop now and avoid the crowd!  You may very well get a better deal than you could on the same house in another month!

In doing so, be sure to follow the advice passed on in prior columns (you can refresh your memory on my blog where these columns are posted each week –see www.AskKathe.com).  Be SURE that you are pre-approved so that when you are ready to buy, you don’t have to waste precious time with this necessary step. When you do this, be sure your credit is good or clean up any issues and reestablish good credit. Give me a call so we can get you set up to be notified of all new listings immediately! And if you might consider selling your home, call me today!  We have lines and lines of buyer prospects for your home!

 

244 Thorn Street

New Listing & Home of Distinction -Sited in an idyllic Village neighborhood, this stately brick home offers unparalleled architectural detailing and an exceptionally large home (6765 square feet) with 7 bedrooms, 5 full baths and a large main level with remodeled kitchen as well as living, dining and family rooms plus den! If you are looking for a special home to put your signature on, 244 Thorn Street is ready for your custom touches!   An exceptional Thorn Street value at $795,000.  Read More…

 

49 Woodland Road 

New listing and Home of Distinction -Boasting newer kitchen and baths in the most sought after Village neighborhood, on a gorgeous tree-lined street with sidewalks to everywhere, 49 Woodland offers a unique opportunity for newer construction in the heart of Sewickley Village.  The main level master offers hard-to-find convenience – upstairs 3-5 additional bedrooms offer plenty of space for family and guests. The beautifully remodeled white kitchen opens to the family room and the light, bright sunroom, with 3 walls of windows overlooking the private backyard.  The three car attached garage offers another hard-to-come-by amenity in the Village, as does the finished lower level! $1,775,000  Read More…

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 Update or Not to Update

We last updated our home twenty years ago and are now ready to downsize.  Does it make sense to put it on the market at a lower price or do we have to make updates before we list?

You absolutely do not need to update your home before you list! I’m sure that comes as a relief to you.  However, if the last significant updates you made were twenty years ago, you must price accordingly.  Even if your bath tiles are white, for example, and not a turn off, the size and style of tiles has changed in two decades and the baths, although neutral, will feel dated to buyers.  One of the biggest mistakes sellers make is to note what their neighbor’s home sold for and price theirs accordingly.  If the neighbor had new baths (as opposed to neutral baths) or a new kitchen, or new paint colors… they will get significantly more money for their home.  The key to selling with no updates is to get a likely value in “as is” condition from a local expert – I can help you with that! It is important to be clear when pricing, however, what you intend to do before listing – some sellers have projects planned but not completed and that would be important to take into account. As long as you price your home right, your home will sell without updates.

Before deciding to list “as is,” however, it is a good idea to consider what the cost of recommended updates would be and what they might yield you if you make the investment.  Usually, when updates are made right before a sale and are in line with current design preferences, your home will sell faster and the higher price you receive will be far greater than the cost of the updates. If this is something you would like to consider, I would be happy to meet with you to discuss what you might update and how the updates might increase your value.  You could then make an informed decision about whether or not to list “as is” or update.

In the end, you may decide that you value the simplicity of an “as is” listing and the increased price realized is not worth your time and the stress of a project.  Even in that case, it’s a good idea to still stage the home for sale by decluttering and giving it a good scrub down (including windows and carpets).  Homes that are clutter free and have been recently deep cleaned will also sell faster and yield a higher sales price, even if they are not as updated as buyers might prefer.

 

100 Buhlmont Drive

Seeking newer construction but want a home in the Quaker Valley School District?  Check out 100 Buhlmont Drive!  Featuring 4 bedrooms 3 full and two half baths and the convenience of an attached garage, this beautiful brick home offers an open floor plan with large kitchen opening to great room with built-ins and fireplace.  Main level laundry room offers additional convenience. Finished walk-out lower level.  Large yard with plenty of play space.  $647,500  Read more….

 

319 Scaife

Exceptional Sewickley Heights home will take your breath away with its unparalleled beauty. Sited on 5 private acres, it combines the authentic charm of a Sewickley Heights carriage home with modern amenities and stunning design.  Magazine perfect kitchen with top-of-the-line appliances and granite tops opens to a captivating dining room with fireplace and relaxing family room.  French doors open from the gorgeous living room, also with fireplace, onto the sprawling stone terrace, which spills out effortlessly onto the manicured grounds.  Enjoy coffee or wine relaxing under the wisteria-draped trellis. Incredible master suite with three walk-in closets and remarkable custom bath with radiant floors, Victoria and Albert soaking tub and large shower with custom glass enclosure.  Charming enclosed courtyard. Three car attached garage.  $2,150,000    Read More…

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

Happy New Home!

It’s  a new year and we’re ready for a new home!  What should we do first?

Well, you are asking a Realtor that question, so the answer is probably expected!  The first thing you should do is call me! Once you have done that, here is a look at what comes next!  First, we will meet and determine the likely value of your home in the current market.  The market is quite fluid and values move up and down depending on supply.  Currently we have had very low inventory for an extended period of time and buyers are getting very frustrated, so it is possible that we may see an uptick in values again this spring.  When we meet we will also review all of the many ways I will be marketing your home and the timetable for rolling out the marketing to optimize your result.

Once we set a timetable that works for you, you will want to spend some time “staging” your home. At the most fundamental level, this would involve you “de-cluttering” your home.  It’s amazing how quickly we will our closets, basements and attics!  Movers are not cheap – you do not want to move more than you know you will want to keep.  So now is the ideal time to start the clean-out. In fact, we sometimes have closings as quickly as 3 weeks after an offer is presented, so it is best to assume that you will not have much time to pack later and do the clean-out up-front.  This will also help your home show off its spaciousness and storage capabilities! If you are saving things for others (such as the pile of furniture I have stored in my basement for my adult children who I am sure are going to want my 30 year old furnishings someday!), then it would be advisable to find an off-site storage facility and move those items from your home (or more realistically, I would be happy to connect you to charities to come pick them up and give you a tax deduction in exchange – the reality is that those we save for probably really don’t want our stuff anyhow!)  If this all seems incredibly overwhelming to you (and you’re thinking you would rather stay put than face the inevitable clean out), I would be happy to connect you to a home organizer that can take on as little or as much as you don’t want to do! 

Once you feel you are “de-cluttered,” the next step toward selling your home would be to determine whether any repairs or improvements are needed or recommended.  I am happy to walk through your home with you in advance of your listing date and discuss what you might consider addressing and its likely impact on your bottom line.  Not ever seller wants to make repairs and improvements and ultimately that choice is yours, but the market data I will provide to you will help you decide whether its worth it to you to make the additional investment in your home.  If repairs are not possible, we will work on using the disclosure to make sure you are sharing the items upfront with the buyer and pricing accordingly.  This will protect you later from costly repairs if the inspector is the one to raise the issues. 

It’s a lot to do, but together we can make your 2019 real estate goals a reality!

 

244 Thorn Street

Sited in an idyllic Village neighborhood, this stately brick home offers unparalleled architectural detailing and an exceptionally large home (6765 square feet) with 7 bedrooms, 5 full baths and a large main level with remodeled kitchen as well as living, dining and family rooms plus den! If you are looking for a special home to put your signature on, 244 Thorn Street is ready for your custom touches!   An exceptional value at $795,000.

 

49 Woodland Road

Boasting newer kitchen and baths in the most sought after Village neighborhood, on a gorgeous tree-lined street with sidewalks to everywhere, 49 Woodland offers a unique opportunity for newer construction in the heart of Sewickley Village.  The main level master offers hard-to-find convenience – upstairs 3-5 additional bedrooms offer plenty of space for family and guests. The beautifully remodeled white kitchen opens to the family room and the light, bright sunroom, with 3 walls of windows overlooking the private backyard.  The three car attached garage offers another hard-to-come buy amenity in the Village, as does the finished lower level! $1,775,000.

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

Getting a Jump on the Market

Now that Christmas is behind us, we are thinking about making a housing change in 2019.  What is the optimal timing?

The strength of our early spring market is always weather dependent here in sunny Pittsburgh! In a “normal” winter our spring market starts in earnest in mid-January. Certainly by February you would want your home on the market if you are seeking a spring sale. Our early spring buyers (January, February and March) tend to be our best, especially following a period of such unheard of inventory lows. There is currently a long line of buyers eagerly waiting for new market introductions – the competition will likely be great in the early months of our new year, maybe even driving in more of the bidding wars we saw this past fall.

Of course, the interest rates have climbed steadily throughout 2018 and that may put a bit of a damper on rising prices in 2019 – but if inventory remains as low as it has been in 2018, the impact should be minimal.  And if we have a rough winter, as some predict, it may slow the start of our spring market.  But of course, we won’t know that until we are in the thick of it.

All things considered, my best advice to you is to give me a call today so that we can design a strategy that is best for your family and your personal goals. Being ready to go in the spring market as soon as it starts to show signs of life, be it January, February or March, will inure to your benefit!

 

111 Skymark

Gorgeous all brick newer construction in wonderful Sewickley neighborhood. 2 acre private lot. Fully-equipped newer kitchen with custom cabinetry, high end appliances including Sub-Zero, Wolf range, double ovens and Dacor warming drawer open to great room and amazing three season porch with impressive stone fireplace. Mudroom access to attached four car garage. Upper level laundry. Incredible master suite w/ spa-style luxury bath plus three additional bedrooms and three additional baths. Fun for all in the lower level with home theater, game room, exercise studio, full bath and indoor “endless” pool. $1,450,000    Learn More…

 

439 Maple Lane

Its time to think summer!  It might be cold outside, but come spring you will love the endless hours of family fun you can have in this incredible pool complex!  Heated pool, hot tub and bar will make your new home party central! A top-to-bottom remodel of this timeless Edgeworth colonial, with gorgeous new white kitchen with granite tops open to stunning dining room.  Hardwood floors unify great room, study, entry hall and mudroom. Up to eight bedrooms, 4.5 baths, 3 car detached garage. $1,421,000     Learn More…

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

Energy Efficient is Key

We need to replace appliances – any recommendations?

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 (Duquesne Light is one) 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 appliances (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 (in 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 its 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!

 

 

439 Oliver
Beautifully remodeled with three spacious finished levels of living space, including a main level bedroom suite! Gleaming hardwood floors unify the main and upper levels of the home. The newer kitchen is open to both the dining area and large family room with vaulted ceilings. NEW Quartz countertops. Walls of windows overlook the beautiful backyard – French doors open to the private patio. A convenient mudroom provides access to the attached garage. Upstairs there are three bedrooms including the restful master suite with beautiful bath. The lower level includes a finished game room, full bath, fifth bedroom and a spacious storage/mechanics/laundry area. Fully fenced backyard with fire pit. Close proximity to all village amenities and schools. Freshly painted interior…move in and enjoy all that Sewickley has to offer. $689,000   Read more

141 Beech Ridge Drive
Spectacular 22,000+SF estate nestled on 8 private acres in Sewickley. Remarkable newer custom construction. Newly painted interior. Half-court indoor basketball court, full racquetball/squash court, complete locker room facilities including sauna, 60’x30’ heated in-ground concrete salt water pool w/ stone waterfalls, patio w/ outdoor fireplace, 6 bedrooms, 5 full & 4 half baths, 9 fireplaces, 6 garage spaces, two kitchens, wine room, roof-top observation deck, new home theater. Simply remarkable! $3,900,000  Read more…

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

Selling Around the Holidays

Now that the holiday’s are approaching, should we take our home off the market and give it a rest until spring?

It’s a well established myth that our market slows down over the holidays!  While it might be true that we (happily) transact very little business on Thanksgiving Day or Christmas Day, the fall and winter months are no less vibrant than most other months!

An historic review of our market here in the Quaker Valley School District reveals, as you might have guessed, that March, April and May are our strongest months for homes going under agreement.  However, when it comes to the remaining nine months, when reviewing a multi-year cross section of data it is clear that they are nearly even in the number of sales that happen each month.  Yes, there are occasionally months like this past September when very few sales are transacted, and we are never really sure why that happens (anxiety over impending midterms perhaps?)  But taking a long term view of the market it is clear that the market is just as strong in November as it is in July.

Additionally, while there are more home sales in March, April and May, there will also be significantly more competition.  We have yet to abolish the notion that spring is the best time to list your home, and so many sellers (who don’t read my articles) are shooting for a “spring” market entry (and often miss the mark as spring means coming on in February, not May!)  If your home is currently on the market, my best advice is to stay the course – there is very little for buyers to choose from right now and there will be offers made on homes in the next few months – yours could be the one that sells!

 

1 Ohio River Blvd, Sewickley

Outstanding opportunity to own this signature commercial building with over 4000SF of space. Formerly the popular Schrman’s Kitchens, this property offers great visibility at the prominent intersection of Route 65 and Beaver Road immediately at the entrance to Sewickley Village, with off-street parking for 8-10 cars. This high traffic location is only 2 minutes from I-79 and only 11 miles from downtown Pittsburgh. Surprisingly large inside and suitable for many uses, the two-story space is currently configured with several offices and conference spaces, mezzanine area, additional open areas and two restrooms. An excellent investment opportunity, this is a versatile building with a flexible layout, high ceilings, a multitude of possible uses and an ideal location.  $195,000  See more …

 

1410 Pennsylvania Avenue

Looking for a change of pace?  How about a move into the city? Rare Gothic Revival home on Pittsburgh’s North Side showcasing remarkable architectural features and grand rooms. Meticulously renovated. 11’ ceilings on main level, hardwood  floors, grand staircase, impressive fireplaces and woodwork. Remodeled kitchen with 48” Wolf commercial grade gas range, well-designed and appointed butler’s pantry/mud room. Master suite w/ dressing room is a dream come true! Beautifully remodeled bath includes marble floor, soaking tub, custom shower w/ seamless glass enclosure. Three additional bedrooms and two new baths plus upper level laundry room, game room. Professionally landscaped yard, private back patio, covered front porch. 2 car garage.. $698,000    See more…

 

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 Importance of Going Neutral

Is it necessary to neutralize our home to sell it and what exactly does that mean?

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

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

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

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

 

907 Nevin

Fantastic remodel at a great price! Top to bottom renovation to this adorable Village home! 4 bedrooms, 3.5 new, stylish baths, 3 finished levels, new 2 car garage. Incredible open floorplan unified by new hardwood floors.  New kitchen with white cabinetry, granite tops, stainless appliances. Doors open to large and inviting, private rear deck.  Move right in and enjoy! $399,000  SEE MORE…

 

 

625 East

625 East Drive is the opportunity of a lifetime! Nowhere else in Sewickley Village do all of the elements of the ideal Village experience merge so beautifully in one home! Tastefully remodeled, elegant yet comfortable! Located on one of Sewickley’s finest streets. Built and maintained with impeccable attention to every detail. Richly appointed throughout. Beautiful kitchen loaded with amenities. Private study with richly molded walls and handsome wood-burning fireplace. Family room/morning room with arched windows flood the room with light. Restful owners suite with luxurious his and hers baths. Amazing dressing room with mahogany center island is loaded with storage and anchors this stunning space; walls of mirrored custom closets affording incredible storage ring this impressive room. Four to five additional bedrooms, three laundry areas, finished lower level with game room and home gym. Two-car garage with bonus room above. Beautiful, private grounds with large stone patio. $2,800,000   SEE MORE…

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 Almost Perfect Home

We have been searching for our new Sewickley home for about 9 months with no luck – there doesn’t seem to be much of a selection and we cant find our perfect home – any advice for a family of weary home lookers?

Sewickley is a small town which makes it a unique and wonderful place to live, but with it’s small town appeal comes a definitely smaller number of homes to begin with and yes, in some price brackets, inventory has been far tighter than it has been in the past. It is beginning to feel like Sewickley is such a great place to live that no one wants to move!

When we moved here 25 years ago from D.C., we had a long list of “must haves” that we searched the greater Pittsburgh area for. Our real estate agent showed us only one home in Sewickley – that’s all that was available in our price range at that time! It met very few of our must haves – it did not have a master bedroom, it did not have a two car garage, it did not have central A/C and it did not have a family room. But it did have tree lined streets and sidewalks to everywhere and that was our #1 criteria, so we bought the home despite all of its perceived shortcomings.

In the intervening years (and in the two Sewickley home purchases we have made since then), I have learned that if one wants to live in Sewickley, he or she will ultimately need to bend on the must haves a bit. Price will not help – no matter what the price point, there are simply no perfect homes. It is important to evaluate each home through a slightly different lens. Consider how close a possible home comes to meeting your needs. If it meets about 80% of your “hope to haves” and if you could change another 10% over time to be much closer to what you hope to have, with the remaining 10% being things you wish you could change but realistically cant and will have to learn to live with, then the home is likely a home run and one you should seriously consider buying. I call this the 80/10/10 rule – and I have observed that once buyers come to terms with this concept, they can finally find their place to call home. Those that hold out for “perfect” – looking for the home that meets 90%+ of their hope to haves – will find themselves sitting on the sidelines as one home after another sells – that needle in the haystack simply does not exist.

And so, for example, if you have found a great home with the space you need that is in terrific condition in a nice neighborhood and with a great yard, but you don’t love the kitchen and you think it is a bit too far from Starbucks, give it another look. 80% is likely a yes. The kitchen (10%) can be changed over time. And you can learn to adjust to the extra ½ mile to Starbucks – its still walkable! My best advice to you is to start looking at homes through this 80/10/10 lens – you may be surprised to find that “perfect enough” has been waiting for you all along!

63 Thorn Street

Expertly remodeled, 63 Thorn paints a modern landscape on a charming traditional palate to create an exceptional home for the millennium home buyer.  Sited on a large lot with fully fenced back yard. The expertly designed and crafted kitchen (which is open to the kitchen) is flooded with light from an entire wall of windows that bring the private backyard into this warm and inviting space.  The dining room has also been opened to the back yard through an impressive wall of windows and doors, and spills effortless out onto the new back deck.  The second level is home to a new master suite with large closet and spa-like private bath.  Four additional bedrooms, two full baths and a convenient second floor laundry room complete the upper levels.  $1,595,000 More Info Here…

219 Orchard

A spectacular Sewickley Village transformation!  Large two-story addition of 1000SF+ incorporates a new large family room, mudroom and luxurious master suite. This complete renovation included all new wiring, zoned central A/C added to the home, 2.5 new baths including a gorgeous master bath, addition of main level laundry and new kitchen featuring abundant white cabinetry topped with Quartz, stainless appliances, and large center island overlooking the large great room. New master suite includes vaulted ceiling, spacious walk-in closet with laundry chute, Fenced rear yard with patio. $599,000 More Info Here…

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 Inspection “Hot Potato”

As a home seller, are there inspection type items that we are simply going to be stuck addressing?

Who can forget the old childhood game – pass the hot potato?  The object, of course, was to not be holding the hot potato when the music stops.  We have our fair share of “hot potatoes” in real estate too, and just like in the childhood game, someone always gets stuck holding the hot potato.

You may wonder, what are these hot potatoes of which I write?  Years ago, it was radon.  If you were selling your home and it had radon levels in excess of the EPA limit of 4.0 pCi/L, you got stuck paying the remediation bill (usually less than $1000) because a buyer isn’t going to agree to buy a home with a radon problem.  That hasn’t changed, but if a home has sold in recent years and ever had radon, chances are it has been remediated.

Next, the media exploded with stories of illness caused by mold in homes and suddenly, sellers were faced with mold inspections.  There is the very bad black mold (Stachybotrs), but honestly, all molds have the potential to make you sick.  As you can imagine, buyers aren’t going to buy a home with a mold problem either, and once again, the seller bears the cost of remediation and often, the cost to solve the cause of the mold problem as well. The cost can be several hundred to several thousand dollars.

These days, the hot potatoes have expanded to include two tricky electrical issues.  Pushmatic electrical panel boxes are very expensive to maintain and the manufacturer is no longer in business.  Most buyers will require a seller to replace these panel boxes – the cost per panel is generally $1500+.  Knob and tube wiring is the other big hot potato for homes built before 1930.  Rewiring an entire home can range between $10,000 – $20,000 and so many homes retain this original wiring.  Most insurance companies will no longer issue new insurance policies on homes with this antiquated wiring.  Therefore, if knob and tube wiring is discovered on an inspection, the cost of the rewire also generally falls to the seller – very few buyers are willing to buy a home (at least not unless they are getting a substantial discount) if it has knob & tube wiring present.

If you own a home with one of these hot potatoes – radon, mold, pushmatic panel or knob & tube wiring – things that years ago wouldn’t have raised an eyebrow – you should expect that when you go to sell your home, you will be stuck with the cost of getting rid of the hot potato, if you haven’t already done so!

907 Nevin

Fantastic remodel at a great price! Top to bottom renovation to this adorable Village home! 4 bedrooms, 3.5 new, stylish baths, 3 finished levels, new 2 car garage. Incredible open floorplan unified by new hardwood floors.  New kitchen with white cabinetry, granite tops, stainless appliances. Doors open to large and inviting, private rear deck.  Move right in and enjoy! $399,000  More Info Here…

319 Scaife

Exceptional Sewickley Heights home will take your breath away with its unparalleled beauty. Sited on 5 private acres, it combines the authentic charm of a Sewickley Heights carriage home with modern amenities and stunning design.  Magazine perfect kitchen with top-of-the-line appliances and granite tops opens to a captivating dining room with fireplace and relaxing family room.  French doors open from the gorgeous living room, also with fireplace, onto the sprawling stone terrace, which spills out effortlessly onto the manicured grounds.  Enjoy coffee or wine relaxing under the wisteria-draped trellis. Incredible master suite with three walk-in closets and remarkable custom bath with radiant floors, Victoria and Albert soaking tub and large shower with custom glass enclosure.  Charming enclosed courtyard. Three car attached garage.  $2,150,000 More Info Here…

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 About the Basement?

After renovating our 100+ year home inside and out, all that remains is our basement. Our stone foundation is in decent shape.  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 still 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. I do not recommend painting walls with dryloc, however. Paint is food for mold and this might only cause more problems!

 

FEATURED HOMES

111 Skymark  – New Price! 

Gorgeous all brick newer construction in wonderful Sewickley neighborhood. 2 acre private lot, beautifully landscaped with plenty of green space. Fully-equipped newer kitchen with custom cabinetry, high end appliances including Sub-Zero, Wolf range, double ovens and Dacor warming drawer open to great room and amazing three season porch with impressive stone fireplace. Mudroom access to attached three car garage. Upper level laundry. Incredible master suite w/ spa-style luxury bath plus three additional bedrooms and three additional baths. Fun for all in the lower level with home theater, game room, exercise studio, full bath and indoor “endless” pool. $1,450,000… See more

 

1432 Beaver Road

Complete architect-designed interior renovation of this elegant Sewickley Village Queen Anne Victorian. Sited on a private 1.7 acre lot in the heart of Sewickley Village.  Meticulous renovation and transformation into a home that works perfectly for millennial families. 5000SFF+. Remodeled kitchen seamlessly incorporates new cabinetry and granite tops while integrating refinished antique glass cabinet doors into the design. Completely redesigned master suite, with sitting area, turret reading nook, luxurious bathroom and exercise room. Impressive development of the lower level incorporates a family room, office, kitchenette/bar area and powder room into the home. $1,200,000.  See More

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

The Effect of Rising Mortgages

We’ve noticed interest rates are rising on mortgages.  What effect do you think that will have on our market?

You are correct – the fed raised the interest rates AGAIN this year, and have indicated that we need to be prepared for two more rate increases in 2018. Those increases are expected in September and December and many forecasters are expecting that rates will be over 5% by 2019.  The economy has been incredibly strong and unemployment is lower than it’s been since the 1960s (excepting one month in 2000).  With a surging economy, the fed is forced to raise rates in an attempt to keep investors interested in mortgages, control inflation and avoid a possible future economic crash.  Rates are ¾ point higher than they were last year.  Nonetheless, historically 6% is considered an excellent interest rate and they are still well below that!

With all of that in mind, today is as good as its going to get for years to come for mortgage interest rates.  So don’t procrastinate any longer!  If you are thinking of a move, there is no better time than now to find a new home and lock in your interest rate.  In September you will likely pay more for the same house over the life of your loan than  you would if you bought it roday.  What impact will these rising rates have on the market?  Some buyers will not be able to afford a home that they could have afforded previously – as rates rise all borrowers will qualify to borrow less and that lower number may or may not be enough for you to be able to buy the home of your dreams.  All buyers will pay more for their homes over the life of the loan than the could have had they purchased earlier.  Ultimately, higher rates could depress home values as buyers can afford less, but I do not see that happening in this market.  We just do not have enough inventory for rising rates to depress home prices…yet.  But if we ever bring supply in line with demand again, we may see rising rates soften home values.

Of course, as rates rise it becomes very important to shop your loan product.  Those who get two lender estimates save on average $1500 upfront and those that get 5 save $3000 upfront on average.  Most buyers will take the time to shop around for a new car, so why not take the same approach toward your mortgage. With rising rates, you will appreciate the  upfront savings!

Featured Homes

625 East Drive

The opportunity of a lifetime! All of the elements of the ideal Village experience merge beautifully in one home! Tastefully remodeled, elegant yet comfortable! Located on one of Sewickley’s finest streets. Built and maintained with impeccable attention to every detail. Richly appointed throughout. Beautiful kitchen loaded with amenities. Private study with richly molded walls and handsome wood-burning fireplace. Family room/morning room with arched windows flood the room with light. Restful owners suite with luxurious his and hers baths. Amazing dressing room with mahogany center island. Four to five additional bedrooms, three laundry areas, finished lower level with game room and home gym. Two-car garage with bonus room above. Beautiful, private grounds with large stone patio. $2,800,000

 

219 Orchard Lane

A spectacular Sewickley Village transformation!  Large two-story addition of 1000SF+ incorporates a new large family room, mudroom and luxurious master suite. This complete renovation included all new wiring, zoned central A/C added to the home, 2.5 new baths including a gorgeous master bath, addition of main level laundry and new kitchen featuring abundant white cabinetry topped with Quartz, stainless appliances, and large center island overlooking the large great room. New master suite includes vaulted ceiling, spacious walk-in closet with laundry chute, Fenced rear yard with patio.  $650,000

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 Expect When You’re Inspecting

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

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

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

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

Featured Homes

215 Pine Road

Incredibly charming and perfectly remodeled Edgeworth brick colonial sited on a large level lot, close to all Village amenities and Sewickley Academy.  Beautiful newer kitchen, huge living room, inviting dining room and main level guest room complete the main level. Finished lower level includes full bath. Three additional bedrooms on the upper level.  $599,000

 

 

212 New England Place

Located on a quiet cul-de-sac in a prime Edgeworth location, this spacious colonial is loaded with amenities.  Classic details blend with modern.  Newly refinished hardwood floors unify the main level of the home. New kitchen with stainless appliances is open to dining and family areas.  Three walls of windows flood the family rom with natural light and bring the backyard into this wonderful space. Four large bedrooms, two new baths on the upper level plus a finished lower level with full bath. $595,000

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

Seeking Other Options?

We’ve been patiently waiting for a home in the Village – prices seem to be going up and we still haven’t found anything.  Any advice?  Should we consider Wexford?

We are in the middle of a very long inventory shortage.  April is almost here and we may see more homes come on the market (I sure hope so), but it would take 100+ homes to hit he market in the next few weeks to even begin to address our inventory shortage.  That shortage is region wide – there is no magic to looking in other areas – inventory is low across our entire area right now. That said, why not give some serious consideration to homes in Sewickley that are not in the Village?

Sewickley homes located “up the hill” offer many of the same advantages as Village homes!  Their owners feel a part of our community and can take advantage of our exceptional school district.  But “up the hill homes offer many benefits that are harder to find in Village homes.

  • “Up the hill” homes are typically on significantly larger lots than those in the Village – more space for Fido and the kids to play!
  • As a result of the larger lots, “up the hill” homes typically offer much more privacy – you won’t know your neighbor’s every move!
  • “Up the hill” homes tend to be much newer, which means they have more updated floor plans, larger closets, more and larger garages.
  • Because they are newer, “up the hill” homes tend to require far less maintenance as their plumbing, wiring and HVAC are modern, which means more money for fun things like vacations!
  • In an “up the hill” home your kids can’t wander off into the Village without you being aware!
  • “Up the hill” homes usually offer a much better value – you will get a bigger home on a bigger lot in more updated condition for less money than you could buy in the Village!

Don’t give up on Sewickley – we have many wonderful homes—just broaden your horizons and take a look “up the hill.”  Check out the two below, or call me if you would like to know more! 412.779.6060

FEATURED HOMES

 


300 Chaucer Ct

With its beautiful acre of land in an idyllic “up the hill” Sewickley neighborhood, you can be moved in to host warm weather fun this summer! Throw memorable parties at this turn-key Sewickley home! The large deck and covered stone patios spill onto the manicured lawn, with sport court, outdoor bar, covered ping pong area and Rainbow playset. Inside, a stylish aesthetic seamlessly unifies the three finished levels. 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, 3 car garage. $750,000. Read More…

 

 

16 Highview Drive

Just in time to plan for your most fun summer yet, 16 Highview offers a beautiful in-ground pool and 3.8 acres of privacy, yet sited in a mature Sewickley neighborhood.  With over 4100SF of living space plus a finished lower level, the home features an open floor plan ideal for entertaining.  Newly remodeled kitchen, 3 car garage, main level bed/bath for guest, walk-out lower level, sauna, wine room, screened porch & more!  Remodeled throughout and ready for immediate occupancy! $695,000.  Read More…

 

I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE
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

SPRING HOME SELLING TIPS

With the weather starting to warm up outside, any tips for selling our home?

Spring is in fact on it’s way!  The bright sunshine and warming temperatures will unlock our yards from their winter nap soon and it’s a great time to be focused on making sure the outside of your home looking great for prospective buyers. Curb appeal is critical to attract buyers – if your home doesn’t look great from the street, buyers (who often drive by before making an appointment to see a home) may decide they aren’t interested before stepping inside.  Start with the front of your home and work your way back to your non-public spaces.  On our sunny days, head outside and make sure you have cleaned out your beds from the fall.  Rake out any leaves, trim back shrubs.  Order fresh mulch to be delivered the first week in April.  Keep an eye out for pansies when you are at the store and add them to planters out front.  In early April review your lawn and make sure it is in good shape.  If there are bare spots, have them reseeded.   If you have large trees on your property, make sure they are all healthy and any dead limbs are removed.

This is also a great time to make sure your gutters are clean – gutters full of leaves suggest a homeowner isn’t up on their maintenance.  Also be sure to have your windows cleaned inside and out.  With the sun streaming in through the windows, squeaky clean windows are very appealing to a buyer.   Take the time to put out your outdoor furniture and any warm weather yard items (such as planters).  Be sure patios and porches are well swept.   Step back from your home and see whether your paint is in good shape- – if there are areas that are peeling, have the scraped and repainted.  Be sure the front door is clean and nicely painted.  Remove all seasonal décor (Christmas wreaths and lights).   Ask a friend to stop by and do a quick walk-around for any areas that need attention – a fresh eye is always likely to catch those things you have gotten used to and overlook.

The spring market is in full swing!  Take advantage of the next few weeks and make sure your home is well-prepared for the strongest market of the year! If I can be of any service answering any of your real estate needs, please feel free to get in touch with me.  Real estate is what I do!! Kathe Barge, Call or Text 412.779.6060

FEATURED HOMES

1432 Beaver Road

New Listing – Complete architect-designed interior renovation of this elegant Sewickley Village Queen Anne Victorian. Sited on a private 1.7 acre lot in the heart of Sewickley Village.  Meticulous renovation and transformation into a home that works perfectly for millennial families. 5000SFF+. Remodeled kitchen seamlessly incorporates new cabinetry and granite tops while integrating refinished antique glass cabinet doors into the design. Completely redesigned master suite, with sitting area, turret reading nook, luxurious bathroom and exercise room. Impressive development of the lower level incorporates a family room, office, kitchenette/bar area and powder room into the home. Top to bottom, this charming yet modern home is ready for your millennial family. $1,200,000

180 Summerlawn Drive

Beautifully remodeled open concept 17 year old home on ½ acre wonderful lot with large backyard in a delightful Sewickley neighborhood close to Village. Four finished levels of living space including finished walk out lower level. Kitchen with new stainless appliances open to family room.  Main level laundry.  Large master suite. Four bedrooms, 3 full and 2 half baths. Third floor gameroom.  New roof. $599,000.

 

I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE
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 VALUABLE PIECE OF ADVICE FOR SELLERS

What rights do sellers have to keep buyers in a home sale agreement, once they put a home under agreement? If the buyer back’s out, do we get to keep their hand money?

Assuming the standard Pennsylvania Agreement of Sale is used to sell a home, a home seller has very few rights to keep a buyer in that agreement.  First, any home inspection contingencies must be satisfied.  Unfortunately, unless modified, buyers have the absolute right to terminate the agreement if there is anything at all on the home inspection that they are dissatisfied with, even if a seller is willing to repair that item or items.  Nothing is more disheartening for a home seller than to put their home under agreement, only to lose the deal because of inspection concerns.  This is a result that can be mitigated by home sellers.  All home sellers can, and should, have their homes pre-inspected to help avoid the inspection termination scenario.  Yes, if the inspector finds issues, they need to be repaired or disclosed.  But this will be the case anyhow once the buyer finds them, and they will!  All too many home sellers adopt the position “we’ll address that if the buyer asks.”  The problem with that approach is that a seller may never get the ask – they may just get the termination letter.

Once the inspection hurdle is overcome, there may be additional contingencies that buyers have to overcome before a seller is close to having a secure agreement.  A buyer may have to get financing, and if they place a mortgage contingency in the agreement and a lender refuses to give them a loan for any reason, they can terminate the deal. The most frequent cause of mortgage issues is a failure to appraise.  An appraisal contingency can be a contingency in its own right, and if a home fails to appraise, the buyer will have the right to terminate the agreement.  In this market of low supply and high demand, some sellers of premium properties are extracting market high prices for their homes and appraisal failures are a real risk.  If this happens, a seller will need to consider whether to reduce the price or put the home back on the market.

Whenever a buyer terminates under a contingency contained in an agreement, the buyer receives a full return of the hand money and the seller’s only recourse is to put the home back on the market.  So sellers, do yourself a favor, pre-inspect your homes.  The $500 you will spend is the best insurance policy your money can be in maximizing your chances for a successful sale!

FEATURED HOMES

108 Grouse Lane

NEW LISTING – Beautifully remodeled colonial on 1.2 acres close to Sewickley Heights Golf Club! Hardwood floors unify both levels of this spacious home. The kitchen has been nicely remodeled.  With three walls of windows overlooking the park-like backyard, the breakfast room is awash in natural light! Glass doors open onto the back patio and deck. Two wood burning fireplaces.  4 bedrooms. Exceptionally well cared for and move-in ready! Open this Sunday 1-3pm.  $725,000.  See More…

 

16 Highview Drive

NEW LISTING – Just in time to plan for your most fun summer yet, 16 Highview offers a beautiful inground pool and 3.8 acres of privacy, yet sited in a mature Sewickley neighborhood.  With over 4100SF of living space plus a finished lower level, the home features an open floorplan ideal for entertaining.  Newly remodeled kitchen, 3 car garage, main level bed/bath for guest, walk-out lower level, sauna, wine room, screened porch & more!  Remodeled throughout and ready for immediate occupancy!  Open this Sunday 1-3pm. $695,000.   See More….

I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE
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

BUYERS ARE AT THE READY!

What is going on in our market?  It seems things are selling fast!

A very brief update on the status of our housing market: as predicted, our low inventory for the past several months has created a log jam in our housing market.   As of today we have only 66 homes in our active inventory, while the norm this time of year is closer to 200!  Dozens of buyers are lined up in every price range waiting for their perfect home to come on the market.  As a result, new introductions in the Village are selling close to or at asking price, and more often than not, without a mortgage contingency.  Many are receiving multiple offers.  Buyers participating in this market feel like it is the California market here in Sewickley!

Why is this happening?  It’s hard to say.  The inventory shortage extends across most of the communities in our area that sit in a top rated school district.  People are just not moving out.  This could be caused by the fact that there are extremely limited options for “downsizing” if you are in your empty nester years.  It could be that Pittsburgh has been steadily growing for years and it is just catching up to us.  It could be that we cut new housing starts too sharply after the recession and we aren’t keeping up with demand.

What should a buyer do in today’s market? First, get yourself fully pre-approved (not just prequalified) if you need a mortgage.  You need to get comfortable with the fact that you might have to waive your mortgage and appraisal contingencies.  Second, be ready to make a very fast decision if a home comes on the market – do not expect that you will have more than a day to decide. It is very much a seller’s market and not a good market at all if you are buying, but if you need a house, it’s the market you are in.  Consider looking “up the hill” – we have some amazing homes available offering great living space at significantly better values.

And once again, if you are thinking of selling, give me a call right away and lets design a strategy to maximize your return in this amazing seller’s market!  Put my  19 years of full-time experience and dedication selling Sewickley’s wonderful homes to work for your personal benefit!

FEATURED HOMES

515 Spanish Tract

NEW LISTING — Stay fit & have fun year round – the new indoor pool at 515 Spanish Tract is masterfully designed to harmoniously blend with the home and its surroundings – low maintenance, chemical free copper ionization filtration system takes the work owning a pool!  Simply spectacular renovation of the home – it nestled on 7+ private acres in close-in Sewickley Heights.  Expansive windows bring the stunning natural surroundings into every room. Open floorplan, with new kitchen, baths, flooring, windows, roof, generator… four outdoor venues to enjoy the beauty of the location from.  Turn-key ready for you! $1,950,000  See More….

16 Highview Drive

NEW LISTING –   Just in time to plan for your most fun summer yet, 16 Highview offers a beautiful inground pool and 3.8 acres of privacy, yet sited in a mature Sewickley neighborhood.  With over 4100SF of living space plus a finished lower level, the home features an open floorplan ideal for entertaining.  Newly remodeled kitchen, 3 car garage, main level bed/bath for guest, walk-out lower level, sauna, wine room, screened porch & more!  Remodeled throughout and ready for immediate occupancy!  $695,000.  See More…

I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE
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 EXPECT FROM THE SPRING MARKET

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

It has in fact been a long, dry winter when it comes to new listings.  In fact, we currently have ONLY 71 listings available for sale in the Quaker Valley School District – in most years that number would be approximately 200!  So when we say that we need listings, we mean it!

Yes, we do expect that there will be more homes coming on the market in the next couple of months. March & April tend to be our largest listing months every year, and we hope this year will be no different.  However, if the past couple of weeks have been an indicator, you should expect it to be a fast moving spring market.  We have had a few introductions recently and as a general rule they have flown off the market.  We have a tremendous amount of pent up demand.  There are dozens of buyers in every price range sitting on the fence waiting for their “perfect” listing.  If you are one of those buyers, you should expect that you will have some stiff competition. So make sure you have your financing in order and be prepared to move quickly if you see something that looks like it could work.

If you are one of the many Village dreamers we have out there, I encourage you to take a look “up the hill” where we currently have many wonderful options with more on the way.  Sure, the theoretic walkability of the Village is nice, but we live a couple of blocks to Starbucks and can count on our hands how many times per year that we actually walk!  “Up the hill” you will get larger yards & homes at better prices, and they are all 5-10 minutes to Starbucks!   If you are adamant on the Village, start thinking now about what compromises you might be willing to make to get a home.  As Pittsburgh grows, our inventory is not keeping up with housing demands and we will continue to see a tighter and tighter housing market.  Compromise will be necessary to even get into a home here.

Finally, if you are thinking of selling your home, I have said it many times before, but PLEASE reach out to me! I offer completely confidential consultations and strategic plans to maximize your returns, with a 19-year proven track record.  There is no better time to be selling your home!   CALL or TEXT 412.779.6060

FEATURED HOMES

316 Beaver Street #204
New Price!! 

Open Sunday,  January 21st from 1-3

A downsizer’s dream! Fantastic maintenance free condo in the absolute heart of Sewickley Village. 2 BR, 2 baths, 2 indoor garage spaces. Back/quiet side of the building.  Stylish design w/ new wood floors & carpeting. Afternoon sun floods the unit. Secure building with elevator access to all levels. 1 block to Village amenities.  Please join us for our open house this Sunday 1-3pm. $429,000.    See more… 

444 Woodland Road
Open Sunday,  January 21st from 1-3

Privacy in the heart of Sewickley Village!  2.973 Acres with mature landscaping, sprawling lawns, in-ground pool, private patio and natural woodlands that provide a year-round buffer for this magical property, yet Village shops and restaurants are just a few blocks away! Renovate to restore the home’s original relaxed elegance, reminiscent of New England seaside homes.  Or replace with your own 21st century home of your design and creation!  A rare opportunity in Sewickley!  Please join us for our open house this Sunday 1-3pm. $825,000     See more…

I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE
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 HOME INSPECTION DILEMMA

We are buying a new home.  Can we skip the home inspection and save a few bucks?

I do not recommend that you skip a home inspection, even with a new home.  Please keep in mind if buying a new home that no matter how nice and reassuring the builder or his realtor representative are, they do not represent you!  I have on many occasions witnessed a builder trying to gloss over obvious deficiencies with new homes.  You need a home inspector to carefully assess your new home so that you aren’t burdened with repair bills later for improper conditions that existed at the time of your closing. While the inspector is there, it’s a good idea to get a pest and radon inspection in addition to a general home inspection.  Both pests and radon are commonplace and can be significant – its wise to know what you are dealing with before you move in.

However, do not make the mistake of assuming that all home inspectors are equally skilled at their profession. Some inspectors gloss over many areas of concern and take a VERY big picture approach, which, while generally not alarming, can also be very unhelpful as you plan for your future improvements to the home.  Others can be incredibly harsh and point out flaws that are inaccurate or irrelevant, leading you to over-react. Before booking a home inspector, do your due diligence – make sure they are ASHI certified  and read their online reviews (as you I am sure you did when you chose your Realtor).

Finally, once you move in, keep in mind that it is recommended that homeowners have their homes professionally inspected once every ten years.  The mere passage of time can take a toll on a home, and better that you find problems and correct them before they become big problems. Repeating pest and radon inspections at that time is also a good idea – they are also best addressed sooner rather than later.  If you have any questions about whether you should be getting your home inspected, please give me a call!  412.779.6060

RECENTLY SOLD — represented buyers.
Click the photo to see more of my past sales history!

 

I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE
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

PROPOSED TAX LEGISLATION vs. HOMEOWNERSHIP

What impact do you think the proposed federal tax legislation will have on homeowners?

For those of you who are unaware, the proposed tax legislation makes several changes to itemized deductions that will impact many homeowners.  First, the property tax deduction will be limited to $10,000.  In Sewickley borough, if your tax assessment is above approximately $350,000, you will see an increase in your federal income tax as a result of this itemized deduction limitation.  Additionally, while existing mortgages are grandfathered, interest will only be deductible on new mortgages of less than $500,000.

The National Association of Realtors believes these new changes could put home ownership out of the reach of many and nullify the home ownership incentive for all but the top 5% of our nation.  Home ownership is already at a 50 year low nationwide.  For many Americans, a home is the largest investment they will ever own.  Studies have also shown that at the end of the day, the net worth of a homeowner is, on average, a shocking 45 times greater than that of a renter, demonstrating how important it is to incentivize home ownership so that Americans have the needed nest egg when they retire.

My predicted impact on our local housing market is that it will soften prices over $350,000.  Without the benefit of the tax deductibility of property taxes over $10,000, mid-market buyers will qualify to buy less than they can today, and it will have a downward pressure on prices overall.  With the severe inventory shortage we have right now, this is not likely to be immediately evident, but it will likely impede the long-term growth rate.  The cap on the deductibility of interest on new mortgages over $500,000 will have a much larger impact on the market overall.  Homeowners with large mortgages will be disinclined to make the “choice” moves we are so accustomed to here in Sewickley, because a move will mean they lose the deductibility of a significant amount of interest on their grandfathered mortgage.  This will only exacerbate our inventory shortage as homeowners will be likely to just “stay put” and take advantage of the deductibility of interest on grandfathered mortgages.  Additionally , for homes priced over $550,000, buyer affordability will drop further as carrying mortgages over $500,000 will be noticeably more expensive, with the potential of exerting further downward pressure on market appreciation.  Its hard to know how any of this will help us, but then, I am not an economist – I must be missing something!

FEATURED HOMES

7 Harvester Court
Want more space between you and your neighbors? Your search is over!  This custom-built all brick colonial is sited on a nearly 2 acre lot, in a quiet, private neighborhood.  Just renovated, it features 3 new luxury baths, newer kitchen, new roof, new HVAC, new deck, new paint in modern aesthetic and more. Totally turn-key for you and your family! 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, 3 car garage, finished walk-out lower level.  $775,000.  Learn more…

180 Summerlawn Drive
Beautifully remodeled open concept 17 year old home on ½ acre wonderful lot in a delightful Sewickley neighborhood close to Village. Four finished levels of living space including finished walk out lower level. Kitchen with new stainless appliances open to family room.  Main level laundry.  Large master suite. Four bedrooms, 3 full and 2 half baths. Third floor great room.  New roof. $599,000. Learn more…

I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE
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 “JOYS” of SELLING

Selling a home can be a trying process.  They say forewarned is forearmed. 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.
  • The agent on the sign will be in witness protection and not return any phone calls.
  • Expect lowball offers (at least it is a starting point).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The closing date on the contract may change.

FEATURED HOMES

7 Harvester Court

Tired of looking at one “project” after another for a home that is “move in ready”? Your search is over!  This custom-built all brick colonial was just renovated with 3 new luxury baths, newer kitchen, new roof, new HVAC, new deck, new paint in modern aesthetic and more. Totally turn-key for you and your family! 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, 3 car garage, finished walk-out lower level, nearly 2 acre lot. $775,000. Get more details and see more photos…

141 Beech Ridge Drive

Spectacular 22,000+SF estate nestled on 8 private acres in Sewickley. Remarkable newer custom construction.  Half-court indoor basketball court, full racquetball/squash court, complete locker room facilities including sauna, 60’x30’ heated in-ground concrete salt water pool w/ stone waterfalls, patio w/ outdoor fireplace, 5 bedrooms, 5 full & 4 half baths, 9 fireplaces, 6 garage spaces, two kitchens, wine room, roof-top observation deck, new home theater.  Simply remarkable! $4,500,000  See More Photos & Details…

I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE
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

KEEPING YOUR HOME SHOW-READY!!

Fall is upon us!  Any tips for presenting our home well in the fall market?

Fall can be such a wonderful season here in Pittsburgh, but sometimes sellers forget that they need to take a fresh look at their home to make sure it is still presenting at its best as summer ends.  Start with your yard.  It’s the first thing a buyer sees! Make sure you have trimmed away all of Summer’s dead blooms and that your garden beds are looking ready for their long winter’s nap.  Put down fall fertilizer so your yard looks great again this coming spring! Be sure to give your lawn its final mow, and as we move into fall, keep your leaves raked! 

Don’t forget to keep your gutters clean – if your home is actively on the market, you may need to do it more than once – you don’t want a buyer to see clogged gutters and mini-trees emerging! Give porches and patios a final thorough cleaning.  If your windows aren’t really clean, get that done too – as we go into our grayer time of the year, its really important to get as much sunshine inside as possible!

Inside, check all of your lightbulbs and make sure they are all at the maximum possible wattage and in good working order. As days grow shorter, it will be important for your home to be bright and cheerful inside. Clean out your garage.  You will need it once snow flies, and you won’t want to be out there in 30 degree weather! Be sure that if you choose seasonal decorations like mums or wreaths, that you remember to rotate them as we move through the season so that you reflect the current season!

And of course, if you know now that you want to list in the coming Spring season, which kicks off in January, give me a call now so we can get photography done while there are still leaves on the trees!

FEATURED HOMES

178 Backbone

Stone and timber seamlessly blend in this California-style contemporary.  Beautifully sited on a 7 acre wooded lot, this striking home melds perfectly with its natural surroundings.  Walls of windows flood the home with natural light. Two authentic stone turrets add to the romance this home evokes.  The end result is an exceptional custom built home that will stand the test of time. Comfortable and relaxed, it is a home you will love coming home to.  6 bedrooms including main level suite, 4.5 baths, 3 car garage. $895,000.  See more photos and get more details here… 

 

102 American Way

The living is easy in this absolutely wonderful Sewickley Ridge one-level townhome.  Located in Ohio Township’s highly popular and sought-after Traditions at Sewickley Ridge community, it is less than one year old and in move-in condition – ready for you to call home!  2 bedrooms, 2 baths, 2 car garage, open concept floorplan, delightful screened porch. Chic ascetic with white cabinetry, granite tops, hardwood floors. Why delay your downsize any longer?   $389,000  Get more details and see more photos here

I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE
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 EXPECT ON INSPECTIONS

We just completed a home inspection and submitted our requests to the seller.  They did not respond well and felt we were too comprehensive in our list of requests, although they were all items the home inspector pointed out as issues in his report?  What are we to expect?

The home inspection process is as individualized as the people buying the homes.    Some sellers are so eager to sell their homes that they will gladly cede to your every demand.  Some homes are so well priced and so well received by the market that the sellers are willing to do virtually nothing with respect to inspection requests.  How your sellers respond will likely depend on how badly they want to sell to you, balanced with what they think their chances are of a sale to another buyer in the near future.  But there are a few guidelines to keep in mind when evaluating what to ask for on the home inspection and how to weigh the seller’s response.

Anything the seller has called out on the disclosure should not be part of your inspection requests – you should have taken these conditions into account when you were making your offer.  For example, if the seller has disclosed that the furnace is at the end of its useful life, it is not appropriate to ask for the seller to pay for a new furnace.

If the condition was easily observed when you visited the home, you should also have taken it into account when making your offer and not be raising the issue now.  For example, if you noted that the front sidewalk was badly cracked when you saw the home, that should have been addressed in your offer and you should not try to renegotiate price based on that condition after the inspection.

Finally, you should use some materiality standard for your requests.  Some buyers use a health and safety standard and focus on items that could put their health or safety in danger, such as electrical or radon problems.  Some use a major defects threshold and focus on items that are expensive to repair.  But as a general rule, it’s a good idea to let small items and maintenance items go, such as caulking bathtubs, tightening loose toilets and installing handrails on basement stairs (which no one except the home inspector cares about anyhow!)  If you focus on what really matters, you are more likely to establish a positive dialog with your seller and end up with a positive result.

I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE
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

Say Cheese!

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.  Sure its ok to make factual observations, but you should refrain from judging.  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.

In this day of minimal privacy and cheap technology, the best approach is to assume you could very well be on Candid Camera!

As an Associate Broker at HOWARD HANNA REAL ESTATE SERVICESKathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, is ready to answer any questions you may have regarding your real estate needs.  Feel free to contact her at the office (412) 741-2200 x238or on her mobile phone (412) 779-6060.

WHAT WILL THE FALL MARKET BRING

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.  USA Today recently reported (as shared on my Facebook business page, Kathe Barge Howard Hanna Sewickley) that we are nationally at a 20 year low in available housing inventory.  What is going on you might ask?

USA Today reports that the Baby Boomers are to blame! 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 as we move into the spring market, but with the low inventory and huge backlog of buyers, I expect pricing will be high and bidding wars probable.  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.

As an Associate Broker at HOWARD HANNA REAL ESTATE SERVICESKathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, is ready to answer any questions you may have regarding your real estate needs.  Feel free to contact her at the office (412) 741-2200 x238or on her mobile phone (412) 779-6060.

Paying Down the Principal

Is it a good idea to pay down the principal on your mortgage if you have extra cash? 

I have no doubt that my friends in the financial services industry would tell you that you should invest your money in the market rather than paying down the principal on your mortgage – debt is cheap right now and the stock market has been hitting all-time highs, so if you are comfortable with the risk, investing your excess cash in the market might yield you a higher return than pre-paying your mortgage.

However, possible appreciation is for many only one of several factors that should be considered. For some, eliminating debt provides a feeling of security.  Having little to no debt can be a great comfort if you lose your job, choose a new, lower paying career or simply retire.  For this reason, some choose to pay down their mortgage as quickly as possible so that they have a significantly lower monthly need for cash.

There is also a significant savings to those who pay off their mortgage early.  Simply making one additional payment each year (for a total of 13 payments instead of 12) can make a notable difference in your total cash outlays.  For example, if you add an extra 1/12 payment onto your monthly payment and if you have a $200,000 30 year loan at 4.5%, you will pay your debt off 4 years and 3 months earlier than expected and save yourself $27,000 in interest as well!

Finally, the more you pay down your mortgage principal, the faster you build equity in your home, which will put you in a great position when you want to buy a new home.  In essence, paying down principal early works as a sort of forced savings plan – before you know it you will have amassed an impressive nest egg!

As an Associate Broker at HOWARD HANNA REAL ESTATE SERVICESKathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, is ready to answer any questions you may have regarding your real estate needs.  Feel free to contact her at the office (412) 741-2200 x238or on her mobile phone (412) 779-6060.

Pricing for “The Unique Factor”

In your May 11th article your Tip #12 was “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.  In Sewickley, if you have a home “up the hill” it will always take longer to sell than the same home in the Village or the same home in the North Allegheny School District.  When buyers think Sewickley the overwhelming majority think “Village” and it takes longer for them to discover and understand the value of living “up the hill.”

However, if your home is located in the Village, 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 the Village. 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.  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, it is important to consider where your competition is priced and selling, and this is a continually moving factor.  Other home owners may underprice to be “the chosen one” and you may be faced with the choice of either reducing to match their price or understanding that theirs will likely sell first.   Additionally, if you have received constructive feedback regarding either deferred maintenance of dated décor, you will either need too adjust your condition or your price.

As an Associate Broker at HOWARD HANNA REAL ESTATE SERVICESKathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, is ready to answer any questions you may have regarding your real estate needs.  Feel free to contact her at the office (412) 741-2200 x238or on her mobile phone (412) 779-6060.

Favorite Real Estate Stories

What is your all-time favorite real estate story? 

There are so very many favorite stories I could share!  My favorites are the ones that are incredibly stressful in the moment and too funny to be believed after the fact!  Most arise in the moments before closing when tensions are already high.  I’ll never forget my first year in real estate, now eighteen years ago, when I hadn’t yet figured out how important it is to specifically tell a seller what is expected for closing.  One seller was quite shocked to discover that they were actually required to remove the 20 pairs of snow tires they had stored in their garage, and none too happy to incur the significant haul away charge.  Given the large fee associated with their removal, I could certainly understand why they hadn’t previously parted with the tires, but I never figured out what they thought the new buyers were going to do with them.  Now I tell all sellers:  you must remove all items that are not affixed to the home and not specifically included in the sale from the home prior to closing.  And yes, that includes all of the old paint that has been in your basement for the past 50 years!

I have at times encountered sellers who are confused about what condition they must leave a home in for closing.  So confused it seems that homes have been presented with trash strewn around, cookie crumbles all over the floor and filthy appliance interiors.  I will never forget the closet smoker seller who scattered an entire coffee can of cigarette butts on the walk on her way to closing, unhappy with the price she had agreed to, only to have to leave the closing to go home and clean up.  Another rule for sellers:  the home and property need to be clean – broom swept at a bare minimum.

The most confusion centers around inclusions and here I really have seen it all.  The seller who removed all lightbulbs from all lighting fixtures was certainly going too far!  My absolute favorite was the seller who removed the toilet from the master bathroom, leaving nothing but a hole in the floor, stating that a toilet was a “personal hygiene device” and that they didn’t understand why the buyer would want it!  As you can imagine, the seller had to pay to replace the toilet. Which brings me to one final rule for seller: if it’s attached to the property, be it by nail, screw, glue… it stays!

As an Associate Broker at HOWARD HANNA REAL ESTATE SERVICESKathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, is ready to answer any questions you may have regarding your real estate needs.  Feel free to contact her at the office (412) 741-2200 x238or on her mobile phone (412) 779-6060.

Updates do make a difference

In your May 11th column, you also mentioned that updates may not affect a home’s value but may affect the chances of getting it sold.  Can you clarify what you mean by that? 

Upon reflection, that statement, which I quoted for a real estate website, may be a little broad.  I meet with many sellers who are simply in shock with what this market requires to generate a sale.  In many cases, its not a case of the updates being required to increase the chances of a home selling quickly – they are required for a home to draw an offer at all.  Do the updates increase the value of the home?  Technically yes, because without them the home is almost unsalable, except at perhaps the deepest of discounts.

This era of home buyers simply do not want to do any work at all. Perhaps my generation of parents did it all wrong when we handed our children life on a silver platter! They watch too much HGTV and expect to see that when they walk into a home.  I have been on my soapbox many times before about many of these topics, stressing the importance of addressing them, but not from the perspective that updates are important to even generate an offer. Buyers really don’t want your wallpaper no matter how stylish.  Nor do they want your colored carpets or shiny brass, to name a few other deal killers.  They aren’t going to do the “few projects” you left behind for them – they are just going to move on to another home.

A recent case in point is a listing I sold after just over a month on the market.  It had been on the market previously for two years with no offers.  It is a fantastic home in a great location on a great piece of property, but it just didn’t sell.  The sellers removed wallpaper and draperies, painted the interior in my favorite ‘greige‘, updated plumbing and lighting to a silver palate and were rewarded for their efforts with a quick offer.  As frustrating and costly as this sounds, unless you remodeled your home within the past ten years, this is the price you may have to pay to get a home sold in today’s competitive market, unless you are willing to price it at, or accept, a deeply discounted price.

As an Associate Broker at HOWARD HANNA REAL ESTATE SERVICESKathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, is ready to answer any questions you may have regarding your real estate needs.  Feel free to contact her at the office (412) 741-2200 x238or on her mobile phone (412) 779-6060.

For What It’s “Worth”…

In your May 11th article, your first item you noted about real estate is that a home is worth what a buyer is willing to pay.  I thought a home is worth what it appraises for?”

In my May 11th article (available to those of you who missed it on my website), I did list 12 important things everyone should know about real estate, the first being that yes, a home is only worth what a buyer is willing to pay.

Appraisals are typically done in conjunction with a mortgage application, although they are sometimes done as part of an estate administration or by a homeowner who wants to get a better sense of what a home is worth.  Many appraisers are not experts in the neighborhood they are trying to appraise a home in and miss the block by block nuances that greatly affect value.  However, even if they are well versed in a particular area, they may not have been in every home and may not understand the special circumstances surrounding why one buyer may have paid a premium and another buyer may have purchased at a discount.  Appraisers often don’t have their finger on the pulse of buyer expectations – unlike Realtors, they do not interact directly with buyers and don’t have the opportunity to hear them complain about wallpaper, colored carpets, dated lighting and outdated kitchens and baths.  They don’t see firsthand how eager buyers are to purchase newly remodeled homes and the premiums they will deliver for those homes and they aren’t privy to the conversations Realtors have trying to convince a buyer to take on a project. So sometimes they are just too high and that price will not be achievable absent a sizable remodel.

It is also irrelevant how much money a seller has invested in a home.  It is important to keep in mind unless renovations were made in conjunction with a home-staging professional in an effort to sell your home, improvements were made for the homeowner’s enjoyment and may not carry any value for a home buyer.

In the end, Buyers in 2017 America are quite savvy.  Most view all inventory for many months before choosing a home.  They probably know better than a home seller how a home stacks up against what has recently sold.  If they don’t, it is all readily available online.  So in the end, the price is determined by how convinced a buyer is that the value is in the home.

 

As an Associate Broker at
HOWARD HANNA REAL ESTATE SERVICES,
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, is ready to answer any
questions you may have regarding your real estate needs.  Feel free to contact her at the office (412) 741-2200 x238or on her mobile phone (412) 779-6060.

Sound Advice for Sellers

Why have so many deals fallen apart this spring?  We watch the market and see homes that sell and then come back on the market – what is happening?

You have unknowingly picked up on one of the flaws in the Pennsylvania Standard Agreement for the Sale of Real Estate.  In the inspection contingency contained in this agreement, the buyer has the unilateral right to terminate the agreement of sale if they find any condition in a home inspection unsatisfactory to them.  It does not have to be a major defect as it did in prior years.  It does not have to be a safety related concern.  It does not have to rise to a particular threshold of cost to repair.  ANY condition whatsoever that they find unsatisfactory – a scratch on a floor, a dented garage door, a stain on a carpet  — and they can terminate. They do not need to give a seller an opportunity to repair the item – they can just say “sorry, we don’t want your house.” They get their hand money back and the home is back on the market.

Unfortunately, this year buyers have begun to abuse this right to terminate, treating it like an option to buy a home.  And when they do this, it stigmatizes the home for future buyers. I have seen deals terminated for items as simple as non-operational dimmer switches and puddles in the driveway, without giving the sellers the opportunity to repair.  In other words, these are not serious buyers, and something they liked more probably came on the market.  They terminate, wasting everyone’s time and energy.

This is a terrible trend, but sellers, you don’t need to sit back and let this happen.  When negotiating an offer on your home, you can negotiate any term, and you would be well advised to indicate that buyer’s right to terminate before even asking the seller to repair should be stricken from the agreement.  The buyer is still protected because they retain the right to terminate if the seller refuses to make the desired repairs, but this solution provides a more appropriate playing field for all parties.

As an Associate Broker at
HOWARD HANNA REAL ESTATE SERVICES,
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, is ready to answer any
questions you may have regarding your real estate needs.
Feel free to contact her at the office (412) 741-2200 x238,
or on her mobile phone (412) 779-6060.

Understanding Realtor-ese!

Why don’t realtors use plain language to advertise their listings?  How are we to be able to translate what they write so that we know what a home really has to offer?

The first step in selling a home is marketing that home, and sometimes the brutal truth is just not going to attract a buyer.  We figure that if we can at least get you to explore the possibilities, that there is a chance of a sale.  “Cozy” sounds much more appealing than “small”, “motivated seller” is less alarming than “the seller needs a sale now” and “awaits your vision” is far more intriguing than “this place needs a complete overhaul.”  I’ve included a translation guide to some of our more popular phrases to aid you in understanding “realtor-speak” as you peruse our listings!

  • Complete Renovation: the home has had a top to bottom overhaul and nearly everything is new within the past few years
  • Mature Landscaping: large trees, but it could border on overgrown
  • Secluded: there is no one anywhere to be found
  • Historic: old, with windows that don’t open, don’t stay open, don’t shut or don’t lock
  • Original: everything is at least 50 years old
  • Investment Opportunity: you’re going to need to gut this one to the studs
  • Needs TLC – another complete rehab needed
  • Custom Window Treatments: early 90s, expensive, teal or rose colored draperies
  • Must see Inside: zero curb appeal
  • Bonus Room – no one knows what to do with this space
  • One Car Garage – you might get your Suburban in, but forget about opening the doors once inside
  • Up & Coming Neighborhood – this home is next to the train tracks
  • Desirable Neighborhood – you’ll be paying more for this house because people love the neighborhood
  • As Is – inspect before making your offer – the seller won’t be fixing anything
  • Unique – you might have a hard time reselling this one
  • Close to the Village – a 10 minute drive by car
  • Walk to Village Shops – might be possible, but who has time?

As an Associate Broker at
HOWARD HANNA REAL ESTATE SERVICES,
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, is ready to answer any
questions you may have regarding your real estate needs.
Feel free to contact her at the office (412) 741-2200 x238,
or on her mobile phone (412) 779-6060.

What’s Up the Hill?

We have been looking for our dream home for a long time in the Village and we cant seem to find the right combination of features in a home – either the yard is too small or the home needs too much work or its too close to the neighbors or there is no garage – any advice? 

Yes!  Look “up the hill”!  I have yet to understand why more buyers don’t look outside the Village. Yes, the walkability to the Village center is nice, but realistically how often do you do that?  I live in the Village, and am usually in a big hurry and drive where I am going! And I see many residents who live up the hill who drive down, park and enjoy the Village by foot more than I do! There are many many advantages to buying “up the hill” that make it worth considering this option.

First, yard sizes are almost always larger.  There is generally far more room for the kids or pets to play, more room for gardens, more room for a pool, sport court or auxiliary garage for overflow cars.  Larger lots mean there is more space between the homes, so while you still have neighbors, you cant hear them sneeze inside their home, which is the case for some Village residents!

Homes “up the hill” universally give you more value for the dollar.  They are generally larger homes in better shape for notably less money.  You can spend less, have a smaller monthly mortgage payment, and get more space! Homes “up the hill” are also generally newer homes, so if they require updating, the scale of the project is usually smaller and more of a cosmetic nature.  And because you are dealing with newer homes, the cost of any projects is usually less because you are not having to deal with old wiring and plumbing or structural problems.  And the overwhelming majority of “up the hill” homes have garages.

You might also be interested in knowing that the tax millage charged in the “up the hill” boroughs is notably lower than the millage in Sewickley borough – there is a real premium paid on a daily basis in property taxes for the privilege of being within ½ mile of Village center.

It’s hard to imagine what’s not to love about our wonderful “up the hill homes.” Larger, newer homes on larger lots with peace and tranqulity. So you have to drive 5 minutes to the Giant Eagle as compared to the 3 minutes Village dwellers drive.  It seems like a more than sensible trade-off  for all of the advantages offered by our “up the hill” communities.

Step outside the box and venture “up the hill” this Sunday when we will have many of our listings open!  You may be surprised at how enticing the “up the hill” homes are!

Featured Homes

928 Blackburn Road

928 Blackburn Road

Located “up the hill” on a private 5 acre lot backing to the Allegheny Land Trust but less than 1 mile from I-79!. This immaculate Sewickley Heights home was transformed from an historic barn just two decades ago!  Main home features 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, expansive great room with soaring ceilings and wood-burning fireplace. The property also conveys with a newly remodeled guest cottage with 3 BRs, 3baths. $1,050,000

300 Chaucer Court

300 Chaucer Court

With its beautiful acre of land in an idyllic “up the hill” neighborhood, you can be moved in to host warm weather fun this summer! Throw memorable parties at this turn-key Sewickley home! The large deck and covered stone patios spill onto the manicured lawn, with sport court, outdoor bar, covered ping pong area and Rainbow playset. Inside, a stylish aesthetic seamlessly unifies the three finished levels. 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, 3 car garage. $850,000.

 

As an Associate Broker at
HOWARD HANNA REAL ESTATE SERVICES,
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, is ready to answer any
questions you may have regarding your real estate needs.
Feel free to contact her at the office (412) 741-2200 x238,
or on her mobile phone (412) 779-6060.

The Power of Pre-Approval

It’s true! Bidding wars are back in some neighborhoods!  The extremely tight inventory, coupled with the influx of spring buyers has made the competition sometimes fierce for well-conditioned homes in great neighborhoods.  The first thing you should do to set yourself up for success in a hot market is to get a pre-approval from a reputable local lender.

The pre-approval process is more than a pre-qualification.  It involves submitting all documentation to your lender long before you actually make an offer.  This includes tax returns, bank statements… The lender will underwrite your loan subject only to the appraisal of your new home once you find it.  This makes you an incredibly strong buyer – you could choose to remove the mortgage contingency altogether and insert only an appraisal contingency, but even short of that, knowing that you have taken the time to get fully approved will impress the seller and give you some advantage over other buyers.

Pre-approval (as opposed to pre-qualification) is also important so that  you don’t find out 75% of the way through the home buying process that you cant afford the home.  Sometimes lenders miss some of the critical pieces of your puzzle during the pre-qualification process that an underwriter will pick up.  For example, it is possible that your gross income is high, and that you reported that figure to the lender, but when the underwriter reviews your tax return they see that your AGI (adjusted gross income) is lower due to alimony.  Child support payments will also lower the amount of the loan you can qualify for.  You may have co-signed student loans or car loans for a child, or a mortgage for a family member.  Any debt you have co-signed for, whether it is an asset you use personally or not, will lower the loan size you can qualify for. And of course, pending actions for divorce, as well as dings on your credit you were unaware of (such as doctors bills you forgot to pay) will affect your ability to borrow.  Better to take the time to figure this out up front and target homes you know you can afford, rather than being tempted by those out of your price range!

FEATURED HOMES:

1OO8 Beaver Road

1008 Beaver Road – NEW PRICE!

Spectacular, lovingly restored, turn-key historic Sewickley home. 8000SF+2 home set in a private 4-acre lot with a stream, grounds to play in, and romantic terrace and 2-story patio to entertain on – all  just blocks to central Village. Inside, discover a modern  home with incredible , beautiful finishes. Stylishly remodeled kitchen w/ Subzero fridge, Viking professional range, charming butler’s pantry. With six bedrooms, two home offices, a formal study, cozy family room with fireplace, living room with semi-circular bay window, sunroom, enormous recreation room/gym, and a 2 attached car garage (and much more!), this home is a show stopper!  $1,950,000

 

 

 

129 Fox Hill

129 FOX HILL ROAD

Tired of looking at one fixer upper after another wondering how you can fit a project into your already too busy life?  Look no further! This home has been meticulously renovated — recent improvements include new kitchen, 2.5 new baths, new windows, new HVAC, new paint inside and out, newly refinished floors & more. 4BR, 2.5 baths, 2 car garage, finished walk-out lower level, 1 acre lot. $625,000

As an Associate Broker at
HOWARD HANNA REAL ESTATE SERVICES,
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, is ready to answer any
questions you may have regarding your real estate needs.
Feel free to contact her at the office (412) 741-2200 x238,
or on her mobile phone (412) 779-6060.

Property Taxes on a New Home

We are moving to the area and are confused by the disparity in property taxes on similar homes.  Why do they seem to be all over the board?

When you are buying a new home, you should not pay a lot of attention to the stated property taxes.  Homes were last assessed in 2012 and if the home hasn’t resold since, the home’s taxes are based on the assessor’s opinion of value then.  If the home has sold since 2012, it has likely been reassessed at the time of that sale and may have a comparatively higher assessment.  If the home has had extensive interior renovations that did not require a permit, it is unlikely that the assessor will catch up with the increased value until the home actually resells, so its taxes may seem artificially low compared to similar homes.

However, when you buy your new home, there is a very good chance you will be reassessed and your taxes will change.   Taxes are based on current year assessment and your taxes will increase or decrease as your assessment is modified to reflect your purchase price. If the home you love has high taxes based on an assessment above your purchase price, in January – March you will have the opportunity to appeal that high assessment to try to bring it down.  And if you think you got a great deal because of comparatively low taxes, don’t count on it!  Your assessment will likely go up. So what to do if you can’t rely on the stated taxes, which you cannot?

You need to project the taxes on a given house based on your planned purchase price.  The total tax burden is made up of three pieces – county, borough and school.  Any home in Quaker Valley School District will have the same 2018 county and borough tax millage, for a total projected millage of 23.1309.  Then you have to add in the millage for the specific borough the home is in.  In Sewickley borough that number is 6.25 mils, whereas in Edgeworth that number is 4.15 mils.  Once you calculate the total millage, you apply that to the sales price of the home to get an approximate expected tax.  So on $500,000 assessment in Sewickley borough you would expect total taxes of approximately $14,700.  While you should contact your attorney for strategies to keep your assessment as low as possible, including appealing the assessment if it seems too high in relation to your purchase price, this simple rule of thumb will help you to make comparisons between homes you are contemplating owning.

FEATURED HOMES:

314 Woodland Road

314 Woodland Road

 

Is now the RIGHT time to RIGHT size your home?  314 Woodland Road is just the right size!  Spacious main level with living & dining rooms, kitchen open to family room, laundry facility.  2 bedrooms, 2 baths. Detached garage, large yard. See-through fireplace and charming porch, all in pristine condition. Co-listed with Alexis Egan.  $349,000

 

 

 

7 Harvester Court

7 Harvester Court

 

Looking for a home delivered to you on a silver platter?  Your search is over!  This custom built all brick colonial was just renovated with 3 new luxury baths, newer kitchen, new roof, new HVAC, new deck, new paint in modern aesthetic and more. Totally turn-key for you and your family! 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, 3 car garage, finished walk-out lower level, nearly 2 acre lot. $775,000

As an Associate Broker at
HOWARD HANNA REAL ESTATE SERVICES,
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, is ready to answer any
questions you may have regarding your real estate needs.
Feel free to contact her at the office (412) 741-2200 x238,
or on her mobile phone (412) 779-6060.

Compromise Might Be the Answer

We continue to look at homes on the Howard Hanna website and have noticed there doesn’t seem to be as many homes coming on the market as there were in April. 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, particularly in the Village, 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!

FEATURED HOMES:

169 Backbone

169 BACKBONE ROAD

 

New Roof May 2017! Directly across from Sewickley Heights Golf course and sited on a lush, professionally landscaped lot with expansive lawns, perfect for your outdoor activities, this home is move-in ready!  3 finished levels include 5 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, 2 working fireplaces, large deck, patio & delightful gazebo.  $595,000.

 

 

129 Fox Hill

129 FOX HILL ROAD

 

Tired of looking at one fixer upper after another wondering how you can fit a project into your already too busy life?  Look no further! This home has been meticulously renovated — recent improvements include new kitchen, 2.5 new baths, new windows, new HVAC, new paint inside and out, newly refinished floors & more. 4BR, 2.5 baths, 2 car garage, finished walk-out lower level, 1 acre lot. $625,000

As an Associate Broker at
HOWARD HANNA REAL ESTATE SERVICES,
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, is ready to answer any
questions you may have regarding your real estate needs.
Feel free to contact her at the office (412) 741-2200 x238,
or on her mobile phone (412) 779-6060.

Twelve Real Estate Tips You Should Know

You give a lot of advice each week – any way to sum it up quickly for those of us who need the Reader’s Digest version?

 

I recently came across a posting on one of my favorite Facebook pages that I shared on my Facebook business page (Kathe Barge Howard Hanna Sewickley)  that I think does an outstanding job doing just that for sellers!  Quoted from The Lighter Side of Real Estate, the following are words to live by if you are selling a home, presented in a brief, easily remembered format:

 

“Twelve Things You Should Know About Real Estate:

  1. A Home is Worth What a Buyer is Willing to Pay
  2. Updates May Not Increase the Value, But They Increase the Chances of Getting it Sold
  3. Cleanliness is Godliness
  4. Curb Appeal is the First (and Strongest) Impression
  5. Pet Odor and Clutter Leave the Longest Lasting Impressions
  6. Neutral Paint and Décor Will Always Appeal to the Masses
  7. Cheap Fixes or Updates Will Result in a Cheap (Low) Offer
  8. Everything is Negotiable
  9. Time is of the Essence
  10. Location Location Location
  11. Buyers Notice Things They Want to Change Before They Notice Any Updates
  12. When Priced Right It Will Sell”

Keep these principles in mind and apply them when selling your home and its sure to be a success!

FEATURED HOMES:

309 Quaker Road
$799,000

Picture perfect, modern aesthetic is combined with historic charm in this beautifully remodeled Sewickley Village home.  With 5 bedrooms, 4.5 baths, newer white kitchen, mudroom, main level office, 2 car garage and fenced backyard, this fantastic home is in impeccable condition throughout!

 

 

 

928 Blackburn Road
$1,050,000

This immaculate Sewickley Heights home was transformed from an historic barn just two decades ago!  On a private 5 acre lot backing to the Allegheny Land Trust, the main home features 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, an expansive great room with soaring ceilings and woodburning fireplace.  On the lowest level are the original stables with 4 stalls, but this space would also be perfect for other farm animals or vehicles.  The property also conveys with a renovated guest cottage with 3 BRs, 3baths.

 

 

As an Associate Broker at
HOWARD HANNA REAL ESTATE SERVICES,
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, is ready to answer any
questions you may have regarding your real estate needs.
Feel free to contact her at the office (412) 741-2200 x238,
or on her mobile phone (412) 779-6060.

When Is The Right Time To Buy Or Sell?

We have found a new home that we want to buy, but the seller can’t close until late this year.  Should we put our current home on the market now or wait until we get closer to the closing date for our new home?

We are currently experiencing an exceptionally strong spring market!  I have not seen a better time to sell in recent years! So now would be an excellent time to list your home for sale.  However, if you do, you need to expect that your buyer is unlikely to wait for many months to close.  Rate locks are generally only good for 60 days, so any closing beyond that exposes the buyer to the possibility of interest rate hikes.  Additionally, this time of year most buyers are looking to occupy their new homes in time for school to start in the fall.  So if you list your home now, you need to be prepared for the possibility of an interim move to a short-term rental.  You may view this as the safest option because if your home does sell quickly requiring a move to an interim rental, you will at least know that you will not be stuck carrying two homes at one time!

Your other option is to wait until closer to the closing on your new home to put your current home on the market.  This would certainly be the more convenient option – you would not have to find an interim rental property and store your personal effects.  However, while homes do sell in the fall market, it does not have nearly the momentum that the spring market has.  If you choose to wait and list your home in the fall, it is possible that you will need to carry two houses until the spring 2018 market begins.  I also don’t have a crystal ball to predict whether the spring 2018 market will have the same momentum that the current market has.

In the end your decision will need to be based on which risk factor concerns you more.  Would you be more unhappy if you had to spend interim months in a rental property because a buyer this spring needs your house now, or would you be more unhappy if you had to carry the cost of owning two homes for several months?  The answer to this question should guide you as to when is the appropriate time to list your home for sale.

FEATURED HOMES:

 

7 Harvester Court

 

7 Harvester Court
Looking for a home delivered to you on a silver platter?  Your search is over!  This custom built all brick colonial was just renovated with 3 new luxury baths, newer kitchen, new roof, new HVAC, new deck, new paint in modern aesthetic and more. Totally turn-key for you and your family! 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, 3 car garage, finished walk-out lower level, nearly 2 acre lot.  $775,000

 

 

 

309 Pink House Road

309 Pink House Road
Privacy and village proximity combine perfectly at this fabulous custom designed and built newer home.  Recently remodeled in a stylish palate, the open concept floorplan features exceptionally large rooms, walls of widows flooding the home with natural light and hardwood floors unifying the main level.  The upper level is home to 4 bedrooms, all with en-suite baths.  The walk-out lower level houses a 5th bedroom, gameroom and gym area. French doors spill out from the great room onto a stone patio and the private 9 acre lot beyond.  $1,595,000

 

 

As an Associate Broker at
HOWARD HANNA REAL ESTATE SERVICES,
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, is ready to answer any
questions you may have regarding your real estate needs.
Feel free to contact her at the office (412) 741-2200 x238,
or on her mobile phone (412) 779-6060.

Getting a Lowball Offer, and Hitting A Home Run

Do you recommend that seller’s work with “lowball” offers that they receive? 

The quick answer is YES! Sellers should try to work with any offer that they receive.  However, it’s important to layer filters onto the offer to determine how you should respond.

If your home has been on the market for more than a few months and hasn’t sold, there is a possibility that it is overpriced.  Sometimes a home is just very unique – in its location or its floorplan, for example.  This may extend its marketing time as the pool of potential buyers will be smaller.  But if your home offers more of the features that buyers today are seeking and it hasn’t sold, chances are your pricing may be too aggressive.  This may be a tough pill to swallow – the market right price may be below what you had hoped to sell your home for, below what you “need” to buy your next home or below what you have invested in your home.  As unappealing as this may sound, the market doesn’t care what a seller wants, needs or has invested.  The only relevant inquiry is what has sold in the recent past and how your home compares to those homes.

So if your home is new to the market and you get a lowball offer, it’s not unreasonable to expect that buyer to increase their price.  But if it’s been on the market a while, the price adjustments may be weighted more heavily on the seller’s end.  In any event, it’s important to counter every offer that you receive.  Sometimes you may want to just reduce a small amount in your counter, providing comps and analysis that clearly substantiate your value.  If you provide this information to the buyer, there is a possibility that your data will persuade them to see the value in the home.  If you have no data to justify your price and its just what you “hope” to get or “need” to get, you may want to be more generous with your counter offer and hope to meet the buyer somewhere in the middle.  People list their homes when they want to sell them and the first step in that process is to start the conversation with every buyer, no matter how offensive their offer seems at first – frequently sellers are rewarded for their patience and responsiveness with a sold home!

Featured Homes:

5 Kevin Drive
$759,000

Does living alone in the woods sound appealing to you? 5 Kevin Drive delivers the opportunity to live on 3 acres of natural woodlands, surrounded only by mother nature, and yet still be part of an up-scale neighborhood.  And you cannot beat the location, which combines this privacy with close proximity to I-79.  5 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, 3 finished levels, 3 car garage, two home offices.

928 Blackburn Road
$1,225,000

This immaculate Sewickley Heights home was transformed from an historic barn just two decades ago!  On a private 5 acre lot backing to the Allegheny Land Trust, the main home features 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, an expansive great room with soaring ceilings and woodburning fireplace.  On the lowest level are the original stables with 4 stalls, but this space would also be perfect for other farm animals or vehicles.  The property also conveys with a renovated guest cottage with 3 BRs, 3baths.

 

 

As an Associate Broker at
HOWARD HANNA REAL ESTATE SERVICES,
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, is ready to answer any
questions you may have regarding your real estate needs.
Feel free to contact her at the office (412) 741-2200 x238,
or on her mobile phone (412) 779-6060.

The Score on Appraisals

Our neighbors home was under agreement and we just heard that it didn’t appraise.  Is this a common issue you face and how can it be prevented?

Appraisal failures have become more common since the 2008 recession and the tightening of lending standards.  All lenders are required to use pools of appraisers – they cannot control where the appraisal order goes or who does the appraisal.  In fact, lenders are to have no contact with the appraiser to avoid undue influence. Unfortunately, some lenders (typically the larger ones as compared to the small local lenders) use large appraisal placement services and an appraisal on a Sewickley home could end up being placed with an appraiser in Monroeville, or worse yet, in West Virginia or Ohio.  These non-local appraisers do not know our market and often miss the subtleties of our neighborhoods and inventory.   Additionally, many companies use very young people whom they pay a very low wage to complete the appraisal.  It becomes a volume business that many rush through, often missing important details (like that third bathroom).

If an appraisal fails (meaning it comes in under the agreed upon purchase price), there is almost nothing anyone can do to correct that appraisal.  Unless there is an egregious error, like missing a third bathroom, it is highly unlikely there will be an opportunity to increase the appraisal.  Therefore, it is important to set yourself up for success at the time of the initial appraisal.  To do this, I ask my sellers to provide a specific list of all updates they have made to their home in recent years.  I then personally meet the appraiser at the home and make sure that he is taking note of all of its special features.  I also provide him with a list of all of the home’s features and all relevant comparable sales and how they compared to the home he is appraising.  By having personal contact with every appraiser and helping him to understand the nuances of our town and the home he is appraising, my sellers are far more likely to receive the appraisal they need to keep their deal on track.

Should your home fail to appraise, rather than reducing your purchase price to meet the appraised price, a creative solution is to pay for the buyer to change lenders and start the appraisal process all over again.  This is usually less than $1000 and is usually cheaper than reducing the purchase price.  I have seen appraisals come in more than $100,000 apart in a two week time period, which only accentuates how many appraisers just don’t understand our area.  It’s usually not that the value isn’t there but that the appraiser just doesn’t get the market.  This solution could get your buyer the home they want and you the price you agreed to.

FEATURED HOMES:

309 Quaker Road
$799,000

Picture perfect, modern aesthetic is combined with historic charm in this beautifully remodeled Sewickley Village home.  With 5 bedrooms, 4.5 baths, newer white kitchen, mudroom, main level office, 2 car garage and fenced backyard, this fantastic home is in impeccable condition throughout!

 

 

 

204 New England
$699,500

Exceptional condition and a surprisingly spacious floorplan define this handsome, beautifully expanded Edgeworth home.  Three finished levels of living space.  Wish list features include main level mudroom and den, kitchen open to family room and attached garage, New master bath.  Pottery Barn aesthetic throughout. Large yard.

 

As an Associate Broker at
HOWARD HANNA REAL ESTATE SERVICES,
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, is ready to answer any
questions you may have regarding your real estate needs.
Feel free to contact her at the office (412) 741-2200 x238,
or on her mobile phone (412) 779-6060.

Go the Extra Mile!

We were disappointed on our final walk through – the sellers didn’t leave the house in as good shape as we would have hoped – we were wondering what is expected?
It is a contractual requirement that sellers convey a home that is broom swept clean, and that is a reasonably low standard. I too would be unhappy if the person I bought my home from only hit a baseline standard.  Sellers should be reminded that this is a small town and it’s best to put your best foot forward in welcoming a new family into your home.  Most of what a home needs to feel move-in ready costs very little and will go a long way to both selling your home and making sure that it closes smoothly and without incident.

It’s a good idea to handle all minor maintenance issues upfront before listing and stay on top of any that occur pre-closing.  Do a property check both before listing and before closing to make sure your home is in great shape.  Make sure your yard is tidy with hedges trimmed and the yard mown – do not leave weeds growing in your beds. Repair anything that is broken – broken doorbells, torn screens, cracked window panes, burned out lightbulbs. Make sure that walls, floors, cabinets and switch plates are scuff-free.  If something breaks before closing, have it repaired – it is required that you convey the home as it was when the buyer made the offer.  If your water heater dies, for example, you need to install a new one.  Do not remove anything from your walls without patching, sanding and repainting to match – it’s not ok to leave holes in your walls.  If there is something you were hiding behind a piece of furniture (unpainted walls) or under a rug, it’s also not ok to leave that unhappy surprise for the buyer to discover on their walk-through.

This may all seem like basic common courtesy! And yet you would be stunned to know how many sellers vacate their homes and leave behind knee high weeds, dirty cabinets or holes in walls just hours before they expect to go to a closing and collect a half a million dollars or more for their home! Take the time to leave a home you can be proud of –most of this is cheap to do and will generate good will with your buyer.  Finally, once you and your belongings are out, have a professional come in and scrub your old home down – nothing says how much you loved your old home and how appreciative you are that the buyers are buying it than leaving behind a squeaky clean home!

Featured Homes:

129 Fox Hill Drive
$625,000

129 Fox Hill Drive $625,000

Tired of looking at one fixer upper after another wondering how you can fit a project into your already too busy life?  Look no further! This home has been meticulously renovated — recent improvements include new kitchen, 2.5 new baths, new windows, new HVAC, new paint inside and out, newly refinished floors & more. 4BR, 2.5 baths, 2 car garage, finished walk-out lower level, 1 acre lot.

7 Harvester Court
$775,000

Looking for a home delivered to you on a silver platter?  Your search is over!  This custom built all brick colonial was just renovated with 3 new luxury baths, newer kitchen, new roof, new HVAC, new deck, new paint in modern aesthetic and more. Totally turn-key for you and your family! 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, 3 car garage, finished walk-out lower level, nearly 2 acre lot.

 

As an Associate Broker at
HOWARD HANNA REAL ESTATE SERVICES,
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, is ready to answer any
questions you may have regarding your real estate needs.
Feel free to contact her at the office (412) 741-2200 x238,
or on her mobile phone (412) 779-6060.

The Real Estate Advisor

Why do you write this column every week?

The Real Estate Advisor gives me the opportunity to share with you, our community, information that frequently arises in real estate transactions that I hope will help you have a smoother, more successful real estate transaction of your own.  No two transactions are alike and the more you, the consumer, know about the process and possible pitfalls, the more likely it is that you will complete your transaction without any major obstacles to overcome.

If a Realtor is a practiced professional, the buying or selling of a home should look like something anyone could do.  I’m here to tell you, after 18 years in the business, that making the process seem smooth and hassle free is far more challenging than you might imagine.  There are so many possible pitfalls.  Questions abound.  How to choose an agent that will best represent you in the purchase or sale of what may be your largest asset.  How to price your home to maximize your value while not losing market interest. How to prepare your home for market.  How to stage your home for a successful sale.  What to expect when a buyer views  your home. What kind of financing should you consider? How to present an offer that is most likely to result in a sale.  What to expect from the negotiation process.  How to protect yourself from a bad inspection. How to handle the details leading to closing.  How to prepare your home for closing.

The list is seemingly endless.  I write The Real Estate Advisor to help you, the consumer, get a better understanding of the process just like I advise my clients daily.  I share market information, stories, anecdotes and give advice to keep you well informed and up-to-date.  And while it is not possible for me to cram into one article what you need to know to be successful, all of my past articles are posted on my blog at www.kathebarge.com where they are available to refer to at anytime, 24/7.  And of course, I am always right here in Sewickley should you prefer to work with me personally! I hope you enjoy the column as much as I enjoy writing it!

Featured Homes:

5 Kevin Drive
$759,000

Get lost in the woods! 3 acres of amazing wooded privacy close to I-79 with easy access to downtown Pittsburgh & the airport. Well maintained, with large rooms and great floorplan for entertaining.  Large windows flood the home with natural light.  5 bedrooms, 4.5 baths, finished lower level.

329 Centennial Avenue
$558,000

Not too big.  Not too small. 329 Centennial is just right!  “Old shell” on the outside, and all new inside, the open main level floor plan is unlike any you will find again in Sewickley Village.  High quality amenities throughout with exceptional attention to detail.  Large, fenced yard with covered porch, walled terrace and patio.

 

As an Associate Broker at
HOWARD HANNA REAL ESTATE SERVICES,
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, is ready to answer any
questions you may have regarding your real estate needs.
Feel free to contact her at the office (412) 741-2200 x238,
or on her mobile phone (412) 779-6060.

Don’t Miss Out!

We just lost out on a home that we loved.  Is the spring market really that hot already?

In a word, yes.  The market took a sudden uptick last week, signaling the official beginning of spring in our real estate world. And yes, several properties went under agreement after receiving multiple offers.

Are you one of the many buyers sitting on the sidelines of our real estate market for some reason?  Now is the time to get serious.  It might look like homes have been sitting.  You might think there is no rush. Why are you sitting on the sidelines? Thinking there is a possibility that the “perfect” home will materialize?  Expecting that the home that has been siting for a while isn’t going anywhere?  Speculating that if you wait long enough the seller will drop the price?  These ideas may end up costing you a home that you might have really enjoyed when another more serious buyer swoops in from nowhere and buys the home out from under you.  It happens all the time in the spring market.

There is no perfect home, and if there is, it will be priced well above market because it is what every buyer is waiting for.  Should that home materialize – and we all know what it is – new kitchen and baths, attached garage, central Village, large yard, Pottery Barn gray & white aesthetic, in perfect condition with no projects remaining – there are dozens of buyers at every price point just waiting for it.  There will be a certain bidding war and you will pay top dollar if you want to win.

As inventory continues to be at record lows as we move into the spring market, sellers are far less motivated than they were last month to give you a good deal.  They are weeks away from our typical spring crush, and all indicators are that this will be our strongest real estate year yet.  If you are waiting for a price reduction this time of year, not only are you risking losing the home, but you are likely costing yourself money as sellers become less flexible in the spring market.

Don’t lose out on a home you are excited about by moving too slowly and making the incorrect assumption that the home will be there waiting for you when you are ready.  If you are serious about a move and have found a home that could work for your family, step forward with confidence and make that home your own!

Featured Homes:

108 Colonial Drive
$224,500

A fantastic opportunity for single family living at an affordable price in the top-ranked Quaker Valley School District, 108 Colonial Drive is nicely updated, with spacious rooms and a modern aesthetic.  Living & dining rooms, eat-in kitchen open to family room w/ wood-burning fireplace, enclosed porch, 3 bedrooms, 2 car garage. Stunning views of the Ohio River Valley.

330 Ferry Street
$299,000

Central Sewickley Village is hot! And at 330 Ferry Street you can be just blocks from the heart of the action.  Move-in ready, but still offering excellent investment potential, there are up to 5 bedrooms.  Nicely remodeled kitchen includes stainless appliances and granite tops. Convenient mudroom.  Fenced backyard. Off-street parking. Covered front porch.  A great value!

 

As an Associate Broker at
HOWARD HANNA REAL ESTATE SERVICES,
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, is ready to answer any
questions you may have regarding your real estate needs.
Feel free to contact her at the office (412) 741-2200 x238,
or on her mobile phone (412) 779-6060.

Do You Want to Win?

We are frustrated because we have made a couple of offers on homes and our offers are not being accepted.  What are we doing wrong?

There is nothing more frustrating than choosing a home for your family, only to find out that you won’t be living in it.  But I have to wonder – are you positioning yourself for success?  Why are your offers being rejected? Are you presenting yourself well financially?  Do you have a preapproval letter for the seller?  If not, you need to make that a top priority! If you have a home to sell, is it sold?  Or are you asking the seller to take their home off the market while you try to sell yours?  That is unlikely to happen in a hot spring market, so price your home realistically, get it sold and represent your offer.  Or get approved to buy their home without selling yours and remove the contingency!

The most likely reason offers are rejected, however, is that buyers have unrealistic expectations as to price. There are many out there who feel that Sewickley is “overpriced” and when buying here they need to get a “deal.”  This is inaccurate – I have frequently reviewed the market in the other top school districts and Sewickley’s pricing is certainly not more expensive and occasionally less expensive.  The relevant inquiry is not how much a seller deserves to recoup out of a major renovation or what you or your agent thinks is a “fair” price.  The only relevant inquiry is how much the house is worth, and to determine that your agent needs to determine the comparable sold homes, compare square footage pricing and condition of all of these homes and provide you with data to show you why the seller’s price is or is not in an appropriate range.  However, we do not provide square footage pricing in our MLS so you will need to request that your agent prepare this analysis for you.  It is truly amazing when you reduce homes to the data and remove the emotion, how sensible our pricing really is.  If your hoped for home, for example, is priced at $302/SF and all comparably sized, conditioned and sited homes have sold in excess of $350/SF, the house is a deal at the asking price.  If you offer $260/SF, it’s no wonder your offer was rejected!  While it might seem “fair” to you, it is not grounded in the reality of our market.

There is always a possibility that the seller’s agent has not educated the seller as to how their home falls in the greater scheme of this data driven analysis, in which case you should ask your agent to present that information along with your offer in an effort to educate the seller.  Of course, if you negotiate to within 1% of the asking price, you really need to ask yourself whether that amount of money is meaningful over the life of the loan – it’s probably more sensible to go ahead and pay the price to get into a home that you love.  In the end, if you want to win, you are going to provide an offer price grounded in data and backed with reason and being willing to compromise a bit if that’s what it takes to be victorious!

Featured Homes:

330 Shields Lane
$1,850,000
OPEN HOUSE March 5: 1pm – 3pm

Straight from the pages of a magazine, this spectacular home offers every imaginable amenity! Located on nearly 2 acres in the heart of Sewickley Village, this stunning home features 6 bedrooms, 4.55 baths, 3 car garage, main level laundry, finished lower level, and a show stopper kitchen adjoining spacious family room. Gorgeous architectural details blend seamlessly with modern conveniences.

Open Houses:

329 Centennial Avenue
$558,000
OPEN HOUSE March 5: 1pm – 4pm

329 Centennial Avenue defines the modern concept of an open floorplan.  The top to bottom renovation of this classic central Village home has created a home that is a joy to live in and entertain in. Incredible outdoor space includes the walled private courtyard, patio that spills out onto the large, fenced and flat yard, and hot tub! One car garage plus off-street parking for two. Charming and pristine, it is just blocks from the heart of the action in Sewickley Village.

335 Henry Avenue
$669,500
OPEN HOUSE March 5: 1pm – 4pm

Central Sewickley Village Location Close to Shops, New Cinema, Restaurants, Farmer’s Market! Fabulous Renovation! Property Includes a Charming Detached Guest House with Full Bath which is Ideal for a Home Office, Studio, In-Law Suite…. Modern Amenities have been Seamlessly Incorporated into the Incredible Charm and Architectural Detail that this Home Offers! NEW MASTER BATH 2016!! Expanded and Renovated Kitchen Includes Custom Cabinetry, Stainless Appliances, Granite Countertops and Large Center Island with Two Walls of Windows Overlooking the Amazing Fully Fenced Backyard that Floor the Kitchen with Natural Light! The Yard is Professionally Landscaped and Nearly Upkeep Free with Fabulous Perennial Beds, Inviting Patio Perfect for Entertaining. 3 Bedrooms in Main Home. Main Level Includes Large Dining Room, Family Room, Living Room, all Unified by Beautiful Hardwood Floors. The Covered Front Porch is Perfect for Enjoying a Cup of Coffee or Glass of Wine!

As an Associate Broker at
HOWARD HANNA REAL ESTATE SERVICES,
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, is ready to answer any
questions you may have regarding your real estate needs.
Feel free to contact her at the office (412) 741-2200 x238,
or on her mobile phone (412) 779-6060.

Should I Buy a FSBO?

We have an opportunity to buy a home that we have often admired directly from the owner– any advice?

There are many possible pitfalls to purchasing a home directly from owner that you need to be aware of before proceeding with this opportunity.  The most obvious one is determining the value of the home.  In my eighteen year career, I don’t  think I have yet encountered a seller who has undervalued their home – the emotions we all attach to our homes after years of loving them make it difficult to be objective about fair market value.  Establishing the market value of any home is a complex process – there are block by block variations in price and many factors that impact value cannot be changed, such as a less advantageous location.  An appraisal is the logical place to start in establishing market value, except that in the absence of an agreement of sale or application for financing, the appraiser is shooting in the dark and will often miss critical differences between homes, such as new baths and kitchens.  Additionally, for sale by owners present an unusual opportunity for emotionally attracted buyers to overpay for a home as there is no market response balancing their attraction – they have a fear-based response that if the home actually hits the market, they will lose out (which rarely happens).  This predictable buyer response is what typically causes unrepresented buyers of for sale by owner homes to overpay for the home.

Should you feel secure that the seller is realistic in the price they are asking for their home (and feel that you have the skills needed to make that determination), you will need to engage an attorney who will represent your interests in the contract drafting process.  There are many terms in an agreement of sale that are relevant to you as you move through the process – it is not advisable to use internet forms or forms provided by the seller – you need your own representation.  You need to anticipate paying $250-$400 per hour for this assistance.  Because this represents a significant upfront investment on your part that is not required when you engage a Realtor, it would be advisable before reaching an agreement to have the home inspected.  Failed home inspections are the number one reason that any home sale falls apart.  Without Realtor representation on either side, you may quickly learn that the seller’s view of what is an acceptable condition is not acceptable to you.  It is also not realistic to expect your attorney to negotiate with the seller the way a Realtor would – you will be on your own to work out any issues with the seller and the attorney will simply memorialize that in writing for you.

There are many other ways that we Realtors add tremendous value to our buyer clients through the home buying process that are too lengthy to elaborate on here.  It is unlikely that were you to need a surgery that you would perform it on yourself.  In fact, for most of us it is unlikely we would take on something as simple as a haircut and turn to our trusted stylists to make that a success.  Buying or selling a home is not the easy process we Realtors make it look like – there are many steps along the way that require targeted education and experience to navigate to the best result for you, the buyer – and this service is paid for from the seller’s proceeds, so there is simply no reason not to demand your right to buyer representation!

As an Associate Broker at
HOWARD HANNA REAL ESTATE SERVICES,
Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, is ready to answer any
questions you may have regarding your real estate needs.
Feel free to contact her at the office (412) 741-2200 x238,
or on her mobile phone (412) 779-6060.

Waiting for “Mr. Right”

Will there be more homes coming on the market soon? We’ve been looking for a while and it doesn’t seem like there are many homes available.

Our inventory of available homes has never been lower! And yes, there will be more homes coming on the market soon. I have many wonderful homes almost ready to enter the spring market – sellers working hard to make their home appealing to you. But don’t expect an avalanche – I fully anticipate that there will be fewer than usual homes coming on the market this spring. And with the coming of the spring market there will be many more buyers, much more competition, and a rise in the prices realized by sellers. The window is almost closed for buyers to be able to get a good deal this spring from a seller anxious to sell. Buyers will soon find themselves in bidding wars, in many cases for homes they could have purchased a month earlier at a discount.

Will your perfect home be one of the ones coming on the market in the coming weeks? There is always that chance, but if you are looking for that historically charming Village home that has 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, a two car garage with modern kitchen and baths, a gray/greige color palette, and a yard big enough for fun… get in line! There is a large crowd of people waiting for that product and you are well advised to be pre-approved by a lender and ready to put in a strong offer very quickly, with no guarantee you will be the winner. Another reasonable alternative is to reconsider what we have on the market – there are many terrific homes that with a little effort, could be your dream home.

Why is inventory so low? Here in Sewickley, our community’s popularity is growing every year. The school district continues to garner accolades and rank highly and the secret is out – this is a super cool and fun place to live that is really close to both Pittsburgh and the airport. Why not Sewickley? So as more people try to find a spot here and fewer people depart, fewer and fewer homes are available for sale. The scarcity of homes will continue to put upward pressure on prices. And of course, if your priority is a home in Sewickley, you may just need to consider where you can compromise to make your dream a reality!

Who Represents You?

Can we choose a buyer’s agent even if we have seen homes with the listing agents?

The answer is an unequivocal yes! As a buyer, you are absolutely entitled to choose your own representation in a transaction. It might be that the listing agent is in fact the individual that you feel will best represent you – approximately 1/3 of my transactions involve dual agency, and they proceed smoothly for all parties. But if you have been looking at homes or going to open houses and find the perfect agent for you in that process, it is fine to engage that agent as your representative even if you have seen homes with other agents.

It is of course in your best interests to ultimately select and work exclusively with a buyer’s agent. Your buyer’s agent should provide a personalized high level of service to you. When viewing homes, you should expect your buyer’s agent to provide you with information about the home, neighborhood and community to help you in your decision making process. You should expect your buyer’s agent to provide you with an analysis of comparable sales, develop a negotiating strategy and help you analyze and negotiate the home inspection. These are important benefits that you will receive when you engage a buyer’s agent that cannot be provided in the absence of that relationship.

Many buyers use open houses and viewings with listing agents as their opportunity to interview agents and determine who will best represent them as a buyer’s agent. This makes complete sense if you do not have a prior agency relationship that you were pleased with. Transitioning between homes is a very personal process that can, for some, also be very stressful. For many of us, it also involves the purchase and/or sale of our largest asset. The importance of due diligence, reference checking and interviews cannot be overstated when choosing your real estate representative, and once you have made that decision, it is important to communicate that to other real estate agents when interacting with them. I will be hosting an open house this Sunday, 1-3pm, at 30 Wilson Drive in Ben Avon Heights and next Sunday, February 5, 1-3 pm at 1008 Beaver Street in Sewickley – stop by, check out these amazing homes, and if you don’t already know me, I would love the opportunity to meet you!

New Years Resolution #1

If there was one thing you would advise us to do to our home this year, what would that be?

Whether you are planning to sell your home this year or not, the best thing you can do to your home this year 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 wil 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.

The first thing on my household resolution list this new year is a home inspection and I suggest you add it to the top of your list as well. Give me a call if you need the names of reputable local inspectors.

Selling During the Holidays

The holidays are here and our home is on the market – any tips for selling during the holidays?

The holidays can be a challenging time to sell your home – the number of people looking for a home is much lower than almost any other time of year. But those who do look around the holidays are usually very serious buyers and so it is worth making sure that your home presents as well as possible.

Start with a good fall cleanup! It’s definitely time to put your yard to bed! Make sure your yard is well raked and all dead plants removed. Curb appeal is even more important in colder months when the landscaping is less lush and appealing to a buyer. Make sure gutters are cleaned and everything outside is looking crisp.

Make sure you keep your thermostat up for showings – walking into a cold house for a showing can be a real turn-off. Warmer homes will cause buyers to linger when its cold outside – which will allow them time to admire your home’s wonderful amenities.   And of course, with as gray as Pittsburgh can be in the winter, be sure all of your lights are on for showings (and that you have working lightbulbs in all of the lights). Its also a good idea to put a few lights on timers if you are away so the home always looks cheerful from the street.

Holiday decorations always add cheer to a home, but be careful not to overdo it! Keep your decorations this year on the more minimal side, and try to avoid religious themed decorations. Be sure that you de-clutter BEFORE you decorate and also be sure that your decorations coordinate well with your décor scheme. And of course, avoid large inflatables in your yard!

Finally, don’t forget that if it snows, you must keep your driveway and walk clear of snow so that the buyers can easily get inside

The Million Dollar Question!

Do you have any thoughts as to how the election will affect our housing market?

That is the million dollar question these days!

The quick answer: in the long run, I don’t expect it will have any effect. Real estate is very local. What happens in one part of the country often has nothing to do with what happens elsewhere. Pittsburgh tends to be a more cautious market. Our prices don’t escalate quickly and they also didn’t plummet after the recession. We have seen a very slow and steady upswing in our prices and I expect that to continue – because it is slow and steady, as Pittsburgh has always been.

Our sales have, however, came to a near standstill in recent weeks. But the elections are over and we have a new President elect – so where does that leave us?

When it comes to the real estate market, it really doesn’t matter who you voted for or what you think of the election results – it is common when there is an anticipated change in leadership for our real estate market to slow down. And so I expect, as has happened in prior leadership change years, that our real estate sales will be very slow from now until after Inauguration Day. Cautious Pittsburghers will be interested to see who is chosen to fill cabinet positions and what plans are laid out for the coming years. Home purchases are a big event in most people’s lives and they will want a greater sense of certainty before they make a big change like a new home. And then I fully expect, as has been the case with other elections, that normalcy will return to our market.

Because I expect the next three months to be slow in real estate sales, I do expect that will lead to a pent up demand and a strong spring market. If you are thinking of selling, now is the perfect time to put together a plan for selling your house this spring. The election is over and you can be certain one thing will not change – I will still be here selling houses for you!

Selling Your Vacant Home

Dear Kathe:

We may move out and leave our home vacant and for sale – is there anything special we should know?

First and most importantly, you must consider your insurance coverage. If you have a loss and you have not notified your insurance company that you have vacated the home, they may deny coverage for your loss. Some companies may not provide coverage for your vacant home and you will need to switch insurers. Some will provide coverage for a limited amount of time, and some will provide coverage as long as you leave your furniture in place. However, most will deny coverage for any loss related to water, so whenever you leave a home vacant for any amount of time, its important to turn the water off at the main. If its winter time, you should consider having a plumber professionally winterize your home.

Second its rarely a good idea to leave a home totally empty. Some homes do show better without the owner’s furniture, but even in those cases its important to leave bathrooms, the kitchen, fireplace mantles… staged so that the home feels loved and inviting to prospective buyers. Be sure to have a few lights on timers – buyers often drive by homes at night and you don’t want yours looking haunted! Of course, there are professional home stagers that can help you with any level of staging, whether its working with your existing furnishings, accessorizing bathrooms and the kitchen, or bringing in new furniture to fill the empty space.

You should have a house keeper who comes monthly to keep the home fresh and bug free and a yard service to keep the yard freshly mown and free of weeds, as well as leaves rank and snow shoveled. Finally, you should be sure to keep the temperature set at a comfortable temperature – in the winter no lower than 60 degrees and preferable 65 degrees.

Leaving a home vacant certainly makes showings easier, but it does require some extra attention to make sure the home does not feel abandoned and remains appealing to prospective buyers!

Finding the Right Agent to Represent You!

Dear Kathe,

We have our home listed with another agent and are unhappy with the service we are receiving. We can’t help but wonder what process we should have gone through to find the right agent. Any ideas?

When choosing a Realtor, it’s important to do more research than asking a colleague, friend or service provider who they would recommend. I often help my clients find an agent in the new city they are moving to, and I start online.

First, I look for agents who do a lot of business in the area my client is moving to. How many listings does the agent have? I look at her sold listings on Zillow and see how many she has sold, both in the area and in the price range my clients will be buying into to make sure she has the experience they will need.

I then look at her individual website for her certifications and qualifications. These credentials require extensive commitment to training by the agent, and training means the agent is best equipped to achieve the very best result for you.  Much of this training requires years of dedication to learning and excellence.  All agents are not brokers, for example.  An Associate Broker’s license takes a minimum of three years commitment to additional learning and hands on experience. If you are buying or selling a Signature home, there is an even higher level of training available to an agents such as Distinctive Homes Specialist.  Christie’s Great Estates Specialist.  These programs add yet another level of  skill and expertise to an agent’s repertoire.

I like to say “a monkey can stick a sign in your yard.”  It takes years of training and experience though to sell real estate while making it look smooth and easy.  By earning credentials, we learn how to price optimally, how to market strategically, how to use the latest technology for your benefit, the complex ins and outs of our lengthy Agreement of Sale (the intricacies of which are just waiting to ensnare the inexperienced), how to negotiate for success, how to navigate the rough seas of inspections and how to close on time.  Every one of these skills inures directly to your benefit and your bottom line.

I also look to see how developed her website is (is it more than a simple blurb) and how many reviews/ quality of reviews she has on Zillow. This gives a sense of how committed the agent is to the business.

Finally, I interview the prospective agents to determine marketing plans, detailed knowledge of the area and their personal market statistics.   So take the time – get to know our credentials – and make an educated decision when choosing your next real estate agent.

Should I Buy First or Sell First?

Dear Kathe,

We want to downsize but are not sure how to go about that process – do we buy our new home first or sell our current one first? 

Your question touches on one of the trickiest scenarios in real estate – sell first or buy first? The answer is different depending on an individual’s circumstances. Buying first is usually the best choice – you can take your time finding the perfect next house. And you can move out of your current home before listing it for sale, which will allow you to stage and present the home without clutter and without the hassle of having to tidy up for showings. However, buying first requires a few things. You must qualify to own two homes at once. You must have a down payment for your new home in a savings account, or an existing home equity line in place on your current home that will allow you to pull out the cash you need for a down payment. And you must be okay with the concept that you may be carrying two homes for an undefined amount of time.

If you do not qualify to own two homes at one time, do not have the required down payment for the new home, or are just too nervous about owning two homes for an undefined amount of time, then your only option is to sell first. It’s a good idea before putting your home on the market to get pre-approved for your new home purchase (you want to be sure you qualify before selling yourself out of your existing home) and to start looking online for new home possibilities. When you get an offer, you may need to act quickly. The buyer for your home is unlikely to be able to wait for you to figure out what you are going to do next. If you need to wait to figure that out, you may lose the buyer. Additionally, to purchase a new home, that seller is likely going to expect that you have already moved through inspections on your current home and have a solid deal. Therefore, you will want to agree to a longer closing date on your current home to give you time to get through the inspection negotiations and select a new home. Of course, there is always the option of renting if you cant find the right home!

It is tricky, but with proper strategic guidance it can be accomplished smoothly and successfully.

Selling with Old Mechanicals

Dear Kathe,

We have a very old (25 years) furnace.. It is still working well and we don’t have the cash to replace it. We are planning to sell our home next year. What advice do you have?

A 25 year old furnace is a very old furnace, well beyond the useful life expected of such equipment. If a buyer makes an offer on your home and then finds out how old your furnace is, there is a very high likelihood that they will be asking you to buy a new furnace as part of their inspection response. There are a few things you can do to set yourself up for a positive outcome.

First, when you complete your seller disclosure, be sure to write on the document that the furnace is past the end of its useful life and may need to be replaced soon. Price your home accordingly and be sure that your agent highlights to buyers agents that you have priced your home at a lower price point because of its older mechanicals. This will prevent the buyer from expecting you to buy them a new furnace – they should take the age of the furnace into account when making their offer.

Second, put a home warranty on your home when you list it. This will provide coverage to you should the furnace break while you own the home and will give the buyer 12 months of coverage should anything happen in their fist year of ownership (and it is renewable).

Finally, consider buying a new furnace. Many contractors are willing to accept payment at closing if you make arrangements for this upfront. With a new furnace you can ask more for your home and are more likely to draw more enthusiasm form the buyers who do see your home.

Partnering for the Sale

Dear Kathe,

 Our home has been on the market for a while – we are getting a fair amount of traffic but so far, no offers. We are concerned that others are selling and ours is not. What are your thoughts?

 Selling a home is a partnership – a realtor cannot waive a magic wand and make a home sell. An agent’s initial primary job is to make sure that your home is well advertised and to provide honest advice and feedback about condition. If you are getting a reasonable amount of showings, then that’s a good sign that the marketing is working well. Hopefully, you have gotten feedback from these showing and have taken steps to overcome any perceived drawbacks. Some things can’t be overcome – if a buyer needs an extra bedroom or garage, there isn’t much to do about that, but if there are concerns that you can address, be sure that you do.

Take a quick tour of your home, invite a neighbor over for a look or visit other open houses to make sure your home is presenting as well as your competition. Take staging to a new level. If you have checked all of the typical boxes (no wallpaper, neutral carpets throughout, neutral paint, no clutter, removing personal items such as family photos and religious décor…) take the time to consider what else YOU can do to help improve the chances of an offer. If your rooms don’t look open and spacious, remove more items to a storage facility. Did you remember to clean your windows this spring? Dirty windows can make a home very dull inside. In this heat, have you been watering your landscaping so that it is alive and thriving? How about your lawn? Green or dead? Have you removed the signs of your own wear & tear – are switch plates and walls clean and smudge free? Have you de-cluttered too much making your home sterile? Pottery Barn is still the easiest look to sell—make sure that while your home is reasonably free of personal items such as family photos, it has some warmth – fluffy white towels in the bathrooms, attractive throw pillows on couches and beds… Unsure of what you need? Bring in a home stager for some professional advice. Remember, selling a home is team work – you need to be doing your part!

Finally, price must constantly be evaluated. Keep in mind the oldest rule of thumb in the book – 13 weeks or 13 showings – if you still don’t have an offer, its probably price. Yes, improving condition can improve price. But if you are getting the showings and you aren’t drawing an offer and can’t make significant changes to the home to overcome objections, you must reduce your price, or be very patient waiting for what could be years for that one buyer to come along.

A Pre-inspection is Your Best Offense!

Dear Kathe,

Friends of mine just had the sale of their home fall through because of a home inspection. How can that be prevented?

 Yes – sellers should have their home pre-inspected before listing to prevent these kinds of issues! Finding a buyer and agreeing on a purchase price is only one small component of a real estate transaction and yet it is often all that sellers focus on.  What happens between then and closing, however, is often the more difficult part of the process.  Issues with a home uncovered on an inspection often cost a seller thousands in unexpected repairs and when sometimes even result in a terminated transaction.  Inspectors are incredibly thorough (sometimes even finding problems that aren’t problems) and so every home seller should anticipate that the home inspector will find deficiencies and that the buyer will expect correction.

All home sellers should seriously consider having their homes pre-inspected.  For as little as $250 – $500 for a basic pre-inspection you will quickly have an insiders view of how a buyer’s inspector will assess your home.  Use the inspection as a maintenance check list – find a handyman to come in and fix all of the little things so that they don’t come up again on a buyer’s inspection.  If there are larger items that you do not have the ability to repair, such as a roof nearing the end of its useful life, get an estimate or two for the repair or replacement.  Note the issue on your disclosure and include a copy of the estimate.  This should prevent you from having to credit the buyer for the repair later – buyers are supposed to review the disclosure and take any disclosed items into account in making their offer to you.

Of course, if your inspection is good or just has a lot of little items that a handyman can fix, attach the handyman’s receipt showing the repair provide a copy of the inspection in the house for buyers to see with a note indicating that the home has been pre-inspected and repaired and that they buyer can buy with confidence knowing that they are buying a house in great shape!  In a town full of older and aging homes, this will really help your marketing!

So before you list your home – consider a pre-inspection.  It will give buyers the confidence they need to move ahead with a purchase, may combat concerns that there are likely problems that would lower their initial offer to you, and will hopefully result in a smooth transaction once you do have your home under agreement.

 

Where Did All the Color Go?

Dear Kathe,

Why does it seem that almost every home we view online is so neutral? What happened to all the color?

 I recently reviewed a portion of a local market in the mid-price ranges and interestingly, almost every home that is under agreement has zero wallpaper and is painted in a neutral color palate (including beiges, grays, greiges and a few other nearly neutral tones). Only one of these homes had any true color on its walls, and that home took nearly a year and several price drops to go under agreement.

Professional home stagers have been counseling for years to remove all wallpaper before putting your home on the market –asking someone to buy a home with wallpaper is as personal as asking them to buy someone else’s wedding dress. No matter how beautiful, it’s rarely done and appeals to very few. Stagers are also quick to recommend neutralizing your paint palate. While there are some warmer neutrals, these days the cooler neutrals like gray and greige are the more popular tones with the buying public. Even having a more colorful child’s room can be a big turnoff.

It seems the selling public has in large part heeded this advice. The homes that are actually selling for the most part have been stripped of their wallpaper and painted in a more current, more neutral paint palate. Absent a compelling reason to choose a home that is not “sale ready” such as a severely discounted price, buyers are far more likely to overlook other “road blocks” to a sale such as a lack of a garage than they are to look past a personalized and colorful decorating scheme.

Does this mean that we must all live in color-free homes? Of course not! Your home should reflect your personality and your personal furnishings undoubtedly tie your color choices together. But it is important when we move toward a customized design scheme to remember that when its time to sell, part of the cost of selling will be repainting these spaces back to a more neutral palate!

Pocket Listings — Are They For You?

Dear Kathe, 

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. 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. Some agents choose this strategy because they want to keep all of the commission for themselves and that only happens if their own buyer is the successful bidder. 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 17 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.

The Pace of the Sale

Dear Kathe,

Why do some homes seem to fly off the market and others take years to sell?

Location. Price. Condition. These are the three most important factors that go into how long a home is on the market. Unique attributes and depth of market segment would be fourth and fifth!

Location is really where it all begins. If your home is in an easy to sell location, the market will be far more tolerant of imperfections in other areas, such as wallpaper or a slightly aggressive price. Location is sometimes relative to a particular buyer – their work address may make one part of town more desirable than another, but generally speaking, buyer excitement about properties rises and falls with address.

Condition is also a very important factor in pricing. Homes that look like they are straight from the pages of a Pottery Barn catalog tend to sell more quickly, and tend to bear higher prices than are sometimes warranted. Those that are dated, with older wallpaper and carpeting, for example, tend to sit – unless, of course, they are in a hot location and deeply discounted, in which case our stable of “flippers” will be ready to buy with cash and close quick for the opportunity at a profit when they renovate.

Price is the easiest of all factors to change. If priced well, even less popular locations and homes that have condition challenges can sell quickly. But if you are trying to match the price of competing sales that were in better locations, better condition or with more amenities, you may find your home takes far longer to sell.

Finally, you may have a home with unique features. A home with no off-street parking can be a challenge to sell at any price point, and it is a matter of being patient and waiting for the right buyer who appreciates the home’s other attributes. You may not have a master bathroom. You may not have any green space in your “yard.” You may have a kitchen barely big enough for one. You may have only two bedrooms. There are many factors that could lengthen time on the market even with perfect condition and price. And of course, depth of the market segment is relevant as well. The higher you go in price, the fewer qualified buyers there will be and the longer your home will take to sell.

My Magic Wand

Dear Kathe,

Our home is on the market and not sold – where are the buyers this spring? How can we get it sold?

 Our spring market has seen some very unusual fluctuations.  In some weeks there have been surges, with several houses going under agreement in a week, and other weeks have been quiet.  The one million dollar price range has been hot for the first time in a couple of years.  The under $300,000 market is also moving very well.  If you’re home is in the “middle” then yes, it’s been slower than expected and it’s hard to know why.  Speculation has included the election, of course, as well as cutbacks in some oil and gas companies.

Sadly, real estate agents don’t have magic wands that we can wave to make a buyer appear for your home.  If it’s been on the market for more than a few weeks it’s likely the local prospects have seen it and determined that its not a fit for them.  The most likely buyer is someone currently outside the area, and there is just no predicting when a company is going to relocate someone who might be looking for a home.

 Therefore, what you must do is make sure it is the best choice in the price range when a buyer does arrive on the scene.  It is important to make sure that it shows perfectly – there is a lot of competition – other sellers who really want a buyer as well.  I have written many articles that you can find on my blog at www.kathebarge.com that cover critical topics like de-cluttering and staging, and updating your home.  It might be time to bring in a professional stager.  It might be time to update paint colors, freshen any dated carpets, update lighting fixtures or baths. Many of these things can be done very cost effectively and could give your home the edge with the next buyer through town.

 It may also be time to have a professional appraisal done of your home, both to check to make sure that you have it priced competitively and to give any buyer prospects confidence that the value is there.

 In the end, homes with completely updated features and current design palates continue to be the first ones to sell.  If that’s not your home and changes aren’t possible, then review price, do the best you can to stage and de-clutter, and then be patient.  Buyers can be very fickle – your buyer will come!

Where Did They Get THAT Price!?

Dear Kathe,

How do we decide how to price our home? We know buyers like to negotiate!

Deciding on an asking price is a challenging task, particularly in Sewickley.  Interestingly, in Pittsburgh’s North Hills, sellers realize much closer to their asking price, often 97% and higher.  However, if a property is overpriced in the North Hills, buyers will simply write the property off – low-ball offers are not made.  In Sewickley, however, we have developed the unique tradition of negotiating fairly heavily on the sale of a home.  In prior years, the average realization was only 89% and offers often start as low as 80% below asking price.  So how is a seller to price a property?  If a seller prices 20% over the price a home is likely to sell for to allow for negotiating, it is likely to be seen as “overpriced.”  If the seller prices only 2% over likely sales prices, many buyers will factor in the large discounts we often see and bring in inappropriately low offers.  Developing a strategy for both pricing and marketing is therefore critical to make sure that a home is both well received and does not sit and get stale on the market.

If you’re facing a deadline due to job relocation or other reasons, then you need to price competitively, even more competitively than expected in today’s market.  You’ll need to list at significantly less than your competition.  And keep your commission higher as an incentive for a quicker offer.  That may seem tough to stomach, but it’s better than continuing your monthly loan payments or the hassle of trying to find tenants to rent your home and of being a landlord for a year or more.

If your home has been listed for some time, but not generating interest, you may need to lower your price.  Of the three elements that sell a home – price, location, and condition – price is the one you’ll have the most control over.  Review your listing company’s programs and marketing, making sure that you are taking advantage of all of them.

Make sure your home shows better than its competition.  Its condition should outshine all of the other listings in its price range.  Take time to de-clutter, store off site what you can live without, stage and make sure you attend to all of the little maintenance projects you may have been putting off.

In the end, Sewickley statistics show that if your home does not have an agreement on it within 75 days of the listing date, you will not achieve 90% or more of your original asking price.  This makes the original list price a critical decision and also makes it clear that after 75 days, it is absolutely essential to reevaluate your price in light of market feedback and price.

The Fine Line

Dear Kathe,

How important do you think it is for us to make repairs around our home before listing it?

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

Many buyers actually get quite nervous during the home inspection (also known as buyers remorse). If you happened to have gotten one of these buyers, it is possible that they could walk away from your deal if the inspection concerns feel too weighty to them. After you actually receive and negotiate the offer, the last thing you want to do is lose the buyer over items that you could have fixed but didnt think anyone would notice or care about! In todays market, they notice, they care. Sometimes they are willing to let you pay for the repair. Sometimes they just walk. Dont 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 didnt know about and didnt have a chance to adjust for in making your offer. It’s a fine line buyers also walk in deciding what are fair and appropriate inspection requests of a seller.

A Continued Response to Last Week’s Question…

When it comes to selling a home, success is in the detail.  Attention to details in the contract is critical.  But so is attention to detail in the preparing your home for sale.  Last week I focused on the type of details you don’t want to overlook in prepping your bathrooms for a buyer’s eye.  Today I turn my focus to the kitchen.  Your kitchen is absolutely key to the sale of your home.  A buyer may not decide definitively that he will buy your home on the main level, buy he very well may decide he won’t buy your home on the main level.  That’s why it’s so important that the main level of your home sparkle, and the kitchen is the most anticipated component of that level.

Like bathrooms, the kitchen should be as clean and updated as possible. Again, a good detail cleaning is where you should start.  Clean inside of cabinets and drawers (buyers do open them).  Get rid of or store items you don’t use all of the time – it is important that it appear that you have plenty of storage space – crowded cupboards give the wrong impression.  Clean the outside of cabinets as well.  Polish all stainless appliances with stainless steel polish and keep them that way throughout the listing.  A can on stainless steel wipes will make this very easy for you.  Make sure floors (including corners) are squeaky clean – if your floor is tile, be sure the grout looks clean.  Kitchens are high traffic areas, so be sure your woodwork is in great shape.  Double check baseboards and touch-up paint anything that is beginning to look dingy.  It goes without saying that any wallpaper needs to come down.  Any walls reflecting wear and tear should also be repainted.

Be sure your light bulbs are the highest wattage possible so that your kitchen looks great on even our grayest of days.  Dust off all light fixtures and of course, replace all burned out bulbs.  Clean your refrigerator and your oven.  Remove everything from your countertop except a few decorative type items.  It’s a great idea to clean out a cabinet or a drawer so you have a place to stash things when you find out you are having a showing.  Take everything off the front of the refrigerator and from its top as well.  If you have very old appliances and you live in a higher-end home, replacing those appliances may be worthwhile to fully maximize the value of your home.  Another item to evaluate in higher end homes are countertops.  These days granite is typically found in any home listed over $450,000.  If your home has ceramic or Formica tops, granite will likely aid in selling your home faster and for more money.  Less expensive improvements that can also pay dividends include updating cabinet knobs and lighting fixtures.  This should get you off to a great start in creating a kitchen every buyer will love – if you would like a custom evaluation of your own kitchen, please feel free to give me a call!

Who Left Toothpaste in the Sink!!

Dear Kathe,

It’s snowing outside – hard to imagine this is a good time to list our home. When is it a good time to get our home on the market? Any last minute pointers?

The holidays are behind us and we are ready to start a new and exciting year.  Just two weeks old, the 2016 real estate market is already abuzz — ahead lies the promise of another great year.  If you thought we were in the slow real estate season then you thought wrong!  This couldn’t be further from the truth.  Pittsburgh’s inventory levels have never been lower for longer and there has never been a greater opportunity to sell your home.  Homes that are coming on the market now are moving fast.  In prior articles I have discussed the importance of readying your home for sale and there could be no better time to dig out those articles and start getting your home ready to sell.  The spring market has started — there is no doubt and there is no time to lose!  In the next few articles, I will focus on the details of getting your home ready to sell, so be sure to check in each week.  This week I will address your bathrooms.

Bathrooms are a key component to selling a home.  It is critical that they be both clean and as updated as possible.  Clean is less obvious than you might think.  In addition to the basics, grout should be clean (consider renting a steamer), tubs and showers should be caulked.  Everything should be in good working order.  Commodes should be firmly bolted down, lids should match the toilet, sinks should not drip, drain stoppers on sinks and tubs should properly close and all plumbing hardware should be in good condition and should not be significantly tarnished or corroded (if they are, you can replace them with a reasonably inexpensive fixture).

The bathrooms should also be as updated as possible.  It doesn’t have to cost a lot to give a bathroom a fresh look.  Remove all wallpaper and paint in a color that is reasonably neutral and brings out the best in the tile.  Change lighting fixtures (there is a huge selection of inexpensive bathroom lights online) and cabinet hardware if it is dated.  Consider painting old cabinetry either a shade of white or black.  Replace old mirrors, or repaint their frames for an easy update.  New tile and granite tops may be necessary to bring out the full value in your home if it is in a higher price bracket, but for many homes this level of expense is not necessary to create a fresh, updated and welcoming look.  Take the time to take this list into each of your bathrooms for a detailed review (or call me and I will be happy to walk through with you and help you with this review) and it will pay dividends this spring in a fast and lucrative sale.

Is Your First Buyer Your Best Buyer?

Dear Kathe,

 Is your first offer your best offer?

It’s an age-old adage in real estate – your first buyer is always your best buyer.  How true is this, and what does it mean for you, the home seller?

 As much as we all love our homes and are absolutely certain they are worth more than a buyer is often willing to pay, it is almost always true that your first buyer is your best buyer, and well worth trying to make it work with.  After sixteen+ years in real estate, I can share experiences all day of sellers who let buyers move on, only to ultimately take a lower offer.  For example, I had a listing priced at $350,000.  The first offer, received in only one week, was for $325,000.  The seller wouldn’t budge.  60 days later, a remarkably short period of time, the second offer came in an topped out at $320,000.  Again, the seller wouldn’t budge, now holding out for the earlier $325,000.  Another 60 days passed – at this point both the first and second deals would have been closed and the seller happily freed from his mortgage obligations.  This time, the buyer topped out at $317,000 and this time, the seller had the good sense to grab it, netting $8000 less and closing 120 days later than he would have had he gone with his first buyer.

 This scenario is all too common, and yet, despite the sound advice from those of us who do this every day, history continues to repeat itself.  If you have an offer out of the gate, it doesn’t mean that you priced your home too low.  There is a certain energy that surrounds a new listing.  Buyers panic a bit when a new home enters the market, certain that if they like it so does everyone else.  This panic will drive them to pay more and keep their terms cleaner than a buyer who comes along later.  If you are one of the lucky sellers who gets this early offer, do not second guess yourself or your agent – a better price is never found than one that happens as soon as a home comes on the market.  Grab it and be happy that your home is sold!

 Working with your buyer is also important during the home inspection.  Inspectors are extremely thorough these days and buyers have high expectations about condition.  If you are lucky, the buyer will let some issues go.   But many buyers will require that you address 100% of inspection issues.  If you have to put your home back on the market because you don’t want to make repairs, you will be required to disclose all issues and can be almost guaranteed of a lower offer next time around.

So yes, it is true.  Your best offer is most likely from your first buyer – do what you need to do in order to make the deal work!

Top Schools, Top Value

Dear Kathe,

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. In fact, if you missed the news, US News and World Report recently ranked Quaker Valley High School as the #6 high school in the entire state! That’s an impressive ranking for our small town and equally small school district.

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 driving more and more families to explore the possibility of living here, and despite our new construction, the very limited nature of our housing inventory, when combined with the strong demand, is continuing to put strong upward pressure on our housing values.

First Impressions Die Hard

Dear Kathe –

We’re getting our home ready for the spring market – we don’t want to do too much to get it ready because we’re sure the buyers will want to do projects to make it their own. What do you think?

Recently I was showing a lovely home that was, for the most part, picture perfect, in my professional opinion.  And yet when my client walked into a room with a cream colored carpet on the floor, she couldn’t miss the glaring rust stain on the carpet.  At that moment, the positive vibes she had been feeling instantly turned negative and the home was surprisingly crossed off her list.

This drove home the point once again of how critically important it is for sellers to make sure their homes really are picture perfect and if at all possible, to not leave obvious projects for the buyers.  Buyers really are this critical these days and so unless you have a hot commodity that you are willing to sell at an obviously low price, it is well worth your time to make sure there is nothing that could turn a buyer off.  If you were buying a used car and saw a big scratch on the side panel, would you stop and wonder what else is wrong with the car?  Would you dig deeper than you otherwise might, searching for other deficiencies?  Would you expect the dealer to give you a big discount because of the glaring issue?  Would you be thinking that you would prefer to repair the scratch so that its done to your satisfaction? What if the dealer had taken the time to repair the scratch, so the car looked good as new?  Would it have affected your perception of the car and its desirability to you, the used car buyer?

The same analysis applies to the sale of used homes and yet sometimes, sellers don’t seem to see it that way.  Experience shows that your home will sell faster and for more money if it is properly conditioned for the market before it hits the market.  This does not mean leaving projects for the next owner. Yes, they will want to make the home their own and yes, they may undo some of what you have just done. But they wont even consider making it their own home if they start off feeling like there is work that must be done.

So do yourself and your bank account a favor.  Hire the agent who walks carefully through your home and makes a “to do” list for you of what you need to do to get your home sold, not the one who sweetly glosses over all those things you have seen on HGTV are “no nos” for home sales.  Hire a home stager (they are quite reasonably priced).  And then, take their advice and eliminate all of the objections possible before a buyer walks in the door.  Don’t be the place that “needs a lot of work” — be the one that is “wow, they have really done a lot of work.”

The Reality About Seller Repairs

Dear Kathe,

We are in the process of buying a new home, and had agreed with the seller for a credit of $5000 for repairs related to inspection issues. Now our lender is asking what the credit is for and sending an appraiser back out. What is going on – this didn’t happen the last time we bought a home?

As the years pass post-2008, it seems that lenders are getting more and more restrictive with their lending rules. At first, they just didn’t want to know about repairs, so buyers and sellers started moving repairs to side addendums and providing un-named credits for items the seller didn’t want to fix. Lenders seem to have caught on. They now want to know why money is being credited back post-agreement – it’s a fair question.

From a lenders perspective, they are financing a home that has an appraised value. For example, if you are buying a $500,000 and it appraises for $500,000, the lender agrees to loan you money with the assumption that if you default, that is what the house is worth. If there is something wrong with the house (a failed roof, for example), and you get a credit for it, then the house (with its failed roof) really isn’t worth $500,000 after all, and there are no guarantees that you will take the credit and put on a new roof. If a credit is being offered to a buyer to cover inspection issues, the lenders now want to know why so that they can assess whether the items affect value, and they want to send an appraiser back out to make sure that the home is worth what he said it was worth now that the deficiencies have been revealed.

This is not only going to slow transactions down and possibly delay closings, but it raises the possibility of appraisal failures. For example, if the roof really is bad, the house may no longer appraise. It is probable that our ability to offer credits for inspection issues is coming to an end.

All of this might sound complicated, but there is one very easy take-away. Inspection issues will need to be fixed prior to closing by the seller. Sellers, its important to keep this in mind — if there are inspection deficiencies, you are probably going to have to actually fix them. Don’t want to be blindsided by a long list of issues four weeks before closing? For many reasons, the best course of action is to pre-inspect your home and make repairs upfront.

Is There Such a Thing as “As Is”?

Dear Kathe,

We would like to sell our home “as is”and avoid the hassle of repair negotiations.  How do we do that?

“As Is.” The statement comes up more often than you might imagine.  Negotiations commence on a home and frequently, sellers are not able to achieve their hoped for sales price.  With a sales price lower than imagined, sellers often assert “well then they are buying it AS IS.”  Quite a bold statement – is that really possible?

Put on the buyer’s hat for a moment.  When  buyers agree on a price to buy a home, they are assuming that all is in good order unless it is something obvious to them when they  saw the home or it was on the Disclosure.   If an inspection discloses major problems, how can the home possibly be worth what they had offered?   For example, if the inspection shows the furnace needs to be replaced, how could the home possibly be worth what it was worth when it was believed that the home had a working furnace?  Quite simply, it’s not.  Suggesting that a buyer will need to take the home “as is”  implies that the seller is hiding something – that there are problems that could drive the price down further when discovered.

So what’s a seller to do if he doesn’t want to get stuck footing major inspection repair bills?  The two best options are the seller disclosure and a pre-inspection.  It is wise to disclose absolutely everything that could possibly come up – your agent should be able to review the disclosure in detail with you and make certain that you aren’t forgetting things that could come up on an inspection.  A pre-inspection is also critical for any seller who is inclined toward trying to sell “as is.”  A buyer needs a fair opportunity to determine what the “as is” condition is and a pre-inspection is a critical piece of that puzzle.  All conditions disclosed on the disclosure or in the pre-inspection can be excluded from the buyer’s  inspection, dramatically decreasing the chance that there will be any surprises on the buyer’s inspection that the seller will be asked to pay for and significantly increasing the seller’s likelihood of achieving the illusive “as is” sale.

It’s a Value-Driven Market

Dear Kathe,

If its such a hot market this spring, why are so many homes still on the market?

In some parts of our country, a hot market is defined by homes that hit the market and sell almost instantly with multiple offers in excess of the asking price. That is not how a hot market is characterized here in Sewickley. Here, when we have a few homes that sell in the first week of their listing, and when those sellers realize in excess of 95% of their asking price, we consider the market to be “hot.” In a Sewickley “hot” market, not every home will sell quickly or for a high realization.

Even in our best market, Pittsburgh is a very value-driven city. In other words, buyers here are concerned about whether a seller establishes value and whether the data suggests that the value will be there should they resell the property in the next 2-3 years. Value can be conveyed in many ways. Establishing your basis in the property by providing detailed information about your improvements will help a buyer understand the value you are offering. Correct pricing will also help establish value – its very important to price your home by applying the proper dollar per square foot range to your documentable square footage.

For example, if your home needs some updating, applying a square foot value that has been established for a totally redone home is not going to convey value to a buyer. There are many other factors that will influence a buyer’s perception of value, such as quality of work completed at the property (a handyman special is not only obvious, but likely devalues your home) and the quality of the amenities (higher end appliances will create a higher feeling of value, for example).

In the end, even in a hot market, Pittsburgh buyers keep a level head about themselves and are going to be looking for value before they prepare an offer on a home. If a home has been on the market for the entire spring and has not sold, or if it has received offers that were below what the seller feels the home is worth, there is a high likelihood that buyer perception of value does not align with the asking price and some kind of an adjustment will be required.

Why Hasn’t My Home Sold?

Dear Kathe,

It seems like its been a busy spring market – why hasn’t my home sold? Any advice?

At Howard Hanna, we have just finished the busiest May that we have seen in the history of our company! If your home has been on the market for the entire spring cycle (at least since April 1st) and has not sold, then its time to review the listing and develop a new plan going forward.

The first factor in selling a home is location, and it’s the one you can’t do anything about. Currently, Village homes are in higher demand than those outside the Village, and certain locations in the Village are perceived to be more desirable than others. But you can adjust condition and price to account for location.

Condition and price go hand in hand and, if your home hasn’t sold, one or both probably need to be adjusted. You can read many past articles on my website about how to condition your home so that it actually sells – remove all wallpaper, paint in a current color palate, neutralize/freshen carpet, update lighting and plumbing fixtures, remove signs of wear and tear, declutter (pack in advance what you plan to move with you and donate the rest) and stage your home for success. It’s a simple formula and yet it always surprises me how often I show homes where this basic formula for success has not been followed. Yes, it often requires a home seller to invest even more money into their home to recoup their original investment. But you have likely used and enjoyed your house for several years and it’s a rare day that a buyer wants to be a product that feels well used, at least not without an appropriate “used” discount.   If you can’t be objective, and who can be about their own home, calling in a home stager is the fastest way to unbiased advice on what it takes to get your home sold. A home stager doesn’t just move your furniture around — she can give advice on paint and carpet colors, what needs to be packed up and what wear and tear needs to be repaired.

Price is the easiest thing to adjust, and if you aren’t in a position to adjust condition, adjusting price may be your only option. There is a price at which every house will sell, even one that is not well conditioned for the market. Finding the right price can be a challenge. It’s hard to know how much to discount for a challenging location, a challenging feature (or lack thereof, such as no garage) or updates that buyers perceive are required. Touring competing listings at open houses will help you to understand your competition, but the most valuable data comes from understand the homes that have actually sold and why. Having an independent appraisal done is another excellent way to get an objective opinion on value.

If your home hasn’t had an offer this spring, then its well worth your time to take a serious look at condition and pricing and make any suggested improvements before the slow days of summer set i!

Secret Sales

Dear Kathe,

We are ready to put our home on the market but are private people and would prefer not to have the home in the MLS. Could you just show it if you hear of a prospective buyer?

I may be repeating myself here, but in this hot spring market, it really is an important message. There is simply nothing more powerful for driving in a high offer for your home than listing it with a real estate agent who is fully engaged in the marketing and selling of your home! Yes, you did ask a realtor, so you probably expected that answer, but here’s why.

First, Sewickley loves a secret sale. Everyone loves knowing what no one else knows yet, and buyers feel really special if they get the first chance at your home. But that secret sale is unlikely to drive in your best offer. What credibility do you as a seller have for pricing your own home? All homeowners love their homes and most feel they are worth more than the comparable sales. A real estate agent with a proven track record for pricing home correctly is going to add an air of credibility to your asking price.

Buyers at secret sales will also automatically go for the “you don’t have a realtor” discount. In other words, you are saving nothing by not listing your home with an agent – the buyers will discount their offer to you based on what they think you would have spent in commissions. So your net will be the same (at best) as if you did have a realtor and yet you don’t have an advocate on your side helping you through all of the tricky scenarios that come up in selling a home.

Secret sales are also just that – they are not publicized city wide. There could be a buyer in the South Hills waiting for a home like yours and without a full market press, they will probably never find your home and may buy another, frustrated that “nothing” is on the market.

But most important of all – buyers at secret sales don’t feel the market pressure that a real estate agent can bring to your home. If there is a potentially interested buyer and they see your home marketed absolutely everywhere, they will assume that there are many other buyers out there and they are more likely to succumb to the pressure of the market and perceived competition and pay you more. If it is a secret sale, they can take their time, think carefully, and ultimately will either talk themselves out of buying altogether or talk themselves down in price. Neither is a good answer for you.

So don’t take any chances – if you are serious about selling, list your home with an experienced full time agent and engage the power of our larger market to drive in your best deal.

Getting It All Right!

Dear Kathe:

 I heard my neighbor’s home is sold and the sign never went up. Is the market really that hot? How does this happen?

The short answer is yes, the market really is that hot! We absolutely are selling some homes before the sign installer can get to the house! In fact, just this weekend, that happened to one of my listings! I would like to congratulate my clients (and column readers) Krista & Ryan on their one day sale of their home on Thorn Street! They didn’t just call 1-800-Ask-Kathe, but they actually took my advice, which was probably a little shocking out of the gate. They installed two completely new bathrooms and removed all of the old carpet from their home before entering our spring market. And they were handsomely rewarded for their hard work with a lucrative sale to the first buyer prospect who viewed their home!

I have to admit, I have been falsely accused on rare occasion of “strong arming” my sellers into investing money that may not need to be invested to get a home sold. Like many of you, I pay careful attention to our market and what I see is that those who don’t do the hard work up front are those who languish on our market. Prepping for market is not a guarantee of a one day sale – there still has to be a buyer out there looking for a home like yours. But not prepping is almost a guarantee of no sale, unless you price at a deep discount (or happen to own that rare home with a main level master on a prime street that I am always in a desperate search of).

So what did Ryan and Krista do so right? They started by calling me to get a road map! They decluttered. They staged. They installed two completely new bathrooms just weeks before coming on the market. They removed everything dated and presented a home that was clean, crisp and in a current design palette. There were no signs of wear and tear. There were no unfinished projects for the next owner to complete. And then they priced their home exactly in the range of reasonable.

Those of you who read my column each week could probably write it by now! What is the recipe for achieving a fast, lucrative sale in this market? Declutter. Stage. Update. Eliminate signs of wear and tear. Eliminate wall paper, worn or colored carpet. Choose a current design scheme if at all possible. Its hard work, but Ryan & Krista are the proof, yet again, that it works!