Sounds Too Good To Be True

Sounds Too Good To Be True

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

If you were simply refinancing an existing mortgage debt, you MAY be ok choosing an internet lender.  You would just need to be very careful that, before you apply to refinance your loan, you receive from the lender a full disclosure of all the costs and not just the rates.  Often times I see lenders have exorbitantly high fees connected with low rates.  In a sense, you would be buying down your rate by paying high fees upfront.  You would want to be sure to compare them on the same day to a couple of local lenders and understand what you are paying to get the quoted rates.  The reason you must compare rates on a singular date is because rates go up and down continuously and a rate may seem lower simply because you called a particular lender on a date rates dropped.

Since you are buying a new home rather than refinancing, I do NOT recommend that you use an internet lender.  They do not tend to be familiar with area norms and that can cause you more headaches than you can imagine.  There is a long list of particularities to PA Agreements of Sale and the last thing you want to do is have your closing delayed (while your movers are standing at the curb) while you wait for your lender (who does not have a local presence that you can visit personally to address any issues) to sort things out.  As they are not familiar with our Agreements and processes, internet lenders may also impose requirements on you that are not requirements generally imposed by local lenders that may disadvantage you later.  Finally, internet lenders often do not understand that PA Agreements of Sale declare “time is of the essence” inside the contract – what that means to you is that if you miss your closing date because the lender isn’t ready to close, the seller does have the legal right to declare you in default, keep your hand money and sell the home to someone else. 

When buying, why take a risk?  Rely on your trusted Realtor to help you find a local lender who offers the most competitively priced loan products and delivers exceptional customer service.  Realtors cannot accept referral fees from lenders, so you can be sure we are motivated only by knowing you will have an outstanding transaction.  Feel free to reach out to me for help finding you the best local lender to meet your financing needs!

QUICK SEARCH

    I’m ready to answer any questions you have regarding your real estate needs.
     
     
    Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
    Associate Broker
    HOWARD HANNA
    REAL ESTATE SERVICES
    401 Broad Street
    Sewickley, PA 15143
    Cell: 412-779-6060
    Office: 412-741-2200 x238
    kbarge@howardhanna.com
    Don’t Let the Interest Rates Stop You

    Don’t Let the Interest Rates Stop You

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

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

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

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

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

    QUICK SEARCH

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

      The Value of a Deep Clean

      Do we really have to have our home professionally deep cleaned before putting it on the market?

      The short answer is yes, but here is why! When we live in our homes, we don’t see the dirt and the grime build up.  Even if you have your home cleaned every week, it is impossible for a weekly cleaning to keep up with the little things.  And when you want to sell your home, to achieve top dollar, it is important that your home sparkles at the highest possible level.  We are no longer in a market where buyers are happy to get any house.  We have moved back to a more traditional market and that means that sellers must take the time and incur the expense of a deep cleaning to make sure your home is squeaky clean and showing its very best.

      Deep cleans are expensive and when done properly take many days of work.  It is unlikely that your weekly housekeeper (if you have one) is going to have the time to clean at this level.  Should you choose to take on the task yourself, you will soon see why deep cleans are costly and time consuming. So what is involved?  In every room of your home, every surface must be thoroughly cleaned.  Light switches and plugs should have all grime completely removed and restored to new, all vent covers (heating, ceiling fans, appliances) must be removed and washed (some may need to be repainted), all lighting fixtures must be carefully cleaned (including removing any glass bowls to clean inside) and should sparkle, all cabinets and drawers should be cleaned inside and out, windows should be washed inside and out including screens and tracks, carpets should be steam cleaned, shower grout needs to be cleaned, mineral build-up should be removed from shower/bath glass and all plumbing fixtures (try CLR and a scrub brush, or Stanley Steamer if the deposits wont budge), fireplaces need to be swept out and scrubbed down (if you burn wood in them, call a chimney sweep for a professional cleaning).  All wood work needs to be washed down or repainted as needed to look fresh.  Any smudging on walls needs to be cleaned or painted away.

      Outside your home be sure that all doors are clean and fresh, that your porch/deck is clean (power wash if needed), that all lighting fixtures sparkle and that all patios and walkways are freshly power washed.

      You may of course find it helpful to employ additional service providers, such as a power washer, carpet cleaner and window washer to get the job done right! It’s a big task cleaning up after years of enjoying a home, but it will absolutely pay dividends when you go to sell. 

      QUICK SEARCH

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

        A Market Shift

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

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

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

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

        QUICK SEARCH

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

          Online Home Searches Have Drawbacks

          We’re hoping to move in 2023 and are beginning our search online – is there anything we should keep in mind?

          The majority of buyers will shop online during their search for a new home, and many will actually begin their search there, like yourselves! The internet has made it incredibly easy for buyers to do preliminary research for a new home. It does have its limitations, however, which is where your expert real estate advisor can fill in the gaps.

          Online listings, if managed well by the listing agent, will always look amazing. Wide-angle lenses and professional photographers are employed, as well as photo-editing software and virtual staging, to make a home look as attractive as possible online. It’s worth keeping in mind that pictures may lie – be careful not to screen out potential homes just because the photos aren’t fabulous – rely instead on the wisdom of your agent. If she has listened to your feedback and is familiar with the inventory, she will be your best screen for which homes are better than they appear, and which may be worse.

          Online listings also don’t give you much of a sense of location. While google earth may help with some of this, until you actually drive by a property, you may not be able to tell physical lot characteristics that may be a positive or a negative to you. Online listings also can do little to convey a sense of neighborhood or community. Again, that is where your real estate advisor should be able to fill in the picture for you.

          Finally, online listings are only as good as the agent who enters the data – there may be information about the property that is not entered into the MLS, either by agent oversight or by simple lack of space, that might make a home more desirable to you. Information such as camera security systems, water softener and purification systems and high-efficiency mechanicals may have real value to you and is rarely listed online.  Thus, while online is a great place to start, it’s a great idea to choose your real estate advisor early (and you can also research qualifications on his/her individual website)!

          QUICK SEARCH

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

            Timeless Updates

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

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

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

            QUICK SEARCH

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

              A Kitchen Re-Do with ROI

              We are thinking of remodeling our kitchen. Any advice for us if we want to be making good choices for resale?

              As much as we would all like to be creative, when it comes to the “hardscapes” of your home – the things that are difficult to change – if resale is even a remote possibility for you, or if you want to be sure to get a high return on your investment (most people expect 100% which is not always realistic), its important to make “mainstream” choices that the buying public as a whole loves!  How do you figure that out?  Pay attention to what sells quickly in our market.  Watch some HGTV.  Check out Pinterest! Here are some easy rules to follow!

              The most popular cabinet color by far is white! Yes, I know, everyone has been saying for the past two decades that white is on its way out, and that is just not true!  Can you choose natural woods?  Sure. Will it generate the same excitement on resale?  It will not.  Yes, it will resell, but probably not as fast or for as much as white.  Colored cabinets?  If you pick the right (think trendy) color and are selling soon, that can work well.  But if you stay in your home for 10 more years, the color you chose may no longer be in vogue and may be a challenge to resell.

              The most popular flooring in a kitchen is hardwood.  Can you choose tile?  Yes, but it will feel dated more quickly, so choose carefully.  Bamboo, cork and upscale vinyls are far less popular but can be good choices, depending on the price point.

              Countertops?  Either granite or quartz are the most popular choices – either will sell well, but choose the color carefully.  Right now lighter color palates are in style for countertops.  Avoid Formica unless the property is lower end.

              Appliances?  Choose stainless.  Brand is less important.  It is the look that is key.

              Lighting? Here is where you can show some of your personal style.  Buy economically but not cheap.  Lights are very easy to change, so if styles change, it’s a very simple way to give your kitchen a facelift before you sell.  The same is true for paint, although wallpaper should be avoided.  Yes, the design industry claims wallpaper is back in style, but as far as buyers are concerned, nothing has changed!

              QUICK SEARCH

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

                A Change for Tax Appeals

                Can you explain what is going on in Allegheny with property tax assessments?

                It’s big news! For property tax appeals in 2023, the PA State Tax Equalization Board has set the common level ration at 63.6%.  This is dramatically less than the 81.6% in effect for 2022.  What this means is that for homeowners appealing their property taxes in 2023, the tax assessment should be set at 63.6% of the property’s 2022 value.  This is great news for people buying their homes in 2022.  Buyers have grown accustomed to having their property tax assessment appealed after they purchase their home, and these increased assessments can dramatically impact the monthly cost of owning their homes.  This often impacts the sale-ability of a home as buyers often worry about that their monthly payments might increase to, but with new common level ratio, it is a big break for new home buyers.  

                For example, a home selling for $1million in 2022 should have a tax assessment of $636,000, which is an outstanding possibility.  Likewise, a home selling in 2022 for $500,000 should have a tax assessment of $318,000.

                Of course, buyers in previous years could consider appealing their tax assessment as well.  For example, if a home was purchased in 2021 for $500,000, applying the current year percentages, it might have an assessment of $408,000.  We did see dramatic appreciation in 2022, so that home might be worth $550,000 today, but applying the 2022 ratio of 63.6% to 2022 value could result in an assessment of $350,000 which would generate potential tax savings of approx. $1500.   Any recent homeowners may want to consult their tax advisors as to whether it makes sense to appeal their tax assessment based on this new information.

                The potential concern here is for the taxing bodies.  The services we all depend upon require tax revenues to be funded.  With the potential erosion of tax bases, this new common level ratio will be a victory for new homeowners, but we may all end up paying more in taxes due to the increased millage rates that may be required to compensate for declining tax bases.

                QUICK SEARCH

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

                  Selling It Empty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                  QUICK SEARCH

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

                    Going Neutral

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

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

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


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

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

                    QUICK SEARCH

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

                      Downsizing Options

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

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

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

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

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

                      QUICK SEARCH

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

                        The Basement Tells More than You Know

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

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

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

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

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

                          Using an Appraisal Contingency

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

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

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

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

                          QUICK SEARCH

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

                            Understanding the High-End Market

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

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

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

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

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

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

                              Protecting Against Overpaying

                              How do you guard against overpaying in this competitive market? 

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

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

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

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

                              QUICK SEARCH

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

                                Impact of Interest Rates

                                How are rising interest rates impacting home sales? 

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

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

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

                                QUICK SEARCH

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

                                  Waiving a Home Inspection

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

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

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

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

                                  QUICK SEARCH

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

                                    Don’t Make a Stink About Sewer Inspections



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

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

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

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

                                    QUICK SEARCH

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

                                      Security Camera Do’s & Don’ts

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

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

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

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

                                      QUICK SEARCH

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

                                        The Effects of Rising Interest Rates

                                         

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

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

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

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

                                        QUICK SEARCH

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

                                          Investment Properties

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

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

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

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

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

                                          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

                                            Buyer Trends to Consider When Remodeling

                                            We are in the middle of remodeling and want to make sure we create a home the market will embrace on resale.  Any suggestions?

                                            The number one requested item from buyers nationally is a dedicated laundry room – a place where they can spread out and get laundry done (rather than a stackable in a closet).  If you have space to include a cute laundry room in your plans, that would be a great investment (and don’t forget to choose energy star rated appliances – younger buyers highly value energy efficiency).  Exterior lighting is the most desired outdoor feature – not only will this make your home look phenomenal for twilight photos, but it provides added safety to a home.

                                            Buyers these days are very concerned about energy efficiency, so if you are making changes, be sure to choose energy efficient mechanicals (furnaces, water heaters…), appliances, lighting fixtures and windows.

                                            Your outdoor space will be very important as well. Buyers are very accustomed to seeing gorgeous outdoor spaces on their favorite HGTV shows and if they find one at your home, that will go a long way to driving in top dollar on your sale.

                                            If you are renovating a kitchen, white cabinets remain the gold standard, paired with lighter tops.  Double bowl sinks are now considered a must, and a walk-in pantry is a big plus.

                                            Finally, other popular features include a main level full bath, storage in the garage and a walk-in closet (or two) in the owners’ suite. I am more than happy to help guide you on your choices to help insure that they will yield you a great return – reach out anytime!

                                            QUICK SEARCH

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

                                              Finding An Affordable Home

                                              We would like to move to Sewickley.  Are there any affordable homes anymore? 

                                              Of course there are!  But Sewickley, particularly in affordable price ranges, has become a very competitive market.  It seems the secret is out – many people know about our very unique combination of a highly rated school district and a charming, walkable shopping district.  Every agent I know has a list of buyers waiting for affordable homes to become available!

                                              What does this mean for you as a home buyer?  First, its critical to make sure you are fully pre-approved for a mortgage.  If you are fully pre-approved (having submitted all of the supporting documents to your lender), you may be confident in your ability to get a mortgage and feel comfortable waiving your mortgage contingency, which will make you a much more competitive buyer if there are multiple offers. 

                                              Second, keep your offer as “clean” as possible.  Try not to add in special requests or inclusions that sellers don’t usually leave with a home (such as furniture). Keep your inspection period as short as possible, or consider waiving inspections altogether if it is a newer home.

                                              Third, keep your offer prices up.  If you love a home, that is no time to lowball a seller.  Even if a home has been on the market for a while, we often receive multiple offers at the same time. You don’t save anything when you make a low offer and you don’t get the home.

                                              Finally, be open to compromise.  If a home meets 7 out of 10 of your wish list items, consider it a home run.  In a tight market like we are in, if you hold out waiting for your perfect 10, you will likely find yourself sitting on the sidelines.  To get a Sewickley home, you may have to give up a garage, or a two car garage.  You may need to take on a few projects.  You may need to accept that there is no master bathroom or no main level family room.  You may need to accept that the basement ceilings are lower and so any “game room” is a little more basic.  You may have to accept a less open floorplan or a longer distance to the center of town.  But remember, once you close you will make it your home, flaws and all, and will absolutely love being a part of this vibrant community!

                                              QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                Mortgages and Retirements

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

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

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

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

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

                                                QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                  To list or not to list

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

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

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

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

                                                  QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                    Simplifying The Mortgage Process

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                    QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                      Financing Your Retirement Home

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

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

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

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

                                                      QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                        Rub-A-Dub Better Keep the Tub

                                                        Tub vs. Shower

                                                        Both our bathrooms have claw-foot tubs which I am thinking of replacing with walk-in showers.  What is the value of having a tub in the bathroom in place of a shower or in addition to a shower?

                                                        Every home must have at least one bathtub.  A prospective buyer might have kids or just like a good soak and many will reject a home if there isn’t a tub available.  More often than not, if there is only one tub in a home it is in a kid’s bathroom, and this is most commonly configured as a tub/shower combination.  There could be a tub in the master bathroom as well, but only if there is abundant space. If you have to choose between a large, luxurious (spacious) shower in the master or a tub/shower, ditch the tub and go for a pure shower.  If there are multiple kids bathrooms, then only one needs to have a tub.  Typically, that tub is not a claw foot tub unless it has a shower ring (which is not tremendously appealing).  When claw foot tubs remain, they are typically in a bathroom that has plenty of room for both a shower and a tub. Re-glazed, these antique tubs can be the focal point of a remodeled luxury bath.

                                                        As far as value goes, value is really only recouped if you remodel the entire bathroom.  In other words, if you put in a new shower but leave the old floor tile and old vanity, you really have added no value.  If you redo the whole bathroom, you will likely recoup more that what you pay to remodel the bathroom, as long as you shop smartly when doing your remodel and sell your home while the bathroom still feels current (under 15 years). It is also very important to make choices that are classic and stand the test of time if you don’t want your home to feel dated sooner rather than later. I suggest, given the age of your home, that you make classic choices — Carrera marble, white subway tile, and silver-tone fixtures would all be timeless choices appropriate for an historic home.

                                                        Of course, I am available to provide on-site advice if that would be helpful to you as you have many options – give me a call – I’m happy to provide my free advice!

                                                        QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                          The Markets Temperature

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                          QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                            To Sell or Not to Sell

                                                            We are thinking about selling the home we have lived in for 25 years but it seems like such a daunting task.  Do you have any advice?

                                                            If you are like most people who live in their homes for multiple decades, you have undoubtedly collected a lot of treasured memories in the form of physical objects.  Your son’s first “big boy bed,” your daughters first bike.  The furniture from your first apartment that you saved, certain one of your children would want it some day.  Whatever it is, a move to a smaller home means that you are going to have to part with much of what you have collected.

                                                            For starters, you need to give some thought to how much you will be downsizing.  If you are planning to move from a 4000 SF home to a 1500 SF condo, you have a lot of clean-out to do.  If you are moving from 3800SF to 3000SF, you will not need to dispose of as much.  I do recommend that you start your clean-out right away.  Your home will show much better if it is emptied of your “collections” and presents in a more minimalist way.

                                                            If you need help, a professional home organizer is your best first step.  An organizer can help you break down the process into manageable pieces and formulate a plan for the coming months.  You should anticipate that the process will take several months, maybe even a year.  Whether you use a professional or not, you should review all of your belongings to determine what you really NEED for your next adventure, and discard the rest.  If you have items that hold treasured memories, consider photographing them and creating a “Memories” book.

                                                            Even if your move is years away, now is a good time to get started on those areas of your home that you don’t regularly use anymore, such as adult children’s rooms.  Pack up their favorite things in Rubbermaid bins that you can easily send to their new residences someday and re-home the rest! For all of your “no longer needed” items, there are so many wonderful charities that will take them, and in addition to getting a home ready to sell and easily moved, you will get a tax deduction as well for your benevolence!  If you need help finding these organizations, or a professional organizer to get you started, feel free to give me a call!

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

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

                                                            QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                              Things to Consider

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

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

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

                                                              QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                Is It Priced Right?

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

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

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

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

                                                                QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                  Candid Camera

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

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

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

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

                                                                  QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                    The Waiting Game

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                                    QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                      Market Timing

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

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

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

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

                                                                      QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                        Market Adjustments

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

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

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

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

                                                                        QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                          When Will the Seller’s Market End?

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

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

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

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

                                                                          QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                            What to Do With “Stuff”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                                            QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                              Keep the Bigger Picture in Mind

                                                                              It seems buyers can be very picky on home inspections.  What should a seller expect? 

                                                                              What a Seller needs to be prepared for on a home inspection needs to be evaluated in the context of the entire deal!  Both buyers and sellers need to keep things in perspective.  If a Buyer got a great deal on a home, then the inspection should be more about major things that the Buyer could never have known about.  If a Seller got top dollar for a home, the Seller should expect to be very generous on the inspection resolution with the buyers.  Sellers do need to expect that a buyer paying asking price or above will expect the inspection items to be addressed by the Seller unless the Seller had disclosed them on the Disclosure.

                                                                              The Disclosure is a Seller’s friend.  What a Seller discloses is supposed to be outside the scope of inspection requests.  These are items that the Buyer should be taking into account when making their initial offer.  Therefore, when filling out the Disclosure, Sellers will want to review it carefully to be sure it is thorough.  Inspectors do not miss anything these days, so it will be far less of a financial blow to a seller if all possible issues are noted up front.

                                                                              Of course, a pre-inspection may be a Seller’s best approach for a smooth transaction for all parties.  While a seller will spend approximately $400 up front, it gives you a chance to repair or disclose the issues before they possibly destroy a deal.  Remember, if buyers and sellers can’t come to a resolution about inspection concerns, the deal is terminated and both parties move on.  Sellers, you obviously want to sell or you wouldn’t be undergoing the joy of preparing your home for showings.  Keep the big picture in mind and understand that unless you are giving your home away, your buyer will expect you to fix what you didn’t disclose.  Don’t like the sound of that?  Pre-inspect so you know what you will have to address upfront.

                                                                              QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                                Appraisal Contingencies

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

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

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

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

                                                                                QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                                  What Is Today’s Desired Style?

                                                                                  Is there a preferred style that is more desirable to buyers?

                                                                                  Six months ago, I would have told you that buyers overwhelming preferred the gray and white aesthetic. You know the look. White as the base color for “hardscapes” like tile, countertops and cabinetry with gray as the primary color (and perhaps a few pops of color reflected in easy to change items such as throw pillows).

                                                                                  How times have changed!  Today, the answer is – buyers just want a home, and if the home is well-conditioned, they seem to be looking past style and focusing on whether their baseline needs, such as the number of bathrooms, bedrooms and garages are met. Design aesthetic and color schemes have become much less important in this sellers’ market.

                                                                                  The next obvious question then would be does that mean that any home will sell in this market? And the answer is yes, as long as it is properly priced for condition. What we are seeing in this market is some homes are coming on priced as if they were completely remodeled and in perfect condition when they may in fact not be.  Buyers are paying seemingly ridiculous prices for many homes on the market. However, the common thread amongst homes that are being snapped up quickly and achieving market high prices are that they are perfectly conditioned and well remodeled or are priced in line with the condition and updates that they do have.

                                                                                  In the end, this is an extremely strong sellers’ market in which sellers are receiving more money for their homes and they would have even six months ago. However, while the prices that are realized may not be a function of the design aesthetic of the home as it perhaps was last year, it is still a function of how recently and fully updated the home is and how pristine the condition is, both mechanically and from a cleanliness perspective.

                                                                                  QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                                    Prepping To Sell

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

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

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

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

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

                                                                                    QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                                      Color Trends 2021

                                                                                      We are planning to update the color palette in our home.  What are the “in” colors these days?

                                                                                      Gray (and its many shades including greige) have been in-style for so long now that its hard to imagine it ever going out of style.  Gray is still quite popular with buyers – homes painted in a gray/greige and white color palette almost universally fly off the market.  However, the incoming trend is strongly leaning towards the whites.  White comes in so many shades – and even straight out of the can white is quite a nice and refreshing color.  In some cases, white is being combined with an accent wall in a gray tone or other neutral, and this can work quite well.

                                                                                      Of course, like any other color, it is critical that you choose the correct shade of white to compliment your trim. It is easy to end up with the walls clashing with the trim if you are not careful! An easy solution is to paint the walls the same color white as your trim!  Don’t let the shades of white fool you – there are so many hues of white, and before you paint be sure to look at the undertones in the white to determine which undertone you prefer – a tiny hint of gray? Pink? Green? Unless you use the white straight out of the can, there will always be an undertone.

                                                                                      White is also a very popular base for countertops and tile.  Ideally, they are not pure white – most popular are those that use white as the base color and then include other neutrals such as the grays and browns.

                                                                                      Where to start your painting?  Strong colors are not currently where the market is, so it’s best to begin repainting the rooms that are currently wallpapered (also not popular with buyers unless the wallpaper is pretty new and very trendy) and rooms that are painted the strongest colors.  In an ideal world, you will ultimately create an interior aesthetic that, while every room does not need to be the same, the colors blend nicely together.

                                                                                      QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                                        High-End Must-Haves

                                                                                         

                                                                                        What are the most popular “must haves” in higher end homes?

                                                                                        The pandemic has certainly shifted the most sought after features on a buyer wish list a bit, and it will be interesting to see how this continues to evolve as we achieve higher percentages of full vaccination and start moving back to “normal.”  Right now, pools are at the very top of the wish list for high end buyers.  As people have migrated away from larger social scenes and toward family-only or small group events, pools have skyrocketed in their popularity, which is not typical in climates like ours where pools have such a short season.

                                                                                        Other sought-after features in higher end homes include large kitchens. The appliance selection is less critical as long as they are stainless or panel-front.  Commercial grade ranges are always a hit, but if the home has a cooktop and double ovens, that will work as well.  The brands are less important than the look.  White kitchens remain our most popular, but whatever the cabinet color, the trend has definitely swung toward lighter countertops. 

                                                                                        A complete wish list would also include a home gym, a home office (two is even better), at least three garage bays (more is better in this case), a large walk-in closet in the owners’ bedroom (two walk-ins are strongly preferred), and a luxury owners bath with large shower, separate free-standing soaking tub and double vanities.  Other popular items include upper level laundry rooms,  lower level movie rooms, wine cellars and covered outdoor patio spaces (and outdoor kitchens and/or fireplaces).  As more boomers enter their retirement years, main level owners’ suites have also become quite popular (and very hard to find in this area).

                                                                                        QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                                          Seller’s Market


                                                                                          We keep reading that now is a seller’s market.  Do you agree?

                                                                                          YES!  We currently have the perfect storm for a seller!  We have been experiencing historically low inventory for several months.  It has been suggested that as a great portion of our population is fully vaccinated, we may see an influx of inventory.  Some sellers, who may have been on the fence about having prospective buyers in their home because of COVID may start to feel more comfortable once we achieve higher vaccination levels and may be more willing to put their homes on the market.  Some homeowners have seen COVID as an opportunity to retreat to homes they own elsewhere and, returning to Pittsburgh, are deciding they would prefer to remain in their alternate location on a permanent basis. Some have simply taken a longer vacation to a new location and decided to make that home – with the rise of telecommuting it is now possible to work in remote locations.  Whatever the reason, we are expecting a return to more normal inventory levels as we move through 2021, and with that will likely come a cooling in demand – so if you are a seller, NOW is your chance to get your best price from our market.

                                                                                          Also in a seller’s favor are the low interest rates.  Rates have creeped up a bit and have seemed to stabilize again – still at historically low rates.  Low rates allow a buyer to afford more home, while still paying the same each month.  This supports the increasing prices we have seen.  If rates continue to climb, that will likely soften the prices a buyer is willing to pay.

                                                                                          It is worth noting, however, that the perfect storm is really happening in our middle market and below.  High end homes have not been experiencing the same demand this spring, and are not as affected by interest rate fluctuations. Our high end market is its own entity – yes, it is fair to assume that if you were ever going to achieve your desired price, it would be in this very robust market.  But we simply don’t have the same influx of buyers in this price range, and those that we do have tend to be very exacting about what they want in their new home. If yours is a high end home, then its important to be patient – the market does surge in the high end as well – its just less predictable! 

                                                                                          QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                                            Multiple Offers

                                                                                            Are you still seeing multiple offers on homes these days? 

                                                                                            Yes, we are, depending on location, condition and price range.  Multiple offers are primarily coming in the under $500,000 market.  If your home is in a higher price range, that does not mean that you won’t get an offer, and it doesn’t mean that it won’t be a good offer – but you may only get one, and you may need to wait for it – the market does not always offer instantaneous results.  The market is still strong, just not as crazy as it was a few weeks ago – more homes are coming on the market and the buyer demand is starting to be satisfied.

                                                                                            Multiple offers, over-asking-price offers and full-price offers are also far more likely in our hottest neighborhoods and historically most popular locations.  Additionally, sellers who have conditioned their home for market, both in staging and making changes to meet current buying trends, are most likely to be those with multiple and/or full price offers.  It is very important, however, to keep in mind that your initial asking price will dictate whether or not you receive a high offer.  If you choose to challenge the market with your asking price, and are at the top of your neighborhood, it’s unlikely your home will be snapped up or will receive an asking price offer – you may need to be patient and wait for a buyer who sees the value as you do.  On the other hand, if you price with last year’s prices, or shoot below market, you are far more likely to spur a bidding war.  Yes, we are selling at premium pricing on premium products, but this typically happens because the asking price feels a little on the low end to buyers to begin with. So my best advice to sellers is to take the time to condition your home to meet market expectations and then price carefully – no one wants to give their home away, but do be careful not to overshoot the market’s historic guidance on pricing.

                                                                                            Buyers – you still have a