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 Adjustments

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

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

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

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

              QUICK SEARCH

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

                The Final Walkthrough

                What should we expect from the Buyer’s walkthrough?

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

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

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

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

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

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

                QUICK SEARCH

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

                  Can you Take it With You?

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

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

                   

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

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

                  QUICK SEARCH

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

                    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

                                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

                                  What’s My Home Worth?

                                  How exactly do we know what our home is worth?

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

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

                                  QUICK SEARCH

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

                                    Housing Shortage

                                    We continue to look at homes on the Howard Hanna website and have noticed there doesn’t seem to be many homes coming on the market. Just wondering if we’ve missed the peak of the spring real estate season? Have you found that there are typically more houses coming on the market in early summer as school ends? 

                                    Historically, our market peaks in April, so if you have been watching our market all spring, you would have noticed the surge in April and the much more modest introductions in May. We will continue to have properties come on the market during the summer months, but fewer than we see in the spring months. The late summer is not a typical time to see new introductions, but they will pick back up after Labor Day.

                                    However, if you are one of the many buyers sitting and waiting for their perfect Village home, this may be a good time to reevaluate your priorities.  Inventory is at an all time low and if your goal is to move into our community, you may need to start making compromises. With our continued Village development and all of the exciting new amenities as well as the top-ranked school district, Sewickley has become an extremely popular community choice for buyers.  Homes have been selling like hotcakes!  Not because they are perfect homes but because buyers are making compromises on their wish list and choosing homes that will work despite their imperfections.   Some might need updates.  Some might not have the desired lot size or configuration. Some might not have enough garages or even a garage.  Some might have too few bathrooms or a less than typical bedroom configuration. Some might be in a noisier location. Some might check every box but be a slight drive “up the hill” where we still have a wonderful selection of fantastic homes available.  If Sewickley is your dream, it may be time to start thinking about how to work with one of the many wonderful homes still available rather than sitting on the sidelines as values continue to increase and you get even less for more.

                                    Considering a move outside Sewickley?  It is true that the North Hills have a larger selection of inventory due to the larger population base, but the prices are no lower and they are struggling with an equally tight inventory.

                                    One final thought:  If you are a seller and you have been sitting on the fence about selling your home, now is the time to call me! 

                                    • We have a severe inventory shortage across many price ranges and many eager buyers. 
                                    • This spring market will yield your very best possible price. 
                                    • The fall market is much more typically a buyers market, so lets get your home on the market today!

                                    QUICK SEARCH

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

                                      Pocket Listings


                                      We have noticed that several homes have sold lately before they have hit the MLS. Are these “pocket listings” a good way to sell your home?
                                       

                                      If a home sells before it hits the MLS, as a “pocket listing” as they are often called, it is highly likely that the seller could have sold the home for significantly more money, particularly in this market. The MLS exposes a home to a large number of prospective buyers in a very short amount of time. This widespread exposure is what has the potential to drive the price up for the seller.

                                      A “pocket listing” is more like a secret sale. The agent you are dealing with may have a buyer that is willing to buy your home, but if it’s that easy, chances are you could have received more money if the general public had a chance at your home, and a bidding war could have possibly ensued. If an agent is being straightforward with the seller and discusses the strategies involved with using the market pressure of the MLS to drive in a higher price, it’s a rare seller who will willingly leave money on the table.

                                      So why do we occasionally see these seemingly “secret sales” taking place? Some sellers perceive these pocket listings as a good thing – some don’t want to be hassled with multiple showings, some don’t want the general public to know their home is available for sale. If a seller’s goal is to maximize financial return, however, a pocket listing, or accepting an agreement of sale before the home is marketed in the MLS, is rarely the best strategy.

                                      So no, my 22 years experience indicates that a pocket listing is usually not in a seller’s best interests. The highest returns I have seen sellers achieve occur in scenarios when they have used strategies to maximize the excitement within the buying community through proper pricing, excellent conditioning and staging and full MLS exposure.

                                      QUICK SEARCH

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

                                        The Demand for Supply

                                        Why don’t we see new inventory hitting the market – has spring not sprung?  

                                        The freeze is over and our real estate market should be opening with new introductions as I write. In fact, I have new introductions coming this week! That said, there is a glut of buyers looking for homes in our market across nearly every price range. We have been starved for inventory for quite a long time now. Forecasters are predicting that we will see greater mobility from baby boomers in the coming year, and that will undoubtedly bring more inventory into our market. However, it seems that natural fallout from the pandemic has included some potential sellers hunkering down and preferring to just stay put for the time being, and others who might be in homes that are probably too big for them at this stage of life appreciating, at least for now, the additional space that their larger home offers.  

                                        I expect this will be a very tight year for inventory because even though I suspect we will see introductions, the buyer competition is going to be fierce. To every potential seller out there I would note that if you are considering a move in the not too distant future, this particular market is one in which you could extract a premium, and I would be more than happy to meet with you to help you strategize how to take advantage of this unique blip in our market.  We will ultimately see more inventory introduced and that will cause prices to level out again so this would be the ideal time to take advantage of premium prices generated by our lack of inventory. To those buyers out there sitting on the fence, I would suggest that there are some very nice homes currently on the market and this would be a great time to lock in one of those homes. If I had a crystal ball, I suspect it would tell you that we are not going to see an excessive amount of introductions in this spring market and homes that have been sitting on the market for longer periods of time will surprisingly end up with multiple offers. Why not buy one of those homes now and avoid the unpleasantness associated with a bidding war? 

                                        This is definitely a market in which strategic planning, whether as a buyer or a seller, is key. If a real estate move is in your future, I would be more than happy to meet with you confidentially to develop a plan for your success! 

                                        QUICK SEARCH

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

                                          To Repair or Not To Repair

                                          Sometimes it seems like everything is breaking around our house and we get behind on repairs. Isn’t there some level of wear and tear buyers of “previously enjoyed” homes are expecting to have to accept?

                                          The process of selling and buying a home involves many fine lines. How far do you take preparing your home for sale? Do you really need to address all of the items suggested by your agent, the home stager or the home inspector who did a pre-inspection? Do you really have to attend to everything your family has broken or worn out over the years? Anything that could come up on an inspection, if you know about it, really must be repaired or disclosed. My vote is repair. Even with items that are very obvious, when an inspector gets involved, he may blow the issue out of proportion and something that might have cost you $1000 to repair before you listed ends up costing you $3000 on the inspection request. If it’s something an inspector might find, you can bet he will find it and you will be expected to cover the cost of repair anyhow, so you might as well repair upfront.

                                          Many buyers actually get quite nervous during the home inspection (also known as buyers remorse). If you happen to get one of these buyers, it is possible that they could walk away from your deal if the inspection concerns feel too weighty to them. After you actually receive and negotiate the offer, the last thing you want to do is lose the buyer over items that you could have fixed but that you didn’t think anyone would notice or care about! In today’s market, they notice, they care. Sometimes they are willing to let you pay for the repair. Sometimes they just walk. Don’t take any chances. If you suspect it is likely someone would seek a repair, get it done!

                                          Buyers, as much as I advocate for sellers to take care of the wear and tear items on their homes, it is important for you to be reasonable on your inspection requests as well. If you see an item that needs to be fixed while you are touring the home, take that into account when you make your offer and do not revisit it on the inspection. Inspection requests are supposed to be for items you didn’t know about and didn’t have a chance to adjust for in making your offer. Again, it’s a fine line buyers also walk in deciding what are fair and appropriate inspection requests of a seller.

                                          QUICK SEARCH

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

                                            STRATEGIC BUYING

                                            Why does it seem like there are no new homes coming on the market! 
                                             
                                            Your perceptions are correct!  We have less than one half of the homes we had on the market at this time last year.  At the time of this writing, we have only 61 homes actively available in the Quaker Valley School District, with only 34 of those being priced at 1million or less! In 2020, we sold 252 homes in the Quaker Valley School District with 225 under 1million. I suspect the reason you are not seeing more inventory is because people who are willing to sell their homes have no where to go.  Unless you are leaving the region or moving into a retirement community such as Masonic Village or Sherwood Oaks, you might be interested in taking advantage of this market that is yielding record prices but can’t figure out how to make it happen! If you are one of those potential sellers who has a plan to depart, give me a call so we can devise a strategic plan to drive in the best price and terms for you! Now is NOT too early — right now buyers are shopping for late spring/ early summer closings!  Its been an exciting spring market so far — as you will see below, my first three spring opportunities sold the first day they were available and for top dollar!  NOW is the time to join this exciting market! 

                                            QUICK SEARCH

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

                                              Move Out and Move In!

                                              We’ve been cooped up in our house for nearly a year now with this pandemic and are feeling like it’s time for a change. Your thoughts?

                                              We are in the absolute best sellers market I have seen here in western PA in my 22 years in the business! We have less than one half of the inventory in our MLS right now than we had last year, which was also a historic low.  Prices are rising faster than the algorithms that predict price can keep up with.  This is fueled in part by historically low interest rates, which we do anticipate will hold through this selling season – but I would not count on 2.5% interest rates being the norm forever. Buyers are able to afford more with these low rates, which is supporting the increasing prices.  We are also seeing an influx of coastal buyers – most of these people have a prior connection to our region – many of them are returning “home” to be closer to family.  I honestly have lists and lists of buyers seeking a home for their families in our area.  So YES!  If the pandemic has caused you to reassess your home or your lifestyle, there is no better time to reach out to me than TODAY to discuss the possible sale of your home.  Sadly, my crystal ball is out for service so I can’t predict 2022 or forward, but what I can tell you is that now is a great time to be a seller.

                                              The big question is of course where are you going to go?  If you have dreamed of moving to a warmer location, now is the time to dive deeper into that dream and make it a reality.  If you want to move to be closer to your family in another city, also a great time to make that happen! If you are working in another city remotely and just sticking around Pittsburgh and waiting for the pandemic to end, now is the ideal time to pack up and make that move.  If you own multiple homes and aren’t in the Pittsburgh region too often anymore, now is a great time to liquidate  your Pittsburgh area housing investment and invest elsewhere.  If however you aren’t leaving the area and you don’t own another home to move to (at least temporarily until the housing market changes courses and becomes a buyers market again – and yes, the market ebbs and flows – we will see another buyers market in the future), then we should chat about what options might work for you here in Pittsburgh!  Please reach out to me and lets start a conversation about how I can help you achieve the highest possible price for your home and make your real estate dreams a reality!

                                              QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                2020 Year In Review

                                                Now that 2020 is coming to a close, do you have any reflections on the year in real estate?

                                                2020 is a year we will all be happy to see in the rear view mirror, and that day is coming soon! In March, we were all worried that the pandemic would result in a major down turn in real estate, and for a couple of months, the market barely had a pulse.  But when we moved out of the “red” zone, the market came crashing back like nothing we have ever seen before.  While there was a huge influx in inventory that resulted from the near zero level of new listings in the “at home” months, there was an even larger crush of buyers looking for a new home, and the summer months were plagued with bidding wars at many price points.  The lower price ranges saw significant appreciation as buyers vied for an opportunity at an affordable home in our school district, but even the two million dollar market saw more sales than it had in several years.  In most years, our market slows down in August, but not this year. As we head toward the holidays, we don’t have the extreme over-supply of buyers that we saw this past summer, but many homes are still selling fast and for top dollar. 

                                                As we move into the new year, buyers are getting anxious.  We are seeing minimal new inventory (not unusual this time of year) and they are justifiably anxious about whether there will be a nice selection in the spring.  Being “stuck” at home, many homeowners have taken the opportunity to fix up the home they live in, and there is a real possibility that more people may be staying put for 2021 and enjoying the fruits of their labors. In the coming months, buyers will need to be prepared to compromise on their must haves and act fast if they see something that meets most of their wish list.  And of course sellers, please reach out to me right away if you are thinking of selling this spring.  Interest rates are low, prices are up and demand is high – there has never been a better time to sell.

                                                As 2020 comes to a close, I wish you all a fabulous holiday season. It has been my great pleasure to work with so many in our community during this unusual pandemic year and I am looking forward to continuing to do so in 2021, a year we all have high hopes for! The Herald will not be published over the holidays, but you can check out my website, www.AskKathe.com, for continued real estate advice every week!

                                                QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                  Show that Holiday Cheer

                                                  If our home is on the market, how long is it ok to keep our decorations up? 

                                                  In this incredibly dark time of the year, and even more so in this difficult holiday season as we continue to muddle through this global pandemic, festive holiday décor certainly helps to brighten everyone’s day, so if your home is on the market, it is certainly a good idea to tastefully decorate for the holidays.  This year might be the year to embrace an inflatable (maybe a large Santa for example) to bring a little extra levity to the neighborhood! Even if your home is vacant, a seasonal wreath on the front door is a nice touch to welcome guests.  We have been unusually busy this fall, so presentation remains important, even when its cold and snowy outside.

                                                  Once we start 2021 (and yes, we are all quite eager to put an end to 2020), if your home is on the market, it is important to have your holiday decorations down and stored as quickly as possible, ideally by January 2nd! Our spring market should jump into high gear as soon as we hit mid-January.  Buyers themselves will have put the holidays behind them and will enter the new year with a new sense of urgency to find their new home.  Once the holiday celebrating has past, decorations quickly look tired, so take them down and store them for another year.  If you enjoy door wreaths, that could remain as long as it is more “wintery” and less holiday.

                                                  And don’t forget my other wintertime showings tips – lights on for showings, and use the highest acceptable wattage.  Keep walks and driveways free of snow and ice. If you’re not going to be out or too long, a fire in the fireplace is also a nice idea. Thermostat at a warm, cozy temperature (Buyers will not embrace a home if it feels chilly). Boot mats by the front door to save your floors.

                                                  Enjoy the holidays – stay warm and safe!

                                                  QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                    A Proactive Step to Inspections

                                                    If there was one thing you would advise us to do to our home as we continue our months “at home,” in this global pandemic, what would that be? 

                                                    Whether you are planning to sell your home this coming year or not, the best thing you can do to your home is a home inspection! We all live in our homes but rarely take the time to stop and give them a careful look. Weather beats up the outside of our homes year round. Caulking fails, flashing fails, paint peels and exposes wood to rot. We forget to clean our gutters on a regular basis – gutters and downspouts fill with decaying debris, causing water to back up into our homes and cause mold problems. We forget to have our furnaces serviced and fittings loosen and cause condensate to leak and rust our furnaces. The list goes on and on. Simply living in and not doing a regular check up on your home, you are leaving it open to the possibility of major repair bills later and major depreciation in your investment’s value. A home inspection will give you a to do list of projects to tackle throughout the year to keep your home in great shape and maintain its value!

                                                    You may not think about this until you go to sell your home. Some of the wear and tear may be obvious to a buyer, who will typically have checked out every available home, be able to see signs of your “benign neglect,” and pass on yours because of its comparatively negative condition. Even if a buyer doesn’t’ notice at first, there is no doubt that a home inspector will notice! After working hard to get your home sold, you may find yourself in the all too common situation of being presented with a long list of inspection requests that you need to complete in order to hold your deal together, or worse yet, a buyer who backs out of your deal because the house needs “too much work,” leaving you in the position of having to fix everything and start all over again. A homeowner should expect simply keeping a home in acceptable condition will cost them $3,000 – $10,000 a year, depending on the size of the home – some years will be more if its time for a major project, and some less. If you’re not investing this, chances are someday you will when you are faced with a long list of inspection issues.

                                                    So while you remain “at home” waiting for the day the vaccine arrives, why not give your home a check up and attend to its needs! Give me a call if you need the names of reputable local inspectors.

                                                    QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                      Home Appliance Advice

                                                      We need to replace our appliances.  Any recommendations?

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

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

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

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

                                                      QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                        A Grateful Time


                                                        This time of year we all take the time to give thanks for all of the wonderful things in our lives.  I have much to be thankful for.  The obvious chart toppers are good health, wonderful family and friends, and of course, a warm home to come home to each day. 

                                                        My gratitude extends much deeper, however, to all of the people I work with every day that make real estate transactions so seamless for my clients – from the best mortgage brokers and closers to incredible home inspectors and handymen, contractors, electricians, roofers… that I can count on to give their best to my clients.  With them by my side (or on speed dial) I have been able to provide the highest level of service to those I work with, and for that I am grateful.

                                                        My gratitude, however, extends even further – to forces I can’t control.  We have been very fortunate to have historically low interest rates for a very long period of time, and a taxing structure that still favors home ownership as an investment vehicle to some extent.  I am always reminded that Uncle Sam, through the mortgage interest deduction, effectively pays a portion of my mortgage every month. Through the system as structured, we are not only able to own homes for less than we could pay to rent them, but at the same time we are building equity which will be there for us when we retire and are seeking that nest egg to purchase our retirement home with.

                                                        Are you taking advantage of all that is available to you?  It’s hard to imagine that there will ever be a better time to increase the size of your nest egg in real estate – it just doesn’t get any cheaper to buy than it is today.  If you’re ready to downsize and cash in your nest egg, it’s an absolutely ideal time – inventory is low, interest rates are low too and we have buyers waiting in line for Sewickley homes. 

                                                        In fact, the lines of buyers are so long that if you would consider selling your home, I would be even more grateful!  The spring market starts in January – the time to sell is now!

                                                        2020 has been a year we would all love to forget, but before we say goodbye to 2020, even with all that has been so challenging this year, we have much to be thankful for this holiday season!

                                                        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

                                                          Visual Aspects

                                                          How important do you think it is to have a visual tour as part of marketing a home in today’s home selling environment?

                                                          Visual tours are an essential part of every home sale. National Association of Realtor studies show that the majority of all home buyers start their search online, and almost all buyers will ultimately make online shopping a part of their home buying process. So while print media remains an important piece of any marketing campaign, it is critical that your online presence be top notch.

                                                          A premier online marketing campaign begins of course with professional quality photos. Wondering how important this really is? Spend an hour perusing the local listings online and check out the difference between the photography of agents who clearly employ a professional and those who do not – those with professional photos really stand out!

                                                          Once online, the more time a buyer spends viewing your home, the greater likelihood they will develop an interest in coming to see it. We consider every online viewing the same as an in-person showing – it is the initial visit by which a buyer will give your home a preliminary thumbs up or thumbs down.  A visual tour is an important piece of that online viewing – with a visual tour available, a buyer will spend more time considering your home. I personally narrate all of my visual tours, giving the buyer even more information about your home, which will hopefully peak their interest in coming to take a look. Visual tours are also easily shared with friends and family. These days, buyers are eager to know what their most trusted circle thinks – and having a beautifully presented visual tour will make it easy for them to solicit that support.

                                                          The internet is a tremendous asset to home sellers when used effectively. Not only does it allow you to cast a wider net and be seen by exponentially more prospective buyers than ever before, but it allows the buyers to make an initial decision about whether your home is a contender, which saves everyone a lot of time. When done well, a visual tour can help put your home on the list of contenders, and ultimately help make it the chosen one!

                                                          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

                                                            Holiday Showings


                                                            Our home is on the market – is it ok to show it decorated for the holidays or should we take it off the market?

                                                            Buyers who are shopping during the holidays are some of the most serious buyers we see each year – most people don’t bother spending their precious holiday time looking at homes unless they have a need to buy. So keeping your home on the market over the holidays is generally a good idea!

                                                            Decorating for the holidays while your home is on the market is also not a bad idea – homes often look their best decorated for the holidays – as long as a few basic guidelines are followed. Briefly stated, when decorating this holiday season, keep your decorations more neutral and reasonably simple.

                                                            Start by taking a more minimalist approach. You may have bins and bins of holiday decorations like I do, but when your home is on the market, its best to leave some of those decorations packed away. Choose decorations that have less of a religious theme. Snowmen, evergreen wreaths, poinsettias and nutcrackers, for example, have broad appeal. Be careful that the decorations that you do choose compliment your décor.   You may have changed the color scheme in your home since buying your holiday decorations and it’s important that they don’t clash! Don’t over-decorate the exterior of your home either. A few well placed, tasteful strands of lights or an attractive evergreen wreath can add sense of warmth to your home, but keep your inflatables packed up!

                                                            If you bring in a tree, make sure it doesn’t overwhelm the room. This year a tall, skinny tree might be the best choice so that the room doesn’t feel small. And of course, consider using decorations to highlight some of your home’s special architectural features, such as using candles to draw attention to an attractive fireplace.

                                                            When showings are scheduled, a brewing pot of mulled cider or a plate of freshly baked cookies is not only seasonably appropriate but will go a long way toward creating an inviting feel for your buyers. And don’t forget – even if you normally keep your thermostat down, be sure to turn it up for showings so that buyers are comfortably warm!

                                                            QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                              Setting The Stage to Sell Your Home

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

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

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

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

                                                              QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                School:Home Value Ratios


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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                                QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                  Fall Selling Tips

                                                                  Now that fall is here, do you have any tips for presenting our home well in the fall market?

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

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

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

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

                                                                  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 Joy of Selling

                                                                    We hear that selling a home can be a trying process.  They say forewarned is forearmed. Any annoyances a seller should be expecting?

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

                                                                     

                                                                    • The agent showing your home will miss appointments and not call or show up.
                                                                    • Appointments will be made and cancelled at the last minute.
                                                                    • Some showings will last about five minutes and some will last 3 hours.
                                                                    • 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).
                                                                    • 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 or the buyer will make ridiculous inspection requests. Remember this easy rule of thumb – if the requests total less than 1% of the sales price, its usually best to agree to the requests, regardless of how ridiculous they might be.
                                                                    • 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 – with the hot market we are in and with homes often selling in bidding wars with multiple offers, there is a risk you might have to make a downward adjustment in your sales price.
                                                                    • The closing date on the contract may change. Again, lenders are overwhelmed right now and \many closings have been delayed, sometimes for a week or more.  This does not mean that your buyer cannot buy your home – it just means lenders are overwhelmed and missing deadlines – be prepared to be patient.

                                                                    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

                                                                      Making a Seller’s Market Your Buying Opportunity

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

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

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

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

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

                                                                      QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                        Why Now Is The Time To Buy!

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                                        QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                          The Effect of the Economy

                                                                          What impact do you think the recent economic downturn will have on our local real estate market?

                                                                          This is the million-dollar question right now.  There seems to be no doubt that real estate consumers are a little less confident this week.  But will we see an actual downturn in our market?

                                                                          My hope is that this will simply result in a temporary delay in our spring season.  Before the most recent events, we had an incredible amount of excess demand and low inventory, resulting in frequent bidding wars and many disappointed families who lost out on yet another home.  I have personally experienced that on several of my listings – several offers but only one home to sell.  Those buyers are still out there – maybe focused on other things, but still out there.  If you are a buyer, I would encourage you to press forward in your search for a home. The reality is that much of your competition may be focusing on other aspects of their lives right now and you may have a better chance of actually succeeding in buying a home without having to compete with multiple bidders.  Interest rates are low – it remains a great time to buy!

                                                                          I do not expect values to plummet, so if you are planning on sitting on the sidelines waiting to see how low they go, you are probably going to lose out on some great homes. When we saw our economy falter in 2008, we did not see a drop in housing prices.  We also did not see continued appreciation, but we were very stable.  Pittsburgh has historically been a very stable real estate market—we don’t have a spike in values – just a steady climb – so we are unlikely to see a significant drop.

                                                                          Sellers, I encourage you to continue to ready your homes for sale.  Our spring market surge may happen slightly later this year – and that will be good news for those of you who are still organizing your closets, attics, basements and garages.   You only have one chance to make a great first impression – now is your chance to make sure you are doing just that!

                                                                          5 Little Sewickley Creek

                                                                          New Listing -Located on over a 1.377 acre wooded lot in a quiet Sewickley neighborhood, at 5 Little Sewickley Creek you can have it all: the Sewickley community without the headaches of an older home, a nicely maintained, high-quality home that has been beautifully remodeled, wonderful privacy with plenty of space between you and your neighbors yet close to the  Village! Extensive remodel includes 3 renovated baths! Beautiful new hardwood floors unify the main level of the home! Two wood-burning fireplaces. Private back deck is ideal for warm-weather entertaining. Remolded eat-in kitchen with smudge-proof stainless appliances. Convenient main level mudroom/laundry attaches to two car garage. Walk-out lower level is a blank slate ready for your custom finishes! $650,000

                                                                           

                                                                          622 Broad Street

                                                                          New Listing -Stylish modern amenities are seamlessly combined with historic architectural details to create a fabulous central Sewickley Village home. Surprisingly spacious main level. You will love: 2 gas log fireplaces, convenient main level laundry, 10’ ceilings on the main level, covered front porch, fully fenced yard, 2 car garage, incredible expanded and remodeled master bedroom with brand new (2020) luxurious master bath dressing room, remodeled hall bathroom and powder room, new, stunning lighting, remodeled kitchen with granite tops and stainless appliances. Fabulous Village location with sidewalks that lead everywhere – an easy walking distance to all Village amenities. $699,000

                                                                          QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                            Selling with Pets

                                                                            What advice do you have for pet owners hoping to sell their homes?

                                                                            I am a pet lover. In fact, there are two canine members of my family.  60% of Americans own a pet, and 40% are dog owners.  As a pet owner and lover I am  aware that not everyone loves pets. If I am a home seller, this is particularly important to keep in mind. It is critical when selling your home to remove any and all evidence of your pets!

                                                                            What exactly does this entail?  Smell should be your first concern. If you live with a pet you are probably used to the smell and don’t notice it, but your buyer will. Carpets should be professionally cleaned and deodorized to remove any possible smell. If any smell lingers after that, you probably need to change the furnace filter and quite possibly have the ducts cleaned. If you are still living in the home it is critical to keep all your pet things clean – launder blankets regularly, keep crates wiped down, empty litter boxes every day and give your dog a weekly bath.  I can’t stress this enough.  Any smell at all could kill your chances at an offer.

                                                                            Cleanliness should be your next concern. If your home is vacant, after you move out make sure there is no evidence of a pet having lived there.  Make sure there are no hair balls hiding in corners or behind doors.  Clean or replace air return grills as they have likely become laden with pet hair and dander, resulting in a dirty look. Clean the vent cover on the bottom of refrigerators as well – they are often clogged with pet hair.  If you are still living in the home, you must address all of the above on a regular basis as well as making sure that physical evidence of a pet disappears during a showing. Pack up toys and beds and tuck them in a discrete location.

                                                                            Finally, if at all possible, remove the pets themselves for all showings for the best chance of selling the home. While your pets are likely cute as can be, many people are either fearful or allergic – why take any chances?

                                                                            314 Myrtle Lane, Edgeworth

                                                                            Incredible remodel of this surprisingly spacious Village home with 2.5 new baths and recently remodeled kitchen plus newer roof, flashings, skylights.  Main level features living room, dining room, family room open to kitchen and mudroom/main level laundry plus convenient two-car attached garage. Upstairs are three bedrooms, two baths and a home office.  Beautifully landscaped yard with patio.  $650,000.

                                                                             

                                                                             

                                                                            213 Chestnut Road

                                                                            Beautifully remodeled Sewickley Village Victorian with high ceilings, open floorplan and fabulous original architectural detailing.  Wonderful newer master suite with stylish newer bath.  Four finished levels of living space including lower level gameroom. Flat backyard, two car detached garage.  In a wonderful Village neighborhood, within a very easy walking distance to Village shops and restaurants. $795,000

                                                                            QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                              Sometimes Empty is Best!

                                                                              My mother recently passed leaving me and my brother a well-maintained but not updated house built in 1960.  It’s full of furniture that is clean but bulky and out of style and almond-colored appliances that work fine but are 20-30 years old and don’t match. We plan to sell the house.  My brother thinks the house will sell better if it has some furniture and appliances in it; I think it would sell better with empty rooms (it has beautiful hardwood and tile floors that have been covered with carpet since the day they were built) and the distracting appliances removed. What would you advise?

                                                                              First, you absolutely must empty the home – these days young buyers want Pottery Barn, not grandma and grandpa’s house.  Buyers also do not respond well when personal effects of a decedent remain behind after they are gone – so it’s important that it be completely empty before anyone tours the home.

                                                                              Second, any old carpet should be removed. If there are hardwood floors underneath, that is what buyers want these days and you will do far better in your realized price if the floors are fully exposed. If they are not in good shape, it is possible to buy a Bruce product at the hardware store that does an acceptable job making them look presentable and is easily mopped on.

                                                                              You must have a stove in the house in order for the buyer to get a mortgage. Therefore, you either need to keep the old one or buy a new one.  Refrigerators, however, do not need to be retained and you may be able to get a credit for turning an inefficient old refrigerator in.

                                                                              I would also recommend that you and your brother have the home pre-inspected and appraised in order to make the selling process as smooth as possible!

                                                                              910 Glen Mitchell Road

                                                                              Restored by HGTV designer Leanne Ford, this resorted schoolhouse now touts a modern vintage aesthetic. Instagram famous and featured by Country Living, GQ and domino as well as being featured in the design book “Dream Décor” by Will Taylor, it is a stylish and welcoming place to call home. Its original architectural features have been carefully woven into a more millennial style home boasting dramatic exposed roof beams, charming bead-board, wood floors stained in a rich ebony and high-gloss walls. The thoughtful floorplan provides an ideal setting for daily living and entertaining. Sited on a beautiful multi-parcel property backing to woods and a babbling creek, this tastefully remodeled, move-in ready home is located close to the Village.  $325,000

                                                                               

                                                                              141 Beech Ridge Drive

                                                                              Beautifully remodeled newer high-end custom construction home nestled on 8 private acres in Sewickley. Newly painted interior. New carpeting. New lighting.  Newer designer kitchen. Updated/new baths. Half-court indoor basketball court, full racquetball/squash court, complete locker room facilities including sauna, 60’x30’ heated in-ground concrete salt water pool w/ stone waterfalls, patio w/ outdoor fireplace, 6 bedrooms, 5 full & 4 half baths, 9 fireplaces, 6 garage spaces, two kitchens, wine room, roof-top observation deck, new home theater.  Simply remarkable! $3,500,000

                                                                              QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                                Representing You Near and Far!

                                                                                We are planning to buy a second home in another location.  How can we find a great agent to work with there?

                                                                                You might be surprised to learn that I can help you with this!  No, I am not licensed in other states, but I can help you find a great agent wherever you are thinking of buying (or selling) a home.  And yes, I do have access to resources not easily available to the general public to do that for you and have done it for many others!

                                                                                It is a daunting task when you are looking at a real estate market from afar to figure out which agent will best serve your needs, and yet you know from your experience here how important that is! Here’s how I can help!  First, I would want to chat with you about what you are looking for in your new location.  Understanding your goals with respect to that home will help me refine the agent selection process.  Then I will get to work finding you the best match for a buyer’s (or seller’s) agent.  I can do this by utilizing networking communities I have developed through the certifications that I have earned over the years, including my ABR (Accredited Buyers Representatives), CRS (Certified Residential Specialists), CNE (Certified Negotiation Experts) and SRES (Senior Real Estate Specialists), all nationwide groups to which other highly-qualified agents belong throughout our country.

                                                                                 Once I identify a few candidates for you, I will do the screening work for you, reviewing their experience both online and with an over-the-phone interview.  In a short interview I will be able to get a quick sense of whether the agent will be a good fit for you! Because I do this every day, I am able to quickly cut through all of the online noise, such as the paid Zillow ads where you will see not necessarily the most qualified agents but instead the ones most willing to pay to get themselves in front of you, and find you the best agent for your specific needs.  Additionally, most websites hide the identity of the listing agent in order to be able to sell your lead to agents willing to pay for them, so simply going online and contacting who appears to be the listing agent on homes that you like will likely be unhelpful.

                                                                                So why hassle with trying to sort through all of the online information on your own when I can easily sort this all out for you!  If you need a Realtor in another location, reach out to me – I’m happy to help you!

                                                                                49 Woodland Road 

                                                                                Recently remodeled main level master suite! Convenient attached 3 car garage! Spacious white kitchen with granite tops and appliances!  Four finished levels of living space!  Open concept kitchen/family room! Large side yard offers great out door space!  Private, yet in a prime Village neighborhood! 49 Woodland offers a unique opportunity for newer construction in the heart of Sewickley Village.  Please join me for my open house Sunday 1-3PM.  $1,550,000.

                                                                                307 Grant Street, Sewickley

                                                                                Incredible central Village home in a phenomenal neighborhood with flat, fenced yard, 2 car garage.  Newly remolded kitchen and baths.  Upstairs features 3 bedrooms, 2 baths.  The main level includes living, dining and family rooms, eat-in kitchen and den.  Charming covered back porch.  $725,000.

                                                                                QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                                  Getting it SOLD!

                                                                                  We hear there is low inventory and many buyers looking for homes. Shouldn’t that work to our advantage as potential home sellers?

                                                                                  It’s true — we are in a very strong seller’s market. If you are thinking of selling, there is no better time than now. But even in a hot market, it is important to remember that a home seller is not much different than a seller of any other product – it is the seller’s job to sell. We agents are here to partner in that sale by marketing what you have to sell and negotiating the terms of that sale, but in the end, it is up to the seller to actually sell.

                                                                                  This may surprise some of you — many people think it is the Realtor’s job to sell. But just like any other product, the owner of the product must actually be in sell mode. What does that mean to you? First, it involves a mindset switch. Buyers are rarely sitting on sidelines begging you to own your home. Instead, it is your job to convince them that they want to buy your home. It is not much different than Nike selling you their sneakers — they need to convince you that you want to choose their sneakers over all other available choices, and sometimes they need to convince you that you need a new pair of sneakers to begin with. The same is true for houses–  by how you present your home and respond to offers, you must convince buyers that they should choose you, and maybe even that they want to move at all.

                                                                                  How is this done? It is not done by protracted and difficult negotiations. When a buyer likes your home enough to write an offer, it is very important to respond as quickly as possible to keep the momentum going and to seem as much like a team player as possible in the negotiations. This can be hard to do — in an effort to help you understand their view of the market, a buyer may present some information that you disagree with or that irritates you. It is critical not to take this personally, but to stay calm and keep negotiating. Remember, it is your job to sell to convince them that their viewpoint is flawed. This is not done by digging your heels in. Rather, you should work with your agent to create a detailed value analysis to help the buyer understand the value that you are selling.

                                                                                  It is also not done by digging your heels in about condition. Just like you wouldn’t find it appealing to buy a pair of sneakers with holes in the soles, if your home has some condition issues, it will be harder to sell. Do your very best to address condition issues before you list. Again, sneakers that look to be in good shape are going to be the first pair off the shelf. If things come up on the inspection that are a concern to your buyer, its better to be responsive to that buyer rather than putting your sneakers back on the shelf and waiting for another buyer. If you keep in mind that you are the one who is doing the selling, it will go a long way toward getting the job done!

                                                                                  601 Academy Avenue, Sewickley

                                                                                  Stunning remodel of this signature Sewickley Village home!  Huge rooms, beautiful new white kitchen, remodeled baths and unparalleled architectural interest combine in a home you will enjoy living in and a location you will absolutely love!  Located in one of Sewickley’s most popular neighborhoods with tree-lined streets and sidewalks to everywhere.  Amazing, flat and private yard, detached garage with finished living space above! $1,675,000

                                                                                   

                                                                                  49 Woodland Road

                                                                                  Boasting newer kitchen and baths in a sought after Village neighborhood, 49 Woodland offers a unique opportunity for newer construction in the heart of Sewickley Village.  The main level master offers hard-to-find convenience – with 3-5 additional bedrooms upstairs. The beautifully remodeled white kitchen opens to family room and sunroom, with 3 walls of windows overlooking the private backyard.  The three car attached garage offers another hard-to-come buy amenity in the Village, as does the finished lower level! $1,550,000.

                                                                                  QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                                    Getting Ready to Sell

                                                                                    The job of getting our home ready for market seems so overwhelming.  How does anyone get it all done?

                                                                                    You are correct – there is quite a bit to do to get your home ready for market.  We have HGTV to thank for high buyer expectations.  Gone are the days when you could just turn over the keys and have your home sell. Today’s buyers handsomely reward sellers who present perfectly conditioned and staged homes.  But there is a long list of to dos to accomplish to successfully  present a home for resale.  Closets, garages, basements, attics and the rooms we live in must all be decluttered.  Often off-site storage facilities need to be procured or charities contacted to haul away the items we no longer need. Most have a list of minor repairs that need to be attended to.  Sometimes more significant improvements should be undertaken.  Many need to ameliorate the wear and tear our children and pets bring to our homes. The lists can seem endless. And of course there is the staging – its often a good idea to bring in fresh towels and bedding to make your home look particularly fresh, for example – those all need to be shopped for!  If you have read my columns you are likely aware that I offer no-charge consultations to help you develop your to do list. But then what?

                                                                                    I recommend bullet journaling as your attack method for your to do list.  If you aren’t familiar with bullet journaling, check out the how to videos on you tube.  You can use any journal or notebook and it has far greater usefulness than just your to do list for getting your home sold.  I recently listed a home and was so impressed with my seller.  I wondered how they had managed multiple remodeling projects and handled all of their to do lists with ease and efficiency – and then I spotted the bullet journal.  The seller had actually paired the bullet journaling with the Trello app, something I have yet to try, and by which both partners could access the to do lists and progress.  In their bullet journal and in coordination with Trello they had broken each part of their process down into micro tasks that they could effectively check off their lists. The journal allowed them to keep track of all of their conversations, progress and updated to-dos, all in one easy-to-access location.  Gone are all of the sticky notes and important numbers scribed on scraps of paper. As things arose, they were added to the journal and through bullet journaling and its systems of pagination and moving items forward, easily tracked.

                                                                                    So if you are considering a home sale or other large project, consider bullet journaling.  Its easy to use and very effective in helping you tackle the most challenging projects on your list!

                                                                                     

                                                                                    544 Academy, Sewickley

                                                                                    New Listing!!  Prime Village location with 4 finished levels of living space!  Four bedrooms including a brand new 3rd floor bath, plus a great room, on the upper levels.  Remodeled kitchen. New convenient many level laundry. Finished lower level media room with bar.  Incredible new outdoor “living room” with pizza oven.  Incredible large fenced flat yard.  Two car attached garage.  $1,250,000. Please join me for my open house Sunday 2/2, 2-4pm.

                                                                                     

                                                                                    314 Myrtle Lane, Edgeworth

                                                                                    New Listing!! Incredible remodel of this surprisingly spacious Village home with 2.5 new baths and recently remodeled kitchen plus newer roof, flashings, skylights.  Main level features living room, dining room, family room open to kitchen and mudroom/main level laundry plus convenient two-car attached garage. Upstairs are three bedrooms, two baths and a home office.  Beautifully landscaped yard with patio.  $650,000.  Please join me for our open house Sunday 2/2, 11am-1pm.

                                                                                     

                                                                                    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

                                                                                      An Acceptable Level of “Wear & Tear”

                                                                                      Sometimes it seems like everything is breaking around our house and we get behind on repairs. Isnt there some level of wear and tear buyers of “previously enjoyed” homes are expecting to have to accept? 

                                                                                      The process of selling and buying a home involves many fine lines. How far do you take preparing your home for sale? Do you really need to address all of the items suggested by your agent, the home stager or the home inspector who did a pre-inspection? Do you really have to attend to everything your family has broken or worn out over the years?

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

                                                                                      Many buyers actually get quite nervous during the home inspection (also known as buyers remorse). If you happened to have gotten one of these buyers, it is possible that they could walk away from your deal if the inspection concerns feel too weighty to them. After you actually receive and negotiate the offer, the last thing you want to do is lose the buyer over items that you could have fixed but didn’t think anyone would notice or care about! In today’s market, they notice, they care. Sometimes they are willing to let you pay for the repair. Sometimes they just walk. Don’t take any chances. If you suspect it is likely someone would seek a repair, get it done!

                                                                                      Buyers, as much as I advocate for sellers to take care of the wear and tear items on their homes, it is important for you to be reasonable on your inspection requests as well. If you see an item that needs to be fixed while you are touring the home, take that into account when you make your offer and do not revisit it on the inspection. Inspection requests are supposed to be for items you didn’t know about and didn’t have a chance to adjust for in making your offer. Again, its a fine line buyers also walk in deciding what are fair and appropriate inspection requests of a seller.

                                                                                      321 Merriman Road, Sewickley Heights

                                                                                      An exceptional opportunity to live on 42 gently rolling acres in very desirable Sewickley Heights.  Beautifully remodeled, this classic historic colonial perfectly blends sophisticated living, modern amenities, and stunning architectural details throughout!  Featuring 6 bedrooms, 7 full and 2 half baths, this home boasts a grand entry hall, large open kitchen and inviting two-story family room, well-cabineted butler’s pantry, two mudrooms, handsome private den, spacious formal rooms, main-level gameroom with three walls of windows, large bedrooms and fabulous master suite with dressing room. Glass doors open to charming patios which spill out onto the sprawling lawns!  Wonderful pool, outdoor kitchen and living space with impressive outdoor fireplace offer ideal venues for warm-weather entertaining and fun!  Four car garage. $4,250,000

                                                                                       

                                                                                      49 Woodland Road

                                                                                      Boasting newer kitchen and baths in a sought after Village neighborhood, 49 Woodland offers a unique opportunity for newer construction in the heart of Sewickley Village.  The main level master offers hard-to-find convenience – with 3-5 additional bedrooms upstairs. The beautifully remodeled white kitchen opens to family room and sunroom, with 3 walls of windows overlooking the private backyard.  The three car attached garage offers another hard-to-come buy amenity in the Village, as does the finished lower level! $1,625,000.

                                                                                      QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                                        Maximizing Value

                                                                                        We are planning to sell our house this spring.  We have invested a lot in our home and know what we want to sell our home for.  How can we make that happen?

                                                                                        The answer here is really quite simple. You are not the first home seller to have a clear idea of what you think your home should be worth and what you are willing to sell it for.  And the easy to remember answer to your question is: if you want what you want, you must give the market what it wants!

                                                                                        So what exactly does this mean? If you are fixated on a particular price, then unless you happen to be one of the 5% of sellers who are not trying to push the market on value, you must do your work upfront to present your home as what the market is looking for.  This is not the time to ready the home as you would prefer it – you are moving and must detach from your own personal style and preferences.

                                                                                        So what does the market want exactly?  Well, that will vary depending on your price point.  When you are ready to speak to a Realtor, I am more than happy to help you fine tune the specifics for your home.  My past articles, which are archived on my blog, AskKathe.com, have a lot of this information easily accessible to you! Here are a few pointers I have shared in the past! The market does not want wallpaper!  No matter what the designers say, it needs to come down, unless you just put it up (and please be minimal in your choice of wallpaper if you are redecorating). The market does not want colored carpets, or worn carpets, or bold jewel tones painted on the walls, or swag curtains, or deferred maintenance, or wear and tear on walls and cabinetry, or cluttered rooms. If you take the time to meet the market preferences, you have a much higher likelihood of getting what you want. But if you don’t want to address market preferences and just want to enter the market “as is” then unless what you want happens to be well below market value, you will need to adjust what you want!

                                                                                        601 Academy Avenue, Sewickley

                                                                                        Stunning remodel of this signature Sewickley Village home!  Huge rooms, beautiful new white kitchen, remodeled baths and unparalleled architectural interest combine in a home you will enjoy living in and a location you will absolutely love!  Located in one of Sewickley’s most popular neighborhoods with tree-lined streets and sidewalks to everywhere.  Amazing, flat and private yard, detached garage with finished living space above! $1,675,000

                                                                                         

                                                                                        515 Spanish Tract

                                                                                        Amazing privacy, peace and quiet in this gorgeous mid-century modern home sited on 8 exquisite acres in close-in Sewickley Heights.  Incredible remodel features a main level master, main level laundry and attached garage — this house easily functions for those seeking one level living.  Four additional bedrooms, four additional baths, wonderful walk-out lower level and stunning indoor pool with waterfall.  An amazing peaceful home with exceptional amenities.  $1,495,000.

                                                                                        QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                                          Getting a Jump on Spring Market

                                                                                          We’re getting ready to put our home on the market this spring and have read all of your prior articles on staging – any new do-it-yourself ideas to maximize sale-ability?

                                                                                          Now is the perfect time to be readying for Spring – our Spring market starts in January so you have some time to make final preparations. I cannot say often enough how important it is to stage your home – those that are staged sell quickly and for top dollar.   For those of you who have completed the primer course in home staging and have de-wallpapered, de-cluttered… here are a few more great ideas!

                                                                                          Expose your windows. Pittsburgh can be gray enough. Take down window treatments (yes, even custom ones unless they are less than 5 years old) and always show your home with the blinds up. It’s important that your home feel light and bright to prospective buyers and not dark and cave-like.

                                                                                          Expose your wood floors. Buyers love hardwood floors. If you have old wall-to-wall carpeting over hardwood floors, remove it and expose the wood. If you have area rugs, unless they are the latest trend and are measurably adding to your design, roll them up and store them.

                                                                                          Do a “super quickie” on your kitchen and baths. Even replacing old lighting fixtures and cabinet hardware will go a long way to making a space feel more updated. The big box stores have a large selection of reasonably priced choices. The safest choice these days is silver tones, but champagne/ brushed gold is also well-liked.

                                                                                          Buy new white towels and other white accessories for your baths (and don’t use them so they stay fluffy). White brings a sense of cleanliness to a bathroom.

                                                                                          Finally, when you have a showing scheduled, leave all of your lights on in anticipation of the showing. Light, bright & squeaky clean is a great formula for getting your home sold!

                                                                                           

                                                                                          213 Chestnut Road

                                                                                          Beautifully remodeled Sewickley Village Victorian with high ceilings, open floorplan and fabulous original architectural detailing.  Wonderful newer master suite with stylish newer bath.  Four finished levels of living space including lower level gameroom. Flat backyard, two car detached garage.  In a wonderful Village neighborhood, within a very easy walking distance to Village shops and restaurants. $795,000

                                                                                           

                                                                                          518 Irwin Drive

                                                                                          Exceptional opportunity to own one of Sewickley’s landmark homes! Recently remodeled with a current design aesthetic, this notable home is architecturally impressive and yet incredibly comfortable for today’s lifestyles.  Outstanding main level space includes a huge kitchen open to a large family room, spacious “homework room” adjacent to the kitchen, and living room, dining room and den.  Finished lower level. 6 bedrooms, 4.5 baths PLUS a nanny/in-law suite.  Incredible yard with room for a pool.  So close to all Village amenities and yet giving you the perfect amount of privacy.  $2,700,000.

                                                                                          QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                                            Seller Beware!

                                                                                            We were approached by someone who is interested in buying our home. The buyer has provided us with an unsigned sales agreement as their offer. They are offering 1.5% of the purchase price as their hand money and we assume they have the money – its a cash offer.  Are we wasting our time with these buyers?

                                                                                            The very short answer is yes! For starters, to be a valid offer, it must be in writing and signed. Without a signed contract, you have absolutely nothing to bind the buyer should you decide to proceed. What you received is not an offer at all and you should not give it serious consideration until the paperwork is signed by the buyer.

                                                                                            Hand money equal to 1.5% of the offer may or may not be sufficient depending on the individual circumstances. Sometimes that is all a buyer can afford. However, this buyer is supposedly paying cash so there should be no problem with them providing a more substantial deposit. Look for a minimum of 5% in this type of scenario. The hand money is your consolation prize should the buyer decide not to close after all contingencies have been satisfied – if you have moved out, you will need at least that much to compensate you for all of your moving costs.

                                                                                            As far as assuming they have the money to buy it, I would recommend that you not engage in any substantive negotiations until the buyer has proven that they do have the cash available to close. Talk is cheap, but if they really do have the cash, they will have no problem producing copies of statements showing the cash or a letter from their banker that they have the needed funds.

                                                                                            Your question addresses just a few of the hundreds of complexities involved in getting a home sold and highlight why it’s really important to engage a full-time real estate expert when buying or selling a home.  Most buyers expect the seller to discount a home 6% when there is no Realtor involved, so there is rarely a benefit to a seller from being unrepresented.

                                                                                            601 Academy Avenue, Sewickley

                                                                                            Stunning remodel of this signature Sewickley Village home!  Huge rooms, beautiful new white kitchen, remodeled baths and unparalleled architectural interest combine in a home you will enjoy living in and a location you will absolutely love!  Located in one of Sewickley’s most popular neighborhoods with tree-lined streets and sidewalks to everywhere.  Amazing, flat and private yard, detached garage with finished space above! $1,675,000

                                                                                             

                                                                                            49 Woodland Road

                                                                                            Boasting newer kitchen and baths in a sought after Village neighborhood, 49 Woodland offers a unique opportunity for newer construction in the heart of Sewickley Village.  The main level master offers hard-to-find convenience – with 3-5 additional bedrooms upstairs. The beautifully remodeled white kitchen opens to family room and sunroom, with 3 walls of windows overlooking the private backyard.  The three car attached garage offers another hard-to-come buy amenity in the Village, as does the finished lower level! $1,625,000.

                                                                                             

                                                                                             

                                                                                             

                                                                                             

                                                                                            QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                                              Selling During the Holidays

                                                                                              Our home is on the market – is it ok to show it decorated for the holidays or should we take it off the market?

                                                                                              Buyers who are shopping during the holidays are some of the most serious buyers we see each year – most people don’t bother spending their precious holiday time looking at homes unless they have a need to buy. So keeping your home on the market over the holidays is generally a good idea!

                                                                                              Decorating for the holidays while your home is on the market is also not a bad idea – homes often look their best decorated for the holidays – as long as a few basic guidelines are followed. Briefly stated, when decorating this holiday season, keep your decorations more neutral and reasonably simple.

                                                                                              Start by taking a more minimalist approach. You may have bins and bins of holiday decorations like I do, but when your home is on the market, its best to leave some of those decorations packed away. Choose decorations that have less of a religious theme. Snowmen, evergreen wreaths, poinsettias and nutcrackers, for example, have broad appeal. Be careful that the decorations that you do choose compliment your décor.   You may have changed the color scheme in your home since buying your holiday decorations and it’s important that they don’t clash! Don’t over-decorate the exterior of your home either. A few well placed, tasteful strands of lights or an attractive evergreen wreath can add sense of warmth to your home, but keep your inflatables packed up!

                                                                                              If you bring in a tree, make sure it doesn’t overwhelm the room. This year a tall, skinny tree might be the best choice so that the room doesn’t feel small. And of course, consider using decorations to highlight some of your home’s special architectural features, such as using candles to draw attention to an attractive fireplace.

                                                                                              When showings are scheduled, a brewing pot of mulled cider or a plate of freshly baked cookies is not only seasonably appropriate but will go along way toward creating an inviting feel for your buyers. And don’t forget – even if you normally keep your thermostat down, be sure to turn it up for showings so that buyers are comfortably warm!

                                                                                               

                                                                                              601 Academy Avenue, Sewickley – NEW LISTING!!

                                                                                              Stunning remodel of this signature Sewickley Village home!  Huge rooms, beautiful new white kitchen, remodeled baths and unparalleled architectural interest combine in a home you will enjoy living in and a location you will absolutely love!  Located in one of Sewickley’s most popular neighborhoods with tree-lined streets and sidewalks to everywhere.  Amazing, flat and private yard, detached garage with finished space above! $1,675,000

                                                                                               

                                                                                              49 Woodland Road

                                                                                              Boasting newer kitchen and baths in a sought after Village neighborhood, 49 Woodland offers a unique opportunity for newer construction in the heart of Sewickley Village.  The main level master offers hard-to-find convenience – with 3-5 additional bedrooms upstairs. The beautifully remodeled white kitchen opens to family room and sunroom, with 3 walls of windows overlooking the private backyard.  The three car attached garage offers another hard-to-come buy amenity in the Village, as does the finished lower level! $1,625,000.

                                                                                               

                                                                                               

                                                                                               

                                                                                               

                                                                                              QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                                                Mortgages: Local or Online?

                                                                                                We are planning to buy a new home soon – we see advertisements for internet lenders offering what seem to be below market rates. Is this too good to be true?

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

                                                                                                If you are buying a 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 think 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 to “fund your loan” 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!

                                                                                                213 Chestnut Road

                                                                                                Beautifully remodeled Sewickley Village Victorian with high ceilings, open floorplan and fabulous original architectural detailing.  Wonderful newer master suite with stylish newer bath.  Four finished levels of living space including lower level gameroom. Flat backyard, two car detached garage.  A very easy walking distance to Village shops and restaurants. $795,000

                                                                                                 

                                                                                                518 Irwin Drive

                                                                                                Exceptional opportunity to own one of Sewickley’s landmark homes! Recently remodeled with a current design aesthetic, this notable home is architecturally impressive and yet incredibly comfortable for today’s lifestyles.  Outstanding main level space includes a huge kitchen open to a large family room, spacious “homework room” adjacent to the kitchen, and living room, dining room and den.  Finished lower level. 6 bedrooms, 4.5 baths PLUS a nanny/in-law suite.  Incredible yard with room for a pool.  So close to all Village amenities and yet giving you the perfect amount of privacy.  $2,700,000.

                                                                                                QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                                                  The Importance of Full Disclosure

                                                                                                  We had some prior water leakage in our basement but its been dry for years – do we need to disclose that in our disclosure?

                                                                                                  We live in a community of older homes and there are likely skeletons hanging in most of our closets (if not on our front porch this time of year), and yes, it is important to fully disclose the history of your home.  In some cases, prior water leaks may lead to mold development that you may or may not be able to see and it is important for buyers to be able to evaluate this possibility.  But in any event, the problem could recur and if you fail to disclose and the problem recurs, you could find yourself in the middle of a lawsuit for fraud.

                                                                                                  Required disclosures are of course not limited to water issues. The disclosure is going to want to know about the history of your roof and gutters, the history of any wood-boring insects that have affected your property, the history of any structural issues or issues with your driveway…, the history of any fire or ice damage, the history of your remodeling, the history of any property flooding, the history of any hazardous substance testing (mold, radon, lead), and of course the current status of all elements of the property.

                                                                                                  The disclosure is your friend. Properly worded, even the most scary problems can be disclosed and managed.  And if you are aware of the issue (past or present), properly disclose it and take it into account when pricing your home, you can sell your home knowing that the issue is not going to raise its ugly head in the future! I am more than happy to help you with that when you are ready to list your home! Not thinking about moving any time too soon? Be sure to keep a file of all of the repairs you have made over the years so when you eventually do sell you can refer back to your file and easily disclose the items you have repaired over the years. Keep in mind, the more of the skeletons in your closet that you disclose, the lower the bills from inspection related items will be and the lower the risk will be of the buyer calling you later with undisclosed historic issues!

                                                                                                  213 Chestnut Road

                                                                                                  Beautifully remodeled Sewickley Village Victorian with high ceilings, open floorplan and fabulous original architectural detailing.  Wonderful newer master suite with stylish newer bath.  Four finished levels of living space including lower level gameroon. Flat backyard, two car detached garage.  A very easy walking distance to Village shops and restaurants. $795,000

                                                                                                   

                                                                                                   

                                                                                                  518 Irwin Drive

                                                                                                  Exceptional opportunity to own one of Sewickley’s landmark homes! Recently remodeled with a current design aesthetic, this notable home is architecturally impressive and yet incredibly comfortable for today’s lifestyles.  Outstanding main level space includes a huge kitchen open to a large family room, spacious “homework room” adjacent to the kitchen, and living room, dining room and den.  Finished lower level. 6 bedrooms, 4.5 baths PLUS a nanny/in-law suite.  Incredible yard with room for a pool.  So close to all Village amenities and yet giving you the perfect amount of privacy.  $2,700,000.

                                                                                                  QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                                                    The Importance of a Survey

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

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

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

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

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

                                                                                                     

                                                                                                    106 Raintree Lane – NEW LISTING!

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

                                                                                                     

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

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

                                                                                                     

                                                                                                     

                                                                                                    QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                                                      For Sale “As Is”

                                                                                                      We want to sell our home “as is.”  Is this possible?

                                                                                                      If everything comes together perfectly, then yes, it is possible to sell your home “as is”  — here is what you will need to do to make that happen!

                                                                                                      First, you must start by having your home pre-inspected.  Very few buyers would consider waiving inspections if the home has not been a qualified home inspector, with reports provided to prospective buyers. You will then need to take the inspection and use it to thoroughly complete the disclosure, making sure that you clearly identify all deficiencies that you aren’t planning to repair.  If there are larger items such as a high radon reading, suspected mold or knob and tube wiring, you should at a minimum get estimates for the repairs.  All of these things, the disclosure, the inspection reports, and the estimates, all need to be provided to prospective buyers.

                                                                                                      The second step to a successful “as is” sale is to price the home for the condition you now know it to be in.  The advantage to this approach is being able to tell buyers that the price reflects known condition.  You will be far less likely to have requested price adjustments later for unknown issues.  It is very important that your chosen price reflect the condition you now know your home to be.  For example, if your home has knob and tube wiring, you can’t expect to receive the same price as a similar home that had been rewired.  Rewiring is generally speaking a $20,000 – $40,000 project.

                                                                                                      Finally, a great marketing strategy is key.  To truly achieve an “as is” sale your agent will need to drive in significant traffic and generate multiple offers so that the bidding buyers are willing to waive all inspections in order to be the winning bidder.

                                                                                                      I just orchestrated this approach on one of my listings and it worked perfectly.  A seller I represented wanted an “as is” sale, did the pre-inspections, obtained estimates and priced very well.  We ended up with 4 offers, inspections waived, and ended up selling at nearly 10% over list price!  The up-front effort was well worth the end-result!

                                                                                                       

                                                                                                      321 Merriman Road, Sewickley Heights – NEW LISTING!

                                                                                                      An exceptional opportunity to live on 42 gently rolling acres in very desirable Sewickley Heights.  Beautifully remodeled, this classic historic colonial perfectly blends sophisticated living, modern amenities, and stunning architectural details throughout!  Featuring 6 bedrooms, 7 full and 2 half baths, this home boasts a grand entry hall, large open kitchen and inviting two-story family room, well-cabineted butler’s pantry, two mudrooms, handsome private den, spacious formal rooms, main-level gameroom with three walls of windows, large bedrooms and fabulous master suite with dressing room. Glass doors open to charming patios which spill out onto the sprawling lawns!  Wonderful pool, outdoor kitchen and living space with impressive outdoor fireplace offer ideal venues for warm-weather entertaining and fun!  Four car garage. $4,250,000  See More…

                                                                                                      106 Raintree Lane, Sewickley – New Listing! 

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

                                                                                                      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 light bulbs 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!

                                                                                                         

                                                                                                        226 Foxwood Rd, Moon Twp – NEW LISTING

                                                                                                        Trendy, stylish 6 year old home in convenient Moon neighborhood checks all of the boxes NEW kitchen features all stainless appliances & industrial pendant lighting adds a touch of style. Ultra-convenient upper level laundry. NEWLY finished walk-out lower level w/ half bath, walk-up bar opens to large green space backing to woods. Highly energy efficient w/ high performance windows, high efficiency HVAC & water heater and thermal barrier. Immaculate condition throughout! $425,000

                                                                                                         

                                                                                                         

                                                                                                        139 Blue Heron Drive, Wexford – New Listing

                                                                                                        Better than new brick front colonial in ultra-convenient Wexford neighborhood with incredible access to Rte 19 shops and restaurants and I-79, downtown Pittsburgh and the airport. Immaculately maintained, walls of windows flood this cheerful home with natural light. Open floorplan,  Gourmet kitchen, tranquil back deck with wooded views. Private den, laundry adjacent to kitchen, dramatic two-story. Master suite includes a luxurious walk-in dressing room.  $495,000

                                                                                                         

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

                                                                                                          The Decluttering Mindset

                                                                                                          We are finding the process of decluttering to get our home ready to sell very challenging – any suggestions on what to do with all this stuff?

                                                                                                          If you’ve lived in your home for a while, it’s easy to accumulate a lot of “stuff,” yet we all know from HGTV and my weekly columns how important it is to present a more minimal home to the market to maximize your price and minimize your days on the market.  And yet, more often than not, cleaning out is easier said than done!

                                                                                                          I’d like to start with a reminder that once you have committed to moving, be it now or in 5 years, its key to adjust your mindset.  Moving all of the “stuff” that you have accumulated to your new home is going to rack up your movers bill, and movers are surprisingly expensive. If you wait until your home is under agreement to address your accumulations, you are going to feel like you are in crisis mode having to address it all in a short time frame!  So start now, and think about what you really are going to want/need in your next residence and then get rid of everything else!  Below are some suggestions on what to do with your stuff. I’ve had to come to the difficult realization that my kids don’t want the basement full of stuff I saved – you may have some of the same processing to do.

                                                                                                          Take advantage of your waste management program and call for the free hazardous waste disposal bags and start getting rid of old paints and other toxic substances.  Most garbage contractors will also haul away at no additional charge one larger item per week, such as an old mattress and box spring set (which counts as one item). You would also be surprised, if you put unwanted items on the curb a full day ahead of trash pickup, how many of them will be gone overnight.  Drop off old, broken or unwanted appliances for recycling at the Appliance Warehouse on the South Side. Left over items from renovation projects can be donated to Construction Junction in Point Breeze.  Clothes can be donated to a myriad of local charities including the Sewickley Academy Clothesline Sale coming up in September.  And all of the household items and furniture you don’t need or want anymore can be donated to the Day on the Lawn Fundraiser at the Presbyterian Church, Sewickley – the last two drop off times this year are this Friday, 8/30, 9am-noon and Saturday, 8/31, 9am-noon!  If you have items of higher value that you don’t want to just give away, there are many options for selling these items – give me a call and I can connect you to valuable outlets for selling your treasures.  If there are items that you want to hold onto them but they are not being incorporated into the home staging, I recommend moving them to an off-property storage facility or using a storage pod that you can load in your driveway and have taken to a storage facility.  I would be happy to chat with you personally about how to orchestrate it all – just give me a call! 412.779.6060

                                                                                                           

                                                                                                          6181 Rittman Road, West Deer

                                                                                                          Incredible 46 acre equestrian estate in Gibsonia with easy access to downtown Pittsburgh! This fabulous horse farm includes the farm house with 4 car garage, 3 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, finished lower level, main level master suite and inground pool.  The large barn has an upper level for storing farm equipment and hay and a lower level equipped with stalls, tack room, laundry. The  property includes a 16,000 SF indoor riding arena, outdoor arenas and fenced pastures.  This is a working farm, ready for you to bring your horses!  $1,500,000

                                                                                                           

                                                                                                          179 Sweetwater Drive

                                                                                                          Looking for new construction in Sewickley? Here’s your chance! Beautiful 7 year old colonial with three car garage! Hardwood floors unify the main level. Amazing open floorplan is ideal for family living or entertaining. Kitchen features timeless white cabinetry topped with granite, stainless appliances. Large center island easily seats 4-6. Main level laundry/mudroom conveniently connects to the attached garage. Master suite with large walk-in closet and en-suite bath. 3 additional bedrooms.  Unfinished lower level with rough-in for full bath is ready for your custom finishes. $529,000.  See More…

                                                                                                          QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                                                            Can I Take It With Me?

                                                                                                            I spent a lot of money on my lighting fixtures and really don’t want to leave them in my home when I sell it – can I take them with me?

                                                                                                            This question comes up more often than you might think! Sometimes the fixture is a family heirloom or was a gift for a special occasion.  Maybe it has followed you from home to home and you can’t imagine a home without it.  Maybe you just absolutely love it.  Or maybe it was very expensive and you just don’t want to leave it behind.

                                                                                                            Whatever the reason, you absolutely can take a favorite fixture, keeping in mind some important guidelines.  First, the best thing you can do is to remove the fixture before listing your home and replace it with a stylish but not to pricey replacement.  If you are like nearly every seller out there, you will want top dollar for your home and that will be much harder to achieve, so be sure to find something that is stylish – I can help with that.  It is far better that the buyer never see the fixtures you want to keep – they might attach to them and removing them after the buyer has seen them could jeopardize the entire deal.

                                                                                                            Sometimes, however, it is not possible to remove the fixture before listing the home.  Occasionally fixtures are too big or fragile and require special crating to move them. If this is the case with your fixture and there is no way it can be removed in advance of listing your home, it is critical that you disclose this upfront. It should be listed as an exclusion in the MLS and in the property brochure. Hopefully with upfront disclosure the buyer will not attach and you will be able to remove them before you close.  You will need to cap the fixture outlet of course – you cannot simply leave the wires hanging out of the ceiling!  Be certain before you sign an Agreement of Sale that the fixture is clearly listed as exclusion.

                                                                                                            Leaving the lights up and listing them as exclusions is clearly easiest for you, but keep in mind that if you are expecting a premium price for your home, a buyer may balk at you stripping lights from the home.  For this reason, removing the lights pre-listing and replacing them with stylish choice is the best alternative!

                                                                                                            188 Sweetwater Drive

                                                                                                            Kiss old house “problems” good bye and still live in Sewickley!  Sound too good to be true?  Check out 188 Sweetwater Drive.  Only 6 years old, this wonderful home is sited on an awesome half-acre lot at the end of a cul-de-sac in a fabulous Sewickley neighborhood!  Incredible outdoor spaces include Trex deck, patio and two firepits, all backing to natural woodlands. Three finished levels include huge finished lower level with full bath.  Gorgeous design aesthetic throughout unifies this incredible open floorplan.  4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, 3 car attached garage. $569,000.

                                                                                                             

                                                                                                            518 Irwin Drive

                                                                                                            Exceptional opportunity to own one of Sewickley’s landmark homes! Recently remodeled with a current design aesthetic, this notable home is architecturally impressive and yet incredibly comfortable for today’s lifestyles.  Outstanding main level space includes a huge kitchen open to a large family room, spacious “homework room” adjacent to the kitchen, and living room, dining room and den.  Finished lower level. 6 bedrooms, 4.5 baths PLUS a nanny/in-law suite.  Incredible yard with room for a pool.  So close to all Village amenities and yet giving you the perfect amount of privacy.  $2,700,000.

                                                                                                            QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                                                              Disclosing the Ghosts

                                                                                                              I’m superstitious and want to avoid buying a haunted house.  Does a seller have to disclose that information?

                                                                                                              We live in an old town, with homes dating back to the early 1800s.  With old homes comes a lot of history, and sometimes a ghost story or two.  While approximately half of our states do require disclosure of paranormal activity, Pennsylvania is not one of those states.  Pennsylvania also does not currently require a seller to disclose if someone has died in a home, although they cannot affirmatively lie if asked.

                                                                                                              Many other states have adopted far more comprehensive disclosure laws.  In our neighboring New York, paranormal activity must be disclosed.  In California, any death in a home in the preceding three years must be disclosed.  And in Massachusetts, the law is even more comprehensive, requiring disclosure of paranormal activity, as well as whether the home was ever the site of a felony, suicide or homicide or whether someone with HIV ever lived in the home.

                                                                                                              Our disclosure simply asks whether there are any material defects, which is defined as anything that could significantly impact value. Material defects would clearly include any major problems with the physical structure, as well as pending tax assessments and disputes over property boundaries with adjoining landowners.  But what about those ghostly apparitions or eerie cries in the night?  According to a well-known California appraiser who specializes in diminution of value, a well-publicized murder can reduce value by 15% – 35%.  Does a ghost reduce a home’s value and need to be disclosed?  Right now, the answer is no in Pennsylvania, although sellers wishing to avoid lawsuits would be well advised to disclose anything that could be seen as stigmatizing a property, including paranormal activity and deaths in the home.  For some buyers, value actually increases with the prospect of living among ghosts.  But before disclosing the ghost in your attic, be sure there isn’t a rational explanation for what you are experiencing.

                                                                                                              Buyers, if you don’t want to move into a haunted home, what can you do to protect yourself in the absence of required disclosure?  You can start with the internet – do a thorough search of the property address and sellers’ names.  That will likely turn up information on any more recent concerns with the property.  You can also pay for a property report at Diedinhouse.com, but I can’t vouch for its accuracy. Some recommend burning sage to rid the home of spirits, and if all else fails, you can always call Ghostbusters!

                                                                                                              305 Chestnut Road, Edgeworth – New Listing 

                                                                                                              Utterly charming historic Village colonial set on a large lot with fully fenced backyard and private back patio, ideal for warm weather entertaining.  Nicely remodeled throughout.  Large kitchen with huge walk-in pantry and mudroom. Finished lower level includes large walk-in closet and full bath. Beautiful architectural detail and wood floors throughout. Dramatic ceilings, sun-drenched rooms.  $475,000  See more…

                                                                                                               

                                                                                                               

                                                                                                               

                                                                                                              415 Orchard Street – New Listing 

                                                                                                              A fabulous renovation of this incredibly spacious Village home.  Three finished levels including lower level with full bath. Beautifully renovated kitchen with breakfast “café,” coffee bar, mudroom with lockers.  Beautifully finished wood floors. Delightful covered front porch.  Quiet back patio. Fenced rear yard is ideal for pets. Exceptional condition throughout.  $795,000  See more…

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