Holiday Decor When Trying To Sell

Holiday Decor When Trying To Sell

Our home is on the market – is it ok to show it decorated for the holidays?

Decorating for the holidays while your home is on the market is 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!

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    Kathe Barge, CRS, ABR, CNE, SRES
    Associate Broker
    HOWARD HANNA
    REAL ESTATE SERVICES
    401 Broad Street
    Sewickley, PA 15143
    Cell: 412-779-6060
    Office: 412-741-2200 x238
    kbarge@howardhanna.com
    The Value of a Deep Clean

    The Value of a Deep Clean

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

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

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

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

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

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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
      A Market Shift

      A Market Shift

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

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

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

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

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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

        Giving Buyers Their Space

        My home has so many special features.  I think it would be best if I were at showings so I could explain them to prospective buyers.  Is that ok?  

        When you are selling your home, its normal to think that only you can fully convey your home’s fine qualities to a buyer.  This leads some sellers to consider the possibility of being home for showings, so that they can make sure that the buyer prospects appreciate all of the home’s amenities.  While this may seem sensible to a seller, nothing could be further from the truth! 

        When buyers visit your home, it is important that they be allowed the space to imagine the home as their own.  This starts, of course, with home staging, so that the home is not overly personal when the buyers arrive.  But it extends to allowing them to tour the home alone with their buyer agent.  For buyers to buy a home, they must bond to a home.  For buyers to bond to a home, they need to be free to relax in your home and chat with their agent about what they would do to make the home their own.  This will not happen if you are present.  So what can you do to make sure they appreciate your home’s qualities?  Hire a listing agent who will design a custom brochure for your home that is available when buyers visit your home.  Such a brochure is your best ammunition – they can take it home and recall all of your home’s wonderful features and get their questions answered as well. 

        Giving the buyers their space extends to the home inspections as well.  The period during the home inspection is one of normal buyer remorse.  Did we buy the right home?  Will a better home become available?  Allowing buyers the freedom to return to your home alone will allow them to bond again to your home and stay committed to it during the sometimes difficult inspection process. 

        In fact, the only time you should interact with your buyer is at the closing.  From initial showing to return visits, inspections and walk throughs, you should always vacate your home and give the buyers their space! 

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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

          Timeless Updates

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

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

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

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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

            A Kitchen Re-Do with ROI

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

              Selling It Empty

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

              QUICK SEARCH

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

                Make it an Easy Walk Through

                How do home sellers protect themselves from big walk through bills from a buyer? 

                Buyers conduct a final walk through right before they close on a home.  This is probably the first time they have seen your home vacant.  If they find conditions they aren’t expecting, you 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 you money at a walk through.  Here are a few.  If you have any damage to your floors (even if it was there when you bought the home) and you failed to list the damage on your disclosure, and it wasn’t obvious when you walked through your occupied home (under rugs or furniture), you can expect that the buyer will expect you to pay for the repair/replacement when he discovers the issue, which could be a significant expense.  What should you do? Disclose. Disclose. Disclose! When you list your home, take the time to make sure your disclosure lists every possible condition issue with your home.

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

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

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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

                  Downsizing Options

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

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

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

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

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

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

                    Using an Appraisal Contingency

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

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

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

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

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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

                      Understanding the High-End Market

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

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

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

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

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

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

                        Protecting Against Overpaying

                        How do you guard against overpaying in this competitive market? 

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

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

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

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

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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

                          Security Camera Do’s & Don’ts

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

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

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

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

                          QUICK SEARCH

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

                            Sensible Repairs

                            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 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.

                            QUICK SEARCH

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

                              Mortgages and Retirements

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

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

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

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

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

                              QUICK SEARCH

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

                                To list or not to list

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

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

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

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

                                QUICK SEARCH

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

                                  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

                                                    When Will the Seller’s Market End?

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

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

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

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

                                                    QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                      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

                                                          Seller’s Market


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

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

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

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

                                                          QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                            Multiple Offers

                                                            Are you still seeing multiple offers on homes these days? 

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

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

                                                            Buyers – you still have a lot of competition out there.  If you are looking for a historically hot property (based on size, location or price range), you still need to plan to be very aggressive with your offers if you want to win!

                                                            QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                              What’s My Home Worth?

                                                              How exactly do we know what our home is worth?

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

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

                                                              QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                Housing Shortage

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                                QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                  Inspect Your Options

                                                                  The market is very hot right now and we are having no luck winning a bidding war.  Should we waive inspections?

                                                                  It’s certainly true that waiving inspections will make your offer much stronger than a competing offer in which the buyer is inspecting the home. Most sellers would gladly choose an offer waiving inspections over one that is not. However, before you make such a bold choice, you do need to consider the consequences.

                                                                  If the seller has pre-inspected the home, then you have a reasonably limited amount of exposure should you choose to buy without inspections. Most home inspectors are pretty thorough and so while there are always things that a home inspector misses, a pre-inspection should give you a good sense of what you are buying. After reviewing the report, if you feel that the report is thorough, it may be a reasonable risk to waive inspections, understanding that doing so may open you up to unanticipated expenses. However, this may be a way to help you win a home that is receiving multiple offers.

                                                                  If the home has not been pre-inspected, then it’s quite risky to make an offer without planning to inspect the home. If you happen to be a contractor and you feel comfortable assessing a home on your own, that’s one thing. But if you don’t have any experience with contracting or any experience with being involved in the maintenance of your own current home such that you feel very comfortable assessing the conditions of homes, you may be poorly equipped to get a handle on the condition of the home you’re buying. You could be looking at tens of thousands of dollars of unexpected expenses, depending on the size of the home. This is something you would need to weigh in deciding whether or not that’s an acceptable risk to you in order to be the successful bidder. It’s not a course of action I would recommend, but you may decide it’s the only way you’re ultimately going to get the house you want.   If that’s the case and you do move forward waving inspections, you do need to keep in mind that if you later find problems with the home, the only person responsible for taking care of the cost of related repairs is you – not the prior owner, and not the Realtors.  So do proceed with caution!

                                                                  QUICK SEARCH

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

                                                                    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.

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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

                                                                        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

                                                                            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

                                                                              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

                                                                                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