Getting Ready For Market

Getting Ready For Market

How do you approach homes that may not be ready for market when you first see them?  Is it better if the home is completely ready before you see it?

Generally, its best if I see your home before you make any changes to get it ready for market. After 25 years selling real estate in this town, I am able to help you figure out where your money is best invested to reap the highest return from the market and advise you on current trends.  You may be focusing on things that are not important to buyers, and may overlook things that are.

Realizing top market value is a common goal for sellers, and in today’s HGTV-inspired market, it’s achievable with the right preparations. I’m here to guide you through those decisions, using my market expertise to ensure that your investments are both wise and likely to return their value. Together, we can navigate the nuances of the market’s current expectations. My role is to provide you with candid, constructive feedback to help you understand the market’s perspective. It’s a collaborative journey, where I share insights—not to criticize, but to empower you. I appreciate the love and care you’ve invested in your home, and my aim is to honor that by positioning your property as a compelling opportunity for buyers, avoiding the pitfalls of a stagnant listing or the need for multiple price adjustments.  Therefore, while your home’s story is uniquely yours, I’m here to help translate it into the universal language of the current market for a seamless sale. Let’s work together to turn your home’s potential into a polished presentation that stands out, ensuring you don’t just list your house, but truly showcase it for what it can offer to the next owner!

Experience Makes

The Difference

If you’re moving across town, from elsewhere in the state, or even relocating
across the country, I can help you find the perfect home! 

Making a Strong First Impression

Making a Strong First Impression

As we consider listing our home, what are the best, quick, and affordable changes we can make to enhance its sales appeal?

First impressions are pivotal when selling your home, and a fresh coat of paint is one of the most cost-efficient ways to make a dramatic impact. Choose neutral shades that not only provide a blank canvas for buyers but also complement any decor style they might imagine. Light hues can make small spaces feel larger and more open, while soft tones can soothe and welcome. If a full house repaint isn’t feasible, focus on high-traffic areas and any walls with noticeable wear. Pair this with strategic touch-ups such as baseboard polishing, door frame repairs, and elimination of scuff marks to convey meticulous maintenance.

Enhancing curb appeal is another transformative and budget-friendly strategy. Start with basic landscaping; prune overgrown bushes, weed garden beds, and add vibrant plants for color. Ensure your lawn is green and manicured, as a healthy lawn is synonymous with diligent upkeep. The entryway is also crucial—consider a new doormat, potted plants, and perhaps a fresh coat of paint on the front door to make a welcoming statement.

Internally, decluttering and depersonalizing spaces are essential. This process involves more than just tidying; it requires removing excess furniture and personal items to showcase the spaciousness and potential of each room. Follow this by deep cleaning every corner of your home, from steam-cleaning carpets to scrubbing grout lines, to present a spotless environment. Updating fixtures and fittings, such as doorknobs, cabinet pulls, and light fixtures, with modern alternatives can refresh the entire feel of your home. These changes, while seemingly small, can significantly modernize the space and increase its appeal to buyers who are often looking for move-in-ready homes.

In summary, a few well-considered changes can have a substantial effect on the appeal of your home. Fresh paint, curb appeal, and thoughtful interior updates are practical and financially savvy ways to enhance your home’s attractiveness to potential buyers. As always, if you’re looking for tailored advice or have specific questions about preparing your home for sale, don’t hesitate to reach out. With the right preparations, we can ensure your home stands out in the market and catches the eye of discerning buyers.

Experience Makes

The Difference

If you’re moving across town, from elsewhere in the state, or even relocating
across the country, I can help you find the perfect home! 

The Impact of the New Court Decision on Pricing

The Impact of the New Court Decision on Pricing

Given the current focus on real estate commissions and buyer’s agents, how should I consider these changes when pricing my home for sale?

Understanding the true value of your property has always been a cornerstone of successful selling. However, in the light of the new real estate judgment, pricing your home correctly has become even more nuanced. Historically, listing prices took into account the commissions paid to both the listing and buyer’s agents as part of the overall transaction costs. With potential changes in how some commissions may be structured, sellers might consider these adjustments when determining their listing price.

First, it’s essential to recognize that the commission’s structure can influence the buyer’s ability to purchase. For instance, if buyers are now expected to shoulder their agent’s commission, this could effectively limit their purchasing power, which, in turn, might necessitate a pricing strategy that takes these new buyer constraints into account. Moreover, while it may be tempting to consider a higher listing price presuming that you, as a seller, might not have to pay the buyer’s agent commission, this approach can be shortsighted. A pricing strategy should not solely reflect changes in commission structures but also be grounded in a comprehensive market analysis. This includes an assessment of comparable sales, market demand, and the intrinsic value of the home’s features and location.

In theory, saving on the buyer’s agent commission might seem an effective way to boost your bottom line, but this overlooks a crucial aspect of the sales process—the appraisal.  Appraisers are keen observers of market trends, and they evaluate home values based on recent comparable sales, which include an analysis of the total transaction cost. If comparable sales in the area have typically included a buyer’s agent commission, appraisers may adjust the value they assign to homes where such commissions are not factored into the sale price. This means that by choosing not to absorb the buyer’s agent commission, sellers could face the risk of their property appraising for a lower value, which in turn could affect the actual sale price, potentially negating any anticipated increase in net proceeds.

It is essential to weigh the immediate financial benefits against the potential long-term implications of changing how commissions are handled. A property that’s listed without accounting for a buyer’s agent commission might initially seem more profitable for the seller but could ultimately lead to a lower appraisal value and, consequently, a reduced sale price.

Moreover, there’s the practical consideration of marketability. A home priced without a buyer’s agent commission might be less attractive to prospective buyers who expect this customary cost to be included. This could potentially limit the buyer pool and affect the number of offers received.

In these changing times, a nuanced approach to pricing your home is more critical than ever. A comprehensive pricing strategy, one that goes beyond just the numbers and understands the subtle dynamics of the current market, can make the difference between a home that sells promptly at the right price and one that languishes on the market.

To summarize, the shifting landscape of real estate commissions requires a thoughtful approach to pricing your home. An informed pricing strategy considers not only the seller’s potential net gains but also the home’s market value as determined by appraisers and the expectations of buyers. As you navigate these new waters, I am here to offer the expertise and guidance needed to price your home competitively and effectively. Reach out if you seek a partner in this journey—one who comprehends the intricacies of today’s market and is committed to achieving the best possible outcome for your sale.

Experience Makes

The Difference

If you’re moving across town, from elsewhere in the state, or even relocating
across the country, I can help you find the perfect home! 

Are Buyers Paying For Their Own Agent Now?

Are Buyers Paying For Their Own Agent Now?

Are buyers now going to have to pay their own Realtors? 

 Some commentators have suggested that one of the results of the recent judgment in the real estate industry (currently under appeal) may be that buyers may have to pay their own agents.  To clear up the confusion, many buyers who have enough available cash already do pay their own agent, and that is then subtracted from the offer price to result in a lower deed price for the home.  This is nothing new – buyers are motivated to do this because this lowers the deed price for tax assessment purposes which can mean years of tax savings to the buyers.  However, this tactic has previously been reserved for those with sufficient cash to cover their down payment, closing costs, and paying their agent directly. 

Historically listing agents have shared the commission they receive with the buyer’s agent, resulting in a 2.5%-3.5% payment to the buyer’s agent.  Conversations have recently shifted to whether sellers will continue to provide buyer agent’s with this commission.  That is a conversation that each seller will need to have with their listing agent, but if they offer a low or no commission, buyers will need to be prepared to pay the commission to their agent, and some buyers may wonder where they will come up with the cash.  The industry is anticipating that lenders may come up with creative ways to address this issue, but in the meantime, there are two simple alternatives if you find yourself with insufficient cash to pay your buyer’s agent. 

First, we have always been able to request seller assist from a seller, which can be as high as 6% of the sales price.  What this means is that the seller is giving the designated percentage of the sales price back to the buyer to assist them with their costs, thereby lowering the seller’s net proceeds. Second, it is permissible for a buyer to attach a PA state drafted addendum to the offer that indicates that the seller will pay the buyer’s commission liability to the buyer’s agent, again reducing the net to the seller.

One may wonder, why go through all of these machinations if the seller is going to effectively absorb the cost of the commission anyhow, and that is an excellent question.  In the normalized market that we are currently operating in, most sellers are more than happy to effectively reduce their price by three additional percent if they can get their home under agreement and to the closing table, so why not just continue to offer the buyer’s commission out of the gate?

The answer likely lies in the fact that as willing most sellers are to leave 3% or more on the table to get a deal done, most sellers are also (at least initially) eager to take as much away from their home as possible and may view not paying a buyers agent’s commission as an addition to their bottom line.  That said, we are no longer in a market where homes are getting multiple over-asking price offers in the first week, and so it is likely that most sellers are still going to have to offer to pay a buyer’s agent a commission when they list their home or entertain a buyer’s request for funds to pay that fee when they receive an offer in order to get the job done.  This is because, despite some of the negative press you may have read about the value of a buyer’s agent, they actually play a very valuable role and no buyer should venture into a real estate transaction without one.  More on that next week!

Experience Makes

The Difference

If you’re moving across town, from elsewhere in the state, or even relocating
across the country, I can help you find the perfect home! 

Time For A Change?

Time For A Change?

We are frustrated that our house has not sold and everyone gives us different advice.  We are thinking of changing Realtors.  Who should we believe? 

Prolonged higher interest rates have caused a decrease in buyer confidence and a very uneven market – some segments are still selling “high” while other segments are very slow. And of course when a home does not sell, everyone has a different reason to offer you.  Assuming you did your research up front on your agent’s expertise and you feel that they are a seasoned agent offering your home good exposure to the market, then changing agents is probably not going to do much for your home sale.  The best course of action is to put your trust in the agent whose credentials you verified upfront and follow their lead. 

That said, consider whether you are doing your part (selling a home is, after all, a partnership – its not all about what your Realtor is doing for you – the question you need to consider is are you doing your part and presenting a home that is market ready for sale?)  Realtors do not have magic wands – we cannot make a buyer buy a home that is not prepared well for market.  On my website, askkathe.com, there are many articles about getting your home ready for sale.  A brief summary of some major considerations include:

  • Is your home squeaky clean? Did you deep clean?  Are the windows shiny inside and out? Are the carpets free of stains, wear and tear?
  • Is the color palate of your home primarily neutrals in a single color or two, and is the paint fresh?
  • Are the floorcoverings, clean, free of wear and tear, and in a current color palate?
  • Have you decluttered your closets, cabinets and storage areas? Have you rehomed what you won’t be taking with you? If you have moved out, have you really moved out, with nothing left behind?
  • Have you had you home professionally staged? Yes, its an expense, but more often than not a home stager has the “midas touch” you are probably looking for!

Every home is unique and so one size does not fit all.  Your Realtor (or me, if you don’t have one) can provide you with the best advice on how to best present your home for a successful sale.  And of course, if you are a seller who just wants to sell “as is” there will be a buyer for your home – you just need to adjust the price to a lower price point that will attract a buyer willing to put in the effort.

Experience Makes

The Difference

If you’re moving across town, from elsewhere in the state, or even relocating
across the country, I can help you find the perfect home! 

Today’s Market is Not A Repeat

Today’s Market is Not A Repeat

Is the real estate market repeating 2008 all over again? 

Absolutely not!  I know there is a lot in the news about real estate these days, and the high interest rates and corresponding buyer anxiety are likely the most significant factor influencing what you may be perceiving to be a slow down in our market, but this is not a repeat of 2008! 

Currently, 39% of homeowners in the U.S. own their homes free and clear of all debt (a remarkable number) and another 29% have more than 50% equity in their homes.  That’s a full 68% of homes that are in very “safe” equity positions – the risk of any significant number of foreclosures is very low, unlike 2008.  

In 2008-2011, we had 11-12 months of inventory on the market at any given time.  Today, nationally, we have approximately 1.5 months of inventory on the market, with even less locally.  This is an incredibly important differentiator between then and now that indicates that we are not moving toward a housing crisis.  In 2008 in our area we had about 13000 properties – now that number is closer to 3000.

Additionally, approximately 3million US households earning over $150,000 per year are currently renting, and the average-aged millennials are just starting to buy their first homes.  This provides a steady stream or prospective buyers.  All of these factors indicate that we are not slipping into a housing crisis – the higher interest rates have just paused some of the typical move-up, move-down, move-around buyers. 

Experience Makes

The Difference

If you’re moving across town, from elsewhere in the state, or even relocating
across the country, I can help you find the perfect home! 

The Power of Staging

The Power of Staging

Do you think it’s a good investment to stage our home before putting it on the market?

Home staging is one of the most important things a seller can do to improve their chances for a successful sale!  Staging is just as important as is getting the price right when it comes to attracting the most buyers and driving in the best possible offer.  The National Association of Realtors shares “Buyers want to easily envision themselves within a new home, and home staging is a way to showcase the property in its best light.”

Why is staging so important?  The overwhelming majority of buyers start their home search online and surveys show that buyers who see photos of a staged property online are more willing to do a physical walkthrough of the property.  81% of buyer’s agents surveyed indicated that staging helps their clients visualize life in a home.  A third say that staging boosts home value, particularly if the aesthetic fits the client’s tastes.  And nearly one quarter of survey respondents say that staging may help buyers look past property faults.

Home staging is typically done by trained professionals specializing in readying homes for the best possible outcome when they hit the market.  While Realtors can provide advice, a home stager’s expert eye can make a huge difference in the success of your sale.  Sometimes stagers can work with your furnishings, and sometimes they bring in rented furnishings. Yes, it is an expense, but in my professional opinion, sometimes it takes money to make money, and home staging is an excellent investment to generate the best possible returns!

Don’t just list your home, get it the attention it deserves by making sure it looks its very best from the outset!

Experience Makes

The Difference

If you’re moving across town, from elsewhere in the state, or even relocating
across the country, I can help you find the perfect home! 

Tub or Shower? That is the Question.

Tub or Shower? That is the Question.

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

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

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

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

Experience Makes

The Difference

If you’re moving across town, from elsewhere in the state, or even relocating
across the country, I can help you find the perfect home! 

Preparation is Key for Multiple Offers

Preparation is Key for Multiple Offers

Are you still seeing multiple offers on homes these days? 

Believe it or not, yes! Despite higher interest rates, we are still seeing multiple offers, depending on location, condition and price range.  Multiple offers are primarily coming in the under $1,000,000 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 couple of weeks ago –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, and make sure you are fully pre-approved!

Experience Makes

The Difference

If you’re moving across town, from elsewhere in the state, or even relocating
across the country, I can help you find the perfect home! 

Pricing is Key

Pricing is Key

We have been hearing about the lack of inventory and the hot market – we feel this could be a great time to get a premium price for our home. Are we right? 

Inventory is low, that is a fact.  We are back to bidding wars. Data indicates that Pittsburgh prices increased 12.7% in 2021 and another 5.5% in 2022.  High interest rates have not caused a downturn in this spring market.  The millennials are buying in droves and there is no end in sight.  So yes, now is a great time to sell.

However, not every home is selling fast and at a high price.  There are plenty of homes sitting on the market, with gradual price reductions.  Why?  Longer time on the market is often the result of an improper alignment of price and condition. In other words, I like to tell my sellers I can sell any home, but not at any price.  The price of the home must be carefully calibrated to features and condition.  This is where an expert agent comes in.  Agents who tour all of the inventory can help you to understand the subtle differences between homes and what it takes to generate premium prices.  Not every client is willing or able to invest the resources to generate a premium price and that’s ok – price just needs to be adjusted accordingly.

So what does it take to achieve a premium price?  In my opinion it starts with a pre-inspection and repair of some of the most concerning items.  A spruce-up might be necessary – repainting wear and tear or strong colors, replacing dated lighting fixures… A deep clean is generally a must, and this goes way beyond what your weekly housekeeper can do. Staging is also a must if your house is vacant, and even if its not, a home stager or home organizer can help you get everything in good order.

Pricing, however is the ultimate key to success.  It seems many sellers want to push the market right now and if you aren’t careful, you may end up with less than you would have had you priced properly out of the gate.  It’s important to get the advice of an expert in your market area and then follow that advice, regardless of what you think or need.  If you have to reduce later, you will have lost market momentum and that cannot be regained.  Review a well-reasoned market report and then price according to the data, not according to your emotions, and you will likely have a positive result you can take to the bank!

Experience Makes

The Difference

If you’re moving across town, from elsewhere in the state, or even relocating
across the country, I can help you find the perfect home! 

The “In” Color

The “In” Color

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

Gray (and its many shades including greige) have been in-style for so long now that its hard to imagine it still holds its alure, and many homeowners are venturing into different color palettes.  However, gray is still extremely popular with buyers – homes painted in a gray/greige and white color palette almost universally fly off the market.  And if you have to choose between gray/greige and any other color (except white), always choose gray! If you need a break from gray, however, the incoming trend is strongly leaning towards the whites.  White comes in so many shades – and even straight out of the can white is quite a nice and refreshing color.  In some cases white is being combined with an accent wall in a gray tone or other neutral, and this can work quite well.

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

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

Experience Makes

The Difference

If you’re moving across town, from elsewhere in the state, or even relocating
across the country, I can help you find the perfect home! 

Spring Selling

Spring Selling

With the weather warming up outside, any tips for selling our home?

Spring is in fact in full swing! With the bright sunshine and warming temperatures, it’s a great time to be focused on making sure the outside of your home is looking it’s best. Whether you are thinking of selling your home or not this year, a yearly exterior audit of your home is always a good idea to keep it in its best possible condition. But if you are selling, curb appeal is critical to attract buyers. Start with the front of your home and work your way back to your non-public spaces. Make sure you have cleaned out your planting beds from the fall. Rake out any leaves, trim back shrubs. Order fresh mulch. Plant colorful annuals in your planters. Review your lawn and make sure it is in good shape. If there are bare spots, reseed them. If you have large trees on your property, make sure they are all healthy and any dead limbs are removed.

This is also a great time to make sure your gutters are clean – gutters full of leaves suggest a homeowner isn’t up on their maintenance. Be sure to have your windows cleaned inside and out. With the sun streaming in through the windows, all of the winter dirt is very apparent so its important to make sure they are crystal clear (this will also improve your photos!) Take the time to put out your outdoor furniture. Be sure patios and porches are well swept. Step back from your home and see whether your paint is in good shape- – if there are areas that are peeling, have the scraped and repainted. Be sure the front door is clean and nicely painted. Remove all seasonal décor (Christmas wreaths and lights). Ask a friend to stop by and do a quick walk-around for any areas that need attention – a fresh eye is always likely to catch those things you have gotten used to and overlook. Need help finding service providers? Reach out and I’m happy to share my lists.

Spring has in fact sprung! Make sure your home is well-prepared for the strongest market of the year!

Experience Makes

The Difference

If you’re moving across town, from elsewhere in the state, or even relocating
across the country, I can help you find the perfect home! 

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!

Experience Makes

The Difference

If you’re moving across town, from elsewhere in the state, or even relocating
across the country, I can help you find the perfect home! 

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.

Experience Makes

The Difference

If you’re moving across town, from elsewhere in the state, or even relocating
across the country, I can help you find the perfect home! 

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.

Experience Makes

The Difference

If you’re moving across town, from elsewhere in the state, or even relocating
across the country, I can help you find the perfect home! 

Giving Buyers Their Space

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!

Timeless Updates

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.

A Kitchen Re-Do with ROI

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!

Selling It Empty

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!

Security Camera Do’s & Don’ts

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!

Experience Makes

The Difference

If you’re moving across town, from elsewhere in the state, or even relocating
across the country, I can help you find the perfect home! 

Sensible Repairs

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.

Experience Makes

The Difference

If you’re moving across town, from elsewhere in the state, or even relocating
across the country, I can help you find the perfect home! 

Mortgages and Retirements

Mortgages and Retirements

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.

Experience Makes

The Difference

If you’re moving across town, from elsewhere in the state, or even relocating
across the country, I can help you find the perfect home! 

To list or not to list

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!

Experience Makes

The Difference

If you’re moving across town, from elsewhere in the state, or even relocating
across the country, I can help you find the perfect home! 

TO SELL OR NOT TO SELL

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. 

Experience Makes

The Difference

If you’re moving across town, from elsewhere in the state, or even relocating
across the country, I can help you find the perfect home!