Knowing Your Home’s Worth

It seems prices are all over the board these days.  How do we figure out what our home is worth?

 

There are many factors that go into determining a home’s value.  The first, most important thing to keep in mind, however, is that it’s not what you think. To rephrase, what you think the value should be, or what you think you need to get for the home to either recoup your investment, reimburse you for time spent renovating, or get you what you need to move to your next home is not a factor in determining value.  A home will sell for what a buyer thinks the home is worth – not what a seller thinks its worth.  So how do you determine that number?

Value is determined first and foremost by comparable sales.  What other homes have recently sold for is the most relevant gauge of what the market will bear for your home.  If you haven’t been in the homes, however, you will need to rely on a professional to make the comparison for you.  Factors to be considered include size of lot, usability of lot (flat is better) and location of the property both in town and as it relates to other homes (currently, closer to the center of the Village will bring more money, across the street from a home in disrepair, less).  Also considered are above-grade square footage on the main two floors (finished lower levels and third floors add some value but generally not at the same square footage price as the main two levels) and configuration of rooms (do you have an eat-in kitchen, a family room open to the kitchen, a dedicated master bath).  Finally amenities are considered.  How many garages do you have and are they detached, integral or attached (the most valuable)?  How long ago was your kitchen and bath updated?  Under 10 years?  Do you have stainless and granite?  Have you removed all of your wallpaper?  All of your old brass?  All of your colored carpets?  Homes sell every day with dated amenities, but their existence definitely affects price.  When looking at other homes that have sold, it is important to have a realistic understanding of how your home really compares to those homes.

The investment you have made in the home also has some relevance. If you have made significant improvements (beyond a fresh coat of paint and new carpeting), there is a high likelihood that you will be able to recoup some of your investment. It is important to prepare a detailed list of those improvements to substantiate value to potential buyers.

Other homes currently available for sale, however, are not a particularly relevant factor to look at. Many of our homes sell for substantially less than the sellers were originally asking, and while our average community realization is 89% of asking price, there are homes that have sold at nearly half of their original asking price. Competing listings are only relevant to determine how much competition you will have – not how much your home will sell for.

In the end, its what a buyer thinks, based on where other homes are selling and how yours compares, that will determine where your home will sell, and all of the marketing in the world will not change that reality!

63 Thorn Street

Expertly remodeled, 63 Thorn paints a modern landscape on a charming traditional palate to create an exceptional home for the millennium home buyer. Sited on a large lot with fully fenced back yard. The expertly designed and crafted kitchen (which is open to the family room) is flooded with light from an entire wall of windows that bring the private backyard into this warm and inviting space.  The dining room has also been opened to the back yard through an impressive wall of windows and doors, and spills effortless out onto the new back deck.  The second level is home to a new master suite with large closet and spa-like private bath.  Four additional bedrooms, two full baths and a convenient second floor laundry room complete the upper levels.  $1,450,000   See more…

 

22 Woodland

Located on one of Sewickley’s most sought-after streets, this classic brick colonial has been nicely updated and maintained.  Hardwood floors unify the upper two levels of the home. The lower level offers additional finished living space.  Large eat-in kitchen opens to spacious family room and incredible sunroom with floor-to-ceiling windows. Exceptional living room with fireplace. Convenient main level laundry. Fabulous new slate roof!  Gorgeous yard backs to woods.  Garage is attached by breezeway.  $1,000,000  See more…

QUICK SEARCH

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

Giving the Buyer 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!

 

1410 Pennsylvania Ave- NEW PRICE

Looking for a change of pace? How about a move into the city? Rare Gothic Revival
home on Pittsburgh’s North Side showcasing remarkable architectural features and
grand rooms. Meticulously renovated. 11’ ceilings on main level, hardwood floors,
grand staircase, impressive fireplaces and woodwork. Remodeled kitchen with
48” Wolf commercial grade gas range, well-designed and appointed butler’s pantry/mud room.
Master suite w/ dressing room is a dream come true! Beautifully remodeled bath includes
marble floor, soaking tub, custom shower w/ seamless glass enclosure. Three add’l bedrooms
and two new baths plus upper level laundry room, game room. Professionally landscaped yard,
private back patio, covered front porch. 2 car garage. $659,000   See more…

 

439 Oliver
Located in one of Sewickley’s most sought after neighborhoods, once inside you will be surprised how big this home is! Beautifully remodeled, it offers three spacious finished levels of living space, including a main level bedroom suite! The newer kitchen is open to both the dining area and large family room. Walls of windows overlook the beautiful backyard – French doors open to the private patio. A convenient mudroom provides access to the attached garage. The lower level includes a finished game room, full bath, fifth bedroom and a spacious storage/mechanics/laundry area. Close proximity to all village amenities and schools. Freshly painted interior…move in and enjoy all that Sewickley has to offer. $665,000  See more…

 

 

QUICK SEARCH

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

Selling Made Easy

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

120 Fox Hill

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

 

 

213 Chestnut Road

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

QUICK SEARCH

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

The Pre-Inspection Power

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

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

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

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

518 Irwin Drive –  New listing!

One of Sewickley Village’s most spectacular homes, this classic estate is majestically sited on a nearly one acre lot within easy walking distance of Village amenities – an oasis in the middle of our vibrant walking community. Beautifully appointed and maintained, it showcases rich architectural elements, including a breathtaking spiral staircase that connects all four finished levels of this amazing home. Incorporating an updated design aesthetic, this home seamlessly interweaves its historic architectural beauty with modern amenities including the beautiful huge kitchen open to the fabulous family room, mudroom connecting to the heated garage, “homework” room adjacent to the kitchen, finished lower level gameroom and home gym, and above-garage guest suite. A very special Sewickley Village opportunity. $2,900,000  See more…

16 Highview

It’s time to start planning your summer pool parties at 16 Highview! Nestled on a private 3.87 acre lot in an established neighborhood and featuring a beautiful in-ground pool, the views of sunsets off the
back deck are spectacular! Exceptionally open floorplan is ideal for entertaining! Newly remodeled kitchen features granite countertops and stainless appliances. Two story great room. Main level also features a large den/home office, inviting dining room, laundry adjacent to the kitchen, inviting screened back porch and main level bedroom with remodeled full bath, perfect for a nanny or in-law! The upper level is home to a large master suite with en-suite bath and two additional bedrooms. The lower level is finished with
two gamerooms, full bath, sauna, wine room and three car garage! $625,000 See more…

QUICK SEARCH

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

The High End Market

What is going on with the high-end market in Sewickley? Why don’t there seem to be many high-end sales?

Our high-end market has been slower than normal for over a year now.  Speculation abounds as to why that is the case, but it doesn’t seem that we are alone – sales of higher end homes in many pockets of this country have slowed.  Many attribute that to the fact that our tax system was restructured 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.  For high property tax jurisdictions such as our own, many commentators believe this has caused a slow-down in high-tax (i.e., high priced) home sales.   I have held out hope that when people filed their taxes this past Monday, maybe they would discover that they are better off under the new system despite the deduction limitation and we would see the property tax fear fade into the background.  I must admit that even as a former tax lawyer I have found the new forms a bit confusing, so I am really hoping we will see some favorable spin coming from tax preparers this week.

We may however 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!

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

49 Woodland – NEW LISTING
Located on one of Sewickley’s most sought-after streets, with sidewalks to everywhere and within a very easy walking distance to Village shops and restaurants, this home is in impeccable condition and offers an outstanding opportunity for your family!  5 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, garage attached by breezeway, newer slate roof, gorgeous private yard, large eat-in kitchen, two gas log fireplaces and so many more wonderful amenities make this home a Sewickley Village best buy! $1,775,000  See more…

 

 

213 Chestnut Road –  NEW LISTING
Beautifully remodeled Sewickley Village Victorian with four finished levels of living space, sited on a level lot with two car garage checks all the boxes!  Beautifully equipped and remodeled kitchen, wonderfully remodeled baths. Incredibly architectural detailing throughout.  5 bedrooms, 3.5 baths and a two car garage.  Added unique bonus of a lower level gameroom! $825,000.  See more…

QUICK SEARCH

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

New Homes & Taxes

April 15th always reminds me of taxes, and how high our taxes are here. Is this a disadvantage when it comes to selling homes in this area?

I always counsel my new clients relocating here from other states that property taxes are something that need to be viewed as part of an entire budget. Yes, our property taxes seem much higher than in many other regions of this country, and yes, upon first look, it can be a deterrent. But my advice to out-of-towners is to consider how much they pay each year in all forms of tax.

In Pennsylvania, we only pay a 3.08% income tax rate and here in Sewickley, we add on top of that an additional 1% on earned income only. We currently have no sales tax on food and clothing. We also have very low car registration fees at only $36/car. In some states, income tax alone can be as much as 8% – 9%, car registration fees/yearly taxes can exceed $550+/car and they do impose sales tax on food and clothing. If buyers are counseled to look at the big picture, more often than not they find that they are actually saving money when they move to Western PA, despite our high property taxes, but it does take a skilled realtor to get them over this hump.

When dealing with local buyers, property taxes are a much bigger issue. When moving up, buyers definitely have to consider taxes – they won’t be getting any new income tax breaks by just moving across town. Recently, the federal tax law changed and there is a $10,000 cap on the deductibility of the combined total of income and property taxes.  Nationwide, this seems to have created a softening in the sale of high-end homes as there is little to no subsidy for your property taxes anymore (depending on how much you pay in state and local income taxes and whether they, on their own, move you above the $10,000 threshold).  The expectation is that the lower federal tax rates will offset the reduced deduction, but for many who haven’t filed their 2018 returns yet, it’s too early to tell. My sense is that this will all settle out over the next year or two as we all adjust to the new tax rules.

In any event, whether buying or selling, it’s important to take the time to make sure that your taxes are in line with the market value of your home – if they are not you should appeal them so that inappropriately high taxes don’t become an even larger deterrent to a purchaser.

63 Thorn – NEW PRICE  Expertly remodeled, 63 Thorn paints a modern landscape on a charming traditional palate to create an exceptional home. Sited on a large lot with fully fenced back yard. The expertly designed and crafted kitchen (which is open to the family room) is flooded with light from an entire wall of windows that bring the private backyard into this warm and inviting space.  The dining room has also been opened to the back yard through an impressive wall of windows and doors, and spills effortless out onto the new back deck.  The second level is home to a new master suite with spa-like private bath.  Four additional bedrooms, two full baths and a convenient second floor laundry room complete the upper levels.  Join is for our OPEN HOUSE Sunday 4/7 1-4 pm. $1,450,000    See more….

21 Thorn Street – Beautifully remodeled classic historic home on one of Sewickley’s most sought-after streets. Kitchen is open to breakfast room and den; fabulous master suite with gorgeous new bath and private dressing room.  5 bedrooms, including developed third floor.  3.5 baths.  Convenient main level laundry. Finished gameroom on lower level. Two car garage.  Covered front and back porches. Beautiful, large back yard. New roof! An easy walking distance to Village shops and schools. $1,185,000    See more….

 

QUICK SEARCH

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

Shhh…It’s A Secret

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

QUICK SEARCH

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

Maximizing the “WOW” Factor

We are thinking of moving and want to make our home as perfect as possible for the market. How would you describe the “perfect” home that buyers today are looking for?

The warm weather is waking up the dreamer in all of us it seems! Thankfully, we all have a different idea of the perfect home, which keeps our market moving twelve months a year. Buyers are not all waiting for that one special home. They are waiting for their special home – but special comes in so many different shapes and sizes. Nonetheless, when thinking of selling, you will have a much better chance of selling your home quickly and at a higher price if you improve and decorate your home in a way that appeals to more buyers. Most homeowners settle into their cozy homes and forget all about trends and what’s hot in the market, and so it often comes as a shock when its time to sell and they have fallen behind the times in either amenities or style.

Want to know what’s in style with today’s home buying crowd? Pick up a Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware catalog and that will give you a quick lesson on color palates and designs that are “in.”  Of course, the lower you price your home, the further you can stray from current trends and still capture a buyer. But assuming you are like most of my clients, it’s sometimes easier to inventory what’s “out.” As realtors, this is a difficult message to share with your clients – the message is not that you do not have a lovely home. But in selling homes, one must first accept that you are leaving that home and then seek to minimize potential buyer objections while maximizing the “wow” factor.

With that in mind, here is my 2019 short list of the “gotta gos” – if you have these in your home, you are well advised to invest to sell:  non-neutral carpeting, shag carpeting, wallpaper (unless applied sparingly and in the last 5 years), bold paint colors, stained woodwork (except in dens), paneling, dated lighting fixtures, non-neutral bathroom tiles and tubs, wooden toilet seats, linoleum flooring (except in lower price brackets) and formica countertops (except in lower price points).

Some wonder if offering the buyer a decorating credit is a good alternative to making changes pre-marketing.  My experience suggests that credits are not effective. Buyers often screen homes online and never have the opportunity to find out about a credit. It’s best to make the updates. Some sellers believe that it is better to leave things the way things are and let the buyer make the changes to suit their tastes. This works, but only if you keep your price down. If you are looking to take advantage of possible market premiums. Not sure where to start? Give me a call and I can help connect you to the resources you need to get your home market ready!

 

 

 

 

 

319 Scaife – Exceptional Sewickley Heights home will take your breath away with its unparalleled beauty. Sited on 5 private acres, it combines the authentic charm of a Sewickley Heights carriage home with modern amenities and stunning design.  Magazine perfect kitchen with top-of-the-line appliances and granite tops opens to a captivating dining room with fireplace and relaxing family room.  French doors open from the gorgeous living room onto the sprawling stone terrace, which spills out effortlessly onto the manicured grounds.  Incredible master suite with three walk-in closets and remarkable custom bath.  Charming enclosed courtyard. Three car attached garage.  $1,975,000   Learn More….

 

63 Thorn Street –  Expertly remodeled, 63 Thorn paints a modern landscape on a charming traditional palate to create an exceptional home for the millennium home buyer.  Sited on a large lot with fully fenced back yard. The expertly designed and crafted kitchen (which is open to the kitchen) is flooded with light from an entire wall of windows that bring the private backyard into this warm and inviting space.  The dining room has also been opened to the back yard through an impressive wall of windows and doors, and spills effortless out onto the new back deck.  The second level is home to a new master suite with large closet and spa-like private bath.  Four additional bedrooms, two full baths and a convenient second floor laundry room complete the upper levels.  $1,495,000  Learn More….

QUICK SEARCH

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

The High End Market Can Be Fickle

What is going on with the more expensive homes in Sewickley?  It doesn’t seem like many are selling.

Sewickley’s high end market, defined for these purposes as homes listed above $1 Million, can be a very fickle thing indeed. I recently took a look at 6 years of data in this market segment and the results were fascinating. The fact that you sense the high end market may be less robust than in years past might be because we only sold 6 high end homes from May 1st to December 31st, 2018 (an eight month period). This was quite a surprise as we had sold 9 high end homes in the first four months of 2018. So far in 2019 we have seen three high end homes go under agreement – exactly the same number as sold in the same period last year.  We are all hoping that we can return to a cycle in line with our 2017 numbers – in that year we sold an additional 17 homes after February 28th!  If you look at long-term patterns its evident that these ebbs and flows are quite common in our high end.  In 2014 we recorded an impressive number of high end sales. In 2015 that number was a bit more anemic.

What stands out in looking at the data, however, is that in the past six years the number of high end buyers coming to us through relocations to Pittsburgh is dropping. This may be because there are other high-end neighborhoods that have been built across the region and Sewickley is no longer one of the only communities you can move to if you want to buy a high end home. Buyers can choose a home in the north hills, for example, with the latest and greatest everything for less than they would have to spend in Sewickley. This may also be because some employers who anticipate faster turn around do not want their employees buying – our rental market is doing quite well as a result.

What to do if you are living in a high-end Sewickley home?  First and foremost, we must keep our schools and community strong.  What we have is unique – there are very few walking communities in the area and fewer that are in a top school district.  Support our local stores, attend community events, give of your time and finances to our schools and non-profits.  This helps to keep Sewickley wonderful and will help protect your investment.  Don’t rely on everyone else – we are all busy but we all need to do our part to keep Sewickley appealing to new families.  Second, be sure when you are ready to put your home on that market that you have taken the time to really prep it for market and that it shows fabulously.  Remember, you aren’t just competing with the other homes in town – you are also competing with new construction in adjacent communities and those usually present as move-in ready!

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

 

 

141 Beech Ridge Drive – NEW PRICE –  Spectacular 22,000+SF estate nestled on 8 private acres in Sewickley. Remarkable newer custom construction.   Newly painted interior. Half-court indoor basketball court, full racquetball/squash court, complete locker room facilities including sauna, 60’x30’ heated in-ground concrete salt water pool w/ stone waterfalls, patio w/ outdoor fireplace, 6 bedrooms, 5 full & 4 half baths, 9 fireplaces, 6 garage spaces, two kitchens, wine room, roof-top observation deck, new home theater.  Simply remarkable! $3,750,000    Learn More….

QUICK SEARCH

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

Better Not Wait ‘Til Spring

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

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

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

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

 

244 Thorn Street

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

 

49 Woodland Road 

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

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

The Ups and Downs of Mortgage Rates

I know you don’t have a crystal ball, but what do you think about mortgage rates right now?

The short answer: I think they will only go up!  We just had a slight drop in the rates this past week, but that is not expected to hold. If you are considering buying, now is definitely the very best time to take out a loan – by next month rates could have bounced back up again! There is really only one problem I see with this otherwise sage advice – inventory is very limited right now!  You may not find anything that you want to buy!

The good news is we do have a new mortgage product that will allow you to lock the rate for 60 days, even if you haven’t found a home!  The process is quite simple.  The loan application is processed just like if you had found a home – you make full application and turn in your paperwork.  You then have 30 days to get a home under agreement and the remaining 30 days to close.  For those of you who are committed to buying in the short term, this is a very good option to guarantee you the lower rate while still giving you time to shop. If you don’t find a home within 30 days, you do lose the rate lock but you would have still completed the paperwork for your future loan application!

Prospective sellers, lower rates are good news for you too!  Buyers can afford more when rates are lower and home prices therefore tend to be a little higher. We are officially in the long-awaited spring market, rates have dropped a bit AND we have a scarcity of inventory – the perfect trifecta if you are contemplating a sale! Give me a call and we can develop a strategy to maximize your return in this favorable climate!

 

 

 

1432 Beaver
Complete architect-designed interior renovation of this elegant Sewickley Village Queen Anne Victorian. Sited on a private 1.7 acre lot in the heart of Sewickley Village.  Meticulous renovation and transformation into a home that works perfectly for millennial families. 5000SFF+. Remodeled kitchen. Completely redesigned master suite, with sitting area. Impressive development of the lower level. $1,150,000  Read more…

 

 

1 Ohio River Blvd
NEW PRICE!! Outstanding opportunity to own this signature commercial building with over 4000SF of space. Great visibility at the prominent intersection of Route 65 and Beaver, 2 minutes from I-79 and only 11 miles from downtown Pittsburgh. Off-street parking for 8-10 cars. Suitable for many uses, the two-story space is currently configured with several offices and conference spaces, mezzanine area, additional open areas and two restrooms. An excellent investment opportunity, this is a versatile building with a flexible layout, high ceilings, a multitude of possible uses and an ideal location.  $169,000  Read more…

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

Getting a Jump on the Market

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

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

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

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

 

111 Skymark

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

 

439 Maple Lane

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

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

Selling During the Holidays

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

1 Ohio River Boulevard

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

 

319 Scaife

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

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

It’s More Complicated Than It Looks

We were approached by someone who is interested in buying our home. The buyer has provided us with an unsigned sales agreement as their offer. They are offering 1.5% of the purchase price as their hand money and have not included proof of funds (it is a cash offer).  Are we wasting our time with these buyers?

The very short answer is yes! For starters, to be a valid offer, it must be in writing and signed. Without a signed writing, you have absolutely nothing to bind the buyer should you decide to proceed. What you received is not an offer at all and you should not give it serious consideration until the paperwork is signed by the buyer.  If there are no agents involved, the buyer needs to hire an attorney to prepare an offer and you will need to hire your own attorney to review it.

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

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

Your questions address just a few of the hundreds of complexities involved in getting a home sold and highlight why its really important to engage a full-time real estate expert when buying or selling a home.  Selling your home yourself may sound like a great idea in the abstract but the “for sale by owner” sellers that I have spoken to have regretted not engaging a Realtor to represent them as selling a home is far more complicated than it looks and most ended up feeling like they got the short end of the stick at the end of the day!

439 Oliver

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

319 Scaife

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

 

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

Energy Efficient is Key

We need to replace appliances – any recommendations?

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

The Inspection “Hot Potato”

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

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

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

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

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

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

907 Nevin

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

319 Scaife

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

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

Finding the RIGHT DOWNSIZER!

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.  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 (nothing available) and Sewickley Ridge (in Aleppo – one 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 (none 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.  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 Sewickely all year.  316 Beaver Street has just undergone a smart remodel and offers stylish in-town condos.  The Linden, 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!  412.779.6060

FEATURED HOMES

 

319 Scaife Road  –  New Listing

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

 

111 Skymark  –  NEW PRICE 

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

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

Choosing the RIGHT REALTOR!

A friend asked me how to pick a Realtor to work with.  Any advice you could share?

Selecting the best realtor for your needs is a very personal process.  Surprisingly, however, some real estate consumers don’t know where to begin.  The internet is such an easily accessible tool for doing your homework before you commit to an agent, and yet so many people fail to take advantage of all that is available to them, and then months or in some cases years later are still complaining at cocktail parties or book clubs about how they are not satisfied with their choice of agent.

In this age of technology, there is no reason not to do some homework upfront, before committing to an agent to handle what is likely your largest business transaction.   You can begin by looking at the qualifications and experience of the agent you are considering.  What certifications do they have? Certifications such as ABR (Accredited Buyer’s Representative) and CRS (Certified Residential Specialist) require extensive commitment to training by the agent, and training means the agent is best equipped to achieve the very best result for you.  Much of this training requires years of dedication to learning and excellence.  All agents are not brokers, for example.  An Associate Broker’s license takes a minimum of three years commitment to additional learning and hands on experience, which can only enhance your experience with the agent.

Check out their online marketing next.  The majority of Buyers start their search online these days.  How does the agent market her homes?  Check out sites like realtor.com, Trulia and Craig’s List.  Are there visual tours?  What do you think of the photography?  Would you buy the home, or even take a second look?  Be sure to check out online recommendations while on these sites.

Finally, when meeting with the agent, ask for statistics.  How many days does it take her to sell a home on average and how does that compare to the market generally.  How correct is her pricing?  How often does she have to reduce the price of a home before it sells?  Reflect on how she calculated this data.  Is it a guess or does she have the data to back up the numbers?  This will all help you determine the value of the advice you are receiving.

Each of these factors inures directly to your benefit and your bottom line.  So take the time – get to know our credentials, marketing, past performance and recommendations – and make an educated decision when choosing your next real estate agent.

FEATURED HOMES 

907 Nevin

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

 

63 Thorn Street

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

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

What About the Basement?

After renovating our 100+ year home inside and out, all that remains is our basement. Our stone foundation is in decent shape.  How important is it (or worth it) to clean this space up and how far should we go?  Would I get the return on my money?

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

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

Getting your basement up to basic safety and code standards will also save you on inspections down the road. You should have a smoke detector near the furnace, any plugs should be GFCI outlets and if your basement connects to the garage, the door connecting them should be a steel door. Some of the more expensive fixes are unlikely to yield much of a return. Some people choose to spray their ceilings black – it’s a fun effect but unless the basement is being finished, it is unlikely to yield dividends. Others choose to parge their walls – this actually makes a sandstone foundation look much better, but unless you can do it yourself, it can be expensive. I do not recommend painting walls with dryloc, however. Paint is food for mold and this might only cause more problems!

 

FEATURED HOMES

111 Skymark  – New Price! 

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

 

1432 Beaver Road

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

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

OFFER IN HAND? Better Move Quick!

We received an offer on our home but would like time to figure out where we are going next before we respond.
Is that reasonable?

Momentum is important in life.   We learn this lesson early on.  As a child, you learn that the likelihood of a getting that candy bar in the grocery store is at its peak the moment after you ask.  You are willing to give more to get in those initial moments – you might have offered to clean your room if you could just have that candy bar. The parent also knows that she can get more initially in exchange for that candy bar – your interest will wane if she doesn’t take advantage of your interest at that moment.  That lesson continues throughout life.

And so it is with real estate.  Sellers who respond and negotiate quickly to offers are far more likely to catch a buyer in the heat of the moment and achieve a higher price.  If a buyer is given too much time between the time their offer (or later counter offer) is made and the time they hear from the seller, they are far more likely to rethink their willingness to pay more, or perhaps even their interest in buying at all.  By dragging their feat in responding, in over-analyzing whether they will achieve a higher offer later, or whether they can live with the buyers terms as proposed, many sellers leave thousands of dollars on the table that they could have captured if they had just negotiated with haste.

A failure to respond quickly also increases the risk that a buyer will be distracted by another listing.  One of my favorite true stories is the buyer who signed an offer on a Saturday – the seller was too busy to meet with their agent and review the offer until Monday evening.  As luck would have it, another property came on the market Monday morning and by the time the seller responded (on Monday evening) to their Saturday offer, the buyer had made an offer on and fully negotiated the purchase of a different property.  That seller waited 9 more months for the offer they finally accepted at $55,000 less than the offer they were too busy to hear.  Sellers, don’t make these mistakes!  When you are fortunate enough to get an offer, respond and negotiate quickly for your best chance at a good result.  If you are not sure where you will go next, there is always the possibility of a rental, which is likely a better option than losing a good buyer.

FEATURED HOMES

 

219 Orchard

A spectacular Sewickley Village transformation!  Large two-story addition of 1000SF+ incorporates a new large family room, mudroom and luxurious master suite. This complete renovation included all new wiring, zoned central A/C added to the home, 2.5 new baths including a gorgeous master bath, addition of main level laundry and new kitchen featuring abundant white cabinetry topped with Quartz, stainless appliances, and large center island overlooking the large great room. New master suite includes vaulted ceiling, spacious walk-in closet with laundry chute, Fenced rear yard with patio.  $629,000

 

625 East

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

 

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 Happens After the Inspection

We find the inspection process confusing – do we have to fix everything in the inspection report before we sell our home or just the repairs the buyer requested?

The home inspection report is the document from which your buyer works to make their repair requests of you. Some buyers will ask for everything and others will ask for only those items that they think are important. They may let some things go, for example, if they are planning on renovating an area and anticipate fixing those items as a part of the renovation.

Once you and your buyer agree on a list of repairs, these are memorialized on an addendum. It is that addendum, called a Change in Terms Addendum (“CTA”), from which you work when completing your repairs. You need not refer to the inspection again unless the CTA references it. You do, however, need to make sure that you do everything on the CTA exactly as specified, so be sure to read it carefully and provide a copy to your contractor(s). For example, if the CTA says that you will have GFCI outlets installed by a licensed electrician then you need to make sure you hire a licensed electrician, and not your favorite handyman, to make the repair! If the CTA says you must paint to match existing then you need to take a sample of the existing paint to the paint store and color match it – don’t rely on old paint in cans – paint fades with age and it won’t match. Be very careful to be sure you are complying with the terms of the CTA – if you do not, or if your contractor does not, your closing may be delayed or postponed until the work is done as specified. Along those lines, be sure to review your contactor’s work when complete and make sure that he actually did what you agreed to do on the CTA. If not, request that he return before it becomes a walk-through issue.

And of course, be sure to get paid receipts from all contractors, or if they have not been paid, notify the closing company so that they can be paid at closing. All repairs must be paid for before ownership changes hands so be sure to stay on top of your bills, and provide receipts to the buyers agent.

FEATURED HOMES

457 Maple Lane  
Stately custom designed and built brick colonial on large flat and private lot in the heart of Edgeworth within easy walking distance to Sewickley Village shops and restaurants. Gleaming hardwood floors throughout most of the main and upper levels. Large rooms include large living room with wood-burning fireplace with gas starter, dining room, den (the ideal home office) and spacious kitchen open to large family room with wood-burning fireplace with gas starter. Wall of glass across the back of the home draws the outside in. Incredibly convenient main level laundry and attached garage. Large master suite with updated full bath. Lower level is unfinished and could easily be developed into a huge gameroom. Located in the acclaimed Quaker Valley School District! $695,000

607 Broad Street
Sewickley Village Living does not get any more central than this designer perfect fully remodeled Victorian. Just one block to the absolute center of the Village, easy walking distance to all Village amenities! Renovated from top to bottom with a trendy design aesthetic. Open concept floorplan. Hardwood floors unify the main and second level of the home. Beautiful white kitchen with granite tops ovens to dining room and family space. Sliding and french doors open from kitchen and family room onto newer deck. Convenient main level mudroom and powder room. Fully fenced back lawn area. Upstairs there are four bedrooms and three full baths. Upper level laundry machines offer great convenience. Incredible woodwork throughout, including stunning box beam ceiling in family room. $715,0006

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

Keeping Inspections in Perspective!

From what we hear, it seems buyers are very picky on home inspections these days.  What should a seller expect?

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

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

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

FEATURED HOMES

316 Shields Lane

A rare opportunity on one of Sewickley’s most desirable streets. Private yet just blocks from all of Sewickley’s wonderful amenities. Be inspired by the possibilities offered by this all-brick Cape Cod – this property offers its new owners the opportunity to renovate to create their own dream home, or replace with a new home to their specifications.  .43 acre private, flat yard is your own oasis.  Home features hardwood floors throughout, attractive custom kitchen.  $495,000    Learn More

 

63 Thorn Street

Expertly remodeled, 63 Thorn paints a modern landscape on a charming traditional palate to create an exceptional home for the millennium home buyer.

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

 

 

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

What to Expect When You’re Inspecting

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

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

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

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

Featured Homes

215 Pine Road

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

 

 

212 New England Place

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

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

Zillow Information Not Always Correct

The information on Zillow is incorrect about our home.  Should we address this?

Zillow is relied upon by millions of consumers for their real estate information and so it is important, if you plan to sell your home, that the information be correct.  Incorrect information can lead to poor buying decisions on a buyer’s part and might also adversely impact your Zestimate.  On their website, in the very fine print, Zillow itself admits that its Zestimate reliability in Pittsburgh is not particularly good, but most people don’t read the fine print.  So before you list your home for sale, take the time to check it out with Zillow and correct the errors you see by clicking on the “Correct Home Facts” tab, setting up an account and submitting the requested error corrections.  It is possible to dispute the Zestimate as well, so if you are listing your home for sale and the number is significantly lower than you anticipate it is worth, it may also be worth your time to do this before you list.

It is important, however, to be aware that whatever you post to Zillow stays there. As tempting as it might seem to try a “For Sale By Owner” to “save” the real estate commission (and I say this with emphasis because it is the buyer, and not the seller, who is paying the commission – if you are a FSBO they expect you to deduct the realtor fees you are not paying from your price, so the savings is theirs), I do NOT recommend listing FSBOs on Zillow.  Once they are there, they become part of a price history on the home, and if you ultimately employ an agent and try to raise the price, the buying public will be able to see online your earlier price and you will struggle to get traction at the higher price point.

Zillow is a popular online tool for many consumers (my preference is howardhanna.com as it is not owned by a publicly traded company reporting to shareholders  and is not selling space to make money for shareholders, which in some instances may not be in a consumer’s best interests). Given that many consumers use Zillow, I do recommend you take the time to get the information about your home correct before listing!

FEATURED LISTINGS

1432 BEAVER ROAD

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

444 WOODLAND ROAD

Privacy in the heart of Sewickley Village!  2.973 Acres with mature landscaping, sprawling lawns, in-ground pool, private patio and natural woodlands that provide a year-round buffer for this magical property, yet Village shops and restau

rants are just a few blocks away! Renovate to restore the home’s original relaxed elegance, reminiscent of New England seaside homes.  Or replace with your own 21st century home of your design and creation!  A rare opportunity in Sewickley!  $725,000

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

BEWARE THE SCAM!

We have been reading about fraud in real estate transactions – is this a real issue we should be concerned about here in Pittsburgh?

Fraud has become a rampant issue in the real estate industry.  In the past 6 months I had several transactions where the parties received what appeared to be legitimate emails from their lenders attempting to reroute funds needed for a closing.  Fortunately, I had educated my clients on the risks and all of them were quick to recognize the possible fraud and no money was lost.  Not all real estate consumers are this lucky, however.  Unfortunately, money lost in these scams is almost never retrievable so its important to educate yourself to the risks and exercise extreme caution around all money transfers in real estate transactions.

The typical scam is one in which the buyer receives what appears to be a legitimate email about their closing requesting information, with the ultimate goal to lure the buyer into wiring the money due at closing to a fraudulent account.  There have been instances where scammers have actually hacked into a lender’s server and are sending emails from a legitimate account. Many consumers nationwide have fallen prey to these scams.

How can you avoid being victimized?  First, be aware that there  is a risk of fraud any time a wire transfer is involved.  If you are planning to use a wire either to send funds or receive proceeds, extreme caution is warranted. Second, send and receive emails to your lender and closing company through a secure email only (and this is not the case with your standard gmail account – lenders and closers have specially protected servers for these purposes).  If you don’t have access to one, ask your lender or closer to send you an email from theirs that you can you to respond to.  Third, always independently verify phone numbers you are calling , either by looking at a business card or prior written document that you received or searching online for a number—do not just call the number you see in an email.  It is preferable to provide and confirm wire instructions over the phone with a trusted human rather than sending them off into cyber space.  Finally, if it seems fishy, it probably is.  Anything requesting partial payments  or making last minute changes is a definite red herring – stop and verify – involve your agent and make sure that what you are responding to is legitimate before making a hasty mistake you might soon regret!

FEATURED HOMES

907 Nevin
New Listing – Fantastic remodel at a great price! Top to bottom renovation to this adorable Village home! 4 bedrooms, 3.5 new, stylish baths, 3 finished levels, new 2 car garage. Incredible open floorplan unified by new hardwood floors.  New kitchen with white cabinetry, granite tops, stainless appliances. Doors open to large and inviting, private rear deck.  Move right in and enjoy!  $415,000

 

1432 Beaver
Complete architect-designed interior renovation of this elegant Sewickley Village Queen Anne Victorian. Sited on a private 1.7 acre lot in the heart of Sewickley Village.  Meticulous renovation and transformation into a home that works perfectly for millennial families. 5000SFF+. Remodeled kitchen seamlessly incorporates new cabinetry and granite tops while integrating refinished antique glass cabinet doors into the design. Completely redesigned master suite, with sitting area, turret reading nook, luxurious bathroom and exercise room. Impressive development of the lower level incorporates a family room, office, kitchenette/bar area and powder room into the home. $1,200,000

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

SPRING HOME SELLING TIPS

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

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

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

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

FEATURED HOMES

1432 Beaver Road

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

180 Summerlawn Drive

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

 

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

WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE SPRING MARKET

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

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

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

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

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

FEATURED HOMES

316 Beaver Street #204
New Price!! 

Open Sunday,  January 21st from 1-3

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

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

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

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

2018 and TAXES- Oh My!!

Any updated thoughts on the new tax legislation?

 

The new tax legislation seems to be on everyone’s mind these days, and seems to be crowding out Christmas cheer a bit.  While I do need to advise you to consult your personal tax accountant, I will tell you I have been busy prepaying my 2018 property taxes.  Under the new legislation, taxpayers will only be able to deduct a grand total of $10,000 of property and income taxes combined.  In our area, property taxes are higher than in many parts of the country, so many people will easily exceed that limit.  Paying 2018 property taxes in 2017 helps to insure the full value of their deductibility.  Of course, 2018 tax bills have not been issued yet, but if you find your 2017 bills and make a couple of calls, they will be able to tell you how to proceed if this interests you.  The taxing bodies are likely thrilled right now with the new legislation – rather than chasing late payers they are receiving their money well ahead of schedule!  Of course, if your bank escrows your taxes for you, this may not be an option you can take advantage of.

I’ve also taken the time to pay my 2017 4th quarter Pennsylvania and local income taxes now, for the same reason.  While not due until January 15th,  the $10,000 limit on the deductibility of property taxes and state/local income taxes combined will result in lost deductions for many.  This tax planning is only useful right now, when the old limits (or lack thereof) still apply through 2017.

As far as the legislation itself, I am pleased that congress raised the mortgage deductibility limit to interest on mortgage debt up to $750,000.  Interest on debt on second homes is no longer deductible (unless you use it as an investment property, in which case it can offset your rental income), and interest on home equity lines of credit will no longer be deductible.  This will definitely affect the way consumers choose to structure their home buying financing.  We will be thoroughly digesting the bill so that we can help consumers make the best financing decisions to take advantage of the tax breaks we do have left.

The $10,000 limit on the deductibility of property and state/local income taxes is not ideal, particularly because of the higher property taxes we have in the region.  There is a possibility that the limitation will make higher end homes harder to sell, but I doubt that. In the end, consumers will have to have a mindshift and think less of their personal residences as tax breaks and see them for what they really are – a home for their family to come home to every day – their personal sanctuary from what can sometimes feel like a crazy world.  And when we see our homes that way, the small piece of our property taxes that Uncle Sam no longer “pays” will seem far less important than it does in the abstract.

Featured Homes

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

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

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

UN-DECKING THE HALLS

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

 

 In this incredibly dark time of the year, 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.  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 December, so presentation remains important, even when its cold and snowy outside.

Once we start 2018, 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!

Time to Downsize?  Check Out These Great Options or Call Kathe For More Information!    Call/Text: 412.779.6060

 

102 American Way —   The living is easy in this absolutely wonderful Sewickley Ridge one-level townhome. Less than one year old and in move-in condition – ready for you to call home!  2 bedrooms, 2 baths, 2 car garage, open concept floorplan, delightful screened porch. Chic ascetic with white cabinetry, granite tops, hardwood floors. Community clubhouse with pool, tennis, Bocce court, community garden, gym, and meeting/socializing space. Why delay your downsize any longer?   $389,000   See More photos and details….

 

316 Beaver Street #204 –  Luxury and convenience seamlessly blend in this chic central Sewickley Village condo. Just steps to the shops and restaurants, this beautifully renovated unit features 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, large living room with built-ins, dining room, family room, eat-in kitchen and private balcony.  In-unit laundry plus 2 indoor parking spaces.  New hardwood floors unify the living spaces. Secure building. $435,000.   See More photos and details…

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

WHEN CAN WE MOVE IN?

When we buy a new home, when can we expect to be able to move in?

The answer to your question varies from state to state.  In Pennsylvania, possession transfers immediately at closing!  How does this impact the buyers and sellers?

Sellers, you must be completely moved out before closing day.  The latest day your movers should come is the day before closing.  You need to be sure to leave enough time to clean the home after they leave.  If you don’t already own your new home and plan to close on it immediately after closing on your old home, you need to plan for your movers to store your things on the moving van overnight.  However, it is generally smart to move out a couple of days before closing, to make sure that you have time to clean and dispose of any items the movers didn’t take.  Its not acceptable to leave things you don’t want behind for the new buyers – if you don’t dispose of them yourself, there is a good chance you will have to provide funds to the buyer at closing to get any remaining items removed.

Buyers, you can start your move in as soon as you pay for the home and finish signing your closing documents!  It is not, however, ok to start moving in before closing or to start making repairs and improvements before closing.  Both of these scenarios create insurance (and other) issues for the seller.  Please plan accordingly – if you need time to renovate before moving in, plan for storing your items with your mover until your work is complete.  Properly advise your movers of the closing time so that they are not counting on starting the move-in early.

Your one hour closing is the time that everything transfers – keys, responsibilities for upkeep, taxes… Sellers must be completely out as of that moment and Buyers may enter once that moment has passed!

FEATURED HOME

137 Sebago Lake Drive 

Absolutely perfect inside and out with stylish design aesthetic. New roof, new gutters, new flashings,  new windows, new landscaping, new sprinkler system, new lighting, new HVAC.  Custom, all brick loaded will amenities. Stunning views of Diamond Run’s 6th fairway & green. 4BR, 4+4 baths, 3 car attached garage, finished walk-out lower level. $895,000   See more photos and details here….

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

DOES IT ALL HAVE TO MATCH?

Do the metals in our home have to match?

If you are building new, then absolutely yes!  You should choose a metal and use it consistently throughout the home.  Typical choices include chrome, nickel, oil rubbed bronze, and most recently, platinum brass.  If you choose a silver tone, its acceptable to mix silver tones, such as brushed nickel and stainless steel.  Your choice should apply to all metal in your home, including lighting, door knobs and hinges, and plumbing fixtures.

If you are renovating a room, it’s important to think about where you see your renovations going in the coming years (before you sell).  If you have silver tones and you really love oil rubbed bronze but only see yourself renovating one bathroom ever, then my vote would be to stick with the silver tones.  But if you plan to ultimately renovate all baths and the kitchen, its fine to make the switch.  It is absolutely imperative, however, that metals match in a room.  If your faucet breaks and all of your bathroom fixtures are brass and you prefer silver, it is not a good idea to replace one faucet with silver and keep the rest of the brass in that bathroom.  Better to replace the broken faucet with brass, or to use the broken faucet as a chance for a mini-update of your bathroom to silver.

I have written before about the general dislike in our market of grandma’s shiny brass.  Little has changed.  If you have a home filled with shiny brass, one possible solution is to replace as much as possible with the new, trendy platinum brass.  This  has the advantage of blending well with any shiny brass you may have left in your home.  Oil rubbed bronze also tends to blend well with shiny brass (but silver does not).  Brass doorknobs and hinges do not necessarily need to be replaced.  As long as the fixtures and lighting have been replaced throughout, buyers don’t tend to notice brass doorknobs and hinges as much.

So ideally, yes, in the perfect scenario, all of your metals should match, helping your home sing one song, which is always well received by buyers.  However, there are acceptable degrees of mismatch.  Call me – I’m happy to come over for a free consultation and help you determine the best way to address the metals in your home!  412.779.6060

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

PROPOSED TAX LEGISLATION vs. HOMEOWNERSHIP

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

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

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

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

FEATURED HOMES

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

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

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

TO TUB or NOT TO TUB, 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 that what you pay to remodel the bathroom, as long as you shop smartly when doing your remodel and sell your home while the bathroom still feels current (under 15 years). It is also very important to make choices that are classic and stand the test of time if you don’t want your home to feel dated sooner rather than later. I suggest, given the age of your home, that you make classic choices — Carrera marble, white subway tile, and silver-tone fixtures would all be timeless choices appropriate for an historic home.

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

FEATURED HOMES

316 Beaver Street #204  

Luxury and convenience seamlessly blend in this chic central Sewickley Village condo. Just steps to the shops and restaurants, this beautifully renovated unit features 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, large living room with built-ins, dining room, family room, eat-in kitchen and private balcony.  In-unit laundry plus 2 indoor parking spaces.  New hardwood floors unify the living spaces. $435,000.  See more… 

 

102 American Way

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

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

THE “JOYS” of SELLING

Selling a home can be a trying process.  They say forewarned is forearmed. Any annoyances a seller should be expecting?

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

  • The agent showing your home will miss appointments and not call or show up.
  • Appointments will be made and cancelled at the last minute.
  • Some showings will last about five minutes and some will last 3 hours.
  • There will be a day when I call you and say someone wants to see your house, and you are going to ask me when. And I will say: “Look out your windows, they are sitting outside now”!
  • Agents are going to knock on your door or even drive by, see you in the yard and ask if can they see you house.
  • Agents showing your home will forget to turn lights off.
  • Agents showing your home will let your pets out (best to remove them from your home for showings) or your neighbor’s pet in.
  • Agents will provide unhelpful feedback – buyers buy homes when they attach emotionally to a home and when they don’t, their feedback is often nonsensical.
  • Agents will not provide any feedback – incredibly annoying, I know.
  • The agent on the sign will be in witness protection and not return any phone calls.
  • Expect lowball offers (at least it is a starting point).
  • Things will come up on the inspection that you had no idea were wrong with your home and you will be sure the inspector made a mistake.
  • The buyer will make ridiculous inspection requests.
  • The buyer will ask to bring in contractors for estimates for work they want to do after the closing at the seemingly most inconvenient times.
  • The property might not appraise at what you are selling it for.
  • The closing date on the contract may change.

FEATURED HOMES

7 Harvester Court

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

141 Beech Ridge Drive

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

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

WHAT TO EXPECT ON INSPECTIONS

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

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

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

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

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

FEATURED HOMES 

169 Backbone
New Roof May 2017! Directly across from Sewickley Heights Golf course and sited on a lush, professionally landscaped lot with expansive lawns, perfect for your outdoor activities, this home is move-in ready!  3 finished levels include 5 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, 2 working fireplaces, large deck, patio & delightful gazebo.  $595,000   See more details and photos on 169 Backbone HERE!

300 Chaucer Court
With its beautiful acre of land in an idyllic “up the hill” neighborhood, you can be moved in to host warm weather fun this summer! Throw memorable parties at this turn-key Sewickley home! The large deck and covered stone patios spill onto the manicured lawn, with sport court, outdoor bar, covered ping pong area and Rainbow playset. Inside, a stylish aesthetic seamlessly unifies the three finished levels. 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, 3 car garage. $799,000. Get more details and see more photos on 300 Chaucer Court HERE!

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

WHAT MUST STAY WHEN A HOME SELLS

Our home is under agreement.  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!  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 15 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).

FEATURED HOMES:

 

180 Summerlawn Drive

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

 

 

7 Harvester Court

7 Harvester Court

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

 

 

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

Pricing for “The Unique Factor”

In your May 11th article your Tip #12 was “when it is priced right, it will sell.”  Our home is on the market, has not sold and we feel it is priced right.  Is this maxim always true? 

The short answer is that it is not always true.  Some homes just take longer to sell than others.  If your home is “quirky” in its market, then it may take longer to sell, even if it is priced correctly. By quirky I do not mean dated décor or with deferred maintenance you have not yet completed. What I mean by quirky is, for example, if you are trying to sell a 2 bedroom home in a market that is nearly uniformly 3+ bedroom homes, that could slow down its resale.  In Sewickley, if you have a home “up the hill” it will always take longer to sell than the same home in the Village or the same home in the North Allegheny School District.  When buyers think Sewickley the overwhelming majority think “Village” and it takes longer for them to discover and understand the value of living “up the hill.”

However, if your home is located in the Village, has been on the market for several months and is under $1.5M and has not sold, it is likely it is overpriced.  We have a tremendous backlog of buyers looking for homes in the Village. It does take time for buyers to view and assess the possibilities of a home, but certainly not months.  As a general rule of thumb we like to say that if a home has had 13 showings with no offer or if it has been well-marketed for 13 weeks without an offer, an adjustment must be made to draw an offer.  The three time-tested factors that determine sale-ability of a home are price, condition, and location.  Location cannot be changed but does have a big impact on price.   In Sewickley, even a block can dramatically impact whether a home sells quickly or not.  Condition can be adjusted and I suggest you read some of my prior articles on my Ask Kathe blog at www.kathebarge.com for important information on what buyers expect in today’s market.

The final factor is of course price.  Depending on the price range your home is in, even a small adjustment can result in renewed interest in the home.  Additionally, it is important to consider where your competition is priced and selling, and this is a continually moving factor.  Other home owners may underprice to be “the chosen one” and you may be faced with the choice of either reducing to match their price or understanding that theirs will likely sell first.   Additionally, if you have received constructive feedback regarding either deferred maintenance of dated décor, you will either need too adjust your condition or your price.

FEATURED HOMES:

Lot D Sycamore Road

Lot D Sycamore Road

Only one lot remains in this new subdivision in Osborne!  The lot is .46 acres – build your Sewickley dream home – a unique opportunities in Sewickley! Bring your own builder! Pre-paid Sewickley tap in fee conveys with the lot.  $77,500

 

 

 

 

300 Chaucer Court

300 Chaucer Court

With its beautiful acre of land in an idyllic “up the hill” neighborhood, you can be moved in to host warm weather fun this summer! Throw memorable parties at this turn-key Sewickley home! The large deck and covered stone patios spill onto the manicured lawn, with sport court, outdoor bar, covered ping pong area and Rainbow playset. Inside, a stylish aesthetic seamlessly unifies the three finished levels. 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, 3 car garage. $799,000.

 

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

Updates do make a difference

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

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

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

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

Featured Homes

928 Blackburn Road

928 Blackburn Road

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

 

Lot D Sycamore Road

Lot D Sycamore Road

Only one lot remains in this new subdivision in Osborne!  The lot is .46 acres – build your Sewickley dream home – a unique opportunities in Sewickley! Bring your own builder! Pre-paid Sewickley tap in fee conveys with the lot.  $77,500

 

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

For What It’s “Worth”…

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

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

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

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

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

FEATURED HOMES:

7 Harvester Court

7 Harvester Court

 

Beautifully remodeled custom built home offers 3 new luxury baths, newer kitchen, new roof, new HVAC, new deck, new paint in modern aesthetic and more. Totally turn-key for you and your family! 4 bedrooms, 3.5 baths, 3 car garage, finished walk-out lower level. $775,000.

 

 

 

1008 Beaver Road

1008 Beaver Road

Less than .5 miles to central Sewickley Village yet sited on private 4 acre lot. Inside, discover a modern  home with beautiful finishes. Stylishly remodeled kitchen w/ Subzero fridge, Viking professional range, charming butler’s pantry. With six bedrooms, two home offices, a formal study, cozy family room with fireplace, living room with semi-circular bay window, sunroom, enormous recreation room/gym, and a 2 attached car garage (and much more!), this home is a show stopper!  $1,950,000

 

 

 

 

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

Twelve Real Estate Tips You Should Know

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

 

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

 

“Twelve Things You Should Know About Real Estate:

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

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

FEATURED HOMES:

309 Quaker Road
$799,000

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

 

 

 

928 Blackburn Road
$1,050,000

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

 

 

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

Getting a Lowball Offer, and Hitting A Home Run

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

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

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

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

Featured Homes:

5 Kevin Drive
$759,000

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

928 Blackburn Road
$1,225,000

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

 

 

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

The Score on Appraisals

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

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

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

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

FEATURED HOMES:

309 Quaker Road
$799,000

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

 

 

 

204 New England
$699,500

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

 

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

Waiting for “Mr. Right”

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

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

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

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

New Years Resolution #1

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

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

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

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

Selling During the Holidays

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Million Dollar Question!

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

That is the million dollar question these days!

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

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

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

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

Selling Your Vacant Home

Dear Kathe:

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

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

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

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

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

Will Our Deal Close?

Dear Kathe:

What assurances are there to a seller that if they enter into a contract to sell their home, it will actually close?

Reaching an agreement on the sale of your home is an important first step to getting your home closed. However, before a seller has any assurance that a home will actually close, several hurdles must be overcome. First, the inspections have to be completed. In most instances, the buyer has the right to terminate a transaction if they learn anything on the inspection that they are uncomfortable with, and in almost every instance, the buyer has the right to terminate if the seller does not agree to make the buyer’s requested repairs. So a seller has no assurances at all that their home will close until the inspection period is complete, which generally takes 21 days.

The same thinking would apply if the Agreement includes an appraisal contingency – until the appraisal is complete (which also takes 21-30 days), there is a risk that the home will fail to appraise and the transaction will not close.

If the buyer has a mortgage contingency, then there is a risk until a “clean” commitment letter is received from the lender that the buyer will not get their loan approved, in which case the transaction will not close. Usually it takes about 45 days from the date of agreement to know with any certainty that the buyer has received a loan commitment.

There is also the rare instance where a buyer never provides the contractually specified deposit money or second deposit money. This is a breach of agreement and if this happens, it’s reasonably unlikely that the buyer will cure that breach and close.

Finally, very rarely there are buyers who complete all of the steps in the process and just refuse to close. In those instances, the seller is often entitled to the deposit money, but that may seem like a small consolation prize when their home is empty and back on the market.

Working with a skilled real estate professional will help you to manage the risks and move toward a successful closing. So while the short answer is that there is never a guarantee until the home actually closes, with proper management of the details the risk to a seller of moving out and leaving behind an empty home can be minimized.

 

Finding the Right Agent to Represent You!

Dear Kathe,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Should I Buy First or Sell First?

Dear Kathe,

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

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

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

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

Selling with Old Mechanicals

Dear Kathe,

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

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

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

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

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

Partnering for the Sale

Dear Kathe,

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

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

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

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

A Pre-inspection is Your Best Offense!

Dear Kathe,

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

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

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

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

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

 

Is It Really Love at First Sight?

It sometimes surprises me that homes which look great on paper – well priced, good condition – do not sell, and I often wonder why not?  After reviewing statistics, the question often remains.  All the data suggests that the home should have sold.  So why then is it not sold?  This can be a very difficult question for frustrated sellers and their agents.  Recent studies show that greater than 60% of buyers (both men and women) know whether a home is right for them the first time they walk in the door – they just have a “gut instinct.”    This is consistent with what I often tell home sellers – more often than not, people are guided by emotion in making their buying decisions and emotions are rarely something we as professionals can reduce to a clear-cut action plan.

What does this “emotional buying” mean for you, the home seller.  First and foremost, it means that “first impressions die hard” – you will probably only get one chance at a buyer.  Revisiting prospects later with news of a kitchen update, home staging or offer of a carpet allowance is usually a complete waste of time with respect to those buyers – they saw your home, had a negative gut reaction, and moved on.  The focus needs to be, instead, on buyers who have yet to have that “first impression.”

If you are not yet on the market, it drives home the message once again – the message I have been sharing for years now – it is critical to enter the market ready to create an emotional “wow.”  Partnering with a home stager, many of whom offer reasonably priced consultations, gives you the best chance of meeting current market expectations.  An experienced agent should be able to give you some suggestions as well.  Many of the basics I have covered in the past include:  remove all wallpaper and paint with a neutral color palate; replace colored wall-to-wall carpeting with neutrals or, if possible, remove entirely to expose hardwoods; declutter and remove personal effects.  The trick comes in not sterilizing décor too much – it’s important for the home to still create a warm and inviting feeling – just not one that feels too dated or too personal.  Feel free to give me a call if you would like advice on how to best create the “wow factor” in your home.

Do Your Floors Tell a Story?

Dear Kathe, 

We live in a somewhat dated home we would like to get ready to sell — we have older caret and flooring — an advice of what direction we should head in when updating?

These days, the trend in interior design is to unify interiors.  Flooring is seen as a base on which to build a room.  The most universally liked flooring style is one that remains the same throughout an entire level of a home.  Unlike the 70s & 80s, when the trend was to choose a floorcovering for each room, these days it is far more popular to just pick one (or at most two) per level.  You will therefore often find that the entire main level is hardwood.  The entire second level may also be hardwood, but it could also be a neutral unifying carpet.  The design scheme then builds off this neutral base, perhaps layering on area rugs to add personal style.

In light of these trends, nothing dates a home faster than if there are a multitude of different floor coverings on one level.  It could be that each bedroom has a different color carpet.  It could be that there are four different materials on the main level – tile in the kitchen, marble in the foyer, hardwood in the family room and carpet in the living and dining rooms.  These floors all tell a story – the person who chose them was seeking a specific look in each individual room.  Those days are gone, the person has likely moved on, but the floors still hint of stories past.  Interestingly, when buyers visit homes like these they cannot usually pinpoint what they don’t like – they just say “its not for me,” or maybe “its too dated.”  What they can’t usually put their finder on is that they are missing the harmony that generally comes from unified floor coverings.

What does this mean for you, the home owner?  As you update your home, keep your floor coverings uniform throughout a level (up to two choices per level are usually ok).

My Crystal Ball is Out for Repair!

Dear Kathe,

How much more “life” do you think our spring market has left in it?

My crystal ball is out being repaired so I’m afraid my response will need to be a best guess, without it’s reliable aid! In all honesty, what the market is or is not doing in a given week or season is never more than a guess. There are certain norms that we have come to count on: the spring market is stronger than the fall market; homes in the Village sell faster than homes “up the hill,” which often require more patience. But being able to predict how long buyers will continue buying in any season, or how many buyers companies may transfer in, or how many buyers will accept the jobs they are offered and actually come to Pittsburgh, choosing Sewickley as their home base, is impossible to predict with any certainty.

And of course, there is the added uncertainty of what impact a Presidential election has on our market – historically it often slows around election time. It’s been a strong spring market. Buyers have come in waves – there was a huge surge in the March. Sales have been strong in certain brackets and not in others, but that could change on a dime. We saw a small surge “up the hill” but that market has quieted again.

To answer your question, I expect sales to continue along their usual patterns, with a reasonable number of sales in June and some in July as well. We are in our final push of families who need to be in for the school year. I expect that things will slow as they always do in August when most people desert Sewickley! Usually things pick back up again in October. If your home hasn’t sold yet, there is still a chance it could sell this spring, particularly if its well conditioned and priced perfectly. If you are thinking about listing in the future, it’s the perfect time to give me a call and develop a strategic plan for entering the market in the months to come!

Where Did All the Color Go?

Dear Kathe,

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

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

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

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

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

Pocket Listings — Are They For You?

Dear Kathe, 

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

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

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

So why do we occasionally see these seemingly “secret sales” taking place? Some sellers perceive these pocket listings as a good thing – some don’t want to be hassled with multiple showings, some don’t want the general public to know their home is available for sale. Some agents choose this strategy because they want to keep all of the commission for themselves and that only happens if their own buyer is the successful bidder. If a seller’s goal is to maximize financial return, however, a pocket listing, or accepting an agreement of sale before the home is marketed in the MLS, is rarely the best strategy.

So no, my 17 years experience indicates that a pocket listing is usually not in a seller’s best interests. The highest returns I have seen sellers achieve occur in scenarios when they have used strategies to maximize the excitement within the buying community through proper pricing, excellent conditioning and staging and full MLS exposure.

The Pace of the Sale

Dear Kathe,

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Magic Wand

Dear Kathe,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where Did They Get THAT Price!?

Dear Kathe,

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is Your First Buyer Your Best Buyer?

Dear Kathe,

 Is your first offer your best offer?

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

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

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

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

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

Top Schools, Top Value

Dear Kathe,

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

 Absolutely! There is no doubt in my mind that living in the Quaker Valley School District, ranked in the top ten in Western Pennsylvania, adds both value and sale-ability to our homes. In fact, if you missed the news, US News and World Report recently ranked Quaker Valley High School as the #6 high school in the entire state! That’s an impressive ranking for our small town and equally small school district.

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

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

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

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

I’m Your Agent, But I Don’t Do Windows!

Dear Kathe:

What is reasonable to expect a real estate agent to do for you when selling your home, and what is not?

This is an outstanding question posed by a recently closed home seller. Clarifying listing agent responsibilities up front is an outstanding way to keep the consumer/agent relationship a happy and productive one. Homes don’t always sell quickly and the relationship can be lengthy!

It is reasonable to expect your agent to be well versed in the market you are in. She should be familiar with all comparable sales and competing listings and should have visited most of them personally. She should be able to describe their differences to you so that you can understand how your home realistically compares to others. She should also have an understanding of our market cycles and be able to explain when your home is most likely to sell, and how many days on average it takes to sell a home like yours.

It is reasonable to expect that your agent keep your home well advertised. You should expect professional quality photos and a full saturation of the internet, which drives most home sales these days. It should appear in print media as well and be occasionally open to the public, although sales from open houses are rare. It is reasonable to expect periodic market updates and feedback reports – monthly is the most common that I see among my colleagues.

If your home is vacant, it is reasonable to expect periodic property checks. Bi-weekly is appropriate, but I do provide weekly checks for my vacant listings. It is also reasonable to expect your agent to have enough community connections to be able to provide referrals for work that needs to be done.

It is important to remember that an agent’s job is to market your home, and ultimately, to negotiate a contract for the sale of the home. The home does remain your home, however. Therefore, it is important for you to be a continued partner in its sale. A real estate agent cannot maintain the property for you and cannot contract for you to have it done, but hopefully can refer you to service providers. Additionally, as much as we wish we did, a real estate agent does not have a magic wand to miraculously produce a buyer for you or a crystal ball to know when that buyer will come along, although sometimes we are able to sell homes so quickly that you might think we do. We must all work within the market that we are in and stay the course with consistent advertising, price reviews and condition adjustments as needed to get a home sold.

First Impressions Die Hard

Dear Kathe –

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

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

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

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

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

Timing is Everything

Dear Kathe,

Is now a good time to list our home for sale?

August is typically a quiet time in our real estate market, and this August is proving to be no exception. Buyers are distracted with last minute vacations or getting their kids back to school! However, a quiet market is not a dead market. For new introductions, there is still a reasonable number of buyers looking for homes. Just last week I listed a home and sold it in 3 days! The buyers had been looking for months and this home checked all their boxes!

If you’re ready, market entry is typically best right after Labor Day, once we really have closed the book on summer. I would not wait for the spring market to roll around. There are more buyers in the spring market, but there are more homes on the market to compete with. Our inventory is at a record low in most price ranges. Homes that are market ready will continue to sell well through the fall.

Market ready is the key, as it always is. I cannot overstate the importance of doing your homework upfront. If you’re new to my column, check out my blog on my website for back columns about readying your home for sale. Briefly, low cost must do’s include decluttering (and storing off-site if possible), repairing all damage/wear and tear, and giving the house a top-to-bottom (including basement and garage) scrub down. The next level of preparedness includes removing wallpaper, repainting in a current color palate and replacing worn or colored carpets with new neutral carpeting. If you’re not ready, you will either need to discount the price or take the time to prepare your home. If you’re not ready now, plan for a spring market entry in February and get to work! If you are ready now, give me a call and let’s get going – its been an exceptionally strong year! Interest rates remain low –it’s a great time to make your move!

Should I Take a Break?

Dear Kathe,

My home has been on the market for quite a long time and has not sold. Should I take it off the market and give it a rest so that it doesn’t seem so stale?

The best course of action to take when a home has been on the market for a long time and hasn’t sold depends on why it hasn’t sold to begin with. For example, if you have a very unique home, it may take a long time to find the buyer looking for your unique features. If you take your home off the market, you may miss out on that one buyer seeking a home like yours.

If your home is located in a challenging location, such as next to a perceived detriment, then taking your home off the market may cause you to miss out on the one buyer who doesn’t perceive the neighboring feature as a detriment. If, however, the buying public perceives your price to be too high, then removing it from the market for a rest is highly unlikely to change that perception, unless your “rest” spans several market cycles! The risk with waiting for the market to “catch up” with what you “need” out of your home is that you don’t have a crystal ball –prices could go up or down and you could end up waiting a long time for the same price you could get today.

And of course, if your home has not sold because of condition, the passage of time isn’t going to change that and may even make it worse. Consider how large a renovation you are willing to take on in order to get your price. Stripping wallpaper and repainting, for example, might be a good start, but if you have dated kitchens and baths, it’s not going to do much to change the buyer perception of a “dated” home.

In the end, there is rarely a scenario when taking a home off the market for a “rest” ultimately yields a better result for a seller than staying the course. In fact, we have many examples of recent sellers who tried to do just that and have ended up with lower offers than they had just a couple of years ago. So my best advice to you is to reevaluate your home for possible problems that are easy to fix like too much stuff, reevaluate price to make sure it is realistic and in line with recent sales (consider an appraisal to be sure), stay the course and then work with the offer that you do get.

Squeaky Clean Sells!

Dear Kathe,

What about this year’s spring market has surprised you?

I have been surprised by an interesting trend in real estate this year – I have actually had buyers choose homes based on how clean they are! And we aren’t talking about whether the home is broom swept clean. In these homes you could literally eat off the floors! There is no doubt that Mr. & Mrs. Clean live in these homes. Buyers have actually looked past their “must haves” and have chosen homes because they are so incredibly clean!

So what is incredibly clean to today’s discerning buyers?   Decluttering is step one. Renting a storage facility or getting a pod is a great first step. After that, every inch of a home needs a good scrub down. Every light needs to be cleaned, every baseboard scrubbed, air returns and bath vent fans cleaned, carpets professionally cleaned (or replaced if they don’t look new again after cleaning), every smudge on the walls and cabinets removed (which may require repainting – and please make sure any touch-ups are NOT noticeable). Check every light switch – make sure they are crisp – if they are dingy looking, have them replaced. Air filters on furnaces should be changed. Worn floors need to be touched up or refinished. Grout must be completely clean – if you cant get it to look like new, hire a professional steaming company to steam your grout and then reseal it with grout sealant. Refrigerators and ovens should be spotless. Closets should be tidy and well staged. Light bulbs should all be working. Crystal chandeliers should be polished.

And of course outside, all landscaping should be well trimmed. Walks and driveways should be edged. Porches and patios should be swept and in great shape. Windows and futters should be clean. Garages should be swept out and well organized.

Sound like a lot of work? It is – super deep cleaning is no fun. But this spring we have certainly seen sellers who have taken their cleanliness to the next level rewarded for their efforts!

The Reality About Seller Repairs

Dear Kathe,

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

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

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

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

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

Put Your Best Floor Forward

Dear Kathe,

We are remodeling our kitchen – what type of flooring should we install?

The most important thing to consider when choosing a new floor for your kitchen is what is going on on the rest of your main level of your home. It is a critical and yet often overlooked rule-of-thumb that the most easily sold homes do not have more than two types of floor coverings per level. The trend decades ago was to customize flooring to the room. The living room might have been green carpet to coordinate with the living room furniture, the dining room might have been blue carpet to work with the custom drapes. Today that is no longer in vogue and for a home to feel updated, and not subject to the “dated home discount” it’s important to unify the floor coverings within the home. Floors are no longer considered an important opportunity for you to express your sense of style – that is better done with area rugs and other items that are easily removed from the home. So when you are choosing a new floor for your kitchen, first consider whether you have the opportunity to unify (or move toward unifying) the flooring in your home.

Hardwood floors are by far the best choice you can make for your kitchen floors. There are two basic types – finished in place and factory finished. Factory finished floors are the easiest – they come out of the box pre-finished and just need to be installed. However, finished-in-place hardwood floors have far greater durability and a much more classic look. You do have to endure the sanding & staining process inside your home, but the costs are roughly equal and in the end you have a far more saleable floor. Avoid trendy choices in wood – while hand scraped or hickory may be trendy today, it will quickly feel dated. Stick with traditional oak floors (of any board width), as styles change the most you will have to do is update the stain color – a far easier task than completely replacing the floors.

Many people choose tile for their kitchen floors. This is not a choice I would recommend however. Tile is the quickest floor covering to feel dated and the hardest to change once it is dated. Its also cold on your feet, anything you drop is likely to break and it can be a challenge to keep grout clean and crisp looking. Other trendy choices include cork and laminate. Laminate in particular is not a good choice for a higher end home.

In the end, finished in place oak remains the best choice for your kitchen (and for the rest of your home!)

Is There Such a Thing as “As Is”?

Dear Kathe,

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

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

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

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

It’s a Value-Driven Market

Dear Kathe,

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

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

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

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

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

Avoid an Inspection Fall-Through

Dear Kathe,

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

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

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

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

Why Hasn’t My Home Sold?

Dear Kathe,

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the Road to Closing

Dear Kathe,

As we prepare to close on our home, can you give us a road map of how we need to present the home to the buyer for closing?

 

Its important that when you vacate the home, you leave it as the buyer saw it, minus your personality, of course. A quick checklist would include:

Leave nothing behind that isn’t attached, unless it is specifically included in the agreement of sale. This includes paint, old building supplies, gardening supplies and garage/basement appliances. If you don’t have written permission to leave it, it needs to be removed prior to the buyers’ walk through.

Leave everything that is attached. If you forgot to exclude in the agreement of sale something that is attached, it stays. This would include the obvious, such as the toilets and lighting fixtures, and the less obvious, such as mirrors anchored to walls (those on hooks can go unless specifically included) and other decorative objects that are actually screwed or bolted to the wall. Draperies can go (unless specifically included), but their rods stay. If you are unsure, check with your real estate agent.

Your home must be free of debris and “broom swept clean” which means that while it doesn’t need to be disinfected from top to bottom, it cant have any dirt or debris that could be removed with a broom. To be courteous, you should also leave the lawn freshly mown and the yard reasonably tidy (and free of 1’ weeds!)

Your property must remain in the condition it was in at the time the buyer saw the home. If something breaks between the time of the inspection and the time you close, it is your responsibility to repair it.

Finally, be mindful that the disclosure does ask you if there are any conditions that would materially affect value, and also asks you whether there are any defects in floor coverings. If, when you are removing area rugs, you find that the floors below are badly worn (or perhaps you have plywood infill under an area rug) and you failed to disclose this, the buyer may view this as a failure to disclose and expect a last minute check from you to pay for the repair. If you had a large piece of furniture in a room and did not paint behind it, and when you remove it the room is suddenly two different colors, you should repaint the room or be prepared for a buyer request for a check for the cost to repaint as this might also be viewed by the buyer as a failure to disclose a material condition.

Before you leave take a quick look at your home and ask yourself if the home presents in a condition that, were you buying, you would be happy to be closing on. If the answer is yes without reservation, you are probably ready to close!

 

Secret Sales

Dear Kathe,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting It All Right!

Dear Kathe:

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

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

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

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

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

Gray is Hot!

Dear Kathe,

If you were going to repaint the interior of your home with an eye toward selling, what colors would you use?

 

There is no doubt that the MOST powerful color in selling homes right now is the fifty shades of gray! Were I choosing a paint palate most likely to drive in the highest dollars in the least amount of time, I would choose gray, greige and beige.

Last year I sold a home that had been appraised twice by two reputable appraisers in preparation for listing the home. The entire interior was painted light gray and the home sold within a week (and despite its older kitchens and baths) for more than $100,000 over the highest of the two appraisals. A proven testament to the power of gray!

I work full time + and watch buyers every day as they respond to the homes that they see – their responses are rarely analytic and are more often emotional – show them a gray house and they want to buy a home that meets none of their “must haves.”

Sometimes sellers object: I don’t like gray. Pittsburgh is too gray as it is. Gray wont look good in my home.   I have yet to see a home where a carefully chosen shade of gray/greige doesn’t make the home sparkle. And as to personal taste – try to remember, you are moving. The market has spoken and the market we are in loves gray.

A few words of caution. One gray room is not going to do it. For the power of gray to work, the palate must be consistently applied throughout the home. Additionally, you must be very careful to choose the right shade of gray. I just toured a home where the shade of gray chosen for the walls clashed with the woodwork – gray will not work its magic in that case. And yes, this can be an expense. But if you are asking the question, you must be seeking the truth and yes, sometimes that is expensive. Homes with other color palates do sell, but in 2015 Pittsburgh, gray is the most powerful color you can choose if you want to sell your home!

Selling With Fido

Dear Kathe,

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

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

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

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

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

Repair Before You List!

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

 

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

Many buyers actually get quite nervous during the home inspection (also known as buyers remorse). If you happened to have gotten one of these buyers, it is possible that they could walk away from your deal if the inspection concerns feel too weighty to them. After you actually receive and negotiate the offer, the last thing you want to do is lose the buyer over items that you could have fixed but didnt 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. Dont take any chances. If you suspect it is likely someone would seek a repair, get it done!

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

Should You FSBO?

Dear Kathe: We will be selling our home within the next year. We are telling our friends with the hope that we can find our own buyer and sell our home ourselves. Do you see any pitfalls with our strategy?

 I am a real estate broker.  What do you think the answer will be?  You absolutely should not try to FSBO your home!  But why not?  Because it is not in your best interests.  You will be better off if you hire an experienced, full-time agent to represent you.  Here’s why:

 

  1. You will not end up with more money if you sell your home yourself.  If its that easy to sell yourself, chances are you underpriced your home.  And if that’s the case, you would have been better off with it listed in the MLS – with the incredible amount of marketing we bring instantly to your home, if you are willing to price it that reasonably, we could have likely generated a bidding war.

 

  1. The buyer will negotiate a price that gives him the full benefit of the fact that no commission is being paid.  In other words, if your home could have sold for $500,000 through an agent, your buyer will expect to only pay 94% of that or $470,000.  You may be thinking “that’s ok – I am no worse off than if I had hired an agent.”  But why put yourself through the hassle when for the same net, you can have our expert marketing and negotiating working for you?
  2. You have no one looking out for you.  How do you know if the price they are offering is fair?  How do you know if the terms are appropriate – is the hand money high enough, for example.  How can you be certain that they are really qualified to perform?  How will you respond when the inspector produces a laundry list of deficiencies, as they always do?

 

  1. FSBO homes have no urgency.  The way we generate bidding wars and nice realizations for our sellers is to create a sense of urgency by marketing your home everywhere instantly.  FSBOs simply don’t have the same urgency and the longer a buyer can think about your home without worrying that someone else will snap it up, the less likely they are to buy it.

 

Just like you wouldn’t operate on yourself to try to save a few bucks, it is unwise to try to sell your own home.  Even trying will “burn your market” and make it difficult for us to put into place an effective plan once you decide you have had enough.  Start with a well thought out strategic plan—every house is different – every seller’s needs and motivations are different – there is no one size fits all when it comes to selling a home.  Buying and selling homes is far more complex than we make it look.  Don’t skimp when it comes to professional advice.

The Truth About Emotional Buying

Dear Kathe:

We have read what you have to say about home staging and getting your home ready for the market, but couldn’t we test the market and see what buyer thinks before making improvements?

 

It sometimes surprises me that homes which look great on paper – well priced, good condition – do not sell, and I often wonder why not?  After reviewing statistics, the question often remains.  All the data suggests that the home should have sold.  So why then is it not sold?  This can be a very difficult question for frustrated sellers and their agents.  Recent studies show that greater than 60% of buyers (both men and women) know whether a home is right for them the first time they walk in the door – they just have a “gut instinct.”    This is consistent with what I often tell home sellers – more often than not, people are guided by emotion in making their buying decisions and emotions are rarely something we as professionals can reduce to a clear-cut action plan.

What does this “emotional buying” mean for you, the home seller.  First and foremost, it means that “first impressions die hard” – you will probably only get one chance at a buyer.  Revisiting prospects later with news of a kitchen update, home staging or offer of a carpet allowance is usually a complete waste of time with respect to those buyers – they saw your home, had a negative gut reaction, and moved on.  The focus needs to be, instead, on buyers who have yet to have that “first impression.”

If you are not yet on the market, it drives home the message once again – the message I have been sharing for years now – it is critical to enter the market ready to create an emotional “wow.”  Partnering with a home stager, many of whom offer reasonably priced consultations, gives you the best chance of meeting current market expectations.  An experienced agent should be able to give you some suggestions as well.  Many of the basics I have covered in the past include:  remove all wallpaper and paint with a neutral color palate; replace colored wall-to-wall carpeting with neutrals or, if possible, remove entirely to expose hardwoods; declutter and remove personal effects.  The trick comes in not sterilizing décor too much – it’s important for the home to still create a warm and inviting feeling – just not one that feels too dated or too personal.  Feel free to give me a call if you would like advice on how to best create the “wow factor” in your home.

Bidding Wars are Back!

Dear Kathe,

One of my friends sold her house with multiple offers last week. We are planning to buy a new home this spring – are we going to find ourselves in the middle of a bidding war?

 

It is true that some of our inventory has seen multiple offers in the past couple of weeks!  Even with multiple bids, however, buyers are still cognizant of value and sellers who bought or refinanced their equity out in earlier years may not yet see a return to those value levels.

Why are we seeing multiple bids?  As I have mentioned in previous articles, our inventory is down substantially.  Our typical inventory sources have been slow.  Corporations cut back tremendously on relocations post-2008 and have transferred fewer employees in recent years.  Trade-ups or trade-downs have decreased significantly, in many instances because sellers can’t find anything to move to.  And so it becomes a vicious circle.  At the same time, the lag in inventory introductions has been going on for quite a long time, so many buyers are just plain tired of sitting on the fence and are beginning to