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What’s Normal?

The flurry of 2014 has calmed, with the real estate market leveling to “more normal” levels.  I have to be honest that I was getting a bit nervous this past summer as homes in certain communities were selling at a frantic pace and many WELL above list price with multiple offers.  Many people love to see fast recoveries, but those of us that worked through and endured the market meltdown several years ago remember how dangerous a market “bubble” can be and I personally think we were headed there again.  Fortunately (although many Sellers on the market right now may not agree and I certainly mean no offense) the feeding frenzy has subsided and it is getting a little easier and much less stressful for a Buyer to find a home.  My idea of a “perfect” real estate market?  Not a Seller’s market or a Buyer’s market, just a slow and steady value growth market which benefits Sellers, Buyers and the respective communities they live in.  A market where listing Agents and selling Agents work cohesively to make the transaction a “win/win” for all involved.  And a market where lenders give sound and ethical advice to their clients so their home purchase becomes an easily sustainable part of their retirement or investment savings.

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Get in Somone’s Face (it’s not what you think)

One of the most impactful books I have ever read is “The 7 Levels of Communication” by Michael Maher.  I have embraced and adopted many of the principals of his system in my business and the results are proving to be exponential.  He focuses on “The Communication Pyramid” in which 1 on 1 (face to face) meetings being the most effective in business, but I realized the truth of that in everyday life just this morning. 

After getting YET ANOTHER few inches of snow during the night, this morning my snow blower pull cord broke on the first pull!  That was at 6:00 am, so after shoveling our driveway I called the large local retailer/repair business and was informed it would be 24 hour turnaround time for the repair.  So I immediately drove there to drop it off and after a cheerful good morning to the repair counter, I left 20 minutes later with the repair completed. 

Face-to-face meetings are absolutely more effective than phone calls, emails and especially text messages!  Put a smile on and get “in someone’s face!”

Posted in Advice, MI, RE/MAX Encore, Real Estate

Real Estate Projections for 2014

Recently RE/MAX of Southeastern Michigan projected the Top Real-Estate Trends for 2014.   I completely agree with all points made in this article.

Demand is sky high due to a lack of homes available for sale and it continues to push prices higher. While so many people have complained that “mortgages are hard to get”, I just didn’t see that in 2013.   Now I may be one of the few, but my clients ranged from $75,500 to $728,500 so my demographic is very broad and it isn’t like I was in a select market.

2014 is going to be an excellent year again for Sellers, our area values and for Buyers, but homes will be harder to find. Buyers have to be made aware that homes area a bit harder to find, but if they are patient we can find that perfect home for them! If you are a Seller and have been waiting for values & prices to come back, now is the time.

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It DOES matter how people see you.

A bit of a twist for this week’s topic…  When I was in my teens, I was given one of the best bits of advice from Mr. Pete Stanley, who was like a second father to me and the leading Realtor in the area for many years where I grew up.  Pete ALWAYS looked his best and one day I commented on how he was always “dressed up.”  I remember his words and expression today as clear today as I did then.  He said, “you just never know when you have to make a good impression.”  I just had that very instance happen again yesterday and I was ready.  The result was new business.  It’s more than just making a good impression – it’s how I best represent my clients.  Thanks again Pete – you’re legacy continues.

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10 Inexpensive Ways to Spruce Up Your Home to Sell!

To help property owners get the best selling price they can — without burying themselves in expenses — U.S. News has created a list of 10 cheap ways to boost your home’s sales price by spring:

1. Retouch the front shell: If your property’s exterior isn’t appealing, no one will want to see your newly remodeled kitchen. Property sellers must first ensure that their home projects a cozy, inviting feeling.

The shell — the outside front — is probably the most important area for improvement, the area where you can make the biggest improvement with the smallest amount of cash.

Touching up the paint on the front-entry portion of the house can be an inexpensive but effective way to make the entire property more inviting.  Really focus on that outside, external shell,  You would be amazed by the amount of people that drive by a house and say, ‘Ah, that’s not for me.’ And they can tell just by the way the upkeep and the outside looks.”

2. Trim the greenery: Ensuring that the lawn, hedges and flowers are well-maintained helps make your home more alluring to prospective buyers. Property owners can hire professional landscapers or break out the lawn mower and get busy themselves.

Many people have landscaping that is overgrown and too heavy, and it is concealing a lot of the house,  Trim the trees, trim the hedges … (and) add a little color to the flower beds.

3. Paint the interior: Putting a fresh coat of paint on the home’s interior is a cost-effective way to make a home more appealing to buyers.  When choosing the color, homeowners should be conservative. The caution is that your favorite color may not be the favorite color of the buyer.  Instead, homeowners are best off using neutral colors. Go with something that is a very light yellow or a light cream with a contrasting white, so it just looks very fresh and crisp. … Having the paint in good condition is almost more important than the color.

4. Don’t forget the floors: Improving the condition of a home’s flooring is also a smart move for sellers — and you don’t need to refinish wood floors or install new carpets to make them more attractive.

5. Make all major repairs: Because tighter lending standards demand higher down payments, today’s homebuyers won’t have much cash left for improvements once they’ve made their purchase. So it’s imperative for sellers to make all major home repairs — fixing the leaky roof, rebuilding the front stoop — before they put the property on the market.

To determine what needs to be done, property owners can scrutinize their homes themselves or bring in a home inspector to examine the property professionally.

The home inspection piece,  is something that is a huge value, particularly if there is something that is a question.

6. Put appliances under warranty: To give buyers more confidence in a home’s appliances, we recommend that sellers put them under warranty. Sellers can buy home warranties, which cover repair and replacement costs for many home appliances, from several different companies.

If I have got a 40- or 50-year-old house, it is going to be harder for me to persuade a first-time home buyer with a limited amount of cash to buy it because they will say, ‘Well, what happens if something breaks down?’  If I have a home warranty … that solves that problem.

7. Make energy-efficient home improvements: Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is another good way to make your property more attractive to buyers. Some improvements, such as adding solar panels, still come with federal tax benefits. In addition, a growing awareness of human impact on the environment means that homes that have these upgrades will stand out from other homes.

If you have some cruddy old windows that are leaky and just not energy efficient, you can put in new replacement windows and take advantage of the tax credit.  Those are really practical things that make your house more sellable.  Many contractors will conduct a so-called energy audit free of charge to determine where efficiencies can be created. If your house is more energy efficient — you use less energy, it’s better insulated — it is going to be more desirable for a potential buyer.

8. New light fixtures: Replacing old or broken light fixtures with new ones can also be a low-cost way to add value. Installing a new light fixture in the foyer can be a particular benefit,  because it can make a strong first impression on would-be buyers. Creating an inviting feeling in the interior entryway helps get home shoppers more interested in checking out the rest of the property.  I can update those features so that somebody can walk in and say, ‘You know what? (The homeowners) took care of this.'”

9. New stove: While some homeowners might think the only way to jazz up a dated kitchen is a full-on remodeling job, we recommend a much less costly alternative: buying a new stove. “If there is an updated stove in the kitchen, it is amazing how that draws people in, and people say, ‘Wow, this kitchen is going to be great.  While upscale homeowners may have to shell out for top-of-the-line appliances to maintain their kitchen’s décor, others can budget well under $1,000 for the upgrade. You can get a really nice stove for $700 or $800, You can basically have the look of a new kitchen that is going to be really enticing to someone — and what you are really trying to do is differentiate your house from somebody else’s.

Property owners in neighborhoods where most homes have granite counter tops can consider making this upgrade as well. But Lupberger says the project makes sense only for homeowners with extremely dated kitchens that are going to serve as a serious impediment to finding a buyer. A real-estate agent with experience in the local market can help you determine whether the upgrade is essential.

10. Freshen up the bathrooms: Getting rid of mildew stains on the bathroom caulking can boost a home’s appeal as well. Such stains “scream, ‘These people haven’t taken care of this house. It’s going to be a money pit.

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Staging Your Home To Sell!

Want to sell your home quickly and for top dollar?  Staging can help. Staging is presenting your home in its best and most appealing light to the majority of home-buyers.

In theory, staging isn’t hard or costly, but in reality, many homeowners find it difficult because it’s often hard to see something   objectively when we love it.

An easy way to see effectively staged homes is to visit decorated models. Decorating a model is expensive, but builders are willing to invest the cost because they understand just how well a staged home sells. 

 

Basic Staging Rules
  #1 – Clean.  Your home must   sparkle!  To achieve this level is often only feasible by hiring a   cleaning crew.  In fact, having a cleaning service return weekly while   your house is for sale is probably a pretty good investment. Get your windows professionally cleaned inside and out too.

#2 – Fix. Got a dripping faucet or a cracked tile? These will send the wrong message to potential buyers. Getting them fixed before you put your house on the market is a smart idea.

#3 – Eliminate Clutter.  The “50%   Rule” requires that you eliminate the clutter in your home by at least   half.  This may be the hardest rule of all!  We love our clutter — it reflects our memories, hobbies, and values.  But it doesn’t sell homes!  Clutter makes homes seem smaller and disorganized. (Have you ever noticed that the really expensive stores seem to have an expansive, clutter-free layout, while “cheap” stores are often a jumble of merchandise?)  Even the ancient practice of Feng Shui has as a central focus the elimination of   clutter.

#4 – Executive Neutral.  Neutral colors sell.  It’s a fact. Try to convey an image of quality and   neutrality.  Potential buyers walking through your home want to imagine themselves as the owners. Staying high-quality, but neutral is safest.

#5 – De-personalize.  Remove objects  that your potential buyers won’t be able to identify with.  For example, political and religious items may turn off whole groups of buyers, because they cannot “imagine” your home as their home.  Buying a home is an emotional decision, and you want potential buyers to make an emotional  connection with your home by being able to “see” themselves in it.

The Test.
  Wondering if something is acceptable staging?  Visit a model home to see   if they do it.  For example, can you leave your high-end, designer   toaster out on your kitchen counter?  Nope!  You won’t find a   single toaster in the kitchens of model homes. Can you display an artsy   topiary tree on your kitchen counter?  Yes.  Model homes do!

Some Specifics.

“Curb   appeal.” They say you can only make one “first impression,”   and people usually form their first impression within 30 seconds.  What   potential buyers see when they drive up to your house will be their first   impression.  This is a good place to spend a little extra time and   money.  Plant flowers, trim bushes, weed, pick up leaves, repaint your   front door, replace tarnished house numbers or a dented mailbox, get a   brand-new neutral doormat, park your old car somewhere else.

The   entrance.  The first glimpse inside your home should give   potential buyers positive, uplifting feelings.  Make your entryway as   light and bright as possible.  Leave all the lights in the house   on.  (Have you noticed that model homes do this?)  Get rid of all   area rugs. (Even authentic, high-quality carpets should normally be removed   since they break up the expanse of floor space, making rooms look   smaller.)  Limit your cooking to very plain foods so odors don’t   linger.  (No cabbage, garlic, or onions!)  On the other hand,   freshly baked chocolate chip cookie smells are just fine!  They evoke a   homey feeling for almost everyone.

Kitchen.  Kitchens sell homes, so the   importance of making your kitchen appealing can’t be   underestimated.  Clean and de-clutter!  Anything taking up counter   or floor space must go (the only exception would be the types of designer   touches seen in model homes).  Anything displayed on the refrigerator   must go.  If your cabinets are old, consider resurfacing them.  If   your counter knobs are old or out-of-date, replacing them can be   a relatively inexpensive “facelift.”  If your cabinets   are wood, get a wood tone touchup stick from your home supply store and fill   in any nicks and scratches.  Shelves and pantries must appear orderly   and very spacious.  Potential buyers will be turned off by kitchens that   seem to have inadequate storage space.  Put those extra items in your   newly rented storage unit or give them away!

Bathrooms.  Again, clean and   de-clutter!  You   absolutely must get rid of any mildew/mold.  If you have a glass shower   door, squeegee it after every shower.  A mold-and-mildew remover and a   soap scum remover can work wonders.  Glass cleaning products do a good   job of cleaning windows and mirrors (but be careful if you have brass   fixtures since ammonia will cause these to pit).  Do not display any   personal toiletry items!  Remove all deodorant, mouthwash, electric   toothbrushes, etc. and put them in your cabinet.  (Model homes never,   ever display such items!)  Pick up all bath mats and rugs.  Keep   your soap dishes pristine.  If you have bars of hand soap, they should   look new.  Get a new set of high-quality, neutral, fluffy towels and   display them.  (Model homes always do this!)

Rest of the House. Clean, repair, de-clutter, and de-personalize!  You’re going for that Executive but neutral look, since almost everyone can  “see themselves” in a home like that. 

      

  • Remove those knickknacks!   
  • Remove enough items from your closet so you can hang a garment without touching the garment next to it – – this could be difficult.  (Extra and out-of-season clothes go to your newly rented storage unit.) 
  • Remove area rugs
  • Remove throw blankets
  • Remove throw pillows (or replace with “designer” pillows)
  • If your houseplants are anemic, remove them.  Replace with high-quality silk plants or healthy houseplants in attractive containers (no plastic!). 
  • Take a hard look at your carpets.  Are they stained or worn?  Replacing carpets is often an excellent investment because it gives your home that  “new” look that everyone wants.  (Buyers have notoriously poor imaginations, so replacing existing carpet with neutral carpet is usually a much better idea than offering a “carpet allowance.”) 
  • Leave all the lights on  (No burned-out light bulbs!)
  • Keep wastebaskets empty
  • If possible, send your pets to stay with family or friends.  As much as we love our pets, they can be a major negative distraction to potential buyers.
  • Leave your home before potential buyers arrive

Summary

Once you accept the challenge that you’re turning your home   into a “model home” to sell at top dollar and in record time,  you’ve won half the battle.  You’ll be well rewarded for your efforts!

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Tips for buying a house

Tips for buying a house

The top 10 things you need to know when buying a home.

 

1. Don’t buy if you can’t stay put.

If you can’t commit to remaining in one place for at least a few years, then owning is probably not for you, at least not yet. With the transaction costs of buying and selling a home, you may end up losing money if you sell any sooner – even in a rising market. When prices are falling, it’s an even worse proposition.

2. Start by shoring up your credit.

Since you most likely will need to get a mortgage to buy a house, you must make sure your credit history is as clean as possible. A few months before you start house hunting, get copies of your credit report. Make sure the facts are correct, and fix any problems you discover.

3. Aim for a home you can really afford.

The rule of thumb is that you can buy housing that runs about two-and-one-half times your annual salary. But you’ll do better to use one of many calculators available online to get a better handle on how your income, debts, and expenses affect what you can afford.

4. If you can’t put down the usual 20 percent, you may still qualify for a loan.

There are a variety of public and private lenders who, if you qualify, offer low-interest mortgages that require a small down payment.

5. Buy in a district with good schools.

In most areas, this advice applies even if you don’t have school-age children. Reason: When it comes time to sell, you’ll learn that strong school districts are a top priority for many home buyers, thus helping to boost property values.

6. Get professional help.

Even though the Internet gives buyers unprecedented access to home listings, most new buyers (and many more experienced ones) are better off using a professional agent. Look for an exclusive buyer agent, if possible, who will have your interests at heart and can help you with strategies during the bidding process.

7. Choose carefully between points and rate.

When picking a mortgage, you usually have the option of paying additional points — a portion of the interest that you pay at closing — in exchange for a lower interest rate. If you stay in the house for a long time — say three to five years or more — it’s usually a better deal to take the points. The lower interest rate will save you more in the long run.

8. Before house hunting, get pre-approved.

Getting pre-approved will you save yourself the grief of looking at houses you can’t afford and put you in a better position to make a serious offer when you do find the right house. Not to be confused with pre-qualification, which is based on a cursory review of your finances, pre-approval from a lender is based on your actual income, debt and credit history.

9. Do your homework before bidding.

Your opening bid should be based on the sales trend of similar homes in the neighborhood. So before making it, consider sales of similar homes in the last three months. If homes have recently sold at 5 percent less than the asking price, you should make a bid that’s about eight to 10 percent lower than what the seller is asking.

10. Hire a home inspector.

Sure, your lender will require a home appraisal anyway. But that’s just the bank’s way of determining whether the house is worth the price you’ve agreed to pay. Separately, you should hire your own home inspector, preferably an engineer with experience in doing home surveys in the area where you are buying. His or her job will be to point out potential problems that could require costly repairs down the road.