Friday, July 31, 2015

Back to School Brings Opportunity

As we approach the month of August many sellers and buyers are becoming nervous as they continue their efforts to either buy or sell a home. Worry not opportunity still knocks after the peak summer season subsides.

Originally posted August 15th, 2014

There is typically a nice little summer boost in the number of real estate transactions. June and July enjoy a robust seasonal perk up as many families prefer to move in the summer while kids are out of school, and while the weather is fair for moving. The summer month's totals are usually about 20% higher than the average month. Mid-August tends to see a slight slow down in activity that is most likely due to families with children in "back to school" mode.

This slight reduction in buyers, means a little less competition for the remaining listings. Buyers that have not found their ideal home or that have been outbid may find a reprieve from the craziness. Likewise, sellers that did not sell over the summer may be ready to take that slightly lower offer that would not have been accepted a month ago.

Sellers with homes that are not selling of course should consider evaluating the price but also other factors that might help sell. One problem that is all too common among sellers is the availability to show the home. Selling a house that is lived in is a difficult pain in the rear end. But the more easily an agent can show the house, the more buyers will be able to see it. More showings will directly translate into more or faster offers. The next 3-4 weeks will mark the end of our late summer sun and making listed properties available until 7 or 8 o'clock can be the difference between sold and sitting.

Buyers should revisit homes they passed over in June and July. If they are still on the market the price may now be reduced or the seller may be softened up and open to a lower price offer.

We continue to see appreciating prices but the rate of appreciation has slowed dramatically from the skyrocketing prices of 2013 to more modest upward trend in 2014. There is no guarantee that prices will continue to move up. The economy is fair and interest rates are a major factor in the recent real estate turn around. Sellers should not assume that they will get a better price next year. They might; in fact they probably will, but it is by no means set in stone. A good solid offer today that generates the cash needed to do what the seller wants to do should not be underestimated.

Don't worry if you missed out on the peak summer sales cycle, there is plenty of opportunity as the Autumn approaches.

Friday, July 24, 2015

HOA's, CCR&Rs and You

Many clients are reserved about HOAs in the neighborhoods they are seeking homes in. HOA stands for Home Owner's Association. The overwhelming majority of people are at the least, cautious regarding buying in a neighborhood with an HOA and many flat refuse to buy if an HOA is present.

Caution is well advised as the good standing of the HOA is very important, especially in a condo or townhouse development where the responsibility of the HOA is high. For this post today, I am focusing on HOAs in detached home neighborhoods.

An HOA is often utilized to make certain the neighborhood continues to conform to the original specifications the developer created. Often there are common areas the HOA will maintain such as walking paths, parks and sometimes the front yards of the residences. There is of course a fee that is billed to the homeowners monthly, quarterly or annually. Generally the HOA elects a board from the ranks of the homeowners and sometimes the HOA is run a professional management company.

An HOA can be a great asset to a neighborhood as they routinely enforce the CC&Rs that can help preserve the integrity of the neighborhood. CC&R is an acronym for Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions. These are generally deeded and often recorded with the deed and thus run with the land indefinitely. Disbanding an HOA or dramatically changing the way the HOA is managed may occur via a vote of the homeowners. CC&Rs require a significant legal action to remove.

The two go well together. The HOA can enforce the CC&Rs. CC&Rs are much more difficult to remove as they are deeded to the land. However, if no HOA is present, then enforcing the CC&Rs becomes difficult. It is complaint driven and would likely require formal legal action to enforce. Inversely, an HOA without strong CC&Rs can quickly become useless as well. As the homeowners can simply vote away important protections.

I have watched nice neighborhoods decline rapidly due to a weak HOA/CC&R or no HOA at all. The idea of keeping a neighborhood as nice as the day you bought the house over years or even decades is important to many people that intend to live in a home for long term. The fear some buyers have is that the HOA will be run so strict that homeowners lives will be negatively impacted. This can be true sometimes. A client may move into a neighborhood that restricts RVs and Boats or street parking. Perhaps when they buy the home these restrictions are fine, then they have a family and want a boat or end up with teen drivers that can't park their car in the neighborhood, etc. These are things buyers must consider when purchasing a home. Buyer's need to think about the big picture and what their future may hold. Some things are not planned in life, but many are. Buying a house that does not conform to one's future plans is foolish at best.

The bottom line about HOA and CC&Rs is that people who want a neighborhood that is well regulated and keeps homeowners in compliance with the neighborhood plan, should seek out areas with strong CC&Rs and a solid HOA. People who like to have RVs and boats and extra cars and such should avoid HOA regulated neighborhoods.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Big on Small or Small on Big?

With the recent building boom this article still resonates. Originally posted here August 29th, 2014

The trends in home building for middle income buyers has been larger homes on small lots. Builders have been stuffing 2200 square foot homes onto 4000 square foot lots. There is a wow factor when a prospective buyer walks into a brand new house with 2200 square feet of space and all the nice modern features.

The trade-off has been in the "real estate" portion of the deal. These gorgeous big houses had nearly no yard and a tiny so called two car garage. For the very same money a buyer could look at a 20 year old home with 1800 square feet sitting on a large 10,000 square foot lot. Sure, that house was a more dated design, but often the seller had done updates to improve the feel of the home.

So buyers that find themselves in the local market with a $250,000-$300,000 budget will face the same dilemma. 'new on small' or 'old on big'? That trend of new on small even pushed it's way into the bottom of the upper income homes. There are a great many 3500 square foot homes stuffed onto 5000 foot lots here in Clark County as well. Some of these are top quality builders cramming luxury homes onto postage stamp lots up on Camas' Prune Hill.

Buyers should consider that land is valuable. It is a major part of the real estate equation. Having a large, safe yard for children or grandchildren to play in can be most valuable. Summer parties in a real backyard are hard to beat as well. Buyers are well advised to look at a range of homes from new on small to old on big before making that final decision. There are strong merits to both concepts. Personally I am at a point in my life where a big house on a small lot would be just dandy! One should just make sure they are choosing the property that will serve them best rather then the property that offers more bling.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Builders Are Back, But is New Better?

Many home buyers may be feeling frustrated at the lack of resale inventory in the market. here in Clark County it remains a tight seller's market. There are many buyers and they seem to be preferring that move-in ready house rather than the one that needs "TLC". The builders are back and they have come with force. Dozens of new developments are underway all over the fruited plain.

For the buyer that has to have the house just so, a new home holds an advantage in that often times the buyer can choose carpets, flooring, counter tops, colors, etc. The downside is that builders are booked solid and completion times are pushing 6-7 months. New spec homes are always and option but they lose the pick you theme angle in exchange for buy me now availability.

The general theme in new homes has been big house, tiny lot. The older homes are usually found on nice big lots with 7-8 thousand square feet and go back to the 1970s and you will likely find reasonably priced homes on 10,000 foot lots.

That remains the trade off, older homes on giant lots versus newer homes on smaller lots. In general a new house will appreciate quicker in the first 5 years. When looking at newer subdivisions consider the neighborhood and price ranger. Entry level homes will often hold up better if an HOA or strong CC&Rs exist to keep the neighborhood conforming and tidy. Generally upscale developments with large expensive homes fare well with or without an HOA.

I have written in the past that sometimes buying a brand new house in an older neighborhood can backfire. Be aware of your needs and think about the future. Buying a home is a little more "permanent" than renting and will require a bit more time commitment on the part of the purchaser.

Most new home developments list their properties on the local MLS so your favorite Realtor® can still help you find your dream home, whether it is brand new or 100 years old.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Seller's Keep Your Home Cool!

It's hot outside. All across the fruited plain, this is the warmest time of year. As we begin to celebrate our great nation's independence seller's should remember that an uncomfortable buyer will stick around in the showing to soak up the nuanced greatness of your home. To put it another way, buyers are not interested in purchasing a home that feels like a sauna or steam room. For crying out loud if you have A/C use it! Buyers will linger in the glorious bounty of a cool home when the mercury outside is popping those 90s. Sellers need not cool the house to ridiculous expense. Even a setting of 78 degrees will provide a comfortable recompense in 90 plus heat.

No A/C? No problem, sellers need to follow those classic cooling tips. keep windows open till the temp starts to get warm. Then close up the house and run the furnace fan (if you have forced air) or ceiling fans, etc. In the evening when the temperature settles down, re-open the windows to bring the cooler evening air in. Furthermore, if blinds horizontal are employed in the home, angled them down towards the ground at about a 45 degree angle. (further south in California they can be at 20 degrees) This blind trick allows indirect light to enter the home but keeps direct sunlight from hyper-heating the house. On all but the hottest days this should suffice to keep the home bearable.

I know some sellers and agents are thinking it's a seller's market so why do all this effort. Buyers are still picky and they won't buy a home that makes them feel uncomfortable. Nor will they stay in the house long enough to determine if it is a good home for them. In a seller's market the same rules apply, the more presentable and attractive the listing, the more money it will yield at closing.

Happy Birthday, America! You're a spry 239 years old tomorrow.