When it comes to knowing what buyers want in a home, who better to ask than a successful real estate broker?
We regularly shuttle clients from home to home and get the scoop on what features they find appealing and repelling.
Savvy builders of new construction homes ask brokers for their input. Here are the results of one such recent survey.
Today's buyers want:
Open floor plans, allowing maximum flexibility for use of living space
Neutral color schemes with accent walls
Multigenerational floor plans
First-floor master suites
No dining rooms (kitchen eating space and breakfast bars instead)
Extra-large garages for both cars and storage
Finished basements with 9-foot high ceilings
Barn sliding doors
How many of these features appeal to you? What would you add?
Home valuation: What's a "comp"?
What's a "comp"?
In real-estate-speak, a “comp” refers to a comparable property used to help you, the homeowner, determine the current market value of your home.
Most any real estate broker will happily prepare a complimentary CMA for you as a preliminary step to listing your home for sale, but a CMA can also be useful in other circumstances. For instance, you may want a CMA to present to your bank prior to paying for an appraisal when refinancing your home loan, or when helping an elderly parent assess their assets.
It’s helpful to note that not all CMA’s are created equally, i.e. with the same degree of attention and care. Don’t be afraid to ask more than one agent to prepare a CMA for you. Their willingness (especially if you are not yet committed to listing your home) and the quality of the report can help you decide if they are the best agent to help you, whether now or down the road.
What should a carefully prepared CMA look like?
First, it will show homes in the same neighborhood with similar statistics for the basics such as number of bedrooms and bathrooms, lot size, year built, and amount of living space. These numbers need not be exactly the same, but the variance should be within about 10%. For example, a home with 1600 square feet of living space could be compared with others in the range of 1400-1800 square feet.
The architectural style of a home is also significant in determining value. Comparing a two-story home to a home that has one-story and a basement or a split-level will call for some adjustment in the value. This is because buyers (and appraisers) tend to assign less value to a remodeled basement than to a finished second story.
Location within a neighborhood can also affect the value of the home. Is it on a busy street? A corner lot? Across from a run-down property? On a dead-end street? If few homes in your neighborhood have sold recently, you may need to look at home sales in similarly valued areas within a few miles of yours.
Older homes should not be compared to new construction, of course. And homes built more than 20-30 years ago should have similar degrees of remodeling/restoration. I.e., a home with the original 1945 kitchen is not going to compare favorably with a home that has new granite countertops and stainless steel appliance. This is one of the main reasons that it is so difficult for automated (i.e. computer generated) home valuations to be accurate. They lack the advantage of the human eye.
Parking accommodations are also a financially significant factor when calculating property value. Is there covered parking? If so, is it attached? Detached? Garage or carport? Is there space for multiple cars, for a boat or an RV?
A seasoned agent will be able to estimate how much each deviation between the properties being used for comparison affects their respective values. For instance, two properties may be comparable in almost every way EXCEPT one has a garage and the other has no covered parking. The agent should be able to tell you that the garage will be worth an extra “X” number of dollars to the average buyer in your market.
As you can see, estimating the value of a home presents some significant challenges. The number is somewhat of a moving target. Keep in mind that list prices are merely a wish, and sold prices are yesterday’s news. That makes pending sales the most valuable source of information because they indicate the price point at which a buyer was enticed to make an offer today.
Contact me today to request a CMA for your home.
Homeowners are responsible for sidewalk maintenance
I recently had the misfortune of tripping over a "lift" on a public sidewalk in my West Seattle neighborhood. Although I wasn't seriously injured, I fell hard and even scraped my cheek on the sidewalk. My right shoulder and hip absorbed most of the impact, leaving my quite sore for the next couple of days and contributing (I suspect) to an attack of bursitis in my right hip.
When I was telling a friend about the incident, she informed me that (in Seattle, at least) homeowners are responsible for the upkeep of the portion of public sidewalk connected to their property. Sure enough, when I went on the City of Seattle website, I discovered that not only are homeowners responsible to maintain the sidewalk, they are also charged with care of planting strips, RainWise rain gardens and cisterns, unimproved roadway shoulders (i.e. where there are no sidewalks), and unpaved alleys.
This could come as a nasty surprise if someone injures themselves on an area you are responsible to maintain. The words "potential lawsuit" come to mind.
You can bet that I went right out to check the condition of my own sidewalk. Especially when I read the part that says, "a fault or other discontinuity greater than 1/2 inch in the sidewalk" must be remedied.
In the case of my fall, the obstruction was caused by tree roots that forced the sidewalk to lift; a common occurrence we've all seen all too often. As you can see from the photo, the roots had created a bulge that was substantially more than 1/2".
I sent the homeowners a letter informing them of the incident and the city requirements, but so far, they haven't taken any action to mitigate the situation.
What does the sidewalk in front of your home look like?
I can, however, give you a quick recap of 2016, which may be the best predictor for 2017. It’s both good news and bad news, depending upon whether you are a seller or a buyer.
November (2016) marked the second straight month that the Seattle area was crowned top in the nation in home-price growth.
That’s a dubious honor when you consider that the typical single-family home across King, Snohomish and Pierce counties cost 10.7 percent more in October than it did a year ago.
Brisk job growth and a continued sparseness of homes on the market continues to drive prices higher as buyers compete for a dwindling number of houses for sale. The typical single-family house now costs $550,000 in King County.
The surge in home prices does seem to be slowing, at least a bit, compared to the dizzying pace seen last spring and summer.
Meanwhile, interest rates have crept up, but are still incredibly low.
If you’d like to discuss your plans to buy or sell in the coming months, please give me a call. 206-708-9800.
Home Design Trends
Real Estate Pros Divulge Top Design Features
DAILY REAL ESTATE NEWS | FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2016
BUILDER recently asked real estate professionals to share their thoughts about the top design trends their clients are currently requesting. Here are some of the top design trends that real estate pros said are in demand:
Would you like to have solar panels on your home, but can’t for one reason or another – it costs too much, you have too many trees, you live in a multi-story building, etc.? There may be a solution on the horizon.
Community-Scale Solar (CSS) is a shared, renewable, energy-generating system that ties together several homes or buildings. CSS is a sweet spot between utility-scale and single-structure solar. It’s not too big and it’s not too small. It’s just the right size to capture community energy benefits on one hand and utility-scale economies of scale on the other.
CSS is developed by citizen groups, municipalities, nonprofit’s, electric cooperatives and utilities. Washington State is one of fourteen states that allow this rapidly growing enterprise. For more information, check out Shared Renewables Headquarters.
Posted December 13, 2016
Hacks for Household Annoyances
Unless you are living in a brand new house, your home probably has a number of annoying little quirks such as squeaky floor boards, noisy door hinges and slow draining tub. You’d fix them if you only had the time and expertise.
Here are a few easy hacks for those problems:
> Squeaky floor boards: Sprinkle talcum powder over the trouble boards, then sweep the powder into the cracks between the boards with a makeup brush. The creaking is caused by moisture, and the powder will soak it right up.
> Noisy door hinges: You don’t need expensive commercial lubricants, just reach into your kitchen cabinet and bring out your favorite cooking oil! Olive oil, vegetable oil, coconut oil, etc. will all work just fine. Be sure to clean the surface first and wipe away any excess.
> Sluggish tub drain: Connect three or four plastic yard bag ties (the kind with “teeth”). Remove the drain catch and feed the chain into the drain. Swivel it around to catch as much clog-causing hair as possible, pull out, remove gunk, and repeat as necessary.
Do you have any favorite hacks you'd care to share?
Posted December 11, 2016
Automated Home Valuations
Safe to say that every homeowner wants to know, “What’s my home worth?” And the easier it is to get that information, the better. Zillow, for one, built a multi-billion dollar business based on that assumption.
Now you can get THREE free automated home valuation estimates by going to my website and entering your home address ONCE!
When you see the results, you may wonder why the three estimates vary as much as they (usually) do. It’s because they lack human sensibilities.
Automated valuations produce their results by gathering statistical data from a variety of sources such as tax records. Then they take that data and apply algorithms comparing square footage, lot size, numbers of bedrooms and bathrooms, etc.The algorithms may even include some (very subjective) information about location, neighborhood desirability, views, etc.What the algorithms can’t account for is the condition of the homes. That is their biggest problem, and a limitation none of them have been able to overcome.
It takes the visual observations of a live person such as a real estate broker or an appraiser (hopefully, not your neighbor) to provide vital information about the condition of the homes being used for comparison. Without that input, your home may be compared to one that is in significantly worse or better condition, which greatly skews the results.
The moral of the story? Have a little fun using the automated valuation tools on occasion, but when you get serious about selling your home, call a professional to determine the current value of your home. Of course, our estimates aren’t always on the nose either. That’s why it’s best to get a CMA (comparative market analysis) from two or more experienced agents.
You might also be interested in downloading my mobile app. One of the really cool things about it is that when you are out walking the dog and you come upon a house with a new “For Sale” sign in front, you can tap the app and hit “Nearby For Sale” and it will bring up info for that house and others. Download my mobile app here.
Posted December 9, 2016
Take an Inventory of your Home's Contents
If you are a homeowner with a typical mortgage, then you most likely have homeowner’s/hazard insurance because lenders require it before approving your loan. They want to ensure that you can repair or rebuild your home in the event of a catastrophe such as fire or flood. This ensures that the bank can continue to collect mortgage payments.
The cost of the insurance is rolled into your monthly payment so you probably don’t even think about it, which may be a good thing.
If you ever need to file a claim, however, you might be surprised to discover how difficult it is to list all the belongings you lost. That’s why you should shoot digital video of the contents of your home.
Why shoot video rather than take photographs? Because video also captures audio and it’s easier and more efficient to verbally describe the objects as you pan the room to record.
Once you have the video recording, be sure to transfer it to a cloud and/or send a copy to a trusted friend or relative. If the video only exists on your hard drive, it may go down in flames with your house!
Lastly, be sure to take video of the exterior of your home as well in order to document its condition.
Following these simple tips could save you headaches as well as money.
Posted December 7, 2016
"New Fangled" Clothes Dryers
Now the efficient heat pump technology that transformed space heating and water heating, can remove the moisture from your laundry, and hopefully the wrinkles, too.
Using 30 to 50 percent less energy, a heat pump clothes dryerwill dry a load of laundry and remove moisture from the exhaust. Some models don't need a vent to the outside, which keeps heated air inside the house, saving even more energy. All major manufacturers offer a heat pump model (sometimes calling them "hybrid" clothes dryers). Heat pump clothes dryers start at around $1,000.
If that's not modern enough for you, check out prototype ultrasonic clothes dryers, which will use sound vibrations to dry clothes in a fraction of the time.
You can find more information about energy efficient appliances and more at Zero Energy Homes