“By every measure, Tracy Shaffer is the dream broker, the best of the best. As it happened, at the time we were selling our town home, Tracy was going through a very difficult period in her personal life, but was able to put her needs aside to support ours and those of the buyer, representing both both sides of the table with intelligence and grace. Who could ask for anything (or anyone) more?” -Susan Viebrock, Telluride, CO
You want to sell your house, right? And you’d like to do that quickly and for the most money possible, right? Here in Denver, where there is very low inventory and buyers compete for properties, our hot market won’t be kind to a seller who doesn’t have his act together. Buyers are savvy, patient, and will pay for what they find value in but they won’t plunk down their life savings for just any old thing. Avoid the following mistakes and you’re on the way to the next chapter of your life.
1. Clutter, Grime, and Odors. DEAL WITH IT.
Living in our homes, we get used to things and we like them that way. All the family photos and bowling trophies may be family treasures but to a buyer trying to imagine themselves at home, too much information is a turn-off. This includes the way your house smells and how clean it is. And I mean deep clean. If you’re already overwhelmed by the thought of moving, it’s worth it to hire someone to come in and clean. Corners, cupboards, ovens, showers, grout, even windowsills are sometimes neglected in our daily routine. We have what I call an ‘acceptable level of mess’, which is different for each of us. If a very qualified buyer, Miss White Glove, falls in love with your kitchen but is repulsed by the grease under the vent hood, she’ll do one of two things: get over it, or get on to the next showing. Buyers can overlook if your home isn’t “Pottery Barn Perfect” or you have some minor (or major) renovations, they may even feel drawn to take those on. But there’s no reason it can’t be clean.
2. Seller is Home During Showings. TAKE A HIKE.
I know you’re busy and these showings are putting a cramp in your style. Plan for this and treat yourself to some time off. Go to the movies, spend the day with friends or head up to the mountains for a hike (or a weekend). It is inconvenient, keeping the house clean, doing laundry at midnight and emptying the cat box twice a day, but you’ve got to give yourself the best opportunity to sell. Tempting as it is to stay and chat with potential buyers about the many wonderful features of your home, it is not a good idea. Your buyer needs the time and space to fall in love with your home and that won’t happen with you lurking around. If you happen to run into one another, smile and make a quiet, hasty retreat. Let the real estate agent show your home and don’t answer any questions. The Colorado listing agreement states that all negotiation shall be done through the agent and there’s a good reason for this. Oversharing can weaken your bargaining power. So zip it, flip the lights on, put the toilet seats down and take a stroll.
3. Failing to Complete Disclosures. CAVEAT EMPTOR, BABY!
Being upfront about any issues with your home will save you time, money and face. You may not want to mention the time the firetrucks showed up or the time you flooded the basement by running the bath while vacuuming, but if you don’t… Mrs. Kravitz will. Disclosures provide security for both the buyer and seller; both want to feel good about the deal. If you don’t disclose information, chances are it will come up on the Inspection Report, breaking trust between parties and tainting the transaction. There’s nothing worse than having the buyer’s agent call me about an issue that should have been disclosed or having a buyer call me after closing to tell me what the neighbor said about her new dream house. Lack of disclosure plants doubt in the buyer’s minds and complicates negotiations if they feel they’re not being dealt with fairly. Better to just lay your cards on the table from the start.
4. Refusing to Negotiate. MAKE THEM AN OFFER THEY CAN’T REFUSE
The real estate transaction is complex. It is both a business deal and a human transaction; emotional, potentially stressful, full of moving parts. A great Realtor should not only be adept at negotiating; it should be her strong suit. But an agent can only do as their client directs. I advise mine to keep calm, to stay open, and understand that both parties want to feel they’ve won even if it stings a little. The price you ask and the price they offer are not as important as the one we can agree on. Negotiation doesn’t stop when you both sign the contract, it continues for the entire process. Resolving inspection issues, dates and deadlines that may need to be moved, surveys, appraisals- these may need tweaking, rarely do they need arm twisting.
5. Overpricing the Home. WHERE’S THAT OFFER I CAN’T REFUSE?
Selling a home is a business transaction (didn’t I just say that?), but a home is also an emotional commodity. Unlike a product, a hamburger for example, you cannot just slap a $20 price tag on it and call it good. Commodities markets are driven by supply and demand; your house is worth what a buyer is willing to pay for it. Though buyers and sellers have different emotional attachments to homes, they also have different financial ones. What you may attribute as valuable, your buyer may not hold sacred. Pricing a home is more art than science—data driven art. The location, home’s condition, and comparable sold properties determine current market value. Your Realtor will provide you with the data you need to determine the best price for your home to sell in the least amount of time.
6. Limiting Market Exposure. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE!
During the housing crisis, Realtors were working hard to sell homes as sellers waited nervously, hoping to avoid making another mortgage payment. To many sellers we weren’t working hard enough. Now that the Denver real estate market is high again, the perception is that we just slap a “For Sale” sign in the front yard, place an ad in the real estate section of the local newspaper and wait for throngs of buyers to beat a path to the door. My job is the same no matter what the market, it’s the timeline that changes. There iFulls a strategy to getting a home in front of as many buyers as possible for maximum exposure and most of that is online. Open houses, direct mail marketing, virtual tours, MLS input, agent networks and social media are some of the things real estate agents use to sell your home quickly. Given most of us have the same toolbox (and there are more), you want to make sure your agent knows how to use them and select which would be the best for your specific property. Ask questions when you interview a Realtor: who do they think is your buyer? What do they think is the best way to catch their attention? What kind of agent network and/or social media presence do they have? Are they set up for mobile platforms? How are they different from any other agent?
I’m happy to answer these questions for potential clients, it gives me a chance to show off 😉
Let’s talk about homeownership. Are you considering buying vs. renting?
Renters often ask me if it’s too late to buy a house: Are we heading for a big downturn? Are we too deep in the market cycle to buy? they wonder. Timing the real estate market perfectly is extremely difficult, perhaps impossible, and some of these potential buyers were the same renters that were sitting on the fence when the market was down, even once we’d passed the nadir. I believe that buying a home is less about the market and more about life; your life. So don’t try to time the market, take a look at your life, the low interest rates and time that!
1.) Are you getting married, starting a family, or tired of paying skyrocketing rent without having an asset to show for it? Would you like to have more space; a backyard for the dog, the kids, the BBQs, or the tomatoes? Do you like the idea of being part of a neighborhood, community? Perhaps you got a nice raise, job or promotion and you’d like to set down roots, do you plan on staying in one place for at least five years? Do you like the idea of investing in something that will build long-term wealth?
These are the types of questions you should be asking when you are considering homeownership.
Here’s another thing to keep in mind. In the U.S., the average total net worth of rental households is $5,800. Compare that with the average net worth of a home-owning household at $199,500 and you’ve got worth 34 times more than those who rent! There’s no doubt that over the long term, homeownership is a solid way to build wealth and financial security. I often advise my first-time buyers to get into something affordable now (not so easy in Denver these days, but doable) and then move up when life allows. If you can keep that first property as a rental, it’s a great way to invest in your financial future.
2. Interest rates remain at record lows but this can’t last forever. No one knows when they’re going to rise, but news this week gave hints of a rise as early as June. Though home prices have gone up the past several years, low interest rates continue to make homes relatively affordable— especially compared to renting. Once interest rates rise, the door to home affordability will begin to close for a lot of potential buyers, leaving them sorry they didn’t act when interest rates were at 50-year lows.
Let me break down the numbers. Assume you are purchasing a $210,000 condo with a 5 percent down payment. The Principle + Interest payment at 4% interest would be $952 per month (tax and insurance and HOA not included). An interest rate increase of one percent (5%) would take your payment of $1,070 per month—an increase of $1,416 a year. Now assume that rates tick up to 6 percent. That increase would result in a 21 percent increase in payments from $952 to $1,196. Where you really see the effect of these increases is when you hold the property for the full 30 years. On a $210,000, 30-year fixed-rate mortgage that increases from 4 to 5 percent, the borrower who obtains the 5 percent loan would pay an additional $42,772 in extra interest as opposed to the borrower who paid just 4 percent interest. Though most buyers consider their monthly payment as most important, when you look at the life of the loan you’re paying a lot more in the total loan amount. This is a great reason to make a “move-up” move right now. Say you’ve outgrown your place, it may be time to cash out and get your “forever home”, or like I mentioned, use your current home as an income property and let your renters pay off your mortgage.
The main reason the average home owner has so much more personal wealth than the average renter is that homes appreciate in value. Over the past 45 years, homes in metro Denver appreciated 6.3 percent per year. If you buy a $200,000 home, you can expect over the long term its value to rise about 6 percent every year. This means you’d make $12,000 in appreciation the first year, an additional $12,720 the second year, another $13,483 in the third year, and on and on. Contrary to popular belief, only 4 of the past 45 years did prices actually fall in metro Denver.
If you’re still wondering whether you’d be better off renting or buying, Trulia built a great Rent-vs-Buy tool. Answer a few simple questions and the system tells you whether it makes more financial sense over the next seven years to rent or purchase. I think it’s worth a couple minutes of your time to see what you can learn – you’ll really like it!
Key Messages for May
Prices are up 8% in the prior 12 months vs historical 6%. Inventories are tighter than last year, especially for small, lower priced homes. In 2016, we expect 8-9% appreciation, flat unit sales volume increases, and continued tight inventories.
I fell in love with this cute little brick ranch home in Denver’s Montclair neighborhood the moment I opened the door! There was a sign in the yard, FOR SALE BY OWNER but I just knew I had to list it! The front of this brick ranch home is sweetly elegant. There are three bedrooms/ two baths, beautiful hardwood floors, a very charming vintage full bath upstairs and a bright white kitchen.Your kitchen window overlooks Kittredge Park so you’ll always have the feeling of open space and natural light streaming through your windows. The basement is fully finished and has a non-conforming bedroom, nice sized great room and nifty little space for an office, study or guest room (I love the custom built-in bookshelves!). The back yard is private and just the right amount of space; not too much to keep up, but plenty of room for the gardener, the dog, or both. Enjoy a summer party under the covered patio and give me a call when you do! Did I mention the giant garage? Well it has a really nice, big garage. Click the link above to see the video and call me if you’d like to see it. Or just call and say hello!
Notes from the Denver Real Estate Market trenches: I’m seeing a lot, and I mean a LOT of multiple offer situations and better luck shopping for homes during the week rather than the weekends. Savvy listing agents are holding open a date when offers will be presented to allow maximum exposure and showings, then driving buyers to compete and close. Buyers, tired of this cycle and anxious to get under contract, are getting good at moving quickly and great buyers’ agents (that’d be me 😉 are adept at writing strong offers that will get accepted. A few oddities I’ve noticed: homes are coming “Back on Market” after being Under Contract and I’m seeing price reductions. The first tells me that Buyers may be getting caught up in the feeding frenzy and, wanting to win, may offer more than they’re comfortable with. There could also be inspection issues but what I’m seeing doesn’t look like it fits into that time frame. The second one, price reductions, indicates that there may be listing agents and sellers who enter the market over-confident with their pricing and need to adjust.
Remember, a house is not a hamburger. You can’t just show pretty pictures and charge what you like. A house is an emotional commodity and only worth what a buyer is willing to pay for it. So… even in a Sellers Market, the Buyer dictates the price. Now, on to the data from Metrolist:
DENVER – June 6, 2014 – Signaling the start of the summer buying and selling season, the real estate market for the Denver metro and surrounding area saw increased activity in May as buyers scooped up available inventory despite near record prices.
The pace of home sales picked up during the month of May, as the number of sold properties rose 19 percent month over month. In particular, demand for single-family attached homes saw a marked increase, rising 25 percent over last May.
Inventory in the Denver area continued its upward trend, as active listings increased 15 percent from April, and the number of new listings climbed 11 percent month over month. However, the market is still very competitive, as days on market saw a 17 percent decrease in May. Homes are moving quickly, averaging only 29 days on the market.
“We have seen a very active start to the summer selling season. The market is moving quickly, but an increasing inflow of new listings is a positive sign,” said Kirby Slunaker, president and CEO of Metrolist. “The market absorption rate highlights a high level of demand for properties and a reduction in days on market.”
The average single-family attached+detached property spent just 29 days on the market in May, down 34 percent over last year. There is currently a supply of just seven weeks’ worth of inventory in the Denver metro and surrounding area.
Continuing a 36-month trend, average sold prices were up 2 percent from April. Prices for single-family attached+detached homes reached $333,955, up 8 percent.
“As the largest MLS in Colorado, we are committed to providing agents and consumers with innovative tools and resources to navigate their way through this fast-paced sellers’ market,” said Slunaker. “In addition to having the most accurate, current and up-to-date property information, REcolorado.com is providing new innovative tools such as INRIX Drive Time™, which is available to assist consumers in making educated decisions as they work with their REALTOR®.”
Before entering the market, buyers and sellers can get free access to up-to-the-minute housing information throughout the state of Colorado at REcolorado.com. The website offers advanced search features and filters for price and location, as well as home values and scheduled open houses. This comprehensive local resource enables both buyers and sellers to enter the housing market well informed.
About Metrolist: Metrolist is the largest MLS in the state of Colorado, supporting the largest network of REALTORS® with the most comprehensive database of real property listings throughout the Front Range. Realtor-owned since 1984, Metrolist provides leading technology solutions to real estate agents and brokers to better serve buyers and sellers. More information about Metrolist is available at www.REcolorado.com.
The National Association of Realtors just wrapped up their 2013 Conference & Expo. Chief economist for the organization, Lawrence Yun offered his insight on what to expect for the 2014 housing market: steadiness in existing-home sales over the next year as prices continue to ascend.
Based on what has happened in 2013, Yun says he expects existing-home sales to be up about 10 percent in 2013 to 5.13 million and that 2014 will hold fairly even at about 5.12 million.
We in the Denver housing market, predict continued growth in the number of homes sold, with the accelerated appreciation of 2013 to level out in ’14 to around 4 percent.
National median existing-home prices should end this year about 11% higher than 2012, while next year’s growth is expected to nearly half of that. Those who’ve been following the return of the housing market know that the past two years have shown a 20% cumulative increase in existing-home sales with prices rising an average of 18%. Incomes have not kept pace, rising between 2-4% in the same period.
“We’ve come off of record high housing affordability conditions in the past year, and are now at a five-year low, but conditions are still the fifth best in the past 40 years,” Yun said, noting that the median-income family should still be “well-positioned” to buy a home in 2014 in many areas.
Affordability, limited inventory (especially in metro Denver), stringent mortgage standards and rising interest rates will all factor into the expected gains over the coming year. Housing starts are predicted to fall short of the underlying demand, while sales of new homes are expected to total 429,000 in 2013 and 508,000 next year.
Based on Lawrence Yun’s forecasts,the top 10 markets to watch for a housing turn around in 2014 are Salt Lake City, Utah; Naples and Tampa, Florida; Atlanta, Georgia; Boise, Idaho; Houston, Texas; Charlotte, North Carolina; Denver, Colorado; Seattle, Washington; and Tucson, Arizona.
Working as a professional actress has taught me many things: tenacity and humility for one. (Ha!). Along with the starring roles and the smaller roles come the understudying gigs. They’ve kept me on my toes, fully insured and employed. Largely the experience hasn’t been in the glamorous, deceitful, clamoring-for-fame vein portrayed in the 1950 film classic, All About Eve, mine have had been more in line with the Girl Scout motto.
Three decades in the industry has kept me ambitious, created a strong work ethic and instilled a somewhat healthy insecurity that feeds my drive. Pounding the pavement, perpetually prospecting and practicing persistence is the perfect training ground for a career in the real estate business, but nothing could have prepared me for spring of ’13.
After Romeo & Juliet, my first foray into the First Folio, I was looking forward to a seasonal ramp up in the real estate world and my end of season gig at the Denver Center Theatre as understudy in “Other Desert Cities”. Shoulda been a cakewalk, it was not.
The rapid acceleration of the Denver housing market coincided with my ascension from understudy to starring role and the first audience in just eight days. (Actually it was a 5 character ensemble play, but ‘starring role’ does sound, well… more dramatic). Time to drill down and focus on my lines; stringing together the beads of this complex and demanding character would come later. I was hitting the wall as we hit our “10 out of 12”, theatre speak for long-ass day, when an offer came in on my hot Congress Park listing. Negotiating a deal and my way around the stage, I had to find my clients a replacement home. Dinner breaks became showing appointments, opening doors as my lines streamed through my headphones, I existed on chocolate bars and power naps until… “You’re on, Eve.”
The show opened, the clients closed on their new house and the actress/Realtor spent a week in Vail recuperating, which is important as the pace has not slowed. The message of my Girl Scout leader, BE PREPARED, has a whole new meaning with the real estate market at a break neck pace. “Prepared” to drop what you’re doing to snap up a showing on a snappy place, “prepared” with a purchase contract ever-ready on the tablet, “prepared” to list a home on Thursday, hold it open on Saturday and present offers on Sunday. “Prepared” went from having snacks and water in your ditty bag to performing the above tasks for multiple clients, sleeping very little, and loving it. If you’re looking to buy or sell a home, or both, I still have some treats in the ditty bag. Mostly chocolate.
One of my favorite things about being in real estate is looking at houses. I’m mad about architecture, color, design, shape and style. I love staging that brings out the best features in the home while keeping it homey. Watching home improvement shows, HGTV, and all that real estate porn… I must admit, excites me. And when January rolls around and the color wizards announce the nominees, I feel as dizzy as an ingenue on Oscar morning.
On any given power-shopping Saturday, I can take buyers to look at five to fifteen properties. After house number 10, you’re beginning to feel a sense of overwhelm and the ‘buyer’s blur’, as each house starts to blend into the next. As the day progresses, the copious notes you started out taking become chicken scratches or a simple “NO!” until you get to my favorite place… walk in, walk out.
At the beginning of a house hunt, we feel the need to take the time to visualize ourselves in the home, our colors on the wall and grandma’s hutch in the dining room. Once you get the “Blur” it’s like triage, you identify what’s wrong quickly and assess if you can fix it or if you have to move on.
So sellers, what is it that buyers are responding to? First off I’d say CLEAN. And I mean clean to the point that a team of pros came in and scrubbed every corner with a toothbrush! Even an old house will look new when it’s sparkling clean. It inspires trust, helps us believe you’ve taken good care of your home. And by all means DECLUTTER. I know you’ve heard this before, from me and a thousand other HGTV Realtors, because we’re right. We’re the ones in the house when you’ve left for the showing and we hear EVERYTHING. When I say declutter, I don’t mean get rid of those things you’ve been planning to take to the Goodwill, I mean take all that to the Goodwill and then come home and pack up half of what you own!
Now comes the good part; UPDATE! The new 2013 colors are out and they are sensational. Spend some time browsing around to see if there’s something that speaks to you. If you’re prepping to sell (and right now you should be), look at the new neutrals, look at the latest accent colors and see if there’s something you can do to make your home feel au currant. You’re going to have to break out the paint brush, may as well add some pop! A word of caution though, if you’re not comfortable taking the lead on this bring in a color consultant or a stager for a professional eye. It can make a big difference in how much your home sells for and how quickly it sells.
The Denver market has changed. Home prices are up a stout 7% but that doesn’t mean you can just plant a sign in the yard and ask top dollar. If you want the most for your home, put the most into it. I guarantee you, that’s what your neighbor’s doing.
So… I guess it’s time to start moving on moving.
It’s Friday night. The Broncos are in the playoffs and the Mile Hi City is tickled…orange. In Denver, we take our football seriously. Denizens will brave tomorrow’s freezing temps to celebrate at pre-game tailgate parties and freeze their own tails in the stands, while the taste of beer, brats and a Broncos victory creates an excitement that is palpable. It hasn’t been easy for fans the past few years; roster changes, close calls and heartaches have sent tears streaming over many a blue and orange painted cheek.
So does it take to push yourself over the goal line when your adversaries are strong and your opponents worthy? Sometimes it’s a matter of luck and game. He who wants it the most wins, and as Annette Bening famously shows us in American Beauty… The same goes for real estate.
Hopefully we’re not in character Carolyn Burnham‘s situation, but we can relate to her state of mind. I know I can. It’s not been an easy ride on housing market roller coaster, but now Denver has plenty to be excited about. The real estate market is one of the strongest in the nation, leading the way through the recovery. Home prices up 6.87 percent over a year ago according to the latest Case Schiller report, and mortgage interest rates are looking to remain low through 2013.
There have been times over the past few years when I wondered if it would change and how long it would take. Seeing people suffer has been difficult, helping them through it, gratifying, and somehow… on a wing and a prayer, by luck, pluck, with great cheerleaders and sheer force of will, we’ve made it…just like the Broncos.
It’s coming on game time. GO TEAM.