7 home maintenance tasks sellers must do before listing

It is that time of year when the housing market starts to heat up. If you’re one of the homeowners who plan on selling this summer, there’s a lengthy list of must-dos to complete before you actually list. Take a look at the following ideas from Inman, with input from yours truly, on how to make your home more attractive.

1. Spruce up the exterior

This is the first thing your prospective buyers are going to see. They want something with literal curb appeal, and if you have overgrown bushes, peeling paint, dirty windows, or poor lighting, the first impression won’t be very good.

2. Service the heating/cooling system

Home inspectors have to check this anyway, so you might as well beat them to it. Waiting until a buyer makes an offer to service this system may cause issues, so get ahead on it!

3. Check your lightbulbs

Check every single one of them on both the interior and exterior. Make sure they are clean and bright. It is essential to have the home as bright as possible. In my experience, this is a tiny thing that is very noticeable if not addressed.

4. Check all smoke detectors

We’ve all pulled batteries out of our smoke detectors when cooking, but don’t forget to put them back in. Make sure all your detectors are working. A home inspector will ding you if you don’t.

5. Blue tape it

If there are nicks, chips, scratches, etc. in the walls of your house, blue tape it! No buyer wants wear and tear on the interior walls or molding, so make sure the rough areas are marked for repair before you list. My stager blue tapes what needs to be removed, painted or fixed at the staging consult I provide as part of my services.

6. Deep clean and declutter

And we mean deep. If you can, hire a cleaning crew to get a small army of people cleaning every corner and crevice (think baseboards, light switches, etc.) of the house before it goes on the market. And don’t forget to gather all your extra junk and either store elsewhere or donate.

7. Don’t forget the garage

This is often an overlooked space, but prospective buyers will want to see a clean, organized garage. Consider painting the floor or putting an epoxy down. And don’t forget to repair cracks in the ceiling of the garage!  Side note, in this area most people store all of the noted blue taped items, just make sure if you do a pest inspection, you do it before you store all your items in the garage.

BONUS! 8. Stage the property

This is my personal addition to the list. There are people who stage homes for a living. They are experts at making a house as attractive as possible to buyers. I can’t recommend having your property staged before listing highly enough!  You only get one opportunity to make a first impression!

Are home values really inflated?

For the 71st month in a row, the housing market experienced year-over-year gains. As of January, the median existing-home price for all housing types was $240,500, which was a 5.8 percent increase from January 2017 ($227,300). According to Bob Schwab from Finance of America, this may lead many to believe that home values are overinflated.

Schwab, and Zillow, disagree with that common opinion. Zillow says: “If the housing bubble and bust had not happened, and home values had instead appreciated at a steady pace, the median home value would be higher than its current value.”

I’ve pulled some information and graphs from Schwab’s article to help demonstrate why home prices are exactly where they should be. First, a graph showing actual median home sales prices from 2000 through 2017:

By itself, this graph shows home values rising early in the century, then tumbling down, and now climbing back up. This may give off the impression that a pattern is emerging, and another tumble is coming. But, if you look at this second chart, indicating where prices would naturally go with the market had there not been a boom and bust, you see something different:

The blue bars represent where prices would have been if they increased normally, at an annual appreciation rate of 3.6 percent. By adding that percentage to the actual 2000 price and repeating for each year, we can see that prices were overvalued during the boom, undervalued during the bust, and a little bit lower than where they should be right now!

All in all, thanks to Bob Schwab for pointing out that we should be comfortable with current home values, and understand that the market actually isn’t overinflated, based on historic appreciation levels.

How to get your offer accepted in a crowded market

Our friends at JVM Lending shared a Redfin link recently that had a ton of great information on how to get an offer accepted. I currently have two homes on the market and the amount of offers on each are on opposite ends of the spectrum; I have one with 21 offers, and the other with 6. It’s funny to see that disparity between the two, and strategies to get an offer accepted and/or a house sold, can vary greatly because of it.

Here are some pro tips from the Redfin piece:

Nearly 1 in 4 (23.6%) homes that sold in 2017 went for over asking price, up from 21.8% in 2016. This means that buying a home has become more difficult and expensive in a hot, crowded market. You can’t simply offer the highest price and expect to be selected by the seller. Instead, try other strategies like offering all cash, waiving the inspection, or writing a personal cover letter to the homeowner. Above all, make sure you talk to your agent to create the right combination of strategies for the home you’re bidding on, or for the seller you’re trying to woo.

Here is some information from the Redfin article that breaks down data on thousands of offers written over the last two years, to see how effective these other strategies can be in improving a buyer’s chance at winning a bidding war:

Rank Strategy Improves a Competitive Offer’s Likelihood of Success by… Improves a Competitive Offer’s Likelihood of Success in the Luxury Market (Top 10% by List Price) by…
#1 All-Cash Offer 97% 438%
#2 Waived Financing Contingency 58% 76%
#3 Personal Cover Letter 52% No Significant Gain
#5 Pre-Inspection No Significant Gain No Significant Gain
#6 Waived Inspection Contingency No Significant Gain No Significant Gain

Cash is king, as you can see above. That’s because it allows for smooth, fast transactions without the hassle of loans or appraisals. If you don’t have the means to make an all-cash offer, you can always waive your financial contingency, which means you won’t have to wait for a loan approval. That will still increase your odds by 58%, according to Redfin! However, I find that the cash offers – especially if they are investors – will not be the highest price. On the home that had 21 offers, the key to the winning bid was who removed a portion of their appraisal contingency as the offer was so high we all knew it wouldn’t appraise, but that means the buyer has to have extra cash. That can be tough when it is an entry-level condo.

All this said, sometimes it just takes a personal touch to win over a seller. Writing a letter to the seller can be effective and increase your odds in a bidding war. Fortunately for most buyers, cash is not the only way into a seller’s heart.  Often these letters can forge a powerful connection between the buyer and seller, highlighting shared hobbies or interests, earning a seller’s compassion or trust, or ensuring that the home will be loved and cared for in the years to come.

So, whether you are offering all cash, waiving contingencies, writing a personal letter, or trying any number of other strategies to win the bidding war on the house of your dreams – especially in a saturated market like the Bay Area – always remember to consult your realtor first. He or she will have great insight into the market and what extra touches it might take to get the home, but at the end of the day the buyer has to be comfortble with the offer they are making!

Open House Saturday 1-4 pm, Kirker Pass Rd. in Concord

Offers Due Monday 2/5 at noon!

Selling a home without an agent is risky!

When you sell a home, you don’t need a real estate agent, just like you don’t need a lawyer when facing criminal charges. You can, if you want to, represent yourself in a court of law, and you can always put your home up for sale by owner (FSBO).

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But, it’s an extremely risky proposition. As outlined in this Inman article, there are many things to consider when putting a home up FSBO. Here are eight things, summarized from said Inman article, that sellers risk when they don’t have a realtor representing them:

1. Knowledge

Realtors are professionals in this business. They have expansive knowledge of the complicated home-buying and selling processes, possess loads of helpful data, and have large networks of people who can help minimize the difficulties that arise.

2. Time

The non-realtor probably doesn’t realize how many hours are put into any given home, buy or sell. Real estate agents are available for clients around the clock, on a whim, and can confidently and smoothly quell any concerns by potential home buyers.

3. Presentation

Preparation is essential to selling a home – what buyers see when they walk through the door will determine if your home sells. Agents can prepare the finest details and have stagers, professional photographers and others who will help make the space beautiful.

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4. Marketing

Anyone can draw up a “For Sale” poster, but realtors will design, distribute and widely market the home to a huge number of potential buyers. Realtors can access predictive analysis and promote to those demographics on social media. Also, they know just what to write to draw interest.

5. Negotiation experience

If you’re doing FSBO, what do you do when you actually receive an offer? There’s a purchase agreement to be discussed, price negotiations to be had, and so on. Realtors will make sure you don’t get screwed by a buyer, and that you only incur costs you’re supposed to pay.

6. Inspection and repair know-how 

One of the most important parts of any real estate transaction is knowing which inspections to expect and how to get them done. This is where the realtor’s web of resources comes in handy again – he or she should be able to provide repair people to fix anything discovered in an inspection.

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7. Transaction management

Once a home is in contract with a buyer, there are more steps to close the deal. Realtors can make sure the right people are contacted to handle the closing, appraise the property, repair anything found in inspections and anything else to follow up on.

8. Closing finesse

There are expectations upon closing a property. Non-realtors probably don’t understand what the buyers expect, in terms of when move-in/move-out occurs, the condition one should leave their home in, or what to do if a last-minute issue arises. Realtors do know, and they are worth the time and money to ensure your sale is in good hands.

FSBO’s may be intriguing to the cheap and/or self-confident, but the small savings on a realtor’s commission is not worth the hassle that comes with navigating such a difficult process without professional help, and often a house sells for less than what it would have with an agent even after the commission has been paid.

On that note, there’s a reason I do what I do! I’d love to help you buy or sell a home. Please reach out any time for information regarding the current, local real estate market!

Let’s talk about Millennials and Real Estate

My sons are Millennials. My Walnut Creek Lifestyle freelance writer is a Millennial. More and more of my clients and colleagues are Millennials, as that generation continues to age into home-buyers.

So, realtors like myself are starting to notice more trends with the market geared toward that age group. It’s a different real estate market for Millennials than it was for their parents – nowadays, they are graduating with huge student loan debts, having trouble finding lucrative work out of college, and then struggling to pay sky-high rents and mortgages once they do get jobs.

That said, Millennials are driving the real estate market right now, which has made the following observations more obvious.

From San Francisco realtor John Solaegui:

  • There is a low inventory of single-family homes in San Francisco
  • Millennial buyers don’t care about parking spaces (though this might be more prevalent in San Francisco – it’s contradicted by the graphic above!) with the rise of ridesharing apps – they’d prefer having decks or gardens for outdoor entertaining
  • Areas like Noe Valley, Glen Park, Bernal Heights and The Sunset in San Francisco are extremely popular with Millennial buyers right now

From the California Association of Realtors’ REALTOR Magazine:

  • Millennials are cashing in on equity at a historic rate, thanks to rising home prices
  • One-third of Millennials say they are considering applying for a HELOC (home equity line of credit) in the next 18 months – much more than Gen-X or Baby Boomers
  • HELOC’s are popular with Millennials because they can consolidate debt and afford home remodels with them

I think this is an interesting trend in our market. Home prices are high, but so are the debts and loans owed by Millennials, so we’re seeing more and more interest in new ways around that issue. And even more interestingly, Millennials are changing the way we market homes – who cares about parking when you don’t have a car, right?

Opportunity Knocks?

At 55 Crest Ave. in Alamo, you might see a “best of both worlds” type home. It’s a 0.84 acre lot, the land is appealing, and because of that, they’re listing at $795,000.

But if you’re waiting to move into the 21st century, this may not be the place for you. Believe it or not, this run-down old place had almost 50 disclosure packages requested because of its location and potential.

I personally know a few people who are interested in the renovation project, with the knowledge that a remodeled home in that area may sell for much more later on.

Of course not all buyers who request a disclosure package will write, but I suspect they got at least 15 offers, the opportunity is too great even if the property sells for one million, it is surrounded by $1,500,000-$2,000,000+ homes.

There was a combination of speculators looking to flip it and disgruntled buyers who have lost out on homes and think it might be worth building their dream home. It just goes to show that the Bay Area real estate market is crazy red hot right now – it is a seller’s market.

If you are thinking of buying in or around Walnut Creek, give me a call! I’d love to help you.

Looking for your dream home?

1154 Glen Rd. in Lafayette has it all. As realtors, we occasionally get preview invites to see a home before it goes on the market. Last Thursday, there was a private viewing of this spectacular home with wine, cheese and homemade chocolate chip cookies baking that created a cozy feeling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This coveted Happy Valley street is one of my favorites. The home was originally built by Nobel Prize winner Glenn Seaborg in 1951. The current owner completely remodeled it in 2009, adding on this high-beamed family room to the original L-shaped layout.

I love how this stone fireplace is the centerpiece of the living room. The current owner is a real estate agent and has a knack for remodeling homes, living there for a while, and then moving on to the next project. In this case, the same street just a few doors down will get the next updates to this mid-century neighborhood.

Two of my favorite features were the Jack-n-Jill bathroom where there is a laundry shoot cabinet to the laundry room on the other side, and the mud room next to the garage, as well as another outdoor entrance to store the backpacks and shoes upon returning home.

 

 

 

 

 

The master bedroom was added on with high, vaulted ceilings, doors to the pool area and an amazing bathroom. All this can be yours for $3,650,000. For more information and better photos, check out this home here.

Pending: 304 Grapevine Pl. (Pleasant Hill)

A past client just put his home at 304 Grapevine Place in Pleasant Hill on the market. It went pending in 7 days and received four offers all over the asking price.

He only bought 15 months ago, but a career with the Coast Guard has him moving to Seattle and he will still walk away with some money in his pocket, although he is telling me Seattle is as pricey as the East Bay if not more so.

I love helping our military sellers and VA buyers. I specialize in knowing about the VA loan, have worked on a military base in Nuremberg, Germany and have a son who is currently in the Navy (on a nuclear sub, NuPoc graduate). If you know somebody who is eligible for the VA benefits and would like to know more about the home buying process, I would be honored to help them.

You can take a tour of their beautiful home here. If you’d like to know what it takes to get your home sold in 7 days or be next on my list of satisfied customers, please give me a call or visit my website at www.kristinlanham.com.

Navigating the inspection process when buying or selling a home

Whether you’re buying or selling a home, there will almost always be inspections done. Oftentimes, buyers will do roof, home, and pest inspections. Sometimes fireplace, foundation and sewer lateral inspections will be conducted as well.

Cranston, RI, April 17, 2010 -- FEMA inspector Mike Irwin with home owner Jose Henriquez run through his home inspection again to illustrate to the media what a FEMA home inspection looks like and what people can expect when they have their homes inspected. Photo: Michael Rieger/FEMA

Buyers are trying to determine the integrity of the house they want to buy – nobody wants to buy a home only to find out later that they will have to put additional money into it. However, sellers rarely know about these things off the top of their heads.

That is why it’s important, and beneficial to both parties, for inspections to be done. At the very least, a seller should do a pest inspection before going on the market to understand the cost of any issues, rather than deal with negotiating after something is discovered.

Once inspections are done, they become a disclosure. So, if a buyer gets scared off for some reason, the inspections are a disclosure for the next buyers. More than likely, this will incentivize the seller to work with the existing buyer. Occasionally, there are bad inspections with unreasonable pricing and there is no coming to agreement between parties. The seller will usually get another inspection from a more reputable inspector.