My 2012 real estate predictions

Seeing how we’ve gotten to the last week of 2011, I figured now was a perfect time to talk about what real estate looks like next year, in 2012.  Unfortunately, it hasn’t been the greatest housing market we’ve seen.  Home values in 2011 were still low, more people are renting, and others are having a harder time obtaining credit to purchase a house.  Here are some of my predictions for the upcoming year…

1. Disappointment over missed opportunities.  I think a lot of people might be kicking themselves for not taking the time to refinance their current mortgage or purchase an investment property at a rock-bottom price.  I’m not positive as to how long rates will stay low (could be another few years), but it’s best to strike while it’s hot!  And I’m going to admit that they’re not going to get much lower than they already are.  So if you’re in the market to do either of those things, now is the time!

2. I see trouble brewing with the HARP guidelines.  HARP, again, is the Home Affordable Refinance Program that I had written about previously.  This was a chance for homeowners to be able to refinance and get a lower interest rate, even though their house isn’t worth what it once used to be.  Also, the loan has to be owned by Freddie Mac or Fannie Mae.  A lot of these lenders are not requiring appraisals, which is great for homeowners, but I see another problem.  I have a hard time believing these lenders will be okay without an appraisal because they’re going to be liable for it in the future and if the homeowner defaults down the road.

3. A continuation of low home prices.  This is largely due to the amount of foreclosures on the market that are driving down the values of the surrounding homes.  This isn’t going to change in the next year, as the economy is still struggling to rebound and many people are still unemployed and underwater on their mortgages.  Once all the distressed inventory is sold (who knows when that will be?) we’ll be starting to see a shift with home values steadily increasing.

4) Credit guidelines to remain tight.  For the reasons stated above, such as the amount of foreclosures and short sales and unemployment and a bad economy, the lenders won’t be doing anything to release the grip they have on approving people to purchase homes.  They’re struggling enough as it is with all the delinquent loans that they are being extra stringent in awarding new ones.  I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

Do you agree with my predictions?  Are there any that I haven’t mentioned that you believe will happen?  I’d love to hear your comments!  And a very Happy New Year to all my readers!

What Realtors do for buyers

For those new to purchasing real estate, I wanted to clear up a few misconceptions about Realtors and let you know exactly what we do and don’t do for buyers.  For example, a lot of people are under the assumption that buyers have to pay for our services.  100% not true, especially in Illinois.  We are paid by the seller of the property you purchase, so there is no money to use our services.  So I’m always surprised when people tell me they want to look on their own.  Here are some advantages to using a Realtor.

1.  Access to more listings.  If a home is listed by another Realtor for sale, that person is not going to be posting separate for sale ads in the newspaper or online.  So you can miss a ton of great deals by working on your own.  We have access to the Multiple Listing Service, the only place where listed properties go.

2. Negotiating skills.  We know the market.  We have access to all the comparable properties – what has recently sold and for how much.  This will help you to get a much better deal because you’ll have solid evidence and a strong purchasing position.

3. Letting you know about resale value.  Especially for first-time buyers, a lot might not understand what makes a home more valuable when it comes time to sell in the future.  It is my job to point out that the fact that these sellers converted a 3-bedroom home to 2 huge bedrooms might not be such a great purchase.  For example, if it’s in a subdivision near an elementary school where a lot of families live, they would want that extra bedroom.  So a Realtor will give you insight as to what has a better chance of selling.  Because most likely this won’t be the one home you’re in forever.

4. Getting you to closing.  I wish it was as easy as signing  a contract, showing up with a check, and then signing the closing papers.  Unfortunately, that’s not the case.  Aside from the buyers and sellers, there’s attorneys involved, home inspectors, lenders, appraisers, other Realtors, etc.  Each person has to be contacted at different points once the contract is signed to make sure everything is progressing smoothly.  I make contact with all these individuals to make sure deadlines are being met, letters are being drafted, and funds are provided.  This is to ensure that closing happens and it goes smoothly.

I’d love to help you with your first home purchase.  If you need my assistance, please contact me via my Web site or call me toll-free at 800-858-7917.

And a very Happy Holidays to all of my readers!  I won’t be posting on Christmas, but I’ll make sure to have another blog up early next week.

 

Paint your home to sell

First things first.  You all know how important it is to keep your home in showing condition when you have your home on the market to sell.  No clutter, messes, dirty laundry, etc.  But it’s also important to make your home look the best it can in order to move quicker and to get you a good return on investment.  Paint color is key.  

Let’s start with what not to do.  No wallpaper.  I know it’s hard to remove.  I know it matches the bath towels that you special ordered along with the custom faucets.  But it just doesn’t work for most people.  And the buyers that want move-in ready homes don’t want to deal with it, either.  So if you have wallpaper, you’re probably going to benefit the most from this blog post.  I suggest removing it and painting.

No white paint.  This might sound surprising given that it’s neutral.  But having all white walls can make your house look very sterile and not lived in.  It also can appear too bright.  You do want to keep the colors neutral.  So if you’re going to be painting, I suggest light beige or light yellow.  

Don’t go crazy.  I am completely serious when I say that I’ve shown homes where one room is orange, another turquoise, another dark purple, etc.  It looks hideous.  If you have this in your home now and you are planning on selling, you’ll want to paint all the walls neutral to match.  And remember that dark colors make a room look a lot smaller.  So for those of you with navy blue bathrooms, now is the time to go neutral.

Here’s what does work.  Make sure that there are no noticeable scratches or marks on walls.  Touching up paint is very simple to do and can make a huge difference.  It shows buyers that your home is well maintained and cared for.  According to this AOL blog, “Karen Dembsky, president of Peachtree Home Staging LLC and Georgia’s Real Estate Staging Association, as well as a Pro Stager of the Year nominee, has the first and most important piece of advice before even tackling the issue of color.

‘A seller should always make sure that their paint has a fresh appeal, no dings, no marks. If there are any, it should be repainted or touched up because it gives the feeling of a well-maintained home,” she said. “The color has to be livable and appealing, you want a color where the buyer will come in and say that it’s not their first choice but they can live with it.'”

Dembsky suggests food-related colors for the kitchen, such as yellow, red, or orange.  But this is not permission to go out and paint your kitchen bright orange.  You still want to keep it soft and light.  She doesn’t recommend bright colors for the bedrooms because people view bedrooms as a place to sleep and relax, so light and neutral is best.  Dembsky recommends beige and light tan for bathroom walls.  If you’re dying for a bit of color, play it up with colored hand towels, bath mats, and fun soaps.  She does say that you can go for darker and richer colors in a home office, especially to play against a dark wood desk.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.  Please leave me a comment or visit my Web site.

Home improvements that turn off buyers

I’ve written multiple times on the home improvements that add the most value and the areas you want to focus on to attract buyers.  I found a great article on what could possibly turn buyers off, those improvements or features that might cause your home to sit on the market for a lot longer than you expected.  So if you do need to make one of these changes, consider your market and possibly try to convert it back prior to listing.  I’m focusing on a few that may affect more Chicagoland buyers.

1. Inserting a motorized stair lift.  Of course, this may be a necessary feature for someone who can no longer climb the stairs.  But for buyers that do have disabilities and are looking for a home, most buyers are looking for a ranch-style home, and they often search for homes that have a first floor master  bedroom and full bath.  You may also be competing with communities that specialize in low-maintenance living and those for ages 55 and over.

2. Converting a bedroom to a home office.  I’m not saying not to do it.  Trust me, I have one myself.  I’m saying that if you do, you could hurt your resale by not converting it back for showings.  If you have a 3-bedroom home and only 2 of your bedrooms look like bedrooms, many buyers may be turned off.  It’s best to put your desk and computer away and put a bed back in.  Now some people really upgrade a home office with flat-screen televisions, custom lighting, etc.  This would hurt your resale value a lot more, especially if it’s taking up a bedroom space.  If this is a location in an area of the basement that isn’t taking up a space meant for something else, you should be fine.

3. Converting a room to a hobby room.  This is a similar scenario to having an office in a bedroom.  I’ve come across lots of bedrooms that are now knitting rooms or scrapbooking rooms or pottery rooms.  Again, move that space somewhere like a basement, where it’s not taking up a bedroom.  Your home could sit on the market several months longer because of this.  

4. A home theater.  This I’ve seen quite often.  Oh, they’re nice features to have.  I’ve even seen mini movie theaters complete with theater chairs, popcorn machines, etc.  While it may not turn off a ton of buyers, it can put the home out of budget for many that weren’t expecting that feature to begin with.  You may price your home higher to recoup the $8,000-$15,000 it cost to install, but it will be hard to make that money back on a sale.

So if you are considering a major home improvement or upgrade, it’s best to consult with a Realtor prior to spending any money, just to get an opinion on resale value and how much you can expect to recoup when it is time to sell.  If you need to reach me, find me via my Web site.