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.

Get those buyers in before winter

As the cooler and colder weather is starting to breeze through the midwest, we’ve reached the part of the season that might be the end of regular home showings through the holidays.  If you have your home on the market to sell, here are some tips to get it shown and sold prior to wintertime, according to this AOL article.

First of all, the number one tip this article stresses is that, if you don’t have to sell over the winter, don’t.  If you’ve ever sold a home before, you know that you’ll get a lot less showings in the winter because of the weather and the holidays.  People don’t want to go out traipsing through snow and sleet to look at homes unless they have to.  So if you don’t have an urgent need to sell, you might consider taking it off the market until after the holidays or early spring.  We always say after the Super Bowl is a good time to get it relisted.

 1. Keep your photos updated.  Just like it’s important when your home is for sale during June to remove the pictures of the snow-covered driveway, it’s equally important to do the opposite.  If you’ve been listed since April with a green lawn and trees in full bloom, you’ll want to switch photos to that showing some snow and the way the interior looks with the light on.  You don’t need to make it obvious through your photos how long your home has been on the market.  You might also want to consider updating your remarks to reflect upon the new season and the holidays, such as, “You’ll love winter mornings nestled in front of your gas fireplace.”

2. Target your specific buyer.  Is your house just a few-minute walk to the local elementary school?  Consider advertising in a PTO or PTA bulletin.  Located 3 minutes from the commuter train station?  Post a flyer there.  If you have farmland with horse stables, you might want to advertise in an equestrian magazine.  Built a home gym in your basement with a steam shower?  Post a flyer at the local gym.  You get the idea.  Think outside the box.

3. Make your home accessible.  Keep driveways and walkways clear of snow, ice, and leaves so that buyers can easily reach the front door.  Keep the heat on and turn the lights on.  And as I always stress, try not to turn away any showings for any reason.  You never know if that buyer will get a chance to come back at another time.  And they could be the future buyer of your home!

If you have any more tips, I’d love to hear them.  Please leave me a comment or visit me online.

New construction home inspection checklist

My loyal readers know how much I believe in the importance of a home inspection once a home goes under contract or prior to closing.  It lets you take a look at the state of the current appliances and utilities and lets you know what repairs are necessary or to be expected in the future.  What you may not realize is how important an inspection is when you’re purchasing new construction.  You figure since the home is brand new that everything is perfect.  I’ve had clients buy new construction only to move in and find the air conditioning doesn’t work or they have leaky windows.  And given the current economy, it’s possible that some home builders are paying less to find subcontractors who in turn are doing poorer work.

It’s also very important to make sure you hire an inspector that’s not affiliated with the builder.  You’ll want an unbiased independent inspection to make sure everything is working the way it’s supposed to.  Here’s several items that you’ll want to look at:

1. Open all the windows.  Make sure the latches work, nothing is leaking, and that there is no broken glass.  If they have screens, make sure nothing is torn.

2. Check all light fixtures.  Make sure the switches operate and you know what light they turn on and off.  

3. Check all the floors.  Carpeting should be tightly fitted without gaps.  Tile and vinyl should not be cracked or chipped.  

4. Countertops should not be nicked or scratched.  Make sure all toilets are properly secured to the floor by sitting on them.  The tub should be free of scratches, as well.

5. If you have a basement in your new home, check to make sure you don’t see any water damage on the walls or any cracks.  Find out where the water heater, furnace, and air conditioning unit are located and how they work.  

More great tips can be found here.  It’s important to read over your contract to make sure of the period that you’re allowed a home inspection and final walk-through to look for these items.  Some contracts state that any problem you find after closing are not the responsibility of the builder, so make sure to be thorough in your inspection.

I can be reached online with more questions.

Summer selling tips

A couple weeks back I wrote about how to save money by cooling your home.  I’m sure those of you choosing to sell right now would appreciate some tips on selling in the summer months.  While it seems like the housing market is at a standstill, there are plenty of buyers out there now who need to purchase a home.  I just read an article that lots of buyers now are cash buyers, which is good for people selling rentable units, as a lot of these buyers are investors.

1. Keep it cool.  Make sure the air conditioning is on in your home, even if you’re gone – actually, especially if you’re gone.  If the outside air is 75 degrees or higher, I recommending turning on the air.  You don’t have to make it feel like a meat cooler, but make sure it’s cool enough in there so your potential buyers aren’t sweating the second they walk through the door.  If there’s no air conditioning, make sure to put fans in there to circulate the air and open windows.

2. Stage your balcony if you have one.  Make sure you have some colorful flowers and a comfortable place to sit.  A balcony is extremely inviting and not only does it make the balcony look spacious by adding furniture, but it adds to the living space, making the entire unit seem more spacious.

3. Stage the inside.  It’s really hard these days to show a vacant unit.  They seem a lot smaller and lifeless.  You can stage it without spending a fortune by picking up furniture at garage sales or on Craigslist.  You don’t need to furnish it to the nines.  Just enough to put a bed in a bedroom to see how that fits, a dining room table in a dining room, etc.  It really will make the place look bigger.  It’ll be worth the investment.

4. If you live in attached housing, get FHA certified.  This is something that your condo association will need to do, not you individually.  It makes it much more attractive to buyers who use FHA financing, and that represents about 30% or more of buyers these days.  

5. Spread the word.  And this isn’t just for summer.  Yes, it’s your Realtor’s job to market the listing.  But you never know who you might run in to that is looking to move or knows someone looking.  Post ads on your social networking sites, let your colleagues at work know, tell people at church.  

A few more great tips can be found in this article.

Any more tips you can offer those trying to sell in the summer?  I’d love to hear your suggestions.  Please leave me a comment or visit me online.

New program to benefit commuters

With the influx in gas prices, it’s getting more costly to drive your car to work, especially those living in the suburbs commuting to the city and vice versa.  And higher gas prices mean higher-priced tickets for the bus and train, too.  The Chicago Tribune has a new article about a great new program to benefit commuters. I am highlighting some of the main points below.

 There’s a Chicago organization called the Metropolitan Planning Council that is piloting a program called Commute Options.  What they’re hoping to do is recruit 10 to 15 employer this year that would offer their employees incentives to reduce the cost of commuting to work.  Right now a lot of affordable homes are in areas where there doesn’t happen to be a lot of job openings.

According to a council spokesperson, “A lot of communities where people can afford to live in our region are not the places where there’s a thriving job market.  In order to bridge that gap, we’re working with employers to give employees some options.”

So this is important information that can also benefit home sellers.  If you live within 2 minutes to a highway or are a 2-minute walk to the Metra station, you definitely want to highlight that in your home listing.  More and more people find commuting information as important as the number of bedrooms in a home or what type of flooring there is.  

The article also mentions a recent survey of Coldwell Banker agents.  75% said the increase in fuel prices has led their buyers to adjust their thinking on where they want to live.  More and more want to be closer to work or in a location that work is easily accessible and affordable.  

So sellers need to make sure their Realtor knows all the information about public transportation that’s close as well as proximity to highways and major roads.  It’s important to highlight.  

I hope everyone had a nice holiday weekend.  I can be reached via my Web site.

What buyers are looking for this year

We all know there’s a lot of houses on the market.  Inventory is high.  Values are down.  It’s harder to get a loan.  Interest rates are low.  People’s discretionary income is lower.  So what does all this mean in terms of the housing market?  Here’s a list of some items that Bankrate.com has put together of what home buyers are looking for when they buy a home this year.  This will also help sellers be aware of how to stage their home and what buyers are looking for when it comes time to negotiate.

1. A deal.  An amazing deal.  They want to tell everyone they know that they got this amazing house for such a good deal.  In 2007, it would have cost them $500,000, but they just closed on it for $395,000.  So this makes them a lot more critical.  They’re going to take longer than usual to find a house.  They’re not going to feel like they have to settle.  And that’s because they don’t.  Unfortunately for sellers, buyers hold the power when negotiating right now.  So understand that when turning away a low offer.  It might be worth it just to counter to see what happens.

2. Good condition.  I mentioned before that discretionary income is limited.  They don’t want to have to redo carpet and paint and put in new appliances.  They want homes that are more updated and in good condition.  When showing your home, make sure it’s clean and presentable.  It’s like putting your best foot forward at a job interview.  You only get one shot.  Make it a good one.  And reconsider taking your appliances with you when you move.  It’s likely the buyers want them to stay with the home.

3. More green.  It’s a lot more common these days to find buyers looking for energy-efficient appliances, windows, furnaces, and air conditioners.  Again, this helps them save money down the line, aside from being good for the environment.  Buyers want to know that maintaining their home will be easy on the wallet.  So if you are looking to sell and plan to upgrade some items, try to go as green and energy efficient as possible.

4. Smaller homes.  This is not to say that if you are selling a 5,000 square foot home that nobody will be interested.  But consider how you stage your home.  Make use of space.  It’s more common that buyers aren’t interested in a sitting room.  Make it into an office.  Create a craft room with your sixth bedroom.  Buyers want homes that serve a purpose because they don’t feel like they need the extra space if all it is is just space.  “Three to five years ago, if they could get a loan that would get them into a McMansion with stone and tile and brick and more rooms than they needed, they would do it,” says Jeff Wiren, president of the Portland Metropolitan Association of Realtors. “Now they’re saying ‘I don’t know if I want to heat that place and clean it.’ They’re being much more realistic.”

So those are four of the nine items that Bankrate thinks buyers are looking for in 2011.  What do you think?  As a buyer, do you agree?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Please leave me a comment or visit me online.

Early 2011 housing trends

I know we’re already into our third month of 2011.  But it’s going to be interesting to see how the year plays out in terms of the housing market.  Will we expect to see many changes?  Or will things stay relatively similar to what we’re experiencing now with sagging prices and high housing inventory? Bankrate.com has come up with a list of some of the most common trends we’ll see in 2011, at least through summer.

1. We’ll see less refinancing of current mortgages.  Some experts say that it’s the higher interest rates that is causing this dip.  But the other side of it is that those homeowners who have equity in their home already took advantage of a refinance within the last two years, as rates steadily dropped.  So there won’t be as many who refinance in 2011.

2. It will still be hard to obtain a mortgage.  And this is just because requirements to get one are tightening up.  Lenders are being very cautious in loaning money.  With Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae requiring some lenders to repurchase sold-off loans and causing them to lose money, they’re less likely to be as easygoing in lending new money unless you have very little risk, such as a high FICO score, solid appraisals on the home, and good income.

3. New homeowners are still unsure about taking that leap and buying that first home.  Yes, interest rates are low.  However, as just stated before, it’s harder and harder to obtain a good rate.  And even though home prices are low, with so much inventory available, buyers are wary about purchasing if they’ll have to sell in the near future and have so much to choose from they often just decide to rent instead.

4. Home sellers will deal with the current economy and we won’t see any change anytime soon.  The market time will continue to stay where it’s at, higher than in the past, because of high inventory and low prices.  Best way to get your home sold is to keep it in showing condition and listen to your Realtor on a realistic selling prices.  Homes do continue to sell.  But don’t expect to get any bites by listing it above market value.

What do you think of these trends?  Are you in agreement or disagreement?  Please leave me a comment with your thoughts below or visit me online.