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Friday, March 27, 2015

What's That Smell?

"Week after week, buyers turned up their noses during showings of the tidy single-story home in the hot San Jose, Calif., market. Their resistance was easy to pinpoint, but harder to address: the aroma from years of heavy cooking with curry was turning off buyers, and the sellers didn’t care."

Their agent tried delicately to explain to the sellers that buyers found the scent—which permeated the walls, floors, and furnishings—overwhelming. Still, the sellers refused to undertake a deep cleaning or change their cooking habits.

Their resistance cost the sellers time and money at the bargaining table. In an area where time on market was typically just 10 days and bidding wars were the norm, the $229,000 home sat on the market for 35 days. The sellers dropped their listing price several times until it eventually sold for $175,000 in a short sale.



It’s not just food odors that turn buyers off. A 2013 study of Canadian home owners sponsored by Pfizer Canada found that smoking in a home could reduce the resale value by up to 29 percent. Daniels views it as a fiduciary duty to talk with sellers about the effect odors can have on a home sale. In many cases, sellers simply don’t realize the impact, and most will be open to your suggestions about how to address the stench. Stager Tori Toth, owner of Stylish Stagers Inc. in New York, offers ideas about how to discuss this sensitive subject with clients as part of the overall strategy for prepping a home for sale. “Scent can be the strongest of our senses,” Toth says. “It can make you form an instant impression.”
Here are ideas for countering offensive smells in your listings.

Don’t Mask. Treat

Tell Sellers to Live Meticulously
Let clients know of steps they can take to keep smells at bay. Toth recommends:
  • Take out the trash after every meal.
  • Clean refrigerators often.
  • Change air filters regularly.
  • Do laundry regularly to avoid dirty clothing pileups.
  • Use the fan over the stove when cooking.
  • Avoid cooking strong-smelling foods like fish, broccoli, and garlic before showings.
  • Bathe pets regularly and clean bedding, toys, and litter boxes often.
Odor is caused by bacteria that attaches to ceilings, walls, carpets, and draperies. Common household offenders include pets, food, dirty laundry, mold, smoking residue, and air vents. Identify the source of the smell and eliminate it. The remedy is likely a professional deep cleaning or do-it-yourself nontoxic fogger like DynoFresh that neutralizes odors. “If you temporarily treat the air with sprays or plug-ins, the odor will resurface by your next showing,” Toth says.

Add New Smells Sparingly

While air fresheners in large doses may send a red flag that the seller is trying to mask something, they may be useful in moderation. After eliminating the source of smells, Toth will sometimes advise clients to introduce subtle, simple scents. This may include laying fabric softener sheets between clothes stacked on closet shelves, placing lemon peels in the kitchen garbage disposal, or adding plug-ins near bathroom doors.

Chocolate chip cookies, potpourri, gourmet foods, and other baked goods actually may be the worst scents for real estate open houses. Researchers studied 402 people in a home décor store in Switzerland to find the most pleasing scents for customers, and researchers say their findings, published in the Journal of Retailing in 2013, also can be applied to real estate.

The most pleasing smells that study found were lemon, green tea, cedar, pine, basil, and vanilla.

Researchers say complex scents, like baked goods, can be a distraction to buyers. They’ll subconsciously be trying to figure out what the scent is rather than staying focused on the house. In contrast, researchers found that simple scents are easier to identify and so less distracting, which promotes buying.

Tell Sellers to Live Meticulously
Let clients know of steps they can take to keep smells at bay. Toth recommends:
  • Take out the trash after every meal.
  • Clean refrigerators often.
  • Change air filters regularly.
  • Do laundry regularly to avoid dirty clothing pileups.
  • Use the fan over the stove when cooking.
  • Avoid cooking strong-smelling foods like fish, broccoli, and garlic before showings.
  • Bathe pets regularly and clean bedding, toys, and litter boxes often.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

February Home Sales and Prices Move Higher

Unlike last February, this February experienced increased home sales, but with only a moderate rise in prices. Home sales in February rose 7.1% from January and 2.2% from February 2014. Sales through the fall and winter months held ground, as four of the last six months saw higher sales than the same month in the previous year. The Median Sales Price in February rose 5.5% compared with a year-over-year increase of 11.6% in February 2014. The inventory of homes for sale was 11.9% lower than one year ago. At the current rate of sales, the corresponding Months Supply of inventory fell to 4.7 on a scale where 6.0 indicates a market balanced equally between buyers and sellers.

 
"It’s a very good sign that home sales picked up in February. Although it’s one of the slower months for housing, this increase shows that consumers have confidence entering the market. They’re feeling improvements in job and wage growth, and recognize that mortgage rates remain near historic lows."
 
 
 
Dave Liniger, RE/MAX, LLC CEO, Chairman and Co-Founder

Median Sales Price

In the 53 metro areas surveyed for the February RE/MAX National Housing Report, the average number of home sales increased 2.2% over sales in February 2014 and were 7.1% higher than January sales. In the seven-year history of the RE/MAX Housing Report, monthly sales growth averaged only 4.8%. Despite a tight inventory and rising prices, many homebuyers decided to move forward with a purchase. This February, 34 of the 53 metro areas surveyed reported higher sales on a year-over-year basis.

Days on Market

The average Days on Market for all homes sold in February was 80, unchanged from January and just one day higher than the average in February 2014. Other than January and February, Days on Market has been below 80 since March 2013, when the average was 85. Higher Days on Market averages could be the result of higher quality inventory and corresponding higher sales prices. Days on Market is the number of days between when a home is first listed in an MLS and a sales contract is signed.

Month's Supply of Inventory

The inventory of homes for sale in February was lower than both the previous month and the same month last year. Inventory was down 11.9% from February 2014 and was 3.2% lower than January’s inventory. For the last two months, sequential inventory losses have slowed down. Based on February’s rate of home sales, the average Months Supply of Inventory was 4.7. Months supply was 5.2 in January and in February 2014. A supply of 6.0 is considered balanced.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Why Renters May Be in Trouble

The gap between rental costs and household income is widening to unsustainable levels across the country. As more renters face steeper costs, it may put them even further away from home ownership, according to a new study released by the National Association of REALTORS®. NAR evaluated income growth, housing costs, and changes in share of renter and owner-occupied households over the past five years in metropolitan statistical areas across the U.S. 

Over the last five years, a typical rent rose 15 percent, while the income of renters grew by only 11 percent, according to their research.

"The gap has worsened in many areas as rents continue to climb and the accelerated pace of hiring has yet to give workers a meaningful bump in pay," says Lawrence Yun, NAR's chief economist.

New York, Seattle, and San Jose, Calif., are among the cities where combined rent growth far exceeds wages, according to the survey.

"Current renters seeking relief and looking to buy are facing the same dilemma: Home prices are rising much faster than their incomes," says Yun. "With rents taking up a larger chunk of household incomes, it's difficult for first-time buyers – especially in high-cost areas – to save for an adequate down payment."

Meanwhile, those who were able to buy a home in recent years have been insulated from the rising housing costs since they were able to lock-in a low 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with a set monthly payment, according to NAR's study. As such, home owners were able to grow their net worth as home values increased and their mortgage balances went down.

"The result has been an unequal distribution of wealth as renters continue to feel the pinch of increasing housing costs every year," according to NAR’s study.

The markets that have seen rents rise by the highest amounts since 2009 are:
  • New York: 50.7%
  • Seattle: 32.38%
  • San Jose, Calif.: 25.6%
  • Denver: 24.14%
  • St. Louis: 22.26%
"Many of the metro areas that have experienced the highest rent increases are popular to millennials because of their employment opportunities," says Yun.

The key to relieve housing costs: Builders need to ramp up the supply of new-home construction, according to Yun. He estimates that housing starts need to rise to 1.5 million. Over the past seven years, housing starts have fallen far short from that historical average – averaging about 766,000 per year.

"With a stronger economy and labor market, it's critical to increase housing starts for entry-level buyers or else many will face affordability issues if their incomes aren’t compensating for the gains in home prices," Yun says.

Source: National Association of REALTORS®

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Early Spring Brings Bumper Crop of Homebuyers Who Face Inventory Drought

 
 
 
Favorable weather and restored confidence are propelling home buying activity around Western Washington to the highest level in nearly a decade, according to Northwest Multiple Listing Service sources. The pent-up demand being unleashed has rocketed pending sales back to the levels of our record year in 2006. At the same time, homes for sale are near a 10-year low.

Northwest MLS figures show pending sales system-wide surged 18.7 percent in February compared to the same month a year ago, rising from 7,247 mutually accepted offers to 8,599. Twenty of the 23 counties in the service area reported double-digit increases in pending sales.

Those numbers might be even higher given the ample supply of buyers, but inventory is far from ample.

Listings are flying off the shelf faster than allergy medicine in this early spring market.  They will probably make several offers before one is accepted and they just need to expect to be competing with others.

Northwest MLS broker-members added more news listings to the database during February than 12 months ago (7,852 last month versus 7,234), but the higher sales volume kept inventory levels well below year-ago totals. The MLS reported 16,946 total active listings at month end. That compares to a total of 19,273 for the same month a year ago for a drop of about 12 percent.

The early spring weather has brought a bumper crop of buyers to a market experiencing a drought of listings.  In Seattle, *NOT THE THURSTON COUNTY MARKET*, it is not uncommon for weekend open houses to draw upwards of 100 group visits and bidding competitions.  Multiple offers rule the day, with many bids at 20 percent over well-priced properties around Greater Seattle.

For the 4,761 sales of single family homes and condominiums that closed during February, the median price was $280,000. That reflects a gain of about 6.5 percent from the year-ago sales price of $263,000. The volume of closed sales jumped about 13.5 percent from a year ago. Brokers reported 4,761 closed sales last month, which compares to 4,196 for the same month a year ago.

For single family homes, which accounted for 86 percent of all sales, the median price system-wide jumped about 7.4 percent, rising from $270,000 to $289,925.


Sunday, March 1, 2015

Get Ready to Garage Sale


A well-planned garage or yard sale can make room in your home, get rid of unused items and make some money but it needs some planning to be successful.

  • Start early to research and plan
  • Promotion is key
  • Display items attractively
  • Price items right
  • Organize checkout

In Olympia, Fridays are generally the best day but there may be some exceptions.  Experienced garage-salers believe that a well-planned one-day event will do as well as a multi-day event.  Serious purchasers will look for the “new” sale and most people don’t come back multiple days.

Advertise in local newspapers and free online classified sites like craigslist.  If several families are going together for the sale, mention that in the ad; it will be a big draw.  Mention your bigger-ticket items like furniture, equipment and baby items. Tools are a big draw too.

Garage sale signs can be purchased or made at Staples, Fedex Office or Kwik Signs.  Signs need large lettering so they’re easy to read while people are driving. Most important info: Garage or Yard Sale, address, date and time.  Directional signs are also important.  Balloons and streamers to attract attention to the signs are very helpful.

Consider using the service Square so that you can take credit cards.  The cost is 2.75% per swipe and can be done on your smartphone or iPad.  You’ll need to sign up at least two weeks in advance to receive your reader.

Unless you’re having an estate sale, keep your home locked.  You don’t want people wandering through your home while you’re outside.  If you start to accumulate a lot of money, take some of it inside.  Don’t discuss how much money you’ve made during the sale or how successful it has been.

People will want to bargain; it’s the nature of the game.  Consider this strategy: less negotiations early in the sale and possibly, more toward the end of the sale.