Ask the Home Advisor – Selling in Fall and Winter

Q: I know spring and summer are usually the peak seasons to sell a house. Now that it’s fall, do you think the market will settle down a bit?

A: It is true that spring and summer are the busiest seasons for real estate. It brings the most buyers and sellers, therefore the most transactions. However, the other seasons often bring extremely motivated buyers looking for homes when inventory is down. People buy homes every month of the year.

A good example is someone relocating from out of town.  In the “off-seasons” there are usually fewer homes or the market. Since there are fewer homes to choose from, it increases the chance of selling a good home. It might seem crazy to list your house in the middle of winter, but if there is nothing comparable on the market, you can put yourself in a good position to sell.

Seattle Market Update – August 2014

Inventory is edging up. More sellers put their homes on the market last month compared to a year ago, but there is still less than two months of inventory in King County. And hot markets like Ballard, Green Lake and North Seattle have only about a month of inventory. Four to six months is considered to be balanced, so the market continues to favor sellers. The summer heat has put the brakes on somewhat, but we still are in a fast paced market.

This enormous demand for homes close to the city center has resulted in rising prices. The median home price in King County in July was up 8 percent over last year to $468,000. Seattle saw prices jump 17 percent to $543,500. On the Eastside, home prices were up 10 percent from a year ago to $624,900.

We continue to see multiple offers and bidding wars in highly desirable neighborhoods. A Seattle Times analysis shows that almost 40 percent of homes in King County sold for more than list price between April and June. There just isn’t enough inventory of the right homes in the right locations to satisfy demand. As I write this there are just 28 homes for sale in Green Lake, and 11 homes on the market in Laurelhurst.  Needless to say, whether you’re looking to move up or fly the empty nest, it’s a great time to sell a home.

Want to know what’s happening in your neighborhood? Check out our monthly Neighborhood Report for:

Laurelhurst

Windermere

View Ridge

Sand Point Country Club

Bryant

Wedgwood

Capitol Hill

Madison Park

Montlake

Portage Bay

Ask the Home Advisor – What Improvements Are Needed When Selling

Q: My elderly mother just moved out of her home and we’re getting it ready to sell. It’s pretty dated, but I don’t want to spend any more than necessary to fix it up. What kind of improvements are needed to make it marketable?

A: We see situations like this all the time, and the answer always varies. The first question that we ask is: “What are the goals of the seller?”.   Money can be made by flipping your own house, but it also takes considerable time and money, and not everyone is in the position execute that strategy.

We always recommend that you start by clearing the house of unneeded items.  De-cluttering will make the home feel larger and have better flow.  Determine if fresh paint and new flooring are needed, since each can make a very strong visual impact. Have someone evaluate the condition of the roof, sewer, plumbing and utilities to see if repairs are necessary. Street appeal is very important, so spend some time outside the home fixing up the yard and making sure the home makes a good first impression.   Staging the home is the final piece to having your property really shine.

The bottom line is that you need to take a look at your specific home and your goals.  A good agent can take you through the process.  Whatever the strategy, we want to make sure that if you spend a nickel, you make a dime.

Seattle Market Update – July 2014

This may be the greatest market for sellers that I have seen in all the years I’ve been in the real estate business. Strong appreciation, multiple offers and escalation clauses are translating into record prices for homes.

Part of the story is lack of inventory, particularly in neighborhoods close to the city core. Currently there is less than a two-month supply of homes on the market. Four to six months is considered to be a balanced market.

With not enough supply to meet demand, prices continue to go up.   The median price of homes sold in King County in June was $453,500, up  6 percent from a year ago. Home prices on the Eastside increased 6 percent to $630,000. Seattle’s median price was $499,000, up 9 percent from last June.

Sellers: Homes in hot neighborhoods that are well-priced and in good condition can expect multiple offers and escalation clauses. If you’ve been on the fence, I’d jump off. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better time to get top dollar for your home.

Buyers: Competition is tough, so the home search can be frustrating.   Make sure you are fully approved for financing before making an offer. Assume that you will be dealing with multiple offers, and work with your broker ahead of time on strategies for getting the home you want. This is a market where creative negotiating on your broker’s part can really pay off.

Want to know what’s happening in your neighborhood? Check out our monthly Neighborhood Report for:

Laurelhurst

Windermere

View Ridge

Sand Point Country Club

Bryant

Wedgwood

Capitol Hill

Madison Park

Montlake

Portage Bay

Ask the Home Advisor – Best Time To Sell

Q: We’re thinking about selling our home. When is the best time to list it?

A: Many factors drive the decision of when to put a home on the market. If you don’t need to sell your home quickly because of a lifestyle change, you’ll get the best price if you list your home when demand is high and supply is low.   Of course, just like the stock market, that’s difficult to time.

Typically, spring is the most popular time to list a home.  Why spring?  Homes generally look better in the spring when the garden is in bloom and the sun (hopefully) is out. Buyers, especially those with kids, want to close in time to move in by summer and be settled by the time the kids are ready to go back to school. Plus, many have deposited their tax refund checks and feel like they have a financial cushion. With inventory still at very low levels in King County, this Spring looks like it will be particularly strong.

That said, people buy homes all year long. Buyers that are relocating often look at properties towards the end of the year when there are fewer homes on the market to compete with your listing.  And since few buyers want to house-hunt during the holidays, you those people looking for a house in December are serious buyers.

One caveat: no matter how much of a seller’s market it is, make sure your home is move-in ready.  The hottest market won’t overcome a house that looks shabby.   

Ask the Home Advisor – Selling During the Holidays

Q: What are your thoughts about selling during the holiday season?

A: Most people think of spring as the ideal time of year to list a home. Generally speaking, we would tend to agree. The sun is out (hopefully) and the flowers are in bloom. However, there can be advantages to listing during other seasons.

Inventory is typically at its low in December, and less inventory means less competition. Buyers who are  looking for  a house during the holidays are either shopping for a very expensive Christmas gift, or they most likely are being transferred to the area from out of the region. Either way, those buyers are typically quite motivated. Also, if you have a house that looks its best during the holidays, and don’t mind an occasional visitor in your home, it could be a way to show your home to its best advantage.  Again, springtime is probably the ideal time to market a home, but remember – houses sell 12 months out of the year.

Great Reads – November 2013

Here are a few great articles that caught our eye:

15 Crazy Stats About Bill Gates’ Medina Mansion

Amazing Micro Houses

Why Now is an Ideal Time to Sell Your House

Ask the Home Advisor – Home Improvement ROI

Q: We’re getting our house ready to sell, but we’re not sure how much money we should sink into improvements. How do you figure out which improvements will be a good return on investment?

A: This is a question that comes up a lot with our clients that are getting ready to sell.The answer varies depending on what type of home you own.

If you are selling a home that is likely to be torn down or remodeled, you usually don’t  need to do much more than clean well  and make sure you highlight the features of the property vs. the features of the home.

However, the vast majority of homes are not being sold as remodel or tear down projects.  In those cases buyers are looking for a well-maintained property with charm.

To increase your home’s charm quotient,  painting the interior and exterior is relatively inexpensive and can give your property a fresh look.  Refinishing hardwood floors is another lower-cost investment that can make a significant impression on buyers.

As for home maintenance, items that will be called out on inspection and dealt with while negotiating the sale should be addressed prior to listing the home.  Your roof, sewer, plumbing, foundation and electrical system should be inspected prior to listing. You may or may not choose to fix the issues based on the cost of repairs, but you should know what to expect to give up in price concessions should that become part of negotiating the sale.

When it comes to high end homes, it can make sense to do more remodel work.  Buyers looking into these types of homes are attracted to finish work, functionality and spaces for entertaining.  They expect a high level of finishes and upgrades.  Remodeling to meet these expectations can be expensive, but will add to the value of the home.

Every home is different and decisions on improvements usually come down to price.  We always work with sellers to maximize their return on investment when preparing their home for sale.  Our goal is to make sure you that if you spend a nickel, you make a dime.

Here’s a link to what various home remodeling projects cost in our area.

Ask the Home Advisor – Is Now A Good Time To Sell?

Q: I’ve read that home prices are up in Seattle. Is now a good time to sell?

A: A lot of homeowners have spent years waiting for prices to rise before putting their homes up for sale. Seattle has seen double-digit price increases in the past year. Should homeowners wait and see if home values continue to rise, or should they sell now while the market is hot and many sellers are getting over asking price?

Trying to time home values is like trying to time the stock market. It’s tough to recognize the turning point.

Rather than just asking “When can I get the highest price?”, homeowners should consider the cost of staying in a home when they’d rather live somewhere else.

Many people choose to sell their existing home and move to a new property for lifestyle reasons- a more desirable neighborhood, better schools, shorter commute, downsizing, etc. Delaying that increased “happiness factor” has an emotional cost.

There is also a financial cost. If you wait to sell your current home until prices rise even more, the price of the home you want to purchase next will no doubt rise as well. Interest rates may increase as well, so any added profit you make would be used to pay a higher price on your new home.

My advice?  If you’re motivated to sell, there are plenty of people who are motivated to buy. For the first time in years, it’s a seller’s market. Inventory continues to be limited. Multiple offers are the norm. If you are willing to price your home appropriately, it will sell quickly, freeing you up to move on to the home you really want.

Great Reads – July 2013

Here are a few great articles that caught our eye:

Top 5 Things Today’s Home Buyer Wants

How to Win Bidding Wars in Seattle

How to Choose a Front Door Color