What makes a location good?

Ever wonder what all goes into making a good location?

It’s usually a combination of many things.  The more of these you have, the more appealing it is:

  1.  Proximity to amenities like shopping/entertainment/dining.
  2.  Easy access to work (Think New Circle, Interstate, airport, etc.)
  3.   Good school district.  Even for people who don’t have kids in school, this is important because realtors have convinced everybody it is good for “Resale Value.”
  4.  An absence of major negative things like road noise, smoke stacks, crime, or something smelly like a landfill.

Very few neighborhoods have all of these.  The ones that do have always sold quickly and for top dollar.  They appreciate the fastest in a hot market and depreciate the least in a bad market.

Want to know a few like this?

  1.  Chilesburg-It’s got the top rated schools in the area, two of which are within walking distance.  You can get to two interstate exits easily.  If you want to go to Hamburg, its an easy drive down Todds Road.  If you don’t want Hamburg, go out the Richmond Road side.
  2. Willow Bend-This area has really shot up in value this year.  It’s got some of the best schools on the south end of town, is close to Fayette Mall, Brannon Crossing and The Summit.  Shillito Park is close and it is right off of Man O War.
  3. Beaumont Enclave-This neighborhood has always been popular, mainly because it is the cheapest way to get into the Rosa Parks Elementary/Beaumont Middle/Dumbar High district.  It is a $200-300k neighborhood surrounded by $500k and up houses.  That helps too.  Besides one of the most desirable school districts in town, you have everything Beaumont has too offer, plus a city park and a library.  It is right between New Circle and Man O War, making it easy to get in or out.  It is also a short drive to the airport for traveling executives.

I normally encourage my buyers to pick a neighborhood with as many of these location features as possible since we don’t know what the market will be like when they need to sell.  The first rule in real estate is ALWAYS have an exit plan.

Why buy a house when you can rent?

Now that the market is becoming balanced, I am seeing a lot of articles predicting doom and gloom for real estate.  I get it, nobody wants to read an article that says “The real estate market is about to become boring because it will neither be a seller’s market nor a buyer’s market”.  They’ve got to go to an extreme to get and keep your attention.  I am seeing lots of articles telling people that their home is not an investment.  I’ve even seen some articles suggesting people continue to rent and get into the stock market instead of buying a home.

Which might be good advice if you were going to live in your car, or with your parents the rest of your life.  Sure, you might come out ahead over the long haul, but the reality is you will have to pay to live somewhere, may as well pay to live in your own house.

Why did I want to buy my first house as soon as I could save the down payment?

I used to mow lawns for a lot of elderly people.  I would always enjoy them telling me what they paid for their houses 30-40 years ago and what their mortgage payment was.  I had one little old lady who told me her mortgage was $163 a month and some months it was hard to pay it.

When it was new, her house might have rented for about the same amount.  Do you think rent prices have gone up since the mid 1960s?  Meanwhile, that little old lady paid $163 a month until the house was paid off. (Okay, I am sure her property taxes and insurance went up, but not by that much.)  And when she made her last $163 payment, do you know what she did the next month?  Nothing.  There were no more payments to make (Okay again, she would still have taxes and insurance to pay but both of those expenses would be FAR less than what the house would rent for at that time.)

Let’s take a look at what happens when this little old lady moves out of her house.  She pays a real estate commission and gets to keep the rest because there is no mortgage.

What if she had rented a house that whole time and moved?  She would have paid off the house for the landlord and had nothing to show for it.

I think owning your home is the best decision you can make.

The worst house to buy

Want to know the house to stay away from?

It’s the one that has had the same owner for many decades and has never had anything major done to it the entire time.

How do I know this?  I own two of them.

I sometimes stumble across a deal that I can fix up and rent out.  The ones that I have spent the most on are the ones that fit this profile.

Most of the time, there isn’t much you can save.  I usually end up replacing windows, the roof, the furnace, air conditioner, water heater and all the appliances.  Often the kitchen and bathrooms are worn out enough that I end up having to start all over, even though I prefer to keep as much of the original character as I can.

A lot of these houses were built in the 50s and 60s.  Houses from that era are arguably the best built houses ever……I can tell by how hard it is to do any demo work.  Most have bathrooms with lots of ceramic tile.  The kind that goes half way up all the walls.  Only once have I ever been able to keep the tile.  Most of the time there is a really bad section and it can’t be saved, or the vanity needs replaced, but the tile is all around it.  To replace the vanity you end up having to take off the tile and it forces a pretty big renovation.

It’s all worked out pretty well for me, but I was just thinking about how these type of houses are the ones that I am always over budget because they are like that “If you give a mouse a cookie” book where you do one thing that leads to another action, then something else, and so on.

These type of houses appear to be a real bargain to most buyers.  They are usually in pretty cool older areas with big trees.  They have character.  If they are decorated right, they look nice too.  It is only when you do a home inspection that you realize that while nothing is catastrophically wrong with the house, almost EVERYTHING needs some attention, and that attention costs a lot of money.

Why rising rates won’t stop the market

Rates just hit 5%.  They haven’t been that high in many years.

It sounds like the sky is falling but it is not.

Many first time buyers are freaked out over this since they got used to lower rates.

When I bought my first house, I bragged to my friends that I was getting a 6.5% rate.  I locked as soon as they fell from 6.625%.  Most of my friends who had owned their houses for a few years had rates over 7%.

Several years later, I refinanced my third house when rates dropped to 5%.  I could not believe at that time how low that rate seemed.  I currently have a 3.375% rate on that house.

I’ve watched rates go up and down.  The market change from a seller’s market to a buyer’s market to a seller’s market.  If there is one thing I have learned is that the market keeps going.  There are always first time buyers.  There are always people getting transferred, married, divorced, retiring, and running out of space.  Those things will always happen.  The market is really about life and all the stages and events of it.

Something else I have noticed is that the market tends to pause when there is a big change, whether that change is interest rates, rising prices, dropping prices, etc.  It’s like we say “Now isn’t a good time to do this because it is different that it was.”  Then life happens, we get used to the “New” normal and we buy and/or sell.

We are in one of those times now.  Mortgage applications are down slightly, sales are down slightly.  We are entering what is believed to become a balanced market, meaning the number of buyers will be about the same as the number of sellers.  This won’t last too long because like I said, people will get used to 5%.  It will become the new normal.  The market will go on just as life goes on.

Now really is the best time to buy….REALLY

I know, I know……don’t realtors always say now is the best time to buy?  Or sell?  Or do anything?

It is a phrase that is often used to motivate anybody to do something sooner rather than later, but right now really is the best time to buy all year.

Why?

Let’s get the most commonly used reason out of the way:  Rising interest rates.  Yeah, a quarter or half a point doesn’t seem like much, but over the 7-10 years you may stay in your house, it could buy you a lot of other things, especially now that you probably won’t be deducting the interest you pay on your taxes.

The big reason is that the market has slowed down.  Sure, it always slows down some in the fall and winter, but this seems to be even slower than normal.   I haven’t had a showing where there was a line, or somebody coming or going while I was there in quite a while.  Less competition means you have a better chance of getting a house.  Listings are staying on the market longer too.  I am seeing a whole lot less of houses selling in 0-4 days and a lot more in the 5-20 day range.  That is still a really short time.  I am not saying the market is crashing or anything.  Just that the spring and summer frenzy is over.  Most of the people who were going to buy have done so already.  The ratio of buyers to sellers is more balanced than it has been all year.

I suspect it will be a slow winter followed by another frenzied spring and summer.  While I don’t think prices will go up that much next year, there will be more competition from other buyers than there is now.

So, roll up your sleeves and go buy a house, because it really is the best time!