Can’t find a home in your price range?

You know what happens when you can’t find anything in your price range? You usually start looking above your price range. Can’t find anything around $300k? Then look up to $325k, then $350k, etc. You usually find something you like.

I recently had something happen that was a little mind blowing.

I personally have been on a casual search for a place in the country. I’m pretty picky. I wanted a great view and lots of wooded area so I wouldn’t have to mow it all. I also wanted huge garages so all my cars can live together instead of having them scattered all over. I started out at the price point I wanted. Then upped it. Then upped it some more. Before long, I had almost doubled the initial price range. Still nothing.

Then one day I get a call from somebody who was referred to me from a past client. They had 15 acres in Clark Co. I go to see the place. I look at the recent sales and give them a number for what I think is market value.

While I am viewing their house to list it, I keep thinking things like:

“Why can’t I find a view like this?”

“Why can’t I find huge garages like this place has?”

“Why can’t I find a place with woods on 3 sides?”

“Why can’t I find a small one level home like this one has?”

After all, I have been looking at properties that were nearly 3 times the value of this one.

Later that week, I started thinking about this place again. How much I loved the view. How the huge garages are already there. How the home was the right size. Just about every house I had seen had a huge McMansion on it and I don’t want fancy and I don’t want that much to clean. I want to leave the McMansion I have now.

Then I asked myself “Why don’t I buy this place?”

And I did.

So, when you can’t find something in your price range, try looking below your price range. It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes you can find something you love for less than you were planning on spending.

You’re wrong if you think this about appraisals

But my house appraised for $________.

Should I get my house appraised before we list it?

I hear this a lot. People seem to think that the appraiser determines the value of a property.

They do not.

Buyers and sellers determine the value.

An appraisal can happen for a lot of reasons. Most of the time they are done for a buyer’s lender. Lenders want to make sure the house is worth at least the purchase price since they will be on the hook should the buyer default. Those types of appraisals are more about justifying the sale price. Market value was already determined when the buyer and seller agreed on a price.

Other reasons a house might get appraised are for refinancing, divorces, bankruptcies, home equity lines of credit, etc. On those types, there is not a purchase involved so the appraisal is really just a professional guess at what the market value might be. An appraiser does not determine market value. The appraiser is not buying the house so they are not looking at it the same way a buyer would. They do not care about the color of the walls, if the kitchen is outdated. They just care about if it is in average condition or not. Ever see a listing that said “Priced below recent appraisal!” That tells you that the market did not agree with the appraisers assessment of value.

Last year I sold a house that I had renovated to rent. I was approached by a realtor with a client who wanted it. I decided to sell. We all agreed on a sale price of $205k. Well, the appraisal come back at $186k. The reason is because it was a split level house. An appraiser can only use a split foyer or split level house for sales comparisons on the appraisal report. Of the 40+ recent sales in that neighborhood, there were 4 that were split foyers or split levels, and all were terrible compared to my house. I get it, the appraiser’s hands were tied. Still though, the comps of similar square footage houses in similarly upgraded condition pointed to a value in the lower $200s, which was what I had a ready, willing and able buyer prepared to pay. Bummer.

A little off the subject, but realtors are really better at determining market value. We do pretty much the same thing appraisers do only we know the market a little better than appraisers. I am not at all trying to discredit appraisers here. It’s just we are the ones that go in houses with buyers and know how they will respond to things like barn doors, farmhouse sinks, 80s wall paper, the neighbor who leaves 4 dogs in a kennel all day, and how much natural light a house gets. We have experience with buyers and sellers leading up to signing a contract……still though, when we are called to list a house, it is still a professional guess at market value. Then the appraiser comes in afterwards more as a system of checks and balances to make sure the lender feels good about lending money on the house.

So, now you know that the appraiser doe not determine market value. Market value is like that old saying “Something is worth what somebody is willing to pay for it.” Realtors and appraisers use data to predict what market value should be but we do not decide what market value will be.

When is the best time to be a buyer or seller?

One of the first things I do every day is look at ALL the new listings, look at ALL the price reductions, look at ALL the new pending sales, and look at ALL of the new closed sales.

Want to know some things I have noticed over the years?

In the spring, the number of houses selling quickly is higher than any other time of year.  More buyers are out.  There are usually fewer listings early in spring since most sellers want those first few warm weekends to work on curb appeal.

In the summer, we start seeing more new listings.  Sales remain strong.  Overpriced houses get overlooked.

In the fall, we see fewer new listings.  The frenzy slows down.  There are fewer multiple offers and fewer houses sell the first day or two on the market.  In an appreciating market, I also see houses that have been on the market for a long time begin to sell.  Why does this happen?  They were the overpriced listings in the spring and summer.  With prices going up, they have appreciated into their list price and now are competitive with newer listings.  Also, in an appreciating market, most sellers get greedy.  They want what their house is worth PLUS $5-10k.  Yesterday’s overpriced listing looks really good to a buyer compared to a brand new overpriced listing.

In the winter there are far fewer new listings but this is the best time to be a buyer.  Most sellers have been beat into submission by the buyers of prior seasons and are the most realistic they will ever be.  For a seller, the benefit is that your competition is typically just the other listings that are left over from spring and summer.  You stand a better chance of catching a buyer.

So, when is the best time to be a seller or be a buyer?

If you are a picky buyer looking for something specific, spring and summer because you will have more choices.

If you are a buyer who isn’t too picky, then fall and winter may get you the best price.

If you are a seller with a house that has been a buyer’s second or third choice all spring and summer, then your best bet is the fall and winter.  The reason your house never made it to be somebody’s first choice was because there was always a new listing that lured the buyers away from your house.

If you are a seller with a nice house and are willing to price it appropriately, then you will sell quickly any time of the year.  Your house will always be somebody’s first choice.

Real estate predictions for 2029

Just gonna jump right into this:

Gen Z will have a harder time getting a house than the Millennials did.    They are the biggest generation ever.  They will be entering the real estate market at about the time Millennials are selling their starter homes.  Great news if you own a 1300 square foot house in Masterson.  Times will be tough for them, but they will keep the market going strong.  Every seller of a starter home needs a first time buyer so they can move up.  That first time buyer is the oil that lubricates the whole market.

The Millennials will be moving up to their 4 bedroom houses on a cul de sac in a good school district because that is just a natural progression once you start a family.  This is great news for Gen X sellers who will be downsizing to medium sized houses in upscale neighborhoods.

What makes me think all this?  It’s not really crystal ball as much as it is history.  Everything I just described happens with every generation.  You buy a smaller house you eventually outgrow, you move up at least once to the house you raise your family in, then you downsize.

So what does all this look like for Lexington?  More gentrification as it becomes expensive to live anywhere in Fayette County.  I know it sounds unheard of, but the neighborhoods that nobody wants to live in like Cardinal Valley and Winburn may become the budget choice as similar neighborhoods with better locations become too expensive.  I know it sounds crazy, but when I was in high school, people didn’t want to live in Kenwick and now those houses equal Chevy Chase for price per square foot……yesterday’s bad neighborhood can easily become a tomorrow’s good location.  Plus, it isn’t like we are ever going to see brand new starter homes ever again.  All that can be done is update/remodel existing houses.  The people that flip houses need some margin to do this so they will buy distressed houses in whatever neighborhoods are affordable, just like they are doing now in downtown, Melrose, The Meadows and all those streets that begin with D around Pasta Garage.

Before long, I don’t think there will be any new construction in Lexington.  We are already filling in every spot big enough to stick a short row of townhouses.   This means that being in Fayette County will be even more expensive, and people will go to surrounding towns like Nicholasville and Georgetown even more.  One day, people will discover that Winchester is only 15 minutes from Hamburg and the interstate passes right through it.  I’ve never understood why more people don’t move to Winchester?

Remodeling will be hot too.  With not much new construction, people will start remodeling existing houses more and more.

Sort of some majorly huge economic melt down, I think housing is going to be strong for quite some time.

 

How to pick your first rental house

The first thing to know is that you want an exit plan.  You want to buy something that will be fairly easy to sell when that time comes.  That is why I usually suggest a single family home in a decent neighborhood.  When you sell it, your buyer pool will be owner-occupant buyers who will happily pay a full retail price.

The second thing to know is that you pick your tenants through them picking your house.  You have a crappy worn out rental, guess what type of tenant is going to be willing to live there?  You make your house one of the nicest ones in it’s price range and you will attract the best qualified tenants out there.  Also, if you have one of the best houses they could ever afford, why would they move?

Here are some things that I think make a house a good pick:

1.  A ranch house.  Who doesn’t like one?  They are suitable for buyers/tenants in all stages of life.  They are easier to paint by yourself since there is no staircase.  You can clean out gutters with a step ladder.  They are just easier to work on period.

2.  A house on a slab.  When the wax ring around the toilet fails and when water gets splashed out of the tub, there is no wood to rot.  Also there is no water to collect under the house and grow mold.

3.  A smaller house.  Fewer people can live in a smaller house.  That means less wear and tear.  While a 2 bedroom house has a little more limited market when you sell, tenants usually don’t care if a house is 2 or 3 bedrooms.

4.  A simple roof line with not much of a pitch.   The fewer ridges and valleys the better.  Not only are they cheaper to replace, there are fewer places to get a leak.

Here are some things I try to avoid:

  1.  Basements.  They all have the potential to leak.
  2.  Sheds.  They are just one more thing to maintain and tenants usually leave you stuff they don’t want when they move out.
  3. Huge yards.  When they get out of control, it takes a lot of time to bring them back.
  4. Big garages.  I’m talking more than a regular two car garage.  Usually tenants who are attracted to a huge garage have a lot of stuff to store or hobbies that need the space.  Either one means you might need a dumpster when they move out.
  5. Fireplaces.  Do you really want somebody starting a fire in your house?

Now a lot of this is based on paying retail.  If you get a great deal on a house with a huge lot or a basement, take it.  A good deal can make up for potential future headaches.

My ideal house would be a smaller ranch on a slab built after 1960.  It would be 2-3 bedroom and have 1-2 baths.  A normal sized, flatter yard for good drainage.  On the lower end, no garage is okay.  If the house is worth more than about $150k, I would want a garage more for resale than to make a tenant happy.