Which seller did better?

Two houses on the same street.  One is smaller and has been renovated.  The other is bigger and has had a few minor updates.

The smaller renovated one sells for more money that the larger one with mild updates is worth.

Which owner would you want to be?

You are probably thinking that the renovated house that sold for more would be the owner who comes out better than the other, but you’d be wrong.

That’s because the cost of a remodeled kitchen with a tiled backsplash and stainless appliances, remodeled bathrooms and new flooring greatly exceed the difference in values.

Back when the market was slow, it could have been harder to sell a house that hadn’t seen any big ticket updates like a new kitchen and/or baths.  That’s cause there were more houses for sale than there were buyers.  The problem is the opposite today.  There are more buyers than houses for sale, especially in the sub $200k range.

Sure, everybody loves a renovated house with all the trendy finishes.  Buyers will pay top dollar for that look, but for the person who wrote the check for the work, it is a little bit of a bummer because most of the time a seller is lucky to get half back in the increased value.  Great for the buyer.  Bad for the seller.

I had to tell a seller not too long ago that her house was worth about the same as she paid for it nearly 10 years ago.  On paper, you’d think that wasn’t possible.  She hasn’t done anything to the house other than enjoy living there.  Everything is nearly 10 years older now.  Sure, her house could potentially be worth another $15k, but she would have to spend over $20k to add that value.  She is actually coming out ahead by selling for about the same as she paid for verses getting a high sale price that lost money to achieve.

They don’t tell you all this stuff on HGTV.

The best bang for your buck on updates are paint, flooring and lighting.

The house I almost sold

It is like April of 2005.  I am sitting in a class to teach me how to be a realtor.  It’s all been common sense stuff so far.  I’m the only one who isn’t taking notes and who is wearing shorts.  I am also the only person in that class who is still a realtor.

The day I have been waiting for finally comes.  It’s the day they teach us how to do CMAs, which means Comparable Market Analysis, which means what a house is worth compared to what has sold in it’s neighborhood.

Figuring out value has always been fun for me.  I like the numbers.  I like the fortune telling aspect too.  I love it when I am right, which happens almost all the time.  The only time I don’t like it is when a seller thinks their house is worth more than I tell them.  Usually what happens there is that some other agent gets the listing and I watch them reduce it until it sells for what I had already told the seller.  It’s a hollow victory.

Back to that day.  A line I will always remember was said by the broker of that agency.  He said “If the comparable sale is superior, you subtract value.  If the comparable sale is inferior, you add value.”  Most of the people struggled with this since it is worded counter-intuitively.  Sort of like asking somebody “Is red NOT your favorite color” verses asking “Is red your favorite color.”

By the end of that day, everybody finally understood that if the house you are about to list is better than the comparable sale house, then you need to add value to what the comparable sale house sold for to know what your listing is gonna be worth.  There are assigned values for differences such as square footage, number of bathrooms, etc.  Some of it is subjective too, and that is where experience comes in handy.

And all of this leads me to the real topic of this blog post.  I almost sold a house last weekend.  I looked at the comparable sales in the area for my clients.  All the similar houses had sold for about $170-172k.  The list price on the house they wanted to buy was $172k.  Why did I suggest the value was about $165-168k then?  All of the comparable sale properties had flat and usable backyards.  The backyard for this house was flat for about 3 feet and then sloped steeply uphill.  It needed to be worth LESS than the other similar sized and equally finished houses in the neighborhood.

The seller got a higher offer than the one we submitted.  Good for him.  Bad for the buyer.  I am finding in this fast moving market that agents don’t seem to be doing as much leg work as they used to do.  I suspect that the buyer’s agent just looked quickly and saw that similar sized houses sold for $170-172k and thought it was okay to pay that much.  Looking at all the pictures would have helped.  The buyer is probably happy to have gotten the house, but if they need to sell in a Buyer’s Market, they will realize that buyers who have choices prefer not to have a sloped backyard.

Those same buyers of mine ended up with a move in ready house that has a perfectly flat and private backyard.  It will sell well in any market.

Bluegrass market update & fun with a calculator

I’ve always been a number person.  When I was a kid, my dad gave me a calculator.  I would make pretend budgets, figure out things like compound interest, and do things like type 77345 and flip the calculator upside down to see that I spelled ShELL.

So I guess I am not surprised that I get excited when my local real estate board publishes the statistical info once a month.

It is also nice to see if my own experience is echoing what is happening in the whole market.  It usually is.

For example, I hardly show any houses any more because there is so little for sale.  I used to be out 3-4 nights a week and ALL weekend just showing houses.  Now I may show 4-5 a week and have the same amount of buyer clients……on a busy week.  There just aren’t enough houses to show people, and buyers are making fast decisions because they don’t want to lose a good house while waiting for a great one.

In Fayette Co, sales from Jan 18- April 18 are down 11% from the same period in 2017.  Listing are down 9%.  You’d think a decrease in sales would be bad, but since listings are down by a similar number, it is still a super tight market, especially in the sub $200k range.

All the Bluegrass counties have a big decrease in listings.  Most have an equally big decrease in sales too.  Makes sense.  If there are fewer houses to buy, there will be fewer houses sold.  Unless you are in Scott, Madison or Jessamine Counties.  Those places are the only ones where sales have increased from this same time last year while listings have decreased.  I know, I know.  How can that be?  This is just my gut, but I think those counties had more on the market last year that just sat and didn’t sell.

I also feel like I am spending more time in surrounding counties than I have in a long time.  When I first got into this business, there were a lot of people moving to Jessamine Co in search of a cheaper house.  But then gas prices went crazy and nobody in Fayette County wanted to leave.  Now gas is fairly cheap and people have returned to moving outside of Fayette Co again.  Jessamine County has the tightest market under $180k.  There is literally next to nothing for sale there.

Just this past March, we had a net loss of 61 households in Fayette County.  Scott and Jessamine Counties were the only ones that saw much of a gain in new households.  Yep, Fayette County folks are back at it.

I still play with my calculator a lot.  Only now I’m using it to determine what a house is worth before listing it or making an offer.  Maybe with all this extra time I have from not showing houses every night, I can figure out some new words my calculator will spell?

It’s like the most boring baseball game ever

I have always said that first time buyers grease the real estate market.  Not that I’ve played much baseball since I was a kid, but I always pictured the market this way:  The bases are loaded with people who needed to buy and sell, then a first time buyer hits a home run and lets everybody else move.  Being the person who didn’t have anything to sell kept the market moving.

That wonderful analogy that I have been using my entire career doesn’t work any more.

First time buyers are struggling to get a house.  The person on first base can’t find their second base house, the second base person can’t find their third base house, etc.  They know selling their old house will be easy, but they dread the thought of being a buyer right now.  So they stay put….and that first time buyer keeps striking out.

Now that I think about it, being a realtor feels just like when I went on a 7th grade field trip to see the Reds play.  There was a lot of waiting for something to happen, and then a brief moment of excitement.  That is how the market is today.  A lot of waiting.  A lot of checking for new listings.  A lot of networking to find houses not on the market yet.  Then when a house that meets your buyer’s criteria hits the market, a lot of excitement.

Do this if you never want your house to sell

I showed a pretty nice house last night that is going to be very hard for the listing agent to sell.

It was one of the lower prices for a huge house on a gorgeous lot in a very desirable neighborhood.

You’d think that would be enough in any market, yet alone one starved for listings.

This is what it was like seeing the house.  You walk up to a freshly painted facade with recently mowed grass and fresh mulch.  You are feeling good about it.  You go inside.  The foyer is nice.  It is a little strange that you can’t see any rooms from the foyer, but not the end of the world.

You go towards the left and see the dining room.  Wall paper from the 90s.  You go into the kitchen next.  Red wall paper from the 90s.  You go into a really nice sunroom.  What do you see?  Murals painted on the walls.  You go back through all those rooms and then you enter the great room, which was super nice.  Then you see a bedroom.  Ok.  Then you see a bathroom that not only has wall paper, but wall paper boarders on the ceilings and top of the walls, as if they were making crown molding.  The shower curtain is heavy, like the dress Scarlett made in Gone with the Wind.  Then you enter the living room which is set up as an office and has way too much furniture in it.

Heading upstairs, you notice that all the bedrooms are painted a different color.  The basement is pretty normal.

The sellers furniture was nice, but they probably bought all of it when the house was new in the early 90s.  I am not bashing anybody’s stuff because my own house is probably the most boringly decorated house in the whole world, but I am not trying to sell it.  I would need to stage my own house if I were selling because my stuff would make my house feel as dated as this one did.  All of my furniture is stuff my parents gave me and that my wife and I put together from a box.  I’m just not into decorating……maybe that is why I can always see the house past the decor.

It sort of made me sad because I could picture the house vacant and with a coat of fresh paint.  It was nice.  Sure, the house would have still been a little outdated since it was about 25 years old, but it wasn’t terrible at all and typical for the neighborhood.

There was a stack of realtor cards on the table in the foyer.  That means all those people in addition to my buyers said “No” to this house.

What sellers never realize is that a buyer will walk through their entire house in about 20 minutes.  Having too much furniture in a room may suit the sellers needs, but it makes the rooms feel smaller to the buyer.  It is also hard to see the room past the furniture.  I always say that when you live in a house, the room exists to show off your decor.  When you are selling, the decor should show off the room.  Also, colors make a big difference.  A seller may be in one room of their house for a while and then go to another.  The buyer, when walking through the entire house, gets sensory overload if every room is drastically different.  A uniform color can also help when the house has a choppy floor plan too.

I am sure all the feedback on this listing has been that it needs too much work.  If this were my house, I would remove as much furniture as I could stand.  I would put a fresh coat of neutral paint everywhere.  People ask me all the time what is the biggest bang for the buck.  I always say fresh paint.  Nothing makes as big of an impact as fresh paint.

With all the wall paper gone, most of the dated furniture out, and a coat of fresh paint, the house would feel so much better.  The 25 year old finishes were neutral enough that buyers would find them acceptable in the absence of the 25 year old furniture and wall paper.

When I go to sell my current house, I am taking my own advice since my place is very similar to this one.