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How to Use Comparable Sales to Price Your Home

By: Carl Vogel

Before you put your home up for sale, understand how the right comparable sales help you and your agent find the perfect price.

How much can you sell your home for? Probably about as much as the neighbors got, as long as the neighbors sold their house in recent memory and their home was just like your home.

Knowing how much homes similar to yours, called comparable sales (or in real estate lingo, comps), sold for gives you the best idea of the current estimated value of your home. The trick is finding sales that closely match yours.

What makes a good comparable sale?

Your best comparable sale is the same model as your house in the same subdivision—and it closed escrow last week. If you can’t find that, here are other factors that count:

Location: The closer to your house the better, but don’t just use any comparable sale within a mile radius. A good comparable sale is a house in your neighborhood, your subdivision, on the same type of street as your house, and in your school district.

Home type: Try to find comparable sales that are like your home in style, construction material, square footage, number of bedrooms and baths, basement (having one and whether it’s finished), finishes, and yard size.

Amenities and upgrades: Is the kitchen new? Does the comparable sale house have full A/C? Is there crown molding, a deck, or a pool? Does your community have the same amenities (pool, workout room, walking trails, etc.) and homeowners association fees?

Date of sale: You may want to use a comparable sale from two years ago when the market was high, but that won’t fly. Most buyers use government-guaranteed mortgages, and those lending programs say comparable sales can be no older than 90 days.

Sales sweeteners: Did the comparable-sale sellers give the buyers downpayment assistance, closing costs, or a free television? You have to reduce the value of any comparable sale to account for any deal sweeteners.

Agents can help adjust price based on insider insights

Even if you live in a subdivision, your home will always be different from your neighbors’. Evaluating those differences—like the fact that your home has one more bedroom than the comparables or a basement office—is one of the ways real estate agents add value.

An active agent has been inside a lot of homes in your neighborhood and knows all sorts of details about comparable sales. She has read the comments the selling agent put into the MLS, seen the ugly wallpaper, and heard what other REALTORS®, lenders, closing agents, and appraisers said about the comparable sale.

More ways to pick a home listing price

If you’re still having trouble picking out a listing price for your home, look at the current competition. Ask your real estate agent to be honest about your home and the other homes on the market (and then listen to her without taking the criticism personally).

Next, put your comparable sales into two piles: more expensive and less expensive. What makes your home more valuable than the cheaper comparable sales and less valuable than the pricier comparable sales?

Are foreclosures and short sales comparables?

If one or more of your comparable sales was a foreclosed home or a short sale (a home that sold for less money than the owners owed on the mortgage), ask your real estate agent how to treat those comps.

A foreclosed home is usually in poor condition because owners who can’t pay their mortgage can’t afford to pay for upkeep. Your home is in great shape, so the foreclosure should be priced lower than your home.

Short sales are typically in good condition, although they are still distressed sales. The owners usually have to sell because they’re divorcing, or their employer is moving them to Kansas.

How much short sales are discounted from their market value varies among local markets. The average short-sale home in Omaha in recent years was discounted by 8.5%, according to a University of Nebraska at Omaha study. In suburban Washington, D.C., sellers typically discount short-sale homes by 3% to 5% to get them quickly sold, real estate agents report. In other markets, sellers price short sales the same as other homes in the neighborhood.

So you have to rely on your real estate agent’s knowledge of the local market to use a short sale as a comparable sale.

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How Do Rising Mortgage Rates Affect Your Home’s Value?

It’s no secret, mortgage interest rates are up three quarters of a percent since the election in November. I’ve been getting a lot of questions from home buyers and home sellers as to how this will impact their ability to buy a home and the value of the home they want to sell. These questions come on the heels of extended periods of low interest rates that hovered around 3.5% for portions of 2016. Everyone knew that interest rates could not and would not stay at historic lows forever but this sudden jump in roughly a month’s time has caused some worry.

The answer to these questions, I believe, are very area specific. If we look at the market in the Philadelphia area, we have been largely in a seller’s market for the last few years. This is due to low inventory and rising home prices north of 5% year over year growth. Homes have been flying off the shelves with most updated homes in desirable areas receiving multiple offers in the first weekend.

Are rising interest rates going to affect the current balance of the market and home prices? Let’s dive into it.

Home buyers are obviously affected by rising interest rates since it will impact their mortgage payments thus buying power. The real question is, are home buyers going to pay the same price for a home in 2017 as they would have in 2016 when rates were almost full percent lower? Yes. Due to the seller’s market we have been in, I don’t think rising interest rates will affect most of the area’s home values. Historically, there has been little correlation to interest rates and home values.

With that being said, there are definitely areas where inventory has been healthy that will see home values level off. The most susceptible areas are those where the taxes are high and demand has been balanced between sellers and buyers. Most economists are calling for home prices to continue to rise at least several percent in 2017 while factoring in higher rates. I think that is really going to be contingent on where interest rates end up once we get in to the spring market. If interest rates creep towards 5%, I think the conversation will change and seller’s may see a short term impact to their home’s value due to the lower buying power of those actively looking for a home. It’s a seller’s market for now but just like interest rates, it can’t stay the same forever.

Pay attention to the first few months of the year and monitor the sales in your local area to see where comps are coming in at. If you would like an in-depth market analysis of your home please contact me and I would be glad to help.

 

Address & Phone
Jeff Palmer
Jeff Palmer Realtor
721 Skippack Pike Suite 100
Blue Bell, 19422
(215) 962-3239
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Should I Rent or Sell My House?

By: Dona DeZube

When it comes to deciding whether you should rent or sell your house, are you worried you’ll make the wrong financial moves? Here’s how to make the right call.

When your current home no longer suits you, selling it is a popular option. But in some cases, turning it into a rental home might make more sense.

There are lots of factors to consider when making the “sell vs. rent my home” decision, including:

  • Your financial situation.
  • Local market conditions for rental homes.
  • Your future housing plans.
  • Your tolerance for being a landlord.
  • State and federal income taxes.
  • Current and projected home prices.

Other factors to consider include:

Is Your Move Permanent?

Going away for a few years and planning to come back to the area? It may be cheaper to rent your house and move back in when you return, rather than paying sales commissions to sell your current home and purchase of another one when you get back.

You’re Being Transferred, But You Are Likely Coming Back

Suppose you have owned and lived in your home for two or more years but are now being transferred to a different city temporarily, after which you plan to return. You can rent your home for up to three years without losing the chance to sell it with no capital gains tax. So long as you owned and lived in the house for two of the five years prior to the sale, any capital gain on the sale can generally be excluded.

Therefore, by turning your home into a rental, you keep the option to move back in when you return, or sell it and avoid paying capital gains tax on any gain you might have.

Can You Rent Your Home for Enough to Cover the Mortgage Payment and Expenses?

If you can, keeping your house can be a smart way to help fund your retirement. Each month your tenants pay rent. You likely won’t pay tax on that income if you have enough expenses to offset it (like mortgage interest and repair costs).

When you finish paying off your mortgage or once you retire, you can sell the house and convert your equity into a lump sum, or continue renting it and collecting income during your retirement.

Do You Need More Tax Deductions?

When you rent your home instead of selling, you get to depreciate it for tax purposes. In most cases, you divide the amount you paid for the house, plus the cost of major improvements (less the value of the land) by 27.5 (that’s how many years the tax law says a house must be depreciated) to arrive at your annual depreciation.

For example, if you paid $100,000 for the house, and the portion allocated to the land is $20,000, you get to deduct $2,909 in depreciation annually ($80,000/27.5). Along with this, you can deduct other expenses, such as property taxes, repairs, and community association fees.

You Think Home Prices Are Going to Rise Over the Next Five Years

Even if your rental income doesn’t cover all your expenses (mortgage, property taxes, repairs, etc.), you might make up that loss if your home’s value rises before you sell it.

Say your home is worth $100,000 today and your expenses are $1,000 a year more than the rent you can collect. Over 10 years, you’ll lose $10,000 ($1,000 x 10 years), but if your home sale nets you more than $110,000, you’ll make money despite those annual losses. Your annual losses might be tax deductible, saving you money on your tax bill.

What’s Your Home’s Condition?

Renters, more so than buyers, can be willing to overlook outdated home fixtures because renters know they’re just passing through your home, not owning it.

If you don’t have the money to invest in improvements and your home’s fixtures scream 1970s (and not in a good, retro chic way), renting may be the better choice.

You Need the Profit From Selling Your Home to Fund Your Move-Up Home

If you need a different home and must sell your current home so you can use the equity as a downpayment, you might want to sell your home vs. renting it.

If you don’t need all the equity in your home for your downpayment, you might be able to take out a home equity loan or refinance into an investor loan and use the loan proceeds as your downpayment, and still make your home a rental.

You Freak Out About Condition and Panic Over Repairs

When someone lives in your home, they can scuff the walls, burn the countertops, and forget to water your prized shrubberies. If you can’t live with that wear and tear, sell rather than rent your home.

Becoming a landlord usually means you still have to maintain your house. You’ll get the bills when the plumbing springs a leak or the refrigerator dies. If making DIY repairs is beyond you and paying for upkeep is going to cause you to panic, opt to sell your house vs. renting it to save your sanity. You can save many of these headaches by using a property manager, but this, of course, will cost you.

Can You Evict a Tenant Who Fails to Pay?

If you wouldn’t have the heart to force out a renter who didn’t pay, you shouldn’t become a landlord — or if you do become a landlord, plan to have a pro manage your property.

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Here’s Why You Should Totally Snoop When House Hunting

By: Jamie Wiebe

This house-hunting checklist gives you carte blanche (well, almost) when viewing potential homes.

Ah, house hunting. It may technically be shopping, but it can feel more like breaking and entering. Even though you know the seller wants you there, does anyone really want you traipsing through their bedroom? Or looking through their closet? Or digging around in their basement? Awwwwkward.

But here’s something that should feel weirder: buying a home without knowing absolutely everything you can about it. The only way to avoid the second awkwardness is to face the first head on. When you’re house hunting, don’t think of poking around in someone else’s home as nosiness. It’s a smart, must-do investigation.

Here are six things you should absolutely do when viewing a home — no matter how awkward it feels.

1. Soak in the Bathroom

Homebuyers tend to peer into the bathroom for as long as they’d want a stranger to examine theirs: not long at all. But this isn’t the time to be quick. Josh Myler, a REALTOR® with The Agency in Los Angeles, encourages buyers to take a long, close perusal of the water closet.

Flush the toilet to find any backups in the system, and turn on the faucets to check the water pressure. Besides being annoying during showers, low pressure can indicate problems with the plumbing.

“Water pressure can really cause headaches down the line if you don’t dig in before you make an offer,” says Myler.

But always, always check with your agent first. In some markets, or with some sellers, it’s considered impolite to actually use the toilet.

Or, if the owners already have moved, the water may be turned off. And that could be, ummm, awkward.

2. Dig Around in the Closets

OK, don’t actually go through the owner’s stuff, but take a close look to assess how muchstorage space there is, and decide if it’ll meet your needs.

“People don’t like to open closets because they think it’s rude, but if you’re buying the house, it’s one of the biggest investments,” says Myler. “You want to make sure there’s enough room for everything you need.”

Before you step foot in a single house, take inventory of your current storage space, and know how much you’d like your next home to have.

3. Poke Around the Attic and Basement

Don’t just stick your head inside and call it good. Give the basement and attic a thorough investigation. If there are belongings piled against the wall, request they be moved before a second viewing.

“I get very nervous when I see a packed basement and stuff against the wall,” says Kyle Alfriend, lead agent of The Alfriend Group in Dublin, Ohio.

That’s because hidden walls and ceilings can conceal water damage, including peeling or discolored paint, rotting wooden accents, or a white, chalky substance on the wall, which indicates water intrusion.

As for the attic, a quick glance should tell you what you need to know. Are there rat droppings? Molding wood? Or is it generally clean, even if dusty? BYO flashlight for an enlightened examination.

4. Meet the Neighbors

Sorry, introverts. There’s no better way to get a read on the neighborhood than by directly asking the actual neighbors. Pop by their home and strike up a chat.

It’s a two-fer: Not only might you get valuable information about the area — from the noisy bar on the street behind you to eager babysitters on the block — but paying attention to their attitude speaks volumes about your potential relationship with your maybe-neighbors. Do they seem excited to meet you? Or are they standoffish?

“It’s not what they answer, but how they answer that will be very illuminating,” says Myler.

5. Be an Amateur Investigator

Anything seem fishy? Take your suspicions to city hall. If there are additions, pull the permits or get help from your buyer’s agent. You certainly don’t want to be responsible for tearing out that beautiful porch because the previous owners didn’t comply with the law.

Also, check the certificate of occupancy and any easements — especially if you’re hoping to make any major changes. Both are public record. An easement simply gives someone the right to use property they don’t own. Often that other someone is your local government that needs it for public services, such as water.

Myler remembers a friend who purchased a home with the goal of building a pool, only to find out an easement for the sewer line cut directly through the middle of the yard.

Another common use is a shared driveway, such as when one homeowner has to pass through another homeowner’s property to reach their home.

6. Ask Questions

If your sleuthing finds something concerning, don’t panic.

“Many times, there’s stuff that, at first glance, is real scary,” says Alfriend. “Often people will write off a house without digging into it, but there’s usually a perfectly logical, understandable reason, and it’s not a problem.”

Say you find a gaping hole in the drywall. It might be a huge red flag — or they might have rambunctious kids they absolutely plan to clean up after.

“Boys can wrestle and put a foot through the thing, and it’s 30 minutes before a showing,” Alfriend says. There’s not much the sellers can do at that point.

With any problem, your first step is simple: Ask.

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Don’t Be One of Those Homeowners Who Goes Over Budget on a Remodel

By: Alaina Tweddale

‘Home renovations on a budget’ isn’t an oxymoron. It can be done with these 5 tips.

When Kelly Whalen demolished her built-in bookshelves as part of a living room DIY, she found it gave the room some much-needed space. Unfortunately, she also found a hidden subfloor made from asbestos(!) tiles. She hadn’t budgeted for a new subfloor — or for the removal of a toxic substance. Yikes.

And there were more surprises. “When we pulled up the tiling, we found we also had to pull out two layers of wall paneling just to get to the edges of the room,” says the Exton, Penn., native. The paneling fix led to a need for new insulation and drywall. What started as a small project quickly ballooned — and so did Whalen’s expenses.

Almost four out of 10 homeowners go over budget when doing a remodel, according to a 2014 report from home improvement site Houzz. Another stat that’ll make you think: Only one in five comes in under budget. Protect your bottom line with these five tips:

1. Reconsider DIY

DIY is cheaper, right? Not necessarily, says Philadelphia-based interior architecture and design expert Glenna Stone. Depending on the project, amateurs beware.

“If you don’t have the expertise, you could end up paying between 10% and 40% more,” Stone says.

Why? While your DIY labor is technically free, your lack of know-how can be costly.

And then there’s hiring and scheduling. A task like moving a wall could mean hiring an engineer and an architect, not to mention coordinating permits. A general contractor knows who’ll do the best work for the best price, and they’ll know when to schedule them to avoid wasting dollars on inefficient use of time.

“If the plumber comes out before you’re ready for him, they’ll charge you for that visit, and then to come out again,” says Stone.

Finally, a contractor is more likely to get it right the first time. There’s nothing like having to buy stuff twice because you messed up. Stone recommends hiring a general contractor for most medium- to large-scale jobs.

Takeaway: Don’t DIY unless you really know what you’re doing. Mistakes cost more than hiring a pro the first time.

2. Hire the Right Experts

If you decide to forgo the general contractor route and hire individual workers yourself, it’s best to get at least three quotes for each service performed. Talking to professionals isn’t just about finding the most competitive price. It’s also an opportunity to figure out what services each individual contractor includes within his fee.

In fact, the least expensive contractor may be a warning sign for inferior construction quality or subpar building materials. A bid worth reviewing should include a line item for every charge.

“‘Everything’ means every detail, from [the] exact kind of sink fixture to brand of roof shingles,” says Dean Bennett, president of Dean Bennett Design and Construction in Castle Rock, Colo. Even the color of the outlets in each room should be included in the bid, he adds.

Takeaway: The more detail that’s in the bid, the more likely you’ll come in on budget.

3. Map Out the Project Step by Step (So You Don’t Miss Anything)

So, you’re planning to put up a backsplash. What do you need to put into your budget? The tile and adhesive, right? And that’s about it?

Try again. Big project or small, the more detailed your plan, the better prepared you’ll be for both the expected and unexpected costs that can (more like will) arise.

When estimating the cost of your project, consider the large expenses, like that tile and adhesive, but also remember the little items like sales tax, delivery charges, shipping charges, the float, caulking, cleaning materials, and more. For bigger projects, you’ll need to estimate engineering costs, interest costs, permit fees, and sewer and water tap fees, says Bennett. The more you can plan to expect, the better.

Takeaway: Don’t forget the “small” costs. Like pennies, they might not seem like much at first, but they sure do add up.

4. Know Where You’re Willing to Cut Corners — and Where You’re Going to Invest

Before setting a project budget, consider what features are most important to you. When it comes to allocating funds, ancillary desires should take second place to your overall project goals.

If, for example, your primary goal is to expand your cabinet space, how vital are custom cabinets or high-end finishes to that goal? “If you’re … OK with using stock sizes, you can save about 20% to 30% on your budget,” says Stone. So if your bottom line is to increase kitchen storage space, stay on budget by sticking with stock cabinets instead of paying more for custom.

On the flip side, if your goal is to gain more glam than storage space, custom cabinets may be where you want to splurge.

Takeaway: Let your goals drive your budget decisions.

5. Pad Your Budget

“For any large renovation, you have to plan for the unexpected,” says Stone. You could open a wall and find electrical work needs to be done. You could find that your chosen tile is on back order and your second choice comes at a higher cost. Stone suggests building a 10% buffer into the budget. Some experts suggest more — up to 25% for those with older homes. According to Stone, that cash cushion is used more often than not.

When the unexpected does arise, it can pay to keep a level head. “Even if you feel pressed for time, give yourself at least 24 hours to make an unexpected decision,” says Stone. When people are reaching their threshold for how long and to what degree they’ve had their house torn apart, “they rush into a decision,” she says. “They regret it almost 100% of the time.”

Takeaway: Pad your budget for the unexpected — and don’t rush decisions.