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Judy Reed

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Here are some strategies you can use to get offers fast.

The theory of under-pricing

Under-pricing means that you go to market with a list price that is just below what the comparable sales in your area support.

You can’t pinpoint the exact market value of a home until it sells. But before you list, there’s always a range. If you price your house at or below the bottom of the value range, you are under-pricing the home.

In many West Coast markets this strategy will work effectively. Take this San Francisco home, for example: priced at $1.1 million, it received 10 offers and sold for $1.425 million in less than a week.

Risk alert: If you price your home low, this plan could backfire — big time. If you don’t know your market and this strategy doesn’t work, you’d better be ready to accept that list price.

Staging and market presentation

Well-priced homes that also show well sell quickly. If you want a quick sale, you need to invest some serious time in getting the house ready.

Prepping the home means taking out large pieces of furniture and personal items, painting, replacing carpets, finishing floors and even doing some minor renovations.

Enlist the help of a home stager and take their advice, and you can be assured a quicker sale. The investment of time and money will pay itself back.

Risk alert: If you go overboard on staging or you don’t spend the time and money in the right places, it could be a waste. Don’t make staging decisions in a vacuum. Focus on kitchens and bathrooms, de-cluttering and cleaning. When in doubt, ask for help.

Disclose and inspect upfront

In most of the country, sellers complete real estate transfer disclosures and present them to the buyer, and the buyer simultaneously inspects the home — all once they are in escrow.

What often happens is that buyers discover things they don’t like, or uncover issues. When this happens, they may lose confidence in the home or the deal.

By presenting disclosures upfront, and even providing buyers with a copy of a recent inspection report, you can help them get more comfortable with the home. If you price the home to account for whatever work needs to be completed or for disclosure red flags, buyers will feel more confident, and may make an offer much more quickly.

Risk alert: There is little risk in disclosing and inspecting. If you try to hide something and the buyer discovers it later, you can expect the deal to fall apart — or maybe even face a lawsuit down the road.

Selling your home is a major undertaking. Spend time strategizing and preparing the home for the market. Pricing, staging, presentation and disclosure go hand in hand. If you want a quick sale, price it right, present it in its best possible light, and go out of your way to make buyers feel comfortable with all aspects of the home.

4 Reasons to Buy a Home This Spring

by Judy Reed

The home buying season is about to get under way, and it’s expected to be a busy one. Here are four factors that are likely to influence buyers.

Low mortgage rates

Everyone knows that the low-rate party is coming to end. Zillow is forecasting that mortgage rates – currently around 4 percent for the 30-year fixed – will rise to 5 percent by the end of 2015.

Granted, a 1-percent rise may not sound like much, but it’s a great motivator to get in and buy now. After all, a 1-percent increase in rates reduces affordability by a whopping 11 percent.

Confidence

Zillow’s Housing Confidence Index (ZHCI), which is designed to offer insights into homeowners’ and renters’ intentions and attitudes concerning the housing market, is a forward-looking gauge of housing market health. And things are looking up.

Confidence in the housing market is higher this year than it was last year — among homeowners as well as renters, many of whom are now rethinking their attitudes toward home ownership and are ultimately becoming more interested in buying.

High rents

Rental affordability is as bad as it’s ever been across the U.S., in part because there are not enough new, affordable units to meet demand. Renters can expect to spend 30.1 percent of their income on rent, while home buyers can expect to spend about 15.3 percent of their monthly income on a mortgage payment.

Those numbers alone are driving renters who can save for a down payment to pursue homeownership. In fact, data from Zillow shows that 5.2 million renters want to buy in the next year. That’s up from 4.2 million renters from the same time last year — almost a 25-percent boost.

Loan availability

Getting a mortgage is significantly easier than it was a year ago, and the markets are rapidly approaching pre-crisis credit conditions.

What this means to borrowers: Those who last year may have only been eligible for an FHA loan are now being offered conventional loans with private mortgage insurance. As lenders open their doors wider, borrowers have more options, with competitive terms and rates.

First-Time Home Buyer's Guide to Choosing a Neighborhood

by Judy Reed


When you’re ready to buy your first home, you’ll probably remember those three important words we always hear about real estate: location, location, location.

While the geographic location is important, it’s also the amenities around the location that make a house a home. Every buyer is different in what they desire, so you need to find a neighborhood with the location and amenities that fit your desires — and, just as importantly, your budget.

Affordability

Location is one factor that will heavily influence the price of a property. You don’t want to shop in locations you can’t afford — even though it might be fun.

The first task in your home purchase process is getting pre-approved by a bank or mortgage lender so you understand the ballpark within which you will be playing ball. Inform your real estate agent about your price range so they can identify the locations where you can afford to purchase.

Neighborhood type

You also need to figure out what works for you when it comes to the type of location you like: urban, suburban, or rural. Many people live in and love high-density areas where retail, restaurants, gyms, and grocery stores are all within a few blocks’ walk. It’s nice to be able to walk to everything — but with that comes lots of cars, people and sometimes noisy neighbors.

Other home buyers prefer quieter suburban developments that are probably going to require driving for one’s commercial and entertainment needs.

Then there are rural folks who want full quiet and no nearby neighbors. Make sure before you shop that you are shopping in the right type of area for you.

School district

Schools also make a big difference for many buyers, and a buyer will certainly pay for the best school district. School quality is one of the top items on a parent’s mind when looking for property. You can search the Internet for school ratings and check with the city or county for more information.

Of course, if you don’t have children, it’s not as big a deal.

What’s next door — or could be

You should also always consider what is next door to the property you buy. Will you be living among lots of single-family houses, or big apartment buildings?

It’s also important to know if there are currently or once were gas stations or chemical plants nearby. Drive around and look, plus check Natural Hazard Reports to see what is or was in the area.

Additionally, be cautious about empty developable lots or empty retail/warehouse properties nearby, as you never know what might end up being built there.

It’s also smart to understand the zoning on your property, as it might let the single family home next door be torn down and developed into a 4-plex rental property. That might or might not be okay with you, but you should be aware if it’s a possibility.

Holdability

One more important item to consider regarding location is your chances of owning the property a long time. If you are not sure you’ll  be happy staying a while, you’re better off passing on buying for the time being.

Considering all these issues — as opposed to making a quick purchase decision based on what your heart is telling you — should help you buy a home that is a good fit, will serve you well, and will be a good investment for your future.

condominium building

A condo can offer a good location at a less expensive price. 

Photo by Brian Weiss

Buying a home is one of the biggest and most important decisions you’ll ever make. Whether you are a first-time buyer, or a veteran homeowner looking to trade up or make a new start, you will inevitably be faced with a number of questions. Your answers will lead you to the home that’s right for you.
One of the most fundamental questions all homeowners face is whether to buy a condo or single family house. There are advantages and disadvantages of each and only you can know what’s right for you.
For Boston newlyweds Michelle and Kevin Millsom, 31 and 36, it was an easy decision. With high-powered financial careers and no children, they were drawn to the excitement of the city and wanted their fingers on the pulse. They bought a penthouse apartment with a breathtaking view of Boston’s famous esplanade and Charles River.
“We enjoy everything the city has to offer—the restaurants, theatre, outdoor concerts. We walk everywhere and find the easy access to the airport to be a plus since we travel frequently for work,” said Kevin. “When we have children, we may think about a house in the suburbs, but for now this is where we want to be.”
 
Like all things, living in the heart of the city comes with tradeoffs. For the price of their two-bedroom/two-bath condo, they could buy a home three times the size, just a short 20-minute commute away. They share decision-making for their building with fourteen other tenants and pay pricey condo fees to cover the costs of insurance and upkeep. Their car sits idle most of the time in a $300 per month rented parking spot only to leave for short jaunts to the grocery store or visits to see family. But for Kevin and Michelle who want to spend their spare time out and about, the location and convenience can’t be beat.
On the other hand, Adriana Forte, 62, lives in a condo in the Boston suburb of Arlington and misses all that a single-family home has to offer. Six years ago, after her divorce, she bought a “condex,” (a two-family home with a shared wall) with the belief that managing a home would be too much for her alone. But it turned out to be the wrong decision for her. Now, she is desperately seeking a single-family house to call her own.
“It’s difficult to live with neighbors so close,” Forte said. “First there was the noise. My neighbors are night people, and every night they are just getting geared up when I’m trying to sleep. Then I found myself handling 100 percent of the finances and maintenance of the duplex—without compensation. I may as well be living in my own house!” Forte also misses the fresh air and private outdoor space. For her, maintaining a home and garden is pure enjoyment. The privacy is what she misses most.
What is most important to you? Give consideration to the following:
  • Location – Where do you want to be? Are there options for both condos and single-family houses in this area?
  • Privacy – Is it important to you to have complete privacy or do you find close neighbors to be a comfort?
  • Responsibility – Do you need total control over decisions affecting your home or are you attracted to the idea of sharing decision-making with your neighbors?
  • Maintenance – Are you a homebody who enjoys getting dirty in the yard or are you delighted with the idea of never having to cut a blade of grass again?
  • Budget – How much do you have to spend? Depending on where you want to live, a condo may be the only option that meets your budget.
These considerations and others will help you determine the best choice for you now. And just remember, if your interests and priorities change in the years ahead, you can always sell your home and make a move, this time with experience as your guide.

How Does the Color of Your Home Affect Buyers?

by Judy Reed

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It’s no secret that color is crucial when marketing a product. In fact, consumers come to a subconscious conclusion about a product within 90 seconds of viewing, and much of that judgment (62-90 percent) is based solely on color, according to the Institute for Color Research. Retailers apply these findings every day (think red sale signs) to encourage consumers to purchase their products. Can the same be said in real estate?
 

Consider this: If color influences product marketing strategies, the color of a home can be a decisive factor when selling.


“Your home’s exterior color is literally the first thing a buyer will see and comment on,” says Suzanne Otto, home stager and owner of Six Twenty Designs in Montgomery County, Pa. When preparing a home for the market, Otto recommends shades within the white, tan or gray color families. These colors resonate beyond pure aesthetics – according to e-commerce giant eBay, white indicates safety. For a homebuyer, a home with a white exterior can translate to concepts like “shelter” or “safe haven.”


Similarly, understated browns (including the aforementioned tan) signal security. Homes painted in sandy or mushroom hues read comfort and warmth. Colors like taupe, which falls somewhere between brown and gray, call to mind traditional values, homeownership included. Earthy tones like laurel green or artichoke can not only highlight a verdant landscape, but also evoke a sense of tranquility.
 

Per eBay’s assessment, blue is ideal to move product because it transcends culture. Homes outfitted with a dusty blue or blue-gray exterior may not bridge the gap between your everyday seller and an international homebuyer, but a universally regarded color can help widen the net for buyers on the home front.
 

If red signs boost retail sales, it seems likely a red home would be ideal for a speedy sale. Not necessarily – red in small doses, such as sale stickers or tags, encourages action. Red on a grander scale can cause adverse reactions. An alizarin crimson door, for instance, might be well-received by buyers, but a house in the same shade could potentially limit offers.
 

Homes in other colors can sell successfully – our retinas tend to register yellow before any other color, so a buttery yellow exterior could be an attractive option for buyers – but non-traditional colors, like oranges and purples, appeal to very specific personalities and can significantly shrink the pool of interested buyers.

It’s important for sellers to consider the home in relation to the neighborhood before swapping out the exterior color or refreshing an existing paint job. Do nearby homes share a distinct color scheme? Is each home uniquely colored? Evaluating the home’s surroundings can help sellers determine what’s most popular in their market.

 
 

5 Credit Habits to Break in 2015

by Judy Reed


Ready to win your financial resolutions? Find out how to succeed in 2015.

If you’re identifying 2015 — or even 2016 — as the year you make a major housing change, you’ll want to confirm that your credit behaviors are at their best. Buying a house is probably the biggest expense most of us ever take on in life. Your credit plays an important role in affording you access to the best terms available from your lender.

If credit is on your list of things to improve next year, there are many options to tune up the ways you think about and interact with your credit. Knowing the smart solutions to improve your credit habits can take you far in the new year — especially with a big purchase ahead.

1. Being disconnected 

Habit to break: Not checking your credit report

Resolution to make: Check your credit report regularly to know where your credit stands, and to make sure you’re prepared when it comes time to buy a home. Consider your credit report the road map to all your credit behaviors: It’s important to know how your report will look to lenders and others when they see it for the first time.

2. Overspending

Habit to break: Running up or maxing out your credit cards

Resolution to make: To show others you’re using credit responsibly, keep your spending under control and in accordance with the budget you’ve set. Keeping tabs on your spending now will also help you benchmark how changes to your budgeting will affect how you spend after your home purchase.

3. Managing balances

Habit to break: Just paying the minimum balances due on your accounts

Resolution to make: Bring down the balances you’re carrying by upping your payment amounts above the minimum — this can also save you interest over the long term. You’ll want to keep that extra money in your pocket (and hopefully earning some interest) while you look for that dream property.

4. Seeking too much 

Habit to break: Applying for credit indiscriminately

Resolution to make: Seek out and accept new credit sparingly, so your credit-utilization rate won’t be seen as too high when applying for credit during your home-buying process. Lenders can be wary of applicants they feel might be trying to amass excessive credit and overspend.

5. Getting behind 

Habit to break: Making late payments on your accounts

Resolution to make: Stay on top of your accounts to keep all your payments on time, every month — it’s even more important in the months you’re considering a big purchase like a home. It may be the most basic but most important way to show you’re consistently being responsible with your credit obligations.

Challenging yourself by making it your New Year’s resolution allows you to take advantage of the months before your new home search begins to kick bad credit habits to the curb for good. You’ll want the peace of mind of knowing that when you discover that perfect listing, your credit is already in tiptop shape.

 

324 Vespasian Cir Chesapeake, VA 23322

by Judy Reed

 

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Should I Buy a Home Now?

by Judy Reed

I'm often asked if this is a good time to buy a home. Some clients are concerned that home prices may fall further than they have already. They are assuming that the best course of action is to wait for the bottom in the market and then buy. The problem with this approach is that you don't know where the bottom is until you see it in the rear view mirror, meaning until you've missed it!

Home prices are one factor in determining your cost of ownership, but so are interest rates and financing availability. Even though interest rates have gone up in the last six months, they are still near historic lows. Since your monthly mortgage payment is a combination of paying down your principal and paying the interest owed, if home prices come down a little further but interest rates go up, it could cost you even more to service a mortgage on an identical home!

While a home is a major investment, it is also the center of your personal life. It's important to live in a home that reflects your taste and values, yet is within your financial "comfort zone." To that end, it may be more important to lock in today's relatively low interest rates and low home prices, rather than to hope for a further break in prices in the future.

Please give me a call if I can be of any assistance in determining how much home you can afford in today's market.

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