Real Estate Blog
This is my real estate blog. From time ot time as the mood and inspiration hit me,
I will add pithy articles here in random order. Nothing here political or too opinionated.
I encourage you to react and respond to any of these. Interaction is encouraged!
“As Is” for seller's convenience and Realtor's responsibility.
By Gerald Jacobs, Broker
My friend Al listed his house with me and told me he didn't want to fix anything, he wanted to sell it "as is". This was a short sale and Al didn't have any money to spend on a house that he was getting nothing for in return. He felt like he was losing enough anyway and that the new buyer should fix stuff. "After all," said Al "he's going to be getting a great deal anyway!" That is in the eye of the beholder. Even if my friend paid a great deal more than what we were able to sell the house for, today’s market value is what it is worth now. Even though it is a short sale, the bank on the hook is not going to give it away. They may not be the technical seller, but it is their money that is at stake here. Like anybody else that’s selling, they want to get top dollar.
In this era of short sales and foreclosure properties this has become all too common a scenario. The “as is” condition is a trend that started a few years ago. It was almost unheard of prior to that. I don’t know if this has become a national trend or is something that is confined to our area only. It even requires a different contract. One that is specific for “as is” sales. The thing that I find disturbing is that it has become normal even with non distressed home sales. I’m talking about homes that families own and are selling and are not in trouble with their home loan. They make up the bulk of our sales and they have been caught up in this ”as is” nonsense. Short sales and foreclosure sales make up less than 20% of all the homes that are out there in our area. That means that 80% of the homes listed for sale are your everyday traditional home sales, families selling to other families.
Looking back at this trend, I think what has happened is this. “As is” started with the REO or foreclosed home sales. The banks that marketed them refused to fix anything on the properties. Take it or leave it was the rule of the day. Of course one of the big consequences of that was the homes for the most part were attractive to only cash buyers. You could not get a home loan for many of them. That contributed to the declining prices. Investors were not going to pay top dollar for houses that they knew could not qualify for home loans. They were not competing with owner occupants. They were only competing with other investors, a much smaller pool of competition. Not only that but they knew that they could not resell the house without pouring money into it first.
Many times the reason that a house wouldn’t qualify for a home loan was minor. Something as simple as a damaged water heater would cause a house to fail an appraisal. The big banks for the most part were too short sighted or just plain dumb to figure this out. It cost the big banks thousands of dollars and damaged home prices in our neighborhoods more than they should, another black eye for banks. Once again the responsible homeowners get the shaft.
That is how the “as is” sale began. Another condition of this not so perfect storm was the influx of many new Realtors that started out being conditioned to “as is” sales and didn’t know anything else. There is a great deal of turnover in the real estate business. It’s a difficult business to earn a living doing. Unfortunately there is also a lack of training at many brokerages. New Realtors often learn from other Realtors that don’t know much more than they do. So now we find that “as is” is the new normal. We now also see the addition to “as is for seller’s convenience.” Huh? Sellers convenience? What planet are these people from? Talk about lack of training. How about adding lack of common sense to that as well? Where I come from sellers are expected to be convenient for the buyers, not the other way around. Can you imagine going to your favorite grocery store and finding all the produce in the boxes and the grocer telling you that it’s that way for the seller’s convenience? Even Aldi gives the customer better attention than that. Enter the seasoned Realtor. What an advantage! "Dear Mr and Mrs. Seller, please make sure that you do everything within your power to attract the best buyers to your house. Make it not only convenient for them to buy from you, but go out of your way to make it as appealing as you can. You will not only get more qualified traffic through your front door, but you’ll get much better offers. You will out compete all those shabby houses that are unable to keep up with you for the best buyers."
So now here’s what we already know; “as is” doesn’t always really mean as is for the buyer. If you need a home loan and the home doesn’t qualify for a loan from your bank “as is” means as isn’t for you. We also know that you are the buyer. If it isn’t convenient for you to purchase, go elsewhere where they appreciate your money. You as a seller want to get top dollar for your property. Would you expect to get that if you are not offering the best there is to buy of all the choices that buyers are seeing in the marketplace? So what if it is a seller’s market. People want to buy from people who take pride in what they are selling. They will settle for less if there’s no choice. When you offer a better choice, you will be chosen first.
The Lowdown on Foreclosures
By Gerald Jacobs, Broker
When I tell friends that we need to get more foreclosed homes on the market they sometimes look at me askance and ask, “You want more families kicked out of their homes? Why would you want that?” At first I thought I wasn’t making myself clear, I then realized that was only part of the problem. My listener didn’t have enough understanding about foreclosures to know what I’m talking about. The home foreclosure disaster has been going on for so long that you hear all sorts of tales about what happened to whom and impossible stories of salvation or destruction that it’s sometimes difficult to know what is the truth. The more we chatted the more I found myself explaining not only the foreclosure market but the real estate market in general. Foreclosures, known by banks as REOs, which stands for “real estate owned,” make up only a portion of our real estate market. Some of the other elements are “short sale homes” and “non-distressed homes”. These are what we ordinarily think of when we think of “homes for sale.” Each makes up a portion of the homes that are for sale in our community.
We keep hearing reports that there are tens of thousands of foreclosures “out there”. That’s true enough, but many of them are not for sale. The banks already own them but for mysterious reasons are not selling them. In fact, in the Tampa Bay area about 10% of all the homes, townhomes, villas, condos and mobile homes are REO,s.
As for kicking families out of their homes, if a home is already a bank owned REO foreclosure ( got all that?) nobody is living there anyway. They’re done. If folks are still living there they have not been foreclosed on yet. Foreclosure is completed once the property is auctioned off by the Clerk of the Circuit Court. What we have here is a situation where the banks are not hiring Realtors to market their REO properties for them. They are melting in the yard in our Florida sunshine, getting moldy and sometimes vandalized. Does anyone think this makes any sense? Once they get into that condition, families are not able or willing to buy them to live in. Even with great credit their lender will not give them a mortgage because the house doesn’t qualify.
We really need more move in ready homes on the market for families to purchase and move into and get on with life. There are not enough homes for sale to go around right now.
What Are They Talking About?
By Gerald Jacobs, Broker
All businesses have their own jargon and the real estate business is an active player in the jargon game. It’s important to understand the lingo when you are getting ready to go into debt on a home for the next 30 years. Considering that you generally do that only a few times in your life, you might want to know what the heck we’re talking about when we say things like “listings and inventory.”
When you hire a Realtor to sell your home, it has been “listed” for sale. Likely it will be put into the Realtor’s Multiple Listing Service database. Having it listed there exposes your property to every working Realtor that subscribes to the MLS. Our MLS database is used by all realtors from coast to coast in central Florida. It stretches north through Hernando County and South past Sarasota County. That’s a lot of marketing exposure. In our immediate three county area of Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties that means over 15,000 Realtors working for you to sell your house. That’s a lot of fire power. The Realtor that has listed your home shares a portion of the professional fees that you have already agreed to with the other agent who brings a buyer to you and sees the transaction through to closing.
Realtors also have a category of house for sale where you find the DIY types. These are the For Sale By Owner crowd. They are known as FSBOs, pronounced Fizzbows. We have been seeing less of these in the last few years. I would venture to guess that will change considering the low inventory of listings we have today.
Once your house is “listed” it becomes part of the “inventory.” Yes, your home has become a product. It is our stock in trade. We often refer to the inventory by the different categories in which we classify it. Normally when we are talking about homes on the market, we mean active listings that can be purchased. We do not include the pending ones in that part of the inventory. A home that can still be purchased is an “active” listing. Once there is an accepted offer to purchase it by a qualified buyer it becomes under contract or “pending.” It means the same thing. Now it goes through the closing process. When that becomes complete and it closes, it becomes a “sold”. Solds are important to you and us when we evaluate what your house could sell for in today’s market. Similar homes in similar neighborhoods sell for similar prices. If you just put a new roof on or remodeled your kitchen or have gold nails in the walls, it does not add value. It may help it to sell quicker but that’s it.
I want to sell my house . . . Should I get it appraised?
By Gerald Jacobs, Broker
Don’t waste your money! Once you get a homebuyer for your property, their bank will order another appraisal. The buyer will pay for it. The bank will not accept yours. That’s how the system works.
An appraisal is only an opinion. By definition it is “An opinion of value.” Of course it comes from a trained professional appraiser, which makes it credible. If you ask several different appraisers, you may well get several different values. Remember, it’s a professional opinion only.
The way the lending industry currently works is like this; the bank that is giving the home loan is randomly given a qualified appraiser to evaluate the home that is being purchased. The bank can no longer pick their appraiser. It is given to them from a pool of appraisers. The biggest issue that I have seen with this rather recent practice is we frequently get appraisers assigned to evaluate homes a long way from their home. They may be qualified, but often they are not experts. You may be buying or selling a house in Oldsmar, but the appraiser comes from Lakeland or Sarasota. He or she does not know our neighborhoods well at all. The biggest impact this is having is putting a damper on values. We see all kinds of evidence that prices are being restrained by poor appraisals. This problem is caused by onerous banking regulation.
Getting back to the question of getting your house appraised in order to price it properly prior to putting it on the market. Here’s what banks often do with their foreclosed homes prior to putting it on the market. They call several Realtors and order a “Broker’s Price Opinion” or BPO. This can be compared to an “appraisal lite.” Realtors don’t really do appraisals, but we do give opinions! Go figure. It’s cheaper, plus we’re the neighborhood specialists. Banks want to get value opinions from professionals that have the knowledge. When we do the same thing for homeowners we call it a ‘Comparative Market Analysis,’ or CMA. If you want to know what price your house would sell for if you do decide to put it on the market, do what the banks do, call Realtors. You really don’t need to go to all the expense of hiring an appraiser.
What Does “Qualified” Really Mean?
By Gerald Jacobs, Broker
Remember when you went through the agony of getting your home loan? If you haven’t had the pleasure of that experience yet, read on.
If you use the help of a Realtor to buy a home, one of the first things they’re going to ask you is “have you been qualified yet?” They mean have you talked with a bank about getting a home loan.
If you started with your bank or credit union first, they probably told you that they were going to qualify you. What they mean is they are going to do some preliminary financial research on you to see if they think they can get a home loan for you. No sense in looking if you can’t get the money.
One of the concerns that I hear frequently from first time home buyers is about their fear of making a 30 year commitment. I reassure them that THEY are not making a 30 year commitment, the bank is. They can sell the house if they want to. Since the bank is making this kind of commitment, they want to know about you to see if you’re worth the risk.
Banks look at 4 things when it comes to qualifying for a home loan. First they check your credit. They want to see how you are at paying back others. Next they check your income to make sure that you have the money coming in to pay them back. Then they check to see how many bills you currently have so they know that you will have enough left over to pay them back. If any of these things are too far out of whack, you crash and burn. The fourth thing that banks look at is the house itself. It too has to qualify. If it is in bad condition, there’s a good chance that it won’t qualify.
Something as simple as a broken water heater can kick it out of the running. Broken air conditioners or leaky roofs will make the house unqualified as well. The house must also qualify for the amount of money that you are asking to borrow. This is why an appraisal is ordered on the house. And, by the way, you get to pay for it.
Federal National Mortgage Association
By Gerald Jacobs, Broker
The Federal National Mortgage Association ( Fannie Mae) was established in 1938. It was a product of Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal. Fannie Mae was started to give local banks federal money to finance home mortgages in an attempt to raise levels of home ownership. Fannie Mae created a secondary mortgage market making it possible for banks to make more housing loans. A secondary mortgage market is designed for institutions like banks to sell home loans to each other. This works pretty much like the stock market only with home loans. For the first thirty years following its inception, Fannie Mae held a monopoly over the secondary mortgage market with its FHA home loans.
Here's how it basically worked. Back then there were no "Big Box" banks and no internet, local and regional banks that were located in prospering areas like South Dakota is today, would run out of money to loan to home buyers before they could satisfy the demand. Areas that were not prospering economically had banks with money to lend and no home buyer demand. They didn't have electronic communications and no means of moving the money around. Along came Fannie Mae to act as a clearing house between the areas of the country with varying money supplies and housing demands. Fannie also brought a standard of uniformity to how loans were made as well. They became the loan broker of choice for the next 75 years or so.
Today we have seen what can happen when we continue to use outdated institutions with weak controls and poor checks and balances. We’re all familiar with the expression, I’m from the government and I’m here to help.
Now that we are all connected digitally from sea to shining sea we are well within an era where banks can deal with each other directly through their web connections and trade money and loans back and forth. Just like the electronic age has de-emphasized the intrinsic value of the New Your Stock Exchange as an institution, it has made Fannie Mae a legacy of a bygone era and may no longer be useful.
Here’s Something You Might Not Know About Flood Insurance
By Gerald Jacobs, Broker
Flood insurance has been on everybody's mind these days. The press coverage has not been very positive. It seems like there's more to it than only beachfront homes too. There are thousands of homes that are not on the beach that are in the hundred year flood plain and will be affected by the new insurance rates. Pinellas County has a greater percentage of homes that are going to suffer a rate increase that Hillsborough County. Even so a bit more than 20% of the homes within Hillsborough County are in an A or B flood zone. That applies to homes in Lutz or Land ‘O Lakes that may be near a lake or pond. So it’s not always beach front property that is included in required flood insurance coverage.
So far all the bad publicity has been about residences but this affects commercial structures as well. We're not only talking hotels on the beaches but office buildings, warehouses and commercial storefronts too. The impact may well affect the values of commercial properties as well.
I would suspect that we can look for rent increases in the future. Commercial building owners will be passing along the rate increases to the tenants. Almost all commercial leases are written this way and for this purpose. When variable costs like taxes and insurance rises, the business owner that leases the structure is forced to absorb the cost. Business owners are going to have to adjust to this somehow or go out of business. They may not always be able to raise the price of their goods or service but frequently they can move. It may cost them money and business in the short term, but we're talking about survival here.
Now the building owner, that's a different story. They cannot pick up and move their structure. They still have to pay the insurance, even if they have vacancies. We had this problem a few years ago with commercial liability insurance. Some commercial property owners found their insurance premiums doubling from one policy year to the next. This was after we had the year of mulit-hurricanes starting with Charlie.
Insurance is sure to become a serious consideration affecting new construction in the future. Businesses that are planning on moving to our area and want to build will be factoring insurance costs into their plans. There can be cases where we lose the competition for a job creating business to another nearby state that doesn’t have onerous flood insurance costs.
Now for the crux of the story, this part is sure to raise your ire, I know that it makes my jaws tight. For every dollar we spend on flood insurance 23 cents of it comes back to our communities to pay flood claims. Yes that’s right 23 cents. We (Florida) are what is known as a “donor” state. If you live along the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, Alabama or Mississippi you would be paying 20 cents for every dollar spent for flood insurance by property owners in those states. In bigger numbers, in the last 3 decades we have paid in $16,000,000,000 (billion) in flood insurance and submitted $3.7 billion in claims.
Now it doesn’t take a rocket surgeon to figure this one out. This may not be Denmark but Shakespeare would agree that is something rotten here. It will affect our economy. It will affect our lifestyle. It will affect all of our pocketbooks in a big way for many years to come. Every dollar that goes to flood insurance is one less dollar to spend elsewhere. Whether you’re a home owner, business owner or commercial property owner, your working income is going to shrink.
For all those out there who have said that they don’t want to subsidize the lifestyles of the wealthy, I say that is all well and good. I would not disagree with you. Not everybody in a flood zone is wealthy or even that well off. So let’s make it fair. Let’s make it equitable. Raising the rates in our community does not do that. We need a level playing field for all the states that border the Gulf. Now that’s fair, wouldn’t you agree? It’s time to start writing those cards and letters folks. Even if you are not in a flood zone, you will be affected, so join your neighbors that are just down the street from you that are and write your Congressman and Senators.
Short Sales and Me As A Homeowner
By Gerald Jacobs, Broker
If you have given any thought to short selling your house but find that you have misgivings about it and are hearing all sorts of stories and rumors regarding the process, let me share my years of experience with it.
All of the people that I have helped with the short sale of their house were victims of the real estate bubble that was caused by the banking mismanagement debacle. Very likely the same thing holds true for my future clients. Nobody plans to have bad things like this happen to them.
So now you’re faced with the problem of not being able to keep your house through no fault of your own but the prices have not raised enough for you to sell it. Maybe you have heard differing stories about short sales and are unsettled about the whole thing. Maybe you’re not behind in your payments, yet. But that day is coming and you know it. There’s a time bomb waiting to go off in your future.
There is no doubt that a short sale will impact your credit. It will not have as long an effect as a foreclosure will. My experience has shown in most cases when you’re getting to the end of your rope with your house payments, your credit is already suffering. Getting behind on your mortgage is usually a culmination of a number of bad financial events in your life. Sometimes that’s not so. Sometimes the house problem is your biggest problem or your only financial problem. Yes, your credit rating will suffer. You can survive it, you cannot survive running completely out of money.
Here’s what you can expect. Your lender will start to harass you once your payments are late. You need to get your house listed on the market for sale. Here comes the first obstacle. I have seen Realtors who list homes that are being short sold at way too low a price. The theory is that they must have an offer to get the process started. Too low an offer will get rejected almost every time. It will take the bank several months to say no. You have wasted a bunch of time for nothing. The idea is to get the house sold. Lenders have heard that prices are rising. They are the seller here. They own the note. Like any other seller they want top dollar for the house. Lately even when you price the house at what the comparable sales tell you is a fair price, the bank will still come back and ask for a higher price from the buyer.
And here’s what you can expect if you are not yet behind in your mortgage payment. Your short sale will more than likely be denied. That’s been happening too.
Once your facilitator, usually a title company, takes over the transaction, you will no longer hear from your lender. This will take some pressure off you. You will be asked to provide a lot of documentation such as pay stubs and bank statements. You will be asked repeatedly for these things. Get it done. Get it done quickly. You will only slow down the process if you don’t.
Regardless of reassurances from the government that the short sale process has improved and moves quickly, it’s just not so. This is a 3 to 6 month process. If you belong to any kind of association that requires you to pay them, do it. It could screw up the deal if you don’t. No matter what they must be paid. I know of instances where associations have foreclosed on houses and taken possession of them.
Now for a little ray of good news that I saved until the end for you. In many cases if you are still living in the house throughout the transaction, your mortgage holder will pay you to move. It can amount to a few thousand dollars. If you move out ahead of time you lose out.
The Ongoing Cost of Home Ownership
By Gerald Jacobs, Broker
I’ve written other articles recently about selling your house and curb appeal and selling your house and clutter. All this goes hand in hand with regular care and maintenance of your home during your time of ownership. It’s like owning your car. You should be changing your oil if you want it to last past the last payment. You should be washing it or having it washed when it’s dirty. Your house is no different except the times between maintenance is often greater. We don’t repaint every 5,000 miles.
Many times I sit with a potential home seller and get into a discussion about the condition of their house. They may have lived in it for many years but have not painted it. Maybe the roof is 20 years old. They are very resistant to do the work that they should have been doing all along in order to sell it. Considering that the lifespan of a roof is about 15 years and an exterior paint job about 8 years, some planning must go into getting this maintenance done. With home owners associations and condominiums, they often have set aside reserves for this kind of big budget maintenance items that must be done. Most home owners don’t do that much financial management for themselves. If you have a 2,000 square foot home and you average the cost of a new roof over that 15 year lifespan, it comes out to almost $550 a year. If you are planning on living in your house that long, you need to set up a savings account and contribute $45 every month to it. That is what a roof costs you.
I have heard from many people that their roof doesn’t leak and it’s in excess of 20 years old. I tell them tires still hold air when the threads are showing too. But it doesn’t make it acceptable, especially to a buyer’s lender. You can’t sell the house like that. It will not pass an appraisal. You’ll not be able to sell it.
As I have mentioned in my article about curb appeal, you only get one chance to make a first impression. If your house has the original paint on it and there’s mold and mildew on that, you have a maintenance problem. Figure on spending 4 grand or more to have your home properly painted. That’s another $35 a month that should be going into the maintenance savings account. If you’re thinking about doing it yourself, do you really know the steps involved? Start by pressure washing the walls, caulking all the seams in any woodwork, repairing any rotting or damaged wood. Soffits and fascias are notorious for having rot. How about masking off all the windows and doors so you keep the paint off them? Are you planning to take some time off work to complete this job? What’s that cost?
We haven’t mentioned the air conditioning. It has a lifespan of about 12 to 15 years at a current cost of $4500 or another $30 a month into the maintenance account.
These are the big ticket items. We also have the smaller items like the water heater that now lasts about one day beyond its 5 year warrantee. That’s another $750. Ranges and fridges don’t last forever either.
These are some of the areas of concern that I always point out to my home buyers too. I want to be sure that they know when the home inspector tells them that the roof of the house they just put a contract on has about 5 years left in its lifespan, that they are looking at a hefty bill in the near future. Older air conditioners are a bigger deal now too. They have changed the refrigerant that we are allowed to use. The impact on us consumers is the whole older system needs to be replaced, including the copper refrigerant lines that run from the air handler inside to the compressor outside.
The best thing we can all do is to start a maintenance savings account for our home. Not all these things are going to break at the same time. If you have a reserve that is earmarked for household maintenance you’ll be better prepared to take proper care of your house. You also get the added benefit of getting to enjoy the benefits of your expenditure. When we replaced our air conditioning system a few years ago, we noticed a savings in our electric bill. The new system was much more efficient. Our new paint job on the outside of our house makes me feel great when I drive up to my house and see how great looks. I’m glad I am getting to enjoy it myself instead of saving it for some new buyer that I don’t even know.
Selling Your House And Clutter
By Gerald Jacobs, Broker
Actually you’re not selling the clutter . . . Get it out of there! You only get one chance to make a first impression. So now that you’re ready to move, what’s next? We all get so use to our living environment that we don’t see it as others will. Its remarkable how much stuff a family can accumulate in even a short period of time. It makes your house look smaller. It may not impress potential buyers either. You’re going to move for goodness sake! Start packing it away now. It will make your life easier when it gets down to crunch time.
Now here’s a little known interesting phenomenon that I have noticed over the years. It is common for the family that buys a home and the family that is selling the home to have a lot in common. They may have even become friends had they known each other beforehand. Of course this doesn’t hold true for vacant houses. My guess is your home is giving off friendly vibes because the buyers and sellers are similar types of people and those vibes have become part of the underlying attraction of the house. If the buyers have any sense at all they are shopping in a price range that they can afford, so price is no object. If they are represented by a Realtor they are going to be getting that advice from their agent. I know I wouldn’t take anybody out to preview homes that were not in their price range. I am not a chauffeur after all. Other reasons for purchasing one home over another come into play. Floor plan may be one. The neighborhood may be another. Feelings play a big part in this as well. That brings us back to clutter. Make less mess in your nest! It puts your best foot forward. You still need to be as encouraging as you can to help your potential buyers to choose you instead of the other house on the next block. Nobody really wants to be the bride’s maid instead of the bride. The less stuff that you have in your house the easier it is for buyers to be able to visualize exactly how their stuff will fit into the rooms.
On second thought maybe this is about selling the clutter. It may be the perfect time for a garage sale!
Selling and Curb Appeal Part Deux
The Exterior of Your House.
BY Gerald Jacobs, Broker
I have written previously about what you can do to make the inside of your house more appealing to potential buyers. As I said then, “ You’re not selling the clutter. . . Get it out of there!” Same thing and more applies to the outside of your house. This is really where your one chance to make a first impression starts. Many people initiate their home search on the internet, then they do drive by’s in neighborhoods that they find appealing. How appealing will they find your house? If they don’t, they will never walk in the door to see how nice you have made the inside.
We all get so used to our living environment that we don’t see it as others do. You should drive by your house from the opposite direction than your usual one and try and see it for the first time. How do you think that first look would affect a potential home buyer? OOOH AHHHH, or not so much? What does that first impression say to you? How does it compare to your neighbors? You want it to look better!
Now I’m not a big advocate for spending a lot of money fixing up a house just to sell it. There is not even a remote chance that you’ll recoup that expense. It probably will not help you get much more money for your house when you sell it either. Similar houses in similar neighborhoods sell for similar prices. I don’t care if you have gold nails in your walls. What fixing it up will do is help you to sell it faster. To me that says that we have to exercise just a bit of common sense when it comes to fix up spending. There are many things that can be done that will cost you little money but some sweat equity for you and your family members. Are the shrubs trimmed and neat and even? Mane it so! How about the beds? A few bags of mulch don’t cost much but have a dramatic effect. How about unnecessary junk in the yard? Got a lot of that? Even if you have only a little of that, get it gone. It will look nicer to strangers.
You’d be surprised how much more cared for your house will look with a gallon or two of paint. Paint that trim! We’re not talking about painting the whole house now. We’re just sprucing it up. Pressure washing your drive way doesn’t cost much and doesn’t take that long. It will add a lot more to the look of your house than the effort you took to make it happen. You don’t even have to buy a pressure washer, you can rent them for a day from Lowes or Home Depot for very little. They’re not that hard to use either.
Don’t forget to carry this advice through to your side and back yards either. Buyers are going to look there too. Pressure washing a patio or deck is a great place to start. So is a general cleanup of stuff in the yard.
Now there’s one thing that I have left for last, your roof. This is a big item. This is also a deal breaker. If your roof will not pass an inspection you will have to deal with it in order to sell. If it will not pass an inspection, it probably looks bad too. This is the one major exception of the thrifty rule of house fix up that there is no way around. I have seen many houses that don’t even get looked at because the roof failed the drive by test from the potential buyers. This is a big hit too, many thousands of dollars for something that you are not even going to use. Truth is you did use it. In fact you used it up! Now you are going to be forced to pay the piper. I don’t have a solution for this one except to pay the money and have it done. Kicking that can down the road by saying, “I’ll get it fixed after we have a contract on it” won’t cut it. If you even get an offer it may be an insulting one because of the roof condition. You can’t hide behind the “Sold ‘as is’ “ ploy either. The buyers stand a good chance of not being able to get the house insured because of the roof condition. Your insurance company could catch wind of that and send you that ominous letter saying that they are cancelling your policy of you don’t replace the roof. Bad news any way you cut it.
With that one exception, there are many things that you can do to the exterior of your house to increase its curb appeal and make it sell quicker. It takes some effort but it is worth it. Who knows, if you fix it up too well, you may decide not to move at all. Think of all the money that will save!
What If Curb Appeal Makes The Difference?
By Gerald Jacobs, Broker
Did Mom or Dad or anyone ever tell you that first impressions are important? Or have you ever heard that “you only get one chance to make a first impression?” The same thing applies when you are selling your house. Most of us make a lot of judgments based on our feelings, the old “gut instincts”. When you’re selling your house and a prospective buyer either drives by or sees a photo of your house on the internet, their gut instincts will speak to them. You will get an immediate thumbs up or thumbs down based on their first impression of the “curb appeal” of your house.
Unfair! You say . . . . My house is great on the inside. I don’t care about the yard! Well, you have got to get your prospective purchasers inside to show them all the great parts. If they don’t cross the threshold they will never know and worse yet, they will never buy. You may not have to like it, but you will have to live with it. You are in competition with every other house that buyers in your price range are seeing.
Now this doesn’t mean you have to get one of those guys from HGTV to film a show about how they turned your weed patch into a formal garden. It also doesn’t mean that you have to become a slave to the yard either. You also don’t have to do it all at once and end up on the couch all muscle sore for days afterward.
Here’s a simple plan that is cheap, painless and will produce beautiful results. All you have to do is spend 20 minutes three times a week in the evenings doing a bit here and there. You will be amazed at the results in as little as two weeks. OK, so you can do that. Now what is it you’re supposed to do exactly? If your yard isn’t full of beautiful St. Augustine turf, it doesn’t matter. Keep it mowed. Buy a spray bottle of fertilizer that attaches to your garden hose and use it! Get something that’s high in nitrogen, it will make everything greener faster. Next, cut back any and all bushes so they are the same height relative to each other. Finally pull all the weeds from any beds you may have and add new mulch. That’s it for the yard. Remember, 20 minutes three times a week is all it takes to get these things done. Don’t make a marathon out of it.
Look for my follow up article for my 20 minute plan for the exterior of the house. It’s coming soon.