Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Six Reasons Housing Inventory Keeps Declining

Home sales in December dropped by 1% from November, the National Association of Realtors reported on Tuesday, but still stood nearly 13% above the levels of one year ago. That means home sales have risen from the year-ago month for 18 straight months. Full Article

For 2012 as a whole, sales were up 9% to 4.65 million units, the highest annual total since 2007.

Prices, meanwhile, are picking up because the number of homes for sale continues to drop despite the sales volume gains. The number of homes for sale fell to 1.82 million at the end of 2012, an 8.5% drop from November and a 21.6% decline from one year earlier, the Realtors’ group said on Tuesday.

Here’s a breakdown of why inventory has continued to drop this year:

Many homeowners are underwater: More than 10 million homeowners owe more on their mortgage than their homes are worth, according to CoreLogic Inc. CLGX +3.14% That pencils out to around 22% of homeowners with a mortgage, or 15% of all homeowners (since not every homeowner has a mortgage). Underwater owners aren’t likely to sell unless they need to move due to changing life (marriage, divorce) or financial circumstances, and they’ll take a hit on their credit for pursuing a short sale, where the bank allows the home to sell for less than the amount owed. Data from CoreLogic show that inventory has been the most constrained in housing markets where there’s the largest concentration of underwater borrowers.

Others don’t have enough equity to “trade up”: Another 10 million homeowners have less than 20% equity in their current residence, meaning they can’t easily “trade up” to their next house. Traditionally, homeowners have relied on home equity to make the down payment on their next home, and to pay their real-estate agent to sell their current home and buy their next one. These “under-equitied” homeowners—meaning they don’t have enough equity to make a move to a more expensive home—have added to the drag on inventory.

Everyone wants to buy at the bottom, but few want to sell: Even those people who do have plenty of home equity are likely reluctant to sell if they think prices will be higher tomorrow. Would you sell your largest asset today if you thought it might be worth 5% more next year? This helps explain why markets such as Denver and Dallas, which didn’t have huge housing bubbles and thus had smaller shares of underwater borrowers, have also seen double-digit inventory declines.

More purchases from investors of all stripes: From the big institutional investors that have been grabbing all the headlines, to the mom-and-pop landlords that have traditionally played a much larger role renting out homes, investors have increasingly bought homes that can be rented out rather than flipped and resold for quick profits. This is further keeping inventory off the market in two ways: homes that are bought at courthouse foreclosure auctions never show up on multiple-listing services when they’re initially sold. They’re also held out of the for-sale pool because they’re being rented out.

Banks have been slower at foreclosing: Banks and other companies that process delinquent mortgages have had trouble proving that they’ve followed state law in taking title to homes ever since the “robo-signing” scandal surfaced in late 2010, and they’ve also had to meet a host of new state and federal rules governing loan modifications and foreclosures from settlements spawned by the robo-scandal. Banks have also become better about approving short sales and loan modifications, which has curbed the flow of foreclosed properties onto the market.

Builders have been putting up fewer homes: Housing starts were severely depressed from 2009 through 2011 and have only recently rebounded off of those low levels. Consequently, there’s been much less new home inventory being added to the market at a time when demand (boosted by increases in household formation) is picking up. If more homes are held off the market—for any of the five reasons above—you can bet that builders will move in to fill the void.

Many of these factors that have been dragging down inventory aren’t signs of “normal” or “healthy” housing markets—but then, we probably haven’t had a normal market for around a decade now. If anything, declining inventory shows that normal supply-and-demand dynamics are returning, which is an important step towards putting a floor under home prices and giving markets time to get back to health.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Listing Gone Stale? 6 Ways to Land a Home Sale

We've all seen homes for sale that linger on the market until the owners give up, only to list again. That can be a great marketing strategy, if you make changes. Full Article

When a home for sale sits on the market for 90 days or more, it's time to take a closer look at the pricing, marketing, condition or any combination thereof. Some agents say that you shouldn't even wait that long to reposition.

"If a seller hasn't had buyers walk through their doors in 30 to 45 days, they need to lower their list price," says Pat Lashinsky, CEO of ZipRealty, a home listing service. "If the home hasn't sold in six months, the asking price is off and the condition of the home may not be in the place it needs to be to attract buyers, and it's time to take it off the market."

Re-listing the home is a way that sellers can say goodbye to stale and hello to home sale. Here are six ways to land a home sale, whether you're a new or repeat listing: 

1. Drop the price.

In its first days on the market, a five-bedroom split-entry rambler at 1900 Cape Cod Place in Minnetonka, Minn. was listed for $429,900 and a few weeks later dropped to $409,900.

"Often we tell people it won't sell at the price they want and people say 'I can't sell it for less because this is what I owe on my mortgage,'" says Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman. The best price for your home sale is what buyers are willing to pay. So don't hesitate to undercut the competitor's price to get the sale. If you drop the price to a realistic number you might get an offer without another price reduction.

2. Take the offer.

If a purchase offer comes in after the first week, do what you can to close the deal. That's what the owners of the Minnetonka 2,564-square-footer on a cul-de-sac are wishing they had done. They received a "low-ball offer" for $389,000 and shooed away the buyers. Two years later and no home sale, the sellers dropped the price, three more times, down to its latest list price of $369,900.

"Sellers should be more flexible and think about the long term," says Scott Sambucci, CEO ofAltos Research. "If market conditions worsen, today's low offer might end up being a price they wished they would have taken six months down the road."

3. Price like a search engine.

Price properties on the round number, such as in $25,000, $50,000 or $100,000 increments, says Atlanta real estate agent Rhonda Duffy. That way home buyers searching from $250,000 to $300,000 can pull them up as well as those searching from $300,000 to $350,000. No one has ever started a search with $299,900 to $399,900.

Browse through photos of millions of home listings or search foreclosure listings

4. Highlight buyers' wants.

"Sellers need to understand what buyers are looking for in a home, and market the home appropriately," says Lashinky, whose company offers sellers a free feature called Buyer Buzz that has agents weigh in with feedback on how to better market their home. "We found that nearly half of all buyers view 'green' home features to be a priority," he says, "while only 1 percent of all listings market energy efficient appliances, green insulation or solar paneling."

"What does also work is offering a home warranty program to eliminate buyers' risk and natural fears that they're buying a lemon," says Lashinsky.

5. Shoot new pictures.

When you're re-listing, take the opportunity to swap in some new Internet pictures. Buyers don't want to see snow-covered driveways in July. And if the rear of your house on a pond is more beautiful than the view from your front curb, maybe you should lead with the former. Changing up your photos keeps the listing fresh and might attract a buyer who looked past your home the first time -- but only if the photos look good. "It pays to hire a professional photographer," says Kelman.

6. Stage anew.

High quality photos are wasted on messy rooms. Even if it was spotless at the time you first listed, there's a chance you've grown tired of hiding that laundry basket and cleaning the toilet daily. Your furniture might need some rearranging as well. Spruce up the room and consider hiring a professional stager. Unfortunately, buyers can't see past the clutter, and sometimes neither can you.

Monday, February 25, 2013

How To Sell Your Own Home

Selling your own home can save you tens of thousands of dollars in real estate commissions. Here's a step-by-step guide to the process:

Clean Out Your Home As soon as you decide to sell your house, thoroughly clean it from top to bottom.  Don't forget rarely-cleaned areas such as baseboards, blinds, roof gutters and window wells.  If you don't have time to undertake a deep clean, hire a maid or a cleaning company.  A clean home will help an appraiser see your house in a better light and value it more highly, as well as appealing to buyers.

Clear Up Clutter While You Clean  Make your home look more spacious by getting rid of any unnecessary junk.  You'll see a big difference in how your closets look, as well as your garage, porch and bathroom.  Buyers want to feel like they're purchasing sufficient space, and clearing out more of your stuff helps them see themselves in your home.  If you can't bear to part with anything, consider moving the items to a storage unit temporarily.

Have your property evaluated  As much as you'd like to set the price of your home as high as possible, you have to be realistic.  Many for-sale-by-owner listings fail to sell because owners persist in thinking their home is worth more than the market will offer, or because they have already settled on a set amount of money that they want and refuse to budge.  Having a professional, third-party assessment of your home's worth will help you get comfortable with a price range, in addition to providing you with a solid reference point if a buyer or realtor accuses you of setting the price too high.

Timing is everything  If your neighborhood is undergoing a mini boom of strong residential sales, those transactions will increase the value of your home.  Conversely, if your neighborhood has seen a lot of short sales or foreclosures, your home's value will be decreased.  Try to time your listing so that you're not affected by distressed sales.  For instance, in most areas, a comparable sale can only weigh against the value of your home for 90 days after the sale date.  It might be worth it to wait a few months to list your home if you can do it at a higher price.

Know your selling points  Before you start marketing your home, write up a list of special selling points  you think will attract buyers.  Potential items include good school districts, recent renovations, benefits that have been grandfathered into the property, energy-saving windows or insulation and new appliances.  Highlight these items in your ads, when you talk to people about your home or while you're showing it.  Memorize them so that you don't forget anything.

Market your home  List with MySecretAgent to get you listed on the MLS and hundreds of websites. 

Be Flexible  When potential buyers or their Realtors contact you and want to see the home, try to be as available and flexible as possible.  Be aware that many people will want to see the home in the middle of the day, when you might be working.  

Set a peaceful, enticing mood  Before your potential buyers arrive, quickly clean up any clutter.  Put away food on the counter, throw dishes into the dishwasher, and gather up laundry.  Light a scented candle if you have one, or put a few drops of vanilla on a cookie sheet at put it in the oven at around 250 degrees Fahrenheit (120 Celsius).  Put some light, soft classical music on in the background.  If the weather is nice, open a few windows; if not, light a fireplace or turn the heater up a bit.  These extra little steps will make your home seem inviting and calm.

Be a good host  This might seem like obvious advice, but some people are so anxious about selling their home that they forget basic etiquette.  When your potential buyers arrive, greet them with a firm handshake and look them in the eye.  Introduce yourself, and ask and remember their names.  As they step inside your home, ask if you can provide them with a glass of water or light refreshment.  Some may like a personal tour of your home but other may prefer to walk through your home with just their agent. If this is the case step outside and give them privacy. 

Secure your valuables  Lock up everything truly irreplaceable in a safe location before you open your home to strangers. 

Try to close cleanly and quickly Once the buyer is making offers and negotiating, try to close the transaction as quickly as you can.  Make sure you've provided all the necessary disclosure documents required by your state.  If you don't like the buyer's offer, don't just say no. ''Always'' make a counter offer.  Try to accommodate the buyer wherever you can afford to.  Also, consider taking the offer to a lawyer for professional evaluation.  Once everything is settled, try to move out as quickly as you reasonably can.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Weekly Round Up

Hope everyone had a wonderful week. Below are the latest MySecretAgent listingsClick on the address for more info. We have had tons of activity on our listings this week! Let us know how we can help sell your home and save thousands

If you have any questions on how to list or how much you can save listing with MySecretAgent give us a call, 800-915-9174.

2512 SE 58th Ave, Portland OR 97206
MLS# 449656, Potential savings over $17,000

MLS# 449656, Potential savings over $6,750

MLS# 449671, Potential Savings over $11,000

MLS#450672, Potential savings over $11,200

1327 Olympic Ave, Edmonds 98020
MLS# 449684, Potential savings over $11,250

Have a great weekend,
- MySecretAgent Team

Thursday, February 21, 2013

11 Ways to Create a Welcoming Front Entrance for Under $100

First impressions count — not just for your friends, relatives, and the UPS guy, but for yourself. Whether it’s on an urban stoop or a Victorian front porch, your front door and the area leading up to it should extend a warm welcome to all comers — and needn’t cost a bundle. Full Article

1. Clear the way for curb appeal. The path to your front door should be at least 3 feet wide so people can walk shoulder-to-shoulder, with an unobstructed view and no stumbling hazards. So get out those loppers and cut back any overhanging branches or encroaching shrubs. 

2. Light the route. Landscape lighting makes it easy to get around at night. Solar-powered LED lights you can just stick in the ground, requiring no wiring, are suprisingly inexpensive. $45 for a pack of 8,

3. Go glossy. Borrow inspiration from London’s lovely row houses, whose owners assert their individuality by painting their doors in high-gloss colors. The reflective sheen of a royal blue, deep green, crimson, or whatever color you like will ensure your house stands out from the pack.

4. Pretty up the view. A door with lots of glass is a plus for letting light into the front hall — but if you also want privacy and a bit of decor, check out decorative window film. It’s removable and re-positionable, and comes in innumerable styles and motifs. About $5.25 per running foot,

5. Replace door hardware. While you’re at it, polish up the handle on the big front door, or better yet, replace it with a shiny new brass lockset with a secure deadbolt, $57. 

6. Please knock. Doorbells may be the norm, but a hefty knocker is a classic that will never run out of battery life, and another opportunity to express yourself (whatever your favorite animal or insect is, there’s a door-knocker in its image). $39,

7. Ever-greenery. Boxwoods are always tidy-looking, the definition of easy upkeep. A pair on either side of the door is traditional, but a singleton is good, too. About $25 at garden centers.

8. Numbers game. Is your house number clearly visible? That’s of prime importance if you want your guests to arrive and your pizza to be hot. Stick-on vinyl numbers in a variety of fonts make it easy, starting at about $4 per digit.

9. Foot traffic. A hardworking mat for wiping muddy feet is a must. A thick coir mat can be had at the hardware store for less than $20, or spring for something fancier, like this decorative half-round that promises weather and mildew resistance, $45,

10. Go for the glow. Fumbling for keys in the dark isn’t fun. Consider doubling up on porch lights with a pair of lanterns, one on each side of the door, for symmetry and twice the illumination. $69 each,

11. Snail mail. Mailboxes run the gamut from kitschy roadside novelties masquerading as dogs, fish, or what-have-you to sober black lockboxes mounted alongside the front door. Whichever way you go, make sure yours is standing or hanging straight, with a secure closure, and no dings or dents. The mail carrier will thank you.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

New Home Search

We are always trying to improve our website and are proud to announce we have a new home search tool. You can create an account for the latest listing updates and solds. Check it out!

Contact us to schedule a showing, our professionals are here to help you every step of the way.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Using Smell to Make a Sale

Everyone loves the smell of freshly baked cookies, but don’t expect that aroma to sell your home, new research suggests. Homeowners are often coached to create pleasing aromas when potential buyers pay a visit. But complex smells, like baked goods and potpourri, are likely to damp enthusiasm for a fast sale for top dollar, says Eric Spangenberg, dean of the college of business at Washington State University. His study found that shoppers spent 31.8% more, on average, when a store was scented with a simple orange scent over a complex blend of orange, basil and green tea. The same principles apply to open houses, Prof. Spangenberg says, because in both cases, the aromas may affect cognitive functions in the same areas of the brain involved in decision-making. Complex scents, even if they’re pleasant, can be a distraction because some people subconsciously dedicate time and energy to figuring out what the aroma is. Full Article

Monday, February 18, 2013

February Home-Maintenance Checklist

The transition between winter and spring is the time to get a jump on moisture damage and heat loss, make quick work of organizing storage areas and work in some garden prep before spring. Full Article

Change the shower curtain:  Damp shower curtains can grow unhealthy mold and mildew and contribute to mold problems in the tub and shower, so swap yours out periodically and make sure to open and air out the shower enclosure when you’re done bathing.

Batten down the hatches: Find and seal energy leaks.Tour your home feeling for cold air entering through cracks in chimneys and window and door frames, and cracks around appliance vents, electrical and plumbing fixtures and furnace ducts. Remedies might include adding weatherstripping to a door frame or applying fresh caulk to window frames.

Clean out storage areas: Get a head start on spring cleaning by attacking a cluttered storage space. Start by taking everything out of the space and piling it up outside. Clean the empty space, then go through the items, trying to let go of everything you haven’t used in the last year. Make four piles: stuff to keep, trash, donations and recycling, and hazardous waste.

Outside: February is a transitional month in much of the U.S. Winter storms may continue to cause damage to home exteriors and landscaping, but spring is in sight and you can begin working in the garden to prepare for warmer weather.

Mulch garden beds: By the end of the month, the ground has thawed in many parts of the country and it’s time to start warding off weeds. If you didn’t mulch in early winter, now is the time to add a layer to discourage weeds.

Conduct a home energy audit: If you’ve sealed the obvious leaks and your home is still inefficient, you’ll get more detailed information from a professional energy audit. The auditor can recommend energy-saving improvements and point out those that will most improve efficiency.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Weekly Round Up

Wow, this week has flown by! Hope everyone had a wonderful week.  I guess it is true what they say, time flies by when you are having fun. Below are the latest MySecretAgent listingsClick on the address for more info. We have had tons of activity on our listings this week! Let us know how we can help sell your home and save thousands

If you have any questions on how to list or how much you can save listing with MySecretAgent give us a call, 800-915-9174.

MLS# 444947, Potential savings over $12,748!

MLS#444319, Potential savings over $8900

MLS# 445137, Potential savings over $10,100

MLS# 447284, Potential savings over $20,300

MLS# 447689, Potential savings over $34,000

Have a great weekend, 
MySecretAgent Team

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The 4 Most Common Kitchen Remodeling Mistakes

What’s the secret to a successful kitchen remodel? Knowing what mistakes to avoid! Almost everyone who has been through a remodel has a war story to share about what they’d do differently. Whether it’s the neighbor’s never-ending remodel, or the friend of a friend whose contractor couldn't get along with the architect, keep your dream kitchen from becoming a nightmare by protecting yourself from these common first-timer mistakes. Full Article

Mistake #1: Micro Before Macro 
While it may be true that your appliances are dated or that your counter tops are unattractive, most people don’t focus enough on the big picture. It’s essential that you determine the lifestyle objectives you want your kitchen to hone before you choose its design elements. 

Mistake #2: Thinking Fad, not Function
The average kitchen renovation should last 12-15 years, so the last thing you want is for it to feel dated before it’s even paid for. 

Mistake #3: Not Hiring Multiple Professionals
People often think that doing it yourself is the cheapest route. Not so! Varying aspects of the kitchen require professionals with specific expertise. A kitchen designer is not an architect, an architect is not an interior designer, and a contractor is not a kitchen designer. Hire skilled (and licensed) professionals who not only understands lead times for your selections but can also test-drive your budget to make sure it’s sustainable.

Mistake #4: Letting a Contractor or Design Professional Make Decisions For You
Although it’s tempting to delegate all decisions to the experts (decision-making fatigue is quite common in kitchen renovations!), ultimately it’s the homeowners who best understand their own habits. Is the kitchen also your home office, or do you include the kids in dinner preparations? 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Home Prices Rising In More Markets

The recovery in real-estate values is accelerating, as more and more markets post gains in median home sale prices.
The National Association of Realtors reported Monday that the U.S. median home price rose 10% to $178,900 between the fourth quarter of 2011 and the fourth quarter of 2012. That’s the biggest yearly gain in the median price since the fourth quarter of 2005. Full Article

Thursday, February 7, 2013

How to Win a Bidding War

Who would have thought we would be writing or even thinking about bidding wars? But it is defiantly a reality! With low inventory, low interest rates and MANY buyers looking that equation can only equal to bidding wars. 

  •  Know the Market: Search for homes daily online so you know the inventory. Once a home hits the market call your agent and see it as soon as possible. If you like it write up an offer. Being the first offer on the table of many will sometimes make you stand apart from everyone else. 
  • Make an Impression: If you happen to see the owners during the showing go ahead and compliment whatever you like about their home. If the owners aren't home get your agent to make an impression for you to the listing agent. If you submit an offer you can add a personalized note on how much you love the home, etc. It may sound crazy but I have seen this to work! 
  • Be Ahead of the Game: Line up an appraisal even before making an offer. Have the bank try to get an appraiser lined up and on their calendar before an offer is made. That way, the buyer could tell the seller that the appraisal would happen within x days of signing a contract.
  • Be Realistic: Make offers that are comparable, or better, than the rest. If you are writing offers for 300K on a home that is listed at 350K you won't be considered.  
If you are a buyer in Washington and would like us to write up an offer for you we will split our commission with you! Contact us for more info, 425-835-0387. 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Top Garden Projects For February

As mentioned in the is post, your yard can help persuade a buyer to buy your home. Your yard is the first impression of your home- so make it the best impression possible. Below are some gardening projects you can do in February. Full Article

  • Fertilizing: Mid to late February is the time to fertilize trees, shrubs and evergreens. 
  • Lawns: Late this month or early next are good times to feed the lawn with a spring type lawn fertilizer. If moss is problem, use a spring fertilizer that contains a moss killer, so you can do both jobs in one easy application.
  • Pruning: This is one of the best months of the entire year to prune fruit, flowering and shade trees.
  • Spraying:  February is the month to make the last application of winter dormant spray. A combination of lime- sulfur and oil is the mix generally used for dormant spraying. It should only be used on deciduous trees and shrubs like fruit, flowering and shade trees
  • Starting Seeds: Late this month and early next are good times to start seeds indoors of summer annuals, perennials, herbs and vegetables. Use a good sterilized soil to start the seeds. Choose a warm, bright spot in which to start them.
  • Vegetable Soil Preparation: Weather permitting February is the month to begin tilling or spading the soil. Do not undertake this project until the soil is dry enough to work.
  • Perennial Vegetables: Rhubarb, horseradish, asparagus and artichokes are among the perennial vegetables that can be planted this month. Plant them along the perimeters of the vegetable garden so they are not in the way as you till or spade each season.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Weekly Round Up

I hope everyone had a wonderful week- I can smell Spring just around the corner! Below are the latest MySecretAgent listingsClick on the address for more info. We have had tons of activity on our listings this week! Let us know how we can help sell your home and save thousands

If you have any questions on how to list or how much you can save listing with MySecretAgent give us a call, 800-915-9174.

MLS# 443080, Potential savings over $10,000

MLS# 13032233

2715 SW 347th PL Federal Way WA 98023
MLS# 442795, Potential savings over $5600

1116 205th Ave NE, Sammamish WA 98074
MLS# 442661, Potential savings over $11,000

10501 SW Brockway Dr, Wilsonville OR 97070
MLS# 13054365, Potential savings over $11,000

Have a great weekend, 
- MySecretAgent Team