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Spring Home Buying Season Starts Early According to realtor.com’s February Trend Data

Homes are spending less time on the market as prices and number of listings increase nationally

Mar 14, 2013

SAN JOSE, Calif., March 14, 2013 /PRNewswire/ — Realtor.com, a leader in online real estate operated by Move, Inc. (NASDAQ: MOVE), released its February data on the U.S. housing market today, offering valuable insight into the latest real estate trends. Realtor.com’s February 2013 national housing data indicates that listing inventories increased 1.15 percent month-over-month; median age of inventory was at 98 days, a 9.26 percent decrease month-over-month; and median list prices were slightly higher month-over-month at $189,900. These numbers show that home buyers are getting an early start on the spring season despite the fact that inventories recently hit record lows.

“As we enter the busiest time of the year for home buyers and sellers, our latest housing trend data shows just how competitive the market is with a significant national housing recovery well underway,” said Steve Berkowitz, chief executive officer of Move, Inc. “Looking ahead, we can expect the amount of inventory to increase this spring along with higher list prices as sellers become more comfortable with the market conditions.”

homeownership-small_329

The median age of inventory was down by 9.26 percent month over month and total listings are up 1.15 percent month over month, suggesting that many reluctant home sellers are starting to take an early advantage of the recent improvements in housing prices. Annual inventory decreases of -15.97 percent are consistent with a gradual, yet persistent downward trend that has been occurring over the last two years. From January 2013 to February 2013, the median age of inventory decreased in 145 of the 146 markets tracked by realtor.com. The national median list price also reversed its downward trend, rising by 1.55 percent over the month of February and 1.01 percent on an annual basis. In addition, the number of markets experiencing a decline in home prices is shrinking, implying more good news for the housing market and U.S. economy at large.

There continue to be pronounced regional differences in the strength of the housing market. Several areas in California are experiencing the highest increases in list prices coupled with the largest inventory declines. Phoenix, Seattle and Denver are also among the top performers across the U.S. However, many smaller industrialized markets in the Midwest and the Northeast registered year-over-year price declines, as did Philadelphia, Chicago and New York City. While the number of markets experiencing year-over-year list price declines had been increasing, this pattern appears to be turning around as home list prices increased in 78 markets last month on a year-over-year basis and declined in 39.

National Data

  • In February, the total number of single-family homes, condos, townhomes and co-ops for sale in the U.S. (1,494,218) increased by 1.15 percent month-over-month. On an annual basis, however, inventory was down by 15.97 percent.
  • The national median list price for single-family homes, condos, townhomes and co-ops ($189,900) increased by 1.01 percent year-over-year and 1.55 percent month-over-month in February.
  • The median age of inventory of for sale listings fell to 98 days in February, down 9.26 percent from January and 11.71 percent below the median age one year ago (February 2012).

Local Data

  • Nearly all of the markets with the largest year-over-year declines in their for sale inventories in February were in California, where declines averaged 48 percent. The list includes Sacramento, Stockton, Oakland, San Jose, Orange County, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco, Riverside and Ventura. These markets also experienced a dramatic decline in the median age of inventory, falling to an average of just 31 days, or 53 percent lower than it was one year ago.
  • On an annual basis, February median list prices were up by 5 percent or more in 51 markets while they were down by more than 5 percent in 11 markets. The number of markets experiencing a year-over-year list price decline in February (39) is significantly below the number of declines observed in January (50).  California markets continue to dominate the list of areas experiencing the largest year-over-year increases in their median list prices, representing nine out of the top ten best performers.
  • The ten markets with the longest time on the market continued to include the coastal areas of the Carolinas and the resort communities of Santa Fe, NM and Ashville, NC. In addition, five older industrialized areas also appear on the list: Reading, PA; Portland, ME; Albany, NY; Philadelphia and Trenton, NJ. California markets continued to dominate the list of top ten areas with the shortest time on the market, although the median age of inventory was also at record lows in Denver and Seattle. Median time on market in these areas averaged just 28 days, 51 percent lower compared to one year ago.

Realtor.com regularly tracks real estate data and develops monthly reports featuring the number of listings, median age of inventory and median list price across the U.S. and in specific markets, as well as provides year-over-year and month-over-month changes. These reports are the only ones pulled directly from the realtor.com database that updates every 15 minutes from more than 800 multiple listing services.

If you want current market information for Jersey Shore towns contact Ian Lazarus, The Jersey Shore specialist. (609) 457-0258 or ian@ViewAC.com around check me out on www.SJbeachhomes.com , www.FindaShoreHome.com , or AtlanticCityRealEstateBlog.com !

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Five Things Consumers Should Expect From The Housing Market In 2013

Stan Humphries, Contributor, Forbes

I write about real estate and the housing economy

 

REAL ESTATE

In 2012, the national housing market finally turned a corner. We’ve now experienced 13 straight months of home value appreciation. Sales were up significantly over 2011 as buyers returned to the market, boosting demand.

So what will 2013 have in store? Here are five things consumers can expect to see in the housing market next year:

 Up, Up and Away

  • The national housing market hit bottom in October 2011, and home values have since risen 5.3 percent from that trough. The most recentZillow Home Value Forecast calls for 2.5 percent appreciation nationwide from November 2012 to November 2013.
  • According to a recentZillow survey of more than 100 economists and analysts, respondents predicted home values (based on the S&P/Case-Shiller U.S. National Home Price Index) to rise 3.1 percent in 2013, on average.
  • Most markets covered byZillow’s Real Estate Market Reports have already bottomed out, with only 10 of 255 covered metro areas not projected to hit a bottom within the next year.

Bottom Line: Homeowners looking to sell in 2013 can largely rest assured they won’t be selling at the bottom, and many will find themselves in a sellers’ market. Potential buyers in 2013 may be more motivated to get a deal done while affordability is still extremely high and mortgage rates continue to be historically low.

 

Real Estate Is Local Again

  • According to theZillow Breakeven Horizon, buying beats renting when staying in the home for three years or more in roughly 60 percent of U.S. metros. The areas where it might make more sense to buy (if you’re planning on staying for three-plus years) are clustered in the Southwest and Southeast. If you won’t be staying put for at least a few years, consider renting in the Northeast, where buying often doesn’t make more financial sense until five years or more.
  • The goal ofZillow’s Buyer/Seller Index is to determine where buyers have the most leverage in a sale, and where sellers might have the upper hand. In general, we determined that metro areas in the West and Southwest – including the Bay Area, Las Vegas and Phoenix – are strong for sellers. Metros in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic – places such as Chicago, Cleveland and Philadelphia – are best for buyers.

Bottom Line: The housing market recovery has remained true to the old real estate axiom of “location, location, location.” How your local market is faring today – and if it makes more sense to buy or rent, to sell now or to hold off if possible – is largely determined by unique, local factors and fundamentals. Arming yourself with timely and comprehensive local market information is good advice at any time, but will be even more important in 2013 as buyers continue to seek bargains and sellers look to maximize returns.

Coming Up for Air

  • In the third quarter of 2012, the percentage of homeowners with a mortgage in negative equity – or “underwater,” owing more on their mortgage than their home was worth – fell below 30 percent for the first time since Zillow began tracking that data using an improved methodology in early 2011.
  • Still,28.2 percent of homeowners with a mortgage remain underwater. Because underwater owners have a far more difficult time selling their home, a large number of homes that otherwise might end up on the market aren’t getting listed. As a result, inventory in many areas is incredibly tight, leaving buyers to fight it out amongst themselves, which in turn can help drive up prices. This, among other factors, has led to tight inventory in many of the hardest-hit cities around the country.

 

Bottom Line: As home values continue their upward march in 2013, more homeowners currently trapped underwater will begin to surface. This will be good for buyers exhausted by limited inventory and intense competition in markets such as Phoenix and Miami, but it will also have the effect of cooling price increases. As a result, in 2013, we predict home value appreciation in many areas will look more like a series of steps, characterized by cycles of price spikes and plateaus. Price spikes will free some homeowners from negative equity, allowing them to sell, thereby easing supply constraints and dampening prices until the cycle is repeated.

Historically Affordable

  • Mortgage interest rates have been hovering at or near historic lows for the past year, and the Federal Reserve has taken concrete steps to ensure they stay low for at least the foreseeable future.
  • At the same time, home values – while recovering nicely – still have a long way to go to reach their pre-bubble levels. Overall, national home values in November were still down 19.4 percent from their peak in May 2007, according to Zillow.

Bottom Line: Between 1985 and 2000, Americans spent, on average, about 20 percent of their household income on mortgage payments. That percentage increased to more than 24 percent by 2006, before falling to just 13 percent by the second quarter of 2012. If you can qualify for a home loan, the combination of low rates and low prices means your home-buying dollar will continue to take you farther in 2013 than in recent years, even for buyers on modest budgets.
Mortgage Interest Deducted?

  • Changes to the mortgage interest deduction (MID) may be a key element of any “grand bargain” reached by politicians in order to avert the year-end fiscal cliff. If adopted, any measure to limit or repeal the MID will result in some home price impacts over time and by market segment.
  • Home values at the high end of the market will likely be more negatively impacted by MID changes than home values overall, according to a recentZillow survey of economists. For example, in the event that the maximum MID-eligible mortgage amount is reduced from $1 million to $500,000 and the deduction allowance for second homes is eliminated, the majority of respondents said they expect high-end home prices to fall while U.S. home prices overall experience little or no price impact.

Bottom Line: Real estate lobbying groups have long fought against changes to tax rules allowing for the deduction of mortgage interest, arguing that any changes will impact or eliminate some of the historic financial advantages of owning a home. But unless you’re buying a proportionally more expensive home or are buying in a more expensive area, the impacts of MID changes will likely be muted. The decision to buy or sell a home is highly personal and dependent on a number of factors, only one of which is potential tax implications. In 2013, make your decision to buy or sell based on your own informed opinion and your unique situation.

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Sea Isle City Sold Transactions November 2012

Type Address Sold Price Closing Date DOM
Townhouse 113 82nd St, West $520,000 11/2/2012 82
Townhouse 6813 Pleasure Ave North $1,455,000 11/2/2012 533
Condo 111 37th Street, 3W $350,000 11/9/2012 335
Single Family 207 90th Street $812,500 11/9/2012 123
Townhouse 109 74th St, West $630,000 11/13/2012 104
Townhouse 4605 Park Road, South $665,000 11/15/2012 192
Duplex 5709 Landis Ave $725,000 11/15/2012 143
Condo 383 43rd Place #7 $337,500 11/16/2012 281
Townhouse 202 56th St East $602,000 11/16/2012 72
Townhouse 3601 Cini St., South $635,000 11/16/2012 178
Townhouse 133 46th St, East $730,000 11/16/2012 57
Townhouse 21 64th St, East $795,000 11/16/2012 203
Townhouse 134 36th St, East $535,000 11/19/2012 236
Townhouse 124 53rd  St, East $620,000 11/19/2012 148
Townhouse 322 45th Place West $795,000 11/19/2012 207
Townhouse 7204 Landis Ave, North $610,000 11/20/2012 63
Townhouse 7808 Pleasure Ave South $810,000 11/20/2012 110
Townhouse 4455 Venicean Rd North $998,000 11/20/2012 88
Townhouse 2901 Landis Ave East $722,500 11/26/2012 322
Townhouse 12 71st St., West $725,000 11/29/2012 65
Single Family 143 61st St. $732,000 11/29/2012 86
Condo 3500 Boardwalk #318 $399,000 11/30/2012 470
Townhouse 141 49th St, East $495,000 11/30/2012 38
Townhouse 7409 Landis Ave. South $505,000 11/30/2012 151
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The Unexpected Upsides to Off-Season House Hunting

Conventional real estate wisdom has often advised buyers and sellers that once Thanksgiving comes around, they might as well pack it in, hunker down and wait till they’ve doled out all their New Year’s smooches to get serious about getting their transactions closed.

 

But there are some hidden benefits to taking the contrarian approach and doubling down on your house hunt right now, while the holiday season is in full swing:

 

 

  1. Lower competition for your dream home.

 

In most places, the summer months are the hottest months of the year in real estate, because families with children prefer to move into their new homes before September.

 

House shopping during the off-season can mean

  • fewer competitors,
  • fewer multiple offers scenarios, and
  • lower likelihood of being outbid.

 

  1. Uber-motivated sellers

 

Though there are fewer sellers during the off season, those who are active tend to be highly, highly motivated.

 

Sellers who are willing to clear the whole family out of the house when everyone else is having warm fuzzy holiday gatherings are motivated to get their homes sold – and ready to entertain your offer to make that happen.

 

Even some banks and asset managers handling short sales and foreclosures may have above-average motivation to move properties off their books and get transactions closed before the year end. Don’t expect to score a mansion for pennies, but you might get you slightly more consideration, responsiveness and speed than in a distressed transaction at any other time of year

 

  1. Can’t miss properties that won’t wait

 

Off-seasons are when fewer new listings come on the market. That said, this is a great time to spot hidden gems that offer unique mixes of property fundamentals, amenities and location.

 

There are sellers who have stellar homes, but have been holding off on listing all year for some reason or other. They end up listing at just the time that works for their lives. If you’re a picky buyer, putting your house hunt on hiatus when most other shoppers take a break puts you at the serious risk of missing “the one.”

 

  1. Keeping a handle on your cash.

 

You’d be amazed at how many buyers and sellers find their financial plans – and cash

cushions – derailed by taking themselves out of the house hunting mindset.

 

Overspending is easy to do. If you pass your holiday season focused on Open

Houses and showings, versus how to find the bow big enough to stick atop your

wife’s new car, you’ll minimize the likelihood of having to press pause on your real

estate plans while you recoup from your hemorrhage of holiday funds.

 

 

  1. Money pits become crystal clear.

 

Buyers rely on inspections and disclosures to surface the hidden defects and

property issues. But if you’ve ever read a property inspection report, you know they

come with a laundry list of caveats and exceptions, line items where the inspector

simply can’t make a call or vouch for a feature, because they could not see the

feature in action during the time they were on site.

 

Off-season house hunters have the unique advantage of being able to see the roof,

drainage systems, slopes and basements of a property performing under the

precise weather conditions – rain, snow, wind and sleet – that often cause unpleasant

surprises to spring and summer home buyers.

 

If ‘your’ target property has a roof leak, you’ll know it, if you view it at this time of

year – and that allows you and the seller to negotiate a fix or a credit before you

lock in your price and terms.

 

Remember: The normal rules apply

 

The off-season is a great time to buy, but don’t expect to score a mansion for pennies. Talk to your agent for real advice on what to expect. You may find you’ll get you more consideration, responsiveness, speed, and maybe a better deal than shopping any other time of year.

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Use These 15 Smart Tactics To Win A Real Estate Bidding War

As the housing market shows signs of recovery, homebuyers are flocking to snap up deals on bargain properties across the country. 

That means running into competition is par for the course––and the weakest bids will not survive.

“If you are serious about buying, it becomes a bit of a part time job,” says Zillow.com real estate expert Brendon DeSimone. “This is your home and your only investment.”

We asked DeSimone to clue consumers into how they can make their bids stand out.

1. Don’t wait for the open house

Boonsri Dickinson, Business Insider

DeSimone is quick to advise clients to see as many houses as possible on weekends––whether or not they’re invited.

“With the Internet, information moves so quickly. [Sellers] could do a private showing Wednesday [days before a scheduled open house]” he says. “If it looks good online, go see it.”

2. Check email hourly for listing updates from your broker

rogersmj/ Flickr

“If you’re a serious buyer, you make it a priority in your life and you’re going to get email alerts from your broker every other hour,” he says.

“Be in touch with your agent and know about new properties as they hit the market.”

3. Don’t be intimidated by higher bidders

Flickr via bionicteaching

These days, investors and average joes alike are flocking to snatch up deals on homes. Don’t let them psych you out, DeSimone says.

“Don’t spend too much energy trying to figure out what’s really going on with the other offers. If you love the property, keep moving forward, but at your own pace. Make the offer you’re comfortable with, and only when you’re comfortable making it.”

4. Make sure your broker is local and well-known

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

That’s because 80 percent of business is done by just 20 percent of brokers. The more respected they are within the community, the better shot they have at wooing listing agents.

“My clients (win) because the listing agent knows me,” DeSimone says. “In a competitive situation, working with a known broker will make the listing agent feel better and boost your chances, especially if two offers are close.”

5. Get in the listing agent’s good graces

Business Insider

Why? Because the listing agent is the only person who meets all the parties involved in a sale.

“Though the seller ultimately decides and signs a contract, the listing agent has a giant say in who gets the property in a competitive situation,” DeSimone says. “If you make a good impression with the listing agent, you are in much better shape.  Acting like a jerk to the agent tells the sellers to work with another offer.”

6. Line up an appraisal even before making an offer

Flickr via willsisti

Per DeSimone:

“One thing I once did was to have the bank try to get an appraiser lined up and on their calendar before an offer was made. That way, the buyer could tell the seller that the appraisal would happen within x days of signing a contract. If you tell the seller two or three weeks, your offer looks weaker.”

7. Look for the WORST house on the block

John Moore/Getty Images

It may sound counterintuitive, but you’re better off looking at a fixer-upper than going for the McMansion next door. Chances are competition won’t be as fierce.

Says DeSimone:

“You can always improve the property and therefore increase its value. And because it’s on a great block, improvements you make to the home will be practically guaranteed to give you a top return on your investment. Just don’t get carried away and turn the worst house on the block into the biggest and most expensive one.”

8. Keep tabs on your mortgage lender and rates

YouTube

Once you’ve been pre-approved for a loan, have your mortgage broker or lender write a letter saying as much.

“Even reference the property so that the listing agent knows that the lender/mortgage broker is up to speed,” DeSimone says.

9.Keep an eye on current mortgage rates

“Sometimes the rates drop or increase significantly from the time you first spoke to the lender and the time you write an offer,” DeSimone says.

“If rates have decreased, maybe you can afford more. You should know this.”

10. Know your neighbors––and what their homes are worth

Flickr/infrogmation

Getting to know the neighborhood you’re hoping to call home one day goes far beyond scoping out local schools and seeing who prowls the streets at night.

“When you are ready to seriously write offers and compete, you should know what is going on with the local neighborhood market,” DeSimone says. “Follow what has recently sold, what was competitive and what was not.”

11. Try bending the rules a little

Flickr via derkstenvers

Per DeSimone:

“One thing I did in the past was with a very serious and motivated buyer. The home was vacant [sellers moved out]. So, we went in with an inspector because the home had a lock box. The buyer did their inspections before writing the offer. This way the buyer could make an offer knowing what the issues were, if any. And, for their offer they could waive their inspections contingency. No inspections means no risk for the seller.”

12. Hire an inspector within two days

Flickr via nashvillecorps

“Order the inspection before you write the offer. It doesn’t necessarily have to be two days but your offer should show the seller that you are prepared to move quickly,” DeSimone says.

“If you wait two weeks and then the inspector finds something and you walk away, the seller is left out to dry.  The seller wants to know this is out of the way quickly.”

13. Use cash to put your bid over the edge

Flickr via louistan3

More often than not, most homebuyers simply can’t afford to plop down $180,000 in cash on a new home.

But when it comes to sweetening your bid, offering to pay at least the deposit in cash could push you over the edge.

“The more you offer, the better,” DeSimone says

14. Put your passion into words

Mark Douwe Decker via Flickr

Once you’ve had the chance to get to know the current owners, don’t be afraid to appeal to their interests the old-fashioned way.

“I’ve seen buyers Google the owners and see that they have a love for horses, so they wrote them a letter talking about their love for horses, too,” DeSimone says. “Sometimes it’ll work [to give you an edge].”

15. Don’t get distracted by what you can’t afford

Flickr / mugley

As with any bidding war, it’s important to be quick on your feet. People slow themselves down when they don’t stick to what they can afford, DeSimone says.

“Know your limits on the high and low end. Knowing this will allow you to act fast,” he says, as it’ll help your broker weed out properties out of your range.

Use These 15 Smart Tactics To Win A Real Estate Bidding War

Click here to see original article here.

Article written by Mandi Woodruff .

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8 Reasons to buy at the Jersey Shore Now !

 

As the real estate market continues its bumpy road toward recovery, the vacation home market is heating up, causing homeowners around the country to seriously consider buying the vacation home they’ve been eyeing.

 

 “Whether you’re looking for a charming beach bungalow or a high rise condo, a host of market conditions have come together to make buying a vacation home a smart move.”

 

“The drop in home prices, incredibly low interest rates and the increase in demand for vacation rentals make it an optimal time to explore a second home purchase.

 

 

  1. Prices down 20-40%. Lower prices and less competition are the tip of the iceberg-sized list of factors that make it a good time to consider a vacation home buy.
  2. Living the dream. Many people have dreamed of a Shore home and are know making it a reality.
  3. Interest rates.Rates, of course, are at historic lows. Lock in a good rate, buy a vacation home in a desirable location, and watch your asset appreciate over the long-term.
  4. Need to relax. Many busy people find The Jersey Shore a very relaxing place. Year around the beach communities have a laid back atmosphere and lots to do to unwind.
  5. A relatively safe investment.Real estate has proven itself to be a safe place to park your money for the long-term. (Long-term is key). Stock market woes have always pushed people to look for alternate investments, and real estate is a consistent stronghold.
  6. A place for the whole family. Having a place for all your family and friends to congregate. The Jersey Shore is centrally located half way between the East Coast Metropolis (New York to Washington, DC).
  7. Make a profit.Or, better yet, make your vacation home pay for itself. Only planning on using your vacation home a few months out of the year? Rent it out short-term to vacationers looking for a great place to stay. Many homeowners make a killing listing their homes on VRBO.com. (Vacation Rental By Owner).
  8. Touch your investment. After years of reviewing investment statements many families decide to touch their investment in the form of real estate.

 

If this message has hit home for you, please contact me as many people before you have and let me work through the home buying process for you.

 

This year alone I have helped my clients buy beach properties from $85,000. to over $1.1 million from Atlantic City down as far south as Wildwood Crest. With over 28 years of experience I know the Jersey Shore as well as anyone. I have a deep understanding of the different towns and can help you navigate through them.

 

Please let me, Ian Lazarus and my team of experienced agents make your dream come true. Its not as scary as it seems. There are still so great deals out there.

 

Warm regards,

 

Ian Lazarus

The Lazarus Team

The Landis Co., Realtors

609-457-0258

ian@mygo2realtor.com

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5 Confessions of a First-Time Home Buyer

I know a lot about real estate – now. But when I bought my very first home, I knew nothing about real estate and hadn’t even starting working in the field. In fact, I was like any other brand-new home buyer out there: fired-up, overeager and completely uninitiated.

So, I made a mistake or two. Or twelve, give or take. Many of these were mistakes I didn’t even realize I’d made until a few years down the line. Fortunately for me, none of my first-time home buying mistakes were disastrous – and fortunately for you, I’m going to share them here, so you don’t have to repeat them!

Here are five lessons I learned in the course of buying my first home, so all you first-timers don’t have to. (Agents and homeowners, please share your lessons in the comments, too!)

Confession #1:  I would never have found my house searching in what I thought was my price range. I started my house hunt pretty clear on what price range I should be searching in, based on what I could afford and how much my lender said I was qualified to borrow. Then, as buyers are wont to do, I began to inch my search price range upwards, looking at homes listed above what I could afford in hopes that I could find a higher-priced (read: better) home, then negotiate my way back down to my target price range.

In one way, this strategy worked: tweaking my price range upward opened up a number of new properties that I’d never seen before. Unfortunately, the market climate was then very similar to what it’s like now – in my area, it was very common, at the time, for the better homes to get somewhere between 3 and 10 offers. So, I would make an offer on a listing priced slightly above my max, and not only could I not bring the seller down, the home would actually sell for more than it was listed for.

In the end, I tweaked my home search price range a bit below where I’d been looking before, and voila – that opened up lots of new properties, too. But these were properties where I could be very competitive, even against other buyers, at offer prices well within what was affordable to me. One of these lower-priced homes, in fact, turned out to become my home.

The upshot: If property pickings seem slim, tweak the price range you’re using to search for homes – in both directions.

Confession #2:   I had to learn to walk a fine emotional line.  Here’s the deal – at the time, my home was the biggest purchase I had ever made – by far. I was a lawyer, so I’d worked on some major transactions, but still – we were talking about the place where I’d live every day, the place for which I’d be writing what then seemed like a whopping check every month, the place where my kids would grow up, for Pete’s sake! So, I wanted to get it right, like every first-time buyer does.

At first, I did not want to even consider making an offer on a place unless I found everything about it to be utterly breathtaking. I mean, I wanted the place to literally sweep me off my feet, sing me a love song and woo me with rose petals before I’d even give it the time of day.

And I saw homes that did – they seemed perfect. To me and, apparently, to every other buyer in the greater East Bay area, that is: the places I loved beyond all reason ended up being the subject of 10, 15, even 18 offers.

At the same time, my agent showed me this dumpy little house that just did not do it for me. Someone from another era and with a decidedly different design aesthetic than mine had lived there, for sure: there were actually rooms wallpapered – wallpapered! – with roses, bows and kittens. And there was what I liked to call “puke green” shag carpet all over the place. But the layout and neighborhood were nice, it had panoramic Bay Views and hints of hardwood could be seen in the closets.

But my agent showed me this place at least three times, and at some point, something clicked in my head. I started to be able to visualize how things *could* be in that home, after some work. Eventually, I bought this house –  because it showed so poorly, as a listing, I had zero competition and was able to get it for a song. (It’s the Bay Area, so it was a big, long song, but much less than I’d expected to spend.)

And even more eventually, it became more beautiful and much lovelier to live in than I’d ever imagined it could. But that only happened after much more work, much more money and much more time than I’d ever expected. Without the vision for what could be, I’d have certainly gotten discouraged at some point along the way.

So, yes – it is important to fall in love, before you pull the home buying trigger. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be with the property in precisely its present condition. Ultimately, I realized that your love for either the home or for your vision of the life you could realistically live in that home someday are equally solid foundations for making an offer on a property. At the same time, I learned, it is foolhardy and exhausting to get so emotionally attached to a home that you overextend yourself trying to get it, or have a hard time moving on to the next listing if you are ouitbid.

It’s a fine emotional line, but one that you have to learn to walk.

The upshot: Don’t make an offer unless you’re excited about the home – as it is now, or as it could be. But don’t get too excited until after you’re in contract and past the inspections and appraisal.

Confession #3:  A “free” agent is the most effective sort. Allow me to be frank: I’ve been called bossy. I know what I like, what I don’t like and how to get it – in every sort of situation. I know the keywords that have proven success getting me exactly what I want from every vendor: from the tailor to the vet to the over-the-phone order taker at my favorite Vietnamese restaurant (“A number 64, please; no tomatoes – pause while they find the “no tomatoes” button; no onions – pause while they find the “no onions” button; substitute shrimp for the tofu.  Thanks!”)

Here’s what I found out: buying a home is simply not like placing an order. And working with a real estate agent is not like working with any other sort of salesperson. Rather, working with a great agent is like a hybrid experience of working with an expert salesperson who intimately knows their inventory and the ins-and-outs of how to make a deal, and working with an expert advisor like a CPA or an attorney, who you pay specifically for their advice, insight and expertise at complex topics that you know little or nothing about.

My agent showed me that little ugly kitty wallpapered house first. Then he showed me the places I wanted to see, we made offers, and I didn’t get any of them.  Then he showed me the puke green carpeted house again.  And then again.  And eventually, I could see what he saw: the massive untapped value. The huge potential. The sound investment and the great place to live that this home ultimately represented for my family.

And so it was that I learned this: if you trust your agent, give them the freedom to show you things that may not fit inside the little, precisely defined box of what you think you want. I’ll go even further – give your agent the freedom to show you things that you don’t think you’d like. Then have a dialogue: ask them to help you see what they see – ask them to make the case for why you should consider the property.  And stay open to seeing things through their eyes – that sort of flexibility can open up whole new realms of possibilities and properties.  (And if you don’t trust your agent, you’re just working with the wrong one. There are plenty out there worthy of your trust.)

The upshot: Stay as flexible as you can, as long as you can. Keep your deal-breakers and must-haves to a minimum to get maximum benefit from your agent’s expertise.

Confession #4: I didn’t do my due diligence.  Now, I was no idiot: I went to all the inspections, read all the reports, asked all the questions. Yet and still, I missed things – a couple of big things.  I’d been told my new home, which was in an unincorporated area between two towns, was in the school district of the closest town – which was a very desirable district. But I didn’t actually call the district to verify this and, as a result, my kids spent a year taking two buses to get to the not-so-great schools of the district we were actually in before I pulled them out and spent a small fortune on private schooling for a number of years.

Further, as I became friendly with the neighbors after I moved in, they asked me how I’d felt about the “tragedy” that had taken place in the property before I moved in, and expressed admiration for my bravery at buying the place. I had no idea what they were talking about, did some digging and found that someone had tragically killed themselves in the home not long before I bought it.

Were these lapses in the legally required disclosures?  You bet: the seller absolutely had a legal obligation to make accurate and complete disclosures on both these points, and didn’t. More importantly, though, these were both things that I could have uncovered quickly myself by simply calling the school district and doing an online Google search for the property’s address (the unfortunate death had been covered in the news which was just starting to be available online). And I didn’t. But that was the last time I ever made those mistakes!

The upshot: Hire the pros for your inspections and such, but ultimately, due diligence is a dish best served DIY (do it yourself).

Confession #5: I didn’t know what was really important to me.  I thought square footage, good views, safety and quiet were all criticaI. I insisted those items were deal breakers – and got them. I also wanted a big yard for the kids, fantastic views and a good commute to a wide variety of areas, but these were a little lower down on my priority list.

In retrospect, I can say that I definitely missed the mark on a number of other things. I thought a safe, quiet neighborhood was great – something off the beaten path. I thought an area with no rowdy school kids around would be ideal for the serenity I sought. So, I bought a home in a neighborhood filled with retired couples, some of whom I still count as dear friends, high on a hilltop with stunning views. I thought I’d be so delighted to take my kids and dog to the park to play that I’d rather have lovely views than a backyard.

Unfortunately, “off the beaten path” translated to “really far from the nearest Trader Joe’s.” And no noisy kids meant that my own kids had no neighborhood friends. Before we even made it to the next autumn, the aging population cause the powers that be to shutter the nearest schools, so we had to bus the kids two towns over to get to our “local” elementary school. And before long, I started my own business, having zero time to take kids or canine to the park, so all of my little monsters spent much more time indoors than I would have liked.

Needless to say, my next home was on a quiet street, just a few blocks away from a bustling shopping district, near the kids’ school – and it had a big backyard, a much more diverse age mix of neighbors and a dog park at the end of the block.

The upshot:  Cultivate clarity about your vision for your life, rather than just the specs of the home you think you want, before you start your house hunt.

The other upshot: Whatever you dislike about your home (and there will be something) you’ll have a chance to correct the next go-round.

All: What lessons would you like to share with those buying a Jersey Shore home for the first time around?  Fess up!

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The Real Value of Homeownership . . . It’s Not Monetary

by CHRISTOPHER REALE  

 

There are numerous media sources reporting the advantages and disadvantages of homeownership. Every expert (from international money managers who have hundreds of billions of dollars of assets under management to local and national real estate experts) has chimed in on the subject. The bottom line is that the percentage of folks that own a home is going down.

This is largely because the amount of Echo-Boomers, adults from the ages of 18-34, are either still living at home or are renting. I write this blog post not for the hopes that those individuals will enter the world of homeownership (I am confident that they will when the time is right), but to give readers a real life experience of the value of homeownership. And it is certainly not monetary.

I grew up in a middle-class family. Both of my parents worked and were lucky enough to have steady employment for most of their careers. My father worked within the same industry for almost 30 years and retired at the age of 62 with my mother doing so as well. They purchased a simple home back in 1972 for about $35,000. At that time, their mortgage payment with taxes and insurance was about 40% of their take home pay. Needless to say, with all other household expenses, they were barely making ends meet. Their decision to buy a home was not made from the expectation of home appreciation and whether or not it was a good investment. No, they did not even remotely think of those points when closing on their home! Instead, their goal was to raise a family in a home which they could call their own. It would be a permanent place that their child could call home…a home in which they could have family gatherings for holidays such as Christmas and Christmas Eve which were always hosted by my mother and father. A home that when my parents came home from a long day at work they could walk into and relax. For a moment, they could feel like a burden was lifted off their shoulders and all the day’s work actually meant something. They were building a foundation of memories!

Childhood

I was born in 1974. I was lucky enough to have parents that had started to build the foundation that was the basis of memories that will last a lifetime. I can remember playing basketball and baseball in the driveway with my father and wrestling with my dogs on the front lawn. I remember waiting and looking out the window anxiously for all of my relatives to show up for the holidays. I remember the aroma of Christmas cookies and pies permeating the house. I remember all of my cousins and neighborhood friends retreating to the basement playroom during holidays where we would spend hours talking and playing with toys. We were establishing memories and friendships that carry on to this day.

Second Home

During the Summer, my father’s love for fishing and the ocean brought us to a campground on the shores of Cape Cod. My mother worked in the public school system which afforded her the summers off from work. From the time I was 7 years old, on the last day of the school year, we packed the car and headed off to the trailer for 3 months of beach going, fishing, and camping. My mother and I would stay down the Cape for the summer and my father would make the journey every weekend to join us. Again, I am blessed to have such great parents that allowed this to happen. In 1984, my parents, along with some campsite comrades, decided to purchase land and build a summer home for their respective families. The choice was a tough one. Both families knew it would be financially testing to complete such a task. However, in the long run, they felt it was the right decision. A permanent summer home where their families could congregate, host visitors, and relax from the week-long grind was worth the financial sacrifice. Again, this decision was not made in the hopes of financial gain; it was made for the good of their family.

I remember the construction of the home as if it were yesterday…from the pouring of the foundation, to the framing, to the day my father and I made our first overnight stay. We slept in cots in front of the fireplace that my father and his best friend built. The house was not finished but we were so anxious to stay in the house that we did so without plumbing or light fixtures. We had a blast! Those memories will last me a lifetime.

Fast Forward

Unfortunately, after a battle with cancer my father passed away on April 28, 2010 at the age of 69. A month earlier, my daughter, his first grandchild was born. Tragically, my daughter will never have the privilege to meet my father and my best friend. But while sitting on the Cape house deck in the very chair my father always relaxed in, watching my wife and mother play with Riley in her wading pool, I came to realize something. So many of us look at homeownership through “monetary glasses”. When one is buying a house as a primary or secondary residence and is hoping to stay a while, homeownership is not about the monetary/price appreciation aspect of purchasing the home. It is about building a foundation of memories for you and your loved ones. I count my blessings that my parents thought this way. It is because of their wise decisions, that the foundation they built will be enjoyed for generations to come.

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5 Mistakes Buyers Make in a Hot Market

By Tara Nicholle Nelson
 August 8, 2012
Note: This is Part 1 of our two-part ‘Hot Market Mistakes’ series. While home prices are nowhere near their peak of 6 or 7 years ago, the nationwide data is clear: the housing market this summer has been hotter than at any time since the recession:
  • The Census Bureau just revealed that new home starts rose 6.9% in June to their highest level in four years – up 23.6% from a year earlier.
  • In April, home prices rose for the first time in seven months, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index.
  • The number of home sales pending rose 9.5 percent year-over-year from June 2011 to June 2012, as reported by the National Association of Realtors.

Given this rapid turn of the market, what’s a buyer to do? Maybe take a new approach to prepping for the hot market house hunt. To that effect, I submit that savvy buyers will find more pitfall-preventing power in learning what not to do. Inspired by the last time we had a market heated up by short times on market, low inventory and multiple offers, here are five hot market mistakes home buyers should avoid making:
1.  Acting out of desperation.  Deep inhale – aaaaaand exhale. It’s extremely easy to get caught up in the lightning-fast pace at which the great homes come on and off your local market, growing panicked and even desperate – especially when you see ‘just-right’ homes go from ‘New’ to ‘Pending’ status before you can even get an appointment to see them!
But know this: desperation has no place in a home buying transaction. Panic does nothing but cause people to make impulsive and otherwise unwise decisions, ranging from talking themselves into a home that isn’t quite what they really want, to paying way more than they can truly afford to spend (see #s 4 and 5, below).
If you’re in the market for a home, and your local market is so hot it’s causing you to feel freaked-out, panicked or overwhelmed, remind yourself that:
  • There are probably hundreds of homes in your neck of the woods that will meet your needs. When one goes off the market, another is on it’s way on.
  • There is no ‘perfect’ home.  If you didn’t get that one that seems like ‘the one,’ then, by definition, it’s not ‘the one.’
  • Every home you see or make an offer on, and don’t get, equips you with a better understanding of the market, putting you in a better position to get the home that will eventually be yours. In life generally, I believe every experience is either a stunning success, or a successful education. Look at the homes you miss out on as an opportunity to get a successful education about the market.

Desperate is bad.  Urgent, however, is good. If you know, for example, that single family, 3+ bedroom homes, near downtown under $400,000 move very, very quickly, then act on that knowledge:
  • Ask your agent to notify you as soon as they hear of homes coming on the market that meet your needs – even before they are on the MLS, if possible.
  • Give your contact information to the listing agents at Open Houses similar to what you’re looking for and ask them to drop you a note if they get similar listings.
  • As soon as you see a new listing that seems like it might work for you, go see it – don’t wait for the weekend. And if you see a home and really like it, make an offer without further ado.

2.  Hesitating. What’s worse than seeing great properties come and go before you can get out to see them?  Seeing them go into contract after you view them, but before you make your own offer. When the market is hot, often buyers who have been sitting on the fence or simply window-shopping for ages will stumble into a great Open House and decide that it’s time to make an offer, only to realize that their loan approval has expired and it will take a day or two to get a new one. At the other end of the spectrum, buyers who have just started house hunting can come across a home they love, but drag their feet in making an offer because (a) they’re used to a slower-paced market, so don’t recognize the urgency and (b) they aren’t 100 percent sure something better won’t be coming right along.
On a hot real estate market, hesitation can be costly.  You can end up in a multiple offer situation where you would have been the only offer a few days prior, or can even end up losing out on a property entirely because another, more decisive buyer swoops the place right out from under your nose.
Morals of the story: Make sure you maintain a current loan approval in place at all times – in fact, I say you shouldn’t be out house hunting if you don’t have a current loan approval.  And, for those new to the house hunt, go Open House hunting even when you aren’t completely in love with the listings you’re seeing online. Once you’ve seen a good number of homes, you’ll have more material against which to compare every other home you see, making you less likely to dither before making an offer when you do find a good one.
3.  Ignoring the market entirely.  I’m not an advocate of making your decisions about whether and when to buy or sell based on what’s happening in the market. Rather, I recommend making your real estate decisions based on what’s happening (and what you forecast and envision will be happening in the next 5-10 years) in your family, your career and your life.  
That said, when it comes time to execute your decision to buy, it’s foolhardy not to take market dynamics into account.  I’ve seen many a buyer over the years decide to stick their heads in the sand and their ears in their fingers, tuning out all of the market ‘noise’ as though it doesn’t apply to them.  Unfortunately, in a hot market, this usually results in them getting beat out for 5 or 10 different houses, then having the emotional kneejerk reaction of throwing every single dollar they have at the next house they fall in love with – whether it’s the right house or not, and whether they can truly afford it or not.
You don’t want to fall under the panic-inducing spell of the market, but neither do you want to ignore it. Rather, ask your local agent to help you pay attention to neighborhood-specific information, like:
  • which types of properties move quickly,
  • how many days they generally stay on the market,
  • whether multiple offers are a reality you need to face, and
  • how much over-asking homes like the one you want are selling for.

Then, use this information to make strategic decisions about your home buying process, covering everything from which properties and areas you’ll focus on, how quickly you’ll need to get out to see listings and – most importantly – what price range you should focus your search on.  If you know homes are selling for over-asking, engineer your search price range to be low enough that you can be successful, rather than exclusively looking at properties priced at the top of the range you can afford.
4.  Financial fogginess.  Don’t run the numbers in your head.  Don’t ballpark your income, the big bills and such on a notepad, stick your finger in the wind, and decide you can afford X number of thousands of dollars a month for a home. Home buying is the big leagues, financially speaking, so you need to be sparkling, crystal clear on precisely what you can afford. This universal truth of home buying is especially critical in a hot market, where you may be faced with the need to make decisions about whether to increase your price range or your offer price on relatively short notice.
Either keep an income/expense journal, use an online money app like Mint or Manilla or sit down and do a deep dive into your last few months’ checking and other account statements to get a complete picture of what you can afford and to get conscious about what sacrifices might want or need to make.   It is not overkill to bring your tax advisor or financial planner into this conversation, so they can help you understand how your tax situation as a home owner may change, freeing up some extra monthly budget room for your mortgage, property taxes, insurance and HOA Dues or Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI), if applicable. Also, make sure you include line items for your savings, retirement investing, gifts, school tuition, travel and recreation – the sorts of things that lenders will not account for when they tell you what their guidelines say you can afford.
5.  Overpaying.  There are several ways to overpay for a home.  You could pay more than the place is worth, which is difficult to do if you are buying the place with a mortgage loan which requires an appraisal. You could pay more than you need to in order to get the property, which sometimes happens to buyers in multiple offer situations, and buyers who have experienced the trauma of losing out on home after home, and who just decide to make a high offer to get closure and secure a place they like. Whether any price meets this second definition of ‘overpaying’ is difficult to ascertain, as it would require us to know what would have happened in the hypothetical world in which they didn’t offer such a high price and so, might not actually have been the successful buyer.
The antidote to both these forms of overpaying is simple: pulling the comparables before you decide what to offer.  It only takes a minute, your agent will help you, and it’s just not prudent, in 2012, to decide on an offer price without a fresh pull of the sales data on the similar, nearby homes that have recently sold.  If your agent includes active and pending sales in their pull of the comparable data set, you may also find out useful information like whether several other competitive properties have just hit the market, or that all of the competition is now pending – things that might also inform your motivation levels or price strategy.
And there is a third, more insidious form of overpaying that haunts hot market buyers as well: paying more than you can truly afford for a home. It’s fine, even expected, that if you thought you were buying into a depressed market and instead end up buying in a hot one, you might have experienced some upward ‘creep’ in what you’re willing to spend for a home. But that doesn’t excuse letting that creep go beyond what you can truly afford, overextending yourself.  
This form of overspending is also more difficult to do now than it was before the housing market recession began, as lender guidelines a much tighter now than then. But it’s still possible – especially as lenders don’t account for what you should be putting aside for savings, for retirement, for your children’s education and other essential monthly budget items that impact what you can truly afford to pay for a home.  
The only cure for this form of overspending is for you to both know (see #4, above) and to set in stone what your actual, top-line maximum home purchase price is – even if you are the only one who knows this number, in your own head. Your mortgage professional can help you work backwards from the amount of cash you have to invest in the transaction and the maximum amount you can devote to your housing costs on a monthly basis, to arrive at your maximum home purchase price.
Long story short – if you’ve been pondering the prospect of buying a home for long, you might feel like you’ve been sitting in the economy section of an emotional rollercoaster. Prices fell so fast you might have doubted whether buying makes sense at all. Now, with barely a plateau, they’re on the upswing – and every other buyer in town seems to be dropping offers on the choice homes before you can even get out to see them.  Use these tools to avoid repeating the mistakes of the last generation of homeowners.