Thursday, March 21, 2013

Rise in Home Demand Takes Builders by Surprise

After six years of waiting on the sidelines, newly eager home buyers across the country are discovering that there are not enough houses for sale to accommodate the recent flush of demand.

“In my 27 years I’ve never seen inventories this low,” said Kurt K. Colgan, a broker with Lyon Real Estate in the Sacramento metropolitan area, where the share of homes on the market has plummeted by one of the largest amounts in the nation. “I’ve also never seen a market turn so quickly.”

The housing turnaround seems to have caught almost everyone in the business by surprise. As desirable as the long-awaited improvement may be, the unusually low level of homes for sale is creating widespread problems for buyers and sellers alike, leading to bidding wars and bubblelike price jumps in places that not long ago were suffering from major declines. In the Sacramento area, where the housing bust took an especially heavy toll, the median sales price has surged 15 percent over the last year, according to Zillow.

Nationwide, sales prices rose 7.3 percent over the course of 2012, according to the Standard & Poor’s Case-Shiller index, ranging from a slight decline in New York to a surge of 23 percent in Phoenix. Tracking more closely with the national trend were cities like Dallas, up 6.5 percent; Tampa, which rose 7.2 percent; and Denver, which gained 8.5 percent.

In many areas, builders are scrambling to ramp up production but face delays because of the difficulty of finding construction workers and in obtaining permits from suddenly overwhelmed local authorities. At the same time, homeowners — many of them lifted above water for the first time in years — often remain reluctant to sell, either because they want to wait and see how much further prices will climb or because they are afraid of being displaced in the sudden buying frenzy.

“You see a home go for sale and within a couple days there are three, four, six offers,” said Carrie Miskawi, a mother of three young children who has been looking for a new home for the last six months with Mr. Colgan’s help. She and her husband have decided not to put their current home on the market because they fear it will be snatched up before they have a chance to bid successfully on a new one.

“It’s kind of a Catch-22,” Mr. Colgan said. As long as large numbers of people are hesitant to put their own homes on the market because so few other homes are available, he said, there won’t be many homes available.

Across the country, the raw number of homes for sale is at its lowest level since 1999, according to the National Association of Realtors. In the Sacramento metro area, home listings were down 60 percent in January from a year earlier, compared with 23 percent for the country over all, according to Zillow.

Inventories have been whittled down largely because new construction ground to a standstill for several years. Investors large and small have also scooped up most of the backlog of foreclosures and short sales; about 40 percent of all homes bought in Sacramento County over the last year were purchased by owners who currently live at a different address, according to county records and title data provided by the Fidelity National Title Insurance Company.

But steady job growth has put more people back to work, and families that put off moving because they couldn’t afford it are finally ready to do so. “Distressed” sales are down and conventional sales are up. Extraordinarily low mortgage rates don’t hurt, either.

“The recovery is real,” said John Burns, chief executive of John Burns Real Estate Consulting. “But the pace of the recovery has an artificial component to it.” Some real estate agents in Sacramento, like Tom Phillips, have resorted to knocking on doors in desirable neighborhoods to see if the owners might, if asked nicely and promised a healthy gain, sell to one of his clients. One couple he represents, Darcey and Jason Schmelzer, just moved into a yearlong rental with their two boys because they sold before they could find a new place. They received four offers on the first day they put their home on the market, with the winning bid about $10,000 above asking price.

For the builders who survived the collapse, the tight market is a signal to get back to work. Monthly permits for single-family homes in the Sacramento area more than doubled from January 2012 to January 2013, though they are still only a quarter of the level they reached during the bubble. Nationally, the construction industry added 48,000 jobs in February, the biggest increase since 2007.

The housing upturn looks set to continue, finally adding a crucial element of support to the slowly improving economy. The government reported Tuesday that housing permits, while far below their peak, surged in February to their highest level since June 2008, an increase of nearly 34 percent from a year earlier. But it will still be many months before new homes now going through the approval process will be ready to move in.

 The New Home Company has ramped up building as fast as it can, said Kevin S. Carson, the president of the company’s Northern California division. Founded in 2009 by the veterans of a major home builder that filed for bankruptcy during the crisis, the company plans to build 120 homes in Northern California this year, in contrast to 50 homes last year.

Construction is expected to take longer than usual, though, and expenses are rising, Mr. Carson said. That is primarily because after six years of almost no local building, skilled labor is scarce.

Many workers in the immigrant-heavy industry have left the area, returning to Mexico and other points south. Others pursued work in Texas’s energy boom, where both drilling and construction jobs have become more plentiful. Those who stayed in the local area often switched to medical data entry, U.P.S. delivery services, or anything else that they could find. Or they filed for disability and dropped out the labor force altogether.

Some, like the 38-year-old electrician Gideon Jacks, are gingerly returning to construction work after taking a hiatus (in Mr. Jacks’s case, the hiatus was in several low-paying jobs at restaurants), but others remain reluctant to return to the hard physical labor and unstable job prospects.

“They say, ‘That’s the last time I’m riding that roller coaster,’” said Rick Wylie, president of the Beutler Corporation, a Sacramento air-conditioning and plumbing company. In 2005 he employed 2,100 workers, but by 2009 Beutler had only 270 employees. Mr. Wylie, who currently employs about 550, is now having trouble luring back many workers he let go.

“I don’t mean to complain,” he said. “This is a good problem to have, a world-class problem, to not be able to find workers to do all the work you’re getting.” The shortages aren’t limited to the workers toiling in the hot sun, either.

“You walk into the permit office, and it’s like a ghost town in there,” said Michael Haemmig, president of Haemmig Construction in Nevada City, Calif., about an hour north of Sacramento. He says local governments were caught off-guard by the suddenly renewed interest in building and do not have enough people in place to handle the paperwork.

“This being California, we have more regulations and permits than ever, and it takes more time to get each permit approved,” he said. For builders still hesitant to dive into the market too deeply, such delays may actually be welcome, since they help buy more time for prices to rise further.

“If we could build 500 houses right now, could we sell them?” asked Harry Elliott III, president of Elliott Homes, a century-old company that built 250 homes last year and plans 350 this year, compared with a high of 1,400 in 2006. “Possibly, but I don’t want to sell all my lots that I’ve held on to forever and have to give them away at these prices.”

“We lost money for a lot of years, and I’d like to make some money for a change,” he added. “I’m not building because I need the practice.”

Reposted from NY Times. Max Whittaker for The New York Times

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Happy Nowruz! Happy First Day of Spring!

Short History of Nowruz
Nowrūz (Persian: نوروز‎, IPA: [nouˈɾuːz], meaning "[The] New Day") is the name of the Iranian/Persian New Year[15] in Iranian calendars and the corresponding traditional celebrations. Nowruz is also widely referred to as the "Persian New Year".

Nowruz is celebrated and observed by Iranian peoples and the related cultural continent and has spread in many other parts of the world, including parts of Central Asia, Caucasus, South Asia, Northwestern China, the Crimea and some groups in the Balkans.

Nowruz marks the first day of spring and the beginning of the year in the Iranian calendar. It is celebrated on the day of the astronomical Northward equinox, which usually occurs on March 21 or the previous/following day depending on where it is observed.
As well as being a Zoroastrian holiday and having significance amongst the Zoroastrian ancestors of modern Iranians, it is also celebrated in parts of the South Asian sub-continent as the new year. The moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator and equalizes night and day is calculated exactly every year and Iranian families gather together to observe.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Sellers: Four Ways to Hater Proof Your Home

What is a hater anyway? In an urban dictionary it is described as "a person that develops a strong dislike for another, solely basing their own opinion on personal judgment rather than objective merit." In home selling you can and will be judged by buyers and other agents and faced with "haters" on your home.

In our experience, there’s one fundamental truth about haters: you can never fully escape them. The only way to live a 100% hater-free life is to never stick your neck out, and never do anything because, as the saying goes, you simply cannot please all of the people all of the time.

And this is particularly true with real estate and putting your home on the market – because homes, locations, aesthetics and such are so much a matter of personal preference, some people will find something to criticize about even the most perfect properties on the market.

As a homeowner, your job is not to try to make your home be all things to all people – but you do want it to appeal to enough buyers that you get one great offer (and multiple offers never hurt anybody, either). That said, you don’t want your home to be the house that nearly every buyer and broker sees, rolls their eyes and utters the same few, predictable deal-killing criticisms.

Fortunately, what is predictable is avoidable. Unfortunately, many of the things that make a home susceptible to haters are issues on the seller’s side of the property preparation responsibilities. Let’s explore the most common things buyers hate about homes they see. In the process, you’ll get equipped with things you (and your agent) can do to help sidestep those issues and, in large part, hater-proof your own home.

House Hater Complaint #1: Odors.
 You might think I’m beating a dead horse, here, or even preaching to the choir. But as long as house hunters keep emailing us to ask why, in the name of all that is sacred, they keep seeing homes that smell like all sorts of madness and mayhem, I’m going to keep repeating this message to sellers.

Viewing a home sounds like it’s all about the visual of the experience. And visuals are critical – your home should be in its Sunday best, so to speak, when it’s being shown, in terms of being spruced, staged and clutter-free. But when a buyer comes to see your home, they don’t turn off the rest of their senses. And there is nothing that can turn a buyer off from a home they’d otherwise like more quickly than a powerfully bad odor.

In particular, cigarette and pet odors in a house that seems to have been well-cleaned create the concern that they might be permanent and that the buyer might not be able to get rid of them without dropping some serious cash on cleaning or even removing wall, window and floor coverings.

If you are home a home and you know that someone has been habitually smoking in it home or that the seller has had a “challenge,” let’s say, with pet accidents, do not ignore the problem. And do not think that because you had the carpet shampooed or the drapes cleaned, or because YOU can’t smell anything, that the problem is gone.  The human sense of smell very quickly gets used to smells that it lives with or is surrounded with on a regular basis.

It’s one of the tougher parts of your job as an homeowner to ferret out bad smells and odors, no matter how painful or familiar and make sure they are eradicated by any means necessary, before you place your home on the market.

House Hater Complaint #2: Glaringly extreme overpricing.
There’s the kind of overpricing that makes a buyer say, “Hmmm – seems a bit high. Let’s go see it, but we might have to offer a little less than the asking price if we like it.”  Then there’s the kind of overpricing that makes buyer say “I’ll wait until a price reduction” or worse, hold their sides from laughing.

When overpricing is glaring, many buyers and buyer’s brokers will comment on it or inquire about it. What they are less likely to do is actually come out and see the place – especially if they weed it out online after comparing its specs to all the other homes in the area and the price range.  Often, homes this severely overpriced simply don’t sell, or not until after they’ve had some serious price cuts or have been on the market so long buyers begin to feel confident about making lowball offers.

In fact, the goal is the opposite – you want your home to stand out as a property that is not dirt cheap, but does present a good value for the money – that’s what motivates buyers to get out of their chairs and into the property for a viewing. This is also why an agent who knows the market is important.

Obviously, you don’t set the price of your home alone. It’s also obvious that the seller-buyer conflict about overpricing is one of those battles that have been fought since Adam and Eve sought to list the Garden of Eden.

Here’s how to hater-proof your home against this issue: fixate on the comps (comparables). Try to deactivate your emotional attachment and very human tendency to overvalue your precious home by poring over the sales prices (not list prices) of similar, nearby homes that have recently sold with your agent. You will see the overpriced homes that are lagging on the market, and any value-priced homes that have sold for way more than asking.

Also, consider using our first Open House as an additional hater-proof measure: if the buyers overwhelmingly comment that they think the home is significantly overpriced, we can communicate about this feedback.

House Hater Complaint #3: Dirt and messes.
Possibly the single largest source of House Hater Complaints I’ve ever heard are the dirt, messes, piles and personal belongings that buyers find so distracting, when they walk into a home for a viewing or Open House. Obviously, homes that are filthy from floor to ceiling are fertile fodder for haters, but often those homes are bank-owned or otherwise distressed so that the sellers aren’t likely to do much.  What is underestimated is how often even savvy home buyers are distracted (and disgusted) by relatively clean homes that just have a few outstanding messes, like piles of dirty dishes in the sink, piles of dog poo in the yard or even piles of papers, mail, books or clothes lying out in plain view.

Will one or two such items ruin the sale of your home? Perhaps not. But a few of them (or more) can certainly distract a buyer enough that they fixate on the home’s messes and, in the process, fail to see what is so great about your property.  As we see it, cleaning up, before every single showing is free – so it makes no sense to even run the risk of turning off a prospective buyer by letting messes get in the way of their ability to visualize themselves and their families flourishing in your home.
Think like a buyer and in detail on what the buyers would expect, in the way of cleanliness. 

House Hater Complaint #4: Lots of little malfunctions.
All of us tend to think our homes are in fantastic condition.  After all, your have had the furnace maintained regularly, installed granite and dual paned windows – maybe they even taken advice to have the floors refinished or the walls painted in preparation for putting the place on the market.

That’s all fantastic – all the non-cosmetic work that’s been done to maintain and improve your home should be trumpeted in your marketing materials, and the cosmetic items will (or should) speak for themselves. But here’s the thing: house hunters won’t be running the dishwasher or testing the furnace (at least not until inspections).

What they will do – almost unconsciously – is:
• flick light and fan switches
• open or close window coverings, closet, room and entry doors,
• open and close drawers, cupboards, gates and fences and
• hold the handrails as they walk up and down the stairs.

They will hear leaky faucets and point out water spots from long-ago repaired leaks, and they will notice (or potentially trip on) uneven exterior tiles, paths and walkways. And even though these items might be vastly less expensive to fix than the roof or sewer line you had replaced, they are much more visible and noticeable to a buyer.  In fact, buyers don’t always even know that the little malfunctions and repairs that need doing are little or inexpensive. And when they notice a bunch of these sorts of things in a single property, they can jump to the conclusion that the whole place is rickety.

Since these little fixes are inexpensive to make, try to have them completed before you list. We can refer you to great suppliers. You might even walk through your own property with us, together we can pinpoint all the necessary little fixes and happily we have a network of handyperson references for you.

Life, Lived Well.
Any more tips you can think of? We would love to hear from you!

Copyright © 2013 All Rights Reserved.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Housing Market Recovery Signals? Repost

Taxes are higher, gas prices are rising, and Washington is in budget gridlock again, but the nation's housing market is viewing the world through rose-colored glasses. Two pieces of data released Tuesday show that the recovery in real estate continues to be a bright spot in the still somewhat sluggish economic rebound. New-home sales leaped in January versus the previous month to the highest level in 4-1/2 years, government data showed, as steady job creation and record-low interest rates spurred buying.

In the meantime, single-family home prices picked up in December, closing out 2012 with the biggest yearly gain in more than six years, a closely watched survey showed on Tuesday. The S&P/Case Shiller composite index of 20 metropolitan areas rose 0.9 percent in December on a seasonally adjusted basis, topping expectations for a gain of 0.5 percent. On a non-adjusted basis, prices were up 0.2 percent. "Home prices ended 2012 with solid gains," David Blitzer, chairman of the index committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said in a statement. "Housing and residential construction (led) the economy in the 2012 fourth quarter."

Prices in the 20 cities jumped 6.8 percent year-over-year, ahead of expectations for 6.6 percent and the best yearly gain since July 2006. For the final quarter of the year, prices gained 2 percent on a seasonally adjusted basis.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday that new-home sales rose nearly 16 percent in January to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 437,000. The percentage increase was the largest in nearly 20 years. And December's sales were revised higher to 378,000 from 369,000.

The number of previously occupied homes for sale is at a 13-year low. That shortage creates more demand for new homes. Builders began construction on the most homes in four years last year.
Though new homes represent less than 20 percent of the housing sales market, they have an outsize impact on the economy. Each home built creates an average of three jobs for a year and generates about $90,000 in tax revenue, according to data from the National Association of Homebuilders.
The increase in home building has helped boost construction hiring. The industry has gained 98,000 jobs since September, the best stretch since the spring of 2006.

Still, the increases in new-home sales are coming from depressed levels. Sales plummeted to a record low in 2011. And sales are still well below the 700,000 annual level that economists consider healthy.

What do you think? Do you see the housing market recovering?

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this-Thank you.

Friday, March 8, 2013

10 Great Home Staging Tips

Today’s homes don’t sell themselves. To win the battle for buyer attention and bring in the best offers, you have to play an active role in marketing your home. If you’re serious about selling for top-dollar and in record time, follow these sure-fire tips for staging successfully.

1. Check out the competition.
The first step to selling success is to find out what you’re up against. Before and during the selling process, visit other property open houses to see how your home measures up.
When you’re out, here are a few things to note:
• Property Condition
• Highlighted features
• Move-in readiness
• Staging tactics that will work for you

2. Create a staging plan.
Great staging requires that you cover your bases like a pro every time. Whether you hire a professional stager or work with your agent to do-it-yourself, put together a staging plan complete with a checklist and photos of what your home looks like when it’s ready to show. Follow the plan before every showing to make sure you put your best foot forward.

3. Get (and follow) professional advice.
If you’re serious about selling you need to enlist objective professional help. Ask your agent about his or her staging experience or if he or she has a professional stager or designer to recommend.
Data has shown that homes prepared by professional stagers sell for more. Getting an unbiased review from someone who sees your property “as a product” can be invaluable.

4. Eliminate the Excess.
Before you head out to buy new accessories to “spruce up your home” focus first on the items you can remove that will enhance a buyer’s experience.

The best signs of things you should eliminate are things that you aren’t using and those you’re planning to get rid of before you move.

5. Pre-pack personal items.
Depersonalizing and de-cluttering are the most critical steps of staging, but they can be a challenge, To make it easier, start by pre-packing and storing away the items you won’t need until after the move and anything personal (like family photos) that might prevent buyers from the envisioning the home as their own.

6. Clear off the counter space.
When it comes to the tops of your tables and counters, less is more. Clear off your counter spaces except for the occasional decorative or functional pieces (clocks or vases of flowers).

Remember, your gal is to help buyer see themselves in a home and they can’t do that with your stuff in the way.

7. Clean inside and out.
Everyone thinks they know what “clean” means when it comes to their own home. Here’s where an agent or professional stager can be super helpful. Invite them in to get an outsiders opinion on how to make the nooks and crannies you’ve forgotten about, glisten.

Also remember, the best selling homes tend to have garages, basements, side yards, and other outdoor spaces that are just as immaculate as their kitchens, bathrooms and master bedrooms.

8. Dive into the trim and details early.
It’s tempting, when staging, to do the big jobs – painting walls, polishing floors, moving futniture – and to run out of steam and cash before the little details get handled. Some of the least expensive home staging projects can carry the most powerful buyer-impressing payload. Here are a few details to make your listing standout.

• Clean or paint baseboards and other trim
• Ensure locks, doors and drawers work properly
• Paint or replace outdoor access like house numbers or mailboxes.

9. Shoot sample photos.
The first contact most house hunters have with your property is from a computer or mobile phone. Making sure your property presents well there is a big step toward sold.

Before you show off your home to the public, take a look at it from their view. Use your camera or Smartphone to take sample photos and view them on your computer.

10. Be brutally honest with yourself.
When you think you are done preparing your home, think again. It’s not overkill to go out on a Sunday afternoon, walk through a few Open Houses, get back in the car and drive home to walk through it like a buyer would. Ask yourself: What can you edit or de-clutter/ What is distracting? What stops a buyer from seeing the possibilities for their own family here? 

If all else fails, take your agent with you. Arm him or her with a packet of post-it notes and give them free reign to stick one on anything that should be removed before showing your home. Then get that stuff out of there.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Moradifar Group Tip Grab: Small Space? No Problem.

Tips on Making the Most Out of Your Small Space
Do you have a small living room, bathroom or space you aren’t sure what to do with? Turn that small space into your favorite room in the house and get started with these clever tricks to make any room seem more spacious.
Go Monochromatic
Light shades of blue, green, cream, gray or yellow can open up a room instantly. Think pale hues are bland? You can shake up your color palette and detail your room with bright variations of the same hue to add interest and dimension. Color can heighten a room, too. When a ceiling is painted a brighter shade, your eyes are drawn upward, making the room appear taller.
Let Mirrors Do the Work For You
Choose a focal point in the room, like a piece of art or a unique decoration, and mount a mirror on the opposite wall to reflect the piece. This adds the illusion of depth, plus it gives your favorite item twice the attention. Not sure you have a good focal point? No problem. Face your mirrors toward windows or lamps to reflect light and add the appearance of additional space.
Open Up Your Windows
Don’t set your curtain rods to the edges of the window-extend them beyond the frame for the illusion that your windows are larger. When you do this, you’ll also let more light into the room, making it warmer and cozier.
Play With Furniture Arrangements
When arranging a room, your instincts might tell you to push furniture against the wall to open up space in the center. Resist that urge and be playful with arrangements. Try angling pieces or pulling them away from other items to give them room to breathe. And when you opt for multi-purpose furniture, like an ottoman that doubles as a storage bin, you’ll reduce unnecessary clutter in the room.
It’s easy to make any room look larger and it doesn’t have to cost a bundle. In fact, you can try some of these ideas for free! Get started now and have your room feeling more spacious in minutes.

Reposted from
Note: Moradifar Group, American Home Shield Corporation, nor its licensed subsidiaries assumes any responsibility for any loss or damage which may be suffered by the use of this information.