Selling Your Home? Advice from the Pros.

Tips for Selling Your Home

The 2008 economic downturn made things a little tougher for people selling their home, but most experts agree, that the tide is turning—the pendulum is swinging back towards a seller’s market. We’ve talked to local agents for advice for seller’s on getting their homes sold, and sold quickly, in today’s market.

“I’ve been recommending this for years now: Before you put your home on the market, do a presale inspection. Find out what issues may affect the sale of your house. Our biggest problem in getting to settlement is the home inspection process, what home inspectors find out. That’s the biggest reason deals fall apart.”—Eric Braunstein, New Castle

“Don’t compare yourself to homes that aren’t in your market—if you’re not in Radnor, don’t compare your home prices in Radnor. Look at what’s selling in your neighborhood, and compare your home to it. Homes that are priced right have been going in bidding wars, some of them above asking price.”—Olivia Boswell, Chester County

“More sellers understand when their house goes on the market it has to be in better condition. You need to make a good first impression, and that starts curb appeal including the front door. Inside must be uncluttered.  Buyers now are more demanding, wanting a move-in condition home.  Fewer people are willing to put in the effort and energy that goes into fixing a house up.  The paint colors might not be the ones the buyers like, but they won’t need to paint. They can paint rather than have to paint.”—Tom Lowy , Main Line

“Buyers are looking for location and price, but they’re also looking for the condition of the home. There’s a whole generation raised on home-buying shows, so they know what to look for when they go in. If your kitchen hasn’t been updated in years, have a conversation with your realtor to decide if you should invest the $10,000 for upgrades or sell it as is. You also have to declutter. Start packing boxes and clear out the stuff you can live without. Touch up the paint and buy a few Magic Erasers to remove any fingerprints or marks on the wall. It takes a lot of effort to get a home prepared.”—Sheri Smith, Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties

I think pictures are paramount. We use professionally quality HD photos and always make sure that the pictures show clean, bright, uncluttered spaces. Quality pictures are important because I’m going to put them on the MLS and they’re going to syndicate out to hundreds of websites.  Every property is a little different but generally photos should be taken during the daytime unless the nighttime views are exceptional. —Frank DeFazio, Philadelphia

 

Home-Buying Advice from the Pros

Home-Buying Advice

Buying a home is a huge undertaking—especially if you’re a first-timer or buyer who has been out of the market for a while. We spoke with local realtors to find out what advice they give their clients when they start their search.

“You need to look at for me the livability of a home. In my experience, people just know when they walk in a home. You want that gut feeling. As much as it’s a mental purchase, it’s also an emotional one. People are tied to their homes. That’s where memories are made. You want that connection to the house. I’m also a big advocate for home warranties. No two people live in the home the same.  It really protects the buyer. It’s nice to be able to enjoy your home in the first year without worrying about the small things.”  –Rebecca Barton, Delaware and Chester counties, New Castle County

“Know when to walk away from a negotiation. We’re finding multiple offers now, and emotions can get in the way. If you’re at the top of what you can afford, you shouldn’t go any higher when bidding. Set your limits and stick with it.” –Sheri Smith, Gloucester, Burlington and Camden counties

“Sometimes buyers look at homes outside their budget because they haven’t gone through the approval process to learn what they can afford to spend. Then they find the home they want, but another buyer with their finances in order buys it – they were ready, willing and able to buy the house.  The key word there is ‘able.’” –Tom Lowy, Main Line

 Today’s buyer—I call it the HGTV effect—they walk in and want granite, stainless steel. These things aren’t a big deal, but buyers see them missing and they think it’s the worst property in the world. I tell people to work from a neighborhood perspective first—where do you want to be? People need to spend some time in the basement. It’s not pretty, but you need to know if there is moisture down there, the type of electric the house. Once the foundation is set—they call it the heartbeat of the home—then you can start looking at stuff upstairs.” –Bryan Capone, Center City

“I think that right now, first-time buyers should make sure the house is in the right location and large enough for their plans in the future. People aren’t moving as frequently. They’re staying 10 years because the appreciation isn’t there. It’s harder to turn homes over and have the equity to move to the next one. Also look at the systems, things that are expensive: roof, heating, air conditioning, windows. Are these things you are going to have to replace? If so, you are going to need to plan for that.” –Monica Maben, Montgomery County

Expert Real Estate Insight on New Castle and Delaware Counties

Expert Real Estate Insight: Rebecca Barton

Rebecca Barton

Industry vet Rebecca Barton has 10 years experience in the real estate business, helping buyers and sellers in both New Castle County, Del., and Delaware and Chester counties in Pennsylvania. We had the chance to talk with her about the markets in those areas and tips for buying and selling homes.

How is the market right now?
We’re running into a significant shortage of inventory in New Castle County right now—it seemed to happen almost overnight. Although we feel the market began to recover in April of 2012. Right now, per the MLS, we only have a 4.8 months supply, meaning that if nothing else came on the market, we’d be out of inventory in five months. What that means to sellers is a slight rise in prices at a gradual pace. And that’s a good thing. We’re up about 5 1/2 percent in prices in New Castle County.  Because of the shortage, we’re also seeing the sale-to-offer price rising. Buyers are more competitive with their offers, and we’re not seeing a lot of low-balling, which helps with that gradual growth that we want to see.  However, this does not reflect the thought that anything will sell. Condition is still critical.

Delaware County also has a shortage of inventory. The average sale-to-offer is up 2 percent, which is still good, and its price change is up 5 percent as well. However, there are pockets of the market that are lagging behind the current recovery.

What are some hot areas right now?
North Wilmington is always a big draw. I think that’s about convenience—Philadelphia is 20 minutes away, and the Delaware Memorial and the Commodore Barry bridges are nearby.  You have access to Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland and Pennsylvania—so there’s that versatility. And the real estate taxes are very low compared to those other areas.

Is it a good time for buyers to put their homes on the market?
It’s a great time to sell. Interest rates just went up a little, but it’s still a great time for buyers to take advantage of the market.  I know in New Castle County, 30 percent of the buyers are looking between 100,000 and 200,000 and almost another 30 percent are looking between 200,000 and 300,000. If your home falls in those price ranges, they’re in high demand. Buyers are really motivated.

What advice do you have for sellers?
Condition and proper pricing strategy are two of the critical components of a successful move. I recommend a pre-listing inspection to all serious sellers. It gives them an accurate picture of probable issues that can either be addressed prior to marketing or disclosed to prospective buyers. It avoids unnecessary headaches and the process moves much smoother. Home warranties are also a huge benefit in this situation as well. All this shows the seller cares about the home, and is ready to move.

What advice do you have for buyers?
Everyone needs to get preapproved for a mortgage. I always say,  “You don’t go the grocery store without your wallet.” And it’s not just making sure that you’re qualified or knowing how much you can afford—you need to be comfortable with the payments. I don’t want any of my clients to be house poor. You need to break down how much each monthly payment is going to be and figure out what you’re ok with.

What should buyers look for in a home?
You need to look at for me the livability of a home. In my experience, people just know when they walk in a home. You want that gut feeling. As much as it’s a mental purchase, it’s also an emotional one. People are tied to their homes. That’s where memories are made. You want that connection to the house. I’m also a big advocate for home warranties. No two people live in the home the same.  It really protects the buyer. It’s nice to be able to enjoy your home in the first year without worrying about the small things.

Talking the South Jersey Real Estate Market with an Expert

Q&A: South Jersey Real Estate Market

Sheri SmithIndustry vet Sheri Smith was first licensed in the real estate industry 30 years ago, and is now selling homes in Burlington, Camden and Gloucester counties in New Jersey. We had the chance to talk with her about the South Jersey market and tips for buying and selling your home.

What are the hot areas right now?
Haddonfield, Marlton and Cherry Hill are hot right now, and so are areas you might not think of, like Oaklyn. Collingswood is always desirable. We’re really busy right now—it’s like someone turned on the spigot and then the dam broke.

So the market is good right now?
Excellent—for both the buyer and seller. The mortgage rates are still low, but I think what’s helping fuel buyers is that rates have recently crept up—not a ton, but enough to make the realize it won’t stay this low forever.

What do sellers need to do to sell their homes?
I always recommend getting a home inspection before it goes on the market. The home-inspection period is really nerve-wracking for owners. They may have lived in their home for 15 years and think it’s fine, and then learn that there is a lot the buyer wants fixed. It’s worth the money to have an inspector come so you’re not shocked when you get the report. It gives you the chance to fix things ahead of time.

How much work should sellers put into their home to get it ready for market?
Buyers are looking for location and price, but they’re also looking for the condition of the home. There’s a whole generation raised on home-buying shows, so they know what to look for when they go in. If your kitchen hasn’t been updated in years, have a conversation with your realtor to decide if you should invest the $10,000 for upgrades or sell it as is. You also have to declutter. Start packing boxes and clear out the stuff you can live without. Touch up the paint and buy a few Magic Erasers to remove any fingerprints or marks on the wall. It takes a lot of effort to get a home prepared.

What advice do you have for buyers?
One of the most important things buyers should do is get pre-qualified. The mortgage process today can take time and is frustrating. As soon as you start looking, find a good mortgage company and get the ball rolling. It’s also important to get your own agent. There is such a thing as dual-agency, where one agent represents both parties in the same transaction. I always say you wouldn’t have a prosecutor representing the defendant too. If you have an agent representing your interest, it’s more clear-cut. There is never a question of “could I have gotten the house for a little less.”

What mistakes should buyers try to avoid?
Buyers shouldn’t compromise on their original list of necessities. Say they want a four-bedroom house, but they find a three-bedroom home with a kitchen they really like. If they have two kids and are planning a bigger family, they’re going to outgrow that three-bedroom home very quickly. Stick with your list of must-haves. People stay in their homes much longer these days.

Also, know when to walk away from a negotiation. We’re finding multiple offers now, and emotions can get in the way. If you’re at the top of what you can afford, you shouldn’t go any higher when bidding. Set your limits and stick with it.

A Round-Up of Hot Suburbs & Up-and-Coming Philadelphia Neighborhoods

From the Experts: Hot Markets & Up-and-Coming Philadelphia Neighborhoods

 

We asked realtors who are on the ground everyday with buyers and sellers which areas are currently the hottest. Here is a round-up of popular suburbs and up-and-coming Philadelphia neighborhoods according to local experts:

“The Graduate Hospital area is pretty hot in my world right now, as is the East Passyunk corridor. If you want to head north, Fishtown is still attracting buyers. Old City is a little slow, but people still want to be in Rittenhouse, Fitler and Queen Village.”    —Bryan CaponeCenter City & Society Hill


Springfield township is definitely a hot area. It gives you access to the city and it also has a good school system. Upper Dublin is a very sought-after school district as well, along with Lower Gwynedd. We listed a property in Lower Gwynedd last weekend, and it has already had over 40 showings in a week—and the price point is in the high 5s. It’s the combo of great location and good school systems.”   —Monica Maben, Spring House

 

Wayne is always hot and always had a shortage of inventory. People like to be able to walk to everything Wayne has to offer. Being close to public transportation is always good too. There is a strong desire to be near communities.”  —Terry KirkwoodRosemont


Personally, I think Avenue of the Arts is extending south. I would say from South Street to the stadiums just off of Broad, Newbold, East Passyunk, Passyunk Square. Because Philly is limited with their public transportation, having access to Broad Street line is a huge advantage. It’s attracting hipsters and young professionals who want to spend a little less and don’t mind a 15 – 20 minute commute. There are a lot of options for these buyers just south of Washington Avenue off Broad Street.  Also, the owner of the Melrose Diner recently opened the Broad Street Diner.  I’m always looking at where the commercial money is going because residential development typically follows.”  —Frank DeFazio, Center City-Society Hill

Insight on the Main Line Housing Market from a Local Expert

Realtor Q &A: Main Line Housing Market

tom lowyIndustry vet Tom Lowy has been in the real estate industry for 9 years, selling homes along the Main Line, from Bryn Mawr to Malvern. We had the chance to talk with him about the Main Line home market and what buyers and sellers can expect.

How would you describe the market on the Main Line? In that area, I’d say it’s dynamic and exciting. Demand is up and there is a shortage of inventory. There have been numerous situations recently where correctly priced homes have had multiple offers made. There was lack of confidence in the general economic picture a year ago. Today confidence is higher, people are willing to invest in their future and buy their first new home or upgrade to a bigger house.

How has the market changed for sellers? More sellers understand when their house goes on the market it has to be in better condition. You need to make a good first impression, and that starts curb appeal including the front door. Inside must be uncluttered.  Buyers now are more demanding, wanting a move-in condition home.  Fewer people are willing to put in the effort and energy that goes into fixing a house up.  The paint colors might not be the ones the buyers like, but they won’t need to paint. They can paint rather than have to paint.

What are the biggest mistakes sellers make? Pricing their house too high because they are emotionally attached to it.  If nearby houses with the same number of bedrooms, bathrooms, and in a similar condition as theirs is and is on the market for the same price, the fact that you made a few improvements to yours doesn’t mean you’ll get more money, but it may sell faster.  Also, sellers can look at what comparable neighborhood houses sold for a few years ago but current competition is a better barometer.

The realtor can give an objective opinion where the house should be positioned in the market and   how the house should be marketed. Some of the little extras you as a seller have created are the gravy helping the house sell faster but not necessarily at a better price. There are the dual variables of speed of sale and final price. If you can sell a house quickly, you can save on carrying costs. Those carrying charges over six or seven months may eat away at the higher price.  As a seller -be knowledgeable about the competition.  Visit them. It is the best way to price your house correctly.  Remember you are selling a house,  the buyers are buying a home.

What’s the biggest mistake buyer’s make? Not having their finances in order when they start to look for homes. Some times buyers look at homes outside their budget because they haven’t gone through the approval process to learn what they can afford to spend. Then they find the home they want, but another buyer with their finances in order buys it – they were ready, willing and able to buy the house.  The key word there is “able.”

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Tips on Selling Your Home on the Main Line and Beyond

Realtor Q&A: Tips on selling your home

Industry vet Olivia Boswell has spent the last 17 years in the real estate market. Focusing on the Main Line and part of Chester County, she talks with us about what sellers can expect in today’s market and offers tips on selling your home quickly.

What can someone selling their home expect right now? It depends on the price. From the city limits to the majority of the Main Line, if you’re between $400,000 and a million, it’s a seller’s market. There’s not enough inventory, and the inventory that comes on the market goes extremely quickly if it’s priced right.  Homes that are a million-plus have a much slower pace going with that right now, but if you’re under a million dollars, it’s time to put your home on the market.

How do you price it correctly? It’s really looking at all of the comps out there, looking at your neighborhood. Don’t compare yourself to homes that aren’t in your market—if you’re not in Radnor, don’t compare your home prices in Radnor. Look at what’s selling in your neighborhood, and compare your home to it. Homes that are priced right have been going in bidding wars, some of them above asking price.

How can seller make sure their home gets noticed? They’re really dependent on the Internet—Facebook, Trulia, Zillow, Realtor.com. The magazine and the newspapers aren’t as important any more. People go online, type in what they are looking for and find out everything they need to know right away. Buyers now are so much more tech savvy—they know the sites to visit and get the answers that they need. That’s where you need to be to get exposure.

Photography is important too? Photography definitely. 25 is your max on MLS; Realtor.com you can have more. The more the better. There are plenty of people who see only one piture and keep going. If they see no pictures, they don’t even ask questions about it. They’re making the same assumptions everyone else is: “I guess that doesn’t warrant a picture.” Show around the house; show everything in the house, details even—if it’s a beautiful triple crown molding, emphasize that. Emphasize the beautiful staircase, the beautiful wood front door.

What’s the biggest mistake sellers make? Using comparative data that isn’t current. We’re four years out of the big market, and they can’t go by what their neighbors house sold for then. Also, if you made improvements to your home that are really specific to your own needs, don’t count on getting your money back on your investment. Yes, it’s an improvement, but it might not be important to buyers out there.

 

Talking the Market with an Expert Real Estate Agent

Bryan CaponeBryan Capone has been a real estate agent since 2005, focusing on Center City and beyond. We had the chance to catch up with him to discuss the current market growth and find out how buyers and sellers can better navigate it.

How would you describe the market right now? The market in Center City right now is busy because of a lack of inventory for quality real estate. Buyers are jumping for things.

What is the hot city neighborhood? The Graduate Hospital area is pretty hot in my world right now, as is the East Passyunk corridor. If you want to head north, Fishtown is still attracting buyers. Old City is a little slow, but people still want to be in Rittenhouse, Fitler and Queen Village.

How important is social media in the real estate game today? It’s really my major strategy for 2013. There is a clear delineation between those who have an active online presence and those who do not. At the end of the day, for the end user, is it going to get the property sold? Maybe, maybe not. Even if you didn’t have your own website or weren’t posting it on Facebook, there are enough avenues out there that buyers who are looking can find the property. But for a realtor growing their business, it’s extremely important. On Facebook, little check-ins, like a photo of someone signing their settlement paper or the seller handing the buyers keys, that’s great. People like that.

What should they  look for when touring a house? Today’s buyer—I call it the HGTV effect—they walk in and want granite, stainless steel. These things aren’t a big deal, but buyers see them missing and they think it’s the worst property in the world. I tell people to work from a neighborhood perspective first—where do you want to be? People need to spend some time in the basement. It’s not pretty, but you need to know if there is moisture down there, the type of electric the house. Once the foundation is set—they call it the heartbeat of the home—then you can start looking at stuff upstairs.

Navigating the Montgomery County Housing Market with an Expert

Talking the Montgomery County Housing Market with an Expert Agent

Montgomery County Real Estate Expert Monica Maben.

Agent Monica Maben has been in the real estate business for 15 years in Springfield, Lower Gwynedd, Fort Washington and other neighboring Montgomery County areas. We had a chance to talk to her about the current market and glean some advice for buyers and sellers.

How is the market today?
It’s shifting. If a home goes on the market and is priced right and in good condition, it will sell in days and with multiple offers. We see it in all price points. In some areas we have a shortage of inventory, so we’re seeing a shift to more buyers with less available.

What are the hot areas right now?
Springfield township is definitely a hot area. It gives you access to the city and it also has a good school system. Upper Dublin is a very sought-after school district as well, along with Lower Gwynedd. We listed a property in Lower Gwynedd last weekend, and it has already had over 40 showings in a week—and the price point is in the high 5s. It’s the combo of great location and good school systems.

How important is a web presence when listing a house?
Last year, we moved to digital home marketing, helping homes get on several sites. Each house has its own web address, which allows us to send it out on social media sites. It also gets pushed on Trulia, Zillow and Realtor.com. Sellers need a company with a great web presence and great tech tools. And make sure the realtor uses a professional photographer. Photos are so important. People are looking online first, so you have to look good on it. People can’t have kids, dogs, unmade beds in photos. The house has to be properly staged and decluttered.

What should first-time buyers look for when they’re buying a house?
I think that right now, first-time buyers should make sure the house is in the right location and large enough for their plans in the future. People aren’t moving as frequently. They’re staying 10 years because the appreciation isn’t there. It’s harder to turn homes over and have the equity to move to the next one. Also look at the systems, things that are expensive: roof, heating, air conditioning, windows. Are these things you are going to have to replace? If so, you are going to need to plan for that.

Inside Scoop on Philadelphia Real Estate From an Expert

Inside scoop on Philadelphia real estate by Frank DeFazio.

Inside scoop on Philadelphia real estate by Frank DeFazio.

Agent Frank L. DeFazio has been in the real estate business for seven years and focuses largely on Center City and the vicinity. We had a chance to talk to him about the current market and glean some advice for buyers and sellers. Frank built and maintains the CenterCityTeam website, which provides free access to all Philadelphia Real Estate listings, and the Philadelphia Real Estate Blog.

What’s the market like right now?
Everything in Center City is just crazy. Inventory is super-low so it’s created a feeding frenzy. The last 60 days have been nuts. Since 2008, I’ve been telling people to put in their offers about 10 percent below asking. You figure you’ll haggle to  about 5 percent below asking in most neighborhoods, you’ll get the deal done, and that’s a win. In the last 60 days, it’s been: bring your checkbook, be prepared to come in at or above asking, and you still might lose it to one of four other offers.

What’s an up-and-coming neighborhood to watch?
Personally, I think Avenue of the Arts is extending south. I would say from South Street to the stadiums just off of Broad, Newbold, East Passyunk, Passyunk Square. Because Philly is limited with their public transportation, having access to Broad Street line is a huge advantage. It’s attracting hipsters and young professionals who want to spend a little less and don’t mind a 15 – 20 minute commute. There are a lot of options for these buyers just south of Washington Avenue off Broad Street.  Also, the owner of the Melrose Diner recently opened the Broad Street Diner.  I’m always looking at where the commercial money is going because residential development typically follows.

What do sellers need to do to get their listing noticed?
I think pictures are paramount. We use professionally quality HD photos and always make sure that the pictures show clean, bright, uncluttered spaces. Quality pictures are important because I’m going to put them on the MLS and they’re going to syndicate out to hundreds of websites.  Every property is a little different but generally photos should be taken during the daytime unless the nighttime views are exceptional.

How many times should a buyer visit a house before making an offer?
I think it depends on the market. I grew up working with buyers so I think they should review listings, ask questions, go to open houses and really get comfortable with the inventory and prices before submitting an offer.  I usually recommend buyers go out with their agent three times and see six to eight houses per trip.  This will make sure the buyer knows the inventory and prices well enough to feel confident pulling the trigger once they see that perfect home.  But, keep in mind that in today’s market if you see one you like and you don’t put an offer in right away, you may not get a second chance.

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