Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Do in December, Sell in 2013

Source: Trulia

True Confession: I set a handful of New Year’s Resolutions every single year. Why? They work for me - I’ve got probably a 75 percent success rate. Some of this is in the science of setting the Resolution the right way in the first place, including the preparation.

Here’s my secret: I always get started in December. I like to use my holiday down-time to plan things out, gather up the resources or do the research I need, figure out what my challenges are likely to be and make a plan to deactivate them, set appointments with any professional I need to get on board to make my goals happen and even get some momentum built up with my new eating program, workout plan, financial goals or career endeavors. 

I aim to be like that old Marines commercial - by January 1, I’ve already done more than most Resolution-setters do all year!


And I’d like to help you do the same.  Let’s boost the chances that your home buying or selling goals for 2013 will be successful by devoting a little time in December to getting things lined up and in motion.  Here is my short list of tasks I would put on my December to-do list if I wanted to buy or sell a home next year:

1.  Handle your credit horrors.  Maybe you don’t have any credit horrors - kudos to you! But let’s get real, this year will be a year in which many post-foreclosure, post-bankruptcy, post-layoff Americans will find themselves sufficiently recovered, post-recession, to get back into the real estate market and buy a home. If you count yourself among the number of 2013 wanna-be buyers who experienced a financial glitch of any degree during the recession, December is the right time to start pulling your credit reports and doing a damage assessement and control campaign.

  • Visit AnnualCreditReport.com (the only website through which you can access your government-mandated free reports) and order your own credit reports from all three reporting bureaus.
  • Review them all, line-by-line, checking for errors and discrepancies. It is extremely common for paid-off accounts to still be reporting as delinquent, for foreclosed mortgages to still be listed as open and past-due and for bills that were settled in collection to be reported as behind. Follow the instructions to dispute any such errors you see.
  • When you talk with your mortgage broker (see #4), go over the reports with them again, getting a read on precisely when your foreclosure, bankruptcy, delinquencies, gaps in employment or other credit woes will be sufficiently “seasoned” (i.e., long ago) to allow you to qualify for another loan, and get their advice on any action items, like paying a particular debt or set of credit cards down to $X amount will be important for you to complete before you try for a legitimate pre-approval next year.

In fact, this last point applies to everyone - whether or not you think you have any dings on your credit report. It’s essential to get clear on any of the work you’ll need to do to optimize your credit standing now, as the payoffs, disputes and other credit work that can move the needle on your score may take some time.

2.  Purge.  It’s time.  Time to get rid of all that things you know qualify as clutter - all of the stuff you know buyers won’t want to see when they tour your home, and all the stuff that you won’t want to move to your next place. If you donate your junk before the end of the year, you might be able to get a receipt and deduction for the taxes you file in 2013.  And tax break or not, getting all that stuff out of your attic, your closets, your shelves and your rooms will clear up loads of mental space and energy, minimize some of the overwhelm latent in the prospect of moving - and might even surface a few things you can sell to boost your down payment savings or your home staging budget.

Clutter clearing gets overwhelming when you simply lack the time, in the face of everyday urgencies, to invest a few hours or days to go deep, pull out all the minutae and memory-laden How better to spend those wintry days between Christmas and New Year’s than to clear out the clutter in your home - and your mind?

3.  Plan your prep. If you’re thinking of selling your home in 2013, now is a great time to start organizing your list (or spreadsheet, or Evernote file) of home preparation tasks that need to get done before you put the place on the market. Things like painting, carpeting, landscaping and other preparation tasks can be less taxing and less disruptive to your life if you have plenty of time to collect bids, sock away the cash to cover the costs and arrange projects at your family’s convenience or during off-seasons, when contractors might be wiling to charge a bit less.  

Talk with your agent before you put a plan in place; they can help you make good decisions which projects to do (and which to forego), as well as choosing finish materials and colors that will appeal to the broadest segment of buyers - to boot, they often can refer you to the most cost-effective contractors in your area for these sorts of pre-listing projects.

3.  Save. More. There’s no such thing as saving too much cash up for your down payment. If you have a home to sell, you have no idea how much you’ll take away from that transaction until it closes. And even if you’re currently renting, having maximum savings set aside allows you maximum flexibility in terms of selecting homes, competing with other buyers, covering closing costs (which can run as high as 3-4% on average for an FHA loan) and even handling post-closing repairs, appliances and property personalization.

4.  Collect your gift money.  Buyers who get gift money from a relative to apply toward their down payments are often subject to seemingly strange and definitely invasive documentation requirements - the most onerous of which is to produce copies of the gift GIVER’s bank accounts proving the source of the funds. If you know Mom, Dad, Granny or Aunt Bernie is going to chip in some cash toward your down payment in the Spring, consider asking them to go ahead and give it to you now, so you can put it in your own accounts and begin “seasoning” it as yours, which will help you avoid all those documentation demands.  

Your benefactor should check with their financial and tax advisors to be sure the gift is structured so as to avoid any tax implications, before they give it.

5.  Connect with an agent and a mortgage broker - stat.  Don’t wait until the month before you want to buy or sell to ring up your trusty agent and initiate the conversation. Ask around for referrals or find an agent here on Trulia Voices now, get a mortgage broker (or 3) on the phone, and ask them to help brief you long-lead topics like:
  • Whether your market is a buyer’s market or seller’s market, and how that translates into what you can and should expect when you plan to buy or sell next year
  • Whether there are any area-specific timing issues you should factor in as you map out your timeline
  • What - given the specifics of your financials, your savings, any past credit or other issues you have - you should be doing now in terms of paying bills down, settting savings targets, and such
  • What changes, if any, you should plan on making to your property before listing it
  • What sort of property you can get for your money in the areas you’re targeting as a buyer, and what kind of money you can expect to command for your property in your local market (this, obviously, will change over time - even over the few months or so between now and the time you list your home, but it still helps to have a general ides of the current market values).

6.  Go Open House hunting.  If you’re selling next year, it’s essential to get a real-life read on what the competition’s like, everything from what sorts of houses in your area are listed at various price points to what your target buyers are going to be seeing on their way into or out of your house.  There’s no reality check on your own home’s preparation and staging - its overall readiness for listing - like putting on a buyer’s shoes and taking a tour through similar homes in your area.  And there’s no time for this reality check like right now: when Open Houses are still a-plenty, you have more time to attend them, and you still have plenty of time to process your takeaways and incorporate them into your own property preparations.

Open House hunting is also helpful for those who have home buying on their 2013 to-do lists.  It’s the only way you can start understanding how to decipher the listings you see online into a reality-based set of expectations about a property.  It’s also the best way to get indoctrinated deeply into the realities of what you get on your local market at various price points, and it’s the most impactful strategy for starting the process of negotiating compromises with your co-buyers.

7.  Think hard about your deductions, if you’re self-employed. In the wake of the recession, most mortgage guidelines for self-employed borrowers changed, so that your income for purposes of qualifying is assumed to be the average of your last two years’ Adjusted Gross Income, as reported on your federal income tax returns.  That means lenders calculate your income after all your business-related and other deductions, not before.

So, yes, this does mean that maximizing your deductions may impact your ability to qualify for a home loan in 2013.  But them’s the breaks - better to know this before you file your tax return, in the event it might change something about how you file.  Loop your tax advisor, business bookkeeper and mortgage broker into your decision-making process about your 2012 taxes before filing, if you’re self-employed and plan to buy or refinance your home next year. 

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Find the Downpayment


If buying a home is on your New Year’s Resolution list for 2013, know this: your biggest challenge will almost certainly be coming up with your down payment and closing costs.

Whether you’re trying to scrape by with 3.5 percent for an FHA loan or you’re planning to put down a full 20 percent, saving for a down payment might be the largest savings endeavor you ever undertake, after retirement planning.

But don’t let that daunt you. Look at it as more of a challenge or a game than a slow-slogging deprivation-driven chore. In fact, I suggest that you add something to your scrounging and saving: scavenging. Finding your down payment money hidden in resources that are right in front of you can be a fruitful and fun angle to take on an otherwise overwhelming goal.

Use this short list of oft-untapped down payment treasure troves to open your eyes to funds that might be hidden in plain sight:

1. Your budget’s biggest line items. I like to get maximum bang for my buck. And I like to enjoy my life, too, so depriving myself of little luxuries without getting much mileage toward my goal is definitely low on my savings strategies list. But I’ve often found that if you take your top 10 or so monthly expenses, there are almost always at least one or two that you could slash significantly or totally do without, push come to shove: all without feeling as deprived as you would if you cut your daily coffee.

Home buying is one of those push-meet-shove-type situations. If you’re serious about coming up with your down payment funds, sit down during your holiday off-days, and backtrack over your monthly budget (if you have one) or your last month’s checking account statements. Isolate your top 10 budgetary line items and do an internal gut check on whether there is anything on this list that you can slash or eliminate.

If this seems obvious or silly to you, don’t scoff before you give it a chance. I have seen buyers do this exercise and decide to:

move home or to a cheaper place to eliminate rent
go from two cars to one to eliminate a car payment
cancel cable or switch cell phone service providers to get rid of a hundred bucks or more every month, pressing fast-forward on their down payment savings and home buying plans by many months, even years.

2. Your bad habits. Have you heard yourself say - out loud or internally - I’ve got to stop:
  • smoking
  • drinking so much
  • eating out so much
  • eating so much junk
  • watching so much TV
  • drinking so many sugary coffee drinks
  • impulse shopping
  • OSUI: Online Shopping Under the Influence (it’s a real thing - I promise!)- or anything in that vein? Well, each of these are bad habits that cost. And because they are often engaged in compulsively, they can cost much, much more over time than you have any idea you’re actually spending. 
Again, far be it from me to suggest that someone who works hard every day shouldn’t treat themselves to a coffee or lunch here or there. The fact is, if you deprive yourself too severely, there’s a good chance your efforts to cut back and save will be very short-lived, and possibly even backlash into binging behavior. But if there’s a habit you’ve been wanting to change for health or other reasons that also costs you a pretty penny, you might find it easier to make those changes when you know you’re doing it in service of your vision of owning a home.

So, make a project of it. Figure out roughly what you’re spending on your bad habit, and set up an automatic saving transfer from your checking account into your down payment savings account. Then, get and leverage some habit-changing resources, like those at ChangeAnything.com or in one of my favorite books this year, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business. Then, when you feel the compulsion to engage in your bad habit, come to Trulia instead and peruse new listings in the price range and neighborhood of your own target dream home - that will help you stay on track by staying mindful of what’s really important.

3. Your stuff. When you need to save money, there are really only two levers you can pull: you can spend less, or you can make more. Selling stuff you have and don’t use or need is a relatively painless way to make more money to go toward your down payment. If you’re really serious about home buying, put everything on the table.

I’ve known buyers-to-be who sold any and everything, including:
  • cars and motorcycles
  • clothes, costumes, shoes and handbags
  • hobby-related gear (bikes, tools and even costumes)
  • furniture and antiques
  • and electronics, CDs and even books (think: TVs, computers, old smart phones, etc.)
to fund their down payment and home buying-related debt elimination plans.

Don’t underestimate the amount of cash you can bring in from the stuff you already own. Millions of home owners worldwide are now renting out rooms or floors of their current homes for short periods of time on sites like Airbnb and VRBO. Sites like Getaround and Zimride allow you to rent out the extra seats in your car - or the whole vehicle, if you’re not too faint of heart!

4. Your skills and time. One way to make more money, as discussed above, is to liquidate the things you have lying around. Another way is to get to work! Spend your off-time, your evenings and weekends leveraging your professional skills or personal hobbies to bring in some extra cash. A friend of mine recently had a savings target she was trying to reach and actually sent her whole circle of friends an email detailing (a) what she was selling and (b) what sorts of projects she was willing to do to get there - she earned well into the four figures, in less than a month.

Maybe you can sew or knit stuff to sell on Etsy, grow things in your backyard to sell at the farmer’s market or, like one enterprising Mom I know, use your baking and cake decorating skills to monetize your kids’ classmates’ birthday parties. Or maybe you’re more interested in cooking, house cleaning, babysitting or dog walking - in fact, another acquaintance of mine has earned thousands of “extra” dollars dog sitting while she works at home. If that sort of thing is not up your alley, think about whether you can help people you know with their small business projects, like research, bookkeeping or office organizing projects.

Once you get serious about coming up with your down payment cash and decide to be creative about where to find that money, using your skills and your time creatively is a power-packed way to open the financial floodgates. Consider starting out with a simple email to your circle of acquaintances or by listing your services on a site like TaskRabbit.

5. Your loved ones. Some folks are fortunate enough to have cash-flush loved ones who would love nothing more than to help you have a home of your own. The best case scenario is to have some idea of what sort of gift money you can count on as far in advance as possible, as it will impact your own savings targets and your lender’s documentation requirements. If you have a parent, sibling or auntie who has mentioned their interest in giving you this sort of gift, it’s not bizarre to bring the subject up, express your gratitude and let them know that you’re planning to buy in 2013 so you can have a detailed conversation about logistics - including their financial, tax or estate planning pros, if it makes sense.

Alternatively, if your home buying plans are timed alongside your wedding plans, graduation plans or new baby due date, consider opening a down payment registry, so well-wishers can funnel their gift funds right into your real estate savings. For example, the federal Dpeartment of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) allows small gifts to be combined in a single savings account and eliminates otherwise onerous gift money documentation requirements with the FHA Bridal Registry program, which is available around weddings and “other legitimate occasions where substantial gifts are typically received by an individual or individuals.”

Touch base with your lender and agent to see whether there are any registry programs that might make sense for your situation.

Finally, buyers who decide to team up with their BFFs, siblings, parents or other loved ones to buy a place they can jointly own and/or live in might be able to structure things so that they have to come up with less down payment money than they would otherwise - the co-buyer comes up with the rest! Think about whether this sort of arrangement might help you and your loved one accomplish your respective financial and real estate goals, in one fell swoop.

6. Your employer. Believe it or not, some employers actually offer down payment and other forms of mortgage assistance to employees. In particular, universities and governmental agencies that employ first responders who are required to live locally for their jobs (e.g., police, fire and other emergency personnel) often have housing assistance programs that can include down payment funds or access to mortgage programs with lower down payment requirements.

Even if you don’t work for one of these sorts of agencies, if you are relocating for work, touch base with your HR department to find out whether there are any relocation benefits that can help you make up the difference between the cash you have and the down payment you need to make your move.

7. Your city, county or state. What you’ve heard is true: there are few, if any, down payment assistance programs still available on a national level. But many states, counties and cities offer their own down payment assistance programs, which are generally available to folks falling into one or more of the following categories:
  • first-time buyers (people who haven’t owned a home in the area in the last 3 years)
  • buyers in low- or moderate-income brackets 
  • or those buying homes in a particular part of town.
Your mortgage pro and real estate agent should be able to help you track down any such local programs applicable to you. In fact, this is one great reason to touch base with them at the beginning of your down payment savings adventure versus waiting until the end. But make sure you read up on the programs extensively before you decide to opt into one. Many of them run out of cash over the course of the year, so shouldn't be counted on; others may require you to repay any assistance received if and when you sell or move - things you should keep in mind at the outset.






Source: Trulia

Friday, December 7, 2012

Free!


The use of a Realtor is absolutely free unless and until I find you the perfect property.
You get all this:
  • every phone call I make on your behalf
  • all my contacts in the field
  • referrals to services you may need (plumbers, contractors, electricians, painters)
  • rapport with other Realtors that speeds things along
  • every email I send on your behalf
  • every home visit we attend together
  • my overseeing at walk through and inspection
  • my advice on pricing, layout, and anything you might like
Try to get an attorney to spend 1 minute on the phone for free! You get all this from me and I don't take any payment until the process is complete. It's my pleasure to find you the perfect home. I'm so committed that you pay me at the end. Great, right?

Friday, November 30, 2012

Moving Tips


1. Allow yourself plenty of time. Estimate how long it will take you to pack everything and then double (at least) that number. You’ll need plenty of time to discard, sort and pack your things.

2. De-clutter first. Flylady.net suggests that you make piles of items to donate, give away, or throw away. Try groups like Freecycle or Craigslist to give away items you don’t need or can’t take to a new home.

3. Arrange for donations of the things you are recycling. Organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters or Vietnam Veterans of America will come to your home to pick up usable clothes and household items.

4. Buy enough packing tape before you start.

5. Pack one room at a time and don’t start the next room until you’re finsished. It’ll keep you organized and allow you to tackle the move in smaller steps.

6. Label, label, label. This may seem obvious but it can fall by the wayside during a busy move. Write down the contents and the destination room on every box. A helpful tip from Good Housekeeping: Be sure to label boxes on all four sides so you know what’s inside when they’re stacked.

7. Wrap your breakables with clothing. It reduces waste and isn’t as messy as newspaper.

8. Time it! To make things more fun and focused, time your packing by room to see how fast you can get it done. Check out flylady.net for more suggestions.

9. Use free boxes. They abound in places like supermarkets, local warehouses and pharmacies. You’ll be saving money and reusing boxes all in one go.

10. Enlist the help of family and friends to make the time go by faster.

11. Keep it light. Avoid accidents by making sure all boxes are less than 50 pounds.

12. Add handles. MarthaStewart.com shows how you can cut triangle handles on the sides of boxes for easy lifting.

13. Keep all your important info in one place. RealSimple.com suggests a moving binder.About.com suggests a “last in, first out” box. Remember to keep birth certificates, school, records, mover estimates, new job contracts, utility company phone numbers, recent bank records, current bills, phone lists, closing papers, maps, and more in a safe place.

Source: Reader's Digest

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

13 Tips to Sell Your Home


We’ve all heard about how “bad” the real estate market is. But what’s bad for sellers can be good for buyers, and these days, savvy buyers are out in spades trying to take advantage of the buyer’s market. Here are 13 thing you can do to help sell your house.

1. Audit your agent’s online marketing. 92% of homebuyers start their house hunt online, and they will never even get in the car to come see your home if the online listings aren’t compelling. In real estate, compelling means pictures! A study by Trulia.com shows that listings with more than 6 pictures are twice as likely to be viewed by buyers as listings that had fewer than 6 pictures.

2. Post a video love letter about your home on YouTube. Get a $125 FlipCam and walk through your home AND your neighborhood, telling prospective buyers about the best bits – what your family loved about the house, your favorite bakery or coffee shop that you frequented on Saturday mornings, etc. Buyers like to know that a home was well-loved, and it helps them visualize living a great life there, too.

3. Let your neighbors choose their neighbors. If you belong to neighborhood online message boards or email lists, send a link to your home’s online listing to your neighbors. Also, invite your neighbors to your open house – turn it into a block party. That creates opportunities for your neighbors to sell the neighborhood to prospective buyers and for your neighbors to invite house hunters they know who have always wanted to live in the area.

4. Facebook your home’s listing. Facebook is the great connector of people these days. If you have 200 friends and they each have 200 friends, imagine the power of that network in getting the word out about your house!

5. Leave some good stuff behind.
We’ve all heard about closing cost credits, but those are almost so common now that buyers expect them – they don’t really distinguish your house from any of the other homes on the market anymore. What can distinguish your home is leaving behind some of your personal property, ideally items that are above and beyond what the average homebuyer in your home’s price range would be able to afford. That may be stainless steel kitchen appliances or a plasma screen TV, or it might be a golf cart if your home is on a golf course.

6. Beat the competition with condition. In many markets, much of the competition is low-priced foreclosures and short sales. As an individual homeowner, the way you can compete is on condition. Consider having a termite inspection in advance of listing your home, and get as many of the repairs done as you can – it’s a major selling point to be able to advertise a very low or non-existent pest repair bill. Also, make sure that the little nicks and scratches, doorknobs that don’t work, and wonky handles are all repaired before you start showing your home.

7. Stage the exterior of your home too. Stage the exterior with fresh paint, immaculate landscaping and even outdoor furniture to set up a Sunday brunch on the deck vignette. Buyers often fantasize about enjoying their backyards by entertaining and spending time outside.

8. Access is essential. Homes that don’t get shown don’t get sold. And many foreclosures and short sale listings are vacant, so they can be shown anytime. Don’t make it difficult for agents to get their clients into your home – if they have to make appointments way in advance, or can only show it during a very restrictive time frame, they will likely just cross your place off the list and go show the places that are easy to get into.

9. Get real about pricing. Today’s buyers are very educated about the comparable sales in the area, which heavily influence the fair market value of your home. And they also know that they’re in the driver’s seat. To make your home competitive, have your broker or agent get you the sales prices of the three most similar homes that have sold in your area in the last month or so, then try to go 10-15% below that when you set your home’s list price. The homes that look like a great deal are the ones that get the most visits from buyers and, on occasion even receive multiple offers. (Bidding wars do still exist!)

10. Get clued into your competition.
Work with your broker or agent to get educated about the price, type of sale and condition of the other homes your home is up against. Attend some open houses in your area and do a real estate reality check: know that buyers that see your home will see those homes, too – make sure the real-time comparison will come out in your home’s favor by ensuring the condition of your home is up to par.

11. De-personalize.
Do this – pretend you’re moving out. Take all the things that make your home “your” personal sanctuary (e.g., family photos, religious d├ęcor and kitschy memorabilia), pack them up and put them in storage. Buyers want to visualize your house being their house – and it’s difficult for them to do that with all your personal items marking the territory as yours.

12. De-clutter. Keep the faux-moving in motion. Pack up all your tchotchkes, anything that is sitting on top of a countertop, table or other flat surfaces. Anything that you haven’t used in at least a year? That goes, too. Give away what you can, throw away as much as possible of what remains, and then pack the rest to get it ready to move.

13. Listen to your agent. If you find an experienced real estate agent to list your home, who has a successful track record of selling homes in your area, listen to their recommendations! Find an agent you trust and follow their advice as often as you can.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Listing a House

Selling a home can be daunting. These are the benefits of listing your home with me:
  • Listing with me is free
  • I will make the process easy for you
  • I know the local market
  • I will show your home
  • I will offer you suggestions on price
  • I will offer you suggestions on staging
  • I will do a thorough walk through with you
  • I will keep you informed as we go along
My honesty and integrity will take your home from "For sale" to "Sold."

Friday, November 9, 2012

Staging

The Real Estate Staging Studio tells us the basics in staging a home for sale:

Staging a House: What 99% of Homeowners Don't Do

When you decide to sell your home, it's really no longer your home; it's a house, a commodity for sale. It's competing with the other houses in your neighborhood, and if you want the best price, you need to show it in its best light.

But 99% of sellers still treat their house as a home. As a result, their houses usually take longer to sell and put less money in their pockets.

That's where staging comes in.

Staging a house - what does it mean?

Many homeowners know they should declutter, but staging a house involves much more than packing up and tossing extra "stuff."

Staging is a production, and the staging expert is the director. The house is being staged to look like a model home: cozy, comfortable, colorful and inviting, with a personalized look to make it stand out from the rest of the other houses on the market.

Staging isn't just decorating. It's choosing the right props, moving or getting rid of furniture that makes the space look smaller, and creating focal points in main living areas.

Visit a new development and walk through the model. You can picture yourself living there, right? You should say, 'Wow!" You see yourself, your family, your friends lounging in the living room, watching TV, sitting around the candlelit dinner table. You imagine relaxing in the yard, the bathtub, the gorgeous master bedroom.

You leave with a positive impression created by properly placed furniture, color-coordinated accessories, beautiful rich linens and table settings -- everything evoking a cozy, inviting feeling.

This reaction is the holy grail in staging a house.
Staging techniques

Beyond repainting and cleaning, staging a house takes it to the next level by making it look bigger, brighter, cleaner, and accentuating the positive aspects of the property. It's all about creating a sense of possibility and potential, about creating an inviting space to inspire buyers, to generate a mood befitting the property.

Look at your home critically. What's the best feature of each room? How can you best accentuate that feature? What kind of feeling should buyers experience when they walk in, and how can you create that feeling?

The Real Estate Staging Studio goes room by room, inside each closet and kitchen cabinet and yes, even underneath the kitchen sink, to make the house more attractive to the greatest number of buyers.

When we work with you to stage a house, we'll help you change your mindset from "home" to "commodity." We'll tell you exactly what to do to declutter, hide, move, toss, rearrange, repair, replace, and stage. You may love that couch or TV, but if we think it's tired, worn or wrong for the house, we'll tell you it needs to go. We'll help you to depersonalize the space, identify the best repairs and show off your home as the best on the block.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sell Your Home


Revelations of a first-time home seller, by Tara Nicholle-Nelson, of Trulia:

1. Beware the endowment effect. Behavioral economics researchers have found that humans on the whole tend to overestimate the value of things they own, compared with the value the market will actually bear for those things. This creates a perpetual disconnect between what buyers will pay and what sellers expect to receive. It’s no different with our homes than it is with our cars and other belongings.
  • Well, there is one difference - if you overprice your home, it can ultimately cost you a lot of money in terms of:
  • buyers who never find your home online,
  • buyers who see your home online, but never come to see it, because it’s not as nice as other homes in their price range, and
  • low-ball offers that happen when your home has lagged on the market longer than it would have had it been correctly priced. 

That’s why we rely so heavily on the comparable sales data, which reflects the actual prices actual buyers recently paid for actual homes in the neighborhood.

When I was selling my own first home, not only did I rely on the data, I also had friends and colleagues who were real estate agents come in and check it out to give me their feedback on pricing. And because I was selling it myself, I was also able to glean the feedback from prospective buyers themselves as to what they thought about the home and its price. This sort of feedback is available to every home seller, in the form of CMAs and home price estimates that prospective listing agents will create for you, as well as the feedback your agent can collect from buyer’s brokers.

The challenge is to know the bias exists, to understand how critical it is to overcome it and then to commit wholeheartedly to overcoming it by paying attention to the data, listening to feedback and course-correcting as necessary.

2. You only need one offer. When I first put my first home on the market, I acted as cool as a cucumber, but was an emotional wreck on the inside. The days of crazy multiple offers were gone, but homes were still selling at a pretty brisk pace. A week went by, then another, and it became pretty clear that despite my great pricing and brilliant staging (!), I was likely not going to be inundated with a flood of offers anytime soon. Right around the fourth week on the market, though, I got a call from an agent who had shown the home independently – and they wanted to make an offer.

When your neighbors are getting dozens of offers, or when it seems like every town in the country is riddled with multiple offer scenarios and yours is not – here’s a helpful reality check: with every home sale transaction, there is ultimately only one buyer and one seller, in the final analysis. You don't need loads of offers or floods of buyers. You only need one.
Your job, as a seller, is to work with your agent to:
(a) understand everything you can about who your home’s eventual buyer is likely to be, and
(b) price and market it in a way that maximizes the chance that one buyer will actually see it and realize that it fits their wish list.

3. Don’t just market, message. Marketing is about preparing your property beautifully and describing it to its best advantage online and off, making sure there are abundant, good photos of the home on all the websites frequented by buyers in your area, that there are flyers in the drive-by box and that all the buyer’s brokers in your area are exposed to the property. Marketing is about holding Open Houses, if that’s the norm in your neck of the woods.

“Messaging,” on the other hand, is about making sure that these materials and your home’s online presence are flush with content – messages – about why your home is a great choice for the types of buyers who will likely be looking for it. For example, messaging might involve:
  • Detailing with some precision the convenient commutes optimized by your home’s ease of access to 3 freeways within a mile, by the fact that X subway station is at the end of the block, or by the fact that the place is located within 3 miles of the local university and 5 other major employers in your area.
  • Describing floor plan or layout advantages that might be rare in your area and would be attractive to an older buyer or an extended family, like the fact that your home has a level-in entry (no stairs to the front door) if that’s unusual in your area, or that it has a complete bedroom and bathroom suite downstairs (which someone who wants to move an aging parent in might appreciate).
  • Highlighting any major remodeling work that has been done, which is a selling point to a wide variety of buyers who strongly prefer to move right in.
  • Work with your agent as they write up the listing description for your home, and focus on saving characters by eliminating words like “charming” and “cozy” in exchange for creating more meaningful messages of this sort.
In the end, my first home was purchased by an adult brother-sister pair, who were attracted to the water views, the brand-new kitchen, the uber-convenient commute to very different parts of the Bay and – the deal-maker: the fact that each could have their own suite on their own floor: all of which was “messaged” in the listing and marketing materials.

4. You are not your house. Selling your home without going entirely nuts simply requires you to grow thicker skin. The endowment effect makes it likely that you’ll feel like you’re getting less than your home is worth, your agent and/or stager will likely come through and pull out half of the belongings you think are amazing and beautiful (yes – including your sequined butterfly mural) and you might even get incoming feedback from buyers and buyer’s brokers that is somewhat less than complimentary.

All this can feel like you’re taking a beating right where it really hurts, on the subject of the home that’s been good enough for you and yours for all this time – the home you’ve possibly invested much of your time, personal taste and money into.

So, walk into the home selling process with a thick skin - an unkind comment about your home is not a personal attack on you, no matter how much it might feel that way. Understand that every critique or dig you hear about your home is a step on the path to getting it sold so you can move forward with your life. In fact, some might even be made as negotiating ploys - and have very little to do with your home at all!

Again, this process of selling a home is largely a process of finding the buyer for whom your home is a right fit; you might find it helpful to think of those who dislike it as just getting you one prospective buyer closer to the one for whom it will be the perfect fit.

If it’s at all possible to show it vacant or to have it shown while you and your family are away from the home, that is ideal. Not only is it ideal for you and your emotions, it’s ideal for the buyers as well. Serious buyers like to be able to walk through a property and discuss it, visualize their life there, and start sorting through how they would make it their own, with only their agent and family present - without having to worry about how you’ll take their comments.
I had moved out of my first home into my next one before I put that place on the market, which also made it easier to do some of the property preparation projects - including a kitchen overhaul - before listing it. If you can’t or don’t want to do that, though, at the very least allow your agent to put a lockbox on the property and offer a simple way for buyer’s brokers to let you know when they plan to show the property.

At Open Houses for my first home, I heard buyers say it was too small, too fragmented a floor plan, lacked the deck it should have to take advantage of the views, lacked a backyard, was too green - and the list goes on. And those things were probably all true, from their individual perspectives. Turned out, some of the things they disliked were the very things that attracted the family that eventually bought the home.

5. Only worry about the levers you can pull. The three major levers that you, as a home seller, have the most power to pull are simple: price, preparation and marketing. You control the list price, you control how your home is primped and staged for sale, and you control the agent who is responsible for marketing and messaging your home to prospective buyers. So, focus your efforts on doing those three things wisely. Anything else has the potential to create panic and fear - and panic and fear are completely counterproductive to your efforts to make smart, logical decisions.

During the sale of my first home, while I was waiting for an offer, my mind went to some very dark places. I started to doubt everything: maybe the location was too off-the-grid, maybe the square footage wasn’t as ample as it had seemed to me, maybe the lack of a deck was really a deal-breaker, maybe I had wasted thousands of dollars on that kitchen remodel - maybe the whole town was just “out.”

As my mind spiraled in that direction, I had to force myself to get a grip with the knowledge that even if any of these absurdities were true, there was not a single thing I could do to change any of them. I couldn’t change the market. I couldn’t make buyers appear out of the woodwork. All I could do was price the place competitively, prepare it beautifully, market it thoroughly and place the right messages about it in the right places to the right buyers. So, that’s what I did. And you know what? It worked.

Friday, October 5, 2012

5 Surprising Buyer Turn Offs



1.  Pools. Twenty years ago, having a pool was seen as a luxurious amenity - almost a status symbol that you had made it, if your home had one. Fast forward a couple of decades, though, and many home buyers are turning down homes specifically because they have a pool.
There are a couple of core buyer subgroups who love pools: people who live in places where summers are super hot and people who really like to swim. But those buyers are vastly outranked in number by these other subgroups: 
  • people who know they won’t swim enough to use a pool, and think that maintaining one would just be a waste of their time, energy and money
  • people who would rather have a yard, and are looking for homes in areas where they either have a pool or a backyard - but not both, and
  • people who have young children and see a pool as a safety hazard.
If you happen to have a pool, your best bet is to market your home as best you can to those buyers who truly want one, and to mitigate the perceived negatives of pool ownership by being both pragmatic and creative:
  • ensuring the pool has a well-functioning fence and cover, 
  • staging the rest of the backyard in a way that maximizes the non-swimming activities a buyer will see as possible in the outdoor space, and/or 
  • offering to pre-pay for a year of the buyer’s pool maintenance as an incentive of the home sale transaction.
2.  Your stuff.  Yes - your taste is immaculate. But it’s your taste. What buyers are really looking for when they come to view a home is a palate on which they can envision easily applying their tastes. Accordingly, a primary goal of smart home preparation is depersonalization or neutralization, simply removing most or all of the personalized touches that make your home reflect you unless they are also neutral enough that any buyer, from any age group or cultural background can step in and put their mind’s eye to work at filling in what the place would look like if they lived there.
That said, it’s also entirely possible that your things might not be as attractive, nice or tidy in the eyes of a buyer as you perceive them to be. In the same vein, the tchotchkes, knickknacks and memorabilia that you see as cozy and warm are highly likely to be seen by buyers as dumpy clutter. I have personally been in homes with a number of buyers where the fact that the sellers still had so much stuff or such bad stuff throughout the home distracted the buyers from appreciating the property’s true potential, and what it might be like if they simply made some cosmetic edits and redecorated.
We've talked a lot over the years about the idea of simply pre-packing, staging by boxing up everything but the very most basic daily essentials and get them ready to move - some sellers find that to be a much more effective way to think about the project of decluttering.  Also, you can reset your own perspective on what you need to get rid of or move out to put your home on the market by visiting professionally staged Open Houses, hiring a stager just for an hourlong consult or even asking your agent to walk through your home and stick mini-Post It notes on things that need to be moved out before the listing goes live.
3.  Carpet.  Obviously, old, dirty, pet-impacted and bizarrely colored carpets (red?!) are not a draw for buyers. But this generation of home buyers takes the carpet conundrum even further, exhibiting a distaste for carpet - period. Concerns about the relative difficulty and expense of cleaning carpets, to the cost of replacing them when you want a decor change, to the tendency of carpets to hold pet hair, mites and other allergens that may impact family members with respiratory issues are, collectively causing carpet to fall out of favor with today’s home buyers. 
The majority of home buyers express a desire to have hardwood floors in their next home; other hard floor surfaces, from bamboo to tile to concrete to cork, are rapidly outpacing the popularity of carpets (though some buyers do still prefer the softness and warmth of carpets in their bedrooms). 
If you were thinking about replacing your carpets before you put your home on the market, consider replacing at least the living and dining areas with hard wood or a similar finish.  And if your home has carpet over hardwood, talk with your agent about exploring the idea of ripping it up - it might not be as expensive to repair or refinish as you think, and in many areas, buyers prefer even an imperfect hardwood floor over nice carpets.
4.  Gold bathroom fixtures.  Gold bathroom fixtures are part of a larger category of buyer turn-offs perhaps best described as things that are old, but not old enough to be vintage, retro, classic or historic. As a general rule, this includes household appliances, finishes and decor that dates from the ‘70s and ‘80s, give or take a decade, depending on where you’re at. For instance, the popularity of Mad Men has driven a massive amount of interest in all things mid-century modern, bringing the 50’s and 60’s decor and design aesthetics that just seemed plain and old when I was a child back into vogue - but somewhat more in urban than suburban taste zeitgeists.  
This means that those goldenrod refrigerators and wallpapers with marigold, orange and avocado floral patterns are decidedly passe. Similarly, gold bathroom and lighting fixtures, popular in the 80s and 90s are seen as dated by buyers, who much prefer sleeker, matte-er stainless, brushed chrome and even bronze or white finishes where metal finishes are necessary.  Is this just another trend? Yes.  But replacing gold bathroom finishes and recessed lighting can covers is relatively inexpensive to do; touch base with your stager or agent regarding whether they think these micro-home improvements will make much of a difference with buyers in your area and your home’s price range.
5.  Elaborate gardens and/or vast landscaping.  A huge backyard seems like it’d be a big draw.  So do the flower and botanical gardens that the seller obviously spent hour upon hour designing and tending to. But they also seem like a lot of work to today’s time-strapped and cash-conscious buyers. Not long ago, a buyer I know actually de-prioritized a home they otherwise loved, because it was surrounded by an enormous Japanese garden, bonsai's and all, that the buyer admired, but knew they could and would never be able to care for.  Same can go for elaborate, high-maintenance food gardens or even super-large front and backyards: some buyers simply know they don’t or won’t put the time, money and water into their care, so would rather not take them on.
Nothing about this should stop you from creating such an outdoor space if that is part and parcel of the lifestyle you want to live in your home. But it should be a factor you consider if you are concerned about reselling your home in the near future, and it might impact how you market your home if it has any of these sorts of features. If you have a miniature botanical garden at your home, why not find out if the local botanical garden or garden society has a newsletter you can place an ad in? If you have bees and chickens in the middle of Chicago or the heart of L.A., is there an urban farming club or blog that reaches that audience?  
Work with your agent to research where local buyers who would love your home’s unique or high-maintenance features, then market your home to them via publications, websites or organizations in which they already participate.  Once you understand that the average buyer might find these features to be less-than-desirable, it’s time to get creative about finding the buyer who will find them to be just what they've always wanted.

Source: Trulia

3 Ways to Turn Off a Seller



Top 3 Ways to Turn a Seller Off:  Buyers, if you want a home’s seller to play ball, best practice is to avoid these 3 pitfalls:

1. Unjustified, extreme lowball offers: It’s no secret that buyers have the upper hand in many markets right now. (To be clear, I said ‘many’ - not ‘every’ - your agent can help you understand what the dynamics are in your market.) But let’s be realistic, here. No seller can afford to give away their home at a price far below what it’s worth on today’s market. Lowballing a seller at a price far below the recent sales prices of similar homes in the neighborhood on the ‘let’s-take-a-stab’ plan, is highly likely to turn them off.  And that, in turn, will cause the seller to view your offer - and you - as disrespectful and wasteful of their time.

Not only will they turn down your offer, but they may not even bother with a counteroffer, rendering your efforts at securing that particular home dead in the water.

Buyers: Review the recent sale prices of similar homes in the neighborhood (aka “comps”) with your agent before you make your offer. Also, ask them to help you factor in other market data, like the average list price-to-sale price ratio and the average number of days neighborhood homes stay on the market. It’s all right to come in lower than asking, if the market data supports such an offer; just be sure your offer is based on reality - and not your fantastical hallucination about scoring the bargain of the millennium.

2. Buyer-side mortgage fails: Plenty of employed buyers with decent credit and cash in the bank have been turned down for a mortgage these past few years. That means buyers can’t assume (a) that they’ll be approved for the amount of loan they need to buy the house they want, or (b) that they’ll be approved for a loan at all. Your inability to get approved for a home loan can create all sorts of problems not just for you, but also for your home’s seller. The average seller’s  worst case scenario is that  they accept your offer only to find out a few weeks, or months, later that you can’t get the loan you need to close the deal.

Buyers: It’s not overkill to start working with a mortgage professional as far as six months or a year in advance of starting your house hunt to get pre-approved for a loan. Make sure you get a clear understanding of the amount you qualify for, then work with your real estate agent from there to determine the price range you should house hunt in. And whatever you do - don’t buy a new car, open new credit cards or even change your line of work before your escrow closes, unless you consult closely with your mortgage professional before you make that move.

Tip for Sellers: Work with your agent to vet buyers before you sign a contract. Factor in their down payment and earnest money deposit, and feel free to counteroffer these items, not just the offer price. It’s not overkill to have your agent contact the buyer’s mortgage broker to see how reliable the buyer’s pre-approval really is.

3. Bashing the seller’s home: Home bashing happens when buyers start bad-mouthing (aka “trash talking”) the place and/or the neighborhood in hopes of getting a lower asking price. Examples: pointing out all the foreclosures in the area, saying the house down the street just sold for much lower than the asking price on this house, saying you’ll need to rip out the entire kitchen before you even consider moving in - saying any of these things to a seller who happens to be at home during the showing or the inspection is probably one of the fastest ways to turn them all the way off.

Buyers: Bad-mouthing a house or neighborhood won’t work to get you a lower price. Instead, it only serves to irritate the seller and motivate them to come up with all sorts of reasons why they shouldn’t sell their home to you! Remember: homes hold incredible emotional experiences for owners. Make an offer you’re comfortable with and keep the negative comments to yourself.

If there are legitimate, factual reasons underlying your decision to make an offer at a price the seller might see as a lowball, ask your agent to respectfully communicate those facts to the seller’s agent.

Source: Trulia

3 Ways to Turn Off a Buyer


Top 3 Ways to Turn a Buyer Off:  If you’re a seller courting buyers, here are 3 faux-pas to avoid:

1. Hanging out when buyers are viewing your home: Buyers stalk properties online and off, checking obsessively for price reductions and the like.  But buyer-side home stalking is unobtrusive to sellers. On the other hand, buyers can feel personally stalked and stifled in their ability to fully explore or verbally process their impressions of a home when you, seller, hang out inside your home while it’s being shown.

As soon as a buyer sees you in the house, it instantly becomes much more difficult for them to:
(a) envision themselves living there (it’s your house, after all),
(b) be comfortable opening up drawers, closet doors, etc., and
(c) express their thoughts about how this house might be exactly what they’re looking for, if they can knock out that wall and get rid of those cukoo murals you so lovingly painted in your children’s rooms.

Sellers: If you want to sell your home, it’s best to not be around when buyers are looking. Give them some breathing space and a chance to truly walk around and consider what they like and/or dislike about your home without lurking and looming (and, let’s be real - eavesdropping) nearby.

2. Showing a messy house: Life gets hectic, and it’s easy for things like laundry, dishes and other house cleaning tasks to fall by the wayside. It’s also difficult to keep the home in which you and your 4 kids, 3 gerbils and 2 Labrador Retrievers live perfectly spotless for months at a time, while you’re waiting for an offer. But when you decide that you’re going to sell your home, it’s imperative that you make a pact and a plan with yourself and your family that the place will be in tip-top shape when buyers come knocking.

Remember: your home is competing with dozens of others, as well as with buyer’s HGTV-infused visions of what their next home should look like, so first impressions really count.

Sellers: Stuffing the closet is not the answer. (Buyers will be opening that closet door, after all.) Pack up your personals like you were moving (best case: you are), and put all but the essentials in storage, if needed. Get the carpets cleaned, do the dishes, make the beds, mow the lawn, dust, sweep and mop. Ask your agent to give you a gut check on whether your idea of clean is clean enough (better yet - ask them for the number of a house cleaner who you can engage to get the job done to showable standards).

This might all seem obvious, but agents and buyers alike are constantly amazed at the condition of some of the homes they walk into. Take my word for it; I’ll spare you the ‘ewww’-inducing stories.

3. Overpricing your home: Buyers already have lots to do before making the largest purchase of their lives. They have to wrangle their finances into order, jump hoops to qualify for a loan, collect the cash for down payment and closing costs, and invest sometimes hundreds of hours into market research and house hunting. With all of this already on their plates, the prospect of trying to negotiate down a crazily high asking price is just too much work (and too outside their comfort zones) for most buyers to deal with. The average buyer won’t even bother looking at your home if the asking price is clearly high and off base compared with other similar, nearby homes for sale; they’d rather sit tight and wait .

Sellers: Price to sell from the beginning. Work with your agent to determine a price that is supported by the data on how much nearby homes have recently sold for. You’ll save yourself a lot of time and anguish and get a lot more legitimate bites from serious, qualified buyers.

Source: Trulia

Friday, September 21, 2012

A Smaller House


Tips for buying a smaller house that is more affordable:

Truth #1: Rising interest rates hurt more with a bigger, more expensive house. With gobs of people wondering how they’ll manage their whopper mortgages because of the spectre of rising interest rates, smaller is starting to look sweeter. We’re at the tail end of a generation-long cycle of declining interest rates, so people are thinking about how their increasing costs will squeeze their cash flows when they have to renew their mortgages at higher interest rates.
Truth #2: No down-payment mortgages are gone. They were stupid to begin with. They let people who had done no planning for home ownership into an arena many weren’t prepared for. They got eaten by the lions. If you can’t afford to save a downpayment, you likely can’t afford to be a homeowner.
Truth #3: Longer amortizations cost way more money. Choosing a 35-year amortization on a mortgage was the only way some people could afford the huge homes they were buying. The fact that they would end up paying almost three times the cost of the home after all was said and done seemed of little concern. With the shift to getting out of debt, which, please God, I hope is firmly taking hold, a 35 year mortgage is far less attractive to smart home buyers.
Truth #4: A home is a place to live, not a retirement savings account. The era of double-digit annual gains in home prices is gone. Tying up all your money in mortgage payments when you should be investing for retirement is far less attractive now. Buying smaller means more money for RRSPs, TFSA and unregistered investment portfolios.
Truth #5:  Smaller homes have lower carrying costs. It’s not just the mortgage. It’s the property taxes and insurance. It’s the utility bills and maintenance. And it’s all the stuff it takes to furnish a bigger home.  Spending less to keep your home all gussied up means more money for a life now, and a future.


Source: Gail Vaz-Oxlade

Thursday, September 13, 2012

What Does a Home Inspection Entail?


There are four basic steps to the home inspection.

First, the inspector arrives at the property, makes general introductions and both explains what is going to take place and asks about any special questions or requests.

Next, while the inspection agreement is being reviewed, the inspector will make a quick circuit of the property to size up the scope of the inspection.

Then, there will be an in-depth walk-through inspection with the client. This involves inspecting all visible areas and reviewing all accessible items and areas, including the heating system, central air conditioning system, interior plumbing and electrical systems, the roof, attic space and all visible insulation, the walls,ceilings, floors, doors, windows, basement or crawlspace area, and the foundation and all visible structural components. Any questions or items of special interest regarding a particular system or structural component are usually addressed at this time.

Finally, a check of the entire property is made to verify that the condition of the property is the same as when the inspection started. After this last circuit, the inspector will complete the hard copy of the inspection report. All deficiencies and maintenance recommendations will be noted and a recap of deficiencies will be entered onto the summary sheet for the client.

Source: Active Rain

Friday, August 24, 2012

How Much House Can I Afford?

To determine how much house you can afford, factor in several things:

  • Net income from employment
  • Any additional income
  • Monthly expenses, including car payments
  • Down payment
  • Home repair expenses
  • Moving cost
  • Maintenance fees (lawn/pool care, etc.)
  • HOA fees
  • How much you'd like your mortgage payment to be monthly
  • Your credit score (to determine your mortgage rate)


Here is a good article on how to determine those figures for maximum wealth from Dave Ramsey.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Trust the Wall Street Journal


There has been a lot of speculation regarding the housing market. When will it come back around? Is buying a house still a good investment? Is now the time to buy? The Wall Street Journal, certainly one of the most trusted names in media, says that it is time to buy!


Warren Buffett famously once said: “Be fearful when others are greedy, be greedy when others are fearful.”
And if you’re not instinctively scared of the housing market, then global warming, saturated fat, running with scissors and the bogeyman probably aren’t keeping you awake at night, either.
The fact that everyone is scared to dabble in—much less commit to—housing makes it a close-to-perfect investment based on Mr. Buffett’s principle. But buying real estate is a good long-term investment for many more reasons, some of which have only become apparent in recent weeks.
The most striking: Housing prices rose sharply from April to May. The S&P/Case-Shiller Index rose 2.2% in 20 of the nation’s big cities. Prices shot up more than 3% in Chicago, Atlanta, San Francisco and Minneapolis. Even Detroit’s housing market scored a gain, inching up by 0.4%.
Nationally, the increase was the first in seven months. More importantly, the increase matched other data and empirical evidence this spring that foreclosures slowed and inventories were shrinking. Simple economics suggests that as the supply of distressed property slows, buyers will be forced into higher-price properties.
In addition, interest rates on 30-year fixed mortgages have tumbled below 3.5%. For those who can get credit, these aren’t just historically low rates; they are one-sided deals tilted toward borrowers.
Other good signs: Housing starts rose 6.9% in June. Home-building stocks are on the rise, with the Philadelphia Housing Sector Index up 27% so far this year. And for those who can invest in property, rents continue their ascent. Prices are at a 10-year high, with the median unit renting for $710 a month. Real-estate website Trulia found that it is cheaper to buy than rent in each of the nation’s 100 biggest metropolitan areas.
In other words, if you can buy a home today, you can save the difference it would cost you to rent even if you stay in the home just five years. If you can buy a property and rent it, it is almost certain that the rent will cover the cost of the financing—and the property will appreciate.
Here’s where the fear comes in. From 30% to 50% of existing mortgages in the U.S. market are underwater, depending on the estimate. That means many borrowers are trapped in their homes and loans. They either can keep paying and hope prices will improve or walk away, putting downward pressure on home prices.
Foreclosure rates have leveled off, but market analysts believe an increase is likely.
Here’s why. Since the financial crisis, 3.7 million homes have been foreclosed on, but an additional 1.4 million remain in the national foreclosure inventory, according to CoreLogic, a real-estate research firm.
Finally, a housing recovery won’t happen, or could be snuffed out, by a rotten economy. There’s never been significant growth in housing with high unemployment. And as Dow Jones’s Kathleen Madigan noted, “Potential buyers must feel secure with their job prospects before they commit to long-term mortgages. Higher loan standards mean banks want to see an applicant’s solid income history before lending.”
There is plenty to be afraid of when it comes to home buying. But in the current investing climate, housing presents an attractive long-term investment that should hold steady or even have upside surprise in the short term.
Fixed-income yields have fallen to historic lows, and the stock market has traded in a range, rising and falling skittishly on jobs, growth data and the news from Europe.
Recently, I was forced to choose between renting and buying. I decided to buy because it offered immediate monthly savings compared to renting, not to mention a mortgage-interest deduction.
So this is at least one case where I’m putting my money where my keyboard is.
Mr. Buffett would remind us that investments of any kind are not without risk. Each should be considered with the investor’s time horizon and appetites. But he also has acknowledged that real estate is especially attractive when financing is cheap, there is pent-up demand and prices have been driven down by a spooked market. Put another way, it’s time to be greedy.