Telltale Signs That You’re Ready to Sell

Ready-to-SellIt doesn’t matter how the decision comes about to sell your home; when you’re ready, you’re ready. 

Knowing when to move on from a relationship is an essential life skill. I’m not talking about romance, but an even deeper relationship: the one you have with your humble abode.

Selling your home is just as big an undertaking as buying one — in many cases, even more so! You’ve made memories in your home, and that can make it hard to see the proverbial writing on the wall.

So how do you spot the telltale signs of an impending property breakup?

You browse your heart out

Surfing real estate listings online has become a favorite pastime. Real estate photos these days are as Pinterest-worthy as any magazine spread, and it’s easy to scroll away the hours looking at pretty pictures of houses.

If you find that your search filters have become more detailed, that you’ve signed up for a Trulia account, and that you’re bookmarking houses with abandon … you may be doing a bit more than just dreaming.

Sometimes the decision to sell your home isn’t a conscious one; it simply becomes apparent through your actions.

Brandon Wilson, a recent home seller in Dallas, found himself in this exact situation.

“I was spending so much time online looking at houses, it practically became my job. Even though I felt happy with the home I had, I finally realized that all the amenities I wanted in my current home could actually be mine if I just moved; I listed my house for sale the next week.”

You obsess over every for-sale sign

Most of us know a real estate professional in our neighborhood. It’s natural to ask about the market in general terms — we all want to know what our house is worth, don’t we?

Even if you aren’t ready to sell your current home, looking at homes for sale can be a fun way to spend a Saturday.

However, if you find yourself cornering the local real estate pro at every neighborhood get-together to discuss market valuations, then you may be more serious about moving than you think.

The same can be said for spending every waking hour driving around to open houses. It’s natural to be curious occasionally about homes for sale in your neighborhood, but if you’re starting to feel like you should have your own HGTV show, then it’s time to move on.

You’re desperate to “right-size” your home

Everyone says time flies, and this is definitely true in real estate. We often find ourselves in a situation that was perfect five years ago but just isn’t filling the bill now.

Maybe you’ve added a family member or two or the kids have all moved out; whatever the change, the outcome is the same — it’s time to “right-size” your home.

If you fantasize about the free time and road trips you could take if you didn’t have 3,000 square feet to maintain, or if every morning you long for a bathroom you didn’t have to share with three kids and a dog, it’s time to list and make your dreams come true.

The first step? Get clear on the reasons that your house is no longer the one for you. Then you can embrace the process and start implementing a plan to make your fantasy home a reality.

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Single level Hillcrest Park area Fullerton

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U.S. Home Sellers Return for Spring as Buyers Get Relief

By Prashant Gopal, Bloomberg,  Feb 7, 2014 5:58 AM PT

Suzanne Baker and her siblings bought a foreclosed home in Atlanta two years ago, added a fourth bathroom, then waited for values to rebound before considering a sale. Now, she says, they’re ready to cash in.

The family last month listed the four-bedroom house in the affluent Buckhead neighborhood for $710,000. It was purchased as an investment for about $375,000 in late 2011, before bulk buyers snapped up many of the area’s distressed homes, helping to drive up prices in Atlanta by more than 25 percent.

“The market is back up,” Baker said. “We think we can make a good amount of profit so we’re going to try.”

For two years, a shortage of sellers like the Bakers has propped up prices across the U.S. as shoppers jostled for a dwindling supply of houses. Now, as the market’s busiest season approaches, escalating values are spurring more listings as homeowners regain equity lost in the worst crash since the 1930s. While new-home construction at a third of its 2006 peak will keep inventory tight, the supply increase is poised to damp price gains while higher mortgage rates cut into demand.

Related:

For would-be buyers, more choice would mean relief from the bidding wars of last year, when the supply was at a 12-year low leading into the key spring season. The period traditionally starts in mid-February, with deals picking up in the following months as weather in much of the country starts to warm.

Prices “won’t be rising as much as they were rising last spring.” said Jed Kolko, chief economist of San Francisco-based Trulia Inc. (TRLA), operator of an online property-listing service. “It will be a less frantic market with more inventory and fewer investors.”

Tightest Markets

The number of available homes climbed on a year-over-year basis in each of the last four months of 2013 after 30 straight declines, according to the National Association of Realtors. The increase in December was 1.6 percent.

Inventory rose the most in some of the tightest areas, from Arizona and California to Georgia and Florida, where leaps in prices erased negative equity and encouraged homeowners to lock in profits, according to a separate report from Realtor.com, the property-listings website for the Realtors association.

In Sacramento, California, where asking prices climbed 11 percent last year, listings jumped 58 percent in December, according to the website. The supply rose 35 percent in the Minneapolis area; 31 percent in Orlando, Florida; 27 percent in Atlanta; 24 percent in Dayton, Ohio; 23 percent in Oakland, California; and 21 percent in Phoenix.

Slowing Gains

“Rising inventory is the primary reason that we expect the pace of price gains to drop back,” Paul Diggle, property economist for Capital Economics Ltd. in London, said in a telephone interview.

Prices nationwide will climb 4 percent this year compared to 2013’s expected 11 percent gain, according to Diggle. Increasing mortgage rates also will weigh on prices because the higher costs will push some buyers out of the market, while forcing others to look for cheaper deals, he said.

Diggle’s firm projects 30-year fixed mortgage rates of 5 percent by the end of the year. That compares with the average this week of 4.23 percent, according to data from Freddie Mac. Rates will climb as the Federal Reserve scales back bond purchases that have bolstered the housing recovery by holding borrowing costs down, he said.

While rates have leveled off after reaching a two-year high in August, a jump from near-record lows in May has contributed to cooling demand. In December, contracts to buy previously owned houses fell by the most since May 2010, data from the National Association of Realtors show. Completed purchases rose 1 percent from November for the first gain in five months.

Buyer Enthusiasm

“Buyer enthusiasm has really softened in the past three months,” said Lawrence Yun, the Realtors group’s chief economist, who said colder-than-normal weather may be partly to blame. “In some markets, prices may rise further and buyers will want to catch it” before the increases put them out of their budget.

In Southern California’s Inland Empire, east of Los Angeles, homeowners got a jump on the spring selling season and began listing properties earlier than usual, said Paul Reid, an agent with brokerage Redfin.

Sellers are “nervous about what the spring is going to bring,” said Reid, who is based in Temecula, California. “They don’t know if everybody will list this spring then you’ll have a big counterbalance toward too much inventory, or if there’ll be a crunch again. They figure they’ll get out ahead of the market, list, sell and be done with it.”

Weak Demand

Rising inventory may unlock sales in severely constrained markets such as California’s Silicon Valley, where homes spend a median of 18 days on the market, according to Redfin data.

While those types of areas will benefit from more supply, demand in much of the country remains relatively weak and won’t recover without stronger job growth, said Sam Khater, senior economist for CoreLogic Inc.

Adjustable-rate mortgages, used by first-time buyers in past decades to purchase more expensive properties, may not be an option because of stricter lending standards adopted after the housing crash, he said.

“More supply will not create its own demand,” Khater said. “It will slow prices to a more sustainable rate of growth, but it won’t make the market more affordable. Once prices reach their natural state, future price appreciation will depend on income increases.”

Job Growth

The U.S. gained 113,000 jobs last month, less than economists’ forecast for a 180,000 increase, even as the unemployment rate fell to a five-year low of 6.6 percent, Labor Department data showed today. The jobless rate for Americans in their early 20s, many of whom are living with their parents longer rather than renting or buying homes, was almost 12 percent.

First-time buyers accounted for 27 percent of completed home purchases in December, down from 30 percent a year earlier, according to the Realtors group.

An increase in supply would indicate the housing market is moving toward more normal conditions as it rebounds from the five-year slump that started to turn around in 2012.

“Inventories had been very, very low and still are despite this turnaround,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Analytics Inc. in West Chester, Pennsylvania. “It’s part of the process toward normalization, although the weakening in demand needs to be watched very carefully because if demand does not pick up in the spring, that’s going to call into question the strength of any recovery.”

More Homebuilding

For homebuilders, the spring selling season traditionally starts the weekend after the National Football League’s Super Bowl, which was played five days ago. Companies are stepping up production, adding to the options for buyers. New-home starts, which rose 15 percent in 2013, will jump 25 percent this year, according to Brad Hunter, chief economist of Metrostudy, a research firm that tracks construction.

While sales are poised to rise as the economy improves, higher mortgage rates and aggressive builder price increases slowed demand in the second half of 2013, he said.

“It’s going to be a good season for homebuilders, maybe just not as good as last season,” Hunter said. “There are more projects operating this year than last year so it’s a more competitive environment.”

PulteGroup Inc. (PHM) and D.R. Horton Inc., the second- and third-largest U.S. homebuilders by market value, said January sales were encouraging.

‘Very Positive’

“We’re right on the cusp of a strong spring selling season,” Donald Tomnitz, chief executive officer of Fort Worth, Texas-based D.R. Horton, said last week on the company’s earnings conference call. “The spring selling season has started a little early, for our company, and that’s a very positive thing.”

In Atlanta, home starts surged 67 percent in 2013 — the biggest jump on record — and many of those properties will be completed this year, said Eugene James, Metrostudy’s director in the region.

Buyers of existing homes will face less competition from investors, who have caused shortages in many areas. Bulk purchases will start to slow as the foreclosure crisis fades and bargains disappear, according to Khater of CoreLogic. Multibillion dollar private-equity firms such as Blackstone Group LP — which helped drive up prices by buying thousands of single-family homes to rent in Arizona, California and Florida are already are looking elsewhere.

Phoenix Investors

In the Phoenix area, institutional buyers purchased 44 properties in December, down from a peak of 831 in July 2012, according to Michael Orr, director of the Center for Real Estate Theory and Practice at Arizona State University’s W.P Carey School of Business.

Active listings, excluding homes under contract, jumped 34 percent in December from a year earlier, while foreclosures and other distressed properties — the main source of supply for investors — fell 24 percent, Orr said.

Price gains in the area are easing, with a 20 percent increase in 2013 compared with 31 percent in 2012, Orr said. Home sales in December fell 11 percent from a year earlier and the decline may have been much higher in January, he said.

“Demand is still weak and supply has been growing faster than last year,” Orr said in an e-mail. “I’m not seeing any likelihood of further price gains in the near term. Sales concessions are on the rise and list-price cuts are widespread.”

Orlando Shift

In Orlando, sellers aren’t getting as many offers as they did a year ago, said David Welch, a Realtor with locally based Re/Max 200 Realty. The market has changed since October 2012, when the Orlando Sentinel reported that a bank-owned property drew 64 offers before fetching $86,000 — about 23 percent more than the asking price.

The median home price in December was $160,150, up 21 percent from a year earlier, according to the Orlando Regional Realtor Association. Sales dropped 5.2 percent, while new listings rose 24 percent.

“Prices have gone up quite bit,” Welch said. “That house that was a great investment a year ago has gone up 20 percent and may not be anymore.”

For Baker, the director of a nonprofit community revitalization group in Atlanta, the timing seems right to jump into the market and sell her family’s investment. The house, which she and her siblings used off and on in the past two years, is now vacant, and as a part-time student working on a master’s degree in social work, she can use the extra cash.

“We’re trying it now and we’ll see what bites we get,” Baker said.

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30-year rate climbs to 4.47 percent

From OC Register December 19th, 2013.

 my4tdg-mortgagedec1913RATE NEWS

From Freddie Mac’s weekly survey the 30-year fixed rate climbed to 4.47 percent and .7 point from last week’s 4.42 percent and .7 point. The 15-year fixed rose to 3.51 percent and .6 point from last week’s 3.43 percent and .7 point.

BOTTOM LINE: In the past year—assuming a well-qualified borrower received the average 30-year conforming fixed rate on $417,000 — you would have saved $263 had you funded your loan a year ago on the previous rate of 3.37 percent and payment of $1,842 compared to today’s 4.42 rate and payment of $2,105. Today’s 15-year fixed rate of 3.51 percent and monthly payment of $2,983 is $173 higher than last year’s payment of $2,810 on the previous rate of 2.65 percent.�

APPLICATION NEWS

The Mortgage Bankers Association weekly survey reports a 6 percent drop in loan applications compared to last week. Purchase loans now represent 34 percent of all applications. The Federal Housing Finance Agency announced (Fannie’s and Freddie’s regulator) announced shockingly large increases to loan level pricing adjustments as well as a separate guarantee fee increase. Simply stated, these loan point taxes could increase your loan costs in certain instances by .85 point to 1.6 points. Ouch!

WHAT I SEE: From rate sheets hitting my desk that are not part of Freddie Mac’s survey: Locally, not-so-well qualified, self-employed borrowers can get their income cleared on conforming and jumbo loans with a letter from their CPA and a current P & L on conforming and jumbo loans. Well-qualified borrowers can get a 30-year fixed rate at 4.25 percent and 1 point or 4.625 percent and zero cost. Or take a 15-year fixed at 3.25 percent and 1 point or 3.625 percent and zero cost. The 5/1 ARM for conforming or jumbo is very attractive at 3.5 percent, no-cost and some borrower rebate money on higher loan amounts.

WHAT I THINK: My 2014 top 10 predictions, in consultation with my crystal ball, are now etched in stone, with numbers 1 through 5 posted today. I’ll reveal 6-10 next week.

1) Home prices in Orange and Los Angeles Counties will drop between 6 and 8 percent in 2014. This will be due to a continuum of the current housing sales slowdown (that’s code for the housing economy is rapidly flattening), very untimely higher taxes on mortgages in the form of loan level pricing adjustments and guarantee fees and higher FHA mortgage insurance charges (that were introduced in 2013), as well as the tighter underwriting standards that start January10, aka the Qualified Mortgage and Ability-to-Repay rules.

2) Interest rates will rise in the first half of the year, touching 5 percent. The second half of the year will see a nosedive with 30-year fixed rates dropping to 3.25 percent to provide housing CPR and regain a market pulse.

3) In a new twist, lenders will be mandated by their regulators to do property occupancy inspections to be certain the home is really being rented (as rental properties are exempt from the new Qualified Mortgage rules).

4) Loosey-goosey underwriting programs will creep back in on particular programs that will include cruddy credit, very high ratios and tax preparer letters instead of IRS income proof. This is akin to the fast and loose stated income world of old.

5) Home equity lines-of-credit (HELOCs) will be rampant next year. In addition to traditional usage as a second lien, they will be marketed for owner-occupied first trust deed purchases and refinance loans, as well as rental financing, as that is another program exempt from Qualified Mortgage and Ability to Repay rules.

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Update on mortgage cancellation debt, short sales, IRS, and FTB liabilities

CAR header

12/4/13. The good news just keeps continuing. Letter from California Assosiation of Realtors:

As we anticipated, C.A.R. today received a letter from the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB), obtained by the State Board of Equalization, clarifying that California families who have lost their home in a short sale are not subject to state income tax liability on debt forgiveness “phantom income” they never received in a short sale.

Last month, in a letter to California Sen. Barbara Boxer, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recognized that the debt written off in a short sale does not constitute recourse debt under California law, and thus does not create so-called “cancellation of debt” income to the underwater home seller for federal income tax purposes.  Following the IRS’s clarification, C.A.R. sought a similar ruling by the California FTB.  Now with the FTB’s clarification, underwater home sellers also are assured that they are not subject to state income tax liability, rescuing tens of thousands of distressed home sellers from California tax liability for debt written off by lenders in short sales.

We are pleased with the recent clarifications issued by the IRS and the California Franchise Tax Board, which protect distressed homeowners from debt relief income tax associated with a short sale in California.  We would like to thank Sen. Boxer and BOE member George Runner for their leadership in obtaining this guidance from the IRS and FTB.  Distressed California homeowners can now avoid foreclosure or bankruptcy and can opt for a short sale instead, without incurring federal and state tax liability, even after the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 expires at the end of this year.

Sincerely,
Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown
2014 President
CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

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Great news from IRS for sellers that short sell

CAR header

 

November 15, 2013

Dear Roy,

As the new president of the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®, I’m pleased to be the first to inform you of some very good news.

We have been working with California Sen. Barbara Boxer to protect distressed homeowners from debt relief income tax associated with a short sale in California.  As part of this effort, Sen. Boxer requested the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to provide guidance on whether mortgage debt forgiveness in a lender-approved short sale would be taxable income under federal law, given California’s recent non-recourse laws for short sales, which were hard fought victories by C.A.R.

The IRS has clarified in a letter that California’s troubled homeowners who sell their homes in a short sale are not subject to federal income tax liability on “phantom income” they never received.  The IRS recognizes that the debt written off in a short sale does not constitute recourse debt under California law, and thus does not create so-called “cancellation of debt” income to the underwater home seller for federal income tax purposes.  This clarification rescues tens of thousands of distressed home sellers from personal liability upon expiration of the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007 on Dec. 31, 2013.

C.A.R. is seeking a similar ruling from the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB), which has been awaiting the IRS action; we anticipate the FTB will act promptly.  Short sales may raise other tax issues and, as always, you should advise your clients to speak with their tax professional regarding the tax consequences of a short sale.

C.A.R.’s Legal Department has prepared a Realegal to further explain the IRS’s clarification.

I know you join me in expressing our thanks, as well as those of our troubled homeowners, to Sen. Boxer for her leadership on this issue.  I will keep you informed and provide additional details as I have them.

Sincerely,
Kevin Brown
Kevin Brown
2014 President
CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®

Roy Hernandez header

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New FHA guidelines coming: Purchase 1 year after “Economic Event”

HUD headerRead the full article HERE

The financial crisis took its toll on Wall Street and Main Street alike.  Mistakes were made and bills went unpaid on both sides of the fence, but Main Street sees Wall Street bailouts and asks “where’s my bailout?”  Specifically with respect to the housing market, borrowers who have had bankruptcies, foreclosures, deeds-in-lieu, short-sales, or other adverse credit have heretofore been unable to quickly reestablish themselves as worthy borrowers.  That’s changing.

Late last week, The Department of Housing and Urban Development on Thursday unveiled a new set of guidelines under the FHA program specifically geared toward homeowners and prospective homeowners adversely impacted by the Great Recession.  The “Back to Work” program, as it’s called, doesn’t constitute a free pass for those who would otherwise be unable to qualify for financing, but it does reopen the housing market to a great many borrowers who would otherwise have been waiting for 3-7 years to tick off the clock–depending on their initial credit issue–before being able to qualify for a mortgage.  In FHA’s words:

“As a result of the recent recession many borrowers who experienced unemployment or other severe reductions in income, were unable to make their monthly mortgage payments, and ultimately lost their homes to a pre-foreclosure sale, deed-in-lieu, or foreclosure. Some borrowers were forced to file for bankruptcy to discharge or restructure their debts. Because of these recent recession-related periods of financial difficulty, borrowers’ credit has been negatively affected. FHA recognizes the hardships faced by these borrowers, and realizes that their credit histories may not fully reflect their true ability or propensity to repay a mortgage.”

The program will require prospective borrowers to thoroughly document the nature of the “Economic Event,” that it resulted in derogatory credit, and that there has been a satisfactory recovery from the Event per the new guidelines.

Lenders will consider the Economic Event to have caused the derogatory credit if:

  • The prospective borrowers had satisfactory credit prior to the event onset
  • The prospective borrowers’ derogatory credit occurred after the onset of the event
  • The prospective borrowers have reestablished satisfactory credit for at least 12 months since the the end of the event

Lenders will consider borrowers to have reestablished satisfactory credit if:

  • The borrower has no late housing or installment debt payments for the past 12 months
  • Open mortgage accounts are current and have been paid on time for the past 12 months
  • Borrowers have adhered to the agreement of any open modification plan for the past 12 months
  • Complete a course of Housing Counseling in person, via telephone, via internet, or other methods approved by HUD (who provides a list of Counseling agencies).

For the purposes of this program, an “Economic Event” is defined as “any occurrence beyond the borrower’s control that results in loss of employment, loss of income, or a combination of both, which causes a reduction in the borrower’s household income of twenty (20) percent or more for a period of at least six (6) months.  The Onset of an Economic Event is the month of loss of employment/income.”  Lenders will verify the reduction in income or loss of employment with at least one of the following:

  • A written termination notice
  • Other publicly available documentation of the business closure
  • Documentation of the receipt of Unemployment Income

Additionally, lenders have to verify a 20 percent loss of income due to the Economic Event by documenting borrowers’ income prior to the event.  This requirement can be satisfied either with a written “Verification of Employment” form with income details provided by the employer or signed tax returns (or W-2s).

Roy Hernandez header

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4 Ways to Know Whether to Sell or Stay Put

Sell or stayEvery real estate market creates its own buyer and seller personas, or profiles. When the market is slow and prices are low, it brings out ‘the wheeler-dealer’ and ‘the lowballer,’ as well as the ‘paralyzed panicker’ in some buyers.

But sellers aren’t immune.

And in a warm or hot market climate, the rise in home prices makes some sellers wonder whether they should exercise the freedom of finally having some home equity and make a move, or if it’s a better idea to stay put in hopes they can sell for more, next year or later.

Truth is, whether any given person should sell their home or stay put at any given time is a highly personal decision. Market dynamics should come into play, but that should be considered in the context of your personal life, career, family and financial plans.

Trying to figure out whether to sell or stay put? Here are four ways to know which decision is right for you.

1.  Sign You Should Sell: You frequently crave a neighborhood upgrade. I have known people who have liveed in “up and coming neighborhoods” for 20 years, and are still waiting for it to up-and-come. Others own homes on streets or in subdivisions they used to love that have changed dramatically because the city has been built up in a different direction, the area was rezoned, or because a school, freeway, commercial development, airport or train station was brought in. And still other home owners fall out of love with their neighborhoods because their job has moved, making their commute a pain.

In any event, if your home’s location is seriously misaligned with your life or your tastes, that fact is one you face all day, every day, for the duration of the time you live in the property. It can become a serious source of life dissatisfaction and resentment that rears its ugly head every time you make your monthly mortgage payment. As I see it, dissatisfaction with your neighborhood or a serious neighborhood-life disconnect can be a strong reason to sell and move, assuming you can make a move to a neighborhood that would better serve your life in a financially responsible way.

2.  Sign You Should Stay:  You can totally afford a new house – if you sell a kidney. A few years back, a friend of mine wrote a book called Life Would be Perfect if I Lived in That House (Vintage 2011). In it, she told how her mother was so addicted to the grass-is-greener promise of moving to a new home that she would actually take her family Open House hunting, even when they were visiting towns they had no interest in moving to! She went on to relate her inherited real estate addiction to the national trend of “moving on up,” so to speak, with financial recklessness – the trend that many believe led to the Great Recession.

There’s nothing wrong with being a real estate aficionado, but it’s important to watch to make sure grass-is-greener-at-that-house syndrome isn’t motivating you to make a financially unwise decision to sell and move.

If you are considering selling your home and moving up, do your own financial home work. Run your own budgets, income and expense reports and other financials to understand what level of increased financial obligation, if any, your household finances can afford to take. Consider whether you might want to set up some savings, investing or debt elimination targets before making a move. Work with your financial planner, tax professional and your real estate and mortgage pros to fully understand all the financial implications, short- and long-term, of selling and moving before you put the sign up in the yard.

3.  Sign You Should Sell: Space-wise, your family is too close for comfort. (And things will get worse before they get better.) I marvel at how much stuff the smallest infant seems to need.  I once went to a baby shower that generated so many strollers, packable playpens and sheer gear that it took 2 SUVs and a station wagon to cart it all home – for a kid that ultimately weighed in at 6 pounds and some-odd ounces.

If you have very young children and you’re already tripping over each other, chances are good that their space needs will grow as they do, even after all the baby gear is gone. School-aged kids and teenagers develop their own hobbies and need space for studies and sports – and on top of that, many parents of young children can realistically anticipate moving their own parents in at some point in time.

If you’re struggling to find a space for everything (and everyone), project your space needs out five years into the future. If you think you’ll need less space in five years (e.g., because your kids will likely move out in that time frame), it might not make sense to buy a bigger home now. But if it looks like you’ll need more space before you need less, that can be a sound rationale for making a financially rational move.

4.  Sign You Should Stay:  You could fix what ails your home with relatively modest remodeling projects.  If your home is bothersome primarily because things don’t function very well or its aesthetics are out of whack with your style, you might be tempted to sell and move.  Here’s a tip-off: your “dream home” is the Open House one block over that is nearly identical to your home in location, size, architecture, bedrooms and baths, but is impeccably decorated and updated. If you find yourself in this situation, you might very well be able to resolve your issues by investing less than you would spend on the transactional costs of selling and buying another home into some small-to-medium-scale remodeling projects on your current home.

On a budget, painting, landscaping, replacing exterior trims and interior hardware and updating your kitchen appliances will likely give you the biggest boost in home love for your buck. Similarly, you can get a major enjoyment boost out of your home for very little money by bringing a handyperson in to fix all those niggling little items that make a home seem worn out, including:

  • drawers that stick
  • handles you have to jiggle
  • drafts that need stopping up, and
  • scrapes and scuffs that make a place look rundown.

That said, when you consider what you would spend on commissions and closing costs to sell one home and buy a nearly-identical new one, you might be able to justify a larger updating/upgrading budget. If you have a little more dough to spend, consider a kitchen or bath remodel, having some custom organizers built in, or putting in the wood floors or deck you’ve always wished for. You might be surprised how fast home hate can turn to love when you start pampering your property.

Sellers: What factors influenced your decision to sell?

Top schools equal higher home prices

Any good parent wants their child to attend the best school possible, but when it comes to finding a home in a top school district, how much more are buyers willing to pay? A recent study performed by Redfin suggests that many parents are willing to shell out even more than you might think. If you’re trying to sell a home and want to get the most for it, you might want to consider “selling” the school first.

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Schools have always played an important role in the buying and selling of real estate. More recently though, premiums for homes served by top-ranked schools have been going up, indicating that buyers place remarkable importance on the quality of schools when buying a house.

An analysis by Redfin illustrates the steep price premiums that homeowners are willing to pay for homes served by top-ranked schools, offering the latest concrete evidence that buyers place remarkable importance on the quality of schools.

The sky-high premiums help explain the ongoing race among listing sites to provide razor-sharp school information.

They could also add fuel to a debate over whether buyers and the real estate agents representing them give too much weight to rankings, which school officials say don’t always provide a complete picture of the differences in the quality of education provided.

Redfin’s study found that buyers pay an average of $50 more per square foot for homes served by top-ranked schools than for those served by average-ranked schools. It also found found that, even within the same neighborhoods, buyers will pay substantially more for homes served by top-ranked schools than they do for comparable homes served by average-ranked schools.

“Homes just a short distance apart with nearly identical attributes are selling for drastically different prices,” the report said. “We’ve looked across the country at homes that have sold in the last three months and found five examples where the prices vary on identical homes by as much as $130,000.”

Not accounting for home size, San Jose, San Francisco and Los Angeles, Calif., carry the highest price premiums for top-ranked schools while Queens, N.Y., Raleigh, N.C., and Eugene, Ore., carry the lowest of all the metros that Redfin analyzed.

redfind-school-study

The report adds to a growing body of evidence that suggests that many homebuyers are ready to shell out substantial cash for access to top-notch schools.

Three out of 5 homebuyers who responded to a recent realtor.com survey said that school attendance boundaries would be a factor in choosing a home, and most of that group said they’d be willing to go above budget or give up amenities to have their children go to their school of choice.

The online survey, conducted this summer, found that of those who said school attendance boundaries were important:

  • 23.6 percent would pay 1 to 5 percent above budget.
  • 20.7 percent would pay 6 to 10 percent above budget.
  • 9 percent would pay 11 to 20 percent above budget.
  • 40.3 percent would not go above budget.

school kids      Some school officials have questioned whether buyers and their agents are relying too heavily on test scores and school ranking sites when pricing listings.

      The San Francisco Chronicle has reported that buyers in San Mateo County, Calif., are willing to pay premiums of $200,000 or more for homes served by schools that score only slightly better than other schools in the same school district. School district officials told the newspaper that homebuyers and their agents may read too much into simplified school rankings offered on real estate sites, and are working with Realtors in the hopes of helping them gain a better understanding of what qualities make for a good school.

     A Canadian real estate agent who’s branded herself as her community’s “#1 schools advisor” has rankled school district officials and parents by posting not only standardized test scores on her website, but devising her own system for ranking them. The ranking system penalizes schools with lower household income and parental education levels, or a higher prevalence of single-parent households and English-as-a-second-language (ESL) students.

The increasingly evident focus among buyers on school quality has helped spur a push by listing services to offer deeper school-centric features and data.

Zillow rolled out a school search boundary tool earlier this month that lets users filter home searches for public, private and charter school attendance boundaries by their ratings from a national school rating site.

A handful of other sites, including realtor.com, Trulia and Century 21 Real Estate, offer school-based search tools.

For its study, Redfin analyzed listings on multiple listing services that sold between May 1 and July 31; school zone boundaries provided by Maponics; and additional school data provided by Onboard Informatics and GreatSchools.

Home prices up 23% for year ended in August

Orange County home prices rose 23 percent in the 12 months ending in August, the biggest annual percentage gain in almost nine years, CoreLogic’s latest Home Price Index shows

August’s price, however, increased just 1.5 percent from July, a sign that the pace of price gains is slowing as the housing market enters its offseason, CoreLogic said.

CoreLogic’s index showed the biggest gain among three home-price reports out for August. DataQuick reported earlier that Orange County house prices jumped 20.7 percent; the California Association of Realtor’s August report showed a 17.1 percent gain.

Nationwide, home prices were up 12.4 percent year over year in August, and they increased in all 50 states, Irvine-based CoreLogic reported. California had the nation’s second-highest home-price appreciation rate – up 23.1 percent, trailing only Nevada, which saw prices jump nearly 26 percent.

Orange County’s gain was one of the highest among U.S. metro areas. The Inland Empire had the nation’s highest rate among large metro areas, with home prices up 23.4 percent in August. Los Angeles County ranked third – after Orange County – with a 22.5 percent increase.

Orange County’s August appreciation rate was the largest since home values rose 25 percent in November 2004. It’s also the 21st straight month of improving home prices, the index shows.

Article compliments of Johnathan Lansner and Jeff Collins, OC Register.