Looking into Words That Go with “House for Sale” Advice

March 27th, 2016

3-23-16-homeforsaleYou will find that most advice about preparing your Melbourne house for sale features a couple of indispensable terms: de-clutter, clean, and de-clutter. That’s not a typo: you can’t say ‘de-clutter’ often enough. It has to be emphasized that “clutter” doesn’t necessarily refer to shabby or threadbare items—it means literally everything that doesn’t advance the look and feel of a spacious, ready-to-move-into dwelling.

That’s why this specialized definition of “clutter” might include a good-looking leather ottoman that perfectly matches its recliner (but which leaves too little space for walking from the den into the kitchen) … or the wide-shaded authentic Tiffany standing lamp with the stunning dragonfly motif that doesn’t match anything else in the house…or the chest in the hall that holds all the winter stuff. Even if Melbourne’s winter hadn’t ended last Sunday, that chest and the winter gear ought to find a temporary home in a less obtrusive housing.

In other words, when you have a house for sale in Melbourne, clearing away non-essentials to emphasize spaciousness is a high priority—even if it might mean sacrificing some degree of livability. Yes, you DO have to continue to live in your house, so the de-cluttering has to be within reason. Likewise, the cleaning.

Now; about the cleaning.

There is cleaning—the kind we do all the time—but then there is also “deep cleaning.” Like “de-cluttering,” “deep cleaning” is a real estate watchword invoked by everyone writing about preparing a house for sale. The phrase would seem to be clear, but it needs to be pointed out that professionals usually do a better job of it than we civilians can. They simply see dirt that normal householders don’t (and also somehow manage to get rid of it a lot quicker than we can).

The finer points of deep cleaning include being in possession of an assortment cleaning tools and substances that aren’t found in every closet. But in addition to those, it takes a dirt detective’s eye to recognize the many areas that are easily overlooked:

Light bulbs. Trash cans. Drawer organizers. Bed skirts. Dishwasher and washing machine seals. Undersides of cushions. Ceiling fan blades (all right; you probably knew they were dusty, but keep putting off figuring out how to get the vacuum up a stepladder to do anything about it). Beneath the range, beneath the refrigerator, behind the toilet…etc.

You get the best results when your Melbourne house for sale is presented in a way that invites prospective buyers to easily envision living there. Open spaces that are uncluttered and clean invite them to do just that. I’m here, too, to help with ideas and suggestions that will have proved to make the entire process as easy as possible. Why not give me a call?

Do Melbourne House Hunters Prefer New Homes? Yes…and No…

March 25th, 2016

3-23-16-newhomeSeveral different surveys confirm that if you ask American consumers which they prefer, close to twice as many say they would choose to move into a brand new home rather than an existing one. But—and there are several important ‘buts’—when it comes to today’s typical Melbourne house hunter, that answer can be a little misleading.

For one thing, house hunters who don’t even check out Melbourne’s pre-owned house listings are few and far between. In actuality, when someone begins to think seriously about buying their next home, it’s highly unlikely they will be able to resist taking at least a cursory look at the Melbourne listings. The previously-owned homes that are now for sale aren’t just easy to find—they’re manifestly hovering a single click away on every computer and mobile device. Given the current state of intelligent search engines—which seem to be watching us more closely than we are watching them—at the first inkling that we could be interested in finding a home, alluring Melbourne listing pictures start popping up onscreen all by themselves!

That makes a difference because even if the majority of buyers might lean toward buying a new home with brand new construction, as soon as they start seeing the variety of existing homes, most people find at least some that are interesting. And previously owned residences certainly do have some intrinsic advantages, with their established communities, tree-lined older neighborhoods, and frequently, more interesting architectural detail. It’s also true that many new homes in Melbourne tend to be built on smaller lots than the older ones—which touches on another central issue: the matter of cost.

Forbes claims that the acknowledged rule of thumb is that brand new homes often cost “up to 20% more than a similar existing home”—that is, one with the same number of rooms, square footage, acreage, etc. That having been said, there are the undeniable advantages that go with Melbourne’s new homes. They meet today’s construction standards and design preferences, often with walk-in closets, open floor plans, and expansive master baths. Who wouldn’t favor a new kitchen outfitted with energy-saving built-in appliances, sparkling new bathrooms, brand new flooring and carpeting?

For many, a new home that holds the promise of no visits from the repairman for at least a few years makes for a low-stress situation that’s worth the budget premium. And even that tradeoff can prove less costly than it might seem, given the prospect of reduced maintenance outlays for a number of years.

Like so many other aspects of buying a home, the choice between one acquired from a previous owner or a new home winds up being strictly a matter of personal preference—and it’s also a fact that those can change in surprising ways once you get out and explore today’s offerings in person. Best way to get started: call me!

Melbourne Housing Market Shares Some Welcome Trends

March 23rd, 2016

3-16-16-housing marketThis spring’s Melbourne housing market continues to reflect most of the trends that have held sway across much of the nation. There is good news, not-so-good news, and (happy to report) no really bad news at all. In fact, it’s the absence of threatening factors that makes our housing market a welcoming one for those looking to buy or sell in Melbourne this spring or summer. Here’s the brief run-down:

Prices. Look as if they will continue to trend higher, but more slowly than they have for the past couple of years. The consensus of expert opinion calls national average residential prices to climb 4%+, which is about 1%-2% more slowly than in 2015. Of course, every Melbourne property (and neighborhood, for that matter) fares slightly differently, so those generalities are only helpful in the context of the actual Melbourne “comps” (the comparables).

Rents. Where Melbourne rentals sustain the kind of vacancy rates that are being seen just about everywhere in the U.S., rates have nowhere to go but up. Property managers are reporting that they’ve raised rents in 88% of localities, which has had a push-pull effect on housing markets. On one hand, every increase nudges renters to more seriously consider the not-so-abstract monetary advantage home ownership produces. When owning is actually cheaper than renting in monthly cash flow terms (not even counting the long-term investment aspect), every month’s rent check is a new spur to investigate that option. That’s the push. The pull is that those expensive rental dollars spent make it that much harder to save for even a nominal down payment.

Mortgages. No news here: mortgage interest rates just don’t seem to want to rise—no matter how certain the financial experts are that they have to do so. Actual recent history has chastened those forecasts, though, so at this point, most Melbourne borrowers probably expect that rates will stay below the 5% mark throughout 2016. Still, with many quotes for last week’s 30-year fixed hovering in the high 3%s, the incentive to take advantage of today’s rates remains a strong point.

Inventories. With few exceptions, the reason why all those incentives to buy have not created an explosion of real estate activity is the shortage of homes on the market—the inventories. That is an additional incentive for Melbourne owners to list, since it means limited competition channels more potential buyers to their own property.

As the spring selling season gets going in earnest, we’ll see if Melbourne’s housing market behaves the same way the broader national real estate trends indicate. For an immediate micro-update, just give me a call anytime!

Comparing Mortgage Offers Rewards Melbourne Home Buyers

March 21st, 2016

3-16-16-mortgageFor Melbourne home shoppers who anticipate taking advantage of today’s low mortgage interest rates, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has a few words of interest. The CFPB thinks it has found a way for consumers to get the best home loan deals.

The way they recommend is to shop around.

Now, it may seem as if everybody in Melbourne would know that without needing the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to clue them in, but the CFPB has evidence to the contrary. The last time they looked, nearly half of mortgage borrowers hadn’t shopped around before they signed up for their loan (47% of them, to be precise). That is rather surprising, since even an eighth of a percentage point difference in the interest rate works out to a lot more than spare change. Why more home buyers don’t compare mortgage deals may be due to a number of factors.

For one thing, anyone who has spent much time on the internet has had the unfortunate experience of being promised that they can “see today’s rate” with no strings attached, only to eventually discover (after entering a lot more information than seems relevant) that they will be contacted (phone number, please) by what is likely to be a high pressure salesman. You get the feeling that you may have shared too much information to web denizens you don’t really know.

Another reason might be concern about qualifying. If you’ve had credit rejections in the past, the good news that comes with receiving any offer might make some folks accept it out of sheer relief.

Yet another reason might be especially true in today’s Melbourne market. Especially if you have earlier familiarity with the much higher rates from previous eras, the first mortgage rate you hear may be so low that you are delighted to accept it. There is also the fact that if you are offered several options with different loan types, terms, and point-rate tradeoffs, the act of choosing between them can satisfy the natural inclination to shop around.

The CFPB would like to encourage more aggressive consumerist behavior. To accomplish that—to make everyone “feel comfortable shopping in the mortgage market”—their web site has various educational tools. Their staff produced a number of charts. The one that shows interest rates from 1990 to 2014 slopes delightfully downward. Less informative is another chart that shows how borrowers who feel “confidence in their knowledge of available interest rates” are almost twice as likely to shop around as those who say they are “unfamiliar with available interest rates.” That doesn’t seem to be much of a revelation—it’s like saying that learning to read price tags increases your ability to comparison shop…

For those who do expend the effort to do mortgage comparisons, there is also agreement that having a professional in your corner leads to the most satisfactory results. It’s another good reason why, on the way to acquiring your Melbourne dream home, giving me a call is an excellent idea!

Melbourne Observers See Rise in U.S. House Flipping Activity

March 19th, 2016

3-16-16-houseflipWhen you think about it, it was to be expected: the pace of house flipping activity in communities all over the country almost had to quicken. The market made it all but inevitable—in places where prices are on the rise while inventories remain tight, the conditions are right.

A “house flip” in Melbourne is what you call any Melbourne house that’s sold within a year of being purchased. House flipping happens when something unforeseen occurs that prompts a buyer to change residences more quickly than anticipated, or (much more often) when the purchase is made in the first place because the buyer sees an opportunity to make a profit.

House flipping became all the rage for a while during the housing bubble of the mid-2000s, hitting a peak in 2005. Half a dozen TV series were launched that popularized the adventures of itinerant flippers, tracing their footsteps as they acquired, fixed up, then sold properties for enticingly large premiums. The best of them depicted not simply the money to be made, but also the hard work (and occasional disappointment) that accompanied the house flipping phenomenon.

Then came the bursting of the ‘bubble’ and the consequential drop in enthusiasm for house flipping. RealtyTrac, the authority on U.S. housing data, also keeps tabs on the flipping statistics. This month they reported a new trend in action: an increase in the share of homes and condos flipped in 2015: 179,778, which is more than 1 in 20, and “the first annual increase in the share of homes flipped following four consecutive years of decreases.”

That total means that the total number of investors who completed at least one flip in 2015 was at the highest level since 2007. According to RealtyTrac, the homes flipped last year yielded a national average gross profit of $55,000: “the highest for flips nationally since 2005.” Moreover, they found that the return on investment was more than 45% (up from 35% in 2005).

For us locally, the question is what that might signify for Melbourne real estate. On the one hand, there are those observers who tend to take the view that whenever house flipping takes off in earnest, it indicates that a real estate market is becoming overheated—that prices are rising too quickly. That is definitely something Melbourne could do without. But a slightly more convincing reading was put forward earlier this month by commentator Diana Olick on CNBC. She found that, unlike many of the earlier house flipping participants, “data indicate that flippers in 2015 continued to operate within relatively conservative margins.” That means that they typically bought homes that were not wildly underpriced, then sold them at price points close to their estimated market values. They were also not usually buying with the perilously small financial cushions that typified earlier flippers. That had also been a hallmark in the mid-2000s, when the ready availability of cheap credit encouraged the practice. That’s no longer the case.

All in all, it seems as if the national house flipping trend is not at all reminiscent of previous overheated (and over-hyped) conditions. Instead, Melbourne’s real estate market looks to be more welcoming to anyone who recognizes the sustained value of the house they are looking to buy or sell. I take a great deal of pride in helping them make it happen!

Springtime in Melbourne Can Prompt Home Décor Decisions

March 17th, 2016

3-16-16-decorThere is something about spring that gets everybody at least thinking about fixing up the house, and it’s that time of year again. Throughout the length and breadth of Melbourne, home décor decisions are being pondered. Ambitious landscaping and fix-up plans are being laid, budgets drawn, and troops assembled (the troops will be armed with paint brushes and rollers, hedge clippers and rakes).

Perhaps it’s the weather; perhaps the angle of the sun—or maybe even last Sunday’s clock-adjusting exercise—for whatever the reason, this time of year is when we look around the house and decide changes will be made!!

It’s also the time of year when occasional disagreements between Melbourne’s husbands and wives have been known to crop up. The Home Improvement section of the realtor® web site just ran a feature titled “When Couples Disagree About Home Décor,” which promised to tell who the winner is in such arguments. It pointed out that women have different priorities than men (women: “leather makes those embarrassing noises each time you sit or stand” vs. men: “but you’re going to freak out each time someone sits on [the linen cushions] with a drink”). The woman who wrote the article says that she won the argument—but admits that now she freaks out every time someone sits on her sofa with a drink (it’s already freckled with water marks). So maybe the man won in the long run…

If your home décor efforts are getting special attention this season because you plan to add your home to the Melbourne listings, “what’s hot” might suddenly be more of a consideration. But a different home décor impasse can come about when the fashion zeitgeist points in one direction while your personal taste pulls in another. Even worse, you may find that the fashion world is arguing amongst themselves!

The Realty Skinny says, for instance, that gray is about to overtake white in popularity (simultaneously also “pushing out the beige era”). That’s not a problem for The Washington Post, which agrees that “gray makes all your possessions pop out” (except, I have to believe, the gray ones). On the other hand, the Pantone Color Institute, which practically wrote the book on color, couldn’t disagree more. They think that pinkish Rose Quartz (“warm, embracing”) and faintly bluish Serenity (“calm-inducing”) are what’s happening right now. In fact, it/they are its Color[/s] of the Year. That is because “the pairing…brings a feeling of calm and relaxation into the home environment.” That would be welcome—especially when you’re freaked out about the water marks on the sofa.

You don’t have to be selling your home for home décor tweaks and garden renewal to occupy your thoughts, but if you do, I hope you will give me a call. My free, no-obligation consultation will let you in on the latest Melbourne market information. I think you’ll agree that knowing exactly what’s happening has a definite serenity-producing effect!

Home Prices in Melbourne Reflect Remodeling Choices

March 15th, 2016

3-1-16-remodelingHere’s an instant spot quiz— (see what comes to mind within a second or two):

If you decide to sell your Melbourne home, if you had a crystal ball, what’s the most important detail about the sale result? Quick! Answer!

If you’re like seven out of ten people, you were curious about the bottom line: “what price did it sell for?” Some people come up with “how long did it take?”—but usually, that’s the second or third choice (“what were the buyers like?” is another contender).

It’s hardly surprising that the closer they get to putting their own house up for sale, home prices are foremost in people’s minds. Yet most homeowners assume that the ultimate sale price will be determined by market forces outside their control. That’s sort of true, but not entirely so. Home prices aren’t set in stone. Homeowners do have a degree of control over what their property will bring—if they choose to exercise it. One key to seizing that control is the smart application of remodeling dollars to areas that pay off.

For Melbourne homeowners who plan to continue living in their homes for the foreseeable future, it’s less of an issue. They can be comfortable putting their remodeling project dollars in the directions that make the home more comfortable and agreeable to their own family lifestyles. They can safely follow their own priorities without worrying too much about where current tastes and trends are heading, unless you are someone who just enjoys being counted in the fashion vanguard.

But if you’re fairly certain that you will list your Melbourne home sometime soon, you should remember that a property’s salability can be greatly affected by the remodeling direction that’s taken. Rather than making those decisions guided solely by your personal preferences, it makes good sense to take into account what buyers consider valuable, if for no other reason than the likelihood that those dollars will come back! There are three areas that deserve consideration:

Kitchens always seem to get the most attention when it comes to boosting home prices. A homeowner may prefer a warm, comfortingly cozy space for the center of family activity that the kitchen usually becomes—but many prospective buyers go the other way. Light and bright is vastly preferred over cramped and dark for buyers who are comparing kitchens—and the resulting home prices offered usually reflect it. If your property will be among the Melbourne listings anytime soon, think about directing some remodeling energy there.

The master bedroom is growing in importance, too. Many buyers who in earlier eras may have valued a formal dining room, now forego it altogether—preferring an attractive master as a sanctuary from the stresses of the outside world.

Living rooms can also add to the bottom line a home winds up fetching. An open, bright multi-purpose area that’s easily envisioned as a center for family entertainment and social gatherings can give a strong boost to perceived value. Simple renovation ideas like removing dated window coverings or replacing worn carpet can be dollars well spent.

If selling is anywhere on your horizon, it won’t be long before keeping tabs on trends in Melbourne home prices becomes a new personal priority. Whether early-on or last-minute, calling me for a no-obligation consultation can make a big difference for maximizing your sale’s result!

First Step for Choosing the Right Melbourne Real Estate Agent

March 13th, 2016

3-1-16-realestateagentWhen interviewed following the successful close of their home’s sale, a convincing majority of homeowners say that one of the most decisive factors came early on: choosing the right real estate agent. The reasons given go further than simply chaperoning the business transaction. The right agent does more than pare down the stress level that can creep into the process at any moment; does more than handle the numerous contractual issues that need to be addressed before a sale can reach a tidy conclusion.

The right agent lets you rest easy, knowing that your listing is getting the full energy and professional attention it deserves. When the choice is the right one, you know that your property is on display 24-7—being presented to the potential buyers most likely to buy.

Unless you inherited the property, you probably have clear memories of the Melbourne agent who was there when you originally bought. If it’s a positive image of a friendly, knowledgeable professional who tackled the details with skill and energy—and who seemed to make everything somehow easier than you expected—then that someone is sure to have the inside track.

If that’s not the case (or if enough time has passed that he or she is no longer available), you’ve got to choose your agent. But rather than letting the impending task loom as an arduous undertaking, take heart! Consider that you are in the proverbial catbird seat (whatever that is). Just look at it from my perspective, as a real estate agent in Melbourne.

Every Melbourne real estate agent is engaged in a sort of retail business. The homes for sale are our “products” on the shelf. Now, although it’s true that every real estate agent in the area is able to expose their buyer clients to the entire “inventory”—including the other Melbourne agents’ homes for sale—it’s much more desirable when our own “shelves” are stocked with great properties.

That means that your home is in strong demand among Melbourne real estate agents, and most of them will do their best to make hiring them as painless as possible. If you have some direct questions you’d like to ask (but would normally be too polite to do so), you needn’t hesitate. “What homes weren’t you able to sell last year…and why not?” is a good one. So is, “Can you give me the contact information for three recent clients?”

The right real estate agent—the one you want—won’t make you feel as if you’ve posed an awkward question. A great agent will be able put you at ease in any situation. If he or she fails to do so, that’s not the right agent! (and finding that out means your interview succeeded).

Selecting the right Melbourne real estate agent to sell your property is the logical first step because it makes all the following steps so much easier. I hope you’ll include me on your list of the most likely candidates…and give me a call to prove why you should!

Heads-Up! Melbourne’s Spring Selling Season is Here!

March 11th, 2016

3-1-16-springMelbourne’s spring selling season is underway!

Okay—it’s understandable if that seems like a somewhat premature announcement, but it is verifiable from any number of sources. Never mind that this year, spring doesn’t officially arrive in Melbourne until March 20…but that’s only what astronomers say (and they can’t even decide whether Pluto is a planet). Meteorologists take issue with them, anyway. It’s always March 1 as far as meteorologists are concerned. But this year’s Godzilla El Niño has made everything they say subject to revision. And anyway, we’re talking about real estate—and when it comes to real estate, spring is here already!

Now, it may be true that if you look on one of those bank calendars you got in the mail last December, it’s likely to tell you that we’re weeks away from the change in seasons. And depending on what the latest weather seems to be doing, winter may seem to be hanging on for a while longer.

But nimble Melbourne real estate watchers know they can’t believe everything they read (or see happening outside in the garden). Cherry blossoms can’t call the shots when it comes to announcing Melbourne’s spring selling season, any more than tulips can. And that groundhog can stay in his den, for all the difference it makes to home sales.

This is fact: according to the real estate industry’s calendar, the spring selling season—in Melbourne and everywhere else across the nation—has definitely sprung!

Supporting evidence has flooded in from everywhere. For example:

⦁ Home Depot just announced it is hiring 80,000 workers for spring. These are the folks who work the cash registers [nowadays, shouldn’t they be called “plastic card registers?”] and help us wander up and down the aisles, looking for things we can’t describe exactly. Without them, spring wouldn’t be the same. With them, spring is clearly underway.
⦁ Internet real estate behemoth Zillow came out advising that everybody who is thinking about taking advantage of the spring selling season should start preparing their property “NOW”—and that was two weeks ago!
⦁ CNBC put it in real time: “Spring housing season kicks off with record short supply” was their headline. If CNBC says so, who could argue?
⦁ Baseball teams have hightailed it into camp. That should end the discussion…

These harbingers of the spring selling season should certainly mean more than robins hopping across lawns or yellow and pink Peeps appearing on grocery store shelves. And even for any overly cautious souls who decide to wait for the bank calendars’ say-so, taking full advantage of the spring selling season in Melbourne necessarily calls for advance preparation. A strong way to start is by giving me a call!

Melbourne Tenants Benefit from Professional Property Management

March 9th, 2016

3-1-16-propertymanagementEveryone who owns a rental property in Melbourne makes a continuing management decision concerning how much of the day-to-day operational responsibility to outsource. Some are inclined to tackle the nuts and bolts of tenant management, while others are content to leave it to one of Melbourne’s professional property managers.

If the main motive for acquiring the rental was for its value as a long term real estate investment, there is an increased likelihood that one of Melbourne’s professional property management firms will get the nod. Beyond the dollars-and-cents dimension—which can boil down to a calculation on how you value your own time—there can be personal elements behind the decision. Do you enjoy keeping a close watch on all your business dealings? Or is minimizing the hassle factor a higher priority? Those are tradeoffs only you can calculate, or recalculate if your initial decision doesn’t work out.

Another factor can come into play—one that’s seldom mentioned or written about. It has to do with another party in the business arrangement that is being created: the tenants!

When all is said and done, setting up the way a rental property is to be managed is identical to creating the operations blueprint for any ongoing business enterprise. Both involve a customer relations element. As landlord, you are the proprietor, and the tenants are the customers. Every business that hopes to maximize its return on operations soon experiences why taking customer satisfaction into account pays dividends (at least, the more successful ones do)!

By that yardstick, the decision on whether to choose professional property management is not only about a landlord’s willingness to expend the time and effort their personal involvement will require. That choice should also take the tenant’s satisfaction into account…and on that score, the years of experience that come with a veteran Melbourne professional property management firm can tilt the scales in its favor.

Having a proven system for handling trouble calls in a timely manner is one obvious advantage—as is being able to tap the talent of professionals whose full-time job it is to take those inevitable situations in stride.

Locating and helping you acquire choice Melbourne investment properties is one way I help my clients. Another is to provide a solid resource for new owners as they go about organizing their ongoing tenant-handling arrangements. Call me anytime to discuss today’s great current array of available investment properties—and the best ways you can make the most of them!