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Author Archives: Nancy Judovits

5 Reasons to Buy a Home NOW!

I know I sound like a broken record BUT….based on prices, mortgage rates and soaring rents, there may have never been a better time to buy a home than now. So, whether it is your first home, trade up home, down-sizing home, vacation home or investment property…here are 5 reasons to buy that home NOW!

1.  Supply Is Shrinking

With inventory declining in many areas, finding the home of your dreams may become more difficult going forward. There are buyers in more and more markets surprised that there is no longer a large assortment of houses to choose from and that there are multiple buyers vying for the same home. The best homes in the best locations sell first. Don’t miss the opportunity to get that ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ buy.

2.  Price Increases Are on the Horizon

Prices will bounce along the bottom this winter although Case-Shiller  just reported a 1.6% increase in real estate prices in the 20 markets it surveys. This is the largest price increase since 2010 and above forecast. However, projections call for appreciation after that. Several studies and surveys call for price increases over the next few years starting in 2013 some say by as much as 10% by 2016.

3.  Rents Are Skyrocketing

Rents historically increase by 3.2% on an annual basis. A study issued earlier this year projects rent increases of 4% for the next two years. Trulia recently reported that rents this year have actually shot up by 5.4%. Increasing rents are making home ownership much more attractive financially.

4.  Interest Rates Are at Historic Lows

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke has kept interest rates low in an effort to stimulate a lethargic economy. He understands that low rates will help housing and housing is a key to bringing back the economy. As the economy approves, the need to keep rates low will no longer exist. The 30-year-mortgage rate before the financial crisis was 6.57% (August 2007). Although Mr. Bernanke has said rates will remain low through 2013 or so, they cannot remain this low forever and have no other way to go but up.

5.  Buy Low, Sell High

When investing, we want to buy at the lowest price possible and hope to sell at the highest price. Housing can create family wealth as long as we follow this principle. Today, real estate is selling ‘low’ and it’s time to buy. Many I talk to say that in 5-10 years people will be saying they should have bought real estate in 2012. Hindsight is always 20/20. If your family situation calls for a move call me today so you will be one of those that looks back and says, “I am so glad I bought real estate in 2012!”

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Thoughts From My Inbox…..Fair Housing

While going through my Inbox this morning I came across an email from PAR (Pennsylvania Association of Realtors) reminding us about Fair Housing rules and regulations and that the state sends out “testers” to see if we are complying.  Fair Housings sounds pretty straight forward even to the layman.  We cannot discriminate based on race, gender, religion, familial status, sexual orientation or disability.  Makes sense.  The rule of thumb I have always been taught and follow is to treat everyone equally.  A trainer of a Fair Housing seminar once said “If you are nice and helpful to one be nice and helpful to all…..if, on the other hand, you are rude and callous to one you had better be rude and callous to all.”  I thought that was funny at the time but have remembered it and I treat everyone with respect, am helpful and work to the best of my ability for all.

Often, though, I get questions about school districts, especially from those who are relocating from other areas.  This is a sticky issue as it falls under the “steering” umbrella of Fair Housing which puts me, as a Buyers’ Agent, in a very gray area.  Everyone has preferences in school districts and it is often the district you live in and where your children attend school.  So how do we, as agents, help our relocating clients make good, informed choices when buying a new home for their families?  First and foremost, I treat everyone the same and recognize that my preferences are not necessarily my clients’ preferences.  I tell everyone that I am prohibited from recommending a particular school district by law.  The reality is that everyone has their own thoughts on what constitutes a good school district anyway and I am quick to point that out.  One family may have musicians and be looking for a great music program, others may have athletes and are looking for exceptional sports programs others, still may have special needs children, or gifted children and may be looking for districts with specific programs for their specific needs.  So it is really impossible for me to tell anyone which, of the many school districts we have to choose from here in the Philadelphia suburbs, might be best for them.  So…how do I deal with this all important aspect of the home buying process?  I ask questions.  I find out more about what is important to my clients in their children’s’ education, I recommend they explore the many websites available to consumers, I tell them about the Inquirers yearly School Report Card that is available online, I suggest they call the districts we are looking for homes in to get their questions answered by the districts themselves, I suggest they ask their co-workers, friends and family members what their preferences are as they will most likely get the real “skinny” from people they trust and I recommend they visit the schools…but call the district first as schools will require you to have an appointment to actually enter the building.

So there are ways we can be the same helpful, respectful, knowledgeable agents in this aspect as we are with all the other aspects of the home buying process.  So…when you ask me, “What is the best school district?”  you will understand that there is no one answer to that question.  I will give you avenues to get the answers you are looking for and show you homes in the school districts you have chosen but, in the end, the choice is yours….and really….one of the things that makes the  Philadelphia area so fabulous to live in is that we have so many great school districts to choose from!

What Makes a House a Home?

I sell homes for a living, that is no surprise to anyone reading this blog.  But as I am cheering on the decorated bikes in our 13th annual neighborhood 4th of July parade and enjoying sharing a pot luck breakfast afterward on my deck with my neighbors, I am thinking, “This is home”.  I love my house and my neighborhood.  So, because I do sell real estate for a living I start thinking…when I work with a client are they looking for a home or just a place to hang their hat?  Everyone is different, true, but I know, from experience, that the majority are looking for a home.  They want what I have.  A place where you can borrow a cup of sugar, have someone pick up your mail when you are out of town and even call if your child is misbehaving….not a good call to get, I will tell you from experience.

So, if you want to buy a home and not just a house how do you go about doing that?    I often advise buyers to take a harder look at the things around the property rather than the things in the property.  Buyers, especially first time home buyers, should “buy the things you cannot change”.  The big thing you can never change is the location of your property.  The train tracks, electric lines, shopping center, etc will never go away.  You can add granite counters, update bathrooms, replace carpet with hardwood but you can never pick up your house and put it somewhere else.  So, when you are out looking for a home take a look at the neighborhood in general.  The obvious thing to look for are the “locational” things like those train tracks, electric lines, shopping centers, etc. that will absolutely affect the long-term worth of your property.  But there are more subjective, lifestyle things that are just as important and will make you feel more at home in your house.  If you are a stay at home Mom you probably will not be happy in a neighborhood of working Moms, so pay attention to the cars in the driveways in the middle of the day or the number of Moms waiting at a bus stop.  If you have children and want them to have playmates pay attention to “signs” of child activity such as swing sets, basketball nets, bikes in driveways or garages, etc.  If you have no children and the thought of Trick or Treaters ringing your doorbell over and over will put you over the edge….pay attention to the same signs and avoid those neighborhoods like the plague.

The bottom line is a house is a long-term investment.  Let’s make sure that the one you pick to be your home will fit your lifestyle for years to come.   So, Happy 4th of July from the place we have chosen to call “home”!

So You Want to Sell Your House….7 Things to Think About First

I have been getting quite a few calls lately from clients I have sold homes to in the past who are thinking of selling their homes and want my advice.  I need to tell you, I love getting these calls!  Firstly, I really enjoy the people I work with.  I like hearing about what they have been up to since we last chatted, I love hearing about their kids, dogs, renovations, promotions and all the rest.  Life, however, has a way of happening when we least expect it and, even in a not so great real estate market, sometimes people need to move on.  Even though I know they like telling me about what they have been doing, I know the real reason they want to talk to me is to find out 3 key things…1.  What their home is really worth…..2.  What they need to do to it to get it market ready.….and 3.  How long will it take to get it sold.

When I talk to people about selling their home I ask them to consider 7 things before they make the decision to put their home on the market  to better ensure them as good an outcome as possible.  An informed, prepared consumer makes good decisions whether buying or selling a home….so please,  be informed, be prepared.

1.  MotivationWhy are you selling?  Your motivation always determines your marketing plan and ultimately your success in getting your home sold.  Someone who tells me….Well.. if I can get “the right” price for my home I’ll sell it.  If I can’t, I’ll just keep it.  This kind of motivation guarantees that you will be living in your home for a good long time to come and that is fine if that is what you really want to do.  So really think about the reasons you want to sell, make sure they fit into your life plan and financial situation.

2.  PricingThe market always determines the price.  It did 10 years ago and it does today.  Homeowners who price their home at or very near to where the eventual selling price will be get their homes sold faster, with a more motivated buyer and, believe it or not, for more money than they would have if they had over-priced it in the beginning.  Why does that happen you ask?  Well….buyers are looking for certain features in a home.  When they are looking at your home and it is over-priced, the other homes they are looking at are a different product.  When they see your home they know immediately it is nice but not what they are looking for so they move on.  So when a homeowner says, “So why don’t they make an offer?”  Well, the answer is simple…it does not occur to a buyer to make an offer because your product is not what they are looking for in the first place.  So work with your Realtor and be very realistic when setting that original asking price.  You will be happy you did.

3.  Preparation.  Homes that sell quickly and for top dollar are prepared to show.  It is as simple as that.  So before you think of putting your house on the market roll up your sleeves and look at it like a buyer would.  Park out front and say to yourself, “Would I even want to get out of the car to look at this house?”.  If the answer is no then get to work weeding, mulching, trimming and painting.  A buyer cannot buy your home if they won’t get out of the car. Then go room to room on the inside and remove clutter, family photos, collections, clean out closets, neutralize bold colored paint, remove heavy drapes from windows, fix those loose knobs and fixtures, clean dirty carpets and replace old carpets and just plain clean.  It may not be the way you live or want to live but….this is no longer your home, it is your product and you want someone to buy it.  Work with your Realtor or even a professional stager to get your home showing ready.  I guarantee you will be happy you did.

4.  Market it.  This sounds like…well duh!  Isn’t that what I called my Realtor to do in the first place?  Well, think about what it really means to market your product.  You will play a very key role in the process.  Buyers will need to see your product in order to buy it so you will need to make it available to be seen…..even when it is not completely convenient for you…like dinner time, nap time, I had a showing at 1 and now someone wants to come at 4…can’t they come closer  together……  You will need to have your house available for public open houses and brokers’ open houses.  You will need to have contingency plans for your pets and children to get them out of the house while buyers are looking at it.  It is most important that a buyer sees themselves living in your home, not you.  You will need to be sure your product is showing ready every day because you NEVER know who that buyer is that will fall in love with your home.   Discount no one and show it to anyone who wants to see it.  Ensure your Realtor  can get  your home high visibility on all the websites with multiples of good photos, a visual tour, even web presence with its own URL or YouTube video.  It is a digital world out there and that is where buyers are going to look for their next home….make sure they find it.

5.  Getting the Offer.  So you have an offer…what are you going to do with it?  I’ll tell you what you should do with it…swallow hard and negotiate it.  If I can give any homeowner one guarantee in this crazy real estate market it is that when you get that offier….it will be lower than you had hoped it would be.  That first buyer, though, is your most motivated buyer and this is probably your most workable offer, so put pencil to paper, get out the calculator, strategize with your Realtor and counter it.  Be prepared to go a few rounds with the buyers if necessary but come to consensus, quickly, before the buyers lose interest and move on.  From experience, I will tell you that if you can’t work this offer out it is highly likely the next offer will be lower.  Remember, too,  that there is more to an offer than price.  Terms and conditions can make or break a deal.  It is often more prudent to take a little less than you would have liked in exchange for a buyer who is well qualified, motivated and can make it to the settlement table.

6.  Home Inspection.  Ahhh….so you think you have everything worked out?  Ha!  Please remember that no house is perfect.  And even though this is your house and, after all, what could possibly be wrong with it…. yours is not perfect either.  Even when someone buys a brand new house there can be defects which is why home builders always have a “punch list” after settlement.  So, when the buyer comes back with their list of defects they want you to fix before settlement, look at it objectively.  Health and safety concerns are legitimate.  Environmental defects are legitimate.  Malfunctioning systems are legitimate.  You would not buy a house with high levels of radon or a clogged up waste pipe or a corroded HVAC system or a roof that has exceeded its useful lifespan so don’t expect your buyer to either.  If you own a home you must maintain it.  You can do it while you are living there and can enjoy it or you can do it when you sell….but either way, you will maintain your home.

7.  Appraisal.  The wild card of the home sale process.  When you sell your home you actually do it twice.  First you have to get a buyer to be willing to buy it.  THEN the buyers’ mortgage company has to agree that the price the buyers are paying is what the house is actually worth.  If the bank, through the appraisal, determines the house is worth less than what the buyers are paying for it the bank may decline the buyers’ mortgage.  If they will not lend the buyers the money, they cannot buy your house.  If the buyers cannot buy it you are back to square one.  So…if you find yourself in this kind of situation you will once again need to swallow hard and make some tough decisions.  Although every Realtor has seen the occaisional bad appraisal, they are usually pretty good these days so if you are seeing this number now…you will see this number again, or maybe less,  with the next buyers.

So now you’ve made it through the whole process and you are sitting at the settlement table with the buyers hopefully having a “love fest”. Congratulations!   You are all talking about what a great house they are buying and what a great neighborhood it is.  You are telling them when trash day is and which neighbor will lend them a cup of sugar and how your kids graduated from the elementary school down the street, etc, etc.  Your house is sold.  You had the right motivation, priced and prepared it well, made it available to be seen, lived through the negotiations of the agreement of sale and home inspection, the house appraised and the buyers were ultimately able to get to settlement.  Whew!  Happy day!  Good luck in your next place as well but……keep in touch with the Realtor that helped make all this possible because…..life happens when you least expect it and you will need them again.

Thoughts on a Better Life….The 2 Lists You Should Look at Every Morning

A decorator I have worked with in the past, Rhonda Bloskey of Designs by Rhonda, sent me an article this morning by Peter Bregman, Two Lists You Should Look at Every Morning and I can’t stop thinking about it.  Peter Bregman advises highly effective people on how to be even more effective.  This is fascinating to me as I am always trying to figure out how to be more effective while juggling my real estate career and a family life….especially when the two lives often meld into one and it’s my family/personal life that usually suffers.

After reading what the first list was all about I thought…well duh!  This is quite obvious.  It involves listing things that you enjoy doing, things that make you happy, things you want to achieve…in other words, focus on the road ahead.  My head is always so full of ideas of things to do in my business, around my house and places I would like to go with my family that I can rattle off a dozen or more things that I would put on that list.  The second list, not so much, but to someone like me who feels the need to grasp everything that comes her way in life, it is probably the more important list and one I need to pay attention to.  It is the one that will truly keep me focused on the important things in my business and personal lives and will  keep me from getting “distracted by dust”, as I am fond of saying and often find myself enveloped in.

So….what am I going to put on that list…the second list?  I think first and foremost I am not going to spend needless time and energy on people who don’t value me as a person or a professional.  That will certainly free up my time, strength and energy to spend on those who do value me and who I value in return.  Enjoying who I am working with and spending time with makes everything I do happier and so much more productive.

Secondly, I will walk around with my hands behind my back and not “touch” anything I do not want to own.  I once went to a time management seminar where the presenter proposed that “if you touch something, you own it”.   So, to effectively manage your time, you should not touch anything you do not want to wind up in your lap and on your to do list.  I thought that was good advice then, it is good advice now.  I will listen and empathize when someone comes to me with an issue but I will not touch any issue or task I do not want to see through from beginning to end.  It’s not that I don’t appreciate it or understand it, it is just that I choose not to accept it as mine.  It is yours and I know you are extremely capable of handling it.

Thirdly, I will forgive myself for not being “the best”…the best mother, wife, sister, housekeeper, marketer, presenter, gardener, cook etc.  I waste far too much time worrying about how I could have done things better.  Unless I was totally incompetent….which is another issue for another blog…I can only ask that I do the best job I can do at the time and then let go of the outcome.  I will concentrate on the here and now and not worry about yesterday for you never know when the “moment” will disappear.  It is all too easy to forget that those important to you are not immortal, and may be taken from you way too soon, so enjoy them now.

This was a good exercise in leading my life both on a professional and personal level.  I vow to slow down, smell the roses, spend more time with people who are important to me, focus on people who I value and in return I will attract more like-minded people who value me.  I will bring this list out every morning, for it is the more important list for a happy, well-balanced life.

Thoughts From My Inbox…Seller Inquiry

Thoughts From My Inbox…Seller Inquiry

So, I got an email from a homeowner looking to get his home on the market yesterday.  The email stated that I came highly recommended by an ex-neighbor as a Realtor that really goes the extra mile in all ways for my clients.  I love it when I get these phone calls and emails.  Real estate is a referral based business and I work hard to ensure my clients think well enough of my work that they do refer me to family and friends.  My elation quickly came to a halt when I read the entire email, however.  This homeowner recounted all the ways in which I worked for their ex-neighbor to get their house sold…the Just Listed postcards, the great photos on the internet, the Brokers Open with lunch, the public open houses, the great flyer with community info to entice buyers to want to know more, the prompt feedback after showings, the great negotiating tactics and the list went on and on.  Great!  He really got a good picture of what I am all about.  I sold his neighbor’s house in 2007, however, so now I have digital marketing to add to my repertoire that was not available to me then which really makes my marketing plan as comprehensive and technologically savvy as they come.  I know, I know, you are wondering what the problem is…..well….now we get to the crux of the email.  This homeowner informed me that although we are in a challenging market and that the last homes that have sold in his neighborhood have sold for less than his neighbor’s, he wants his home to sell for 20% higher than his neighbor’s sold for in 2007, he loves my aggressive marketing plan and feels it is a good fit for him AND he wants to pay a 3% total commission ONLY if he gets the full price for his home.  If he gets less he will pay a sliding scale dependant upon how much less it is.  Hmmmm….I think maybe I have misunderstood so I give him a call to introduce myself and get some more information.  Nope…no misunderstanding…so I have to ask the question….”What are you thinking, Mr. Seller?”  Whereas our local market is showing signs of modest and slow rebound, values are still at about 2004 prices.  Yes, homes are selling quickly IF they show well, are in good areas and are priced very competitively.  Homes that are overpriced sit on the market and eventually sell for less than they could have if they had been priced properly in the first place!  Because homes sit longer agents work longer and harder than ever to get them shown, under contract and to settlement.  When there are so many homeowners out there who “get it” and are happy to pay a good, successful Realtor their commission to get their homes sold, why would I even consider this proposal?  Well….I am not.  I thanked this homeowner for his interest but suggested that he is really looking for another agent and another marketing plan.  When I work with my clients I provide a full service marketing approach, have years of expertise that allows me to guide my clients through to settlement and am paid a fair, full service commission for my efforts when, and only when, the property does go to settlement.  I suggested that if he decided he really did want a full service marketing plan then he should call me back.  I would be more than happy to discuss how I successfully get homes sold.  So I ask again….”Mr. Seller….what are you thinking?”….just sayin…….

Thoughts From my Inbox….Buyer Counseling

Thoughts From my Inbox….Buyer Counseling

While in the midst of my normal Monday morning routine, checking for new listings for my buyers, reviewing showing feedback for my sellers, reading and answering the leftover weekend email and chatting on the phone to clients about a myriad of topics and issues, I find in my inbox an article from PAR Just Listed, the PA Association of Realtors publication, about a HUD study done on the benefit of buyer counseling.  After reading the article I thought…Good information.  I should post it on my Facebook business page The Selling House Mom as an informational piece to pass on to my followers.  But wait!  Why should anyone be told to be counseled before buying their first home?  When a buyer comes to me as a first time home buyer I spend an extensive amount of time talking, educating and, yes, counseling them on what it takes to buy that home and then what it takes to own it.  My  buyers know to get pre-approved for a mortgage and to look at their finances to know not only how much house they can buy but what a comfortable payment looks like.  Often we then back the purchase price into the payment amount to ensure they can make those payments.  My clients get many versions of closing costs for homes they are interested in so they understand the differences in mortgage costs at various price points, down payment amounts and mortgage products.  When they have targeted homes or neighborhoods they like we discuss  how  location, condition and pricing affects those homes’ current and potential future value.  I know a first time home buyer is, on average, going to be trading up in 5-7 years and what they do today will greatly impact what they can do in the future.  The agreement of sale is gone over thoroughly so the buyer understands their responsibilities and their protections within the agreement and the risks they face if they vary from what they have agreed to do.  They are highly advised (some would say strong armed..hence my moniker “The Selling House MOM”) to obtain a home inspection and are counseled in what a home inspection does and does not do for the buyer.  They are given pamphlets and websites for reference on environmental hazards such as lead based paint, radon and mold.  Then I  wonder…..aren’t all Buyers’ Agents educating their clients in the same way?  I guess not, hence the need for HUD to offer consumer counseling.  So, for all of you buyers of real estate out there who are looking for homes and do not understand the costs of buying and owning a home, understand what makes one property more valuable or desirable than another, know what the agreement of sale you signed really means to you or were not advised to get a home inspection….read this article and get yourself to one of HUD’s buyer counseling seminars.  It will be worth your time and may save you money…..just sayin…..