Monday, February 27, 2017

Millennials Catch Up

We've all been reading for the past few years about how millennials are slow to leave home, slow to find a career, slow to get married, and slow to buy houses.  In addition, there has been a lot of speculation that they would never embrace some of those things the way that their parents and grandparents did.  Even if they wanted to buy homes, the story went, they have too much student debt to do so, and a generational disinclination to suburbs and investment in real estate in general.

Lately, it seems as though the pundits spoke too soon.  Now the theory is that, while the average 30-year-old has had eight jobs, and while millennials have reason to distrust corporate America, given what happened to many of their parents in the most recent downturn and the one before that one, he or she is not so different from earlier 30-year-olds, or at least from those having children.  They seem to want to buy homes, and even homes in the suburbs, once they start having kids.  While walkability is desirable for them, and puts places with amenities within walking distance at a premium, they own cars, and want to own houses also.

When the Gen Xers and Yers reached this point, they were not interested in homes that needed updating or redecorating.  They wanted everything to be perfect.  The millennial generation, which grew up on HGTV, is much more likely to undertake those types of projects.  In fact, their interest in having balanced lives and healthy lifestyles will make it easier for them to spend the time at home that DIY undertakings require; even professional help means that you need to take the time to hire and manage it, and this generation is willing to do that. 

All of this is good news for sellers, who have struggled with the dilemma of whether or not to fix up homes before selling them, knowing that they could guess wrongly about the taste or budget of a buyer.  Now it seems possible to show potential, and leave the rest up to the buyers.  Reports from recent weekends have indicated that there are lines out the door at open houses in some parts of our region, made up both of first-time homebuyers and downsizing boomers.  Maybe both of those groups will finally rejuvenate the stock of homes being vacated by seniors.  They might have to, if demand goes up enough, and if they end up competing against each other for the listings that are out there.  Now that would be a welcome problem for Realtors in Connecticut!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Spring Came Early this Weekend!

Weather has always played a big role in the cycle of residential real estate throughout the year.  I heard a group of broker/owners from around the country talk about January's results last week, and they varied in their responses from "up 40% over last January" to "down 20%, with prices lower".  Many of them prefaced their answers by comparing the weather last year to that of the past few weeks, since we know that snow, in particular, has a chilling effect (pun intended!) on showings and sales.  Weather like we had this past weekend, on the other hand, makes buyers think about spring, and gets them out and moving on the purchase process.

In addition to warm temperatures, we had bright sunshine.  Many, if not most, places look better in sunlight than they do on a gray, dreary day.  Also, since we know that people's moods are cheerier in lighter, brighter weather, they may just perceive something as better on a nicer day.  Whatever the reason, there is a noticeable effect on the market when the weather improves.  Sellers should bear that in mind.  We know that most sellers wish that they had started preparing for sale sooner; given that, they should, at this point in the year, weigh getting on the market before the crush of new listings versus being in better shape for sale.  That's a conversation to have with an agent, because it depends upon--as with everything in real estate--location.  It also depends upon supply and demand, as you would expect, and on price range. 

Since sunny days also make it easier to clean up, clean out, and refresh a property, we hope that potential sellers spent the past few days getting ready for the spring market (see previous column on decluttering).  When spring comes on the calendar, it always behooves you to be prepared.  The price you get could be affected, plus sellers often want to purchase new property themselves, so selling early is always helpful.  If the past few days made it feel like spring to you, we hope that you jumped on that feeling!

Monday, February 6, 2017

Above All, DeClutter!

The number one thing that people say in surveys about the experience of selling a home is that they wish they had started getting their homes ready sooner.  Much of the focus is on repairs and improvements, for which there are, of course, other surveys.  The last one I read said that the improvement with the highest return on cost during resale is replacing the garage door.  Not the kitchen or the bathrooms, you should note, both of which are much more expensive and take longer.

We generally advise people not to undergo major work, if their goal is to sell their home in the upcoming season.  Kitchens, master bedrooms, and baths are all things that you should do sooner than that, so that you have a chance to enjoy them.  They are well known not to pay back completely upon resale, and the likelihood that you will choose exactly what the eventual buyers want is pretty small.  I have seen homes with brand-new kitchens, where everyone who sees the home figures that they need to gut the kitchen anyway. 

On the other hand, decluttering is never a waste of time.  Maybe the advice to take out half of what is in every room is a little extreme, especially depending upon your own degree of hoarding tendencies.  However, it is clear that making your home as generic as possible, within reason, will make it easier for buyers to imagine themselves and their belongings in the space.  Decluttering also makes rooms look bigger, and conveys a feeling of serenity that puts viewers into a more positive mood.  And removing stuff doesn't cost any money, or not much, even if you rent a dumpster or hire someone to help.  Since it is the single best thing that you can do, we recommend it to everyone.  If you want to see proof, look on line for before-and-after photos.  You can even consider renting staging furniture, if  yours does not add to the perceived value of your home.

The one downside to this advice is that it does take time, at least for most people, because they want to go through the clutter, not just pitch it or store it.  The latter option should be considered, however, because many of us have found that storing many of your belongings for an extended period makes it easier to decide what you really need to keep, and what you can dispense with at that point.  Good labelling helps in this regard, by the way, because it keeps you from having to go through every box when you do take things out of storage. 

So, whether you want to start removing items from your home, throwing them away, or just stopping the future accumulation of new items, it should be on everyone's to-do list for 2017, even if moving is years away.  Why save now what you will have to discard later?  If you do plan to move this year, convince yourself that paying to move acquired possessions, store them, and move them again will cost money that could otherwise be spent on new furnishings for a future home.  That should be good motivation to shed the old, and embrace the new!

Friday, February 3, 2017

Current Absorption Rate

Explanation of absorption rate: The rate at which available homes are sold in a specific real estate market during a given time period. If you look at the number for New Haven you can say “If market conditions do not change and if no new listings come on the market it will take 6.4 months for the current inventory to sell at the current pace of the market. A balanced market’s absorption rate is typically between 5 - 7 months.”



Thursday, January 26, 2017

Reassessments

If you live in a town or city that is currently going through the revaluation process, or in one that will be doing it this year, shouldn't you be talking to your Realtor about what the real selling price of your property might be?  Many people look at their stock portfolios every month in report form, but few actually talk to a professional regularly about home values.  Since Connecticut has been veering farther and farther from the national trend lines, it's not always so easy to figure it out from AP articles or national publications.  Even values street by street can vary the estimate.

For those just getting letters about new tax assessment figures, we urge you to call us, and compare what we might have to say against the townwide appraisal numbers.  Even if  you aren't ready to sell right now, it's often easier to fix a mistake (and they aren't that rare), or protest a valuation, before they take effect.  Every city and town has dates by which the informal hearings must be held, and procedures surrounding any request for reduction.  We deal with this all the time, and are happy to share our knowledge with past and future clients.