Category Archives: Homeowner

Expanding Perceived Value for a House for Sale in Scottsdale

4-1-15-homevalue_2Trying to ferret out which features home buyers value most is no simple matter, even though that’s of particular importance when you have a Scottsdale house for sale. Updated kitchens and bathrooms are always near the top of the ‘most desired’ features compilations; and I’d put ample storage right there with them. It may not come to mind when you ask prospects what they value the most, because it’s a “feature” that’s so much an integral part of a home’s design—but a house for sale with small closets and few drawers is still likely to register with buyers as somehow “smaller” than others with the same square footage.

According to the National Association of Home Builders, updated cabinets and counters may catch a buyer’s eye, but other less expensive improvements are may serve the same purpose. The top three features home buyers from all walks of life want in a kitchen are double sinks, room for a table, and a walk-in pantry. That doesn’t mean tearing out walls or reconfiguring the whole kitchen—but it can call for seeing if a similar effect can be achieved within a sensible budget. If you don’t have room to create a walk-in pantry, see if there is room for a stand-alone pantry cabinet. If you will be updating the kitchen sink and fixtures anyway, consider a deeper-welled model. Any improvements that add extra ‘roominess’ to the kitchen will register with many prospective buyers.

The NAHB has more findings that should interest anyone with a Scottsdale house for sale. Buyers increasingly favor environmentally friendly homes, for instance—but…they don’t want to pay extra for those ‘green’ features. On the other hand, they are willing to pay more for a home that’s energy efficient. If you have already determined that new appliances will be needed anyway, installing those with high Energy Star ratings is a definite recommendation. Likewise, if window replacements are also in the cards, new energy-efficient windows are worth considering. Today’s buyers are more aware of details like windows constructed with triple-pane glass. It’s common knowledge that those favorable Energy Star ratings mean decades of lower utility bills.

One low-cost way homeowners with a Scottsdale house for sale can capitalize on buyers’ safety concerns is by installing some exterior lighting. It’s a feature rated as “essential” or “desirable” by 80% of buyers in one study. Addressing the same issue: security systems. When a house for sale features a wireless home security system in its listing, even buyers whose safety concerns are less than top-of-mind will take note.

Before making any improvements, it’s only sensible to have a discussion with your Scottsdale Realtor®.

Even before you’re fully committed to putting your Scottsdale house up for sale, I’m ready to offer a no-obligation assessment of your home and how to best take advantage of today’s active market!

Scottsdale Staging is a Home’s “Packaging”

3-25-stagingStaging is to a Scottsdale home what packaging is to a supermarket product: a vital element that can supersede all others. Product managers rely on advertising and marketing efforts to create awareness among consumers, just as homeowners use their Realtor’s marketing know-how (the listing, web page, signage and all their other advertising initiatives) to bring Scottsdale prospects to the door. Then, just as well-designed, attractive packaging is what finally moves a product off the shelf, it is first-class staging that can transform casual lookers into Scottsdale home buyers.

The goal of staging is to draw observers in; to help them picture whether the property’s spaces have all the nuances of what in their own mind’s eye constitutes a welcoming home. Bottom-line studies continue to verify that, staged correctly, homes sell more quickly. Although there are few absolute staging dos and don’ts, (after all, staging is an art); we can point to a number of probably don’ts. They’re relatively easy to avoid:

Failing to Incorporate the Outside

No matter how beautiful a home is once you open the door, prospective home buyers want to be proud of their new Scottsdale digs. Even if it will be marketed as a fixer-upper, a welcoming exterior is always a welcome surprise. If, on the other hand, dirty windows, dry grass, and cracks in the sidewalk greet buyers, that first impression can be counted on to drive offer numbers in the wrong direction. Staging efforts need to encompass the whole enchilada!

Neglecting the Little Things

When it comes to staging, nothing is completely unimportant. Light fixtures, cabinet knobs, faucets, drawer pulls—even electric outlet covers—all contribute to the cumulative impression a Scottsdale home conveys. It doesn’t mean that every tiny detail needs to be replaced; only those that are conspicuously damaged or dirty need to get attention.

Failing to Capitalize on Natural Light

As photographers know, “It’s always all about the light!” The fewer dim corners, the better. Staging a home to accentuate its rooms’ natural light is important, and where needed, boosting with lamps and overheads.

Forgetting the Nooks and Crannies

Assume that prospects see everything. Before a showing, a last quick walk-through of the whole home is a good idea. Check for stray items that are out of place, and be sure all is properly swept and neatened.

Opting Not to Use a Professional Stager

If the whole prospect of diligent staging isn’t appealing, it makes good business sense to hand it over to a Scottsdale staging professional. Pro stagers see every detail with a trained eye, and work to create a rich atmosphere—not just a collection of rooms.

From a buyer’s first glance at your listing to its ultimate sale, each step of the way is an opportunity to propel the process. The first one of those steps is choosing the Scottsdale Realtor® who will add energy and expertise to the campaign: I hope you’ll consider me!

Flipping Scottsdale Real Estate vs. Buy-and-Hold

3-25-flipWhen you own the Scottsdale home your family lives in, you are by definition a real estate investor: it comes with the turf. Your investment is essentially a passive one. Until the day you decide to sell and move on, any improvement in its value is secondary to how well it serves to shelter your family.

How you think about your investment—and how you proceed to manage it—is altogether different when you buy a Scottsdale home purely as a financial venture. For one thing, you face an immediate strategic decision: will you be flipping for a quick short-term profit, or aim for the long term through a buy-and-hold strategy? You have to weigh some pros and cons in order to make the right decision.

Flipping

Pro: Capital is Freed

A flipping strategy minimizes the amount of time your investment capital is committed, freeing it for other uses. Should you identify another potentially lucrative investment, you will be able to take advantage of it.

Con: Unexpected Challenges

While flipping for short-term profit has definite ‘hands-on’ appeal, first-time investors can be surprised by unexpected complications. Properties that appear to be undervalued (and ripe for a quick flip!) may require costly fixes. Overspending on renovations quickly eats into profits, but underspending can lead to a lengthier holding time. Experienced Scottsdale flipping veterans have learned to successfully gauge a property’s true turnaround value.

Additional Consideration: Taxes

Scottsdale flipping has tax implications that impact the bottom line. Profits from a property owned more than a year are generally taxed at the ordinary income tax rate, while a property held for less than a year may be taxed at the capital gains rate. Local and state tariffs need to be considered as well—this is where input from a qualified professional is important.

Buy-and-Hold

Pro: Passive Investment

If management is outsourced to a professional property manager, the buy-and-hold strategy will require less personal attention than flipping does. Preparing a property for a flip often involves considerable time commitment and adept contractor schedule-juggling.

Con: Management Costs

The passive investment advantage holds true if outside management is contemplated— with commensurate expense. If you enjoy the challenge of successfully managing a property, this negative doesn’t apply.

Pro: Fewer Properties Need To Be Identified

Ultimately, successfully executing a flipping strategy means scrutinizing a huge number of properties over the course of time. In contrast, a buy-and-hold strategy necessitates finding only a few great bargains. Pursued intelligently, both buy-and-hold and quick flip strategies have proved profitable for many investors.

Both call for finding solid value in Scottsdale properties—which is where giving me a call comes in!

Phoenix Parents Consider Home Rental for College-Bound Kids

3-25-reentalFor many Phoenix parents of high school seniors, these are hold-your-breath days—the time of year when college acceptance letters begin showing up in Phoenix mailboxes. If all goes well, after settling on a school, next comes tackling the array of decisions that follow. Chief among them: where he or she will live. Many parents tend to take the common course, assuming that a college dorm is automatically the best answer—but a college’s room-and-board plan is actually only one of the possibilities. In fact, it may not be the best financial, social or developmental choice for parent or student. Renting a house can be an intriguing alternative. Here are three of the reasons why some Phoenix parents decide a home rental makes more sense:

1. Cost

Sharing a home rental is often significantly less expensive than renting an apartment—or even a dorm room. Prices vary, but it’s more than possible to end up paying as much as $4,500 per semester for student housing. If your student lives on campus during the summer, fall and spring terms, that would create a $13,500 bill for the year’s housing (the equivalent of paying more than $1,000 in rent per month). Considering that most dorm rooms are tiny, that translates into a much higher cost per square foot than does a shared home rental.

Renting even a one-bedroom home near campus can give your child more space and quiet time to study without interference from fire alarm-pulling pranksters or noisy roommates. Every student is different, and having a place to escape the hustle and bustle of campus life can provide some kids with the extra focus they’ll need for success.

2. Safety

When students live in crowded dorms, many parents worry that they are more likely to catch colds or other communicable diseases. Being packed into a dorm with hundreds of people who may or may not behave responsibly is a dire way to view dorm life, but that is some parents’ view. When their child lives on his or her own or teams with a select group of roommates, some parents breathe easier.

3. Responsibility

With a home rental, any student will learn more about responsible adulthood than when campus authorities assume parental-like responsibility for day-to-day living. Students who are on their own may be wholly or partially enrolled in school cafeteria programs, or may learn to shop for and prepare their own meals. Household and maintenance chores will be theirs to handle, rather than being the province of college employees. In that way, a college home rental can serve almost as a youngster’s “starter home.” They will graduate from college with a rental history, self-sufficiency skills, and home stewardship experience that will prepare him or her to better care for their own home later in life.

Of course, it’s not universally the best answer to the student housing problem: every institution and child combination are different, and different youngsters respond to independence and responsibility in differing ways. But if you haven’t thought about the possibility, it could be worth looking into.

If I can help with a referral to a rental agency—or if you’d like to consider buying—do give me a call!

If History Plays Hob with a Phoenix House for Sale

3-18-historyWould you buy a house where someone died? Would it make a difference if the death was peaceful or…otherwise?

You might never have considered such questions, but the answers can become a serious issue for a Phoenix house for sale—especially if it has a history that could be right out of a CSI episode. And what if you are the owner of a Phoenix house for sale with this kind of issue? It may be labeled as stigmatized—the unpleasant term that can attach to a house for sale which buyers or tenants may shun for reasons unrelated to its physical condition.

It’s a good thing that the list of potentially disturbing events isn’t a long one: death; murder; suicide; scary illness; being haunted (rather, the belief that it’s haunted—let’s not get into that discussion!). An owner might have known of a sketchy history when he or she purchased the property, or perhaps found out later on. The information may not have made a difference before, but it could impact the number of prospects who will make offers on a house for sale—in Phoenix (or anywhere, for that matter). What to do?

Selling for the Right Price

What of happenings that are simply gruesome? Another property in California’s Bay Area had a grisly past involving drugs, murder and other heinous activities. This was a stylish home in an affluent neighborhood which sat empty while other comparable homes for sale came and went. Then one day a young businesswoman made an offer well below the asking price. The bank that owned the property had a list price of $335,000, already below values in the area. After negotiation, the buyer bought the home for $261,000. She saw past the horrific story to the potential that it offered to someone not affected by the drama of days gone by. And probably counted on the fact that her remodeling efforts—plus the many years she planned on living there—would make future buyers much less likely to worry about what would gradually turn into a distant past.

Telling the Right Story

One otherwise quaint home in a western small town was widely reputed to host paranormal activity. The stories of what previous owners had faced from ghosts of the past were widespread enough that even non-believers might think twice about taking it on. For some properties, it is just a matter of putting the right spin on the story. Events that took place decades ago often bring allure to a property—while more recent activities may cause buyers to hesitate. The Realtor® took the ‘problem’ head-on by making the most of it, figuring that a good ghost story could add to the appeal if it was marketed correctly. It sold at a premium.

The takeaway: if you have a Phoenix house for sale that’s connected to a sad, tragic or paranormal history, don’t assume the worst. Some ‘stigmas’ may mean a sale takes more careful handling (but that’s just one more reason why a call to my office is a good first step).

With the right story and the right price, you’re pretty certain to find the right buyer—one who either overlooks the past, or is fascinated by it!

Are Scottsdale Home Values Connected to Starbucks? Really?

3-18-starbucksStarbucks will boost your home’s value?

This was the “hot home-buying tip” splashed all over the airwaves at the end of last month—one that Scottsdale real estate watchers probably assumed had to be one of those weird, crazy coincidence feature stories that crop up from time to time. It was a little surprising that Zillow, the big national real estate firm, was said to be the source. It was all over the TV and radio newscasts, usually providing the cutesy end-of-broadcast segment. It hit dozens of news blogs, led by headlines like “Starbucks will boost your home’s value” (Fortune) and “Starbucks increases neighborhood, home values” (cnbc.com).

Yeah. Sure thing—just like the one about a rock on Mars that looks just like a monkey. Here in Scottsdale, we’ve seen Internet stories like this come and go before…

But then, after delving into the actual source, it turns out that this tall tale actually does have an unchallengeable basis in fact. Zillow research shows that in the 17 years leading up to 2015, homes within a quarter mile of a Starbucks location grew in value by 96%. That’s more than 30% greater than the average increase! It was enough to puzzle even the most skeptical Scottsdale homeowner.

But there is a logical reason that explains it—one that’s a little different from what the headlines might lead us to believe. It’s one that won’t make some fast food execs very happy…

First of all, Zillow did come up with the research. Why is not exactly clear (other than to grab a bunch of headlines), but their blogger Melissa Allison is the author of the ‘hot home-buying tip:’

“Buying near a Starbucks has benefits beyond easy access to your double-tall, non-fat, bone-dry cappuccino,” she wrote, followed by the head-scratching statistics. She also clarified that the effect was not common to all coffee vending shops. Homes near Dunkin’ Donuts locations appreciated only 80% during the same period. And there was a U.S. map pointing out the cities with the most pronounced ‘Starbucks effect’ (Boston and Philadelphia).

Here in town, though, regardless of how relevant it is (or isn’t) to Scottsdale home values, it was definitely one statistic worth investigating further. You just had to—in case there really was some obscure nugget of home value wisdom to be had. In fact, after reading through a half dozen commentaries, there does seem to be at least one logical explanation, and with it, as Ms. Allison promised, a home value tip:

a) The real estate executives at Starbucks are very good at picking their locations. They find areas where home values are going to rise a lot faster than elsewhere.
b) The real estate executives at Dunkin’ Donuts—not so much.
c) Don’t take headlines literally. “Markets Where Starbucks Boosts Home Values the Most” is very misleading. Where an area as a whole is hot, home values rise. Starbucks is just good at slipstreaming behind them.

Scottsdale home values rise when their owners improve the property, or when the neighborhood grows in popularity, or when the trend has all Scottsdale home values on the rise. The best ‘hot home-buying tip’ to come out of this?

Don’t start looking for a Starbucks sign; just give me a call!

Phoenix Real Estate and the Many “Months” of March

3-18-marchThis March has been such a busy one on the Phoenix real estate calendar that I thought it would be a good idea to double-check everything just to be certain I wasn’t overlooking any important happenings.

It wasn’t just that the first day of spring on the 20th is the traditional start of what’s regularly the busiest time of year for Phoenix real estate activity. This is a reliable phenomenon, further reinforced by the 61 million results you get when you Google “Spring Real Estate Selling Season.” To be accurate, the National Association of Realtors® fudges a little by calling spring and summer the hottest seasons for real estate activity—but it turns out they are pointing to the fact that many sales initiated in spring close during the summer (which is when people prefer to move).

March also has a red-letter day on the 23rd, which is when Freddie Mac, the mortgage reinsurer, is set to kick off their ‘Home Possible’ program. It’s a lowering of their down payment requirements, so mortgage lenders will have more leeway with borrowers. That should provide a further boost for Phoenix real estate activity, which has been laboring for years under tough lending requirements that discouraged some otherwise well-qualified home buyers.

Then there is March Madness, in which basketball plays havoc with more than just television schedules. You could say that it plays hob with appointment times for many Phoenix home showings, since the last five minutes of most of the games take at least half an hour.

Just in case the calendar has even more events that might affect Phoenix real estate, we thought we’d better check to be certain we haven’t overlooked any upcoming happenings.

We found out we can relax.

True, this March is Optimism Month, which is certainly thematically in tune with the positive spring real estate outlook (speaking of ‘in tune,’ March is also Music in Our Schools Month and Play the Recorder Month).

It’s International Ideas Month, which, for anyone who’s been following the headlines, is certainly arriving in the nick of time. For those who are, internationally speaking, prone to sticking to their old ideas, March is also International Listening Awareness Month. It’s Mirth Month as well as Humorists are Artists Month. It’s also Noodle Month (does this have a connection with Mirth Month?), Peanut Month, and National Nutrition Month.

In addition to minding nutrition, this is a month for safety: it’s National Collision Awareness Month, as well as National Cheerleading Safety Month. It turns out, there are another couple of dozen other Months that are taking place right now, but most have little to do with buying and selling homes.

What seems better connected to Phoenix real estate is the fact that this is also Umbrella Month, although it’s too early to know the precipitation total for the whole month. It hasn’t prevented many showings or open houses, for sure.

In any case, if you are thinking of taking advantage of the Spring Selling Season, it’s also a terrific month to give me a call!

Relocating from Scottsdale is at Hand, Identifying the ‘Where’

3-11-relocationOnce you’re mentally prepared for the relocating experience (to self: “it’s definitely the right move”), where is the first order of business. Perhaps you’ve outgrown your Scottsdale home anyway—the family simply needs more space. Perhaps relocating is necessary for work reasons; or now that the kids have moved out, you’re ready to downsize. No matter what the reason for relocating from Scottsdale, thoroughly evaluating the possible destination communities before deciding to buy couldn’t be more important.

While your real estate agent can be an invaluable resource in guiding you to the right home within your target area, the original question—designating the search perimeter—is pretty much in your wheelhouse. If you are not already committed to an area because friends or family make it an easy decision, one way to think about narrowing your choices is to recognize and prioritize the elements most important in your day to day living:

If you have kids, the quality of the school districts will play a major role in relocating. The web offers a number of rating and comparison sites (to find them, just search for ‘school district ratings’). How you winnow the field will be different depending on the age of your children and your own priorities. Once you’ve narrowed the field, you can get an inside look at where your kids might be studying if you include tours of potential schools in your house hunting forays. See if you can seek out parents of current students to get their take on the school’s performance: it’s the bottom line.

It may not be a major concern in all neighborhoods here in Scottsdale, but remember that safety is paramount—so you want to choose a community that is comfortable for you. Again, the web makes this research much easier than in years past. Many police department websites include crime maps where you can find both nonviolent and violent crime statistics organized by zip code. Before relocating—in fact, even before you begin your property search—make sure the target areas are safe!

You might not be a resident of the new community just yet, but you can act like one during your research phase. Hang out at a local park; take a stroll through the neighborhood. Have a family dinner at a nice restaurant, and breakfast at the local diner (be sure to pick up any flyers that are laid out on the counter). Look for community events, like fairs or festivals. These simple experiences will give you a sense of the community—one that should make your move less intimidating. Just a little time spent in the neighborhood can help you decide whether the area feels right to you.

Population densities and traffic profiles can differ widely from what you are used to here in Scottsdale. Some are pedestrian-friendly, others in a nearly permanent state of gridlock. Picture your daily commute, whether you’re heading to work, taking the kids to school, or both. How close are grocery stores, restaurants, and retailers? Are doctors’ offices, salons, and other services handy—or a painful 25 minutes away? Looking beyond the house and at the community as a whole can make relocating the success you hope it will be.

If you have to leave Scottsdale, the most fundamental stress-reducer is the one that comes first: the expert handling of the sale of your Scottsdale home. Do give me a call: after all, that’s where I come in!

Selling Your Phoenix House Means Raising its Emotional IQ

3-11-emotionaliqWhen it comes to selling your Phoenix house, the first attributes that will bring in prospective buyers will be found in your listing description: size, location, and all the details that either match prospects’ wish lists (or don’t). Price is in there, too. Next comes curb appeal, which can turn on or turn off prospective buyers. Although it is often the second “at bat” you get when you are selling your Phoenix house, it’s not usually decisive. The third attribute can be just that—a bunch of factors that can hook your ultimate buyers.

Call it your home’s “emotional IQ.” Everything else is important, but emotion plays a powerful role in selling your Phoenix house. That’s because home is, well, home—where people hang their hats, raise their kids, and spend their precious downtime. When potential buyers come to your house, they may think they are checking out four walls and a roof, but they are much more likely to be seeking a place that tugs at their emotions.

All very well and good, but how do you up your home’s emotional IQ (and snag the sale in the process)? Look objectively at your home, then think about the emotional plays that will get them where it count—through their senses. Give your home a quick sensory scan, looking for things that cue all five:

Sight.

Is your home clean? Is it decorated and staged (but not so much that potential buyers can’t imagine themselves in it)? Make sure your home is as spotless as possible, and warm but not personal. When room entrances are arranged to feel open, they look welcoming: a strong way to please the eye.

Sound.

Does your home sound like a home? There’s nothing less emotionally pleasing than doing a walkthrough of a perfectly empty shell of a house. Attractive floor coverings (rugs and throws) can eliminate the unbroken echo of footsteps—and make your home feel more inviting; less clinical. And don’t forget a drop or two of 3-in-1 oil or WD40 for squeaking doors!

Smell.

The nose is a powerful emotive factor. Aromas can evoke nostalgia, bringing on the feeling of well-being that comes with familiarity—but it can also sound alarm bells. Make sure the air doesn’t carry strong chemical or perfume smells. Better to throw a few cookies into the oven before walkthroughs arrive. It makes it easy for potential buyers to imagine themselves living, working, eating, and enjoying time in your home.

Touch.

Look for surfaces potential buyers may touch, and make them clean and inviting. Importantly, door latches and light switches should feel sound and serviceable.

Taste.

No—nobody can really taste a home, but selling your house may come down to leaving your personal taste at the door. It’s risky to forget to focus on the most tasteful place of all—the kitchen. The old real estate agent trope that gorgeous kitchens sell houses is more true than not, so if yours is hopeless, you may judicious to spend your upgrade dollars in a modern, open kitchen space.

How does your home’s emotional IQ add up? If you’re lacking in just one area, congratulations. You know what to fix, and a few subtle tweaks will help a lot. If you’re lacking in many areas, give me a call! I may be able to recommend some quick fixes, or point to a home staging professional. Don’t forget: Whether buying or selling your house, things can get emotional. Take a deep breath, remember the real purpose of a home, and be ready to move!

Advances in Senior Housing Meet Demographic Shift

3-11-seniorlivingAs the demand for age-restricted senior housing continues to grow nationwide, it’s certain to influence more than just the new home builders whose bread and butter depends on paying attention to such trends. It’s also likely to influence the character of neighborhoods as a whole, Scottsdale’s included.

The numbers tell a story that’s been written about for years. As Scottsdale’s baby boom generation joins their cohort’s arrival into retirement age over the coming decades, they will become part of the wealthiest generation of senior home buyers in history. Senior housing developers are very well aware of that fact, but its full impact has only really begun to be felt recently. One evidence: the National Association of Homebuilders reports that starts of age-restricted homes nearly doubled between 2012 and 2013.

Part of the reason may be cultural—but it’s also possible that improvements in health and longevity could be involved. Today’s older generation views senior housing through a different lens than did their forebears, which means that new senior housing communities are taking on a look that’s considerably different from retirement neighborhoods of the past. There are multiple influences that are shaping the new senior housing mold. Among them—

  • Many senior citizens continue to hold jobs. Earlier forecasts of dire results from predicted shortfalls in retirement savings don’t seem to be working out that way, since a great number of seniors are showing marked determination to put off full retirement indefinitely—regardless of financial need. Delaware’s Benchmark Builders reports that more than half of the residents in their age-restricted communities still work at least part-time, a trend being echoed throughout the nation. Developers are moving senior housing out of the Sun Belt and closer to urban areas to facilitate easy commuting (some are even incorporating office facilities as part of resident amenities!).
  • A number of housing projects are being designed to provide a patchwork of age-specific sections. While grandparents may enjoy living on a street or block devoted to neighbors in their age bracket, in the best of all worlds, they also would choose to be close to children and grandchildren. Some new housing developments are setting aside sections for young families close to senior housing blocks.
  • Options for active older home buyers are crucial. In 1960, activity choices in many retirement communities began and ended with shuffleboard. Increasingly, senior housing projects are aimed at buyers who have no intention of pursuing a sedentary lifestyle. They look for active environments, with walking trails and easy access to amenities beyond the community. Indoor walking tracks, lap pools, hiking and biking trails and exercise equipment are becoming must-have features.

Today’s typical senior as part of a financially powerful demographic, is changing the look of retirement neighborhoods. But independent thinking has long been a notable characteristic of the boomer generation—so it also follows that not every Scottsdale senior will make that lifestyle choice.

Senior or not, I’m always standing by to further your next residential move!