Home appraisal tips to increase the value of your home
Oct 2011 18

When you put your house or condominium up for sale, after you get an offer from a potential buyer that you find acceptable, the next step is that the buyer’s lender will send out a home appraiser to estimate the value of the home. The estimate will be based on how your home compares to other properties in the neighborhood of similar size, style, and quality. It might seem odd to you that the lender has a say in how much your home is worth, after all, the buyer seems to have had no problem making an offer you find acceptable; shouldn’t the bank just make its loan based on that?

Well, no. Easy lending criteria is what got us into this economic mess (well, partially). Sometimes, the banks lent too much money to people buying homes that are now worth less (or, much less) than they were just several years ago. So, the banks are much more careful about how much money they will give a borrower in order to buy a home.

The home appraiser is supposed to be independent, non-biased. I’ve found the majority of appraisers to be so. What I have found to be a problem, however, is that many appraisers here in Boston are used to appraising homes in the suburbs, so aren’t educated or sophisticated enough to estimate the value of a condominium accurately. The appraiser might look at comparable properties that are in completely different neighborhoods than the condo is in, or might compare a newly-constructed condo with one in a traditional townhouse.

Although the appraisal process is pretty much cut-and-dry and straight-forward, there are some simple ways you can make your home look its best and add a bit of value to the home appraiser’s estimate.

The Wall Street Journal has ten tips to increase the value during your home appraisal. There’s a couple of simple tips, such as cleaning up your property, locking up your pets during the appraisal, doing some painting to make it look fresh. They also recommend having a folder of renovations and repairs with costs included. And, most importantly (and your real estate agent should do this for you), you should have a list of comparable properties that have recently sold in your neighborhood, to help the home appraiser understand the current state of the local real estate market.

Differences between male and female real estate agents
Oct 2011 14

There’s a lot of information out there, some good, some bad, some just interesting.

This comes in as “interesting”.

Trulia did a study that purports to show a difference in behaviors of male and female real estate agents.

Supposedly, male real estate agents have more listings than female agents, while female real estate agents list their properties for sale at higher prices.

In Massachusetts, they say, there’s a 23% discrepancy between list prices by male and female real estate agents. Meanwhile, the typical male real estate agents has 5% more listings than your average female real estate agent.

The discrepancy in number of listings is interesting for another reason; nationwide (and, presumably, here in Massachusetts), the number of female real estate agents is higher than the number of male real estate agents.

There’s so many factors at work here, so who knows. Perhaps more women than men are working as part-time agents, so they have fewer listings? Maybe sellers are sexist, and prefer listing with men? Maybe men take on more listings than they should – being either greedy or just short-sighted?

Regarding the higher price – that’s list price, not sales price. Which raises the question – do female real estate agents list properties for higher prices and sell at higher prices, or do their listings have to come down by more than the male real estate agents’ properties in order to sell?

Tips to prepare your home for sale
Sep 2011 26

The New York Times has several tips you should use when preparing your single-family or condominium home for sale.

They include painting the walls and replacing kitchen appliances.

Not every repair needs to be made, not every fixture and appliance needs to be replaced when you’re putting your home up for sale. Some improvements are definitely required but others you can ignore. Buyers won’t notice and/or will want to do their own renovations once they close.

For a free consultation on what you should do before your list your home for sale, please contact me.

Radar Logic home values report show increase in Greater Boston prices
Sep 2011 22

Radar Logic, which tracks and estimates US home values and values in 25 metropolitan areas, released its latest findings, earlier today.

The RPX Composite price most likely peaked for the year in June, according to the July 2011 RPX Monthly Housing Market Report. The RPX Composite, which tracks housing values in 25 US metropolitan areas, reached $188.11 per square foot on June 24 and has declined ever since.

The authors of the report see trouble in the near future, with foreclosure filings rising as the economy founders and home prices remain depressed.

Things are quite different in the Greater Boston area, however, based on my reading of the RPX Composite.

Prices rose 2% in the Boston Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) between July 2010 and July 2011, the second best result of the 25 areas covered by the company.

Activity jumped, as well, up 23.3% between those two dates, the fourth best in the country.

Year on year comparisons are a bit tough since last year’s spring market was an anomaly due to the expiring tax credit program that encouraged lots of people to buy properties sooner versus later. So, July sales might be higher this year than last because last year’s sales closed in May and June, and fewer in July. This seems to be true since Radar Logic show July 2010 closings to be 28.3% down from July 2009.

So, based on my back of the envelope calculations, July 2011 transactions are below 2009 levels.

Fewer sales.

Condominium living area calculations always questionable
Sep 2011 13

You’d think something as simple as the square footage of a condominium unit would be simple to calculate.

Unfortunately, it’s not.

The best way to know the size of a condo is to check the public record, the Registry of Deeds. Look at the original master deed for the building. Included will be square footage of each of the units along with the percentage ownership in the building.

Contractors’ designs often have this information, as well. And, City Hall records it as part of each parcel’s property tax information.

Real estate agents include the square footage on each sales listing, but the information may be questionable at best. Often, the seller provides the information, either from memory or best guess. The agent wants to be honest, but might be in a rush or unwilling to do the work necessary to find out an accurate number.

Which is why you will see it always as “estimated living area” or “estimated square footage”. There agent is abdicating responsibility for the accuracy of the number. And, that’s not a bad thing. The buyer should confirm any and all information when buying a home.

Does it matter the square footage? In some ways, no. Are you buying square footage or are you buying a condo? The amount of square footage doesn’t have anything to do with number of bedrooms or bathrooms or how many windows it has. But, square footage is a good way of comparing similar properties, which is why it matters. It matters when you are buying, it matters when you’re selling.

Before making an offer, check the details. Review the master deed (it’s available online). Your attorney should check it out after you have an accepted offer, but you should read it beforehand, so that there’s no surprises.

The more information you have, the better equipped you are to make a wise and prudent home-buying decision.

Above, a model unit at The Clarendon, in Back Bay Boston.

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