The truth about on-line home valuations….  

The truth about on-line home valuations in Utah (i.e.… Zillow zestimates, Trulia estimates)

 

I frequently get calls from friends and clients – confused or upset because they saw a “zestimate” that valued their home at $25,000 below what we have it listed for or $10,000 below (or above) what they purchased it for…. Sometimes they’re excited because they think it will be justification to contest a property tax bill.

While offering an additional good marketing tool, sites such as Zillow and Trulia access information that is incomplete and therefore inaccurate.  Utah is a non-disclosure state – meaning sales prices are not public information.   Even in full disclosure states such as Colorado – where sales information is readily available, the MLS is the only really accurate valuation resource– providing important additional information such as square footage on each level of the home.  (Main level square footage is more valuable than 2nd floor footage – which is more valuable than below-grade space).

Real Estate professionals are able to access information from the MLS – evaluating home sales of homes comparable to yours in size, style, age and condition – including the very important square footage per floor comparison; thereby arriving at a reasonably accurate home valuation.  Appraisers perform an even more in- depth evaluation of “sold” comparisons –thus providing an even better assurance of  home value.

In summary:  Don’t stress (or celebrate) about a zestimate or any other on-line look up home evaluation.  If you need to know what you home would sell for right now, call your knowledgeable Realtor – ask her or him to please look at your home, take some time to pull and evaluate comparable “solds” and voila – you’ll find out within reasonable accuracy what your home is worth.

As a buyer, why should I use a Realtor?

For your protection

Buying a home is a very important and expensive purchase – probably the most important purchase you will ever make. It’s very important to have someone help you who is educated in all the facets of real estate.

Unlike hiring an attorney to represent you, it’s one of the few instances in life where you can have professional representation and you don’t even pay for it.  Realtor fees are typically paid by the home seller.  Brokerage commissions are split by the Realtor listing the property, and the Realtor bringing the buyer.  As a buyer, it is generally in your best interest to have a Realtor representing YOU versus using the listing agent who represents the seller.

Realtors have knowledge & CONNECTIONS

A competent Agent knows the market and will do research on the value of homes you’re interested in. If questions arise about properties, they do the necessary research with county records, cities, etc… they’ll find the answers to questions about animal rights, water rights, covenants etc…allowing you to make a well-informed purchasing decision.

They have connections with other professionals.  They can direct you to qualified lenders, reputable inspectors, contractors etc…

         They’re trained Professionals

  1. Real estate professionals take classes continually to make sure they’re educated on all new laws, procedures, forms etc…
  2. They have experience. .. The first time doing anything is always rocky and uncertain. experience helps take away the rockiness.
  3. Realtors pay dues for full access to the MLS (multiple listing service)- they can access and research all of the properties for sale (not just those from a particular brokerage), share listings via the internet, and then physically show you homes that interest you.
  4. Realtors are able (time allowing) to preview homes before you see them…saving you time if you’re clear on your parameters.
  5. Paperwork…They know what forms and contracts are needed and will make sure they’re filled out correctly and legally.
  6. They will manage the transactions and dates for you.
  7. Maybe most importantly, a trustworthy Realtor will negotiate the best terms for YOU. After you find that perfect home, research will be performed to determine the true market value of the home, ensuring that you know what you’re buying, and you don’t overpay

 

A competent, honest Realtor is invaluable in making your home purchase a smooth, safe and happy transaction.  If you’re thinking about purchasing a home I would appreciate your consideration when choosing a Realtor.  Terri Sizemore 435-770-9407

The Best Day!

Winter Glory
Winter Glory

Ralph Waldo Emerson said “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day of the year”.

As I reflect on the:  many joys, some difficulties, embarrassing moments, successes, failures, new friends, fun days,  and blessings experienced in 2014 I have to say THANK YOU GOD FOR YEAR PAST, AND HURRAH FOR NEW ONE COMING!

Helen Keller- so familiar with every kind of difficulty –  profoundly expressed a New Years Resolve:

“Your success and happiness lies in you.

Resolve to keep happy,

and your joy and you

shall form an invincible host against difficulties.”

Happy New Year!

Should I Purchase a Rental Property?

Investing in Real Estate can make terrific sense, but as in all investment strategies – there is some inherent risk…

Here is a brief summary of things to consider when purchasing a rental property:

  • Personal Finance considerations: Lenders typically require 25% down on an investment property mortgage (caveat -if part of the rental property is your primary home – as in a duplex where you live in one unit and rent the other unit out, loan programs such as FHA with as little as 3.5% down are available).  Interest rates will also be higher than the rate available on a primary residential mortgage.  Your credit, income, assets and debt ratios all factor in on the interest rate offered.  As with all mortgages, closing costs will be associated (plan on 3% of the loan amount).   It’s wise to have a large “nest egg” saved up to cover vacancy loss, improvements and repair costs.  Money desperation can facilitate unwise decisions in accepting “risky” renters – leading to serious money woes.
  • Personality considerations: Ask yourself, “Do I want to be a Landlord?”  Landlords have to screen for tenants.   Will you be able to say “No” when you need to?  Will you be able to be firm about collecting rent?  How do you feel about doing/ or hiring out repair work?  Using a property management company is a very good option (one I recommend) if you don’t want to be a landlord.  Most management companies charge around 10% of the rental income (becoming another financial consideration).
  • Property considerations: Budget will dictate some things, but when evaluating properties consider the neighborhood and associated demographics.  Properties near the university are in high demand (low vacancy), and often can glean higher rents (depending on the condition of the property), but also may have higher turn-over and more repair costs.  A single family home near a school may provide more rental stability and lower turnover once rented but may be harder to rent initially.  The age, size, condition, location and amenities (garage, laundry, yard etc…) of the property will influence potential rental income as well as the potential outlay for maintenance.
  • Investment considerations: Return on investment (ROI) a profitability measure that evaluates the performance of a business by dividing net profit by net worth,   cash flow Income less expenses, risk, and tax implications are all important aspects of investment considerations.   

Cash flow example:  

                     1900 sq. ft, 3BR, 2 BA single family home in North Logan

                     $160,000 (negotiated seller paid closing costs $4800)

                     25% down            $40,000 

                     Loan                      $120,000 @ 4.75% interest

          Payments             $626 + $100 per month tax & insurance = $726/mo

         Potential rent      $1150/mo – less 10% management fee =    $1035/mo

         Gross monthly cash flow:   $309   ($3708 per year)

                                  9.27% ROI, excluding vacancy loss & repairs – (an unknown)   

Additional tax advantages & appreciation of the asset (Real Estate has traditionally appreciated at a rate of 3 -4% per year, although we all know this is not a fail safe assumption) May make this purchase a very desirable investment decision.                                                     

Home buyers – the sequence is significant!

Jan 2014

This happens frequently… I get a call on the phone, a nice someone says “my friend said you’re a good Realtor…  I saw a house I like in Logan – can you show it to me?”  I absolutely love a call like this – because there are few things more satisfying than helping someone find a great home.  BUT…there are a few steps that should be taken BEFORE we go out & look at homes.  Just as successful baking (following a recipe) often has sequential ramifications, home buying goes much more smoothly if things are performed in a certain order.  It should go something like this:

1) Find a Realtor – that you trust, is attentive,  knowledgeable and that you won’t mind spending time with. (Check references). Make sure the Realtor is someone who will have your best interests in mind, and then please be loyal to them in return.  Realtors receive no compensation until  a transaction (home sale or purchase) is successfully completed.

2) Get pre-approved for a loan with a lender who is competent, qualified & knowledgeable! Once again, check references… there are many loan programs, find out which one will be the best for your situation.  If you need to wait a while & save up some more money or get rid of some debt in order to obtain a loan with more favorable terms… do it!  A good lender will give you direction.  Either you or your lender need to let your Realtor know what loan program you will be using.  FHA loans have certain guidelines – not all houses will qualify for that type of loan.  USDA loans have geographic parameters – so if you are getting a USDA loan, you need to look at homes only in certain areas.. (In Cache Valley, homes in North Logan, Logan, River Heights, Providence, and parts of Nibley will NOT qualify for a USDA loan).  

If you have CASH to buy a home, you may ignore step two – and go straight to looking at homes!  You’ll also have additional negotiation power:-)

3)  Now that you know your budget, know your loan parameters, have your pre-approval letter and you have the ability to act when you find the home that “trips your trigger”   IT’S TIME TO LOOK AT HOMES!  When you find a home/homes that you want to see, please let your Realtor know  a day in advance if possible.  Showings need to be scheduled with the sellers who often need ample notice to get the home ready and find a place to go while you’re there.  It also makes sense to be able to schedule showings logistically – saving time, gas & air quality.

When these steps are performed out of order, sellers are inconvenienced needlessly  ( getting their homes in order for showings – often dragging children away from dinner, homework etc… – not to mention the emotional drag of getting their hopes up) and the buyers themselves waste time & emotional turmoil looking when they may not be in the position to buy.

If you discover you’re not quite financially ready to purchase, but you really have the hankering to look at homes,  spend time looking at properties online (your Realtor will send you properties to view if you’d like to have things filtered & only look at what fits your guidelines), and by all means attend open houses.

Happy Buying!

What are the odds?

Real Estate transactions – whether purchasing or selling – are stressful because there are so many uncertainties…It really is a game of numbers.

People worry:  What if my home sells and I cant find another? Will it close – on time?  Should I pack now?  What if I move out and buy/rent another place & the deal fails?  When should I schedule the movers – take time off work?   ???

Lets look at some of the ways to make odds of a successful transaction favorable :

  • Dependable, competent people are involved in the transaction – a dependable Realtor (s),  competent lender,  thorough inspector, a good escrow officer.
  • Buyers are pre-approved with that competent lender BEFORE an offer is made.
  • The home is maintained – if possible, repairs are made BEFORE it is put on the market and an offer is accepted.
  • Communication between All parties is frequent and clear.

Even with high odds of a successful Real Estate transaction, deals do sometimes fail… Tragedies can befall one of the parties – people become ill,  die, lose a job, etc…  Interest rates can rise dramatically within the escrow period and buyers no longer qualify for the loan.  Something terrible can happen to the home before closing – fire, flood, lightening, vandalism etc… Bad things can happen, but odds are they won’t.

If the right people are involved, and the right steps taken, odds are that the deal will close, and close on time.

REASONABLE is the word of the day

Things might be returning to the more normal state of affairs in the Real Estate world…. the days of low-ball offers (6% + below market value) being accepted are becoming a thing of the past, and multiple offers are no longer a rarity.  Foreclosures in Cache Valley are on a continual decline, and the foreclosing banks are no longer giving the properties away.

What does this mean…?

Well, sellers don’t get too excited yet… you still have to base your home value on market conditions (not what YOU THINK your home is worth), your home will still have to meet appraisal values if it goes under contract, and buyers are still cautious about over paying, but please don’t let yourself be talked into listing at the bottom of the market, and don’t feel obligated to accept the first offer that comes in if it’s a low offer.  Let your Realtor negotiate an equitable price – and if equitable terms can’t be met, don’t feel desperate.  If your house is in good condition, it will sell for a reasonable price in a reasonable amount of time.  If it’s not in good condition, let’s get it in good condition!

Buyers – it is a great time to buy!  The affordability is still fantastic because prices are still good and interest rates are great, but don’t expect a “steal”.  Expect to make a reasonable offer, and yes – unreasonable offers can and do offend sellers.  If you want a particular home  make an offer based on market value, not what an infomercial real estate guru says you can get a home for.  Even foreclosures and short sales are receiving multiple offers.  Let your Realtor do some research on the history of the property as well as what the value is based on similar properties that have sold.  Make an informed… and I’ll use this word again – REASONABLE – offer.

The Real Estate market is entering a situation of balance – not a buyers market, not a sellers market … a reasonable market.