home sales

Selling Your Home in a Seller's Market

We are in the midst of an intense seller's market here in Northampton (and, apparently, throughout the country) - with limited inventory for sale, and numerous buyers vying for those few properties. While this situation can certainly be both stressful and disappointing to buyers, it can also be challenging to sellers for various reasons. To follow is a reposted article from the New York Times, which gives sound advice about navigating the seller's market from a seller's perspective. Another invaluable first step is to connect with a local realtor who knows the market well, to assist you with the process of selling your home.

Selling Your Home in a Seller’s Market

Sorting through multiple bids can be harder than it seems. Choosing the highest offer isn’t always the smart way to go.

Credit...The Heads of State

By Daniel Bortz

April 23, 2021

By the time they got the last offer, Quinn and Daryn Shapurji had received 54 bids on their four-bedroom, single-family house in Fishers, Ind., in just three days. Ms. Shapurji said they felt totally overwhelmed — and a bit melancholy.

“We felt bad that we had to say no to so many people, because we got a lot of beautiful letters from buyers saying how much they loved our house and why they wanted to live in the area,” said Ms. Shapurji, 32, a closing coordinator for a home builder. “Some buyers had already struck out on five or six homes.”

Chris Dossman, the couple’s real estate agent, suggested they take a cash offer that was $25,000 above their home’s list price of $220,000. “It wasn’t the highest offer they received, but the cash buyer waived the appraisal, so we knew that we weren’t going to have an issue with the home closing from a financing perspective,” said Ms. Dossman, an agent with Century 21 Scheetz based in Indianapolis.

“Fifty-four offers is by far the highest number of offers that I’ve ever received for a listing,” added Ms. Dossman, who has been an agent for 15 years.

The Shapurjis, who closed their deal in mid-March, are far from alone when it comes to getting flooded with offers in today’s supercharged real estate market. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of offers written by Redfin agents in March faced bidding wars, marking the 11th straight month where more than half of Redfin offers encountered competition, according to the online brokerage. Salt Lake City, Pittsburgh, and Boise, Idaho, were the most competitive markets of the 24 metropolitan areas that the company analyzed.

Despite a recent uptick in mortgage rates, an acute shortage of homes for sale nationwide has created a home-buying frenzy. “Higher mortgage rates haven’t slowed down competition yet,” said Daryl Fairweather, Redfin’s chief economist. “In fact, the interest rate increase from 2.67 percent at the end of 2020 to 3.09 percent now is just enough to fuel more bidding wars as folks rush to buy while rates are still low,” she said, referring to the rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage in mid-March. “It will take a bigger rate increase to really move the needle on bidding wars and cool things down.”

“We’re seeing an inventory crisis,” said Katie Wethman, a Washington, D.C.-based real estate agent at Keller Williams Realty. Indeed, total home supply at the end of March sat at only 1.07 million units, down 28.2 percent from a year ago, according to a report from the National Association of Realtors. The association’s data also found that homes typically sold in a record-low time of just 18 days in March, down from a 29-day average in March 2020.

“The market is completely lopsided right now in favor of sellers,” said Seth Lejeune, a real estate agent at RE/MAX Homepoint in Royersford, Pa. “Some homes are selling within hours and with multiple offers.”

Still, sellers face a challenge: “Getting inundated with offers can be overwhelming, and it can make it harder for sellers to choose the best offer,” said Alicia Stoughton, a real estate agent and designer at Keller Williams Advisors in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Why? Because “the highest offer isn’t always the best offer,” Ms. Stoughton said.

Here are the factors sellers should consider, in addition to purchase price, when evaluating multiple offers.

Payment Method

“Cash is king,” according to Nancy Newquist-Nolan, a real estate agent at Coldwell Banker in Santa Barbara, Calif. “I often recommend sellers take a cash offer, even if it’s not the highest offer.”

Choosing a cash buyer has several benefits for sellers. A cash offer means the buyer won’t have to face any trouble getting approved for a mortgage; it enables the buyer to waive a potentially deal-breaking home appraisal; and cash transactions allow for shorter closings periods, Ms. Newquist-Nolan. (Cash sales can take as little as 14 days, while mortgage closings usually take 30 to 60 days.) That may explain why a cash offer quadruples a home buyer’s chances of winning a bidding war, a new Redfin report found.

“In some cases buyers are taking money out of their retirement plans or borrowing from family to make a cash offer,” said Gary Metchnek, a real estate agent at Edina Realty in Minneapolis-St. Paul, who recently sold a home that received 13 offers.

Still, mortgage buyers aren’t completely out of the running, said Ms. Wethman. “If you’re confident in the buyer’s lender and their ability to get approved for a mortgage, there’s not a lot of risk taking an offer from a buyer who’s getting a loan,” she said. Her advice to sellers? “Do your due diligence on the lender who is providing the funds,” she recommends.

This is a step where sellers can lean on their listing agent, Ms. Newquist-Nolan said. “I call up the lender and ask how qualified the buyer is for their loan,” she said. Moreover, “some lenders are notorious for dragging their feet and missing key deadlines.”

(Many brokers prefer deals with buyers who work with a local lender like a regional credit union, instead of a big bank or a national website. This is because loan officers at local lenders are typically more accessible on nights and weekends, which can be important in this fast-moving market when a buyer might need a preapproval letter that lists a property’s address on short notice.)

Offers from conventional loan borrowers are also more attractive than loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs, Mr. Lejeune said. “F.H.A. and V.A. loans are pretty much dead on arrival right now, because their appraisals have more restrictions and they might require the seller to make home repairs before their home can be sold,” he said.

Pam and Richard O’Bryant can attest to that. The couple, who sold their three-bedroom, single-family house in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, in March after receiving nine offers, struggled to buy a home in Northern Virginia, using a V.A. loan.

They lost bids on four homes, despite bidding about 10 percent above the asking price on each of them, before finally purchasing a three-bedroom rowhouse in Alexandria, Va., an estate sale that will need about $125,000 to $150,000 in renovations.

“I’m not sure if I’m more relieved or excited to have finally gotten a house in today’s market,” Ms. O’Bryant said. “We really wanted to capitalize on today’s interest rates and are looking forward to creating a fabulous home.”

Ms. Stoughton said sellers who haven’t yet purchased their next home should strongly consider buyers who will offer a rent-back agreement. “Most buyers in our market right now are throwing in a free rent-back,” she said. “Usually sellers pay the buyer to rent back their home.”

Contingencies

“Right now, sellers are in the position where they can direct buyers to have as few contingencies as possible,” Ms. Newquist-Nolan, the California broker, said. That’s a smart move, she said, because fewer contingencies means fewer opportunities when a transaction might fall through.

Take home inspections for example. From September 2020 through February 2021, 13.2 percent of winning Redfin offers had waived the inspection contingency, up from 7.3 percent a year ago, the brokerage reports. (Such a contingency would allow buyers to pull out of a deal if an inspection uncovered unexpected repair issues.) “Most buyers are waiving home inspections right now in our area,” Ms. Wethman said. “Pre-offer inspections have become the norm.”

Most sellers are now open to allowing buyers to bring in a home inspector before they make an offer on a home. A pre-offer inspection that finds few problems could give a buyer the confidence to waive an inspection contingency, which subsequently might make the buyer’s offer a more appealing choice for the seller.

Buyers are also finding ways to waive home appraisal contingencies, in an effort to make their bid more attractive to a seller. (Appraisal contingencies allow buyers to terminate a contract if an appraisal comes in lower than their offer price.)

“Some buyers who are putting down 20 percent are agreeing to reduce their down payment to pay the difference if there’s an appraisal gap,” Ms. Wethman said. For example, in a deal where a buyer is offering $300,000 for a home, and has a 20 percent down payment, if the house is appraised at $270,000, the buyer could drop their down payment to 10 percent, and use that 10 percent in cash to make up the appraisal shortfall.

Comparing Apples to Apples

The best approach that sellers can take when weighing offers, Mr. Lejeune said, is to compare them side-by-side.

His strategy: “I present offers to my clients in an Excel spreadsheet that specifics the offer price, loan amount, type of loan, contingencies, and other important metrics,” he said. “It’s basically a cheat sheet for sellers.”

Ms. Dossman is also a fan of presenting offers in a spreadsheet. As she puts it, “You want to have all the information in front of you when you’re making a decision.”

Many buyers attach personal letters with their offers to try to sway the sellers in their favor. But some real estate agents don’t even show sellers these letters when they present offers to avoid the possibility of unlawful bias against a buyer. But Ms. Dossman said she will share letters after vetting them to make sure there isn’t any information that could raise the potential for fair housing violations.

For weekly email updates on residential real estate news, sign up here. Follow us on Twitter: @nytrealestate.

A version of this article appears in print on April 25, 2021, Section RE, Page 7 of the New York edition with the headline: Selling Your Home in a Sellers’ Market.

It's a SELLER'S MARKET out there!!!

IT'S A GREAT TIME TO SELL YOUR HOME!

Photo Credit: Shutterstock

 

The COVID-19 pandemic has, among other things, created a backlog of home buyers, eager to move out of urban areas, and into more remote towns and cities. Northampton and it's environs is a highly desirable place to live in a *normal* year; but during a pandemic such as this, we are even more popular than ever! With people relegated to spending most of their time at home these days, there is a premium on home ownership in a small town or city such as Northampton, and it's neighboring communities

We realtors at Maple and Main Realty are seeing houses receive multiple offers, some of them with cash buyers, on houses not only in Northampton, Easthampton and Amherst - but also in Holyoke, the Hilltowns and even farther afield than that! If you have been contemplating listing your home (or land) for sale - we are happy to come give you our opinion of market value, and advise you about all manner of things related to listing your home. It doesn't cost anything to have the initial conversation. In fact, we don't receive any payment (commission) until your house has actually sold! So whether you choose to list your home right away, or you decide to wait until next year -- having the initial conversation with an experienced realtor is a great first step towards making the decision to sell your home. And, once it is listed, we take over to get your house sold! Contact us today to set up an appointment for a comparative market analysis and opinion of market value.

 

Seeking an FHA Loan? You Have Options

With the warmer climes we have been experiencing, the spring real estate market won't be far off. Local housing prices being what they are, it can be challenging for first-time home buyers, and/or for buyers who don't have a large amount of money to use as a down-payment - to compete in this seller's market. Since you may be competing with other cash buyers, or buyers with more cash to put down -- now is a great time to connect with an experienced buyer's agent to help you navigate the process - including making introductions to experienced mortgage brokers and loan officers. The following article published in the Daily Hampshire Gazette on 2/21/20, discusses the subtleties to seeking an FHA loan - which might be a great option for certain buyers.

 

Can’t find an affordable FHA-approved home? You have options

 

By KATE WOOD 

 

NerdWallet 

 

Americans took out nearly $150 billion in loans backed by the Federal Housing Administration to buy homes in 2018. Nearly 83% of those FHA borrowers were first-time home buyers, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

 

It’s unsurprising that FHA loans are especially popular with first-time home buyers, due to more lenient credit score and debt-to-income (DTI) requirements. But with scores of buyers searching for affordable entry-level housing, finding a place to call home can be a struggle.

 

In pricier markets, even the FHA’s 3.5% down payment option might bust your budget. Houses that have a low asking price but “need TLC” may not pass an FHA appraisal. And in highly competitive markets, it can be difficult to make an offer that gives you an edge on other home buyers.

 

What’s an FHA buyer to do? Here are three options.

 

Priced out? Look at FHA-approved condos 

 

If an FHA-approved single-family house would push your budget past its breaking point, consider making your starter home a condo.

 

As of October 2019, borrowers can get FHA loans for individual condo units without having to worry about whether the entire complex is FHA approved. John Graff, CEO of Los Angeles-based Ashby & Graff Real Estate, said via email that this change should increase the inventory of FHA-approved condos, offering a broader selection of affordable homes.

 

For example, in Denver, the 2020 FHA loan limit — the maximum loan amount the FHA will guarantee — is $575,000 for a single-family property across most of the metro area. Looking at 2019 data from the Denver Metro Association of Realtors, that’s enough to cover the steep average sale price of $515,149 for a single-family home. But buyers there could save substantially by looking at condos, which have an average sale price of $366,937.

 

You’ll want to budget for condo homeowner association fees as well as property taxes. But generally, opening up your search to include condos should bring you lower-priced options.

 

Found a fixer-upper? Get an FHA 203(k) loan 

 

In markets with older housing stock, passing an FHA appraisal could be a bigger obstacle than cost. Listing photos that make a low-priced house look like a charming fixer-upper can conceal major issues, Corning, New York, real estate agent Jennifer M. Baker noted in an email.

 

An appraiser’s key objective is ensuring the property is a sound investment for your lender. But an FHA appraisal isn’t just about value. To be eligible for an FHA loan, the home must also meet the FHA’s minimum property requirements by being “safe, sound and secure.” 

 

If you see potential in a house that won’t pass an FHA appraisal, an FHA 203(k) loan could help you afford the needed work. It has similar requirements to a regular FHA home loan, but the costs of renovating the property are rolled into the total mortgage amount, which is based on the “as is” appraisal and an estimate of the home’s value once the renovation is complete. Using a 203(k) might mean living in a rental a little bit longer — costs you can include in your new home loan — or in a construction zone. Either way, you’re turning a house into your home.

 

Facing stiff competition? Be flexible 

 

There are affordable homes out there, but with many buyers competing for them, it’s a seller’s market.

 

“When a home goes on the market up to about $250,000, we’ll see an actual race to get to that home,” says Michelle Sloan, broker and owner of Re/Max Time near Cincinnati. “We’ve seen up to 10 offers within 24 hours of a property being listed.” 

 

Though you can use strategies to make your offer more attractive — like being flexible on the closing date — you may also be able to find more options by changing your home search criteria.

 

A short commute may be a high priority, Sloan says, but allowing for a little added drive time could get you more potential properties. If you’re wedded to a particular location — for the schools, maybe — try to whittle down your wish list. Maybe three bedrooms will work instead of four.

 

An experienced buyer’s agent can help you weigh possible trade-offs, supply insight into your local market and encourage you throughout the process.

 

You may not get the first home you submit an offer for — or even the fifth — but “keep looking,” Sloan recommends. “There is a home out there for everyone!”

Median Home Sale Prices in MA in 2019

Happy Weekend, Northampton-area friends! For those of you thinking about selling your home, good news! Sales prices in Hampshire, Hampden and Franklin counties are up this year. For those of you looking to buy, it's a good time to connect with a realtor to help you navigate the competitive market. Attached are some recent real estate stats, courtesy of Masslive!

Got $400,000? That’s the median home sale price in 2019

Posted Oct 23, 2019 / MASSLIVE

By State House News Service

The median Massachusetts home sale price over the first nine months of 2019 clocked in at an even $400,000, bolstered by a record-setting month of September.

The Warren Group reported Wednesday that the year-to-date median home sale price rose 3.2 percent compared to the same nine-month period in 2018, but that home sales so far this year are down 1.6 percent. Sales are down this year in 10 of the state’s 13 counties, while prices are up across all counties.

Sale prices through September

Sale prices through September

Sales were up 1.4 percent in September and the median home sale price last month of $399,000 was up 5 percent over September 2018 and marked a record high.

"The gain in the median price last month was the biggest monthly gain since March and the gain in sales of single-family homes is the first time sales have actually increased since May," Tim Warren, CEO of The Warren Group, said in a statement. "Until the economy hits a bump in the road, the real estate market in Massachusetts should continue to inch its way upwards."

The median condo sale price in September of $375,000 shot up more than 14 percent over last September and also established an all-time high for the month. The higher prices did not discourage buyers as condo sales for the month were up 5.6 percent over September 2018.

"Condos have been a hot commodity in 2019, but a double-digit spike in the median sale price is quite remarkable," Warren said. "In fact, 14.3 percent marked the biggest year-over-year spike for the month of September in 17 years."

Year-to-date condo sales are down 2.3 percent. The median condo sale price this year is $385,000, a 4.3 percent bump compared to the same period in 2018.

The biggest year-to-date home sale declines in 2019 have occurred on the islands of Nantucket (24 percent), Martha's Vineyard (16 percent) and in Suffolk County, which includes Boston (6.5 percent).

The largest increases in median home sale prices so far this year have occurred on Nantucket (9.1 percent), Franklin County (7.8 percent), Bristol County (7.6 percent) and Berkshire County (7.6 percent).

The five counties where the median home sale price this year has registered below $300,000 are Worcester ($290,000), Hampshire ($282,250), Franklin ($220,000), Berkshire ($215,000), and Hampden ($205,000).

To FSBO or not to FSBO, that is the question!

One challenge to being a realtor is negotiating commission for the sale of a property with a seller client. That percentage represents our livelihood. It is compensation for the hard work we do; work for which we are ONLY compensated if and when property actually sells. Realtors are always juggling numerous tasks simultaneously. We are scheduling appointments, canceling appointments, attending showings, fielding buyers, compiling information, scheduling photographers and inspections, chasing leads, chasing paperwork, hosting open houses, putting together marketing materials, attending inspections, negotiating deals, recommending attorneys and other practitioners, keeping our clients on track with deadlines, acting as sounding boards, advising and supporting our clients in many ways. We also play the role of go-between. This is a huge and important part of what we do. Buying and selling real estate is high stakes, and can be fraught with emotion. Having an experienced advocate to help you navigate the potential hiccups is important. For many clients, it is invaluable. Having just come off of a spring market in the Northampton area wherein there were numerous FSBO's, I thought this article from Realty Today was important to share with our readers.

Selling a Home Without a Realtor: Know These 4 Risks

Posted by Candy (media@latinospost.com) on Mar 26, 2015 07:09 PM EDT

FSBO tablet

An owner may consider selling a home without a realtor. It's called "for sale by owner" (FSBO) or "fizzbo." However, it's not always blue skies and butterflies when deciding to do this; the homeowner has to be cautious with this decision.

Know these 4 main risks in doing FSBO, before you proceed:

1. It May Take Too Much of Your Time

Selling a home is not as simple as it may look like. Yes, marketing can be simply posting your ads online or even asking your friends to promote it to their network of friends. However, you have to do most of the work by yourself like answering inquiries, setting-up appointments, meeting and touring your would-be buyers.

If you are working or you have your own business, you may need to clear some of your appointments to compromise with your client's free time. In essence, this may be quite tiring for you. You may even be risking opportunities in your own work or business by focusing on this.

 

If you find yourself complaining about too much work, then you might need to rethink if you are willing to do this all the way. This point is just the beginning.

2. Screening of Serious and Qualified Clients

You will have to do the screening of your potential buyers on your own, basing on their commitment and qualifications. Some prospects may appear too excited and committed to buy your home but then bail out in the last minute because of various reasons. They may also have not passed the loan requirements set by the banks. If you fail to assess them well, you risk losing the clients who are more serious and more qualified buyers.

Tip: You must be firm in accepting clients that are pre-approved by the banks, says a 2009 report by CNBC.

3. Not Knowing the Right Value For Your Home

A professional realtor is knowledgeable of the current asking prices and market values of the houses within your area. He could advise you if you are undervaluing your home or asking too much for it.

In 2014, the National Association of Realtor reported that the median price for a home sold with a broker was $215,000, while a house sold without a broker was $174,900, basing from a 2013 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers study.

Imagine the difference of more thant $40,000! Most buyers think that they would be saving around 5-6 percent for broker's commission if they do it on their own. But basing from this report, if you do FSBO, you are actually not saving. You should be getting around 23 percent more of your asking price.

On the other hand, if you want to sell your house this spring season, asking too much could also increase the risk of not getting any sale at all, says Lynn Findlay, a Realtor with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Belmont, as reported in Bankrate.

Buyers have also surveyed 10-15 properties before buying, notes an NAR Study. This would mean, buyers are also knowledgeable of the prevailing market prices in your area.

4. Negotiation and Closing Problems

You have to close the sale on your own and with that, create a binding contract between you and the buyer. What if he asks for the furnishing to be included in the deal? What if he likes it in a rent to own style? What if he asks for a discount? A licensed realtor can help you by negotiating for you and he also makes sure  that your contract is legally binding and complies with all local regulations, notes Realtor.

You may negotiate and draft your contract without any advice but must face risks of not being able to put important matters in the agreement or be shocked that the buyers find a loophole in your contract.

So, consider all these things first and decide if you will do the FSBO process.

 
© 2017 Realty Today All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
 
 
 
 
 

The Oldest House in Conway, 53 Main Street, Now For Sale!

 

You're driving through Conway, MA and you notice a charming cottage farmhouse with a chartreuse front door and cozy front porch, tucked next to the South River. A plaque near the front door reads "Oldest Home on Main Street", built in 1830. You may feel compelled to honk the bike horn-cum-doorbell announcing your arrival. You will be intrigued by the exterior charm and whimsy - what does the inside look like? Welcome to this incredibly adorable home in Conway. The oldest home, yes, but also fantastically maintained and updated. The current owner has painstakingly cared for this piece of history...Pella windows, kitchen & bath remodeled, Quadra-Fire wood stove (and forced air heat too), metal roof and a new 300 foot well are just some of the updates that have been integrated into this home, while keeping the wide plank wood floors on the main floor and chestnut beams in the second floor family room. A fantastic wood deck overlooks the 1/4 acre lot. This is perfect spot to enjoy the bounty of the gardens, pollinator friendly flower beds and relax to the sounds of the South River. Welcome to 53 Main Street in Conway, Massachusetts. Offered at $275,000. Contact Scott Rebmann or Lisa Darragh for a private showing of this unique and wonderful home

.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What NOT To Do When Decluttering!

I'm amazed that no matter how big the space is in which we live, we always manage to fill it with stuff! Even though we are conscientious about waste and trying not to consume too much stuff - we manage to acquire a LOT!. Also - because we are conscientious about how we dispose of every item that leaves our house (reduce, reuse, recycle), getting rid of things is often a multi-step process. Rinse or clean out containers before disposal or recycling, keep TO GO bins or boxes in anticipation of upcoming recycling events (electronics, plastics, etc), compost everything biodegradable, etc, etc.

I love reading articles such as the following one from Apartment Therapy, with smart and helpful tips about how to approach decluttering one's home. As realtors, we are always advising seller clients to "declutter" in order to ready a property for sale. It's good to have to go-to PRO tips on hand to share with clients about how to approach a decluttering project.

Pro Organizer Tips: What NOT To Do When Decluttering Your Home

Catrin Morris Sep 14, 201

(Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)
 

Do you need the help of an organizing professional...without the professional price? We asked Washington DC's organizing and de-cluttering guru Nicole Anzia of Neatnik for some words of organizing wisdom. Instead of giving us additional organizing and decluttering tips and strategies, Nicole though it would most helpful to tell us what NOT to do when trying to harness the chaos in your home.Nicole says these five missteps are the most common in her line of work — and most likely to derail even the best efforts to conquer clutter:

Organize First; Buy Second

Do not go out and buy a ton of storage pieces and supplies before you sort through your home. All of those pretty bins, boxes and baskets at The Container Store are very enticing, but they won't do you any good unless they fit the space (on the shelf, under the bed, in the closet); hold what you need them to hold, and function properly for your particular space.

I recommend cleaning out first, assessing what containers you REALLY need, and then buying a few bins to start. You can always add later, but you don't want a bunch of empty containers cluttering up your home while you figure out where you might use them.

 

Don't Bite Off More Than You Can Che

Do not set aside an ENTIRE day to organize your WHOLE house. Very few people have the energy and/or focus to spend 8 hours organizing. You'll likely become frustrated and less efficient as the day progresses. It's much better to spend a few hours — 2 or 3 — on one project or space. This way you'll feel motivated to do more, not be burned out by the process
(Image credit: Kim Lucian)

Complete Each Task — Completely

Of course you will need to sort things into categories (e.g., toss, recycle, donate, give to friend, put in deep storage). But here's the crucial part: Once you have decided where something is going to go — take it there. Never keep bags for charity or boxes for friends in your home to deliver later. Do it now. Finish the process. Take the bags and boxes out to the trash or recycling immediately. If you're donating something or giving something to a friend or family member, put the items in your car or make arrangements for dropping them off. You've done so much work getting this stuff ready to take out, complete the deal!

Rome Wasn't Built In A Day

Do not think that once you've organized your space, that you are done. You'll feel like a failure when you have to clean it up again in a month. Realize that while you have created a new, efficient, and logical system for processing and managing incoming and outgoing items, you are not done. There is no autopilot. You should expect regular upkeep, but just be glad that the new system is far more efficient than the old one.

Good Enough is Enough

Very few people have closets and drawers that resemble those in catalogues. Trust me. I've been in a lot of houses and apartments and even after we've totally reorganized a space, it doesn't look like an ad for The Container Store. It looks great and works properly, but it is a space that is used by an actual human being, not one that has been carefully staged by a team of stylists and marketers for a non-existent resident. You will ultimately be disappointed if perfection is your goal. The goal is to set up a space that works well for your needs. That is success.

- Re-edited from a post originally published 8.5.2014 - CM

Design Elements for Modern Homebuyers

As realtors, we are first-hand witnesses to the changing tides of desirable home design elements for home buyers. Seven years ago, when I became a realtor: granite and poured concrete were all the rage for kitchen counters, everyone seemed to be looking for an open concept living space, flat yards bested yards with any slope, and stainless appliances were a must-have. It's interesting to see preferences for certain types of layouts, paint colors, building materials, design elements and landscaping choices ebb and flow over time. I even notice that my personal preferences change, depending upon what I'm seeing more of. I've grown to love marble in kitchens and baths, but I can imagine that, over time, I might tire of their stark whiteness and required maintenance.

The following article from my favorite home and design blog, Apartment Therapy, talks about *modern* homebuyer preferences. While the Northampton area isn't overflowing with Sub Zero or Viking appliances, per se, I agree that the other elements of this article hold true.

 

What Modern Homebuyers Are Looking For (Hint: It's NOT Granite Countertops)

Brittney Morgan
Oct 25, 2017
 
(Image credit: Emma Fiala)
 
When looking at homes, we all have our own preferences for different home features—one person might want a huge, modern kitchen and another might not care about the kitchen as much as they care about having walk-in closets. But which features are most commonly used as selling points for homes?

Trulia pulled data from homes for sale on the site over the past year to see what design features are most popular for listers, pitting different features against each other. While some trends and design staples unsurprisingly won out—looking at you, subway tile and hardwood floors—others didn't necessarily come out on top, and some were just plain missing (seriously, no mention of granite countertops? I'm shocked!).

Here's how the most popular design features fared against each other.

Marble Countertops vs. Quartz Countertops

The Winner: Quartz countertops—they're more expensive up front, but marble countertops require more maintenance by comparison, which can add up.

Soaking Tubs vs. Claw Foot Tubs

The Winner: Soaking tubs. Claw foot tubs may seem more luxurious, but soaking tubs were far more popular according to the data.

Hardwood Floors vs. Carpet

The Winner: Hardwood floors. According to Trulia, real estate agents frequently see a strong preference for hardwood floors from clients, because they're easier to clean and long-lasting.

Basketweave Tile vs. Subway Tile

The Winner: Subway tile—although Trulia admits the numbers for each were so close, it's nearly a toss-up.

(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)

White Cabinets vs. Dark Cabinets

The Winner: White cabinets, and real estate agents point out that lighter, brighter cabinets can make a kitchen look bigger.

Sub-Zero Appliances vs. Viking Appliances

The Winner: Sub-Zero appliances—although, like the tile style toss-up, Viking appliances were just barely behind.

Bay Windows vs. Floor-to-Ceiling Windows

The Winner: Bay windows. Another close call, but bay windows were still the more popular selling point.

Electric Stoves vs. Gas Stoves

The Winner: Gas stoves—while they're more expensive initially, they save money in the long run as gas in general is less expensive than electricity. Gas stoves were far more popular than electric stoves among listings.

 

 

The Benefits of Adding Solar Power to Your Home

In our development in Florence, MA, just 2.5 miles from downtown Northampton, MA, it seems that solar panels are going up on yet another neighbor's home on a weekly basis. We started the process of interviewing local solar providers last year, but had to put the project on hold for a variety of reasons. Now we are ready to open this can of worms once again. Luckily, our neighbors have done a lot of research, which they are happy to share. The following article from Apartment Therapy does a nice job of explaining the costs and benefits associated with installing solar panels on ones' home. The good news is that buyers do seem to be willing to pay more for solar power - so you needn't stay in your home long enough to see a direct return on investment. 

Can Solar Power Pay Off? One Homeowner Crunches Real Numbers

By Julie Sprankles 

Aside from the obvious benefit of helping the planet, solar power can be pretty enticing to homeowners who are tired of paying an arm and a leg for their electric bill every month. Given that outfitting a home with solar panels comes with considerable costs upfront, though, is doing so practical from a financial standpoint? Can solar power in fact pay off?

For starters, it's worth noting that the benefits—as well as costs—of installing solar (also called photovoltaic) power systems will vary from house to house. This makes sense, right? Your house might be much larger than my house. My house may be in an area where solar power is more readily available and therefore more affordable. The variables go on and on.

In general, however, there are a few universal benefits of installing solar power: it lowers your electric bill, minimizes your carbon footprint and, depending on where you live, it can even bump up your home value.

On the flip side, you'll need to drop a pretty penny upfront in order to buy the equipment and pay for the installation. The big question, of course, is whether the potential savings will outweigh those upfront expenditures—or, more pointedly, whether you'll actually be able to save money (or make money, if the value of your house goes up considerably) should you invest in solar power.

How much does solar power cost to install?

Let's talk numbers, shall we? A solar power system for an average-sized house in the U.S. can run anywhere from $15,000 to $40,000. If those figures give you a serious case of sticker shock, don't fret just yet—many companies allow you to "lease" the equipment, which dramatically reduces your upfront costs. But should you decide to purchase outright, you may qualify for government incentives that cut the cost of the system. In all 50 states, installing a solar power system qualifies the homeowner for the Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit. This tax incentive allows you to claim a credit of 30 percent of qualified expenditures for your system and, most importantly, helps to shave down the time it would take for your savings to equal out or exceed your initial investment.

If you're the type that likes online calculators, you'll be particularly happy to learn that Google has come up with a handy little number-cruncher to give you an approximation of the costs and savings you can expect with solar in your own home. Called Project Sunroof, the tool relies on high-resolution aerial mapping to calculate your specific roof's solar energy potential. According to Google engineer Carl Elkin, the site "figures out how much sunlight hits your rooftop through the year, taking into account factors like roof orientation, shade from trees and nearby buildings, and local weather patterns."

Technology... crazy, huh?

When I plug my home's address into Project Sunroof, it spits out an aerial thermal image of my street that is, if we're being honest, pretty damn impressive in its detail. The fact that my roof is glowing bright yellow clues me into the fact that sunlight is aplenty, but the site spells it out for me, too.

By their estimate, my roof receives 1,606 hours of usable sunlight per year. Based on 3D modeling of my roof and nearby trees, the site figures I have 564 square feet of roof available to be outfitted with solar panels—and they recommend an 8-kilowatt system, which would cover 40 percent of our household electricity usage.

What does all of this mean for my bottom line and, theoretically, yours? That, yes, a solar power system can pay off.

With the system covering around 40 percent of my household electricity usage, my 20-year benefits of utilizing the system would total $37,000. If the upfront cost of a system after tax incentives amounts to $17,000 and we deduct that from the benefits, the 20-year savings comes out to $20,000. In other words, it would take nine years to pay back that initial investment.

You may be thinking, "Yeah, but this only pays off if I actually stay in the home for nine years." In which case you may be relieved to learn that research conducted by the Department of Energy in 2015 showed that buyers are happy to pay more for homes with solar power systems.

The study, which was cited by The New York Times, revealed that buyers were willing to pay a premium of $15,000 for a home with a solar power system, compared to a similar home without one. The only caveat is that these findings apply to systems that are owned, not leased.

So although there's no hard-and-fast rule for whether or not solar power systems will pay off in every unique situation, they can certainly save you money immediately on your electrical bill whether you buy or lease. And if you have the capital to make the full investment upfront, you could be looking at paying off the system in less than a decade and enjoying sizable savings and a big ROI in the long-term.

Lighting Updates to Attract Home Buyers

One of the many services that we realtors provide our seller clients, is to preview their homes and make suggestions about affordable updates that can give a dated home, or room, a fresh appearance. It rarely makes sense for someone who is planning to sell their home to make a deep pocket investment such as a total kitchen or bathroom renovation. Style choices are subjective, and expensive renovations that a new buyer would want to "undo" can actually negatively affect the bottom-line sale price.  Sometimes a fresh coat of paint and some new light fixtures can go a long way towards making a space feel updated and attractive.

Since we do tend to have a fall upswing in home sales here in the Northampton area, now would be a good time to call your realtor for an opinion about which affordable updates to make before putting your house on the market. This recent article from the Boston Globe gives sound advice about light fixture choices:

Ask the Stager: Tips for choosing lighting that attracts buyers

   

Inspired by factories and older buildings, industrial-style fixtures are now used in contemporary kitchens.

Inspired by factories and older buildings, industrial-style fixtures are now used in contemporary kitchens. Tim Lee Photography/Staging by Staged To Move

Kara Woods - Globe Correspondent

August 15, 2017 11:00 pm

Updated interior lighting is one of the most efficient ways to get a potential buyer’s eyes to light up. Just like a fresh coat of “greige’’ (a color between beige and gray) paint, lighting has the power to change the entire feel of a room instantly. It’s an affordable fix with maximum impact.

We’re currently using the transitional style of lighting to get our clients’ homes showcase ready. A mix between traditional and contemporary, its streamlined and sophisticated look tends to appeal to the broadest audience.

Here are a few of my go-to transitional-style light fixtures:

Dining room/kitchen

The “orb,’’ or round fixture, is replacing the traditional six-candle chandelier. In addition to a dining room or kitchen, these fixtures also light up a foyer.

The Solaris 6-light sphere chandelier by Crystorama Lighting. —Photo by David Turner;Staging by Stage To Move

Kitchen pendants

When updating or installing kitchen pendants, it can be tricky to determine the size fixture you’ll need and how many will fit in the space. The rule of thumb is to space the lights 30 inches apart and 30 to 36 inches above the island surface.

Popular styles that will make your kitchen shine include:

Industrial 

Inspired by factories and older buildings, this style is now used in contemporary kitchens. Industrial-style lighting is common in Restoration Hardware designs.

Glass or clear pendants in a transitional style

Selected for its clean, linear lines, this style creates visual impact without taking up a lot of visual space. A favorite among stagers, potential buyers are able to move their eyes easily over, and through, the entire space. Stick with a polished nickel or chrome finish.

The kitchen pictured below had outdated bronze lantern-style fixtures that felt heavy and blocked the view of the large kitchen and eating area. When we installed these lighter glass fixtures, they opened up the space and showcased the full potential of this beautiful kitchen. (We also painted the cherry cabinets white, which also brightened the space.)

Bronze lantern-style fixtures that felt heavy were replaced with transitional-style glass fixtures, Birch Lane by Northport Pendant, that opened up the space. —Photo by Anthony Acocella; Staging by Staged To Move

Bathroom

Sconces

  • Stick with straight, clean lines and a polished nickel or chrome finish.
  • Avoid the glass shades that look like a bell — in other words, pronounced curves.
  • Stay away from sconces with mini shades.

Stick with clean, straight lines for bathroom sconces. Shown here is the Hewitt single sconce. —Courtesy of Pottery Barn

Overhead

  • Stick with the same rule of thumb as the sconces — opt for straight, box-like lines.
  • Stay away from curves or bell shapes.
  • Select polished nickel or chrome finishes. For overhead bathroom fixtures, select polished nickel or chrome finishes. Shown here is the Alcott triple sconce. —Courtesy of Pottery Barn

Hallway

This situation typically calls for a semi-flush-mount light, meaning there is a small gap between the ceiling and the fixture.

Hallway lighting typically calls for a semi-flush-mount light, meaning there is a small gap between the ceiling and the fixture. The fixture pictured here, by Progress Lighting, features a low-slung shade. —Courtesy of Progress Lighting

Final thoughts

A couple of things to keep in mind as you select lighting and prepare your home for sale:

1. Be sure to combine the new lighting with existing fixtures. For example, if the sconces in the hallway are brushed nickel, pick a semi-flush fixture in the same material so they coordinate.

2. Focus your staging budget on high-priority areas, which include the first floor (or public spaces), the master bedroom, and the master bath.

Kara Woods, an award-winning home staging and design professional who specializes in the luxury market, teaches at the Academy of Home Staging and serves as Northeast regional vice president of the Real Estate Stagers Association. Send comments and questions to Address@globe.com. Subscribe to the Globe’s free real estate newsletter at pages.email.bostonglobe.com/AddressSignUp.