Cosmetic Issues = Buyer Savings

In a high demand real estate market like Denver, Sellers have the advantage. When Buyer demand outpaces available inventory, the Seller is king, and they have the upper hand at the negotiating table. Don’t abandon all hope, Buyers! In any market, there are things you can do to educate yourself so as to gain an edge in the process.

One area Buyers should pay particular attention to is the cosmetic condition of properties they view. In a Buyers’ Market, Sellers have to work harder to appeal to Buyers, including staging and taking care of deferred maintenance. Sellers can get away with minor deferred maintenance or cosmetic issues when the market is in their favor. BUT – these issues can still give the Buyer a little wiggle room at the negotiating table.

The following is a list of items you can use to your advantage when trying to negotiate concessions or a lower price as a Buyer in a Sellers’ Market (or any market):

  • Overly colorful paint, or paint in poor condition. If the basement is hot pink or the exterior paint is flaking off, it is worth asking for a minor break in the price, or a “paint allowance,” to help cover the cost of updating the home. You might not get what you ask for, and you may have to offer full price with a “paint allowance” stipulation, but the answer to a question you don’t ask is always NO.
  • Damaged carpet or other flooring. I once helped clients buy a house that sounds terrible – but was really a hidden gem: listed under FMV (fair market value), but the house needed all new paint, there were no window treatments of any kind, the main level smelled like dog and the finished basement smelled like cat. UGH – right? They bought this home in a desirable suburb for about $20,000 less than it was worth, and by painting and replacing flooring themselves and purchasing quality blinds on sale, they were able to make this house shine and gain instant equity. Don’t pass up an opportunity like this because the house is a little rough around the edges.
  • Fence in disrepair. Wood fencing is a common source of deferred maintenance. I don’t know many homeowners who enjoy staining or painting the fence every year or two. Use this to your advantage. If the Seller has left the fence alone for a few years, or it has obvious damage, ask for a break in price, or ask whether the Seller will meet you in the middle on repair or replacement costs. If you’ve made a fair offer and the Seller is motivated to close the deal in a timely manner, you may be able to pick up a few bucks on an item like this.
  • Road construction or other pesky projects – current or future. Even in a Sellers’ Market, major road construction, noisy building sites, even nearby home construction can be a pain. Noise. Pollution. Ugly views. Extra traffic. None of these things are pleasant to put up with. As a Buyer, do your homework! If there is a new road going in half a block away, the Seller should disclose this information if they have it – but they don’t always do that. Learn everything you can about a city or neighborhood, and if there are projects underway or planned for the near future, use this information to your advantage. A motivated Seller with a smart Realtor on their side knows major construction projects near the home will not improve the market value in the short run, and they will likely want to sell the house before the dust begins to rise. Use this information to negotiate a better price, or possibly concessions on the home.

Buying a house is a big deal, and there are a lot of moving pieces. When you work with an experienced Realtor, you’ll reap the benefits of someone who’s got your back – and knows every in and out that could save you money and give you an edge. In a market like Denver, Buyers need all the help they can get to score a great deal. If you’ll be in the market soon, I’d love to help you find the right home and maximize your potential at the negotiating table.

Jack Meyers

The Meyers Group
jackestate@aol.com
303.263.3050
Twitter: @jackestate

 

 

The Worst House on the Block

Why the Worst House on the Block may be your Best Bet

As you peruse online listings, check email from your Realtor or drive the streets of your favorite neighborhood, your eye is bound to be drawn to the visual gem of any neighborhood you are seeking; the creme de la creme, cream of the crop, top of the heap.

Curb appeal. Kitchen and bath upgrades. A finished basement. What’s not to love? 

When it comes to the very best house on the block, my advice is to leave that particular cherry to be picked by another buyer; there are several reasons to bypass the best home in the neighborhood and invest elsewhere, and it’s good to familiarize yourself with this line of thinking before you begin your house hunt and fall in love-at-first-sight with a house that might not, after all, be the very best investment for you.

This one's a winner...           or is it?

This one’s a winner… or is it?

The house that helps the rest of the neighborhood to rise now, may seem like a drag when it’s time to sell. 

When you fall in love with a beautiful house, it’s hard not to imagine how happy you’ll be pulling into the driveway of a house you can be proud of – maybe even the very nicest home on the block. Dinner parties, family game nights, cozy holidays… you can really see yourself living in this house. Now imagine further down the road when it’s time to sell your lovely home. Instead of a shooting star in a galaxy of celestial goodness, your home may just be pointing out the flaws next door, across the street and throughout the rest of the neighborhood. Neighborhood gentrification is a wonderful thing, but don’t buy the prettiest belle at the ball assuming the other girls will step up their routine; there is no guarantee things will go that way.

Savvy buyers seek room to build equity.

If the house is already maxed out (upgrades throughout, killer landscaping, energy efficient appliances/windows/etc.), you’ll probably pay top dollar to purchase the property. Long term, this doesn’t give you a chance to make good on your investment. If, on the other hand, you buy the ugliest house in the very best neighborhood you can afford – you really have something to gain. Chances are good the quality of the neighborhood will hold, and if you score a great deal on an ugly house in need of a little TLC, there will be nowhere to go but up.

Maybe don't buy THIS ugly house... But - Go Broncos!

Maybe don’t buy THIS ugly house… Go Broncos!

 

Not everything on HGTV translates to reality for the rest of us – but the notion that buying a bit of an eyesore in a great neighborhood is a keen investment makes sense. 

Call or drop me a line – I can help you find a diamond in the rough or a gem that’s move in ready, and part of my expertise includes helping you understand what kind of long term investment you are likely to be looking at.

Jack Meyers

The Meyers Group
jackestate@aol.com
303.263.3050
Twitter: @jackestate

If You Had a Do-Over…

If you’re like a lot of people, you learn by doing. When it comes to buying a home for the first time, a lot of learning takes place in the form of mistakes. Purchasing a home is a major investment, and first time buyers are more educated than ever thanks to the internet and other technology. Still, you don’t know what you don’t know, and first time buyers don’t always know the right questions to ask, sometimes causing home buying newbies to miss out on useful information. Here are a few tips from first time buyers who will do things differently next time.

First Time Buyers

Talk to a mortgage broker long before you are ready to buy. 

If you make great money, have cash in the bank and an excellent credit score, you are probably well on your way to buying that first home. If you aren’t sure of your credit score, whether you have enough credit, or whether your household income is sufficient to help you qualify for the type of home you’d really like to live in, talk to a mortgage pro now, before you need them. If buying a home is out of your grasp for any reason, a qualified, experienced mortgage professional can guide your next steps and help you gear up to qualify for a home loan; this beats finding out by surprise that you can’t buy a home 3 months down the road, even though your lease will be up and you’d really like to buy at that time.

Talking to a mortgage broker will help clarify items like:

  • How much money should you have in the bank?
  • Are your student loans in good standing?
  • Is your debt to income ratio acceptable? If not, how can you fix it?
  • Is your income adequate?
  • Do you have enough/too many lines of credit open?

If you’re on the fence, buy sooner – not later. 

In many cases, renting your home is akin to throwing money away; you are basically paying your landlord’s mortgage, and not getting anything more than shelter out of the deal. If you can buy, do it. Invest wisely, but don’t wait to buy if you know you’ll be in a particular area for 3-5 years or more. Many first time buyers wish they’d pulled the trigger sooner.

Get prequalified for a loan before you shop. 

Even if you are starting your home search online, as many buyers do, you’ll want to be prequalified before you begin searching in earnest for your first home. It is heartbreaking to find the perfect $350,000 home only to learn you qualify for a maximum loan of $275k. A realistic home search is the right home search for you, and you’ll enjoy the process more (and waste less time) when you know you are looking at homes in your price range. The key term is PREQUALIFIED, not preapproved. A preapproval letter is informal and doesn’t offer the official status of prequalification, which means you are qualified by a bank or other lending institution to borrow up to a certain amount.

Work with an experienced Realtor. 

An experienced Realtor will provide helpful tips on the search process, aides in negotiating the deal, and handles all the details of your transaction. Especially in a fast-moving marketplace, it is vital to have a professional representing your interests in the transaction. Even if you are planning a purchase a year or two from now, it doesn’t hurt to interview Realtors in your area to find the right professional to assist in your home search. Most Realtors can keep an eye out for homes that match your specifications and email you property matches on a regular basis so you can keep an eye on the marketplace as you prepare for your future purchase.

Conduct a home inspection – and ask a lot of questions. 

The home inspection is a chance to test drive your future home. Bring a notebook and a pen and don’t be afraid to ask the inspector questions or clarify anything he/she says during your inspection. Before the inspection, confirm whether the inspector will get up on the roof or go into the attic. Hire an experienced inspector, not a newbie and not the cheapest guy you can find. Home inspection is imperative for first time or 10th time buyers. Even if the seller is unlikely to make repairs, I wouldn’t recommend any buyer purchase a home (even new construction) without a detailed home inspection. Make notes about items you need to learn more about and improvements or repairs the inspector recommends, then follow through. You should receive a detailed report afterward; ask the inspector to include notes about recommendations he/she has made about systems within the home, landscaping concerns (such as improper soil grade away from the home for drainage), condition of electrical or plumbing, etc.

Purchasing a home is the most significant investment most people will make in a lifetime, and buying your first home is sure to be a meaningful transaction. Prepare thoughtfully for success and your diligence will pay off.

Jack Meyers

The Meyers Group
jackestate@aol.com 
303.263.3050
Twitter: @jackestate

Home Improvement MISTAKES for Future Sellers

Mom & Pop may have lived their entire lives in the same cozy home in Pleasantville, but chances are good the home you live in now may not be your forever home. The average American will move 11.4 times in their lifetime (maybe that “.4” is just switching bedrooms!), although figures vary depending on age and income level. When you are considering a permanent update to your home (flooring, appliances, structural changes or additions, landscaping, etc.), you should consider not only your budget and preferences, but the likes and dislikes of future buyers. Not every improvement will net you a 100% return, and some renovations may even hurt your chances of a top-notch home sale down the road. Here are a few home improvement mistakes to avoid:

Home Renovation

  1. Painting over desirable vintage surfaces. If you’ve got ugly wood paneling from the seventies and can’t afford to replace it, by all means bring out the paint. If you have charming exposed brick, think long and hard before you paint if white for your preferred “shabby chic” look. Many people love the look of exposed brick, and paint is nearly impossible to remove from brick. If you will likely move in less than 10 years, consider leaving it alone and focus on other updates.
  2. Choosing a garish shade of paint or siding. There are ways to win the color war in terms of your home’s exterior. Brick red with crisp white shutters, sunny yellow in the right neighborhood, navy blue … these shades can be winners in the right settings, but in the long run your safest bet is neutral shades like taupe, gray or neutral greens.
  3. Covering up hardwood flooring. If your home has hardwood flooring in refinishable condition, consider going that route rather than covering it up with wall to wall carpeting. More than half of buyers prefer hard surface flooring to carpet, and a professional refinishing job will last for years. If you love the feel of carpet underfoot, buy the largest rug you can afford. You’ll enjoy the soft texture on your tootsies and protect your hardwood floor as well.
  4. Installing a backyard pool. Pools make for all kinds of family fun – but they also come with liability concerns and increased homeowners insurance. Buyers that are initially lured in by the cool factor may have second thoughts when they consider the upkeep and undesirable extras that can accompany poolside living. The same goes for hot tubs. A small percentage of buyers will see it as a bonus, but buyers with germaphobia (or small children) will only see it as a headache.
  5. Forgetting to let the light in. You may enjoy blackout darkness in your bedroom when the sun rises and you’re trying to catch a few more zzz’s, but prospective buyers will best picture themselves in a sunny, well lit home. Don’t neglect lighting in your interior projects. Include plenty of ambient and task lighting in the form of dimmable overhead lights, undercabinet lighting and lamps. When your house is on the market, lighten up window treatments if necessary and keep them open to let in as much natural light as possible.
  6. Go easy on accessibility. If you have outfitted your home with stairlifts, step-in bathtubs or entryway ramps to accommodate your own needs or those of a loved one, consider minimizing these elements at the time of sale. For individuals or families who don’t require or desire these items, they can be a distraction and add age to the feel of a home. In some cases these elements may be necessary to the safety or comfort of the people living in your home. If that’s the case, renovate as necessary – but do so knowing you may need to undo these changes at the time of sale or accept a longer period of time on the market or lower price at the closing table.
  7. Ignoring outdated fixtures. Gleaming brass is so 1989 – and not in a fun retro way, either! Replacing dated knobs and fixtures on doors, bathrooms and in kitchens can add up, but if you know you’ll sell in the future, pick a classic finish like polished chrome or satin nickel and replace your knobs and fixtures over time as you can afford to do so. Start with most-used spaces (master bedroom, public bathroom, kitchen faucet) and work your way through the home a room or space at a time.
  8. Splurging on high maintenance countertop materials. You may love high end carrera marble or soapstone countertops, but these materials have a high level of maintenance to match their hefty initial price tags. Consider instead engineered quartz or granite counters, or if you have your heart set on marble, use it as a bathroom tile backsplash rather than a kitchen counter that will see a lot of use. Future buyers will thank you for this wise decision.
  9. Nixing a bedroom in favor of a larger master suite. Three bedroom homes will almost always command a higher sales price than two bedroom homes of similar square footage. If you can afford to build the master suite of your dreams and can live without the additional bedroom, consider renovation options that will allow you to turn the additional space back into a bedroom for a future sale, such as adding a door without removing an entire wall to turn the guest room next door into a killer closet. You’ll likely save on reno costs and be glad you set yourself up for success when it is time to list.

If you have questions about buying or selling in Metro Denver, give me a ring. I’m here to help however I can, and I’ve been helping people buy, sell and invest in Denver for over 21 years.

Jack Meyers

The Meyers Group
jackestate@aol.com 
303.263.3050
Twitter: @jackestate

 

Choosing the Best Agent in a Fast Paced Marketplace

Denver is in a snooze-you-lose real estate situation, with homes selling sometimes in hours instead of days and weeks. A fast paced market like this requires an experienced Realtor up to the task of helping you move at lightning speed to snag the right home for you. When seeking the right agent for your home search, look for the following qualifications:

race car

Speedy

When interviewing agents, pay attention to how quickly he/she responds to your questions. Ask, “How long do you spend searching with a typical buyer? How many homes do most of your buyers see before making an offer? What kinds of stumbling blocks do you see for buyer clients, and how are you working through them?”

Tech Savvy

Technology has changed how business is done in the world of real estate, and you need an agent comfortable and confident with the latest technology including eContracts, mobile search and client communication on the fly. Lightning speed real estate requires more than a laptop. Ask potential agents what types of technology they use in their business. A part time or hobby agent may not have the tech experience you need to succeed.

Available

Don’t be afraid to get very specific about your potential agent’s availability. You will need a focused search experience, and you’ll need someone who can help you pre-search well so the on-the-ground home search process is maximized. Since homes are moving quickly, you need to be prepared to see only the best-fit homes and to move quickly when a home matching your specs enters the market. If your agent is not available on the fly, they may not be the agent for you.

Responsive

Ask a potential agent, “How long does it take you to respond to email? Do you respond to email on evenings and weekends? Does a text receive the fastest response?” If a home meeting your must-have list pops up, you need to know your agent will help you get in the door and answer your calls or emails quickly.

Knowledgeable

How long has your potential agent worked in this area? Which suburbs does he consider himself an expert in? Does he have a wide network of experienced pros in areas like inspection, mortgage, landscaping or other contracting? Ask, “How many of your deals fell through over the past year?” If the answer is, “None,” run the other direction. Active, knowledgeable agents in this market have deals falling apart now and then due to the speed and competition of the Denver market; an agent in the mix will have several failed deals to tell you about, and they can also share what happened next and how they helped their client find the next great house after losing a deal.

I have over 21 years of experience in the Metro Denver real estate market and it would be my pleasure to help you navigate this fast paced, sometimes tricky marketplace. Get in touch to let me know what I can do to support your success across this beautiful city, or to help you find a qualified professional to meet your needs across Colorado or out of state.

Jack Meyers

The Meyers Group
jackestate@aol.com 
303.263.3050
Twitter: @jackestate

The 5 Year Plan

When shopping for your next home, it’s important to know what really matters to you and to look beyond the surface of a listing. As a seller, your home will appeal to more buyers and likely net a higher price now (or for a down-the-road listing under different market conditions) if you know how to best highlight the features that make your home shine. Whether you are buying or selling, think beyond square footage and the number of bedrooms in a home. Here is a list of features to point out to buyers if your home is for sale, and this is a great start on your “shopping list” as a buyer.

couple home shops

Floor Plan

Savvy homeowners know a thoughtful floor plan can easily trump square footage. An open floor plan offering 1800 square feet lives larger than a 2200 square foot home with a choppy floor plan. A home’s specs on paper do not always play out the way you expect in reality. Resist the urge to buy the most square footage and shop for a home with the best square footage instead. 

open floor plan

Master Suite

Depending on your family portrait and how often you host visitors, you may want to look beyond the total number of bedrooms to consider whether homes on your list have a master suite. A master suite is a bedroom with a bathroom attached; not just “a bathroom nearby and down the hall,” but a bathroom en suite as part of the master bedroom. This level of privacy is a luxury for many, and in a seller’s market you may have to forego this option in favor of getting the location or number of bedrooms you require. If you can snag a home with a master suite, do it; you’ll enjoy the benefits of higher resale value and you’ll love having a bathroom you don’t have to share with company. 

Master Bath

Landscaped Yard

For gardening hobbyists, a yard that is a blank slate offers fun future projects. If, however, you have a brown thumb or lack the time or know-how to create a beautiful outdoor space, it is worth spending a little more on a house with professional landscaping in place. When you choose a home with curb appeal, you will be thrilled with your choice every time you pull into the driveway. 

Home Landscaping

Updated/Upgraded Appliances

If you are selling a home with dated or dingy appliances in a seller’s market, the buyer will simply have to live with these castoffs. In a buyer’s market, new or upgraded appliances can help any home shine. As a buyer, you don’t want to be stuck in a house with a fridge that goes south 3 months in, or an oven circa 1973 that kicks kicks in on alternate Thursdays. If you are maxing out your finances to purchase a home, make sure you are investing in a home with appliances that will last and are in good working order. 

Upgraded Appliances

Spacious Garage

Consider your long term parking and storage needs when purchasing a home. Many newer homes feature two or even three car garages, but older homes may have a single car, a carport or no covered vehicle storage to speak of. If you actively anticipate needing a garage or additional storage in the next 3-5 years, hold out for a home with this amenity in place. 

Car in Garage

“What will we need in our home in the next 3-5 years?” is a great question to ask before and during your house hunt. Most people won’t live in the same home for a lifetime; you may move for a relationship, a job, for more space or for fun. It is wise, though, to invest in a home likely to suit your needs for more than a year or two. Other features to consider in your 3-5 year home needs plan are: home office, storage space, finished basement, flooring (floors can be replaced, but if you loathe carpet or have kids or pets, replacing flooring in an entirely carpeted home can be costly), location, proximity to good schools.

If you need an expert guide to help you buy or sell your home in Metro Denver, drop me a line. I’ve been working with individuals and families across Denver for 22 years, and I’d be happy to help you with all your residential real estate needs.

Jack Meyers

The Meyers Group
jackestate@aol.com
303.263.3050
Twitter: @jackestate

 

Expanding Small Spaces

Whether you are planning to list your home for sale or stay in it for years to come, there are ways to expand the smaller spaces in your home to maximize your space or visually “add” square footage for an upcoming sale, or for your own enjoyment. And the great news is, these changes are affordable and don’t require major renovations.

Expand your space for a few bucks and minimal time & effort: 

Window Treatment

This designer does window treatments right!

Hang window treatments properly. And take the time to fix those that are hung incorrectly. The point of windows is to let in light and views; blinds should cover the entire window, but fabric window treatments are meant to dress your windows – not cover them up 100% of the time. Drapes should hang at or close to ceiling height and should reach all the way to the floor, either breaking at the floor or puddling a bit, depending on your preference. The inner edge of your drapery should overlap the window by no more than a few inches, so they are framing, but not covering the window when open. If you plan to live in your home long term, custom drapes are a wise investment you’ll enjoy for years, and lined drapes or blinds can help you save on heating and cooling costs, too.

Vertical Shelves

Vertical displays like this help draw the eye toward the ceiling.

Draw the eye up with vertical storage or display. This can be a tall bookcase with interesting sculpture or decor on top to really bring your eye up, an art installation that reaches high, shelves hung high and wide or even an especially tall headboard for your bed. Artwork, mirrors, etc. should not be hung too high, though. The center of a piece of art should be about 56 inches from the floor – higher will make viewers crick their neck and just looks silly. If you want your artwork to elevate the room, consider a gallery wall with a plethora of smaller pieces of art or sculpture that draw the eye higher than a single piece might.

Mirror

This narrow space looks twice as big thanks to a chic wall of mirror.

Reflect light and views with space expanding mirrors. This is a common trick of interior decorators, and for good reason. Mirrors can double the visual size of a room – especially if they reflect windows across the room, or some other source of light. Consider an oversize mirror (buy the biggest you can afford) or a series of smaller mirrors gathered on a single wall. Unique frames can add interest, but you can achieve the same affect with unframed, plain mirror panels as well. Be thoughtful in terms of placement; you don’t want your mirrors to reflect dark spaces or anything unattractive.

Uncluttered

Can you imagine this dainty space full of stuff? Clutter Free = Happy Homeowners

Declutter. Repeat. Nothing can make a room feel more cramped than too much stuff! Even a large room will feel smaller if it is stuffed to the gills with furniture, knick-knacks and unnecessary clutter. Studies have shown that cluttered rooms can actually raise our anxiety level, affecting mood and blood pressure. To calm your space and help it expand, grab a box or basket and remove anything you don’t use, love or need in a particular space. Be ruthless – you can put an item back later if necessary. Take a before and after picture if you want to help you envision how much freer and more open the space feels when it isn’t weighed down by clutter. This is especially important when your home is on the market. An additional trick used by home stagers, decorators and Realtors is multipurpose furniture, such as an ottoman with storage or a dresser as a hall table with handy drawers to store shoes, mail or anything else that tends to pile up.

Use paint to your advantage. One of the fastest, most affordable ways to update or expand a space is with paint. Dark or saturated colors can make a room feel cozy – sometimes too cozy. Lighter colors help a room feel larger and expand space. Consider pale gray, khaki, white or ivory, soft shades of blue, lavender or green. Almost any color can be found in pale versions that provide interest, but don’t constrict the visual feel of the room. In truly tiny spaces, you may want to stick with solid, neutral tones and opt for texture over pattern. Too much pattern in fabric, paint, art, etc. in a small room can be overwhelming. Save bold pattern for a more spacious room and if you’re selling, replace bold pillows, artwork and accessories in small spaces with softer neutrals to help the buyer envision the space as calm and larger than it actually is.

Are you looking to expand your horizons (or change your location) in a Denver-area home? Call me or drop a line – I’m here to help.

Jack Meyers

The Meyers Group
jackestate@aol.com 
303.263.3050
Twitter: @jackestate