IN and OUT For 2009

in_n_out1No, I’m not referring to the West Coast burger chain (which can’t match up with Five Guys). I’m talking about home buyers!

What’s IN

  1. Sidelined home buyers. Family or lifestyle additions or changes made in buyers’ households in the last three years are forcing those waiting out the market transition to finally get off the fence and say, it’s time for our family to buy the home that suits our new needs. 
  2. Home uplifts. Not a big renovation, but some new finishes that can work for stay-put home sellers. Not a “gut rehab to the studs” new kitchen, but new flooring, countertops and appliances. 
  3. Collaborative home pricing. The old days of home sellers configuring a home’s price are out. What’s new is that the seller with their agent will look at closed comparables, set a price, then the buyer and their agent agree or disagree, but in the end, a mortgage lender and their appraiser will set the price, as they are assuming the most risk in the transaction. 
  4. Balanced reporting by real estate and personal finance journalists. Consumers learned in 2008 that the ‘doom and gloom” residential real estate market headlines don’t apply to all markets. What’s been lost in the foreclosure hype is that there are still homes selling in short market times (in as little as 1 day), homes selling at full price and some selling with multiple contracts on the table. Existing home sales will be 5.02 million versus 5.652 million for 2007, a decrease of just over eleven percent, considerably less that the recent correction in the U.S. stock market – plus a realistic view that over five million people purchased a home despite the headlines in 2008. 
  5. Creative home seller financing. Exhausted home sellers are turning to self-financing to move properties. Installment sale contracts and lease to own are the most popular and effective ways for sellers to begin to receive income from a property that has languished on the market. 
  6. Real estate agent as a housing resource not salesperson. New-age real estate agents help consumers through the home sale or purchase process, which takes a skilled agent who is not driven by sales, but instead provides resources to help the consumer determine if they should buy or sell a home. Home ownership is not for everyone. Factors such as a job move in 3 years or less, marginal credit, or lack of interest in home maintenance can be reasons for a resource-driven agent to advise their client not to buy. 
  7. Architectural overhead garage doors. After years of bland vanilla garage doors, the architecture has permeated the door most people look at the most. Traditional styling has arrived with mullioned windows, faux wrought iron hinges and latches that provide the original non-overhead garage door look. Contemporary looks now include the adjacent siding applied over the door for a seamless look, much like the panels installed on refrigerator doors to complement cabinets in a kitchen. 
  8. Loveseats. A pair or trio is gaining acceptance as the functional way to rearrange a living or family room. Consumers appreciate the ease at which they can rearrange them, move an extra one to another room, or provide long-term furniture flexibility in future homes. Plus, they’re tired of sitting miles away from others on over-sized sectional sofas. 
  9. The master bed as a throne. With consumer spending down and more nesting at home, home owners are focusing on making their bed like an at-home luxury hotel experience. Posh linens, pillows and mattresses create a getaway without leaving home. 
  10. Older war-horse appliances. Collectable, working appliances from the 1940’s through the late 1980’s have found a new niche among homeowners who appreciate their rock-solid construction and durability. Harvest gold double ovens from the 1970’s (we had a great one in Almond) have been repainted a metallic red and go from boring to bold. A Coldspot refrigerator from the 1950’s refinished in sky blue perks up the butler’s pantry in a suburban home. And, the early 1960’s dryer that looks like it’s from a Jetson house – painted pink – punches up the in-unit laundry room in a condominium. 
  11. Dining chairs that don’t match. With consumers watching their non-essential spending closely and electing to stay home to entertain friends, many have found a quick pick-me-up for their dining room suite, mismatched pairs or single chairs. Feedback from friends and family has been favorable to this easy and cost-effective way to say welcome to my cutting edge table. 
  12. Obama-era paint colors. The President-elect will add a fresh, younger and forward-looking feel to residential interior paint decor in the spaces at The White House when he and future First Lady Michelle have a say. Look for parchment whites, cashmere yellows, bright optimistic blues and radiant golds. Depressing Bush-era colors such as plum, chocolate brown, rusty mustard and pale sage will happily be replaced by more optimistic colors in American homes.

What’s OUT

  1. Fixer-upper homes. With larger down payments required by mortgage lenders, and credit cards maxed out, home buyers want a home in move-in condition. The DIY days are on the wane as buyers want new kitchens and bathrooms from the get-go. 
  2. Foreclosure fluff. The foreclosure rate nationally in 2008 was just under 3 percent. In the Great Depression it was just over forty-percent. 
  3. Home buyers endless “circling” prospective short-list properties. Overly optimistic thinking by buyers to circle a preferred property indefinitely, often for months, waiting for further price reductions or to wear out long weary sellers. This practice has backfired for buyers who practice this style of pre-negotiating. They often lose their short-list dream home and frustrate savvy price-right sellers. Ditto the bottom-feeder buyers. 
  4. Home staging. A recently over-used low cost marketing band-aid for vacant or occupied homes with longer than normal market times. Buyers have said enough of the non-professional usage of assorted leftover props placed around a for-sale home to make it supposedly homey. Buyers say, market it as it is and clear out the tired silk flowers and stale potpourri. 
  5. Indoor-outdoor carpet. The staples of quick-fix home sellers for basements, balconies, screened porches and lanai’s, buyers have said enough. Many have told agents that inexpensive indoor-outdoor carpet is visual pollution and often masks flaws in a home. 
  6. Track lighting. Thought of by homeowners to be a quick way to get an art gallery look, many prospective buyers usually take them out and discount their appeal. As one Gen-X home buyer said, “Why do sellers install them when they don’t really have any interesting artwork or architectural features to spotlight? They bring undue attention to nothing.”

Thanks to Mark Nash. Originally published in Realty Times 12/31/2008

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