Foreclosure Pricing – Real or Pretend?

February 21, 2009

Excerpt from one of my favorite Real Estate bloggers, Kris Berg in San Diego:

wheelofWe are finding ourselves spending a whole lot of time explaining lender pricing methods to buyers. This week we saw another bank-owned listing priced a full 20% below one active listing and two in escrow – all identical homes within two blocks of the perpetrator. Now, one can argue this is a brilliant strategy for ensuring a speedy-quick sale, and one might even argue that the price will tend to float toward something more in line with true values. Both arguments are valid, but is blatant and gross under-pricing moving toward an ethical gray area? And, what about an agent’s fiduciary responsibilities? Lenders are clients, if not people, too, and pricing a property using a dreidel could be considered negligent. Finally, there is the confusion among buyers that this causes.

Pretend prices – This is what the prices we see attached to many of the foreclosure homes on the market actually are. Most of these homes are knee-deep in offers numbering double-digits before the sun goes down on the first day of showings. Unfortunately, this is a difficult concept to explain to buyers. “Yes, the home is priced exactly at the amount for which you are approved and, no, you cannot buy it.” This is a bitter, even seemingly incredulous message to swallow, and so often a buyer will need to go through the exercise once or twice before they take my word for it.

There is a bigger issue  . . . the one of uber-low pretend prices becoming a popular “lead generation” tool for the agents representing the listings. In a world where buyers are doing their own searches, a too-good-to-be-true carrot can sure make that phone ring. And it leaves the rest of us who use real numbers with a lot of explaining to do.

Read the whole post at the San Diego Home Blog  – Kris’s writing is pretty good, by the way.

This is happening here too. Buyers call me excitedly about a home they have seen in their real-estate-search-engine-of-choice, supposedly in their price range – “Wow! Can we go see this one NOW???” Sure. If you can get past the hordes of other buyers waving offers. You can make an offer, too . . . and let me show you the “escalation clause” addendum, because you are going to need it.

No such thing as a free lunch.

Kim Hannemann, Real Estate Consultant/Realtor®, Samson Realty
Cell: 703-861-9234 • Fax: 703-896-5055 • Email: KimTheAgent@gmail.com

It’s Good To Have A Friend In The Business®
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If you would like to discuss real estate questions, sell or buy a home in Northern Virginia – including Alexandria, Annandale, Arlington, Burke, Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton, Fairfax, Fairfax Station, Falls Church, Kingstowne, Lorton, McLean, Reston, Springfield, or Vienna – contact Kim today.

4 – 4.5% Listings with First-Class Service

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Organizing Can Be An Emotional Thing

February 16, 2009

messydeskStuff. Most of us have waaaaay too much of it. If you know my wife, you will understand who keeps stuff organized in our house. She spent a good part of this weekend moving cookbooks, camera and various electronic gizmos from one cabinet to another, tossing things we haven’t been using, and getting some new things put away. It’s certainly not me – you should see my desk right now. I am not the best person to talk about decluttering, though it’s definitely a mantra of mine when talking to sellers! So that’s why I asked for professional help in writing this piece, and Aimee Saldivar obliged:

tmntDo you feel bad throwing out every greeting card you receive? Or do you feel the need to save every toy your children owned to hand down to their children someday? Keeping these toys and remembrances can add up, especially if you don’t have the space to store them. If you save the toys’ original boxes or perhaps the toys that are slightly tattered, they’ll be of no value if your children decide to buy their kids new toys altogether. Get rid of them! One way to keep that precious toy close to your heart is to take a picture of it and create a digital album for you and your children to cherish tomorrow. Those pictures would make a great hardback album for a holiday gift, or can be used to create a scrapbook. It will not only take up less room, be cost effective and environmentally friendly, but it will allow more room for you to use today.

walshI recently finished a book by Peter Walsh, professional organizer and motivational speaker, called “It’s All Too Much: An Easy Plan For Living a Richer Life With Less Stuff.” He makes some great points about happiness: more material things don’t really measure success, having more possessions may be more suffocating than liberating, and the stuff we own ends up owning us. When we feel like we have too much stuff, we buy more containers; but in reality we aren’t cleaning out clutter, we’re just storing it away. Eventually this will build up and take over our space.

We have more winter ahead of us, but it’s a great time to start planning our organization. Here are few ideas to get you started without being overwhelmed by the task:

  1. One room at a time. Focus on a room rather than your entire home. A smaller goal cuts down your anxiety and helps you stay focused. Prioritize each room according to either your budget or the time you have to spend. This will help you plan your project more effectively and will keep you on track to organizational success.
  2. Think about what you want to achieve out of that room. If you’re planning to put your home on the market, you may want to consult a professional stager or organizer to create a “punch list.” An extra set of eyes can’t hurt, and they know creative ways to minimize clutter and maximize your sale price without going overboard. If you’re looking simply to organize, store away those keepsakes into one box you can bring out when you want to reflect, and keep the room livable without feeling cramped and cluttered.
  3. consignTIP:  In today’s economy, second-hand and consignment stores are becoming the hot place to shop. If have you some great items that you feel guilty about giving away, consignment shops are a great way to get rid of them without having to host a yard sale or post them in the classifieds online. Remember, one man’s junk can be another man’s treasure – at less than half the price! [Followup tip from Kim:  Drop off your stuff and drive away quickly, or you will come home with more than you took in!]
  4. If you haven’t used in the last year – GET RID OF IT! Some things we own may be seasonal items, which is okay; however, if you’re still thinking that the one item you’re saving may go back in style, dump it. If it comes back someday, there will plenty of options to choose from. Many times we get so wrapped up in how much we paid or how much we saved on a particular item when, in reality, it was probably an impulse buy at the time. We may also keep something “in case we need it.” Unless you are talking about fire extinguishers and the like, if we haven’t used it in a year, then we don’t need it, and we’ve probably forgotten about it.
  5. books1TIP:  Getting rid of dust collectors such as books, lampshades and dried flowers can help alleviate dust for people with allergies. You may continue to dust the shelves, but not the books on the shelves or the dried flowers you are saving from a special occasion. It rarely occurs to people that dust build-up on these items is overlooked and can make matters worse for people with allergies. Once you finish reading a book, trade it for a new one or donate it. Donating books to your local public library is a very simple process and is a tax write-off for you next year.
  6. The more you can eliminate, the better. Linen closets become an emotional trap for us since they house blankets and linens we don’t want to part with. This is usually where Grandma’s hankies and table linens end up. Instead, think about storing them in a dedicated keepsake box from Grandma, or framing and hanging them in a guest bedroom (if they go with the theme). Once you make room for the linens you actually use, you won’t have to shuffle through mismatched sheet sets and torn towels. If you have different sizes of sheet sets for different rooms and/or family members, a great way to keep them organized  is to color-code them. Buy a different color of two-inch grosgrain ribbon rolls for each size or family member to keep the sheet sets together for “grab and go.” It adds a nice touch to your linen closet, too. NOTE:  When you have your home on the market, prospective buyers look through everything, especially closets – they’ll be impressed.
  7. medalsA great way to pay tribute to a loved one after they have passed would be to dedicate a space or a room for their items. If they were in the military, one way to pay tribute would be to frame their military medals along with their uniform jacket. Or if you are having a hard time parting with their collected items, perhaps you could sell them and donate the money in their memory to an organization or educational institution they would have appreciated.

ladybugsoMany thanks to Aimee Saldivar, professional organizer and home stager. She also offers special occasion set-up such as table setting and arranging. You can find before and after pictures on Facebook by looking up Ladybug Staging and Organization.

If you mention this article, Aimee will provide a free consultation when you sign up for a service. Plan ahead and call today for an estimate at 703-856-3404 or email ladybugstaging@gmail.com.

Kim Hannemann, Real Estate Consultant/Realtor®, Samson Realty
Cell: 703-861-9234 • Fax: 703-896-5055 • Email: KimTheAgent@gmail.com
It’s Good To Have A Friend In The Business®

samson-realty-and-bird

If you would like to discuss real estate questions, sell or buy a home in Northern Virginia – including Alexandria, Annandale, Arlington, Burke, Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton, Fairfax, Fairfax Station, Falls Church, Kingstowne, Lorton, McLean, Reston, Springfield, or Vienna – contact Kim today.

4 – 4.5% Listings with First-Class Service


Ready To Be Stimulized?

February 15, 2009

capitolIt’s a fine mess when Mr. Language Man has to make up words (“stimulized?”). But it’s a pretty messy bill our elected representatives just passed. I’m sure President O would have just preferred to get $800 bill to spend as he needed, when he needed, on whatever he thinks will work. But, nooooo.

I am sure there will be no shortage of articles and blogs on this subject. Still, since I want you to read my blog, here’s a summary of some of the provisions that might be of interest to you:

hometaxcreditRefundable First-time Home Buyer Credit. Last year, Congress provided taxpayers with a refundable tax credit that was equivalent to an interest-free loan equal to 10 percent of the purchase of a home (up to $7,500) by first-time home buyers. The provision applies to homes purchased on or after April 9, 2008 and before July 1, 2009. Taxpayers receiving this tax credit are currently required to repay any amount received under this provision back to the government over 15 years in equal installments, or, if earlier, when the home is sold. The credit phases out for taxpayers with adjusted gross income in excess of $75,000 ($150,000 in the case of a joint return). “Refundable” means that even if you don’t owe any taxes at all, or owe less than the amount of the credit, you will receive the difference in cash after filing.

The new bill eliminates the repayment obligation for taxpayers that purchase homes after January 1, 2009, increases the maximum value of the credit to $8,000 ($4,000 for a married person filing separately), and removes the prohibition on financing by mortgage revenue bonds, and extends the availability of the credit for homes purchased before December 1, 2009. The provision would retain the credit recapture if the house is sold within three years of purchase.

Another important change for our area: reinstatement of the increased conforming loan limits for high cost areas. You may recall that our local conforming loan limits rose from $417,000 to $729,750 last year, giving purchasers of higher end homes an important break on interest rates for loan limits up to that amount. At the end of 2008, the temporary limit expired and it dropped to $625,500. This stimulus bill reinstates that $729,750, which should make it easier to get larger loans which now qualify for Fannie, Freddie and possibly FHA guidelines, which translates to lower rates.

newcarSales Tax Deduction for Vehicle Purchases. The bill provides all taxpayers with a deduction for State and local sales and excise taxes paid on the purchase of new cars, light truck, recreational vehicles, and motorcycles through 2009. This deduction is subject to a phase-out for taxpayers with adjusted gross income in excess of $125,000 ($250,000 in the case of a joint return).

energyauditTax Credits for Energy-Efficient Improvements to Existing Homes. The bill would extend the tax credits for improvements to energy-efficient existing homes through 2010. Under current law, individuals are allowed a tax credit equal to ten percent (10%) of the amount paid or incurred by the taxpayer for qualified energy efficiency improvements installed during the taxable year. This tax credit is capped at $50 for any advanced main air circulating fan, $150 for any qualified natural gas, propane, oil furnace or hot water boiler, and $300 for any item of energy-efficient building property. For 2009 and 2010, the bill would increase the amount of the tax credit to thirty percent (30%) of the amount paid or incurred by the taxpayer for qualified energy efficiency improvements during the taxable year. The bill would also eliminate the property-by-property dollar caps on this tax credit and provide an aggregate $1,500 cap on all property qualifying for the credit.

diploma

“American Opportunity” Education Tax Credit. The bill would provide financial assistance for individuals seeking a college education. For 2009 and 2010, the bill would provide taxpayers with a new “American Opportunity” tax credit of up to $2,500 of the cost of tuition and related expenses paid during the taxable year. Under this new tax credit, taxpayers will receive a tax credit based on one hundred percent (100%) of the first $2,000 of tuition and related expenses (including books) paid during the taxable year and twenty-five percent (25%) of the next $2,000 of tuition and related expenses paid during the taxable year. Forty percent (40%) of the credit would be refundable. “Refundable” means that even if you don’t owe any taxes at all, or owe less than the amount of the credit, you will receive up to 40% of the credit in cash after filing. This tax credit will be subject to a phase-out for taxpayers with adjusted gross income in excess of $80,000 ($160,000 for married couples filing jointly).

A fairly decent 19-page PDF summary of the whole bill – THE AMERICAN RECOVERY AND REINVESTMENT ACT OF 2009 – is available from the Senate Finance Committee website.

Kim Hannemann, Real Estate Consultant/Realtor®, Samson Realty
Cell: 703-861-9234 • Fax: 703-896-5055 • Email: KimTheAgent@gmail.com

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If you would like to discuss real estate questions, sell or buy a home in Northern Virginia – including Alexandria, Annandale, Arlington, Burke, Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton, Fairfax, Fairfax Station, Falls Church, Kingstowne, Lorton, McLean, Reston, Springfield, or Vienna – contact Kim today.

4 – 4.5% Listings with First-Class Service


Mr. Language Man Strikes Again

February 14, 2009
shakespeare

My Wife's Card - Isn't She Romantic?

This Valentine’s Day evening my wife, daughter and I were eating a lovely meal prepared by said wife (I did the dishes, daughter bought the vino), when the subject of the evening turned to food . . . more precisely, food that is delivered by grateful former patients to my daughter’s nurses’ station at the hospital. She said that usually it’s in the form of baked goods – cakes, pies, cupcakes, muffins – but this morning two McDonalds bags showed up, one stuffed with breakfast sandwiches (McMuffins, etc.) and the other with crunchy, delicious hash browns. “Finally, something practical!” she exclaimed.

I reflected on the breakfast provided each Wednesday morning by our friends from Shamrock Title – Colossal-brand (and -sized) doughnuts, breakfast burritos from Anita’s, and the occasional muffin – and my wife commented that, just maybe, someone might occasionally like to have some fruit, and suggesting that I could bring some. My response was that we appeared to have only one vegan (pronounced by me “vay-gan”), which elicited the interjection, “vee-gan!” from my daughter.

My kids are always on my butt for saying “Marry-o” instead of “Mah-rio” whether referring to Nintendo or Batali, and I acknowledge that my pronunciation skills are not up to my spelling and usage standards. Still, it intrigues me why we would say “vee-gan” when we don’t say “vee-gatarian” or “veeg-tables.” Why don’t we say “veh-jan?”

Mr. Language Man

Mr. Language Man

And now that Mr. Language Man is loose, why are so many otherwise knowledgeable and intelligent and seemingly erudite people caught up in the “loose” vs “lose” problem? Every day I see another article – often an article in a supposedly edited source – that misuses “loose” in place of “lose.”

Clearly, this had nothing to do with it being Valentine’s Day, but so what.

And yes, we will eventually get to “affect” and “effect.” Keep your shirt on.


Looking for A Mortgage Lender?

February 14, 2009

You’re thinking about buying a home, but you can’t pay all cash. Gee, join the least-exclusive club we know! Now you have to get a loan secured by whatever home you want to buy, a loan we call a mortgage.

lendingtree1

You Lose!

“Oh, I’ll just click on one of those ubiquitous pop-up Internet ads, and lenders will come begging for my business!”  Please, please, don’t! Whether it’s the one where lenders advertise their “best rates,” or the one where you ask for four lender quotes (and get hundreds of them calling you day and night), they won’t be any good at this point. What you need to know first is what loans are available to you, and how much house you can afford based upon those loans. You want someone who will tell you what’s going on in the loan market right now.

You are not ready to sign up for any loan yet. Instead, you are trying to find a loan officer who will be there when you are ready. Will they guide you through the process, and explain how they get from A to B? Taking your income as a starting point, they would subtract from that your current monthly obligations, to arrive at a reasonable monthly budget for housing, using current interest rates, tax and insurance costs. As for what kind of mortgages, they should start with a fully amortized 30-year fixed-rate mortgage with no more than one point of combined origination and/or discount fees. (A “point” is 1 percent of the mortgage amount.) They should then discuss alternative loan types, such as the 5/1 adjustable (see below), but the main purpose here is to ensure you will not be getting in over your head.

You might like the numbers the first lender gives you, but don’t stop looking. You want to have this same discussion with at least three different loan officers. You need to confirm that what you’re hearing is the truth, both in terms of what you can afford and the likelihood that the loan terms are valid. You see, loan officers in general have an incentive to tell you what you want to hear, and despite the existence of a “Good Faith Estimate” and/or “Truth in Lending” documents, they don’t have to deliver what they promise unless and until they provide a loan quote guarantee or “lock.”

What kinds of loans are out there that are worth considering? In the current interest rate environment, where rates are historically low, forget negative amortization (where you pay less interest than the actual loan rate, and the underpaid interest is then added to the loan balance). And forget “teaser” loans, where the first couple of years is at an artificially low rate, like 1.25%. Both of these are sure recipes for disaster – they were the cause of many of the foreclosures we are going through right now.

All the rest have their advantages and disadvantages. The fixed rate loan is almost always at a higher rate. In effect, it’s 30 years of insurance against rate changes. Yet most people either move or refinance in 5 years or less, so why would they pay for a 30-year guarantee? The 5/1 (or 3/1, 7/1, or 10/1) ARM – where the rate is fixed for the first several years and adjusts annually after that – is usually a lower rate.

And why spend money “buying down” your interest rate by paying discount points, if you’re not likely to keep it long enough to recover the money? You might cut your monthly interest charge, but it takes 6-8 years to break even.

house

Once you have believable info on how much you can afford, then you can start looking at properties. Stay in touch with the lenders you believe would be most reliable. You’ll notice I said “lenders” – keep reading.

You might want to strongly consider having a backup loan. When you’ve decided who your first choice lender will be, ask the next best lender if they will be your backup. They might, if they don’t think the first lender can deliver. If they’re right, you’ll be signing their paperwork at the end. You will need to do everything necessary so that both loans are ready to go. The backup loan is useless to you if it’s not ready to go at the same time as the main one. You may have to pay for an extra appraisal, but it’s $300 or so well spent.

mandollar

If you decide not to have a backup loan, you will have to sign whatever papers your one lender gives you, whether they deliver on their promises or not – you won’t have a choice unless you decide to renege on your purchase contract, which can be extremely expensive, as you can imagine.

Having said all that, I have only been involved in one settlement where the buyer had a backup loan waiting in case the first one fell through (it didn’t). Most of my buyer clients have used mortgage officers I knew would deliver. I have seen a couple of situations where the settlement (my sellers) was delayed because the buyers’ lender was incompetent or untruthful, and it’s not a pleasant place to be for anyone.

UPDATE: Here is a great post about What To Look For In A Mortgage Lender


Things That Make You Say, “Hmmmm . . .”

February 10, 2009

graphLooking at the January 2009 data for the housing market in Northern Virginia (Fairfax and Arlington Counties; Falls Church, Fairfax and Alexandria Cities), the year-over-year trends of the past several months are continuing – sales are up (+39%), active listings are down (-16%), pending sales are up (+23%) and sales prices continue to run 20-25% below those of a year ago, and -30% from two years ago. Average days on market is declining but is still in the 100 range (for sold homes).

The absorption rate has picked up from December’s 5-month figure – we have about 7.5 months of homes on the market now, in the low “buyer’s market” range – largely, I think, because a sizable number of sellers were waiting until after the holidays to put their homes on the market.

There is a lot of action in the sub-$300,000 detached home market. Here are some interesting numbers: 

homesalepriceDetached Homes for sale under $300,000:

  • January 2008   =   55
  • January 2009   =   436

Detached Homes sold under $300,000:

  • January 2008   =   8
  • January 2009   =   90

Here’s another interesting number:

Homes financed through FHA/VA:

  • January 2008   =   39
  • January 2009   =   328
bankrate

So the government guaranteed the mortgages of over 33% of all homes sold in January 2009. In the entire year of 2006, FHA/VA loans totaled 253, or only 1% of sales in Northern Virginia. Wow.

The mortgage market has been volatile and will continue to be, though the federal government will do all it can to hold it down until the economic outlook improves. Rates are now in the 5.4% range for 30-year fixed. The chart from Bankrate.com shows the last 3 months’ rate movements in Virginia.

The government has a lot of things going on – from Congress to the Treasury to the Federal Reserve to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. So many are up in the air that it would be foolish to write about them today.

All the more reason to subscribe to my blog!

Kim Hannemann, Real Estate Consultant/Realtor®, Samson Realty
Cell: 703-861-9234 • Fax: 703-896-5055 • Email: KimTheAgent@gmail.com
It’s Good To Have A Friend In The Business®

samson-realty-and-bird

If you would like to discuss real estate questions, sell or buy a home in Northern Virginia – including Alexandria, Annandale, Arlington, Burke, Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton, Fairfax, Fairfax Station, Falls Church, Kingstowne, Lorton, McLean, Reston, Springfield, or Vienna – contact Kim today.

4 – 4.5% Listings with First-Class Service


Let’s All Think About DRAINAGE!

February 10, 2009

springrainSpring is on the way, and it will probably bring a fair amount of rain. Combine that with melting snow – assuming we get any – and we might start to think about drainage. Some of us cringe at the sight of rainfall, looking outside to see half of the yard engulfed in water. Others relish the fact that we live uphill from the neighbors or have handled the run-off with no problem in previous years. Regardless of which scenario in which you find yourself, drainage control is a major priority in every landscape.

Proper drainage control reduces or eliminates excess water in your landscape, which can help to protect your home from water damage and eliminate mosquitoes and other bugs that breed in the still water in your yard. There are several different options that can help to solve drainage problems. The difficult part for the homeowner is choosing the solution that will work best for their unique landscape. Here is a quick overview of several available options:

Dry Creekbed

POSITIVE GRADING
Positive grading uses the existing land contour or a manipulated version of existing contour to direct the water to a specific location. This is one of the most helpful solutions. However, manipulation of the site may require it to be accompanied by one of the other solution types.

CREEKBEDS AND SWALES
Creekbeds and swales are a more recent solution to correcting drainage problems. They’re filled with various-sized stones, and a few large boulders are added for additional aesthetics. Water is allowed to flow through creekbeds and swales, helping to control flooding and erosion.

PIPING

French Drain

French Drain

Piping is typically used with downspouts or in “French drains” (also known as “freedom drains” during the W administration). This solution takes the water from a specific problem area and pushes it through a pipe to another location. At the new location, either positive grading takes over to disperse the water, or a collection area is developed to handle the water (see Sustainable Solutions).

Sustainable System

Sustainable System

SUSTAINABLE SOLUTIONS
Sustainable solutions are the up-and-coming answer in drainage control. They reduce the flow of water to storm drains from homes and businesses. Typically, these solutions work well in locations where water can be collected (and sometimes filtered) to be used for additional purposes throughout the landscape. Sustainable solutions not only reduce or eliminate excess water in your yard, but also benefit the environment by preventing pollutants from entering our watersheds.

Remember, each landscape is unique and may require a different solution or a combination of solutions to properly correct drainage problems.

Many thanks to Jeff Findley, our Landscape Designer from Professional Grounds

 

Kim Hannemann, Real Estate Consultant/Realtor®, Samson Realty
Cell: 703-861-9234 • Fax: 703-896-5055 • Email: KimTheAgent@gmail.com
It’s Good To Have A Friend In The Business®

samson-realty-and-bird

If you would like to discuss real estate questions, sell or buy a home in Northern Virginia – including Alexandria, Annandale, Arlington, Burke, Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton, Fairfax, Fairfax Station, Falls Church, Kingstowne, Lorton, McLean, Reston, Springfield, or Vienna – contact Kim today.

4 – 4.5% Listings with First-Class Service