Category Archives: Selling your home

3 Tips to Attain a Higher Home Appraisal

Somewhere between applying for a home loan and the close of escrow comes a most crucial step: the home appraisal. Since the transaction that got you to this point is one in which a buyer and seller agreed on a price, an actual market dynamic, the appraisal is likely to match the purchase price.

In fluctuating markets however, especially those going up after being down for some time, low appraisals frequently occur. For instance, as the nation climbed out from under the explosion of distressed sales, it took some time for home appraisals to even out. The gap was understandable, given that appraisers were basing market values on many homes that had foreclosed or sold via short sale.

Although there is nothing a homeowner can do about nearby properties that affect the market value of all homes in the area, there are things he or she can do to help achieve a higher figure at appraisal. Here are three ways to increase your home appraisal.

1. Arm the Appraiser With Accurate Info

“The reality is that the appraiser is only there for 30 minutes at most,” Brian Coester, chief executive of appraisal management company CoesterVMS, toldReuters. Thirty minutes to make a good first impression is a tall order.

Put together an information packet that the appraiser can take when she heads back to the office to crunch the numbers. Here are some items to include in the packet:

The facts – Make a list of facts about your home, including the street address, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and the year it was built. Yes, the appraiser has access to these details, but verification from you can’t hurt.

A list of recent sales – The appraiser has access to area home sale prices, but there is always the possibility of an error or two. Ask your real estate agent to print out a list of comparable homes in the area that have recently sold for prices that help justify your price.

Inside information – Include any information you may have that the appraiser can’t possibly be aware of, such as the fact that your next-door neighbor sold his home at a drastically reduced price to be able to quickly relocate for a new job out of town.

Improvements – Let the appraiser know about any improvements you’ve made to the home, the date they were made and the contact information of the contractor who performed the work. Include info about new floors, windows, countertops or a new roof. If you finished the basement, list that. Any work on or replacement of major systems should go on the list, too.

2. Spiff Up Your Home

While you don’t need to stage your home for the appraiser’s visit, you do want to show that the house has been well maintained.

“Things like overgrown landscaping, soiled carpeting, marks on walls — those do affect value and are part of the property’s overall condition rating,” Dean Zibas of Zibas Appraisal in San Clemente, Calif., told the Wall Street Journal.

Certified residential appraiser Ralph J. Vaccari of Marblehead, Mass., agrees. “It’s important to realize that a dirty or unkempt home can increase its appearance of wear and tear beyond normal, and that condition can, in fact, affect value.”

So get busy cleaning up the landscaping and sprucing up the interior of the home in advance of the appraisal appointment.

3. Make Repairs

The appraiser will assign an “effective age” to the home, which is based on the condition of the home and any updates performed.

“Say you have a cracked window, thread-bare carpet, some tiles falling off the shower surround, vinyl torn in the laundry room, and the dog ate the corner of the fireplace hearth. These items could still add up to an overall average condition rating as the home is still habitable, however your effective age will be higher, resulting in comparables being utilized which will have the same effective age, and resulting in lower value,” Doreen Zimmerman, an author and appraiser in Paradise, Calif., told the Journal.

Make any repairs that, if not made, would age the home in the eyes of the appraiser. Some of these may be as simple as replacing torn window screens, while others may be more substantial.

While the sale prices of comparable properties are relied upon heavily to ascertain the subject property’s value, appraisers do not solely depend upon them. All pertinent data, including some intangible aspects, will help determine the closest estimate of the value of a property. And these are often the aspects of the appraisal process that you can have an influence on.

Article courtesy of KW Market Insider Tips


When Will Home Prices and the Real Estate Market Rebound?

Consumers Want to Buy, but Waiting for the Right Time

A survey released this week by Hanley Wood shows that recovery is still evading the U.S. housing market. Consumers are in no hurry to buy a home even though they believe in homeownership as well as the significance of a healthy housing market in aiding economic recovery. “We thought people would be soured after watching home values fall, but instead we found the typical American still places high value on homeownership,” said Frank Anton, CEO of Hanley Wood in a release.

The media and data research company polled about 3,000 homeowners and renters in June and more than 68 percent of respondents believed that the time was right to buy a house. But, their belief and wishes were dampened by the realities of today’s economy, the survey found. Unemployment, strict lending practices and an uncertain future continue to take its toll on consumers. “As long as buyers are uncertain about what’s happening in the economy and where house prices are headed, they are going to be slow to move. There is no urging the market,” Kent Colton, a senior fellow at Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies told Reuters. There is a silver lining though. The survey found that 29 percent of renters and 19 percent of homeowners are considering buying a home in the next two years. Those numbers mean an upward of two million potential buyers are waiting for the right time to plunge into the market.

Now that could definitely be a game changer.

Home Prices May Not Climb Upward Soon

Without an aggressive and creative solution, home prices will not pick up and aid in economic recovery, according to new forecasts. Home values will continue to fall for years, says a poll conducted by the Professional Risk Managers’ International Association for research firm FICO. The poll conducted among industry experts found that bankers expect delinquencies on consumer loans to rise, underwriting to be stricter. They also expect the housing market to continue to struggle for a while. Forty-nine percent of the respondents said they don’t expect home prices to touch 2007 levels before 2020. Mortgage delinquencies will remain at a high for at least another five years, an overwhelming 73 percent of respondents said. The findings indicate that more needs to be done to aid the housing market toward a speedy recovery. Aggressive steps toward creating jobs is not a good enough catalyst for rejuvenating the housing market. Also, the never-before-seen low mortgage rates are good, but they are doing little to help the market when lenders are following strict lending guidelines.

Miami Magic Returns

Sellers are again smiling in the Miami market. Home sales in the city are up 50 percent so far this year, according to the Miami Association of Realtors. “People were saying, ‘Oh look at all those empty buildings in Miami,’ Oliver Ruiz, managing broker at Fortune Realty and former residential president of the Miami Realtors’ Association told the Voice of America. “Well, all those empty buildings are now full.” Foreign buyers are responsible for the major turnaround. Miami has always been an attractive destination with its beaches, nightlife and fine dining. Buyers are pouring in from all over the world to have “a piece of the pie in Miami,” Ruiz said.

Cap on Mortgages Eligible for Federal Loans Reduced

As if falling prices and stricter lending were not enough blows, the housing market received another terrible punch when the cap on mortgages eligible for federal loans was lowered. According to The Real Deal, only loans of $625,500 or less would be eligible for lower down payments and interest rates as compared to the previous limit of $729,750. This rule, of course, applies to the country’s most expensive markets. The changes baffled experts who are wondering why the government decided to act on this when the market is already comatose. Certainly not good news for sellers and buyers, who are already struggling.

Homeownership Sees Biggest Drop Since Depression, Despite Second Largest Ownership Rates

Homeownership rates plummeted to 65.1 percent in 2010, according to new data released by the U.S. Census this week. Tighter credit, unemployment rate and reduced government involvement could prevent the country from returning to its home ownership peak levels earlier in the decade, the story said. The trend is driven by more and more young adults moving in with their parents. Also, homeownership levels among middle-aged adults are at their lowest because of foreclosures or bankruptcy. Another significant find was that the homeownership gap between whites and blacks is at its widest since 1960, the AP story said.


Latest Breaking News on Housing Market

First up is some positive breaking news for the housing market. Shadow inventory of homes is declining, providing a dose of good news for the glum housing market. Shadow inventory, or homes on the verge of foreclosure, fell to 1.6 million units representing a five-months supply in July compared to 1.9 million units representing a six-months supply a year ago, according to CoreLogic. It’s a good sign that troubled homes, normally headed toward foreclosures, are getting sold faster. Lesser inventory will help stabilize falling prices on homes for sale. Of course we won’t be seeing a drastic change in numbers, but even a small percentage of troubled homes off the market is a blessing for sellers and the industry as a whole.

“The steady improvement in the shadow inventory is a positive development for the housing market,” CoreLogic Chief Economist Mark Gleming said in a press release. “However, continued price declines, high levels of negative equity and a sluggish labor market will keep the shadow supply elevated for an extended period of time.”

Housing Prices Increase, but not Enough

Some more indication of baby steps toward a market recovery. For the fourth consecutive month, home prices were on the upswing in July compared to the previous month. But the bump wasn’t good enough to give the market a clean bill of health, yet. According to data released by S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices, home prices across 20 major urban areas in July remained flat when adjusted seasonally, and down 4.1 percent compared to a year earlier, despite showing a 0.9 percent gain. The trend of prices rising is a good sign, analysts said.

“With July’s data we are seeing not only anticipated monthly increases, but some fairly broad improvement in the annual rates of change in home prices,” said S&P’s David Blitzer, according to an AFP story. However, he said, “if you look at the state of the overall economy and, in particular, the recent large decline in consumer confidence, these combined statistics continue to indicate that the housing market is still bottoming and has not turned around.” Prices across the country were at the level of 2003, according to the report.

Mortgage Rates Continue to Slide

Here’s more music for the ears of potential homebuyers. Nudged by the Federal Reserve’s proposal to reduce borrowing costs, mortgage rates fell to the lowest in Freddie Mac’s recorded history this week. Rates on a 30-year-fixed loan hit an unimaginable 4.01 percent, down from 4.09 percent. On a 15-year loan rates dropped to 3.27 percent. The lucrative rates are aimed to lure consumers toward buying and refinancing their existing mortgages. Many are taking the bait. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, there was a 9.7 percent rise in loan applications last week. However, a good section of consumers have not been able to take advantage of the rates because of stricter lending standards.

Existing Home Sales Drop

Some good news for buyers which turns out to be not-so-good news for sellers. Sale of existing homes dropped 1.2 percent in August, according to an index by the National Association of Realtors. The measure shows that sales dipped to 88.6 percent in August from 88.7 percent the prior month. The data, which takes into consideration signed contracts but unclosed deals, shows that the numbers are higher when compared to the same period last year, but that’s hardly a consolation since last year’s showing was affected by the expiration of a federal tax credit for homebuyers. Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist in a press release blamed the numbers on an uneven market.

“The biggest monthly decline was in the Northeast, which was significantly disrupted by Hurricane Irene in the closing weekend of August,” he said. “But broadly speaking, contract signing activity has been holding in a narrow range for many months.” If you are looking to buy, now may be a time to get involved in the market, Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist for Capital Economics, told the Wall Street Journal. But, a lot of people have been unable to cash in on the situation, he said. Some analysts blame the job market and slipping consumer confidence. In these shaky times, many people prefer to rent than invest their savings on a new home.

How Do I Calculate the Value of My Home?

What is the fair market value of my home?

These are two very common questions when people are considering selling a home. Talk to any real estate agent, and the first thing they’ll tell you about calculating home value is that location is a big factor, but not the only factor. After the big real estate crash many people are asking themselves,  “What is the fair market value of my home?”

Most of us understand there are more factors involved in calculating home value than just granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. We also know that there are online sources like that can assist with determining house values by address. is one of the best ways to calculate the market value of your house because it doesn’t just use algorithms and general housing data. has a local real estate expert in your area to determine the real fair market value of your home. It’s okay if you are just checking out the value of your home and aren’t actually ready to sell your house. Asking an agent to help with calculating your home value is very common in today’s economy. Many people are wondering, ôCould we sell our home if we had to or wanted to?ö

Whether you are trying to calculate the value of your home because you are thinking of selling or just out of curiosity, here are five factors to consider.

Five Factors that Help Determine the Market Value of Your Home

Home Location

Location is the key influence for calculating the value of your home. Besides the proximity of the home to a major metropolitan area or a breathtaking view, these are a few more location factors that can increase home value:

  • Proximity to schools, parks and points of interest

Homes within reasonable walkability to schools or parks will strongly influence buyers with small children. However, homes that boarder school or park property lines may suffer in home value due to unwanted traffic, parking limitations and the likelihood of youth mischief.

  • Neighborhood with increasing desirability

Where is new growth heading in town? Will there be any new business areas, grocery stores, or libraries in the future?

  • Proximity to infrastructure

Is the house surrounded by other houses? Apartment complexes? Other buildings? The best possible situation for your home is to be situated between two other houses and located along a road without yellow traffic lines.

Homebuyer Demographics

After you buy a house, the market value of your home is affected by who else is likely to purchase the property. If the property is a perfect starter home for pre-family newlyweds, and the main homebuyers in town are senior-citizens, the fair market value of your home might be lower than you think.

Older buyers typically look for one story homes without stairs, whereas families with small children often desire homes with a front yard away from a busy street and multiple bathtubs.

Home Storage Space

The more closets, garages and laundry rooms a house has, the higher the fair market value of your home. Most homebuyers look for a walk-in closet in the master bedroom, as well as closets in high traffic areas like front entryways, bathrooms and other bedrooms.

The two-door garage is the most common size for most homes, yet three-car garages are becoming more and more common.

As for the laundry room, the washer and dryer units should be located together in a common access space without creating an eyesore.


The kitchen is the most active area of a home. Typically, the following features add value to the kitchen:

  • Granite countertops
  • Stainless steel appliances
  • Gas stovetops
  • Convection ovens and microwaves
  • Ice machines
  • Cable television access ports

Also, the proximity of the kitchen to the dining room and family room will impact the usability of the house and thus is a factor in calculating the value of your home.

Home Layout and Size

Homebuyers typically look for homes with three to five bedrooms with an average of one shower per every two bedrooms. Split bedroom plans with bedrooms on opposite sides of the house are a popular trend with modern homes. Also, many real estate professionals love to use the phrase ôlight and brightö to highlight homes with lots of natural lighting.

As for size, most residential neighborhoods will have a slight variation in square-footage and number of rooms, but they all should be within a standard deviation of one another. If resale value of your home is a big concern, it’s in your best interest to not buy the largest home in the neighborhood. When calculating the market value of your home, real estate professionals measure the homes in the surrounding area against yours, and if most of the nearby properties are smaller than yours, it can act as an anchor to drag down your fair market value.


How Your Garden Grows: The Effect of Trees on Property Value

Return on Investment: Home Improvement Lists Should Include Landscaping

With real estate values down across the U.S., it is important for homeowners to do what they can to try to improve property values, and the effect of trees on property values is often overlooked. Most articles that focus on the return on investment of home improvements list kitchens and bathrooms. Although improving these areas of your home can yield good returns on investment, these improvements can also be quite costly and, in today’s market, the return may not be as great as it once was.

The Value of a Tree in Your Yard

Your next home improvement project may be as simple as planting a tree. What’s the best return on investment for home improvements that increase your home’s value? What are some of the common characteristics of old, wealthy neighborhoods? Think about it. Most of them have big, old trees! Plant a tree in your yard. The value of a tree in your yard will increase as it grows.

If you will be in your home for a few years, plant a tree in your yard in the eight to 10 foot range. The cost of a tree this size should be in the $100 to $150 range, depending on species. If you are planting something more sought after, like Japanese maples, expect to pay more, but the value of these trees also increases more as they mature. The Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers states that a mature tree can often have an appraised value of $1,000 and $10,000. Planting a tree just may yield the best return on investment. And a home improvement project this easy can’t be beat. Dig a hole, twice the diameter of the tree’s root ball, plant your tree, keep it watered until established, and watch as the value of the tree in your yard grows along with the value of your home.

Effect of Trees on Property Value

The value of a tree in your yard can improve your property value more than you may think. The Arbor Day Foundation cites some of the following effects of trees on property values:

  • The effect of trees on property value. Landscaping can add approximately 10 to 20 percent more value to a property – especially landscaping that incorporates mature trees. Commercial areas with trees also attract more customers (and they stay longer and spend more money), and apartments with trees have reduced tenant turnover.
  • The effect of trees on resale value. A well-chosen tree adds curb appeal and makes the home appear established within its environment. According to the Arbor Day Foundation’s research, 83 percent of realtors believe that mature trees have a ‘strong or moderate impact’ on the salability of homes listed for under $150,000; on homes over $250,000, this perception increases to 98 percent.
  • The effect of trees on energy efficiency. Depending on how your home is sited on your property, trees can provide shade during the heat of summer or protect your home from the winds in winter. This effect of trees can cut cooling and heating costs. According to the U.S. Forest Service, trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent and can save 20 to 50 percent in energy used for heating.ö If you’re selling your home, this effect of trees on your home could be a real selling point when talking to potential homebuyers.
  • The effect of trees on the senses. Whether it’s a tree’s first blossoms of spring or the vibrant reds, oranges, and golds of fall, trees usher in the seasons and announce their passing. Even the bare branches and bark of deciduous trees can be stunning against a stark winter landscape or dusted with snow. Don’t discount the effect a beautiful tree could have in winning over the heart of a potential homebuyer.
  • The value of trees for the good of the planet. If you’re not convinced yet of the value of trees in your yard, consider this. Trees do more than provide decoration. As we learned in elementary school, trees absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, which helps reduce the impacts of fossil fuel use and keep the planet in balance. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that the net cooling effect of a young, healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day.  In addition to this effect, tree roots also reduce soil erosion and storm runoff. These days, educated homebuyers and gardeners are interested in energy efficiency and water quality. If you’ve invested time and energy to plant some trees and improve your landscape, the value of a tree in your yard will earn its weight when it comes to winning over potential homebuyers who care about sustainability.
  • The effect of trees on your mood. Communities with more trees report lower crime rates and lower levels of anxiety. In one study from Texas A&M University, looking at trees reduced stress within five minutes, as indicated by changes in blood pressure and muscle tension. Communities with lower levels of anxiety and lower crime rates also tend to have higher property values.
  • The effect of trees on privacy. A well-sited tree can screen a house from a busy road or a noisy neighbor. The effect of mature trees can create an extension of your home and provide an additional, outdoor room where street noise and the visual impacts of other houses are minimized.

In combination, the effects of trees on property value listed above can provide substantial return on investment for a relatively low-cost home improvement project. Never underestimate the value of a tree in your yard.