Keeping Current Matters

National Association of Realtors

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Homebuyer Insights: How Local Schools Could Impact Your Future Home’s Value

By Jeffrey Fagan
The desire to be settled into a new home in time for the start of a new school year is one of the primary driving forces behind the annual real estate buying and selling cycle. In Orlando, for example, where school began in mid-August, our transaction numbers traditionally peak in July.
Those who wish to time their move in conjunction with a school calendar should start the home-search process early, especially where low inventory and high buyer competition make securing a desirable property a challenge. Taking into consideration the typical four to six weeks it takes to close, it's not unreasonable to begin looking at available homes a good four months out.
Advance preparation is key when house-hunting in an area that's popular because of its schools (or because of any reason, really). It's important to be ready to make an offer quickly on a home, so you'll want to have your list of wants and needs worked out. And, it's critical to have your financing ducks in a row. Get pre-approved for a mortgage and go through a blank purchase offer with your REALTOR® so you'll be aware of the many decisions you'll be facing.
Schools and Home Values
Schools are, of course, an influence on surrounding home prices. A good school district can increase buyer demand within its boundaries, which in turn increases home values. Homes located in high-scoring school districts attract more buyers, including parents who want their children to go to good schools and others who understand that a good school district helps protect a home's resale value.
On the flip side, a struggling school district can experience less buyer demand, which restrains home values. In addition, a low-scoring public school can decrease the availability of amenities in the area and increase the proportion of renters to homeowners.
Home prices are generally not as impacted by nearby private schools, since attendance to private schools is not dependent on home location. That same theory can sometimes apply to public schools: Even if two elementary schools feed into the same high school, the more desirable elementary school could easily command higher home prices within its attendance boundary.
Prospective homebuyers should explore school districts' websites and visit schools personally to meet with administrators when house-hunting with education in mind. They should also be aware of educational options offered by the district that are not dependent on property location, such as magnet programs and charter schools. For example, many lower-performing high schools in Florida house International Baccalaureate programs and many lower-performing elementary schools receive additional financing and special support; the homes surrounding these schools may be priced lower than those in better districts nearby, yet still offer good educational opportunities.
Buyers can benefit by engaging a local REALTOR® for assistance. In addition to offering traditional services (facilitating showings, negotiating contracts, recommending lenders, following inspections, etc.), REALTORS® can serve as the expert "source of the source" when it comes to educating buyers about districts and schools. District and individual school websites are valuable resources, as are state departments of education. Even private publications and online entities uncovered by a simple Google search gather data and post reviews, and many offer rankings.

Nancy M. Alexander - Stone Harbor and Avalon NJ Real Estate

Saturday, September 21, 2019

If You Want to Be Happy… Consider Moving!

Like everyone else, you're probably living your life in search of happiness. Makes sense—that's all anybody wants, right?
But did you know that simply moving can point you in the right direction? While we make no promises that you'll find complete bliss in one of these spots, WalletHub says these are the happiest states in the U.S., ranked by factors related to "good economic, emotional, physical and social health" that can help you lead a "well-balanced and fulfilled life."
Source: WalletHub

Here are the top five places where happiness reportedly lies:
  1. Hawaii
Total Score: 66.48
Emotional & Physical Well-Being Rank: 1
Work Environment Rank: 25
Community & Environment Rank: 12
  1. Utah
Total Score: 66.48
Emotional & Physical Well-Being Rank: 15
Work Environment Rank: 1
Community & Environment Rank: 2
  1. Minnesota
Total Score:  65.57
Emotional & Physical Well-Being Rank: 3
Work Environment Rank: 6
Community & Environment Rank: 15
  1. California
Total Score: 64.11
Emotional & Physical Well-Being Rank: 4
Work Environment Rank: 12
Community & Environment Rank: 16
  1. New Jersey
Total Score: 60.54
Emotional & Physical Well-Being Rank: 2
Work Environment Rank: 45
Community & Environment Rank: 24
The report considered 31 key factors (such as depression rate, sports participation and income growth) across all 50 states. Surprisingly enough, money doesn’t always equal happiness! WallHub found that happiness only increases with wealth up to an annual income range of $75,000-95,000, so think about that before jumping to another state in search of more money.
If you're going through a bout of depression and are looking for relief, head to Hawaii, New Jersey, Nevada, New York and Georgia, where adult depression rates are at the lowest, currently. In the same vein, you may want to stay away from Oregon, Arkansas, Vermont, West Virginia and Maine, which are seeing the highest rates compared to other states.
If your career is stressing you out, there are states that require fewer work hours all around—head to Utah, Oregon and Rhode Island for a reprieve. And if you think money really is the root of all your problems, look to North Dakota, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii since they have the highest income growth.
Happiness is highly subjective, so you'll want to consider your own unique situation to determine what you need in order to keep you feeling fulfilled. Then you can use that as a guide to figuring out where you best belong state-wise!
For more information on the report findings, click here.

Nancy M. Alexander - Stone Harbor and Avalon NJ Real Estate

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Why You Need to Update Your Home Before Listing It

By Anica Oaks
A home purchase is often the biggest investment a person will make in their life. When the time comes to sell your house, you want to get the best price possible. If you explore one of the many real estate sites online, you'll notice that many homeowners make a point of updating their homes before selling.
Here are a few of the many reasons why people modernize their homes before listing them:

New Buyers Don't Want to Immediately Remodel

Major remodels can create a state of chaos in a home that most new homebuyers would rather avoid. Additionally, the costs involved in buying a new home, moving and settling a family into a new space can be significant. They may not be able to do the remodeling projects that are needed for a significant period of time. Buyers will look more favorably upon and be willing to shell out more cash for a home that already has many improvements taken care of.

Strategic Updates Attract More Buyers

Individuals who are considering putting their homes on the market should understand that real estate agents do a great deal of marketing online and through social media. A good visual impression of your home will spark interest in more buyers. An updated kitchen or bathroom, fresh paint throughout the house and new flooring all provide good visual impact that will draw buyers to your listing. Choices for your upgrade should use the most neutral color palettes and most desirable materials, as these will appeal to the greatest number of potential buyers.

Make Your Home More Competitive in the Market

If a homebuyer's choice comes down to one home with desirable features that has not been updated or a home that has been updated but may not be as desirable, buyers are more likely to make an offer on the one that shows signs of TLC and has recently been remodeled. When your home already looks amazing, potential buyers will be able to focus their attention on other aspects of making the home their own.
Most real estate experts will recommend updating your home before putting it on the market, but not to such an extent that you cannot recoup your costs. Some projects, such as kitchen or bathroom remodels, new flooring and exterior maintenance, have a great record of making homes more appealing to buyers, allowing sellers to see a return on their investment.

Nancy M. Alexander - Stone Harbor and Avalon NJ Real Estate

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Real Estate and Technology: A Matter of Meeting Needs

Commentary by Suzanne De Vita
It's a common problem: Brokerages heavily invest in technology, often to have it seldom utilized, or inadvertently result in "tool fatigue." (It's real!)
Agents are frustrated. Brokers, stumped. If the goal is to keep up with technology, why the abysmal adoption rates?
According to findings from the National Association of REALTORS®, recently released, brokerages commonly emphasize specific tools:
  • CMAs and e-signature solutions (84 percent)
  • Multiple listing service (83 percent)
  • Electronic forms (82 percent)
At the same time, approximately 35 percent of agents are asking their brokers for CRM and/or predictive tools.
What does that tell us? Agents are eager to implement intelligent, synchronized technology, but are caught in a case of mismatched priorities. For them, it's about generating leads and referrals; for brokers, it's about leads, but also managing transactions.
In another interpretation: Agents are focused on nurturing their relationships, and hungry for solutions to support that. (According to NAR, in their day-to-day, 93 percent depend on email, and 95 percent on their smartphone—an indicator of how necessary it is for them to remain in touch.)
In addition, to cultivate their relationships, agents rely on social media, and with good reason. According to the findings from NAR, the highest-quality leads originate on social media, and agents leverage it to "promote business" (26 percent) and "help build/maintain relationships with existing clients." (Facebook is by far the most popular, at 97 percent usage, followed by LinkedIn at 59 percent and Instagram at 39 percent.) Just 13 percent of agents, however, have access to post scheduling tools, which can help with outreach significantly.
On the flip side, 46 percent of brokers are concerned about "keeping up with technology" in the next two years, NAR's stats show, as they contend with evolving systems and tools.
When it comes to consumer needs and technology, however, they're answering the call. When house-hunting online, 87 percent of homebuyers are looking for photos of the property, and 85 percent for detailed information about the listing. Ninety-four percent of brokerages feature listings on their website, giving homebuyers the information they need in their search.
Also, although 76 percent of buyers found their house in a mobile search, just 17 percent found their REALTOR® the same way. Aside from buyers clicking from their desktop, this could indicate two things:
  • Brokerages lack mobile-responsive websites. (In my humble opinion, unlikely.)
  • Buyers depend on recommendations and word-of-mouth, in addition to internet testimonials. (According to NAR, 57 percent of brokers include testimonials on their website, and 76 percent include agent profiles.)

Nancy M. Alexander - Stone Harbor and Avalon NJ Real Estate

Monday, September 2, 2019

Top 5 Landscaping Tips to Increase Property Value

Editor's Note: This post was originally published on August 4, 2015. Housecall continues to share this piece due to ongoing requests and reader interest.
Contributed by Rick Ryan
Landscaping is one of the most important ways to increase your property’s value quickly. In fact, a gorgeous landscape design can increase the value of your home by at least 5 to 11 percent—and maybe more. The best part about landscaping is that even though it’s one of the most valuable home improvements you can make, it’s also one of the easiest. If you’re wondering how to turn your landscape into one of your home’s most valuable assets, here are some tips to get you started.
1. Match Landscape to Your Home’s Style
The best way to get an excellent return on investment with landscaping is to make sure it fits with your home’s style. For instance, if you own a Victorian home, a Japanese garden will be sorely out of place and may even lower your home’s value rather than add to it. In this instance, you’re much better off with a country or cottage-style landscape that blends in with the old-fashioned formality of your home.
The same holds true for more modern home styles, such as the prairie or industrial style. If your home falls into one of these categories, you’ll want to stay away from square, formal gardens or a profusion of airy blooms. Instead, create a more modern landscape by relying on plenty of greenery and natural-looking beds that fit the contours of your property.
2. Design With a Strategy in Mind
You’ll need to have a good strategy. That means you shouldn’t clutter the entire yard with various high-maintenance plantings, but you also shouldn’t have plain grass with no landscaping. A study by the Virginia Tech Department of Horticulture found that a good foundation planting along with a couple of well-designed points of interest can increase your home’s value by up to 42 percent.
By that same token, you should encourage diversity among your plantings without taking it too far. The ideal landscape has a good mixture of shrubs and perennials, but it doesn’t have one of every kind of plant that you can find at the garden center. Instead, it has a uniform look with just enough diversity to make it interesting, but not so little that it becomes boring.
3. Achieve Seasonal Balance
A profusion of spring blooms won’t interest potential buyers who look at your home during other parts of the year. Think about ways to make your landscape attractive all year — blooming bulbs for spring, annual beds around the house during the summer, shrubs with brightly colored leaves in the fall, and evergreens for the winter. Even though most buyers will be looking at your home during one season, they’ll notice the balance you’ve created and they’ll think about how beautiful the home will be as the seasons change.
Related Link: 7 Exterior Home Improvements That Increase Resale Value
4. Plant Trees
A few simple trees can make an enormous difference to the sale price of your home. In one study, simply living on a tree-lined street added between 10 to 15 percent to the sale price compared to neighborhoods with fewer trees. So why are trees worth so much? Trees remove carbon dioxide and pollution from the air, so people view them as an eco-friendly option. The shade helps keep neighborhoods and homes cooler and more pleasant, which in turn cuts air conditioning costs. Trees are also a stress reliever — people enjoy relaxing in their shade or gazing at the leafy view.
5. Edge Your Lawn
Few things look nicer than a healthy, vibrant, carefully maintained lawn — except for a lawn that is all of those things and neatly edged. The confined look of an edged lawn gives it an easy-to-maintain look. In other words, no weed whipping or weeding required.
Edging along driveways, sidewalks and garden beds also shows prospective buyers how meticulous you have been concerning the property’s upkeep. They’ll know that if you’re willing to keep the edges of your yard looking nice, the rest of the property is likely in pristine condition, too.
Of all improvements to boost home value, landscape is one that will get you the largest return on your investment.  Just make sure that you design your landscape with a plan, and don’t let that design become so complex that the mere thought of all the maintenance chases away your buyers.

Nancy M. Alexander - Stone Harbor and Avalon NJ Real Estate