How to Sell a Haunted House

Every house has a history, but what if the house you’re trying to sell has a history that is a bit more…ghoulish than most? If you or your community believes a house is haunted, it can make selling a bit more difficult. However, there a several options for someone with a spooky property to sell. Just follow a few simple steps to get the haunted house off your hands.

The first thing you will want to establish is if you are required to inform potential buyers of their future paranormal roommates. To answer that, you will want to consult your Realtor® about your state’s disclosure laws. “Haunted houses fall into the category of stigmatized properties, Dave Ferguson, Ada County Association of Realtors® President. “Laws vary by state, so you may be required to inform buyers in writing of any possible problems.”

Even if you don’t have to disclose, it’s still a good idea to give your buyers a heads up. “If your house is known around the community to be haunted, the spooks will eventually let the buyer know,” said Ferguson. “It can create a lot of goodwill if can tell potential buyers to expect a couple of bumps in the night.”

There is a chance that your haunted house may even be a selling point. “Strange as it may sound, there are people who would love to live in a haunted house,” said Ferguson. A survey from realtor.com®, revealed that 62 percent of respondents would consider buying a haunted house. “You can work with a Realtor® to tap into that market in your community, perhaps marketing to clubs or organizations with an interest in the supernatural.”

If you can’t find an amateur paranormal investigator to buy your house, it might be time to lower the price. That same realtor.com® survey showed that nearly one third of buyers would expect a haunted property to be discounted up to 30 percent.

“If you’ve tried everything and nothing has worked, bringing the selling price down might be your only option,” said Ferguson. “If ghosts and ghouls have generated interest in your property, than a bargain price should do the trick.”

How to Make the Best Purchase Offer in a Seller’s Market

You’ve worked with a Realtor® to scour the listings, toured what feels like a million houses and finally found it: the house you want to call home. The next step is to make your purchase offer, and if you are like most people, the prospect can be quite intimidating. In a seller’s market, there can be even more pressure on the buyer to submit an impressive bid. So how can you make sure that the offer you submit is the one that is accepted?

“In a seller’s market, home prices are a bit higher and inventory is lower,” said Dave Ferguson, Ada County Association of REALTORS President. “This means you are more likely competing with multiple bidders. In a competitive market like this, sellers need every advantage they can get, and working with a Realtor® to make the best purchase offer is a smart move.” And, believe it or not, the bid with the highest price is not always the one that wins.

“Of course sellers want to get the best price for their home, but that isn’t always the deciding factor,” said Ferguson.  “Eliminating or reducing the number of contingencies with your bid, through things like pre-offer inspections, can also help make your offer stronger. The bid that causes the least amount of hassle for the seller is the one that will probably win.”

That doesn’t mean, however, that you should just submit a below market offer with no contingencies. “This is not the time to make a lowball offer,” said Ferguson. “When you are going up against more than one potential buyer, it’s the time to put your best foot forward.” This might be your one chance to convince the owner to sell their home to you, so it’s all the more important to submit your best possible purchase offer.”

If you can pay cash for your home, chances are your bid will be accepted. Sellers’ appreciate all-cash offers as they usually mean a quick, streamlined purchase. Financing issues, such as delays in mortgage approval or getting funds moved from the buyer’s bank account, are the primary causes of delays in the closing process. If a seller can avoid a lengthy or complicated process by choosing an all-cash buyer they likely will.

For most people, however, a cash offer isn’t a possibility, and you’ll need to qualify for some variety of mortgage financing. If this is your situation, Ferguson recommends getting preapproved for a mortgage before you begin the search process. “With loan preapproval, you’ll be able to make a solid commitment to buy, and your offer will be more appealing to the seller,” said Ferguson.

And of course, the most important thing that you can do to give yourself an advantage is to hire a Realtor®. “Realtors® have real insights and unparalleled knowledge of your local market and can help you navigate the complicated home buying process,” said Ferguson.

First-Time Buyers Face Obstacles on Path to Homeownership

For people with good jobs and strong credit, today’s real estate market is an attractive one ─ with low mortgage interest rates and continued affordability. However, some buyers, especially first-time buyers, are struggling to enter the market and don’t always find the home buying process easy.

According to the National Association of Realtors®, first-time buyers accounted for 26 percent of home purchases in January. This is down from 27 percent in December and 30 percent a year ago, making it the lowest level for first-time buyers since October 2008. This group of buyers should normally be closer to 40 percent of the market.

Why is the number of first-time buyers so low? Ada County Association of REALTORS (ACAR) says several factors are making it difficult for these buyers to purchase a home in today’s market. “Things like tight credit, limited inventory, higher home prices and higher mortgage interest rates are hindering first-time buyers,” said Dave Ferguson, ACAR President. “Traditionally, first-time buyers are instrumental in housing recoveries because they help existing homeowners sell and make a trade up to a larger home. Therefore, it’s important to make sure first-time buyers who are willing and able to purchase a home have the opportunity to do so.”

Recently, housing inventory has trended down and is now tight in many areas of the country. There are also widespread shortages of homes in the lower price ranges in much of the country. Home prices have been increasing over the past few years and mortgage interest rates are expected to increase in the year ahead. In addition, Ferguson, says today’s tight credit restrictions are preventing some qualified first-time buyers, who typically make smaller down payments, from becoming homeowners.

Student debt has also been cited as an obstacle to owning a home for first-time buyers. An NAR survey showed that of the first-time buyers who said it was difficult to save for a down payment, 54 percent said student loans made it tough to save money.

With all of these obstacles, it’s easy for first-time buyers to feel confused and hesitant about buying a home. However, here are a few tips ACAR suggests first-time buyers take into account:

  • Review your finances. Before beginning the home search process, buyers should determine what they can afford. Carefully evaluate your income, savings and credit report. Also collect documentation of income and cash available to prepare for the mortgage application process. A lender can evaluate your finances to qualify and approve you for a loan amount. Ferguson reminds first-time buyers to not forget other costs such as taxes, insurance and utilities when calculating a budget.
  • Determine your wish list. Once preapproved for a loan, buyers should consider what they need and want in a home. Whether it’s a certain number of bedrooms, a large kitchen, or to be close to schools or public transportation, it’s good to have an idea of what you’re looking for in a home and community. Ferguson recommends realtor.com® as a resource for buyers who want to find accurate, up-to-date listings in their area. Visiting open houses is also another good way for buyers to get a sense of what is currently available in their market and what their budget can afford.
  • Work with a Realtor®. Finally, ACAR reminds first-time buyers all real estate is local, so it’s important to work with a Realtor® who is familiar with your desired community. A Realtor® can provide valuable counsel, discuss listings, show you homes in person, negotiate on your behalf, and help you stay focused on the emotional and financial issues that are most important.

 

Sarah Kestler | Director of Communications

REALTORS Rate Remodeling Projects, Provide Improvement for Homeowners

When it comes to remodeling, homeowners often wonder if a project is worth the investment. According to the 2014 Cost vs. Value Report, several remodeling projects are not only valuable, but also return more than 78 percent of their costs upon resale. Many of those projects are exterior replacement projects, which Realtors® rated having the biggest bang for the buck.

“Exterior projects such as entry door, siding and window replacements can recoup homeowners a substantial amount upon resale,” said Dave Ferguson. “These types of projects are essential to home maintenance, so the good news is many homeowners are already doing them. Another plus is that these projects are generally inexpensive, and besides keeping your home functioning properly, they also add instant curb appeal. This is especially important if you are considering selling.”

The 2014 Cost vs. Value Report compares construction costs with resale value for 35 midrange and upscale remodeling projects in 100 markets across the country. Realtors® provided their insight into local markets and buyer home preferences within those markets. Overall Realtors® estimated that homeowners would recoup an average of 66.1 percent of their investment in 35 different improvement projects, an increase of 5.5 points over last year and the largest increase since 2005. For the second consecutive year, the value of remodeling is up for all of the projects included in the survey.

Eight of the top-10 most cost-effective projects nationally in terms of value recouped are exterior projects. Realtors® judged a steel entry door replacement as the project expected to return the most money, with an estimated 96.6 percent of costs recouped upon resale. It’s consistently the least expensive project, costing little more than $1,100 on average. Other worthwhile exterior projects included two different siding replacement projects, including fiber-cement siding, expected to return 87 percent of costs, and vinyl siding, expected to return 78.2 percent of costs. Two garage door replacement projects were also in the top 10, both expected to recoup more than 82 percent of costs. Rounding out the top exterior projects were two window replacement projects; wood window replacement and vinyl window replacement both recoup more than 78 percent of their costs.

According to Ada County Association of REALTORS each neighborhood is different and the desirability and resale value of a particular remodeling project varies. “That is why it’s important to work with a Realtor®,” said Ferguson.  “A Realtor® is the best resource for helping homeowners decide what improvement projects will provide the most return upon resale in your market. Realtors® have a unique understanding of local markets, desirable home features and buyer preferences.”

In addition to the exterior projects, two particular interior remodeling projects can recoup substantial value at resale. An attic bedroom is expected to return 84.3 percent of costs, and a minor kitchen remodel is estimated to recoup 82.7 percent of costs. The improvement project estimated to return the least at resale is a home office remodel, estimated to recoup only 48.9 percent.

The 2014 Cost vs. Value Report is published by Remodeling magazine publisher Hanley Wood, LLC and is done in collaboration with the National Association of Realtors®. Additional data for the report can be found at NAR’s consumer website, HouseLogic.com. The website includes a wide variety of ideas and projects to help homeowners maintain, enhance and improve the value of their home.

Realtors Look Forward to Tackling Housing Challenges in 2014

After several years of slow recovery, the housing market began to show signs of improvement in 2013. Some homeowners saw their home equity grow as home prices rose and single-family home sales increased. However, the market still has its challenges and Realtors® remain committed to helping build a responsible, sustainable housing market in 2014.

According to the National Association of Realtors®’ Chief Economist Lawrence Yun, 2013 was a recovery year, as annual existing-home sales are expected to increase 10 percent over a year ago, totaling just above 5.1 million, and national median existing-home prices are projected to be 11 percent above last year. The 2013 market also experienced a shortage of housing inventory. NAR data showed inventory levels swung from a record high of 11.9 months in July 2010 to a recent low of 4.3 months in January 2013. Recently however, inventories have started to increase – current unsold inventory shows a 5.1-month supply of homes.

“Tight inventory typically means rising home prices,” said Dave Ferguson, Ada County Association of REALTORS President.  “This is what we’re experiencing now. Prices have gained 18 percent over the past two years. An increase in prices has helped lift many homeowners into positive equity again and foreclosures and short sales have declined. When homeowners benefit from price appreciation and housing equity increases, this helps the economy through greater consumer confidence and spending.”

Despite these positives, housing affordability for some buyers declined in 2013. Yun predicts affordability will continue to decline in 2014 if mortgage rates continue to rise and particularly if qualifying for a mortgage remains difficult. Ada County Association of Realtors, says Realtors® have reported that tight credit restrictions are preventing qualified buyers from becoming homeowners, and that is also making it more difficult for some homeowners to sell their homes. ACAR thinks mortgage availability will only be worsened by regulatory reforms stemming from the Dodd-Frank Act Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that go into effect in January 2014.

“While these new rules reduce risky loan products and establish critical lending protections for consumers, they could also preclude many potential home buyers from entering the housing market,” said Ferguson. “Qualified buyers with good jobs and strong credit histories cannot continue to be turned down for loans. Lenders need to return to sensible lending standards this year.”

Yun predicts we’ll continue to see healthy gains in existing-home sales this year, and prices will continue to rise. However, he also projects mortgage rates to rise and inventory shortages to continue.

ACAR says Realtors® remain actively involved with lawmakers to ensure housing and homeownership issues are first on the nation’s public policy agenda this year. Several critical issues affecting housing will continue to take precedence this year. Ferguson says delaying further flood insurance rate increases is one of them. Also, as debates surrounding federal tax reform likely heat up again this year, Realtors® will continue to urge the preservation of property and homeownership tax policies. Realtors® also support legislation and regulations to create healthier housing and mortgage markets, something Ferguson says is vital to the recovery.

“Despite the challenges we face in the coming year, I believe Realtors® are feeling confident and optimistic about the future of our nation’s housing market,” said Ferguson. “Homeownership is an investment in our future, and I believe 2014 will present tremendous opportunities for buyers, sellers and investors.”

For more recaps of the real estate market in 2013, visit realtor.com®’s Real Estate Review site at http://realtor.com/2013review.

REALTORS Offer Guidance, Advice on Tough Mortgage Process

While in many areas of the country purchasing a home is still very affordable, buyers are watching mortgage rates trend upward, which may make it harder to obtain a loan for that dream house. In addition, tight credit restrictions have kept some qualified buyers from becoming homeowners.

“There are still great opportunities for buyers in today’s market,” said Gary Salisbury. “And homes are still affordable, but today’s buyer needs to be savvy and knowledgeable about the mortgage application process. Being fully prepared will help consumers avoid problems and qualify for a loan without any hiccups.”

Applying for a loan can be a confusing process for many, but there are some steps you can take to make sure you avoid hurdles along the way. Ada County Association of REALTORS (ACAR) has several tips for buyers applying for a loan. Since mortgage lenders evaluate your income, savings and credit history, it’s important to carefully examine your finances and know your credit history.

Also, do not close any credit accounts within six to 12 months before you apply for a mortgage. Make sure to keep older accounts open even if they are unused. Salisbury says this is because the average age of credit accounts is a factor in scoring performance over time. ACAR explains that you should also watch the balance-to-credit limit with a goal of keeping the balance below 30 percent of the available limit.

When it comes to types of mortgage loans, most buyers choose a 30-year fixed rate. With this longer term mortgage monthly payments are lower than other loans. It also means the principal is paid back over a longer period of time. The combination of affordability and stability make this mortgage popular among buyers.

“The 30-year fixed rate has been extremely popular in recent times,” said Salisbury. “Consumers want certainty and the 30-year fixed rate is stable. over a long period of time. Buyers feel protected when they choose it because the payments are predictable. It’s also especially popular among young and first-time buyers. The lower monthly payments and fixed interest rate makes homeownership viable for many buyers who are just starting out.”

Consequently, recent proposed legislation and reforms to the secondary mortgage market could put the 30-year fixed rate at risk and unavailable to many. According to the ACAR the legislation would effectively eliminate the 30-year fixed rate for middle class buyers.

“Right not there’s no government guarantee in the legislation that supports the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage,” said Salisbury. “That means it won’t be offered except to borrowers with a high down payment and a very high credit score. This puts many young and first-time buyers in jeopardy. When buyers choose riskier adjustable rate mortgages, they face uncertain monthly payments, are subject to volatile rising interest rates and are less able to accommodate life changes.”

ACAR says Realtors® are working hard to with key legislators and regulators to address this issue. “Realtors® want to make sure that safe and affordable loan products like the 30-year fixed rate mortgage are available to today’s buyers,” said Salisbury. “We want to make sure everyone who is willing and able to own a home has the ability to achieve that dream.”

 

Sarah Kestler | Director of Communications
Ada County Association of REALTORS