Andrew Wetzel's Musings

July 16, 2020

Delaware County Residential Property Reassessment 2020

On July 1, 2020, property owners in Delaware County PA were mailed letters advising them of their new “assessed values” to be used starting with the 2021 tax year.  This began the formal tax appeal process.  I have heard from many, especially on social media, concerned that their taxes may skyrocket given how much their “assessed value” had risen.  I empathize and ask people to remain calm.  There are additional steps to follow.

Taxation has ALWAYS been a point of contention for Americans going back to our founding.  However, I am finding that, with the combination of the pandemic, social protests, the economy and the upcoming election, some may not have been paying much attention as the reassessment process moved forward and they are now shocked as it starts to “get real”.  Reading both sides of the mailing should provide some comfort but many focus only on their assessed value and what it could mean.  Let me provide some background.  There is ample information available for anyone who wants to learn more and now is certainly the time to get engaged with the process.

Delaware County was last reassessed in 2002.  That was a major undertaking.  The current process seems easier because the information is more current and technology has improved.  There are over 203,000 parcels to assess so every property could not be visited.  Property owners have had two opportunities to appeal the new valuation.

The reassessment was court-ordered after two families filed lawsuits alleging that the system of determining assessments was not fair.  As a REALTOR I am very familiar with the complexity of trying to be uniform in determining assessments, especially across municipalities and with respect to new construction.  The judge ruled that assessments were so inconsistent that they violated the state constitution.  Property taxes are an “ad valorem” tax, meaning that they should be uniformly levied in proportion to property value.  The goal was to make the process more transparent by using “market value”, while specifically preventing a tax windfall to the County.  That is unlike what happened in Philadelphia and differs from what happened in the County in 2002.

Several steps were taken to determine a property’s value as of July 2019.  Owners were mailed initial paperwork to review to see if the County “knew” what they actually owned.  There was an “appeal” process if there was a disparity.  Now that the “final” values have been mailed there is a second, formal “appeal” process.   The last day to appeal is September 1 with all appeal hearings to be concluded no later than October 31 so that the new assessment rolls can be certified no later than November 15.  Only then can they can determine the millage and the actual taxes.

The “burden of proof” rests with the property owner to provide competent and credible evidence that their valuation is incorrect.  An appraisal is not required but can be very helpful as far as meeting the “burden of proof” standard necessary and an owner may wish to hire an attorney.  Absent an appeal, or if someone does not report for their hearing, the assessor’s value is presumed correct.   I have heard some say that they do not feel comfortable with the appeal process and I can appreciate that but that is how the system works.  Facts, not presentation skills, will determine the outcome.  If your value “appears” reasonable, you may decide to do nothing.  That is your choice.

The goal is to arrive at a County-wide assessment total.  Once that is established, the County will need to link that with their budget by determining the “millage”.  Only then will individual property owners have the opportunity to know their tax liability.  NOTE:  this article pertains only to residential properties.  While all parcels are part of the process, valuing non-residential properties follows different guidelines.

Two final points.  First, the new assessment is based on market value which explains why it “rose”.  The last assessment was based more on generalities such as square footage meaning that two similar properties could be assessed and taxed similarly even though one was “distressed”.  I have seen that in my Real Estate business.

Second, appeals are permitted every year based on an advertised schedule.  If a property owner misses an opportunity they will have another one but will risk overpaying until then.  I respectfully encourage everyone to remain patient, follow the deadlines and let the process play out.

There is no time for inexperience, empty promises or false expectations!

HIRE WISELY:  We are not all the same!

Selling Real Estate: Three Scenarios

Selling Real Estate in and of itself, as an “independent act”, can be interesting enough.  Contracts and paperwork aside, it has to be marketed/ exposed, identified as matching someone’s needs, visited, negotiated, inspected and eventually survive several steps proving that both parties can and want to complete the deed transfer.  Every one of these steps can be lengthy.

I have found that there are really three basic scenarios possible when someone wants to sell a property.  While similar at their core, the different scenarios each add their own dimension to the process and an agent and their client need to know the scenario and what makes them different.

The least complicated sale is one where a seller simply wants to sell a piece of Real Estate.  “Least complicated” does not always mean simple or easy.  The agent needs to know the seller’s motivation, is it a matter of time or money?  Do they want a quick sale or require a certain “return”?  Are their liens?  What is the condition?  What is the “fair market value”?  What is the local market like?  How easy is it to schedule showings?  Over time these may change and more questions may arise.  It takes an experienced, trained, educated and knowledgeable agent to properly advise their client as there is so much more to this than uploading the information to the MLS and Internet, installing a “For Sale” sign and waiting for a stampede of anxious buyers.  This is not a “retail transaction” and often gets more complicated once buyers and their agents start to express interest.  Experience will allow a professional to better prepare their seller-client for what the seller does not know might or will happen.

Many sellers need to sell to buy something else, even if not another piece of Real Estate.  The biggest difference here is that they “attach” a number to the sale that they think has to be met or the process does not make sense for them.  Even if they simply want to achieve a certain level of proceeds that changes the basic sale and may well end it before it starts.  If they want to buy another property that connects one evolving process to another and, at times, synching two evolving processes can become challenging.  For example, can a seller move into their next home when they need to or will they own two properties at the same time or will they need a place to stay for a short time?  Sometimes a sale happens without a seller knowing what happens next.  Sometimes they find their “next home” without having sold their present home.  While these situations often work out nicely, there are times where sellers who become buyers do not have any idea how juggling two evolving processes can possibly work out but history suggests that it does.  However, it requires more than luck.

Some sellers are looking to sell and buy but do not “need” to coordinate both  processes.  They can carry two properties and are willing to do that which makes both aspects easier to manage.  This does not mean that they are comfortable doing that or that their thinking won’t change later so a professional must ask enough detailed questions to avoid later surprises.

Not to minimize the time, effort and training required, it is relatively easy to get a listing contract signed and upload the information to the MLS and Internet.  Technology has made the marketing so much easier but we are paid more for what happens next and throughout the process, likely earning nothing if a property does not sell or if a sale falls though.

There is no time for inexperience, empty promises or false expectations!

HIRE WISELY:  We are not all the same!

June 3, 2020

How Buyers Bought Real Estate in 2019:  Who is the Typical Buyer?  Part 2 of 2.

Today I want to discuss the 2019 NAR or National Association of REALTORS Profile of Buyers and Sellers.  The report comes from a survey using 125 questions mailed to over 159,750 recent home buyers who purchased a primary residence between July 2018 and June 2019.  This was a national survey so your market may be quite different.  Real Estate is local:  there is no national Real Estate market so please contact me for information about your local market.

This is Part 2 of 2.  In Part 1, I focused on buyer characteristics, meaning who is the typical buyer.  In Part 2, I will focus on the process the typical buyer used to find their home, the results they achieved and how they felt about the experience.  There will be some overlap between the parts.

As I learned years ago, buying a home is an emotional decision justified with logic.  This is what can make it fun or not.  The process can be interesting enough when there is only one buyer involved.  People have different ways of making decisions and we all handle challenges and stress differently.  Buying a home typically offers plenty of both.  When more than one buyer is involved, there can be quite a negotiation between the parties and they often seek my opinion.  Purchasing a home is typically the largest financial transaction anyone will ever make and it involves many lifestyle factors.  It is a serious process.  Here are some highlights:

  • 87% purchased existing homes; 13% bought new construction;
  • Nationally, buyers typically paid 98% of the asking price;
  • 55% of buyers said that finding the “right property” was the most difficult part of the process; 26% mentioned financing (including saving for a down payment (13%), getting a loan (8%) and the appraisal (5%)), 19% cited the paperwork and 18% mentioned understanding the process. And yet, buyers often avoid or delay seeking professional assistance.  Given 24/7 access to the Internet, some may find this interesting.  I am not surprised as it supports my belief that Realtors bring value to the process of buying Real Estate above and beyond simply providing houses to look at.  While that is obviously important, buyers need to arrange financing and determine what they want and need in a house so that they can evaluate their options and make the best choice for themselves, keeping in mind that they may have serious competition.  Some houses sell quickly.  Buying a home takes time and effort.  For example, I have worked with many buyers during my career and have been able to identify houses for them to consider that they did not or could not find on their own.  My experience working with sellers, especially those whose properties other agents could not sell, has taught me a great deal about marketing homes to ensure that they appear in buyer’s search results.  Think “Google search”.  This knowledge helps me with buyers.  I will be happy to explain this in detail;
  • 86% financed their purchase, typically financing 88% of the purchase price with first-timers financing 94% and repeat buyers financing 84%;
  • The median down payment was 12% for all buyers with 6% for “first-time” and 16% for “repeat”;
  • 9% found the mortgage application process to be much more difficult than expected with only a 1% difference between first-time and repeat buyers. This explains why so many wait to do this, perhaps to their detriment.  Sellers tend to focus on three parts of any agreement:  the amount of the offer, the buyer’s financing and the terms and conditions of the offer.  Sellers want to avoid or minimize the risk of a failed sale;
  • 13% reported that saving for a down payment was the most difficult step with 51% of those citing student loans. This is a problem that has been well reported.  It delays many aspects of life;
  • 50% of buyers found the home they purchased online; 28% through an agent; 7% from a “For Sale” or an open house sign. There is no doubt that the Internet has displaced agents as a valuable source of property listings.  No one can or should dispute that.  However, it has clearly NOT displaced the need for us to assist with the numerous tasks that are necessary to buying a house regardless of where or how it was identified.  One final point here is that it is important that a buyer provide accurate information as far as what is important for them.  Having a buyer search online for one set of criteria while their buyer-agent searches for something different can and will cause problems.  We should be finding the same possibilities!  Communication is critical;
  • 94% were “satisfied” with the process but only 63% reported being “very satisfied” while 7% were somewhat or very dissatisfied. Buying a house or investment property can be very frustrating.  Trying to justify the emotion of a home purchase with logic can be a challenge.  I have met a number of owners who told me that they made a mistake when they bought their home; some realized that sooner than others.  While their situations may have varied, this often meant that they would have some difficulty selling or achieving what they wanted or needed to make a move.  I can share some stories;
  • 61% were given agency disclosures at some point with 27% at the first meeting, 23% when the contract was written and 11% at some other time. In PA you may know this as the Consumer Notice form that we are required to use.  The purpose of this disclosure is to offer a buyer choices as far as how we are to work together.  Historically many buyers assumed we were representing “their best interests” even though they had not formally committed to using our services.  Prior to buyer agency all agents worked for the seller’s best interests!  The good news is that 61% received it, even if late.  20% say they never received it and 20% said they did not know.  In addition to being a REALTOR and Associate Broker, I am a Mediator and have spent years working on our Professional Standards Committee.  In those roles I have been involved in many situations where the consumer, meaning a buyer or seller, had quite a different perception of their relationship with an agent than their agent had.  Trust me when I tell you that this can cause problems;
  • Continuing with that thought, 39% said they had a written representation agreement with their agent; 19% said it was oral; 28% had no agreement and 15% did not know;
  • Buyers ranked a number of agent qualities as “very important”: 97% want honesty and integrity; 93% want them to be knowledgeable about the process; 93% want them to be responsive; 88% want communication skills, 83% want them to be able to negotiate and 46% mentioned technology skills.
  • The top three benefits Real Estate agents provided were: 61% said helping buyers understand the process, 60% said pointing out features or faults with properties, 48% said negotiating better terms, 47% said providing a list of service providers, 37% said negotiated a better price and 30% said shortened the home search.

Buying Real Estate is a unique purchase:  not only is it much less frequent than other purchases, it typically involves multiple steps, each offering their own challenges.  If you would like to discuss buying or selling or if you have any thoughts about this, please contact me.  Please look for Part 1.

There is no time for inexperience, empty promises or false expectations! 

Remember:  HIRE WISELY!  We are not all the same.

May 9, 2020

How Buyers Bought Real Estate in 2019: Who is the Typical Buyer? Part 2 of 2.

Today I want to discuss the 2019 NAR or National Association of REALTORS Profile of Buyers and Sellers.  The report comes from a survey using 125 questions mailed to over 159,750 recent home buyers who purchased a primary residence between July 2018 and June 2019.  This was a national survey so your market may be quite different.  Real Estate is local:  there is no national Real Estate market so please contact me for information about your local market.

This is Part 2 of 2.  In Part 1, I focused on buyer characteristics, meaning who is the typical buyer.  In Part 2, I will focus on the process the typical buyer used to find their home, the results they achieved and how they felt about the experience.  There will be some overlap between the parts.

As I learned years ago, buying a home is an emotional decision justified with logic.  This is what can make it fun or not.  The process can be interesting enough when there is only one buyer involved.  People have different ways of making decisions and we all handle challenges and stress differently.  Buying a home typically offers plenty of both.  When more than one buyer is involved, there can be quite a negotiation between the parties and they often seek my opinion.  Purchasing a home is typically the largest financial transaction anyone will ever make and it involves many lifestyle factors.  It is a serious process.  Here are some highlights:

  • 87% purchased existing homes; 13% bought new construction;
  • Nationally, buyers typically paid 98% of the asking price;
  • 55% of buyers said that finding the “right property” was the most difficult part of the process; 26% mentioned financing (including saving for a down payment (13%), getting a loan (8%) and the appraisal (5%)), 19% cited the paperwork and 18% mentioned understanding the process. And yet, buyers often avoid or delay seeking professional assistance.  Given 24/7 access to the Internet, some may find this interesting.  I am not surprised as it supports my belief that Realtors bring value to the process of buying Real Estate above and beyond simply providing houses to look at.  While that is obviously important, buyers need to arrange financing and determine what they want and need in a house so that they can evaluate their options and make the best choice for themselves, keeping in mind that they may have serious competition.  Some houses sell quickly.  Buying a home takes time and effort.  For example, I have worked with many buyers during my career and have been able to identify houses for them to consider that they did not or could not find on their own.  My experience working with sellers, especially those whose properties other agents could not sell, has taught me a great deal about marketing homes to ensure that they appear in buyer’s search results.  Think “Google search”.  This knowledge helps me with buyers.  I will be happy to explain this in detail;
  • 86% financed their purchase, typically financing 88% of the purchase price with first-timers financing 94% and repeat buyers financing 84%;
  • The median down payment was 12% for all buyers with 6% for “first-time” and 16% for “repeat”;
  • 9% found the mortgage application process to be much more difficult than expected with only a 1% difference between first-time and repeat buyers. This explains why so many wait to do this, perhaps to their detriment.  Sellers tend to focus on three parts of any agreement:  the amount of the offer, the buyer’s financing and the terms and conditions of the offer.  Sellers want to avoid or minimize the risk of a failed sale;
  • 13% reported that saving for a down payment was the most difficult step with 51% of those citing student loans. This is a problem that has been well reported.  It delays many aspects of life;
  • 50% of buyers found the home they purchased online; 28% through an agent; 7% from a “For Sale” or an open house sign. There is no doubt that the Internet has displaced agents as a valuable source of property listings.  No one can or should dispute that.  However, it has clearly NOT displaced the need for us to assist with the numerous tasks that are necessary to buying a house regardless of where or how it was identified.  One final point here is that it is important that a buyer provide accurate information as far as what is important for them.  Having a buyer search online for one set of criteria while their buyer-agent searches for something different can and will cause problems.  We should be finding the same possibilities!  Communication is critical;
  • 94% were “satisfied” with the process but only 63% reported being “very satisfied” while 7% were somewhat or very dissatisfied. Buying a house or investment property can be very frustrating.  Trying to justify the emotion of a home purchase with logic can be a challenge.  I have met a number of owners who told me that they made a mistake when they bought their home; some realized that sooner than others.  While their situations may have varied, this often meant that they would have some difficulty selling or achieving what they wanted or needed to make a move.  I can share some stories;
  • 61% were given agency disclosures at some point with 27% at the first meeting, 23% when the contract was written and 11% at some other time. In PA you may know this as the Consumer Notice form that we are required to use.  The purpose of this disclosure is to offer a buyer choices as far as how we are to work together.  Historically many buyers assumed we were representing “their best interests” even though they had not formally committed to using our services.  Prior to buyer agency all agents worked for the seller’s best interests!  The good news is that 61% received it, even if late.  20% say they never received it and 20% said they did not know.  In addition to being a REALTOR and Associate Broker, I am a Mediator and have spent years working on our Professional Standards Committee.  In those roles I have been involved in many situations where the consumer, meaning a buyer or seller, had quite a different perception of their relationship with an agent than their agent had.  Trust me when I tell you that this can cause problems;
  • Continuing with that thought, 39% said they had a written representation agreement with their agent; 19% said it was oral; 28% had no agreement and 15% did not know;
  • Buyers ranked a number of agent qualities as “very important”: 97% want honesty and integrity; 93% want them to be knowledgeable about the process; 93% want them to be responsive; 88% want communication skills, 83% want them to be able to negotiate and 46% mentioned technology skills.
  • The top three benefits Real Estate agents provided were: 61% said helping buyers understand the process, 60% said pointing out features or faults with properties, 48% said negotiating better terms, 47% said providing a list of service providers, 37% said negotiated a better price and 30% said shortened the home search.

Buying Real Estate is a unique purchase:  not only is it much less frequent than other purchases, it typically involves multiple steps, each offering their own challenges.  If you would like to discuss buying or selling or if you have any thoughts about this, please contact me.  Please look for Part 1.

Please look for my post on how sellers sold Real Estate in 2019.

There is no time for inexperience, empty promises or false expectation! 

HIRE WISELY!  We are not all the same.

How Buyers Bought Real Estate in 2019: Who is the Typical Buyer? Part 1 of 2.

Today I want to discuss the 2019 NAR or National Association of REALTORS Profile of Buyers and Sellers.  The report comes from a survey using 125 questions mailed to over 159,750 recent home buyers who purchased a primary residence between July 2018 and June 2019.  This was a national survey so your market may be quite different.  Real Estate is local:  there is no national Real Estate market so please contact me for information about your local market.

This is Part 1 of 2 and will focus on buyer characteristics, meaning who is the typical buyer.  In Part 2, I will focus on the process the typical buyer used to find their home, the results they achieved and how they felt about the experience.  There will be some overlap between the parts.

As I learned years ago, buying a home is an emotional decision justified with logic.  This is what can make it fun or not.  The process can be interesting enough when there is only one buyer involved.  People have different ways of making decisions and we all handle challenges and stress differently.  Buying a home typically offers plenty of both.  When more than one buyer is involved, there can be quite a negotiation between the parties and they often seek my opinion.  Purchasing a home is typically the largest financial transaction anyone will ever make and it involves many lifestyle factors.  It is a serious process.  Here are some highlights:

  • 33% were first-time buyers, the same as in 2018. The historic number has been 40%.  The typical buyer was 47 years old, with those age 25 to 34  accounting for 24% of all sales;
  • Buyers moved a median distance of 15 miles while those who sold one primary residence to buy another moved a median distance of 20 miles;
  • There were several reasons mentioned for buying: 81% felt that a home purchase was a good investment; 66% of first-time buyers wanted to own their home as did most buyers under age 61; those over 61 mentioned being closer to family and friends or down-sizing;
  • Buyers expected to live in their homes for a median time of 15 years with 20% saying 1 to 5 years, 45% saying 16 or more and 20% saying they did not plan on making another move;
  • As far as motivating factors influencing location: 63% prioritized the quality of the neighborhood, 46% convenience to their job, 44% the affordability of the house (owning can be cheaper than renting!), 26% the quality of the school district, 20% walkability.  When you buy a house, you are buying the neighborhood and a lifestyle:  this is more than simply buying a product;
  • As far as characteristics of the home and how they compromised: 25% prioritized price, 23% condition, 19% size, 7% quality of the neighborhood, 3% quality of the schools.  29% did not compromise.
  • 44% of buyers looked online before doing anything else with 93% using the Internet at some point during the process; 16% started by contacting an agent; 12% started by looking online for information about the process; only 7% started by contacting a lender or bank. This can be good or bad, depending on what a buyer really knows and understands about the process and their local market.  There is a wealth of information online but my experience suggests that much of it is wrong or does not apply to all markets.  Some buyers will spend valuable time “shopping”, which is admittedly the “fun part”, instead of doing other things that might make their search easier, especially if they find that they need to do some homework to get financing.  They might find a home they really like only to find themselves unprepared or unable to compete with other buyers who had a better game plan.  The process can make all the difference;
  • 93% of buyers relied on the Internet for information; 87% on an agent. Traditional methods are still used but to a much lesser extent than in the past.  For example, only 51% visited open houses, 39% looked for “For Sale” signs and 11% looked at newspapers.   Please keep in mind that these statistics refer to sources use to search for available properties, not necessarily what led to a sale;
  • 65% walked through homes they found online; 41% drove by and did not go inside. You might be amazed to learn that, while driving through a neighborhood to see if it meets your needs is an excellent way to narrow your focus, many buyers eliminate houses simply because the exterior needs some attention;
  • Buyers typically searched for 10 weeks and looked at a median of 9 homes. They waited for 3 weeks before contacting an agent.  A lot can happen in 3 weeks!  On the other hand, buyers who did not use the Internet spent 4 weeks searching and viewed 4 homes.  I wonder which group was more satisfied with their purchase in the long run;
  • For internet “shoppers”, 87% found photos and 85% found detailed property information very useful. They enjoy the “online shopping experience” much more than actually looking at house after house.  What an agent uploads to their MLS typically feeds “as-is” to the Internet:  too often this is a case of “garbage in; garbage out”.  Sadly, many listing agents make looking at their property listings more challenging than it should be.  Many property listings offer few quality photos, some listings have none and many are not labeled making it often difficult to know what you are looking at.  Many agents use their cell phone for taking pictures.  I often see photos that seem to have been uploaded randomly, bouncing from interior to exterior and even turned sideways or upside down.  I also see poorly written or missing descriptions as well as listings having minimal searchable features which can make it difficult for those listings to even appear in a buyer’s search results and, when they do, a buyer may not really know what they are looking at.  The result is that they click through to the next property listing.  The good news for buyers is that properties attracting little attention often get needlessly reduced in price which rewards a persistent buyer.  If you are a seller, have you been asked to reduce your price?  Have you seen your MLS printout and searched online for your own property?;
  • 52% of buyers who used the Internet found the property they bought online. 71% who used a mobile device found their home through a mobile application.  29% through an agent;
  • 89% of buyers used a Real Estate agent and 91% who used the Internet used an agent; 5% bought directly from a builder or builder’s agent; 4% bought directly from the owner which would include FSBOs or “private sales” where one or both parties are not professionally represented. The number using a professional has actually trended higher since the Internet entered the picture.  This proves to me that we can coexist with the so-called third-party sites if we bring “value” to the process.  Our “value” extends well beyond searching for houses.  Once you identify a house that you like, there are a number of steps that must be taken to get it under contract and then to complete the purchase.  This is no time to cut corners!
  • 52% of buyers wanted a Real Estate agent to help them find the right house, 23% wanted help negotiating (12% mentioned “terms” while 11% mentioned “price”), 8% wanted help with paperwork and 6% wanted help valuing comparables.

Buying Real Estate is a unique purchase:  not only is it much less frequent than other purchases, it typically involves multiple steps, each offering their own challenges.  If you would like to discuss buying or selling or if you have any thoughts about this, please contact me.  Please look for Part 2.

Please look for my post on how sellers sold Real Estate in 2019.

There is no time for inexperience, empty promises or false expectations!

 HIRE WISELY!  We are not all the same!

How Sellers Sold Real Estate in 2019:  Who is the Typical Seller?

Today I want to discuss the 2019 NAR or National Association of REALTORS Profile of Buyers and Sellers.  The report comes from a survey using 125 questions mailed to over 159,750 recent home buyers who purchased a primary residence between July 2018 and June 2019.  The focus of this podcast will be buyers who sold one home to buy another.  This was a national survey so your market may be quite different.  Real Estate is local:  there is no national Real Estate market so please contact me for information about your local market.

  • NAR has been collecting seller data since 1985 when the typical owner remained in their home for a median time of 5 years. In 2019 that number was 10 years which suggests that buyers may want to think long-term about their investment.  What appears to be a solid investment today may look different later.  Unfortunately, I still see sellers who paid more for their house than it is worth today and that can delay being able to sell it;
  • Sellers between the ages of 18-34 typically sold within 5 years while those over 75 sold after 19 years;
  • The median selling price was 99% of the final asking price with 27% getting full price, 17% getting more than asking and 20% getting less than 95% (7% got less than 90%). If you are an owner whose house is not attracting serious interest, meaning offers, this is important to know.  Many buyers think they are better at negotiating than they really are and are hesitant to start with their “best offer”.  In a very competitive situation they may not get a second chance.  On the other hand, a buyer may prefer to make an offer on a house closer to its market value to avoid having an appraisal issue or risk losing their second choice to another buyer when their offer on a house expires.  Whether a listing agent should disclose the existence of other offers is debatable but this should only be done when a seller allows it.  In some markets and with some buyers, competition may be welcome.  In others, not so much.  Sellers may also think themselves better at negotiation than they really are so they need good advice from a trusted and respected representative.  Ego can be a terrible thing to overcome.  Last point, showings are nice but they do not guarantee a sale;
  • Houses selling in the first 4 weeks achieved a median of 99%; after 16 weeks the number fell to 93%.
  • 13% of houses purchased sold for more than asking price with 26% achieving the asking price and 24% selling for 95% or less than asking price;
  • The typical seller was 57 years old;
  • 69% were repeat sellers while 31% were selling for the first time;
  • 70% who sold a home stayed in the same state; 17% moved to another region; 13% stayed in the same region but a different state;
  • 44% bought larger homes; 30% bought a similar size; 26% down-sized. The age of the seller strongly correlates with these statistics;
  • 48% bought a newer home than they sold; 28% bought one the same age; 24% bought an older home;
  • 44% spent more than their selling price; 26% spent the same; 30% spent less;
  • The most common reason for selling for all sellers was that the house was too small (13%), followed by moving closer to friends and family (a combined 16%), job relocation (11%), change in family situation (10%) and neighborhood became less desirable (10%);
  • 29% of first-time sellers cited size as being too small whereas repeat sellers cited moving closer to friends and family (17%). Selling is an expensive proposition so having to move in the short term because you outgrew a house or simply needed more space can be costly;
  • 89% of all sellers used a Real Estate agent with only 8% being a FSBO. 89%, while down from 91% last year, is consistent with the last few years despite the presence of the Internet.  The % of FSBOs has steadily declined since 2000  even though the Internet was thought to have helped with exposure.  Most of those involved a seller who the buyer already;
  • 89% of all sellers listed their homes on the Multiple Listing Service while 4% did not; 65% used a yard sign;
  • 21% of sellers wanted help marketing their home, 20% wanted to sell within a specific timeframe, 19% wanted help with pricing and 16% wanted help with ways to sell it for more;
  • The median selling time for all sellers was 3 weeks with 11% selling in less than one week, 35% taking 1-2 weeks and 14% taking 3-4 weeks. There is a correlation between the % of the final asking price achieved and the length of time it takes to sell.  While it can be a distracting obsession, many buyers look at the “days on the market” as an indicator of a home’s desirability and may avoid homes that are simply over-priced although they have no issues.  Houses that sold within 2 weeks or less achieved 100% of the final asking price whereas houses on the market for 17 weeks or more achieved only 94%.  Keep in mind that many houses are reduced in price to attract attention so looking at the final asking price as compared to the selling price is only one part of the story.  Sellers determine the asking price but buyers determine the value.  If nothing else, easy access to the Internet has allowed buyers to competitively shop meaning they at least know what is on the market although relying on valuation algorithms is risky.  Houses tend to get the most activity within a week or two of hitting the market.  Once the current supply of buyers knows a house is for sale and no one buys it, something has to energize and existing buyer or other buyers have to start their search;
  • 34% of sellers used buyer incentives to attract interest. The top three were home warranties (17%), closing cost assistance (14%) and remodeling/ repair credit (8%).  After 16 weeks this number rose to 47%.  These are not guaranteed to get the job done and should be discussed at the outset;
  • 66% of sellers were “very satisfied” with the process; 26% were “somewhat satisfied” and 8% were somewhat (5%) or very (4%) dissatisfied;
  • The overall median selling price was $275,900. Remember that this is a national number.  The median selling price for FSBOs was $200,000; for agent-assisted sales it was $280,000 and for FSBOs who eventually used an agent the median selling price was $261,000.  This clearly shows the advantage of hiring and paying a professional;
  • The median equity in a sold home was $60,000.

The bottom line is that this can be a very confusing process.  This NOT a retail transaction!  It is typically costly enough without making expensive mistakes.  Unless you do this regularly, I respectfully suggest that you trust a trained, experienced professional.  Whether you want to trust your most valuable asset to someone with little experience or someone who has a long track record is up to you but any professional is likely to know more than an average seller looking to save a few dollars.  I understand that signing a formal contract with someone, even if recommended to you, is quite a leap of faith.  Most of us can offer options to increase your comfort level.  After all, we want to make sure that you “fit” with us as well.

Selling Real Estate is unique compared to most typical purchases:  not only is it much less frequent than other purchases, it typically involves multiple steps, each offering its own challenges.  If you would like to discuss selling or buying or if you have any thoughts about this, please contact me.

Please look for my posts on how buyers bought Real Estate in 2019.

There is no time for inexperience, empty promises or false expectations! 

HIRE WISELY!  We are not all the same!

January 18, 2020

Bright MLS December 2019 Residential Housing Report

Bright MLS has released their Residential Market Statistics for single family homes through December  2019.  In today’s podcast I will discuss 2019 results for Delaware County Pennsylvania.  If you would like information about this or any other County or any specific municipalities in the Delaware Valley, please contact me.  I am only a text, email or phone call away!  I respond promptly to all inquiries.

The report compares current results to one-year ago, same time period.  As with all Real Estate statistics, two things are true.  First, the performance within individual zip-codes can and will vary significantly from the overall County.  Real Estate is local and results can vary from neighborhood to neighborhood and even block to block.  There is no such thing as a “national” Real Estate market any more than there is a national weather forecast so, whether you may be thinking about selling or buying, please contact me for details about your areas of interest.  I can provide current information and keep you informed about the evolving market.  Deciding whether it is the right time to sell or buy is a personal decision typically involving a number of variables.  I can provide the knowledge and insight to help you decide what works for you.

My second point is that, unfortunately, all Real Estate statistics involving sold data is stale.  This is especially true if you are relying on Internet valuation models which use recorded data rather than up-to-date MLS information.  Even then, while a sale may be reported as settled or closed today, the real question is when was the offer negotiated?  Typically sales take 45 to 60 days to close so the market today may be different.  Up-to-date information, even if not perfect, is important!

As far as the statistics, there were 8931 units listed for sale through December 2019 compared to 8788 listed in 2018 with an end-of-month inventory level of 1022 compared to 1412 in 2018 with a monthly supply of inventory or MSI of 1.9 compared to 2.8.  6994 properties settled in 2019 with an average “selling price” of $289,411 and a “median” selling price, meaning that half of the sales were higher and half were lower, of $225,000 compared to 7057 settled in 2018, same time period, at an average price of $271,767 and a median selling price of $208,000.  The year-to-year change in settled properties declined less than 1% while the average selling price was up 6.5%.  The “days on the market” or DOM for settled properties was 42 in 2019 compared to 50 in 2018.  The MSI suggests a seller’s market with low inventory levels overall.  A 3-month supply of available inventory is generally considered a “balanced market”.  Again, these numbers vary:  the underlying data shows a wide range of results in all categories among the 49 different municipalities in Delaware County.

We can debate whether average or median numbers are more important but what really matters is how your property or one that interests you compares to those appraised and settled with similar location, features and condition.  Appraisers rely on nearby, recently settled properties so average or median pricing loses some validity but may provide insight for both the short term and the long term.

What about the properties that did not sell?  Many came off the market and still remain unavailable.  Did owners delay, change or give up their plans?  This happens more often as the holidays and year end approach which I find fascinating.  I tell my clients that I cannot guarantee that their house will sell if it is on the market but am fairly certain that it won’t if they take it off the market.  Anyone trying to sell now will have less competition and houses tend to show their best this time of year.  I understand that showing and selling a house during the holidays and winter-time can interfere with enjoying the season and it can be messier but buyers out looking now tend to be serious.  Of course, if a seller needs to buy their next house, the inventory level is much lower than normal.

Generally speaking, houses may get showings without generating offers unless buyers think they are priced within the range of their perceived “worth”.  Most property listings whose contracts are canceled or allowed to expire have asking prices considered high for their market and/ or they were poorly marketed, meaning that some buyers and agents may not have even known that a house was available to look at or purchase.  Of course this may well depend on the ratio of buyer and sellers so there is more to this than raw statistics.  If a market has a lot of inventory, some buyers may not be willing to look at houses priced high compared to the rest of the market:  why try to negotiate a price down when other similar properties are available at more competitive prices?  Many sellers open to negotiating their price will never get the chance.  I will happy to discuss specifics with you.

The overall economy is doing well with some adjustments here and there.  Statistics aside, what are you planning to do?  Real Estate is generally a long-term investment unless you are looking to fix and flip it or planning to move within a short period of time.  There are opportunities out there.  As with the stock market, it is very difficult to pick the best time to make a move.  All you can do is get the best available information, determine what is in your best interests and then start the process.  I am a phone call or email away and getting started is easy once you take action.

I hope you had a great holiday season and have a happy and healthy new year!  If you want or need to sell any type of Real Estate, whether you tried and did not succeed before or are planning for the first time, NOW is the time to plan for 2020.  Please do not wait for what you think is a better or the best time to start.  Buyers look all year long and can only see and buy properties that are available to see.

There is no time for inexperience, empty promises or false expectations! 

HIRE WISELY:  We are not all the same!

Happy New Year Message to Sellers

Happy New Year!  I am looking for owners to help this year.  Whether you want to sell a house or an investment property, I can help.  There is no experience required.

As I find every January, many sellers tried but did not succeed with selling their properties last year.  Have they delayed their plans for making a move, perhaps waiting for what they think is a better or the best time to sell?  Or, have they tried and given up, thinking it wasn’t “meant to be”.  Please consider these two questions.  What led to your deciding to sell, especially if selling involved making a move, and what happens in the long run if you do not sell?  People have various reasons for selling and I have met many who wished they had sold sooner.  Every situation in unique but most offer an opportunity if a seller and their agent work well together.  Whether you tried to sell before or were waiting for this year, now is the time to plan for 2020.

If you want or need to sell, why wait?  What are you waiting for?  Why not start or even restart the process now or start planning for success this year?  Please do not wait for a “better time”:  buyers look all year long and can only see and buy properties that are available on the active market.  When many sellers take “time off” there is an opportunity since there is less competition.

If you are considering selling or making a fresh start, I would like to meet with you to discuss your plans and needs and show you how I can sell your property.  There is absolutely no obligation so there is nothing to lose and much to potentially gain.  I can have your property on the market as soon as you like.  Of course, if you want or need to wait, I can help you when you are ready.

Obviously, there is more to selling Real Estate than simply being “on the market”.  Unfortunately, every property will not sell and most won’t “sell themselves”.  I have been helping frustrated owners sell properties that other agents could not sell since 1996.  Many properties that sell were “previously listed” and most of them sold only after something was changed with the way they were being marketed.  Price is not always the issue but, for anypreviously listed” property to sell, something must change.

The most effective choices are marketing (meaning exposure or awareness of your property), pricing strategically (meaning that location, features and condition largely determine the “value” the market will attach to your property) and/ or hiring a different agent.  It is my job to make sure that my clients get as much as they can for their properties.  Success does not always require a lower price!  I will explain my philosophy in detail, discuss your local market and answer your questions.

Changing agents brings a new perspective and a different philosophy that might provide the advantage you need in a competitive market.   If your property was on the market before, what would your last agent do differently this time (other than suggest a price reduction that may accomplish nothing but reduce you proceeds)?  Will doing the same thing over again produce a different result?

If your property has not been on the market before my experience will be an advantage.  Why should you call me?  My background in Client Service Management combined with my Real Estate experience, training, education and knowledge will help me to assist you.  Real Estate is not “rocket science” but it requires a thorough knowledge of the “process” and a proven strategy.  I have a common sense, client-centered approach.

Effective marketing allows buyers and agents to find properties in their search results (think “Google search”).  Do not assume that the MLS and Internet will guarantee that everyone will know that you are trying to sell or even know what you are trying to sell.  If buyers and agents cannot find your property in their search results, the odds are against you and your property may sit on the market making people think something is wrong with it!  Many sellers are asked to reduce their price (and their proceeds!) when marketing was THE problem.  Reducing the price will NOT solve a marketing problem.  Reducing the asking price (and your proceeds) is an easy answer but not always the best one.  I NEVER ask for a price reduction without justifying it.  Every house has a price at which it will sell; my job is to get you the highest price possible.

If I earn the opportunity to work for you, you will receive the highest quality service, attention to detail and effort.  Communication is critical:  my job is to keep you informed so that you can make the best decisions.  Most of my clients who were unsuccessful with other agents never had any ongoing contact with their agent!  I work for you.

In addition, I offer the following guarantee that I will do what I promise:  if I don’t, call me to discuss your concerns.  If I cannot satisfy you, you may cancel our listing contract unless your property is under contract with a buyer.

There is no time for inexperience, empty promises or false expectations!

 HIRE WISELY:  We are not all the same.

November 2, 2019

Bright MLS Listing Statuses and What They Mean

There are two primary tools used for conveying property information for buying and selling Real Estate.  While there are literally hundreds of possible ways to communicate this information, except for specific market segments which may use or need a different approach, all but the top two pale in comparison as far as efficiency and effectiveness.  Real Estate agents are the “match makers” bringing sellers and buyers together:  we participate in over 91% of Real Estate transactions.

By efficiency I mean having the ability to mass market information as quickly as possible.  Marketing means exposure and exposure should ensure that a seller achieve the highest possible selling price in a reasonable amount of time.  Whether the value the market attaches to a property meets the seller’s expectations or not is another story.  The fact is that Real Estate needs to be exposed to the mass market, properties have to be available to be shown to prospective buyers and sellers need to believe that the value they are offered has not been negatively impacted by poor or limited exposure.  Sellers are either motivated by time or money so some may be willing to settle for less if they sell quickly.

By effective I mean that prospective buyers and their agents must be able to readily identify all of the options which meet the buyer’s wants and needs.  Buyers need to be able to believe that they are getting the best value for their dollar by being able to compare what is available for purchase and to compare what is available with what has been sold as far as location, features, condition and price.  The concept of “data integrity” means that information is uploaded accurately so that it can be identified by people searching for it.  Of course, listing agents and mortgage appraisers need to rely on the information as well.  No one benefits from inefficient or ineffective means of conveying Real Estate information.

So, what are the two tools?  They are the multiple listing service and the Internet.  Agents use the MLS to research the market, to offer their listings to the masses and to attach a “range of values” to what they are hired to sell as listing or buying agents.  While often not a direct link, generally what is uploaded to the MLS is “syndicated” to the third-party public-facing websites on the Internet.  While information can be placed on the Internet beyond what the MLS offers or without any placement in the MLS, the Internet has its own limitations.  For example, while it provides lots of data and information, it is a static medium which cannot provide the knowledge and insight an agent can.  It also cannot provide up-to-the-minute access to property listings or information about recently settled properties.  As an example, most people understand that the “valuation” models provided by Internet sites are unreliable even if they do not know that the lack of real-time information is a major reason for that.

My point is not to compare the two media although there are significant differences.  The public should not assume that they can “shop online” for property and Real Estate information, delay contacting an experienced, trained, educated and knowledgeable professional and still expect the best possible outcome.  Buying and selling Real Estate are too important and too many are ill-equipped for the process and the decisions that typically will follow.  Both media, while different, need to rely on “data integrity”, meaning that anyone who finds “information” on either platform should be able to trust that it is valid and that is the problem.

One major point of focus is the “listing status” of the property so I will discuss the different MLS statuses and give a brief description.  It has been my experience that some agents and many consumers do not clearly understand what these terms mean.  Misinformation can be costly given that the sale or purchase of Real Estate is typically the most expensive financial transaction a consumer will make.  The cost of mistakes can be high with little chance to recover lost opportunity.  Now, the statuses.

Active:  means that a property is available for showings and for purchase.  This seems simple enough but Bright has a 3-business day rule meaning that status changes, including price changes, must be reported within 3 business days with the date of the “change” counting as day #1.  Good agents will verify the listing status before showing a property or writing an offer.  Failure to comply with the rule may violate rules and regulations;

Active Under Contract:  means that there is an executed purchase agreement but the property is still available for showings.  The real question is why?  Does the seller have the right to terminate the existing contract or are they just looking for “back-up” offers in case something happens?  Whichever is the case should be obvious.  Good agents will ask questions.  The key point here is that showings must be allowed;

Canceled:  means that the listing contract has been canceled;

Closed:  also called “settled”, means that the sale or lease has been finalized;

Coming Soon:  means that the property is not available for showings but listing agents must respond to inquiries whether the property is the MLS or not.  This is a current “hot topic” which is still evolving;

Expired:  means that the listing contract term has run out without a sale;

Temporarily Off Market:  means that showings have been stopped and will resume at some point.  There are no showings but offers can be submitted;

Pending:  means that the property is “under contract” or sold but not settled.  No further showings will be scheduled;

Withdrawn:  means that the marketing has stopped but the listing contract still binds the seller to the listing broker.  The seller may still be interested in receiving offers but there are now showings.

Agents and the public must understand what the different statuses mean and agents must use them properly.  Few things frustrate a prospective buyer more than feeling that they are being excluded from a property especially if they think that the listing agent is the cause.  Our REALTOR Code of Ethics requires that we protect and promote the interests of our client and be honest with the public.  Failure to do either can and has hurt how we are perceived.  Sellers and buyers should feel comfortable asking questions about the process and deserve to be given honest and complete answers.

There is no time for inexperience, empty promises or false expectations!

 HIRE WISELY:  We are not all the same!

October 22, 2019

New Bright MLS Listing Policy (October 2019)

This week Bright MLS announced a new policy regarding property listings that are “advertised”.  The policy begins with the following language:

“The MLS system encourages competition in the marketplace while also ensuring cooperation and compensation among real estate professionals.  Full participation in the MLS ensures the seller has the largest possible marketplace, and the buyer has the widest possible selection.  This policy will help provide transparency and access to information in the real estate marketplace”. 

The reaction on Facebook was as swift and voluminous as I have ever seen in my years of engaging in social media.  I called the response “nuclear”.  While many, including myself, agree with the thought behind the policy change, a majority found it objectionable, questioning the ability of the MLS to interfere with how they conduct their business.  Let me add some history and context to the situation.

Bright was formed in 2018 by the merger of multiple MLS systems.  It covers several mid-Atlantic states and serves almost 100,000 Real Estate licensees.  Before Bright, our local MLS was called Trend and it served about 30,000 agents.  Until this new policy, there was a “3-day rule” that stated that any change in the status of any property had to be reported to MLS membership within 3 business days.  It excluded weekends and national holidays and the date the change was made counted as the first day.  The changes included new listings taken, price reductions and status changes.  The rationale was transparency.  The rule still applies with the one exception covered by the new policy.

For sellers, it encouraged full-market exposure for their properties which should result in more competition and the sellers attaining the highest value.  For buyers, it meant they could access all property listings that matched what they were looking for so that they could make an offer knowing they had considered of all their options.  For agents and their clients it meant having the ability to evaluate the market for comparing and attaching values to properties offered for sale.  All that being said, allowing 3 business days created problems even when agents complied with the rule.  What could happen in 3 business days?

New listings could be shared with segments of the market before receiving full exposure.  Sellers might not get the benefit of full competition.  Buyers might put a house under contract without seeing all of the possibilities.  Agents might show houses that were already “under contract”.  Will any rule change any of these?  Probably not but trying to minimize the problems we have dealt with might add to market efficiency and effectiveness and enhance our image as professionals.  One can only hope!

In my various roles in addition to listing and selling houses, I have heard many complaints over the years from agents unable to get information about houses not yet uploaded to the MLS.  Their buyers saw “For Sale” signs and some information online and wondered why their agent was unable to provide additional information they needed to make an informed decision about property.  Even if the information is in the MLS, some listing agents are the point of contact for scheduling showing appointments and some do not respond to inquiries in a timely manner but that is a separate issue.  What good can come from keeping property information secret?  The general presumption is often that these listing agents do not want competition and that they are trying to sell their own listings.  That may or may not be fair but their actions create those feelings and those perceptions taint all agents.

Here is the new policy:   Within one business day of marketing a property to the public, the Participant must submit the listing to Bright MLS for cooperation with other Bright MLS Participants.”

Let’s break this down.  “One business day” apparently means 24 business hours.  I would prefer that it really meant a “business day” as that is easier to monitor.  “Marketing” should be easy to define but it apparently isn’t.  For example, putting up a “For Sale” sign or uploading property information to the Internet is considered marketing but, as was explained in a Bright MLS video intended to clarify the new policy, “marketing” in emails seems to be correlated with how many people are included in the communication which makes this awkward to say the least.  I like definitive rules and regulations.  Regardless, I believe the intent is good and, if followed, will allow agents to answer questions about price and features and should help the overall Real Estate experience.

I have followed the developing reactions online and have read a number of reasons why some agents seem to feel this new policy is wrong.  One specific concern that makes sense is that agents who use a third-party to install their “For Sale” signs may not know exactly when the sign has been installed.  The easy answer is to upload the listing to the MLS before placing the sign order.  Frankly, while I am certain that some agents have valid concerns that needed to be discussed and addressed, most of what I have read seems to be complaints that some listing agents will not be able to control activity which makes me wonder whose interest they are serving.  A number have mentioned wanting to restrict needless showings to minimize their clients’ inconvenience.  I wonder how they do that while complying with the various laws affecting Real Estate.  Frankly, I empathize with the thought but, as I have opined before, this is not a retail transaction:  showings are generally required to allow buyers and agents to assess Real Estate and they will be inconvenient but that  inconvenience will end once an agreement is signed.  Trying to manage showings and control the marketing might make people wonder who is being restricted from viewing a property and what the real intent might be.

I saw one interesting comment from a buyer’s agent:  they said they had a client who wanted to buy a house that had not been in the MLS or on the Internet to avoid any privacy issues after settlement.  Again I empathize:  listed properties stay online after the sale closes or after the house is taken off the market and anyone can see interior photos even if they reflect prior ownership.  The Internet has affected privacy and I am not sure how to change that.  In my opinion, only active and available properties should be online and properties that sell or come off the market should be removed.

Time will tell if this new policy works.  Will it be modified?  Will deviation be allowed?  What will happen to those who violate it?  There is a heavy fine proposed for non-compliance.

As an experienced, educated and knowledgeable professional, I embrace the efficiency of the MLS.  Prior to our having an MLS, trying to get property information out to the broad a market was tedious, time-consuming and expensive because it was so inefficient.  As someone who bought a personal residence prior to there being an MLS, I remember all too well the hardship we faced identifying every possibility to consider.

Buying and selling Real Estate are infrequent acts that typically involve our biggest asset so the processes deserve all the attention and respect we can give them.  Article 1 of our Code of Ethics requires us to promote and protect the best interest of our client above all else.  While some may think that that means keeping information off the MLS, my best guess is that an overwhelming majority benefit by getting information published as quickly as possible.  We need to make sure our clients fully understand the benefits of using the MLS and our services even if that means we lose a little control.  I certainly hope that it isn’t all about the commission!

There is no time for inexperience, empty promises or false expectations!

HIRE WISELY:  We are not all the same!

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