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Should You Buy a Stale Listing? Pros and Cons of Buying a House With a High DOM

October 30, 2019


A real estate listing can tell you an awful lot about a home, beyond just the price—essential stats like the year the property was built and the price per square foot. But one of the most important numbers to be aware of is the days on market, or DOM, the amount of time the home has been listed for sale on the multiple listing service. The DOM gives you an idea of how other buyers are reacting to the property and whether it’s priced high or low.

Properties with a high DOM are commonly referred to as stale listings, meaning the house has been languishing on the market for a long time. Depending on the specifics of local housing markets, experts consider that a house starts becoming stale around three to five weeks—and it usually causes one of two possible reactions. Some buyers think such homes are a bit tainted, while others believe they’ll have more bargaining power and can get the house at a steal. Which is more true?

Buyer beware?

First of all, let’s dispel the myth that there’s always something wrong with the house when it doesn’t sell quickly. There are a lot of factors that could come into play.

For example, Dolly Hertz, licensed associate real estate broker at Engel & Völkers in New York, says there’s a backlog of unsold inventory in the greater New York market—both city and suburbs. Hertz says some homes have languished on these markets for two or even three years.

Shawn Breyer of Breyer House Buyers, in Atlanta, tells us he’s seen a lot of great homes that are simply overpriced.

“As homeowners progressively lower the price on the home, the perception is that something is wrong with it—and this perception sometimes keeps would-be buyers from looking at the house,” he says.

Sometimes, a high DOM may be due to factors out of the seller’s control.

“Perhaps the seller accepted a contract at some point, but it fell through because the buyer couldn’t qualify for financing,” says Shafaq Chawla, a real estate professional with Compass in Los Gatos, CA.

But the problem could also be the home itself. Outdated interiors or big-ticket items in need of repair can scare buyers away. Some people would never gamble on buying a house with roof damage.

“Buyers are also turned off by homes that need a new paint job, landscaping work, and upgrades to decks, floors, and appliances,” Hertz says.

Location is yet another factor that could stall a home’s sale.

“Houses on busy roads or in a flood zone typically have longer days on market,” says Sarah M. Drennan, at broker/manager at Terrie O’Connor Realtors, in Allendale, NJ.

And, of course, bad listing photos can tarnish buyers’ opinion of the house before they even set foot inside.

Deal or no deal

Does a high DOM give buyers more bargaining power? Sometimes.

“Remember, market value is what a buyer is willing to pay for a home, not what a seller expects,” says Chawla. When there is no demand for the home, she says sellers and agents may be willing to accept less than the initial asking price.

“Many deals may be found by salvaging stale listings,” says Michael Kelczewski, a real estate agent with Brandywine Fine Properties Sotheby’s International in Wilmington, DE. “To see if I have any bargaining power, I tend to suggest presenting a low offer to see how the seller will react.”

Just be aware: Sellers aren’t always desperate, regardless of how long the home has been on the market.

“Some are just fishing for the highest price they can get and won’t sell unless they get the price that they have in mind,” says Breyer. He recommends asking your real estate broker to find out why the homeowner wants to sell, since this can help you determine if you have any bargaining power.

For example, the sellers may just be testing the market and not desperate to sell, and Drennan says they may not be willing to take less than they’re asking. However, if circumstances dictate that they have to sell the home, you’re dealing with a motivated seller and can negotiate accordingly.

Proceed with caution

Finding a house with a high DOM that actually meets all of your criteria may feel like finding a designer blouse at the bottom of a bargain bin, but don’t get excited just yet. You may be able to strike a deal, but the first move is to understand why the house is overpriced.

“Is it the location, a major defect, repairs needed, or difficult sellers?” asks Breyer.

If you do make an offer, be sure to include house inspection contingencies in the contract.

“The house may seem fine, but there may be issues that are not immediately apparent,” Hertz says.

A home inspector will reveal the house’s flaw that may cost you an arm and a leg to repair. But a contingency will give you the right to back out of the sale if something looks fishy.

The post Should You Buy a Stale Listing? Pros and Cons of Buying a House With a High DOM appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

How to Find Open Houses: A Guide for Home Buyers

October 9, 2019

Welcome mat in front of house

Courtney Keating/iStock

Whether you’re intent on buying a home or just curious, hitting up open houses is probably the most fun part of house hunting. It can help you get the lay of the land when it comes to scouring the real estate market.

Every weekend, hundreds of homes for sale open their doors so prospective buyers can pop in, check out the property, and get an up-close view of their potential future homes.

But how do you find them? And aside from ooohing and ahhing over backyard pools, charming foyers, and spacious walk-in closets, what should you do while you have the chance to really view a property?

Keep these tips in mind to make the most of your open house visiting spree.

How to find open houses

Try any or all of these techniques to zero in on your dream home, and find out when its doors will be open for a look-see:

  • Do an online search. We have to toot our own horn here! Not only can you peruse for-sale listings on®, you can find info on upcoming open houses, too. Just click the “open house” box under the More Filters tab, where you can select the size and type of home you’d like to visit, and even whether it has a pool or other amenities you can’t do without.
  • Find listings on your phone. Yup, has an app for that, too. Filter your search for real estate listings with open houses, and you’ll get an actual map of properties in your area with upcoming open houses. Tap on each one for times the house will be open and other specifics.
  • Use Instagram and other social media. Simply search #openhouse plus your city on Instagram, and you’ll find plenty of real estate listings with gorgeous pictures of homes that will be open for your viewing pleasure.
    “I also like to keep an eye on Realtor® signs in my area and find their personal Instagram accounts,” says Alexander Ali, founder of the Society Group PR firm, who has put on some memorable open houses.
    “Most agents have personal accounts, and they’re great to use as a communication tool. Follow and direct-message them! It’s faster than an email, and they check their social constantly.”
  • Look for the signs. Even in today’s digital world, where you can find hundreds of listings in seconds, plenty of smart real estate agents still stake “Open House” signs in front of properties for sale in hopes of attracting potential buyers. Drive or walk around a neighborhood you like, and see if there are signs or posters about upcoming open houses. Make a note of the date and time so you can plan a route of all the houses your want to view. Also check your mail for open house mailers, and keep an eye out for real estate fliers in local establishments. Once you look around, you’ll see that sellers and real estate agents are practically popping out of bushes, begging you to stop by their open houses.
  • Visit local real estate offices. If you’re not ready to commit to working with one buyer’s agent, consider popping in to a few realty offices in your target area and asking what open houses they have coming up. It can be a great way to find listings and get a feel for which real estate agent you might want to work with in the future.

How to make the most of open houses

It’s easy to wander aimlessly through home after home, swooning over chef’s kitchens, double-vanity bathrooms, and built-in bookshelves. However, if you arrive at an open house with a game plan, you’ll get much more out of it.

Here are some tips to maximize your time when perusing a for-sale property:

  • Plan your path. Open houses tend to congregate on the weekend, so if you want to hit many of them or just cut down on running the roads, it’s best to plot them out on a map, with the times they’re open, to visualize the best order to tackle them. If you’re walking from one to the other in the same neighborhood, be sure to wear comfortable shoes!
  • Take photos. After you view lots of houses, they might start to blur together. Therefore it’s a great idea to “chronicle” your open house journey with a series of photos from each open house, plus notes, so when you’re reviewing them later you can remember what you liked and disliked about each property.
    Just jot quick first impressions, like “spacious kitchen,” “unique floor plan,” “dated cabinetry,” or “worn carpet in bedrooms.” At each house, start with a photo of the exterior and a flier that includes the listing details, so you can identify it easily when you’re reviewing the pictures later.
  • Think beyond the home you’re in. Chat with the real estate agent about the neighborhood, not just the house. Sizing up bedrooms and imagining your monogrammed towels in the bathroom are fun open house activities, but be sure to think beyond the house itself.
    Consider school zones, drive times to your most frequent destinations, and the upkeep of surrounding roads.
    “If the home isn’t something you like, they probably have others they could show you,” says Ali. “If you don’t like that house but you like the Realtor and aren’t working with anyone yet, tell them so and ask what else they have. Try not to leave an open house without at least one new phone number or listing idea, and soon you’ll find the right place for you.”
    But beware of engaging anyone as a dual agent.

The post How to Find Open Houses: A Guide for Home Buyers appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

10 Secrets No One Tells You That’ll Help Your House Fetch Top Dollar

August 26, 2019


Maybe you’ve bought and sold a home before, or maybe this is the first time. Regardless, now you need to get top dollar for it. Yes, you can tidy up, bake some cookies so the house smells nice, and place fresh flowers (research says roses, lavender, and fuchsia most sway buyers) around the house. But these are the typical techniques most sellers deploy. Really want to get the best price possible—or even spark a bidding war?

Here are 10 tips that are seldom mentioned in listing houses that just might put your property over the edge.

1. Make sure your mailbox looks amazing

First impressions matter, which is why you should check out your curb appeal. Is the driveway cracked? Is the mailbox old and leaning? The best sales rest on keeping these details in mind.

“Replace the mailbox—literally the first thing people see,” says Teris Pantazes, CEO and co-founder of SettleRite, a pre-sale home improvement company in Baltimore.

2. Make the right use of your rooms

If you use the dining room for a kid’s playroom, or if the loft is empty because you don’t have a use for it, restage your rooms so they reflect their original purpose. Buyers want to see the space used in a traditional way—with a dining table in the dining room, a desk and chair in the office—to envision themselves living there.

3. Reglaze the bathroom

“The best tip I use to get top dollar for some of our houses is to reglaze an old bathroom that has a terrible color of tile—like pink or green,” says Michael Pinter, a house flipper in Long Island, NY, with LMPK Properties. “We reglaze the bathroom white for a few hundred dollars, and a dated bathroom will look 30 years younger.”

Bathrooms and kitchens sell houses, and any small improvement that makes those rooms more modern makes a huge difference.

4. Get buyers to fall in love

Russell Volk, a real estate agent with Re/Max Elite serving Bucks County, PA, worked with a home-selling couple who decided to hand-write a one-page letter about their life in the house.

“Their story of how they raised their family and what kind of experiences they had in the home was very personal and emotional,” says Volk. The letter was framed on the kitchen counter for potential buyers to read. One buyer who liked the home absolutely loved the sellers’ story—and paid full asking price.

“If sellers can connect with buyers on an emotional level, chances of buyers paying top dollar for the house drastically increase,” says Volk.

5. List under value

“Data shows that if you list a home 10% under market value, you will attract 75% of the buyer pool, versus only 30% if you were to list 10% over market value,” says Melissa Colabella, at Sotheby’s International Realty. “Yet sellers fear that not leaving room to negotiate leaves money on the table, which is not true.”

In fact, buyers are often motivated to bid by seeing other bids on a property, a dynamic that typically pushes bids above market value.

6. Provide insider information

Make sure to include tidbits in the listing that buyers will appreciate and that they can only get from you: the mention of a popular neighborhood coffee shop, the best Mexican restaurant nearby, or the free library box around the corner. No one knows these details better than you, the homeowner.

7. Describe the neighborhood culture

Think of everything interesting you can about your neighborhood—its proximity to a community pool, street basketball games in the cul-de-sac, the number of dog walkers who gather to chat—and mention them in your listing. The smallest detail can attract a buyer with a teenager, a dog, and kids with swimsuits.

8. Don’t forget to list the house extras

The motion-sensitive outdoor lighting, an automatic garage door timer that closes the door before dark, a phone-activated security system, or camera door bell… These bells and whistles may seem banal to you, but they can make sellers feel that everything’s been taken care of for them—and inspire a top-dollar offer.

9. Create a video tour

Most people get great photos and fantastic descriptions. But filming a video tour of the property is inexpensive, can be done by an amateur, and is a novelty that will draw in buyers, says Bryan Stoddard, owner of Homewares Insider, a site exploring all things related to the home.

“If the video is well made, it will showcase exactly the same things that an open house would,” he says.

10. Get a home pre-inspection

Yes, the buyers will want their own home inspection, but getting a pre-inspection so that prospective buyers have a general idea of the property’s condition before making an offer is a win/win, says Antonio Picillo III, a broker at Exceptional Home Team in Fort Wayne, IN.

Home buyers will be impressed you took the time and effort to get your home pre-inspected to make sure everything is tip-top. It shows a level of integrity and commitment that can be hard to find.

The post 10 Secrets No One Tells You That’ll Help Your House Fetch Top Dollar appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

When Is the Best Time to Sell Your House? 5 Factors to Consider

May 8, 2019

When is the best time to sell your house?

supawat bursuk/iStock

When is the best time to sell your house? Timing can make a big difference in terms of selling your home quickly and for the most cash. But here’s the thing: The rules on pinpointing that best time might not be what you think.

The assumption that spring is always the best time to sell is not necessarily true. The general direction of your local economy and mortgage interest rates come into play as well.

There’s no crystal ball for reading the housing market, but there are ways to stack the deck in your favor. Here are five things to consider before putting your house on the market.

1. Spring isn’t always the best season to sell your house

Though conventional wisdom maintains that the spring home-buying season (April to June) is the best time to sell, that’s not always the case. In fact, one recent study even found that sellers typically net more above asking price during the months of December, January, February, and March than they do from June through November. Surprised?

One reason may be that the spring home-buying season generally means you’ll have more competition from other home sellers—and that may require you to price your home more aggressively in order to attract buyers.

“Listing in the spring means you are positioning yourself to compete with several other homes,” says Jersey City, NJ–based real estate agent Cheyanne Banks. “So as a seller in the spring, you have to price and market your home flawlessly to show buyers that your home is more desirable than the place next door.”

Additionally, a number of experts recommend listing a home in February or March so that the property hits the market before the competition ramps up—which may explain why a 2018 study by ATTOM Data Solutions of 14.7 million home sales from 2011 to 2017 found the second-best day of the year to sell a home is Feb. 15, with sellers netting an average premium of 9% above their house’s estimated market value on that day. (Sellers nab a 9.1% premium above market value on June 28.)

Winter is also a hot time of year for people relocating for jobs, says Jennifer Baldinger, a real estate broker in Scarsdale, NY.

“One of the biggest months for corporate relocation is January-February, so those buyers who need to move quickly are out in full force looking for new homes,” she says.

2. Keep an eye on the local economy

The strength of the U.S. housing market as a whole certainly plays a role in home prices. According to a analysis of annual price growth rates, a home’s value generally increases 3% to 4% a year when the economy is strong, driven by inflation and natural population growth. From 2011 to 2016, the national housing market was recovering from the bubble at a slightly higher speed: 6.3% a year, on average.

You’ll want to assess your local economy’s conditions when figuring out when to list your home. One benchmark you can use is the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller National Home Price Index, which monitors single-family home sales in 20 major U.S. cities. Another valuable resource is the Metropolitan Median Area Prices and Affordability tracker from the National Association of Realtors®.

3. Mortgage rates matter, too

Generally, more people buy homes when mortgage rates drop, historic data shows. As a result, prospective sellers should be monitoring the mortgage market, says Jack Guttentag, author of “The Mortgage Encyclopedia.”

Need help keeping an eye on interest rates? has a mortgage rate trends tracker, which lets you follow interest rate changes in your local market.

4. Wait until your home’s in good shape

To fetch top dollar for your home, the property must show well. This may require you take time to make repairs to your house.

“Any defect or condition that affects the intended function or operation of a major house system should be fixed,” says Kathleen Kuhn, president of HouseMaster, a national chain of home inspection offices.

Translation: Taking care of leaks, built-in appliances not functioning properly, insect infestations, plus any imminent safety or environmental hazards, is crucial before listing your home. Even making cosmetic changes (e.g., repainting the kitchen or sprucing up the property’s landscaping) can make your home significantly more appealing to home buyers.

Keeping up with your neighbors is also important. If all the houses on your block are beautifully furnished and landscaped, then it’s likely worth it to spend the extra cash—and the time—primping your own home for sale.

5. Your personal preparedness is a priority, too

Yet no amount of timing should eclipse what time is right for you—personally, professionally, and otherwise. Are you ready to move on, or up into bigger digs? Many homeowners sell when they change jobs or when their children switch schools, or when the kids fly the coop and the parents are ready to downsize. So, take stock of your own situation when deciding whether to put your house on the market now or wait.

Michele Lerner contributed to this article.

The post When Is the Best Time to Sell Your House? 5 Factors to Consider appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

Lessons From Listing Photos: A Modernized 1950s Home Is Now a Buyer’s Dream

December 21, 2018

Listing Photo Lesson

It doesn’t matter how perfect your home is—if your listing photos don’t stand out, potential buyers won’t come by to take a look. “Lessons From Listing Photos” is our new series in which we dissect the smart updates sellers have made to their homes and how their listing pics highlight the home’s best assets.

Most people don’t mind buying a house that’s in need of a few updates; in fact, taking on a couple of home improvement projects is practically expected. But when an entire house needs an upgrade, it can be intimidating.

Case in point: This two-story, single-family home in Rockville Center, NY, built in 1952. When the most recent sellers purchased it in 2017, it still held onto a lot of its original charm—and its original decor. Dark wood paneling, floral curtains, and wall-to-wall carpeting all made the inside of the home into a time capsule. While this vintage vibe might appeal to some, the owners made the smart decision to bring the decor into the 21st century with modern flooring and neutral tones that make it fit for a much wider array of buyers.

So, did the changes work? The house sold in August, so that’s a success in our book. Find out which interior updates made the most difference in this home, and why you might want to consider them for your own place.

Dining room (before)

dining room_before
The dining room was dark and dated.

Dining room (after)

dining room_after
All this light makes the dining room look brand-new.

Peace out, wood paneling

Although it doesn’t look like it, this is, in fact, the same dining room. The most obvious change is removing the retro wood paneling and replacing it with a fresh coat of paint and wall moulding that still has vintage appeal.

“Some people may think the wood paneling adds charm, but this look left the harbor a long time ago,” says property stylist Karen Gray Plaisted of Design Solutions KGP.

Leslie Saul, interior designer and founder of Leslie Saul and Associates, calls the space “transformed.”

“The gray and white walls help make the room feel expansive and appealing to most potential buyers,” Saul adds.

Another fan of the new dining room is Sandra Funk, designer and founder of House of Funk in Montclair, NJ.

“What was once screaming ‘project’ is now a blank slate that home buyers can see themselves making their own,” she says. “This room feels twice as big as the original design thanks to a newly stained hardwood floor, lighter paint on the walls, a statement light fixture, and updated door and window detailing.”

Bathroom (before)

This vintage bathroom won’t appeal to everyone.

Bathroom (after)

This new modern bathroom has universal appeal.

Refresh the retro bathroom

In the bathroom, the sellers opted to keep the same layout and spend their money on modernizing every square inch instead. This included doing away with the Millennial Pink sink, toilet, and tub.

Pink fixtures are trendy, but you are limiting your buying market by leaving a bathroom as is. Bathrooms weight heavily in a buyer’s purchasing decision,” says Gray Plaisted. “Buyers know that renovating a bathroom is a big expense—one many don’t want to make when first purchasing a house. When selling, updating a bathroom in the right finishes equates to hassle-free in a buyer’s mind.”

Funk says the makeover has wide appeal. “Classic subway tiles, a vanity with tons of storage, and simple, clean hardware” are all features that will impress buyers looking for a clean, updated home.

“The marble vanity top adds elegance, and the medicine cabinet is endlessly functional,” she adds.

Basement (before)

The dark basement lacked purpose.

Basement (after)

Now, this basement is a perfect place to gather.


Make the basement a blank canvas

This basement was spacious even before the makeover, but painting it white really showed potential buyers its true potential. Not only did this eliminate the to-do work of neutralizing the color palette of the room, but it also helps the buyers envision themselves in the space. No more wondering if their couch will look good in this basement play area—everything matches when a seller gives them a blank slate to start from.

The sellers also replaced the fluorescent ceiling light fixtures with modern-looking recessed lighting with LED bulbs.

“If you look closely you will see the paneling was just painted over, which likely saved the sellers some money,” Gray Plaisted says. “All the updates done to this room will give the seller bang for their buck.”

The post Lessons From Listing Photos: A Modernized 1950s Home Is Now a Buyer’s Dream appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights |®.

6 Reasons Why Selling a House in the Winter May Be the Best Decision Ever

October 9, 2018

Spring is generally the most popular time of year to sell a house, with hordes of buyers looking to move into a new place before the school year begins. But if you decide to sell your home during the winter, experts say you could reap a reward in cold, hard cash.

“I have personally had my best months in real estate during the holiday season, so the idea that the markets are very tough to sell in the winter might be a myth,” says Emil Hartoonian, managing partner of The Agency in Beverly Hills, CA.

He’s not the only one who believes selling in the winter can make you a real estate winner. Read on for the top reasons why you should consider unloading when the temperatures drop.

1. Low inventory = less competition

Since spring is the most popular home-selling season, the housing market is ultracrowded with options at that time of year. And if you paid attention during Econ 101, you understand the law of supply and demand.

“Most sellers still think they need to sell in the spring, but that means there is more competition for buyers’ attention,” says Matt Van Winkle, founder of Re/Max Northwest in Seattle.

But in the winter, there are fewer homes for sale. That competition over low inventory can make winter an ideal time to sell your home.

“In the Atlanta market, January is one of the strongest months for homes to go under contract,” says Ally May of Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s.

2. You get to show your home’s winter-readiness

Selling in the winter also gives you the opportunity to show that a home is designed to handle the harsh elements.

“Sellers in places like Lake Tahoe can show off features like a south-facing driveway to speed up snow melting, how snow will fall off of a roof, a short driveway that will minimize shoveling or plowing, heat tape on the north side of the roof to avoid snow accumulation, and how recently the roof and furnace have been replaced,” says Sandy Soli, regional manager at Engel & Volkers in Lake Tahoe, NV.

Plus, during winter months, homes with features like fireplaces and hot tubs are certainly more appealing.

3. New parents may be looking to upgrade

The baby boom in September may lead to more buyers later in the year. According to data from the Center for Health Statistics and the Social Security Administration, there are more birthdays in the month of September than any other time of the year. Therefore, there’s likely to be a crop of growing families looking to buy a larger house.

“Once baby is home and settled, these parents may want to start the year in a new, and more spacious, family home,” according to Melissa Temple, real estate adviser and partner at Engel & Volkers in Aspen, CO.

4. Winter brings out the serious buyers

News flash: Not everyone looking at houses intends to make a purchase. Some people are contemplating moving and may just want to see what’s on the market. Since more homes tend to go on the market in spring and fall, this is also when window shoppers are likely to be out looking.

However, these looky-loos tend to be scarce during winter months, according to Jennifer Baldinger, licensed associate real estate broker at Julia B. Fee Sotheby’s International Realty in Scarsdale, NY.

“When I have buyers looking for homes in January and February, they’re real buyers looking to make a purchase—especially if it’s a great house. They don’t want to take the chance of waiting until spring and losing out on the home,” Baldinger says.

“There may be less people at these open houses, but I would rather have 10 real buyers come through than 20 people who are just curious,” she says.

5. Year-end financial bonuses and payouts

As a seller, year-end performance reviews could mean that more people have money to spend on a home.

“End-of-year financial bonuses or workers retiring with large payouts could mean opportunities for these buyers to upgrade their living situations or for first-time buyers to enter the housing market,” says Robert Taylor, owner of the Real Estate Solutions Guy, in Sacramento, CA.

6. Corporate relocation

You could also encounter buyers who are relocating for a job.

“One of the biggest months for corporate relocation is January/February, so those buyers, who need to move quickly, are out in full force looking for new homes,” Baldinger says.

Relocators typically have a limited amount of time to uproot their families and, as a result, don’t have the luxury of spending a lot of time looking at properties. The kids need to get settled into school, and dealing with selling their old home can add another level of urgency and stress. So it’s likely that once they find a home that meets their requirements, these buyers will be ready to sign on the dotted line.

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