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Sarah Goulart Nathe's Blog

By Sarah Goulart Nathe | Agent in Bourne, MA
  • Help!! I received an offer....now what??

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Massachusetts, Home Selling in Massachusetts  |  December 17, 2011 8:08 AM  |  555 views  |  1 comment
    I know what you are thinking....wait, wouldn't this be GOOD news for any seller in the market today?  The answer for many may be a surprise, but in today's market, the receipt of an offer seems to be more anxiety producing than a relief.  Why?  Yes, you guessed it, because rarely is the offer what the homeowner wants to see.  Sometimes this is true even if the offer comes close to asking price.  

    The reality is that, in my opinion, it is a buyers market.  So, while price is still the main reason to accept, reject, or counter an offer, there are quite a few other considerations to make when thinking strategically about your next move.  A few of these include:

    1.  Contingencies:

    Contingencies are items such as a home sale contingency (does the buyer have to sell his/her home first?), inspection contingency, financing contingency, appraisal contingency, etc.  The inclusion of more contingencies makes an offer less desirable to a seller, regardless of price.  

    If the buyer has a home sale contingency, you are going to want your agent to review that.  Does the buyer already have the home under agreement?  If so, how strong are their buyers?  Have the agent take a look at the offer and/or Purchase and Sale agreement to find out.  How long has the home been on the market?  How does the price of the home compare to other comparables in that area?  These are all questions to be asked as a seller's agent and seller to decide if you will accept an offer with a home sale contingency.

    Regarding a financing contingency, take a look at what type of loan they are applying for. FHA?  Conventional financing?  Also, and in my opinion most important, make sure the buyer has been pre-approved for this financing before you accept the offer.

    2.  Timeline
    Take a look at the proposed timeline for the sale.  This will include the dates for Purchase and Sale signatures, mortgage contingencies and a closing date.  Are the buyers willing to work with you on a timeline that works in your best interest?  If so, their offer may be stronger for you.

    3.  Price
    I know I started this off by saying that the price is usually the most important part to the buyer and seller, so I would be remiss in not at least discussing it.  One important key item regarding price are the comparable sales in your area.  Your realtor should have discussed these with you before you listed, but keep them in mind now, EVEN if you decided to list at a higher amount.  Is the offer in line with what your realtor showed you?  If you have been on the market for a while, you may need him or her to run some newer comparables so you have the most recent data to decide where to counter.

    Sellers are having a hard time adjusting to prices of homes these days.  Try to keep emotion out of it if at all possible.  Is the offer reasonable?  If not, is it worth it to counter to see how much motivation the buyers have to purchase your home?

    It is always advisable, with every offer, to talk in depth with your realtor.  He or she knows your market, your home, and your motivation better than anyway.  The above are just a few items to consider when you do receive an offer as a seller. 

    Of course, as a buyers agent, my blog post would be completely different ;-).

    Happy House Hunting!

  • Are Short Sales Here To Say?

    Posted Under: Market Conditions in Massachusetts, Home Buying in Massachusetts, Home Selling in Massachusetts  |  July 22, 2011 11:28 AM  |  720 views  |  1 comment


    While this is an extremely small sampling, it does seem that for those who need to sell their home, there will still be a continuation of a larger number of short-sales. 

    What is your take on this?  Are you working with a lot of short sales right now?  Do you see becoming Short Sale Certified or a Loss Mitigation Specialist worthwhile?

  • Massachusetts Market Watch

    Posted Under: Market Conditions in Massachusetts, Home Buying in Massachusetts, Home Selling in Massachusetts  |  May 6, 2011 7:38 AM  |  726 views  |  No comments

    Warmer Weather Welcomes Favorite Activity
    Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage
    MAY 2011

    The warmer weather is finally warming up everyone’s favorite Sunday activity. No it’s not watching football; wrong season and don’t forget, we’re talking about real estate here. At Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, our favorite Sunday activity is the grand tradition of holding an open house of course.

    The open house is the classic way to introduce a property to the market and it is still quite an effective and popular method to attract buyers to a home.

    For home sellers, here are some helpful tips to ensure that your open house event is successful. Ensure the outside of the home is as appealing as possible. Water and mow the lawn, trim the trees, cut back overgrowth and plant colorful flowers. Store bicycles, gardening equipment, children's and pet toys away from view.

    De-clutter and remove personal belongings like family photographs. Buyers want to imagine their own personal belongings in the space and too much stuff can distract them. Also ensure that personal belongings such as jewelry and medication are locked safely away.

    Neutralize any strong odors and let the light shine through. Raise the blinds, open curtains and wash the windows. Don’t forget to change light bulbs throughout the home.

    Open houses are just as important for home buyers as they are for the seller, as prospective buyers can assess and compare a large number of properties at once. Viewing a variety of homes can give you a much better idea of exactly what you desire in a property, and help you understand how much home you can afford.

    Buyers should also agree upon a procedure with their real estate agent before visiting open houses. If you attend an open house and like the property, it is generally best to share that information with your agent who can then schedule a private showing and help you through the negotiation process.

    If you don’t have time to attend an open house, just visit NewEnglandMoves.com. With thousands of listings with at-a-glance details of property listings with multiple views, selecting the right home is a simple click away. You can search for your dream home by location, MLS number, property type, school district and more.

    You can also sign-up for email alerts for when new properties come on the market, prices change, and of course when open houses are scheduled. NewEnglandMoves.com is also accessible via your smart phone.

    If you want to learn more about the open house process, call me at 508-591-5089 or email at Sarah.Nathe@NEMoves.com. Happy house hunting!

  • It's Time To Buy!!

    Posted Under: Market Conditions in Massachusetts, Home Buying in Massachusetts, Home Selling in Massachusetts  |  April 7, 2011 7:11 PM  |  729 views  |  No comments

    In case anyone missed this article in Fortune...I'll post the link here:

    While every market varies, this is what many of us are seeing with buyers this early Spring.

    Happy House Hunting!

    Sarah Goulart Nathe
  • Bigger Down Payments Lead To Second Thoughts

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Massachusetts, Home Selling in Massachusetts, Agent2Agent in Massachusetts  |  March 5, 2011 12:31 PM  |  527 views  |  1 comment
    I found this article interesting enough to share.  Most people would agree that until 'recently' in history, buying a home with less than 20% down was unheard of.  Then came the 'good' years with 0 down home loans, some even rolling closing costs into the loan.  For that and other reasons, we are where we are in today's market.  So what do you think?  Are you happy to see the government and banks requiring more money down on home loans or are you unhappy because it is hurting the real estate business?

    I myself am torn.  I never want to see people in over their heads financially.  I also want to see the real estate market rebound and give more people the opportunity for homeownership.

    Bigger down payments lead to second thoughts

    February 20, 2011

    The down payments demanded by banks to buy homes have ballooned since the housing bust, forcing many people to rethink what they can afford and potentially shrinking the pool of eligible buyers.

    Last week, the Obama administration called for gradually raising down payments to a minimum of 10 percent on conventional loans, meaning those that can be bought or guaranteed by mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. And mortgage data show that private lenders are already pushing sharply higher the required down payments, mainly to mitigate their risk as home prices continue to fall.

    The median down payment in nine major U.S. cities rose to 22 percent last year on properties purchased through conventional mortgages, according to an analysis for The Wall Street Journal by real estate portal Zillow.com. That percentage doubled in three years and represents the highest median down payment since the data were first tracked in 1997.

    The move to force home buyers to lay out more cash is driven mostly by banks, who have found that larger down payments discourage delinquencies by increasing the buyers' exposure to loss and reducing the impact of declining prices. Many home buyers placed little, if anything, down during the boom.

    A 2009 Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis study concluded buyers who made smaller down payments were more likely to default during "unfavorable economic circumstances, such as a housing market slowdown or job loss."

    Higher borrowing costs and heftier down payments could send housing prices falling further. Last week, 30-year fixed mortgage rates rose to 5.05 percent, their highest level since April. "If there is a scenario where the government talks about raising down payments to 20 percent on conventional loans, you would absolutely crush the housing market," said Peter Norden, chief executive of Real Estate Mortgage Network Inc., an Edison, N.J., brokerage.

    For now, borrowers who can't afford such hefty amounts are flocking to alternative programs, such as loans for veterans or those backed by the Federal Housing Administration, creating a parallel—and growing—mortgage market for riskier borrowers and those who don't qualify for conventional loans.

    FHA-backed mortgages, which require 3.5 percent up front, made up about half of loans for home purchases last year, according to housing-research firm Zelman & Associates, but borrowers often pay higher interest rates and must pay private mortgage insurance, often driving their monthly payments higher.

    "There's no question that the tightening of criteria unquestionably prices households out of the market," said Zillow economist Stan Humphries. "The middle ground buyer is the one having to fight to get a conventional mortgage."

    Nikki Lavoie is among them.

    Six years ago, she and her then-husband bought their first home in Middletown, Del., through a veteran's loan, and have very little equity in the property. Recently divorced, Lavoie expects to make a small profit on the sale of the four-bedroom home, now under contract.

    That leaves her with a 5 percent down payment for a town house she plans to buy and share with her 14-month-old daughter. Once, that would have been enough.

    "A conventional loan "» unless I had 20 percent, that is not even an option for me." said Lavoie, a 29-year-old who works for Delaware state government.

    Because the town house is in a rural area, Lavoie qualified for a United States Department of Agriculture loan, which requires no money down. She is saving what would have been her down payment for appliances and furniture.

    The median down payment hovered around 20 percent in the late 1990s and began to creep downward in 2001 in the nine cities Zillow analyzed.

  • Are We Back In The Land Of Affordable Housing?

    Posted Under: Market Conditions in Massachusetts, Home Buying in Massachusetts, Home Selling in Massachusetts  |  March 4, 2011 11:24 AM  |  398 views  |  No comments

    Courtesy of Realty Times.....

    Are We Back In the Land of Affordable Housing?
    by Phoebe Chongchua

    I can hear the sound of gasps as those on bated breath begin to breathe again. This year may be “the end of the housing crash!”, according to The Wall Street Journal, (WSJ).

    It seems that housing is again affordable and the bad news is, well, not so bad anymore. According to Simon Constable in the WSJ, the S&P/Case-Shiller home-price index, which tracks 20 markets, dropped 1% in December ... and that is the fifth consecutive decline.

    The drum is beating loudly and the tune is “houses are a good deal”. In fact, experts at Mood’s Analytic’s, where income and housing prices are studied, claim houses are more affordable than in decades.

    The WSJ reports that, for the first time in 35 years, nationally for the average family, the price of a house basically adds up to the equivalent of 19 months total pay.

    Experts are pointing out that housing has dropped so much that the great debate of renting versus owning is clearly leaning toward homeownership.

    Timing the real estate market or, for that matter, any market is iffy at best. But when you take a good look at the signs you can see that homebuying is becoming more attractive. Home prices have dropped about 31% from their high in 2006 (based on the S&PCase-Shiller national composite home-price index).

    So if you put off buying a home because you were waiting for the best deal, now may be the time to re-launch your search. However, keeping in mind a few homebuying tips will help you navigate through the housing process.

    Check your resources. No matter how affordable prices are, remember that buying a home is still likely your largest financial investment. With that in mind, you’ll want to make sure that you’re not just barely economically squeezing into a home.

    It’s best to save up and have a solid, healthy downpayment. The new tightened credit rules may insist on a larger cash payment and insulate you from a possible dip in housing prices.

    Call your agent. Even if you’ve been tracking the real estate market and watching the drops in your neighbor’s house that’s been on the market for a seemingly endless period of time, call your real estate agent. Why? Because he or she will have the inside scoop on your neighbor’s house and other deals in the community where you’re looking for a home.

    I don’t need to spend a lot of time on this one because I’ve written about the importance of using agents in previous columns. It’s simply a good idea to consult with and use an expert when you’re investing a lot of money, time, effort, and–let’s face it–your heart–into something.

    Stick around a while. I’m not talking about hanging at the open houses. Nor should buying a home with the intention of flipping it be a high priority right now. If you’re buying a home, plan to stick around a while. The cost of buying a home, moving, and paying for repairs/renovations adds up. However, experts say keeping a goal of owning the house you buy for a while (maybe 10 years) is the better route to take.

    Weigh your options. I don’t like wasting time and one thing I could never understand as an agent was people who simply wanted to “window shop” for houses they really couldn’t buy. They would get agents to drive them around all over town looking at homes in price ranges they couldn’t afford. Not my idea of fun–for the agent or the buyers–it’s more like a lesson in frustration. Of course, comparison shopping in your price range is important.

    The better option is to weigh your options, meaning know what’s important in housing. Know how much you can really afford to buy. Know your likes and dislikes. Know your needs in housing. Like choosing a mate, you’ll make some compromises. Keep track of what’s important to you by writing down what you hope to find in your next home. Keep the list handy, review it, adjust it during your house-hunting excursions, and then be sure to share your detailed list with your agent to ensure you’re all on the same journey.

    Published: March 4,

  • To Sell An Apartment, No Detail is Too Small

    Posted Under: Home Selling, Agent2Agent  |  February 23, 2011 3:50 AM  |  390 views  |  No comments
    Check out this article in the NY Times regarding selling.  It could be a great article to share with your sellers who are wondering what details they can do to sell their property.  I personally need to tell my husband that those Christian Louboutins I so desperately want could even be  a write-off!
    Published: February 21, 2011

    On a recent Thursday morning, Jamella Swift, a Citi Habitats broker, was trying to anticipate every detail that would prevent a buyer from purchasing the two-bedroom condo she was selling in Bedford-Stuyvesant. She put a full-size bed in the bedroom so buyers wouldn’t think the room was too small. She dragged in a Lucite coffee table to create the illusion of a larger living space and set up three floor lamps to supplement the recessed lighting. Ms. Swift hoped that the $5,000 she had spent would help her land $395,000 to $425,000 for the apartment.

    Ms. Swift learned how much details could detract from the value after representing a couple who was ready to buy an apartment for more than $7 million. The apartment had a rainy, musty smell that Ms. Swift thought the selling broker could have fixed by buying a dehumidifier. Ms. Swift’s client backed out.

    “It could have been a done deal,” Ms. Swift said. Brokers say small moves can alter the ultimate sales price of an apartment by 5 to 10 percent. The calculations are irrational, and buyers are usually unaware they are doing it. But chipped plaster or broken bathroom tiles can knock $500 to $5,000 off an offer, $1,500 floating walls can add $50,000 to $70,000, and a $10,000 paint job easily adds $50,000 to the price, according to an informal survey of city brokers.

    Some more recent examples they provided of real estate math:

    Clutter: Subtract 5 to 15 percent. Douglas Heddings, founder of the brokerage Heddings Property Group, watched two West End Avenue apartments that were exactly the same come up for sale at the same time. One apartment, where the sellers cleared out all of their spare toys and books, sold quickly. The second, more cluttered apartment lingered on the market for more than a year and sold for 15 percent less.

    Fresh towels and throw pillows: add $25,000. Geraldine Onorato represented a client selling a two-bedroom where the buyers received offers for no more than $450,000. Ms. Onorato spent $700 on a fresh bath mat and fluffy white towels and brought in an offer for $475,000.

    Dirty rugs: subtract $5,000. Before Ivy Paterni, an agent with City Connections Realty, brought to market a one-bedroom apartment at 5 Tudor City, she knew buyers would focus on the off-white living room rug that had grayed with time. “Nobody wants to buy a home that at any point in its history was dirty,” Ms. Paterni said. She bought a sandy white $400 rug at Northeast Floor Covering, bought some extra plants and had the seller repaint the apartment neutral cream. She is listing it for $499,000 and estimates that without these changes she would have had to list it for $494,000.

    Regrouting tile: add $100,000 (to a $3 million apartment, that is). Deanna Kory, a Corcoran broker, advised the seller of an eight-room apartment in the West 80s to spend a few hundred dollars on regrouting. “If you see a bathroom that needs a lot of grouting, you think it needs to be ripped up,” she said. She estimates that grouting, along with moving around furniture and adding lighting, will bring in at least $100,000 more for a $3 million apartment.

    New fixtures and appliances: add $250 in rent. Chris Mercogliano, a local landlord, was shopping for a tenant for his $1,800-a-month two-bedroom apartment at 508 East 78th Street. He spent about $1,600: new outlets and light switches ($100), tiles for the kitchen and dining area ($500), four new light fixtures ($40), blinds for three windows ($75) and a new stainless steel stove, microwave and refrigerator ($1,000). It rented for $2,050 a month.

    New lights: add $32,500. Michael Akerly of Rutenberg Realty had been trying to sell his two-bedroom apartment at 15 Broad Street for a year for $949,000. He received an all-cash offer for about $800,000 and a second offer for $885,000. He took it off the market, rented it for a year and paid a professional lighting designer $150 for advice. He spent $2,000 replacing his chandelier and ceiling fan with two large drum lights. In two weeks he had an offer for $917,500.

    Replacing cabinets: add $107,000. Frances Katzen was recently selling a one-bedroom apartment in Murray Hill, at 245 East 35th Street, that she advised her client to list for no more than $310,000. After he spent $20,000 on new kitchen cabinets and paint, she listed it for $429,000, and it went to contract for $417,000.

    An expensive shoe closet: worth every dollar. Michele Kleier of Gumley Haft Kleier has found that when buyers walk into a closet filled with Christian Louboutins, they are likely to pay more of a premium than what the seller spent on her shoe collection. She advises sellers, “You can buy 25 pairs of designer shoes, put them in your closet, and they’re going to get more than you spent on them.” That’s because, Ms. Kleier said, “people want to step into your life.”

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