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Spencer Hayes' Blog

By Spencer Hayes | Agent in Montgomery, AL
  • Regional Trends: What Buyers Want Most—and Get

    Posted Under: Remodel & Renovate in Alabama, Design & Decor in Alabama, Home Ownership in Alabama  |  March 11, 2014 2:49 PM  |  514 views  |  No comments

    Sales are robust again in many markets across the country, with the national median existing-home price topping $196,300 in November, up 9.4 percent from a year earlier, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. But a single bold-faced dollar amount has only limited usefulness for real estate practitioners and consumers given the wide variation in job markets, housing inventory, and sales trends.

    Also varying by market is what buyers tend to seek in square footage, room types, and outdoor living space. Specific tastes in room features and layouts are affected greatly by region, climate, lifestyle, and architectural traditions.

    To better understand these localized trends, we asked REALTORS® from four markets across the country to share a recent median-priced listing and describe how it reflects local buyer preferences.

    Des Moines, Wash.

    Median price: $245,000 (Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue market, $354,700 median, +15.9% from 2012)

    Desired features: Good condition, two-story or ranch plan, about 1,700 square feet, updated bathrooms, deck, natural gas for barbecue.

    Buyer turnoffs: Fixer-uppers, overpricing.

    Best marketing tools: A listing launch with an open house preview for neighbors to bring in as many as possible in initial blitz; professional photos appeal to all buyers; listing’s own website to measure traffic online.

    For $100,000 more: Partial view of Puget Sound or Olympic mountains, fourth bedroom, updated kitchen, basement, bigger footprint.

    Prices in Des Moines (population: 29,000) saw double-digit gains in 2013 but are still well below the $354,700 median for the Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area. Des Moines has seen a housing shortage for the last year and a half. The prime reasons, says Tony Hettler, crb, broker-owner with John L. Scott Real Estate’s Des Moines office, are sellers who are waiting for prices to rise further before they list and pent-up demand from young couples seeking affordable homes near the water or mountains.

    This listing: This bank-owned 1,890-square-foot house, built in 1990, sold in less than three weeks last July for $13,100 more than its $207,900 listing price. Hettler credits the realistic price, prime condition, new appliances, gas furnace, roof, three bedrooms, and convenient location between Seattle and Tacoma, the state’s biggest cities.

    Jacksonville, Fla.

    Median price: $170,600 (+29.3% from 2012)

    Desired features: Hardwood floors, high ceilings, walk-in closets in master bedroom, a pool.

    Buyer turnoffs: No second bathroom, either no garage or just a single-car garage.

    Best marketing tools: Listing sites, social media, and YouTube, since many home shoppers in this price range (from ages 20 to 60) use smartphones to pull up images and information. Providing educational information is particularly helpful for explaining prequalification guidelines to first-time buyers, says Karen Wentz, GRI, with Prudential Network Realty Wentz—and for getting the word out that owning can cost less than renting.

    For $100,000 more: Updated kitchen and bathrooms, fourth bedroom, three-car garage, bonus room, outdoor living space with kitchen.

    Sales are heading up, along with prices, in northern Florida where the median price was $145,500 in 2012. The inventory is shrinking due to first-time home buyers landing jobs at three local military bases. Investors are also scooping up “anything under $200,000,” says Wentz. In fact, most comparably priced houses sell within 30 days. But she urges a dose of realism: “Many first-timers may have to accept some outdated features, and sellers may need to pay all or part of closing costs. Buyers remain cash poor.”

    This listing: This 1993 brick and HardiPlank-sided, two-story, 1,734-square-foot home with three bedrooms and two-and-a-half bathrooms was listed in August and went under contract six days later. Although its kitchen had dated cabinets and appliances, Wentz thinks the $195,000 price provided the magic bullet.

    Minneapolis-St. Paul

    Median price: $208,000 (+14.5% from 2012)

    Desired features: Updated kitchen, three good-sized bedrooms, two bathrooms, basement, central air.

    Buyer turnoffs: Smaller living room, no dining room, no attached garage.

    Best marketing tools: Jason Walgrave, GRI, of RE/MAX Advantage Plus, hosts a weekly AM radio show, “Minnesota Home Talk.” He has found radio advertising successful, and it’s no wonder: According to Minnesota Public Radio, Minnesota 
has the largest radio-listening audiences in the country.

    For $100,000 more: More upgrades, bigger closets, larger foundation.

    Prices climbed 15 percent in 2013 as inventory dwindled in the Twin Cities, particularly among foreclosures. Yet, prices remain down from the 2007 peak. One of the most eager groups of -buyers is twenty-something singles who like city living, says Walgrave.

    This listing: This one-and-a-half-story, 1951 house on a typical small city lot was listed in July at $200,000 and went under active contract quickly despite having only one bathroom. Walgrave thinks its three bedrooms, two-car garage, central air conditioning, hardwood floors, and two fireplaces more than compensated, as did his explanation that a second bathroom could be added affordably on the lower level.

    Warwick, R.I.

    Median price: $241,400 (median is for Providence, R.I New Bedford-Fall River, Mass., +10.3% from 2012)

    Desired features: Good kitchen, less than one-quarter-acre lot, modest taxes.

    Buyer turnoffs: Airport noise, small yards.

    Best marketing tools: Full-motion video tours for first-time buyers so they can confirm their online findings. Bill Fooks, CRB, of Coldwell Banker also says rapidly responding to calls and e-mails is important. If buyers can’t see a listing “in a timely fashion”—24 hours or less—they’ll go after another house, he says.

    For $100,000 more: Newer house (built after 1980), 1,700 square feet, two full bathrooms.

    The Warwick area, near Providence, has seen prices remain level of late, after an upward tick last spring, a slow start in September and October, and a little improvement in November, says Bill Fooks, crb, of Coldwell Banker. But the overall climate is tough with the state’s unemployment rate the second highest in the country, affected by a loss of population and high taxes, he says. Most buyers are people under age 50 who are finding employment at area colleges and universities, tech start-ups, and service industries such as banks.

    This listing: This listing reflects the difficulty of the market: It’s described as in top condition—a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10—and priced fairly, yet hasn’t generated offers. Built in 1955, the single-level house was listed in September at $164,900 with three bedrooms, one full bathroom, hardwood and ceramic floors, a full basement, central air, a dining area, a “great kitchen,” a neat yard, and close proximity to public transportation and shopping. ”It’s had numerous showings. Its drawback is that it is a narrow lot, and the house was built with the gable end toward the road,” Fooks says. To compensate, he priced it under $170,000, rather than in the mid-$170,000s, which a different yard and orientation might have commanded.

    Editor’s note: Median home prices are based on NAR’s third-quarter 2013 data.

  • Real Estate Icon Turns 103 Years Old

    Posted Under: Quality of Life in Dallas, Agent2Agent in Dallas  |  March 11, 2014 2:43 PM  |  437 views  |  1 comment

    Ebby Halliday, known as the first lady of real estate, celebrated her 103rd birthday on Sunday. Halliday, long known for her contributions to the real estate industry, started Ebby Halliday, REALTORS®, in 1945. It is the largest real estate firm in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

    Instead of gifts, Halliday asked people to donate to her charity, Ebby’s Place at the YWCA, for her birthday. The organization helps economically challenged women in poverty.

    “It is our duty and privilege as REALTORS® to get involved, participate in the activities of our cities, and to help build our communities,” Halliday says.

    Ebby Halliday Cos. has participated in more than 19,500 home sales with more than $6.4 billion in sales, according to the Dallas Business Journal.

    Source: “A Look Back: Ebby Halliday Turns 103,” Dallas Business Journal (March 10, 2014)

  • Americans' Divergent Views on Housing, Mortgages

    Posted Under: Quality of Life in Alabama, Market Conditions in Alabama, Property Q&A in Alabama  |  March 11, 2014 2:41 PM  |  520 views  |  No comments

    More Americans expect home prices to increase in the coming months, according to Fannie Mae’s February 2014 National Housing Survey.

    Fifty percent of the survey's 1,000 respondents say that they believe home prices will go up in the next year, a 7 percent increase compared to January’s survey. They say they expect the average 12-month home price change to be 3.2 percent.

    What’s more, the number of respondents who say it is a good time to buy increased 3 percentage points to 68 percent in February.

    While some gauges are rising, Americans are also expressing some concerns about the housing market. The number of respondents who believe it would be easy to get a mortgage dropped 7 percentage points from January’s high of 52 percent. Also, more respondents say they think the economy is heading in the wrong direction.

    “We’ve seen a corresponding increase in volatility in our survey results, particularly for home-price expectations and perceptions about the ease of getting a mortgage,” says Doug Duncan, senior vice president and chief economist at Fannie Mae. “Weather may have played a role, as suggested by a 6 percentage-point jump over the past two months in the share of consumers who say their household expenses are significantly higher than a year ago. This response would be consistent with higher home heating costs. Despite the volatile month-to-month changes, we believe that the housing recovery is continuing, but is not yet robust.”

    Source: Fannie Mae

  • A Step Up for Buyer Foot Traffic

    Posted Under: Market Conditions in Alabama, Home Buying in Alabama, Financing in Alabama  |  March 11, 2014 2:40 PM  |  488 views  |  No comments

    Following two months of sharp declines, buyer foot traffic is trudging back, according to the National Association of REALTORS®’ Diffusion Index.

    “This improvement suggests that the year-over-year decline in existing home sales should stabilize in the months ahead, though at a level sharply lower than the spring of 2013,” Ken Fears, NAR’s manager of regional economics and housing finance policy, writes on the Economists’ Outlook blog. “Slower demand will press up on inventories, which are anemic, moderating price growth to a more sustainable pattern to the benefit of consumers.”

    The Diffusion Index for foot traffic increased 7.2 points to 26.2 in February. However, a reading below 50 indicates that more than half of the 200 markets measured posted weaker foot traffic in February compared to year-ago levels.

    NAR gathers its foot traffic data from SentriLock LLC, which reveals the number of properties shown by a REALTOR®. About a third of home showings across the country use lockboxes made by SentriLock.

    According to NAR, foot traffic has a strong correlation to future contracts and home sales.

    Source: “Latest Diffusion Index of Foot Traffic,” NAR’s Economists’ Outlook blog (March 10, 2014)

  • NAR Expands Its Global Presence

    Posted Under: Agent2Agent in Alabama  |  March 11, 2014 2:39 PM  |  365 views  |  No comments

    The positive impact that REALTORS® have on communities around the world has reached another corner of the globe: the Dominican Republic.

    The National Association of REALTORS®' leadership team traveled to the Caribbean in February to form an alliance with the Asociacion de Empresas Inmobiliarias, a real estate association in the Dominican Republic. The partnership will allow NAR to collaborate with AEI on common goals, and it lends AEI more credibility in its push for legislation aimed at beefing up the standards and integrity of the Dominican Republic's real estate industry. Right now, anyone in the Caribbean country can sell any property to anyone else without any sort of license or credential.

    With the AEI partnership, NAR now has 81 cooperating real estate associations in 61 countries.

    In the same trip, NAR leadership also went to Jamaica to welcome 400 new International REALTOR® Members with the REALTORS® Association of Jamaica. 

    The two events signal a new dawn of opportunity for REALTORS® in the Caribbean and shows NAR's commitment to making real estate markets around the world flourish. Read more about NAR's endeavors here.

    —REALTOR® Magazine

  • Why Education Will Keep Housing Crisis at Bay

    Posted Under: Market Conditions in Alabama  |  March 11, 2014 2:36 PM  |  354 views  |  No comments

    Arming today’s youth with greater financial knowledge is the key to making sure there is no repeat of the housing and economic crisis, Richard Cordray, director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, said at a meeting Monday of the President’s Advisory Council for Financial Capability for Young Americans.

    “Now more than ever, as we emerge from the deepest financial and economic crisis of our lifetimes, people need the know-how to manage the ways and means of their lives,” Cordray said. “The choices they face in the financial marketplace, with instruments like mortgages, credit cards, auto loans, student loans, credit reporting, and more, are increasingly complex.”

    Cordray said that childhood education is crucial to shaping housing’s future and should include:

    • Financial education: Cordray said that financial education needs to begin at a young age, with the benefits of compound interest being taught in math classes; economic costs and risks in social studies classes; and overall curriculum involving how to use and protect money.
    • Experimental learning: Cordray said that financial management should be practiced through experimental learning, whether that’s through simulating a banking experience or a computer game that teaches financial skills.
    • Integration into standardized tests: Financial education concepts should be integrated into standardized tests, which would then make it more of an incentive for more teachers to teach such concepts, Cordray said.
    • Parent involvement:  “Parents help set expectations, and research has shown that if parents engage their children by establishing a savings account for them, these children are seven times more likely to attend college than those without a savings account,” Cordray said.

    Source: “5 Ways Children Hold the Key to Housing’s Future,” HousingWire (March 10, 2014)

  • Study: Asians Will Spend Most on a Home

    Posted Under: Market Conditions in Alabama, Home Buying in Alabama, Property Q&A in Alabama  |  March 11, 2014 2:34 PM  |  485 views  |  No comments

    Study: Asians Will Spend Most on a Home


    Asian home buyers are willing to cough up the most cash for their next home compared to other races and ethnicities, according to a new study by the National Association of Home Builders. Asians expect to spend an average of $283,469, while whites will pay $205,775, Hispanics will pay $181,444, and African-Americans will pay $176,397, the study shows.

    NAHB notes that Asians tend to have the highest median household income, at $72,797, compared to $67,747 for whites, $50,221 for Hispanics, and $43,774 for African-Americans.

    The study also showed that minority home buyers are usually younger than white non-Hispanic buyers: The median African-American buyer is 39 years old, Hispanic buyers are 37, Asian buyers are 36, and white buyers are 43.

    "The new data reveals some interesting findings about home-buying preferences, broken down by race and ethnicity," says NAHB Chairman Kevin Kelly. The data provides “a window into the preferences of potential home buyers, allowing them to tailor things to better meet the needs of their customers."

    For example, the study showed that Hispanics and African-Americans tend to want more bedrooms. Fifty-one percent of Hispanics and 49 percent of African-Americans said they want to have at least four bedrooms in their homes, compared to 44 percent of Asians and 36 percent of whites.

    The majority of buyers from all backgrounds preferred the laundry room on the first floor of a home, two-car garages, and high ceilings (9 feet or more) on the first floor, according to the study.  

    Source: “What Home Buyers Really Want: Ethnic Preferences,” National Association of Home Builders Eye on Housing (March 10, 2014)

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