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Stephen Messner's Blog

By Stephen Messner, 702-882-1235 | Agent in Las Vegas, NV
  • Las Vegas valley 2013 appreciation map

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Las Vegas, Home Selling in Las Vegas, Investment Properties in Las Vegas  |  May 23, 2014 10:10 AM  |  110 views  |  No comments

  • Home sellers on price: The sky is the limit

    Posted Under: Home Selling in Las Vegas  |  May 18, 2014 12:16 AM  |  105 views  |  1 comment

    Home prices are moving so far, so fast, that at least 1,000 local housing markets have hit all-time price highs, according to Zillow. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that potential home sellers are giddy with value.

    "I even hear them say that prices are skyrocketing," said Jeremy Cunningham, a northern Virginia real estate agent withRedfin, a real estate brokerage. "When you ask them what their data source is or where they're getting their information, it's more of a vibe."

    Forty percent of sellers surveyed by Redfin said they are planning on pricing their homes above market value when they list in the second quarter of this year; that's up from 33 percent at the beginning of the year. Redfin polled 1,128 active home sellers across 25 U.S. cities.

    Confidence is behind it all. Fifty-two percent said they were confident that now is a good time to sell, versus just 37.5 percent three months ago. This, conversely, as sales of existing homes were actually lower in March by 7.5 percent from a year ago, according to the National Association of Realtors. 

    Another survey of 1,000 homeowners and renters by mortgage giant Fannie Mae (OTCQB:FNMA - News)found that those who say it is a good time to buy a house held steady in April at 69 percent, but those who say it is a good time to sell increased 4 percentage points from the previous month to 42 percent, an all-time survey high.

    "Consistent with (April's) upbeat jobs report, concern about job loss among employed consumers also has hit a record survey low. These results are in line with our expectations for increased housing activity and gradual strengthening of the housing market going into the spring and summer selling season," said Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae's chief economist.

    More sellers now say they are pricing their homes high because they are willing to wait if it doesn't sell, according to Redfin. An increasing number of sellers also say they are pricing high because they need that value to pay off their mortgages. Nearly 10 million U.S. homeowners were underwater on their mortgages at the end of last year, according to Zillow.

    The Soricelli family in northern Virginia thought about selling their home a year ago, but held off, hoping that prices would improve. After watching solid home appreciation in the neighborhood and across the country, they decided to put their home up for sale this spring. Their asking price, however, was higher than their real estate agent, Cunningham, thought was realistic.

    "My wife and myself, we take a lot of pride in our house and did a lot of upgrades," said Brad Soricelli. "We put a lot of money into it, so in trying to reconcile that with what the market is now, there was a little back and forth."

    Cunningham said he is usually able to talk his clients back to reality by showing them comparable sales, but the data can be confusing. That is especially true in markets where investors and all-cash buyers are more prevalent.

    Sellers are more likely to get their asking price from an all-cash buyer, and all cash means there will be no appraisal issues. However, for those in markets where there are fewer investors and all-cash buyers, commanding an above-market price is a dicey proposition. Even if they do strike a deal with a credit-dependent buyer, they are at the mercy of the appraiser, who will make the final decision as to the real market value of the home.

    "When you look at comps, it's very difficult. The trends are hard to identify," said Cunningham. "You could have on any given street, price variations of $50,000 to $75,000 for the exact same house."

    The Soricellis did take Cunningham's advice and brought their asking price down. The house sold in one day, but they say they have no regrets.

    "Not having to go through waiting and some of the aggravation of having your house on the market for a period of time is worth a certain amount of money," said Brad Soricelli.

    Especially when they look across the street. Their neighbor's house, which has already undergone a price drop, is still sitting on the market.

    -By CNBC's Diana Olick.

  • 10 U.S. real estate markets drawing international buyers

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Las Vegas, Foreclosure in Las Vegas, Property Q&A in Las Vegas  |  April 17, 2012 3:32 PM  |  613 views  |  No comments

    Inman News report features data trends, analysis, commentary on popular areas

    By Inman News
    Inman News®

    Affluent international buyers, attracted by fire-sale prices, are snapping up real estate in some U.S. markets. In a report released today, Inman News identifies 10 markets where public records indicate foreign buyers make up the biggest share of overall buyers.

    Most of the markets are located in sunny Florida, though areas in Nevada, Arizona, New York and Hawaii are also on the list. The report highlights the economic and personal factors that drive foreign buyers to buy; their preferred property types; top countries of origin; how they find the real estate professionals they work with; why the selected markets appeal to them; and relevant demographic and housing-related characteristics for the markets, including share of foreign-born population, distressed property footprint, home-price trends, and vacancy rates.

    Among the findings in this report, researched and written by Inman News reporter Andrea V. Brambila:

    • Population levels in the markets range from about 600,000 in Lakeland-Winter Haven, Fla., to nearly 5.6 million in Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, Fla.
    • Seven out of 10 markets had foreign-born populations above the national rate of 13.1 percent in 2010. The Miami metro had the highest share born abroad, at 39.2 percent.
    • In six of the 10 markets, area inhabitants who were foreign-born and moved from abroad accounted for a higher-than-average share of overall inhabitants who reported moving in the previous year in 2010. New York County (Manhattan) had the highest share: 7.7 percent of the people who moved in that county were both foreign-born and hailing from abroad.
    • In seven out of 10 markets, the median sales price for an existing, single-family home was lower than the national median of $163,500 in fourth-quarter 2011. In eight out of 10 markets, the median sales price for a condo was lower than the national median of $160,800 for that same quarter.
    • Condo prices fell on an annual basis in the fourth quarter in seven out of 10 markets. All seven saw their prices decline by more than the national rate of -1.7 percent.
    • Seven of the 10 markets had a higher share of distressed sales in fourth-quarter 2011 than the national rate of 23.7 percent. Eight of the 10 markets had higher foreclosure activity rates in fourth-quarter 2011 compared to the national rate.
    • Nine of the 10 markets, except for Honolulu, had higher vacancy rates in 2010 than the national rate of 13.1 percent. Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Fla., had the highest rate, at 37 percent.

    View the "10 Hot Spots for Global Homebuyers" report.

  • Economists see home prices stabilizing

    Posted Under: General Area in Las Vegas, Home Buying in Las Vegas, Home Selling in Las Vegas  |  April 17, 2012 3:24 PM  |  590 views  |  No comments

    ULI survey: Nation poised for economic growth -- and inflation

    By Inman News
    Inman News®

    Home prices should stabilize this year and rebound next year, with appreciation accelerating in 2014, according to a survey of 38 real estate economists and analysts by the Urban Land Institute.

    The ULI Real Estate Consensus Forecast, conducted by the ULI Center for Capital Markets and Real Estate, suggests that the nation is primed for economic growth -- and inflation, which could push up mortgage rates.

    Economists polled by ULI in late February and early March expect a national home price index maintained by the Federal Housing Finance Agency will show no change this year, but gain 2 percent in 2013 and 3.5 percent in 2014.

    They also expect single-family housing starts, which have been at or near record lows for three years, to rise from 428,600 in 2011 to 500,000 this year, 660,000 in 2013, and 800,000 in 2014.

    Those projections are based on expectations that the economic recovery will remain on track, with unemployment falling to 8 percent by the end of 2012, 7.5 percent by the end of 2013, and 6.9 percent by the end of 2014. For that to happen, employment would have to increase by 2 million jobs in 2012, 2.5 million in 2013, and 2.75 million in 2014.

    Economists participating in the survey expect real gross domestic product (GDP) to rise steadily from 2.5 percent this year, to 3 percent in 2013, and 3.2 percent by 2014.

    Growth like that could lead to higher inflation and interest rates. The survey showed economists expect inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), will average 2.4 percent in 2012, 2.8 percent in 2013 and 3.0 percent in 2014.

    Rates on 10-year Treasurys are also expected to rise, from an average of 2.4 percent this year to 3.1 percent next year and 3.8 percent for 2014.

    Because mortgage-backed securities that fund most mortgage loans often rise and fall with 10-year Treasury yields, the forecast implies that mortgage rates could rise 140 basis points, or 1.4 percentage points, in the next two years.

    With rates on 30-year fixed-rate loans hovering above 4 percent in recent weeks, that would take rates on "plain vanilla" mortgages well above 5 percent.

  • Do You Know Where the Batteries for Your Smoke Detectors Are?

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Las Vegas, Home Selling in Las Vegas, Property Q&A in Las Vegas  |  March 31, 2012 10:29 AM  |  647 views  |  1 comment

    Your smoke detector is of no use to you if the batteries aren't in. Are your smoke detectors in working order?

    Every year when it’s time to turn back the clock and change the batteries in the smoke detectors, I’m reminded of a rental property I bought at an auction a few years ago. The rental property had belonged to a guy who died when the house he lived in caught on fire.

    I won the auction, bought the house, and kept his tenants — a mom and five kids. According to my tenant, the former landlord had been a real stickler about the smoke detectors in the rental unit, but ironically didn’t have a working smoke detector in his own home.

    So you’d think she’d be pretty careful about the smoke detectors in her home after that. Not so much — she constantly removed the batteries from the smoke detector in her house, either to power up toys or because her cigarette smoke set them off too frequently.

    The moral of this story?

    Wishful thinking like, “I’ll just take the batteries out of the detector until I can run to the store and pick up more batteries” can kill you.

    I’ll change the batteries in my home’s smoke detectors when I set my clocks back before I go to bed on Saturday night. If I had natural gas-powered HVAC or appliances, I’d change the batteries in my carbon monoxide detector, too.

    Pretty much everyone has a smoke detector — only 4% of U.S. homes don’t. But an estimated 20% of homes have non-working smoke detectors. Nearly all of that 20% involved dead or missing batteries, the Public/Private Fire Safety Council estimates.

    The group estimates nearly half of the people living in the 21 million U.S. homes with non-working smoke alarms disabled their smoke detector because it was a nuisance or went off too often.

    If your smoke detector goes off too much, try these tips:

    • Replace your current smoke detector with one that has a “hush” button you can push to temporarily silence the unit when cooking or smoking sets off a false alarm.
    • Check to make sure you’ve put your alarms in the right places.
    • The cover or sensor chamber can get dirty, dusty, or clogged by insects. To clean, gently vacuum using the soft brush attachment.
    • Move the detector away from fluorescent lighting fixtures, steamy bathrooms, and places exposed to extreme temperatures.
    • When burning food sets off the detector, wave a towel in front of the detector or open a window to clear the air instead of removing the battery. (When I cook, my family knows the smoke detector going off is my way of saying, “Dinner is served.”)

    If you need help remembering to change your batteries, set an email reminder for yourself at HouseLogic. A free registration (click Join Now at the top right of this site) gives you your own electronic binder in which you can create reminders and to-dos, save HouseLogic content you like, and manage projects.

    Live near a fire house? Many give away free batteries this time of year.

    Have you ever taken the battery out of your smoke detector?

  • 4 Easy-Living, Universal Design Tips for Any Home

    Posted Under: Home Buying in Las Vegas, Home Selling in Las Vegas, Property Q&A in Las Vegas  |  March 31, 2012 10:26 AM  |  635 views  |  1 comment

    Here are some tips to get you started on incorporating universal design features in your home.

    One of the basic principles of universal design, also called ageless design, is that it makes homes more practical and safer for everyone — not just the elderly or people with limited mobility.

    These days, universal design features are an everyday fact of life for many households, with architects and other professional designers adding universal design ideas as a matter of course.

    You don’t have to be a pro designer to incorporate this smart thinking into your own home. If you’re remodeling or simply adding a few upgrades, be sure to keep universal design features in mind. There are lots of resources that’ll give you some great starting points.

    As we remodel our 1972 ranch-style house (we’re on the multi-year, budget-as-you-go plan), my wife and I have incorporated several low-cost, easy-to-do UD features. A few of our favorites:

    1. Switch out doorknobs for lever-style handles. Doorknobs require lots of dexterity and torque to open; with levers you simply press and go.

    Makes sense for folks with arthritis, of course, but think about an emergency situation when everyone, including small kids, needs to exit fast: A lever handle is a safe, foolproof way to open a door.

    A big plus: Levers are good-looking and can contribute to the value of your home. A standard interior passage door lever in a satin nickel finish costs about $20; you’ll pay $25 to $30 for a lockable lever set for your bath or bedroom. Replacing door hardware is an easy DIY job.

    2. Replace toggle light switches with rocker-style switches. Rocker switches feature a big on/off plate that you can operate with a finger, a knuckle, or even your elbow when you’re laden with bags of groceries.

    Rocker switches are sleek and good-looking, too. Ever notice how conventional toggle switches get dirt and grime embedded in them after a couple of years? No more! You’ll pay $2 for a single-pole rocker switch, up to $10 for multiple switch sets.

    3. Anti-scald devices for your bathroom prevent water from reaching unsafe temps. An anti-scald shower head ($15) reduces water flow to a trickle if the water gets too hot. An anti-scald faucet device ($40) replaces your faucet aerator and also reduces hot water flow.

    Anti-scald valves — also known as pressure-balancing valves — prevent changes in water pressure from creating sudden bursts of hot or cold water. An anti-scald valve ($100) installs on plumbing pipes inside your walls. If you don’t have DIY skills, you’ll pay a plumber $100 to $200 for installation.

    4. Motion sensor light controls add light when you need it. They come in a variety of styles and simple technologies. I like the plug-in sensors ($10 to $15). You simply stick them into existing receptacles, then plug your table or floor lamps into them. When the sensor detects motion, it turns on the light.

    They’re great for 2 a.m. snacking, or if your young kids are at that age when they migrate into your bed in the middle of the night. The lights turn off after about 10 minutes if no more motion is detected.

    Got an easy, low-cost universal design tip? Let’s hear about it!

  • 7 bizarre homebuyer incentives: cocktails, cookies, cars and more

    Posted Under: General Area in Las Vegas, Home Buying in Las Vegas, Home Selling in Las Vegas  |  March 30, 2012 10:11 AM  |  634 views  |  No comments

    Mood of the Market

    By Tara-Nicholle Nelson
    Inman News®

    As the real estate market declined in recent years, the age-old practice of sellers marketing their homes as coming with buyer incentives was elevated from an occasional practice to a true art.

    Savvy sellers and their agents created win-win strategies for differentiating their listings in a crowded market by throwing uber-desirable perks into the deal.

    And some sellers have gone beyond old concessions, like picking up a portion of closing costs or paying homeowners association dues. Some are offering to throw in a fireplace-framing plasma screen TV, or other furnishings customized for the property. As a result, many a homebuyer ends up with more than just the home of their dreams.

    There are those buyers and sellers, too, who have taken the smart strategy of offering desirable buyer incentives to extremes. These extremes fall along a spectrum that begins at entertaining and stretches all the way to worrisome -- even very worrisome.

    Here are seven of the most bizarre homebuyer incentives I've come across over the past few years.

    1. Alcohol. Last year, news spread like wildfire of a Chicago-area listing in which the seller threw in a hefty prepaid tab for food and alcohol at a nearby bar. Frustrated by the fact that their home had been lagging on the market for several months with only two or three showings, the owners of a $450,000 Glenview, Ill., home decided to throw in a $1,000 tab at Grandpa's Place, a bar located across the street from the property.

    The idea -- which was not only to entice buyers with potent potables, but also to showcase the neighborhood's lively nightlife -- apparently worked. The sellers reported a threefold increase in showings immediately after publicizing the boozy incentive.

    2. Cookies -- lots of cookies. A friend of mine, Ann Brenoff, reported a few years back on actor George Hamilton's unusual contract demand during his Los Angeles condo-buying escapade. Hamilton didn't ask, as you might expect, for a lifetime of spray tans or Brylcreem.

    Rather, he demanded that the seller, who owned a famous bakery, throw in a dozen cookies every month for the year following close of escrow. Think about it: how much could 144 cookies possibly cost? Sounds to me like both Hamilton and the seller scored a sweet deal.

    3. Other homes. At the bottom of their local market, circa 2010, one enterprising couple seeking to sell their Connecticut home decided to throw their Florida vacation condo in as a buyer incentive!

    4. Crazy cars. The vehicles I've heard being offered as buyer incentives range from tractors and trucks that work the farms they're sold with to the Lamborghinis and Ferraris accompanying home sales in luxury locales such as in Malibu, Calif.

    5. Animals. It could be urban legend, but every real estate agent has heard tales from mentors of the suburban tract house hunter who saw home after identical, cookie-cutter home, before declaring a strong, even adamant, preference for a particular one.

    When pressed by her agent to express precisely why she wanted that house, and not one of the dozens of other homes she'd seen, the buyer declared: because I want the dog in the deal, too.

    Whether or not this particular story is true (as a dog Mom, I'm outraged!), there are dozens of documented tales of dogs and cats, for that matter, wooing buyers to feel at home in a given property, or to come back for a second showing, helping their owners get the place sold without moving in with the buyers.

    6. Meth-lab chemicals. OK, so no buyer or seller is out there expressly negotiating to make sure that methamphetamine manufacturing residues are included in their deal, but plenty of sellers have apparently decided to throw them in anyway.

    I couldn't close this list out without a tiny dose of education, and what came to mind was the cautionary tale of the folks who bought a home from the estate of its recently departed owner, whose family members had unfortunately been using the place as a lab for manufacturing methamphetamine.

    Because estates are often immune from disclosure requirements, the buyers sunk their entire life savings into the down payment for the property, totally unaware of the reality that the toxic residues would create headaches and chronic illnesses for them -- and cost them thousands and thousands of dollars to remediate -- when they finally were able to close escrow and move in.

    So, how do you avoid this? Well, apparently this is such a widespread modern-day problem that most states now have laws that specifically require the sellers of a home to disclose that it has been used as a meth lab if they are aware of it.

    But I'd suggest talking to the neighbors (that's how the poor young couple in the example eventually found out what their home once was) or Googling the address (often, properties that have been raided and found to be drug labs will be listed on federal or local crime databases) before you buy to stack the decks in your favor.

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