St Louis Real Estate Exchange

The most informative Real Estate Blog in St. Louis

Dec. 11, 2018

DECEMBER HOUSING MARKET UPDATE

Ruben Gonzalez, chief economist at Keller Williams, provides a high-level analysis of U.S. housing market trends and shares his outlook for 2019.

Throughout the year, we saw a housing market that was defined primarily by low inventory levels, restricting sales and driving up prices. But things have shifted in the last couple of months.

Higher Mortgage Rates

The impact of higher mortgage rates is beginning to have a noticeable effect on demand. We are now hearing more about buyers pushing back on home prices. Inventory remains low in most markets but is growing steadily, while price growth has slowed to less than 5 percent in many areas.

First-time home buyers are dealing with smaller budgets because of these rate increases, and sellers are now in a situation where they would have to take on a mortgage with significantly higher interest. While mortgage rates are still historically low, the difference in rates is likely to impact their decisions.

A Positive Outlook

The good news is that economic factors are still strong and should continue to promote housing. Unemployment levels are low, incomes are rising, and the economy continues to grow. The stock market has experienced some volatility, but it will most likely only be weighing on the minds of wealthier consumers.

In the future, we are going to see slower price growth and declining sales levels (we anticipate a 2 percent decrease). But sales should continue at a healthy pace if the economy remains strong.

For a more comprehensive housing forecast, read Gonzalez’s comments in Forbes.

About Ruben Gonzalez

Ruben GonzalezRuben Gonzalez is the chief economist at Keller Williams. He leads in-depth research efforts and tracks leading indicators that impact the housing market.

Gonzalez creates ongoing housing forecasts and regularly provides commentary on real estate market trends to a range of national business, real estate and financial news outlets.

Gonzalez received his undergraduate degree and earned his master’s degree in economics from The University of Texas at Austin.

Nov. 19, 2018

7 Reasons To List Your House For Sale This Holiday Season

Every year at this time there are many homeowners who decide to wait until after the holidays to list their homes for the first time, while others who already have their homes on the market decide to take them off until after the holidays.

Here are seven great reasons not to wait:

  1. Relocation buyers are out there. Many companies are still hiring throughout the holidays and need their new employees in their new positions as soon as possible.
  2. Purchasers who are looking for homes during the holidays are serious buyers and are ready to buy NOW!
  3. You can restrict the showings on your home to the times you want it shown. You will remain in control.
  4. Homes show better when decorated for the holidays.
  5. There is minimal competition for you as a seller right now. Inventory of homes for sale traditionally slows in the late fall, early winter. Let’s take a look at listing inventory as compared to the same time last year:

  1. The desire to own a home doesn’t stop when the holidays come. Buyers who were unable to find their dream homes during the busy spring and summer months are still searching!
  2. The supply of listings increases substantially after the holidays. Also, in many parts of the country, new construction will continue to surge and reach new heights which will lessen the demand for your house in 2019.

Waiting until after the holidays to sell your home probably doesn’t make sense.

Sept. 25, 2018

Money magazine named these Missouri cities two of the best places to live in 2018

The survey looked at 583 cities across the categories of economy, cost of living, diversity, education, and income to narrow the list to 50.

Money magazine, partnered with Realtor.com, released its annual list of 50 best places to live in the country. On the list were two Missouri cities: St. Charles, ranked at 32, and Lee's Summit, ranked at 41. 

According to Money, the magazine only considered cities with a population of 50,000 or more. It nixed anyplace that didn't meet a few standards—qualifying cities had to have relatively low crime and a good sample of diversity—and ended up with 583 cities. It then sampled data across the categories of economy, cost of living, diversity, education, and income, assigning reporters to interview denizens and scout neighborhoods, to come up with the list of 50.

What did the Money team find appealing about St. Charles? "Today, the people of St. Charles appreciate their city as a nice place to raise kids, with great schools, little crime, and reasonably priced homes," editors wrote. It also called out Main Street's restored buildings, the Festival of the Little Hills, and the Christmas Traditions Festival.

Lee's Summit got high marks for its Legacy Park, 692 acres complete with an amphitheater and a lake. 

Both cities' housing and income stats were pretty comparable. Homes in the St. Charles area will run you $197,000; Lee's Summit houses cost $229,000 on average. St. Charles' median family income is $76,695; Lee's Summit families take home on average $98,237.

One area where they differed: St. Charles' expected job growth rate from 2017 to 2022 is more than 8 percent. Lee's Summit residents are looking at a job growth rate of 2.69 percent.

The best place to live in 2018 according to Money magazine? Frisco, Texas, where jobs are projected to increase 15 percent over the next four years.

Sept. 18, 2018

4 Reasons Why Fall is a Great Time to Buy a Home in St Louis

Here are four great reasons to consider buying a home today instead of waiting.

1. Prices Will Continue to Rise

CoreLogic’s latest Home Price Insights report reveals that home prices have appreciated by 6.2% over the last 12 months. The same report predicts that prices will continue to increase at a rate of 5.1% over the next year.

Home values will continue to appreciate for years. Waiting no longer makes sense.

2. Mortgage Interest Rates Are Projected to Increase

Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that interest rates for a 30-year mortgage have already increased by half of a percentage point, to around 4.5% in 2018. Most experts predict that rates will rise over the next 12 months. The Mortgage Bankers Association, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the National Association of Realtors are in unison, projecting that rates will increase by half a percentage point to around 5.1% by this time next year.

An increase in rates will impact your monthly mortgage payment. A year from now, your housing expense will increase if a mortgage is necessary to buy your next home.

3. Either Way, You Are Paying a Mortgage

There are some renters who have not yet purchased homes because they are uncomfortable taking on the obligation of a mortgage. Everyone should realize that unless you are living with your parents rent-free, you are paying a mortgage – either yours or your landlord’s.

As an owner, your mortgage payment is a form of ‘forced savings’ that allows you to build equity in your home which you can then tap into later in life. As a renter, you guarantee your landlord is the person building that equity.

Are you ready to put your housing cost to work for you?

4. It’s Time to Move on with Your Life

The ‘cost’ of a home is determined by two major components: the price of the home and the current mortgage rate. It appears that both are on the rise.

But what if they weren’t? Would you wait?

Look at the actual reason you are buying and decide if it is worth waiting. Whether you want to have a great place for your children to grow up, you want your family to be safer, or you just want to have control over renovations, maybe now is the time to buy.

If the right thing for you and your family is to purchase a home this year, buying sooner rather than later could lead to substantial savings.

Sept. 4, 2018

5 Reasons You Should Sell This Fall

Here are five reasons why listing your home for sale this fall makes sense.

1. Demand Is Strong

The latest Buyer Traffic Report from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows that buyer demand remains very strong throughout the vast majority of the country. These buyers are ready, willing and able to purchase…and are in the market right now! In fact, more often than not, multiple buyers end up competing with each other to buy the same homes.

Take advantage of the buyer activity currently in the market.

2. There Is Less Competition Now 

Housing inventory is still under the 6-month supply needed for a normal housing market. This means that, in the majority of the country, there are not enough homes for sale to satisfy the number of buyers in the market. This is good news for homeowners who have gained equity as their home values have increased. However, additional inventory could be coming to the market soon!

Historically, a homeowner stayed in his or her home for an average of six years, but that number has hovered between nine and ten years since 2011. Many homeowners have a pent-up desire to move as they were unable to sell over the last few years because of a negative equity situation. As home values continue to appreciate, more and more homeowners will be given the freedom to move.

The choices buyers have will continue to increase. Don’t wait until this other inventory comes to market before you decide to sell.

3. The Process Will Be Quicker

Today’s competitive environment has forced buyers to do all that they can to stand out from the crowd, including getting pre-approved for their mortgage financing. This makes the entire selling process much faster and much simpler as buyers know exactly what they can afford before home shopping. According to Ellie Mae’s latest Origination Insights Report, the average time it took to close a loan was 44 days.

4. There Will Never Be a Better Time to Move Up

If your next move will be into a premium or luxury home, now is the time to move up! The abundance of inventory available in these higher price ranges has created a buyer’s market for anybody looking to purchase these homes. This means that if you are planning on selling a starter or trade-up home, your home will sell quickly AND you’ll be able to find a premium home to call your own!

According to CoreLogic, prices are projected to appreciate by 5.1% over the next year. If you are moving to a higher-priced home, it will wind up costing you more in raw dollars (both in down payment and mortgage payment) if you wait.

5. It’s Time to Move on With Your Life 

Look at the reason you decided to sell in the first place and determine whether it is worth waiting. Is money more important than being with family? Is money more important than your health? Is money more important than having the freedom to go on with your life the way you feel you should?

Only you know the answers to the questions above. You have the power to take control of the situation by putting your home on the market. Perhaps the time has come for you and your family to move on and start living the life you desire.

That is what is truly important.

Aug. 24, 2018

5 Reasons To Hire A Real Estate Professional Before Entering The Market!

Whether you are buying or selling a home, it can be quite the adventure. In this world of instant gratification and internet searches, many sellers think that they can ‘For Sale by Owner’ or ‘FSBO,’ but it’s not as easy as it may seem. That’s why you need an experienced real estate professional to guide you on the path to achieving your ultimate goal!

The 5 reasons you need a real estate professional in your corner haven’t changed but have rather been strengthened by the projections of higher mortgage interest rates and home prices as the market continues to pick up steam.

1. What do you do with all this paperwork?

Each state has different regulations regarding the contracts required for a successful sale, and these regulations are constantly changing. A true real estate professional is an expert in his or her market and can guide you through the stacks of paperwork necessary to make your dream a reality.

2. So you found your dream house, now what?

There are over 230 possible steps that need to take place during every successful real estate transaction. Don’t you want someone who has been there before, someone who knows what these actions are, to ensure you achieve your dream?

3. Are you a good negotiator?

So maybe you’re not convinced that you need an agent to sell your home. After looking at the list of parties that you will need to be prepared to negotiate with, you’ll soon realize the value in selecting a real estate professional. From the buyers (who want the best deals possible), to the home inspection companies, all the way to the appraisers, there are at least 11 different people who you will need to be knowledgeable of, and answer to, during the process.

4. What is the home you’re buying/selling really worth?

It is important for your home to be priced correctly from the start in order to attract the right buyers and shorten the amount of time that it’s on the market. You need someone who is not emotionally connected to your home to give you its true value. According to a recent article by the National Association of Realtors, FSBOs achieve prices significantly lower than the prices of similar properties sold by real estate agents:

FSBOs earn an average of $60,000 to $90,000 less on the sale of their home than sellers who work with a real estate agent.”

Get the most out of your transaction by hiring a professional!

5. Do you know what’s really going on in the market?

There is so much information out there on the news and on the internet about home sales, prices, and mortgage rates; how do you know what’s going on specifically in your area? Who do you turn to in order to competitively and correctly price your home at the beginning of the selling process? How do you know what to offer on your dream home without paying too much, or offending the seller with a lowball offer?

Dave Ramsey, the financial guru, advises:

“When getting help with money, whether it’s insurance, real estate or investments, you should always look for someone with the heart of a teacher, not the heart of a salesman.”

Hiring an agent who has his or her finger on the pulse of the market will make your buying or selling experience an educated one. You need someone who is going to tell you the truth, not just what they think you want to hear.

Bottom Line

You wouldn’t replace the engine in your car without a trusted mechanic, so why would you make one of the most important financial decisions of your life without hiring a real estate professional?

Aug. 16, 2018

Homebuyers Willing To Sacrifice ‘Must-Haves’ In Favor Of Good School Districts

It should come as no surprise that buying a home in a good school district is important to homebuyers. According to a report from Realtor.com, 86% of 18-34 year-olds and 84% of those aged 35-54 indicated that their home search areas were defined by school district boundaries.

What is surprising, however, is that 78% of recent homebuyers sacrificed features from their “must-have”lists in order to find homes within their dream school districts.

The top feature sacrificed was a garage at 19%, followed closely by a large backyard, an updated kitchen, the desired number of bedrooms, and an outdoor living area. The full results are shown in the graph below.

Buyers are attracted to schools with high test scores, accelerated academic programs, art and music programs, diversity, and before and after-school programs.

With a limited number of homes available to buy in today’s real estate market, competition is fierce for homes in good school districts. Danielle Hale, Chief Economist for Realtor.com, explained further,

“Most buyers understand that they may not be able to find a home that covers every single item on their wish list, but our survey shows that school districts are an area where many buyers aren’t willing to compromise.

For many buyers and not just buyers with children, ‘location, location, location,’ means ‘schools, schools, schools.’” 

Bottom Line

For buyers across the country, the quality of their children’s (or future children’s) education ranks highest on their must-have lists. Before you start the search for your next home, meet with a local real estate agent who can explain the market conditions in your area.

Aug. 7, 2018

What Sellers Want from Their Real Estate Agent

It's easy to say that the seller wants to sell fast and for top dollar.  Of course, that's true.  As real estate professionals, we provide a number of valuable services in setting up a listing to sell fast for more money. Knowing what our seller's value or their perceptions of what we offer is important. By providing the services they expect plus a few more they find surprisingly valuable, we create clients for life.

Actual Seller Input, Not Our Assumptions
We may think we know what sellers want and need from us to sell their home or land. The best way to know is to ask. It is done every year in a survey of buyers and sellersof real estate done by the National Association of Realtors.  We'll look at one year's report stats here.

Surveys taken of sellers probably show many of the things we would assume, but possibly not in the order of importance we would think. The requirements here are in order of their importance to the sellers, most important first.

Find a Buyer for Their Home
Helping find them a buyer was, as we might have assumed, the top requirement of sellers, with 28% placing this as their top concern. This tells you that your marketing plan and media are quite important to your prospective listing clients.

Sell Their Home Within a Specific Time Frame
This seller requirement was only 1% below the top one, with 27% of sellers desiring this service from their real estate agent. It's highly related to the first one, with marketing being a very important factor in how fast a property sells.

Price Their Home Competitively
With 17% of sellers placing importance on this requirement, they're telling us that puffing their egos with a fat listing price isn't what they want. They want their property to sell. Do a thorough market analysis and be honest with them about expected results at different price points.

Find Ways to Fix Up Their Home to Sell It for More
This might surprise some, at fourth in importance with a 12% response. Maybe that Home Staging® class would be a good idea. Or perhaps suggesting a staging professional would be appreciated. At the very least, don't be bashful about suggesting things to do to enhance the look and presentation of the property.

Help With Paperwork, Inspections and Preparing for Settlement
Many real estate agents would have assumed this requirement to be higher on the list. However, only 7% of sellers made this a priority need. It is very important, but using this list as a guide, you want to build your listing services presentation around marketing and proper pricing first.

Negotiate and Deal With Buyers
Here again is an item that many real estate agents value more than their seller clients. At 5%, sellers are telling us that it's one of their needs, but down at sixth on their priority list. By all means, tell your sellers about your negotiating skills, but use this list to prioritize your presentation.

Update in the New Internet-Intensive World

This article is updated to reflect the realities of getting listings from sellers who are more educated in real estate and the local market because they can get loads of free information on the Internet.  It's also a competitive issue, as they can check out many agent websites to see who they believe is doing the best job of marketing.

The first thing you need to do is to make sure that your photos are top notch, even professionally taken if you're in a high-end price market.  Images are the top requirement of home buyers on the Web, and sellers will want to see that you're doing a good job for your listings. The other thing you need to do to impress sellers is to show them your syndication list.  These are the major websites their home will be displayed on once your listing is syndicated through your efforts or a third party.  They want maximum exposure.

Aug. 3, 2018

Important Steps in the Home Selling Process

The home selling process is the same whether it's a for sale by owner or you're hiring a listing agent. Certain details can vary a little from state to states but this checklist can serve as a general guide. Just be sure to confer with a local professional to make sure any specific requirements conform with the rules in your state.

No. 1: Choose a Listing Agent

A listing agent represents you and has a fiduciary responsibility to look out for your best interests. Interview agents and meet with at least three of them as you make a decision. Try to hire experience.

Ask questions about your listing agreement, including the length of time the home will be listed.

No. 2: Find Out How Much Your Home Is Worth

A seller's greatest mistake is often overpricing her home. Keep your price in line with sold homes that have been identified in a comparative market analysis report. Consider whether your market is hot, cold, or neutral and price according to the market temperature.

No. 3: Get Your Home Ready for Sale

Prepare your home for sale by cleaning and decluttering it and improving curb appeal. You might want to consider hiring a professional stager to stage your homefor showings or ask your real estate agent for help with this. You can often use your own furniture.

Make any necessary repairs. If you're selling a home where pets live, you might want to make temporary, alternate plans for them.

Remember, you only get one chance—and sometimes only 3 seconds or so—to make a great first impression so make it count.

No. 4: Market Your Home

You or your agent should identify the sizzling selling points of your home and choose the best advertising words to sell it. Approve your agent's marketing campaign or figure out how to advertise your house for sale yourself. Hire a virtual tour company to take quality photographs and put a virtual tour online if possible.

Tweak marketing to increase traffic and showings. Confirm that your listing is posted online. You—or your agent—should saturate the internet with photographs and descriptions of your property.

No. 5: Show Your Home

Plain and simple: You'll get more showings if you let agents use a lockbox to show your home rather than force them to make appointments.

Keep in mind that your home will show better if you sell in spring rather than in winter. And selling during the holidays will likely result in a lower sales price.

Prepare for an open house but use this approach sparingly. Ask for buyer feedback so you can adjust your price, condition, or marketing campaigns accordingly.

No. 6: Receive Purchase Offers and Negotiate

Be prepared to receive multiple offers if your home is priced right. Don't ignore any even if you receive an insultingly lowball offer. Negotiate by making a counteroffer.

Consider making a counteroffer that's contingent on you buying a home if market conditions warrant it. And don't be afraid to make a full-price counteroffer if your price is competitive and it's warranted.

Ask for a kickout clause or right of first refusal if the buyer's offer is contingent on him selling a home.

No. 7: Open Escrow and Order Title

Your agent or transaction coordinator will open escrow and order a title policy for you. Write down the contact information for the closing agent and select a date to close based on when the buyer's loan will fund.

And don't forget to ask for a receipt for the buyer's earnest money deposit.

No. 8: Schedule an Appraiser Appointment

Clean the house the day before the appraiser arrives. If you receive a low appraisal, ask your agent about alternatives.

You're typically not entitled to receive a copy of the appraisal because you didn't pay for it. If the buyer decides to cancel the contract based on an appraisal, ask your agent or lawyer about your rights.

No. 9: Cooperate With the Home Inspection

Now get ready for the home inspector. Ask your agent to provide you with a home inspection checklist so you'll know in advance what the inspector will want to see. Prepare the attic and basement for inspection, too. Move stuff away from the walls in the garage.

Prepare for the final walk-through inspection with the buyer as well. It usually takes place a few days before or even the morning of closing.

No. 10: Obtain Seller-Required Inspections

If your contract calls for a roof certification, hire a reputable company to conduct the inspection. Keep in mind that states that allow for termite or pest inspections often make these reports a matter of public record. A sewer inspection might call for a new sewer line if your home was built before 1950 or so but trenchless sewers are typically less expensive to install.

The fees for all inspection reports, even if seller-mandated, are usually negotiable.

No. 11: Delivery Seller Disclosures

All homes in the U.S. are subject to lead-based paint disclosures, even those built after 1978.

If you're aware of any other material facts, disclose them. Your title company should provide CC&Rs, but additional documentation might be required if you belong to a homeowner's association.

No. 12: Negotiate Requests for Repair

You don't ordinarily have to accept a buyer's request to make repairs, but he can cancel the contract if you don't. A buyer might accept a closing cost credit instead if you choose not to make repairs. You're entitled to a copy of the home inspection report if the buyer requests repairs.

No. 13: Ask the Buyer to Release Contingencies

The buyer isn't obligated to provide a contingency release if you don't demand it. In some states, you might have a right to cancel the contract if the buyer will not provide a release.

No. 14: Sign the Title and Escrow Documents

Depending on where you're located, you might sign escrow documents shortly after opening escrow or you'll sign them nearer to closing. It's common in some states for everybody to sit around the table, buyers and sellers, so ask your agent about the norm in your location.

And be sure to bring a valid photo ID.

No. 15: Close Escrow

Your property deed, reconveyance, and deed of trust will record in public records. The title company will notify you and your agent when it records the deeds.

Depending on the buyer's possession rights, you might be required to move on the day the home closes or even in advance. This should be specified in the contract.

July 30, 2018

5 No-Cost Tricks to Sell Your Home Faster

 

You decided to sell your house, and you can’t wait to buy a new place. There's just one thing standing in your way: You've got to close the deal on your current one first. You just hope it doesn't take months to get an offer. You want to sell your house fast!

Well, there’s one tried-and-true trick that’s proven to reduce your home’s time on the market. A study by the Real Estate Staging Association found that homes staged before listing received an offer in just 23 days on average. That’s 90% faster than those who waited months after listing to bother staging.(1)

If your budget’s tight, you may think you can’t afford to stage your home. But Dawn Kirkland, a real estate agent in Birmingham, AL, offers five free tricks to help you sell your house quickly.

1. Channel Your Inner Neat Freak

You always knew your tidying tendencies would come in handy one day. Now it’s time to clutter-bust your way to buyers’ hearts!

Dawn admits decluttering isn’t rocket science—but it is the key to creating a pleasing environment. Pay particular attention to common junk magnets like:

  • Kitchen and bathroom counters
  • Fireplace mantels
  • Laundry room shelves
  • Tabletops
  • Magazine racks

No decluttering advice would be complete without a call to streamline your closets. “If your closet is crowded, I’m going to think my stuff won’t fit,” Dawn says. Wow buyers by showing them how much space there is for stuff—not how much stuff there is in the space. 

2. Rearrange the Furniture

Once all the clutter’s out of the way, take a step back and look at the big picture. Does your home invite buyers to sit and stay a while? Can buyers flow freely through your home without bumping into things? If not, you’ve got work to do!

Start by putting bulky pieces in storage and moving furniture away from the walls. “Oftentimes, the room is arranged so the children can play in the middle of the room or the TV can be seen easily from every chair and sofa,” Dawn says. Buyers want to walk in and see an open—yet intimate—space that inspires conversation, not channel-surfing.

An experienced agent can lend a fresh eye and help you reimagine your home. “Go to different rooms and see if there are pieces that you can repurpose for the living room to get the effect you want,” Dawn suggests.

Buyers want to walk in and see an open—yet intimate—space that inspires conversation, not channel-surfing.

3. Think Like a Buyer

Cleaning your home for home showings is common sense. But many folks underestimate just how clean it needs to be.

This isn’t your run-of-the-mill weekend tidy-up. Think of it as spring cleaning on steroids. You’ve got to think about what buyers look for and get down to the nitty-gritty so that even the smallest details shine. From ceiling fans and window blinds to baseboards and tile grout, no surface goes unscrubbed!

Don’t forget to get your windows squeaky-clean. “There needs to be as much light coming in as possible,” Dawn says.

 

4. Set the Table

Staging paints a picture for potential buyers so they can envision life in your home. “If I see that a family can live here, I will think my family can live here too,” Dawn explains.

And nothing represents family life quite like the dinner table.

That’s why Dawn recommends giving the dining room some staging attention. Bring your good china, flatware and linens out of hiding. Or add seasonal flair with a dash of bold colors. You don’t have to go over the top with every piece of dinnerware you own. Keep things simple by setting just two places at the table or arranging a decorative centerpiece on top of a neutral table runner. You can find loads of inspiration on Pinterest and Houzz.

If I see that a family can live here, I will think my family can live here too. – Dawn Kirkland, real estate agent

5. Bring the Outside In

Make your house feel like home by taking advantage of what’s in full bloom right outside your door. “[Fresh flowers] are so inviting,” Dawn says. “They warm up a room and send the message that this is a really nice space to be in.” If plucking decorations from your yard isn’t an option, stop by your local grocery store and pick out a fresh bouquet that’s already been prearranged. If you run short on vases, display your finds in an antique pitcher or Mason jar for a touch of vintage charm.

And flowers don’t have to be the only star of the show. If you grow your own fruits and veggies, entice buyers with a bowl of fresh produce on the kitchen counter.

Use That Extra Cash to Sell Your House Fast

If you do have a little cash to spend, here’s what Dawn recommends to sell your house on a tight timeline and a small budget: “If you’ve got $400, I would spend it on paint and mulching the front yard.” Why? Because buyers give you about six seconds to make the sale—three seconds from the curb and three seconds from the foyer.

Of course, every home is different. Before you spend a dime freshening your home up, ask a real estate agent you trust for advice. A true pro knows what buyers in your area want and can help you maximize your home’s appeal without busting your budget.