Our Wish For Your Success in 2013 Comes Tempered With Reality

We hope you had a great holiday season and that 2013 holds lots of success for you. When it comes to real estate, however, our wishes for your success are tempered with the reality of our local markets .

Kelly Holmquist, the Holmquist Team; Morris County Realtor, Long Valley Realtor, Chester Realtor; short sales, foreclosures, selling homes, buying homes

Kelly Holmquist discusses real estate at a recent workshop

You’ll be hearing from the experts about how well the market is doing, and indeed, it is doing better. Zillow, for instance, last week talked about their expectation that homes in the United States will gain more than $1.3 trillion in cumulative value in 2012, the first annual increase since 2006. Zillow looked at 177 metros and said that more than 75 percent of them saw “historic affordability and sustained investor interest” keeping “demand at a boil.” That’s great –if you happen to be in one of the neighborhoods they looked at where homes are increasing in value.

But others are sounding caution. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics and a well-known commentator on the national real estate picture, is among those urging caution. He warns that increases in inventory could steal growth away and that our economy, while growing at 2% to 2.5% over the next year, is basically stable. He also predicts a tough economic climate in the first half of 2013, especially if Congress can’t agree on getting nation’s finances in order.

I’m with Zandi. We are seeing some improvement in the market here in Northwest New Jersey. We’re seeing some stabilization in prices and we’re seeing some good inventory coming on.

But we still have a lot of homes – as many as a quarter in some area towns – being sold short and more heading toward foreclosure. Those buyers who already are underwater are too deep to be saved by any slight increases in prices and the potential for tax increases could push them further into debt. Our economy is doing OK, but we’re not generating that many new jobs in the area.

It’s a time to be optimistic but act cautiously.

So does this mean you should give up on buying or selling your home? Absolutely not. We’re able to sell well-staged homes that are appropriately priced and in areas with good schools and transportation for a reasonable price in a reasonable amount of time. The key is your definition of reasonable.
That’s where a Realtor can help you. Realtors are experts at buying and selling homes in a particular market. They can help you understand what “reasonable” is for the neighborhood in which you’re listing or buying a home. They can tell you how to get the most out of the home you’re listing and how to get the best deal for the home you want to buy. It’s a time where a The real estate market is heating up and homes for sale are selling quicklyRealtor’s experience and expertise is a key part of the process.

Your first step if you want to sell your home or buy a new one is to learn what you can about the area in which you’re selling or buying and who the Realtors are who service those areas. Pick someone good and listen to their advice.

Buying and selling a home, even when done correctly, is never easy. While it’s not as challenging as it was a year or two ago, it’s still requires good counsel, homework, flexibility and patience.

It’s our wish that your real estate goals are all met during 2013…and our job to make that happens. If The Holmquist Team can be of assistance, please call us at (908) 867-7109 or email me at kholmquist@comcast.net.

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More Housing Numbers: Confusion or Clarity?

A new set of numbers recently released says home prices in our area are stabilizing, but still need to adjust a bit. The problem is that numbers never tell the whole story.

The same study shows that across Morris County, home sales are up a bit and inventory is down, all good signs for our economy and for the housing market. The figures come from a monthly tally distributed by Jeffrey Otteau of Otteau Valuation Group, a highly respected property appraiser who is a recognized expert on New Jersey real estate.

Closer to home, Otteau reported that October home sales were up from September in the Chesters and inventory is down. Both communities report about a six-month supply of inventory, which puts them in the stable category. Home sales in Mount Olive and Long Valley were down in October, compared to September, but so was inventory. Mount Olive reports an 11.8-month inventory during October, which means prices there may continue to fall as the market stabilizes. Washington Township has a seven-month inventory supply, which means it has a shorter way to go to stability than Mount Olive.

Figures like these are ways of looking at the real estate market which, by all accounts is improving. If you put this information with longer term information and you begin to get a better picture. For instance, across Morris County, 299 homes were sold in October 2011, 383 homes were sold in October 2012.
But these figures are general. If you are interested in buying or selling a home, you have to look at what’s happening in your neighborhood or in the neighborhood where you’re buying. A town may report slow sales yet the street you’re interested may be selling well. And your house, if properly priced, staged and marketed, may create a bidding war…or not.

National news stories may be interesting, but every home, home seller and homebuyer is different. The best action is contacting a professional. Realtors can get information about each neighborhood. They can help determine a competitive price for your home, discuss its staging and marketing, and help you survive the challenge of selling it. Similarly, a Realtor can help you set an aggressive but fair offer for a home you’re interested in.

Numbers are always interesting, especially since they’ve become so encouraging. But reading the signals that will help sell a specific home takes more than reading a few articles. It’s a job for a professional. If you don’t have a Realtor, but have questions, feel free to give us a call. There’s never an obligation.

A Dozen Morris County People Talk With Realtor Kelly Holmquist, Attorney Marty Eagan About Avoiding Foreclosures

(We just issued the following release:)

The Holmquist Team, Kelly Holmquist, Morris County Realtor, houses for sale in Long Valley, houses for sale in Chester, houses for sale in Mount OliveCHESTER – The headlines may be shouting about an improving housing market, but for a dozen people at a workshop in Chester earlier this month, the topic of a quieter discussion is avoiding foreclosure. They heard two experts – Kelly Holmquist of The Holmquist Team, part of Keller Williams-Towne Square Realtors and Morristown Real Estate Attorney Martin Eagan – talk about ways to do that.

Ms.Kelly Holmquist, the Holmquist Team; Morris County Realtor, Long Valley Realtor, Chester Realtor; short sales, foreclosures Holmquist and Mr. Eagan work together to help people sell homes short, meaning the bank agrees to allow a house to be sold for market value, even when that sum is less than what is owed to the bank.

“It’s a traditional sale,” explained Eagan. “You’re selling to a buyer. It’s not a foreclosure. It’s just the bank agrees to take less than you owe.”

As they have at several previous workshops, the duo explained to those around the table how a short sale works and the role of the attorney and the Realtor in the sale. The bank agrees to accept the lower price, but it does want market value. It’s a tight rope, said Eagan.

“We want to upsell it to the buyer and downsell it to the bank,” said Eagan. “Kelly’s great at that.”

Ms. Holmquist explained that the home will be appraised by the bank, which will set a target asking price. The house is then aggressively marketed like any other home. It must be listed on the MLS, for instance. And home sellers are encouraged to properly stage their homes so it sells quickly. When an offer is received, the bank has to approve the offer.  In fact, said Ms. Holmquist, the only difference between a short sale and regular sale is the negotiations are done by the attorney with the bank and others owed money from the proceeds of the sale.

“On the front side, everything appears to be a traditional sale,” said Ms. Holmquist. “It’s on the back side that it’s different.”

While past workshops have been attended by an array of people, many of them have been younger homeowners who can no longer afford their mortgages or who need to move for a better job, but can’t sell their depreciated homes. This group was a different, said Ms. Holmquist and Mr. Eagan. One couple, for instance, was collecting information for their daughter who is going through a divorce. Another couple is trying without success to sell a home owned by the woman’s mother, now in her 80s in assisted living and with no income. A third woman, in her 70s, had taken multiple mortgages to pay medical expenses. Although she’s never missed a mortgage payment, the failure of the real estate market and the devaluation of her savings now has created financial problems.

“All sorts of people are facing foreclosure or are so far underwater that they may never recover, even though they’re making their payments,” said Ms. Holmquist. “It’s not at all uncommon.”

In fact, she said, about 29 percent of the homes being sold in Long Valley and Mount Olive are short sales. In the Chesters, that number is about 9 percent.

“Working with an established team of an attorney and a Realtor to sell short offers a good way out for many people,” said Ms. Holmquist. “The improving real estate market improves their chances of selling short, but it’s still the best answer for some people.”

Ms. Holmquist said people with questions about short sales or any other facet of buying or selling real estate can call her office at (908) 867-7109 or by sending her an email at kholmquist@comcast.net.

Ms. Holmquist is the team leader for the Holmquist Team, part of Keller Williams Towne Square Realty, and one of the top-producing real estate teams in Morris County, N.J.  She has been in real estate since 1997, specializing in residential home sales. After working at other agencies, she founded The Holmquist Team in 2008. A Certified Residential Specialist (CRS), she holds a bachelor of science from PennStateUniversity. More information is at http://www.kellysellshouses.com or by calling (908) 867-7109.

Eagan heads an office that focuses on real estate and is one of New Jersey’s fastest growing specialty law firms. The firm has successfully represented thousands of individuals and business clients across the state in residential and commercial real estate transactions. More information is available at (973) 898-7300 or www.martyeagan.com.

Dare We Say It? Has The Housing Market Recovered?

LONG VALLEY, N.J. – Shhhh. Don’t read this too loudly yet….but it appears that more and more experts believe that the housing market recovery is finally here. Those of us at The Holmquist Team don’t want to jinx things…but we agree.

Those experts are drawing that conclusion based on how well homes are sellingand a variety of other data.  For example:

home market recovering

More and more experts say statistics point to a recovered or recovering housing market. We agree.

  • Nationally, CNNMoney talked with 14 leading economists about home prices. Nine of them say home prices already have turned higher or will make that turn later this year.
  • According to the economists, housing started adding to economic growth in the Fourth Quarter. Housing always has been a key part of the economy, but has been a drag on financial markets since 2008.
  • Some of those economists say they believe that buyers who postponed housing purchases while the market was panting on the floor are now more comfortable with the economy and their own prospects. They have their checkbooks out and they’re jumping into the housing market.

“Economists have been encouraged by a variety of readings, including three straight months of increases in the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index, a pick-up in sales of existing homes and home construction and a big jump in the price of new home sales,” writes Chris Isidore at CNNMoney. “Mortgage rates are also likely to remain near record lows thanks to the Federal Reserve’s purchase of $40 billion in mortgages a month for the foreseeable future.”

These figures coincide with what we’re seeing in the Morris County area.  Members of The Holmquist Team are seeing well-priced and well-staged homes sell fairly quickly. We’ve even seen bidding wars. We’re also seeing more homes coming on the market. And other Realtors tell us they’re seeing the same thing

Jeff Otteau, a well-known observer of the New Jersey real estate market, this week said that sales contracts for homes in New Jersey increased by 29 percent over the same period last year. It’s the eleventh consecutive month for such an increase.  What’s more, the sales pace this year is 10 percent higher than it was in 2010, when government tax credits were spurring on the market.  He adds that the number of homes for sale in New Jersey is at the lowest level since 2007.

Otteau attributes the strong market to lower home prices, lower mortgage rates and a “favorable rent-to-own comparison.”

Are we ready to declare the housing market recovered? I’m not sure. But I can tell you that we’re busier – and more successful — than ever and that if you’re thinking about buying or selling a home, now is the time.  Give us a call at (908) 867-7109 or take a look at our website,  http://www.theholmquistteam.net. It’s time.

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If You’re Thinking About Buying Or Selling A Home, You’re Definitely Not Alone

If you’re among those watching the real estate market and thinking seriously about buying or selling a house, you’re not alone. A recent survey by real estate website Trulia revealed that 78 percent of the renters surveyed want to buy a new home. Those strong national numbers reflect what members of The Holmquist Team are seeing in Chester, LongValley, MountOlive and the surrounding areas.

The recent survey, called the American Dream Survey, was conducted by Trulia in May. It surveyed 2,205 homeowners and renters to see how people felt about housing after the rescission. In a word, they feel good.

Here are some interesting facts from the survey:

  • Despite reports that homes are shrinking in size, Americans still like big houses. Of those surveyed, 27 percent considered the ideal size for a home to be more than 2,500 square feet. Interestingly, Trulia says the majority of homes on its website are between 800 and 2,000 square feet.  And while we’d like to have more homes above 2,600 square feet to show, the ones we have sell quickly and often close to the asking price.
  • Buyers have definite ideas about what they want: 63 percent want a master bedroom, 56 percent want a walk-in closet, 50 percent want to make dinner in a gourmet kitchen, and whatever room they’re in, 35 percent want wood floors.
  • If you’re worried about downpayments or mortgages, you’re not alone there either. Almost half (47 percent) of those surveyed worried that they wouldn’t be able to find the downpayment and another 25 percent are unsure if they’d qualify for a mortgage. Members of The Holmquist Team can help you find out if you can qualify and connect you with banks with a variety of special programs.
  • More than half of those surveyed (61 percent) think home prices will increase in the next year and 58 percent think prices will soar to 2005-06 levels within the next decade. While predicting the market that far in advance is risky, home prices already are stabilizing and, in some places, beginning to rise.

Whatever your opinions are, the facts are these: Well-staged and well-marketed homes that come on the market are selling within a reasonable time frame at reasonable prices. If you’re thinking about selling your home or buying a home, we should talk. A member of The Holmquist Team can help you explore the local market, determine what options will work best for you. Call us today at 908-867-7109 or by clicking here.

Market Update: More Evidence of a Stabilizing Market

A national housing index based on the number of contracts signed by people buying houses rose to its highest level in two years last week, generating more assurances that the real estate market is stabilizing and the time to buy or sell a home is now. That national view reflects what The Holmquist Team has been seeing in Chester, Long Valley, Mount Olive and elsewhere.

real estate, the holmquist team, houses for sale, homes for sale, selling a house, selling a home,  housing market

Yet another index is reporting that more homes are being sold, adding evidence to the fact that it’s becoming a good time to buy or sell a home.

Indicators that the housing market is settling down have been growing, so if you’ve been waiting for a better market to buy a house, it’s here.

The latest information from the National Association of Realtors says contract signings were up 5.9 percent in May compared to April and 13.3 percent above a year ago. These are measured in an index called Pending Home Sales, and measure the sale of residential properties. Lawrence Yun, NAR’s chief economist, suggested looking at longer-term comparisons.

“The housing market is clearly superior this year compared with the past four years,” he said in NAR’s news release. “The latest increase in home contract signings marks 13 consecutive months of year-over-year gains. Actual closings for existing-home sales have been notably higher since the beginning of the year and we’re on track to see a 9 to 10 percent improvement in total sales for 2012.”

Take a look at these other bits of information:

  • Nationally and locally, mortgage rates remain at near or record lows. Don’t expect them to stay that way.
  • Both S&P/Case Shiller and the Federal Housing Finance Agency say house prices overall are stabilizing and, in fact, are rising in some places.
  • The National Association of Homebuilders monitors improving metro areas. Those that enjoy sustained improvement in employment, housing pricing and single-family home permits over six months make it into their index. Nationally, they started with 11 markets; now they’re up to 83 including one in South Jersey.

Locally, Holmquist Team agents are seeing modest improvements in the market both allegorically and through hard data. For instance, comparing Morris County from June 2011 to June 2012:

  • There were more sales (427 in 2011 vs. 290 in 2012),
  • Fewer homes available (3,949 in 2011 vs. 3,365 in 2012),  and
  • Fewer sellers for each buyer (meaning more buyers in the market) as illustrated by the 9:1 seller-to-buyer ratio in 2011 vs. the 7:1 ratio in 2012
  • There was a 9.2-month inventory of homes on the market in June 2011 vs. 6.9 in June this year.

Challenges remain, of course, on both sides of the sales equation. But those working with a reputable Realtor instead of going it alone will receive good counsel and discover that conditions have rarely been better to buy and are rapidly improving to sell. In fact, in some areas, there are inventory shortages of certain types of homes.

“The market,” of course, is the immediate area where you’re buying or selling a home. If you’ve been thinking about doing either, give us a call at The Holmquist Team. We knows these markets. Talk about all your concerns and fears. We will help you decide whether the time is right, how to accomplish your goals and how to get the best deal.

Summer Weather Puts Homes with Swimming Pools In the Spotlight

LONG VALLEY, N.J. — Summer temperatures are making backyard pools a hot topic among those buying and selling homes in our area. While a swimming pool may be a cool idea in many ways, agents with The Holmquist Team have found that it requires some extra attention on both sides of the sales equation.

A house with a pool is a great place to learn to swim, but requires more steps than other houses for sale or homes for sale.

A home with a swimming pool is a great place to learn to swim, cool off in private or entertain. But these homes for sale with a pool require some extra steps on both sides of the sales equation.

There are three kinds of homebuyers: (1) Those who absolutely don’t want a swimming pool in their backyard, (2) those who definitely do want a pool and (3) those who haven’t thought about it but are willing to when they see the right home. For buyers in the second two categories,  here are some things to think about when considering homes for sale with swimming pools:

  • Whether or not you’ll have to pay more for that house for sale with a pool depends on the neighborhood where you’re looking. A 2003 study in the Philadelphia area said pools added 8 percent to the price of a home, but a lot has happened in the housing market since then. Your Realtor will be able to counsel you about the impact of the pool on the home’s value.
  • Check out the condition of the swimming pool and its surface or liner and the age of the filter and other maintenance equipment.
  • Review the impact of the pool on the homeowner’s water and electricity costs. Again, your Realtor can help you compare bills for the home with a pool to homes in the neighborhood without a pool.
  • Check  with your insurance broker about the cost of insurance.
  • Does  the home comply with local safety and other
  • Bring in a reputable pool maintenance expert to look over the pool and equipment, and listen to what he or she has to say.
  • Think  about the investment in time as well as money: Are you ready to commit to the responsibilities of pool ownership, including maintenance and watching your kids…and possibly the neighbors’ kids?

For many people, a pool means a great place to throw a party and a private place to cool off and relax. For those folks, a home with a pool in the backyard can be a great buy.

But how do you attract that person to your home if you’re selling a home with a pool? Again, your Realtor’s expertise in target marketing will help you find that person. Here are some things for sellers to think about:

  • Reread everything buyers think about and get ready for the questions those tips create.
  • Dismiss  the idea that your home will bring many extra dollars (or lose many extra dollars) because of your beautiful pool.
  • As it is with the rest of your home, staging is all-important. Make your pool area looks like an idyllic summer retreat that nobody can resist.
  • Work with your pool maintenance team and your Realtor to be sure your pool is ready for the scrutiny a new buyer will give it. If it needs resurfacing or your filter needs replacing, either take care of it or be prepared to adjust your pricing accordingly.
  • Have  documents ready to show how well your pool is maintained and how little it costs to maintain it compared to how much you enjoy it.
  • Make  sure it’s sparkling clean. That means no discolored bottoms, no leaves floating in the pool.

Two final thoughts: First, if you’re thinking about putting your home on the market this fall or winter, take some photos of the pool with and without people. Second, think about your response if someone is interested in  your home only if you get rid of the swimming pool.

A swimming pool can make a home unique, but before jumping into a sale, make sure you work with The Holmquist Team or another real estate and other professionals to make sure you don’t find yourself in over your head.