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.


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.

Job opportunities may trigger a need to sell your home: Short sales and other solutions

Job opportunities beckoning from a distance are exciting, but in this house market, those selling a home consider their likelihood of success a major part of the decision whether or not to pursue one of those opportunities. An experienced Realtor can help you make that decision.

real estate, homes for sale, house market, selling a home, job opportunities, career builder, find a job, The Holmquist Team, Kelly Holmquist

A moving van may be in your future if a job opportunity beckons. First, though, you have to sell your home.

Recent figures released by the Otteau Valuation Group show some improvement in the real estate market since last year in MorrisCounty. For instance, last month, there were 483 homes sold in Morris County. A year ago, there were only 439 homes sold during May. Inventory is lower and there are fewer sellers for each buyer.

Those statistics don’t mean much if you’re living in a home you purchased at the top of the market that will never sell for a high enough sum to pay off the mortgage. That can mean a quick end to pursuing a dream job out of town.

That was the situation for Kathy and Bruce, who have a business and a home in Succasunna. They have a terrific opportunity waiting for them in Derby, Kan.  The couple knows they can’t sell their home for what they paid for it, and they are considering working with The Holmquist Team and attorney Marty Egan to use a short sell to sell their home.

“We have questions about the effect on our credit scores,” said Bruce, who will be meeting with us to discuss such issues.

The key for people like Kathy and Bruce is to find a Realtor and an attorney that they trust. They need advice from both, working as a team on your behalf, to decide whether they can sell their home through aggressive marketing, keep and rent the home, sell the home through a short sale or pursue another alternative.

All signs seem to be pointing to an economy that is slowly beginning to improve. That can mean the creation of new opportunities. If you’re thinking about pursuing them, if you want to get out from under an oppressive mortgage, or if you need to sell your home for any other reason, work with a Realtor to determine if selling your home will be a challenge.

For instance, if you purchased your home 30 years ago, you don’t have a mortgage and you want to sell it and move to an active-adult community somewhere, your home needs a relatively simple but professional marketing program by a Realtor who understands the current market.

But if your home is “under water,” meaning it isn’t worth what you owe on it, you may face special challenges, even if you are current with your mortgage. That’s when you need a Realtor and an attorney with extensive experience with distressed properties.

With interest rates low and the market coming to life, now really is the time to put your home on the market. If you need help determining how best to do that, please give us a call.

Summer’s Here: Time To Make Your Home Bloom

Bright red flowers help homes sell more quickly

Realtor Kelly Holmquist recommends planting brightly colored flowers to help homes for sale sell more quickly.

LONGVALLEY– It’s summer, and houses for sale are popping up like dandelions. Making a home standout in the summer means staging it so it’s the most attractive-looking home on your block from the outside as well as the inside.

If you’re selling a home, you’ve heard about staging your home. What you may not realize is that staging is different in the summer than in the winter. Here are 10 things The Holmquist Team tells its customers to do to make their homes jump out as the most desirable in their neighborhoods:

1. Step across the street and look at it as a house, not your home

Forget about all the good times you’ve had in that home and look at it like a buyer would: $$$$$. By adopting this mind set, everything else comes easier

 2. Trim the trees and plants, take down hanging plants and wind chimes

You want visitors to see your home and how pretty it is. You also want to make sure there’s amble space for light and air to get through to the windows. Trim low-hanging branches and run-away bushes. Make sure windows and doors are visible from the street

3. Give the outside of your home a good cleaning

Make sure there are no sticks, branches or other debris on the roof. If your home has vinyl or aluminum siding, consider power-washing it, especially if there’s mildew anywhere. If you’re home needs paint, invest in having it painted. Don’t forget to clean your windows.

Get all the outdoor toys organized in one place and move the trash cans, hoses and similar utility equipment somewhere where they’re out of the way and not readily seen from the street.

4. Stage the front porch and the back deck or back yard

Don’t overdo it in either place. If you have a front porch, consider putting a couple of chairs or a bench on it, along with a small table. Add a vase of flowers on the table. 

The backyard should definitely be staged as an extension of your home. At the very least, put a few chairs around a table with, perhaps, an umbrella. Put out a table cloth and set the table. If you have a special view or spot in the backyard, consider highlighting it with a bench or a couple of tables.

5. Green up your lawn and gardens

Make sure your lawn and gardens are well watered and brightly colored. If your lawn has large yellow spots, consider having a lawn service fix it. One professional stager suggested a quicker fix: There’s paint out there with colors that are close to that of your lawn. She suggests painting the spots.

Plant flowers that bloom in bright reds and yellows. If you don’t have a garden, consider planting one just to brighten the outside of your home.

6. Driveways

You can’t hide your driveway. If it’s paved, consider having it patched and sealed. If it’s gravel, consider adding gravel and having it rolled. If your driveway is beyond repair, consider replacing it. The only alternative is acknowledging that you may need to lower your price so the buyer can fix it.

7. Front doors

Your front door is a major part of your home’s presentation. Consider painting it a bright, but complementary color. Some stagers suggest adding a brass door knocker or kickplate or both.  If your front door is old and in bad condition, consider replacing it.

8. Roof

Roofs are like driveways: You can’t help but see them. If your roof needs more than cleaning, you may want to consider replacing it. At the very least, if winter storms have left shingles broken or out of line, have them repaired or replaced. Discuss with your Realtor whether it’s worth replacing the roof or simply adjusting your price.

9. Fix and run your air conditioner

Open windows can give a home nice airy feel in the spring, but once the oppressive summer heat sets in, run your air conditioner. Let buyers enjoy the cool air of your home. It’ll make them stay longer and enjoy your home more.

 10. Inside

The rules for inside your home are the same as they are for the rest of the year: declutter, clean and organize. Make sure your home, not its contents, are what buyers are seeing. Of course, in the spring and summer, make sure heavy curtains are down so there’s lots of light coming in. And put out vases of brightly colored flowers and bowls of fragrant, seasonal fruit in the kitchen.

By the way, if you have pretty photos of your home in the winter, put them out for buyers to see so they can imagine having, say, Thanksgiving in your home.

With the market beginning to come back to life, you don’t want your home to be left behind. Buyers today are expecting the home they buy to be ready for occupancy. That means you need to make an extra effort to make your home attractive and move-in ready to command top dollar and be competitive.

Ask your Realtor to use his or her trained eye to give your home a fresh look and offer you advice on making your home so attractive, there’ll be a sold sign on it before long.

If The Holmquist Team, part of Keller Williams Towne Square Realty, can help you, please call us.

When It Comes To Mortgages, Stick With the People You Know

If you’re buying a home, your Realtor will help find a mortgage. A friend of mine, Attorney Larry Fox of Chester, gives his clients a warning that’s worth repeating: Stick with mortgage lenders who are local and who you know.

There's more to a mortgage than the rate. Pick a broker or bank with a good reputation and people you can actually talk with.

There's more to a mortgage than the rate. Pick a broker or bank with a good reputation and people you can actually talk with.

Larry’s been doing real estate law and managing property closing for 40 years, so he’s experienced in this area. He’s not talking about the on-line presence of well-known and respected banks or mortgage brokers. He’s talking about the fly-by-night brokers who promise you big savings. In the end, he says, they can’t deliver.

“You wind up dealing with two sets of people: broker and the lender,” he told me. “You have no control over the process. They don’t understand the process and you can’t find a real person, it’s all done online. It’s very difficult to negotiate with them and get them closed. In the end, you find they’re no cheaper.”

Every state is different, and Larry points out that these online brokers usually are in another state and don’t understand New Jersey’s laws and rules. For instance, one broker wanted certain forms signed before they’d arrange for the delivery of the check. But in New Jersey, those forms are signed at the closing.

Homebuyers pay for their attorneys or Realtors make the arrangements for the closing, including getting the check there. Using these out-of-state brokers requires more time and aggravation on the attorney’s part.

“The rate’s the rate,” Larry said. “It’s the fees you’ll save on, they say. But the few bucks you save, you’ll lose in time and aggravation.”

 Larry’s advice is the pretty much the same that we give to all of our buyers.

“Do what you can to negotiate with local banks, local brokers…people who have a good relationship with local borrowers,” he suggests. “Don’t be fooled by advertisements of lower fees because it doesn’t work that way.”

Your Realtor can help you find a mortgage with a reputable local bank or broker. In fact, we recommend you prequalify for a mortgage because it lets you know what you can afford and gives you added negotiating strength when you find something you like.

Shopping around for a mortgage is a wise thing to do. But make sure you’re dealing with a bank or a broker with a good reputation for getting you to the closing table with a check in your hand.

If you have questions, or need help finding someone to prequalify you, please give us a call.

In Real Estate, the Game is Offer, Counteroffer and Your Realtor Is Your Best Coach

Spring is here and for-sale signs are sprouting everywhere. What’s really exciting about this spring is that we’re seeing sold signs are popping up on many of those for-sale signs.

With a strong spring real estate market, it’s important to make sure you’re ready get what you can for your home. That

Flowers and for sale signs are popping up

It's spring and flowers and for sale signs are popping up everywhere.

means pricing your home correctly and being ready to counter whatever offers you get.

It’s up to you to put a price tag on your home, but your Realtor should help you by showing you recent similar sales in your neighborhood, looking at the condition of your home compared to its competition and counseling you about preparing your home for the market. In addition, your Realtor is an objective third party who isn’t emotionally attached to your home. And when those offers come in, your Realtor will be able to help you decide what to do with them

You have three choices with any offer: you can accept the offer, make a counteroffer or reject the offer.

You and your agent can discuss whether it’s a good idea to simply accept the offer or counter it, but you should never reject an offer. An offer from a potential buyer is an opening gambit. As in any gambit, you should respond.

You and your Realtor can look at the offer, compare it to what you asked for and decide how to respond. An offer may contain more than just a price. It may call for you to make certain repairs, leave some things behind, call for a contingency (the deal ends if the buyer can’t sell their home) or have other conditions. The offer puts you as the seller at an advantage because you now know what the buyer wants.

Even if the offer seems ridiculously low or has terms you wouldn’t even consider, you and your Realtor should respond. Responding, or countering, keeps the conversation going and starts the negotiation process.

Your counter can contain a higher price, but something lower than your original asking price. You also can change the terms, such as increasing the deposit, offering to pay for certain reports or fees, or leaving behind appliances or other articles the buyer liked.

The hope here is that the potential buyer will remain interested and will counter your counter. This “conversation” requires patience and an experienced Realtor to guide you on what’s realistic, legal and productive. Potentially, you could have more than one negotiation going on.

The offer-counteroffer nature of real estate sales is one more reason why you need an experienced Realtor who will be candid with you and help you through the challenges of selling your home.

Make Sure Your Real Estate Agent Is Working For You

We’re enjoying a robust spring real estate market even though it’s just March. Many attribute that to the nice weather and improving consumer confidence, but whatever the reason, people are getting out and looking at homes. If you’re among them, you need a real estate agent who’s working for you.

Holmquist Team sold sign in spring market in Mount Olive, Long Valley and Chester.

It's proving to be a strong spring real estate market. With the right Realtor, this could be the time to sell your home or buy a new one.

Almost as a rule, real estate agents are nice, personable people. After all, selling a home is about as intensely personal as you can get, so it attracts “people people.” But don’t let their friendly manners fool you: Real estate agents are business people.

What does that mean for you?

It means you want to have a real estate agent who is on your side. If you’re selling your home, you want a listing or seller’s agent. If you’re buying a home, you want a buyer’s or selling agent. They can be the same person, but make sure you understand the relationship.

There are, of course legal definitions for all this. In fact, you’ll be asked to sign a “Consumer Information Statement on New Jersey Real Estate Relationships” and an agreement with your agent, outlining your relationship. Outside ofNew Jersey, the relationships are the same, although disclosure rules may differ.A seller’s agent works only for the person selling a home. He or she has legal obligations including loyalty, confidentiality and full disclosure. On the other hand, your seller’s agent must be honest about matters about the transaction or the property.

If your Great Aunt Tillie promised you $10 million if you’d just sell your house and move toTimbuktuwith her, confidentiality means your agent can’t tell a potential buyer how desperate you are to sell.

A buyer’s agent works only for the buyer and has similar “fiduciary duties.” The buyer’s agent has to be honest in representing you and in counseling you. For instance, if you can’t qualify for a mortgage, the agent can’t tell a seller that you can easily afford the home, no matter how much you want it and expect Great Aunt Tillie to help you out.

It gets tricky when an agent represents both sides of the transaction. It’s legal and ethical. It’s called a disclosed dual agent. If you walk into an open house, for instance, and fall in love with the home, you can ask the seller’s agent to work with you. That agent must disclose his or her role and you’ll be asked to sign an acknowledgement of that status. It means that although the agent knows how much the buyer wants to sell, he or she can’t tell you. On the other hand, if you’re about to come into a small fortune from your Great Aunt Tillie, the agent can’t tell the seller to ask for more.

In some agencies like the Holmquist Team, part of Keller Williams Towne Square Realty, the agents work together to take care of the customers without getting into the sensitive challenges of disclosed dual agent. They work within the same agency, so there’s excellent communication, but the buyer would be assigned a different agent than the seller to avoid the potential or appearance of a conflict. Some of our agents specialize in listing, some in selling and some in dealing with special challenges, and that brings additional skills to the table.

Finding an agent is one of the most important parts of buying or selling a home. First, ask around, visit a few Web sites and visit with a real estate agent you think you might like. If things feel right, select that agent as your buyer’s agent. He or she will counsel you about what you can afford, help you prequalify for a mortgage, and take you to see some homes. Your agent will fight on your behalf to get you the best deal possible.

If you’re listing a home, you want to do the same thing and select a listing agent. That agent will do the best he or she can to get you the most for your home. He or she will counsel you about what to fix up, how to stage and what you might realistically expect to get.

And, yes, the same agent can help you sell your home while helping you find a new home.

Finding the right agent or agents, and understanding your relationship with him, her or them will assure that your home-buying and –selling experience is profitable and comfortable. If you have questions about buying or selling a home, talk with a Realtor or call us. We’ll be happy to help.