Fall Starts With Great News About The Housing Market

The lazy days of summer may be over, and with it the summer real estate market, but members of The Holmquist Team are seeing every sign pointing to an active housing market nationally and right in our backyard, with houses selling quickly.

The real estate market is heating up and homes for sale are selling quicklyOn the national scene, The Wall Street Journal’s Marketwatch Chief Economist writes, “As the U.S. economy rounds the Labor Day turn, it appears that the long-depressed housing market is climbing out of the basement.”  He notes that, “For the first time in a number of years, the supply of both new and used homes available for sale has dropped below demand.” While all real estate is local, that’s a trend we definitely see in our area.

Speaking of our area, Jeffrey Otteau, an appraiser who has earned the reputation as one of the foremost experts on the New Jersey housing market, points out that July saw a 24 percent increase in home purchase contracts compared with a year ago. Equally important, inventory is down 17 percent.

“The combined effects of the decline in unsold inventory with the increase in purchase demand are rebalancing the dynamics of the housing market toward price stability in 2012,” writes Otteau in his latest studies.

Those of dealing with homes for sale in the Chester/Long Valley/Mount Olive area are actually seeing many of the same trends.  Fifty-two homes were sold in those three towns during July 2012, compared to 40 a year ago. We’re seeing bidding contests for well-staged, properly priced homes in our area.  As of July 31, there were 527 homes on the market in the four communities. A year ago, there were 607 homes for sale in those towns.

What does all this mean for you? Aside from the math and economics, it means if you’ve been waiting to buy or sell a home, it’s time to make your move. With interest rates rising, and the market stabilizing, demand up and inventory down, there is nothing to be gained by more waiting.

If you’re selling, talk to us about how your home fits into the current market. Homes that are well-staged and properly priced and marketed are selling, sometimes very quickly. Your Realtor will help you make decisions about pricing, staging, marketing and getting the best deal.

If you’re buying, you should speak with The Holmquist Team. Desirable homes are moving quickly and while prices are stabilizing, interest rates are not. They’re starting back up. If you see a home you like, you need to move carefully, but quickly, to make it yours.

And if you’d like to sell, but you owe too much on your home, The Holmquist Team is well-versed and experienced in short sales. Banks are moving more quickly now, and a good agent – teamed with a specialized attorney – can help you get out from under an oppressive mortgage.

It really is a good time to take another look at the housing market. People who move soon can be in a new home by the time the winter holidays arrive. One thing is clear, though: While temperatures are cooling off, it looks like the housing market is just warming up.  Call The Holmquist Team today.


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.

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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.

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.

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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.

With the Housing Market Warming Up, Perhaps It’s Time for You to Jump In

If you’ve been wondering whether it’s time to dive into the housing market, a bunch of recent headlines seem to be saying, “C’mon in. The water’s fine.”

A lot of people have wanted to sell their home or buy a new home because of changes in their life. But they’ve been holding off because the housing market has presented so many challenges.  But look at these recent reports:

  • The U.S. Census Bureau reports that the number of building permits in February was the highest since October 2008 (although down a bit from January);
  • The closely watched S&P/Case-Shiller Report indicates that pricing was flat in the metro areas covered by the monthly survey.
  • While the number of existing homes sold during February was down slightly, the numbers were the second highest since May 2010.
  • Here inNew Jersey, appraiser Jeff Otteau, who has become the outstanding monitor of the state’s housing market, says the housing market is recovering. He said sales were up about 30 percent in January and February, compared with last year.
  • InMorrisCounty, according to Otteau, there were 266 sales in January and 320 in February. There were fewer homes available in February than January and more buyers for each seller.
  • Every news report has more and more economists and analysts speaking optimistically.

These ideas mean it’s a good time to take another look at the housing market. You’re not the only one who has been thinking about it. There are four or five years of pent-up demand ready to come into the housing market.

You still need to proceed carefully though.

If you bought your home in 2005 or 2006, it’s not the time to put your house on the market at what you paid for it. Housing prices are down and they’re going to stay down for a long time.

But if it’s time for you to get out of your home because you’ve outgrown it, because you don’t need that much space any more, because you are driving two hours a day to your new job or because its just time for a change, it’s worth talking to a Realtor. And if it’s time to get out of your house because you just can’t afford it, the odds are a little more on your side.

But move carefully and work with a professional. These are tricky times.

On the sales side, a Realtor can help you decide on the right price for your home. Overpriced homes aren’t going to sell. He or she can help you develop a sales strategy, decide how best to fix up and stage your home, and pick the right deal. If you’re upside down on your mortgage, make sure you pick an agent who is comfortable and successful with short sales and other methods of dealings with underwater mortgages.

On the buying side, a Realtor can help you decide how much you can afford, prequalify for a loan and decide what a reasonable offer is on a home you decide you like.

Spring is always a good time to buy or sell a home. This year is shaping up to be one of the best springs in a long time. If changing homes has been on your mind, maybe it’s time to jump into the market. At least c’mon in and take a look around!

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.