Are We Heading Towards A Bubble?

The US housing market has been going gangbusters in recent years. Record-setting sales, record-setting home prices, and a market that has largely favored sellers, while forcing fierce competition among buyers. All of this has led some to worry that we are heading towards another housing bubble. So, are we? On Tuesday, September 25, at 11 AM PST, Windermere Real Estate is hosting a Facebook Live event where our Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, will discuss this and the latest Case-Shiller housing report. Whether you’re a buyer, seller, homeowner, or just a real estate junky, tune in to see what Matthew has to say; he’ll also be taking questions from the audience. This is the first in a series of Facebook Live events with Matthew, which will take place on the last Tuesday of each month.

You can learn more and offer suggestions for future discussions by following the link to the event here

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5 Dangers of Overpricing a Home

It is still a great time to be a seller, but in much of the Western U.S., the local real estate market has begun to soften. With significant increases in inventory, buyers now have more choices and less sense of urgency. If you are thinking about selling your home, pricing it correctly the first time is critical. Here’s why:

  1. If you overprice your home, it won’t show up in some search results.

    Buyers search for homes using the parameters they desire. Price range is one of the most critical. If you set an unrealistic price of $850,000 for your home, all the buyers searching for homes up to $825,000 will fail to see your property in their search results.

  2. An overpriced home attracts the wrong buyer.

    An overpriced home will not compare favorably with the realistically-valued homes in a buyer’s price bracket. If your home is missing the amenities, square footage or other features of homes within the price range you’ve placed it in it won’t sell.

  3. Overpriced homes linger on the market and risk becoming “stale”.

    The interest in a home is always highest when the listing first hits the market. When an overpriced home goes unsold for a long period of time buyers often wonder what is wrong with the property. When a buyer moves on from a listing they rarely come back, even if you drop the price.

  4. You run the risk of getting less for your home than if you priced it correctly the first time.

    A Zillow study showed that homes that linger on the market tend to sell for significantly less than their listing price. When a home sits on the market for an extended period of time, buyers feel they have lots of room to negotiate.

  5. The longer your home remains on the market, the more expenses you incur.

    Every month your home goes unsold you put out money for mortgage payments, utilities and other home expenses that you will never recover.

Setting a realistic price for your home from the start is critical. If you’re thinking of selling, our highly trained experts at Windermere Real Estate can provide you with a comprehensive pricing analysis based on current market conditions.

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Choosing the Right Backsplash for Your Kitchen

Every chef’s kitchen should have a style that matches the delicious food that comes out of it. But even if you’re doing little more than making mac and cheese out of a box, your kitchen still can be a place of color and creativity. Kitchen backsplashes are nothing new, but they’ve seen a recent surge in popularity. We’re fortunate to see homes every day with creative takes on this tiling trend, so we decided to showcase some popular backsplash designs to serve as inspiration.

Glass Tile

Image Rights – Better Homes & Gardens

  • When designing a kitchen, function and flair should work hand in hand. The appeal of glass tiling is that it’s easy to clean.
  • Backing up the functionality is affordability. While glass tiling runs more expensive than ceramic, the cost is typically below stainless steel, and even some stones.
  • Glass tiling is perfect for those with an artistic flair. Whether it’s simply a splash of color, a full mosaic, or even an intricate design, glass tile lets your inner artist shine.
  • While the initial cost may be greater, glass tiling can more easily be found in pre-set sheets, making DIY installation far easier than many other types of tiles.

Ceramic Tile

Image Rights – Kitchen-Design-Ideas.org

  • If you need a backsplash that can hold up to consistent use, ceramic tile is a great fit.
  • The most cost-effective tile to professionally install, ceramic tiling offers a glazed shine with a variety of color options.
  • Creating a clear, simple, ceramic backsplash is a great way to add a colorful flair to your kitchen.
  • Between the cost-effectiveness and its low-maintenance nature, ceramic is unsurprisingly the most common type of kitchen tiling.

Metallic Tile 

Image Rights – Architecture Art Designs

  • Stainless steel is one of the more popular backsplash options for those interested in a metallic finish, but we’re also seeing more aluminum, copper, and bronze tiles.
  • The range in metal type obviously impacts the cost, but most metal tiles are much more expensive than their ceramic counterparts – at least $10 per square foot more.
  • For that extra cost, however, you’ll receive a sturdy backsplash with a modern sheen that is easy to clean.
  • With stainless steel in particular, consistent maintenance is necessary to avoid a dulling of the backsplash’s shine.

Stone Slab

Image Rights – Houzz.com

  • Sturdy? Check. Waterproof? Check. Classy? Check. From soapstone to marble to granite to good old-fashioned brick, there is no more low-maintenance backsplash base than stone.
  • For the pleasure of acquiring a stone backsplash, you’ll typically pay more than most other materials. Between installation and material cost, the up-front payment can approach $1,000 for less than 30 square feet of wall space.
  • With a wide range of stone to choose from, a number of color options are available at varying costs.
  • If that upfront payment is manageable, the results will blend both aesthetics and function, and stone’s resiliency makes any follow-up costs minimal.

For an expert DIY challenge, there are many other ways to create a satisfying backsplash that fits your fancy, including vinyl wallpaper, wood, and even beadboard. What’s your dream backsplash style?

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How Reliable Are Home Valuation Tools?

What’s your home worth?

It seems like a simple question, but finding that answer is more complicated than it might seem. Sites like Zillow, Redfin, Eppraisal, and others have built-in home valuation tools that make it seem easy, but how accurate are they? And which one do you believe if you get three different answers? Online valuation tools have become a key part of the home buying and selling process, but they’ve been proven to be highly unreliable in certain instances. One thing that is for certain is that these valuation tools have reinforced that real estate agents are as vital to the process of pricing a home as they ever were – and maybe even more so now.

There are limitations to every online valuation tool. Most are readily acknowledged by their providers, such as Zillow’s “Zestimate”, which clearly states that it offers a median error rate of 4.5%, with varying accuracy across the country. That may not sound like a lot, but keep in mind that amounts to a difference of about $31,500 for a $700,000 home. For Redfin and Trulia, there are similar ranges in results. When you dig deeper into these valuation tools, it’s no small wonder that there are discrepancies, as they rely on a range of different sources for information, some more reliable than others.

Redfin’s tool pulls information directly from multiple listing services(MLSs) all over the country. Others negotiate limited data sharing deals with those same services, but also rely on public records, as well as homeowners’ records. This can lead to gaps in coverage. These tools can serve as helpful pieces of the puzzle when buying or selling a home, but the acknowledged error rate is a reminder of the dangers of relying too heavily on them.

Home valuation tools can be a useful starting point in the real estate process, but nothing compares to the level of detail and knowledge a professional real estate agent offers when pricing a home. An algorithm can’t possibly know about a home’s unique characteristics or those of the surrounding neighborhood. They also can’t answer your questions about what improvements you can make to get top dollar or how buyer behaviors are shaping the market. All of this – and more – can only be delivered by a trusted professional whose number one priority is getting you the best price in a time frame that meets your needs.

If you’re curious what your home might be worth, Windermere offers a tool that provides a series of evaluations about your property and the surrounding market. And once you’re ready, we’re happy to connect you with a Windermere agent who can clarify this information and perform a Comparative Market Analysis to get an even more accurate estimate of what your home could sell for in today’s market.

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Stay Safe While Selling Your Home With Our Seller’s Checklist

Staying organized while uprooting your life and moving from one home to another can feel impossible. Not only are you trying to get the best financial return on your investment, but you might also be working on a tight deadline. There’s also the pressure to keep your home clean and organized at all times for prospective buyers.  One thing you can be sure of when selling your home is that there will be strangers entering your space, so it’s important for you and your agent to take certain safety precautions. Like so many things in life, they can feel more manageable once written down, so we made this handy checklist.

  • Go through your medicine cabinets and remove all prescription medications.
  • Remove or lock up precious belongings and personal information. You will want to store your jewelry, family heirlooms, and personal/financial information in a secure location to keep them from getting misplaced or stolen.
  • Remove family photos. We recommend removing your family photos during the staging process so potential buyers can see themselves living in the home. It’s also a good way to protect your privacy.
  • Check your windows and doors for secure closings before and after showings. If someone is looking to get back into your home following a showing or an open house, they will look for weak locks or they might unlock a window or door.
  • Consider extra security measures such as an alarm system or other monitoring tools like cameras.
  • Don’t show your own home! If someone you don’t know walks up to your home asking for a showing, don’t let them in. You want to have an agent present to show your home at all times. Agents should have screening precautions to keep you and them safe from potential danger.

Talk to your agent about the following safety precautions: 

  • Do a walk-through with your agent to make sure you have identified everything that needs to be removed or secured, such as medications, belongings, and photos.
  • Go over your agent’s screening process:
    • Phone screening prior to showing the home
    • Process for identifying and qualifying buyers for showings
    • Their personal safety during showings and open houses
  • Lock boxes to secure your keys for showings should be up to date. Electronic lockboxes actually track who has had access to your home.
  • Work with your agent on an open house checklist:
    • Do they collect contact information of everyone entering the home?
    • Do they work with a partner to ensure their personal safety?
  • Go through your home’s entrances and exits and share important household information so your agent can advise how to secure your property while it’s on the market.

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How Glass Design Can Help Reflect the Best of Your Home

Glass has been a key component of home design for style and function for thousands of years. The versatility of glass is such that nearly every single modern home constructed utilizes glass in some way, shape, or form. But there’s no need to settle for simply including glass window panes and calling it good. Whether it’s in the interior or exterior, accentuating your home with glass is a great way to invite light, show creativity, and convey a truly modern sense of style in your home. We picked a few of our favorite ways to utilize glass below:

 

Glass Furniture

Photo Credit: Trendir.com

  • Glass tables, chairs, bookcases, and more are unique choices that deliver a clear message in your home: you mean business.
  • If you work from home often, a glass table is an excellent accent to add a hint of professionalism to the home office.
  • Glass shelving can be used to keep a space feeling open and light, while still maximizing function.

 

Creative Window Glass

Photo Credit: Freshome.com

  • Whether your climate is arid or humid, snowy or rainy, there’s a glass style that fits your home.
  • Multi-paned glass not only is tougher but provides enough protection from the elements to make it worthy of full-wall usage in some homes.
  • Embracing open glass windows and walls is a great step, but adding glass features throughout a room can help enhance the sense of openness and promote a sense of natural lighting.
  • Stained glass needn’t be the purview of Gothic architecture alone. A well-placed stained glass insert can completely transform the lighting and aesthetic of an otherwise unremarkable interior.

 

 

Glass Accents

Photo Credit: HomeDIT.com

  • A glass table or window is all well and good, but sometimes your space needs more, or has limitations on what can be done.
  • Stepping stones, candle-holders, and light fixtures are just a few ways to use glass in the periphery of your home to shed light and attention onto the parts of your home you’d like focus on.
  • Feeling particularly bold? Glass items with multi-chromatic finishes can shed lights of various colors, delivering just the right vibe for the moment.

 

Sea Glass/Beach Glass

Photo Credit: LovelyGreens.com

  • Whether lakeside in Idaho or on the beach in Santa Monica, the experience of living surrounded by water is unique in all its forms. But a dash of seaside flair can be added to any home.
  • In some cases the best ways to evoke the spirit of waterfront living is with sea glass accents.
  • From a DIY sea glass-filled candle jar to a letterpress tray display of color, or even a faux-stained glass window styling to play with lighting effects, sea glass is a fun accent that can bring a theme all the way home.

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What’s Starting?

Here are some interesting stats from our friends at Metro Study who study new home activity along the Front Range.

• New home starts are up 14% compared to last year – this is really good news and is helping to relieve the shortage of housing inventory

• Every product type saw an increase in starts compared to last year (single family, town-home and condominium)

• Condominiums saw the largest increase in starts by a long shot, up 112% over last year- this is excellent news for first time buyers and those looking for product in lower price ranges.

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Keeping Up with the Joneses: The Great Paint Debate

A few weeks back, Jenn and I decided to finally pull the trigger on painting our home. The vinyl siding of the 1942 Seattle Cape Cod fixer we purchased nine months ago had been sun bleached to the point of resembling a kind of soft lemon chiffon yellow you’d see on a cake your grandmother baked. Great for dessert, bad for today’s exterior home color.  We wanted a charming, warm and inviting new exterior home color but were fearful about what it would cost to have a professional do it. We had saved between 10-15k by renovating our bathroom ourselves.  Couldn’t we just pick up some paint and make a Saturday of it?

 

Pro tip: In Seattle, painting outside competes with the weather. Make sure you have a runway of at least a week of good weather to ensure you can paint the house in its entirety while leaving time for it to dry.

Seeing as the summer season was pretty much over (say it ain’t so!) and the wet Seattle fall was nearly upon us, we figured we had only a week or two left to get the job done. I’m the kind of person who jumps on a new project… and maybe sometimes I put the horse before the cart. *Cue Jenn’s pursed-lips smirk* So once Jenn and I agreed we were going through with the project, I had three different painters bid out the job and booked the least expensive (but experienced) professional within two days. I scheduled him to arrive the following day.

 

Good Husband Tip: Don’t give your wife 12 hours to decide what color to paint your house.

 

Pro TipDon’t feel bad about shopping for the best price with home professionals. They bid homes out every day and won’t be offended. Most of the time, they present a bid with room for negotiation. It never hurts to get a second bid or ask for a cheaper price.

With the pressure of our painter showing up the next day, we scarfed down dinner and took a trip to the paint store.  (I tried to convince my wife this was an opportunity for us to bond as a family unit.  “We could make it educational! Teach Addie about hues and shades!  C’mon, honey… it’ll be fun!” *Cue Jenn’s pursed-lips smirk*) We knew we had to get special paint for our vinyl siding so that narrowed it down to about 20 options.  And we wanted a sort of dark blue so we picked out two colors that looked promising and headed home to test them out.

Pro TipWhen testing paint, make sure you let it dry before you decide which color to go with.  Paint a few different swatches on various sides of the house and watch how it looks during different times of the day.

One test swatch (on the right, called “Prime Time”) was a little purplely/blue grey and the other was a slightly lighter blue (on the left, called “Stone Cold).  Those are two seriously stellar wrestler names, amiright?

 

With our painter arriving that evening, the pressure was on for us to choose. We’re Millennials so we did the only logical thing you can do when making a big decision. We asked our friends on Facebook. 76 comments later, there was still no clear answer.

Mid-debate, our dear friend Kim Gorsline of Kimberlee Marie Interior Design called us up with some highly insightful information.  First of all, a paint store has pre-mixed vinyl siding paint but they can actually make ANY color into vinyl siding paint.  Which means we had a lot more choices (which left me feeling excited and gave Jenn heartburn).  More importantly, Kim pointed out that the two options we had might not be exactly what we hoped for.  She suggested a few colors that had more grey tones and in much deeper shades.  She promised us that we’d still get the blue house of our dreams even if the colors looked dark grey on the swatches.

Pro tip: You can get small paper swatches for free or pay a few bucks for a large paper square but nothing will compare to a sample of real paint on your surface.  We spent $59.34 on paint samples and it was worth every penny.

Back to the paint store we went, grabbing three more options to test.  Our painter began taping off the trim as we took a few steps back to assess the swatches… BOOM! We had our answer… Britannia Blue by Benjamin Moore. Not the best wrestler name but a nice blue nonetheless.

We trust Kim’s vision and design talent wholeheartedly and as the days went on and the paint went up, we couldn’t have been more pleased.  I installed some new lights fixtures and house numbers that Jenn picked out.  Only this time, I gave her three days of lead time *Cue Jenn’s pursed-lips smirk*

 

Tyler Davis Jones is a Windermere Real Estate agent in Seattle who, with his wife Jenn, recently traded in their in-city condo for a 1940s fixer-upper. Tyler and Jenn, along with the help of some very generous friends and family members, are taking on all the renovations themselves. You can follow the transformation process on the Windermere Blog or on Tyler’s website and Instagram

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How to Acquire the Right Appraisal for Your Home

Appraisals are designed to protect buyers, sellers, and lending institutions. They provide a reliable, independent valuation of a tract of land and the structure on it, whether it’s a house or a skyscraper. Below, you will find information about the appraisal process, what goes into them, their benefits and some tips on how to help make an appraisal go smoothly and efficiently.

Appraised value vs. market value

The appraised value of a property is what the bank thinks it’s worth, and that amount is determined by a professional, third-party appraiser. The appraiser’s valuation is based on a combination of comparative market sales and inspection of the property.

Market value, on the other hand, is what a buyer is willing to pay for a home or what homes of comparable value are selling for. A home’s appraised value and its market value are typically not the same. In fact, sometimes the appraised value is very different. An appraisal provides you with an invaluable reality check.

If you are in the process of setting the price of your home, you can gain some peace-of-mind by consulting an independent appraiser. Show him comparative values for your neighborhood, relevant documents, and give him a tour of your home, just as you would show it to a prospective buyer.

What information goes into an appraisal?

Professional appraisers consult a range of information sources, including multiple listing services, county tax assessor records, county courthouse records, and appraisal data records, in addition to talking to local real estate professionals.

They also conduct an inspection. Typically an appraiser’s inspection focuses on:

  • The condition of the property and home, inside and out
  • The home’s layout and features
  • Home updates
  • Overall quality of construction
  • Estimate of the home’s square footage (the gross living area “GLA”; garages and unfinished basements are estimated separately)
  • Permanent fixtures (for example, in-ground pools, as opposed to above-ground pools)

After considering all such information, the appraiser arrives at three different dollar amounts – one for the value of the land, one for the value of the structure, and one for their combined value. In many cases, the land will be worth more than the structure.

One thing to bear in mind is that an appraisal is not a substitute for a home inspection. An appraiser does a cursory assessment of a house and property. For a more detailed inspection, consult with a home inspector and/or a specialist in the area of concern.

Who pays and how long does it take?

The buyer usually pays for the appraisal unless they have negotiated otherwise. Depending on the lender, the appraisal may be paid in advance or incorporated into the application fee; some are due on delivery and some are billed at closing. Typical costs range from $275-$600, but this can vary from region to region.

An inspection usually takes anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours, depending on the size and complexity of your property. In addition, the appraiser spends time pulling up county records for the values of the houses around you. A full report comes to your loan officer, a real estate agent or lender within about a week.

If you are the seller, you won’t get a copy of an appraisal ordered by a buyer. Under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, however, the buyer has the right to get a copy of the appraisal, but they must request it. Typically the requested appraisal is provided at closing.

What if the appraisal is too low?

If your appraisal comes in too low it can be a problem. Usually, the seller’s and the buyer’s real estate agents respond by looking for recent and pending sales of comparable homes. Sometimes this can influence the appraisal. If the final appraisal is well below what you have agreed to pay, you can renegotiate the contract or cancel it.

Where do you find a qualified appraiser?

Your bank or lending institution will find and hire an appraiser; Federal regulatory guidelines do not allow borrowers to order and provide an appraisal to a bank for lending purposes. If you want an appraisal for your own personal reasons and not to secure a mortgage or buy a homeowner’s insurance policy, you can do the hiring yourself. You can contact your lending institution and they can recommend qualified appraisers and you can choose one yourself or you can call your local Windermere Real Estate agent and they can make a recommendation for you. Once you have the name of some appraisers you can verify their status on the Federal Appraisal Subcommittee website.

Tips for hassle-free appraisals:

  • What can you do to make the appraisal process as smooth and efficient as possible? Make sure you provide your appraiser with the information he or she needs to get the job done. Get out your important documents and start checking off a list that includes the following:
  • A brief explanation of why you’re getting an appraisal
  • The date you’d like your appraisal to be completed
  • A copy of your deed, survey, purchase agreement, or other papers that pertain to the property
  • If you have a mortgage, your lender, the year you got your mortgage, the amount, the type of mortgage (FHA, VA, etc.), your interest rate, and any additional financing you have
  • A copy of your current real estate tax bill, statement of special assessments, balance owing and on what (for example, sewer, water)
  • Tell your appraiser if your property is listed for sale and if so, your asking price and listing agency
  • Any personal property that is included
  • If you’re selling an income-producing property, a breakdown of income and expenses for the last year or two and a copy of leases
  • A copy of the original house plans and specifications
  • A list of recent improvements and their costs
  • Any other information you feel may be relevant

By doing your homework, compiling the information your appraiser needs, and providing it at the beginning of the process, you can minimize unnecessary phone calls and delays and get the information you need quickly and satisfactorily!

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Fall Perspectives 2018: Our Pledge To You

Change is afoot. We suppose it always is, but doesn’t it all seem to come at us so much faster in today’s world? We see change all around us. Just consider, for a moment, how much technology has changed our lives thanks to innovators like Uber, Google, and Apple, to name a few. Technology has also changed the way we do real estate.

The real estate world is a complex environment that most of us only travel once every 10 years. This infrequency, coupled with the ever-changing laws and emotional toll, makes it very hard for most of us to navigate. That’s why we rely on a professional. Even those of us who live and breathe real estate every day use a Windermere agent to conduct our personal transactions.

Thanks to technology, certain aspects of the real estate process that were once difficult are now very easy, like searching for a home. Within minutes of a property being listed, it’s fed to websites all over the world for potential buyers to see. Information about neighborhoods, schools, and home values are also readily available online to help buyers make smart decisions.

There’s no doubt that real estate will continue to benefit from technology, but we’re concerned about the companies that are beginning to look at consumers less as people and more as data that can be generated and shared for monetary gain.

At Windermere, our agents don’t treat their clients like data points being fed into an algorithm; they know them on a personal level. They help buyers make one of the biggest financial and emotional decisions of their lives. They help sellers understand the nuances of the market so they can get top dollar for their home. They are experts in neighborhoods, market trends, contracts, and negotiations. They treat their clients with respect and compassion. And they care deeply about their local community.

As the saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Real estate is the perfect example of that. Technology will continue to change and improve how people buy and sell homes, but our pledge to you is that it will never replace what has always mattered most to us: relationships.

 

– OB JACOBI, JILL JACOBI WOOD, AND GEOFF WOOD

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