So today I want to introduce you to my smart and witty friend and savvy realtor, Elizabeth Colton Walls. I caught up with Elizabeth recently to seek her advice for home buyers and sellers.
Marcelle: How about some advice for home sellers?
Elizabeth: Now more than ever, the “staging” of your home is of utmost importance. Buyers have plenty of homes from which to choose, so your property needs to be perfect.
Marcelle: What are your three top “don’ts” when selling your home?
1. Pets running (or flying) freely about the premises
2. Nonoperational vehicles parked in the yard
3. Extensive religious iconography
Marcelle: Okay, very funny! What are your three top “do’s” when selling?
1. In addition to a new front door, replacing garage doors, windows, and siding provide the most bang for the buck.
2. Two remodels return over 75% of their investment: Converting an attic space into a bedroom, and refreshing a kitchen.
3. Add a deck to your house if you’ve already checked off the above.
Marcelle: Any other other advice for sellers?
Elizabeth: If you are planning to be in your home for many years, renovate to your heart’s content. If you may sell in the next few years, consider the scope and budget of your renovation carefully. Think curb appeal and the modest interior projects for the best returns on investment.
Marcelle: What advice do you have for buyers?
Elizabeth: Know what you want, and what you can afford. This seems pretty basic, but a lot of buyers just jump into the process. I ask my buyers to complete a 4 page questionnaire which covers family, home features, and finances. Experience has taught me that the more I understand about the buyer’s circumstances, needs, and wants, the more efficient the home buying experience will be for all of us!
This a bit Zen (!), but I remind my buyers that a house isn’t just a floor plan, but a space which defines and supports you. Part of my job is to help buyers uncover that sense of who they are in a home– not unlike your job as an interior designer.
Marcelle: Very cool. So given that, what, in your experience, is the most common mistake buyers make during the home search?
Elizabeth: A very common mistake is to pay too much attention to things that can easily be changed (paint colors) rather than things that can’t (no basement.) Sellers know this, which is why they stage the home so you don’t notice the lack of a basement, for example.
Marcelle: So now for the “money questions”: How important is it to have financing approved up front?
Elizabeth: Very. There is no point in starting the home search until you know exactly how you will finance it. The days of lax lending are behind us.
Marcelle: What about short sales? Are they a good alternative for buyers?
Elizabeth: Short sales are fine for a specific subset of buyers.
1. Buyers who have a flexible timeline–unencumbered by considerations such as the expiration of a lease or school enrollment. Bank approved short sales take more time than traditional transactions.
2. Buyers (& their agents) who have researched the market, and are comfortable offering the list price. Banks don’t negotiate price on washing machines. If you are a haggler, a short sale is not for you.
3. Buyers who have their financing ready to go. Once the short sale is approved, banks close fast.
Marcelle: According to recent headlines, it appears that home sales are picking up?
Elizabeth: Yes, last week, a house in my neighborhood received multiple bids the first day on the market. We haven’t seen that in several years. The average closing price for homes in both Davidson and Williamson counties is up from this time last year.
In Davidson County, especially in Area 2, homes under $300,000 are scarce. Inventory at this price point is less than 5 months. (5-6 months is considered a “balanced” market.) In Williamson County, homes priced under $650,000 is the sweet spot with approximately 6 months or less of inventory. In both counties, however, there is still an abundance of high priced homes for sale.
Marcelle: Thanks, Elizabeth for this very informative treat! If you’d like more information on staging your home, email Elizabeth at email@example.com, for a copy of her free e-book Savvy Staging Sells, which includes general tips and room- by- room advice. Her website is www.elizabethcoltonwalls.com, and her informative and often amusing blog is elizabethcoltonwalls.com/blog.
1. Via internet-pets.blogspot.com
2. Via bangshift.com
3. Via paulmurray.typepad.com
4. Via housetweaking.com
5. Via Tracy McEachern
6. Via apartmenttherapy.com
7. Via desiretoinspire.net