Monday, December 29, 2008

Never Buy a Car in the Rain - or a House in the Dark

My Dad always counseled us against buying a car in the rain. Seems he did it once, and although he's a meticulous man, the next day, dings and dents became apparent. We recently bought a car on a rainy day, and you know what? The next day, we found some dings that we had missed.

As winter approaches Bucks County, and our days get significantly shorter, please be cautious about looking at homes at night after work.

From a practical standpoint, it makes it almost impossible to actually see the lot. Since location is the hallmark of real estate, the lot the home is on is almost as important as the home itself. Additionally, it's sometimes difficult to access the property (see my icy driveway post).

As for the interior of the home...

If the Sellers were smart and left the home well lit:

You know how everyone looks hotter by candlelight? It softens the wrinkles and adds a glow to the skin and a sparkle to the eyes. That's what your getting with a warmly lit home. Cracks in the drywall, funky floors, dinged appliances - they'll all be softened by the glow of lamps. What is obvious under the glare of natural light can be missed at night. Also, you need to make sure the the home DOES get lots of natural light during the day.

If the Sellers (I'm looking at YOU Mr. Banker) have left the home dark:

Well, I probably don't have to go any further with this. If you can see it, you can't buy it. Duh.

My recommendation is this: you should always do a second showing on a property you're thinking of purchasing. If the first was done in the dark, make sure the second is in full daylight.

Oh, and never buy a car in the rain.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Hey, Mr. Banker! Shovel your Walkway, Dude!

With the increase of Bank Owned Properties on the market right now, I send a plea to Mr. Banker...

Please, for the LOVE OF GOD, shovel your walkways and driveways.

And it wouldn't hurt 'ya any to buck up for some, let's say heat and electricity.

I set up showings for two bank owned properties that have been on the market for 90 and 185 days. The first property had no heat, and while my clients and I walked through with our breath puffing in the air, let's just say this: my clients weren't inclined to linger. We walked back to the gorgeous in-law suite only to find that the electric to that part of the house had been turned off. We think there was a jacuzzi in the completely dark bath. We're not sure.

As we entered the driveway to the second home, my truck slid sideways on the iceslick of a driveway midway up the hill to get to the home. My clients had made it to the top of the hill, but couldn't come down because I had closed off the driveway. I abandoned my truck and soldiered on up the hill, only to have my client wipe out getting out of his car and yelling down to me to forget it. There was no electricilty on - at all - at this house, so we couldn't see anything anyway.

It took me around 10 minutes to get my truck out of the driveway without sliding into a busy road, and I only did so by driving in a ditch and having pine trees rake the side of my car. I then had to park on the shoulder of the road with my hazards on and tell my clients when the road was clear, since they anticipated sliding down the drive into the road without being able to stop the car.

Since we haven't had any snow or ice since last week, I guess it's been that long since anyone, including the agent, had checked on the condition of the property.

Look, I get it. You're trying to minimize your loss. However, you're still allowing the house to be shown. In theory, you're still trying to attract a Buyer. All the basic tenets of showing a property still apply - even to bank owned properties. Lights are necessary. Access to the home is necessary. If you want people to actually take the time to look at the home, HEAT is necessary in the middle of winter.

Give me something to work with, and maybe I can actually sell your home. Whatever your pay for the minimal expense of basic courtesies for the Buyer will surely be outweighed by a shorter marketing period.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Interview with a Bucks County Mortgage Consultant - Carmella McGonegal

Through the magic of Facebook I've been reconnecting with a lot of girls from high school (I went to an all-girls high).

Carmella is a high school friend who now works with Mortgage Mobility. I asked her a few questions I thought were on everyone's mind:

Hey, when can I score that 4.5% interest rate I keep hearing about?

Looks like the end of January beginning of February. Right now it looks like its just going to be on purchases. They are working on it for refinances too.

Is there going to be any restrictions on income - either too much or too little? How about my credit score?

You will need at least a 660 credit score if you are not putting down at least 20%. There are no restrictions on income, you just simply need to qualify.

What can I do right now to lower my existing payment?

The only thing really to do to lower your payment is to refinance to a lower rate than what you currently have.

Can you show me what the difference might be in my mortgage payment?

Well today's 30 yr. fixed rate is 5.375%. On a purchase price of $200,000 with only putting down 5% your principle and interest payment would be $1082.56. On a $200,000 going FHA your payment would be $1151.94. That figure is principle and interest only. With 3% down. FHA rates today are 5.75%.

****Special footnote - Carmella wrote these answers on 12/12, and when I checked in with her yesterday the rates had DROPPED and the 30 yr fixed rate is 5% today and FHA is 5.5%.

I'm in danger of going into foreclosure. Help! What should I do?

Call your current mortgage company to renegotiate. They will help you. They do not want your house. They will help you by either lowering your interest rate or give you deferred payments for a couple months until you get on your feet.

There's so much happening on the mortgage front that I would really encourage you to call Carmella and talk about your options. Purchase or re-finance, you may be able to score a GREAT mortgage rate.

Here's Carmella's contact information:

Carmella McGonegal
Mortgage Consultant
Mortgage Mobility
Office#267-544-4000 x133
Cell# 215-901-8083

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Santa Visits Wrightstown, PA - Courtesy of Lingohocken Fire Company

Once again, Santa (and perhaps Mrs. Claus if we're lucky), will be touring Wrightstown, Pennsylvania on December 20th, courtesy of the fabulous members of the Lingohocken Fire Company.

You can find his tour schedule here.

Seeing Santa come by on the fire truck is one of my favorite memories of Christmas as a child (ok, honestly, probably second to the PRESENTS). There is something just so exciting about the lights and sirens and the neighbors all clustered outside cheering.

Last year, Santa's ride came to us as a surprise. We gave Santa, Mrs. Claus, and their helpers warm water and frozen Christmas cookies.

This year, we'll be sure to de-frost the cookies and chill the water.

Look for us, Santa! We'll have snacks.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Using Google Maps to Preview Homes

Remember when we talked about Acreage vs. Privacy?

You have a powerful tool in Google Maps that allows you to preview properties before you ever make an appointment to view them. Using Google Maps, or even Google Earth if you're feeling adventuresome, allows you to preview the area, assess the property, and locate any positive or negative features of the property.

Using my previous post as an example, I put both the addresses into Google Maps and selected the satellite image.

Here are the maps of the properties:

View Larger Map

View Larger Map

You can see where I'm going with this, right? It's a quick way to check out the area and lot, and in many cases you will be able to eliminate homes or consider others simply by doing this step. You can also be aware of some hidden surprises - quarries, air fields, community parks, etc. There may be things that will impact your decision (good and bad) that are not within eyesight of the home, but are readily apparent on the map.

Pretty helpful, isn't it?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Hey, Baby, What's Your Number(s)?

rbc1_11 'Tis the season to be wrapping up - not only my gifts but my year end stats. I've been going through my business this year, figuring out where my business has come from, what it looks like, and where it's going.

First, I want to thank all my family, friends, and past clients for all their referrals over the past year. I'm so proud and grateful that you've entrusted me with your own friends and family. Almost 70% of my business this year came from you, and it's a rockin' way to run a business. I work with nice people, do a great job for them, and they send nice people my way. Perfect!

Thank you.

Down to the nitty-gritty of my sales numbers. I think they show that you CAN sell a house in this market, and I know how to do it. The table below shows my average days on market and sale to list price vs. the averages for Bucks County through December 9th.

Days on Market

Sale to List Price




Bucks County



Thursday, December 11, 2008

These are a few of my favorite things...

No real estate today, just fun, random Christmas stuff.

Inspired by my friend Dana, here are 5 things that put me in the Holiday spirit:

P1010661 1. Andes Mint Cookies. I make Christmas Cookies for gifts and this year I'm making around 20 dozen. I usually follow a theme of make a cookie, stick a candy bar in/on it, and voila! This is by far the quickest, easiest, and yummiest of them all.

badsantaphoto2007_102. Bad Santa photos. I must be the meanest Mom in town, because when my kids cry on Santa's lap, I laugh and say, "Quick take the picture!" This is my favorite from the Ellen Show's gallery for the sheer, glorious chaos of it; the little girl hoping her brother doesn't ruin it for her, the throwdown tantrum, the clearly overwhelmed Santa. Fabulous!

3. Bath & Body Works Evergreen Wallflowers. We put our tree up on Christmas Eve, so these let me have a "Christmas-y" feel in the house, and keep our Christmas Eve tradition.

4. Having shopping marathons with my husband. We take off two or three days right before the holiday and have shopping marathons and get all our shopping done in a few days. We get the kids to school, go out to breakfast (a must!), and then hit the stores hard. I'm cranky after 3 stores, my husband has unlimited stamina. I complain, he pushes me on. We have a lot of fun.

1993-holiday-barbie-hallmark-ornament 5. Hallmark Ornaments. Read it and weep, suckers! I've got the ENTIRE Holiday Barbie series from Hallmark, starting in 1993. I don't know why I like these so much. The tradition of them? The feeling of remembering those Christmases as I put the ornaments on the tree? The thought that I'm investing in something unique that I can hand down to my kids? Not sure what it is - I just love them.

So, share with me...what are the things that get you in the holiday spirit?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Bucks County Real Estate Inventory - November 2008

Thanks to one of my favorite clients Fabio for asking the question that spawned a blog. I've been having a bit of writer's block recently.

Anyway, Fabio asked how November turned out after reading my post showing the months supply of inventory on the market in October 2008.


The answer? Better.

We finished November of 2008 with 14.7 months supply of inventory of single family homes in Bucks County. Sure, it's up 53% from November 2006, and 34% from November 2007. However, it's down from our October number of 15.7. (Go us!)

Looking at the two year cycle, we're currently right where we had previous peaked in December of 2008. Since November and December usually carrying the most inventory due to seasonal buying patterns, I'm anxious to see how our December turns out. Stay tuned!

Regardless, I want to reiterate that we can still sell your home in this market. Even in this "down market" the average days on market for my listings this year was 43 days. The average for Bucks County was 72 days. We can get it sold!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

You Can't Win if You Don't Play

If you're a Buyer who is out there in the market, but not making offers, you're missing out.


You need to play to win.

I'm not one to advise people to make rash decisions, or to be risky with their money. Especially not with real estate transactions that can total in the hundreds of thousands (or millions) of dollars. I believe in taking the time to find the house that you are totally, unequivocally in love with. I believe in feeling comfortable with your price range. I believe in doing your research on an area, school district, and property before moving forward.

However, if you're ready to buy, you really need to jump in the pool and get swimming. Rates are down, inventory is high, Sellers are motivated, and the time is right.

I've been scoring some serious, serious deals for my Buyers (and myself) over the past few months.

Here's the thing...take a shot. Write the offer and see what happens. I'm not encouraging you to get crazy - offering pennies on the dollar only works on late night infomercials. Review my post last year on low-ball offers done right. However, this is definitely the market to start putting some offers on paper, and see what happens.

If you never put in the offer, then they won't be able to accept it.

You have to play to win.