May 13, 2015

Tips to Sell Your Home

Even though it's more of a seller’s market than a buyer’s, sellers must prepare their homes before listing them in order to appeal to buyers who are value-sensitive following the recession. The best way to sell your home is to hire a professional Realtor like myself, who is an expert on the market and has experience selling homes. Contact me to hear how I help my clients successfully and quickly sell their Central Ohio homes. The below tips will also help your home sell in a timely fashion:

  •  Enhance curb appeal. This can be as simple as mowing the grass, planting flowers, repainting the garage door, and removing lawn d├ęcor. Curb appeal is a potential buyer’s first impression of your home, so it is critical to maintain.
  • Depersonalize. Remove pictures of you and your family, but feel free to keep neutral art on display or swap out photos with stock images. The point here is that buyers should be able to picture themselves living in your home—and starring at pictures of your children will not help them do so.
  • Declutter. This goes beyond cleaning up and making the beds. Decluttering entails putting things in closets, the garage, and out-of-sight locations such as storage units. For instance, put away (or throw away) the pile of books or magazines on your coffee table. You want surfaces (and floors!) to be as clear as possible. This is especially important for smaller homes, which can benefit the most from maximizing their space. Take the kitchen, for example. Put some decorations and appliances away: buyers do not want to see your toaster, blender, George Foreman Grill, microwave, Keurig machine, and butter dish—they want to see your counter space. The same holds true with furniture. It you have any non-essential furniture pieces that do not complement the rest of the house, remove them during showings. Good examples are children’s art tables or chairs.
  • Make minor upgrades. Granite kitchen countertops are increasingly common in new builds but were rare for homes built in the 1990s. Upgrading to granite countertops and stainless steel appliances will help put your home on a more level playing field with new builds. Buyers also like to see updated bathrooms. New front doors and garage doors offer some of the highest returns on investment. Check for and fix cracks in your foundation, stucco, or any other structural areas. You can likely fix them now for less money than you could when a home inspector points them out to potential buyers. Sealing cracks ahead of time can reduce the time your homes spends on the market since less work will be required during the selling process itself.
  • Keep it comfortable. Don’t overheat your home or blast the AC. Be mindful that, when buyers are arriving in coats, they won’t appreciate an unusually warm house.  If you have pets, keep them in the garage or backyard—somewhere where they will not interrupt potential buyers.  

May 6, 2015

Central Ohio Apartment Construction Skyrockets Alongside Rental Rates

The current market in Central Ohio is geared towards renters: last year, for the first time in two decades, more apartments were built than single family homes, at 3,037 and 2,903, respectively, according to The Columbus Dispatch. This stands in stark contrast to 2006 to 2012, during which time the number of apartments built was fewer than 5000, or about 833 a year. Percentage wise, the number of rental households in Central Ohio rose 8.7 percent between 2009 and 2013 while the number of owner-occupied households dropped 9.3 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors

Part of this can be attributed to inadequate finances following the recession; part of it can be attributed it to changing preferences and demographics. Young people are getting married and starting families later in life; so too are they delaying buying their first home. On the other end of the spectrum, there is an increasing rental demand from empty nesters looking for low-mainitence lifestyles. Both cases have resulted in an increased spread of luxury apartment buildings offering things like granite countertops, walk in closets, high ceilings with crown molding, wood floors, and prime locations walking distance to restaurants  bars, shops, and parks. The Short North, Downtown, German Village, Victorian Village, Italian Village, and Brewery District are popular areas. Of course, this all comes at the expense of soaring rental rates. One bedrooms of this sort are rare for less than $1000 and two bedroom units can cost as much as $3000 per month. 

Aston Place is one of many newly constructed apartment complexes in the Short North

As a result, homeowners can find some strong incentives to buy, including historically low interest rates and tax incentives. Not to mention, when you buy a home, you benefit from building equity and property appreciation. You can update or modify your home as you please and don't have to abide by silly rules ("no candles"), and forget paying an extra $30/month for having a pet, and another $80 for parking your car. Use's Rent vs. Buy Calculator to see which option would make more financial sense for you, or contact me to see how I can help. 

Experts expect apartment construction to slow down within the coming year, as the best locations are purchased and developed. 

April 29, 2015

Mirco Units Provide a Small, but Affordable, Option

In major urban U.S. cities such as Seattle, New York City, Boston, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., apartment unit sizes have been decreasing as developers seek higher density and revenue per square foot to compensate for increased land value and construction expenses. These "micro-units" are typically studios or one bedroom apartments with full kitchens and bathrooms and lease for 20 to 30 percent lower per month than conventional units yet have high value ratios (rent-per-square-foot). The size of such units varies according to city-specific size requirements for new dwelling units, but typically ranges from 280 square feet to 450 square feet, often falling between the sizes of a one and two car garage. 

The first prefabricated micro housing project in the U.S., SmartSpace SoMA (shown below), was built in San Francisco in 2013. Its 23 units are just smaller than 300 square feet each and feature dining tables that convert into beds. 

Micro units have preformed well when compared to conventional units, achieving higher occupancy rates and rent-per-square-foot. According to 2014 consumer research conducted by the Urban Land Institute, nearly a quarter of renters in traditional apartments would be interested or very interested in renting a micro unit.  However, real estate analysts have yet to determine if micro units characterize a large, relatively untapped market or is simply a niche market. The popularity of these units could be attributed to their relative scarcity as opposed to unmet demand - only time will tell. 

April 22, 2015

Buckeye Lake's New Dam Puts Summer on Hold

A recent article in The Columbus Dispatch reports that the state will soon replace Buckeye Lake's dam, keeping the reservoir's water level low, which will prohibit boating, for the duration of the project. The estimated $150 million project will take about five years.

While the replaced dam is necessary for structural and safety purposes, the project is concerning for many reasons. Local businesses that depend on seasonal recreation such as the Buckeye Lake Winery, to the left, will likely suffer from decreased business. Many of Buckeye Lake's attractions (including its Yacht Club, above, and restaurants such as Captain Woody's and Papa Boo's) can be reached by boat. The project will also hurt residents, who will not be able to use the lake for the duration of the project or experience the lake view they've grown accustomed to. Not to mention, Buckeye Lake residents who were hoping to sell their home any time soon will be hard-pressed to find a buyer at this time.

Buckeye Lake, renamed from Licking Summit Reservoir, was declared a public park in 1894. How did it end up in this position? In the early 1900s, Ohio's Board of Public Works sold the land excavated to use in building the dam and leased the land occupied by the the backside of the dam for private development. At this time, the area was mostly farmland, as it no longer served as a feeder lake for the Ohio and Erie Canal. Buckeye Lake soared in popularity when an electric interurban railway system began taking vacationers there. Even through the railway went out of business in 1930, Buckeye Lake was in good shape: it had an amusement park (see image below) complete with a beach, arcade, bathhouse, and two dance pavilions.

In the last 1950s, the Chief of Parks V.W. Flickinger declared that the occupied lands by the back half of the Buckeye Lake Dam were "no longer needed for public recreation, parking areas, roads and highways, or other projects of a public nature." This so-called property surplus was subsequently divided into 77 lots in the 1960s, by which time the amusement park was falling into disrepair. A sidewalk along the dam's crest separated private from state property; however, residents paid little attention to this boundary and built patios, decks and docks as they pleased without facing repercussion. While drawings had to be submitted to the parks office for approval, many residents came in with modest drawings and proceeded to build much larger scale projects. Some residents feel that the state is to blame for selling the property rights in the first place, while the states blames the residents for encroaching upon the dam.

Currently, 370 homes sit atop the 4.1 mile dam. Michael Spoor states that Buckeye Lake is "without precedent" in the number of man-made encroachments compromising its structure. Spoor has studied dams for the U.S Army Corps of Engineers for over 40 years. The Corps claims that the man-made impediments are the most significant source of the dam's many defects, and now its current residents will have to pay the price as they wait patiently to get their summers back.

For those interested in owning a house on the water, consider buying a property on Indian Lake (below) in Logan County (Western Ohio). Widely used for recreational activities such as fishing and boating, the  area is also known for its wildlife and walking trails. Check out my current listing on Indian Lake: a two bedroom, two bathroom condo that's furnished and move-in ready! The 2nd level, end-unit condo has a new hot water tank, carpeting, decking, and HVAC. It's eligible for a 0% down USDA home loan, and comes with an assigned boat slip! Contact me to learn more.

April 15, 2015

The Story Behind Disney's Movie "Up"

Disney's movie Up is rumored to be based on the real-life story of Edith Masefield, who lived in a modest Seattle home. For sentimental reasons, Edith refused to sell her home to developers, even when offered nearly $1,000,000 despite the home and land's value of $128,000. The construction cheif of the neighboring high-rise, Barry Martin, befriended Masefield upon hearing her story, and cared for her when she was diagnosed with cancer. Upon her death in 2008, Edith left her home to Barry, who published a book ("Under One Roof") on what he had learned from her.  The house has since been sold to a local company known for motivational seminars, which plans to elevate the home to the top floor of its office building. Below is Edith's home. Read more of Edith's story. 

In Herriman, Utah, the home from Up was recreated by Bangerter Homes with Disney's permission in time for the Salt Lake Parade of Homes this past August. View photos here!

The House in Up
Bangerter Homes' Recreation

April 8, 2015

Housing's Supply Problem Exposed

You may already know that the current residential real estate market is suffering from a lack of supply. But just how serious is this issue, and what's causing it?

According to a recent CNBC article, The National Association of Realtors reported that the housing market was still underperforming in February. There are currently just less than 1.9 million homes for sale, which is less than last year and "well below current demand." Whereas the number of listings typically increases by 6 percent from January to February, the number of listings this year increased by less than 2 percent. Even foreclosures are down, reaching their lowest level last month in 8.5 years. Lack of supply results in increased prices: prices have risen 7.5 percent year over year, as the median home sale price as of Feburary was $202,600. Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist for the Realtors, considers these price gains "unhealthy." So, what's behind this persistently low supply?
  • Larger builders are gaining share over smaller builders, who don't have access to credit. Larger builders tend to cater more to higher-end buyers, not first-time homeowners, pricing this key demographic out of the market.
  • Relatedly, many people are choosing to rent instead of buy. For this reason, rental prices have increased sustainability and show no signs of stopping. In turn, renters are struggling to save enough money for a down payment.
  • Buyers are low on cash and are highly concerned with value following the recession. They want to feel as if they are getting a good deal, which is hard to do in light of increasing prices and fewer housing options. 
Peter Boockvar, managing director and Chief Market Analysis of The Lindsey Group, states that household growth and even higher rental rates will cause a nice rebound in the housing market, reaffirming that a slowdown in the pace of home price gains is much needed.

Now is a good time to sell, as sellers can take advantage of the recent price increases caused by the limited supply of listings. Visit my website and contact me to see how I can help. I am a full time Realtor with a lifetime of experience serving sellers (and buyers!) in Ohio.

March 25, 2015

Lists to Keep When Selling Your Home

Preparing your home to sell is no easy task, and prospective buyers often have many questions when viewing a home. One of your first tasks is to find a Realtor. Contact me if you are interested in buying or selling a home in Central Ohio! After you've secured a Realtor, help keep track of important information by using the following lists:

Basic information. This list should include facts such as square footage, year built, number of bedrooms & bathrooms, property taxes and school district. Most of this information will accompany your online listing; however, it's good to keep this information on hand. 

Best features. One good way to develop this list is to name what you will miss most about your old home and neighborhood, such as the nearby walking and bike paths, sun room, private backyard or eat-in kitchen. Best features go beyond basic information and really "sell" your home.

Updates and improvements. Not only are updates and improvements important to buyers, but also they affect your home's appraisal value. Make sure to keep track of home improvements and replacements, including when they occurred and how much they cost, for at least the previous three years. If you haven't made upgrades for a little while, considering revamping your kitchen and/or bathrooms. Other projects with a high ROI include replacing your front door and garage doors to enhance curb appeal and adding a back deck.

Things to do before you sell. This list is more for you than for prospective buyers. Have you been meaning to repaint a wall? Call a cleaning or landscape service? Research moving companies and change your address? Perhaps your biggest task will be de-cluttering and depersonalizing your home--both of which make your home more attractive to buyers. Whatever it is, right it down here before you forget! For a more comprehensive checklist to prepare your home to sell, see the image below: