There is staging and there is staging

chairI believe that houses should be staged before they go on the market. I am finding that “staging” doesn’t mean the same thing to everyone. To me, it starts with cleaning decluttering, and, removing excess stuff as needed.

It means taking the magnets off the front of the fridge and I really encourage people to pack up the Hummel collection and the snow babies too. Sometimes rooms can be staged by rearranging the furniture, removing a piece or two, and adding fresh flowers.

I like to add green plants too but it is important to not overdo it. Plants take up space and they can make the home look cluttered.

Some houses need fresh paint. Choose neutral colors and keep it light. Do not paint every room’s walls and ceiling the same color. There isn’t any one color that everyone likes which is why neutrals work the best.

I often end up recommending that throw rugs be removed. It really depends on how many rugs and where they are. The whole idea is to de-personalize the home a bit so that buyers can imagine it as their own.

Loading a house up with rented furniture usually isn’t necessary but if the homeowners want to go that route I ask them to pay the rental fees.

All too often I see “staged” homes that have too much in them. It is as if every square inch of the place needs to look like it has a special purpose. I have seen some bad staging over the years.

Sometimes less is more as it allows the buyers to imagine the house with their own furnishings.

Mortgage applications hit a 27 year low

coinsMortgage interest rates are over 7%. Sure we have seen rates higher but home prices have also hit an all-time high.

“Mortgage applications declined to the lowest level since December 1996, despite a drop in mortgage rates. Both purchase and refinance applications fell, with the purchase index hitting a 28-year low, as prospective buyers remain on the sidelines due to low housing inventory and elevated mortgage rates,” said Joel Kan, MBA’s Vice President and Deputy Chief Economist. “The 30-year fixed mortgage rate decreased to 7.21 percent last week, but rates remained more than a full percentage point higher than a year ago, despite mixed data on the health of the economy and signs of a cooling job market. The refinance index dropped to its lowest level since January 2023, driven by a 6 percent decline in conventional refinances.”
The refinance share of mortgage activity decreased to 30.0 percent of total applications from 30.1 percent the previous week. The adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) share of activity decreased to 6.7 percent of total applications.
The FHA share of total applications increased to 13.7 percent from 13.2 percent the week prior. The VA share of total applications decreased to 11.3 percent from 11.6 percent the week prior. The USDA share of total applications increased to 0.6 percent from 0.4 percent the week prior. [Mortgage Bankers Association]
Locally we are not seeing a slowdown in home purchases but homeowners are less likely to want to sell.

If you live in a house in St. Paul assume the paint is lead based

I tell my clients to assume the paint in any old house in St. Paul is lead-based. Most of the houses were built during the time when lead-based paint was being used.  It was still being used in the late 70s.  Lead-based paint goes way back to colonial times in America and was most used in the mid-1920s. It is most often found on window trim and woodwork.

It can be found on old boilers and on those wonderful built-ins found in craftsman-style homes.  Most contractors test the paint for lead before replacing or repairing doors or windows. To learn more about lead-based paint and how it is especially harmful to children.

Lead-based paint that is covered or that isn’t chipping or peeling may not be hazardous.  When buying a house buyers have the option of having a lead-based paint inspection so that they know in advance if they will have to do any remediation.

Older houses and lead based paint
lead-based paint in older houses

Does it snow in August?

It happens every year. I look in the MLS to see what is new on the market and I find a picture of a house surrounded by snow. I suppose snow is a good look but it may also look like the house has been on the market for months rather than for a few hours.

A better way to market a home for sale and show off how wonderful it looks in the snow is to provide a recent picture of the house, which is how it looks in August. Include a picture of the house when there is snow on the ground but do not make it the first photograph the home buyers sees.

Homeowners who are planning to sell while there is still snow on the ground should take some pictures now to be included in the marketing. During the winter it is most appropriate to put the snowy picture first so people do not assume the house has been on the market for many months.

If the seasons change while a house is on the market I like t update exterior photos as the weather changes. Houses are rarely on the market for more than one season but it can happen. Right now the average days on the market is at around 20 for houses in St. Paul.

Happy August!

Price it right

Tudor style houseThe real estate market is ever changing but some things never change. Houses for sale get the most attention when they first hit the market. Homeowners often believe that if they ask for more money for their house they will get more money for it.

It doesn’t work that way. When a house is priced just a tad too high it sits on the market with no offers. The longer it is on the market the lower any offers on it will be. Sure the owner can always come down in price but if the goal is to get the most amount of money for the house it needs to be priced right from day one.

If a home is correctly priced in most cases it will get multiple offers which means it may sell for more than the asking price rather than less than the asking price.

I like to tell my clients who are buying a house that there are not many bargains on the market these days but if they want to pay less for a house find one that has been on the market for a couple of months and offer less than the asking price.

The best way to get the most for your home is to price it right so that it sells quickly. Right now in St. Paul homes are getting acceptable offers in 18 days or less.  If your house has been on the market longer it might be time to drop the price.

Open houses are optional

open houseOpen houses have become somewhat controversial among Realtors®. There are safety concerns for those who do open houses. Open houses are not needed to sell a house. In fact, most houses that are for sale will never have an open house.

Sometimes homeowners do not want open houses but they believe they are needed to sell the house. Most homebuyers find their next home on the internet and or through a real estate agent, not at an open house.

Buyers who wait for an open house to tour a home are missing out. Only a small percentage of homes for sale are held open each week. With the low inventory of homes for sale, it is best to ask your real estate agent to set up a private showing.

Open houses are an opportunity for Realtors to prospect. It is a great opportunity to collect names, phone numbers, and email addresses which are the lifeblood of the real estate business.

Attending open houses is wonderful for neighbors and for people who may eventually buy a house. It is shopping and there are people who love to shop.

If you are a homeowner and do not want to have open houses just let your agent know. If you believe that open houses are necessary and an essential part of the sales process let your agent know that too.