Thursday, October 30, 2014

Most Desirable Features for Home Buyers Revealed

This Houston, TX home for sale has
the features Southern homebuyers are searching for.
What features make home buyers willing to pay more? Is energy-efficiency important to house hunters? Will living in a gated community attract more buyers or keep them away? Joel Cone of looks at the buyer preferences that are shaping the market.

Whether it is a new or existing home, for buyers in the post-Great Recession market, real estate is still first and foremost about location. After that, the buyer’s individual (or family) dynamics kick in when it comes to the home features they prefer. And with the help of modern technology, buyer preferences have definitely changed.

While crime rates, shopping malls and restaurants, local entertainment or places of worship may be part of the equation in determining where a buyer wants to live, the layout and features being offered on the interior are playing a greater role than ever before.

Due to the advent of the internet and cable television, buyers have numerous resources available to help in their home buying decision. From interior design and real estate websites, to real estate-oriented television shows on both major and cable networks such as HGTV, home buyers can do more research on their own before ever beginning their home search.

“Buyers are smarter now because of the internet and all these television shows. They walk into a property after watching shows like Kitchen Crashers last night and see a lot of these things already done,” said Realtor Brandon Carey with Ascent Real Estate in San Diego, Calif. “Now it’s a trigger in their mind that it’s the right property for them. If these homes already have these items taken care of, that’s a no brainer for them.”

The proliferation of these websites and television shows is making buyers smarter about the products that are being used in homes. Because of that information, certain things they like stick out to them. Things like the type of flooring, cabinets and countertops that were used in the kitchen.

In San Diego in particular, Carey and his design people are noticing a trend towards open floorplans, clean lines, and the popularity of the color gray at the moment. Particularly home remodelers and investors who flip homes are using a lot of gray these days in kitchens and in bathrooms, he noted.

Two of the nation’s largest real estate organizations – the National Association of Realtors and the National Association of Home Builders – conducted surveys on buyer preferences that were released last year. Here are some highlights from their respective results.

Based on a survey of homebuyers between 2010 and 2012, the National Association of Realtors’ 2013 Home Features Survey reported:
  • The typical home purchased was 1,860 square-feet and was built in 1996
  • The average home bought had three bedrooms and two full bathrooms
  • Repeat buyers, buyers of new homes, married couples and families with children typically bought larger homes
  • First-time buyers and single women tended to buy older homes
  • Slightly more than half of the homes purchased were single level
  • Single women placed higher importance on single-level homes, while single men wanted finished basements
  • More than three-quarters of all buyers purchased a home with a garage
  • Among 33 home features surveyed, central air conditioning was the most important feature to most buyers, followed by a walk-in closet in the master bedroom, a home that was cable-, satellite- and/or internet-ready, and an en-suite master bathroom
  • New kitchen appliances were more important to single men and married couples than to other buyers
From a regional perspective, the study showed that:
  • Southerners tend to buy newer homes and place higher importance on central air conditioning
  • Garages were more important to new home buyers, Midwesterners and suburbanites
  • Basements were more popular among buyers in the Midwest and Northeast
  • Northeastern buyers also valued hardwood floors more than buyers in other regions of the country
  • Buyers in the Northeast put more value on homes with a dining room than a living room
A majority of buyers were willing to spend more money on a home in order to have:
  • Central air conditioning
  • New kitchen appliances
  • A walk-in closet
Buyers placed the highest dollar value on:
  • Waterfront homes
  • Homes that were less than five years old
Rooms that buyers were willing to pay the most for:
  • A basement
  • An in-law suite
Most important rooms for buyers to have in a home:
  • Laundry room
  • Den/study/home office/library
Ninety-seven percent of recent buyers were satisfied with their home purchase, the study noted.

“Most satisfied homeowners still said they would like more or larger closets and storage space. In addition, nearly half of recent buyers would prefer a larger kitchen, and two out of five would prefer a larger home overall,” said NAR Vice President of Research Paul Bishop.

Within three months of a home purchase, 53 percent of buyers undertook a home improvement project, the report added.

As for the homebuilders, the NAHB conducted its 2012 survey in two phases: the first phase used screening questions to identify recent home buyers who purchased in the past three years as well as home buyers looking to buy in the next three years. The second phase consisted of a detailed questionnaire given to those two identified groups of home buyers.

Here’s some of the highlights of the NAHB findings reported in 2013:
  • Just over half of all home buyers would like to buy a new home
  • Buyers expected to pay about $203,900 for their next home
  • Buyers want a home with an average 2,226 square-feet
  • For 25 percent of the buyers the size of the lot was not important
  • Nearly half wanted three bedrooms with 32 percent wanting four
  • More than half of the buyers surveyed wanted a single-level home
  • Two-thirds of the buyers wanted a full or partial basement
  • Nearly half of the buyers who wanted a two-story home wanted the master bedroom on the second floor, and the washer and dryer on the first floor
  • Living space and the number of rooms was important to about two-thirds of buyers
  • Buyers tended to focus on the quality and appearance of components such as doors, cabinets, countertops
  • Quality and brand name was important for appliances
The study showed that when it came to the most desirable features in a home, buyers were most interested in two themes in their homes:
  • Energy efficiency – energy star-rated appliances and windows
  • Organization and storage – particularly a laundry room and garage storage
Among the most unwanted features were:
  • Being located in a gated community
  • Being located in a golf community
  • A two story family room
  • Wet bar and wine cooler
  • Ceramic tile countertops
Accessibility features found most desirable by buyers were:
  • Full bath on the main floor
  • Doorways at least 3 feet wide
  • An entrance without steps
  • Lower kitchen cabinets
Half of all home buyers want amenities such as electronic systems and technology features included in the base price. As for technology features, few buyers have them but many want them in their next home.

Although the majority of buyers are concerned about the environment, most are not willing to pay more for a “greener” house.

Among the many demographics in the survey race and ethnicity can play a significant role in how a buyer evaluates the features of a particular home.

After controlling for age, income and household type, the survey showed:
  • Hispanics and African Americans want more bedrooms
  • Among the four ethnic groups studied (White, Hispanic, African American and Asian) all would be satisfied with up to 2½ baths
  • Most buyers in all four groups want high ceilings on the first floor
  • They also want the washer and dryer on the first floor
  • Two car garages are the most popular parking option
“Both the NAR and NAHB survey results point to home buyers looking for homes built after 1995 with three bedrooms and two bathrooms in 1,500 square-feet of space or larger. Thus it comes as no surprise that these are the types of properties real estate investors are seeking in order to either flip or buy and hold as rental properties,” said Rick Sharga, Executive Vice President at

Whether it is an existing home or a new home a buyer is interested in purchasing, the availability of newer materials and designs, as well as technology give today’s home buyers more choices than ever before. And they have definite opinions on what features they would prefer to have included in their next home.

What features do you desire most in a new home?

Joel Cone is a freelance writer based in south Orange County, California. For nearly a quarter century Joel's career — both as a journalist and as a marketing communications specialist — has focused on the residential and commercial real estate industries, as well as the legal community. After a decade as a staff writer for the Daily Journal Corp. group of newspapers, Joel was a regular contributor to California Real Estate magazine for the California Association of Realtors; was the original Orange County reporter for; wrote executive profiles for OC Metro magazine; and has been published in a number of real estate-related publications.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The End of Distressed Home Sales Means a New Stage for the Housing Recovery

Are we entering into a new phase of the housing recovery? While mixed signals in the number of foreclosures have been shown to be a positive indicator for the market, overall distressed sales are shrinking. Matthew Schreck of examines whether these decreases are will speed up improvement or if we're in for a slower recovery.

The current state of the U.S. housing market recovery is that of moderating home price growth, halting and slow demand growth for both new and existing-homes, and increasing housing inventory. Looking at the big picture, we still expect demand and prices to continue recovering in a rocky fashion, but the shift away from the previous stage of rapid price growth amid very limited inventory is a critical reflection of just who’s driving the housing market.

In the early stages of recovery, it was institutions and wholesale buyers doing most of the investing, buying foreclosures and distressed homes on the cheap, only to see prices increase while the newly acquired investment homes remained off the market, limiting available housing inventory. This process occurred very quickly in non-judicial foreclosure states like Arizona and California, where lenders do not need to go to court in order to foreclose on a home. Non-judicial states are where institutional housing investors typically look to capitalize, since judicial foreclosure states take much longer to work through the process. This part of the recovery is quickly coming to a close though, as distressed sales are shrinking, per the graph below, and price growth is leveling off. The fact that existing-home inventories are making considerable upward progress, up nearly 6% from a year ago, also evidences the fact that the housing market is normalizing and moving away from distressed sales, home flipping and quick profits, and towards more traditional home buyers and non-distressed purchases.

Recent reports from housing data firm RealtyTrac depict declines in home flipping and institutional investor share of sales that all line up with the shifting narrative. Home flips, defined as incidents where a home is purchased and re-sold within twelve months, declined to 4.6% of all sales in the second quarter, down from 6.2% a year ago. Institutional investor sales also dropped, to about 4.7% of second quarter sales, down 60 bps from a year ago.

With these trends developing, the onus will even more heavily on typical home buyers to drive housing demand forward. This prospect is mildly disconcerting since, as we’ve mentioned in prior blogs, despite the more accelerated job growth we have seen recently, weak wage growth could continue to hold back demand. It also remains to be seen whether there will be further waves of institutional sales on the horizon, or if companies like Blackstone are content to become America’s largest landlords. The fact that a majority of housing-bust-related distress has cleared the market is undoubtedly a positive one, since it creates a more liquid market. However, we could be in store for a much slower recovery in prices and demand as more traditional buyers dictate the market.​

This information was originally published on, LLC, the nation's leading online real estate marketplace. Buyers interested in purchasing distressed sales for investment or homeownership can search foreclosures in their area.  

Friday, October 17, 2014

How Millennials Can Make Millions in Real Estate

Roughly 95 million Americans belong to the Millennial Generation, the classification for those born between the early 1980s and 2000. Many members of this group have reached the age where, historically, they would purchase their first home, but those 25 to 34 are accounting for fewer home purchases. Although Millennials may be suspicious of the real estate market after the recession, investing in the market is something that could help them grow their wealth and buy their own home sooner.

In his article, My Advice to Millennials: 4 Steps to Becoming a Real Estate Millionaire, Ethan Roberts, a real estate writer, editor and contributor for whose work has been featured on and, provides tips to help Millennials enter the market and grow their wealth.

Getting Off the Debt Merry-Go-Round
Given the amount of debt that many Millennials are already facing due to student loans, being cautious when it comes to accruing more debt is important to gaining and maintaining the credit score of 700 or above necessary to get better loan rates. As a real estate investor since 1995, Roberts suggests avoiding the purchase of items that depreciate, especially brand-new cars telling Millennials to “research the most dependable older cars, such as the Honda Accord. For $6,000 - $8,000, it will probably last you nearly as long as the new car for which you’ll pay $20,000 or more.”

Save for More Than Just a Rainy Day
While Millennials are less interested in spending on luxury goods and applications and more interested in buying natural products, organic food and fresh fruits and vegetables, they still spend a significant amount of money on vices such as alcohol, fast food from McDonald’s and caffeinated drinks from Starbuck’s according to data recently compiled by the budgeting app Level Money.

Saving will involve some sacrifices and those vices can be the first to go. “Skip the $5 Starbucks latte and buy your coffee from the convenience store,” says Roberts. “Take a bagged lunch to work, rather than dropping $8 or $10 every day at the local cafe. Forego the clubbing on Saturday night for a fun evening at home with friends or your significant other.”

Roberts suggests that the best way for Millennials to save is to pay themselves 15 to 20 percent first and then assign the rest of their paycheck to bills and finally to pleasure.

Depositing a Down Payment
“If you’ve been in the military, take out a zero-down VA loan. Otherwise, take out an FHA loan with 3.5 percent down, or a conventional loan with 5 percent down,” Roberts says. “Look for a foreclosure or short sale that has some start-up equity in it. Fix it up as best you can (you may have to forego saving in order to do this), and live in the house for no more than a year or two. What’s that, you’re not handy? YouTube has great videos on how to fix almost anything for which you don’t need a contractor (in other words, everything except a roof or electrical system). After your rehab, sell the house and use the profits to finance your next home, again looking for a distressed property with equity.

An alternative: Live in the home until it’s rehabbed, and then rent it and buy another primary residence. This is a bit more difficult because you have to save money while making repairs and may really involve some sacrifices.”

Flip, Rent, Repeat
Continuing to flip or rent a home can help Millienials increase their net worth while allowing them to purchase a home and provide them with an additional stream of income. “By continually flipping or renting the homes you live in, your net worth will probably hit the $1 million dollar mark within another 10–15 years, while everyone else you knew at age 25 is still plodding along with little to nothing in the bank. With some perseverance, you may even have these properties paid off while you’re still in your 40s and have a great income stream coming in every month.”

Do you know a Millennial who could use some advice to help them become a homeowner or real estate investor?

Portions of this article have been republished for additional educational purposes. This information was originally published on, LLC, the nation's leading online real estate marketplace.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

4 Tricks to Be a Fearless Seller This Fall

This New Jersey home listed on
 is ready for a fall sale.
Are you afraid that you missed out on the summer selling season? Autumn is a great time to scare up leads from buyers who are looking to take advantage of lower mortgage rates and want to find a home before the holidays. So don't despair, these simple tips can help you become a fearless home seller this fall.

1. Avoid Scary Staging Mistakes
A home that hasn't been properly staged can send house hunters running for the hills. Filling your garage with items you are unsure what to do with or ignoring unpleasant odors are common missteps that sellers can make along the way. By correcting these mistakes with five expert staging tips you can create captivating photos and showings that can help you attract home buyers instead of scaring them away.

2. Make Your Home a Happy Haunt
Creating an atmosphere that is enchanting to potential buyers is crucial as the days become shorter and the nights grow colder. With polls showing that fall is the favorite season of Americans, using color palettes consistent with the season for your home is just one of several great DIY decorating tips for fall to create an atmosphere that is welcoming to all visitors.

3. Treat Buyers to Great Photos
Listings on with six or more photos receive three times more inquiries from buyers, which is why you will want to make sure you take photos that bring your home to life. Start by making an outline of the pictures you want to include beginning with exterior shots and moving inside to include the photos every house hunter wants to see.

4. Don't Dread the MLS
Not sure about what the Multiple Listing Service is, or how to get your home advertised there? Four out of five buyers find their homes on this local resource, making it critical for you to decide if MLS listing will help sell your home.

If what you fear the most about your home sale is losing money due to agent commission, sell your home by owner. You can save thousands and maximize your reach for a fraction of the fees.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Mixed Signals in Foreclosure Numbers Are No Cause for Alarm

How can an increase in foreclosure activity be a positive sign for the housing market? Rick Sharga, Executive Vice President of, has evaluated the monthly growth of foreclosure starts and real estate owned actions to show why these numbers are not a cause for concern. With over 30 years of experience in real estate, mortgage and technology marketing, Sharga is one of the country's most frequently-quoted sources on real estate, mortgage and foreclosure trends and has appeared on the CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News, CNN, ABC World News, CNBC, FOX and NPR.

So, what should we make of the recent reports that show a month-over-month increase in foreclosure starts and REO actions, but also show year-over-year declines in both of those categories on a national basis?

That scenario is probably going to become “the new normal,” as the judicial foreclosure states finally begin to process delinquent loans that should have been in foreclosure two or three years ago, but were delayed by regulatory and legislative measures. In fact, a high percentage of foreclosure starts – probably 50% or more – are very likely on loans that were issued in 2009 or earlier, and where the borrower hasn’t made a payment in at least two years. Some of the foreclosure starts also represent loans that were defaulted on, modified, and now have been defaulted on again.

We may have a few months where foreclosure starts and/or REO actions increase on a year-over-year basis as well, but this is simply a product of how quickly some of the judicial foreclosure states are able to process overdue foreclosures, not an indication of any new wave of problem loans.

In fact, loans issued over the past three years are defaulting at half the historic default rates. The combination of much lower loan volume and much lower default rates means that when the industry finally works through the last of the backlog, the pipeline will dry up almost instantly. Most people I’ve spoken with about this believe that the backlog should be largely exhausted in the next two years, although a few states with extraordinarily long foreclosure cycles like New York, New Jersey and Florida may take a little longer to clear.

One of the interesting aspects of what’s happening is that we’re seeing increased levels of foreclosure sales. This is happening for a number of reasons.

First, legislative and regulatory actions, mostly in judicial states, have created an enormous backlog of extremely delinquent loans that should have been foreclosed on several years ago. These properties are finally working their way through the process and going to auction. This is probably the biggest and most obvious reason for the increase. has actually picked up business in about 18 judicial states over the past year, even though we can’t cry those auctions due to statutory regulations.

Second, the number of foreclosure auctions has been artificially low since the peak of the crisis. Historically, less than half of the loans that enter foreclosure go to auction. Of those, about half are sold to investors, with the other half going back to the lender. During the worst part of the crisis, a much higher percentage of defaulted loans went to auction, but virtually none of them were sold – almost all of them went back to the lenders. That’s why REO numbers spiked the way they did.

As home prices have rebounded, especially in the hardest-hit states, lenders have been able to recoup a higher percentage of their losses at the foreclosure sales, so they’re sending more properties to auction, and pricing them to sell. During the crisis, they often priced them at the full amount of debt, and investors had no interest in over-paying for these properties. Activity from institutional investors, which has accelerated price appreciation and increased sales volume, has also been an incentive for lenders to move properties.

Finally (and I suspect not everyone will agree with me on this), I believe that foreclosure auctions are, at least to some extent, replacing short sales as a means of property disposition. Short sale volume has dropped off significantly, and will continue to drop for the next 2-3 years before settling back to pre-crisis levels. Foreclosure auction sales will pick up some of this slack.

The bottom line is that we can expect some volatility in foreclosure activity over the next year or two, but that the numbers will continue to head back towards normal, even though foreclosure auctions will probably continue to increase for the rest of this year, and possibly through 2015 as well.

This information was originally published on, LLC, the nation's leading online real estate marketplace. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

5 Most Popular Homes For Sale By Owner in September

The most popular properties on our website for the month of September are a diverse group that offer everything from modern updates and amenities to acres of land. All five homeowners prepared their home for sale with updates and improvements before listing. In fact, one of these homes is already under contract.

1. 206 N Quaker Ln, Alexandria, VA 22304
Price: $1,199,000
Highlights: This open concept 5-bed, 4.5-bath is located on a private lane that is only shared with six other houses making it quiet and secluded, but that doesn't mean that it is lacking in any amenities. A fully fenced-fenced yard with a remote-operated gate, updated kitchens and baths and a finished basement are just a few of the selling points for this 4,100 square foot home. Buyers with children will find lots to love about this Cape Cod house such as it's proximity to the top-rated Douglas MacArthur Elementary School and the huge Rainbow jungle gym included.

2. 3441 Hadley Road, Hadley, PA 16130
Price: $169,000
Highlights: Located on 2.3 acres, this 4-bedroom split-level was built by the seller in 1962, which means that all updates and repairs since the original construction were under one owner. Amenities include oak hardwood floors in each bedroom, a front porch, rear patio and a brick fireplace. The home also features triple-therma-pane sun/ultraviolet protection windows, oak trim and doors, and new shingles were installed in 2010. A separate building is located on the property and can be used for a garage, workshop or RV storage. The seller is including the appliances with the sale and is willing to negotiate.

3. 15355 S. Moonlight Road, Olathe, KS 66061
Price: $550,000
Highlights: With a lot size of almost 20 acres, this all electric home was built in 1996 and has seen significant updates in the last five years including a new AC/Heater, roof, hot water tank and toilets. The 3-bed, 2.5-bath home also features 2,559 square feet of living space with new carpeting installed in every room in 2008 and a complete master bathroom renovation to include Euro glass doors and 2 shower heads. Property features include a custom 18 x 40 foot in ground salt water pool with underwater LED color changing digital lights, professionally installed Nile outdoor speakers and 6-acre wooded area.

4. 1043 Hill Road SW, Willmar, MN 56201
Price: $169,000
Highlights: A 3-bed, 3-bath cottage style house located in the middle of a quiet cul-de-sac, 1043 Hill Road is within walking distance to five parks and within close proximity to a number of schools, restaurants and shopping. The home is move-in ready with a finished and insulated attic storage loft (currently being used by the seller as a yoga and exercise room), a newly renovated basement, new water heater, an open concept remodeled kitchen and optional appliances replaced in 2013 and 2014. The private, gated backyard features mature trees and recently planted apple trees.

5. 254 Franklin St, Mountain View, CA 94041
Price: $1,093,000
Highlights: This 3-bedroom, 1-bathroom home in Mountain View is currently under contract. Built in 1920 the house itself features 1,086 square feet of living space while the lot itself consists of a large fenced yard with lots of mature trees on 0.17 acres (equivalent to about 7,500 square feet). The property is secluded while also very close to the downtown area, making it an excellent location for those interested in privacy while still maintaining access to shopping and restaurants.