Mo Bloggin'

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Archive for the tag “real estate market”

Real estate musings

So it’s been over two years now since I sold and began looking for a new place with a piece of land (see previous posts under The Hunt).  In that time the real estate market took a nosedive and the wild, inflated price increases of the early part of the decade are recalibrating.  The prices will rise again, though probably not as quickly as homeowners would like. 

Those who are selling homes now are often doing so to get out from under a mortgage that is for more than the home is currently worth.  Those with mortgages on homes purchased over five or six years ago are generally okay or breaking even.  To buy a home now is to enter a buyers market where the selection is decent, and better yet, you don’t have to make an offer on a house as you’re walking out to the car after viewing it, hoping to beat out the other buyers, and praying you don’t wind up in a bidding war with someone who wants it as bad as you (think you) do. 

So why, with the market in the doldrums, do realtors act like all they have to do is take a few crappy photos and post them on the multiple listing services and expect the house to sell?  And those photos.  Honestly, some of the places I see (online) look like the photographer was seriously medicated.  As a prospective buyer, I don’t want to see the seller’s decor.  I’m not interested in their paint job, or their matching recliners and big screen TV.  I really wish they’d clean the kitchen before they take the photo, too.  Occasionally an agent will get creative, and either stands on a counter or perhaps brings in a ladder for these odd overhead, almost aerial shots of each room.  I’m not sure what the point is, as only Lurch might see the room from that perspective.  There are pictures of toilets (oh good, the home has an indoor loo), or a wall of photos or artwork that doesn’t appeal to me (evidently the listing agent likes it?), a dining set, or a bed (What, is it the quilt?  The headboard?), or the taxidermy antlers or ungulate head, or the occasional bear skin.  I see a lot of this stuff because evidently people who live on acreage trophy hunt. I have no idea if tract  homes decorate the same way, but I’m thinking not.  There is often a Western themed decor that the realtor/photographer seems to like, or perhaps it’s their way of upselling the “equestrian property” angle, and they take a photo of the cowboy lampshade on the side table, or the rug with the horse shape woven into the pattern.  Nice, but I’d really like to see the structure.

While my appreciation for these decorating tastes may seem condescending, it’s really not my point.  I don’t care if your preferred decor is apple crates and bean bags; it’s the realtors I wonder about.  Just what are they trying to sell?  It sure isn’t the house.  Nor the property; a fuzzy photo of overgrown brush in the winter doesn’t really do much for me.  A soggy pasture or unkempt landscaping isn’t doing the home any favors either, though I also realize that short of dropping a couple thousand in landscaping services, the outdoor factor is often beyond the control of the listing agent, or the seller, depending on the situation. 

When I sold my home, the listing agent insisted the indoor decor be kept to an absolute minimum.  Pictures came off the walls, knick knacks packed up, and kitchen utensils and small appliances put away.  And the house needed to be spotless.  Thankfully we listed in mid-summer, so rain and mud wasn’t a factor but living with three large dogs and two cats meant vacuuming every day (have I ever mentioned how I loathe vaccuming?).   The normal clutter and detritus of life (and I am a bit of a clutterholic), had to be eliminated.  I did as he recommended, and it was like living in a hotel for the six weeks it took for the house to sell, without any of my personal comforts around – books, photos, favorite decorative items were boxed and packed away.  It looked stark, but it photographed well, and the outside photography was genius.  We HAD hired a landscaper and completely scoured the outside too, with M amazingly coming over once a week to refresh the edging, weeding and other small, but huge, tasks. 

I remember being a little put out at the time; surely this wasn’t necessary, to live like a monk on holiday just to sell a house.  Now that I’m on the other side of the fence, I see the brilliance in the plan.  No one would be interested in my collection of small framed photos and artwork (but it was so artfully done!), or my idea of what looks great on a bookshelf (maybe not that one sentimental Rottweiler figurine, and surely not the stuffed toy Rottweiler puppy). 

I just wonder what some of these listing agents are smoking, and feel bad for the homeowners trying to sell a home with this handicap of bad photography and clutter.  Of course, it’s entirely possible the agent recommended all the things my agent had and they just disagreed.  In which case, the home won’t sell for a long time, and it won’t be for the price they want.

Still looking

Duvall Deer 001It’s been two years  now.  I sold my home and moved out two years ago this month.  I’m in my second rental home (same landlord) and have been here for 16 months now.  The critters are all here with me (minus three hens – old age and attrition and I’m down to 10 from the 13 I started with) and we’re all a little older, but still looking for the perfect place.  The real estate market’s been opening up for me in recent months, with more places in my price range that are closer to civilization.  They aren’t perfect –  there’s a reason they’re in my price range, after all, but up until this summer I couldn’t find these kinds of places unless I drove for an hour first. 

I made an offer on a little place on six acres a couple of towns over.  I seem to be hopscotching around all these little farm towns, so it would only make sense I’d find a place in one of them.  It’s a short sale, and will be several months if it goes through.  I made the offer and it was accepted by the homeowner, it just needs to be accepted by the two lienholders…or something like that.  Of course I’ve been hearing all kinds of short sale stories about people who wait and wait only to have it refused at the last.  Or the bank accepts a higher offer from another buyer and they lose it.  I’m not putting a lot of worry into these possible scenarios.  And if the house doesn’t work out, well, I’m still looking.  That’s the good thing about a short sale – you can pretty much withdraw your offer at any time, so if something better comes along in the meantime, I can switch.

It’s a smallish house, with some nice features, some things that need to be changed.  First on the agenda will be a fence (surveyor and fence contractor) and of course the chicken coop.  I’ll craigslist that one for help.  There’s a little more road noise than I’d like, but the house is set well back from the road (hidden from street view) and will be a good place to sit and gain equity for a few years.

My eastern Washington dream, the Okanogan Highlands and Columbia Highlands, will still be there for me.  I’m going to take a trip back over this fall and winter, just to see what the weather is like during the cold months (and if I’m up to it).  For now, if this is it, it will work.  And my new neighbors are pretty cute, don’t you think?  (Mama deer and her half grown fawn.)

The search.

I’ve been house hunting for almost 18 months now.  Not all of the 18 months has been an active hunt, to be sure, but I’ve been in search of a new nest since the summer of 2007.   It’s been an interesting time.  I sold my place in Issaquah (okay, if you must: Sammamish – blehimg_0048) and split the proceeds with J., as we agreed we would when we went our separate ways 15 years prior.  It was a good decision.  As much as I loved the place, it was time–I’d lived there over two decades, nearly half my life, and it was time to move along. 

Timing couldn’t have been better; the real estate market peaked in my area in July of 2007 (the month it went on the market, after three months of hard work from J and M, and me, to get it into a high curb appeal).  We had two solid offers in six weeks, and were signing on the dotted line in September.  Wow.  I found an amazing place to rent (Craigslist ROCKS) that allowed me to take the three canines, two felines, and 13 laying hens (not to mention the box turtles and the parakeet).  And the search for a place of my own to buy was on.

The only hitch is where?  I’ve been working on honing that issue, and still feel conflicted and undecided.  “The right place will show up.”  I know that, and trust that it will, but where? 

To be continued…

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