Category Archives: Sapphire, NC Real Estate

First Step for Choosing the Right Sapphire Real Estate Agent

When interviewed following the successful close of their home’s sale, a convincing majority of homeowners say that one of the most decisive factors came early on: choosing the right real estate agent. The reasons given go further than simply chaperoning the business transaction. The right agent does more than pare down the stress level that can creep into the process at any moment; does more than handle the numerous contractual issues that need to be addressed before a sale can reach a tidy conclusion.

The right agent lets you rest easy, knowing that your listing is getting the full energy and professional attention it deserves. When the choice is the right one, you know that your property is on display 24-7—being presented to the potential buyers most likely to buy.

Unless you inherited the property, you probably have clear memories of the Sapphire agent who was there when you originally bought. If it’s a positive image of a friendly, knowledgeable professional who tackled the details with skill and energy—and who seemed to make everything somehow easier than you expected—then that someone is sure to have the inside track.

If that’s not the case (or if enough time has passed that he or she is no longer available), you’ve got to choose your agent. But rather than letting the impending task loom as an arduous undertaking, take heart! Consider that you are in the proverbial catbird seat (whatever that is). Just look at it from my perspective, as a real estate agent in Sapphire.

Every Sapphire real estate agent is engaged in a sort of retail business. The homes for sale are our “products” on the shelf. Now, although it’s true that every real estate agent in the area is able to expose their buyer clients to the entire “inventory”—including the other Sapphire agents’ homes for sale—it’s much more desirable when our own “shelves” are stocked with great properties.

That means that your home is in strong demand among Sapphire real estate agents, and most of them will do their best to make hiring them as painless as possible. If you have some direct questions you’d like to ask (but would normally be too polite to do so), you needn’t hesitate. “What homes weren’t you able to sell last year…and why not?” is a good one. So is, “Can you give me the contact information for three recent clients?”

The right real estate agent—the one you want—won’t make you feel as if you’ve posed an awkward question. A great agent will be able put you at ease in any situation. If he or she fails to do so, that’s not the right agent! (and finding that out means your interview succeeded).

Selecting the right Sapphire real estate agent to sell your property is the logical first step because it makes all the following steps so much easier. I hope you’ll include me on your list of the most likely candidates…and give me a call to prove why you should!

Heads-Up! Sapphire’s Spring Selling Season is Here!

Sapphire’s spring selling season is underway!

Okay—it’s understandable if that seems like a somewhat premature announcement, but it is verifiable from any number of sources. Never mind that this year, spring doesn’t officially arrive in Sapphire until March 20…but that’s only what astronomers say (and they can’t even decide whether Pluto is a planet). Meteorologists take issue with them, anyway. It’s always March 1 as far as meteorologists are concerned. But this year’s Godzilla El Niño has made everything they say subject to revision. And anyway, we’re talking about real estate—and when it comes to real estate, spring is here already!

Now, it may be true that if you look on one of those bank calendars you got in the mail last December, it’s likely to tell you that we’re weeks away from the change in seasons. And depending on what the latest weather seems to be doing, winter may seem to be hanging on for a while longer.

But nimble Sapphire real estate watchers know they can’t believe everything they read (or see happening outside in the garden). Cherry blossoms can’t call the shots when it comes to announcing Sapphire’s spring selling season, any more than tulips can. And that groundhog can stay in his den, for all the difference it makes to home sales.

This is fact: according to the real estate industry’s calendar, the spring selling season—in Sapphire and everywhere else across the nation—has definitely sprung!

Supporting evidence has flooded in from everywhere. For example:

⦁ Home Depot just announced it is hiring 80,000 workers for spring. These are the folks who work the cash registers [nowadays, shouldn’t they be called “plastic card registers?”] and help us wander up and down the aisles, looking for things we can’t describe exactly. Without them, spring wouldn’t be the same. With them, spring is clearly underway.
⦁ Internet real estate behemoth Zillow came out advising that everybody who is thinking about taking advantage of the spring selling season should start preparing their property “NOW”—and that was two weeks ago!
⦁ CNBC put it in real time: “Spring housing season kicks off with record short supply” was their headline. If CNBC says so, who could argue?
⦁ Baseball teams have hightailed it into camp. That should end the discussion…

These harbingers of the spring selling season should certainly mean more than robins hopping across lawns or yellow and pink Peeps appearing on grocery store shelves. And even for any overly cautious souls who decide to wait for the bank calendars’ say-so, taking full advantage of the spring selling season in Sapphire necessarily calls for advance preparation. A strong way to start is by giving me a call!

Homeowner Tax Deductions: Real Estate’s Ace in the Hole

Sure, even the idea of homeownership is appealing for all of the traditional emotional and lifestyle reasons. Having proprietary control over your family’s center of operations is a goal for most Sapphire residents—just as most of us would consider it a necessary evil if professional obligations make frequent moves unavoidable. Travel may be broadening, but most rolling stones (no matter how moss-less) eventually hanker to settle down.

But aside from the lifestyle aspects, another major advantage to settling down and owning your home gets its turn in the limelight at least once a year. This advantage is anything other than abstract. The time of year is April 15, when the concrete financial benefits are tallied up in the very welcome form of Sapphire homeowner tax deductions.

Tax advice is not my specialty—for that, you should always defer to your qualified financial advisor, whose full time job it is to do all that’s humanly possible to keep track of the ever-changing Federal Tax Code. But even non-specialists know that some of the most beneficial provisions in the Code’s 75,000 pages do relate to the range of significant homeowner tax deductions.

In the National Association of Realtors’ periodical houselogic, writer Dona DeZube recently surveyed some of the major ones—tax tips that deserve to be investigated by any Sapphire homeowner who will soon be charting out their own mid-April strategies.

The list was headed by the most obvious one, the mortgage interest deduction, which applies to interest paid on a loan secured by the place you live in. That doesn’t have to be a house—it could also be a trailer or a boat. As long as you sleep and cook in it, if it also has toilet facilities, interest paid for its purchase falls into the category.

Likewise, there is the prepaid interest deduction. Prepaid interest (aka “points”) you pay in when you take out a mortgage or refi can usually be deducted in the year it is originated. An exception is when you refinance and use the proceeds for other than home improvements, in which case the deduction is spread out over the life of the loan. If you refinance again, it gets a little more complicated (may be time to ring up that qualified advisor again).

Another hefty deduction is the one for Sapphire property taxes you have paid. If your mortgage lender required you to insure repayment through private mortgage insurance (PMI), if your income is less than a set amount, the premiums may be fully deductible (otherwise, a reduced deduction will apply). Even more complicated rules apply to government insurance premiums (qualified advisor time).

More homeowner tax deductions can be applicable, too, with varying degrees of complication—particularly those which relate to Sapphire vacation homes. And there are also tax credits for things like energy-efficient home systems.

The bottom line deductibility of many aspects of homeownership can be a major reason why April 15 gets many Sapphire renters to do some serious examination of their residential futures. I’m here to help with any of your own real estate plans!

In Sapphire, Location, Location, Location! Remains Important

“Location, location, location!” is one of the few proclamations which needs no verb, no adjective, no preposition to fully communicate its message. Everyone in Sapphire understands—and usually agrees with—its meaning: The location [of something] is all-important.

In the commercial context, it used to mean “your store better be situated somewhere that gets a lot of the right kind of traffic.” Today, in the same context, that “traffic” can be clicks on the web rather than auto or foot traffic. Either way, location, location, location! stands for a truism that’s inarguably valid.

What’s interesting about the Sapphire location, location, location! axiom when it’s invoked in a residential real estate context is how true it remains—though for different reasons. When it comes to buying or selling a Sapphire home, location isn’t vitally important because of its being visible or easy for prospective buyers to find. This meaning of “location” points to a property being more or less desirable for a variety of reasons:

⦁ Accessibility—offers easy access to Sapphire places of business, recreation points, etc.
⦁ Inaccessibility—provides an oasis of privacy
⦁ Position—offers superior orientation: for instance, receives more (or less) sunshine.
⦁ Geography—takes advantage of superior land features: for instance, is on a hilltop, by a stream, etc.
⦁ Exclusivity—it’s in a respected, physically safe neighborhood, home to successful families
⦁ Community—offers desirable schools, lower tax rates, well-kept parklands and the like. The Brookings Institution finds that living near a high-scoring school can increase a home’s value by $100,000—or more!

Needless to say, another facet of location, location, location! in Sapphire is how important it can be in dollars and cents. It isn’t just that houses are listed for different prices depending greatly on their neighborhoods and even locations within the same neighborhoods, but the ease of buying and selling can also be location-dependent. The “comps”—estimated values assigned by reports of sales of similar properties—are assembled taking into account how near or far they are, as well as the characteristics of their neighborhoods.

For the most part, people tend to agree on the value of those location, location, location! characteristics—but in case you aren’t one of the crowd, the financial repercussions can be noteworthy. If, for instance, your ideal degree of privacy makes you value a home that’s considered to be too far out of town for most people, the asking price could be at a considerable discount from the same house closer in. If you prefer cool, shady backyards over more open and sunny ones, your offer might be accepted by an eager owner who’s not had many other takers.

Location, location, location! may be a cliché, but it’s been around forever for a reason. When you are house hunting—especially if you are new to Sapphire — it’s important to give special attention to local neighborhood characteristics that may not be obvious at first glance. In Sapphire, it’s another good reason to count on a knowledgeable local real estate specialist…like yours truly!

Expectations for Joining the Sapphire Listings in February

Especially this time of year—and even more especially when Sapphire’s weather turns grisly—common sense would seem to lead any homeowner planning to sell their Sapphire home this year to hold off for the moment…at least until Punxutawney Phil’s forecast starts to come true (the venerable groundhog said that winter 2016 will be a short one). A quick peek at Sapphire listings in most Februarys usually confirms the notion that most people decide to wait. As a rule, the ranks of the Sapphire listings in February are a good deal thinner than will be the case a few months later.

Delaying isn’t necessarily the most convenient answer for every homeowner—which gives rise to questioning whether that particular piece of common sense is always as sensible as it seems. At least one writer thinks not.

Just over a year ago, Kenneth Harney authored an account describing some contrary evidence. Writing in The Washington Post, he reported on national sales results “that suggest it’s not necessarily the case” that spring or early summer are the most favorable times to launch listings. In fact, a winter launch (this year, from December 22 through March 20) can prove “surprisingly advantageous.”

The most compelling evidence for that claim comes from an online brokerage firm whose two-year study of asking and selling prices led it to conclude that listings launched in December through March actually yielded the best chance of resulting in above-asking price sales: 17%! The evidence was similar for those hoping to sell quickly. Listings debuting in February turned out to be champs: an average 66% of February listings sold within 90 days, making it “historically the best month to list.”

We might be led to believe that these are reasons enough to hurry up and rush to enter the Sapphire listings immediately. Of course not all by itself—but for properties already in showable condition, it might be a reason to consider it. Logically, leaner Sapphire listings mean less competition. Since it’s common for those whose homes did not move last summer to withdraw them until the spring, homeowners who list before then stand to get a jump on the market. And yes, since many corporations tend to transfer employees and hire new ones early in the year, some of those newcomers will have found their new Sapphire homes before the spring real estate rush begins.

Harney’s article does ultimately undermine the notion that correctly choosing a good listing month automatically guarantees a quick sale at a higher-than-asking price. The giveaway comes from one quoted source who mentions that owners of properties that hadn’t attracted serious offers during the warmer months “get more realistic at this time of year.” This therefore makes winter also a good time for “smart shoppers.” My experience with my own clients (all of whom are definitely smart shoppers) suggests they seldom are itching to make higher-than-asking offers—certainly not right off the bat. The inescapable truth is that, like most other factors, the results garnered by any Sapphire listing depend on a whole galaxy of factors in addition to the season.

If your own plans include listing or house hunting any time this year, I hope you’ll give me a call. I’ll be delighted to provide you with my totally confidential, no-obligation consultation, including an up-to-the-moment Sapphire market situation report.

Sapphire Jumbo Mortgage Outlook Continues to Brighten

“The Jumbo Jungle” may sound a little like the elephant compound in a wild animal park, but it’s actually a seldom-quoted tab under The Wall Street Journal’s online Real Estate section. The “jumbos” being discussed are the trunkless kind—the hefty mortgage loans whose center rings are found in binders instead of circus tents.

Judging from the latest discussions Sapphire homeowners will find lately, these jumbos aren’t about to become endangered anytime soon. For one thing, 2015 registered the highest activity for the behemoth loans ever. This year’s follow-up, according the WSJ, will be unlikely to slow the pace.

The reason behind the jumbo mortgage market’s strength has a lot to do with the down stock market. Last week ended with another swoon, led by the tech stock sector. Investors were thought to have been worried by some poor earnings performance and a general “realization that the world is slowing.”

According to Inside Mortgage Finance, jumbos accounted for a full fifth of all mortgage lending last year—the highest percentage of the market since 2002. Sapphire residents looking to borrow in the high end market may also find a variety of interested lenders as asset investment dollars shift into real estate as “a safer investment.”

It was widely held that the market dip made it more likely to momentarily halt any rise in interest rates. By week’s end, mortgage rate research website marked another drop in conforming rates, as well as the “Federal Reserve’s apparently more cautious position with regard to raising interest rates.” That “apparently” was probably well-advised, given industry experts’ recent history of hit-and-miss prognosticating.

Nonetheless, the Jumbo Jungle writers boldly headlined “WHAT’S AHEAD FOR JUMBO-LOAN BORROWERS in 2016.” Their answer was increased likelihood for jumbo loan interest rates holding below 4% “…for a while longer, which also could make borrowing large sums more attractive.” Going further, JJ quoted one mortgage sales manager suggesting that the fear of eventual rate rises could spur a “home buying frenzy” in the spring, adding to a rush of refinancing by adjustable-rate borrowers reaching the end of their fixed-rate terms.

Sapphire jumbo loan applicants won’t have to be in any kind of a ‘frenzy’ to take advantage of today’s continuing low rates and a general move toward an easing of credit score requirements. I’m glad to help point my clients toward the most active local lending resources—those that consistently provide sound service to Sapphire homeowners.

What’s More Important to Sapphire Renters than Interest Rates?

You’d think that the single most influential factor governing a potential Sapphire home buyer’s decision on whether to buy now or hold off would be the ongoing bottom line—that is, the amount of an anticipated monthly mortgage payment.

Maybe not.

The New York Federal Reserve argues otherwise. Not just a little bit otherwise; “dramatically” otherwise.

To cut to the chase (and that’s a good idea, for reasons that we’ll get to later), what is more likely to impact that decision—especially for those who are currently renters—is the size of the down payment. It follows that Sapphire home renters are more likely to be encouraged by any relaxation of down payment requirements than they are to be discouraged by a rise in mortgage interest rates (with the resulting increase in the monthly payment).

Upon reflection, the Fed’s finding isn’t so surprising. The slow-motion economic recovery and stall in wage growth has made it tougher than ever for the average Sapphire home renter to scrape together a traditional 20% down payment. That would be why the FHA began to loosen down payment requirements (they started doing that in late 2013).

The details of the NY Fed’s study—Survey of Consumer Expectations—involved asking respondents how they would react to different home-buying scenarios. They measured the resulting “WTP”: Willingness to Pay, and found out…well, they found out a number of complicated things that we can leave for the statisticians to figure out—but one that stands out is that for renters (and we could easily imagine many of our own Sapphire home renters are among them), the amount of a proposed down payment is much more important than the interest rate. Everyone who has ever lived with an income that’s about equal to their expenditures understands why: rent money spent gets you nowhere, mortgage payments are different. They represent, in part, retained value.

The reason that earlier we immediately cut to the chase was because the language in the study itself is part English, part FedSpeak (a language created by Fed spokespersons for the apparent purpose of foiling attempts to decipher meaning). For example:

“…since there is generally no exogenous variation in these variables that is independent of confounding factors (such as economic conditions or household characteristics), it is difficult to cleanly estimate these sensitivities empirically.”

Thankfully, that study was accompanied by a summary. The upshot for us is that the current hard-to-predict mortgage interest rate ups and downs may not be as important a WTP influence (at least where the Sapphire home renter population is concerned) as we might assume. What are always keys for swaying potential buyers are objective pricing, proper presentation, and energetic marketing. I can help with all of those—so call me!

Sapphire Homeowners’ Equity Resurfaces after ‘Underwater’ Stint

Looked at from one perspective, there has been a “bailout” of enormous magnitude. Okay—maybe you have to expand the meaning of “bailout” just a bit, but if you do, many Sapphire homeowners can be counted among the most prominent beneficiaries. We Sapphire real estate agents wouldn’t be complaining, either. As bailouts go, it’s the least controversial in a long time—probably because there are no politicians involved (so they aren’t quarreling about who’s responsible for what).

The colloquial term “bailout” has become a household word of late. “Bailout” comes from a straightforward nautical solution for a sinking ship: grab a bucket and bail as fast as you can. The odds of success increase if you can also stop more water from pouring in. Wikipedia’s definition is “providing financial support to a company or country which faces serious financial difficulty.”

It’s no exaggeration to say that after the last decade’s financial meltdown had driven residential real estate prices into the basement, many Sapphire homeowners faced, if not actual “financial difficulty,” at least the threat that it might be on the way. If the amount outstanding on their mortgage was greater than their home’s market value, they were said to be “upside down.” Since bailing and buckets don’t have much effect on a boat that’s upside down, perhaps that’s why another term gained prominence.

They were “underwater.”

The coincidence of maritime imagery couldn’t be more apt. During the underwater days, if you were a Sapphire homeowner wanting to sell or refinance, more likely than not the outcome left you feeling swamped. The banks were inundated with foreclosed properties. The market was flooded with bank auctions. Property values sank…

But finally, rays of sunshine broke through the storm clouds. The floodwaters receded, etc. etc. etc., until today, when CoreLogic has just come up with some buoyant metrics about the current unambiguous state of the nationwide turnaround. A huge amount of equity has returned to the residential real estate market. The increase in homeowner equity in owner-occupied homes is now $6 trillion since mid-2011—$1.3 trillion in the last 12 months alone!

If that is a type of bailout, it’s one accomplished through the free market, powered by consumers reversing the previous distortion. CoreLogic’s figures include the good news that 92% of homeowners no longer bear the burden of being “underwater.” A relatively short while ago, among those who didn’t own their homes outright, that designation tainted nearly a quarter of the nation’s homeowners.

For several years now, the return of high and dry Sapphire homeowner equity has meant a more stable and blessedly predictable marketplace. Right now, some excellent property offerings—not to mention historically low mortgage interest rates—make this a propitious moment to call me to take a look at all that’s available!

You are the Ultimate Sapphire Real Estate Agent Recruiter

A sizeable portion of the recruiting business has gone online, and a lot of small and medium-sized businesses are using them. We hear a lot of ads for them—promising job hunters an efficient way to distribute their resumes; promising business managers an efficient way to attract new talent.

Busy Sapphire business managers are assured they’ll snag quality candidates to fill their open positions by simply filling out an online form describing their job vacancies. Some even promise to deliver the resumes of dozens of candidates almost overnight (if not actually overnight!) using their online job-hunting database systems. What is left unsaid is what personnel professionals know to be the most important next step in the recruiting process: the interview.

If you are wondering what this has to do with you and Sapphire real estate, the answer is just about everything! If you are selling your home or condo (and are among the nearly 90% of people who team up with a real estate agent to help get it done), your choice of agents makes you a personnel manager. You are the CEO of your own home selling enterprise; you’re the boss. And all experienced business owners will verify that just collecting resumes and leafing through them is not good enough. Not when you’re looking for top talent.

It takes some winnowing; some qualifying; the willingness to make judgement calls. There are books written about effective approaches to interviewing, but you don’t have to have a business or psychology degree to select a Sapphire real estate agent you can have confidence in. And you don’t have to devote days to the process, either. There are a couple of pointers about the interview, and a shortcut to the whole process:

First, once you have picked out the names of a few Sapphire real estate agents whose qualifications seem to fit the bill, give them a call. Be clear and honest about where you are in the process, and let them know you are pre-interviewing. You can do this over the phone. Let them present their qualifications briefly—and then get down to business.

1 Ask them for the names and phone numbers of two former clients and two current clients.
2 Then call the clients (be sure to thank them for their time at the end of the calls).

You’ll find out as much (probably more) this way than you would through hours-long conversations with the real estate agents themselves. By the time you have their clients’ feedback on how well they provide marketing materials, handle buyers, and stay in touch, you’ll be a local expert on Sapphire’s real estate agents.

Once you determine which ones have the ‘A’ ratings, it will be time to sit down and have a couple of in-depth interviews—the kind that tell you how well you mesh on the extremely important personal level. By then, you’ll have the satisfaction of having done a most professional job of selecting your agent who (I hope) is me!

The Question: Is Now a Good Time to Sell a Sapphire Home?

“Is now a good time to sell?”

A Sapphire home is never put up for sale on a whim. Although outside events can conspire to control the timing of that kind of major real estate venture, in most cases, the sale or purchase of a home happens on a timetable the Sapphire buyer or seller thoughtfully works out. That can be when a move will least interfere with everything else that’s going on (school and career schedules are often the ruling considerations). Or, it can be when surrounding conditions seem particularly auspicious.

The answer to the “is now a good time to sell” question looked to be a pretty firm ‘yes’ last fall for a number of reasons. The rebound in Sapphire home values had been underway for long enough that in many instances, previous high water marks had been equaled. Many who would have expected low appraisals as few years back could now anticipate friendlier results. The volume of sales seemed mainly limited by the number of homes being offered; and if fewer competing properties were available, all the better. In the background, good economic news began to arrive more frequently…

Also, there was one well-publicized additional factor that made it look as if the “good time to sell” might not last much longer. It was widely anticipated that action by the Federal Reserve Board to finally raise the Fed funds rate would rain on the Sapphire real estate parade, since that would certainly force banks to raise home loan interest rates.

Nationwide, those reasons had the expected result. Per Reuters in last Friday’s New York Times, apparently it had been a very good time to sell. “HOME RESALES RALLIED IN DECEMBER, AND PRICES ROSE AS WELL” was the headline describing last month’s activity. Unseasonably warm weather had helped, but “buyers rushing into the market in anticipation of higher mortgage rates” may have been more of a factor.

Sure enough, the Fed did raise the benchmark Fed funds rate, causing mortgage interest rates to…er…

That’s where the analyses, expectations, predictions, forecasts and conjecture fell to pieces. The banks were supposed to have to raise home loan rates to match, yet by last Friday they had shed another quarter of a percent. As the Times reported, “…rates on 30-year mortgages have dropped below 4%, and many mortgage experts expect them to stay below 4.25% this year.”

As the Sapphire real estate market prepares for the upcoming spring selling season, that unexpected boost seems to herald a lengthy extension of the extremely favorable borrowing environment. When Sapphire homeowners ask themselves “is now a good time to sell?”—the answer seems to have gone from a “yes” to “yes, indeed!”

If your response to the buying or selling question is tipping toward a ‘yes,’ now is the time to explore how your plans mesh with today’s Sapphire market. A good start: give me a call!