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7 Improvements That You Think Add Value To Your Home - But Really Don't

by Meghan Riley, The Cameron Team

When it comes time to make home improvements, most Wilmington home owners like to choose projects that increase the value of their home. But just because a feature costs a lot of money or seems cool, it doesn’t mean it will add value to a home. Matter of fact, it can be quite the opposite. Here are 7 things you may think add value to your home, but really don’t:

  1. Wall-to-wall Carpet Does Not Add ValueWall-to-Wall Carpet – You may think investing in all new carpet will raise the value of your home, but in reality the costs can be hard to recoup. Carpet can be expensive to install and it comes with the risk of choosing a style that buyers won’t like. Likewise, if a buyer is faced with the choice of hardwoods or carpet, they’ll usually choose hardwoods due to the look of it, as well as issues with allergens and pets. If carpet is a common feature in comparable properties and the current flooring has stains that won’t come out with a deep clean, you can consider replacing it, but try to do it on a room-by-room basis.
  2. Swimming Pools – The North Carolina climate is great for swimming pools, but the issue is that buyers either love them or hate them. While it’s fun to be able to use a swimming pool, the upkeep can be considered demanding for some people and above-ground pools (that can be easily removed compared to in-ground pools) can be a visual turn-off for buyers. If you are considering adding a pool to your home, make sure you’re doing it for purely your own enjoyment and not to add value.
  3. Replacement Projects – Spending hundreds to thousands of dollars to replace the HVAC, water heater, insulation, etc., you may think you should get money back, over and above the normal sale price. After all, that’s a lot of money out of pocket. However, don’t expect the investment to convert into a monetary payback…at least, not in the way you think. A new HVAC will improve the salability of your home and likely put it higher on a buyer’s list than other comparable homes, but you won’t recoup 100% of the cost for replacing features that should automatically be included in the home. One exception may be if the home was bought at auction for a steal and you’re flipping the home.
  4. High-Quality Materials – As is the case with many aspects of real estate, choices of upgrades should be made in relation to the community and style of home. Putting granite countertops in a $150,000 1970’s home is not going to raise the value of the house if the kitchen cabinets are the same flat-faced cabinets from the time of build and the bathrooms are still an avocado green. It also won’t pay off if the standard for the community is laminate counters. Buyers are likelier to spend money on more square-footage in the same neighborhood than fancier materials.
  5. Special Purpose Rooms – The idea of a home theater or dance studio may seem like a fun idea to some, but the inflexibility in use can be a turn-off for buyers. If they don’t share the need to have a special purpose room, they may see it as an extra investment – something they need to pay to fix, which they’ll likely factor into their offer price. If you see yourself staying in the home for years to come, then by all means add a special purpose room for your own enjoyment, but be ready to deal with the consequences when it’s time to sell.
  6. A New Roof – Buyers are less concerned with the visual appearance of a home’s roof than the fact that it may have leaks. So, as long as there are no physical issues with the roof, don’t put money into adding a new roof before you list it on the market.
  7. Extensive Landscaping Does Not Add ValueExtensive Landscaping – When upgrading your home’s landscape, it’s important to find a happy middle ground. No landscaping can be an absolute turn-off to buyers. However, garden beds overflowing with plants will only appeal to true hobby gardeners, which is only a fraction of buyers. Likewise, ponds, while relaxing to sit around, will turn off buyers who don’t want to deal with the upkeep (kind of like swimming pools). If you’re just sprucing up the yard to sell it, the best approach to landscaping is to keep it simple and work with what you have when you can. Seed missing patches of the yard, pressure wash the current walkway or add a new one, and trim the current bushes or plant some low-maintenance shrubs that provide a show of color in the spring. Remember, less is more, unless “less” is just dirt.

If you aren’t sure a project will add value to your Wilmington area home, give us a call or send us a message through our Contact page. We’d be happy to advise you on the best possible course of action.

Meghan Riley

How Accurate is Zillow’s Zestimate?

by Meghan Riley, The Cameron Team

Zillow

To be honest, Zillow is often a point of contention with Realtors in the Greater Wilmington area. Why? Because the information isn’t always correct, listings are often left “For Sale” on the site when they’ve already sold, and they display values created by a computer that can give consumers the wrong impression about a property. It makes sellers and buyers unhappy, and we don’t blame them. It’s frustrating when we’re trying to accurately represent a home and buyers are calling with serious interest only to find out the home is no longer available. However, Zillow is a major player in the online real estate field, so we must do our best to work with them to provide the best service for our clients.

Zillow Zestimate

One of the features our clients complain about the most is Zillow’s Zestimate, their automated valuation of how much a home would be worth on the real estate market. Zillow provides a median value and a range that the home may fall into. They claim this is based on a daily update of public data (county records and listing feeds). However, anyone who deals with “fed” data knows that the receiving website doesn’t always translate the information correctly. That’s why 2.5 bathrooms may appear as 3 bathrooms (technically, there ARE 3 bedrooms, but they’re not all full sized) or why 1400 sq.ft. with a 500 sq.ft. addition may only show up as 1400 sq.ft. (the website only knows to read one field). Not saying Zillow is guilty of all of these, but that these are possible examples of how data may be lost or skewed between two websites OR, to complicate things even more, data may be fed from 1 website to another website and onto another website before a buyer sees it. Think of how often that data is translated!

Zillow Home Facts By Source

Furthermore, county websites aren’t always up-to-date as they have their own schedules for updating records. The most accurate source for information on a home for sale is the local multiple listing service, because the listing agent works hand-in-hand with the owner to provide buyers with detailed information about the property, including upgrades, renovations, etc.

What We Do to Help

As I stated before, we know how frustrating it can be when your property info doesn’t quite line up as it should. In a perfect world, each website would format and read information the exact same way…Then again, placing rules like that can prohibit growth and advancement. So, we do the best we can to make our listings accurate on Zillow.

When we list your home, we are given ownership of the listing on Zillow. We then edit the information to match our current records. Zillow isn’t as specific and it doesn’t have all the same fields as the MLS, nor do we have access to all the information displayed, but we do have the ability to edit the information Zillow has stated they use in determining the Zestimate. But, I will warn you, large data sites like Zillow are more computer than human. I’ve personally updated listings only to go back a week later and find something has been overwritten by an automated feed.

Owners can also provide their own Zestimate after they claim the property and provide proof that it’s theirs. This Zestimate is displayed separately from Zillow’s numbers.

Owner estimate on Zillow

Accuracy Rate

For the benefit of consumers, Zillow keeps track of how accurate their information is by county and state. You can see the accuracy for North Carolina here. You can see how close their initial estimate was to the end sale price and their rate of error. This data is computed every 3 months. In New Hanover County, 87.7% of listings that were sold fell within 20% of the sale price. Additionally, 76.1% of Pender County listings and 86.2% of Brunswick County listings were within 20% of the sale price. Remember, this only includes the listings that were sold.

Zillow Zestimate Accuracy

You can see Zillow’s Zestimate is not perfect, but even Zillow says the Zestimate is only a starting point and a Realtor should be contacted before any major financial decisions are made. If you have any questions about this, you are welcome to send us a message.  

Meghan Riley

Can I Leave Furniture for the Buyer?

by Meghan Riley, The Cameron Team

It’s not uncommon for Wilmington home sellers moving across country or downsizing to be faced with having too much furniture to move. It’s customary to have a garage or estate sale, or arrange for a Garage Shelvingdonation place, like Goodwill or the Salvation Army, to pick up unneeded items prior to moving. However, sellers sometimes run into a situation where they are unable to easily discard of furniture, like garage shelving that is too large to move and must be taken apart, and ask if they can just leave it for the buyer.

Specific requirements differ by state, but when a home is sold in North Carolina, it is the responsibility of the home seller to empty and clean the property (bank owned properties are a different story as they often sell “as-is”). According to the North Carolina Offer to Purchase, the property needs to be in the same condition or better on the day of closing as it was when the offer was made. It’s expected that all personal belongings and debris are removed, this includes all furniture.

However, the buyer may be happy to have the extra furniture. It doesn’t hurt to request your Wilmington real estate agent to ask the buyer’s agent if they would be interested in the furniture. But this should be done selectively. You can’t make a request for every piece of furniture you “don’t feel like moving.” You also can’t leave the furniture unless you receive approval, and we suggest having that in writing (an email will do). Otherwise, you’ll end up having to pay to have the furniture or shelving removed after you’ve already vacated the property.

Have more specific questions about this? Send us a message!

Meghan Riley

Write A Love Letter to Your Home

by Meghan Riley, The Cameron Team

Love Your HomeValentine’s Day is less than a week away and love is in the air! Well, more like the sounds of a highly commercialized holiday. But it does remind us we need to appreciate the special people in our lives more and, if the commercialization angers you, it’s a great reminder to make every day Valentine’s Day.

This week, we at The Cameron Team are feeling inspired and want to encourage you to spread that love a little bit further…to your home. We love helping people buy and sell their homes. We enjoy the excitement and hope we see in each owner’s face as they move on to a new stage of their life. It’s also our livelihood. We won’t sugarcoat that. It just adds weight to what I’m about to write…

Now may not be the time to buy or sell real estate.

Think back to when you first moved in to your current home, be it a rental or a purchase. Weren’t you excited thinking about decorating and making it a “home”? Perhaps, it was the perfect house or the almost perfect house for you or your family. Just the right size, location, and monthly payment to fit your lifestyle. Fast forward to today. Your life has expanded. Maybe you’ve gotten married, your family has grown, or you’ve changed jobs and your home is starting to feel like an inconvenience. You’re ready to move on!

Sometimes your desires move a little quicker than reality will allow. It could be your finances aren’t quite right or there is some uncertainty with your job. Maybe you’re waiting for your child to finish up at their current school. Whatever the reason, it doesn’t make moving feasible right now.

So, what do you do? Write a love letter to your home!

Write a love letter to your homeNot a REAL love letter, but think back to when you first moved in and remember what you loved. Maybe it was the view, the garden, or the location. Write that down on a piece of paper. Then, think about perks you’ve gained since your life expanded, like a nearby favorite restaurant or friendly neighbors. Write it down. Next, think about the benefits you’re getting for living there rather than buying, like a lower mortgage payment or the proximity to area schools. Write that down too. Post this list where you’ll see it every day.

Now, return to your original reasons for moving into your home. Make time to work in the garden or have a cup of coffee while you reflect on the view. Be thankful you had the opportunity to make new friends and discover that restaurant since moving in. While you’re doing all that, start preparing to move, even if it’s a few years off. A few years just means you have plenty of time to do your research and get yourself into a good financial position.

Every life change brings a new set of struggles. When things get stressful, it’s hard to see the positive side. Sometimes, you just need to be reminded and writing it down can help.

When you’re ready to buy or sell your Wilmington area home, The Cameron Team will be right here to help. Even if your move is a few years out, we can still help you to prepare. Our home value reports can keep you updated monthly on the market value of your home. If credit is an issue, we can refer you to a lender who will look at your report and advise you on the best steps to improve it to help you qualify for a mortgage or better rate. You can also sign-up for our MLS listing alerts so you can narrow down which Wilmington area neighborhoods you may be interested in.

Have questions? Let us know!

Meghan Riley

Should I List My Wilmington Home Now?

by Meghan Riley, The Cameron Team

Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage has a real estate agent meeting twice a month – a sales meeting that is company-wide and an office meeting for each office location. At the end of each meeting, Realtors present their new listings to other agents in the company. Property pictures are projected onto a big screen and the listing agent of each property shares its best selling points in an effort to catch the attention of agents with buyers looking for similar properties. It’s a great way to attract contracts.

Home SoldBut, you know what I noticed at our meeting this week? Almost a THIRD of the listings displayed were already under contract! So, between the time that the home went on the market and the Sea Coast staff were able to make the meeting presentation, homes were already getting offers. Isn’t that great news?!

At every sales meeting, our V.P. of Business Development Brian Moxey shares the number of listings sold, pending, and active. Consistently, every month for the past year (or longer), listings sold and pending have exceeded new listings. That’s been great, because we’ve had so many foreclosures, short sales, and homes listed due to the recession. The market needed some cleaning out. However, we’re now seeing an inventory shortage and some of our buyers aren’t finding what they need.  

If you have been thinking about listing your home, now is a great time to do so. Homes that are priced competitively and prepared to show are selling. Want a better idea of what’s happening in your particular neighborhood? Visit www.WilmingtonHomeValuesOnline.com for an instant look at homes selling in your area or give us a call at 910.202.2546, and we’ll prepare a comparative market analysis for your home.

Meghan Riley

How Do You Know What is Included in a Home Sale?

by Meghan Riley, The Cameron Team

Mounted TelevisionWhen viewing Wilmington area homes for sale, it can be difficult to tell what exactly is included with the home. We’ve seen buyers put offers in on homes, go through the whole closing process, and discover when they move into the home that fixtures have been removed. That’s when people get sued and both parties enter arbitration. Ugly, ugly times.

We want you to avoid a bad situation, so here is a good rule-of-thumb:

If it’s bolted (nailed, screwed, glued, cemented, etc.) down, it stays.

That includes the 55” mounted television in the living room, stained glass chandelier in the dining room, blinds in the master bedroom, and surround sound speakers hanging in the media room. It does not include the island in the kitchen if it’s the portable type with legs that you can buy from Sears or Bed, Bath, and Beyond. It needs to be screwed to the floor to be included.

Another good rule-of-thumb is:

If it’s buried or planted, it stays.

That includes all shrubbery, bulbs, plants, trees, etc. If you’re a seller and want to take it with you, make sure you dig it up before the house goes on the market. This rule also includes buried propane tanks that are not rented from the gas company. You can find out if a tank is owned or rented, by asking the owners or verifying it with the local gas companies.

Now, where it can really get confusing is with appliances. Most people think that the refrigerator is automatically included in the sale of the home. After all, if it’s removed, there’s a big gaping hole where it should be. However, the fact is you can unplug it and take it with you. It’s not bolted down. Many sellers will include the refrigerator in the sale of the home, but it does need to be specified in the contract. It’s best to verify which appliances stay with the home before making an offer.

If you see something in a house that you’re interested in and you aren’t sure it’s included, it’s always best to ask. You may find that the sellers are willing to negotiate certain features that aren’t automatically included, like that portable kitchen island. If you do extra negotiating, make sure those items are agreed upon in writing to prevent future disagreements.

When you’re ready to buy or sell, give us a call (910.202.2547) or send us a message through our Contact page. We’re ready to help!

Meghan Riley

5 Financing Pitfalls That May Affect the Sale of Your Condo

by Meghan Riley, The Cameron Team

Condo for Sale in Willoughby ParkIf you’ve owned your Wilmington area condo for some time, you may not be aware of current financing guidelines that could prevent a buyer from purchasing it. These guidelines include requirements that factor into a lender’s decision to loan a buyer money to purchase a specific condo. Here are 5 financing pitfalls that may affect the sale of your condo:

  1. The Condo Association

Loans for condos are not decided in the same manner as single-family home loans. It isn’t just the home owner’s financials that determine if a property is affordable. The financial status of the condo owners association (COA) is also taken into consideration. If the COA is in any financial hot water or the lender decides the COA does not have enough funds to cover emergency repairs, they may label it a financial risk.

  1. The Financials of Other Condo Users

If there are too many short sales or foreclosures in the building, or a high number of owners are delinquent on their COA dues, the lender may question how affordable your condo building really is. They won’t want to risk a new owner slowly drifting into debt until they can no longer pay on the loan.

  1. Rentals in the Building

Depending on the type of loan and the financier, your condo building may be required to meet certain occupancy rates. Stipulations vary, but, oftentimes, lenders want a certain percentage of the units in the building to be owner occupied. If too many units are used as second homes or rentals, the lender may decide there’s too much risk and choose not to write a loan for the condo.

  1. No Comps

Unlike single-family homes where appraisers can look for comparable sales (comps) in other neighborhoods, the lender may require that comps only be pulled from the same condo building. If a unit in your condo building hasn’t sold in the past 180 days, they may refuse funding.

  1. Lack of Insurance Coverage

Most real estate loans require the borrower to secure insurance to protect the lender’s investment. For condos, the insurance the borrower secures covers bare walls and in. The COA maintains a master insurance. If the insurance does not meet the flood, hazard, and liability insurance standards of the lender, they may decide it’s too risky to invest in your unit.

Even if you were aware of these requirements when you originally bought your condo, if you’re now selling your unit, it’s time to familiarize yourself with them again, because conditions in your condo building may have changed. If any of these are the case for you, it doesn’t mean your condo is unsellable, but you should realize that there may be some roadblocks along the way. Unless they’re able to pay cash, potential buyers will need to take full advantage of the Due Diligence Period to secure and finalize financing. If you enter the market with correct expectations and the right frame of mind, the selling process will be a lot less stressful.

If you would like to list your condo with someone experienced with these requirements, give us a call (910.202.2546) or send us a message through our Contact page! We’d love to discuss your particular selling situation and show you our marketing plan!

Meghan Riley

Did Someone Die in My House?

by Meghan Riley, The Cameron Team

DiedInHouse.comWould you buy a Wilmington home if you knew someone died in it? In North Carolina, home sellers are not required to disclose if anyone has passed away in their home, because it’s not a material fact. However, if a potential buyer asks, the seller should share what they know.

But, what if they choose nor to or they don’t know if someone has died there?

Well, a website claims that it can tell you. It’s called DiedInHouse.com and it’s offering the answer for a mere $11.99. It claims to search death records by address to let the searcher know if someone has died on a property. However, DiedInHouse.com’s disclaimer states the “web site and/or owned application could include technical, typographical, or photographic errors” and the owner “makes no representation, implied or expressed, that all information placed on any DIH web site or application is accurate”. In fact, they do not guarantee the information is “accurate, complete, or current” nor do they “make any commitment to update the materials”. 

So, how much real value comes with the payment of $11.99? I’d say, not much, because they can’t guarantee that the information is true. This may have you wondering how you can find out if someone has died on a property. You can start by cross-referencing property records with death certificates. This can be done by looking through public records online and at the courthouse. You can even try asking some of the neighbors and searching the local newspaper. It’s more work than an automated search on a website, but you’re guaranteed accurate information.

On the other hand, not knowing may just be better than knowing.

Meghan Riley

Cash Buyers On the Rise in Wilmington North Carolina

by Meghan Riley, The Cameron Team

Mortgage interest rates have been great, but cash buyers are on the increase. In 2012, they accounted for 37% of all property transactions, single-family homes and land, recorded in the Wilmington Multiple Listing Service (MLS). That’s a pretty significant jump from 2011 (33%) and 2010 (28%), and we’re already on track to ending 2013 with similar numbers. Cash deals from the start of 2013 to now account for 35% of all properties sold.

But why do Wilmington homeowners and buyers need to be aware of this?

Wilmington NC Cash Home BuyersCash sales are advantageous for sellers. When a lender is removed from a transaction, it means fewer hurdles to jump over before closing. The buyer doesn’t need to prove their income reliability, closing costs are cut, and the transaction time is cut in half. The closing can happen within a couple of weeks rather than a month or more, because, when a buyer makes a cash offer, all they have to do is provide proof of funds, do their due diligence, and arrange for a real estate attorney to draw up the paperwork.

Also, there is no deal-breaking home appraisal. When a buyer applies for a mortgage, their lender will order an appraisal from a third-party company that compares the subject home to others recently sold. These appraisers don’t always take into account all the factors of why a home sold for a certain price, like it was a short sale or bank-owned or the seller was really motivated, and they don’t always have a sound knowledge of the local market, so they choose homes that may not be as comparable as others. When an appraisal comes in low, the lender will often lower the amount offered making it impossible for the buyer to purchase the home at the agreed upon price.

Now, that’s not to say all cash sales are quick and perfect. Cash buyers still have the right to conduct inspections during the Due Diligence Period. If the home inspector finds an issue the seller is unwilling to repair and the buyer can’t afford to fix after the sale of the home, the buyer can terminate the contract. However, sellers are usually aware of the issues their homes have. So, if they’re honest, as they’re contractually required to be, all the seller and buyer will have to deal with are those rare occasions when a problem is hidden and only uncovered in the inspection.

Currently, we are dealing with a shrinking inventory in the Wilmington real estate market, which means bidding wars! It doesn’t happen with every property listing, but when a seller is presented with multiple offers, cash offers look the most appealing. So, that can be bad news for someone applying for a loan.

What can you do to make your financing offer more appealing? It’s all in the negotiations and a Wilmington real estate agent can help you with that. If you’re looking to buy, give us a call at 910.202.2546 or send us a message through our Contact page.

Meghan Riley

Monday Market Update - July 1, 2013

by Melanie Cameron, The Cameron Team

Happy Rainy Monday!

We've had some crazy weather around here lately and LOTS of rain! Hopefully we'll be all dried out for the 4th of July festivities. From our families to yours, all the best for a safe and Happy July 4th!

Even in the improving market that we are having here in Wilmington, the condition of a home still has a direct effect on the price it sells for and how quickly it sells. Homes where the seller's have obviously invested time and money into maintaining their home and have priced it competitively are HOT right now! If you are considering selling your home, it's a great idea to go through your home with a plan to de-clutter. This means removing anything from each room that are not essential. A potential buyer of your home will be much more attracted to your home and look at it longer if it's not filled to the rim with furniture and personal belongings. Touch up paint where needed or in rooms that are a bit drab or haven't been painted in a while. While you're at it, touch up the trim and baseboards and replace updated fixtures with new ones. Make sure your carpets, wood floors and windows are clean. Don't forget the outside of your home too.... you never get a second chance to make a first impression. How your home looks from the outside is going to have a direct affect on whether or not people want to see the inside. Power wash walkways, driveways, patios and touch up paint on the exterior if needed. Also make sure the bushes are trimmed and beds are mulched and the grass is kept cut and tidy.

Last but certainly not least, make sure your home is priced well. Even in this improving market, an overpriced home will sit while the ones that are priced well will sell quickly. If you'd like a no obligation consultation to discuss prepping your home for sell just give us a call. We're happy to help.

Have a great July 4th!

Melanie Cameron

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The Cameron Team
Coldwell Banker Sea Coast Advantage
1001 Military Cutoff Suite 101
Wilmington NC 28405
Office: 910.202.2546
Toll Free: 800.522.9624
Fax: 910.202.2875

The Cameron Team - Wilmington North Carolina Real Estate

The Cameron Team
Coldwell Banker
Sea Coast Advantage
1001 Military Cutoff, Suite 101
Wilmington, NC  28405
Office: 910.202.2546

Toll Free: 800.522.9624
Fax: 910.202.2875

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