Real Estate Then & Now...

ibm-pc-dos.jpg

It’s April 1992 and I remember driving to my office on East Avenue, pouring myself a cup of coffee and turning on the innovation which had so completely transformed the real estate industry in the preceding five years. The DOS-based IBM computer hummed to life and I began searching for any new listings which would help to fulfill the dreams of the six or seven buyers that I was working with at the time. Several new homes seemed as if they might be of interest to Adam Goldfeder but the one on Mulberry Street was, in my opinion, going to really excite him. The state-of-the-art dot matrix printer clicked and chattered and within a few minutes, I was back in my Nissan Sentra driving over to The Allendale Columbia School where Adam worked as a kindergarten teacher. I dropped off the envelope full of that day’s possibilities and headed home, hoping for a reply. Sure enough, I flipped open my newly purchased Nokia cellular and found Adam on the other end anxious to schedule an appointment. “My god”, I thought, “how did my predecessors conduct any business when everything they transacted took so long to complete?” After all, it was only five years before I started selling that my colleagues were relying on the delivery of the Property Book- a weekly compendium, complete with blurry black and white photos, of all of the houses listed for sale in the area. Fifteen years before that? Agents were relying on index cards!

photo.jpg

Things have obviously changed since George H.W. Bush was president. My client, Adam, now lives in a beautiful house in Brighton, I’ve replaced my flip phone with the latest iPhone and the technology that drives real estate sales has evolved. I no longer have to drive to a client’s workplace to deliver the day’s latest offerings. Instead, buyers have gorgeous photos and 3D tours of new listings quietly delivered to their inbox the moment that a home is available for sale. Sales history, annual tax assessments, liens, aerial views, lot lines- even the proximity of sex offenders- are all instantaneously available for anyone interested.

In his book “Blink”, Malcolm Gladwell spends quite a bit of time discussing the benefits accrued to those individuals who happen to be lucky enough to be born at a certain time or in a particular year. For instance, men born in the year 1950 were less likely to enjoy successful careers than their friends or relatives who were born ten years later. Why? If you happen to be born in 1950, you were turning 18 years of age during the height of the Vietnam War and there was a strong possibility that you would be conscripted and sent off to Southeast Asia. Of those who were fortunate enough to come back, many were scarred for life.

I happen to have been born in 1965 and came of age just as the first computers were replacing Rolodexes and rotary phones on most modern office desks. I was fortunate. I was never recruited into war and, despite the two years during which we battled the Great Recession, I’ve mostly lived during times or prosperity. I’ve also benefited from the rise of technology, enjoyed the benefits of the efficiencies associated with cell phones and the cloud and I’ve harnessed and utilized powerful software to my benefit and that of my clients.

photo.jpeg

Prior to 1995, I didn’t know of a single real estate agent who sold more than $12,000,000 or, perhaps, $15,000,000 annually. The speed with which business was conducted was just too slow. Today, it’s increasingly common to see agents or teams of agents selling in excess of that amount every year. Greater efficiencies are the cause. However, these efficiencies have become so readily available to the average consumer that they are currently challenging the industry. There are a lot of homeowners currently wondering why it is that they should engage the services of an agent when they, themselves, have ready access to troves of information. The quick answer, one which we will explore in my next column, has a lot to do with how it is that all of that information is interpreted. A seasoned and experienced agent can and should be able to help their clients interpret data in a manner that will increase, by thousands of additional dollars, the seller’s bottom line. If an agent isn’t capable of performing this level of fiduciary responsibility, then, like the dot matrix printer of yore they, too, will find themselves replaced.

All the Single Ladies by Erin Lewis

single ladies.jpg

All the Single Ladies (all the single ladies) . . .

Anecdotally, I’ve noticed over the past few years that my clients have increasingly been single women. It’s probably no surprise to those that know me that I LOVE the girl power! I decided to do a little research to see if my observations had any basis in fact -

Guess what - they do! According to the National Association of Realtors, 18% of all home buyers in 2018 were single women. AND single women are the only demographic group to increase in home buying since 1981. Single women outpace single men in home purchasing by more than double!

So, why are women buying?

A recent client, Alicia Pakusch, explains her decision, “I decided to purchase my own home because I wanted something that I could make my own and build equity from. I lived in multiple apartments and I never felt like I could entirely make it my own. There was always something that I wanted to change or upgrade to fit my interests better.” She hit the nail on the head. Women understand the value of purchasing both in terms of finances and personal taste.

The Specifics:

  • Down payments

    • Women are savvy with their money. They are familiar with first time home buyers clubs, they know how to save, and they’re investing!

  • DIY Queens

    • Get a room of 10 women together and I challenge you to find 3 who have not mastered refinishing furniture or some other home improvement/decor (thanks, HGTV!)

  • Tax Benefits

    • We’ve already established that women are savvy with their funds, so it’s no surprise that they are aware that they can deduct both their mortgage interest AND property taxes

  • Owning = Equity

    • As rent prices continue to increase, so many women are realizing that their hard earned cash could be put toward equity in their home (one of the most stable investments) rather than throwing it away to their landlord

  • No Ageism Here

    • Women of all age brackets are homeowners: young professionals, single moms, and retirees all can and do purchase homes

  • 30 is the new 40

    • As the average age of marriage increases, so too does the number of women homeowners - take your time finding the right partner, but know that a partner is not necessary to homeownership!

  • Closing up that wage gap

    • While we continue to fight a gender biased wage gap, women are making more money than ever before. That increase in income easily translates to wise investments - real estate!

  • Stigma, Schmigma

    • In the past, there’s been a feeling among most people (women included!) that women can’t maintain a house. That couldn’t be farther from the truth! Between our DIY Queens, helpful YouTube tutorials, and the handy Preferred Professionals that we mail out every year, women are more than capable of maintaining a home. And don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

ducks.jpg

Get your ducks in a row

As Alicia says, “My biggest advice to any first time home buyer, especially a young, single female, is to do your research and find a good realtor. Read reviews of realtors online and get recommendations from recent home buying friends. Talk with friends, family, and coworkers about their home buying experience. Take a class on what to look for in a home. Find something with good bones, because let's face it - your style changes as frequently as some ladies change their shoes. Think about where you see yourself in five years from now. Will you still be happy and comfortable in your house if you experience life changes?”

Ladies, if you’re interested in buying, find yourself a real estate agent that you trust. And do it early! Maybe you’re a year or more out from actually wanting to buy - all the better! Meet with one of us so that we can discuss the process. All good agents will be able to connect you with a knowledgeable, personable loan officer who can help to guide you. Assemble your team and start the hunt!

Erin Duffy Kruss’s 8 Tips for Getting Your House Ready to List

8 Tips_Erin Duffy (1).jpg

1. Boost curb appeal. First impressions are everything, especially when it comes to selling your home. In fact, a buyer’s first impression of your home may even be their only impression... Many buyers will drive by a house that they saw online before deciding whether or not they want to move forward with scheduling a showing. How a home is taken care of on the outside is usually a good indicator as to what they’ll find inside. Chipped paint on the front door? Cobwebs on the porch? Dingy mailbox? Now is the time to take care of all those maintenance items that you’ve been putting off for a while!

  • A freshly painted door and trim will go a long way

  • Add some colorful flowers to your front porch along with a seasonal wreath and cheery welcome mat.

  • Make sure your lawn is freshly mowed, edges trimmed and your garden beds weeded.

  • Consider pressure washing the deck, fence, and any dirty siding. Pressure washers can be rented very inexpensively from your local home improvement store for the day.

  • Ensure all exterior lights have working light bulbs and consider replacing old exterior lighting fixtures for a more modern look.

2. Let the sunshine in. Gone are the days of your grandmother’s heavy, floral drapes. Dark houses tend to turn buyers off and exude a cold, unfriendly vibe. Think light, bright, and happy.

  • Remove any heavy window treatments and replace them with something more modern and breezy or leave them off entirely.

  • Open the shades, clean the windows, and bring the outdoor light in.

  • Keep the lighting soft, too. Nothing looks good in bright, fluorescent lighting. Dimmer switches are your friend.

3. Clean out your closets. Let’s face it; we all want more storage space in our homes. You do not want buyers to think they will outgrow the space before they even move in because your closets are overflowing with stuff. Keep your closets to 50% capacity and aligned with their purpose. Linens go in the linen closet. Only clothes and shoes go in the master closet. Food goes in the pantry. Buyers will snoop and you want to convey that if they live in your home, their life will take on this wonderful, Zen-like order. Use matching hangers, organize clothes so that they are facing the same direction, and get rid of the dry cleaner plastic. Not sure where to put all the extra stuff? Consider renting a storage unit. With your house this orderly, you may not even want to sell anymore!

4. Declutter & depersonalize. Potential buyers want to picture themselves making your house their home. Therefore it’s important to showcase your home and not your stuff.   Neutralize your space while still making it feel warm and inviting.

  • Keep your counters clean, get rid of the piles of magazines and books, and limit the number of personal items and keepsakes you have throughout the house.

  • Remove all the pictures, reminders, and calendars showcased on the refrigerator.

  • Keep the furniture pieces to a minimum as well. You do not want the rooms in your house to feel overcrowded.

5. Make your house sparkle. This should be a given, but if there was ever a time to clean like company is coming, now is the time. This means cleaning floors and baseboards, wiping down surfaces, cleaning showers and toilets, etc. Your house should be so clean that potential buyers are wondering if you are actually living there. A clean home conveys to buyers that you have taken great pride in caring for your home. 

6. Fix the small stuff. Take care of all minor repairs before listing your house. Torn door screen? Cracked window? Closet doors off the hinge? All of these little things add up and prospective buyers will be keeping a mental tally of everything when considering whether or not they want to write an offer.    

7. Fresh paint. Interior painting is one of the most budget friendly upgrades that can transform your home into a more modern space and give you the greatest return on your investment. A fresh coat of paint can do wonders. Check out this blog post for paint color inspiration!

8. Eliminate overpowering odors. Funky smells are one of the first things prospective buyers notice upon entering a home and they can be an instant deal breaker. You want your home to smell clean and fresh, but avoid strong scented candles and air fresheners that people can be sensitive to. Try to avoid cooking right before a showing is scheduled.

Most importantly, remember that your home is a reflection of you. Put your best effort forth to reap the greatest value for your home!


FAQ - Paint Colors

FAQ: What paint colors should I choose?

One of the most effective ways to spruce up your home while getting it ready for sale is to paint the interior. Let’s face it – paint colors fade, life happens, and walls get dingy…

So, what colors should you choose? The answer might seem simple – white, of course! It’s a clean slate and will allow a potential buyer to start with a blank canvas, right? Wrong. *Repeat after me: I will not paint my walls white. I will not paint my walls white. I will not paint my walls white.*  

While white may work in other parts of the country, here, in our local market, buyers tend to agree that white indicates sterility, starkness, and bareness. Perhaps those are all great adjectives for a hospital, but not exactly words that elicit positive emotions to potential buyers. And that certainly won’t help them to imagine sipping warm coffee at the breakfast nook or enjoying a glass of red wine by the fireplace…

The good news: white is not the only neutral! The colors below have proven to give potential buyers a sense of warmth, comfort, and coziness. They are muted enough to fade into the background but beautiful enough to be noticed. Check them out…

Softer Side:

Realist Beige

Realist Beige

Balanced Beige

Balanced Beige

Requisite Gray

Requisite Gray

Neutral Nuance:

Universal Khaki

Universal Khaki

Sedate Gray

Sedate Gray

Accessible Beige

Accessible Beige

Escape Gray

Escape Gray

Coastal Cool:

Sea Salt

Sea Salt

Lemongrass

Lemongrass

Traditional Twist:

Colonnade Gray

Colonnade Gray

Stone Lion

Stone Lion

Sand Beach

Sand Beach

Liveable Luxe:

Mindful Gray

Mindful Gray

Contented

Contented

Gateway Gray

Gateway Gray

All of these paint colors are from the Sherwin Williams HGTV Home Collection

January Newsletter

Market Overview

What goes up...

On June 1st of this past year, I looked at the spreadsheet that we use to track our monthly sales and realized that the first five months of the year were far more difficult than I had realized. Our sales were down 31% from the year before and it didn’t look as though there were any lighthouses or lifeboats in the distance to help us navigate to more favorable waters or carry us to safety. There weren’t houses on the market for sale nor did we sense that homeowners were going to be listing any time soon. I had only experienced market conditions like this at one other point in my twenty-eight-year career and that was during the recession. Frankly, I was scared and so were those around me. Any number of factors seemed to be coalescing to limit inventory and, at the same time, conspiring against both buyers and the agents working with them.

photo.jpeg

• Because Americans have become more financially conservative with their money, homeowners are remaining in their homes four or five years longer than they were a few short years ago.
• Interest rates have been rising and current owners weren’t and aren’t interested in purchasing a new house if it means having to trade in their low-interest mortgage for a loan with a higher rate
• Many Americans still seem reluctant to engage in large financial transactions during times of uncertainty and we are currently living in unusual times
• A feedback loop was playing out in the local real estate market in which nobody was interested in selling because they weren’t sure where they would go. 

This phenomenon continued to echo and reverberate throughout the late winter and spring. All of the detail aside, isn’t it obvious that this was going to take place? After all, the housing market has grown and strengthened for nearly eighty consecutive months. However, there was an inevitability lurking behind the sale of every white picket fence that was, at some point, going to play out. It was the spring of this past year that this certainty reared its ugly head trampling the front-lawn-begonias that so many would-be buyers had been dreaming of someday owning. 

photo.jpg

Because my dad was a cop in the city of Buffalo (look for my best-selling memoir of the first 18 years of my life hitting bookstores soon....) I inherited some personality traits during those formative years that prove to be effective during times like these. One such trait is a pronounced and scrappy tenacity. In the face of adversity, I tend to furrow my brow, roll up my sleeves and god help anyone who gets in my way. As the first leaves of autumn began to fall, so too did my concern that I was suddenly going to be subjected to a life of penury. We regained a lot of lost ground and found that our sales were only 5% lower than they had been for the same period in the previous year. Ultimately, at year’s end, the team and I sold $57,000,000 worth of real estate- a decrease in sales from the previous year of 9%. Not great, but better than the initial numbers that we’re hearing from the Greater Rochester Association of Realtors.

Now, before I go any further, it’s important to mention that, although volume was down and buyers had a difficult time finding homes to purchase, sellers were having a great time. Property values increased 8% year over year. Homeowners continued to recognize the benefits of owning vs. renting. The most recent study conducted by the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances showed that the net worth of those who own their home is 44% higher than the net worth of those who rent.

Looking Ahead

There are signs that the worst of this may be over. I’m not suggesting that it’s going to be as robust a market as we experienced in 2017, however, this coming year probably won’t be as difficult a market for buyers as the previous twelve months. Given the volume of transactions that the team and I are engaged in every year, we can oftentimes see, six months in advance, how the market is going to perform. One of our leading indicators is a tally of how many properties we will be putting on the market for sale in the near future. It looks as though inventory levels are going to rise which may relieve some of the pressure that buyers have experienced. This is probably a good thing. Why? Increased inventory means that property valuations will begin to slow a bit. The last thing that anybody wants to see is another real estate bubble that catalyzes a larger economic slowdown. Diminished price appreciation allows for wages and salaries to catch up which, ultimately, means a stronger housing market moving forward.

If you’re a seller and want to enjoy the last gasps of the exuberance that defined last year’s market, I’ll offer the same advice that I have in years past. If the weather remains good, consider listing your home for sale in January or February. Once the last of the confetti has been swept from Times Square, buyers are on the prowl. Sellers, on the other hand, traditionally wait until March 1st to list. In doing so, they’re only increasing the likelihood that they will have more competition. We’re proud of the fact that, this past year excluded, our January sellers are often selling their homes with multiple offers in contention, driving up the value of the property. Give us a call if you’d like details.

What We Can Expect

Looking forward, there are any number of factors that will probably end up impacting real estate activity both locally and nationally. Rising interest rates, trade wars, a global economic slowdown, continued stock market turbulence, and technology all seem like potential disrupters. Locally, it will be interesting to see how it is that downtown Rochester continues to evolve as a residential center. The first girders will be driven into earth that was, until recently, the Inner Loop. This spring, Christa Construction will begin construction of a mixed-use site on East Avenue and Union Street. Alexander Park on the site of what, at one time, was Genesee Hospital, will begin to take shape. If you’ve driven Route 490 over the Genesee River, you’ve certainly noticed the Court Street Apartments rising along South Avenue. Sibley Place continues to grow and the Cadillac Hotel may even begin to show signs of new life. Within the year, the long-anticipated metamorphosis of downtown should finally start to reach critical mass. 

IMG_4644.jpg

In my own small way, I too, helped to create a more vibrant center city when, earlier last year, I placed another stake in the ground by purchasing 7 Lawrence Street. My partner, Duffy, and I transformed what was the ugliest building in the city into what is now being described as a restaurant/lounge that one would expect to find more easily in lower Manhattan- certainly not upstate New York. 80W has surpassed all of our expectations both in terms of the community’s reception and the success that we’re enjoying. Thankfully, we opened at a point in the calendar year when it is that the real estate market begins its annual acknowledgment of the arrival of the holidays. This respite provided me an opportunity to launch our new venture. Now that we’re established, both Duffy and our incredible manager, Jeff Terrillion, have taken the reins fully in hand allowing me the opportunity to get back to my first love- real estate sales.


Whatever it is that plays out in the world of residential home sales this year, I know that my team and I are ready to continue fighting on behalf of our buyers and sellers in the same way that we have for almost thirty years. As we do every year, we’ve reconfigured our team to address what it is that has and has not worked on behalf of our clients. We’ve hired a new coach- one whose sole expertise is working with highly successful real estate teams- to guide us toward greater success. We’re growing our relocation network as more and more Human Resource Departments are understanding the benefits of referring their new employees to us. In short, we’re prepared to address the uncertainties of the coming market to ensure that our clients are enjoying the best advice and greatest real estate expertise available in the area. As always, thank you for your support of and your belief in our team. We’re grateful for your referrals and the privilege of working with you! Best wishes for a healthy and prosperous new year!