Why You Should Avoid Zillow …most of the time

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SELLERS BEWARE:

As a prospective seller in today’s market, I realize how tempting it must be to race to Zillow.com and check your property’s Zestimate – especially after hearing about your friends and family who sold their homes for $20,000, $30,000… even $40,000 above list price. Suddenly, you realize that Zillow has estimated your property’s value to be $100,000 over what it is that you paid for it six months ago! Before you start snapping some photos on your iPhone and listing your property yourself, you may want to consider the following…

  • Inaccurate Data: There really is no greater reason for prospective sellers to steer clear from Zillow than the site’s grave inaccuracies. Daily, my team and I find inaccuracies and misinformation about our listings on their website. Despite having the correct information on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), tax records, etc., the Seattle-based real estate giant still manages to allow some of those details to get lost in translation.
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When Zillow uses inaccurate data, their Zestimates quickly begin to diverge from their proclaimed 10% margin of error. Even if the website manages to gather all of the correct information, there are still inaccuracies in pricing as a result of allowing a computer or a 26-year-old, writing code in a cubicle somewhere in Silicon Valley, to dictate property value. Their algorithms are unable to take into consideration current market conditions, neighborhood advantages, cosmetic updates, etc.

In short, save yourself the trouble by avoiding the guessing game and employing the expertise of a licensed real estate professional…


BUYERS BEWARE:

If you happen to be a buyer in this market, times are tough enough. Don’t make them that much more challenging by relying on third-party sites as your main source of information. Zillow, in particular, is much slower to catch up than the Multiple Listing Service and, as stated before, can be alarmingly inaccurate.

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  • False Hope: Just imagine, you’ve found your dream home while perusing the website and you’re about to walk through with a pen in hand, ready to sign a purchase offer. But after just a few moments in the house, you realize that it’s actually 3 bedrooms, not 4. This sort of thing happens all too often on Zillow. The website is also slow to revise information such as a canceled open house or an updated pending status due to an accepted offer on the property.

What I will say is that Zillow.com has an incredibly user and mobile-friendly interface and can be a great tool for home searching …in conjunction with a more reliable data source provided by a licensed real estate agent. Hopefully, larger real estate companies will begin to take cues from the web designers over at Zillow in order to remain competitive. That being said, unless you want to run the risk of settling for incorrect taxes or misrepresented school districts, steer clear from relying solely on third party sites as your main source of information! A more complete and accurate assessment of one of the most expensive investments of your life really should meld the convenience of an algorithm-driven, user-friendly website with the expertise of a local professional with boots-on the-ground insight. Good luck!

Before & After - 4 Park View Drive

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Whenever it is that a prospective seller comes to me with questions about which updates will yield the highest profit when preparing their home for market, the response is always the same. Value comes from aesthetic upgrades, not mechanical ones. Buyers will pay more for a beautifully renovated kitchen or recently upgraded bathroom. They won't however, pay more simply because you updated the plumbing or replaced the roof. When a buyer visualizes him or herself in a home, they're already expecting that mechanical and structural systems will be in working order. If you've ever solicited my advice to sell your property, read any of my real estate blogs, or follow our semi-annual newsletters, then chances are, you've heard this before.

What I've found in my 28 years selling real estate is that, although this all sounds reasonable, sellers often have a difficult time believing it. Perhaps they don't realize exactly how much money they might forgo by choosing not to replace old, matted carpets or slap a fresh coat of paint on dingy walls. If, like so many others, you find yourself skeptical of this advice, just take a look at our listing below...

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This property went on the market last fall. The seller chose to take a chance and hold off on replacing carpets and painting the interior. Unfortunately, dozens of prospective buyers walked through and found themselves uninspired, ultimately choosing to write offers on other properties. Our seller reduced the price and did so again until ultimately dropping their list price a full $35,000. Finally, we collectively decided to take the property off the market and utilize the services of Sekula’s Precision Painting and Stafford Flooring. Within 24 hours of relisting, the property sold! While I can’t disclose the price until after the closing in another week or so, I will say that the seller was not disappointed…  

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If you're thinking of listing your home in the near future, remember that smaller changes such as these can have a HUGE impact on both the length of time that the property sits on the market and, ultimately, the price that you get for it. Call us today for a consultation! (585) 218-6275

FAQ - Why should I list my home with an agent?

I’m certain that, by now, you’ve heard about this year’s mystifying real estate market. Perhaps you read my April Newsletter. Or, more likely, you’ve heard the painstaking groans and desperate cries of frustration from a friend or family member looking to purchase a home.

If you’re a buyer this year, I’m so sorry. The frustration associated with a tremendous lack of inventory and the unavoidable bidding war has, unfortunately, become an inevitability. But hang tight! Just a couple of weeks ago, one of our Sales Executives, Mark Crandall, secured contracts for 5 separate clients that found themselves in the midst of a bid war… over the course of two days! We have a few tricks up our sleeves…

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As for sellers, if you’ve ever thought about listing your home, now is absolutely the time to do so. You’re probably well aware of the lack of inventory and the possibility of selling your home for top dollar in an incredibly short amount of time. So, you might be thinking why even bother with an agent? Beyond the obvious, I can think of an endless list of reasons as to why you should employ the expertise of a real estate agent. For now, I’ll share a few of the ones that I would consider to be most important and relevant in today’s market…

Negotiations

  • You’ve probably heard a lot about bidding wars. (Hopefully, not solely in the context of losing out in one…) I would venture to guess that the average seller does not realize the work that goes into managing multiple offers on a property. There is an art to this type of negotiation – one that, if done correctly, will yield the highest profit! This is probably the biggest drawback to not using a licensed real estate agent. A skillful realtor knows how to ethically secure top dollar for their clients in the negotiation process. He or she knows how to play one offer off of another, maneuver through prospective buyers’ emotions, and utilize timing to their advantage. This, ultimately, puts the most amount of money in the pockets of the seller!
     
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Knowledge

  • A common mistake made by sellers who choose to forgo an agent, is not knowing what types of updates yield a profit. The benefit of a real estate agent (well, a good one!) is that they’re able to tell you exactly how much more you can get for your home if you update your kitchen or paint the interior. They can also help you to avoid costly mistakes such as replacing a roof that was perfectly functional or painting all of your interior walls white – neither of which will put more money in your pocket.
     
  • A real estate agent can also connect you with attorneys and mortgage representatives with whom they’ve established relationships with.  These can come in handy when you need to coordinate closing dates or secure mortgage commitment from your prospective buyer. Trust me, there is nothing worse, after all of your hard work, than a surprise right before closing…

Marketing

  • This one may seem pretty straight forward. In short, an agent can front the costs of print and digital advertising for your property. They can post pictures on their Facebook and generate a buzz via social media. They can schedule open houses and broker’s opens. That being said, good agents are plugged in and connected with the community, which maximizes your property’s exposure to prospective buyers. The larger their network, the more likely they are able to personally market your home and expose it to a refined subset of buyers. One of the reasons for our success has to do with the enormity of our network and our ability to introduce buyers relocating to Rochester to our clients’ listings. Rochester Regional Health, Paychex, U of R, Constellation Brands, etc. all routinely send us their newly hired transplants. This network of prospective buyers means the potential for more interest in your property and, ultimately, more money in your pocket!
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We do all the work!

  • Most importantly, employing the services of a real estate agent means that you get to kick your feet up and let someone else handle showings, inspection contingency removals, mortgage commitments, etc. Even if your home sells within the first 24 hours, there is still a tremendous amount of paperwork and follow up needed to transact a purchase offer. Let us do this work for you! Call us today if you’d like some more information about how it is that we can get you top-dollar for your home! 218-6275

FAQ - How do I choose a good contractor?

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In the past couple of weeks, my team and I have encountered a few unhappy sellers. No, not because their house hasn’t sold. In fact, it did sell… within 24 hours… for well-above list price!

No, this particular subset of sellers finds themselves upset upon hearing the results of their buyer’s engineer’s inspection. Suddenly, they realize that the work that their contractor had recommended be done to their furnace is insufficient. Or, unbeknownst to them, their 2-year old roof is leaking water into the attic. Yes, there are certainly ways in which they can attempt to recoup the time and the money that they’ve lost due to this shoddy work. However, wouldn’t it be easier to avoid this by knowing how to choose a good, reliable contractor in the first place? Here are some helpful tips!

1. First and foremost, always go with a referral whenever you can. Choose the plumber that did great work at your sister’s home or gave a competitive quote for your neighbor. Reputation in the contracting business is key. That’s why we send out a Preferred Professionals card every year with a list of our favorite vendors!

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2. Research, research, research. If recommendations don’t work, do some serious Googling. Do they have a professional website? Do they have a high response rate on their Facebook page? Are there positive customer reviews?

3. Interview. Avoid going with the first HVAC guy that you can find. Get a second opinion/quote if the issue seems a bit more serious or involved.

4. Questions. Don’t just ask questions – ask the right questions. This may require you to brush up on your terminology a bit. For example, if you’re interviewing roofers, you may want to know what a flashing is (materials used to waterproof areas around projections). Or what fascia refers to (the long board that runs along the lower edge of the roof). Trust me, knowledge is power, and this step could potentially save you serious money in the long-run!

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5. Payment. As a general rule, do not pay for a service in full until the work is completed, you’ve inspected it, and you’re satisfied!

If all else fails, give us a call. We know how hard it can be to find a trustworthy contractor and we’re more than glad to steer you in the right direction! Part of our commitment to incredible customer service includes sharing our knowledge and experiences in any way that might be helpful. You can reach us at (585) 461-6375.

April Newsletter

MARKET OVERVIEW

Several years ago, while on safari in Zambia, I had the privilege of seeing a black rhinoceros in the wild backcountry. This was a rare opportunity because, sadly, at the time, there were only 57 black rhinos in existence in the entire nation. Thankfully, these beautiful animals are now protected against poachers by armed guards. Federal law states that anybody looking to do harm to a black rhino is to be shot on the spot, their body left in the wild for hyenas to devour.

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Back here, in the wilds of our local real estate reserves, I’ve come to realize that buyers, upon discovering a great property on the market for sale, are close to experiencing the same euphoria that I felt in the brush of southern Africa. Well-cared for homes in a great neighborhood that are appropriately priced are, like endangered wildlife, an increasingly rare and hard-to-find commodity. The dwindling numbers of this exotic product are staggering. In our six-county region, between 2013 and 2016, the number of houses listed for sale in the month of February, bounced between a low of 5,191 and a high of 5,977. In 2017, that figure dropped to 4,102. In February of this year, the number of properties listed for sale fell to a stunning 2,123. In other words, the inventory of homes available to purchase dropped almost 60% from its previous high! The whimpering and frustration that you’re hearing expressed by buyers in today’s market? Turns out that it’s justified.

Nobody has yet to identify exactly why it is that inventory has dropped so precipitously both here in upstate New York but, also, around the country. There are theories and ideas that will, eventually, be identified as causative. For the moment, it’s probably worth discussing a few of them.

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  • It turns out that, until recently, homeowners would stay in their residence an average of seven years before moving. Today, that number has increased to eleven years. Post-recession, people are simply more careful with their money. As an agent, I was always thrilled to hear that The Smiths were tired of the blue house and wanted to move around the corner to the yellow house. It didn’t make a lot of sense, but I was always glad to indulge their predilections. Homeowners today are behaving more like their grandparents or their great-grandparents who, post-depression, would save peeled potato skins to add to a soup or would wear the same pair of shoes for several months after the first holes appeared in the soles. Such behavior just made better financial sense.
  • Similarly, during times of uncertainty, Americans traditionally refrain from making any large financial moves. They simply sit on the sidelines and go about their daily life waiting for a greater stability to settle in. Today, the President of the United States was elected, in part, because of his rather unorthodox approach to governing. This isn’t meant to be a criticism. It’s simply a statement of fact. Concomitantly, there are concerns about saber-rattling with North Korea, Russian infiltration into our electoral process, domestic unrest arising from the gun debate and race relations. Even the stock market, which has performed remarkably well the past sixteen months, is beginning to show signs of fatigue. Until the national zeitgeist is one defined by a greater steadiness and calm, the real estate market may continue to show malaise.
     
  • During the past ten years, there have been seven or eight occasions in which the start of the spring real estate market began in the month of January. Warmer winters meant that buyers, in particular, began their search for their next home a full six weeks earlier than tradition indicated. Well, this wasn’t one of the years that we enjoyed spring-like temperatures in January. As a result, weather also conspired to forestall the onset of the local real estate season. 

BUYERS VS. SELLERS

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As a result of such unusual conditions, sellers are popping bottles of Dom while reviewing the dozen or so purchase offers that have been submitted by hopeful buyers. One lucky homeowner on Culver Road in the city secured 19 offers within 24 hours of listing his home for sale! I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen an environment that so favored sellers and supported their bottom line profit. 

Buyers, on the other hand, are frustrated and anxious. After all, it’s hard to emerge victorious when competing in a field of all-cash buyers writing offers $20,000 over asking. There are, however, strategies. Strategies which seem to favor our buyers over the crowded field of the huddled masses. At the moment, I won’t bore you with the proprietary details. However, if you’d like to call us…..

For now, I will say that some buyers are starting to rethink their approach. Through the years, you’ve likely heard me mention repeatedly the need for sellers to thoroughly prepare their home and stage it for market. The fact remains that, for every dollar that a homeowner invests in aesthetic enhancements of their house, they’re going to enjoy a $1.50 to $2.00 return. However, not every seller has the financial ability or temporal desire to engage in making repairs and updates to their residence. This is where a more savvy buyer can succeed. Homes in need of upgrades and aesthetic enhancements continue to remain on the market for sale for a longer period of time than those that are in better condition. They also sell for less money. Slowly, ever so slowly, we’re starting to see some buyers behave in a manner that is a bit contrarian to their colleagues. They’re purchasing these diamonds in the rough without having to engage in a bidding war. They’re buying at a bit of a discount and, then, after applying some elbow grease (when was the last time you heard that term used?), they find themselves enjoying Thanksgiving dinner in their very own dining room while their friends are still on the hunt. Stated another way, a small but growing number of ambitious buyers are understanding market conditions and capitalizing on the opportunity. Sure, they might spend a few weekends removing wallpaper and painting out walls but, in their minds, this is nothing other than another cost associated with striving to create a more financially successful future for themselves and their families.

LOOKING AHEAD

Everything in life follows a cycle. There are ups and there are downs, booms, and busts. Although I enjoy the freneticism and the adrenaline rush that comes with a more robust spring market, I’m not particularly worried. There are plenty of pundits, both local and national, who continue to assert that we’re still going to have a successful year albeit one that kicks in several months later than is traditional. That would be fantastic. However, even if they’re wrong I know that, long-term, the real estate market will bounce back. Owning one’s own home is part of the American dream. It’s part of the fabric of what it is that we define as being successful. It also makes great, long-term financial sense. After all, who, in their retirement years wants to be paying rent to their landlord? I’d rather host a mortgage burning party and fly off to Tahiti….

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SOME FINAL THOUGHTS

  • Perhaps as a result of the reduced inventory of properties on the market for sale, my staff is receiving a greater number of calls from friends and clients looking for good contractors. We’re always glad to provide the name and phone number of good, qualified craftsmen. If you have a particular need, feel free to reach out and we’ll try to introduce you to somebody who will do a great job, in a timely manner, while reducing your levels of stress!

  • You may recollect that beginning last year, we added rental property management to the portfolio of services that we provide to our clients. Before offering up this opportunity to a larger number of landlords, we really wanted to be certain that we had become experts at the task and had ironed out all of the wrinkles. Well, thanks to the amazing oversite of Adrian Winter, our rental Property Manager, I can now say that we’re ready to take on more clients! If you need help or assistance in overseeing your apartments, feel free to me a call.