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The $400,000 Question: Which House?

I’ve looked at about 20 properties with an out-of-town buyer in the last 48 hours.  Both on the east and west side of the Willamette River but no further out than about 60th in either direction.  The properties all, priced between $350,000 – $485,000 ran the entire spectrum of, “why hasn’t this sold” to “this is $100,000 over-priced.

Some of my personal observations (some will agree, some will disagree because they disagree and some will troll because they can):

  • The $425,000 house that has been remodeled scores higher in general than the house that needs $x to bring it to the same condition and is priced $x lower than the $425k house- Buyers don’t want the project…
  • …Except when the remodel screams the discount rack at a big box hardware store- finding the right balance between cost and quality is imperative in a given price range.  It’s possible to “cheap out” or overdo in any price range and in any portion of a project.
  • Showing feedback is important to both the seller and listing agent.  Request saying, “you showed my listing with the remodeled kitchen” cannot elicit the detail that an automated system with set questions and photographs can.  Sellers should insist that their agent uses a feedback program, whether third party or company driven.  The system we use carbon copies the seller.
  • Make it easy to show.  A lockbox on the backdoor that has a key for the front door is not useful (at least it wasn’t raining)!  I made the majority of the appointments the day before but four were added by the buyer that morning; thank you for being flexible.  Favorite typo in a listing: “Small Jack Russel dog must speak to owner prior to showing.”  Smart dog.  Least favorite: 1 1/2 bath house listed as two (not going to work of a family of 5).
  • I’m a fan of the “green” flier and think that it will only get more popular.  Hasson has their own eco-flier program but any sign making company can produce them for any agent.  We are in the process of creating and bidding our own.  It replaces the print flier.  One property we visited had eschewed the traditional real estate sign and flier box for a custom sign specific to the property.  Smart phone apps will make it even easier to exchange the dynamic information on a listing (price).  None of the listings we saw had a dedicated URL (www.123MainSt.com).
  • Neighbors matter.  The major fixer and the beautifully landscaped double lot are both causes for concern in the future.  Will the fixer get fixed or get worse?  Will the double lot suddenly become a McMansion?  The same can be said for views.
  • Everyone has a different set of deal breakers or must-haves and they don’t necessarily get equally applied to each property when balancing trade-offs.  “I don’t like the X but it has a great Y so maybe I can get over X.”  I previously swore I wouldn’t by a house without a garage but settled on a driveway because I loved the rest of the house.  Online floor plans may be even more useful than a virtual tour if the house has been photographed well.
  • About 50% of the listings that have been on the market since 2008 have been relisted with new RMLS numbers (an RMLS number that starts with 7 was listed in 2007, 8: 2008, 9: 2009 etc).  There are lots of reasons (some better than others) that listings get relisted with a new number but I can guarentee that an educated buyer and buyer’s agent is not fooled into thinking that a recent number equals a new listing (though most automated computer systems are).  The listing history is readily available on the agent side of RMLS.

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