Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Q: I think you were a little hard on my husband when he asked for your opinion on what we need to do to get our rental property ready to sell.

You sold us this property as an investment a long time ago and now that we want to sell it we just wanted a bare bones list of the most pressing things that would have to be done. I can’t believe the list you gave us! It sure doesn’t need to be perfect to sell in this hot market.

A: You’re right that it’s been many years since I sold you this home. However, it doesn’t appear that you have done even basic maintenance on it since. It needs a new roof, paint on the outside and inside and the carpets are beyond being able to be cleaned. Everything looks worn and tired. You don’t have to do a major remodel. Leave that to the future buyers. But you are leaving a lot of money on the table if you put it on the market as is.

I’m always surprised that people invest in a rental property and then don’t take care of it. It’s like driving a car without doing any maintenance for years and then expecting a high price when you try to sell it or trade it in. Buyers judge a property quickly by its obvious flaws and will discount their offer accordingly. If it appears worn out, buyers will assume there are serious problems they can’t see.

If you don’t pay attention to a rental you can lose money. A small bathroom leak that isn’t attended to can easily rot out a floor and the supports under it. I’ve seen that many times. Lack of paint can expose the wood siding to the weather and rot the wood, requiring extensive repair. A shabby, unkempt yard can devalue a house by tens of thousands of dollars. If you want to get a good return on your investment, fix up the basic problems and clean the place up. You’ll end up selling faster and for more money.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Q: My wife told me about your conversation concerning drilling a well on undeveloped property but I think she got some of the facts wrong.

It sounded like there was something new that could mean we can’t build on our land at all if the well doesn’t pass some test. Please explain.

A: When you buy property that doesn’t come with a water share in a water system, or if it’s not in an area where a water share is available to buy, you have to drill a well. The first thing to find out is whether the property is large enough to fit a septic system, a septic reserve, and the 100 foot radius around a well that’s required. That means a circle 200 feet wide that can’t be close to the septic system or your house.

Next, you have the costs of drilling the well. That’s based on the depth of the well. It could cost $2,000 or $20,000 dollars depending on how far down the driller has to go to get water. The water also has to pass a purity test. The big change in regulations I was discussing with your wife, has to do with the allowable amount of arsenic in the water. The state just tightened up the requirement to only allow .01 milligrams per liter of arsenic in the water. The older regulation was .05.

The problem is that the County has added to the state’s requirements, saying that if the reading is higher than .01 you can’t use that well at all. It’s possible to treat the water to get rid of the arsenic but the County will not allow you to do that and you have to abandon the well. That’s serious. I am personally hopeful that this rule will change so that it doesn’t render property unbuildable simply because the County won’t allow a treatment system for the water source.

It’s best to be sure you allow time to get an approved water source, a full septic system approval, and a good outcome on the well water test before buying the property.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Q: My listing agent keeps telling me to pack up my stuff and store it before we go on the market.

I still have to live here! Houses are selling fast right now so why does it matter so much if I have my stuff out? I feel insulted.

A: I think your listing broker is trying to make sure you get top dollar for your home. Buyers are distracted by a house that has a lot of stuff lying around. They often interpret messy homes as being in poor shape and not worth the asking price. I know that sounds ridiculous but it’s true. A home that is very clean, with only a few personal items left out, gives buyers the impression that the home has been better cared for and is in better condition than a house that is crowded with items, dirty or just messy.

Keep in mind that you’re going to be moving soon. Starting to pack things up now will give you a head start. I am always amazed at what sellers will leave out for buyers and brokers to see. It’s best to put away personal items that might not make the best impression. If you have pets, try to keep the house from smelling badly. Be sure their bedding is clean and fresh and things like litter boxes are kept especially clean.

Some of the things that have totally turned off buyers when I’ve shown homes include gun collections, hunting trophies like taxidermied animals, bad smells, dirty clothes on the floor, risqué or sexist calendars or pictures, religious symbols or art work, barking dogs, dirty dishes, messy rooms with too many collections on shelves, etc.

Buyers get distracted by a lot of family photos too, and begin to feel as if they are visiting you rather than mentally moving into your home. You want them to imagine their own things in the house not get stuck looking at your stuff. Trust your real estate broker to make suggestions. Have the house staged to look its very best. Then your home will sell fast.