Jeffrey Hogue Realtor

Real Estate home sales, new home construction sales, commercial real estate sales, Reading PA real estate sales, Best Realtor in Berks County, Chester County, Lancaster County, Montgomery County, Home buyer representation, home seller representation, Realtor since 1993. Top Realtor in Berks County, Pennsylvania. Instead of telling you how many homes I have sold and all the awards I have achieved selling real estate simply read my customer REVIEWS on Zillow.com. My customers tell more about me than I could ever say. I am truly humbled by their comments. For the absolute best real estate experience visit my website at jeffreyhoguerealtor.com.
Berks, Chester, lancaster, and Mongomery County Top Real Estate Agent Jeffrey Hogue Realtor
Should You Sell Your Home As Is?

Should You Sell Your Home As Is?

Sell your home As IsA simple term like As Is can have many meanings. When used in the world of real estate, it goes to a different parallel. The ambiguity of the statement may not be what you want when selling your home, or maybe it is! Here are some things to consider when you sell your home as is.

The real estate business is always full of intrigue and surprise. Often I am presented with situations that, not just require but demand deep thinking. Sometimes that deep thinking finds it’s way into the articles I pen. This happens to be one of those times.

After negotiating a homes price and moving your stuff, the home inspection process may be next in line for things a home seller dreads the most. Not many home sales happen these days without a home inspection being part of the purchase process. The purpose of the home inspection is to find out if something is wrong with the home (Reminds me of a physical). You can’t wait for the doctor to say all is fine and you will live forever.

One way home sellers believe they can navigate by the whole home inspection thing is by offering the property As Is.

Firstly, let’s look at how our local multi-list, Trend MLS, categorizes the As-Is condition status. There are four property condition statuses for Realtors® to choose from;  Average or Above, Fix-Up/Needs TLC, Shell, and As Is. Let me state for the record that while the first three can justifiably be considered property conditions, “As Is” is more a condition of the deal or sale.

The As Is status is defined by Trend as follows, The Property will Transfer in its Current Condition. Interestingly enough, most home sellers believe that is what should happen in the first place. If there were a known material defect or an issue that impacted the safety and well-being of an occupant the seller would remedy the condition before offering it to someone else or offer the home at a discount in consideration.

Will listing a home for sale using the “As Is” status stop a home buyer from asking for a home inspection? Not likely. Buyers and their agent may not even notice the “As Is” status of the property. Even if they did, it is unlikely that it would deter a would-be buyer from asking for inspections.

Know that if you sign an agreement of sale with inspections, the buyer has the right to void the deal if there is something that surfaces in the inspection report they do not like. The agreement you signed with inspections gives the buyer the right to void or ask for repairs and therefore overrules the “As Is” status. An agreement can also have a mortgage contingency which could lead to property condition investigations through the appraisal process. A true “As Is” sale contains NO home inspection conditions whether they are from the buyer or the process of lending money to purchase the home.

In my opinion, a seller would consider using the “As Is” status to convey that the home is in as sale-ready condition as they are willing to make it and will be transferred to the new owner that way. In some cases, I would advise the seller to have a pre-listing home inspection done by a certified home inspector. This way they would have a third-party professional opinion as to the condition of the home. If the pre-inspection uncovered an unknown adverse condition, it could be addressed immediately either in fixing the issue or adjusting the sale price to compensate.  Now the “As Is” status, and likely the sale price would hold more gravity.

One of the perceived negatives to using the As Is status is that some home buyers will think the home is in disrepair. It is my opinion that not many people use the property condition status to search for homes. If a buyer were looking to purchase a home to fix up, they would search using the Fix-Up/Needs TLC or Shell statuses.

I, for one, like the As Is status. It clearly defines the position of a home seller. As long as all the laws are followed that adhere to State Property Disclosure Law, I see little downside to the practice.

Knowledge is Power!

Jeffrey C. Hogue

What’s Your Home Saying to Prospective Buyers?

What’s Your Home Saying to Prospective Buyers?

When a home buyer enters a property they have never been to before their physical senses are hard at work. They walk more slowly, look harder, and have a heightened sense of smell. Everything needs to feel just right, and yes, they are listening to every sound the home makes. This article’s focus is on how to enhance the sounds that encompass a house, in other words, what’s your home is saying to prospective buyers.

There are some things a homeowner can change about their home and some they cannot. Examples would be someone who lives close to a highway, airport, or railway. There is little chance the road and airport will close while you are trying to sell your home so the sounds that emanate from them may affect your ability to sell it. There are, of course, some ways to reasonably manage the soundstage that envelops your property or at least not make things worse.

“Sound” Home Marketing Ideas

Does the front door creak? Find the oil can and use it on all door hinges in and outside the home. Is there a screen door that makes a racket or shuts loudly? Fix it, replace it or remove it! Do not have the lawn cutting service show up during a home showing.

Are there animals making noises? Try to remove them before the showing. Story Time; I once listed a home where the owner had a large cockatoo as a companion. It did not take kindly to strangers and was not afraid to let them know it. Feedback from showing agents was not kind. The agents labeled the house “The Bird House.” It is good to make a home memorable and unique, but I am pretty sure this was not the “unique” many prospective buyers were looking for.

Are their dripping faucets or toilets that will not stop running? Fixing these drips and leaks is a must. Often you can hear a running toilet throughout most of the home. If you have hot water radiators, make sure there is no air in the system. If there is air in them, they will make quite a racket. Often buyers will turn lights on in the baths and in many cases they hit the vent fan switch. Replace or repair noisy vent fans in the bathrooms. Creaky floors can be an indication of faulty construction or structural issues. Most times this is not the case, but a buyer may not stay to hear the explanation. Contact a flooring contractor to quiet them. There is a kit known as “Squeak No More” for use on squeaky carpeted floors.

The typical interior staircase produces more squeaks and squawks than a flock of angry geese. One reason is that Staircases are assembled from dozens of wood parts. Over time, these parts expand, and contract and the joints between them loosen up. As a result, every step you take emits an irritating creak or groan. If this is the case at your home have a qualified contractor take a look.

Turn off the ringer and answering machine of your phone during a showing. No one wants to hear a phone ring 7 or 8 times to be followed with a message while they are previewing a home.

The Sounds of the Outside World

Homeowners who have lived in their homes for many years tend to shut out sounds others less familiar will hear. When preparing for showings, keep the sounds of the neighborhood in mind. Things like barking dogs, loud activities, traffic, and the like should be considered. If you live in a well-populated area, consider shutting the windows. Other remedies include upgrading wall & attic insulation which will help quiet the home as well as caulking around doors & windows. If you have single pane windows, it may be worth replacing them with dual pane windows for added soundproofing and efficiency.

Some home buyers value privacy and quietness above all. Those home buyers are often hard pressed to purchase a home in an area where noise is prevalent. Making your home less susceptible to the sounds of the outside world may be the answer. Ultimately the house must uniquely speak to the buyers. Make sure your home is not saying things that will bring the home’s value into question. Sometimes, it is not what you say that matters; it is what buyers hear.

Knowledge is Power!

Jeffrey C. Hogue

The Value of Great Home Photos

The Value of Great Home Photos

Great Home Photos

DRONE THIS!!!

What we see influences our purchase and life decisions. In the case of online marketing, it is essential to present any product accurately and favorably. Great Home Photos are a way of getting the point across as long as they are a good representation of what you are selling.

Fifteen years ago when a friend told you he or she was dating online, you may have thought they were desperate or worse. Today many take the plunge into online dating without a second thought as it is considered a mainstream way of meeting that special someone.

I have never personally dated online. I found my “Special Person” before it was the in-thing. Curiously, I have asked my single friends about their experiences in the online dating world. They tell me that their online dating success or failure has volumes to do with their biography, or profile, and the accompanying personal photograph.

The vast majority of people using a dating website service submit a photograph of themselves that is flattering. It would be unlikely that they would snap off a picture using their iPhone just after waking and post it as their feature, first impression photo. Unfortunately, it seems that some unwitting real estate agents still post pictures of their customer’s home on the web or Multi-List Service that are less than flattering or accurately represent the house they are selling.

Home marketing seems to relate to the online dating trend closely. Taking professional photos of the homes I market entices prospects to take the next step. They reach out to preview the house (a date). If the home lives up to the online presentation, there could be an agreement (engagement). If all goes well, there will be a settlement (marriage). It all starts from behind the computer screen. I am merely a matchmaker.

Unflattering or inaccurate home photography naturally results in fewer home showings just as unflattering people photos would result in fewer dates. Photographs of an open toilet, clothes washer, overexposed window, underlit room or crooked house will not help a home get a “date.” There are times when a home is photographed to look better or bigger than it is. This misrepresentation often leads to letting down the prospective buyer. It is hard for me to believe this is what some home sellers signed up for when they list their property. Home sellers are often asked to make dramatic changes to their property through staging techniques. What good is it if no one can indeed see their efforts and hard work because of faulty or over edited photographs?

I have been practicing photography since I was 13. That was 42 years ago for those of you wondering how old I am. As a photographic specialist, I blend my artistic ability with technical skill. Architectural photography is one of the most challenging forms of the art. The dark rooms of today do not involve chemicals and red lights. They require advanced technical skills using programs such as Photoshop, Lightroom, and Illustrator. The cameras and lenses I use to photograph my customers’ homes are professional grade and used primarily for architectural (real estate) purposes. I am also skilled in High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography and interior strobe photography techniques. These are the two most common styles of shooting used by home photographers today. When I go to customers homes to take photos, I bring a whole studio of equipment not a point and shoot camera. I even own a bucket truck (cherry picker), so I can get the best exterior shots of the homes, no drones here!

If you are thinking of listing your home, preview my work here https://jeffreyhoguerealtor.smugmug.com/ and give me a call. While many agents use photographic services, I still take my own photos. Photography is a passion for me and also helps me get more acquainted with my client’s home. If you are buying a home, there are plenty of eligible home matches in the photo galleries that need a date. Be aware; they are all looking to get married.

Knowledge is Power!

Jeffrey C. Hogue

Berks House Deals Falling Apart at Higher Rate Than Normal

Berks House Deals Falling Apart at Higher Rate Than Normal

House Deals Falling ApartWhy are there so many homes in Reading and Berks County going from pending sale back to active? Is it possible that the rush to buy a house in a fast paced low inventory market is causing the issue?

There’s always some speculation that arises when a home with a “Sold” or “Pending” sign on it gets replaced with a “For Sale” sign. Unfortunately, this scenario is playing out far too often in Reading, PA, and Berks neighborhoods. According to Trend MLS records, over the past seven days, 14 homes went from Pending Sale to Back to Active status. In contrast, 133 homes during the same period went from Active to Pending Sale status. If we divide the number of homes that went back to active (14) by the pending sales figure (133) you have a failure rate of approximately 10.5%. According to Trulia.com, In 2016 the national average for failed real estate transactions was 3.9%.

Why Are So Many Berks House Deals Falling Apart ~ The Process Matters

Most people start looking for a home long before they decide to get qualified to purchase one. Often, these buyers find what they believe to be the home of their dreams and in their excitement, they call a real estate agent and ask to see it. The agent may ask if a lender has qualified them to purchase a home. If the agent does not show them the house unless they are mortgage approved, they will find an agent who will. The prospective buyer loves the home and tells the agent they want to make an offer. They find out there are several offers on the house. Now what! The agent calls their favorite lender and asks them to talk to the buyer and get them pre-qualified so they can submit a competitive offer on the home.

In their haste, the buyer talks to the mortgage lender on the phone gives them some personal information so the lender can run a quick credit check. Viola, within minutes the lender sends over a pre-approval letter stating that based on what the buyer told the lender on the phone and what items the lender could verify in less than 1 hour, the buyer can get the financing to buy the house. Amazing! Did I forget to say that the buyer rarely signs these pre-approvals and they have a slew of disclosures protecting the lender?

Most of us in the real estate business are aware that these pre-approvals are often not worth the paper they’re written on. I am sure not all the failed deals are related to financing issues, but I would bet the ones that are all had a pre-approvals attached when the agreement was submitted. Still, We require the pre-approval when presenting an offer to an unwitting seller who rarely understands the process and just trusts we know what we are doing.

First time home buyers love Berks County, so we deal with lots of millennials who have student debts that are not always discoverable on a cursory credit check. Popular Home loans for first-time buyers include FHA, VA, and USDA. Often, These Government-backed loans require more in-depth inspection such as a CAIVRS report (Credit Alert Interactive Verification Reporting System). Other buyers may have issues relating to domestic relations not correctly reported until further research is done well into the real estate deal.

Is There a Better Way

One way I attempt to reduce that risk for my home seller clients is to ask that all buyers fill out a form known as the Buyer Financial Information (BFI) when submitting an offer. This form asks the buyer simple questions like Where do you work, What are your assets, What are your debts, do you own a home, have you filed for bankruptcy, do you have domestic liens, etc. This form then signed by the buyer is evidence of their known ability to obtain financing for the home. None of this type of information is generally on any lender pre-approval. I kind of look at the BFI as the Seller Property Disclosure (SPD) of the buyer. Would a buyer accept a house with a one-page inspection report that just said “the house is in acceptable condition, congratulations” without listing any information, NO!

In Conclusion

There are far too many situations to address that arise relating to most buyer’s ability to finance the purchase of a home. In other words, there is no free lunch here, and risk is always a factor in home financing. Mortgage pre-approvals, Buyer Financial Documents, and the like are merely guideposts meant to make us feel better and more educated about our decision. Sometimes the best real estate deal is not the one that offers the most money but the one that has the best chance of making it to settlement.

The BFI is used in many counties throughout Pennsylvania but has never been popular here in Berks for some reason. Maybe it is time for a change?

Knowledge is Power!

Jeffrey C. Hogue

Home Pricing Strategy in a Fast-Paced Real Estate Market

Home Pricing Strategy in a Fast-Paced Real Estate Market

home pricing strategyIt is essential to have a solid home pricing strategy in any real estate market. A fast-paced real estate market presents some exceptional opportunities for home sellers that stretch beyond price alone.

The Old Way

For most of my twenty-five-year real estate career, there was one home pricing strategy that seemed exceptionally popular with home sellers; “Price it higher than what it is worth, so we have room to negotiate it lower.” This plan of action was often swiftly followed by the old venerable statement; “We can always come down in price but cannot go up.”

Pricing a home higher than what it is worth may never have been a good strategy but more of a hope, kind of like hitting the Powerball. The information age we presently live in has made the price-it-up strategy even more difficult. The internet has turned avid home shoppers into home valuation aficionados who are quick to recognize the difference between the right price and the wrong price.

The New Way

The internet has drastically changed the way buyers shop for homes. Back in the day, people looked at print ads that said GREAT HOME priced at $199,999. The accent was on the under $200,000 price tag. This type of display ad pricing worked for many products.

Along comes the internet and now people use price categories to find the homes they desire. Instead of seeing an ad with a house in their desired price range they are now able to choose the price range they wish. Most real estate websites use channel valuing to help buyers search for homes. In two clicks of a mouse, the buyer can search all homes in a given area between the $200,000 and $250,000 price channel. The house priced at $199,999 never shows up in this buyers home search at all.

What this means is that it is important your home’s price is in the right pricing channel, so the maximum number of buyers find it.

The Fast-Paced Real Estate Market Home Pricing Strategy in Action

In a nutshell, a fast real estate market consists of more home buyers than homes sellers. The more buyers that can find your home the better. If the house is priced too high (out of the channel) it stands to reason fewer people will be interested.

Let’s say your home is worth $200,000. If you price the house at $214,900 hoping to get $200,000 you are going to limit the pool of interested buyers. Pricing above $200,000 means your home will likely be competing with other houses up to $250,000 in a price channel that has fewer buyers than the $150,000 to $200,000 price channel. Even better, at $200,000 you will be in both price channels.

In a fast-paced real estate market, you can price your home at $200,000, and more buyers will compete for your home and may even bid it up past the $200,000 you are asking. You see, it is better that prospective buyers compete against each other to purchase your home than having your home compete against other houses that may be better. Buyers tend to get very emotional when they compete for a home, and that often benefits the seller.

Another advantage of having multiple offers is that you will likely get better terms and conditions in the deal. When you overprice your home, you’re fortunate to get one buyer who may call all the shots. When you have multiple offers, it is possible that the buyers will use terms and conditions to make their offer look better than the other buyers offer to mean they might waive home inspections and let the seller pick a settlement date that is more suitable for them. The best part may be that if for some reason the deal is not going well you have a list of other buyers who really wanted your home, lost out, but now have a second chance, a plan “B” of sorts.

In today’s fast-paced real estate market it is more important to pick the right price channel than overprice the home to get less. What is impressive is that you can actually underprice your home and get more. When pricing your home consider a ‘Smart Price” and not an”Over Price.” The real estate market of today has a way of sorting these things out.

Knowledge is Power!

Jeffrey C. Hogue

Downsizing Your Home May Mean Upsizing Your Budget

Downsizing Your Home May Mean Upsizing Your Budget

Downsizing Your HomePeople downsize their residence for many reasons. Here in Berks County, the principal causes are often age or cost related. There is now an ever-growing paradox in the housing market that is making it harder for downsizers to afford the move.

The Millenial Phenomenon

It was not long ago when many buyers could not find a large enough home to purchase. This movement of sorts gave rise to the McMansion. Many generation Xers found out that owning a rather large home came with a sizable property tax bill, larger utility bills, and more maintenance. In a way, many became slaves to all that home and expense.

Now we are post-recession, and the millennial class has entered the home buying market in force. Millenials seem to care more about their rights, freedoms, and the environment than owning the biggest home on the block. According to the National Association of Realtors, Millenials carry more college and general debt than any generation to date. This debt is another factor in how much house they will buy. In short, many Millenials want to keep their life options open, and this often means renting or buying a smaller, more affordable house.

The Downsizing Cost Paradox

It now seems we have two converging generational groups all vying for the same type of home, the Baby Boomers, and Millennials. Larger more expensive dwellings naturally have fewer buyers. The demand is now further negatively impacted by the push for smaller houses by the next or now generation of buyers. At the same time, as we discussed, Millenials are going after many of the same properties as Baby Boomers looking to downsize. This convergence of desire for smaller homes is further impacted by the low housing inventory creating a supply and demand issue that is driving prices for the smaller class of house ever higher.

The following statistics here in the Reading, PA and Berks County area will illustrate my point. Presently, there are 101 homes for sale in all Berks County priced at $500,000 or more. Only 17 have sold and settled since January 1st of this year. On the other hand, there are 207 homes for sale between $150,000 and $200,000, which is right near the median pricing for homes in our area. Since January 1st of this year, there have been 414 that have sold and settled, quite a difference. Many of the homes selling in the median price range have multiple offers and sell for more than the asking price.

What to Consider When Downsizing

When I meet with clients looking to downsize I advise them to look at the process with a different perspective. Instead of overfocusing on the home they are selling, consider putting the focus on where they are going. In other words, read the book from the end to the beginning. This strategy has served my clients and me well over the years. Of course, it is essential to understand what your home is likely to sell for and be realistic about it. Overall, the real estate market is favorable right now, but there is little outside speculation how long that will last, remember 2006. The realistic part is more comfortable to handle when you have a good idea of where you will be going. It is imperative to hire a real estate professional to assist in the process of getting the most out of your existing home and find your next.

It is more important where you start the next chapter of your life than the chapter you are leaving behind. With the right people helping you the best is yet to come. Having a good real estate agent can help you set and achieve your goals in what may be the most important time in your life.

Knowledge is Power!

Jeffrey C. Hogue