Posted in Uncategorized

Enjoy Now – Get Paid Later

Sounds like a double bonus doesn’t it? Strange as it may be, it is often true in the world of keeping your home updated. As we pass the 10 year anniversary of when the market crashed here in Mid-Michigan (a bit later than many parts of the U.S.) I have seen a number of homes going on the market that were purchased right before that bubble burst. Even though our average home sales are again about the same as just before that burst, many of the homes I’m doing markets on are just not on par with the figure they bought them for.  What do these particular homes have in common? They all lack updates.
For whatever reason, it seems many of the homes I’ve been doing markets on were built in the 1990’s or early 2000’s, when I walk in – I’m pretty much seeing exactly what I would have seen 20 years ago, except now the stuff is 20 years old! Sure, some folks have put in a few rooms of carpet (though many haven’t) but for the most part things are the same. We have old laminate or tile counter tops, out of date appliances, mis-matched fixtures, 90’s wallpaper, etc.  I have sold enough homes (averaging 1/week) to say that people in general want to purchase a home that is updated, investors excluded. A clean updated home will sell so much faster and for a higher price than an outdated one every time!
Maybe it is because it has economically been a rough ten years for our community that there’s an abundance of outdated inventory. Or maybe people just don’t realize the value of keeping their home updated.  I would suggest you make small updates to your home annually; besides raising the sales price for the future – you get to enjoy it now! I recently went on a market analysis in what would be considered a luxury price point. Fabulous floor plan and amenities. However, it was a 1998 kitchen that was not only not-functional but there was laminate in a $400K price point – not possible.  I proceeded to give my prospective clients three values: $289,000 as-is, $369,000 re-doing the kitchen and master bath, or $425,000 with a complete remodel. We ripped apart the kitchen, opened it up and put in new tile backsplashes and granite counter tops. Looks like a whole new place, and we spent about $10,000 but brought the value up a ton.  The sellers – well, they’re not so sure they want to move anymore! They love it! It got me thinking, why are so many waiting to update until the time they’re ready to sell? Why not do a little bit every year and enjoy those updates now AND reap the benefits later.  Financially, it is a lot easier to do a project every year than something great big when you’re getting ready to move.
Surely I’m not saying that you will get your money back for every single update you do.  There are of course wise ways to increase your home’s value and other ways that, though they may make your home more enjoyable for your family, don’t necessarily get your money back. If you’re not sure what the best updates to do are – you can always ask me. Free advice. But generally speaking; kitchens, master suites, and baths are a great bet – as well as an attractive entrance. So lift your spirits a little and grab a can of paint, pick out some new floors or take a sledgehammer to those pink tiled walls in your old bathroom! Have fun, love the home you’re in, and invest for your future!
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Posted in community, Finding a great Realtor, goal setting, Midland Saginaw Real Estate, Motivation, Planning, real estate, Realtor, Succeed

Overcoming Adversity

Come on, Rise to the Challenge, Persistence Pays, Stick with It, are all a few common phrases that we hear when people talk about facing adversity.  Can a couple words actually help?  What is it that really allows us to overcome adversity and why do some people do so well and others often seem mired down continuously?

 

I don’t think a phrase in and of itself is going to help us much when we are faced with adversity. And let’s be honest – we all face it and all too often whether it is in the workforce or our home life.  As a Realtor, I face it often.  You may think that sounds crazy, as many people’s perceptions and expectations of a Realtor are very low.  Granted there will always be agents who live up to that low expectation, just like in any field. However, as a professional with two degrees under her belt and more importantly, decades of experience I can tell you the real estate world is full of adversity of varying degrees.

 

In real estate I face a couple different types. The first is pretty plain and simple – how do I get enough business to survive in this dog-eat-dog arena?  The second is the type of adversity I face with clients.  Sometimes this is personal, but I’m focusing more on the struggles that we face in trying to close a deal.  A couple of recent examples have been, a buyer whose employer changed their manner of payment in the middle of a deal.  The buyer being a caretaker had always received one bi-weekly check for taking care of multiple people. Week 3 of the deal, the employer decides to pay by the patient and the buyer now receives 7 different checks.  This throws the lender into a fit. How can they verify the income? We’re involved with a big bank, supposed to close this next week.  Seller wants to walk because we should already have the clear to close and now we need to postpone. It all sounds ridiculous to us but this is out of our control.  We can’t do the bank’s work for them.  What can I do?  Well, yes I can rise to the challenge and be persistent.  What does this mean specifically?  That’s where overcoming adversity becomes possible – find out the specifics.  In this case I needed to speak with the lender daily.  I needed to speak to the seller’s agent daily to quiet their fears, to show them the income hadn’t changed, to talk to them about how putting it back on the market meant starting over and possibly a worse deal, etc. I needed to keep the spirits of my buyer up so they didn’t get frustrated over what seemed such stupidity and let them walk away.  It took an extra 3 weeks, but my buyer is now happily in his new home and the sellers walked away with their check.

 

How about when as a listing agent you recommend strongly that the seller make some type of improvement that you know (from years of experience) it will not only make their home sell faster and for a higher amount – and they choose not to follow your direction?  They may even think they know more about real estate than you do! What can we do?  Stay the Course of course.  Find those facts, show them homes that sell, dig up examples, find out how your seller’s brain works – will they respond to statistics? Or will they be more affected by photos of before and after? Approaching it one step at a time until you find out what works.

 

Your adversity is different than mine. We all have our own struggles.  Though the cliché phrases aren’t going to do anything, if we think about how those phrases came about – we are on the right track to overcoming.  What does it actually entail to “Stay the Course” or “Rise to the Challenge”? Figure out what the end result needs to be. Then step by step work toward that result.  Life is not full of many one way streets.  We may have to re-route or recalculate a few times along the way.  But if you have a goal/end result that is the most important thing.  Once we know where we want to be, we will figure out a way to get there.  It may not all be clear at the beginning.  But, we’re way smarter than we usually give ourselves credit for.  Decide what you want and then go. And as another familiar saying says, Just Do It!

Posted in Best Time to Sell, Home Selling Tips, real estate, Selling Homes, Selling Your Home

Top Tips to Sell Your Home Faster

We’ve all seen it – on our drive in to work a For Sale sign pops up in the lawn of a home and gee, months and months go by and it is still there. After several months you may even start to wonder, “What’s wrong with that house?” There must be something wrong, right? Not necessarily. Most likely either seller or their agent made a decision up front that cost them a quick sale.  Granted, there are areas and price brackets in every market that move much slower than others. You can’t change that – but you may be able to change whether or not it is the one that does sell.

Aside from hiring an agent with experience and a great marketing plan there are several other factors that will make your home stand out against the competition.

  1. Price – you need to price it to move.  Gone is the day where a home lists way over value and people still flock to it with negotiating on their minds.  Buyers have too much knowledge at their fingertips these days; they know values. Price it at market value and negotiate firm. Listen to your agent and look at the comparables. Unfortunately what you wish your value to be isn’t usually what reality is. Pricing slightly below market value is shown to bring a stampede of buyers in the door.  This can result in a bidding war which is good news.
  2. First Impression – there’s only 1! You know the old saying that there’s never a 2nd chance to make a good 1st impression. It doesn’t just apply to people, but your home as well.  What are the best ways to make a good impression?
    1. Create curb appeal.  Landscaping is shown to have the highest ROI there is in real estate. Make your entry awesome. Is your doorframe cracked or peeling? Are there cobwebs? Bushes not trimmed? Get it done! Whether you hire a professional or make it a DIY project, it is super important to a good 1st impression.
    2. Get Rid of Your Junk. Walk around your home with your cell and snap pics – look at them and what do you notice? If you see your “stuff” instead of the features of your home; get a storage unit and get rid of it. If you don’t need it on a daily basis and it isn’t enhancing your home just pack it up. A storage unit is a super cheap way to enhance your home’s value and 1st impression.
    3. Smell Stinks! Not much worse than opening a front door and being greeted by dog or dirty laundry smell. For that matter, the same goes for potpourri.  Take the time to eliminate the source of your odors. Be sure any automatic air fresheners are a natural clean scent. Don’t use something strong that makes the buyer take notice.
  3. Update Wisely.  Don’t go spending a huge amount on updating your home and think you’re going to get it all back. Ask your agent. Do your research but pay attention to what market you’re researching.  Just because you find an article that says spending $30K in kitchen updates is a great idea – it doesn’t mean it applies to Mid-Michigan! Kitchen and baths, aside from entrances are the best places to see a good ROI. A good can of neutral paint and new hardware on your cabinetry can do a whole lot to update your look.  Have an old nasty appliance? Replace it with a new stainless one.  Doesn’t mean you have to replace all – people tend to see one and forget the others.

There are a lot of variables in making your home sell.  There’s no one perfect solution.  Your best bet is to ask your agent what their ideas would be (assuming you have a good agent). You might also want to invite some friends over and have them look at the house with fresh eyes and tell you what they think.  It isn’t a time to be defensive, but open to suggestions.  When we get a home ready for the market the idea is to make it look in such a way to be appealing to the highest number of people possible.  Sometimes that means making room for people to have their own ideas and not be pre-occupied with all of your personal effects /decor.  Neutral with a touch of flair attracts the widest range of buyers and that is what we’re looking for.

Time to list? Feel free to call/text/email me any time.  989-475-2958 mdvgilbert@gmail.com I look forward to hearing from you.

Posted in Buying Homes, Credit Score, Home Buyers, home ownership, Midland Saginaw Real Estate, real estate, Real Estate Bay Midland Saginaw, Uncategorized

Don’t Get Sidelined by Your Credit!

You can’t have good credit unless you have debt. Sound like an oxymoron? It always has to me, but nevertheless it is a fact.  As a Realtor, I am often in the position of raising awareness about repairing credit and even the importance of how the system works and what your current score is.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people who have a 20% down payment on hand (in their mattress) but have no credit and are shocked when they can’t get a mortgage. Then there are those who have 15 different credit cards, bankruptcies,  or repossessions, who are also amazed when they have their credit pulled and find it is rated poorly and they’re unable to secure a mortgage.

You should always know your credit score. Not only does it give you a sense of accomplishment when you see it go higher, but it will also alert you if something is happening that you’re not aware of, such as identity theft or erroneous reporting.  There are various companies online that will allow you to check your score and some credit card companies also offer it.

Just be sure you’re looking at your FICO score; as this is what the majority of lenders/creditors will be looking at.  FICO stands for Fair Isaac Corporation which created the system back in 1960.  In order to even have a FICO score, you have to have an account of some type, whether revolving (credit card)  or a set monthly installment (car loan) and it needs to have been reported to the credit bureau for at least six months.

People are often under the impression that paying off a card is a good way to raise your credit score – – Nope! Or that they should close an account to raise it – – No Sir! Paying down a credit card and maintaining it to around a 30% balance will raise your score more than paying it off. Also, the longer an account is open, the longer your history is and that is also advantageous.

It does not have to be a mystery. Keep in mind these simple steps:

  1. Paying your credit accounts on time has the more significant impact on your credit score.
  2. Don’t use more than 30% of your available credit on any one card – if you do, be sure to pay it down to that 30% at the end of that billing month.
  3. Don’t close out all your old accounts. Having an account open for a long period of time scores you credit score benefits.
  4. Use more than one type of credit, combining installment and revolving. Be sure you don’t get carried away. If you can’t pay it off in 30 days (revolving) you probably shouldn’t purchase it.

Most lenders require a credit score of 640 in order to purchase a home; though there are a few who have programs for scores less than that. It is pretty amazing though, because at 640 you’re only in the “Poor” rating for credit.  If you want to secure a lower interest rate on a home, increasing your credit score is a great way to do that.

A simple way to look at it is this: Bad = 550 & below/ Poor 550-649/ Fair 650-699/ Good 700-749/Excellent 750+

If you have questions about mortgages and/or credit scores, please feel free to contact me. I work with some great lenders who are willing to help you raise that credit score and create a plan specifically for you. Purchasing a house is a great investment. Don’t get sidelined because of a surprise or non-existent credit score.

 

Posted in bay city, Bay City Michigan, Buying Homes, community, Finding a great Realtor, goal setting, Home Buyers, Home Selling Tips, midland, Midland Michigan, Midland Saginaw Real Estate, real estate, Real Estate Bay Midland Saginaw, Real Estate Market Statistics, Realtor, saginaw, Selling Homes, Selling Your Home, Tips for selling your home faster, Uncategorized

Less Sales – Higher Prices for Saginaw County

Based on number of transactions, March 2017 fell short in Saginaw County home sales when compared to a very robust March of last year, and even behind the 5 year March average. Don’t despair! If you are a buyer or seller there is still good news.

Despite the lower number of sales, Saginaw’s 12 month average sales price ending in March 2017 was at $104,314. This is up 3.33% over last year at the same time. I remember back in 2008 when the average home sale was at a whopping $64,143 – so we’ve made a lot of progress getting back to the “Pre-crash” price in 2005 and the average was just over $107,000.

Lots of numbers. What does it mean? Well, we can’t really formulate a trend from the low March sales. I’ll be keeping an eye on it to see if it was a statistical anomaly for the month. A slow March in essence is really a slowdown of activity in January. The plus side is the increase in home values for our various communities. That’s good news for sellers.  This in turn, realistically is also good for buyers.  Why? Well, all year we’ve seen low inventory of good homes.  As word spreads that home prices are continuing to rise, more sellers are likely to get their homes on the market. This gives a buyer more choices, which also gives them more leverage when making an offer.

The March trend was different for Bay and Midland Counties, despite how closely tied our Mid-Michigan communities are.  Bay County saw 25% more transactions this March over last year which is great; however the average sales price rose less than 1%.  Midland also saw about a 20% increase in number of transactions over last March plus had a 6.13% increase in values.

Quarterly reports should be out soon and that will perhaps give a little more insight as to whether March was a trend or an anomaly. Always good to keep in touch with the heartbeat of your community.  If you would like to know more specific information for your area, please feel free to call or email me. If you’d like to receive a free home market analysis – I’d love to hear from you.

~Build a better world by building a better you

  • Monique Gilbert – Your Real Estate Matchmaker – Connecting Buyers & Sellers for a Perfect Match
Posted in bay city, Bay City Michigan, Buying Homes, community, Finding a great Realtor, Home Buyers, midland, Midland Michigan, Midland Saginaw Real Estate, real estate, Real Estate Bay Midland Saginaw, Realtor, saginaw, Uncategorized

Is Real Estate Investing For You?

Recently Saginaw was deemed the 2nd Best Housing Market in the United States. I know that seems to be contrary to what most people think when they ponder the state of Saginaw, with its loss of population and manufacturing jobs over the past decade.  There were a lot of factors that went into the study which gave us this infamous title. Though many of the factors are good things for us; higher number of residential sales in 2016 than any other in 10 years, average sales price climbing, etc – there’s more to it than that; and it and of itself could be a series of articles. But my point today is with the current changes in our market, could real estate investing be a good avenue for you?

If you are active in the stock market you are well aware of the volatility over the past years. If you’re toward the end of your working age, or recently retired – you may have had to make drastic changes to your retirement plans due to extensive losses.  What do you consider a good Return On Investment? (ROI) Many in the stock market are averaging 5-8%. You might be thrilled at a higher amount.

What if you purchased a home for $25,000 and put in $3,000 of repairs and rented it for $650-$800/month? Taking out taxes and insurance, even on a $650/month home, your income would be about $5,500. That in one year would be an APR ROI of almost 20%. Granted, you will occasionally need to do maintenance, perhaps pay a fee to a property management company. I would always suggest that for the first year, all of your rental income be kept in a designated savings account for future maintenance issues, as well as a good 10-15% each year.

With this income of 19.6%ROI annually, you would have a steady income and when the day came you wanted to sell, history tells us that you should get at least 100% of your original investment back as well. Why isn’t everyone doing this? Well, a lot of people are. I don’t have any stats about the percent of homes being purchased in Saginaw by out of area investors but I know it is much higher than any other time in the past ten years.

Let me be very clear that being a landlord, even if you hire a property management company, is not risk free.  You need to do a great job in selecting tenants (or the PM co. does) You need to be sure you’re setting those maintenance funds aside. There will be tenants who do crazy things and cost you money.

You may decide the risk for damages would be less if you were dealing with more expensive rentals. For example I recently had a client who purchased a home for $60,000 in the Township and then rented it for $1300/month.  That’s an awesome ROI, but a higher initial investment. You have to do what you think is best. And that might be nothing at all! But I believe it bears thinking about.

If you think investing might be worth looking into, feel free to call or email me. We have a great property management division here at Berkshire Hathaway too. If you want some honest advice I would be happy to sit down with you.

 

Posted in bay city, Bay City Michigan, Best Time to Sell, Buying Homes, community, Finding a great Realtor, Home Buyers, midland, Midland Michigan, Midland Saginaw Real Estate, real estate, Real Estate Bay Midland Saginaw, Realtor, saginaw, Selling Homes

…Giving Your Character That Ravishing Red…

Dear Friends:

Fall has been beautiful thus far and soon the festivities of Thanksgiving shall begin. We shall see gourds, pumpkins, shocks of corn, cornucopias, and turkeys galore. Though I personally am not much looking forward to the wintry mix that is sure to soon follow; Thanksgiving is definitely my favorite day of the year.

It is a time I am able to take just a very short break and surround myself with family, my extended family. All five of my siblings, their children, and grandchildren gather at my parents for a day or two of full tabletops, glorious wafting smells arising from the oven, mixed with laughter of children and adults alike. We have pillow fights, card games, leaf wars, football, and more.  I am blessed to have a family who loves to share these types of days together. I am blessed also that we have a wonderful home to gather in and enough in the bank to put whatever we’d like in the oven and on that table.

I encourage you, even if you aren’t a Thanksgiving Day “celebrator”, to take this opportunity to inventory those things in which you can be thankful.  As we watch the leaves turn from their bright greens to ravishing reds, glorious golds, and soft yellows we can turn our thoughts to the changes in our own lives from the past year. Maybe it wasn’t an easy year – those struggles leaving you stronger in the end, giving your character that ravishing red. Maybe there were wonderful celebrations providing you with glorious golden memories, and those little moments to cherish like the soft yellow leaves twirling down in the fall winds.  Whatever has transpired this year; we all have things to be thankful for.

“Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, & change ordinary opportunities into blessings” – William Arthur Ward

Blessings to you and yours,

Monique Gilbert