Happy Holidays!

The holiday season is back already. Today, we’d like to express our sincere appreciation for all of you during this season of joy.

It’s that time of year already. I want to wish all of my friends, clients, and family a very happy holiday season.

"Happy holidays to our friends, family, and clients."

If there is anything you need during this time of year, or at any time of year, you can always reach out to us.

Without the referrals we’ve received from our past and current clients throughout the years, we would not be able to sell the volume of homes we have this year or in years past. We sincerely appreciate all of your support.

We hope you’ve had a very prosperous 2017.

If you have any other questions related to real estate or would like any more information about ways my team and I can help you, feel free to give me a call or send me an email. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Should You List This Holiday Season?

Should you list your home during the holiday season? The answer isn’t as simple as “yes” or “no.”

Over the years, many clients have asked us whether it’s a good idea to sell during the holiday season. Well, it depends on your personal circumstances.

"Whether or not you should list during the holidays depends on your circumstances."

If there is nothing pushing you to sell, we generally suggest pulling your listing off the market by the middle of November. Then, you can relist it in a couple of months.

During that time off the market, you can even do some pre-marketing to help boost your listing’s success before it even hits the market.

This isn’t to say that selling over the holidays is impossible. There are plenty of homes selling at this time of year. If you need to get your property sold as soon as possible, you can absolutely list during the holidays.

In fact, decreased inventory during the holiday season can benefit your listing due to lowered competition.

If you are planning to list, though, I recommend having the photos for your listing taken in the spring or summer. That way, holiday decorations don’t date your photos and make it seem stale if your property takes a little while to move off of the market.

Exterior photos of your home should be taken while landscaping is still lush and green.

If you have any other questions or would like more information, feel free to give me a call or send me an email. I look forward to hearing from you soon.

We Appreciate Your Support, and Now We Need Your Help

The Lee Tessier Team has been nominated once more for Harford’s Best Realtor of the Year award, and we can’t thank you enough. We hope that this year you’ll continue to support us by lending your vote.

As you may know, the Lee Tessier Team has been nominated for Harford’s Best Realtor of the Year for the past couple of years now. This year, we are continuing that tradition and have been nominated once more.

First of all, we want to thank all of our friends as well as our current and past clients for your continuing support. We appreciate everything you’ve done to help us reach the honor of this nomination.

Today, we’ve got a favor to ask. If you could take a couple minutes of your time to give us your vote, we would massively appreciate it. We’ve been the No. 1 team in the county since 2011, and we hope to continue this trend.

"We’re proud to be top agents for you."

We’re proud to be top agents for you and this opportunity would give us the chance to reach our community even further.

As always, if you have any other questions or would like more information, feel free to give us a call or send us an email. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

Join Us for Free Pie and Drinks

I'd like to officially invite all of our friends and clients to join us for our Thanksgiving party!

I'd like to officially invite all of our friends and clients to join us Tuesday, November 21st at Liberatore’s in Bel Air from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. for our Thanksgiving party! We'll also have food and an open bar, just like last year.

To RSVP for your pie, email Rose@LeeTessier.com and let us know if you’d like apple or pumpkin pie.

"I look forward to seeing you Tuesday the 21st!"

We can't tell you enough how much we appreciate your business and the referrals you send us. I look forward to seeing you Tuesday the 21st!

What Do You Need to Know About Short Sales?

There are a significant number of short sales still happening in our market, so here’s a brief overview of how short sales work.

With the recent change we’ve seen in our market, homes values have increased, and as a result, we’ve also seen fewer short sales happening. There are still a significant number of people who are underwater at this time, though, so I want to answer a few questions you may have about short sales.

First, what does the bank do with all of the seller’s information? They gather that information to make sure that when they’re combing through your bank statements, income, and finances, everything is accurate.

For the private investors that put up the money for these short sales—say they put up $500,000, the home sells for $400,000, and they net $360,000 or $365,000 to satisfy that mortgage—where are they going to get back that $140,000 or $135,000 difference?

Many times, they get these funds back through mortgage insurance, but they have to see how those clauses were written originally. That’s why there is a lot of behind-the-scenes investigation during a short sale. Usually there are several investors, so it could be somebody that’s servicing the loan for—say— Wells Fargo. There might also be several different companies that are serviced by them. They’re gathering that information and taking it back to the investors and combing through what insurance premiums they have to offset those losses.

"There is a lot of behind-the-scenes investigation during a short sale."

After that, it’s a question of what those investors are willing to take. Sometimes they ask the seller to pay a portion of that loss. One of the other major factors to consider is tax deficiencies—maybe you lost $50,000 and now you have to claim that as income.

Sometimes it’s not just agents giving you that information, which is why it might be helpful to talk to a real estate attorney or an accountant who’s familiar with short sales. There are several people involved in the process who can help you.

If you have any more questions about short sales or need a referral for a good accountant or real estate attorney, don’t hesitate to give us a call. We’d be glad to help you.

How Can Renovations Affect Your Home Value?

It may seem like a good idea to renovate certain aspects of your home before you sell, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll get a full return.

Today I want to talk to you about which improvements you can make that will maximize your home’s value.

A lot of people think that if they put in a new kitchen for $25,000, they’ll get a full $25,000 in return. That’s not always the case.

I spoke with an appraiser at a meet-and-greet this morning about whether or not a good guideline existed to gauge home value. He said that when they looked at comparable sales, he looked at other homes in the area both with and without recent renovations (like new kitchens), and compare the prices.

So in a lot of cases, you shouldn’t expect to see a dollar-for-dollar return on something like a new $25,000 kitchen, especially if it’s a custom kitchen in a higher-end home—you may only see a 50% to 60% return on that.

Be careful when you’re doing these upgrades to sell your home. Contact a professional to come out, look at your home, and do a comparable sale analysis. Have homes in the area had similar updates? If so, were they full remodels or just partial ones, where you only replaced certain features like vanities or light fixtures?

When we meet with our stager to come through the property, they’ll make recommendations such as changing the marble countertops to quartz, switching your faucets or light fixtures. Don’t be a Harry Homeowner and try to make these changes yourself without professional help unless you’re experienced—lousy renovations can seriously damage the value of your home.

"Lousy renovations can seriously damage the value of your home."

Make sure you know what you’re spending, and whether or not that will help you sell the home, and get a return on your investment. For example, some people want to get a new roof installed when the roof is 15 years old, and there are still five years of life left in it—here, you shouldn’t expect to get the $8,000 to $10,000 that you spent on it as a return. It’s not worth investing the money in. If there was water damage or missing shingles, that would be a different story.

Spend your money in the right places; that’s where contacting a professional will come in handy. Making improvements on a home that you’re going to live in for awhile is fine, and you can spend a little more on those changes, but it’s a good idea to stay away from trendy renovations. Trends come and go, and there’s no guarantee you will be doing your home a favor.

There will be a different analysis for some who bought their home 10 years ago versus someone who bought 20 years ago, just based on what they may have to do to get the home ready to sell as far as upgrades go. So just know where you’re at, and again, contact a professional to help.

If you want an accurate assessment of your house, give us a call. We’d be glad to walk through the home, give you suggestions, show how you compare to other homes, and give you a good value.

How to Hire a True Professional Real Estate Agent

How can you make sure that you hire the right real estate agent to guide you through our changing market? I’ll give you a few tips today.

How can you make sure you hire the right real estate agent? 

82% of homebuyers hire the first agent they talk to. Whether an agent was recommended or referred to you, you need to look at their online reviews to get a real idea of what it would be like to work with them. 

We have just over 200 reviews online. Just like when you buy merchandise, you need to check the reviews. We are selling a service, so you need to look at reviews and ask yourself, “What am I getting for my money?” 

Now, on the buyer side, you’re not paying the commission straight out; that’s usually paid by the seller. Still, it’s important that you hire a knowledgeable agent who will help you navigate the process. 

"82% of buyers hire the first agent they talk to, but are they getting the best value?"

We have a team of real estate professionals so when you work with us, you will always have support. If you call the office and you can’t get in touch with your real estate agent, one of our licensed real estate assistants or other agents will help you with whatever you need. 

It’s also important that you work with an agent who will get you good comps before you make an offer. We are seeing a lot more “For Sale By Owner” properties as the market changes. You need to know about comparable properties in the neighborhood so that you don’t pay more than you should for the home. 

When that happens, the home usually fails to appraise. If the seller doesn’t agree to change the purchase price, it could cost you a lot of time and money. From the home inspection to giving notice on a rental to setting up moving companies, there are a lot of costs that come with moving. 

Since there is so much that happens during a real estate transaction, it’s very important that you have professional assistance from a great real estate agent. If you have any questions or are interested in buying or selling a home, just give us a call or send us an email. My team and I would be happy to help you!

June Market Update for Baltimore

Now that we’re halfway through the year, it’s as important as ever to stay up-to-date with what is going on in our Baltimore market. Here are a few of the things you need to know.

Today I’d like to talk about what’s really happening in our Baltimore real estate market. 

With about 80 homes under contract at any given time, we’re now seeing pockets of both buyer’s markets and seller’s markets.

While it’s true that our local market is getting better, other states such as California, Arizona, and Florida have only about one and a half months of inventory compared to our five, almost six, months.

So, really, when you look at the market there are a number of factors to consider in terms of the big picture such as area and price point. 

In Hartford County and Baltimore County, for example, homes priced $500,000 and above are moving more slowly.

"The key thing really is to know what is going on in your market including the negatives."

The key thing really is to know what is going on in your market including the negatives, whether there are a lot of multiple offer situations, and so on. 

Oftentimes in this competitive market, issues occur when a seller is confronted with the prospect of needing to make repairs but is hesitant because they feel they are safe as a result of having multiple offers.

Unfortunately, this can result in the home going back up on the market, causing it to take longer to sell.

There are some issues going on in today’s market. But ultimately, these can be worked with as long as you are aware and your agent is proactive.

If you want more information or have any questions, we welcome you to call or email us. We look forward to hearing from you.

Be Careful of Zillow's Zestimates

Whether you're buying or selling a home, you've probably come across Zillow and their Zestimate tool. Allow me to explain why you should tread lightly with the Zestimate and your home's value.

We have a lot of clients who get worked up over Zillow and their Zestimates. However, these Zestimates—Zillow's home value estimation tool—are wildly inaccurate sometimes. In fact, the Zillow CEO actually sold his house in 2016 for 40% less than what his site's Zestimate said it was worth. 

Zillow hasn't walked through your property and they don't know about any upgrades you've done, and they can't factor in location. Your home's upgrades compared to features of other homes that have recently sold are crucial in determining its value. Zillow aggregates and average of area home values rather than doing a fine-tuned valuation of your property.

"Many sellers price their home inaccurately because of a Zestimate."

This is especially true with the market moving at as fast of a pace as it is right now. Many sellers think they can do it all on their own, but we see them end up pricing their home inaccurately thanks to a Zestimate. 

Similarly, when buying a home, you want a real estate agent to help you compare properties to determine values of the homes you're looking at since Zestimates can be so far off. Zillow is the top website for real estate searches right now, but you need to work with an agent to see how homes you're interested in compare.

If you have any questions about Zillow when buying or selling a home or you'd like to know what your home is really worth, give us a call or send us an email. We'd be glad to help.

What’s the Latest News From Our Baltimore Market?

Our Baltimore market is hot right now, but that doesn’t mean buyers and sellers don’t need to be mindful of a couple things before making a move.

Spring has brought us some nice weather, but what’s happening in our market right now?

Things are very busy and very hot. One thing I’ve been noticing lately, though, is home sellers thinking they don’t need to stage, declutter, and depersonalize their home before listing it. 

If you’re a seller, you still need to prep your house for the market. If you need painting or carpeting done, make sure you do it ahead of time. You can also make use of “Coming Soon” signs so that people know you’re getting ready to put your home on the market while you’re prepping it. Like I said, our market is very busy, and I don’t want you to enter into it with false expectations.

"Finding the best financing is just as important as finding the right house."

I’ve talked to our own stager about this problem and she said in today’s market, some people are skipping the staging process in the beginning because they assume their home doesn’t need it. Sure enough, these same people are calling her a month later after they see their neighbor’s house sell and their own stay on the market. 

On the buyer side, we’re seeing multiple offers on a lot of properties, so the first-time homebuyer market is very active. The move-up market above the $500,000 range is slightly slower, though. Interest rates are still very low and could possibly dip again, but we’ll see what happens over the summertime because last year they decreased during the summer months. 

If you have any more questions about our market or are looking to buy or sell a home, please give our office a call. We look forward to helping you.

Are You Paying Cash? The Importance of Home Financing in Today's Market

Unless you're one of the lucky 10% of people who can buy a home with cash, you'll need to secure financing to buy your house. Here are some of the important details to keep in mind about finding the right home loan.

When you buy a house, financing plays an extremely important role, and you have a lot of options.

Getting financing for a home is also very different than it was in recent years when the joke was that if you could fog a mirror, you could get a home loan. Now, lenders want to see all your financial records and many other things.

There are many types of home loans, including USDA, VA, FHA, and conventional loans. For example, I recently had a client's parent call me wanting to help their kid out. They wanted their kid to be able to buy their next house without having to sell their previous home first, so we discussed the parents possibly paying down the old house and some other strategies.

Finding the best financing is just as important as finding the right house.

We're always happy to answer questions about financing for you.

There is also a lot of grant money available for first-time homebuyers. Some of it is worth taking the time to obtain, but you need to be aware of all the facts surrounding them. For instance, you might get a $5,000 grant but not realize that you have to pay it back when you sell the house. Some grants, on the other hand, are forgivable after five to 15 years.

We work with an assortment of lenders, and it's good to know who has certain programs available. Of course, we're happy to provide you with any and all information you need. For instance, there might be a doctor's loan available for someone who just got out of medical school and has an income that's not yet close to where it will be in a year or two. There are also a lot of programs for first-time homebuyers. We're also seeing first and second mortgages gain popularity again as well.

Remember that obtaining the best financing is just as important as finding the right house. Make sure you speak with an agent to walk you through the process and get direction to the right people to help you find the best option. 

If you have questions for us, don't hesitate to give us a call or send us an email. We'd love to help you with your real estate and financing needs!

What’s Happening in Our Investor Market?

Our investor market is super busy right now, so if you’re thinking about buying an investment property, here’s what you need to know. 

Today I want to discuss what’s happening with our real estate market in terms of investing.

Be prepared so you don’t spend time debating about whether to make an offer.

In short, our investor market is super busy right now. We’re seeing a lot of properties sell before they even hit the market and multiple offers happening on foreclosure properties.

If you’re thinking of buying an investment property, make sure you get your financing in place because you will be competing against a lot of cash offers out there. The stock market has done so well recently that it has allowed a lot of people to become cash buyers.

Due to an accumulation of multiple offer situations, you should also be prepared to make an offer that’s over the list price. If you’re not prepared and spend too much time thinking about making an offer, another investor is going to swoop in and steal the property right from under your nose.

If you have any questions about investing in real estate, feel free to give us a call. We’d be glad to speak with you!

How to Buy a Home With Propane and/or Oil Tanks

When you buy a home, you need to know everything about the propane and oil tanks. Who owns them? Have they been tested recently?

When buying a home in the Baltimore area, you need to be aware of propane tanks and oil tanks.

As a buyer, you need to know who owns these tanks and whether they've been tested. Always ask your agent who owns the tank; they can talk to the listing agent and find out.

If you have a smaller tank, it's likely just used for cooking. If you're looking at a home that uses propane for everything (cooking, hot water, and heat) then you'll likely have a much larger tank. In that case, it will likely be a 500- or 1,000-gallon tank. These tanks can either be above or below ground.

You really want to be careful with these tanks and be sure that the home seller owns them. If not, hopefully they'll have information about the company that owns the tanks. Make sure you clarify this at the settlement table.

Heating oil is used for hot water and heat. Usually, you'll have a 275-gallon tank in the basement or outside. Larger homes might even have an underground tank that's 500 or 1,000 gallons. I definitely recommend having these tanks tested. If they haven't been tested in the last five years, let the listing agent know that you wish to have them tested. You don't want to move into a house with contaminated dirt.

One thing you don't want is to move into a home with contaminated tanks.

I hope this information is helpful to you as you look for your next home. If you have any questions for us, don't hesitate to give us a call. We'd be happy to help.

How Rising Rates Impact the Baltimore Market

The market is really heating up thanks to rising interest rates and the start of the new year. If you were on the fence about buying or selling, you might want to come down. Here's why.

Happy New Year! We're already getting to the point where things are picking up in the Baltimore real estate market due to rising interest rates from December and the Fed saying they will go up in the next two quarters. We were lucky to see rates below 3% as we're now approaching 4.5%, and I think we'll be in the 5% range before the end of the year.

This has already started pushing some buyers off the fence and into the market to buy a home before rates go up again. With the holidays being over, we're already starting to see more showings and sales. If you're thinking about selling, reach out to us soon to get an appointment set up. There are also many 'coming soon' houses that will be on the market this time of year, and we're expecting a very busy spring due to the rise in rates.

Basically, a 1% rate increase raises the cost of a house by 10%. If you could afford a $350,000 house and rates went up 1%, you would only be able to afford a $315,000 house. Rates don't always change based on the stock market, but rather the bond market. If you see interest rates starting to tick up, don't be surprised. It's also predicted that in 2018, we'll see two or three more increases in rates.

A 1% rate increase raises the cost of a house by 10%.

If you have any questions about the market, interest rates, or your home's value, give us a call or send us an email. We look forward to helping you.