Friday, November 4, 2011


Last week, I wrote a post on things most buyers are looking for in a home today. This week, we’ll turn the coin over.

Here are things to be careful of in a fear-based market:

1) Obsolescence – on a busy street? Too close to the train tracks? Back to a gas station? All of these things are trouble for sellers in today’s market.

2) McMansions – real estate investors will tell you that the best value in housing is finding the “WOB in the MOB” (that’s the Worst on the Block at the Median Price or Below). Conversely, anything oversized, non-conforming or which is negatively affected by its neighborhood is toxic in the minds of most buyers.

3) Dated – the fastest way to guarantee vicious lowballing is to list a home that is dated. Whatever improvements need to be made, assume the buyer will double the cost, then deduct if from your list price. There are only two markets today: wholesale and retail. And if you are not retail, you're wholesale.

4) Dark homes – if you don’t have great natural light, then start painting the rooms! Many buyers are in a dark mood before they even get to your home. If the bedrooms are midnight blue, it’s only going to get worse for you.

5) Unkept landscaping – got overgrown trees? Get ready to pay. Shrubs beating on the side of the house when the wind kicks up? That’ll cost you. Limbs dangling over your powerlines? Buyers smell “wholesale.”

6) Large lots – there are still some people who want to live on an acre, but there are fewer of them than there used to be. And since many people in the Great Recession have fired their lawn guy, a 40,000 square foot lot isn’t as appealing as it used to be.

7) Pools – in Colorado, appraisers will tell you that a nice pool adds exactly $0 (zero) to the value of your home. Twelve months of maintenance, three months of use. Instead, call up your friend with access to the HOA or community pool and invite yourself over.

8) Above ground power lines – a fact of life in most older neighborhoods, but the fact remains: many buyers are paranoid about living under electrical currents 24 hours a day.

9) Three story homes – tri-levels are okay, but true “3 levels” are just too non-conforming.

10 Bi-levels - quick decision:  up or down.  Apparently that's confusing to a lot of buyers, and I've had many clients tell me right off the bat that bi-levels are not an option.

11) High Schools – a good elementary school can help value, but proximity to almost any high school will hurt it, due to crazy traffic, loud kids, and events that run day and night.

12) Condos – for a little while longer, it’s still going to suck owning condos. FHA has just killed (killed killed killed!) the market with its asinine financing restrictions, which will loosen up again in time. If you can hang in there for the long haul, you can get some amazing value right now… but just be careful if you need to sell in the next two or three years.