Pam Porter

Sales Associate

My Blog

Discovered: Buried Treasure in Your Cincinnati Home Equity

11/13/2016

Ahoy, matey! Belay y’ur Cincinnati real estate musin’s fer a moment to consider how ye home equity be like treasure buried in ye back yard! Arrrrrr!

It’s long past Talk Like a Pirate Day (September 19), so we may have to wait another year to give this metaphor the proper growl and scowl it deserves—but for Cincinnati homeowners, the chest full of shiny home equity really could be buried out there in the back yard.

Metaphorically, at least.

The facts behind this were brought to the attention of those sharp-eyed Cincinnati homeowners who pay attention to the Economic Outlook releases that the real estate analysts at CoreLogic send out monthly. These economists aren’t very piratical in demeanor. They favor bow ties to eye patches and whiteboards to parrots. They confine their raids to the gems found in the pages of government reports—and never ever pillage or burn anything to the ground (unless you include popular real estate misconceptions).

This month, the CoreLogic crew stepped up to their quarterdeck for a clear look around. When they brought their spyglass up to get a wide view of real estate’s progress over the past few years, the sights were pleasing. Looking at the period beginning with the 2011 trough in the housing cycle, the U.S.’s home price picture was breathtaking. They’ve risen a full 40%!

If the treasure chests buried in U.S. homeowners’ backyards is their homes’ equity, the growth inside was well worth protecting. Per CoreLogic, “The value of the housing stock and the amount of home equity wealth held by homeowners have risen dramatically during the last five years.”

Cincinnati homeowners who have marked a similar rise in local values were confirmed by the fleshed-out findings. The figures showed that “home equity wealth” has more than doubled during that time: from $6.1 trillion to $12.7 trillion. The overall effect on the U.S. economy was also bracing. Moody’s Analytics estimates that the ultimate effect was to boost consumer spending by $100 billion—not even counting home improvement spending.

For the average Cincinnati homeowner Captain Kidd types, digging up their own backyard buried treasure would reveal that they’d added about $11,000 worth of home equity doubloons over the past five years. Avast, matey—there be bounty, f’r sure!

Of course, Cincinnati homeowners don’t have to set sail for the tropics or dig up the back yard to take advantage of their own home’s equity growth. It’s the basis for any number of financing options. And when it comes time to set sail for new digs, it reflects in the ultimate home equity equation: the price that buyers are willing to offer.

To make sure you make the most when that time comes, I hope you will be sure to give me a call!

Cincinnati Smart House Gadgets Made Inroads in 2016

11/10/2016

A number of “Smart House” products made headway in 2016, so before the crystal ball gets hauled up over Times Square, this is an appropriate moment to review which ones promised relevant real estate applications. Anyone who will be house hunting or selling in Cincinnati anytime soon might want to become familiar with some of what’s out there.

It’s safe to say that the whole notion of household management gadgets that plug into the internet—an idea that was exotic a few years back—is now readily recognized by the majority of Cincinnati consumers. More and more of us are beginning to consider which ones will make life easier (rather than just producing a ‘gee whiz!’ reaction from friends and family). The best smart features really do add value.

The greatest enabler for most smart house devices is the presence of a home wireless network. Whereas installation was formerly tricky and expensive, it’s currently close to foolproof (even for those without a twelve-year-old to handle the installation). And prices are definitely down. You can find plug-and-play wireless routers for under $40—some of them carrying 90+% customer approval ratings. Pricier models are more powerful.

When it comes to having a real impact on Cincinnati real estate commerce, true smart house innovations are those that have a practical application for controlling household systems. Those dealing with household security are among the leaders. There are smart deadbolt-enabling kits that remotely control compatible deadbolts. There are wi-fi-to-internet-connected video doorbell outfits that do a lot more than doorbells—they broadcast and record video of visitors while allowing truly remote smartphone monitoring.

Also in the security realm, there are smart batteries that plug into existing smoke or CO2 detectors. If the alarm goes off, it alerts your smartphone. You can then call 911 or silence the alarm. Battery-operated garage door openers have always been remote—but some of them now are smart, too. Just tap your mobile device’s screen to open or close the garage door. Soon, manufacturers say they will automatically open when your car nears the driveway, and close when it's safely inside.

If you’ve ever had a nightmare about being on vacation when one of your house’s “water-prone places” floods, smart water monitors can send an alert to your mobile device. Smart light bulbs can be your artistically-attuned mood managers, changing their demeanor from bright white to softer tones based on the light in the remainder of the room. Some sense motion to help them decide whether they should turn themselves on or off. They can even pow-wow with the heaters, deciding that the heat should be turned on or off, depending on whether you’re at home.

More on the entertainment area are the smart speakers, like Echo or Google Home. They’re always on, slavishly awaiting your request for information about the local weather, news, or the kind of questions that occur to you when you know a robot database is craving attention. They’re called “speakers,” but they’re really pretty decent-sounding complete sound systems—so making your music library available for instant playback is increasingly popular.

Not yet available is a Cincinnati real estate smart speaker application that would respond to the command “play music that makes prospects want to buy this house.” Until they come up with that one, to sell you own Cincinnati home, better just call me!

For Cincinnati Homeowners, Slow Real Estate News is Good

11/8/2016

If, as the saying goes, “”no news is good news,” last week was almost a good week for U.S. real estate. Cincinnati real estate watchers like me found no hint of the kind of sweeping changes that can alter residential real estate patterns for buyers and sellers. Possibly because of the looming election, little space was devoted to real estate—with the exception of one thought-provoking discussion.

CNBC’s commentary embodied the major theme: they wrote about high-end real estate being subject to a “slowdown” and “uncertainty”—but then went on at length to explain why the “ultra-wealthy” have a “very strong intent to purchase real estate.” When you read articles like that— analyses that come down forcefully on both sides of a proposition—you know it’s a slow news week.

BTW, by CNBC’s definition, the “ultra-wealthy” are those with a net worth of more than $50 million. Cincinnati homeowners should sleep more soundly knowing they already own some of what the ultra-wealthy covet “very strongly.”

Stepping down from those precipitous net worth heights, news reports about the merely wealthy echoed a similar sentiment—internationally, too. YouGov is an outfit that surveys consumers across a dozen countries. They found the top echelon of consumers to be “cautious but optimistic” about real estate. YouGov reported that 45% of foreign buyers are looking to purchase real estate—nearly twice as many as those who plan to sell.

Homeownership levels began to edge back up from the five-decade low that The Wall Street Journal has been tracking—but were not yet making giant gains. On a newsworthiness scale, that news found its way almost to the bottom of the WSJ’s Real Estate section. Almost as an afterthought, the Journal mentioned “tentative signs” that renter families “are starting to gain the confidence to buy homes.” That could foreshadow real news, but apparently, not quite yet.

The reason that it was almost a no-news week is because there was a newsworthy account on a real estate-related news front. MarketWatch ran an in-depth report that spotlighted a trend that home builders and architects would be wise to note. The industry is “behind the curve” when it comes to building homes that accommodate today’s trend toward an “all-delivery, all-the-time” population.

As at-home grocery and household goods delivery numbers skyrocket and Amazon Prime cartons clog post offices everywhere, secure places for deliveries to be left are not yet being widely incorporated into houses. Mail slots won’t do it, “and curbside mailboxes aren’t set up to handle it.” Crime statistics bear out that the porch-pirate phenomenon is a rising problem.

There are several lock-box type solutions, but the design answer that I thought was the real newsmaker of the week was architectural: built-in drone drop-off platforms. NASA investigators told the Washington Post that homes need to be more drone-delivery friendly, with “chimneys turned into package chutes…or mailboxes that are tall enough to stay clear of pets and children.”

With thought-provoking ideas like that, even a slow real estate news week can give us something to think about. When your own family news events start to center around your personal Cincinnati real estate plans, I hope you will consider me your go-to resource!

Buyers Mortgage Interest Rate News May Spur Cincinnati Home Buyers

11/6/2016

For prospective home buyers who have been eyeing the Cincinnati listings without any particular sense of urgency, last week’s mortgage interest rate news could have added an element of angst. In the up-again/down-again world of consumer finance, even the threat of higher mortgage interest rates acts as a nudge in favor of action. And the lead story in USA Today’s Money section headlined it succinctly:

“Mortgage rates, home sales hit 4-month high.”

The actual rise in mortgage interest rates in itself was scarcely significant enough to spur potential Cincinnati buyers to action. The rise was tiny—just 0.05%. That was still below where rates were even a year ago, when they were near historic lows. Per The Wall Street Journal, “borrowing costs remain low…well below the September 2015 average of 3.89%.”

But that good news for buyers didn’t come without an overhang of apprehension. In fact, the reason for the jump in home sales could well have been mortgage interest rate anxiety. Analysts weren’t shy about pointing to the expectation that the immediate future would probably include higher rates. In other words, a Fed decision. Again.

“The Federal Reserve will likely raise interest rates later this year,” according to CNBC, citing remarks made by New York Fed President William Dudley. The week also found the Fed’s San Francisco counterpart, John Williams, broadly hinting at a hike sooner rather than later, since “it makes sense to get back to a pace of gradual rate increases.”

The specter of higher mortgage interest rates has always been related to home buying activity since the size of homeowners’ monthly payments are so dramatically tied to them. Especially for those who can remember when Cincinnati mortgage interest rates were two or three times those quoted today, the desire to avoid repeating the experience is compelling.

That sense of urgency wouldn’t be dampened by news that the pace of home sales have also quickened. Nobody wants to be too slow to seize a closing opportunity—so last week’s headlines about rising sales and rising mortgage interest rates could easily have been a wake-up call for some.

That’s not to say that any prediction about what the Fed will actually do isn’t an iffy proposition. Although most analysts seem more certain than not that a hike in December is all but baked into the pudding, there were a few naysayers. MarketWatch highlighted economist Lindsey Piegza, who said that although a rate increase was already being priced into the market, “I don’t expect the Fed to actually pull the trigger in December.” The reason: the data continues to support the notion that the Fed needs to remain on the sideline.”

Cincinnati mortgage interest rate watchers would scarcely be surprised if that proves to be the case: we’ve seen it play out the same way for most of the year. But as a reality check for anyone who might be seriously considering a real estate move anytime soon: now is a terrific time to buy from any perspective—historical or financial. Which makes it prime time to give me a call!

For Cincinnati Home Sellers, Clutter Can Be a Serious Topic

11/3/2016

Cincinnati home sellers are sure to hear one piece of advice again and again: “declutter.”

It’s the simplest of concepts; not in the least controversial. Nobody could convincingly argue that Cincinnati homes whose rooms are populated with bric-a-brac are more likely to attract buyers than are those without. That’s just common sense.

Which raises its own issue. If the de-clutter admonition is so self-evident, how come it needs to be made at all? The answer (and this is now the subject of an entire book!) is because, regardless of how good an idea decluttering may be, when put into practice, it encounters a lot of resistance.

Before delving into this any further, it’s only fair to give credit where credit is due: the book in question is Christy Diane Farr’s first effort titled “Is Home Your Happy Place?”—and is fully deserving of its unanimous five stars on Amazon.

The resistance that many of us feel when called upon to get rid of “stuff” is a common phenomenon. You don’t have to be a pack rat, hoarder, or shopaholic to recognize within yourself an irrational streak that resists letting go of some object or another. Even if it’s one that is of no earthly value now (or ever).

Although “Happy Place” is half-humorous, it’s really a self-help book. The author admits to offering information about “how to change your life.” Clearing rooms to prepare for your Cincinnati open house doesn’t require a whole lot of life-changing, but it can impinge on a related thread. The whole moving from one home to a new one is, after all, one of life’s major events.

So the author is on firm ground when she takes the subject of clutter seriously—and the galaxy of things that, left unchecked, wind up filling people’s living spaces. Her classifications include everything from the inexplicable (“Stuff that’s broken,” “Stuff that’s expired”) to the personally problematical (“Stuff that makes you hang onto an unpleasant past”).

My personal favorite is “Stuff that used to be a good idea.” Especially when you find yourself tossing an object that you thought would come in handy (but which never did), let’s face it: that’s admitting defeat! More difficult can be clearing away and letting go of objects that we connect with other people and places from our past. Author Farr is expert at humorously coaxing readers into disconnecting the emotional ties to things.

When all is said and done, decluttering Cincinnati homes when they go up for sale winds up being well worth the work. More than one client has been pleasantly surprised by how much better they feel when there’s no longer the usual daily disarray to contend with. That’s not surprising if you believe that the better your home feels, the better you will feel—not to mention how much faster it will sell.

Another way to speed a sale even further: give me a call!

For Cincinnati Income Property Seekers, Possible Red Flags

11/1/2016

HGTV has a weekly program called “Income Property” that Cincinnati investors may find interesting from time to time. The host, Scott McGillivray—himself an income property investor—offers tips and advice on the subject. His insights are solid. They may not be earth-shaking, but it doesn’t hurt that, in addition to being an investor, McGillivray is also a contractor.

Since various levels of rehabilitation can sometimes be the first order of business Cincinnati income property investors need to address, a contractor’s insights are pretty valuable. He recently addressed red flags for non-contractors who are searching through the listings for income property bargains. I have to agree with all of them—at least for Cincinnati investors who don’t consider themselves handy with a hammer (and saw, spackle tool, paint roller, etc.). Among the listing language mentions:

? Fixer Upper – couldn’t be clearer. Even for do-it-yourselfers, the possibility that structural elements may be in need of deep rehabbing should be front-of-mind.
? Needs a little TLC — most serious investors reserve their tender loving care for family members and pets. This phrasing might be a hint that the TLC needed will ultimately involve an investor’s bank account. Wags have suggested elsewhere that “TLC” can actually mean “OMG”…
? All the Work Has Been Done — is a heads-up that a house flip is probably being offered. It certainly doesn’t mean that serious Cincinnati investors should automatically pass up the property, but does mean that the asking price probably includes a margin for the owner/flipper. If the work is up to par, this will likely be a dollars and cents proposition.
? Great Potential — if true, terrific (but this gift horse will deserve a serious look into its mouth).
? Attention Renovators — a cue to non-contractors that they should probably look elsewhere. It’s an honest call to the pros.

There are other listing phrases that are less definitive. Some of them need skilled interpreters. “BATVAI” is one that means “buyer’s agent to verify all information.” It may seem to be a red flag that the selling agent is nervous about something in the listing—but since agents are expected to enter information they deem reliable, it’s usually reserved for foreclosures.

Not in need of translation at all is the fact that experienced Cincinnati real estate investors—including income property investors—make sure they have thoroughly “kicked the tires” before they make an offer. You can also be pretty sure they will employ a competent home inspector before a deal is done—and that they have made good use of the services of their knowledgeable Cincinnati real estate agent.

If you’d like to look into the terrific current crop of Cincinnati income property opportunities, I’ll be standing by to interpret where necessary—and help every step of the way!

6 Curb Appeal Quick Fixes for Cincinnati Homeowners

10/29/2016

Conscientious Cincinnati homeowners keep on top of all the regular maintenance items pretty much automatically. Once you have lived in a place for more than a year or two, you know what you should be keeping an eye on. You have a handle on when major fixes and updates have to be addressed.

When you begin thinking about moving on to new digs, though, the focus shifts. Your Cincinnati property is about to enter a beauty contest, after all—so more attention will have to be paid to moving it toward the dazzler category. The floor plan, interior décor, mechanical functions, and the other features that prospective buyers will delve into may all come into play eventually—but only after initial interest has been piqued.

Call it what you will: “first take,” “initial impression,” or “curb appeal”—whatever you name it, if it’s positive, everything else can follow. If it’s negative for any reason, all the other factors will be fighting an uphill battle—or worse, a battle that’s never fought at all.

Given that most homes that are about to go on the Cincinnati market have basic maintenance issues solved, some of the most important home improvement items are those that boost the first impression. Here are six that are universally cited:

1. Clean. This one is not as obvious as it sounds—owners are used to the way the front of the house looks, and more often than not, don’t even notice subtle loss to a home’s “sparkle.” When years of almost-invisible grime are cleared away, the difference can be startling. Every surface has its own effective cleaning techniques: they’re easy to find on the web.
2. Spruce up the yard. If lawn dominates, dollars spent to bring as much life as possible will be well spent. If the season makes a quick enough turnaround impractical, professional lawn paint spraying services are a temporary fix.
3. Mulch. If fall has given front yard flower beds too much of an overgrown look, be prepared to cut them back into shape—then mulch the newly-exposed soil. The look that emerges can transform unkempt into elegant.
4. Entryway. If there is an entry lantern overhead, make its glass panes sparkle. Front door fixtures should gleam—and if they are beyond polishing, replacing them is not a budget-buster. It can also be transformative to paint the door itself with an inviting color that accents the exterior’s tone—an idea that could be the most cost-effective curb appeal assist of all!
5. Driveway. If there are major cracks, they will need to be filled (quick! Winter’s on the way). But if the only problem is blemishes on asphalt, a sealcoat service when the weather allows can be well worth the dollars spent.
6. Identity. The house numbers, whether simply on the side of the mailbox or elsewhere, are more important than most Cincinnati homeowners realize. After all, prospective buyers are certain to look closely at them—which can be turned into an opportunity to forge a distinctive identity. Search the web for images showing “house number design ideas” to see how many interesting looks are out there—then seriously consider if a change might add drama and distinction to your home’s curb appeal.

These are not-so-costly fixups that can go far to help your Cincinnati property reach out and reel in its next owner. For more helpful tips—call me!

For Cincinnati MLS-Combers, the Treasure is There

10/26/2016

House hunters are sometimes compared with treasure hunters—and it can certainly feel like that when you find a Cincinnati home that’s a perfect fit. The other day, I read a writer who compared house hunting with beachcombing. That might pass muster at first—but when you think it over, it really doesn’t quite work.

For one thing, the average beachcomber is only out to enhance a surfside stroll by picking up something interesting. Unlike a dedicated treasure hunter or house hunter, a beachcomber isn’t focused on any specific prize. Dedicated treasure hunters spend days in dusty libraries researching historical rumors about buried chests or sunken galleons. House hunters, likewise, put a lot of energy into prowling through the Cincinnati listings, narrowing the possibilities. Beachcombers are less focused—and a lot less determined.

For Cincinnati househunters, our Multiple Listing Service is the primary go-to resource. It’s a treasure in itself: a single place to turn when it comes to finding Cincinnati homes currently on the market. Beachcombers have no like counterpart. Sure, once the tide is out, any given beach might have a lot of flotsam and jetsam. But it’s blind luck whether any of it will be worth carrying back.

Compared with vacationing beachcombers, MLS-combers have much more rigorous standards. Most beachcombers will at least bend down to examine anything shaped like a Shell gas station sign, even if it’s partially busted up. MLS-combers, on the other hand, move on without a second glance if the picture at the top of a Cincinnati listing looks at all shabby.

Whenever you are doing some tropical beachcombing, and you find a really large shell (like a conch), even if there’s no extra space in your luggage, you’re likely to haul it back to the beach blanket for everyone to admire. But if you are MLS-combing and you come across an 18-bedroom mansion, you won’t add it to your 4-bedroom, 3 ½ bath Serious Contender list. MLS-combing is more focused than beachcombing.

I’d have to go with treasure hunting as the best metaphor for house hunting—and right now, the Cincinnati MLS is loaded with treasures that aren’t even buried. Give me a call if you’re in the market—we’ll give some of the best ones a good look!

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