Thursday, January 27, 2011

Green Appraisals to Become More Common in the Housing Industry

The Appraisal Institute has launched a new course, Valuation of Sustainable Buildings Professional Development Program, to educate appraisers on the intricacies of valuing high-performance residential and commercial buildings.

“There is a tremendous need for this type of education within the real estate sector,” said Appraisal Institute President Joseph C. Magdziarz, MAI, SRA.  He continued, "High-performance buildings represent a rapidly growing area of the real estate market, and reliable valuations are critical both to banks’ risk management and to developers’ sound development practices."

In the past, appraisers have been criticized for not accounting properly for a building's "green" features..  This new educational program is intended to bring graduates up to date on methods, techniques, case studies, and valuation for green improvements.

Magdziarz acknowledged that misconceptions about green valuation currently exist among many non-appraisers, including a failure to realize that cost does not always equal value. He noted that appraisers need to have all information from underwriters, builders, real estate agents, and home inspectors related to energy efficient features in order to recognize them and to make appropriate, market-based adjustments.  He stated that "A critical issue is market recognition of the actual or perceived benefits of a green building. Do market participants view high-performance features as an enhancement to the market value of the property or as an over-enhancement? This is a critical question that will likely be unique to the particular property and local real estate market.”

If you want to add green features to your home and have questions on how those may affect its resale value, call or email me and let's talk about the market in your New Jersey neighborhood.

Joe Giancarli, SA
Real Estate Advisor
Short Sale Specialist

How we Live - New Home Survey on Home Furnishings

National off-price retailer HomeGoods recently conducted a survey to determine how we live in our homes. The survey complements the recently released 2010 U.S. Population Census.  Key findings:
  • 47% of Americans have not updated their home's decor in the last 5 years.  9% haven't updated in 10 years.  (This is not surprising given our recent economic pressures.)
  • 44% call their home style traditional, 22% modern, 13% eclectic, 10% country, and 2% global.
  • 20% reported feeling happy with their home's decor.
  • More than 50% feel relaxed at home, but 14% feel their home furnishings make them gloomy.
  • 36% only spend 5-8 waking hours in their homes each day; 26% spend 9-12 hours a day at home.
  • 65% of women would rather shop for their home furnishings than for shoes (35%).
  • 58% of men rate shopping for the home for fun than for shoes.
  • 38% of men and 46% of women wish they could throw out something on display in the home that is important to their significant other.
Joe Giancarli, SA
Real Estate Advisor
Short Sale Specialist

Thursday, January 20, 2011

55+ Home Buyer Trends

A joint study by the 50+ Housing Council of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and the MetLife Mature Market Institute shows the recession has made 55+ buyers more practical when selecting a new home. Design considerations have become less important, and financial concerns have become more prominent, according to the study.  Previous studies from these two organizations found that most 55+ buyers depended on home sale proceeds to finance a new purchase. The most recent data shows that option diminished during the economic downturn.

In 2009, only 55% of new age-qualified active adult home buyers reported that their down payment came from a previous home sale, significantly down from 100% of respondents in 2005 and 92% in 2007. In 2005 and 2007, no active adult community buyers reported having to tap cash or savings for a down payment. In 2009, 45% of the average buyer’s down payment came from cash or savings.

The study, “Housing Trends Update for the 55+ Market,” explores recently released housing data from the Census Bureau’s 2009 American Housing Survey (AHS) on the 55+ demographic. The report focuses especially on households living in active adult communities.  “Most 55+ consumers—those who chose to move and those who stay in their homes—report that they are happy with their homes and communities,” said Sandra Timmermann, Ed.D., director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute. “But those who did move to an age-qualified community—about 3%—reported the greatest satisfaction, rating their homes and communities at nine on a one-to-ten scale.”

“By the year 2020, as Baby Boomers move into this age bracket, almost 45% of all U.S. households will include someone at least 55 years old,” said David Crowe, NAHB’s chief economist. “The number of those households seeking housing better suited to their changing needs will therefore rise dramatically.”  The desire to be near family and friends is the mature mover’s overwhelming motivation, the report noted. The design, amenities and appearance of the residence and the community remain important, but less so than before the recession. Buyers who fall into the 55+ age range that are moving into rental homes, both multi-family and single-family, cited a desire for less expensive housing as second in importance to living near friends and family.

“Proximity to work” was more important than in the past for those relocating to age-qualified, active adult communities—12% in 2009 versus 2% in 2001—underscoring the trend toward delayed retirement in this age group. There was also a reported increase in the share of 55+ single-family homeowners who say they work at home.

Read more at  For additional information, visit the Mature Market Institute.

Our part of New Jersey - Mercer County and surrounding counties and townships - offer a wide range of housing options for the 55+ demographic.  Call or email me to find out about your options, including "aging in place" and reverse mortgages.

Joe Giancarli, SA
Short Sale Specialist
Real Estate Advisor

Positive Numbers for December Home Sales

According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), existing-home sales rose sharply in December, and sales increased for the fifth time in the past six months.

Existing-home sales, which are completed transactions that include single-family, townhomes, condominiums and co-ops, rose 12.3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.28 million in December, from an upwardly revised 4.70 million in November, but remain 2.9% below the 5.44 million pace in December 2009.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, said sales are on an uptrend. "December was a good finish to 2010, when sales fluctuate more than normal. The pattern over the past six months is clearly showing a recovery," he said. "The December pace is near the volume we're expecting for 2011, so the market is getting much closer to an adequate, sustainable level. The recovery will likely continue as job growth gains momentum and rising rents encourage more renters into ownership while exceptional affordability conditions remain."

The national median existing-home price for all housing types was $168,800 in December, which is 1.0% below December 2009. Distressed homes rose to a 36% market share in December from 33% in November, and 32% in December 2009.  "The modest rise in distressed sales, which typically are discounted 10 to 15% relative to traditional homes, dampened the median price in December, but the flat price trend continues," Yun explained.

Total housing inventory at the end of December fell 4.2% to 3.56 million existing homes available for sale, which represents an 8.1-month supply at the current sales pace, down from a 9.5-month supply in November.

A Realtor survey by NAR showed that 1st time buyers purchased 33% of homes in December, investors 20%, and the balance were repeat buyers.  All-cash sales were 29% of the total, up from 22% a year ago.  Single-family sales were up over November, but still below December, 2009.  Condo and Co-op sales also followed this trend.

Regionally, existing-home sales in the Northeast jumped 13.0% to an annual pace of 870,000 in December but are 5.4% below December 2009. The median price in the Northeast was $237,300, which is 1.4% below a year ago.

Let me answer your questions about our local New Jersey market.  Every community, and every neighborhood, has varying market forces.  Call or email me to discuss your real estate needs.

Joe Giancarli, SA
Short Sale Specialist
Real Estate Advisor

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Hamilton, NJ - Short Sale - Norway Ave - Upgraded - Garage

Short Sale opportunity.  824 Norway is a well-built full brick colonial featuring 4 bedrooms, 2 full baths, and 3 stories on a spacious lot graced with tall pines. The newly remodeled kitchen has cherrywood shaker-style cabinetry, black granite counter tops, ceramic tiled floors and stainless steel appliances.  More upgrades include fresh paint throughout, newer windows and furnace. Hardwood floors, high ceilings, security system, 2-car detached garage, and full basement with outside entrance make this an excellent buy.  Think of the potential in the property and how you could finish the basement.  Priced for a quick sale and affordable.

Contact Joe Giancarli, SA, for a private showing.  609-658-2612.

Robbinsville, NJ - Gordon Rd - Upgraded - Remodeled

338 Gordon Rd sits on more than 1.25 acres of land, with plenty of room to garden and watch the changing seasons. Backing up to woods, expect to enjoy open space and have room to explore. The 40-year old house is currently under extensive renovation and offers the convenience of new touches blended with the quality of older homes. Outside, the exterior has been redone with new siding, gutters, and vinyl windows. Inside, the hardwood floors have been refinished, and shine in all rooms except for new ceramic tile in baths, kitchen, dining room, and laundry room. The existing stained solid pine doors and trim will remain. In the kitchen are new stainless appliances, and granite tops with under-mounted sink. A second floor bath is being remodeled completely and will offer double bowl vanity, stall shower, and separate entrance into the master suite. All bedrooms are spacious with generous closet space, and can double as office or study. The large laundry room is on the main floor. A partially-finished basement features a fireplace and outside entrance, and would make a perfect media center or rec room. More upgrades include a new boiler, new septic system, and fresh paint throughout. This is a convenient location close to schools and transportation corridors, and across the street from The Ridings, a Robbinsville community of $600,000-800,000 homes.
Robbinsville is one of the fastest growing and most beautiful towns in New Jersey. Located about an hour away from both New York City and Philadelphia, Robbinsville has easy access to the country's best in arts, education, and sports without any of the hassle that goes along with living in a big city.

Contact Joe Giancarli, SA, for a private preview.  609-658-2612.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Hamilton, NJ - Deutzville - Short Sale - Henry St

Short Sale Opportunity. Best Priced single family detached home in Hamilton with a garage. This Colonial features 3 bedrooms, large eat- in kitchen, gas cooking, full unfinished basement, one-car detached garage, newer heater, 5 year old windows, remodeled bath, and enclosed porch. Appliances included. Fenced yard with storage shed. Great location for commuters, close to Rt 129, I-195, and I-295. Close to Deutzville Park. Move-in condition, and sellers are ready for an offer.

Contact Joe Giancarli, SA, 609-658-2612, for a private showing.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Want to Buy a New Jersey Foreclosure? Here's What You Need to Know

New Jersey has its share of foreclosures, and they represent a good buying opportunity if you aren't in a hurry to close.  But beware - they aren't without their problems.  Here are some items you need to consider before you decide to write a purchase contract on a bank-owned home in Mercer County, NJ.

1. The highest-risk option for buying is at a foreclosure auction.  You may not have had a chance to inspect the property, and almost always will be bidding against the lender, who knows their bottom line (you won't).

2.  Most foreclosed properties are sold as REOs, or "real estate owned" by the lender, which is not in the real estate business (or wasn't) and presumably wants to sell.  Remember, the bank took over the property from an owner who did not pay, and most likely in an adversarial transaction.  The Bank has no legal obligation to disclose anything, and probably knows nothing of property defects anyway.  Buyer beware!

3.  Any inspections are up to the buyer, at his/her cost.  At the minimum, you need a homeowner's basic inspection, and to follow up any additional recommendations for supplemental inspections, such as of pests, roof, or pool.  Many properties in Mercer County are on septic tanks and you need an inspection of the tank and drainage system.  You must factor these costs into the cash you need to purchase, and they can save you thousands of dollars in repairs later.  If you can't afford to pay for inspections, don't buy a foreclosure.

4.  Once you have a good understanding of the problems with the home, realize you will be buying "As Is."  Very rarely will a bank make repairs.  Don't expect them to agree to do anything except give you clear title.  Plan to take possession in the condition you found it when you made your offer, and be prepared to make the repairs yourself.  The only exceptions will be health and safety issues, such as something structural or a gas leak or unsafe electrical condition.  If you can't afford the repairs and investments (like buying appliances) to make the property safe and livable, don't buy a foreclosure.

5.  The bank will control the contract terms and the timeframe.  Be very aware of the time limit you have to opt out of the contract and why.  If you find unexpected problems or find they will cost more than you want to pay to repair, be sure you act quickly enough to get out of the contract.  If you don't, you will forfeit your deposit.

6.  You can continue to look at other properties after you have made an offer.  The bank is looking at many offers while you wait to hear.  So don't be in a hurry, and keep your options open.

Yes, you need an experienced Realtor working for you if you decide to buy a foreclosure.  I've been in real estate in Mercer County for more than 20 years.  Don't think you can blunder through bank requirements and paperwork without a professional on your side.  Call or email me and let's talk about what type of purchase will fit your investment strategy.

Joe Giancarli, SA
Real Estate Advisor
The Appraisal Institute has released helpful tips for consumers, providing guidance for homeowners and buyers seeking to ensure their sales are completed in a timely manner.  The document is available here: .  The Institute created the recommendations to help consumers protect themselves and avoid unnecessary frustration when selling or buying a home.

“Too many consumers in this struggling real estate market face problems with appraisals when attempting to buy or sell a home,” said Appraisal Institute President Joseph C. Magdziarz, MAI, SRA. “But rather than passively endure delays in closing a sale, homeowners and buyers can take proactive steps to avoid pitfalls.”

The Appraisal Institute’s tips encourage homeowners and buyers to:

-Understand the role of appraisals.
-Make sure their lender hires a qualified appraiser (such as a designated SRA, SRPA or MAI member of the Appraisal Institute).
-Accompany the appraiser during the inspection of the property if possible.
-Request a copy of the appraisal report from the lender.
-Examine the appraisal report and ask questions.
-Appeal the appraisal if appropriate.
-Ask the lender to order a second appraisal by a qualified and designated appraiser.
-File legitimate complaints with appropriate state board or professional appraisal organizations.

“Appraisers today are doing the same thorough, fact-based research and analysis they have always done,” Magdziarz said. “Nothing has changed in that regard.”  He added that appraisers have been wrongly accused of prolonging the nation’s real estate downturn by developing value opinions that are below proposed sale prices.

For more information, visit

Call or email me to discuss values and what an appraisal means to you.

Joe Giancarli, SA
Short Sale Specialist
Real Estate Advisor

Thursday, January 6, 2011

If you Want to Sell your Hamilton Home in 2011, Think Ahead

If your New Year's resolution involves selling your home in 2011, you need to plan ahead: There's plenty of inventory and it is still a buyer's market.  If you don't have to sell this year, if you are not in a distressed situation, it may be more challenging because you will have to deal with the values set in the marketplace by these bank-owned and short sale properties.  You just need to be flexible and prepared.

1.  By listing in early January, you might be able to catch some of those early birds who start browsing in the winter so they can find a new home before school starts in the fall.  Many buyers start their searches online right after Christmas, and continue through the Spring.

2.  Price it right the first time.  The longer a property sits on the market, the more price reductions you will make.  Buyers will assume there's something wrong with the home, and realtors won't aggressively show the property, because they think you aren't motivated to sell.    Obviously, the expertise of an experienced Mercer County NJ Realtor (me) is invaluable to make sense of prices in your community.

3.  Advertise that your home is not a short sale or bank-owned property, if that is the case.  Not all buyers are looking for a fixer upper or want to wait several months for a bank to decide on their offer.

4.  Stage your home for buyers.  Make the decor neutral, hide your momentos, and declutter.  You will be moving anyway.  Always leave for showings and take your pets and children with you.

5.  Clean and clean some more.  Remember, you have to look better than your competition.

6.  Repair all the minor items you've been putting off.  A home inspection prior to listing is really worth the money.  Then you will be prepared for what the buyers will find.

7.  Get your documents ready.  Buyers will want to know what the utilities run, the age of the roof, plumbing repairs, hot water heater, etc.

8.  Be flexible and patient.  If a buyer wants to come at your dinner hour, or on Super Bown weekend, or when you are at church, let them.  They will just look at another house if you don't.

So much of trying to sell is common sense and thinking of how you would feel as a prospective buyer.  But we get busy and may not always be prepared.  If you plan now for what you will need to do to be in the best position to sell when it gets busy (Spring), you'll be way ahead.

Call or email me to talk about the price you might get for your home, and what the market forces are in your Mercer County community.

Joe Giancarli, SA
Short Sale Specialist
Real Estate Advisor