It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas . . .
After an incredibly busy year, I've finally got time to take a breath, work on marketing for next year, see to some long overdue bookkeeping, bake cookies, deliver some holiday goodies and even do a little shopping. (Not today mind you, it's waaay too wet and windy!) Today, it's best just to bundle up and stay inside. (Baby it's cold outside.)
What's that mean for the market as a whole? It too, will take a brief respite, but unlike previous years when the typical selling pattern usually presents a measurable drop-off in value come October, November, December, the Bay Area market continued to deliver well into the fall and what's more, with real strength to boot. (Joy to the world!)
Good homes continued to see multiple offers even as the holidays became the priority for many people, taking them out of "active" status. Not to worry, Buyers who had been pushed out of the highly competitive spring market, saw this opening as an opportunity and responded in kind. In other words, supply and demand were comfortably at work, in spite of the holidays. ('Tis the season to be jolly.)
So what constitutes a "good home" you ask; "GOOD" being a highly relative term . . . (Deck the halls with boughs of holly.)
Homes, like people, range in style and shape dramatically, but the sweet spot for most Buyers seems to be the 3+bdrm/2+bth home with a welcoming yard. This is, and continues to be, the staple for the "nuclear" family with two kids, a dog, and two cars. Bonus spaces are always a plus as they provide flexibility for guests and home office. Moreover, many young families are moving towards an open floor plan (as compared to formal rooms) again for the flexibility and communal lifestyle they encompass. (Hail the new ye lads and lasses.)
Natural light, tree-lined streets, public parks, community centers and high-ranking schools all factor into "good" homes and highly-coveted neighborhoods, supporting the old adage: "location, location, location!" Thus, if you can stretch for a good neighborhood come time to buy, chances are you will be well rewarded come time to sell. (And heaven and nature sing, and heaven and nature sing.)
As families expand, so too do their needs and wants, and starter homes (2bdrms/1bth) quickly give way to bigger homes, bigger grounds, and BIGGER mortgages. These years center around school and camp activities, sport teams, swim/tennis clubs and family trips. STORAGE is key for this time of life, what with skis, bikes, cars, cleats, computers, tools, tents, holiday decorations and every manner of "must have" imaginable. Our garages rarely hold our cars any more, supplanted by the things we now own. (Oh, Holy Night!)
For "empty nesters," the bedroom/bathroom count doesn't change dramatically (returning kids after all) but the location often does. Gone is the need for a highly-prized school system, often replaced by proximity that favors an easy stroll to coffee, the movies, and friendly neighborhood dining. Storage remains at a premium (although I encourage my downsizing Sellers to divest from many of their belongings once the kids have gone off to college). Keep only what you use and love. Memories take up NO closet space and are highly mobile. (Our finest gifts we bring, pa-rump. pum-pum-pum.)
Condo living (a jumping off point for many first-time Buyers) returns to the forefront for those well-healed and wishing to travel instead of remaining root bound. Condos have the distinct advantage of ease of living (tending the garden is a thing of the past) and feature a comfortable, compact lifestyle. Just lock the door and go, secure in the knowledge that your neighbors are close by in your absence. Unlike the starter condo, these units tend to be far more luxurious, offering high-end finishes and often, breathtaking views. (Hark, the herald angels sing.)
Speaking of views: bay views, city views, water views and canyon views are always highly desired, but depending on how high UP the hill one has to travel to gain the view, they aren't currently as popular as they once were here in the Oakland Hills. (in San Francisco, VIEWS will forever remain king.) While these ridge homes offer dramatic sight lines, they often isolate the homeowner as well, sending hill dwellers down to Starbucks and Peet's with their laptops in tow. In the end, maybe it's not coffee we crave, but a sense of community that matters more. (We three Kings of Orient are.)
Whatever the physical package, be it a Tudor, Traditional, or Contemporary; a cabin, an igloo or a yurt, "good" homes should be well maintained and inviting. For those past their prime (and there are too many in my opinion) they should offer great bones and character, not to mention an ideal location. A run-down home next to the freeway is going to be an incredibly tough sell - no matter the timing or price. Given that a home is typically your single largest investment, it pays to keep it in good standing. Don't you agree?
Looking back over my own sales record this year, the homes that most often delivered MAJOR punch were all emotionally engaging and usually had wonderful yards that provided that desirable, quintessential, indoor/outdoor living for which California is so famously known. Fabulous gardens, patios and decks add space and options to a home that the majority of families really DO want and will clearly compete for. In short, the outside spaces, while often overlooked, are well worth the investment.
Turn offs? (I'm glad you asked.)
Dark, dank, musty, small rooms, poor light, confusing design, cheap finishes, no curb appeal, bad location, choppy floor plan, old wallpaper, dirty carpet, pet odors (!), cracked foundations, BIG unknowns, and poor presentation. (Away in a manger, no crib for a bed.)
Remember, you have one chance to make a good first impression and this is never more important than when you go to sell your home, so please, hire a professional. It's truly penny wise and pound foolish to do otherwise.
BTW - if a sale is on your radar for 2015, now is an excellent time to begin getting it into shape for next Spring. With interest rates still at historically low levels and barring any unforeseen circumstances, the Real Estate industry believes we will see a repeat of 2014. (Fa, la, la, la la!) In other words, we expect a highly exuberant marketplace in 2015. And that's all "good. "
How can I help you?
P.S. - I not only "talk the talk," I "walk the walk." You can follow my own renovation on my new blog: Renovation Riptide. I invite your comments and stories. (Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of clay.)
Julie Gardner, has been writing The Perspective for 15 years and has published more than 600 essays. She is also a frequent contributor to the Sound Off column in the Real Estate section of The San Francisco Chronicle.