Decorating for the Holidays When Selling a Home

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Dear Dave,

We have had our home on the market since the beginning of October. Now that the holidays are upon us, we would really like to be able to decorate for the holidays – but we don’t want to scare away potential buyers. We would typically set up a couple of holiday blow-ups in our yard, as well as decorate our house with Christmas lights – our kids just love this. Do you think that is too much? What do you recommend when someone is trying to sell their home during the holiday season?

Thanks in advance and Merry Christmas!
Jack and Linda, Fruita, CO


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Jack and Linda,

I say, decorate and enjoy the holidays. In my opinion a home never feels more like a home than it does during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season. I don’t believe you will scare anyone away, but remember to decorate tastefully and try to err on the side of too little rather than too much. Believe me, if your kids love the way you decorate the likelihood is the families that come to look at your home during the holidays will love it also.

Remember that buying a home is still very much a “feel” thing for most buyers and the more senses you get involved and the more “like a home” you make your home feel the better off you are. I can tell you that more often than not, when a buyer gets a feel about a home and they can picture themselves or their family living there, your chances of them making an offer go up significantly. Also, don’t be afraid to bake some cookies, pies, a cake or at the least light a candle that plays up the season. Also note that a little Christmas music will not hurt your cause either. We purchased our cinnamon pine cones this weekend for less than 5 bucks and they smell wonderful. This is the greatest time of year to have fun and get immersed in the season, enjoy it because it will be gone too soon.

The key take away here is tasteful and not overdone, yet have fun and enjoy the season. 

The key take away here is tasteful and not overdone, yet have fun and enjoy the season. The spirit of the holidays is contagious and my bet is someone will catch the spirit at your house this season. Have a wonderful Christmas and don’t be shocked when your home sells because it looks so good!

Dave Kimbrough
The Kimbrough Team

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What do Home Owners Associations typically manage?

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Dear Dave,

We are downsizing and looking into different housing options that will require less maintenance. Most of the places we have looked at are part of an HOA or Home Owner’s Association.

What are typical things that you see a HOA managing? A couple of them seem pretty strict and we’re not sure what is normal and what might be a little over the top. We do not currently live in an HOA and are not sure if it is something we will like being a part of or not. We would really appreciate some feedback on this as we embark on this new phase of life. 

Thank you!

Bob and Ellen - Grand Junction, CO


Bob and Ellen,

As with everything, being part of a home owners association can be a great or it can end up being a painful experience. It is kind of like a big party, how enjoyable it is, depends on who shows up. In the case of a home owners association, you can't choose who is invited! One thing is for sure, if you are not used to being a part of a home owners association you will likely have some adjusting to do! If you purchase a home that was built in a neighborhood in the past 30 years it is unlikely you can avoid an HOA for the most part and all things considered it is a good thing. 

In the development process most all subdivisions are done with a set of covenants that basically spell out how the subdivision is set up and the rules by which it will be maintained and governed moving into the future. In these covenants it also describes and instructs how to set up the different committees that will help enforce the rules and regulations of the subdivision and all who reside there. This means that the HOA is only as good and cooperative as your soon to be neighbors make it. The design and intent of the covenants and HOA is to maintain the subdivisions integrity and property values over the long haul.

If you are looking in a single family home subdivision then, more often than not, the Home Owners Association is in charge of maintaining subdivision open and common space and to ensure that it is properly maintained.

If you are looking in a single family home subdivision then, more often than not, the Home Owners Association is in charge of maintaining subdivision open and common space and to ensure that it is properly maintained. They can also be in charge of the subdivision irrigation system, architectural control to ensure that any exterior improvements are in line with the subdivision covenants and general neighborhood rules. Examples might be that they enforce that RV parking be behind a 6 foot privacy fence or that the yards are maintained and mowed, or that no cars are left on the street for a long period of time. They will also ensure that any improvements made to the property fall within subdivision guidelines and are in turn complementary to the neighborhood and the other homes, thus protecting the neighborhoods consistency and value.   

If you choose to live in a condominium or town home project then the HOA may also be responsible for water, sewer, trash and not only yard and common ground maintenance, but also exterior building maintenance and repair. This kind of HOA is much more involved and typically much more expensive, since they cover more monthly expenses and continued maintenance. Often times these HOAs have an on-site manager or a management company than handles the operation as it is much more extensive and time consuming.   

As you are probably finding, most newer neighborhoods built in the past 25-35 years have a home owners associations that was set up when the subdivision was first developed. If you are the type that likes to do things without checking with others to gain approval, then an HOA may not be for you. If however you read through the subdivision covenants and find the rules and regulations to be acceptable, then you are likely to adjust easily. Just make sure to read through them and make sure you find them acceptable. 

My bet is you will like and enjoy what the HOA provides and the easiest way to ensure it works well for you and others is to get involved!

Dave Kimbrough
The Kimbrough Team

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Should We Xeriscape Our Yard?

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Dave,

Our landscaping needs a complete overhaul! We were in the middle of drawing up plans to revamp our front and back yard when I ran across some ideas for xeriscaping online. I can’t believe I didn’t think of it in the first place! We would love the low maintenance aspect of it since my wife and I travel a lot. The only thing is we’re thinking of downsizing in a few years. Before we take the leap and jump all in on the idea, what’s your opinion on the style and furthermore if it will turn away buyers once we go to sell.

Love your column!

Cynthia & Bob, Grand Junction


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Cynthia and Bob,

I think it’s a great idea! Xeriscaping is quite popular and can be very attractive, especially in our “high desert” climate that easily lends itself to that style. The one hesitation I might have revolves around what type of home you have? If your home/neighborhood lends itself to families with younger children then I might lean toward xeriscaping in the front yard and having some grass/yard in the back. I totally get the low/no maintenance attraction, but people with younger kids tend to want a grass back yard for them to have a play area and gravel does not make the most inviting play area for younger kids! 

Xeriscaping is quite popular and can be very attractive, especially in our “high desert” climate that easily lends itself to that style.

If you take these things into account I do not believe you will have any issues when it comes time to sell, in fact it might be a selling point to many buyers who crave the low/no maintenance yard as people's time only becomes more valuable as we all get stretched even more thin! Again, great idea and enjoy your new landscaping! 

Dave Kimbrough
The Kimbrough Team

I'd love to buy a new home! How can I improve my credit score?

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Dear Dave,

I would really like to be able to buy a house this winter or early spring? However, I don’t have a very good credit score. Five years ago I had a foreclosure and two years ago I changed careers to get out of the natural gas industry and several bills were late, including a couple car payments and one rent payment. Over the past year everything has been working out great, as my new career is starting to take off and I am getting firmly back on my feet. I am ready to own again! 

Can you give me some advice on what to do to improve my credit score? I am really trying to clean up my act and want to have a chance at getting a decent loan.

I would appreciate your advice.

John - Grand Junction, CO


John,

Sounds like you are on your way back to financial stability and you are to be commended for what sounds like “proactive” moves to help get off the instability treadmill and move on to firmer, more predictable ground. When looking into your question, I consulted James Pulsipher, Regional Manager at Fidelity Mortgage here in Grand Junction. He has some simple, yet sound advice:

The good news with credit, is that time tends to heal all wounds, and you have had some time.

For the foreclosure itself--for conventional financing it must be 7 years old, but FHA will allow financing with a foreclosure after 3 years. FHA also allows financing with credit once you have had one year without late/derogatory payments.

The best bet is to take a look at your credit and see what needs to be done, but out of hand, the credit is not something that would prohibit you from buying a new home.

There are  a few specific things you can do now, if you are not already doing them to help boost your credit score in fairly short order…six months or so.

1. Payoff remaining debt.
2. Use your credit cards less by charging less.
3. Don’t be late on any more payments.
4. Consolidate your debt at lower interest rates
5. BE PATIENT!

Sounds like you are already in a position to purchase with an FHA loan, but likely a couple years away from conventional financing.

These items can start to impact your credit score quickly and significantly and allow your credit score to climb. Sounds like you are already in a position to purchase with an FHA loan, but likely a couple years away from conventional financing. There are some wonderful FHA loan programs out there, with competitive interest rates that will allow you to purchase your new home this winter. I would also suggest partnering with a good lender to help you develop a plan and timeline for becoming a home owner again! Awesome job thus far and I do see home ownership in your near future!

Dave Kimbrough
The Kimbrough Team

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Can we use more than one agent to look at homes?

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Dave,

We are in the midst of the home buying process—which has been really exciting! Our question for you is about “proper buyer behavior”. We have an agent who we really love and has been so helpful throughout the process. Last week she left town for a week and while she was gone we were still driving around town looking at homes. We found one we wanted to see—called the agent on the sign and had him show us the home. At the end of the showing he asked if we wanted him to set us up on an online home search. We told him we didn’t need another search because we had one through our agent. He got really stern all of a sudden and told us that we should only be looking at homes with our agent and not leading other agents to believe they’d get our business.

This was so confusing to us! That perspective never crossed our minds! Is it not okay to have different agents show us their homes? Should we only see homes with our agent? Thank you in advance for helping us!

Janey & Mike, Grand Junction


Janey and Mike,

You accidentally and unknowingly stumbled onto one of the real estate professions “hot button” issues, where agents are concerned, and that is why the agent got stern with you. As you pointed out in your question, you guys are excited and the process of looking for your new home is fun! You are really only focused on finding your new home which is hard to do when your agent has left town and not provided you a plan on how to access homes while she was on vacation. Life is tricky, with lots of moving parts, but you never know when the perfect house is going to come along and the good ones go fast!

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There are many ways to look at this, but ultimately your agent should have made a plan with you about who would show you property while she was gone. I can see this unfold in my mind.  You guys saw a house that looked like it might be “the one”. You called the agent who had the home listed and asked him to show you the home, as you don’t want to miss the perfect home because your realtor is on vaca. He was eager to make that happen and accommodate your wishes because he thought he could potentially work with you as a buyer and asked you very few, if any questions, other than what time would work and he was excited to show it to you?  Your only concern was to see the home so you set up a time to meet him. Since nobody explained to you how things work, because your agent was only focused on her vacation and not how it would impact your home search while she was gone, you had no way to know that you were crossing any lines you should not cross. 

Ugh…communication is hard. It is clear from his reaction that he ASSUMED you did NOT have an agent, but failed to directly ask you if you were working with another agent before agreeing to show you the home. If he had not assumed and had asked you the question about your agent then my guess is your experience would have been completely different. You would have still seen the house, however your relationship with him would have been defined before you ever met and he would have had no unspoken expectation of “picking you up” as a buyer which led to his “stern” response to setting you up on a search. I hope this all makes sense.  Assumptions and unasked questions are the two biggest culprits of communication breakdown and conflict!

One of the unwritten rules in real estate is that you, as the buyer, should only look at homes with the agent you plan on using to help you purchase your home. But how are you to know this “unwritten” rule?

One of the unwritten rules in real estate is that you, as the buyer, should only look at homes with the agent you plan on using to help you purchase your home. But how are you to know this “unwritten” rule? Frankly, your agent should have explained this to you and arranged for one of her colleagues to show you property in her absence. My assumption is she was probably only focused on her vacation and not how the vacation might impact your house hunting!

Funny how even the simplest things can become cumbersome and confusing. There is a small life lesson in your question about assumptions and unasked questions! Best of luck and I hope the perfect home is just around the corner!

Dave Kimbrough
The Kimbrough Team

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Are we in a buyers' or sellers' market?

Dave,

We’ve heard that the market is hot for sellers right now and that enticed us to start thinking about selling our home…but we’ve also heard that there’s a shortage of inventory—probably why the market is so hot for sellers right now.

Is this truly how our market is right now? If it is, that makes it a little bit of a double edged sword for us. Should we sell and make great money off the equity we have in our home? But if we do, will we be able to find another house that we like if there’s such low inventory? What do you recommend in a market that’s like ours is now?

Donna and Frank, Grand Junction


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Donna and Frank,

Great question! Our market is the tale of two markets…those properties under $300,000 and those properties priced over $300,000 (particularly those properties priced over $400,000). First let’s look at the absorption rates we currently have in the market. You may ask, what are absorption rates? Well, the absorption rate is the number of months it would take to sell all the currently listed homes in the market. This is where we get months of inventory and that number is important as it helps provide a clearer picture of just how much inventory is available in any given price range and theoretically will allow you to better predict future trends in pricing and sales activity. I have heard it said that a healthy market is somewhere between 3 and 6 months of inventory! Less than 3 months of inventory lends itself to being a seller’s market where the supply is short and the demand is high. More than 6 months of inventory would mean you are entering a buyer’s market, meaning more inventory than there is demand and the buyer theoretically holds the upper hand in negotiating power.

As of October 1, 2017 properties priced between $100,000 and $300,000 had 3 – 3.5 months of inventory, thus putting us in a very brisk market that is starting to really favor sellers. For properties priced between $300,000 and $500,000 we have 5.5 – 7 months of inventory, thus entering that area typically favoring the buyer. Note that there is not much in between! All that being said, we have a very brisk lower end of the market, a softening middle range and a “cushy” soft upper end (homes priced over $500k) where we have somewhere between 10 and 20 months of inventory. All that being said, overall the market is as solid as we have had since 2008 and we are no doubt going to see the strongest sales figures, across all parameters, we have seen in nearly 10 years! It has been amazing and we should all be very thankful to have 2009-2012 well in the rear view mirror! 2017 has been an incredible year for housing and I fully expect 2018 to continue this trend, albeit maybe with a little more pressure on the gas in the lower end price ranges.

You are most likely correct about the “double edged sword”, because when you sell and buy in the same market everything is relative! This means that if your home has gone up 10%, then so has the home you are likely to replace it with.

You are most likely correct about the “double edged sword”, because when you sell and buy in the same market everything is relative! This means that if your home has gone up 10%, then so has the home you are likely to replace it with. The exception to this in our market is when you are making a significant move up, let’s say from $350,000 to $550,000. If you are making that kind of move up, sometimes you can make up a little ground as the lower priced home appreciation has outpaced the upper end for quite some time. Low inventory is an issue and the good ones generally sell quickly. If you are pondering a move you need to focus on being flexible, as perfect timing can prove as elusive as a Sasquatch sighting! Be prepared to sell and then rent or have somewhere to burn a little time in between properties if the timing does not work out perfect. You might consider looking at new construction, as this provides you the ability to plan as you attempt to “time” the events of selling and buying!

I find, time and time again, selling and buying are a lot like life! It will be what you make of it!  Everything might not work out perfect, but really what does? Jumping a few hurdles is generally a good thing and it makes you appreciate the smooth times even more! Go ahead and jump in feet first, the water is only really cold for the first few seconds!

Dave Kimbrough
The Kimbrough Team

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Are there ethical parameters to who can enter into a contract?

Grand Junction Real Estate Advice

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Dave

 About a year ago, a family member began suffering with, which luckily turned out to be short-term, a mental breakdown. During that episode, my family member reconnected with an old friend who happened to work in real estate. In a manic episode, a listed piece of real estate was put under contract by my family member with a real estate agent. Because of the breakdown, my family member lost their job and had to forfeit their deposit.

When I called the Realtor and asked about getting the deposit back, I was told he was not the listing agent and would not be able to return the earnest money. I questioned the Realtor about his relationship with my family member and he told me they were "friends" and had known each other for years. When I asked him if he knew there was mental illness interfering with his "friend’s" ability to make good decisions at the time he wrote the contract, he assured me he was. My question—is there some sort of ethical expectation in real estate that would question the decision to write a contract with a person who is obviously not of sound mind?

Thank you,

 Linda, Grand Junction


Linda,

Wow, this is complicated! The question of ethics is a real one, if they were “knowledgeable” about the mental breakdown and still allowed them to enter into a contract. There is a lot that is open to interpretation in your question, like the fact that he was “obviously not of sound mind”. What may be obvious to one, may not be obvious to another. Mental capacity should be evaluated by professionals who are trained to make such determinations. There have been a couple of instances over the past 10 years where we have had questions about a person’s mental capacity and we have found a way to discuss it with family members, of the party in question, but had to proceed with care. Let’s cover the basics.

Contracts are enforceable against anyone having legal capacity, but some persons are deemed by law as either incapable of contracting or having some limited capacity to contract.

Contracts are enforceable against anyone having legal capacity, but some persons are deemed by law as either incapable of contracting or having some limited capacity to contract. In the instances of limited capacity, the contract can be voided if the individual goes before the court to void the contract. As long as the person of limited capacity allows the contract to exist, the contract may not be voided. An example of a person with limited capability would be someone who is illiterate or one who has diminished mental capacity. Any person declared to be mentally incompetent is deemed incapable of contracting. Any agreement of purchase or sale entered into by such a person is voidable.

It sounds like the contract could have been voided, if your family member was either declared to be mentally incompetent or in limited capacity at the time he signed the contract.  However, if he was of limited capacity, he would have to petition the court to void the contract. As devil’s advocate, one question still remains, was he competent at the time he signed the contract? The water gets muddier at every turn. I think that there is an ethical expectation for everyone, regardless of the business type, to be aware and try to identify those who should not be entering into a contract. In this case, there is enough “gray area” that I can’t make a firm ethical verdict, but if the real estate agent “had actual knowledge” of the breakdown, then I can say there should have been some significant due diligence and legal consultation performed prior to executing any contract.

I am thankful that he only lost his earnest money and at least he did not close on the property and left holding a much more devastating financial burden. In cases like these, we refer our people to a knowledgeable and reputable local attorney for consult. Contacting an attorney to evaluate a legal minefield like this one is advised. Thanks for your question and all the best to your family.

Dave Kimbrough
The Kimbrough Team

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Do open houses really work to sell homes?

Grand Junction Real Estate Advice

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Dave,

Do open houses really benefit sellers? Our home has been on the market for a few months and we’ve had four open houses per our realtor’s advice and still no offer! We understand that we should be as accommodating as possible if we want to get our home sold, but it’s a lot of work planning a day away from home with our three young children so an open house can happen.

Our realtor says each open house has had a lot of traffic, but just no luck on an offer! We’re starting to wonder if open houses really work to sell homes or they’re just a way for neighbors to come check out our home and compare it to theirs!

Brittany, Grand Junction


Brittany,

The age old real estate question, do open houses really work? I hear this question at virtually every appointment I go on and this is what I believe to be true about open houses. I can reiterate what you already experienced, statistically they are not effective at selling houses. A number somewhere in the vicinity of 2% of homes sold are sold as a result of an open house. If you are one of the 2% they are awesome, but if your one of the 98% they are far less awesome and quickly become very disappointing! In my opinion 2% is far too low to make it a staple of any “true” marketing plan. I understand having an open house every once in a while, however they certainly should NOT be the backbone of any marketing plan that you should take serious or think will prove very effective.

I do not believe the open house is a necessary tool. For selling homes, a solid and consistent marketing plan is far more efficient and far more productive than having you displaced every Sunday afternoon.

I do not believe the open house is a necessary tool. For selling homes, a solid and consistent marketing plan is far more efficient and far more productive than having you displaced every Sunday afternoon so your agent can look busy and meet new clients. With the proliferation of the internet and the amount of information at our finger tips the usefulness of the traditional open house is not what it used to be. I would not worry one bit about missing out on the Sunday open house. I am not saying it will not work, just saying that it will not work very often. Hope this helps.

Dave Kimbrough
The Kimbrough Team

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