Wednesday, March 21, 2007

What Bubble? Oregon Real Estate is Rocking

Bubble burst? What bubble burst? The danger in talking about local situations as if they applied across the board is that real estate is always a local situation and what's a bubble bursting in one area can be a time someone else's balloon is expanding rapidly.

Take a look at these metro areas that were the biggest value gainers in 2006, according the National Association of Realtors.

2006 biggest value gainers

Rank/Metropolitan statistical area/One-year appreciation (%)

1. Salem, Ore. 19.8

2 Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, Va.-N.C. 19.4

3 Spokane, Wash. 17.7

4 Salt Lake City, Utah 16.7

5 Eugene-Springfield, Ore. 16.7

6 Baton Rouge, La. 15.9

7 Gainesville, Fla. 15.9

8 Ocala, Fla. 15.5

9 Dover, Del. 14.7

10 Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton, Ore.-Wash. 14.7

Source: National Association of Realtors, February 2007 Metropolitan Area Existing-Home Prices and State Existing-Home Sales report

Monday, March 19, 2007

New study shows which words sell, and which don't

Words that help sell a home:

Handyman special
Curb appeal
Move-in condition

Words that hurt:

Motivated seller
Good value
New paint

Words matter. Wars have started over them. Civilizations have collapsed because of them. And it appears the speed with which a house sells might be determined by them.

As listings grow old on the vine in this flush-with-inventory market and frustrated sellers reach for the slightest edge, the findings of several academics might offer guidance.

For example, a Canadian professor, as part of a broader study on real-estate sales patterns, found that homes where the seller was "motivated" took 15 percent longer to sell, while houses listed as "handyman specials" flew off the market in half the average time. "It surprised even me," said researcher Paul Anglin, who teaches real-estate and housing trends at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada. The study dissected the wording of more than 20,000 Canadian home listings from 1997 to 2000.

What surprised him most was how the buying public put style over substance. Words that denoted "curb appeal" or general attractiveness helped a property sell faster than those that spoke of "value" and "price."

Homes described as "beautiful" moved 15 percent faster and for 5 percent more in price than the benchmark. "Good-value" homes sold for 5 percent less than average.

Another finding in Anglin's study was that the plea of "must see!" was received about as enthusiastically as a dinner-time telemarketing call. Using "must see" had a statistically insignificant effect on the number of days homes took to sell.

Listings where "landscaping" was heralded sold 20 percent faster, and homes in "move-in condition" took 12 percent less time to sell than the benchmark, although the study showed that "move-in condition" had an insignificant effect on the sales price.

Owners use listing language to convey how serious they are about selling. Some words work better than others, Anglin's study found. Listings in which the seller said he or she was "moving" sold for 1 percent less compared with 8 percent less when the seller was "motivated."

Real-estate listings, not unlike personal ads, are crafted to minimize blemishes and maximize perceived selling points. So if "enjoys moonlight walks on the beach and cooking together" means "I'm unemployed and am looking for someone who won't always expect to eat out," then "needs TLC" might mean "this house will have you on a first-name basis with the clerks at the local hardware store."

Anglin's study isn't alone in its attempt to determine what language moves the market.
Last year, the effect of listing language was covered in a National Bureau of Economic Research study that looked at whether real-estate agents selling their own homes hold out for a higher price. (They do; the study found they take longer to sell but fetch a higher price.) **perhaps it's because we know our own threshold for pain better than we know yours!**

Descriptions of houses that indicated an obvious problem — such as "foreclosure," "as-is" and "handyman special" — drew substantially lower sale prices.
Words that suggested desirable attributes — "granite," "maple," "gourmet" — translated into a higher sale price, the study found.

One problem discovered was that "superficially positive" words that, in effect, damn with faint praise — such as "clean" or "quiet" — had zero or even a negative correlation with prices.
Those findings echo those made in a 2000 paper, "Real Estate Agent Remarks: Help or Hype?", researched by University of Texas finance and real-estate professor Ronald Rutherford.
Rutherford found, among other things, that buyers read between the lines. If you can't find anything better to say than "new paint," perhaps it's best to say nothing at all.

Positive and factually verifiable comments such as "golf" or "lake" drew increased sales prices. Other presumably positive comments regarding new paint or new carpet brought lower ones.
"What you say needs to be extravagant, or the signal that is received by buyers is that it's not worth talking about," Rutherford said.

But what do sellers know? "New paint" appeared on 15 percent of the listings and was the most commonly listed comment.

Rutherford said sellers would be best-served by a listing with "just the facts, ma'am."
"In today's market, if it's a good deal, you need to convey it with factually verifiable language," Rutherford said. An example: "Needs repairs."

Of the information from his study, conducted between 1994 and 1997 of almost 60,000 closed residential transactions in Tarrant County, Texas, what surprised him most? That homes with "motivated" sellers stayed on the market 15 percent longer than average and sold for 4 percent less. His theory: "They overpriced the house to start with and eventually had to lower it. That explains the length of time on the market and the lower sales price."
Does he have any advice for today's sellers?
"Yes," he said. "Avoid the word 'motivated.' "

By Ann Brenoff Los Angeles Times Heather McKinnon / The Seattle Times

The Latest Trend in Home Color? "Green."

Ten Things you can do now to create a greener home.

1. Light up. Replace incandescent bulbs with fluorescent bulbs.

2. Recycle. Basic, but still important.

3. Purchase Green Power. if available in your area, opt for green power.

4. Add Solar Power. Use federal tax credits and state buy-down programs to reduce emissions, and your energy bills.

5. Turn it Down, Turn it Up. Turn your heater down and your air conditioner up by three degrees.

6. Wash Cool. Do two loads of your laundry per week in cold water instead of hot, and hang things out to dry when you can.

7. Buy Smartly, Save Money. Energy Star appliances save money as well as 1,000 lbs. of CO2 a year.

8. Be Water Wise. Low-flow toilets can save up to 220,000 gallons of water per year for a family of four.

9. Use Green Paints. Buy no-VOC (volatile organic compounds) or low-VOC paints that can eliminate eye, nose and throat irritation, and more severe health threats.

10. Fan It. Installing a whole-house or ceiling fan improves interior comfort by circulating cold and warm air, and dramatically reduces the need for air conditioning, at one-tenth of the price.

For more great ideas on how to make your home greener, visit

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Housework abc's

aprons - y/n? Yes. I almost always wear them when I cook, though sometimes I forget to take them off when guests arrive. My favorite is one of my mom's that we gave to her when we were evil teenagers. It's yellow and it says "bitch bitch bitch" on the front.

baking - yes! I love baking cookies.

clothesline - y/n? Nope. Just a rod in the utility room where I hang things on hangers. And the deck railing is where I throw the big comforters when they come out of the wash to get that smell.

donuts - ever made them? Not since I was a little girl, but they're in my top 5 foods.

everyday - one homemaking thing you do everyday? Does making coffee count? Seriously, we split chores around here and Norris does almost all the dishes. I guess assembling a salad of some sort is my forte.

freezer - do you have a separate deep freezer? Yep and it's loaded with our new favorites - California Pizza Kitchen frozen pizzas (950 calories for the whole pie) and 40 calorie fudgesicles. Can you tell we're trying to lose a few?

garbage disposal - y/n? Yes. And the plumber told me not to put potato skins down there (as he was snaking out the drain literally 10 minutes before many many guests arrived.

handbook - y/n? Not sure what this means. Handbooks for all appliances and electronics are all in one place - if that's what they mean...Otherwise Martha is the source for all homemaking info I'll ever need.

ironing - love it or hate it? eh. It's ok, but I still have a bag of napkins that need to be ironed -this bag moved here with us from Pennsylvania in 1993.

junk drawer - where is it? In the utility room. We cleaned it after the kids went to college and you can find things now. Except for flashlights. They're all missing.

kitchen - design and decorating? We need an update. Typical 1991 oak cabinets, white tile counters and backsplash and white appliances. But I love the wall color - Devine Steamer - and we're going to splurge on a honking commercial range & double ovens, which will result in a complete remodel before we're through... coming soon. Still trying to determine the counter choice - which is leaning toward something that's not granite and is more industrial.

love - what is your favorite part of homemaking? Getting the house ready for the kids to come home, and for holiday dinners. The very best feeling of all.

mop - y/n? Not me. Thankfully, I have help in that department.

nylons - Seriously? Do I wear them? Heck no, nobody does anymore.

oven - do you use the window or open it to check? Open it.

pizza - what do you put on yours? Fresh tomatoes, roasted veggies, basil, mozzarella, sometimes mushrooms, onions, black olives or pepperoni if there are men eating.

quiet - what do you do during the day when you get a quiet moment? Read my latest book or fool around online.

recipe card box - big wooden box with 5x7 cards, plus an entire baker's rack filled with cookbooks. Not to mention

style of house – Traditional

tablecloths and napkins - y/n? Yes - lots and lots of linens. (some in need of ironing and 18 napkins still missing at the cleaners....see? I should have done my own ironing, but then they'd be in that bag....)

under the kitchen sink – Cleaning supplies, trash and recycling.

vacuum - how many times a week? Thank goodness for Renee.

wash - how many loads do you do a week? About two. Saturday morning. Norris does 'em.

x’es - do you keep a list of things to do and cross them off? Not religiously, but if I'm especially crunched, I do.

yard - who does what? That's my territory. That's why it looks so bad. We all hate doing it but we love it when it looks pretty and we can have fresh cut flowers in the house. The HOA mows the lawn. I have to do all the flower beds and sometimes I get help from Sally or Victor.

zzz’s - what is your last homemaking task for the day? Let the dog out for one last time. g'night.