flipper homes

How to Pick a Sales Price Without Comparable Sales

Best Offer Bid for Sacramento Home.300x300Trying to pick a sales price when there are few to none comparable sales is a little bit tricky in our Sacramento real estate market, but this is when an experienced real estate agent can be very helpful. Sometimes it comes down to relying on gut instinct, mixed with a bit of pixie dust sprinkled on top of those dusty old comparable sales, to come up with an accurate and reasonable number.

Further, I might do goofy things that are right on target such as grab a random sales price from 2005, divide it in half, multiple that result by 50%, and then slap another 25% on top to arrive at an estimate of value, which is often much closer than Zillow’s screwy Zestimate and computed about in the same fashion. But that’s just to double-check the ballpark. It’s not to pick a sales price.

When talking with a seller who just closed escrow yesterday on a fixer home I had listed, we had discussed the sales price and reviewed how we arrived at the final number. I confessed that it wasn’t based entirely on the comparable sales. My input was based a lot on how much I thought we could get for the property, resulting in the intrinsic market value of that home. The seller laughed and said he realized I had grabbed it from thin air when I made the recommendation.

Well, I wouldn’t say thin air. But it was an educated guess. It was an educated guess because although I had examined the comp prices for turnkey homes, I had not arrived at a value for the unknown condition of the property, which was basically trashed. I had been expecting to see a home in move-in condition. These types of homes are a bit difficult to price when the home has so much wrong with it that you can’t even figure out which part of the house you’re standing in. Oh, this must be the living room, I muttered to nobody, when it dawned on me where I was as the floor suddenly sloped down under my feet.

After hitting the market, lots of agents called to give me push back and to complain about the price. They thought it was too high. Many offered substantially less. They moaned and groaned. Hey, give the sellers what they want, I suggested; it’s simple, just do it. Don’t yak at me about the comps and your honorable intentions. Put up or shut up. Then, two buyers submitted offers that were very close to our asking price, and those were the two buyers we worked with, closing with the best offer and zero renegotiations during escrow.

Sometimes, you just get lucky trying to pick a sales price, but it helps to have experience on your side when you’re the seller.

How Not to Flip Your Sacramento Home

Flip Home Sacramento.300x225Can you make $100,000 profit on a Sacramento home you bought last summer and flip it? To clarify the answer further, let’s say the home was purchased at market value, the price at which most homes in Sacramento sell. Forget about the fact that the home abuts a gated community, and it’s not actually located in the gated community but instead is situated on a busy street with traffic. The caller wanted to know if she could make $100,000 profit, darn it, she wants to flip. Flipping the home is her goal because she and her husband no longer want to own this house.

Why don’t they want to own the house they bought only last summer? Because the work commute to San Francisco is too long. The sellers underestimated how gruesome it would be to drive 2 hours each way every day to go to work. So, now it is imperative that they make $100,000 profit and dump what they view as a bad decision. They’ll just flip it. They watch cable TV.

I tried to explain to the seller — without looking up the sale of her home or anything about it — that our market experienced its big appreciation in 2012. The first half of 2013 brought more appreciation and we saw another leap. But we’re pretty much done jumping around at the moment, and the market has been fairly stable since last July. I wondered what she thought would make her home worth $100,000 more than she paid for it, plus the costs of sale to flip it.

To get the answer, I go where I usually go when I’m looking for horribly bad property information that is widely available to the unsuspecting public — which is Zillow and its Zestimate. Believe it or not, this time Zillow wasn’t that far off on value, maybe by only $20,000, so it wasn’t Zillow’s fault. I pulled up listings in MLS to see what else was for sale in her neighborhood because sometimes it’s another home for sale in Sacramento that makes sellers think they can get more for their home. Hey, it’s down the street and on the market . . .

They don’t always realize that people can ask whatever they want. They stick any old price tag on it and find a real estate agent who is willing to list that home for sale. Sometimes, believe it or not, that Sacramento real estate agent could even be me as I don’t always turn down overpriced listings with potential — because those homes could sell someday for less, and I’d like to be that agent when they sell. It’s not my home. I do inform my sellers if I believe the price is too high, but it’s always their call because it’s their property.

Sure enough, I found a home for sale that is listed at about $100,000 more within a half-mile radius. It has a ton of upgrades. Quiet street. Nicer location. Bigger property, single level, and in fact wasn’t really a comparable sale at all in the world of Sacramento real estate. The potential seller who contacted me had a solution for this though, she could put in $50,000 to remodel her home and then she could make $100,000. Is she a professional flipper? Don’t think so.

And this is what HGTV has done to the minds of otherwise normal people.

The difference between me and the other two real estate agents she called? I talked to her. But my name would be mud if I encouraged her, and that’s just not the right thing to do. It means I won’t get the listing, but that’s how it goes.

How Sacramento Flipper Homes Are Changing the Market

Quartz-countertopOn our way home from the Tower Theatre in Land Park yesterday, my husband and I stopped at the Target store on Broadway. I didn’t want to go in, but he made me. I don’t enjoy the Target shopping experience like he does and, besides, they moved everything around since I was last there back in the Stone Ages. We walked by the Mother’s Day card aisle. This was the middle of afternoon on Mother’s Day. It was crowded with people looking at Mother’s Day cards. I wanted to stop, thrust my hands to my hips and yell in a very loud voice: REALLY? You can’t get it together before Mother’s Day? You wait for the last possible moment?

I refrained because I know that other people are not always organized, we all lead busy lives with not enough time for the essentials, and I should not be judgmental. Or, maybe I felt that way because first-time home buyers in Sacramento are developing such high expectations that I want to strangle some of them. Buyers are pretty darned judgmental. Don’t get me wrong, Sacramento home buyers have a right to be judgmental, it’s their home, but some of those judgments are being manipulated.

I know this because 4 or 5 years ago, a buyer would walk into an older home in Land Park, East Sacramento or Curtis Park and ooh and ah over the architectural features and original detailing. Buyers loved to caress the stained wood doorways, tug on the tassel lights, admire the basket-weave tile in the baths. Now, they walk into the kitchen featuring an original washboard sink and blurt, “Whoa. This is not Elk Grove. Where are my granite counters?”

And you know where they get this idea? From the investor flippers. There are so many flipper homes in our marketplace right now, tearing the guts out of homes, stripping these historical legends down to the studs, and pouring in cheapass materials, installed by cheapass labor. Buyers don’t know if there are a swarm of termites in the kitchen walls, and they don’t care because they are loving those granite countertops.

If you are buying a flipper house, be careful. There are many flipper homes in Sacramento in 2013. Some of these homes were ruins that investors picked up for pennies at foreclosure auctions on the courthouse steps. These types of homes could have sat untouched and vacant for years. You don’t know if there is mold in those homes or if they were flooded, vandalized or smeared floor-to-ceiling with feces. I’ve sold some of them in that condition, and I know what they look like.

Throw on a coat of paint, refinish the hardwood, stick in the Ikea cabinetry, replace all of the appliances with low-end new and voila, you’ve got all these flipper homes ready for the market. Because first-time home buyers will buy the bells and whistles.

The flipper syndrome affects our Sacramento marketplace because the landscape of our marketplace is changing. If your home doesn’t have updates, it’s considered a fixer and first-time home buyers will pay a lot of less for it. We can thank the flippers for that attitude.

If you’re looking to buy or sell a home in Sacramento, call Elizabeth Weintraub at 916.233.6759.

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