Would you know how to look for a home for a client who uses a wheelchair? Do you know how to identify accessible features when listing a home to market them to a wider audience on RMLSweb?
July 26th is the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, a piece of legislation crafted to eliminate discrimination against people with physical or mental conditions that may require accommodations. Last week, an educational forum organized by the Portland Metro Association of REALTORS® (PMAR) explored the intersection of real estate and accessibility—from looking at how a brokerage can improve accessibility in the office to the perspective of a local REALTOR® who uses a wheelchair.
Today we aim to educate RMLS™ subscribers on how they may use RMLSweb more effectively in both the listing and buying processes.
The Accessibility Field on RMLSweb
Accessibility has been addressed on RMLSweb for years, with the Accessibility field being regularly reviewed and developed by the RMLS™ Forms Committee. Over the years this field has been expanded to include wide parking spaces, stair assistance, roll-in showers, and more.
The Devil’s in the Details
How wide must a doorway be to be marked as WD-DOOR? Specificity helps REALTORS® do their job, so prospective clients don’t arrive at a property to find the listing inadequate for their needs—perhaps sporting a dangerously steep ramp or a ‘wide’ hallway where a wheelchair can’t turn.
Document #1211 on RMLSweb, Accessibility Term Definitions, defines minimum standards for each accessibility feature. REALTORS® listing a property should verify the specified measurements on each feature before marking the appropriate field in RMLSweb.
(We also include the accessibility terms on Document #1210, Listing Abbreviations, but this document only unravels abbreviations without specific details about each feature.)
In the Thick of Listing or Searching for a Property?
If you’re listing a property using Listing Load, click on the linked text that says “Accessibility” for a pop-up window with full definitions.
Searching for properties for a client? In Advanced Search, select the Accessibility field and then click the Help link for full definitions.
Incorrect Data? Let Us Know!
What if, as a buyer agent, you show a listing that don’t quite meet the standards outlined on the definitions document? Report the listing to RMLS™ using the Report Issue button! Our staff will contact the listing agent to get things ironed out.
Have any suggestions for improving how RMLSweb communicates a listing’s accessibility? Submit a suggestion to the RMLS™ Forms Committee by contacting Christina Smestad.
If you want to get a home sold quickly and inexpensively, you should review these sales and design tips.
Even with rising values and reduced inventory in certain markets, selling a home remains challenging. Buyers expect not just a shiny new stainless sink but pruned hedges, freshly painted walls, glistening hardwood floors, and more. Making everything look great can cost a pretty penny, and many sellers won’t be able to afford all the suggestions you might make.
You can help them prioritize based on the condition of what’s needed most, what buyers in the area typically request, what competing houses offer, and — of course — cost. Here’s a list of 25 affordable, easy-to-make changes from top design and real-estate pros:
- Add power outlets with USB ports in rooms that lack them, especially in the kitchen, bathrooms, and bedrooms where they’re most needed. “Younger, more tech-savvy couples and individuals love them,” says Tyler Drew, broker and property investor with Anubis Properties Inc. in Los Angeles.
- Eliminate acoustic popcorn-style ceilings since they look dated and tacky.
- Remove exposed posts and half walls. Today’s buyers want more space, and partial walls and posts gobble up room. The only walls that should remain are those that offer privacy or conceal electrical wires or plumbing stacks.
- Update wiring for the Internet and flat-screen TVs. You don’t have to run CAT-5 through walls, which can be costly and require opening and closing and repainting walls. Instead, find a place to put a wireless router, Drew says.
- Clean carpets and wood floors since they’re often the first part of a room that buyers check out; you don’t need to replace them unless they’re in terrible shape. A good carpet steam cleaning or wood floor waxing can be relatively inexpensive, sometimes less than $200.
- Expand a small kitchen to make it work better and look larger. Two quick fixes: Change the backsplash by adding mirrors, stainless steel, or paint, which will introduce light and views; and add an island, which requires only 30” between counters and the island to pass through comfortably. If there’s not enough room for an island, bring in a rolling cart with pull-out shelves underneath and a wood top, says Libby Langdon, an interior designer, author, and expert with Liebherr Refrigeration..
- Clear out and clean a garage, a big selling feature.Power wash the floor or paint it if it’s in bad shape, remove dated cabinets, and remove all junk that’s been stored there, so prospects can see how much space they would have for their stuff.
- Change out corroded or dented door knobs and levers. The replacements don’t have to be expensive but they should look new and clean, Chicago architect Allan J. Grant suggests.
- Pay attention to landscaping, which can add 7 to 15 percent to a home’s value, according to HabitatDesign.com principals Jessy Berg and Bonnie Gemmell. Focus on mowing grass, removing crab grass, and eliminating dead plants and tree branches. “I’d rather have dirt and the potential to paint a picture for the buyers’ mind than a backyard full of dead plants,” Drew says. But if you have extra funds, consider Sacramento, Calif.-based landscape designer Michael Glassman’s ideas: Add lots of seasonal color through blooming annuals and perennial plants and remove problems like too much noise from traffic or neighbors by installing an inexpensive fountain with trickling water.
- Paint exterior windows, doors, gutters, downspouts, and trim, then go inside and paint the home’s trim, doorways, and walls that are in need of freshening. Don’t worry about the colors but consider those that veer toward quiet and comfort such as Benjamin Moore’s Yosemite Sand, Edgecomb Gray, or Carrington Beige. “Gray is a hot interior color now,” says Manchester, Vt.-based designer Amy Thebault. Painting rooms other, lighter colors such as white, yellow, and beige help to bounce and reflect sunlight and use more natural and less artificial light, according to Chris Ring, vice president at ProTect Painters, a professional painting source. But in cooler months, Ring says, dark colors such as deep brown and blue absorb sunlight, thereby reducing heating costs. And don’t forget ceilings, which can be a “fifth wall.” You can improve them with paint or old-style metal or faux-metal tiles, says Beverley Kruskol, a general contractor and owner of MY Pacific Building Inc. in Los Angeles.
- Remove outdated wallpaper, replacing it with paint and preferably a neutral color, says Shelley Beckes, ASID, CID, a designer with Beckes Interior Design in Los Angeles.
- Remove, store, or discard excessive accessories on tabletops and walls and in cabinets. “Less is more, and you want the house to be seen by prospective buyers without the distraction of too many personal items,” Grant says. Some suggest following the rule of three: Leave out only three things on any surface.
- Get the house inspected before it’s listed to know its condition and identify any structural issues that could derail sales. Many problems can’t be detected by an untrained eye, including those in a basement, crawl space, or attic, says BillJacques, president-elect of the American Society of Home Inspectors. “There might be roof damage or a plumbing leak. Many inspectors take photos and provide a detailed report,” he says. “And if home owners have repairs made, they should be handled by a qualified licensed contractor, so the home owner can get problems corrected.”
- Outfit closets for extra storage to make rooms look larger and less cluttered, but don’t redo all closets and elaborately. Top contenders for redos are an entry closet for a good first impression, kitchen pantries where storage is key, and a linen closet to keep sheets, towels, and other stuff neat, says Ginny Snook Scott, chief design officer at California Closets Co. “The costs needn’t be excessive. A linen closet can be fitted with baskets and cubbies for between $500 and $600, an entry closet for between $400 and $700, each dependent on closet size and features,” she says.
- Tighten a home’s “envelope” to improve energy efficiency and savings. Put money and effort into well-insulated double-paned windows, sealed furnace ducts, energy-efficient appliances, the newest programmable thermostats, LED and compact fluorescent lights, and a smart irrigation box on a sprinkler to cut water usage, says Kate Latham, energy consultant withWattzON, a service based in Mountain View, Calif., which analyzes home energy use to pare costs. “After a few months, sellers can show buyers how costs have dropped. They also should put together a green manual to show which features they added,” she explains.
- Improve a home’s healthfulness by using paints and adhesives with low or no VOCs. Point out these changes to prospective buyers in another list or manual, Latham says.
- Use what you have, and arrange each room in a conversational way if possible. Don’t set all furnishings in a family room so they face a TV, since most potential buyers like the idea of an open-room milieu for socializing.
- Remove and replaced faded draperies, fabrics, and rugs, or leave windows and floors bare to avoid showing lack of attention, Thebault says. Slipcovers, which can cover worn furniture can also provide an affordable decorative feature, changed for each season, says Hugh Rovit, CEO of Sure Fit, a manufacturer and distributor of ready-made slipcovers and other accessories. The company’s slipcovers range from $49.99 to $149.99, based on fabric and treatment.
- Replace old, dated, or worn bedding. Before any showing, fluff up pillows and covers, and make all beds neatly. Affordable choices can be found at stores like Target and Web sites likeOverstock.com.
- Toss out old magazines. “You don’t want a People magazine from a year ago; it looks like nobody lives in the house or cares,” Thebault says.
- Check smells regularly. Besides getting rid of bad odors from pets and mildew, introduce nice fresh fragrances, but don’t go heavy on scents from candles. A light lavender or citrus spray is smart and inoffensive. Open windows before showings to bring in fresh air.
- Make rooms lighter and larger for showings with good lighting. Thebault prefers warm, cool colors rather than fluorescents. Additionally, 60-watt bulbs are a good choice, even though they’re not as energy-efficient.
- Go with plants rather than flowers indoors since they last longer, but either choice can add vivacity to a room.
- Pay attention to your bathrooms. Specifically, make sure you have freshly laundered towels, new soap in soap dishes, spotless mirrors, and no mildew in view.
- Be sure your house is priced competitively with the current market and homes in your area. In most regions, it’s still the No. 1 “fix” to sell quickly. Go a bit under the market price, and you may even bring forth multiple offers that are higher than expected, says Jill Epstein, a REALTOR® with Nourmand & Associates in the Los Angeles area.
See a visual representation of distressed properties in our market!
One request we’ve frequently gotten from subscribers is to display data on Short Sales and Bank Owned properties. As a result, we have created brand new infographics to show how distressed properties identified as Short Sales or Bank Owned were represented in the 2010 housing market. This is the first report in an ongoing series that will show you how our local market has been affected by the economic downturn.
(Click the image to enlarge)
The above infographic shows a visual representation of the number of Bank Owned and Short Sales in all areas in the RMLS™ system during 2010. The top half shows new listings and sales for the entire year, while the bottom half shows new listings and sales by quarter. To download or print the infographic, click here.
Below are links to additional infographics for some of our larger areas:
Clark County, WA
Lane County, OR
Douglas County, OR
*If you want information on percentages of distressed sales in other areas not represented by our infographics, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As can be seen from the above infographic, the percentage of distressed sales within the overall housing market greatly increased in closed sales compared to new listings. Additionally, the amount of Short Sales decreased by more than a third when comparing closed sales with new listings. The quarterly trend shows an increase of new listings which were distressed, particularly in Quarter 3 and Quarter 4. Looking at sales, Quarter 2 and Quarter 3 both show decreases in distressed sales compared to Quarter 1, and Quarter 4 ended with only a 0.1% rise in distressed sales compared with Quarter 1.
Here are some additional facts about distressed properties in 2010:
- Distressed properties comprised 24.1% of new residential listings, and 29.3% of residential sales.
- Short Sales were 11.8% of new listings, and 8.9% of sales.
- Bank Owned properties were 12.3% of new listings, and 20.4% of sales.
PMAR’s public service website, HOWNW.com (Home Ownership Opportunities Northwest) has a new section that offers consumers information from reliable sources such as the National Association of Realtors®, the Federal Trade Commission, Fannie Mae and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency about how to avoid foreclosure and fraud.
To explore these useful new resources, visit: http://hownw.com/consumer/avoidingforeclosure.asp
There’s been some encouraging news lately in the RMLS™ market areas. The number of sales and pending sales are finally outpacing the totals from the same month in 2008. How much of it might be a result of the $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit, though?
I recently put together some statistics for the Oregonian on the Portland metro area, and thought I would share them with you.
There is no question that home sales in the lower-end of the market have seen a big jump this year. In 2007, homes priced between $0 and $249,999 only made up 35% of all sales in the Portland metro area. In 2009 so far, they make up 49.6% of the market.
As you’d expect, coinciding with the increase in lower-end homes is a drop in high-end homes. Homes priced $500,000 or above have dropped from 13.5% of the market in 2007, to just 8.2% of the market this year.
Click on the graph for a larger view
The question is: what will happen when the $8,000 tax credit expires on December 1?
I know the tax credit definitely got me off the fence & I can literally think of 15 of my friends and acquaintances (off the top of my head) who have bought or are actively looking to buy.
So in my humble opinion, there’s little doubt that the tax credit spurred people to buy. But as the deadline for the credit approaches, it should be interesting to see where sales go.
Rumor has it that first time buyers (thanks to the $8000 tax credit) and investors are making the bulk of home purchases these days. Like all savvy shoppers, I’m sure they want to make sure they are getting a good deal.
While, ultimately this is extremely personal calculation (because it depends on the buyer’s income, mortgage rates, how well the house will meet their needs, etc.) there is one generic indicator that we can use to get a sense of where the market is at overall: the Affordability Index.
This graph shows the affordability index for the Portland Metro Area by quarter since Sept. 2003.
According to our calculations (which are based on a formula we got from the National Association of Realtors a while back) houses have been becoming increasingly more affordable since September 2008. But what does that mean?
Let’s look at the index rating for April, which was 1.41 (see graph above). In theory, someone making the median family income $70,000 according to HUD (surprisingly it’s up this year) would earn 41 percent more money than they would need to be able to afford the monthly payment on the median priced home in the Portland Market ($246, 400 according to the April 2009 Portland Market Action–of course).
That is IF they got a loan at the 4.81 percent average interest rate per Freddie Mac in April AND they had a 20 percent down payment (which we all know isn’t all that common for first time home buyers these days).
Question is: what will happen now that interest rates are starting to creep back up? We’ll let you know in the July issue of Market Action—that’s the next time we calculate and report affordability in the newsletter.