I work almost exclusively as a buyers agent so I look at a lot of homes. There are times I just walk away shaking my head thinking you can’t buy this house cheap enough. No house is perfect and certainly not the less expensive ones but I sometimes see houses that need a roof, AC, new flooring and the kitchen and baths are outdated as well. One or two updates are to be expected but not all of them ! You often see these homes in 55+ communities where someone buys a home and lives in it for 20 years without ever doing a thing to it. I don’t think much of foreclosures either. Foreclosures come with a Special Warranty Deed which is a limited warranty. I’ve asked people who work at title offices if they would buy a house with a special warranty deed and every single one has said no so far. The moral of this story is that houses are usually cheap for a reason and some you can’t buy cheap enough..
Here in Ocala we have the lowest median home prices in Florida. We have foreclosures, estate sales and even great prices on traditional sales. I mostly work with buyers and I’ve seen 100’s of such homes. I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a big mistake to concentrate on just the price. Buyers don’t think enough about condition.
I think the big 4 are the age of the roof, the AC heat pump unit, the flooring and the kitchen appliances. When looking at newer foreclosures I’d add landscaping to this list.
The roof. Standard shingles here last about 15 years. Some insurance companies won’t insure a house with a standard shingle roof over 15 years old. Architectural shingles are good for 20 years or so. The heat of our summers give a roof a real beating.
The AC unit, which in most cases is a heat pump, is harder to judge. An AC guy told me that they can break in 5 years and I’ve seen them 20 years old.
Flooring is really taken for granted. To carpet an entire house, as can be the case in an estate sale or even a newer foreclosure, can cost as much as a roof. For some reason buyers who would walk away from a house with a bad roof will have no problem replacing flooring. Flooring prices vary a lot from builder quality carpet to tile and wood floors.
Kitchen appliances can be 20 years old in an estate sale and missing altogether in many foreclosures. Here again there is a big difference in price between builder quality and top of the line. I do think appliances are at the bottom of the list price wise though.
Landscaping is often totally absent in foreclosures. No shrubs or trees, dead sod in the front of the home and a back yard that never had grass in the first place because builders here for some reason give an amount of sod that won’t cover the whole yard. You don’t over seed a bad lawn here. You rip out the old sod and lay down new sod. Mature trees and shrubs won’t add anything to an appraisal. However I owned a landscape company and I can tell you an extensive landscape job on the house in an empty field can cost as much as all the four items above combined! Curb appeal is what makes a house a home.
Am I trying to sell more expensive houses? No I just believe too many people are “Penny wise and pound foolish”. I’ve walked out of what at first appeared to be low priced homes and said to my buyers that they couldn’t buy that house cheap enough to make up for all the work it needed.
I’m writing this blog post in response to a recent article in the Ocala Star Banner about how the Ocala area has the dubious distinction of having the largest decline in homes values in the entire country in the 3rd quarter of 2010 as compared with the same period in 2009.
I thought the Star Banner article was too negative, just like most of their articles about local real estate. Low home values are bad if you’re a seller or a Realtor (my average commission is down 50% since 2006) but not if you are a buyer. Low home prices are great if you are a first time buyer or looking to retire here in sunny Florida. The Ocala area has a low wage structure and local people who couldn’t afford a home in 2006 can afford a home today. Homes in The Shores or Marion Oaks, built in the last 5 years, that originally sold for over $200,000.00, are now available as foreclosures for under $100,000.00.
The current median home price in the Ocala area is $82,000.00. I think this needs some explanation. The median home price is being brought down by really cheap sales. For example there were 77 sales in October under $50,000.00. Of this total there were 19 mobile homes, 27 were homes with fewer than 2 full bathrooms and 18 homes were smaller than 1,000 sq ft of living area. There were also 10 55+ homes in the under $50K category most of which were villas in On Top of the World. Now there’s nothing wrong with homes like these. Every area needs extremely affordable housing. I’m just pointing out that homes in the under $50K range require compromises that not everyone might want to make and it’s these under $50K sales that are bringing down our median home prices.
Lastly I want to make a few comments about foreclosures. As you know I like foreclosures but I haven’t sold one his year. I showed plenty of them but my buyers elected to spend more money on traditional sales. Why was that? When my buyers looked at what it would cost to get the foreclosed home up to the same condition as the traditional sale they decided it wasn’t worth the trouble. If you’re interested in foreclosures you should prepare in advance. You need to know what it costs to replace carpet, install tile or laminate flooring, the cost of appliances or even an AC unit or roof. To a lesser extent this would apply to some 55+ estate sales too.