Real estate: Win when the price is right

Michelle Silverman picture

In real estate, it's all about setting and getting the right price.

When sellers price competitively and buyers shop for the best deals, everyone wins.

Sellers need to collect stats on comparable sales in their neighborhood and set the asking price accordingly.

They also should consider home improvements to increase the property's value. Buyers should also review comp sales and research mortgage rates, as well.

In this interview, Michelle Silverman, San Diego real estate agent and publisher of Views of La Jolla, a real estate blog, provides helpful tips for sellers looking to add value to their homes and for buyers looking to make smart investments.

Q. From your experience, which home improvements have provided the largest increases in overall value?

A. I believe that every real estate market is different.

As a Realtor in La Jolla, Calif., I have found that the home improvements that provide the largest increase in overall home value are remodeled kitchens, extended outdoor living sections, baths and dual-pane windows. In the kitchen, high-end stainless steel appliances are a must. I am also finding that beautifully manicured landscaping, especially with sustainable gardens, is becoming very popular.

Q. How much should be invested in home improvements?

A. When you are investing in home improvements, it is very important to be mindful of not over-improving your home for neighborhood/town. As a homeowner, you never want your house to be the most expensive one in the neighborhood.

If your home is located in a mid-level neighborhood, do not put in a kitchen that belongs in a high-end area. You will never get the true value out of that investment. However, in a more upscale neighborhood, a high-end kitchen may be the norm.

Q. Why do you believe real estate is still a solid investment in today’s economy?

A. Even in today’s market, real estate has never been more of a solid investment. Home values in our La Jolla market are the lowest they've been in 10 years. Now is a great time to be a buyer or an investor. In fact, in the La Jolla market, we are experiencing multiple offers on homes that are priced right.

Q. Mortgage rates haven’t budged much since winter 2011. Where do you see the trend going?

A. I believe mortgage rates will stay low until after the presidential election but afterwards, who knows?

Q. What specific trends have you noticed in La Jolla/San Diego and what advice would you give buyers/sellers?

A. My advice for buyers on the fence is that now is the time to get off. Interest rates are still at historic lows, and home values might have hit their bottom. The truth is, no one knows when home values are at their lowest, but as a buyer you will definitely know when you’ve missed it.

Buyers, if you’re still waiting for home values to go down further, you might have already missed the mark.

Last year’s buyers capitalized on what could have been the bottom, and next year’s buyers will likely wonder why they didn’t purchase in 2012.

For sellers, the most important thing is to price your home right at the beginning. Do not overprice your home, otherwise you will be chasing the market down; sellers never come out ahead doing that.

Special thanks to Michelle Silverman, San Diego real estate agent and publisher of viewsoflajolla.com, a real estate blog, for insights and advice in this interview.