It wasn't supposed to be two years. It wasn't supposed to be that you and I would share this
time every other Sunday getting to know one another for the last 24 months. But like any
home transaction, there has to be a closing. There has to be an end.
For the last 24 months, you invited me into your home through The Vindicator and entrusted
me to impart on you some wisdom that will help you with your home. Whether it was buying
or selling, improving, moving or just living, this column, that was a part of my responsibilities as
the President of the Youngstown Columbiana Association of REALTORS®, was something that
became very therapeutic for me. Like any perfect relationship, ours wasn't perfect. We've had
laughs. We had some disagreements. We shared stories and even helped each other out
during this time. But we've always came back, right here, for each other.
You see, I got into real estate more than a decade ago to not only follow in my father's
footsteps but because it was a career that provided me a chance to see just how much a home
matters to people. I got into being a real estate agent because I believe that REALTORS®
provide people with the one thing we all want in life – to have something that is ours. To turn a
house into something much more than a place made of wood and nails.
It is a place where you lay your head at night to feel safe, to come back to relax or to retreat,
even during a quarantine. It is a place where you welcome friends, family and others to
celebrate, commemorate, commiserate and contemplate all that is happening in our lives. It is
a place where new lives begin and, in my case, families begin to grow. A house is not a home
without the people who make it so by living in it. We make it our own just as does the next
family who continues to make their own memories once we have decided to move on to
another chapter in our lives.
More importantly, a home is unique to you. It doesn't matter the size, the shape, the location,
the age, the price or the value. Whether you rent or own, lease or finance, what matters is that
you have been blessed to have the opportunity to make it and call it yours.
For the last 2 years, this has been my time with you. But it is time I move on as well. Someone
else will take over this location and make it their own. However, please know that I have
enjoyed my time as President of YCAR, representing all the great male and female REALTORS®
of Youngstown and Columbiana through this column.
I want to thank Julie Larson, the CEO of YCAR®, and The Tribune/The Vindicator newspapers,
especially Marly Reichert, who have been with me every week over the past 2 years with this
These columns have rekindled a fire that has always been inside me for my love of the career I
have chosen. However, this time with you, has reminded me just how lucky I am to do what I
do for the amazing people in the Mahoning Valley that I, and all my fellow YCAR REALTORS®
also proudly call home. For that, I say, "Thank You!" Thank you for inviting me into your home
and thank you for allowing me to make this space in the newspaper more than just words in a
piece of paper for the last two years. It has been my home and I appreciate you sharing it with
Wishing you a happy, healthy and prosperous new year. Whatever journey it may bring, may it
always lead you back home.
I get it! Technology is great and the internet, along with eCommerce sites like Amazon, has brought the world together in a global marketplace. Trust me, with the holidays approaching, I feel like I might as well offer the Amazon, USPS, UPS or FedEx drivers a room in our home they are here so often. But not everything translates well to an online sales environment. Some things, you just have to see for yourself. They have to feel like they are yours and when it comes to highly involved purchase decisions, like, oh…say….BUYING A HOME, there is no online experience that can replace what a REALTOR® offers you in person. Think I'm wrong?
Zillow, arguably, one of the world's largest digital real estate companies, announced earlier this month that they are closing their doors to their home buying division. The company that showcases homes and allows you to compare, contrast and even contact agents to set up appointments, tried to convert to an actual brokerage and, in 3-years, called the movers and packed up.
You have gotten to know me well enough to know that I am not an, "I told you so," type of person. OK, who am I kidding? I told you so!
The company, in a press release on November 2nd , cited significant reduction in earnings in the 3rd quarter, despite home prices being the highest they have ever been and interest rates being as low as they have ever been, causing homes to continue to sell in record time. So, how is this possible?
According to Zillow's CEO, Rich Barton, the release stated that the closer of their home buying division, Offers, and the layoff of 25% of their staff was because, "The unpredictability in forecasting home prices far exceeds what we anticipated."
Last year in an article, I addressed how the in-person experience of using a REALTOR® to buy or sell your home is still the best way to ensure your purchase is perfect for you. While technology improves our lives in a great variety of ways, there is no replacement for human interaction in any transactions. Orders still need to be processed and packaged by someone. Your gifts for the holidays need to be delivered by someone. And, when it comes to real estate, a REALTOR® is still the best way to find your home sweet home.
Your REALTOR®, thanks to the help of the Youngstown Columbiana Association of REALTORS®, not only predicted the market movement, but has been able to meet the demand for buyers and sellers. Their local knowledge and connections more useful and beneficial than any connection to a server or processor. While their knowledge and expertise far outweigh the computing power and connectivity of an online option, the best reason they will always be the best option for buying or selling your home is because of the emotional component that you get to share when you successfully complete your transaction. You can't smile with a confirmation screen, you can't hug an email and you can't celebrate with a device.
This is more than a transaction; it is a large decision that impacts everyone in your life. Trusting it to an algorithm, an online form or someone sitting behind a screen in Phoenix to tell you what your home in Warren, Youngstown, Canfield or Columbiana is worth just doesn't seem like the most personal way your biggest purchase should be handled.
But like I always say, I'm biased. However, as a proud member and President of YCAR, representing REALTORS® across the Mahoning Valley, I'd like to say to each and every one of the real estate agents who proudly serve our area, "THANK YOU!" Technology will evolve and make our lives more convenient but it will never replace, replicate or reconfigure the most important part to any real estate transaction….YOU!
While all of you were enjoying the tricks of the Halloween season, I was counting the treats I
received from all of you in the form of emails asking me questions about selling your home.
Let's get to your questions!
"I just bought my home in January and interest rates have dropped since I financed it. Can I
refinance my home even though it hasn't been a year since I bought it?" - Sarah (Salem, OH)
Happy one year anniversary, Sarah, well, almost! We get this question quite a bit, especially
with interest rates STILL at an all time low. In your case, Sarah, yes, you can refinance. In order
to refinance, you must have at least a 6-month period in between financing applications and
transactions. So get with your local lender or, in your case, call the title company you closed
with a year ago, since they may able to offer a reissue rate and you can save on your closing
costs. It will help put more money in your pocket, especially with the holidays coming up.
"Is it ok to double dip a chip when at a holiday party?" - Steve (Hubbard, OH)
No. Never. I award you no points, Steve, and I hope we aren't at the same dipping bowl at a
party together. You're better than that, Steve!
Last question if the week. Who's up?
"I'm one of those people that puts Christmas decorations up in November. Does putting holiday
decorations up early, or at all, hurt my chances of selling my home?" - Debbie (Boardman, OH)
You're one of "those people," huh, Debbie? So am I! I love the holiday season and I love
decorating my home for Christmas. You'd think home sales would slow in the 4th quarter with
the holidays, but they don't! And decorations actually help create a vision and experience for
people who come through the house to make it feel even more special. However, don't go
overboard! They're looking to buy your home, not hire some elves and turn it into a workshop for
Only a few more weeks until Thanksgiving, and just a handful more than that until my tenure as
your President is up. Time for me to finish with a bang. Tune in two weeks from to see how we'll
end the year together!
Let's be honest, with all of us having been in masks for the last year, every day might as well be
Halloween. But Halloween is back and so are the costumes, the treats and the tricks.
Whatever you are deciding to do for Halloween, your home is the one place to make sure there
is nothing but treats awaiting your ghoulish visitors this year.
As my treat to you, I'm going to take a break from the awesome questions that we have been
receiving. You can still email me your real estate questions to email@example.com, we'll get back
to in two weeks. But until then, open up your bag and allow me to pour in some tricks to make
sure your home is safe for your visitors this Halloween.
Light It Up
While dim and dark areas create a great mood for Halloween, they can also lead to people not
being able to see where they are going. Be sure to replace bulbs that are defective outside and
even install additional, temporary lights to help people as they navigate through your property.
If you are passing out treats, be sure to leave your light on. If you won't be home, make sure
your lights are off to let people know you are a party pooper.
Clear a Path
As trick-or-treaters walk up to your door for their surprise, make sure your walkways, steps,
porch and yards are free from clutter and debris. If you are one of those houses that goes "all
out" on this frightful night, be sure that those decorations are a safe distance from your visitors,
so they don't knock them over or damage them. If you have blowup items or yard decorations,
make sure they are securely fastened into the ground and that all electrical cords are not loose
for people to trip over.
Keep Your Pets Inside
Some of the costumes this year will be quite scary. However, for you pets, ALL costumes are
scary. Pets can be easily frightened, so be sure to keep your little creatures inside the house to
protect them from cars, while protecting your trick-or-treaters from encountering them.
Be Sure Your Home is Secure
While you're giving out treats, there are those who are looking to pull a trick on you by causing
damage to your home or burglarizing your property. Make sure you lock all of your doors,
except the one you will be distributing from, your cars are in the garage with the garage doors
closed and, if you have a security alarm, it is armed and functioning if you decide to leave your
home for the evening.
One more tip, and this is probably the most important one of all: give the kids who come some
treats, for crying out loud. Healthy teeth are very necessary but an apple, pennies or a
toothbrush or toothpaste doesn't make your home a popular place with the kids. There are
healthy alternative snacks that take into account allergies and special circumstances that still
leave your visitors happy and in the Halloween spirit.
Here's to a happy, safe and festive Halloween to all of you!
The questions keep flowing in, which is awesome! Normally, I kick off the articles with a fun,
little paragraph that makes you chuckle or smile, or at least I hope it does, but we've got an In
Box full of questions. Who am I to commandeer this space with my own verbal escapades and
deprive my fans of the answers they are seeking? So without further ado, let's roll!
"Everyone talks about Spring cleaning with your home. What about Fall cleaning? Should I be
doing anything to prepare my house for the upcoming seasons?"
- Tammy K. (Warren, OH)
Yes, Tammy, it is a thing and it is an important thing. As the weather gets cooler, making sure
you home is not only free of leaves, but properly sealing your windows and doors can keep your
heating costs low while being comfortable. While there is a host of chores you can do to Fall
Clean your home, when you are cleaning up your yard and gutters of leaves, be sure to check
your roof for any visible damage or flashing that may be present after the rain we had this year.
You may want to try to squeeze out the last few warm days of the fall, but bringing in your
patio furniture, draining and wrapping your hoses and cleaning off your deck are good things to
do as well. Lastly, be sure to have your chimney and your furnace, vents and ducts cleaned to
prepare for the cold weather that is just on the horizon.
Ok, who's next?
"With all of these houses selling, you agents have to be making a ton of money. You're probably
charging people more money, too, because you keep talking about houses selling for more
money. No wonder you want to sell my home."
- Terrance Q. (Youngstown, OH)
Well, not really a question, Terrance, but I'll take this head on. The truth of the matter is, as
real estate agents, our commission on the sale of a home does not change. When a home is
sold, the commission is only paid to the listing brokerage. The brokerage then shares a portion
of that commission with any cooperating brokerage who was involved in the sale. Then, and
only then, do agents wet their beak. The brokerages involved divide the commissions with their
agents. So, yeah, if the homes are selling for more money, we do get more for the value of
work we are doing. But that also means YOU are getting more money, Terrance. In business
we call that the proverbial "Win-Win" scenario.
"I am a first time, new homeowner, recently purchasing my over the summer. With election
season coming up, there may be ballot issues about school levies and more taxes. Do these
levies impact the value of my home?"
- Stephanie D. (Trumbull County, OH)
First of all, Stephanie, congratulations on the purchase of your new home! That is awesome!
Levies, and school levies in particular, are difficult decisions. Taxes are a big thing for you now
that you own your home. School levies are important in keeping schools properly funded but it
comes at a cost. I am not telling you how to vote, but as a concerned homeowner, if you ever
want to hedge your bets on the value of a property, voting YES on school, police, fire and
infrastructure levies helps to protect your home value. However, the only real way to protect
your home's value it making sure you keep up on the maintenance of your new home,
If you happen to have more for me, please email them to ThePrez@ycar.org and you can be
featured here soon.
Everyone always says, "Be careful what you ask for because you just might get it." Well, I asked
for your questions in my last article. And, boy, did you respond! The amount of questions that
have come in over the past two weeks are more than I even imagined. With every email, I felt
like Sally Field standing at the podium holding her award saying, "You like me! You really like
me!" So, thanks for that.
I filtered through the questions and I'm excited to answer a few in this week's column. I say,
"filtered," because when I said to ask me anything, well, some of you took that to the extreme.
While I'm sure my color underwear, whether the Buckeye's are going to cover the point spread
this weekend or what my favorite pizza is in the Mahoning Valley are the talk of the water
cooler on Monday's after my column, I'm going to refrain stick with the real estate questions.
Maybe we'll save those questions and answers for my last column of the year. Who knows?
In any event, there are a few questions I thought were great to kick off this new format so,
without further ado, let's see who has our first question!
"I have a 4-bedroom home. 4 1/2 baths. One bath has a tub. It is not easy to get into it due to
the glass doors and size of bathroom. I would like to make it into a shower bath as well. If I go to
sell, will not having a bathtub be a 'downer' if I decide to sell?" – Lenora D.
Thanks for sending in this question, Lenora. Sounds like there is no waiting in line at your house
to use the loo! This has been a question that has been coming up quite often with sellers
during the pandemic as they look to improve their bathrooms or create new ones in their
home. While walk-in showers and elimination of tubs have become more popular, eliminating
a home's only full bathroom could turn off potential buyers. According to The National
Association of REALTORS®, if the home has at least one tub, switching other bathrooms from a
tub to a shower only design shouldn't negatively impact resale value. Thanks for the question,
OK, who's next?
"I have put in offers on multiple houses and continue to get outbid. How is this even possible if
I'm putting in an offer that is the asking price or even above it! Don't I get a chance to
respond?" – Jeremy P.
Jeremy, unfortunately, you're not the only one experiencing this disappointment. The housing
market continues to be a bull in a China shop for sellers. Houses are staying on the market for
an average of 9 days after being listed and selling more than 20% higher than what they were
selling for back in January, according to MLS data in the Mahoning Valley for August of 2021. It
sounds like you are putting your best offer in, which is key. However, if you are willing to go
higher, you should work with your REALTOR® to put in what is called an Escalation Clause. Back
in February, I wrote about this and advised to have this in your contracts. It helps protect you
in these scenarios and shows you are serious about purchasing the home. Thanks, Jeremy!
Well, look like that's all the time we have for this installment of Ask Me Anything. If we didn't
get to your question, we will try in the next column or, if you have a question you want to ask,
feel free email ThePrez@ycar.org and I'll add it to the list.
For the last 20 months, you've welcomed me into your home and let me rant and rave about the state of the real estate market here in the Mahoning Valley. From tips and information to laughs and foreshadowing, every other week, you have had the opportunity to hear what I have to say.
Well now…I want to hear from you!
That's right! I'm opening up the floodgates and giving you the opportunity to ask me anything…yes, ANYTHING. From housing market tips and trends to thoughts on improvements and selling your house, nothing is off-limits.
I'll either reply to you directly or share some of these questions and responses in the remaining articles we have this year.
I have been telling you what I think you need to hear. Now, it's time for you to tell me what you want to hear!
So, simply email me at ThePrez@ycar.org and I'll be sure to get back to each one of you.
Now, who's first?
From masks to hand sanitizers and safe social distancing, the world around us has changed thanks to the fight to dampen the Covid-19 curve. One of the areas that has felt the effects of the virus is in contracting services for home improvements. Some projects are more challenging than others, whether it is getting on the schedule of backed up contractors or following the guidelines for a safe environment for people to work, deciding what projects you should tackle to increase your home value now has to contend with Covid-19 challenges. But don't worry, I'm here to help…as always!
Reaping the payoff rewards of a home improvement is always a challenge. While completing a big-ticket project in a time of economic uncertainty is now even more difficult, if you're a seller with a house in need of a little TLC, you should redirect your attention to lower-budget upgrades that yield a return and appeal to buyers. Here are 4 improvement projects under $10,000 that Realtor.com identified as ways you can quickly update your home before listing it on the market.
NEW FRONT DOOR ($2,000 OR LESS)
The first experience a potential buyer sees is your front door. Whether it is a fresh coat of paint, new door handles, accessories like address numbers or a doorknocker or lights, these small things can make the entry of your house make them feel like home. Even if you need a new door, this investment is one that can easily be done and add value to the experience.
KITCHEN OR BATHROOM ($9,000 OR LESS)
Outdated kitchens and bathrooms can sink the value of a home. With more people staying at home for cooking and entertaining, the kitchen is the natural gathering place in a home. Food unites people and having an updated area to entertain, from a safe distance of course, or bond with family helps put potential buyers in a place where they can see themselves when touring your house.
For bathrooms, new vanities, tile, fixtures, and showerheads are key attributes people look at when touring your "lue." Also, a deep clean, making sure the rings in the bathtubs and toilets are gone, helps make them feel you are taking this Covid time seriously and they are purchasing a clean home.
BACKYARD UPGRADES ($500-$10,000)
Backyards used to be a separate piece of the house. Now, everyone views it as an extension of the home. Pools have become a hot commodity, as have fountains, ponds and just a relaxing area with a small fire pit. A small water feature or fire pit makes a huge impression and can be installed as little as $500. Landscape lighting, flowers and a patio with furniture provides a welcomed escape for people to feel like they have a place to enjoy the outdoors while feeling safe at home.
HOME OFFICE ($1,000-$7,500)
Zoom® calls and virtual schooling are now causing people to look for space in potential homes that have spot to get work done. Whether it is an extra bedroom or a small space in the basement, converting an area with some furniture, accessories and shelves can be an inexpensive way to show the versatility of your home for people to comfortably work or learn without leaving the house.
I'm ready to get back to normal, but as long as masks and social distancing exists, preparing your home to sell has shifted the focus of the types of home improvement projects your house needs. These ideas are the shot in the arm your home may need to yield a better sale price, but always consult your REALTOR® for their expert opinion because your home might just be ready to go as is.
There are few things in my life that I can say, without certain, that I know what I'm talking about. Racing cars? Most definitely. What my wife is thinking? Not so much. Real estate? One hundred and ten thousand percent yes.
Do you remember back in March the article I published here called, "The Waiting Game?" It talked about the pitfalls you may run into by waiting to purchase or sell your home now instead of acting now and taking advantage of where the market is? Yeah, that one!
Well, told ya so.
The housing market has continued to sprout like an adolescent teenager going through a growth spurt. One minute they aren't tall enough to ride "Fireball" at the Canfield Fair, and the next minute they are the starting Center on their AAU basketball team.
The fact of the matter is the housing market is not slowing down. The low interest rates continue to put buyers in an aggressive position to be able to purchase more homes for less money than they have ever been able to do in decades. This is not only a good thing for buyers but sellers as well. Homes are staying on the market shorter than at any point I have ever seen in my (mumble) years of being in this business. This is causing bidding wars leaving sellers with an average of 13% more for their home than they could have gotten in January, according to data from YCAR on of homes sold in July 2021 vs. January 2021.
According to the NAHB/Wells Fargo Housing Opportunity Index (HOI) released early this month, soaring building material costs, high demand, and the short amount of time homes that are listed last on the market have added tens of thousands of dollars to the price of a new home and caused housing affordability to fall to its lowest level in nearly a decade during the second quarter of 2021.
The report stated that 56.6% of new and existing homes sold between the beginning of April and the end of June were affordable to families earning the U.S. median income of $79,900. Compare this to the 63.1% of homes sold in the first quarter of 2021. But this shouldn't discourage you from either buying or selling your home because you are in a great market even with the housing boom we are watching unfold.
Did you know that the Mahoning Valley is the third most affordable major housing market in the entire country?!?!?! While Pittsburgh, PA, leads the nation as its most affordable major housing market, Youngstown-Warren-Columbiana is not too far behind with over 80% of people being able to afford a home in the area. So what are you waiting for?
I am not an "I told you so" person. OK, well, I guess I am if I'm putting it out there in this article, but it is not done with malice or for my own self-interest or reward. It is to show you that The Waiting Game we talked about in March is not one that leaves you, the buyer, victorious. I don't know much, but I know the conditions in the market are still right for you to find the home of your dreams or to reap the rewards of selling your home. The next time I tell you just might be too late. But you should know this…buy now.
The new car smell. The feeling of a new pair of jeans. The sounds of a new beverage can being opened. Let's be honest, who doesn't love getting something that's brand new, especially if it was designed and built just for you? While many people hear "custom" and think "crazy expensive," the value of having something that is exactly right may outweigh the costs involved, especially when it comes to building a new home.
Whether you build a new home or buy an existing one, the financial obligation of owning any home is too great to not make the right decision. As many people come up empty-handed in looking for the home of their dreams on the market, building a custom home or villa has become an option for many. If you are unsure if you should build a home, here are some things to consider before making that choice.
BUILT WITH YOU IN MIND
One of the best reasons to build a home is because it is customized to you. You'll get most of everything you are looking for, from doorknobs to layout, the home is built with you in mind. But aside from the actual home, you also get to pick where your home will be. Whether you're looking in Canfield or Poland, Niles or Howland, Columbiana or Salem, you have the opportunity to not just build the home of your dreams, but to avoid competition for finding a home in a community you want to be in.
ELIMINATE THE COMPETITION
Competition in today's marketplace is at an all-time high. Inventory is not an issue, but the number of time homes are on the market is. By choosing to build a home, you are taking yourself out of the feverish competition of bidding, hoping, and praying that you get the house that just came on the market. If you are looking to build, the headaches of getting into a bidding war are gone, as are maintenance issues you may run into.
YOU STILL NEED A REALTOR
Shocking, right? Like selling your home, you can do this on your own, but the best way to figure out if building a home is best for you is by connecting and enlisting the help of a professional real estate agent. They not only know the market but also know the areas, the costs involved and can even help you with finding reputable contractors, should you want to go down this path. Best of all, if building your home is not in your cards, they already know what you are looking for and can be the best advocate to help you find something that is perfect for you when it comes on the market.
KEEP UP WITH JONESES
If you like new things or don't like to repair old things, building a new home may be in your cards. New homes not only have to be held to the latest building codes, but they will also have the latest technologies, latest features, and advancements in building and energy efficiency as well as ways to save costs in the long run. When buying a preexisting home, you may run into issues with the roof or the furnace or the hot water tank that you may not know about. In building your new home, these maintenance issues are no longer a concern.