Larchmont Real Estate Updates and Commentary

Larchmont Harbor.jpg

AT HOME IN LARCHMONT

What’s Up for 10538 in 2015  

By Megan McCarthy, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage;

We realtors have a few “tricks” up our sleeves to help optimize your return on investment when selling your home.  One strategy I recommend is getting my clients’ homes into the Spring market early.  Why?  They get the jump on the playing field.  Housing inventory is low, and buyers are awakening from their holiday slumber.   

This year is remarkable, in that January inventory is substantially lower than in previous years, even going back a decade.   On New Year’s Day, only 18 houses were for sale in the 10538 zip!  This is compared to 50 houses in 2013, and 34 in 2014.  Consider listing your home on February 1 instead of May 1!  

I expect that 2015 will be a happy year for our 10538 housing market.     I anticipate that home sales and housing prices will be on the increase.   Continuing low interest rates (30 year fixed is below 4%), lenders easing their standards, 3 million new jobs in 2014, and the decrease in unemployment (falling to 5.6%) will all help bring about increased confidence in housing consumers.

So that’s my opinion on what’s up for this year.

Now, a brief summary of 2014 for your review.

 

Market Snapshot:  10538 Single Family Homes, November 1 – December 31, 2014

 

Traditionally a quiet real estate period, this year was no exception.  

Five single family houses came on the market during this period, two of which went swiftly to contract by year’s end.  The “bargain” was 25 Cherry -- which in 1903 was the gatekeeper’s house to a Larchmont Avenue estate around the corner.  With 1,904 square feet, this charmer was offered at $1,199,000 and quickly claimed.  At the other end of the price spectrum, at $2,699,000, 16 Byron reemerged as a new listing again.  

Thirteen houses went to contract during this time.  8 Cabot, listed at $550,000, has three bedrooms and two baths.  Topping the charts, 15 Park Avenue, $4,950,000, went to contract in 83 days.  This 1897 beauty boasts 6,450 square feet of living space, 1.2 waterfront acres with a dock, and estimated taxes of $109,127 annually.

Twenty three houses sold between Halloween and New Years.  23 Elkan Road was listed at $409,500, went to contract in 82 days, and sold for $400,000.  On the other end, 14 Pryer Lane, listed at $5,200,000 went to contract in 112 days, and sold for $4,850,000.

 

Want more info about a house, or a complimentary study of your own home?  Megan McCarthy is a licensed real estate professional for Larchmont, Mamaroneck, New Rochelle, and Rye Neck, with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Larchmont, New York, and may be reached by email at megan.mccarthy@cbmoves.com, or by cell:  914-309-4648.


Before Putting Your Home on the Market:  Affordable Ideas

By Megan McCarthy, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage;

Last month, we talked about whether or not it’s a good idea to renovate your home before selling.  The basic idea, of course, is not to spend more remodeling than you can recoup in the sale.  

There’s no question that these days -- more than ever before – buyers adore those turnkey, easy-peasy houses -- with updated appliances, often with a spare and open floor-plan, neutral earth-tone paints and tile -- where all they have to do is hang a few prints, scatter some rugs, and voila, home sweet home!  

But most of us don’t live in houses like that.  As visitors to my home may note, we’ve cultivated a comfortable “lived-in look,” also thanks to our three dogs.  So what to do, if renovation isn’t in the stars?

Ask your real estate agent for advice.  And here are fifteen tips to spiff up a home:

  • Get rid of old wallpaper
  • Take up linoleum on front entrances, hallways, etc.
  • Paint interior of house and touch up the exterior blemishes
  • Remove or replace worn carpeting
  • Refinish floors
  • Take down heavy curtains and drapes
  • Remove “excess” furniture and knick-knacks 
  • De-clutter, including the attic, basement, and garage
  • Re-imagine the front walkway and the “first impression” of your house: Add foundation plantings, cheerful pots of flowers, etc.
  • Consider less expensive alternatives to a new kitchen:  New cabinet pulls, new countertop, take up linoleum floor and refinish wood floor underneath, etc.
  • Ditto for the bathrooms:  Pop on a new toilet seat, faucets, hang an artsy mirror, and so on.   
  • Trade out unattractive light fixtures for inexpensive cool ones
  • Make sure all windows are squeaky clean, letting in the light
  • Consider hiring a professional stager 
  • When in doubt, keep it neutral:  better bland than blaring


Thinking of putting your home on the market this Spring?  Our active Spring selling season actually begins in February.  So now is the ideal time to take on these projects.


MARKET SNAPSHOT:  10538 SINGLE FAMILY HOMES, OCTOBER 2014 

September and October traditionally show an upswing in new listings and buyer activity, second only to the Spring market.  But this year was a bit quieter than usual.  What might that mean?   Probably a super active Spring, since interest rates will still be appealingly low.

Eight houses came on the market in October, with 3 going to contract within the month.  8 Cabot Road, with 3 bedrooms and 2 baths, is the most affordable offering at $550,000.   At the other end of the scale, is 33 Pryer Lane, listed at $1,695,000, with 4 bedrooms and 3 baths (contracts signed in early November).

Seventeen houses went to contract.  40 Park Avenue, with 5 bedrooms and 4 baths, “that white house across from Manor Park” topped the chart with an asking price of $2,995,000.  Edgewater Place was the local bargain at $399,000; this 3 bedroom, 1 bath house went under contract in 24 days.

Ten houses sold during this period.  107 Laurel Avenue (4 bedrooms, 3 baths), listed in May for $599,000, sold for $569,000.  Three houses sold this month for $4 million or more.  Topping the luxury sales was One Cedar Island, which last changed hands in 2012 for $4,925,000.  Offered at $7,499,500, this 6 bedroom/8 bath house sold for $6,800,000 after 69 days on the market.  

Megan McCarthy is a licensed real estate professional with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Larchmont, NY, and may be reached by email at megan.mccarthy@cbmoves.com or by cell: 914-309-4648.


SHOULD YOU RENOVATE BEFORE SELLING?

By Megan McCarthy, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage

The answer is, it depends.  If you plan to live in your home a few more years, dreamed of remodeling your kitchen, and have the finances to do so, the answer may be yes.    But if you hope to sell your $700,000 house next year, and the estimate for the kitchen redo is $95,000, the answer may be no.

Of course, the basic rule is: don’t spend more than you can recoup at selling.   A real estate agent can advise you about this.  Some general guidelines are offered below.  But remember, a renovation is worth it if your family will enjoy home life even more for years before selling.   

Kitchens and bathrooms are obvious first picks for where to renovate.  Creating a family room where none existed before might also add resale value.   But going to pricey extremes – such as turning the garage into a family room – probably won’t help the cause.  

Renovations which increase your house’s footprint will increase its taxes.   Will your tax rate turn off prospective buyers?  Think twice before turning that screened porch into an enclosed office space before selling your house next year.  

What fun to have a media room, indoor lap pool, or home theater!  But renovating your basement to create these specialized, luxurious spaces may not pay you back in the end.  

Let’s say you have $1,000 laid aside for improvements before selling your home next year.  The money would be better spent on making your home more attractive vs. more functional.  Consider new kitchen knobs or refinishing the floors instead of replacing a functioning hot water heater or the window a/c units.

Next month, tune in to get some “tricks” to make your home a “treat” before selling – ways to spruce up without the cost of renovation.


MARKET SNAPSHOT:  10538 SINGLE FAMILY HOMES, SEPTEMBER, 2014

Twenty-one houses went on the market this month.  Topping the charts is 15 Park Avenue – formerly site of the Larchmont Yacht Club  -- an old charmer needing updating with 6,450 square feet (6 bedrooms and 6 baths) --  asking $6,350,000.  The most affordable 10538 house is 1 Edgewater Place -- with 3 bedrooms, 1 bath, and 1,206 sq. ft. of living space -- at $399,000.

A “lucky 13” homes went under contract in September.  738 Forest Avenue, beckoning builders, listed for $498,000 and went to contract in 15 days.  17 Revere Road ($489,000) found its true love after 277 days on the market.  And One Cedar Island – mentioned in our July column – is under contract after only 69 days on the market (listing price $7,499,500).

Eighteen houses sold this month.  9 Locust Terrace – 2 bedrooms and 2 baths – was originally listed for $405,000 and sold for $335,000 after 168 days on the market.  At the other end of the scale, dramatic 7 Rebeau Drive, with a ratio of 4 bedrooms to 7 baths, sold for $2,370,000; it was originally listed in May, 2013 for $3,399,000.


Megan McCarthy is a licensed real estate professional with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Larchmont, NY, and may be reached by email at meganmccarthyhomes@gmail.com or by cell:  914-309-4648

Open Houses, and How to Stand Out from the Crowd

By Megan McCarthy, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage


This week, along with children bundling back to school, you may be noticing all the Open House signs again in the neighborhood. September marks an active secondary real estate market in our region, and we’re off with a bang. 

Open houses are valuable marketing tools. They showcase your home and welcome in prospective buyers. There are two kinds of Open Houses, one for brokers and one for the public. Let’s discuss:

When your home first goes on the market, your agent will conduct a Broker’s Open House (BOH). In Larchmont, Mamaroneck, and Rye Neck these occur in the morning on Wednesdays and Fridays, and in New Rochelle on Thursdays. Who attends the Broker's Open Houses? Agents doing their job by educating themselves on all homes on the market. Agents searching for a home with specific buyer clients in mind (will yours be "the one?"). The BOH is in fact one of the first vital steps towards a successful sale. It's your home's introduction to the real estate community.

If your home was on the BOH, your agent should inform you of any feedback she receives. Sometimes, these insights can prove helpful and you might tweak a thing or two (“The house was nice, but the purple bedroom was awful.”) If your home was overpriced, the first rumblings to that effect might now be heard.

During the busy Spring and September real estate markets, dozens of homes may be offered at once. Agents receive the touring agenda in the morning, and plan their routes geographically to see as much as possible. Savvy agents take notes to keep it all in mind. So how can you help make your home stand out from the crowd? Stay tuned.

First, about Public Open Houses. In our area, they are usually held on Sunday afternoons. Open House signs -- with colored balloons whipping in the air -- attract the attention of families out for a Sunday drive, and direct prospective buyers to your home. Who else comes to a Public Open House? Neighbors scouting for a home for their out-of-town friend or relative, agents who missed the BOH, potential buyers whose agents sent them to see your home, Potential Buyers Not Working with an Agent who have spotted your home on an ad, usually online. Your agent will have a sign-in sheet, and again, feedback can prove valuable. My agency, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, is holding a special Public Open House day on Sunday, September 7. Check it out: It’s a convenient way to see many homes at once.

So now, what can you do to make your home stand out from the crowd?

  • Price your home accurately. Don't fish for a higher price 'to see what happens.' Real estate isn't magic.
  • Present your home attractively, uncluttered and clean as possible, so that buyers can imagine themselves living there.
  • Leave your home during the Open House, and take your pets with you. Again, so that buyers can imagine themselves living there. 
  • Make your home welcoming: if it's hot, crank the a/c, don't saute onions the night before, turn on the cheerful lights, hide the dirty laundry (you don't want buyers thinking they actually have to work in your home!), arrange mini-stagings of relaxed family life (the Lego castle your daughter built, the book on your nightstand, the unfinished chess game by the fireplace even though you've never played chess). For more ideas, check out my article in the June Patch: “First Impressions Count.”

Finally, make the Open Houses work for you. Ask your agent how many people attended. Ask for agent and public feedback. If it was a busy BOH day, he should quickly hold another one to give all agents a chance to see your home. If your home has a price reduction, your agent should then have another BOH to alert other agents. 


Market Snapshot: 10538 Single Family Homes, July – August

Nineteen homes came on the market during this period, five of them quickly going to contract. 3 Birch Lane, a 3 bedroom, 2 bath home, was the summer bargain at $650,000; it went to contract in less than a month. On the opposite end of the scale, 527 Weaver Street (6 bedrooms, 6 baths) was listed at $2,499,000. 

Eighteen houses went to contract, with 9 Locust Terrace (2 bedrooms, 2 baths) the most affordable, listed at $350,000.  At the other end of the spectrum is a Manor classic, 18 Walnut  Avenue, with 6 bedrooms and 7 baths, listed at $5,500,000.

Reflecting activity from the busy Spring season, 68 houses closed during this period.  5 Sheldrake Avenue, originally listed at $479,000, sold for $390,000 after 166 days on the market.  Topping the charts was 1 Coventry Court, with 13,020 square feet of living space, listed for 148 days at $5,600,000 and selling for $4,950,000.


Megan McCarthy is a licensed real estate professional with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Larchmont, NY, and may be reached by email at meganmccarthyhomes@gmail.com or by cell: 914-309-4648.


Top Ten List:  Real Estate Agent Myths

By Megan McCarthy, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage


  • We’ll list our home with the real estate agent who priced it the highest; clearly he knows his stuff and recognizes how great our house is!   The real estate agent who prices it highest may just be trying to win the competition for your business.  If your home then sits unclaimed for two months, or must go through price reductions, you’ll know why.
  • I’ll get a better deal going directly to the listing agent.  This is a common misperception.  The listing agent has fiduciary responsibility to her client – the seller – and not to you.  Therefore, she must reveal everything you say to the seller.  So, if you tell this agent that you’re offering $900,000 but your very top dollar could stretch painfully to $1 million, where do you think this sale will end up?  
  • A trained monkey could be a real estate agent.  All they have to do is unlock front doors.   If this has been your experience, change agents fast.  Your agent should have expertise in the marketplace, know the community inside-out, and be on top of shifting market trends.  
  • An agent with lots of listings will do the best job for me.   Not necessarily.  They may hand the work to an assistant.  You may not receive the one-on-one attention which a skilled newer agent will devote to you.  Inquire.  It’s important to hire the agent, not his impressive stack of listings.  
  • I don’t need a real estate agent; we can sell/buy this home by ourselves.  With 92% of home buyers searching online, For Sale by Owner listings can’t compete with those backed by a real estate agency’s search engine optimization, advertising and marketing power.  Add to that the expertise offered by a real estate agent in attracting an offer and bringing it to contract.  Finally, most FSBO buyers have already deducted the commission from your asking price by the time they ring your doorbell.         
  • All the information I need is on the internet.  Trulia, Zillow, etc. can be informative, but also misleading.  For example, at this writing, the single family house at 341 Orienta Avenue – currently for sale at $1,268,000 -- is featured on Zillow as a “townhouse.”  And its “Zestimate” is $1,003,223.  Imagine the homeowners’ delight!      
  • Real estate agents collect commissions for doing little work.   My cellphone is an extension of my hand, which sometimes annoys my family.  But a competent agent is always available to her clients.  Countless hours are involved in listing a home in the real estate marketplace.  Countless hours are also involved in acquainting home buyers with neighborhood characteristics and inventory.  Ditto for bringing each transaction from negotiations to a successful closing. 
  • The real estate agency in town with the most deals must be the best agency.  Au contraire.  They just have more agents than the others.  If many deals are turned in-house, ask questions.   Are your interests being compromised by agents rewarded for keeping business ‘all in the family’?  (More about dual agency in a future column.)  Make sure you’re protected.
  • “How do you know a real estate agent is lying?  His lips are moving!”   This “joke” came from my brother John in Atlanta, teasing me after I announced my licensure as an agent.   But we agents are bound by a code of ethics.  And since 1993 in NY State, Real Property Law 443 (amended in 2010) -- requiring disclosure of dual agency (aka, potential conflict of interest) – should further protect real estate consumers.   
  • Real estate is a sales profession.  My belief is that real estate is a service profession.  We are home marketers for sellers, home detectives for buyers, and no matter the transaction, our tool kit should include being: local market experts, transactional experts, analytical, excellent listeners, detail-minded, skilled negotiators, good copy writers, etc.  And, finally, it should include being a resource to clients long after we all shake hands at the closing table. 


                  Market Snapshot:  10538 Single Family Homes, June, 2014 

25 homes went on the market this month.  Topping the charts is One Cedar Island (which sold in July, 2012 for $4,925,000, suffered damaged from Hurricane Sandy, and was resusitated).  Now, this 6 bedroom, 8 bath house is offered at $7,499,500.  The most affordable 10538 house is 2 Poplar Road, with 3 bedrooms and 2 baths, at $699,000.

22 houses went under contract in June – and 4 of these went quickly, in less than 2 weeks, from listing date to signed contracts.

37 houses sold in June.  7 Elkan Road --  2 bedrooms and 1 bath -- was listed for $455,000 and sold for $450,000.   On the other end of the scale, 8 Grove Avenue, with 4 bedrooms and 5 baths, sold for $4,000,000; it was originally listed at $4,150,000.      


Megan McCarthy, a licensed real estate professional with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Larchmont, may be reached by email:  Meganmccarthyhomes@gmail.com or by cellphone:  914-309-4648.  


Preparing Your Home to Sell

There are really only two basic ideas to keep in mind when getting your home ready for the real estate market:

  1.  Look at your home through a buyer’s eyes;
  2.  Simplify, simplify simplify.

Buyers like homes with a clean, “spacious” feel.

Start decluttering immediately.  Now’s the time to sell or give away all that Stuff you don’t need or want any more.  Remember secret hiding places like attics, garage shelves, and closets.   I don’t know about you, but it’s amazing what I can cram into a small closet.  The idea is to have buyers open that tiny closet and think, “Wow, look at all this space.”  

I’ve had clients rent storage rooms to put away their Stuff while the house was on the market.  Other clients made their adult children empty their rooms of possessions or lose them to charity.  When selling my own house years ago, my friends let me put some Stuff in their garage while the rest of the Stuff drove around in my car with me.   

It can be exhausting to whittle down 20 years of life into a clean, well-lighted space…but I promise you the reward of a higher selling price than if you hadn’t bothered.  And, you have to do this anyway in order to move.

Buyers want to imagine themselves living in the home.  Don’t overwhelm them with “you.”

Ideally, buyers should enter your home thinking, “This is a nice living room with good flow…I can see us living here” vs. “Wow, these people must have collected Disney figurines for 40 years.”  Taper down on overwhelming displays of knick-knacks, collectibles, and family photos.  A few of my clients hired professional stagers whom I recommended, which yielded terrific results in the selling price of their homes.  

You might also consider taking down ponderous draperies and washing windows to let in light, rolling up rugs to show off wood floors, giving a fresh coat of paint throughout, powerwashing the exterior, trimming back the man-eating shrubs, etc.  17 Bronson Avenue in Larchmont, a three bedroom/two bath house which is an estate sale, sat on the market unclaimed since last October.  First listed at $795,000, it’s now $735,000.  The listing agent took it off the market in April, repainted the inside and refinished the floors, and put it back on in May as a “new” listing.  Now buyers can more clearly see the architectural details.  (But, as the agent notes indicate, the exterior still needs to be powerwashed.  Boy does it ever.)

Right before your home goes on the market, it’s time for fun cosmetic touches.  Examples:  a big glass bowl of green apples on the kitchen table, a vase of (real) tulips in the living room for open house days, a cheap and cheerful new bedspread, bright flowering plants in your garden or planters, nice towels and fresh soaps in bathrooms, etc.   

About pets.  We have three dogs, so I get it.  But if possible, remove your dog from the house for showings.  Febreze Air Effects, the “rain” scent, is great for that lingering dog smell.  For cats, if possible, move the litter box from your bathroom to the basement, and keep it clean.  Put away the food bowls.  Some buyers not only dislike but are afraid of household pets.  It’s a real turn-off for them. 

I could go on and on with ideas.  Home decorating magazines can also give you a glimpse at today’s buyers’ tastes.

Should you go to the trouble and expense of redoing the floors?  Will a new sidewalk add to your home’s resale value?  Should you redo the kitchen?  Each case is individual, and should be evaluated as such.  A realtor up on the current local market can help you determine if the costs of such work are offset by a greater selling price. 

Megan McCarthy, a licensed real estate professional with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Larchmont, may be reached by email: meganmccarthyhomes@gmail.com or by cellphone:  914-309-4648
   


Market Snapshot:  Larchmont P.O. Single Family Houses  May, 2014

Megan McCarthy

Twenty-seven homes went on the market this month.  Topping the charts is 14 Pryer Lane (10 bedrooms, 8 baths) at $5,900,000.  The most affordable house is 8 Elkan Road, a 2 bedroom/2 bath house at $459,999. 

Thirty-six houses went under contract in May -- and 13 of these went quickly from listing date to signed contracts in less than two weeks.

Eleven houses sold in May.  122 Laurel Avenue, with 2 bedrooms/2baths, was listed for $562,000 and closed for $523,000.   On the other end of the scale, 8 Stoneyside Drive, with 5 bedrooms/6 baths, sold for $2,825,000; it was originally listed at $2,895,000.