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Home Buyer Tip: Is the Basement Wet? (VIDEO)

This year, you are going to see more video from me.

Starting today.

Yesterday, I recorded a quick tip video while I was in the car on my way to meet some home buyers. I explain the best way to make sure you don’t buy a home with a wet basement or drainage issues in the yard.

And yes I know the audio and video have a disconnect in the last few seconds of this video. I happened when I flipped my iPhone camera so you could see what I was seeing and then flipped it back. Hopefully Facebook Live will fix this glitch. If not, then I guess I’ll have to find another way to record my videos or just stick with me talking. 

Click on the ACH TV button in the menu to see all of my video tips and interviews. 

I’ll be making more of these quick tip videos, along with my interviews of local residents about where they live. I’ll be posting all of these videos here on Arch City Homes, plus on my YouTube channel and some of them will end up my social channels.

If you want to stay informed of St. Louis real estate information, subscribe to the Arch City Homes weekly email so you don’t miss any posts! 

How to Choose a New Home Builder – 5 Important Questions to Ask

If you want to stay informed of St. Louis real estate information, subscribe to the Arch City Homes weekly email so you don’t miss any posts! 

When you are ready to buy a new home, you have a few options.

Most people in the St. Louis area buy an existing home. These homes can be anywhere from 1 year old to over 100 years old, depending on the part of town you are considering.

 

How to Choose a New Home Builder - 5 Important Questions to Ask

New Construction Home Options:

People who want a brand new home usually look for a new construction subdivision. The builder will have a half dozen floor plans available and a variety of choices for cabinets, flooring and lighting. Buyers pick either a recently completed home (in St. Louis these homes are called inventory, spec or showcase homes) or choose one of the empty lots, pick a floor plan and all of the updates and then wait 4-6 months for their home to be completed.

IMPORTANT! No builder will build a home to your specifications with a home sale or financing contingency. You need to be in a position to get a mortgage without selling your current home before they will start any work on the home. 

Occasionally you can find a builder who has built a single home or a few homes on some land that they bought, and the home is finished and waiting for someone to buy it.

You can also hire a custom home builder to build you the home of your dreams. While most custom home builders are working in the luxury price range, many custom home builders will build affordable homes too.

Home buyers who want input on the floor plan and architectural details will be happiest with a custom home. Other buyers go with a custom home builder because they want to live in a part of town where there aren’t any new construction subdivisions available.

5 Important Questions to Ask a Custom Home Builder:

Kim Hibbs owns Hibbs Homes, a custom home builder in the St. Louis area. I asked Kim to answer some questions How to Choose a New Home Builder - 5 Important Questions to Askabout building custom homes and how to select a custom home builder.

1) What issues should a buyer consider when deciding between building in new subdivision development vs building a custom home on a single lot?

Building with a “Production” builder in a new subdivision usually costs less and can be a bit less cumbersome. Production builders offer fewer options when it comes to floor plans and exterior elevations, they offer fewer interior finish options and they can negotiate full subdivision work with their trade partners. All of that leads to lower construction costs.

However, there are many benefits to those wanting to build in a single lot. It’s called “in-fill” building and it’s being done throughout the St. Louis area with great success. The benefits are – mature established neighborhoods, true custom plans including exterior and interior design/finishes and not being limited to basic selection choices. In-fill building is a bit more complicated because you have to find the lot first and then design the home. Many times you have to demolish a home that is on the property. You then work with an architect/builder to design the home you want. So, the process tends to take a bit longer and is a little more complicated. But, from my perspective, the extra time and possible costs are well worth it to get just the home you want, in the neighborhood you want!

2) What comes first, finding the lot or finding the builder? 

You can do either. I prefer getting the builder involved up front because they can help with the lot selection and make sure the infrastructure is in place to build. The builder can also help with the design phase and make sure you stay on budget.

Architects are great at designing the home, but many don’t have a good sense of construction costs so the final design may push construction costs too high. I believe in putting your team together up front, being honest about your budget, and then trusting your architect and builder to design a home that meets that budget.

3) What questions should buyers ask when choosing a custom builder? 

The obvious questions – how long have you been in business, what is the estimated budget and build time. Ask them about a “bad” experience with a client and what they learned from it. I can tell you that not all relationships workout. I’m no exception, but I try to learn from each and every experience. If you have a builder who says they have had no bad experiences, that’s simply not true!

Ask about how the project will be financed – will the owner fund or the builder? How will the funds be disbursed? Does the builder use trade partners or self-perform the work. Either answer is fine, just make sure you understand the difference. Make sure you visit homes they’ve built and talk with past clients. Ask the builder what they think makes a good client.  Ask about continuing education or accreditations they may hold. How do they handle problems that arise in the field? How do they handle change orders? Do they oversee the site or do they have superintendents? Who is the main contact?

4) What is the building process once you select a custom builder and how long does it take? 

I usually tell everyone that on average it will take 3 months for the architectural and permitting process and 6-10 months for construction depending upon the size of the home. The architectural process can be shortened if the client is decisive and doesn’t request lots of changes to the plans.

5) What are some energy saving features that buyers should consider when building a new home? 

The most important decisions a buyer can make when building is insulation and the HVAC (heating and cooling) systems. Those two decisions alone can greatly affect the efficiency of the home. My suggestion is to spend a little more in these areas to say a lot of money over time.

Additionally, windows/doors, lights, plumbing fixtures and appliances will also have a big impact on the efficiency of a home. Definitely look for the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) Energy Star and Water Sense labels when possible. Make sure you also talk with the builder and architect about how to properly site the home on the lot (if you can choose), location and number of windows, overhangs and exterior material as they also affect a home’s performance.

More information on building a green home in St. Louis

Are You Thinking About Moving?

I specialize in selling St. Louis homes regardless of whether they will be the hot listing to hit the market or if they have a challenge that makes it much harder to sell.

I also work with buyers who want to find the home of their dreams, but don’t want to overpay.

If you are thinking of buying or selling a home in the St Louis area, give me a call at 314-265-8073 and let’s talk about your options.

Buyer Beware – St. Louis Flood Zones are in Some Surprising Places

If you want to stay informed of St. Louis real estate information, subscribe to the Arch City Homes weekly email so you don’t miss any posts! 

The next time you are looking for a home, make sure you check and make sure the house isn’t in a flood zone.

Let me be very clear…avoiding homes in a flood zone won’t guarantee your basement will stay dry when it rains day after day.

But buying a home in a flood zone means more than just worrying about water. You will have to pay thousands of dollars every year in federal flood insurance premiums. The premiums for the flood zone homes I listed in the last few years have run from $2,300 – $5,000 a year.

Flood zone homes are also much harder to sell, so you could have resale issues.

I’ve actually had a lot of success at getting flood zone homes successfully sold for my clients, but the flood zone status does lower the price and increases the time it takes to sell. 

Of course, the biggest reason to avoid flood zone homes is that you are more likely to have your house flooded with water!

St. Louis flood zone map | Arch City Homes

You might be surprised to discover that there are flood zones throughout the St. Louis area. Our region is peppered with creeks which are often dry except during the spring rains. But, when we get tons of rain like we are getting right now, they will not only fill up, but can spill over into the adjacent land…and nearby homes.

The map above shows a flood zone overlay on the St. Louis map that I can access through the MLS system.  When I am working with a buyer, I always check to make sure homes my clients are considering aren’t in a flood zone.

The purple areas in the map above are in the 100 year flood zone, which requires FEMA flood insurance if there is a loan on the house. If you don’t have a loan, then you can opt out of the flood insurance, but you will also be out of luck if your flood zone house does get flooded.

The yellow areas are in the 500 year flood zone areas, and do not require FEMA flood insurance. That said, they are still more likely to flood than homes in the orange areas, and if the flood zone maps change…which they do from time to time…you could end up in the 100 year flood zone.

Closer Look:

Take a look at the maps below of Ballwin and University City. These maps show just 2 of the areas that have plenty of homes in flood zones even though they are nowhere near the Missouri or Mississippi Rivers.

University City:

University City 100 year flood zone

Ballwin:

Ballwin 100 year flood zone

How Often Do Flood Zone Homes Actually Flood?

There is a 1% chance each year that a home in a 100 year flood zone will flood that year. Homes in a 500 year flood zone have a much lower change of flooding each year (0.2%).

You need to understand that that odds are that it will be 100 years between a 100 year flood and the next one, but it could also happen 2 years in a row.

We’ve had two 100 year floods in the last 45 years. One in 1973 and again 20 years later in 1993. Maybe it will be another 100 years before the next big flood, but it could also be this year if the rain doesn’t stop soon.

Are You Thinking About Moving?

I specialize in selling St. Louis homes regardless of whether they will be the hot listing to hit the market or if they have a challenge that makes it much harder to sell.

I also work with buyers who want to find the home of their dreams, but don’t want to overpay.

If you are thinking of buying or selling a home in the St Louis area, give me a call at 314-265-8073 and let’s talk about your options.

What Will Home Buyers Give Up to Save Money for the Down Payment? [INFOGRAPHIC]

If you want to stay informed of St. Louis real estate information, subscribe to the Arch City Homes weekly email so you don’t miss any posts! 

If you are thinking about buying a home, the first thing you need to decide is how much you can afford.

Step one is to talk to a lender.

You need to understand how much you can borrow to keep your mortgage payment at a level that won’t force you to sacrifice your lifestyle and savings goals just to pay the mortgage bill. While you CAN use online calculators to figure out how much you can afford, your credit score, debt and other factors can impact how much you can borrow and the interest rate you will pay. Only a lender can help you sort out those issues to really understand how much you can borrow and what your monthly payment will be.

Contact me to be connected to the best St. Louis lenders…

To determine what you can spend on a new home, you need to decide how much of your cash savings you will use for the down payment. Trulia did a survey to look at what home buyers are willing to give up in order to save for a down payment. A surprising number of people won’t give up their cable TV or vacations, and count on government aid for their down payment.

What Would You Be Willing to Give Up to Save for a Home Down Payment? | Arch City Homes

Buyers can easily get loans with just 3% or 3.5% of the sale price as a down payment. Some buyers can even get loans that cover 100% of the sale price (buyers who qualify for down payment assistance programs, VA loans, USDA loans or doctor/professional portfolio loans).

That said, borrowing 100%, or even 97%, of the sale price can be risky.

If prices drop like they did during the recent housing downturn, homeowners with very little money down can be stuck in homes that they are unable to sell. Or they could end up with a foreclosure if they must move or can’t afford the mortgage payment anymore, but can’t sell for enough money to pay off the mortgage and fees associated with selling.

Sample Purchase with 3% Down:

Purchase Price:  $150,000
Down Payment: $4,500 (3%)
Loan Principal: $144,500

Let’s say in 3 years you want to sell, but the market has dropped the value of your home by 10%.

Home Value: $135,000
Loan Payoff: $137,000
Fees to Sell: $10,000
Shortfall: $12,000

This example uses 5% interest rate and assumes the seller will NOT have to pay any of the buyer’s closing costs (they usually pay 3%) and inspection related repairs are only $1,000 (they could be much higher).

Even if home values do not drop, it can take several years to break even. There are costs for buying and costs for selling, and those fees wipe out the first few years of appreciation.

By saving money for a down payment and putting 5-20% down at the time of purchase, you are protecting yourself from being stuck in a house you want to sell but can’t.

So while you CAN buyer a home with little or no money down…should you?

What would you be willing to give up in order to save for your home purchase down payment?

Are You Thinking About Moving?

I specialize in selling St. Louis homes regardless of whether they will be the hot listing to hit the market or if they have a challenge that makes it much harder to sell.

I also work with buyers who want to find the home of their dreams, but don’t want to overpay.

If you are thinking of buying or selling a home in the St Louis area, give me a call at 314-265-8073 and let’s talk about your options.

How Much Do St. Louis Home Sellers Come Down on Price?

If you want to stay informed of St. Louis real estate information, subscribe to the Arch City Homes weekly email so you don’t miss any posts! 

If you are thinking about buying or selling a home, it is important for you to know how much home sellers come down when negotiating the price.

In St. Louis, over half of the home sellers come down less than 3% of the sale price.

How Much Do St. Louis Home Sellers Come Down on Price? | Arch City Homes

The chart above shows all of the MLS listed house and condo sales with sale prices from $100,000 – $800,000 in St. Louis City, St. Louis County and St. Charles County.

The data reports the MEDIAN price reduction for home sales over the last 2 years. This means that half of the sellers came down less then the median value, and half came down more.

Keep in mind that these numbers do not reflect how much the sellers came down from their original list price. A seller may have reduced the price several times before getting a contract.

Why is this important?

Sellers need to understand how much a buyer will typically expect them to come down. They need to be prepared to come down 2-5% or they will have a hard time getting a contract accepted.

Buyers need to anticipate how much they might be able to get the price down so they aren’t looking at homes they can’t afford. If a buyer can afford to pay no more than $200,000, and the vast majority of sellers come down no more than 5%, the buyer shouldn’t be looking at homes priced more than $210,000.

There ARE sellers that will come down more from their current list price, but these are the homes that have typically been on the market for a very long time and have had several price reductions already. These sellers recognize that they might not sell at all, and a buyer can get a big discount on these homes. However, homes that have been on the market for less than 90 days rarely sell for huge discounts.

Condos vs Houses?

How Much Do St. Louis Home Sellers Come Down on Price? | Arch City Homes

When you break down the statistics by property type, you can see that sellers of condos come down more than sellers of houses.

Condos are more likely to have direct competition from other listings that are very similar. When the owner of a condo gets an offer and there are other condos for sale in the same complex, they always worry that the buyer will move on to option #2 if the seller isn’t agreeable.

Sellers of Expensive Homes Come Down More

How Much Do St. Louis Home Sellers Come Down on Price? | Arch City Homes

How much a seller comes down is related to supply and demand. When there are a lot of buyers looking for homes in a price range and area, the homes sell more easily and the sellers don’t have to come down as much.

With fewer buyers for more expensive homes, sellers end up coming down more. I also find that pricing is less exact at higher price points. In a subdivision with homes selling from $175,000 – $200,000, the price gap between a home that is in poor condition vs one with all of the latest upgrades is narrower. It is easier to review the comps and set a price that buyers will think is fair.

In contract, a more expensive subdivision may have only a handful of recent sales that span $100,000. When you know your house is better than the house that sold for $500,000, but not as good as the one that sold for $575,000…and nothing else sold between those 2, it’s a guess as to where to price it. Sellers usually guess high, and the result is that buyers often must push the price down in negotiations. While the seller can refuse to come down and let the buyer move on to another house, many worry when another buyer will come along and will try to make the deal work.

Making Sure Your House is STILL Priced Right

One of the biggest mistakes that sellers make is they look at the comps with their agent and set a price. And never look at the comps again.

Things can change quickly, making a house worth less than the original pricing analysis indicated.

  • Competing homes can drop their price, making you overpriced.
  • New listings can come on the market that are nicer and cheaper than your house.
  • Competing homes that seemed similar can fail to sell, and if you used these homes to justify your price, then you are likely not going to sell either.
  • Homes that were under contract when you set your price can close for a much reduced price, making you look overpriced.

Unfortunately, changes to the market that happen within months of you listing your home won’t make your house worth more. If competing homes come on the market that are more expensive than your house and sell before you do, it’s hard to make the argument that your house is suddenly worth more.

Raising your price when the buyers already looking have rejected it makes no sense. If you are underpriced, your house would have sold.

Weekly Housing Market Report:

One of the things I offer my sellers is a weekly housing market report that is customized to make sure they remain competitively priced throughout the listing period.

I track showings, feedback, competition levels, new listings, price reductions, homes under contract and closed sales.

Here are a few screenshots of some of the pages in my weekly market reports.

How Much Do St. Louis Home Sellers Come Down on Price? | Arch City Homes

It’s important to understand how much available competition there is compared to how many of the competing homes are under contract. It’s also important to monitor both the micro market (properties that are the most similar in location, price and features) and the larger macro market.

How Much Do St. Louis Home Sellers Come Down on Price? | Arch City Homes

How Much Do St. Louis Home Sellers Come Down on Price? | Arch City Homes

One of the things I manually compute is the number of days it takes for properties to sell at their current list price.

How Much Do St. Louis Home Sellers Come Down on Price? | Arch City Homes

In the sample report above, 2 of the properties that went under contract were new listings (14 days and 3 days). One property had been on the market for 88 days but had dropped the price only 6 days earlier, and one had been on the market for 146 days without a price drop.

I find that the vast majority of properties go under contract either as a new listing or within weeks of a price drop. Understanding these trends, and how much sellers came down from their original list price before getting an accepted contract, is important information sellers need when deciding what to do if their home isn’t selling fast enough.

Sample full report

If you are thinking of selling your home in the St. Louis area and would like my weekly market update AFTER you list your home, hire me to be your listing agent!

Are You Thinking About Moving?

I specialize in selling St. Louis homes regardless of whether they will be the hot listing to hit the market or if they have a challenge that makes it much harder to sell.

I also work with buyers who want to find the home of their dreams, but don’t want to overpay.

If you are thinking of buying or selling a home in the St Louis area, give me a call at 314-265-8073 and let’s talk about your options.