RE/MAX Named Best of Flagstaff!

Our local office, RE/MAX Peak Properties, was voted “Best of Flag” by Arizona Daily Sun readers. This is exciting news, especially because it comes right on the heels of the recent JD Power award given to the entire RE/MAX company. These honors illustrate RE/MAX’s dedication to the industry and to having agents who provide premier customer service, on both a local and national level.

See all the award recipients.

Read more about the JD Power award.

Market Up 4 of the Last 5 Months in Flagstaff

Is the market going up or going down? Or are we just bouncing along the rocky bottom? The local paper reported a decline in housing prices for 2011, which is true, but let’s take a closer look. In short, it was at first worse and then better.

The total decline in Flagstaff for 2011 was about 8%. However, this includes a sharper drop in the first half of the year and then somewhat of a rebound in the second half. From January through July, the median price fell a total of 12%. But then from July’s low through November, the median price rose a little each month for a total increase of 7%. It’s difficult to know which way the trend is going due to another slight drop in December; however, four straight months of price increases is significant. Hopefully, the next few months will give us a better idea of the direction of the market.

Take note that these monthly stats are based on the median prices for the trailing six months to give us a more stable and accurate figure. The average price on a month by month basis swings too wildly because a few really high or really low sales can throw off the average in any given month.

Source for Statistics: Northern Arizona MLS – Flagstaff area residential home sales.

Dues change in Continental Country Club

Members of Flagstaff’s Continental Country Club have seen somewhat increased dues for 2012. A full membership is now $400 per year and an associate membership is $285.

The full membership has access to all of Continental’s amenities, such as the pool, tennis courts, fitness center, and a discount on golf. They also have access to the Bear Paw Activity Center, which has an outdoor pool, kids splash pool, hot tub, basketball court, and games, movies, etc. for the kids.

The associate membership includes architectural review and CC&R compliance (the HOA drives through the areas regularly), which are good features for resale. Plus, according to Continental, associate members can upgrade to a full membership on a year-by-year basis by paying the difference.

The default type of membership is determined by the subdivisions within Continental.

Of course, when you consider that the annual fee is per property and not per person, the full membership is a very good value for what you receive in amenities.

In related news, Continental’s new restaurant, to replace Jotini’s, will be opening very soon and will be called Jake’s on the Green.

RE/MAX Awarded J.D. Power Highest Overall Satisfaction!

RE/MAX was recently awarded the 2011 J.D. Power and Associates Highest Overall Satisfaction for both buyers and sellers!

“It all comes down to professionalism and a commitment to a premier level of customer service,” said RE/MAX Chairman and Co-Founder Dave Liniger. “Because RE/MAX agents average more experience and training than other agents, they are better prepared to deal with home buyers and sellers in any kind of market. And, consumer preferences tell the story . . . nobody sells more real estate than RE/MAX.”

RE/MAX received the highest score, which is an “Among the Best” rating, in Overall Satisfaction, Agent/Salesperson, Real Estate Company Office, and Real Estate Company Marketing.

The fact that RE/MAX Peak Properties is the top residential brokerage for sales in Flagstaff is no coincidence – the commitment to excellence is a big part of the RE/MAX culture. Both RE/MAX and the locally owned RE/MAX Peak Properties franchise offer outstanding training and educational opportunities so that we agents can do an even better job of serving our clients!

J.D. Power. (2011). 2011 Real Estate Broker Satisfaction – Home Sellers.

J.D. Power. (2011). 2011 Real Estate Broker Satisfaction – Home Buyers.

RE/MAX, LLC, Press Release. (July 28, 2011). Home Buyers and Sellers Prefer RE/MAX. Buyers and Sellers Prefer REMAX 7-28-11.pdf

Housing Supply Back to Normal?

It appears housing demand may be catching up with supply, at least for the moment. The supply of homes in Flagstaff has recently dropped to a 6.4 month supply (down from an 11-month supply this summer) and there have been almost 100 more sales here this year-to-date than last year-to-date. Housing supply is the number of months it would take to sell the current inventory based on the pace of recent sales and the National Association of Realtors considers a 6-month supply a balanced market, neither a buyer’s nor seller’s market.

Of course, it’s normal for inventory levels to fall as winter approaches, but the fact that they have fallen this far may indicate that the glut of homes is beginning to diminish. This is also the trend nationally as reported by the National Association of Realtors. Their latest economic report shows a mostly continuous decline of inventory recently, which could help to stabilize prices.

It does seem natural that as the prices have become more and more affordable and interest rates have continued to be low, buyer demand would eventually increase. Plus, according to the US Census, family formation and the number of households have continued to grow through this recession, further adding to the demand in housing.

So the question is, like a kid on a long and tiring trip, “are we there yet?” Have we hit the bottom of the market? Unfortunately, no one knows when we’ve hit bottom until we’re past it, and many economists suggest we’ll “bounce along the bottom” for quite some time, but it’s good to see that the fundamentals are improving.

Reports Referenced:
Lawrence Yun, Chief Economist, National Association of Realtors. (October 21, 2011). Housing Inventory Falls in Winter.

US Census. (November 2011). HH-6, Average Population Per Household and Family: 1940 to Present.

Source for Statistics: Northern Arizona MLS, Flagstaff area sales of single family homes, townhomes, condos, and manufactured homes. Information based on listing data input by individual REALTORS®.

Bank of America Refines Short Sale Process

The Distressed Property Institute recently hosted a webinar with Mr. Bob Hora, Senior Vice President of Bank of America, to discuss recent updates to BofA’s short sale process.

Mr. Hora asserted that Bank of America is committed to doing short sales and rejected the myth that banks have incentive to foreclose, saying that the bank doesn’t want more repossessed property on their books. Some interesting figures: Bank of America closed 42,000 short sales in 2009, 90k in 2010, will close more than 100k in 2011, and they plan to do even more in 2012.

Short sales have a reputation for taking a long time and BofA’s goal is to shorten the process. They’ve been hiring more people and have gone from 200-250 short sale employees a couple years ago to now having 3,000 employees working just on short sales!

Bank of America is sending out targeted solicitations to homeowners who are at risk of foreclosure. This includes a transition guide that goes over options to avoid foreclosure, deed-in-lieu (DIL) of foreclosure, why you should consider a short sale, HAFA, avoiding scams, etc.

Mr. Hora went over some of the reasons that keep BofA short sales from closing, such as improper documentation, valuation issues, unallowable fees, etc. Also outlined were the specific procedures to escalate a problematic BofA short sale. It is Bank of America’s belief that a “trained agent…makes a big difference.”

He reiterated that agents should be expanding their short sale knowledge, should know their marketplace, and should set appropriate expectations with everyone involved. Short sales aren’t going away anytime soon and they’re usually a worthwhile alternative for homeowners facing foreclosure.

In Flagstaff, the number of short sales and foreclosures have been holding steady, but with improved processes and agent training on short sales, perhaps we’ll be able to put a dent in the number of foreclosures.

Top Reasons to List Your Home In The Winter

Many people ask if they should list their home in the winter or wait until the following spring. Despite the sometimes snowy and cold winters in Flagstaff, there are many good reasons to list and, yes, homes do in fact sell during the winter months.

Being that your home can sell anytime of the year, it’s more important to sell when you’re ready than to try to time the market or season perfectly.

Here’s a list I created of reasons to sell your home in the winter. As much as I wanted to make this a “Top 10” list, I have come up with eleven great reasons. So here goes…

    1. You have less competition from other sellers because many homes come off the market.

    2. The buyers who look in the winter are more serious buyers.

    3. There are, indeed, plenty of buyers in the winter – some examples include: people who get relocated, people who sold in the summer and have been living in temporary housing until they find a place, and first-time homebuyers whose leases may end in the winter.

    4. There are, in fact, numerous sales in the winter. Over the past six years, almost half of my sales have been between October and March.

    5. Some motivating factors for buyers don’t depend on the season. For example, a new child being born may cause the family to want more space as soon as possible.

    6. Many people have a strong motivation to spend the holidays in their new home.

    7. Many people review their goals and finances around the first of the year and may decide that it’s time to buy a new home.

    8. Some buyers may have more time to look for homes when they have off for the holidays.

    9. Some homes may show better during the winter because they’re already being kept clean and decorated for the holidays.

    10. Some people must buy before the end of the year for tax reasons.

    11. We know what the current market and prices are like. We don’t know if it will be better or worse next year!

Pre-Approved Short Sales

Some buyers in Flagstaff seem to be wary of making offers on short sales for a couple reasons in particular. They don’t know how long the process will take and whether the short sale or price will even be approved.

This is understandable considering that in a conventional short sale, the seller’s lender (who has to approve the short sale) isn’t involved much, if at all, until there is a contract to purchase the home. There are things a knowledgable real estate agent can do to shorten the time frame and increase the chances of success; however, in this situation there’s no way of knowing exactly if and when the short sale will be approved.

Herein lies the benefit of pre-approved short sales. In a pre-approved short sale, the seller’s lender approves the short sale upfront (before an offer is made). They determine a minimum price or net proceeds that they’ll accept and they usually have set time frames for responding to offers. As you can imagine, this makes the listing that much more appealing to buyers, who then have a better idea of their chance of successfully closing on that short sale in a reasonable amount of time. Another benefit is that there’s usually a specific amount of time that the foreclosure process is halted while the seller attempts to sell the home.

The two most common types of pre-approved short sales are HAFA and FHA. In these programs, the short sale is processed through your lender but the guidelines and qualifications are set by the government. Unfortunately, not every loan or borrower is a candidate for these programs and not every lender participates; however, it’s worth finding out. Many major lenders, such as Citibank, Wells Fargo, Chase, and BofA are also beginning to roll out their own “in-house” pre-approval programs. If you’re a homeowner considering a short sale, the first person to talk with is a real estate agent who is knowledgable about short sales and can walk you through some different options.

New Toddler Park in Boulder Pointe

Picture of the small park in the Boulder Pointe neighborhood
The neighborhood of Boulder Pointe in Flagstaff finally has their own neighborhood park. It’s a small toddler park (or “tot park”) with swings and playground equipment. The HOA and homeowners had to take matters into their own hands and build the park in what was an HOA-owned lot used as a drainage basin.

This is a private park for Boulder Pointe residents and is meant as a “walking” park as there is no parking for the park.

Neighborhood parks are always great for the sense of community and I’m sure the residents of Boulder Pointe will be pleased to finally have a place to take their young ones.