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Priscilla Toomey: Preparing for the Spring 2014 Market--It's Already Here PDF Print Email

Dec. 31, 2013:  If you are considering selling your house in the spring 2014 market, know that the spring market has already arrived. There are buyers eager to go to weekend open houses in the snow, not to mention many individual showings by agents then.

As we have been saying, inventory is in painfully short supply at the moment in Bronxville Village and buyers want to get a "jump" on the market.

Some sellers, too, want to take advantage of supply and demand leaning in their favor and are willing to allow their houses to be shown, even on sloppy days.

If a sale is in your plans, now is the time to prepare as quickly as you can and get your house on the market as soon as you can. The buyers are there and the "official" start of the spring market, the Monday after Super Bowl Sunday, isn't far off, although some sellers want to take advantage of current market conditions and are eager to sell without waiting.

The first step, if you haven't already done so, is to de-clutter. Just what does that mean? Store or get rid of as much "stuff" as you can. Browse through "shelter magazines" like Architectural Digest to see how homes there look--so you can get as close to that look as possible with your own home.

Keep in mind that we live in a visual world, so photos are vital to promoting your property. It's best to work with a professional photographer if you possibly can. Their wide-angle lenses and correct resolution make the world of difference in what prospective buyers will see on the Internet, which is where the vast majority of them begin their search. Also, keep in mind that if you haven't had photos taken and the photos that are taken now show your house surrounded by snow, have those photos retaken as soon as we're past the snow season.

Buyers tend to respond to the emotional pull of the kitchen or some other aspect of a house. You as a seller, however, are supposed to be objective about the place you have considered your "ivy-covered cottage" for several years. For you to do that, you need to see your house as a commodity once it goes on the market. Feedback from both your agent and prospective buyers should be viewed dispassionately, not defensively. With your focus on reaching agreement with a buyer on price and terms, you will be in the best position to do what you need to do to "get the deal done."

This is the first in a series of three articles. The next two will cover "What to Renovate . . . Or Not" and "Pricing it Right."

Pictured here:  Priscilla Toomey, associate broker, JD, ABR, Top5, certified EcoBroker, SRES with Julia B. Fee/Sotheby's International Realty; cell, 914-559-8084; e-mail, CLOAKING .

Photo courtesy Julia B. Fee/Sotheby's International Realty

Priscilla Toomey: The Importance of 'No Contingencies' in a Bidding War PDF Print Email

Nov. 20, 2013:  When inventory is tight, bidding wars happen. Whether you are the buyer or the seller, it's important to understand how they work and what your options are. 

An offer consists of price and terms. We all know what price is, but terms can be just as important and can also affect the final price. In fact, sometimes there have been instances where terms trump price!

Terms include the preferred closing date and contingencies. Contingencies in this area are most commonly getting a mortgage commitment. That's because an inspection, which historically was a contingency, is now typically completed before contracts are signed.

That leaves the mortgage contingency as the sticking point. Why? Because the seller wants a non-contingent agreement in order to move forward with another purchase, and the buyer wants to be sure the property
"appraises out."

There are two key facets to getting a mortgage. The first is approval of the borrower, the second, approval of the property. To protect its investment, first, the lender "vets" the borrower and, typically, also attaches the condition that the borrower's circumstances (such as job status) continue unchanged until the closing date.

Once the borrower is "preapproved," the lender wants to know that, should the borrower default, the property could be sold for enough to pay back the loan. Typically, the lender will lend only up to 80% of the value the bank's appraiser places on the house, with the rest coming from the borrower to make sure that the borrower has what is considered to be sufficient "skin in the game." 

Thus, a lot depends on the appraiser's opinion of the house's market value. Moreover, buyers can often be swayed by the appraiser's opinion of value into thinking it is more scientific than it is and, therefore, that the house is "worth" the amount the appraiser ascribes to it, even though that isn't necessarily the case.

Obviously, where there is no mortgage contingency, the risk of the house's market value falls on the shoulders of the borrower rather than requiring the seller to wait until the appraiser's report is in to see if it agrees with the negotiated contract price. Many times, if the appraised price is lower than the contract price, the contract price may need to be renegotiated or the buyer may need to come up with more cash to satisfy the lender's 80% requirement, which may jeopardize the transaction when buyer and seller don't agree.

Of course, where there is no mortgage and no appraisal, the transaction becomes non-contingent ("pending") upon the contracts being signed by both buyer and seller and the 10% deposit being paid. That could enable the seller to feel able to commit to a purchase 30 to 60 days earlier than otherwise, a significant bonus to many sellers and the reason why buyers frequently try to gain an edge in bidding wars by submitting their offers as "non-contingent." 

Pictured here:  Priscilla Toomey, associate broker, JD, ABR, Top5, certified EcoBroker, SRES with Julia B. Fee/Sotheby's International Realty; cell, 914-559-8084; e-mail, CLOAKING .

Photo courtesy Julia B. Fee/Sotheby's International Realty

Priscilla Toomey: Real Estate Inventory in Village in Short Supply PDF Print Email

Oct. 23, 2013: At the end of the third quarter, real estate inventory in Bronxville Village remained in very short supply, with only 21 houses on the market, including three townhouses.

Their average list price was $2,934,190, versus $2,631,194 at the end of the second quarter for the 31 single-family homes on the market then, of which four were townhouses. While, in general, activity has picked up in neighboring areas, local sales activity has been as strong in Bronxville Village as ever in recent years.

One single-family home was under conditional contract in Bronxville Village at the end of the third quarter, and the sales of seven single-family homes, including two townhouses, were pending (all conditions met, just waiting to close).

The sales of 72 single-family homes, including 21 townhouses, had closed as of the end of the third quarter of 2013, with an average selling price of $1,808,301 (excluding townhouses, the average was $2,146,716).

Of these, 15 single-family homes yielded prices at or above their asking price at that time, of which six were townhouses. For the same period last year, the sales of 74 single-family homes had closed, of which 20 were townhouses.

The average selling price for single-family homes excluding townhouses was $2,018,130, and for townhouses it was $920,900. Of the single-family homes and townhouses whose sales closed through the end of the third quarter in 2012, 13 closed at or above the then asking price, of which three were townhouses.

For 2013, the average price per square foot for single-family homes was $623.88 for the first three quarters of the year. For 2012 it was $539.82. For townhouses, those numbers were $524.50 for 2013 and $481.89 for 2012.

Editor's Note: Priscilla Toomey is an associate broker, JD, ABR, Top5, certified EcoBroker, SRES with Julia B. Fee/Sotheby's International Realty and can be reached at 914-559-8084.

Priscilla Toomey: New Construction Trends in Real Estate Provide Insight for Renovators PDF Print Email

Oct. 9, 2013:  Some of today’s buyers insist on new construction. What is it that builders are providing that attracts these buyers and what can you glean from those features if you’re considering a renovation?

Open plan: This term refers to a layout where the kitchen and family room are open to, and flow into, one another. If a parent is cooking and the children are doing homework, or other family members are relaxing or doing other activities in the family room, they can easily talk with one another. It’s a very family-friendly layout.

Rooms that serve multiple purposes: This could be an office nook in the kitchen or a mud room/laundry area just inside the back door.

More storage: With the advent of box stores, it helps to have room to store cases of beverages, paper towels, or whatever is on sale. More closets are also a desired featured as we all seem to have more to put in them these days.

More bathrooms: The days of several family members enjoying a shared bathroom are behind us. They might have to, but they don’t want to. A powder room on the first floor is another desired feature and in many cases perceived as a necessity.

Energy efficiency: Houses that can save, or generate, as much energy as they use are attractive to today’s buyers. The flip-side houses, energy guzzlers, whether through the old, single-paned windows or an outdated heating system, present a stumbling block.

A layout designed or adaptable to accommodate more than one generation: This is a plus, whether it's to provide living space for adult children returning home or parents moving in.

While location remains the most important factor, condition has gained increasing importance as we see more two-career couples looking for a home they see as one they won't need to renovate. This last sentence is carefully worded--most sellers have been comfortable in their home and have a harder time seeing the need for renovations than do buyers. However, what today’s buyers are looking for is important to take into account, whether or not you decide to act on it.

Editor's Note: Priscilla Toomey can be reached by cell at 914-559-8084 or by email at CLOAKING . 

Priscilla Toomey: Planning Ahead to Sell or Buy a House: Part I - Legislative Issues PDF Print Email


August 10, 2011: If you are thinking of selling or buying a home in the next two years, it helps to plan ahead. In this three-part series, we will examine different areas where "knowledge is power" during this process.

Part I will review legislative issues in the hopper that will impact home sales and purchases. Part II will discuss protecting your credit score from unintended consequences. Part III will examine using the Homeowner Property Disclosure Questionnaire to prepare your house to pass its inspection with flying colors - as well as what your inspector will be looking for when you seek to purchase your next home.

Part I: When Washington tells us there will be no tax hikes, it is important to read the fine print. In fact, the Home Mortgage Interest Deduction is currently under attack. In the past, the erosion of deductions has been used to de facto raise tax revenues, and that effort is under way in Washington now. Realtors have been hard at work lobbying to preserve the deduction.

Another issue of interest goes by the "code name" QRM (Qualifying Residential Mortgage) part of the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation. Its effect would be to require 20% equity on every home purchase in the United States. It takes people, on average, 14 years to save up enough for that size down payment to purchase a first home. Such a requirement would have a chilling effect on mortgage affordability and availability in the already fragile housing market and the ability of many Americans to purchase a home at all. Though the Bronxville market may be impacted less by this legislation, any decline in the national market will certainly have a trickle-up effect. While supporting responsible lending, Realtors® have opposed the level of equity that would be required.

At the moment, loans up to $729,750 in higher-cost areas fall under the "conforming jumbo" label and are thus made at lower interest rates than regular jumbo mortgages. However, that may all change in late September when those limits are scheduled to expire and any loan over the conventional limit of $629,500 will be considered a jumbo.

As we know, we live in one of the highest-cost housing markets in the country, as well as one with sky-high real property taxes. On this issue, Realtors® lobbied successfully in New York State to "cap the tax" increases at 2% per year. While housing is still very expensive here, this is a start towards keeping homeowners here rather than motivating them to move across the borders to Connecticut or New Jersey.

Residents of Bronxville PO/Yonkers have not fared as well. The Yonkers income tax, which is a percentage of the resident's state income tax, rose from 10% to 15% of the state income tax amount for 2011 versus 2010.

Real Estate Sales: For real estate sales in Bronxville Village during the first seven months of 2011, the signals continue to be mixed, moving forward in fits and starts. Between January 1, 2011, and July 31, 2011, the sales of 27 single-family homes closed, as did the sale of 5 townhouses, 5 condominium apartments, and 26 co-op apartments. During the same period last year, 36 single-family homes sold, as did 11 townhouses, no condominium apartments, and 24 co-ops.

Currently, there are 38 single-family homes (not including townhouses) on the Bronxville Village market, plus 5 under conditional contract and 7 whose sales are pending. For townhouses, 10 are currently active on the market, 1 is under conditional contract, and there are 3 whose sales are pending. There are 3 condominium apartments currently on the market for sale, and the sales of 5 have closed since the beginning of the year. For co-ops, 40 are currently on the market, 2 are under contract, and the sales of 2 are pending. Since our last review in late June, this represents a net reduction of 7 single-family homes, 2 townhouses, and 6 co-ops on the market, and the net addition of 1 condominium apartment.

Mortgage interest rates were down fractionally month to month. According to, for a 30-year conventional fixed-rate mortgage, they were at 4.51% versus 4.71% in mid-June. Fifteen-year conventional fixed-rate mortgages averaged 3.64% versus 3.86% in mid-June. Five-year adjustable rate mortgages averaged 3.00% versus 3.40% in mid-June.

The data reported above shows that Bronxville Village inventory is fluctuating as it struggles to move toward a balance in the ratio between homes on the market and those which have sold. There is currently a 21-month absorption rate for single-family homes and an 18-month absorption rate for co-op apartments. Hopefully closed sales going forward will yield greater balance in the months ahead.

Coming next, Part II: Protecting Your Credit Score from Unintended Consequences

Editor's note: Priscilla Toomey is a real estate broker for Bronxville-Ley Real Estate and can be reached at 914-337-1234 or CLOAKING .

Pictured here: Pricilla Toomey

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