5 things to remember about the value of landscaping

How much value does landscaping really add? Nothing. A minor amount. A huge total. I’ve heard it all when it comes to what people think landscaping is worth. Today let’s kick around some ideas from an appraisal standpoint. Anything to add?

landscaping in appraisals - sacramento appraisal blog

5 things to remember about the value of landscaping

1) The myth of no value: I’ve heard the sentiment from some real estate professionals that landscaping does not count toward the value. My take? Landscaping is often very important to buyers – especially when it is extensive or highly expected in certain neighborhoods.

2) Front vs back: My sense is front yard landscaping does not sway buyers like the backyard does. I’m not saying it’s not important or curb appeal doesn’t matter (it does). I’m only saying the rear yard tends to make a much more significant impact on value since people spend more time there.

3) One size doesn’t fit all: The value of landscaping will vary significantly depending on the price range and neighborhood. For instance, a few years back during the height of home flipping activity, it was common to see flippers at the lower end of the market do very basic cosmetic landscaping in the front yard while doing almost nothing with the backyard (seriously, rear yards were at times just dirt or bordering on unkempt). In contrast, higher priced homes were getting full-service attention in both the front and backyard. Why? Because the market had different expectations by price range and the investors’ sense was spending the money was worth it in some neighborhoods and not others.

4) On par after huge money spent: Sometimes owners will spend good money to redo an unkempt yard only to expect a huge price premium. The problem is post-landscaping the owner is now basically on par with other homes in the neighborhood rather than in a position to command a premium. This is not easy to swallow, but it’s important to recognize in order to avoid overpricing. 

5) Dollar for dollar: While we like to get a “dollar for dollar” return on our improvement projects (at the least), that’s not always possible in real estate. So when an owner says, “I spent $125,000 in my backyard” and otherwise similar homes are selling for $700,000, can we really expect this property to be worth $825,000? That’s probably not realistic, right? Most of all though, let’s find comps with incredible landscaping and let those properties tell the story of value. That way we are letting actual market data speak to us to set the tone for what buyers have been willing to pay for similar landscaping. Isn’t that better than shooting from the hip about what landscaping may or may not be worth?

Case-in-point for an incredible backyard: While appraising in the Natomas area of Sacramento I came across a house with an incredible backyard. I ended up NOT using it as a “comp” because this property sold about 10% higher than others because of the built-in pool, custom covered patio, built-in BBQ, outdoor fireplace, and everything else in the yard. I’m not calling all of these things landscaping of course, but at the same time let’s be realistic to think buyers may lump some of these items in the same category. Anyway, at times it’s tempting to give a token $10,000 upward value adjustment when we see a nice rear yard because that’s what a mentor taught us to do, but sometimes the market is willing to pay more like 10%. In this case otherwise similar homes seemed to come in around $450,000 and the subject sold for $495,000 (there were 7 offers). There was one other sale at $485,000 and it also had a sweet backyard. As you can see on the graph, the incredible backyard seemed to really matter.

incredible landscaping - sacramento appraisal blog

Here is what the rear yard looked like. I could live with that. You?

house with amazing rear yard - sacramento appraiser

Remember, let’s find a few examples of extensive rear landscaping (or an amazing backyard) if possible so we don’t base our perception of value on only one sale. After all, what is that one sale sold too high or too low?

The Washington Post: Two weeks ago I wrote a post about the ugly side of appraisal fees, and as a result Ken Harney of The Washington Post interviewed a handful of appraisers (including me) for a piece that went live today. Ken is a nationally syndicated columnist, so the conversation that took place here is going to be moving to a much bigger level. Thank you everyone. Here is Ken’s article.

Questions: What stands out to you most about what I mentioned above? What is #6? Did I miss something?

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My last blog post of 2016

Almost eight years ago I started this blog, and I never imagined it would still be going after all this time. Sometimes people say, “An appraisal blog? Yeah, that sounds so uninteresting.” But I love the conversations we have each week, and in some way I hope they help us all grow in our skills and understanding. Anyway, I’m sincerely honored you take time out of your day to be here. Thank you for your insight, comments, emails, phone calls, constructive criticism, and the referrals you send my way. On behalf of the entire Lundquist family, I want to wish you Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!!

The next two weeks: At the end of this week I’ll be taking some time to enjoy family, relax, drink ungodly amounts of coffee, lose the weight I said I was going to lose in 2016, hang out with my new nephew, and let my kids whoop me on their Xbox. I might be crazy, but this year when we visit family I’m bringing my tools so I can build my mother-in-law a bookcase. That’s either the best thing ever or maybe I’m setting myself up for a yearly tradition. Uh oh. Ultimately I hope to get refreshed in coming time and ready for 2017. This has been an amazing year, but I need a break. Can you relate? I hope you enjoy this season and I can’t wait to reconnect in early January. Thank you again for making this a tremendous year. Blessings to you and your loved ones.

pallet-trees-by-sacramento-appraisal-blog

These are some of my festive pallet trees in the front yard.

Questions: What are you going to be doing over the next week or so? Any special traditions? I’d love to hear.

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What does the market expect? (a critical question to ask in real estate)

What does the market expect? That’s one of the best questions we can ask ourselves in real estate. Why? Because it helps us keep the focus on what buyers actually demand in certain neighborhoods and price ranges. In other words, what are buyers really willing to pay more or less for in a neighborhood? Being in tune with that is definitely one of the key aspects of coming up with a credible value.

Market expectations - Sacramento Appraisal Blog

Pool Example: Take a look at the table below to see how some areas and price ranges in Sacramento have far more built-in pools than others.

Market expectations pool example by Sacramento Appraisal Blog

Key Point: When built-in pools are more common in some neighborhoods and price ranges we can probably say the market expects a pool, right? This is especially true at the higher end of the price spectrum where over 70% of homes have a pool. In contrast, some areas of town have less than 1% of homes with a built-in pool, and it’s safe to say the market doesn’t expect a built-in pool in those areas. This doesn’t mean the pool is worth nothing in those places, but if anything it’s a reminder to really consider that a pool might be worth far less or more in some areas than others. While it’s tempting to always give a token $10,000 adjustment for a pool, based on the data above alone, that adjustment probably doesn’t make sense for every neighborhood because of differing expectations.

Not Just About Pools: This conversation isn’t just about built-in pools because we have to ask what the market expects for things like upgrades, square footage, condition, lot size, architectural design, bedroom count, garage spaces, landscaping, etc… As much as we’d like instant answers, there really isn’t a quick guide to understand what the market expects without immersing ourselves in comparing sales, talking with buyers and other real estate professionals, and crunching numbers.

Two Mentions: I’m honored to share a couple of recent media mentions. I was quoted in Inman SF Bay Area in “Sacramento housing boosted by Bay Area refugees” and in RealtyTrac’s June Housing News Report (PDF – pg 17-21).

Blackstone: One more thing. A recent article talked about the private equity fund Blackstone (Invitation Homes) selling off some of its homes directly to tenants. As you probably know, Blackstone purchased thousands of homes in the Sacramento market several years ago. They continue to buy today, but their purchase volume is minimal and nowhere near what it used to be. Anyway, the article states they would likely sell about 5% of their inventory this year directly to tenants. Whether that’s true for the Sacramento market or not is to be seen, but it’s worth watching closely. Keep in mind many landlords are selling straight to their tenants right now instead of listing on MLS. In short, this isn’t just a Blackstone thing.

Questions: How do you get a sense of what the market expects in a neighborhood? Any advice you’d give on how to better understand market expectations? Did I miss anything? I’d love to hear your take.

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Seeing the real estate market without numbers (and a big Sacramento update)

It’s not just about the numbers. Like many, I’m a huge fan of getting deep into real estate stats, but the truth is there are so many other ways to sniff out what the market is doing. Thus I’ve created a list of some of the things on my radar lately that help say something about the temperature of the market. Then for those interested, let’s crunch some numbers with my big monthly Sacramento market update. I’d love to hear your take. Any thoughts?

How to see the market moving - image purchased and used with permission from 123rf - Sacramento Appraisal Blog

Ways to see the real estate market without numbers:

  1. Facebook Posts: I can’t tell you how many posts I’ve seen lately saying, “Hey, my friend needs to rent a house. Anyone have something?” Seeing an increasing number of posts like this on Facebook or Nextdoor.com is definitely a symptom of rising rents and scarce inventory.
  2. Celebrity Flipping Seminars: Last week an HGTV flipping couple hosted a 4-day “how to flip” seminar in Sacramento, and this week a different “guru” is coming to town. If anything, this tells us the market for flipping has passed.
  3. Riskier Loans: As more lower-down payment loan products hit the market, it reminds us buyers need more options to afford higher prices.
  4. Sacramento Kings vs. Market - jokeSacramento Kings Wins: Here is an image to show the relationship between an NBA team winning and the housing market. Okay, there really isn’t a connection, but it almost looks like there is (you can make numbers say whatever you want).
  5. Less Property Tax Appeals: As the market has improved, assessment appeals have declined every year since 2008 in Sacramento County. Right now home owners are enjoying equity again and they’re hardly paying attention to their property tax bills. Here is an image to back that up.
  6. More Divorces: As the housing market has rebounded, it seems there are more divorces. I’ll admit stats are tricky in that some sources say divorces are increasing and others say they are not. It may be my personal experience, but I’ve done more divorce appraisals these past 2-3 years than I have in the previous ten years.
  7. Builders Being Less Cooperative: I’ve heard from several agents lately about local builders being less cooperative with agents representing buyers. That’s fairly normal for builders of course, though being less cooperative is certainly a luxury afforded by a market with tight inventory too. In other words, if the market had three times the housing supply, conversations might go differently at the sales office.
  8. The word “shift”: There is so much emphasis right now on the market shifting or maybe doing so in coming time. When the real estate community uses terms like shift, change, correction, or bubble, it can sometimes highlight what the market is doing (or at least what is on the mind of the real estate community).

Question: What is #9? I’d love to hear in the comments below. By the way, scroll to the bottom if you want to see some of my recent woodworking projects.

—————– For those interested, here is my big market update  —————–

Big monthly market update post - sacramento appraisal blog - image purchased from 123rfTwo ways to read the BIG POST:

  1. Scan the talking points and graphs quickly.
  2. Grab a cup of coffee and spend time digesting what is here.

DOWNLOAD 70 graphs HERE: Please download all graphs in this post (and more) here as a zip file (or send me an email). Use them for study, for your newsletter, or some on your blog. See my sharing policy for 5 ways to share (please don’t copy verbatim). Thanks.

Quick Market Summary: Yep, the stats show the market has been increasing. This doesn’t mean every single price range or neighborhood is going up in value, but county and regional data are definitely showing that trend overall. One of the bigger narratives is that housing inventory is still down by 15% in the region compared to last year. Sales volume has been up slightly for the year and it took 6 less days to sell last month compared to the previous month. For context, last year at the same time it was taking an average of 8 days longer to sell. This reminds us the market has been more competitive this year compared to last year, though don’t take that to mean value increases have been extremely aggressive. Last month the median price increased by nearly 2% in the region, and the average price per sq ft increased by 2.5%. Overall most value stats are up a good 8-10% since last year, though remember it’s not the same market as it was in 2005 when we’d say, “My house went up by $10,000 last month.” It’s still important to price correctly unless you want to sit instead of sell.

Sacramento County:

  1. It took an average of 27 days to sell a home last month, which is 4 days less than the previous month.
  2. The sales to list price ratio was 100% last month.
  3. It took 8 less days to sell this May compared to last May.
  4. Sales volume was up nearly 4% in May 2016 from May 2015.
  5. There is only 1.35 months of housing supply in Sacramento County.
  6. Housing inventory is 22% lower than it was last year at the same time.
  7. The median price increased by 3% last month.
  8. The median price is 9.6% higher than the same time last year.
  9. The avg price per sq ft increased by 1.8% last month.
  10. The avg price per sq ft is 9.9% higher than the same time last year.

Some of my Favorite Graphs this Month:

Median price since 2013 in sacramento county

monthly inventory is sacramento county since 2001 - by sacramento appraisal blog

inventory - May 2016 - by home appraiser blog

CDOM in Sacramento County - by Sacramento Regional Appraisal Blog

price metrics since 2015 in sacramento county - look at all

market in sacramento - sacramento appraisal group

SACRAMENTO REGIONAL MARKET:

  1. It took 6 less days to sell last month compared to the previous month.
  2. It took 8 less days to sell this May compared to last May.
  3. The sales to list price ratio was 99% in the region last month.
  4. Short sales and REOs were both 3% of sales last month.
  5. There is 1.6 months of housing supply in the region right now.
  6. Housing inventory is 15.6% lower than it was last year at the same time.
  7. The median price increased 1.7% last month from the previous month.
  8. The median price is 6.8% higher than the same time last year.
  9. The avg price per sq ft increased 2.5% last month.
  10. The avg price per sq ft is 8.4% higher than the same time last year.

Some of my Favorite Regional Graphs:

median price sacramento placer yolo el dorado county

sacramento region volume - FHA and conventional - by appraiser blog

sales volume 2015 vs 2016 in sacramento placer yolo el dorado county

Regional Inventory - by Sacramento regional appraisal blog

days on market in placer sac el dorado yolo county by sacramento appraisal blog

median price and inventory in sacramento regional market

Regional market median price - by home appraiser blog

PLACER COUNTY:

  1. It took 2 less days to sell a house last month than April.
  2. It took 1 less day to sell this May compared to last May.
  3. Sales volume was up 3% in May 2016 compared to last May.
  4. FHA sales were 16% of all sales last month.
  5. Cash sales were 17% of all sales last month.
  6. There is 1.84 months of housing supply in Placer County right now.
  7. Housing inventory is 12.4% lower than it was last year at the same time.
  8. The median price is about the same as it was the previous month.
  9. The median price is up 7% from May 2015.
  10. Short sales were 2.1% and REOs were 1.7% of sales last month.

Some of my Favorite Placer County Graphs:

number of listings in PLACER county - 2016

Placer County sales volume - by sacramento appraisal blog

months of housing inventory in placer county by sacramento appraisal blog

Placer County price and inventory - by sacramento appraisal blog

days on market in placer county by sacramento appraisal blog

Placer County housing inventory - by home appraiser blog

I hope this was helpful and interesting.

My Latest Woodworking: By the way, I know this post has been ridiculously long already (on purpose since it’s my big monthly market update), but here are some of my recent woodworking projects. If you didn’t know, I like to tinker and create.

Ryan woodworking 2

Ryan woodworking 1

DOWNLOAD 70 graphs HERE: Please download all graphs in this post (and more) here as a zip file (or send me an email). Use them for study, for your newsletter, or some on your blog. See my sharing policy for 5 ways to share (please don’t copy verbatim). Thanks.

Question: Any other market insight you’d like to add? I’d love to hear your take.

If you liked this post, subscribe by email (or RSS). Thanks for being here.