To sell or not to sell, that is the question

just thinking about selling

Mortgage interest rates are low, the sellers’ market is causing home prices to soar another 5 percent, unemployment has decreased and there are a lot of buyers looking for homes.

Facing an extreme sellers’ market in my area, Realtors are frustrated. Why aren’t sellers listing? Where are the homes for my buyers?

Buyer agents and their clients are encountering multiple offer situations, offers far over asking price, high cash offers, and no chance to offer before sold – in some areas homes sold within hours or before the MLS hits the Internet.

What is holding sellers back in this incredible market?  Seems to me that the top reasons to SELL NOW blasted all over the news do not address the reasons why people want to stay in their current homes.

One reason not to sell is that homeowners like where they live. We are encountering this issue here in Rochester, Shelby Township and Lake Orion.  We have the lakes, the shopping, safe neighborhoods and great schools – why leave?

He’s another hurdle:  If a seller is considering putting his updated ranch on the market for $250,000, he needs to prepare to pay over $300k for a larger home that may need a little work. Huh, that’s a tiring thought after all of the work he has put into his current house. What he wants may not be available, bigger isn’t always better, and the sticker shock may keep him away. He starts to think his current house isn’t so bad after all.

The thought process continues to go around and around.  Sellers think their houses need work before they can sell because they watch too much HGTV, or a someone has told them they will get low-balled if the house isn’t updated. If buyers can pony up more money to pay over asking price/appraisal, they can certainly afford to pay for new carpeting or kitchen counter tops. Even if the home is in the FHA price range of $280k or less, buyers know they will update when they can afford to do so since buyers have very little savings for the purchase. The extreme shortage of homes still puts the home that needs some work into an advantageous selling position.

“We will die in this house,” was a quote from a gentleman who I thought would like to consider selling his house.  The house was very large for two elderly adults and it needed extensive work. The thought of having any house payment other than annual taxes after so many years of not having a mortgage is not always feasible/acceptable for people on fixed incomes. Even if they sold the house and cashed in the equity to purchase a smaller, more manageable home/condo, the thought of the moving process can be overwhelming and costly.

My husband and I are on the fence. We are the “house needs more work” and “we like where we live” people. We are also becoming “empty-nesters in a large house.”  If we could find the elusive, affordable ranch with a pole barn on acreage with a short commute, we might light a fire under our behinds to sell — but the ranch might sell before we can get to it.


Ruth Berklich is a buy/sell Realtor with Keller Williams Rochester-Troy, MI (248) 609-8000



How your $35k kitchen makeover gets reduced to $10k max



Being a price analyst was ingrained when I worked as an analyst for a bank, and as a marketing manager for a construction contractor.  I never got away from excel spreadsheets.

Now I use my spreadsheet-toting, sales persona as a Realtor.  The latter is exciting, but the former can be a let down to homeowners.

Like the listing that just popped up on the MLS today: the homeowner purchased the property in 2015 for $475k (good price, very nice home), and just listed it at just under $600k because, I assume, he wants to get back all of the money that he spent in landscaping, kitchen, and painting updates.  Another home in the sub is doing the same, sitting at the same price for 18 months now.   Will the real agent agents educate them? All around these two there are new homes in the same price range selling like hot cakes.

I recently completed a very interesting appraisal update seminar, and though not much of the data was a surprise, it didn’t paint a pretty picture for home values like all of the articles home sellers have read  — 4 percent home value increases YoY and an extreme sellers’ market.

So you won’t harm the next Realtor who prices your home for sale, I wanted to let you in on some of the truths that we have known for years, but most have trouble breaking to clients in this “extreme sellers’ market” in Michigan.

  • That beautiful, wooded 10 acre property you purchased in which to build your dream home can only hold 30 percent of the total market value since you built a home on it.  Take for example, the 11 acres bought for just under $600k, then 15 years later sold for $345k with a house.  I had a client that tried to sell his home on over 30 acres for several years but no one wanted to pay the price.  We split the property into tilled farm land and 5 acres for the house. He sold the farmland immediately at a good price, and he may make about $50k more on the two deals over the full 30 that he could not sell.
  • Your stunning, spa-like, master bathroom that cost $20k to put together with a contractor, will get only a $2-$3,000 increase in value appointed to it by the bank appraiser. (The other homes in your comps have updated bathrooms too.)
  • The kitchen that cost $30k in new cabinets and ceramic flooring will get a maximum of $10k value increase.  This is why we say to have your cabinets painted (the new trend) and put in new appliances (about $4,500 for stainless).
  • Buyers love that third garage!  All $5,000 of it.
  • The fully finished in-law quarters you built in the basement will get only $10-$15 per room square foot, but the full bath can get the $2-$3k as mentioned.
  • Remember how golf course properties seemed higher in value?  They’re not.
  • Placement of the property may have “external obsolescence” issues such as next to a busy road, cemetery, school or a busy shopping mall.  One luxury home in my sub just lost about $30k in value because it backs to a busy road.
  • Your home will be compared to others in your neighborhood, and then up to one mile as the crow flies, unless you have a very unique home or home sales are almost nil.
  • There is no comp value on schools or their districts.
  • Favorite homes to mortgage by banks include #1) ranches #2) colonial # 3) bi/tri/quads. Surprised? You shouldn’t be since ranch homes are the hottest selling homes on the market (millennials and downsizers love ranches).
  • Pool? No value unless the property is in an affluent subdivision, so maybe $10k value add. It does not matter that you have a cute dolphin tiled on the bottom.

I could go on, but sarcasm runs strong in this one as I pay a $4,500 tile bill and look at a $10k deck replacement estimate on my own home.

Yet I want to remind you of the 2006/07 crash, and what it did to banks. From what I am told, appraisers value properties conservatively for banks or they risk losing their jobs.

As the old adage says, build what you will enjoy, but don’t expect a return value.

So when you meet with a Realtor for a market value price to sell, don’t sling shot the messenger.

Ruth Berklich is a buy/sell Realtor with Keller Williams Rochester/Troy Michigan. She can be reached at (248) 609-8000.

Buyers are plenty here, but not desperate


Drew and Johnathon are hot guys/models/actors/flippers with their own home improvement shows. Chip and Joann are a cute couple and give buyers amazingly beautiful homes on a budget. Then there is the other young couple, who always seem to be on the brink of bankruptcy, but restyle enviable west coast homes.  Thanks to these home improvement shows, real estate agents have encountered the “HGTV buyer generation.”

Today’s buyers view homes on television that have large square footage, are completely updated with granite counter tops, ceramic baths and finished basements for under $200k – in Texas.  Not so here in my market where comparable homes sell for over $350k.

Home improvement shows teach buyers that homes without updates are absolutely undesirable and updating will cost a big chunk of change. Real-life buyers have heard the term “good bones” about older homes but they lack funding/time/home updating education to seek a home in their ideal location that could use some work. Drew and Johnathon don’t work miracles in my market.

When first time buyers with low budgets look at homes in “real life,” they often see builder grade counter tops, 4×4 tile, tub inserts, 40 year old cabinetry, aluminum windows, linoleum floors, old decks and outdated plumbing. These buyers find themselves calculating what they can/cannot live without to live in a desired area. No wonder rentals are still hot.

Buyers want to be homeowners, but they aren’t desperate.  If they are about to make this major investment into their lives, they will be picky because most are not on a timetable—they will wait for a desirable, affordable home to come on the market. Some real estate agents often think of these buyers as noncommittal, or as only warm leads, but really these buyers have their own ideas about how they will or will not spend their money. (Smart Realtors are learning to nurture the nature and help them buy homes.)

Consider a home in my market that is currently listed with a popular agent. The house is beautiful, clean and has some recent updates, however, the price has gone from $489K, has taken 3 price cuts, and is now at $435k.  (This is often called “following the market” instead of “pricing to the market.”)  However, this home is a hard sell because the backyard is on a busy road. Buyers with/without children or pets do not want to live on a busy street due to the noise and traffic. Buyers want those quiet, private entertaining yards like those they have seen on television or what their parents had.

On the other hand, I also see buyers with smaller budgets with home improvement ideas moving into cities that were once ignored.  These towns have homes built around the 1960’s and have good bones but “need some love” (TLC, updating, paint). Towns that out lie large, working cities are booming with buyers and multiple offers.  For instance, Warren, Clawson and Sterling Heights border Troy/Warren are where many people work and offer an easy commute.  A buyer can get a home under $180k and will have grand ideas about how they are going to eventually update it to their liking. Home improvement shows make it seem easy to paint the cabinets and install quartz counters. Gut the bathroom yourself, then install porcelain tile (tv makes it look so easy), carpet is cosmetic so wait for the sales, engineered wood flooring is affordable and aluminum/wood windows can be replaced with vinyl or fiberglass.

But twice more for a home that still needs updates in the suburbs? Naw, they’ll pass.

For today’s buyers, sellers can list a home that needs work, but sellers should expect to take the lower price to appeal to buyers with the extra cash for updating.

It may be a sellers’ market, but the best Realtors will know who the buyers are and market directly to them for the highest resale rather than post and pray for higher paying buyers to overlook home flaws.






They’re not ready to buy/sell if…



.This has been a tough year for real estate agents.  If you are looking for seller leads, you are frustrated because not a lot of people want to sell, and if you are helping buyers, you are frustrated because you can’t find what they want due to low inventories.

Recently I read an article about a seller refusing to move out after closing and wondered why the sales agent did not see the signs. Here are some encumbrances in our real estate journey that seem to be popping up.  Feel free to add to the list in comments.

Your sellers may not be ready to sell if….

  • Spouses are fighting over new condo or house.
  • Spouses are arguing over lake view or large property.
  • Spouses are yelling at each other.
  • In-laws have no plans to move out.
  • Adult children have no plans to move out.
  • They refuse to declutter/cut lawn.
  • They keep changing the month/season/year they want to sell.
  • They are waiting for home values to go up.
  • Expect an unreasonably high price.
  • Seller refuses showings….all of the time.
  • They just can’t leave that big tree in the back yard.
  • Sellers don’t have a plan where they want to move.

Your buyers may not be ready to commit if….

  • You have sent them hundreds of houses from the MLS but they haven’t wanted to tour any of them.
  • They won’t get prequalified.
  • They want 10 acres with a house near town under $200k.
  • They have lived in the same apartment for 20 years.
  • If the school year just started.
  • It’s raining too much to tour homes.
  • They remodeled the kitchen and are enjoying it too much.
  • Repeatedly changes his mind about what he wants.
  • City, suburbs or country?.
  • Every house is awesome. Let’s see some more!


Ruth Berklich is a Realtor for Keller Williams Rochester – Troy, MI

She can be reached at

Homes we need now


“Give the people what they want.”

Easily quoted, but for anyone in a sales position, it is often difficult to achieve.

I get excited when I go on an appointment to list a small ranch home.  I dread when a client wants one.  There just aren’t that many available in my area under $250,000.

If you are thinking of selling a ranch home, please call a local Realtor.  We just might break out into tears.

My community has a lot of high-end homes but needs small ranch home listings.  Specifically those about $250,000 because that is a median budget that our buyers have.  Some of our buyers are young, first time homeowners and some are people who want to downsize due to retirement or as recent empty nesters. (We hear from sellers, “just what are two people doing rambling around this big house?”)

I have had dreams of ranch homes.

Unfortunately, people have the perception that their ranch must be finished the HGTV way to get a buyer.  This is a misconception.  It is true that young buyers do not usually have much cash to upgrade and renovate, but they know that they can do this later. Seniors want very low maintenance brick homes with clean bathrooms and kitchens.  Many are going condo. (I dream of condos under $250K too.)

If a ranch has 3 bedrooms, 1.5+ bathrooms, a partial basement and a two car attached garage, it can be sold quickly in my community.  Oh, the HGTV junkies would like to have the trendiest kitchens, finished basements and spa-like bathrooms, but some like their own colors and designs. In fact, that new green glass backsplash tile you just put in might be replaced with white subway tile and the carpet might be taken out in favor of wood floors, so don’t let your feelings get hurt.

Our community is in desperate need of home listings under $300,000 for young families who wish to locate here, primarily for our award-winning schools, safe neighborhoods, easy access to expressways, shopping and dining.

Think of your first home.  You were excited to purchase it and you had grand visions of what you would do with it.  Now, buyers want well-maintained furnaces, newer roofs, good windows and a private yard with a deck or patio.

Buyers will supply their own dreams.



Ruth Berklich’s “community” in Michigan consists of Rochester, Rochester Hills, Oakland Township, Lake Orion, Shelby Township/Utica.

Ruth Berklich is a Realtor with Keller Williams Rochester – Troy, Michigan.  She can be reached though her webpage




So where is my next house?

My son graduates from high school this year. It has snuck up on us because we are not ready.

My husband and I planned years ago that we would sell our large house and downsize when our son graduates.  Our goals were 1) pay cash for my son’s college education, 2) buy a small house for its little maintenance (ie me to clean), and 3) find the house with the workshop or pole barn of my husband’s dreams.

So here we are and we have not replaced the upstairs carpeting, updated the master bath or painted the house exterior yet.  This is the third spring that we swore we would do these things.

Just for grins, I have started house hunting for us.  Not only to see the prices of what we want, but also to hold it over my husband’s head so that I can say “I told you so” when the right house comes along and we are not ready to sell. But I cannot find his dream workshop or pole barn.

I have two clients that are ready to list, but we cannot find homes for them either.  One wants a small ranch condo with a garage in a specific area that is also within a senior’s living budget.  The other is for a newer ranch with a three car garage under a specific price but with broader commuting options.

Why don’t more ranches have three car garages? We live in snow shrouded Michigan for gosh sakes!  We need one garage just for the riding tractors with plow attachments or jet skis! Why haven’t builders erected more senior living condos for purchase instead of building so many senior rentals – and at such high rental rates?

We’ve been searching, and I have driven the neighborhoods requested because if I see what my clients want, I will find myself knocking on doors to see if the owners would like to sell.

Because our area has been in a sellers’ market for so long, sales prices have been nicely increasing, quite noticeably in the last five years. So of course, what my buyers’ want is often above their budgets.  Mine too.

A broker in my office could not find houses for two of his clients last year, so he looked up old expireds that fit his clients’ requests and approached the homeowners to sell. When he told the owners that he had buyers for their homes, they practically closed the doors on this face because they had heard that line before from marketing real estate agents. However, his plan worked because he was able to give the sellers actual attractive offers from his clients.

It used to be that a seller could put his house on the market then pick out his next home when his property sold because there were a lot of available options out there.  Now, prospective sellers don’t want to list unless they can find what they really want in their price range.

Or they have refinanced and have decided to stay.

Oh, and it’s an election year .

So, this is going to be an interesting year for home buyers.


SDRandCo 141

Ruth Berklich is a Realtor with Keller Williams Rochester – Troy, Michigan.  She can be reached at or (248) 609-8000.