Saturday, April 19, 2014
FAIRFIELD-SUISUN, CALIFORNIA
99 CENTS

A little work can make a difference in hot real estate market

15 housing 1

Janice Jackson stands outside her father's house along Vista Cerro in Fairfield, Thursday. Jackson recently sold her father's house after two days on the market. (Aaron Rosenblatt/Daily Republic)

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From page C1 | December 15, 2013 | Leave Comment

FAIRFIELD  — When Janice Jackson and her husband James decided to sell her father’s house in Fairfield, they put in some hard work – and it paid off.

“We did a lot of work – cleaning, painting. Everybody who looked at it said it was move-in ready,” she said. “We worked there three months – me, my husband and our sons. We just wanted it to sell.”

Jackson’s 92-year-old father had lived in the home since 2010 and recently moved to a senior facility. His home on Vista Cerro Drive in Fairfield needed some updating.

“I realized we needed to freshen it up,” Jackson said. “It is a beautiful home, it was just a bit dated.”

The home went on the market in late November with an asking price of $330,000. Two days later, there were multiple offers – including one for $335,000, which the Jacksons accepted.

Their experience is fairly typical in the current Solano County market. Home prices are rising and competition is hot enough that a well-priced home can go fast – if you do the work required.

“I think it’s important to have your home ready to sell,” said Denise Kirchubel, a Realtor with Re/Max Gold in Green Valley. “If there are minor improvements, you should make them to capitalize on it. Sometimes, something you do costs a couple thousand dollars, but you get $5,000 or $10,000 extra in value.”

That’s important because the real estate market is moving toward a balance, so sellers must compete. After months of a low inventory of available homes in the county, more are coming on the market – and even more will likely arrive in the coming months.

“We sell fewer homes (in November and December), but sellers start thinking about selling in the spring,” said Don McDonald, managing partner of Re/Max Gold Elite in Fairfield. “So they get active. We have more conversations now than normal. By the end of January, the inventory will start to grow.”

McDonald said most area residents realize the value of their home has increased, but not the extent of the increase.

“I think ‘significant’ is the operative word,” he said. “We’re at 15 to 20 percent increase nationally, but in Solano County, it’s up 48 percent. That’s phenomenal appreciation. For the average homeowner, there’s probably a $50,000 difference between what the consumer thinks their house is worth and what it’s worth.”

Getting full value was a concern for the Jacksons.

“I knew the market was coming back up, but my concern was getting what we wanted for the house,” Janice Jackson said.

Sales figures for November will be released this week and it’s expected to be a continuation of recent trends. During October, the median price for a home sold in Solano County was $266,000 – the 18th consecutive month of year-over-year increase in prices. The real estate slide that began in 2007 and lasted five years appears to be over.

McDonald said the biggest change in the market is the disappearance of investors. As prices rise, it’s a return to mostly normal sales on all but the lower-level homes.

“They’re still looking for a bargain-basement deal, but if your house is worth more than $250,000, you’re not getting a lot of action (from investors),” he said. “If it’s over $300,000, it might take two weeks to get a couple of offers.”

McDonald said the inventory – which has been very low for months – is starting to creep up. For the past couple of months, the local listings added more homes each week than were sold, which adds inventory.

Ultimately, that will help balance the market, which has been tilted to the seller. McDonald said the main impact of that will be that sellers will have to wait longer – maybe 30 or 45 days – to get full market value, rather than the few-days wait of recent months, which was experienced by the Jacksons.

Kirchubel agreed.

“You don’t see the crazy bidding of a while back,” she said. “The prices are balancing out. You’re starting to see a little more of the demand being met.”

Kirchubel said it will likely be another few months before the market totally balances, but that the current market is as close to “normal” as it’s been for a few years.

That means home sales aren’t as simple as listing it and then waiting for offers. As the Jacksons learned with their home.

Preparing a home for sale is just labor, Janice Jackson said, ”but it’s OK.”

Reach Brad Stanhope at 427-6958 or bstanhope@dailyrepublic.net. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/bradstanhope.

Brad Stanhope

Brad Stanhope

Brad Stanhope is the Daily Republic's news editor. He began his career at the DR in the last millennium. He spent 17 years as a sports editor and three years as the associate editor before spending three years away from the newspaper (though continuing as a columnist). He returned in December 2010 as news editor. Brad lives in Suisun City with his wife, Mrs. Brad, and two sons. He enjoys cheese.
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