Again, Robotic Real Estate Estimates Run into Trouble
There’s news on the real estate value estimating front (robotic version).
For any kind of Delaware real estate activity—whether you are buying or selling; financing or refinancing; whether for your family residence or as an investment—there are at least two value estimation figures that determine how the Delaware transaction is likely to fare.
The first is a value estimate that you come up with: a dollar amount that reflects what the subject property is worth to you. That’s a calculation likely to be based on some mix of the property’s features, your own personal tastes, and your financial profile and outlook. If I’m your Realtor®, it will also be greatly influenced by the research I prepare for you: the real-world values of all the latest comparable transactions that have been taking place locally—along with the asking prices of similar properties.
That figure is one thing, but the second kind is an actual appraisal—the estimate that lenders use as the collateral value for the Delaware property. That estimate is the one a professional appraiser calculates using guidelines and formulas that have been painstakingly developed over time. It’s fortuitous when the first number comes close to the professional estimate—and I’m happy to say that it’s often the case.
But since 2006 there has been a third kind of Delaware real estate value estimate—one that’s increasingly mentioned in news of real estate controversies. This is the “Zestimate” offered by the website data company Zillow: a number that is arrived at via an automated system that assembles publicly available data. It’s stated purpose is “to aid potential buyers in assessing market value of a given property.” Unlike the painstaking reports that certified assessors create for a fee, Zestimates are widely disseminated to everyone for free. There is one problem, which I’ve mentioned before: the figures may be misleading.
Although Zillow claims an “incredibly low” national median error rate of 5%, last June they hailed a new improved algorithm that dropped the rate to 6.1%” [that’s not a typo: 6.1% is indeed a larger error rate than the still-claimed 5%]. Worse yet, research shows that in 10% of the cases examined, the error was 20% plus or minus…so a home with an actual fair market value of $300,000 could show a Zestimate of anywhere from $240,000 to $360,000!
Given that possibility, it’s probably no wonder that Zillow has announced a $1 million prize “to the person or team who can most improve the Zestimate” formula. MarketWatch points out that the contest was announced “just a week after a class action suit was filed against them” for offering unlicensed appraisals that hurt business—but the company claims the timing is just a coincidence.
- Written by Russell Stucki
Rehoboth Beach, DE Real Estate Investments—2 Significant Tax Facts
For those who may have been wondering how the final GOP Tax Bill could affect possible real estate investment plans and tax liability next year, the changes can be significant.
I know, I know. As soon as you saw “tax liability,” your eyes glossed over and your finger got ready to swipe right. But before you skip the following, I promise to keep it short, relevant, and potentially beneficial for investors and potential investors here in Rehoboth Beach, DE :
SIGNIFICANT fact #1:
You can now take 100% depreciation upfront for assets with useful lives of less than 20 years. For example, if you buy personal property (like carpet, new appliances, tools, equipment) or if you make land improvements (like landscaping, driveways, parking) you can probably immediately write off the entire cost of these assets. Under previous rules, the allowed depreciation was 50% in the year of purchase.
However, as points out, “It is important to note that this is bonus That means that when you sell the assets, you will pay depreciation recapture tax. Keep that in mind.”
SIGNIFICANT fact #2:
A new “freebie” deduction has been granted to sole proprietors, LLCs, and S corps generating qualified business income. According to , “Landlords are among the biggest winners under the new law. Virtually all landlords will save money--many, to quote our President, will save ‘bigly.’ Enjoy it while you can.”
So basically, if your rental activity qualifies as a business for tax purposes (as most do, according to Nolo), you may be eligible to deduct an amount equal to 20% of your net rental income. This would be in addition to all your other rental or real estate investment-related deductions. If you qualify for this deduction, you’ll effectively be taxed on only 80% of your rental income. Thus, the effective rate for taxpayers in the top 37% tax bracket is 29.5%.
- Written by Jimmie Bachand
Nuts and Bolts Behind Delaware Real Estate Negotiations
When the goals motivating the parties in a negotiation—including Delaware real estate negotiations—are understood by all concerned, the odds for success are greatly improved. In most cases where the negotiation is between a buyer and seller of Delaware real estate, the goals are straightforward enough that it doesn’t seem to require much attention. Yet with a negotiation as weighty as the buying and selling of a home, stripping down the motivations common to the various parties can be a clarifying exercise. Here is what you might call a negotiation matrix:
When a buyer puts together an offer, more often than not their mental decision-making process goes something like this:
— — — — — — — — — BUYER — — — — — — — —
I do not want to lose this house | want to pay as little as possible
— — — — — — — — — —— — — — — — — — — — —
The reason for the colliding arrows is that the two goals run the risk of conflicting with one another. If the buyer’s offer is too low, another buyer could come in to swoop up the property, and: game over. If the offer is higher than would turn out to be acceptable to the seller, the second goal will have been needlessly sacrificed.
At the same time and on the other side, the seller is usually thinking:
— — — — — — — — — —— — — — — — — — — — —
I want to complete the sale | want to bank the full asking price (or higher!)
— — — — — — — — — — SELLER— — — — — — — — — — —
It’s quite similar to the buyer’s mental process. Both are calculations of the risk vs. reward that making an offer and responding to an offer entails.
When a buyer makes a lowball offer, it signals to the seller that the “don’t want to lose this house” side is probably losing out to the “pay the least” side of the buyer’s calculation. If the seller is leaning toward the “complete the sale” side of his or her own calculation, the offer will either be accepted or countered with a significant discount. If the current inclination is more toward the “full price” side, the counter may contain just a minor discount.
This negotiation matrix is the barest of bare-bones reductions. In practice, it’s often a little more complicated. Offers often contain details about desired maintenance corrections or may be dependent upon outside factors (like selling their current home); counter-offers, likewise.
Where a possible negotiation can needlessly go off the rails is if either party becomes emotionally threatened by an offer or counter. And believe me, it can happen! What’s vitally important is that each side understands that the other’s goals are legitimate, even though at odds with their own. A lowball offer may be misguided, but it’s not evil. A refusal to counter at all is, likewise, a statement of a legitimate bargaining position. Either may be disappointing, but neither is necessarily evidence of bad faith.
- Written by Russell Stucki
What "PST!" Has to Do with Selling Your Delaware House
If you see the letters “PST!” in connection with selling a house in Delaware, don’t think it’s someone whispering to get your attention (that would be spelled “psst!”).
The selling-a-house kind of “PST” isn’t something whispered by a black marketeer to keep an off-the-books deal under wraps. There’s no need to speak in hushed tones about PST in polite conversation. When speaking about selling your Delaware house, its meaning is right out there in the open. It may not be on the tip of every homeowner’s tongue as they prepare their home for sale, but its import is undeniable in formulating one of your listing’s most important ingredients: the asking price.
Before any Delaware house can be put on the market, zeroing in on the dollar amount the ultimate buyer will be willing to pay is always a kind of high-stakes guessing game. This mysterious buyer could be anyone. He or she could appear at any time. Even so, picking an asking price that attracts the greatest number of possible ultimate buyers isn’t pure guesswork, nor is it some number that’s plucked out of the air. And it definitely isn’t a large number that’s chosen “just to see what happens.”
The most reliable way to arrive at an effective asking price is to do some serious investigation into the current Delaware market by seeking what previous buyers have been willing to pay. That’s where PST! comes in.
This “PST” is an acronym for Proximity, Similarity, and Timeliness—the three main ingredients that measure the quality of Delaware “comps”—the comparable sales figures that buyers, their agents, lenders, and sellers rely upon to develop asking and offering prices.
P—proximity: how physically close was the sale? Next door is best; in the neighborhood also good; 50 miles away, pretty worthless.
S—similarity: how do the layout and features compare with your house? With a slight adjustment, a 4 bedroom 3 ½ bath comp is useful for your own 4 bedroom 3 bath property. For a 1 bedroom condo, not useful. It’s important to account for level of finish, too. If a neighbor’s home sold for X dollars including its brand new $80,000 kitchen remodel, a similar house that’s straight out of the 80s shouldn’t expect the same.
T—timeliness: how recent was the sale? A March sale would be terrific right now; January 2015, not so terrific.
Researching and analyzing a good sampling of comps accomplishes more than just establishing the asking price. Being able to furnish a solid selection of comps convinces buyers that you are selling your house for a reasonable price. And lenders can use them to verify a property’s collateral value in today’s Delaware marketplace.
- Written by Russell Stucki