It’s time for Sussex County real estate observer to tackle the New Year’s roundup of the Year in Real Estate (along with the traditional disclaimer that, since the actual statistics won’t be tallied until 2014, this has to be a lot more sizzle than steak!) But this is one time in the year when we local residents get to take pause to relax, perhaps put a bottle of bubbly in the fridge for later on, and take a sweeping view of the general direction of things across the land.

If you’ve been reading here throughout the year, you already know that 2013 Sussex County real estate activity might easily justify chilling a superior vintage champagne: it’s been a pretty darn good year! A smattering of last week’s press reports confirms it:

  • From the East Coast to Oahu (where there was a “1 in 3 chance” that if you sold a house, it was for more than the asking price), reports were of steadily rising prices.
  • The Business Insider reported that the Big Apple “managed to shatter several real estate records in 2013.” One of the records was a tidy listing for a modest little 62,000 sq. ft. private coop residence. Sure, $130 million may sound a little steep to us here in Sussex County, but that might be because so few of our digs have 82-foot swimming pools or tennis courts…at least not indoors, inside our five-story apartment atop a skyscraper.
  • More down to earth might be NAR’s assessment that “Housing prices rose faster than expected” — with a lot of credit given to the fact that “affordability remained high.”
  • Another factor: “More first-time buyers” were entering the market due to “rising rents and pent-up demand.”
  • Following suit, the Dallas News was touting a local home market that “came roaring back in 2013;” one that had “builders rushing to keep up with demand for new houses.”
  • The Realtor® web awarded credit for the strong real estate year to “Low mortgage rates, all-cash buyers, and tight inventories” that sustained the housing market recovery. Our Sussex County real estate saw much of the same.  
  • There was one notably bleak spot: “ACT real estate hit hard by election” the Times reported. “Uncertainty” about election politics had created “subdued performance during the year” and some “negative house price growth.” The best news: this was the Canberra Times – and the country was Australia!

So let’s wish those Down Under a quick turnaround; then, after a relaxing day watching the Rose Parade and a bowl game or two, let’s get ready to charge into an equally dynamic 2014.

Call/text 302-228-7871 or email me, Russell Stucki, REALTOR ® of Beach Real Estate Market to provide detailed information on Delaware homes for sale, investment and commercial properties, luxury and  waterfront homes, condos/townhomes, new construction, lots and land, farms and equestrian properties located in but not limited to Bethany, Bethel, Bridgeville, Dagsboro, Delmar, Ellendale, Fenwick Island, Frankford, Georgetown, Greenwood, Harbeson, Laurel, Lewes, Lincoln, Milford, Millsboro, Millville, Milton, Ocean View, Rehoboth Beach, Seaford, Selbyville, Delaware.

Energy costs may not be skyrocketing as quickly as some other costs, but Sussex County property owners continue to watch incoming utility bills with a wary eye. It’s only natural: they remember sudden energy price leaps in the past.

One of the ripple effects of high energy prices is the possible impact on anyone planning a future sale of their own property in Sussex County. Canny prospects are likely to demand to examine past utility bills — sometimes going back for a year or two. As we encounter cooler weather, that’s why it’s doubly important to keep a lid on gas and electricity bills.

Some of these steps you can take are easy to accomplish…and all too easy to forget!

Most experts recommend setting the water heater thermostat between 120 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, with the exact setting dependent upon your area’s microclimate, local property type, and your particular household’s requirements. The goal here is to avoid sustaining temperatures above the 140-degree mark — which would be sure to add digits to this winter’s energy bill.

 Now is the time to take an inspection walk around your property on the lookout for leaks, be they toilets, pipes or faucets. It’s easy to do a double-check, too: just keep an eye on your meter over a two-hour period when there is no water use (this idea comes from Mark LeChevallier of American Water). If you spot activity, you may need to do more active detective work.

Clogged air filters are more serious than most would think: they can burden mechanical systems — not only boosting energy costs, but eventually damaging the mechanicals behind them. Failing to replace filters causes dryers, heaters, AC units, etc., to run longer. It’s easy to picture what the impact on the monthly energy tab can be.

Being able to produce low energy bills is just one way to help prospective buyers see the wisdom of buying your Sussex County property. If you are considering selling your own property in Sussex County anytime in the future, now is the time to make a few changes. Call/text 302-228-7871 or email me, Russell Stucki, REALTOR ® of Beach Real Estate Market to provide detailed information on Delaware homes for sale, investment and commercial properties, luxury and  waterfront homes, condos/townhomes, new construction, lots and land, farms and equestrian properties located in but not limited to Bethany, Bethel, Bridgeville, Dagsboro, Delmar, Ellendale, Fenwick Island, Frankford, Georgetown, Greenwood, Harbeson, Laurel, Lewes, Lincoln, Milford, Millsboro, Millville, Milton, Ocean View, Rehoboth Beach, Seaford, Selbyville, Delaware.

Your first open house in Sussex County can be compared to a movie’s world premiere. We may not have strobes flashing and paparazzi jostling each other, but all eyes are definitely on the above-the-title headline star: your house.

It’s a star that has to look its glamorous best, too, or the fans will be disappointed. The purpose of any Sussex County open house is to sell buyers on the largely emotional dream of potentially owning your home. Doing so means banishing everyday imperfections—the debris created by daily living—from the stage (at least to the extent it’s practical). Absolutely essential is insuring that the whole property, inside and out, is clean and tidy.

Your first open house is one premiere that can use some set decoration and makeup wizardry, as well. They call it ‘staging’ when a professional sets the scene, but you don’t necessarily need a pro stager to make some magic happen. Clear away every bit of clutter, then open the rooms to as much flattering light as you can to create a setting that will appeal to buyers.

To insure the opening is as grand as possible, your Sussex County open house should be literally as “open” as possible. Restricting a room or two does not play well with the critics, so unless there is a real risk in allowing visitors access, understand that any serious buyer will need to see everything. Covering things up will look suspicious—even if you know you’re just doing so because one room is a little messy. Having a room or two blocked off has been known to deter otherwise interested prospects.

Part of movie’s success depends on good word-of-mouth, so consider inviting the neighbors to stop by. They’ll be happy to receive an invitation, and their presence can also work in your favor. When neighbors are there, mingling in the lobby with potential buyers, their first-hand information about the neighborhood, schools, etc. will carry ultimate believability. 

First rate Hollywood premieres provide press kits by the score; your Realtor® should do the same. A front table should have your agent’s color fliers with all the necessary information about the house…and you can consider taking it one step farther with a sheet of your own detailing what you love about the home, the neighborhood, the local schools, shops and restaurants. It’s the kind of souvenir that can keep your house in the running when buyers decide which properties rate a second visit.

Helping create Sussex County open house hits is just part of my job! If you are looking to sell your home, contact me today to discuss the details of a marketing plan that will bring the results you want. Call/text 302-228-7871 or email me, Russell Stucki, REALTOR ® of Beach Real Estate Market to provide detailed information on Delaware homes for sale, investment and commercial properties, luxury and  waterfront homes, condos/townhomes, new construction, lots and land, farms and equestrian properties located in but not limited to Bethany, Bethel, Bridgeville, Dagsboro, Delmar, Ellendale, Fenwick Island, Frankford, Georgetown, Greenwood, Harbeson, Laurel, Lewes, Lincoln, Milford, Millsboro, Millville, Milton, Ocean View, Rehoboth Beach, Seaford, Selbyville, Delaware.

Micro apartments, once considered a momentary fad, are become an increasingly popular choice for city residents across the nation. It\'s a trend that might signal the beginnings of a shift in Sussex County apartment living as well.

The tiny apartments known as “micro apartments” generally feature a small bedroom, private sitting area, bathroom...but not much more. In a typical floor plan, a living unit has 200 square feet or less ­-a far cry from American norms for the better part of a century. It is true, though, that there is nothing new about cramped apartments and shared living spaces. What sets today’s micro apartments apart is their success in combining comfort and livability with the affordability that is their main appeal. Design features such as folding bed alcoves, high ceilings and raised closets help to create an illusion of space when the actual living area is tinier than even the smallest traditional apartment.

Smaller apartments share micro apartments\' standout characteristic: micro rental prices. It\'s an attracting that has always proved popular among younger Sussex County apartment dwellers with entry level jobs, service industry employees who want to live closer to work, older single adults, students, and retirees who want to shed their empty nests and settle in convenience-packed urban areas. With reduced square space, micro apartments are not only cheaper to buy or rent, but usually significantly easier to clean and maintain. Many of the new micro apartment units also feature nearly as much storage space as much larger apartments.

The newest wave of micro apartments does have their share of detractors. Some have expressed concern that encouraging landlords to increase their ability to collect rent from more tenants in a smaller space will likely invite rent increases for standard-sized apartments.

Urban living remains desirable for many—but affordability remains a limiting factor. Micro apartments raise a new possibility for providing a cost-effective option that wasn\'t on the horizon even a few years ago. Whether or not the “thinking smaller” approach of micro apartments affects local scene, keeping track of its popularity on the national front is a good idea for area real estate watchers. There\'s no denying it could point to a changing environment for our own Sussex County market for tenants, landlords and real estate investors.

If you have been surveying the current crop of investment properties, you don\'t have to be planning your own Sussex County micro apartments to make forward-thinking decisions. Call/text 302-228-7871 or email me, Russell Stucki, REALTOR ® of Beach Real Estate Market to provide detailed information on Delaware homes for sale, investment and commercial properties, luxury and  waterfront homes, condos/townhomes, new construction, lots and land, farms and equestrian properties located in but not limited to Bethany, Bethel, Bridgeville, Dagsboro, Delmar, Ellendale, Fenwick Island, Frankford, Georgetown, Greenwood, Harbeson, Laurel, Lewes, Lincoln, Milford, Millsboro, Millville, Milton, Ocean View, Rehoboth Beach, Seaford, Selbyville, Delaware.