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The real estate market can be dizzyingly confusing. With the help of local broker associate Pam Oden, we answer some of our readers’ questions about the market, home prices and finding a good deal.

Q : Has our real estate market been more insulated from the economic downturn than much of the rest of the country? —Janine Wingard Frank

A : This is a very interesting question…and one that has a number of different answers. The city of Boulder real estate market has held its own. If you research other “college towns,” you will find a similar trend. Other cities in the county have not been so fortunate. However based on the numbers, we as a whole area have not seen the downturn many states, counties and cities have experienced. Numbers can look skewed, though, especially when looking at Boulder County as a whole. We have been forced to look at each city/area with a different hat.

The Boulder County real estate market for 2010 had a similar number of sold listings as compared to 2009; single-family home sales were up about 4 percent, but attached unit sales were off by around 8 percent. There are some positives to consider in the road ahead for the Boulder County real estate market. Although the number of sales for 2010 will be comparable to 2009, it is the first time since 2006 that annual sales have not gone down. The Boulder County single family absorption rate in 2005 was 7.5 months. Through November 2010 the absorption rate was 7.06 months…marginally better. (Absorption rate is the ability of the real estate market to absorb or sell all of the houses for sale in a given amount of time.)

Q : What are some good tips for selling your home while trying to buy a new home at the same time? How can you avoid paying two house payments every month until you sell your old house? —Tanya O’Connor

A : It’s wonderful when you find the home of your dreams…it’s awful when you lose it because you cannot sell your current home. There are creative and safe ways to close two deals. Contingencies are becoming more normal these days. Most sellers would consider contingencies of some sort. One example would be to ask the seller to allow you 30 days to put your property under contract, and 30 more days to close. After the initial 30 days, ideally you have a buyer for your current home and your initial earnest money becomes non-refundable. This is a guarantee to the seller, incentive so to speak. After you have a buyer for your home, you can do both closings on the same day and move. If your 30 days comes and you have no buyer, you can back out of the deal to purchase, get your earnest money back, or agree to let the money go hard and hold on. This would require agreement from the seller, too.

Or place your home on the market first. Sometimes we just happen upon an open house and fall in love, but the smart move is to market your home first. Sometimes you can even mention on the multiple listing service database that “seller must find replacement home.” If you already found the home of your dreams, and you have to sell your current home quickly, do not price the house at the top of the market value for your neighborhood. Quite often sellers think they can start high and get a lower offer quickly. That doesn’t usually happen. Look at the other listings in your neighborhood. Perhaps even go out with your agent and look at a few similar homes. Price, stage and market your home to sell fast.

Q : With several homes listed in a neighborhood that has few showings, what can be done to help get more showings, so that an offer will be made? —Michael Diaz

A : The job of selling real estate is not as easy as “place a sign in the yard and they will come.” Especially if there are many other homes in your neighborhood just like yours—similar price range, square footage. There is too much to choose from. We as agents have to make the buyers want to see your house. How do we do that? Marketing, specifically internet marketing, including photos, description, 360 degree virtual tour and much more. At least 90 percent of buyers look on the Internet first. Before they ever call an agent, most buyers have already selected what homes they want to see. If your property doesn’t have photos or virtual tours, your home is pushed to the bottom of the list. In Realtor.com, buyers can sort properties. Most of the time, buyers sort the results by whether the listing has photos, virtual tours, etc. It is extremely important to also market your home to people NOT in Colorado. There is a constant flow of newcomers in the Boulder/Denver area. The more marketing, more buyers through your home, the more chances of finding the right buyer to buy your home!

Q : How much, if at all, will your house go up in value with exterior improvements? (Extended deck, fire pit, landscaping, patio, etc.) —Nisreen Turk Sharp

A : We could discuss this…all day. Bottom line, basements are great when they are finished but you will never make back what you spent. Items like upper laundry and wood floors are more of a preference. It seems upper level or main level laundries are desired most. Wood floors are more of a design preference. Some like it, some don’t. If you are thinking of putting wood floors in your main level, talk to with a realtor first. See what their opinion is about what you have and what would be best for you. Exterior items out front improve the curb appeal of the home. Backyards are like basements. They are great for show, they are great to use, but you don’t always recover your investment back in a sale.

Q : What percentage of your price should you spend on staging and upgrading the house?
—Heather Sadauskis Alderman

A : If the house you have for sale is vacant, staging is a great idea. If the house you live in is for sale, staging is not going to do much. Thin it out. Put stuff you don’t use in storage (not in boxes in the basement). Take the 100 photos of all the grandkids down and put art on the wall. Make sure the kitchen is clean for showings. Make sure beds are made, toilet lids are down, shower curtains are pulled back (the tub is sparkling). Open blinds, bring the sunlight in. There is a huge difference when you walk into a house showered in natural light versus walking into a house with the blinds closed and lights out. Answering the direct question about how much you should spend is relative. I have my opinions, and so do most agents. Let us walk through your house and be honest.

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