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My Plan To Help the Housing Market

January 5, 2012 · 27 comments

in Personal Finance

We recently refinanced our home, and as part of the refinance, we had to have our house appraised.  Our appraisal came in high enough that we were able to refinance, so we were lucky compared to so many other people.  Fortunately, we refinanced before a neighboring house started plummeting in value.

The house I am referring initially went up for sale around $300,000 this past summer.  Now in January, it is down to $235,000, and it is a short sale.  I have no idea what happened behind the scenes.  All I know is the owners up and moved away out of the blue one day and the house was suddenly up for sale.

When I thought about how much this home has dropped in value, I thought about price-drop-prevention.

My Plan To Help Keep Home Values From Dropping

I thought a lot about the how quickly and severely the price of the home in our neighborhood dropped, and to me, the reason is obvious:  The house is very outdated.  Curb appeal is minimal; the family room still has paneling and pink carpet, etc.   I honestly believe you could put $10,000 worth of upgrades into the home and it would sell pretty quickly, and at a much higher price.   I was then wondering…what if banks that end up owning these homes partnered with contractors to fix up these houses instead of just allowing them to be sold at fire-sale prices?  I understand that banks are not in the ‘construction market’ (they are too busy in the ‘flood zone market’, but perhaps they could partner up with a company that was, at least in areas with big markets?

We Could Even Create A New Segment Of Government!

This plan could even possibly help the government.  Think about all the abandoned homes that are backed by Fannie/Freddie.  Perhaps instead of just dropping home prices by $10,000, that money could be invested in the home in order to increase home value and reduce the amount of time it has to sit on the market.  (Warren Buffett could even fund this initiative if he wanted to!)  Again, the government would have to get involved in a business they are not currently in, but at least this type of involvement would help increase home prices and provide jobs.

I know that some people justify walking away from mortgages by saying it is just a contract between a homeowner and a bank, and people are allowed to back out of the deal.  However, many others get hurt in the fall out too.  (Especially considering how little many appraisers put into their reports, these ‘comps’ can really hurt those who want to sell a home or refinance.)  Now, if someone had initially come in and paid $10,000 to fix up the house in my neighborhood, I am betting it would have sold for at least $270,000 months ago.  The house has a great structure and is quite large.  It is just hard to ‘see’ what it would become with it’s outdated carpet, walls, and fireplace.  I am guessing that ultimately someone will scoop the house up at some point and renovate.  If that is the case, I hope they sell it after the renovation so the ‘comps’ more accurately reflect the real value of the home.

I recognize that my plan is overly simplified.  However, think of the jobs that would be created and the possible increase in home prices if the banks (and Freddie/Fannie) could be proactive and actually try to improve the homes instead of just letting these homes languish on the market.

What do you think?

 

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{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda January 5, 2012 at 3:56 pm

I wish I could be as optimistic as you, but some cities are actually ripping down houses as way to minimize the blight of empty houses on a neighborhood. 60 Minutes had a segment on this on December 18: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7392096n&tag=cbsnewsMainColumnArea.6

It was quite depressing to see that show. Banks aren’t interested in selling these houses. They aren’t in the business of real estate and don’t want these “assets” on their books, but they don’t want to go through the bother of selling them either. So they just let them sit there, deteriorating or getting vandalized and gutted. Very sad.

I hope the house next to you sells soon and doesn’t slide into ruin.

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Kris January 6, 2012 at 12:15 pm

Linda, I definitely think a plan like this would be more successful in some areas than others. There are a ton of houses that could be ripped down in Detroit for sure, and 10k in rehab would do nothing.

All these bank owned houses are killing neighborhoods, that is for sure. The banks aren’t ‘vested’ in selling, so they just sit. Someone needs to come in and care about these homes. Plus, short sales can be unattractive to buyers because how long the whole process can take. That needs to change too.

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Maggie@SquarePennies January 5, 2012 at 10:26 pm

I know someone who buys homes that need some renovation and updating. He’s been doing this for 35 years, but in the last few years it’s not paying off anymore. The amount he spends to make improvements is minimal based on his extensive experience of what helps houses sell. He does almost all the labor himself, so there is little labor cost. In the past 2 years it’s become extremely difficult to sell these homes, and when he does sell one the profit margin is extremely small.

I think the main problem in housing is still that people don’t think their job situation is secure enough to buy a home. Until that changes it’s a big gamble to just fix homes up hoping to sell them. Sorry, but that seems to be true in many places in the US.

If the rental situation is decent in an area a person could buy one or more of these, improve them as necessary, & then rent them at a level to pay the mortgage on them. Could work.

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Kris January 6, 2012 at 12:17 pm

I am surprised it isn’t paying off for your friend anymore, although I guess that means what you said, there just aren’t buyers out there. I like what he does though- he fixes them an resells them. That way, the resale transaction is recorded and that helps home prices in the area. That is what I want to happen!

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Matt @Financial Excellence January 6, 2012 at 7:49 am

I hate to think of making our government bigger than it already is, but I like your theory. Not too many people today are willing to do what’s best for the market, if it’s not the biggest money maker for them. I wish more organizations would work together like you suggested for the betterment of the community but I don’t envision that happening any time soon.

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Kris January 6, 2012 at 12:17 pm

Don’t get me wrong, I hate big government. However, in this case, they wouldn’t be regulating me, they would be trying to improve the neighborhoods we live in. I can live with that for sure!

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Miss T @ Prairie Eco-Thrifter January 6, 2012 at 9:52 am

I am a firm believer in a community approach. I like you take on this housing issue. What should be done is something that benefits the greater good. However, it seems that in this world, this kind of thing doesn’t happen that often.

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Kris January 6, 2012 at 12:18 pm

Isn’t that the truth. I think that is what I love so much about watching shows about the Amish and such- it is all about community. Now, this community doesn’t have people that just has others do everything for them, everyone contributes!!

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Jacq January 6, 2012 at 10:06 am

Like Maggie said, this kind of thing would be done by regular people in a decent market – without any government intervention. Flippers won’t take on projects if the real estate market is acting weird though, you might be stuck with the house and not be able to sell. And $10k doesn’t go very far on a reno. Lots of Canadians have been buying under-priced AZ and FL property but they’re holding it for the most part. I even thought of doing it myself.

In 2009, our government had a tax credit for the year on renovations. That was a pretty good stimulus plan. Even *I* spent quite a bit that year. ;-)

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Kris January 6, 2012 at 12:20 pm

I do like the market taking care of things themselves. However, I still think a bank investing in a home to make it more ‘sellable’ is still the market at work, and same as if the government invests the money. There aren’t subsidies or anything, just home improvement initiatives. I look around my neighborhood and many houses have actually sold, but this one just languishes.

It is so tempting to go buying property in Florida, that is for sure. If we were at a different ‘place’ in our life, I bet we would take the leap.

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Roshawn @ Watson Inc January 6, 2012 at 12:06 pm

I love how you said that Warren Buffet could fund the initiative. That’s very tongue in cheek and very perceptive. He definitely knows a good and bad deal when he sees them and is also an advocate for stimulating the economy (very patriotic), so I wonder where he would stand on this preliminary plan. With the speed the numbers you provide changed, it is an especially scary housing environment in some areas! There are also awesome opportunities.

Seriously, I do think that real estate will return with a vengeance at some point. It really is amazing how many jobs and wealth is tied into the housing market, as you point out at the end of your post.

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Kris January 6, 2012 at 12:25 pm

I hope the real estate markets turns with a vengeance like you said. I almost worry sometimes that I am not taking advantage of the investment opportunities provided by housing right now. However, it is a large investment to make, and I just can’t do that right now.

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retirebyforty January 6, 2012 at 2:03 pm

I think it would work on a small scale, but if every house is updated there would still be a huge foreclosure inventory. The real problem is the low demand. Once the economy improves, the housing market should follow.

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Kris January 6, 2012 at 2:15 pm

RB40, I think some areas would react better than others for sure. It just infuriates me to see these nice, quality houses languishing just because of some minor issues. (My perspective, of course.)

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Carol@inthetrenches January 7, 2012 at 1:40 am

I have not been able to keep up on my reading and it is SO hard to find accurate and current numbers. I know for a couple of my housing articles I spent hours trying to weed through information. But I do think there is a gov’t program in place that does what you suggest. It is called HOMEPATH. And it loans for the principle and the cost of repairs/upgrades that the potential buyer arranges for.

The other thing I know that is happening is that foreign investors are coming in an plopping down millions and telling their representatives to buy as many houses with the money as possible. And there are gov’t programs to encourage them to do so. In my opinion these are extremely dangerous. Why are foreign investors allowed to buy our land?

You might be interested in the included post. http://inthetrenches2009.blogspot.com/2010/10/after-housing-bubble-dark-side-of.html

After reading your post I might just have to do some more digging and get up to speed.

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Little House January 7, 2012 at 8:46 pm

I could see this kind of idea providing many jobs, which would be great and boost our economy. I would also say that small companies could start joining together, buying these houses, fixing them up, then selling them for more than they purchased them for. If the government offered business loans to contractors as an economy incentive, I bet they’d have lots of small contractors applying for them. Interesting idea.

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Financial Samurai January 8, 2012 at 7:15 pm

I agree with your simple suggestion. We put in about $20,000 to drastically fix up a rental property and it got multiple offers and sold for about $60,000 more than we thought it would.

Imagination is hard to come by for some buyers.

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Albuquerque home builders January 9, 2012 at 12:27 am

Making some renovations would really increase the market value of your house. This would be a great benefit because you will be able to gain more. Aside from that, the idea of having more jobs for people would be a great contribution to society.

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First Gen American January 9, 2012 at 2:59 pm

I agree with the first poster as it very much depends on the market. There are certain neighborhoods where tearing down the eyesores are a much better option than rehabbing them, especially if there is more supply than demand. It also makes room for zoning those neighborhoods as business areas. It happened in my husband’s hometown and totally turned the place around.

You’re right though, a shrewd real estate agency that already works with these bank owned properties could offer that as an add on service option as part of the sale. It would be a win win as the realtors would get a bigger commission and the banks would limit their losses.

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101 Centavos January 10, 2012 at 10:08 pm

Depends on the neighborhood, I suppose. But a little landscaping and curb appeal go a long ways into goosing the value.

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Kris January 11, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Well, they did (literally) plant a marigold plant by the front porch in August, which really spiffed the place up. :)

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American Debt Project January 15, 2012 at 3:11 pm

I love the idea. I have a general contractor license, so just call me and we’ll start working on your projects! But seriously, I am an optimist like you are. While Detroit is another story, there are many run down areas of our country that need just a little bit of attention to get people excited again. Baltimore did it with its green alleys (just Google “green alleys Baltimore”) and where I live in LA could definitely use some help like this. This is actually what I do in my day job so I am very passionate about it! But I also want to buy my first property this year and the areas where I can afford to do so are good but not great parts of Southern California. So I want to be active in wherever I do buy, so that the neighborhood is not just a barely-getting-by place. However, if people put more effort into their homes and landscaping, take on community crime watches, participate in their HOA meetings, property values do go up. I think Warren Buffett said the American Dream isn’t about getting people into the house of their dreams, but into the house they can afford. And that sounds like a good goal to me!

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Kylie Ofiu January 18, 2012 at 1:04 am

I think it is a great idea. It would be wonderful if it worked. I know a few areas where groups of families get together to help renovate and do things to each others homes to maintain the value in the area and that really makes a difference.

Flipping homes is something I want to do but homes are so overpriced in Australia still (we did not have a drop like the US did) so I wouldn’t want to do it here yet.

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home contractors Manassas March 13, 2012 at 5:58 am

Renovating your house is an excellent idea to consider if you want to increase the value of your house. You just have to choose the right contractor in this kind of project.

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QUALITY STOCKS UNDER 5 DOLLARS April 2, 2013 at 1:07 pm

The only thing that will heal the housing market is time. The housing market has been one big mess for five years. Its going to take five years to clean up the mess.

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