Bikes and Blackbirds in South Reno

South Reno bike trails edge wildlife-filled wetlands in Damonte Ranch offering a lovely alternative to street or mountain rides. Developers and planners built more than five miles of paved paths around huge swaths of marsh areas that today host such a broad array of birds that would pique the interest of the most ardent Audubon Society member.

Just a few years ago this area was mostly swampy marsh. Track team members from nearby Damonte Ranch High School would refer to it as “the pond run” through dirt paths, jumping from stone to stone to avoid mud holes.  My (now adult) twins still talk about their teammate who insisted on running with his phone — only to drop it into the marsh.

Today, the area is nearly built out with homes and condos with planned sitting areas and numerous accesses to the various neighborhoods.

In the last week we have twice ridden our bikes along what is officially called the Damonte Ranch Wetlands Loop.

Redwing Blackbird

Tweets, chirps and distinctive trills fill the air. Birds ranged from a flock of eight Pelicans, to dozens of Redwing Blackbirds. Photographers bring their large lenses to zoom in on at least a dozen different (and to me unusual) avian visitors. We’ve seen swans, hawks, several species of ducks, maybe an ibis? I am not a bird expert. If you are, you will be happy on this trail.

For those seeking a peaceful escape from the desert, take note: there’s not a sagebrush or rabbit brush plant along the route.

Mature trees shade seating areas, with flowers edging the shady areas. Looking across the marshes, it’s easy to ignore the many homes and condo complexes that edge the various paved paths.

A bike or walk can be anywhere from three miles to 10 miles on gently undulating terrain. It’s not completely flat, but there really aren’t hills.

Bike lanes line every major roadway in South Reno, making it ideal for the casual rider, and each new subdivision seems to include more trails. This loop is nice because it is not a “street” ride — we couldn’t even hear traffic.

Above it all, the snow-capped Sierra rises to the west offering a spectacular contrast between blue sky, majestic mountains and serene waterscapes.

bike path south reno

Googling “bike trails in Reno” seems to focus on mountain bike trails and trails at Lake Tahoe. The Damonte Ranch Bike Loop didn’t even come up, perhaps because it is more suitable for casual cyclists and families with young riders. It’s not a great place for “serious” street cyclists. Visitors can park at Damonte Ranch Park along Steamboat Parkway, then head south across the grass to access the trails.

What birds have you seen here? Do you have a favorite bike trail/walking path? Tell me about it!

Holly O’Driscoll, has lived in Reno for more than 20 years. She is a Realtor with Chase International Real Estate in Reno, Nevada. 


Rain in Reno? It happens — once in while

Rain in Reno rarely lasts more than an hour or so. A two-three hour soaking is considered unusual. Residents love the occasional thunderstorm. Moisture in the air produces fabulous rainbows.

So far, in May of 2018 we’ve had a showers nearly every day for two weeks. Highly unusual for this high-desert oasis — and I love it!

The foothills to the Sierra have a green hue. Plants burst to life, lawns look quenched. My flower beds and tomato plants are in heaven.

All too soon we’ll segue into summer — clear hot days and cool clear nights. For now, though, the gray skies contrast nicely with happy green trees. When the sun bursts from the clouds: it’s magic.

Reno Rainbows

Rain brings back memories of my mom singing to us, dancing around and stomping in puddles — generally making rainy days fun. Some tunes from childhood include:

Then there’s the most classic of all: Singing in the Rain

Reno boasts about 300+ days of sunshine as a major reason to move here. Some of the other 65 days include snowy days, just clouds. My two cents: Enjoy the rain while it lasts!

Do you have a favorite song about weather? A story about a fun rain event? Please share!!

Holly O’Driscoll is a Realtor with Chase International Real Estate in Reno. Reach her at hodriscoll@chaseinternational.com or 775-850-5900.

 


FSBO Follies: 8 Reasons NOT to Sell Your Own House

Why selling without a real estate agent could lead to disaster

 

Sure, Reno’s housing market is hot, and prices are rising. Homes priced correctly sell pretty darn fast. Some sellers in Reno wonder why they should pay a Realtor to “help” with the transaction. They think they can do it all themselves — and save the commission.
Ha! What most people don’t know about selling real estate can cost them money — or land them in court.
Do-it-yourself home sellers are called FSBOs: For Sale By Owner.  Below are just a few of the pitfalls hovering over such sellers. Selling a home on your own may risk time, money, and most importantly, a final sale that leaves you in the clear. Some of the ideas and tips below come from a recent article in Inman News, a specialty real estate publication.

Factors to consider: Time, Hassle and Money

1. Let’s start with the big motivator: Money 

How much would you save? Quite possibly nothing. Overall, data show that FSBO homes sell for less — sometimes a lot less.

  • Lower sales price: Research data from 2016-2017 shows that FSBO listings sell for about 5.5 percent less than comparable properties, according to Collateral Analytics.  So FSBO sellers lose money right off the top — Especially if they end up paying a buyer’s agent a commission of 2-3 percent. (Any buyer without their own agent faces a whole other set of problems!)
  • Knowledge: What you don’t know can absolutely hurt you financially, and it can come back to bite you in a lawsuit. A real estate agent’s knowledge is priceless. Realtors know how to make sense of the data and the entire selling process so that sellers and their home are fully prepared before hitting the market, navigate the complicated escrow process and close the sale with the fewest possible hassles.
  •  Time Everyone’s time is valuable, but as a seller, do you truly have time to schedule showings or to personally show your home in a safe manner at any given moment? Do you want strangers knocking on your door when they see the sign in the yard? What is your plan for days you work, or go on vacation?
  • Negotiating: Do you feel confident to negotiate with a buyer or a buyer’s realtor? Are you capable of answering questions about home conditions without getting defensive?
  • Disclosures: Realtors have a legal duty to be honest with all parties in a transaction. A FSBO seller must be honest about the property as well, even when it means disclosing uncomfortable facts about the property. If a buyer questions an issue or has a concern, can do you have access to inspectors, repair people or other experts? If not, you may lose the sale.  Can you say lost opportunity?

2. Preparation and Presentation = Money 

Image is everything when it comes to real estate.  Good Realtors explain how to prepare your home to show it’s best, and ranges from re-arranging furniture to fixing long-neglected items that turn buyers off — from chipped paint to leaky faucets.Realtors offer dispassionate advice that may translate into a higher sales price.

Hint: Buyers notice everything. A dirty oven can scuttle a potential offer. 

Photos: Realtors pay for professional photography Fsbo graphicout of their commission.  As a FSBO seller this cost — anywhere from $150 to  $500 (or more) falls on you and cuts into your “savings”.  Will you invest in photography? Or will you take cell phone photos, because in Reno, homes sell no matter what?

 

  • Fact: Studies show that homes advertised with dark, out of focus photos, or photos of messy homes tend to garner fewer visits, take longer to sell and lower offers.
  • Fact: More than 90 percent of people look at a property online before visiting it. This is a money issue. For me, it is part of my branding whether I am representing a condo or a castle.

 3. Marketing

Do you have a the facts, a plan and a marketing budget? Do you know the buyer demographics for your property? The neighborhood? A competent Realtor does, and can show you the difference between what you “want” and what the market will pay. Numbers (generally) don’t lie.

Reno home prices are rising. At the same time, buyers are not stupid. Nor are lenders and appraisers. Sellers confuse sentimental value and “news” with what buyers will actually pay and the data appraisers use to support a loan.

4. Pricing

An overpriced home will sit, or sell for thousands less than a properly priced home. Do you know the buyer demographics for your neighborhood? Your type of home? A good Realtor will.  Some websites such as Zillow allow FSBO sellers to post information. Will that be enough? It won’t be in the Reno Sparks Multiple Listing Service — cutting out thousands of potential buyers.  What other marketing will you do (and pay for)?

Chase International Real Estate has extraordinary worldwide connections and marketing networks to share information about your property. Some other brokerages also offer expanded marketing. Some just input data into the Multiple Listing Service (MLS), then sit back an wait. What if your property needs a wider audience? Homes listed for sale at Chase International receive local, regional, national and international exposure.

5. Negotiation experience

When an offer comes in, how will you evaluate it? What parts of the purchase agreement impact your bottom line? How would you evaluate multiple offers? By price alone? A Realtor digs deeper into the terms and conditions. How do they strike a delicate balance between protecting their interests as a seller and working with the buyer toward the goal of putting an agreement together?Here’s where what sellers don’t know can hurt them the most.

6. Inspection and repair know-how 

Inspections and repairs can be the most difficult parts of a real estate transaction, even for Realtors. Do you know which inspections are needed/advised? Inspections often reveal items or systems that need repair. There’s a protocol for divvying up who pays for what. This can cut into your “savings.”  Lenders may require certain repairs as a condition of funding a loan. Certain types of loans prohibit a buyer from paying for some repairs. Are you, as a seller prepared to deal with this? Do you know licensed repair people who will come to your house immediately  — at a fair/reasonable cost? Fixing it yourself or hiring an unlicensed worker can land you in court years down the road if the repair fails.

7. Transaction management

Once you accept an offer, how do you shepherd it through the escrow process? Who makes sure all the provisions of the contract are met? Who makes sure the deed is clear, that the sale transfers properly? How do you verify the buyer’s financing? How do you follow up to make sure the financing actually happens? Have you disclosed everything required by law? If you “forget” to say there was a leak years ago, or a tree fell, or any of thousands of other defects, a buyer could sue you years down the road.

homeselling proccess8. Clunky Closings 

Finalizing the sale — the escrow and closing process — is generally handled by a third party in Reno. Last minute issues often arise — the lender needs an addendum, the buyers or sellers have to waive a condition of the contract, one party or another makes a concession that must be documented. If the paperwork isn’t right, the sale (and your money) is delayed.

Are the “savings” worth it?

Only you can decide. Consider: The funds you “save” on commission by listing your house as a “For Sale by Owner” could quickly disappear. The perceived savings can evaporate through uninformed decisions and costly mistakes that — in the long run — end up costing sellers more money than if they had used a Realtor to protect their interests and help them justify their home’s value in the first place.

 

Holly O’Driscoll is a full-time professional Realtor with Chase International Real Estate in Reno, Nevada. Search for property here


Garage Smarts: Make Room for your Car AND your Stuff

Many garages are really storage units for all the junk that doesn’t fit in the house. My neighbors can’t even squeeze one car into their three-car garage.

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Don’t be them. Sometimes people think they have to move, buy a bigger house to accommodate their “lifestyle” of stuff. Maybe not.

Here are some tips to convert garage space back into car space, culled from a variety of sources including a HouseLogic.com post.

First: Get Stuff Off the Floor
You can spend a lot, or a little on shelving. Industrial strength is great, but I’ve bought 5-tier shelving for $30. Intrepid, tool-savvy people may built shelving for not much more.

Buy a bunch of plastic bins and start sorting. I bought a set of three today at Costco for 12.99. Sort, fill and label them. Put the bins on the shelves, leaving the lowest level clear.

Recommended: Use CLEAR plastic bins and LABEL them.Clear is important. Dark/solid bins turn into mystery boxes hiding who knows what … even if they’re labeled. Put the most used bins at eye/grabbing height. Bins cost another $5-$20 each.

Use Rolling Storage
Add low two metal carts with wheels –and store them (full) under the shelving units. With your newfound open floor space, you can dedicate durable carts to different endeavors — gardening, camping, tailgating. You’ll save transition time (and your back) by rolling all your supplies to the yard or the car.

images

Pegboards = Instant Time Saver!
Pegboards are the underrated hero of the garage! If you can see it, you can grab it. Hang tools, garden implements, extension cords and other odds and ends that migrate (ok hide) all over the garage. Put pegboards on any (and every?) empty wall. Rakes no longer cluster (and fall) in one corner. The hammer is in plain sight.

Ceiling units
If your garage has a high ceiling, you can’t beat the shelving that screws into the rafters and hangs above the cars. Instant storage space! Hang the kayaks all winter; put the Christmas lights up there until next year. Move it!

Wall Cabinets
More expensive, pretty and very neat: Installing cabinets all around the garage. Home Depot and Lowes abound with do-it-yourself options, or hire a local installer. Once the cabinets are in … use those plastic bins and label the cabinets so you can quickly find your stuff.7-horiz-organized-garage-example

Added Benefits
Complete this project by donating stuff you don’t use to charity for resale. Yes, you really can get rid of 10 percent to 50 percent of the “stuff” in the garage and not miss it..

Profit Potential
Encouraging homeowners to organize vs. buying a bigger home may sound odd coming from a Realtor® — after all my job is to help clients sell and buy homes. For me, it’s a long-term strategy. The secret: Down the road it could payoff. Buyers see a pristine garage as in indicator of quality in the rest of the home.  An organized garage can help a home sell faster, possibly for more money.

Finally: As a Realtor, I’ve seen some pretty amazing garages, and clean garages do impress buyers. Other home features impress buyers more, so don’t worry about making the garage “perfect” or “pretty.” It is a garage for goodness sakes. The idea is to organize it enough to make your life easier on a daily basis.

Some articles (and OCD writers) encourage pretty/color-coordinated work benches, cabinets and boxes. If that’s your thing — share the photos of your garage. Bonus points for “before” vs “after”. I would love to celebrate your victories!

Holly O’Driscoll is a Realtor ® at Chase International Real Estate in Reno, Nevada. Email her at hodriscoll@chseinternational.com


5 Reasons to Buy a Home in Winter

Evans Ave Front pix

On the Market: 1056 Evans Ave., Reno, NV: The sellers of this 4-bedroom home near the University of Nevada, Reno, are motivated! The property was listed in December for $529,000. 

 

The “best deals” for home buyers often happen in winter. Sure, there are fewer homes on the market to pick from, but homes newly listed or still on the market when it’s cold outside, are there for a reason: Sellers either need to sell now, or the property didn’t sell earlier in the year.

Plus: With fewer buyers out looking, there’s less competition for those homes. In a tight market like Reno/Sparks, that can make a huge difference in actually getting a home. Multiple offers still happen, particularly in the lower price ranges, but a buyer in Reno/Sparks might be up against one other offer vs. six.

Here are five great reasons to buy a house between December and May:

  1. Bang for your Buck   

In a tight market like in Reno/Sparks, prices tend to jump several percentage points as the weather warms.  On average, about 40% of homes sell in spring and summer (May – August), according to The Housing Wire. Homes generally sell for $1,500 – $3,000 more than those sold in winter, according to Zillow.

  1. Sellers are Motivated (or Finally Ready) 

Whether a house is a new listing, or simply didn’t sell earlier, sellers tend to be serious, and ready to consider all offers, during the winter. This may give buyers more room to negotiate and perhaps get a better deal.

  1. Fewer Choices = Easier Decision

Fewer homes may seem like a disadvantage at first, but perhaps it’s not.

There’s an overabundance syndrome known as the paradox of choice. This happens when people have so many good options they dither and end up losing out or second guessing themselves. They dwell on the “what ifs” – which leads to less satisfaction with whatever choice they make.

  1. More Attention

Buyers flood the market in spring and summer, which strain the time resources of Real estate agents, lenders, title companies and other professionals. In winter, homes may not sell in two days. And, once in contract, it takes less time to arrange for appraisals, inspections and repairs.

  1. Furnishing a New Home May Cost Less 

Need new appliances or furniture for that new home? In general, winter sales offer great savings, according to Consumer Reports.

Conclusion: A buyer may indeed find that perfect home in winter. If not, looking now helps buyers clarify what “perfect” means. By doing their on the ground research now, when that ideal home does come up for sale, they’re ready.

Buying a home is the largest investment most people ever make, and should not be done in haste just to save money. Consulting with a lender, personal finance professionals all come into play before buying a home at any time of year.

That said, do consider starting your search soon. Forecasters say the housing shortage in Reno/Sparks will continue for some time.

Holly O’Driscoll is a Realtor (R) with Chase International Real Estate in Reno, Nevada. Email her at Hodriscoll@chaseinternational.com or call her at 775-850-5900.

 

Thanks to Mike Pulley, who contributed to this article.

 


Potentials and Pitfalls of a Fixer-Upper in Reno, NV

How many home buyers say they want to buy a “Fixer Upper”? Yet, when it comes down to actually deciding on which home to buy, how many discover really don’t even want to paint? In my experience, most buyers!  For those who really do want to tackle a fixer upper, potential profits (and pitfalls) abound.

Prime considerations when investing in any type of real estate include location, value and potential. Consider these questions when buying any “used” property, especially in Reno, NV:

  • Could renovations/rebuilding bring the property up to the price point of newer/nicer homes nearby homes?
  • Do you have the money and/or skills to buy and fix it up?
  • Do you want to live at the property for a few years, or quickly flip and sell?

In Reno, investing in a fixer upper gives buyers the chance to move into a neighborhood they might not otherwise afford. Living in a home after it’s “fixed” gives it time to appreciate in value.  Renovation shows on TV only hint at the reality of fixing up a property. Are you intrigued enough to consider it?

Mt Rose Highway Kitchen

Vintage mixes with dated renovations: Original fireplace, tile counters circa 1980s. 

 

One of my current listings at 4955 Mt. Rose Highway is a true “fixer upper” with potential:

This home in South Reno offers a great example of opportunity vs risk/reward. This area is close to Lake Tahoe, skiing and just about 15 minutes to downtown or the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. Home prices rank among the highest in the region.

In the last year, 208 homes nearby homes sold.  Of the 66 on one-acre or more, only 19 allowed horses, only 14 had RV access/parking. The median sold price for those 66 homes:  $791,250. Compare that to the $499,000 list price of the property in the photo.

Mt Rose Highway House w Mountains

Built in 1965, the original ranch house is ripe for renovation. 

This fixer upper was built in 1965 and sits on 2.35 acres. Back then, Mt. Rose Highway was considered “country” and “way out of town.”  Today, luxury custom homes, gated communities with private golf courses mix with semi-custom subdivisions prevail. For the most part, older homes are the ones with enough land and the proper zoning (no HOAs and low-density suburban) to have horses, RVs or other toys.

That’s the opportunity.

The challenge: Having the vision, energy and funds to fix it up.

Best features: Wide-plank hardwood floors and a large, brick wood-burning fireplace. The home has a natural gas furnace and water heater (vs propane). Washoe County officials say the well was re-drilled in 2003.

The Potential

This property – includes the main 2,171 square-foot house, a detached 3-car garage, and 300-square-foot guesthouse/home office. The buildings sit on the northwest corner of the level lot. The nearest neighbor to the east can’t even be seen. To the west, a greenbelt and a public access trail/dirt road borders this property, with a home beyond.

Mt. Rose Hwy View 1

2.35 level acres is zoned for horses with sweeping Sierra Nevada views.  

Ripe for renovation: The most obvious replacement priority: the wind-damaged roof. Some features appear original, or at least vintage – particularly the pink bathroom sink and the metal-framed windows. Dated, but perhaps not original: tiled kitchen counters and jetted tub upstairs. The property has a detached three-car garage of uncertain age, and a separate building that at one time was used as a guest quarters.

The pitfalls:  The property is older, with everything that could/might entail. This property borders Mount Rose Highway, a direct access route to Lake Tahoe. The level 2.35 acres is mostly open space, with natural vegetation (mostly sagebrush). Prior owners had horses, and the county allows this.

The competition

Within a 2-mile radius, of 27 homes on 1 acre or more actively for sale only eight allow RVs (seven of those allow horses).  Median list price: $1.1 million. Of the homes sold in the last year, the median price was $760,000.  Of the many ways to parse and leverage statistics, lot size, age of home and HOA restrictions are being used here.

Does it pencil out?

That’s a question only an individual buyer can make on any fixer upper — whether it is this property, or a starter home on a city lot. Certainly bringing this property into the 21st century is possible. These last two photos are of the same house — Really! The first is from 2010, when it sold for $295,000. The second is from 2017, when it sold for $700,000. Is buying a fixer upper a challenge you are ready, willing and able to tackle? Let’s talk!

Contact me, or have your agent contact me, for a private showing:

hodriscoll@chaseinternational.com.

Phone/text: 775-762-7576.

Holly O’Driscoll is a Realtor® with Chase International Real Estate in Reno, Nevada. She has lived in Reno for 20+ years. 


January and February Great Times to Buy

I am sharing this article from Nerd Wallet — it confirms my own research on real estate, homes and the real estate market in Northern Nevada: Prices here are expected to jump in March/April. Interest rates are expected to jump to 5%modern-kitchen-decor-vintage-style-1-flowers. Nationally, the median home sold in January sold for $7,003 below listing price.

Here’s the data to back it up. This article was written by Marian McPhereson of NerdWallet.

Take advantage of savings now

According to two years of realtor.com data that includes the 50 most populous metro areas, home prices in January and February are, on average, 8.45 percent lower than prices in July and August — two of the most popular homebuying months.

This trend is expected to hold true in 2017, but realtor.com chief economist Jonathan Smoke says the savings won’t be as large as seen in years before.

The fall 2016 housing market, which the National Association of Realtors dubbed the “autumn revival,” was especially strong, which means sellers didn’t feel the pressure to lower their sales prices in order to get their home off the market.

Despite this, Smoke still suggests homebuyers grab whatever savings they can get because spring home prices will likely increase more than normal.

Cold weather keeps competition at bay

According to NerdWallet, home sales in January are 47 percent lower than in June, which means less competition for buyers looking for the perfect home.

But there’s one caveat — buyers will still have to battle with low housing inventory, although the offset in competition helps.

“You basically face almost half of the competition with almost the same amount of inventory in the market,” Smoke says.

For the savvy buyer and agent, this can lead to savings through tactful negotiations with sellers. NerdWallet says the median home sold in January sold for $7,003 less than the listing price. Score!

Higher rates ahead2525 Rio Alayne Ct Sparks NV-print-001-14-01-2500x1668-300dpi

Out of the three reasons to buy a home now, homebuyers are most likely concerned about higher mortgage rates, which are predicted to rise to nearly 5 percent.

“As we look toward spring and later in 2017, that’s another reason to buy in January and February,” said Smoke. “Because rates are expected to be about 50 basis points, or half a percent, more as the year goes on.”

 

Holly O’Driscoll is a full-time Realtor with Chase International Real Estate in Reno, Nevada. For information on homes for sale in Reno, Sparks, Carson City and the surrounding communities, call me! 775-762-7576.