Shoals Area Housing Market Report — Part 2

Let’s take a look at the second page of the ACRE report on Shoals home sales.

The first graph on this page looks at the average sales price in April 2012, compared to March 20112 and to March and April of 2011. Traditionally, average sales price does decrease from March to April, but this year it decrease a bit more than usual. What does that mean? It may simply mean that the houses listed were cheaper. Or it could mean that people are not willing to pay quite as much. This particular statistic, in my opinion, isn’t as much an indicator of market recovery as the next one.

The number of days a listing stays on the market can be affected by several things. Price and condition of the property are usually the two most important. If a property is overpriced, it will not sell as quickly as other listings. If a property is in poor condition, and the price does not reflect that, it will also sit on the market for a long time. In April of this year, the average number of days on the market was 136 (4-5 months). In March of this year, the average days on the market was 157, so that shows an improvement. However, compared to the 109 day average in April of last year, 136 is a definite downward trend.  Before deciding that the market is declining, though, remember that in April of last the first-time Homebuyer Tax Credit was extended through the end of April. Lots of people were rushing to buy to take advantage of it.  I am more encouraged by the comparision to March than I am by the comparison to last year, when conditions were different.


Shoals Area Housing Market Report

So all the headlines are screaming that the housing market is headed for recovery. What exactly does that mean? And how does our local market look here in the Shoals? ACRE (Alabama Center for Real Estate) has published a report on the Shoals area market in April that has lots of numbers and graphs. Most of you are probably saying, okayyy…what does that mean for ME? Let’s take a look one page at a time.
The first page of the report looks at total home sales and median sale price.
More home sales means more people 1)have the ability to buy a new house , and 2) have the confidence in their financial situation to spend their money on a new house. April traditionally has more sales than March, probably due to income tax refunds. This year’s increase from March to April was almost 4x the increase from March to April of last year. That is a definite step in the right direction.
The median sales price is not the same as the average sales price (we’ll get to that one later). Median means in the exact middle between the highest and lowest sales prices. This number fell comared to March of this year, and compared to April of 2011. While this sounds disheartening, it isn’t necessarily. This number is greatly affected by what price homes are listed , as well as whether there were any higher-priced than normal houses sold. Having only one property of over $500,000 sold will greatly impact this number.
Monday, I’ll post about the second page of the report.

Shoals Area home sales in April up 34% from a year ago

Are Visual Tours REALLY Important?

For the last few months, I have become the in-house “expert” on visual tours. Various agents in our office have subscribed to visual tour sites, with mixed results. Everyone agrees that visual tours are pretty cool. They allow buyers to get a preview of the interior of a house before scheduling a showing, which saves time for everyone. But are they really important?

Depending on your source, anywhere from 88% to 94% of all home buyers begin their home search online. Any way you look at it, that’s a huge percentage. Today’s buyers want to structure their search to their convenience…the middle of the night may be their optimum time to look. Or maybe they cruise around the real estate sites during breaks at work. Neither of these times are good to actually visit a property, but either is fine to view a visual tour.

A good visual tour will allow the viewer to get a good feel for the house, without overwhelming them with too many details. Just like still photos, a good visual tour may be the thing that gets a buyer across the threshold to look at the property.

Check out a few visual tours and let me know what you think. Do they make you want to visit? Could you identify elements that let you know whether the house would work for your family?

Click here to see a playlist of videos I have created for listings at Cypress Realty.

How to Make Moving Easier and Modernize Your Home

Do you remember what your grandmother’s house looked like? Collections of things carefully put in curio cabinets or set on tabletops. Gifts of china and glassware from every occasion carefully stacked in the china cabinet (for use only on special days). A wooden rack of spoons from every state hanging on the wall. You know the kind of thing I’m talking about.

Now look around at your house. Does it have the current equivalent of those things? If so, read on…


I saw a beautiful house on my office caravan last week…I think.

The outside had a manicured lawn and lovely landscaping. The garage storage and workshop were meticulously organized.

Then I walked inside and was assaulted by the huge amount of furniture and knick-knacks EVERYWHERE! Every inch of space contained something. Individually, all of it was beautiful and absolutely spotless. However, there wasn’t a surface or an inch of wall space that didn’t have a piece of furniture covered in knick-knacks on it.

I asked the listing agent if the homeowner was going to declutter and she said, “I’ve talked to here about it, but I don’t know if she’s going to do anything about it.”

After further conversation, I found out that the sellers are downsizing to an apartment. (Where are they going to put all this stuff then??) Their adult children are going to come pick out some of the things they want to keep before their parents move. (Why don’t the come do that now??) THEN the owners are planning to have a yard sale for the rest of the things they can’t keep. (What are you waiting for??)

So they have a plan for disposing of the items they can’t take to their new, smaller home. Why not go ahead and implement that plan NOW?

If you are planning to sell soon, or already have your home listed, why wait until the last minute? You never know…a cash buyer could walk in and want to close immediately, leaving you no time for your “plan”. If you go ahead and give away or sell the things you know you can’t move, you only benefit….

  • Your home is decluttered and more attractive to prospective buyers, making it easier and QUICKER to sell
  • You don’t have to rush through the sorting and packing
  • If you have a sale, you have extra money in your pocket to put back for moving or fixing up your new place
  • You have time to have more than one sale, if all of it doesn’t sell the first time
  • You don’t have to worry about moving things you no longer need, making the move easier

Who knows? You may even find that you like the new streamlined look you have in your house!

What’s Happening in Florence, AL — Day 3

Music in the Park, Florence, AL

Everyone loves to go to Music in the Park

Music, music, music! Today is the weekly Music in the Park Concert Series from 11:30-1:30 at Wilson Park in downtown Florence. Today’s artist is Mitch Mann. No admission charge, but you should take your own chair or blanket to sit on. Take a picnic lunch with you, too, to enjoy while you listen to the music! Not sure if the weather is going to cooperate today, but you can check with WQLT or another radio station about whether it is cancelled.

Also during lunchtime today, you can visit McGraw’s Coffee House to hear Kate Tayler Hunt and Kimi Samson. They start at noon and there is no admission. Hey, here’s an idea…grab some lunch from McGraw’s (today’s special is the veggieburger and a side), listen to some music there for a few minutes, then stroll over to the park and catch part of that one too!

Swamper’s in the Marriott Shoals has Tim Cannon performing from 5-7 pm, and if you miss Mitch Mann in the park you can catch him here from 8-11 pm.  On the Rocks in downtown Florence is featuring DJ tonight starting at 9 pm. There may be a cover charge on this one…not sure how much.

If you want to improve your computer skills, the Florence library is having a class in Basic Microsoft Excel this morning from 10:30-12:30. According to the description, the class is for intermediate users (not sure why its called “basic”…hmmm) You do have to preregister, so call Abby Carpenter at 256-764-6564, ext. 27,  to see if they still have seats available.

Story time for Little Ones (babies and pre-schoolers) is also today from 10:30-11 at the library. This week’s story is Koala Lou by Mem Fox.

Finally, at the library today (wow, they are busy today!) Is another eReader Party starting at 2 pm. Seating is limited so you have to register by calling 256-764-6564, ext. 27. The party is in the conference room.

What’s Happening in Florence, AL – Day 1


The first day of summer.

Seems like a good day to start something new!

“There’s nothing to do around here!” How many times have you heard that? I hear it all the time and I just don’t understand it! One of the beautiful things about living in Florence and the Shoals area is that there is ALWAYS something to do.  Whether you are interested in music, books, art, theatre, fishing, sports, or anything else you can think of, something is ALWAYS going on!

Apparently, not everyone can find all those things, so for the next year (if I stay on top of it! lol) I am going to document “something to do” every day. So if you have an event planned and want to get the word out, let me know!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Now I haven’t played backgammon since I was a child, but I have a friend who plays it with much shouting and gnashing of teeth on his phone. I’m thinking it must be more exciting than I remember! On Monday nights, the Northwest Alabama Backgammon Club sponsors a tournament at O’Charley’s on Cox Creek Parkway. The tournament begins at 6 pm, with registration at 5:45 and free lessons beginning at 5:15. Registration fee is only $1 and the tournament fee is $1. I looked at the membership list and it seems like there is a variety of ages, and they welcome all levels of player. Could be a good (and inexpensive!) way to meet new people if you’re new in town!

During the day this week, you can also take a short ride into downtown Tuscumbia to the Tennessee Valley Museum of Art for a couple of different art exhibits. First is the Helen Keller Art Show of Alabama. This touring exhibit includes artworks created by Alabama children who are visually impaired, deaf, or deaf/blind. Also at the same museum is the Watercolor Society of Alabama Annual Juried Competition. Admission to the museum is $5 for adults and $3 for students. Both exhibits will be there through July 8.

The library is always a good place to find something to do. Today from 2-2:45 pm, the kids (grades K-4) can “travel” to Australia through books and powerpoint presentation by Miss Brianna in Youth Services. The “Let’s Visit a New Land” program focuses on a different country every week. For all ages, there is an e-reader party at 5 pm tonight. This is an opportunity to try out different types of e-readers and find out more about how to get books for them. Registration is required due to limited seating, so call 256-764-6564, ext. 27 or email to sign up.

Happy Father’s Day!

This morning at church, a friend of mine (a father) pointed at the front, where an arrangement of fresh cut hydrangeas were in a silver bucket. “On Mother’s Day, there’s a GIANT arrangment of roses for the  moms. On Father’s Day, we get that little arrangement in a bucket.”

I started laughing and asked him he wanted a flower, and he said, “Yeah…there’s nothing wrong with that. I like roses!”

So for all the fathers out there who like flowers, here you go!

A Rose for Dad

A Rose for Dad

Is There Really Any Such Thing as THE Market?

This morning I was listening to a podcast from the President of the National Association of Realtors. He brought up the phrase “all politics is local,” then continued to say that “all real estate is local.”

I started thinking about that. He makes a very good point. The national media talk about real estate as if there is only one market in the nation, which is very, very wrong. Even within one state, there are many different markets.

Comparing large markets to other large markets MAY have some benefits. But thinking that the much more common medium or small markets are part of those same comparisons will lead you astray.

When I am asked, “So, how’s the market?”, the person asking doesn’t want to know about New York or Dallas, or even Birmingham. He is asking about the Shoals. He is asking about what is happening in his own back yard.

Reports that come through the national media are looking at statistics gathered from many different markets. It does not take into consideration that one area can vary widely from another.

In the Shoals area (Florence, Muscle Shoals, Tuscumbia, Sheffield, and the surrounding area) property values haven’t changed that much. We have had fewer sales this year than last, but that drop is concentrated in homes under $150,000. In homes priced higher, there has been an increase in sales at most levels.

Lesson learned…instead of listening to the national media, contact a local Realtor to find out about the market in your back yard.

The Evolution of Tastes

I spent last week with new clients who are primarily interested in an older home, with “character”. I got a real kick out of watching them figure that out!

It wasn’t until we had looked at several houses that they realized their tastes ran toward houses built prior to 1960, and preferably before 1940. They seemed so surprised to come to that realization…

Things like this are what make working with first time buyers so much fun. They have a general idea of what they want before they start looking, but because they have never been through the home-buying process before, there a lots of surprises along the way. So much of what they have to consider, they have never thought about seriously before.

I always suggest they spend some time looking at magazines or online to find out what features they are attracted to, without worrying about whether or not they can afford that feature. If I can SEE what they find attractive, I can do my best to find something as close as possible to what they WANT, not just what they NEED!

We haven’t found the perfect house for these clients just yet, but every one we see lets them refine their tastes and desires even more. I’m sure that we will find something this week, and I can’t wait to see them settled!

A Night in the Shoals

“There’s nothing to do around here!”

I am always surprised to hear someone voice this opinion about the Shoals area. We are very fortunate to have a lot of creative people living in the area, and I rarely have trouble finding something to do. Whether you are interested in music, art, theatre, shopping, restaurants, history, or something else altogether, there is probably something for you around here!

For example, last night I went with friends to the Rattlesnake Saloon. I had never been there, but heard a lot about it, so I was happy to tag along with my best friends when they wanted to take an out-of-town visitor for the experience. (Dinner in a cave with live music…ok, I’m game!) When we arrived, we discovered that they were so busy we couldn’t get dinner, so we left and headed back into town.

Instead of dining in a cave, we chose instead to dine on the patio of Frank’s Restaurant in Tuscumbia. We were still outdoors, and we still had live entertainment. We followed dinner with a walk around Spring Park. It was a wonderful evening with food, friends, and fun. And all for a fraction of what a night like that would have cost in a bigger city.

It was so nice to view our local area through the eyes of someone new. The out-of-town guest is already looking forward to coming back for another visit soon. She is thrilled to discover what we have all known for a long time — the Shoals is a pretty great place to be!