Where do the kids sleep?!?

[photopress:dig_deep.jpg,thumb,alignright]Whether you are a buyer or a seller, you really need to dig a little deeper when determining the value of a home. One thing I noticed when I first started practicing real estate in the Seattle area, is that almost no one digs deep enough when determining value based on “buyer profile”. This is an old fashioned concept, I guess, that I learned many, many years ago when I was the Certified Corporate Property Specialist (CCPS) for a large real estate company on the East Coast. That’s a fancy name for someone who must quickly sell the vacant inventory homes of relocated executives whose homes were “acquired” via a “buyout” corporate perk. The very first question I had to ask myself when I went to the property before putting it on market was, “Who is likely to buy this house?” I needed to know if I had an expanded or diminished buyer “pool”.

Remember, the market is shifting from a “baby boomer” market to a “Generation X” market, and we have to change our thinking and valuing with the trends that are affected by this shift. “We” meaning anyone interested in the “value” of property, whether that be buyers, sellers or real estate professionals.

Here’s a simple scenario. Four houses. Each 2,600 hundred square feet per mls. Let’s say everything is comparable in terms of neighborhood, lot size, view considerations (all have a view) and improvements. The ONLY difference being the placement of the square footage, each being 2,600 square feet not including the garage.

House #1 – 1,400 square feet on the main level and 1,200 square feet on the second floor. 2,600 above ground square feet with 4 bedrooms on the second floor and none on the first floor. View from all “main” rooms, (kitchen, living room, entertainment spaces and master bedroom).

House #2 – EXACTLY the same house as House #1, but with views out the front door, not visible from main rooms and views from all children’s bedrooms only, when inside the home. In other words on opposite side of the street so front door faces the view instead of the rear of the house facing the view.

House #3 – 2,000 square feet on the main level with 3 bedrooms on main level and 600 finished square feet in basement level with one bedroom in the basement. All views from main areas on main “entertaining” level.

House #4 – 1,300 square feet on the main level with only the master bedroom on the main level and 1,300 on the basement level with three “children’s bedrooms” down in the basement. Another variation would be two bedrooms up and two bedrooms down.

What really concerns me, is I see people getting info from the internet regarding total square footage, and doing comps based on this total square footage. “The house across the street sold for $800,000, so this one is worth X on a “price per square foot” basis. Even if it is the house next door, PLEASE stop valuing property based on price per square foot based on TOTAL square footage. Clearly you can see that those four houses, all 2,600 square feet, have considerable differences with regard to value.

When a pregnant woman and her two year old walk into house #4, they have to walk right back out. Do you really think she is going to love her master bedroom with view, if her newborn baby and two year old are sleeping “in the basement”? Now, personally I love my kids being “in the basement”, as mine are grown. But I wouldn’t pay as much for the house with a huge master suite on the second floor and all other bedrooms in the basement, as I would for one with more bedrooms “up”, even though that suits MY “buyer profile“.

Diminished buyer pool means that the average family buying a home cannot live with that floor plan, and that affects value, even if that floor plan suits YOUR needs. If the answer to the question, “Where do the kids sleep?!?” is down in the basement, on a separate floor from “Mommy”….hmmmmm.

Investors be very aware of this concept, as what you are thinking is a “bargain” in the neighborhood, and buying as a flip project, may be the ones with this “floor plan flow” problem. You sink a ton of money into granite counters, etc. only to find the low price was based on these types of differences in square footage placement, and you get nailed on resale of the improved flip house.

If a house is not selling and the price is reduced below the prices of the neighboring properties, make sure you know WHY that is happening. Likewise, if a real estate agent prices a house with 3 bedrooms on the main level and views from main rooms like house #3, based on the price “per square foot” of the house next door like house #4 with the kids in the basement…THAT house may be a TRUE bargain.