6 signs a home will hold its resale value

Buying at a low price does have a downside

Most buyers have a wish list of features they’d like to have in a home. Often missing from that list is how salable the home will be when they later decide to sell.

Generally, buyers deal indirectly with resale value. They want a home they can buy at market value or less. They want to buy a home that will retain its value. They want to buy a home that will suit their needs. They want to buy a home they can make their own.

A listing that’s priced low to sell fast may be one that will have good resale value only if you use this marketing strategy. The low price may offset an incurable defect, such as a location on a busy street.

There’s nothing wrong with buying a home on a busy street as long as (1) you buy it at a price that reflects the location issue; (2) it suits your long-term needs; and (3) you understand that you will probably have to discount the price accordingly when you sell, depending on the market at the time.

In a hot seller’s market, buyers are desperate to buy. They often overpay, and they are more likely to overlook defects that they would shun in a sour market.

Resale value has become a bigger issue since the housing recession began five years ago. Buyers are more cautious in their homebuying decisions. They don’t want to buy just any home; they don’t want to make a mistake and end up wanting to move in a slow market in which they might lose money.

The homes that hold their resale value well are the ones that appeal to a broad cross section of buyers; offer a good floor plan that works for different lifestyles; have a good amount of space but are not enormous and expensive to maintain; and exhibit a pride of ownership. They should also be in good condition.

Location is also a critical element of resale value. There are market niches that are always in demand, in both hot and soft markets. For example, there are always buyers for homes in the Rockridge neighborhood of Oakland, Calif., and the adjacent Elmwood neighborhood in Berkeley. Both are conveniently located to shops, caf├ęs and a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) stop for easy commuting to work.

That’s not to say that every listing in these areas sells quickly. To sell, it needs to be priced right for the market.

It’s easier to recognize a home with good resale value in the current market than it was in the bubble market of 2005 and 2006 when virtually all homes sold in many areas. In a soft market, the homes that sell within 30 to 60 days are either good homes or good deals.

Ideally, you want to buy a home that has good resale value. Not one that’s just a good deal. There’s no urgency to buy now in many areas, although it would be nice to take advantage of record-low interest rates. But you shouldn’t buy a home that won’t work for you long term just to lock in a great interest rate.

Even though there are a lot of homes for sale on the market, in many areas there is a not a surplus of quality inventory on the market. One reason for the lack of quality homes on the market is that many sellers are waiting for a better time to sell. Another reason is that homes with good resale value don’t tend to change hands that often.

THE CLOSING: There may be good news ahead. Leslie Appleton-Young, chief economist for the California Association of Realtors, predicts that sellers who have been waiting for a better time to sell may decide they’ve waited long enough and list their homes for sale in 2012.

Dian Hymer, a real estate broker with more than 30 years’ experience, is a nationally syndicated real estate columnist and author of "House Hunting: The Take-Along Workbook for Home Buyers" and "Starting Out, The Complete Home Buyer’s Guide."

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