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Upscale Garages Are In; Buyer Incentives Are Out For 2007

When home sales softened late in 2005, many sellers decided to take their homes off the market and wait until the spring flowers surfaced — along with the traditional housing season — to lure potential home buyers. While sellers enjoyed modest appreciation in many areas of the country early in 2006, the second half was a totally different matter.

Could the New Year possibly restart the positive cycle?

Some economists believe the pull-and-wait strategy might have been premature given the amount of expected inventory in early 2007.

There could be as many pent-up buyers as pent-up sellers, especially if the home is priced correctly. LetÂ’s compile an annual list of what’s “in” for housing this year, what is definitely “out,” and several items that are “on the way out.” The list is a result of input from Realtors from around the country who, in turn, had solicited feedback from home buyers and sellers as they visit resale and new homes.

“Savvy buyers” were high on the “in” list for 2007, plus a few other interesting housing predictions:

* Savvy buyers. With interest rates historically low and pent-up demand from a soft year in 2006, the deals and lack of frenzy won’t last long. “Deferred demand” from 2006 could ignite a mini-frenzy in some markets.

* Market timing. Many buyers and sellers were on their own timelines in 2006 and they missed opportunities that were created by not recognizing the real estate market’s ebb and flow. Spring is high market, the most demand by the largest number of buyers. Summer is a good market, fall is fair, and winter is the remnant market, the leftover buyers and sellers from the high, good and fair markets.

* Homes that are priced right. It isn’t the boom market of 2005. Look at only the sold comparables from the last six months. Forget the cocktail party chitchat when all you heard was record home prices in the shortest market times in U.S. history.

* Upscale garages. It’s no longer the out-of-sight, out-of-mind dumping ground. Today’s garage owners want them decked out with cabinet and storage systems, mini-refrigerators, insulation, heating and air conditioning, and durable but residential-looking flooring.

* Caving. Man caves and Mom caves are coming out of the closet. Personal dedicated space for one person in a household where he/she can go and work on projects or “chill” without being disturbed — and if so, only in an emergency.

* Two home offices. Rising gas prices and commuting times have created more work-at-home families. Size matters, so make sure each room is at least 10-by-10 feet.

* Rejuvenation rooms. A one-stop space for exercising, meditation, yoga, sauna and fancy steam showers. Showers are going upscale, too. Waterfall fixtures and programmable temperature and water flow are the next trend.

What’s Out?

* Selling home “as is.” Anything went in the boom market, but if you’re planning to use “as is” in 2007, forget it. It’s a two-word kiss of death. Buyers see it as a red flag about the home and you, the seller. You have too much competition to be chasing buyers away.

* Buyer incentives. Free cars don’t sell houses; realistic pricing does. Gimmicks only confuse and distract buyers. Cut to the chase and deduct the cost of your freebie from your current price and send the signal to buyers that you’re selling real property not personal property.

On the Way Out

* Bamboo floors. The first reviews are in on this popular eco-friendly flooring, and they’re not pretty. This material is easily dented and scratched, and prone to warping from variations in our climate and humidity levels.

* Hardwood laminate floors. The word is out that these noisy, cheaper relatives of solid hardwood don’t stand up to multiple sanding to change color or to remove stains.