Cleaned-up look helps agents sell foreclosed homes

Bray Real Estate agents Joan Kenyon, left, has hired people to maintain foreclosed properties, like the home near Golf Club at Redlands Mesa, which Tammie Low, right, keeps attractive for potential buyers.

Picking out the foreclosed home on the block used to be easy. Telltale signs might have been tall weeds, unlit entryways and a garbage bag or two of junk parked in the driveway.

That scene played out across the Grand Valley during the housing bust in the 1980s. But these days savvy real estate agents are keen to the idea that keeping up appearances can help foreclosed homes be sold more quickly.

Some local agents who sell foreclosed homes hire workers to haul out debris, keep up the yards and crank up the lights and heat, to the delight of neighbors.

“If a house has been winterized, it makes a major difference when you’re showing,” said Jan Phillips, a real estate broker with Coldwell Banker. “If (potential buyers are) cold, they’re in a hurry to get out of there.”

Phillips, who has 70 to 80 listings of foreclosed homes that had been purchased with Freddie Mac loans, said the first goal in selling a foreclosed home is to switch the utilities back on.

Some owners of those homes are meticulously clean, while others, even if only a few, maliciously trash a home before moving out.

“Some are clean enough you can eat the food in the cupboard. Others, you want to burn your clothes before you get back into the car,” Phillips said.

In general, costs to maintain a foreclosed home before it sells are $3,000 to $4,000, she said.

Phillips sometimes hires an interested neighbor to do maintenance and yard work.

“Usually the neighbors love us,” she said. “Who cares about it more than someone in the neighborhood? Sometimes neighbors volunteer to take care of that.”

Mesa County is on track to record more foreclosed homes in 2010 than last year, Mesa County Public Trustee Paul Brown said.

As of Dec. 8, there were 1,501 foreclosed homes in the county for the year, a number that probably will reach 1,600 by year’s end, Brown said. Last year, 1,291 foreclosed homes hit the market in Mesa County.

“I wish I could tell you it’s a sign it’s getting better, but we’re still getting a lot of filings into the office,” he said.

You would never guess the home at 337 Red Ridge Court is a foreclosure. Lofty ceilings abound in the 3,188-square-foot home, which boasts unobstructed views of Grand Mesa and the Golf Club at Redlands Mesa. The home that sold for nearly $900,000 is now offered at $579,000. But it doesn’t look any worse for the wear.

That’s because the Realtor team of Joan and Tom Kenyon with Bray Real Estate hired a home cleaner and a maintenance worker to care for this home and about 25 other listed foreclosed properties.

The couple keeps a fund of about $10,000 for paying utility bills each month. When a home sells, two liens exist: one for the home and another for the utility bills. The bank or the seller usually foots the bill for the home’s preservation costs.

“It’s just good business,” Tom Kenyon said. “In the ‘80s people just walked away. We take care of yards, so we can keep them looking good. If you don’t, the buyer will deduct it from the offer. It helps a lot in getting the deal closed. Otherwise, you end up replacing that in inspection if the house is in bad condition.”

While foreclosed homes still are flooding the local market, at least they seem to be selling at a quicker pace, Joan Kenyon said.

What used to be an average of 220 to 250 days to sell a home has decreased to about 110 to 140 days to sell, she said.

“I think it’s starting to pick up,” she said.


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