How Online Home Valuation Tools Work and Don’t Work

Whether buying or selling a home, online home valuation tools (also called Automated Valuation Models, or AVM’s) such as Zillow’s Zestimate can be useful. But they can also be problematic. Since most buyers and sellers are looking at these values, it is a good idea to understand them and how online home valuation tools work and don’t work.

RBHcomuterIt’s a computer, not a person. Online estimates follow an algorithm to give a projected estimate of value. This means that the algorithm is based on the accuracy of the data that is has to compute. The problem occurs when data is input by sellers that may falsely inflate values or where lack of data may not produce an accurate value.

What it (generally) measures. The value of your home will usually be a product of comparable homes. How does your home compare to similar homes that recently sold (within the last 6 months) and are actively listed within a 1-2 mile radius? In addition to proximity, other features compared are: square footage of the home, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, year the home was built, and size of lot. Values tend to be most accurate when this data comes from homes that are fairly new tract homes. Homes that are custom or have been updated with custom features, however, will likely be off on their value here.

It can also be problematic when the algorithm doesn’t recognize a neighborhood boundary. For example, is the computer is using comparable homes from a nearby condo complex when your home is a single family residence? Or, do some of the comps used fall in differently rated school districts? Also, computers are not likely to take into consideration the terms of those sales, such as distressed or discounted sales.

RBHaley Mortgage CalculatorOther features that are probably not figured into the algorithm are: views, location relative to busy roads, outdoor features such as a kitchen and/or a pool, whether the lot is flat or on a steep slope, and quality of the neighborhood, and higher end upgrades and appliances.

Know your competition. The reason comparable homes are considered when deciding value is based on the idea that a typical buyer will not pay more for a similar home if all things are equal. This is why it is especially important to look at recently sold homes (last 6 months) to help determine what people have paid. One mistake many sellers and buyers make is basing value on homes that are currently listed. The problem with this logic is that often the list price is the “best case scenario” for the seller but not necessarily what a buyer is willing to pay.

The bottom line. Being able to differentiate the value the of your home based on specific features is an important part of putting these online home value tools into context. So, unless you want to hire an appraiser, use online home value estimates only as a supplementary tool. Work with a trusted real estate agent to get a more accurate home value (they have additional tools and knowledge to help obtain this value). And remember, what a seller paid for specific upgrades will not always equate to what a buyer will pay.

R.B. Haley Fine Homes & Estates

12396 World Trade Dr., Ste. 306, San Diego, CA 92128

(858) 592-4895     CalBRE#01843189

Five Steps to a Faster Home Sale

It is true that a seller’s market (like the one currently in southern California) favors the seller, but buyers are still an important part of the sale equation. There are critical steps sellers can take to reach the ideal buyers who are willing and able to pay top dollar, and to ensure a smooth and expedited escrow process. And it all starts BEFORE listing your property. Here are five steps to a faster home sale.

RBH_termiteOne: Work out the bugs     Having a pre-listing pest inspection done before listing your property can help eliminate surprises (like extensive termite damage) that can throw a wrench in the escrow process and keep the cost of repairs lower, giving the seller more control. Completing recommended repairs ahead of time can be a big selling point, and obtaining a termite clearance report by a licensed pest control company (required by many lenders to fund a loan) can help facilitate a faster escrow.

Two: Call in the inspector     Similar to a pest inspection, doing a home inspection before listing your home will give you an idea of any major (and minor) repairs that will be recommended and likely negotiated as a result. Sellers can give themselves an advantage by either making major repairs ahead of time or taking the cost of those repairs into consideration in the asking price. Keep in mind that buyers may (and should) still opt to have a home inspection done, but a home in great condition reassures the buyer as to the value, will help expedite contingency removals, and will keep more money in the seller’s pocket during escrow.

Three: Move Out     While there can be drawbacks to selling an unoccupied home, the benefits can outweighRBHmovingbox them. Vacating your home prior to listing protects your personal belongings, allows your home to be thoroughly cleaned and staged to be showcased at its best, and most importantly, it makes it much more accessible for potential buyers to see. It is also much more convenient for the seller.   Otherwise, you will have the constant headache of having to keep your home in “showing” condition at all times and be willing to drop what you are doing to vacate the property on a moment’s notice to accommodate potential buyers and stay competitive with other homes for sale in the area.

Four: Showcase it with staging     Whether your home is vacant or occupied there is a range of home staging options, but it is always recommended. Ideally, your home will be de-cluttered and de-personalized, and decorated in a tasteful and generally appealing way. If you do not have this talent, you can ask for guidance from your real estate agent and possibly consider hiring a professional. In a vacant home, staging is recommended in the living areas and master bedroom, and any other areas whose function is not well defined in the home to help buyers visualize how to use the space.

Five: Pre-listing marketing     This is where having a great real estate agent can make all the difference. When selecting a REALTOR ask about his or her pre-listing marketing strategies. These can include posting a “Coming Soon” sign in the yard and marketing to neighbors, advertising in local newspapers or websites, and posting “Coming Soon” on social media outlets and websites such as Your real estate agent should also be promoting your property before coming to the market with other real estate agents who may have potential buyers through networking and broker caravans. Some REALTORS also do “Exclusive Preview” open houses or parties where previewing the home is by invitation only prior to a general Open House to further build excitement. All of these strategies help to build anticipation and demand and often translate into multiple offers.

And multiple offers puts sellers in the drivers seat so you can sell your home faster and with a smoother escrow.

R.B. Haley Fine Homes & Estates

12396 World Trade Dr., Ste. 306, San Diego, CA 92128

(858) 592-4895           CalBRE#01843189

Energy Efficient Home Improvements That Also Add Value

A home for sale that is energy efficient is almost always more appealing to buyers. Why? Because buyers know that they will save money monthly because of the efficiency of the home and will not have to make those upgrades themselves. But not all upgrades are valued the same, and not all buyers are willing to pay a higher price for upgrades they do not value. Here are some common energy efficient home improvements that also add value to your home (so everyone wins!).

Windows     If you have not already upgraded to energy efficient windows, start here. Not only can older windows be an eyesore, window replacements are one of the few upgrades that instantly give an updated look while also providing great function by helping to regulate the home’s temperature and reducing its exposure to extreme heat and cold.RBH window

Appliances     Many home buyers today expect kitchens to be updated with modern amenities like granite or quartz countertops and stainless steel. This also includes energy efficient appliances. Again, this upgrade is functional and goes a long way with making a positive visual impact.

Furnace and A/C     If your home’s furnace or air conditioner is nearing the end of its functional life, it may be worth replacing it before you have to. Home buyers become weary when they know that an expensive item has a higher potential for needing to be replaced in the near future. Even simply adding a programmable thermostat can go a long way.RBH air conditioning

Insulation     While insulation is not something potential buyers will necessarily be able to see, it is likely something they will be able to feel. A well insulated home will offer more in the way of comfort from extreme temperatures and noise. And, as far as energy efficient home improvements, insulation is relatively inexpensive to install.

If you want to prioritize your projects further but are not sure where your house ranks in terms of energy efficiency, you can start by requesting an energy audit from your local utility company. Another benefit that homeowners may overlook is the added bonus of homeowner tax credits available by the IRS as an incentive to upgrade your home’s energy efficiency.

While not all buyers are willing to pay more for energy efficient upgrades (even in a seller’s market), many times the homes that are in need of updating and upgrading are magnets for real estate investors who see it as an opportunity to invest their own money into these upgrades, which results in a lower offer price to the seller. Consult with your real estate agent for further guidance.

R.B. Haley Fine Homes & Estates

12396 World Trade Dr., Ste. 306, San Diego, CA 92128

(858) 592-4895           CalBRE#01843189

Ideas For Making Memories In Your Home

RBH_American_FlagAs we take some time this Memorial Day to reflect on and honor the courage and sacrifices our fallen soldiers have made so that we can have the freedom to live, it is also a good reminder about the importance of creating memories in our own lives. We can honor the life we love and the ones we love in a home we love with these fun and simple ideas for making memories in your home. After all, home is where the heart is.

Plant a tree  Not only is planting a tree good for the environment, but planting a younger sapling and watching it grow over the years is a great way to measure time and growth. You can dedicate the tree to someone special, or take annual pictures next to the tree to track its progress (and yours).

Measure height in doorways  It is often hard to remember how small children once were. One great idea is to dedicate a doorway to tracking the height of each child as they grow. Mark the height, name, and date annually. You can even take pictures for a memory book.

Create a gallery wall  Dedicating one wall to showcase art, photos, and other memories is a great way to display your favorites without feeling overrun by them. This can be a great place to hang school photos and vacation pictures, and children’s art. You can take picture of the art and hang those photos instead, or use a shadow box to display multiple items.

Make an annual yearbook  With the advent of digital photography is can be easy to take thousands of pictures each year and never develop a single one. Commit to making a family “year book” each year with highlights of each family member’s accomplishments. These also make great holiday gifts for grandparents and other important people in your lives. Keep these in a family library area or dedicated shelf for all to see.

Have a “together” area where the family can hang out  In many homes today, this is the kitchen. But in some homes it is the connecting family room or dining room area. Wherever it is in your house, make sure you have a comfortable space where the family can sit together, interact, and share good, quality time. This can be spent playing board games, watching movies, sharing stories, and eating comfort foods. And make sure to dedicate some of the time spent in this space to being “device free” so people can really connect.

What other uses of space or traditions does your family have at home?

The moments you create and the loved ones with whom you create them are what gives a home heart and makes the memories sweet. Today we remember that there is no place like home…and we extend our thanks and gratitude to those who died fighting so that we can have the freedom and privilege to enjoy ours.

R.B. Haley Fine Homes & Estates

12396 World Trade Dr., Ste. 306, San Diego, CA 92128

(858) 592-4895         CalBRE#01843189

Tips for Buying in a Seller’s Market

If you are a home buyer in today’s real estate market, you may be experiencing some challenges. Low inventory and faster selling times (average of 21.8 days Days on Market) make this seller’s market tough to navigate for potential buyers. So what can buyers do to stay competitive? Here are 8 tips for buying in a seller’s market.RBHaley Mortgage Calculator

Get Pre-approved before you start looking     Getting pre-approved before you start looking will give you the price range you know you can comfortably afford, and looking below that will give you some room for negotiating up if needed. Also, getting pre-approved shows sellers your credit worthiness and sets the stage for a smoother and more successful purchase.

Know what you need vs. what you want     Knowing your must-have features (and being in agreement on those if you are buying with a significant other) helps you know where you are willing to compromise and where you are not. Knowing what is negotiable in your mind will speed up the decision making process while ensuring that your priorities stay in check.

Find a rock star agent     Anyone can search for homes online, but a rock star real estate agent is well connected to other realtors and the market, and may even learn about homes that are not yet listed. She or he should give you a competitive edge by using her or his resources to not only find you right home, but help sell you to the listing agent and sellers as the ideal buyers. If you aren’t getting that kind of service, it might be time to look for a new agent (and we happen to know a few amazing agents!).

Be ready to act. Fast.     Being ready to act fast goes beyond being pre-approved. You will want to have a pre-approval letter written by your lender as well as proof of funds (such as a bank statement) to show you are willing and able to make a Good Faith deposit upon acceptance of your offer. It also helps to have letters of recommendation from employers, landlords, and anyone else who can vouch for your good character and dependability. Have these things ready to go so that an offer can be executed on a moment’s notice, as even mere hours can make the difference in a seller’s market.RBHaleySignContract

Make your best offer     Many sellers are receiving multiple offers right up front. If your offer isn’t competitive from the get go you may not get the chance to counter offer. Remember, it’s not always about price. You can enhance your offer by reducing or eliminating contingencies or showing flexibility to work with the seller’s time frame. Understand what the seller is looking for and write your offer accordingly.

Make it personal     Don’t be afraid to tell your story as a buyer to appeal to the seller. Most sellers (unless it is an investor) cherish their home and want to know that whomever will be buying it will love it as much as they have. Get creative and you will be light years ahead of your competition.

Be realistic     As a buyer in a seller’s market, you are probably not going to get a killer deal. Be realistic in your offer based on current values but resist the temptation to bid beyond what you can comfortably afford.   Stay focused on what gives that home real value and do your research on comparable properties so you know whether the purchase is a good investment and why.

Keep moving forward     If your offer was rejected or you were outbid, don’t despair! Do your best to move on. Believe it or not, there are many “right” homes out there; it’s just a matter of finding the right one at the right time. Stay optimistic and keep looking…often times buyers end up finding something better!

R.B. Haley Fine Homes & Estates

12396 World Trade Dr., Ste. 306, San Diego, CA 92128

(858) 592-4895         CalBRE#01843189


How to Sell Your Home Fast and For Top Dollar

Selling a home is both science and art. There are the numbers (economics)…and there are the people (buyers). Something magical happens when you get the best of both. Here are the tried and true recommendations for how to sell your home fast and for top dollar.

RBHaleyDollarSignFind the Pricing Sweet Spot     First, start by finding out what has recently sold and what is currently for sale in your neighborhood. can be a great tool for this. The value of your home is based, in part, on the theory that buyers will not pay more for a similar home in the same neighborhood. Ideally, your home will be priced slightly less that what is currently listed (to attract buyers), but slightly more than what has sold recently. A home that is priced too high is likely to sit on the market longer. Potential buyers automatically assume that something is wrong with the property, which may keep them away or only attract the bargain hunters (which may result in a lower selling price).

Downsize belongings     You have no doubt heard about the importance of decluttering your home, but the purpose behind it sends a powerful message. By creating space in your home, you are showing potential buyers that your home is comfortable, livable, and well cared for. What impression do you think it makes when things are jammed into closets and cabinets are overflowing? Think hotel; only the necessities.

Upgrade to move-in ready     Most buyers today have an expectation that the home they buy is going to be move-in ready; most are not looking for a large home improvement project. To appeal to these buyers you want to get familiar with the current trends and follow them. A great tip is to visit model homes, as they often do extensive research on their presentation to appeal to most potential buyers. Take note of popular materials, styles, and uses of space.


Put your best foot forward     In most cases, potential buyers will view photos of your home before ever setting foot in it. Guess which photo they are likely to see first? It pays to enhance your curb appeal. In many cases this may mean simply laying fresh wood chips and planting some flowers. And, don’t forget about the backyard as well.   When it comes to photos of the inside of your home, lots of light and beautifully staging a home can make all the difference to online buyers.

Hire the right agent     A great real estate agent is knowledgeable, professional, and reliable.   Not only should she or he be able to get your home in front of as many potential buyers as possible, but is also someone who brings you value by negotiating a sale that protects and promotes your best interests as the seller…and can help sell your home fast and for top dollar.

R.B. Haley Fine Homes & Estates

12396 World Trade Dr., Ste. 306, San Diego, CA 92128

(858) 592-4895         CalBRE#01843189

Feng Shui Home Features to Emphasize When Selling

Staging to sell your home can be more than just making your home look beautiful. To some buyers, it is also important that your home shows good Feng Shui. Here are some ways to help emphasize the feng shui features of your home to attract and appeal to even more potential buyers.

Front Entry     While you may not be able to change the lucky direction your front door faces, you can appeal to Feng Shui in other ways. A strong front door- in size and prominence- is important for attracting positive energy (or Sheng Chi). Sometimes simply changing the landscaping can help accomplish this (just be sure no trees or poles point towards the front door so there is no interference with the positive energy). Ideally, the front door would not directly align with the back door so as to prevent loss of good energy.subpage-background-4

Furniture Placement     Each room in your house has specific Feng Shui rules. In general, furniture in the living spaces should be placed to promote conversation but also have a clear path to flow through a room. A mix of shapes and varied textures when decorating will bring balance, and try to decorate in pairs to promote love and nurturing. In bedrooms, the bed should not be directly facing the door and the head of the bed should be against the farthest wall.

Solana Beach

Solana Beach

Kitchen     According to feng shui, the kitchen is the most important room in the home. Ideally, it is not too close to the front or back door. An organized kitchen promotes good health and positive energy (Sheng Chi). Overall, your kitchen should be light, bright, and happy. There should be minimal knickknacks and something living (a plant, flowers, bowl of fruit) present to attract positive energy.

Light         Maximize ambient light and minimize spot lighting, as you want the energy to flow throughout and not be concentrated in one area. Use of sheers over windows with less than ideal views, and use of mirrors to reflect light and pleasant spaces can also be effective.

As a general rule, de-cluttering serves to remove anything that can hold or store negative energy in the home. Homes that take a minimal approach maximize space and flow, but it should still feel calm and inviting. This is true for any house for sale, but a house with good feng shui will leave more potential buyers feeling your home’s positive energy.

For more staging tips or to find an agent to help you sell your home visit

R.B. Haley Fine Homes & Estates     123396 World Trade Drive, Suite 306, San Diego, CA 92128   (858)592-4895     CalBRE#01843189

5 Ways to Freshen Up Your Home’s Curb Appeal

You know the saying…You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Whether prospective buyers are pulling up to your house with a real estate agent, or clicking through MLS photos online, you want your house stand out above the rest. That starts with the first thing buyers see: the front of your home. Here are 5 ways to freshen up your home’s curb appeal so you can make that great first impression.3924 Arroyo Sorrento Rd

  1. Freshen up your landscaping. Laying fresh wood chips and planting a few colorful flowers can go a long way. Make sure your bushes are trimmed, your lawn is cut, and your yard is free of weeds and debris.
  2. Freshen up your walkway and entryway. As a larger project, adding stone or stamped concrete to your walkway can instantly give your home’s curb appeal a major boost. For smaller projects, try lining your walkway with decorative lighting, such as individual solar lights. Add warmth to your entryway by including seating or potted plants.
  3. Freshen up your front door. Your front door gives your home character and tells visitors what to expect once they enter. Make a statement! This can mean simply painting your existing door a contrasting color to make it more inviting, or replacing your old door with something updated and stylish. And, make sure your “Welcome” mat is in welcoming condition. (Note: If your garage door faces the street, you might also consider freshening that up).
  4. Freshen up your fixtures. Outdated lighting fixtures can make a house look less appealing. Consider updating your home’s exterior lighting fixtures to compliment your house and enhance its safety. Coordinate your fixtures with your mailbox and house numbers and buyers will be sure to notice.
  5. Freshen up your paint. Probably the biggest impact you can have on curb appeal is by freshening up your house with a new coat of paint. Coordinate a complimentary trim color and some decorative features, such as shutters, accent colors, or stone, and you can totally transform your home’s curb appeal.

Not sure where to start? Try taking “before” photos of your home from the front and using those to plan out how you would like it to look and go from there. If you’re not up to tackling these projects yourself, you can always ask your real estate agent for referrals to contractors that can help you.   In the end, enhancing your home’s curb appeal will help your home to stand apart and make the memorable first impression you really want.

Investing in YOUR Future,

R.B. Haley Fine Homes and Estates

Did we miss anything? Feel free add comments below with some of your great ideas and/or feedback. Thanks for your input and please remember to share!

R.B. Haley, Inc. 12396 World Trade Drive, Suite 306, San Diego, CA 92128   858.592.4895   CA Lic#01843189/01219416

What to Expect When Buying a Home: Moving In


Buying a home is a process. That process starts with working with a lender to get pre-qualified, then shopping around to find an agent and a home. The next stage in the home buying process includes making a purchase offer (and possibly counter-offer), getting acceptance and agreeing on terms, and successfully completing the purchase transaction in escrow. Once you purchased the house…the next step is to become the occupant! Make your move into your new home low stress by following a recommended timeline and using these helpful tips for “What to Expect When Buying a Home: Moving In.”

Moving begins before moving day. A smooth and successful move takes planning weeks in advance, especially if a relocation or sale of another home is involved. Here is a general week-by-week timeline you may find helpful (or use this checklist for moving):

Four weeks prior to moving:

  • Start sorting items and begin acquiring moving materials (boxes, tape, markers, bubble wrap)
    • Tip: every item should be assigned one status of KEEP, DONATE, or DISCARD
  • Make a list of accounts, creditors, insurance, and businesses to contact, and notify of new address if possible
    • Tip: you can start making these updates as you pay the final month’s bill before you move
  • Notify the utilities company of where you are moving to/from so that service can be turned on/offRBHmovingbox
  • File a change of address form with the Post Office
  • Inquire about the registration process if kids are switching schools

Three weeks prior to moving:

  • Decide what items you will move yourself and schedule a moving company to help with the rest
    • Tip: check your homeowner’s policy on whether moving is covered by your insurer and take inventory of all your belongings
  • Continue sorting and packing
    • Tip: color code labels as you pack so that like items are packed together and can be easily unpacked
    • Tip: sketch out a floor plan of your new home so that you have a general idea of where things will go and what may not fit
  • Make a list of important names, phone numbers, and addresses to take with you (and keep it handy)
    • Tip: send out an email with your new contact information to friends and family ahead of time
  • Make any travel arrangements needed for your move (including any arrangements for pets)

Two weeks prior to moving:

  • Dispose of any flammable or hazardous household items (it is usually okay to leave labeled cans of the home’s current paint colors)
    • Tip: check with your community about hazardous household waste disposal locations and hours
  • Consider ordering a curbside dumpster for large amounts of trash
  • Discontinue regular services such as landscaping, newspaper delivery and/or subscriptions, pest control, etc.
  • Finalize plans for moving larger items (TV antenna, swing set, trampoline, etc)
  • Plan to use up frozen and stored food

One week prior to moving:RBHmailbox

  • Determine what items of value (jewelry, etc.) you will keep with you during the move and where
  • Drop off all donation items (or arrange for pick up)
  • Clean appliances
  • Make arrangements to connect/disconnect phone/internet service at your new home and sold home

The day prior to moving:

  • Pack a suitcase or box of necessities that you will need upon arrival
    • Tip: include kitchen and household items such as phone chargers and cords, paper towels, trash bags, hand soap, scissors, drinking water, snacks, and toilet paper


  • Plan to be at your sold home as movers arrive to oversee the loading process
  • Check the condition of items that are being loaded
  • Verify your new address and phone number with the movers, and be prepared for payment
  • Take a final tour of the property, including the yard
  • Lock all doors and windows and turn off all switches
  • Meet your movers at your new home and oversee the process of unloading

Welcome home!

Investing in YOUR Future,

R.B. Haley Fine Homes and Estates

Did we miss anything? Feel free add comments below with some of your great ideas and/or feedback. Thanks for your input and please remember to share!

R.B. Haley, Inc. 12396 World Trade Drive, Suite 306, San Diego, CA 92128   858.592.4895   CA Lic#01843189/01219416