We recently interviewed Mike Puckett about the best Zionsville neighborhoods for resale value. In addition to talking about most of the subdivisions in the community, we discussed some of the basics of how to obtain the best resale price if you’re selling a home, as well as what to look for in a house if you’re considering buying it. Below is a transcript of our phone conversation.
Mike Puckett, Realtor®, on the Best Zionsville Neighborhoods for Resale Value
Ken Zweigel: Mike, tell me a little bit about the best neighborhoods in Zionsville for resale value.
Mike Puckett: If you talked to a dozen Realtors, you’d probably get that many different answers. I think probably the best area in Zionsville for resale value is the village itself.
KZ: The town center area?
MP: Yes, where you can walk to the Main Street restaurants, the coffee shop, and the other stores. You’re also close to Lions Park, the trail heads and the library. The walkability in Zionsville is very good. The closer you are to the center of the town, the better off you are. The problem with the area is that houses range from $100,000 up to a million dollars. The homes that are real expensive are either new homes, where the old house has been torn down, or someone has bought a $100,000 or $200,000 home and they’ve put quite a bit of money into it, $300,000 or $400,000, to make it really attractive to them. There are a few of them for first-time homebuyers. If they want to make some money and they’re willing to do some work, that’s probably their best bet.
KZ: What would be the aspect of a house that a first-time homebuyer would want to look for in terms of trying to eventually get a good resale value?
MP: If they buy a house in the downtown area, it’s going to appreciate regardless of what they do, because the demand is so heavy for that area. It’s one of the few places where the dollars that you spend are all going to come back to you, and you’ll get back more than you spent. In a typical neighborhood, if you replace the windows, you’re going to get a return on that, but it will only be about 60 cents on the dollar. Whereas, in that area, with just about anything that you do you’re going to get your money back plus.
KZ: What other kinds of improvements provide the best return on the investment?
MP: Your best return on investment is always going to be your kitchen and your baths, especially the master bath. and your front door. The front door is a big thing. The front door is a 100% return on your investment.
KZ: What are the types of investments that people are likely to make that aren’t really going to provide a great return?
MP: When you have a house that is just an average house, but you put new carpet in and you paint the walls, it does not increase the value of the home. What it does do is decrease the time on the market.
KZ: You’re talking about making those improvement just prior to the sale of the house?
KZ: Okay, since you brought up that topic, what other staging efforts are worth the the time and investment in regards to reducing the time a house is on the market?
MP: A couple of things. One is lighting. If your lighting is dated, replacing the lights is not that expensive and it would help move the house quicker.
KZ: Is there a particular kind of lighting that would be more desirable these days?
MP: You just want to make sure it’s modern looking. In most cases, you’re going to want nickel-plated lighting as opposed to the bronze. The bronze is really dated and the nickel is the thing that people like now. That will make the house look like it’s been updated. You can also change the door handles to the brushed nickel—that’s a payoff in terms of moving your house quicker. For example, some people say, “Okay, I’ve got a fairly new roof on my house, it’s only a few years old. I spent $10,000 on that roof, so I should get $10,000 more.” Well, the house next door has a roof on it, too. Maybe it’s not a new roof, but it has a roof on it that’s in good condition, so your new roof is not really going to increase the value. What it will do is decrease the time on the market, because you have a new roof compared to other houses on the market in the neighborhood that don’t have a new roof.
KZ: How old of a roof would you say is perhaps too old to help move the house?
MP: That’s a good question. I would say if you have a roof on a house that is 15 years old, you’re starting to get to a point where the inspector is going to say that the roof will need to be replaced within 10 years, because at that point it’s going to be a 25- to 30-year-old roof. If a roof is 15 years old, people are going to start worrying about having to replace it soon.
KZ: How does that 15-year timeframe relate to the major infrastructure of a house, such as the furnace or air conditioning system?
MP: The same thing is true on your furnace and your electric fan. If you can say your furnace or air conditioning is less than five years old, those are going to be positives that will help you sell the home quicker. In my opinion, it doesn’t bring you more value, it just moves it on the market quicker.
KZ: Getting back to the neighborhoods, in addition to the area near the central village, are there other neighborhoods that are not so close to downtown Zionsville in which houses historically have good resale value or appreciate well?
MP: Another neighborhood that comes to mind is Village Walk. It’s an older subdivision that’s not real close to downtown, but it’s close to Boone Village and the stores there. You could walk to downtown from there, but you can easily ride your bicycle there. But that would also be more of a starter neighborhood for a young couple considering Zionsville. The other big one to me, though it’s not near the village, is Royal Run. It’s all new construction and amenities. You’ve got the Anson shopping area there (The Marketplace at Anson and Mills Station at Anson), with Lowe’s and a big Meijer store and other shops and restaurants, which makes it pretty attractive. Royal Run is just a couple of minutes away from the shopping area by car, and you can bike or walk there. Even though it’s out from the center of town, Royal Run has good value. I just sold a house in Royal Run. I had it on the market for a day and it sold. Those are easy sales if the house is priced right.
KZ: In addition to Village Walk and Royal Run, can you make a comment about the resale value of homes in some of the other neighborhoods and subdivisions in Zionsville?
MP: I’ll do the best I can.
KZ: Amherst Meadows?
MP: That’s good. It’s close to Royal Run.
KZ: Austin Oaks?
MP: Austin Oaks is a very good neighborhood. It’s a high area, but I’d say your return would be very good. It’s on the east side of Michigan Road, north of 126th Street, and it’s a very good neighborhood.
MP: Brookhaven is very good. Drees Homes is very good.
KZ: Clifden Pond?
MP: Expensive houses. Very good. It’s close to Boone Village and it’s fairly easy out of Zionsville as well.
KZ: Cobblestone Lakes?
MP: Cobblestone Lakes is a very good subdivision. It’s away from the center of town, but it’s good. It’s hot.
KZ: Eagles Nest?
MP: Eagles Nest is a very interesting community. I would say that for a first-time homebuyer, if both a husband and wife are working, it would be an area you should look at. I have sold three homes in Eagles Nest in the last six months. It’s pretty hot. It’s Ryland Homes and Beazer Homes. I think Ryland is finished in there and they don’t have anything left. I think Beazer does and they’re expanding a lot. That’s a good area because you’re real close to the shopping area at Anson and you can get onto the highway easily from Lafayette Road.
KZ: Oak Ridge Estates?
MP: That’s a very nice area. You should do really well on a resale in there. It’s a very pretty subdivision in a good area. It’s close to the high school and close to one of the grade schools.
MP: It’s a nice subdivision and it’s close to the Anson shopping area.
KZ: The Enclave?
MP: The Enclave is nice. It’s about halfway between downtown, the village, and Anson. It’s a pretty location and I would think those homes are doing just fine. I sold one of those homes last year and I think they appreciate quite a bit.
KZ: You seem very familiar with Zionsville. How long have you been selling homes there?
MP: I lived in Zionsville from 1988 to 2002, though I was not a Realtor at that time. I moved to The Preserve at Eagle Creek, which is only about 10 minutes away from Zionsville. I’ve also done a pretty good market study of Zionsville, so I’m fairly familiar with the community.
Best Part of Living in Zionsville
KZ: Based on the years you lived in Zionsville, what was the best part about living there?
MP: I think the best part about living in Zionsville is that it really feels like a community. It still has a small town feel to it, because of the village. They have a big fall festival and three or four parades every year. Lions Park is very nice. It’s a nice place to live and there’s really no tall buildings in Zionsville. They’ve kept it small. They’ve built up the outlying areas a little, but you don’t really see many corporate headquarters there, so you don’t have that many tall buildings. You don’t see that skyline of 10-story buildings like you see in Carmel and other places. The people there seem to be a little bit more down-to-earth, as a general rule, and proud of where they live. And, of course, Zionsville has excellent schools. All of my kids graduated from school there. It just seems to be a close-knit community, because it’s not that large.
KZ: When you’re helping someone buy a house, how important a factor is the eventual resale value of the home you think might be appropriate for the buyer?
MP: I like to advise people that I don’t care what subdivision you pick. Let’s say you find a house that’s really been fixed up nice, it looks good and it’s in a good location. When I walk around a house and I see drainage issues, where the yard is tilted towards the house, that’s going to affect your ability to resell it. It can be fixed; it can be graded, but it is an issue that’s going to affect you when you try to resell. In some cases, I’ll agree with a buyer that a house is wonderful, but I’ll tell them to look at the house across the street where there’s a tree growing out of the gutter. The way the neighborhood is taken care of is a huge thing.
KZ: You’ve mentioned warning sign issues, such as an old roof or HVAC system, property drainage, too many cars parked on the street, and the upkeep quality of other homes in the neighborhood. What other warning signs do you keep an eye out for when showing houses to buyers?
MP: I definitely look at the roof. Also, if it’s a brick home, I like to look at the brick real carefully, to see if there is any step cracking. That’s when you see the mortar with a crack going down a few inches, then it goes across a few inches, and then the crack goes down again. That tells you that the foundation has shifted a little bit and you don’t know what type of problem may be inside that caused it. But, those are the things I want to address and that I want people to see. It may not be a real problem. The inspector may say, “This needs to tuck pointed,” or he may say, “The house has some foundation problems.” On an older home, I try to see if there’s any mold or algae growing on the house.
KZ: In your experience, what are the primary factors that home buyers look at to determine if it’s a house they will want to live in.
MP: People nearly always look at the kitchen and the master bedroom/bathroom.
KZ: What are the most important factors of a kitchen?
MP: All of it. The appliances, the countertops, the cabinets. The whole package all tied together. The cabinet space. Is it granite countertops or laminated countertops? Of course, then it gets to be the overall price of the home.
KZ: Is the flooring an important factor?
MP: Yes, it is. It’s not as big a deal as the kitchen, because the kitchen is lot more expensive than flooring. Flooring in the total scheme of things is not the most expensive thing in the house.
KZ: As far as the master bedroom is concerned, is it the master bathroom that’s the most important element there?
MP: Generally, the most important element is the master bath, but the bedroom, for a lot of people, has to be big enough to hold their furniture. So, a small master bedroom is a problem. I showed a $500,000 house last year and the master bedroom was a problem, because it was small. I don’t know if you could fit a king-size bed and end-table in it. But when you opened up the closet, it was probably two-thirds the size of the bedroom. So you had to wonder why they needed such a huge closet if the bedroom was so small. The common thing you hear from a husband and wife is, “Will our furniture fit in the master bedroom?” That’s a very common thing to hear.
KZ: In closing, what would be your #1 bit of advice for both a home buyer and a home seller?
MP: Let’s do the home buyer first. I would say that the #1 piece of advice for a home buyer is to ask, “Am I paying the right price and will it appreciate?”
KZ: And for the seller?
MP: For the seller, same thing. The seller should understand that they’re going to get market price for their house. They’re not going to get 10% above. They’re going to get market price, so the two things that you want to do are that you want to price it at market price and you want the house to fairly represent the price of the house.
KZ: Can you expand on what “fairly represent the price of the house” means?
MP: I mean, if you go house shopping and you look at a $200,000 house, you expect for it to be clean and neat; the carpets good; the painting is good. If the carpet’s worn out and it needs paint replaced, or it has wallpaper up, that house is going to sit on the market a long time. You want it to be fresh. Here’s what I do for my sellers: unless it’s a unique situation where the homeowner has really good talent or a knack for interior decorating, I hire a stager for my clients right upfront. It’s someone who will come out and tell you, “You need to paint these rooms and these are the colors you need to paint them.” The stager will let you know if your carpets are fine or if you need to clean them or replace them. They’re gioing to tell you if your house has too much furniture and, while it’s on the market, you need a storage locker in which to put the things that make the house look small. Or they tell you to arrange your furniture in such a fashion that it will be more attractive. Staging your house or getting a professional to show you how to really make it look more attractive is an excellent idea. I pay for a stager for my sellers and the people who do what the stager says move their house much quicker. It makes a lot of sense, because I want the house to move as quick as it can.
KZ: From a buyer’s perspective, if you see a home that has been obviously staged, is there some sort of warning that there might be underlying factors you need to look at more closely? Or is staging just making a good home look good?
MP: It’s just making a good home look good. If the house is going to be vacant when it’s on the market, a stager will recommend to sellers that they should put rented furniture in it. It’s going to cost a little bit of money, but they may not do the whole house. They may do the kitchen and downstairs only, and not put anything upstairs. Buyers can tell it’s been professionally staged, but it gives you a lot better chance of selling your house. I can tell if someone is living in the house buy just opening up the refrigerator door. If there’s nothing in the refrigerator, there’s nobody living there.
KZ: Does it matter if no one is living in a home for sale?
MP: It does make a difference, because if the house is empty you stand a better chance of negotiating a better price. In that case, most of the time, the seller has two mortgages, so they’re eager to close a deal.
Buying? Selling? Let’s Talk!
If you would like to discuss how to obtain the best value for a home in Zionsville you are looking to buy or sell, contact Mike Puckett.