Thursday, October 3, 2013

14 Things to Consider Before Buying a Home

When you’re buying a home, it’s easy to let emotions get in the way of reality. “Sometimes we want something so badly, we’re not willing to ask all the questions we should,” says Leslie Levine, author of “Will This Place Ever Feel Like Home?” To make sure your dream home isn’t a mirage, follow these 14 tips:

1. Visit at various times of day.
The windows that let in so much light during the day may be a peeping Tom’s dream at night. That seemingly quiet residential street may be a noisy, highway-feeder street during morning or evening rush hour. The adjacent school may seem like a nice perk if you’re buying in the summer, but during the school year, daily playground noise and extra traffic may be more than you bargained for.
2. Research recent local news.
You need to look at more than the house: Examine the factors you can’t see. For example, perhaps the municipal water well has high levels of contaminants, or a perhaps a high-voltage power line may soon be coming through your back yard. You can also check with the city or county to see if there are any proposed projects.
3. Talk to neighbors.
How many people in the neighborhood own their homes? What do neighbors say are the pros and cons of the area?
4. Ask if the neighborhood has an association.
“Is there a newsletter for it? How often does the neighborhood get together? Do they have a block party every year?” Levine asks. “The fact that they’re having a gathering says they care about their community, that they want to get to know each other, that they’re willing to socialize that way. People who behave that way are building a community. They’re going to look out for your kids; they’re going to look out for your house.”
5. Quiz the sellers about house problems.
What past problems are the sellers aware of? Even if the issues have been fixed, it’s good to know that the house may be prone to, say, ice dams or water leaks so that you can take preventive measures rather than find out the hard way. If you know that the basement flooding was solved by building up the landscaping in a particular area, you won’t level the ground there.
6. Get a home inspection.
Virtually all houses have defects. Some are obvious, and most are curable. But knowing what needs repair can help you negotiate a lower price — or at least prepare you for costs you’ll soon incur. Strongly consider getting inspections for lead paint, radon and wood-eating pests, too.
7. Get detailed records on past improvements.
This isn’t always possible. But if you’re told the house’s exterior was painted two years ago — and then see a receipt noting the whole project cost just $1,000 — then you’re forewarned that cheaper materials were used and that you may be looking at repainting sooner than you thought.
8. Don’t assume remodeling will be easy.
If you voice your ideas to the sellers, you may glean valuable insights. For instance, perhaps that shower is in an odd location because, when the previous owners remodeled 10 years ago, they discovered a costly structural impediment to putting a shower where it would seem more appropriate.
9. Consider the view.
“So many neighborhoods now have teardowns,” Levine notes. “So look at the two houses on either side of you.” Do the adjacent houses look like they might be candidates for a teardown? Is the next lot empty? Does the neighborhood or town have restrictions about what your prospective neighbors can build there? “They may build some behemoth structure that affects your light or the way your house looks or your view,” Levine says.
10. Ask for utility bills.
You may adore the Cape Cod architectural style or the high ceilings and glass walls in a modern home, but those winter heating and summer cooling bills may not fit your monthly budget. Ditto for the water bills that come with maintaining a pristine landscape.
11. Pay close attention to taxes.
Don’t just ask about the seller’s most recent tax bill; ask the amounts for several recent tax bills. In some areas, houses are re-appraised — and taxed at higher rates — frequently. That great deal and good investment may not seem quite so grand if the property taxes skyrocket year after year. Look at local news and talk to your Realtor about how taxes are used in this area. In some cities, schools are substantially funded through property taxes, which means you can count on yours increasing regularly.
12. Check with city hall.
Look into the property’s and the neighborhood’s zoning, as well as any potential easements, liens or other restrictions relating to your property. The seller should disclose these facts, but it’s better to be proactive. If you’re using a buyer’s agent, they should be able to help.
13. Reconsider the bells and whistles.
Are you sure you can live with a one-car garage, or a detached garage, or on-street parking? The pool may be a nice bonus, but can you afford the upkeep?
14. Explore the surrounding area.
If you’re new to the area, you may not know that only three blocks away, this pretty neighborhood backs up to a dumpy commercial zone or a less-than-savory part of town. If the home is near an airport, fire station, police station, hospital or railroad track, expect to hear trains, planes or ambulances throughout the day and night. Make sure you’re not too close to an agricultural area that may generate odors or kick up dust or other airborne problems.

Information above can be found at

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Great tips for getting to your closing day.

Here is a great article for those buyers out there!
By-Deidre Woollard-Real Estate News

Three Tips For Avoiding Closing Day Glitches

Closing day is the most exciting day in the home buying process. The long journey is finally over and you will sign your papers and get your keys. Once you have been told that your home mortgage has a closing date you may want to move in immediately but while most home sale transactions are smooth, some may hit a few speed bumps on the road to homeownership bliss.

The most important part of the transaction is to get all of the necessary parties and necessary documents together on the right day at the right time. Sounds simple, right? Unfortunately as many an experienced agent reports, it can be a bit like herding cats. Although your Realtor will be your guide through this process it’s still a good idea for you to be aware of all of the dates, steps, and procedures as you lead up to the big day.
Many issues surrounding a problem at closing can actually be tackled earlier in the process. It’s important to keep on top of your mortgage approval process, home inspection and repairs, and the title discovery process as these are the areas where things can often go wrong. For more information on this check out our post on why pending sales can fall through. Below are three last-minute things that can delay a closing.

1) Be certain the home is ready for you to take occupancy. If you notice something on your final walkthrough, bring it up immediately. It’s your responsibility to make sure that the home is being delivered in the agreed-upon condition. If something is wrong and the home is not cleaned out or agreed-upon repairs aren’t completed, it’s time to spring into action. Your agent can work with the seller’s agent to solve any potential problems. From there you can determine what is necessary and what it will cost. It may be possible to do some last minute negotiations, either changing things so that the seller pays more of the closing costs or putting proceeds in escrow until repairs are completed.
2) Make sure the paperwork is in order. Review all documents ahead of time if you can. Misspellings, missing information, incorrect addresses or loan amounts can hold up a closing and if they can’t be easily corrected your closing could be delayed by hours or even days. When you review your loan documents make sure that the payment amounts and interest rates are as you expected them to be. If you are using a real estate attorney you will want to have an appointment to review the real estate contract, settlement, truth-in-lending statement and the mortgage. Your attorney should verify that the seller has made all repairs that were agreed upon and that he will bring the deed to the real estate closing.

3) Make sure you have your funds ready. Closing costs will be due and a personal check is not permitted.  Be sure to either bring the down payment to the closing yourself as a certified check or arrange for the transfer of funds a bit in advance so that any potential delays during transfer won’t hold up your closing. Closing costs can amount to a small fortune. All of these costs were outlined to you during the mortgage application process. Loan origination, mortgage loan, mortgage points and credit report fees are all closing costs to be paid at the closing. In addition, you may need to pre-pay interest for a partial month depending on the date you closed and when the first payment is due to lender. Title insurance is one of the more expensive fees and is required by all lenders to insure there are no liens against the deed. Finally, the last charge to pay to the lender is the fee for recording of the deed, which may include a real estate transfer tax.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Which is the right way? Buy AND THEN sell? OR Sell AND THEN buy?

Which one is the right decision for you? Here is a great article on how you should decide.

How to Sell Your Home and Buy Another at the Same Time

Real Estate News-Diedre Woolard

Being a move-up buyer can be tough in today’s market. Although deals are closing rapidly, there’s no guarantee that your new dream home will close at the same time as your old dream home. Selling and buying at the same time is a delicate dance, but it is doable. There are a few ways to pursue this plan:

1. Sell first, then buy. This is perhaps the safest plan, but it calls for multiple moves. In this scenario, you list your home and complete the transaction before purchasing another home. When you sell your home, you put the bulk of your belongings in storage and live in a temporary rental or, if possible, enter into a rent-back deal with your home’s new owner. The advantage of this method is that you know exactly how much you can spend on a new home, and you don’t have to worry about temporary financing. Also, without another home waiting in the wings, you’ll be less tempted to drop the price or to take the first offer that is below the asking price. The disadvantage is that it is a disruptive experience, and you could be displaced for a while if you are home-shopping for a long time.

2. Buy first, then sell. This strategy minimizes disruption. You can move into your new place at your leisure and then take time to prepare your home for sale. The major disadvantage is that, depending on how fast your old home sells, you could be shouldering the burden of two mortgages for some time. You are also responsible for maintenance and security on the vacant home. This scenario works best if your first home is already paid off.
A variation of this plan is to buy a new home with the plan to rent out the old one for a year. This buys you some time with money coming in, but being a landlord comes with its own stresses and responsibilities. You may also need to repair or renovate the home after it has served as a rental.

3. Buy and sell simultaneously. To execute this plan, you need to prepare for all contingencies and to know that if your timing is off, you will face one of the two scenarios listed above. The trickiest bit can be timing the financial burden. One option is bridge financing. This enables you to own two homes for a short amount of time. To do this, you need to either borrow money from family or obtain a short-term loan from a bank or other lending institution to span the time period between when you close on your new home and sell your old one. In essence, you are getting a short-term home-equity loan, also known as a HELOC, a Home Equity Line of Credit, on your present house and using it as a down payment on your new house. You then repay the loan when you sell your first home. It is not easy to qualify for a conventional bridge loan, since you have to demonstrate that you have enough money to pay for both mortgages for an indefinite period of time.
Experts advise applying for the HELOC well before you buy a new house. That way most of the credit on the line is unused until you actually need it. Lenders don’t like a HELOC that works only for a very short time, and it’s a challenge to get a HELOC if your present home is on the market.
Try to schedule the closing date on the sale of your old home after the closing date on the home you buy. In this way, you can stay in your present home until you move into your new home. Otherwise, you can attempt to negotiate a rent-back arrangement.
There is no right answer in choosing any of these scenarios. Your Realtor may be able to advise which is best, depending on the local market. However, much depends on your financial stability, as well as your tolerance for risk or disruption.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Great tips for those wanting to sell your home!

Here are some great tips that I found from an article about selling your home quickly! Please let me know if you need a list of trusted contractors for those home repairs, I will gladly provide with it.

5 tips to help your home sell quickly-By Karen Aho of MSN Real Estate
To many buyers, a house that's been on the market a long time must have hidden problems. And that could lead to unnecessary and endless price reductions. Luckily, even in a distressed market, there are ways to prevent roots from sprouting under the 'for sale' sign.

Leave it to the pros
Welcome to the wacky world of home sales, where a little stubborn behavior can be costly. But there's a tried-and-true solution that can be summed up with two basic points:
  • Find a seller's agent whom you like and trust. 
  • "Make sure you interview three great agents that focus on your area," says Alan Mark, president of the Mark Co., a real-estate marketing and consulting company in San Francisco. "Then realize that you're hiring a professional who knows how to do this."
  • Listen to that agent. More on that below, but the key is to separate the emotional qualities of your home from the basic functional qualities of the house.
"To start with, your house is unique — and so is everybody else's," Mark says. "Everybody thinks their house is unique. Get over it."
It’s never easy to relinquish control, particularly when it’s your home and your money. But if the goal is to sell, and to sell fast, then you’re better off trusting the expert, even if his advice appears trivial — like the paint on a couple of walls — or counterintuitive, such as undercutting the price.
To get a sense of what we mean, see the five tips below, all from experienced agents who say these are areas where home sellers often need some persuading.

1. Price it right; price it low
Some may find Katya Dennis a bit offbeat — or at least bold — in her pricing strategy, which at first blush appears to be undervaluing the property. But Dennis, an agent in Northern California with David Lyng Real Estate, swears by her method.
"I always tell my sellers, you can never price a house too low, because the market will take care of it," she explains.
Dennis recently listed a home for $535,000, even though it had been appraised at $560,000. The house sold within weeks — for $575,000. The reasoning is simple, she says. The low price drew quick and competing bids.
Had she listed the home for $560,000, she's certain the sale would have dragged and brought in even less than the valuation.
"If you start high and start lowering it, you will never get to the number that you will get to by starting low and going up," Dennis says. "Because when you start lowering the price, people will start wondering what's wrong with the house. ... And if it's been sitting awhile, people will try and lowball."

2. Try a fresh sales approachEven on the phone, it's clear that Leis can be tough. But her success stories may provide peace of mind to sellers who find themselves initially put off by agents' edgy tactics.

3. Don’t try too hard to fight the market
Sometimes a seller has to accept that there's only so much an unfriendly marketplace can offer.

4. Remember, renovations aren't a magic bullet
Be flexible with price. "Price is still what's moving." And if you want the house to move, find an agent willing to be brutally honest.

5. Don’t, repeat don’t, skip the online sales push
One last tip from agents: A home that relies on its good personality alone won't cut it in today's market.
"The days when a buyer shows up at my office and says 'Where are we going today?' those days are long over," Romano says. "They show up with a list of homes they've seen online. Some of them, you look at and say, 'Why would you want to look at that?' and you see it looks really good online."
A year earlier, he took a home that had been on and off the market for two years and sold it in 11 days after telling the sellers to follow his rules, which included staging the home and lowering the price.
"The market had continued to decline," Romano says. "Even if a buyer were interested at that (higher) price point, the buyer won't get a mortgage because it won't appraise out for that. It doesn't do anyone any good to list at above the appraised value."

Friday, June 7, 2013

Useful tips for the first time and experienced home buyer.

These tips are great for any home buyer-first time or even the experienced home buyer.
Real Estate News-Diedre Woollard

What You Need to Know About Radon and Asbestos Before Buying

When you are buying a home, making sure that it is safe for you and your family is of prime importance. It’s not just critical for your health; it’s also vital to ensure that the home is a sound investment. As you go through your inspection process, your agent may recommend inspections for both radon and asbestos, especially if your home was built before 1960. Both of these materials are carcinogens known to cause cancer through heavy, repeated exposure. Radon is the No. 1 cause of lung cancer among nonsmokers, according to EPA estimates.

What is radon?

Radon is an odorless, colorless gas that comes from the breakdown of uranium in the soil. Because the air pressure inside your home is usually less than that of the soil it stands on, this acts as a vacuum, drawing radon gas (if it is present) into the home. Radon is a fairly common occurrence. Half of American homes have a radon level above the average level. One in 15 homes has a level high enough that the U.S. government has recommended that action be taken to control the leakage. Radon comes in through the foundation, where the foundation comes in contact with the soil; through gaps, cracks and cavities in walls where plumbing enters; and through construction joints.

A simple home test shows whether radon is above the safe level. The kit is placed in the lowest lived-in area of the house, generally the first floor or basement, for two or three days. The average outdoor level of radon is 0.4 pCi/L, and the average indoor radon level is estimated to be about 1.3 pCi/L. Generally, a level below 4 pCi/L is considered safe. If testing reveals an unacceptable level of radon in the home, the good news is that radon remediation methods are highly effective. Your inspector can make recommendations for licensed treatment experts, or you can find one online or through your real estate agent. Radon mitigation is like many other home repairs — you may want to get a few estimates before choosing your radon contractor.

What is asbestos?

Asbestos is a heat- and fire-resistant material that was used in homes before 1960 in insulation for heating pipes and attics, as well as roofing and siding materials. Asbestos is made of long fibers that can be breathed in easily. When inhaled, these fibers can become lodged in internal body tissues, and this can cause cancer. Most people develop no symptoms unless they are exposed to high amounts of asbestos. In older homes, often the best thing you can do is to leave asbestos material that is in good condition alone. You are not in danger unless the material is damaged and fibers are released and inhaled. The inspection will determine if the asbestos is deteriorating and causing a problem and needs to be removed.

If either radon or asbestos is found in the property and you like the home, you shouldn’t necessarily pass on buying it. With the help of your real estate agent, you can get a recommendation for experts who can prescribe treatment and give you estimates. From there, you can decide whether it’s worth it to negotiate purchase price of the property with the home owner. Often the professionals licensed to treat these problems are licensed for both radon and asbestos, so you can deal with one person. Both situations are common enough that they can be taken care of easily and do not need to stop you from buying the home.

Friday, May 24, 2013

It's a seller market! Here are some great tips on writing the best offer letter that you can!

10 tips on how to write an offer letter
By Sam DeBord Real Estate News

Homebuyers trying to stand out from a crowd of offers in today’s competitive market are often told to write a personal letter to accompany their offer. Buyers who are financing a home, or have a smaller down payment, often have trouble competing with all-cash buyers. Appealing to the seller as a person, as opposed to a contract, can sometimes give a buyer an emotional edge.
What isn’t often explained to buyers is how exactly to write that letter. The best ideas are often squandered by poor execution. Here is a quick guide to framing the home buyer letter and leveraging your best attributes by thinking from the seller’s point of view:

1) Flatter First
This is an emotional pitch. You’re attempting to tell the seller, “I’m such a good person that you should ignore the numbers.” They need to like you. Tell the seller how great their taste in color is, how much you’d love to have their lifestyle, and what an amazing neon bottle cap exhibit they have over the fireplace. Lay it on thick, but keep it sincere. You’re selling, but you don’t want them to feel like they’re being sold a used car.

2) Get To The Point
You may have 10 great ideas that you’d like to tell the seller. They will only remember two. The seller may have 10 other letters to read. If you mix in your best points with your lesser points, they may all just become a jumble.
Pick two or three reasons why you will be the best buyer for this home, and make them distinctly recognizable. The more streamlined you make your message, the more memorable it will be.

3) Paint A Picture
People remember what they’ve read at a far higher rate when they can see a picture of it in their head. “I really love this neighborhood because I’ve lived here and gone to school here,” doesn’t resonate.
On the other hand, “I spend half of my time walking the cobblestone streets around this block, dropping my daughter off at Gilman School and volunteering at Schnitzelfest every summer,” will trigger a visual memory for a seller. Think “I’d be so happy in the summer to be cooking Neapolitan pizza for friends and neighbors in your outdoor wood-fired oven”.

4) Don’t Remodel The House
Planning on adding a second story or changing the landscaping? Don’t mention it. You might be correct that the seller’s sewing room would make a great workout room for you, but this isn’t the time.
If you’re going to expand to create more bedrooms, you might be changing the seller’s favorite eyebrow windows in the roofline. They may have buried their dog under the tree you’re planning to pave over. he sellers may have awful taste, but homeowners are very protective of their homes.

5) Show Stability
Present yourself as a stable buyer who will have no problem closing the purchase. Whether that is a reference to your lack of contingencies, stellar employment record, or commitment to moving in as soon as the sellers are comfortable, ease the sellers’ fears of a shaky transaction.

6) Show Humility
At the same time, be humble and ask for the sellers’ blessing on your offer. “We would be so honored to live in your home,” goes much further than “We are confident that you will accept our generous offer.” The ball is in their court, and your letter should acknowledge that.

7) Don’t Whine
The emotion of your letter must be upbeat and high. It needs to make the seller feel good. Everyone wants to play with a winner.
The seller doesn’t care how many other homes you’ve lost out on. They don’t care that your rent just doubled. They don’t want to know about your wife’s sad condition that requires you to have a home like this. They just feel uncomfortable now. In fact, they’re already tossing your offer in the round file as they finish this paragraph.

8) Close With Clarity
Remember the five-point paragraphs and five-paragraph themes you had to write in school? While those formulas are too long and rigid for this letter, their closing advice should be noted. Your excitement, motivation, and ability should be reiterated at the end of your letter in a quick recap.
Remember that the sellers could be reading a few letters. Make sure that the closing of your letter reminds them of your best qualities and reinforces them.

9) Sign with Appreciation
The feeling your sellers will leave with can live or die on the signature line: “Sincerely”, “Cordially”, “Best Regards”, and “Yours Truly” do not apply. This is not a business correspondence of equals. Thank the sellers for spending their valuable evening reading the ode that you wrote about your unworthy self.
“Thank you so much for your time,” “Thank you for the opportunity,” “Your consideration is greatly appreciated,” or even “We are honored to have the opportunity,” will leave the seller understanding that you value their time and are grateful for it.

10) Spell Check. Grammar Check. Buddy Check. Do It Again.
As the recovering son of a former Catholic school English teacher, there is a dark secret I’d like to let you in on. We’re prejudiced. We look down on people who aren’t like us. There is a heinous belief ingrained in us from birth that says people who misspell and use incorrect grammar are lesser beings and not worthy of our respect.
Truthfully, though, there is an unbelievable amount of weight that some sellers will put on the preciseness of the letter. Right or wrong, the buyer’s personality will be judged from their attention to detail, ability to follow-through, and level of care in the letter. Buyer reliability is often gleaned from how well the rules of grammar are followed. If grammar isn’t your thing, find someone whose thing it is. You never know: the house you want to buy just might belong to my mother.

Write The Letter, Check It Twice, and Send It Off
There are many tactics being used by home buyers to stand out from the crowd. While not all sellers will read them, personalized letters are the most-accepted and popular form of unique buyer strategies available. Don’t rush the letter. Take the time to write it correctly. It just might be the most valuable single page of text you ever write.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Seller's market tips

The market is great right now for sellers! That being said, here is a great article for seller's that are looking for the right agent. by Deidre Woollard-Real Estate News

Deciding to move isn’t a step anyone takes lightly. Your house is more than just an investment, it is your home. As you begin the process of distancing yourself from the place where you made so many lasting memories you will begin to think about what your home will be worth to someone else.

When you are ready to meet with a Realtor you may already have an idea of what your home is worth. You may have seen what other homes in your neighborhood have sold for or kept an eye on local listings. Your agent will prepare for you a comparative market analysis (CMA) that is an in-depth version of any research you may have done on your own.

The CMA is used to help evaluate how your home will fare against the competition. It takes a look at both homes that are currently listed and those recently sold. The purpose is to find the highest price that will still make the home competitive on the open market.

A Portrait Of Your Home And Its Surroundings

The CMA includes a fact-based portrait of the home including information such as number of bedrooms and baths, approximate square footage, size of major rooms, age of the home, property taxes, and desirable amenities such as fireplaces and pools.

Depending on the market the CMA will go back in time as long ago as a year or a month or week ago. The range can also vary. Some will just cover a few streets around your home, CMAs can cover areas as narrow as one or two streets surrounding your home, or as broad as an entire subdivision.

Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Beholder (Or Potential Buyer)

Selling a home isn’t just about the facts. There are many pieces to the puzzle and it’s often the indefinables that impact a potential buyer’s perception of the home. A home purchase remains fundamentally personal. Speaking at the Luxury Roundtable: State of Luxury 2013 conference, Camilla Papale, the chief marketing officer of Douglas Elliman Real Estate, defined real estate, especially at the high end, as being primarily emotional. She said that 90 percent of Douglas Elliman’s transactions are influenced by the buyer’s emotions versus rationalization. Perception can alter reality and so this is an important consideration when looking at a CMA. People make decisions based on curb appeal, light, design choices and many other factors.

At the end of each home’s information on the CMA report there will be a brief statement provided by the listing agent that will address some of these subjective factors such as recent remodels, historic features, or things that might be of interest to the buyers. The agent will be marketing the home and is already thinking about how it will be presented as a product to tempt the public.

The Changing Face of the CMA

The CMA today is different than it was before the internet era partly because the potential seller does so much of their homework ahead of time. Jeff Rightmyer, a sales agent with Building Bridges Partners Keller Williams explains how technology has changed the CMA: “If anything, it has increased the amount of avenues now available to display more accurate and precise information ranging from short sales, standards, all the way up to luxury. It also has allowed little room for error as clients can accurately research the information for themselves.”

There are still resources that agents have access to that most sellers do not. Also agents have the experience of listing, marketing, and selling many homes on their side. A local expert will know what buyers in the area look for and be able to easily assess how your home measures up. Together you and your agent can find a price that brings you what you need and will be attractive enough to attract your home’s new owner.