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Archive for January, 2013

6174 TreywoodOkay, it’s easy to find long lists of things you should do when buying a house. Everyone knows the rules…check your credit, be realistic, save your money, etc. But what about those things that will end up trashing your deal or making you pay more money for your dream house. Here’s a list of some things you should avoid.

“I’ll save money if I call the guy on the sign!” No you won’t. Actually, you could end up paying more. The agent who has the right to put his name on the sign has already signed a contract with the sellers to list their house. That contract includes a fixed commission rate, and just as important, a promise to represent the best interests of the sellers.

Many people think that they will save money by using the agent on the sign because it will reduce the commission by half. Actually, this idea gets most listing agents to salivate uncontrollably. What actually happens is that they will earn twice the commission because they will receive both their portion  as the listing agent as well as the portion they have agreed to pay to the buyer’s agent.

The listing agent has what’s called a “fiduciary ” duty to the seller. This means that they promise to get a deal that serves the seller’s best interest. In most cases, that includes getting the highest possible price with the fewest possible concessions. Really? How is that going to help you as a buyer? You are dealing with someone who is bound by law to get the most money out of you.   By dealing directly with the listing agent you don’t get a break on the commission and you work with someone committed to getting more money for someone else. That is not in your best interest.

Buy a boat. Another misconception is that once you are approved by a lender, your loan and terms are written in stone. Wrong. If you are approved, then go out and buy a new car, an 80 inch tv, or a boat (the list goes on, these are just examples of big ticket purchases) your lender will quickly lose interest in you. You  could lose your approval, lose your loan, and lower your credit rating. Bad. Very bad! Even moving to a better job without telling your lender first could cost you that precious approval!

Here’s a true story to give you the idea. A fellow agent in my office had a couple who was approved for a loan, had an iron clad contract to purchase a home, and a settlement scheduled to close the deal. The night before settlement, the couple decided to check and make sure they had the best interest rate available. They went online to a service that promised to give them several quotes from different companies within a few minutes. After feeding in their information, they received their quotes. What they didn’t know was that the online company  had given their information to 32 different lenders in order to come up with the top four rates. That meant that on the night before closing, they had 32 credit checks, each one lowering their credit score by a few points. When they went to closing, the lender who had originally approved them refused to fund the loan. Their lower credit score on the day of closing disqualified them for the promised financing. And yes, they can do that!

In this case, the buyer’s agent was an excellent realtor, and called another lender that he had worked with. After explaining the situation and doing some bargaining, he was able to find them a loan. The interest rate was several points higher and the terms weren’t as favorable, but they were able to close on the home later that day. They also ended up paying several hundred dollars more each month because of the increase in interest rate. Ouch!

Here’s another one. Be inflexible. “I’m going to hold out for exactly what I want, where I want it, and at the price I have decided to pay.” Unfortunately, that deal doesn’t exist in 99 out of 100 cases. It’s a good way to pass on a house that would have been a great home for you. If you have a buyer’s agent (good decision!) and that agent, who is working for your best interest, tells you that there are no homes with fireplaces and finished basements in the 3 blocks of a specific neighborhood that you chose, then you should believe him!  Your agent is working hard to get you exactly what you want, but if your expectations are unrealistic, he still can’t wave a magic wand and make the impossible happen. “Okay, I heard that prices were low, so let’s offer $100,000 less than the asking price. I’m sure the sellers are so desperate after this house has been on the market for three days that they’ll jump at the chance to sell to great people like us!” Not going to happen. Ever. In any market. Do not insult the sellers!

Listen to the agent that you so wisely hired for absolutely no dollars. (Because the buyer’s agent commission is paid by the seller as specified in the listing agreement, which is written in stone.) Your agent also has a fiduciary duty to you, which means that he is obligated to get you the best possible deal. Yes, he has to obey the law, he can’t ignore fair housing laws or lie for you, but that is also in your best interest.

If your agent says that you need to look in a different neighborhood, it could mean that there are no houses available there, that the prices are too high there, or that the type of house you want just doesn’t exist in that area. Trust him, be a little open minded, and see what he has to suggest. You may be surprised to find that the house of your dreams is just a few miles down the road.

Buyers usually start out looking for their perfect dream house. It’s hard to accept that the perfect house doesn’t exist. Even if you have lots of money and can afford to build a house according to your own plan, there will still be things that don’t turn out the way you want. That big oak tree may have to come down, the pond may need a new dam, you may find that having the laundry in the kitchen interferes with your lifestyle in a way you hadn’t expected, or that the guest bedroom in the basement is too isolated after all. Even a brand new home will have small defects.

If you want to lose a comfortable home where you could be happy, insist on getting exactly what you want. If you want to have that same comfortable home for yourself, be ready to compromise. Let your agent know that you perhaps really need 3 bedrooms and 2 baths, or a house with a basement, but put the fireplace, the fenced backyard, the gourmet kitchen, and the porch swing on the “would be nice but not a dealbreaker” list.

Just to sum it up, use a buyer agent to represent your best interest. Pick one you get along with and stick with him or her. Get preapproved, then sit tight. Save the big purchases, even furniture, for after you close on your new home. And be reasonable! There is a lovely home in a great neighborhood waiting for you, but it may not be what you expect. Follow these three simple rules, and you too could live in the house that creates your dreams!

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Here's how it should look when you're done!

Here’s how it should look when you’re done!

You might think that cleaning a horse’s stall is a no brainer. Scoop up the old stuff, dump it, and put in some fresh bedding. That basically covers it, but there are ways to make it easier, more efficient, and better for your horse as well.

First, let’s take a look at the basic layout of your stall. Do you have mats covering the floor? Most people do. If you have a dirt floor, mats are optional, but if your floor is cement, then mats become very important to protect the horse’s feet and legs.

Let’s start with the dirt floor stall. If it isn’t even, you’ll need to add some stone dust to fill any holes in the floor. Be sure to pat it down well before putting a mat over it, or youll just have to do it again. Lay your mats side by side with no overlaps. Be sure to place the mats so they all go in the same direction. Mats laid at angles or in a zig zag pattern, or mats that overlap at the edges will make it hard to clean a stall.
Once you have the mats down, it’s time to choose your bedding. There are many different types, and several factors to consider when choosing which one to use. Cost is usually a major decision maker. There are absorbent synthetic beddings that are resiliant and comfortable under the horse’s feet, but most of them are fairly pricey. If you can afford one of these, either the pelleted type or a recycled paper type, you will probably find yourself with a beautiful stall, but you will be spending a lot of money on bedding.
The most popular type of bedding is kiln dried hardwood. This comes in several grades, from large wood chips which are not very absorbent to finely ground sawdust.
The wood chips are less absorbent, but cheaper. When used in a stall, it usually takes several days for it to be ground by the horse’s feet to a comfortable texture. New wood chips are difficult to clean because they are larger and not absorbent. They do not easily fall through the tines of your pitchfork, making it more difficult to sift the clean bedding from the dirty.
On the other end of the spectrum is the finely textured sawdust. This is usually dust free, and makes a nice cushion for your horse. In order to be effective, you will have to use a lot of bedding in each stall. Sawdust must be fairly deep in order to be effective. It is very absorbent, so wet spots tend to stay put and not spread around the stall. Manure is easily sifted, but you will need a special fine tined fork to effectively pick up the smaller pieces. The wet spots are a bit harder to eliminate as the sawdust tends to fall through the tines of the pitchfork. This can be both frustrating and time consuming, and you will end up with a stall that still has tiny pieces of wet or soiled bedding in it.
The best balance of effectiveness and economy that I have found is the mid-range wood shavings. These shavings are absorbent and fairly inexpensive, and work well to absorb and cushion. They are easy to work with and require no special equipment.
The next question is how muuch to use. If you can afford to keep several inches of bedding in a stall and replace it all every day, you are probably not cleaning your stalls yourself. At that level, you probably have hired someone to clean for you and don’t need this article in the first place.
If, however, you are concerned with cost, you will be relieved to know that it is not necessary to use several bags in each stall every day. In fact, putting in too much bedding or overbedding, can make it more difficult to clean. If the bedding is too heavy for your pitchfork, you will not be able to dig all the way down to the floor to get up the bottom level of soiled bedding.
Using too little bedding will not harm your horse. Horses sleep on the ground with no padding all the time. They do not need layers of padding unless there is a health problem or medical condition that requires special handling. If your horse has a problem with his feet or legs, you may want to consider a soft, cushiony layer of bedding, otherwise the primary reason for using it is to absorb urine and make it easier to keep the stall floor dry.
A fine layer of bedding is better than none at all, especially if you have a dirt floor with no mats. It will absorb and can be easily raked up and disposed of.
The best is a moderate amount, enough to feel soft under your feet, but not so much that it fills your shoes if you walk into the stall. This usually means starting with one or two bags of bedding, then sifting it and adding a little at a time as needed.
When cleaning, try to work in one direction, the same direction that the mats are laid. I find that a basket type pitchfork is most efficient, but some prefer a standard style flat fork. The basket forks contain a lot more bedding and lift a lot more manure for quicker removal. I find that the basket type fork cuts my stall cleaning time by about a third.
When you pick up a fork full of soiled bedding or manure, give it a little bounce so that any clean bedding you might have picked up will fall through the tines and can remain in the stall. There is no need to take out every bit of bedding every day. Only the wet or soiled bedding needs to be removed.
Once you have cleaned out the stall, it is time to add more bedding. There may be days when none is needed, while other days the horse may have kicked around the entire contents of his stall. Using the pitchfork, spread fresh bedding as needed to maintain the moderate amount of bedding you had to start with.
One other type of bedding deserves mention, and that is straw. This does need to be completely removed each day and replaced with plenty of fresh straw. A flat pitchfork works best for this as it needs to be impaled on the pitchfork rather than sifted. This method is considered passe by most modern horse owners, but it is still available and not very expensive in most areas.
One more word of caution, and that is if you have a heavy load in your pitchfork, remember to lift with your legs and not your back!

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