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Archive for the ‘real estate’ Category

This week, I had the opportunity to show a million dollar house. I realized when I pulled in the drive that this was a house I had sown before. Over a year before. It was still on the market!
As I pulled up the drive, the first impression of the house was a good one. The landscaping was well kept, professionally installed, and complementary to the house. The facade was clean, the roof unstreaked by the dark lines that sometimes happen when algae is allowed to grow there.
A quick walk around the outside however, gave me pause. Behind the foundation plantings was a rat trap, the kind you often see outside a restaurant by the dumpster. The deck was bad ly in need of refinishing, with worn boards and railings that threatened splinters. It was solid enough, just not very attractive.
The pool though, was clean and inviting enough that I actually thought of grabbing the swim suit I had in the back of the car and diving in, just once. (I didn’t do it, but I was tempted!) The slightly more distant tennis/basketball court appeared to be in good condition.
Although the power lines were a little too close for the comfort of one who might be wary of such things, they were hidden behind trees and not so close that any buzzing or popping would be a problem.
The inside was, at first glance, stunning. Rooms were not so large as to be overwhelming, but not so small that one felt cramped. There was a good flow between living room and library, with a very nice powder room to one side that was panelled to blend with the deep cherry of the bookshelves. French doors led to the large deck, or with a slight turn, a well lit passage led to the recessed family room. That space blended into the breakfast room, kitchen and sunroom, with an opening to the formal dining room and back to the front hall.
Corian countertops could have presented better as granite, but were still attractive, and two ovens plus a built in microwave and large gas cooktop were near the double sink. A laundry room with new washer and dryer and a door leading to the spacious two car garage were off a hallway that led to a side entrance.
The sunroom in the back had both skylights and ceiling fans, a mini fridge, and a compartment for a keg, complete with a bar-style spout. Unfortunately, when I opened the door to the space that could contain a keg, the inside was filthy. French doors led to the tattered deck, but by then I was starting to feel embarrassed. This was supposed to be an exclusive residence, but it wasn’t as clean as my last $400,000 listing!
Turning into the dining room, I kicked aside a dead roach on the hardwood floor. The center of the room had a clear impression of a former rug. The rest of the floor was sun faded. A similar mark remained in the family room, where the outline of the former Oriental rug was clearly visible.
Scratches in the hardwood floors could have been buffed out, and the wall in the family room had a large splotch of darker paint where someone had painted around an entertainment center. With the entertainment center gone, the ghost of old paint remained.
Carpet on the basement stairs was filthy, and although the two bedrooms and baths and the game room in the basement were very nice, the silver rat traps in the storage room were a definite turn-off.
Upstairs, there were four bedrooms, each with their own spotless bath. All were comfortably sized, with a particularly nice master suite. A back staircase led back to the kitchen, perfect for a discreet entrance from the garage or by a late night teenager hoping to pass the master suite unnoticed.
One of the bedrooms was painted a deep green except for the large splotch of blue where some large piece of furniture had once again been painted around. The furniture was gone, but the blue splotch remained.
Add to this random burned out bulbs and some dusty glass light fixtures, and the house just refused to shine as it should have. It reflected badly on the listing agent, who is known for listing expensive houses, and should have known about all these little things that added up to one big disappointment.
Now I will admit that I have not had the privilege of listing a house this large, but those I do list are always spotless. If necessary, I will go in with a bottle of Windex and a roll of paper towels and clean the windows myself. I am not above scrubbing the toilets before an open house, just to be sure there is no water ring and the bathrooms smell fresh, and I certainly have no problem with keeping a broom and dustpan in a closet somewhere so I can sweep bits of leaves, dirt or dead bugs out of the way before someone comes to look.
Now I may be assuming a lot here, but I figure that if someone can afford to live in a million dollar house, they should be able to afford light bulbs and a car pet cleaning service that actually gets the carpets clean. If there are stains, I would certainly at least make a strong suggestion that carpets be replaced or floors refinished.
Light bulbs are not expensive and an attentive agent would have made sure that details like burned out bulbs were fixed, smoke detector batteries replaced to avoid beeping, and rat traps were at least discreetly hidden in the basement. Why were they needed anyway? I find it hard to believe that there were so many rats in the area that the homeowners needed all those traps. The one outside, okay, but in the basement of an empty house?
It is my personal opinion that if an agent is going to list a million dollar house, that agent should make sure that the house looks like a million dollars! Rooms with paint “ghosts” should be repainted, splintery decks should be refinished, and if the agent isn’t willing to check the house herself, a weekly cleaning service should be employed to make sure that windows are clean, floors swept, and foil is removed from the bottom of the ovens.
Want to know what makes a house worth more? It isn’t having an agent who sticks a sign in the yard and pays for expensive brochures, but one who is honest enough to tell the owners what needs to be fixed ans actually shows up on a regular basis to make sure everything looks like a million dollars, even if it’s only a $400,000 house!

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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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Recently, I have had  a lot of calls from people who want to rent rather than buy. My first question is: “Why?” There really are several good reasons, but many renters don’t fit into any of these categories.

First, if you are only going to be living in an area for a year or two, it makes sense to rent. This is especially true if the time it takes to sell a house in that area is especially long, or if values there are currently heading down. Those in this category would likely be military or those on a special assignment for their job. It could also include those who are temproarily relocating to care for an elderly relative but plan to move back after the person is settled or passes.

Second, if you are new to an area and don’t know which neighborhood you want to settle in. If you arrive and just buy the first house that you see, you may end up in an area that is less than desireable for your family. This might mean something as simple as too long a walk to the bus, or it could progress to more serious issues such as the local drug dealer living next door. In this case, you are better off to rent for a year and then make a decision on where you want to live permanently.

Third, if you have bad credit. Naturally, this will keep you from qualifying for a loan which makes it next to impossible to buy a house. Rent the smallest, least expensive place you can stand for a year or two while you work on getting your finances in order. This is best done with the advice of a mortgage lender or broker, or a financial planner. Follow their advice, get things straightened out and check again in a year to see if you can qualify for a loan.

Fourth, if you are strapped for cash. There are multiple reasons for this, ranging from bad financial decisions to circumstances that go way beyond your control. If you don’t have enough to cover the down payment and settlement costs, then put the homebuying dream on hold for a few years while you save. One of the saddest things I see in real estate is someone living in a beautiful home who can’t afford furniture. Be patient, wait until the time is right and then buy something you can afford.

Fifth, if you are waiting for a home to sell in some other part of the country. Many times people will be transferred and move before they can secure the equity in their home through a sale. This can put them in a bind if they can’t afford to make two mortgage payments while they wait. Rent until the old house sells, then you can use the money to buy without putting yourself in a bind.

If you are not in any of these categories, perhaps you should consider purchasing a home rather than renting. There are home types for every need, from those who want to have no yard work and just a small place (condo or senior living development), to those who want a place to entertain or a big yard for the family. You may have to make some compromises, but the money you save in taxes and other fees can more than make up for the cost of the house.

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By:Phil Goldberg

Did you know . . . One of the issues that always comes up when working with buyers is how much money the buyer is how much money they plan to use for a down payment.  When working with buyers that say they are getting all or some of their money from a gift, FHA requires a “paper trail.” I want to show you what is needed because this alone could hold up a deal or worse yet, kill a deal.

The gift letter itself must contain the following verbiage:

  • Name, address and telephone number of the donor
  • The dollar amount of the gift
  • The relationship of the donor to the borrower
  • That no repayment is required

There are four ways to verify the transfer of the funds (only one is required ):

  1. If funds are already in a borrower’s account…
    1. Obtain a copy of the withdrawal slip from donor’s account
    2. Obtain a copy of deposit slip and bank statement showing the deposit into borrower’s account.
  2. If funds are provided at the closing table…
    1. Obtain a copy of withdrawal slip from the donor’s account
    2. Or. obtain a bank statement showing the withdrawal from the donars account
  1. Must be paid in the form of a certified check
  2. If funds are going to be “wired” at closing…
    1. Donor to provide documentation of the wire transfer
  3. If donor is borrowing funds…
    1. Donor to document the loan
    2. Funds were borrowed from an acceptable source—bank, credit union, home equity line of credit, etc.
    3. Cash on hand is NOT an acceptable source of gift funds

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For your best chance of getting your loan approved, follow these ten simple rules!

Thou shall not change jobs or become self-employed

Thou shall not buy a car, truck or van unless you plan to live in it

Thou shall not use your credit cards or let your payments fall behind

Thou shall not spend the money you have saved for your down payment

Thou shall not buy furniture before you close on your house

Thou shall not originate any new inquiries on your credit report

Thou shall not make any large deposits into your bank account

Thou shall not change bank accounts

Thou shall not co-sign for anyone

Thou shall not purchase ANYTHING until after the closing

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By: Jane Hoback

Published: January 14, 2011

Deep clean your house and you’ll brighten rooms and help maintain your home’s value.

De-bug the light fixtures

See that bug burial ground within your overhead fixtures? Turn off the lights and carefully remove fixture covers, dump out flies and wash with hot soapy water. While you’re up there, dust bulbs. Dry everything thoroughly before replacing the cover.

Vacuum heat vents and registers

Dirt and dust build up in heat vents and along register blades. Vents also are great receptacles for coins and missing buttons. Unscrew vent covers from walls or pluck them from floors, remove foreign objects, and vacuum inside the vent. Clean grates with a damp cloth and screw back tightly.

Polish hardware

To deep clean brass door hinges, handles, and cabinet knobs, thoroughly wipe with a damp microfiber cloth, then polish with Wright’s or Weiman brass cleaner ($4). Dish soap shines up glass or stainless steel knobs. Use a Q-tip to detail the ornamental filigree on knobs and handles.

Replace grungy switch plates

Any amateur can wipe a few fingerprints off cover plates that hide light switches, electric outlets, phone jacks, and cable outlets. But only deep cleaners happily remove plates to vacuum and swipe the gunk behind. (OK, we’re a little OCD when it comes to dirt!) Make sure cover plates are straight when you replace them. And pitch plates that are beyond the help of even deep cleaning. New ones cost less than $2 each.

Neaten weather stripping

Peeling, drooping weather stripping on doors and windows makes rooms look old. If the strip still has some life, nail or glue it back. If it’s hopeless, cut out and replace sections, or just pull the whole thing off and start new. A 10-ft. roll of foam weather stripping costs $8; 16-ft. vinyl costs about $15.

Replace stove drip pans

Some drip pans are beyond the scrub brush. Replacing them costs about $3 each and instantly freshens your stove.

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By: Jan Soults Walker

Published: October 11, 2010

Window cleaning with non-toxic ingredients and reusable cloths protects your health, preserves resources, gains a streak-free view, and stretches your budget.

Mix a green window cleaning solution

Commercials cleaners leave behind a waxy residue on windows that can result in streaks. A homemade window cleaning solution made with vinegar and water helps cut through grime, minimizes streaking and water spots, and prevents windows from fogging.
The first time you clean your windows with a homemade vinegar solution, include a few drops of dish detergent to eliminate the waxy buildup. Combine these ingredients in a spray bottle for streak-free windows:

  • ¼-cup white vinegar
  • ¼- to ½-tsp. eco-friendly dish detergent
  • 2 cups water

After an inaugural washing, keep your windows spotless with a window cleaning solution made from 2 teaspoons white vinegar mixed in 1 quart warm water. (Too much vinegar can etch window glass, which results in clouding.)
You can whip up gallons of window cleaning solution for a few dollars: A 32-ounce bottle of white vinegar costs about $2. A 16-ounce bottle of eco-friendly dish soap costs about $3.50. By comparison, a 16-ounce bottle of commercial window cleaner costs about $3.

Polish to a sustainable shine

Use microfiber cloths, rather than paper towels or newspapers, for window cleaning. Paper towels are manufactured from trees and end up in the landfill. Newspapers can blacken your hands and fall apart. Microfiber cloths are affordable, lint-free, and can be washed and reused again and again.
A six-pack of reusable microfiber cleaning cloths can be purchased at national discount stores for less than $10. By comparison, an eight-pack of bargain-priced paper towels costs about $9.

Window cleaning tips

  • Window cleaning on a sunny day can dry the solution too quickly and create streaks, so select a cloudy day to work.
  • Begin window cleaning by spritzing the glass with your homemade vinegar solution. Wipe away grime with a damp microfiber cloth. Rinse this cloth often in clean water.
  • Follow with a dry microfiber cloth to polish the glass to a shine.

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