Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘houses’

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!

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

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!

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

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

Read Full Post »

http://platform.twitter.com/widgets/hub.1326407570.html

By: Lisa Kaplan Gordon

Published: January 11, 2012

When it comes to weight gain, we blame our genes, our metabolism, and wrong foods that taste so right. But maybe our kitchens are to blame. Here’s why.

Dieters beware: Your dream kitchen remodel may be your biggest nightmare. Experts say that big and attractive kitchens contribute to big and unattractive waistlines.
Just shoot us now.
“If a kitchen gets you there and keeps you there, you’re going to increase your consumption,” says Mark Blegen, an associate professor at St. Catherine University in Minnesota, who studies why people eat. “Even if you add only 10 extra calories a day, you’re going to gain weight over the long term.”
You mean remodeling a small and dreary kitchen into a big and fabulous one is hazardous to our health?
“Getting people to think that this kitchen may be causing me to gain weight is a huge shift,” Blegen says. “But if people want to take an honest look at their weight, they ought to take a look at every aspect of their environment.”
Weight management depends on many things — genetics, metabolism, running shoes that live under your bed. But calories-in and calories-out also depend on increasing and decreasing barriers to food. Kitchen size, design, storage, and appliances all erect or destroy those physical and psychological barriers. Here’s how.

  • Kitchen-great room combos: As big kitchens multitask as family rooms, homework centers, and offices, we spend more time around food. “If it’s right there in front of you, odds are you’ll want to consume it,” Blegen says. In fact, a seminal study on eating and environment found that moving a candy bowl 6 feet away from eaters reduced their consumption by 50%. It’s hard to move food away from you in a kitchen.
  • Traditional design: Kitchen designers are slaves to minimizing the distance between a kitchen’s sink, stove and refrigerator — its “work triangle.” But researcher Brian Wansink says the smaller the triangle, the more we’re eating when we’re supposed to prepping.
  • Too-handy storage: Kitchen storage puts you within reaching distance of calories. Walk-in pantries are the worst, because they encourage buying in bulk and stockpiling. Not only does stockpiling put you within steps of huge quantities of food, but the cost of buying and storing that bargain 10-lb. bag of Jasmine rice puts pressure on you to eat it. You can’t win for losing.
  • Tempting refrigerators: Upscale, glass-front refrigerators bring you face-to-face with last night’s leftovers, which call to you like sirens. And placing the fridge next to the eating nook makes it easier — and more likely — to grab a second helping.
  • Open-shelf cabinets: They remove that last, slim barrier between you and food — the cabinet door. “The more visible and the more convenient the food is in cupboards, the more likely you are to take it,” says Wansink, author of “Mindless Eating.” Take a look at his video, which shows how kitchens sabotage your diet.

Forget counting calories — follow the HouseLogic diet
OK, count calories if you want. But you’ll eat fewer if you keep these kitchen makeover tips in mind.
Remodeling your kitchen? Give it the lean treatment

If your kitchen is tempting you to overeat, bite the bullet (no calories in that) and plan a remodel — keeping these strategies in mind.

  • Size the kitchen with food preparation, not munching, in mind. Instead of building an eat-in kitchen, devote space to prep islands, professional ranges, double ovens, and a couple of dishwashers. Then eat in a separate room, which reduces your temptation for seconds.
  • Place the refrigerator away from the kitchen entrance so you’re not tempted to graze the moment you enter the room. Also, choose smaller refrigerators with bottom freezers, which require you to stoop to scoop that ice cream. And take those vegetables out of the crisper and put them on a center shelf, where they stare you in the face each time you open the fridge door.
  • Install cabinets with solid doors. If you like the look of glass, opt for opaque or antique glass that hides contents.
  • Avoid walk-in pantries that can store bushels of food. Instead, choose smaller cabinetry with pull-out shelves that reveals all the healthful food they will contain. (We live in hope.)
  • Keep televisions, iPads, and other distractions out of the kitchen. The less you focus on the food you’re eating, the more you’ll eat.
  • Install bright lights, which discourage eating. Researchers don’t know exactly why harsh lighting means less eating. Perhaps we spend less time in places with annoying lighting. So use task lighting to help in food prep, save you money on dimmers, and keep lights bright.

Kitchen tweaks: No remodel planned? No problem

If you’ve already built the kitchen of your dreams or you’re not planning a full-scale remodel soon, a little reorganizing can help you cut calories.

  • If you already have open shelves, place dishware and pots there, not food. If you must put food where you can see it, store it in opaque containers.
  • Remove stools from around your prep island. You burn more calories standing than sitting, and eventually you’ll move to more comfortable spaces away from food.
  • Store fattening foods in a garage freezer or refrigerator; you’ll think twice about dessert if you must walk to the garage to get it. And if you do indulge, you’ll burn a few calories fetching those sweets.
  • Opt for one or two of the remodeling tips we noted above if you want to do a little more than reorganize but less than a full-on remodel.

What part of your kitchen encourages you to eat? Would you give it up to lose a few pounds?

Read Full Post »

http://platform.twitter.com/widgets/hub.1326407570.htmlBy: John Riha

Published: March 9, 2010

Regular home maintenance is key to preserving the value of your house and property.

“It’s the little things that tend to trip up people,” says Frank Lesh, former president of the American Society of Home Inspectors and owner of Home Sweet Home Inspection Co. in Chicago. “Some cracked caulk around the windows, or maybe a furnace filter that hasn’t been changed in awhile. It may not seem like much, but behind that caulk, water could get into your sheathing, causing mold and rot. Before you know it, you’re looking at a $5,000 repair that could have been prevented by a $4 tube of caulk and a half hour of your time.”

Maintenance affects property value

Outright damage to your house is just one of the consequences of neglected maintenance. Without regular upkeep, overall property values are affected.
“If a house is in worn condition and shows a lack of preventative maintenance, the property could easily lose 10% of its appraised value,” says Mack Strickland, a professional appraiser and real estate agent in Chester, Va. “That could translate into a $15,000 or $20,000 adjustment.”
In addition, a house with chipped, fading paint, sagging gutters, and worn carpeting faces an uphill battle when it comes time to sell. Not only is it at a disadvantage in comparison with other similar homes that might be for sale in the neighborhood, but a shaggy appearance is bound to turn off prospective buyers and depress the selling price.
“It’s simple marketing principles,” says Strickland. “First impressions mean a lot to price support.”

Prolonging economic age

To a professional appraiser, diligent maintenance doesn’t translate into higher property valuations the way that improvements, upgrades, and appreciation all increase a home’s worth. But good maintenance does affect an appraiser’s estimate of a property’s economic age—the number of years that a house is expected to survive.
Economic age is a key factor in helping appraisers determine depreciation—the rate at which a house is losing value. A well-maintained house with a long, healthy economic age depreciates at a much slower rate than a poorly maintained house, helping to preserve value.

Estimating the value of maintenance

Although professional appraisers don’t assign a positive value to home maintenance, there are indications that maintenance is not just about preventing little problems from becoming larger. A study by researchers at the University of Connecticut and Syracuse University suggests that maintenance actually increases the value of a house by about 1% each year, meaning that getting off the couch and heading outside with a caulking gun is more than simply a chore—it actually makes money.
“It’s like going to the gym,” says Dr. John P. Harding, Professor of Finance & Real Estate at UConn’s School of Business and an author of the study. “You have to put in the effort to see the results. In that respect, people and houses are somewhat similar—the older (they are), the more work is needed.”
Harding notes that the 1% gain in valuation usually is offset by the ongoing cost of maintenance. “Simply put,” he says, “maintenance costs money, so it’s probably best to say that the net effect of regular maintenance is to slow the rate of depreciation.”

How much does maintenance cost?

How much money is required for annual maintenance varies. Some years, routine tasks, such as cleaning gutters and changing furnace filters, are all that’s needed, and your total expenditures may be a few hundred dollars. Other years may include major replacements, such as a new roof, at a cost of $10,000 or more.
Over time, annual maintenance costs average more than $3,300, according to data from the U.S. Census. Various lending institutions, such as Directors Credit Union and LendingTree.com, agree, placing maintenance costs at 1% to 3% of initial house price. That means owners of a $200,000 house should plan to budget $2,000 to $6,000 per year for ongoing upkeep and replacements.

Proactive maintenance strategies

Knowing these average costs can help homeowners be prepared, says Melanie McLane, a professional appraiser and real estate agent in Williamsport, Pa. “It’s called reserve for replacements,” says McLane. “Commercial real estate investors use it to make sure they have enough cash on hand for replacing systems and materials.”
McLane suggests a similar strategy for homeowners, setting aside a cash reserve that’s used strictly for home repair and maintenance. That way, routine upkeep is a snap and any significant replacements won’t blindside the family budget. McLane’s other strategies include:
Play offense, not defense. Proactive maintenance is key to preventing small problems from becoming big issues. Take the initiative with regular inspections. Create and faithfully follow a maintenance schedule. If you’re unsure of what needs to be done, a $200 to $300 visit from a professional inspector can be invaluable in pointing out quick fixes and potential problems.
Plan a room-per-year redo. “Pick a different room every year and go through it, fixing and improving as you go,” says McLane. “That helps keep maintenance fun and interesting.”
Keep track. “Having a notebook of all your maintenance and upgrades, along with receipts, is a powerful tool when it comes to sell your home,” advises McLane. “It gets rid of any doubts for the buyer, and it says you are a meticulous, caring homeowner.” A maintenance record also proves repairs and replacements for systems, such as wiring and plumbing, which might not be readily apparent.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »