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Pre-Sale Inspections Provide Peace of Mind among Buyers and Sellers

July 11, 2014 7:00 pm

One of the most stressful times for a home seller is that short period of time between when a bid is accepted and the inspection comes back, as you never know what might turn up.

Many times, an inspection will uncover hidden problems or other defects that will change the offer and put the negotiating power in the buyer’s favor. Things like rotting floors, mold in the attic or termites on the deck have been enough to kill deals altogether.

The problem with a buyer getting an inspection and pulling out because they didn’t like the results is that normally, you don’t know what they didn’t like and you don’t have access to their inspector’s report. This can be frustrating because if you knew the problem, you could get it fixed.

One way to ensure that the inspection doesn’t offer any real surprises is to arrange for an inspection yourself prior to putting the home on the market. By doing so, you will discover any problems ahead of time, which will give you the opportunity to make the necessary fixes.

While the inspector won’t necessarily be the same as the one a potential buyer brings in, a professional inspector should be able to come up with most of the same things that anyone would find. Inspectors have specific knowledge in all aspects of home construction, including plumbing, wiring and other components, so their findings shouldn’t vary much.

Your inspector will work with you to identify hidden problems such as leaks in the roof, possible water damage, remodeling efforts that don’t meet current building codes, or improperly grounded outlets. Once you have the list of potential issues, you can either repair the problems or reduce the price of your home accordingly. Making certain repairs before you put your house on the market makes sense when the repairs are relatively small and inexpensive. For larger items, it may be better to take money off the asking price and let the buyer fix or replace these things once they move in.

If you have a pool, you should also consider hiring a separate pool inspector since pools are typically a big draw among prospective buyers.

While the price of an inspection will run you a few hundred dollars, it’ll be well worth it when you think of the alternative of losing a sale because of something that could have easily been fixed ahead of time.

Keep in mind that if you do get an inspection and discover something is wrong, most states require you by law to let the buyer know. If you conceal a defect from the buyer and the buyer’s inspection doesn’t discover it, the buyer can sue later if it’s discovered. But if you fix the problems or just let the buyer know prior to the deal, you will be okay.

To learn more about pre-sale inspections, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Understanding Contingencies and Their Role in Real Estate Transactions

July 11, 2014 7:00 pm

When it comes to buying or selling a home, there are a lot of moving parts that need to come together to ensure the transaction is a success. One key piece of the puzzle that can’t be ignored? Contingencies. Part of any standard home purchase contract, contingencies deal with items such as inspections, financing, insurance and agreed-upon repairs that must be completed before a deal is finalized.

Contingencies are an important part of any real estate transaction simply because if something that was agreed to is not done, you have an out. For example, if the deal was contingent upon the home seller replacing the water heater or fixing a leaky pipe and these things aren’t done by closing time, you’re not required to go through with the deal. And this puts all the negotiating power in your court.

A financing contingency is usually on the onus of the buyer, and states that they must secure an acceptable mortgage or other means of financing to buy the home. With so many loans falling through, this is a safety net for the seller that ensures the sale will go through. If not, an agreed-upon fine will be imposed and the seller can re-list the home.

Additionally, some buyers have added an insurance contingency to their contracts to make sure they will be able to get insured. With many living in states with a history of toxic mold, earthquakes or floods, insurance carriers no longer automatically issue a policy, so the contract can be contingent on applying for and receiving an insurance commitment in writing.

Other popular contingencies include the seller asking that the deal be made contingent on his or her successfully buying another home, or the buyer making the deal contingent on selling his or her own home. A home sale contingency can be risky to sellers as there’s no guarantee that the other home will eventually sell. Even if the contract allows the seller to continue to market the property and accept offers, the house may be listed “under contract,” making it less attractive to other potential buyers. In a hot market, these are often not agreed to, but when things are slow, you’ll find an increase in these contingency plans.

The most important part of any contingency is putting it in writing. Your agent can help you incorporate contingencies as part of your own contract or as part of the contract you and the seller agree on.

A home transaction is one of the largest transactions you’ll ever take part in, so make sure you take the proper steps to ensure you get what you pay for.

To learn more about contingencies, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Instagram Provides Unique Twist to House Hunting Process

July 11, 2014 7:00 pm

Social media has taken the real estate industry by storm, and buyers and sellers alike are pulling out all the stops when it comes to using various platforms to achieve their real estate dreams. Today, many are turning to Instagram to truly scope out the unique features they desire.

A picture-friendly website, Instagram has over 200 million active users. And on any given day, around 55 million photos are uploaded, resulting in approximately 86.4 million comments.

It’s no wonder that many real estate agents and home sellers are utilizing the site to not only better showcase a home, but to attract a larger pool of prospective buyers. Pictures have become one of our default modes of sorting and understanding the vast amounts of information we’re exposed to every day and sharing shots on Instagram helps to cut through some of the clutter.

House hunters can search Instagram for photos of houses in a specific area by entering search terms such as “homes for sale” and the city or community one is interested in buying into. Once they do, the number of photos that come up may be surprising.

And these photos aren’t your typical cookie-cutter shots of the exterior of the home or the kitchen or bedrooms. These are unique photos that showcase interesting aspects of the home and the property that you wouldn’t see unless you were in the house itself.

On a random day on Instagram, photos for houses for sale included a close-up of an ornate design on the kitchen cabinetry, pictures of 19th century doorknobs and a star-filled view of the sky taken from the master bedroom. It’s shots like these that tell a better story to entice prospective buyers to come visit the property. In addition, most photos also include links to shots of the rest of the house, so you can decide from the comfort of your own home whether it would be worth your while to visit.

While Instagram is devoted to sharing images, photos often include a brief description with additional details, oftentimes much different than what you would find on an MLS listing. As with any social media platform, those taking advantage of Instagram are providing a creative and fun avenue for you to explore.

If you’re looking to add a little fun to the house hunting process, sign on to Instagram. It may just be the social network that leads you to your new home.

For more information about using Instagram to find your dream home, contact our office today.

Published with permission from RISMedia.


In this Edition: Pre-Sale Inspections

July 11, 2014 7:00 pm

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters, brought to you through our company's membership in RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN), examines how Instagram can play an integral role in helping buyers find their dream home. Other topics covered this month include five questions you need to consider before moving and what you need to know about “coming soon” properties. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Home Matters and as always, we welcome your feedback. Email us anytime!

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Debt-Free Is Still the 'American Dream’ for Most

July 11, 2014 4:15 am

Being out of debt and retiring financially secure represent the American Dream for a majority of Americans, and most are optimistic that they can achieve it, according to the 2014 American Dream Survey. Retiring financially secure at age 65 represents the ultimate American dream for 36 percent of those surveyed, while getting out of debt came in at a close second, with 25 percent of respondents choosing it as their definition of the "American Dream."

The majority of survey respondents are optimistic about their ability to achieve their version of the American Dream, with 16 percent saying they have already achieved it and another 50 percent indicating it is within their reach. Only 24 percent say it is it not within their reach.

Other significant findings from the survey include:

• Dreams are personal and varied. After retirement and getting out of debt, the other top definitions of the American Dream included owning a home (17 percent), joining the "one percent," (five percent), graduating from college (three percent), and paying off student loans (two percent).

• Getting out of debt is a top priority. When asked about their top financial priority for the next year, at the top of the list was paying off credit card debt, with 19 percent of consumers choosing that option. Close behind that, another 18 percent chose "being debt-free." Other responses included investing for retirement (12 percent), saving for a major purchase (12 percent), buying a home (nine percent), paying off student loans (six percent), retiring financially secure at 65 (six percent), sending kids to college (five percent) or paying off the mortgage (four percent).

• Most are fairly optimistic about their ability to pay off debt. When it comes to being debt-free, 79 percent said they are very or somewhat likely to achieve that milestone in their lifetimes, with only 18 percent indicating that it was not very or not at all likely that they would be debt-free in their lifetimes. Not surprisingly, those with student loan debt were most likely to say it was not very or not at all likely that they would be debt-free in their lifetimes (28 percent), followed closely by those who have been unemployed in the past three years (24 percent).


Published with permission from RISMedia.


How to De-clutter Kitchen Cabinets

July 11, 2014 4:15 am

From spices to coffee filters to cooking oils, those kitchen cabinets have a way of filling up fast, and keeping these culinary tools in order can be a daunting task. Use these three tips to get your pantry and kitchen cabinets in order:

1. Empty Each Shelf
Go through each shelf to properly wipe out dust and crumbs, and to sort through outdated food. Before you put the items back on the shelves, clean the base thoroughly and line each one with a non-adhesive shelf liner which will create a protective, cushioned barrier on your surfaces.

2. Survey Food Items
Go through food items and donate or dispose of those you won't use, and group similar items together. This will help you keep track of your inventory. For further organization, sort based on expiration so you can use up food while it's still fresh.

3. Create User-Friendly Spaces
Make your pantry more ergonomic and easier to access by placing commonly used items on eye-level shelves. In addition, maximize the space in pantry and cabinets with turntables for spices and other storage solutions.

Source: Duck Brand

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Homeowners Can Cut Costs with Geothermal

July 11, 2014 4:15 am

The winter of 2014 was a wake-up call for homeowners facing higher-than-normal heating costs. With polar vortex cold sweeps, heavy snowfalls and ice blizzards affecting much of the country, energy prices for electricity, gas and oil have increased. Propane prices have skyrocketed due to scarcity of supplies, leading some governors to declare a state of emergency.

The hefty costs of heating and cooling - Many homeowners, concerned that energy prices for air conditioning this summer could be just as high, followed by yet another tough winter, are looking for alternative sources for heating and cooling. Higher performing, energy-efficient heating and cooling products are available, but they are still dependent on fossil fuels. Renewable forms of energy like solar and wind won't solve the problem. Such sources don't work all the time and require backup in the form of a conventional heating-cooling system, so the dependence on high cost fossil fuels remains.

Energy from the ground up - However, there is a viable renewable solution. It's called geothermal and its energy source is the very earth beneath our feet. Because the earth absorbs 50 percent of the sun's energy—more than 500 times more energy than mankind needs every year—there is an abundant power source in the earth to tap for heating and cooling. Geothermal systems transfer this heat from a home during the cooling season and return it to the earth during the heating season. Geothermal is possible because the temperature of the earth at 4 to 6 feet below ground remains relatively constant year-round.

"A geothermal system is the answer to today's and tomorrow's high energy prices," says Lyndal Moore, National Geothermal Sales Manager for Bosch, a manufacturer of geothermal heat pumps. "But that's just the beginning. Homeowners and homebuyers need to consider the long-term benefits of living in a home equipped with a geothermal system. It's not just the return on investment that should be considered, but rather the comfort, quietness, longevity and environmentally friendly nature of geothermal."

How geothermal systems work - A geothermal system is accomplished through the installation of what's called a "heat exchange loop" in the ground, either directly beneath a house or in the homeowner's yard. If a well or pond is available, the loop can be installed in the water and connected to the house in the same manner. This in-ground or water-source loop is connected to one or more heat pumps inside the house.

In the winter, the fluid circulating through the earth loop or water source absorbs stored heat from the ground and carries it indoors. The geothermal heat pumps compress the heat to a higher temperature and distribute it throughout the home. In the summer, the process reverses and the cooler earth absorbs the heat from the home, returning cooler fluid to the heat pump. This is typically cooler than the outside temperatures, providing a reduced load for air conditioning the home.

Significant savings for homeowners - The geothermal system uses a small amount of electricity to run the heat pumps, so homeowners will see a sizeable reduction in the cost of energy for heating and cooling each year. Geothermal systems are recognized by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) as the most efficient heating-cooling system of all (saving up to 70 percent on energy bills) and they come with a federal tax incentive rebate of 10 percent of total install costs which can be combined with state and local incentives that can save up to 40 percent of the total cost of the system.

Most of the cost to install a geothermal system is centered on the costs to drive bore holes into the earth and the installation of the loop. Thereafter, operating costs are typically low enough to show a return on investment within a decade or less. The loop infrastructure lasts around half a century and the heat pump, which has few moving parts, has an operating life expectancy of 25 years.

With a geothermal system, there is no fossil fuel use, no greenhouse gas emissions, few maintenance issues, and because the loop is underground and the heat pumps are located inside the house, the system is not susceptible to weather or storm damage. Plus, geothermal systems are exceptionally quiet in operation.

Source: Bosch

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Bring the Look and Feel of Iconic Summer Travel Destinations Inside Your Home

July 10, 2014 4:03 am

Designing with a travel destination in mind gives new meaning to the term ‘staycation.' By featuring a mix of timeless and exotic décor, you can create a relaxing getaway all without leaving the comfort of your home. Get inspired with ideas from these three vacation hot spots:

• Paint furniture in bright colors and set against a crisp, white wall to create a preppy look synonymous with Nantucket.
• Spruce up your foyer with a bright, cheery blue and coordinating white trim. If the area includes a staircase, add contrast by painting the balusters in a glossy, rich shade of navy blue or black.
• Keep the historical seaside charm of Nantucket alive by painting your front door in an unexpected color and adding a nautical doorknocker.
• For an oceanside cottage feel, use accents such a rope detailing, knots, waves and shells.

Southern California
• Blue isn’t the only color that evokes shades of the sea. When it comes to your décor, mix in silvers and light grays with weather greens for a truly ocean-inspired look.
• Use the powerful colors of a Pacific Ocean sunset to transform a room – think corals, burnt oranges and peachy-pink tones.
• Most contemporary beach houses along the coast keep a neutral, monochromatic exterior color scheme and add in small doses of bright color as accents. To achieve this look, keep your home’s exterior white, gray or neutral and add color to your entry door, planters or outdoor patio furniture.
• Potted citrus trees are common on the west coast and can add charm to a yard, entryway or kitchen. The splash of green with yellow or orange adds a touch of color and gives any space an organic feel. Use a matching pair to flank an entry, driveway or door.

The Mediterranean
• Coastal Mediterranean style is about light and fresh living. To recreate this look at home, paint a room’s walls, trim and ceiling in all white.
• The exteriors of buildings in this European coastal paradise are sun-kissed with warm tones of white, yellow and terra cotta. Achieve this look by highlighting wooden shutters in warm colors.
• Remove heavy window treatments such as wood blinds and thick drapery in favor of light and airy white linen drapery panels. Hang them from just below crown molding and puddle on the floor slightly for a casual, billowy effect commonly seen throughout the Mediterranean.

Source: Clark+Kensington

Published with permission from RISMedia.


System-Built Housing Brings Environmental Sustainability

July 10, 2014 4:03 am

Homes with solar panels and security systems you can remotely control may seem like props in a science fiction movie, but they are just a few examples of ways the system-built housing industry continuously embraces modern advances in green and smart technology.

Part of what new homeowners expect is ways to cut energy costs, which relieves stress on both their pocketbooks and the environment. One way homebuyers can be environmentally friendly is by installing Energy Star appliances in their homes. These products keep energy use, and therefore energy costs, lower than traditional appliances. Additionally, homes can be built with special insulation, high-performance windows and other materials to reduce overall energy costs and use fewer natural resources.

Smart-home technology can also be incorporated into system-built homes. It can include systems in your home that are controlled with a mobile device to temperature-controlled window shades to advanced multimedia configurations. As technology advances in all areas of your life, your home is no different.

Whether looking to incorporate energy-saving appliances or design a home with a myriad of smart technologies, system-built homes can take you and your family into the future. Homebuyers can work with retailers and manufacturers when choosing their new home to integrate cutting-edge technology options.

Source: MMHA

Published with permission from RISMedia.


Tricks for Less Mess and Stress This Summer

July 10, 2014 4:03 am

(BPT) - Summer vacation means children, teens and in-betweens are spending more time at home, resulting in more messes, mud and madness. By tackling a few projects around the home now, you'll be able to sit back, relax and enjoy the beautiful weather and carefree days ahead.

• Make sure you aren't stuck inside spending valuable time cleaning. Invest in products that'll help do the job for you, and lessen the workload by having the entire family pitch in. Divvy up the chores and make a game out of it to keep things fun. Try turning clean-up time into a scavenger hunt and have everyone collect stray items throughout the house.

• Now's the time to get organized. Do you have a large frame or two collecting dust in a corner? Pick up some chalkboard or dry erase paints to quickly transform an unused frame into a family message board that's perfect for jotting down summer-time schedules, chore reminders and grocery lists. Not only will this keep you and your kids on task for summer months, but it will also make transitioning back into a structured school year smooth sailing.

• Pay special attention to your garage. Before you know it, you'll have pool toys, golf balls and dirty cleats clogging up the space. Take the time now to create personalized storage bins for each member of the family. It will give everyone a place to keep their prized possessions while keeping dirt and mud out of the house.

• Make the most out of the outdoors by planting a garden. Not only will your household benefit from eating fresh fruits and vegetables, but your kids will also learn what it takes to sustain and grow food. If yard space is a concern, container gardens make a great option.

• You can also spend time with family outside after the sun goes down. Install a fire pit for making late-night treats. It can set the stage for story-telling and laughing about the day, keeping your family close and connected.

Published with permission from RISMedia.