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Real Estate Purchase Agreements: 7 Things Home Buyers Must Check—or Else

April 26, 2018

Natee Meepian/iStock

From: Realtor.com

Every home sale starts with a real estate purchase agreement—a legally binding contract signed by home buyers and sellers that confirms that they agree upon a certain purchase price, closing date, and other terms.

While the forms and wording vary across the country (LawDepot.com) offers free purchase agreements for each state), there are certain words common to all that you’ll want to have down, cold. Why? Because they spell out crucial info such as how much money you’re paying, when you pay it, under what conditions you can back out of the deal, and more. Here are seven terms you are likely to come across in a real estate purchase agreement, and why you need to check these provisions carefully before you sign on the dotted line.

Earnest money

What it is: Checking the home’s purchase price on your contract is par for the course, but you also have to cough up some money immediately, in the form of an earnest money deposit, or EMD. That’s the cash buyers commit to completing the sale to show sellers they’re serious. The amount of the deposit is negotiable between both parties, but is usually about 1% to 2% of the purchase price. Once an offer is accepted, the money is typically held by the seller’s broker or a title company, to be used as a credit toward the buyer’s down payment and closing costs.

Why it matters: In an aggressive seller’s market, many homes receive multiple offers. One way to make your bid stand out is to offer a slightly higher EMD (think 4% to 5%) to catch the seller’s attention, says Washington, D.C., metro real estate agent Robyn Porter. That being said, “Many buyers want to make the smallest deposit possible, to limit their risk of loss,” says Bruce Ailion of Re/Max Town and Country in Atlanta.

The caveat: If you back out of the transaction for any reason or contingency outlined in the purchase agreement, you get your earnest money back (more on contingencies next). However, if you decide not to buy the house for any what-if that is not included in the agreement, the seller can keep the earnest money.

Contingency

What it is: “A contingency in a deal means there’s something the buyer has to do for the process to go forward, like selling a property they already own,” says Jimmy Branham, a real estate agent at the Keyes Company in South Florida. Contingencies can also include a home appraisal, home inspection and mortgage approval.

Why it matters: Contingencies protect you by giving you the ability to back out of the sale if something goes wrong, typically without losing your earnest money deposit, says Kathleen Marks, a real estate agent with United Real Estate in Asheville, NC. But all contingencies have deadlines that must be met in order for the transaction to chug along.

Settlement date

What it is: The settlement date, or “closing,” is the day when all involved parties meet to make the sale official. Buyers and sellers typically negotiate a settlement date that is mutually agreeable.

Why it matters: When choosing a settlement date, make sure you’re giving yourself ample time to fulfill the home inspection, appraisal, and any other contingencies. If you don’t meet your obligations to the purchase agreement by the settlement date, you could be considered “in default” and potentially lose your deposit, says Washington, D.C.-based real estate agent Katie Wethman.

Possession date

What it is: The possession date is the day when buyers can move into their new home. Sometimes home buyers take possession of the home on the day of closing, and sometimes they agree to wait days or weeks after closing. Generally though, 30 to 45 days is the most common time frame.

Why it matters: The possession date is negotiable, and it can affect the strength of your offer. For instance, if the seller needs a few extra months to find a new place to live, offering a 60-day possession date could make your bid more attractive. Alternatively, some sellers allow the buyers to move in before settlement; this may occur if the house is already vacant.

Escrow

What it is:Escrow is a secure holding area where important items (like the earnest money check and contracts) are kept safe until the deal is closed and the house officially changes hands. Although customs vary by state, the escrow holder is usually someone from the closing company, an attorney, or a title company agent.

Why it matters: The purchase agreement states whether the buyer or seller (or both) pays escrow—with the fee for this service typically totaling about 1% to 2% of the cost of the home. If you try to back out of the deal without a legitimate reason, you will forfeit your portion of the escrow money to the seller.

Delivery

What it is: When buyers and sellers sign a purchase agreement, they must agree to an accepted form of communication during the transaction as defined by the terms under “delivery,” says Marks. In today’s day and age, email is generally an acceptable method of communication, but some people (say, older buyers or sellers) still prefer snail mail when receiving important documents, like the release of a home inspection contingency.

Why it matters: Your buyer’s agent must abide by the terms of the delivery when communicating with the listing agent or seller. If documents aren’t delivered properly, it could delay or even void the contract.

Home warranty

What it is: In a nutshell, a home warranty is a policy that covers the cost of repairing many of a home’s appliances if they break down. Basic coverage starts at about $300 and goes up to $600 for more comprehensive plans.

Why it matters: Many home sellers will offer to pay for the first year of a buyer’s home warranty to entice buyers to bite, especially if the appliances in the house are old and/or it’s a buyer’s market. However, this must be written into the purchase agreement.

Consider me your #1 resource for all things Real Estate! Household changing? Getting married (or divorced)? Time for a change of scenery or job relocation? Want to invest? Just send me an email or call 619-888-2117 – I can help.

 

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What to Expect From a Home Inspection

April 19, 2018

 

 

Credit: Harriet Lee-Merrion

By Megan Wild, NYTimes

You’ve finally found what seems to be the perfect home. It’s got all your must-haves and some of your nice-to-haves, too. It looks like it’s in excellent condition, but merely looking like it’s in good condition is not enough when it comes to such a huge financial decision.

To make sure you’re not buying a money pit, you need a professional home inspection before you commit.

An inspection should uncover any potential issues so you have a complete picture of what you’re buying.

Finding a Home Inspector

Many first-time home buyers don’t realize that it’s their responsibility to hire a home inspector. Make sure you make your offer conditional upon inspection or get one done before you make a bid.

To find a home inspector, people often turn to recommendations from trusted friends and family members. Your broker might also have an inspector to recommend. While other people’s opinions are helpful, what’s paramount is that you hire someone who is qualified.

Some states require home inspectors to have certifications. For those that don’t, membership in organizations like the American Society of Home Inspectors can give you some assurance about an inspector’s professionalism.

Interview potential inspectors before hiring one. Ask about their experience and whether they’re familiar with the type of home you’re buying. Find out what will be included in the inspection and report.

What the Inspector Should Look At

During a home inspection, the inspector should thoroughly evaluate the physical structure of the home as well as critical internal systems. You should make sure the examination includes the following:

● Electrical system

● Plumbing system

● Heating and cooling systems

● Radon detection equipment, if applicable

● Walls, ceiling and flooring

● Windows and doors

● Roofing

● Foundation

● Basement

● Attic

● Insulation

While an inspection will give you an idea of a house’s overall condition, it might not uncover hidden problems such as pests, mold or asbestos. It also won’t turn up flaws in areas that are below ground or otherwise inaccessible to the inspector, like wells and septic tanks. To identify those types of problems, you’re going to need additional inspections.

For example, a Wood Destroying Insect Inspection can identify termites, carpenter ants and other pests. “More than 30 states require a pest inspection before a home loan can close,” Leslie Wyman, the owner of Epcon Lane, a pest control company said. “But even if you live in a state where it’s optional, it’s a really important safeguard.”

What Should You Do During the Inspection?

You should make every effort to be present when the inspection is taking place. You can follow the inspector around the house and ask questions so you can learn more about your potential new home. If you can’t make it for the inspection, you should meet with the inspector to go over the report in detail.

If you have questions about potential issues or how to take care of parts of the home, feel free to ask the evaluator. Take care, however, not to get in the inspector’s way. Don’t start inspecting the home yourself, either. If you test a sink while the inspector is testing a shower, for example, you might alter the results.

It’s also important to remember that “an inspection is only a snapshot in time on the day of the inspection,” said John Bodrozic, a co-founder of HomeZada. So if you’re buying a house in the middle of summer, try to consider how the home might perform in different conditions, like the winter or fall.

A Home’s Report Card

Once the inspector completes an evaluation, you will receive a report with the inspector’s findings. Don’t be alarmed if you see a lot of deficiencies noted. Home inspections are detailed, so reports often include between 50 and 100 issues, most of which are relatively small.

The report should include information about how severe each listed problem is, plus estimates on how much it would cost to fix each problem. Ask the inspector for clarifications on this if necessary.

If the inspection finds more problems than you’re comfortable dealing with, you can choose to back out of the sale or try to negotiate to have the seller make the repairs or lower the price. If you’re satisfied with the condition of the home or the shape it will be in after the seller meets the arrangements of your negotiations, you can move into your new home with more peace of mind.

Consider me your #1 resource for all things Real Estate! Household changing? Getting married (or divorced)? Time for a change of scenery or job relocation? Want to invest? Just send me an email or call 619-888-2117 – I can help.

 

Surviving the Remodel

April 12, 2018

Consider me your #1 resource for all things Real Estate! Household changing? Getting married (or divorced)? Time for a change of scenery or job relocation? Want to invest? Just send me an email or call 619-888-2117 – I can help.

 

 

Don’t Buy That Fixer-Upper (Unless You Know These 4 Things)

April 5, 2018
By: Jamie Wiebe, ClientDirect

A few years ago, Alessandra Pollina and her husband, Ondre, were looking for a property that would need no more than some cosmetic changes and upgrades. But because the price was right, they ended up with the ultimate fixer-upper: a two unit, single-family-style home that was already gutted to the studs.They were excited about its potential, not to mention the one-half acre of land the house is sitting on.

Four years and many renovations later, Pollina estimates her home is worth (drum roll, please) an epic 56% more than it was when she bought it. Wow, talk about a return on investment.

The moral? A fixer-upper isn’t necessarily something to eschew. If the right things are wrong with a house, you could not only turn it into your dream home, but also earn serious equity (wealth building!) in the process.

Oh, and don’t assume you need to be a DIY master to make it worthwhile, either. Time and patience may be all you need.

Here’s how to tell if that fixer-upper is a keeper — or if you should keep walking.

1. Evaluate the Price

If it’s a fixer-upper, it should come at a fixer-upper price. Duh, but that’s a reminder NOT to fall in love too quickly with a home that the listing says “just needs a little TLC.” Do your homework first, and if the price is right, then fall in love.

Find out what similar homes in the neighborhood sell for and how tricked out they are (with amenities and materials). A REALTOR® can help you figure that out. And that will tell you how much money you can invest in the home before you over-improve for the neighborhood, a mistake you want to avoid if you plan to sell in the future.

Wendell De Guzman, a real estate investor who renovates at least two houses a month, recommends treating the remodel like a business, not a hobby. Determine your budget based on the market value of homes in your neighborhood, because you’re not going to sell for more.

“It doesn’t matter how much money you can put into the house,” Guzman says. “You’re limited by the market value of what nearby houses are selling for.”

2. Start Evaluating What Improvements Are Needed

The best fixer-uppers offer lots of opportunities for “instant equity,” which means if you sold the home tomorrow you’d pretty much get that money back, unlike other projects which you may never get your money back on. (Swimming pool, anyone?)

Some can be as simple as painting or landscaping, which you can accomplish with sweat equity, De Guzman says. In fact, the Pollinas started their rehab with high-value, low-effort landscaping, since it’s the first thing people see. They raked, brought the grass back to life, planted fruit trees and a veggie garden, and enjoyed the reaction: “People are so surprised and impressed,” Alessandra says.

Other tasks — the Pollinas focused on the kitchen next — may require the work of professionals and cash to pay them. It’s those projects you want to carefully evaluate against the home’s price.

Which Hire-a-Pro Projects Add Instant Equity?

Fact: While most home improvements add some equity, some are consistently at the top of the heap. Another thing those equity champions have in common: They usually require the help of a pro, but the cost can be instantly worth it.

Based on data gleaned from the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS®’ “Remodeling Impact Report” (RIR), if these three projects are on your fixer-upper’s list of must-haves, then you may have found your dream equity-builder:

  • New roof: A new roof may not be the remodeling project of your dreams — until you realize it could actually pay you. You’ll spend about $7,500 to install it (based on a national average determined by contractors responding to the RIR survey), but when you sell, it could recoup 109% of that or $8,150, according to REALTORS® surveyed.
  • Hardwood floors: It costs about $3,000 on average nationally to refinish hardwood floors. The survey indicates you could recoup 100% of that at resale. If you’re looking at a fixer-upper (at the right price) that needs the floors redone, that’s like getting the floors for free! New hardwood floors are also a good choice at a cost of about $5,500 to install, and could recoup $5,000 of that at resale.
  • Insulation: A fixer-upper offers a great opportunity to replace or add insulation. New insulation costs about $2,100 on average nationally, and can recoup $1,600 at resale — as if saving 10% to 50% on your energy bill wasn’t compelling enough.

While those three are pretty safe bets — homeowners who responded to the RIR survey gave them high happiness and satisfaction marks, too — almost any project can be worth it with a fixer-upper if the price is right. For example, a complete kitchen renovation can cost $65,000 and recover only about $40,000 when you sell. But if the fixer-upper is discounted enough, think how amazing it would be to cook in a kitchen you designed yourself.

4. Evaluate Your Ability to Deal with Disruption

Whether you’re a DIY Jedi or content to let the pros handle the remodel, if your patience is shorter than your potential home’s to-do list, a fixer-upper may not be a good choice.

Renovating a bathroom alone can take two to three weeks. Add hardwood flooring, a new kitchen, and siding, and you’re looking at a whole summer’s worth of rehab.

When considering a fixer-upper, evaluate the limits of your emotional energy as well. Inevitable project pitfalls and delays can be wearing. Only if you have the time, patience, and emotional endurance for a fixer-upper will it be a good fit for you. And only you can determine that.

But if you can budget your time and money — and employ the right fixer-upper strategies — you might find yourself with a double reward: A home that’s worth far more than you paid, and the joy of knowing you helped get it there.

Consider me your #1 resource for all things Real Estate! Household changing? Getting married (or divorced)? Time for a change of scenery or job relocation? Want to invest? Just send me an email or call 619-888-2117 – I can help.

Your Moving Checklist: 15 Things to Do Before Moving Into a New Home

March 29, 2018

 

 

iStock

 

 

 

Welcome to the ultimate moving checklist—a list of all the things you should do before moving into your new home.

Let’s face it: With all the excitement of new digs, it’s easy to forget some important tasks. Plus, certain things are best done while the house is still vacant, long before your boxes and furniture are parked in the place. Put these things off, and it becomes all the harder to tackle them later.

So before you move—or in case you have moved and are wondering how many of these you hit—check out this moving checklist to know what should be done long before you settle in.

Consider me your #1 resource for all things Real Estate! Household changing? Getting married (or divorced)? Time for a change of scenery or job relocation? Want to invest? Just send me an email or call 619-888-2117 – I can help.

Real Estate @ A Glance – March 2018 Edition

March 20, 2018

Local Market Update - San Diego County - Real Estate
Real estate is about location, location, location . . .  If you have questions about the market in your specific area, please contact me via email or call 619-888-2117.

The three most prominent national market trends for residential real estate are the ongoing lack of abundant inventory, the steadily upward movement of home prices and year-over-year declines in home sales. Sales declines are a natural result of there being fewer homes for sale, but higher prices often indicate higher demand leading to competitive bidding. Markets are poised for increased supply, so there is hope that more sellers will take advantage of what appears to be a ready and willing buyer base.

In February, prevailing mortgage rates continued to rise. This has a notable impact on housing affordability and can leave consumers choosing between higher payments or lower-priced homes. According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, the average rate for 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with a 20 percent down payment that qualify for backing by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac rose to its highest level since January 2014. A 4.5 or 4.6 percent rate might not seem high to those with extensive real estate experience, but it is newly high for many potential first-time home buyers. Upward rate pressure is likely to continue as long as the economy fares well.

 

 

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The 9 Hottest Interior Design and Decor Trends You’ll See in 2018

March 15, 2018

 

When it comes to home design and decor, we’ll be the first to tell you to stick with what you love, no matter what the pros say. But if you can’t escape that sinking feeling each time you walk through your front door that your decor is looking a little tired, well, don’t despair. We’ve got you covered! We’ve already talked about the design trends you should ditch in the coming year. Now let’s take a look at some of the hot new designs you might want to use for 2018 to give your home a fresh lease on life.

From splashy color palettes to bright yellow sofas and mixed metal everything, our stable of designers and tastemakers have given us the ultimate insiders’ scoop on what’ll be hot in 2018. And trust us: It’ll be a gorgeous year. Here’s what to watch:

1. Bold colors
Designers haven’t yet had their fill of spaces decked out in deep, bold shades; this decor trend is appearing on our hot list for the second year in a row.

“As much as I love an all-white interior, rich jewel tones are making their way onto our walls and moldings in a big way—think ‘English library,’ but with peacock teal, black, or rich burnt orange colors,” says Oregon-based interior designer Arlene Lord.

The proof is in the paint: Sherwin-Williams’ 2018 Color of the Year (Oceanside SW 6496) is an intense shade of blue-green, while Pantone recently announced the rich and regal Ultra Violet will reign supreme in the coming year.

Lord recommends pairing these jewel tones with bold, dustier shades to create a lush, layered look. (We like PPG’s Black Flame, an indigo-hued black that’s great for modern interiors; Glidden’s Deep Onyx, a classic no-fuss shade; and Olympic’s Black Magic.)

“Dipping a room in a dramatic shade like midnight navy, eggplant, or charcoal is a fun way to embrace a deep, rich color, and the result is deliciously inviting,” says Elissa Morgante, co-principal of Morgante Wilson Architects in Illinois.

Ready to really commit? Go all-in on this trend with dark or black trim.

“Outlining the room or windows in dark trim helps punctuate and call attention to unique features,” she says.

2. Mixed metallic
A few years back, mixing metals was a total no-no. But experts now agree that today’s homeowners want more than simple one or two copper or brass fixtures—they like seeing the stuff throughout a room or house.

“Buyers really love to see modern, eclectic choices such as a hammered copper light fixture above the kitchen island paired with sleek chrome faucets and cabinet hardware,” says Ken Fixler of Barnett Homes in Chicago.

To warm up the industrial feel of some metals, pair them with a natural stone like marble or limestone, and look for unexpected finishes like matte black, satin brass, black nickel, and unlacquered brass. Amp up the visual interest another notch by layering your metals across a variety of locations, from faucets to hardware to lighting and furniture.

3. Gen Z yellow
As usual, Beyoncé was way ahead of the curve on this one, smashing car windows and security cameras in an unforgettable yellow Cavalli dress in her epic video for “Lemonade.” And as designers, fashionistas, and millennials will all tell you, the hue that’s being dubbed “Gen Z yellow” is the one to watch.

Karen Wolf, of Karen B Wolf Interiors, calls it “positive, confident, vibrant, and enthusiastic.”

“We have not seen this color emerge for quite some time,” Wolf adds. “It feels fresh, happy, and young.”

Designer Sarah Hullinger agrees, predicting the color will continue to be huge well into 2018.

“It’ll certainly make an impression, whether a bright ‘minion’ color or a burnt shade resembling curry or turmeric,” she says.

If you can’t quite warm up to the idea of, say, a bright yellow sectional, test the waters with an accent chair or painted side table.

4. Quartz
In the kitchen, sleek quartz is taking the place of the ubiquitous granite and hard-to-clean marble.

“Quartz products are appealing to the ease of living that we all crave, and the surfaces are much more modern, clean, and versatile,” Lord says.

5. Light, textured wood floors
“Red-toned woods are fading in popularity, along with tropical exotic species” like Brazilian cherry or walnut, says Armstrong Flooring design manager Sara Babinski.

Instead, flooring trends are moving toward lighter color palettes in domestic American woods such as maple, pine, or hickory, she says.

Why? Light-hued woods—including natural tones and blond and whitewashed woods—brighten interior spaces and hide imperfections more easily, making them a great choice for families and households with pets. For extra credit, choose a distressed or wire-brushed wood, which offers vintage appeal with a less aggressive look than a scraped floor, and choose 5-inch-wide planks, which create a sense of openness and interior space.

If you decide to stick with dark flooring, designers recommend that you pair it with light walls and white trim for contrast.

6. Natural materials
“In interior design we’re seeing a strong push toward eco-consciousness—looking toward items that are made of sustainable materials and have a natural feel to them,” says Ana Zuravliova, an interior designer at Roman Blinds Direct. “People care about the production, the history, and the story of their furniture more than they ever have before.”

While the sustainability element is a plus, the visual airiness of the materials is indicative of a move toward more minimalist interiors, says designer Erin Powell, virtual staging coordinator at 3-D rendering company roOmy.

“The less-is-more approach will continue—[think] lacy hammocks and daybeds and wicker and rattan furniture with a more modern edge,” she says.

7. Concrete in unexpected places
Tired of basic granite in your kitchen and bath? Ditch it in favor of cool concrete—and then take your design up a notch by extending the material elsewhere in your house.

“From fireplaces to bath tubs, concrete is no longer the countertop alternative,” says designer Ana Cummings. “I’m seeing entire walls in concrete panels that look fantastic juxtaposed next to antiques or contemporary furnishings.”

8. Black fixtures Black fixtures will take the place of brass as the new hot home hardware, predicts Ryan Brown of Brown Design Group in Southern California. The first reason is easy: Black pretty much goes with everything. The second? Black fixtures—especially in matte finishes—are much easier to clean (and don’t need to be cleaned as often) than lighter, polished metals.

“They look great in modern applications as well as transitional homes,” Brown says. “And the best part is, no water spots to clean off.”

9. Larger tiles
For years, white subway tile has been the go-to choice in many a modern (or renovated) bathroom and kitchen. But designer Karen Asprea of Whitehall Interiors notes a recent shift toward larger-format tile (and even slab-size sheets of porcelain).

“This shift is not only aesthetic but one of function, as larger tile has less grout and is both easier to install and maintain,” Asprea says.

But if you’re not on board with big, don’t fret—designers agree the subway tile trend has life left in it.

“Clients want a really clean look for their homes and that doesn’t appear to be a trend that’s going away,” says Katie Jaydan, senior designer with White Crane Construction, a residential remodeling company in Minneapolis.

To mix things up a little and add visual interest, consider swapping out tired old cabinetry hardware with mixed metals for a look that’s oh-so-2018. (In a good way.)  — By: Holly Amaya, ClientDirect

Consider me your #1 resource for all things Real Estate! Household changing? Getting married (or divorced)? Time for a change of scenery or job relocation? Want to invest? Just send me an email or call 619-888-2117 – I can help.

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