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Choosing A Neighborhood

November 8, 2018

 

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Scary Real Estate Stories: The House Is Vacant, But Someone’s Home…

October 31, 2018

 

Credit: lynette

Credit: Lynette

 

By: Realtor.org

 

The Halloween decorations have already been up in my neighborhood for about a week, announcing that the season for spine-tingling ghost stories has arrived.

To get in the spirit, we asked real estate professionals to share their creepiest stories from the field. Your clients may not want to know what’s lurking out there — at least until All Hallows’ Eve has passed — but these real estate tales of terror could be fun to share with colleagues, friends, and family during this spooky time.

 

  • “I always make a habit of knocking or ringing the doorbell, even if the house is vacant. My clients and I were standing on the porch as I rang the doorbell of a vacant house, and we all distinctly heard “Who is it?” in a gruff little old lady’s voice. We all looked at each other. I asked if they heard it, and they nodded their heads up and down. We went in and checked out the house (and all the closets) but found no one. We didn’t make an offer, needless to say.” —Barry Long, EverStar Realty, Kennewick, Wash.
  • “Years ago, I had a listing that the seller said was haunted by a young boy. When my article came out in the newspaper for advertisement of the new listing, there was a young, dark figure of a boy standing in the doorway in the picture.” —Julie Beltran, Premier Real Estate, Tulare, Calif.
  • “I had a client a couple years ago who was eccentric, to say the least. Every time I showed him a house and we got to the basement, he would make a comment about how many bodies he could hide in it. Pretty nice guy, though.” —Chase Adams, 1st Rate Realty, LLC, Franklin, Pa.
  • “I was showing a home this past spring and as we were coming down from the walk-up attic, the door slammed in my face. I pretended that it was no big deal, but I was instantly unsettled and couldn’t wait to leave.” —Jane Johnson, Howard Hanna Real Estate Services, Jackson, Mich.
  • “An agent I know had a listing whose owner kept taking it off the market (then back on, then off again) because, she claimed, the ghost of her deceased husband was telling her to do so.” —Sara Minshull, Redfin, Aliquippa, Pa.
  • “I was showing a home built in the 1800s. The kitchen was actually located in the basement. When I went to get the lockbox key, my client told me that the door to the basement/kitchen was unlocked, so we went ahead and went in that way. We pulled the door closed behind us but didn’t touch any locking mechanisms. We proceeded to preview the home. We decided to exit the same way we came in, but when we went to open the door, it was locked. That creeped us all out, so we ran upstairs and fortunately were able to get out of the back door.” —Beth Baldwin, GRI, ABR, Virginia Capital Realty, Richmond, Va.
  • “I showed a house once, and the only things in the house were two boxes in a bedroom closet — each box containing the ashes of the owners. Pretty creepy.” —Caroline Blankfort, William Raveis Baer & McIntosh, Nyack, N.Y.

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.

What Home Buyers Need to Know When Mortgage Rates Rise – Even Just a Fraction

October 25, 2018

 

By now, we’ve all grown accustomed to the screaming, panic-inducing headlines: “Mortgage Rates Are on the Rise!” But what does this actually mean to home buyers? With mortgage interest rates notching up just small fractions of a point, is it really as big a deal as experts are making it out to be?Well, yes. And they’re about to go up again.

As it turns out, those teeny, tiny increases can cost home buyers hundreds of dollars a year, and thousands of dollars over the life of their loans. And they’re likely to keep rising as the Federal Reserve continues increasing its key interest rate. (Mortgage rates are different, but often follow the same trajectory as the federal ones.) The latest Fed hike is expected this month, with more on the horizon.

“When you’re talking about a 30-year mortgage, a small increase in mortgage rates adds up to a lot of money,” says Senior Economist Joseph Kirchner of realtor.com®. “If you’ve got a house in mind and you’re ready to pull the trigger, don’t dillydally. Interest rates will definitely go up … so you’re going to be paying more money for the same house.”

And they’re not just a buyer’s dilemma. Rising mortgage rates limit just how much buyers spend on homes—and therefore serve as a bit of a check on just how high sellers can price their abodes. It can prevent some folks from becoming buyers, meaning there are less offers to go around.

How much can higher rates add to a mortgage bill?

So what does this all mean? Well, current mortgage rates are 4.65% on 30-year, fixed-rate loans. If they increase by just one full percentage point, it costs typical home buyers an additional $147 a month—or almost $53,000—over a 30-year period. (This assumes that a home is about $300,000 with a 20% down payment.)

Even much smaller increases really add up. If mortgage rates tick up by just 0.05%, it can cost typical buyers $2,600 or more over the life of their 30-year loans.

Rates are expected to rise to between 5.5% and 6% over the next two years if the economy keeps humming along, according to Len Kiefer, deputy chief economist at Freddie Mac.

Those escalations can make it harder for buyers to qualify for loans on the abodes of their dreams, forcing some to purchase smaller residences, fixer-uppers, or properties in less desirable or farther-out neighborhoods as a result. Some may even be priced out of the market altogether.

But don’t panic just yet.

It’s important to realize that rates are still low. Yes, they’re more than 0.8% higher than they were a year ago, according to Freddie Mac data. But they’re nowhere near the peak of 18.63%, in October 1981. So, you know, breathe.

“We’ve experienced low rates for a very long time,” says Kiefer. He pointed out the last time that rates rose above 5% was way back in 2011. “[So] the increases that we’ve seen are likely to stick.”

Mortgage broker Chris Brown has seen fewer buyers seeking loans over the past few months as a result of the increases.

“Buyers are starting to come to the realization that real estate prices have moved up significantly over the last six or seven years and, combined with higher rates, the homes they were once targeting are no longer in their price range,” says Brown of CB Investments in Huntington Beach, CA. “It has forced them to either settle for a lesser home than they expected or temporarily put off the home search. [And] a lot more buyers are opting for the latter.”

What should buyers do to get the lowest-cost mortgages?

Hope is not lost for those striving to protect their pocketbooks from rising rates. Consumers should start by looking for the cheapest loans with the lowest mortgage rates.

“Shopping for a mortgage is like shopping for anything else,” says Eric Tyson, co-author of “Mortgages for Dummies.” Some lenders offer specials to lure in customers while others have consistently lower prices. “You can certainly check with the bigger banks and credit unions in your area, or online.”

They may also want to consider getting a rate lock with their mortgage providers. This means that they’re guaranteed a certain rate once they turn in their offer. So if rates go up, buyers don’t have to worry about it. The downside, however, is that not all rate locks are free. And if rates fall, buyers can’t take advantage of them.

Should buyers consider adjustable-rate mortgages?

Another option is an adjustable-rate mortgage, known as an ARM. This loan typically starts with a lower interest rate that then goes up after a set period of time. The proliferation of ARMs was partly responsible for the housing crash about a decade ago as rates—and therefore monthly payments—suddenly ballooned and homeowners couldn’t afford the new, higher bills.

But newer regulations have since been put in place to make them safer for consumers. In addition, most of these loans come with a cap that limits just how high interest rates can go.

Miami-based mortgage loan originator Sylvia M. Gutiérrez has been advising her clients to consider ARMs, which typically fix interest rates for three-, five-, seven-, or 10-year periods.

“The lower initial rate allows you to qualify with a lower mortgage payment,” says Gutiérrez, also the author of “Mortgage Matters: Demystifying the Loan Approval Maze.” “[And] today’s ARMs are much stabler than pre-recession ARMs.”

But folks need to pay close attention to when those rates are likely to adjust and just how high they could possibly go before signing on the dotted line. And they shouldn’t bank on being able to refinance at a lower interest rate down the line, because rates are just going to keep going up, says realtor.com’s Kirchner.  – 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.

What You Should Really Know About Browsing for Homes Online

October 18, 2018

Oh, let’s just admit it, shall we? Browsing for homes online is a window shopper’s Shangri-La. The elegantly decorated rooms, the sculpted gardens, the colorful front doors that just pop with those “come hither” hues.Browser beware, though: Those listings may be seductive, but they might not be giving you the complete picture.

That perfect split-level ranch? Might be too close to a loud, traffic-choked street. That handsome colonial with the light-filled photos? Might be hiding some super icky plumbing problems. That attractively priced condo? Miiiight not actually be for sale. Imagine your despair when, after driving across town to see your dream home, you realize it was sold.

So let’s practice some self-care, shall we, and set our expectations appropriately.

  • Step one, fill out our home-buyer’s worksheet. The worksheet helps you understand what you’re looking for.
  • Step two, with that worksheet and knowledge in hand, start browsing for homes. As you do, keep in mind exactly what that tool can, and can’t, do. Here’s how.

You Keep Current. Your Property Site Should, tooFirst things first: You wouldn’t read last month’s Vanity Fair for the latest cafe society gossip, right? So you shouldn’t browse property sites that show old listings.

Get the latest listings from realtor.com®, which pulls its information every 15 minutes from the Mulitple Listing Service (MLS), regional databases where real estate agents post listings for sale. That means that realtor.com®’s listings are more accurate than some others, like Zillow and Trulia, which may update less often. You wouldn’t want to get your heart a flutter for a house that’s already off the market.

BTW, there are other property listing sites as well, including Redfin, which is a brokerage and therefore also relies on relationships with brokers and MLSs for listings.

The Best Properties Aren’t Always the Best Looking

A picture, they say, is worth a thousand words. But what they don’t say is a picture can also hide a thousand cracked floorboards, busted boilers, and leaky pipes. So while it’s natural to focus on photos while browsing, make sure to also consider the property description and other key features.

Each realtor.com® listing, for example, has a “property details” section that may specify important information such as the year the home was built, price per square foot, and how many days the property has been on the market.

Ultimately though, ask your real estate agent to help you interpret what you find. The best agents have hyper-local knowledge of the market and may even know details and histories of some properties. If a listing seems too good to be true, your agent will likely know why.

Treat Your Agent Like Your Bestie

At the end of the day, property sites are like CliffsNotes for a neighborhood: They show you active listings, sold properties, home prices, and sales histories. All that data will give you a working knowledge, but it won’t be exhaustive.

To assess all of this information — and gather facts about any home you’re eyeing, like how far the local elementary school is from the house or where the closest Soul Cycle is — talk to your real estate agent. An agent who can paint a picture of the neighborhood is an asset.

An agent who can go beyond that and deliver the dish on specific properties is a true friend indeed, more likely to guide you away from homes with hidden problems, and more likely to save you the time of visiting a random listing (when you could otherwise be in the park playing with your canine bestie).

Want to go deeper? Consider these sites and sources:

  • School ratings: Data from GreatSchools.org and the National Center for Education Statistics, and the school district’s website
  • Crime rates and statistics: CrimeReports.com, NeighborhoodScout.com, SpotCrime.com, and the local police station
  • Walkability and public transportation: WalkScore.com and APTA.com
  • Hospital ratings: HealthInsight.org, LeapfrogGroup.org, and U.S. News and World Report rankings

Just remember: You’re probably not going to find that “perfect home” while browsing listings on your smartphone. Instead, consider the online shopping experience to be an amuse bouche to the home-buying entree — a good way for you to get a taste of the different types of homes that are available and a general idea of what else is out there.Once you’ve spent that time online, you’ll be ready to share what you’ve learned with an agent.

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.

Smart Home Tech

October 11, 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.

 

Your Fall Home Maintenance Checklist: 7 Tasks to Tackle

October 4, 2018

Once autumn’s chill is in the air, we don’t think twice about swapping our tank tops for sweaters and stocking our pantry with pumpkin-spice everything. So why wouldn’t we prepare our houses for the chill, too?Yes, that first freeze can often take us by surprise, leading to major headaches and thousands of dollars in repairs. So before you start stuffing your bookshelves with decorative gourds and planning the best Thanksgiving dinner your in-laws will ever eat, take a swing through these simple fall maintenance tasks. We promise a little prep work now will help keep your home running smoothly all season long.

1. Prep your pipes

The term “winterization” is a bit of a misnomer: Yes, you’re prepping your home for winter, but the hard work needs to happen in autumn. And that’s especially true when it comes to your pipes.

DIY: “Shut off all faucets and valves, and drain any outdoor piping, like sprinkler systems, before the temperature drops,” says Jane Li, a senior project manager at Mercury Insurance. To be extra careful, Li recommends putting away any outdoor hoses and wrapping socks around outdoor faucets.

Call in the pros: If your winterization efforts uncover a leaky pipe, hire a plumber to fix the mess before the temperature drops. On average, a plumber will cost $300, but a broken pipe could run you upward of $5,000, depending on how much water damage there is. In other words, consider this money well spent.

2. Keep out the critters

Just as you’ll spend more time indoors when the weather cools, rodents and pests will seek out a warm place, too—like your home.

“Mice especially are flexible little creatures and can get through holes that aren’t much bigger than a dime,” says Karen Thompson, an editor at InsectCop.net, which researches and evaluates pest-control products and methods.

DIY: Take a tour of your property, seeking out any cracks that might let a critter sneak inside. Seal any openings with spray foam or steel wool.

“As a bonus, doing this will let you not only avoid rodents, but also ants and fleas,” Thompson says.

Call in the pros: If there’s evidence these pesky little guys have already infiltrated your space, consider bringing in a pro. An exterminator will charge between $90 and $250 for an initial consultation, and costs will scale from there depending on what you need.

3. “FALL”-proof your space

Whether you’re getting up there in years or frequently hosting elderly parents, use the fall season to prevent, um, falls.

“Falls make up almost one-third of all nonfatal injuries in America, and a little prevention can go a long way toward keeping you safe,” says Jason Biddle, who runs The Helping Home, a resource for aging in place.

DIY: Use the “FALL” mnemonic to make sure your place is slip-proof:

  • Floors: Scan your floors for fall risks. Look for clutter, slipper stairs, and loose rugs. Add sticky padding to prevent slips.
  • Activities:: What does your daily routine look like? You might need grab bars in the shower, or a second handrail by the stairs.
  • Lighting: Is your home bright enough to see any potential hazards? “A well-lit home can help [you] avoid tripping on dining table legs, floor planters, and out-of-sight power cords,” Biddle says.
  • Leaving: Examine your porch and outdoor paths. Are there any broken steps or overgrown shrubs that might trip you up when leaving your home?

Call in the pros: Your home might require a major aging-in-place adjustment, like installing a lift or wheelchair ramp. Costs for a motorized stairway lift start at $3,000, and a wheelchair ramp could run $1,500.

4. Remove or cover your air conditioner

Unless you live in the desert or the deep South, you probably don’t run your air conditioner during autumn. But you might be letting your system waste away if you leave it sitting out in the elements all fall and winter long, which can damage the fan and coils.

DIY: “Window units should be removed, covered, and placed in an area like the garage for safekeeping until they’re needed again,” says Richard Ciresi, who runs Aire Serv in Louisville, KY. Outdoor AC units should be properly covered.

Call in the pros: If you’ve noticed your HVAC system running sluggishly all summer, now’s a great time for an inspection, which will probably cost a little more than $300.

5. Check the fireplace

Your wood-burning fireplace has been sitting dormant for months now. Make sure it’s good to go before you light it up.

DIY: Before getting your fireplace inspected, make sure you’re not putting any living things in danger.

“Check the top of the chimney for areas where birds may have nested,” Ciresi says. But check local laws first: It might be illegal to relocate active nests. Once the birds have moved on, however, you can break up the nest freely. (Just be sure to wear gloves.)

Call in the pros: Most chimney sweeps can help break up a nest, too. Besides, you’ll be needing their help for another fall must-do: sweeping the chimney. A professional inspection and sweep will cost between $100 and $250.

6. Prep your firewood pile

Nasty pests like carpenter ants or termites love hiding out in your firewood. Don’t let them hitch a ride inside.

DIY: If you’re building a firewood pile this autumn, make sure to keep those logs at least 20 feet from your home.

“This ensures that even if the wood has pests, they are less likely to transfer from the wood to your home,” Thompson says. Firewood should also be elevated during storage, which makes it even more difficult for bugs to sneak inside the wood.

Call in the pros:If you spot termites in your firewood pile, call in the pros before hauling a single log inside. Treating a local infestation might set you back $150.

7. Switch your ceiling fans

Your ceiling fans are designed to cool you off during the summer—but they also serve a need during the chilly seasons.

DIY: “Many people don’t realize the difference made with the simple reversal of your ceiling fans,” Ciresi says. “Hot air always rises, and ceiling fans are uniquely designed to direct airflow exactly where you need it most.”

Every ceiling fan has a switch hidden on its base. When the mercury level drops, flip that switch so the fan is moving clockwise.

“This updraft allows hot air to get pushed down into your rooms,” Ciresi says. “This is especially useful in rooms with very high ceilings.”

Call in the pros: Pay attention to your home’s temperature on chilly days. Are you still cold? Consider an energy audit, which will cost about $400—but may help you save tremendously on your energy bills over the next few years.

By: Jamie Wiebe, 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.

 

Real Estate @ A Glance – September 2018 Edition

September 24, 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.

 

Rising home prices, higher interest rates and increased building material costs have pressured housing affordability to a ten-year low, according to the National Association of Home Builders. Keen market observers have been watching this situation take shape for quite some time. Nationally, median household income has risen 2.6% in the last 12 months, while home prices are up 6.0%. That kind of gap will eventually create fewer sales due to affordability concerns, which is happening in several markets, especially in the middle to high-middle price ranges.

While some are starting to look for recessionary signs like fewer sales, dropping prices and even foreclosures, others are taking a more cautious and research-based approached to their predictions. The fact remains that the trends do not yet support a dramatic shift away from what has been experienced over the last several years. Housing starts are performing admirably if not excitingly, prices are still inching upward, supply remains low and consumers are optimistic. The U.S. economy is under scrutiny but certainly not deteriorating.

 

 

 

 

 

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