Have you ever seen a friend or family member post on social media about their home purchase or sale? I certainly have! Sometimes those posts include information that could benefit one party to the transaction. This is why I strongly recommend changing your privacy settings on social platforms, especially Facebook, so only your friends can see your posts. Not public or friends of friends.
I often look up the other party to a transaction on social media. I try to get an idea of who they are and hope that I luck out by finding a post that says they found the home of their dreams. Great, now I know my seller has a stronger negotiating position because someone has declared to the world of Facebook that they love my listing. Maybe they posted they’ve moved out of state and posted a photo of that new home they just bought. Super, now I know you are likely quite motivated to sell.
Other agents are also looking you up on social media. By changing your settings, they won’t be able to see your personal information. Since you are working with me, you are not going to post about your home search or purchase until after the closing anyway. Correct?!
We are all learning with social media that revealing too much personal information can lead to unintended consequences. There is already an issue with wire fraud and people posing as real estate agents to trick buyers into wiring funds to the wrong account. Let’s not make it easier for them to track down buyers and sellers by blasting that on social media. Keep it under wraps and then, post closing, have at it!
With all the new home technology available, there are a myriad of ways to secure your home. The more tech savvy are controlling everything from the HVAC system to interior room lights to a crock pot from a phones. Others are still using a wooden rod in the track of a sliding door so whatever your level of home security prowess, here are some simple tips/reminders:
1. Keep your yard mowed and well-maintained. While you might be out of town for a few weeks this summer, make sure your exterior doesn’t clearly advertise that.
2. Have dawn to dusk lights on your exterior. You can add a sensor to existing lights so they turn on and off automatically. If you want to take it one step further, buy a timer for an interior light or two giving the appearance someone is home.
3. Install an alarm system. Today’s alarm systems aren’t hardwired and difficult to install. In fact, many homeowners are installing systems themselves. There are systems you can own and take with you if you move. I personally use SimpliSafe.
4. Deadbolt doors and lock all windows. It is so easy to forget to do this so give doors and windows a check before you head out of town.
5. Be smart about what and when you post on social media. Don’t advertise to the public you are away on a week long vacation.
6. MY TOP TIP FOR BUYERS – RE-KEY YOUR NEW HOME. We don’t know how many copies of your keys are floating around town. A local locksmith like J&S Locksmith can get it done!
7. Have you ever heard of a Door Devil? This device prevents your door from being easily kicked-in and, according to Door Devil, installation is easy peasy. Doors are kicked in regardless of there being a security system or not, so just one more smart way to keep you and your valuables safe.
Pro tip: Don’t leave boxes from expensive purchases sitting outside without breaking them down – you don’t need to advertise what might be found in your house.
Want to keep some preventable maintenance from haunting you during a home inspection? If you purchased a home in the last year, then you probably remember the inspection process and whether or not the home you bought had a slew of issues. Could any of those have been prevented by regular maintenance? I would suspect so and this is why I am encouraging good care of your home. It’s your biggest asset after all!
√ Deep cleaning – including wiping down baseboards & cleaning windows.
√ Check smoke detectors/carbon monoxide detectors & replace batteries
√ Service and clean your A/C system
√ Clean your disposal – put 1/2 cup baking soda down the drain followed by 1 cup of white vinegar. Plug drain and wait several minutes. Then flush with hot water.
√ Add window screens if you took them out over the winter.
√ If you have landscaping beds and want to prevent weed germination, this is the time to sprinkle on some Preen or other weed control.
√ Carefully power wash siding, patios, walkways, and even driveways to remove build-up.
√ Clean/repair decks. Waterproof and/or re-stain or paint if needed.
√ Clean out dryer vent and any other exhaust vents exiting your home.
√ Clean aerators on faucets and shower heads. Protect sink aerator by covering with masking tape before using pliers to remove. Use a toothbrush carefully to clean without scratching.
√ Check all tile grout and caulking around sinks, tubs, etc… Repair as necessary.
√ Clean gutters. I can not stress the importance of this enough!
√ While cleaning gutters, take a peek at the roof to see if there are any obvious issues.
√ Trim branches that overhang or are touching the roof/siding.
√ Have your furnace cleaned and serviced.
√ Winterize exterior faucets. Unhook your hoses before the first frost.
√ Have chimney cleaned.
√ Test sump pump. Make sure it’s plugged in and all looks good.
√ Service and clean furnace. Ask your HVAC professional to also take a look at your water heater, checking for any issues.
√ Remove window screens to store for the winter. Have any damaged screens repaired.
√ Vacuum refrigerator coils – it will run more efficiently!
√ Deep clean your basement. Look for signs of mold and water.
√ Check your crawlspace for water and mold. Easier said than done, so hire a foundation company or home inspector to inspect for you.
√ Check toilets to see if they are loose at the floor and tighten.
√ Reverse the direction of your ceiling fans to circulate the warm air – energy tip!
* Don’t forget to check your furnace filter and replace when necessary.
If you’ve been home shopping or home stalking in the 21st century, then you’ve heard of the Zestimate. It has been credited for Zillow’s instant popularity and continues to generate buzz today. Is this magical estimate of value generated by algorithm’s the end all be all to your home value? No, it isn’t!
Is the Zestimate an appraisal?
I met a seller once who said to me that he knew the value of his home because he had an appraisal. When asked who conducted the appraisal, he said Zillow. Then I asked if he let the appraiser from Zillow come into his home, if they studied his neighborhood and studied the market. Of course that did not happen because your Zestimate is NOT an appraisal. Appraisers are licensed, they follow a code of ethics & conduct, and they often live in the market they serve. An algorithm can not duplicate their knowledge of an area or the condition of home.
Is the Zestimate accurate?
If a seller tells me they are thrilled with their Zestimate that sets off all sorts of alarms for me. It could be accurate, but I don’t know that there is any rhyme or reason to why it is way off or closer to market value at times. I sold a home this year that had a Zestimate nearly $75,000 less than my list price and it sold for list price. That particular Zestimate also showed that in the previous 30 days the home value had decreased by $11,000. If I had put ANY stock in that estimate, my seller’s would have sorely lost out on a lot of cash. I also see Zestimate ranges of over $100,000!!!! So they are saying a home could be worth between $300,000-$425,000. That really confuses buyers and sellers. It’s like predicting Indiana weather, it could be sunny or we could have arctic blasts followed by hail.
Why isn’t it accurate?
I think a computer program can generate a range in sale price with the right information, but to get to an actual listing price there is a more human element involved. There are some important considerations that are missing from the Zestimate. Does Zillow know which schools are really popular? Have they been in your home to see how it compares to others in your area? Do they know if your neighborhood is appreciating or depreciating? Do they know your backyard has the best sledding hill in the area? These are just a few of the things that I have to think about when listing a home for sale.
As a REALTOR, I know that sellers often perceive their home value to be more than the actual market value. There are things about homes that sellers might not care about, but the average buyer will as they compare your home to others. A 4 bed, 2.5 bath home might have similar specs on paper to another in the area, but the other home might have a new roof, new kitchen, larger bedrooms, and a better yard. So we have to account for that when determining price. Your home Zestimate might be similar, but market value will not be as similar.
If you want to know what your home is worth, call me. I will run comps and give you an idea of what you can expect for your home. The sale price of a home is different at any point in time because buyers are entering and exiting the market. Consider our area where we tend to have a very active Spring market, but when Winter hits we slow down a lot. Listings lag over the colder months and that does affect pricing.
Have fun checking out Zestimate’s and trying to guess how accurate they are, but don’t think too hard about them! When a home is pended the Zestimate seems to magically get closer to the list price, something I’ve noticed. I would assume Zillow wants to create data showing the accuracy of the Zestimate. If they were to take the last Zestimate posted before a home is a closed sale, then they could say their estimate was really close to sale price.
The most entertaining part of Zestimate’s for me is the constant increase and decrease in home values that sometimes are quite drastic over a short period of time. I also love that there are numbers like $386,509 listed as a Zestimate. Wowzers. I have never seen such inaccurate accuracy!
Happy Buying and Selling!
I always recommend a radon test when purchasing a home. Your inspector will ask if you’d like to test for radon. Some homes have radon mitigation systems in place, but many don’t. It doesn’t hurt to test even if a system is in place in order to confirm that it’s doing its job. Homes on crawlspaces can test high for radon so it’s not just limited to homes with basements.
What is radon?
It is a colorless, odorless radioactive gas that is caused by a breakdown of uranium and moves up from the ground into the air we breathe. So it can exist anywhere and your greatest exposure is in your home where you spend most of your time. Testing is the only way to know your level of exposure.
Is it dangerous?
Yes, radon can cause cancer and it certainly impacts your indoor air quality. Radon is the number one cause of lung cancer among non-smokers. It is estimated to be responsible for 21,000 lung cancer deaths per year (2,900 of those individuals never smoked).
What level of radon is allowable by EPA standards?
If a home tests at 4 pCi/L (picocuries per liter) or higher then it is recommended that a radon mitigation system be installed. Those systems are very effective at lowering levels and several companies in the area are qualified to do that. The level of radon is an average over a period of time. Nearly 1 out of every 15 homes is estimated to have elevated radon levels.
How is it mitigated?
A vent pipe system with a fan is typically installed to pull radon from beneath the home and vent it outside. It doesn’t require any major changes to a home so it’s relatively easy to add. The cost can range between $900-$1,500 depending on how large the home is. Two systems might be required. I would consider inquiring about radon-resistant construction techniques if I were building or remodeling a home. In addition to a radon system, you can also have foundation cracks sealed or anything else sealed that might be letting the gas escape into the home. That will help make the system more effective.
As always, reach out to me with any further questions!
So you want to buy a home, but are you really ready to buy in this market? The number one thing that sellers fear is buyers walking away from the sale. Thus, sellers and their savvy realtors know that they need to see a solid letter from a lender OR proof of funds before they accept an offer. This means that once you, as a buyer, have interviewed realtors (yes, buyers can and should interview realtors) and selected one, the next step is going to be to meet with lenders if you are getting a loan.
There are a number of things that can happen when the time arrives for you to attain a pre-qualification or pre-approval letter from a lender.
1.) You call your realtor out of the blue to see a home you love and don’t have a letter yet.
2.) You saw a home with your realtor that you want to make an offer on, but don’t have a letter yet.
3.) You have your letter ready, but it’s for an amount different than what you are offering.
For scenarios, 1 and 2 your best and fastest way to get pre-qualified is to fill out an online application. That way you have a letter to submit with your offer. You are not obligated to use that lender, but it sure would’ve been easier if you met with and selected a lender prior to making an offer. It’s not uncommon for buyers to put the cart before the horse, so don’t despair. You are just making things a bit more hectic for yourself.
The third scenario means you are on top of things (gold star for you) and all we need to do is email your lender to update your letter reflecting the offer price. Why show your cards this early in the game? The point is to at least show the seller you can very likely afford what you are offering. There might be an instance where it makes sense to send a letter showing you are approved for more than the purchase price, like in a multiple offer situation. This will display your financial capacity is in excess of what will be required for that particular purchase.
Different lenders, the type of loan you are taking and your personal financial situation can all affect what is needed. These are commonly requested: Last year’s W2s, recent pay check stub, and the last two months of bank and/or investment account statements. For a credit report they will need your social security number, date of birth, and a 2 year residence history.
What if I am self-employed?
If self-employed then your lender will need personal tax returns for the last 2 years as well as business returns if you file those separately from your personal tax return.
Are you reading this and thinking that maybe you should connect with a lender? Reach out to me and I can help. Happy Borrowing!
Home inspections are a key part of the buying and selling process in real estate transactions. Every market is unique in terms of the way buyers and sellers approach inspections and then subsequently negotiate inspection items.
- In our local market, it is customary for the buyer to schedule an inspection after an offer is accepted and a typical inspection period is 14-18 days.
- The buyer pays for a general inspection and depending on any additional inspections taking place like radon, septic, termite, etc… the cost can climb to well over $500.
- The inspection period covers the time for an inspection and by the end of that period, the buyers will have to make their formal response to the sellers unless they ask for additional time to have other professionals evaluate items that came up in the report. Another blog post will be dedicated to more about selecting an inspector, the inspection process, and how to sift through the response items to make the best response.
Top 10 Inspection Issues:
1. Drainage issues due to clogged gutters and downspouts. It’s Indiana and it can be really really wet here. Cleaning gutters and downspouts as well as adding gutter extensions can do a lot to keep water away from your foundation.
2. Water or moisture in the crawlspace. The addition of a sump pump or some perimeter drainage often does the trick. The key is to keep water from getting in and when it does get it out. It might be that this is a result of clogged gutters and/or downspouts so check those first.
3. Damaged trim around doors and windows. Again, another water issue…notice the theme here. This permits water intrusion and the trim should be replaced or repaired.
4. Missing GFCI receptacle. This is a common safety/shock hazard noted in inspections. Have a licensed electrician install the proper receptacle.
5. Windows with broken seals. Oh this one, ALL the time! This is what causes the foggy glass that you can’t get clear no matter how hard you scrub. The glass needs to be replaced and local glass companies can take care of this chore. Sometimes this fix takes a while with the glass company first measuring, then ordering, and then installing.
6. Light fixture doesn’t work. If you are a seller, make sure your light bulbs are not burned out. Also, leave out any fan/light controls. Often a non-working ceiling fan or light is because they didn’t have the remote to test it.
7. Damaged siding. Moisture can penetrate and cause additional deterioration behind the siding so it should be replaced with the best match.
8. Mold. I often find mold showing up on reports in the crawlspace or attic. There are companies that will test for mold and some clients want to have the home tested after any mold remediation is done by the sellers qualified contractor. For buyers with mold allergies, this is a top concern.
9. Foundation settlement/possible structural concerns. This is something that will strike fear into the hearts of buyers, especially first-time home buyers. If the inspector recommends a structural engineer take a look, then I put my buyers in touch with our local engineer to get his professional opinion. If there are structural issues, the engineer will draw up a plan to remedy them and typically buyers will have sellers at least provide a credit for this work. One thing to keep in mind is that when you start to mess with the foundation of a home, you will find that you might have additional repairs to drywall which will lead to re-painting.
10. Roof with missing shingles, nails popping up, and damaged shingles. It’s fairly easy to have a roofing company come assess a roof based on the inspectors concerns and create an estimate for any necessary repairs. If you think your roof has storm damage, give your insurance agent a call to have it assessed in case they determine a new roof or repairs are covered.
Many sellers are surprised when they see the inspection report on their home. If you want to try to avoid some surprises, think about having a pre-listing inspection. Note that Radon is not mentioned here as that is a separate inspection and will be discussed in another post. Happy buying and selling!
Have you noticed that realtors use a lot of abbreviations and lingo that you aren’t familiar with? Here are a few terms and their meanings to help you get the gist of what we are talking about.
CMA: Comparative Market Analysis. This is a report that shows how a home you are considering compares with similar homes that have sold, are still on the market, or that have expired.
Closing Costs: There are several different “closing costs.” There is the cost to close at the title company, the appraisal, lender fees, title insurance, and other miscellaneous fees. In our market, the cost to close at the title company is typically split and the associated costs for a buyer’s loan are often paid by the buyer unless they ask the seller for assistance. Closing costs can range from
Comps: Comparable Sales. These are the sales, typically going back six months, which are most similar to the home you are considering and are used to create the CMA.
Contingency: An agreement is not fully binding until a specified condition is met. A home inspection and financing are two common contingencies. Sometimes a contingency could be a survey or maybe the buyer wants to confirm they can add a separate garage so the purchase is contingent on that approval. Too many contingencies can spook a seller, but there might be some out of the ordinary that are important to a buyer and make sense for their intended use.
Fixture: Something permanently affixed or attached to real property. For example, blinds or curtain rods are fixtures, but drapes might not be because they can be slid off the rod. Carpet, lighting, and bathroom mirrors are fixtures. It is important to know what is and isn’t included in a sale so there isn’t a dispute over what is personal property and what is a fixture.
FSBO: For Sale By Owner. Listings that will not appear in your local MLS and are advertised solely by the owner for sale without a contract with a realtor. A very large percentage of FSBO deals never make it to the closing table after accepting an offer.
HOA: Home Owners Association. Typically if there is an HOA it is a mandatory HOA meaning that there are dues required to be paid on a pre-determined schedule (monthly, quarterly, annually…) by each homeowner. Our purchase agreements provide a section asking the seller to provide any documents related to a mandatory HOA and giving the buyer time to review those documents plus ask questions.
Lockbox: This is how real estate agents or other members of the board of local realtors, like inspectors or appraisers, will access your home. Our lockboxes are controlled by an app on our phones that only board members have access to download. The lockboxes are secure, trust me, I’ve tried everything to break into one that ate a key and was stuck! I had to mail it back to the lockbox company for them to remove the key.
LTV: Loan To Value. The amount of money you borrow divided by the price you pay for your home. If your home is $100,000 and you put down $10,000 then your LTV is $90,000/$100,000 = 90%.
MLS: Multiple Listing Service. It is a local organization that collects data and information about homes listed for sale by its members. Membership is not open to the public. Realtors pay annual dues to belong. The data in the MLS can be then picked up by external real estate sites should you choose to allow your listing to be public.
PMI: Private Mortgage Insurance. If you don’t have 20% to put down on your conventional loan, then most lenders will require PMI which provides insurance safeguarding the lender in the event you default on your loan. Typically you can drop your PMI payment once you have reached that threshold of having 20% LTV. FHA loans typically require this regardless of your downpayment or LTV.
Realtor®: A real estate professional who is a member of the NAR (National Association of Realtors).
Title Insurance: An insurance policy that either protects the owner’s or lender’s interest in a property. Typically the buyer pays for the lender policy – which is only required when there is a loan. The seller typically pays for the owner’s policy to prove that Aunt Ethel is not going to come claim ownership of the property after you move in. Details in the title policy would show that the sellers do in fact own the property, if there are any judgements or liens, all easements or encumbrances that have been recorded, etc. Read your title insurance policy!
If lingo is being thrown around that you don’t understand, ask your real estate agent or lender what it means. I find buyers and sellers sometimes don’t ask the questions because they are worried about bugging us. It is our job to help keep you informed and answer your questions, so you are not bugging us. The process will be much smoother if you fully understand what is going on. Here’s to a smooth real estate transaction!
Buying or selling a home is an exciting time and you can help the process go smoothly by selecting the right agent for you. How might you go about doing that? Here are some things to consider.
Interview realtors. Yes, you can and should interview realtors to help you with buying or selling!
- I would recommend choosing three agents to interview. Consider the knowledge of the area you are looking in or where you will be listing your home. It’s so important that they work in your area frequently.
- It’s also important to find out about their experience and results. Find out how long they’ve been in the business, whether they generally work with buyers and/or sellers or both, and why they should get your business.
- Check out their testimonials online to see if they are satisfying clients they work with or if the testimonials are nonexistent. You’d be surprised!
With buyers in mind, you’ll want to find someone who can operate on a similar schedule for showings and knows the neighborhoods well where you are looking. Many experienced agents limit their hours so they aren’t available 24/7 and some specifically limit evening work if that doesn’t suit them. If you are only available after 5 o’clock that just wouldn’t be a good fit. Be upfront about your expectations about showings. I like to plan ahead for showings so that sellers are ready and so we can try to see multiple homes at a time. I also make sure my buyers get into homes they are anxious to see in the Spring when our market is the busiest.
For sellers, I think it’s important to see how the agents listings are presented online. Are the photographs professional, is the description well written, and are there any other details that make that listing stand apart from the rest? What other marketing do they do for their listings outside of the MLS? For example, I do floorplan drawings for my listings, send out just listed postcards, post to social media, and have aerial photos as well as drone video done depending on the property.
Ultimately, you’re going to have the best experience if you choose the agent you like and you think you would be happy working with. After all, you will be communicating regularly. Look for similar core values, a passion for real estate, direct answers to your questions, and honesty.