3 Things to know about buying a new-construction home

Home construction

Will this be the year you buy a brand-new home? Don’t be discouraged by news reports claiming that “U.S. home building fell,” or “housing starts dropped.”

The scary-sounding numbers are due to a drop in multi-family home building, not single-family.

In fact, the single-family home construction market across the country is set to be just fine, with a surge in new building permits late this summer.

Moving into a newly-built home is a lot like the first time you sit behind the wheel of a new car, but on steroids. No stinky smells from whatever it was the previous occupant was cooking, no greasy range hood and walls, no dinged-up baseboards – everything is new and pristine.

While these aspects may make you starry-eyed, there’s reality to contend with as well. Today we share with you some things to watch for when taking on the purchase of a brand-new home.

The builder’s real estate agent

When you drive up to the new home community you’ll notice quickly how you’re directed first to the builder’s office before you get to the model homes. That guy or gal sitting in the office isn’t a receptionist, but the builder’s real estate agent.

She or he will show you a map of the buildable lots available, talk to you about the community’s amenities and, naturally, the homes, before sending you on your way to view the models.

If you fall in love with one, which is every builder’s goal, you’ll want to get the purchase process underway quickly.

Hey, I don’t blame you, this is exciting stuff! And, what better and easier way to do it than to allow the builder’s agent to get the ball rolling?

Ok, that’s the third time I’ve said it: “the builder’s real estate agent.” Sure, legally this agent can represent both you and the builder, but is it a wise move?

Think about this: if it were legal, would you use your about-to-be former spouse’s attorney in your divorce proceedings? Why do you suppose that isn’t common practice?

Here’s why: it is almost impossible for the builder’s agent to protect both the builder’s interests and yours in the same transaction.

Since the seller pays for the buyers’ real estate agent at closing, it only makes sense that you have your own agent who will look out for nobody else but you.

Avoid this problem by letting the builder’s agent know, upfront, that you have an agent.

The builder’s lender

Hey, this is a one-stop shop, right? Of course!

Home builders understand that they need to hook the buyer when he or she is most excited so they offer all the services one might need to get the process started. This includes an “in-house” or “preferred” lender.

Now, unlike using the builder’s agent, there’s nothing wrong with using his or her lender, as long as you’ve shopped around and know that you’re getting a good deal.

Never feel that you have to use this lender, however, because you don’t.

The builder

Check out the builder’s reputation if you aren’t familiar with him or her. Start with the Better Business Bureau and then scour the city’s public records for lawsuits against the builder.

Buying a newly constructed home in Billings is a lot more involved than buying an existing home, but the end result is well-worth the steps it takes to get there.

Quick fixes for a stinky home

Stinky house remedies

Inured.

That’s just a fancy way of explaining how we humans can, over time, become accustomed to something unpleasant.

If you’ve ever lived near railroad tracks or under the flight path of a local airport you know what we’re talking about. At first, the noise was torture. After time, however, you may have barely noticed it.

It’s the same with smells. We become accustomed to the odors in our home and it’s not until either someone very honest comes to visit or we return home after some time away that we realize just how stinky the home is.

While pets and smokers are obvious causes of home odors, other sources are a bit harder to track down. Let’s take a look at some of the first places to check if you have stinky house.

That “smell” coming from the kitchen drain

If you’ve ever been hit in the face with a sewer-like odor coming from the kitchen sink’s drain, getting rid of it almost becomes your life’s mission.

Plumbers recommend that you start with the simple causes during the process of elimination. In this case, start with the garbage disposal.

After time, food particles can become stuck on the blades. As they build up, and decay, they’ll become smelly.

Empty a tray of ice cubes down the drain and let the disposal run until they’re ground up. Then, run cold water through the drain for about 30 seconds.

This is the fun part: pour ½ cup of baking soda down the drain, followed by a cup of vinegar (white or apple cider – it doesn’t matter).

Like a child’s science project, the drain will begin to foam and fizz and pop. Allow the self-made volcano to erupt to its fullest and when it’s finished, run hot water down the drain.

If the stench remains, and it resembles the smell of rotten eggs, you may have a larger problem.

It could be hydrogen sulfide gas, also known as “sewer gas,” coming from the main sewer line. “Sewer drains that have dry traps can allow hydrogen sulfide gas to enter the home,” according to experts at the Illinois Department of Health.

While breathing low levels of sewer gas won’t typically cause health problems, at high levels, “hydrogen sulfide gas can make you sick and could be fatal,” according to the health department.

While we can’t vouch for this detection method (published at WomansDay.com), it may be worth a try. Pour one teaspoon of peppermint oil down the kitchen drain, followed by hot water.

Walk around the home, especially to rooms with sinks (bathroom, laundry room). If you can smell the peppermint, call a plumber. The trap may be dry or even cracked.

Wait – while you’re in the laundry room

Laundry rooms centrally located within the home are often an overlooked cause of household odors.

Naturally you’ll want to be more mindful if you are one of us who allows the wet load to sit too long. After a load is finished, and you’ve removed the items from the washer, allow the washer door to remain open so that the moisture dries.

If your washer has a rubber seal around the door, clean it periodically with a solution of equal parts of white vinegar and warm water.

Newer washers have self-cleaning cycles that should be set in motion once a month. If your front-loading washer lacks this feature, run an empty load of hot water to which you’ve added 2 cups of white vinegar to the detergent dispenser.

Allow the cycle to complete and then run another, long, hot cycle with 1 cup of baking soda added to the drum.

Top loaders get a bit of a twist on the procedure, according to the experts interviewed by Today.com.

Again, set the washer to the hottest setting, at the highest water level. Place four cups of white vinegar in the detergent dispenser (or in the drum if your washer lacks a dispenser). When the machine fills and begins agitating, set it to pause and wait one hour before allowing the cycle to continue.

Run a second cycle with 1 cup of baking soda added to the hot water.

Are you really going to eat off those dishes?

Our dishwasher is the workhorse of the kitchen. Experts say it should be cleaned once a month and it’s an easy process. Run a load, without dishes, but with 1 cup of vinegar added.

You may also want to do a deep cleaning to get rid of the food debris that can cause quite the stench. This process is a bit more complicated, but worth it if it gets rid of odors.

Your owner’s manual may have deep-clean instructions. If not, the following procedure should help.

  • Remove the bottom rack from the empty dishwasher.
  • Inspect the drain and remove any debris.
  • Wipe up food scraps and other nasties from the bottom of the dishwasher.
  • Locate the dishwasher’s filter (if it has one) and remove it. Open it and clean out debris trapped inside. Rinse it well in hot water before replacing it.
  • Use a damp rag to which you’ve added a few drops of liquid dish detergent or vinegar to wipe down the dishwasher door along with its seals and the dishwasher’s racks and spray arm.
  • Use a toothpick to pick out any debris in the holes in the spray arm.
  • Check for other areas where food debris or a buildup of soap may be causing odors (for instance, around the soap dispenser and the inside of the door).
  • Run an empty load to which you’ve added dishwasher cleaner or 2 cups of vinegar.

Appliance owners’ manuals contain a wealth of valuable maintenance and cleaning information.

If you’ve lost yours you may find one online. Go to your favorite search engine and enter the name of the manufacturer and your appliance’s model number.

Dreaming of life on a golf course?

Golf Course

There was a time when real estate agents could confidently tell their clients that one of the biggest advantages of owning a home on a golf course is that the verdant view would be permanent.

Today, many owners face a view of brown, dead fairways, vandalized buildings and uncertainty about what may pop up when the land is sold.

Chalk it up to the busyness of Americans. The lengthy game of golf has declined in popularity, leaving course owners to deal with the consequences.

Or, blame the oversupply of golf courses and the waning of Tiger-mania (among other reasons), as  John Eidukot at GolfOperatorMagazine.com does.

Whatever the reasons, “More than 200 courses closed in 2017, while about 15 opened,” according to Newser.com editors, quoting National Golf Foundation figures.

We are frequently asked if golf course homes are worth more than those not similarly located, if golf course homes are a good investment and about the pros and cons of golf course living.

Here’s what we know, the good and the bad.

The future of golf

It’s not all doom and gloom for the $84 billion-dollar golf industry. Nearly 40 percent of Americans (107 million, to be more precise) either played read about or watched golf in 2018, according to the National Golf Foundation’s 2019 Golf Industry Report.

The report also found that participation has stabilized. Gone are the crazy statistics of drop-out golfers. In fact, last year, participation rates climbed. The report credits this growth, in part, to “popular off-course forms of the game such as Topgolf, Drive Shack and indoor simulators.”

Since our children are our future, there is encouraging news in the number of young golfers taking up the sport.

“There were 2.5 million junior golfers last year [2018]” the report claims and “an estimated 2.6 million beginners (those who played on a golf course for the first time) in 2018, which is near record levels and marks the fifth straight year with over 2 million newcomers.”

It appears that it’s far too soon to call time-of-death for the game of golf and, by extension, the American golf course.

5 tips to consider if you’ve been thinking about buying a home in a golf course community

  1. While living across the street from the fairways offers a homeowner additional privacy (no neighbor in front), it also provides a bird’s-eye-view to golfers – especially those wandering through your yard to retrieve balls.

Choose your location within the golf community carefully. Homes along the right side, nearest to the tee box, are statistically at higher risk for wandering golfers searching for errant balls and the damage those balls can cause.

One golfer/golf course homeowner we spoke with suggested playing the course to help you determine if the home you have your eye on is ideally located.

  1. While we stress the importance to all homebuyers interested in purchasing a home in a managed community to read the HOA documents thoroughly, it’s even more critical when considering a home on a golf course.

Is netting prohibited? Are there rules against entering the course from your property?

  1. While golf participation is stabilizing, and fewer courses are closing, keep in mind that it’s still a buyers’ market in this real estate niche. You are in the drivers’ seat, by and large, in negotiations.

4. No, you don’t need to be a golfer to enjoy golf course living. In fact, it’s estimated that only about a quarter of residents who live on or near courses play the game. They purchased the home to enjoy the scenic view, the enjoyment of not having a neighbor’s home facing theirs and the peaceful evenings.

5. Even if you do play, you may want to restrict your search for a golf course home for sale to communities that offer other amenities as well, such as walking paths or a swimming pool.

Thinking of selling your golf course home?

Realtor.com analyzed listings of homes for sale in 273 U.S. counties. They found that those listings that included the word “golf” took, on average, 75 days to sell.

These homes eventually sold for 14 percent more than the median sale price for the area and nearly 30 percent more than the nationwide median home price.

Of course, all real estate is local and markets change so the “mileage” here in our area may vary. Feel free to reach out to us for a complimentary, no-obligation determination of your home’s likely market value.

 

Your down payment: What are “seasoned and sourced funds?”

Downpayment concept

Sometimes (not often enough, in our opinion) money falls into our laps. Tax returns, bonus checks, gifts and an inheritance are just a few ways that we can come into a chunk of money suddenly.

If you’ve been saving for a down payment on a home, the windfall will go a long way toward getting you closer to home ownership. But, “sudden” money comes with a catch.

Lenders like things seasoned

Lenders become skeptical when money suddenly appears, seemingly out of nowhere. Your lender will want a paper trail of every last cent you have and expect to have in the near future.

And, the lender will ask about your down payment funds – how much you have and where it’s being kept.

They are especially wary of borrowers who have taken out another loan to get those funds. It makes the borrower more of a risk and it may also put the other lender in first place should you default on your mortgage.

Even if your down payment windfall came from a legitimate source (a big bonus at work, a tax refund, etc.) the lender will most likely ask for “seasoned” funds instead.

What are seasoned funds?

Funds are considered “seasoned” if they have been in your account for a specified amount of time. Many lenders insist on a 60-day seasoning period, some want to see that money in an account for 90 or more days. Then, there are some who require only a 30-day period.

Find out from your lender how seasoned your funds must be and don’t start the loan process until that amount of time has elapsed.

You’ll need to “source” that money as well

Where did you get the money? Be prepared to not only answer the question, but prove the source of the funds as well.

Again, lenders want to ensure that you aren’t using a short-term loan or some other source that may put the loan at risk.

If the money wasn’t saved from your income (which is easy to prove), you’ll need to offer proof that, yes, Aunt Martha died and you inherited her savings.

Taking money from an investment account to use for your down payment or closing costs?

“If you withdraw cash from an investment or retirement account (like a 401k or an IRA) that has certain restrictions on withdrawals, the underwriter will likely ask to see the terms of the withdrawal in writing,” according to Brandon Cornett at QualifiedMortgage.org.

Gift funds get extra scrutiny

For money to be considered a gift, the giver must have no expectation of being repaid.

The lender will source the gift, determining who gave it to you. Most lenders require that all gift funds must come from family members.

Gift funds get a bit trickier if you’ll be using an FHA-backed loan. Borrowers with low credit scores (typically between 580 and 619) will need to ensure that at least 3.5 percent of the down payment is their own money – it can’t come in the form of a gift.

If you will be putting down 20 percent as a down payment, regardless of your score, often the entire down payment can be sourced from a gift (ask your lender about its policies).

You’ll need a letter from the person gifting you the money, addressed to the lender. It should include the giver’s name, address and phone number, their relationship to you, the amount of the gift and the date on which it was given.

The letter should clearly state that the money was given as a gift and there is no expectation of repayment.

You’ll be asked for documentation from the lender for almost every aspect of your financial life, including a certain number of bank statements. TIP: Include ALL pages of your statements, including those that are blank.

We aren’t accountants or mortgage brokers, so we urge you to consult with a professional should you have any questions about obtaining a mortgage.

 

Autumn: the perfect time to whip that mudroom into shape

Mudroom

Folks who live in areas of the country with wild winter weather use a vocabulary that sounds like a foreign language to those who live in more mild climes.

One of the words not in the Hawaiian’s or Floridian’s vocabulary is “mudroom.”

But, whether it’s an entryway retrofitted in the winter to hold wet, muddy shoes or an entire room devoted to winter over-clothes, boots and recreational equipment, a mudroom is something many Americans can’t fathom living without.

After all, it helps keep the rest of the home clean.

That’s the beauty of the mudroom. Located at a home’s entry point, it’s a corral for grimy gear.

Whether you need to create a mudroom or want to deck out the one you already have, we’ve rounded up some brilliant tips for its floors and walls.

The best location for a mudroom

If you’re starting from scratch (creating a new mudroom), the first thing to know is that it needs to be a room off of an exterior door.

Depending on how much space you have, you’ll ideally want it out-of-sight from the rest of the house. Sure, that’s not always possible, but it’s the ideal.

After that, the sky is the limit.

Here are some tips to consider if you’ll be creating a mudroom:

If the design and décor will be more utilitarian than decorative, site the mudroom near a side or rear entryway.

If you lack space inside the home, consider turning a corner of the garage or carport into a mudroom. One of the trends in new-home construction is to combine the mudroom and the utility room.

This way, soiled clothing goes right into the washer instead of being piled in a basket (or on the floor) awaiting a trip to the laundry room.

The designers at HGTV claim that the best location for a mudroom is the room accessed first by the door to the home that you use most.

Durability is key in choosing mudroom flooring

Everything in a mudroom should be durable and efficient to use. Start with durability and you’ll thank yourself later.

Skip carpeting and opt for a flooring product that is easy to clean yet still slip-resistant. This means no tile (unless it’s labeled as slip-resistant).

Good options include:

  • Vinyl – There are some gorgeous luxury plank vinyl flooring options available today (see examples here). Some look and feel like wood and many are waterproof.

 

  • Natural stone – Yes, some types of natural stone can be quite slippery when wet. According to a study published in the Journal of Materials in Civil Engineering, it’s the composition of the stone product and not the rough finish that determines how slick it will be.

Products with more quartz, such as mica schist, are less slippery, but granite, with a high quartz content, is quite “slippery in wet conditions” because of other minerals included in the rock wear down easily. Shop carefully if you’re considering natural stone floors for your mudroom.

 

  • Concrete – Wait, don’t turn your nose up at the thought of a concrete floor. Installers are doing wonders with finishes nowadays. Take a look at examples of “Why Concrete Floors Rock” at HGTV.com.

Buy a bunch of throw rugs and some boot scrubbers and your floors will be a snap to clean.

Move on to the walls

Paint or wallpaper? Again, you’ll want to keep the focus on durability when considering how to cover the mudroom walls.

Either one, if chosen wisely, will stand up to the gunk that gets flung around a mudroom.

Semi-gloss painted walls are the easiest to clean, but choose a color that won’t show the grime (forego white).

The folks at HGTV recommend, aside from paint, wainscoting and beadboard.

When you’re considering wallpaper, look to the vinyl selections first. They clean up easily and hide a lot of “sins.” Take a look at how some homeowners have used wallpaper in their mudrooms at Houzz.com.

Find additional mudroom makeover ideas at ElleDecor.com and Pinterest.com.

Here’s what you need to know about the current real estate market

Whether you’re entertaining notions of buying or selling a home, you’re no doubt keeping up with housing news. And, what you’re seeing may concern you.

Doom and gloomers, naysayers and, curiously, even some experts are claiming that they are worried about the housing market.

The fact is, the real estate market is the one bright spot in the economy right now, and there are three reasons we can say this with confidence:

  • Pending home sales
  • Mortgage rates
  • Consumer confidence

Let’s take these one-at-a-time and break it down for you.

Pending home sales

When a homebuyer signs an agreement to purchase, the home moves from an actively for-sale status to a pending status. It is sold, pending the outcome of the contract’s details. At any rate, it is no longer on the market.

“U.S. pending home sales are at their highest level since the middle of 2017,” according to Neil Dutta, former senior economist at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch for the U.S. and Canada.

Pending home sales are a “leading indicator” of the health of the housing market, Dutta says in an article at BusinessInsider.com.

Pending sales are up in all regions across the country.

On a side note, despite what you’ll read in the news about the slowing of new-home sales, they have increased 15 percent so far this year as well.

Mortgage rates

Mortgage applications for home purchases have increased roughly 15 percent from last year. This is proof-positive that a decrease in mortgage rates is most definitely stimulating the market.

Especially when one crunches the numbers, it’s easy to see that buying a home when rates drop may just beat the cost of renting. Plus, you’ll accumulate wealth in the process of owning the home.

“Let’s say you considered buying a $300,000 home on a 30-year mortgage in the fall, but held off,” explains Gretchen Frazee, deputy digital editor for PBS NewsHour.

“If you were to buy the same house now, the interest rate drop could decrease your monthly payments by $160 per month and save more than $60,000 over the life of the loan,” she concludes.

Consumer confidence

Consumer confidence is measured by a number of governmental offices and universities. The University of Michigan, for instance, recently released its August consumer confidence poll which showed consumer sentiment, overall, declining.

Keep in mind when you read news about consumer confidence that it is a measurement of confidence in the economy as a whole.

Fannie Mae publishes the Home Purchase Sentiment Index which focuses solely on consumer confidence in the housing market. That is the measurement to watch when you’re keeping tabs on the real estate market as a consumer.

“According to the Conference Board, buying intentions for new homes have exploded to levels not seen since before the financial crisis,” claims Dutta. And, he is correct.

So, while journalists and other non-real estate professionals spread doom and gloom about the housing market, as you can see by Fannie Mae’s graph, consumers are feeling the opposite.

What about the predicted recession?

The U.S. economy, or “business cycle” includes four phases:

  • Expansion
  • Peak
  • Recession
  • Trough

Our economy’s “natural state” is expansion, where we experience robust sales, consistent wage growth, increasing GDP and low unemployment rates.

Many economists are saying we’ve reached the peak of the current economic cycle which typically lasts 10 years, so we’re long overdue for a recession.

Don’t allow recession talk to frighten you out of realizing your real estate plans, whether that means buying or selling a home.

Especially if you hope to sell this year or next, you’ll be happy to know that in all but one recession in recent history, homes actually sold for more than they did before the downturn in the economy.

None of the top economists who are predicting an oncoming recession blame it on the housing market (which played a large part in the 2008-2010 recession), so it should survive, relatively unscathed.

It’s important to keep in mind that, right now, the market is in the process of normalizing, coming down from the heady sellers’ market of the past few years.

Take a deep breath, ignore the doomsayers and continue on with your real estate plans.

4 signs that your HVAC system is in trouble

From handling summer’s heat to keeping us toasty when it’s chilly outside, our HVACs are one of the hardest working systems in our homes.

As they chug through their lives with nary a problem, it’s frighteningly easy to become complacent about routine maintenance and checkups.

Since a new system can run you between $1,900 and $5,100 (on average), according to HomeAdvisor.com, it only makes sense to start paying attention for signs that the system may be in trouble.

Let’s take a look at some common symptoms to watch for.

1. Something stinks

Strange, nasty odors in the air inside your home may indicate a number of problems with your HVAC system.

If the air smells like something may be burning, it could be a “problem within the motor or the wiring,” according to the pros at compactappliance.com.

They suggest that when you turn the heating system on at the beginning of the season, it may blow out stale air that may have a tinge of an odor similar to something burning.

Let the system run for about 20 or 30 minutes and if the odor doesn’t go away, call an HVAC repair specialist before using it again.

If, on the other hand, the system is emitting a rotten egg smell, turn it off, leave the home immediately and call your gas company. A rotten egg smell is the sign of a natural gas leak.

Does the air smell moldy? One of the most common problems with HVAC systems is a failure to drain moisture adequately. If the moisture gets into the ducts, it can cause mold.

Thankfully, this isn’t a serious problem and can be remedied by an HVAC technician. Don’t let the problem fester, though, or you it may cause health problems.

2. The A/C is blowing hot air

According to pippinbrothers.com, there are many reasons an air conditioning system blows hot – instead of cool – air.

The most common reasons include:

The thermostat is set incorrectly. “It may sound silly, but we’ve seen it happen before,” say the Pippin Brothers. They suggest the first thing to check when you aren’t getting cool air is the thermostat. It may be set to “heat” instead of “cool.”

If that isn’t the cause, ensure that the thermostat is set to “auto” or “on.” “If it’s set to ‘on,’ that means the fan will blow even when the air conditioner isn’t actually cooling,” according to the brothers.

Switch it to auto and adjust the temperature to start the unit. If it’s still blowing hot air, you may have a more serious problem and it’s time to call in a specialist.

3. Little to no air coming from the HVAC unit

Check the filters if the airflow from the HVAC unit is restricted. Often, all it takes to remedy the situation is a new or clean air filter.

If you don’t have routine maintenance done on the unit, it may be dirty coils restricting the airflow. If you can’t determine the problem, call in a professional. Allowing this problem to fester can cause the compressor to fail.

The compressor is one of the main parts of the system and it’s costly to replace. Depending on the system, it may cost between $1,500 and $2,000 according to the pros at AceHomeServices.com.

4. Weird noises

The professionals at American Home Shield, the home warranty company, say that there are eight different noises that may come from your HVAC system.

“Ignoring the mysterious noises from your AC can turn minor issues into major expenses, as these noises could signal anything from needing a simple tune up to costly repairs, to —worst case — replacement of the entire unit,” they caution.

Banging, clanging, clicking, buzzing, squealing, screaming, humming or rattling may be an indication of

  • A refrigerant leak
  • High internal pressure within the compressor
  • Loose parts
  • A clog in the system
  • Bad fan motor or indoor blower
  • Dirty condenser coil

Any noises coming from the system indicate a problem (which may not be serious). Turn off the system and call an HVAC technician for a diagnosis.

Having the A/C fail during summer heat or the heater give out during winter can largely be prevented with routine maintenance of the system.

Homebuyer tip: Don’t commit these negotiation blunders

As a homebuyer, unless you are buying direct from the owner, you’ll not negotiate with the seller of the home you have your eye on.

That’s your real estate agent’s job. But he or she negotiates on your behalf. So, when we talk about buyer negotiations with sellers, we’re referring to indirect negotiations through your agent, as middle-person.

Unless you’re an attorney, a salesperson or in another occupation that requires negotiating skills, we think it’s safe to say that it’s not something you do on a regular basis.

If done correctly, negotiation requires subtlety and the ability and willingness to find a win-win for all parties.

Certain negotiating tactics can railroad a real estate deal, instantly. Let’s take a look at some of these to help you avoid losing out on that home you want.

Using the home inspection as a negotiation excuse

The one blanket statement that we feel safe in making to all homebuyers is that they must get the home professionally inspected. Yes, even recently-built homes.

After the inspection, the inspector will issue a report, listing all of the problems or potential problems he or she found during a visual inspection of the home.

Some of the problems may be significant but most are not. If you find the report somewhat acceptable, but would like a few items repaired or replaced, we will reopen negotiations with the seller.

This is where some homebuyers become unreasonable, using nit-picking in an attempt to drive down the price of the home.

Keep in mind that, unless the home was listed for sale “as-is,” homeowners are only obligated to remedy defects that your lender or insurer will require (typically those of a health and safety nature), those specifically named in the purchase contract and those required by law.

The seller is not required to adjust the price instead of making repairs. And, most sellers won’t even consider replacing or repairing defects that can be remedied easily and inexpensively.

Everything, however, is negotiable and your choices in the deal include:

  • Asking the seller to make the repairs
  • Asking the seller to decrease the price of the home to compensate for the cost of repairs
  • Walk away from the deal

The homeowner’s choices include saying yes or no to the first two, coming up with a list of what he or she is willing to deal on, or deciding not to continue with the sale.

If you really want the home, think twice about reopening negotiations unless the home’s defects are major and will require great expense.

Insisting on making a lowball offer

We understand that you want the best deal possible, but a very low offer on a home you truly want to purchase is typically a foolish negotiating tactic.

In a buyers’ market, when there are lots of homes for sale but few buyers, you may get away with an offer under asking price. But a ridiculously low offer will most likely be treated as an insult by the seller.

It also makes you appear like a bargain hunter, ruining your credibility in the eyes of the seller.

A homeowner has several choices when confronted by a low offer. Unfortunately, many of them feel so insulted they won’t even respond.

So, instead of getting a chance to haggle on the price of the home, you’re shut out. Completely.

Assuming the seller wants to part with personal belongings to get the home sold

Sure, in slow markets, sellers may do almost anything if their home has been sitting on the market and they need it sold quickly.

But, before you demand that they leave the home’s furniture, appliances and the dog, keep in mind that desperation on the seller’s part is the exception, not the rule.

Unless expressly stated in the contract, the homeowner is selling their home, not their personal belongings.

Asking for too much makes you appear greedy – and not someone a seller is likely going to want to negotiate with.

The most important thing to remember, especially in a market that favors sellers, is that the seller may very well be negotiating with other buyers. Go in with your best and highest offer and try to keep it as “clean” as possible.

We’re happy to show you how.

 

5 Mistakes to avoid when hiring a plumber

From $45 to $200 per hour. That’s what you’ll pay, on average, to hire a plumber, according to HomeAdvisor.com’s True Cost Guide. But, that’s for small tasks, such as faucet, toilet or sink repair.

Need a water heater installed? That will run you around $1,000, on average, nationwide.

Not all plumbers are alike, with the same amount of experience and the same skills. Assuming they are is probably the most common mistake consumers make.

Let’s take a look at five additional mistakes that homeowners commonly make when hiring a plumber.

1. Choosing “cheap” over qualified

Go to any local social media platform, such as Facebook neighborhood groups and NextDoor, or sites such as Craigslist.org and you’ll find lots of people offering their services for a variety of home repair and maintenance tasks.

Group members often offer referrals. Far too often, however, the person seeking the referral is looking for the lowest price, not the most qualified contractor. Inevitably, this same neighbor will be back posting a month later, bemoaning the horrible job that was done.

Yes, it’s always smart to save money. But, remember, you truly do get what you pay for. When the job is something important to your family’s comfort and safety, such as many plumbing tasks, hire a professional plumber.

2. Not ensuring the plumber is licensed

Some states require that plumbers be licensed, while others require registration with the state. You can find each state’s requirements at HomeAdvisor.com.

A license is proof that the plumber has passed an exam that tests his or her knowledge. Always ask if the plumber is licensed and ask to see the license.

Also ensure that the business the plumber works for is licensed.

3. Not inquiring about bonding and insurance

Ask the plumber you are interviewing if he or she carries general liability insurance. This insurance covers any damage caused as a result of the plumber’s work.

Then inquire about bonding. A bond guarantees financial protection against a number of issues, such as work that doesn’t meet local codes or an incomplete job. Ask for written proof of the bond.

Finally, if the plumber works for someone else, ask if his or her employer carries worker’s compensation insurance. This insurance pays for injuries incurred during the time the plumber is working in your home.

4. It’s a huge mistake to not ask for references

When a friend, colleague or neighbor recommends a plumber, do yourself a favor and do some additional checking.

Go to the plumber’s website to find reviews. If you can’t find any there, check Yelp.com. Then, ask the plumber for the names and phone numbers of his or her last three clients. Call each one for a review of the plumber’s work.

Finally, check to see if the plumber is rated at the Better Business Bureau and whether any complaints have been filed against the plumber and/or the business.

5. Not getting the agreement in writing

Ask that all the details of the job, the agreed upon time for completion and the price be put in writing, signed by the owner of the plumbing company.

While this agreement will keep the plumber on task, it will also protect you in the event something doesn’t occur as agreed or there is another problem.

Ensure that their refund policy is clearly outlined in the agreement.

Like those in most industries, honest, ethical plumbers suffer from those among them who are unscrupulous, dishonest and who perform substandard work.

Avoid going the “cheap” route and hire a professional.

 

Start preparing now for a fall or winter home sale

Did you know that winter is one of the best seasons to sell a home?

Fewer homeowners list their homes during winter so naturally, fewer homes sell. But homes that are listed in winter have a better chance of selling than those listed for sale in summer, fall and, yes, even spring.

Home sell quicker in winter too and, best of all, they sell for more than they do in fall and summer and only slightly less than in spring, according to a study by a national real estate brokerage.

The study looked at how much above list price homes eventually sold for during each season:

  • Spring: 18.7%
  • Summer: 15.1%
  • Fall: 14.7%
  • Winter: 17.5%

What’s equally surprising is that the winter numbers remain consistent regardless of the season’s severity. So, from Miami to Minneapolis, Anchorage to Las Vegas, the likelihood of selling and the percentage of list price realized is the same. Snow or no snow.

Get even more with this one brilliant tip

The way to get even more for your home, regardless of season, is to make it stand out among the competition. This is a bit more challenging in winter, when everyone’s deciduous trees appear lifeless and everyone’s lawn looks the same.

Since most homebuyers shop online, however, a photograph of your home is most likely how they’ll be introduced. By photographing it now, while the sun is shining and greenery is actually green, you’re giving your home a leg up on the competition.

Imagine scrolling through winter listings online and landing on one that completely stands out from all the rest. The chances are excellent that this home would go on your “let’s go see this one in person” list.

It’s called “green photography”

Surprisingly, it hasn’t dawned on the majority of other real estate agents to take advantage of this marketing opportunity, so the chances are excellent that your home may be the only one with sunshine in it’s “hero” shot (the first photo people see on the MLS).

To accompany the summer feeling in a winter home sale, we suggest you tour your landscape and make a diagram or notes on what is planted where.

We can then blow up an exterior photo and make notes directly on it as to where the mock orange is planted, what color roses they can expect in spring and which of those twiggy trees bears delicious peaches in the summer. We’ll leave it out for buyers to see when they tour the home.

Winter curb appeal is still important

Even in the most frightful weather, a home’s exterior appearance can make or break the homebuyer’s decision to leave the warmth of the car to venture up the walkway to your home.

Color is inviting, so anything that can be done to add color outside will pay off. Some of our clients repaint the mailbox and front door in summer or fall in preparation for a winter sale.

Others add pathway lighting for those after-work hours showings. You’ll find additional winter curb appeal tips that you should think about now at BobVila.com, HGTV and Pinterest.com.

It’s not easy to think about the thicker socks, scarves and hats we’ll be donning in just a few months. But winter will be here before we know it and when it comes to a future home sale, it pays to be prepared.

If you’re among those who will be selling in fall or winter, call us to get those photos taken now.