Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Did you know?

The top 6 (unexpected) things that can cost you money when you sell your house

When you list your home for sale, your first priority as a seller is to make your home available to as many qualified buyers as possible. Any obstacles you put in place that impede that goal will cost you money in the long run. There are only so many hours that buyers and their agents can spend each week looking at homes. To maximize their time, a buyer’s agent will run a list of properties that are available in a given neighborhood in her buyer’s price range and then begin weeding out properties that 1) are difficult to show; 2) are ugly in the online photos; or 3) appear to be less of a bargain compared to others in the same price range.

As a seller, you want to be in the very first batch of properties the agent will show to her clients. If you’re not, you may not get a second chance with that buyer. If a buyer or agent has eliminated your property from the first batch of listings, they will only come back to your house if the buyer doesn’t find a property he or she likes. Being in the first batch raises your likelihood for a sale.

So, in no particular order, here are the top six (unexpected, and possibly controversial) things that can cost you money when you put your home on the market:
  1. Your dog (or cat). I know you love your dog. I know your dog is part of your family. I know that you love your dog more than you love most people. But dogs cost sellers money. First, if your home can’t be shown unless you’re available to take the dog for a walk, for instance, that limits when buyers and their agents can visit. Second, some buyers (and agents) are simply afraid of dogs and other pets. And third, some buyers are allergic to pet dander and will steer clear of homes with obvious pets.
  2. Your baby. Yep, I said it. Out loud. I know, you love your baby as much as (or more than) your dog. But, babies can cost their parents money when selling a home. If your baby is on a sleep schedule that interferes with daytime or early evening showings, you’re going to limit the number of buyers who will consider your home. Buyers don’t care about your time. They only care about their time. If the property can’t be seen at a time that’s convenient to them, that home ceases to exist from their perspective. Will they make an appointment to come at another time? Perhaps. But only if they don’t find another property to buy first.
  3. Listing-agent only showings. Yes, I know that no agent knows your house better than your listing agent. And I’m sure that your listing agent could sell the hell out of your house to my buyers if given the opportunity. But, I don’t want to have to schedule my showing around your listing agent’s calendar (and, I’ll let you in on a little secret —- neither does your listing agent). If the property has been properly marketed, a good buyer agent can sell your home to the right buyer. Trust me.
  4. 24-hour notice. Just like with babies and dogs above, making buyers and their agents give you 24-hour notice before they can see your property will eliminate showings. And the thing is, you won’t know you didn’t make the cut, because those buyer agents simply won’t call for an appointment. Often, buyer agents don’t pull listings they want to show their clients until the day of those showings —- to make sure they have the freshest MLS data available. If a buyer agent pulls your listing from the MLS and sees that it requires 24 hours’ notice, your property often goes to the bottom of the pile. Will those buyers come back to your property on another outing? Possibly. But is it worth the risk?
  5. Tenants. No matter how lovely your tenants and no matter how amicable your relationship up to this point, putting your home on the market is a pain in your tenant’s backside. Yes, I know, you’ve taken your listing agent’s advice and offered your tenants a break on the rent to mitigate the inconvenience. Still, who has the bigger incentive to sell your house, you or your tenants? Tenants often don’t keep the property in showing condition, and they often won’t allow buyer agents that they perceive as rude or pushy to see the home. Additionally, in many parts of the country, tenants have very strong rights during the sales cycle. In those jurisdictions (I happen to practice in one of them), educated buyers understand that an unhappy tenant can legally scuttle a deal —- and will steer clear of any property with a tenant in place.
  6. Bad photos. Before buyers ever jump in the car to go take a look at property with their agent, they’ve been scouring the internet for months, scoping out neighborhoods, checking crime statistics, and looking at hundreds, possibly thousands, of listings. In a market where buyers have lots of inventory from which to choose, buyers and their agents look for ways to winnow down the selection. One of the ways they do this, for good or ill, is by judging the quality of a listing’s online photos. If those photos are not of professional quality (good lighting, in focus, staged properly), they reflect badly on the listing. The prettiest house can be done in by an agent too cheap to spring for good photography. Again, you won’t know why you’re not getting showings. Agents aren’t going to call you and say, “We’re not coming to view your home because the online pics are hideous.”
Eliminate these six obstacles and you’ll be on your way to having your property sold!

Monday, May 10, 2010

How walkable is your neighborhood?

A neighborhood that is built to accommodate access to local amenities without the reliance on vehicles of transportation contributes to its degree of walkability. Providing health, environmental and economic benefits, walkability is an imprtant factor for many when deciding which community to settle in. A town that is easy to meneuver also gives residents the opportunity to increase their social interactions, become more invilved in local issues and reduce crime as more people walk around and watch over their communities.



Curious about your neighborhood's walkability quotient? Check out http://www.walkscore.com/
Cheers,
Kevin






Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Homebuyer Tax Credits in DC: It's Not the End!

While the Federal first and repeat buyer credits have gone away, the District of Columbia retains its $5000 first-time buyer credit until the end of 2010. The DC credit reduces the buyer's federal taxes. The credit cannot be used as a down payment. It is a valuable incentive for buyers who qualify to continue to shop and purchase in DC. For more information, please visit http://www.dc.gov/ and http://www.irs.ustreas.gov/.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Thinking of renovating your (older) home? Read this!

New EPA Lead Paint Laws Effect Remodeling Projects

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is implementing new lead paint laws that go into effect tomorrow. The new lead paint laws require any renovation work performed on houses built before 1978 to be performed by a certified contractor. The new law is raising questions from home owners and contractors. Contractors will be required to provide home owners the "Renovate Right" brochure, which contains information about the new law.

The new lead paint law involves training and certification of remodelers, safe work-site practices, verification and record keeping. It’s very important to understand that the new law pertains to projects on any house built before 1978, with a few exceptions as follows:
  • The home or child-occupied facility was built after 1978.
  • The repairs are minor, with interior work disturbing less than six sq. ft. or exteriors disturbing less than 20 sq. ft.
  • The homeowner may also opt out by signing a waiver if there are no children under age six frequently visiting the property, no one in the home is pregnant, or the property is not a child-occupied facility.
  • If the house or components test lead free by a Certified Risk Assessor, Lead Inspector, or Certified Renovator.

What Does the New Law Mean To You?

You’re probably wondering what this new law might mean to you and your next remodeling project. The obvious answer is a healthier home for you, your family and people that perform renovations to your home. The other obvious answer is an increased cost for contractors to adhere to the new rules --- which ultimately means an increased cost to you.

Small contractors may choose to steer clear of and avoid older home renovations. A certain number of small replacement window contractors may go out of business or stop providing inexpensive window replacement services.

If you hire a contractor to do a renovation in your home that was built prior to 1978, be sure you hire a certified contractor. You should ask to see your contractors RRP certification prior to hiring them. (Contractors performing work without the certification face penalties of up to $37,500 per day.)

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Built to last





The future of real estate looks bright. The long-term outlook for the housing market is very promising, thanks to the presence of the Echo Boomers --- the children of the Baby Boomers. The sheer size of this generation now reaching adulthood, combined with the increasing life expectancy of past generations, should keep household growth on track in the United States. Over time, the pent-up demand for housing and today's low levels of home building are expected to reduce the vacancy inventory, bringing housing markets into balance.

Built to last
Stemming from the most basic human need for shelter, the real estate industry is fundamentally built to last. The state of the housing market is impacted by many factors including mortgage rates and the volatility of other investment options. However, it is the limited supply along with the growing population that drives the need for housing.

The next surge in demand will be stimulated when Echo Boomers join the Baby Boom generation as active participants in the housing industry, reinvigorating the real estate market with opportunity and validating the purchase of a home as a lucrative investment.










Thursday, February 25, 2010

Thinking of buying a short sale or foreclosure? Read this.

One of the first things many of our new buyers say to us in our initial meetings is: “We want to buy a short sale” or “I’ve heard you can get a good deal on a foreclosure.” Our first instinct is to roll our eyes and pat them on their arm, all the while thinking about how na├»ve and helpless they look sitting across the table --- all wide-eyed and salivating over the inevitable steal they’re going to be getting in this “buyer’s market.” So begins the process of educating them about the process of actually buying a short sale or foreclosure.


Suffice it to say: Buying a short sale or foreclosure is not for the faint of heart.


To say the least.


Really.


We're not just saying that.


Yes, you can get a great deal on a short sale or foreclosure (note, we didn’t say “steal”), but there are many hurdles to clear before you’ll get the keys to your new home. With a bit of input from our broker, Marj Rosner, we’ve put together a list of things for you to think about before you head out to start looking at short sales and foreclosures.

  • Many of these distressed properties are going to be sold in “as-is” condition, as of the time you view them. Banks do not typically make any repairs, and short-sale sellers often do not have the funds to make repairs. Further, if the bank is selling the property through foreclosure, there will not be any property condition disclosures. We advise our clients to inspect any property carefully before making an offer. Consider investing the money in a home inspection in advance; it may cost a bit (usually a few hundred dollars), but is worth it if you end up purchasing the property. Sometimes the seller and/or the bank will treat for termites if an infestation is discovered, but more often than not, it will be the responsibility of the purchaser to treat an infestation or damage. If your lender requires such repairs, be prepared to cough up the money for these repairs before you actually own the property.
  • Utilities may or may not be on when you view prospective properties. Between October and April, most vacant properties are winterized, so do not attempt to use any appliances. Keep your flashlight handy! In the event that you do have a home inspection, tell your inspector prior to the inspection if the utilities are not on, and/or you will need to make arrangements with the listing agent to have utilities turned on --- usually at your expense. Invariably, there will be a fee for de-winterizing and re-winterizing the property before and after the inspection. Oh, and you’ll also need to do this before your pre-settlement walk-through inspection too.
  • The bank and/or the listing agent may request that your earnest money deposit be placed with the listing agent’s broker. They may also request that you settle at a title company of their choosing. This can be disastrous. What if the listing broker mishandles your deposit? What if the seller’s title company does not adequately research the chain of title? Occasionally, these “requests” are really “requirements.” If we think it’s feasible, we recommend some pushback at this juncture. You may want to consider selecting a settlement/title company to represent your interest; and you can write your earnest money deposit to that organization. It is also important to select your settlement company early for several other reasons. First, once your offer is accepted, or occasionally before it is accepted, many banks want to see an estimated HUD-1 settlement statement at the offering/acceptance price before approving the sale. Your settlement company is usually the best place to get an accurate estimated HUD-1. Second, your settlement company will perform an independent title search of the property’s chain of ownership so as to provide you with assurance that there are no outstanding liens or encumbrances on the property and to provide you a valid title insurance policy.
  • At the time you submit an offer through your agent, you should be prepared to provide proof of funds and/or a letter of approval from a lender, along with a photocopy of your earnest money deposit Check. Many banks will not process an offer without this information. Please make certain the name, address, phone, and fax of the lending institution are clearly legible on the letter.
  • Most of the banks approving short sales and foreclosures are out of town, in different parts of the country and in different time zones. At best, you will need to wait several days for a response. In some cases, the wait is weeks. Occasionally, you will wait for several (or many) months for approval (last year, we had a buyer who waited NINE MONTHS for a response!). Some buyers ask us to put a written deadline in their offer. Don’t bother. Most lenders simply ignore such deadlines. The time you’ll wait for a response varies greatly depending on which bank or banks are involved. Also, you should understand that, in many cases, there is not just one lien holder, but several, and that all of these lending institutions must approve a sale. We can’t stress the following enough (so we’ll “shout” it for you): “IF YOU HAVE A RIGID TIME DEADLINE BY WHICH YOU NEED TO MOVE, THINK SERIOUSLY BEFORE ENTERING INTO A CONTRACT ON A SHORT SALE OR FORECLOSURE.” If you’re trying to take advantage of the $8000 tax credit and need to settle by June, good luck. If you want to be in your new home before your baby is born, good luck. You will have very little control over the timing of the process. No amount of calling these banks, cajoling asset managers, dropping off doughnuts (as one client did), threatening or screaming will speed this process up. We encourage massive doses of patience!
  • Although it is counter to anything you have ever been told, many banks do in fact negotiate verbally. Be prepared to hear that your offer is accepted but you may receive no accompanying paperwork whatsoever. It can be days or weeks before you will see anything in writing. This can be a tense time. (Additionally, banks almost never accept offers contingent upon the sale or settlement of another property. Expect such offers to be rejected or ignored entirely.) You and your agent may feel frustrated by the absence of responses/information. This is nearly always a function of the bank(s)’ procedures and is not an excuse to abuse either your agent or the listing agent!
  • Settlement and title issues DO occur with short-sale and foreclosure properties. These can delay any time frame. We advise you to have a back-up plan if settlement does not occur according to the schedule in the contract.

While this list is by no means exhaustive, we hope that it gives you a glimpse of what the process of buying a short sale or foreclosure. Like we said, these properties can be good deals. Only you can decide if you have the temperament to make it through the process!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Today's RealtorRant: Learn how to leave a content VM!

Hey, all. Kevin here.

I haven't posted in a while and wanted to get back into the swim of blogging.

This week, with all the snow, our team has been working remotely from our individual homes, and I've been giving some thought to one of my biggest pet peeves. Agents who either don't know how --- or can't be bothered --- to leave an effective voice mail message.

Because we've been trapped at our houses this week, we've each been using our cell phones to communicate with the outside world. Now, if you know much about me at all, you'll know that I'm not a huge fan of the phone. It's a necessary evil of this business. Until the time when we use Twitter to negotiate contracts (I hope that day is coming soon!) though, we need our cell phones.

I rarely answer a call on my cell unless it's one that I recognize. That means I often need to respond to voice mail messages from folks who call me. Most of the time, this is fine. If a person has left a decent content message, I can retrieve whatever information I need to respond to his or her call efficiently.

However, my least favorite type of voice mail message is what I call the "Call Me" message. This is when someone calls and leaves a message that basically says, "Hey, this is Agent Fulana, please give me a call at XXX-555-1234."

Perhaps it's not rational, but this kind of message drives me to distraction.

First, I have no idea why you're calling; second, because I have no idea why you're calling, I may not be able to efficiently help you when I do call you back; and third, if I call you back and YOU can't answer, I've wasted time in returning the call in the first place. Now, we have to continue this round-and-round game.

Tag, you're it.

So, here's an article to assist all those Realtors who need to learn this skill:

How to Leave the Perfect the Perfect Voice Mail.


You're welcome.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Feeling Nosy about DC? VA? MD?

Ok, I know you're probably not planning on moving this very second, but here's this week's list of interesting-looking listings that have just come on the market. Mind you, they may not actually be my personal listings --- just intriguing properties I've come across this week.

Feeling nosy about the District of Columbia?
Feeling nosy about Virginia?
Feeling nosy about Maryland?

If you know someone who might be interested in this list, please forward it on to him or her. And if there's a listing that you're curious about yourself, just let me know ... and I'll show it to you ... just for the hell of it ... no obligation ... *I promise*. Really. (One of the perks of being the friend of a real estate agent ought to be that you get to freely snoop around other peoples' homes!)

Join us for an Open House – 1732 Girard Street NE

OPEN SUNDAY 2-4 pm

Listed at $325,000

Light and bright! Move right into this totally renovated and beautiful townhouse with a lovely view of the park. New everything! Recessed lighting, handsome hardwood floors, new high-end kitchen & bath including granite counters and tile floors. The finished basement is a haven with lots of light and a full bath. Large backyard. Block from library and close to METRO. Welcome home! See more at www.1732GirardStNE.com.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Feeling Nosy about DC? VA? MD?

Ok, I know you're probably not planning on moving this very second, but here's this week's list of interesting-looking listings that have just come on the market. Mind you, they may not actually be my personal listings --- just intriguing properties I've come across this week.

Feeling nosy about the District of Columbia?
Feeling nosy about Virginia?
Feeling nosy about Maryland?

If you know someone who might be interested in this list, please forward it on to him or her. And if there's a listing that you're curious about yourself, just let me know ... and I'll show it to you ... just for the hell of it ... no obligation ... *I promise*. Really. (One of the perks of being the friend of a real estate agent ought to be that you get to freely snoop around other peoples' homes!)

Make Hyattsville Home!

The Hyattsville Mayor and City Council recently adopted a new stimulus program for new home purchases within the City of Hyattsville.

Eligible homeowners who purchase a home after October 1, 2009 may apply for a $1,000 payment. Homeowners must close on their property and receive their Prince George's County Tax ID number before applying.

Current funding is set at $20,000.

If you have recently purchased a home in the City of Hyattsville, please download the application by clicking HERE.

For more information, contact the City's Finance Department at 301/985-5000 or via email.

If you are interested in looking at homes in Hyattsville, the RealAstute.com Home Team is ready to help you. Just drop us a line at Hyattsville@RealAstute.com and our team will be happy to send you listings and assist you in the buying process!

Friday, November 06, 2009

Feeling Nosy about DC? VA? MD?

Ok, I know you're probably not planning on moving this very second, but here's this week's list of interesting-looking listings that have just come on the market. Mind you, they may not actually be my personal listings --- just intriguing properties I've come across this week.

Feeling nosy about the District of Columbia?
Feeling nosy about Virginia?
Feeling nosy about Maryland?

If you know someone who might be interested in this list, please forward it on to him or her. And if there's a listing that you're curious about yourself, just let me know ... and I'll show it to you ... just for the hell of it ... no obligation ... *I promise*. Really. (One of the perks of being the friend of a real estate agent ought to be that you get to freely snoop around other peoples' homes!)

Join us for an Open House - Fort Dupont Street SE

OPEN SUNDAY 1-3 pm: 1507 Fort Dupont Street SE

Listed at $249,900

This beautiful renovation is back on market after the 1st buyer lost financing -- their loss is your gain! Light-filled 3 bed/1.5 bath semi-detached renovated head (new roof!) to toe (basement rec room). Open floor plan downstairs features open living room/dining room w/ recessed lights, beautiful moldings & gleaming hardwoods. Granite counters, stainless steel appliances, ceramic tile backsplash & floor in chef's kitchen. Lush landscaping & a 2 car off street parking in rear! See more at http://www.FortDupontHomes.com.

First Time Buyer Credit Extended!

The first time buyer credit has been extended - read the full article below!

President Obama Signs Extension of First Time Buyer Credit (From CNN.com)

Tax break for buying a home

The legislation also will extend the $8,000 homebuyer tax credit to contracts signed by April 30 and closed by June 30. The controversial credit, which many say has boosted home sales in recent months, was set to expire after Nov. 30.

The bill also creates a $6,500 credit for those who buy a home after living in their current house at least five years. That measure will apply to contracts signed by April 30 and closed by June 30. The current credit defines a first-time homebuyer as someone who has not owned a residence within the past three years.

The credit will be available only for the purchase of principal residences priced at $800,000 or less.

The bill will raise the adjusted gross income cap to $125,000 for single filers and $225,000 for joint filers. The amount of the credit currently begins to phase out for taxpayers whose adjusted gross income is more than $75,000, or $150,000 for joint filers.

"It's gonna put people back to work, the home builders, put people in the real estate business," said Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn. "The kind of jobs that can make a difference."

The extension will cost $10.8 billion over 10 years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.

Through mid-September, 1.4 million tax returns had qualified for the credit, according to the IRS. Some portion of those returns, which the IRS couldn't specify, represents buyers who took advantage of an earlier version of the tax credit, which was only worth $7,500 and has to be repaid over time.

By the end of November, the credit will have been used by 1.8 million homebuyers, at least 355,000 of whom would not have bought a house without the tax break, according to estimates by the National Association of Realtors.

"The data on the present home buyer tax credit show that the credit has had its intended impact -- sales have jumped in recent months to a projected 5.1 million for the year and housing inventory has been trimmed, thus stabilizing home prices noticeably," said Ron Phipps, the association's first vice president, in Senate testimony last month.

The credit, however, has also posed many problems. Critics say it's a waste of money because most of those claiming the credit would have bought homes anyway.

It's also been the target of fraud. Some 74,000 people claimed more than $500 million in credits even though they may not be first-time homeowners, according to Treasury officials. And more than 580 children, including some as young as 4-years-old, have claimed the credit.

"Some key controls were missing to prevent an individual from erroneously or fraudulently claiming the credit and receiving an erroneous refund of up to $8,000," said J. Russell George, Treasury inspector general for tax administration, before a House subcommittee last month.

Great news!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Feeling Nosy about DC? VA? MD?

Ok, I know you're probably not planning on moving this very second, but here's this week's list of interesting-looking listings that have just come on the market. Mind you, they may not actually be my personal listings --- just intriguing properties I've come across this week.

Feeling nosy about the District of Columbia?
Feeling nosy about Virginia?
Feeling nosy about Maryland?

If you know someone who might be interested in this list, please forward it on to him or her. And if there's a listing that you're curious about yourself, just let me know ... and I'll show it to you ... just for the hell of it ... no obligation ... *I promise*. Really. (One of the perks of being the friend of a real estate agent ought to be that you get to freely snoop around other peoples' homes!)

Want to GO GREEN? Save the Date!

The Office of the People’s Counsel for the District of Columbia is hosting it's FALL 2009 ENERGY EFFICIENCY EXPO!

When: Saturday, November 14, 2009,
10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Where: Walter E. Washington Convention Center, Rooms 146 A, B, & C
801 Mount Vernon Place, NW, Washington, DC
Click Here for More Information

It's a great place to get the latest and greatest tips and tools for going green!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Feeling Nosy about DC? VA? MD?

Ok, I know you're probably not planning on moving this very second, but here's this week's list of interesting-looking listings that have just come on the market. Mind you, they may not actually be my personal listings --- just intriguing properties I've come across this week.

Feeling nosy about the District of Columbia?
Feeling nosy about Virginia?
Feeling nosy about Maryland?

If you know someone who might be interested in this list, please forward it on to him or her. And if there's a listing that you're curious about yourself, just let me know ... and I'll show it to you ... just for the hell of it ... no obligation ... *I promise*. Really. (One of the perks of being the friend of a real estate agent ought to be that you get to freely snoop around other peoples' homes!)

Funny - How to Buy a Bank Owned Property