I Spy

So this happened. I had a client find a property from a list I send him online every day. He was so smitten by the property that he drove up from  Dallas that weekend to take a look. He has good taste. It’s roughly a 2700 square foot contemporary property in an exclusive community just to the north of Tulsa. It has everything you might want: 1/2 acre lot, private bath in every bedroom, hardwood floors throughout the house, open concept with elevated ceilings and plenty of windows across the back of the house overlooking the salt water infinity pool in the back yard. It even includes an in-ground storm shelter in the third bay of the three car garage. That’s important here in tornado alley. All this could be his for under $500,000.00 (prices are very reasonable here in Tulsa)!

As we were walking through the house commenting on the many upgrades we wandered into the study. There on the wall was an Education Certificate confirming the owner’s graduation from a government school specializing in intelligence gathering. This guy was a US spy! Think NSA, CIA, FBI; not saying which. He could be reading this.

When I initially arrived at the address my client was already there. He had seen the owner drive away while he was waiting for me to arrive. After we left the house and as we were leaving the subdivision my client later told me we passed the owner who was returning home at the same time. He thought it was a coincidence. I believe it was not. He most likely knew when we were finished with our tour because his house probably alerted him when we left.

To be honest, this isn’t all that uncommon any more. One of my other clients who had installed a very sophisticated security system after a break-in put their house up for sale. When buyers would visit, the owner could tell me when they arrived and how long they stayed because they had to disarm and re-arm  the security system when they came and went. The owner was alerted every time by an app on her smart phone.

In another instance I went to a house to preview it for a buyer. I couldn’t tell whether it was occupied or vacant so I rang the door bell just in case. No one answered the door but I could hear dogs barking inside so I didn’t enter. Later I verified the house was vacant so I went back a second time. Inside I found a sophisticated system with cameras and remote sound capability. The dogs weren’t real. But it was enough to keep me out.

There are Realtor stories about unaware agents who would hold open houses and during the slow times would rummage through the owner’s drawers. Caught on camera, they would ultimately lose the listing and possibly their license.

What this means for you if you’re in the market to buy a home is that you should always consider the possibility that you are under surveillance whenever you’re in someone else’s house. Under normal circumstances this really shouldn’t be a very big deal. You’re there to look at the house, not the stuff inside. As long as you display the correct amount of respect for others’ property you will not have any issues.

However, you might want to reserve voicing your remarks about the property until after you’ve left. You don’t know who might be listening. If you absolutely love the house and must have it no matter what, if you say all this while you’re in the house the seller might be more inclined to hold out on you to see how badly you want it.

In Oklahoma it is not illegal to use video surveillance cameras to monitor movement inside your house. It is illegal, however, to also embed audio with the video without announcing that full surveillance is watching and listening to you while you’re there. But then, you are in someone else’s house, after all. If the sign is missing, how would you ever know anyway?

This shouldn’t really change the way you walk through the process of checking out possible new homes for your family. After all, the seller deserves to have his property left the same way you found it, cameras or not. Just do your dreaming about the possibilities in the driveway. You deserve your privacy, too.

If you are currently in the market to buy or sell a home in Tulsa or the surrounding areas, give me a call at 918-809-5199. I have twelve years experience in this market and I can make the process as easy as possible for you. I look forward to meeting you soon!

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What makes a room a bedroom?

If you’re buying or selling a property, knowing the correct way to describe what you are selling or looking for is crucial. Here is a description of what actually qualifies as a bedroom from Portland Real Estate journalist Cathie Ericson.

Does anyone who is not from the other side of the galaxy really need to ask, “What is a bedroom?” Actually, yes. Welcome to the nuances of real estate speak, where not everything is as it seems.

There are, in fact, a number of details that make a room a “bedroom”—and both home buyers and sellers had best know them to avoid misunderstandings.

“Since a home and/or bedroom can go through many incarnations over its life, sellers should be familiar with what makes a bedroom a legal bedroom prior to listing their home, to ensure there are no issues holding up the sale when a buyer has been secured,” says Carl Ekroth of Douglas Elliman in New York City.

Bedrooms are one of the most important selling features of a home, notes Mark Abdel, a real estate professional with Re/Max Advantage Plus in Minneapolis–St. Paul. So it’s no surprise that homeowners want to slap that label on as many rooms as possible.

“Sellers can usually set and get a higher price the more bedrooms a home has,” Abdel says.

Six features that define a bedroom

The laws vary by state, but here are six ways you can tell if your room is a bedroom rather than just a “room”:

Minimum square footage: This is the top issue, says Shaun Anders of Douglas Elliman. Although this can vary from state to state, 70 to 80 square feet is generally the acceptable minimum. “Sellers in urban markets such as New York City and Chicago would love 5-by-7[-foot] rooms to qualify as a bedroom, but no go,” says Anders.

Minimum horizontal footage: The minimum square footage doesn’t tell the whole tale. A bedroom must also measure at least 7 feet in any horizontal direction. That is why you can’t call a hallway a bedroom!

Two means of egress: There have to be two ways out of a bedroom. Traditionally, these would be a door and a window. Ekroth adds that in most markets, a skylight would also qualify as that means of egress.

Minimum ceiling height: At least half of the bedroom ceiling has to be at least 7 feet tall.

Minimum window size: The window opening must be a minimum size, usually 5.7 square feet.

A heating and cooling element: We’re talking a heater (a space heater won’t qualify) as well as a way to cool it down, whether that’s by opening a window or good old AC.

Does a bedroom need a closet?

Contrary to popular belief, a bedroom does not have to have a closet to be considered official. (Your significant other might disagree, but legally, at least in most states, it does not.) Closets are expected in newer homes, but older ones might require a more creative approach to stowing your clothes.

So what can you call a room that doesn’t hit these requirements? Based on your state, you could get away with calling it an “office,” “nursery,” or the ultimate catch-all, “bonus room.” Because bedroom or not, just about any indication of extra space will make most buyers’ eyes light up.

Cathie Ericson is a journalist who writes about real estate, finance, and health. She lives in Portland, OR.

If you are currently in the market to buy or sell a home in Tulsa or the surrounding areas, give me a call at 918-809-5199. I have twelve years experience in this market and I can make the process as easy as possible for you. I look forward to meeting you soon!

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11 reasons “For Sale by Owner” is a terrible idea

Pretty PleaseIt’s the time of year when home sales tick up. Since the market is active anyway, some homeowners may believe selling their property themselves will be just as easy without an agent. After all, as the saying goes, “a rising tide lifts all boats”. If the “tide” were the only consideration, then maybe it would be easy. But as Chris Rediger explains here in his excellent article, there’s more to it than that…

Frank, a smart and tech-savvy Denver homeowner, thought he’d skip the agent commission and sell his house himself.

He researched his home’s property value, found a buyer and got the house under contract. It seemed like a done deal until he realized in a panic that he had seriously undervalued the property — by more than $100,000. Frank had misunderstood the report he’d pulled and incorrectly valued the house.

The error cost him $30,000 to get out of the contract.

In your dealings with potential sellers, you’re going to run into people who will question the worth of an agent. Or you’ll come across a smug homeowner who’s got it figured out and listed his or her home for sale by owner (FSBO).

1. Scams happen

Judy (not her real name) in Raleigh, North Carolina, fell in love with a FSBO home. She agreed not to use an agent and paid the homeowner $3,000 in earnest money.

Then the homeowner changed his mind. With no contract signed and no receipt, Judy lost all her earnest money. She trusted the homeowner when she should have trusted an agent.

FSBO scams happen to both buyers and sellers with little recourse besides hiring an attorney.

Common scams include fraudulent papers (appraisals, loan documentation), foreign buyer deposits (scammer sends too much in a bad check and then requests a refund), purchases through a third-party (a fake attorney, etc.) and asking for personal information.

2. Liability is all on the seller

Everyone makes mistakes. A seller (or buyer) who doesn’t have the representation of a licensed agent pays for those mistakes. Attorneys can close a real estate transaction, but they don’t carry errors and omissions (E&O) insurance.

So if homeowner Sandy lists “hardwood floors” as a feature and the buyer discovers it’s just a wood veneer, chances are Sandy is going to pay for that mistake.

An agent would have either caught the mistake or covered it with E&O insurance. Let’s face it: this is a litigious society, so what homeowner wants to be a target for lawsuits?

3. Paperwork is daunting

The 2015 National Association of Realtors’ Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers showed that understanding paperwork was one of the most difficult tasks for FSBOs.

Depending on the state, there are a variety of legal forms that are needed, including but not limited to a sales contract, property disclosures, occupancy agreements and lead paint records.

Sure, ready-made contracts can be downloaded easily enough. But does an untrained seller understand what all that means? Would the seller know how to customize that one-size-fits-all contract?

4. Sellers can get stuck in a bad deal

Like Frank, FSBOs who sign on the dotted line and then realize an error are stuck. They have to pay the buyer (if they’re willing) to get out of it or just take the deal.

5. FSBOs sell for less

In 2015, FSBOs lost about 16 percent of the sales price with a median selling price of $210,000 (agent-assisted homes sold for $249,000).

Homeowners selling by themselves simply don’t have the time to devote to the process, don’t know the market value, don’t understand market reports and don’t properly market the property.

If the FSBO seller sold to someone he or she knew, the median dropped to $151,900 (because cousin Sue is doing them a favor and expects a deal).

6. FSBOs spend more time on the market

Unless the seller knows someone who wants to buy the home, FSBOs take longer to sell than homes listed with an agent. For the same reasons, they can’t get the right selling price.

No one is “behind the curtain” running the marketing show. On average, 18 percent of FSBOs were unable to sell within their chosen time frame last year.

7. FSBOs lack representation

There’s no one looking out for the homeowners who sell on their own. They have no one to call if they have a problem or a question.

Dave found this out when he sold his Morrison, Colorado, home himself. Studying for his real estate license, Dave felt confident he could handle the contracts. Then the unexpected happened.

When his house was under contract, a state patrol car pursuing a speeding motorist crashed into a downstairs bedroom. Repairs threatened to push back closing, and suddenly, the buyer was asking for a storage unit, the cost of temporary housing and more.

He was lucky enough to have an agent friend who could step in, but a homeowner with no representation could have been out thousands of dollars unnecessarily.

8. Inspections are problematic

Sellers who don’t know the rules can get stuck with unnecessary and costly repairs. When Sue sold her 10-year-old Highlands Ranch, Colorado, home, after the inspection, the inspector said she needed to change the stairs from the garage to the house because the code had changed.

He listed other code changes, and the buyer began to demand these be done. Surprisingly, the inspector didn’t know that because these items were to code when the house was built, the seller wasn’t responsible for these changes.

9. Marketing is limited

FSBOs have limited resources to market their home. The 2015 NAR Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers showed 42 percent rely on a yard sign, 32 percent rely on friends and family, and about 15 percent use social media.

Relying on the neighbors and Uncle Bob’s second cousin has its limitations. Even paying for the MLS listing won’t be enough because there’s no incentive for an agent to bring a buyer to a FSBO.

10. Hidden costs add up

The mindset for most FSBOs is saving money. Chances are these sellers are being nickeled and dimed into a pretty big chunk of change.

They’re paying for a lot of extras: signage, flyers, photography, MLS listing, attorney (required in multiple states for FSBOs), home warranty (optional but hard to sell without one), home inspection, a wood destroying pest inspection, credit report for buyers (if applicable), contracts and the list goes on.

11. Time costs the seller money

The biggest cost to a homeowner is their time. You might hear the argument that it doesn’t take an agent that much time to sell a house. And honestly, given the technology at our disposal, that’s true — to an extent.

But it will take a homeowner a whole lot longer. They don’t have the expertise or the access to the resources agents have. What is their own time worth to them? How much time will the seller spend researching the market and contracts? Is the seller going to leave work to unlock the house each time there’s a showing?

If you’re ready to jump in, give me a call at 918-809-5199. I can help you sell the house you’re in and find a better one for you and your family. Let’s gat started!

Chris Rediger is the co-founder and president of Redefy Real Estate.

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2017 Home Selling Trends

overheadMoving season is back and the market is already showing signs of activity.  If you’re thinking about moving this summer, what kind of market are you likely to find? Rebecca Lake with SmartAssethas a look at five trends that could affect the market across the US this year. You can see the original article here.

  1. Home Prices May Stabilize

Home prices have been on a steady incline in recent years. But that momentum may begin to slow down in 2017. Since the Federal Reserve raised interest rates for the first time in a year, that could have a stabilizing effect on home prices. The National Association of Realtors estimates that price growth will slow to 3.9%, down from 4.9% in 2016.

For sellers, that may lead to a shrinking profit margin in previously hot local markets. Buyers, on the other hand, may be better positioned to snag a deal on a home in areas where prices have recently skyrocketed.

  1. Demand for Housing Could Heat Up

According to the National Association of Realtors, we could see an uptick in the demand for properties in 2017. Specifically, the NAR is predicting that existing home sales will top 6 million in 2017, which is similar to forecasts from the Mortgage Bankers’ Association, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

The increased push for housing may be driven in part by a growing number of millennials who are venturing into homeownership for the first time. In addition to purchasing single-family homes, younger buyers may buy condos as well.

  1. More Millennial Buyers May Head to the Suburbs

While big cities are still popular among young adults, many Millennials are interested in living in suburban areas. Research shows that 47% of millennial homeowners have opted to buy houses in the suburbs, largely due to the lower cost of living that it entails. The amenities that many suburban areas offer are also appealing, even if it means that homeowners have a longer commute.

This trend could be good news for suburban homeowners who are planning to put their homes on the market in 2017. For buyers, the primary advantage of choosing the suburbs over the city is the ability to stretch their budgets. For example, $325,000 may buy you a three-bedroom home in the ‘burbs versus a one-bedroom studio in the city.

  1. Homeowners Could See Their Equity Rise

While the National Association of Realtors is projecting a slowdown in home prices, other housing industry experts are taking a different stance. CoreLogic, for example, is forecasting a price increase of 5.2% through September 2017. If home prices increase at that rate or close to it, some homeowners could see their home equity rise.

Having more equity in your home is a plus if you’re hoping to sell your home or refinance. The more equity you’ve built up in your property, the more you stand to make if you decide to sell your house. If you’re refinancing to pull equity out of your home for a major renovation, a higher equity value will give you more borrowing power.

  1. Supply May Shrink in Some Cities

Despite rising demand, available housing may be sluggish in certain markets. According to the National Association of Realtors, the number of available properties declined by 4.2% between 2015 and May 2016. Currently, inventory is down by an average of 11% (year over year) in the top 100 major metro markets. That’s not expected to change much in 2017, which means buyers could face more competition as they attempt to purchase homes.

Final Word

Whether you’re preparing to purchase a new home or sell an old house in the new year, it’s important to know how housing trends could affect you. Keeping your finger on the pulse of the market can help you avoid being left out in the cold by rising interest rates or a widening gap between supply and demand.

If you’re ready to jump in, give me a call at 918-809-5199. I can help you sell the house you’re in and find a better one for you and your family. Let’s gat started!

 

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The 6 worst mortgage mistakes you can make

loansThis is an article written for MoneyTalks News by Maryalene Laponsie. It has some excellent advice about the process of getting a home mortgage. It has been slightly edited. To see the original article, go here.

Is your house your castle? Or a monkey on your back?

Your answer might depend a lot on your mortgage. Getting an affordable property at a great rate can make you feel as if life couldn’t be any sweeter.

But ask anyone who bought a house with a mortgage they didn’t understand and couldn’t afford, and they will likely tell you their house has brought them nothing but frustration and tears.

If you’ll be in the market for a new place soon, make sure you avoid the following six mortgage mistakes.

1. Not reviewing your credit first

At least six months before you go to your first open house, you need to go to AnnualCreditReport.com. That’s the official site to get free credit reports issued by the big three reporting agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. You’re entitled to one free credit report from each agency annually.

In addition to your credit reports, it’s also critical to see your credit score. Some banks and credit cards now offer the most widely used credit score, the FICO score, as a monthly perk for their customers.

You’ll need your credit score to be in great shape if you want the best rates. A 2013 study by the Federal Trade Commission found 5 percent of consumers had errors on their report that could result in less favorable loan terms. Bottom line: You want to identify and correct any errors before you apply for a mortgage.

2. Failing to get preapproved

The next mistake you can make when applying for a mortgage is failing to get preapproved.

Getting preapproved by a bank is one way to avoid the heartbreak that comes from falling in love with a house you can never buy. It may also give you an edge if yours is not the only offer for the same property. A seller will feel more confident selecting a bid from someone with a mortgage preapproval rather than a person who hasn’t even begun the process.

However, don’t get carried away by whatever preapproval amount you receive from the bank. Remember, what the bank thinks you can afford and what you can actually afford may be two different things. A lot of people lost their homes in the Great Recession because they were given loans they couldn’t pay back. Don’t make the same mistake.

3. Not shopping around for the best rate

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says nearly half of mortgage borrowers don’t shop around, and that’s a big mistake. Seasoned shoppers search for the best deals on soap, furniture and cars, but some fail to look for a better mortgage rate.

It may be convenient to use your primary bank for a mortgage, but that could also be expensive if its rates aren’t competitive. According to Bank of America, for every 0.25 percent you can reduce your interest rate on a $200,000 mortgage, you’ll save $30.55 per month. Over a 30-year period that can add up to a lot of extra cash.

4. Ignoring mortgage fees

While you’re investigating rates, don’t forget the fees. Many mortgages come packed with fees of all kinds. Some — such as your county recording fee — are likely fixed, but others are negotiable.

Before your closing, you should be provided with a good faith estimate of the fees. Ask your lender to review what they are for and then see if you can negotiate a lower price. These are a few of the fees likely to have the most wiggle room:

  • Loan origination fee
  • Application fee
  • Broker Fee
  • Underwriter fee

5. Not having cash for a down payment

Not having a down payment stashed away can sink your prospects of getting a mortgage. After being bitten by the housing market crash, traditional lenders shy away from giving mortgages to those bringing nothing to the table.

Experts say you generally need to have a down payment of between 5 and 20 percent to qualify for a conventional loan. And if you put down less than 20 percent, be prepared to pay mortgage insurance.

6. Not understanding your mortgage terms

Underwater mortgages weren’t the only problem homeowners faced during the Great Recession. An untold number of people also lost their houses simply because they signed on the dotted line without understanding what the heck their mortgage entailed.

For example, people thought they’d hit the jackpot with adjustable-rate mortgages, known as ARMs. Homeowners were fine for the first few years while their mortgage rate was fixed and low. But when it reset to the current market rate, that affordable monthly payment suddenly wasn’t so affordable.

A 2008 report from the Federal Reserve Board found that more than 75 percent of the subprime loans issued from 2003-2007 before the housing market crash were “short-term hybrids” that worked like ARMs. By 2008, more than 21 percent of these subprime loans were seriously delinquent.

The moral of the story is to always understand what you’re signing up for. It’s not enough to know what your monthly payment is today. You also need to ask if the interest rate can change and if so, when and by how much will it increase.

If you’re not comfortable with the loan terms or don’t understand them, it’s better to walk away than to make an expensive and potentially life-altering mistake.

If you’re in the market for a new home, call me today at 918-809-5199. I can help you get started with a list of mortgage specialists you can contact for more information.

 

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New vs. Used – what’s the difference?

If you’ve been searching for a new place to live for a while you’ve probably asked yourself that question. In the sense that both choices provide you with shelter for your family there isn’t any difference. Each one is still a house, after all. Whether you buy new or used is mostly a matter of personal priorities. Here are the basic differences you’ll find when you compare new homes to pre-owned.

1.       Price: new home prices start in the $140’s. If this is your first home purchase you may find that a bit steep.

2.       Size: like everything else, it costs more to build a new house today than it did just last year. If you’re shopping with a budget you’ll find older homes will be larger.

3.       Amenities: new homes have the advantage of offering all the newest technologies and extras.

4.       Condition: older homes will have some “wear and tear”. As long as it’s not excessive and the current owners have kept up the maintenance, this isn’t really an issue.

You get the idea. It’s important to sit down and determine what is more important to you. New will be smaller, old will be larger. The best idea is to ask your agent to help you look at both. As you do your research you’ll begin to see the differences for yourself.

An important thing to remember is that your Real Estate agent is able to show you any property you want to see, whether it is new or used. New home builders have the same arrangement with agents that individual owners/sellers have. Chances are good that your agent already has professional experience with the builder you are researching. You can take advantage of that relationship to learn things about the builder’s reputation that you won’t find on Yelp.

And best of all, it doesn’t cost you anything. The seller, whether it’s an individual or a builder, will pay your agent’s commission. If you are ready to start your home search call me at 918-809-5199 and let’s get started!

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5 Things Renters Should Know About Owning

DSC03025For renters who aspire to be home owners, transitioning from an apartment to a house requires a shift in their thinking. The financial changes that come with owning, the need to consider planting longer-term roots in a neighborhood, and new neighborhood rules are things renters need to prepare for. Moving can already be one of the most stressful times in a person’s life, but it may be doubly so for a new home owner. As your Real Estate agent and a home owner myself, I can help you learn about the life-changing event of buying a home.

Understand how your financial investment is changing. As a renter you may see an increase in your monthly rent every lease term, but you don’t see exactly where it goes — toward property taxes and insurance, even “luxuries” such as trash pickup. As a home owner you don’t have a landlord who handles all those details, so you need to be ready to juggle the financial responsibilities of home ownership. It’s not rocket science, but knowing what to expect and maintaining a budget can make the step into home ownership much smoother.

You are in your new location for the long-term. As a renter, you can bounce around from home to home every year if you want. But when you own a home, you have to stay put — unless you plan on renting it out, which most home owners don’t. Location is going to play a much more significant role in your future, so evaluate school districts, access to amenities, and commute time as you search for your new home.

You may be abiding by a new set of rules. As a renter you don’t think about possible homeowner association rules you might be governed by, such as trash pickup rules or any curfews or rules pertaining to animals. Make sure to get all the information on neighborhood rules and associations that govern the area where you might be wanting to live.

You’ll have a new mindset: Home owner. Life as you know it is about to change. Once you purchase a new home, you will no longer have a landlord to tend to things including lawn care and plumbing. Ask me for contact information. I know people.

Neighbors can affect your home’s value. Renters don’t care who their neighbors are as long as they’re quiet (enough). But you’re now going to want to know whether your new neighbors are renters or home owners. This can help you gauge current and future home value in the neighborhood. If the neighborhood consists mostly of rental properties, it is likely a home owner will lose money on their house in the future. Renters do not always feel responsible for maintaining their properties the way home owners do. Property value comes down to curb appeal. Less-appealing neighborhoods often have more-appealing prices, which is not always good for buyers and home owners.

These ideas aren’t meant to scare you away from owning your own home. You’ll find the perks far outweigh any downside when compared to compartment living in your standard three story apartment complex. It’s simply a paradigm shift to a new way of thinking about how you and your family live. If you have questions, call me at 918-809-5199 and we’ll talk about possibilities!

This article is a revised version of an article originally written by Rob Rimeris, owner of EverSafe Moving Co. in Philadelphia. EverSafe is a five-star, full-service company that offers affordable moving and storage services.

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Improving curb appeal: 7 low-cost outdoor projects with instant results.

2The home selling season started early this year in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Traffic is brisk and the good ones aren’t lasting very long. If you’re ready to sell you want buyers to see your house as one of the “good ones”. Before you put your house on the market make sure that it will make a great first impression when the prospective new family pulls up to take a look. Here are some quick, easy, and inexpensive ways to make a great first impression, suggested by Trulia’s Brie Dyas.

Every little thing counts when you’re hoping to get the best price for your home — especially in a crowded real estate market. “Buyers are looking at 12 to 17 homes before they write an offer,” says Jeff Lowen, who specializes in Washington, DC, real estate. While most sellers make sure their home’s interior is spotless, staged, and even smelling of cookies, ignoring the exterior could keep a potential buyer from even stopping the car to take a closer look. Although it’s likely you’ve addressed the bigger issues (paint and pressure washing, keeping the lawn manicured, etc.), those small details can make a huge impact when it comes to that first impression.

Here are seven landscape design projects to tackle before you even consider listing your home for sale.

Address to impress

Out with the old, in with the new. A fresh set of house numbers can enhance the overall style of your home. Choosing a material that matches other exterior features creates a cohesive look, but don’t underestimate the impact of a bold design choice with finish, font, or size. There’s a range of styles and prices to choose from — you can find numbers priced at a few dollars at big-box home improvement stores to more than $20 each at specialty shops.

Nail the mailbox

Think of your front door as the ambassador to your home; it’s often the first thing a buyer sees when viewing your home from a distance. Patrick Parker, broker and owner of Patrick Parker Realty in Bradley Beach, NJ, suggests painting the mailbox to give it a face-lift. Don’t be shy about replacing the post or the mailbox itself. Classic options start around $50.

Repaint the front door

“The exterior painting litmus test is this: no peeling paint or exposed untreated wood should ever be present,” says Sara Benson, real estate agent and broker-in-charge at Benson Stanley Realty in Chicago, IL. This rings true for the front door too, which is subject to significant use that can impact the finish. Freshen it up with a new coat of your current color or enliven the entire exterior by painting the door a brighter hue. A gallon of quality, semi gloss exterior paint won’t set you back more than $50. (For an extra-fresh look, repaint the trim around windows and other features while you’re at it.)

Wash up

You can rent pressure washers at your local home improvement or hardware store for less than $100 a day. A good (gentle) scrub will take off the grime that can make siding look dingy and dull. Don’t forget to take it to your deck too, where the scourge of all homeowners sometimes lurks: mold. “Wood decks are perceived to be a great deal of work, so treating it for mold now is a huge plus,” says John Mangas, broker and co-owner, RE/MAX Preferred Associates in Toledo, OH.

Light it up

“Outdoor lighting, especially landscape lighting, can generate ambiance and drama,” Benson says. “After the initial daytime viewing, buyers often drive by the ‘home of their dreams’ at night. A well-lit residence can act as a magnet that increases desire.” Put a spotlight on a lovely landscape detail and line the walkways. And don’t forget to turn on your porch light. You’ll want buyers to notice that freshly painted door, even when it’s dark outside. Basic LED landscape lights can be found for as little as $50 at most big-box home improvement stores.

Clear out the gutters

Gutters overflowing with dead leaves? It’s not a great look, and Jennifer Kjellgren, owner of Atlanta, GA, boutique real estate agency InTown Expert, names it one of the top turnoffs for potential buyers. Spring is the perfect time to tackle this chore, but it can be a messy task. If you’d rather hire a pro instead of buying a ladder and some sturdy gloves, expect to pay $125 to $175 minimum for a professional’s help.

Let it “grow”

If you don’t have a green thumb, you can fake it with a few key purchases. Patrick Parker recommends mulching flower beds and planting bright-colored flowers. Parker also advises spending a little time tidying up the hedges with a trim. The total cost for this mini-makeover: under $200, based on how many flats of blooms and how much mulch you need.

If you’re ready to sell, give me a call 918-809-5199. We can talk about how to make it happen.

This article was edited for clarity and brevity. To see the original article go here.

 

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Buyer Cheat Sheet for a Seller’s Market

CheatingThe home buying market started to heat up in February this year and it’s only gotten busier. The number of available houses for sale is roughly 9% lower than last year at this time and that number was lower than the year before. If you’re house hunting, here are some good tips to get you ready for what you’ll find out there. Competition can be stiff for some properties. One of my clients lost the opportunity to buy a home by only $100.00! Here are some thoughts from some other professionals about today’s housing market.

In a seller’s market, home buyers need to be willing and able to act fast to snag the home they want. This spring, areas across the country are facing a limited number of homes for sale. Realtor.com® offers up a cheat sheet for surviving a seller’s market.

Be on call. “If you’re only looking now and then when it’s convenient, you’re probably wasting your time,” says James Malmberg, a real estate professional in Sherman Oaks, Calif. He suggests treating house hunting like job hunting. If someone calls with a lead, follow up promptly to gauge whether it could be a good fit and don’t linger.

Bring the paperwork. To be taken seriously, buyers would be wise to get a mortgage pre-approval letter as well as a “proof of funds” form from their bank to show they have enough to cover a down payment. They’ll be able to act quicker when they do find the right house.

Limit the contingencies. In a seller’s market, buyers may need to drop some of the contingencies to score the house. Sellers prefer the fewest number of hurdles to closing as possible. If your buyers come in with several contingencies — such as “if” they secure financing — the sellers are more inclined to bypass their offer and take another with less hassle. Also, “don’t waste your time lowballing a seller,” advises Sean Kelley, a real estate professional with Howard Hannah in Pittsburgh, Pa. “Always put in an aggressive offer.”

Cast a wide net. Search for homes outside prime locations if faced with limited or high-priced choices. Buyers need to carefully consider what they’re willing to compromise on. “Sometimes properties sit, even in a seller’s market, because of a problem that is scaring other buyers away,” such as some renovation work that may need to be done, Malmberg says. Those “flaws,” however, might not be a big deal to your buyers. “Finding a house this way can also cut down on the amount of competition you will face,” Malmberg adds.

Source: “Surviving a Seller’s Market: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet,” realtor.com® (April 7, 2016)

If you’re in the market to buy or sell, give me a call at  and we’ll look at your situation to see what makes the most sense for you and your family.

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What to expect if you’re buying a house this Spring

DSC03046This March, 2016, article by Housingwire’s Brena Swanson gives good advise.

While spring home buying started early this year, as famous Punxsutawney Phil confirmed without a shadow of a doubt at the beginning of February, this doesn’t mean you’re quite ready to add the title of homeowner to your name. It’s likely to be the biggest financial decision you will ever make, and one that does not need to be decided on the premise that everyone else is doing it.

To help in your deliberation, HousingWire talked to Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist with Trulia, to compile a list of five factors that define this year’s housing market.

  1. Selling your home will be easier, but buying your next one may be more difficult.

McLaughlin explained that inventory of all homes for sale is down over 35% over the last four years.

“We are in a time of short supply, which is great news for sellers because they will likely be faced with multiple offers due to the little inventory out there,” he said.

But on the flipside, he noted that it’s not so great for people looking to buy a home. “They will be up against a lot of other people and against a short supply of existing homes,” McLaughlin said.

Interestingly enough, he said that the inventory of starter homes, or the homes that are in the least expensive, are probably at the lowest supply they have been in four years.

The February S&P/Case-Shiller report echoed similar inventory concerns, with Zillow Chief Economist Svenja Gudell commenting on it saying, “There are a lot of economic forces at work behind the scenes that will have a big impact on housing as we enter the busy home-shopping season. Low inventory is a factor in almost every market, so buyers should be prepared for a limited selection in the months to come.”

  1. It’s finding a home that’s tough to come by.

McLaughlin advised that shoppers should consider buying a new home or a new home off a plan.

Rather than deal with bidding wars, he said you should turn to new inventory, specifically homes off a plan.

In the most recent new home sales report, McLaughlin explained that the share of new home sales not started, in other words homes purchased off a plan, hovered near a 10-year high.

“Why? The inventory of existing homes continues to fall. Low existing inventory likely pushes prospective buyers away from existing homes towards new homes, and as new home sales rise, this allows builders to sell more new homes off plan,” McLaughlin said.

  1. It’s still cheaper to buy than rent.

Even though inventory is down and buying a home is more difficult and stressful, in most parts of the country, it is still cheaper to buy a home than rent over a 5-year period. And it gets cheaper after that, McLaughlin explained.

Most notably, it’s especially true for younger homebuyers that put less than 10% down. He cautioned buyers to remain patient because over a 5-year period it will be in your financial best interest.

  1. Don’t panic over possible interest rate increases.

“A lot of people ask me this. Should I be concerned? Will it make a difference? The short answer is no,” he said.

As it stands, he said that interest rates are nothing to worry about because what the Fed does is only loosely tied to mortgage rates.

Even if mortgage rates do go up, which they will do in the medium to long run, in places like California and Honolulu, rates would have rise to 4.5% to 5% to roughly equate the cost of renting.

And in the rest of the country, McLaughlin said, “Rates would have to reach 6% to 7%, and we are a long way off from interest rates at that level. Keep an eye on it but don’t fret.”

This article was edited for the Tulsa market. To see the entire article, go here.

If you are thinking about buying or selling a home, give me a call at 918-809-5199 for a free consultation.

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