Got Termites?

PIC108829470895If you have lived in Oklahoma for any time at all you’ve probably had experience with termites. They are a potential problem for every home owner. If you think you can play the odds and ignore them you do so at your own economic peril. You could go years thinking you don’t have a problem and then suddenly one spring they’re swarming all over your house. When that happens you can be sure there is damage to the hidden parts of your house that you cannot see.

Pestworld.org lists five signs of termites that you should know.

Termite infestations can severely damage the structural stability of a home, without anyone even knowing, until it’s too late. In fact, termites cause more than $5 billion in property damage each year, which is not typically covered by homeowners’ insurance policies. Here are the top five signs of a termite infestation.

Pro Tip: The National Pest Management Association (NPMA) recommends having a licensed pest control professional perform a thorough termite inspection of the home to keep the property safe.

SIGN 1: SWARMERS

Swarmers are young female and winged termites that often invade homes in the springtime. They especially seek out buildings that have sustained damage from severe winter weather. Once swarmers have determined your home to be a good fit, it’s likely that the rest of the termite colony will follow. Hint: they are often attracted to lights.

SIGN 2: DISCARDED WINGS

The discarded wings of swarmers can often be found near windowsills and doors, and are often the first and only outwardly visible sign of a termite problem.

SIGN 3: WOOD DAMAGE

Termites tend to eat wood from the inside out, so wood that sounds hollow when tapped often signifies a termite infestation. Homeowners should also look for rotting wood.

SIGN 4: FRASS

Drywood termites produce wood-colored droppings as they eat through infested wood. If a homeowner finds a small pile of what looks like pellets inside or outside the home, it could be a sign of drywood termite infestation.

Sign 5: MUD TUBES

Subterranean termites, the most destructive termite species, build mud tubes to provide moisture while they travel between their colony and a food source. Mud tubes are most often found near the home’s foundation.

You have two options when fighting termites: chemicals and bait. Both have positive and negative aspects.

Termidore™ is a chemical that is injected into the ground and underneath the foundation of your home. It’s a one-time application that should last five to ten years. It does not require monitoring and you pay a one-time charge for the application. Ask your pest control company about follow-up visits. Here in Tulsa there are companies that will provide the service and then for roughly $100 each year they will check for new infestation. If they find anything they will retreat the house at no charge. Generally pest control companies say it takes up to 90 days for the application to be completely effective.

The downside would include the fact that it is a chemical. It is federally approved for use to kill termites but some people just don’t like chemicals all that much no matter how safe they are said to be. The other point would be the drill holes left in the concrete sidewalks and lower foundation points around the house. They are usually cement caulked or plugged but they are still a bit ugly.

Sentricon™ bait stations are the other choice. These are the little green discs you’ll see spaced around the house in your friend’s yard. These stations are installed with termite bait that attracts the bug to the station. They eat the bait and return to the colony. Other than the chemical found in the bait, they are a much cleaner choice for many people.

The downside would include that after the initial cost of installation you will pay a recurring fee for bait station inspections as long as you keep the contract active. Also, according to some pest control professionals the time it takes for it to be effective can be from two to eight months. If you already have a nasty infestation, eight months can be a long time.

Do your research and choose one or the other. But don’t do nothing. “Out of sight out of mind” does not work with termites.

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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5 Rules for What You Can and Can’t Take When You Sell Your House

The selling season is here and if you’re thinking of selling your home there are many details that can slip through the cracks. When they pop up again, they can get pretty nasty, even to the point of killing the deal. Realtor Wendy Helfenbaum shares 5 things to remember when you are passing your house on to someone else.

When standup comedian Nathan Brannon moved into his newly purchased home in rural Washington state, it seemed the joke was on him: The previous owner had left the pegboard on the garage wall, but had taken all the pegs.
“When I first saw the pegs were missing, I was super confused; I mean, what are you going to do with just pegs?” Brannon recalls. “Now I have a pile of yard tools on the floor in front of the pegboard.”

Brannon isn’t the only home buyer to discover that sellers sometimes take the strangest things with them when they vacate a property. We’ve seen home buyers ranting on social media about missing doorknobs, toilet paper holders, and even trees from the front yard.
But it can be far beyond merely annoying for the buyer. If you take something you haven’t negotiated to keep, you could tank the sale or even face a lawsuit.
Not sure what you’re allowed to take with you when you move? Here are some rules to keep in mind before and after closing the deal.

1. If it’s nailed down, bolted, or mounted, it probably stays behind.
When Laurel-Ann Dooley walked through a vacation property she was purchasing, there was a glaring hole where a storage shed had recently stood.
“The previous owner had sold it, even though it was supposed to stay,” recalls Dooley, who’s an attorney and Realtor® at PalmerHouse Properties in Atlanta.
While most buyers and sellers probably know that “fixtures” (immovable elements of a home such as built-in furniture, fences, or, yes, a storage shed) must stay behind, there can still be some confusion, says Bill Gassett, a Realtor® with Re/Max Executive Realty in Hopkinton, MA.

“Probably the No. 1 gray area that I’ve found is the mounting mechanism for big-screen TVs,” Gassett shares. “Obviously, it’s attached, so it’s supposed to stay with the house. But common sense says, ‘Well, if somebody has a $3,000 TV hanging on the wall, unless they’re including the TV with the house, the mounting mechanism doesn’t stay.’”
“It becomes a real battling point with buyers and sellers if it’s not specifically referenced,” he adds.

Generally, Dooley says, if a house has been modified for an item, it’s probably a fixture.
“If an air-conditioning unit is placed in a window, it’s arguably personal property and the buyer can take it with them,” she says. “But if a hole has been cut in the wall to accommodate the unit, then it’s most likely a fixture.”
With that said, you want to avoid “arguably”, “probably”, or “most likely” when it comes to selling your home, Dooley cautions to be specific and firm.
“If you want it, say so upfront,” Dooley advises.

2. Leave Mother Nature alone.
Unless the property listing specifically mentions that you intend to take the prized rose patch your Aunt Zelda gave you, sellers cannot remove any landscaping, Gassett says.
“I’ve had sellers with specific requests to take certain things that might have been a special gift,” Gassett says. “Otherwise, you can’t just dig up a plant and take it with you; it’s part of the property.”

3. Hands off anything anchored in the ground.
Other backyard items are also potential sources of misunderstanding between buyers and sellers. “Technically, if a basketball hoop is cemented into the ground, then it’s considered to go with the house. Freestanding ones sitting on the lawn, however, would be something buyers could take with them,” he says. Ditto for swing sets: If it’s anchored in the ground, it stays.

4. Let go of your lighting fixtures.
Even if you’re attached to your show-stopping dining room chandelier, don’t pack it up and leave electrical wires hanging when you leave. And if you’re thinking about swapping out that chandelier right before closing—and hoping the buyer won’t notice? Forget about it, Gassett says.

“When you buy a property, you’re buying what you saw the day you saw the property and wrote the offer on the house, so for sellers to change something out after that date is illegal,” Gassett warns. Yes, illegal. You can declare your intention to remove it, Dooley says, but be aware that excluded items often become sticking points between buyers and sellers. “Instead, take that chandelier out before you list your house, and put something else there,” she suggests.

5. Window treatments stay, too.
You may have spent a fortune on those custom blinds in your living room, but technically, you’re supposed to leave ‘em hanging, Gassett says. “Curtains are always considered personal property, because they just slide off,” he says. “Rods and blinds, on the other hand, are considered part of the house because they’re affixed and attached.”

Mirrors are another murky area, he adds, but pretty easy to figure out: If they’re hung like paintings on a wall, they’re personal property. Bolted to the studs? They’re fixtures.

Don’t be petty—or you might tank the sale
Often, the littlest things cause the most heated debates, or even the derailment of the sale itself. Sometimes, as in Brannon’s case of the missing pegs, sellers remove things from the house that aren’t worth chasing after, but are incredibly annoying nonetheless, Gassett says. For instance, he recalls a seller who took the control box for an underground dog fence.

“In real estate deals, some people take it out on the buyer by nickel-and-diming on stuff,” he says. “Especially if they don’t feel the sale has gone exactly the way they wanted it to, or they have resentment towards the buyer.” Dooley heard of a seller who removed all the light bulbs in the house before moving. “With the amount of money you’re talking about on the sale of a home, I can’t imagine attaching sentimental value to your 60-watt light bulbs,” she says. “It’s kind of silly.”

Wendy Helfenbaum is a journalist and TV producer who covers real estate, architecture and design, DIY, gardening, and travel. Her work has appeared in Woman’s Day, Metropolis, Costco Connection, Garden Collage, Parenting, Canadian Living, Canadian Gardening, and more. See the original article here on Realtor.com.

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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Resale Issues Buyers Don’t Think About

Showing properties to prospective buyers is great fun. I get to listen to all sorts of ideas a dreams about how each address might serve the prospective home buyer’s family. One of the things home buyers can miss is what their experience will be like when they decide to sell the house later. For example, I’ve had single buyers tell me they only need a two bedroom house (they still exist) since they’re the only one who will be living there. I always suggest they buy a three bedroom house even if they don’t need it. If they don’t, they’ll be looking for another single buyer like themselves, which will cut down the prospective buyer pool immensely. Mary McIntosh, a Realtor in Arizona, explains a few other things that could make a property difficult to sell when you’re ready to move.

In 2002, when I first got my real estate license, I took a class at my brokerage about how to show properties. Seems silly, right? How hard is it to unlock the door? But this class was about practical ways to make sure the buyer focuses on the most important factors of a home. I still follow some of the tips from this class today. One of them was to advocate caution to a buyer considering a house with an “adverse situation.”

What’s that? It’s a condition that will affect the resale of the property. I remember the instructor saying, “When my past clients call me up and ask me to sell the house I helped them buy, I don’t want to then explain to them the fact that they back to a major road will affect their value.” That hit me. No, it’s not the agent’s job to choose the home for the buyer, but they do deserve to know that if they purchase a home with an unchangeable adverse situation, it will always sell for less than similar homes and may stay on the market longer.

Selling is stressful no matter what the market is like, but in a flat or down market, it is 100 times worse. So since we can’t predict the future, I prefer to talk to buyers up front about adverse situations — deal killers, I call them — so they know what they’re getting into. And what might those deal killers be? These are the six I run into most often in my business.

Power lines: I hadn’t considered this one a deal killer until one of my first buyers backed out of a sale contract because she feared the power lines behind the home would give her cancer. Then I learned just how popular this myth is, as buyer after buyer has brought up a similar concern ever since. Just like fears about cell phone radiation, people have come to worry that the low-level radiation from high-voltage power lines will make them sick — even though governmental studies have not found such a link. But perception is everything in the pursuit of a sale. Many people also find power lines aesthetically displeasing, which could cause trouble at resale.

New subdivisions: Brand-new homes are a big draw for many buyers, but if you are looking in a subdivision that will be under construction for years to come, resale could be difficult for the foreseeable future. They’ll be competing with brand-new construction for however long developers are building in the area, and that will make their lives difficult for many reasons. Beyond the appeal of new homes, builders also have deep pockets and can offer many incentives to buyers that traditional sellers can’t.

Neighboring a business: I once had a neighbor whose home backed up to the rear of a grocery store. Guess when grocery stores get their deliveries? All night long. Those delivery people didn’t care who was sleeping at 4 a.m. or whether they were being too loud for the new mom next door with a baby she was trying to put to sleep. Now, not every business is going to be this disruptive all night long, but if their neighbors aren’t home owners just like them, they may have issues to deal with.

Environmental concerns: In my area in Arizona, the west-facing backyard is an immediate deal killer. During summer sunsets — a time of day when many people are home — the back of the house heats up even hotter than it usually is around this neck of the woods. Not an enjoyable experience when you’re trying to relax after a long day. It also makes barbecuing on the back patio unbearable. Your location may have different adverse situations depending on the environment in your state. In Washington, where my brother sells, he tries to avoid homes in forested areas that might be in danger of burning down.

Subtle noises: When buyers tour homes, they’re listening for noise from nearby airports, train tracks, or highways and major roads. They’re probably a little more oblivious to the barking dog next door or the neighbor with parrots and a full aviary in their yard — or a chicken coop. Sometimes these noises are only passing aggravations and aren’t permanent, but if they hear it now, they’ll probably hear it in the future. And that can affect the next buyer’s opinion when they’re ready to sell.

Peculiar ideas of privacy: Speaking of noise, highways and major roads are an obvious problem at resale, but some buyers prefer backing to a busy road rather than another home for privacy reasons. They’re a rare breed. For most people, the privacy benefit won’t outweigh the disturbance of the noise.

Mary McIntosh, GRI, AHWD, is associate broker at ProSmart Realty in Gilbert, Ariz., and has been selling real estate since 2002. Her motto is: “Always look for ways to better serve your clients and keep them laughing throughout the process.”

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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DIY or Pay A Pro? The Top Five Most Searched Home Improvement Jobs

Stephen Jones, my Farmer’s Insurance agent sends me interesting articles from time to time. Many of them are about cars. This one, written by Meghan Rabbit, was about home improvement. I found it to be spot on compared to my own experiences with fix-it jobs around the house. Of course these are only suggestions. You’re responsible for knowing your own skill level for any of these jobs.

What do you think? Comment at the bottom.

Spending your weekends on small fix-it projects may seem like a good way to save money and get the work done without the hassle of finding and hiring a pro. But before you swing a hammer or dust off your power drill, Danny Lipford, a contractor and nationally syndicated TV and radio host of Today’s Homeowner, cautions DIYers to research the work. “Know what you’re getting into, and know whether or not a job is going to take you so much time and cause you so much grief it would be better to have a pro tackle it from the start,” he says.

Here, Lipford breaks down the five most searched home improvement projects and whether you might consider DIY or hiring a pro based on the cost, time and complexity of the work involved.

  1. Repairing a toilet – DIY

Fixing a toilet pump is one of the most common bathroom repairs, says Lipford. A faulty pump can cause the toilet to run constantly, which won’t cause flooding, but it is noisy and it wastes water.  “Many toilet issues are DIY-friendly,” says Lipford. “There are only a few different types of mechanisms available for your toilet, and many of them are universal, so it can be easy to remove one part and replace it,” he says. First, watch a few top-viewed toilet repair tutorials on YouTube, says Lipford. When you’re ready to repair, turn off the water valve and flush the toilet to drain all of the water out of the tank. Then, remove and replace the parts, he says. “At most, the parts may cost you $25. Paying a professional to do this easy fix will run you anywhere from $85 to $125,” says Lipford.

  1. Building a shed – Pay a pro

“When you build a shed, you may as well be building a small, inexpensive house,” Lipford puts it bluntly. “You’re dealing with roof issues, a foundation, installing doors and windows. It’s a lot of work.” Even if you’re the type who doesn’t get aggravated by the 1,000 screws and three days it takes to put an Ikea bookshelf together, Lipford recommends buying a pre-made shed and having a pro assemble it. “I’ve never talked to someone who actually enjoyed building a shed. You won’t do it in one day, no matter how much help you have,” he says. If you opt for a pre-made shed (which could cost, on average, $1,000 to $3,000, depending on the size), spend your time customizing it, says Lipford. “I’d hire a pro to build my shed and spend my time making it my own: add a ramp, install some under-skirting, or build a bench and shelves inside,” he says.

  1. Building a fence – It depends

Building a fence may seem straightforward, but Lipford says most DIYers underestimate the amount of work involved. “It seems so innocent and simple, until you get your hands on a post-hole digger and realize it’s not as much fun as it seems,” he says. Consider the scale of the job and the lay of the land, says Lipford. If you’re talking about a flat area and a fairly small space, it’s basic carpentry. If you’re dealing with a big slope, which will make using a post-hole digger difficult, or a big fence that requires multiple gates then leave it to the pros. According to Lipford, rates range from $7 (for metal or chain) to $26 (for aluminum) per linear foot for the materials; add $7 to $10 more per linear foot for the labor.

If you’re leaning toward the DIY route, spend the time researching and planning to figure out every single thing you’ll need for the project, including materials, the transportation of those materials and tools you don’t already have, Lipford says. This research will also give you a good baseline to compare quotes if you’re considering hiring a pro. “It might surprise you how little you’ll save, especially when you consider the number of weekends you’ll spend working on it, the sore back and the bruised fingers you’ll have when you’re finally finished,” says Lipford.

  1. Fixing a garbage disposal – DIY

”The most common problems with a garbage disposal, according to Lipford: 1) it’s clogged, 2) it will not turn on or 3) its making a humming noise but not running. A broken garbage disposal is either a super-simple fix or you’re buying a new garbage disposal, says Lipford. The good news? Replacing a garbage disposal isn’t a tough job, either. Best possible scenario: You unclog the unit and it starts working immediately. Worst-case scenario: you have to buy a new one and install it, which is a straightforward job, says Lipford. If you opt for an expert to do it for you you’re probably looking at about $75 in labor, says Lipford. First, figure out if the garbage disposal is jammed. “Attach a large Allen wrench to the very bottom of the garbage disposal and try to move it, which should dislodge whatever caused it to jam,” he says. Next, flip the little circuit breaker or relay switch on the garbage disposal to reset the unit, he says. Finally, be sure there’s power going to it, says Lipford. If the garbage disposal makes noise when you turn it on, there’s power. “If you do these things and it still won’t work, you’ll probably have to replace it,” he says.

  1. Installing a window – Pay a pro

Like building a fence, this seemingly straightforward job is more complicated than you think, says Lipford. “There’s a lot of skill and knowledge required when it comes to window installation. Someone who has done it hundreds of times will make it look easy, but if you’ve never done it before, you’ll find it super challenging. Think about it this way: improperly installed windows make you vulnerable to a couple different conditions, namely, weather and burglars,” says Lipford. Installation is also more complicated than it looks. You have to hold a heavy window, center it, seal it—and who knows what you’ll find when you’re removing the trim,” Lipford adds. If you insist on the DIY route, enlist help, says Lipford. If you call an expert, be sure they specialize or have extensive experience installing windows. If you hire a pro, the average labor fee is about $70 per hour and well worth the price, says Lipford. “This is not a job for the average handyman.”

Whether you do it yourself or hire a pro, remember repairs are part of the landscape for a home owner. Taking care of your property will protect your investment for the future and make it easier to sell when the time comes.

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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4 things buyers consider when buying a home.

Pretty Please

So you’re ready to put your house on the market. You want to get it sold and move on to the next phase of your life. All you need to do is stick a sign in the yard and wait for someone to call, right? It really can’t be that hard. You love the place. It has so much character anyone who just walks in the door will appreciate it as much as you have. But after a few unproductive visits by people who don’t seem to share your passion for your castle you may begin to wonder what is really going on inside those buyers’ heads. It’s not that complicated. They are considering the same four things you will be considering when you begin your new home search. Two of those criteria you have complete control over. Two of them you don’t.

1.      Location

You’ve heard it before: location, location, location. It’s become somewhat overused but don’t disregard the fact that everyone who looks at your house is going to be working out how they will get from your address to everywhere they need to go in their lives. Work, school, church, shopping, proximity to other family members, all of these will play a large role in determining whether your address works for them. To make matters more complicated, everyone who walks in your door will have a different set of places they’ll need to go, starting at your address. Everything else about your house may work for them but if it’s too far from one of their important destinations they won’t buy your house. You can’t control this priority for the home buyer. Your house is where it is. You can’t move it.

2.      Floorplan

You enjoyed the spacious upstairs game room. It’s large enough for a pool table and a 55” 4K UHD TV. Being able to send the three kids upstairs to their rooms at the end of the day, leaving the entire downstairs to you and your spouse, has also been a real plus. But when a buyer comes to look at your house and realizes that there is no spare bedroom downstairs for his 85 year old mother when she comes to visit, your house will be marked off the list. Floorplans reflect the lifestyle of the owner. They complement and enhance the way we live. If they don’t work, short of agreeing to build that second bedroom on the back of the house, you’re not going to sell your house to that person. Floorplans are permanent. For the most part, you can’t make significant changes in them.

Even though these two characteristics of your home are very important to buyers, you can’t really do anything about them if your property comes up short on their list in either area. In these two cases you are simply waiting for the right buyer to come along who values the location and layout as much as you have.  If they’re on the fence about whether or not they could make the combination work, the next two items on the list are where you can make changes that might just tip them over the edge.

3.      Condition

Here is where you as a seller can influence the buyer that your property is an excellent choice. If you’ve been keeping up with your maintenance, the overall mechanical condition of the house is good. Everything is in dependable working order: HVAC, water heater, kitchen appliances, anything with moving parts will all be in good repair. Interior and exterior paint, carpet, landscaping, and lighting will be clean, well kept, and up to date. Determining if this is true may take a bit of focus on your part. After all, you’ve lived in the house for a long time. Maybe you’ve gotten used to the way the back door sticks when you try to open it. The dishwasher makes a weird sound in the rinse but it still cleans the dishes. That frayed corner of the carpet has been there since fluffy was a puppy. You’ve obscured it with a table but a buyer won’t be impressed with your ingenuity. Take care of these things in advance. Don’t let them quietly be the reason someone says “no” to your home. If you have to spend a few hundred dollars on a new dishwasher or to get the fuzzy wallpaper taken off the walls in the guest bathroom, do it and look at it this way. You should have done it a long time ago. What were you doing with fuzzy wallpaper in the bathroom in the first place?

4.      Price

This one is the Holy Grail. It’s the one point that you control as a home seller where it can be difficult to find balance. You want to get as much as you can for your property but you don’t want to wait around forever to make a sale. As your Real Estate agent I can show you how your house compares with others that have sold in the area. I can suggest a price that will make you competitive within the market place. In the end, though, it’s very important to remember that while you set the listing price, the market sets the sales price. Your willingness to work with any offer will directly affect how quickly your property will sell. It’s important to consider also that your mortgage payment, insurance, taxes, and utilities all continue as you are waiting for a sale. Be sure to factor that in when you are looking at each offer.

Even though you have no control of the desirability of your property’s location or the floorplan of the house, with the two parameters you do control you might be able to swing a reluctant buyer your way. If the house is immaculate and priced competitively a buyer just might be willing to drive an extra five miles to work every day in order to enjoy your home.

Remember, your house isn’t the only one the buyer has to choose from. If you make sure your approach to marketing is better than the next guy’s, you’ll be the one who ends up at the closing table first.

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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4 phrases that you should never say at work if you want people to trust you

file7951263251529Today we delve into the issues of interpersonal relationships. Maybe a somewhat off base topic coming from a Real Estate agent, but since I deal with people all the time I have made it a habit to be as straightforward as possible when communicating to clients and friends. This is not to say one needs to be rude in any relationship but I have found that everyone appreciates someone who will be definite and deliberate when providing information. This article is by Judith Humphrey and is written from the viewpoint of the employer/employee relationship. But these four points could be adopted by anyone in any situation who wanted to improve their communication skills with friends and colleagues.

A friend of mine was recently telling me about her new job. “I like it, except my boss is hard to read,” she said. “I wish she’d just come out and say what she thinks!” Instead, her boss uses wishy-washy expressions like, “Hopefully you’re okay with this?” and, “I might possibly have a suggestion for you.”
As organizations become flatter, communicating well in every direction is getting more important. But managers and leaders are often worried about sounding too controlling, so they soften what they say. Their team members, taking their cue, bury their own ideas under hedging expressions that muddle their meaning. Before long, everyone just winds up sounding less clear, confident, and authoritative than they actually feel. In order to make sure you sound like you know what you’re talking about, cut these common words and phrases from your vocabulary.

1. “I’m not sure, but…”

For starters, it’s okay not to be sure about something. After all, false confidence is often just as bad as open ignorance. But saying “I’m not sure” when you really do have a decent grasp on the matter only undercuts your cause.
When your employee, for instance, says, “I’m not quite sure, but I should have the report done by Friday,” you’re left to wonder whether that means you’ll actually have to wait until the following week, or that they’re just being modest. There are better ways to communicate tentativeness in cases like this: “I’m waiting on a few more data points from our finance team, so as long as those come through tomorrow, the report will be ready by Friday.” Now your employee sounds like she knows what she’s talking about.

Similar qualifiers to avoid include “only a thought,” “just my opinion,” “hard to say,” and “this might be a silly question.” None of these humble idioms help you make a compelling case about a complicated topic, or let you underscore what you do know in a situation where there are unknowns. The goal isn’t to minimize uncertainty or downplay risks. It’s to be taken seriously as someone who can navigate those gray-area experiences with well-founded confidence.

2. “Sort of” or “Kind of”

When someone says, “I sort of think” or “I kind of suspect,” it’s clear they either don’t want to come out and speak the truth or else don’t really know their own mind.

Maybe a sales manager says something like this: “I kind of think we should approach that client again–it’s been a long time since we’ve heard from them. What do you think?” Is she uncertain about going forward and genuinely wants your opinion, or is she just trying to give direction by softening her statement?

Or perhaps your boss says, “I sort of liked the work you turned in last week.” Perhaps she’s suggesting your work wasn’t up to snuff, or perhaps she’s just giving you a compliment and softening her language. It might seem like an unimportant difference, but in reality it leaves you not knowing how to respond: Do you keep doing what you’ve been doing, or do you ask for feedback on how to do better work next time?

Not only do these phrases create a lack of clarity for team members, they also make team leaders who use them sound less confident and transparent than they should.

3. “Maybe,” “Possibly,” and “Potentially”

“Maybe,” “possibly,” “probably,” “basically,” “largely,” and “hopefully” are all words that smack of indecision. If a manager says to a staff member, “Hopefully you’ll be okay with this change,” his listener might wonder whether she actually has leeway to challenge it.

Many qualifiers like these have a similar effect. An employee tells a supervisor, “The project is largely complete”–instead of actually saying when it will be done or why it’s not quite there yet. An IT manager says to an internal client, “It’s basically a software problem, but possibly we can fix it pretty soon ourselves.” Is this good news or bad news? Who knows! None of these phrases instill much confidence that the speaker has a handle on the situation.

4. Using the past tense when you mean the present

How many times have you been in a meeting and heard a colleague say, “I thought I should mention that . . . ” or, “I was thinking we should . . . “? It sounds like the person talking no longer quite believes in whatever idea they’re putting forward. Compare those past tense expressions to phrases like “I want to mention . . .” and “I think we should . . .” and the difference is clear.
Similarly, when you say, “I just wanted to point out that our project is well under way,” the first part of the statement hedges the rest of the sentence that comes after it, which is actually positive. It’s as though you really did have something to say, then thought better of it, but finally decided–hesitantly–to put it out there anyway. You’ve just created confusion, rather than announcing clearly and confidently that your project is going just fine.
If you want to sound like a capable speaker who knows what you’re talking about, don’t water down your message. Avoid these four patterns and expressions. They don’t make you sound more approachable–they just make you sound uncertain, even when you aren’t.

Everyone has one: Pick a bad habit you need to shake at work. Make it your goal to start fixing it this week.

This article originally appeared on Fast Company

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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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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