Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Details of Making an Offer on a Home

With financing in place, a great home located and preparation for placing an offer beginning, the often lengthy process of purchasing a new home approaches its successful completion. The remaining steps are legally important for protecting your own interests and ensuring that your dream home won’t become a nightmare following your purchase. From contingencies for issues that present themselves following an accepted offer to price negotiation, ensuring a fundamentally sound offer on a piece of property is the best way to complete a successful acquisition of a new home. So, what are the most important details to keep in mind when drafting an offer on the perfect home for your needs? With the help of an experienced real estate agent, you can submit an offer with full confidence, knowing that you’re legally protected throughout the final purchasing procedures, and by remembering to study the following details, your offer will have a great chance of kicking off a successful end to your home hunt.
With the help of your real estate agent, performing a comparative market analysis (CMA) is a great way to find an estimate of the fair market value of the property upon which you’ve got your eye.

According to Front Door, there isn’t a more reliable, widely used mathematical method of estimating a property’s true value than a CMA. By distilling all of the most important characteristics of your potential property, including bedrooms, bathrooms and square footage, into quantifiable statistics, you’ll have a much clearer indication of the true value of the property before submitting an offer. Instead of focusing on asking price, use comparable properties that have recently sold in the area to determine an offer. Luckily for inexperienced buyers, real estate agents have access to all of the databases and records needed to get incredibly accurate home value estimates while protecting tight budgets.

Take a look at the market in the area to have a better idea of market conditions. If you’re in a buyer’s market, big savings could be available when making an offer.

Speaking of comparable properties, studying market conditions before putting in an offer is essential to getting the best value possible. In a seller’s market, you’re likely to find competition on great properties. As a result contingencies and concessions may need to be eliminated in order to make your offer more favorable. Conversely, buyer’s markets are great to see when you’re making a home purchase. In this case, housing inventory outweighs buyer interest, and you’re much more likely to have offers below list price accepted without a bidding war. Ask your real estate agent how to shape your offer to match market conditions, and you may find savings that you didn’t know were possible.

Each seller is different, so there is no ‘one-size fits all’ solution to creating a successful offer. Depend on the experience of your real estate agent to make sure your offer shines, and never attempt to make an offer alone.

According to Fox News, gathering available information on the seller of your potential home could be a great start to making a sweet offer. For example, if a property recently held an estate sale, chances are high that a quick closing may be more important than meeting list price. In any scenario, doing some detective work on a property could help you guide your offer more precisely. Avoid insulting homeowners with low-ball offers and excess criticism on a property to which they may have sentimental attachment. Since sellers have no obligation to take the lowest offer on the table, details are important to improving your chances. Again, the experience of real estate agents is invaluable to getting the property of your dreams.

Keep emotions out of the negotiating process. If the seller has unrealistic expectations of the value of their home, don’t hesitate to walk away from a deal instead of overpaying for a piece of property.

After an exhausting home search, it can be difficult to separate emotions from business when putting in an offer on a property. While some negotiation is almost always necessary with initial offers, remember your budgetary restrictions before purchasing a home. While it can be difficult to commit to reentering the housing market after deciding on a property, overpaying for a home is never a good idea. If the seller of the home refuses to negotiate to fair market value, walk away, and depend on the expertise of your real estate agent to find a more realistic option that won’t be a bad investment for the future.

Peter J. is a writer whose interests include central Texas real estate, studying the stars and couponing.


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Choosing a Home Inspector

Choosing a Home Inspector

Among the contingencies written into your offer for your dream home, none are more important than the home inspection clause. With this, you are legally permitted to obtain a complete inspection of the property to check for any unknown problems that could end up busting your budget. From foundation issues to outdated, unsafe electrical systems, issues discovered during a home inspection could save you a ton of time and money when deciding whether to acquire a new piece of property. With this in mind, don’t trust just anyone to give you an all-clear on the condition of a property. Just as you took the time to find the perfect property for your needs, you should put proper effort into ensuring the qualifications and trustworthiness of a home inspector before trusting his or her word on the condition of your potential home. So, where do you start when searching for a great home inspector? Let’s take a look at some methods for ensuring that your inspector is the best available for your needs.

In the best case scenario, you’ll search for an inspector before submitting an offer on a home. By doing so beforehand, you can take your time when meeting inspectors and avoid restrictive time constraints.

With your offer on a home accepted, the clock begins ticking on your period to get a home inspection. With tight deadlines and high pressure come less opportunities to interview and analyze home inspector options. According to Front Door, finding an inspector before locating and offering on your dream property is the best way to remove the pressure to hire the first inspector that comes your way. Taking the time to find the best inspector to fit your needs is definitely a worthy venture, as his or her report on the condition of your home could be your last opportunity to find potential problems before signing a purchase contract on the property.

For a list of experienced inspectors with which to begin your search, depend on the knowledge of your real estate agent, as well as friends and family, to avoid wasting time with unqualified, unprofessional options.

In addition to various online home inspector review databases, home inspectors depend a great deal on word-of-mouth advertising to spread the reviews of their services. If you’ve got family or friends who’ve recently purchased a home in the area, consulting with them about their home inspection experience could be a great way to begin the hunt for the inspector you need. If not, your real estate agent should have working knowledge of a few inspectors in the area with good qualifications and customer feedback. In any case, depending on your home searching team is a great way to weed out inspectors who aren’t good for your particular needs.

When interviewing potential inspectors, ask plenty of questions. The answers you receive should give you a better idea of the qualifications of each home inspector.

According to US News, there are seven important questions that you should ask each and every home inspector. Professional organization affiliation, professional background, years of experience and training, the average length of inspections, the main aspects of inspection, whether or not you can attend the inspection (this shouldn’t be a problem) and the type of report they provide are all major topics of discussion for interviewing professional home inspectors. If you’ve got other questions relating to your specific home search, don’t hesitate to let them know. Sometimes, the way a question is answered is just as revealing as the answer itself.
Protect your own interests by ensuring that your home inspector carries an errors and omissions (E&O) insurance policy. If there’s a problem with your inspection, you’ll probably need this policy to recoup potential losses.

Even the very best of home inspection professionals can make mistakes, so ensuring an insurance policy is in place to protect you in the event of an oversight is an important detail to consider. If a major issue is discovered after moving into your new home, an E&O insurance policy will allow you to get the costs needed to correct the problem without dealing with the possibility of a bankrupted inspector and a lawsuit. Having protection when making an investment as large as a new home is never a bad idea, so taking the extra time to ensure that a policy is in place could pay huge dividends in the future. If you’ve got any other questions or concerns regarding finding the perfect home inspector for your needs, depend on the knowledge and expertise of your real estate agent to guide you through.

Chris G. writes about Leander homes for sale and Texas politics.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Replacing Rain Gutters and Downspouts

Replacing Rain Gutters and Downspouts

By: Pat Curry

Replace missing gutters and downspouts to prevent serious siding and foundation damage that may cost you $10,000 or more to repair.
Your home may be your castle, but if you’re missing downspouts and sections of gutter, you’ll certainly have a moat where daisies once flourished. Excess water near your foundation risks thousands of dollars in foundation repairs. The good news is that gutter or downspout replacement only requires about $15 worth of materials and three to four hours of your time.

Cost of Replacement Gutters and Downspouts
You’ll find aluminum and vinyl gutter components surprisingly affordable. Here’s what to look for:
  • Home centers sell 10-foot sections of gutter for less than $8.
  • A 10-foot downspout costs you less than $13.
  • Clip-up downspout extenders that snap out of the way when mowing cost about $8.
  • Gutter sealant runs about $5 for a 10-ounce tube.
  • Buy additional hangers and clips for 25 cents each -- the damage may have occurred because there weren’t enough of them in the first place.
  • In some cases, you’ll also need some end caps ($7), joint connectors ($3), and self-tapping screws ($3).

How to Replace Missing Gutters
More often than not, an entire 10-foot section of gutter will be damaged or missing. Use a hacksaw and tin snips to cut shorter lengths of replacement gutter.
  • Grab two ladders and enlist a helper.
  • Remove any old joint connectors and scrape any sealant or gunk off the existing gutter.
  • Do a test fit with new joint connectors.
  • Fill the ends of the new joint connectors with sealant before installing the gutter.
  • Loosen adjacent hangers if needed to add the replacement section.
  • Add hangers every 3 feet. Confirm that the gutter is pitched toward the downspout at a slope of 1/4-inch for every 10 feet.
Related: How to Save Money by Repairing Sagging and Leaking Rain Gutters

How to Add a Downspout
  • Fit the new downspout up into the drop outlet (the piece at the end of gutter that feeds into the downspout). Notice that the drop outlet fits inside the downspout section to contain the flow and keep the jointing from leaking.
  • Fasten the joint with two self-tapping gutter screws. Add additional sections as needed.
  • Finish the downspout with an elbow positioned at least 6 inches above grade.
  • Attach the downspout extender (it should extend at least 5 feet into your yard).

Adding All-New Gutters and Downspouts
If there are lots of missing or damaged pieces, you may decide it is time for a whole new set of gutters. Most residential gutters are made of lightweight and durable aluminum. Vinyl, galvanized steel, and even copper also are options.

Aluminum gutters range from about $4.50 to $8.50 per linear foot installed. On a 2,000-square-foot house with about 180 linear feet of gutters, that’s roughly $800 to $1,500.

  • Give Your Downspouts a Makeover
  • How to Clean Rain Gutters

Read more:
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8 Tips for Adding Curb Appeal and Value to Your Home

8 Tips for Adding Curb Appeal and Value to Your Home
By: Pat Curry

Here are eight ways to help your home put its best face forward.
Homes with high curb appeal command higher prices and take less time to sell. We’re not talking about replacing vinyl siding with redwood siding; we’re talking about maintenance and beautifying tasks you’d like to live with anyway.
The way your house looks from the street -- attractively landscaped and well-maintained -- can add thousands to its value and cut the time it takes to sell. But which projects pump up curb appeal most? Some spit and polish goes a long way, and so does a dose of color.

Related: Gorgeous Landscaping for Your House Means More Than Just Looks

Tip #1: Wash Your House’s Face

Before you scrape any paint or plant more azaleas, wash the dirt, mildew, and general grunge off the outside of your house. REALTORS® say washing a house can add $10,000 to $15,000 to the sale prices of some houses.

A bucket of soapy water and a long-handled, soft-bristled brush can remove the dust and dirt that have splashed onto your wood, vinyl, metal, stucco, brick, and fiber cement siding. Power washers (rental: $75 per day) can reveal the true color of your flagstone walkways.

Wash your windows inside and out, swipe cobwebs from eaves, and hose down downspouts. Don’t forget your garage door, which was once bright white. If you can’t spray off the dirt, scrub it off with a solution of 1/2 cup trisodium phosphate -- TSP, available at grocery stores, hardware stores, and home improvement centers -- dissolved in 1 gallon of water.

You and a friend can make your house sparkle in a few weekends. A professional cleaning crew will cost hundreds -- depending on the size of the house and number of windows -- but will finish in a couple of days.

Tip #2: Freshen the Paint Job

The most commonly offered curb appeal advice from real estate pros and appraisers is to give the exterior of your home a good paint job. Buyers will instantly notice it, and appraisers will value it.
Of course, painting is an expensive and time-consuming facelift. To paint a 3,000-square-foot home, figure on spending $375 to $600 on paint; $1,500 to $3,000 on labor.

Your best bet is to match the paint you already have: Scrape off a little and ask your local paint store to match it. Resist the urge to make a statement with color. An appraiser will mark down the value of a house that’s painted a wildly different color from its competition.

Tip #3: Regard the Roof

The condition of your roof is one of the first things buyers notice and appraisers assess. Missing, curled, or faded shingles add nothing to the look or value of your house. If your neighbors have maintained or replaced their roofs, yours will look especially shabby.
You can pay for roof repairs now, or pay for them later in a lower appraisal; appraisers will mark down the value by the cost of the repair. According to "Remodeling" magazine’s 2015 "Cost vs. Value Report," the average cost of a new asphalt shingle roof is about $19,500.
Some tired roofs look a lot better after you remove 25 years of dirt, moss, lichens, and algae. Don’t try cleaning your roof yourself: call a professional with the right tools and technique to clean it without damaging it. A 2,000-square-foot roof will take a day and $400 to $600 to clean professionally.

Tip #4: Neaten the Yard

A well-manicured lawn, fresh mulch, and pruned shrubs boost the curb appeal of any home.

Replace overgrown bushes with leafy plants and colorful annuals. Surround bushes and trees with dark or reddish-brown bark mulch, which gives a rich feel to the yard. Put a crisp edge on garden beds, pull weeds and invasive vines, and plant a few geraniums in pots.

Green up your grass with lawn food and water. Cover bare spots with seeds and sod, get rid of crab grass, and mow regularly.

Tip #5: Add a Color Splash

Even a little color attracts and pleases the eye of would-be buyers.
Plant a tulip border in the fall that will bloom in the spring. Dig a flowerbed by the mailbox and plant some pansies. Place a brightly colored bench or Adirondack chair on the front porch. Get a little daring, and paint the front door red or blue.
These colorful touches won’t add to the value of our house: Appraisers don’t give you extra points for a blue bench. But beautiful colors enhance curb appeal and help your house to sell faster.
Related: Colorful Plants with Curb Appeal

Tip #6: Glam Your Mailbox

An upscale mailbox, architectural house numbers, or address plaques can make your house stand out.

High-style die cast aluminum mailboxes range from $100 to $350. You can pick up a handsome, hand-painted mailbox for about $50. If you don’t buy new, at least give your old mailbox a facelift with paint and new house numbers.

These days, your local home improvement center or hardware stores has an impressive selection of decorative numbers. Architectural address plaques, which you tack to the house or plant in the yard, typically range from $80 to $200. Brass house numbers range from $3 to $11 each, depending on size and style.

Related: 11 Ways to Create a Welcoming Front Entrance for Under $100

Tip #7: Fence Yourself In

A picket fence with a garden gate to frame the yard is an asset. Not only does it add visual punch to your property, appraisers will give extra value to a fence in good condition, although it has more impact in a family-oriented neighborhood than an upscale retirement community.

Expect to pay $2,000 to $3,500 for a professionally installed gated picket fence 3 feet high and 100 feet long.

If you already have a fence, make sure it’s clean and in good condition. Replace broken gates and tighten loose latches.

Tip #8: Maintenance is a Must

Nothing looks worse from the curb -- and sets off subconscious alarms -- like hanging gutters, missing bricks from the front steps, or peeling paint. Not only can these deferred maintenance items damage your home, but they can decrease the value of your house by 10%.
Here are some maintenance chores that will dramatically help the look of your house:
  • Refasten sagging gutters.
  • Repoint bricks that have lost their mortar.
  • Reseal cracked asphalt.
  • Straighten shutters.
  • Replace cracked windows.

Read more:
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5 Tips to Prepare Your Home for Sale

5 Tips to Prepare Your Home for Sale

Working to get your home ship-shape for showings will increase its value and shorten your sales time.
Many buyers today want move-in-ready homes and will quickly eliminate an otherwise great home by focusing on a few visible flaws. Unless your home shines, you may endure showing after showing and open house after open house — and end up with a lower sales price. Before the first prospect walks through your door, consider some smart options for casting your home in its best light.

1.  Have a Home Inspection

Be proactive by arranging for a pre-sale home inspection. For $250 to $400, an inspector will warn you about troubles that could make potential buyers balk. Make repairs before putting your home on the market. In some states, you may have to disclose what the inspection turns up.

2.  Get Replacement Estimates

If your home inspection uncovers necessary repairs you can’t fund, get estimates for the work. The figures will help buyers determine if they can afford the home and the repairs. Also hunt down warranties, guarantees, and user manuals for your furnace, washer and dryer, dishwasher, and any other items you expect to remain with the house.

3.  Make Minor Repairs

Not every repair costs a bundle. Fix as many small problems — sticky doors, torn screens, cracked caulking, dripping faucets — as you can. These may seem trivial, but they’ll give buyers the impression your house isn’t well maintained.

4.  Clear the Clutter

Clear your kitchen counters of just about everything. Clean your closets by packing up little-used items like out-of-season clothes and old toys. Install closet organizers to maximize space. Put at least one-third of your furniture in storage, especially large pieces, such as entertainment centers and big televisions. Pack up family photos, knickknacks, and wall hangings to depersonalize your home. Store the items you’ve packed offsite or in boxes neatly arranged in your garage or basement.

5.  Do a Thorough Cleaning

A clean house makes a strong first impression that your home has been well cared for. If you can afford it, consider hiring a cleaning service.
If not, wash windows and leave them open to air out your rooms. Clean carpeting and drapes to eliminate cooking odors, smoke, and pet smells. Wash light fixtures and baseboards, mop and wax floors, and give your stove and refrigerator a thorough once-over.
Pay attention to details, too. Wash fingerprints from light switch plates, clean inside the cabinets, and polish doorknobs. Don’t forget to clean your garage, too.


  • 7 Tips for Staging Your Home
  • How to Keep Things Cleaner Longer
G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who has found happiness in a Chicago brownstone with the best curb appeal on the block. A frequent contributor to many national publications including, REALTOR® Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.

Read more: 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Why Should I Pay the Home Buyer's Closing Cost?

Why Should I Pay the Home Buyer's Closing Cost?

Question: I received an offer on my home that I have for sale, and in the purchase contract the buyer is asking me to pay for his closing costs. I don't think I should have to pay any of the buyer's costs. When I purchased this home the previous owner didn't pay any of my costs. Why should I pay this buyer's cost?

Answer: It is very typical these days for a buyer to ask a seller to pay for closing costs. In fact, probably around 30% of  buyers will include it in their offers. It's usually worded in the Purchase Contract similar to this: "Seller to pay for Buyer's closing costs, points and/or prepaid expenses" 

Let's first explain what these items are. Closing costs include the attorney fees, title insurance, bank fees, etc. Points are funds that the buyer pays at closing to get a better interest rate. Prepaid expenses include insurance, taxes and interest. The total amount of the cost varies with the purchase price, down payments, loan program and the day of the month that the property closes, but typically run 2% to 5% of the mortgage amount.

Now that we know what closing costs are, why should you, the seller, be responsible for paying them? What we really want to look at is how much will you be actually receiving after paying the closing costs. For example, if someone offers you $300,000 but they want you to pay $5,000 in closing costs, you are actually going to receive $295,000 at the closing table ($300,000-$5,000=$295,000). If you are happy with receiving $295,000 then what's the problem with paying it to make the deal work? If you're not happy with the bottom line you can always give a counter offer. Just don't take away the buyer's closing costs. So say, if you really looking for $310,000, then counter at $315,000 and say you'll pay the $5,000 towards closing costs (for a net of $310,000).

A home buyer has to come up with the down payment, plus additional expenses once he moves in. Not to mention moving costs. It's in the buyer's best interest to try to keep as much cash in the bank as possible to cover these and any unforeseen expenses. Really, what the buyer is actually doing is financing his closing costs, because you would have accepted $310,000... and he is buying it for $315,000. So, even though it says in the contract that the seller is paying the closing costs, in reality the buyer is paying for them himself (over the life of the 30 year mortgage).

So, don't get hung up on paying a buyer's closing cost. If you can come to an agreed upon price, concentrate on doing what you can to get the buyer to the closing table. Paying for closing costs is a no brainer that doesn't affect you as long as you look at the bottom line.

Jim Armstrong
Armstrong Field Real Estate

Monday, March 09, 2015

What do I mean when I say “MLS”?

Understanding an MLS (Multiple Listing Service)

Odds are you’ve spent a little time online searching for homes. After all, most home searches begin online. You may have even used a broker’s website or a site like Trulia or Zillow to help you browse listings.

But where does listing information come from?

Way back in the day, prior to the Information Age revolution, brokers used to gather and exchange information about their properties. The idea was fairly straightforward: I’ll help you sell your properties if you help me sell mine. It’s a “private offer of cooperation and compensation.” Cooperation meant the real estate industry could thrive and buyers and sellers could enjoy smoother transactions.
This spirit of cooperation gave rise to Multiple Listing Service(s) (MLS). By consolidating information about housing inventory in an MLS, listing brokers and buyers’ brokers can easily share up-to-date information about homes on the market. Though an MLS is typically a private database available to brokers, much of the information is syndicated to outside sites in the interest of casting wider net for buyers and sellers.

As an MLS is the primary source of information about a property, it tends to be the most accurate. It may also contain private information for use by brokers only, such as times the home is available for showings and seller contact information.

There are upwards of 850 MLS databases in the U.S. alone, and to a certain extent, there is market pressure to centralize these into a national MLS database. We’re sure to see changes in how Multiple Listing Services are used in the future, but the core benefits to home sellers and buyers is sure to remain.

Ready to put the power of an MLS to work for you? Search with me today for homes on the market right now. I’d be happy to help you find your next home.

Jim Armstrong
Armstrong Field Real Estate

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Negotiate Your Best House Buy

Couple negotiating house purchase

Negotiate Your Best House Buy
Article From

By: G. M. Filisko
Published: June 04, 2010
Keep your emotions in check and your eyes on the goal, and you'll pay less when purchasing a home.

Buying a home can be emotional, but negotiating the price shouldn't be. The key to saving money when purchasing a home is sticking to a plan during the turbulence of high-stakes negotiations. A real estate agent who represents you can guide you and offer you advice, but you are the one who must make the final decision during each round of offers and counter offers.
Buying a home can be emotional, but negotiating the price shouldn't be. The key to saving money when purchasing a home is sticking to a plan during the turbulence of high-stakes negotiations. A real estate agent who represents you can guide you and offer you advice, but you are the one who must make the final decision during each round of offers and counter offers.

 Here are six tips for negotiating the best price on a home.

 1. Get prequalified for a mortgage

  Getting prequalified for a mortgage proves to sellers that you're serious about buying and capable of affording their home. That will push you to the head of the pack when sellers choose among offers; they'll go with buyers who are a sure financial bet, not those whose financing could flop.

 2. Ask questions 

 Ask your agent for information to help you understand the sellers' financial position and motivation. Are they facing foreclosure or a short sale? Have they already purchased a home or relocated, which may make them eager to accept a lower price to avoid paying two mortgages? Has the home been on the market for a long time, or was it just listed? Have there been other offers? If so, why did they fall through? The more signs that sellers are eager to sell, the lower your offer can reasonably go.

 3. Work back from a final price to determine your initial offer

 Know in advance the most you're willing to pay, and with your agent work back from that number to determine your initial offer, which can set the tone for the entire negotiation. A too-low bid may offend sellers emotionally invested in the sales price; a too-high bid may lead you to spend more than necessary to close the sale.

Work with your agent to evaluate the sellers' motivation and comparable home sales to arrive at an initial offer that engages the sellers yet keeps money in your wallet.

 4. Avoid contingencies

 Sellers favor offers that leave little to chance. Keep your bid free of complicated contingencies, such as making the purchase conditional on the sale of your current home. Do keep contingencies for mortgage approval, home inspection, and environmental checks typical in your area, like radon.

 5. Remain unemotional

 Buying a home is a business transaction, and treating it that way helps you save money. Consider any movement by the sellers, however slight, a sign of interest, and keep negotiating.

Each time you make a concession, ask for one in return. If the sellers ask you to boost your price, ask them to contribute to closing costs or pay for a home warranty. If sellers won't budge, make it clear you're willing to walk away; they may get nervous and accept your offer.

 6. Don't let competition change your plan

Great homes and those competitively priced can draw multiple offers in any market. Don't let competition propel you to go beyond your predetermined price or agree to concessions--such as waiving an inspection--that aren't in your best interest.

 More from HouseLogic

 Determine how much mortgage you can afford (

Keep your home purchase on track (

Plan for a stress-free home closing (

 G.M. Filisko is an attorney and award-winning writer who has to remind herself to remain unemotional during negotiations. A frequent contributor to many national publications including, REALTOR? Magazine, and the American Bar Association Journal, she specializes in real estate, business, personal finance, and legal topics.
Keep your emotions in check and your eyes on the goal, and you’ll pay less when purchasing a home.
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