If you’re shopping for a house, or even just considering buying one, there’s one person that you absolutely need on your side: a Realtor. Potential buyers often think they can go it alone, but there are a number of things they may not be considering.
What is a Buyer’s Agent and How are They Compensated?A Buyer’s Agent is your representative throughout the transaction. When you choose a Buyer’s Agent to represent you, they’re going to keep your best outcome in mind. They’re not only legally bound to protect you throughout a real estate transaction, many Buyer’s Agents are also naturally protective of their clients.
Many people are nervous about choosing a Buyer’s Agent because they’re under the impression that they may have to pay an extra fee for their services. However, the fees that the real estate agent and their company earn are set long before you walk in the door. Buyers don’t typically pay their agent directly since the brokerage commission is figured into the price of the house. So cost is not typically an issue for a buyer.
Buyer’s Agents Make Everything Easier for You Furthermore, your Buyer’s Agent is a lot more than a pencil pusher. They can help make your purchase so much easier in a million ways. Here are just eight of them:
You just found out that you’re being relocated by your job, or maybe you were offered a job that was too good to be true in another state. Either way, you’ve got a big move ahead of you and there’s a lot to think about before you even start. Moving far away from home can ultimately be a hugely positive experience, even if it is a bit of a hectic process. You can do this, though. Roll up your sleeves, grab a box and get to it.
There’s Plenty to Consider When Relocating. Your big move is a big deal, don’t think it’s not. You’re going to need all the help you can get, so before you do anything else, contact a Realtor with a relocation specialty in the city where you’ll be landing. You’re going to need someone who knows the lay of the land and can help you find the kind of home you really need, as well as helping you arrange financing and ensuring that everything closes on schedule.
Of course, housing is only a small part of a bigger relocation picture. It’s a stressful time for man and beast alike, but these seven tips will help you survive the experience:
#1. Have plenty of money available. Of course, you know you’ll have to pay something for housing and put down a deposit to turn on the utilities at your new place, but there are often additional expenses that you might not be thinking about right now. For example, will you need help with childcare while you’re packing? Is it likely that you’ll need to stop on the trip to spend the night in a hotel?
Plan for your expenses, then add as much as you can to the pool. The more money you have to work with, the less you can stress if an emergency were to occur.
On this same note, be sure to ask your employer how any moving or signing bonuses will be handled. If you’re counting on that money to make the move possible, you could be in a sad state if your company waits until after you’ve started the job to pay this bonus out.
#2. Get everybody on the same page. Moving to a new place can give the average person plenty of room to let their imagination run wild. It’s important that you and your family get on the same page with respect to the details of your move and stay focused on it.
Have a family meeting, or a chat over dinner, and write down what everybody hopes to get out of the move. Then have a sober discussion about how many of those things are realistic.
Once all of that is knocked out, draw up a plan and give everyone a copy of it so there are no misunderstandings. This can be a time when emotions run high and exhaustion makes people do or say things they might not otherwise, having a neutral document to refer back to during arguments can help cooler heads prevail.
#3. Prepare kids for stressors. Even the most hardy of children is likely to have some kind of serious emotional reaction to moving from your current home. When they’re old enough to understand that you’re also moving far, far from their hometown it can get downright ugly.
Your child is going to understandably need to mourn the loss of their friends and nearby family members. But you can make moving easier for children of every age by trying to maintain some kind of routine during the run-up to moving day and maintain it as best you can until everyone is settled in.
#4. Give yourself twice as much time as you think it’ll take for pre-moving tasks. If you’re not planning on hiring a mover, or even if you’re doing your own packing to help the cost of the move, it’s important that you give yourself plenty of time. Decluttering, especially, can be difficult when you’re trying to figure out just what will fit on the moving truck. Depending on how quickly you have to get to your new job, you can get help from charities with thrift stores by asking them to pick up your used, but clean, furniture, excess dishes and pans and even fun bric-a-brac to save you trips back and forth. Plan your time and stick to the plan.
#5. Visit your family doctor one more time. Having a final visit with your doctor gives you an opportunity to discuss anything that has been problematic for you, as well as getting your medicine refilled so you’ll not run out before you find a new PCP. This is a great time to ask about getting copies of your records, too! Make sure to do the same for your children and pets.
#6. Stop by the shop. While you’re getting your own check up, don’t forget about the vehicle or vehicles that you’re taking with you. Drop in at your local mechanic, the one you use for everything and trust to do the job right, and have them inspect and repair anything that looks like it needs to be addressed. Ask if you need new tires, spark plugs or a tune-up. There’s nothing as stressful as getting into a car that’s fully packed and full of kids or pets only to discover that your car has a bunch of symbols on the dash lit up that were never lit up before.
#7. Keep your eye on the prize. Preparing for a move when you have to do it all in one go can be amazingly stressful on body and soul, which is why it’s ultra important that you remember the why of all of it. You’re moving for a better opportunity, good schools, a chance to use your degree for once — whatever your reason, it’s yours and it’ll help if you keep that front and center.
Need Help Packing, Unpacking or Transporting Your Treasures?Just log in to the HomeKeepr community, where you’ll find all kinds of home pros, from movers to Realtors with relocation specialties. No more digging around the web for reviews on individual companies, HomeKeepr runs on recommendations — and if your future mover is highly recommended by your current Realtor, that’s one less thing to worry about.
If you’ve been following along, you know that last time around we covered a lot of the important things you should be thinking about when buying an older home. They’re great, but they can also be expensive and needy — definitely not for everybody. Today, we’re looking at buying a new construction home. Although it’s a chance to get the house you’ve long wanted, buying a brand new house can also be fraught with problems.
New Construction Homes and Their BuildersThere are no two ways about it, a new construction home can be the best decision you’ve ever made. Not only are they up to current building codes, they’re well-insulated, nothing needs to be fixed — all you have to do is move in and keep your new house clean.
There are essentially two distinct types of builder: custom and speculative.
Custom home builders wait for a person who wants a house built to come along, then they work closely with the home buyer, architects, electricians and other home pros to create your dream home. That being said, custom home builders tend to be on the upper end of your local housing market, but some also cater to people who want a smaller home.
Speculative builders (also known as production builders) build a bunch of houses and hope someone will come to buy them. These folks are generally responsible for creating whole neighborhoods out of thin air. One day, you’re driving by a field, the next week it’s a 100-lot development with 20 houses already going up. Speculative builders are nothing if not fast. You won’t necessarily get the house of your dreams unless your dreams are pretty vanilla, but you will have a home that’s new, up to code and that will keep you out of the rain. Super important, that.
New Construction Pros and ConsYou may be considering a new house, but aren’t sure you’re totally willing to wait for one to be finished. If only there were a place you could get an overview of the pros and cons of buying new. Wait, there’s a list below!
Pros of New Construction:
Owning a brand new house is a pretty sweet deal for most people. Here’s why:
Of course, a new house isn’t for everyone. There are a few drawbacks to building from the ground up, including:
The misconception when buying:
Many think because they are working with a builder, they don't need an agent for representation. Keep in mind, builder contracts are heavily skewed to the builder with little wiggle room for the buyer. A licensed Realtor is able to help you negotiate the best possible deal and make sure you're treated fairly. The builder pays the Realtor and the cost is NOT passed onto the buyer as some believe. Having your agent present during negotiation will help keep the scales balanced thought the negotiation process.
New Year, New Home?If you think a new home is for you, our EXP Team can recommend some great home builders in your area. Just visit the our home page and click "Builder Update"! You can always use our HomeKeepr app to connect with home pros like interior decorators and architects, the kind of people who will help you and your builder turn pile of lumber into a home you’ll love for a long time.
September 6, 2018 Mel Biondi
You’ve finally done it! You have a house under contract and you’re doing the paperwork to get your mortgage lined up. When your Realtor calls to ask you who you want to use for your home inspection, you freeze. Your brain has to go back and repeat that part. You get to pick your own home inspector? How do you even go about doing that?
Choosing a home inspector isn’t a difficult process, but as usual, we have tips to help you make it even easier.
Inspectors, Assemble!When you don’t have an existing relationship with a home inspector, your Realtor will likely present you with a list of pros that they recommend highly. Even though time is of the essence because your inspection period is ticking away, you can quickly assess each recommended inspector to find the one that’s right for your home purchase. After all, not every inspector can be an expert in every type of construction or neighborhood. You need the person who best fits your purchase!
Now, for some helpful tips!
1. Check that all potential inspectors are members of a reputable home inspector association. InterNACHI and ASHI are the two largest. ASHI, for instance has been accrediting home inspectors for more than 40 years and requires that inspectors complete at least 250 inspections before they can call themselves “certified.” It’s a high achievement for a home inspector, and a confidence builder for their clients. You want someone who is willing to do the work and go the extra mile. Your new mortgage isn’t chump change, so it’s important you go in with your eyes open.
2. Ask what inspections they perform. Some home inspectors only do a general home inspection, which can be fine if you’re not afraid of that 15 year old air conditioner condenser. But because home inspectors come from all areas of the construction industry, some have specific expertise that can be helpful in finding problems that you probably didn’t notice when you walked into the house of your dreams.
3. Have they inspected houses like yours? There’s a huge, huge difference between a brand new house and one built in 1904. Not only are construction techniques very different, the sort of strange upgrades that may have been made to the older home would never be seen in a newer house. An inspector that has little to no experience with a house like yours may flag things wrong that are actually very typical for a home of that age. You don’t want to get your inspection back and panic because your inspector held an older house to a newer standard, for example.
4. Do they provide photos within their reports? There’s no standard format for a home inspection report, though there are a limited number of software packages for inspection companies. They have a lot of options, including providing optional photos of trouble spots or other items the inspector may feel needs pointing out. If your potential home inspector doesn’t provide photos, it can be hard for you to monitor potential problems or for future pros to find and fix the issues pointed out. Photos are absolutely a must-have.
5. How soon can they come out? It might seem like a silly question, but you’re very likely working with a limited window of time to ask for repairs. That means the sooner your new home inspector can get out, the better. It takes several hours to complete a home inspection, as well as time to compile the report and deliver it to your agent. You also never know when you’re going to need an additional specialty inspection of systems like your HVAC, roof, foundation and so forth. If you’re down to your final cut and one can come out tomorrow and the rest can’t until next week, it’s not a hard call.
Tip Number 6: Ask Your HomeKeepr Network…While you’re checking out potential home inspectors, don’t forget to log into HomeKeepr to see who we recommend. Whether you’re looking for a general home inspector or an electrician to check out the breaker box, they’re all members of your referral network and are ready to come when you call.
Questions? Reach out at any time!
November 15, 2018 Mel Biondi
There are a whole boatload of articles on the Internet about the home renovations that offer the best return on your hard-earned cash, but not so many about the ones that are literally just black holes that suck said cash out of your pocket and never, ever tell you where it went.
That changes today. Everybody talks about the good, let’s talk about the bad and the ugly!
First and Foremost: Personalization Has LimitsWhen you bought your house, there were probably some very specific things about it that you promised yourself you’d change as soon as possible. From dated light fixtures to unbearably pink carpet, there’s always something. Hold on to that thought for a moment.
Now, pretend that you’re the person looking at this same house after you pulled out the pink carpet and changed those fixtures. Is this a house that now has wide appeal, or does the fact that you hung floral wallpaper on the ceiling create a whole new level of problems?
Of course you want to make your house your own, but if you think you’ll be selling in the near future to relocate, upgrade or downsize, maybe don’t go too nuts. Keep in mind that most buyers will accept some level of personalization, provided you don’t push it. You don’t have to live in a bland cracker box, but there’s something between that and a 1970’s disco inferno.
Renovation Loss Leaders By the NumbersIt’s really important that you consider future owners when you go to the trouble to make a major upgrade to your home. But sometimes, even the most thoughtful and beautiful renovation can cost a lot more than it will ever be worth (and often, the most beautiful are the most susceptible to this).
It’s a good thing, then, that Remodeling Magazine has been tracking the average costs of the 21 most popular projects since 2002 and the value they retained at sale. If someone told you that adding eccentric details like green shag carpet can be a big punch to the checkbook, it probably wouldn’t shock you. But you might be surprised at these projects Remodeling Magazine turned up as the worst investments, based on national averages:
5. Upscale Bathroom Remodel. Cost: $61,662. Return: $34,633 (56.2%)
There isn’t a person in this country who hasn’t dreamed of a bathtub the size of a swimming pool, glass tile surfaces everywhere and a shower with five or six different shower heads. And although this will be an absolutely amazing experience while you own your home, you can’t take that stuff with you. It also won’t return anywhere near what you’ve invested in it.
If you’re thinking about a bathroom remodel, consider sticking to the midrange. They cost about $19,134 on average and return $13,422, or about 70 percent of your investment.
4. Upscale Bathroom Addition. Cost: $83,869. Return: $45,752 (54.6%)
Adding a bathroom on to a house was a big return bust in 2018. Not only did the upscale bathroom addition return just 54.6%, even the midrange bathroom add-on, where returns tend to be a bit better, returned just under 60%. That midrange bathroom remodel is looking better all the time.
3. Upscale Major Kitchen Remodel. Cost: $125,721. Return: $67,212 (53.5%)
Despite the fact that a midrange minor kitchen remodel will return about 81 percent of its value, an upscale major remodel doesn’t even come close. This is probably because of budget-consuming components like new cabinets, new granite or marble slab counters, floor tile and high end appliances from manufacturers like Viking. Honestly, if you’ve done this kind of remodel, why are you even moving? Seems you’ve found your perfect house already.
2. Upscale Master Suite Addition. Cost: $256,229. Return: $123,797 (48.3%)
Downgrading to a midrange master suite addition won’t help you get much more out of your dollar, it only changes the return from 48.3% to 56.6%. A new master suite is one of those things that you may find you use extensively, but shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars for one may be a sign you’re not ready to give up on your existing home after all.
1. Midrange Backyard Patio. Cost: $54,130. Return: $25,769 (47.6%)
Generally speaking, outdoor-facing projects tend to return better because they increase the overall curb appeal of a home. And even though midrange wooden deck additions return 82.8% and midrange composite deck additions return 63.6%, the backyard patio is the single worst return on your home renovation dollars in 2018. This may be due, in part, to the fact that it adds nothing to curb appeal and is almost assumed to be the norm in most markets.
When It Comes to Home Renovation Projects, Think SmallThe key to better returns on home renovation is to think small. Replace that ugly light fixture in your foyer, swap the vinyl flooring in your entry for tile. A home that is neat, clean and well-lit will always sell better than one that has something a bit quirky about it, no matter how much it cost to install.
When you need to update your home, but DIY just isn’t your thing, drop in on your HomeKeepr family. The community can recommend talented and affordable painters, carpenters, handymen and more! Since they come so highly recommended, you can be sure that you’re getting the best craftsmen in your area.
If you have any questions, reach out to us at any time!
James C. Kelly is a wealth strategist at PNC Wealth Management.
It’s hard to believe, but the year is winding down. Before you know it, the holidays will be over and everyone may be making – and hopefully sticking to – New Year’s resolutions. “In between wrapping presents and attending holiday parties, there are financial strategies to employ to help you start off next year on the best foot financially,” said James C. Kelly, wealth strategist at PNC Wealth Management®. Kelly outlined year-end planning strategies that everyone can benefit from – regardless of age or financial status.
1. Review your estate plan and beneficiary designations.
Regardless of your age or how much you have in your bank account, it’s important to create and regularly review your estate plan with your legal advisors. Your estate plan dictates what will happen to your possessions, finances and dependents after you pass away. Things may have changed over the past year, and you should ensure your plan reflects your current lifestyle and family situation. “When reviewing your estate plan, you want to review who is included and whether the plan reflects recent life changes,” Kelly explained. “If you have children, it’s important to designate who will care for them if you aren’t around.” Your estate plan may also include things like standby guardianship and power holders (for example, financial and medical power of attorney). You should review these considerations with your legal advisors
2. Check your tax withholding.
Even though you won’t file your taxes until next year, if you wait until then to make adjustments, it’ll be too late to impact your 2018 taxes. Be sure to direct any tax questions to a tax advisor. “One of the country’s most comprehensive tax reform packages went into effect at the beginning of this year,” Kelly said. “You want to make sure that you’re aware of your tax obligations and current withholdings before Dec. 31, so you don’t have any surprises come filing season.” The IRS offers an online withholding calculator.
3. Tap into unused benefits.
Many employers’ health insurance plans include benefits such as flex spending accounts (FSAs) or health savings accounts (HSAs). If your employer offers an FSA, you may need to spend that money before the end of the year – or lose it forever. Qualifying households can allocate up to $5,000 per year for dependent-care services and $2,650 per year for medical expenses. If you have an HSA, you have until year-end to max out your contributions: $6,900 per year for those under 55 per household, and $7,900 per year for Americans 55 and older per household.
4. Check your credit report.
Everyone gets one free credit report every 12 months from each of the three major credit bureaus at www.annualcreditreport.com. Consider checking one report every four months to help you catch any fraud sooner rather than later.
“Take advantage of your free credit report so you’re aware of your financial status and also to make sure nothing unusual or fraudulent occurred over the past 12 months,” Kelly said. “Once you get your free credit report, I recommend saving it and keeping a hard copy. You never know when you’re going to need it.” If you notice any suspicious activity, contact the reporting bureau.
5. Max out your 401(k) plan
Hopefully you’ve been contributing enough to your 401(k) plan to at least receive a company match if your employer offers one, but are you taking full advantage of the tax-advantaged retirement savings vehicle? Individuals under age 50 can max out their 401(k) plan by contributing $18,500 per year, and those age 50 and older can put an extra $6,000 into their 401(k) plan per year.
“A 401(k) is a great tool to help save for retirement,” Kelly noted. “If you’re able to contribute more – or even better, max out your contributions – you have until the end of the year to do so.” Certainly the end of the year can be a busy time, but your future self will thank you for taking advantage of these year-end planning strategies!
Kelly also advised that if you’re 70 ½ or older you should make sure to take your required minimum distribution from your IRA before the end of the year.
If we can be of any assistance with your year-end tax strategy, feel free to reach out at any time.
Hardwood floors are highly desirable for most homeowners, but they come with their share of challenges when it comes to cleaning, maintenance, and repairs. After a few months or years of heavy use from kids playing with toys and chairs being shuffled around, it may be time for some DIY fixes.
Hiding scratches: If you’ve got a good eye for matching colors, you can actually use crayons or markers or purchase wax sticks from the hardware store to fill-in scratches. Try to match the stain color on your floors, but don’t worry if it’s a little off. If the color is close, once the scratch is filled, it’ll look like a variation in the wood grain.
Polishing floors: You can make a polish solution for your floors from household ingredients. Mix olive oil and vinegar in equal parts, pour it directly into scratches, and then wipe it off after 24 hours. It may take several applications, but this homemade polish will fill and cover most scratches.
Clever decor: It’s not a long-term solution, but sometimes the most painless way to fix scratches in your floors is to cover them with a rug or furniture arrangement.
Spot sanding: For deeper scratches, you’ll need to spot sand with fine steel wool or sandpaper, use wood filler, and stain and seal the repaired area.
Contact us for a list of providers should you need to engage a professional!
An evacuation plan is a necessity for every home, especially if you live in an area where fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding, and other disasters are a possibility. Many homeowners create evacuation plans for their homes and practice them with their kids, but far fewer have considered one for their pets. Take these steps to add your pets to your evacuation plan.
Assign pet evacuation to an adult. Everyone should know how to act during an evacuation, and that includes assigning one parent or adult to the pets. This allows the other parent and the children to focus on their part of the evacuation plan, so there’s no confusion during a high-stress moment when time is of the essence.
Keep evacuation maps and pet carriers readily accessible. If you need to evacuate, you should know exactly where every important item is. If you pets require carriers, keep them in a place that you can access easily.
Practice your plan. Include your pets in your home evacuation drills. It’ll help you see how they will respond and make changes to your plan if necessary. Getting your dog out of a window may not be as simple as you think!
Be prepared in case you get separated from your pets. No matter how much you drill your evacuation plan, it’s possible that a dog or cat will run off while you’re focusing on keeping your family safe. A microchip or a GPS-compatible tag can help you find your pets once it’s safe to return to the area.
Pets are family and in time of emergency, they will depend on you as any other member of the household. Whether it's adverse weather or a household emergency, having a plan in place may mean life or death to our four legged friends.
Negotiation is a subtle art in real estate, but skilled negotiators can usually find some common ground that satisfies all parties. On the other hand, using the wrong negotiation tactics can sink a deal pretty quickly. Here are some negotiation tactics buyers (and real estate professionals) should avoid:
Bottom Line - When submitting an offer on a property, it's best to discuss with your agent the proper strategy to accomplish your goals. One of the most frequent problems we run into is an unrealistic offer on the property. Should the agent present a "low ball" offer and the seller let's the contract expire, we've just lost negotiating power and credibility. It's best to strategize from the start.
Ready to buy? Let's talk.
The title search is an essential part of the period between ratifying the contract on a new home and settlement. While admittedly not the most exciting part of the real estate process, a title search is extremely important. Allow us to explain.
What is a Title Search? A title search is an examination of public records to confirm a property’s legal ownership and determine what, if any, claims are on the property.
In other words, it ensures the property title is legitimate, so that the buyers are certain they are the rightful owners of the property.
A title company or real estate attorney will perform the title search for the buyer. While it is possible for buyers to conduct their own title search, it is not recommended due to the complexity of the documents. Your Realtor will likely recommend a title company to perform the title search. This one-time expense will vary based on the size of the loan and jurisdiction. The title search is part of the buyer’s closing costs.
The Search: The search will examine public records and legal documents to identify the property’s vested owner, liens or other judgments on the property, any outstanding loans on the property, and any owed property taxes due. It also will check to ensure that no one else (such as a missing heir) could claim ownership (full or partial) of the property. The title company will check for any restrictions, easements, leases, or other issues that might affect the property’s ownership. A survey of the property may also take place.
Common Title Problems
If after settlement, an issue with the property arises, title insurance can protect buyers from financial loss related to lawsuits or claims on the property.
Most lenders require you to purchase lenders title insurance, but you will likely want to buy your own policy as well. For example, if the title was incorrect and another party is the rightful owner of the home, these policies would likely pay you and your lender the home’s value owed.
The Bottom Line - A title search is a must. Use a professional and consider purchasing title insurance as well. If you have any questions, please reach out. We are always happy to discuss any and all matters related to your home.
Author: The Goodhart Group
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