Sell Your Home

Home Inspections – Items That Aren’t Deal-Breakers

Contract 01After making an offer on a home, you’ll enter into a contract. Part of that contract should always include getting a home inspection. It is recommended that any homebuyer make an offer to purchase contingent upon a home inspection. This allows you to withdraw your offer if there are any major issues discovered during an inspection.

More than likely, the home inspector will find problems that need to be fixed before closing. Major foundation issues and significant water damage are at the top of the list of signs to walk away from.

On the other hand, there are some home defects found during an inspection that don’t have to be deal-breakers. Many of them can be fixed, and they can be used to negotiate with the seller for a lower price point or additional help with the closing costs.

homeinspection2Lead-Based Paint
Lead-based paint was banned in 1978, but it’s still possible that you could purchase a home that contains it if it was built before the ban. The sellers should disclose this, but the home inspector may find it, as well.

Ultimately, it is up to you to decide how comfortable you are with purchasing a home that has lead-based paint, but it doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker. You can hire a contractor who is certified to remove lead-based paint, and the home will be completely safe.

Concrete Floor Cracks
Cracks in a concrete basement floor may seem like a structural problem, but this is natural and not indicative of significant damage. Small cracks occur in concrete because it’s a porous substance. These cracks can be fixed at a relatively low cost, and shouldn’t be a reason for you to back out of a contract.

What is something that’s cause for concern are cracks in concrete walls, as these may or may not be associated with the structure. If the wall has moved or if the cracks have a large opening, then these would be deal-breakers.

Mold
Mold is something that no one ever wants to see in a home you put an offer on, but a little bit of mold by the shower doesn’t mean you need to back out of your offer – at least not immediately.

If mold is found during the home inspection, have a qualified mold inspector take a look. Not all molds are toxic, but the safest way to determine if this is a deal-breaker is by hiring a mold professional.

pestcontrol1Bug Infestations
Bug infestations can cause significant damage to the home’s structure if they aren’t exterminated quickly and efficiently. A home inspector may find signs of an infestation during an inspection, but how do you tell if it’s truly a deal-breaker?

The best way to know if there is pest damage to the home’s structure or foundation is to ask a qualified pest expert to do an additional inspection of the home. Someone who is a specialist will be able to tell you if the home just has a few bugs, or if you need to rescind your offer.

When problems arise during home inspections, it doesn’t always mean you have to back out of your contract. Home inspectors will often find problems outside of their scope of expertise, so always get a second opinion from a specialist before making a final decision. In many instances, these problems are opportunities to negotiate with the seller. You can request that the seller do the repairs, or ask for money to put towards repairs.

homeinspection3You can also ask the seller to include a home warranty on the home in the contract of sale, but it won’t repair the problems found in a home inspection contract. A home warranty is there to protect you from aging systems and appliances after you buy. Think of getting car insurance on a car that was just wrecked and then opening a claim – it wouldn’t work, because the insurance was put on after the damage happened. The same goes for a home warranty.

Information provided by Keller Williams Dallas Metro North. Call us today – we have over 400 qualified agents ready to assist you with your real estate needs!

5 Tips to find the right Realtor

Realtor 02Once you’ve decided to sell your home, you need a trusted guide by your side: Realtor, of course! Your realtor will be a trusted partner in this most important of all transaction. Here are 5 ways to find a Realtor who’s right for you.

Gather referrals, but take them with a grain of salt

There are a lot of agents out there. So how do you choose? Go ahead and ask your pals for referrals, but don’t fall into the trap of picking an agent purely because of rave reviews. The old mantra of location, location, location applies to real estate agents as much as homes.

“You want a Realtor who is very familiar with your area—and not just what he can pull up online,” says Wendy Flynn, a Realtor in College Station, TX. The reason is simple: If they’ve spent time in the area, they’ll know how to market your house there.

So a better question to ask your friends than “Know any real estate agents?” is, “Know a real estate agent who’s sold any properties in my area in the past few years?”

Test their communication skills

Once you have your list of potential agents, email them or call their office, then sit back and wait. This is your first test of a key component: how responsive will your agent be? Ideally, she should get back to you that same day.

“If it takes longer than four business hours without a decent explanation, I would be cautious,” says Chandler Crouch, broker for Chandler Crouch Realtors in Fort Worth, TX. Imagine if you’ve got competing offers on the table, or if some problem comes up with the home inspection. You don’t want to wonder where your agent is and whether you’ll hear back from her!

Probe their experience

Your initial conversation with a prospective listing agent should be like any job interview: Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions right off the bat. A good agent should know his stats, and any dancing around these numbers could mean he’s hiding something. According to Crouch, you should ask the following:

  • How long have you been in business? Aim for Realtors with at least two years of experience, enough time to learn the ropes and finesse their marketing and selling plans. Time (on the job) is money (in your pocket).
  • How many houses did you sell last year? Look for agents with double-digit sales. “I wouldn’t consider an agent unless they had 20 or more sells a year,” Crouch says.
  • What percentage of your listings do you sell? Ideally you want an agent who has sold an average of 60% to 80%.
  • What is the average list price to actual sell price ratio for your listings? This can fluctuate by market, but you should still look for high numbers. “I would set a low bar of 95% to be acceptable for even the worst market conditions,” Crouch says.

Assess their marketing skills

Everyone knows that to sell a house quickly (and get the big bucks) you need to reach as many eyeballs as you can. And the way to suss out an agent’s ability to do that is to ask these questions:

  • How will you market my home? A Realtor should use at least a good brokerage website to showcase your listing, national listing portals such as realtor.com®, and an email subscription list.
  • How will you use social media? They should use at least Facebook and Twitter to market listings; they get bonus points if they post photos on Instagram.
  • What offline materials do you use? While most marketing is done online now, your Realtor should still make use of tried-and-true methods such as fliers, yard signs, and brochures, especially at an open house.
  • How much do you spend on advertising? “Don’t stop asking until you get a solid dollar figure,” Crouch says. Advertising costs vary widely by area, but Realtors should consistently spend a portion of their business expenses on advertising. By asking for a set amount, you’ll know if they’re doing that or not.

Don’t shoot for cheap

Finally, don’t assume the most inexpensive agent is the one for you. While agents work at different price points and some may take a lower commission, they should be confident enough in their abilities to stand by their prices, according to Crouch. So when you’re talking terms, he recommends asking agents if they’ll work on a discount. If they jump at the chance early on in the conversation, that might be a red flag.

“Think about this: If the agent can’t even negotiate to protect their own money, how likely do you think it will be for them to go to bat to protect your money?” Crouch says. “It’ll be a test of confidence in their own services at least.”

by Angela Colley, real estate writer for Realtor.com 

 

Information provided by Keller Williams Dallas Metro North. Call us today – we have over 400 qualified agents ready to assist you with your real estate needs!

How To Hire a Mover

Moving - 2When moving, there’s a million small details to juggle. Hiring a moving company can save you a bundle of stress, but it’s important to note that not all moving companies are the same, and you want to make sure your items are safe and secure in the hands of your movers.

Here are some tips to keep in mind when looking to hire a moving company:

Hire a licensed company – Be sure to only use a licensed moving company and check for a valid U.S. Department of Transportation number on the main DOT website.

Find reassurance in valuation – Even if movers are bonded and insured, verify if belongings are covered during the move. Some states require a valuation of 60 cents per pound of coverage but in many cases additional valuation can be purchased for the move.

shutterstock_28772560Avoid imposters – Visit the official site of the moving company and ensure there is a local address and the office is staffed.

Get a real quote – Inspect the website to ensure they will not sell personal information to other movers to provide the quote and avoid sites that feature multiple quotes from different companies. Never pay for an estimate and consider an on-site estimate to ensure accuracy for larger moves.

Inquire about the movers – Be careful if choosing to move forward with a company that employs temporary or day laborers and does not have Workers’ Compensation coverage should anything happen.

moving - 3Research options – The Internet is filled with reviews and comments on social media pages, so take the time to read about pros and cons of a potential company. Learn from customers’ experiences and look into complaints on the Better Business Bureau website, as well. Understand, not every move can be perfect, but if the company is taking time to respond to customers comments and work toward resolution, it is a good sign.

Don’t fall for a too good to be true price – If the price seems like it is too good, it probably is going to cause headaches and problems down the line. Moving is expensive – even if completed without movers – be sure to look at all of your options as it’s best to go into the process prepared. Also, never move forward with a company that only accepts cash.

Check for hidden fees – When asking about pricing, be sure to understand what is included and if there are cancellation fees or a nonrefundable deposit. Most companies will refund a deposit if within a certain amount of days before the move, and see if there are extra fees for stairs, mileage or large items. Some movers will offer complimentary padding and stretch wrap to protect furniture, but not all companies will.

Movers - 6Reputation is important – Many reputable movers belong to the American Moving and Storage Association. Identify if a prospective company is a member before booking a move.

Ask for references – Get advice from friends and family who have had a good experience with movers. Did they feel like they were communicated with throughout the process and were told a window of time for the movers to arrive? Don’t forget to ask questions to feel confident with booking a company.

Information provided by Keller Williams Dallas Metro North. It’s highly beneficial to have a professional knowledgeable, local real estate agent by your side. Call Keller Williams Dallas Metro North today – we have over 400 qualified agents ready to assist you with your real estate needs!

6 Surefire Signs It’s Time to Sell Your Home

shutterstock_563839786Most people don’t plan on living in their first (or second or maybe even third) home forever, but knowing when the time is right to put that baby on the market can be tricky.

In fact, it can feel kind of like breaking up with a longtime boyfriend or girlfriend. Deep down, you knew you wouldn’t be with that person forever—but ending things can be way easier said than done.

Sometimes life changes force the issue: There’s little reason for self-doubt or trauma-level angst if you’re relocating to another state or you know your newborn twins won’t fit in your one-bedroom bungalow. But without a pressing reason staring you in the face, it can be hard to know when you’ve outgrown your home.

So how do you know when it’s the right time to let go?

1. You’re feeling cramped, and you can’t add on

Your family might not be growing, but that doesn’t mean your lifestyle still fits in your current house.

If you’ve started working from home, for example, or you’ve adopted an extended family of indoor cats—or maybe you’ve just never gotten over your dream of having a sewing room—your house might be too small.

But before you jump to conclusions, see if paring down your possessions works to free up some space.

Another option might be to finish an attic or basement, add another room, or even add a whole story to your home. But, of course, that won’t work for everyone.

“If your property isn’t large enough or your municipality doesn’t allow it, moving to a bigger home may be your best option,” says Will Featherstone, founder of Featherstone & Co. of Keller Williams Excellence in Baltimore.

To decide which route to take, check your local building laws and get estimates from two or three contractors. It also wouldn’t hurt to check with your Realtor®. Sometimes adding on won’t increase the value of a home, and you don’t want to make big-time improvements that will bring only a small-time return on your investment.

2. You have too much space

mature coupleOn the other hand, perhaps you’re feeling overwhelmed by vacant rooms and silence. (Hello, empty nesters!)

“In this case, it no longer makes sense to have, say, four bedrooms and a basement,” Featherstone says.

Saying goodbye to a family home can be difficult, but you should consider how feasible it is to stay. If yardwork and house upkeep are getting to be a little too much, or soaring utility bills are cramping your style, it might make more sense to move.

3. You’re over the neighborhood

Maybe you can no longer deal with the rigid rules of your Homeowners Association, or perhaps your neighbors turned their house into a rental for frat guys. Whatever the reason, neighborhood dynamics can change dramatically over time.

And sometimes, you can change. Maybe the 40-minute commute to work didn’t seem like such a big deal the first few years, but now you’re dreading it every day. Or your kids are getting older, which can be a big problem if you’re not in the right location.

“If you can’t afford a private school system, you are limited to one school for your children,” Featherstone says. “Moving may be a benefit to your child’s education.”

4. Remodeling won’t offer a return on your investment

Giving your kitchen or bathroom a face-lift can make your house feel like new again, shutterstock_378127240 (1)which might be all you need to decide you want to stay put for years. But that doesn’t mean it’s a financially sound decision.

“Before making significant improvements, you should really study the neighborhood and know the highest price point of your neighborhood,” Featherstone says.

If your home is already similar in style and condition of some of the priciest homes in the neighborhood, remodeling might be a bad idea, and you should consider selling instead.

5. You can afford to sell

Sure, you’re going to make money when you actually sell your house, but as the adage goes, it takes money to make money. So seller beware: You probably won’t be sitting around and waiting for the dollars to roll in.

“Before you consider selling, you should have the funds available to prepare your home for sale,” Featherstone says.

Most sellers need to make some minor improvements such as painting, landscaping, or updating flooring to get a good price on their home. Those costs will come out of your pocket at first, so it’s a good idea to have a cushion before you start.

6. You’re ready to compete

If you’re living in a seller’s market, you might be enticed to offload your home before things cool off. But don’t forget—once you sell, you’ll probably be a buyer, too.

“If your market is hot, your home may sell quickly and for top dollar, but keep in mind the home you buy also will be more expensive,” Featherstone says.

If you’re going to get out there, you should make sure you’re ready to compete.

By Angela Colley; reprinted from realtor.com

It’s highly beneficial to have a professional, knowledgeable, local Real Estate Agent by your side! Call Keller Williams Dallas Metro North today for all your real estate needs!

Proper home staging begins with getting it sparkling clean

cleaning - 4

If you watch TV, you know that preparing homes for sale is a hot topic. Shows about decluttering, cleaning and home staging with furniture and accessories are extremely popular.

The folks on those shows always say that the home should be “super clean” before showing — but they don’t offer details on how to achieve this!

1. Rent a storage unit before home stagingCleaning - 7

If you don’t use something every day, pack it up and take it to the storage unit before you clean and stage your home. The less you have in your home, the less you have to clean around.

2. Dust everything when house cleaning for staging

When cleaning house while preparing to stage your home, your baseboards should be near perfect; same for ceiling fans and light switches. A clean front door, washing machine, even a bed frame can all be little things that go a long way when it comes to presenting a tidy home. If you do it right, it will look like someone turned up the brightness of your lights.

3. The home staging smell testcleaning - 5

Invite someone who doesn’t live in your home to walk in the door and take a big sniff. Whether it’s pets, your favorite cooking spices or air fresheners, all sorts of odors can make your house off-putting to buyers. Find the source and eliminate it.

4. Take a serious look at your walls before staging a house

Vacuuming walls with the correct attachment can really spruce up a house. If doors are dirty, clean them … or even paint old interior doors and change doorknobs if necessary.

5. Cleaning can make the bathroom a showplace

Your toilet should shine after you’ve cleaned the bathroom for a home showing. Pop open the caps behind the seat that cover the bolts and clean thoroughly. Clean all dust from around that area. Scrub around the base of the toilet, carefully wiping any residue. The tub and faucet should look as clean as those in the bathroom of a top-rated hotel. No residue should be felt anywhere.

6. Staging requires a sparkling kitchen

Look at each cabinet knob. Scrub all cabinets, starting at the knob; focus on getting all the little smudges off. Clean all your appliances thoroughly.

This seems over the top, but “stage” your refrigerator and pantry. Make sure all surfaces are cleaned and wiped. Organize the food items neatly; all spices need to be in carefully placed rows. If your kitchen is clean and orderly, it’s easier for the new owners to picture themselves cooking there.

7. Examine the floors before your home staging

cleaning - 6This is where calling in a professional can go a long way. If a pro isn’t in the budget, mop thoroughly, preferably with steam, paying special attention to corners. If the carpet is dirty, at the very least vacuum thoroughly and then rent a cleaning machine at the grocery store and maximize your carpet’s potential. This means taking your time and vacuuming again when done.

Just like getting in shape, there are no real shortcuts to the hard work of cleaning and preparing to sell your home. Knowing how to approach the massive task will give you confidence and help you to move on.

[reprinted from Angies List]

Ask your realtor for recommendations on cleaning services who will help you prepare your home for sale. Call Keller Williams Dallas Metro North today for your real estate needs!

Spring Cleaning Tips to Save on Energy Costs

shutterstock_108074963Spring cleaning can do more than clear out your closets; it can also lower your energy expenditure, keeping more of your hard-earned dollars in the bank.

Gentec Services recommends five things homeowners can do during spring cleaning to save money:

Clean or change heating and air conditioning filters regularly. A dirty filter will slow down air flow and make the system work harder to keep you warm. Residential heating and cooling systems can account for over 50 percent of the energy costs in the average home. A properly maintained system can be 30 to 40 percent more efficient than one that is not properly taken care of.

Use low-flow faucets and shower heads to save on water bills. Replacing older water fixtures with low-flowing ones is a relatively low-cost and quick way for your home to conserve water and save money. For maximum water efficiency, select a shower head with a flow rate of less than 2.5 gallons per minute.

Reduce water heater temperature to 130 degrees Fahrenheit to save energy and money on heating water. It’s also a good practice to wrap the water storage tank in a specially-designed, insulated thermal blanket to retain the heat.

Install a programmable thermostat to save up to 10 percent on cooling and heatingshutterstock_275257520 costs. The percentage of savings from setback is greater for buildings in milder climates than for those in more severe climates. Although thermostats can be adjusted manually, programmable thermostats will avoid any discomfort by returning temperatures to normal before you wake or return home.

Install a security alarm system. By setting an alarm system to “arm” upon leaving the home, this event can command lights to turn off. Additionally, when you cross a predetermined “Geo Fence” (set by the homeowner) the physical location of the homeowner’s phone can easily turn off lights, lamps, plugs and appliances as well. It’s always good practice to turn off electronics whenever possible. A power strip can help turn off multiple items at once. In addition to turning off lights manually, you may want to consider using sensors, timers and other automatic lighting controls.

How to Move with Kids Without Losing Your Mind

by Cathie Ericson |  Reprinted from realtor.com
kids - 1

There’s no doubt that moving can be a life-draining experience under the best of circumstances. Add in kids—and it most certainly does not qualify as “the best of circumstances.” In fact, complete chaos can ensue. But don’t despair: Here are some tips to minimize the insanity of relocation with little tykes in tow.

Give them an early heads up

Kids are insightful little critters, and even the really young ones have likely gathered that something is up. Rather than letting them fret, give them the low-down on the plan as soon as you know you are moving.

“Set up a special dinner night with pizza or their favorite food and inform your kids of the move,” recommends Brad Pauly of Pauly Presley Realty in Austin, TX.

Explaining details—that mom has a new job, that the house will have a room just for them, and that the new town has a great park—will help to allay their concerns. Reassure them that all their familiar items will go with them, and that they will have ample time to say goodbye to friends.

Let them decorate the boxes

If you have younger kids, consider doing the majority of packing while they are with a baby sitter or friend, or at night. Not only are they likely more interested in shutterstock_28772560unpacking boxes, but they also might be upset seeing their things go away, even if it’s only temporarily.

Older kids can help fill boxes, and then let them unleash their creativity with stickers and markers.

“Allowing them to personalize their box of belongings keeps them busy and also makes it easier for you to identify what goes to their room when you arrive at the new house,” Pauly says. Kids will want to set up their new digs as soon as they can.

Keep kid ‘essentials’ on hand

Set aside one box of items you will need ASAP, and take it with you in your own car rather than placing it on the moving truck. Let your children choose the “essentials” in their life and place them in this box. For them, it might be a certain teddy bear or toy. No judgments!

This box is all about what your kid will want on hand. That way if the moving truck ends up late or boxes get lost, your kids know they’ve got the things they love most within reach, which curbs the odds of a first-night-in-new-house meltdown.

Keep important family paperwork around, too

Also keep in your own car a box of any important school-related documents (e.g., birth certificates, medical records, and transcripts) to ensure your kids are prepared for their new school.

“It’s easy to misplace papers when moving, so making sure important documents are ready to go will make the move less stressful on the other end,” Pauly says.

Purge while packing—with consent

Kids are hoarders by nature, and that can spell trouble when you realize you are paying to move the bottle cap collection or stuffed animal menagerie.

“This is a great time to go through their belongings and donate items that have been outgrown or overplayed,” says mom and Realtor® Susan Chace of Avenue Properties in Seattle. Talk about the fresh start they will have setting up a room sans clutter, and underscore that the donations can help someone else.

However, you want to make sure they have bought into the whole “letting go” thing; if they’re overly upset, it might be wise to table the purge.

“While you might be tempted to get rid of that broken toy or that shirt that no longer fits, you should keep it unless you’re certain your kid is OK parting with it,” Pauly warns. “Young kids tend to be attached to all their things, and ensuring they see their familiar belongings in their new home will provide comfort.”

Say farewell properly

Closure is tough for everyone, but especially for kids, who may be incredibly anxious about whether they’ll find a new BFF or if their new teacher will be as kind as Ms. Jacki.

“Have kids take photos of their room, yard, school, friends, and anything else that’s important to them so they can create a memory book of this chapter in their lives,” suggests Chace. You also might want to throw a going-away party to allow for proper goodbyes.

Enjoy the journey

If you’re moving out of the region (road trip!), make the drive part of the excitement. Show them the route you’ll be taking, and highlight areas of interest you’ll see along the way. Try to plan a few fun stops along the way. And don’t forget the souvenirs.

“If you’re traveling across many states, collect a magnet from each place you visit and display them on your new refrigerator,” says Chace.

Stick to routines

Make sure to stick to your schedule throughout the moving process, including naps and rituals like family meals or family game night, says Pauly: “Maintaining familiar routines as much as you can is reassuring.”

Finally, remind them that the most familiar thing they are bringing is still with them: their family. Cheesy we know, but deep down, your kids really do care.

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