Real Estate Information


Karen Picarello


Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 35

Landscaping as an Investment

by Karen Picarello

The difference between a well landscaped home, and an overgrown, fading house cannot be understated. When driving through wealthier neighborhoods, one thing you will nearly always see is that every property has extensive and well-maintained landscaping. This landscaping does a number of things.

First, the landscaping is visually appealing. It takes a property, and really creates a striking visual performance. Your landscaping tells a story. Is it rich with foliage and bright colors? Is it orderly, with small bushes accenting evenly spaced larger ones? These things help to convey a message to those who enter about the person who owns the property.

But landscaping is more than just a visually appealing way to express yourself. If you are selling a home, the first things potential buyers will see on arriving are the landscaping, and the exterior of the property. When done well, these two things can combine into an impressive display which will help the potential buyer fall in love.

Landscaping also serves a subtler purpose. Potential buyers will be on the lookout for signs that a property has fallen into disrepair. If the exterior is dilapidated, they will surely assume that there will be other, more expensive problems inside. An owner who does not care for their property has likely neglected key repairs and maintenance. Conversely, an owner willing to spend money ensuring that a purely aesthetic improvement is well kept are also more likely to have spent money ensuring that the necessities have been paid for.

If you are looking to redo your landscaping in a cost-effective way, one of the best things you can do is look for things which are relatively low maintenance, and which consume very little water. One of the most common complaints of people who landscape large areas of their property is that their water bills skyrocket. If you are looking to convey that your house is well kept, but don’t want to break the bank watering, look into non-traditional options. Any reputable landscaping company will be able to suggest different styles, and give you ideas about what the water consumption and maintenance on them will be. Be sure to get a second opinion, and choose something which will not cost a fortune to maintain, but which will look impressive and stylish.

At the bare minimum, all landscaping you have should be well maintained. Lawns should be trimmed frequently, trees pruned, leaves raked, and paths well kept. A smaller but better kept display is much preferable to a larger unkempt one. 

Avoiding Common Homeowner Pitfalls

by Karen Picarello

So, you found your dream home. The loan went through, you were approved, the move went smoothly (unlikely), and now you are settled in. Now what? The hard part is over, right? You have your dream home, now you just enjoy it for a few decades before maybe retiring and moving away. Dead wrong.

Your home will likely be the largest asset you ever own. Unless you are in a very small and wealthy subset of the population, this house will be one of the largest financial obligations you ever have. And while land and the housing market typically gains value over time, a smart homeowner understands that this increase in value will not come if the house is allowed to slowly fall apart. Unless some other factor makes the land suddenly incredibly valuable, your best bet when investing in your home is to take very good care of it.

Some of what will be needed in upkeeping a house will require a substantial financial commitment. The roof, the electrical system, and the HVAC systems will need to be maintained, and replaced periodically. Some of these will last longer than others, but all share a common trait. If you fail to keep them safe and functioning well, the rest of the property can quickly lose value. A leaky roof will cost more than just replacing it if it is ignored for a period of time. Water damage, mold, and other problems can quickly snowball, turning an already reasonably expensive process into a huge financial disaster. If you live in an area where it gets cold in the winter, failing to keep the house heated can lead to frozen pipes, potentially causing flooding and other damage when they thaw. A poorly maintained electrical system is a huge fire risk, and this is not only a financial, but a safety concern.

A smart homeowner will budget for all of these repairs, and put money away in years where repairs are not needed. Spending this excess on a new television might seem tempting, but the year you realize you need to replace the roof, the refrigerator, and redo the plumbing you will be happy that you had it saved away. Eventually, when you go to sell the house, having a record which shows your frequent maintenance will go a long way to convince potential buyers that this home will not end up costing them more than they expect, both in money and in headache. 

Buying a Teardown?

by Karen Picarello

One thing potential homebuyers sometimes forget about, is that while a properties’ location cannot be changed, the building often can. If you find a location that is perfect for you, but the property is old, needs extensive repairs, or is smaller than you want, it might be worth it to tear the place down and build a new one.

The number one thing which makes a teardown worth it is when the value of the house is mostly in the land. If the house itself still retains substantial value, you will likely come off financially behind if you choose to tear it down and build again. While some people have enough money that this is not a concern, most individuals looking to buy a house are looking to make an investment.

If you think you have found a property you would like to buy, demolish, and rebuild, start by talking to your real estate agent or a reputable housing contractor. This will help you get a rough idea of the expenses you will face when buying the property, and the time which will be needed to replace it. If you are looking to construct a new property before moving in, you will need to ensure that you have a place to stay before the house is finished. Additionally, you will need to account for things like local permits, building laws, and noise regulation which might impede your progress. A reputable housing contractor will be your best bet for all of this information. If you have a realtor you trust, they will likely be able to recommend several experts in your community.

It would sound like you need to be extremely wealthy to consider this option. After all, you will have to buy the existing property, finance the demolition, and finance the cost of the new property. However, many lenders will offer options for potential buyers looking to buy these worn-down properties. You will need to do your research, but there will almost certainly be options available to potential buyers with decent credit.

So, if you are shopping for a house, don’t forget that tearing down and rebuilding is an option. If you have found a perfect location but are struggling to find a property which fits your needs, look for a great piece of land with an old or run-down house, and do a little bit of research. You might end up with the best of both worlds: a house designed perfectly for you, on a location you select. 

Choosing a School when Buying a Home

by Karen Picarello

Parents often spend a lot of time when choosing housing looking at schools in the area. Your children will be spending a considerable portion of their childhood there, and a good school will not only increase your child’s chances of getting into a good college, but will also help to teach them information and skills which will be useful for the rest of their lives. Choosing a good school can go a long way in ensuring that your children are well prepared for their adult lives. But how do you know if a school is “good”?

First, I would caution against focusing too much on test scores. The nation has put a lot of focus on standardized test scores in recent years, and while looking at the test scores from a particular school can be a useful metric, I would advise looking further. Passing a test is useful, but a good school can do much more than this. There are absolutely situations where I would recommend attending a school with slightly lower test scores if you have reason to believe that it will be a better fit for helping develop your child’s social and emotional intelligence as well.

When looking at a school, your two resources should be the internet, and face to face interactions. Online, you can often find quantitative information about the school. Looking up principle and superintendent turnover (high turnover= bad), tests scores, and other information can help to inform your decision about whether or not the school will likely be a good choice. However, you should also invest some of your time in meeting people involved with the school.

First, many people recommend that you meet with the principal of a school you are considering. This can be an opportunity to visit the campus as well. Use your intuition. How do the children and teachers look? Does the principal impress you? This face to face time can greatly help you form an understanding of the atmosphere and learning conditions at the school.

I would also recommend talking to parents of children at the school. Talking to a few parents who have children attending can help you get another view on the school. This personal experience will be invaluable for you, so go out of your way to meet with parents. If multiple parents have had bad experiences, I would stay away. 

Should You Repair Your Roof Before Selling Your House?

by Karen Picarello

One of the items which is often on the minds of home buyers and sellers is the condition of the roof. Most of us know at least one person who has moved into a home only to discover during the next rainy season, that the roof is leaking. Alternatively, there might be insulation or building code issues with the roof. Depending on how the inspection was done, and which clauses were included in the sale documents, how you proceed might be different. However, no matter the circumstances, a leaky or broken down roof will be a huge, possibly expensive, headache.

If you are selling a home, and you know that you have a broken-down roof, you should always disclose this to potential buyers. Honesty is necessary. And failure to disclose could lead to problems. If you do not disclose the problem, and it is later shown that you knew about it, you could be financial responsible for restitution. Additionally, a home inspection might discover the leaky roof. Even if there is no rain at the moment, a good home inspector might notice things like water damage in areas where there is a leak. Therefore, failing to disclose the roof problems could be discovered quickly or slowly, but either way: it will be discovered.

Now, as to the question of whether or not you should fix the roof before selling, the answer is complicated. It depends on the condition of the rest of your property, and the opinions of potential buyers. If the entire property is run down and in need of extensive repairs, it might be easier to sell it as is. A buyer committed to fixing up the property will be willing to incur the cost of repairs themselves, for a discount. Alternatively, some buyers will be looking to tear down the existing structure and rebuild it. Putting a new roof on a building about to be demolished would be a waste of money.

However, there are situations where you might want to do the roof before putting the house on the market. If the leaks are major, you will almost certainly need the roof repaired as soon as possible in order to stop water damage. Additionally, being able to show that the house is in great shape can help to woo potential buyers, letting them feel secure that the house will not cause them to incur large financial burdens, or deal with other unpleasant projects. 

Advertising your Sale

by Karen Picarello


Advertising your property correctly is very important, and is one of the things that a realtor can help you most with. If you are looking to sell a property (or anything, for that matter), you will only be successful if you can get the information about your property in front of someone who is interested in buying it. In order to get a good offer, you want as many potential buyers as possible who are looking at and then potentially making offers on the property. This competition will increase the price you will get for your house, and will also help you sell quickly.

Now, splashing advertising across every real estate listing in your area can be pretty simple. But it will also be expensive and time consuming. Its will likely be much more effective if you can target your advertisements so that buyers likely to be interested in your specific property will see it. The buyer for a 16 million dollar beach mansion is much different from the average buyer of a $200,000 dollar home, who again is different from the average buyer of a 150 million dollar commercial property. Similarly, things like the style of the home, its location, and additional features might be more appealing to certain groups. Advertising in spaces which target that demographic will typically give you a much better return for your effort. An experienced realtor can typically evaluate your property, and understand the best spaces for an advertisement would be.

 Additionally, even if you could get an advertisement everywhere, is there any guarantee that it will be an effective advertisement? If your advertisement is not well designed, it might end up being a deterrent to potential buyers, or at the very least can decrease the number of interested responses. Having an experienced professional doing things like taking pictures, staging the house, and crafting the advertisement can drastically change how attractive the home will appear based on the advertisement.

The best thing that you can do when looking to advertise your house in a way that will help you sell your house quickly and at a good price is to consult with a local experienced expert. No matter how nice your property is, if you can’t get the word out, it wont sell. Advertising effectively will reach the greatest number of potential buyers with the least investment, and will convince them to take a look.



Making A Competitive Offer

by Karen Picarello

There are few things more frustrating and demotivating than finding a home you love, deciding you want it, making an offer…. And then learning that the owner has accepted another offer from a different buyer. Chances are, you won’t have the opportunity to buy that property again. So if you are shopping for a home, you should know how to make an offer that will get attention.


First, take the time to get to know the seller. While you may not hit it off with everyone, on the off chance that you do, you will have a much better chance of having your offer accepted over other offers. Even if you don’t end up making a strong connection with them, you might be able to understand what is important to them. Understanding their priorities means that you will be able to make an offer that has bee changed to fit their needs. If they are worried about fixing something, for example, offering to do it yourself after buying the house could make them much more likely to prefer you as a buyer. Understanding the sellers needs is key when looking to make a competitive offer.

Another thing you can do to have a better chance of getting the deal is appearing to be a serious buyer. One of the best things you can do is get preauthorization for certain loan amounts from your lender. If you show up to a home with a loan preauthorization in hand, the seller and their agent will instantly see that you are a serious buyer and have the money to proceed with the purchase. This will absolutely make them more likely to pursue a deal with you, as many sellers are looking to get out of the house as quickly as possible. So if you are looking at houses, go get that from your lender. At the very least, it will help you get something necessary out of the way, and will give you a good idea of the budget you will be working with. As a buyer, you should be doing your research to ensure that you have all of your things in order before you go looking to potentially make an offer on a house.

In the end, the offer working out is dependent on the other offers the seller receives. Sometimes, there will be nothing you can do to get a property if there is a highly motivated other buyer looking to get the property. All you can do is increase your odds. 

First Time Homebuyers?

by Karen Picarello


First time homebuyers are an important part of the housing market. If you want to purchase you first home soon, or want to find a way to move towards home ownership, this will be a good post for you. I’ll just put down a brief list of tips which I think will be helpful in your journey.

  1. Get started now. No matter when you think you will be ready to get a house, you should already have your eyes open and be taking steps to realize your goal. Getting started in the winter could give you the chance to examine homes on the market when there is less competition. Motivated sellers who are looking to liquidate their property might be more willing to give you a good deal due to the normal downturn in home sales in the winter. Even if you are not planning on buying soon, it will be good for you to start getting ideas of what type of house you want, what different houses in your area might cost, and the process you will need to follow to purchase a home.
  2. Do your homework. When you get started, it will take a lot more than simply finding the correct house, signing some papers, and moving in. Buying a home is a much more involved process than renting. You will want to do your research on loans available, and ideally will be able to get preapproved for a loan. Having preapproval can be a wonderful tool which helps your search. Either way, make sure you understand all of the different steps you will need to take. Additionally, finding a good real estate agent can be helpful. While this is necessary for sellers, even buyers can benefit from the advice of an experienced professional, and this is particularly true for first time buyers. Having someone who understands the process, and who has your interests at heart can drastically change your buying experience. Don’t be afraid to invest a bit of money in ensuring that your first home purchase goes off smoothly.
  3. Finally, don’t get too attached to any one property. Remember that you will have many opportunities to find a good deal, and that few things can taint a pleasant house as the knowledge that you paid far more than it was worth. Keep your cool, and always take your time to think things over.



Check Mortgage Overlays

by Karen Picarello

When looking to buy a home, getting approved for a loan can be one of the most frustrating and stressful parts of the process. Many people do not understand the factors that will be at play, and can struggle to get a good idea of their prospects for receiving a loan. One thing that all potential home buyers should be looking at are the factors which determine who is eligible to receive a loan: the mortgage overlay.

Mortgage overlays are the rules and guidelines that lenders use when evaluating potential candidates for loans. There can be several layers of these if you are looking to get a loan. For example, many loans are set up by the federal government, but the federal government is not the entity actually giving the loan. The government sets up its requirements for loan eligibility, and then passes these down to the lenders. The lenders then have a minimum for the loan requirements. If you want that loan: you have to meet those requirements. The requirements are often things such as minimum credit scores, down payment requirements, and documentation.

However, the lender has the option to add more stringent requirements to the loans it disburses. Individuals may then have to meet a higher level of financial security in order to qualify for a certain loan from a certain lender. This means that even though you may meet the federal requirements for the loan, you still can be denied if your lender has additional requirements.

You can use this knowledge to your advantage. If you are looking to get a loan, having conversations with multiple possible lenders can help increase your chances of being successfully approved. Finding out what types of requirements will be needed to have a good chance of securing a loan from a particular lender and comparing these to those other lenders look for can give you the best chance of applying for a loan from a lender who will be examining your financial strengths.

Many people get caught up in the excitement of looking for a new property, and forget that a lot of the time, having a good outcome is the result of meticulous planning and preparation. Mortgages can be with you for a very long time, so it is in your best interest to take the time and do your due diligence in terms of understanding what you can do to get the best possible loan. 

Time vs Money when Selling Your Home

by Karen Picarello

Buying or selling a home is potentially one of the most important financial decisions you can make in your life. For most people, you will be dealing with sums of money that represent a considerable financial burden. Unless you are very wealthy, you are likely to devote a large portion of your lifetime earnings to your home. When you are buying a home, it is important to choose a property that will fit your needs and budget. But when you are selling a home, you are in a different position. There are two factors you will need to consider when selling a home, and you will need to choose which one is more valuable to you.

When selling, you will need to choose to value either time or money. If you want to sell your house quickly, you will need to drop the price a bit, and potentially spend money on trying to advertise or find buyers. If you want to get as much money as is possible from the property, you will likely need to be more patient.

One thing you should always do is make sure that your sales agent is qualified and experienced. As a seller, you are unlikely to be experienced in selling properties. Most people do not buy and sell properties regularly, and so they are unable to accrue the experience necessary to properly asses their situation. Therefore, in order to understand the nuances of the real estate market and the peculiarities of the market at any given time, you will need to find an experienced and qualified realtor who can walk you through the process.

However, while you are not an expert in home sales, you are an expert on your own priorities. Ideally, the realtor can provide you with enough relevant information that you can make an educated decision about what strategy you should use when selling your property.

In my experience, unless you have considerable financial reserves, it is usually best to attempt to sell your property reasonably soon. As many people who are selling a house are also looking to buy one soon after, getting your old property sold will be an important step in securing the capital for your next property. If your capital is still tied up in the old property, you may end up facing additional fees, delays, and may even fail to close on the house you want. 

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 35

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