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Karen Picarello


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5 Tips for Selling Home through a Real Estate Agent

by Karen Picarello

Real estate agents can be stellar advocates for home sellers and buyers in a market that has been rebounding from the 2008 housing crisis. In most cases, they are full of contacts and resources to get your home sold as quickly and for the best price possible. However, there are a few things a homeowner can know to get the most out of their sale.

5 Tips for Selling home through a Real Estate Agent

1. Ask About the Details: Your transactions with your real estate agent should be very transparent, and who will be interacting with potential home buyers is very important. Inquire about phone services, who will show the home, and how interactions will take place should the agent be unavailable. This will help to choose the best agent to meet your needs.

2. Don’t Sell for the Highest Price Possible: In other words, don’t pick your agent based on the valuation of your home. They could be pricing it high in order to get your business, which means the house will sit around for a while. You will likely have to reduce your price to get any bites, and you will have lost potential buyers by then.

3. Don’t Delay Walkthroughs: Staging your home is great, but if a person wants to see your home immediately, and you haven’t cleaned, let them see it! A perfectly stage home will not turn off buyers, but real life will not dissuade a normal person looking to buy real estate. Let them see it, so you don’t lose out on an opportunity.

4. Don’t Strip the Place When Leaving: Make sure you discuss what you will be taking with the future homeowner. Things like appliances, window coverings, and light fixtures should be discussed prior to their removal. With that said, home buyers should always do a final walkthrough to make sure homeowners weren’t hiding anything.

5. Make it Smell Good: There is nothing more attractive in a home than good scents, but that does not mean that cheap air fresheners will do the trick. Bake cookies if you can prior to a person visiting the home, and make sure candles or any other scents are light. Too much air freshener can make the potential buyer think you are trying to hide something.

Selling a home does not have to take a lot of time from the home seller. Especially when using an agent, it can be really easy. However, homeowners should choose their agent wisely and pay attention to a few tips to make the most of their sale.

When you purchase a home, one of the considerations is the neighborhood in which you will live. People tend to pick neighborhoods with families who seem to have similar values, and there are not many people who see positive attributes in neighbors who have messy homes.

Messy homes come in many types and mean different things to different people. Leaves in the yard but an otherwise kept yard may simply mean busy neighbors who don’t always have the time to be on top of everything. Tree limbs and bushes growing over or through fences may mean that the neighbors do not respect the boundaries of their property. Toys in the yard mean young children, but dirty toys may scream messy, loud children who will interrupt the peace in the neighborhood.

The challenge lies in what to do about neighbors with messy yards or rundown exteriors to their homes. What can you do? It’s their personal property, so are you going to suffer limited offers and have to sell your home at a lesser cost? Not necessarily. Here are a few tips:

Tips for Selling a Home Next to Messy Neighbors:

1. Ask them:

Hopefully, you have an amicable relationship with your nearest neighbors. Explain to them that you are trying to sell the home, and ask them if they wouldn’t mind picking up outside toys when you are showing it. Depending on the relationship, you may even be able to ask them to mow or rake prior to a showing. Beware of being too pushy. You’re on thin ice when it comes to asking neighbors to care for their own property. Tactfulness is key.

2. Offer to help:

Asking someone to do physical labor may be awkward, but this can be lessened by offering to help. Again, it has to do with your relationship with your neighbor, but if they don’t mind, trim their bushes. It will help to sell your home.

3. Be creative:

If you know a local landscaper, have them offer their services to your neighbors. Enter them into landscaping contests. You may be able to offer to pay for services to be rendered in the name of selling your home. Don’t give up!

If none of this works, then be glad you are moving. However, you can also distract from the neighbors by making sure your home looks perfect. In some cases, you must be the diamond in the rough. Make sure to sparkle.

Front Door: The Key to Selling Success

by Karen Picarello

When a person peruses Pinterest for tips on home décor, they are inundated with pictures of front doors of all different colors. They are not the tattered, scratched, and worn doors you may find on the typical Main Street, and they are instead part of the artistry of the home. The front door it the first impression of a home. If your home needs to be painted, you should paint it to give it that finished look. However, if your home needs to be painted, and your front door is hideous, take care of the front door first.

The front door is an important component to the overall image of a home, but it is also a very important part of the home selling process. If you don’t have a door that meets expectations, then you are selling a fixer-upper. It does not matter if the door is the only thing that needs fixing.

It’s all about curb appeal, and the front door is the central visual point when prospective home buyers are considering a home. They have to picture walking through that door. They have to picture their friends and family being presented with that door. The door, it turns out, is a very cheap way to turn your home into a want for home buyers whether buying based on photographs or onsite tours.

3 Ways to Sell a Home with a Door

1. Color: When selling a home, most paint recommendations call for neutral colors. It is not that color is not trendy and stylish, but it isn’t guaranteed to please everyone. It is better to remain neutral and provide a blank canvas for the future homeowner.

However, doors are the exception to this idea. It is the chance to introduce a little color or trendiness without it becoming tacky or overdone.

Black doors are a current trend, and they add a European feel to homes. However, dark blue doors and shades of red are also examples of that pop of color that can be inserted where it is considered an enhancement.

2. Light: Doors also offer the opportunity to distribute natural light through windows. They can be Craftsman windows, transom windows, or side lights on each side of the door. While windows are attractive to the outside of the home, they also bring natural light into the home that may otherwise be covered with blinds or curtains.

3. Hardware: Who doesn’t like an old-school door knocker? While that may not be the best option for your own home, hardware is a consideration that can enhance a new door or update an old door. It should be comfortable, secure, and feel sturdy.

When it comes to selling a home, the front door is an overlooked gem. It can transform a home with very minimal work and very minimal expense.

From Renting to Buying: The Home Plus Program

by Karen Picarello

If you are currently renting, the transition to buying a home can be financially impossible with closing costs and a down payment as a typical requirement. If you are a first-time home buyer with no military background, a federal FHA loan may be an appealing option. However, if you are buying in Arizona, the state has a Home Plus program that can help get a person over the financial hurdles of the home buying process.

Renting a home is a good short-term option for many people who are building credit or saving for a down payment, but it is not a good investment in the long term. That's why those who think finances are getting in the way of home ownership should look into assistance from federal and state programs. 

What is The Home Plus Program?

The Home Plus program is a state program created and given by the Arizona Industrial Development Authority, and it gives new home buyers a 30-year fixed loan for a home along with down payment assistance. The down payment assistance is given as a type of second mortgage, but don’t let that stress you. The loan is a three-year, no payment, no interest mortgage that is forgiven over the term of the lien. This loan can be used for a down payment or for closing costs.

What are the requirements?

There are some requirements for the Home Plus Program, and a minimum credit score is one of them. A range of down payment assistance percentages are available for home buyers with a minimum credit score of 640 to 680. If your credit is below this, you cannot qualify. However, these credit scores are not considered good, and you may be able to get your credit up to “average” quicker than you think.

Other requirements include a maximum income of $99,170, and the price of the home cannot be more than $396,680. A homebuyer education course must be completed by one borrower before closing, and the home must be a primary residence.

Basically, if you don’t own a home, and your financial situation seems to be prohibiting home ownership because of closing costs and a down payment, the Home Plus program may be the solution.

Let’s face it. Your rent payments are simply being thrown away into the abyss of monthly bills and payments made in order to have basic survival needs met like shelter and electricity. That money could be invested into property ownership, and financially, it is not impossible. Ask your mortgage broker or lender about the Home Plus program. It could be the help you need to get the homeownership process up and going.

How to buy when mortgage rates are rising

by Karen Picarello

If you are looking for a home, you’ve likely heard that mortgage rates are rising. This can be a major problem for potential homeowners who can have hundreds of dollars added to their mortgage payment. Additionally, home values have gone up, so one could say it’s a seller’s market. That does not mean you are out of luck when it comes to purchasing a home.

Markets can sway back and forth very quickly, but they can also take time to recover, so waiting to purchase a home may not be the best option when it comes to living a healthy, stable lifestyle with a comfortable home. That is why we have created a list of ways to protect yourself from the instability of the market and get a good price and mortgage rate even when the market is tough.

3 Ways to get a good deal when mortgage rates are high:

1. Improve your credit score

After the housing crash of 2008, subprime loans were taken off the table for people with little to no credit and no tangible way to make a house payment. However, there are now “nonprime” loans available for people with credit scores as low as 500. Think they are getting good mortgage rates? Think again.

Mortgage companies are in it for the money, and it is a risk-reward game. Low credit means higher risk, which means you are only getting a loan if the mortgage company is going to make more money.

Reduce your rate to the minimum by keeping a healthy FICO credit score. This may mean waiting a little while to prove good payment histories or paying down some debt, but it is the primary way to get a good mortgage rate.

2. Consider a 15-year

A 30-year fixed rate loan is standard, but cutting that time in half does not cost nearly as much monthly as one would think. It may only cost an extra few hundred dollars a month, and it greatly reduces the amount that you’d end up paying in interest regardless of the rate.

Here is a link to a 15-year mortgage calculator.

3. Lock in your rate

Once your loan is approved, your mortgage broker can lock in your rate. If you are buying in a market where interest rates are increasing, this can save you a lot of money, as mortgage rates can be locked in for months. Get a mortgage broker who is market savvy, and he or she will lock in the rate when the time is right.

Rising mortgage rates can be discouraging to the potential home buyer, but they don’t have to be. A good credit score, shorter pay-off period, and a locked in rate can create a condition that minimizes the effect of the market on the purchase.

Searching for Dog Friendly Communities

by Karen Picarello

According to SmartAsset, almost 70 percent of homeowners own pets, and the most popular pet they own is a dog. Dogs have been labelled man’s best friend for many reasons. They can be loyal, they are easily trained, they’re fairly smart, and they are simply lovable. For many people a dog is shoulder to cry on, a confidant to sit on the couch with, and sometimes the cuddliest bed partner one could ask for. However, owning a dog is a responsibility, and aside from the dog not being a nuisance to neighbors, dog owners must also provide a good home for their loyal companion. Arizona has some of the best cities for dog owners because they have good weather, which is suitable for getting dogs out into the fresh air. They also have many communities that have amenities for dogs that make it easy for you and your dog to have fun.  

5 Features of Dog Friendly Communities

1. Sidewalks:

Dog walking is one of the most important parts of ownership, but life gets busy, and having access to walkable paths is key to making sure your furry pal gets outside. Seeks communities with well-made sidewalks, so when time is tight, all you have to do is walk out the front door. Lighting should also be a consideration, and well-lit sidewalks are a bonus.

2. Dog parks:

Dogs can be social creatures, and dog parks create a friendly area for dogs to meet and greet or simply play catch in an open area…without a leash. Dog parks used to be reserved for larger cities where many homes had little or no yard. Not anymore. Dog parks are in many rural communities today.

3. Runnable parks and trails:

While dog parks are nice, some owners wish to run alongside their furry friend, and runnable parks and trails give owners a chance to get out their running shoes and get some exercise in a safe area free from traffic.

4. Dog friendly businesses:

Dog friendly shopping centers allow your dog to come with you on each shopping excursion, and they won’t be a surprise or a nuisance to other shoppers or shopkeepers.

5. Dog friendly restaurants:

Like dog friendly businesses, dog friendly restaurants allow you to keep your dog nearby at all times, and in places like Arizona, where it can be very hot, this can be key to being able to get dogs out of the house.

SmartAsset ranked Tuscon, AZ as the most dog-friendly place for 2018, but there’s more to it than that. If you have a large dog, and you are in a less dog-friendly community, make sure you find a big yard. If you have a dog who barks, then it may be better to make sure there is plenty of room inside for the dog to stay and not annoy neighbors. Each dog has unique requirements, but it is important to remember that communities have a lot to offer when it comes to quality of life for your pet.


Selling with Solar in the Sunny Arizona South

by Karen Picarello

Parts of Arizona get approximately 300 days of sunshine a year, so it is no wonder that solar panels are becoming popular in this Southern state. Selling a home with solar panels is not a problem, and statistics indicate that the number of homes sold that have solar panels is constantly increasing.

However, whether or not solar power will increase the value of your home is dependent on multiple variables, and in some cases, it does not amount to enough of an increase for it to be worth it. Solar panels can save a homeowner a lot of money in electricity over the years, but home sellers and buyers must be armed with knowledge in order to consider adding panels to sell a home or consider buying a home with solar panels.

5 Things to Know about Solar

1. Value added diminishes with the length of warranty.

The value of solar panels is calculated by using the amount a homeowner will save in energy consumption and multiplying that by the years left on the warranty. If there is very little time left on the warranty, then that value added to a home price will be reduced drastically.

2. Leased panels do not add value.

If the panels have not been purchased, then they do not add any value to the home because they are not owned. A buyer can take over the contract however, so leased panels may improve that salability of a home.

3. The home may still be dependent on the grid.

Some solar panels don’t make quite enough electricity to fully power the home, which means they still rely on the grid for constant electricity, which means there is still an electricity bill. This can be a deterrent to some home buyers, but it can also provide comfort in knowing there is a backup option for power if needed.

4. If the roof is in disrepair, solar panels are expensive to remove to reroof.

Obviously, a roof that is in poor condition is going to be a factor in a home sale anyway. However, if the roof is okay but will probably need replaced in five years, buyers may be turned off by the added expense in their future.

5. Some energy companies will buy your excess energy.

There are tax credits and energy credits that power companies will provide if you are able to create excess energy and export it to the grid. Since Arizona is the sunniest state in America, there is a good possibility that a residential home could produce excess power, in which case the homeowner would benefit.

Choosing a Community

by Karen Picarello

A perfect home needs a perfect location.

Arizona is filled with diverse locations that make the perfect homes for single individuals wanting an exciting, urban life and families looking for big yards and safe neighborhoods. However, there are many factors in different neighborhoods that aren’t so easy to see. These factors can make an otherwise perfect home a disastrous decision for a home buyer. That is why it is important to consider where a home is located in addition to whether it has the right number of bedroom and baths.

Ten Things to Consider About Community when Buying a Home

1. Cost of Living:

Just going to the grocery store can be a huge money changer when it comes to different communities. Additionally, gated communities may have HOA fees. Toll bridges and parking fees can be an expense. When looking at a community, consider the cost of living in order to find a community that is affordable.

2. Job Opportunities:

For many people, employment is the motive for a move, but in other cases, job opportunities can be a deal breaker for a new homeowner. Especially for those who have less stable employment, it may be important to have new job opportunities readily available in order to ensure equal or better employment.

3. Taxes:

Arizona property taxes are below national averages, but they still vary by county, and this adds to a home buyer’s expenses.

4. Crime:

Arizona has ranked 15th in most dangerous states, but that does not mean there are not safe communities. Looking at crime rates can ensure a home purchase occurs in a safe community, and discussions with local law enforcement can help people to find areas that are the lowest in crime.

5. Schools:

Like crime, schools greatly change at a community level, typically based on wealth. For homebuyers who have children, schools are an important factor and have a great impact on the future of our children.

6. Culture:

People tend to like living next to people who have similar values, and this does not specifically have to do with religious preference or ethnicity. For instance, gated communities often have rules about the appearance of the homeowner’s property. This may clash with a person who desires the freedom to change their oil in the driveway or collect old cars. Consider the appearance of nearby homes in order to determine if your own home will reflect the same level of “culture.”

7. Food:

For some people, restaurants are not a big deal, but many people enjoy being close to many dining options. Maybe this means choosing a property that is closer to the city, but it may mean simply choosing a community that caters toward the culinary world.

8. Proximity to the City:

Remote areas can be a dream for introverts with a love of nature, but the extrovert may need to escape to the city once in a while. Living nearby a city gives the feeling of rural live while including the convenience of urban accessibility and options. If a two-hour drive is too much to get to the city when needed, this should be considered in a home purchase.

9. Proximity to Family:

Proximity to family is always a consideration, whether a person wants to be near or far from their relatives. Especially for those with children, having family nearby can be a great asset.

10. Entertainment:

The city is a great place to get entertainment, but it can be difficult to get any peace. Still, having options for entertainment that are in line with your own hobbies and desires is recommended. For example, if you have a love of the orchestra, there aren’t likely going to be a lot of options for this type of entertainment in a rural town.



A picture is worth the value of a first impression.

by Karen Picarello

If you are selling your home, pictures are not debatable. With internet applications like Zillow and Trulia, the average home buyer is making first impressions before ever setting foot on your property. Some will not even consider a home without seeing it pre-contact.

This means that your pictures have to pre-sell your home. You won’t get the chance to say, “The pictures don’t do it justice.” You won’t be able to explain why your lighting is dim, and even a repair in progress with a written explanation can be a deterrent. Many home buyers are looking for red flags and reasons not to buy your home, and unfortunately, a lot of those reasons fall under the category of bad pictures. Buyers and sellers benefit from quality pictures of a home for sale, and here are some tips for quality pics.

5 pic tips for the home seller:

1. High resolution photography: Don’t use an old camera with 5 mega pixels and expect to wow the market. High-quality photos show that the home has value and was worth the investment in the photography. Anymore, you may be able to get away with using your smartphone to get the photos, but make sure your settings and lighting conditions are perfect!

2. Make it bright: Poor lighting conditions make a home look uninviting. Turn on the lights and avoid pictures of poorly lit areas. If it needs to be included to interest the buyer, light it up! This may be as simple as moving a floor lamp.

3. Dress it up: You may not be the type of person that keeps fresh cut flowers in the vases of your home, but your pictures should portray your home that way. This is not false advertising. Dressing up your home allows another person to picture themselves living there, so messy areas should be cleaned, and vases should be filled.

4. Show what is advertised: You don’t have to photograph the closets…unless this is a selling point. If you are selling a 4-bedroom home, there should be 4 bedrooms photographed. Anything that is a positive component of the house should be shown. Remember, you are trying to get them to the front door. This is not the time for full disclosure, as the good parts of your home will hopefully outweigh any negative aspects.

5. Make simple repairs: A big, unfinished project may show potential. However, a broken handle on a sink shows lack of maintenance. Make small repairs before trying to sell your home, so buyers don’t feel they are looking at a money pit.

Closing Costs and the Cost of Selling a Home in Arizona

by Karen Picarello

As the old adage goes, you gotta’ spend money to make money, and this is true when selling a home.  Some of the expenses of selling a home are spent in order to get a higher price or an offer on a home. Others are expenses that fall under the term “closing costs,” and they can be incurred by the seller or the buyer. In Arizona, the sellers of a home have to pay half of escrow fees, all of the sales commission, owed property taxes, title insurance, and the home warranty if one exists.

A Bit About Closing Costs

Escrow Fees are also called closing fees, and they rise as the cost of the home rises. For example, it may be 2 dollars for every thousand dollars that a home cost. These fees are paid to the title company or whoever handles the closing. The party that oversees the closing must be independent from the home purchase.

Sales commission is paid by the seller in Arizona, and it is decided before selling the home and based on the gross sales price and an agreed-upon percentage.  It is paid out of the proceeds made from the sale.

Owed property taxes must be paid by the seller, and they can be prorated to fit the actual portion of the taxes that would be owed during the seller’s occupancy/ownership of the property. While this seems fair, some states do not prorate, and whoever owns the home when taxes are due pays the full year.

Home warranties are paid by the seller in Arizona, and they are included in closing costs. Home warranties offer peace of mind to home buyers who fear major home systems breaking down immediately after purchasing the home. These warranties don’t cover everything, but they cover major appliance like dishwashers and oven, and they cover major systems like air conditioning and telephone wiring.

There’s more to it than closing costs.

There are other closing costs that impact both the seller and the buyer, but it is not the only thing a home seller needs to consider when planning the expenses involved in selling a home. Often, if a home is in disrepair, it must be repaired before it will pass an inspection. If there are unsightly areas of a home that have not been maintained, a homeowner may have to invest in paint or flooring. New windows make a home easier to sell. While closing costs are less negotiable, a homeowner can weigh the benefits of making these repairs versus lowering the value of the home. Sometimes a minor amount of money can lead to major value increases.


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Contact Information

Photo of TeamPicarello Real Estate
RE/MAX Fine Properties North Scottsdale
21000 N. Pima Road, Suite 100
Scottsdale AZ 85255
Office: (480)860-8733
Fax: (480)860-8755