Real Estate Information


Karen Picarello


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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.


Tips for Selling a Home in the Fall

by Karen Picarello

Well, it isn't the best time to sell a home, but it is the second best! Selling a home in the fall does bring up some different tasks for the homeowner however, and there are some things to take care of that are unique to the season.

1. Weatherproofing walkways:

It may not seem like a big deal, but fall brings rain, and rain brings mud. Make sure all walkways are graveled or paved in a way that keeps the mud out and puddles to a minimum. This is not about saving the shoes of potential buyers. It is about maintaining an impression. If a buyer likes your home and has that feel-good moment where he or she can really picture living there, you don’t want to tarnish that image with a big step into a mud puddle. Keep the good feelings rolling by providing well-maintained walkways.

2. Removing yard debris:

Fall colors are beautiful, and changing leaves can sell a home…when they’re on the trees. Once they fall, they need to be cleaned up as quickly as possible. Trim and prune dying flowers so they appear kept. The potential buyer needs to be reminded of the beauty of the yard, not how much work it requires. Don’t shove chores into their minds by reminding them of cleanup. Keep it clean, and that thought won’t enter their mind.

3. Use fall décor to your advantage:

Speaking of fall leaves, there’s no harm in throwing in a little fall charm to a home’s front porch. A quick look on Pinterest will leave you filled with ideas that will insert warmth into your property. This works inside the house too, and fall fruit displays and centerpieces are a good way to bring the outdoors into the home.

4. Turn on the lights:

Most people don’t like the shorter days, but it can be an advantage. Keep the lights on in the home, so people driving by can see the warm glow of your home. It may use a little power, but it makes the home inviting. This is a good time to invest in walkway lights if you don’t already have them. It gives the home curbside appeal.

5. Warmth matters:

When we talk about fall, there’s often mention of warm colors and décor to make the home inviting, but don’t forget that a home also has to actually be warm. Temperature matters, and as cooler days approach, it is important that furnaces and fireplaces are in working order. Nothing screams money pit like a broken boiler or heat pump, and future homeowners don’t want to be burdened with this in their new home.

Fall may not be the best time to sell a home, but it certainly is a good time to sell a home. Use these tips, and you’ll be selling like it’s spring.

4 Reasons to Use a Real Estate Agent for My Sale

by Karen Picarello

Homes are still one of the best investments on the market and are likely one of the most valuable things you might ever own. However, people frequently try to buy or sell homes without employing an agent, and unless they have a lot of experience, often end up regretting it. Even if you are experienced dealing in other types of markets, the housing market is constantly fluctuating, and you will only be able to get a great sale if you truly understand the value of a specific property at a specific location. Here are 4 different reasons to use an agent for your sale.

  1. Real Estate Agents know how to advertise. Because they have experience with all different types of homes, real estate agents will be able to ensure that your property is not only photographed and presented in the most attractive way possible, but that these images will be displayed directly to a target audience. An experienced agent will have a plan already in place for marketing your home which will broaden the pool of potential buyers.
  2. Agents Understand the Paperwork. When selling a property, there are a huge number of documents which need to be signed, approved, prepared, and read carefully. Having someone on your side who can keep you updated on which documents will be needed at what time will mean that you have to stress much less about the transaction in general.
  3. Agents are Objective. Real estate agents will be able to look at your home without the sentimental and emotional attachments you may have developed during the time you have lived there. This can blind you to changes which need to be made to make the house saleable and can also make sure that your listing price is a good one for the value of the home. This price becomes the starting point for negotiation, so if you fail to choose wisely you could see some major problems.
  4. Real Estate Agents are Experienced Salespeople. At the end of the day, the sale only goes through once you have found someone willing and able to pay an appropriate price for the property. Having an experienced salesperson on your team to helps how of the benefits of your home and to ensure that it is presented in a good light will only increase your chances of this happening quickly.



Selling Safety: Home Improvements That Pay

by Karen Picarello

While many homeowners want to believe that investing in extensive renovations will increase the value of their home, the truth is that often these expensive changes do not manage to pay for themselves completely. While they may be necessary to help your home sell at all, you may not end up feeling like your investments were particularly worth it. However, there are some things you can do if selling on a budget which almost always help to sell a property. For the most part, these improvements are small relatively cheap things that are highly visible, or which will appeal to buyers on an emotional level.

A great example of this type of home improvement is the installation of home security features. Whether it is exterior lighting, cameras, or alarms for entrances, home security is something which can be improved without paying the huge sums commonly associated with major home renovations. While there will be a price tag, you can get some improvements done for a much more modest amount.

Additionally, these are highly visible features which you can show to guests touring your home, and which can help people visualize themselves taking ownership and living happily in the property. When moving into a new location, owners are often concerned about the things that they might not notice on an initial inspection. A house can be in great condition yet still be a purchase which they regret if the neighborhood or surrounding area do not allow them to feel safe. And with people more concerned with privacy than ever, assuring potential buyers that they will be well protected in their own space is a great first step towards securing a sale.

One of the major questions about installing a home security system in your home will be what infrastructure do you already have in place to support it? For example, installing security cameras can be done quickly and easily if the electrical system is designed to accommodate such things, but you may find that your home is lacking electrical wiring for improvements. This could cause it to become much more expensive. If you consult with a security professional, you will be able to figure out which upgrades you can do quickly and cost effectively, and you can then point out to potential buyers the benefits of living in a home with these features. Make you r home a place where a buyer would feel safe, and you will dramatically improve your outcomes when bringing the home to market.

Moving to a New City? Tips for Success

by Karen Picarello

Moving can always be a stressful time, but this is particularly true when you will be moving to a place which is very different from your previous environment. Moving to a city which is far from your previous living space can come with a whole host of problems. However, if you are prepared you can ensure that things are as smooth as possible.

Before you make the move, you should do everything possible to prepare. Here are a few ideas for things to do some research on.

First, look at the cost of living. Things like food, utilities, and transportation might be much more expensive (or possibly a bit cheaper) after the move. Having a good idea of how these expenses will change can help you budget for the move. When moving, you should always make sure that you have a solid financial cushion. There will be unexpected costs associated with the move, and you will need to be able to handle them until you can adjust to your new routine.

Ideally, you should have employment lined up before the move. While this is not always possible, moving to a new location without a solid plan for employment or a good financial cushion could quickly put you in a bad position. At the very least make sure that you have a solid contingency plan with some room for things to go differently than you expect.

If possible, go out and spend a few days in the area you plan to live. This can help you get a feel for the community, and an understanding of the neighborhood. Additionally, this can help you feel more comfortable when you move in, as you will already have a good idea of where some local places are. Instead of having to look for a grocer or restaurant, being somewhat familiar with them already can drastically increase your mental comfort and reduce your stress levels during the move.

Finally, be prepared for the fact that you may not sleep comfortably the first few nights, so make some allowances in your schedule. You want to be able to move in ahead of things like work start dates so that you will have sufficient time to orient yourself and become comfortable. Once you become comfortable in the area, you will be in a much better mental spot to be successful.



6 Steps to Buy a Home

by Karen Picarello

Buying a home can be an intimidating process. Whether it is your first time or you have owned several properties, you likely have many questions about the process. Because many people spend a great deal of time in between purchases of homes, they might be unsure about how things have changed since they last used the market. While I will not be able to cover everything here, this small list might help you to get a better idea of how a home purchase goes in general.

  1. Find your Budget. Your absolute first priority should be establishing your budget for the new property. Before you even start looking, figure out things like how much you will be able to put into a home each month, what down payments will be required, and how much money you can get approved to borrow from your lender. Homeowners frequently leave these details until later than they should, and sometimes pay the price. Make sure that you budget for everything, from fees during the transaction to costs associated with the move to proper maintenance and upkeep of your future property.
  2. Talk with your creditor, and get as much as you can from them. Being prequalified or preapproved for credit will help you to establish trust with potential sellers, and will help you feel peace of mind knowing what you have to work with.
  3. Find an agent, and start the search. When buying a house, you want to find an agent to work for you. Their financial responsibility will be towards you, and so they can look out for you rinterests during the transaction. Additionally, their experience will allow them to smoothly guide you through the entire process. By this point, you should have a clear idea of what type of property you want.
  4. Inspect the Home. Once you find a prospective property, make sure you don’t rush into a deal. Take your time and make sure you really understand the value of the property before you make any offer.
  5. Fill Out Paperwork. Work with your creditor and agent to ensure that all paperwork is done promptly and completely.
  6. Buy the Property. When the sale closes, you will take ownership of the property. Be prepared to make a smooth transition, and make sure that you are completely ready to take this final irreversible step.

When Should You Look for a Starter Home?

by Karen Picarello

Many millennials dream of owning a home, but worry about economic instability, and their own financial solubility. Many millennials were in a great position to observe the housing crash  a decade ago, and are therefore somewhat gun shy at the idea of jumping into the world of home ownership.

If you are trying to determine if a home purchase is on the horizon, here are a few tips to help put your mind at ease.

First, your decision about whether to purchase a home should largely be based on two factors. First, your creditworthiness and financial situation, and second, your future plans. If you want to purchase a home, a large part of the process will depend on things like your credit score and income. Saving up money for a down payment can be daunting but can help you to get the stability you need to forge ahead confidently. If your credit is poor, you may not be in a great position to look for home ownership. However, still do your homework. Talk to an agent and determine if there are options for you available.

The reasons that purchasing a home can be better than renting is that a home is one of the best investments you can make. With that said, you need to remember that homes are a long term investment. It is incredibly difficult to predict how a market might develop in 1, 5, or 15 years. With that said, the longer a period of time that passes, the better chances you have of making your investment pay off. So, if you are planning on staying in the area for at least 5 years, owning a home is a great choice.

This is also a great way to prepare you for your future. If you are looking to purchase your first home, you likely are just starting your career. You will learn what types of property you like, and what you want to avoid. Look for a property in a good area that fits your needs.

If you have questions, don’t hesitate to call today to talk to an experienced agent. Finding a home which fits you is the most important thing, and this is best done with the help of a professional. If you want to start a family, career, or simply want to invest, look into buying your first starter home today.


Insurance When Buying or Selling a Home

by Karen Picarello

Insurance is one of the most important parts of good financial planning. One inescapable fact of finance is that you can’t plan for every eventuality. Sometimes bad things happen, and you must find ways to deal with them. Insurance is your tool for making sure that a freak accident does not cost you financial stability for the rest of your life.

If you are selling a home, some homeowners can be tempted to cancel their insurance early. Make sure that you discuss with your agent and your lawyer exactly when you can cancel your insurance policy on the property. Typically, you should not do this until ownership has been legally transferred. Even if you have signed a contract so that neither party can back out of the sale, you must absolutely keep your insurance current. Should a disaster occur, you could be put in an incredibly bad legal position.

When buying, you will need to make sure that you have an insurance policy ready to take effect when you finalize the transaction. If coverage lapses between papers being signed and damage being done, you could end up on the hook for the bill but without a functional property. Additionally, insurance inspections and assurances can help you feel peace of mind that you will not discover any huge and expensive surprises upon moving into the property. Finally, you may not even be able to secure your loan If you cannot assure your creditor that the property is and will be insured.

So, if you are buying a property, you first will need to discuss with your lawyer or agent about when you will legally be responsible for the property. Once you have a date you are certain about, you should do everything in your power to make sure that insurance will kick in on or before that date. Work together with the seller to make sure that you have all of the information you need so that you will not end up holding up the sale. An honest seller will be happy and interested in making sure that you have all the tools you need to proceed with he sale in good faith.

Finally, it can be a good idea to consider purchasing a home warranty, which can help cover damages in the property. Do some research, and figure out if this is right for you.

Protecting Yourself from Bad Buyers

by Karen Picarello

Selling your home is a life changing process. Depending on how smoothly and quickly the sale goes down, you may have to adjust major parts of your life plans. But even if you do everything right, problems can still emerge. Thankfully, there are precautions you can take to make sure that an untrustworthy buyer doesn’t cause you problems.

If you are preparing to sell a property, the first thing that you need is experience. Most people do not sell homes frequently, and will therefore be unaware of the potential pitfalls, let alone how to negotiate them efficiently. First, and experienced, trustworthy, and qualified agent will be your best asset in making sure that things go smoothly. Proper knowledge of things like which papers will be needed at what time, and how to negotiate a deal will improve your chances that things go well. Additionally, they will have seen many of the unsavory tactics used by some buyers, and will know how to protect you.

However, there are other professionals whose services will prevent you from being taken advantage of. Both the buyer and the seller can benefit from having a reputable home inspector come and evaluate the condition of the property. If you know what you are selling and how much its worth, you will be able to take the good deals, but decline those which aren’t offering you what it is worth. Additionally, legal and financial experts will give you the guidance necessary to make sure that your next purchase goes through smoothly. For example, imagine if a buyer made an offer, and you made plans based on the assumption that the offer would go through. Then at the last minute, they back out. What do you do? If you have experienced professionals on your side, they can help you understand when it will be safe for you to count on the buyer making the purchase. This way, you can get papers signed which guarantee the sale will go through ( allowing you to move forward with peace of mind), while also making sure that you have sufficient time to find a new place to live.

In the end, experience is the best teacher, but when it comes to home sales, most people only get a few chances their entire life. In this case, it is usually better to leave it to a professional who has conducted hundreds of sales, and who really knows what they are doing.

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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