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Karen Picarello

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To Rent or Not to Rent

by Karen Picarello

If you are considering investment rental property or want to convert your home into a rental, there are many things to consider. What sounds like an easy way to make money can turn out to be a disaster that ends with emotional and monetary loss. There are many things to consider when renting property, and here are a few ideas to get you started.

Rental Considerations

1. Whether or not to hire a property manager:

If you’ve never been a landlord, it can be a rude awakening. Even with background checks, it is amazing what damage “normal” people are capable of creating. Additionally, collecting rent, handling complaints, and handling evictions can be very stressful.

When a person only has one or two properties, a property manager may be a luxury, and one should only consider it if it works into a budget. Call a property manager, and get an estimate. If you are adding one more rental than you can reasonably handle, then it is essential to make this decision.

When deciding whether or not one wants to be landlord, one must consider the tough requirements. Are you willing to perform inspections? Are you willing to persist in payment collection? Most importantly, are you willing to evict a family who claims to be in financial distress? It may feel heartless, but a landlord who is not willing to run the rental like a business could end up in foreclosure and financial ruin.

2. Neighborhood:

If the neighborhood in which you are considering your rental is dirty and in disrepair, you will likely have a bad experience with tenants, or they won’t stay long.

Rental properties are often in low-income areas of town, so curb appeal matters both in how much you can charge and what type of people you will attract. Slumlords are a real thing, and you don’t have to abide by the stereotype. However, renting in low-income communities can be a challenge.

3. Surprise Expenses:

Lastly, rentals can be expensive, and you need to have a healthy reserve in order to handle surprise expenses. HVAC units and appliances can break. Plumbing can fail and cause water damage that may exceed the coverage of your insurance.

You must have a credit card or savings account with enough to cover your expenses, or your property will not be rentable. Like empty hotel rooms, empty rentals equal lost profits.

Renting is an excellent opportunity for many people, but those who go into it blindly may be disillusioned by the realities of investment rental properties.

5 Tips to Have Better Luck Selling Your Home

by Karen Picarello

There are a million tips that you can read about selling your home, but the truth is, there’s a bit of luck involved. Just like every other aspect of life, there are ways to improve your luck. Here are 5 tips to improving you luck selling your home.

1. Remove oddities:

You may be a bit eclectic, and so may the future homeowners. However, it is very unlikely that their eccentricities will match yours.

If you are a fan of garden gnomes and want to leave behind a legacy, make sure it is minimal. You don’t want potential homeowners to refer to your home as the “gnome house.” Likewise, weird window treatments or wall stencils should be removed prior to selling.

2. Paint in neutral:

Similar to removing oddities, you must get rid of trendy paint schemes. That burnt orange wall may look amazing with your home décor, but you don’t want it to deter a buyer with cool-toned furniture colors. Paint your walls a neutral color, so they are a blank slate for the next homeowner.

3. Invest in Landscaping:

Outside greenery makes a house inviting, and homeowners tend to disregard landscaping in favor of gardens and cost-savings. Invest in a landscaper to develop the exterior presentation of your home.

4. Insert life in the Interior:

One of the happening trends in home sales is a bowl or vessel full of lemons, and there is a reason for this. It introduces freshness into the home. It does not necessarily introduce the fresh scent of lemons into the home, but the visual speaks to all the senses. Likewise, any greenery you can put into the home helps homeowners to visualize their own lives there.


5. Minimize:

People who live minimalistic lives can get pretty particular when it comes to home items. However, most people who enter a home that is for sale want it to look like nobody lives there anymore. Family photos should be put away. Curio cabinets should be sparse. It should look like a picture from a home design magazine, not a home décor magazine. Allow the future inhabitants to envision it as their own space.

These are tried and true rules of selling a home. There are plenty of exceptions, but when you are selling, don’t try to be the exception. If you want to sell your home, make it appealing to the masses. Don’t try to attract the eccentric person who may or may not pass by.

The Finishing Touches: Tips for the Buyer and the Seller

by Karen Picarello

A home that is on the market should be pristine unless it is a foreclosure or a fixer-upper. It is not a used car, and people are not expecting it to be damaged or worn out. Yet, homeowners and prospective buyers are not sure what to fix or what to look for in a home.

5 Things to Fix or Look for in a Home for Sale

1. Plumbing:

In a finished home, you may not be able to see the pipes running through the walls, but especially in older homes, plumbing can become a huge expense. One easy way to confirm that things are on the right track is to look under the sink.

Some things are easy to tell, and if the plumbing under the sink is not correct, you can bet other things aren’t as well. Potential buyers should be looking for clean cuts and intact pipes. If it looks like pieces have been robbed from old plumbing projects, corners have probably been cut. Sellers should make sure that all exposed plumbing looks sound, and of course, fix any hidden plumbing problems as well.

2. Fixtures:

Light fixtures, sockets, and switches should all be updated within reason. If they haven’t been updated, then you can be sure that the wiring is probably in need of some work. Changing these items to updated versions also shows an attention to detail that shows the home has been cared for. Lastly, there should be no aluminum or knob-and-tube wiring.

3. Panel Box:

The electrical panel should be updated. Fuse boxes, although dated, may be okay. However, fuse boxes are typically overloaded, which makes them a fire hazard. The house should have a panel that is accurately labelled and can handle the current load of the home.

4. Insulation:

In very old homes with lath and plaster walls, there may be no exterior insulation. This means outside road noises will be heard while watching television, and cold air will be felt when standing next to exterior walls. This can easily be remedied with blown-in insulation, but make sure this is done prior to selling the home. It can be a major selling point especially when walls have not been replaced with sheetrock.

5. Floors:

If floors have recently been installed, check to see how hard they are and how they stand up to water. Then, find out how much they cost to repair. Homes with hardwood floors or high-end laminate may stand the test of time, but cheap cover-ups will not last.

There are many things to consider when buying or selling a new home, but these five things will give a buyer a sense of how well the home has been maintained.

Sell your home quicker with a home warranty

by Karen Picarello


Many homeowner’s purchase their homes counting on things basically holding together for a certain period of time. Home inspectors are called to make sure everything is copacetic, but an inspection does not satisfy all worries.

While an inspector’s evaluation determines that the home was kept up properly and is not in need of immediate repairs, new homeowners often suffer from Murphy’s Law. This law states that whatever can go wrong will go wrong given the chance, and even though it might be totally superstitious, it often seems to be true.

Within the first few months of new home ownership, homeowners often experience great losses. Water heaters break, and dryers fail. Heat pumps stop working, or plumbing starts leaking. In most cases, it is not the previous homeowner’s fault. Life simply happens, and stuff breaks. However, new homeowners like protection.

Sellers, on the other hand, want to show potential buyers that they can have faith in the condition of the home. One good way to do that is to offer a home warranty.

Home Warranties: The Good and Bad

While offering a home warranty sounds very transparent, home warranties aren’t always what they’re cracked up to be. There are many loopholes that prevent warranties from paying out should something go wrong. However, they are a good attempt at making sure that any unexpected financial casualties could be made right.

Home warranties are not insurance policies, and they only cover the specific items listed in the warranty, so they should be chosen carefully. Typically, they cover home systems such as air conditioning or major appliances. Home insurance is still a necessity both for lending and for peace of mind.

First-timer Ease

One of the best times to for a seller to purchase a home warranty as a selling feature is for first-time home buyers because they often lack the financial security to cover the failure of large home systems and appliances.

If you are selling a home that fits the first-time home buyer general footprint, then home warranties can help a home sell quickly. Seasoned home buyers don’t always need that surety because they are financially equipped to handle what eventually seems like minimal losses.

In other words, if you are selling a multi-million dollar home, you can expect that potential buyers won’t need the minimal protection of a home warranty. However, if you are selling a home in the price range of people who may just be starting their financial histories, home warranties can bring the relief of coverage for basic defects in home systems and appliances that can financially stress those who are already stressed at the prospect of a mortgage payment.

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.



 

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Contact Information

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TeamPicarello
RE/MAX Fine Properties North Scottsdale
21000 N. Pima Road, Suite 100
Scottsdale AZ 85255
Office: (480)860-8733
888-548-8713
Fax: (480)860-8755