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Karen Picarello


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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.


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.



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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