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How Pets Can Ruin Your Home Showing

by Karen Picarello

We love our adorable furry critters (or non-furry critters), but they can really damage the attractiveness of your home when it comes to selling it. Here are the reasons why and what you can do about it.

1. Fur:

If you have wood or laminate floors, hair may not be as much of a turnoff. However, if you have fur in carpeted floors, good luck appealing to the masses. People may see pet hair as a sign of uncleanliness, or they may see your home as an allergen haven. Nobody has ever said, “I love the home with all of the pet hair!” If you have fur-filled floors, get them professionally cleaned or rip them out before trying to sell. If you have a friend who can watch your pets for a month or so while you sell your home, it is strongly advised. Visible pets in the home can raise the hackles of potential buyers.

2. Poop:

If you cannot get rid of your pet during the sale, make sure there aren’t any land mines out in the yard. You don’t want any negative scents tainting the impression your potential buyers get. If your backyard is rough, do the best you can. It is better to look like you tried than that the home has spent years with a yard covered in feces.

3. Smells:

There are many different types of pets, and it seems like they all come with their own set of specific odors. Guinea pigs, terrariums, fish tanks, and litter boxes don’t smell good immediately after being removed from the home. Remove them prior to guests visiting, and run an air filter with a HEPA filter to get some of the scents out.

4. Pet doors:

It seems like all pet doors have mud on them from muddy dogs traipsing in and out. Many people have pets, so don’t feel like you have to replace the door, but make sure the dog door is cleaned.

5. Pet beds:

Pet beds should be on the newer side. Don’t display your home complete with a bed that has been gnawed on over the past couple years. A clean pet bed can send a message that a home was maintained appropriately despite the canine presence.

6. Clean windows:

Depending on where your windows are located and whether or not you have a cat or a dog, you may have licks and nose prints dirtying up your windows. Clean them up prior to your potential visitors viewing your home.

Pet ownership is not a bad thing, but showing off the gross side of pet ownership can be a real turn off for those looking to move in. Taking care of your pets’ messes will go a long way toward selling your home.

Big Investors: Friend or Foe to the Housing Industry?

by Karen Picarello

            A June 19th article in the Wall Street Journal depicts an interesting change in the Arizona housing market that may disrupt the entire housing industry. For better or worse, this change is giving the upper hand to large investors with access to high computing power. But it may benefit the individual home buyer and home seller too. It’s still in its early stages, but big companies like Opendoor and Zillow Group, Inc. are buying Phoenix real estate and flipping homes for a quick resale. These sales may be with individuals, but they are often sold to big landlords who control a large amount of rentals in the area.

            How do they do it? Using complex computer algorithms that notify the big investors immediately when a house comes on the market that looks like a good investment. Using these algorithms, the company knows how much to offer based on how much they can profit by its resale and how long it is expected to be on the market. It’s reliable to a certain extent, but it isn’t without risk. The large investment companies focus on high volumes of sales because they aren’t making huge gains on each transaction. However, they are able to create a very large volume, so it is lucrative. According to the Wall Street article, these house flipper companies have bought thousands of homes in the area, and more than 22,000 rentals are now owned by big investors.

            It seems a little too corporate, but there are advantages to this non-hostile takeover of the housing market by corporate America. A person selling their residence may get a higher offer from these investment companies if the computer dictates that it is worth the higher price tag in order to warrant the sale. Also, these algorithms are bringing technology to the real estate process. In some cases, using an app can get you electronic access to viewing homes instead of relying on the schedules of homeowners and real estate agents.

            It is too early to tell how big investment companies are going to impact the housing industry, and if home prices fall, it would put a quick end to this money-making trend. However, right now these companies are modernizing the housing market, and there are some real benefits for both parties involved in a home purchase. However, the large investment companies owning so many rentals and controlling so much of the housing market is a bit ominous. It renders many people who have to get mortgages to buy a home powerless in the face of these large companies with cash buying power.

The Cart Ahead of the Horse: Find Your Lender First

by Karen Picarello

            The hunt for a house is often the most fun part about purchasing a new home. You look online at sites such as Zillow, and you get an idea of what you want to look at. Then, you find a real estate agent and start looking at homes, but do you really know what you can afford? When you start off with a real estate agent, you get the cart ahead of the horse…as the old saying goes. You should really start by finding a lender and discovering what it is that you can afford.

            If you are casually considering moving, a soft search on the internet is totally appropriate. Dreaming about your future and finding out what’s available never hurts. However, a real estate agent only knows what you tell them about your financing, and you might be wrong when it comes to the amount you qualify for in a loan.

Pre-qualification vs. Pre-approval

            Pre-qualification only tells you what you may be able to afford according to how much money you make. It does not tell you if anyone will actually give you a loan. Pre-approval ensures that you will qualify for a loan following a credit check. If you don’t go to a lender first, you may be looking at homes when you don’t actually qualify for any loans. Especially if you don’t check your credit regularly, there may be some surprises on there that you didn’t expect. Surprises can take a lot of time to correct on your credit.

            You may think that going to a real estate agent without seeing a lender first is a waste of the real estate agent’s time. What is more important is that it is a waste of your time AND emotion. Not only do you need to know how much you can qualify for in a loan, but you need to mentally wrap your mind around those limitations. If you have your heart set on a 600,000-dollar home but can only be approved for $350,000, it can be emotionally draining. Instead, set your sights on those homes that fall within your budget. Speaking of which, your lender can help you budget for a home you can afford. Being approved for a $500,000 home doesn’t mean that you will be comfortable with the house payment. Speaking with a lender before looking for a home allows you to set realistic expectations.

Keep Your Home Safe During Fourth of July

by Karen Picarello

            If you are buying or selling a home, your life is in a bit of chaos because you are moving. Not only that, but you may be in a state of flux that requires you to care for two homes while only occupying one. The Fourth of July is coming, and although this time of year is great fun, it is also a time of high crime and home fires. Protect your home and your unoccupied home by following these steps.

            July and August are the times when most burglaries occur because people go on summer vacation. With that thought in mind, it is easy to see why so many burglaries occur during the Fourth of July. People are away from their homes watching firework shows. Even if they’re home, they are likely outside and won’t hear a burglar over fireworks. It’s dark. It’s noisy. It’s a perfect opportunity for the opportunistic burglar.

            You don’t have to be using illegal fireworks to create a safety issue. In 2014, 28% of emergency room fireworks injuries were caused by sparklers! In 2013, fireworks caused 15,600 fires 1,400 of which were structures and 200 of which were in vehicles. Many fires can be put out by a hose if they are noticed immediately, but the unoccupied yard is more difficult to protect.

How to Protect your Home (occupied or not)

  • Security Cameras and Lights – this will deter burglars as well as document their presence should they opt to go in anyway
  • Security System – notifying a security company of a break-in will alert police to check your home whether you know about the break in or not
  • Secure Doors and Windows - Make sure doors and windows have good locks, and make sure doors are securely attached to the home, so they cannot be kicked in.
  • Lights - Leave some lights on. There’s nothing better to confirm you are not home than a dark house.
  • Hose – If you are home, get the hose ready even if you aren’t lighting your own fireworks. This gives you the chance to put out a fire before it is dangerous. Caution: Don’t try to be a firefighter. Keep away from big flames that could cause injury. If the fire is inside your home, get out if flames are higher than your knees or getting near any exits.
  • Water Yard – A green yard is difficult to catch on fire.
  • Remove Dry Brush – Dry brush, especially near your home, is a huge fire hazard. Make sure your yard is clear of debris that will act as kindling should it be exposed to any spark.

 

 

Flooring: A Highlight or a Nightmare for a Home Buyer

by Karen Picarello

            When homeowners are thinking about staging their homes to sell, there are often some home improvements made in an attempt to make the home more salable. Windows might be upgraded, or a new coat of paint put on the home, maybe inside too. Fixtures may be updated, or carpet will be replaced. Some of these improvements will increase the selling price, but many of these options are simply an attempt to make the home more attractive in a buyer’s market. When it comes to the preferences of the home buyer, it may be the flooring that is the biggest highlight or a nightmare when considering a home purchase.

            Flooring options range from pretty darn cheap to a significant investment, and the quality of your flooring material will have an impact on the salability of your home. The basic options most people consider are solid hardwood, tile, manufactured hardwood, laminate, or luxury vinyl.

            Hardwood is typically the top choice by home buyers. It is high-quality, durable, and it may last as long as the home is standing. That is because hardwood is made from thicker planks of wood. Although it may need to be refinished from time to time depending on the hardness of the wood, there is a lot of wood to work with, so it has longevity. Home buyers consider hardwood a beautiful addition to the home, and they can relax about upkeep knowing the floor is meant to last.

            However, other alternative wood options are equally beautiful and don’t cost as much as solid hardwood. Manufacture wood is layers of wood covered in a top layer of fine, luxury hardwood. It is equally beautiful and durable, but it cannot be refinished as many times because the top layer is all you have to work with. Luxury vinyl and laminate options can be created with nearly any look because it is printed underneath the clear protective layers of the material. This makes it very versatile, but quality varies with the type you purchase, and it will have to be replaced more often than solid wood options. Lastly, tile is very durable and water resistant, and it is an attractive option for home buyers who want low maintenance options.

            Ultimately, solid hardwood flooring is one of the most preferred options for home buyers, but it is only going to increase the value of your home by about 3 percent. It is a huge investment, and other flooring options will provide a beautiful look for less of a cost. The big thing to remember is that homeowners are looking for something they aren’t going to have to immediately replace, so having flooring that is in good condition is possibly as important as anything.

Should I Get a Loan with Mortgage Insurance?

by Karen Picarello

            When you buy a home, there is typically an amount of money paid as a “down payment.” This amount is part of the purchase price of the home that you pay immediately out-of-pocket instead of increasing the amount of a loan. You can pay as much as you want in a down payment including up to the purchase price of the home, but the typical amount paid is 20 percent. If you pay more, you won’t have to get as large of a loan, and you won’t spend as much in interest over the life of the loan.

            In many cases, private lenders will require a down payment in order for them to approve a loan. The bigger the down payment, the less risk to the bank because there is less money they’d have to recover if you defaulted on the loan. Those who foreclose on their loans cause lenders to try to recoup the loan amounts through foreclosure sales, and these homes often sell significantly under market value. Therefore, a higher down payment equals less risk to the bank.

            A first-time home buyer may not have the funds available to put down a significant down payment. In this case, a bank or lender may reduce their risk by requiring mortgage insurance. Mortgage insurance covers the lender for a portion of the principal balance on a loan in case the borrower cannot make payments.

FHA Loans

Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans are a typical type of loan for first-time home buyers, and they may only make a person pay a down payment of 3.5%. They will also accept lower credit ratings. The Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP) is a requirement for this loan type, it will be 1.75% of the loan amount. You pay this monthly for the life of the loan or up to 11 years if you put down a larger down payment.

Conventional Loans

Private mortgage insurance may be available for conventional loans when a person only has to put down 3% for a down payment. This can be cancelled after 20% of the home value has built up in equity.

USDA Loans

The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers loans with no down payment, but you have to pay an upfront fee of 1% of the loan amount and an annual fee of 0.35% of the balance of the loan. Similar to all other mortgage insurances, it reduces the risk to the lender.

Should You Get a Loan with Mortgage Insurance?

Sure. If it is the only way you are going to get a loan. The better option is to wait for better financial circumstances or save money for a down payment, but some realities don’t produce this as an option. It does not hurt your credit to have mortgage insurance, but it does hurt your pocketbook. Discuss your options with your lender and a financial adviser, and make sure you make the responsible decision.

Why is Phoenix Real Estate So Hot?

by Karen Picarello

The Phoenix real estate market is booming, and it’s affordable for the moment. How is this market bouncing back from the horror stories of suburbs that haven’t fully bounced back from the recession? It’s all about the job market.

The Recession Hurt

The economy of Phoenix before and during the recession was not as diverse as it is today. When service jobs and construction stalled, Phoenix was forced to adapt. It had too many empty houses. As a result of this adaptation, the entire economy recovered.

Tech and Bioscience

This adaptation and diversification happened the most in the technology and bioscience sectors. Bioscience in particular has been an economy and education milestone for Phoenix, and foundations like the Flinn Foundation continue to cause this field to grow by providing scholarships and opportunities. Technology giants like Plexus, Lifelock, and GoDaddy keep the tech sector going. This is not to mention all the other sectors that thrive due to this, such as the medical technology sector. All of these sectors are recession-proof, so it is safe to say that Phoenix is the place to be if you want to have some economic security.

Jobs + Population Boom

The tech and bioscience diversification that started in Phoenix has brought many young people to the Phoenix area, and they have high-paying jobs. The people moving to Phoenix are not all from the area. Since 2010, over half of a million people have moving to the area. Over 300,000 of those were from different parts of the country, and over 100,000 of them were from foreign countries. These people need places to live, which has helped the construction business as older regions of the city get updated.

The Housing Market

Right now, the housing market is affordable, and median home prices are below $300,000. This means that single people can afford to buy homes. But the market won’t stay like this for long. As more people move to the area, demand will increase for homes, and it will exceed supply. This will drive up prices, and before you know it, it will be a seller’s dream market.

What does this mean for real estate?

It’s great news for real estate. Right now, people should be buying homes, and real estate agencies will thrive in a time of multiple home purchases. Soon, it will be thriving in a different way, and home sellers will enjoy the increase in their property values. It’s all about timing, and a thriving economy is good for everybody.

Long-term Upkeep for the Buyer and Seller

by Karen Picarello

For the Buyer

When a buyer is looking at a home, there are multiple things they should consider that involve the long-term upkeep of the home. These are things in the home that are inevitably going to cost money…it is just a matter of when.

Windows

Single-paned windows are not going to be efficient, and any home buyer will see them as a thing that will need to be changed in the future. If the windows are updated, consider the quality of the multi-pane. Updates on flipped homes are rarely done in quality fashion, so make sure they didn’t cut corners on the windows, or you’ll be in for a hefty bill in your future.

Roof

Most home buyers look at the roof when considering the purchase of a home, and the inspector will definitely comment on the quality of the roof. However, some roof materials last longer than others. Standard asphalt shingles last about 15 to 20 years, but tile roofs may last a lifetime. A tile roof should be considered a long-term savings when it comes to purchasing a home.

Flooring

Don’t be fooled by new flooring when you purchase a new home. If it isn’t quality, it won’t last. Even “hardwood” may be manufactured, which means it can be refinished but only a few times before it has to be replaced. If new laminate flooring has been installed, make sure it is water resistant. You don’t want to include new flooring in your long-term upkeep of the home.

For the Seller

As a home seller, you should be aware of what prospective home buyers are considering and do your best to eliminate fears of long-term upkeep. That doesn’t mean install a tile roof, expensive windows, and solid hardwood floors. What it does mean is make sure your home looks well-maintained. A roof with lifted shingles is going to be a turn-off that will be pointed out by the inspector. Clean flooring with no lifted edges will look well-taken-care-of no matter what the quality. Clean windows will let potential buyers know that the sills aren’t filled with dirt and junk that will decrease their opening and closing capabilities.

For the seller, long-term upkeep is making the home look as if it has been handled correctly, so long-term problems don’t start to creep in. This is hard to do when simultaneously planning a move, so make sure you continue to keep up your home during the hubbub of the moving process.  

5 Home Inspection Tips

by Karen Picarello

When you are buying a house, you may be dealing with a whole lot of people who want to get a sale. The homeowners have staged the home, so it looks great. The real estate agent wants his or her commission. It is difficult to know who to trust in these situations, and that is why home inspections are so necessary.

You can find a good home inspector by asking your real estate agent. You should probably make your contract contingent on a good report, and you should plan to be present during the inspection. They usually take a few hours and cost less than $1,000. Here are a few other tips about home inspections:

1. Insurance

Home inspectors do have some liability, but they can legally limit their liability to the cost of the inspection. If they miss that your furnace needs replaced, the amount of the inspection is not going to cover the cost of the furnace. That is why you should not hire a home inspector that has this in their contract. Instead, look for home inspectors that have insurance. They can purchase Errors & Omissions insurance that covers them for up to one million dollars.

2. Professional Inspectors Group

Formal training is not always a specific requirement for home inspectors, so it is nice to know whether or not your inspector has it. Ask if your inspector belongs to any professional groups, and then look up those groups to see what they require for membership. This will tell you a lot about their ability.

3. Ancillary Testing

If you need ancillary testing, it is nice to know if your inspector can do it. This is for things such as mold or radon. Your inspector may do it for a fee, or you may have to hire a specialist.

4. Reviews

The internet has made it hard to hide if you are a bad home inspector, so use this tool to evaluate your potential inspector. Check out sites like Yelp or Angie’s List, and find out what people are saying about your inspector candidate.

5. What Isn’t Included

Lastly, find out what won’t be included on the inspection. You may want to look at a sample report to find out what will be inspected, and ask questions.

You may want to call your potential home inspector and give him a quick phone interview. If he or she seems shady, go with somebody else! There is something to be said for intuition, and feeling good about your home inspector choice will likely yield better results.

Why You Want a Real Estate Agent

by Karen Picarello

A recent collection of lawsuits has people wondering whether or not real estate agents are necessary anymore. In fact, they are being compared to video rental stores, an industry that is almost extinct in today’s world of internet accessibility.

Real estate information is readily available on multiple websites including MLS.com, Zillow, and Redfin. This has potential buyers and sellers feeling forced into contractual obligations with the realtor industry that force people to pay money to a third party in order to purchase a home. With standard rates reaching as high as 6 percent, it is understandable that people want change.

In the past, only real estate agents had access to all of the home listings on the market. Today, it requires a real estate license to get your home on the MLS, but you can pay out of pocket for this service instead of tacking the real estate fees onto the purchase price of the home. This is much less expensive, but you don’t get all the benefits of having a real estate agent.

This leads one to the question: what good is a real estate agent? This question has many hard-working agents exasperated at the thought that so many people undervalue their services. In reality, the home buying process is held to a higher standard because of the real estate agency industry, and agents simplify the process with their connections and know-how.

If you are selling a home, your real estate agent will interact with multiple buyers and direct them to your home when it seems a good fit. This is something that only live interaction with a person can accomplish. No amount of pictures online can replace this action for sellers or buyers. They streamline the process by showing homes that fit the wants and needs of a potential buyer.

If you are buying a home, it is much easier to deal with the bank, the seller, and the title company throughout the home purchase if you have an agent. Need a home inspection? Your realtor can provide you with a list. Want to view multiple homes in one day? Your realtor can get access. Realtors work for no charge until you buy a home, and they will tirelessly show you homes until you find the right fit.

Most importantly, real estate agencies abide by a code of ethics that includes social responsibility. Imagine a world not regulated by agencies such as the National Association of Realtors. Good luck avoiding misrepresentation of homes and corruption scandals.

Realtors are underappreciated, but you don’t have to buy a home through a realtor. There are many for-sale-by-owner options. But just like all other sales options, it is good to have professionals in the field that can streamline the process and create ethical boundaries.

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 110

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