Real Estate Information Archive


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House With a Pool: Dream Home or Not?

by Karen Picarello

When buying a house, one thing that inexperienced home buyers love is the presence of a pool. It can be incredibly motivating, as a potential buyer can envision themselves and their friends cooling off and partying in privacy. However, as anyone with a pool knows, they can be a headache to maintain. Not only will you have to pay for maintenance and repair, but there are insurance ramifications and ancillary costs associated with owning a pool which can cause serious financial frustration for an unsuspecting homeowner. So, is a pool worth it? And if you don’t have one, is it a good investment to have one installed?

The first thing to look at when you are considering a pool, is the age of the pool. If you are installing a new one, the materials used and the quality of the installation will be relevant. A newer or well-maintained system will cost you less in repairs and will have fewer unexpected expenses for maintenance. An older pool with cracks or leaks could be a hugely expensive drain on your finances. So, like the rest of the house, make sure that you are quite aware of the condition of the pool before buying.

Secondly, pools can cause insurance liability. If you have a pool, insurance companies will be likely to increase your payments. Not only is a pool potentially expensive to repair, but there is the potential for a very expensive payout if someone dies in the pool and their family sues you. This means that a pool could increase your insurance payments drastically, depending on your situation. Additionally, if you have young children or people who are unable to swim, you might need to install some type of fence or cover to protect them.

Therefore, while a pool can increase the value of a home, the upkeep and ancillary costs can mean that installing a pool does not end up making you money in the long term. However, it can increase the appeal of your house to buyers, and might mean that your house sells faster. So, while pools may not necessarily be a very solid financial investment, if you will get a lot of enjoyment out of a pool, you might find it worth it. Pools should be viewed as an expense that can increase your quality of life, and if you are willing to spend that money, you can have a great experience. 

Secure Homes are Worth More in Market

by Karen Picarello

An often-overlooked aspect of home improvement is creating improvements that make a house safer. There are two main ways to increase the value of your home in this way, and I’ll talk briefly about both, as well as a few strategies to employ when looking to help your house sell.

First up is the fact that security improvements can be done quickly and relatively cheaply. One of the most common options when looking to increase house security is the addition of external lighting. Whether they be motion sensitive or on a timer, external lighting can greatly help the safety of a house. Depending on your wiring, you may even have the infrastructure already in place to install these. They are fast, but they are a huge bonus to potential buyers in today’s market.

A more expensive but potentially more effective method to increase security is the replacement of old doors and windows. Modern windows are safer, more likely to lock securely, and present more of a barrier to a determined intruder. Additionally, you can upgrade and replace old locks in various areas of the house. A popular choice nowadays is the inclusion of “smart” or internet connected technology. However, the idea of someone hacking your front door can be scary to some buyers, so don’t get too ahead of yourself connecting all of your security to the internet. These types of physical improvements to the properties safety are great things to mention to a potential buyer.

If you are looking to go a little further, there is the option to include security cameras. A buyer who worries of home invasion might jump at the chance to feel secure and protected. Not only will they know that they can see what is going on outside, a camera is a very visible deterrent to any type of illegal activity. And your neighbors will like it too: as crime in a neighborhood decreases, the value of the houses rise.

Speaking of neighbors, there are ways to make your home value rise in the long term as well. While the previously mentioned improvements are fast and personal ways to make your house more secure, things like a neighborhood watch program can also help to discourage crime. And as noted above, any steps that you take to decrease crime in your neighborhood as a whole will affect all the properties positively. Nothing like increasing safety while simultaneously having your house appreciate in value. 

Home Inspection

by Karen Picarello


When looking to buy or sell a house, you will absolutely be dealing with home inspection. However, there are not only many misconceptions about home appraisal, but there is also confusion about how to properly utilize a home inspector’s services, when they can be employed, and what you should expect from a competent home inspector.

First, when dealing with a home inspection, you should know what they will be looking for. Depending on the structure and the records of the house, home inspectors will look at many of the various components of the property. Here are some of the things a home inspector will look at.

  1. The Foundation. One of the most basic elements of a home inspection is ensuring that the structure is sound. A solid foundation, as well as proper framing atop it should all be features which will stand up to weather and time. No one wants a house that could collapse.
  2. The Roof and Exterior. A home inspection should examine exterior features of the house such as trim, siding, and look for external damage. Also, home inspectors will look at the condition of the roof, in the hope that your home will not have unknown leaks. Ideally, a home inspector will be able to get information about the age and lifespan of the roof.
  3. Plumbing and Electrical. Ensuring that all of the houses systems are operational is also critical. Faulty electrical systems cause headache when trying to live in a house but can also be a serious fire risk. Plumbing problems can cause water damage, which could cause structural issues necessitating expensive repairs over time.
  4. General Condition of the house. Things like exterior and internal damage, heating systems, ducts, water damage, and the condition of various areas of the house are all important things to know before you purchase a home.

With this understanding of what the home inspector will be looking at, you should also be aware of a few other things. The first is ensuring that you, as a buyer, have located a reputable and licensed home inspector. Do not use an inspector affiliated with the seller or someone else involved in the sale. If you have reliable and recent service records, it can be ok to not pay for certain inspection services, but make sure you are following all local laws and regulations. Just remember, you are paying for peace of mind that the potentially largest investment you ever make will not turn into a loss. 

Flipped House? What You Need To Know

by Karen Picarello

If you are entering the housing market as a buyer, one thing that you should be aware of is that not all sellers have the same motive. A seller desperate to escape a financial situation they were unprepared for will make for a drastically different sell than an investor looking to prune off an unneeded property. Nowhere is this more evident than when you are buying a house that has been flipped. They might not always be upfront about the flip, so here are ways to find out if the house was flipped recently, as well as what you need to look out for when buying a potentially flipped house.

Flipping houses is a practice whereby an investor will purchase a house, renovate it, and look to put it back on the market quickly, often in 6 months to a year. Therefore, the easiest indicator that a property is being flipped is that the current owner has owned the house for less than a year. If they are selling so soon after buying, you always need to be asking why. In particular, if the asking price now is higher than the previous asking price, the home is likely being flipped.

A flipped home is not necessarily a bad thing though. It’s possible that the house has been renovated to be stylish and in good condition. If you are looking for a property that is in good shape, you may find that a flipped house will be in better condition than other houses in the area.

However, all of this depends on the ability and integrity of the person performing the flip. It is good to ask for a record of all work that has been done recently. Shy away from homes with purely cosmetic improvements. If the bathroom and kitchen are gleaming with new tile and fixtures but there have been no repairs to the electrical, plumbing, or other systems, it is likely that the flipper is trying to sell you based on the shiny appearance rather than good quality work. Also, find out if the work done has been done by a licensed contractor. Licensed contractors will have ensured that a good job was done, and that everything is up to code. If the seller did the repairs themselves, it will be up to you to find out if they knew what they were doing, or were just trying to save money and got in over their heads. Look for uncovered or shoddily put together electrical boxes, especially under cupboards or other areas where it might not be immediately visible.  

Repairs necessary before selling a house

by Karen Picarello

One of the things that often comes up when a client is looking to sell a house, is they wonder how many of the houses existing problems will need to be addressed before the sale? Specifically, they are interested in (1) how much any problem will decrease the sell value of their house, and (2) how much it will cost to repair the problem. When looking to sell a house, I almost always recommend a full inspection before the process even begins. While homeowners may be aware of some problems, like a broken electrical socket or a leaky roof, it is unlikely that they will know the depth of the damage in these cases.

For example, a nonfunctioning electrical socket could be a 5-minute fix for an electrician, and will cost you almost nothing…. Depending on what the problem is. On the flip side, if your whole electrical system is shot, not up to code, and barely meeting current needs, it is likely that a complete overhaul will be need, which will cost substantially more. If you do not find this information out now, you can bet that they buyers inspector will find it, and this could seriously hurt not only your sell price, but the likelihood of someone wanting to move in and deal with the hassle. Additionally, if the electrical system (or other parts of the house) do not meet local building code, you could be in trouble, potentially having to pay for upgrades, and running the risk of losing your insurance. Similarly, a leaky roof will be expensive to fix, but the cost could go even higher if there is significant water damage to parts of the building. Before putting your home on the market, you absolutely need to know everything that is wrong with your home, how much it will cost to fix, and what you can do about it.

In short, if you are looking to sell, before you come to us wanting to list your house, take the time to do your homework. Have a reputable inspector come and give you a good idea what parts of the house will need work before you put it on the market. Unless they are looking to flip the house, potential buyers will often be turned off to the house if it has too many repairs needed. Once you have done your due diligence, it will be much easier for you to get a fair price for your home. 

Improving Home Value through Structural Upgrades

by Karen Picarello

One of the most important parts of the modern economy is the value we accrue in our houses. For the overwhelming majority of Americans, a home will be the largest and most important investment that they ever make. However, it is a mistake to think of it as a static asset. Not only will the value fluctuate with both the local and national housing markets and economy, but the changes you make during your ownership will drastically affect the final value of the house. Whether or not you take good care of your house will naturally have a massive consequence. But you also have the option to renovate and upgrade your home. From simple flooring and plumbing changes, to massive projects adding hundreds or even thousands of square feet, renovations have the potential to add substantial value to your home. However, here are a few things to keep in mind when looking to give your home an addition.

When looking to make an addition to your home, the first thing to do is to decide on a budget. Is it going to be a ten-thousand-dollar addition? This would be a pretty small addition that might not add any square footage. In this case, you can likely finance the addition fairly easily, and should focus on things that will give the house a nicer appearance. However, if you are looking to do a substantial addition, such as a new floor or extra rooms, you will likely need to acquire financing. One thing that will help you acquire financing will be if you can show that the addition will have a substantial impact on the value of your house.

Secondly, when looking to make an addition it is very important that you use reputable and experienced contractors. One of the worst mistakes that homeowners can make is to attempt construction or related work that they are not qualified for. Attempting this yourself or hiring an inexperienced contractor could obviously leave you with substandard work, but could also have other unexpected consequences. If the work is not properly permitted, you could end up in heaps of regulatory trouble. Unpermitted work could set you up for costly inspections, which may involve redoing much of the original work. If the house has unpermitted electrical work that does not meet building code, this could be used by your insurance company to deny a claim. So take the time and make sure that the entire process is done by a reputable contractor who will know all of the local regulations and how to keep things done correctly.


3 Cosmetic Home Improvements that Increase Your Home’s Value

by Karen Picarello

When looking to sell a house, there are several factors which will determine its marketability. You can’t do a whole lot about its area or square footage, so those are for the most part fixed. And extensive renovations can be quite expensive. Also, it can be expensive to replace or fix broken or poorly maintained systems, such as electrical or plumbing. These might still need to be done, but we will talk about those some other time. Fortunately, there are things you can do to increase the value of your house with much a smaller time and financial investment needed.

Renovate the Bathroom

One of the areas of the house that can make a huge impression on a potential buyer is the bathroom. A decade old bathroom can look horrible compared to a modern well-lit and stylish room. This is one of the few areas of the house where you can make a few hundred dollars of cosmetic changes, and completely change the feel of the room. Additions like new tile, a new countertop, or an updated shower are all relatively fast and easy upgrades that dramatically increase the appeal of the property. You want your potential buyers to be seeing themselves in this room, and liking it.

Renovate the Kitchen

The kitchen is matched with the bathroom for ease of renovation. While it can cost quite a bit more for a complete overhaul, a gleaming modern kitchen is a huge selling point for potential buyers. Redoing cabinets, replacing sink fixtures, and simply installing better quality lighting are all things which can be done to make your house appear more desirable. Remember, that home buyers can be subject to the same irrationality that hits buyers everywhere: if you show them something that they really want, they will struggle to walk away. Making these cosmetic investments can change a reluctant buyer to an excited future homeowner who might be willing to negotiate differently.

Replace or Clean Windows

Dirty, stained, or aged glass is huge cosmetic scar on what can be an otherwise attractive property. Replacing or cleaning windows can hugely change the way a room appears, both from outside and within. A new window gives the impression that the entire room is newer, recently renovated, or of higher quality. Taking the time to replace or upgrade the glass in your home can be a fantastic cosmetic investment that increases the appeal of your property. 

National Housing Trends: Homebuilder Confidence Index on the Rise

by Karen Picarello

One of the things to keep in mind when observing the housing market, is that price is affected by many factors. Keeping an eye on both national and local factors is critical when looking to get a good idea of the future of the housing market. To this end, there are organizations which assess and report trends in the housing market. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) releases monthly assessments of homebuilder confidence. The NAHB homebuilder confidence index is a look at how optimistic homebuilders are sales of single family houses in the near future. So, what does it all mean, and why is it happening?

The index is compiled through survey of home builders. They are invited to rate their current sales as well as what they expect the next 6 months to look like. Their scores are compiled into an aggregate rating, with scores above 50 being positive, and scores below indicating negative sentiment. Currently, the score is 71, indicating a lot of confidence about the future of the housing market.

While the index jumped after the election which cemented Donald Trump as the president, it slid in the first two months of his presidency before jumping again in March, this time to the highest level in 12 years. The changing political climate is a major factor in the home market. So, a large part of the rise is that builders believe changes in the laws and regulations governing housing will change to affect them positively. One of the main factors is that Donald Trump has sworn to repeal and remove many of the environmental regulations on the construction of new houses. As builders have seen congress and the president moving in this direction, they understand that less regulations will mean cheaper construction.

What this means, is that we could end up seeing a stronger home market in the next few years. While it is important to keep an eye on a number of market factors, this one suggests that there could be increased construction and sale of homes. While the housing market has largely recovered from the Great Recession, many homeowners and businessmen stand to profit if the housing market goes through a boom.  However, we will have to wait and see what surprises await us in the coming years. While things look good now, it remains to be seen whether or not these confident expectations will be met. 

Ready, Set, Sell!

by Karen Picarello


~~Scottsdale home improvement ideas usually are reserved for homeowners who want to make their homes bigger, more attractive or more modern. However, many home improvement steps can be taken to prepare your home when it comes time to sell. If you’ve made the decision to sell your home, it’s not just a good idea – sometimes it’s a necessity – to make your home as attractive and presentable as possible for prospective buyers. Here’s how.

Be Ready to Hit the Market Running Listing your home for sale isn’t a decision to be made lightly. In addition, putting your home on the market before you’re ready or it’s ready can severely hamper your ability to sell it for its full value. Make sure you prepare your home for the real estate marketplace. Follow these Scottsdale home improvement ideas and make the best impression you can for potential buyers to sell your home quickly and for the best price.

Scottsdale home improvement ideas include de-cluttering the house in preparation for selling it.

Clean and Declutter Your Home While it may sound cliche’ to some, we can’t emphasize enough how important it is to make sure your home is clean and free from unsightly clutter. Follow these steps and you’ll be glad you did when you receive an offer that’s at or near your full asking price.
•Remove as much clutter as possible before you start to clean. There's no better time to get rid of unwanted items and things you’re just tired of staring at each day (we’re talking about objects, not family members!) You can donate unneeded items to a local charity, or have a yard sale if you have larger items. In addition, recycling companies are usually more than happy to come pick up large metal items – often at no charge.
•Give your house a good deep-cleaning. While this step will take the largest investment of time, it will also yield the best results. Try to involve the entire family and assign everybody a task or two. Make sure you give necessary attention to the bathrooms and kitchen – lots of women who will ultimately make the decision on the house purchase will be looking them over closely. Lastly, clean the inside and the outside of your home’s windows. You’ll be surprised how it will make your home sparkle – and buyers will notice!
•Take the time to organize your closets, cabinets and drawers. Don't just stuff them with things you want to get out of the way. You’ll be surprised at how many prospective buyers will open cabinets and closets so they can get an idea of the amount of storage space they contain. Clean, organized cabinets, drawers and closets will give the buyers the impression that you take care of the home – which may translate into a feeling that the rest of the home and its systems are well-maintained, too.

Make Do-it-Yourself Repairs One of the next Scottsdale home improvement ideas – and possibly one of the least expensive – is to perform various repairs to your home you can take care of all by yourself with a little time and know-how.
•Fix leaky faucets and running toilets
•Replace the caulking around showers, tubs and sinks
•Repair or replace grout, if necessary
•Repair cracks, stains, or nail holes in walls and repaint them in a neutral color
•Fix cracked, broken or discolored windows
•Replace or repair damaged or missing window screens
•Replace burned-out light bulbs or fluorescent tubes

Improve Your Home’s Curb Appeal The old adage, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression” is never truer than when you’re showing your home to prospective purchasers. If they don’t like what they see in exterior photos online or in person, chances are they may not look further. And, if your home’s curb appeal is just “average,” most buyers may adopt the feeling the rest of the home is “average,” as well. You want to “wow” your buyers. Make them love what they see on the outside and they will look forward to seeing the rest of the house. Consider these “spruce-up” tips for your home’s outside, too.
•Trim the bushes, shrubs and trees in your yard
•Fix broken downspouts and gutters
•Apply new mulch as needed to give your planted areas a fresh, clean look
•Clean and repair concrete or stone areas such as driveways and walkways. Pay close attention to oil stains and weeds or grass growing through the cracks.
•Add some flowers to give your lawn and garden a little more color. Add a new doormat to your doorstep or front porch area. Ensure that the house numbers are clean and easy to see.

As you can see, with a relatively small amount of time, attention and expense to your home, these and a few of your own Scottsdale home improvement ideas will help you give it a renewed appearance – making it more attractive inside and out to prospective home shoppers.

You can find more articles pertaining to Scottsdale home improvement ideas in the Scottsdale Home Improvements section of our site below Scottsdale Real Estate Categories in the column to your right. We also post tips daily on Twitter and Facebook and would love for you to follow us there as well.

Should I Buy a Home Now?

by Karen Picarello

I'm often asked if this is a good time to buy a home. Some clients are concerned that home prices may fall further than they have already. They are assuming that the best course of action is to wait for the bottom in the market and then buy. The problem with this approach is that you don't know where the bottom is until you see it in the rear view mirror, meaning until you've missed it!

Home prices are one factor in determining your cost of ownership, but so are interest rates and financing availability. Even though interest rates have gone up in the last six months, they are still near historic lows. Since your monthly mortgage payment is a combination of paying down your principal and paying the interest owed, if home prices come down a little further but interest rates go up, it could cost you even more to service a mortgage on an identical home!

While a home is a major investment, it is also the center of your personal life. It's important to live in a home that reflects your taste and values, yet is within your financial "comfort zone." To that end, it may be more important to lock in today's relatively low interest rates and low home prices, rather than to hope for a further break in prices in the future.

Please give me a call if I can be of any assistance in determining how much home you can afford in today's market.

Displaying blog entries 101-110 of 110

Contact Information

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