From "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" by Laura Numeroff, Illustrated by Felicia Bond

If-You-Give-a-Mouse-a-Cookie Renovations

There’s a wonderful children’s book series by Laura Numeroff, the first of which is If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. It goes through the problems of giving a mouse a cookie: if you give a mouse a cookie, he’ll probably want a glass of milk. If you give him milk, he’s likely to ask you for a straw. One thing leads to another, and the mouse needs a hair trim, a pillow for a nap, art supplies for an art project, and on and on. This is the book that came to mind during my recent conversation with our in-house contractor.

Our contractor informed me that parts of our building desperately need paint. Although the whole building doesn’t really need to be repainted, if we’re going to paint part of it, we may as well paint all of it. And if we’re going to paint we’ll have the cherry picker out, so we should probably re-do the gutters at the same time. When we’re outside looking at the gutters, we notice that the landscaping is outdated, so we consider replacing the lawn with more drought-resistant plants. As we discuss landscaping, we talk about the importance of making sure none of the landscaping tree roots can reach the parking lot and cause cracks in the asphalt. Speaking of asphalt, it’s probably about time to reseal the parking lot.

As we head back indoors, we can’t help but notice that the carpet is quite worn in a few spots. If we’re going to replace part of the carpet, we should probably just replace all the carpet. And the whole process begins again, this time for indoor repairs.

That’s the nature of home maintenance. As soon as you update or repair one part, the surrounding parts look old and worn by comparison. Maintenance is a never-ending cycle—sometimes it requires a major expense and sometimes just minor ones, but as a homeowner (or property owner of almost any type), you should plan on constant upkeep.

This is why we tell home buyers, especially first-time home buyers, to plan on spending about 3 percent of the value of the home annually on expenses (i.e., taxes, insurance and maintenance). That is to say, if your home is worth $300,000, plan to spend about $9,000 a year on home-related expenses. Most years you’ll spend less, others a bunch more. For example, you only need a new roof about every 30 years, but when that bill comes due, it’s a doozy. If you haven’t been saving for it, you’ll be sorry. For a few springtime maintenance projects to consider, visit

If you happen to be responsible for the upkeep of a business building, I highly recommend asking your employees about their preferences before launching into a big, expensive renovation that you believe they will appreciate. People have different tolerances for mess and inconvenience during the renovation phase, and people don’t always value the same types of renovations. We recently updated the bathrooms in our building, and although most everyone seems to appreciate the updated facilities, not everyone believes they were worth the inconvenience.

Last piece of advice for the day: if you think you may sell anytime in the near future and you plan to paint before then, I highly recommend choosing neutral colors. You can add wild splashes of color via the artwork you hang on the wall or accent pillows you throw on your couch, but not everyone will appreciate the chartreuse accent walls you adore.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at or call (707) 462-4000. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

Qualifying for a Loan


The market continues to be good for buyers. Home prices are low (but starting to climb), and rates remain incredibly low compared to historic norms. While there’s not a lot on the market, spring and summer are traditionally times when more inventory becomes available, so we may see an upswing in houses listed for sale.

However, while it may be a buyer’s market as far as housing prices and rates, there’s not much for sale so seller’s can be choosy. How can you be the buyer that gets the home you want? One of the best ways is to demonstrate that you’re qualified to buy that home.

There are basically two levels of loan qualification – “pre-qualified” and “pre-approved.” Pre-qualified consists of sitting down with a Real Estate agent and doing some simple calculations. Getting pre-qualified allows you to figure out what you can afford so you can narrow your search. An agent will ask you about your income and how much debt you carry (car payments, insurance payments, tuition payments, etc.), and whether you have any savings for a down payment. Being pre-qualified is much better then not being pre-qualified, but it’s not as good as being pre-approved.

To become “pre-approved” for a loan is more involved, but it’s a GREAT way to increase the chances of getting the property you want. Becoming pre-approved means working with your agent to find a loan broker who will review all your assets, liabilities, tax returns, W-2s, credit history, and any other relevant financial information to begin the process of applying for a loan. Basically, the only difference between being pre-approved and applying for a loan is that when you’re pre-approved, you haven’t found your property yet.

Getting pre-approved increases the chances of having your offer accepted, and it puts you ahead of your competition, if you have any. Because loans are so much more difficult to get than they used to be, a buyer who is pre-approved gives sellers piece of mind. Sellers won’t have to go through the frustrating experience of starting an escrow, only to have it fall through because the buyer can’t get a loan.

So how do you get pre-approved? Work with your agent to find a local loan broker. In this case, local matters. The incentive to provide excellent service and solid results is greater when your loan broker knows he may run into you in town. But that’s not the only reason local loan brokers are better than, say, someone on the Internet.

Internet brokers are playing a numbers game. If it takes months to find a type of loan that you may qualify for, that’s fine with them. They have hundreds, maybe thousands, of customers and so there’s no great rush to get you what you need.

Loan brokers who work in Ukiah only have the local population to work with, so it’s not efficient for them to throw a bunch of spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks. Basically, they make a living by being efficient and doing their homework so they can find you the best loan as quickly as possible. It takes more work up front, but it pays off for them and it pays off for you. Once they’ve found a loan that will work, the next incredibly compelling reason to find a local loan broker is so you can take advantage of their business relationships. Local brokers know people with whom they can work, people like title officers, escrow officers, pest and fungus inspectors, and insurance agents.

Enhanced by Zemanta