alex-holyoake-lightbulb-expensive mistakes

Avoid These Expensive Mistakes on Home Furnishings and Maintenance

Owning a home can be costly in the best of times, so there’s no reason to waste money on expensive mistakes. Here are a few to avoid.

Using Incandescent Light Bulbs – Replace traditional light bulbs with compact fluorescents (CFLs) or light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs. LEDs especially may be more expensive to purchase, but they’ll save you money in the long run. Incandescent bulbs cost about a dollar per bulb and their average lifespan is about 1,200 hours. CFLs cost about $2 per bulb and go for about 8,000 hours. LEDs cost about $8 per bulb, which seems expensive until you realize their lifespan is about 25,000 hours. Let’s do the math: to get 25,000 hours of light, you’ll spend about $20 on incandescents, but only $6-8 on CFLs or LEDs. When you add in the cost of electricity used, it’s still a no-brainer. For every $100 you spend on light with incandescents, you’ll only spend $24 on CFLs or $19 on LEDs. You also save the hassle of changing bulbs.

In using CFLs and LEDs, you’ll need to figure out how much light you want. These bulbs aren’t sold by wattage (how much energy is used), but rather lumens (how much light is emitted). More lumens equals more brightness. To replace a 100-watt incandescent bulb, choose a bulb with about 1600 lumens. To replace a 75W bulb, choose a bulb with about 1100 lumens. To replace a 60W bulb, choose a bulb with about 800 lumens. To replace a 40W bulb, choose a bulb with about 450 lumens.

Ignoring Leaky Faucets – A leaky faucet that drips one drop per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year, which is enough water to take more than 180 showers. I recently had a leaky toilet valve that cost an additional $50 in just a couple months. I figured it out when the excess water caused a pretty green patch on the hillside next to my house where the leach lines for my septic tank drain.

Using the Wrong Air Filters or Forgetting to Replace Filters Regularly – If an air filter doesn’t fit properly or it gets too dirty, it can’t function well. This can not only increase your power bill, it can shorten the life of your furnace.

Not Adjusting Vents – In many offices, some areas are burning up while others are ice cold. Rather than having employees bring space heaters and fans, adjust vents to balance the temperature throughout the office.

Water Heater Temp Set Too High – Most of us have traditional water heaters that keep water hot 24/7. If you set the water temp too high, you’re wasting money (and putting family members at risk of getting scalded). In our rentals, we set the temperature to 120 degrees. You can turn this down in the summer.

Overwatering Your Lawn – Automatic sprinklers that come on early in the morning are great, unless you have a broken sprinkler head that is gushing water or misdirected so you’re watering the fence instead of your lawn. Periodically run your sprinklers during the day so you can see how they are performing when you’re not around.

Hiring a Handyman for Simple Repairs – If you have YouTube, you can probably figure out how to do most of the minor repairs in your house and save a lot of money. However, if you’re like me—not handy with tools—by all means, leave repairs to the experts. If you need a referral to a fix-it professional, from plumbers to electricians, ask your Realtor.

Ignoring Roof Repairs – If you see curled shingles or damaged flashing and mastic around roof penetrations (like chimneys, stove vents, or bathroom vents), do not ignore them. Water is really good at finding small flaws and making them bigger.

Houses are expensive enough without allowing these mistakes to bite into your pocketbook.

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

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Cannabis and Title Insurance

As state and federal law enforcement agencies try to figure out how best to deal with conflicting cannabis statutes, it can be difficult for some industries to figure out how to position themselves. This should not be the case for title insurance companies, because their primary job is to provide a policy that guards against unknown liens or a flaw in the chain of title (who can prove legal ownership of a property).

This is why I am baffled by recently published statements saying properties in the 28 states that have in some capacity legalized cultivation, distribution, manufacture or sale of marijuana products will not be able to purchase title insurance. This includes the purchase and sale of undeveloped land, commercial properties, retail stores, and houses—any property where marijuana has been used (regardless of whether that use is legal under state law).

Title insurance typically deals with issues like easements, old deeds of trust, reconveyances, liens and the like. It does not have anything to do with how property owners use their property.

It’s true that the government can seize property under property forfeiture laws, some of which relate to the Controlled Substances Act. The government can also change a property’s zoning or designation, or red-tag a building rendering it uninhabitable. None of these actions are covered by title insurance. Standard title insurance policies already exclude coverage for this type of government action.

In reading the title insurance bulletin, I couldn’t find an explanation to drive their anti-cannabis policy. They point to the discrepancy between state and federal laws for seizure of property, but again, that offers no explanation for not insuring title.

It is important to note that most title companies are informing prospective insureds of their anti-cannabis policy up front, so if prospective insureds proceed on the what-they-don’t-know-won’t-hurt-them basis, and later file a claim for a missed deed of trust or easement, could the title company decline the coverage if the property is involved in the cannabis industry? One title company told me no, BUT a word to the wise: if your property will be used for cannabis and the title company asks, don’t hide it! As I have said before, make full disclosures (on this and any other issues) at the earliest possible time.

It seems to me that title insurance is all about guaranteeing property ownership; I don’t understand how the cannabis issue affects it at all. I cannot imagine how any title insurance company would be liable for cannabis issues, any more than they would be if a house burned down or someone slipped and fell while walking around on the property. Those issues are addressed by homeowners’ insurance, not title insurance.

Eventually, I expect conflicts between state and federal cannabis laws will be resolved, but until then, people complying with state laws can still be prosecuted under federal law. I spoke with Mendocino County Sheriff Tom Allman who let me know that his job is to enforce state and local laws. He has no jurisdiction when it comes to federal laws, and that’s fine with him.

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

RWSR Sign

Tired of Renting? Now’s a Great Time to Buy!

Many renters are under the mistaken impression that they cannot afford to buy a house. Some believe they need a substantial down payment; others believe they cannot afford the monthly expenses of home ownership. While these assumptions may be true, it’s best to review the facts before crossing home ownership off your list.

We’ll assume you’re a first-time homebuyer interested in buying a $380,000 home in Ukiah’s Oak Manor subdivision. You don’t have money for a down payment, but you do have a job and good credit. You’ve been paying $1800 per month for rent, but you could afford a little more.

Here’s the good news: FHA loans do not require a large down payment (typically 3 percent), and at today’s rates if your household income is at least $85,000, you may be able to qualify for a loan that gets you into that $380,000 house. You’ll need to budget about $2400 for PITI (i.e., mortgage payment, interest, taxes, and insurance). So, instead of buying that new car, find a used one and, voila! You can afford little higher monthly house payment.

You’ll also need to budget for things the landlord used to pay for, like painting your home inside and out, putting a new roof on, replacing the water heater, and similar maintenance. Let’s estimate about 1.5 percent of the purchase price for upkeep each year (about $475/month), since that’s usually about what it costs.

Before you panic, let me share a little more good news: you get to write off some of your mortgage payment. Let’s say your household income puts you in the 25 percent tax bracket. Some of your mortgage payment is tax deductible:

Mortgage payment        $2400
Maintenance/upkeep   $   475
Tax benefits                    $ -265
                                          $2610/month

If you think this is a realistic number, here are some important facts about qualifying for a home loan. First, you need to have good credit (a credit score in the mid-to-high 600s). Next, you need reportable income. For the FHA loan I’ve used as an example, there are minimum income restrictions based on formulas that have to do with the number of people in your household, the number of children you have, and other factors. The final requirement is job stability. You need to have been in your job for at least a year, and it needs to appear that you will remain in that job for the foreseeable future.

Owning your own home has many benefits, the most obvious of which is financial. Your monthly mortgage payments allow you to build equity in an investment that is likely to increase in value over time. I can’t make promises, but I can tell you that with all the ups and downs in the economy during the past 50 years, the overall trend in the value of real estate has been up. I bought my first property in 1973 for $18,000. Today, it is conservatively worth $275,000. That’s an average annual increase of 6.4 percent.

Owning your own home also has benefits that go beyond financial. You get to pound a nail and hang your child’s artwork wherever you want without asking anyone for permission. You get to plant trees, paint a room your favorite color, and rip up that ugly carpet. And all your hard work benefits YOU.

If you think you might be able to purchase a home and you’d like to learn more, call your local Realtor and they can help you figure it out.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or visit www.realtyworldselzer.com. If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

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Looking for a Great Career? Try Real Estate.

Every year at this time, people contemplate new beginnings. When it comes to our happiness, jobs can have a big impact, so if you’re in a job that makes you unhappy for whatever reason, this might be a great time to consider a change to real estate.

The housing market in Mendocino County and throughout California continues to roll along at an impressive pace. Home values have been rising for the better part of a decade, and interest rates remain low. Add to that the fact that many people who are currently in the industry will be retiring in the next several years, and you’re looking at a golden opportunity.

According to the National Association of Realtors, since 2008 most people remain in the same home for an average of almost nine years. With a median age of real estate agents in the U.S. being 53, it’s clear that many of the agents who helped clients buy or sell real estate last year will not be working when those clients are ready to buy or sell again.

Even if someone’s agent is still in the business nine years later, a recent study showed that people often don’t remember who helped them buy or sell their last house. This should be a reminder to current Realtors to stay in touch with former clients, and an encouraging fact for those who want to get into real estate–there’s plenty of business to be had.

Years ago, my colleague Warren Liberty (father of Factory Pipes owner Ross Liberty) said, “A job in sales can be the easiest low paying job or the hardest high paying job.” I’ve been doing this for more than 40 years and I cannot imagine doing anything else. Although it absolutely requires hard work and long hours, it also affords me the flexibility to schedule vacations when I like, attend my children’s sporting events, and be in control of my own financial future.

Most licensed agents can find a job within a day or two in almost any city in the nation. Then it’s up to them to stay in business. Although Realtors affiliate with a brokerage, they are still their own boss.

If this career path is of interest to you, talk to some people. Talk to Nash Gonzales, the real estate instructor at Mendocino College. Talk to a real estate broker or two here in Ukiah. Each one will give you a slightly different perspective on the business, but I guarantee all of them will say they can’t think of a more satisfying career.

As I mentioned, this is a great time to get into real estate. During the next five years or so, you can learn from people who’ve been selling real estate for years (some of them decades). Once they retire, not only will you benefit from their years of institutional knowledge, they can provide you with a book of business in return for referral fees. In most cases, this will be well worth the investment.

As you get further into the business, you may choose to specialize in a certain area: residential, commercial, industrial, ranches/land, agricultural properties, or new development. Each area has laws and practices associated with it, from zoning to water rights. If you’re selling ranches, plan on owning a four-wheel drive vehicle and a pair of sturdy boots. If you want to sell agricultural property in Mendocino County, educate yourself on how soil and terrain affect different types of grapes. If you want to work with a developer to subdivide land and build spec houses to sell, you better be good at details and willing to work with bureaucracy at all levels. Whatever you choose, I welcome you to the wonderful world of real estate.

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

 

Don’t Accidentally Sell Your House Twice

With interest rates remaining low and nice weather making it easy for people to get out and see new properties, the housing market is likely to remain hot. This is often when we see multiple offers on a single property.

A seller’s first reaction to multiple offers is usually, “Yay! Lots of offers.” The reaction immediately afterwards is, “Dang, I priced the house too low.” The first feeling is justified; the second may not be.

Multiple offers give the seller options. More offers increases the likelihood of a higher sale price, but price is not the only consideration in determining the best offer.

With multiple offers, sellers have the luxury of choosing a buyer who is prequalified or even preapproved for a loan. The seller may also get to choose a buyer who can make an all-cash offer, one who can provide copies of bank statements to prove it.

In addition to finding a highly qualified buyer, sellers with multiple offers can compare contingencies and lengths of escrow. One offer may include no contingencies but require a 90-day escrow (that’s a long time). Another offer could require a seller to perform repairs based on a pest and fungus report, but also close with an all-cash offer in three weeks. Like I said, more offers means more choices.

Things can get a little complicated when multiple offers lead to multiple counteroffers. This is where you have to be careful not to inadvertently sell your house twice. A good Realtor will help you manage the multiple offer/counteroffer process by assuring contracts are written with clear boundaries. Your Realtor will write counteroffers on your behalf that can be withdrawn at any time, and will assure you only confirm the counter offer you want to accept.

Just so you know, you are not obligated to counter all offers or to offer the same terms in counteroffers to multiple prospective buyers. You may be willing to settle for a lower price from a buyer who doesn’t require you to pay closing costs or do repairs.

It is illegal for you or your Realtor to take into consideration anything considered a protected class at any stage in the real estate transaction. This obviously refers to race, ethnicity, and religion. It also refers to age, marital status and whether the buyers have children.

To be clear, it is NOT legal to consider the needs of a family with four kids looking at your four-bedroom house with a jungle gym in the backyard over the needs of a single elderly gentleman. However, if you fall in love with a young couple, you could give them preference over a grumpy old man, because personality is not a protected class.

After you’ve selected your favorite offer, your Realtor will be sure to cancel all other counter offers and open escrow for you. However, do not forget about other prospective buyers. One or more of whom may still see your house as their dream home. They can be encouraged to write a back-up offer, which would become the primary offer if the first offer falls through for any reason.

A certain percentage of offers do not go through for a whole host of reasons. Sometimes the highest price offer—the one that looked so good at first blush—comes with problems. Many of us tend to ignore problems when the money looks good, but we’re sorry later when the transaction falls apart. That’s when the back-up offer swoops in to save the day.

However, as your Realtor will remind you, if the first escrow fails, not only will you need formally cancel the contract, you will also need to disclose any material facts brought to light by the first buyer’s inspections.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or visit www.realtyworldselzer.com. If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

 

Disclosures – What Happens if You Don’t Mention Those Pesky Details

Last week, I shared the importance of disclosing what are called “material facts,” information a seller knows or should have known that could influence a buyer’s decision to buy—or the amount they’d be willing to pay. Disclosures cover everything from natural hazards to underground utilities, storage tanks, septic systems, short sales, mother-in-law units, proximity to agriculture or industry, naturally occurring asbestos, and more.

Disclosures cover such a wide range of topics and can be so detailed and complex that there are whole companies that do nothing but deal with them. They’re called Natural Hazard Disclosure Companies (NHDs), and even they don’t deal with all the disclosures legally required by some real estate transactions. Because there are literally hundreds of potential disclosures, many may seem inconsequential to the seller. After all, you’ve gotten used to the noise that the neighbor’s dog makes. And since you and your neighbor (who happens to own a liquor store) are friends who often enjoy a glass of wine together, you’re not likely to complain about Fido the yappy schnauzer.

Since the prospective buyer is a teetotaler who is unlikely to socialize with the wine-drinking neighbor, he may not find Fido’s quirky but constant yapping so endearing. The point of all this is, as a seller, you need to think of disclosures through the eyes of prospective buyers. It is critical that even seemingly irrelevant issues are disclosed. As I indicated last week, if it changes the buyer’s mind regarding the sale, it was “material.” If it doesn’t affect the buyer’s decision to purchase the property, it doesn’t hurt to make the disclosure.

So what happens if the sellers do not disclose a material fact (in writing!) they should have? Nothing good, I can assure you. You may wonder why it is so essential to note every pesky detail. After all, the prospective buyer tours the property and hears the schnauzer for himself. Let’s fast-forward eight months. Your buyer just found out he has been transferred to New Mexico and it’s mid-2007. The property value just dropped 10 percent and the buyer is now looking for a way to undo the sale. He’s looking for a plausible way out. For example, he wouldn’t have purchased the property if he had known that the neighbor had an obnoxious dog who barks incessantly.

Will you, the seller, win this lawsuit? Maybe yes, maybe no. Will you spend some sleepless nights and help fund your attorney’s child’s college education? Almost certainly, yes. Just the letter from your attorney telling the buyer he has no case (which may or may not be true) will probably cost $300-$500. If a lawsuit is filed and the case never even gets to court, add at least one zero ($3,000-$5,000). If the case goes to court, add another zero. And that is assuming you win. Losing may mean damages or a rescission. You get the house back and the buyer gets the purchase price back plus and money he spent on taxes, improvements, and interest minus the fair market rental value while he lived there. The buyer may also be entitled to damages for the pain and suffering of listening to Fido’s yapping.

So, the rule is this: when it comes to making disclosures, mention every pesky detail, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or visit www.realtyworldselzer.com. If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

 

The TRUE Cost of Building

I’m frequently asked why we don’t have more houses available in Ukiah for sale or rent. Although the Realty World Selzer Realty property management division manages about 800 properties, we typically have almost no vacancies—and that’s been true for at least a couple years. The reason, of course, follows the laws of supply and demand. Although the demand for more housing is high, the cost of building it is higher.

Part of the reason for the high building costs is that City of Ukiah is still paying off a $72 million sewer upgrade debt from five years ago. Although I like the changes in attitude I see in our current councilmembers as they support policies to encourage affordable housing, we are all saddled with debt incurred by poor decision-making in years past.

When people try to build on a vacant lot rather than buy an existing residence, they are often surprised by how many fees and expenses they incur. Recently, the sale of an empty lot fell through because the costs of developing the property ran tens of thousands of dollars more than expected. I’m not talking about the cost of the lot itself. I’m talking about the regulatory costs associated with preparing the lot.

Here are some of the costs the buyers would have incurred for the simplest of building projects: putting a mobile home on a vacant lot.

  1. Sewer, water and electrical fees: $19,000.
  2. Sewer lateral and water line from mains to the property line: $10,000
  3. Installation of four street trees installed within five feet of the sidewalk with garden stacking blocks for watering: $3,600
  4. Storm water drainage mitigation (an infiltration ditch with gravel and berm at low end of lot to stop runoff – two feet wide by three feet deep with one-inch berm): $4,600
  5. Demolition of existing sidewalk and ADA-compliant replacement sidewalk around driveway: $6,000
  6. Excavation for utilities from house to sidewalk for underground utilities: $2,200
  7. Building permits: $4,500

This amounts to about $50,000, much of it includes things the owner would not have elected to do given a choice. While every new home needs sewer, water and electrical services, the hook-up fees and the cost of connecting to those services to the structure adds up to more $30,000. That is a lot of money.

Another proposal fell through when a developer wanted to build an apartment complex on the lot behind Rite-Aid in Ukiah. The sewer hook-up fees alone exceeded the contract purchase price for the land.

The bottom line is this: before we see new construction of single-family homes, prices for those properties will have to increase. We are still waiting for the current market value of a typical home in Ukiah to reach the value it held in 2007, before the housing bubble burst.

Once that happens, we still won’t see a huge construction craze because since 2007, inflation and regulations governing construction have consistently driven up building costs.

To support the cost of building a new 800-square-foot, two-bedroom, one-bath apartment, rents will probably need to rise to about $1,200 per month. While this is not a welcome idea for people looking to rent an apartment, it is just the simple facts of life when it comes to the cost of building a multi-family complex in the Ukiah Valley. There are a few apartment projects in the planning stages, but they are unlikely to go through until the developers are confident they will have the income to support their project. Based on the shortage of housing, particularly rentals, and the fact that there will be new construction in desirable locations, I think they’ll be able to achieve these numbers.

If you have questions about real estate investment, sales or property management, please contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or visit www.realtyworldselzer.com. If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at www.richardselzer.com.

Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

Getting Ready for a Successful Open House

 Every weekend, Realtors hold open houses so prospective buyers can walk through properties and imagine themselves in a new space. Some open houses are more successful than others, because the sellers plan ahead. If you’d like to get the most out of your open house, consider these recommendations.

4 WEEKS BEFORE

Several weeks before your open house, make plans for all family members, including pets, to be away during the open house. If you have young children, ask the grandparents to take the kids that day. If you have dogs, call a kennel—or friends with a fenced yard—so the dogs can remain offsite while visitors check out your property.

This is also a good time to schedule repairs and carpet cleaning. Although the sagging gutters, loose railings, leaky faucets, and minor pet odors may not bother you; they can certainly bother others.

3 WEEKS BEFORE

With three weeks to go, de-clutter your house. Create clean surfaces and remove half of whatever is in your drawers and closets. When drawers and closets are full (or overfull), people assume the house doesn’t have enough storage. Take your clutter offsite: do not put it your garage. People who visit your open house will look in every available space.

In anticipation of visitors, consider buying fluffy white towels for the bathrooms and a new welcome mat for your front door. You should also purchase a box for each bathroom big enough for shampoo, soap, razors, toothpaste, and other personal bathroom items you’ll want to remove the day of the open house. The only thing on the bathroom counters that day should be a new decorative soap and some fresh flowers.

2 WEEKS BEFORE

With only two weeks left before your open house, it’s time for a deep clean. Remove dead bugs from light fixtures, clean the fingerprints off the sliding glass door, clean the doorknobs and light switches—and the dirt around them; and if you’re up for it, power-wash your house, deck, and driveway. If you’ve never used a power washer, find someone who has. This is not a good time to blow holes in your driveway, and believe me, it happens.

1 WEEK BEFORE

A week before the open house, clean the inside of appliances like your oven and refrigerator, declutter your pantry, and put out the new doormat so it isn’t so obviously new for the open house visitors.

THE WEEK OF

The week of the open house is the time to attend to final details. Purchase fresh apples or lemons to place in a pretty bowl in the kitchen. Clean the windows. Mow the lawn a few days before the open house, so the allergens settle down before visitors come. Make sure you have vanilla extract in the pantry. If you have a fireplace, make sure you have fresh logs.

THE DAY OF

First thing in the morning, take your children to their grandparents’ house and your dogs to the kennel. Put yard clutter away, including toys, hoses, and Fido’s water bowl. Walk around the house and collect any valuables, and put them in the trunk of your car or in a locked safe. (It is really rare, but occasionally people who attend open houses steal.) Put personal bathroom items in the boxes you’ve prepared, and put those boxes under the sink. Stow all kitchen appliances away so countertops are clear (which allows people to imagine their own appliances there). Put fresh logs in the fireplace. Prepare a fresh pot of coffee.

RIGHT BEFORE YOU LEAVE (AND YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY LEAVE)

Open all the blinds. Turn on all the lights and put a drop of vanilla extract on a light bulb in each room. If it’s cold and you have a fireplace, light a fire.

Then leave and allow your Realtor to do what they do best.

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

 

Sometimes Beauty is Only Skin Deep

If you’re in the market to buy a home, it can be hard to resist a place with brand new features: new flooring, new paint, new countertops, new bathroom fixtures, and/or new appliances. While newer can certainly mean better, it’s important to make sure upgrades were done properly and the fresh coat of paint wasn’t added to cover mold, water damage, or other problems.

Before 2007, the housing market was hot—prices were through the roof. Then the market crashed and home values plummeted. Many people faced foreclosure and they stopped maintaining their homes. By the time the housing market picked up again, many homes were in disrepair. This allowed enterprising contractors and do-it-yourselfers to buy fixer-uppers, renovate them, and resell them for a nice profit. This is called a flip, and it is a perfectly legitimate business practice. It only becomes a problem when the contractor or D-I-Yer isn’t ethical, cutting corners to increase profits or not disclosing information to prospective buyers at the time of the sale.

This is why it’s always a good idea to learn about the history of a property. Before closing escrow on a house, do your homework. When were renovations done and by whom? Check to see whether licensed contractors did the work. Confirm that appropriate permits were issued and finalized. What may appear to be a sparkly new bathroom floor could be fungus-damaged wood covered by new tile. Don’t assume that because the house has a new electrical panel that is also has new wiring. Just like you wouldn’t assume new bathroom fixtures meant the whole house was recently retrofitted with new pipes.

If the house is vacant, it’s also a good idea to find out how long it’s been since someone lived there. Even a couple months can cause issues with water, gas and electric. Water heaters leak. Furnaces fail, and air conditioners have issues. If the appliances are brand new, they may work perfectly—or they may not. Because they are untested, there’s no way to know whether they can handle the volume your family requires.

I recommend ordering plenty of inspections before you start planning where to put Great Aunt Mathilda’s piano or your favorite recliner. A home inspection, a pest and fungus inspection and a title report are essential. On the title report, I’d spend the extra money to get a lien-free endorsement from the title company. That means everyone who worked on the house has been paid. Mechanics’ liens are not part of the public record, but can crop up after a sale. Then you’re responsible for taking care of them. I’d also consider hiring a plumber to check the sewer lateral, or obtain a septic inspection if the house has a septic system.

I share this information to make you cautious, not to scare you away. Most of the contractors I know are reputable, hard-working people. In a town as small as Ukiah, it’s hard to be a charlatan and stay in business very long. Those who renovate houses in poor condition can take a house that wouldn’t qualify for conventional loans and make it affordable for a first-time homebuyer with a low down payment. Everyone wins.

If you’re nervous about a newly renovated house, talk to your Realtor. Realtors can suggest which inspections to order and they’re often good at sniffing out subtle cues that may indicate trouble. Realtors see hundreds, sometimes thousands of houses during their careers. They tend to have a sense if something doesn’t feel right.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or visit www.realtyworldselzer.com. If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.

 

 

How to Price Your House without Adding an Emotional Surcharge

When you decide to sell your house, it can be hard to let go emotionally, because many of us associate our house with the memories we created there: the birthday parties, the holiday celebrations, and all the firsts—from your child’s first steps to your first day as empty nesters. This can be problematic when it comes to determining your property’s market value because your memories are priceless, while your house is not.

As you contemplate a listing price, remember that you get to take your memories with you to your new home. The memories don’t stay with the old house, so their value shouldn’t either. Determining a listing price is one of the many things a good Realtor can help you with. Your Realtor will review comparable properties in the neighborhood and assess the local housing market trends to come up with a suggested listing price. This is often the moment when sellers see a flash before their eyes of all the improvements they made, and wonder why the house isn’t worth more.

The cost of some improvements can be recouped, usually those that involve updating kitchens and bathrooms. However, converting a garage to a family room or installing built-in shelves may not increase the value of the home by the amount of money (and sweat and tears) you invested. Work with your Realtor to understand the reasons for his or her suggested listing price.

In addition to square footage and location, your Realtor may consider issues such as how quickly you’ve said you want to sell. Keep in mind, the Realtor does not establish the value of the home: the market does. The Realtor is simply trying to interpret market data to reflect an accurate value so potential buyers will come knocking.

Can Realtors make mistakes? Yes, of course. But are they typically trying to sell your property at a price below market value? No, that doesn’t benefit them or you. You should definitely feel free to ask how your Realtor came up with his or her suggested list price, and where wiggle room may exist, but just because you don’t like the price doesn’t mean it isn’t the right one. Sellers have an especially tough time with this concept when they paid too much for the house and are now “upside down” (owe more than the house is worth). Sadly for those folks, when the appraiser comes to examine the property, there is no line item for how much you paid for the house—this has no impact on the value of the property.

If you want to know how much money you’ll walk away with at the end of a sale, ask your Realtor to create a seller’s net sheet, which includes the sale price minus the expenses related to the sale (e.g., brokerage fees, loan, title and escrow fees and any credit to the buyer for repairs).

Here are some signs that you may be overly emotionally invested in your house when it comes to selling it:

  1. You argue with the Realtor that the list price is way too low
  2. You ignore the Realtor’s advice about making improvements, repairs, or updates to the house
  3. You refuse to respond to requests to show the house in a timely manner
  4. You become irrational during negotiations after buyers make an offer or counter offer

It’s understandable to have an emotional attachment to your house, just be sure to recognize it so your emotions do not take precedence over judgment.

One final piece of advice: before you sell your house, be sure you can qualify for a new one. It’s best to get preapproved for a loan to buy another house before you let go of the one you’re in.

If you have questions about real estate or property management, please contact me at rselzer@selzerrealty.com or visit www.realtyworldselzer.com. If I use your suggestion in a column, I’ll send you a $5.00 gift card to Schat’s Bakery. If you’d like to read previous articles, visit my blog at www.richardselzer.com. Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 40 years.