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.

 

Good Credit: Myths and Facts

When it comes to offering home loans to prospective homebuyers, lenders often provide more favorable terms to borrowers with good credit—because for them, good credit means less risk. Your credit score helps lenders determine the likelihood of whether you will pay your mortgage payments, and pay them on time. The most common credit score is the Fair Isaac and Company score (FICO). A FICO score considers a huge amount of credit history, including how many real estate loans and car loans a person has. It reviews credit card information: outstanding balances, whether you pay your cards off each month, and how close they are to the maximum credit limit. The score also reviews how recently and frequently your credit check has been run, and whether closed accounts were closed based on customer requests or vendor requests.

There are decisions you can make that have the potential to affect your credit score. Here are a few to be aware of.

Oddly enough, just having your credit score checked by a potential lender will affect the score. If you inquire about your own credit, this is called a “soft pull” and it does not affect your score; however, if others check your credit, it may cause a little damage. According to myfico.com, when you apply for credit, you authorize those lenders to ask for a copy of your credit report from a credit bureau. When you later check your credit, those credit inquiries are listed (sometimes along with others). The only inquiries that count toward your FICO scores are the ones that result from your applications for new credit.

Closing old or inactive accounts to help your score could shorten the measured duration of your credit history. This is a bad move. As long as you’ve paid in a timely manner and do not have an outstanding balance, old accounts simply show you have a history of taking care of business. This is good for your credit score. If at some point you got behind and were sent to collections, make sure you clean up those negative accounts. Unfortunately, paying off a negative account doesn’t erase it from your record (it usually remains on file for seven years), but it is far better than allowing it to continue to harm your financial reputation.

If you have a grown son or daughter (or any friend or relative) who may have had some credit trouble, be aware that if you co-sign on a loan for them, you are responsible for that account. If they default on the loan, the bank will come to you for payment. I realize this may sound obvious, but some folks are under the misimpression that co-signing is like a vote of confidence that makes the lender feel good about lending to this high-risk borrower. It is far more:  it is a financial guarantee that you may actually have to make good on in the future. And if your friend doesn’t pay on time it may impact your credit score.

As you consider how to build a strong credit score, making on-time rental, utility and cell phone payments isn’t actually all that helpful. It’s a good idea, anyway, but what really helps your credit score is not getting sent to collections for missed payments. While your score will incorporate your financial history, it is only a snapshot. It is like a home appraisal – its value is only good for that point in time. The good news about this is: if your credit score is not as high as you’d like, you can change it. The bad news is: if it is as high as you’d like, it may not remain there.

 

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.

 

 

 

Home Selling Myths – DeBunked Part I

 

Most of us don’t buy and sell homes very often, so when we hear a myth that sounds plausible, we believe it. Last week I shared home buying myths and debunked them. This week, I thought I’d jump to the seller’s side and debunk common myths people have about how best to sell their property.

Myth #1: I don’t need a Realtor. Yes, you do. I am a real estate broker and I’ve hired Realtors to represent me when I buy or sell property. A typical, run-of-the-mill real estate contract requires a 10-page purchase agreement, 6-8 disclosures of one to twelve pages each, and 3-5 inspections, all of which need to be reviewed and understood. Real estate law and practices are updated frequently, so knowing the latest information requires constant education.

Myth #2: I looked online and I know what my house is worth. No, you don’t. If you read the disclaimers on those websites, they admit that the prices they list are only estimates and that you should talk to a real estate professional to determine your property’s value.

Myth #3: I can negotiate my home’s purchase price better than a Realtor. This simply isn’t true. One of the biggest benefits to having a Realtor is his or her ability to serve as a third party negotiator. When a prospect has looked at your house and not made an offer, how can you find out if an offer is coming? If you call for a status report, you are breaking the first rule of negotiating by making first move. It is seen as weakness and it communicates a sense of urgency you may or may not care to admit. When a Realtor calls, he or she is just following up in the process of looking for a commission—not putting you at a disadvantage.

Myth #4: I don’t need inspections; the buyer will get them. My recommendation to every home seller is to get as many inspections up front as you can, from wells and septic systems to sewer laterals, roof, pest and fungus, home inspections, preliminary title reports and more. These inspections provide value for lots of reasons. First and foremost, inspections tell you what’s wrong with your house, giving you the opportunity to take care of minor issues before they come to a buyer’s attention. Fixing little issues will also make your house show better. Finally, it will make your sales transaction go more smoothly, because you’ll have no last minute surprises for the lender or buyer to resolve prior to the close of escrow. Having inspections up front takes all the wind out of a buyer’s sails in the event that he or she wanted to renegotiate price because of some newly discovered issue.

Next week, I’ll debunk four more myths about selling your house.

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.

 

 

Home Buying Myths — DeBunked

Most of us will only buy a home a few times in our lives, so it’s hard to know fact from fiction when it comes to making good decisions. Here are some common myths debunked.

Myth #1: When buying a home, the first thing to do is look for a house. Nope! The first thing you should do is find a Realtor. Then his or her first job will be to help you find a loan officer so you can get pre-approved (not pre-qualified) for a home loan. Once you’ve done this, your Realtor will sift through all the houses on the market and show you those that fit your lifestyle and your budget.

Myth #2: A 30-year fixed mortgage is ALWAYS best. While I tend to believe 30-year fixed rate mortgages are almost always best, some circumstances call for shorter terms or adjustable rates, which can save you money.

Myth #3: You must have a 20 percent down payment to get a home loan. This simply isn’t true. In today’s world, there are many programs with low or no down payment options. Government programs through the USDA and FHA offer loans to people who cannot afford a 20 percent down payment. If you are a military veteran, you may qualify for VA no-down payment loans. Work with a loan broker to review your financial resources, income and credit history to find the loan best suited to your needs and circumstances.

Myth #4: The only cash you need to buy a house is the down payment. Unless you are buying a house from your mom and dad and they are also paying for your loan fees, mortgage insurance, title insurance, escrow fees, and all the inspections and repairs needed before you move in, you’ll definitely need more cash than simply your down payment.

Myth #5: You can’t buy a house if you have bad credit. You can, but it’s more expensive. If you have good credit, you will get a vastly superior loan with a smaller required down payment and lower interest rates. However, I have a source for home loans for people with bad credit. It does require a lower loan-to-value ratio, which equates to a higher down payment or a guarantor on the loan, but it is available. Regardless of your credit score, you’ll be required to prove you can make the loan payments each month before anyone will lend you money.

Myth #6: Home inspections are unnecessary. Not true unless you plan to raze the house and rebuild from the ground up. Especially if you are tight on cash, a home inspection is important so you know what you’re getting into. The last thing you want to discover after you move in is that the roof should be replaced in two years and the furnace needs to be replaced next month.

Myth #7: The seller will be offended if you come in with an offer under the asking price. Most sellers would prefer an offer below their asking price as compared to no offer at all, as long as the offer isn’t frivolous.

Myth #8: Realtors aren’t really necessary. Okay, I’m a little biased here, but Realtors are necessary. They have access to all the local properties for sale (not just those listed online). They know which professionals are good and which ones aren’t when it comes to home inspectors, insurance agents, loan officers, pest and fungus inspectors, contractors, and others. Realtors will negotiate on your behalf, make sure you have all the necessary disclosures, saving you time and money. Choosing a For Sale By Owner property and not using a Realtor yourself can lead to expensive legal mistakes. Your Realtor is your advocate. I wouldn’t buy a house without one.

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.

 

Now’s a Great Time to Consider a Career in Real Estate

Last year appears to be the best year in real estate in a decade, and probably longer. If you’ve ever considered a career in real estate, this could be a great time to jump in. Not only has the housing market heated up, but the average age of real estate agents in California is 58. Given the fact that most people stay in their homes for 5-7 years, many of the agents currently in business will be retired by the time last year’s homebuyers are in the market again.

A job as a real estate salesperson (or any salesperson, for that matter) can be the easiest low paying job or the hardest high paying job. If your career goal is to sit around, read the paper, and drink coffee while talking with friends, you’d become a Realtor in the first category. If, on the other hand, you’re will to be organized, show up early and occasionally work late with a clear goal of helping others, then you could fall into category two.

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. There are some requirements, however, before you can call yourself an agent. First and foremost, you must pass the state exam to earn your real estate license. Then, you must have the wherewithal to run your own business, even if you’re working for a broker.

As with any startup, a new real estate business requires some capital. If you’re like me, you enjoy food with your meals. Not only that, you prefer a roof over your head and clothes on your back. So, when you venture out into your new career as a real estate agent, you need to have the funds to pay for business expenses and living expenses until your commission checks start rolling in.

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 Don Strickland at Redwood Empire Title. 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 have been involved for many years and 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 properties and land for years (some of them, decades); then they’ll 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 hiking boots. If you want to sell agricultural property in Mendocino County, understanding how soil and terrain affect different types of grapes comes in handy. 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.

Do’s and Don’ts of Setting Up a Home Office

If you’re thinking of setting up a home office, it’s important to do it right. If you don’t, it can cost you money and decrease your productivity rather than enhance it. Here are some tips to get you started.

Select the right spot: Make sure it is well lit and has enough room for furniture, your computer, file cabinets and other items you use on a regular basis. Windows are great for natural light but can cause glare on a computer screen, so plan accordingly.

Get connected: Equip the space with enough electrical outlets to support your computer, printer, Internet router, fax machine, desk lamps, and any other equipment that requires electricity (future appliances that have yet to be invented will likely need more electricity, not less). Any costs incurred to add outlets or even heating and air conditioning to your office space are tax deductible.

Furniture: Measure the space you have before buying furniture. Once you’ve determined the furniture you’ll need—desk, office chair, file cabinet, printer stand, storage shelves, and any other furniture essential to your business—layout the locations of each piece of furniture on paper. Try several floor plans before asking your friend to help you move furniture. This will save you time and help you maintain your friendship.

Avoid mission creep: Keep business files in your home office; do not bring them with you into the rest of the house. It can be tempting to take them with you to another room, but it’s a bad idea for two reasons. First, it’s important to draw boundaries between personal and professional spaces so work doesn’t overwhelm you. Second, on the practical side, if you never take files out of your office, they are harder to lose. Keeping files in the office (and keeping the office as neat and clean as possible) will help you be more productive. This is one of those “do as I say, not as I do” moments.

Tax deductions: The IRS allows you to deduct expenses as long as they are related to the part of your home that you use exclusively for your regular business. This includes mortgage payment taxes, insurance, depreciation, utilities, furniture, computer equipment and supplies. Be sure to keep records on exactly what you purchase for your business. I use a separate credit card to make it easier to track business expenses.

Once your home office is set up and you have become a master of productivity, you can extend the benefits of working from home to your business travel. Many real estate agents have home offices, but few are as meticulous as they should be when it comes to recording mileage related to business travel. I suspect this is true for others as well. Business-related mileage is tax deductible and can really add up at the end of the year. You can use an app on your smart phone to record miles, or go old school and keep a little paper journal in your car where you simply write the date, starting mileage, ending mileage and purpose of your journey each time the trip is business-related.

If you have a home office, you can deduct miles between your home office and your downtown office: it’s considered travel between offices. If you do not have a home office, you cannot deduct commuting miles to work. If you live on Dora Street and commute to School Street, this is not a big deal. However, if you live in Potter Valley and commute to Ukiah, it’s significant. Forty miles a day (roundtrip) multiplied by $0.50 per mile adds up to about $2,000 of tax savings a year. If you don’t keep good records but estimate mileage, you better hope you never get audited. Auditors always check mileage records.

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.

Read Your Homeowners Insurance Policy So You’re Not Left Out in the Cold

Last week, I shared information about some of the important coverage homeowners insurance provides, from structural damage to personal property replacement to liability insurance. I also mentioned why it is critical to read your policy’s fine print: so you understand what’s covered and what isn’t.

Most of us don’t think a disaster will befall us, and most of us are correct (that’s how insurance companies make their money); however, just ask the folks who’ve lived through recent fires in Lake County and they’ll tell you, it’s best to be prepared.

If your home is damaged to the point that it is no longer habitable, your insurance company will usually pay for temporary lodging, whether in a hotel or a rental. Be aware that flood and earthquake insurance are almost always separate from the general homeowners policy and damage from these events may not be covered unless you pay for additional coverage. If you live in a flood zone (in a low lying area near a river or large creek), your lender will require flood insurance. If you live on the sole hill in a flood zone and can prove your house is no more likely to be flooded than homes outside the flood zone, you may be able to get the requirement for additional insurance waived.

Earthquake insurance has always been hard for me to recommend. It’s expensive and typically comes with a 15 percent deductible, making it rather useless unless your home sustains major earthquake damage. If your house is directly above a fault line, Speaking of not being able to get insurance, with the recent fires in Lake County, insurance companies are taking a hard look at rural Northern California. According to Rob McAsey at Mark Davis Insurance, certain areas in Ukiah and the surrounding areas have “brush hazard scores” above 80 (on a 100-point scale). Anyone with property with a score in the mid-80s or higher is going to have a hard time finding affordable insurance. The scores are a bit arbitrary and unfair, according to some local insurance agents. For example, houses on one side of the street in Vichy Springs have lower brush scores than houses on the other side of the street, even though fires are rarely polite enough to stay on their side of the street.

Talk to your Realtor about what coverage you may need and whether there’s a process to acquire reasonably priced insurance. Be aware that the number of claims you’ve reported can impact the cost and availability of insurance, as can factors such as whether you own an aggressive dog or a trampoline. In some cases, it is virtually impossible to get homeowners insurance. For example, if you’re a mile from a raging wildfire, chances are the insurance company will wait to see which way the winds blow before offering coverage.

When it comes time to buy insurance, I strongly urge you to go with a local agent who can walk you through the various options. When you buy an online policy, no one explains the details. The “deal” you think you’re getting may include a recent exception called a brush warranty, which means your house is not covered in the event of a wildfire if there is brush within 100 or 200 feet of your house (regardless of where the property line is).

If its time to renew your policy, please read it carefully because policies change and you don’t want to be in the middle of a disaster when you discover you aren’t covered the way you thought you were. Remember, the large print giveth and the small print taketh away.

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.

Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

 

You may have heard the old adage, “Good fences make good neighbors.” Well, it’s true. Obvious boundaries can certainly reduce frustration and confusion. But good fences aren’t the only things that help maintain good relations. Trying to understand your neighbor’s point of view—and communicating your point of view clearly—can keep things neighborly and help avoid expensive and time-consuming battles.

When it comes to fences, it’s important to put them in the right spot and that’s not always easy to do. Some old, perhaps antiquated laws require property lines to be adjusted to coincide with existing fences, even if the fences were originally put in the wrong place. Property line adjustments have to do with whether the neighbors originally agreed upon erecting a fence somewhere other than the true boundary line or whether somebody made a mistake. So, make sure fences go up where you intend them to.

Figuring out the location is only the first step in putting up a good fence. Next, you must figure out what type of fence you (and your neighbor) need. Clearly, if you live next door to a cattle ranch, the fence you need is far different than if you live near someone in Ukiah’s Westside. If the fence separates two residential properties, it’s a good neighbor fence; in which case, it’s preferable to find fencing—wood or other material—that looks good on both sides. Typically things go best if both property owners sharing the fence agree on the material and split the cost of the fence. That way, everyone is invested in the success of the project. Unfortunately, agreement on what type of fence gets tricky when you want the same type of fence on all three property boundaries but your neighbors all have different types of fences. At this point, all I can say is: good luck! In the event that your fence needs repair, the law requires that both parties contribute to the cost. Of course, there will always be extenuating circumstances.

In choosing a fence, needs may differ. You have a Chihuahua and your neighbor has a Mastiff (a little bigger than a small pony), for example. You’re concerned about gaps between and under the boards, and your neighbor worries that eight feet may not be tall enough. The bottom line for fence building is the same as for almost all other matters concerning your neighbors: be considerate and talk to your neighbors and most problems can be solved without too much heartache. While you’re talking about your fence, you might also bring up the fact that their beloved Fido likes to bark at 3:00 a.m., and would he perhaps be happier spending nights in their garage rather than in the side yard adjacent to your master bedroom? It’s worth a try.

Once the fencing situation is resolved, and your neighbors’ dog is sleeping in their garage, it’s only fair that you remind your teenage son that his band, The Racket Makers, must call it quits at 10:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights (earlier on weeknights). Any music your neighbors can hear from your garage while they are inside their house should end at a reasonable hour—unless you’re throwing a party and everyone on the block is invited.

I’ll share some more neighborly ideas next week.

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.

Ukiah’s Becoming More Business-Friendly

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the City of Ukiah and County of Mendocino have been actively promoting economic development lately. Whether these efforts are driven by the desire to make Ukiah a better place to live—with more jobs and more places to shop and dine—or simply a way to increase sales and property tax revenues, I’m thrilled with the noticeable shift in government attitudes toward encouraging business development.

Currently, several new businesses are either under construction or planning to set up shop here. A new Chipotle is being built at Orchard and Perkins, and rumor has it that In & Out Burger will be tearing down the old Fjords to build a new restaurant. I understand a high-end wool processing facility may open on Orchard Avenue, and a lumber mill in Oregon may lease some of the old Masonite property as a holding facility before they ship the lumber north. I’ve even heard Dunkin’ Donuts is coming to town, and it seems we will finally be getting the Costco we’ve heard so much about.

While it is wonderful to provide new shopping and dining opportunities, I am more focused on the new jobs these businesses will bring. When Ross Liberty purchased the 10-acre Masonite property three years ago, he dealt with political and administrative arms of county government, and he found them to be receptive and supportive of his business expansion. To be fair, his company—Factory Pipe—is a poster child for a business any community would welcome. He employs more than 50 people in an industrial capacity with wages commensurate with his industry and a generous benefits package. In addition, he took a prominent eyesore that community members and passers-by could see on Highway 101 and transformed it into an attractive, modern facility.

While it has been fantastic to see local government take strides to encourage economic development, our area still has some significant hurdles to jump, and it’s not going to be easy. We have utility hook-up rates that discourage development and we have infrastructure with significant deferred maintenance (if you don’t believe me, drive down Luce or Observatory—they’re almost down to the dirt in some places). With problems like these, I am puzzled by our city government’s decision to spend money on the walking trail along the railroad tracks. But I digress.

Another impediment to business development is the lack of housing. When business owners think about where to locate, they research a community’s housing situation to determine where they and their employees will live. A community cannot grow if people cannot find or afford a place to live. Right now in Ukiah, the median housing price is about $365,000. Without a down payment, a family would have to earn an annual combined income of about $85,000 to afford a house at that price. Even with a 20 percent down payment, the family would have to earn about $70,000 (that equates to $17.50 per hour for a dual-income household or one person making $35 per hour).

So how do we get more houses here? The cost of new construction is so high that developers tend to avoid Ukiah and Mendocino County. The reason, in a nutshell, is that new building codes requiring expensive additions like sprinkler systems dampen the enthusiasm of those who would create new subdivisions. And when the City of Ukiah built a new sewer plant, they required cutting-edge rather than conventional technology, significantly increasing the price tag. There are only two ways to recoup that money: increase rates and/or increase hook-up fees. Finally, the cost of labor for construction has to compete with the going rate in our underground economy.

These are tough problems, but I encourage local government to keep working on them.

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.

What Do Buyers Really Want? The Secret Homebuyer Checklist – Part II

Last week I reviewed a list of items to consider when buying a home. As a homebuyer, you typically know how many bedrooms you need, how many bathrooms you’d like and a basic layout that matches your lifestyle. But you may not realize the impact of little things like a lack of adequate storage space or the wear and tear of a commute to work or school (emotionally and financially).

In this column, I’ll continue to list important but sometimes-overlooked attributes that can make a property work for you for the long term. When people decide to call a Realtor and tour properties in their price range, they typically see each house once. If they see it in the morning, they see morning light. If they see it in the afternoon, they see afternoon light. They may not consider whether the house is positioned so nature helps keep the house warm in winter and cool in summer. Are there shade trees that protect the house when the thermometer tops 100 degrees? Are those trees deciduous so winter sun can reach the house? A well-positioned house with well-considered landscaping can lower your utility bills.

Is a view important to you? I recently visited a home in the eastern hills with the most fantastic opportunity for a view. But you’d only know this if you’re outside because the view is not featured from within—not a single window looked out onto this incredible vista. So positioning the house is important, but so are strategically placed windows.

Now we’ll talk about the neighbors? While living next to the future Ringo Star might be interesting 20 years from now, it won’t be the least bit interesting when the pounding of drums prevents you from concentrating on much of anything.

How about schools? Do you have school-aged children? If not now do you plan to in the future, or are you an empty nester? If you are raising your family, it’s great to have schools within walking distance. If you’re done raising your family, you may not find it charming to have hundreds of teens walking past your house every day or having new drivers negotiating their route to school.

Do you want a yard or not? Do you want a garden or would you rather not deal with landscaping and upkeep? Is there enough outdoor room for your four-legged children (Fido and Rover)? Is there a fence to keep them safe? Do you have a little cowgirl who is sure to want a horse someday? Is there room for Silver so she can play Lone Ranger?

As you contemplate all the details you’d love about your dream home, be sure to choose a location you love, too. Some people make the mistake of selecting a less expensive house even though it requires a commute. I debunked the financial myth in last week’s column (a 30-mile commute can cost more than $600 per month in gas alone—the house may not actually be less expensive if you add in commute costs). Here are a few other commute costs to consider if, for example, you live in Brooktrails and work in Ukiah: an hour on the road each day that could be spent with loved ones (or working or pursuing a hobby or exercising), lost productivity on snow days, wear and tear on your car, and the stress of driving. If you love Brooktrails, move there, but don’t move there simply to save money.

While this list isn’t exhaustive, I hope it provides a starting point for your own checklist of the frequently overlook items that matter most to you.

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’re 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.