Home Selling Myths – DeBunked Part II

Last week I debunked the first four myths related to selling your home. Here’s four more myths people often believe, but shouldn’t.

Myth #5: I have to carry the financing. Seller financing occurs when you, the seller, take the position of the bank. While in many cases it’s appropriate, depending on the circumstances, if bank financing is available for the subject property and the buyer is qualified, it will likely be available at better terms than you will want to carry. Most home sellers don’t want to tie up funds for 30 years at less than 4 percent interest. And if you require a higher rate than this, it will likely have a negative impact on the sales price. In addition, if you are motivated by tax concerns, you probably qualify for a tax exemption of $250,000-$500,000 of profit if you lived in the house for two of the past five years.

Myth #6: I can’t carry the financing. If your house won’t qualify for bank financing, it will be difficult or expensive for a buyer to come up with the cash to pay you in full, making the amount they can or will pay for the property lower than might otherwise be the case. It depends on the terms of seller financing. Short-term financing to comply with the buyer’s short-term needs may fit in with your plans. After all, if you’re taking sale proceeds and sticking them in the bank at 0.2 percent, getting a low interest rate from a buyer and facilitating the sale of your property might have some tremendous advantages. If you carry the financing, I highly recommend requiring at the very minimum a 20 percent down payment. In the event that the buyer defaults and you have to foreclose, you’ll be sorry if you carried the financing with less than 20 percent down.

Myth #7: I’m selling my property as-is. There are two considerations here. First, as-is doesn’t mean you don’t have to tell the buyer everything you know about the condition of the house. In today’s world, it is an absolute requirement and the courts will hold the seller responsible for disclosing anything and everything the seller knew or should have known. Second, “as-is” actually means what it says: selling the house in its current condition except for government-mandated fixes. You may want to reconsider this take-it-or-leave-it stance. Many times, buyers have limited cash but can afford larger monthly payments. The repairs can be negotiated as part of the entire purchase agreement. You may be able to meet their requirements without negatively impacting yours. Look to your Realtor for advice on these issues.

Myth #8: I’ll be offended if I receive a low-ball offer. Before you reject an offer, be careful. Don’t let your emotions control your business decisions. Any offer is better than no offer at all. Sometimes buyers start low but with guidance and negotiation the buyer and seller may be able to come to an agreement that meets both of their needs.

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.

 

20 Questions – Don’t Make Your Realtor Guess What You Want

 

Did you ever play the game 20 Questions as a kid? If you could identify what your opponent was thinking within 20 questions, you won; otherwise your opponent won.

Well, in real estate sometimes Realtors feel like they are playing 20 Questions with their clients. They really want to meet or exceed their clients’ expectations, but their clients either forget to mention critical information or they leave out details. Sometimes clients believe the details are irrelevant; other times, they believe the information is too private or embarrassing to share.

While I don’t recommend sharing information that feels overly personal, I definitely recommend sharing information relevant to a real estate transaction such as being behind on child support payments or having significant credit card debt. While embarrassing, it is far better for your Realtor to know where you stand financially than for him or her to set up a transaction that is doomed to fail.

Good Realtors do their best to come up with creative ways to make sure every important issue is revealed early in the home buying or selling process. (If they don’t, find a new Realtor.) They often ask these 20 questions (or ones that are very similar):

  1. What is your main objective when buying a home? Are you moving to accommodate grandma?
  2. What game plan do you have in mind?
  3. What is the biggest problem you currently face? Baby on the way?
  4. What are you doing now to help solve the problem?
  5. What other ideas do you have about the home you want to buy? Is a view important?
  6. Who else is involved in the decision? Is down payment coming from mom and dad?
  7. What do you like most about the idea of owning a home?
  8. What is your biggest fear when it comes to owning a home?
  9. If you could have any house that you wanted, what would it look like? Don’t worry about color. Paint is cheap.
  10. Why are you motivated to buy a home now?
  11. What has been your previous experience?
  12. How would you feel if you did not buy a home?
  13. What is your budget? What is the max you can afford? What is the max you are comfortable with? What is your future income and expense probability? Child on the way? Promotion?
  14. What financing alternatives have you considered?
  15. How would buying a home benefit you personally?
  16. How can I help you with the home buying process?
  17. Is there anything that is keeping you from buying a home? Down payment, credit, job stability.
  18. What do you see as the next step? Get pre-approved!
  19. Are you working with a deadline? In before school starts?
  20. In a perfect world, what would you like me to take care of for you?

Not all questions will apply, but this list is a great place to start. Unlike the childhood game of 20 Questions, your Realtor’s game of 20 Questions may lead to several additional questions. Your Realtor is not being nosy; he or she simply wants to provide the best possible service. For example, if you’re a buyer and you say you’d like to be near a school because your children play sports, the Realtor doesn’t know if you want your children to walk home (so you need to be within walking distance), or you plan to pick them up (so you need to be within a 5-minute driving distance). When they start asking clarifying questions, it’s usually in your best interest to answer them. Remember, your Realtor only wins if you successfully sell your house or find a home you love. Your Realtor only wins when you win.

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.

 

 

 

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.

Avoid Scams

Most of us think we won’t be duped by a scammer, but these people are good at what they do and desperation sometimes causes us to bypass our common sense. With the rental market in Ukiah as tight as it is, people are frantic to find a place to live, which can cause them to take risks they usually wouldn’t consider.

While I’m reluctant to write an article about this—because it will educate scammers as well as potential victims—this is so common now that anyone of a criminal nature already knows about it.

Here’s how the scam works. Let’s say you need to find a place to rent. The last four rentals you called about were rented yesterday, and then you see an ad on Craigslist and it sounds perfect. You call the number and a sweet-sounding lady answers the phone. She explains that the house was listed for sale, but the listing expired. She gives you the address but insists that you NOT talk to the real estate company. She says she’s not happy with her agent and does not plan to re-list.

She apologizes that she can’t meet with you because she’s on the East Coast with a dying relative, but suggests that you go by the property and peer in the windows. If you like it, send a check for the security deposit and first month’s rent.

On move-in day, she says she’ll have a friend meet you at the residence with the keys. You give notice at your current residence and prepare to move. You pack up everything you own and call your five best friends with pick-ups to bring your belongings to your new home, only to discover the house is already occupied by the people who bought it and closed escrow two days ago.

Bottom line: your $3500 is gone and everything you own is in the back of friends’ pick-ups. I would like to tell you what to do in this situation to recoup your money. Unfortunately, I can’t because there is no way to know where to find the scammers who took your money and ran.

The best advice I can give you is to be skeptical. If someone is not available to meet you at a property and provide you with access to the interior, that should raise a red flag. Even then, things can go wrong. The current tenant can pose as the homeowner and run the scam. When your Spidey sense (think Spiderman) starts tingling, pay attention. If someone asks for cash rather than a check, be skeptical. If the rent seems too low, be skeptical. If you’re told to peer in the windows instead of getting a tour, be skeptical.

If you want to know who owns the property, ask your Realtor—he or she can check county records and find out. Talk to the neighbors to see what they know.

Realty World Property Management manages about 800 residential units. Right now, as soon as a rental unit is vacated, it is leased to a new tenant almost instantly. This is partly because we keep properties in excellent condition, but the truth is, landlords who do not keep their properties in great condition are also able to rent their properties quickly.

The moral of the story is: if a rental situation seems too good to be true, it probably is.

As a side note on the scam issue, if you’re wiring money when buying a house, be sure you’re sending it to the right account. Realtors’ and escrow company emails have been hacked and the hackers are sending false wire instructions for clients to wire money to. Be aware, get independent verification of wire instructions before you send money. To the best of my knowledge this has not happened in Ukiah…yet.

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.

Keeping Your Home Safe and Healthy

Most of us vacuum our carpets and dust our shelves fairly regularly to make sure our home is a comfortable place to live. We also take care of obvious safety hazards like poorly functioning appliances or broken plumbing. But sometimes, dangers are invisible. They lurk in mattresses, walls or in the air. Here are some tips to bring those problems into the light, and what to do to take care of them.

Houses have always been built according to the standards of their time. As we learn new construction techniques or gain awareness of what’s safe and healthy, standards change. Many houses built before 1978, for example, were built using asbestos and lead paint. Both materials have since been outlawed, but those houses still stand and people still live in them.

If your house was built before 1978, chances are you are perfectly safe unless you decide to remodel. Asbestos is not a health threat unless it becomes airborne (friable), so although you may have asbestos floor tiles, roof shingles, pipe insulation or popcorn ceilings, as long as they are in good repair, the asbestos remains encapsulated (sealed and safe). If asbestos is friable, it can lead to mesothelioma, a kind of cancer people talk about in hushed tones because it is so deadly. The moral of the story is this: if your house was built prior to 1978, hire a professional contractor to remodel. This way, you’ll live long enough to enjoy your new features.

The other health threat still present in homes built before 1978 is lead paint. Once again, as long as it is encapsulated (painted over so none of it can turn to dust or be inhaled or touched), it is safe. While exposure to lead is dangerous for adults, it is catastrophic for children because it causes permanent brain damage. In older homes, the paint around windows can get worn and old layers can become exposed. Even if your home was built after 1978, if your kids spend significant time in an old school building or church or other facility built before 1978, please do a little research to make sure it is safe.

While newer homes and buildings constructed to meet higher safety standards shouldn’t have any asbestos or lead, they may have another health threat: mold. In the Ukiah Valley, we are lucky not to deal with humid weather, because humidity is mold’s best buddy. However, most of us create humid environments in our home every day (in the bathroom when we shower and in the kitchen when we boil water). Mold is particularly hard on those with asthma and other respiratory problems.

To combat mold, open bathroom and kitchen windows if you have them, and use the exhaust fans. Also, be sure to replace your heating and air conditioning filters every few months and have your ducting cleaned once in a while. Doing this will reduce dust and mold, and make your heating and air conditioning systems run more efficiently.

As you head outside, you can make your home safer by creating a fire perimeter (knock down vegetation and limb trees six feet off the ground. If you use pesticides, rat poison, paint, or any other hazardous materials, be sure to keep the materials in their original, well-labeled containers that seal properly and are out of reach of children (locked cabinets are best). Children are curious and capable. They did a study with M&Ms in “childproof” medicine bottles. Want to guess how quickly those kids were enjoying the candy?

These are just some of the ways you can keep your house safe and healthy. As I think of more tips, I’ll be sure to pass them on.

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.

 

 

Making Sure You Record the Reconveyance

In California we have deeds of trust rather than mortgages, and when we get real estate loans, our lenders are typically the trustees who receive a deed of trust with the power of sale (since they put up the money to purchase the property). If all goes as it should, when you finish paying off the loan the trustee issues a reconveyance to remove their deed of trust. That reconveyance is then recorded at the county, and everyone lives happily ever after.

That is, unless something doesn’t go as planned.

If you default (stop paying) on your loan, or you don’t pay the required taxes and/or insurance, the trustee can exercise the “power of sale” and foreclose on your property. The trustee can also foreclose if you try to be sneaky and transfer the property to another owner without the lender’s consent (this is called “alienation” and it really makes lenders mad). Finally, if you create waste on the property, the trustee can foreclose. I’m not suggesting that if you throw a Popsicle wrapper on the lawn and forget to pick it up then you’ll lose your home. In this context, waste is more like a Superfund clean-up site. For example, if you dump 50 gallons of used motor oil or hit the house with a wrecking ball, then the trustee has a legal right to declare a default and start foreclosure.

Provided the proper procedures are followed, trustees can sell your property to the highest bidder at a foreclosure auction unless you fix whatever problem led to the foreclosure five days before the auction is scheduled to take place.

The deed of trust gives the trustee something called “bare legal title”—a purely legal, but not equitable, ownership interest in the property. If you pay off the loan early or refinance the property, the trustee still has bare legal title until a reconveyance is completed. To resolve this conflict, the original lender signs a full reconveyance that you must take to the county to record. This removes any interest or claim the original lender has on the property. Normally, this is something the escrow company handles for you if you’re refinancing.

Where this falls apart is with private party loans when the loans are paid off, not refinanced. If the reconveyance isn’t done right away, private lenders can be difficult to track down years (even decades) later. And if the original lender passes away and his or her estate is then divided among several heirs, things can get complicated in a hurry. Rather than dealing with John or Jane Doe, you’re dealing with John Doe Jr. and his 15 siblings, trying to get everyone to sign the reconveyance. If you didn’t keep good records, then John Doe Jr. and his siblings may not be convinced you paid off the loan. If things really go south, you may have to hire an attorney to go through something called “quiet title action.” This process determines who the rightful owner of a property is, as well as who may have claims on the property.

This is where I remind my readers to keep every scrap of paper pertaining to real estate payments and ownership. Another useful piece of advice is to follow up and make sure any reconveyance you’re entitled to is recorded at the county. Most escrow companies and lenders require final payment before issuing a reconveyance. Once they’ve received final payment, the motivation to do additional work (like head down to the county to formally record the reconveyance) can dwindle. Don’t let this one slip. Make sure if you pay off your real estate loan, that the deed of trust is removed.

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.

Avoid Pest and Fungus Problems – Part I

When properties go on the market, one of the most common inspections is the pest and fungus inspection. Most buildings, even new ones, have some reportable problems. Here’s why: pest and fungus reports include two types of findings—problems and potential problems.

Section 1 includes evidence of pests and/or fungus including mold, dry rot, termites, carpenter bees, powder post beetles and more. Section 2 includes issues that could (and probably will) ultimately lead to damage. For example, earth-to-wood contact outside that termites haven’t discovered as a convenient entry point, but they most likely will. As you might imagine, it is less expensive to fix earth-to-wood with about 30-minutes worth of shoveling, than it is to replace termite-infested walls.

Even if you don’t plan to sell your house or commercial building, avoiding pest and fungus problems is essential to protect your investment, and generally inexpensive. Here are some suggestions on how to do so.

  1. Roof. Replace worn roof tiles or shingles, and make sure there’s a good seal around any roof penetrations (i.e., pipes or skylights or anything else that comes through the roof). If moss develops, remove it because it will lead to faster deterioration of the roofing material.
  2. Gutters and downspouts. Clear any debris blocking the flow of water and be sure gutters and downspouts are securely affixed to the house and each other. Replace rusted or cracked areas.
  3. Water flow. Make sure water doesn’t pool around (or under) the house; water should flow away from the home, even during heavy rains. Some people have sump pumps to keep things dry under their houses.
  4. Home exterior. Make sure attic vents and subfloor screens are unobstructed to allow for good airflow, and make sure they are properly affixed so varmints don’t make a home under your house. Check siding for signs of cracking or splitting, and consider another coat of paint if this is common. It can be significantly less expensive to paint the exterior of your home the year before it really needs it, as compared to letting it go an extra year or two when the paint has begun to peel or check (little lines appearing in the pain) and certainly before the siding has begun to deteriorate.
  5. Landscaping. Be sure irrigation systems aren’t leaking, as evidenced by an emerald green patch on an otherwise brown lawn or a skyrocketing water bill. Also make sure hose bibs don’t drip and soak the foundation. Keep trees and bushes trimmed away from the house (and don’t stack firewood so it touches the house).
  6. Doors and windows. Make sure doors and windows are weather-tight and have no broken seals. This will save money on your heating and air conditioning bills as well as keeping water out.
  7. Termite tubes. Termites really don’t like sunny, dry places. They tend to travel in dark, little tunnels of their own making. If you see small, raised mounds on the walls around the bottom of your house, call a pest exterminator immediately.

Next week I’ll share more tips on how to protect your home against pest and fungus problems. The main thing to remember is that any damp, dark place can invite unwanted pests and/or mold. Make sure your house has good air flow in both the attic and under the house, and no water leaks.

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.

 

 

Realtors Sift Through Online Jungle

When prospective homebuyers think about jumping into the market, they like to see what’s for sale in their price range with the amenities they’re looking for in their geographic location. They typically go online and find various sites promising to make their search easy and quick. Generally, these are empty promises, and one of the Realty World Selzer Realty agents, Tanya Gilmore, was sharp enough to recognize this would be a great topic for me to write about. Thanks, Tanya!

Online residential property databases are fed by a number of sources, some of them reliable, others not so much. The multiple listing service (MLS) is the real estate professional’s database, and it feeds many search engines, but there are other sources that clutter the databases and make it difficult to discern what is legitimately available for sale.

Online search engines such as Zillow and Trulia can sometimes result in information overload. They remind me of when I was subpoenaed by a lawyer to bring all the documents pertaining to a certain case to the courthouse. The lawyer did not understand what he was asking for, and since his position was counter to mine, I did exactly as he asked and brought all the documents—boxes and boxes and boxes of files to the trial. We brought so much information that he had little hope of finding the facts he wanted. He had no way to process so much information in a timely manner.

Too much information becomes useless unless you have a way to sort and filter it so you have accurate, reliable and organized data.

Online databases intended to serve potential homebuyers come in many forms; some include inconsistent data and make it difficult to figure out whether you’re looking at foreclosures resulting in auctions, conventional listings, or pre-foreclosures (properties that are not even on the market yet, but may be soon). Others include relatively uniform data, but only refresh the listings periodically, so the data becomes outdated fairly quickly. When real estate agents input data about a new listing into the MLS, that information is shared with a huge number of sites.

The bottom line is this: so much information requires buyers to spend significant time ferreting out the accurate from the inaccurate, and sometimes from the blatantly fraudulent.

This brings me to one of my recurring themes: choose professionals to help you navigate the sometimes confusing and always complex process of buying or selling a home. Whether you need a lender, insurance agent, escrow officer, contractor, or Realtor, choose one with whom you have good rapport—one you believe is competent and honest—and allow them to sort through all the data relevant to your property search. Their experience should enable them to sort more quickly and effectively through the overwhelming amount of data to provide you with the information you need to make sound decisions.

You may have a brother-in-law who once thought of buying a house and therefore feels qualified to assist you in your home search; trust me, he’s not. While you may hear the sound of a cash register going “cha-ching” each time you review the list of professionals above, it can be costlier not to hire the right help. Some of the costs associated with hiring real estate and associated professionals must be paid up front, but others can be paid upon close of escrow.

Keep in mind that for most people, a home purchase is the largest financial decision they will ever make, and it is not one that happens frequently enough that they really understand the ins and outs and potential pitfalls related to decisions they will make. This is not really a DIY project. Save time and frustration (and potentially money) by hiring competent professionals.

If you have questions about real estate, 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.