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Archive for Helpful Tips

Get a Low Mortgage Rate Now: A Promise to Stay Low
August 30, 2011 · Written by Becki French · Filed under General, Helpful Tips, Real Estate

On August 9th, 2011, the Federal Reserve promised to maintain short-term interest rates through at least June of 2013 and possibly beyond. While some forecasters are nervous about this decision’s effect on consumer confidence, this is great news for the potential home-buyer and for those still sitting on the fence about purchasing a home.

Right now, for those who are interested in purchasing a home, the market boasts two great features. The first is the low rates that the Federal Reserve has now promised to maintain until the middle of 2013. A low interest rate means savings for the home buyer. It also means a lower monthly payment, which can be an important consideration in a difficult job market. Ultimately, the Federal Reserve’s promise is hoped to spur investment. If consumers can count on low interest rates, it may encourage those who have not made up their mind about purchasing a property. This is important, as each purchase is an increase in economic growth, since large purchases tend to foster greater growth.

The second great feature is the availability of homes on the market. There are countless homes for sale and they are often at a great deal. For the potential homebuyer, it may be easier than ever to find a home that he or she can afford and that has the features he or she desired.

Therefore, those who are not certain yet, it is time to hop off the fence. Between a record-low interest rate and an abundance of choices, your dream home could be yours… soon!

This article co-authored by Rachel Pinter and Becki French.

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Home Sales Tips From Chicago Title
July 14, 2011 · Written by Brock Dunda · Filed under Helpful Tips, Real Estate

Sold HomeA buyer will usually decide within two minutes whether they like your house. The first impression is often the lasting impression. And they start forming their opinion before they even set foot in your home!

It is a smart question to ask yourself if your house is as presentable as it can be for a faster sale at a the best price. The best way to find out is to imagine you’re a prospective buyer. You’ve probably been looking at other homes, so approach your present home the way you look at other houses.

Your real estate agent will do all of the things necessary to bring in the prospects – but when it comes down to the nub of it, your house is going to have to help sell itself.

Below are some tips to follow for making small, inexpensive cosmetic changes that will increase your chances of selling.

Clean Up, Fix Up, Paint Up Outside

1.)       Invest in landscaping where it can be seen at first sight. A well-manicured lawn, neatly clipped shrubbery, cleanly swept walks create a good first impression.

2.)       An extra shot of fertilizer, in season, will make your grass look lush and green.

3.)       Cut back overgrown shrubbery that looks scraggly or keeps light out of the house.

4.)       Paint your house if necessary. This can probably do more for sales appeal than any other factor. If you decide against painting, at least consider touching up front shutters and window frames.

5.)       In winter, walks should be free of snow and ice.

6.)       Inspect the roof and gutters. Any missing shingles to replace? Gutters and down spouts in place? Need paint or repair?

7.)       Consider putting flowers outside the front door.

8.)       Repaint the front door.

9.)       Put a bright coat of paint on your mailbox.

10.)   Repair broken outdoor steps.

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Preparing Your Home For Spring
February 8, 2011 · Written by Brock Dunda · Filed under Helpful Tips

Dust Slipperz!During the winter, your home may have been closed up to stay warm. Over those winter months, with the windows and doors shut, your home may want to breathe in the cool outside air. Lack of air circulation may have left your home stuffy and may have trapped common allergens that normally get circulated out of the home. Below are some tips for opening up your home and preparing it for spring.

Open windows and doors. This lets in the fresh spring air and sunshine. By opening the doors and windows, stale air and stuffiness will be reduced and will give your home new life.

Clean window screens and windows. Over winter, dust and other particulates can collect on the windows and screens, reducing visibility and light that enter the house. Cleaning the windows and screens will give you a more open and airy feel to it.

Vacuum and clean your upholstery, furniture, and draperies. Dust that hadn’t had a chance to escape will collect on surfaces that don’t get cleaned as often as others. Furniture and draperies are a prime place for dust and allergens to collect. Vacuuming and cleaning them will help to remove latent and hidden dust.

Thoroughly clean your ceiling fans, floor vents, and ceiling vents. If your home has a ceiling fans, or other vents, that is a prime area for dust to collect. It can then circulate through the room when you turn them on.

Clean your carpeting with an organic rug cleaner. Cleaning your carpets thoroughly will help to remove any pet odors that may be there as well as dust mites that can cause allergic reactions and leave lingering stale air.

Dust thoroughly. Dusting will further reduce airborne allergens that may have accumulated over the winter.

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Why Should You Use a Professional Real Estate Agent?
February 1, 2011 · Written by Becki French · Filed under Helpful Tips, Real Estate

Agent HandshakeThere’s a good reason about 80 percent of homes are sold with the help of a Real Estate Agent. Below are some of the ways that Real Estate Agents help the buying or selling of a home be a straightforward and manageable process.

Setting the right price. One of the very first things a Real Estate Agent presents to a home seller is a Comparative Market Analysis or CMA. The CMA is a report that analyzes the current market trends and recent sales prices within a given area. This report is an important tool that helps the agent determine a fair and reasonable price. Setting the right price is absolutely crucial in home sales, especially in this market. Sellers who utilize a Real Estate Agent, on average, receive 20 percent more for homes compared to those who sell on their own.

Neighborhood knowledge. A Realtor has a better understanding of what buyers can get for their money in the neighborhood they want to buy in. The agent will have information available about the neighborhood and be able to offer guidance and advice to their clients. Agents have information about the neighborhood including noise levels, schools, shopping, property taxes, local amenities, and demographics. For sellers, these details are equally important as they affect the value and marketability of the home.

Marketing expertise. Along with the CMA, a Real Estate Agent will typically present sellers with a marketing plan that details what they will do to sell the home. This may include open houses, internet exposure via large home search sites, fliers, brochures, placing ads in various media including social media, and showing your house to potential buyers. Agents also have access to two extraordinary resources that are critical to selling a home: other agents, and the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).

The MLS and the other agents. The multiple listing service (MLS), is a database of all the homes for sale by Real Estate Agents in a particular region. Once a home is listed, information about it can be accessed by those Real Estate Agents and matched to buyers. You are engaging the efforts of not just one person, but hundreds to sell your home. According to the National Association of Realtors, 82 percent of homes are sold through an agent’s contacts.

Objectivity. When selling, a Real Estate Agent can provide an unemotional analysis of the home and what needs to be enhanced to make it more appealing to buyers. Buyers who choose to utilize a Real Estate Agent will benefit from the agent’s objectivity. Real Estate Agents can provide an unemotional analysis of a home. They will determine any enhancements, modifications or remedies that might be needed to efficiently buy or sell a home.

Efficiency. With the expertise of Real Estate Agents a transaction will be more efficient. Buyers will be shown homes in relation to their needs and qualified loan amounts. Sellers will be best served by Agents objectivity in preparing their home for the market.

Contracts. Realtors can complete the purchase and sale agreement and are knowledgeable about the correct forms needed to accommodate the transaction.

Negotiation and closing assistance. A Real Estate Agent can provide advice for both buyers and sellers about whether to accept an offer, or counter-offer. Real Estate Agents know what a home is worth and what a fair price to offer or to accept is.

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Why Great Images Are Important When Selling Your Home
January 21, 2011 · Written by Brock Dunda · Filed under Helpful Tips, Real Estate

Good vs Bad PictureGood photographs of homes are essential in the process of selling a home. Imagine when a buyer goes to their favorite home search engine and starts looking for homes. They will more often then not be taking one look at the first picture of a listing and deciding whether it is worth investigating further. Below are some do’s and don’ts to check that ensure your agent is representing your home the way it should be. 

  1. Do Not List Without a Photo. – Listing without a photograph is almost suicidal to the listing if at the very least extremely counter productive. If people can’t see what it looks like, it can be swiftly ignored. In a market where there are so many homes available, don’t sell your listing short even before you get started. Remember, people are visual creatures and images invoke the strongest emotion and leave a lasting impression.
  2. Have Multiple Photo’s. – Now you have one picture. Great! Now interested buyers will have one image to look at and then they get to imagine what the rest of the home looks like! The saying, “a picture is worth a thousand words” is true especially in this case. Some buyers may think that you’re trying to hide something by not having enough photographs, or that your agent is inexperienced. Multiple photographs allow the potential buyer to have a good idea about what your home has to offer, and you end up generating interest from the buyer to read more, and people’s time isn’t wasted.
  3. Ensure Quality. – You have a number of images for buyers to look at. You have to be sure that the photographs taken are good quality. This means the content of the photograph is relevant to what a buyer needs to see or know about a certain room. A picture of a wall is not helpful. Put yourself in the buyers’ shoes. What would you want to see? Aside from the quality of the content ensure that the actual digital quality is good as well. If you’ve re-sized the picture so many times that it resembles a Jackson Pollack painting, go back to the original and take the time to size the image properly.

Always keep in mind that when a buyer is looking for a home, especially in our current market situation, they will be confronted with hundreds of homes to choose from. They will usually only pick a select few of those hundreds. The easiest way to narrow their search is to exclude homes with no pictures, not enough pictures, or with poor quality pictures. Keep your property in the running and take the extra time to have great, quality images that showcase the features of the home.

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Cumulative Days On Market – Is There Something Wrong?
January 18, 2011 · Written by Brock Dunda · Filed under Helpful Tips, Real Estate

Home For SaleWhen buyers look at a home, one of the first questions they ask is how long its been on the market. The thought process is that, if a home has been on the market for long time, there must be something wrong with it, right? Not necessarily. Below are some common reasons a house has been on the market for an extended period of time.

  1. Overpriced: When the home was originally listed, it may have been way above what the market would bear, and hence, no interest in it. Overpricing of homes is one of the most common and often one of the main reasons some homes are on the market for so long. The tenet of real estate that we’re so used to hearing is, “location, location, location.” Now it’s more along the lines of “pricing, pricing, pricing.”
  2. Difficulty Showing: If a home has occupants living there it may be difficult to coordinate times when people can come and look through the home. In some situations tenants may be unwilling and even Sellers may make it difficult to show a property.
  3. Inflexible Sellers: Even if a price may be relatively reasonable, some sellers will not budge from the price they’ve set. This inflexibility can turn a lot of buyers away especially if a reduction in price is to accommodate something that may require repair with the home.
  4. Down Real Estate Market: In a buyer’s market, which is our current situation, it can take longer to sell a home just due to the fact that there are so many properties available. It’s supply and demand.
  5. Little Exposure: If the home received little to no exposure on the internet or the MLS then that will translate into larger cumulative days on market. This is hard to verify but is still quite common. For example, a listing with one or no pictures is unlikely to generate any interest. No pictures or description equals bad marketing.

What Does This Mean To You?

If you’re a home buyer or an agent representing a buyer, cumulative days on market is important. If you take quick look at how long it’s been on the market and making a decision based on that, you may miss some opportunities. Especially in the current housing market situation, homes being listed for much longer than usual is becoming the norm. As a buyer, consider the above and make sure you are evaluating the home on more than just how long it’s been listed. Sometimes, the longer the home is listed, the more motivated a seller is to sell.

If a home has been sitting vacant for a long period of time, that can also mean that it has gone without maintenance, heat, and general care.

As a seller, if you’re home has been on the market for an extended period of time, it may be time to reevaluate your listing. If it falls under any of the common reasons above, take action to resolve it.

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Preparing For a Blustery Winter
November 18, 2010 · Written by Brock Dunda · Filed under Helpful Tips

Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day!It’s that time of year again. The winds are picking up, storms are brewing, and it’s getting colder. We’ve all been told it’s going to be a La Nina year, meaning wetter, and colder than normal years. Sitting next to a window and watching the clouds race by makes you marvel at how amazing nature is.

Since it is that time of year, it seemed only appropriate to reflect on the season, and things you can do to prepare for the inevitable blusteryness.

Clogged Storm Drains

The wind and the cold makes the leaves fall, and the leaves plug up drains like toy army soldiers plug toddlers’ noses. To reduce or prevent erosion and flooding in your neighborhood, make sure that storm drains are kept clear so that the rain water has a place to go during our classic Seattle winter rain storms.

Wind and Rain

As our rain storms come rolling in, so will the high winds. The ground, saturated with water from heavy rain can often cause instability for trees. As the high winds thrash the trees, some may lose their footing and fall. Check trees around your property and if you see one that already looks like the Leaning Tower of Piza, that may be something you’ll need to address.

Wear warm clothing, use umbrellas, and have some nice warm socks. Use ’em and wear ’em, you’ll be glad you did.

Be Prepared for Power Outages

The chance of us not losing power at some point this winter is about the same as the chances of winning a game of hopscotch with one peg leg (if you happen to be one of these people I don’t mean to offend you). It’s likely that we’ll lose power, so be prepared with extra food stuffs like crackers, canned foods, peanut butter and other non-perishable items that can be used in an emergency. Have a small stock of bottled water that you can have on hand in an emergency as well.

Have candles and flashlights ready and stock up on batteries. For those that have lived in the Seattle area long enough, you can recall some of the storms we’ve had. If/when it snows, be prepared with extra blankets and warm clothing as well.

If you keep all these things in mind, hopefully you’ll have a happy blustery winter. If you don’t prepare, Winnie-the-Pooh will knock on your door at some point and say, “Told you so.”

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Conservation And Efficiency for Fall And Winter
November 18, 2010 · Written by Brock Dunda · Filed under Helpful Tips

Caulking WindowEfficiency for Fall and Winter

Save money and stay warm through the winter months:

  • Check the condition of caulking. Any breaks in the seal can let in cold air or water. Look for air and water leaks around windows, doors, and anything else that goes through walls, such as pipes and vents. Ensure that door and weather stripping is in good shape. You may also want to consider installing a storm door (tax credits may be available). For complete air-sealing guidelines you can visit www.energystar.gov.
  • Make sure that bathroom and kitchen fans are installed and vented properly to avoid and minimize moisture buildup.
  • Assess home insulation and add more if needed.

 Get Rebates!

Appliances

  • New-appliance rebates from the state include $75 for Energy Star dishwashers, and $250 for energy Star heat pump water heaters. Rebates for qualifying clothes washers have increased to $150. This means you’ll get back $250 back when you combine the state’s rebate with the City Lights Wash-Wise rebate: www.seattle.gov/light/conserve/resident/appliances.

 In-room heat pumps

  • Ductless heat pumps are more efficient than baseboard heaters or wall fans. For a limited time, Seattle City Light offers a $1,200 rebate when a ductless heat pump is installed. You may also be eligible for a $750 rebate from the state and may qualify for federal tax credits.

 Tax rebates

  • The IRS offers tax rebates on home improvements such as windows, insulation, duct sealing, heat pumps, furnaces and furnace fans, and heat pump water heaters when placed in service before Dec. 31, 2010: www.energysavers.gov/financial.

 For more information about any of the Seattle City Light’s conservation and renewable power programs for residential and business customers, visit www.seattle.gov/light/conserve or call 206-684-3800.

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The Advantages and Disadvantages of Buying a Home
October 12, 2010 · Written by Brock Dunda · Filed under Helpful Tips, Real Estate

Deciding whether or not buying a home is right for you can be a difficult decision. While a home can be a great asset, it can also be a large burden as well. The below list of advantages and disadvantages should help sort out what will be right for you. Consider the following.

Advantages of Buying Your Own Home

  1. Tax Deductions: Most of the interest you pay on your home mortgages (a majority of the monthly mortgage payments is interest) is tax deductible.

  2. Equity: Over time, and as you continue to make your monthly payments your home’s equity will increase. It will increase as the value of the home increases. You can even borrow against the equity in your home in the form of a home equity loan.

  3. Asset: A home is generally an appreciating asset. The home’s value is likely to increase which means if you hold onto it for usually longer than five years, you’ll be able to sell it for a profit.

  4. You Own It: The House is yours. You don’t have to ask someones permission on whether you can change the color, remodel, landscape, or have pets.

Disadvantages of Buying Your Own Home

  1. Maintenance: All the maintenance required will have to be done by you, or you’ll have to pay someone else to do it.

  2. Taxes: You will have to pay property taxes, which will be included in your monthly mortgage payment. These are not tax deductible.

  3. Risk: The property value of your home could decline or you may be unable to sell it later, causing you to lose money on your investment.

  4. Opportunity Cost: A home is a fairly large investment. If you could put the money down into an investment like stocks or mutual funds, or go back to school to earn a degree, you could be losing an opportunity.

If you’re considering buying a home, the first thing you’ll need to do is determine how much you qualify for. Contact your lender to see how much you can pre-qualify for.

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Frequent Concerns of New Home Buyers
September 28, 2010 · Written by Brock Dunda · Filed under Helpful Tips, Real Estate

How important is location?

Location is one of those varying factors that has a huge impact on your buying decision. Ask yourself the following questions.

  1. How close do I want to be to work?

  2. Do I want to be in the city or in the suburb?

  3. How far away from busing and transit do I want to be?

  4. How close to shopping centers and grocery stores do I want to be?

  5. Do I prefer densely populated or rural areas?

By answering these questions you should have a better understanding of where you want to be.

Price vs Comfort?

When looking for a home you need to consider what it is you’re really looking for. Are you looking for a long term residence? Or are you looking more towards a place that will generate some equity and will be a stepping stone to a future purchase?

If you’re starting out and don’t have a large resources pool of funds, it may be wiser/safer to search for homes that will be easier to afford vs. larger and more difficult to sustain.

Also keep in mind, just because you might qualify for a more expensive home, that doesn’t mean you’ll want to strap yourself for cash for several years afterward. If you’re barely making enough to cover a mortgage payment, car payment, medical insurance, electricity, water, sewer, garbage, and food, you may want to consider what your life will be like financially if you go for something that you can afford but only barely.

Buying a smaller, more affordable home will help you keep your options open and will provide you with an equity stepping stone to purchase something more long term in the future.

Roommates?

Buying a new home as a first time home buyer can be daunting financially. Should it fit within your needs, a roommate can alleviate some of the financial burden. While many first time home buyers prefer to purchase the home for the privacy, some individuals or couples can get help financially with the sacrifice of some privacy.

Why Should I Own?

There are many benefits of owning a home. By buying a home, a portion of your mortgage payment will be going towards the principle of the home, increasing the equity. If for example you’re a first time home buyer, buying a smaller and more affordable home, and later selling it is often a means towards your goal/dream home. Also, instead of paying rent, you’re putting money towards an investment that will also appreciate over time. There are also other benefits like pride of ownership, and tax write-offs.

As with many decisions, what your needs are depends on the individual. As a first time home buyer you’ll need to think about what matters most to you and go from there. By knowing what your needs are it will not only help you get what you want, but it will also help in the search for your home.

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