Choosing the Right Community for You

If you are buying a home, one of the first things your real estate professional will do before taking you on home tours is interview you to determine the type of house you want such as a 2,000-square-foot four-bedroom, split-level with a formal dining room and two-car garage. But just as important is the type of community you want to live in. Knowing what your requirements are will help narrow your home search and save time.

To expedite the house-hunting process, start by making a list of the dream home factors that are most important to you and your family’s lifestyle. Consider style, location, proximity to work and schools, yard size, children in the community, and of course, price.

Price and location generally are the key factors you’ll use to identify the communities that best suit you. If you are moving within the same city, you may want to start your community search by getting in your car and exploring. There are also resources on the Internet that let you compare communities.

You’ll want to ask yourself critical questions, such as: Do you dream of something quaint and charming that can only be found in an older area? Or, do you prefer everything new? Are you willing to sacrifice size and space for architectural detailing? What about drive and commute time to the office and schools? Will you forgo the number of bedrooms and a big yard for proximity to a lake or other recreational areas?

Whether you have children or not, buying a home in a community with good schools is important. It not only adds value to your property, but also is an attractive feature when and if you decide to sell. There are plenty of resources available to get information about schools within the communities you are considering. Various Internet sites offer school reports and profiles. They provide statistical data such as graduation rates, college-bound percentages, and standardized test scores. You can also learn about special programs the schools offer. In addition to these reports, many schools have their own Web sites you can peruse. And of course you can always talk to people in the area or take a tour of the school.

Additional factors you’ll want to consider during your community search are crime, recreational activities, proximity to shopping and restaurants, and other specific family needs.

Once you’ve narrowed your search to two or three communities that fit your price range and lifestyle, make comparisons of price and sales activity. Your real estate professional can help you determine which communities are most sales-worthy at present, and which are more likely to continue to be.

There are many factors involved in selecting the right community for you and your family. Discuss your options with your real estate professional. This will provide the information he or she needs to help you find property listings to tour. Remember, a targeted approach to house hunting is less time consuming, less expensive and more efficient.

Avoid These Seller Mistakes

You want to get the best price for your home, plus sell it in the least amount of time. In a buyers’ market such as the one emerging now, homes will take longer to sell. Therefore, it’s important that you make the right moves at the very beginning of your homeselling process to remain competitive. Here are some common traps that many homeowners fall into and how to avoid them.

1. Over-pricing — It’s easy to think your home is worth more than the current market may support, particularly after the long run-up in home prices. Since home prices have cooled in markets around the country, home sellers must be prepared to negotiate on price and terms, and stay flexible to other stipulations benefiting the buyer. Sellers must also keep their emotions in check during the process. After all, your home is special to you and your family, and you’re proud of the improvements you’ve made over the years. But, how does your home really stand up to the others? And are those improvements important to a potential buyer?

To determine a reasonable listing price, get sales statistics on homes in the neighborhood including listing prices and actual sales prices, how long it took for the homes to sell, and government valuation comparisons. You’ll also want a market appraisal on your property. Visit homes for sale in your area and compare what you see in terms of sales appeal.

2. Negligent Housekeeping — Buyers need to be able to envision themselves living in the home. Take a good, objective look at the condition of your home. Clean, well-kept homes with an updated appearance always stand out, and a little decorating appeal can go a long way. You don’t have to buy new furniture to create charm, but you can put toys and clutter away, freshen up paint and carpet, make the most of window coverings, and add a few key accessories in order to send out welcoming signals.

3. Failing to Fix-It — Buyers, unless they are looking for a fixer-upper, would prefer to move into a home that is in perfect or near-perfect condition. If they have to fix the roof, a broken tile floor, the garage door, worn carpet or just about anything, this may give them pause about buying. At the very least, it may lower the value of the home in the prospective buyer’s mind.

4. Not Identifying Exclusions — This can be a cause of contention just at a critical point in the sale. Be sure to specify any special sales considerations or exclusions from the fixtures and furnishings list. Generally, anything permanently fixed to the house is an asset that stays with the home after the sale. So if you intend to take your grandmother’s antique chandelier that’s hanging in the dining room, clearly specify that the chandelier is not included in the sale price.

5. Not Understanding the Agent Agreement — Your sales endeavor will go smoothest when all parties have a clear understanding of what is expected. Understand the types of agency agreements when you sign with a real estate professional or company. Be sure to check on fees, commission percentages, marketing plans and timeframes. Most importantly, get everything in writing.

Should Buyers Use a Real Estate Professional?

Do you really need a real estate professional to represent you? Absolutely.

Think of it this way, when you go to an unfamiliar place, sure you could do a self-guided tour. However, your tour is much more rewarding and enriching when you have someone who is familiar with the location to guide you along because he or she has inside knowledge on the history, culture and stories that you may not have otherwise received.

The same can be said about sales professionals. Their role is more than someone to drive you around from property to property. They can be a great resource, especially to homebuyers relocating from other communities. He or she knows the local area including home values, taxes, utility costs, and school data, and may even be knowledgeable about resources pertaining to your special interests or needs. For instance, should you require help relocating an aging parent with you, your real estate professional may be able to direct you to local services or organizations for the elderly.

A sales professional can familiarize you with the processes involved in buying a home, alert you to potential risks, help you determine how much house you can afford, explain alternative financing strategies, as well as provide tremendous moral support.

Another benefit is having a strong advocate during the negotiating process. Sales professionals can help you objectively evaluate an offer then work to negotiate a favorable contract. During the process, he or she will review the contract and obligations before you sign, explain how contingencies and release clauses work, and so on.
And something easy to overlook is our familiarity with the complexity and risks inherent in the process. In the years I have been practicing I have been continually amazed at how quickly a seemingly simple transaction can grow legally complex and risky. When complex questions arise, a sales professional can help you quickly locate an attorney or other licensed professionals whose services you may require, such as home inspectors, engineers, surveyors and lenders.
As your single point of contact, a sales professional can manage the entire transaction including coordinating inspections, keeping in touch with the other real estate professionals, managing the documentation for the loan process, monitoring deadlines associated with contingencies, providing applicable paperwork, estimating closing costs, and helping prepare for a smooth and uneventful closing.
If you’re about to begin the process of buying or selling a home, consider involving a real estate professional. When the stakes are high, it’s comforting to have a specialist by your side.

Buying a Valencia Home from the Bank?

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Foreclosure

The difference between a ‘Foreclosure’ and a ‘Bank-Owned Home’ may be technical, but  important to understand.  Foreclosures are properties that are auctioned off in a court process. A bank-owned home, on the other hand, is one that has reverted to the mortgage issuer: a bank.

A foreclosure can change hands with the bang of the auctioneer’s gavel: it’s a cash-in-hand situation, carrying all of the excitement (and risk) of any auction.

With a bank-owned home, the ‘owned’ is attached by hyphen to a banking institution – a spot not exactly known for excitement. True, banks are eager to sell, since a bank-owned home represents an unprofitable financial and management burden. But banks are by definition cautious, thorough, and usually (unlike auctioneers) prone to moving like molasses in December. So, persistence and care will be needed to take advantage of the potential bargain a local bank-owned home represents.

Since you will need to prove you are qualified to buy a bank-owned home, being pre-approved for a loan will come in handy.  It will also be important to have a good home inspector at the ready, since most bank-owned properties are sold as-is. You will want detailed information about the condition of the house and likely cost of repairs that need to be made.

And while there are many sources for identifying a suitable bank-owned home online, when it comes to the next step — putting together a successful offer — enlisting an experienced local real estate agent is standard practice.  Sometimes a bank-owned home can be priced under market, sometimes over — but if you want to write the winning offer, you need to examine and understand the latest numbers.  By looking up the market comps and procuring costs faced by banks, your agent will help you present an offer that is both attractive to the bank and to you.

This winter, whether you are looking for an entry-level condo, a bargain fixer-upper, or a luxury REO, as soon as you are ready to start the search, call me — I will get you a list of local bank-owned homes now accepting offers.

4 Things No One Tells First Time Homebuyers in Santa Clarita

Gohomenew 4 Things No One Tells First Time Homebuyers in Santa Clarita buying articles

 

First time homebuyers in town are told a lot of things —
“Save your money,” their parents advise.
“Location, location, location!” their friend’s friend cautions.

Reasonable advice, for certain. But there some important elements of the home buying process which a typical local first time homebuyer doesn’t usually hear. I’ve listed some of the most important ones, in no particular order:

 

1.    Mortgage rates you see advertised aren’t usually what you get

The banner ads are everywhere online: “3.2% rates!” “No money down!” But the truth is, mortgage rates vary greatly. The only way you’ll know what rates you actually qualify for is to go through a complete mortgage application including credit pulls and income verification. One more point to consider: online mortgage calculators, while handy, can be deceptive if you do not factor in the real cost of tax, insurance and PMI when you’re looking at an FHA-loan.

2.    Every Tiny Bit of Debt Counts

Think that $1400 left on your Visa isn’t going to matter? Think again. Every iota of debt weighs in when your credit is scored. What many local first time homebuyers aren’t told is that when you apply for a mortgage, nearly every element of your financial history is going to be analyzed with a fine-toothed comb. All debt will be factored in as the bank figures out how much it is willing to lend. Standards have stiffened, so the earlier you dispose of even small issues, the better.

3.    Your Choice of Agent Makes All the Difference

Let me guess: your friend’s friend also has an agent to recommend (she carpools with his sister’s next door neighbor). There’s no reason you shouldn’t interview her: maybe that’s the right fit for you. But don’t just sign up with the first agent you find: this is a working relationship that can shape your family’s future. Your agent’s connections, experience, and market knowledge will be key — and can well make the difference between your writing an offer that gets accepted or not.
(Coming Next: Another 4!)

Rehabbing Local Foreclosed Homes via FHA 203(k)

One of the key factors serious buyers eye when appraising foreclosed homes for sale in Santa Clarita is condition – the shape those properties have been left in. The Federal Housing Administration has weighed in with a program that can materially affect how that condition – good or bad – will finally affect the bottom line: it’s known as the FHA 203 (k).

If you are among those currently looking at a foreclosed homes for sale, the 203(k) can make a big difference.  Here are some points that might influence your decision:

First in line is whether the program is applicable. HUD tells us that for a local property to be eligible, it must be a one- to four-family dwelling that has been completed for at least one year. The number of units on the site must meet local zoning requirements. Furthermore, any and all newly-constructed units must be attached to the existing dwelling. Importantly, coops are out: cooperative units are not eligible.

The greatest effect is on Santa Clarita foreclosed homes for sale that need a lot of work. HUD guidelines indicate that properties that have been demolished, or will be taken down as part of the renovation, may be eligible — as long as at least some of the existing foundation remains.

As you might expect, none of this helpful news comes without some practical caveats. Although you may get this kind of FHA rehab help for a foreclosure, this is a labor-intensive type of loan requiring multiple appraisals (including “as-is” and “Value After Rehabilitation”), licensed contractor projections, and more. Since time factors are always important when dealing with a foreclosure, it’s important to choose your backup team carefully. You will need to select the right lender and consider enlisting a team consisting of a mortgage broker and real estate professional – both of whom have experience getting approval for FHA 203(k) loans. You want pros who understand the extra steps involved, not those who simply tell you what you want to hear.

Most likely, you will want to get actual pre-approval for the FHA loan (not just a prequalification letter).  There is a lot of additional paperwork involved, and you will want to avoid a last-minute scramble once your desired property is on the line.

 

Getting Your Home Ready for the Market

As a seller, your No. 1 goal is to sell your home as quickly as possible at or near the listing price. In today’s market, where there is much more competition for buyers, it is important to put your best foot, or in this case, home forward because first impressions are vital.
Many of today’s prospective homebuyers have busy lifestyles and are looking for properties that don’t require a lot of work. Therefore a home in move-in condition is much more attractive. Before placing your home on the market, you may want to invest in making needed repairs.
To get started, inspect both the inside and outside of the home. Take inventory of practical and aesthetic repairs. You may want to apply a fresh coat of paint on the walls, doors, and shutters. Clean the carpet and buff and polish wooden floors. Tighten and polish hardware. Repair cracks in sidewalks and driveways, and clean any stains on them. Replace missing or warped roofing. Clean or re-grout kitchen and bathrooms. Repair dripping faucets and drains or plumbing fixtures that aren’t operating.
Fix sticking doors and replace old locks and doorknobs. Replace old bulbs and broken electrical sockets. Replace cracked windows and torn screens. Repair broken fencing and reseal the deck. Clean up stains on the tiles and countertops.
Some experts also recommend hiring a certified home inspector to thoroughly and impartially evaluate the property. (For a list of inspectors in your area, visit the American Society of Home Inspectors website, www.ashi.com, or ask your real estate professional for recommendations.) A standard report will review the condition of the home’s heating system, central air conditioning, plumbing and electrical systems, the roof, attic, walls, ceilings, floors, windows and doors, the foundation, basement and visible structure.
If there are recommendations for improvement, consult with your real estate professional in prioritizing the list of repairs.
Depending on your goals and budget, you may want to repair only items that could cause significant deterioration to the home, such as a leak. In addition, your local market conditions may dictate how extensive your repairs need to be. Let your budget and your real estate professional guide you.
However, be careful about major repairs. Sellers rarely recoup money on major remodeling projects, and you may want to save funds for your new home.
A home in good condition demonstrates pride of ownership. Taking the time to make small repairs to your home can go a long way in making sure that your home is presented to potential buyers in its best possible light. They also just might make the sale.