September 15, 2015

Real Estate Tips: Transitioning into fall.

Filed under: Real Estate — Chuck @ 10:45 am

When kids head back to school, most families are going to be too busy to devote much time to home buying and selling. Then, before you know, the year-end holidays will arrive and from Halloween all the way through New Year’s Day and beyond, real estate will likely take a back seat with other activities occupying your clients’ and potential clients’ time. That transition from the busier time for real estate sales to the traditionally slow colder months can be difficult for real estate professionals, because it can mean less opportunity for income and for generating lucrative sales and marketing leads.

One thing to focus on, though, is that there are still a few weeks left during which you can take advantage of the summer sales season while it still continues. Don’t stop being active, as some real estate agents do, because August can be a very profitable month – especially if you work harder to educate buyers and sellers about the seasonality of real estate and the opportunities that “shoulder seasons” – the one that bridge the busier months with the slowdown period – can represent.

Engage with homeowners who have properties listed with you, for example, and emphasize to them the importance of acting now – before the season ends – because it is also in their best interest. If their home doesn’t sell in August, the chances of it selling may start to diminish, shrinking week by week as the weather grows colder. Many home sellers have their home listed above the price that buyers in today’s market are willing to pay, for instance, and strategically lowering the asking price to a more attractive level in August can inspire a quick sale.

There is also the cost of maintenance to consider on vacant properties, both in terms of the higher cost of utilities to keep them heated but also because of mortgage and insurance payments that must be made. Homeowners who sell now can avoid all of those costs – but if they don’t sell they could have to keep shelling out money until the market activity picks again next year in the spring. Most homeowners don’t factor in all these costs, but as their Realtor you can break it all down with line item clarity to help them understand the real, bottom line cost of holding out for a higher price.

Oftentimes, in fact, lowering the asking price by a small percentage winds up saving them money in the long run – since they no longer have the responsibility of maintenance, upkeep, and mortgage, insurance, and tax obligations. Wintertime is usually much harder on homes that warm weather, too, so that repairs may be needed six months from now that can add to the cost of home ownership and undercut the value of equity and profit. So one of the best uses of your time in August is to have informed, serious discussions with homeowners about their pricing and selling strategies.

As far as buyers are concerned, you can also educate them about the same seasonal trends. Let them know that many homeowners get antsy in August, especially if their house has not received any serious offers in a while. That can be a great opportunity for a qualified buyer to make an offer and walk away with a great home at a great price – versus waiting and risking the chance that mortgage interest rates may start their long-anticipated rise from current historically low levels.

Home Inspection Issues: Little annoyances that may be symptoms of major structural problems.

Filed under: Property Inspection — Chuck @ 10:43 am

Sticky doors, wall cracks, and wobbly floors can be aggravating, but the annoyance is usually rather minor in the grand scheme of things. That is why homeowners or buyers who have hired an inspector to check-out a property – before they put it on the market or proceed with buying it – are often perplexed when these items show up on the inspection report.
But the inspector is trained to look for telltale signs and symptoms that could potentially represent even larger and more significant problems. That’s the reason why an inspection report may recommend further investigation if the inspector notices what, to the untrained eye, may appear to be minor or superficial things.

Symptoms That Could Be Red Flags
Consider these rather inconspicuous details, that could potentially represent the tip of an iceberg, in terms of deeper and more important problems lurking elsewhere.
Cracks Above Door and Window Frames

When cracks form at the corners atop door and window frames, that can be easily dismissed as just cracking paint. But it may also be a symptom of stress being placed on the wall that shows up as cracking in the places where the wall is weakest at openings for doors and windows. What may be happening is that the framing of the house is actually warping to create that unwanted pressure. The same kinds of cracks also frequently appear when the foundation of the house is not stable. As the foundation shifts, it causes the walls to move and those seemingly minor cracks could be a warning sign.

Uneven Floors
Similarly, an uneven floor could be the result of an uneven foundation – or it could mean that there is a plumbing leak under the floor somewhere that is causing the subflooring to swell up and buckle. Then again, if a section of the floor joists supporting the floor is deteriorating or not properly installed to do its job, that could cause a wobbly floor or a dip.

Doors That Stick or Fall Open
Doors swell due to humidity, especially in months like August. That will probably be remedied as soon as the weather dries out, or if you just run a dehumidifier in your home. But the reason the door is sticking can, once again, be because there is extra pressure being placed around the doorframe – caused by something much more serious like a framing or foundation problem. If you open a door and instead of standing in place it keeps swinging all the way open – or swings closed all by itself – that can also be one of those minor occurrences that is just a symptom of a tilted wall, floor, or room.

What to Do Next
If a home inspection report mentions these kinds of things, don’t overlook them. They may not be serious at all because such symptoms can also be due to a more superficial cause. But because of the potential for them to mean something more profound you own it to yourself to have them investigated further. If you have any questions talk to the inspector for clarification. Then, if the report recommends calling a contractor for an evaluation, get bids from 2 or 3 and then hire the most qualified one you can find to check it out and see if, indeed, there is something noteworthy causing the swelling, cracking, unevenness, or whatever was reported.

Negotiating Between Buyers and Sellers
If repairs are warranted, the buyer and seller need to decide whether they need to be done prior to closing or whether they can be postponed. They will also need to negotiate regarding any costs related to consultation with the contractor or any repairs that are necessary. Normally either the buyer will pay them or they will give a discount to the seller to offset that expense, unless both parties agree to another financial arrangement

August Homeowner Tips

Filed under: Home Owner Tips — Chuck @ 10:40 am

August is a great time to perform two three important home maintenance tasks, namely feeding the lawn, checking for possible termite infestation, and photographing trees to monitor dead limb. Here are some tips on how to take care of those things as summer comes to a close.

Feed the Lawn
Many homeowners fertilize their lawns in the springtime. Far fewer do it again at the end of summer, which is also a vital time for feeding grass to ensure that it looks green and healthy next year. Lawn experts note that in the month of September grass growth begins to slow, so August is one of the prime months for boosting soil fertility. Neglecting the late-summer feeding, when the weather is particularly hot and humid in most places, can leave the lawn weakened for lack of adequate nutrition – and that makes it more vulnerable to a variety of diseases and blights.
But if you take the time to feed your lawn in August it will gain the strength needed to keep up its healthy resistance. Most lawns benefit from a high ration of nitrogen, a medium to high amount of potassium, and a moderately low feeding of phosphorus, and a controlled-release formula is usually best. To be sure what recipe of fertilizer will be the healthiest for your particular type of grass, consult the local agricultural extension service in your area.

Check for Termite Evidence
Every home is made from at least some wood, and for that reason it is important for every homeowner – even those with brick houses – to do routine checks for termite infestation. You may not be able to confirm an infestation, and you may not know whether the termites are still active. But you can examine for telltale signs that will help you spot a potential problem and address it in a proactive way to protect your property.

One thing to look for is the presence of mud-like material which creates an irregular pattern of thin lines or tubes that can resemble tiny vines made of dried mud. Subterranean termites live underground and use these pencil-sized tunnels to move back and forth from the moist subterranean nest to the wood, which is the food source supplying the nest. You’ll often see these kinds of tracks leading from the dirt up and across the exposed portion of the building’s foundation. Old tubes break and crumble into powder pretty easily, whereas active tubes may be less brittle and may even contain live termites.

Another sign of termite presence is piles of wings that have been shed by the creatures as they grow and evolve. If the paint on the wood is starting to buckle, that could also be an indicator of termite damage, and the same goes for tiny pinholes found in the wood. If you suspect termite damage you can tap on the wood with a rubber hammer. If the inside of the wood has been eaten away you should hear a hollow thud versus the solid sound made when tapping on a piece of healthy wood. Probing with a small knife may reveal tunnels that run parallel to the grain of the wood.

Of course you should not let these kinds of home maintenance be a substitute for a thorough termite inspection conducted by a qualified home inspector who specializes in pest control. Termites, wood-destroying ants, and other pests can do serious damage to your home while disguising themselves and avoiding you detection. So be sure to have a professional termite inspection done at least every 2-3 years.

Photograph Trees
People often find the suggestion to photograph trees odd, because to many homeowners it just doesn’t make sense. But arborists understand that monitoring the health of a tree can be difficult. You just don’t remember whether the tree looked the same last year or not. The solution is to stand under trees and photograph them from different angles while they are fully greened-out with foliage. What you’ll then look for is limbs that don’t have green leaves on them, because those may be dead or rotting. In the wintertime, after all the leaves are gone, you can get a closer look with a pair of binoculars or the help of an arborist. Monitoring trees from one year to the next in this way, aided by photographs, can help you spot trouble before it gets to the point that you have limbs falling on your car or your roof.