Home Inspections – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

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p: lasvegasrealproperty.com

If you are buying or selling a house in Chittenden County, Vermont then heed this warning, “The house may not pass a building inspection.” What do you mean, “pass an inspection?” Are inspections now pass or fail? The short answer is “yes.”

Your Purchase and Sale Contract may include an Inspection addendum, with the caveat “Inspection report shall be to Purchaser’s satisfaction.” Satisfaction? Like a Yelp review on a restaurant? Does satisfaction mean a 5-star review? Or just, yeah, okay, satisfactory, like a 3-star review. Or satisfaction like the Rolling Stones, “Can’t get no satisfaction?”

And finally, is it a case of, there are no bad inspections, just buyers with high expectations? Let’s explore.

Let’s dive into the good, a 5-star inspection. Congratulations, the house you are buying has no significant structural, mechanical, electrical or plumbing defects. You may move along toward closing, this contingency is satisfied and the purchase price on the original contract remains intact. Or, maybe the house needs some GFCIs (ground fault circuit interrupters) and a mixing valve on the hot water tank. Oh, and the smoke detectors are over 10 years old and now need to be photoelectric. As the seller you will have to sign a document that states the smoke/fire/co2 detectors meet the current electric code. Most sellers will concede to some electrical updating along with the smoke/fire/co2 detectors.

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p: thebalancesmb.com

Let’s look at a bad inspection, one that produces a laundry list of items that includes every historical leak (darn it, we knew we should have repainted the ceiling after the tub overflowed 5 years ago), creak, nail pop and flaw in the house, interior and exterior. The exterior suffers from peeling paint on the trim, curling asphalt shingles on the roof, gutters that are full of leaves and a driveway with potholes.

Now, let’s look at a plain old ugly inspection. This one has an active leak, usually a sewer pipe in the basement (don’t step in the puddle), mold (dead or alive?) in a poorly ventilated attic, and, everyone’s favorite, an old oil tank in the basement or an old furnace.

The issues that arise at inspection range from good, bad to ugly. That is why you want to hire an experienced real estate agent to walk you through the different scenarios. As a buyer, your agent can tell you which items you should ask the seller to take care of, if you should ask for money back, or if you should back out of the deal all together. As a seller, your agent will be able to advise you on which items are typically taken care of and what you can say no to.

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Are you Looking for a House or a Home?

DSCN4282Are you looking for a house or a home? This question seems redundant. Is there a distinct difference between a house and a home? Houses exist everywhere, they are easy to find. Finding a home is more elusive.

Looking out my kitchen window I can see two houses across the street. Opening my KW app (download the app here) on my phone it’s easy scroll “nearby houses” with photos and prices of houses in Williston. Jumping in my truck and driving to Shaw’s at Maple Tree Place I pass village houses, neighborhood houses and a condominium community all within my four-mile drive. These are all physical places where people live.

A house is a building where people live. Location, size, bedrooms, bathrooms typically define a house. For example, a friend may call and ask me to look for a 4-bedroom house within walking distance of UVM Medical Center. Moving involves changing your physical location from one house to another. Often, when showing a house I am asked, “Why are they selling?” In all cases, it’s simply because they are moving.

DSCN4717When it’s time to change your physical location, or move to a new house, many real estate agents will engage you in a “Buyer Consultation.” Notes from this meeting include your wants, needs, and wishes for your new house. Most of the time, this involves the components or features of a house. For example, small yard, space for a garden, privacy, flat driveway, ½ bath on first level, walk-out basement, two-car garage, pool, etc. Most important, though, is your preferred location. Discussions about location involve a particular lifestyle that will, eventually, lead to finding a home. Another conversation follows involving personal questions. These are lifestyle questions, which, may sound intrusive or prying, but this is what I need to know to help you find a home. To assist in this quest for a change in location, there is a need to assess your lifestyle. Hence, the need to tell me about yourself. From parrots to parties, please “tell all.” No need to feel self-conscious as I am not judging you, just trying to help you find a home. Include your preferred forms of recreation, shopping, eating, traveling, exercising, etc.

Finding a home is more elusive than finding a house. The word “home” elicits an emotional connection to a physical place where one reads, cooks, relaxes. Your home does not need to fit the physical definition of a house. It can be an apartment, a boat, a trailer, a cabin, a room over a garage, or a yurt.

600x600bb-85If you’re still skeptical, watch one of my favorite HGTV shows, Love It or List It. A simple premise of “should we stay or should we go?” The “Love It” portion involves designer Hilary. “List It” features David a real estate agent. While it may seem counterintuitive for me to cheer for the “Love It” part of the show, let me explain. David finds them a physical house that seems to meet their expressed need to move. Yet, the physical house that he finds does not meet their lifestyle needs. Either the commute is too long, the schools have changed, they are no longer near their favorite gym, restaurant, juice bar. In the end, the talented Hilary has revamped their living space to make it truly a “love it” and the place that they call “home.” In conclusion, the perfect house may not be the perfect home.

5  Inconvenient Truths About Finding a Good Real Estate Agent

Finding a good real estate agent may not be as easy as searching Google or Yelp, read on to learn why you can’t believe everything you see on the Internet when it comes to real estate.

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 1.05.40 PM1.     The “Premiere Agent” on Zillow has paid to be in that #1 position. Many agents pay third party search engines to pop up at the top of the list of real estate agents in your area. This truth extends to Realtor.com, Trulia.com and Yelp.com. Many times, your top local real estate experts who provide exceptional service and results stay in business through repeat clients, past client referrals, and general “word-of-mouth” networks. Ask your colleagues, friends and family who they recommend before jumping on the internet to look for an agent.

2.     All “public” websites that provide house searches include “for sale by owner” properties. Many buyers are thrown off guard when they find out that the house listed on Realtor.com and other real estate websites may not necessarily be offered through a real estate agency. Buyer beware as dealing directly with the owner may result in a “lopsided” transaction where the buyer is not aware of traditional real estate practices in their local area and many times is at a disadvantage dealing with the seller.

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 1.34.09 PM3.     Internet sites that promote “We will match you with a Top Agent” usually send your information to several agents that have signed up for that websites services. These agents scramble to be the “first” to contact you and the agents pay a hefty “finder” fee to the service.

4.     Reviews may not tell the whole story about an agent. While it’s interesting to read the 5 star reviews, sometimes when you see a “plethora” of them you may need to ask “Why are there so many reviews for this one agent?” There are no rules or regulations governing the procurement of these reviews from previous customers. Let that sink in.

5.     Sometimes your “marquee agents” burn and churn their clients. Again, the agents that pay to show up on searches may not be the type of agent that you are looking for. Many so-called “top” producing agents are working with multiple agents on their team who are doing most of the work with the buyers and sellers. You may not have access to the “top agent” at all.

 

Specialist or General Practitioner?

19437377_1440448489379498_3950650927319035020_nDo you need to hire a “specialist” or do you need a “general practitioner” when assessing the best real estate agent when you are looking to jump into the real estate market as a buyer or seller?

If you come across a real estate agent that is touting themselves as a “specialist” here’s what you need to ask:

“I see you are a ‘Listing Specialist’ do you ever take buyers out to look at homes?”

“I see you are a ‘Buyer Specialist’ do you ever list homes and meet sellers?”

If the answer is no, then proceed with caution. The only way you can “specialize” in today’s real estate market is to understand the market from the buyer’s and seller’s unique perspectives, rarely do these overlap.

As a “general practitioner” I work with both buyers and sellers. The combination of meeting with sellers for listings and taking buyers on home buying tours invites a unique perspective on the whole marketplace, not just a segment.

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P: msrealtors.org

If you don’t take buyers to see houses, how do you know how houses compare to each other in your local market? Likewise, if you don’t counsel sellers on pre-marketing strategies, how do you know the best way to position their house in the market compared to other houses you have taken buyers to see? The short answer is – you don’t! You don’t know how houses compare in your local market place unless you are “all over” the market in terms of buyers and sellers.

Instead of a “specialist” you need a general real estate practitioner. Much like a family doctor who sees a wide range of maladies, your general real estate practitioner deals with the whole market, buyers and sellers. At the core of a general real estate practitioner, one who deals with buyers and sellers, is a true “specialist.”

 

5 Tips to Make an Easy Move

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P: The Chicago Greenbox

Moving is stressful! Sure you are super excited about your new digs, but getting all of your things from point A to point B can be a pain. Follow our 5 tips for a stress-free move:

Use boxes wisely. Assign a set of boxes to each room, then pack like items together – glassware, linens, decorative items, etc. Make sure to clearly label each box with the room they are going to and what items are in the box – that way there will be zero confusion about where stuff belongs and you won’t need to open every box to find the silverware!

Pack for “a trip.” Pretend you are going on a 2 week vacation and pack a suitcase for each family member. That way, everyone will have what they need to function while things are packed away in boxes just before, during, and after the big move. Don’t forget to include valuables and important documents.

Get the essentials. To avoid several trips to the store on move day, buy everything you need for cleaning and organizing ahead of time. Get multi-purpose cleaner, paper towels,  a broom, shelf liners, furniture pads, etc. It also doesn’t hurt to include paper plates, plastic utensils, cups, and napkins for your first meal before unpacking. Pack everything in one box and keep it in your personal vehicle so you know where it is and can easily access it on move day.

Couple Moving Into New Home And Unpacking Boxes

P: iStock

Set up key areas. Once all of the boxes are in, start by unpacking the rooms you need to use to take good care of yourself. Set up your bed and put on the linens, stock the bathrooms with supplies, and unpack the kitchen.

Schedule breaks. You may just want to power through and get all of the boxes unpacked, but stopping to eat, taking a quick stroll through your new neighborhood, and going to sleep at a reasonable hour will keep you calm and energized.

Follow these tips for a smooth transition that will turn a traditionally stressful event into one of excitement!

Who Finds the House, Anyway?

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P: Realtor.com

When I first meet with buyers they ask, “Why do I need a real estate agent if I find the house?” They also show me the various apps they are using to search – Realtor.com, Zillow, etc. This is a good question, and one that many in the industry ponder. You enter your criteria on these websites, wait all day for your phone to ping, ring, or buzz, and then you contact your agent for a showing. Sounds easy, right?

After about three of these pop up showings, buyers tend to get discouraged. “But it looked so much better in photos,” and “I didn’t know that the neighbor had pit bulls until we drove up to the house,” are just some of the disappointments that befall the buyer.

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P: libn.com

And, to add to more stress and discouragement, some houses that pop up on your phone are not actually available to see as they may already be under contract with another, more fortunate buyer. Or, so the buyers think.

These scenarios occur when a buyer is “chasing the market.” You need to get ahead of the market by working with an experienced, professional real estate agent that knows the local market inside and out.

In fact, the house you are looking for is most likely going to be brought to your attention by your agent.

Since real estate expertise is something accumulated over years of going in and out of houses, townhouses, condos, and neighborhoods on a daily basis, it’s safe to say that an experienced agent will be able to find you a house that meets your needs.

Property MapOnce I know what you are looking for, I can “edit” the list of potential homes and hone in quickly on prime candidates. After we see a few houses together I will be able to figure out what will be ideal. What does that mean to you? It means you can relax. Don’t jump every time Zillow sends a notification. While it may meet your Zillow criteria, it may not meet your other wants and needs.

I only take on a few buyers at a time to give exceptional service and “house finding” expertise. Is the perfect house on the internet? Maybe, but an experienced agent will keep you “ahead” of the market, which is preferable to “chasing” the houses.

What is the Best Website or App for Finding a House?

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P: Realtor.com

Over the past several years the internet has opened up the “wide world of real estate” to buyers and sellers. Realtor.com and Zillow have been advertising heavily to promote the use of their websites and mobile apps for your home search. If you have been searching for a house for a while, you are probably asking, “Isn’t there anything else?” While each of these consumer sites has its pros and cons, the best source for up-to-date local real estate information continues to be your favorite real estate agent.

It’s happened to most all home buyers. After months of sitting on a couch perusing houses, photos, and prices you will have to email or call a real estate agent to see a house that you think may work. You finally take that next, bold step only to hear, “oh, sorry, that house is no longer available.” Or, “yes, that is a good price, all of the pipes have been stripped out and it needs to be a ‘cash only’ transaction.” Sigh, this is harder than you thought.

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P: Zillow

After several weeks of clicking on the “preferred” agent for an online property and fielding many call backs, you are frustrated. It’s not as easy as it looks on the Realtor.com or Zillow television commercial. First, some of the houses are no longer available for sale. Second, some houses have incorrect information. Third, some houses are ‘for sale by owners’ and what if you want to use a real estate agent? What is missing here? Do you feel like you are chasing the Holy Grail?

At this point in your search it is best to cut your losses, bite the bullet and make a call to find a professional, experienced real estate professional to help with your search. But why, oh why? Can’t you just continue to look on your own unhampered by another human? Yes, you can go it alone but you will continue to be frustrated. Best thing to do is ask your friends, relatives, and/or colleagues for a referral to a local, trusted real estate agent.

dscn2729The benefit to you, the consumer, is that once you have decided to reach out to a professional, you are in good hands. In the real estate world at KW Vermont, Keller Williams Realty, our culture of sharing and helping one another succeed results in a cooperative environment that may result in a quicker, smoother process. Some houses are not yet out in the “wide world of real estate” for various buyer or seller reasons. We work with buyers and sellers every day and network to find houses, sell houses and get our clients “out in front” of the market.

So, stop chasing houses. Get in “front” of the market. Ditch your app for a human.

Our Top 5 Home Trends for 2016

Thinking about a home renovation project or just want to spice up your decor for the New Year? You want to be sure that the items and projects you invest in will stand the test of time, and are not dated fads of years past, especially if you are planning to put your house on the market.

Here are our top 5 favorite home trends for 2016:

  1. P: BHG

    P: BHG

    Mismatched Cabinets – Add interest to your kitchen by pairing 2 different cabinet styles, varying in color or texture. Think a light color on wall-mounted cabinets and a darker color on cabinets under the counter. Or choose 1 color for wall cabinets and a different color for an island.

  2. P: bostondesignguide.com

    P: bostondesignguide.com

    Statement Pendant – Change the look and feel of a room just by updating the light fixture. You can find pendant lights in a variety of shapes and sizes, from brightly colored lanterns to industrial style metal-shaded fixtures.

  3. Fireplaces – The fireplace is once again becoming the focal point of rooms. Don’t ignore
    P: HGTV

    P: HGTV

    this feature if you have it! Arrange your furniture to put the fireplace center stage. Have a non-working fireplace? No problem, you can still dress it up to make it shine. Fill it with candle holders of varying heights to cast a warm fire-like glow.

  4. Black Stainless Appliances – Instead of shiny new silver, it
    P: CNET

    P: CNET

    looks like sleek black stainless steel appliances will be the finish choice of the future.

  5. Mixed Materials – Create a truly unique space by combining a variety of styles like a rustic wood, sleek tile, shiny metals, and vintage finds.

P.S. Mason jars are so 2015, and word on the street is that the rustic chic look is on the way out.

Why It Does Not Make Sense To Buy Direct From The Homeowner

P: terencetait.ca

P: terencetait.ca

When searching for a home you are going to come across For Sale By Owner properties, either while looking online or driving through a neighborhood you’d like to live in. You may think that buying direct from a seller should be much simpler than involving real estate agents, but FSBOs offer their own set of challenges.

Before you take the plunge into purchasing direct from the Homeowner there are a few factors to consider:

  1. The Homeowner is not required to disclose any information that is not in their best interest. They may have immediate answers to all of your questions but they do not need to be held accountable for any misinformation or “fluffing” of the facts.
  1. Homeowners who are selling on their own have lots of time on their hands. They are in no rush to sell and will hold out for the highest price possible, even if it means waiting two or three years.
  1. The Homeowners typically overprice their property. They are not saving you any money. They are saving themselves a fee for service that Realtors charge for selling the house and adding it to their side of the transaction. Many buyers fall in love with the “by owner” and are willing to overpay for the property.
  1. You will feel pressured not to give the Homeowner accurate feedback about the property. Homeowners will try to convince you that their house is the best ever. They will take you through every nook and cranny to show the value of their house. It just isn’t human nature to give a truthful opinion to a Homeowner.
  1. You never know if the Homeowner is really interested in accepting your offer. Many will tell you they have “another interested party” or an “out-of-state buyer” that is chomping at the bit to buy their property.
  1. The best properties are listed with a Realtor who has taken the time to make sure all of the proper Seller Property Disclosures and inspections are in order.

With so many drawbacks to buying direct from a homeowner, it makes sense for buyers to focus on homes sold by agents. As a buyer it only benefits you to have a Buyer’s Agent (read our previous post on Why Do I Need A Buyer’s Agent) who will walk you through the entire purchase process from putting in an offer to closing – and make sure that you are getting the best value for your money.

Pre-Qualification Vs. Pre-Approval – What Gives?

mortgageYou’ve been looking at homes online for a while, when all of a sudden your dream home appears! You call your Realtor and they ask if you have been pre-qualified for a loan with a mortgage loan officer.

“What? All I want to do is look at a house.”

The mortgage loan officer will give you a price range that fits with your current income so that you know what you can afford. You don’t want to walk into your dream home and walk out not being able to make an offer.

Our friend and Senior Loan Officer with PrimeLending, Heather Torre tackles a common question amongst buyers – what’s the difference between getting pre-qualified or pre-approved:

I get asked this question numerous times a week: “What is the difference between a pre-qualification and a pre-approval?”  Over the years, my answer has changed.  Here’s the history…

When I first started lending back in 2002, I counseled buyers and Realtors alike to be sure they were getting a “pre-approval” before they got in the car and went looking at homes.  Back then, a pre-qualification was nothing more than an educated guess given by a Loan Officer taking basic information, punching numbers on a calculator and giving a hopeful client a number to go shopping with.  A pre-approval went a few steps further… the Loan Officer gathered pay stubs, tax returns, W2s, bank statements and pulled credit reports.  They then used factual data to produce the number thier buyers eagerly awaited – and could count on.

Today, with mortgage regulation changes, we have shifted the terminology a bit.  A pre-qualification now requires all of the same work and documentation that a pre-approval used to.  The term “pre-approval” has virtually disappeared as it now represents a loan commitment – basically a conditional commitment issued by an underwriter after review of the same documents a Loan Officer would have looked at, but they can go a step further and review any potential issues, as well.  In some cases, we do offer these – when there is something we just cannot approve on our own upfront, or feel that it warrants having the person who will do the ultimate approval review up-front.

Bottom line – regardless of the terminology, if your Loan Officer has not asked you for any documents nor have they pulled your credit, ask them to – or find someone who will go the “extra” mile (it’s their job!) and make sure that you can confidently go find the home of your dreams!