Why Smart Homebuyers Hire Home Inspectors

From our hero, Dave Ramsey:

Home inspections are an indispensable part of the home-buying process. Buying a home without one is the same as buying a car without even kicking the tires.

Any good real estate agent will recommend you include a home inspection clause when you make an offer on a house. That usually means you’ll be paying for the inspection, so you need to know what you’re getting for your money.

The Value of a Home Inspector

A qualified home inspector combs a property’s visible and accessible areas to identify any health and safety problems, positive or negative conditions of the property and any conditions that need further specialized attention.

An inspection includes structural elements such as the roof, foundation, walls, windows, doors, insulation, basement or crawlspace and attic. Electrical, plumbing, heating and cooling systems are also part of a home inspection. It can even include examination of appliances and should also report any evidence of termites.

Once the inspection is complete, a home inspector provides a written, comprehensive report detailing any issues with the home.

Some important things to remember about home inspection reports:

  • No home is perfect. It is not uncommon for a report to include 50 or more issues.
  • This is not “pass” or “fail.” The inspection gives you the information you need to decide whether or not to buy the home “as is” or negotiate with the seller to either fix (some of) the problems or reduce the price.
  • This is not a warranty. The report identifies issues found the day of inspection and cannot predict problems that may arise a few months or a few days down the road.

You Are Not A Home Inspector

Home inspection is another one of those jobs best left to professionals. Few of us have the expertise to identify electrical, plumbing and structural problems. Combine that with the emotional factors of buying a home, and it’s easy to see why potential buyers are not the ones who need to do the inspecting.

With that said, it’s a good idea to accompany your home inspector so you can ask questions and see the good and not-so-good for yourself.

How to Find a Good Inspector

Your real estate agent can guide you to a website that has a list of licensed home inspector in your state.  If you’d rather choose your own, be aware that only about half the states have licensing or certification requirements. In either case, you want an inspector with plenty of experience. Check out the American Society of Home Inspectors, www.ashi.org, for more information on selecting an inspector.

Home inspection fees vary but are usually well under $1,000. Considering how much an inspection can save you by avoiding potential disasters, it’s money well spent.

Easy Ways to Increase Home Value

Courtesy of our hero, Dave Ramsey:

Set yourself up to reap the most value when you sell

When it comes time to sell your house, one of the worst mistakes you can make is to think your home’s appearance won’t affect its value. Take some time to spruce it up so you can sell it for the best possible price. Think about the following projects:

Landscape it
First impressions are everything, and your yard is no exception. Your curb appeal could be the difference between a drive-by and a stop and stare! Most people make a decision whether or not they want to go inside the house during the moment in which they first glance at the home. Trim back hedges so windows are visible, weed and mulch flower beds to increase contrast, and edge and trim your lawn to add a clean look to the front of your house.

Coat it
Give your house a facelift with a new coat of paint. A gallon of paint goes a long way and only costs you around $15 per can. If you want to save even more money, paint the house yourself. You will be amazed by the difference a new coat of paint will make for your home’s appearance and value.

Repair it
Squeaky hinges, rusty door knobs, leaky faucets, and wobbly banisters—just a few of the things a screwdriver and a little grease can fix. You can fix these small problems without having to pay big bucks for an inspector. Do little things around the house to get big results.

Clean it
Cleaning your house may seem like common sense, but you may be surprised how uncommon it is for homeowners to declutter the home before it goes on the market! A messy home is one quick way to scare people off and kick dirt on the price. Host a garage sale for unused furniture and other items you don’t need that are taking up space. Dust off the mantle, and store books and CDs that aren’t being used. Create a clean feel in your home, and you’ll enhance its value.

These types of do-it-yourself projects are inexpensive and can produce quick results. If you do these things, you will set yourself up to reap the most value when it comes time to sell your home.

from daveramsey.com on 29 Jun 2010

Our First Realtor Open House was a Huge Success!

Arcara Residential’s first Realtor open house was a HUGE success today.  The attendance was better than we had anticipated with about 100 realtors in attendance.  A fabulous Chinese Buffet was served and the attendance was so great we had to pick up more food.  Each agent received a fortune cookie after lunch to open with a total of $700 in prize money hidden inside.  Congratulation to Seth Underwood who won a $100 prize and to the other 50 agents also won money.  The feedback on this gated community was very positive.  Over heard were comments like, “great location”, “beautiful crafted homes”, “great value”, and “I have got to sell one of these”.  Thank you to Wayne and Susan Duke, the Arcara Residential agents at Brooke’s Crossings, whose hard work made this event a huge success and to all the agents who attended the event.

A Wish List for a Dream Home

by Carla Hill

Your real estate agent may not be your fairy godmother, but they have powers to grant you many of your home buying wishes.

Your first step in finding your dream home? You must develop a strong image in your mind, and a sound list for your agent, of what you want of your dream home.

To make this process a little less daunting, consider these categories:

  • Location: It has been lauded for years as the most important factor when it comes to the saleability and pricing of home, and it’s a good place to start when compiling your wish list. Do you want a short commute to work? Are you looking for a waterfront property? Do you want to be near family? Is there a particular neighborhood you want to make home? These are all important questions that will help your agent narrow their search for your dream home.
  • Neighborhood: If you are looking for a family home, then you need to research the local schools. Is there a particular school district you want to be in, or perhaps to stay in? Are you wanting a neighborhood within walking distance to shops and restaurants? Or perhaps you prefer something more quiet, or on a cul-de-sac.
  • Home Styles: Do you prefer large, open floorplans and Modern architecture? Or are you a fan of cozy and functional Country style plans? A Tudor style home is exemplified by tall, narrow windows with small panes and a reminiscence of Medieval looks. Or how about Victorian style homes, which feature elaborate details on the exterior and interior of the home?
  • Home Features: Not every buyer is seeking the same features. What is it that you desire most? Fireplaces, guest bathrooms, an open floor plan, formal dining, a media room, covered porches, a screened porch, a large finished garage, or a pool? The same concept goes for decorative features, including flooring preferences, crown molding, and exterior siding.
  • Condition: Are you on the lookout for a fixer-upper? Some buyers thrive on the challenge of restoring a former beauty to its original glory. Or are you the type that wishes for new construction, so you can put your own mark on the property? Also consider the idea of townhomes and condos, which can afford the homeowner even more freedom from maintenance.

Use these categories as a starting point for creating your own wish list. And then pass it on to your own fairy godmother!

Choosing the Right Loan Program

Those who take property ownership seriously often look for options to build equity at a faster pace. An aggressive approach is to select a 15-year loan program over a 30-year mortgage.

A 15-year loan works well for home buyers budgeting time and money, those who are possibly looking forward to a debt-free retirement, or those who plan to upgrade to a larger home within 15 years. But this requires a sincere commitment to making substantially larger monthly payments.

Provided the homeowner can afford the financial commitment of a 15-year loan, they will pay significantly less money in interest simply because the life of the loan is spread over a shorter period of time. This will also result in a larger tax deduction; but again, over a shorter period of time. However, they need to be aware that unless they are extremely financially secure, even a minor setback can have a tragic impact on their ability to make mortgage payments on time and in full. The bottom line is that it’s probably not a good idea to put all available cash into a mortgage payment and lose any hope of a financial cushion in the event of emergency.

A less vulnerable approach is to consider making principal prepayments on a 30-year loan, or to invest the extra dollars into another type of asset accumulation account. Here the compelling question is, is it better to take the risk of a non-guaranteed investment, or bank on the guaranteed savings on mortgage interest?

Making prepayments on a 30-year loan is often deemed to be the safer route, and the borrower can make the extra payment when they want to, rather than through obligation. If the homeowner has made less than a 20% down payment, principal prepayment offers them the ability to have their loan reviewed by the lender for the purpose of removing any private mortgage insurance payment (PMI) earlier than expected. First, the borrower needs to discuss prepayment procedures with their lender, and take into consideration whether there is any prepayment penalty associated with their financing before initiating prepayments. They should also note that principal prepayment reduces mortgage interest, which is tax deductible. Depending on what their tax bracket is, this may or may not be beneficial to them.

If the extra money is invested in some other vehicle, the earnings will be reduced by taxes (unless the money goes into a tax-exempt fund). The borrower should compare the mortgage rate to the rate of return on another type of investment, and decide if it makes more sense on an after-tax basis to invest the extra money somewhere else and have the ability to liquidate those assets if necessary.

Bi-weekly mortgage plans are another option for building equity at a faster rate, but consumers should be wary of companies that ask for a setup fee and monthly charges. The most important thing to note is that each client has different goals. These are just a few options for building equity.

High Credit Score = Low Mortgage Rate

Credit scoring was developed in the 1960’s as a means to determine whether or not consumers were likely to repay their loans. The score ranges from 350 to 850 with a higher score being extremely favorable. Essentially, a high credit score translates into lower interest rates for the borrower.

There are five factors that comprise the credit score. Payment history accounts for 35% of the score; outstanding credit balances have a 30% impact; credit history makes up 15%, type of credit factors at 10%; and inquiries influence the score by 10%. This gives the lender a snapshot of an individual’s sense of financial responsibility and ability to pay back loans.

There are many quick tricks to improve the credit score, and a qualified mortgage lender can provide borrowers with more information on this subject. If necessary, they can guide them to a reliable resource for credit remediation. If a borrower has to pay a higher interest rate to close a loan, the tarnished credit rating will begin to improve once mortgage payments are made on time and in full. If that is the case, they can be on the watch to alert the borrower when an opportunity arises to refinance or qualify for a loan to purchase a home a lower interest rate.

Arcara Residential – First Closing!

We were thrilled to have our first closing at Arcara Residential today!

Pictured from left to right are Arcara Residential agent Tom Becker, closing Attorney Shan Paden, Greg Arcara, Keller Williams Buyer’s Agent Sharon Ryder, and Purchaser Travis Hull.

This was first for many of us today. Tom was the first Arcara Residential agent to write a contract at the company and the first agent to close a home. Travis Hull the buyer is attending UAB medical school and this is his first home. His wife is back home in Penn and about to give birth to their first child in about 2 weeks. She will be moving down with the baby after the birth. This was also a first for the Keller Williams agent Sharon Ryder. She has just returned to real estate after a 2 year absence and this is her first closing since coming back into the business. Travis bought a new HPH home in Black Creek Station.

Pre-Qualification Verus Pre-Approval

Pre-qualification is the first step in obtaining mortgage financing. A potential borrower answers a few questions to provide the loan consultant with a quick snapshot of the borrower’s income, existing debt, accumulated savings and whether or not there is a co-borrower. Signature(s) allow the loan consultant to run a credit report and begin to determine what loans are good candidates for this particular client. However, there are literally thousands of loan programs available. It is important for the loan professional to know the long-term financial objectives of the prospective homeowner.

Pre-approval is a written documentation that proves the borrower has full support of a lender. It means the form 1003 Uniform Residential Loan Application has been completed and reviewed by an underwriter. Based on the borrower’s income, debt ratio and savings, the underwriter will provide a dollar amount this borrower is eligible for. Now the borrower has the convenience of shopping for a home in the price range agreed upon by the lender.

Pre-approval allows potential homeowners to shop as cash buyers, and that means negotiating power. Sellers will take an offer from a pre-approved shopper much more seriously and they know the financing is in place and the deal is secure.

Staging Your Home To Sell Fast

30 Can’t-Miss Staging Tips To Sell Your Home Fast

– Arcara Residential wants to share some staging tips, from Designed to Sell designer Lisa LaPorta:

  • Grimy bathroom walls are a major red flag to buyers.

Here is an easy way to get rid of surface mold: Mix a spray bottle with one part water and one part bleach. Just spray it on the wall, and watch the mold disappear. Give it a fresh coat of paint, and your grimy bathroom will go from red flag to red-hot.

  • Don’t replace a yucky shower door: Just scour it.

A grimy glass shower door can really wash out your sale. Instead of replacing it, clean it with a mixture of one part muriatic acid and about 10 parts water. Scrub with steel wool. After wiping it down, reinstall the door and you’ll have a shower that’ll help you clean up at the open house.

Avoid dated tile by painting.

Bathrooms sell houses, but dated tile in a bathroom doesn’t. A low-cost alternative to replacing the tile is to use paint. First coat the tiles with a high-adhesion primer. Next, brush on a special ceramic epoxy covering. For a fraction of the cost of new tile, you will have an up-to-date bathroom that brings in big bucks.

  • Pedestal sinks are a big hit with buyers.

They show off square footage in small bathrooms beautifully. First, your old vanity has to go. Next, just hook up your new sink, and your bathroom will have dramatic appeal that brings in big bucks. Plus, buyers will see how much floor space your bathroom has.

  • A master bedroom should appeal to both sexes.

When you are selling, your master bedroom should appeal to buyers of both sexes. Get rid of features that seem too gender-specific. Paint the walls a neutral color, and choose bedding that matches. Then accessorize with items that complement the overall color scheme.

  • Do you have an overpowering brick fireplace that sticks out like a sore thumb?

Here’s an easy way to tone it down with paint. Use a rag or brush to rub a light coat of paint on the bricks, one at a time. This will give them a new tone without covering them completely. And, if you use a paint color that matches the walls, your fireplace will go from sticking out to standing out.

  • Updating an old fireplace screen is a cheap (and quick) fix.

After removing the screen and wiping it down to get rid of the dust, mask off the windows so you won’t get paint on them. Then, using a can of heat-resistant spray paint, give the screen a facelift. Hold the can about 18 inches away, and use long, even strokes. or less than $5, you will have a fireplace screen that’ll keep your sale from going up in smoke.

  • Turn an unattractive fireplace into a selling feature.

Need to turn an unattractive fireplace into a selling feature? First, that dated brass screen has got to go. Next, give the fireplace a good cleaning, scrubbing it with soap and water. Then, using a stone color enhancer, polish the bricks to make them shine. In no time you will have a fireplace that will turn your house into the hottest property on the block.

  • Stain dated kitchen cabinets instead of replacing them.

Dated kitchen cabinets can be a big turnoff to potential buyers. Instead of paying big bucks to replace them, just stain them. First, apply the stain in even strokes, going with the grain of the wood. Add some stylish hardware, and your kitchen will have the up-to-date look that buyers love, for less than $200.

  • Stainless-steel appliances are definitely in with buyers.

Instead of buying a new dishwasher, here is a low-cost way to resurface an old one: First, remove the front panels, and clean them. Next, apply a stainless-steel stick-on covering, and cut it to size. For just $20 your dishwasher will go from outdated to ultra-modern.

  • Fill existing hardware holes instead of making new, unsightly ones.

Removing old kitchen hardware can leave your cabinets with stripped-out holes. Here is a trick to reusing the existing ones. First, dip a toothpick in glue and place it in the stripped hole. Cut off the excess piece. Once the glue dries, you’ll be ready to put in the hardware that buyers love.

  • Save money on granite countertops.

Granite countertops are a huge selling feature, but they can be expensive. Here are a few ways to save on this investment: First, do the demo yourself. Also, ask the vendor for remnants from previous projects. Remember, any money you spend will definitely be returned in the value these beautiful counters add to your kitchen.

  • New kitchen appliances bring high returns from sellers.

Studies show that new kitchen appliances bring high returns from sellers, so get rid of old appliances that make the rest of the kitchen look dated. Once you install the new equipment, it will scream “new kitchen,” and you will see that spending a little money will make you even more.

  • Need to dress up a window but don’t want to shell out big bucks for window treatments?

Here’s a trick: Use place mats. First, apply a hook-and-loop fastener to the place mats and attach them in a row to a basic curtain rod. Now that the place mats are attached to the curtain rods, pin them together at the bottom, and you’ll have a stylish valance that costs about $12.

  • Adding drama to old hardwood flooring is easier than you might think.

First, isolate damaged boards, cut them out and replace them with new pieces. Rent a sander from a local hardware store, and give the floor a good sanding. The last step is to stain the boards with a rich color, and watch your floor go from drab to dramatic in no time.

  • Buyers love built-in bookshelves.

There’s a fine line between filling them with clutter and staging them to sell. The trick is to arrange neutral items in clusters. Make sure that no single accessory stands out too much. That way, you’ll show off your attractive built-ins, and not your personal belongings.

  • Curb appeal is vital to attracting buyers.

Here is how to stop traffic using color. First, with two tones of paint, add a faux finish to any corner keystones. Next, bring out the color of walkway pavers using a stone sealer. Plant flowers in bloom, and you’ll have buyers swarming like bees to your front door.

  • A nice outdoor deck can be a big selling feature, but an old one is a major liability.

To give your outdoor space new life, first sand the wood. Cover it with a light-colored stain instead of paint to give it a rustic, grainy look. Furnish it for entertaining, and watch your open house turn into a party.

  • Breathe new life into a worn patio.

Do you have a red-brick patio surface that needs to be freshened up? Here is an easy way to give it new life with paint. First, roll a light coat of paint onto the bricks. Next, lightly spray them with water and then dab them before they dry to give them an outdoor look. When you are done, you will have a patio that looks fresh and reels in buyers.

  • Staging rooms to show off their true potential is essential when selling your home.

Clear out clutter or other personal items that will distract buyers. Paint the walls a neutral tone, and furnish the space to show off how functional it is. When buyers come through and imagine themselves there, you can bet an offer isn’t far behind.

  • A shabby wood-panel wall is not a strong selling point.

Instead of ripping it out, cover it up. Use wood filler to carefully fill in all the cracks between the panels. Then, use a sponge to wipe away the excess filler. Once it’s dry, paint the room. You’ll see an unattractive wall go from standing out to blending in.

  • Use tape outlines on the floor instead of actually moving furniture around.

Rearranging a room to stage it for your open house? Here is a tip to save time and effort: Instead of lugging the heavy furniture around the room to see what feels best, put outlines on the floor with painter’s tape. Arrange the room according to your outlines, and save your energy for counting offers.

  • Vinyl tile is an inexpensive way to update your home.

Laying vinyl tile is an inexpensive way to update your home, but there’s a right way and a wrong way to do it. You need to avoid laying patterns that look too perfect. Instead, make sure to switch up the direction and placement of the tiles to mix the tones. That way, you end up with a floor that has a natural feel.

  • Let the sun shine in.

Buyers love light and airy living rooms, but dark and dingy isn’t on their list. Open up your window shades to let some light in. Cheat some sunshine with a light-colored paint and lots of artificial lighting. You can never have too many lamps. Last, arrange the space with lightly colored furniture, and you’ll have a living room that brightens your chances of a sale.

  • Stage rooms with one purpose so buyers will know what it is.

Potential buyers are confused by extra rooms that have a mishmash of uses. To avoid this problem, first clear away clutter and excess furniture. Paint the walls a neutral tone and then furnish the room with a desk to stage it as a home office in which buyers will want to get down to business.

  • Unpleasant pet odors won’t win over buyers.

We all love our pets, but unpleasant pet odors can make a negative first impression. Be sure to get rid of old carpet that can trap offensive smells. Replace it with fresh new carpet in a neutral color. Plus, if you paint the walls to match, your living room will look bigger. It’ll go from designed to smell to designed to sell.

  • Pack up unnecessary items and furniture before you show the house.

An over packed living room is a red flag to buyers that your home lacks storage space. Pack up unnecessary items and furniture, and move items to your garage or a nearby storage facility. Clear the way for a sale by letting buyers see your square footage, not your personal belongings.

  • Storage space sells!

Potential buyers love homes that have lots of storage space. Since they will open your closets, it’s a good idea to clear out unnecessary clutter, and organize your shelves to show off how much storage you really have. Plus, it gives you a chance to start packing, as you will definitely be moving once buyers see all that closet space.

  • Create a nice flow in your rooms.

Buyers are attracted to homes that have a good flow. You can create circulation by replacing square or rectangular dining tables with round ones. Cutting the corners adds room to this maneuver and creates a spin-off effect that adds flow to your home — cash flow, that is.

  • Create a better flow in the house by starting with the floor.

Want to create better flow in your house? Start with the floor. Join two rooms together by using the most cost-efficient material in the book: vinyl tile. First, use a snap-line to create a center point between the two rooms. Next, the fun part: Peel and stick the new vinyl tile down, and watch your kitchen and dining room go from old to sold!

Pricing Your Home to Sell

Pricing decisions should be grounded in reality

 -By Marcie Geffner. 

When the time comes to price your home for sale, you may be tempted to start with the price you paid for it, add a healthy markup and call it a day. Unfortunately, that strategy is unlikely to result in a true reflection of your home’s market value.

Here are six strategies to help you figure out how much your home is worth:

1. Abandon your personal point of view. How much will a ready, willing and able buyer be willing to pay for your home? Buyers don’t care how much you paid for the home, how many memorable moments you and your family shared in the home, how much cash you need for the down payment on your next home or how much time and money you’ve invested in your home’s hardwood floors, fresh paint, lush landscaping or other improvements.

2. Get a CMA. Invite a real estate agent to visit your home and give you their opinion of its likely selling price. Ask for a “comparative market analysis” (CMA), which shows the prices of comparable recently sold homes, on-the-market homes and homes that were on the market, but weren’t sold. The on-the-market homes are the “competition” for your home. Ask the agent why each home was included in the CMA and whether any other comparable homes were eliminated from the CMA. Price recommendations based on CMAs aren’t gospel. Some agents will tell you to under-price your home in hope of sparking a bidding war. Others will suggest a flatteringly high price to “buy” your listing only to demand a price reduction a few weeks later.

3. Do your own market research. Go to open houses in your neighborhood and try to make an impartial assessment of how those homes compare to yours in terms of location, size, amenities and condition. Assuming all the asking prices were the same, would you buy your home or someone else’s?

4. Calculate the price per square foot. The average price per square foot for homes in your neighborhood shouldn’t be the sole determinant of the asking price for your home, but it can be a useful starting point. Keep in mind that various methodologies can be used to calculate square footage.

5. Consider market conditions. Are home prices in your area trending upwards or downwards? Are homes selling quickly or languishing? Will your home be on the market in the spring home-buying season or the dead of winter? Are interest rates attractive? Is the economy hot or cold? Will you be selling in a buyer’s market or a seller’s market? Is the local job market strong or are employees fearful of staff reductions?

6. Sweeten the transaction terms. Some buyers have needs that go beyond the bottom line. If you’re willing to close escrow quickly, you’ll attract buyers who want to move in right away. If you can offer seller-financing, your home will appeal to buyers who need to stretch their financial resources. A lease-option can help first-timers who need down payment assistance. The more creative and flexible you can be in meeting the buyer’s needs, the more success you’ll have in pricing your home to sell.

All information on this website is deemed reliable, but not guaranteed, and may change without notice. Any square footage is approximate.

Property of Arcara Residential, LLC; 771 2nd Street; Helena, AL 35080