Archive for Home Sellers

What you need to know about Home Inspections

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It is estimated that about 70 percent of all homes sold receive a home inspection. Make sure you use a “licensed” home inspector if possible but double check credentials, experience and adherence to standards. A home inspection service is for education of potential buyers so they can understand the physical condition of the home. Although some sellers will get a pre-listing inspection to point out items that need to be handled before the home goes on the market. We address seller preparation at the bottom of this post. Also five red flags of which you should aware.

Some items should always be examined.

Structure
The home’s “skeleton” should be able to stand up to weather, gravity, and the earth that surrounds it. Structural components include items such as the foundation and the framing.

Exterior
The inspector should look at sidewalks, driveways, steps, windows, doors, siding, trim, and surface drainage. They should also examine any attached porches, decks, and balconies.

Roofing
A good inspector will provide very important information about your roof, including its age, roof draining systems, buckled shingles, and loose gutters and downspouts. They should also inform you of the condition of any skylights and chimneys as well as the potential for pooling water.

Plumbing
They should thoroughly examine the water supply and drainage systems, water heating equipment, and fuel storage systems. Drainage pumps and sump pumps also fall under this category. Poor water pressure, banging pipes, rust spots, or corrosion can indicate larger problems.

Electrical
You should be informed of the condition of service entrance wires, service panels, breakers and fuses, and disconnects. Also take note of the number of outlets in each room.

Heating and air conditioning
The home’s vents, flues, and chimneys should be inspected. The inspector should be able to tell you the water heater’s age, its energy rating, and whether the size is adequate for the house. They should also describe and inspect all the central air and through-wall cooling equipment.

Interiors
Your inspector should take a close look at walls, ceilings and floors; steps, stairways, and railings; countertopsPreview and cabinets; and garage systems. These areas can reveal leaks, insect damage, rot, construction defects, and more.

Ventilation/insulation
Inspectors should check for adequate insulation and ventilation in the attic and in unfinished areas such as crawl spaces. Insulation should be appropriate for the climate. Without proper ventilation, excess moisture can lead to mold and water damage.

Fireplaces
They’re charming, but fireplaces can be dangerous if they’re not properly installed. Inspectors should examine the vent and flue, and describe solid fuel-burning appliances.

Five Red Flags

Tom Kraeutler of The Money Pit, a nationally syndicated radio show on home improvement, points out some of the following home inspection red flags:

  1. Termites and pests: The sooner termites are detected, and steps can be taken to get rid of them, the better.
  2. Drainage issues: A home that has poor drainage can have wood rot and wet basements and crawlspaces, which can then lead to major mold growth.
  3. Mold: Pervasive mold growth may indicate an issue with improper ventilation issues and can also cause health issues to those living in the home.
  4. Faulty foundations: A cracked or crumbling foundation could be a very expensive repair.
  5. Wiring issues: Outdated wiring or overloaded circuits can pose a fire hazard.

Seller Preparation for Home Inspections

David R. Leopold, owner of Pillar to Post Home Inspection in Fairfield County, Conn., says home sellers and their real estate professionals have an important role in preparing for a home inspection to help ensure it goes smoothly. Leopold offers up some of the following tips in an article in RISMedia (April 16, 2013), including:

  1. Don’t hide what isn’t working: If an appliance isn’t working, leave a note that indicates what isn’t working and how you’re getting it fixed. Don’t try to conceal defects because it can make the inspector start to view you as dishonest and wonder what else you’re hiding.
  2. Make things accessible: Ensure the location of the attic and crawlspace are identified and easy to access. Don’t make a home inspector move your belongings in order to gain access.
  3. Check the lightbulbs: If a lightbulb isn’t working, the inspector will need to determine if the fixture is inoperable. Save them time by making sure all the lightbulbs in the home operate, including those in the crawlspace, attic, and furnace rooms.
  4. Note septic systems: If you have a septic system in the yard, be sure to leave a sketch that includes the location of it. It’ll avoid home inspectors, buyers, and real estate professionals having to conduct prolonged searches for it, Leopold says.
  5. Keep appliances clear: Don’t leave dirty laundry in the washing machine or dryer because the inspector will need to test the appliances, and he doesn’t want to have to pull out dirty clothes in front of everybody, Leopold says. “Also, make sure your oven and stovetop are clear and clean, so we can easily test them without setting off the smoke alarm,” he adds.
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Get Your Credit Score in Shape Before Buying a Home

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Get Your Credit Score in Shape Before Buying a HomeHow strong is your credit? Cleaning up your credit is essential before you make any major financial moves. Having a bad score can hurt your chances of being able to open a credit card, apply for a loan, purchase a car, or rent an apartment.

It is especially important to have clean credit before you try to buy a home. With a less-than-great score, you may not get preapproved for a mortgage. If you can’t get a mortgage, you may only be able to buy a home if you can make an all-cash offer.

Or if you do get preapproval, you might get a higher mortgage rate, which can be a huge added expense. For example, if you have a 30-year fixed rate mortgage of $100,000 and you get a 3.92% interest rate, the total cost of your mortgage will be $170,213. However, if your interest rate is 5.92%, you’ll have to spend $213,990 for the same mortgage  – that’s an extra $43,777 over the life of the loan! If you had secured the lower mortgage rate, you could use that additional money to fund a four-year college degree at a public university.

So now that you know how important it is to maintain a good credit score, how do you start cleaning up your credit? Here, we’ve collected our best tips for improving your score.

Talk to a loan professional

You can protect your score from more damage by getting a loan professional to check your credit score for you. A professional will be able to guide you to whether your score is in the ‘good’ range for home buying. Plus, every time that you request your own credit score, the credit companies record the inquiry, which can lower your score. Having a professional ask instead ensures that you only record one inquiry. Once you know your score, you can start taking action on cleaning up your credit.

Change your financial habits to boost your score

What if your score has been damaged by late payments or delinquent accounts? You can start repairing the damage quickly by taking charge of your debts. For example, your payment history makes up 35% of your score according to myFICO. If you begin to pay your bills in full before they are due, and make regular payments to owed debts, your score can improve within a few months.

Amounts owed are 30% of your FICO score. What matters in this instance is the percentage of credit that you’re currently using. For example, if you have a $5000 limit on one credit card, and you’re carrying a balance of $4500, that means 90% of your available credit is used up by that balance. You can improve your score by reducing that balance to free up some of your available credit.

Length of credit history counts for 15% of your FICO score. If you’re trying to reduce debt by eliminating your credit cards, shred the card but DO NOT close the account. Keep the old accounts open without using them to maintain your credit history and available credit.

Find and correct mistakes on your credit report

How common are credit report mistakes? Inaccuracies are rampant. In a 2012 study by the Federal Trade Commission, one in five people identified at least one error on their credit report. In their 2015 follow-up study, almost 70% thought that at least one piece of previously disputed information was still inaccurate.

Go through each section of your report systematically, and take notes about anything that needs to be corrected.

Your personal information

Start with the basics: often overlooked, one small incorrect personal detail like an incorrect address can accidently lower your score. So, before you look at any other part of your report, check all of these personal details:

  • Make sure your name, address, social security number and birthdate are current and correct.
  • Are your prior addresses correct? You’ll need to make sure that they’re right if you haven’t lived at your current address for very long.
  • Is your employment information up to date? Are the details of your past employers also right?
  • Is your marital status correct? Sometimes a former spouse will come up listed as your current spouse.

Your public records

This section will list things like lawsuits, tax liens, judgments, and bankruptcies. If you have any of these in your report, make sure that they are listed correctly and actually belong to you.

A bankruptcy filed by a spouse or ex-spouse should not be on your report if you didn’t file it. There shouldn’t be any lawsuits or judgments older than seven years, or that were entered after the statute of limitations, on your report.  Are there tax liens that you paid off that are still listed as unpaid, or that are more than seven years old? Those all need to go.

Your credit accounts

This section will list any records about your commingled accounts, credit cards, loans, and debts. As you read through this section, make sure that any debts are actually yours.

For example, if you find an outstanding balance for which your spouse is solely responsible, that should be removed from your report. Any debts due to identity theft should also be resolved. If there are accounts that you closed on your report, make sure they’re labeled as ‘closed by consumer’ so that it doesn’t look like the bank closed them.

Your inquiries

Are there any unusual inquiries into your credit listed in this section? An example might be a credit inquiry when you went for a test drive or were comparison shopping at a car dealer. These need to be scrubbed off your report.

Report the dispute to the credit agency

If there are major mistakes, you can take your dispute to the credit agencies. While you could send a letter, it can be much faster to get the ball rolling on resolving a mistake by submitting your report through the credit agency’s website. Experian, Transunion and Equifax all have step-by-step forms to submit reports online.

If you have old information on your report that should have been purged from your records already, such as a debt that has already been paid off or information that is more than 7 years old, you may need to go directly to the lender to resolve the dispute.

Follow up

You must follow up to make sure that any mistakes are scrubbed from your reports. Keep notes about who you speak to and on which dates you contacted them. Check back with all of the credit reporting companies to make sure that your information has been updated. Since all three companies share data with each other, any mistakes should be corrected on all three reports.

If your disputes are still not corrected, you may have to also follow up with the institution that reported the incident in the first place, or a third-party collections agency that is handling it. Then check again with the credit reporting companies to see if your reports have been updated.

If you can keep on top of your credit reports on a regular basis, you won’t have to deal with the headaches of fixing reporting mistakes. You are entitled to a free annual credit report review to make sure all is well with your score. If you make your annual credit review part of your financial fitness routine, you’ll be able to better protect your buying power and potentially save thousands of dollars each year.

How to clean up your credit now

Does your credit score need a boost so you can buy a home? Get in touch with me. I can connect you with the right lending professionals to help you get the guidance you need.

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Contract Documentation

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Unlike other contracts that don’t involve making an offer to buy or lease real property, real estate forms are required to be in writing. Real property transfers or leases for more than a year must be written to be enforceable. Every state’s real estate law governing home sales requires purchase contracts and other real estate contract forms, such as easements, leases for rental property for longer than a year, or seller’s disclosure statement, to be in writing to be enforceable. Lot or land purchase contracts are subject to the Statute of Frauds, the law requiring written real estate contract forms in home sales and other land contract situations.

As a licensed Realtor, EMA Real Estate is required to belong to the local MLS board and take continuing education some of which covers the latest changes in real estate law and writing and accepting contracts. Here are some brief explanations about contract documentation.

  • Residential Sales Contract – often called an offer by your RealtorⓇ is a 8-15 page document that details the terms of the offer/sale and requires all parties to initial and sign off acknowledgement and agreement
  • Addendum– these are additional terms and agreements often added to a contract when a counter offer is made or in instances where an extension to the closing is required. Your RealtorⓇ usually handles the negotiation on the terms and creates the document.
  • Lead Base Paint Disclosure – the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992 was passed to protect families from exposure to lead from paint, soil and dust. This required HUD and EPA to required the disclosure be completed in every sales contract package for home built before 1978.
  • Appraisal – an analysis that is performed by a licensed professional to determine a current market price for your home. Lenders use this document as a guideline for mortgages.
  • Home Inspection – this is an inspection done by a certified professional who determines the condition of the home before you buy. They will provide the buyer or homeowner with a PDF version of an inspection report detailing any issues found with the home. Most Home Inspectors are not eligible to check or report on the structure or foundation of the home so check the inspector’s credentials before you hire if you need that service.

Don’t forget to check out our FAQ page for more in-depth information about buying a home.

 

 

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Home Improvement Tips

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home improvement tipsWe all think about home improvement from time to time. We would love to remodel our kitchens or bathrooms, add on a room or expand to our outdoor spaces with decks and patios. Here are some tips for doing home improvement that will add resale value to your home.

  • Refurbish the basement. If your home has a basement, don’t leave it as empty space. Remodel it to add a recreation room or home theater. Any addition of enclosed heated or cooled space adds resale value.
  • Add on a deck. A space to relax and enjoy cool drinks. A homeowner who adds a deck will likely recoup around 75% of their money back when they sell. But mind the size. Most appraisers will compare your home to similar ones in the neighborhood. So “keeping up with the Joneses” might be the way to go.
  • Major master bath remodel. Turning your last decade bath into a updated future decade bath is where its at. Add some space if you can find it. His/hers sinks and vanities are always a good sell. Update your tub, shower and tile.
  • Paint those walls! Most prospective buyers want to be able to visual their stuff in your home. One way to help is by painting the walls a neutral base color. Consult a professional for color selections if you need help. Hire a pro painter if you can’t do it yourself.
  • Attic space. If you have some large open attic space why not create a bedroom or hobby room in it. Add value with recessed windows, built-ins, hardwood flooring and some window seating.
  • Expand upward. If you can’t go outward, go upward. Even out the look of your house by adding a second story over the garage or a flat-roofed area. This will create additional square footage (heated/cooled) and add resale value.
  • Keep room options open. We all want to make our home ours but what happens if a room becomes too custom. Buyers often can’t see beyond highly customized areas. So make sure the room is flexible and can be changed easily.
  • Revitalize your kitchen. Kitchens sell houses so investing a bit or a lot of money in this room will get you value. Buyers today expect to see stainless steel appliances and draw pulls and knobs. Add some new lighting and maybe some tile and you have a nice updated space.
  • Minor bathroom changes count. If you can’t afford a big remodel then consider replacing your dated tub, toilet, sink and/or tile. Maybe change out the old “surround” for a tile wall and floor. Even minor changes can reinvigorate your spaces.
  • Last but not least, replace your siding. By updating your siding, you will increase the first impression a prospective buyer will get when they look at your home. If the siding and trim look bad, then you get the label of fixer-upper. Not a good resale title.

 

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Energy Efficient Home

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Did you know that making your home energy efficient increases the value?
energy efficient home

Image courtesy of khunaspix at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

According to one study, making no cost/low cost changes can boost your home’s value $18,000. Why not implement some of the following suggestions to make your home more energy efficient?

  1. Lower the thermostat on your water heater. If your hot tap water is too hot to touch, lower the temperature a few degrees.
  2. Check for air leaking around doors and windows. A lot of the air you pay to heat or cool escapes through unsealed doors and windows. Install or replace worn weather stripping. Replace broken or missing storm doors.
  3. Keep heat producers far from your thermostat in summer. Floor lamps and televisions can significantly raise the
    temperature in the area near a thermostat, turning on your air conditioner too often.
  4. Clean your furnace and air conditioner filters. Replace existing dirty air conditioner or furnace filters. During heavy use periods, replacement is recommended every 30 days.
  5. Operate large appliances during low-use periods in summer. Use your washer and dryer and other heat-producers
    early in the morning or late at night. Use the air-dry method on your dishwasher to save energy.
  6. Request an energy audit. Contact your local utility company to request a free energy audit. Most electric and gas companies will check for proper insulation, find cracks in the eaves or roof that could leak energy, and make
    recommendations for improvements. Some electric companies offer low-cost financing for such improvements. Also ask about energy conservation programs such as Gulf power’s Energy Select. They offer three different levels of cost based on usage periods during the day.
  7. Replace existing insulation. A proper barrier keeps heat and cold from penetrating your home’s exterior and provides for
    even temperatures between rooms. The EPA recently reported that proper ceiling insulation may reduce electric bills 20%.
  8. Replace existing appliances. Replace old appliances with Energy Star rated appliances, specifically created to optimize energy consumption. If your budget limits you to replacing one appliance, buy a new refrigerator; a new model could knock off 25% of your electric bill.
  9. Replace your incandescent or CFL lightbulbs with new LED lights. LEDs run for a year or more on what an incandescent spends in a month.
  10. Contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development regarding EEM Mortgages. EEMs provide benefits to borrowers purchasing a home that is energy efficient, or can be made efficient with improvements.
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How Much Is Your Home Worth?

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what's my home worthWhen getting ready to place your home on the market, finding out what your home is worth is one major essential in the asking price of your home. As your local Real Estate agent I can assist you in finding out your home’s value. However, today we are providing some helpful tips on how to find out your home’s value before you place it on the market.

  • Hiring a professional appraiser is a great way to get an idea of your home’s value. Even if you don’t plan to sell right away.

what's my home worthHiring an appraiser can help you and your Realtor make a decision on what the asking price should be for your home when you do decide to place it on the market. Generally, the cost to have your home appraised is based on the size of your home. Ask your Realtor for a recommended professional appraiser.

Your home’s value is also based on your location so attending other open houses in your neighborhood can give you an idea of what your neighbors are listing as their asking price. Although what your neighbor has as their asking price is not going to necessarily reflect what you should place as the asking price of your home but it does allow you to gain data and info to compare it to your home.

Lastly, ask your Realtor if he or she can provide you a CMA report, comparative market analysis. The CMA report is essential when it comes to determining what you are going to list your home for. The CMA report will allow to you to compare your home value to similar homes for sale in your area but also homes that have similar features as your home such as square footage, year built, and location. We have available in our toolbox the Market Snapshot report. Using a few details such as those above we can get you an accurate report of the market activity in your neighborhood.

what's my home worth

These are just a few of some of the steps you will complete to find your home values. We always recommend asking your professional Real Estate agent to assist you. He or she is an expert in these areas and is going to work with you to make sure that you list your home for the best asking price possible.

Emcee Arah and his team of professionals have a comprehensive understanding of the current real estate market in in Silver Spring, Maryland and the Washington, DC Metroplex. Team EMA’s 25-point marketing strategy customizable to each Seller, is one of the signature tools for their many years of exceptional customer service in real estate. The mark of excellence combined with a reputation for integrity has earned his team distinction amongst the most trusted Realtors in Montgomery County, MD.

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Should I Hire a Professional Stager to Help Sell My Home?

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staging your homeIf you’re getting ready to sell your Silver Spring area home, you may be wondering whether or not you need to hire a professional to stage your home. You may not even know what a Stager does. Below we’ll give you some useful information about staging.

Simply put, staging is the process of preparing your home for sale. The goal is to make the house as attractive as possible to the greatest number of potential buyers, which could help to sell the property more swiftly. Staging used to be as simple as mowing the lawn and keeping dirty clothes out of view; today, the process has become somewhat more complicated.

When you’re considering a professional Stager, remember: A Stager is NOT a Realtor®. Their job is to make your house look great, so don’t ask them about real estate. If you decide to use a Stager, we can recommend some professionals; you can also check in with your friends to see who has used home Stagers in the past.

staging your homeBe sure to determine exactly what will be expected from you. You want to know everything that is included in the price, how to pay for their services and what will be expected from you to keep the house in its staged condition (both indoors and out) after their work is completed.

Here are some staging stats highlights from Realtor.org.

  • Among Realtors® who typically represent the buyer, 49 percent report most buyers are effected by home staging and 47 percent report some buyers are effected by home staging.
  • Among sellers’ agents 34 percent stage all homes, 13 percent stage difficult homes to sell, and 4 percent stage only high price bracket homes.
  • Thirty-two percent of buyers’ agents believe staged homes increases the dollar value buyers are willing to offer by 1 percent to 5 percent.
  • The median dollar value to stage a home is $675 for each home.

Emcee Arah – “the REALTOR with Architectural Dimension” – is both a Certified Distress Property Expert (CDPE) and a Certified Investor Agent Specialist (CIAS). He is uniquely equipped to assist you in navigating the residential real estate market in DC and the Maryland suburbs. Contact us online or by phone at (301) 452-5252. And don’t forget to leave your comments below, or on our Facebook page – we’d love to hear from you!

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Are you ready to sell?

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home for sale

Here are some really good thoughts, especially for those selling when nobody is buying.

Get real about price. Don’t obsess over what you could have gotten had you sold earlier. Consider inventory in your price range by using our Market Snapshot tool. If there are a lot of properties like yours, you might want to undercut the competition or offer an incentive to make your property look more enticing.

Vet your agent. Selling amidst a quick turning market is tough work. When you hire a Realtor®, make sure they have a good track record. Check out our Success Stories to see how we have serviced our past clients. Ideally, you want someone who knows how to weather any market.

Pimp your house — consider hiring a home stager. Staging a home is all the rage these days. As a RE/MAX agent I have access to the “Are you Fit to Sell?” program. We have several videos on the subjects of Staging, Pre-packing and Preparing Your Home for the Right Buyer. If you don’t know how to properly stage your home, it might be worth bringing in a pro who will help rearrange furniture, move extraneous items to storage, etc. Remember, regardless of the time of year, you want your curb appeal to be as high as possible.

Cash will make your home look even better. Instead of offering some sort of gimmick such as a car or cruise to the lucky buyer of your home, consider throwing in some cash. Offer to pay part of the buyer’s closing costs.

Underwater? Learn to swim. If you bought during a high market, your mortgage may be larger than what you can get for your home. If you have no choice but to move (say for a new job) you still have some options. For one, you might be able to get your employer to cover the difference. Alternatively, if the rental market is holding up, you could rent out your house while you wait for the market to increase. Finally, you can always sell for as much as you can and then make up the difference out of your savings.

Here is a quick chart from Trulia showing the median sold price for Silver Spring MD over the last year in zipcode 20901. This chart covers all residential property types (single-family home, condo and townhome).

Silver Spring median sales prices

Emcee Arah – “the REALTOR with Architectural Dimension” – is both a Certified Distress Property Expert (CDPE) and a Certified Investor Agent Specialist (CIAS). He is uniquely equipped to assist you in navigating the residential real estate market in DC and the Maryland suburbs. Contact us online or by phone at (301) 452-5252. And don’t forget to leave your comments below, or on our Facebook page – we’d love to hear from you!

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