As school starts up and our “to do” lists grow, we find ourselves with less pool time and more after school activities. I find this time of year encouraging and overwhelming. I googled “most stressful life events” and found that back to school did not make the list. But, the list proved once again to me that relationships are what is important in life. Almost all items on the list deal with loved ones and events including hardship as a family. According to paindoctor.com the list is:
Death of a spouse or child
Death of a close family member
Personal Injury or illness
Dismissal from work
Buying or selling a home DOES NOT make the list! I have a friend who tried to sell her house using an online realtor company that puts a sign in your yard and does the paperwork. I have never seen her more stressed and the house didn’t sell. It doesn’t have to be like this!! Get yourself a real estate agent, have them do the work and watch your home sell faster, for more money, and with WAY less stress. I stumbled across this informative fact filled article on Keeping Current Matters…
Is Buying a Home Really More Stressful than Planning a Wedding?
According to a new survey from Open Listings, 62% of Americans ages 25-54 believe that buying a home is more stressful than planning a wedding.
Many young couples are saving for a wedding and a home at the same time.
The average US wedding now costs 66% of a median home down payment, according to The Knot.
I have a husband who goes around the house turning off the lights that were left on. This drives me insane and we all enjoy teasing him about the 3 cents he saves every time he turns the lights off. (And, I am a little afraid of the dark…when he is out of town, every light in the house is on.) The reality is, these pennies do add up each month, and we love our earth. Conserving energy is good for our beautiful earth and for humanity not just our wallets. Here is a list of 8 ways we can each save money on our utility bills and be earth smart….unlike this home…”turn a light out!!”
8 Smart Home Technology Trends that Can Save You Money
The ‘smart home’ is the new ‘internet of things’, or objects that can serve you better by communicating with each other or directly with you through apps on your smart phone. In the ideal version of the wired future, all of our appliances and gadgets talk to each other seamlessly.
What could living in a smart home look like? Picture something like this:
The lights in your bedroom slowly illuminate to quietly awaken you in the morning, replacing the typical blaring alarm. The aroma of fresh brewing coffee drifts in and stirs your senses. Once the lights are all the way up, the heating system kicks on, just in time to warm up your room so you’re not shocked once you crawl out from underneath the duvet.
When you step into the shower, it turns on automatically and remembers your preferred temperature and water pressure. And it will shut off right when you’re finished as it knows how long you take to bathe.
Once you’ve driven out of your garage, your home alarm system arms itself. And it will only unlock automatically when it “sees” and recognizes someone else from your family approaching through programmed in biometrics.
Do smart homes really work this way right now? Not exactly…while you may find some of these smart features in certain homes, we haven’t reached the point where every feature intuitively knows what you want and when you wanted. However, each year we’re getting closer and closer toward that shiny, idealized ‘Jetson’ future.
Here are some trends that we see for smart homes, many of which may also help you save money:
Programmable thermostats that are synchronized with the clock have been around for decades. However, they’re often difficult to set and aren’t necessarily efficient; they simply turn on or off as programmed, whether or not you are there.
With the newer models, smart thermostats can be programmed to adjust the temperature when they sense you are present. And once you leave, they can kick back to standby mode so that you’re saving energy and money. Nest does all of this, and it also allows you to check your usage from your cell phone so that you can adjust the temperature remotely and save even more.
Smart Smoke Detectors
Having a working, effective smoke detector saves lives. But unfortunately, many of us still have those battery-run smoke detectors that make that annoying, piercing beep when their batteries are running low on power. And instead of replacing batteries right away, it’s often easier to pull them out and disable the detector (while risking our lives).
Many of the new smart smoke detectors, like the Birdi, monitor smoke, carbon dioxide, as well as air quality. With this new sensor technology, they know the difference between a real fire and burnt toast.
Smart Sprinkler Control
Weather in our area is predictably unpredictable. Often, especially during the summer months, we fall into a severe drought. But then we might have one season that brings extreme amounts of rain, like we did this past spring.
A smart sprinkler controller like Rachio Iro can not only help save you lots of money on your water bill but also help protect our precious resources.
Programmable by computer or smart phone, it can automatically adjust how often you water your lawn based on the season and the weather forecasts. You can also remotely adjust the settings through a mobile app.
Smart Solar Panels
You can put the sun to work for you by using solar technology to power your home. It’s green and renewable, and can save you money over the long term. A recent study conducted by the NC Clean Energy Technology Center determined that Austin customers who invested in a solar system saved an average of $66 per month during the first year that they owned the system.
With smart solar panels, you can program the technology to monitor their performance and even turn them off in case of a weather emergency or fire.
Smart Home Security Systems
Home monitoring has become much more sophisticated in recent years. With the old-style security systems, you had to call in contractors to wire your home with monitoring sensors.
With new smart technology, you can simply place a few smart devices in your home to monitor movement and sense whether doors and windows are closed or opened. Some systems include audio and video monitoring, as well as sirens to scare off intruders. You get real-time feedback on security breaches through an app. And, because you’re alerted as soon as the system senses an intruder, it’s more likely that they will be caught.
Canary is one popular all-in-one audio-video security system, complete with sirens and night vision.
Go beyond the standard key locks, which can often be compromised by burglars. The new smart lock systems give you more control over those who can gain access to your home.
Some systems, like the Kwikset Kevo, include encrypted virtual keys that you can program for access for a limited amount of time—for example, allowing guests over for a weekend, or cleaning service in during a specific window of time.
Other door locking systems include biometric technology. The Ola smart lock allows you to program your lock to recognize your family member’s fingerprints. Other systems use facial recognition to greet you and unlock your door.
The new August smart lock integrates with Apple’s technology so you can ask Siri to open your door for you.
Smart lighting systems and light bulbs
A well-lit home feels warm and welcoming, and good lighting can instantly increase the value of your home.
However, annual lighting costs can account for up to 12% of your overall electric bill, or over $200 per year according to Energy Star. You can easily reduce this expense simply by using smart lighting technology to add efficiency.
The Philips Hue wifi-enabled lights make it easy to add to your home without installing specialized equipment. Smart lighting dimmers and sensors can give you more control over how much energy you use and allow you to turn them on and off through your smart phone.
New smart light bulbs can give you control over the warmth or coolness levels of your lighting. With the Lifx LED light bulbs, for example, you can program your light bulbs to turn on or off when you want, to slowly wake you up with increasing illumination, or to change from daytime work lighting to entertainment-friendly shades for parties.
Programmable slow cookers and coffee makers are the quaint, old-fashioned versions of these home conveniences. Newer, smart appliances give you more control over how your food is kept and prepared, and make it easier for you to complete pesky household chores.
Newer coffee makers, like the Smarter coffee machine, let you ‘order’ your coffee exactly to your liking, adjusting everything from bean grind to temperature to strength to time that it’s ready to drink.
Smart refrigeration technology can help you store your food at just the right temperature, adjusting the thermostat during peak usage times. For example, the LG THINQ fridgecan alert you via smart phone app if a door is accidentally left open.
Smart ovens can ensure that your food is cooked to the right level of done-ness, and alert you when your meal is ready to eat. June, a new counter oven invented by former Google, Apple, Go-Pro and Path employees will give you even more control—it will contain cameras, thermometers, and other technology to ‘learn’ what you like to eat and make menu suggestions.
Smart washers and dryers have customizable controls so that you can safely wash any type of fabric. Some units include controls to increase drying time to save energy. And soon, connected appliances from GE, Oster, Samsung, and other makers, will be able to re-order soap and fabric softener directly from Amazon, so you won’t even have to think about running to the store at the last minute.
Have you tested any of these technologies in your home? Did we miss any of your favorite home technologies? Let us know in the comments!
6 years ago we put our first home, a small red brick ranch in a great neighborhood on the market. It was time to upgrade. We put a sign in the front yard….and that’s about it. After months of having the house shown and more than 100 showings, there was not one offer made. We live in a really coveted area of Denver and I was really shocked this was taking so long. Our home was not crap, we had fixed it up to our liking. It was clean and tidy. I didn’t get it!! We decided to take it off the market and try relisting it a few months later. Kristen suggested we do some home changes and staging tricks. We painted a red accent wall more neutral, we took out all of our knick knacks, cleared out the garage, planted some bushes, cleared out some furniture, and had baked cookies for every showing. Listing the second time went so much better. We got lots of positive feedback from buyers and any suggestions we took to heart and acted. We got an asking price offer in just a few showings in less than a month. We were thrilled! I am positive that the changes we made were what made the difference. It was such a less stressful way to sell a house! When I saw this article on Realtor.com, I was once again reminded that before the FOR SALE sign is put in the yard, sellers need to put forth the effort and make their home ready for the market. The article below lays out some great starting places….Written By: Lindsey Mendenhall, Assistant to Andersen Realty
No Second Chances: Our 7-Step Plan to Making a Dazzling First Impression on Buyers
Studies show that we make up our minds about people within seconds of meeting them. So it stands to reason that prospective buyers are doing the very same thing with your house, especially in a red-hot real estate market. More buyers these days are sizing up your space and making lightning-quick decisions about whether it’s worth investigating further—or whether they should hop back in the car and move on to the next house.
So if you want to be sure buyers don’t scurry out the door moments after they arrive, you have to create a fantastic first impression.
Not sure where to begin? It all starts with looking at your home with fresh eyes. Luckily, we’ve broken down seven simple steps you can follow to put your home’s best face forward.
1. ‘Break up’ with your house
If you want to sell your property, you’ll need to distance yourself from it first, says Ronique Gibson, an associate architect and lifestyle expert at Stagetecture.com in Jacksonville, FL. Cut the cord!
“Once you put your home on the market, it’s time to let a professional come in and market it,” Gibson says. “If you stay emotionally attached, the process will be harder and longer.”
2. Focus on curb appeal
You wouldn’t wear soiled sweatpants on a first date—you’d go out of your way to look presentable. So why would you approach the process of selling your home any differently?
Your home’s first impression starts with the exterior, so take a good look at what you’re presenting to the world: What’s the first thing you notice? If it’s peeling paint, dirty windows, and dead plants, you have work to do, says Michael Rosenblum, a broker with Koenig Rubloff Realty Group, a division of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices in Chicago.
“Ask yourself: ‘If I was buying this home now, what would my expectations be?'” he says.
Remove debris such as fallen tree limbs and leaves. Keep grass and shrubs trimmed, freshen up the mulch in your flowerbeds, and clear away lawn clutter such as yard ornaments, garden tools, and that circa 2007 Big Wheel.
“Putting out some flowers in front of the house or by the front door always makes people smile; it creates the warmth before they even get inside,” says Rosenblum.
Invest in a new doormat, and consider replacing old address numbers and your mailbox if it’s worn or rusty. Patch cracks in the driveway and, while you’re at, give the front door a fresh coat of paint.
3. Ditch as much of your stuff as possible
So now that you’ve addressed the outside, you have to work on your home’s inner beauty. Decluttering is your first priority. So start clearing out the junk and depersonalizing the space—toss or hide mementos, kids’ drawings, and most knickknacks.
“If the seller has all their personal photos out, then the buyer usually gets distracted,” Rosenblum says.
The main goal is for potential buyers to envision themselves in your home, and they can’t do that if your crap is everywhere they look. “All signs of you should be gone,” Gibson says.
That said, take care to find a balance; you don’t want the home to feel sterile—and you’ll want to make sure that none of your rooms are completely empty, a tactic that tends to make a space actually look smaller.
4. Fix the broken stuff—all of it
This should be obvious, but perhaps even you’ve forgotten about that faulty light switch in the upstairs hallway. The thing is, buyers will notice it almost immediately.
Check for leaks throughout the house. A drip may not seem important, but it suggests lousy maintenance elsewhere.
Check and repair loose door handles and cabinet hinges.
Caulk around tubs and sinks.
Replace lightbulbs that don’t work. Yes, every single one.
Bottom line: Meet and exceed a buyer’s expectations by paying extra attention to the fine details.
5. Plan a small makeover that packs a punch
You might not want (or be able) to do major renovations before putting your property on the market. But if you focus your attention on the kitchen, bathrooms, and flooring, you can boost a tired home’s overall appearance without completely busting your budget.
“Homeowners can easily change out countertops and appliances, or paint cabinetry,” Rosenblum says. You may want to restain the floors or repaint the walls.
Keeping your carpets? Make sure to splurge on getting them professionally cleaned, especially in high-traffic areas—it’ll immediately brighten a room.
6. Appeal to all the senses
Once your home is clean and decluttered, think about how you can engage potential buyers through other senses, Gibson suggests.
“Play soft music during showings, or have a nice water feature outside if you live in a noisy neighborhood,” she says. “Soft throws and textured fabrics will warm up a space. Brewing fresh coffee and baking cookies makes your house smell great.”
Remember not to clean your house the day of a showing; harsh chemicals can be overpowering, and may turn off potential buyers.
7. Keep up appearances—indefinitely
Unless you’re in a red-hot market, your home might not sell immediately after it’s listed. Remember that every week, you might have potential buyers traipsing through—sometimes without much notice from your agent.
The home-buying process is a high-stakes thrill ride full of exhilarating ups and scary downs, but unquestionably one of the most deflating moments is when the appraisal comes in significantly lower than the accepted offer. This is, to use technical real estate lingo, “a bummer.”
Either you feel as though you got the raw end of a deal by paying more than the property’s worth or, if you don’t have extra cash to hand over, the deal can crumble into dust. (Your lender’s not going to fork over money for a higher loan amount if the appraisal came in lower than expected, so you’ll have to make up that difference yourself.)
“In a rising market, low valuations are pretty common because appraisals are based upon sales that closed when prices were lower,” says Diane Saatchi, a senior broker with Saunders & Associates in Bridgehampton, NY. “The reverse is so in a declining market.”
In other words: Appraisals can’t keep up with how quickly homes are selling in a hot market, so you’re bound to see lower-than-expected values placed on homes.So, what do you do if this happens to you? You have four options:
1. Appeal the appraisal
Sometimes called a “rebuttal of value,” the appraisal appeal takes some work. In fact, it’s a total team effort.
That means everyone puts on their best Sherlock Holmes garb and gets to work looking for anything that helps the claim for higher valuation. Perhaps the appraiser overlooked some comps (homes similar in style, location, and square footage sold within the past few years).
“It’s not uncommon to discover, for instance, that the appraiser used a comparable sale that looks like it’s in great condition, when in fact the home was trashed when purchased and has already been rehabilitated,” Fleming says.
The loan officer writes an appeal using the new comparables and then sends it to the appraiser. There might be some negotiating back and forth until all parties come to a compromise with a new valuation.
Spoiler: It’s a hard battle to fight.
“My record on this one is 0 for 9 so far,” Fleming says. “But I know many appraisers personally who have adjusted their values.” So keep the hope alive!
2. Order a second appraisal
“Most often, if the appraised value is not as high as the agreed (contract) price, the seller’s agent will ask to see the comps and get a second or third appraisal,” Saatchi says.
But it will likely cost you–you’re not only paying for the first appraisal (in your closing costs), but you’ll pony up for any additional appraisals as well. They can range between a few hundred dollars and $1,000 depending on the area. Occasionally, real estate agents or sellers will foot the bill if they really want to keep the sale.
3. Negotiate with the seller
If you’re lucky, you and the seller will both budge a little.
“You might go back to the sellers and ask them to reduce the price or split the difference,” says Peter Grabel, managing director of Luxury Mortgage in Stamford, CT. “The seller is under no obligation to do so, but they may prefer to do this rather than take a chance of losing you as a buyer, and starting over again. It is likely that another buyer will have the same issue, so the seller might be better off renegotiating with you unless they have other offers.”
Sellers might be more willing to cooperate, especially if the Federal Housing Administration is involved. Lenders often require the use of their own FHA-approved appraiser, and these appraisals are “locked in” for six months.
“The seller could be forced to take a poor appraisal or wait it out for a buyer with a different loan,” explains Joshua Jarvis of Jarvis Team Real Estate in Duluth, GA.
Jeff Knox, broker and owner of Dallas-area real estate firm Knox & Associates, says this is the most common outcome in his area.
“Of all possible outcomes, this is what happens most frequently,” he says. “While the seller will usually be upset about the low appraisal value, most reasonable sellers eventually come to terms with the fact that any other appraisal values by potential future buyers will most likely come in at about the same value.”
4. Walk away
No one wants to let a property slip through their fingers, especially if it feels like their dream home. But beware of ignoring a low appraisal—you could end up losing thousands whenever you decide to sell.
If you have an appraisal contingency in your contract, you can walk away, get your deposit back, and hope for better luck the next time around.
This article was written by Maureen Dempsey for Realtor.com. She is a writer who covers fashion, beauty, lifestyle, and home decor. She’s recently learned that decorating her new home is just as satisfying as filling her closet.
I was looking at Realtor.com the other day and came across this post about how comps are tricking people into thinking their home is worth more or less than what the home is really worth. I thought I would share this article written by Cathie Ericsson. She is a journalist who writes about real estate, finance, and health. She lives in Portland.
“Unlike most things we buy in life, homes don’t come with a sticker price. Sure, the real estate listing may say the price of the home is $320,000, but that’s just a starting point. Buyers can—and should—offer more or less money for the house based on something called real estate comps, short for “comparables.”
Real estate comps are properties that have similar characteristics to the house you’re trying to determine the value of. They’re critical tools used by real estate agents when you’re ready to buy or sell.
Because it’s easier to compare apples to apples, the best comps are houses that are as similar as possible to the one being valued.
But sometimes the comps are incorrect, which makes it hard for you to arrive at an appropriate value for your home. Using comps to determine a home’s valuation is not entirely a science, but there are some signs your real estate comps are not accurate.
Sign No. 1: The comps are far away
When we say location is key in real estate, that doesn’t just pertain to the location of your home. Your comps’ location is important because they take into account the desirability of the school system and neighborhood, among other factors, explains Jon Boyd, broker and manager of The Home Buyer’s Agent in Ann Arbor, MI.
If there aren’t sufficient nearby comps (as can happen if you’re in a rural area), your agent might need to widen the search area. Ideally you’ll look at homes within roughly a half-mile so you are truly comparing houses that are being valued equally.
Sign No. 2: The comps are stale
Markets move fast, and using a comp from a year ago will give you an incorrect idea of home values in your area. Boyd recommends sticking with homes that have sold within the past six months; the more recent, the better.
Sign No. 3: The comps are really appraisals
Does your comp use a strict formula of square footage, bedrooms, etc. to arrive at a market value? If so, that sounds more like an appraisal, which is an entirely different way of determining the value of the home. Be careful not to confuse the data provided by these two documents, warns Molly Stehman, real estate broker with Premiere Property Group in Lake Oswego, OR.
“Comps are totally subjective and a lot of opinion goes into the numbers,” she says. Appraisers must follow rules that standardize the process of determining a home’s value. So when coming up with comps, in addition to objective measures like square footage and number of rooms, Stehman will add factors like whether the home has been updated or remodeled, whether the floors are hardwood or laminate, the walkability score, the age of the roof and furnace, and even what she calls the “charm factor.”
That’s why the picturesque remodel you’re looking at might be priced higher than the plain-Jane house down the street, even if the facts on the appraisal sheet are basically identical.
Sign No. 4: The comps include homes that are still on the market
To be useful, a comp has to tell you what the home sold for, not what the asking price is. The best indicator of a house’s value is what people have paid for it, not what they might be willing to pay (the seller hopes). Be sure your comps contain only homes that are off the market.
Ultimately, the seller or buyer decides how much they want to ask or what they’re willing to offer for a house, Stehman points out. But by making sure your comps aren’t off-base to start with, you can step up to the negotiating table feeling as informed as possible.
I know you always hear this at the beginning of every year, but with the shrinking inventory, rising interest rates and prices, you need to jump in the home ownership pool now! Buy! Buy! Buy! (Insert New Kids On The Block song in your head as you read the last 3 words)
“It’s tough to buy a home today in most places in the country because there are so few homes for sale,” says Jonathan Smoke, chief economist for Realtor.com. “But if you wait to buy, then you’re gambling that the market will be better for you to purchase in the future.” And that’s not a smart gamble, realtor.com says. If you’ve been toying with the idea of buying, or you anticipate a life change that might force you to move—such as a new baby or a job transfer—you should be “buying as urgently and as soon as possible,” Smoke says.
Here are 3 reasons why:
1. Rates are rising
In 1981, when mortgage rates hit 18% and seemed to rise every day, single-digit rates seemed like an impossible dream.
Last August, however, rates on 30-year mortgages bottomed out at 3.55%. Now that the Federal Reserve finally decided to raise its key interest rate, mortgage rates have been climbing slowly. Today, the average rate is just above 4%; by 2019 or 2020, rates could easily climb to 6%.
Before you freak out, take heart: Rising rates aren’t necessarily a deal breaker for buyers. The National Association of Realtors® calculated that a rise from 4.2% to 5% would increase the average mortgage by $90—not nothing, but not a catastrophe, either. And if you take the long view, those higher rates are still historically low.
“For buyers there still is opportunity,” says Danielle Hale, managing director of housing research for the NAR. “For those who are still able to get into the market, these low rates continue to be helpful.”
Another upside: When rates go up, competition and prices often go down.
“I’d tell buyers not to panic, because higher mortgage rates eventually cause sellers to be more flexible on pricing,” DeNapoli says.
2. Inventory is shrinking
In November 2016, there were only 1.85 million homes for sale. That’s a nearly 10% drop from the year before. And it continues a trend of steady decline since just before the housing crash, when inventory peaked.
Real estate experts predict that inventory will continue to shrink, at least for the foreseeable future. That means that in most areas of the country, buyers have more homes to choose from today than they will next year.
Or even next month. If you get moving now (during the winter, which is largely considered to be real estate’s off-season), you’ll have less competition for those homes than you will in the peak spring and summer months.
Bottom line: Every day you wait to start looking for a new home, you face stiffer competition for fewer homes.“If you think it’s bad right now, wait until April to August,” Smoke says.
3. Home prices are still rising
The bad news for buyers is that home prices now stand higher than before the 2007 crash, increasing 5% from 2015 to 2016. And housing experts expect an additional 2% to 3% jump in 2017, DeNapoli says.
“Prices continue to go up; we have yet to see that ceiling,” says Trevor Levin, a real estate agent with Nourmand & Associates in Los Angeles. “I think they have room to grow.”
How high prices will rise and how long they’ll remain high is anyone’s guess. Rising mortgage rates and the new Trump administration have introduced “uncertainty” into the real estate market, Levin says. “And uncertainty is never ideal,” he says.
So pick up your phone and call us at 720-314-6863 to go look at houses today!