Monthly Archives: March 2014

Getting Ready to Buy? A Few Do’s.

Family with real estate agent

You’ve been flirting with the market for months, touring open houses on the weekend and logging in late night hours on Redfin or Zillow.  You’ve pinpointed the ideal neighborhood that suits you best and have toured the schools in the district.  You are ready to take the plunge and buy.  What next?  A few do’s:

1)   Get a Realtor

A seasoned real estate agent can provide you with valuable insights on homes and neighborhoods during the search portion of your house hunt.  And even with the proliferation of online real estate search engines, when the time comes to write an offer, you will need an experienced real estate professional on your side to navigate the negotiations, escrow and closing process with you.  Over the years, the laws for home buying have become increasingly complex and the process is filled with many moving parts.  Ask your trusted friends for quality agent referrals and find yourself a good teammate.

2)   Get Preapproved for a Loan

Consulting a mortgage lender will help you get a clear picture of your purchasing power so make this step at the top of your list of to do’s.   Understanding what you can afford from a lending perspective helps define your house search so you don’t waste time looking at homes you cannot afford.  Plus, often the market moves fast on well-priced homes, so having a pre-approval letter in hand lines you up at the front of starting block.

3)   Make A Checklist of “Must Haves” in a House

No two houses are the same and no house is ever 100% perfect, but having a checklist for your ideal home is useful so you are efficient in your house hunt.  A house can always be redecorated to perfection but it’s a bigger headache if your new house is missing that home office you had hoped to have.

4)   Check Your Credit

Your credit score helps lending institutions determine the rate and terms they can offer you on the loan.  If your credit is high, meaning that your credit history indicates that you are fiscally responsible, lenders will see you as a low-risk investment and offer you a lower rate on your loan with good conditions.  If your score is low, lenders will think you are a riskier investment and charge you with higher interest rates to take on the perceived risk.  Get your credit scores from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion, the three major credit agencies, so you can see how you stack up in terms of investment risk and see if you have time to improve your credit health.

Stay tuned next week for a list of pre-buying don’ts.

Neighborhood Due Diligence

iStock_000027694180Small

The iconic adage in real estate has been and always will be “location, location, location.”  A house can always be remodeled and redecorated to suit your personal taste.  But, the neighborhood within which your home resides, will profoundly impact your lifestyle and how you enjoy your home in the years to come.

Within Newport Beach and other similar markets across the country, each neighborhood has its own unique personality and vibe.  If you are like most buyers, your home search frequently starts with neighborhood selection above all else.  So what makes a neighborhood appealing?  And what due diligence should one perform to identify the neighborhood of choice?  Here are a couple of ways you can be proactive in the hunt for the ideal neighborhood:

1)   Check on the schools.

Even if you don’t have children, buying a home in a good school district can pay off at the time of resale.  If you are looking for a home for your school-aged family, go to the school district’s website for more information.  Also, check out www.GreatSchools.org for ratings and see how neighborhood schools’ rank in comparison to each other.

2)   Test your commute & visit the neighborhood at different times of the day.

If living close to work is important, then make sure you drive around potential neighborhoods at different times of day to get a sense of traffic patterns and potential commute delays.  Similarly, visit the area on a weekday, weeknight, and weekends to see how quiet or active the community will be.

3)   Check crime reports.

Local police stations can generally provide statistics on crime within a certain zip code.  Or find this info online at www.crimereports.com.  For further peace of mind, check the Family Watchdog website at www.familywatchdog.us for registered sex offenders in the area.

4)   Talk to neighbors.

No one can give you a more accurate idea of how vibrant and thriving a community can be than someone who already lives there.  Make a list of things that are important to you and when you get a chance to talk to someone, ask them if the community has a swim team, neighborhood events and gatherings, and security measures.  Other important topics to vet with current neighborhood residents could be HOA dues and board involvement, potential community improvements on the horizon, and more.

5)   Discover neighborhood amenities.

Some people desire a neighborhood that is walkable to restaurants and stores.  Others really value the proximity to public parks and recreation spaces.  Walk and drive around different neighborhoods and identify where you’ll be doing your grocery shopping or picking up dinner.  These little amenities really impact how you will function day to day within your household.

Once you’ve honed in on the neighborhood you want to live in, then the fun part begins… looking for the perfect house.  Happy house hunting!

Preparing for a Home Inspection

An inspector on the roof examines a skylight

During the complex process of selling a house, one of the bigger hurdles to a successful close of escrow comes at the point of inspection.  Varying statistics pinpoint the percentage of contracts that fall out of escrow at somewhere between 20% to 30%.  While a small percentage of buyers cancel contracts simply due to a change of heart or the inability to secure financing, a handful of contracts blow up over the home inspection.

No matter how meticulous you’ve been in maintaining your home over the years, the home inspector will likely find issues with the house that your buyers will want to have addressed.  And while it’s not feasibly possible for anyone to “ace” their home inspection, there are a few steps you can take to make the inspection go as smoothly as possible and thereby presenting the buyers with the peace of mind that they are purchasing a home that’s been well cared for over the years.  Here are a few tips in preparation for the home inspection:

1)    Consider a Pre-Inspection

One of the smartest things a home seller can do before putting their house on the market is to complete a home inspection on the property, especially if the property is older.  If your home is relatively new and you aren’t aware of any issues, you can probably skip this step.  But, for the price of a home inspection, which runs somewhere between $350 to $450 in the Newport Beach market, you will receive a report of potential problems and decide on your own timeline which items to address.  One reason buyers get cold feet at this juncture is the length of the home inspection report that inevitably equates into mounting costs and stress in their minds.  A seller with an inspection report could head off this potential roadblock by cherry picking several cost-effective fixes and thereby mitigating the report for the buyer down the line.  Plus, if you know all the potential issues ahead of time, you can plan for how you might respond when a buyer asks for repairs or a credit.

2)    Scour the Home for “Quick Fixes”

  • Make sure all the lightbulbs and light fixtures are functioning.
  • Make sure all the smoke detectors are working.
  • Change out furnace filters and vacuum the registers.
  • Ensure all windows and doors open and close properly.
  • Provide easy and unobstructed access to the attic, crawlspaces, furnace, water heater, and electrical panel.
  • Clean out gutters and clear the roofline of debris.
  • Check that bath vents and dryer vents are venting effectively.
  • Remove unnecessary and potentially hazardous materials such as rotting firewood, paints and solvents from the premise.
  • Remove excess clutter and clean the house.

3)    Leave the house

Letting the home inspector freely roam your house unencumbered is a good idea.  Most home inspectors prefer to do their work without the scrutiny of the homeowner’s presence.  And remember to take your children and pets with you so they feel at ease during their time in the house.

4)    Prepare Documentation for Work Performed

If you are a meticulous and thoughtful homeowner and have a backlog of receipts for maintenance work done to the house, collect those items and make them available after the inspection.  Paperwork will come in handy to prove that work was already performed to fix certain problems and to what extent.

In general, the easier you make it for the home inspector, the more favorable the experience will be for all parties involved.  Home inspectors and buyers are more partial to homes that have the semblance of constant care and thoughtful maintenance.  If as the seller you elect to perform a pre-inspection, the transparency provided by the report will avoid surprises during escrow and prepare you with the knowledge and a plan to circumvent a potential round of re-negotiations.  At the end of the day, a good home inspector will never overlook a serious problem, but if you prepare in advance to provide an easy inspection experience, your efforts could impact and minimize the report by a small but significant margin.