Red Flags for Homebuyers

Home buying season is upon us, and while some buyers get caught up in the emotions of finding their new home, an important part of buying a home is paying attention to red flags. Red flags are those items that could potentially cost you a lot in the future, or even in the beginning – essentially, warnings of a danger or a problem. According to HouseMaster, a major home inspection company with offices in the United States and Canada, 40 percent of previously owned homes have at least one serious defect (housemaster.com). Provided is a list of items and things to consider or avoid when looking for your next home.

1. You’re also buying a neighborhood:
Neighborhoods are a vital part of the home buying process – make sure you visit at different times of the day to get a true sense of the neighborhood. Also, consider trends when looking for your next home. Does the neighborhood have an HOA? Are the homes in need of repair? Is the neighborhood going down rather than up-and-coming? What is local crime like? A neighborhood can be the most obvious red flag for a buyer.

2. Fixers:
Fixers can be great deals, but it’s important to know how much you’re getting into when you buy a fixer. Do you have a comfortable level with renovations? Are renovations going to make the purchase not economical? Will they break your bank? If a fixer will cost you more in renovations than your budget can handle, or go above what the home is worth, it’s a potential red flag.

3. Issues with a Home Inspection:
A home inspection is not required to buy a house, but it is always recommended, as an inspection can shed light on potential red flags. All offers should be contingent upon a satisfactory home inspection – if there are issues, you can potentially negotiate with a seller. Also, some issues can prevent financing for a mortgage. Always get a home inspection, and be wary of homes being sold “as is.”

4. Additions and Decks:
Are there additions to the home or property? Do they look like a DIY job? Any work should be done to code, especially when it comes to remodeling. Additions that are not done to code can be expensive to fix, and they can potentially lower the value of the home. If work has been done, you can contact the county or city for work permits and check if the city tax records match what the seller claims. If a home has a deck, ask the seller who built the deck and when it was built. Decks are notorious for being costly to fix or repair, and there’s potential that it will have to be rebuilt to be fully safe. An unsafe deck, or one that just doesn’t look right is a definite red flag.

5. Noticeable Structural Problems:
Always check doors and windows to make sure they open and close without issue, as they can be indicators of structural issues below the house. Foundation issues can be very expensive; look for large, noticeable cracks on the outside of the house and any cracks in concrete floors where the sides are not even. Foundation fixes generally cost thousands to fix – unless you have a large budget for repair work, avoid this big red flag.

6. Pest and Termite Damage:
Pest damage to homes can be very costly. If the pests have chewed into any studs, the structure of the home is compromised and can be expensive to fix. If a home has been inspected and treated for pests in the past, the seller needs to disclose this to a buyer. Some pest issues will return without proper treatment and management; be sure to ask the seller if they have had pest issues in the past.

7. Water Damage:
When walking through a property, look for moisture or water stains. With a proper home inspection, the inspector will look under the house for potential water issues. Moisture and water can be signs of drainage issues and can lead to some very expensive fixes. Water issues are a huge red flag when it comes to finding a home – they can affect the foundation, structure, roof, and a number of other areas in the house.

8. Faulty Electric and Old Wiring:
Is the home an older home with outdated electrical? Be very wary of a home with faulty or inferior electrical work. Older homes with outdated electrical cannot handle additional electrical work that builds up over the year, and knob and tube wiring or aluminum wiring found in older homes can be extremely costly to replace or repair.

9. Asbestos:

Asbestos was used as inexpensive fire-retardant material from the 1940s through the 1970s. We now know that asbestos can be extremely detrimental to lung health. Asbestos was used in blown-in attic insulation, vinyl floor tiles, some glues and linoleum, window caulking and glazing, roofing material, HVAC duct insulation, siding material, plaster, fiber cement siding, some forms of paint, and thermal insulation on basement boilers and pipes. Asbestos is an much a red flag as mold.

10. Mold:
Mold is a part of the natural environment, and molds begin grown indoors when mold spores land on surfaces that are wet. Molds are a health hazard to humans; some molds produce mycotoxins – toxic compounds – that can lead to neurological problems or worse. Both asbestos and mold are huge red flags when found in a home, not only for health reasons, but also both are notorious for being extremely costly to eliminate. Asbestos and mold are two issues that should always be addressed by trained professional to insure the issues have been properly treated and disposed of.

Buying a home is an emotional process: red flags are a way to take a step back and take a moment to truly evaluate a house. The last thing you want to do, as a homebuyer, is buy something you’ll end up hating or regretting. A house is a huge commitment, and making sure yu get the most for your money is always top priority. Your family and your agent can both help when it comes to discussing your dream home – you’re not alone.

10 Tips to Prepare for A Home Sale

 

 

We are in the middle of summer — one of the busiest times for any real estate market — with thousands of homes and properties going up for sale in every town and city throughout the United States. Getting the most for a home is always a seller’s top priority; heeding these ten tips and tricks when considering putting your house on the market will help toward getting you top dollar.

 

 

1. Paint Color:

When choosing an exterior paint color, stick with what’s popular in the neighborhood, goes well with the surroundings of the area, or fits the style of the home. Picking a paint color that is not common or completely clashes with the rest of the neighborhood is a very risky decision, especially when thinking about listing a home. When it comes to paint, choose safe colors for the biggest return on investment. The same should be considered for interior paint — big, bold, bright colors might work for your current design scheme, but when buyers walk through a home, and the main living space is four different colors, it’s likely all they’ll see is dollar signs and time spent repainting.

2. Landscaping:

Landscaping can make or break a home sale, or turn it into a long, laborious process. When thinking of landscaping, consider the plants or trees before anything gets planted — trees and roots can wreak havoc with lawns, foundations and pipes; take into consideration how large a plant or tree will get and how far the root system will travel over time.

 

 

3. The Front Door:

The front door is one of the first things potential buyers see — a strong and visual front door can leave a great first impression to potential buyers. If the door is broken, doesn’t work properly, or is in desperate need of a makeover, a buyer may see these things as weak points and consider offering less.

4. Upgrades:

Don’t assume you’ll recoup every investment, especially when it comes to large upgrades. Pools are notorious for poor return on investment, as are other large home additions. If you’re considering upgrading your home before putting it on the market, look to areas that are sure to make you money: kitchens and bathrooms, if tastefully done, will always add to the value of a house.

5. Fireplaces:

Fireplaces appeal to a large majority of buyers, but changing out the aesthetics of a fireplace can either be a great investment opportunity, or drastically lower a buyer’s offer. It’s best to take trends into consideration when making updates or changes to a fireplace — painting over exposed brick can be a huge deal breaker for some buyers, especially when a majority of people like exposed brick fireplaces.

6. Old Appliances:

Potential buyers look at the appliances in a home to gauge their age and how well they’ve been taken care of. Appliances play a large part in any home, and if they are old, outdated and no longer working can create hesitations in potential buyers. If it’s a classic that still works, don’t worry about replacing it; if you can’t get the door clean, or the oven temperature doesn’t rise above 350 degrees, it’s probably time to replace it. There’s no need to go all out on the latest and greatest technology either — while a beautiful stainless steel fridge might be alluring, it’s likely you won’t recoup the cost through the home sale, and it’s more likely you’ll want that classy fridge in your new home.

 

7. Deep Cleans and Small Stuff:

Most buyers have an eye for the small details of a house. An initial deep clean of the house, and continued maintenance thereafter, shows potential buyers that the house has been maintained. The small details matter: windows and window tracks, light switches, molding, a garbage disposal, tile, grout, sinks, ovens and appliances are all looked at by buyers. Make sure these items are not overlooked when the house goes on the market — potential buyers will appreciate the time you took to address them.

8. Trends:

Trends can be quite alluring for those looking to dabble in interior decorating. Some buyers like trends, but the majority of buyers look for classic, neutral colors on walls and fixtures. While a chevron pattern may be the perfect accompaniment to your current sofa or bedspread, most buyers will see the pattern, when applied to walls, as a potential paint job. If you’re considering listing your house, consider accessorizing with drapes, pillows and some pictures. These are simple ways of adding personality, and buyers will appreciate a neutral color scheme on the walls.

9. Hard to Clean Surfaces and Floors:

Buyers always look at the floors and counters in a potential home, and these surfaces can be huge selling points. If the counter tops are stained, hardwood floors scratched up, carpet damaged, or the tile is breaking, consider cleaning or finding a quick replacement. If a solid counter top is stained, a buyer will no doubt see dollar signs. If you have hardwood floors, some products can actually dull the wood over time. If the wood needs a little TLC before the house is listed, consider having the floors buffed — this will add some life, and buyers will see that they’ve been cared for.

 

10. Small Spaces:

Kitchens and bathrooms are undoubtedly some of the biggest selling features of a house or property. If either of these areas is small, consider revamping to make them look larger. A small bathroom with no windows is going to look like a cave if the color scheme is on the darker side. Bigger in a small space is always best — stick with neutral, light colors to help make the room look larger. Update any light bulbs that are reaching the end of their life; upgrading to a higher wattage or lumen can help enhance a small area too.

Selling a home is a large task, and every seller hopes to make money on their home sale. Prepping your home before a sale will always result in better viewings and interested buyers, and the end result will be a happy seller and an even more excited buyer.

 

 

Cause for Celebration

Summer is here, and there’s no better way to celebrate than with a cool drink at an outside party with your friends and family. If throwing your own celebration is part of your summer plan, these tips from RealSimple.com will help make your party seem effortless.

Get help: While you may want to give the impression that you pulled off the perfect party all by yourself, if you really want to ensure everyone has a great time – including yourself – ask one of your friends to help you with simple day-of tasks, such as making sure the garbage isn’t full or restarting the music when the playlist ends.

Eat right: Pick smart choices for your party. This means if it’s outdoors, try and find things that are easy to eat without making a mess. Finger foods like bruschetta or small sandwiches are always a big hit. If you’re making a salad, try using hardier greens like cabbage that won’t wither in the heat as easily; lightly dressed coleslaw is great for this.

Banish bugs: Citronella candles at the edge of your party will help drive away annoying insects. You can also leave bowls of just (cherry is the one that works well) farther way to attract insects so they don’t bother your guests.

Information received from CRS, The Council of Residential Specialists

Celebrate America: Made in the U.S.A

 

July marks our nation’s birthday, and as millions gather to celebrate Independence Day, feelings and ideas of what make the United States great will undoubtedly flood the minds of those attending local barbecues, neighborhood block parties, or fireworks displays. The United States is ripe with diversity, and there’s no better way of celebrating this great nation than focusing on promoting American made manufacturers and craftsmen.

While a majority of products found in homes are now produced elsewhere, there are still American companies producing quality products for every facet of life. When celebrating the Fourth of July this year, wave a flag made by Annin & Co, the oldest and largest flag manufacturer in the United States, a company started in 1847. Celebrate American independence by supporting local workers and craftsmen!

Products made in the U.S. not only offer superior workmanship, but they also help promote the U.S. economy. In recent decades, many American companies have moved production overseas, attracted by cheaper labor and production costs in less developed countries. Manufacturing is a crucial part of any economy and has been woven into the structure of the American economy since World War 2; only since the early 2000s has American manufacturing seen a steady decline, and the numbers continue to fall into 2014, but a small group of Americans have made a point of counteracting the outsourcing movement in the United States.

In recent years, more and more companies have tried to shift the focus back to American made products, and even home builders have shown an interest in promoting ‘Made in America.’ The Building A Better America Council (buildingforamerica.org), a nonprofit organization, was created to promote the manufacturing and purchasing of American made products in the construction industry. Portland, OR’s 2013 Street of Dreams featured a home by Westlake Development Group appropriately named “The American Dream,” where 97 percent of products used to construct the house were made in America — from nuts, bolts and lighting fixtures to rescued barn wood featured in the home’s rec room.

In January 2013, 84 Lumber (the largest privately held building materials and services supplier in the United States) launched its “We Build American” initiative at the National Association of Homebuilder’s International Builders Show in Las Vegas, where it encouraged builders, remodelers and home buyers to purchase and use American made materials in the construction and remodeling of their homes. Partnered with Marnie Custom Homes in Bethany Beach, DE, “We Build American” promotes awareness of the benefits of building American. Marnie Oursler, founder of Marnie Custom Homes, has found the cost of using American made materials is within one-half of one percent of the cost of using foreign-made materials.

The U.S. offers innovation and a high level of talented labor, and products made in the U.S. help keep the American economy growing. Jeff Nobers, Vice President, Marketing & Public Relations at 84 Lumber, said: “If every American builder used just 5-10% more American products in the homes that they build, it would add an enormous number of American jobs in communities across the country. From sawmills in Georgia and Mississippi, to nail manufacturers in Illinois, Americans would be put to work making American products for American homes” (prnewswire.com). It’s not just builders who have voiced an interest in American made products, ABC News launched its “Made in America” news section, which provides articles, blogs, news segments and other information spotlighting American made products and services.

Another aspect of American manufacturing that shouldn’t be overlooked is the fact that buying products that are made in the U.S. promotes greener and environmentally conscious production standards while preventing worker exploitation. Many items made overseas are done so by people working in appalling factory conditions, paid little-to-nothing for their time and effort. Buying American made products helps U.S. workers make a living wage and sends large corporations a message that taking advantage of cheap labor isn’t what Americans stand for.

While it seems as though the options for American made products might be limited, it’s just the opposite. Websites such as madeinusa.org, consumerreports.org and madeintheusa.com highlight companies whose items are still made within the United States, helping home owners and consumers alike locate products and companies that are immediately local, within their state, or in the United States. Another hugely popular site is Etsy, “a marketplace where people around the world connect to buy and sell unique goods” (etsy.com). Etsy allows consumers to search specific states and cities for anything from home, living, and clothing items to wedding and craft supplies, of which many items are locally sourced and hand crafted.

Made in America products are not limited to small boutiques, online stores and home construction products — many large American companies feature American products, some of which are staples in U.S. households. All-Clad, located in Canonsburg, PA, is the only bonded cookware manufacturer to use American craftsmen and American made metals in the production of its superior, high-performance bonded cookware. The renowned Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer is still made in Greenville, OH, and Pyrex kitchen containers and bake ware, principal items in almost 80 percent of American households, are still made in Charleroi, PA, where they’ve been made since the 1940s. The Oreck XL vacuum is still manufactured in its Cookeville, TN plant, and most Weber grills, some of the most popular grills of all time, are still manufactured in Palantine, IL.

Personal preference always takes priority when choosing items for the home or for life in general, but when celebrating Independence Day this year, take a moment to recognize what our nation has to offer in every area of life. American workers and craftsmen help keep our country running — when shopping for home items, clothing, and anything else for everyday living, don’t forget about Made in the U.S.A!

 

Power Balance

It may be tempting to shut your doors and blast your air conditioning once summer kicks into full gear, but if you can avoid the impulse, you can actually save money as well as help the environment. Find out what you can do to save money this summer with the following advice from the U.S. Department of Energy.

One easy way to take advantage of natural cooling is to turn off your air conditioning at night and open your windows instead. This will let cool air into your house that you can trap by closing the windows when you wake up in the morning. Making sure your windows have a tight seal will also prevent cold air from escaping, and it will help you save energy in the winter.

Turning off appliances that emit heat is another simple way to save on energy and keep your house cool. Using items such as your oven, lamps and dishwasher will cause your house to heat up, requiring your air conditioner to do more heavy lifting. You can avoid building up excessive heat in the house by cooking outside or doing the dishes at night when it is easier to keep the house cool.

Learning how to program your thermostat will also play dividends. If your house is unoccupied for periods of throughout the day, set your thermostat so the air conditioning isn’t operating during those times.

Information received from CRS, The Council of Residential Specialists

Home Away from Home

Renting a vacation house offers a lot that hotels or other accommodations often don’t provide: keeping your large group together, cooking out and eating family style, and unique amenities such as a private pool or hot tub. Find the right rental for your group isn’t always easy, however. Here are some tips for The New York Times and Frommers.com to help you make a decision on a rental this summer.

Do your research: These days, there is no shortage of information about available rentals. Sites like VRBO.com, FlipKey (which is run by TripAdvisor), and HomeAway.com list thousands of rental homes in North America and across the world. Once you’ve located a few rentals you like, make sure what you see is accurate. Check the owner’s website, online reviews and comments from past users on sites like Yelp or Facebook.

Identity what you want: Determine your priorities before you start looking. A beachfront place may be more expensive, but if your family loves the water, it may be worth it. If you know your group is more likely to be out and about and just use the house as a place to sleep, you probably want to go for a less expensive option.

Decide early…or don’t: Good rental properties are tough to find, and that is doubly true if you’re heading somewhere during popular vacation times such as Christmas or spring break. So if you locate a place you’re particularly fond of, book it as soon as you finalize your plans. However, if you’re the spontaneous type, you can sometimes find big discounts by waiting until the last minute because discounted renters are better than no renters at all for property owners.

Information received from CRS, The Council of Residential Specialists

The Art of the Approach: Curb Appeal, and More

When considering the mysteries of what attracts the ultimate buyer, few will deny that curb-appeal is a sort of magic bullet. The term is a buzz word for the enticing image of your home as seen from the street, and is similar to the adage of judging a book by its cover. Buyers who rely upon this might overlook a treasure in the rough, but savvy sellers know curb appeal is a key tool to finding a buyer more quickly.

Curb appeal is key when buyers are looking through multiple listings, getting a feel for neighborhoods from the comfort of their cars — just driving by. Often, buyers will look at advertisements and listings online or in print, and if they are local will take a peek on their way home from work. Because of the power of this curb view, often the primary photographs used in advertisements and listings are from this angle. Money spent in improving this viewing angle is among the smartest investment. Simply put, painting and pruning trees and shrubbery can transform a home, helping to shed light on its features.

Other aspects of the approach to a home can be equally enticing and help to pave the way for a successful interior viewing. After all, when care is taken to the outside of a home, people feel that the interior will also have what they are looking for. Driveways and walkways that are well maintained and artfully presented greet potential buyers as soon as they step out of their vehicles.

Trees and shrubs that lose their leaves can create slick areas on driveways and walkways and be unattractive if allowed to affect landscaping and lawns. Ensure that you consider this when selecting trees to plant near driveways, and keep leaves in check during fall viewings. During the winter, when snow and ice might prove to be a problem, it is essential to maintain driveways and walkways carefully. This is not only for safety, but it illustrates the type of person who has owned and maintained the house itself.

One helpful exercise is to take time to view a home with curb-appeal in mind. At each juncture where a potential buyer might approach and view your home or property, stop and look around. Notice details. Take photographs. Look straight ahead, to the right and left, and even at the ground. If there are appealing features, play those up. If there are issues that block the enjoyment of the home, you can choose to address them. In each instance, seek to frame the view of the home or property in an appealing light, tending to the ground under foot, the areas close to the viewer, and that which they see.

The Results of curb-appeal come when assessing views from inside the home and at various places on the property. All views are important because they are attention-getting elements of the property you are selling. Views are memorable, and a bad one can deter potential buyers. Whenever possible, seek to create eye-catching points around the home. If certain views are less than desirable, seek to minimize, distract, or even block those views. If you can remove the offensive elements, do so, but whenever possible, contain them, screen them or otherwise affect a change.

Additionally, certain areas in homes have an element of approach to them. You control all the views inside the home, so assess each one carefully. The foyer or entryway has its own view into the home and serves as a curb of its own, or a launching pad, so to speak. As a viewer enters the home, moves to the living room, kitchen, master bedroom, or backyard, each transition creates an impression and should be considered a view. Try walking through the home and noting the approaches so that you can begin to create views within the home that offer the best feelings and highlight the home’s strengths. Make sure lighting, furniture, and clutter are all under control so that impressions are good every step of the way.

Follow these tricks for creating the best impression:

    • Ensure that the yard and landscaping is neat, tidy, and well-maintained. Seek to flatter the home first, then to show off your gardening skills. Freshly pruned vegetation illustrates careful stewardship.
    • If flowering plants are past their prime, trim them back and add in some seasonal plants for color. Re-edge and add mulch to existing beds. Plants in containers may be easily changed out or positioned where they are most needed, and if you invest in nice pots, you can take them with you.
    • Control growth of large trees to optimize light and safety of the home and surrounding buildings and property. Remove debris under trees daily, if needed.
    • Pay close attention to the front door and garage doors, including paint or stain condition and color, hardware and details these doors command a lot of attention. Consider adding seasonal decorations like a wreath or potted plants near the door, but keep these tasteful and few don’t distract from the house itself.
    • Clean steps, ensuring that they are free of scratches, chips, moss or signs of wear. Repair or upgrade handrails when appropriate.
    • A new Welcome Mat at the door will not only make a statement, it is also an invitation for viewers to wipe their feet as they enter the home.
    • Investing in new and unique numbers for your home not only makes it easy to identify, but can set it apart with flare.
    • Pressure wash the exterior of your home and ensure the gutters and roof are clean.
    • Assess and improve the driveway and any walkways to and around the home.
    • Upgrade lighting by doors and pathways. Providing safe and stylish lighting will make your home stand out in viewings throughout the day and evening.
    • Upgrade your mailbox. Creating a secure and attractive mail receptacle is akin to having a plush welcome mat at the end of your driveway or by your door.
    • Ensure that windows and screens are clean and well-maintained. Viewers from both the inside and outside of the home rely on being able to see through them. Shutters and screens should be in top shape. Easy-to-install PVC trim neatens and dresses up older windows and doors. Drapes and shades should be clean and in good working order.
    • Familiarize yourself with views from decks and various rooms, and improve those views when possible.
    • Decks can be used year-round in many places. Spruce up your deck, porch or patio and show what an inviting space it can be to potential buyers.