Not as Good as the Original

Not as Good as the Original

  Don’t you hate when a classic movie is remade and you are so excited to see it but then so disappointed when it it’s not as good as the original? How about when they came out with the new Coke? What were they thinking? Some things can be improved upon. Some companies learn from previous experience and customer feedback and their new product is actually new and improved. How does this translate into real estate? Many home purchasers will walk into a model home and say, “I’ll take it!” Only after sitting down with the on-site agent will they realize that the cost of the model home is substantially more than the base price due to all the upgrades that are in the model they loved so much. Similarly, you may have seen a house built by a smaller, local builder and decided to contract with them to build that same house on another lot they have. You may be disappointed with the quality of craftsmanship or the customer service (or lack thereof) throughout the process. Three lessons here: Hire a professional Realtor to represent you. A lot of on-site agents do a great job. They can recite every feature and upgrade, help you decide which lot will be best, and even let you know what they think the builder might accept as an offer and what he might throw into the price of the home. The thing you need to remember is that they do not represent you. They represent the builder – the Seller. A Realtor who represents you can also help in terms of local reputation of builders. If they have worked in the area for any number of years, they will likely have had some experience with the builder you are looking at. She may even have a relationship with them or their agent and may be able to use that to your advantage when it comes to negotiations. Hire a home inspector and have the house inspected at various times throughout construction. Just because it’s new doesn’t mean that it’s great. Faulty materials and simple human error can be to blame. Your neighbor’s house may have been built well by the same builder but if the crew was different, yours may have totally different issues. A home inspector can inspect the house during construction and they will have access to the framing and the guts of the house prior to the drywall going in and hiding potential problems. Don’t get too caught up in the “model home”. Model homes are just that “models.” They typically have that perfect look – everything you would want. The question is, “at what price?” Sometimes builders will...

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Dude Looks Like a Lady

Dude Looks Like a Lady

Not everything is as it seems these days. In music, this is true in songs like Dude Looks Like a Lady and Funky Cold Medina, genders were not what they seemed. In real estate, lipstick on a pig is probably the description that would best describe what I’m talking about. Sometimes we can get very caught up in the exterior. We love the facelift the house has or that the flooring is all new. We may even be buying a brand new house and love that we won’t have to deal with all those issues like in a 75-year old house. Well, not so fast. Not everything may be as it seems and there may be more – or less – than what meets the eye. This is why it is so important to have two people on your side. A great Realtor and a great home inspector. First, your Realtor has likely seen a LOT of crazy things in their experiences and can warn you as to some of the things they have seen in the past. Second, they will (hopefully) be very honest with you and help you be realistic and see the house for what it is, not just what it seems to be. This can work the opposite way as well. Your agent may know that you really want a solidly built home and that getting an older home with “great bones” would be better for you than a new construction home that was built in a few months, based on known quality issues of the builder. A great home inspector will make sure that you know the true condition of the property, not just if things are operable or not. They will check everything from the foundation to the roof and everything in between. They can check for mold, radon, and structural issues. You need not be alarmed by all the little details since all houses have issues,  but listen to the warning signs. If there are red flags in the inspection report that could be continuous issues, take heed. You don’t want to get into a money pit, no matter how good the house may look. Bottom line is, you can change cosmetic items in a house to make it be what you are looking for – and at a fairly minimal cost depending on your needs. It is much harder and costlier to fix a house that is sliding down a hill in the backyard because the structure has not been properly maintained. Do your research, hire professionals, and don’t get fooled by the dude that looks like a...

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Out With the Old, In With the New

Out With the Old, In With the New

This is the time of year that we make plans. We set goals and resolve to do things better. On Jan 1 we have a clean slate for the year. 365 days to get it right, to get up early, to eat healthy, to exercise, and to get organized. A new beginning can mean many different things. For some, it’s saying goodbye to a less than stellar year behind and looking forward to the beautiful potential of the year ahead. It’s out with the old, in with the new. If you are looking for a major change, you may be considering a move. You may need to sell the old house and purchase something new. You may decide to move out of state. Maybe you want to stop putting work into that money pit and buy something brand new. Whatever you are planning, none of them will be perfect. The grass isn’t 100% greener. It will be fun for a while. It will satisfy your need for change and it will be good in a lot of ways, but don’t be fooled into thinking all your house problems will be solved by getting into something different. Here are some things to consider: A move of any kind is expensive. Depending on how much stuff you have, a move will cost you thousands of dollars. You can do it the old school, college way and get your friends to help but you may be looking for new friends as well as a new house! It’s always best to leave it to the professionals. You also need boxes and packing material. Also, if you are selling and/or purchasing a new place, you will have costs associated with the sale(s). See my blog, How Much Does Buying a House Really Cost for more info. A move costs you time. It takes a lot of time to sort through all of your belongings, decide what is going with you and what you need to give away or throw away. Then you have to pack everything. You may have to take off work in order to physically move and/or attend all the appointments that are associated with selling and/or buying. A move is stressful. No matter how much you try, you will be stressed at some point during a sale, purchase or a move. Timelines can be tight, vendors can be frustrating, deadlines can be missed, things can not go the way you planned, and you don’t have any idea which box the toilet paper is in. I always want to help anyone that wants or needs to sell or buy. But I also want them to know what they are getting into. It’s not typically perfect...

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How Much Does Buying a House Really Cost?

How Much Does Buying a House Really Cost?

You have searched for what seems like forever for “the one.” No, not the love of your life unless that happens to be a house. So you found the house you have been looking for and it is within your budget…or is it? How much does buying a house really cost? Well, let’s start at the beginning. Your loan. How much of a down payment will you need? Some loans are as little as 3.5% or 5% down, but you may want to avoid mortgage insurance and, therefore, put at least 20% down. What interest rate are you getting? It not only will help determine your monthly payment but it will determine how much you pay over the entire life of the loan. Next, you will likely pay for inspections. Depending on what type of inspections you require, you may spend $200-$1200. Your real estate agent can help you decide which inspections you may need for the type of property and the area you are purchasing. Appraisal. If you get a loan, you will get an appraisal. These typically run about $450. Sometimes they are rolled into closing costs but it may be required to be paid upfront so make sure you find out before you commit. And, speaking of closing costs, there are many options. When a loan is involved, typically there are escrow charges. These are reserves for taxes and insurance and can be up to a year’s worth of payments. You will also pay the current taxes and insurance at the time of purchase. Your state may have other taxes that are required to be paid at time of purchase. Then you have the charges for the attorney, title company or closing agent that does all the behind the scenes work as well as performs the closing. You may also have real estate broker charges depending on who is paying commissions and if there are any administrative fees that are being charged. You will need title insurance. That is paid at closing and may be charged to you as the Buyer. You may also be purchasing a home warranty that is also charged at closing. You may have negotiated that the Seller will pay for all these items, therefore, saving you cash. You will want to be very clear as to what charges you are responsible for, how they will be paid, and when they are due. Lastly, make sure you know what forms of payment are accepted. You don’t want to be scrambling to get to the bank before they close because you didn’t know a personal check was not an acceptable form of payment. As you can see, that $200,000 house could end up...

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Well Done or Overdone?

Well Done or Overdone?

  A neck massage before a haircut. Free returns – no questions asked. The staff rushing to clean off the best table even though there are others available. A glass of wine with your pedicure. A mint on your pillow. Any product sample you’d like, to take home and try before you invest. The call to tell you that item you have been eyeing has gone on sale. An extra gig of data just for being a loyal customer. The bubble wrap from the back office when your child with sensory issues walks in to their establishment. The all-natural treat when you go through the teller line for your dog who has a sensitive stomach. A lender who sits at the social security office for a client who is out of the country so the process will be streamlined when he gets into town. A real estate closing attorney who goes to the hospital because the client just had a baby. These are all great examples of excellent customer service. This is what most of us would consider a step above the masses. But what about calling customers back in a timely manner? What about setting proper expectations? What about actual communication? How about finishing the job and making sure the customer is happy? I don’t think most people would consider these to be acts that would win any awards. So why do so many companies practice these on a regular basis? Why is it that when we actually get a call back or someone to do what they say they’re going to do, we rejoice and shout it from the rooftops? I don’t have the answer to this, but what I do know is that a lot of consumers will seek out and even pay more for not only a job well done, but a job “overdone.” They will frequent the establishments that not only treat them well when they are there, but the ones that make sure they know they are special. If you are in the people business – most of us are – what are you “overdoing” for you clients? I am amazed at the number of business (I use the term loosely) people who will answer their phones in meetings, consistently arrive late for appointments, constantly talk about themselves and their problems, don’t follow up, etc. You’ve probably heard the quote from the late Maya Angelou, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Focus on the other person and their needs. If you can solve their problem, and do it well, they will not only pay for it, they will...

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Scary Houses

Scary Houses

  ‘Tis the season to talk about all things scary so I thought I’d write about scary houses. Buying or selling a house can be scary. Some things should be taken care of prior to selling and some things you may need to run away from. Mold. We see mold more often than we’d like in our area. Tennessee has a humid climate. If there is not proper ventilation in crawl spaces or if exhaust fans are not present or used properly, there can be mold in crawl spaces and bathrooms. If there has ever been a water leak or any water penetration, there can be mold. The scary thing here is that you may not see the evidence of mold because it may be in the walls. The best thing to do, as a buyer, is ask if there has ever been any water damage. The best thing to do, as a seller, is to take care of water immediately and, if necessary, remove any drywall around the wet area and make sure it is completely dry and void of mold before doing the cosmetic repair. Some buyers will walk away from a deal where mold has been found due to health issues, so be diligent in any repair you may do. Foundation. This is a big scary issue for buyers and sellers alike. Foundation work can be expensive and it can be very involved. Foundation issues can also continue to surface as ground shifts. There are historical homes that have to be “jacked up” every year or two simply due to age. They don’t have to be houses that you walk away from, necessarily, you just have to know the risks. The good thing about foundation work that is performed by licensed contractors, is that a lot of the work is warrantied for an extended period of time. If the Seller is willing to remedy the situation and provide a warranty, a lot of buyers will still buy the house because they have peace of mind. Roofs. If a roof is in need of replacing and you are a seller, in most cases, you are better off biting the bullet and replacing the roof. A lot of homeowners know they need a roof replacement but they wait for that big storm to hit so they can get some help from their insurance company. Well, if that big storm never hits, they may have caused themselves more issues due to potential leaks and the urgency of the needed repairs/replacement once they are ready to sell. My suggestion is to get a roof inspection from a reputable contractor prior to listing the house and do any necessary repairs. It is a big...

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