Area Real Estate News & Market Trends

You’ll find our blog to be a wealth of information, covering everything from local market statistics and home values to community happenings. That’s because we care about the community and want to help you find your place in it. Please reach out if you have any questions at all. We’d love to talk with you!

Aug. 17, 2018

Do these 5 things as soon as you move into your new home

In all the excitement of moving and trying to get settled in the new home, the last thing you want is a honey-do list, right? Some things, however, shouldn’t be put off but need to be taken care of now.

So, push the boxes aside for a day or two and let’s get ‘er done!

1. Change the locks

Although this may seem like a no-brainer, changing the door locks on a new home is something many homebuyers neglect doing. Hey, when you consider all the little details that need attention, such as changing over the utilities, registering the kids in new schools and ensuring everyone has your new address, something is bound to fall through the cracks.

Since you don’t know exactly how many people have keys to your new home and who they are, put this one at the top of your to-do list.

Unless you’re opting for a smart lock, changing the locks on a door is a common DIY project and costs very little.

2. Locate your home’s main water shutoff valve

Scrambling to figure out how to shut off the water in your new home wastes precious time in an emergency. Scout out the location of your main water shutoff valve now and share the location with other household members.

Unfortunately, there are a number of places that it could be located. In cold-climate areas you’ll typically find the water shutoff valve somewhere indoors, such as in the basement. In warmer weather regions it may be located outdoors or in the garage. If the home is on a slab foundation, check for the valve near the water heater.

3. Secure your home purchase paperwork

Before putting away all those documents you signed at closing for your new home, make copies of them and store them in a safe place, off-site. No, you may not need to refer to this paperwork, but then again, you may, so it’s a good idea to keep everything.

While you’re in the paperwork groove, consider purchasing an accordion file and use it to hold all the paperwork you’ll accumulate as a new homeowner. This includes receipts for repairs and improvements, insurance information and warranties.

When it comes time to sell the home, you’ll be glad you have all of this important information in one place.

4. Open a new savings account

Yes, you paid a whole lot of money at the closing table, but that was just the beginning of what it costs to own a home. Routine maintenance and emergency repairs need to be factored in as well.

“No new homeowner, myself included, can ever feel fully prepared for the maintenance costs and renovation costs associated with homeownership,” Pamela Capalad, a Brooklyn NY financial planner tells NerdWallet.com.

But a savings account, dedicated specifically to pay for home maintenance and repairs can go a long way toward being prepared.

Most financial experts say to set aside 1 to 2 percent of the home’s value each year for both maintenance and repairs. For example, if your home is worth $250,000, you should dedicate from $2,500 to $5,000 a year.

Make it less painful by having a monthly amount (from about $210 to $420) automatically deducted from your pay and sent to the dedicated savings account.

Deferring routine maintenance may impact your home’s future value, by the way.

5. Replace your air filters

Changing an old HVAC filter just one time is enough to convince many of us to make changing them a routine. Sadly, that isn’t the case. Many homeowners neglect this inexpensive and easy home maintenance chore and end up breathing in that brown fuzz that clings to old filters.

Not only that, but they’re setting the entire system up for failure. “A system that has a dirty filter can suffer from pressure drop, which can lead to reduced air flow, or ‘blow-out,’ resulting in no air infiltration at all,” according to Nick Gromicko and Kate Tarasenko for the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI).

Change the filter in a busy household with kids and pets once a month, otherwise you may be able to wait three months before installing a new one. Learn how to change the filter at thefamilyhandyman.com.

 

If you are wanting to move into a new home for yourself or sell your current home, please give us a call!

July 30, 2018

10 Ways to Make Sure You Get Your Security Deposit Back

Getting your security deposit back after you move may feel like an impossible feat, but it isn’t. Remember that your security deposit is essentially your money, so not all hope is lost when it’s time to move out.

“It’s the landlord’s obligation to return [the deposit] at the end of the lease,” says Abbie Philpott with move-out company Pleased to Clean You.

Here’s some expert advice for making sure your security deposit money goes back into your wallet — where it belongs.

Start planning when you move in

Take precautions when you move in to save time (and money) when you move out. To avoid getting charged for damage, use removable poster putty or removable hooks to hang things, and use felt pads to protect wood floors from scratches.

Stay organized

You know all of those rental-related documents you received when you moved in? Olivia Joyce with end-of-tenancy cleaning company Move Out Mates suggests reading them thoroughly and keeping all of them in one place.

“Research the proper procedures for ending your rental agreement, and comply with them,” she says.

Document everything

Unfortunately, “fair wear and tear” is subjective.

“I’ve seen cases in which landlords stretch this phrase to the limit,” Philpott says. She urges tenants to photograph everything in the rental property to serve as proof of the property’s condition.

While photo documentation is great, sometimes it’s not enough.

“Take a video walkthrough of the unit when you first move in and again when you move out,” suggest John and Melissa Steele with Team Steele San Diego Homes.

If the property manager tries to keep your deposit, your video will serve as proof that you kept the rental in quality condition.

“It makes it very hard for them to argue with you,” the Steeles add. “It has helped us save a few hundred dollars, and it only takes a few minutes.”

Further, keep a record of each time you contacted your property manager to report maintenance issues. And whenever reporting maintenance requests, do so via email or through a reporting system that sends you a confirmation. This serves as proof for your record keeping.

Contact your landlord

Confirm how far in advance you need to alert your landlord about your move-out date. While your rental agreement may already note this, a quick conversation serves as both a helpful confirmation and a courtesy to your landlord.

Clean thoroughly

In addition to the standard vacuuming and dusting, plan to do a serious deep clean if you want all of your deposit money back.

“This means behind and beneath appliances, plus details like light switches, door frames and more,” says Joyce.

And don’t forget to confirm whether your rental property is required to be professionally cleaned. If so, keep your service receipt as proof for your landlord.

Move out on the same day as your roommates

If possible, coordinate a move-out day with your roommates.

“You don’t want to leave it up to your roommate to make sure the apartment is perfectly cleaned and ready for the next tenant,” says Seth Wanta, Chicago resident. “You also don’t want your roommates to move out before you, leaving any junk for you to clean up. Make it a team effort!”

Do a mock inspection with friends

Invite some trusted friends over and go through your move-out checklist together. You may be surprised by how many things you would have missed if you went through your checklist solo.

Joyce suggests marking every damage or deterioration, because some of them are the landlord’s responsibility, while others should be deducted from your deposit.

Once you know who’s responsible for what, you can fix any issue that occurred during your occupancy.

Have your landlord do a mock inspection

Ask your landlord to do an unofficial inspection before your move-out date. This not only helps you assess what needs fixing but also allows both of you to get on the same page about what needs additional cleaning or repairs.

Give yourself a few days between this inspection and your move-out day so you have time to correct anything your landlord may be unhappy with.

Do necessary repairs

Small repairs like replacing light bulbs, filling nail holes and unclogging drains are small things that make a big difference.

“They’ll take you no more than an hour to complete, but they’ll raise the general condition of the property,” says Lauren Haynes, a supervisor with Star Domestic Cleaners. “The landlord will definitely appreciate the work done and will be less likely to claim deductions from the deposit.”

Additionally, Kristen Chuber with Paintzen advises painting a coat of the original paint color on any walls with scuffs or holes. Chuber suggests either going a DIY route for around $50 or hiring a service and asking for cheaper “whiteboxing” rates.

“Depending on the condition of your walls, this could be more cost-effective than losing that money out of your deposit, especially if your rental is small,” she says.

And if you don’t have the funds for either option? “The next best thing I’ve seen is the Magic Eraser,” Chuber adds. “It’s been my BFF when it comes to getting rid of scuffs and marks.”

Research local laws

It’s illegal in most states for a landlord to keep your security deposit without explanation, so research renter’s rights related to security deposits at the city, county and state level.

Good starting points for this information are the websites of your state’s attorney general and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. While your property manager should already be aware of these regulations, you should be too. Landlord-tenant laws exist to help you, but be your own advocate.

Finally, while following these 10 suggestions will certainly go a long way, so does being nice. Patience and politeness are memorable qualities, especially if you live in a large apartment complex where plenty of other residents are moving out around the same time as you.

If thinking about the process of getting your security deposit back is daunting, rest assured that it doesn’t have to be. With some planning and clear, considerate communication, you’re well on your way to getting your hard-earned deposit money back into your hands.

Posted in Leasing
July 30, 2018

5 Things to Look for in a Rental Listing

Whether you’re looking for an apartment, single-family house or townhome — and whether you’re in a city, the suburbs or a small town — be prepared to spend a lot of time online and even more time driving around to tour the most promising places in person.

If you want to save time and avoid headaches, make sure that every rental listing you consider has all the information you need. High-quality listings help you weed out the places that don’t fit your criteria (wait, Fido’s not welcome?), but they also indicate an organized, communicative and professional landlord — something every renter wants.

As you begin your search, consider these five important things every good rental listing should contain:

1. Detailed details

Front and center should be the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, square footage, storage space and a floor plan to help you visualize the layout.

Avoid listings with vague terms like “junior one bedroom” or “open one bedroom.” According to Zillow research, 88 percent of shoppers search online listings based on how many bedrooms and bathrooms they need. Landlords know this, so they get creative with descriptions to attract more tenants.

Another need-to-know detail is how safe the property is. Zillow research reports that 67 percent of renters said that a safe neighborhood is a must-have, and 46 percent said the same about a secure building.

Most landlords will say that the neighborhood is safe, so do your own research, especially if you’re new to the area.

Speaking of being new — if you’re moving to a new part of town or an entirely new city, look for listings with important facts about the neighborhood, including proximity to transit or major freeways, convenient shopping centers, and nearby recreation and entertainment options.

2. Amenities — all of them

Beyond basics like heating and kitchen appliances, every renter has different amenities that they consider must-haves.

The most popular amenities renters look for include air conditioning, in-unit laundry, ample storage and private outdoor space. Watch for other nice-to-have in-unit amenities, like recent renovations, hardwood floors, plenty of windows and upgraded kitchens.

Shared amenities should be included in the listing too — things like parking, rooftop decks, fitness areas, outdoor space, swimming pools and bike storage.

3. Major (and potentially problematic) policies

The listing should disclose any policies that could be a deal breaker for you. Examples include rules around pets (including specific breeds), the maximum number of people who can live in the unit, smoking, parking, noise and — most importantly — lease terms and length.

Additionally, see if you can tell if the landlord lives on-site or if a local property management company manages things. If the landlord is nearby, they’ll likely handle repair requests quickly, along with general building upkeep and maintenance.

4. Clearly described costs

Make sure the landlord is exceptionally clear about the dollars and cents:

  • What is the monthly rent?
  • How much of a deposit is required, and is any of it refundable?
  • Are there any one-time fees?
  • Is there a pet fee or monthly charge?
  • Does parking cost extra?
  • Who pays for utilities?

These additional charges can quickly move a listing from feasible to fruitless, so make sure you have all the info you need to do the math ahead of time.

5. High-quality photos

Focus on listings that have not only good photos but also recent photos — and lots of them.

Look for listings that include both interior and exterior shots, plus photos of all shared amenities. But renter beware: If the landlord says the photos are of a similar unit — not the one that’s actually for rent — you may find yourself in a bait-and-switch situation.

Once you find a few listings that include these details, you’re off to a great start. You can more easily compare properties side by side, identify deal breakers and find areas where a landlord might be open to compromising.

Posted in Leasing
Sept. 3, 2017

Curious About Local Real Estate?

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Curious about local real estate? So are we! Every month we review trends in our real estate market and consider the number of homes on the market in each price tier, the amount of time particular homes have been listed for sale, specific neighborhood trends, the median price and square footage of each home sold and so much more. We’d love to invite you to do the same!

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You can sign up here to receive your own market report, delivered as often as you like! It contains current information on pending, active and just sold properties so you can see actual homes in your neighborhood. You can review your area on a larger scale, as well, by refining your search to include properties across the city or county. As you notice price and size trends, please contact us for clarification or to have any questions answered.

We can definitely fill you in on details that are not listed on the report and help you determine the best home for you. If you are wondering if now is the time to sell, please try out our INSTANT home value tool. You’ll get an estimate on the value of your property in today’s market. Either way, we hope to hear from you soon as you get to know our neighborhoods and local real estate market better.

Posted in Market Updates
Aug. 21, 2017

How Comps Can Help Find The Right Price For Your Home

Homes are unlike the majority of other things people buy in that the price isn’t set in stone. Sure, the listing might include an “asking price,” but as this term suggests, that’s just a request rather than a hard, unwavering demand. And that’s why comps are so important. So what exactly are comps? 

Short for housing “comparables,” comps are a way to help you figure out what a home is worth based on the recent sales prices of similar properties in the area. Home sellers (and their real estate agents) use comps to help them come up with their asking price, while buyers can use comps to come up with how much to offer. As such, it’s an important concept for both buyers and sellers to master. 

Here are the basics on how to find comps and wield them to your advantage.

What are comps?

With housing comps, you ideally want to compare apples to apples—not apples to kiwi (which is, let’s face it, a strikingly unappealing fruit). In other words, it’s important for comps to be as similar to your own property as possible. While what constitutes a comp for a home will depend on each particular market, here are some ballpark parameters:

·       Same location: A comp is usually considered a property located within a half-mile radius of the home in question.

·       Same size: If the house in question is 5,000 square feet, you’ll ideally want to look at other houses hovering around 5,000 square feet.

·       Number of bedrooms/bathrooms: When push comes to shove, this matters more than square footage. While size is important, utility is a better gauge for comparability. You can have a three-bedroom, three-bath unit that’s 2,000 square feet, or you can have that same square footage in a one-bedroom/one-bath. Bedroom and bathroom counts need to be similar in order to be considered actually comparable.

·       Recent sales price: Since housing prices change from month to month, your comps should ideally be homes that were sold within the past six months to a year tops.

·       Style, view, and other details: Units in the same high-rise may have different views—one of a lake, the other of a parking lot. So although they’re similar in terms of bedrooms and square footage, the lake view should be taken into account, too, and compared with other properties with lake views in the area. Meanwhile if you’re looking at attached dwellings such as townhouses or co-op apartments, end units typically fetch a higher price than interior units with homes on each side due to the added noise issues and/or fewer windows.

How to find comps and use them during negotiations

To find comps, you can start by looking for recent listings in your area on the internet. But for a full, deep dive into the numbers, you’ll want to enlist the help of your real estate agent or other professional. The reason: Listings typically feature the asking price, but not the final sales price (which could be higher or lower and is a more accurate gauge of a home’s market value).

Luckily, your real estate agent will have access to databases with more detail like the multiple listing service. Realtors will also know how to synthesize all this information into an asking price (or offer) you can justify and stand by, which is important once the negotiations on a home get rolling.

For instance, let’s say you’re selling your home for $200,000 and some buyer lowballs you with $170,000. Comps will allow you (or rather your agent) to go back to the buyer and say, “Another three-bedroom with about the same square footage a block away just sold last month for $190,000! So, we’re fairly confident we can find a buyer who’ll pay at least that much. Care to raise your offer to $185,000 at least?”

Or else, let’s say you fall in love with a home with the asking price of $400,000. You’re tempted to pay what’s asked, but then you find out that the comps are going for only $350,000—which means you’d be overpaying by $50,000! This is an instance where you and your agent could inform the home seller, “Hey, we found comps in your area going for $350,000. So that’s why we’re offering you $360,000 and think it’s a fair offer.”

Keep in mind, though, that comps are more of an art than a science, which is why different professionals may come to different conclusions. Nonetheless, comps add oomph to back up whatever you’re asking for (or offering), strengthening your negotiation position and saving you tens of thousands of dollars. In other words, it pays, literally, to have comps in your corner.

 

Posted in Selling Tips
June 29, 2017

Preparing To Sell Your Home

 

 

Millions of existing homes are sold each year and, while each transaction is different, every owner wants the same thing: the best possible deal with the least amount of hassle and aggravation. 

Home selling has become more complex than it used to be. New seller disclosure statements, longer and more mysterious form agreements, and a range of environmental concerns have all emerged in the past decade.

 

More importantly, the home selling process has changed. Buyer brokerage, the process in which REALTORS represent home buyers, is now common nationwide and good buyer-brokers want the best for their clients.

The result is that, while hundreds of thousands of existing homes may be sold each week, the process is not as easy for sellers as it was five or 10 years ago. Surviving in today’s real estate world requires experience and training in such fields as real estate marketing, financing, negotiating and closing, the very expertise available from local Direct Realty professionals.

 

Are You Ready?

The home-selling process typically starts several months before a property is made available for sale. It’s necessary to look at a home through the eyes of a prospective buyer and determine what needs to be cleaned, painted, repaired and tossed out.

Ask yourself: If you were buying this home, what would you want to see? The goal is to show a home that looks good, maximizes space and attracts as many buyers as possible.

While part of the “getting ready” phase relates to repairs, painting and other home improvements, it is also a good time to ask why you really want to sell. Selling a home is an important matter and you should have a good reason to sell, perhaps a job change to a new community or the need for more space. Your reason for selling can impact the negotiating process, so it’s important to discuss your needs and wants in private with the Direct Realty professional who lists your home.

 

When Should You Sell?

The marketplace tends to be more active in the summer because parents want to enroll children in classes at the beginning of the school year (usually in August). Summer is also typically when most homes are likely to be available.

Generally speaking, markets tend to have some balance between buyers and sellers year-round. For example, a given community may have fewer buyers in late December, but it’s also likely to have fewer homes available for purchase. As a result, home prices tend to rise or fall due to general patterns of supply and demand, rather than the time of year.

Owners are encouraged to sell when the property is ready for sale, there is a need or desire to sell, and the services of a Direct Realty professional has been retained.

 

How Do You Improve Your Home’s Value?

The general rule in real estate is that buyers seek the least expensive home in the best neighborhood they can afford. This means you want to put on the market a home that fits with the neighborhood but is not over-improved. For example, if most homes in your neighborhood have three bedrooms, two baths and 2,500 square feet of finished space, a property with five bedrooms, more baths and far more space would likely be priced much higher and would be more difficult to sell.

Improvements should be made so that the property shows well, reflects community preferences and does not involve capital investments, the cost of which cannot be recovered from the sale.

Cosmetic improvements, paint, wallpaper, landscaping, etc., help a home show better and often are good investments. Mechanical repairs that ensure all systems and appliances are in good working condition are required to get a top price.

 

Ideally, you want to be sure your property is competitive with other homes available in the community. Direct Realty professionals, who see numerous homes, can provide suggestions that are consistent with your marketplace.



Find your home's value for FREE!

 

 

Posted in Selling Tips
June 13, 2017

5 Home Projects You Should Tackle Before You List Your House

Your home is a major investment, and it’s something that you want to get the most from when you move on. Don’t let minor flaws get in the way of your profits. Something as simple as picking up toys in the yard or clearing away your collection of soda bottles can make a major difference in how potential buyers feel about your home. Add these projects to your checklist if you want to make a good first impression and sell your home for top dollar.

Paint for Neutral Ambiance

Neutral colors are the most appealing choice for home buyers. Painting is a big job, and something that many buyers don’t want to tackle right away. Bold colors are entirely a matter of personal preference. You may love that deep teal on the walls, but it will be more difficult to connect with prospective buyers when you’ve chosen such a distinctive hue. Instead, paint your home in shades that are easy to match, such as eggshell, tan, white or pewter.

Upgrade for Energy Efficiency

Smart homebuyers look at more than the up-front cost of the home. They’ll also consider ongoing expenses such as utilities and upkeep. That’s why Energy Star appliances and newer HVAC systems are so appealing. If you don’t have the funds for these major investments, you can improve your home’s energy efficiency on a budget by sealing and insulating. Address cracks or gaps around windows and doors. Replace the seals around doors and windows, repair any damage to the siding, and check your insulation.

Clean Up for Spacious Impressions

Cluttered homes look smaller and hectic. Clear the odds and ends, and make your home look as much like a showroom as possible. If the idea of organizing all these items is too overwhelming, simply box them up and stash them in unseen areas, such as under the bed. You may even want to rent a small storage space while you’re staging your home so that you can clear out your closets and show off their spacious nature or empty the garage and make it look more appealing.

Landscape Carefully for Curb Appeal

First impressions are critical when you’re selling your home. Many prospective buyers will do a drive-by before scheduling a viewing. If they don’t like what they see from the street, they’ll never step inside the home. Keep your yard well maintained with manicured bushes, carefully tended flower beds, and a clutter-free lawn. Small improvements such as painting the front door, straightening the mailbox, and replacing that missing stone in the walkway will go a long way toward enticing a buyer.

Polish Up the Bathroom for a Like-New Look

You don’t have to remodel your whole bathroom for the same level of appeal. At a minimum, you should re-caulk the tub for a fresh, clean look. If you can’t eliminate stains and discoloration completely, reglaze the tub to make it look like new. Keep this room meticulously clean, regularly sweeping up stray hairs, dusting light fixtures, and cleaning the mirror so that it looks pristine.

A well-staged home will draw more buyers and entice the type of bidding war every seller wants. Make the effort to present your home well, and you’ll reap major rewards for your efforts.

 

Posted in Selling Tips
May 23, 2017

PREPPING YOUR HOME FOR THE SUMMER

 

If you’re like most people, you’re ready to bide adieu to torrential downpours and the first wave of elevated pollen levels that spring is notorious for. While spring cleaning often requires homeowners to clean and organize their homes, here are a few home maintenance tasks you should consider addressing this summer.

 

1.     Once the April showers have subsided, call a professional to inspect the condition of your roof. Also, clean out the debris from the gutters and downspouts if you haven’t done so already.

 

2.     Whether you are in the process of getting your home ready to place on the market or you just want to ensure it is still in good condition, opt for a pre-listing inspection. According to professional inspectors, the investment and piece of mind is worthwhile. They would recommend that people make sure their AC unit is checked, and they replace their filters. It is ideal to schedule a HVAC inspection and service when shifting from heating in the winter to cooling in the spring/summer months.

 

 

3.     Your flower bed might be the envy of the neighborhood, but be sure to check the equipment you use to maintain it, particularly the garden house. A garden hose can leak, and over time, that simple seemingly harmless leak can waste water and increase your water bill. Check to see whether it is a worn-out hose or the fitting that is problematic before you toss the entire thing out.

 

4.     Winter storms and rainstorms make the exterior of your house look dingy. Hire a professional or head to your nearest home store to purchase pressure and power washing supplies. Pressure wash any pavers and concrete surface and power wash the sidings, brick surfaces, and stonework.

 

5.     Hire a landscaper to handle big jobs like trimming the limbs of large trees and removing any dead trees. For smaller jobs, set aside an afternoon to remove smaller tree limbs and scrubs and clean up unwanted debris.

 

6.     The thought of circulating dust mites around a room is one that most people would want to avoid, but by not cleaning the ceiling fans, that is exactly what happens. With a bucket of warm water and a drop of vinegar, it is easy to clean dust off of ceiling fan blades and the unit that secures it. Take the proper precautions to make sure you are stable on a ladder or a chair. If you use the fans in a 6-month period, you should clean them at least three times over that period, or every-other month.

 

7.     The same vinegar and water solution can also be used to wipe upper and lower trims. Dust gathers easily along the baseboard and can be more effectively removed by a damp cloth than by a broom.

 

8.     Test emergency systems in the home to make sure they work. This includes the home alarm, smoke fire alarm, fire extinguisher, and carbon monoxide alarms. This should be done twice a year.

 

Posted in Home Improvement