3 Sure Fire Ways to Lose When Buying Your Next Home!

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Thinking about making a move?  GREAT! What an exciting time for you.

Before you begin your home-buying journey, be sure to avoid these 3 sure fire ways homebuyers lose – big time – when buying a new home.

You may ask:  “Lose? How can I lose?”

Great question

Too many buyers rush into the home-buying process before they’re ready.  And doing so not only wastes their time but, in some instances, it costs them thousands of dollars.

Keep reading to learn what these top 3 mistakes are . . . so you make sure to avoid them!

Not getting prequalified BEFORE beginning your search

Many buyers make this mistake, thinking they know what they can afford.

What you may not consider, however, are other costs associated with home ownership – or a host of other issues that may affect your credit.

I’ve worked with some buyers who were pleasantly surprised that they could actually qualify for MORE than they imagined.  But I’ve also had buyer clients who learned of issues on their credit report that had to be handled and resolved before they would be able to move forward in the homebuyer process.

An informed buyer is the BEST buyer.  The 5-10 minutes it takes to talk to a lender to get prequalified is, without a doubt, well worth doing.

Not thinking through your “wish list” & prioritizing what’s most important

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Believe it or not, regardless of your budget, there will ALWAYS be compromises.

That’s right!  Even with a $1 million budget, it is unlikely that you’ll find EVERYTHING you’d like in your next home.

That’s why it’s always best to take time to really think through your dream home “wish list” and, then, prioritize your list from most important to least important.  In fact, some buyers create 2 lists – one for “must haves” and another for “like to haves.”

This is particularly useful information for your real estate agent, who knows the local market well and can better guide your search to find the home that will be perfect for you.

Not hiring a professional real estate agent 

Did you know that the seller pays for YOUR agent?  It’s true!

And yet some buyers believe they can do better to ‘go it alone’.

A professional real estate agent is well versed in negotiation strategy specifically tailored for real estate transactions.

You see, there are certain points of negotiation that are unique to real estate.  If you aren’t represented by an agent experienced in these types of transactions, you will miss out on opportunities (i.e., negotiable issues) simply because you don’t know they exist.

Similarly, some buyers have an agent, yet they attend Open Houses or new home construction sites alone (instead of advising their agent to register them and, thereby, protect their interests).  I’ve seen buyers leave literally thousands of dollars on the table when they negotiated a transaction alone. I don’t want that for you.

When you can have expert representation – without it costing a penny – and, in fact, potentially SAVING you not only time but mega money as well – why wouldn’t you hire an agent?

 

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FUN Fall Family Ideas

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After a busy, enjoyable summer, isn’t it nice to be back in routine with kids back to school, the sun setting earlier (making kids bedtime easier), etc? It sure is. And that doesn’t mean the fun times have to end– no way! Here’s a list of family fun things you can plan this month.

1) Decorate

– Wreath for the front door
– Inside your home for fall
– The porch with pumpkins and other fall decor

Check out the tutorial for this adorable DIY paper leaf wreath by Polkadot Chair

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2) Bake

– Pumpkin pie
– Pumpkin bread
– Homemade apple cider

Try this delightfully simple spin on pumpkin pie cheesecake by Smitten Kitchen

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3) Enjoy the Outdoors

-Make raking the leaves a family event.
-Go to the local pumpkin patch & hop on a hayride.
-Grab the ingredients for s’mores, then go outside after dinner to roast & enjoy with a cup of hot chocolate.

Check out these local events for lots of fall family fun!

S’mores & Ice Skating at Tenaya Lodge!

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Pumpkin Patch fun at Billy Bob’s Pumpkin Grove!

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ZooBoo at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo!

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And so much more!

What fun fall things does YOUR family do?

Do tell, I can’t wait to hear your ideas!

5 Tips to Save Money on Homeowners Insurance

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1. SHOP AROUND

Homeowners insurance premiums can vary widely. Be sure to seek out quotes from a number of different companies. Consider not only price but also service, from both the agent and the company itself. Ask for reviews (these days if an agent doesn’t have a bunch of testimonials, that should be a red flag). You can often get a better rate when you combine your auto and home coverages. Finally, ask about any other discounts (e.g., home security).

2. RAISE YOUR DEDUCTIBLE

Raising your deductible – from $250 to $500 – could save you more than 10% on your policy. Increasing the deductible to $1,000 could save you over 20%. Be sure to ask your agent for the amount you could save on your homeowners policy.

3. STAY WITH AN INSURER

Many insurers offer a discount for staying with them for several years. For example some insurers will reduce their premiums by 5 percent if you stay with them for 3 to 5 years; by 10 percent if you remain a policyholder for 6 years or more.

4. LOOK INTO GROUP COVERAGE

What groups do you belong to? These may include: alumni, business associations, professional associations, etc. Members often receive a discount when working with these groups’ preferred vendors.

5. BECOME EDUCATED

Insurance can be quite confusing. Some agents will try to sell you the most expensive policy without explaining what precisely should be insured. It’s worth the time and effort to ask an agent to thoroughly explain the different coverages available. Also ask her/him what exactly needs to be insured. Depending on your home’s location (e.g., in or near a flood zone or by the coast) or the age of the home and its major systems (e.g., electrical, heating and plumbing systems) as well as its overall structure, your premiums may be quite different than a similar home in another part of town or much older (or newer). Choosing wisely could cut your premium by 5 to 15 percent.

8 Things “Amazing” Real Estate Agents Do for Their Clients

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All real estate agents are not created equal!

Some, whether in the business for years or just months, consistently go “above and beyond” for their clients. Here are 8 things that an “amazing” real estate agent does for her clients:

(when interviewing agents, take note as to whether they talk about these important value-add services)

1. Explain the home buying and home selling process

(so you fully understand what to expect every step of the way)

An amazing real estate agent takes the time to explain the home buyer or home selling process, so you fully understand what to expect. If you’re a homebuyer, for example, she will explain that once your offer is accepted, you’ll have an opportunity to have the home inspected by an inspector of their choice. If a defect or anything concerning is found, negotiations will take place to repair or replace whatever is problematic. If you’re a home seller, your agent will explain, for example, what to expect during the negotiation process once an offer is submitted to purchase your home. She will ideally have a handout for you that clearly lays out every step along the way to closing.

2. Find great homes for buyers before they hit the market

(which could make the difference between finding “the one” or missing out)

Dedicated real estate agents are connected. Connected with other dedicated real estate agents. Connected and “in the know” in the communities they serve. As such, an amazing agent often learns of properties that are coming on the market before they hit the MLS. That means you’ll find out about hot properties before everyone else (which could make the difference between getting your dream home or missing out, yet again)

3. Provide an accurate home valuation for sellers

(& keep you up-to-date on the market)

An amazing real estate agent can provide a current home valuation for any home at any time (not just when you’re about to list your home for sale). This valuation is typically a range of anticipated fair market value, based upon a thorough review of comparable recently sold homes. It’s a good idea to request a home valuation every couple of years, if not annually. (Don’t trust online valuations, such as Zillow, because their valuations are based upon algorithms which may be spot on for some and as far off as several tens of thousands of dollars for others.) Nothing beats an in-depth valuation report from a local real estate professional who can explain nuances in value (including why a home may have sold for more than similar homes elsewhere). The homeowners who stay up to date on the value of their home often become the most profitable home sellers.

4. Recommend styling or staging your home

(to ensure sellers get top dollar)

An amazing agent knows that properties that are clean, light and de-cluttered sell faster & for more money. She has a design sensibility that allows her to recommend floor plan layouts for each room of her clients’ homes, making it easier for homebuyers picture themselves living there.

5. Help buyers prioritize items on their “dream home” wish list

(to find the “perfect” new place)

Believe it or not, buying a home always requires some compromise, even when your budget exceeds $1 million. An amazing real estate agent knows her local market, and the different types of homes & amenities available, and can help you prioritize your wish list. Knowing which of your wish list items are “must haves” versus “”like to haves” is helpful to find your perfect new place!

6. Hook you up with awesome contractors

(whether moving in or preparing your home for sale)

Amazing real estate agents have a team of go-to contractors to refer to their clients – whether painters, handymen, electricians, plumbers or general contractors. When you’re selling a home, that can mean the difference between getting your home ready for sale within days/weeks or months. Hitting the market when it’s “hot” can make a big difference in your bottom line.

7. Negotiate the best price and other important terms

While the agreement of sale varies state by state, they all are multi-page documents with many important terms. Some of these include: price, financing, closing date, inclusions and exclusions and several deadlines leading up to settlement. An amazing real estate agent knows all contracts related to a home purchase or sale and can guide you through each term. She is an excellent negotiator and staunch advocate for her clients and their best interests.

8. Market your home, both online and offline

(to ensure a quick & smooth sale)

An amazing real estate agent is marketing savvy AND knows technology. Indeed, given that over 85% of homebuyers begin their home search online, great agents know how to maximize exposure for their sellers’ homes on the Internet (including the websites where your listing will appear). She’ll be sure to have professional photos taken and create compelling marketing pieces to get your home seen offline as well.

4 Home Improvements With the Best ROI

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Whether your plan is to remain in your home for years or sell in a year or two, here are 5 home improvements that, according to a recent report issued by ‘Remodeling’ magazine, deliver the best return on investment.

Replacing your garage door

This one may have come as a surprise. But when you think about, having a newer, updated garage door can freshen up the look of the entire home. Be sure to choose a door that complements your style of home. (For example, if your home is a classic colonial, a contemporary door would ‘fight’ with the home’s style and look out of place.)

A new front door

I know, I know. You’re probably thinking: ‘enough with the doors already.’ But the statistics show that these issues are important to homebuyers. And let’s face it: a pretty entry door says “Welcome Home”!

Add a patio or deck

Everybody loves more space, even outdoors! If your home doesn’t have a patio or deck, adding a deck is a great investment. While any size would be appreciated, a popular deck size is 16’ x 20’.

Spruce up your kitchen

We’re not talking about a major remodel but, rather, a minor improvement (such as adding a solid surface countertop or a cabinet refacing). For most, the kitchen is the hub of the home, so dollars spent to make that room more functional and appealing are one of the best investments you can make in your home.

 

September Homeowner Checklist: 5 To Dos

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It’s that time again… time to prep your home for the cooler weather that’s on its way.  Get these completed so that you can take a much- needed break by taking a nap on the couch or curling up with a good book. ☺
  1. Change décor & bedding.  It will soon be chilly and that means the lighter sheets currently on your bed, need to be changed out with layers of warm comfort like maybe wool or fake fur.  Also, with the change in season, comes Halloween, Thanksgiving & Christmas so now is the time to swap out summer pillows and décor for the cozy cooler weather décor and accessories, such as a cozy throw and thicker window curtain panels, etc.
  2. Check smoke detectors & carbon monoxide detectors.  & replace batteries.  Also, now is the best time to check the expiration date on your fire extinguisher too.  Lastly, did you know that if your smoke detectors are yellow, it means they need to be replaced?  It’s true, so do this life-saving maintenance this month for sure!
  3. Schedule furnace & chimney maintenance.  As the seasons change, it’s important to have an HVAC pro come out and maintain your furnace.  And since colder weather brings about fireplaces being used, it’s also the perfect time to have your chimney inspected and cleaned.
  4. Weatherstripping check. Now is the time to check all existing weatherstripping and replace if needed.  And add any new to windows and doors that let too much air escape. Your budget will thank you.  Your family will be warmer! ☺
  5. Inspect your roof & gutters.  Roof leaks are the worst, especially during cold & inclement weather seasons, so now is the time to have a pro come out, clean out your gutters and inspect your roof (from on top of the roof) and make any necessary repairs now.
If you need any referrals to good contractors, send me a text or email or give me a call & I’ll share with you my go-to list of the best in town!
I look forward to hearing from you! ☺ Happy September!

February 2017 Market Report

Here’s a conversation that real estate professionals have on a regular basis:


“How’s the market?”

“Great question, my friend! I hear it all the time. All I can say is that it depends.

“Way to skirt the subject. Seriously, you call yourself an expert? Come on…give me something real. What does it depend on?”

“It depends on whether you are buying or selling! Tell me a little more about your current needs?”


And the chat progresses from there into rhetoric about how it’s a crazy seller’s market. Homes are getting multiple offers the minute they hit the market and selling for over asking price! Buyers have little to nothing from which to choose and a settling for far less home and paying a whole lot more for it to boot.

Sounds awful, right? It depends. Are you buying or selling? 

A seller’s market is defined as an economic situation in which goods are scarce and sellers can keep prices high. So, if you are planning to sell a house, the market is great! If you are buying, it’s a jungle out there.

In my experience, buyers are literally stacking up and having a really tough go at finding homes that meet their needs at an affordable price. There is only one way to remedy this situation and that is to inundate the market with more homes for sale! This can be accomplished in two basic ways. Sell more existing homes and build more new homes.

If you or anyone you know has had even the slightest thought of selling, now is a fantastic time to invite me over to help you find out what your home may be worth. With inventory at historic lows across the state, homes are getting top dollar in next to no time on the market. I would be so happy to help you cash out of an investment property or even sell your starter home to trade up before prices get even higher!

If you are planning to buy, now more than ever you need the advice of a seasoned real estate professional to help you put forth your best offer. Now is not the time to lowball a seller. Most offers under asking price are being flat out rejected because sellers know that multiple more offers will not be far behind. Now is the time to show all your cards and make your strongest offers up front. Your agent can help you with that strategy and negotiate on your behalf to increase the chances you’ll come out a winner.

Take a look at my most recent market report and contact me right away of you have any questions about buying or would simply like an estimate of how much you can profit from the sale of your house.

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Cheers!

Erica

Day 79: Rall with the Punches

The client who I wrote about yesterday is still eagerly waiting on an offer to be accepted. In the meantime, let’s look at one of the other houses he looked at and, on which, he was unfortunately outbid.

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“Three bedroom home in Clovis – This home features: a living room, dining area off of the kitchen, two car attached garage, dual pane windows, air conditioning and heating, newly installed carpet, laminate, & aggregate flooring, gas stove, covered patio and nice size back yard. The home is in close proximity to Tarpey Elementary School, shopping (Walmart Supercenter, D&D discounts, Walgreens, Costco and Sierra Vista Mall), public transportation, and Freeway 168 (Sierra Freeway). Call today to schedule your private showing.”

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This charming Clovis house was listed for $175,000 and sold significantly over asking price within 7 days on the market! Houses in this price range are moving insanely fast and for impressive offer prices.

If you are even considering selling your home, now is the time to list. So many people think it’s better to wait until spring, but what happens is that EVERYONE lists in the spring! Single family home inventory is at historic lows right now which means any reasonable listing will sell with little to no effort. If you wait even another 2 months, you will have considerably more competition as the spring sellers start to move and shake. Wouldn’t it be great to be the only house for sale within a 1/2 mile radius?? Everyone wanting to move into your neighborhood will be fighting over your house.

The time is now my friends. Call me now to find out how much your home is worth and let’s get it done!

Cheers!

Erica

Day 78: Ahhhh…A Fresh New Year!

 

I’m starting out this new year…2017…with a renewed dedication to my life, my family, my work, and my blog. My personal storyboard has been centered around a set of “facts” about myself that I intend to challenge. This narrative that has become the story of me must defend itself much the same way a PhD candidate must defend her dissertation before a group of experts and critics. If arguments in favor of continuing on the same road are weak, out they go! A central piece of me that has already come under fire is the notion that I am not a morning person. Ever since I can remember, I have been the type to stay up late and grudgingly get out of bed at the last possible second in the morning. So what did I go and do? I signed up for a daily 5am motivational conference call, lol. I’m either turning a new leaf or insane. Time will tell.

I have been a busy little bee working with future buyers. So many wonderful people have come into my life since I ventured into the real estate business! I recently started working with a young man who is planning to buy his first home. His goal is to buy a property now for him to live in for a year or two and then turn it into a rental property and start building a real estate investment portfolio. I love seeing young people so motivated to take control of their finances this way! Very refreshing indeed.

Here is a sneak peek of one of the houses we have looked at to get him started in the world of real estate investing!

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“Great Opportunity to own a home in Clovis! Enjoy this clean, well cared for home on a spacious corner lot. 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, and a good sized living area. French slider out to the generous backyard with concrete patio, large grassy area, 7 fruit trees and a fenced area for pets or a garden. Call today to see for yourself.”

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This is an adorable house in Clovis that is so perfect for a first time buyer. I have all my fingers and toes crossed that my lovely client gets to call this house his home in a few weeks!

Cheers!

Erica

November 2016 Market Report

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November was a doozy of a month! From an election that’ll go down in history, to the stock market getting a little boost, to the fed finally pulling the trigger on rate increases, the state of home buying and selling has become a bit unpredictable…unless you have expert info at your fingertips!

Take, for example, increases to interest rates. This is scary, no? Sure, no one wants to buy when rates are high and rate increases mean rates are now high, right? NOPE! Here’s a little history lesson to put things in perspective.

Rates started being tracked by the government in 1971 and the average mortgage interest rate for that year was 7.5%. Rates hovered around there for a decade or so, but thanks to the mid-70’s oil crisis and other economic factors, inflation went NUTS in the early 80’s. In a mad dash to minimize the damage, the fed went crazy and jacked rates up higher than we have ever seen in history. This led to mortgage rates as high as 18% (and higher in Canada) during the entire decade of the 8o’s!

When the decade turned, rates were much more manageable at around 10%, so people got pretty comfortable again. The market bounced back, credit was getting cheap, and those baby boomers who survived the financial misery of the previous few years, found themselves ready to buy buy buy again. And buy they did. The next 15 years BOOMED! I mean really boomed. Thanks to rising wages, falling unemployment, and cheap rates everyone and their uncle could suddenly afford to buy houses, cars, fancy toys, vacations, etc. The 90’s saw interest rates of around 7.5%-9%. Darn cheap, comparatively speaking.

Then the bankers went and got too greedy. Remember that fuzzy term “mortgage back securities”? Well, I’m not going into that here, but just know that it stood for greedy investment bankers ruining it for everybody. The next thing we know…wham bam, thank you ma’am…another recession. THE GREAT RECESSION! Housing values plummeted, huge corporate entities failed, got bailed out, failed, got bailed out, failed again. People who refinanced their homes to pay off all those cars, vacations, and toys that were so easy to buy due to cheap credit suddenly found themselves underwater on their mortgages and totally insolvent. Foreclosures happened. Bankruptcies happened. Jobs started disappearing as business folded. Unemployment was sky high with no view of the ground floor.

The fed had NO CHOICE! No choice, I tell you. They dropped rates so low, so fast, lenders may as well have been paying dividends on credit instead of receiving interest. The exact opposite of the action taken in the 80’s. This was imperative in order to stimulate the economy and get things back on track for healing the nation. And there you have it. Credit was basically free as the millennials came of age. An entire generation has never even seen mortgage rates over 3.5%, but that is not normal, people. NOT NORMAL!

So, you tell me? Is 4.175% really too high for a 30 year fixed mortgage??? I think not.

It’s still a great time to buy and an even better time to sell. Don’t even think twice about it. No one is being gouged by rates at the moment, I promise.

Cheers, my friends.

Erica