Clogged dryer vents can cause house fires. If you haven't checked your dryer vent this year, check it today!Read More
When you are making one of the biggest purchases of your life, you need to know how to properly evaluate the home.
When buying a home, it's important to know the steps in determining the value of a property. There are several "big ticket" items that should be evaluated to help you decide your offer. These include the condition of the roof, the age of the HVAC, water heater, well & septic systems, chimney and overall maintenance of a property.
The website, Building Intelligence Center is a handy website. Take a picture of the serial number on the HVAC and quickly look up the age of the system. This site also has a lookup for the age of water heaters and for recalled units. This is the way to go if the home is being sold "as-is" and/or the sellers are not providing information regarding the major systems in the home.
Lot and location-This is the very first step in evaluating a property. Is the house on a busy, double yellow lined street? Is the lot desirable? Since you cannot change the lot and location of a property, this needs to be the very first thing you consider when buying a home. The double yellow lined street means the road carries a lot of traffic. If you are at all sensitive to noise and traffic volume, a house on a busy road may not be a good choice for you!
Messy neighbors-This is step two in evaluating a property. Sure, neighbors may move but if you're buying a house, make sure the next door neighbors and people living across the street maintain their properties up to your standards. If they don't, and sadly, I know this firsthand, it really impacts your life. If you buy into a neighborhood with an HOA, then your neighbors have to agree to a level of upkeep with their yard and homes. If you are not buying into an HOA, you are on your own and this could mean living next door to a yard full of gazing balls and quirky lawn ornaments (sigh....welcome to my world)
Roof & exterior of the home- You and your buyer agent are not home inspectors but you should be able to determine if a roof is really old. Look for missing shingles, waves in the roof and/or curling shingles. Is there moss growing on the roof? Are the gutters clear or packed with sticks & leaves? Again, you are not expected to do the work of a home inspector but before you make an offer on a house, have a general idea of the age of the roof. When evaluating the exterior of a house, look for cracks, bulges in bricks and any signs of moisture. Where there is a crack, there is an opportunity for water to get in so you'll want to make sure that cracks are sealed and the foundation is straight. Also, check for low areas in the yard where water may pool. As a general rule, dirt should be higher next to the house and sloped in such a way as to direct water away from the foundation.
HVAC, water heater & appliances - How old are all the systems in the house? If the seller isn't providing this information in the disclosures, take pictures of serial numbers and look them up. If there are new appliances and systems, be sure to get the paperwork from the seller so you can take advantage of the warranty.
Porches & Decks- I'm fortunate to have learned so much from excellent home inspectorsin the Washington DC area! I've taken videos of some of our home inspections and learned it's important to ask lots of questions! One inspector says deck posts should be built on cement foundations, not in the dirt. They should be securely fastened to the house to avoid deck failure. A qualified licensed home inspector will provide the best evaluation of the condition of a deck. Porches should be properly sealed.
Chimney evaluation - Take a good look at the condition of the chimney cap and screen. If you can see cracks, these will need to be filled by a licensed contractor. You may also consider having a chimney evaluated by a chimney sweep company. Most of the companies will recommend lining the chimney and should provide a video of the inside of the chimney.
Choose to find your home with a true buyers agent - You need an advocate on your sideas you navigate the home buying process. Consider all your options so you can move confidently ahead as you find your home!
Being a better person is #5 on the list of New Year's resolutions for 2019.
That’s according to a new Marist poll which also finds that most Americans are optimistic about the future.
The resolution, to "be a better person" seems easy but can be a challenge if you don't have a plan. According to Psychology Today, 40% of Americans will make a New Year's resolution. Many of us will slip in the first month but it's the planning and your attitude that determine success.
I've had the most success with New Year's resolutions when I keep them simple. In fact, setting realistic resolution goals is a sure way to guarantee success.
I write down my resolutions and review them throughout the month of January. Through the years I've had some success keeping my resolutions.
In fact, several New Year's resolutions are now habits. They are so simple and after years of practice, they've created positive change in my life.
Take a look and see if any of these resolutions resonate with you. I wish you a happy and successful New Year!
Say Thank You - My husband is a great cook. He makes homemade pizza, all our holiday pies, Indian curries and great tacos! I am so grateful and amazed by his talent that I say thank you! As it turns out, this just encourages him to make more good food! So saying thank you, in this case, has served me well. Consider saying thank you to the grocery store checker, the waiter/waitress, the person collecting money for the Salvation Army. Every chance you have to say Thank you creates a habit of gratitude.
Create a Daily Positive Mantra - Louise Hay was a motivational author who created the Hay House publishing company. I listened to her podcasts for years and practice the following mantra she created; I am open and accepting to the abundance and good the universe has to offer and I thank you life.
Respond instead of React - Responding to a person or an event keeps me in control. Reacting to a person or event gives my power away. There are times when you have to react, like a flight/fight situation. But most of the time, it's a good idea to take a breath and give a measured response to a situation.
Practice Yoga & Meditation - Yoga and meditation go hand in hand. Even if you're someone who says, "I'm not flexible" or "I can't keep my mind quiet for meditation" just give it a try. When I first tried yoga, I couldn't do one chaturanga ( a yoga move where you slowly lower your body from a plank position to the ground) My first meditation lasted 3 minutes! If you want to try a free guided meditation, Oprah & Deepak Chopra offer online guided meditations several times a year. This is a great kick-start to a meditation practice. There are also plenty of free meditation apps. Find what works for you!
Looking for a home in the new year? We are here to help! Exclusive Buyer Agents advocate for home buyers in every real estate transaction. Learn more about us-NAEBA.org
When you are buying a home in Maryland, Washington D.C. or Virginia, you hope to buy a home in a vibrant community.
Takoma Park Maryland and Takoma Park Washington DC residents are passionate about their town. For one thing, Takoma Park has counter culture roots. Back in the 60's, Takoma Park looked like a mini version of Haight Street in San Francisco. Funky shops lined the Carroll Avenue, the main street through town. In addition, the Seventh Day Adventist Church had headquarters in Takoma Park for several decades. The Adventist’s vegetarian based diet influenced the town’s restaurants. While the headquarters are no longer in Takoma Park, veggie and vegan style food can be found in the Co-op, restaurants and at the farmer’s markets and the annual Takoma Park Street Festival.
Today, the city still has a grass roots vibe which is evident when you listen to the new radio station, WOWD 94.3. The tree lined streets with Victorians and stately old homes are updated and home prices are on the rise. You can still find some bargains, old homes that need lots of love & work, but many of the older homes are listed in the upper 900's to a million.
Marshall and I had dinner at Buysboys & Poets, a restaurant and bookstore where local poets and musicians perform on a small stage. It's wonderful to see Takoma Park's positive growth as the community maintains its activist roots. I am very fond of Takoma Park. I went to high school here and my children were born at the Washington Adventist hospital on Carroll Avenue in Takoma Park. It's a great place to raise a family and an easy commute to downtown Washington DC.
Exclusive Buyer Agents-100% commitment to home buyers
There's an expectation when you see the phrase "completely remodeled" in a home listed for sale.
Remodel, according to Merriam-Webster dictionary means to change the structure, shape or appearance of something.
When the phrase "completely remodeled" is used in the description of a listing, many homebuyers expect the entire house to be updated.
But in reality, a house advertised as "completely remodeled" could have a number of big-ticket items that are either original or close to the end of their use. In fact, we find this to be true more often than not. So with that in mind...
Here's what you need to look for when you see the phrase "completely remodeled" in the description of a home.
Electrical upgrades- The standard for household power used to be 60 amps. Today modern homes need as much as 200 amps to run all the electrical needs. High definition televisions, computers, air conditioners and home automation devices require lots of power to run. Have a home inspector check the entry cable coming into the house and the electrical panel. If the house has original or outdated wiring, consider upgrading for safety and function purposes.
Roof - Depending on the size of a house and the style of shingles, a new roof can cost between $8000 and $40,000 dollars. The age of a roof is a very important consideration when buying a house. While you are touring the house with your buyer agent, check the roof to see if any shingles are curling. See if there are any cracked or missing shingles. Finally, look for bald spots or areas of the roof where the granules are gone. These are all signs of an older roof. If you move ahead with the purchase of the home, make sure your home inspector gives you an estimate on the age of the roof.
Outlets - This falls under the electrical upgrade category but it's important to pay close attention to the electrical outlets in a home. We still see the old-fashioned 2 prong outlets in houses in the Greater Washington DC area. These older outlets do not have the ground wires to protect people and electrical devices in case of a fault. Today's modern houses should have the 3 prong outlets for safety and function purposes. If you're like me and you don't know how to change out these outlets, hire an electrician.
Water Heater & HVAC - Most water heaters have an 8 to 12-year lifespan. If the heater is an A&O Smith or another higher quality water heater, it may last longer. Take a picture of the HVAC label and google it to determine the age. If the unit has been well maintained, there will be a label from an HVAC company with service dates. Again, this can be done when you are touring a home. If you decide to purchase a house and schedule a home inspection, the inspector will determine the age and condition of the HVAC unit and water heater.
Plumbing - Plumbing problems can be very expensive. When you are touring a house that you like, turn on the faucets to check pressure. Look under sinks for signs of water issues. Look up at the ceiling to see if there are any stains. You can't always see a plumbing problem but it's a good idea to ask the seller if they have a record of plumbing maintenance.
Foundation - Check the basement walls for large cracks or bulges. Look at the house exterior for signs of moisture or cracks. Examine the landscaping to see how well the yard is graded. Water should be moving away from the house, not toward the foundation. Again, this advice is for homebuyers as they tour a property of interest. Once you have a ratified contract and hire a home inspector, he/she should be able to offer excellent advice on the condition of a home.
Completely Remodeled is a red flag phrase for buyer agents. The first thing we do is go into the basement to check the HVAC system. We look for signs of water intrusion. Outside, we walk the perimeter of the house looking for low spots near the foundation. Any place that is not sealed is a place where water can get into the home and compromise the basement and/or foundation. We are not home inspectors! We are simply advocates for home buyers. We always look for what’s wrong and what’s right with a property.
Some days start off bad and get worse
You wake up at 4:15 because the wind triggered your neighbors car alarm. Or maybe you wake up to a pounding headache or hip ache. Sometimes it's just a feeling, left over from a weird dream or drama from the previous day. Whatever it is-some days feel like a struggle.
Like many people, I tend to heap stuff together. The worries, drama and insecurities loop around and around in my head. In fact, my husband jokes that I am the "designated worrier".
He says there's no need for him to worry about anything-I have it covered! Without question, there are life events that are bad. Read the front page of the Washington Post to witness world and local tragedies and bad news. But most of the time, in day to day life events, having a bad day is not necessary.
The truth is-having a "bad day" is really a bad habit.
I believe that giving up on an entire day is an incredibly bad idea. I've worked hard at breaking this habit. Here are a few tips I can share if you want to break your "Bad Day" habit too.
Try not to wallow in bad feelings-okay, sometimes life is challenging and difficult. This is absolutely true. People get sick, fired or hurt and when this happens, it takes time to work through it. However, once the event, situation or feeling passes, let it go. The situation doesn't have to define who you are.
Feelings are not always accurate-heard the expression, "worried sick"? Hanging onto negative emotions like hate, jealousy, fear and worry can make you feel sick. Why choose to feel bad? If you are replaying something in your head that isn't making you feel good-notice it and then let it go. If it comes back up again, acknowledge that it's there and let it go again.
The practice of acknowledging and letting go will take the power out of a feeling.
With enough practice, you will create a new habit; giving you the freedom to choose how you feel.
Be grateful-for every little beautiful part of your life. I have a friend who keeps a gratitude jar. On little strips of paper, she writes down everything she is grateful for-honey crisp apples, soft sheets, good health etc. Sure it sounds weird at first but with practice, it makes perfect sense.
Don't compare yourself to anyone else-there is only one You. No one is exactly like you with the same talents, opportunities, personality-why compare? I think about my daughter and her wonderful friends. They are similar but not exactly alike. Each young woman is bursting with personality & power-expressing unique talents and interests that will positively affect our world.
If You Are Buying A Home, Consider Working With An Advocate. Exclusive Buyer Agents naeba.org
Exclusive Buyer Agents-members of NAEBA are dedicated to serving home buyers. 100% of the time and in every real estate transaction.
1. More Listening, Less Talking-as experienced Realtors, we have important information to convey to our Buyer clients. We want to share the good and bad things we discover on a house tour. Since this is what we do and where we shine, it's easy to keep talking and talking. However, keep in mind, clients are processing information too. If we talk more than listen, they may feel oversaturated and begin to tune us out. If we want to make a point, we should, but follow up by asking for their opinion.
2. Have Clients Write a Wish List-this is extremely important! Buying a home is an emotional experience. Most of us dream about our "perfect" home. We imagine our families gathering around the fireplace or entertaining friends in spacious surroundings. The best way to make this happen is to write it down! It's so easy to get distracted on house tours. Maintain clarity and focus by checking your wish list again and again.
3. Pay attention to the Relative/Friend Your Client Brings Along-we may not want to answer questions or listen to the opinion of our clients friend or relatives but remember, they do. That is why they invited them! I am not suggesting we agree with everything someone says but we should treat this person with respect. Be patient as they talk and make their points. If they are dead wrong, we can respectively give our opinion on the matter and let it go. There is no need to move the conversation in an awkward direction just to make our point.
4. Ask lots of Questions-Do you think this home has curb appeal? Does the kitchen space serve your needs? Do you mind walking up and down 2 flights of stairs to do laundry? You get the idea. What our client thinks-matters. By identifying what they want, we save time and facilitate the home buying process.
5. Follow Up that Evening or the next Day-After a long day of house hunting, write down the highlights and send your client an email. Let them know what you liked and ask them if they want to make changes to their home search. Try to do this while it is fresh in your mind. Again, this will save you valuable time and validate opinions and concerns your clients made during the home tour.
These five points can be effectively used in personal relationships too!
It's the single biggest disappointment-to find a house...
next to a very messy neighbor
My client and I stood in the backyard of a large brick colonial style house near a Metro station. He checked off three major items from his "What My House Must Have" list.
1. large beautiful backyard backing to trees
2. brick colonial home-classic style, built in the 40's with crown molding, arched doorways and hardwood oak floors
3. walking distance to Metro-everyone in the DC area knows the value of an easy commute.
So there we were, loving the yard, house and commute and staring at piles of blue plastic containers that looked like small beer kegs.
There were dozens of them-strewn around the neighbors back yard. In one corner of the neighbors yard, the blue containers were stacked to create a makeshift table covered with piles of paint cans and heavy black plastic. And then we saw the back porch-piled with wet paper boxes. The porch was packed! There was no way to open the back screen door and no space to walk inside.
I pointed out every container and pile of trash in the neighbors yard. While we were upstairs admiring the master bedroom, I showed my Buyer how much more trash we could see in the neighbors yard from the bedroom window. Finally, he said, "let's go".
It's not easy walking away from a great house with an awesome backyard. It's especially difficult to walk away when the only problem is the house or yard next door! Just consider this-
A neighbors yard is an expression of who they are, it's a display of their passion-a reflection of their true personality
Still think neighbors don't really matter? Read The Best Bad Neighbors of 2015 these true stories will scare you into the reality that you cannot change your neighbors.
Moral of the story-
When we were looking for our home, I had a vivid mental picture of what it would look.
My dream home did not include shag carpet and a kitchen with formica countertops.
House after house, I kept looking for my perfect dream home. Working with our exclusive buyer agent, we determined that a well constructed home was our top priority. We did not want a “McMansion” with low quality materials and craftsmanship. We focused on older homes in established neighborhoods where homes were built with brick with hardwood floors on every level.
The first day I saw our house, I walked out saying, "Nope!" The second time, my exclusive buyers agent pointed out all the positives-
hardwood floors throughout
backyard backs to woods & looks like a private park
on a cul-de-sac in an established neighborhood with trees
3 full bathrooms
I walked out of my house again but this time, my husband and I discussed the possibilities. We loved the brick construction, hardwood floors and beautiful backyard and neighborhood.
I couldn't see past the ugly chandeliers, shag carpet and dingy older windows.
The house was stuck in the 70's with a real "Brady Bunch" vibe.
After lots of talking and lamenting about "the perfect house" we bought our home. We've lived here for 22 years-and absolutely love it! Why? Because our house has good bones. We replaced the original casement windows with larger Anderson windows. In the family room, we removed the old sliding glass door and louvered windows. My husband, Marshall installed french doors with beautiful floor to ceiling windows on either side.
The floors were refinished and the entire house was painted. We replaced the old chandeliers with beautiful Pottery Barn style lighting.
Consider the "not so perfect house" when you find a house that meets your criteria that cannot change. This would include things like;
Is the neighborhood a good fit for you and your family?
Does the daily commute work for you? Is the home built well with solid construction?
If a homes needs paint and updated kitchen and bathrooms but is otherwise perfect-give it consideration. My personal home buying experience is no different from many home buyers today. We've all watched way too much HGTV and want, what we want, right now! But if a house has true potential, and needs mostly cosmetic updates, it could become your dream home.
My grandfather used to say; "You Can't Make a Silk Purse from a Sow's Ear"
In regard to home construction, this phrase means if something is not built well with solid materials and skilled craftsmanship, it’s not going to be a quality home. We see poorly constructed homes all over the Greater DC area. Many times, these homes will have new granite counter tops, wall -to wall carpet and maybe updated bathrooms.
But the truth is, if the bones of a house are no good-it's a sow's ear!
Ahh-the beauty of the rambler!
Rambler style homes dot the suburban landscape in the Greater Washington DC area. According to Webster’s dictionary, Rambler means gadabout, roamer, wanderer and one who likes to ramble; a perfect description for a home style that flows from room to room.
Because of the rectangular and square shapes of the Rambler style home, it’s easy to alter the original footprint. Bumping out the back of a rambler or adding a second floor are both common and attractive ways to have the rambler grow with your family. The Ramblers in my Silver Spring neighborhood have walk out basements. With two levels, this Rambler design allows natural light into the lower level of the home so it doesn’t feel like you are in a basement.
The Ramblers built after WWII are small; usually three bedrooms and one bathroom. In the 60’s and 70’s, builders showed creativity building walk out basements, double garages and large screened porches. Since the footprint of the Rambler is so simple, the options to expand seem endless.
Is the Rambler home style the right choice for you?
This is one of many questions to consider as you search for a home. Make a list of what you want in your new home. Include things like;
Must have a working fireplace, the backyard has to be private, I have to have a gas range (this could be added later), a master bathroom is essential, must have a workshop and lots of natural light.
You get the idea. Some home buyers don’t know what they want until they get out and house hunt-that’s fine too. If you are house hunting with a significant other, talk about what you expect to have in your new home. Ramblers are great, I live in one but you may find split levels, colonials or another home design works best for you. In the Greater Washington D.C. area, many of the original home styles have large additions that alter the footprint dramatically.
Secure Your Home With Attractive Window Bars and Window Gates
There are thousands of condominiums in Washington D.C. and we have seen plenty of them! We've toured 550 square foot condo's and 2000 square foot condo's with one and two levels. So many different buildings and styles, there is no generic condo style or building in Washington D.C.
Condo's and Co-op's offer housing for home buyers who want to live where they work, in Washington D.C.
Our super cool clients have discerning taste and we finally found their dream condo! We were pleasantly surprised to find a condo with a brand new kitchen, two full new bathrooms and a beautiful master bedroom and bonus room to use as an office.
It is the most beautiful basement condo we've ever seen in the District
Large windows in the living room and master bedroom allow ample natural light to stream into the living space.
constructed the window bars, door gates and grilles. Outstanding work! NorthEast Ironworks slogan, Dedicated to creating works of Art and for 60 years, they have worked to create beautiful window bars and grilles in Washington D.C. and the surrounding metro area.
When we started our search for attractive bars, all we saw were ugly prison style window bars. When our homebuyers suggested designing window bars, we were not sure we would find a company that would take on our project-but NorthEast Ironworkscame through!
Moral of the Window Bar, Grille & Gate Story
Persevere-Go the extra mile-Create your own design-Believe in your dream...
Find a really good ironworks company that does excellent work
give them an easy template to follow
and see your design become a reality
The window bars designed by our homebuyers are simple and attractive. The design allows easy open and close features. The window bars are open during the day when our clients are home and locked and closed when our clients are away at work or on vacation.
If you are buying a home in Washington D.C. and need window bars and grilles, consider creating your own design. Contact professional ironworkers and get estimates. For more details about window bars, grilles and door gates-use the links below. With a little planning, you can create a beautiful design that will enhance the beauty of your home.
We wish you much success in your window bar and grille design efforts
How To Check a House For Water Problems
Earlier this summer, I was with my client on a home inspection. The home was a Baltimore rowhouse on Federal Hill, built in 1900. After discovering that three of the four walls of the house were wet and there was mold in the crawlspace under the kitchen, my client voided the contract.
The sellers said they were not aware of water issues in the basement and offered a home warranty to the buyer.
However, no home warranty could fix this problem. The moisture in the basement walls had been there long enough to buckle the drywall. The linoleum flooring was peeling up in the corners. And where there was wall-to-wall carpeting, it felt damp to the touch.
We used the walk away option in the home inspection addendum and the home inspector did not charge my clients.
I hope the sellers used the information in the home inspection report to address the serious water issues but we will never know for sure. I did notice the house was back on the market just a few days after we voided our contract. This is one of the main reasons why we, almost always advise our clients to use a home inspection addendum in their offer. In rare occasions, when there is competition for a good condition condominium, we will recommend waiving the home inspection contingency but we still recommend having one for informational purposes.
We will never know if they corrected the water intrusion problem because we walked away from the deal.
On a home inspection this week, the inspector used a moisture meter on the back wall of the house. The meter turned yellow indicating that some moisture was present. We walked outside to check the grading against the back wall and sure enough, it wasn't done properly. With this property, my client decided to stay in the deal. He plans to properly grade the yard and caulk around the windows to keep moisture out of the home.
What should you look for while touring houses?
Look at the soil around the base of the house.
You want to see grading that moves water away, not toward the exterior walls.
Are there low areas next to the exterior walls like in the picture above? If so, the area needs to be filled with dirt and graded so it slopes away from the house.
Are the downspouts directing water away from the home?
If there is a patio or concrete walkway next to an exterior wall, is the seam properly caulked? Anywhere there is a crack or open area between concrete and an exterior wall, there is an opportunity for water intrusion.
Look at the roof. Are the shingles curled? If so, the roof may be old and near the end of its useful life.
Is there a sump pump in the basement? This is good since the pump works to move water from under the house to the outside.
Check under the stairs in the basement. Look for any original or older wood to see if water has wicked up from the floor.
How does the house smell? Moisture has a distinct smell so pay close attention to what your nose is telling you!
Look up! Check the ceilings in every room to see if there are water stains or recent patching.
Beware of flipped properties!
The bad flips always update the kitchen and bathrooms and ignore the HVAC, roof, water heater and electrical panel.
In other words, some flippers focus on what catches a buyers eye. They’ll install granite countertops in the kitchen, subway tile in the bathroom and leave the old HVAC, roof and water heater. In many older homes, flippers will leave the old 100 amp electrical system and opt to save money not installing a heavy up for the house. A heavy up increases the amperage coming into the house at the service panel or electrical box. This means the electrical system in the house can handle the needs of current homeowners today.
What Do Buyer Agents Know About Selling Homes
Turns out-quite a lot! As Exclusive Buyer Agents with Buyer's Edge, we tour lots and lots of houses. We walk to Metro with our clients to understand their daily commute. We visit farmers markets and local restaurants to get the feel of the community. And we tell our home buyers to write a Needs & Wants List . On Monday, we took new clients to fourteen houses. We saw colonials, raised ramblers, ranch style ramblers and contemporary style homes. Since we are Exclusive Buyer Agents, we evaluate homes and property with our clients.
In our humble, yet well traveled opinion, we have advice for home sellers.
Clean Your House-We understand you live in the house you're selling but try to make the bed, flush the toilet and put the dishes away before buyers take a tour
Tone Down the Colors-Lime green living room walls may brighten your mood but it's a big turn off to most Home Buyers. Consider painting walls in neutral colors. If you leave the walls as-is, consider touching up colors so they have neat edges along the ceiling and trim.
Continuity in Style-We toured a house that looked like the circus had come to town! The kitchen had two different style & color wood cabinets with another wood for flooring. The dining room had yellow wall to wall carpet with gray and yellow walls. The adjoining family room had orange carpet and beige/brown walls. This "theme" went on and on throughout the house.
Clear Out the Excess-I mean pictures & papers on the refrigerator, tooth & hair brushes on the sink counter and shoes piled in heaps around doorways. If you are moving anyway, why not clear out now?
Some home buyers want a fixer upper home. They do not mind painting, changing cabinets and fixtures and sanding floors. However this is not the typical attitude of home buyers in the Washington DC area.
If you are selling your home, why not make it easy for them?
We recently worked with a buyer who purchased a house for sale by owner. The owner was actually a flipper who had hired a listing brokerage to put the property into the Multiple Listing Service. The owner was the point of contact and handled all the negotiations.
Top 5 things to know to protect your best interest when buying a FSBO
THE SELLER DOESN'T KNOW WHAT SHE DOESN'T KNOW - Every jurisdiction has addendum and requirements which become part of the contract. Several of these addendum are provided by the seller. For example, in Montgomery County Maryland, it's mandatory for the seller to perform a radon test and provide the results to the buyer. The seller is not required to pay for remediation but the test has to be done. If the FISBO hasn't done their homework, they could miss important documents & requirements which are in place to protect the buyer. A good buyer's agent will make sure all required documents are included in the contract.
CONTINGENCIES IN THE CONTRACT ARE THERE TO PROTECT THE BUYER - If you are buying a for sale by owner house, be sure your buyer's agent includes inspection, financing and appraisal contingencies. The home inspection should include the right to negotiate and the right to walk away from the deal. There will be a time period written into the contract that allows the buyer to hire a home inspector and complete the inspection. The inspector writes a detailed report and based on this information, the buyer decides to negotiate repairs and credits or walk away from the deal. The financing contingency is in place to protect the buyer should they not be able to purchase the property through no fault of their own. And if the appraiser determines that the value of the property is less than what the buyer is offering, the appraisal contingency gives the buyer the right to negotiate the price and get out of the deal if they can't come to an agreement with the seller.
THE SELLER IS NOT BOUND BY A CODE OF ETHICS - Real estate agents are supposed to follow the rules and the code of ethics. This includes not misleading buyers, responding as quickly as possible to offers & counter offers and disclosure of pertinent facts and latent defects about the property. If real estate agents break any of the rules they could be fined and/or lose their license. A seller has not agreed to a code of ethics or standard of practice. This leaves room for dishonest people to not disclose all the important details of a property.
SELLER MAY OVERVALUE THEIR PROPERTY - It's not uncommon for a homeowner to overvalue their property. I remember a conversation I had with a FISBO who listed the cost of the back deck and bathroom renovations he had done 10 years prior. He was expecting to be compensated for the expense! Review the comparables provided by your buyer agent. These will show what similar houses sold for over the past 6 months to a year. Look closely at the condition of the other houses. Using this information, you can determine what you want to offer for the house. Keep in mind that you may also be negotiating repairs and/or credit for items found during the home inspection.
GET EVERYTHING IN WRITING - Did the seller say they would take the junk out of the backyard? Get it in writing! Everything you have either verbally or via email agreed on, write up an addendum that spells it out and is signed by both parties. If it's not in writing, it's not enforceable.
Buying a brand new home?
Consider having a pre-drywall home inspection
At this stage of the home building process, the Builder or Site Manager walks through the home with the homeowners. The framing, heating and air ducts, electrical wiring, plumbing and possibly tubs and shower pans will be in place.
Before the drywall is installed, it's easier to make changes to the electrical outlets, lighting, plumbing and/or framing.
What To Look For in a Pre Drywall Walk Through
Take pictures of electrical wiring, plumbing, and air ducts. Our home buyers plan to hang large flat screens on the wall in several rooms. They asked the builder to add extra support to the framing. We saw the extra wood/support and our buyers checked that off their to-do list!
Check placement for electrical boxes in each room. Before the pre-drywall walkthrough, the Builder and home buyer meet for a design meeting. This is when you decide the location of electrical outlets, ceiling fan wiring and cable lines for your home. During the walkthrough, make sure these items are in the proper location. Now is the time to make changes to things that will soon be covered by walls and ceilings.
Be sure the air registers are placed properly in each room. All the rooms in the house should have registers. The ductwork connecting the registers shouldn't be dented or blocked in any way.
Your washing machine should have a washing pan. If the pan is not in place, make sure it's on the Builder's checklist. The pan catches overflows if the washing machine leaks or overflows.
Are the doors, windows and garage doors the style & design you've chosen? During our pre-drywall walkthrough, we noted that several doors still needed to be hung. We went to the garage where the crew had stored the doors and made sure they matched.
Ask the Builder to show you the location of the clean outs for the plumbing. Sometime in the future, you, or a plumber, will need to access the cleanout. Take notes during the walkthrough so you remember where clean outs are located. In the picture above, you can see all the plumbing for the master bathroom shower. Having pictures of what's behind the walls will come in handy if/when there is a leak or other issue.
Finally, we recommend hiring a licensed independent home inspector.
This will be an additional cost, but it's well worth the expense. Home inspectors evaluate the foundation, floor, walls, framing, electrical, plumbing, roof structure, windows, doors and rough-in components. The home inspector will answer all your questions and provide a detailed report. Consider having a radon inspection. Radon is an odorless colorless naturally occurring gas which is the product of decaying radium. In Montgomery County Md, the sellers are required to do a radon test and provide the results to the home buyer. Radon exposure has been linked to lung cancer. So again, consider having a licensed home inspector test your new home for radon.
This inspection would be in addition to, not instead of, the Builder's walkthrough and home inspection.
Here are more sources for you if you are buying new construction.
Here are a few major points to consider before you buy a fixer-upper.
Time had stopped in a house we toured last week.
The in-house speaker system was original and installed in 1958. All the bathrooms had original tile, sinks, and tubs. The kitchen had original cabinets and only the refrigerator had been replaced. The basement had asbestos tiles on the floor and a swingin' Rat Pack style bar that took up an entire wall.
How much do you think it would cost to fix this place up?
Many home buyers love the character, craftsmanship, and detail found in an older home. But before you buy a fixer-upper, seriously consider the following questions.
What projects can you do yourself? Is the house built prior to 1978? Do it yourself projects can quickly grow and take up more time than you planned. If the house is built prior to 1978, it's likely lead-based paint is on the walls, window trim, and doors. If you're removing walls or making any major changes on an older home, you'll need to hire professionals to do the work. Lead paint and asbestos removal is not cheap!According to Home Advisor, it can cost between $200 and $700 to hire professionals to do this type of work.
Will the house need an electrical heavy up and updating for outlets & switches? Most houses today include a 200 amp electrical service. This allows homeowners to run as many circuits as needed. Older homes may have only 100 amp service which is often not enough electricity for homeowners needs today. A licensed electrician should be hired to do a heavy up which usually costs between $1500-$2500. If you're handy, you may be able to replace old outlets with GFI protected outlets but this work takes skill and you'll want to be sure to turn off the main power before doing any electrical work.
What is the condition of the roof, structure & foundation? Depending on the size and condition, roof replacement can be expensive. If the roof is near the end of it's useful life, adjust your offer to reflect the cost of replacement. If there are foundation issues, seriously consider walking away! To avoid buying a house with foundation problems, spend time examining the exterior and interior walls. Last spring, we found large, jagged cracks along the brick foundation of an older home. In the basement of the home, the wall bulged from the cracks in the wall. This is an expensive problem! If you have any questions about the foundation of a property, hire a structural engineer.
Give serious consideration before you waive a home inspection. With the exception of an almost new condominium, we have never advised our buyers to waive a home inspection. We have, in competitive situations, done a pre-offer home inspection. This is done when there are multiple offers on a property and you want to write a contract offer that is not contingent on the home inspection.
Remember, hire professionals to thoroughly evaluate a home. If the house is on well & septic or has a pool, these should be inspected by a professional. The more you can learn about your investment, the more confident you can be in moving ahead with the purchase.
Hearing a baby in distress is upsetting.
I was standing in line at the grocery store and I heard a baby's muffled cry. I did a quick scan of the area and didn't see the baby.
Then she cried again and I saw her. She was scrunched onto one side of the baby seat of the grocery cart. Her head was hanging over the side of the cart and her feet had slipped onto the seat. She was in trouble! The baby's mother was standing right in front of her but her back was turned and she was typing furiously into her cellphone.
Just then, an older man tapped the mother on the shoulder and said, "Hey now, you're baby needs you!" The young mother turned around, picked up her daughter and looked around the store like she was seeing it for the first time.
We really need to take a break from our phones!
According to a study published in the Journal of Pediatric Research, when parents are on their cell phones they have fewer conversations and interactions with their children. This seems obvious but cell phones are so appealing that it's hard to look away. A local daycare center in Bethesda Maryland has a sign posted at the front door where parents pick up and drop off their children. It reads,
Parents, please hang up your phone. Your child wants to talk to you.
I believe that people don't want to ignore their children or family members or friends. It's just that cell phones give us access to everything we desire, instantly.
I was watching a morning news show this week and a singer was performing in front of a live audience. Most of the people in the crowd had their cell phones in their hands, recording the singer. Some of the people were actually watching the performance through their cell phones. It was really weird to see!
Would the performance be better when they watched it later? How about enjoying the moment and the live performance?
I'm guilty of spending too much time on my cell phone and I'm working on balancing phone time and free time. In real estate, a cell phone is a tool of the trade. Here are a few ways I've been managing my cell phone/screen time.
I hope these suggestions work for you!
- The phone goes off at 9 pm and on at 7 am - unless I am in the middle of a negotiation, I limit my phone time to these hours. Keep the phone on vibrate in the evening and morning. This way, a phone call, text or email is less disruptive.
- The phone is off during meals and any social time with friends and family - This makes socializing easy and there are no interruptions.
- Hiking in the woods or walking in the city with friends and family? -turn off the phone and look around. Pick up a map and use it instead of the navigation on the cell phone.
- Feel the need to check your phone? Ask yourself why? I will mindlessly check my phone for nothing specific. At that moment, I am looking for a distraction from the moment. I've started to question why.
In the movie, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, the Baudelaire children's Aunt Josephine has an irrational fear of Realtors. But is it so irrational?
I met a young lady today who started our conversation with, "Don't take this the wrong way but I don't like real estate agents!" And then she tells me why and I completely get it.
People get burned by bad real estate agents and it's very hard for them to come back from that experience. After all,
a home buyer is making the biggest financial purchase of their life. They need to know they can trust and count on their Realtor to be advocating on their behalf every step of the way!
To be clear, this young lady had not done her homework.
She saw a house she liked and called the listing agent who had a sign in the front yard. She asked the listing agent for a tour and while they toured the house, she told the listing agent how much she loved the house.
She said, "The listing agent wasn't answering my questions about the condition of the house. I felt like I couldn't trust her!" What she didn't know is the listing agent is representing the seller and has a fiduciary duty to his client. These fiduciary duties include; loyalty, confidentiality, disclosure, obedience, accounting and reasonable care and diligence.
Buying a home for the first time?
Here are a few things to consider before going to an Open House or calling a real estate agent.
Buying your second or third home? The rules have changed. Know your rights as a home buyer.
- You have the right to full and uncompromised representation - Research your options as a home buyer. There are buyer agents and exclusive buyer agents. Buyer agents work with Brokerages that list properties for sale.Exclusive Buyer Agents work with Brokerages that only represent home buyers. Their Brokerage does not list homes for sale. You will never sign a dual agency agreement with an Exclusive Buyer Agent.
- Interview your real estate agent - Check their reviews and see how quickly they respond to emails, texts, and phone calls. You want a responsive agent who will go see a property as soon as it comes on the market.
- Do not call a listing agent - If you want to have full representation, don't contact the listing agent. This person, as I've mentioned earlier, has signed an agreement with the seller to represent their best interest. You need someone to be on your side 100%.
- Don't disclose your interest in a property at the Open House - The agent at the Open House works for the Brokerage representing the seller. While this person will answer your questions about the property, remember that they work for the seller. You want to work with a real estate agent who will advocate on your behalf. Someone who will negotiate the sales price, negotiate the repairs and credits found in the home inspection and be looking out for you during the entire home buying process.
- Learn the commute & the neighborhoods that work for you - In Washington DC and Baltimore, the commute times can be brutal. Consider your drive times and talk to your spouse about what makes the most sense for both of you. Drive the neighborhoods of interest and check out what the communities have to offer.
Buying a home is challenging but it can be fun. Do your homework and interview agents to be sure you have an advocate on your side!
We were videotaped while touring a home for sale!
I was interviewed by a USA Today reporter about being recorded with my clients while touring a home for sale.
A green blinking light caught my eye as I was checking out the kitchen cabinets. As you can see in the picture, this video recorder was plugged into an outlet. My clients thought it was funny but it did feel weird.
And then we found another camera, this time in the family room. Again, my clients took it in stride but we wondered why the sellers would make such an effort. The house was completely vacant, so it's not like the cameras were used to keep an eye on personal belongings. At the end of the house tour, my buyers decided the house was not for them. The layout was odd so they made that statement directly to the camera and we left the house.
The lessons learned from this experience; If you really love a house, don't say so while you are inside. Save that conversation for the backyard or even in the car. Some takeaways from this experience -
Don't talk price or strategy when you're inside a home.
Refrain from touching any items on bookshelves, tables or dressers. You don't want video of you handling personal belongings especially if something goes missing.
Compliment but don't criticize the seller's furnishings. If you make an offer on a house after trash talking their decorating, your offer may end up at the bottom of the heap!
In a 2014 Realtor magazine, there's a list of the specific audio & video recording rules for each State. If you are working with a seller, make sure they understand the recording rules. If you are working with buyers, assume that you are being recorded. It's better to play it safe since this type of recording could be difficult to prove in a court of law.
Real Estate Agents are required to take continuing education classes to keep their licenses active.
At the Greater Capital Area Association of Realtors otherwise known as GCAAR, we have an ethics instructor who is a lawyer. He's acted as general legal counsel for the Maryland Association of Realtors since 1984.
The stories he shares come from real life experiences and they are scary!
The #1 way real estate agents get into trouble is failing to disclose material facts. If the seller chooses to disclaim instead of disclose, they still need to disclose a latent defect. (that's a fault with the property that couldn't be discovered by a thorough inspection prior to the sale.)
Listing agents and buyer agents need to be careful how they describe a property. Is the house really in excellent condition? Is the roof/HVAC new? Has the kitchen been updated? These vague descriptions have been the subject of lawsuits filed against real estate agents. Provide dates instead of saying something is "new or updated". And don't say "excellent condition" in a description unless it's 100% true. Here's an example: A house listed as "in excellent condition" was purchased by a buyer. The buyer had a home inspection and several items, one major, were discovered by the inspector. The buyer said, "How can this home be excellent with all these repair items?" So the buyer asked the listing agent to reimburse him for the cost of the home inspection. The listing agent said no. Many months and thousands of dollars later, the buyer won a lawsuit! All because the listing agent wrote "excellent condition" as a description of the property.
Your real estate agent will never say which neighborhood is right for you. Certain details of a neighborhood could violate the Fair Housing Act which was enacted in 1968 to eliminate housing discrimination. A real estate agent can and will provide a home buyer with tools and resources so they can make an informed decision regarding neighborhoods.
Real estate agents should be careful to present a true (honest) picture when advertising. Apparently, this is another common issue when agents get into trouble. All advertisements should disclose the Broker's name and/or company name with the office telephone number. In other words, it should take no longer than 15 seconds for someone to know an agents Brokerage. This includes all correspondence, anything that's mailed, business cards and newsletters.
Continuing education classes give us the opportunity to check ourselves. Are we acting ethically every day with every client? Are we staying in the scope of our expertise? Are we acting solely in the best interest of our client/principal?