Best Way To Evaluate a Property

When you are making one of the biggest purchases of your life, you need to know how to properly evaluate the home. 


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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. 


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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!



Make a Resolution to be a Better Person

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.

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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

Completely remodeled home, what does that mean?

There's an expectation when you see the phrase "completely remodeled" in a home listed for sale.  

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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.

HomesBuyHendersons

Buyer's Edge

National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents

Recording Potential Home Buyers

We were videotaped while touring a home for sale!

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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 -

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. 

The Psychology in Real Estate

The decision-making process is more complex than you may think

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Buying a home is a big deal. It takes focus and dedication to the process to get it right. You will make a list of what you want & need in a home.

You and your partner will choose a neighborhood after considering your daily commute and other important factors.

And even when you've checked off all the "must-haves" on your list, you could be missing an important piece of the process. 

There are subtle details that can drive your decision-making process

Understanding what drives your choices will help you make a more informed decision. 

First, have a heart to heart conversation with your partner about what you see yourself doing in your home and neighborhood. For example, when I was a first time home buyer, I didn't tell Marshall that I could see us reading to our children in a family room with a fireplace. I never mentioned this because I didn't recognize how important it was to me. 

When we started touring houses and seeing homes with and without fireplaces, I realized it was time to share my dream with my husband.

Here are a few suggestions for you to consider if you are planning to buy a home. 

  • Is your real estate agent working for you 100% - Some real estate agents work for a Brokerage that encourages agents to sell their in-house listings or inventory. We've had several clients tell us nightmare stories of agents showing them houses that don't meet their needs or criteria. Remember, you have the right to be fully represented 100% of the time by your agent. After all, you are bringing the money that will finance much the transaction. Choose your agent very carefully!

  • Carefully review HOA & Condo documents - HOA documents will govern what you plant in your yard and how you paint and decorate your home. Condo documents have rules regarding the care and maintenance of the common shared areas of your building. If you have a problem with the rules, you should not purchase a condo or home. You will have a period of review, in Virginia its 3 days for condo and HOA documents. In the District its 3 business days for condo and HOA documents and in Maryland, you have 7 days to review condo documents and 5 days to review HOA documents with a few minor exceptions.

  • Don't buy a house that is at the top of your budget - You want to have enough money to make your house feel like a home. Make sure you are not stretching yourself too thin financially. Again, here's where your real estate agent can work with you to stay within your budget.

  • Have an honest discussion with your partner about your expectations & fears - This should probably be #1 on the list of things to do. What scares you about owning a home? What steps can you take to avoid manifesting those fears? What do you expect from your new home? If you're buying a used home, like most of us do, are you being realistic about the maintenance responsibilities?

If you are don't know anything about home repair, ask your buyers agent for a list of people they recommend. Your buyer agent should be a good source of information even after you purchase your home. 

Mortgage Rates Have Dropped to the Lowest Rate in 10 months

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Graph from Urban Turf

Is buying a home a good idea for you, right now?

With mortgage rates at the lowest rate in 10 months, it may be time for you to stop renting and consider buying your own home. As Exclusive Buyer Agents with Buyer's Edge, we specialize in the home buying process. With us, you never sign a  dual agency agreement. We advocate for you from the home search to the settlement! Since we are an Exclusive Buyer Brokerage, we do not have listings to sell. We have access to every home for sale, listed by a real estate brokerage and also homes for sale by owner. 


Freddie Mac reported 3.78% as the average for a 30-year mortage

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We help home buyers in Virginia, Maryland and Washington D.C. Since the market is competitive for condos and single family homes in the District, we suggest meeting with us to develop a clear home tour strategy. This frequently means not waiting to see homes until the weekend. Marshall and I have had success for our buyers by being the first ones into a home when it comes on the market. Being pre-approved, by a local lender, is part of the winning strategy.  For home buyers in Northern Virginia and the Maryland suburbs, the housing market is a little less competitive. Generally, the closer you are to Washington D.C., the more competition for condos and single family homes. 

Search for a home using the search engine at Buyer's Edge. 

Fall is an excellent time to find a home in the Washington & Baltimore area. If you have questions or would like to meet with us to talk about your specific needs, email me at Victoria@buyersagent.com or call 301-922-1677.  We look forward to meeting you!

 

Ready to downsize?

We became Empty Nester's this week. We dropped our daughter off at college and drove home in a bit of a daze. 

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Danny Zuker, the writer and Executive Producer ofModern Family recently tweeted-

"My twin girls left 4 college this week but I'm trying to stay positive as I start this exciting new chapter of my life where I wait to die."

Marshall and I are feeling a little more positive than Zuker but we do appreciate his sentiment. Our home is a reflection of a life shared with our children.

We now have two empty bedrooms that will stay empty until Thanksgiving break. But for now, we are staying in our 2600 square foot house. It's not too large for the two of us and we want the space when family and friends spend time during the holidays.

Are you ready to downsize?

It's a big step! Here are a few things to consider before you downsize and sell your current home.

  • Will your children need to move back home? We've watched our friends welcome home their children after they've graduated from college. The cost of a college education is ridiculously expensive. Many young people need to move back home to save money.
  • Is it a good time to sell your home?Research home sales in your neighborhood and community. It may make sense to wait a year or two before you sell your home.
  • How will downsizing affect your lifestyle?Entertaining family and friends in a smaller house can be a challenge. If you are downsizing, consider how you use your current home and what habits you would change if you were in a smaller space.
  • Ready for a walkable neighborhood? Many empty nesters are moving to walkable neighborhoods. The idea of walking to a coffee shop or restaurant is very appealing. When you downsize, you have the option of moving to the country or the city. Whatever you feel fits your lifestyle. My friend moved to Washington D.C. and now entertains family and friends at local restaurants. She loves that she has no clean-up after a big family meal!
  • Read Marie Kondo's books! The Life-Changing Magic of  Tidying Upchanged my life. When my mother passed away several years ago, we had to clean out her house. The task would have been overwhelming had I not read Marie Kondo's book. She has written another book titled,Spark Joy a comprehensive manual on how to declutter and organize your home and life. 

Downsizing begins with thoughtful conversations about what matters most in your life. 

Here's Marie Kondo's Tidying-Up Lesson