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!



Consider the Not So Perfect House

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. 

Pig at Maryland State Fair with best buyers agent



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-

brick construction

hardwood floors throughout

backyard backs to woods & looks like a private park

on a cul-de-sac in an established neighborhood with trees 

fireplace

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.

Photo by  rawkkim  on  Unsplash

Photo by rawkkim on Unsplash

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! 

HomesBuyHendersons

Buyer's Edge

National Association of Exclusive Buyer Agents

U.S Department of Housing



Ramblers & Ranchers Home Styles for Families

Ahh-the beauty of the rambler!

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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.

5 Things to Know When Buying a Home from the Owner

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. 

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Top 5 things to know to protect your best interest when buying a FSBO

  1. 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.

  2. 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. 

  3. 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. 

  4. 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.

  5. 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. 

Hang Up Your Phone and Live Your Life

Hearing a baby in distress is upsetting.

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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. 

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. 

Victoria Henderson downsizing

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