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Must Have Tools Every Homeowner Should Have

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Must Have Tools Every Homeowner Should Have

tools; First time home buyers considerationsNothing beats the feeling a first-time homeowner has when they unlock the front door and step into their new home for the very first time. Thoughts of what furniture or drapes to buy or whether to keep the carpet or lay down some fresh hardwood floors are sure to swirl like a tornado. However, before tearing down any drywall, there’s a few basic tools every homeowner needs to make sure they have in their toolbox in order to be prepared for all the small projects nobody really thinks of. From fixing that squeaky door to hanging a picture frame, by picking up these basic tools, every homeowner will be ready to tackle any small project in no time.

Hammer and Nails (Screws Too!)

While most first-time homeowners have the hammer, most usually forget to pick up the variety of different sized nails they’ll need to tackle any number of small projects around the house. But with so many varieties and sizes of nails, it can get a little confusing finding out exactly what you need. For any homeowner though, there’s 4 basic varieties that should always be found in their toolbox:

  1. Common Round Head Nail: Common nails are used in basic construction projects like carpentry and framing, and come in a variety of lengths.
  2. Finishing Nails/Brads: Finishing nails are thin with a small barrel-shaped head that can be driven past the surface of the wood. This leaves an almost unnoticeable mark that can be easily patched for projects like installing base molding. Brads are a smaller version of finishing nails that are perfect for cabinetry work.
  3. Casing Nail: Casing nails are like finishing nails, but a bit larger. The increased size increases its holding power. This is great for any window molding.
  4. Roofing Nail: Roofing nails are used for general roof repair projects like attaching shingles and installing roofing felt.

Screws are important as well, especially for hanging pictures, shelving and hardware. Depending on where you are hanging items, you may need molly screws, which helps with screwing into drywall.

Luckily for first time homeowners, many home renovation stores carry variety boxes of these must-have nails and more.

Paint like a Pro

Painting projects can be burdensome without the right tools. Homeowners can save plenty of time by being prepared with everything they need in order to take on any painting project big or small. The most obvious tool is a paint brush for simple touch ups or small projects like painting a trellis or some molding. For bigger projects like repainting an entire room, keeping a roller and paint tray handy is important to get the job done quickly. Painter’s tape makes any first time DIYer look like a pro by keeping any paint job neat and tidy. Make sure you have drop cloths to protect floors and furniture and the right cleaning supplies on hand. As an example, you may need mineral spirits or turpentine to clean oil based paints.

Combining these three tools can make painting a bedroom or living room simple and easy.

Lighting

It can be a hassle when a light bulb burns out, especially in a room that gets little or no sunlight. What’s worse is when there’s no replacement bulb to be found in the home, making a trip to the hardware store an unplanned addition to the day’s schedule. Making sure to keep a small stock of light bulbs can make short work of this easy project, but it’s not enough to just keep replacement bulbs for the bathroom on hand. Different lamps and sockets may require different wattage bulbs, while track lighting may need an LED replacement bulb. Picking up a few replacements of each will keep any homeowner prepared in case of a sudden burnout.

The Great Outdoors

While first time homeowners are trying to make the inside of their dream home look just right, nature starts to take its toll on the outside. Growing grass, weeds popping up, plants that need watering and more make it necessary to have the proper tools on hand to keep the home’s curb appeal. While equipment like a lawn mower and weed whacker will keep any yard looking nice and neat, other tools like a watering can or a sprayer for weed killers and fertilizers will help keep it looking lush and green.

But greenery in spring and summer aren’t a homeowner’s only concern when it comes to outdoor care and maintenance. Winter brings a blanket of snow and ice every year, especially in our area of Pennsylvania. This makes having a snow shovel and rock salt handy a must for any homeowner in order to clear a path out of the home, clear of any hazardous ice.

Here is a list of some of the other basic items you should have when moving into a new home:

  1. Ladders – At least a 6 foot ladder or longer for harder to reach places, like gutters. A small step stool should help with many small projects and is much easier to carry around.
  2. Spackle and blade – You’re bound to get dings and dents in your walls, especially after a move. Spackle will help touch up blemishes.
  3. Basic tools – Screw drivers, pliers, hammers and wrenches are a necessity to hanging up pictures and solving minor issues.
  4. Tape measure –  Tape measures are necessary for centering your wall decor and working on projects.
  5. Power tools – Tools that drill, cut and sand can always help speed up projects with less grunt work.
  6. Glues – Crazy glue, wood glue and standard glues always come in handy around the home.
  7. Tapes – Duct tape, electrical tape and painter’s tape are some examples.
  8. Lubricants – Canned lubricant like WD-40 can help with a squeaky door or stubborn window. Liquid wrench can help with rusty or over-tightened bolts should you need to take anything apart.
  9. Outdoor tools – Trowels, shovels, rakes, trimmers, loppers and other standard gardening tools will make life a lot easier when working in your garden.
  10. Outdoor power tools – Weed whackers, leaf blowers, chain saws and hedge trimmers make quick work of seasonal cleanups.
  11. Safety gear – Ear plugs, gloves and eye protection are always very important. A good hat won’t hurt for sun protection.

Home ownership requires a lot of work that many first-time buyers are unaware of, prompting a lot of back and forth trips to the hardware store to get everything they need when projects arise. It’s one of the unforeseen expenses in a home purchase that should be considered when buying a home. Any experienced homeowner can help new owners along the way by getting any number of necessary tools as a housewarming gift. Not only will it help them with any project they may come across, but it will also help them save some money along the way. For more information, contact a Class-Harlan Real Estate agent today!

Disclaimer: Class-Harlan Real Estate suggests that anyone considering home improvement or repair should do so at the level of experience and ability they are comfortable with. If one does not know how to repair something or does not have the appropriate training, either for the repair itself or the tools used to make such a repair, it is highly suggested that you seek professional help. Class-Harlan Real Estate does not encourage or condone any activity that may cause injury or damage. 

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Top 10 Tricks for Writing a Stand Out Offer

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Top 10 Tricks for Writing a Stand Out Offer

offerBuying a home isn’t as simple as saying “I’ll take it!” and writing a check for the down payment. A lot goes into closing the deal, including negotiations on price, inspections, dealing with the bank, and more. Most importantly though, just like a seller must make their home appealing to buyer, a buyer must make their offer appealing to the seller or it may not even be considered. Sellers are looking for specific terms and conditions that benefit them the most, along with a great offer. By following these 10 tricks, you can be on your way to putting your offer on top of the pile.

Offer Price

The offer price is a huge factor in any home buying process. Deciding whether to submit an offer above, below, or at list price can be challenging to figure out, and one wrong move can send the seller running to the next offer. It takes a lot of real estate research on the area in which the house is located along with the housing market in general to ballpark an offer that has a high chance of being accepted. Luckily with a Class-Harlan Real Estate ally in your corner specializing in Bucks and Montgomery Counties, submitting a great offer becomes a lot easier. Using their know how and years of experience, submitting an offer that is fair and well-researched makes this process quick and easy.

No Seller Assist

Coming up with a 10%-20% down payment on a home can be financially straining for any buyer. That’s why many buyers try to exercise a seller assist option on their offer where the seller gives the buyer a credit (eg., 3%) to go towards buyer closing costs. While this can greatly help a buyer, it can throw up a few red flags for the seller, forcing them to pass on the offer. Usually when a buyer exercises this option, they offer to put down a minimal down payment. This can lead the seller to think the buyer’s financial situation is marginal. A buyer that does not exercise seller assist on the other hand may prove to be more financially stable with a lesser chance of the deal falling through.

Strong Down Payment

There’s multiple reasons to put a large down payment on a home including the reduction of overall interest payments, lower interest rates from lenders, smaller mortgage payments, and no need for PMI. For sellers looking for the perfect offer, a large down payment in a situation with competing offers can be a deal maker. Just like where a low-down payment with seller assist can hint at a marginal financial situation, a strong down payment can hint at a stellar financial situation where banks will be more likely to approve a mortgage. This is a big safety net for sellers by going with a buyer who’s deal will most likely not fall through rather than spending time on a buyer who’s deal may fall through.

Preferred Settlement Date

Timing can make a big difference in terms of which offer a seller accepts. If a seller wants to get out of their home as soon as possible so they can quickly move into their new home, it may be beneficial to try and set an early settlement date. On the other hand, if the seller wants 30 or 60 days before settlement, the buyer may need to be patient and set a settlement date further down the road than they would like. At the end of the day though, it all depends on if an agreeable date can be set for both parties. By working with your Class-Harlan Real Estate Agent, you can gain a better understanding of a preferred settlement date to set on that makes both parties happy.

Send a Letter with your Offer

There’s a reason a buyer is submitting an offer on a home. It could be the curb appeal, the school district, stellar upgrades, or any other number reasons that compelled them to submit an offer on one house in particular out of the countless homes on the market. That’s why instead of just telling their friends and family about why this is their dream home, they should tell the seller. An emotional appeal may not be as convincing as a stronger down payment or a high offer. However, an emotional appeal as to why a buyer is submitting their offer can sway the seller’s mind.

Inclusions and Exclusions

Inclusions and exclusions detail what will be included and excluded with the sale of the home. Simply put, this list will give insight as to what will and won’t come with the home such as a washing machine, chandeliers, or a refrigerator. Usually this list is hammered out during negotiations, but a buyer can save themselves and the seller a lot of time by being up front with what they want included with the sale. This is a great way for the buyer to convey their wishes to the seller up front in order to hammer out any issues immediately rather than during negotiations where the deal can fall apart due to a failure to compromise.

Waiving Inspections

Buyers have a great deal of protections when buying a home, and one of those protections is the inspection contingency. During this period, a buyer can have the home inspected to get a detailed report of anything that may need repairs. Based on this information a buyer can request that the seller make any repairs before agreeing to buy the home, and can even back out of a deal altogether. So why would anyone waive their right to an inspection?

First off, a buyer can back out of a deal for several reasons based on the inspection report without losing their earnest money deposit. A crack in the sidewalk can make a passive buyer back out of the deal, forcing the seller to relist their home. Secondly, it can be off-putting for a buyer to require the seller to repair everything on the list. From painting to repairing a wobbly doorknob, a seller can dissolve the deal if too many unreasonable requests are made.

Shorten Inspection Contingencies

If a buyer decides to go through with an inspection, they will have a certain time frame to get it done as well as any additional inspections that may be recommended by an inspector. If a lot of inspections need to be done, it’s good to have a long inspection contingency. However, in the current competitive real estate market, a long inspection contingency can push a buyer’s offer to the back of the line. Shortening the contingency period and scheduling inspections quickly during this period is key. It moves the process along faster, and decreases the chance of a third-party offer being accepted.

Cash Down

Putting a down payment in the area of 20% is huge in terms of submitting a stellar offer. What’s even better is putting that 20% down in cash! By doing so, a buyer will reduce his mortgage payments than if they put down a smaller down payment, lower his interest rate, and avoid needing PMI. Not only that, but it instills confidence in the seller that the buyer has the credit and finances to buy the home without issue from the bank.

However, cash down payments need to “season” in a bank account for anywhere between 30 to 60 days so a lender can ensure the validity of the money. For instance, if $20,000 showed up in a buyer’s bank account overnight, it may mean they took out a personal loan to cover the down payment. If this is the case, a lender will be less likely to give out a home loan because the potential buyer is already on the hook for a large loan, making the issuance of a larger second loan a very risky move.

Conventional Loan over VA or FHA Loans

Finally, the type of mortgage a buyer gets can dissolve a deal instantly. Conventional loans give a good amount of protections to the sellers in the form of minimum down payments to attract buyers who may be more financially ready to make an offer, while also using the borrower’s credit and debt-to-income ratios to determine eligibility for a loan. Of course, by having these protections in place, the seller’s mind is more at ease accepting an offer with a conventional loan.

On the other hand, FHA loans benefit the buyer by insuring loans to those with lower credit scores and who are only able to put down a minimal down payment of 3.5%. Similarly, VA loans offer the same benefits to those with lower credit scores and cash-on-hand, but require no down payment on the home at closing at all. Though FHA and VA loans can help certain individuals buy a home who may not have been able to with a conventional loan, it can be risky for a seller to accept an offer with an FHA or VA loan. Because most of the protections go to the buyer with these loans, the chances of a seller rejecting an offer for another with a conventional loan are higher.

These ten tips can help any buyer make an offer, and their dream home, become reality. Your Class-Harlan Real Estate agent can help get you on the right path by walking you through the home buying process. Call your Class-Harlan agent today, and get started on putting together a winning offer.

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Why Home Buyer Qualifications Matter to the Seller

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Why Home Buyer Qualifications Matter to the Seller

Buyer qualificationsSelling a home is a momentous occasion to say the least, but nothing beats that feeling of getting an offer after all the work that went into listing the home and preparing for each showing. But before popping the champagne, there’s one very important thing a seller needs to understand: an offer does not equal a sale. In fact, there’s a lot to consider before deciding to accept any offers. Do the buyers qualify for a mortgage? What kind of mortgage are they looking for? DO they have a home to sell first? These buyer qualifications may mean the difference between a successful transaction and an offer that will ultimately fail.

Financial Stability

Financial stability is the most obvious buyer qualification the seller should be aware of before executing a contract. A seller should always look into a potential buyer’s financial information in order to gain an understanding as to whether or not they’re qualified to buy this home. Even a pre-approved mortgage is not final, and can ultimately be denied. However, by acquiring a Buyer’s Financial Information Sheet (BFI), a seller can more accurately gauge the buyer’s ability to secure a loan. Simply put, a BFI can be requested by the seller in order for them to see a more detailed picture of the Buyer’s qualifications. This is done by breaking down income, liquid assets, liabilities, employment and more. Using this sheet, a determination can be made as to the likelihood of financing being approved without taking the home off the market.

Buyer qualifications also include employment status and career longevity. Also, determining if the Buyer’s purchase is contingent on them getting a financial gift is also a factor.

Mortgage Type

Traditional mortgages offer competitive rates and allow more flexibility to both the seller and buyer in order to close the deal. For example, if a deal is reached and the home is appraised by the buyer’s mortgage company at a value less than the sale price, the seller may either lower the price, or the buyer may continue with the purchase is acceptable to a mortgage lender. However, with private mortgages, if the buyer puts less than 20% down on the home, they must pay for Private Mortgage Insurance which will increase their monthly payments. This increase in price may prove too much of a financial burden, forcing the offer to be retracted.

FHA loans on the other hand give more protections to the buyer, while also presenting more opportunities for the deal to fall through. If a home is appraised less than the offer price and the seller does not lower the list price, the FHA loan will not be approved. Additionally, FHA loans allow for only 3.5% of the offer to be put down on the home at closing, while approving those with sub-par credit. This can throw up a financial red flag as to whether the buyer is able to pay for the home or if they will default.

Inspections, Repairs, and Maintenance

Inspections are a big part as to whether or not a deal goes through with regard to buyer qualifications. Inspectors leave no stone unturned to inform a buyer of any material defects with the property. Once the report is finalized, both parties have the chance to review it and negotiate what work may need to be done to the house and who will be responsible for completing the work. If the repair and maintenance bills are too much for either party to take on, or if the seller is trying to close the on the house as is, the deal could fall apart. It is critical for the seller to make the terms of the sale clear as to what they are willing and able to contribute towards repairs of the home so the buyer knows exactly what they are getting into.

Additionally, those looking to acquire an FHA loan must have the house appraised according to FHA requirements, which can be restrictive. Something simple as partially peeling paint or a faulty central air unit could result in a loan being denied until these issues are fixed. If a seller chooses to accept an offer with an FHA loan, they may be responsible for any repairs that are required, possibly placing a lot of financial strain on the seller in order to close the deal. Sellers may chose to hire their own inspector before accepting any offer to gain insight as to what may violate the terms of an FHA loan. If no major issues are found, the seller can be more confident in accepting an offer with an FHA loan.

As a seller, there are a lot of factors to look out for before accepting an offer. Once an offer is accepted, the home may be removed from the market as negotiations continue. If the deal falls through, the seller may very well have missed out on another offer being submitted by another prospective. This makes looking at a buyer’s qualifications a crucial factor in accepting any initial offer.

If you’re looking to sell your home, a dedicated Class-Harlan agent is ready to help. They’ll be able to sift through any offer to help find a qualified buyer for your home. Speak with a knowledgeable Class-Harlan agent today!

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The Importance of Curb Appeal

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The Importance of Curb Appeal

curb appealBucks County and Montgomery County, PA offer stunning landscapes, long distance vistas, rivers, lakes, farmland and an abundant assortment of living options. A simple Sunday drive can easily turn into a dream home window-shopping excursion. A house with the stone façade, an old Victorian with a huge backyard and outdoor colonial oven, and laundry list of other beautifully kept homes can all catch the eye of a number of passersby. The attention all these gorgeous homes attract are due to their respective curb appeal. Without it, these homes may simply blend into the background, turning a selling opportunity into a liability.

Curb appeal refers to the outside presentation of a home, and the first impression of any home can draw in a lot of potential buyers. From simple pleasing aesthetics, to making a house feel like a home before a potential buyer even walking through the door, curb appeal can be a seller’s best friend.

Aesthetics and Natural Draw

Potential buyers are naturally drawn in by the first impression of a home. The more properly maintained and aesthetically appealing it looks from the outside, the more willing a buyer is to explore the inside. It’s the appeal that turns the heads of countless cyclists, drivers, and joggers as they pass by. If left unkempt, the heads stop turning and the natural draw will fade. When thinking about the curb appeal of a home, it’s important to ask a few simple questions:

Is the lawn properly maintained and clear of any unsightly weeds or brown spots?

  • Does the house need painting?
  • Does the roof look like it needs to be replaced?
  • Are the hedges and decorative shrubbery all properly trimmed?
  • Do any trees look like they need pruning?
  • Does the home or deck need a power washing?

Viewing a home through the lens of a buyer can help answer these questions and can even uncover new ways to improve the aesthetics of a home. Quick fixes and a weekend’s worth of simple landscaping projects can greatly improve a home’s curb appeal and draw much greater attention.

Impression of Less Maintenance

curb appealNobody buys a home to start raking leafs or trim hedges. Homes that give an impression of less maintenance is a big plus to any potential buyer. Even something simple like an unkempt tree can scare away otherwise interested parties out of fear for an expensive future tree removal job. Taking care of these issues up front will put any buyer’s mind at ease and a smile on their face as they ask to see the inside.

Turn a Negative into a Positive

A crack in the path to the front door, or an unsightly electric meter oddly placed in the front of a home can raise the eyebrow of a potential buyer. Although these issues don’t effect the structural integrity of a home, blemishes like these in a home’s curb appeal can detract potentially interested individuals. Unfortunately, issues like these can require an ample amount of time and money to fix. In order to avoid these distractions, a homeowner can use a little creativity to draw the attention away from these negatives while improving their home’s overall curb appeal. Draw attention away from the crack by planting flowers on either side of the path, or hide the meter with a flowering shrub. Some creative thinking is all it takes to mask any blemishes to make a home look perfect.

Welcome Home

Selling a home all comes down to making the buyer feel like their already home. A lot of work goes into the inside of the house to achieve this goal, but that initial “wow” factor a potential buyer gets while pulling up to the home for the first time is critical. Presentation is everything in showing off a home’s potential, and all that hard work by the homeowner to cover the electric meter and trim that old tree will go far in making complete strangers feel like their already home.

Get the Offer You Want

curb appeal bucks countyFrom remodeling the kitchen to making essential repairs, a lot of work goes into improving a home’s value before putting it on the market. After all, like any good investment, the more you put into it, the more you should get out of it. Yet all that hard work done indoors to increase the list price can be lost if poor curb appeal is discouraging potential buyers from walking through the front door. Spending a weekend or two to improve a home’s curb appeal can immediately catch the eye of multiple interested buyers. This increased demand can translate into receiving quicker offers and bids close to or even above the home’s list price.

The agents at Class-Harlan Real Estate are experts in preparing any home to be put on the market. With some of the most experienced agents in Bucks County, their agents will help you decide which projects are most important in improving your home’s curb appeal so you can start drawing in potential buyers immediately. Maximize on your investment by contacting a Class-Harlan agent today.

Considering selling your home? Click here to speak to one of our knowledgeable agents today!

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Water: Important Considerations When Choosing a Home

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Water: Important Considerations When Choosing a Home

Class Harlan Public Water Bucks CountyWater is a vitally important utility. Think about all the things we use it for: drinking, cooking and cleaning. There isn’t a day where you don’t turn on a faucet somewhere in your home. Yet this utility sometimes drifts towards the bottom of the list of things to consider when choosing a home.

If you are looking for real estate in Bucks County or Montgomery County, you will encounter both city water (public) and well (private) setups for a home. There are significant differences between the two that should be considered carefully when choosing a property.

Private Water

Private water is almost always brought into your home via a well. A pump draws the water out from the well and a tank in the home provides the pressure needed to move the water throughout the dwelling.

There are important considerations when considering a home with a well.

Quality and Treatment

Well water can be the best tasting water you can have, and many appreciate it as a feature in their home. Since you are literally pulling the water from the ground, your well can be susceptible to virtually anything that can seep into the ground. It’s important to get the water tested during the inspection process and once the home is yours, it’s entirely up to the owner to test the cleanliness and safety of the water.

Common contaminants can include:

  • Pesticides – using fertilizers and pesticides may help beautify your property but can also contaminate your water. Homes in close proximity to crop fields may have elevated instances of pesticides
  • E. Coli – damaged septic systems or area farming can also infect your well with E. coli, which is a dangerous bacteria that can wreak havoc on your health.

Testing kits are easily available and affordable, and it is recommended that you test annually for contaminants. If there are unsafe levels of a contaminant such as E. coli, you may need to shock your system with chlorine and other agents to kill off the bacteria.

So long as your well is in a good location and you take proper care of your well, there are few better options for clean, pure and un-tampered water.

Cost of Ownership

In addition to testing and potential disinfection, the owner of a well has to manage the entire system and should any part of that system fail, it’s up to the owner to fix. Think of a well system as a furnace or central air system; it’s part of the mechanics of your home and as such, may need occasional maintenance and possible replacement. A knowledgeable real estate agent can help further explain a well system and some of these costs.

If one is not already in place, most owners of well systems opt to install water filtration systems to remove contaminants. These systems can also include UV light filtration which will kill bacteria like E. Coli. They can run from several hundred to a couple thousand dollars for multiple stage units and is a solid investment for your home and also you and your family’s health. They, too, require occasional maintenance.

That being said, all the water you do draw from the ground is free.

In Real Estate

Lenders may require that a water test be performed as part of the inspection process. While this shouldn’t delay a real estate transaction, it is another factor. If there is an issue with water quality, it is usually up to the seller to remediate.

Other Considerations

We’ve all heard the term ‘the well has run dry,’ and a home’s well system can indeed run dry during a period of drought. This can be fairly devastating when you think about all the things you use water for. You can purchase bottled water but in severe drought conditions, you can start to see shortages at grocery stores.

Another consideration is the loss of water during a power outage. Since your pump relies on electricity, a power outage will effectively turn you system off. Many homeowners with private wells choose to get a generator, which come with additional costs to install and maintain.

Lastly, pressure can be more easily impacted depending on how many utilities or faucets are being used. When it comes to pressure, you are at the mercy of your pressure tank and how quickly your pump can keep it full. If multiple people are showering and you have other appliances such as a dishwasher and a washing machine going, you can expect to see a drop in pressure.

Public Water

Class Harlan Water Options for Bucks CountyPublic water is seen as a more hands off, hassle free source. It’s treated at a plant via underground infrastructure and brought to the curb of your home. You pay for the service based on usage (much like electricity,) and any problems with the system leading to your location will be dealt with by the utility company. Furthermore, any issues with contamination will be dealt with by the utility company as well.

There are some important considerations with public water.

Quality and Treatment

City water is regularly monitored and should be fairly consistent in quality, yet it is not immune from contaminants. It is also treated with chlorines, which some people may not like the taste of, and can still include trace chemicals and contaminants. Depending on your location, the infrastructure can be old and be susceptible to bursts and contamination. As an example, New York City workers often encounter pipes that have been installed in the 1800’s. Public water can also be hard.

Cost of Ownership

Owners are charged either via a bill or through a tax. For the former, it is usually based on usage similar to electricity. Owners are also responsible for the piping that brings the supply from the curb to the home. Any issues that take place on the property are the owner’s responsibility.

Like private well owners, homeowners frequently opt to install and subsequently maintain a softener and other filtration systems to correct hardness and to remove other contaminants that affect quality and taste.

In Real Estate

Public water is typically seen as a plus from lenders since it represents a more stable cost of ownership and maintenance. There are no required tests, making it one less thing to worry about during the inspection phase of a real estate transaction.

Interested in buying or selling in Bucks or Montgomery County? Speak with one of our knowledgeable agents today to get started!

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The Appraisal Process in a Real Estate Transaction

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The Appraisal Process in a Real Estate Transaction

Appraisals are often a very important part of a real estate transaction, particularly when it comes to lending. Nearly all lenders will want to see that the subject property appraises at or above the purchase price in a transaction. The main reason for this is that in the event of a foreclosure or repossession, the bank has a reasonable chance of recuperating what it had originally loaned.

When is an appraisal ordered in a real estate transaction?

Class Harlan Doylestown Realtor AppraisalsThe timing of an appraisal can vary based on when the closing is scheduled and how a property is being paid for. For example, in a cash transaction, a Buyer could order an appraisal as soon as they choose to. More transactions today are done with a Buyer obtaining funding for their home purchase. After the Buyer submits an application with their lender (typically within 5-7 days of acceptance of an offer,) the lender will then order an appraisal through a third party management company within 10-14 days. This means that the appraisal process is completed in 3-5 weeks of the execution of a contract.

Comparative market analysis (CMA) vs. Appraisals

When a realtor prepares to list a residential property for sale or helps a Seller come up with an asking price, similar approaches are used to obtain a home’s market value.

Often, we refer to this as a comparative market analysis, or CMA. Using properties of “like kind,” realtors compare active, under contract (pending) and properties that have already been settled (within 6 months on average) to the Seller’s property.  This includes factors like location, acreage, bathroom/bedroom counts and other factors. Agents compare those to see what the market is like for the home based on current/recent competition.

Although this is more informal, it is an important step as an appraisal will essentially take the same information into account. If the CMA is not accurate or current, then the appraisal will not match and the asking price will be flawed.

Risk of overpricing

If a property is overpriced, it usually has a harder time selling. Overpriced usually means longer days on the market searching for the right Buyer and properties that are for sale can develop a reputation quickly. If a property is on the market too long, people suspect there might be significant repair issues with the home or Sellers that are hard to work with. Additionally, Buyers tend to look at fresh listings first, so a home on the market for a longer period of time simply won’t be looked at often as other homes relegate it to the back of search results.

Sometimes a Seller (and an agent) can get lucky and regardless of a property being overpriced, a Buyer might be willing to pay the higher value if it fits their needs or if there is a shortage of properties. However, it is important to keep in mind that even though a Buyer may be willing to pay more than what a home is currently worth the lender might not agree. If an appraisal comes in below the purchase price it could affect the Loan to Value Ratio(LTV).

As an example, if a Buyers offers $400,000 to buy a property with a down payment of 20%, the Buyer’s LTV is 80%, or $320,000 (the amount of the loan the Buyer is asking from their bank.) If the property appraises for $380,000, that would mean that the lender would typically only be willing to lend 80% of $380,000, or $304,000, which obviously does not cover the cost of the property. The solution in that situation is one of several scenarios

  1. The Seller reduces price to $380,000.00
  2. The Buyer makes up the difference and pays an additional $16,000.00 in cash
  3. The Seller and Buyer negotiate the difference
  4. The Buyer could terminate contract

More often than not, a buyer is unwilling to pay more than appraised value outside of extreme circumstances (eg., competitive market with bidding wars and/or very low supply.)

Appraisals gone bad

Not all the blame lands on the real estate agent or the Seller who over-prices. Occasionally, there are simply bad appraisals.  A common cause for a bad appraisal is an out-of-town appraiser who does not know the market well and can give an incorrect value based on bad comparables. It’s usually not a bad thing for the seller, and not noticed by the Buyer if the appraised value is over purchase price.

However, it is usually not a good thing, especially for the Seller, when the appraised value is under purchase price. There are circumstances when an agent and a Seller can argue or challenge a bad appraisal.

Do it right from the start

In short, it is not worth over-pricing your home. Make sure you hire an experienced realtor who understands the local market and does their due diligence when pricing a property for sale.

Class-Harlan Real Estate and their team of agents are intimately familiar with the Bucks County and Montgomery County areas and have decades of experience pricing homes for their clients and making the appraisal process as seamless as possible.

Interested in selling your home? Speak with one of our agents today to get started!

 

 

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Stucco Repairs & Considerations in Real Estate

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Stucco Repairs & Considerations in Real Estate

Stucco repair and remedies Class Harlan Real Estate Bucks CountyWhen choosing a home, the risk of hidden damage and potential for high maintenance costs down the road should always factor into your purchasing decision. One of the first places to look is in the building materials used; certain materials like stucco can disguise significant damage and be difficult to detect and repair.

Stucco rose to popularity as a building product in the mid to late 90’s and was used often through the mid 2000’s and is a great siding material when you consider longevity, durability and general maintenance. However, when installed incorrectly, stucco becomes vulnerable around windows and doors and can allow water to slowly seep behind the surface, causing rot, decay and potential structural issues, including termite damage.

In a humid climate that gets a decent amount of rain, the Delaware Valley area can be a bit notorious for homes with stucco damage and anyone who has dealt with stucco damage knows that it isn’t always a cheap fix. Some repairs can cost a couple of thousand dollars and major issues can cost tens of thousands of dollars to take down the old stucco, replace rotted wood and other issues and then reapply new underlayment and new stucco.

If you are buying or selling a home that was built more recently, there is a good chance that most of the notorious issues from years past were corrected with new installation methods and materials, and that there is little to no damage to the home in question.

If you are a buyer and are interested in a stucco home built during the 90’s through the mid 2000’s, it is in your best interest to insist on getting some tests done on the home to help ensure that there is no damage.

Types of Inspections

In addition to visual inspections where an inspector can look for obvious signs of rot, there are other methods of testing which you may want to consider.

  1. There are surface scanners which can be run over the exterior surface of the home to check moisture levels. This method is easy to do, leaves no damage to the walls but is not entirely accurate or definitive.
  2. Invasive testing: This is where holes are drilled either in the interior or exterior where damage is likely. A moisture detector is fished into the holes and a reading is taken to determine if the moisture level is high enough to confirm that water is breaching the stucco.
  3. There are also infrared cameras that can scan a home and look for temperature differences within a stucco wall. Due to water evaporation, the areas where moisture is high will read cooler than dry areas. While this doesn’t necessarily confirm the presence of moisture, the process can aid in determining where invasive testing should take place by using the infrared scan as a guide.

Stucco repair and remedies Class Harlan Real Estate Bucks CountyBy getting one or more of these styles of tests done, you can better protect yourself by decreasing the chance that costly repairs aren’t in your future and that the presence of mold or other issues likely do not exist in your living space.

If you are a seller, it is equally important that you get your home tested and clear any potential issues before you put your house on the market. By getting any identifiable issues out of the way, you put potential buyers at ease and the process of selling your home isn’t delayed by additional testing or repairs if they are required.

Whoever is ordering the repair should document any project to prove that inspections took place, repairs were made to any impacted part of the home and that the correct methods were used to make those repairs. This documentation will serve you well down the road when the house is up for sale again in the future.

Class-Harlan Real Estate prides itself on paying attention to considerations like stucco in real estate transactions. They will work for the benefit of their buyers or sellers in helping them make informed decisions before a real estate transaction.

If you are interested in a home that has stucco siding, Class-Harlan can source knowledgeable and reputable inspectors and contractors to make sure that any issues are detected and subsequently dealt with in the proper manner.

Give us a call today and speak with one of our expert realtors today.

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It’s Showtime: Quick Tips to Get Ready for your Open House

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It’s Showtime: Quick Tips to Get Ready for your Open House

photo-apr-03-12-58-37-pmThink of an open house as your home’s big welcome party to the market. The signs and balloons go up and all buyers in the area are invited! At this point in time, your home is less of a home and more a marketable product. At this stage, you should be materially and emotionally prepared for the fact that your home isn’t quite yours anymore.

An open house is a great way to get your house in front many buyers in a short period of time. It is also a great way for area agents to look at the house to keep in the back of their head for their other clients. During an open house, buyers can walk through the home, go room by room with your agent (and theirs) and imagine themselves and their stuff in the space.

If there is a dripping faucet in the bathroom, you have to side step around clutter and you can smell last night’s tuna casserole wafting from the kitchen, it may not make the best first impression.

We’ve listed our top tips for getting your home ready for your upcoming open house. We encourage you to print this out and use as a checklist to make sure you cover all the bases and have a successful showing once your house is on the market.

Get Cleaning

photo-apr-24-1-25-04-pmThe house should be cleaned from top to bottom. Windows, ceiling fans and trim should all be dusted and all clutter removed. Remove paperwork and letters from office/work spaces and slim down the amount of pictures and other knick knacks that might be on tables and bookshelves. Make sure the kitchens and bathrooms are spotless and if you own a pet, ensure that there are no odors or signs of them there, if at all possible.

The outside is just as important; Make sure that the grass is mowed and weeds are tamed. Consider investing in some paint work, power washing services or landscaping to freshen things up. Give your home a helping hand depending on the season as well: Rake the leaves in the fall and get some flowers planted in the spring. Outdoor entertaining spaces should have clean furniture with little to no clutter.

A garage is a super valuable space for many – if you have a lot of clutter, consider cutting it down as a way to help viewers visualize the size and usability of the space.

Closets are fair game as well. Storage is a huge consideration for buyers and yes, they will be opening your closet doors and pantries to inspect the house’s storage. Make sure that main cabinets, pantries and closets are cleaned and organized.

It may sound like a ton of work (and for many, it is,) but buyers can’t be distracted with personal artifacts, dirt and general clutter. Especially when the goal is to have your home connect with those stopping for the open house.

I’m Gonna Let it Shine

Light is incredibly important aspect of a showing. People want bright, cheery homes with tons of light. Once those windows and treatments are cleaned, make sure that they are open and ready to dump as much light as possible into your home.

Light is important on your property as well. Overgrown trees and bushes might be blocking light to the yards, outdoor living spaces and windows. It’s worth discussing any landscaping needs with your agent to see what makes the most sense to your property and budget.

Cater to all the senses

Open houses aren’t just for people to see your home but to experience it. And, most people experience things with more than just their eyes. We use smells and sounds just as much! Consider playing soft music in the family room or entry way to set the mood. Soft rock or contemporary style music is a great place to start.

Baking the morning of your open house is another way to heighten the senses and make people feel at home, in your home. Who doesn’t like the smell of chocolate chip cookies or even mulled wine during the fall and winter seasons.

Speaking of seasons, temperature is very important as well. No one likes a cold or feverishly hot house. If you have central air, there is little better you can do to sell this amenity than to have a wonderfully cool house on a hot day.

Other little visual touches through staging can go a long way. A pitcher of water or iced tea on an outdoor patio, new fluffy towels in the bathroom, clean bed linens, and fresh fruit in a bowl in the kitchen and fresh flowers are simple, inexpensive ways to enhance your home.

Put Together a Game Plan

The first three tips can each seam overwhelming. It’s true there is quite a bit of elbow grease and expense to each of these steps. Yet, if you tackle the most important aspects of each in an orderly fashion, it will be much more manageable.

Go room by room and make a specific checklist for each. Take your time and consider what will offer the most impact or bang for your buck.

Little things like de-cluttering and touching up some paint are generally easy and inexpensive. Identify the bigger expenses, such as landscaping, floor cleaning or any mechanical updates/fixes and prioritize as best you can.

TIP: Mechanical issues such as heating/air-conditioning, plumbing and electrical will likely be a point of issue down the road after inspections and may need to be fixed anyway. It may be worth getting it taken care of in advance and early on in the process so that no issues keep buyers away or complicate negotiations during the buying process.

The agents at Class Harlan Real Estate are some of the most experienced agents in the Bucks County Area. Ask your agent what you should do as you prepare for your first open house. They can help in making sure your time and energy is well spent during this process by honing in on what is most important for you, your home and the market.

Ready to list your home? Contact us today to meet with one of our world class agents.

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First Time Homebuyer Considerations

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First Time Homebuyer Considerations

class-harlan-tips-for-preparing-your-home-for-marketBuying a home takes a lot of time, research and emotion. And for first time home buyers, it should: This is an important step for you and your family and when it comes time to buy, you want to make sure that the home suites your budget, requirements and lifestyle.

There is a lot of information out there for first time home buyers and getting started can seem daunting. Yet understanding your exact requirements can go a long way in pruning down your options so that all the erroneous options and ‘noise’ goes away and you can focus on what is most important to you.

These 7 quick considerations act as a great starting point in deciding on what your needs are in a new home. By prioritizing these aspects of your home search you can start to narrow down where and what you’ll be looking for in your new home.

Style of Home

If you like the charm of older homes or the convenience and ‘hands off’ lifestyle of newer construction and/or communities, it’s important to understand what’s involved with each. Expect regular maintenance with older homes. If you don’t know what a Philips head screwdriver is and don’t want to spend time cutting grass, then an older home may not be best for you. Instead, you might want to consider newer construction or a development that has a home owners association (HOA.) These communities provide services such as lawn care and snow removal for a monthly fee. That means less money in your pocket but greater convenience if you are not handy, in your golden years or want to invest your time on other things than home maintenance.

Land/Privacy

Closely aligned with home style is your requirement for land and/or privacy. If you require a lot of land, a quieter setting with less road noise and nosey neighbors, you may want to look in more rural areas with no structured community. If you are more of a city slicker, living in a town center is great for those who want to walk to local amenities, work, school, etc. Of course, there are happy mediums with townhomes and development communities where you can live in suburban bliss.

Lifestyle

Point #2 touches on lifestyle quite a bit: What is most important to you?

If you love the outdoors, want plenty of outdoor space and need storage for your car hobby, you will likely want to look at more suburban or rural homes with plenty of land, garage space and privacy. If nightlife, entertainment and community involvement is more your style, then city/suburban life would be better suited for you.

Similarly, how you live your life in your home is equally as important. Do you love to entertain? Do you have a lot of stuff and need closets and storage for all your stuff? Or, are you a minimalist where a small condo or cottage will do the trick?

Taxes

Taxes are a reality for all property owners and in all likelihood, they will never go down. In other words, the tax rate you see on a property at the time of purchase will only go up as you continue to live in your home. It is important to understand the taxes in the areas you are looking to buy in and see if you can afford the yearly tax payments. It is also important to understand what those taxes get you. Does your town have dedicated services like police, fire and rescue? Are there community centers, libraries and other resources that your taxes support? Schools are a big influencer and our next consideration.

Schools

Schools are a crucially important consideration for people of all ages. If you are starting a family, good schools are likely at the top of your list. Keep in mind that certain areas have tax rates that are heavily influenced by the school systems. It would be wise to research the schools, read some of the recent news and goings on in area school districts and see what each one has to offer.

If you don’t have children or are empty nesters, you can consider living in an area where school taxes aren’t such as large influence on your tax bill.

Property Value

For all the considerations previously mentioned, your budget will tell you what you can get for your must haves and which ones you many need to compromise on. It’s important not to stretch your budget too much and to make common sense decisions for you and your family. For some, it’s schools. For others, it’s a matter of lifestyle. At the end of the day, it all comes down to the biggest consideration:

Location

gallery_6You thought we’d forget the old cliché? Not a chance, because it’s true.

There is no bigger consideration than the location of your future home as it influences each and every one of the prior 6 mentioned here. Your location determines virtually everything, from the taxes you pay, the schools that are available to you and the lifestyle you plan on maintaining while living in your new home.

Location influences your budget the most. What you can get for your dollar varies wildly from town to town, and from state to state. Typically, the closer you live to a city or major metropolitan area, the more expensive the cost of living. Location is typically always influenced by other factors, such as work commutes, schools and access to public transportation.

An experienced real estate agent well versed in the area you are intending to purchase a home is an invaluable resource, particularly for first time home buyers. Class Harlan Real Estate has agents with decades of experience in the Bucks county area and can pinpoint the perfect place for you and your family based on your considerations. Whether you are a seasoned buyer or someone new to the home buying experience, we can review your requirements, pinpoint the properties on the market that best fit your needs and help you make an educated decision in buying a home that you will live in and enjoy for many years. We are excited that you are considering Bucks County as your future home, and hope to hear from you soon.

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6 Quick Tips for Interviewing Realtors

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6 Quick Tips for Interviewing Realtors

 

class-harlan-interview-a-your-realtorWhen it comes time to buy or sell a home, it is in your best interest to make sure that the realtor representing you is the best person for the job. Each realtor has different sets of expertise, resources and techniques that can make a significant impact on the success of your sale or purchase. For instance, some realtors specialize in commercial real estate or specialize in very specific communities. Others might excel at representing first time home buyers or folks in specific budget ranges.

Interviewing a realtor is a great way to get to know the folks in your area and ensure that you work with the absolute best person for you and your needs. You will be working very closely with this person for a couple months so a good working relationship is critical to your success. At the end of the day, an agent is guiding you through a very important process for you and your family and you shouldn’t settle for anything less than your exact needs in a realtor.

We’ve compiled a few tips to help you with the interview process.

Research the Top Producers

It’s not hard to figure out who the most active and successful agents are in your area. They may not be your best fit but there is a reason for their success. They may have invaluable knowledge of your area or are able to truly hone in on their buyers or sellers wishes and consistently deliver. Why not?

Ask Them about Their Background and Track Record

Knowing how long an agent has been in business or where they are from are excellent questions to ask. An agent that has been active for many years will have experience on their side and if they have roots in your target area, they will have a much more intimate knowledge of their surrounding areas, schools, businesses, etc.

Sales success is worth asking about as well. You can ask an agent how many homes they’ve sold or listed in prior years and what their workload is for the current year and during the time they would be your representative.

Similarly, not all agents are full time and may only be partially available or need to lean on other agents in their agency to help with open houses and walk-throughs, etc. Ask them how many hours they work per week.

This is all important information and can give you insight into how dedicated or accessible that agent can reasonably be to you.

How Do They Work Their Magic?

finding-the-right-realtor-class-harlan-interviewNot all agents sell a home the same way. Some use traditional resources such as print advertising or perhaps radio and others use social media and online networks to show off homes. If your current or target community has organized social tools like interest based pages or business networking forums, this is a great resource if the agent is able to leverage it.

Ask About Their Agency

Knowing who they work for is just as important. If they work for a large national agency they may not have the intimate knowledge of the area that you require. An agency may have specializations just the same as agents may specialize. For instance, some agencies specialize is specific budget ranges, older/historic homes or commercial properties. As you work through the process of buying or selling a home, many agencies have excellent resources available such as trusted inspection companies, title agencies and contractors that can help you make informed decisions. Working with an agent with the right agency can help when it comes to finding the right team of people to help you through a transaction/closing.

References

References are very valuable and can help you to gauge an agent’s skill through the past experiences others. If an agent cannot offer a referral or positive testimonial, you may want to consider someone with a better track record or with more experience.

Do Your Own Homework

There are so many resources online that there is no excuse for doing your own investigating. Research your agent and their agency. Most will have a website, a bio and/or a social media accounts to follow. Some might have a blog. See what they are posting, read reviews and see how they represent their other clients online. These are all fantastic ways to gather information and to understand an agent before any interview. Hopefully, the information you found out on your own matches what is out there on the internet. If it isn’t, ask them about it.

Class-Harlan Real Estate is the premier agency for the Bucks County and Montgomery County areas. With decades of experience and some of the most knowledgeable and passionate agents in the area, our boutique agency can offer the perfect agent for your exact needs. You can meet our team here or contact us today to make an appointment.

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