Real Estate Information Archive

Blog

Displaying blog entries 1-4 of 4

Good Homes Going Fast

by Jessica Hunt with Preservation Properties

I wanted to write an article today in dedication to all of the people that are looking at buying a home.

My fiance and I are currently in the market for a home and it is always difficult being a home buyer, I completely understand.  Just imagine how difficult it would be if you were the buyer as well as the agent.  Trying to take a step back, gauge what your partner is looking for in a home as well as yourself and view properties that match both of your criteria.  It is not easy, let me tell you... especially when your non real estate partner is not into looking at homes or is very picky (which my partner is both).

We have been finding homes lately that have sort of met our criteria, nothing that is a slam dunk.  Then last night, right before going to bed, I found this really neat property and showed it to my fiance.  He was always talking about how important the flow of the home is and how he wished every home had a floorplan available and this one had it - we were hooked.  We wanted to see this place, only catch was, he was headed out of town for the week for business and wouldn't be able to see it until the following weekend.

So I called up the agent to find that after only being on the market for a total of 4 days, and having 1 open house, this place already had 4 offers on it and was going to finalize the offer by this morning.

No way we would be able to get in to see it next week. 

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Lesson learned?  Good homes sell FAST!  I can not reiterate this enough.  Too many people think that because this market might be considered a buyers market, it isn't the case with a good quality, well priced home.  Those properties are priced to move, and yes they move.

When you find a home that you feel is "your" home, you may want to move on it before the competition swoops in.  Its hard enough to find the right home, its even more difficult when someone takes the home that you finally think is "it."

4 Foreclosure Tricks and Traps You Need To Know

by Jessica Hunt with Preservation Properties

Interest in buying a foreclosed home is on the rise, but so are concerns about the risk involved in the process. In a December survey, Trulia found that 49 percent of Americans were at least somewhat likely to consider buying a foreclosure, up from 45 percent in May 2010.  But the number of US adults who believed there are disadvantages to buying foreclosures had also increased, from 78 percent to 81 percent over the same time frame.  Among those folks who had qualms about purchasing a foreclosure, the top concerns were:

  • that buying a foreclosure might involve hidden costs,
  • that the buying process itself is risky, and
  • that the home might continue to lose value, after escrow closes.

While there certainly are risks that run with buying a foreclosed home, the most risky way to do it is also the least common method: at the foreclosure auction itself. Auction buyers often don't have the opportunity to fully vet the foreclosure to ensure that they are receiving clear title and/or to make sure they're not getting a lemon. With that said, most foreclosures are resold not at the foreclosure auction, but as an REO (short for Real Estate Owned - by the bank), listed by a real estate broker on the Multiple Listing Service and on Trulia!

When you buy an REO in this way, you have lots of opportunities to use some tricks of the trade, so to speak, to avoid some of the traps you may fear. Here are my Top 4 Tricks and Traps for Foreclosure Buyers:

1.  As-is means as-is, period.  (Most of the time.) Banks have very little interest, inclination or even the logistically necessary resources to execute repairs on your home. Many of these homes are managed by an asset management company in another state, and may not even have a local person besides the agent who can handle large repairs. Generally speaking, bank-owned homes are sold on a very strict "as-is, where-is" basis, which just means that you should expect to take possession of it, if you buy it, in exactly the position and location it is, no matter how defective.  Do not walk into a viewing of a foreclosed home, notice how the plumbing is all ripped out of the wall, and make an offer for it, assuming you'll be able to get the bank to "fix" the issue later.  Usually, if the bank is willing to do any repairs to a foreclosed home, they do so, on the advice of the listing agent, prior to the home being listed.

Out of hundreds of foreclosure transactions I have personally been involved in, I have seen exactly four where the bank did agree to do some level of repairs at a buyer's request.  Every one of those times, the repair was to fix a health-and-safety endangering property defect, like a gas-leak or an electrical fritz. And every one of those times, the property defect was highly non-obvious - not something even a diligent buyer could have detected visually prior to making an offer.  Maybe another few times I've seen a bank agree to a small price reduction due to surprising condition problems.  And dozens of times, I've seen transactions fall apart or buyers take on the property’s repair costs, when they request repair credits, price reductions or actual repairs from the ban seller.

If a foreclosure you're considering has obvious property damage, have your contractor stop by with you or gather whatever information you need to get as comfortable as possible with your offer price, assuming that the bank will not be chipping anything in for repairs, before you make the offer.

2.  The bank speaks no evil.  When it comes to real estate disclosures, the fact is, the bank speaks not much of anything!  Many states exempt banks and other types of corporate homeowners from making substantive disclosures about the condition of the property.  Even in jurisdictions where the bank is not legally exempt, most banks will simply write across the required disclosures something to the effect that the bank has no knowledge of the property's condition.  (Before you protest with a "that's not fair!!" keep in mind that the bank never lived in the property, so most often truly does have no idea of any important facts or details about its condition or location, the things an average home seller would be required to disclose.)

Even in a normal transaction, it behooves a buyer to be thorough in having the property inspected and meticulous about reviewing the resulting inspection reports.  But buying a foreclosure ups even that ante, as you have no seller disclosures to highlight particular problems you should have looked at, and none of the usual legal recourse you would have if a “regular” seller made incomplete disclosures.  Get a property inspection.  A pest inspection.  A roof inspection.  A sewer line inspection. A pool inspection, if you have a pool and care about its condition.

Yes - all these inspections cost money, but the drama and thousands each of them can save you is well worth it. And read your state’s buyer inspection advisory or similar document (ask your agent), just to make sure you’re aware of all the inspections that are available to you, and work with your agent to determine which ones make sense, and which are not appropriate.

Some insider tips:

Vacant foreclosures often have their utilities disconnected.  Work with your agent to make sure the utilities get turned on - even for a single day - so that your property inspector can run the water taps, test the stove and dishwasher, see if the water heater and electrical outlets work, and so forth.
If appliances are there, the bank will probably leave them there, even though they may not have technical “legal” ownership of them, so they may not be included in the contract, like in a "normal" home sale.
However, the bank will not give you any sort of warranty on appliances, so try to obtain any warranty coverage you want or need elsewhere - from a home warranty company or, potentially, the original manufacturer/retailer.

3.  The contract terms, they are a changin'. One thing squarely in the wheelhouses of local real estate pros are local market standard practices.  From negotiating practices to which party pays which closing costs, every market is different, and experienced local agents are experts on this information.  If you’re buying a foreclosure, though, the bank will often require you to use it’s own purchase contract, rather than the more commonly used state forms.  Many times, this is done to advise the buyer of the bank’s refusal to make substantive disclosures (see above) and to change some of the normal practices for your area to the bank’s standard practices.  

For instance, if you are buying a home in a contingency state, where you would usually have to sign a document proactively releasing contingencies, the bank’s contract will probably change that, so that your transaction operates on an objection period. In "objection" based transactions, you  have a certain period of time in which you must either speak up about your concerns with the property and/or cancel the deal, or you will automatically be presumed to be moving forward with the deal and your deposit money will be forfeited if you change your mind after that date.  

If you’ve been making offers on non-foreclosures on the standard contract form, or you’ve bought homes before and think you know the drill, please - I implore you - READ every word of the contract you sign when you buy a home from the bank, and ask your broker, agent or attorney to explain anything that doesn’t make sense.

4.  Expect the unexpected.  When you buy a foreclosure, you might end up working with the bank’s escrow company, instead of a company you or your agent selects.  And the bank's escrow provider might be slow or disorganized.  C’est la vie. The bank might rush you for your deposit money, but take their own sweet time coming up with the necessary signatures on their end to close the deal.  Par for the course.  You might expect that the bank would be desperate for buyers, and instead find out that there are 20 offers on the same REO.  Or, you might be the only offer and still get your aggressively low (but still reasonable) offer rejected, only to have the bank reduce the list price of the home to the same price of your offer!  (They often want to see if exposing it to other buyers at the new, lower list price might generate more interest and higher offers.)  

When you’re buying a foreclosure, expect glitches, expect your calendar to be derailed, expect the bank to be inflexible and possibly even unreasonable.  It’s not overkill to ask your broker or agent to brief you on the common complications they see in REO transactions.  Having realistic expectations may keep you from pulling your hair out.  And if the transaction turns out to run smooth as silk?  You’ll be pleasantly surprised.

Install a Dimmer Switch in 7 Easy Steps

by Jessica Hunt with Preservation Properties

One of the greatest improvements you can make for your space is in the lighting department. Sure you can always add a few lamps — but just as easy is making your overhead lights work on a dimmer switch. Your eyes will thank you and chances are your landlord will as well!

If you're like me, you're able to wield a hammer or screwdriver, but the idea of lighting and wires is intimidating. Luckily for all of us, they really aren't and installing a dimmer switch is a great project for anyone looking to get your feet wet in the world of wiring (although taken literally, that's a quite horrible idea).

From turning off your breaker to turning it back on, there's only 5 steps in between when installing a dimmer. There's wires to match up and ends to tape up, but all in all you can tackle it in less time than it takes to read about it!  Just think of it as mood lighting for Valentine's Day!

 

STEP 1: Locate and turn off the Fuse or Circuit Breaker that controls electricity to the light switch you are changing out.
If the fuse or breaker is not labeled, you can locate the proper fuse/breaker by turning the light switch on and flipping each fuse/breaker off and then on again, one at a time. When the light controlled by the switch you are replacing goes off, you have found the right one. Leave that fuse/breaker turned off and make sure the rest are turned on. *tip, if you tripped a few breakers before locating the appropriate one, be sure to check if your alarm clock needs to be reprogrammed.

STEP 2: Remove the wall plate and pull the switch from wall.
Unscrew the two small screws holding the cover plate to the wall and remove the plate. Next, remove the screws that hold the switch to the electrical box in the wall. Gently pull the switch out of the box so that you have access to the terminals on the switch and the wires in the wall.

STEP 3: Determine your switch type.
This step is very important. You need to take note of how the switch you are removing is wired, in order to correctly install the new one. The wiring will be either a single pole configuration or a 3-way configuration. A 3-way configuration is used when more than one switch is used to control the same light source. Even if your light source is controlled by a solitary switch (more common) you should still check the wiring configuration.

A single pole switch will have two insulated wires connected to two screws of the same color and should be replaced with a single pole dimmer.

A 3-way switch will have three insulated wires connected to three screws. One of these wires is connected to a screw of a different color or labeled COMMON. Label the wire in order to identify it when wiring the new switch. Replace with a 3-WAY dimmer.

STEP 4: Remove the wires from the switch in the wall.
Simply unscrew the terminals and remove the wires.

STEP 5: Wire in your new dimmer.
Connect the green ground wire (fig. 1 a.) to the green wire in the wall box or to the grounding screw inside the box. Next, connect one of the black wires on the dimmer to either of the wires you removed from the switch. Connect the other black wire on the dimmer to the remaining wire you removed from the switch. If you are installing a 3-way dimmer, attach the black dimmer wire to the wire you labeled, and attach the red wires as described above for the single pole installation.

STEP 6: Attach dimmer to wall and install cover plate.
Make sure that all the wires in the wall are taped and or covered with wire nuts (provided with dimmer). If any wires are left exposed, it will likely cause a short. Carefully tuck the wires inside the box so there is room for the dimmer. Screw the dimmer to the wall box. After the dimmer is screwed in place, attach the cover plate.

STEP 7: Turn power back on.
Go back to your apartment's electrical source and turn the breaker/fuse back on. If you don't smell smoke, your new dimmer is ready for use!


Now that your home is equipped with light dimmers, cook a romantic dinner for your beloved and set the proper mood by dimming the lights.

Article brought to you by Apartment Therapy

Kitchen Layouts: The Work Triangle

by Jessica Hunt with Preservation Properties

Lately, I have been in the market to purchase a new house which is quite an interesting experience being the Buyer as well as the Real Estate Agent.  I have been looking at everything from homes that need no repairs to full remodels and one of the fun things to think about (for me at least) is what we can do to remodel.

Kitchens are one of my most favorite remodels to think about because of how heavily we use our kitchen.  I wanted to bring everyone in to my thought process as I plan for theoretical dream kitchen.  I have been exploring lately the importance of the Work Triangle.  Are you familiar with this concept?  Our current kitchen follows with concept and makes for an excellent kitchen.  Its not too crowded, I can always get to everything and my fiancee is never in my way while I work.

Creating a 'Work Triangle' in your kitchen will help you use your space more efficiently. The lines drawn from your stove, sink and refrigerator form the 'Work Triangle'. 
 
There are some suggested guidelines to follow:
1. Each Work Triangle leg should be between 4 and 9 feet
2. The combined sides of the Work Triangle should be between 12 and 26 feet
3. The Work Triangle should try to be where there isn't a lot of traffic flow
 
 Some other helpful hints include:
  • For added convenience, put the microwave near the refrigerator
  • When possible, walking space should be 42" wide to help accomodate any traffic flow or large appliance doors
  • There should be at least 15 inches of counter space on both sides of the range or cooktop
  • There should be an 18-inch counter next to the refrigerator on the same side as the handle (if you own a side-by-side, on the same side as the refrigerator handle, normally to the left of the fridge) This will make putting items on the counter easier, when taking them out of the fridge.
  • Ideally, the food prep area, which should be at least 36 inches is located between the fridge and the sink. More travel will be involved if it's located between the sink and the range/cooktop.
  • A surface space that is 7 to 8 inches below your elbow height is best for food prep
  • A second triangle can be created by adding a second sink to an island

I hope this information is helpful to everyone and good luck on your remodeling endeavors.

Displaying blog entries 1-4 of 4

Contact Information

Preservation Properties
439 Newtonville Avenue
Newtonville MA 02460
Office: 617.527.3700
Fax: 617.527.2050