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8 Unwritten Etiquette Rules Every Home Seller Should Know - Real Estate News and Advice -

If you’re trying to sell your home, you’ve probably scrutinized it, staged it, and scrubbed it down from floorboards to rooftop as if the folks from Architectural Digest were stopping by for a cover shoot. OK, so it’s in immaculate shape—but your home isn’t the only thing under scrutiny here. You are, too! That’s right: No matter how nice your home is, your behavior can also affect how buyers feel about making an offer.


5 Minor Disasters Your Home Insurance Policy Won’t Cover - Real Estate News and Advice -

You know your home insurance policy has your back in case a burglar breaks in, a fire breaks out, or  a number of other disasters—listed in the fine print—overtake you. But what happens when minor catastrophes strike? Who pays for the costly damage from a power outage or a wild animal?

Cliock here for entire articel..  via

We want to pick a real estate broker, but what kind of information will we need?

    It's always wise to be prepared with information that might be related to buying a home. But you'll be pleased to know that you won't be asked for a lot of facts and figures in your first meeting.

    Your goal at this point should be to determine whether you will be comfortable working with this broker, if you like the broker and whether they seem  to like you.

    But the broker will need to ask some pertinent questions. That's good for both of you. It can help you target your home-buying goals and time requirements. And it will give the broker an idea of how to best serve you. Here are some questions I ask during my first meeting with a buyer:

    "What got you thinking about moving to a new home?"

    It helps you both understand your motivation. It could show, for example, that you are more interested in a good, safe neighborhood you can call home. Or maybe that you're actually more interested in a shorter commute.

    “What kind of time frame are you looking at for making a move?"

    Is it something you're looking at over the next couple of months, later this year or maybe next year? 

    This gets to the heart of when you expect to move, which can make a difference in how your search is handled.

    "Besides yourself, who else might be affected by this move?"

    This is a good question because it gives the broker a feel as to who the actual decision makers are. For example, if parents are coming up with the down payment, it might be best to involve them sooner rather than later.

    I also ask you to create a “want to have and a must have” list.  This is helpful in identifying properties that can work and helping to understand priorities.

    The big thing here is finding a broker who is a good match for you, who really cares about your interests and takes the time not only to carefully listen to you but also educate you so you can make the best choices possible.  This is the first big step in the path to homeownership.

We're wondering how much profit on the sale of our present home will be tax deductible. Will we have to provide a lot of expense records?

At first glance, it appears that very few sellers will have to worry about paying taxes from home sale profits, but the American Institute of CPAs says the law is quirky.

* Since 1997, sellers of a principle residence can skip tax on a profit of up to $500,000 for a couple or $250,000 for an individual. Above that, profits are taxed as capital gain at 25 percent.

* A principle residence: It could be a house, a duplex, a condominium, a boat or a mobile home, as long as it has eating, sleeping and toilet facilities. It can even be outside the United States.

* Tax break calculation: If you bought a house for $200,000 and spent $100,000 on room additions, your cost basis would be $300,000. Including the $500,000 tax break, you could sell the house for $800,000 without owing federal taxes.

* Renovations and additions: Tax experts say to keep track of those that will count as improvements. Improvements can include items such as a new roof, a satellite dish or a new central air-conditioning system. For a more complete list, see IRS Publication 523.

* The home sale tax break can be claimed every two years if you lived in the house for at least two years out of the previous five.

* Rental unit: If you have a rental unit in your home, such as a garage apartment, the rules require you to divide the property into the percentage that is your residence and another that is the rental unit and treat them separately. Only the residence portion qualifies for the $250,000 or $500,000 tax break.

* Home office: If you took a depreciation deduction for a home office, you will have to adjust the cost basis of the house downward to reflect them.

Yes, the calculation can be quirky, but in most cases, it's a simple matter of taking advantage of the basic tax break.

How can we make our older home attractive to younger buyers?

First, address the fear young buyers may have about maintaining an older home. What you can do:

* Get a home inspection and fix any potential problems the inspector finds.

* Buying a home warranty is another good idea. It should cover any significant problems that may occur during the first year of ownership. Buyers won't have to worry, for instance, about replacing the furnace during that time.

* Because windows in older homes tend to be smaller, do whatever you can to bring light into the house. Remove heavy curtains; use bright light bulbs, buy light fixtures that have two or four bulbs instead of one; and trim back any bushes that block light from coming inside.

* If you will do any painting, make walls a light color, such as off-white, light beige.

* Because a buyer might want to take on a project, like replacing a bathroom floor or fixtures, get an estimate of the project costs and have it available.

The FHA 203k mortgage

Sometimes a buyer has a vision of making it the home of their dreams. That's where the FHA 203k loan comes in. It allows them to wrap home renovation costs into the mortgage.

The bank takes the "as is" market value of the property and adds the costs of repairs and renovations to the loan. Upon closing, the repair work is completed and the buyer takes possession of the property.

The minimum amount of repairs required to use an FHA 203k is $5,000 and the maximum is $35,000. It's not considered a second mortgage or home improvement loan. The cost of the renovation is added to the purchase loan.

Rent or Buy?

The decision is different for every prospective home buyer.

Nationwide, statistics show that owning a home costs less than renting. That's because rents are already high, and they rise with each passing year.

If you continue to rent, you won't have to spend your savings on a down payment, but you'll end up paying more for your living quarters in the long run and have nothing to show for it.

It's also true that home prices will continue to rise, but that's really not a bad thing. It means that the home you buy now will be worth more in future years.

According to the Case-Shiller & Poor's index of 20 cities, a survey taken a few months ago showed that home prices had risen 12.8 percent over the previous year. That means people who bought a home for $200,000 would now own a place worth $225,600. All 20 cities posted gains in home values.

Home values continue to go up, probably not as much as 12.8 percent, but even at lower percentages, a home purchased today will be worth a great deal more in years to come.

"Home value appreciation is better when it's boring," according to Stan Humphries, a Zillow economist who now says. "It's good to see the price of home appreciation moderate, allowing the market to get back into a sustainable balance and not topple over."

What do I think? If you have the money for a down payment, and a little more to make changes or updates in your new place, as most people do, I think buying a home now is a good move.  With rates staying low and addfordability high, now is a GREAT time to buy.


Great ways to update your kitchen without breaking the bank

A complete kitchen remodel can cost many thousands of dollars, while simply freshening the kitchen is far less expensive. You will be surprised at the effect a couple of these choices will have. 

* New kitchen faucets at home improvement stores can be a significant improvement. Depending on how fancy you want to go, you'll spend $150 to $500 or a little more. 

Check and click on Kitchen Faucets 101, or view a selection in person at Lowes or Home Depot

* The ceiling light fixture draws a lot of attention. When selecting one, consider how much light you really need. Some guests like to sit around the table to visit and are more comfortable with softer lighting, but a fixture with bright lighting for reading can be toned down for visiting with a dimer switch.

A chandelier is a decorative choice. Modern styles cost from $160 to more than $500. Check for ideas.

* To update kitchen cabinets, choose new knobs and handles. Discounted prices are available at or choose from local sources. For 20 or 25 knobs, pulls and handles, the cost can add up fast. If your present handles are brass, remove a few at a time and polish with copper cleaner.  

* Thinking about a new floor? Vinyl is an economical choice that can look like ceramic tile, wood or stone and can be installed it over present flooring. 

Sheet vinyl should be laid down by a professional, but you can install adhesive-backed tiles yourself.

There's no need to freshen the whole room at once. By doing one project at a time, you can surprise family and guests every time they visit.

Will my new credit score make it easier for me to get a mortgage?


The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau thinks it will.

The home mortgage market in the second quarter improved as demand increased and many banks eased their lending standards.  Note that in August, the average interest rate on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 4.12 percent.

New credit scores

A change in how credit scores are tallied will likely make it easier for millions of Americans to get loans and mortgages.  Fair Isaac Corp. has stopped including in its FICO credit-score calculations any record of a consumer failing to pay a bill if the bill has been paid or settled with a collection agency. Further, they will give less weight to unpaid medical bills that are with a collection agency.

These moves are the result of discussions with lenders and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

Under the previous system, collections could impact credit scores as much as foreclosures and bankruptcies did. That is changing.

Promoting mortgages and loans

The changes are expected to increase lending, especially among borrowers who were shut out by high interest rates and low credit scores.  The rules are aimed at boosting lending without raising credit risk. Most consumer infractions are small. For example, they are generally on time paying their bills, but disrupted by a  medical emergency. More than half of all debt-collection activity on credit reports comes from medical bills, according to the Federal Reserve.

"The new rules expand banks' ability to make loans to people who might not have qualified, and to offer lower interest rates to others," said Nessa Feddis, senior vice president of consumer protection and payments at the American Bankers Association.

Love at first sight? Pretty much..

In the span of 30 seconds, a person can:

        * Begin to be annoyed waiting for an elevator.

        * Get bored with a Web page and click away.

        * Fall in love with another.

        …. And even fall in love with a house.


        For most of my real estate career.. over 30 years now, I have known that a home often sells in 30 seconds.  Because of this I have strongly emphasized to my home sellers that the home needs to make an excellent first impression.  Here’s the proof. 

        A new study shows that sellers have just seconds to attract an interested buyer online. Curb appeal should really be thought of as Main Internet Picture Appeal.

        The study, by the Institute for Behavioral and Experimental Real Estate at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA., confirms what real estate agents know: The main photograph of the house's exterior is the make-it or break-it feature of online advertising.

        According to a new study, internet house shoppers, which today is just about everyone, actually spend 2 seconds evaluating the main picture.  If the exterior view grabs them, they'll spend 20 seconds and in that 20 seconds, all things being acceptable, you have a potential buyer.

        That's why it's so important to have a great photos available when you're listing your home for sale.  The study shows that 95 percent of interested viewers spend 20 seconds looking at the photo of the exterior of a home, suggesting that people 'try on' a home just as if they were shopping for a suit or a dress. The lining might matter, but appearance is primary.

        Experts say the photo should be up to date showing the home as it appears today, and showing how the home looks seasonally.

        It goes without saying that the main picture should show the home trimmed and swept and ready for company. The study conclusion suggests that if you need to attract people inside, you'll want to spend some money on the outside. If you want to sell, cut down that shrub you've been meaning to take out.  Perk up the flowers, plant that evergreen. Then take the photo. According to HGTV, research show that investing in curb appeal (or picture appeal) often returns the most value for the money.

        If you are selling a home in the warm months, it doesn't make sense to feature a photo of your home in all its snowy glory. That picture makes it appear that the home has been on the market for a very long time. You might include a snow shot if the home looks especially fetching in the winter, but make sure it isn't the main picture on the page. For spring and summer, stage your main home picture with pots of blooming flowers or ferns. A best practice is to include a photo of your home that matches the season. In fall, feature a picture of your home with that colorful oak. You can even stage your home for fall with simple mums.

        Overall, the house hunter will spend 60 percent of his time on the listing viewing photos. If the main photo catches the viewer, he or she will spend up to 56 seconds viewing all the photos online, according to the study.

        Interestingly, the next most viewed photo will be the backyard. The viewer will spend 8.23 seconds on that photo, just a tad longer than the those of the living room, which attracts 8.06 seconds. Finally, the master bedroom, kitchen and the master bedroom all attract just under 8 seconds each.   

        You should consider the pictures on the Internet as important as what the potential buyer sees in person.  Researcher Michael Seiler found that 76 percent of viewers next glanced at the property description, like the size and number of bedrooms and baths. After the main picture, overall people spent 20 percent of their time on the description and 20 precedent on the agent's remarks.

        Entering the home is another pivotal time. The entry or room they see first can make a lasting impression.

        What does all of this mean for buyers? It makes them feel lucky! The manicured yard and pleasing entry won't raise the price of the home, but the buyers know from the outset that the property is in good condition.

        They can picture themselves living there.