Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Should You Fix Up a Home before Selling It?

by: Carrie Sokoloski, Real Estate Assistant
Clearwater Montana Properties, Inc.

RIS Media posted an article last week entitled, "The Mortgage Professor: Should You Fix Up a Home before Selling It?" In his article, Mortgage Professor Jack Guttentag brings up some important considerations when deciding whether or not to make repairs prior to selling. Guttentag was inspired to write the article based on his own recent home-selling experience.  Based on my own recent home-buying experience I know that the process of negotiating repairs can be stressful and confusing.

Almost all homes have defects, even if they're only slight.  Homebuyers have become more educated and savvy when it comes to inspecting potential properties prior to purchase.  A serious buyer will likely invest in an inspection. And in most situations when a buyer doesn't hire a professional inspector, they tend to assume the worst about the overall condition of the home, even when they find only minor defects.

Guttentag recommends being realistic about your property's condition when deciding whether or not to make repairs yourself, or lowering your asking price and leaving repairs up to a buyer.  Either way, it's important to remember that just because the cost of a repair is $10,000, doesn't mean that choosing to leave the repair for the new homeowner is going to lower your property's asking price by $10,000.  Likewise, making $10,000 worth of repairs on your home doesn't mean that your home is going to increase in value by $10,000.  The impact of repairs on a home's price varies from repair to repair and can depend on whether the repair is essential infrastructure, wear and tear or simple updating.

In his article, Guttentag sites two circumstances that favor fixing up your property prior to selling:
  1. If there is a large variance between the cost of a fix-up and a potential buyer is likely to over-estimate the repair cost.
  2. If potential buyers only have the ability to make a small down payment and wouldn't be able to pay for expensive repairs after purchase.
Besides being expensive, repairs take time, which can be an issue if a seller, buyer or both are anxious to for a sale to be complete. Keep in mind that time is money and can be used as a negotiating tool for either side of the transaction. When I purchased my home, the sellers were anxious to purchase a new home and happy to leave a few simple repairs.  Since my husband is good with tools and enjoys fixing things up, it was a win-win for both parties and helped us by reducing the overall cost of the home.

In his article, Guttentag explains he sold his house 'as is' because he was in a hurry to close and already in the process of purchasing a new home.  The individual who wanted to purchase his old home was also financially able to make repairs and would rather have a lower mortgage payment and pay for repairs out-of-pocket.  He was lucky that things worked in his favor because this isn't always the case.  Sellers need to be prepared for what may arise during the selling process.

Whether or not the seller decides to make repairs before they put their property on the market, it's important for them to know what repairs need to be made, as well as a cost estimate of the repairs.  This puts them in a better position to negotiate with prospective buyers.  The Mortgage Professor explains that seller-ordered inspections help equalize negotiating power between parties.  In his situation, his property buyer used the inspection to drive down his selling price; something he hadn't anticipated.

Likewise, buyers would be well-advised to hire an inspector to identify any potential repairs that need to be made.  Inspections often reveal repairs that the seller wasn't even aware of, and can help the buyer negotiate from an educated position.  You never know what an inspection might uncover.

Regardless of how repairs and prices are negotiated between a buyer and seller, inspections and a little research can help both parties avoid costly mistakes.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Maintenance Tips for the First Few Years of Home Ownership

Home ownership means taking steps to maintain your investment.

CBS Money Watch recently released an article concerning routine maintenance and simple home repairs that home buyers should expect to do during their first few years of home ownership. It's easy for homeowners who ordered home inspections prior to closing, to assume their homes are problem free. Unfortunately, this isn't always the case. After buyers move in to their newly-purchased homes, they should be prepared for some issues to periodically present themselves.

"I tell my new homeowner customers that you're going to find problems every season for a few years," says Rich Escallier, a handyman in Chicago. "If you can go six months without finding something that raises your blood pressure, you're lucky."
Starting from the moment they move in, new owners should look ahead to routine maintenance and take care of small home repairs right away to head off potentially costly mistakes. Here's a quick timeline of things to look for.

Move-In Week

Make it a point to turn on all of your major appliances and let them run for a complete cycle, especially if your home is newly built. Believe it or not, contractors and home inspectors don't always test out these devices after installing them. It's easy to improperly connect appliances dishwashers and microwave ovens, says Daniel Cipriani of Kade Homes & Renovations outside Atlanta, Ga.

"If you have a minor leak under the dishwasher, that water leaks into the subfloor and you can't see it," Cipriani says. "But you'll start to notice the hardwood floor buckling."

Repairing the floor after a minor leak goes unnoticed can cost as much as $5,000.

If you're in a new house, be sure to read your warranty -- don't wait until an emergency to start familiarizing yourself with your legal rights and responsibilities.

45 Days

Change the filter on your HVAC system, and vacuum out the air intake vents. Capturing dirt and dust with the right filter can go a long way toward preserving the new home appeal for a few years.

Six Months

During summer months, keep an eye out for invasive animals like squirrels, birds and wasps. These pests look for loose soffits and buckled siding as a way to get into your home. Once there, they can make a nest, raise young and wreck havoc on hard-to-reach areas of your home.

Twice a year in the summer and fall, inspect the exterior of your house to make sure rainwater is draining properly. Clean out clogged gutters and downspouts. Construction professionals recommend six-inch gutters and proper landscaping so that rainwater is directed away from your foundation.

"Landscaping should be negatively graded away from the house," Cipriani says. "People don't think it's a big problem, but otherwise water pools against the foundation and doesn't have anywhere to go."

Fixing up your foundation could cost upwards of $10,000. Even one crack in a poured concrete wall could cost $800 to $1,500 per crack, according to the Foundation Repair Network.

"If you can fit a nickel into it, you'll know that it might be an issue," Cipriani says.

Each winter, check to make sure that your pipes are properly insulated against freezing. Consider installing an inexpensive insulating hood over exterior water spigots.

Homeowners should make needed repairs as soon as possible.
Every Year

Inspect your roof or have a professional roofer conduct an inspection. Look for missing shingles, gaps in the flashing around chimneys and other hazards. Indoors, check your ceiling for water spots. If you see a spot, don't panic -- just trace the spot with a pencil so you can monitor its progress to see if it's still growing. Some minor leaks will clear up without your help, but most don't, so you have to stay vigilant.

Every Two Years

If you have a sewer line or a catch basin, expect to have it cleaned out and inspected by qualified plumbers. They'll check for broken pipes, roots growing through the line and other potential flooding hazards.

Have a professional HVAC contractor inspect your furnace, air conditioner and hot water heater. Often hot water heaters are located close to other major appliances -- and a ruptured reservoir could spill 40 gallons of water in a few hours. Escallier recommends installing an inexpensive water alarm with sensors in the collection pan beneath the hot water heater. A $25 water alarm can head off a potentially disastrous basement spill.

Above all, don't put off little repairs -- that just compounds the problem. The most common thing customers say to Escallier after a big repair job is, "We wish we would have done this sooner."

"You want to enjoy living in your house," he says. "Don't put your head in the sand."

Information is from CBS Money Watch and written by Ilyce Glink – Mon, Aug 26, 2013

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

8 Tips for Finding Your New Home

A solid game plan can help you narrow your homebuying search to find the best home for you.

1. Know thyself - Understand the type of home that suits your personality. Do you prefer a new or existing home? A ranch or a multistory home? If you're leaning toward a fixer-upper, are you truly hand, or will you need to budget for contractors?

2. Research before you look - List the features you most want in a home and identify which are necessities and which are extras. Identify three to four neighborhoods you'd like to live in based on commute time, schools, recreation, crime and price. Then hop into REALTOR.com to get a feel for the homes available in your price range in your favorite neighborhoods. Use the results to prioritize your wants and needs so you can add in and weed out properties from the inventory you'd like to views.

3. Get your finances in order - Generally, lenders say you can afford a home priced two to three times your gross income. Create a budget so you know how much you're comfortable spending each month on housing. Don't wait until you've found a home and made an offer to investigate financing. Gather your financial records ad meet with a lender to get a prequalification letter spelling out how much you're eligible to borrow. The lender wont' necessarily consider the extra fees you'll pay when you purchase or your plans to begin a family or purchase a new car, so shop in a price range you're comfortable with. Also, presenting an offer contingent on financing will make your bid less attractive to sellers.

4. Set a moving timeline - Do you have blemishes on your credit that will take time to clear up? If you already own, have you sold your current home? If not, you'll need to factor in the time needed to sell. If you rent, when is your lease up? Do you expect interest rates to jump anytime soon? All these factors will affect your buying, closing and moving timelines.

5. Think long term - Your future plans may dictate the type of home you'll buy. Are you looking for a starter house with plans to move up in a few years, or do you hope to stay in the home for five to ten years? With a starter, you may need to adjust your expectations. If you plan to nest, be sure your priority list helps you identify a home you'll still love years from now.

6.Work with a REALTORR - Ask people you trust for referrals to a real estate professional they trust. Interview agents to determine which have expertise in the neighborhoods and type of homes you're interested in. Because homebuying triggers many emotions, consider whether an agent's style meshes with your personality. Also ask if the agent specializes in buyer representation. Unlike listing agents, whose first duty is to the seller, buyers' reps work only for you even though they are typically paid by the seller. Finally, check whether agents are REALTORSR, which means they're members of the National Association of REALTORSR. NAR has been a champion of homeownership rights for more than a century.

7. Be realistic - It's OK to be picky about the home and neighborhood you want, but don't be close-minded, unrealistic or blinded by minor imperfections. If you insist on living in a cul-de-sac, you may miss out on a great homes on streets that are just as quiet and secluded. On the flip side, don't be so swayed by a "wow" feature that you forget about other issues - like noise levels - that can have a big impact on your quality of life. Use your priority list to evaluate each property, remembering there's no such thing as the perfect home.

8. Limit the opinions you solicit - It's natural to seek reassurance when making a big financial decision. But you know that saying about too many cooks in the kitchen. If you need a second opinion, select one or two people. But remain true to your list of wants and needs so the final decision is based on criteria you've identified as important.

Information is courtesy of HouseLogic.com and G.M. Filisko.

Friday, April 22, 2011

9 Unexpected Energy (and Money) Savers

Celebrate Earth Day! April 22, 2011.

Here are a few surprising ways to cut your energy bill this season.

1. Put lamps in the corners: Did you know you can switch to a lower wattage bulb in a lamp or lower its dimmer switch and not lose a noticeable amount of light? It's all about placement. When a lamp is placed in a corner, the light reflects off the adjoining walls, which makes the room lighter and brighter.

2. Switch to a laptop: If you're reading this article on a lamptoop, you're using 1/3 less energy than if you're reading this on a desktop.

3. Choose an LCD TV: If you're among those considering a flat-screen upgrade from your conventional, CRT TV, choose an LCD screen for the biggest energy save.

4. Give your water heater a blanket: Just like you pile on extra layers in the winter, your hot water heater can use some extra insulation too. A fiberglass insulation blanket is a simple addition that can cut heat loss and ssave 4% to 9% on the average water heating bill.

5. Turn off the burner before you're done cooking: When you turn off an electric burner, it doesn't cool off immediately. Use that to your advantage by turning it off early and using the residual heat to finish up your dish.

6. Add motion sensors: You might be diligent about shutting off unnecessary lights, but your kids? Not so much. Addition motion sensors to playrooms and bedrooms cost only $15 to $50 per light and ensures you don't pay for energy that you're not using.

7. Spin laundry faster: The faster your washing machine can spin excess water out of your laundry, the less you'll need to use your dryer. Many newer washers spin clothes so effectively, they cut drying time and energy consumption in half-which results in an equal drop in your dryer's energy bill.

8. Use an ice tray: Stop using your automatic icemaker. It increases your fridge's energy consumption by 14% to 20%. Ice trays, on the other hand, don't increase your energy costs one iota.

9. Use the dishwasher: If you think doing your dishes by hand is greener thatn powering up the dishwasher, you're wrong. Dishwashers use about 1/3 as much hot water and relieve that much strain from your energy-taxing water heater. Added bonus: you don't have to wash any dishes.

Information courtesy of House Logic and the National Association of Realtors.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What Buyers Want In Homes Today

Buyers have a long list of what they want when home shopping, but one of their biggest desires is a good deal. But that's not all they want. Here are the top four things that made the list of top home buyer preferences.

1. Homes that are in good condition. Many buyers would rather spend more money upfront to get into a house in nice condition rather than spend money later on to fix it up.

2. A bargain with incentives. Buyers will look at short sales or foreclosures, but they don't want to do the fix up work. They are looking for sellers who will give them gift cards for new furniture or paint to seller paid closing costs.

3. Outdoor living areas. Buyers want homes with outdoor kitchens, screened porches, and two-way fireplaces.

4. Open kitchens. The kitchen is the gathering place of the home and buyers want open, flowing floor plans.

Information courtesy of Realtor Magazine.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Copper on Sheep Creek Confirmed

Article from the Meagher County News in White Sulphur Springs, MT dated 1/27/2011

Tintina Gold Resources, Inc. has confirmed the presence of a high grade Middle Copper Zone on its Sheep Creek Copper-Cobalt-Silver property north of White Sulphur Springs. Their most recent drill hole intersected 2.56% copper, 0.11% cobalt and 13.5 g/tonne silver at Strawberry East target area. This area is located about a mile and a half southeast of the Strawberry Butte location where the company has recently completed an estimate showing the area contains 366 million pounds of copper. It is suspected that further drilling in this area could add substantial resources to the emerging Sheep Creek resource inventory. A representative of the company noted, "This clearly demonstrates that the Sheep Creek property has significant expansion potential well beyond the resources already identified at the Strawberry Butte target. The Strawberry East target area could easily become as important as the Strawberry Butte target area. We are also planning to complete a resource estimate on the Lower Zone intersections at Strawberry Butte. Meanwhile the Company is currently undertaking a Preliminary Economic Assessment on the mineralization encountered to date. With the shallow nature and nearly flat geometry of the Upper Zone at Strawberry Butte, we believe that bulk underground mining could be employed with modest capital costs and low operating costs given the properties excellent location relative to infrastructure. Our plan is to fast track this high quality copper resource towards production."

The Sheep Creek deposit sits 16 miles north of White Sulphur Springs along a maintained gravel road and within two miles of US Highway 89. The property consists of approximately 5,775 acres of fee-simple lands and mining claims in central Montana. The property contains sediment-hosted zones of massive sulfide mineralization originally explored by Cominco American Inc. and BHP during the 1980's and early 1990's. The drilling undertaken by Cominco and BHP had encountered significant zones of stratabound copper sulfide with cobalt in multiple bedded pyrite zones in the lower part of the Precambrian Belt Supergroup; this same stratigraphic unit hosts the Sullivan zinc-lead-silver deposit.

Exploration to date conducted by Tintina Gold has identified an inferred resource of 7 million metric tonnes grading 2.4% copper, 0.12% cobalt, and 12.3 g/tonne silver at a 1.5% copper cut-off grade based on an assumed copper price of $2.50/lb.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Use Lead-Safe Professional for Older Homes

When you are ready to remodel or renovate your pre-1978 home, it's important to hire a Lead-Safe-Certified Professional, recommends the National Association of Home Builders. Before being banned in 1978, lead was a common ingredient in exterior and interior house paint, and is still present in many older homes. Lead ingestion has been shown to cause developmental delays and disabilities in young children. In April 2010, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency enacted the Lead, Renovation, Repair and Painting rule that required training in lead-safe work practices for all remodelers working in pre-1978 homes. EPA Lead-Safe Certified Renovators are equipped to use lead test kits, educate consumers about the dangers of lead and use prescribed lead-safe work practices. When planning your home remodel, read the EPA's Renovate Right pamphlet to better understand the dangers of lead exposure and how to conduct a safe home remodel. consider hiring a certified risk assessor or lead inspector to determine if your home contains lead paint. After completing the renovation be sure to maintain records of the work that's been done. For sound advice on lead safety, go to www.nahb.org/leadsafe. To find an EPA Lead-Safe Certified Renovator near you, contact your local home builders' association or go to www.leadfreekids.org. Information courtesy of RISMedia, sponsored by Lowe's.