- Melissa Kellerman
Buying or selling a home can be a stressful experience without the security of a trusted REALTOR in your corner.
Choose me to be your trusted REALTOR.
I will guide you through every step of this rewarding process with professionalism and dedication. My attention to detail, strong communication and 100% effort will deliver the results you deserve. It is my mission to build lasting relationships and earn repeat referrals. The key to this is providing my clients with personalized service before, during and after every transaction. I am here to help you with all of your real estate needs.
Feel free to call or email me anytime!
Saturday, June 30, 2012
The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) averaged 3.66 percent with an average 0.7 point for the week ending June 21, 2012, down from last week when it averaged 3.71 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year FRM averaged 4.50 percent.
The 15-year FRM this week averaged 2.95 percent with an average 0.6 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.98 percent. A year ago at this time, the 15-year FRM averaged 3.69 percent.
The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) averaged 2.77 percent this week, with an average 0.6 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.80. A year ago, the 5-year ARM averaged 3.25 percent.
The1-year Treasury-indexed ARM averaged 2.74 percent this week with an average 0.5 point, down from last week when it averaged 2.78 percent. At this time last year, the 1-year ARM averaged 2.99 percent.
According to Frank Nothaft, vice president and chief economist for Freddie Mac, “Treasury bond yields eased somewhat this week on some worsening economic indicators bringing mortgage rates back into record low territory. Industrial production fell in two of the last three months ending in May, and below the expected market consensus forecast. In addition, consumer sentiment fell in June to its lowest level this year, according to the University of Michigan survey.
"However, there were also some positive indicators on the housing market. Construction on one-family homes rose for the third consecutive month in May to an annualized pace of 516,000. Furthermore, homebuilder confidence rose in June to its highest reading in over five years."
Source: Freddie Mac
Published with permission from RISMedia.
Friday, June 29, 2012
"The construction industry has yet to move from a hesitant up-and-down pattern to more sustained expansion," states Robert A. Murray, vice president of Economic Affairs for McGraw-Hill Construction. "After plunging 23 percent in 2009, new construction starts edged up only 1 percent in 2010 and were unchanged in 2011, so the modest 2 percent increase predicted for 2012 is really more of the same. On the plus side, energy costs are now receding, interest rates are very low, and lending standards are beginning to ease for commercial real estate development."
Given these divergent factors, the construction market this year continues to see a mix of pluses and minuses by major sector, as follows:
- Single-family housing in 2012 will advance 21 percent in dollars, corresponding to a 19 percent increase in the number of units to 490,000 (McGraw-Hill Construction Dodge basis). While still at a very low amount, single-family housing for the past year has been able to register small yet steady gains.
- Multifamily housing in 2012 will climb 19 percent in dollars and 18 percent in units, given rising occupancies and rents, which reflect elevated demand from potential homebuyers still reluctant or unable to move ahead with purchasing a single-family home.
- Commercial building in 2012 will grow 10 percent, following the 12 percent gain in 2011. Warehouses and hotels will see the largest percentage increases, joined this year by a moderate gain for stores while office construction sees more privately financed projects but less government office buildings.
- The institutional building market in 2012 will fall an additional 10 percent, after sliding 11 percent in 2011. The tough fiscal environment for states and localities continues to dampen school construction, and the uncertain economic environment is restraining health care facilities.
- The manufacturing building category in 2012 will retreat 20 percent, following the 75 percent jump in 2011 which featured the start of several unusually large projects.
- Public works construction in 2012 will slide a further 6 percent, after last year's 14 percent decline. This reflects government spending cuts and the absence of a multiyear federal transportation bill.
- Electric utility construction in 2012 will essentially hold steady with its exceptionally strong 2011 amount, helped by this year's start of two large nuclear power projects.
Thursday, June 28, 2012
Sunday, June 24, 2012
If you’re not a buyer who is completely clear on whether you want to buy an older home or a new-ish one, here are some of the factors to consider, pro and con, as you compare and contrast homes built in different eras:
1. The Charm Factor. Obviously, “older” and “newer” are relative terms. If your area is one where “older” homes are those which were built in the ‘60s or ‘70s, you might not find them to be particularly charming. But many buyers do find there to be a particular charm and aesthetic detail in homes built in the early part of the last century - from the 1900’s to the 1940’s, say - that is uber-attractive and decidedly craveable. (To be fair, in some areas, the Eichlers and other modern styles of the mid-century are seen as having similar cachet as much older homes, especially when compared to 80s, 90s and later construction.)
The Tudors, Victorians, Craftsmans and other classic styles and eras tend to have strong appeal to large groups of home buyers, as do the maturity of the trees and other details, from lights to benches to outdoor staircases, lining the streets on which such homes were built.
Buyers who are committed to having this “Charm Factor” in their lives and their homes are not likely to find this particular feel in newer neighborhoods, though many builders and subdivisions do make an effort to replicate the best qualities of older homes and neighborhoods with reproduction features.
2. Neighborhood establishment. Having hundred-year-old trees along the streets can be a critical plus point of living in an older home, but so are the many other upsides of an established neighborhood, from well-developed parks with great recreational programming to long-time standout school districts, to great neighborhood infrastructures for things like neighborhood Watch Groups, email listservs, annual block parties and farmer’s markets. That said, not every “older” neighborhood has these benefits; and many older neighborhoods come with longstanding issues like neighbor conflicts, eyesore or blighted properties and even ongoing challenges with crime, traffic and noise.
On other other hand, some newer neighborhoods haven’t “taken” yet, and it can be difficult to project how the neighborhood will evolve over time. But you can’t necessarily dismiss every newer neighborhood out of hand. Some developers and cities have gone to great lengths to imbue newer subdivisions with some of what was great about - or missing from - older, nearby areas. You might find that “newer” neighborhoods in some towns are more likely than nearby older areas to have amenities like dog parks, newer clubhouse and recreational facilities, schools and stores interspersed well and walkably into the neighborhood and better infrastructure when it comes to lighting, street width, parking and public transportation.
3. House history. Newer homes have little or no history - anyone who has ever bought a brand new home can attest to the relatively blank slate of disclosures they receive from the builder. A blank slate sounds great, but also means you really don’t know about what glitches the property may have, and my experience has been that every home - even brand new ones - have glitches or quirks. The sun might create a funny bleach spot on the floor in one room, or the place might settle over the first few years to have an unexpected slope. A roof on which it has never rained might even turn out to have a design flaw or leak. And the fact that the home hasn’t been lived in means that no one can flag these issues - or fix them - for you in advance. (Most newly built homes do have warranties that cover the worst of such ‘lemon’ home issues.)
Older homes may come with a lovely family history or even just a detailed record of what has and hasn’t worked - and what has and hasn’t been repaired and replaced over time, with which newer homes can’t compete. But they also may come with the tough-to-erase remnants and consequences of historical occupants and their activities on the property, from lead paint remains in the soil that prohibit you from growing vegetables in the ground to the very unfortunate (and extremely toxic) consequences of illegal activities like the manufacture of methamphetamine.
4. Conveniences. One would think that newer homes would almost always have conveniences that older homes lack, especially in the realm of newer appliances and mechanical systems like plumbing, air conditioners, heating and even insulation. But there can critical periods at issue, here - while very new homes are likely to have the latest of everything, homes built 20, 30 even 40 years ago can be more out of date than homes built 70, 80 or 90 years ago - especially in areas where very old homes are very desirable, as the latter might be more likely to have been updated by a recent owner.
However, as you look at and compare older homes with newer ones, also give thought to the less easily updated differences across the construction eras, like:
- Layout: Older homes are less likely to have wide open floor plans, sky-high ceilings and the massive windows that allow in the natural light that more contemporary styles let in.
- Size: Some eras of older construction simply didn’t focus on building homes beyond a basic 1,500 or 2,000 square feet - in areas where those homes predominate, it might be difficult to find a home much larger than that, if that’s what your household requires.
- Room Size: Older homes tended to be designed around smaller rooms - and especially smaller bedrooms and fewer, smaller closets and storage spaces - than newer homes.
- Accessibility: Depending on the era, older homes might not have the space and layout suitable for homeowners who are looking to ‘age in place,’ or care for an older relative; early-century eras of construction may include stairways, hallways and doorways too narrow for wheelchairs and walkers to easily fit through.
5. Maintenance. Unless you’re able to find that best-of-both-worlds older home with recent upgrades, with an older home you should take extra care to understand the age and condition of all the home’s mechanical and electrical systems, and to get a good sense for the cost of any upgrades you’ll want to do - before you finalize the purchase. Also, be aware that some of the ornate classic home styles may have intricate woodwork, like the so-called gingerbread adorning many a Victorian home, that is both prone to damage (from water or termites) and costly or impossible to replace.
Flip side: new homes *can* pose a lower maintenance cost, but the fact is that new home buyers still face the ‘potential lemon’ problem of being the first to discover any glitches or design/construction flaws. In densely populated areas, new homes may be built on fill or what some see as less sound ground; by the same token, in earthquake or tornado-prone areas, some see older homes and neighborhoods as having proven their ability to withstand natural disasters due to the quality of classic construction.
Ultimately, there’s no one right answer to the older/newer home decision. It’s really a matter of fit. But in any event, whether you buy an older home or a brand new one, work with your agent to make sure you have an appropriate home warranty policy in place before your home purchase closes escrow.
Colorado Springs is lucky to have such a wonderful mix of both new and older homes. Contact me if you'd like to take a look at some!
June 24, 2012 12:11 PM
Below is an initially brief, but ever-evolving list of opportunities and offers, compiled from what our friends and neighbors are sharing about the Waldo Canyon Fire. The fire, less than 24 hours ago, blazed through more than 2,000 acres, displacing thousands of families, pets and wildlife.
Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region offering FREE cat adoptions starting at 11 a.m. today. This will make room for incoming animals from the Waldo Canyon Fire.
YMCA of Pikes Peak Region opening aquatic sites to evacuees needing to shower during regular business hours.
Family Life Services opening up space for affected business to work. Please contact Julie Abel at email@example.com.
FREE Sky Sox tickets offered to displaced evacuees to today's 1 p.m. game as well as Monday's 12:35 p.m. game. Call 597-1449.
Wondering about how to volunteer with the Pikes Peak Red Cross? Volunteers are asked to visit their office at 1040 S. 8th St.
Goodwill expected to release information later today about their anticipated needs.
All Breed Rescue is accepting animal evacuees at 20 Mount View Lane. Call 264-6460.
Food Pantry open for evacuees at Grace Be Unto You and Grace Mountain Church, 3195 Airport Rd. at Chelton.
Saturday, June 23, 2012
The combination of those factors can wreak havoc on a home during summer months. Power Home Remodeling Group offers the following tips for protecting your home and wallet by saving energy this summer.
- Cut down your AC usage by turning the thermostat up during the daytime hours when no one is home, or consider installing a programmable thermostat.
- Replace air conditioner filters every month to increase your unit's efficiency and productivity.
- Use ceiling fans to circulate cool air but remember to turn them off when leaving the room.
- Plant trees or shrubs to shade AC units, but make sure they don't block the airflow.
- Run dishwashers and clothes dryers at night to reduce heat production in the home during the hottest hours of the day.
- Install door sweeps on the bottoms of all doors leading outside so that they lightly graze the existing threshold and keep hot air outside, and cool air in.
- Place electronic equipment like televisions and computers away from thermostats where the heat they produce could cause the AC to run overtime. Likewise, position the thermostat away from direct sunlight which can cause it to read a higher than actual temperature.
- Keep shades and blinds closed during the day to block out the sunlight and keep the house cool.
- Close any AC intake vents that are low to the floor and open those that are high on the wall to ensure warmer air is cycled back into the home through the AC system.
- On the hottest days of the summer, switch the fan mode on your thermostat from "auto" to "on" to continuously cycle the air and make the temperature on all floors feel consistent.
- Seek out drafts around kitchen and bath vents, doors, windows and outlet covers with the help of a stick of incense. Light the stick and wave it slowly in front of those areas to see where the smoke is drawn out. Repair any leaks by sealing with caulk or weather stripping and replacing trim.
- Avoid using the oven on very hot days. Instead, cook using an outdoor grill or microwave.
- Investing in new doors and energy efficient windows can protect window treatments, floors and furniture from fading due to sun damage.
- Swap old lightbulbs out for energy efficient, compact fluorescent bulbs that emit a brighter light and last longer.
- Secure loose shingles, replace damaged sections of the roof and gutters and clear gutter blockages to prevent ultimate gaps and holes that can lead to leaks and the escape of cool air.
- If replacing a roof, consider using pale-gray shingles as they will attract less heat than darker shingles.
Published with permission from RISMedia.
Friday, June 22, 2012
"The Index's increase is due to an ongoing slowdown in declining new home prices, plus a small uptick in real wages as falling energy prices give consumers some relief," explains Carl Steidtmann, Deloitte's chief economist and author of the monthly Index. "If these two components continue in this direction, consumer spending and sentiment may gain ground. However, the outcome of the stalling job market and economic crises overseas will determine whether it can be sustained."
Deloitte's analysis of factors influencing consumer spending indicate:
- Housing prices are currently stable and in many markets are turning up. Should prices remain steady, demand may return. Pending sales of existing homes were down 5.1 percent in April from March, possibly because the unseasonably warm winter improved sales.
- In recent weeks, oil prices fell more than $20 a barrel and gasoline prices will follow, giving consumers more purchasing power.
- Three consecutive monthly employment reports were disappointing. Jobless claims are trending up and layoff announcements are up sharply as well. If the labor market continues to deteriorate, the recent improvement in the Index will quickly reverse.
- After posting significant gains early in the year, auto sales have weakened — even in comparison to a period when sales depressed by lack of supply from Japan. Sales in May fell sharply from April. At 13.78 million units on an annualized basis, sales in May were well below the peak sales rate of 15 million units achieved in February, and it is likely that the May numbers — due out in mid-June — will also be weak.
"Though confidence is still fragile, the consumer's mood may improve as they begin to see their housing concerns recede and gas prices fall," says Alison Paul, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and Retail & Distribution sector leader.
Published with permission from RISMedia.
What are you seeing in your market?
Thursday, June 21, 2012
Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Homebuyers should know that:
- A sewer line inspection is not included in the standard home inspection and is regularly waived in the purchasing process.
- Responsibility for the condition of the lateral sewer line leading from the street to the home lies with the homeowner, not a municipality.
- A plumber can complete a sewer line camera inspection for $250 to $550. While not cheap, it’s a relatively small price to pay when buying a home, especially if it helps a buyer avoid thousands of dollars in repairs down the road (anywhere from $4,000 to $20,000 depending on the extent of repair required).
- The home is 20 years or older.
- There are mature trees around the property.
- The home has been vacant for a period of time.
- The concrete surrounding the home is cracked or raised.
- There is considerable visible root growth in the yard.
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
Monday, June 18, 2012
Between spring cleaning and summer inspiration, it’s not uncommon to be bitten by the remodeling bug this time of year. From home improvement expert and author Dan Fritschen, here are great reasons why you should consider a home-improvement project this summer:
It can happen while you’re gone. If you’re one of the many families who go to the beach, mountains, or Grandma’s house for a week or so during the summer, Fritschen suggests scheduling your remodel to coincide so that you’ll be out of the house while the job is done. The workers will have more space, you won’t have to worry about safety hazards and staying out of their way, and you’ll be able to come home to a new and improved house.
Long days equals faster completion. Everybody loves long, warm summer evenings. And remodelers have another reason to be thankful for more daylight hours and warm weather: longer working days.
You can eat al fresco. Summer is a wonderful time to remodel kitchens in particular because you don’t have to use them in order to eat well. While your kitchen is transformed, fire up the outdoor grill and eat on your patio furniture. “You could even spread a quilt in the yard andhave a good old-fashioned picnic!” Fritschen suggests.
If exposure is necessary, it’ll be friendly. The fact is, you can expose your house to the elements more safely in summer. Whether you have an open wall because you’re adding on to your house, are replacing windows, or just want to open the windows and doors so the new-paint smell isn’t overwhelming, summer is the ideal time.
You’re more likely to be inspired. For a variety of reasons, your creative inspiration mightpeak in summer. It’s a happy, colorful season that leaves many people feeling extra-energized and motivated.
It’s easier to maintain neighborly relations. Even if you and your neighbors are the best of friends, loud, noisy construction in the neighborhood can be frustrating—not to mention having to deal with extra vehicles and (depending on the nature of the project) blocked-off sections of road. According to Fritschen, these annoyances are most likely to have minimal effect during the summer when people are less likely to be homebound.
You can go underground to beat the heat. If you’ve been wanting to work on your basement, do it now…especially if heat is an issue for you. Your basement will be cool but not freezing, which will definitely be the case if you wait till later in the year.
Published with permission from RISMedia.
Sunday, June 17, 2012
• Get word-of-mouth referrals. Ask friends, family, co-workers and neighbors for the names of established, local contractors in your area; avoid the telephone book.
• Call trade groups. When all else fails, contact local trade organizations, such as the local builder association or the Remodelors Council, an arm of the National Association of Home Builders, for the names of reputable members in your area.
• Associate with licensed contractors. Many states require contractors to be licensed and bonded. Contact your state or local licensing board to ensure the contractor meets all requirements and has a decent record. The Better Business Bureau and the local Consumer Affairs Office can also tell you if any complaints have been filed against the contractor and how they were resolved.
• Conduct interviews. Talk with each contractor, request free estimates, and ask for recent references. When dealing with several different contractors, make sure they’re bidding on similar project specifications and quality of work. Remember, the lowest bid isn’t always the best.
• Check insurance information. Most states require a contractor to have workers’ compensation, property damage, and personal liability insurance. Ask for proof of this insurance and get the name of the insurance company to verify the information and to ensure that all minimum insurance requirements are met. You could be held liable for any work-related injury if the contractor is not covered.
- ASK ME! I have an extensive network of vendors. I also work closely with hundreds of other Realtors.
Saturday, June 16, 2012
According to Orr, the more buyers understand the potential problems that can occur when buying a home, the more prepared they will be to protect their interests. To that end, Orr highlights five problems homebuyers need to be aware of…along with potential solutions:
- Failed home inspection. If the home you are buying does not fair well upon inspection due to health or safety concerns like mold, radon, faulty electrical systems, or structural problems, the seller should fix these issues or extend you a credit or discount in the sale price so that you can have them fixed. If he refuses to do so, you have the right to back out of the sale and search for a new home.
- Seller is poorly motivated to sell. If a seller's heart is not in a sale, he might be prone to missing or canceling appraisals and inspections – all of which could threaten your purchase.
- Seller hasn't found a new home to move into. If a seller has trouble finding a replacement property and refuses to consider temporary arrangements, you might find yourself in a tricky timing situation – particularly if you have a closing date on the home you are leaving. Are you prepared to wait it out in temporary housing while you wait for the seller to move out?
- Title issues. If your seller owes money on the property you are buying, either for repayment of a debt, failure to pay taxes, or because money is owed for repairs or work done on the property, creditors with an interest in that property may take out a lien, rendering the seller unable to sell until those debts are repaid. In the meantime, you won't be able to make the purchase.
- Failure of the seller to make agreed upon repairs. If the seller has contractually promised to deliver the property to you in a certain condition and fails to deliver, you have the right to terminate the contract and back out of the sale if you are not prepared to accept the property as is. An alternative to this situation is to talk to your attorney about either requesting a sum of money to do the fixes yourself, or request a hold back.
Friday, June 15, 2012
Thursday, June 14, 2012
Repairs, renovations and upgrades are a must-do before you put your house on the market. All existing systems, including windows, doors, plumbing, and electrical must be in perfect working order. You may not have to replace or upgrade every item. But you need to know that buyers in this marketplace expect that the home they purchase is in perfect working order. The benefit for you is that this buyer pays you top dollar for a home that is “toothbrush ready.” That’s a real estate expression that agents often use to signify a house that is move in condition without any further preparation. “Just bring your toothbrush.”
4 Reasons Why Repairing Before You Sell Saves You Money
- Your potential buyers won’t be distracted by problems and repair items; they will focus on your home’s positive, not negative, features.
- Your actual cost to fix items will always be less than a buyer’s estimate.
- Your purchase negotiations won’t drag on and on over minor repair issues.
- You won’t have to do a price reduction to reflect the estimated (over-inflated) cost of repairs.
Launched in February 2012 and jointly operated by The Conference Board and Nielsen, The Demand Institute is a non-profit, non-advocacy organization with a mission to illuminate where consumer demand is headed around the world.
The new report, “The Shifting Nature of U.S. Housing Demand,” predicts that average home prices will increase by up to 1 percent in the second half of 2012. By 2014, home prices will increase by as much as 2.5 percent. From 2015 to 2017, the study projects annual increases between 3 and 4 percent. This recovery will not be uniform across the country, and the strongest markets could capture average gains of 5 percent or more in the coming years.
“In these initial years, the prime driver of recovery won’t be new home construction, but rather demand for rental properties,” says Louise Keely, chief research officer at The Demand Institute and a co-author of the report. “This is a remarkable change from previous recoveries. It is a measure of just how severe the Great Recession has been that such a wide swath of Americans had to delay, scale back, or put off entirely their dreams of homeownership.”
“In the long-term, we don’t expect homeownership rates to change,” says Bart van Ark, chief economist at The Conference Board and co-author of the report. “Over 80 percent of Americans in recent surveys still agree that buying a home is the best long-term investment they can make. What will be intriguing to watch is how their aspirations around homeownership are affected by this period of extended austerity.”
Between 2006 and 2011, some $7 trillion in American wealth was wiped out when home prices dropped 30 percent after a dramatic climb in valuations during the housing bubble. Looking forward, the moderate growth expectations for coming years suggest a return to normalcy. As home prices continue to drop and interest rates fall further, first-time buyers and others who remained relatively cautious will be drawn back into the housing market.
“As the U.S. housing market strengthens, almost every consumer-facing industry will be impacted in the coming years,” says Mark Leiter, chairman of The Demand Institute. “Business and government leaders will benefit by fully understanding the nature of this recovery. In doing so, they will be better able to anticipate how consumer demand will evolve and to formulate critical business and policy decisions to lead their organizations.”
Key Findings in the Report
-The recovery will be led by demand from buyers for rental properties, rather than, as in previous cycles, demand from buyers acquiring new or existing properties for themselves.
-Young people—who were particularly hard hit by the recession—and immigrants will lead the demand for rental properties.
-Rental demand will help to clear the huge oversupply of existing homes for sale. In 2011, some 14 percent of all housing units were vacant, while almost 13 percent of mortgages were in foreclosure or delinquent.
-The average size of the American home will shrink. The size of an average new home is expected to continue to fall, reaching mid-1990 levels by 2015.
-Despite the number of Americans who have been hurt financially by the housing crash, the desire to own a home remains strong. In fact, one survey has revealed that more than 80 percent of Americans recently thought buying a home remained the best long-term investment they could make.
For more information, visit www.demandinstitute.org.
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
|Me, My husband and his coworkers at the summit of |
Mount Sherman, our 1st 14er.
To the north rose Mount Lincoln, usually climbed next after Democrat, and beyond it the jagged Gore Range. Pikes Peak was a distant contour to the east. Mount Sherman, another “easy” fourteener, dominated the view to the south.
I thought all of the rocks on the way up looked awesome, so I kept pocketing rocks that I thought looked interesting. I carried probably 5 pounds worth of rocks to the top and almost all the way down, where I lost interest in carrying them and dumped my pockets.
I remember feeling altitude sickness for the first time in my life and feeling as though I was going to throw up. Fortunately the cheese my parents packed for me settled my stomach for me.” — Matt Payne
By Rachel Koning Beals of U.S. News & World Report
Depending on the location, house hunters may find themselves in a strange, transitional real-estate market that's emerging from historic lows.Does the buyer have an advantage? Yes, in many areas, that's still the case.But buyers have guidelines for success in this type of market, too. They need to show that they're serious if they hope to secure their dream house amid stiff deal-sniffing buyer competition or sellers so frustrated they may be willing to hold out for a stronger market turnaround. Professionalism and realistic expectations can go a long way toward ensuring a smooth and timely closing transaction, which is important to buyers and sellers alike.Deals can be found, but playing hardball with lowball offers that are out of sync with comparable local sales can be time-consuming. Time can mean money.There may be wiggle room with seller concessions — covering closing costs, tossing in repair credits — so entering into a prospective deal armed with local-market knowledge and respectful consideration of the seller's position can go a long way toward getting a great deal on a great property.
Here are a few tips for buyers to consider, culled from National Association of Realtors data and independent brokerage sites:
- Save yourself and all involved the delay and headache of financial surprises by researching your own credit report. You should also consider securing a preapproved loan or at least let a bank determine the range for which you'll likely qualify. This will help set realistic expectations for your search.
- Short sales, foreclosed properties or rent-to-own dwellings shouldn't be ruled out as part of a wide and comprehensive home search. But these types of sales may take more time and involve more financial hoops, so be prepared.
- With your agent or on your own, thoroughly study the comparable nearby sales. Limit the search to recent transactions — no older than six months if such data are available. Extend the time frame if you need to. Price isn't all that matters; find out how long properties are staying on the market, on average. This statistic can also help inform how far below the asking price you might consider for an opening bid.
- Speaking of negotiations, they're back and have been for a few years. Gone — in most markets — are the bidding wars where would-be buyers didn't stand a chance unless they came in above the asking price from the start. Ironically, tough competition has cropped up in some instances, thanks to the weak housing market. If buyers are going for a foreclosure, for instance, all-cash offers from property developers and other buyers are edging out bank-financed offers. Again, be prepared and know your own financial situation in advance.
- Keep in mind that real-estate health is not only a local market story (you can essentially ignore national sales statistics), but it can change street by street. Maybe the property you desire is near a prestigious hospital, university, large government employer or vibrant restaurant and shopping district. That's good for your long-term investment, but it also means the seller has a pricing advantage at the outset and couldn't care less about macro-pricing trends. Competition may be tight; if the economy remains spotty, other buyers will look for this kind of neighborhood stability
- It's perfectly acceptable to ask how firm the seller is on the price. You or your agent can pose this question to the seller's agent. Semantics are important: Ask, "How flexible are they on the price?" Avoid: "How much less will they take?" Consult with your agent for his opinion on the likelihood of the success of a lowball offer. You have the right to go in at whatever level you want, but keep in mind that a lowball number may turn off the seller and close down any chance at negotiation. You may have to bid on several properties before you get a seller to jump. Of course, this tactic might work on your first try. Try to check your emotions at the door.
- Incentives are great, but buyers may still be responsible for closing costs and should plan on this expense well ahead of house-hunting. The average amount of closing costs and prepaid items needed to cover your closing are approximately 4% of your loan amount. Buyers may also have to put up "earnest" or "good faith" money, which is essentially a deposit before moving into the offer/contract phase.
- Regardless of market conditions, there are a few basics to add to the checklist. These can be a jumping-off point for negotiations. Buyers should hire their own inspector, not the seller's. Buyers should have their inspector also check for any potentially unpermitted work, such as an addition. Keep in mind that some states have specific rules about disclosures. Verify the accuracy of the property lines by requesting a seller-secured survey, or buyers may have to buy their own survey. Be respectful as you talk with sellers and their agents about these needs. Sellers should be accommodating, as these steps show that a buyer is serious about the property.
Since the garage door now plays such a key role in many homeowners' daily lives, garage industry professionals, installers and leading manufacturers of garage doors and openers have teamed up to offer easy-to-follow tips for maintaining the safety and security of this access point, such as the following from LiftMaster:
- Maintenance. To keep the garage door properly maintained and functioning safely, be sure to keep all moving parts of the door clean and lubricated, including the steel rollers.
- Balance. To check balance, start with the door closed and pull the opener release mechanism so you can maneuver the door by hand. If the door is balanced (properly spring-loaded and running freely on its tracks), you should be able to lift the door smoothly without much effort and it should stay open about three or four feet above the floor.
- Safety reverse. Since 1993, all automatic openers manufactured for the U.S. must include a safety reversing feature such as infrared sensors or "photo eyes." These sensors are installed near the floor on either side of the garage door opening. Once the invisible laser beam between the two sensors is broken by an obstruction, the door reverses automatically. If your opener lacks a similar safety reversing feature, it's time to get a new opener.
- The six-inch rule. The photo eyes mentioned above should not be installed higher than six inches above the garage floor. If the eyes are installed higher, a person or pet could get under the beam and not be detected by the photo eyes.
- Sensitive technology. Test your door's sensitivity by placing a two-inch thick piece of wood or a roll of paper towels in the path of the door before closing it. If the garage door does not automatically reverse and retract back to the open position, then the opener needs to be adjusted or purchase a newer model that comes with photo eyes.
- Prepare for weather. Be prepared as summer heat and storms turn to summer outages. Once power is lost to the home, an automatic garage door opener will also be impacted. Ensure your opener is equipped with a battery back-up system.