Written by Blanche Evans on Wednesday, 15 April 2015 1:51 pm

As you live in your home, you get nose-blind to odors that can hit your buyers on the honker harder than a right cross. We’re not talking about forgetting to change the cat box. Some smells are so pervasive that they could signal real trouble to a buyer. And that means no sale for you.

Here are five smells that could turn your home into a stinker.

Stuffiness. To make our homes more energy-efficient, we’ve caulked, blown insulation, weather-stripped and sealed our way to greener utility bills. But for every action, there’s a reaction. The result of making your home airtight is that you lock all odors in.

Homes are more comfortable when they breathe. Open a window and reintroduce yourself to the aromatic delights of fresh-mown grass and flowers and the light undulating touch of natural breezes.

Dusty, musty odors linger in rooms that aren’t used much or aren’t updated like old tile bathrooms. Sniff out culprits like guest bedspreads, long curtains that are rarely opened, and old carpets that could use a good cleaning.

Pets. Poop and pee are part of the deal when you have pets. From goldfish to iguanas, you have to deal with feeding and cleaning up after pets. When you’re selling your home, you have to really keep on top of it.

And if you have pets with fur, you have to groom them. Dogs need baths, and most need brushing. If you let them get on the furniture, they slobber on their toys, scratch themselves, shed piles of fur, and so on. Febreeze is one idea, but you might have to do a thorough steam cleaning of all fabric surfaces in your home.

Food, smoke and grease odors. If you have a preference for stinky foods like cabbage and fish, you may need to go on a different diet while you’re marketing your home. And if you cook a lot, it’s a good idea to clean your oven, burners, and any other equipment that may have burned on food or spills.

Dampness, mold and mildew. Over the years, pipes leak, tubs overflow, and gutters clog. If you can smell moisture, it won’t be long before you smell rot. Damp spaces can grow mold anywhere that contains cellulose, poor light, and little to no air circulation. So if your bathroom always smells like a wet, dirty dog and you don’t have a dog, you’ve probably got a leak or mold in the walls or under the floor.

Your raging hormones. We saved the best for last because who doesn’t like to talk about sex? Like all animals, humans have secretions that make them attractive to sex partners, but those same aromas can be offensive if they’re too strong. The biggest trouble spots are bathrooms, bedrooms and laundry rooms.

As a seller, you may have to lay down the law for household members who let their bedrooms smell like locker rooms or who use so many hair and body products their rooms smell like a 900 call center.

You may also have do a little more laundry than you’re used to. Wash towels frequently, especially the love towel. Change bed linens at least once a week. Don’t leave dirty gym clothes in the bag or on top of the washing machine. Bag up feminine disposables, baby diapers, and adult diapers and get them out of the house as fast as possible.

You could really get OCD with this and wash or throw out dirty hair and make-up brushes. A good rule of thumb is — if you can’t remember when you washed it last, wash it now.




Written by Blanche Evans on Thursday, 26 March 2015 12:57 pm


Curb appeal is one of the most important factors in selling a home, and one of the most difficult to quantify, but one thing is certain — homes sell for more money when they have it.

It’s common knowledge that drive-up first impressions count. Buyers want to be charmed and excited about a property as a whole. A clean, tidy front yard, front walk swept of leaves and snow, pavers laid safely and evenly, and an attractive frame of landscaping set the tone for a positive buyer experience.

On closer inspection, buyers can see that the trim has been freshly painted and that you’ve put out a cheery new welcome mat by the front door. So how much more work do you need to do to win buyers over?

Since 2003, replacement costs have generated more value at resale than remodeling, according to the latest Remodeling Magazine 2014 Cost vs. Value report. That’s good news for sellers who want to ramp up their home’s curb appeal.

In fact, the five projects with the best cost to value ratios were all directly related to curb appeal: Midrange roofing replacement rose 5.9% over last year, while midrange garage door replacement was up 5.6%. The 20-gauge steel replacement entry door was up 5.4% and vinyl siding replacement rose 3.2%. In the upscale category, the fiberglass replacement entry door was up 1.7%.

Exterior projects such as these are crucial to any home’s integrity, says the National Association of REALTORS®(NAR.) “These projects also do not require expensive materials and they have the added bonus of instantly adding curb appeal,” says the trade organization.

The quality of materials may also make a difference in resale. For example, a wood deck addition returns 80.5 percent of costs, while a composite deck addition returns only 68.0 percent. A steel entry door returns 101.8 percent of its cost, while a fiberglass replacement door returns only 72 percent of its cost.

While it may seem counterintuitive to pay $100 and only get $72 back at resale, updating is the best way to help a property maintain its appeal to future homebuyers.

“Resale value is just one factor among many that homeowners need to take into account when making a decision to remodel,” advises the NAR. “The desirability and resale value of particular remodeling projects also varies by region and metropolitan area.”

If you’re planning to update your home for resale, ask your real estate professional for guidance. He or she can tell you which improvement projects will provide the most upon resale in your market.



Written by Benny L. Kass on Tuesday, 14 April 2015 3:00 pm

Question: We are first time home buyers. We have signed a contract to purchase an older home in a nice neighborhood, and the purchase price is $400,000. We have 45 days in which to obtain financing, and have started shopping around with different mortgage lenders. We have two questions. First, the contract states that we will put down 20 percent and obtain a mortgage loan of 80 percent (i.e. $320,000). However, we have begun to realize that there will be significant closing and moving costs, and we would prefer to put down less money. Are we committed to a 20 percent down payment, since that is spelled out in the contract? Second, what kind of loans are available and what’s best for us?

Answer: Your first question is easy. Technically (or legally) speaking, you are bound by the terms of the sales contract. You must put down 20 percent — or $80,000. However, as a practical matter, I suspect that you and your sellers can sign an addendum to the contract which modifies these terms. So long as the amendment (1) will not create any delay in the time you have to go to settlement and (2) will not cause the seller’s to spend any more money than was originally called for in the sales contract, this addendum should cause the sellers no problem and indeed it can probably be signed when you actually go to settlement. I suspect that your lender will want to have this addendum in its files.

Your second question is quite difficult to answer, since I do not have any financial information about you. You should discuss these issues with your potential lenders. Ask them to qualify you based on the highest (and the lowest) loan which you are seeking. For example, a “conventional” loan is where you put down 20 percent and borrow 80 percent. In your case, this will require that you put down $80,000. Since you have indicated that this will create a financial strain for you, you can also consider the following options:

an 80-10-10 loan. Here, you will be obtaining two loans. One in the amount of 80 percent (i.e. $320,000) and a second loan in the amount of $40,000. Under this arrangement, you will only have to put $40,000 down when you go to settlement. The 80-10-10 loan was designed to help homeowners avoid the necessity of paying private mortgage insurance (PMI). Lenders want to be sure that should you become delinquent on your mortgage payments, and the lender has to foreclose on the property, that there will be some equity left in the property. The typical benchmark is 20 percent. If you borrow more than 80 percent of the value of the house (called “loan to value ratio”) you will be required to pay private mortgage premiums for a long period of time. This PMI is insurance coverage for your lender, which will cover any loss which it incurs should the house be foreclosed upon and the foreclosing price does not cover the entire mortgage balance.

However, since the lender in an 80-10-10 loan is only making a first mortgage (deed of trust) in the amount of 80 percent, no PMI is required. You should understand that you will have to sign a second deed of trust in the amount of 10 percent of the value of the house. This second trust will carry a higher mortgage interest rate than you will get for the first trust. Additionally, the second trust will probably have a shorter due date (perhaps 10 years) than your first trust.

a 90 percent loan. Here, you will borrow $360,000, and sign only one mortgage document. You will still need $40,000 cash at settlement. And private mortgage insurance will be required.

a 95 percent loan. Again, private mortgage insurance will be required, but you will only have to put down five percent (i.e.$20,000).

This is but a small sample of the various loan which are available. There are also variations on these various mortgages. For example:

1. Fixed thirty year. Here, the loan will be amortized over 30 years. Each and every month, you will make the same monthly mortgage payment (although if the lender escrows for taxes and insurance, the amount may change on a yearly basis depending on whether taxes and insurance premiums are increased).

2. Fixed fifteen year. Here, the loan will be amortized over 15 years. This means that although the interest rate will be lower than for a 30 year loan, your monthly payments will be much higher, since you will be paying off the loan in half the time. While some people like the idea of paying off their mortgage early — and thus saving a lot of interest payments — I am personally opposed to a 15 year loan. If you have the right to pay off the loan (in whole or in part) without penalty, a thirty loan gives you the right to make payments as if they are based on a 15-year amortization, but you are not obligated to make these higher payments should you decide that your money can be used for other — and better — purposes.

3. Finally, there are a number of adjustable rate mortgages — called “ARMS” — which carry different rate adjustment periods. These adjustments can be made on a yearly basis, or once every three-five-seven or even ten years. Keep in mind, that the smaller the adjustment period, the lower the interest rate will be.

4. Balloon notes. Here, your loan may require that you pay monthly mortgage payments based on a 30-year amortization. However, at the end of a fixed period (for example 7 or 10 years) the entire balance then outstanding will become due and payable. This kind of loan is typically more common for commercial or investment loans, but you should be aware that balloon loans do exist — and you should make sure that your loan will not suddenly become due (i.e. balloon) after a number of years.

You should contact two or three mortgage lenders and ask the following questions:

  • what kinds of loans do you have available?
  • what are the rates for each loan?
  • based on our financial situation, can we qualify for any or all of the various loans?
  • is there a pre-payment penalty if we decide to refinance early, and if so, how much is the penalty?
  • can we pay our real estate taxes and homeowner’s insurance premiums directly, or will you require that we escrow. This means that the mortgage lender will collect, on a monthly basis, one-twelfth of the real estate tax and one-twelfth of the annual insurance premium. When the tax and the insurance comes due, the lender will make these payments on your behalf. However, when a lender requires these escrows, this means that your monthly mortgage payment will be higher. This is referred to a PITI (payments of Principal, Interest, Taxes and Insurance).

You are entitled to get information giving you an estimate of what you will have to pay when you go to settlement. You are also entitled to get full disclosures of the mortgage interest rate for your loan. For more information, go to theConsumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) website and search “Know Before You Owe”.

Shopping for a mortgage loan is time-consuming, tedious and often confusing. However, it is your money at stake and you don’t want to make a drastic mistake which will haunt you for years to come.



Written by PJ Wade on Monday, 13 April 2015 12:04 pm

Why do you want to go inside the house or condo unit you’re considering as your next home?

Seems like an obvious question, but buyers who do not think before they act, cannot act in their own best interest.

This real estate question should be answered before buyers step inside a property to ensure that the time spent on the premises is completely enlightening, practically informative, and highly experiential of space functionality.

Most real estate viewings last less than an hour. If you’re not mentally present and sure what you are specifically going inside to accomplish, you may miss the “value” point and either disregard a poor-showing property or overvalue a professionally staged one. First-time and first-time-in-long-time buyers are particularly disadvantaged because they have little experience visualizing how someone else’s home, a vacant property, or a set of builder’s drawings could be transformed into their dream home.

Digesting all that a property has and has not got to offer in less time than you usually spend over a cup of coffee has always been a challenge for buyers. That challenge has become greater since smartphones arrived.

Our screen-time obsessions with message checking, picture taking, video making, and trophy sharing keep us habitually distracted. This is a problem for too many smartphone-carrying property viewers, too.

A recent VitalSmarts survey reported that 91% of the more than 1600 people involved had seen tourists miss out on an important moment by trying to capture it on social media.

Since buyers are “tourists” in someone else’s real estate, this research may be extrapolated to explain why so many buyers spend more time looking at rooms through a lens rather than experiencing dimension and detail first hand.

How photogenic is any interior without the right lens, lighting, and staging? Shots of 3D rooms end as 1D grainy depictions that tell you what?even when viewed on a big TV screen? Invest time walking each room, standing where you’d stand, looking out windows to judge sunlight and noise, and measuring to visualize your furniture positioning. This information gathering can be backed up by a couple of pics, but not replaced by photos.

Can a video tell you how uneven or creaky flooring is or how slippery bathroom or foyer tiles are?

Practical information gathering should include testing how loudly flushing upstairs resonates in the kitchen and downstairs living areas—particularly in new homes. Capturing this on video may be a greater distraction than deciding if noise levels are liveable.

Taking phone photos to show family members is not be as useful as having them on the tour to add more pairs of eyes to the search for value and cost.

Professional Staging sets the stage for positive reactions which may not occur without decorative preparation and strategic furniture placement or absence. Part of staging ensures buyers obtain good phone photos, but what is being hidden or downplayed? Walking through rooms and viewing rooms from different angles should help you discover the true utility and functionality of the space relative to how you want to live and decorate.

Fear of being left out on social media can distract us from what is going on in front of us. Checking for messages during a property viewing means you’re missing out on what you may have to live with for years. While you’re glued to the screen, what issues and problems will you overlook?

Looking through a camera lens keeps you reacting to cosmetic aspects that can be altered while ignoring value factors like location, square footage, functionality. Concentrate on being fully present when viewing a property that could be your new home. Keep your complete attention and top-level observation powers engaged and intent on the task at hand. Don’t make your mind up about a property when you’re on the sidewalk. Reserve judgement until you thoroughly check out the real estate’s potential and value.

You understand whether the professional showing you properties works for you or the seller, and how this will determine how the real estate is presented. Ask for details specifically relevant to your needs:

  • Why did you select this property to show me?
  • Where does any unrealized value in this property lie?
  • What concerns do you hold about this property’s location?
  • Based on your [the professional’s] local knowledge, what might inspection reveal or miss about this property that should concern me?