Buying a House Solo? Here are some tips…

3 Next-Gen House Hunting Tips for Singles

The American household has changed – big time. More and more, people get married later in life, if at all. Many even go from married to single and back multiple times throughout their lives. This all means that more and more people are buying homes while single. Many unmarried folks are buying homes to live in on their own, while others are looking for homes to live in with their children, parents or other partners – past, present and future.

If you’re embarking upon the process of buying a home on your own, here are a few things to factor into your thought process and your action plan:

1. Solo doesn’t necessarily mean condo. A decade or two ago, many single house hunters were automatically directed toward low-maintenance condos and townhomes. And truthfully, some singles still enjoy the tax and financial advantages of ownership without the responsibilities of caring for lawns, roofs and other so-called “single family home” features they have no use for.

That said, the descriptor of a detached, standalone property as a “single family home” is woefully out of date. Many single people are electing to purchase detached homes for a number of reasons. Chief among them include:

  • Needing the square footage to allow their household to expand to include future partners, future children, adult children, or even elderly parents
  • Needing extra rooms (or even extra apartments!) to rent out, do hobbies in or run a home business from, and
  • Having the outdoor space for dogs, cats, horses and vegetable gardens, oh my!

If you are dreaming of a life in more of a home than your friends and family members think you can handle and you can well afford the home of your dreams, don’t be daunted. Reach out to other people in your circle of friends who are single and own either single family homes or condos and townhomes to get a sense for their experience. If you decide to go with a condo, make sure you read the HOA disclosures thoroughly and that you understand what you’re getting for your HOA dollars. (Hint: HOA dues often cover expenses you would pay out of pocket otherwise, like waste management fees, landscaping, building insurance and even roof and window maintenance.)

But if you do decide to go the single family home route, make sure you ask your circle (and your agent) for referrals to the contractors, gardeners and handyfolk who can make home maintenance on your own much more doable. It takes a village to maintain a home over the long run. So get a village!

2. Pay extra close attention to home inspections and home warranty provisions. Much of what’s scary about solo home ownership are the seeming risks around things that could go wrong. The most common such fear is a valid one: What happens if something goes wrong with the house? With just one income, it can be frightening to think of how rapidly a lemon of a house could rock your entire financial world.

There are a couple of tools you can build into your transaction that can massively mitigate just this risk. First, your home inspections. Most people think of home inspections as almost pass-fail: if they reveal devastatingly expensive issues, they back out of the deal. But if they don’t surface any fatal flaws, the deal is on.

Single home buyers should view their home inspections as the opportunity to spend a few more hours in the home, discovering its warts and all, before they move forward with the deal. Take special care to attend your inspections in person, ask the inspector to show you the issues they find while they’re on site. Read the reports and get any follow-up inspections or repair bids before your contingency period runs out. That way, you’ll have a concrete idea of the financial exposure to repairs that are needed right now while you can still either (a) negotiate to get the seller to chip in or (b) back out of the deal without penalty, if you need to.

The second tool is a largely underrated one: your home warranty plan. Most buyers get one, and often sellers pay for it. But what many buyers don’t realize is that (a) they can pay to upgrade the plan so that the warranty company will cover a wide assortment of future home repairs, and (b) they can and should renew their home warranty plan annually, in the future. Having the ability to ring up the home warranty company and spend $50 for a service call when your water heater, furnace, or plumbing goes on the fritz can dramatically reduce the fear factor of solo home ownership.

3. Consult with legal and financial pros before you buy with a relative, friend or partner. Buying a home with a friend, a parent, a sibling or even a life partner can seem like the cure for what ails a single person’s home buying situation. Namely, it injects additional financial resources, allows you to buy a pricier (read: larger, nicer, better located) property than you could on your own, and even positions you to have help making hard house hunt decisions and maintaining the place going forward.

Co-buying has big benefits, but it also poses some serious questions – questions that a lawyer, tax advisor or financial planner can help you anticipate and resolve, in advance, to avoid conflicts later. If you decide to go the co-buying route, make the investment of time and money up front to get some professional advice about how to structure the transaction and the financial relationship. Doing so, and reducing the agreement to a clear, professionally-drafted written contract that is recognized by and filed on record with the relevant state and local governments can go a very long way toward helping you avoid later damage to the interpersonal relationship with your co-buyer.

BUYERS: Did your status as single or married factor into your house hunting decisions? If so, how? If not, why?

I read this article at:  http://www.trulia.com/tips/2014/03/3-next-gen-house-hunting-tips-for-singles/?ecampaign=cnews&eurl=www.trulia.com%2Ftips%2F2014%2F03%2F3-next-gen-house-hunting-tips-for-singles%2F

Remember to follow our Blog at: https://therealestatebeat.wordpress.com/

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.  

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Call us at: 650-568-5522  Office:  650-365-9200

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Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

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Thanks for reading – Sabrina

 The Caton Team – Susan & Sabrina – A Family of Realtors

Sabrina BRE# 01413526 / Susan BRE #01238225 / Team BRE#70000218/ 01499008

10 Things Today’s Buyers Look for in a Home

I love sharing interesting articles I’ve read along the way.  As a full time Realtor, and almost a Millennial – I enjoyed learning what my clients are looking for and why.  Enjoy!

10 Things Today’s Buyers Look for in a Home

While David Letterman’s Top 10 lists generally culminate in a No. 1 ranking, the following list includes in no particular order 10 things that are important to buyers today, especially Millennials who represent a significant buyer niche in today’s market.

Quality of the neighborhood – The National Association of Realtor’s 2012 Profile of Buyers and Sellers revealed that neighborhoods are really important to buyers, but that neighborhood choice varies by household composition.

Convenience to job – Commuting is a necessary evil, but homes that are close to work enhance work-life balance, a growing priority for many Americans, especially Millennials.

Overall affordability of homes – With job markets tight and retirement funds depleted or eroded thanks to the Great Recession, it has never been more important to keep housing related costs as low as possible, ideally no more than one third of your pre-tax income.

Quality of schools – A recent survey by realtor.com revealed that nearly 45 percent of today’s buyers are willing to pay a premium for quality schools

Homes suited for the next 15 years – Just five years ago, buyers were looking to stay in their home about 10 years. Today, buyers expect to stay closer to 15, so it’s important to find a home that can support lifestyles as they evolve through that time period.

A mortgage – In today’s tight credit environment, getting a mortgage can be a challenge. Buyers should be willing to consider homes below what they may quality for in order to bump up the loan to value ratio.

Energy efficiency – The National Association of Homebuilders surveyed buyers to see what was most important to them in new home construction and energy efficiency topped the list. Four of the top most wanted features involve saving energy: 94 percent of home buyers want energy-star rated appliances, 91 percent want an energy-star rating for the whole home, 89 percent want energy-star rated windows, and 88 percent want ceiling fans.

Open floor plans – Spaces that are great for entertaining mean quality time with friends and family, something especially important to Gen Y.

High ceilings – Taller ceilings are not only aesthetically pleasing in that they impart a grandness to the home, they also promote greater air circulation and more natural light than lower ceilings.

Technology – Can you run your home from a cell phone? Then market to a Millennial, who prizes a homes’ technological amenities prized over curb appeal.

This post was originally published on the ERA Real Estate blog, Owning the Fence

I read this article at: http://rismedia.com/2013-10-15/10-things-todays-buyers-look-for-in-a-home/2/

Remember to follow our Blog at: https://therealestatebeat.wordpress.com/

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.  

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Call us at: 650-568-5522  Office:  650-365-9200

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Connect with us professionally at LinkedIn:  http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=6588013&trk=tab_pro

Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

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Thanks for reading – Sabrina

The Caton Team – Susan & Sabrina – A Family of Realtors

Sabrina BRE# 01413526 / Susan BRE #01238225 / Team BRE#70000218/ 01499008

3 Costly Cases of Hot Market Wishful Thinking – Fabulous Article

I truly enjoyed reading this blog because I’ve been faced with this challenge in my own Real Estate career.  It’s one of the hardest conversations to have.  Please enjoy – and I added my 2 cents in italics.

 

3 Costly Cases of Hot Market Wishful Thinking

 

“Oh, how I wish. . .” started no wise real estate decision ever. There’s a reason they call it real estate, folks. That’s because we’re dealing with the most tangible type of property around – land – and the buildings that, formally speaking, represent improvements to that land.

Attempting to apply fantasy-realm wishes to real-life, real land situations is never a setup for success. But when the market is hot and you have a goal or a timeline, engaging in wishful thinking is not just foolhardy – it can be costly.

As evidence, here are three common, costly cases of wishful thinking that tend to arise in areas where the market is hot, offers are plentiful and prices are rising. Consider these red flags and take heed in the event you find yourself engaging in any of them:

1. Wishing the house you’re seeing was in a different neighborhood. You’ve seen 2 dozens houses, and put in offers on a dozen. No dice. And your agent keeps pushing you to look in a lower price range, assuring you that you can find what you want. And then they show it to you: safe neighborhood, good school district, good commute to work, just the house you wanted, really – but not in the tony hills or hot downtown district you’ve been trying to get into.

Wishing that you could “pick the place up and set it back down” in your desired neighborhood will not make it so, no matter how many times you say it. The reality is that when you have been outbid a double-digit number of times, something about your approach is not working. You either have to downgrade your specs in terms of the property you seek, maybe looking for something smaller, a condo instead of a single-family home or something in less-pristine condition or you need to shift your location criteria – and that can mean a neighborhood change.

Part of the reason this wish is dangerous is that the white-hot markets in many towns are hyper-localized in the Most Desirable Neighborhood in Town. That’s where the competition among buyers and bidding wars are the most intense. If you’re not prepared to house hunt for homes quite a bit lower than your top dollar to set yourself up for success, or if there simply are no homes in that neighborhood listed below your top dollar, you might need to face the reality check that you simply can’t afford to buy there now.

Stop wishing the home you can afford were in a different neighborhood, because if it were, chances are good you wouldn’t be able to afford it, either! Understand that you’ll be able to level-up your neighborhoods as time goes on and you buy your next home – and the one after that – and don’t let your inflexibility paralyze your house hunt so long that prices all over town rise even more.

A friend once told me – if wishes were horses – we’d all be riding.  Don’t be the buyer on the horse.  Buying in the San Francisco Bay Area is one of the hardest markets to get in to and catch up with.  If you cannot buy where you thought you wanted to live – look around – we’re still in the Bay Area and as prices increase – it will increase across the board.  Talk with your Realtor to find the next up and coming area.

2. Hoping that perfect house gets no other offers, even though every other house you’ve bid on has had 54. There’s a fine line between wishing something were true and denying the reality of what actually is true. Facing reality, even when it’s painful or means you can’t have what you want, allows you to make your own action plan for getting the best possible results with the resources you have – or a plan for getting more resources, whichever route you choose to go.

As a buyer in a seller’s market, actually as a buyer in any type of market, it’s ultimately up to you and only you how much you offer on a home. Your mortgage broker can try to get you qualified as high as your income will allow, your agent can get you the comps and give you strategic advice on the average list price-to-sale price ratio, but you are the be-all and end-all decision-maker on offer price, and that’s as it should be.

But if you wield your weighty decision-making power to make lowball or at-asking offers in situations where you are virtually guaranteed to run into high levels of competition, that’s a poor use of your powers. Not only do you set yourself up for failure, you do so at the near-certain likelihood of adding to the demotivating, depressing, discouraging momentum of the times when you get overbid despite giving it your legitimate best efforts. That frustration often leads to analysis and calling a house hunting time-out. And that, in turn, often leads to buying at a time when prices are even higher, and getting ultimately even less home for your money.

I have heard this exact comment and was speechless for a moment.  You cannot wish away the competition.  And asking your Realtor to find a house no one is bidding on – is nuts.  Stop wasting your time and that of the professional you hired and own the fact that you want to buy a home and so does everyone else.  Instead of beating yourself and your Realtor up – think outside the box.  The Caton Team has several offer strategies to set your offer above the rest.  

3. Wishing prices weren’t going up so fast. Here’s the deal: when prices were flat or falling, buyers were (understandably) stressed at the prospect of buying a depreciating asset. Now that they’re ascending, it’s not at all uncommon to hear buyers bemoan that, too. The fact is, the moment escrow closes and your Facebook status changes from house hunter to home owner the fact that prices are rising, and fast, will shift in your mind’s eye from curse to blessing, quick-like.

Rising prices and a recovering market might be what emboldened you to buy, empowered you to sell a formerly underwater home, and certainly have been inextricably intertwined with the increase in jobs. If prices weren’t rising, many of these other things might not be materializing, either, and that wouldn’t be so great.

Wishing prices weren’t going up so fast contributes to a costly form of denial – denial of the reality that they are. This can cause buyers to persist in making lowball offers and wasting their precious time on homes they can’t compete for within in their budget range, all while their smart targets are appreciating rapidly – and that’s how people get priced out of the market, right under their noses.

Don’t let your home buyer dreams fall prey to this costly wish-based pitfall. Work with your agent to stay in the loop about how prices are trending throughout your house hunt, and use that knowledge to power your decision-making about what price range to house hunt in and what price to offer for target properties.

Prices rising means recovery is in full swing.  I totally agree with Tara, it was interesting to watch buyers hang on the fence instead of buying during the bust.  Homes were so cheap – low competition – and there was so much inventory.  But it was scary for some people.  Me, I was born and raised on this blessed peninsula – so I always knew we’d recover.  Jobs, culture, weather – all the factors are here.  So, if you want to buy a home, give your Realtor a call – don’t have one?  Call The Caton Team.  We’ll sit down and review your plans and help you come up with a path to attain your goals.  650-568-5522.  

ALL: What are your real estate wishes, and how do you ground yourself in reality?

Thank you Tara for another great read!

I read this article at: http://www.trulia.com/blog/taranelson/2013/11/3_costly_cases_of_hot_market_wishful_thinking

Remember to follow our Blog at: https://therealestatebeat.wordpress.com/

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.  

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Call us at: 650-568-5522  Office:  650-365-9200

Want Real Estate Info on the Go?  Download our FREE Real Estate App:  http://thecatonteam.com/mobileapp

Visit our Website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

Visit us on Facebook:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sabrina-Susan-The-Caton-Team-Realtors/294970377834

Yelp us at: http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-caton-team-realtors-sabrina-caton-and-susan-caton-redwood-city

Or Yelp me:  http://www.yelp.com/user_details_thanx?userid=gpbsls-_RLpPiE9bv3Zygw

Connect with us professionally at LinkedIn:  http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=6588013&trk=tab_pro

Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

The Caton Team – Susan & Sabrina – A Family of Realtors

Sabrina BRE# 01413526 / Susan BRE #01238225 / Team BRE#70000218/ 01499008

 

ARE DINING ROOMS DEAD? 5 BETTER WAYS TO USE THAT SPACE – by Brightnest

Have you checked out Brightnest?  Of course I have – being a home addict and a Realtor.  I’ve really enjoyed playing with the app and reading the newsletters.  When this article popped into my inbox – I was intrigued!  Be rid of the dinning room?!  What?  But then I thought about it, and how much lives have changed.  It may not work for everyone – but I was an interesting ready – enjoy!

ARE DINING ROOMS DEAD? 5 BETTER WAYS TO USE THAT SPACE

How many times did your family use your dining room last year? If you can count the meals at the table on one hand, then you may want to consider repurposing that room. It can be hard to let go of the dining-room dream, but let’s be realistic. A room that only gets used during holidays isn’t worth keeping.

If you’re willing to break out of the traditional dining-room mold, the possibilities can go a lot further than three-course meals and dress shoes. Here are five ways to get more from your dining room.

Convert it into a home office. Picture your large dining room table. Now picture that same dining room table with one chair. Boom! You now have the home office you’ve always wanted. Let your china cabinet double as office supplies storage and use this space as an office for 360 days a year. For the 5 days that you host large dinners, simply clear off your office supplies and add the extra chairs back to the table!

Keep it as the party room. If you love entertaining people but hate the idea of hosting a formal dinner, turn your dining room into hang-out central. Replace your dining room table with a pool table and install a bar along one wall for finger food and cocktails. The dining room will quickly become the most popular room in the house!

Make it a morning cafe. Instead of squandering every square inch of the room with an oak table that sits eight, place a couple small, café style tables in the room. Small tables are more inviting when you’re enjoying a cup of coffee, reading the paper or even opening the mail. Plus, smaller tables are easy to move around and join together (just in case a dinner party of eight does actually happen).

Turn it into a guest room. If your extended family treats your house as their free hotel, consider installing a Murphy bed in your dining room. Most of the time it will simply look like a shelf and you can use the room for whatever your heart desires. Then, when guests arrive, it instantly turns into an impromptu guest bedroom.

Make it playtime central. If you spend a lot of time in the kitchen and love the idea of your kids playing close by, then turn your dining room into their playroom. Ditch the fancy table and replace it with a craft table and add toy bins or book shelves. We also recommend adding a comfy rug for optimal toy enjoyment.

What do you think?  Please share your thoughts by email or comment – thank you!  -Sabrina

I read this article at: https://brightnest.com/posts/are-dining-rooms-dead-5-better-ways-to-use-that-space

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Call us at: 650-568-5522

Visit our Website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

Visit us on Facebook:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sabrina-Susan-The-Caton-Team-Realtors/294970377834

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Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

A Cinderella Story – Michael and Two Condos

A Cinderella Story – Michael and Two Condos

With 25+ years of combined Real Estate experience, The Caton Team is blessed with working with our clients one home after the other.

When Michael bought his first condo with Susan years ago – it was only natural for him to call her again now that he was ready to buy his next home.  By now Susan & I had teamed up and I had the joy of working with Michael as well.

Such a professional and patient gentlemen, we started our journey early in 2013.  Faced with limited inventory and competition we took our time to find choice properties and enjoyed finding the right condo complexes that would fit his lifestyle.

Finally on a sunny Tuesday we found a great 2-bedroom 2-bath condo in San Mateo.  It was a short sale but we were up for the task.  Offer in, up against three other offers – we were so happy to let him know his offer was accepted.

Then the wait begins.  For a short sale, the seller has a long to-do list.  Great clients do what they need to do to get a short sale approved.  Other types of people brush their responsibility off.   We knew short sales take time to get approved.  We knew short sales are a LOT of work. Each week we checked in with the seller’s agent and received short and useless updates.  We grew suspicious and Susan hit the Internet to do some investigating.  Much to our surprise, the unit was set for foreclosure auction the following day!  Quickly The Caton Team reached out to the seller’s agent to implore the urgency of a true update.  Sadly, not all Realtors are created equal and this particular agent brushed us off again.  We did all we could do as the buyer’s Realtor and the following day, with baited breath, we watched the auction site to see if it would be postponed.  Right before our eyes the unit was sold at auction.  When we called the sellers agent to get a handle on this situation – she kindly hung up the phone.

Without missing a beat Susan called Michael and we hit the ground running looking for a new home.  It didn’t take long, another unit, very similar to the one we just lost, was for sale – but they were taking offers the following day!

Michael is a trooper; he met Susan at the home the next morning, saw it, wrote the offer and submitted by the deadline.  By that evening we had the joy of telling him is offer was accepted!  Within less than 24 hours we went from bad news to fantastic news.

It ain’t over till it’s over though – that is a fact.  As the escrow proceeded we had a hiccup – the unit did not appraise for our offer price….which was less than the last sale of an identical unit.   When interest rates went up – the market had turned from a sellers market early in the year to a different market in a matter of weeks.  The appraiser was cautious – and we can’t blame him for being prudent.  No one wants another bust!  Thankfully both the listing agent and the sellers understood the situation and we were able to re-negotiate a win/win deal that evening.

The best feeling in the world is handing over the keys.  Though it was a long and bumpy ride, The Caton Team was able to get our client a better home and in the end Michael is happy – and that makes everything worthwhile.

How can The Caton Team help you?

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Call The Caton Team at 650-568-5522

Visit our Website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

Visit us on Facebook:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sabrina-Susan-The-Caton-Team-Realtors/294970377834

Yelp us at: http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-caton-team-realtors-sabrina-caton-and-susan-caton-redwood-city

Or Yelp me:  http://www.yelp.com/user_details_thanx?userid=gpbsls-_RLpPiE9bv3Zygw

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Please enjoy my personal journey through homeownership at:

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

The Importance of Working with a Good Lender

The Importance of Working with a Good Lender – by Sabrina

Buying a home is serious business; especially on the San Francisco Peninsula where even a one bedroom condo can run about half a million bucks.

And in an industry where time is money and money talks, from time to time I will encounter a lender – that offers great rates and low fees – upfront.  And no customer service when you really need it.

Much too often a buyer is tempted to get the best rate – without really considering the whole picture.

Unless you are paying cash – the home loan is the most important aspect of buying a home – aside from the home itself.

So when taking into account that a home is generally the largest purchase of a person’s life – shouldn’t we work with a bank that treats it with the same respect?  YES!

There are hundreds of steps from finding the home to getting the keys.  The loan is probably the largest hurdle aside from home inspections.

Once a buyer’s contract is accepted by the seller – it’s rush time.  Most offers have a time frame – called a contingency period – to have the bank do their appraisal and have the loan/purchase terms reviewed and approved by underwriting.  It can be as long as 17 days in a buyers market – or as short as 5 days in a sellers market.  And this is where we separate the men from the boys.  Some of these out of state or on-line lenders are not located here – where one is buying – and it can be extremely difficult to get information and approvals done when they close shop at 5pm and it’s only 2pm here!

That friendly voice that quoted a buyer a fantastic rate isn’t calling us back anymore…..and when they do it’s often not what we were hoping to hear.  For example, they need more time to review the file – therefore we need to push back the close of escrow date – which seems easy – but again – time is money.   The seller is expecting the buyer to perform to the terms of the contract and it’s not worth losing a home due to a lackluster lender…..and changing lenders mid way is generally not an option.

So – what can a buyer do to be competitive?  Work with a local lender.  Once your credit is pulled the first time – a consumer has 30 days to loan shop without hurting their credit score.  So do it!  Loan shop the whole month and find the best rate, the best fees and make sure the lender is attentive, local and can move at the pace the current market is dictating.

The Caton Team has a list of Client Approved Lenders – so please reach out to us and we’ll introduce you to the team.

Got Questions? – The Caton Team is here to help.  What can we do for you?

Email Sabrina & Susan at:  Info@TheCatonTeam.com

Visit our Website at:   http://thecatonteam.com/

Visit us on Facebook:   http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sabrina-Susan-The-Caton-Team-Realtors/294970377834

Yelp us at: http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-caton-team-realtors-sabrina-caton-and-susan-caton-redwood-city

Or Yelp me:  http://www.yelp.com/user_details_thanx?userid=gpbsls-_RLpPiE9bv3Zygw

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LinkedIn:  http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=6588013&trk=tab_pro

Please enjoy my personal journey through home ownership at:

http://ajourneythroughhomeownership.wordpress.com/

Thanks for reading – Sabrina

Eight Ways To Improve Your Home Appraisal

When I read this article I had to share it.  The Caton Team always provides comparable properties for our buyers appraisal.  But when you are refinancing on your own – don’t hesitate to call us – we’ll provide comparable properties for you!  What can the Caton Team do for you?

Eight Ways To Improve Your Home Appraisal

When Kellie and Michael May decided to refinance their home in the New York suburbs, they wanted to take advantage of historically low interest rates. But before landing a new 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, they had to get through a home appraisal.

“It was a major stumbling block,” says Kellie May, who has owned the 4-bedroom, 3-bath colonial for seven years. Not that she and her husband were unprepared; they’d been through an appraisal for another refinance in 2010, so they knew to point out improvements they’d made to the 3,400 square foot home, and supply prices for other neighborhood properties that had sold recently.

But the appraisal came back roughly $70,000 less than the $1,230,000 the Mays were expecting, and too low to support their new loan.

They responded with a paperwork arsenal aimed at their lender, asserting that the appraisal had been based on faulty recent sales data. The loan squeaked through, after the bank crafted an exception for the Mays. It was able to do that because their loan was a jumbo loan, not subject to the more rigid underwriting standards they would have encountered if it were a conventional loan aimed at secondary buyers like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Low appraisals are becoming a bigger problem for many would-be buyers and refinancers as home values have started to stabilize and rise in some markets.

In Leesburg, Florida, for example, low appraisals have caused the cancellation of as many as 15 percent of home sales for local real estate broker Gus Grizzard.

“We are seeing higher price appreciation and are starting to run into appraisal problems,” said Charlie Young, chief executive officer of ERA Franchise Systems, a firm with a national network of real estate brokerage offices, including Grizzard’s. The National Association of Realtors reported on Tuesday that inventories of homes were low and the median price a home resale was, at $180,800 in December, up 11.5 percent in a year.

Appraisals are based on recent sales prices of comparable properties. And in rising price markets, those sales prices might not be high enough to support the newest deals. Young said there were many places in California reporting appraisal problems.

On Friday, the federal government issued new rules aimed at improving the appraisal process as it pertains to high-interest mortgages on rapidly appreciating homes.

But those rules don’t go into effect for a year, and don’t apply to most conventional loans. It pays to protect your own loan before the bank even thinks about sending that guy with the clipboard over to your house.

“The reality is that the appraiser is only there for 30 minutes at most,” says Brian Coester, chief executive of CoesterVMS, a nationwide appraisal management company based in Rockville, Maryland. “The best thing a homeowner can do to get the highest appraisal possible is make sure they have all the important features of the home readily available for the appraiser.”

Here are eight ways you can bolster your appraisal:

MAKE SURE APPRAISER KNOWS YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD – SOOOOOOO IMPORTANT

Is the appraiser from within a 10-mile radius of your property? “This is one of the first questions you should ask the appraiser,” says Ben Salem, a real estate agent with Rodeo Realty in Beverly Hills, California.

He recalled a recent case where an appraiser visited an unfamiliar property in nearby Orange County and produced an appraisal that Salem said was $150,000 off. “If the appraiser doesn’t know the area intimately, chances are the appraisal will not come back close to what a property is really worth.”

You can request that your lender send a local appraiser; if that still doesn’t happen, supply as much information as you can about the quality of your neighborhood.

PROVIDE YOUR OWN COMPARABLES – Call The Caton Team – We’d be happy to help you!

Provide your appraiser with at least three solid and well-priced comparable properties. You will save her some work, and insure that she is getting price information from homes that really are similar to yours.

Websites including Realtor.com, Zillow and Trulia offer recent sales prices and details such as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms in a home.

KNOW WHAT ADDS THE MOST VALUE – Not sure where to put your money?  Call The Caton Team – We’ll help!

If you’re going to do minor renovations, start with your kitchen and bathrooms, says G. Stacy Sirmans, a professor of real estate at Florida State University. He reviewed 150 variables that affect home values for a study sponsored by the National Association of Realtors. Wood floors, landscaping and an enclosed garage can also drive up appraisals.

DOCUMENT YOUR FIX-UPS – Keep those receipts!

If you’ve put money into the house, prove it, says Salem.

“Before-and-after photos, along with a well-defined spreadsheet of what was spent on each renovation, should persuade an appraiser to turn in a number that far exceeds what he or she first called out.”

Don’t forget to highlight all-important structural improvements to electrical systems, heating and cooling systems – which are harder to see, but can dramatically boost an appraisal. Show receipts.

TALK UP YOUR TOWN

If your town has recently seen exciting developments, such as upscale restaurants, museums, parks or other amenities, make sure your appraiser knows about them, says Craig Silverman, principal and chief appraiser at Silverman & Co. in Newtown, Pennsylvania.

DISTINGUISH BETWEEN UPSTAIRS AND DOWNSTAIRS

Many homeowners covet that refinished basement, but that doesn’t mean appraisers look at it the same way. “Improvements and additions made below grade, such as a finished basement, do not add to the overall square footage of your house,” says John Walsh, president of Total Mortgage Services in New York. “So they don’t add anywhere near as much value as improvements made above grade.”

According to Remodeling magazine, a basement renovation that cost $63,000 in 2011-12 will recoup roughly 66 percent of that in added home value. That’s not as good as an attic bedroom, which will recoup 73 percent of its cost. Even similar bedrooms typically count for more if they are upstairs instead of downstairs.

CLEAN UP

Even jaded appraisers can be swayed by a good looking yard. “Tree trimming, cleaning up, a few flowers in the flower beds and paint touch up can all help the appraisal,” says Agnes Huff, a real estate investor based in Los Angeles.

That advice holds true indoors, too. “Get rid of all the clutter in your home,” says Jonathan Miller, a longtime appraiser in New York. “It makes the home appear larger.”

GIVE THE APPRAISER SOME SPACE

Don’t follow the appraiser around like a puppy. “I can’t tell you how many homeowners or listing agents follow me around in my personal space during the inspection,” he says. “It’s a major red flag there is a problem with the home.”

And while you’re at it, make the appraiser’s job as pleasant as possible by giving your home a pleasant smell. At a minimum, clean out the litter box. Baking some fresh cookies and offering him one or two probably won’t sway your appraisal, nor should it. But it couldn’t hurt.

I read this article at: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/01/22/us-usa-housing-appraisals-idUSBRE90L0ZE20130122?VBd0T4I3F0KvenaC7w1NXQ=1

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Thanks for reading – Sabrina