Blog

Buying or selling a home? We've got home search tips, staging advice, tips on where to put your renovation dollars and more information and advice.

Need to get another mortgage and still don't understand the process? Always wanted to understand escrow? Mortgage broker/real estate broker Chuck Tebbetts makes it all understandable.

Always wanted to be a real estate investor? Jean Tebbetts will show you how to keep your property rented for top dollar while controlling expenses.

3 Key Tips for a Stress Free Dinner Party

Think being a good host means stressing in the kitchen while your guests enjoy the party? Think again. With a little advanced preparation, you can unlock the secrets of a stress-free holiday get-together. Plan and Practice the Menu Choose dishes that don’t have to be served piping hot, like lasagna, quiches and braised stews. Test out new recipes in advance so you can make necessary adjustments to the ingredients and perfect your prep time. Once you’ve got the menu figured out, prepare what you can ahead of time. Ready entire courses that will keep for a day; then heat them up just before your guests are set to arrive. Don’t Forget the Drinks Serving a signature holiday cocktail, whether it’s alcoholic or family-friendly, can simplify your hosting process. If you can, find one that can be premixed and served from a pitcher. Chill other beverages in an ice-filled tub to keep your refrigerator food-focused, and position the drink station opposite the food buffet to create a nice flow and avoid bottlenecks. This will help cut back on the number of people congregating in and around the kitchen. Aim for Easy Cleanup Plan out the number of serving dishes you’ll need in advance, and borrow from family and friends to supplement what you have. Want to reduce your dish-washing burden? Serve hors d’oeuvres, which can be filling and require little more than a napkin. If you do opt to use dinnerware, begin the party with an empty dishwasher so you clear plates and glasses as soon as guests have finished. These tips will help you enjoy your gathering without the typical hosting hassles. Read More

Trends and Tech for Today's Bathrooms

According to a recent Houzz & Home survey, homeowners are investing more on bathroom renovations than in previous years, largely due to outdated designs and finishes. What types of upgrades are they spending money on? Here are some of the latest trends and tech updates being used in bathroom design.

Aesthetic Additions
You don’t have to tackle a full overhaul to make a big impact in the bathroom. Smaller changes can often bring big rewards, both from a resale perspective and by adding value to your daily experience.

Cosmetic favorites, according to the National Kitchen & Bath Association’s 2016 bathroom trends, include polished chrome finishes and neutral colors like white and gray. And bathrooms are becoming more streamlined with floating vanities, open shelving and undermount sinks. When larger changes are made, homeowners are incorporating amenities such as no-threshold showers and higher vanity heights that allow for aging in place.

Tech Touches
When you consider updating the appliances in your home, you may automatically think of doing so in the kitchen, living area or laundry room. Many, however, are quickly adopting technological advances in pursuit of the smart bathroom. Some of the more popular add-ons available include:

  • High-tech toilets: The most basic bathroom appliance now has seat-warming options, LED lights, motion sensors and automatic dryers.
  • Accessorized soaking tubs: You can take a basic bath, or you can soak in a chromotherapy tub with mood-enhanced lighting. Or enjoy an air bath, with massaging bubbles similar to a hot spring.
  • Digital faucets and showers: Along with reduced flow, which conserves water and money, faucet features also include touchless technology and programmable settings like a timed shower option.

Which market trends and tech updates appeal most to your family? When done well, these upgrades can improve your quality of life and increase the value of your home

Read More

6 Tips for Preventing a House Fire

Devastating house fires can happen in an instant, and many begin due to human error. The U.S. Fire Administration reports that cooking tops the list of residential building fire causes (50 percent), followed by heating equipment (12.5 percent) and electrical malfunction (6.3 percent).

Make your fall and winter seasons merry, bright and fire-free with these essential fire safety tips.

  1. Schedule a chimney inspection at least once a year. Creosote, or condensed smoke, builds up on the flue and can catch fire. An annual cleaning and inspection can help prevent chimney fires.
  2. Keep flammable items at least three feet from heat sources. According to the National Fire Prevention Association, 56 percent of fatal home heating fires ignite from items being placed too close to heating equipment. Make sure everything is a safe distance from heat sources, including the furnace, space heaters, fireplaces and wood stoves.
  3. Check smoke detectors frequently. Approximately 60 percent of house fire deaths happen in structures with no working smoke alarms. Test your home’s smoke alarms monthly and replace batteries each year.
  4. Have a family escape plan and practice it regularly. All household members need to know all exit strategies in case a fire breaks out, as well as where to meet once they’re safely outside. Have a semiannual drill and practice at different times of the day.
  5. Cook safely. Never leave the room when boiling, frying or baking, keep pot holders and dish towels away from the flame, and immediately turn off appliances when not in use.
  6. Be mindful of holiday decorations. If you choose to decorate with strings of lights, always check their condition first. Throw out those with exposed electrical wiring, and be sure to read over the manufacturer’s instructions.
Read More

Ideas for Increasing Your Outdoor Privacy

A yard or patio is the perfect spot for enjoying the outdoors, whether that means playtime with your kids or quiet relaxation after a long day. And while you may like your neighbors, you may not want to see and hear them every time you venture into your backyard. If more privacy interests you, consider these options below:

Fencing — Probably the most straightforward solution, fences have long been the go-to for homeowners seeking seclusion. Be sure to check city ordinances and HOA policies before installing one.

Hedges — Shrubs like boxwood and privet are commonly planted along property lines. Choose an evergreen variety for year-long privacy. Make sure it’s suited for your climate and matures to your desired height.

Screens — Stylish and effective, folding wood-panel screens add a nice visual element while blocking unwanted views. Opt for a weather-resistant screen designed for the outdoors.

Trellis — The lattice configurations on these simple wooden structures offer an element of privacy. They’re also a perfect host for climbing vines and plants if you’d like additional coverage. Just be sure to check the sunlight and care requirements for the vegetation you plant.

Pergola — A pergola helps block views from second-story windows and balconies. It can be as simple or intricate as you’d like and will offer a degree of shade along with privacy.

Drapes — Budget-friendly and chic, panels help screen off your patio and can be moved as desired. Make sure the fabric is suitable for outdoor use or spray it with a water-resistant coating.

Vertical Garden — If you’re looking to increase privacy and also want to grow your own herbs, consider a living wall. You can buy prefabricated tower planters for easy installation.

If neighborly noise is a problem, a water fountain is a relaxing, sound-muffling solution. Consider your outdoor space and choose the privacy-adding options that work for you.

Read More

Make an Annual Home Maintenance Checklist

Your vehicle requires routine maintenance to run smoothly, and the same goes for your house. Without service reminders, however, it can be easy to forget to tend to all the systems that keep your house fully functioning. Fortunately, you can create a simple annual maintenance checklist to properly care for your home and prevent potential issues from becoming major problems.

Start by making a list of each task you’ll need to complete over the coming year. Make sure your yearly home inspection includes all major systems (HVAC, electrical and plumbing), the interior and exterior of your home, water and septic tanks, doors and windows, and the attic or basement if applicable.

When that’s done, organize the list according to how often each item needs to be checked or maintained and set reminders accordingly. Your home maintenance checklist might start to look similar to this:

Monthly

  • Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Change air filters in the heating and air conditioning system.
  • Clean range hood filters to avoid possible grease fires.
  • Trim back any shrubbery or plant growth around the outdoor HVAC unit by at least 18 inches.

Quarterly

  • Check and wipe down sliding doors and window tracks.
  • Replace batteries in smoke detectors.
  • Test garage door and grease tracks as needed.

Semiannually

  • Clear gutters of spring and fall foliage.
  • Power wash windows and siding.
  • Schedule seasonal service of the HVAC system before summer and winter.

Annually

  • Inspect and insulate pipes to protect them from freezing.
  • Trim trees and shrubs away from the home’s exterior.
  • Touch up exterior paint and check for wood rot or water damage.
  • Check grouting in kitchen and bathroom and repair if necessary.

A home maintenance checklist will make it easier for you to manage the upkeep of your house. It can also help you catch minor issues before they become costly home repairs.

Read More

Make a Statement with Your Front Door

Your front door is one of the first things guests notice when visiting your home. In addition to providing security and protection, your front door can make a bold statement and reflect your personal style.

But whether or not your current front door matches your home’s interior and your taste, if you feel a draft, see any cracks or hear squeaky joints or scraping sounds, it may be time to replace it. Consider your options with some of the most common front door materials and features.

Materials

  • Wood: Though beautiful, solid wood doors are expensive and sensitive to the elements. Some modern wood doors come with steel cores to minimize warping and reduce cost.
  • Fiberglass: A durable and cost-effective option is a fiberglass composite door. Their foam cores are good insulators, and they can withstand harsh climates.
  • Steel: Strong but subject to dents, steel doors are the least expensive of the three. They have shorter life spans and aren’t well-suited for extreme climates, but depending on their core, they can be energy efficient.

Styles
There are multiple styles to choose from, including:

  • Solid panel doors
  • Arched doors
  • Dutch or split doors
  • Double doors
  • Decorative doors with glass inserts
  • Frosted glass doors with ornamental wrought iron overlaid for added security

You could even complement your front door with sidelights or a transom window while also letting in more outside light.

Colors
The color of your front door should depend mostly on the exterior style and colors of your house, your personal taste and the type of door chosen. If your house is mostly neutral in color, don’t be afraid to go bold with your front door.

Use these tips to help make your front door an inviting entrance that not only offers protection from the elements but also reflects your personal style.

Read More

Good news for FHA borrowers!

FHA is reducing their MIP payment 50 basis payments from 1.35% to 0.85%. What that means is, for every $100,000.00 owed, the MIP payment would drop $41.67/mo.

That, along with the fact that interest rates are lower than they’ve been for quite some time, you may have the ability to lower your rate as well, saving even more of your hard earned dollars.

FHA has a streamline process where no appraisal is often not necessary, and very little is needed in the way of documentation. Call/email/text me for details and to see if you qualify.

Now, some of you may qualify for a conventional loan refinance, which is almost always a better deal. If your home’s value has appreciated some, you may be able to eliminate the 1.75% added to the loan and the monthly MIP that FHA wants, regardless of your loan to value.

Again, call/email/text me, and I’ll run the numbers for you and we’ll see what we can save.

 

Read More

12 reasons why I should be your listing agent

 

I got this article from the web. It was insightful. In it, the author came up with 12 great questions to ask listing agents before you use them.

Below are my answers.

Here’s the link:  http://schneidersells.com/buying/buyers-agency/buyers-agent/

 

12 questions to ask a listing agent:

1. How long have you been selling real estate? Since 1995.

Experience is important. Trusting one of your most important financial assets to someone new to the business may not be a wise choice.

2. How many homes do you sell a year, specifically the last few years? 8-10 a year.

You will want to select an agent who has been successful in this ever changing market.

3. What is your marketing plan? Marketing plans differ. Each property is a little different. All generally include open houses, MLS, virtual tour, realtor.com, and citywide emails to every agent in the county. I also pitch property to local associations and get on their agent caravans.

An agent must be specific about how the property will be marketed. See #3.

4. What will my net proceeds be from the sale of my home? First, I make a property inspection. Next, a CMA. Then, once the likely list price and purchase price is arrived at, a detailed Seller’s Proceeds will be generated that will be very accurate.

Consider how the agent you choose will work to protect your equity, relative to incentives, commission and preparation costs. I work each and every property. Prep costs are minimal, but vary with property condition and seller participation. Estate sale? Short sale? Distressed sale? I only suggest prep costs that make sense. Targeted marketing is often the key.

5. How do you feel about open houses? Open houses are not right for all houses, many agents will not tell you this. ? Love them. I’ll do as many as it takes. 13 is my record. As long as seller will work with me, I’m all in.

6. If I hire you, do I work with you or your assistant day-to-day? Very important. You want to work with the person you are hiring. An agent should clearly define how their support staff will be used. Me. I’m always available. Phone, text, or email.

7. What is your specialty? A great listing agent can’t be all things to all people, and will be up front when she/he is not the right person for the job. Houses and condos. I don’t typically do multifamily dwellings.

8. What differentiates you from other real estate agents? This should be one of the easiest questions an agent will answer. Look for clear and concise examples of what your agent will do to sell your home and bring it to a successful close. I’m organized. I know the market. I listen to clients, give them good input, help them arrive at a good price, judicious home prep, and multi-faceted, targeted marketing plan. I follow through until it’s sold.

9. How do you navigate through this market? What follow up analysis will your agent provide to ensure this market doesn’t leave you, the seller, behind. Know the trend. Correctly assess your likely buyer and plan accordingly. Watch listing, price, and status changes of similar properties in your neighborhood.

10. How do you arrive at the appropriate price? Depends. Time of year is important. Marketing times of similar properties at their prices. Curb appeal. Condition. Location. Buyer financing options. All play a part. Price should be competitive. Marketing should be aggressive and targeted. Aim is to get multiple offers so seller has a chance to pick highest, most qualified offer and hope for a little bidding war.

The agent should be able to show you in black and white the market research and their analysis of this data. Be careful! Listing a house at an over-market price can be detrimental to a sale. There should be sound, documented reasons for the price selected. The key is to select the competing listings and recent closed sales that are truly your competition. Just as the highest bidder doesn’t always get the house, the highest list price isn’t always the best. The sweet spot is the highest value that the buyer’s appraiser can hit.

11. Do you as an agent represent buyers and sellers on the same transaction? It is impossible for one agent to provide the fullest client services to both buyer and seller at the same time. I only ever commit to one side in any transaction. Period.

12. What guarantee do you provide to me as a seller? This is a very important question; don’t be afraid to ask. To do the job. The difference between success and failure can be measured in inches. Finding the right listing price; doing the work and finding the true comps, making the right adjustments. Staging – doing all that’s possible to make the property look its best – whether there’s a budget for it or not. Market the property – open houses, MLS, agent caravans, realtor.com, agent blast emails, targeted marketing, neighborhood fliers, whatever it takes. Market vigilance – stay in touch with listings, status and price changes of competing properties. Lower the price – do the work, but if all else fails, this must be an option. Finish the job – market the property until it is sold.

Read More