Should You Buy a Home with a HOA? HOA Pros and Cons

November 12th, 2015

Home owner associations (also called HOAs) can become a big part of the buying decision for home buyers – some love them, some despise them. If you live in an area where there are many neighborhoods that have HOAs, or if you are thinking of moving to one, you may wonder whether they are positive or negative.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of HOAs, so that you can decide for yourself. Pros Cons

HOA Pros

– Expenses keep the neighborhood and any common areas (streets, landscape, lighting) looking their best, which keeps property values higher. Without a governing body things could get sticky if neighbor participation is needed to fix problems.

– They protect you from having to live with unattractive decisions made by your neighbors (putting a car engine back together in the driveway, painting a garage or front door an unsightly color, dead landscape, neglected painting, siding, trim, etc.). Noise abatement, fire setback landscape maintenance rules, and other rules help keep you sane and protected

– Pet restrictions may save your hearing if your neighbors have dogs that bark a lot or use your yard as a toilet

– HOAs mediate disputes amongst neighbors. If your neighbor’s dog barking wakes you up, or if they over-water landscape and it runs into your yard – or many other types of problems that may arise – the HOA is there to reach out to the neighbor and try to resolve the issue for you. This can save your sanity and prevent strained relations with your neighbors.

HOA Cons

– They can be expensive

– They dictate what you can and cannot do on your property (e.g landscape plans, paint choices, structural changes)

– There may be pet policies that restrict types or numbers of pets one is allowed to have on the property

– HOAs can place a lien on your property, or even force a foreclosure in some cases, if you do not pay your dues on time, which can create problems if you decide to sell your home. It can also affect your credit.

– Dues can be increased at any time, especially if there is a big ticket item that needs to be repaired (e.g. if there is a community pool and it needs to be resurfaced, or a clubhouse that needs a new roof).


The bottom line is that HOAs have both good and bad points. You have to give up some freedom to live in an HOA community, but you also can rest assured that neighbors won’t do crazy things to their properties (or at least won’t be able to get away with it) that can affect the value of your home. Also, not all HOAs are equal – some may be very good at management while others may not.

Before you consider buying a home in an HOA community you should do the following:

  1. Ask the neighbors how they feel about the HOA, and call them with any questions you may have.
  2. Make sure to read through all the HOA material you will receive from escrow, so you understand the rules and regulations you will be subject to as a homeowner – this caused one escrow to be cancelled in my years working as a real estate agent.
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Real Estate Agents: Sellers Don’t Like Vultures

November 6th, 2015

There are some agents who may disagree with what I am about to say, but calling sellers whose listings have cancelled or expired can be annoying and disrespectful. If that is a method you use to find your next listing, and if it works for you, I am certain you won’t want to change your habits, but consider what some sellers think about the practice. th

This week I took a cosmetic fixer listing off the market, as the seller was faced with several challenges and we decided this was her best course of action. I warned her that she would get a lot of phone calls and mail from other listing agents, asking her to list with them instead.

This morning my client received 10-12 phone calls by 9 AM, and one of the agents had even called her before 8 AM – this is extremely rude. She was so offended that she threatened to sue him for harassment should he call again. She disconnected her phone until next week to avoid any further calls.

Personally I have never used this method to find clients – I feel it is invasive and, as my client said, such agents are “hovering vultures.” I compare it to cold calling; many years ago when I was a graduate student I had a job cold calling people on behalf of bond salespeople. Most people were annoyed, as I often am when I get uninvited sales calls. Needless to say I quit that job.

Earlier this year other seller clients of mine had to take their home off market for personal reasons, and had decided to keep their home rather than move. They had SO many calls when we took their home off the market that they were overwhelmed – they said many of the agents were rude and pushy. They too stopped answering their phone for several days.

I am sure there are some agents who are so good at being “salesy” that they actually obtain listing appointments as a result of such calls, but I still personally disagree with the concept and feel it is not classy.

I believe most people nowadays place a high value on privacy, since technology has made it difficult to maintain. If a seller does not have a number listed chances are he or she does not want to be contacted. If you are an agent who chooses to solicit sellers with expired or cancelled listings, my advice is to use the mail – that puts the choice in the sellers hands whether to contact you, and saves a lot of aggravation.

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California Real Estate is Heating Up

November 4th, 2015


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Existing Home Sales Increase Across U.S.

October 26th, 2015

The latest data on home sales shows that there was a nationwide increase over the last year in the number of homes sold, with a 4.7% increase nationwide. California had a 6.7% gain. The western and northeastern states had the highest number of sales increases. Prices nationwide also rose 6.1%.


region sales

Existing home sales strongly rebounded in September after a decline in August, and have now risen year over year for 12 consecutive months, according to the National Association of Realtors. As we head into the holiday season it remains to be seen whether these numbers will continue to grow in what is usually a bit of a slower housing sale season.



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Carlsbad Open House Extravaganza – 7 Homes Open this Sunday

October 22nd, 2015

Please join us this Sunday, 10/25 in the gated hilltop neighborhood of Mar Brisa in South Carlsbad, where you can tour 7 open homes. MB frontYou will view a variety of floorplans and lots, all waiting for new owners! Mar Brisa is a wonderful neighborhood with lots of amenities, including a resort-like pool area, 2 spas, parks, play areas, an RV lot…beach close with low HOA fees, NO mello roos, and located within the award-winning Carlsbad School District! Open Sunday 10/25 1-4 PM

Open Homes:

1409 Turquoise Drive – listed by Rachel LaMar, LaMar Real Estate (760)310-9466 $755,000 (BRE Lic #01399682)

1605 Turquoise Drive – listed by Jennifer Graber, Coldwell Banker (760)533-8717 $769,000 (BRE Lic # 01509374)

1604 Sapphire Drive – listed by Dennis DeSouza, RE/Max Associates (858)455-7653 $779,000 (BRE Lic# 01220680)

1585 Turquoise Drive – listed by Larry Baker, Coldwell Banker (760)635-4273 $789,000 (BRE Lic# 898774)

1415 Coral Way – listed by Rachel LaMar, LaMar Real Estate (760)310-9466 $789,000 (BRE Lic# 01399682)

1514 Turquoise Drive – listed by Tracy Sharrar, Windermere Homes and Estates (760)274-5228 $809,900 (BRE Lic# 01335495)

1505 Turquoise Drive – listed by Tiffany Weis, Humphreys Homes and Estates (760)505-1389 $859,000 (BRE Lic# 01471832)

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12 Important Home Winterization Tips

October 16th, 2015

It may not feel like it here in southern California, but winter is on the way, and that means that if you are a homeowner then in order to keep yourself and your family safe, and prevent potential high utility and/or repair bills, you need to check a few things before colder weather sets in.  th

1. Furnace evaluation – it is important to have your furnace checked to make sure there are no cracks or other problems, especially if it is more than 15 years old. Most utility companies will schedule a free visit to evaluate your system. If any problems are found you can contact a licensed HVAC company to make necessary repairs.

2. Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors – since you may be using your heater this winter is it imperative that your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are working. Batteries should be changed twice a year to stay safe, so now is a great time to do so.

3. Rain gutters – this is the time to have rain gutters cleaned out and evaluated for proper functioning.

4. Drains – Drainage should also be checked to make sure they are working properly and there are no clogs. You can do a simple test with your garden hose, by running water into the drain and making sure it goes where it needs to go (most drains in my area drain to the street in front of the homes, so it is easy to check).

5. Seal your windows, doors, and vents – check all your windows for drafts and seal any discovered cracks or openings where air can get in (in most cases caulk will work, but there are other products that expand – ask your local home improvement store for the best ideas in your area). The same thing goes for appliances that vent to the outside, like from your clothes dryer or microwave oven. Any air that can get into your home makes it more expensive to keep the temperature comfortable, so proper insulation and air sealing is a must.

6. Close the air gaps in water and waste pipes – Some reports I read stated that all homes have air gaps in piping systems, and that it wastes money every year. There are products you can purchase that will form air-tight water resistant seals to keep out the air.

7. Watch for spiders inside – if you see many spiders in your home that could be an indication that there are gaps in your house – find the source(s) and seal it(them).

8. Winterize your pantry – make sure your pantry is stocked with non-perishable food items and lots of bottled water, in case you are trapped at home due to bad weather. Now is the time to stock up on items like soups, canned vegetables and other ready-to-eat items that can get you through a spell of bad weather or lack of electricity. You also want to make sure you have first aid kits, emergency candles and flashlights, and that you know how to turn off your water main and electric panel.

9. Wash, dry and cover your patio furniture – this will preserve the life of your items.

10. Inspect your fireplace and chimney – make sure your fireplace is in good working order and the flue is functioning and clean, same for the chimney. Calling out a professional is a good idea.

11. Switch fans to reverse (clockwise) position – as soon as the temperatures start to dip, make sure to switch your house fans to the clockwise mode – this insures heat will be circulated evenly and blown down.

12. Check your roof for leaks and broken tiles – replace or repair if necessary.

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Just Listed – Ocean Views! 7323 Linden Terrace, Carlsbad

October 9th, 2015

Enjoy spectacular panoramic ocean views and sunsets from this beautiful, bright Cape Cod style home in Carlsbad’s desirable Sea Cliff community.  01_image_01_mlsStunning remodeled and expanded chef’s kitchen with tons of cabinets and large center island, spacious ocean view patio, new paint inside and out, newer doors and windows, clean and move-in ready! Enjoy resort living in this serene gated community with pools, spas, ponds, tennis courts, clubhouse and walking paths, and only 1 mile from the beach.

Features include:

• 1876 square feet – largest home in the neighborhood

• 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths

08_image_08_mls•Ocean/sunset views from kitchen, living room and master suite

• Large outdoor patio with ocean views and raised planter beds

• Enormous remodeled kitchen with lots of cabinetry, center island, and views

• Huge living room with fireplace

• Built-in entertainment system in family room

• New paint inside and out

• 2 car garage with built-in storage and new garage door

• Solatubes upstairs and in garage

• Upgraded custom tile in entryway and kitchen

• New doors and windows throughout 04_image_04_mls

• Plantation shutters in master and third bedroom

• New bath/shower in master bathroom

For more information or to schedule a showing, please contact broker Rachel LaMar at 760-310-9466. Click here to view property website.  MLS # 150054904.  CA BRE lic #01399682

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Home Sellers: You Get What You Pay For

October 1st, 2015

Have you ever thought about your experience buying clothing, and compared shopping at say Nordstrom, to shopping at a discount clothing store? Did you notice the service difference – sure, the Nordstrom employee works on commission, but that is actually a benefit to you if you need help finding the right outfits. He or she will go out on a limb to pick the perfect shirt, slacks, tie or accessories to make you look your best. For sale

Selling a home is the same. I always tell potential sellers when I meet them to discuss listing their homes that ANYONE can list a home – it is not rocket science. The part time mom/real estate agent who only works weekends, the new “green” 18 year old agent with his first client, or the experienced agent – they all can do it. But you have to make sure to ask the right questions and get the right information to assure that you truly get the best representation.

You may have noticed agents in your area who might boast that they will list your home for less than the competition – some for say a 1% fee, and others for flat fees. While this may sound great to you as a seller, make sure you interview a seasoned listing agent and compare what you will get from each – you may be surprised.

Here are the things you need to ascertain as a potential seller to make sure that your home will be marketed properly and survive the escrow process in order to close:

1. Responsiveness – Many discount brokers will take your fee and put your home on the MLS, but that is where the buck stops. If you have questions or concerns you may find it hard to ever reach them, let alone have issues responded to. Even “big” agents who list many properties have this issue – there are several of them in my area and I have helped clients sell homes who had worked with them before and were unsatisfied with their lack of responsiveness. This is important to you as a seller, because you need an agent who is your partner and can communicate both effectively and continuously throughout the entire process from listing to closing.

RE_cancel2. Marketing – Does the agent’s marketing budget mirror the commission you are paying? In other words, if the agent is taking a lower fee, is this going to cause your marketing to be less than superb? I can tell you that I get a LOT of real estate information in my mailbox, and about 90% of it is junk – poor quality, bad images/non-professional photography, grammatically incorrect/spelling errors. The way your home looks to potential buyers is what will drive them to want to see it – it is a feeling and a lifestyle that you are selling, not just a house with walls.

3. Communication with other agents and parties: Your listing agent needs to be able to effectively communicate with other agents, loan officers, lenders, escrow and title representatives throughout the sales and escrow process. This includes following up with showings and alerting agents of potential buyers of any changes or new developments with the property. Problems always come up that need to be addressed in order to stick to the time frames identified in the contract – make sure your agent knows how to do so and is willing to stay in touch on a daily basis.

4. Negotiations – This is a big one. Your agent must be a strong negotiator. Unfortunately many real estate agents are not strong in this regard, and many contracts do not come to terms or fall apart after agreement. Negotiation skills are needed not just at the start when a contract is received, but throughout the entire escrow period. Getting an offer is just one part – keeping those buyers excited about their new home until closing is another issue.

5. Paperwork – if you work with a discount agent/brokerage, make sure that your agent explains how the paperwork will be handled. Real estate transactions contain a LOT of paperwork, and they are all LEGAL documents! There are many consequences to filling out paperwork incorrectly, including law suits years after your home sells. You need to make sure your agent knows how to properly handle the paperwork and how to coach you in filling it out correctly so as to avoid legal ramifications.

The bottom line is that you usually get what you pay for – like comparing Nordstrom quality and service vs. Walmart quality and lack of service. Unlike buying a shirt however, selling a home comes with many legalities. Make sure you are protected and find an agent that will work hard for you to keep you informed, compliant and safe.

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New Carlsbad Listing – Great Yard and Neighborhood Location!

September 24th, 2015

Welcome to 1409 Turquoise Drive in Carlsbad! This home is offered for sale for $755,000.

This desirable floorplan in the gated hilltop community of Mar Brisa 02_aerial mage_02_mlsis filled with natural light and offers a spacious kitchen, 3 bedrooms plus an additional den/office/playroom, formal dining room and 3 car garage. Large master suite (with ocean peek a boo views), nicely sized private yard, and located close to community pool/spa. Bring your updating ideas – great lot!

Features include:

  • 3 bedrooms plus den/office, 2.5 baths, 2275 square feet
  • Large kitchen with center island and lots of cabinet space
  • 06_aerial mage_06_mlsWell appointed master bedroom with ocean peeks
  • Breakfast nook and formal dining room
  • Nice size rectangular yard with mature landscaping and large patio
  • 3 car garage
  • Close to community pool/spa/park area
  • Gated community
  • Low HOA fees, no mello roos
  • Carlsbad Unified School District


14_aerial mage_14_mls 26_aerial mage_26_mls image035

For more information and photos click here. To schedule a showing contact Broker Rachel LaMar at 760-310-9466. CA BRE license # 01399682.

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Top Negotiation Skills for Business People

September 15th, 2015

Negotiations are a part of many businesses, including real estate, and there is definitively an art/skill set used in negotiating on behalf of another person. No matter what type of situation or opponent you face, there are a few tips to help you be the best negotiator possible: th

1. Leave your ego at the door. This is perhaps the one thing many people don’t remember when entering into negotiations. Titles and experience can be good to share with your opponent, but you have to know when to use them. Waiving them around to prove a point just makes the other person annoyed by you, which in turn may lose you points and leave with less than you wanted to accomplish.

For example, if you are negotiating repair requests in a real estate contract with the other agent, arguing that you have never seen such a situation in your “15 years of experience selling 200 homes” will just irritate – you are not going to score any points there. Instead, you can point to a situation that may have been similar in another sale and discuss how it worked for both the buyer and seller. This is a much better way to show not only your experience and a similar example, but also to provide resolution and be helpful at the same time, in a positive manner – a much better way toward a resolution.

2. Listen. Many of us go into negotiations with intentions of being good listeners, but as soon as someone mentions an opposing view we tend to get defensive. In law school we learned there is a time to listen and a time to argue your own points. Listening means really paying attention to what the other person is saying – they too are representing another person and are entrusted with the same job as you, to do their best for their client. Most importantly, do not interrupt the person; instead, take notes so you can address any points that need attention when it is your time to speak. Remember that listening is actually helpful to you in presenting opposing perspectives.

3. Validate. Everyone needs validation, and whether you agree with the points presented or not, it is important to validate FIRST, before jumping into counter points: “I understand that your client is concerned about X because it will cause financial duress. Here is how my client views X.” Then offer a solution.

4. Don’t be reactive. This goes hand in had with listening – if you react or explode once a counter point is made, you are digging your negotiating grave. Practice taking deep, slow breaths and controlling your defensive mechanism. There is always more than one side to every situation, so keep that in mind; if you ever want to come to resolution you need to keep your cool and play fair.

There are many other great skills to use in negotiations, but these 4 are very basic and important. A great way to practice them is to have a friend, spouse or family member play the opposing side. They can even make it difficult for you by sticking stubbornly to their side – see how you can make your points without using your ego, by listening, validating and not reacting.


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