Archive for the ‘Home purchase’ Category
Monday, November 28th, 2016
If you have been looking for a home recently you may realize that doing so has become tougher: there is less inventory out there and when a great home lists there are often multiple offers. So how does a buyer get ahead to secure a home when many others are in the same situation? Here are some tips.
Hire a great real estate agent. This is above all the number one way to find a home in a tough market. Not only can your agent give you advice about what price and terms may get you that house you love, but they are also locally connected, which can make all the difference in the world.
Here is an example – After losing out on a few multiple offer situations I found buyers a home through my connections with other local agents – one that had not gone on the MLS yet. In another situation, I notified buyers of a home that was about to come on the market (they lost out on purchasing my listing in the same neighborhood), and they got into contract prior to the home going on the MLS. Some say this is unfair for the other buyers out there as they never had a chance to see or bid on the home, but many real estate sales work this way. Those of us who work particular areas often stay in touch and know when there is a listing coming up. Having that on your side as you search for a home is priceless.
Be Paperwork Ready: There is no better advice than to be ready to make an offer. This means you need to be preapproved with a lender (the lender should have all your paperwork so s/he is ready to go once you write an offer, and you should have a preapproval letter). Have a copy of your latest bank or investment statement showing proof of funds for your downpayment, in order to submit with your offer. Your offer should be as strong as possible so speak with your agent to determine what needs to be in there and what may be left out in order to avoid a multiple offer situation.
Know what you want: Often this is difficult when one is focusing on multiple areas or neighborhoods, but if you really know those you prefer, including floorplans and other amenities, you will be able to act quickly to see the home and make and offer. Even if multiple offers do come in, being first to present can often be helpful. Start looking at areas and homes before you are ready to purchase – the more information you have the better and more prepared you will be when the time to buy is right.
All in all, buying a home in a low inventory market can be tough. With interest rates rising every day counts – if you can lock in a rate prior to another rate increase that is great – and it just means you need to be ready when that right home becomes available. Of all the above tips, having a great buyer’s agent is the best advice I can provide. Many people think they can find a home without an agent, but a good agent is worth her weight in gold when it comes to finding the right home.
Happy home shopping!
Monday, April 6th, 2015
For the last few years buyers have been able to search on their own for properties for sale in any area via third party websites – the biggest being Realtor.com, Zillow and Trulia, among thousands of others. Recently Zillow and Trulia merged (Zillow acquired Trulia), and that set in motion some big problems with MLS downloads to such sites (Realtor.com is NOT affected, as it is controlled by the National Association of Realtors).
How third party sites get listings from the many MLS sites has always been an issue, and there are even brokers who choose not to have their listings advertised on such sites (a shame though, because the consumer likely is not aware of this and may be missing out on some active listings…a very good reason why all buyers should have an agent representing them – but I digress).
One of the largest suppliers of information to the third party websites was not able to negotiate with Zillow and therefore will no longer be sharing syndicated MLS information with Zillow and Trulia starting April 7. There are other means by which brokers can have their listings shared on these sites, but they have to opt into them and many are either not aware or have not done so.
What does this mean to the millions of people who use these sites to search properties? It means that searchers may not see ALL the listings in the areas they are searching…which means that they may miss out on properties that they may have been interested in seeing and/or purchasing.
This mess might work itself out in time. But the best advice I have for anyone shopping or following the real estate market is to HIRE A LOCAL AGENT. He or she can set up a search for you directly through the corresponding MLS, so that you get listings sent to you directly from the MLS as soon as they list (which will be quicker than you would receive them via any third party site anyway). If you want to search the MLS listings yourself, make sure to use either your agent’s website (they usually sync directly from the MLS), or Realtor.com – that way you won’t miss out on seeing any listings.
Thursday, March 19th, 2015
There are many buyers out there who do not know how to read and understand recent comparable sold properties (there are also many agents in the same boat, so if you are a buyer do not feel bad). Of course, if you are working with a real estate agent who is familiar with the neighborhood(s) where you are focusing your home buying search, then that agent will be able to help you understand how to sort through the comps and come to a valid price so that you can write an offer.
The problem is that oftentimes agents may not be intimately familiar with a neighborhood (i.e. they do not themselves know why some homes have lower sales prices than others), so it is up to the agent to really do some research. Here are the steps to follow so that you know whether that asking price is in fact valid:
1. Print out all recent sales in the last 6 months in the area. If there are none then your agent will need to go outside the neighborhood to find similar homes – those that have amenities and other features that are comparable to the home you are thinking of purchasing. If there are still none then s/he will need to find some that may have more or less to offer, and then weigh the factors to come to a reasonable price.
2. Speak with the listing agent. Every agent should place a call or visit to the listing agent whenever there is a question about value. The listing agent is the one who listed the home at that price, so the best place to start is with that person. Your agent needs to ask what comps were used to decide on a list price (in cases where it is not obvious – if you are looking in a tract neighborhood and there are 5 homes that have all sold in the same range then it is usually clear). If the listing is in a neighborhood where homes have sold across a wide value range, then you need to understand why.
3. Call the listing agents who sold the comparable homes. You can often get even more information this way that you may never have been able to see in photos or a virtual tour. For example, I just listed a home in a neighborhood where there is a discrepancy amongst recent comparable prices. I happen to know the neighborhood well (I live there), but a potential buyer’s agent called to ask me about the comps (I had sold a few of them) and I happen to know a lot about them and why they sold at the prices they did. I drafted an analysis on all the sold properties, and this was a big help to the agent and his clients. When I am representing a buyer in that same situation I ask for the same thing – at least a verbal analysis if someone is not willing to draft one (I of course take notes and then draft it up for my clients).
4. Understand that “price per square foot” is not the sole focus. If you look only at price per square foot and there are comps all over the place, you may be under-or over-valuating the home you are considering. There are many factors that need to be taken into consideration – location, upgrades, condition (even upgraded homes can be poorly maintained, and vice versa), amenities, views, lot size, and negative factors (noise, high traffic areas, hazard zones, etc.) Even two identical homes in the same community can have vastly different prices depending on the factors mentioned. You really need to get more information to understand the discrepancies before progressing. Always remember that every home has it’s own resume and story to tell, so just because another model match sold for a particular price does not mean that the same price applies to the home you are considering.
5. Make a chart or comparison table to understand the comparable properties. You can include features that are positive and negative, and you can then compare them to the subject property (the one you are thinking about purchasing). Seeing it on paper can really help many buyers to understand differences and feel better about making an offer that will appraise (if you are getting a loan), and that makes sense in light of the other homes that have sold nearby.
In the end it is common knowledge that those who have more information are better informed to make big decisions. Since buying a home is one of those big decisions it is imperative to do your homework. Find a smart, experienced agent in the area(s) you like and use them to help you get to the point where you feel comfortable with the values in an area by heeding the above advice. That is their job. Happy house hunting!
Saturday, March 7th, 2015
All the predictions about the Spring real estate market indicate that it is going to be a busy one. Focusing on my own North San Diego market, I agree and I am getting excited about several upcoming listings of my own. There is a buzz in the air amongst my local colleagues, and many have indicated they have listings coming up as well. With interest rates still low and inventory about to get a boost, it is a good time for buyers to make a plan for finding and purchasing the right home.
Here is how a buyer can be ready to jump once s/he finds the right house this Spring:
1. Get preapproved. Make sure that you have preapproval from a lender so that you know your budget and can be ready to make an offer when you find the right home. This will save you a lot of time and could prevent you from losing a home you really like to another buyer who was ready to go.
2. Find a real estate agent in the area(s) you like. Having a skilled local agent on your side is the best assurance that you will be able to view new listings quickly. Another advantage is that many agents hear of “pocket” or upcoming listings before they hit the MLS, providing you with an opportunity many buyers may not have.
3. Be ready to schedule a showing on listings that meet your criteria when they list. Get into those new listings as soon as you can. If you like the home you can strategize with your agent on how to make the most appealing offer to the seller; in doing so you may be able to avoid multiple offer situations.
4. Understand the market(s) you are searching. Study recent closed sale prices and understand values in different neighborhoods. This will help you in your search. Your agent can assist you in preparing market analyses for you, and you can look at the photos of the homes to see what features may have (or have not) contributed to the sales price. You will feel much more comfortable when you make an offer if you are armed with all the right information.
Happy house hunting!
Tuesday, November 11th, 2014
The final walkthrough is a necessity for buyers purchasing a home, but many buyers do not understand the purpose of the walkthrough and there are many important aspects to getting it completed correctly in order to protect their legal rights.
First of all, it is important to understand that the final walkthrough is NOT a contingency to the sale, so in other words if a buyer discovers something at the walkthrough and all contingencies have been released the buyer does not have the right to cancel the contract at that point – doing so may put the buyer in breach of contract.
The purpose of the final walkthrough is threefold:
1. Make sure the home is in the same condition as when the offer was made
2. Check to see that any negotiated repairs were completed as agreed
3. Make sure seller has completed any other obligations under the contract
Of course, it is possible that things will be discovered during the walkthrough that give the buyer certain rights against the seller. If this occurs, there are 2 things the buyer needs to do in order to preserve her legal rights against the seller after closing.
How to preserve your legal rights after close of escrow when issues are discovered at the walkthrough:
1. Indicate on the walkthrough form (which in California is called the Verification of Property Condition, or VP for short) specifically what the issue is (e.g. seller did not make __ repairs as specified in the contract).
2. Have an attorney write a “right to reserve” letter to the seller and his agent, specifically identifying the issue(s) that were neglected. An agent can do this as well, but since most agents are not attorneys the agent needs to make sure he or she does so correctly. The California Association of Realtors has a library with examples of these letters. Make sure the agent runs it by her broker for approval before submitting it.
If the buyer has completed the above steps then s/he will be able to pursue legal action against the seller after closing. Of course, the first things that should be done is for the agent to discuss any issues with the listing agent – many times the seller will simply take care of them. Make sure to still complete step 1 above just in case.
Buyers have many legal rights when purchasing property, especially in the state of California (a pro-buyer state). It is important for all buyers to understand each and every part of a real estate transaction, and how it will affect his or her rights. Staying legally protected is not hard if you start off with a smart and savvy real estate agent who can help steer you through the process from beginning to closing.
Monday, August 25th, 2014
When buying a home most buyers have a contingency period, a standard 17 days under the California Residential Purchase Contract (RPA), but negotiable by contract for longer or shorter periods. This time is meant for the buyer to conduct investigations and inspections in order to discover information about the home that may affect ownership or present hazards. Buyers can then ask for credit or repairs, or choose whether to remain bound by the terms of the purchase contract if things are discovered that may alter the value of the home. (Check your area contracts and consult with your real estate agent to understand your rights)
Let’s look at some of the types of inspections and investigations that are important during this time:
1. Home inspection. Most buyers have home inspections during the contingency period, and I always recommend them. If buyers hire a skilled inspector, he or she will be able to point out potential problems, issues or hazards that may not be obvious. I have sold homes before that looked to be in fantastic shape, only to learn of issues that needed to be addressed via home inspectors. Inspectors will not only point out possible issues or hazards, but will also recommend the buyers contact specific experts whose expertise goes beyond that of an inspector (for example, if the inspector detects high moisture readings in a room he may recommend a mold specialist).
2. Civil engineer inspection. A civil engineer is a necessary person to call out for certain types of homes, such as those built on cliffs, or where a cracked slab has been noted. If your inspector advises a call to an engineer, or if there is information in the seller disclosures that warrant doing so, I highly recommend taking the advice.
3. Roof inspection. Some home inspectors do not check the roof. Depending on the age of the roof, and any signs of leakage or information indicating such in the disclosures, a roof inspection may be a smart move.
4. Contractor inspections/estimates. If your home inspection reveals there may be repair issues needed to the structure, or if there is information in the seller disclosures that warrant, you may want to have a licensed contractor come out for an evaluation and estimate; if you are planning on any future additions or structural changes this is also a good idea, so that you are aware of any possible restrictions or code requirements (also see #6 below).
5. Other specialist inspections/estimates – plumbers, electricians, HVAC specialists, etc. A good home inspector will alert you if s/he thinks there is something that needs further evaluation. I highly recommend taking the advice and calling a specialist. If you are planning on asking the seller for help with repairs or replacement, you will know the cost of doing so, so that you can make sure you ask for the correct amount of credit or repairs.
6. Investigate permit issues. This is an issue of which many buyers and agents are unaware. If the home you are purchasing has had any alterations or additions in the past, you need to see if permits were pulled. Usually you can do this easily with a visit to the County or City offices, or wherever building codes are enforced and records are maintained.
If you know of any past alterations or additions that should have been permitted, but cannot find permits filed, you need to understand your liability down the road – and this can vary depending on local rules and regulations. For example, if there was an addition that wasn’t permitted and down the road you decide to apply for a permit to do some other additions or work, the inspector can site you for the previous additions when s/he comes out to inspect your current project. This means that you could be liable for getting any past unpermitted work up to code. This could cost you a lot of money, so make sure you know what you are up against before you buy.
The importance of the contingency or investigatory period is great. Buyers should exercise discretion and listen to suggestions made by their home inspector and real estate agent on which experts may be needed, as well as pay close attention to what is revealed in seller disclosures. Paying a bit extra for peace of mind that you are buying a sound home (or knowing what issues may be present if you are purchasing a fixer-upper) is well worth it.
Monday, May 12th, 2014
A new study was just released that named San Diego, Carlsbad and San Marcos the #1 toughest housing markets in which renters can purchase homes. For every 100 homes available for purchase, there are slightly over 5 renters who can qualify to buy the home (according to research firm SNL Real Estate).
The recent market increase has made it more difficult for people hoping to purchase homes, pricing many out of the market. Prices in San Diego county rose 19.4% year over year as of January 2014, resulting in a rise in the median home price, to just under $477,000. Today’s buyer needs to earn over $81,000 to purchase a median-priced home.
While many economists and real estate experts believe the price increase is cooling off, there are other factors in play that could continue to make it difficult to afford a home here in San Diego county:
Low inventory still plagues many parts of the county, so that many buyers are competing for the same properties…which of course could have the effect of actually increasing prices but we will have to see.
The ability to obtain financing is still very challenging for many would-be buyers. Lenders are not making it any easier to obtain loans. Plus, with new reports showing that 1/3 of home sales are paid for in cash (click here for more on this statistic), this also presents a challenge for a buyer who needs to obtain a loan – most sellers will obviously opt for a cash buyer over one who has to qualify for a loan.
If you are a renter looking to purchase, there are a few things you should do to get ready, so that once you find the right home you are able to make a solid offer:
– Get preapproved. It is very important to speak with a mortgage professional so that you know exactly how much mortgage you can afford. I highly recommend a formal preapproval, where the mortgage professional analyzes your earnings, debt and other factors to come to an accurate assessment of your ability to purchase.
– Find a great real estate agent. You need to find someone who has experience, patience, and really is an expert in the areas in which you wish to hunt for properties. Your agent needs to be on your team, whether you like to search for properties on your own or have her/him do so for you. He or she can help educate you on different areas/neighborhoods, etc., so take advantage of their expertise. It costs you nothing, but will be a big benefit to you if you have someone who can answer questions provide further information, and walk you through all the paperwork and legalities.
– Stop spending on any big ticket items. If you are in the market to purchase a home, it is imperative that you stop spending money on any big items, like furniture, cars or trips. Lenders scrutinize all spending during the loan approval period, so just to be safe it is smart to stop spending from the start.
The bottom line is to not be discouraged if you are a renter looking to purchase a home. In fact, in March of this year 30% of homes were purchased by first time buyers, so it can happen! Just make sure to get all your ducks in order so that you are in the best position to make an offer when you do find that perfect home.
Friday, March 21st, 2014
You may have read lately that here in Southern California home prices continue to rise. You may also have noticed that there do not seem to be many homes listed for sale. Combine that with the fact that there are definitely buyers out there looking for homes to purchase, interest rates are still historically low, and it’s no wonder some people are concerned.
Spring officially started yesterday, and with it comes the expected home selling season, which usually lasts into mid-summer. This is the time that those who are planning to move start seriously looking at homes, and those planning to sell get ready to do so. There have been new listings in my area, but it feels like a lot less than normal for this time of year. Where are the sellers and why are they not stepping forward to list their homes?
The main reason is that there is low inventory of homes on the market in many areas. Most sellers sell and simultaneously buy another property. If there are no homes on the market for them to consider they will likely hold off on listing their property until that changes, creating a Catch-22 situation. This keeps the cycle going and in turn causes housing prices to rise, as buyers have to compete for the little inventory that is on the market.
Another reason for lower inventory could include lack of sufficient equity in the home to purchase a replacement property (although many homeowners have come out of negative equity situations in the last year or so due to price increases).
Hopefully the sellers WILL soon step up and put their homes on the market. When this happens we will see a few things:
– Lots of interest from buyers
– The possibility of multiple offers
– A likelihood of higher prices as a result of the above
Hopefully more sellers who are not buying replacement properties (such as 2nd homeowners, investors, or those moving out of the area) will step forward soon to give the market some momentum. It is a great time to be a seller right now.
Sunday, March 2nd, 2014
Thursday, October 10th, 2013
Buying a home is one of the most challenging and emotional processes – with such a big purchase of course buyers want to make sure they are making the right decision, but oftentimes that is difficult to do. Let’s look at some of the things to consider when looking for the “right” home (in no particular order).
Location. Of course this is a big ticket item when buying a home. Location takes into consideration many things – proximity to work, school or loved ones, or to highways and public transportation, airports/train stations. It might be that someone wants to live by the beach, or far from it. People may wish to be away from power lines or noise, or may want to live where all the action is. No matter what the location issues might be, a buyer needs to identify them and then focus on the properties that are in the right locations. Many buyers end up changing their minds and expanding searches to other locations, so the searches can mold into different shapes as the search progresses (and a skilled agent can help you with this as well).
Amenities. Whether you want to be close to transportation or have personal or community amenities like a pool, spa or tennis courts, this is an important part of your decision. Focusing on properties that will meet your specifications will help you find the right property.
Schools. For families with children or planning to have them, schools are very important. Many buyers have definite ideas as to which districts they want to live in, and that will help narrow the search. If you are a family (or plan to have one) moving into an area from out of town, it is important to research local schools and districts – visit them, speak with staff and families whose children go to the schools, research the test scores and other relevant information so that you can feel good about the schools in the neighborhood(s) in which you are looking.
Affordability. Of course price will always be a factor in home shopping. It is important to get pre-approved with a lender and to know how much mortgage you can afford before home shopping. This may also have an effect on the areas you search.
Gut Reaction. I don’t know about you, but I am a big believer that my gut instinct is always right. The few times I have decided to go against my gut I have always realized down the road – whether sooner or sometimes later – that I should have trusted my gut. As a Realtor I can often tell when a buyer finds the “right” home, and usually I can see it very quickly, even if they are not yet sure. You won’t always know right away what home is “the one,” and sometimes they actually grow on you, but if you do have instincts listen to them.
Get Help From Your Agent. Another key factor to finding the right home is to make sure you are working with a local agent who not only knows the area and different neighborhoods, but can really understand what you are looking for. S/he can guide you in your search, and even point out some things you may not have considered that could broaden or narrow your search.
Note that there may be challenges even if you find the right home, such as financing issues or appraisal problems. All you can do is be prepared to deal with these should they arise; for example, if your “right” home does not appraise, you can try several things – click here to read about dealing with appraisal challenges. Just stay informed and work with your agent to try and anticipate challenges, and hopefully by doing so you will be able to overcome them.
There is a “right” home for every buyer, sometimes even many that can feel right. The best way to know if you have found “the one” is to do your homework before you start looking at homes – research neighborhoods, amenities, different areas and the proximity of desired places. Study comparables and floorplans, drive around neighborhoods before going inside any homes, chat with people who live there. Once you have identified those areas that have the right characteristics you will feel great about looking at homes in those neighborhoods. Trust your instincts, get help from your agent, and you will find a wonderful home.