7 Questions to Ask a Home Inspector Before Your Home Inspection Even Begins
Given a Home Inspector is charged with checking out a home for any flaws before you buy it, s/he’s an important safeguard who could protect you from purchasing a lemon—and squandering tons of cash in repairs.
So, how do you find a reputable home inspector?
It boils down to interviewing home inspectors to gauge how thorough a job they’ll do. To help, here are some of the best questions to ask.
Bonus: This will also help you know what to expect! Knowledge is power, my friends.
1. “What do you check?”
A lot of people don’t know exactly what a home inspector is going to do… it’s a lot! A home inspector scrutinizes a long list of more than 1,600 features on a home. They inspect everything from the roof to the foundation.
Going into the inspection with a clear understanding of what the inspector can and can’t do will ensure that you walk away from the inspection happy.
2. “What don’t you check?”
There are limits. For instance, inspectors are restricted to a visual inspection – they cannot cut holes in walls for that look behind the curtain.
As a result, an inspector will often flag potential problems in the report and you will have to get another expert – a roofer, HVAC person, builder, electrician, or plumber – to come back and do a more detailed examination.
3. “What do you charge for an inspection?”
Home inspections usually cost between $300 and $600, though it will depend on the market, the size of house, and the actual inspector. Generally, you’ll pay the inspector the day of the inspection, so you’ll want to know in advance how much and what forms of payment are accepted.
Beware of inspectors who quote you a very low price. That’s often a sign they’re having trouble getting customers.
Spending on a good inspector will more than pay for itself in the long run.
4. “How long have you been doing this?”
Or perhaps more important: How many inspections have you done? A newer inspector doesn’t necessarily mean lower quality, but experience can mean a lot—especially if you’re considering an older home or something with unusual features.
5. “Can I come along during the inspection?”
The answer to this should be a resounding yes! Any good inspector will want prospective owners to be present at the inspection.
Seeing somebody explain your house’s systems and how they work will always be more valuable than reading a report, and it gives you the opportunity to ask questions and get clarifications in the moment.
If an inspector requests that you not join him, definitely walk away. Run!
6. “How long will the inspection take?”
Inspections often take place during the work week, when the seller is less likely to be around. Knowing how much time you’ll need to block out will keep you from having to rush through the inspection to get back to the office. You’ll get only a ballpark figure, because much will depend on the condition of the house. But if you are quoted something that seems way off – such as a half-day for a two-bedroom apartment, or just an hour for a large, historic house – that could be a red flag that the inspector doesn’t know what he’s doing.
7. “Can I see a sample report?”
If you’re buying your first home, it can be helpful to see someone else’s report before you see your own. Every house has problems, usually lots of them, though most generally aren’t that big of a deal. A sample report will keep you from panicking when you see your own report, and it will give you a sense of how your inspector communicates. It’s another opportunity to ensure that you and your inspector are on the same page.
Always remember that your Patrick Parker Realty Real Estate Expert has a network of trusted home professionals and experts we’ve been working with for years. Don’t be afraid to ask us for referrals.
Do you have Home Inspector nightmare stories to tell as tales of caution? How about Home Inspection successes? Share your comments the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page, Twitter or LinkedIn, or on our Instagram feed. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICEtm email newsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.
8 Things Interior Designers Notice the Instant They Walk Through Your Door
If an interior designer were to walk through your front door, like, right now, what would this professional think of the place you call home?
We’ll tell you right now: plenty. And that’s even before you’ve given the pro the grand tour. Interior designers, with their sharply honed sensibilities, can take in a space in seconds. In fact, these pros can’t help but make a ton of snap judgments—and typically these first impressions aren’t all that good.
In case you’re curious about what jumps out at interior designers when they first enter a home, here’s an unsettling glimpse. But don’t beat yourself up if you recognize your home in some of these scenarios; these flaws are common and entirely fixable. Read on for an inspiring home decor wake-up call.
1. A Wonky Flow
Does the furniture placement in your home promote good flow of traffic? Most living and family rooms have a focal wall that’s anchored by a fireplace or television, which means the chairs and couch should be arranged to face this point without causing you to walk awkwardly around them.
This can be a challenge with an open floor plan, with pieces defeating the whole ‘open’ idea.
The solution: Less is more. Remove extraneous chairs and side tables to create a natural path in and out of the space.
2. Poor Lighting
The wrong lighting can ruin even the best interior design.
If the overall look of your home is dark and drab it’s usually because there’s not enough of the right kinds of light.
Of course, we can’t all be blessed with a flood of natural light, but you can install what you need rather easily. Sit in each chair or section of the room, and determine whether you can read easily. If not, add in the missing table or floor lamps; don’t rely on one big overhead light. And opt for bulbs that boast a more natural feel.
3. Insane Clutter
Interior designers dream of a streamlined, junk-free look, which means their eyes will immediately come to rest on the hot mess that is your bookshelf.
Good rule of thumb… just because you have it doesn’t mean it needs to be on display. Pick and choose a few sentimental or interesting pieces to show off and put the rest away.
4. A Lack of Theme
Style continuity is a big one for design pros. If your pieces don’t work well together or there’s no unifying color or theme to the rooms, the whole look can feel off.
This seems to come from a lack of understanding of the style elements and characteristics of the pieces in the room. Too many colors, in particular, can create a sense of disorder. Make it better by choosing a neutral palette and then introducing just a couple of coordinating hues.
5. That (Ahem) Smell
Interior designers make snap judgments not just on what they see, but also on what they smell. As a homeowner, you’ve become inured to your own odors, but an outsider can nail a scent right away.
Pets are the most obvious offenders, followed by cooking smells and odious candles. Fortunately, the remedy is an easy one; open the windows as often as you can to air out stale spaces (especially in bedrooms and the kitchen).
6. The State of Your Loo
The hard truth: Your bathroom must be pristine!
Interior professionals (and potential buyers) will look with a critical eye at every bathroom in your home, and a dirty one will convince them that the entire home isn’t clean, even if it is. Towels must be fresh, grout should be clean, and definitely clear your counters of personal items (makeup, hair dryer, toothbrush).
7. No Sense of Scale
We’re talking tiny lamps on huge tables, or king-size beds squeezed into too-small rooms.
Layout and scale is more noticeable than you think. Sometimes it’s a result of buying a whole package at the furniture store instead of choosing complementary items in the correct sizes for your home.
To fix this, try to mix and match your styles and the stores where you shop. You’ll end up with a more interesting, inviting space.
8. A Lack of Personal Style
Let it shine! A lack of personality in a home means your space will appear boring or sterile. Even worse is a look that’s been copied directly from a catalog. A designer can certainly help you develop a style, but you can also jazz up your abode with art you love, mementos from a faraway trip, or a collection that has special meaning.
What’s your biggest interior design challenge? What have you completely aced you’d like to boast about? Share your comments and pictures on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page, Twitter or LinkedIn, or on our Instagram feed. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly HOME ADVICEtm email newsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox. You may unsubscribe at any time.
Jersey Shore Home Sellers:
Up Your Game to Compete With Newly Built Homes
Homeowners are notorious for thinking their home is better than their neighbor’s, but when you are ready to put your home on the market it’s crucial to be realistic about the competition.
If you live in an area where builders are constructing new homes that are similar in style or price range to your own, then your competitors include not only the other existing homes on the market but also the newly built properties.
There is nothing you can do about the fact that your home is five, 10 or 30 years old, but by investigating the trends in new homes you can analyze what to do to make your home appeal to buyers.
Check Out the Competition
Before you put your home on the market it is wise to look at other homes in your price range that are for sale, including both resales and newly built homes, because this can give you ideas about how to position your home and how to price it appropriately.
Here’s what to look for:
• Property condition
A newly built home will be pristine and perfect, with fresh paint and the assistance of an expert interior designer. You can get ideas of the latest decorating trends in a model home as wells ways to maximize the best features of your home and minimize the least appealing features. Beware of overspending when you begin to improve your home for sale, but do think about fresh paint in the new neutral tones of pale grey or beige rather than pure white and notice the lack of clutter in model homes.
• Put yourself in the buyers’ frame of mind
When buyers look at homes they want to visualize how they would live in it, not how you’re currently living there. This means that you need to do things as basic as keeping dishes put away, beds made and towels neatly hung up, and as subtle as removing personal items and replacing them with neutral decorative elements.
• Look at your curb appeal
Model homes typically have fresh landscaping and freshly painted trim, so you should do the same for your house to attract buyers. Invest time in sprucing up your exterior and consider painting your front door and replacing the hardware for a modern look.
RELATED: Curb Appeal Tips from the Pros
• Check out the finances
Builders sometimes offer incentives to buyers such as closing cost assistance or paying for optional features. If you feel your home won’t sell without offering some type of concession yourself, you can lower your price, offer some closing cost help or even offer a lump sum of cash that the buyers can use to pay a decorator or for upgrading the flooring. This could be particularly valuable if you have an older home that looks dated but you want the buyers to be able to put their own individual stamp on the property.
Consult Your Real Estate Agent
Patrick Parker Realty Experts can offer suggestions about inexpensive improvements you can make to your home and can talk to you about local market trends. If you are in a market with few homes for sale, you may not need to be so concerned about new construction because there will be plenty of buyers to look at your home; but in a softer housing market you may need to get creative with incentives or a reduced price to attract buyers.
As a seller, how have you won out over the competition of newer homes? Post your stories on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook Page, Twitter Feed or on LinkedIn. Plus don’t forget to subscribe to the monthly Patrick Parker Realty email newsletter for articles like this one delivered straight to your inbox.
8 Home Remodeling Projects That Add Value to Your Home
These home improvements provide the most bang for your buck
How much will this improvement add to the value of my home?
Much of the time, the answer is not as much value as it costs to actually make the improvement. But some home renovations provide more return on investment than others. Here are seven midrange projects that provide the most bang for your buck, according to Remodeling magazine’s Cost vs. Value report.
First let’s just take a brief look at Renovations that bring the greatest percentage return on investment, then we’ll explore each in greater detail. Then, After we take a greater look at these home improvements; we’ll include a list of those projects the return the least percentage return on investment.
Renovations that bring the greatest percentage return on investment:
1. Entry door replacement: 101.8 percent
2. Wood deck addition: 87.4 percent
3. Attic bedroom: 88.5 percent
4. Garage door replacement: 83.7 percent
5. Minor kitchen remodel: 82.7 percent
6. Window Replacement: 78.7 percent
7. Siding Replacement: 82.5 percent
8. Basement Remodel: 77.6 percent
1. Entry Door Replacement
Just as they did last year, Realtors® identified a steel entry door replacement as the project expected to return the most money, with an estimated 101.8 percent of costs recouped upon resale (compared to an estimated 96.6 percent recoup last year). The steel entry door replacement is consistently the least expensive project in the annual Cost vs. Value Report, costing little more than $1,200 on average and was the only project on this year’s list to recoup more than 100 percent of its cost at resale on a national level.
2. Wood deck addition
Homeowners who add a wooden deck, which costs an average of $9,539 nationwide, recoup an average of 87.4 percent of the project’s cost when they sell the home, according to the report. Keep in mind that municipalities typically require a permit to build a deck.
3. Attic bedroom
Renovations within the existing envelope of your home – those that don’t require you to build an addition or expand the roof and foundation – often return more value than building extra rooms onto your home, and they’re much cheaper. Converting an attic into a bedroom ranked third of the 35 improvements in the report, returning an average of 88.5 percent of the amount spent.
4. Garage door replacement
The curb value of your house depends on one thing: the buyer’s first impression. If you want to know how to increase the value of a home, think about how you would feel walking up to the sidewalk as you approach a house you might buy. The first thing you would notice is the exterior of the house. Picture the difference between a modern, orderly, attractive exterior and a house with gutters falling off and a pile of old tires in the driveway. If you want to increase the resale value of your house, you need to grab the buyer at first glance with a clean, neat, beautiful exterior. Homeowners who maintain their house’s exterior can expect a yearly home value increase. The sweat equity that you put in will increase home value.
If your garage door needs replacing to add to the very important factor of curb side appeal, you’ll earn an 83.7 percent of the project’s cost when selling.
5. Minor kitchen remodel
Updated kitchens still bring a significant payoff, especially at resale time: A minor kitchen remodel adds an average of 82.7 percent of the project’s cost back to the home’s value. Kitchens are important, Aaron says, because would-be buyers often overestimate how much they cost to update. The average cost of a minor kitchen remodel – new cabinet doors, appliances, countertops, sink, faucet, paint and hardware – was $18,856 nationwide, according to the report.
6. Window replacement
Perhaps it’s time increase the energy efficiency of your windows. Swapping existing 3-by-5-foot, double-hung windows with insulated wood replacement windows costs an average of $10,926, and returns an average of 79.3 percent of the amount spent, according to the report. Insulated vinyl replacement windows cost about $1,000 less and return an average of 78.7 percent of the amount spent.
7. Siding replacement
The national average to replace 1,250 square feet of existing siding with new vinyl siding, including all trim, is $11,475, according to the report. On average, the project will return 82.5 percent of the amount you spent to the value to your home.
8. Basement remodel
A basement remodel isn’t cheap: Finishing the lower level of a house to include an entertaining area and a full bathroom costs an average of $62,834 nationwide. You can expect to recoup an average of 77.6 percent of the project’s cost when you sell the home, according to the report.
Note these renovations that yield the smallest return on investment:
- Home office remodel: 48.9 percent
- Sunroom addition: 51.7 percent
- Bathroom addition: 60.1 percent
- Backup power generation: 67.5 percent
- Master suite addition: 67.5 percent
Trust Us: You Need an Open House Safe Word
Open houses are totally fun. You get to walk around in someone else’s place and pretend it’s your own. You’re not thinking about mortgage payments or roof repairs. You’re there in the moment — dreaming of the possibilities and just loving the current owner’s choice of decor.
However, it’s not always all floating bookshelves and Eames rockers. What do you do if you show up and the house is a hellscape of living nightmares? As much as you’d like to, you can’t just say, “Forget this noise,” hop in your muscle car, and spin doughnuts in the yard on the way out of there.
No, you need something subtle and elegant: a safe word.
Better safe word than sorry
A safe word is a single word (or phrase) that you and your agent agree to drop when you see a deal breaker and need to hit the eject button. The word can’t be “bedroom,” “fireplace,” “pied-à-terre,” or anything you might normally say when walking through an open house. Instead, think unusual or even exotic, like “cornucopia” or “tarpaulin.”
Here’s how it works: When you see something you don’t like, just toss your safe word into casual conversation and your agent will know it’s time to get out. It doesn’t matter if what you don’t like is decor, layout, smells, or even vibes. Your reason is your own.
The important part is that your agent will hear you and then start the fancy footwork needed to make a quick escape. Once you’re safely in your car making your getaway, you can talk over the whys and wherefores.
Make it memorable — and unmistakable
“Say, is that a tarpaulin I see tucked under the deck?” or “This living room layout really presents a cornucopia of options.” These are unique and unmistakable ways to make your safe-word plan of action beforehand, your agent will hear the word and execute the escape.
That short statement can get you out of all kinds of undesirable house dismays and you’ll be glad to have it in your arsenal. The desire to put your time to good use is pretty universal, but never is it more important than in the pressure-packed, time-sensitive world of house hunting.
Ultimately, the seller doesn’t want you wasting time in their house any more than you want to be wasting time in a house you’re definitely not going to buy. A safe word is an easy way to maximize your limited house-hunting time — without hurting a single feeling.
So grab a dictionary, a thesaurus, or maybe the random article button on Wikipedia and start scouring. You’re going to want a good one.
What creative safe words can you come up with? Use it in a sentence. Sound off in Comments, on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook or Twitter pages and don’t forget to sign up for the monthly Patrick Parker Realty eNewsletter for more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.
5 Neighborhood Features That Boost Resale Value
When you’re in the market to buy a home certain factors are on the top of your list — be they large walk-in closets, a gourmet kitchen, or a private backyard. But beyond the details of the house itself, your potential new abode’s neighborhood will most likely be high on your list (location, location, location!).
Maybe it’s the community pool, the nearby biking trails, or walkability to the elementary school and grocery store. Or maybe it’s the overall curb appeal of the neighborhood… Who wouldn’t like a tree-lined street or a neighborhood bursting with inviting, colorful flowers and shrubs?
Here’s a list of the neighborhood features that not only satisfy your home-buying checklist but also boost your resale and property value in the future:
Yes, it seems as if we drive or take public transportation everywhere these days. But the truth is, there’s something about being able to walk out your front door and head down the street to the grocery store or local coffee shop that not only appeals to potential buyers but also boosts your resale value significantly. Look for “close to all” in listing details… and scope out the neighborhood to see exactly what that means.
Homeowners love neighborhood amenities. Typically, new-home communities offer pools, fitness facilities, parks and play areas. Amenities such as tennis courts, walking and biking trails, and dog parks do incredible things to boost a home’s resale value — especially for families looking to buy.
3. Historic charm
The historic character of a neighborhood tends to help resale value, as it is a feature that is difficult to replicate. Many times, historically designated districts will aim to maintain a certain level of uniformity and have community commissions to help preserve the neighborhood aesthetic, which in turn will help preserve values.
4. Unique homes
Not everyone wants to choose from the four models a builder offers — and only those four models — which is why neighborhoods that offer you the choice of semicustom or custom homes sometimes have a better resale value than ones that don’t.
Areas with custom and semicustom homes, compared to cookie-cutter production homes, tend to show larger increases in value over time. More astute buyers prefer unique homes with character that add to the charm of the neighborhood and are more likely to own for longer periods of time, creating less turnover in the neighborhood and higher value.
It almost goes without saying that if a neighborhood is located in a great school district, it immediately boosts a home’s resale value. If a home is in a quality school district, those communities tend to not only retain their value, but appreciate as well. There will always be parents who want their children attending great schools.
What neighborhood feature attracted you to your home? Sound off in Comments, on the Patrick Parker Realty Facebook or Twitter pages and don’t forget to sign up for the monthly Patrick Parker Realty eNewsletter for more articles like this delivered straight to your inbox.
This Is The Year To Sell Your Home
Patience seems to have paid off for those who’ve postponed putting their homes on the market until this year, real estate analysts say. They stand to pocket the kind of profits not seen since the housing boom.
Prices surged more than 10% in many markets last year, bidding wars are once again common, and homes are routinely going for over the asking price in some cities. These trends make it seem like a return to the go-go days of the housing boom.
Single-family homes were selling at an average price of $244,300 at the beginning of the year, up 7.2% from a year prior and the highest price since August 2008, according to the latest data from the National Association of Realtors. “All in all, it’s a good time for people to put their home up for sale,” says Celia Chen, senior director with Moody’s Analytics.
The turnaround comes roughly seven years after the housing bust and amid signs that the economic recovery is picking up. As the unemployment rate drops and consumer confidence increases, more buyers are entering the housing market and sellers are finding that they have more leverage in negotiating the going prices of their homes.
Fueling this seller’s market are several factors that have unexpectedly converged: For-sale listings are limited, which is pushing prices up at the same time that mortgage rates are rising. That’s created a sense of urgency among buyers, many of whom fear that the door to affordable real estate in their market may be closing.
In fact, data suggests that buyers are snatching up properties faster now. Homes in November 2014 were selling 11% faster than they were a year prior, according to the latest data from Realtor.com, which tracks for-sale listings. In several cities, that rate is even higher: Homes were selling 20% faster in New York and Miami, for instance, and 18% faster in Chicago and Dallas.
To be sure, the recovery to date hasn’t been enough to get every homeowner out of the red. In the fourth quarter of 2014, according to real-estate analytics firm CoreLogic, nearly 6.4 million homes were underwater, meaning borrowers’ mortgages were greater than value of their homes. These homeowners for the most part cannot sell their home unless their lender agrees to a short sale, in which the home is sold for less than the debt owed on it.
Still, homeowners with enough equity can benefit from current housing conditions. Inventory remains limited, which allows sellers to ask for higher prices. There were just shy of 2.1 million existing homes for sale in the fourth quarter of 2014, which equals a 5.1-month supply, according to the latest data from the NAR, a figure indicative of a seller’s market. A balanced market, in contrast, would have about six to 6.5 months of supply.
Of course, a buyer’s problem is often a seller’s upside, which might incline homeowners to hold off selling even longer for the possibility of even higher prices. While sales prices could rise, waiting comes with several risks, which could slow or even reverse recent price gains. Should the economic recovery — in particular, job growth — stall, home sales and prices could drop. And if mortgage rates spike suddenly by one full percentage point or more, demand could dampen.
But the biggest risk is from the supply side. It’s expected that the number of for-sale homes will rise this year, with much of the extra supply coming from home builders. Moody’s Analytics projects that construction will begin on 1.43 million new homes this year, up from slightly under 1 million that were expected for last year. This event alone could stall price gains.
RELATED: About The Home Selling Process
Beyond the fourth quarter of 2014, more homes are expected to hit the market. Since the recession, investment firms, including private-equity firms and hedge funds, have been purchasing large numbers of single-family homes and turning them into rentals. Some analysts say that the supply-demand imbalance that has helped create this seller’s market is largely due to this trend. Those companies will likely put a large number of those properties for sale at the same time in a few years — which would put downward price pressure on nearby listings.
6 Tips for A Successful Home Search
You know those movies where the two lovers look into each other’s eyes and the music tells you that volumes are being spoken without any words? Yeah, well, that ain’t the way it works when you’re house hunting. Words — lots of them — are your friends, so start talking with your agent early and often.
So what’s the best way to communicate with your real estate team to ensure home-seeking success?
These steps will ensure you are keeping the lines open and the info flowing during your house hunt:
1. Sit down with your agent NOW
You do have an agent, right?
Especially in competitive markets, you’ll find yourself at a disadvantage if you don’t have someone watching the market and working your case every single day.
This person is your adviser and advocate throughout the process. Make sure “good communication skills” is one of the criteria you bring to bear on your choice of agent.
Meet face to face as soon as possible to form a bond, to lay out your needs and budget, and to learn about the many steps involved in a successful real estate purchase. These are things you don’t want to be hearing about on the fly.
2. Get your expectations set early
Whether you’re buying or renting, tell your agent to give you the facts of the market right between the eyes. This isn’t the time to sugarcoat realities.
Ask her for recent data on list price-to-sale ratios to prepare yourself to make over-asking offers if necessary. Ask about ways to compete on things other than price — doing a pre-offer inspection, for example, so as to waive the inspection contingency. Learn about the need for speed, if any.
Sometimes with rentals, it can be a game of hours. Sometimes you should go in ready to sign.
3. Don’t be shy, be honest
Your agent can’t do her job without accurate information about you.
Don’t hold back on your likes and dislikes, your financial situation (clarified by early contact with your banker or mortgage broker), and your reactions to the properties you see.
Create boards on Trulia and add properties you like and don’t like (even if they’re out of your price range) and invite your agent to collaborate. Everyone talks about personal style in a unique way, so it can be helpful to show, not tell, when it comes to what you want.
This is no time to be polite, so say what you think at open houses and private showings (though privately to your agent, not within earshot of other buyers, listing agents, or sellers).
Each opinion and observation that you voice tightens the focus of your search and offers clarity into what you’re after.
4. Establish a foolproof way to connect
When properties move quickly, every minute can count.
Tell your agent in order of preference the way you want to be reached (email, text, call), and whether you should be hit by all means at once if there is a hot property.
And ask your agent how they are most quickly reached. Tell them you want their “bat phone.”
5. Be systematic
Avoid flailing about. Make sure your agent and you have a search methodology in place so that forward motion can occur.
Try the “benchmark” approach: At the end of every showing, rank the property against others you’ve seen, always searching for the one place that’s come closest to “right.” Share your approach and rankings with your agent. Remember, the more they know about your preferences, the better they are able to serve you.
Properties will topple properties, a certain discipline is brought to bear, and your search will develop a rigor and logic of your own making.
6. You are not a loser
If you’re continually seeing properties at your price point that just don’t satisfy, don’t feel like you’ve somehow failed.
The market is the market, and sometimes you have to adjust your sights. Compromise comes along the four vectors of real estate: size, condition, location, and price.
If price can’t change, talk candidly to your agent about adjusting one (or more) of the three others.
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