Hello and Welcome to Baker's Blog! 

Here you can find answers to your real estate questions. Perhaps even real estate questions you didn't know you had. You'll also find thoughts, observations, and commentary on real estate and real estate related issues. Have a question or a suggestion for a post? Message me or give me a call. I'm always happy to answer questions and share information with others. And don't forget to follow me on Facebook and Instagram!

July 25, 2018

IF YOU'RE LOOKING TO BUY OR SELL A HOUSE NEXT MONTH, IT'S NEVER TOO EARLY TO START ASKING THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

So, What Are The Right Questions?

Of course, there are always the basics. "How much house can I afford?"  and "What will I need for a down payment?" Or if you're selling, you might be asking "How long will it take to sell my home?" and "What are houses selling for in my neighborhood?"

Then there will be the questions along the way, like "What does a title company do?" and "How long can I take to decide?" or "How long will it be until we hear back from the Buyer or Seller?" 

Communication is key. And not just in real estate. However, when you're making decisions regarding one of the most significant financial investments you can make, communication is essential. You should be asking questions early and often.

The right questions will not only pertain to the real estate transaction itself but also get the answers you need to help you make the best decisions based on the available information. Knowing what to expect and what could be unexpected can also lower your stress level by helping you feel better prepared.

It doesn't matter if you're looking to buy or sell next month or next year. The right time to ask a real estate question is when you have one. You never know what kind of difference the answer can make. Is there a real estate question I can answer for you?

July 10, 2018

WHEN YOUR FLEDGLINGS FLY FREE, HOW DO YOU PART WITH YOUR EMPTY NEST?

When The Last Child Leaves Home, For Some Parents There Is No Question Whether Or Not To Keep The "Empty Nest." They Stay Where They Are And Remodel A Room (Or Two). Maybe There Are - Or Will Be - Grandchildren. Perhaps There Are Close Ties To The Community, Or It Is An Heirloom Home That Has Been Passed Down From A Previous Generation. There Are Myriad Reasons Not To Move, And It Is A Very Personal Choice Made For Very Personal Reasons. 

But what about the parents who don't want to stay? The parents who want to downsize, travel, or relocate closer to other family members or interests? Letting go of your family home can be an emotional process, whether you've lived there for 5, 10, or 20 years. But you want to move on to the next phase of your life.

Often when I list a home, I consult with the Sellers regarding staging and preparing their home for the market. I give them a plan for packing and purging, and removing personal belongings like photographs and memorabilia. We pare down decor items and sometimes bring in new linens, shower curtains, and occasionally small rugs and sometimes window treatments. I will come in and complete the finishing touches, and sometimes move a couple of last-minute items before the photographer arrives.

When the listing photos are finished, I send them over to the Sellers to preview.  And the Sellers almost always comment that they hardly recognize the place or that it doesn't even look like their house. And that's what I like to hear. Letting go can be complicated, even when change is the desired result.  For some Sellers, the process of transforming their house can be cathartic, as they start to see it less as their house, and more as potentially somebody else's. For some Sellers, a well-executed staging strategy can be the first big step towards stepping away from their old home, and into their new life. 

If you're one of those Sellers, give me a call. I'd be happy to have a conversation with you about transforming your house into someone else's home, so you, too, can spread your wings and fly!

July 3, 2018

THE TOP 3 SELLER FAQ FOR STAGING TO SELL YOUR HOME

Many Of My Clients Ask In Advance If I Will Help Them Prepare Their Home For Sale.

They know me and are familiar with my staging process and results, and perhaps I have even staged and sold a home for them in the past. But when that isn't the case, there are three questions I am frequently asked.

1. What do you charge for your staging services? I don't. If you've listed your home with me to sell, you pay nothing extra for my staging consultation, staging strategy, and the staging I do before the photos are taken for the listing. I want my client's listing to have every advantage in today's market. And I love doing it. 
2. Will I need to rent furniture or decor items? Not typically. I haven't had a situation yet where we haven't been able to stage a home with the Seller's current furniture. I may bring in some new linens or decor items from my stock, but there's no rental fee involved. If a Seller has already sold or moved most of their furniture and would like furniture brought in for staging, that's certainly an option we can explore.
3. Do I have to stage my home? Absolutely not. If you have no interest in staging your home for sale, it is not a requirement. But if you're going to be packing up items anyway, packing them up in advance during the 'pack and purge' phase of the staging strategy will save you time and stress after you've accepted an offer on your home and the clock starts ticking. Often a little decluttering and light strategic furniture moving are all that's needed to take advantage of the added value my staging services provide. Or perhaps we implement some but not all of the strategy suggestions. The choice is always yours.

Oct. 27, 2017

WHEN YOU SHOULDN'T JUST SWEEP HOME STAGING STATISTICS UNDER THE RUG

CAN STAGING A HOME REALLY HAVE AN IMPACT ON ITS SALE?

Absolutely! I have seen first hand the impact staging can have on a home's marketability and value. But don't just take my word for it. 

According to the National Association of Realtors 2017 Profile of Home Staging report:

Buyers' Agents
49% of Buyers' Agents cited that a home's staging had an effect on most Buyer's view of the home.
77% of Buyers' Agents said staging a home made it easier for a buyer to visualize the property as a future home.
One-Third of Buyers' Agents said that staging a home increase the dollar value offered between 1% - 5% compared to other similar homes on the market that are not staged.

Sellers' Agents
38% of Sellers' Agents said they stage all Seller's homes before listing them for sale.
39% of Sellers' Agents stated that staging a home greatly decreases the amount of time the home is on the market.
When staging a home, 29% of Sellers' Agents reported an increase of 1% - 5% of the dollar value offered by Buyers, in comparison to similar homes. And 21% of respondents stated that staging a home increased the dollar value of the home between 6% - 10%.

So where did Buyers find staging to be the most helpful? 55% of the Buyers said the Living Room, 51% said the Master Bedroom and 41% said the kitchen. Those are 3 of the 4 most common rooms to be staged, with the Living Room at 83%, the Kitchen at 76%, and the Master Bedroom at 69%. The Dining Room came in 4th, at 66%.

My favorite section is the Home Improvement Items Recommended.  The most recommended items were decluttering (93%), entire home cleaning (89%), carpet cleaning (81%) and removing pets during showing (80%). This section is my favorite because these are the least expensive and easiest things to do to prepare your home for the market. I have counseled Sellers on staging from decluttering and cleaning to selecting paint colors and furnishings. When deciding whether or not to stage your home and to what extent, there are always multiple variables that need to be considered.  But the benefits almost always outweigh the effort, and research illustrates the question of staging shouldn't just be swept under the rug. 

The report can be read in its entirety here. https://www.nar.realtor/research-and-statistics/research-reports/profile-of-home-staging
 

Oct. 11, 2017

THE TOP 5 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BUYING REAL ESTATE IN ARIZONA, IF YOU'RE MOVING HERE FROM ANOTHER STATE

THE PROCESS OF BUYING A HOME CAN VARY FROM ONE STATE TO THE NEXT. REGARDLESS OF WHERE YOU'RE MOVING FROM, HERE ARE THE TOP 5 THINGS YOU WILL NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BUYING A HOME IN ARIZONA.

1.  You will not be required to have an attorney.  The Arizona Constitution, in Article 26, Section 1, allows for licensed real estate brokers or agents to fill out and complete documents related to the sale of real estate in Arizona. Not to over-simplify it, but these documents are drafted by attorneys, and agents are filling in the blanks. That's not to say you aren't advised to consult an attorney (or accountant, or other professional), just that you aren't required to hire one. Once your purchase offer is accepted, a file (escrow) is opened at a Title Company, and your earnest money check is deposited. The Title Company will handle the transfer of title and funds, and collect the Buyer's and Seller's signatures on the necessary documents.

2. The average home purchase takes 30 days from contract to keys. There can be exceptions. Short sales may take months to get approval from the bank who owns the property, and cash transactions can close in about two weeks. Other factors can affect a typical timeline, by a couple of days or weeks. Often an agreed-upon closing date can be adjusted with the permission of both Buyer and Seller, but don't just assume closing can always be extended. There may be a deadline on either side of the transaction that, if missed, could jeopardize the sale.

3. Within 3 days of your offer being accepted, you will receive the Seller's disclosures about the property. Once your offer has been accepted, the Seller's Agent has 3 days to deliver the Seller's Property Disclosure Statement (SPDS). The SPDS is a detailed questionnaire completed by the Seller about their knowledge of the property. You will also receive a Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Report (CLUE), which shows if the Seller has filed any insurance claims on the property in the last 5 years. Sometimes these documents will not be available, like when the Seller is a bank or a trust. There are also several things that are not required by law to be disclosed (Is this house haunted?). Your Agent can go over those items so you can determine if any of them are of particular concern to you.

4. You will have 10 days to have the home inspected. You should always have the home inspected by a home inspector. If there are any specific areas of concern, such as roofing or plumbing, have a licensed contractor in that field also perform an inspection. The inspection period is also the time to check out the neighborhood and anything else that may affect your desire to purchase the home. Your REALTOR will give you a Buyer Advisory document directing you to sources of information and things to consider.

5. You will not get your keys when you sign your closing documents. Once you sign your documents at the title company, they will send your signed loan documents back to your lender. Your lender will transfer the purchase funds to the title office, who will distribute the funds. The title office will then submit your deed to the County Recorder's Office to be recorded. Upon confirmation, the title office will notify everyone the sale "has recorded." The funding and recording process is all done electronically, typically in 24 hours or less. Once this process is complete, you will get the keys to your new home!

Purchasing a home is a complex transaction, and this is, in no way, meant to be a comprehensive overview of the process, or of any of these steps. They simply seem to be the top 5 differences Buyers who own or have previously owned property in other states encounter when they purchase property in Arizona.

Sept. 9, 2017

WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU CAN QUALIFY TO BUY A HOUSE, BUT YOU CAN'T AFFORD TO BUY ONE.

IT HAPPENS EVERY DAY. RENTERS QUALIFY TO BUY A HOME. THEY HAVE GOOD CREDIT AND STEADY INCOME AND ARE READY TO TAKE THE NEXT STEP. SO WHAT'S HOLDING THEM BACK? DOWN PAYMENTS AND CLOSING COSTS. 

Fortunately, Arizona home buyers have a couple of programs available to them. And qualifications for these programs can vary. Income, credit score, and debt-to-income ratios, the type of loan and purchase price are just a few of the factors. Some down payment assistance programs offer funds in the form of grants, which do not require repayment and some programs are part of a mortgage program.

So before you think you can qualify for a home, but can't afford to buy one, talk to your REALTOR about available programs, and get qualified with a participating Lender.  

You can check out some of the currently available programs here.  And if you are looking for home buying assistance, you can contact me here.

Aug. 30, 2017

SHOULD YOU HAVE FLOOD INSURANCE? ARE YOU CERTAIN?

By now everyone has seen the images of the devastating flooding from of Hurricane Harvey's path. While our thoughts are with the victims for their safety, one cannot help but wonder what the future holds for these people, and how we would deal with such loss. (If you're looking to help with the current efforts for the victims of Hurricane Harvey, here's a link to npr.org's "Here's How You Can Help People Affected By Harvey").

Under current flood insurance rules, most homeowners with mortgages that live in high-risk areas for flooding, called Special Flood Hazard Zones, must buy flood insurance. Unfortunately, most of the Houston area falls outside areas where flood insurance is required and according to a recent AP story it is estimated that fewer than 20% of homeowners with flood damage in Houston's Harris County have flood insurance. Those without coverage will be left applying for federal disaster relief benefits in the form of low-interest loans, paying for repairs on their own, or simply not be able to rebuild.

So what if you aren't in a Special Flood Hazard Zone, or you don't have a mortgage on your home? If it isn't required, should you still purchase flood insurance? Is flood insurance available for renters, too?

Does everyone need flood insurance? The answer is most likely 'no'. But don't make the assumption that you don't, without talking to a qualified individual. You can start with asking your insurance agent and checking out the NFIP website. Review your current policies and ask questions about different scenarios. Am I at risk for flooding from excessive runoff from higher elevations or overflow from rivers, canals, or laterals? Does my current policy cover my belongings if flooding is caused by a city water line break or a sewer back up?

Adding an endorsement to your existing policy will go into effect immediately. But should you decide to add a separate flood insurance policy, there is a 30-day waiting period from the date of purchase until your policy goes into effect, with few exceptions. The time to ask is now.

Feb. 13, 2017

HOME INSPECTION FOR A NEW HOME? YES!

New Home Under Construction

Most everyone knows to get a home inspection when purchasing an existing home. But did you know you can also have home inspections done when building a new home, too?  Not only is it a good idea to have a home inspector present at your final walk-through before closing, but some new construction contracts also allow for progress inspections (foundation, framing, etc.) that can be completed by a home inspector, as well. 

Already in your new home but still in your warranty period?  Great!  If you’re still in your warranty period (typically the first twelve months after construction), it’s a good idea to have a home inspector complete an inspection on your home a couple of weeks before your warranty expires.  Your builder will give you a final opportunity to submit warranty items for repair just before the end of your warranty period.  A home inspection report can give you a comprehensive list of items to submit, from an experienced, professional perspective.

Dec. 4, 2016

IS MY MORTGAGE A VA, FHA OR CONVENTIONAL LOAN AND WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

 

Loan Application

 

The type of loan you are using to purchase a home can make a big difference in your search, especially if you're looking to remodel or renovate after closing. But why?

VA and FHA loans are guaranteed by the government, and the government insures these loans in the event of a default by the borrower.  Homes being purchased by a VA or FHA loan must meet minimum requirements as per the VA or FHA inspection, which are similar. The scope of these inspections ranges from examining the walls, ceilings and roof for conditions that could affect the integrity of the foundation or framing, to verifying the operation of the electrical, HVAC, and plumbing systems, to checking for cracked or peeling paint on the exterior of the home.  Safety issues are also addressed, such as a working stove, no missing doors or missing stairs (or missing handrails on stairs) and no broken windows.  If a home fails inspection, the home is eligible for re-inspection and subsequent approval once the repairs have been completed.

So if you're purchasing a home with a VA or FHA loan, you'll need to make sure your search is limited to homes that currently meet VA/FHA standards, or are being sold by Sellers who are willing to bring the home up to these standards.  VA and FHA purchase eligibility will be noted in the listing, and your Realtor can customize your home search to filter out homes that are not eligible for purchase with your VA or FHA loan.

But what's the difference between a VA and an FHA loan?  

VA loans are only available to eligible military service members and surviving spouses.  VA loans require no PMI (private mortgage insurance) and no down payment.

FHA loans are available to anyone.  FHA loans do not require PMI (private mortgage insurance) if the Buyer is making a down payment of at least 20% of the purchase price.  FHA loans with less than 20% down require PMI, but Buyers can be approved for an FHA loan with as little as 3.5% down.

Conventional loans are not insured or guaranteed by the government in any way.  They require a minimum of 20% down and are approved solely on the value of the property.  That's not to say repairs may not be required, but that situation occurs when the value of the property would be dependent upon the completion of those repairs.

In addition to these programs, the USDA offers mortgages for rural areas, and FHA offers a 203K loan specifically for purchasing a home requiring renovation and repairs.  Each of these programs also has eligibility requirements for the Buyer and the property.

Is the type of loan you're using to make a purchase important? Absolutely. But often folks will qualify for more than one type of loan.  That's why communicating your needs and desires with your Lender, and your Realtor is key.  Communication can help simplify and streamline your search for the type of home you want and the best way to buy it. And that's what's truly important!

 

Nov. 16, 2016

WHY DO WE NEVER STOP MOVING?

Lighted Highway

Right now a lot of Buyers and Sellers are waiting until after the year's end to look for or list their home.  It's certainly understandable.  There are Holiday plans, shopping, guests, decorating. So much to do.  Perhaps you're busier at work, too, as your business prepares for year-end. 

But the truth is, people never stop moving.  Maybe someone is being transferred with their employment. Or wanting to get settled before the new semester starts in January.  There are myriad reasons people move during this time of year.

It's true there are fewer Buyers looking right now, but it's also true those Buyers are serious. Sellers who list their home now are competing against fewer listings than in the months after year's end.  If you're concerned about packing up your Holidays, often closing dates can be negotiated as part of the contract.  

Relocation happens.  And it happens regardless of the season.  So if you need to buy, know there are homes out there waiting for you.  And if you want to sell, there's no time like the present.  

Why? Because we never stop moving.