I Found the Home of my Dreams…!

You really can buy your dream home!
You really can buy your dream home!

You have finally found the home of your dreams, but how much should you offer? Without a doubt this is the question I am asked most frequently when working with buyers, especially first-time home buyers. It isn’t always an easy question to answer but there are a few tips to help you make that decision:

1. Ask your agent how much comparable properties in the neighborhood have sold for.  The best indicator of value is the selling price of homes that are similar to the one you are hoping to purchase. Your Realtor can run a search and show you exactly which homes have sold, when, for how much, and generally show you pictures so you can compare condition, location and amenities.
2.  Ask yourself how badly you want this home. For some people, it is just a house, for others it is THE house. If this home is the only one that you believe will meet your needs in the next 5-10 years, you will probably want to make an offer higher than if it is just one of several that will work.
3.  Are you going to ask for the seller to contribute toward your closing costs? If you are, you should factor that into your offer. The more you ask for in the form of seller credits or seller-paid inspections, the more appealing that offer should be. Anytime a buyer is asking for concessions, the offer becomes less and less appealing to the seller. You can compensate for that in your offer price. Ask your Realtor what costs are typically paid by the seller and which are paid by the buyer. This can help you structure your offer to be more enticing to the seller.
4.  Can you afford it? Just because a lender tells you that you can borrow a certain amount doesn’t  mean that you are comfortable at that payment. Look at your budget and decide how much you can manage each month and still put a little into savings for the future. If you have to offer more than that amount, it might be wise to keep looking. Buying a home is probably the largest financial investment most of us will ever make. It is important to do your homework and seek the advice of a licensed real estate professional. Working together with your lender and your Realtor, buying the home of your dreams can be a reality. Happy house hunting!

Hope

"Hope" by G.F. Watts, 1886.
“Hope” by G.F. Watts, 1886. This reproduction of the original work was won by Alma May Edwards in 1919 or 1920 at the age of 9 or 10.

Hope.  It’s what keeps us going, even when things get hard.  When I was a teen I was lucky enough to spend time with my grandmother.  She was an artist and she taught my siblings and me how to paint in her ceramic shop.  I always marveled at her talent.  She seemed to be able to pick up a brush and just create.  I struggled with that but she never gave up trying to show me how to do better.  We stayed up late playing card games and we waited up until she got off her swing shift as a floor supervisor at the local Sunsweet plant.  Then, we watched movies together late into the night. Granny was a woman who seemed to be able to do it all.

I remember the picture that hung on the wall in my Aunt Charlotte’s bedroom.  Charlotte was killed in a car accident when she was just 17.  I never knew her except through the stories told by my grandmother and my mom.  Charlotte was pretty much idolized by all who knew her and so anything that had belonged to her or represented her in any way was prized.  This picture of “Hope” hung above Charlotte’s bed.  Granny told me that one day, when she was “done with it”, I could have that picture.  Although my grandmother has been gone for 14 years, that picture took a detour to my uncle’s home.  Today, that picture came home to me.  I admit that I cried on the way home after picking it up from my cousins.  They had come to clean out his things after he moved in with one of his sons, and they saved “Hope” for me, just like Granny promised.

The picture was originally painted in 1886 by George Frederic Watts.  It is an image of a blindfolded woman sitting atop a globe.  She holds a lyre with her head bent down close to the instrument.  There is only one string intact.  When explaining the meaning of the painting, Watts says, “Hope need not mean expectancy. It suggests here rather the music which can come from the remaining chord”. This is a fitting explanation of the painting because indeed my grandmother won this painting as a young girl when all she had was one remaining cord.  You see there was a nationwide art contest and my grandmother labored long over the perfect picture to enter.  She was nine or ten years old at the time and as she walked to school the day that picture was due it was stormy.  The wind blew her picture from her hands and sent it tumbling away, ruined by the rain.  She arrived at school in tears. Her teacher told her to quickly draw something else to enter and she did.  She drew a picture of a little girl in a storm, with tears running down her face, her paper racing in the wind.  That hurriedly sketched picture won the contest and was displayed for a time at the Smithsonian.  Her prize was a reproduction of the painting by Watts entitled “Hope”.  It hung on her wall nearly all her life and will now hang on mine.

Some of us have many chords in our lyre, some of us have one.  There are times in our life when we make music easily and other times when we struggle to strum just one single wire.  As long as there is at least one chord we can make music. We may have to lean in closely to hear it, but there is music in each of us.  Perhaps the blindfold that Hope wears is so that she can look inside and not be distracted by the world. Watts has taught us a powerful lesson, and Granny gave me a gift of more than just a painting, but a reminder that it doesn’t take much to make music, it just takes hope.

Staging-It Just Makes Sense

Recently I purchased a home with the purpose of flipping it.  It was a much nicer home than I usually buy, but it still needed some improvements.  We touched up the paint, replaced the stove, changed

Master Bedroom
Master Bedroom

out some light fixtures and replaced some faucets and a vanity top.  There were also some miscellaneous repairs that needed to be made and I replaced the front lawn with some low-water

landscaping.  And then I

master bedroom
Master Bedroom

had someone clean it from top to bottom, including sprucing up the backyard.  I thought it looked pretty good when all that was done so I took some pictures of it before I had it professionally staged.  I usually stage a home myself but this one was vacant and I didn’t want to start from scratch so I hired a design firm from the Roseville area.  Wow, that was perhaps the best investment I made on this project.

The home looked spacious and open before the staging, now it looks spacious and beautiful.  I can’t even describe the way it feels when you walk in to a lovely living room setting, instead of the empty room that greeted you as you opened the front door.  I haven’t had the home listed for even 24 hours and I have multiple offers.  Our market is  crazy-hot right now, but I know that professional staging works.  If I wasn’t a believer before I certainly am now.  And I am not alone, according to Realtors who work with buyers, a staged home generally gets higher offers than a similar non-staged home.  This doesn’t mean you need to go out and spend thousands to have your home staged, but there are plenty of things you can do with what you have.  Start by de-cluttering and de-personalizing the space.  Choose paint that is in neutral tones and clean the house from top to bottom.  No one wants to walk in your home, sniff, and say “they have pets”.  So clean and de-clutter, get the advice of your Realtor or even an interior designer on how to rearrange your furniture, and happy selling!

Living Room
Living Room
Living Room
Living Room

 

You really can buy your dream home!

Making Smart Choices as a First-Time Home Buyer, Part 2

In my last post I talked about finding out how much you can afford, what types of loans are available and a little bit about reality in the real estate market.  This post will give you some insight on whether to buy a new home or an existing home, as well as information on home inspections and disclosure laws.

Do I buy a new or an existing home?
Do I buy a new or an existing home?

Buying a new home is similar to buying a new car.  It has that special smell and no one else has ever driven/lived in it.  It comes as a clean slate with everything shiny and new.  Just as you pay a premium for that new car, you will usually pay a premium for a new home.  For some it is worth it, for others it isn’t.  If you decide you can’t or choose not to afford to pay that premium, there are some things to investigate on an existing home.  How old is the roof?  When was the heating and air conditioning system last replaced?  Has the home been re-wired or had the plumbing updated?  When were the appliances last replaced?  Have there been any inspections performed recently?  There is a long list of questions and one of the best places to start in getting those answers is with a home inspection.

Home inspectors come in all shapes, sizes, and costs.  There is no licensing body, at least in California, although

A home inspection is a step you should not skip.
A home inspection is a step you should not skip.

there are associations they can join.  How easy it it to become a home inspector?  It could be as easy as creating a website. With no test, no licensing body and no experience required, you should take extra care in finding a qualified home inspector to inspect the home you plan to purchase.  One of my favorite inspectors is a member of a home inspection trade group and has taken a test to prove competence to their certification standards.  He also holds a current California Contractor’s license.  When you are looking for a home inspector, ask around.  Your Realtor can help you find a competent home inspector , and if you have had friends or family who recently purchased a home, you can ask for their advice.  Whatever you do, don’t select a home inspector based on their fee.  The worst home inspection I ever saw cost next to nothing.  You literally can get what you pay for.  But don’t skip this step.  Getting a home inspection can help you understand the true condition of the home you are buying.  The report can suggest issues that should be addressed due to health and safety, and it can put your mind at ease about other potential issues.  If the inspector suggests you get another trade in for further inspection, it is wise to follow their advice.  Once you know everything you can about the property, you are in a position to make an informed decision about whether to proceed with the purchase.  I cannot emphasize enough how important a home inspection is.  And I am talking about an inspection by a qualified inspector, not just your contractor friend.

Disclosure.  What exactly is it and who does it?  California law requires that sellers of residential property of 1-4 units must disclose any known issues regarding a home’s plumbing, electric system, foundation, roof, interior and exterior walls, appliances and many other areas.  There is a questionnaire for a seller to complete that discloses if the home has had repairs recently, or if it has been painted or there are ongoing services such as pest control, or if there have been pets on the premises.  The seller must disclose if there have been lawsuits and even if someone has died on the property in the last three years.  When you receive copies of these disclosures review them carefully and don’t hesitate to ask questions.  Your agent can help you get more details on any area where you need more information. This entire process is designed to give you adequate information to make a decision to purchase the home of your dreams and to feel good about it at the same time.

Buying a home is probably one of the largest financial transactions in which you will engage, and buying your first home can be practically overwhelming.  Find a good Realtor and let them help you through the process.  An experienced Realtor can help to lessen the stress, help you understand the huge amount of paperwork and information that will be presented to you, and they can help you overcome the hurdles that are likely to pop up.  As a first-time home buyer there is no reason to go it alone.  Working with the right Realtor, we really can make real estate simple, well almost!

 

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Best Buy in Yuba County!

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5349 Feather River Blvd., Olivehurst, CA

This 2 bedroom 1 bath home at 5349 Feather River Blvd. in Olivehurst is just waiting for your personal touch.  While it definitely needs some work, this home has potential.  There is a formal dining room and an extra room that can be used as a den or bedroom.  Set back off of Feather River Blvd., it is surrounded by trees and fencing, making it feel very private.  This HUD-owned home is sold as-is and is listed at only $61,000.  FHA Case #043-710166.  Contact me at 530-301-3164 for more information or to submit an offer.  Equal housing opportunity.  See more photos here.