Friday, June 26, 2015

Pre-Inspection Home Dissection

    When I first became a real estate agent, I would write offers left and right— hungry to get my clients the house they wanted.  But with experience I learned how to work smarter, not harder.  The first year I was an agent I would say that I wrote offers on about 8 to 10 houses that got released because of the inspection findings.  It was that year I put together a guide on things to look for when walking through a home.  There are always going to be issues you can’t catch on your own, perhaps under the house, that only an inspector can find.  But before writing a contract, before getting an inspection, before wasting anyone’s time and money, I’ll share a few things to look for starting with asbestos siding.
     It is mostly found in older homes built between the 40s and 60s.  It is very flat siding with vertical ripples running down to wavy edges.  If you see this style of siding it is 100 percent of the time asbestos.  When looking for asbestos in an older home, it’s important to walk all the way around the house.  Often it is covered up with vinyl siding except for say, a screened-in porch or an addition. 

     Before you even make the trip out to see the potential house, check the MLA sheet.  Most of the time it will tell you if it’s asbestos siding, or will at least denote “other."  If you know you qualify for an FHA loan, unless you want to get a very expensive renovation loan, it’s usually best to move on to the next house.  There are ways to remediate the problem if the siding is perfectly intact.   The asbestos siding can be sealed and then covered with vinyl to properly protect it. If any of the siding is broken, it can be very expensive to remove it due to health and environmental implications.
     Another thing to consider is resale value.  If you have a conventional loan and bypass all the requirements of an FHA, when you go to resell, asbestos siding can become an issue.  Even if it’s not a concern of yours at the present moment, it can be one for a potential buyer.

     If you educate yourself on the basics, you can do your own pre-inspection before spending hundreds of dollars to have someone tell you what’s in plain sight.  Next week, I’ll share a few more tips!  

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Get Off the Fence, It's Still a Great Time to Buy!

     Mortgage rates went up again last week and this gradual increase is to be expected over the next few months.  However, at an average of 4.18 percent, mortgage rates are still at a historical low.  If you are qualified and looking to stay in a certain area, right now is still a great time to buy!
     The Real Estate industry is one where the supply is limited and demand is always high, especially in larger cities where building opportunities are limited.  When there is more demand than supply, prices go up and long-term growth is inevitable.  
     When considering the rent vs. buy argument, even with rates going up, buying is the better financial decision.  Buying power does diminish when rates go up, so don’t wait for rates to get any higher.  Considering that a 1 percent increase can lose you approximately 10 percent in buying power, waiting to buy can mean missed opportunities.

     Preparation is key for buyers.  Get pre-approval and work with a realtor who specializes in the area you want to buy.  A full-time agent will be on top of new listings and can negotiate things into the contract to get more for your money.   

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Charity of the Month: RCI Christel House Open

     You know what I was doing last week about this time?  Lounging at hole 17 on the Green Course at the Golden Horseshoe Golf Club!  Granted, it was for a good cause: The 13th annual RCI Christel House Open. Not coincidentally, my Charity of the Month.  All proceeds went to Christel House and their mission to help impoverished children break the cycle through education.  There were certainly prizes and swag to be given out.  Hole 17 boasted a $10,000 prize with a hole-in-one, unfortunately, the day saw no takers of the booty.  My team and I were just happy to be a part of a great cause on such a beautiful day at an establishment like the Golden Horseshoe Golf Club.  Everyone there was such a great sport and enjoying themselves.  While Richmond is my home, it was a wonderful opportunity for me to show my involvement in other communities like Williamsburg and the Tidewater region of Virginia.  Believe me, my arm was tired after handing out all my cozies!  While Monday’s like that are few and far between, it was a great opportunity for me and an amazing cause to support!

Rhonda donates $100 for every sale that she makes to a different charity every month, she donated over $500.00 to Christel House this month.

Learn more about Christel House by clicking here

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Home Restoration: Church Hill Virginia

Check out our latest project in conjunction with Cobblestone Development Group. We've also included some "before" pictures of the property. Tour of the property coming soon...

Make sure to visit my site and also check out for more information. 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Good Investment, Bad Investment

     Some people want to buy a house that is already perfect for them, meets all their needs and they don’t have to do anything at all to improve it besides paint a wall or two.  But for most people, the best quality in a home is potential.  They’d like to mold it into something spectacular in hopes their investment will bring them a sparkling return.  That’s making money work for you.  However, some people get side stepped into thinking any old improvement will get their money back, but it is not so. I’ve put together a few suggestions based on what will maximize return and what will not.  

Good Investment— Kitchens
     This is an area of the home that improving will always come out to your benefit.  Kitchen styles are constantly changing, appliances are always improving.  Compromising between your personal design aesthetic and what will appeal to buyers may give you a guideline when making fixture, appliance, cabinet and countertop decisions.  This type of remodel can span a small to large budget. Just remember that the crazier you go, the less likely you’ll get all of your money back.  If you do decide to go all the way, make it exactly how you want it, because it’s just for you.

Bad Investment— Playrooms. 
      This is a lifestyle decision.  If you have school age children and know you will be staying put for a while, adding a climbing wall or a princess castle will bring hours of entertainment and ignite your child’s imagination.  However, there is no telling if a potential buyer will feel similarly even if they have children, too.  Some might see the space as an office, a home theatre, a place to watch the Super Bowl.  This kind of improvement will most likely have to be undone when you want to sell.  Keeping that in mind can help you decide how permanent you'd like to make that transformation.

Good Investment— Additions. 
     Adding more space to live comfortably and entertain is always a great idea for your home both functionally and for your investment.  It increases square footage and potential in the eyes of a future buyer.  It can tend to be a large expense because of demolition costs, new foundation and additional roofing, so make sure you do it right.

Bad Investment— Small additions. 
     DO NOT just add a few square feet to your home to nudge out a little more space for a bathroom, or to bump out a bedroom.  You will not get your money back, and you will accumulate similar costs as a full-size addition.  You’ll still have to break down walls and lay additional foundation for space that will unlikely recover the cost.

Good Investment— Curb appeal.
      The outside of your home is one of the only ways to attract potential buyers initially.  The exterior is the first thing buyers see when shopping around.  It’s affordable and when done correctly could help you save money on heating a cooling.  Working with what you already have is a good jumping off point, like trimming hedges, mulching, etc.  Or, if your landscaping is already pristine, a fresh coat of paint for your entryway, shutters, or siding, can seriously give your home a facelift.

Bad Investment— Removing features.
     If thinking of investments solely, do not remove features that may prove valuable to potential buyers.  Even if you know you will never use the fireplace, another buyer might see it as a main attraction.
     Other high return renovations to think about are master suites and bathroom updates.  Other poor return investments, but lifestyle improvements are things that cater to your personal interests.  Pools or wine rooms come to mind.

     By all means, make upgrades on your home that will enhance quality of life rather than just focusing on the money, especially if you have growing children and plan on staying there for a while. Just bear in mind that some of those changes may have to be undone when it comes time to put your house on the market competitively. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

8 Expensive Home Repairs and How to Avoid Them

    The most popular rule of thumb to save for home maintenance is 1% of the total cost of your house, annually.  That means if your home is worth $350,000, you’ll likely spend on average $3,500 a year on upkeep.  Obviously certain years you’ll spend more than others, for instance, the year you install new roofing.  Other years you’ll spend substantially less.  You can invest in a home warranty that will cover some repairs, but likely not all of them.   Some of the more expensive repairs can be avoided by simple maintenance.  Here are some of the best ways to avoid giant home repair bills and get the most out of homeownership.

1. Foundation Repairs
   Just a few hours of clearing your gutters could potentially save you thousands of dollars on foundation repairs.  Managing water flow around your household is essential to avoiding basement leaks, foundation breaks and driveway cracks.  Make sure your gutters are clear and water is being directed away from the foundation with no standing water.  Creating a gradual slope away from your house with soil is one way to achieve this.  A simple investment in gutter extensions could also do the trick.

2. Roofing
     Water damage including rotting and leaking can affect your home’s roof as well.  Regular maintenance can help you avoid costly repairs.  For just a few hundred dollars, shingles and spotty areas are easy enough to fix right away rather than letting the damages amount to a few thousand dollars.  Check the condition of your roof every fall and spring when you’re cleaning the gutters.  Check the Flashing, the seal around exhaust vents and chimneys to make sure they are still watertight.  Check the roof of your attic for signs of water damage or discoloration. 

3. Water/Sewer Pipe Replacement     
     Replacing water or sewer pipes won’t necessarily cost you an arm or a leg, but the flooding and excavation of your yard (or worse, the driveway!) will cost you a pretty penny.  If you live in an older property, it might be wise to invest in water and sewer line insurance.  Check with your utility company if you plan on digging for any landscaping or home improvement projects.  You can also have your lines inspected annually for leaks or cracks.

     Not only are the units themselves expensive, professional installation can potentially double the price.  The best way to prevent your furnace or air conditioner dying on you is to schedule maintenance every 6 months or so.  Similar to having a regular car tune up, having a professional run through a maintenance checklist will extend the life of your unit.  You can also replace the air filter every 90 days to improve air quality and function.  

5. Wooden Deck Replacement
     In this case, it’s absolutely true that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Instead of letting your deck fall prey to rot or severe weathering, use one weekend a year to give it a good scrubbing and re-stain.  Check for soft spots in the wood, particularly around the supports and joists below.  If a screwdriver can penetrate the wood more than 1/4 of an inch, that’s a good indicator you have rot.

6. Driveway Repair
     Your driveway endures a lot.  The weight of your car, water, snow, and ice.  If left unprotected it can easily crumble away.  Getting a brand new driveway can be a hefty bill, but so is the removal of the old one.  This is why it’s important to seal your driveway against the elements.  In hot dry weather, washing your driveway with warm water and a mild detergent will do the trick.  Next apply a sealant specifically meant for driveways.  Follow the directions for whichever sealant you purchase from your local home store.

7. Fire or Smoke Damage
     Maintaining your fireplace and chimney will prevent any fires caused by clogged systems.  Have a chimney sweep inspect your beloved winter heat source.  When you open the flue, you should be able to see daylight.  If not, the particles clogging your fireplace are highly flammable and could potentially turn into a chimney fire.

8. Fallen Trees
     Any giant trees close to your house could cause potential damage if their structure is weakened by disease or broken limbs.  Have a professional tree service inspect that giant oak to prune any limbs that could potentially fall in strong winds or heavy snows.  Trees can do a lot of damage to your house or car that you don’t want to pay out of pocket for.

With regular upkeep, you can prevent daunting repair surprises.  Avoiding them means more control over what you spend and save for such repairs.  Knowing you’ll have to make a major repair in a couple years gives you time to plan, save and shop around.