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Serving South Florida

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For over 30 years

Posts Tagged ‘Asheville homes’

Spring Cleaning Guide from Optima Properties

Spring checklist

Now that the clocks have SPRUNG AHEAD it is a good time to think about Spring Home Maintenance.  As current homeowners you need to keep your home systems and property in good condition so that the small maintenance issues do not become major and expensive repair items.

 

Do not read this list and become overwhelmed, it is an extensive list meant to cover basic home maintenance. Not all of these maintenance items will apply to all homes.  This is a comprehensive guideline designed for homes in the South as well as Northern climates.

Spring cleaning is a way to demonstrate pride in ownership (or rentership).  A home and its contents are investments; money spent on something you really love or really need (ideally both).  When you take the time to clean thoroughly and properly, you can maintain and prolong the life of the item or finish for years.  Further, it means you live in a cleaner and healthier home; less dust, dust mites, allergens, odors, and dirt.

Always start from the top and work your way down.  Think about it like this: dust falls down (like rain or snow) so if you start at the top, you’ll never have to re-clean a surface (which is a time waster).  It doesn’t make sense to clean the floors first and then dust the tabletops; you’ll just have to clean the floors again.  Use gravity to your benefit and always work from top to bottom.  It also helps you not miss anything!

General Spring Cleaning Tasks:

These are a list of some of the things that need to be done around the house, and spring is a great time to do them.  So often we don’t remember to do them, so let this be your wake-up call!

 

 

 

 

Tests and replacements:

Test smoke alarm

Test carbon monoxide alarm

Check flashlight batteries

Check fire extinguishers

Change air filters

Check all window screens for tears and repair or replace as required

 

 

 

Overall Spring Cleaning Chores:

Dust crown molding and baseboards and clean scuff marks

Dust ceiling corners

Dust/wash light fixtures and lamps

Dust ceiling fans

Wipe down doors and walls (Swiffer works great for removing all the dust)

Touch up paint

Vacuum or wash/dry clean window curtains and bedding

Wash or dust window blinds

Wash windows and screens inside and out

Dust books and bookcases

Polish wood furniture

Wipe down and vacuum furniture (clean the base and under cushions)

Condition leather furniture

Remove stains from upholstered furniture

Vacuum and wash lampshades

Deep clean hardwood, tile, linoleum, and carpet flooring

Shampoo carpet (DIY or schedule a professional)

Remove area rugs to shake out, then vacuum, then clean under them

Remove fingerprints and dirt from light switches and door handles

Clean air vents

Dust around and BEHIND mirrors, picture frames, and wall hangings

Schedule chimney sweep

Schedule termite or pest control maintenance

Spring Clean Outside:

Sweep, power wash, and/or stain deck

Power spray siding

Touch up paint trim, wood, doors, and shutters

Oil hurricane shutters

Power wash garage door and eaves of house

Clean outside door frames

Wipe away cobwebs

Shake out entry mat

Clean grill

Clean and repair gutters

Replace broken bricks, wood, or stone

Clean outdoor light fixtures

Clean outside patio furniture

Trim trees, bushes and shrubbery

Check and repair sprinklers

Inspect roof shingles

Clean outdoor and indoor trash cans

Clean out garage and sweep

 

Mortgage Rates and The Fed

The Federal Reserve kept the benchmark rate unchanged on September 21st, in a divided vote that alludes to the possibility of a hike before the end of the year.

“The Committee judges that the case for an increase in the federal funds rate has strengthened but decided, for the time being, to wait for further evidence of continued progress toward its objectives,” the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) released in statement. “The Committee expects that economic conditions will evolve in a manner that will warrant only gradual increases in the federal funds rate; the federal funds rate is likely to remain, for some time, below levels that are expected to prevail in the longer run.”

“Our decision does not reflect a lack of confidence in the economy,” Fed Chair Janet Yellen said in a press conference, later adding, “We’re generally pleased with how the U.S. economy is doing.”Today’s action was largely expected by analysts as policymakers stood fast this summer, despite initially forecasting four hikes this year. The federal funds rate informs the trajectory of mortgage rates, which remain at historic lows.

Perhaps no sector has benefited more from ultra-low rates than housing, which was devastated by the real estate crash. Home sales are expected to total about 5.7 million this year, up from 5.4 million in 2014 and 4.6 million in 2011. The recovery can at least partly be traced to 30-year fixed mortgage rates that remain below 4%, down from about 6% in 2008, keeping borrowing costs low for buyers.

But today’s housing market is supported by far more than low mortgage rates — namely steady job and economic growth. What’s more, 30-year mortgages are priced off 10-year Treasury note yields, which do rise as short-term rates climb, but not as steeply.

Doug Duncan, chief economist of Fannie Mae, the giant government-sponsored funder of mortgages, expects this week’s Fed hike of a quarter of a percentage point to have virtually no immediate impact on Treasury or mortgage rates, noting markets already have priced in the move. Assuming the Fed raises its rate by a percentage point over the next year, Duncan expects 30-year mortgage rates to drift from 3.9% to 4.1% during the period. That would boost the monthly cost of a typical $225,000 mortgage by $26 to $1,454 — not enough to deter most buyers.

Adjustable-rate mortgages, many of which are modified annually, could increase about twice as rapidly, by about a half a percentage point. Yet as long as job growth and aggregate U.S. incomes increase proportionally, Duncan expects any market impact to be modest. A far bigger restraint on home sales, he says, is a limited supply that should push up prices by nearly 5% both this year and in 2016. As a result, Duncan expects home sales to increase 4% in 2016, down from 8% this year, with higher rates holding back 1% to 2% of deals.

“As long as the rate rise is gradual, I don’t see it as a hugely important factor,” he says.

Location, Location, Location!

There are many things that should be considered when buying a home. Since most home buyers expect to buy a bigger and better home someday in the future, resale value is an important factor in decision-making. While no one can guarantee that your home will grow in value, there are steps you can take that maximize your potential gain.
“Location, location, location,” is a common and almost overused phrase in real estate and has been in use at least since 1926, according to the New York Times. It is just as relevant now as it was then.
The idea is to buy a house that will appeal to the largest number of potential future home buyers. A careful choice of location can minimize potential negative influences on future resale value, and maximize positive influences.
So if “location, location, location” is so important, what makes a location good? Here are five characteristics to look for when buying a home. If you can get all five, chances are the home will be a good investment.
Some “good” and “bad” qualities simply vary by community. If you know your local community, you know which parts of town are less or more desirable.
Safety:
People want to live where there’s little or no crime. Naturally, they want to feel safe in their homes and will pay extra for it. A safe neighborhood means people will feel free to walk around, be outdoors and interact with their neighbors.
Good Schools:
Whether you have children, plan on having them, never want children, or they are out of the house; the better the school district, the higher the values of the surrounding homes can be. . The reputation, the quality and the district are additional factors in finding a good school. Homes surrounding good schools are in high demand. Found a home you love but the school district is subpar? Be aware of that issue for resale down the road.
Convenient access to work, popular places, shops and restaurants
Everyone wants to be near the best commercial districts. The closer to the hubbub of a particular town or the best parts of a city, the better the location – and the more someone is willing to pay for a home. The distance from point A to point B is so important. A long commute burns more gas and wastes more time than necessary. Therefore, evaluate the time it takes to travel from the home to the following: work, school, store, hospitals and favorite hangouts. Buyers without cars must live in communities with public transportation access. A community containing local amenities close by is valuable to buyers.
View, Views, Views:
No matter which town or city, someone will always pay for a great view or to be on or near the water.  An interior location with lack of road noise is also an important consideration. If the community does not offer views, then the backyard area and how it is designed is a consideration.
Access to public transit and/or freeways:
In major cities, the farther you live from the bus, subway or other types of mass transit, the less valuable the home. A good location means being very close, and having easy access, to public transportation. Being near a train or bus can get you anywhere in a short amount of time. In some towns, where a commute by car is inevitable, easy access to the freeway makes for a good location. Adding 20 minutes to a commute just to get to the freeway never helps a location.
It’s almost easier to talk about what constitutes a bad location than to discuss good locations. There are some common characteristics that make a location “bad,” no matter where you are. That is because the qualities that make a good location desirable can vary, depending on whether you’re looking in the city, suburbs, the country or the mountains. Bad locations, by their general nature, are easier to pinpoint. Some examples are:
Commercial/industrial areas:
Unless you live downtown, commercial buildings on your block diminish residential real estate values. Part of the reason is because homeowners cannot control loitering. Homes next to gas stations or shopping centers are undesirable because of the noise factor and compromise safely.
 
Railroad tracks, freeways or under flight paths:
Some city dwellers have homes close to railroad tracks and endure rumbling and other noise 24-hours a day. If you have a choice to be in a quiet area, free from road noise within the same community, this is the better choice of residence.
Economically depressed areas:
If owners show no pride of ownership in maintaining their homes, evidenced by lack of maintenance, poor landscaping and junk in the yard, you might think twice about moving into such an area.
Close to hazards:
People don’t want to live next door to power plants or substations. Few home buyers want a transformer in their yard, either. Understand the flooding risks and exposure to natural disasters and the preventative measures that have been taken to minimize them.
Other factors that can make for a “bad” location: very close proximity to a fire station (good if your house is on fire, not so good if you’re trying to sleep); a hospital (frequent ambulance sirens); an airport (sounds of jet engines 18 hours per day) or a school (traffic from buses or parents dropping off children or kids yelling and playing).

Most Often Asked Homebuyer Questions – Answered!  

Buying a home is a major lifestyle and investment decision. Homebuyers have a lot of questions throughout every step of the process and I have found that many of the questions are common to many. Here are some answers to the most common questions I get asked.

Q: What home can I afford?

That depends, of course-on your income and other financial obligations. There are many Home Affordability Calculators for a ballpark figure. A visit to the Optima Properties website will offer you many tools under the  Finance Center!

Before you start to shop, make sure that you know exactly what you can afford by getting pre-qualified by your financial institution of mortgage broker.

Q: Can I buy a home and sell my current one at the same time?

Yes, you can-but it’s the real estate equivalent of walking a tightrope. This is one of the trickiest questions to answer, on the one hand, if you buy a home before you sell the one you’re in, you’re overextended financially; if you sell before you buy, you might need to rent a while before finding a new place. There are ways to do both at once, and one option is to request a “sale contingency” in your contract. This means you only agree to buy a home if you can sell the one you’re in. The only downside is if your seller doesn’t agree and will not agree to this condition….it never hurts to ask!

Q: How many homes should I see before making an offer?

As many as you need to!  While home shoppers these days can look at hundreds of homes online, most need to physically visit the area and stand in the properties before they put in an offer. Keep in mind, this varies tremendously for each person. Some people find their home within hours of looking or make an offer sight unseen because they have definitively defined their criteria. For others, it takes months and sometimes over a year if they are trying to determine the area, lifestyle, and type of home that meets their requirements.

Q: What do you think the seller will accept as a fair price?

As a rule of thumb, knocking 5-10% off the list price

won’t ruffle any feathers for an initial offer. If the property has been sitting on the market for months, you can venture below that, but the bottom line is, you never know how low a seller will go, as they have different motivations for selling.  Your Exclusive Buyer Agent should develop a Comprehensive Market Analysis to determine the market value of the property. This should be your guideline as to how much to offer and how high to go.

Q: How do I know if the property is a good deal?

While there’s no crystal ball on whether a certain home is a bargain and will appreciate, rest assured that with research, you can keep surprises to a minimum. The best way is to check out comps-what similar properties are selling for in the area.

Q: How quickly can I close?

If you are paying cash you can typically close in the time it takes to get the home inspected and have a lien, permit, and title search conducted. The new TRID requirements for home loans have extended the time required to get a mortgage.  I advise all my buyers to not commit to a closing for less than 60 days from the effective date of the contract.

Q: Should I get a home inspection?

My only answer to this question is YES, YES, YES! A certified and licensed home inspector ( not your father in law) will look into the condition of the roof, electricity, heating and air, plumbing, among other functions and conditions of the property.  Even if you are just purchasing land you should check for soil contamination, septic perkability, etc.

Q: Can I back out if I change my mind?

While buyers can always back out of a deal, doing so without good reason may forfeit their earnest money and full deposit.  The form of contract you choose to use may provide you with different outs. Contingencies are great “escape clauses. For example, if you enter into an AS IS contract upon an unsatisfactory home inspection, the buyer can ask for their deposit back. Another contingency is “subject to appraisal.’” That means you can back out if the appraisal either ordered by your closing agent or your lender results in a valuation that is less than the agreed to purchase price.
Bear in mind that the more contingencies you include in your offer the less room you have to negotiate other terms and conditions of the contract with the Seller.

There is not question to small or unimportant when purchasing a home.  There is a wealth of information available and your agent should assist you in getting your questions answered in a timely manner.

 

 

Homebuying Tips and Advice

Buying a house is a difficult process — there are large sums of money involved, the transaction costs and hassle of moving mean that you can’t just buy another house if you don’t like the one you end up with. The best you can do is to educate yourself in all aspects of the house hunt, keep a clear head, and buy a house that best fits your criteria.

There are plenty of articles full of useful tips for first-time homebuyers. I am not going to repeat them. Instead, I will list the lessons I have learned over the past 30 years of working exclusively with buyers that are not often covered.

Think long-term and think re-sale: Are you planning to have kids? Will you be taking care of elderly relatives? You might be planning to live in your first home for only a few years or plan on using it as an income producing property. In that case, who is your target audience when it comes time to sell or rent the house? If you buy a house in a very bad school district or a house with all the bedrooms upstairs when you are ready to sell the house, you will be narrowing the field of potential buyers.

Make a list of items to check when looking at properties: Home-buying is an emotional process. Ideally, you should set aside all your emotions when evaluating a house. Practically, that is impossible. Instead, make a checklist of your must-haves, nice-to-haves or absolutely nots. Then print copies of this checklist or keep it on your tablet. Every time you visit a house, take the checklist along with you; take photographs so you can cross each item off your list. If you fall in love with the house aesthetics but find your checklist shows that the house has none of your must-haves, it will at least make you pause and think.

All the old advice about buying your first home is true. Some examples — have an emergency fund, save for a down payment of 20 percent and closing costs, get your credit into a better shape, and don’t buy more than you can afford.  When budgeting for the house, don’t stop with principal, interest, taxes and insurance; add in utilities, cost of commuting and upgrades and replacement costs for aging roof or appliances. Ask the seller for copies of the utility bills and inquire of the utility companies about budget plans. Will the gas budget for your car go up if you are moving further away from the places you frequently visit? Budget all of these expenses and see if you can still afford the house.

Get Pre-approved:  Why would you want to waste time looking at houses you can’t afford?  Doing the pre-approval process ahead of time is vital. If there is something negative on your credit report, it’s best to find it early in the process, so you have time to correct it.

Ask for the homeowners and condo association documents before you make a decision: If your long- range plan is to rent out the house once you move, then you better insure that there are no rental restrictions that would preclude you from your desired goal. Thoroughly understand the Covenants and Restrictions of any area you are purchasing to ensure that they are in keeping with your lifestyle.

Be sure to read your contract before you sign it: A house is probably the largest purchase you will ever make in your life, so make sure you understand the terms of your contract. If you don’t understand any of the terms, ask your mortgage broker and your real estate agent. Either should be fully knowledgeable to address your contractual questions. I strongly advise that you retain an attorney to handle your closing, review title and loan documents, note title objections, and hold your deposit monies.

Learn about the neighborhood demographics: Do you have kids and are looking at homes without young families?  Are the majority of the residents renters and not homeowners? Define the type of neighborhood you want to live and make this one of your top priorities on your checklist.

Look beyond the staging: The psychology of staging does work; staged houses look far better than houses that are still being occupied. When you are considering a house, mentally try to remove the staging. Pay more attention to the layout of the house and the structure itself. Ugly wallpaper and paint can be easily fixed later.  Does your furniture fit the scale of the room?  Does the house have a functional kitchen?

Indecision:  Ever heard of the saying “Curiosity killed the cat”? Well, here’s another one, “Indecision killed the deal.” Not moving on a house fast enough and taking too much time to make a decision on buying the house is common as well. This indecision gives someone else the opportunity to scoop ups that home before you have a chance to make an offer.  A multiple offer situation is good for the seller, but not so much for the buyer. In this competitive real estate market with low inventory and high buyer turnout, you need to move quickly in order to get the house that you want.

Only checking online sources for mortgage rates and available homebuyer programs?  As much as everyone loves to do everything from their computer or smartphone today, this is one thing that should be done in person or with a phone call. It is always best to call a local mortgage lender and sit down in person with them to talk about the most current rates and programs available. Many of the lenders that you find online are not local and only have teaser rates on their websites. If you choose a mortgage lender that doesn’t have a local presence, a lot can change once they get the paperwork in front of them at the closing table. Insist of using an appraiser that is knowledgeable and does most of their work in area of the property.

Learn as much as you can about real estate, your budget, and your local housing market, but realize that buying a house is all about compromise, and a lot of doubt! No house is PERFECT but if you keep at it the odds are very good that you will find a house that suits your needs and will be a wonderful home for you and your family or your investment goals.