9 Things Buyers Need To Know

what you need to know
As a realtor in Texas, I receive a monthly magazine called Texas Realtor. There was an article in the April edition with questions that realtors are constantly asked by buyers. It listed nine questions but didn’t provide any responses. Here are my responses to their list of questions:

1. How long does the buying process take?
Once you have a signed contract on the house you want to purchase, a lender should be able to get your loan processed and complete within 30-45 days. If you are a cash buyer, all the needed paperwork should be ready for you to close at a title company within 7-14 days.

2. How many homes does the average buyer visit?
This totally depends on the buyer. Some people know exactly what they want while others are in the dark. Oftentimes you learn during the house-hunting process that you and your partner are on totally different pages. (That is another post for another day….the awkwardness of sitting through a couple’s argument.) With the help of HAR, Houston buyers have access to lots of information on homes and see photos without even seeing the house in person. This can narrow down their list of homes at the early stages of looking.

3. Is there anything I should not do during the house-hunting process?
Do not change jobs and do not go out and purchase a bunch of high dollar items that might affect your credit and loan status. (examples: all new furniture, new car, etc) Lenders typically run your credit a second time prior to your close date and a large expense can create a problem.

4. When should I make an offer?
In today’s crazy real estate market you need to be prepared to make an offer on a house the first day it is on the market. A couple years ago I would not have said this. However, todays market is very tight with low inventory and lots of buyers. Most first time homebuyers are not very comfortable with this advice. They often have to lose out on a few homes before they fully understand this concept and are ok with it. This scenario isn’t always going to be case, but it is very common these days.

5. How much should I offer?
Prior to offering on a property, your realtor should research comparable properties in the area and see what they have recently sold for. Today’s market has improved from even 6 months ago. Your realtor needs to be aware of these value increases and be able to confidently tell you if a house is listed above market value.

6. Will I get my earnest money back if the contract is not accepted?
Yes. The earnest money is typically 1% of the sale price. You will write a check out to the title company where you will be closing and the money is put into an escrow account. The money is refundable to the buyer in a variety of situations that your realtor should go over with you. If your contract is never accepted by the seller you will not even provide a check for earnest money. Earnest money is required within 48 hours of the contract being executed or signed by both parties.

7. Do I really need a home inspection?

The short answer here is yes. You should always hire your own inspector (general and termite at a minimum) to inspect any property you are considering purchasing. You should get this done as quickly into your option period as possible. Inspectors are not cheap. However, spending $500 on an inspection is cheaper than finding out you just purchased a $400,000 money pit.

8. What happens at the closing?

You will close on your property at a title company. The main thing you will do is sign tons and tons of paperwork that your lender provides to the title company. You are signing off on loan documents, your deed, your loan application, tax papers, and tons of disclosures. The escrow agent at the title company should be able to clearly explain what all the forms mean and how they might affect you. If you are THAT person who reads each document, have your relator ask the title company for the paperwork the night before so you can take up your own time and not everyone elses reading all the fine print. (The reality is that if you have a problem with a document and don’t want to sign, the lender won’t send over the funds, which means you don’t get a house.) The other big thing that often happens at closing is meeting your seller. This can be really fun or really awkward, depending on how smoothly the transaction went down. Make it known if you would prefer to sign separately from the seller.

9. When will I get the keys?

You should get the keys once the loan funds. Typically, this is the same day as when you sign all your paperwork but sometimes the loans don’t actually fund until the next day. You technically should not receive the keys until the money has transferred but often times agents just leave the keys at the title company. Remember that you might need more than just keys….garage door opener, gate openers, mailbox key, etc. Your realtor should coordinate this all for you with the sellers realtor.

Hopefully these questions and answers were helpful to some of you who are starting the home buying process. Feel free to send me other questions you might want answered.

Home Safety Tip: Your Weekend Homework

As a realtor, I learn the most about home maintenance, safety, and repairs during inspections. General inspections should be done once a contract has been negotiated during the buyer’s option period. We always recommend that a buyer get a general inspection. Based on what is found by the inspector, you can decide if a specific tradesman should come and inspect anything further. An example might be that the general inspector tells you there are some electrical issues with the home. So we decide to bring an electrician over to the home to a) confirm there is a problem, b) address how this affects the electrical system and overall safety of the home, and c) how much it will cost you to remedy the problem.

I have been in the real estate business almost 3 years. I listen to inspectors probably once a week. You would think that if I hear of a common problem in homes over and over and over, I would check to see if such a problem existed in my own home. Nope. It took me three years to discover (aka walk into my closet and take one look) that I have a certain brand of electrical panel that is now considered to be a fire hazard.

Your homework for the weekend: Walk over to your electric panel…aka breaker box…aka that thing you go to when a fuse blows and you open a little door and flip one of many black switches. If your panel says “Federal Pacific” on the outside, you have an electric panel that is not up to code and considered a fire hazard for today’s standards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To replace an electric panel will run you about $1500 with a reputable electrician. Does it totally suck to spend $1500 on a new electric panel? Absolutely. But it would suck more for your house to burn down. If you live in a rental, I would still suggest checking out what is in place and alerting your landlord that you heard from a random friend (me!) that those panels can cause fires. There’s a good chance they won’t care. But go ahead and try!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What to do if you are purchasing a home that has a Federal Pacific electric panel? Your realtor needs to ask that it either be replaced or there be some sort of concession for you to replace it. In my opinion, this is just a given and should not be negotiable. Most importantly, your inspector and realtor should not allow you to purchase a home without alerting you of the potential hazard prior to your option period expiring. Knowledge is power, right? And you want to be as knowledgeable as possible when it comes to your home and family.

SIDE NOTE: On the subject of electrical issues…if your lights dim in certain rooms when your AC cycles on, you likely have an electric panel that doesn’t provide your home with enough power. You need a larger capacity breaker to sufficiently “power up” everything in your house (AC, TV’s, computer, 5 phone chargers, etc). When you notice things like dimming lights, have an electrician come look at your system. The lights are likely dimming because your panel is working extra hard to provide power everywhere and a short can easily occur, causing a fire.

Now to get my OWN panel updated….

Stump’d ya!

Remember when Hurricane Ike hit Houston and the entire town looked like this?

When Ike hit, Mac and I were renting a house in Afton Village behind Ikea and it was one of the most miserable experiences ever. This is how it went down in our house – – Bored, hot, restless, scared, sweaty, beyond freaked out, irritated, exhausted, confused. By this I mean our electricity shuts off around 7pm way before the storm is even close to hitting Houston. BORED. The AC is out so it quickly gets steamy. HOT. What the heck is there to do with no TV, this battery operated radio sucks, I guess I will try and sleep, oh wait I can’t because I am too damn hot. RESTLESS. It’s now midnight and the storm is in full force. SCARED. Only getting hotter at this point. SWEATY. Can’t sleep, Rocky and Kirby are having total meltdowns, I am standing at the window watching two huge pine trees sway back and forth in the backyard. BEYOND FREAKED OUT. Mac keeps telling me he is not scared and that he’s asleep. IRRITATED. Sun starts to come up and I haven’t slept yet. EXHAUSTED. Go outside and cannot believe the damage, can’t call anyone because cell phones aren’t working, not sure what is going on around town because there is no power anywhere, um… what do we do now, I want my dad. CONFUSED.

That pretty much sums it up at our house. Oh wait, don’t let me forget that we didn’t have power for 17 days and had to stay with my in-laws. My in-laws are wonderful, but still.

Anyway, enough with walking down memory lane. Back to my point. The two huge pine trees that were swaying in the wind fell down that night. Luckily they took down all the fences around the backyard and not our house. Once the trees were finally chopped to pieces and removed, we started getting flyers in our mailbox for stump grinding services. I had never even heard of stump grinding until I realized that after the pine trees were taken away, we were still left with two huge stumps in the backyard.

Here is a really neat idea on what you can do with those large stumps if you have a tree fall on your property or need to remove one that is dead or diseased. I currently have a dead tree that desperately needs to be removed in our backyard. Of course, we are putting that off indefinitely because spending money on something like tree removal is about as fun as owing the IRS on your taxes. But when we finally bite the bullet and remove the tree, there will be no stump grinding in my backyard!

How to make a planter out of an old stump:

1. Wearing safety glasses, chip away at the center of the stump with the pointed end of a sharpened mattock.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2. As the hole gets bigger, switch to the mattock’s wider end. Work your way toward the edges of the stump, leaving at least a 3-inch border, to create a hole 4 to 8 inches deep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. With a 3/8 to 1/2 inch wide auger bit, drill drainage holes into the side of the stump so that they slope toward the ground. Add some free-draining material, like gravel, then top it with a mix of 30% compost and 70% potting soil.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. Now fill the planter with some eye-catching blooms.

Next week is a new week. Thank God.

This has been one of those weeks where I might seriously lose it. Thankfully it’s almost the weekend. Oh wait…. weekends don’t exist for realtors.

All week I have been in such a fight with my GPS. I would seriously punch her in face if it didn’t cost so much to repair my dash. Talk about knowing when you are smarter than someone! Our relationship is very strained right now. Ever had this happen? Welcome to my life.

Additionally, I lost my supra. A supra is what a realtor uses to get into lockboxes to show homes. Without a supra, you can pretty much hand in the towel. So I raced over to HAR to get a new one. I am sure I’ll find my old one tomorrow in my makeup bag or somewhere equally as irritating.

The icing on the cake was when I hit a pedestrian in Midtown yesterday evening. Technically I would consider it a “tap” versus a “hit.” But seriously people, if you see a crazed driver looking left in order to go right on red, PLEASE don’t think that I am going to notice when you decide to dash across the street. Yes, I know you have the right of way. But still. Please, beware.

Happy Friday! Be sure to check out my new Peep of the Week coming later today.

Weeeeeee!

Happy Thursday! So far this morning I have already had my morning coffee at home and been to two coffee shops and it’s not even 9am yet. In the past two weeks we have put 7 homes under contract (and have saved our clients over $50,000 might I add) so to say I have been busy is an understatement. I ran across a neat concept the other day and thought I would share.

Take a look at a Wee House. The concept behind the Wee House truly negates our favorite phrase in Texas that “bigger is better.” I guess it’s fitting that this architect is from Minnesota. These homes are designed to be built in factory and shipped directly to your home site. They are small, affordable, low-waste, and energy efficient. As a realtor, I constantly look for homes that are designed with an efficient use of space. This concept might be taking it to the extreme. But it seems to be working for some people. Check it out….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the Arado floorplan being delivered to its new site. The Arado is the smallest of the Wee House designs with 336 sq. ft. of living space. This floorplan costs about $60,000.

 

 

 

 

 

 

An exterior shot of the home. All this could be yours people!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kitchen and dining area.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bedroom plus living room.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A wood burning stove to warm the home. I will admit, that is a pretty cool view.

Wee House has a variety of floor plans to choose from that are larger than 300 sq ft and are all prefabricated homes. It really gives the term “mobile home” quite a facelift. Although I can’t see myself wanting to live in a home like this all the time, I think the idea sounds perfect for a second home or if you have a piece of land somewhere but cannot afford to build on it right away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can you see yourself in living in a Wee House? Click here for an interesting read on some of Houston’s smallest homes.

You have the power.

Do you know how much you are spending on electricity each month? Maybe you know about how much your bill is each month, but are you actually aware of your rate per kilowatt hour?  A year ago this week, David told me about www.powertochoose.org. It is a simple site where anyone can go and see which electric provider has the lowest rate.

At the time, Mac and I had an account with Reliant Energy. We had been using them for about three years. I called Reliant to find out our current rate and was told it was approximately $0.16/kilowatt. Our plan was on a month to month term because our one year contract had been up years prior. Because our plan was now month to month, we would not be charged a cancellation fee. So I got on www.powertochoose.org and found a new plan through Pennywise Energy with a $0.10/kilowatt. I signed up for a 12 month, fixed rate plan. I set a reminder in my calendar for one year from that week to check back on the site to see if I could get a better rate.

This week I went back through the same process. I am now a Amigo Energy customer with a 12 month fixed plan for $.086/kilowatt. Plus 11.5% of my energy comes from renewable souces where as with Pennywise I was using 0% renewable energy. This took a total of about 20 minutes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The hardest part about this process if to remind yourself in a year to check again. So your best bet is to put it in your calendar NOW!

Here’s how you can do the same thing:
1. Call you current provider to see what type of plan you are on (month to month or under a set contract), your rate, and if there is a cancellation fee.
2. Go to www.powertochoose.org
3. Click on Available Offers.
4.  Scroll through the list looking for the lowest rate for a 12 month, fixed plan. 
5. If renewable energy is important to you, you can see what percentage of each companies energy comes from renewable sources. 
6. Click on the terms and make sure you understand their terms and conditions.
7. Once you have found the best option, click on Sign Up and it will take you to their site. 
8. Spend about 10 minutes filling in your address, etc and they will switch it over for you on the date you choose. 
9. Set up auto billing at this time too! (Amigo Energy allowed me to do this. I am not sure about all the other companies.) 
10. Done. No need to cancel with your previous provider. Your new company will handle the switch.

Easy, huh? Ready, set, save!

 

Three homes. Twelve offers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Monday, we listed a home in Afton Village. It was last Friday’s Peep of the Week. This weekend we received two offers on it.

Last Tuesday, we listed a Heights bungalow. This weekend we received six offers on it.

We placed an offer on a newly listed home in Wilchester for one of our clients. Our offer was one of four offers and was not accepted.

The Houston housing market is seriously crazy right now. Interests rates are so low and thankfully the Houston economy has remained relatively strong. This is a sellers paradise but can be quite frustrating as a buyer. Here are a few tips for both buyers and sellers when you are dealing with a multiple offer situation.

Sellers

1. Don’t be discouraged if a buyer doesn’t want to participate in a multiple offer situation.
2. Don’t just look at the offer price. Take into consideration the entire offer…option period, financing addendum, seller concessions, etc.
3. Google the buyer’s names. It’s fun to play detective and often times you get a sense for where they are coming from if you can learn a little about them.

Buyers

1. Try to avoid a biding war. Another house will come along, I promise.
2. Try to keep your emotions in check. It is not worth overpaying for a home.
3. Write a letter to your potential sellers explaining who you are and why you love their home so much. Have your agent present it with the offer. People love to hear warm fuzzies about their home.
4. Increase and decrease the little things. Increasing your option fee and/or lowering your option period might be very attractive to the seller. Talk to your lender and figure out the minimum amount of time it will take to lock in your financing. Sometimes the little things add up to a stronger offer than just the dollar amount.

Leave it to twelve offers to suck your weekend dry! It is an exciting (and stressful) time to be a buyer or seller. I hope you all have a great week!

Peep of the Week- 3.2.12

So FRESH!

The house I chose for this week’s Peep of the Week is absolutley wonderful. I chose it for a couple of reasons…location, design, and it’s a New Leaf listing, so why not? Located in Afton Village right behind the Ikea, this little pocket of homes is the first exit outside the loop but with all the amenities of Memorial. The best of both worlds in my opinion. A quick jump onto I-10 makes for such an easy commute from virtually anywhere in Houston. Additionally, this home is owned by a friend that I have known forever. I am thrilled to be able to reconnect with her and help her family find a new home to start the next chapter of their lives. It doesn’t get much better than that. Really!

7214 Hartland    $389,000

Marketed by New Leaf Real Estate

The Big Picture…

Bed: 3
Bath: 2
Square Footage: 1949
Lot Square Footage: 8520
Year Built: 1955
Style: Traditional
School District: Spring Branch ISD

 

This home has been extensively remodeled by the owners. The seller used to work for a designer here in Houston and when you see these photos, you can tell. Both the remodel and their furnishings are right on point with the most popular design trend right now… white, neutral, bright, and clean.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This home has the best of both old and new in my opinion. I love original, well-maintained wood floors. There is just somethng about them that make everything feel cozy. The living room is open to another room they are using as a study/play area for their boys. Where I can see someone putting a formal dining table in that space, I love how they chose to maximize their living area by almost making this space one big room. The mix of whites, linens, wood, and stainless pieces is one of my favorite looks right now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They took their traditional galley kitchen and updated it with white marble, added a gas range, a wine refrigerator, and double stainless ovens. This rooms appears very spacious with this bright color pallete. I just love a white kitchen…so fresh and so clean.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This room is being used as the formal dining room. It is right off the kitchen and overlooks the backyard. The painted brick fireplace is so unqiue- what a mantle! Not pictured in this photo are some built-in shelves they use to display all their crystal and have a bar set up. It’s charming, quaint, and elegant all at the same time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Something about beamed and planked ceilings make me feel like I am on vacation somewhere at an awesome bed and breakfast. This is seriously what I wish my bedroom looked like. Between the linens and all the fluffy pillows, I want to jump in and watch Lifetime movies all day long from this spot. What makes this room even better is that there are TWO walk-in closets. For a home of this vintage, two closets is almost unheard of.

 

 

 

 

 

When I see this backyard I imagine my sellers and their friends enjoying an awesome dinner and some great wine. This is such a great set up, both for entertaining or keeping an eye on your little ones as they play. Not too much to maintain, yet the perfect amount to enjoy to the fullest!

Join me

Join me here for the highs and lows of a realtor’s life. I love my job, except for when it sucks.

You will likely find a hodge podge of topics here that I might “rant” about…both positive, negative, funny, and ridiculous.

I am a realtor and David’s assistant at New Leaf. Here are is where I rant.  

Side note: I think it’s funny that when I Google Imaged “ranting” it gave me a picture of Mel Gibson.

I Heart Houston

I often take living in Houston for granted. I’m sure I’m not the first person to ever say something like, “I am so sick of living here. There’s nothing to do. I’d love a change of scenery.” Other than four years of college (Sic ‘Em Bears!) and a few years living in Dallas, I have lived in Houston my entire life. Probably my favorite thing to do is travel and explore new places so it doesn’t surprise me that I get bored with my surrounds.

On the flip side, being a native Houstonian makes my job as a realtor a lot easier. Often times my job also makes me realize that Houston is a really awesome place to live. A recent client experience renewed my love for my hometown city.

My client’s company relocated to Houston from Savannah, Georgia. They were a younger couple and knew nothing about Houston. I spent three full days with them looking for a one year rental property. We covered the entire city and as I chauffeured them from property to property, I described each neighborhood. Being a native Houstonian, I could tell them at least a 30 year history of each little area and how it has changed over the years. I probably gave them more information than they ever cared to know, including but not limited to the following….

Free booze & bbq? Yes please!

Of course, I couldn’t leave out all the other things that make Houston an incredible city….The Theater District, Galveston, Discovery Green, Memorial Park, all that is Montrose, our best golf courses, the amazing suburb communities that surround the greater city, our school systems, Kemah boardwalk, Sam Houston Racetrack, Bayou Bend, NASA….the list can literally go on and on!

It’s times like these, when I was literally driving my clients around in circles but they had no clue, that I remember what a special place Houston is to me. It is the ultimate melting pot of people, cultures, and experiences. So when I am broke and cannot afford to take an exotic vacation, I will try to remember this post. I’ll hop in the car and venture over to Ninfa’s on Navigation or to Phoenicia Specialty Foods and pretend I am somewhere else for a while.

Houston, I owe you an apology. Thanks for all you offer and for allowing me to call you home.

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