THE THING ABOUT INSPECTIONS…

              Every real estate transaction has a period in which there is an opportunity to inspect the property.  Protocols around who is responsible to book and pay for these inspections vary.  In Marin County the buyer generally pays, but regardless who pays the buyer must ultimately take responsibility—after purchasing the property—for having done their due diligence.  Matters discovered after the buyer has signed off on the inspections and closed on the property can be difficult to remedy.

               My husband is a General Contractor, and also a Home Inspector.  Together we have bought and remodeled four homes.  We have attempted to purchase others but backed out due to the findings during inspection.  As such, I feel I have a unique ability to assess a home for both its potential and its weaknesses.  Still, as an experienced Realtor and home buyer, I continue to learn important lessons about how to protect my buyers.  Most recently I was reminded that, when it comes to inspections, you get what you pay for.

These days with plenty of folks seeking to “get rich quick” by flipping homes, initial impressions can be deceiving.  Be aware that a coat of paint, good staging and really clean windows can provide just the right smoke and mirrors to take a buyers attention away from larger issues that may be at hand.

The first thing I look at when examining a new property is the roof line and exterior trim.  A straight ridge and no apparent rot and chipping are welcoming, but still no reason to exhale.  When I enter a house, I also take note as to how it has settled.  In Marin and the Bay Area there are many homes built on landfill.  If a home built in the last 50 years has a great deal of settling, that will mean much more than a 100 year old home having a little.  These are the obvious telltale signs, but there may be a great deal more that does not meet the eye.

Inspections are ALWAYS a good idea, though very savvy buyers and investors may choose to waive them as a bargaining chip, usually because whatever costs they may incur to correct existing problems is well within their means.  Sometimes, when I have a buyer client who does not have a great deal of money to waste, every nickel being scrimped away to get that down-payment together, I will discuss with them which inspections are absolutely essential vs. those they might put off or pass on altogether.  Some inspections, like Radon Testing for example, are less relevant as the whole county has a very low percentage of the gas present therefore making its threat to home ownership immaterial.  When you are about to buy a house, your Realtor should provide you with a list of ALL of the inspections you may want to consider, and allow YOU to decide which are important to you.  Your Realtor can then review your decisions and, hopefully, set up the appointments with reputable inspectors.  Which leads me to the reason I am writing this article…

Recently I encouraged two different clients to use a company that offers a great deal by including the General, Pest and Roof inspections under one umbrella.  If you pay the fee at the time of inspection, they reduce the cost even further.  In both cases, the houses appeared to be in very good order on the surface and I thought this was a safe bet.  In both cases this inspection company missed problems that have cost my clients additional funds spent on repairs after close of escrow.   Inspection companies have you sign a contract relieving them of responsibility for anything they miss, so there is no recourse.  In one instance, this inspection company provided an estimate for repair of a roof leak (missing another one altogether!).  The roofing contractor they sent out was careless and sloppy.  They were obviously trying to make up the reduced cost of their inspections by offering contracting services as well, using cheap labor.  Also, in both of these cases, I hired an additional electrical inspection, as this particular type of home is vulnerable to inferior wiring.  The electrical inspector did miss something in both homes, but the difference is he came back out, himself, and corrected the problem at no additional charge.  Of course I worked closely with my clients after the sale to get them over these hurdles and save them as much money as possible, until they felt safe and happy.

Whenever you buy a home, you simply need to accept that there will be unexpected expenses associated with maintenance.  Even a perfectly maintained and/or inspected house can still throw you a curve ball.  Discuss with your Realtor the possibility of getting a Home Warranty.  Though they often seem to “not include” whatever your problem is due to one caveat or another, there are the times when they can save you thousands of dollars on an unforeseen breakdown—making them a worthwhile investment.

Be willing to spend those extra few hundred dollars hiring excellent inspectors.  Ask for the guys who have a reputation for being tough.  Though some of these guys may be known as “deal killers”, I’d rather have my buyers know up front what they are getting into.  In the long run, the extra money you spend on your inspection could save you tens of thousands in miserable surprises down the road.

Sellers may choose to pay for inspections to be done prior to going on the market.  In this case the price of the home will either need to be adjusted down to account for the cost of repairs, or the seller will, ideally, take care of the repairs before putting the house up for sale.  BECAUSE a seller has already done inspections does not mean the buyer should not also inspect!  It never hurts to get two opinions, or to delve more deeply into another area of the property that may have been referenced briefly in the sellers’ reports.

Make sure you know if the foundation is in good order, whether there is any active pest infestation or serious dry rot, if the house is likely to flood or is in a high liquefaction area, and whether the drainage on the property is sufficient.  Those are the biggies. Roofs and windows are cosmetic by comparison.  And use your common sense.  If a house is in a flood zone, for example, and has been there for 60 years and the foundation is good and it hasn’t done any weird settling, then maybe it’s a great place.

In conclusion, don’t skimp on inspections.  Your new home is a major investment.  A good, solid home in a desirable location will undoubtedly help you build wealth.  Don’t be dazzled by shiny things.  Everything is not what it appears to be on the surface.  And think outside of the box.  Many excellent real estate investments are over-looked by the average buyer.  Make sure your criteria are well considered.  There are, after all, Peet’s and The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in addition to Starbucks!

SMOKING HOT!

Who are you?  Are you one of the buyers who bucked the trend, took a risk and bought at the low, when everyone else was afraid?  Maybe now you are ready to leverage those gains into your move up property!  Or are you trying to buy now, for the first time, when there are many reports of OVER 40 offers on one home!  To succeed in real estate, ideally you’re working against the trend, taking advantage of the markets when they are in your favor.

This is a call to action for SELLERS!  Inventory remains at a critical low, with over 50% of the homes in contract.  This is NOT EVEN  a “Seller’s Market”…  It is called an “appreciating market.”  The demand is forcing buyers to bid prices up in order to prevail.  This market will not last forever; things will eventually stabilize and for you, Mr. or Mrs. Seller, that could mean a lower sales price.

Right now, home prices are the highest they have been in seven years.  Though 1/3 of the mortgages in the country are still underwater, we are seeing the least number of foreclosures, also since 2007.  This due to the government stepping in with the Homeowner’s Protection Act.  With prices rising, some folks who were underwater are no longer, and can move forward with a normal sale.  What great news!

Condo sales have also gained phenomenal traction, often being the only real estate that first time buyers can afford now that the low end in single family homes is all bought up.  And the rental market remains smoking hot!  Investors are buying tenant occupied homes and just lettin’ em stay there, rents are so high.

If you are a buyer, though nearly every other buyer is mobilized, it can still be a great time to buy with interest rates so low.  Keep two things in mind when buying: 1) buy the largest home you can afford – moving again is expensive and as families and lives grow, so does the need for more space, and 2) keep an eye out for that house that every one else has overlooked.  Do your homework, there are still deals to be had.

If you’re looking for an advocate in this crazy, crazy market, give me a call, text or write… I’ll keep it very real for you, and make your purchase proceess as easy as possible

Buyers & Sellers: Roll up your sleeves!

In a recent company meeting it was said that “this is the strangest market in memory”.  My experience validates that statement.  Recently my sales have taken place off-market, selling properties that never made it to the MLS.  Serious lack of inventory forced me into scouring the Expired listings, and even Craig’s List to try and rustle up property for my very ready buyers.  The last deal I did actually had MULTIPLE OFFERS off market!  More and more realtors and seeking inventory behind the scenes to try and give their clients an edge in a market which is now seeing multiple offers to the tune of 30, 32 and 34 offers!  I have heard these stories from the direct experience of realtors in my office– this is not just hearsay.

Now more than ever you need a realtor who is going to be lock-step with you in order to acheive your objectives.  Prices are climbing quickly, and though interest rates remain low, they too are inching up.  It is critical to be pre-approved and PREPARED to go to battle!  The saddest buyers in the world are the 33 that lost out in a multiple offer situation with 34 buyers!!

I always suggest taking another look at the properties that have been languishing.  Sometimes you can have a diamond in the rough, and it may make financial sense to negotiate and pay less, putting those extra dollars into making the house exactly what you want it to be, rather than over-paying while in an emotional frenzy.

I support myself as a realtor by saying, I am not the busiest realtor in Marin.  I don’t want to be.  I just want a steady stream of cool folks to work with such that I can give them all of the time and attention they need to get the job done.  I’ve been doing this for eight years, and my dedication to quality remains the same.

If you’d like an ally while tromping through these crazy scenarios, give me a call, e-mail or text.  As a former Professional Life Coach, I know how to listen.  We’ll get it done.  I promise.

What’s Happening with the Market?

It’s the middle of December and the word is: the real estate market has been strengthening steadily throughout the year.  When 35% of the homes for sale are in contract, that is known as a “Seller’s Market”.  Currently 51% of the homes in Marin are in contract, this is called an “appreciating” market, with the limited inventory driving prices up once again.

We continue to be anxious for more inventory!  If you have a home and are holding off until next year, think again.  It is highly likely that your home would receive multiple offers if you were to put in on right now, two weeks before Christmas!

If you’ve read this far, allow me to wish you a very Happy Holiday Season!  And please feel free to contact me anytime should you need real estate support or assistance.

DESPERATELY SEEKING HOMES FOR SALE!!

There are only 342 ACTIVE listings in Marin at this time (Single Family Residences). Of those, only 104 under $800,000 – a very hot market. Of those only 76 have the classic minimum 3 bedroom/2bath conformation. I have three buyers looking for homes in this price category, and the inventory is frustratingly low. If you have a 3+/2+ home, especially with a level lawn, and you are considering selling, putting it on the market now could very well yield you multiple offers. Interest rates remain low, with predictions that they will inch up into the 4% range in 2013. Perhaps now would be a good time to leverage the market, as a down-sizer or someone looking to get more for your money. By the time spring rolls around, there will be a lot more competition for sellers, as it is common to list in February and March. Think about it, and if you’re ready to move, give me a call. Buyers in Marin are ready to jump, needing only the right property to make the leap!

Let’s help the Hurricane Sandy Victims

If you work with me, we can donate 10% of my net commission toward helping the poor folks who were victims of Hurricane Sandy.  I have family in New Jersey, Connecticut and Pennsylvania. Thank God none of them were impacted!  Of course, we can always put these charitable contribution dollars to other use, but this seems like a timely concern.

COMING SOON…

Because I know so many talented service providers, I’ve been procrastinating get this data in.  Call if you need a particular referral, and I’ll commit to getting this uploaded before the end of the year.

America’s “Cuppies” and Marin Real Estate

When I first heard that the America’s Cup races would be held in San Francisco, 2013 seemed SO FAR AWAY!!  Now, here we are at the end of 2012.  I’ve watched two fleet and match races on my husband’s boat, with some exciting drama as Jimmy Spithill’s Oracle 4 capsized– and he took the lead regardless!  I expect that, with folks coming from all over the world to watch these races, there will those who will simply fall in love with our gorgeous bay area, which is why I’m dedicating extra time to get up to speed on Marin’s view properties, especially BAY VIEW and WATERFRONT WITH DOCKS!!

My site already has a built-in link under “FIND YOUR HOME” especially for folks seeking view properties.  If you should want more specialized information please contact me.  Water view property has always been my favorite!

Competing in a Multiple Offer Environment…

With the serious dearth of inventory today, when a great property, properly priced, comes on the market, we are seeing anywhere from 2 – 20 offers!  How do you compete?  First of all, you need to have ALL of your ducks in a row.  Make sure your realtor submits both your preapproval AND your verification of funds WITH the offer.

You will need to put as much money down as you reasonably can; you may very well be up against an all cash deal as investors are actively snatching up property.  Ask around, and see if you can find a mortgage broker who can get you a loan in less than 30-days.  I work with a great broker who can close a deal in 21 days, and sometimes less!!  You can also shorten your inspection periods, or wave inspections altogether if you have that kind of confidence level about the proeperty– though this is not advised unless, perhaps, you have a friend or family member who is a legitimate contractor who can really see what’s up.

Have your agent find out what is important to the sellers.  Some may want to stay longer, others will want to get out fast.  Some may just really want to sell to another family with kids, or to someone who is passionate about gardening. Find out to see if your profile might uniquely suit the seller.

Write a heartfelt letter (no pictures allowed, due to discrimination issues) as to why the house is the exactly right one for you.  Mention whatever you have learned about what is important to the seller.

And finally, search your heart to see what price you would be sad to learn that someone else got the house for, and offer $500 more than that.  So, if the house was listed for $600K, and you learned it went for $675K, ask yourself if you’d regret not having offered that $675K.  Many houses are under-priced when they hit the market these days, either because they are short sales, bank-owned, or the realtors just want to create a frenzy.  Remember the inventory you’ve seen so far, and use your common sense.  If the house seems too well priced, it is probably underpriced.  Offer a fair market value, or a teeny bit over, and your chances will greatly improve.  The right price, combined with making every other aspect of the offer as sweet as possible, should be the ticket to allowing you to prevail!

Don’t allow your emotions to get the best of you and offer an unreasonable amount for the house.  Chances are it won’t appraise, and when the blush goes off the rose, you will regret spending more than what would have been practical.

Don’t hesitate to call or write with any questions or for advice or coaching on this matter.

Muriel

These are the ONLY three houses available under $500K in San Rafael

Click this next phrase: Only Three Houses Under $500K in San Rafael just now.  If you have a home that might sell in this price range, you can almost be promised multiple offers.  To discuss further please call or write me.