How Early do you start thinking about buying a Home?

buying processBuying a home is a serious investment and one that most people think long and hard before actually slapping money on the table.  The buying process begins long before buyers actually contact an agent. On average, buyers started considering a purchase nearly six months (23.7 weeks) before contacting a real estate agent, up notably from 12.2 weeks last year. Read more:

Click HERE to watch a video on “What you DON’T want to do before you Buy that Home.”

Register Here for our FREE Home Buying Class the second Saturday of every Month.

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Get the Kitchen You Want for Less

awesome-new-kitchen-designGet the Kitchen You Want for Less

Original Post By: Kimberly Sweet  Published: in Houselogic.com

Enjoy the best of today’s popular kitchen remodeling trends without busting your budget. Here are 6 ways to get your out-of-date kitchen current — and in some cases more functional — for less.

Get the trend for less:

Paint the walls white. A fresh clean coat of pristine white paint may be all you need to make your kitchen feel shiny and new. Avoid a stark “builder white” and go with a slightly warmer white instead.

Paint the cabinets white. The real question is, to DIY or not to DIY? Painting cabinets is a time-consuming job that requires a lot of prepping and priming. All the doors need to come off (where will you put them?), and you may not have the right tools or skills. Intrepid DIYers: See what’s involved in painting cabinets:

On the other hand, hiring pros can cost $100 to $200 per box, depending on the cost of labor in your area.

Alabama kitchen designer Nick Lovelady, owner of Cupboards Kitchen & Bath, recommends buying new, especially with old cabinets that aren’t built well and lack interior accessories. When clients insist, though, his company does paint cabinets. Doing the job right, he says, can pay off by extending your cabinets’ finish 15 to 20 years. Lovelady recommends using a sprayer rather than a brush to avoid lines, especially on hard-grained woods.
Stone counters
Minimalist kitchens
Layered lighting
Space for connectivity
Color

2. Stone counters

Most show kitchens have stone counters, whether they’re made from engineered quartz, exotic granite, or a highly veined marble. But stone is expensive.

Get the trend for less:

Create a stone look by using granite tiles instead of a granite slab. At ¼ to 3/8 inch thick (instead of 2 to 3 cm), tiles cost less and make for easier carrying and installation than slabs. They can also be laid over an existing countertop. However, grout lines break up the appearance and can be tough to clean. 12 in. x 12 in. tiles roughly range from $2 to $17 per sq. ft.

Laminate counters now have more realistic patterns and patterns than before. Here’s your chance to get that white “marble” counter. (Note: They cost more than standard laminates.)

“Manufacturers are increasing their offerings and products look much better than they used to,” says Judy Klein of JK Design in Wilmette, Ill. One new option for laminate is curved edge treatments, such as bullnoses and ogees, which eliminate those telltale dark lines where edges meet, making it hard to identify a laminate counter as such.

By the way, laminate holds the U.S. countertop market share at 56%, with solid surface (12%), natural stone (9%), and engineered stone (7%) bringing up the rear, according to recent research by The Freedonia Group.

White kitchens
Minimalist kitchens
Layered lighting
Space for connectivity
Color

3. Minimalist kitchens

Whether driven by a desire to simplify or by simple economics, kitchens look considerably more minimalist than a decade ago. Rather than showing stuff off, we’re hiding it. In appliances, that means paneled, integrated refrigerators and dishwashers. Cabinets not only look less showy with simpler door styles and less moulding, they have more interior organization accessories to keep clutter at bay.

To streamline the kitchen you already have, think low-cost kitchen storage.

Get the trend for less:

Rev-a Shelf offers an under-sink pullout (about $300) that makes the most of underused space.

Cookware organizers ($156 or $284) eliminate the need for a pot rack.

Modular, stackable trays make drawers manageable.

White kitchens
Stone counters
Layered lighting
Space for connectivity
Color

4. Layered lighting

There’s more to lighting than one big overhead fixture or even multiple recessed ceiling lights. Designers like to incorporate ambient or general, task, and accent lighting. In the kitchen, this typically translates into ceiling lights (ambient), under-cabinet lighting (task), and in-cabinet or above-cabinet lighting (accent). Older homes often lack the last two layers, but you can achieve better optics simply.

Get the trend for less (in the long run):

Under-cabinet lighting options, like pucks and light strips, are plentiful, low-cost, and help you reduce the risk of chopping your fingers instead of your vegetables.

For accent lighting that adds drama, use inexpensive LED tape or strip lighting (uninstalled, it runs $10-$30 per foot) inside cabinets, says Designer Nick Lovelady. This can work equally well to illuminate a big pantry cabinet or to show off dishware in a glass-front cabinet.

If you’re willing to spend some money up front to save money in the long run, consider replacing existing can lights with long-lasting, energy-efficient LED lights. Kitchen lights account for a great deal of home energy usage, and eventually the savings cover the higher cost of LED bulbs.

Designer Judy Klein suggests looking for lamps with under 3,000 Kelvin to create a warm glow.

White kitchens
Stone counters
Minimalist kitchens
Space for connectivity
Color

5. Space for connectivity

As the role that smartphones, tablets, and laptops play in our life grows, so too does their place in the kitchen command center — whether for doing homework, looking up a recipe, or listening to music. Some kitchens incorporate a charging center for just this reason. Heck, some appliances even come with computers: Samsung’s Wi-Fi enabled refrigeratorsports a built-in 8-inch LCD touch screen tablet and plenty of cool apps.

Back to reality.

Get the trend for less:

Install an outlet inside a cabinet to keep the countertop clear.

Switch a standard outlet to an outlet with USB ports so you can charge phones directly without an adapter.

Then buy a countertop station like this one from Target, and position it by an outlet to hide cords.
White kitchens
Stone counters
Minimalist kitchens
Layered lighting
Color

6. Color

We’re pragmatists here at HouseLogic, so we advise against rushing to buy cabinets inLemon Sorbet (Benjamin Moore’s color pick for 2013) or installing a countertop in Monaco Blue (Pantone’s leading color prediction for spring 2013 fashion).

Get the trend for less:

Paint the walls. It’s much easier for you — or a potential buyer of your home — to repaint a wall than to repaint cabinets or replace a countertop.

Opt for colorful vases or serve ware. Target has affordable pieces in every shade of the rainbow.

Linens and fabrics make an impact, too. Klein recommends cotton, washable rugs fromDash & Albert, and Ikea also offers a large selection of attractive rugs. For placemats and table cloths, try Pier 1.

White kitchens
Stone counters
Minimalist kitchens
Layered lighting
Space for connectivity

Are Rising Home Prices Slowing Down?

home prices upIf you are thinking of placing your house on the market for sale, this may be the time to do so before prices start to level out.  Rapid home price growth across California has called for concerns of yet another housing “bubble” on the horizon. According to the latest C.A.R. data, the median price of sold homes jumped almost 32 percent over the last year. While C.A.R.’s median home price measure is affected by the mix of sales, other indicators which measure home price changes on the same home show similar increases. Read more:

Click HERE to watch a video on “What you DON’T want to do before you Buy that Home.”

Register Here for our FREE Home Buying Class the second Saturday of every Month.

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CA BRE # 01929144

8 Tips for Adding Curb Appeal and Value to your Home

curb appealOriginal post by: Pat Curry

The way your house looks from the street — attractively landscaped and well-maintained — can add thousands to its value and cut the time it takes to sell. But which projects pump upcurb appeal most? Some spit and polish goes a long way, and so does a dose of color.

Tip #1: Wash your house’s face

Before you scrape any paint or plant more azaleas, wash the dirt, mildew, and general grunge off the outside of your house. REALTORS® say washing a house can add $10,000 to $15,000 to the sale prices of some houses.

A bucket of soapy water and a long-handled, soft-bristled brush can remove the dust and dirt that have splashed onto your wood, vinyl, metal, stucco, brick, and fiber cement siding. Power washers (rental: $75 per day) can reveal the true color of your flagstone walkways.

Wash your windows inside and out, swipe cobwebs from eaves, and hose down downspouts. Don’t forget your garage door, which was once bright white. If you can’t spray off the dirt, scrub it off with a solution of 1/2 cup trisodium phosphate—TSP, available at grocery stores, hardware stores, and home improvement centers—dissolved in 1 gallon of water.

You and a friend can make your house sparkle in a few weekends. A professional cleaning crew will cost hundreds–depending on the size of the house and number of windows–but will finish in a couple of days.

Tip #2: Freshen the paint job

The most commonly offered curb appeal advice from real estate pros and appraisers is to give the exterior of your home a good paint job. Buyers will instantly notice it, and appraisers will value it.
 
Of course, painting is an expensive and time-consuming facelift. To paint a 3,000-square-foot home, figure on spending $375 to $600 on paint; $1,500 to $3,000 on labor.

Your best bet is to match the paint you already have: Scrape off a little and ask your local paint store to match it. Resist the urge to make a statement with color. An appraiser will mark down the value of a house that’s painted a wildly different color from its competition.

Tip #3: Regard the roof

The condition of your roof is one of the first things buyers notice and appraisers assess. Missing, curled, or faded shingles add nothing to the look or value of your house. If your neighbors have maintained or replaced their roofs, yours will look especially shabby.

You can pay for roof repairs now, or pay for them later in a lower appraisal; appraisers will mark down the value by the cost of the repair. According to Remodeling magazine’s 2013Cost vs. Value Report, the average cost of a new asphalt shingle roof is about $18,488.

Some tired roofs look a lot better after you remove 25 years of dirt, moss, lichens, and algae. Don’t try cleaning your roof yourself: call a professional with the right tools and technique to clean it without damaging it. A 2,000 sq. ft. roof will take a day and $400 to $600 to clean professionally.

Tip #4: Neaten the yard

A well-manicured lawn, fresh mulch, and pruned shrubs boost the curb appeal of any home.

Replace overgrown bushes with leafy plants and colorful annuals. Surround bushes and trees with dark or reddish-brown bark mulch, which gives a rich feel to the yard. Put a crisp edge on garden beds, pull weeds and invasive vines, and plant a few geraniums in pots.

Green up your grass with lawn food and water. Cover bare spots with seeds and sod, get rid of crab grass, and mow regularly.

Tip #5: Add a color splash

Even a little color attracts and pleases the eye of would-be buyers.

Plant a tulip border in the fall that will bloom in the spring. Dig a flowerbed by the mailbox and plant some pansies. Place a brightly colored bench or Adirondack chair on the front porch. Get a little daring, and paint the front door red or blue.

These colorful touches won’t add to the value of our house: appraisers don’t give you extra points for a blue bench. But beautiful colors enhance curb appeal and help your house to sell faster.

Tip #6: Glam your mailbox

An upscale mailbox, architectural house numbers, or address plaques can make your house stand out.

High-style die cast aluminum mailboxes range from $100 to $350. You can pick up a handsome, hand-painted mailbox for about $50. If you don’t buy new, at least give your old mailbox a facelift with paint and new house numbers.

These days, your local home improvement center or hardware stores has an impressive selection of decorative numbers. Architectural address plaques, which you tack to the house or plant in the yard, typically range from $80 to $200. Brass house numbers range from $3 to $11 each, depending on size and style.

Tip #7: Fence yourself in

A picket fence with a garden gate to frame the yard is an asset. Not only does it add visual punch to your property, appraisers will give extra value to a fence in good condition, although it has more impact in a family-oriented neighborhood than an upscale retirement community.

Expect to pay $2,000 to $3,500 for a professionally installed gated picket fence 3 feet high and 100 feet long.

If you already have a fence, make sure it’s clean and in good condition. Replace broken gates and tighten loose latches.

Tip #8: Maintenance is a must

Nothing looks worse from the curb–and sets off subconscious alarms–like hanging gutters, missing bricks from the front steps, or peeling paint. Not only can these deferred maintenance items damage your home, but they can decrease the value of your house by 10%.

Here are some maintenance chores that will dramatically help the look of your house.

  • Refasten sagging gutters.
  • Repoint bricks that have lost their mortar.
  • Reseal cracked asphalt.
  • Straighten shutters.
  • Replace cracked windows.

How do you compete with Other Buyers and all-cash Investors when buying a home?

compete with cash buyersFor Buyers, only the most fit will survive and succeed in purchasing a home – those with excellent credit and a sizeable down payment can compete with Investors paying all cash.  According to C.A.R.’s 2013 Home Buyer Survey, 96% of buyers use the internet to find a home and 70% of those use their smartphones to do so.  Not a laptop, not an i-Pad…. their phone.  That is a significant change in how buyers shop for homes.  Other factors Buyers will face in order to compete include:

  • Tighter lending standards with 85% of buyers obtaining 30-year fixed loans (they have to put more “skin” in the game than before)
  • Higher Down payments; the average is now 25%
  • Rising interest rates
  • It takes longer to find a home due to lower inventory of houses on the market ( average of 9.8 weeks)
  • Instant Text notifications from Listing sites allow buyers to “jump” on a new listing before others,
  • In multiple offer situations you will need to add a “cover story” page to your offer that makes you unique and appeals to the Seller’s emotional side.

Yet there is good news on the horizon.  As the number of lower-priced homes available on the market begins to decline, Buyers will find the competition leveling out as Cash Investors rarely delve into properties that are priced over $500k.

Click HERE to watch a video on “What you DON’T want to do before you Buy that Home.”

Register Here for our FREE Home Buying Class the second Saturday of every Month.

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CA BRE # 01929144

The Ugly truth behind Loan Modifications

loan modNearly half (46 percent) of homeowners who received assistance with their mortgage in 2009 through the government’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) redefaulted on their mortgages, while 38 percent who received loan modifications in 2010 have done so, according to a report by the Office of the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program.

According to Christy Romero, the special inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, the Treasury failed to analyze its own data to determine which borrowers were most at risk of losing their homes to foreclosure after receiving government support.

Homeowners in default on loans held by banks or investors can apply to their mortgage servicer to reduce their monthly payments. Under HAMP, investors, servicers and homeowners are all eligible to receive incentive payments to make the loan more affordable.

In all, just 865,100 homeowners were active in the HAMP program as of April. Of those, 10 percent have missed one or two payments but have not yet redefaulted. The overall redefault rate is 26 percent.  More info

Click HERE to watch a video on “What you DON’T want to do before you Buy that Home.”

Register Here for our FREE Home Buying Class the second Saturday of every Month.

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CA BRE # 01929144

The Real Face behind all those Cash-rich Home Investors

mom popIf you have recently been a part of the Home Buying market, you may have had the unfortunate experience of having your bid on that perfect home pushed out by an “all-cash” offer from an Investor.  Sound familiar?  In come areas of California, Seller’s report that they have as many as 20-25 offers on their house within the first few days.  Many of those Seller’s will go with the strongest offer which is most likely an “all-cash” offer from an Investor who plans to “flip” the home.  According to the California Association of Realtors (C.A.R.), “Investors have played a key role in the California housing market recovery for the past four years.  Low mortgage rates, attractive home prices, and low yields on alternative assets have fueled demand for investment properties, particularly where distressed homes have dominated sales.”

So who are all these masked men, Kimo-sabe?  Are they some big Corporate Investor Guru who is buying up all the homes and reaping huge profits?  Nope… not even close.  According to C.A.R., three-fourths of those investors are of the small mom-and-pop type, owning 1-10 other investment properties.  And which country do you think almost 27% of these cash-rich folks come from?  It ain’t the good ole’ US of A.  Read on….

Click HERE to watch a video on “What you DON’T want to do before you Buy that Home.”