Tuesday, September 30, 2014


By Anita Tate, Century 21 West Main Realty & Auction

         Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,so how do you know that you have spotted a good buy?  Features that attract one home-buyer may repel another.
          However, the one feature of interest to every home-buyer is price.  Getting the most home for your money is paramount.  The real problem is figuring out whether that fixer-upper on one street is a better buy than the home in next-to-new condition two blocks away.  That’s why knowing what to look for before you buy can save you time, energy and money down the line.
          The first step is figuring out what kind of house you need.  A good buy is only a good buy if it meets your current and future living requirements.  Before shopping for a home, decide how much space you and your family require.  How many bedrooms, bathrooms?  Is a family room necessary?  Do you need a layout that will accommodate a lot of entertaining?  Do you prefer a spacious or compact work space in the kitchen?  If you have small children, can the house easily be childproofed?
          Evaluate the front and back yards.  Is there enough space to accommodate your children?  Do you want a park-like or garden setting?  Do you enjoy yard work and gardening, or do you want a low-maintenance yard?  Take into consideration the cost of extensive landscaping and upkeep.
          Next, determine how much work is required to make the house you are considering livable.  Make an honest assessment of your fix-it abilities.  How much
work are you willing to do or pay someone else to do?  Do you have basic decorating, carpentry and plumbing skills?  If you plan to learn as you go, make sure you have accurately determined what you are getting into.  Ask an experienced friend, family member or your real estate agent for their opinion, and be sure to consider how much remodeling inconvenience the rest of the family can handle.
          Unless you are ready and able to tackle a major remodel, look for a house or condominium that needs only cosmetic improvements.  These include painting, wallpapering and replacing items like flooring, window treatments, bathroom and kitchen fixtures, light fixtures, cabinet and interior door hardware and appliances.  Remember that even these simple changes can be costly if you have to make many of them.
          Beware of improvements that seem easy enough at first glance buy may turn into major headaches and require a lot of money once you’ve moved in.  Remodeled kitchens and bathrooms, changes to the floor plan, room additions and redesigned landscaping are examples of seemingly minor changes that can easily eat away the money you thought you saved by selecting a so-called “bargain priced” home.  Of course, you may be perfectly willing to spend whatever money is needed to customize the house to match your tastes and needs.
Make sure major systems in the house are in good working condition.  The furnace, air-conditioning and plumbing should be up to date, since repairs can be costly.  Your agent can arrange to have a professional inspector determine whether the electrical wiring and any room additions are to code.  Local utilities often offer free or low-cost inspections to tell you if the house is energy-efficient.
          Look for a house with universally popular selling points.  If you’re impressed, the next buyer down the line is bound to be, too.  For example, a roomy, modern east-to-clean kitchen is the best selling point a home can have.  A house with only one bathroom is less desirable than a house with two or more.  Many buyers expect at least three bedrooms, with a master bedroom that offers a feeling of privacy.  Lots of storage space and closets, especially walk-in closets, will be a real selling point.  Family rooms or “great rooms” also are desirable.  On closer examination, a house that looks like a bargain may lack some of these key features.
          Don’t forget the old adage:  location, location, location.  Unless you’re looking for a fixer-upper, the house should be in a condition that is comparable to other homes in the neighborhood.  Avoid buying the biggest or fanciest home on the block.  Consider the amount of traffic or noise.  Homes located in a quiet area away from a busy street will command a higher price.  Make sure the schools in your district have a reputation for quality education and safety.  Nearby supermarkets, gas stations, restaurants and theaters also will make a location more desirable.
          Good community facilities also add appeal; pools, athletic fields, community centers, libraries and hospitals all add to a neighborhood’s value and desirability.  Transportation needs also should be considered.  Is local public transit available?  How long are typical commutes to places of current and potential employment?  Are there several alternate route?  How close is a major airport?  All of these can affect a home’s pricing.
          Consider the cost of living in a home.  It’s important to consider not only purchase price but the monthly cost of living in a home.  Estimate your utility and maintenance costs.  For example, will the house need to be painted on a regular basis and will you need to spend money maintaining a swimming pool?  Ask your agent about the property tax rate and whether increases are anticipated.  Will you have to pay special assessments for a homeowner’s association?  Consider the point in the life cycle of major household systems, such as the furnace, air conditioning, roof and kitchen appliances.
         You can find a bargain!  Your first step should be to seek out a knowledgeable real estate agent with experience in the market areas where you wish to purchase a home.  Your agent can help you locate those properties that truly are “bargains” and help find the home that most closely matches your desires and needs.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Can Moving Be Stress Free?

Can Moving Be Stress Free?

by Anita Tate, Century 21 West Main Realty & Auction

          Moving and stress free are not terms normally found in the same sentence.  But in my 20 years of selling real estate, I have found that there are "moving best practices".  With a little preparation, you can dramatically reduce your level of stress.  The following are a few best practices that have worked for my clients.    
  • Look at all the alternatives: hiring a moving company, for example, versus renting a truck and doing it yourself.  Whichever alternative makes most sense for you, get bids from more than one vendor.
  •  A few days before the moving company is scheduled to arrive or you’re supposed to pick up your rental truck, call to confirm that everything is on track to happen when it’s supposed to.
  •  Prepare your change of address cards in advance and send them out as soon as it’s appropriate to do so.  The post office, utilities, companies and people you do business with, city hall, friends, relatives – all should be notified of your move.
    Moving Best Practices
    Plan, Plan, Plan!
  • Get an early start on packing by concentrating on seldom-used items first.  Each box should have its contents and the room those contents belong in written on it clearly. 
  • Take a hard look at things you seldom or never use and throw away as many of them as you can.  The more you throw away, the less you’ll have to move.  Every item you throw away is one less item to clutter up you new home.
  • Use your extra towels and linens to protect breakables.  When your supply of these things is exhausted, crumpled newspaper makes an excellent substitute.  Write “Fragile” on all appropriate boxes.
  • Put your valuables (such as jewelry) and important documents (birth certificates, car titles, etc.) aside in some safe place where they won’t be misplaced.
  •  When the house is empty, go back for a thorough final inspection.  Check closets, crawl spaces, basement, attic, out-of-the-way nooks and crannies of all kinds.  Have a second person make the same inspection separately.
  •  Clean your new home thoroughly before moving in.  It’s infinitely easier that way.
  • Decide in advance where you want the heavy furniture.  Changing your mind after the movers have departed is no fun – especially for your back!
  • Locate all fuses, circuit breakers, and water/gas and electrical valves.  Record the meter readings and check the smoke detectors.
  •  List the phone numbers of the local police and fire stations, doctors, nearby hospitals, etc.  Put a copy of your list near each phone.

Above all, plan, plan, plan and plan some more. Make a schedule you can live with, and then stick to it.  Preparation and forethought will help you to keep everything under control and finish the move with your sanity and your nervous system intact. 

Monday, September 22, 2014



By Anita Tate, Century 21 West Main Realty & Auction

          Before you jump in too fast on home improvements, consider the payoff.
          It's an important question for any homeowner contemplating moving or remodeling.  And the only possible answer is a somewhat complicated one.
          That answer starts with the fact that really major improvements – room additions, total replacements of kitchens and baths, etc., -- rarely pay off fully in the near term.  It ends with the fact that small and relatively inexpensive changes can pay off in a big way in making your home attractive to buyers if your decision is to move now.
It’s a simple fact, consistently confirmed across America over a very long period of time, that even the most appropriate major improvements are unlikely to return their full cost if a house is sold within two or three years.  A look at statistics gathered for Cost vs. Value - 2014 confirms that.
Does that mean that major home improvements are always a bad idea?  Absolutely not.  It does mean, though, that if your present house falls seriously short of meeting your family’s needs you need to think twice – and think carefully – before deciding to undertake a major renovation.   Viewed strictly in investment terms, major improvements rarely make as much sense as selling your present home and buying one that’s carefully selected to provide you with what you want.
          Even if you have a special and strong attachment to the house you’re in and feel certain that you could be happy in it for a long time if only it had more bedrooms and baths, for example, there are a few basic rules that you ought to keep in mind.
Probably the most basic rule of all, in this regard, is the one that says you should never –unless you absolutely don’t care at all about eventual resale value – improve a house to the point where its desired sales price would be more than 20 percent higher than the most expensive of the other houses in the immediate neighborhood.
          Try to raise the value of your house too high, that is, and surrounding properties will pull it down.
          Here are some other rules worth remembering:
          Never rearrange the interior of your house in a way that reduces the total number of bedrooms to less than three.
          Never add a third bathroom to a two-bath house unless you don’t care about ever recouping your investment.
          Swimming pools rarely return what you spend to install them.  Ditto for sun rooms – and finished basements.
          If you decide to do what’s usually the smart thing and move rather than improve, it's often the smaller, relatively inexpensive improvements that turn out to be most worth doing.
          The cost of replacing a discolored toilet bow, making sure all the windows work or getting rid of dead trees and shrubs in trivial compared with adding a bathroom, but such things can have a big and very positive impact on prospective buyers.  A good broker can help you decide which expenditures make sense and which don’t, and can save you a lot of money in the process. 

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Tuesday, September 9, 2014


by Anita Tate, Century 21 West Main Realty & Auction

Anita Tate, Realtor
Why is it that some homes sit on the market for a year while others sell like hot cakes?  Frustrated sellers will blame a bad market, while a good real estate professional will tell you that many times, a slow sale is often attributed to the listing price.

If a home is overpriced, buyers will stay away.  But, if the price is competitive with similar homes in the area and “shows” better than the competition, it will have a better chance of being sold quickly.

The secret is perfecting a technique that’s as American as apple pie: comparative shopping.

Although comparing houses with different styles, square-footages and locations is challenging, real estate professionals still feel it’s one of the best methods to use when determining a home’s market value.
A responsible real estate agent will effectively evaluate a home’s worth through a process known as Comparative Marketing Analysis (CMA).  Taking a look at assets, such as a swimming pool, bigger than normal living spaces, a fantastic view, adjacent city parks and other attractions, the agent will begin to compare your home with similar properties, called “comparables,” that have sold in the area within the last six months.  Typically, the agent is able to recommend a realistic price range that will ensure you top dollar.  However, factors such as the amount of time needed to sell your home can alter the agent’s price recommendation dramatically.

Typically, people should check with real estate offices in the community to determine the typical duration that listings are on the market.  Sales associates will explain that the marketing “norms” vary with prices and properties.  Based on this criteria, the agent feels confident that he or she will be able to sell it for a price that both you and the buyer will be happy with.  However, if you’re under time constraints because of unexpected job changes or moving agreements you've made on another property, this will narrow your chances of selling the home for top dollar in the market.

Assuming you have sufficient time to market the home, here are a few small steps you and your agent can take to finding the right price for your property.

The best comparisons can be made with similar homes that have been sold within the last 45 days as opposed to the standard six months.  Any longer and other factors, such as the economy, could cloud your view of how much your home is really worth.

Another good benchmark is to review the selling prices of homes that have just been sold and are pending closes.  Most MLS services provide information on deals pending that most real estate agents should be able to share with you.

A good rule of thumb before setting a price is to make 20 comparisons of comparable properties within a one-mile radius of your house.  Once completed you can feel comfortable that the price you've picked is a good gauge of the home’s worth and won’t discourage qualified buyers.

Being open and honest about what you see as the home’s greatest strengths and biggest weaknesses will also help an agent get a better feel for how to best evaluate (or assess) and market your home.  Think of your home as if you were the buyer.  If your home is listed at the right price, you’re well on your way to a speedy and fruitful sale.