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    Garage Storage: What Works And What Doesn’t

    One the biggest dilemmas in most homes is storage. In fact, surveys show that one of the first things people look for in homes is closet space and storage space. I suppose there’s a hoarder in all of us. Storage gets a lot trickier when you start a family. Children are constantly growing out of their clothes and toys and you need to keep those valuable hand me downs somewhere. Having new things to store when you’re already bursting at the seams can leave you scratching your head looking for solutions. When storing new items, there’s always a process of elimination, you want to keep your more coveted items indoors, but what is less important get relegated to garage storage.

    However, when it comes to garage storage, not everything should be sorted that way. There are things that need to be stored in the garage, things that need to be stored in the home and there’s a third category of things that can be stored anywhere. Some items are common sense, you would never store jewelry in the garage, but other items aren’t as straightforward. Follow these tips for insight on what you can and cannot store in your garage:

    1) Outdoor Toys

    If you’re living in a four season climate and have children, you will have a ton of outdoor toys you will be scrambling to store. Many people feel weird about storing their children’s toys in the garage but don’t. Outdoor toys are built to withstand the elements, a garage would be ideal winter storage for such items.

    2) Electronics

    It may seem like a smart idea to store old electronics in your garage provided they are not visible to potential prowlers. However, garages range from extreme heat in the summer to extreme cold in the winter. Those conditions can destroy electronics, despite them not being in use. Try and eliminate as many as possible, for data storage, store it in the cloud or keep it on a small external hard drive.

    3) Outdoor Items

    If you are lacking a tool shed, anything you would normally place in it can be neatly organized along the walls of a garage and hung up in many cases. Car accessories, like spare tires and fluids, are ideally stored in the garage as well. What all these items have in common is that they’re dirty and not meant to be put in the house.

    4) Furniture

    Outdoor furniture can, of course, be stored in the garage, however indoor and especially wooden furniture should be kept indoors. Wood tends to warp if exposed to conditions fluctuating from humid to dry and hot to cold.

    5) Pest Bait

    Pests can detect even well-packaged food. They will find a way in and damage your property, keep all your food inside. Also, clothes, towels, and linens can result in a moth problem, it’s not just our food that can attract pests.


    Use your judgment; sturdy, rough and tumble things can be stored in the garage, while delicate items require a more stable environment inside the home. Make sure you arrange a storage area in the attic or basement for these purposes.

    Garage Storage: What Works And What Doesn’t

    Deal or No Deal? 8 Times Bargain Hunting for a Home Can Backfire

    Everybody loves a bargain. But getting one handed to you, gift-wrapped, in this housing market? Fat chance.

    Limited inventory has boosted prices, and in many cities, sellers have the big end of the stick. It’s rare to see buyers scoring a fabulous house in a desirable neighborhood for thousands of dollars under asking price.

    So to save some cash, you might feel compelled to make some compromises, try to negotiate, and look for the hidden bargains.

    But beware of taking your thriftiness too far—because you just might regret it. Read on for eight times bargain hunting can actually backfire.

    1. Working alone instead of with an agent

    Thinking of just doing this thing on your own? Don’t.

    “When we talk to clients about the deadly mistakes home buyers make when purchasing a home, No. 1 is buying a home without representation,” says Brian Cournoyer, a Realtor® with DeSelms Real Estate in Franklin, TN.

    First, it’s important to know that you won’t save anything by skipping the buyer’s agent because that cost isn’t on you. Typically the seller pays the commission for both the seller’s agent and the buyer’s agent.

    And if you consider yourself a master negotiator, or think you can search for homes just as well as the next guy, know this: Agents have a host of training and tools designed to find the right properties and get you the best deal.

    “Everyone thinks they can go online and pull up comps, but they don’t have access to all the real-time information that agents do,” Cournoyer says.

    2. Assuming you can get a deal on a short sale

    OK, so most sellers are in the driver’s seat. But what about sellers who need to offload their home fast? There’s gotta be some of those out there, right?

    Jen Birmingham, a Realtor® with Coldwell Banker in Petaluma, CA, says one of the biggest mistakes she sees is people counting on short sales to snag a bargain.

    “Because home values are way above where they were when a lot of people were underwater, short sales are few and far between right now,” she says. “Buyers need to know that what was working six years ago is no longer applicable.”

    3. Making big compromises just to score a deal

    Buying a home that doesn’t have enough bedrooms, is located two hours from your work, or needs a mountain of money to make it livable is no bargain, even if its list price is far below your budget.

    The trouble is, in a hot market, buyers often ignore these blazing-red flags, Birmingham says.

    “What I see is a lot of people wanting so desperately to get into the market that they’re willing to make compromises that may have originally been deal breakers,” she says.

    Think carefully about your must-haves, and do your best to stick to the list.

    4. Hiring the cheapest inspector, or none at all

    While it might seem economical to skip a professional home inspection, be aware that what you save now you’ll probably pay for later, Cournoyer says.

    In older homes, an inspector can discover problems such as termite infestations or crumbling foundations. Even for new builds, it’s wise to hire a pro who can spot material defects or unfinished work in out-of-the-way areas such as crawl spaces or roofs.

    “For instance, we have some pictures taken by an inspector that we show clients, where builders left a sheet of 4-by-8 plywood over the top of the chimney,” Cournoyer explains. “If we hadn’t had that inspected, this house may have burned down when they built their first fire.”

    And there’s a double whammy: Forgoing an inspection also means you lose the ability to renegotiate if, say, you notice evidence of a leaky roof during the final walk-through.

    5. Requesting an endless list of inclusions

    Back when buyers held court, sellers routinely ended up including major appliances and other household goods in the contract. Anything to seal the deal, right? Well, those days are long gone, Cournoyer warns.

    “Buyers tend to lose touch with reason a little bit, and think they should get everything,” he says.

    Want to win that house? Make your asks equal to the price you’re offering.

    “If you want to offer up a whole ton of money, you can be a little more high-maintenance,” Cournoyer says. “But when you’re out there searching for a bottom-of-the-barrel deal, you’d better just be asking for the house and that’s it.” 

    6. Insisting on unreasonable repairs

    Certainly, if the home inspection turns up a major issue requiring immediate attention, buyers should ask that a repair be done prior to closing. But don’t assume a seller needs to revamp the entire property or make cosmetic changes.

    “I had an experience recently where the buyers wrote out a huge laundry list of requests for the seller,” Birmingham recalls. “It was a really nicely flipped property, yet the buyers were still asking for more customization. The seller had put on a new roof, and they wanted two skylights installed.”

    When Birmingham suggested this could anger the seller and limit their chances of getting the home, the buyers wouldn’t budge. Guess what? They didn’t get the house.

    “The seller had three other offers, and didn’t want to deal with my buyers because their demands were so off the wall and unrealistic,” she says.

    7. Making a lowball offer on a home that’s been languishing on the market

    Some buyers figure that any listing that’s been up for more than a couple of weeks must have a desperate seller behind it. But, Birmingham notes, a low offer will not only cost you credibility in the seller’s eyes but could also spark a bidding war.

    “Usually when a house is on somebody’s radar as a bargain, there’s somebody else that has the same feeling at the same moment,” she explains. “So you’ll usually still be in competition in a multiple-offer situation.”

    Speaking of which…

    8. Employing the wrong strategy in a multiple-offer situation

    When you’re one of many offers on the table, it’s important to stand out in a positive way, Cournoyer says.

    “Agents have a few tricks we can put in the offers that help us rise to the top of the pile,” he says. “Yet we see buyers who don’t submit clean offers—making (contingencies) on a home sale, for example—which clutters up a contract.”

    Birmingham agrees that ignoring your agent usually means missing out on a house.

    “In most situations, if the house is priced properly, a good Realtor is communicating with the listing agent about how many offers are coming in,” she explains.

    “Buyers really have to be ready to step up with an above-asking offer if they want the house,” she adds. “Sometimes, it takes a few losses for buyers to understand that process.”

     | Apr 4, 2018
    Wendy Helfenbaum is a journalist and TV producer who covers real estate, architecture and design, DIY, gardening, and travel. Her work has appeared in Woman’s Day, Metropolis, Costco Connection, Garden Collage, Parenting, Canadian Living, Canadian Gardening, and more.

    85 percent of millennials expect to own a home—here’s how to buy one, in 8 steps

    Most young people expect to own a home at some point in their lifetime: 85 percent, according to Aperion Care, which surveyed 2,000 millennials to get a sense of what they think about aging, retirement and their future in general.

    That’s good news. Young people should be prioritizing home ownership, says the co-founder of AE Wealth Management and self-made millionaire David Bach. In fact, not buying a home is the No. 1 millennial money mistake, he tells CNBC Make It.

    If you’re ready to get in the game, follow these eight steps for first-time homebuyers.

    1. Look at your cash flow

    The first step is “to really know where you’re at financially,” says Michelle Brownstein, a certified financial planner at Personal Capital, “meaning how much you’re earning, how much you’re saving, or, if you’re not saving, how much you’re actually spending every month.

    “If you don’t know where your money is going, it’s impossible to put together any kind of plan to achieve your goal.”

    You’ll also want to check your credit score, which will affect the interest rate on your mortgage. Good credit can mean significantly lower monthly payments, so if your score isn’t great, consider taking some time to improve it before home shopping.

    2. Figure out how much home you can afford

    A good rule of thumb is to make sure you don’t spend more than 28 percent of your gross income on housing in any given month, says Brownstein. Keep in mind that monthly payments encompass more than just the mortgage; they also include interest, property taxes and insurance on the home.

    When determining your budget, “it’s easier to work backwards than to say, ‘OK I want a house that’s $1 million,'” she tells CNBC Make It. “You don’t want to put yourself in a situation where you buy more house that you can afford.”

    3. Build up your emergency fund

    “It’s always important, from a broader financial planning standpoint, to have an emergency fund,” says Brownstein, but it’s particularly important for homeowners, who no longer have a super to deal with roof leaks, broken appliances or other pricey repairs: “Going from renting to owning is a big adjustment because all of a sudden you can’t call your landlord if the washing machine breaks. You have to pay for it.”

    She recommends having between three and six months’ worth of your day-to-day living expenses stashed away. That means, if you spend $4,000 a month, you’ll want to have between $12,000 and $24,000 in cash to fall back on.

    4. Get together a down payment

    Technically, you don’t always have to put money down when financing a home today, and how much you decide to put down is highly personal. But the smaller the down payment, the larger the mortgage loan and the more you’ll pay in interest.

    “Generally speaking, 20 percent is a good amount to put down,” Brownstein tells CNBC Make It. Anything lower and you will have to pay for private mortgage insurance (PMI), which is a safety net for the bank in case you fail to make your payments.

    PMI, which can cost between one percent and two percent of your loan amount, will be added to your monthly mortgage if you don’t have 20 percent equity in your home.

    5. Plan for surprises

    The down payment isn’t the only necessary factor you need to budget for, since buying a home comes with expenses such as property taxes, insurance, closing costs, moving costs and maintenance.

    “Depending on where you live in the country, you should always find out if your city or state assesses property tax,” says Brownstein. “There are some areas that assess both a county tax and a state tax, so it’s good to be aware of that on the front end.”

    In terms of planning ahead for maintenance and repairs, while shopping around, you’ll want to ask when the appliances were purchased and installed so you’ll have a better idea of when they’ll need to be replaced.

    “If you’re buying a house that’s a bit older, that can come with its own issues as well, whether it’s poor heating or poor insulation that needs to be redone,” notes Brownstein. Ultimately, the cost of repairs and maintenance can represent 10-to-20 percent of the price of the home each year.

    When you get to the point where you’re ready to close on a house, you’ll want to be prepared for closing costs such as appraisal fees, attorney fees, title insurance and inspection fees, which can run you two-to-five percent of the total cost of the home.

    The expenses don’t end at closing. You should also budget for moving costs, which vary but can set you back a couple thousand dollars.

    6. Get pre-approved for a mortgage

    A pre-approval analyzes your creditworthiness, tells you how much you can borrow from your lender and, ultimately, can make all the difference between winning a bid or not.

    Once you’re pre-approved for a mortgage loan, start hunting for places within your price range. A real estate agent, and sites like Zillow, Trulia, and Redfin, can help you with the process.

    After determining your basic home requirements — where you want to live, how many bedrooms and bathrooms you need and whether you want a specific school district — Brownstein suggests making a list of your “deal breakers” and “must haves,” which will help you narrow your search.

    Most importantly, stick to your budget. “The key is to be really firm on the very top end of your budget and refuse to look at anything that’s priced above it,” says Brownstein. At the end of the day, “it’s much better to be able to upgrade your house than it is to realize you bought way more house than you could afford to the point where it’s impacting your ability to live other parts of your life.”

    7. Get to know the neighborhood

    Besides buying more home than you can afford, one of the biggest mistakes first-time homebuyers make is “buying in an area that you don’t fully explore,” says Brownstein. “Actually go walk around the neighborhood, and not just during the day — go there at night. Make sure you feel safe and good about it.”

    After all, one of the most important factors to consider when settling down is the actual location of your home, says Brownstein: “You can buy a brand new condo in a great building, but if it’s in a terrible neighborhood with no amenities and you can’t have the lifestyle you want, you’re in the wrong place.”

    Ultimately, you can always change the finishing of your home, she notes, but you can’t change the location.

    8. Offer something you’re comfortable with and close

    Shopping for a home can be a draining process. Don’t put in an offer because you’re desperate to be done. On the flip side, be wary of buying with your heart and not your head — getting too emotionally involved can lead to spending more than you can afford.

    Once you’re ready to make an offer on a home within your budget, bid. If the seller accepts your offer, you will enter into a contract before closing, and the deal will be contingent on securing a loan with your lender and getting the home inspected.

    While the home buying process can be tedious, at the end of the day, “it should be one of the most exciting moments of your life,” says Brownstein. “And while planning for it may seem a bit unexciting, it’s a really important part. Buying a home is a big purchase for anyone. It should be taken very seriously and planned for well in advance.”

    5 Important Factors to Consider Before Buying a House

    Saving up for a down payment on a house is one of the most drawn out arduous journeys in a young adults life. It’s a road that seemingly has no end. After all, you’re at a stage in your life where money can be easily put to use elsewhere.

    When you’ve finally chipped away at it long enough and you have your down payment sitting in your savings account, the excitement is unfathomable. It’s not uncommon to hit up all the websites and immediately start shopping for your dream home.

    There’s a lot of stress linked to first-time homebuyers. One key component is that many were previously living with their parents and didn’t account for the stress linked with cooking, cleaning, landscaping and a host of other things we take for granted as children and young adults.

    These factors just scratch the surface of the issues associated with buying a home. Here are some real factors to consider before pulling the trigger on your first home.

    1. The Bills

    The sheer excitement of purchasing a new home can cause you to stretch your budget and overlook certain expenses. When budgeting for your house, any real estate agent or lender will make it clear to include taxes, insurance, interest and of course the principal. However, it’s important you take all costs into account and make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew; immense stress is not worth a bigger house. Take into account the utilities, renovations and maintenance costs. Even if your home is in tip-top shape, you will learn that things consistently break down and require maintenance.

    2. Should You Rent?

    If you plan on moving around frequently, buying a home is not the best option. Although rent is viewed as flushing your money down the toilet, more money will go down that toilet if you constantly relocate. Every time you buy and sell there are an exorbitant amount of fees that need to be paid. These fees become less and less significant the longer you stay at a particular home.

    3. Home Inspection

    Although home inspections are not generally mandatory, it’s vital that you get one done. There are many hidden aspects of a home that can translate to expensive repairs with a potential to damage your budget forecast. It’s also advisable that you shadow the inspector. They will be able to inform you on nuances associated with the home that can turn out to be valuable information.

    4. Yard And Garden Maintenance

    If you’re not interested in this type of work, include landscapers as a fixed cost in your budget forecast. If not, be prepared to spend several of your precious weekend hours mowing lawns, pulling weeds and turning the soil. Many people enjoy working in their yard, but all will admit that it’s not easy work and the tools are costly.

    5. Hire A Real Estate Agent

    It’s not uncommon for people to hesitate before hiring a real estate agent, as 3% of the sale price is a steep price to pay. Don’t make this mistake; a real estate agent is experienced with the extremely complicated process of purchasing a home. They will be able to expedite the process and get you the best, realistic price. They save you money and a ton of heartache in the long run.

    For more helpful home buying tips, check out why researching the neighborhood matters.


    6 Ways Home Buyers Mess Up Getting a Mortgage


    Getting a mortgage is, by general consensus, the most treacherous part of buying a home. In a recent survey, 42% of home buyers said they found the mortgage experience “stressful,” and 32% found it “complicated.” Even lenders agree that it’s often a struggle.

    “A lot can go wrong,” says Staci Titsworth, regional manager at PNC Mortgage in Pittsburgh.

    If you’re out to buy a home, you have to be vigilant. To clue you into the pitfalls, here are six of the most common ways people mess up getting a mortgage.

    Waiting until you can make a 20% down payment

    20% down payment is the golden number when applying for a conventional home loan, since it enables you to avoid paying private mortgage insurance (PMI), an extra monthly fee of 0.3% to 1.15% of your total loan amount. But with mortgage rates where they are today—in a word, low—waiting for that magic 20% could be a huge mistake, since the more time passes, the higher mortgage rates and home prices may go!

    All of which means it may be worth discussing your home-buying prospects with lenders right now. To get a ballpark figure of what you can afford and how your down payment affects your finances, punch your salary and other numbers into a home affordability calculator.

    Meeting with only one mortgage lender

    According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, about half of U.S. home buyers only meet with one mortgage lender before signing up for a home loan. But these borrowers could be missing out in a big way. Why? Because lenders’ offers and interest rates vary, and even nabbing a slightly lower interest rate can save you big bucks over the long haul.

    In fact, a borrower taking out a 30-year fixed rate conventional loan can get rates that vary by more than half a percent, the CFPB has found. So, getting an interest rate of 4.0% instead of 4.5% on a $200,000, 30-year fixed mortgage translates into savings of approximately $60 per month, or $3,500 over the first five years.

    So to make sure you’re getting the best deal possible, meet with at least three mortgage lenders. You’ll want to start your search early (ideally, at least 60 days before you start seriously looking at homes). When you meet with each lender, get what’s called a good-faith estimate, which breaks down the terms of the mortgage, including the interest rate and fees, so that you can make an apples-to-apples comparison between offers.

    Getting pre-qualified rather than pre-approved

    Mortgage pre-qualification and mortgage pre-approval may sound alike, but they’re completely different. Pre-qualification entails a basic overview of a borrower’s ability to get a loan. You provide a mortgage lender with information—about your income, assets, debts, and credit—but you don’t need to produce any paperwork to back it up. In return, you’ll get a rough estimate of what size loan you can afford, but it’s by no means a guarantee that you’ll actually get approved for the loan when you go to buy a home.

    Mortgage pre-approval, meanwhile, is an in-depth process that involves a lender running a credit check and verifying your income and assets. Then an underwriter does a preliminary review of your financial portfolio and, if all goes well, issues a letter of pre-approval—a written commitment for financing up to a certain loan amount.

    Bottom line? If you’re serious about buying a house, you need to be pre-approved, since many sellers will accept offers only from pre-approved buyers, says Ray Rodriguez, New York City regional mortgage sales manager at TD Bank.

    Moving money around

    To get pre-approved, you have to show you have enough cash in reserves to afford the down payment. (Presenting your mortgage lender with bank statements is the easiest way to do this.) Nonetheless, your loan still needs to go through underwriting while you’re under contract for your loan to be approved. Because the underwriter will check to see that your finances have remained the same, the last thing you want to do is move money around while you’re in the process of buying a house. Shifting large amounts of money out or even into your accounts is a huge red flag, says Casey Fleming, mortgage adviser and author of “The Loan Guide: How to Get the Best Possible Mortgage.”

    So if you’re in contract for a home, your money should stay put.

    Applying for new lines of credit

    If you apply for a new credit card or request a credit limit increase a few months before closing, watch out: Credit inquiries ding your credit scoreby up to five points. So, don’t let the credit inquiries add up.

    “Worse than the actual hit on your credit score is any pattern of trying to borrow more money all at once,” says Glenn Phillips, CEO of Lake Homes Realty. Translation: Applying for multiple lines of credit while you’re buying a house can make your mortgage lender think that you’re desperate for money—a signal that could change your mortgage terms or even get you denied altogether, even if you’ve got a closing date on the books.

    Changing jobs

    Mortgage lenders like to see at least two years of consistent income history when pre-approving a loan. Consequently, changing jobs while you’re under contract on a property can create a big issue in the eyes of an underwriter.

    Your best bet? Try to wait until after you’ve closed on your house to change jobs. If you’re forced to switch before closing, you should alert your loan officer immediately. Depending on the lender, you may simply need to provide a written verification of employment from your new employer that states your job status and income, says Shashank Shekhar, the founder and CEO of Arcus Lending in San Jose, CA.

     | Feb 19, 2018
    Daniel Bortz is a Realtor in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, DC. He has written for Money magazine, Entrepreneur magazine, CNNMoney, and more.


    Why You Should Sell Your Home in 2018

    Housing markets should remain tight this year, but 2018 may be a great time to profit as a home seller.

    If you haven’t given much thought to selling your home this year, you might want to think again.

    Real estate information company Trulia commissioned a survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults, conducted by Harris Poll, to get a feel for expectations and plans for housing and homeownership in 2018. The survey results show 31 percent of respondents expect 2018 to be a better year for selling a home than 2017 – and just 14 percent expect it to be worse.

    Despite the enthusiasm, only 6 percent of homeowners surveyed plan to sell their home in 2018.

    Real estate information company Zillow echoes these sentiments in its predictions for 2018, expecting inventory shortages to continue to drive the housing market. With too few homes on the market to meet buyer demand, prices increase and would-be buyers can’t afford the price or down payment needed to submit a winning offer.

    If you’re a homeowner and have been thinking about selling, what are you waiting for? You may not consider 2018 to be your year to sell, but here are four reasons why selling in the next 12 months could be more beneficial than you think.

    Buyers are chomping at the bit. Eager homebuyers have been frustrated over the last few years, experiencing low inventory in most major markets, which is pushing them to start home shopping earlier in the year to try to beat out the competition and ensure they’re not missing out on any available properties.

    Even before the clock struck midnight on New Year’s, people were already getting a head start on looking at buying or selling a home in 2018. Real estate information company HomeLight saw a 25 percent traffic spike on its website on Dec. 26, with continued high rates of traffic through the first part of the new year.

    “Folks have generally turned their attention away from the holiday and time with family and friends, and moved onto the new year and what they want to accomplish,” says Sumant Sridharan, chief operating officer of HomeLight. “And for many people, that tends to be where they want to live.”

    The best time to sell your home is traditionally between March and June, Sridharan notes, while warmer climates may see a longer time frame because they’re not restricted by weather. But cold weather isn’t keeping interested buyers from starting their home search at the start of the year. The fact that buyers take the day after a major holiday to start looking for new home means the traditional selling season could be even hotter.

    And while the last couple years have proven beneficial for sellers, seeing many homes sell for asking price or above, it won’t last forever. Zillow predicts home builders will begin looking to construct more entry-level homes to meet demand later this year. If you wait too long to put your home on the market, you may find yourself competing with new builds that haven’t been a part of the market in large numbers since before the recession.

    Interest rates are low … for now. For both the buyer of your home and your own next home purchase, low interest rates can help make a transaction possible. In the second week of January, the average interest rate for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 4.17 percent, according to NerdWallet. Mortgage rate averages reached more than 4.4 percent in 2017, but closed the year out just below the current rate.

    While mortgage rates aren’t expected to spike significantly this year, they are forecast to increase overall. The Mortgage Bankers Association predicts 30-year fixed-rate mortgages will rise to 4.6 percent this year, and it expects rates to rise to 5 percent in 2019 and 5.3 percent in 2020.

    While increasing interest rates are a sign of a good economy, they can squeeze out some potential homebuyers from the market. The current low rates can serve as a catalyst for many potential homebuyers to get moving sooner rather than later. But as interest rates continue to rise, you’re less likely to see as many bidding wars – which is welcome news for buyers but not sellers.

     By Devon Thorsby, Staff Writer | USNews.com

    We Are Digital | Sotheby’s International Realty

    How to Find the Right Real Estate Agent to Sell Your Home

     | Jan 13, 2016

    Once you’ve decided to sell your home, you need a trusted guide by your side: a Realtor®, of course! Here we’ll teach you how to find an essential partner in pulling off this most important of all transactions. Because not all agents are created equal. (They’re not even all Realtors—that designation is reserved for members of the National Association of Realtors®.) Here’s how to find a real estate agent who’s right for you.

    Gather referrals, but take them with a grain of salt

    There are a lot of agents out there. So how do you choose? Go ahead and ask your pals for referrals, but don’t fall into the trap of picking an agent purely because of rave reviews. The old mantra of location, location, location applies to real estate agents as much as homes.

    You want an agent who is very familiar with your area, says Wendy Flynn, a Realtor and agent in College Station, TX. The reason is simple: If they’ve spent time in the area, they’ll know how to market your house there.

    So a better question to ask your friends than “Know any real estate agents?” is, “Know a real estate agent who’s sold any properties in my area in the past few years?”

    Test their communication skills

    Once you have some potentials, email them or call their office, then sit back and wait. This is your first test of a key component: how responsive will your agent be? Ideally, she should get back to you that same day.

    “If it takes longer than four business hours without a decent explanation, I would be cautious,” says Chandler Crouch, broker for Chandler Crouch Realtors in Fort Worth, TX. Imagine if you’ve got competing offers on the table, or if some problem comes up with the home inspection. You don’t want to wonder where your agent is and whether you’ll hear back from her!

    Probe their experience

    Your initial conversation with a prospective listing agent should be like any job interview: Don’t be afraid to ask the tough questions right off the bat. A good agent should know his stats, and any dancing around these numbers could mean he’s hiding something. According to Crouch, you should ask the following:

    • How long have you been in business? Aim for agents with at least two years of experience, enough time to learn the ropes and finesse their marketing and selling plans. Time (on the job) is  money (in your pocket).
    • How many houses did you sell last year? Look for agents with double-digit sales. “I wouldn’t consider an agent unless they had 20 or more sells a year,” Crouch says.
    • What percentage of your listings do you sell? Ideally you want an agent who has sold an average of 60% to 80%.
    • What is the average list price to actual sell price ratio for your listings? This can fluctuate by market, but you should still look for high numbers. “I would set a low bar of 95% to be acceptable for even the worst market conditions,” Crouch says.

    Assess their marketing skills

    Everyone knows that to sell a house quickly (and get the big bucks) you need to reach as many eyeballs as you can. And the way to suss out an agent’s ability to do that is to ask these questions:

    • How will you market my home? An agent should use at least a good brokerage website to showcase your listing, national listing portals such as realtor.com®, and an email subscription list.
    • How will you use social media? They should use at least Facebook and Twitter to market listings; they get bonus points if they post photos on Instagram.
    • What offline materials do you use? While most marketing is done online now, your agent should still make use of tried-and-true methods such as fliers, yard signs, and brochures, especially at an open house.
    • How much do you spend on advertising? “Don’t stop asking until you get a solid dollar figure,” Crouch says. Advertising costs vary widely by area, but agents should consistently spend a portion of their business expenses on advertising. By asking for a set amount, you’ll know if they’re doing that or not.

    Don’t shoot for cheap

    Finally, don’t assume the most inexpensive agent is the one for you. While agents work at different price points and some may take a lower commission, they should be confident enough in their abilities to stand by their prices, according to Crouch. So when you’re talking terms, he recommends asking agents if they’ll work on a discount. If they jump at the chance early on in the conversation, that might be a red flag.

    “Think about this: If the agent can’t even negotiate to protect their ownmoney, how likely do you think it will be for them to go to bat to protect your money?” Crouch says. “It’ll be a test of confidence in their own services at least.”

    Angela Colley writes about real estate and all things renting and moving for realtor.com. Her work has appeared in outlets including TheStreet, MSN, and Yahoo.


    Published by Bari Williams, Sotheby’s International Realty

    Hot Home Trend: Black Is Back

    By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine | 
    Black is getting popular in home design. Black fixtures, appliances, and even black furniture are emerging as one of the hottest trends in the new year.Black fixtures are replacing brass or rubbed bronze as a trendy home hardware in 2018.Black makes a great finish because it goes with anything. In matted finishes, it can also be easier to clean than your lighter, polished metals–so that’s definitely an added perk for homeowners too.


    Black cabinets in the kitchen are getting trendy too. To offset the darkness, some homeowners are mixing the black cabinets with lighter cabinets. Check out this one from Weston Lodge…

    Photo by Woodale – Look for kitchen design inspiration

    Black stainless appliances are also gradually gaining more momentum in the kitchen. Black stainless was once again being showed in the newest appliance models at CES 2018, the consumer electronics show this year. As  more smudge proof, black stainless is proving itself as a trendy alternative to traditional stainless.


    Provide by Bari Williams | Sotheby’s International Realty

    Q4 Wine Country Market Update – Sotheby’s International Realty

    A Message from Jonathan Soh – Brokerage Manager

    The fires of October 2017 seriously impacted the local housing market by destroying roughly 7,000 homes, however, we as a community have come together in force to place families in new homes or temporary housing and have shown tremendous support throughout these challenging times. The full effects remain to be seen, but, according to the Bay Area Real Estate Information Services, immediate activity in Q4 2017 showed a marked increase of home purchases since October 2017. The Santa Rosa/Windsor market, one of the hardest hit by the fires, had a 12% increase in Sales Volume from $269 million in Q4 2016 to $300 million in Q4 2017 and experienced a 12% increase in Average Selling Price to $722,000. The Sonoma Valley market had a 9% increase in Sales Volume from $99 million in Q4 2016 to $108 million in Q4 2017 and experienced a 10% increase in Average Selling Price to $1.2 million. Another hard-hit market was the City of Napa which experienced a 4% increase in Sales Volume from $157 million in Q4 2016 to $164 million in Q4 2017 and an 18% increase in Average Selling Price to $857,000.

    Despite the fires, the City of Healdsburg continued to flourish during the 4th Quarter of 2017. Sales Volume increased 42% from $46 million in Q4 2016 to $66 million in Q4 2017 and Average Selling Price increased 8% to $1.2 million. While not directly hit by the fires, Healdsburg became a retreat for many displaced Santa Rosa residents. It is a very popular second home market and it is encouraging to see buyers continue to invest in the Wine Country region.

    We invite you to review this edition of the Market Update, a robust analysis of the Sonoma Wine Country real estate market.