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Buy or Sell a Home

Buy or Sell a Home

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Things to Consider when Buying a Home

How much can you afford?

How much can you afford?

Examine your budget. Check out our Budget for Home Worksheet. Consider your monthly net pay (what you bring home) and what you spend on a monthly basis. This exercise will determine what you can afford for your maximum monthly housing payment.

Hire a pro

Hire a pro

Work with a friendly and knowledgeable Realtor® to find homes in your price range, in areas you like. List and prioritize the features you want in your home and what kind of neighborhood you want to live in (i.e. country setting or small-lot subdivision, condo/ townhome community etc.).

Define you goals

Define your goals

Determine if you want an existing home or if you want to buy or build a new home (new construction). Narrow your search: Focus on homes in areas you already know and like. Don't let excitement about “seeing that dream home” become a temptation to buy beyond your budget.

Buy with your head and not your heart

Buy with your head and not your heart

Think clearly and rationally: Distinguish between what you need and what you want. Bring a parent or experienced buyer along: It’s always a good idea to get a second opinion from a trusted advisor.

Research before you buy

Research before you buy

Research the crime activity in the neighborhood you’re considering: There are law enforcement websites that list information on crime rates, or even sexual predators that could be your next neighbor!

Consider the costs

Consider the costs

Ask about all the costs associated with a particular home. For example, ask for a copy of the most recent real estate tax bill, insurance bill, or home utility bills. Ask if there are association fees or special assessments. Are improvements required? Be sure to budget for repairs before you buy.


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Things to Consider when Selling a Home

Detach from the home

Detach from the home

Take a step back. Approach the sale as a real estate transaction, not the sale of your home. Sellers often place a higher value on their home than others would. A Realtor® will provide actual closed sale data on homes in your area, and a candid assessment of value.

Consult with a Realtor

Consult with a Realtor®

Even if you’re a real estate expert, buyers are uncomfortable dealing directly with the seller. While you may be capable of selling your home, a professional Realtor® is your best bet. Find an experienced agent who is known to be a leader in your community. Choose an agent who listens to you, is friendly and responsive.

Get your paperwork in order

Get your paperwork in order

Make sure you have all documents in order to sell. Buyers and settlement agents will ask for a copy of your deed, property survey (must be current/correct), copies of all utility and insurance bills (buyers may ask about current expenses), copies of warranty documents, security system agreements, and copies of recorded restrictions on your property.

De-clutter and remove personal items

De-clutter and remove personal items

Remove personal items and photos, remove excess furniture and clutter. The home should be spacious and clean. Begin at your front door and go through the entire house, even de-clutter your basement, attic and garage. Organize your closets and kitchen cabinets. Everything should be clean and orderly.

Remove items not intended to remain after sale

Remove items not intended to remain after sale

It’s important to remove custom fixtures, draperies, expensive ceiling fans or other items that you intend to take with you. Once a prospective buyer sees these items in your home, they expect those items to remain at closing. Misunderstandings can cause tension, or lead to a withdrawn offer.

Repair, replace and paint

Repair, replace and paint

Paint rooms to freshen up or brighten up your home. Paint your front door, garage door, exterior and trim. Replace house numbers with new and attractive lettering. Replace burned out light bulbs or outdated fixtures. Replace broken or outdated appliances. Re-caulk bathrooms and kitchen area. Fix broken locks, doors, sliders, screens, etc.

The home must shine - inside and out

The home must shine - inside and out

Vacuum, clean or replace carpets or rugs. Dust the furniture, mop floors, wash windows and clean blinds. Display new or like-new kitchen and bath towels, blankets and bedspreads. Use air fresheners if necessary. Exterior areas must be cleaned too, no cobwebs. Replace welcome mats.

Consider the curb appeal of the home

Consider the curb appeal of the home

Mow the lawn, rake the leaves, remove snow, etc. Trim all hedges or trees and replace dead or unattractive plants. Plant flowers, add stone accents and mulch planters. Make the home more appealing from the street. Replace the mailbox if old, rusted, or dented.

Staging

Staging

Arrange furniture to showcase each room. Rooms should feel spacious. Adjust window shades and blinds to allow natural light into the rooms. Kitchen and Bathrooms must be spotless. Clean out medicine cabinets and vanities. Display fresh flower arrangements in dining or kitchen area. Make it a model home.

Showtime

Showtime

Allow your Realtor® to show your home during weekdays & weekends. Serious buyers look every day of the week, not just on the weekends. Maintain the cleanliness and appearance of your home on a daily basis. Keep promotional flyers on the kitchen counter. Allow your Realtor® and buyer’s agent to field all questions from potential buyers.


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Opportunities in West Los Angeles

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Targeting the Upper Echelons

by Barbara Ballinger & Margaret Crane

In recent years real estate has become more specialized, in terms of trends, prices, and neighborhood characteristics, from architectural styles to area-sourced building materials, to a connection with native plantings and topography, and this includes amenities—such as pools in warm climates and fireplaces in those regions where temperatures dip. With greater niche-segmentation has come specialization of Realtors® who often limit their focus on, perhaps, starter homes, senior citizen communities or high-end luxury properties.

Mica Rabineau, a salesman with Nourmand & Associates, a family-owned and operated luxury real estate boutique in Los Angeles, has focused on the luxury niche for his 12 years in business and has sold more than $150 million, primarily in the West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and West Los Angeles neighborhoods. His clients have included mostly actors, musicians, and high-profile entertainment industry professionals. Prices in these areas have been trending up for the last six to seven years, he says, and a true luxury home now hovers at a starting price of about $2 million and goes up from there, all the way to $250 million!

For Rabineau, this market appeals because it represents the best homes in the finest areas. "Nobody wants to sell $500,000 condos their entire life since there is just not much excitement around these listings long-term," he says. But to get the higher-end listings to market requires having all the photos just right--good lighting and angles, writing the best targeted descriptions, preparing advertising, and showing the homes discreetly since some homeowners don't want their identities revealed. "It’s just a totally different ball game in the L.A. market since there's so much money with a lot of competition in what's now a very hot market," he says.

While luxury was once defined by older homes in decades past – many luxury homes in his target areas now include new modern architectural houses in such areas as Hancock Park, known for being the original old Hollywood and part of the city of Los Angeles. Most of his luxury listings, however, are located in more suburban areas where more land is available since an acre or more is often desired for privacy and the hottest outdoor amenities. This is tough to find in the city limits except at exorbitant prices or if a teardown can be done. Rules have become restrictive regarding what can be torn down and what may be built in its place, due to the "McMansion policies" in several areas to curtail building "anything, everywhere," Rabineau says. "Ranch" areas in more distant locales such as Hidden Hills have also gained in popularity because they offer more land and greater privacy. The prices are also half the cost of those in the city and suburbs, The downside: a longer 25-minute-plus drive to downtown L.A.

Two of Rabineau's active listings reflect these trends, and what most appeals now to L.A. buyers entering this price range. Despite differences in style, size, and amenities, all reflect move-in condition, a must for buyers these days since people are busy working and want turn-key properties that involve little or no remodeling, says Rabineau. Technology is another essential so homeowners can utilize the latest in gadgets and systems in their homes, with access from smart phones or pads to control their lights, heating & air conditioning, garage door, alarm system, etc. Not seeing neighbors has also become more sought after for privacy and quiet. And lastly, investors are actively entering this market to be able to buy and lease out listings for those eager to live in them but not commit to ownership.

  • 349 S. Mansfield, Hancock Park. This 4,154-square-foot, two-story, cutting-edge-style home on one-third acre was listed last Christmas for $3.149 million. With four bedrooms, a home office, and six bathrooms. Architect Amit Apel designed the house to appeal to those wanting all the latest exterior construction materials such as stucco, glass and varnished oak, plus an easy flow between indoor and outdoor areas. Sliding doors lead from the living room to a large wood deck with views back into the house including its modern floating, glass-lined stairway and outdoors to the rear pool, sitting and dining areas. Inside, other, now popular modern features include a two-story living room, open kitchen and dining area with chef's Bulthaup Italian cabinets in shades of both trendy gray and white, a double oven, center island with built-in-seating at two counter heights, and pocket doors to the back yard. The upstairs includes three bedrooms, plus a spacious master suite with walk-in closet and en-suite bathroom boasting dual sinks, separate tub and open contemporary shower. What makes the house so novel is its openness and striking modern design. The likely buyer will be a young couple or young single person between the ages of 25 and 35.
  • 6640 Whistley Terrace, Whitley Heights. With a slightly larger footprint of 4,350 square feet, but a lower price just shy of $2 million, this 1958 house went on the market in early January. Among its prime features are its views of Hollywood, all the way toward downtown L.A. with the ocean and observatory in view in between. The Mediterranean-inspired three-story design in its historic neighborhood sits on a smaller site due to its city location, close to restaurants, shopping, and nightlife. This location will appeal to those interested in being able to walk rather than drive all the time, a growing trend for urban buyers across the country. This home was designed for those with more traditional, old-world taste. Its gated entry and lush hedges give the home an air of privacy at the front, and the saltwater lap pool, spa and outdoor kitchen at the rear of the home are also shielded by mature landscaping for additional privacy. The backyard is ideal for entertaining at night, and includes a guest cottage. Guests such as parents, friends or grown children are just a few steps away from the main residence. Inside, the home has equally appealing amenities – including 5 bedrooms, 5 1/2 baths, and an open-style floor plan with cook's kitchen, high-end stainless steel appliances, dark cabinetry, large breakfast bar, marble countertops, plus custom iron work, three fireplaces, a great room with wood floors and overhead beams, media room, sound studio, and wine room. The master bedroom has an adjacent seating room with fireplace. With increased overall interest in energy efficiency, this home was updated with roof-top solar panels. This property may also appeal to a family because of the number of bedrooms, layout and its walkable neighborhood, near the Hollywood Bowl, Rabineau says.

Rabineau is marketing properties with full-page color ads in the MLS, runs ads in the Los Angeles Times newspaper, delivers brochures and flyers to neighbors and area businesses, and uses technology to email, text and cycle ads on social media to reach other Realtors® with potential buyers. Recently he has begun to use a drone to video his listings because the Internet has become such a powerful tool for potential buyers to gain a close-up view of a home, inside and outside. Drone videos are so clear that people feel like they are strolling through the home in person rather than touring the home from afar.


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Buying a Home in Connecticut?

Berkshire Hathaway

203-804-5919

www.bhhsneproperties.com

Buying a Home in Florida?

Century 21 Bill Nye Realty

813-817-4910

www.century21bnr.com

Buying a Home in Alabama?

Century 21 James Grant Realty

800-524-9234

www.jgrantrealty.com

Buying a Home in Florida?

Coastal Properties Group International – Christie’s International Real Estate

813-434-0708

www.coastalpgi.com

Buying a Home in Florida?

Coldwell Banker

www.coldwellbanker.com

Buying a Home in Arizona?

Coldwell Banker First Affiliate

928-282-4666

www.gregwolferealestate.com

Buying a Home in Arizona?

Jeff Polett Realty

602-279-2300

www.jeffpolettrealty.com

Buying a Home in North Carolina?

Keller Williams Asheville

828-231-6966

www.tarry-crockett.kwrealty.com

Buying a Home in Colorado?

LIV Sotheby’s International Realty

303-953-6644

www.livsothebysrealty.com

Buying a Home in North Carolina?

Mountain Oak Properties

828-318-8801

www.MountainOakProperties.com

Buying a Home in Kentucky?

RE/MAX Connections

502-899-7560

www.dbischof.remax-kentucky.com

Buying a Home in Arizona?

RE/MAX HomeStores

520-439-3047

www.tbullington.com

Buying a Home in Montana?

Real Estate of Bozeman Montana

406-581-1956

www.realestateofbozeman.com

Buying a Home in Idaho?

Realm Partners

208-255-6650

www.realmidaho.com

Buying a Home in Arizona?

Realty Executives

928-305-9888

www.soldonyuma.com

Buying a Home in Florida?

Sun ‘N Fun Realty

(813) 428-6992

www.sunnfunrealty.com

Buying a Home in Florida?

Tampa Suncoast Realty

(813) 778-5584

Buying a Home in Florida?

Terra Vista Realty Group LLC

1-800-323-7703

www.Terravistarealtygroup.com

Buying a Home in Tennessee?

The Ashton Real Estate Group of RE/MAX Elite

1-800-668-6306

www.nashvillesmls.com

Buying a Home in Arizona?

The Donnelly Group

480-792-9700

www.donnellyarizonahomes.com

Buying a Home in Florida?

Watson Realty Corp.

1-800-226-0077

www.watsonrealtycorp.com

Buying a Home in Oregon?

Windermere Real Estate

503-284-7755

www.stevenricheson.com

Expert Advice

Tips for Interviewing Realtors

by Michele Lerner

Expert Advice

Hiring a real estate agent to help you buy a home or to sell a home requires careful consideration. You’re about to handle one of the biggest financial transactions of your lifetime; one that impacts your lifestyle as much as it does your bank account. In order to choose the right agent to represent your interests, it’s best to get recommendations for agents to interview, follow up on references and take the time to interview two or three until you find someone who gives you confidence and is compatible with your communication style.

Experience counts, but so does enthusiasm

While you may like a real estate agent recommended by a friend because that agent is a fun happy hour companion, it’s best to pick someone who has experience with the kind of transaction you are undertaking. That doesn’t mean that a new agent isn’t a good choice. In fact, a relatively new agent could work harder for you than any other agent just because he or she has the time to focus on you. In addition, new agents recognize the importance of building a good reputation for customer service that contributes to a growing stream of referrals. If you’re interviewing a newer agent, just be sure to ask whether the agent has a mentor or a broker who can give advice if something gets complicated.

Questions for your potential real estate agent

As you start interviewing agents, there are some questions that you should ask whether you are a buyer or a seller, such as:

  • Are you a Realtor? In order to use the term “Realtor”, the agent must be a member of the National Association of Realtors and therefore has to uphold the code of ethics of the association.
  • What neighborhoods do you specialize in? Some agents work in a wide geographical area, but if you want to focus your home search in a particular area, you may want to pick someone who knows every house in that community. If you’re selling, you’ll want an agent who is very familiar with your neighborhood’s attributes and will be able to market your property appropriately.
  • Do you specialize in a particular price range? Many agents work in all price ranges, but some specialize in affordable starter homes and others focus on the luxury market. Even if an agent comes highly recommended, if you’re selling an affordable house, you’re less likely to get a lot of attention from an agent who normally sells high end properties.
  • How often should I expect to hear from you? What’s the best way to reach you? It’s good for agents and their clients to decide how they want to communicate and how often. Setting expectations is important, because you may assume your agent will be updating you daily on any interest in your home if you’re a seller, or on new listings to review if you’re a buyer. Your agent may have other clients and think a weekly check-in is good enough, so do work this out ahead of time and choose an agent who is responsive to your interests.
  • Can you provide me with some references? Most agents have testimonials on their website from happy clients, but you can also ask to contact one or two people to ask specific questions about their experience with the agent.

If you’re a buyer, you may want to discuss these questions with potential agents:

  • Are you an Accredited Buyers’ Representative (ABR)? An ABR has received additional training and has a certain level of experience specifically with buyers.
  • Have you worked with first-time buyers or move-up buyers or both? Agents typically work with a variety of clients, but it would be helpful to hear about how much experience they have with people in similar circumstances to yours. First-time buyers should ask about whether an agent can help them find out about homebuyer programs and give them some extra guidance on how to recognize value in a property. Move-up buyers may want some additional advice on how to make the transition from one home to the next, such as whether to buy the next home first or sell their current home first.
  • Can you recommend a lender? Real estate agents should refer you to a lender or several lenders and make sure you are preapproved for a loan before you start shopping.
  • Can you give me advice about future home improvements or renovations to consider before moving in? Some agents are particularly experienced with fixer-upper homes and can recommend contractors and help you visualize your options for a home.

If you’re a seller, your real estate interview questions should include:

  • How many homes have you sold in the past year? This should be an indicator of the agent’s level of experience but also will give you an indication of market conditions.
  • How fast are homes like mine selling right now? Do most sellers get full asking price? This will inform you about market conditions, but this also gives the agent the chance to talk about their negotiating abilities to get you the best price.
  • Can you tell me what I should do to get my home ready to sell? Experienced agents can talk to you about small things that can make your home more appealing to buyers as well as address how to handle any bigger issues that could hurt your sales chances.
  • How do you plan to market my home? Will you have professional photos taken? Each listing agent has a marketing plan, so listen to several before you decide which one you think will work best for your home.

The purpose of asking these questions is not only to find someone with good experience and proper credentials, but to educate yourself about the market, to make certain you can build a rapport with your agent, and to gain confidence that you’ve found a real estate professional that will guide you through your home buying or selling transaction successfully.

Michele Lerner

Michele Lerner is an award-winning freelance journalist and author based in Washington, D.C. who has been writing about real estate and personal finance for more than two decades. She writes for consumers, Realtors and investors. Her work appears regularly in The Washington Post, New Home Source, Bankrate, Fox Business, MSN, Yahoo, The Motley Fool, REIT magazine, Realtor.com, HSH.com and numerous Realtor association publications. She is the author of "New Home 101: Your Guide to Buying and Building a New Home" and "HOMEBUYING: Tough Times, First Time, Any Time."

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