Your home: How to choose a home inspector

House - Checkmarks
Home inspections aren’t just for buyers these days. As a matter of fact, 99 percent of our selling clients last year performed a pre-inspection on their home before putting it on the market. By pre-inspecting a home, the seller not only identifies any serious issues that should be addressed, but they also help to bulletproof the sale of their home by eliminating the chance of any big surprises once they go under contract and go through inspections. The benefits of a pre-inspection could be a column topic all by itself, so let’s stick to the first question.

How do you choose a home inspector?

I truly feel home inspectors get a bad rap. I am not saying that there aren’t some less than favorable home inspectors out there. As with my own industry, it is not hard to become a home inspector. Easy entrance into a job field means that you have do do your due diligence to ensure that you find a competent and professional inspector.

The home inspection is one of the most crucial steps in a home purchase or in home preparation for the market. Therefore, you have to do your best to find an inspector with experience who is also learning-based. You don’t just want someone who does the minimum.

Here are some helpful questions to ask inspectors as you are interviewing them:

  • 1. Are you a member of a professional inspector’s organization? In my opinion, any inspector worth his salt is a member of one of these national organizations: the American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), the National Association of Home Inspectors (NAHI), or the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (IACHI). These organizations have minimum standard education requirements and also maintain a code of ethics of some sort. Being a member does not guarantee that your inspector is a rock star, it is just a good place to start.
  • 2. How much experience do you have? Everyone has to be new once, I just don’t know if you want to roll the dice with a brand new inspector when it comes to the sale of your home or the purchase of your new home. I have found that the best inspectors tend to have a background in some sort of industry that would support them being a good inspector. Builders, general contractors, electricians, and engineers can all become good inspectors.
  • 3. What will you inspect? Make sure that the things that concern you will be covered in the inspection. Any good inspector should be very clear on what they inspect and what they don’t.
  • 4. How long do your inspections generally take? This is a good question if for nothing else to help budget your time. I have been the victim (and, yes, I mean victim) of a few four-hour inspections before. Unless you are inspecting a mansion, a home inspection should never take four hours. There is a difference between detailed and slow. The average home inspection takes about two to three hours. That is unless you use a bigger company who brings out more than one inspector on the same home. In that case, it can take one to two hours. More than one inspector is actually my preference. Two sets of eyes is better than one and it is a more efficient use of my client’s time.
  • 5. What kind of report do you provide? Okay, so here is where my personal preference will come in to play. I believe that every inspector should be able to provide you with an electronic copy of your inspection (PDF or Word Doc) including photos within 24 hours of the inspection. Time is of the essence when you are working within a ten-day inspection period. You don’t want to spend any of that time waiting for your inspection report. There are some old school inspectors out there who still hand write their inspection reports. Just like there are still Realtors out there who refuse to use online contracts and digital signatures with their clients. But is that choice about the client needs and providing efficient service, or is it about the Realtor’s preference? I would say it is the former. The same applies to inspectors. Today’s buyers expect their information ASAP and in a clean digital format with color photos. And I for one believe they deserve it.

If you are looking to purchase a home or to perform a pre-inspection on your current home and would like a recommendation for a great home inspection company, please email us and we would be happy to refer to one.​

Photo Credit: Chris Potter

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Your home: Was buying my home a good investment?

Scrabble - Return on InvestmentJust this week I have had the privilege to meet with three couples, all of whom purchased their current homes in 2007.  When it came to the current market value of their homes, all three were in a similar position.  Their homes were worth pretty close to what they paid for them in 2007.  One of the couples was pleasantly surprised by this, while the other two seemed a little deflated.

“I thought that owning a home was a good investment?”, one couple said.  And the answer is …. IT IS.

I meet with sellers every day and I take their equity very seriously.  Certainly, I would like to see every seller sell his or her home for way more than they paid for it.  Unfortunately, that is just not reality.  Home values suffered some major dips during the recession.  In 2008, national home values dropped 9.8 percent and then dropped again by 12.5 percent in 2009.  For those who purchased in 2007, you endured about a five-year “equity vacuum” before values began to recover in 2012.

I realize that this does not take the sting out of little or no equity growth after eight years of owning a home.  Perhaps it easier for me to see the bright side because throughout the recession we worked with seller after seller who had to write a check at closing to sell their home.  That’s right – they paid to sell their home.  I saw families write checks for more than $20,000 to close the deal.  That was really tough to see.  When your business is built on the fact that home ownership is a good investment and yet your clients are suffering a loss because of it, it is hard not to feel disillusioned.

I often say that I am thankful for the recession because it taught me so many valuable lessons when it comes to pricing, watching the markets for trending, and communicating with clients (even when the news is bad).  Really, I could go on and on about what the recession taught me.

One lesson that it reaffirmed is that real estate is a smart way to build wealth over time.  That last part is the most important:  Over time.  Although the recession lasted for just about 5 1/2 years, it felt like an eternity.  But in the scheme of things, it was a relatively short period.  And the great news is that its over and the markets are healthier than ever.  Yet we must keep in mind, as with most investments, real estate has proven to be a sound investment over a spectrum of time.  And we are not even taking into consideration the tax benefits, the potential capital gains savings, and the fact that in the long term buying a home is cheaper than renting.  

The really great news is that if these same families that I met with this week had called me two years ago to sell their homes, they would have discovered that they were upside down on their mortgages.  However, due to the strong recovery, just two short years later they are back in the black.  

There are also two sides to every story.  The market may seem a little deflating to those who purchased in 2007 while at the same time the market is awesome for those who purchased a little later.  Homeowners who purchased in 2010 and 2011 are currently selling with substantial gains because they bought when values were at the bottom.  For them, real estate is clearly an awesome investment.

I must offer one proviso.  Every home, especially older ones, are different.  Please know that we consider every home’s fair market value on a case-by-case basis.  For example, if a homeowner purchased in 2007 and has made substantial improvements to their home, they will most likely sell for more than they paid. 

If you would like to know where your equity stands as of today, please call or email us today.  We are here to help.

Photo Credit: Simon Cunningham
https://www.flickr.com/photos/lendingmemo/

Your home: Why a real estate ‘team’?

team photo

TEAM: Together Everybody Achieves More

Well, that pretty much sums up the answer to the question, “Why a real estate team?” And before I get into the specifics, I must acknowledge a few people. My team, that is.

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Leah Taylor (my beautiful wife and Lead Buyer Specialist), Rebecca Holcombe (our incredible Director of Operations), Julie Davidson (our ever-delightful Transaction Coordinator), Christina Lee (our hard-working Showing Specialist), and David Taylor (my dad and the hardest working Runner in the business). Our team had the privilege of working with 89 families last year, which was a record for us. And we could not have done it without the aforementioned incredible team of people. I am so thankful to be in business with them all. Thank you guys! From the bottom of my heart.

I want to first say that there are some incredible “single agents” out there. By that, I mean agents who work on their own without a team. Although, even a single agent has a team of lending professionals, title representatives, and probably some supporting staff at their real estate office. Everyone needs leverage.

We have chosen to grow a team because it allows us to provide the best possible service and in a timely manner. As listed above, each member of our team has a specific role in which they specialize. My role of Listing Specialist, for example, allows me to focus solely on selling the houses that we have listed in MLS. So my job is to identify trends in our market that affect pricing and inventory levels. In addition to that, I actively prospect every day for buyers for our listings. This is why when you call my voicemail it says that I will return calls at 11:30 a.m. I am on the phone prospecting for buyers and sellers from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. every day. My specialized role allows me to protect my time to ensure that I deliver results for our sellers. My clients don’t want me out showing homes. They want me selling their home so they can purchase a new one.

Now let’s look at our buyer team: As I mentioned, Leah is our Lead Buyers Specialist and she works in tandem with our Showing Specialist, Christina. First, the two of them conduct a buyer’s consultation to get a clear understanding of what a buyer is searching for in a home. Then Christina refines their search and starts the showing process. Their goal is to show our client the best homes out there, not every home that is available. The consultation allows them to weed out homes that would be a waste of the client’s time to see based on their criteria. Once our client identifies the home that they would like to make an offer on, Leah then helps our client to create a strong offer, presents the offer, and shrewdly negotiates on their behalf.

The buyer team partnership allows our clients to have two agents instead of one. Two agents can allow for more availability and flexibility when it comes to showing homes. By Leah handling all of the offer writing and negotiations, Christina is freed up to show more homes. Therefore, our clients don’t have to wait as often as one might with a single agent.

The best example that I have heard given is the doctor’s office example. What if you went to your doctor’s office and when you walked in your doctor was answering the phones and taking information at the counter? And then when your name was called, your doctor weighed you and took your blood pressure. Your were then led to a room where your doctor performed your check-up. As you were leaving, your doctor then handled your insurance requirements and payment.

Would that shock you to see your doctor in all of those roles? Of course it would. Would your doctor be very proficient in his business or in his level of medical care if he were wearing all of the hats? I don’t think so. You want your doctor to be focused on you when you are in his office, not accounts payable, right? Wouldn’t you want your Realtor, the person who is assisting with the purchase or sale of your home, to have that same focus on your specific needs? That is why we have a team.

Photo Credit: Dawn (Willis) Manser

vanilla

Your home: The 2015 housing forecast

2015

Happy New Year to you all!

I am really excited about the real estate market to come in 2015. And for numerous reasons. Of course, when I say housing forecast I must provide the proviso that I don’t have a crystal ball. My forecast is based on current local trends. However, trends can shift. The real estate market is like the stock market. It’s just not as quick to tell you what it is thinking. If investors in the stock market are fearful, the market can drop 300 points in one day. If the real estate market is getting fearful, it could take months for the trends to tell the story.

So what story is the market telling for 2015 you ask?

Here are the high points:

1. Interest rates. As I shared in last week’s columns, historically low interest rates are on their way out. As soon as summer to be more specific. The forecast of higher interest rates could cause the first quarter to heat up early. Honestly, that is my hope. I would like to see buyers today capitalize on the best housing affordability that the market will offer for many years to come. Additionally, if rates spike much, we could see buyers lowering their price ranges to keep their expenses in line or possibly dropping out of the home buying market altogether. Interest rates will undoubtedly have the biggest impact on the real estate market this year.

2. Inventory. The number of homes for sale is on the rise and should continue to increase into the summer months. I welcome this increase. Buyers out there need more options and sellers out there need a reality check on home values. I have seen our market get a little too cocky when it comes to pricing and now the buyers are responding. They are responding by not writing offers on homes. Today’s buyer is not willing to overpay for a home just two years out of a recession. That message is clear. And when interest rates increase, the absorption rate (the number of homes selling each month) will slow down, thus causing an increase in inventory. We may be back in a balanced market (six months of inventory) before you know it. A balanced market is neither a buyer’s market nor a seller’s market. It is a level playing field.

3. Ready for HGTV. As inventory rises, a buyer finds himself with more options. More options for the buyer means higher expectations when it comes to condition. A common complaint out there from buyers and their agents is that the current inventory is not that great. The homes that are in great condition and priced right are currently under contract. And then you have the rest. Of course, the holiday season does have some effect on the market. But it is a new year now. And this year looks to be a price war and a beauty contest at the same time.

4. Pricing. Most predictions are that we should see slow and steady appreciation for the foreseeable future, maybe 2-4 percent each year. Homes that received multiple offers in 2013 and 2014 may only see one offer in 2015 due to increased inventory. We are already seeing that this is the case. I currently have homes listed at prices that would have received multiple offers in June, yet have not received one offer in December. We WILL get them sold. I have no concern of that. I share this with you to show that in less than six months, the perception of value to the buyer has shifted. And with it, prices in most areas have dropped. The number of price adjustments that I am seeing in MLS has increased significantly. At the end of the day, you must price your home at or slightly below market value to accomplish an offer. The tricky part is knowing what fair market value is, and where it is headed. Pricing slightly below market value allows you to stay ahead of the market as inventory increases. You don’t want to chase the market after having over-priced your home. That is a hard race to win.

Photo Credit:

Glas. Alleen.

Martin Fisch