Does Your Home Have Lead Paint? How to Find Out

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Of all the things you have to worry about when you’re buying a home, paint really shouldn’t be one of them. The problem is, if you’re looking at an older home, the topic can shift quickly from “Why did they choose that color?” to “Welcome to the danger zone”— all due to the existence of lead paint.

Lead was a popular ingredient in house paint for years before scientists discovered that this element—if eaten or inhaled as dust in the air—could cause a wide range of health problems, from anemia to seizures to death, particularly in children.

Bottom line: This is not something you want hanging around a home once you move in. Thankfully, there are ways to check for lead paint and get rid of it.

Which homes have lead paint?

The federal government banned the sale of lead-based paint in 1978, giving many people the impression that a house built after that time is free and clear. But that is not always the case.

“Many painters loved lead-based paint,” says Welmoed Sisson, a Maryland-based home inspector with Inspections by Bob. It tends to be glossier, more lustrous, and it holds color better. “Once they learned the ban was going into effect, many of them stocked up on a cache of lead-based paint.”

And since the government made it illegal only to manufacture and buy the paint, using what you already had was a gray area that lasted for years. “I’ve talked to inspectors who’ve found lead-based paint in homes built in the ’90s,” says Sisson.

Signs of lead paint

Unfortunately, like with most things that spell disaster for a potential dream home, you can’t definitively spot lead-based paint just by looking at it. However, you can get a good idea that it is there based on one telltale sign.

“When the paint deteriorates it creates a pattern that looks like scales. It’s actually called alligatoring,” says Sisson.

Finding these series of cracks along walls can be a good indication that you’ve entered into lead territory, but most homeowners aren’t going to just leave crumbling paint on the living room walls, so you might need to put on your investigative hat.

“Look inside closets, along baseboards and basement window sashes,” says Sisson. “Anywhere were painters might overlook a spot.”

Alligatoring: a sign of lead paint
Alligatoring: a sign of lead paint

Flickr/See1,Do1,Teach1

How to test for lead paint

Walls can also be tested for surface lead using a paint testing kit available at your local hardware store. For the test, you rub a solution on the wall. If the solution turns pink, you have lead. (Though, it will also stain the wall if it turns pink, so maybe it’s not a great idea if you’re just lookingat a property.)

The problem is, the test has limits. It finds lead only on the surface. If the lead-based paint was covered up by new paint, the test won’t work. And while covering (or encasing) lead-based paint is one way to limit its danger, it isn’t the best way.

“When painters encapsulate lead-based paint, they can miss spots,” says Sisson. “Common spots like around windows can still have exposed lead, which can cause lead dust to disperse throughout your house when you touch the area.”

Lead test
You can buy a lead paint testing kit at your local hardware store.

Inspections By Bob

Should you hire a home inspector to test for lead?

To really tell if a home has lead-based paint, you’re going to need a serious test.

“When lead is suspected, inspectors use an X-ray to look through the paint layers to the base wood of the wall. X-rays can’t pass through lead, so it is easy to spot,” says Sisson.

Many home inspectors will check for lead paint, but not all—so be sure to ask. If not, you can hire a certified lead inspector by entering your address and other info on the lead abatement page of EPA.gov. If lead paint is found, a certified inspector can also remove it, although it will cost you.

According to the EPA, you’ll spend about $8 to $15 per square foot, or about $10,000 for an average-size home. In the end, walking away from the house of lead might be the better option, but if you love the place you should take heart that there are ways to make it safe.

Angela Colley lives in New Orleans, where she writes about buying, selling, and renting news for realtor.com. Her passions include animal rescue, photography, historic homes, and Southern architecture.
Posted on December 4, 2016 at 12:35 am
Noemi Cardoso | Category: Buyer's Advice | Tagged , , , , ,

How Much Does Home Staging Cost—and How Much Will You Gain?

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Home staging—where you decorate your house in an effort to entice buyers to bite—may seem counterintuitive at first blush: Why spend money on a place if you’re moving out? Simple answer: because it can get you more money for your home sale. And evidence shows it’s usually well worth the effort. On average, staged homes sell 88% faster and for 20% more than nonstaged ones, which is nothing to sneeze at. But just how much does home staging really cost? Here’s the scoop, so you can decide if it’s worth the investment for you.

How much does staging cost?

File this one under “obvious”—but the pricier the home, the more it costs to stage. As a general rule of thumb, most stagers charge $300 to $600 for an initial design consultation, and $500 to $600 per month per room. “Therefore, a 2,000-square-foot home would cost around $2,000 to $2,400 a month,” explains real estate professional Crystal Leigh Hemphill. Most professional home stagers also require a three-month minimum contract, “even if you sell the home in 24 hours.” That could bring your final bill to $7,200.

What can cost extra?

Most stagers work with the knickknacks and art that the homeowner already owns. But sometimes they “need to purchase new accessories, fresh towels, flowers, and/or fruit, as these small touches make a big difference,” says Sheila Schostok with Your Home Matters Staging and Redesign. which serves Chicago and southeastern Wisconsin. And those new purchases will add to the overall cost of the project.

The layout of your home could also add a ka-ching to a stager’s price tag. A job that requires heavy lifting in a multistory house usually means hiring additional help to move furniture, says Schostok.

And if you’re listing a completely vacant home because you’ve already moved out, you’re looking at the additional expense of renting every stick of furniture and all decor items.
Conversely, if you inherited a ton of antiques (or have a One King’s Lane addiction), you may need to put excess belongings into storage, tacking that monthly rental onto your overall staging costs.
A final expense, an important one that can help ensure staging success, is the price of painting a room. A fresh coat in a 12-by-12 square foot room will cost a DIYer around $200, or $400 to $700 if left to the pros.

How to save on home staging

You don’t have to stage your entire house from basement laundry room to attic storage. “A great way to save money when staging is by only focusing on the main areas of a home,” says Schostok. These are the rooms you spend the most time in—your kitchen, living room, dining room, and master bedroom. Another wallet-friendly option is to limit yourself to a consultation with a home stager. When Schostok tours a home with the owner, offering suggestions to maximize the potential for each room, “the price is far less, $125 for 90 minutes.”

The biggest savings? Selling your home faster, at a better price, and without months of carrying costs—because your house was properly staged and buyer-ready.
Margaret Heidenry is a writer living in Brooklyn, NY. Her work has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Vanity Fair, and Boston Magazine.
If you are looking to sell Noemi Cardoso offers a FREE home stager consultation for advises and an estimate of cost what a whole or partial professional staging would cost. Call me at 714-698-9655 or email me at noemic@sevengables.com.

 

Posted on December 2, 2016 at 7:19 am
Noemi Cardoso | Category: Seller's Advice | Tagged , , , , ,

How to Buy an Apartment and Ditch Renting for Good

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Sooner or later most renters are bound to ask themselves: Shouldn’t I stop throwing my money away on rent for my apartment and see if I can buy one instead? Good question. Owning property can make a whole lot of sense, financially and otherwise. Still, the nuts and bolts of how to buy an apartment may seem daunting at first. Never fear—just check out these steps to get started.

Check where you stand in the rent vs. own equation

First things first: Whether buying or renting is cheaper depends on market conditions where you live—and how long you will stay there. One way to crunch all these numbers at once is with our rent vs. buy calculator, where you can enter your ZIP code or town and/or how much you’d anticipate paying to own or rent in your area.

Let’s say, for instance, that you pay $1,000 to rent, but buying an apartment will cost $200,000. Upfront, of course, buying will seem pricier, because you’ll have to cough up as much as $48,000 for a down payment and closing costs. But as long as you stay put for at least five years, the balance tips, making buying the cheaper option.

The reason: After five years, you’ve built equity in your home rather than tossing your money away on rent. So be sure to compare costs in your area and see what makes sense for you.

Figure out how much apartment you can afford

Another calculation you need to make is how much you can afford to pay for an apartment. Check out our home affordability calculator, where you can plug in your income, debts, and down payment savings.

Let’s say, for instance, that you have an annual income of $70,000, pay $250 a month to credit cards and other debts, and have $40,000 saved toward a down payment. That means you could afford an apartment worth about $263,000, for which you’d pay $1,575 per month. Knowing these numbers is important, because they will help you narrow your apartment hunt to your desired price range.

Educate yourself on co-ops vs. condos

If you’re looking to buy an apartment, you might likely encounter both condos and co-ops. So what’s the difference?

“A condo is similar to buying a home where you are actually getting the deed to the unit, and generally if you ever want to rent your unit out, you will be able to without any stipulations except, of course, that the new tenant must qualify through the condo board,” says real estate agent Lila Nejad of Douglas Elliman.

“A co-op is buying a share in a building, where you own the unit, but there are more board requirements to qualify for purchase and non-U.S. citizens are far less likely to get into most of these buildings. The subletting policies are also generally much stricter, often with limitations of only two years, or no third-party renting at all.”

Decide on your must-haves

When starting the hunt for your dream apartment, it’s important to narrow the playing field, so to speak.

“While we all want great space, closets, and a premier location, I always ask my first-time buyers what they love about where they currently live and what their top three must-haves are for a new apartment,” says real estate agent Elena Sarkissian of Douglas Elliman. “For example, double vanities in the master bath, floor-to-ceiling windows, higher ceilings, a washer/dryer, or morning light could be essential to some buyers.”

This is also the time to think about where you’d ideally like to live (i.e., what part of the city fits your lifestyle) and how far you’re willing to commute to work. The more specific you can be upfront, the easier it will be to isolate potential listings.

Find the right real estate agent

Buying a home is hard, but buying an apartment might be even harder. The competition is tough in densely populated areas where apartment dwellers congregate, so it’s more important than ever to have a trusted buyer’s agent fighting by your side.

“An apartment buyer today needs to have a real estate agent who has the market savvy and experience to advocate for the buyer and properly position him or her in these multiple-bid scenarios we are experiencing today,” says Sarkissian.

Not only can a knowledgeable agent help you find the right apartment, but she can also position you to lock down the deal and guide you through the process. A good agent will also know the right questions to ask, like about the building’s pet and subletting policy, so you aren’t blindsided later. So, don’t just take the first agent that comes along; contact a few and ask them questions (like how long they’ve been in business and what neighborhoods they specialize in) to know whether they’re the right agent to guide you through this tricky process.

Kimberly Dawn Neumann is a writer who lives in a tiny apartment in New York City, where she loves decorating and dreaming about gorgeous dwellings.

When you are ready to buy a home, give me a call and let’s find out what are the features and amenities which makes you feel giggling inside. Call me at 714-698-9655 or email Noemic@Sevengables.com

Posted on November 30, 2016 at 7:26 am
Noemi Cardoso | Category: Buyer's Advice | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

6 Essential Steps for Selling a Home With Pets

We love our pets, whether they be dogs, cats, hamsters, capybaras, hedgehogs, or pygmy goats—but that doesn’t mean that they want to see said pets (or any evidence of them) when looking at a home they’re thinking of buying.

“Pets are either an attractive distraction, so cute they distract prospective buyers from looking at the real estate, or completely the opposite—smelly, frightening, or otherwise off-putting,” says Diane Saatchi, an East Hampton, NY, real estate broker with Saunders & Associates.

Don’t want your precious property to be known as “that dog house”? Well, you need to pet-proof your place when preparing and showing it for sale. Here’s how, in six simple steps.

1. Check your insurance

Although you know your pets would never hurt anyone, they could scratch or bite a potential buyer whom they mistake for an intruder on their territory. You could be held liable for any harm your pet causes, so make sure your homeowners insurance covers you for incidents like these.

However, some insurers will not cover anyone who owns what they deem vicious or aggressive breeds, such as pit bulls; and if they do provide coverage, it could be expensive. If you have such a dog (and even if you don’t), it’s best to keep him out of the house during a showing.

2. Prepare your yard

Buyers will walk around your yard, a stroll that will be ruined if they step in poop or turn an ankle where your dog likes to dig.

Perform a poop patrol before each showing. Double-bag the waste before disposing, so your garbage cans don’t smell when buyers walk by. Fill all holes and sprinkle grass seed on top.

Before putting your house on the market, make sure your yard is a green oasis—not a brown-and-yellow dustbowl created when pets pee on grass. You can try to aerate and seed bare spots. But if that doesn’t work fast enough, you can replace ugly patches with new sod. Then, train Travis the Titan Terrier to use an out-of-the-way spot for his business. Or take him for very long walks.

3. Remove the odors

Removing the odors pets leave behind is one of the biggest challenges. It’s easy to clean and tuck away kitty’s litter box. But it’s way harder to erase years of piddle from rugs and hardwood.

If a bacteria-eating pet odor remover doesn’t banish all traces of cat or dog urine, you might have to hire a professional service to clean carpets or rugs. (Perhaps you should consider this whether you are selling your home or not.) Often, however, the odor returns, so if a carpet continues to reek, replace it before buyers trek through.

Clean turtle, hamster, and guinea pig cages frequently, to prevent odors. And make fish tanks sparkle; a daily swipe with an eraser sponge will do the trick.

4. Clean up the hair

Not only does a layer of pet hair on floors and sofas make your home look messy, it can trigger allergies and send potential buyers sneezing and wheezing out the door.

Before each showing, vacuum and dust to remove any settled hair or dander. Or, consider buying a vacuuming robot (such as a Roomba) that you can schedule to suck up hair several times a day. They actually work.

If your pet sheds, brush him frequently outside, so the hair doesn’t fly around the house. Bathing can help minimize shedding, too.

5. Hide the evidence

Like kids, pets (or rather, their caretakers) tend to accumulate lots of stuff—leashes, collars, toys, water bowls, food, cute sweaters, and costumes for Christmas and Halloween (ladies and gentlemen: It’s canine Ken Bone!). But no matter how adorable you may think it all is, to buyers, it’s just clutter.

Make sure you stow pet paraphernalia in a cupboard or closet. Put dry food bins in a laundry or mud room. Wash pet beds to remove odors and dirt, and only display them if they’re attractive.

6. Say goodbye to your pets (just for a while!)

If you decide to leave your dogs or cats at home, either crate them or confine them to a special area of the house, and make sure your real estate agent knows where they are. Keep them busy with interactive toys or long-lasting treats, says Chris Rowland, CEO of Pet Supplies Plus, based in Livonia, MI.

“Even purchasing a new exciting toy or treat just prior to company coming may keep them more preoccupied,” he says.

But it’s best for everyone if you can find a playdate for your pet before a showing, or to send him to Grandma’s for an extended stay. But remember that pets have emotions, too—especially when it comes to change in their routines.

When you stow their toys, move their water bowl, or put them in a crate when strangers inspect their home, some pets will feel confused and anxious. So before making any major changes in the life of a dog or cat, talk to your veterinarian, who can help you ease your pet’s transition to a temporary new home.

Lisa Kaplan Gordon is an award-winning writer who’s covered real estate and home improvement for realtor.com, Yahoo, AOL, Popular Mechanics, and HouseLogic. When she’s not writing, Lisa’s fly-fishing on catch-and-release streams.

 

Posted on November 28, 2016 at 7:16 am
Noemi Cardoso | Category: Seller's Advice | Tagged , , , , , , , , , ,

Buying vs Renting

Buying vs Renting

rentorbuyIf you’re thinking of buying a home, you have probably already asked yourself ‘Can I afford to buy?’ Another good questions to ask is, “Can I afford to continue renting?”

No matter what you are currently paying for rent, your total cash outlay over a period of several years, will probably add up to a much higher total than you may have realized. The following chart shows how quickly the rent payments you are making adds up. We are no counting what you would have earned if this money was invested instead just added your monthly rent for the different period of time:

With the money you are currently spending on rent, you could be building equity in your home. Keep in mind, too, that over the years your income most likely will increase faster than any increase in your mortgage payment. Rent payments, on the other hand, tend to increase, right along with your paycheck if not faster.

Other points to keep in mind when you own a home: Homeowner Tax Advantages and Home Value Appreciation.

You can make ownership a reality

Take a good look at your personal financial situation in comparison to housing price trends and mortgage plans available in your community. You will probably discover that you are closer to home ownership that you had realized. Buying a home is probably one of the biggest investments you will ever make.And when it’s your first home, it is specially important that you seek qualified assistance. Your local real estate agent or broker has the experience and expertise to guide you through the maze and help you find, and purchaser, the home of your dreams. A true professional will also have a network of reliable service provider such as credit counseling and credit repair, mortgage brokers, inspectors and everything you might need before, during and beyond the process.

For any of your real estate needs feel free to contact us for a private and confidential appointment to find out where you are, where you want to be and how we can connect the points to bring you there.

Noemi Cardoso
Seven Gables Real Estate
Cell: 714-698-9655
www.agentwithanaccent.com
Cal BRE# 01988945

Providing value to Buyers and Sellers since 2005

Posted on October 22, 2016 at 7:00 am
Noemi Cardoso | Category: Buyer's Advice | Tagged , , , , ,

What Is Fair Market Value? How Much a Home Is Really Worth

house drawn on chalkboard with dollar signs. What is fair market value?

Whether you’re buying or selling a home, one question that’s always front and center is the price: How much is a home worth? That’s a tricky question to answer, but probably the best starting point is to know a home’s fair market value, or FMV.

A home’s fair market value is the price it would sell for in a perfectly logical world—one where both buyer and seller are acting of their own free will (in other words, they aren’t desperate to strike a deal), are reasonably aware of a home’s good and bad points, and could just as easily choose a different house that suits their needs better.

In such a world, market forces reign. Buyers and sellers negotiate up or down from their various positions and agree on a home’s price. Deal done. All is good!

Fair market value vs. market value

A home’s fair market value is similar to a home’s market value—what it would fetch on the open market—but is used in specialized circumstances where the concept of fairness is important to evoke so that the home’s price carries more weight.

“FMV is typically brought into the real estate conversation whenever a sales price is being scrutinized,” says Robert Pellegrini, a real estate lawyer in Boston. Here are some circumstances where you’ll likely hear about a home’s fair market value:

  • Property tax assessments.
  • Home insurance claims—if a house suffers damage from a fire, flood, or other disaster, the insurer will look to FMV to determine compensation.
  • Refinancing a home loan—the bank will typically use a home’s fair market value as a measure of how much the home is worth to determine refinancing terms.
  • Estate sales—if the homeowner has died and a relative wants to purchase the property, the court will look at FMV to determine a price.
  • If the government wants to “buy out” a homeowner to use that land to, say, build a highway or school, the owner is typically entitled to be compensated at fair market value.
  • Short sale—this is when a home is worth less than the owners owe on their mortgage. In this case, the owners must persuade the lender to let them sell the home for some amount that is less than the balance of the home loan they still owe. “When a bank does allow this, the bank wants to make sure that the short-selling purchase price is at least FMV for the property,” says Pellegrini. Because, of course, no one likes a total loss!

 

How is fair market value determined?

“Let’s be clear about one thing: There is no exact mathematical formula that calculates fair market value,” says mortgage lender Michael Sema, CEO of Get a Rate. “Information is key, and the best way to obtain a home’s true FMV is … by hiring a professional licensed appraiser.”

To determine fair market value, a licensed appraiser gathers and measures the qualities of a home, such as its size, condition, neighborhood, and other factors. This information is used by lenders, attorneys, insurance companies, and other agencies to help determine a fair price.

All that said, no one ever proclaimed that life (or the housing market) is fair—which is why homes may often sell for an amount far different from this figure.

If, say, a family is desperate to buy a certain home because it’s in a coveted school district and their twins are entering kindergarten that fall, they might be willing to pay substantially over a home’s fair market value. Or if a home seller has fallen ill and has to sell quickly to cover medical bills, he or she might be willing to settle for less than a home’s FMV.

But in an ideal world, fair market value is the benchmark, and probably the closest number to what a home is truly worth.

At its heart, fair market value helps prevent home sellers and buyers from being taken advantage of, and is a good thing for both parties. And it’s worth knowing the term in case you feel like someone’s stance on a home’s price is off base. Just point out, “I think that’s pretty far above/below this home’s fair market value.” Who knows? If you’re right, this argument could persuade the seller or buyer to budge.

Posted on October 12, 2016 at 7:31 am
Noemi Cardoso | Category: Buyer's Advice | Tagged , ,

10 Things to Never, Ever Show When Staging Your Home

taxidermy wall

Selling a home is all about presentation, which is why home staging is such a big deal. A vase of flowers, a bowl of fruit—such details can really draw buyers in. And yet on the flip side, certain items lying around your home can kill any potential for a sale.

While you might think common sense would prevail and prompt people to hide this stuff, we think it’s worth reminding y’all, just in case. Before showing off your home to buyers (or any guests for that matter), make sure to stash these 10 things out of sight.

Drug paraphernalia

Let’s state the obvious, shall we? Even if it’s legal in some states, not everyone approves of marijuana. Get your 3-foot bong off the coffee table and into storage, clean out the ashtrays, and stash the rolling papers. Now is also a good time to remove the “Yes we cannabis!” posters and your stack of “High Times” in the bathroom, too.

Weed isn’t everyone’s thing, so keep evidence of it out of sight.

Mousetraps and roach motels

There’s no better way to say “This place is crawling with critters!” than to display these sure signs of aggressive pest control. Just tuck those items underneath the fridge, and pray the things they’re trying to catch don’t scuttle out when prospective buyers walk through the door.

Evidence of pest control equals this in buyers’ brains.

Cameras by the bed

If you and your partner like to make your own private videos, more power to you. Just remember to move the camera.

Any kind of sex stuff, honestly

Personal massagers, oils, condoms—pack ’em up in a box and stick it deep in your nightstand or closet. Yes, it may sound obvious, but we’ve all stumbled across these items in someone’s home at some point. Awk-waard!

Taxidermy

We understand hunting is a hobby, and we’re not here to judge you (not much anyway). But multiple animal heads on the wall and an upright stuffed badger chillin’ in the parlor can give an otherwise great-looking room a creepy or foreboding vibe.

For buyers, a new home often means the start of a new life, or an infusion of new possibilities. Dead animals, well, they can impose a feeling of dread that can linger throughout the entire showing (and perhaps long after). And those buyers who straight-up hate hunters may make a snap judgment not to deal with you. So even if you stuffed the beloved family pet, just keep it out of sight.

Firearms and other combat weapons

If you’re a gun aficionado, make sure your rifles are tucked away in a safe. For other weapons—like combat knives, throwing stars, swords, great axes, spears—try and clear them from view, or at least put them behind glass. Preferably in a cabinet that locks.

Creepy collections

Rooms stuffed with porcelain dolls, celebrity shrines, human skulls, a vast collection of disturbing cinema—these are things that could put buyers off. Way off! You want them to envision their own lives and family in the house; showcasing a collection of something that could be in a museum of medical oddities will only make people think of “Silence of the Lambs.”

Anything political

With a particularly contentious political season in full swing, you should get rid of any kind of party affiliation or presidential endorsement. The last thing you want to do is bring politics into a home sale, or have that topic come up at closing. Do a political purge, and get rid of any party signage.

You

You’re great, really. But when you’re showing your home, you need to make yourself scarce. Seriously. It’s something real estate agents really hate.

The departed

Not the movie—we’re referring to your loved ones. An urn carrying ashes of the deceased framed by family photos is a touching tribute, but unfortunately not something a lot of buyers want to see. You don’t have to sweep your loved one under the rug, but you may want to temporarily relocate them when home buyers come around.

When thinking of selling contact a professional that cannot advise you the best way to show your house but has connections with staggers at an affordable price to assist you preparing the house to bring you the most money the market allows. Call us at 714-698-9655 we are a full service real estate with stagers, professional photographers, a marketing division and much more.

Posted on October 9, 2016 at 7:09 am
Noemi Cardoso | Category: Seller's Advice | Tagged , , , , ,

What Do Condo Fees Cover? A Lot More Than You Think

Condo courtyard in evening

alacatr/iStock

If you’ve ever looked into buying a condo, you’ve noted that, in addition to your monthly mortgage payment and property taxes, you’ll be required to pay monthly condo fees. So what do these fees cover?

Generally, they pay for the maintenance of any amenities outside your personal living space that you share with your neighbors—like, say, the hallways, parking lot, and yard.

“Condo fees are your percentage share of the costs to run the building as a whole,” explains Janice Pynn, president of Simerra Property Management.

This is good since odds are, you bought a condo to avoid all the maintenance and yardwork that come with owning a regular house. And in case you think your condo fees are too high, know this: No one pockets a cent of your checks or is getting rich off condo dues.

“They are not a profit source for building management; in fact, each building is registered as a nonprofit corporation,” Pynn points out. In other words, these fees go solely toward enhancing the value of your real estate, which is a good thing!

The breakdown: Condo fees and costs

Condo fees typically range from $100 to $700 per month, varying greatly based on what they cover. At one extreme, Hollywood’s hottest luxury condo building, Sierra Towers, offering an array of luxury amenities like 24-hour concierge service and valet parking, may charge residents up to $4,000 per month. (Suddenly that $250 fee you’re being charged feels a bit more reasonable, doesn’t it?)

Here are the services and amenities you can expect your condo fees to cover:

Interior maintenance: Condo owners share the cost of maintaining common building areas like parking structures, storage rooms, laundry rooms, game rooms, fitness centers, saunas, and hallways, as well as mechanical systems like heating, cooling, electric, gas, plumbing, and elevator maintenance. If a crew comes regularly to clean the common spaces, their fees are also included.

Exterior maintenance: Condo owners also share the cost of exterior common areas like fences, walls, gates, pools, landscaping, window cleaning, and seasonal expenses like snow removal, winterizing, and cleaning out rain gutters. If a gardening crew comes regularly to take care of the landscaping, their fees are also included.

Security: This could range from cameras at the entrance to full-time guards patrolling the grounds. If visitors have to be buzzed in to the building, this system will be covered by your condo fees.

Utilities: Most developments’ condo fees cover utilities such as water, sewer, and trash. Some buildings even include heat, electricity, cable, and Wi-Fi. Remember that the more utilities covered, the higher your condo fees will probably be.

Insurance: Most condo fees include a homeowners insurance policy that covers exteriors and shared common areas. Depending on where the condos are located, the insurance policies might also cover flood and/or earthquake damage. The nice thing here is that condo owners need only to purchase insurance policies that cover the interior of their home and their possessions.

Reserve fund: There are expenses that don’t come up on a monthly, or even an annual, basis that will need attending to, so a well-managed condo board will charge owners a certain amount per month that will go into a reserve fund. It would cover things like paving, reroofing, replacing water heaters, exterior painting, hallway and lobby flooring and redesign, and more.

What is an assessment?

In addition to your monthly condo fees, special assessments might arise. Every once in a while something big (e.g., a roof or an elevator) gives out, and there aren’t enough reserve funds to cover it. In that case, the condo owners will have to pay an extra fee for these additional expenses, typically tacked on to the usual monthly condo fees in small amounts until the assessment is paid off.

At times like these, it’s best to remember that, as with any type of homeownership, unforeseen expenses arise, and making the necessary repairs is in your best interest. In other words, you get out what you put in.

When buying a condo give us a call and let our expertise work in your favor. Noemi cardoso @ 714-698-6655.

Posted on October 8, 2016 at 7:04 am
Noemi Cardoso | Category: Buyer's Advice | Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

The New Higher-Impact Way to Hang Art

how to hang photos

British architectural and interior designer Ben Pentreath had finally persuaded an English antique map peddler to part with his last copy of a detailed engraving of 18th-century London’s streets. But the triumphant cartophile faced one problem: how to hang the 24 panels that comprised the 13-by-7-foot map.

Mr. Pentreath turned to a technique designers use on collections of similarly sized art (or large images broken into pieces): Framing each panel identically, he butted them to form a tight grid. This kept the presentation compact and imposed a pleasing geometry over the unruly arch of the Thames. (Antique maps of this size often come ready-made in panels, and Mr. Pentreath doesn’t recommend taking scissors to an image to achieve this look.)

The grid technique is arguably more surprising when you’re framing individual but related images. This refreshing alternative to salon-style hangings has major impact but captures viewers’ attention more quietly than the “trendy, heroically-sized works” that “consume the viewer as well as the room,” explained Manhattan-based designer Jeffrey Bilhuber.

“The individual images draw you in,” said another New York designer, Richard Mishaan,“and when you stop looking closely, they become a wallpaper.” He hung 12 photos by Massimo Vitali in a client’s dining nook. The shots—from crowded Italian beaches to Alpine resorts—share an overexposed, sun-faded quality that unites the group. Any thread, such as genre or color scheme, can unify botanical prints, 19th-century silhouettes, even vintage wallpaper samples.

Explaining why he massed a client’s collection of etchings by German artist Thomas Schütte, Mr. Bilhuber said, “Having them in this grid format creates a dialogue.” Dispersing them throughout the house breaks up the narrative, diminishing their impact.

Thin, equal-sized frames work best. Matting can compensate for slightly different sizes of art. And a second set of eyes will help make sure the arrangement coheres.

Downsizing is completely acceptable. “A 10-by-10 grid of 1-inch-square intaglios,” said Mr. Bilhuber, “could be powerful.”

 

Posted on October 5, 2016 at 7:00 am
Noemi Cardoso | Category: Home Improvement | Tagged , , , ,

What Is My Home Worth? What Every Owner Should Know

That’s why coming up with a real answer to this question is important if you want to sell your home—and pinpoint the right asking price. If not? It’s kind of fascinating to see how much your investment may have appreciated over the years. But how do you find this magic number? Here are some ways to figure it out.

Get an online home value estimate

One good starting point is to enter your address onrealtor.com®, which will instantly price your home based on data such as its square footage and recent home sales in the area. But while this will help you get a ballpark idea, remember that there’s no substitute for the expertise of a Realtor®, who has access to a vast database of information to help you home in on that number.

Tap a real estate agent’s expertise

Real estate agents specialize in answering the question “how much is my home worth?” for their clients, which they do by running a comparative market analysis. This process involves finding similar properties (“comps”) that sold within the past 90 days.

The most accurate comp is a home that’s nearby, similar to yours in square footage, and has the same number of bedrooms and bathrooms. (Ideally, the lot size is also equivalent, but that’s more important in rural areas, where homes are set on multiple acres.) Once your agent finds a few recently sold comps, then she averages the purchase prices and uses that figure as a baseline for how much your home is worth.

Size up the competition

From there, your agent will size up the current competition.

“You should always look at what other properties are listed for in your community,” says Chris Dossman, a real estate agent with Century 21 Scheetz in Indianapolis. For instance, “if your neighbor’s home is listed for $400,000 and you want to list yours at $500,000, you’d better be able to clearly explain the price difference to prospective buyers.” Or else adjust your price accordingly.

Consider how buyers shop

Sellers need to consider how home buyers search for properties online. Let’s assume your home’s fair market value is $503,000.Yet Dossman points out that many people search for homes on the web using $20,000 or $25,000 increments. The upshot? Listing your home for $503,000 could prevent your listing from being seen by buyers who are searching for homes in the $475,000 to $500,000 bracket, so knocking off $3,000 for an asking price of $500,000 might generate more traffic—and maybe even a bidding war to push that price above your expectations.

Also, avoid listing your home at an odd dollar figure (e.g., $999,000 instead of $1 million). While retailers and as-seen-on-TV purveyors of the Miracle Mop effectively price products ending in $0.95 or $0.99, Dossman says the same approach doesn’t apply to real estate: “It’s hard to justify awkward pricing. It’s just confusing to buyers.”

Try to remain objective

“Sellers always think that their home is worth more than it is, because of their personal attachment,” says Dossman. Indeed, it’s hard to boil down years or decades of memories in a home to a number. It’s also hard to accept that your home is worth less than what you paid for it, or that you can’t just tack on the price of the renovations you’ve made. On average, renovations will reap you only a 64% return on investment, although that varies based on the type of upgrades you’ve made.

Why it’s important to price your home right

Price your home too high, and it could wind up sitting on the market. That’s a big problem, because a property that goes unsold for an extended period of time (e.g., more than 30 days) often becomes stigmatized.

“Buyers get suspicious when they see a house that’s been on the market for a while,” says Dossman. “They think that something is wrong with the home.” If that’s the case, the seller may have to make a significant price reduction—sometimes dropping the price below market value—in order to nab a buyer.

Pricing your home below market value in an attempt to stir interest and generate multiple bids can also backfire. Granted, the strategy that could work in a hot seller’s market, but underpricing your home frequently leads buyers to assume that your home is worth only its list price, says Dossman.

Your best bet: List your home close to what it’s really worth—aka its market value. When in doubt, turn to your real estate agent to help you cut through the haze and help you pinpoint the right price.

When thinking of selling our home, contact us to receive a FREE detailed market analysis of your area, and have a closer look of what you local real estate market looks like. For periodic information in your zip code, please email me at noemic@sevengables.com with your zip code and email and I will send it to you  a monthly information on all the real estate activities.

Posted on October 2, 2016 at 8:00 am
Noemi Cardoso | Category: Seller's Advice | Tagged , , , ,