16 years ago my wife and I purchased our first home. We didn’t know what to expect but we didn’t want to waste money on rent and needed a yard for our dog. So we hired a realtor and started looking at houses. We eventually found a cute little home with 3 bedrooms and 1 bathroom in a neighborhood just up the street from where we were living. We loved that home, but there were a lot of things we didn’t know going into home ownership that would have been very helpful.
Flash forward to today, we have purchased 21 homes and own and operate a successful real estate brokerage. All that being said, here is what I wish I knew when we purchased our first home;
- Location is everything.
Of all the homes we have owned and sold, we always did better on the homes in better areas. I define “Better areas” by 2 things. The first being, areas that people want to live in are by Universities, or other places people generally visit, such as downtown and resort areas. The second is areas where you don’t see cars on blocks parked on lawns. I know the second is different, but I have found that areas where people park on their lawn they don’t care about the yard work, or upkeep on their home in general. This indirectly brings down the value for the neighborhood.
- The mortgage payment is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to costs of home ownership.
After all of our home purchases, I can safely say that you should keep at least 1% of the value of the home in reserve for repairs / upgrades. If your water heater goes bad, you can bet your furnace will go out at the same time. It is always safer to keep a small reserve to pay for repairs.
- The mortgage interest deduction is only exciting 1 time a year.
Sure, you get to write off the interest you pay on your mortgage and that is great. However, it only makes a difference in April when taxes are due. Many real estate agents and lenders talk about this bonus when buying a home, but owning a home has more important benefits than a tax deduction.
- You can pick your home, but neighbors are a different story
My current neighbor, across the street, calls the city for every possible violation she can come up pretty consistently. It is annoying and there isn’t anything I can do about it. It could be worse. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to know what the neighbors are like until you move into your new home. Looking online at crimereports.com will help give you an overall idea of the neighborhood.
- There is no such thing as a PERFECT home
Homes come in all shapes, sizes, and conditions. Some people prefer brand new homes, others like myself prefer homes built between 1900 and 1925. It really comes down to expectations. Many of our client’s want to live in a neighborhood called Sugar House, and they want an open concept kitchen (a kitchen and a great room combined). The problem being, a majority of homes in this area are 1940-1950’s ranch/bungalows. They weren’t built like the modern homes of today. So in order to find what they are looking for, they need to find a home that has had a serious renovation or choose a different area. When buying a house, it comes down to compromises. You can buy a home with all the features you want, but a higher price than you want to pay. Or, the features and/or location are not what you want but the price is right. In the end, finding that perfect happy medium between what you are looking for and what is available in the market.
- Yard work is fun but it can be a full time job
We purchased our first home so that our dog had a place to roam. This was great, except before we moved in we had to build a better fence. Sprinklers break and have to be repaired, the garden needs to be weeded and the dog’s urine killed the grass. Sure, having a yard is great, but don’t be fooled, it requires maintenance.
- Remodeling like a pro is harder than you think
I get asked all of the time if I like the new show on HGTV about flipping houses. Many people are surprised when I say that I haven’t seen it. I have watched many of those kinds of shows in the past, but they don’t represent the true amount of work that REALLY goes into a good remodel. The reason you hire a professional contractor, painter, tile setter, is because they have experience and skills. Most of us are not skilled at these trades. What seems like it should only take a couple of hours and a few hundred dollars, usually turns into a few days and several hundred dollars, not to mention the 19 trips to Home Depot. Don’t worry, you can do these remodeling projects, but always enlist the help of a professional to offer advice on your project. My first hardwood floor I installed, I paid a flooring contractor beer, pizza, and $20 to give me some expert advice. I have used that advice for a dozen or more homes and it was the best $20 I ever spent.
- Buy based on quality not price
With our first house, when something would break we would replace it with the least expensive option that would work. After all, we were saving money. Over the long term, cheap isn’t always best. For example, some brands of plumbing fixture are better than others. There is a big difference between the $10 bathroom faucet and the $100 faucet. The main difference is that you will have to replace the $10 faucet every year and the $100 faucet, maybe every decade. That’s not to say that more expensive is always better, but it can be a good starting point. Do research, ask questions, and whenever possible buy the best quality your budget allows.
Owning a home is full of surprises but there is nothing like coming home to a place you can call your own. The American dream was built on home ownership. If you have any questions about owning a home and the true costs please feel free to contact us. We have educated hundreds of pre homeowners on what to expect when buying or selling a home.
You have been preparing for months.
You did everything you could to make your home the best it has ever been.
You decluttered everything, took down all the cute photos of your kid’s, painted,
cleaned, yard work every weekend, and now the home is on the market.
After a few days on the market you get an offer.
It’s a great price, but you what else should you worry about?
Here are the 5 reasons to NOT take that offer
The buyer isn’t qualified
It is great if a buyer wants to pay full price for your home, but how do you know if they can afford it? First, they need to submit a pre-qualification or pre-approval letter with their offer. If they didn’t send it with the offer don’t respond until they have provided it. Keep in mind, that not all financial institution’s pre-qualification letters are created equal. There are online banks that buyers can submit some of their information and it will automatically generate a pre-qualification letter. It is best for your agent or yourself to contact the lender directly and verify they have submitted the proper documents (at a minimum pulled a credit report and received income verification) to the lender.
A pre-approval letter is better than a pre-qualification letter. With a pre-approval the buyer has submitted all their information and it has been underwritten by an bank underwriter. It is always preferred to have a pre-approval whenever possible.
The offer is contingent upon them selling their home
If the buyer has to sale their home, you may not want to take the offer. Your timing and how quickly they can sell their home should be taken into consideration. If their home asking price is reasonable for the area should also be a deciding indicator. For example, if they live in a $350,000 neighborhood, but in order to buy your home they need to sale their home for $450,000. This might not be the right buyer for your home. By waiting for them to sale their home, you may miss out on other potential buyers for yours. You should evaluate all the details of their sale before accepting their offer. We deal with these offers all the time, and most work out. However, we always do our homework first on the entire situation.
Not enough earnest money
Earnest money is what buyers put down to show they are serious about buying a home. Earnest money can become liquidated damages if the buyer backs out. Most contracts have contingencies for retaining a buyer’s earnest money, like home inspections and financing. However, if the buyer simply decides to not buy the home after those contingencies are met, the seller can take the earnest money as damages. In most cases earnest money is not left to forfeit, but if it is, the more the better. There isn’t a specific amount that is an official standard, but we generally see around 1% of the sales price as a fair amount.
Long closing or contingency dates
These days most homes close within 30-45 days. My wife and I sold our first home before we were agents, and the buyer had a 60 day close. The buyers wanted to close at the start of the school year. We took their offer and after 58 days they backed out. We wasted an entire summer “off market” waiting for their closing date. In the end, we took an offer $10,000 less than the first, a few weeks after putting it back on the market.
Unreasonable inclusions or repair requests
Sometimes offers come in and the buyer wants to include some personal items. Maybe you have a desk that fits a space perfectly, or a nice hot tub in the back yard. These items can be included in the purchase if you don’t want/need the hot tub or desk. However, if they want the kitchen table, living room sofa, and the family dog, you may want to reconsider their offer. Sometimes buyers feel like they need to have everything “upgraded”, especially if the home you are selling is older. As a seller you don’t need to “upgrade” your home if it is priced correctly.
At the end of the day the buyer and seller need to agree on price and terms. We recommend you think of the big picture and ultimately consider your goals. If you have any questions about buying or selling a home, please feel free to email or call us anytime.
When buying a used car unless you are a mechanic, it is a good idea to take it to a mechanic and have them take a look, “under the hood”. When it comes to buying an older home you should always be sure of what you are buying. Of course you can’t, put a home up on a car lift and take a look, but there are a lot things you can look for. Some of those things, could be lead paint, mold, meth, electrical, structural issues, roof issues, the list is large and important. An ofter forgotten or neglected inspection is of the sewer line.
If you have ever seen a sewer line replaced, it isn’t pretty. Usually, it involves digging an enormous trench across your front yard and tearing up the sidewalk and partially into the street. The costs very, but here locally it is between $13,000 – $17,000. For all of our clients who are buying homes, we recommend having a plumber “scope” or camera the sewer line prior to buying the home. The plumber will usually find a clean-out in the main sewer line in the basement, or run the camera from the main line on the roof, or remove a toilet and scope from there. The camera is inserted into the pipe and pushed through the sewer line on a cable with the goal of getting to the main sewer line in the street. The plumber has a recording device that records what he sees and usually the camera will have a distance gauge that shows up on the screen so he knows how far into the pipe the camera is.
There is nothing glamorous in sewer pipes. Usually, they are full of toilet paper and other debris. What the plumber is looking for are things like cracks in the pipe, bellies in the pipe, and places where the pipes have slipped at the connections. These are all signs of future problems. Sometimes, the debris can mask other problems or look like problems that aren’t really a problem. In those cases it is best to have the line jetted by the plumber and then camera the line again. Many times, we have had the line cleaned out and what we thought was a problem was a crack in the pipe was nothing more than some old debris.
The cost varies between plumbers, but to camera the line it is usually about $200. To jet and clean out the line can be another $200-$300 dollars. So, the process isn’t cheap, but it is worth the piece of mind knowing your sewer is alright. Most homeowner insurance companies do not cover the main sewer drain. Some 3rd party companies do. Here in Salt Lake City, we have a company that covers the cost of replacement for around $7 a month. This can be a good deal if you end up seeing the possibility of a future problem, but can’t get it fixed when first buying the home.
Here are a couple of “dirty movies” showing a before and after clean-out of the same drain. When we saw the first video, we were sure that there was a problem with the sewer, but after cleaning it out, it was actually in really good shape.
Want to remodel that vintage home?
How much ‘fixing’ are you really prepared to do? The romanticism behind reinvigorating the forgotten can be for some an insatiable lust. We would know. We have bought and remodeled 20 homes in the last 15 years. Now most of these homes were “flips” but a few of them were labors of love that we lived in for years. The majority of these fixers were built between 1920 and 1960, with a few newer duplexes mixed in for good measure. The biggest exception to that would be our most recent home being our oldest, built in 1912. It took the entire summer and some of the fall of 2016 for the major renovations, but here we are in summer of 2017 and still making changes. This one falls under the labor of love category. Read more about it in our upcoming book 19 Houses, coming out this fall!
When buying any home you should always make sure to do your due diligence and get all the inspections you need and make sure you’re ready for this massive investment. For older homes, unless they’ve already been renovated, inspections are more of a starting point or just a good idea as to what you’re about to dive into. Usually it’s not so much as to “if” it breaks, as “when” it breaks or “how many times has it already been fixed.” When you buy an older home you normally get older technology, appliances, fixtures, and so on. Our 1912 home came with a few big surprises that required a decent amount of time and money to deal with. When your home is over 100 be prepared. Even though the headaches and late nights tend to lead to gray hairs in the end we love to remodel. It’s just one of those Love / Hate relationships.
Now, I’m not saying “don’t buy that old house” (unless I want it, then yea you don’t want that one, it’s ugly), I would just recommend being well prepared.
Here are 5 Tips to get started:
#1 Have a large contingency plan in your budget. Once you start making small changes, they can turn into large changes quickly. We usually estimate all the known costs and add 30% for things we don’t know about.
#2 Hire the right people. (our vendor list) Contractors come in many shapes, sizes, and experience. Many contractors may say they understand old homes, but they don’t. Ask for references and examples and hopefully pictures of their work. Keep in mind, that the best contractor for your project may not be the least or most expensive. Get multiple bids, and let them know you are getting multiple bids.
#3 Styles change, be prepared. It might be trendy to have a red kitchen cabinets (it’s not by the way), but will it stand the test of time? If you decide to go with current trends be prepared to change it in the next 5-10 years. We always try to add a bit of modern style with the classic looks that will stand the test of time. For example, our new kitchen has very modern blue glass tile backsplash with a classic style of cabinets. When, not if, the tile goes out of style we can replace it for a few hundred dollars. The cabinets, not so easy to replace.
#4 Fix it right not cheap. Sure, it can be less expensive to replace only part of the plumbing, but that doesn’t mean you should. Some things are best to fix it all upfront rather than just in pieces. Plumbing is a good example. You remodel the kitchen, but only replace part of the plumbing. At some point, the old pipes will burst and ruin your new kitchen. It may cost a few hundred to a few thousand dollars (depending on the house) extra to replace the pipes when your kitchen is gutted. Now, since you cheaped out you get to replace the plumbing, kitchen floor, and possibly your cabinets.
#5 Start up and work down. It is really tempting to start painting and getting your new appliances. Don’t do it, don’t give in. This isn’t HGTV. Start your remodel with the roof (if needed) and work your way down. After up to down, work inside out. Meaning, replace what needs to be replaced inside the walls. This could be structural fixes, plumbing, wiring etc. Then, you can start to put it all back together. If you are doing a kitchen, the very last thing you do is the appliances. If they are on the site before it is finished, they are always in the way and become tool storage for contractors. We had a worker drop a huge drill on our stove and completely destroy the control mechanism. That was a $350 lesson.
The list really goes on and there many blogs (more on our blog as well) , books, shows and articles that you can research to better prepare yourself. We will soon release a book of our own that dives further into our homebuyer experiences but until then, give us a call or send us an email if you have any questions or just want to know more.
These days it seems that anywhere you throw a rock you will hit a real estate agent. They are everywhere! So, when you need one, how do you chose the one that is best for you? With the return of the real estate values and huge demand, being a real estate agent has become cool again. Here are the 8 things to look for when hiring an agent to get the best service and expertise possible.
- Availability– In a hot market when you are buying or selling, you need to have an agent that has time for you or you will miss out on some good houses.
- Market Knowledge– It is impossible to know everything about every neighborhood, but most agents specialize in certain areas. If you are looking to buy or sell in neighborhood, look for an agent that specializes in that area.
- Experience– It usually goes without saying that you can’t buy experience. When it comes to real estate agents, you need someone who knows the business and how to play the “game” of real estate.
- Resources– Since 2008 the market has been constantly changing. Mortgage loan types, underwriting requirements and down payments are all different from 10 years ago. Today you need an agent that understands these industry changes and has people and resources in place to help with the mortgage loan process.
- New Marketing: Social Media– It used to be in order to sell a home you needed the three “P’s” of marketing. They were Price, Product, and Promotion. Sometimes you also needed the 4th “P” prayer… While the three “P’s” are still important the thing that has changed the most is Promotion. The old school best bang for buck used to be placing ads in the local paper. Slowly over the past 10 years print has moved to digital ads through the paper. Now in 2017, social media is king. With Facebook, Instagram, twitter, etc. smart agents can advertise listings directly to the demographics that are looking for a home for maximum marketing impact. Find an agent that is social media savvy. Bonus Tip: If you can’t find them on facebook or Instagram, you may want to find another agent.
- The agent sells real estate full time– There are plenty of agents out there that are selling real estate as their second job. You want an agent that is in the business full time and is actively selling homes to buyers and sellers.
- Ask your friends and family for suggestions– Many of the best agents do very little to market themselves because they don’t have to. The best agents get the majority of their business from client referrals. A little known fact about sales is that if you do a good job the majority of the time, a client might tell 1 or 2 people what a great job you did. However, when you do a poor job, a client will tell everybody they know. So ask around, you will find out who is good and who is not.
- They are willing to listen– It is amazing how often people don’t listen. You don’t want to waste your time or their time looking at properties that won’t fit your needs.
Here are Market Source Real Estate we specialize in the Salt Lake and surrounding markets. With exceptional knowledge in older homes and their construction, charm, and pitfalls we help our buyers and sellers maximize their “new” old homes. Call Monique or Jeremy today.