Bridget Alves                of Valencia

Blog - Full Service Real Estate Group, Inc

How location can affect home value

Bridget Alves - Monday, July 11, 2016

The factors that can influence the market value of a home are myriad, but one of the most influential is going to be its location. What the home is close to, and far from, can have a powerful effect on whether or not people will be interested in it. Below are a few common locations and the effects they can have on the value of a home.

A home in a neighborhood that’s near a school will often be the target of families. However, it’s important to note that the quality of the school district can play a major role in how desirable that home will be. If the school system is great, the interest will likely be high. If it isn’t so great, well ….

On the other side of that coin, being near a school can also mean abhorrent traffic conditions at least twice a day, and having to deal with walking to and fro can make getting in and out of your driveway a nightmare. Close proximity to schools and playgrounds also means that there will be intermittent noise throughout the day, from children yelling and playing outside to bells going off at regular intervals.

Commercial areas
If your home is near a commercial area that contains what’s considered to be a high-end store (Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, etc.), data suggests that the price of that home will appreciate over time. As a matter of fact, homes near Trader Joe’s and Starbucks locations have been consistently worth more than homes that are not near these businesses.

Keep in mind that the homes that went up in value did so because they were near these very specific businesses. Just because your home is near a commercial area doesn’t mean that it’s going to go up in value. As a matter of fact, things like adult book stores, industrial businesses, warehouses, and liquor stores can actually inhibit the appreciation of your home’s value.

Being near the freeway can be awesome. Getting where you need to go faster cuts down on travel time and allows you more precious time to spend doing things you enjoy as opposed to sitting in your car. Based on this, close proximity to a freeway can be a major selling point; especially if you know the person looking at your home is someone who has to commute.

Freeways, while convenient, are also loud. The noise is constant, uncompromising, and isn’t going to go away. Ever. The ever-present pollution thanks to car exhaust can also be an issue. Ideally, you’ll want to be close enough to the freeway to tout its convenience, but far enough that the noise and pollution don’t cause problems.

Tips to make money “flipping” houses

Bridget Alves - Monday, July 04, 2016

Of all the investment vehicles out there, real estate is arguably one of the most accessible. Everything around us is real estate, in one form or another, and investing in it simply requires that one obtain some measure of ownership. That being said, one of the more common ways people invest in real estate is through the practice of “flipping” houses. “Flipping” a house involves the age-old investment trope of “buy low, sell high” but applies it to houses instead of stocks. For those interested in the possibility of “flipping” a house, here are a few tips:

  • Try buying with cash as opposed to loans. Depending on the market in which you’re looking to invest, this can seem like a daunting task. While it isn’t entirely impossible to make money “flipping” a house you bought with a loan, the moment you buy said home you’re already in debt. 
  • “Buy low …” the further below market value you can purchase a home for, the more money you stand to make on the resale. Unfortunately, the vast majority of people know how much their home is worth and won’t be willing to let it go for less. So, how do you buy below market value? You search for that small percentage of people that don’t fit into the aforementioned category. Typically, these people will be what we refer to as “motivated sellers.” These folks, for whatever reason, are in a rush to sell their home. Maybe they have to move for a new job, or maybe they can’t afford the mortgage payment anymore. Either way, the more dire their need is, the more likely they will be to give you a good deal just to get rid of the home.
  • Be cognizant of the home’s location. Knowing where the home is on the map is one thing, knowing where it is regarding market trends in the area is something else. Houses are like stocks in that, if the area where the home is located is experiencing positive yearly gains in terms of home values, it isn’t unreasonable to bet on those gains continuing. The opposite is also true. If the area has been experiencing yearly losses in terms of market value – be very careful.
  • Make as many repairs and upgrades as you can by yourself. Look, finding a “motivated seller” can be a godsend, but it isn’t always going to happen. A lot of people who profit off of “flipping” houses do so by purchasing a home that needs work, putting in said work, and then selling the updated home for more money. In order to maximize the profit, you’ll want to minimize the expense; and that often means making what repairs you can yourself. Every contractor you don’t have to call is one less fee you’re going to have to pay.

Help! My tenant moved out and left a bunch of stuff behind!

Bridget Alves - Monday, June 27, 2016

Renting out a home you own will likely result in a wide range of experiences unique to you and the tenants you have. One experience that’s pretty common, though, is the one that involves a tenant vacating the property but leaving “stuff” behind. This “stuff” can range from bookshelves, lamps and furniture to stereo equipment, televisions, and even their pet (yes, it’s happened). When a tenant leaves things behind, it can put a landlord in an awkward spot. What do you do with it? Can you throw it out? Sell it? How do you even know these items actually belonged to the tenant?

Luckily for those living in California, the state has published some guidelines governing what a landlord should do when they find themselves in this situation.

Provide the tenant with written notice informing them about the property left on the premises. The notice can be delivered in-person, mailed, or emailed. If you’re unable to locate the tenant, you must be able to provide proof you made a good-faith effort to notify them. The notice should include a good description of the property (pictures, while not necessary, can be beneficial), the location where the property can be reclaimed, a statement notifying the owner that they can incur reasonable storage costs if the property is not reclaimed after two-days, the date by which they must claim their property, and finally, what will happen if the property isn’t reclaimed.

If the property appears to belong to someone else, you must also make a good-faith effort to reach out to that person and provide them with the notice as well.

If the property appears to be worth more than $700, it must be sold at public auction. If it appears to be worth less than $700, the property can be kept, sold or destroyed by you. Either way, the notice must reflect either of these two possible scenarios.

The above is by no-means an inclusive list of what’s expected of a landlord who finds themselves in the possession of their tenant’s items. It’s just a bit of information regarding what route one needs to take in order to avoid any legal entanglements.

Money-making tips for that extra room

Bridget Alves - Monday, June 20, 2016

The cold, hard truth is that life is getting more expensive for all of us, and wages aren’t necessarily increasing at the right rate to meet that demand. For many, this cost/wage disparity leads them to ask for raises, promotions, and sometimes even a second job. Homeowners who want to increase their monthly income have it a bit easier, as they don’t necessarily have to look to external sources to do so. Here are a few creative ways you can utilize your home to increase your monthly income:

  • Rent a room (okay, so this first one isn’t so creative). If you have a bedroom, or something that can be converted into one like an attic or basement, why not rent it out? Depending on your home’s location and the size of the room you have available, you can generate a very nice supplemental income by renting the space out.
  • If you have space for someone else in your home and aren’t looking for long-term commitment, host a foreign-exchange student instead. There are websites where you can sign up as a host family and will be paid for providing accommodations to foreign students. This route also gives you the added benefit of being exposed to a culture outside our own.
  • So, you have extra room but don’t want a stranger hanging around all the time? Start a business instead. A second bedroom, or even a space solely dedicated to work in your own bedroom will count. As long as you have that space dedicated to business, you can deduct a certain amount from your yearly taxes for having a home office. If you’re thinking you don’t have time for a second job – think again! The ability to make deductions for having a home office isn’t predicated upon how much money your business is making, so much as it’s having a dedicated space in your home for the operation of that business. The key here is the word “dedicated.” The time you spend in your home office must be used exclusively for business. Spending five- minutes on eBay followed by five-hours of World of Warcraft isn’t going to cut it.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of things you can do to make money with the extra space in your home; it’s simply a few things to get your creative juices flowing.

Quickly enhance your home’s value with landscaping

Bridget Alves - Monday, June 13, 2016

The word “value” has a literal definition and an abstract one. The first, obvious definition of value is the amount of real, actual money your home is worth. The second definition is going to be how much appreciation a buyer holds in their mind regarding what they’re purchasing. It might seem like an increase in one always results in an increase in the other - but that isn’t always the case!

For example, let’s take two homes for sale right next door to each other. These homes are identical in every way with the exception that one has a swimming pool and the other does not. The home with a pool is likely going to be somewhat more expensive than the one without, because the pool makes it more valuable. However, a savvy buyer will look at a swimming pool and see the future increases in their monthly utility bills, and the amount of work it takes to maintain a pool, and may ultimately decide to purchase the other home. In this scenario, the presence of the pool raised the market value of the home, but decreased the mental value in the mind of the seller.

So, what can you do to increase the market value of your home and also make it more enticing to buyers? Landscaping! The great thing about landscaping is that it’s relatively easy to add things to your yard that make it more appealing, while at the same time being easy to change if the buyer isn’t too keen on your design. Removing unwanted shrubs, flowers, and even trees, can be done over the course of a weekend. The new owners can then replace the landscaping with something more appealing to them, or simply leave the front lawn as nothing more than green grass.

Removing an unwanted swimming pool, however, isn’t really an option. The removal of a swimming pool would be a nightmare and result in a giant, gaping pit in its place. Keeping the pool and not using it can still be a hassle because water and debris will collect in the bottom and, over time, turn into icky green sludge. Covering the pool can slow the process, but experience shows that water always finds a way in there somehow.

Thinking of purchasing a condo?

Bridget Alves - Monday, June 06, 2016

Condominiums are a hot commodity in markets across the country these days, and it really isn’t too difficult to see why. A condo is a cross between a single-family home and an apartment. On the one hand, when you own a condo, you’re off the hook for a lot of things that a traditional homeowner has to deal with like landscaping and maintenance/repair arrangements. On the other side of that coin, though, is going to be that when you own a condo, you’re going to have to deal with, and adhere to, the rules and regulations of the association. 

If you’re entertaining the idea of purchasing a condominium, here are a few things you’ll want to know before you sign anything:

  • The information about the association’s activities and operations that buyers are entitled to receive will vary from state-to-state. Make sure to ask any questions you have, and obtain any information you can about the association before the sale closes. You’ll want to know what you’re getting into.
  • Make sure that all the rules, regulations and bylaws are up-to-date. If not, it’s always possible that they can be updated in the future in an unsatisfactory way, and you’ll be stuck with it.
  • Ask for the budget reports for the previous year, current year, and upcoming year from the association. If you’re financially savvy, you can pour over the documents and make sure the budget is sound. If not, make sure to get a financial advisor who can take a look at it.
  • Every year, associations will receive an accounts report from a CPA that details the association’s financial situation. Pay very close attention to the details, as any concerns the CPA has with the association’s finances will be listed here. 

Purchasing a condo that’s covered by a well-managed association should be your primary goal. The location, price and aesthetics of your condo will seem far less important to you if you find yourself stuck with an inept association.

Common turn-offs for home buyers

Bridget Alves - Monday, May 30, 2016

So, you're getting a lot of attention from potential buyers who come in to see your home, but for some reason the offers just aren't following. What could be wrong? The answer to that, unfortunately, are a lot of things. Here are a few of the top turn-offs that home buyers encounter that are sure to send them running for the door.

This issue is more common than you may realize, and there are few errors more egregious than showing a dirty home. The first thing you need to do is get your personal effects out of the home (you can leave large furniture like beds and couches). The second thing you need to do is scour the entire place from top to bottom. If you don't have the time or energy required to get your home looking new again, then hire a professional service. Seriously. Do it.

Odors are a huge issue; they're like dirt that you smell. Usually, opening the windows during the cleaning process will remove any odors. If they persist, you need to track down the source. Pets stinking up your carpet? Replace it. Musty smell coming from the vents? Get an HVAC technician to take a look and make sure there isn't mildew or mold.

A fragrance is the opposite of an odor, but it can have the same effect. Whether you love the scent of lilacs, lavender, or cigarettes and motor oil is entirely up to you (hey, I don't judge). However, people react to fragrances differently. If a person enters your home and find the fragrance unpleasant, they'll associate that unpleasantness with your home and are far less likely to place an offer. You want it to smell neutral and clean. You want it to smell “new.”

Old “stuff”
If you're selling an older home, you may want to take a look around and see if there's anything that seems dated which you can easily replace. You'll want to look at ceiling fans, light fixtures, doorknobs and even the little knobs on your cupboards. Things like this can usually be replaced pretty inexpensively, and will help give your home a more modern look, which, again, will help give it a feeling of being “new.” Guess they just don't make things like they used to, eh? No. They don't.

People are all different, and buyers will like and dislike a variety of features in your home throughout the course of the viewing. The items listed above, though, are pretty much universal turn-offs that you'll want to avoid at all costs.

Easily avoidable home-selling mistakes

Bridget Alves - Monday, May 23, 2016

Whether it's your first time selling a home, or you're a real estate veteran unloading a project house for a tidy profit, mistakes can be made that lead to increased costs on your end – if not the loss of the deal. Below are 4 easily avoidable mistakes people make when selling homes, and what you should do instead.

Not hiring a real estate agent
Some folks think that by not hiring a real estate agent they can save some money. Unfortunately, the sheer amount of time and effort, along with the complexity of the real estate business, often makes working without an agent an incredible headache. Do yourself a favor and hire a real estate agent.

No inspection
You need an inspection of your home if you plan to put it on the market. The inspector is going to be able to make sure any and all improvements you've made are up to snuff, and also will be able to alert you to any repairs you need to make. If you don't hire an inspector, but the buyer does and repairs are necessary, you're going to look bad. Real bad.

Suppose there are some issues with the home that need to be addressed. Perhaps the plumbing needs some work and the roof isn't in the greatest condition. If you know that work needs to be done on the home, and you don't intend to do it yourself, you absolutely must inform prospective buyers of the issues. Sometimes, a buyer will insist the repairs be made before they even think of purchasing the home, while others will be ok with doing it themselves. The latter will want the price of the home to reflect the cost of the repairs, though, so be ready for that.

Showing an empty home
You absolutely want your home to be sparkling clean and clutter-free when you show it to prospective buyers. Some folks, though, take this to mean that they need to have the place completely emptied out to do so – which isn't the case. Remove all personal items like picture frames, book shelves, end tables, etc. but leave some of the bigger stuff like the living room couch, beds, a lamp or two, etc. When a house is cleared of personal items and clutter, but still contains some furniture, it will allow prospective buyers to see the potential of the space. Doing so will allow them to fill in the blanks with their own items or ideas. Showing them a completely empty home has less of an effect and doesn't typically lead to the best offers.

The appraisal process: How does it work?

Bridget Alves - Monday, May 16, 2016

When you want to set the asking price for your home you can either have the bank appraise it, have your real estate agent help you, or both. Regardless, arriving at an accurate price is absolutely vital. Too high and you'll easily price yourself out of the market, too low and you'll get less than you could have. Your real estate agent can provide you with a comparative market analysis that will provide you with very accurate information in regards as to where you should price your home. However, if you want something a little more in-depth, an appraisal couldn't hurt as well.

The first step in getting your home appraised is – finding an appraiser! An appraiser isn't necessarily going to be a know-it-all home-pricing guru, but they are trained analysts that will collect a variety of data on the home and be able to put it all together and arrive at the home's value.

The appraiser's visit can take anywhere from 30-minutes to a couple hours, depending on the size of the home and which – if any – issues they encounter during the appraisal process. They'll record the floor plan, record any improvements made to the home, measure the outside of the home, and will probably ask some questions. Then, they will utilize statistics that can be found in public records and listing services to find similar homes to yours that have recently closed.

The appraiser will then compare your home to the homes they've researched, making sure to take into account the age of the homes, numbers of bedrooms and bathrooms, any improvements made to the home and issues that may require work. The appraiser will add and subtract value to the home as they go through the comparing process until they finally arrive at the market value of your home.

It's important to note that the value of anything, no matter how well it has been scrutinized and analyzed, is ultimately going to be what people are willing to pay for it. As such, it can be possible to get a little more (or a little less) than market value even after it has been appraised.

Do I need a real estate agent?

Bridget Alves - Monday, May 09, 2016

Selling your home isn't like selling your car. If you've decided to move, slapping a “For Sale” sign on the front of your house, taking some pictures and throwing an ad up on craigslist isn't going to get you very far. Selling a home requires a great deal of time, effort, and expertise in several areas – some of which you may find surprising! So, what does a real estate agent know, and how can it help you sell your home?

  • Real estate agents make a living off of the buying and selling of homes, and they know a ton. They can provide you with a comprehensive market analysis of the area in which you live that will assist you in the pricing of your home. Additionally, they can provide you with similar information on the neighborhood in which you intend to move.
  • They can provide invaluable assistance when it comes to the paperwork. The buying and selling of a home requires the filling out of a lot of detailed, complex paperwork that you may not necessarily understand. As you fill the paperwork out, your real estate agent can answer any questions that may (and probably will) come up, and provide expert guidance throughout the entire process.
  • They're with you every step of the way, and will shoulder most of the load. When someone makes an offer on your home, the selling process doesn't end there. Your real estate agent will communicate with the sellers or their agent until a set price can be agreed upon. Plus, your real estate agent will assist you with managing the home inspection, the mortgage period, appraisals, and also be there to deal with any and all issues that may arise during the course of the sale.

Ultimately, selling a home without a real estate agent is kind of like going to court without a lawyer. Few people ever do, and of those, even fewer have had favorable outcomes. Your real estate agent's knowledge and expertise will prove invaluable over the course of your experience, whether you're buying or selling a home.

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