Bridget Alves                of Valencia

Blog - Full Service Real Estate Group, Inc

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.

How do you know you're getting the best deal?

Bridget Alves - Monday, April 25, 2016

Moving is a stressful process in and of itself, to be sure. Doubts and fears regarding the price you're paying for your new home can make it far worse. One of the best things you can do for yourself when looking for your new home is to give yourself the ability to make the purchase in confidence. If you know you're getting a good deal (or, at least, the best possible deal you can get), it can take a serious load off your shoulders and free your mind to deal with everything else. The question is: how do you make a purchase with confidence? After all, a new home is likely going to be one of the biggest purchases you ever make in your life.

Be realistic
Take a look at your budget and see just how much you can spend on a mortgage without having to lower other expenses. Just because you qualify for a $300k home loan doesn't necessarily mean you can afford a $300k home. If you find yourself in a position where your monthly mortgage payments are going to lower the budget for things like food, entertainment, car-related costs, etc., then you may need to rethink things.

Get info on the area
So, you've found a home that fits comfortably within your budget – good job! Your next step will be to get information on the area the home is in. Things like the school district, crime rates, accessibility to freeways, nightlife, commercial areas, etc. Even if the info regarding the area doesn't all apply to you, knowing it is still important. Regardless of whether or not you plan to have children, a home in a good school district will often have a higher resale value than one that isn't.

Get an appraisal

Most lenders will require an appraisal anyway, but even if they don't, make sure you get one. The appraiser will be able to to tell you the home's worth and you can then compare that to the seller's asking price.

Compare similar homes' selling prices

Most neighborhoods will have homes that have been bought and sold recently, so compare the price of the home you're interested in to recently sold homes in the area. If the home you're looking at is significantly lower, there's probably a good reason for that. Ask the seller if there are any issues with it. If it's significantly higher, there's probably a reason for that, too. Make sure you find out the reason(s) if you find yourself in either of these situations.

Lose the bidding battle, win the buying war

Bridget Alves - Monday, April 11, 2016



Placing a bid on a home is exciting, but it doesn’t guarantee that the place is going to be yours. Depending on the market in the area, there may be plenty of people placing bids on a particularly peachy piece of property. If your bid isn’t accepted, though, don’t fret – all is not lost!


Just because someone’s bid was accepted over yours doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll end up with the house. Deals fall through all the time. That being the case, let the seller know you’d like your offer to remain on the table as a backup; they may just take you up on it. The reason for this is that once they accept an offer, they’re going to start looking to move. If they have their new home already selected, they may begin moving things over right away. If the deal falls through, the seller is still going to be in “moving mode” and is far more likely to accept the next best offer than to hold out for a better one.


Also, the original buyer may rescind their offer for a number or reasons. The most common one is because that, after the home was inspected, additional issues came up that soured the buyer’s taste in the home. These issues aren’t necessarily catastrophic, and they don’t mean a great deal of work needs to be done on the home. Some folks just like to move into a home without having to make any upgrades or repairs, and that’s fine.


If you do choose to keep your offer on the table as a backup, make sure you set a time limit for when the offer expires. If the original deal falls through a month after you’ve purchased another home, you could be in for a huge headache when the seller comes a calling. Also, ask if you can include a first-right-of-refusal clause in your backup offer. This will allow you to stay first in line if the deal falls through, but it doesn’t obligate you to purchase the home if you’ve changed your mind.


Whatever you do, make sure you get all of the terms of your backup offer in writing. You’ll want to ensure you have a record of their agreement to the terms, as well as their agreement to sell to you within a certain frame of time.


Placing a backup offer on a home doesn’t always work out, but if you’re a serious buyer and you’re really in love with a home, asking to place one certainly won’t hurt. You never know, you may just end up with the home.

Buying an older home? What you need to know.

Bridget Alves - Monday, March 28, 2016

The old saying: “They just don’t make things like they used to” applies to a number of products, and none more so than homes. If you’re the type of person who is attracted to older homes and their old-fashioned appeal, then you’ll want to read on. Older homes, with their architecture and styles, can have a ton of character and charm – but they can also have a lot of problems.


Old Wiring and Plumbing

Homes built a century ago, or close to it, were constructed using the best that the builders had available to them. Odds are, if the home is 100-years old, the wiring has probably been replaced since then. However, it’s extremely important that you inquire as to whether or not it has been, and to find out when. If the wires were replaced at some point in the 70s or 80s, you’re probably ok. But, if the place hasn’t had much done since F.D.R. was in office, you’re probably going to need a good electrician to take a good, long look at what lies behind the walls.


If you find that the home has original wiring, it will need to be replaced. Most insurers won’t insure homes that have old, out-dated wiring.


The same goes for plumbing. Running water is a wonderful thing, and in the short-term, it may seem rather harmless. But over time, water pipes will need to be replaced for any number of reasons. Century-old homes that have been occupied more or less constantly since their construction will not have their original pipes (unless the original plumber was a wizard). Regardless, when you find an old home that you’re interested in, you’ll want to have someone take a good look at the plumbing and ensure that everything seems okay. If the plumbing needs substantial work, you definitely want to know as soon as possible because you can use that info when working out a price.



Many old homes contain several bedrooms, but only one bathroom. If there are more than 3 people who are going to live in the home, you’ll want to make sure there’s at least 2 bathrooms… or look into adding on a second.


Old homes can sometimes have problems with the floors, as the foundation has been sitting for a very long time. Also, older homes can sometimes have had several additions made (such as a second bathroom) which will leave a room or 2 needing to be stepped up or down into. If this unevenness doesn’t bother you, great! If you’re going to have someone in the home who has trouble walking or seeing, though …

Preapproval and how to mess it up

Bridget Alves - Monday, March 21, 2016

Being preapproved for a home loan can reduce a ton of the stress associated with home buying. After all, shopping can be a blast, but trying to get all your ducks in a row financially after you’ve found your dream home can sometimes be a nightmare. Unfortunately, even if you’re preapproved, you can still mess up your finances enough to reduce the amount you’re preapproved for, or tank the deal altogether.


  • Do not apply for new credit or create new debt after being preapproved. Credit inquiries, like the ones that are used when applying for credit cards, can lower your credit rating. Also, buying something using lines of credit you already have will offset your debt:income ratio and can ruin your preapproval.
  • Keep most of your money where it is. If you’re the type of person who sees to their finances by shuffling around large sums of money, try to hold off for now. Mortgage lenders want to be able to track all of your finances, and the more you move things around, the harder that will be. If they have trouble acking funds, it will raise suspicion that there are funds you didn’t claim when you applied for a mortgage.
  • Pay your bills on time. Payment history is 30% of your credit score, and making late payments after being preapproved for a mortgage can alter your score and change the lender’s opinion about whether or not you can actually pay.


Ultimately, lenders want to see stability; stability in your income history, your payment history, where your money is, etc. If things start going haywire, or your credit rating drops too much, too quickly, the lender is likely to get skittish and either approve you for less than you originally planned on or flat-out deny the application.

Improve your chances of being approved for a mortgage

Bridget Alves - Monday, March 14, 2016

When you’re in the market for a home, the search is often the most fun. You get to attend open houses (and, hopefully, get some free refreshments), check out all sorts of interesting styles and types of architecture, and eventually settle on the home that’s right for you. Unfortunately, once you’ve decided on a home, the stressful part of home buying begins: applying for a mortgage. There’s nothing worse than having your heart set on a beautiful new home in a wonderful location only to be turned down for a mortgage. Here are a few things you can do beforehand to help improve your chances of being approved for a mortgage:


  • Get your credit reports early. There are 3 major credit bureaus, and you’ll want to get a report from each one to make sure there are no errors. If you have late payments or collections, ask the creditor to remove them. Additionally, if your credit score is lower than you’d like, work with a credit counselor to come up with ways to improve it.
  • Know your income. Lenders like to see at least 2-years of continuous employment in the same job in their applicants. Sometimes, if you’ve changed companies but still do the same job, lenders will still count your income from your previous employer as well as your current one. However, when an applicant has changed fields in the past 2-years, lenders are often apprehensive about approving the application.
  • Pay off as much of your debt as possible before you even apply. If you have too much debt in relation to your income, regardless of whether or not you’re making payments on time, a lender might not approve your application. Typically, they don’t like to see a debt:income ratio above 43%.
  • Make sure you can show where your funds come from. If you’ve been gifted a down payment, make sure you’ve got a paper trail showing where that money came from. Additionally, make sure that the person (or people) who gifted you the down payment can show where the money came from and that they can actually afford to gift you the payment. They’ll likely need a good deal of their financial information ready, so ask them to get it available ahead of time.

Unless you’re fabulously wealthy, or choose to live way, way below your means, there’s really no sure-fire way to ensure 100% that a lender will grant you a mortgage. However, taking these 4 tips to heart before you apply can increase your chances and help reduce some of the stress.

Common pitfalls of first-time buyers

Bridget Alves - Monday, March 07, 2016

Maybe you’ve just gotten married, or finally gotten that good-paying position you’ve worked so hard to achieve. Either way, you’re ready to buy your first home. This is truly an exciting time and one that should be savored. However, first-timers need to be extra careful not to make some all-too-common mistakes when shopping for that first home.


Mistake #1: You don’t know what you can afford
Whether you’re a couple living on two incomes or a single person making some serious money, how much you can borrow and how much you should borrow are two very different things. Mortgage qualifications can be tricky, and sometimes a person will qualify for a mortgage that they can’t realistically keep up with. Just ask the people who lost their homes when the housing bubble popped a few years ago to tell you just how disastrous it can be when this happens.


How much you should borrow will depend greatly on the kind of life you choose to live. If you’re the type of person who likes to stay at home and takes a thrifty approach to their expenses, then odds are you’ll be okay with a pricier mortgage. However, if you love the night life, spending money on things and experiences, like to travel, etc. then you may want to take a very close look at just how much of your monthly income is going to be eaten up by your house payment.


Mistake #2: Focusing too much on your mortgage

While your monthly mortgage payments will definitely be the longest running payments you’ll be making, they aren’t the only ones. Make sure you take into account the closing costs associating with home buying, as well as moving costs and any repairs you may need to make. You’ll want to leave several thousand dollars in your budget allocated to these costs.


Mistake #3: No down payment

Just because you can qualify for, and afford to keep up with, a mortgage doesn’t mean you’re ready to buy a house. If you can’t put down at least 20% of the closing cost as a down payment, then you’ll need to purchase private mortgage insurance. This will increase the cost of your monthly mortgage as well as the amount of money you’ll need to borrow to buy the house.


These mistakes are not meant to scare you, but to show you that buying a home can be more complicated than it seems. Provided you take the time to inform yourself of what you need to do, and where you need to be financially, buying your first home should remain the exciting experience it should be.

Not interested in moving? Buy a home anyway!

Bridget Alves - Monday, February 29, 2016

There are two good reasons to buy a home. The first, and most obvious, is because you want to live there. The second reason is because real estate is a tried-and-true investment vehicle that has been an effective way to build wealth for a long, long time. If you have the money to buy a home, but you’re not looking to move, here are a few reasons why buying anyway might be a good idea.


  • There are lots of ways to invest. Buying and selling stocks and commodities, for example, all have one thing in common: they’re intangible assets that you have very little control over. If you purchase stock in a tech company, for example, and that company’s CEO makes some bad movies, you’re out of luck. With a home, though, you have much more say in the matter.
  • The rate of return via renting a home that you own can be considerable. When you rent a home that you own, the money is paid to you and you use that money to pay the mortgage. Currently, rental increases are outpacing the growth of home prices; which means that you’re likely going to be able to rent the home out for more than the cost of the mortgage. So, when your renters pay you the monthly rent, a portion of that money is pure profit.
  • The renters put equity in the home for you. Even if the monthly rent of your home does not exceed the cost of the mortgage, every payment your tenants pay you, that you in turn pay the bank, becomes equity. If you decide to sell the home ten-years on, provided you get at least what you borrowed back, all of the money you accrued in rent over that time period becomes yours.


Interest rates are low right now, and the market is trending upward, which means right now is a great time to buy. Remember, though, that if you choose to become a landlord you will take on some responsibility for the home even though you don’t live there. Make sure you have someone draft a very comprehensive rental agreement so that you and your tenants know exactly who is responsible for what. If you play your cards right, can easily put yourself on the road to financial freedom through owning several homes.

HOAs – What you need to know before moving in

Bridget Alves - Monday, February 22, 2016

If you’re moving into a newer neighborhood, odds are good that you’ll be a member of a Home Owner’s Association. These associations were created with the intent to keep one bad neighbor from tanking the property values of the homeowners around them; which isn’t bad, all things considered. After all, who wants to get a significantly lower price for their home just because the guy down the street likes to keep a variety of car parts on his lawn?


Know the rules and regulations before you move in

Some HOAs are relatively lenient, with rules and regulations in place that govern what you can and can’t do with your home and still allowing you a decent amount of freedom. Others, though, have very stringent rules that may be more than you can handle. Knowing exactly what you’re going to be dealing with before you move in is absolutely crucial. It’s not unheard of for an HOA to fine a resident because they have too many pets, or the automobile they keep in their driveway isn’t new enough.


If you don’t like a rule, try to get it changed

If your children have their hearts set on a jungle gym in the backyard, but your HOA doesn’t allow them, talk to your neighbors. The rule may have been intended to keep people from building structures in their backyards that lend themselves to a lot of outdoor parties that disturbs the peace of the neighborhood. If you speak to your neighbors, it may be possible to change or amend the rule to allow for a swing set and a slide.


Do not take personal gripes directly to the HOA

The HOA is designed to keep the neighborhood from changing too much, to keep property values up, and to ensure that everyone living in the neighborhood is able to live peacefully without stepping on each other’s toes. This last bit often ends up with an individual filing a complaint with the HOA for even the most minor of neighborly transgressions. For example, if you have a neighbor who often entertains, and their houseguests are outside late at night making noise, don’t run directly to the HOA. Instead, try talking to your neighbor first. If you approach them respectfully and are willing to compromise, it’s likely you’ll be able to come up with a solution without getting the HOA involved.


If you can’t change the rules, follow them anyway
America was founded on rebellion and revolution. It’s in our blood to take a stand against things we see as unfair or unjust. When it comes to the HOA, though, it might not be worth it. When you choose not to follow the rules, regardless of what your feelings are as to their validity, the HOA can, and will, take you to court. Most of the time, they win.

How to buy a home you and your spouse both love

Bridget Alves - Monday, February 15, 2016

Regardless of how similar two people are, or how many interests they share, once they’re married, compromise will come into play on a variety of topics, especially when buying a home. Perhaps one of you is in love with vaulted ceilings and bay windows, while the other prefers a cozier, less open home. With both of you having to live in the home you buy, being able to agree and make compromises will be crucial to your long-term happiness in the home you share.


Before you even start looking for homes, make sure to be open about your feelings; what you do/don’t like, and what you can/can’t live without. Knowing what the both of you want beforehand will allow you to look for homes that include some/all of these things. If you don’t communicate what you’re looking for to each other, you may find that the both of you are looking for very different things, which can lead to a lot of headache.


If both of you tend to be impulsive, you may be in for trouble. Buying a home is a huge investment, and when you buy based on emotion instead of reason, it can lead to financial difficulties down the road. Be sure to set firm amounts in terms of buying prices and mortgage payments that you know the two of you can afford, especially if you’re living on a single income.


Be willing to compromise, and don’t take advantage of your partner’s willingness to do so. If you and your partner find a home and both agree that it’s the home of your dreams, congratulations! Also, be careful not to pinch yourself because, odds are, you may be dreaming. In reality, different people will resonate with different things. As mentioned above, some folks love homes that are illuminated all hours of the day with natural light, while others may prefer a little more control over their surroundings. Either way, if one of you appears to be making more concessions than the other - be careful! Things like that can lead to resentment down the line. Also, living in a home you don’t like could ultimately leave one person feeling depressed.


As long as the both of you are able to communicate with one-another effectively and are open with your feelings, odds are you’ll find a home that both of you will be happy with.

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