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.

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.

Earthquakes and fires and floods, oh my!

Bridget Alves - Monday, April 04, 2016

It’s always sad to see a story on the news about catastrophic floods or fires destroying neighborhoods and leaving people homeless. Some of these folks will have insurance policies with companies that aid them in purchasing a new home, or repairing their old one, but the unfortunate truth is that many do not. While there’s really no way to know if you’re ever going to end up being one of those unfortunate souls, there are ways to reduce the odds.


Flood maps

Here in Southern California, flash floods are a thing. They happen. To help keep your risk of winding up in the path of one, ask your real estate agent to show you the flood maps before you buy a home. Homes that are the most at-risk for water damage are those that are on ground that’s angled downhill. Also, check the grade of the lawns. Sometimes, the front and back yards are graded ever so slightly upwards from the house, which means that heavy rainfall will be funneled toward the home. If you find that your home has this problem, it’s possible to re-grade the yards to funnel water away from the house.


Know where the gas lines are

You’ll want to start by finding out where the main lines are that feed the houses in your area and how close in proximity your home is to them. Main lines sometimes explode, and if your home is located too close …


Second, you’ll want to know where the gas lines that feed your home run through your yard. Knowing where the gas lines are can help prevent little Timmy from accidentally severing a gas main while he’s digging for buried treasure in the front yard.


Assess the trees
Trees in the yard can be a beautiful thing, but during a storm, they can fall down and result in terrible damage. Also, the roots of trees planted too close to the home can damage the foundation or basement (if you have one). If you’re not sure about a particular tree in the yard, there are folks you can call that specialize in this sort of thing. An arborist or tree specialist will be able to help you out.

Sell your home faster by “going green”

Bridget Alves - Monday, December 14, 2015


In the past, home sellers have highlighted features like walk-in closets, modern kitchen appliances, and spacious bathrooms in order to entice prospective buyers. This day and age, these features are still big sellers, but the increased attention on “going green” these days provides sellers with a wealth of new opportunities for making their home even more appealing to the masses. You want your home to stand out, and one of the best ways to do that is to tout the fact that it’s environmentally friendly, as well as cost-efficient.

Below are a few key changes you can make if you want to market your house as “green” or simply save yourself some money in the long run:

  • Save water by changing out the old toilets to new, high-efficiency toilets that use less water. If you really want to go the distance, you can change out the faucets and shower heads to high-efficiency models as well.
  • Change out old light bulbs and replace them with new, energy-efficient lights. Additionally, adding dimmer switches will allow people to adjust the fixtures to allow just the right amount of light in, saving money on electricity.
  • Replace any drafty windows with new fixtures. Drafts don’t mean cold is coming in, they mean heat is getting out. The more heat your home loses, the more you’ll have to run your furnace, and the more energy will be wasted.
  • Speaking of the furnace, make sure all of the HVAC components are well-maintained. Additionally, opting for allergen-free filters or whole house air cleaners can provide you with another selling point that’s highly regarded by those who “go green.”
  • Installing solar panels can be a bit costly up-front, but if you plan to keep your home for a while, they more than pay off in savings down the road. Also, the sight of solar panels on a home is often a major perk for the environmentally-conscious home buyer.

These are just a few of the many changes that can be done to make your home more marketable, and therefore more valuable, as well as potentially save you some money in the long run.

Improvements that increase your home value

Bridget Alves - Monday, November 30, 2015

Sometimes, a new home is desired but moving just isn’t in the cards. Maybe you don’t have the money to buy a new house, or perhaps the market isn’t right. In situations like this, homeowners often turn to remodeling; it’s cheaper than moving and can provide that change of scenery that the homeowner desires. In situations like this, it’s important to know which improvements will increase the value of your home, enabling you to recoup some (if not all) of the cost when you decide to sell your home in the future.

The first, and most obvious change would be to repaint or replace the front door. Remodeling magazine’s 2014 Cost vs. Value report indicates that 96.6% of the cost of the door will be added to your home’s overall value. Just make sure you get a new door that actually goes with your home. If you don’t, you may end up creating an eye-sore that reduces your home’s value. 

Two of the most common remodels are to redo a home’s kitchen or the bathroom(s). Both are areas of the home where people spend a significant amount of time, and updating them can often pay off in both experience and in increased value to your home. When remodeling these areas, be very, very careful to ensure that the design fits in with the rest of the home. A rustic, “cabin in the woods” style kitchen is great, if you live in a rustic cabin in the woods. Installing a kitchen like this in a modern, suburban home would likely be weird, and turn off any potential homebuyers in the future.

No matter what additions or remodels you choose to make to your home, be aware of the cost of the remodel vs. the cost of the home. Just because you spent $50,000 remodeling your kitchen doesn’t mean it’s going to increase the value of your $150,000 house by that much. When your home doesn’t have the highest market value, making relatively minor cosmetic changes can make more sense financially. Instead of spending tens of thousands of dollars replacing your entire kitchen with high-end appliances and lavish tiles, try a smaller-scale renovation by replacing or repainting the cupboards and drawers. 

Last but not least, one of the most lucrative improvements you can make to your home is to increase the livable space without adding on extra rooms. Is the attic large enough to be a bedroom? Great! Turn it into one. What about the basement? Most basements are unfinished (they have concrete floors, ceilings with exposed pipes/wires, etc.) and finishing them will greatly increase the square footage of habitable space in the home, which will be reflected in the overall value.

Multiple offers: Where are they?

Bridget Alves - Monday, November 09, 2015


When the housing bubble burst back in ’08, selling a house was nigh impossible. Over the next few years, the tepid market and high unemployment made home selling a difficult and arduous process. While the housing market may not be what it once was, things have gotten better, but some folks are still finding that offers aren’t flooding in the way that they’d hoped. Why could this be?


The homes that get the most attention from potential buyers have positive aspects in three main categories: presentation, price and location. 


The term “location, location, location” is widely used in the business world as one of, if not the, most important factors when determining the success of a business, but it also applies to homes. Homes located within good school districts, for example, are going to be in greater demand than those in bad ones. On the other hand, homes on busy streets or near freeway entrances (or exits) typically garner less attention than those on quiet residential roads. Make sure to adjust the price accordingly if your home is in a less than desirable location. Your real estate agent can help you if you’re not sure.


As mentioned above, the pricing of a home should reflect the area that it’s in, but it’s also dictated by a number of other factors. These factors include things like the market value, whether it’s a strong seller’s market or not, the price of the homes around it, and various other criteria. Buyers want value, so be wary of the price of homes around you when pricing your own. If your home is the most expensive in the neighborhood, even by a few thousand dollars, it can quickly shut down a lot of potentially interested buyers. 


When selling a home, don’t think of it as a house; think of it as a product. Making cost-effective upgrades to the interior and exterior of the home will make it more appealing to the masses. Additionally, hiring a professional home photographer can greatly increase the appeal of the home with their artful methods and ability to accentuate the positive in the eyes of the viewer. In an era where the majority of people shopping for a home begin their search online, the photographs are often the first (and if they’re bad, only) experience that prospective buyers will have with your home.

The nitty-gritty on vacation homes

Bridget Alves - Monday, November 02, 2015


Owning a vacation home is the aspiration of countless American homeowners. Doesn’t it sound nice to have your own home-away-from-home, set in a glamorous location that you can escape to whenever your schedule permits? Buying a vacation home can be an amazing experience, provided that you know what you’re getting into before you decide to do it. If you’re thinking about making such a purchase, try taking these into consideration first:

  • Rental income: One way to help offset costs is to purchase a rental home in an area that other vacationers will need lodgings. Local real estate agents and vacation rental companies should be consulted about the possibility of renting out the property while it’s uninhabited. 
  • Be cognizant of the area’s “high” season: Depending on where your vacation home is located, there may be a certain time of the year when a large influx of travelers arrives. For example, most warm, sunny places see a rise in tourism during winter months, when those who dwell in frostier climes seek warmer surroundings. Scheduling your vacations during these “high” periods can significantly impact your rental income. 
  • Maintenance can be problematic: Who is going to maintain your property while you’re away? Just because nobody is residing in the home full-time doesn’t mean that things won’t need to be done. Foliage around the property will need to be maintained, lest you return to an overgrown nightmare, and indoor cleaning and repair will need to be taken into account. Contacting a local property manager and making use of their service will cost more in the short-term, but it will likely be well-worth it.
  • Location, location, location: Last but not least, the location in which you purchase your rental home will have an immense impact on how often you can use it. Purchasing a secluded cabin in the mountains can sound like a dream getaway, but how accessible is the place really? The further you have to travel, the less likely you’ll be to make use of the property as time goes on. Often, the most fulfilling and oft-visited vacation homes are those that are purchased just a few hours’ drive from your permanent residence. 

A few points on multi-family homes

Bridget Alves - Monday, October 05, 2015


What if there was a way to not only purchase a home to live in, but one that can help make you a bit of money, too? There is, and it’s been a growing trend in real estate the past several years. The way to do it is to buy a multi-family home, such as a duplex, live in one side and rent out the other. On paper, making this sort of purchase can sound like a fantastic idea. Renting out a portion of the home will make the overall mortgage payments lower, thus allowing you to pay off your house faster, or at the very least save some cash while you live there. Then, if you ever decide to move, you can just rent out the portion in which you live and everyone is happy. Right? 


Not always.


Here are a few things to consider before you purchase a multi-family home:

  • Taxes are much more complex for owners of multi-family homes. Because it’s 1-part home, 1-part investment, your taxes are going to be very different than if you purchased a single-family home. Always consult a tax professional before making a purchase like this.
  • Make sure it’s a legitimate multi-family home. Just because a home has an attached apartment or other living space doesn’t make it a multi-family home. A lot of times, a person will build an addition onto their house to produce income. Unfortunately, many of those people will not get the addition permitted, and if you buy that home, you now have an apartment that you cannot rent.
  • Proximity to your renters can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you’ll be right next door, and if your renters are trashing the place, you’ll likely find out quickly. On the other hand, you’ll be right next door, and if your renters are loud or obnoxious, you’re the one who has to deal with it. Additionally, if you have needy neighbors, they can easily find you.


Buying a multi-family home can be an excellent investment vehicle. If this is something you’re looking to do, make sure you do your due diligence beforehand in order to avoid some of the potential pitfalls like those listed above.

Swimming pools: Are they worth it?

Bridget Alves - Monday, September 28, 2015

When searching through home listings, those with swimming pools are almost always listed for higher prices than the pool-less homes around them; often leading to the belief that a swimming pool will net the seller a better price. In some cases, this is true, but sometimes, homeowners are unable to recoup the entire cost of pool installation, let alone turn a profit off of it. Installing a swimming pool is a complicated affair and should be thought through very carefully before you decide to take the plunge. 

To start, a typical in-ground pool is going to cost anywhere from $10,000 to $40,000, with prices easily reaching the 6-figure mark for fancier varieties. This means that you’re going to need to tack on the installation amount to the asking price of your home just to break even. That doesn’t include the maintenance costs for owning a pool – which can be considerable. For example, if your home sells 30-days after you put it on the market you’re only going to be in the hole for one month’s worth of upkeep costs (increased utility bills, chemicals, and maintenance). However, should your home sit on the market for a while, these costs will begin to add up and can easily leave you under water.

Swimming pools are not standard, and that means that while it will turn some potential buyers on, it’s also going to turn some off. Not everyone is going to want to deal with the increased utility bills, loss of usable yardage, and general pain-in-the-neck-ery of having to maintain a swimming pool throughout the year. 

Finally, there’s the market. Do most of the homes around you have a pool? Does the neighborhood itself have a community pool nearby? Ultimately, the market will be a huge determinant to what you can get for your home, whether you install a pool or not.

Why hire an appraiser?

Bridget Alves - Monday, September 21, 2015

When determining the asking price of your home, you absolutely need to know its exact value. A big mistake that home-sellers sometimes make is to estimate the value of their home based on the prices of other homes in the neighborhood. The problem with this is that you really have no idea how that price was determined, by whom, and why. Two homes in a neighborhood that look very similar can have values that vary by tens of thousands of dollars, depending on a host of issues. From obvious amenities like the existence of a swimming pool to seemingly innocuous details, such as the style of landscaping, everything about a home will affect its price.

The most surefire way to find out what your home is worth is to hire an appraiser. Appraisers are qualified and educated to understand the value of every little thing about a home. He or she will take a tour of the inside and outside of the home and formulate a value based on what exists and the state it’s currently in. One thing that’s awesome about an appraiser is that they can give you advice on improvements you can make to raise the home’s value. These improvements don’t have to be massive projects like redesigning the kitchen or adding additional bedrooms (though that would certainly do the trick), but may be something simple you can do yourself. Things like adding a new coat of paint, while a big job, can greatly increase the value of your home. 

Furthermore, appraisers can let you know some things that should be done, as opposed to what could be done. If they notice that some of the shingles on your roof are going to need to be replaced, they’ll let you know. Those patches of dead, brown grass in your backyard? They’re going to drive the value of your home down a bit, too. 

If you want to get the best possible price for your home, you need to start with an accurate price. Hiring someone whose job it is to know the value of things is really the best way to start. Hiring an appraiser on your own is great, but if you’re working with a real estate agent talk to them about it first. They likely have a list of trusted appraisers that they work with. 

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