Keeping Current Matters

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Six Ways to Make Yourself Happier at Home

Your home is your haven. Or, at least, it should be. But is it really making you happy or are there aspects of your place that are bringing you down? Little fixes can turn it all around.

Get some houseplants

Put your green thumb to good use and surround yourself with houseplants. Not only will they add a fresh element to your décor (literally!), but they can also make your home healthier, and improve your mood.
“Houseplants are good for your health—and not just for their visual beauty,” said NBC News. “Why? They essentially do the opposite of what we do when we breathe: release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide. This not only freshens up the air, but also eliminates harmful toxins. Extensive research by NASA has revealed that houseplants can remove up to 87 per cent of air toxin in 24 hours. Studies have also proven that indoor plants improve concentration and productivity (by up to 15 percent!), reduce stress levels and boost your mood.”

Put your stuff away

“A lived-in home is a loved home, right? But when your stuff starts to take over, it can create chaos—in your home, and your mind. “Pursuing a state of harmony between yourself and your home…confers a range of psychological benefits for reasons that are rooted in science,” said Thrive Global. “Studies have identified a direct link between the stress hormone cortisol and clutter. Cortisol is not just linked to stress. At elevated levels, it also causes depression.” In addition, decluttering “leads to eating better” and improves air quality.”

Paint something

Choose a wall, an old piece of furniture, or an entire room. It’s a manageable project you can do yourself and one that can totally change the energy of a space. Or, buy a canvas and create an art piece you can then hang in your home. “Creating art teaches you to be attuned with aesthetic of the visual world around you and makes you appreciate the beauty in and of life,” said Health Fitness Revolution. “You gain a new appreciation for the texture of a tree’s bark or the fur of a dog, of the various highlights and shadows playing on even the more bare of white walls. Embracing the beauty around you gives you a more positive outlook of the world and can even decrease the risk of mental illness.”

Make those little fixes

The burned-out light bulb 20 feet up in the living room. The broken drawer pull in the kitchen. All those little annoyances are stealing your happy. Pick a Sunday and attack them one by one or make a list and check it twice for your handyman so you can replace the long sighs with wide smiles.

Invest in a house cleaner

All that time taking care of your home leaves you little time to enjoy your home. If you can swing it, finding someone to help you with housework can be liberating in more ways than one. Not only will it free up some of your time, but a good, solid deep cleaning can make your home healthier, too.

Build a garden

Wouldn’t it be nice to grow your own veggies, or at least fresh herbs? Perhaps the best news about gardening is how it can make you feel, and not just when you’re eating what you have managed to grow. “Getting your hands dirty in the garden can increase your serotonin levels—contact with soil and a specific soil bacteria, Mycobacterium vaccae, triggers the release of serotonin in our brain according to research,” said Djanbung Gardens. “Serotonin is a happy chemical, a natural anti-depressant and strengthens the immune system.”

Written by Jaymi Naciri

Nancy M. Alexander - Stone Harbor and Avalon NJ Real Estate

Monday, March 18, 2019

Top Smart Tech to Integrate Into Your Home

By Brentnie Daggett
It's no surprise that one of the most common predictions for the real estate industry in 2019 is the continued importance of technology. As smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices continue to increase in popularity and capability, smart home technology continues to grow at pace. New technology built specifically to simplify the lives of homeowners is introduced all the time, and it can be challenging to understand which applications might be worth a try.
Smart home tech, or home automation systems, gives users the convenience of easily monitoring and controlling their home systems remotely. Homeowners can turn on their AC, control their lights, unlock their front door for visitors, and more—all from the office or across the country.
Home automation systems can be wired into the structure of the house with a central control panel, or installed through external devices like electronic plug adapters or standalone sensors. The systems are connected over wireless networks and linked directly to your smartphone or tablet, giving you control through an app. Smart home tech is designed to give homeowners added security, comfort, energy management and peace of mind.
If you're uncomfortable with technology or new to home automation systems, your options can seem overwhelming. Here are some easy ways to integrate new technology into your home, and how they can help make your life easier:
Smart Thermostats: While programmable thermostats are not a new concept, smart thermostats can consider weather patterns and user behavior to adjust the temperature of your home to fit your needs. You'll be able to turn on your AC or heat remotely if your schedule changes to ensure you arrive to a comfortable home. The increased control can also help you boost your energy efficiency.
Smart Plugs: Smart plugs won't require any extra hardwiring and allow you to manage different devices plugged into outlets from anywhere. You can turn on a lamp to make it look like someone is home when you're out, turn on a slow cooker to start preparing dinner before you get home, or turn off the coffee pot that you always seem to leave on. Smart plugs can also help you limit your energy use by powering down smart plug outlets when they're not in use.
Smart Lighting: Integrating smart lighting into your home is as easy as installing a special LED light bulb. (No rewiring necessary!) Homeowners can control different lighting conditions from their mobile device, setting the mood for a party or romantic dinner with color and brightness features. You can also program smart bulbs to different settings, like slowly brightening in the morning to help your eyes adjust or dimming at night to help prepare for sleep.
Smart Irrigation Systems: Smart irrigation systems can help you find the balance between maintaining beautiful landscaping and actively managing your water usage. These systems go beyond a programmed timer for watering lawns and flower beds by monitoring weather patterns, soil moisture content and temperatures to adjust water usage accordingly.
Smart Water Sensors: Truly relax on your next vacation knowing that your home is protected by a moisture sensor. These systems will send a notification to your smartphone or tablet if excess moisture is detected in your home, helping you to prevent water leakage like plumbing issues, burst pipes or flooding before it causes a major problem.
We're quick to adopt new technology in other areas of our lives, so why not when it comes to our homes? Trying out a smart system or two doesn't have to be a huge investment and can help you do everything from bolstering your sustainability practices to giving you peace of mind while away. There's a system out there that is "smart" enough to meet almost any need you could have as a homeowner.

Nancy M. Alexander - Stone Harbor and Avalon NJ Real Estate

Friday, March 15, 2019

Tips for Choosing a Lender When Buying a House

By Bill Gassett
Are you ready to buy your own home? That may sound like a bit of a weird question. However, many homebuyers are just not prepared when it comes to buying their first or a new home.
On the surface, it may seem that taking out a mortgage is going to be easy. Often, the opposite is true. There are many people out there who are poorly prepared when it comes to taking out a loan. It's essential to understand that getting ready to procure financing is a process and an important one at that.
Choosing an exceptional mortgage lender is crucial to making the home-buying process go smoothly. Remember, like any other industry, there are going to be those you immediately recognize as professionals and others you might have your doubts about. Make sure you don't pick the latter. Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing a lender:

Your Credit Score Matters

The mortgage lending process starts way before you even step into the bank. You first need to make sure that your credit score is in great shape. That doesn't happen overnight, and it's better to be safe than sorry. Before you even begin looking around for your first home, you should check your credit score.
Consider it good financial housekeeping to know your credit score. You can check it once a year for free with leading credit agencies such as Experian, Equifax and Transunion. Make sure your credit report is correct and doesn't contain any errors. You should also have an understanding of the reasons a credit score can drop.
All mortgage lenders will check your credit score to qualify you for a mortgage. An outstanding credit score will help you get the lowest interest rate and other important mortgage terms.

What Kind of Organization is Going to Lend You the Money?

The mortgage lending business forms a significant sector of the financial industry. Today, you can obtain loans from a variety of sources. If you have a good working relationship with your bank, you certainly want to talk to them first. But, don't jump the gun. This is all about getting the right deal for you, and making sure your mortgage costs you as little as possible in the long run.
Apart from your bank, check other financial institutions such as credit unions, mortgage banks, savings and loans, and correspondent lenders. Also, don't forget to check out mutual savings banks—many of them offer excellent rates for well-qualified borrowers.

Get Pre-approved Before You Start Looking For a Home

Getting pre-approved is something that anyone looking to obtain a mortgage from a lender should do. Lending organizations love documentation so be prepared to show them everything in writing when the time comes.
Here's a top tip: You don't want them pulling your credit report too often. Too many lenders pulling your credit report can affect your credit score—it's as simple as that. Once you've found the deal that's right for you, then it's okay for a mortgage lender to pull your report.
It's best to supply your copy during the pre-approval process; however, some lenders may insist on your credit report being pulled again.
Other required paperwork includes:
  • All financial information, like savings and pensions
  • Social security number
  • Any outstanding debts, such as car loans and credit card balances
  • Salary and the name of your employer
  • At least two years of tax returns
You also need to inform a potential lender of the funds you have available as a down payment. Here are a few more things to keep in mind:
  • A pre-approval is not the same as a pre-qualification letter. You need to make sure the lender is verifying your income and employment along with checking your credit history. If the lender doesn't do these things and hands you a pre-qualification letter, it's worthless. Top agents will insist on a pre-approval.
  • If you're getting a conventional mortgage and are making less than a 20 percent down payment, you'll be paying what's known as private mortgage insurance. PMI is a type of insurance the lender charges you that provides them with some protection in the event you default on the loan.

Research the Rates From Several Lenders

It's vital that you check out the rates from multiple lenders. You can use online mortgage calculators to help you make the right choice. Creating your own record is a good idea, and the best way to do so is to create a online spreadsheet.
Check both interest rates and the final amount you'll end up paying to your mortgage lender. What would happen if you were to make more substantial payments than just the customarily charged amount? Would that save you money in the long run?
Many borrowers would love to take out a fifteen-year mortgage rather than the more typical thirty-year mortgage. For many, though, that's impossible because they don't qualify. The alternative is to either make larger monthly payments or to make one extra payment a year. Doing so will help you pay off your mortgage quicker.
It's advisable to speak with a financial advisor to see if making extra payments makes sense for you or would you be better off investing the money elsewhere.

Read the Contract Before You Sign

Your mortgage agreement with your lender is a contract, and you should never lose sight of that. Many lenders include additional fees such as commission, appraisal and loan applications fees. Be sure to include these and others that you may come across in your spreadsheet.
The costs of a mortgage can quickly add up, and you need to stay on top of them. Explore all options and never feel embarrassed to ask questions of your lender. That's the only way you're going to find out the true cost of your mortgage.
Never become enamored with a low-interest rate if all the other terms make the loan more expensive in the end. The best mortgage reps never take advantage of their clients for their own financial gain. If you have already started working with an agent, use them as a resource for picking a lender!

Nancy M. Alexander - Stone Harbor and Avalon NJ Real Estate

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

What’s Your Occupation? It Might Help You Decide Where to Live

Would you move if your career offered you a lower cost of homeownership in another state? Well, pack those bags because you've got some great prospects! Some occupations can get you as much as $4,000 in total savings per month depending on the state in which you live.
A recent PropertyShark report analyzed the median income of each occupation in each city, as well as the funds left over after rent and other living expenses have been paid for. With this information, they were able to determine how many months it would take to save for a 20 percent down payment in each city depending on the occupation. Here's what they found:

Law Enforcement
City: Dayton, Ohio
Savings: $4.4K
Total months to save: 3
Dayton, Ohio
4 months
Architecture / Engineering
Syracuse, N.Y.
7 months
Life / Physical/ Social Sciences
Mobile, Ala.
9 months
Computer / Engineering / Science
Huntsville, Ala.
10 months
Health Diagnosing / Treating Practitioners / Technical
Buffalo, N.Y.
10 months
Huntsville, Ala., and Little Rock, Ark.
$3.2K and $3.1K
11 months
Computer / Mathematical
Detroit, Mich.
11 months
Business / Financial Operations
Springfield, Mo.
16 months
Healthcare Practitioner / Technical
Mobile, Ala., and Bakersfield, Calif.
$1.2K and $2.3K
21 months
If you're a lawyer or work in law enforcement, Dayton, Ohio, may be your best bet. There you can save for a 20 percent down payment in just five months at the median salary. It helps to know that the Wright-Patterson complex, one of the largest and most diverse air force bases in the country, is located right over the city lines. Talk about a great commute!
Can you imagine saving up for a down payment in just seven months? Architects can in Syracuse, N.Y. And if you work in healthcare, Buffalo, N.Y., might be the place to go. There you can save for a down payment in only 10 months.
So, if homeownership is on the mind but you're having trouble scraping together some savings for a down payment, perhaps you'll consider looking for a new place to call home. Did you move based on your occupation? Let us know where you ended up!

Nancy M. Alexander - Stone Harbor and Avalon NJ Real Estate

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Great Spaces: March Is for Mansions

This month, we're supersizing our Great Spaces section with a look at some spectacular mansions.  by Zoe Eisenberg

Hang at the Ross-Hand Mansion
This historic Hudson Valley home—originally built in 1854—offers a fusion of rustic charm and deluxe modern amenities. The 5,000-square-foot Gothic Revival sits on four acres of private estate with epic views of the Hudson River, five bedrooms and five baths. If the mansion's stunning stonework looks familiar, there's a reason: The mansion was originally built for iconic architect Azariah Ross, the designer behind the stone bridges featured throughout Central Park. The estate is located in South Nyack, N.Y., just 20 miles outside of New York City.

Listed by: Donna Cox, Better Homes and Gardens Rand RealtyListed for: $1,852,500Photos by: Donna Cox, Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty

Miami Beach Mega Mansion

This eight-bedroom, eight-bathroom lavish mega mansion stretches just shy of 10,000 square feet in sunny Miami Beach, Fla. The Mediterranean-style estate comes decked out with an incredible lagoon-style pool, sweeping grand staircase, a billiard room, glass-enclosed wine cellar, home gym, private dock, home theater and bedrooms ready for royalty. Built in 2002, the mansion has ample indoor/outdoor living space, water access and incredible views of Biscayne Bay and South Beach.

Listed by: Lourdes Alatriste, Engel & VölkersListed for: $26,200,000Photos by: Blue Ocean Photography

Sold: Park City Paradise

Utahns, listen up! This seven-bedroom, 10-bathroom estate recently sold for $11.6 million, landing the headline of the most expensive home sold in Utah in all of 2018. Spanning over 14,000 square feet on 1.5 acres, the mansion—located at 7996 Roamer Ct. in Sundance's iconic Park City—was previously owned by studio executive Jeffrey Katzenberg, former Disney chairman and the producer of family-favorite films like "Shrek" and "Chicken Run." Situated in the private Bald Eagle Club, the estate includes direct access to a kid-friendly ski-on/ski-off trail, a billiard room, game room, ski room, indoor pool and sauna.

Listed by: Paul Benson, Engel & Völkers Park CitySold for: $11,600,000Photos by: Engel & Völkers

Nancy M. Alexander - Stone Harbor and Avalon NJ Real Estate

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Top Tips for Marketing and Selling Your Home Online

By Meghan Belnap
Selling your home will vary in difficulty depending on where you live; however, using online resources as part of your marketing strategy will help you sell your house faster and get you more exposure to those who may be looking to move from another area. Here are some of the top tips for marketing and selling your home online:
List on Major Real Estate Websites 
This should be one of the first things you plan to do when thinking about selling your home. Most buyers start shopping on websites such as Zillow and Trulia and may even use these sites as their primary resource when looking. Also consider listing your property on more locally-oriented sites. Either you or your real estate agent may post the listing, though an agent may be able to get you onto listings from real estate companies that'll do extra marketing for you. Some of these sites may charge a fee to list, but the investment may be worth it for the sheer exposure to potential buyers. Your agent will also be able to direct you to sites that allow you to list for free, so be sure to ask about the services that a listing site will offer before signing up to ensure that you and your agent are on the same page as to what you want from the service.
Take Detailed, Attractive Pictures 
House listings with good photos tend to attract more buyers and sell more quickly. There is no way to properly describe your home in just words, let alone in few enough words to avoid losing the interest of a potential buyer. A picture, however, is worth a thousand words, and allows potential buyers to see the beauty of your home without having to drive out to see it. Buyers don't want to waste time on houses that could end up sounding better than they look, so providing pictures also adds visual proof of your claims in terms of your home's quality.
You can take the pictures yourself, or better yet, coordinate with your agent to get a professional photographer. Either way, make sure the photos are detailed and highlight the home's special features, such as a basement, pool or your nice hardwood floors. Try and get a few photos from different angles of the major rooms in the house, as well as different external shots. Make sure the house is clean and looks nice before you begin taking pictures. Leave your furniture in the shots so that you can show what the house could potentially look like for the buyer, but keep clutter and personal items out to give the buyer a more neutral canvas to imagine their own belongings in.
Write Effective Descriptions 
Having attractive listing descriptions can generate more interest in your home. One of the best ways to get ideas is to look at listings of similar houses or other houses in your area to see how they are being presented. Most real estate agents will write the listing for you, but you can help them by ensuring they have the information they need about your home. The information provided in the description should consist of the basics, as well as the best aspects that make your home stand out. Things that are important to include if you have them are chimneys, fireplaces, special flooring, gardens and special plumbing or lighting features. Any improvements that have been made to your home can improve the value of your home to buyers. If you're unsure if something qualifies to be put on a listing, speak to your real estate agent, as they'll be able to decide which details are most important to include in a listing for the current market.
Share on Social Media 
Go ahead and share the fact that you're selling your home on social media. While your agent will be doing networking of their own, doing your part to share your listing around the web will give you extra exposure. Someone you know may very well be interested in buying your home or know someone else who is. Your own personal page isn't your only option for marketing your listing on social media, however. Many cities have their own Facebook and other social media pages dedicated to the residents of those areas, allowing for everyone to post questions, missing animal notices and, in your case, home listings.
People often post questions on these pages about home-buying opportunities, making it the perfect place to market to someone who is looking to move into your area. Social media has an added advantage of being able to post video of your home or even do a live stream, which could entice more buyers. If your real estate agent has already set up posts on these sites with your listing, then be sure to like and share, and encourage your friends to do the same to help spread the listing around.
Internet exposure is essential to getting a swift and competitive sale for your home. It's where most buyers begin their home search in today's market and will get you a great deal more exposure to higher-quality buyers than a sign on the street. A strong online presence will increase your chances of selling the home quickly and at the best possible price. When hiring an agent, make sure that they're aware of modern online marketing practices and are actively using them with their other clients so that you can have the greatest expertise on your side.

Nancy M. Alexander - Stone Harbor and Avalon NJ Real Estate

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Top Safety Tips for Real Estate Professionals

By Carl Carter, Jr.
As a real estate professional, you're likely working alone and entering empty homes with people you may have never met before on a regular basis. In such a role, safety should be a top priority.
Here are four safety tips every real estate professional should consider employing:
Carry an alarm with you.
An alarm is important to have at your fingertips anytime you're alone or feel unsafe. Sounding an alarm is an effective way to let someone know you may need help, as well as defer a potential offender–but what if you’re in a situation with a potential client who you don’t want to offend over a false alarm? In this case, a silent alarm can go a long way for your peace of mind.
The solution? The KATANA Safety Arc attaches to your smartphone so you have it with you all the time. It's armed with a silent panic button and audible siren duo, which gives you the option to be discreet when you need to be or escalate an emergency when necessary. The audible alarm is activated by simply pulling the red tab with your finger, or by wearing a hidden wristband attached to the Arc that can be triggered if pulled, you drop your phone or someone grabs it.
You also have a more discreet option of pushing the silent alarm button to activate the KATANA Safety 24/7 Response Center. Once either alarm is sounded, the Response Center will call you to evaluate the situation. If necessary, they'll contact emergency services and your Circle of Seven—your trusted friends, family or co-workers who have agreed to respond if you need them.
Protect your personal information.
As a real estate professional, advertising yourself and the homes you’re selling comes with the job. Be cautious and thoughtful on the amount of personal information you choose to share. Oversharing personal information such as your full name, address, personal phone number or social channels can make you an easy target. Technology has also increased the amount of consumer data collected, resulting in a high rate of identity theft crime.
The solution? Consider not including your middle name on any signage, make sure all your photos are professional, and only include your office number/address in any advertising efforts.
Mitigate the risk of closed doors.
When showing a home, being confined in a enclosed space with a stranger is a potential threat.
The solution? To avoid the risk of being involuntarily detained, devices such as the Prop Lock can help solve that problem. The small device is quick and easy to use–just attach to any standard door to lock it in the fully open position to avoid closure. This device helps you in avoiding uncomfortable dynamics or any concerns about being in a closed room with strangers.
Let others know your whereabouts.
Meeting someone to show a property? Sharing your location with friends, family or colleagues is important to ensure your safety. Also, let them know who you're meeting, how long you should be there and the reason you're going.
The solution? If you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation, plan ahead and have a safety plan in place. Agree on an arranged phone call from a colleague, friend or family member asking for your help, so you have an excuse to remove yourself from an uncomfortable situation. Both iOS and Android have "Share My Location" features which will keep your family and friends in the know about your whereabouts.

Nancy M. Alexander - Stone Harbor and Avalon NJ Real Estate

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Webinar Recap: How to Overcome Today’s First-Time Buyer Challenges

In RISMedia's latest webinar, moderator Verl Workman, CEO and founder of Workman Success Systems, sat down with a fleet of top industry professionals to chat about working with first-time homebuyers, from how to attract first-timers, to guiding them through the homebuying process and helping them overcome setbacks in a transaction.
The webinar, held Wednesday, February 20 and sponsored by American Home Shield, was titled "The New Normal for First-Timers: How to Confront and Overcome Today’s Buyer Challenges."
Participants included Terra Beaver with The Mike Coke Team at Terra Firma Realty, Inc. in Wisconsin; Brenda Jones, principal broker of the Brenda Jones Real Estate Group, based in Bennington County, Vt.; Cameron Drew, a sales partner at The Power of 2 Team in Maryland; Julie Munchel, a buyer’s specialist with the Lee Tessier Team at Tessier Real Estate, based in Bel Air, Md; Paul Johnsen, a sales partner with the Lee Tessier Team of Tessier Real Estate, and Bob Davoli, a regional sales director at American Home Shield, serving real estate professionals in Western Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky and West Virginia.
Opening up the webinar, Workman asked the pivotal question: What are some of the differences between first time and repeat buyers?
The biggest difference between a first-time buyer and someone who has already bought a home, according to Terra Beaver, is that previous owners know what they want, and they're very specific in what they're looking for. "A first-time homebuyer is eager to buy that first house, they're looking online and reaching out, but when you actually meet them, their criteria is broad," Beaver said. "They're looking for guidance for us on what's important."
To a first-time buyer, Paul Johnsen added, owning a home means stability and control and a tactic for building long term wealth. As an agent, you're helping them grow in the long term. You need to understand what they need and show them how you can help them get it. What are first time buyers most afraid of? According to Johnsen, the answer is: Fear of making mistake.
With first-timers, Cameron Drew noted that you're more of a mentor through the process. "You want to explain things in a way they can understand and ensure they can trust you and build a comfortable environment."
Julie Munchel added that when working with first-timers, "I want them to understand the process, and I get enjoyment out of teaching them. I let them know that this is a serious thing we're doing, but let's have fun. Not that move-up buyers aren't excited, but they're a little more hesitant."
"A common thread with first-time buyers," said Brenda Jones, "is they all have misconceptions of the real estate market and how the process works."
This leads to the next question: How do we meet expectations of first-time homebuyers?
Education. The most crucial thing you can do when working with a first-timer is to educate them.
"Find out what they're looking for, find out what's important and then walk them through all the steps," noted Beaver.
Bob Davoli with American Home Shield explained how his company can rise to assist first-timers after the sale. "We offer buyers financial protection after closing, when they're vulnerable," he said. "We continue to look for ways to add value to our core services."
Communication. How you communicate with your buyers is key, and first-timers are no exception. "First-timers are less likely to pick up a phone call than to answer a text," said Johnsen. "You need to try to adjust to how they prefer to be communicated with." Ask your buyer how (and when) they like to be contacted, and follow suit accordingly.
How quickly you communicate is also crucial. "Immediately follow up, especially with first time home buyers," said Beaver. "They want instant results." Younger buyers may be more accustomed to receiving instantaneous help, so even if you can't answer write away, setting up an autoresponder letting them know you'll be in touch in a specific window of time is critical.
Marketing. How are agents and brokers reaching today's first time buyers? According to Beaver, the answer lies in social media. "I engage and attract on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook," she noted. But you can think outside the social media box, too.
Drew has found success hosting young professional networking events and other unique, in-person initiatives. "Camp out in a coffee shop and purchase coffees for folks coming in and ask them about their real estate needs," suggested Drew, who once got a lead from the coffee barista at a shop she was networking in.
Overcoming obstacles. What's standing in the way of today's first-time homeowners? The top answer likely will not surprise you: Debt.
"For first-time buyers under the age of 30, student loan debt throws their debt ratio off," explained Beaver. "I haven't found a way around it yet—they just have to keep paying off their debt until they can qualify for a loan."
In Jones' market, unemployment is also a hurdle for first-timers. "The availability of jobs in [Vermont] is not that great. We're still coming out of the recession, 2018 was our best year since 2008. Because of this, there's a lack of inventory." How does Jones combat this? "We're running ads that state we have a qualified buy looking for a property at the value of X."
A full recording of the webinar is available below:
To view more webinars from RISMedia, subscribe to our YouTube playlist.

Nancy M. Alexander - Stone Harbor and Avalon NJ Real Estate

Friday, March 1, 2019

Should You Buy a House Remodeled Without Permits?

By Bill Gassett
Are you confused about building permits when buying or selling real estate? When you're a first-time buyer, you may wonder why so many homeowners try to sell a property without all of the necessary building permits. There are many reasons why a homeowner may pass on selling a home without the necessary paperwork required by state or town planning laws.
It's all very well to throw your arms up in the air and say that you're not buying a home without building permits; however, what you should do is to look into why there aren't building permits and determine if there's a reasonable remedy.

Cost of Building Permits

The cost of building permits around the U.S. varies a great deal. Some homeowners simply find it too expensive to pay for the necessary paperwork. What we really should be asking ourselves is if it's justified to charge a homeowner for remodeling a bathroom or a kitchen.
Sometimes permitting fees can cost owners hundreds of dollars, if not more. The thinking of many homeowners is: "Do I really want to deal with the hassle of filling out all the complicated paperwork at town hall and then be charged for it?"
Right or wrong, sometimes a small amount of money makes people make the wrong decision when it comes to following the law.

Complicated Laws and Confused Building Inspectors

The law on building permits and buildings which meet regulations can seem confusing, as well. One city building inspector can have different opinions from another in a neighboring city or town. Shouldn't they all follow the state building code on how things are built? The answer, of course, is yes!
For homeowners who have run into troublesome inspectors in the past, the temptation for skipping the permitting process can be significant. For example, you ask a contractor to build a garage and, by the end of the project, an inspector may not agree with how the finished product was constructed. That can leave you in a very difficult and likely expensive situation.
One inspector may inject his or her own opinion on the way they want things done, rather than following the building code.

Not Getting Caught

Another reason many homeowners don't apply for building permits is simply that they don't believe that they are going to get caught. In fact, there are times when you are likely to get away with it, especially when it comes to indoor remodeling projects such as kitchens and bathrooms.
A reputable contractor may not work without a building permit. On the other hand, there are shady contractors that'll do whatever they can to put more money in their pocket. Sometimes homeowners will do the work themselves, either not realizing a permit is needed or just skipping out, as well.

Too Much Hassle Applying for Permits

Applying for permits isn't easy. You'll have to submit detailed plans and may be asked to carry out alterations other than the ones you have planned. That all costs money, and this is another reason why so many homeowners avoid getting building permits.
Sometimes homeowners make home improvements that'll help sell the house and don't want to be held up waiting for permits to be granted. This can be more common as the spring market approaches and timing is critical for sellers. If an owner is in a rush to get their home listed, they may say to themselves "Forget about it."

The Downside of Buying a Property Without the Necessary Permits

There can be major downsides when buying a property that doesn't have the required permits. One of the most obvious issues is when it comes time for you to sell the home. In many states, homeowners are required to fill out disclosure statements. Within the disclosure, quite often sellers are asked if they completed work to the home that required a permit.
For obvious reasons, lying about permitting is a major problem. You could easily be sued by the new homeowner for making false statements about the home.
Imagine this—you misrepresent the fact a permit wasn't pulled for the deck you built off the back of the home. The new buyer has a 4th of July party and the deck collapses, injuring multiple people. Guess who's going to be sued for misrepresentation? Ding ding ding!
You can personally become liable for any work carried out without permits. It doesn't have to be as tragic as the example above, either. Maybe the finished basement built by the previous homeowner with the fancy kitchen that sold the home has to be ripped out or you'll have to pay a penalty. Don't think this can happen? Locally, here in my area of Grafton, Mass., this is exactly what they'll make a homeowner do without permits being pulled.
Fines levied by the town soon add up, and you should remember that they can be legally enforced by a court.

You Could Have Insurance Issues

Your home insurance can be affected, as well. If there's some sort of incident, and you need to make a claim, your insurer can refuse to pay out. This isn't at all uncommon. In most cases where home remodeling projects concerning electricity, gas or water have been undertaken without a permit, it's likely the insurance company will not pay out in case of an incident.
Should the matter of building permits arise during an inspection, it's a good idea to talk it over with the homeowner. In a perfect world, all of the necessary permits should be in place before you buy the home.
When buying a home, this is the perfect example of why you should have a buyer's agent looking out for your best interests. Exceptional buyer's agents will ask questions about permits. They will inquire with the listing agent when it is apparent the current owner has done a lot of work.
Most great real estate agents do try to make sure that everything is correct; however, there are occasions when things are missed, or even a real estate agent may not receive the correct information from the homeowner.
Buying a new home is a challenge, and you need to ensure that you dot your i's and cross your t's, or you could end up being the one out of pocket. Always remember that buying a home without the proper building permits is risky business.

Nancy M. Alexander - Stone Harbor and Avalon NJ Real Estate