The RE/MAX Associates Louisville Real Estate Blog

Open House Tips & Secrets

Most everyone enjoys a good open house, but there’s so much more to the social part of it. They happen to be a powerful tool for buyers, who offer their insights, and help with the decision making process.

Knowing what to look for at an open house will tell you what you want to know about a property. Let’s take a look at what you want to find out when attending an open house.

  1. Structural Challenges – The house might look like your forever and after home, but to a professional eye, the structural challenges could cost you big down the road.

You will want to check for cracks up high, down low, sliding floors, and potential leaking areas. Open all the doors and close them to make sure they function properly. If you want to make an offer on this house, still get an inspection because that’s basically your last line of defense before you buy.

  1. Cosmetic blemishes – Open houses are staged in a way to make the house most appealing. Staging’s can cover up holes, stains, scuffs, and almost anything else you can imagine.

Ask you agent for a private inspection of the house after the open house. This way you can see what the house would look like on an average day, not on their Sunday best.

  1. The neighbors and neighborhood – People and houses are sometimes two different things come day and night. Open houses are scheduled for prime time. The neighbors and neighborhood could come alive at night with parties, and a bunch of shenanigans at a different point in the day or night. Try driving through the neighborhood at night to see what the community is like at night.
  2. Home insurance history – If this home has a history of insurance claims, head for the hills. You won’t find this information at an open house, but you can find it by asking your agent to get a “CLUE” “comprehensive loss underwriting exchange”. This report is a five...

My home passed the Inspection, so it’s Perfect!

A home inspector’s job is to find all the cracks in the foundation, and wood rot. Even the best inspector sometimes doesn’t find the problems that quietly sit behind your walls. Home inspectors sole purpose is to find the material problems within a house that will devalue the property which can also make it unsafe. They are there to make sure your home is safe and is a good investment at the same time. But let’s take a look at some defects that can go unnoticed.

HVAC deficiencies

When you have issues with your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, it’s never fun. Home inspectors often miss these because they are hesitant to run these systems in extreme heat or cold because they don’t want to run the risk of overusing it.

If there are issues with your system then the best move is to get a licensed HVAC specialist to take a look at it.

Water damages

In an inspection the inspector will run your faucets, but it will take a few days before leaks begin to reappear if the house hasn’t been lived in for a while. Even if the previous owners had water issues, they can be easily hidden by paint or furniture. There’s also a good chance the inspector won’t find the leak if it is coming from the roof. Even if they go up on the roof, they’re still difficult to detect.

Environmental toxins

If your home was built pre-1978 there’s a good chance it has some environmental hazards lurking in the walls like lead paint, and abnormally high radon levels. You should invest in specialized home testing kits to check the status of your home. Radon can be in any home despite the age, foundation type, or location of the heating system. Most home inspectors won’t test for this type of thing.

If you know there...

7 Ways to Negotiate Like a Champ

Whenever you are trying to buy or rent it often feels like the seller or landlord holds all the power. In reality, sometimes they do, and sometimes they don’t. You have a power move in your pocket, but it all depends on how you use it.

No matter what you want out of a deal, better upgrades for your rental, or a lower price for your home, if you play your cards right, you can end up getting the deal you want, and it becomes a win win for both parties.

Here are seven tips to learn how to bargain.

  1. Offer to sign a long-term lease

Have you finally found the right apartment, and are determined to move in, only to find out the rent is out of your reach? Don’t give up just yet.

One thing landlords are not fond of is vacancies. When they have no tenants, they have no cash flow. Renting in a super hot market does give them the upper hand, and they’ll pass you over if you don’t agree to their terms. However, if you offer to sign a two year lease vs. one year, you can re-negotiate the rent and probably get them to come down a bit.

  1. The quick close is your friend

 

Time is money in a bidding war. Not everyone has the cash to pay for a house, but if you can, have become that much more attractive. This is especially true if the seller has already bought a home and is moving soon. Make sure the bank can put your loan together in good time, and then offer a short closing period to sweeten your deal.

 

  1. Procrastinate

We’ve heard our whole lives not to procrastinate, but once in a blue moon procrastinating can be your friend.

Waiting until the last minute to talk about rent negotiations, you can likely save some money for both of you. If you do this six months into the lease, the landlord might get suspicious of you trying to break the lease. And this could cause major problems. Most landlords would happily avoid drawing up a new lease,...

5 Ways to Deal with the Neighborhood Eye Sore

You are moments away from finally putting your beautiful home on the market, and then it hits you; the eye sore next door is going to create quite a problem. There are people who will try to hide and cover up these eyesores, trying to fool prospective buyers, but in the end, without proper attention the eyesores still remain.

You can always embrace the eye sore and view it as a prairie instead of a lawn, but for those of us who nearly go blind looking at them, here are a few ways to fix this problem.

  1. Ask the neighbor to fix the issue

This is no easy task. How do you tell your neighbor their yard looks like crap and it’s hindering your ability to sell your home?  One way is to write a friendly note and leave it with a bottle of wine or case of beer. When doing this make sure to mention the more your home sells for, the more their home is worth.

  1. Be neighborly

Some people live a certain way for so long they don’t notice what might look ugly to others.  This often happens with the elderly because they don’t notice, or don’t have the means to keep up with the maintenance of their homes. Just do not recommend a townhome or condo. It’s kind of offensive in a way.

You might try asking them if you can spruce it up yourself. Hopefully they’re not hoarders who want to keep the weeds growing out of the sidewalk. You will be surprised how often people like being helped. So try asking them to fix the wobbly fence, or the rotting paint around their house. Chances are they would be glad to have you help them work on it.  

  1. Notify your HOA

If you live in a HOA, write them and make sure they are aware of the unkempt house nearby. One of the main reasons HOA’s exist is to prevent this from happening. They are there to prevent eye sores from popping up and devaluing your home.

The HOA will send the offending neighbor a letter requesting them...

Be Weary of Mortgage Acceleration Scams

If you’ve got a mortgage and are trying to pay it down as quickly as possible, then you’ve probably heard of mortgage accelerators. These are designed to help you pay off your mortgage in less time than it would normally take you. It helps you save money long-term on interest payments.

There’s obviously motivation to shorten the length of your mortgage, but there is great reason to be extra cautious when dealing with one of these companies. Sometimes they are too good to be true.

 How do mortgage accelerators work?

Both kinds of mortgage accelerators are designed to assist you to budget your finances.

One of the kinds of mortgage accelerators asks the borrower to send the accelerator company money, and this company will send checks biweekly to your mortgage lender. Usually this product has an initiation fee of around roughly $300, as well as a low monthly fee, which is less than $10. Biweekly payments help you tackle your mortgage debt quickly, but this isn’t sometime you can’t do on your own.

The second type of accelerator deposits your paychecks into a specific account and acts as a line of credit. As the months go by, your payments draw against this balance, and whatever is left at the end of the month goes towards your mortgage.

Here’s the deal though: a good number of these accelerator companies have very high upfront costs for the software, which is used to manage your cash flow. While having to pay interest against the line of credit whenever you draw against it, if you use this to pay down your mortgage, chances are you are paying more in interest to this company than you would the actual interest for the mortgage itself.

Instead of paying for a service to help you budget from one loan to the next, you can find the same help through different budgeting tricks. You can design a whole new plan on your own that won’t cost a...

13 Ways to Not Get Screwed by Your Contractor, pt. 2

This is the second part of yesterday’s “13 Ways to Not Get Screwed by Your Contractor” post. We have talked about the best way to find a contractor, how to do your bidding, choosing the right one for the job, knowing their background and skills. We are picking up at number 8:

8. Ask for references, and call them

Ask for their references, and if it takes forever (which it might) then that’s a red flag. There is probably reason for it.

9. Check out the work

Ask if you can go see a couple projects he/she might be working on now. Any good contractor will be happy to show off his work.  They should also have some before-and-after pictures of their best work.

                10. Where is their headquarters

It is ideal to have contractors who live nearby. This will generally get them to be there each day, and be on time.

                11. Experience counts

Go only for the contractors who have been in business at least five years, and who have had the same name. There might be a company who has a bad reputation for faulty work, and decided to rebrand itself as a new company to escape the negative image.

                12. Insurance

It will be worth your time to ask about the general liability and workman’s comp certificates from each contractor you interview. Give the insurance companies a call to make sure their coverage is current.

                13. If the city permits

Stop by the city building department and see if your contractor has any complaints on them. It’s a little extra work, but it will give you the peace of mind you need to sleep soundly.

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13 Ways to Not Get Screwed By Your Contractor

Summer is the season most families begin tackling their home renovation projects. Americans spend a total of $130 billion on home renovations each year and is expected to keep rising, according to the U.S. Census data. Upgrading their kitchens and master baths are the typical remodels, but no matter the project it is important to be working with a reliable contactor. Here is the first of two parts about how to not get burned by a bad contactor.

 

  1. Third time’s a charm

Be sure to interview and find references for at least three different contractors. Don’t pick one because you like his company name or because he’s friends with your sister. Angie’s List is an excellent resource to find quality contractors.

  1. Compare oranges to oranges

Being consistent when asking contractors for a bid is key. Don’t add little projects to each’s bid because it can get confusing. Stay with a consistent workload for each contractor. This way you will find the true price and not have to remember if you asked contractor A to do a little more than contractor B.

  1. Callback turnaround

If you do not hear back from a contractor within 48 hours let them go! The contractor you want is responsive, eager to get to work, and driven. Without hearing back from them you should assume they’ll be this unreliable throughout the length of the project.  Make a time for in person interviews, and if they don’t show, take them off your list.

  1. Know their specialties

 

Find out what their specialties are, whether it’s kitchen renovations, commercial buildings, new construction, or whatever it may be. You want your contractor’s expertise to align with the job at hand.

 

  1. Get the skinny on the crew

 

How many people work under this contractor? Is it just a single contractor, or do they have a...

Blogging for Us Left-Handed People

Is everything in your home made for a right-handed person? If you or one of your family members is left-handed cut them a break, and make it a little homier by adding a couple left-handed makeovers to the house.

Nine out of every 10 people is right-handed so it only makes sense that homes are made for right-handed people. Despite this statistic, there are still south [paws in the world.

Household appliances can be adapted to each’s comfort from fridges to faucets. Typically the engineers build for right-handed people, but here are ten ways to fix it up for those of us who are left-handed.

 

  1. Left-handed doors – All depending on the layout of your home, left-handed doors might not be much of an option, but if it can fit with your furniture and layout, this is one easy way. The best way to tell if a door is left-handed by opening it, putting your back to the hinges. And if it is to the left, we have a left-handed door.
  2. Left-handed sliding glass patio door – Sliding doors always slide in the direction of your dominant hand. A left-handed door slides open to the left, and vice versa. In order to make this change, you’ll have to buy it, or be the world’s best DIYer.
  3. Cabinet doors in kitchen – We use our dominant hands when going to grab cereal, cabinet doors, and items in the oven. Consider this when ordering your next cabinets; it will have a much smoother feel.
  4. Sink – a left-handed sink is where the drainer is on the right. If you cannot afford a left-handed sink, there are a few things you can do. If your dishwasher is on the left, there’s a start. You can place the drying rack to the left as well. And on the left is the ideal spot for paper towels and soaps.
  5. Kitchen accessories – Get yourself a pair of left-handed kitchen tools. What you will need is a left measuring cup, and can opener.
  6. Side tables - Putting your accent table on the left side of the...

Newly Weds Big Decision: Big Wedding or House?

Today's newly wed couples are faced with a big decision. Do they have a super awesome, and expensive wedding? Or do they get a house?
Whether you choose to have an elaborate celebration, or an intimate soiree, planning your wedding requires making a lot of adult decisions. These can often be quite expensive decisions too.
It all depends on the couple; some want an over-the-top day to remember forever, while some just want to live in a nice little start house for the first couple years.
Think of it like this. Two newly wed couples are gifted with $70,000. Couple A chooses to have a $60,000 wedding and can only put $10,000 towards their down payment.Yes, their wedding was awesome, but it was only one day of the rest of their lives they will never get back.
Couple B has elected to have a $6,000 wedding, leaving them with $64,000 to put towards a house. Not only are they that much closer to owning their house, but they still had a great time at their wedding,.
Often times Bridezillas want all the bells and whistles for their weddings, but they aren't thinking about the long-run, they're only thinking about the present.
Unless you come from, or are marrying into a ton of money, the choice is clear to me, but I digress.
Do what makes you happy, but be sure you have the means to do it. And most of all, be smart with whatever you do.
Good luck!
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3 Strategic Moves for Competitive Home Buyers

As a home buyer there are actions you can take which can put you ahead of all the other buyers. It’s a competitive market, and depending how bad you want that house, you must play it smart. If you’ve been in the hunt for a couple months and have submitted multiple offers without any bite, it’s time to step your game up. The goal is to actually purchase the home you’ve been after, despite all the fun and learning experience you’ve had in the process.

When you know you’ve found your dream house, it’s time to buckle down and get serious. Getting serious means you will be uncomfortable through this ride, as well as nervous, and financially exhausted. As gloomy as this may look, take note that this is part of the course, and it will be all worth it in the end. To make it a bit easier for you, here are three strategies to give you the upper hand over other buyers.

Find out what’s important to the seller and give it to them

The seller has what you are after, so you need to figure out what it is they’re after, and deliver it on a silver platter to them.  Ask your agent what their story is, why are they selling? Are they staying in the neighborhood, or going out of town? Once you know some of their background, put yourself in their shoes and imagine what you would want.

For example, if you somehow find out they are in contract to buy a home, try tempting them with a clean sale to get it over with. Have your inspections, and appraisals completed in a week, and do away with your contingencies so the seller knows this can be a sure deal with you.

If they are trying to find a new place to live before they sell, try “renting back” after the closing. This will let them stay in the home while their money is in the bank, their debt is relieved, and they don’t feel the pressure to move out immediately.

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What to do When the Appraisal is Less Than What's Offered

If you appraisal was way lower than you expected, don’t worry. This can happen for a multitude of reasons, and it doesn’t have to be a deal breaker. Yes it is a defeating feeling when you finally find your dream home, get an offer accepted, and then, the house doesn’t appraise for the agreed-upon price.

It can infuriate you when the deal falls apart because of the appraisal, but just relax. This happens more than anyone likes to admit, but sometimes corners are cut to make the deal happen.

If the appraisal is less than your offering, you will probably need to come up with more cash, but this isn’t your only option.

Look over the appraisal contingency clause: Most appraisals have built in contingency clauses, meaning you can look at the situation and possibly renegotiate. I am not saying this will save the deal, but it’s very possible you could spend more money than planned or even walk away from it all.

Sometimes it’s necessary that all parties need to stick together and find a mutual deal. Sellers might need to come down on their price; you pay the closing costs, and agents lose a little commission, but the deal will still go through.

Get a second opinion: Maybe the appraisal needs a second opinion and needs to be redone. The appraiser should review your appeal, and counter by explaining why they didn’t use comparable sales that the lender sent. Sometimes the seller will pay for the second appraisal to keep the deal alive. The lender might even be willing to pay for the second appraisal.

In order to avoid a low appraisal, make sure you tell the appraiser why you made the offer you did. This is where the agent should meet the appraiser and show them comparable sales and listings.  

Try not to pay more than the appraised value: Do not get emotionally attached to this house even if it is your dream home. Distance yourself incase this falls through leaving you hurt and sore. Don’t pay more...

5 Ways to Spot Sloppy Work When Buying a Flipped House

Buying a newly renovated and flipped house can be one of the best things you ever do, but be sure to do your homework. If you watch HGTV, buying these houses is almost a norm, and it looks so easy; real life isn’t like this.

What most fail to realize is flippers goal is to unload their property as quickly, and inexpensive, as possible. Often times there are shortcuts involved, which can lead to problems down the road. Here are give ways to make sure your flip doesn’t end up a flop.

  1. Suss out the sellers

Flipping homes is a profession, so there are people out there who do this all day, most every day. There will be a bunch of buyers can attest to the work they’ve done. Find out their names and check on their experience. If you don’t know your seller, you can go right to the county’s assessor’s office to find out the name on the deed. A little light internet researching should finish the rest. If they do happen to have a good amount of experience, a local real estate agent or home inspector will probably know them, and then will tell you the quality of their work.

  1. Do you due diligence

Everyone knows you should have your prospective home inspected before buying it. This is exponentially true when buying a flip house. If anything appears as a potential problem, hire an inspector in that particular area, whether it be mold, termites, pests, lead, or cracked floors.

  1. Find out when it was built

Knowing how old the house is tells you the odds of structural work. If it is older than 75 years or older, it probably has had at least one foundation repair. If it has not had a foundation repair then get a structural engineer in there to inspect it right away. If the home is newer and built in the 80’s and later, it most likely has had walls removed to fit the “open” concept.  Since knocking walls down was probably happening at some point, you’ll want to...

Update - Mortgage Rates

We have an update for the mortgage rates! 30-year fixed rate mortgage rates rose last week to 3.79 percent. This is up 2 basis points from last week. In the middle of the week last week the rate fell on Thursday and gently moved around 3.78 percent.

Erin Lantz, Vice President of mortgages at Zillow, had this to say about the increase, “Despite some volatility early on as markets parsed typically unimportant data for signals of the Fed’s first rate hike, mortgage rates remained flat with lenders focused on the Memorial Day holiday.”

For the 15-yaer fixed mortgage rate was 2.96 percent, and for 5/1 ARMs, their rate was 2.91 percent.

Stayed tune for the next update.

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