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Cleaning Your House for Guests: A Checklist

by The Schnoor Team

Countdown to a perfectly clean guest-ready home no matter how much — or little — time you have.

It feels great to have a clean, organized, well-functioning home when you’ve got guests coming. Especially around the holidays. It’s like your gift to you.

Here’s how to get that satisfying feeling — no matter how much time you have. Just choose your starting point on this checklist:

Three (or More) Weeks to Go

Think big picture. Get anything that requires a pro or installation out of the way now. No one wants calamity to strike when guests are pulling into the driveway.

  • Get your HVAC maintained if it’s overdue.
  • If you have a self-cleaning oven, clean it now. An oven is most likely to break down during the cleaning cycle, so don’t save this task for last.
  • Replace any appliance on its last legs. You don’t want your hot water to go out or fridge on the fritz with a houseful of guests.
  • Steam-clean upholstery. (Or hire a pro. It’s a big job)
  • Hire a handyman for those repairs you’ve been putting off.
  • Check outdoor lighting. Replace old bulbs and call an electrician to address any bigger issues.

Two Weeks to Go

It’s not panic time yet. Focus on decluttering and a few deep-cleaning tasks now, and you’ll have a more manageable to-do list when the clock really starts ticking down.

  • Do a deep declutter. It’ll make things easier to keep clean.
  • Dust ceiling fans, light fixtures, and high-up shelves.
  • Wipe down baseboards.
  • Clean out and organize the fridge.
  • Wash windows to make the entire house feel brighter and cleaner.
  • Toss washable shower curtains and drapes in the washing machine and re-hang. Easy.

​​

One Week to Go

It’s strategic cleaning time. Here’s what to tackle now — things your family won’t easily undo before your guests arrive.

  • Declutter again.
  • Vacuum and dust guest rooms. If they’re low-traffic, the cleanliness should hold with just a quick wipe-down right before they arrive.
  • Wipe down walls.
  • Wipe down kitchen and dining room chairs and tables, including the legs. You’d be surprised how grimy they get.
  • Deep clean the entryway — and make room for your guests’ stuff.

72 Hours to Go

The final cleaning stretch is on the horizon.

  • Do another declutter.
  • In the kitchen, toss stove burners, drip pans, and knobs into the dishwasher for an easy deep clean.
  • Wash kitchen cabinet fronts.
  • Scrub the kitchen floor.
  • Clean and shine appliances.

48 Hours to Go

Now it’s time to get serious.

  • Clean and sanitize garbage cans to banish mystery smells.
  • Wipe down doorknobs, faceplates, and light switches. They’re germ magnets.
  • Clean the front door.
  • Deep clean the bathroom your guests will use, and close it off if possible.
  • Wash guest towels and linens.

24 Hours to Go

Your guests’ bags are packed. Time for final touches.

  • Do a final declutter - by now it shouldn’t take more than five minutes.
  • Give one final wipe-down to toilets, tubs, and bathroom sinks.
  • And another final wipe-down in the kitchen.
  • Do all the floors: mop, vacuum, sweep, etc.
  • Make guest beds and set out clean towels.
  • Plug in nightlights in guest baths.
  • Put out guest toiletries so they’re easy to find.
  • Add a coffee or tea station in the guest room or kitchen.
  • Get your favorite smell going, whether it’s a scented candle, spices in water on the stove, or essential oils.
  • Use rubber gloves to wipe off pet hair and dust from furniture. It works.
  • Do the full red carpet: Sweep or shovel porch, steps, and outdoor walkways

​​Source: "Cleaning Your House for Guests: A Checklist"

6 Near-Genius Ways to Fool Burglars Into Thinking You’re Home

by The Schnoor Team

Like telling your lights to turn on and off when you’re miles away.

Your Home: You love it, but sometimes you have to leave it.

Whether it’s the eight hours a day or eight days on a dreamy beach, allowing your biggest investment to fend for itself can be stressful. And it’s a legit concern; when your home looks empty, break-ins happen. A lot. Ugh.

You could deter burglars by never leaving your house again. Or you could do the next best (OK, way better) thing, and just make it look like someone is there all the time. Here’s how.

#1 Light Up a Room (From the Road)

Your parents may still rely on their lighting timer — on at 8 p.m., off at 7 a.m. That old-fashioned option still works, but apps are more fun. They not only turn your lights on and off, but can do so randomly for a more realistic effect. And you can decide to flip on your porch light while sipping a mojito in Fiji.

You can Google your options, but one affordable example is the Lutron Caséta Wireless system (about $80 for the device and $55 per switch). You replace your current wall switches with these wireless ones and “talk” to your lights from afar.

#2 Fake a Netflix Binge

Nothing says “we are definitely home” like the colorful glare of a television dancing in the window.

Put the little FakeTV gizmo where it can project light onto a curtain, and that’s exactly what your home will say to passersby.

The device (which runs between about $20 and $40 depending on size) plugs into an adapter and can either work on a timer or with a light sensor, so it can switch on when it gets dark.

#3 Change Up Your Shades Remotely

Leave your window shades down while you’re gone and you might as well put out a “Gone Fishin’” sign.

Check out wireless options to throw some shade on the go. Several companies have systems — including Hunter Douglas PowerView, Pella Insynctive, and Lutron Serena — that allow shades to go up and down at your command for about $300 to $500 a window.

#4 Make Some Noise

Burglars can change plans in a hurry at the first sound of life inside a home — they’re a bit tetchy that way. So one option when you’re just gone for the day is a noise app, like Sleep And Noise Sounds that can play on a homebound phone, tablet, or computer. With noises like vacuuming and a boiling kettle, it can deter a thief who cracks open a window.

#5 Make Them Ring And Run

“Burglars will often ring your doorbell, and if no one answers, they’ll go around back and kick in the door,” says Deputy Michael Favata with the Monroe County Sheriff’s office in New York. Now you can answer the door with the Ring Video Doorbell ($180 for the basic model).

If someone pushes the doorbell, you can talk to them through an app on your phone. Whether it’s your nosey neighbor or a sketchy stranger, you can say, “I’m in the basement” while you’re really on the slopes. They’ll never know. And even if they don’t believe you, they know they’re being watched (insert devilish laugh here).

#6 Try a No-Tech Technique

Not everything requires a gadget. Here are ways to up your home security without downloading a single app:

  • Hire a house sitter. Then someone will be home.
  • If there’s snow, have a neighbor walk up and down the path to your door, shovel a passage up to the garage door and drive in and out of the driveway. If it’s hot out, ask them to keep your plants looking fresh with regular waterings. And don’t forget to bring them a nice gift from your getaway.
  • Ask friends, family, or neighbors to just be present on your property — use your patio, play in your yard, or bring in the mail.
  • Invite a neighbor to keep a car parked in your driveway. During the holidays, they may be happy if they need overflow for visitors.
  • Install a fake security camera for as low as $8. Burglars may not notice these fakes don’t have all the wiring necessary to be real. And their blinking red lights offer reasonable doubt.
  • Get a dog. A real dog. While you’re at work or running errands, nothing deters bad guys and gals like a barking, slobbery security guard. And when you go away, having a pet sitter stay can be as economical as some boarding facilities (especially if you have multiple dogs), and you’ll get the benefit of a human and canine sentinel.

Source: "6 Near-Genius Ways to Fool Burglars Into Thinking You’re Home"


WINTER SPANISH MARKET

by The Schnoor Team


The Annual Winter Spanish Market takes place late each November in Albuquerque.

With well over 100 of the finest artists who embrace the traditional Spanish Colonial arts participating, visitors can expect to see santos, tinwork, straw appliqué, weaving, pottery, precious metal, colcha, bone carving, furniture, woodcarving and utilitarian objects, all traditions endorsed by Spanish Colonial Arts of New Mexico.

Several live demonstrations by some of the artists will be offered, and visitors will have the opportunity to meet and talk with the artists throughout the event. 

Source: "WINTER SPANISH MARKET"

How to Be a Savvy Open House Guest

by The Schnoor Team

Getting smart — about what to do, ask, and avoid — can move you ahead of the crowd.

Ah, the open house — a chance to wander through other people’s homes and imagine yourself knocking out walls and gut rehabbing their kitchens. This is what dreams are made of (or at least episodes of HGTV).

In all seriousness, going to open houses (and scheduled private showings) is one of the most exciting parts of the home-buying experience. Beyond the voyeuristic thrill, visiting houses allows you to assess things that you just can’t see online.

Anyone who has taken a super-posed selfie knows that a picture doesn’t always tell the whole truth. Professional listing photos can make small rooms look spacious, make dim rooms bright, and mask other flaws of a home — but you don’t know any of that until you actually see the house yourself.

You can tour houses at any point, but it can be helpful to first discuss your needs and wants with your partner (if you have one), do some online research, and talk with your agent and your lender. That way, you — and your agent — can take a targeted approach, which saves you time and can give you an edge over your buying competition.

So, before you start viewing, follow these tips to get prepared.

Make It Your Job to Know Which Houses Are “Open”

There are four ways to know when a house is available for viewing:

  • Ask your agent. He or she will have details on specific properties and can keep you informed of open houses that fit your criteria.
  • Use listing websites. A number of property sites let you search active listings for upcoming open houses. On realtor.com®, for instance, when searching for properties, scroll over the “Buy” tab and click the “Open Houses” link to see upcoming ones in your area.
  • Scroll social media. On Instagram, for example, you can search the hashtag #openhouse, or similar tags for your city (#openhousedallas, for example), to discover open houses. Many real estate agents and brokerages also post open house announcements on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter; find ones from your area and start following.
  • Drive around. Cruise through the neighborhoods you’re interested in — it’s a good way to get a sense of the area amenities — and look for open house signs.

And while you’re searching, be sure to jot down the location, time, and date for any open house that strikes your fancy. It will make it that much easier to plan times and routes for hitting as many homes as possible.

Get There Early (and Say Hi to the Neighbors)

If you’re seriously interested in a home, show up to the open house early. That way you’ll beat the rush, and the agent showing the house (AKA the host) will have time to focus on you and your questions.

And don’t be shy! Many home buyers hop from one open house to the next without talking to the listing agent. But chatting up the host can help you learn information that you wouldn’t get by only touring the premises.

If a house seems like a match, take a walk around the neighborhood. Strike up conversations with the neighbors to get an insider’s perspective on what life in that community is really like — families, singles, what the vibe on the block is like, and whether the homeowner’s or condo association (if there is one) is easy to work with.

Ask Lots of Questions, But Avoid TMI

To make the most of your open house visits, have a list of questions in mind for the host — and take notes while you’re there, so you can keep track of what you learned.

At the same time, remember this: Your interaction with the host could be the beginning of negotiations with them. If you end up making an offer, you’ll use the information you’ve gathered to inform your bid. (They’ll also remember that you were an engaged yet courteous person, which can’t hurt your cause.)

Equally important: Oversharing could hurt your negotiating power.

Be careful about what information you share with the agent hosting the event. This person works for the seller — not you. The host can and will use stats they’ve gleaned about you to counter, reject, or accept an offer.

Keeping that in mind, here are eight questions you can ask a host to help determine whether a house is a good fit for you:

  1. Have you received any offers? If there are already bids on the table, you’ll have to move quickly if you want to make an offer. Keep in mind: Listing agents can’t disclose the amount of any other offers, though — only whether they exist.
  2. When does the seller want to move? Find out the seller’s timeline. If the seller is in a hurry (say, for a new job), they may be willing to accept an offer that’s below list price.
  3. When is the seller looking to close? Price isn’t the only factor for many home sellers. One way to strengthen your offer is to propose a settlement date that’s ideal for them. For example, a 30- to 45-day closing is standard in many markets, but the seller may want more time if they haven’t purchased their next home yet.
  4. Is the seller flexible on price? Most listing agents won’t tip their hand when you ask this question, but there’s always a chance the agent says “yes.” And, in some instances, the seller has authorized their agent to tell interested buyers that the price is negotiable. In any case, you might as well ask. (It’s kind of like googling for a coupon code when you buy something online.)
  5. How many days has the home been on the market? You can find this information on the internet, but the seller’s agent can give you context, especially if the house has been sitting on the market for a while. Maybe the home was under contract but the buyer’s financing fell through, or the seller overshot the listing price and had to make a price reduction? Knowing the backstory can only help you.
  6. Has the price changed? You can see if there’s been a price reduction online, but talking to the listing agent is the only way to find out why the seller dropped the price.
  7. Are there any issues? Have there been any renovations or recent repairs made to the home? Some upgrades, like new kitchen appliances, are easy to spot, but some are harder to identify. Specifically ask about the roof, appliances, and HVAC system because they can be expensive to repair or replace. BTW, repairs like a leaky faucet, aren’t things that need to be disclosed.
  8. What are the average utility costs? Many buyers don’t factor utility bills into their monthly housing expenses, and these costs can add up — particularly in drafty older homes. Ask the listing agent what a typical monthly utility bill is during the summer and during the winter, since heating and cooling costs can fluctuate seasonally. Be prepared for higher utility bills if you’re moving from an apartment to a single-family home.

Now that you’ve got your answers, there’s one last thing to do: Thank the host before you go. You never know — you could be seeing them again at the negotiating table soon.

Source: "How to Be a Savvy Open House Guest"

What’s Causing Those Spooky Sounds and Smells?

by The Schnoor Team

Are you haunted by strange noises and weird odors? With the proper maintenance, you’ve got more than a ghost of a chance to rest easy.

Creaking and Popping in the Night

The many materials that make up your house — wood framing, plywood, glass, metal ducts, nails, plumbing pipes — all expand and contract at different rates.

When a house cools at night, these materials may move slightly, rubbing against each other and making noises. Occasionally, they’ll contract with an audible pop.

These sounds tend to be more noticeable in fall, when warm days give way to rapidly cooling nights. The bad news? Not much you can do about it. The good news? Those sounds are harmless and normal.

Zombie Odor

It’s either time to throw out the garbage, or you’d better call your gas utility to check on your gas lines and connections.

Natural gas is odorless, but natural gas suppliers add a foul-smelling odorant — butyl mercaptan — to alert occupants to any leaks. The smell is like rotten eggs.

Leaks can occur at your gas-fired water heater, fireplace, clothes dryer, and any gas line. Leaking natural gas is potentially dangerous — leave the house and call your natural gas provider to assess the situation. Most utility companies perform safety checks for free.

Footsteps in the Attic

Amplified by an unfinished attic space, a raccoon or even a good-size squirrel on your roof might sound like an ax murderer is doing the polka overhead.

These rooftop transits are normal for critters — roofs offer a nice long unobstructed highway.

Make sure your soffit, rafter, and gable roof vents are covered with screens and in good shape, or your rooftop buddies might find their way into your attic for real. Trim back branches that provide critters easy access to your roof.

Something’s Burning

You can smell the odor of burnt wood, but the smoke detectors aren’t going off and there’s no smoke in the house. The culprit could be your fireplace — even if you haven’t had a fire for days.

The probable cause is a drafty chimney and negative air pressure in your home, meaning that outside air is infiltrating down your chimney, bringing stale burnt smells with it.

Stop drafts by making sure your damper has a good seal. Regulate air pressure by adding more cold air return ducts to your HVAC system. You’ll get rid of the odor and save on your energy bill, too.

Moaning and Clattering

These classic spooky sounds often show up when the wind blows and there’s a storm brewing.

Vents for clothes dryers, bathrooms, and water heaters exit out the roof or the side of the house. To prevent backdrafts, these vents have dampers — flaps designed to let vented air out and prevent outside air from coming in. Thesx`e flaps sometimes move and rattle in high winds.

Because dampers often are located in attics or in between floor joists, the sound can be difficult to pinpoint. You may need a new damper ($85).

Source: "What’s Causing Those Spooky Sounds and Smells?"

Haunted New Mexico

by The Schnoor Team

With its rich Wild West history, New Mexico has no shortage of fodder for ghost stories, and no shortage of great places to haunt. If gadding with ghouls is your idea of a fine vacation, we've got a digest of all of the Land of Enchantment's most haunted stops.

Albuquerque:

Hotel Parq Central- Visitors to Albuquerque’s high-end Hotel Parq Central and its Instagram-worthy rooftop cocktail lounge, Apothecary, might not be aware of its history as a location for haunted happenings. Before it was overhauled and made into luxe accommodations, the building spent decades as a hospital and psychiatric facility. It’s not just recent visitors who’ve seen ghostly apparitions, either. Former patients of the hospital claim that during their stays, they experienced disembodied voices, objects being moved by unseen forces, and a feeling of constantly being watched. To this day, visitors often have the feeling of being watched, too, and a group of ghost hunters supposedly communicated with the spirit of a former patient using a flashlight. Grab a drink, book a room, and keep your eyes and ears peeled!

KiMo Theater-  One of the state’s most famous haunted locations, the story of the ghost that supposedly dwells in the KiMo Theater reads like something straight out of a scary movie. In 1951, a water heater exploded in the theater, killing several people, including a six-year-old named Bobby. His ghost is a poltergeist, a spirit that likes to cause mischief. It’s tradition for performers at the KiMo to leave Bobby a small gift or treat — often donuts — to earn his affection and trust so he doesn’t interfere with their performance. He supposedly messes with the electricity, opens and closes doors repeatedly, and drops cables and other equipment from the ceiling in order to distract the performers and make them forget their lines. Are these stories true, and is there really a poltergeist that haunts the historic theater? We chatted with Larry Parker, the general manager of the KiMo Theater, to hear his take — spoiler alert: He’s not a believer. 

Cimarron:

St. James Hotel- Built by Henry Lambert in 1872, the St. James Hotel was the backdrop for numerous shootouts during its Wild West days — it still boasts the evidence in its dining room ceiling where 22 bullets are still wedged. It's located in the heart of Cimarron, 40 miles south of Ratón on N.M. 62. Train robber Blackjack Ketchum, and outlaws Jesse James, Buffalo Bill Cody, and Billy the Kid stayed in the hotel during its heyday, and today, you can stay in rooms named for these famous guests. It is said to be the location of more than 26 murders, and the victims supposedly wander the hotel. In fact, room 18 — supposedly haunted by the spirit of T.J. Wright, a gambler who was murdered after a winning hand — remains un-booked as though he, or his ghost, were still staying there today.

Chama:

Foster's Hotel- The Wild West is still alive and well through the wanderings of three ghosts said to frequent this rugged hotel, saloon, and restaurant in Chama. Guests have reported hearing the sound of a woman — said to be a frontier judge who was poisoned in the hotel when several local men took offense to her leadership position — choking and gasping for breath. Across the hall, hotel staff has heard a small girl's cries. They believe they are from the ghost of a youth who died there of an illness more than 100 years ago. The specter of a cowboy is also said to wander the hotel's halls. Pair these events with other mysterious sightings, and this hotel, which is located directly across the street from the famed Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, and you'll have plenty to investigate during your next ghost hunt.

Haunted Clayton:

A visit to northeastern New Mexico is a must for amateur ghost hunters. Free of charge and open Tuesday through Saturday as well as by appointment, the Herzstein Museum is a must-see for history buffs, with exhibits focusing on the Santa Fe Trail and the Dust Bowl as well as rooms restored to look how they did in eras gone by. Even more intriguing? Confirmed ghost activity! In March of 2018, a crew of paranormal research investigators spent time in town and discovered strange, unexplained noises such as stairs rattling with no one walking on them and poltergeists knocking objects over. In addition to the museum, the group also noted ghost activity at the town’s movie theater and courthouse. If you’re in town, the museum proprietors will give you a personalized tour.

Hotel Eklund- Next on the list? The Hotel Eklund. Experience paranormal activity for yourself if you stay in room 307, which according to local legend is haunted by the ghost of a maid named Irene. Visitors claim to hear creaking floorboards and that faces are visible in the wallpaper. Even if you’re not interested in the creepy aspects of the hotel, you won’t be disappointed if you stay. Authentic and traditional architecture, especially present in the old dining room and saloon, will transport you straight back in time to the Wild West.

Blackjack Ketchum- Clayton’s other claim to fame? It’s the final resting place of New Mexico’s other famous outlaw, Blackjack Ketchum. If you’ve already visited Billy the Kid’s gravesite in Fort Sumner, you’ll want to cross this one off your Wild West bucket list: A famous train robber, he was hanged in 1901 – the last official hanging in New Mexico (it occurred before New Mexico became a state). Legend has it that during the hanging, he was decapitated. If you visit the local cemetery, it’s easy to find his grave. At the time, the cemetery was divided between Catholics and Protestants, and neither group wanted to Blackjack’s remains in their half… so he’s buried in a median on the dirt path that snakes its way through the cemetery.

Cloudcroft:

The Lodge Resort & Spa- Originally constructed as a stopover for the Alamogordo and Sacramento Mountain Railway, The Lodge burned to the ground in the early 1900s. During the quaint chalet's heyday, Rebecca, a strikingly beautiful chambermaid with red hair, was murdered when her jealousy-stricken lumberjack suitor found her in the arms of another man. Today, The Lodge's "friendly," though mischievous, ghost has been said to wander the halls: moving furniture, flicking lights on and off, and spontaneously igniting fires in fireplaces. Some believe Rebecca is searching for a new lover or friend who would appreciate her playful nature. The cozy mountain retreat, located 20 miles east of Alamogordo, is ideal for curling up with a book by the fire during the winter, and striking out for a golf game at The Lodge's course during the summer. During your visit, don't miss a hearty meal at their restaurant — named after their favorite friendly ghost.

Dawson:

Dawson Cemetery- Dawson was once a coal mining town close to Cimarron, and throughout the beginning of the 20th century, it prospered. Sadly, an accident led to its tragic end. In 1913, an explosion at the mine killed more than 250 men, making it one of the worst coal mining disasters in American history. Another disaster took the lives of 123 miners in 1923, and now all that remains of the town is a cemetery. It’s got a reputation as one of the most haunted places in New Mexico, and for good reason. Visitors who are brave enough to explore the cemetery at night have reported back with strange findings. Some have seen lights, reminiscent of those on the front of mining helmets, and some have even seen ghostly apparitions wandering among the headstones.

Las Cruces:

Dona Ana County Courthouse & Jail- Ghost Adventures, a popular paranormal show on the Travel Channel, helped put this southern New Mexico building in the national spotlight where paranormal activity is concerned. Built in 1937, this courthouse is no longer in use, but remains an attraction due to its reputation as a hotbed of paranormal happenings. The location of many deaths over the years, the building has been unused since 2008. Ghost hunters and paranormal investigators have made a point to stop in, and some say they’ve encountered an unknown, violent entity. In addition, shadowy apparitions have been seen, and people have also reported feeling cold spots in the building, a surefire sign of ghost activity according to believers. Other creepy occurrences? A repeat visitor to the site states that he has been scratched by an invisible hand and has witnessed a jail cell door closing on its own.

The Amador Hotel- Built in 1866, the Amador Hotel is a popular Las Cruces ghost tour stop. During tours, guests have reported seeing shadowy figures lurking in the hallways, flashlights turning on and off mysteriously and having their arms scratched. Some say it’s the work of the ghost of a little girl named Annie, who frequents the rooms on the second floor.

Las Vegas:

Plaza Hotel- Nestled in the lush green forests and fields about an hour north of Santa Fe, Las Vegas is a picturesque town that’s been featured in movies and TV shows like Red Dawn, No Country for Old Men, Easy Rider, and Longmire. It also boasts another claim to fame, one that’s a bit creepier and one you can experience for yourself if you book a room. The Plaza Hotel, built in 1882, has an illustrious history with a dash of the paranormal. It’s said to be haunted by the ghost of its past owner, Byron T. Wells. The hotel’s restaurant and bar is even named after him! If you’re feeling especially brave, book Room 310. It was Byron’s office, and to this day, hotel guests sometimes claim to feel his presence.

Los Lunas:

The Luna Mansion- A visit to Valencia County just isn’t complete without a tour of the Luna Mansion. Built in the 1880s, it’s a unique building, being the only known Victorian-style structure made of traditional adobe. It was built as a gift from the Santa Fe Railway in exchange for access through the extensive land holdings of the Luna and Otero families, and visitors today, who often come to experience the site’s rich history and delicious restaurant, are surprised by the sight of a ghost. The ghost is supposedly that of Josefita Otero, who died during renovations to the mansion in 1951. Since she left so much unfinished business, she’s said to still be hanging around. Her spirit is often seen sitting in her rocking chair or walking up and down the mansion’s expansive staircase.


Mesilla:

Double Eagle Restaurant - Built in 1849, the location has seen its fair share of unfortunate events over the years. It was the site of a brutal double homicide in the 19th century, and supposedly the ghosts of the victims still reside inside the room in which they were killed. Known today as the Carlotta Room, visitors today can see it for themselves, although they’re encouraged not to sit in the corner chairs so that they don’t upset the ghosts. Those who’ve encountered the ghosts say that they’re not malevolent spirits, but instead are similar to mischievous, prankster-esque poltergeists. They’re fond of moving tables and chairs and breaking wine glasses. Not into the paranormal? No problem. The Double Eagle is worth a visit for the food alone. Top-quality steaks and must-try margaritas are on the menu.

Santa Fe:

La Fonda- With a history that dates back almost to the City Different's founding 400 years ago, it's no wonder that the inn is fraught with tales of the paranormal. In 1857, an unfortunate gambler found himself truly out of luck when a lynch mob took him from the gambling hall and hung him in the hotel's backyard. Today, this patio has been enclosed and is the site of the hotel’s La Plazuela restaurant. Rumor has it that guests have seen what appears to be the shadow of a man swinging from a tree while dining there. Ten years later, territorial justice was transplanted from the courthouse to La Fonda's lobby when the Honorable John P. Slough, Chief Justice of the Territorial Supreme Court, was shot there. Guests claim they have sighted the judge, in his long black coat, wandering the hotel today. A young bride, who was murdered on her wedding night by a jealous ex-lover, is also said to haunt the wedding suite. The hotel, which is located at the end of the Santa Fe Trail, is an icon of Santa Fe-style inside and out, with its Southwestern décor and multi-tiered adobe exterior. During your stay, stop in the hotel bar for a late-night drink—the ghost of a cowboy might just pull up a barstool next to you.

La Posada Hotel- In 1882, a prosperous merchant named Abraham Staab built his three-story brick mansion in the French Second Empire-style on property that now belongs to La Posada. Abraham and his wife, Julia, entertained Santa Fe society in the grand residence decorated with the finest European materials. Legend has it that Julia Staab has never left it. Julia has most often appeared at the top of the grand staircase in the original building in the main complex of the inn. However, she has also been seen in the Nason Room, a small alcove built upon the old formal gardens of the original structure. So, why does Julia Staab linger? Some say that ghosts appear when death occurs in a state of turmoil and anxiety, such as the circumstances that seemed to attend Mrs. Staab’s final years. Depressed over the loss of a child and other unsuccessful pregnancies, Julia Staab was rumored to have gone mad, retreating to her bedroom until her death at age 52. In recent years, her alleged spirit has been the subject of many ghost tours, an episode of Unsolved Mysteries, and Weird Travels. The Staab House stands today in the form of a bar, where guests of La Posada enjoy cocktails and light Southwestern fare. Some have even reported meeting the grand lady.

Source: "Haunted New Mexico"


How to Use Comparable Sales to Price Your Home

by The Schnoor Team

Before you put your home up for sale, understand how the right comparable sales help you and your agent find the perfect price.

How much can you sell your home for? Probably about as much as the neighbors got, as long as the neighbors sold their house in recent memory and their home was just like your home.

Knowing how much homes similar to yours, called comparable sales (or in real estate lingo, comps), sold for gives you the best idea of the current estimated value of your home. The trick is finding sales that closely match yours.

What makes a good comparable sale?

Your best comparable sale is the same model as your house in the same subdivision—and it closed escrow last week. If you can’t find that, here are other factors that count:

Location: The closer to your house the better, but don’t just use any comparable sale within a mile radius. A good comparable sale is a house in your neighborhood, your subdivision, on the same type of street as your house, and in your school district.

Home type: Try to find comparable sales that are like your home in style, construction material, square footage, number of bedrooms and baths, basement (having one and whether it’s finished), finishes, and yard size.

Amenities and upgrades: Is the kitchen new? Does the comparable sale house have full A/C? Is there crown molding, a deck, or a pool? Does your community have the same amenities (pool, workout room, walking trails, etc.) and homeowners association fees?

Date of sale: You may want to use a comparable sale from two years ago when the market was high, but that won’t fly. Most buyers use government-guaranteed mortgages, and those lending programs say comparable sales can be no older than 90 days.

Sales sweeteners: Did the comparable-sale sellers give the buyers downpayment assistance, closing costs, or a free television? You have to reduce the value of any comparable sale to account for any deal sweeteners.


Agents can help adjust price based on insider insights

Even if you live in a subdivision, your home will always be different from your neighbors’. Evaluating those differences—like the fact that your home has one more bedroom than the comparables or a basement office—is one of the ways real estate agents add value.

An active agent has been inside a lot of homes in your neighborhood and knows all sorts of details about comparable sales. She has read the comments the selling agent put into the MLS, seen the ugly wallpaper, and heard what other REALTORS®, lenders, closing agents, and appraisers said about the comparable sale.

More ways to pick a home listing price

If you’re still having trouble picking out a listing price for your home, look at the current competition. Ask your real estate agent to be honest about your home and the other homes on the market (and then listen to her without taking the criticism personally).

Next, put your comparable sales into two piles: more expensive and less expensive. What makes your home more valuable than the cheaper comparable sales and less valuable than the pricier comparable sales?

Are foreclosures and short sales comparables?

If one or more of your comparable sales was a foreclosed home or a short sale (a home that sold for less money than the owners owed on the mortgage), ask your real estate agent how to treat those comps.

A foreclosed home is usually in poor condition because owners who can’t pay their mortgage can’t afford to pay for upkeep. Your home is in great shape, so the foreclosure should be priced lower than your home.

Short sales are typically in good condition, although they are still distressed sales. The owners usually have to sell because they’re divorcing, or their employer is moving them to Kansas.

How much short sales are discounted from their market value varies among local markets. The average short-sale home in Omaha in recent years was discounted by 8.5%, according to a University of Nebraska at Omaha study. In suburban Washington, D.C., sellers typically discount short-sale homes by 3% to 5% to get them quickly sold, real estate agents report. In other markets, sellers price short sales the same as other homes in the neighborhood.

So you have to rely on your real estate agent’s knowledge of the local market to use a short sale as a comparable sale.

Source: "How to Use Comparable Sales to Price Your Home"


How I Bought My First House From Out of State

by The Schnoor Team

And how I survived when my loan fell through before closing.

Name: Andrea Lawson, 36

City: Madison, Wis.

Year of Home Purchase: 2014

Sale Price: $222,500

Home style: 2006 condo

Profession: Social worker

When Andrea Lawson got a dream job in a new city, she knew exactly where she wanted to live: an urban, walkable neighborhood near her new job in downtown Madison. Though she was hesitant to commit to buying a home before knowing for sure the job and city were the right fit for her, rental prices made buying the smarter financial move.

In just a two-day trip to Madison, she found a place she liked, made an offer, and had it accepted by the seller. All was great until her loan fell through prior to closing.

Before we talk about the horror story of your deal collapsing at the eleventh hour, let’s start with your house hunt. What made you take the plunge and buy a home in a new city, even before you’d started your new job?

Andrea: Actually, I wasn’t ready to buy. I wanted to rent a place. But prices of rentals were steeper than I expected, because of pressure from the University of Wisconsin and the tech industry. Students snapped up the best rentals, and lots of people wanted to be in the city center.

You switched gears in 24 hours, going from looking-to-rent to looking-to-buy. How did you manage that fast of a change?

Andrea: I only had a weekend to look because I was still working in Michigan at my previous job. I had to make a decision fast. I got my agent Kari Manson Hvam [a referral from a friend], to help me find listings of houses for sale. Her access to the MLS helped me see what was available. I had a price limit and geographic requirement. The agent said, “These are the four properties that fit what you are looking for.” I looked at all of them in one day.

How did you know when you found The One?

Andrea: The condo had all the things I wanted. It was open and had south-facing windows that let in a lot of light. It has one bedroom, but it also has a Murphy bed so I would have room for guests. It was in the city center where it’s happening, not out in the boring ‘burbs.

There were waiting lists for rentals. Was it tough to get the condo?

Andrea: Not really. I was the only interested buyer. The developer still had it and was renting it out. It was listed at $234,000. My agent was helpful in determining where to start negotiations, telling me not to lowball too hard. I started at $215,000, and I ended up paying $222,500.

Was it hard to get a mortgage?

Andrea: No. I had been saving for six years, so I had the down payment. I have great credit. My agent gave me a couple of names of lenders. I called each one and went with the one that had an appointment that afternoon. I made an offer in June and did the paperwork in July. I met with the lender midway through the process, and the lender assured me everything was fine.

But you got to the closing, and everything was not fine.

Andrea: No, it was not. We got ready to sign the paperwork, and the lender said they could not underwrite the loan because they were missing some information on their end. We were unable to close. So I was there with my cashier’s check, and I couldn’t get my condo. I couldn’t move in.

Good grief. Were you crushed?

Andrea: I was disappointed — mostly in the lender. I feel like they dropped the ball. Worst of all, I was staying in an Airbnb until I closed on the condo, and my time was up there. I had no place to go.

So you had no mortgage and no home. What did you do?

Andrea: Thankfully, my agent was able to talk to the seller, and they let me move into the condo immediately and rent it until I could buy it. My agent also helped me find a local lender, a local bank. The condo association recommended them, too, and said there were several other people in the building who had gotten mortgages from them.

Things went better with the local bank?

Andrea: Yes, they did a great job. I was able to close a week after the first deal fell through. The woman I worked with at the local bank was nice. She said, “I don’t know what the problem was [with the other lender] because everything you need is here.”

Did you ever find out the problem with the other lender?

Andrea: No. The lender seemed to be interpreting some requirements for offering a loan on a condo very strictly. But I’m not sure because the first lender didn’t respond to any communication after the deal fell through. My agent and the condo people both said they had never seen anything like that happen.

Your advice for a first-time home buyer?

Andrea: Confirm if things are on track [with the loan], then confirm again. And if you’re debating between renting or buying, like I was, buy. For me, the total cost of my mortgage was a little more than a rental would have been, but it’s worth the investment.

Is living in a city condo all you had hoped it would be?

Andrea: Yes, I’m three miles from my job, and I bike to work at least once a week.

Even in the winter?

Andrea: In Wisconsin? Ha! No, I take the bus.

Source: "How I Bought My First House From Out of State"

How We Bought a New House Before Selling Our Current House

by The Schnoor Team

And used a VA loan, which has more restrictions than a conventional one.

Name: Jena and Mark Boomhower, both 36

City: Battle Ground, Wash.

Year of Home Purchase: 2018

Sale Price: $412,000

Home style: 2014 modern Craftsman single-family home

Profession: Jena is a medical technician; Mark is a supervisor for TSA

Mark and Jena Boomhower’s 1,400-square-foot starter home was just right when their daughters, Tanahleigh and Adalyn, were tots. But as the girls got older, Mark and Jena realized they needed a bigger house and yard. They wanted a two-story farther from the city, but there were a few challenges.

First, they had to figure out how to buy a house before selling their current house. Second challenge: Buying a house with a VA loan. VA loans offer competitive interest rates and don’t always require a down payment or private mortgage insurance. But VA loans limit what buyers are allowed to pay in closing costs, and sellers don’t necessarily have to pay them, either. Closing costs become a big part of the negotiation. Here’s their story.

When did you realize you needed more square footage?

Mark: When Tanahleigh started having her friends over. If they all wanted to watch TV in the living room, we had to go to another room. I would go hang out in the garage. Jena would hang out in the kitchen. We were like, “OK, we’re stepping on each other in this little house.”

So what’s the first thing you did to escape your exile in the garage?

Mark: I called our agent and told him our plan: that we wanted to buy a new house but not until we sold our current house. And that we wouldn’t sell our current house until we had one to move into because we didn’t want to spend weeks or months in a hotel with two kids and a dog. And we wanted to buy with a VA loan. Our agent said that our stipulations were tough but that it could be done.

You faced a seller’s market. Houses were going fast. What did you do first: shop for a new house or list your old one?

Mark: We started looking at houses. We looked at three or four. The last one we looked at, I don’t think Jena stopped smiling after we walked through the front door.

Jena: Yes. It was perfect.

How perfect was it?

Mark: So perfect that we put an offer on it, even though our old house wasn’t even listed.

This all sounds so simple. Did they take the offer?

Mark: No.

Jena: They countered at a higher price. They were asking $409,000. We offered $400,000 with $10,000 in closing costs. They came back at $418,000 with $10,000 in closing costs. They raised the price to cover closing costs.

Mark: We thought it was ridiculous.

Jena: We walked away.

Oh no, those VA loans and their non-allowable fees! It was your perfect house!

Jena: We went through the whole weekend and couldn’t get the house off our minds.

Mark: We talked to our agent, Dale Chumbley. We talked with our lender. We realized we would have to pay a higher price for the house and less of the closing costs, or a lower price for the house and more of the closing costs.

Jena: We went with paying more for the house and less of the closing costs. So we made another offer: $410,000 + $7,000 closing costs. We wanted to walk away with the most bucks in our pocket, so we went with them paying more of the closing costs.

Did this offer go better?

Jena: Yes. They countered with $412,000 plus $7,000 in closing costs.

Mark: We weren’t going to lose the house over $2,000. Jena crunched the numbers, and it would add less than $50 a month to our payment. So we took the offer.

Great! You got the house! But you still had to sell your house. With the same agent, right?

Jena: Right. Our offer was contingent on us selling our old house in 30 days. And once the seller accepted our offer, we had 48 hours to get our house on the market.

Mark: So we had two days to get our house ready to sell. We picked up, cleaned up, threw things out. It was a tornado of excitement and anxiety. But we got it done and were ready for showings.

The clock was ticking. You had 30 days to sell. How did it go?

Mark: We weren’t getting many showings, even though it was a seller’s market. We had just two people come by the first week. We were in full-blown panic mode. We were worried because we could lose the new house while we waited for our house to sell. [Under regional MLS rules], if someone came by with a better offer for the new house during the 30 days, the seller could accept it. So we were worried.

Jena: After about two and a half weeks, we finally got an offer — a little under what we were asking, but they were buying with a VA loan, too, so we took a lower price and they paid closing costs the VA wouldn’t cover.

On what day of the 30-day period did your old house sell?

Jena: Day 24.

You did that with a week to spare!

Mark: Everything had to be perfect for this to work. It seemed like an ordeal to us. Our agent said it went really smooth. He said he’d never seen a transaction line up like ours did. We wouldn’t have stayed sane through it all without him telling us it would work out and telling us what we should do.

What’s your advice to a home buyer facing a similar situation?

Jena: Be patient.

Mark: Make sure you have a competent agent, one you can trust.

Jena: The agent we worked with, Dale, sold us our first house.

Mark: He became a family friend. He bought, I’m not kidding, hundreds of boxes of Girl Scout cookies from my daughter.

Jena: We totally trusted him and everything he said.

Source: "How We Bought a New House Before Selling Our Current House"

 

7 Tips and Tricks to Keep Your Home Cleaner Longer

by The Schnoor Team

Use humidity, a car product, and more wow ideas to save cleaning time.

When cleaning your home, why not do it in such a way that’ll keep your home cleaner with less effort?

Here are 7 ways to keep your spring-clean fresh all year long:

#1 Use Humidity to Defy Dust

Low humidity levels cause static electricity. Not only does static attract dust, it makes it stick, so it’s difficult to remove. High humidity causes problems, too — it’s an ideal environment for dust mites. These microscopic critters are a double threat: They’re a common allergen, and they contribute to dust production. There are as many as 19,000 dust mites in half a teaspoon of house dust, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology. Yuck!

What to do: Keep your home’s humidity level between 40% and 50%. That’ll eliminate static while decreasing dust mite growth.

Tip: About 80% of dirt in homes walks in from the outside. Stop dirt with a bristly doormat before it’s tracked inside.

#2 Apply a Car Product to Keep Shower Doors Scum-Free

You can eliminate soap scum build-up by coating your glass shower doors with a rain-repellent product made for car windshields. When applied to glass, products like these create an invisible barrier that causes water, oils, and debris (like soap suds) to bead and roll off.

What to do: Find this product anywhere that sells basic auto supplies. You’ll know it’s time to reapply when water stops beading on shower doors. Keep in mind, windshield rain repellants were made to treat glass, not plastic, so only use on glass door.

Another option: Automatic shower cleaners claim to let you clean your shower and tub less frequently — like every 30 days. After you finish bathing, the gadget will douse your shower and tub with a cleanser that prevents soap scum build-up while combating mold and mildew. You can buy automatic shower cleaners at most big-brand retailers, like Target and Walmart.

#3 Seal Your Stone Countertops

Natural stone countertops, including granite and marble, are porous, so if they’re not sealed, liquids like red wine, juice, or soy sauce can stain them. A countertop sealer repels stains by causing spills to bead instead of getting absorbed. Most countertops are sealed when installed, but the sealant does wear down.

What to do: To keep your countertops in tip-top shape, re-apply sealer twice a year. To see if you need a fresh coat, pour a tiny bit of water on your natural stone countertop. If the water doesn’t bead or doesn’t stay beaded for two to three minutes, it’s time to reseal.

Shopping for stone countertops? Slabs with lots of swirls or veins tend to be more porous, and, therefore harder to keep clean.

#4 Use Protectants on Furniture and Carpets

Protective furniture sprays and carpet sealants, like Scotchgard and Ultra-Guard, guard against inevitable spills by causing liquids to bead on the surface instead of being absorbed.

Some of these products also protect fabrics from fading and resist mold, mildew, and bacteria.

What to do: Apply the appropriate sealer once a year after a deep upholstery and carpet cleaning.

#5 Clean Your Oven the Old-Fashioned Way

Forget oven cleaners that promise an easy job. Most cleaners give off noxious fumes and make a horrible mess. The basic ingredient in many oven cleaners is lye, which can burn your eyes and your skin; it’s usually fatal if swallowed.

What to do: Use a wet pumice stone to scrape off dirt and grease. It’s faster than oven cleaner and toxin-free.

Tip: Need to wipe your range or anything else down? You can bust filth faster by heating up a clean, damp sponge or cloth in a microwave for 30 seconds before wiping with or without a cleaning product. Put on rubber gloves before you pick up that hot sponge.

#6 Do Quick Touch-Ups

Small cleaning projects prevent filth from building up. When you spot clean daily, you can prevent smudges from staining, banish dust bunnies, and even combat allergens.

What to do: Create a spot-cleaning kit so you can address small, dirty situations in minutes.

  • Cleaning pads are great for eradicating dirty fingerprints on walls and light switches.
  • Damp micro-cloths can reduce airborne dander when used daily to wipe down pets.
  • Dry sweeper cloths can quickly pick up dust and dry dirt off floors, shelves, and electronics.

Tip: Keep stored items cleaner longer by shutting closets, cabinets, and drawers, so circulating dust and dirt can’t get in.

#7 Update Your Light Bulbs

Okay, It’s not really cleaning. But good lighting can make you and your home look and feel great — and help you spot that spill before it gets funky.

A room lit with low-wattage incandescent bulbs and compact fluorescents can look dark and dingy. “Daylight” bulbs brighten things up. These full-spectrum light bulbs mimic natural light, so they give better visual accuracy. Bonus: Like sunlight, these bulbs can boost your mood.

What to do: When shopping for bulbs, look for those marked “daylight” that have a range between 5,000 to 6,500 kelvins.

Source: "7 Tips and Tricks to Keep Your Home Cleaner Longer"

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Contact Information

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The Schnoor Team
6711 Academy Road NE, Ste B
Albuquerque NM 87109
Jon: 505.385.2154
Jeanne: 505.328.6060
Fax: 505-892-7733

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