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Make Sure Your Home Stands Tall in a Competitive Market

by The Schnoor Team

Home sellers today must convince a new era of buyers returning to the market that their homes stand for value and quality. 

The time-honored open house event remains a terrific way to expose your property to many consumers and gain distinction from the competition. While your real estate professional will advertise and manage the event, it is up to you to ensure that your home is seen in the best light possible. Remember, you only have one chance to make a first impression, so approach your open house event as your property’s showcase. Here are several ways to make your property shine, inside and out. 

Start with the outside. Do a visual check of the front of the house from across the street. Does your property have curb appeal? It should look inviting, with a trimmed lawn and flowerbed and a freshly painted front door. Polish door handles and knockers and replace worn items such as a rusty doorbell. Consider adding a new doormat and flowering plants at the entrance. Don’t forget to wash your windows and clean any oil or rust spots from the driveway.

Be sure to inspect the side and back yards. Add some flowering plants to the back as well. Clean and rearrange the outdoor furniture to look inviting. Put away gardening tools, and tidy around the grill area. 

Now focus on the inside of the home where cleanliness, space, smell and lighting are vital. First get your house in tip-top condition by cleaning and clearing away clutter. Steam clean and vacuum the carpet. Make sure your floors are waxed and shiny. Touch up nicks on walls and make sure the porcelain sinks and tubs and metallic fixtures shine. 

Be conscious of any lingering odors such as smoke, pets or strong-smelling foods. You may need to air out your home prior to your open house event. Consider grinding fresh lemons in the garbage disposal. And don’t forget to empty all trash containers. 

Look at your countertops in the kitchen and bathrooms and the tops of your bureaus. Do they seem cluttered? Clear away and store as much as possible. You want your home to seem spacious. 

Next, set the mood. Let your prospective buyers picture your home as their own. Rearrange the furniture so that rooms look more spacious, or consider removing furniture and accessories. 

Lighting is also important to creating a desirable atmosphere. Bright lights provide a cheerful environment and make a small space appear larger. Pull back all the drapes and open the blinds. Turn on all the lights. Make sure all light sockets have fresh bulbs. Use softer lights for rooms in which you want a warm, cozy feeling.

Don’t forget little touches such as fresh flowers, lighted candles in the bathrooms, new logs in the fireplace, or a bowl of fresh fruit on the kitchen counter. You may even want to set your dining-room table with color-coordinated table settings.

When you list your home with the Schnoor Team, we provide you with an exhaustive list of ideas collected from decorators, stagers and The National Association of Realtors.  These are tried and true proven and effective ways to place your home at the TOP of the list for prospective buyers.  So give us a call we would love the opportunity to share with you!

It’s a Buyers Market for Real Estate Investors

by The Schnoor Team

Turn on any financial news program and at some point you’ll hear the experts extolling the virtues of diversification. Real estate, even through the market downturn, has long been considered a conservative, long-term strategy to growing wealth. 

In fact, that very downturn has created a historic buying opportunity for potential homebuyers and investors alike. The combination of lower home prices across American and historically low mortgage rates, two essential factors that usually don’t trend in the same direction, have triggered a buyer’s market in many areas of the country. For real estate investors who want to rent their properties, this can make the difference in achieving positive cash flow sooner or right off the bat. 

While some seasoned real estate investors make it look easy, to be successful, beginners should follow some basic principles. 

  • Learn all you can. Before committing your cash, you should have a fundamental understanding of real estate. For example, be aware that, in general, investment properties are not liquid investments. Barring exceptional circumstances, real estate does not sell at a moment’s notice. It could take days or months to sell a property, depending on the strength of the market in a particular region.
  • Consider cash flow. You’ll need to have enough capital on hand to cover any short-term losses due to vacancies between tenants.
  • Start small. Look into buying a condominium, single-family home or a duplex. Leave large apartment buildings and commercial properties to the pros.
  • Inquire at the local Chamber of Commerce about companies relocating into or out of the area. Company movement is one indicator of demand for rental and/or office space.
  • Find a property that will be in demand. Look for a moderately priced home with three or four bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a garage that sits on a quiet street.
  • Research the property. The most common way first-time investors lose is by failing to investigate a property thoroughly. Look beyond the front door. Investigate the reputation of the school district, the crime rate, and plans for expanding a nearby highway or developing vacant land. Ask a local real estate professional about the area, its history, and how fast (or slow) properties are moving.
  • Inspect the home you’re considering for signs of water damage, such as stains on the ceiling and crinkling or gathering wallpaper; open and close every door and window; and check all electrical sockets by plugging in an appliance. Get an independent home inspection, roof inspection and termite inspection. Unexpected repair costs can eat away your cash flow. Because even the best inspection can’t always predict problems, try to set aside some of the rental income for unexpected repairs.
  • Spend time driving the streets of the neighborhood noting the condition of other properties. Are lawns maintained? Are roofs in good shape? Are homes kept up?
  • Be ready to make fixes quickly and respond to the renter’s needs. If you’re not prepared to be a hands-on landlord, consider hiring a property management firm.
  • See your tax advisor for related planning and laws that can affect your investment decisions.

    Remember, investing in a property is much different than living in one, and while emotion and attachment can be prime motivators when it comes to homes, it is return on investment that counts when investing in real estate.

 

Owning a Home Has Its Benefits

by The Schnoor Team

Opportunity is knocking for those considering homeownership for the first time. Historically low interest rates, lower home prices in most markets and the first-time homebuyer tax credit – part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 – brought first-timers to the market in droves throughout the year. 

In fact, these consumers represented about half of home sales logged during 2009, according to the National Association of REALTORS®, a significant increase from historic levels. 

Today’s opportunities aside, here are eight time-honored reasons why those considering homeownership for the first time should make their move. 

1. Pride of Ownership

Owning your own home adds to your own sense of self-esteem and personal pride. The satisfaction that comes from feeling connected to the land you occupy and the home in which you live is ages-old.  

2. Security of Tenancy

With homeownership comes stability. When renting, you never know when you may have to move because of new ownership, rent increases or other changes. As a homeowner, you decide when and if you want to move. 

3. Privacy

While there are usually some limits on the access landlords have to property, almost all landlords can access your property for necessary inspections and maintenance. For many renters, this lack of privacy is a significant discomfort. Homeowners on the other hand generally have much stronger property rights and experience an increase in perceived and actual privacy. 

4. Decorating

Homeowners are free to decorate, remodel and accessorize a home any way they want. Not only do you have the right to make improvements, but the value of those improvements becomes yours as well. Having your living space and exteriors just the way you want them can significantly increase your satisfaction with your living environment. 

5. Financial Predictability

When you buy a home with a fixed-rate mortgage, you have more predictability over future housing costs. Because your interest rate never changes, the amount of your payment never changes. Financial planning and credit are more easily managed with a fixed-rate mortgage compared to renting. 

6. Building Equity

When you own your own home, you pay rent to yourself instead of a landlord. Most homeowners pay for their purchase by obtaining a mortgage. As you pay off that mortgage, your equity builds and you gain an increasingly larger share in a valuable asset. Over time, that asset can work for you in many ways, such as home equity lines of credit. And of course, a home is a wonderful asset to pass along in an estate. 

7. Investment Appreciation

There are certainly no guarantees of property value appreciation. In the long-term, however, real estate valuations almost always increase. This means that when you decide to sell your home, its value may be significantly higher than when you purchased it. The difference in value is called appreciation. You can reinvest that appreciation in other real estate or you may wish to downsize and keep the value of that appreciation for retirement or other purposes. 

8. Tax Benefits

In the United States, the cost of home mortgage interest and property taxes are usually tax-deductible. Depending on your circumstances, thousands of dollars in taxes can be saved each year. These tax savings are not limited to federal taxes either. Many states and localities either base their tax system on the federal system or offer similar incentives to homeownership. Some additional benefits are designed specifically for first-time homebuyers. (See your tax advisor for additional information.) 

If you still have doubts, call us here at the Schnoor Team and we will answer questions you may have about homeownership and explain the buying process to you, we take you from contract to closing!

Before You Buy Check for Restrictive Covenants

by The Schnoor Team

 

You’ve just toured the home of your dreams and are ready to make an offer. You can already envision upgrades you would like make: a pool in the back yard, window shutters and a black picket fence to match. You’re even excited that your boat will fit in the driveway. Yet, what you may not be aware of is that there are restrictions that dictate what can and cannot be done to or on the property. 

Homebuyers, especially first-timers, may not think of asking about restrictive covenants, yet when you purchase property governed by restrictive covenants, you are consenting to abide by those provisions. 

A restrictive covenant, which is a type of deed restriction, regulates a group of new and existing homes or building lots. Developers use them to preserve a development or subdivision as a model community and control its use and appearance. Buyers agree to the sometimes-rigid restrictions in order to maintain the aesthetic standard set by the developer and to safeguard the value of their homes. 

Restrictive covenants should not be confused with local zoning and government regulations. Some covenants and zoning regulations overlap; for instance, either can limit the height of a building. But, restrictive covenants tend to exert greater control over a homeowner’s lifestyle. In addition to standard clauses, which may stipulate a home’s minimum size, height, architectural style, and color schemes, covenants often ban practices that could be regarded as aesthetically objectionable--such as parking RVs, boats and non-running vehicles on the property. 

Covenants may additionally regulate grass height; window treatments; holiday decorations; walls, fences and hedges; as well as pets--some limit number and type of pets allowed. Very often, owners are required to make repairs within a specified number of days of the initial notification. Depending on a community’s location and other unique features, restrictions may be applied to the use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers and removal of dirt and trees. Owners can be prohibited from installing solar panels, building an enclosed patio or adding a swimming pool. Restrictive covenants can also prevent owners from renting the home or operating a home business, including music lessons and daycare. Condo and townhouse owners sometimes face even more rigid restrictions. 

What happens when a violation occurs? It’s up to the homeowner’s association or individual property owners to enforce a covenant. Local authorities cannot enforce contractual agreements. Instead, it’s likely that a committee would review the complaint, and then notify the homeowner. If the homeowner ignores the initial notice, he or she might receive a notice from an attorney. Legal action would be a last resort. 

Before You Buy

While most homeowners enjoy the quality of life resulting from restrictive covenants, some covenants may prevent you from living the life you planned. Before committing yourself to a property, be certain you can live with all the restrictions.

The Home Selling Process from Start to Finish

by The Schnoor Team

The Home Selling Process from Start to Finish

You’ve made the decision to sell your home. Even if you’ve sold a house before, this process can be daunting because it is a major financial transaction that involves many steps from selecting a sales professional and marketing the home, to negotiating with buyers and finally receiving funds at the closing. Yet, the home-selling process doesn’t have to be intimidating if you know what to expect. The process can be divided in nine steps.

Step 1: List your property with a real estate professional. Select someone who is knowledgeable, listens carefully, and with whom you feel comfortable. Interview at least three real estate professionals. Use their listing presentations to compare their preparation and professionalism. Don’t base your selection solely on selling price or commission. It’s probably best to avoid working with someone who promises you the moon—in this case, an unrealistically high price—then has to make price reductions until the property sells. Instead, focus on marketing plans, service and past results.

Step 2: Establish price and time frame. Determining a fair asking price is crucial in this market. Price the property too high and it could languish on the market. Of course you could always decrease the price later, yet you’ve lost potential buyers. Your real estate professional can help you determine true market value based on a comparable market analysis, which will include recent home sale transactions as well as homes currently on the market. Supply and demand, craftsmanship, amenities, condition and any special circumstances can also impact price. For instance, a relocation move might necessitate a quick sale.

Step 3: Develop and implement a marketing strategy. To get the most exposure for your home, you should have a marketing plan with clear objectives and an outline of specific resources to be used. Your plan should include a mixture of conventional and online marketing to optimize your reach to potential buyers.

Step 4: Get Your Home in Show Condition. Remember, you only get one chance to make a first impression. So make sure your home is in tip-top shape inside and out. Eliminate clutter and remove personal items. Refresh the paint, clean the carpets and make minor repairs. Keep the grass trimmed and add color to your landscape. You may also want to consider hiring a professional to stage your home. A home in move-in condition is much more attractive to buyers in a competitive market. 

Step 5: An offer is submitted. Once your home is on the market, a buyer will make an offer through his/her real estate sales professional. The buyer’s sales professional will present the offer to your representative, who will promptly relay it to you and help you evaluate the offer.

Step 6: The negotiation process begins and eventually an offer is accepted. One of the most critical roles played by your real estate professional is in the negotiation phase. Negotiations over the terms of a home-purchase contract can be extremely sensitive. The process of offer and counter-offer may go on until parties arrive at an acceptable contract, which can go very quickly or take days, even weeks.

Step 7: Buyers submit a loan application and home inspections are scheduled. Most often, the loan approval is contingent upon a satisfactory appraisal and various inspections.

Step 8: The loan is approved and the closing process begins. Once the buyer’s home loan has been approved, preparations begin for the closing. The closing, also referred to as settlement or close of escrow, is the final step toward completing the sales transaction between the buyer and seller. During this process, your sales professional will funnel all the necessary closing documents to the escrow agent. This may include the deed, mortgage, tax receipts, a Certificate of Occupancy and other documents. A final walk-through will also be scheduled. Once the escrow agent receives the paperwork and the funds pertaining to the sale of the property, the escrow is closed.

Step 9: Time to move!

Of course this is a simplification of what is otherwise a complex transaction. As you are going through each stage of the process, look to your real estate professional to provide guidance so that you feel comfortable every step of the way.  We obviously hope it will be The Schnoor Team!  We have closed hundreds of homes and we believe we have the experience & expertise you are looking for!

 

Five Ways to Create Curb Appeal

by The Schnoor Team

 

A sale can be made or lost as a direct result of your home's curb appeal. When it comes to selling your home, the first impression is probably the most important impression. If the outside of the property doesn’t create interest or appear well-maintained, a buyer may choose to not even come inside the home. Here are five ways to create curb appeal. 

  1. Paint and polish. A fresh coat of paint breathes new life into a tired-looking home. If your home looks dull or suffers from peeling, cracked or chipped surfaces, a paint job is a great investment. Polish the doorknocker and mail slot on the front door, as well as any light fixtures by the entry. Re-condition your deck. Consider renting a power washer to clean dirt and mildew from the wood, and then apply an all-weather sealer or stain. 
     
  2. Manicure the grounds. Mow and edge the grass, and trim the trees and bushes. Also, clear away dead leaves and flowers, and mulch and weed the beds. Check to see that tree branches are not touching the home's roof or outer walls. Add some color to your landscape by planting annuals and placing planters of flowers in strategic spots. You can even spruce up the property by hanging flowering baskets. Add flowering plants in the back yard, too.  
     
  3. Make needed repairs. See if anything is unhinged, loose or just an eyesore. Fix everything including broken fencing, windows and screens. Make sure winter’s cold weather didn’t leave any gutters sagging or loose. Replace any missing shingles from the roof. Try the doorbell. Check stairs and railings. Test doors for squeaks and rusted hinges. Don't forget to take a critical look at the property at night. Make sure the lights work, and replace dim and burned-out bulbs. 
     
  4. Unclutter. Tidy up the deck, patio and back yard. Rearrange the outdoor furniture to look inviting.  Put away gardening tools and toys. Clean up the barbecue area. Eliminate any "evidence" of pets, and restrict them to the back yard when showing the home. Move extra vehicles from the view of passersby.
     
  5. Clean. Clean the windows, inside and out, wash down the walks and driveway, and hose down the siding. Clean outdoor furniture and cushions. Check for oil spots on cement surfaces, especially the garage floor.         

The old saying about making a good first impression couldn't be truer than when you are selling your home. Even the smallest enhancements can make a big difference in creating love at first sight for buyers. 

Why use a Realtor when buying a new home?

by The Schnoor Team

We are constantly amazed at how many people we meet who will call us off of one of our signs to inquire about a property we have listed and they don’t realize having a Realtor costs the buyer nothing!  That is right, if you are purchasing a home; our services to you are FREE!  Doesn’t everyone like the word free? 

We begin to ask them questions about what they are looking for in a home and what price range they would like to stay in and then we immediately have answers for them as to which neighborhoods, areas or builders will suit their needs.  We also can email our clients updates daily or weekly to let them know what is new on the market…and again…this all is FREE to you as the buyer.

We recently sold a property for a client and then helped them negotiate a substantial amount off their new construction home being built.  If you visit the “about us” tab and review our bio’s we have worked as sales consultants and in management positions for new home builders, so we offer and insight many other Realtors can’t.  Please read what one of our clients had to say:

"Jon and Jeanne-Thank you for your care and great professionalism while we were selling our home and again when we signed for our new home being built.  You encouraged us, kept us informed, returned our calls quickly and were very efficient with the process of selling our home.  We received the exact amount for our home you had indicated we would probably get, proving you know the market well.  Thank you also for negotiating a good price for our new home.  We certainly will be contacting you to sell the second home we will need to sell." 
Dan and Sue Lutz 

So if you are considering buying a home or know someone who is, please give us a call!  Again…we are FREE!

Sun in the Land of Enchantment

by The Schnoor Team

When first coming to New Mexico, many people (including Jon & myself when we came here years ago) didn't realize the importance of sunscreen.  Full sunlight makes skin protection important, but when you consider that here in New Mexico we're almost 1 mile closer to the sun, it becomes an extremely important factor to consider.

In addition to protecting your skin and helping to keep you looking younger, sunscreen will also reduce the desert’s drying effects on your skin.  Many customers complete a long day of home-hunting, only to realize at the end of the day that they’ve gotten sunburned.

So whether you're surveying the progress of a new-home construction, or whether you're out and about searching for the perfect pre-existing home, be sure wear sunscreen so that at the end of the day you can have the perfect home...as well as perfect skin!

2x4 vs. 2x6 Construction: Does it really matter?

by The Schnoor Team

The debate between construction styles can be a very confusing experience for a first-time homebuyer, and perhaps even more confusing for those building their first home.  The two construction types at play here are 2x4 construction and 2x6 construction.  The most prominent benefit of 2x6 construction is that it leaves you with a wider wall, allowing space for additional insulation.  This added insulation helps reduce your cooling and heating bills throughout the warmest and coolest months of the year. 

Construction using the 2x6 (2x6x8 feet boards) method is more expensive, and this is where the debate begins.  Critics of the 2x6 framing method claim that the added costs to construction outweigh the benefits you’ll receive from improved energy efficiency.  There are some significant costs to 2x6 construction, the window and door jambs must be wider, requiring the purchase of a jamb extender which can increase the cost by $12 to $15 per opening. The cost of 2x4x8' studs is 40% less than a 2x6x8’ studs. On top of that, there are the bottom and the two top plates. Then there is the added cost for the extra insulation, as well as, deeper windowsills.  Critics state that 2x6 construction is no more effective than a 2x4 construction-framed house that is properly treated. 

Jon and I would disagree. Whether purchasing a home, or building your dream house, the benefit of more insulation is long term. It increases energy efficiency, and if combined with 2x6 studs with 24-inch centers, rather than 16 inch, can reduce labor cost, allow for more spacing for insulating around piping, wiring and duct work, and also provide more room for R-19 or R-21 wall insulation. It is far more economical in houses that are in colder/hotter climates, or homes in which windows or doors occupy less than 10% of the total wall area. 

We hope this article helped give you some new things to think about,  Jon and myself would be happy to answer any of your questions.  Please feel free to give us a call today if you are thinking about purchasing or building a new home, so that we can discuss the construction options you have available to you.

Displaying blog entries 1-9 of 9

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