Should I Haggle Over the Price?

Should I Haggle Over the Price?Buying a home, especially for the first time, is emotional. You’ve saved and scrimped for months—years even—and now you’ve found the home of your dreams. You’re in love and you don’t want someone else to get it.

Joss Whedon, the mastermind behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer says, “Never sit at a table you can’t walk away from.” That is, don’t begin a negotiation if you’re not willing to say “no” if it doesn’t move in the direction you favor. The truth is…if you can’t walk away from that home, you probably won’t do well and may even give up more than you need to.

When you’re negotiating over the purchase of a home that you’ve become emotionally invested in, it’s more difficult to stand your ground or walk away when the haggling becomes fierce. To succeed in a negotiation, you need resolve based on facts, not emotions.

Base your resolve on knowledge of the market: knowing the market gives you the advantage moving on to another similar home if this one doesn’t work out.

Let your professional do the haggling: Your real estate professional knows which areas in the deal might be negotiable and which probably aren’t. She also knows, or can learn, more about the home’s situation.

  • Has it been on the market for a while?
  • Is it being sold by the former residents? Or, is it being sold by a nephew that inherited it? Is it part of a divorce? The more you know about the seller, the better you can judge if they’ll negotiate. Public records can give you some information about both the property and the seller.
  • Are there circumstances in the neighborhood that can give you wiggle room (i.e. a shopping mall going in near by, periodic odors wafting in the home’s direction a couple times a year from nearby industry)?
  • Know what the nearby comparable homes sold for and why (updated kitchen, new bath, in-ground sprinklers).
  • Ask! If you don’t ask, you don’t know. The more questions you ask, the more information you have to negotiate with.
  • Stick to the basics and don’t get hung up on easily changed decorations, appliances, carpeting or window treatments. You’re buying the structure.
  • Avoid contingencies. If you’re asking for concessions and negotiating the price, don’t expect the seller to agree to a contingency on the sale of the home you currently own.
  • Determine which is most important to you: location, price or size. Then, craft your negotiations around the on that is most important to you and your family.
  • Know if you’re in a buyer’s market, a seller’s market or a balanced market so you can tailor your negotiations to the market forces. In a seller’s market, try negotiating for simple additions to sweeten the pot, but don’t offer low-ball pricing unless you know the seller is in a distressed situation. In a buyer’s market, push for options on closing times, upgrades to flooring or appliances or keeping the patio furniture. In a balanced market, expect negotiations to take longer, or agree to things like splitting costs.

You want the seller to feel that he came out well, even if you win some concessions in the negotiations. When both the buyer and seller feel good about the transaction, the negotiations will be smoother and more positive.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Futuristic Kitchen Upgrades

Futuristic Kitchen UpgradesA recent display at the Saloni design fair in Milan, Italy, featured parts of Concept Kitchen 2025, a collaboration between IKEA, the IDEO design firm and Swedish design students. Their exhibit showcases concepts from tables that double as computers and cooktops to food storage appliances that read RFID chips on food packaging that programs the correct storage temperature via “smart induction cooling technology.”

In addition to technological advances, the displays included more traditional and even ancient technology such as naturally cooling terracotta storage boxes for root vegetables, potatoes, garlic or onions.

Other technology included ingenious designs for collecting gray water to reuse for watering plants or pre-washing dishes, faucets that respond to the intensity of touch by increasing or reducing water pressure, and visible food storage that encourages healthful snacking.

Many of the designs promoted the concept of small but adjustable living. Since many people will live in cities where space is scarce, kitchens with adjustable to fit the needs of the user with more or less storage, changes in the height of shelving, expandable tables and other surfaces, and other options.

While these designs may be incorporated into future appliances and kitchen items, some items may be in stores sooner. Move over, Jettsons … check out these futuristic kitchen helps available now.

  • Minipresso: This miniature espresso machine can travel with you anywhere. It is lightweight, compact and operates by hand so it does not impact on the environment.
  • Indoor microgarden: Grow your own herbs without the dirt or mess in an origami-inspired paper gardening kit.
  • SpreadThat: An advanced butter knife that uses your body heat to soften the butter as it slices offers up the perfect spread.
  • Interactive Prep Pad: a scale and prep area that keeps track of nutritional values to help you reach your health goals.
  • Furtif knives: These laser-bonded, titanium carbide kitchen knives only require sharpening once every couple of decades or so.
  • WiFi enabled Crock-Pot: When timing is everything, this slow cooker allows you to control it from wherever you are via your 3G, 4G or WiFi enabled smart device. You can adjust the cooking time, the temperature or turn it off from wherever you happen to be, so dinner is ready right on time.
  • ChillThat icecream dish: A step of from frosty mugs, this cool number keeps your icy treat frozen while you eat it. The refreezable bowl and cover are composed of an engineered thermal absorption material that protects your ice cream while keeping it the perfect temperature.

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Why Use Wood-Look Tile?

Wood-Look Tile

A newer trend sweeping the building industry is the use of wood-look porcelain or ceramic tiles. While natural wood flooring is still an optimal choice for most homes, here are some reasons you may want to take a second look at wood-look or wood-grain tiles:

Humidity situations:

  • Moisture: if you live in a humid or moist climate, natural wood may succumb to warping or swelling when exposed to excess moisture. Fluctuations in humidity levels where the level in the air is higher than the level in the wood can cause a condition known as “cupping.” Cupping is when the floor has a washboard appearance and feels uneven underfoot.
  • Lack of moisture: in the reverse situation, where the wood has more moisture than the air, the moisture in the wood evaporates and causes shrinkage. In plank wood flooring, gaps may form between the planks. Parquet flooring exposed to low humidity may loosen and break apart. Even in typically high-humidity areas, running a furnace in the winter can reduce indoor humidity enough to damage wood flooring.
  • Properly laid porcelain or ceramic wood-look plank tiles give the rich look of wood, but do not swell or shrink with excess humidity or arid conditions.

Temperature control:

  • In warm climates, the cost of air conditioning can be a budget breaker. Ceramic and porcelain tiles are cooler to the touch and can help reduce the need for excessive air-conditioning.
  • At the same time, ceramic and porcelain tile is not as cool to the touch as marble, for example, so in colder climates it is not too cold in the wintertime. If your climate tends to extremes, you can mitigate the cold flooring in winter by installing radiant or hydronic (circulate water) heating mats under the tile.

Durability:

  • Tile comes in five varying grades of durability rated from light traffic to extra heavy traffic. The choice of tile should reflect the traffic and use that it will receive. Tile strength is graded by the Porcelain Enamel Institute and rated for hardness from Group 0 (only wall tile) to Group 1 (I, or PEI1) through Group 5 (V, or PEI5).
  • Compared to wood or carpet, ceramic or porcelain tile is water, stain and wear resistant. That means you can get a wood look in your kitchen or bath and not worry about damaging the floor if your dishwasher floods or the kids start a water fight in the shower.
  • Scratches can mar the look of wood flooring, requiring expensive sanding and refinishing. Laminate flooring like Pergo cannot be repaired once scratched—those individual planks need to be replaced. Depending on the grade, ceramic or porcelain tile is nearly impervious to scratches from normal wear and tear, so if you’re one of those homeowners that like to move the furniture every week or two, but love the look of wood flooring, wood-like tiles are a win-win.

Resale value

For homeowners, along with all other considerations is the concept of resale value and return on investment (ROI). Wood flooring increases home values, but wood-look ceramic or porcelain tile can add the same or similar value over the long-term. Additionally, tile often is less expensive to install, so your return on investment can be even greater.

The best choice is the choice that fits you and your family’s lifestyle, continues to look good for years and is easy to maintain.

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Help for Prospective Homebuyers

Help for Prospective Homebuyers

While there is no dearth of advice when it comes to saving up to buy a home, some of us just need a little more help.

Introducing the Housing Counselor

What, you ask, is a housing counselor? Different from a real estate agent or broker, a housing counselor is a neutral party that does not make money from the purchase (or sale) of a home. Her sole mission is to:

  • Educate potential homeowners so that when they make the decision to purchase a home, they are reading financially, and
  • Help them keep the home once they’ve purchased it.

Many housing counselors work for non-profit and not-for-profit organizations. They offer unbiased information, recommendations and options for each client’s circumstances. Their information and advice takes into account the potential homebuyer’s financial history, family situation and time of life, and future goals and plans. To them, it’s all about you … not about making a sale or commission.

When you develop a relationship with a housing counselor, you can maintain that relationship through all phases of your homeownership experience. In fact, coming to the table to purchase your first home with the advice of a housing counselor makes the job of your professional real estate agent more focused and directed. You already know how much you can afford, and how much you need. You’ll know which loan options will for you.

When a Housing Counselor is required

Sometimes, meeting with a housing counselor is a requirement of being approved for a loan. This often is true in the case of homebuyers utilizing low-downpayment loans and government subsidized loan programs. If you’re wanting to purchase a home after a bankruptcy or foreclosure, a housing counselor can help you find programs set up directly to assist you if your situation has improved, despite what your credit history says.

Sometimes a required meeting with a housing counselor helps you fully understand the ramifications of alternative financial products, such as a HUD reverse mortgage or possible federal and local grants that might be available for your situation. When you meet with a housing counselor, they’ll show you the various loan options available and explain how each one works, what the requirements are for approval and how it can impact your finances now and in the future.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) offers advice on owning a home, keeping a home and loan options. Their website offers links to HUD-approved housing counselors to help you through the process.

If you are working with a housing counselor, let your real estate professional know. We can coordinate our search with the recommendations from your housing counselor so that your home buying experience is optimal for you. Knowing ahead of time helps us define the parameters in our search to show you the very best options for your home purchase.

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Lofts — Not Just for the Young

LoftsAs a real estate trend, loft living is here to stay. Originally thought of as live/work spaces for artists and musicians, the term “loft” evokes transformed warehouses and industrial spaces with exposed brickwork, open pipes and electrical conduits and other industrial-type accoutrements such as old wood or concrete floors. While the original concept of a loft is the transformation of an old commercial building into big, open living spaces, modern lofts can include new construction and spaces with walls, too. Buyers drawn to loft living include historic artistic residents, young professionals and even empty nesters and Baby Boomers.

Easy care

While artists are looking for more space and young professionals want to be nearer to work and nightlife, empty nesters desire the spaces as an answer to their need for less demanding upkeep. With no yard to mow or flowerbeds to tend, roofs to replace or leaves to rake, the urban life is a great draw for active mid-life professionals once their children leave home.

Easy access

Living in a warehouse just for the sake of living in a warehouse is not what we’re talking about here. Even in small communities, downtown living typically means being nearer to activities, theatres, public libraries, medical care, shopping, offices and public transportation. For some, living nearer to the places they like to go means they’ll actually get to experience events more often. Leaving work, driving home to the suburbs only to turn around and come back into the city for a show, concert, gallery opening, etc. is a huge effort compared to stepping out the front door of your loft building and walking a couple blocks to the theatre district.

Alternatives

As urban loft living grows in popularity, the strict definition of a loft as a transformed warehouse, commercial or industrial building has given way to some new construction and to the so-called “soft lofts.” Due to the popularity of actual converted lofts, savvy developments replicating some of the features of traditional lofts into new construction offer an option for urban loft-style living in newly-built buildings that take advantage of the urban atmosphere and open floorplans. But, they offer lower-cost utilities with the use of more ecologically designed windows or more efficient heating and cooling options. Often, soft-lofts use recycled materials and renewable resources. Additionally, rather than one large space, a soft-loft may have actual walls dividing bedrooms from kitchens and other more traditional apartment features including built-in closets.

Community

A most compelling reason for loft living in an urban area is the sense of close community that many residents claim from living and working near to where they also shop and play.

If you’re interested in learning more about loft-style condominiums or commercial buildings that might make a great loft conversion, we can guide you through the ins and outs. Give us a call today and we’ll get started.

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Keeping Your House Show Ready

Keeping Your House Show-Ready

Having your house on the market while you’re living in it can be a stressful time. You still have to live. The dog still puts muddy prints on your freshly mopped floor. The kids still race down the hallway bumping into your freshly painted walls. Construction down the way still lays that fine layer of dust on your mini-blinds.

So what’s a busy home-seller to do?

The best advice from people that instinctively know how to keep a house ready to show is:

  • Clean as you go: So, as you’re cooking, give the counters a swipe with a damp sponge and don’t leave the dishes for later because later can become the next morning and the you get a call while you’re at work that a very interested buyer only has today to look at your house, and well … there you are, trying to figure out how to race home from work to wash those dishes. Put a squeegee in the shower and give the glass doors and walls a swipe every time you take one.
  • Less is easier: Having less stuff means there is less to get out, so less to put away. When you’re house is showing, pack away all those knick-knacks that collect dust. Remove extra furniture so that cleaning the floor is easier.
  • Use containers: Give your kids lidded containers for their stuff. At the end of the day, have them collect all of their things—toys, video games, iPods, etc.—and put them away in their container. They can keep it in their closet or you can stack them away in the laundry room…whatever works for your space.
  • Use tricks: Okay, sometimes you just can’t keep everything clean all the time, so you have to resort to some quick ways to hide the mess. Cover furniture with blankets or throws to keep pet hair and kids messes off the upholstery. Then, you can just grab the blanket or throw, fold it up and hide it in the washer. Or, keep a Swiffer on hand to quickly gather up dust, pet hair or those muddy footprints.
  • Have a plan: When you’re living with the constant need to have a clean home, you have to adjust how you think about cleaning. Many of us let the little messes pile up because we know we’ll get to it on the weekend. In fact, in many homes an entire Saturday morning can be set aside for cleaning. But when your house is on the market, you can’t let things wait for Saturday, so have a plan for just 20 minutes a day (or 10 each if your partner is onboard) to pick up, put away, wipe down and surface clean.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

Your real estate agent knows that you’re living in the house. They can help you decide which are the big things that you need to concentrate on and which are the small things that won’t make a difference to a sale. We’re here to help, so ask us.

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Spring Cleaning

Spring CleaningNow that the weather is finally warmer and spring really seems to be here, it’s time to tackle some of those nasty cleaning jobs you’ve been putting off. If you’re planning to put your house on the market, or getting ready to leave a rental for your newly purchased home, take on these projects now. Don’t procrastinate.

Refrigerator

We don’t know how it happens, but refrigerator drawers and shelves seem to collect gunk and goo. We can swipe them with a wet cloth on the fly, but at least a couple times a year we need to remove all the contents and give those shelves and drawers a really good scrub. Typically, these pieces are too large to fit in the sink, so consider taking them outside. Use a biodegradable cleaner and wash them out over your lawn so that the water does double duty.

Rugs

Those beautiful rugs that kept our toes cozy all winter are due for a good beating. Of course, you can vacuum them as well, but sometimes a good shaking or whacking with a broom or rug beater is just the ticket. Make sure you have a sturdy clothesline or balcony rail to hang them over. Letting them air out in the fresh outdoors can help get rid of that musty winter odor too.

Mini-Blinds

Though wonderful for controlling sunlight, mini-blinds are a housekeeper’s nightmare. Dusting each of those little slats, or even using special tools doesn’t always work. At least once a year, lay them out on the lawn and give those blinds a good spray with an eco-friendly degreaser. Then, use the hose and a spray nozzle to wash off all the grime. Dry them in the warm sun before hanging them back up.

Comforters and Duvets

Take your large blankets, comforters, duvets and quilts and wash them in your own large capacity washer or take them to a nearby Laundromat. But, rather than pay for all that drying time, bring them home and hang them out on a sturdy clothesline or railing to dry outdoors. Giving them a good airing out can give them a lovely freshness and prepares them to be packed away until the cold weather returns.

Trash cans

Even when you use bags, your trashcans are subject to grime and ooze. Line them all up on the edge of the patio, fill them with organic dish soap and put the kids to scrubbing with big sponges. If a water-fight ensues, all the better! Once the cans are clean, let them dry outdoors.

Inside

While all your carpets, trashcans, quilts and blinds are drying in the sun, now is a good time to mop those floors, dust the overhead fans and tackle the windows. Of course, spring-cleaning all goes more quickly if you round up the whole family to help for just one day a year.

If you’re getting ready to sell your home, there are some other items you should consider tackling too. Give us a call and we can tell you just where you need to invest the most time and effort.

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Final Four for Home Buyers

Final Four for Home Buyers

When it comes to basketball, we only have 64 teams to narrow down into our Final Four to fill our brackets. When it comes to buying our first home, we have thousands of options and dozens of choices to consider, but when it all comes down to it, there are just a handful of things that are really important to new homeowners:

  • Affordability
  • Livability
  • Accessibility
  • Sociability

Affordability

Once you’ve bought your new home it’s too late to really consider if you can afford it. With a house, the bottom line of the sales contract is not the bottom line of expenses. In addition to Principle, interest, taxes and mortgage insurance, you’ll need homeowner’s insurance (not the same as mortgage insurance, which only insures the bank, not you), landscaping (or, if you’re doing it yourself you’ll need all that equipment), downpayments on utilities, travel expense if you’re further away from your workplace and money to set aside for maintenance. If you’re planning on making any improvements, you’ll need to set aside money for that too. So, when you’re planning on purchasing a home, don’t forget to add in all the other costs to live in it once you get it.

Livability

Buying a home, whether or prebuilt or custom built just for you, introduces a host of options about appliances, numbers of bedrooms and bathrooms, garage space and even the layout of the kitchen. If you don’t know how your family lives in a space, you may end up with a house is beautiful inside and out, but just doesn’t fit your living style.

In fact, you’ll find lots of stories about people that bought new homes only to find out that their current furniture didn’t fit. Talk about a new expense! But when you can see your furniture in the room, and start making decisions about where to place items before you’ve even made an offer, you’re probably on the right track.

Some people move to popular neighborhoods because it seems like a good investment, only to discover that none of their friends live nearby and rules of the association make it difficult for them to work on favorite hobbies. Others move to the countryside, with panoramic mountain vistas or lake views only to discover that they’d rather be in a downtown walkup.

Accessibility

If you don’t travel to and from your potential new home during rush hours, weekends and other potential traffic times, you won’t know how accessible it will be for you and your family. A lovely home that your family enjoys while you commute two hours each way to work is probably not the perfect choice for you. Additionally, if you’re planning to live in the home for many years to come, you’ll want to avoid homes with lots of stairs, narrow doorways and other structural items that might make it less useful as you get older.

Sociability

Living out of town can seem like a dream (and for many people it is a perfect location), but if you like to go out in the evenings or walk over to meet friends at a nearby pub, you’ll find it hard going living a distance from your local haunts.

As your real estate professionals, we can help you find the perfect home for all the parts of your life. We won’t talk you into anything that doesn’t fit into your final four.

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