When you purchase a home, you need to know exactly what you’re buying. Imagine how frustrated you’d be to find out that the hot water heater wasn’t working mid-shower! This is why you should have a home inspection before you buy your home. In Oregon, the inspection period is 10 business days after the sales agreement is signed. This time gives you, the buyer, a chance to have professionals take a look at the home and advise any repairs that it may need. Most commonly, there is a home inspection (a top-to-bottom inspection of the home), sewer scope (a camera is sent through the main sewer line to inspect it for obstructions or degradation), and a radon test (the Pacific NW and Portland have higher than average radon levels, so it may not be necessary in your area). However, not all inspectors are created equally. Just as in every profession, you’ll find good and bad inspectors. Usually your Realtor will have inspectors that they have worked with that they can recommend to you, but you should still do your homework. Before you hire a home inspector, here are a few questions to ask to make sure you’ve got someone that you will be happy with.
- What does your inspection cover? Not all inspections are the same. Different inspectors have different areas that they focus on, and a range of services. More often, now, we are seeing inspectors that act as a “one stop shop” for home, sewer, and radon. This is nice because you can set one appointment to get all your inspections done in a timely manner, especially if the home you’re buying is not vacant. Many inspectors also offer levels of inspections. A basic package is usually cost-effective and covers the State minimum requirements, and with increasing costs, you can add more detailed inspection. Also, be sure to ask if the inspection covers the garage. Many times if it a detached structure, the garage will cost extra. If you are concerned about something specific, like a leaky faucet in the bathroom, mention that to the inspector so they can check it out.
- Are you licensed or certified? If you live in a state that licenses home inspectors, ask to see their license. In Oregon, you’ll want someone who is licensed with the Construction Contract Board (CCB) and an Oregon Certified Home Inspector (OCHI). At the very least, choose a home inspector who belongs to American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI). This shows a level of professionalism and education that you can trust.
- What kind of report will you give me? You should expect a written report detailing what the inspector found. Most inspectors will give you a typed report within a week of the inspection. Great inspectors will give you your report at the site and go over it with you in person, which is why it’s important to be at your home inspection. The report should contain plenty of pictures and a good amount of detail as to what the areas of concern are. This will not only paint a picture of the overall condition of the home, but can help you and your Realtor decide which, if any, repairs you are going to ask for in the repair addendum.
- Do you offer re-inspections? In situations where you’ve requested major repairs, it’s a good idea to have the inspector come back out to reinspect the areas of concern. Many home inspection companies provide a re-inspection at a discounted cost to just look at the repairs that have been made to see if they were properly completed.
At the end of the day, the home inspection is a tool for the buyer to ensure that the home they are purchasing isn’t hiding unsafe and costly conditions. In competitive markets like Portland, people will sometimes waive the inspection period to make their offer stronger, but I think that’s like buying a car without a test drive. Taking the time and spending a little bit upfront can not only save you money later, but it can keep you from making a bad investment.
If you’re looking for a home inspector in the Portland Metro area, contact me and I can refer you to a few excellent local inspectors!
Anyone who knows me knows that I am a pet lover. I’m definitely one of “those” owners who is way too affectionate with their dog. Which means I’ve got pretty much 2 things on my mind at any given moment: real estate, and my pup. Pets are a part of the family, and when it comes time to sell your home, they can add some extra steps. Owning pets doesn’t have to mean a major obstacle for selling your home, though. Here are a few easy-to-follow tips that will have your place ready for showings in a snap:
Find a pet sitter during showings
There’s a good chance your prospective buyers are pet-friendly, but there’s also a chance that they don’t like animals or have allergies. There is a liability there as well if anything happens to a prospective buyer. I know my dog is very friendly when I’m around, but super protective of our home, especially if we’re not there. The safe bet is to keep your pets away from the home during a showing.
Give the home a thorough cleaning
Pet owners know that hair finds its way into every nook and cranny of a home. No matter how hard I try to keep up with dog hair, it always finds its way back. When you’re getting ready to sell your home, you should give it a top to bottom cleaning anyway, but if you’ve got pets you’ll want to especially do so. This means cleaning behind and underneath furniture and rugs, emptying out and cleaning closets, and cleaning any other hard-to-reach spaces that might be skipped during routine cleaning. Getting rid of pet hair and dust in those spaces will make a noticeable difference. This also will help combat pet smell: most pet owners become nose blind to the “dog” or “cat” smell in their home after a while, but buyers will definitely notice!
Create a quick pre-showing cleaning routine
The deep clean is a good start, but before a buyer shows up, make sure to sweep the floors, clean smudges from windows, and remove any hair from blankets and furniture. You don’t need to necessarily hide the fact that a pet lives there, but aside from maybe a toy bin and some food dishes, it shouldn’t be obvious. I’m also a big fan of the unscented Febreze Allergen Reducer (I have both the air spray and the fabric spray at my house). I think it does a great job of leaving the home smelling and feeling fresh, without being bogged down with scent. It also supposedly removes airborne allergens, which may be helpful for potential buyers with allergies.
Organize pet toys and other items
You don’t want toys, leashes, and other pet items strewn about your home. It should look like a human’s home, not an oversized doghouse. Get rid of the clutter and put all your pet items in one spot. A mud room or laundry room is a great spot for your pet’s belongings. If you have a cat that uses a litter box, it may be a good idea to put a cover over it at least when showings are being conducted. That way buyers won’t be staring into your cat’s litter box, and it may help contain any odor. This will improve your home’s appearance and show buyers that you are careful about containing pet-related activities.
What other ways have you prepped to sell your home with pets? Or do you have a horror story of a home with pet clutter and funk? Tell us in the comments!
Ah, the Comp. It’s a word you’ll hear over and over again in real estate. Comp is short for comparable property, and it is how a real estate agent will arrive at a market value for your home. If you are the seller, your agent will use comps to arrive at a recommended list price. If you’re the buyer, your agent will use comps to help suggest a fair purchase price. You may think that sale price is the only factor when you’re looking at comps and trying to set a price for your listing. But it’s actually a bit more complicated. Here are five things that affect comps that you might not be aware of:
- New construction nearby: Because of low prices for lots and varying prices in home building materials, new homes can actually be cheaper and cost less per square foot than existing homes. If there’s a lot of new construction nearby, that can affect the price for your own listing. A seasoned agent can account for this by using comps that are closer in age to your property, and assessing the quality of the finishes in a new construction compared to the subject property.
- Renovations: Recently renovated homes typically sell for more than homes that haven’t been updated in a while. If you’ve recently upgraded your home–especially sought-after upgrades like the kitchen or master bath, your home should be priced appropriately.
- Developable lots: Not all lots are created equal. Even if the square acreage is the same, a lot that’s easily developable will get a better price than a hilly or rocky lot that needs a lot of preparation. In this same vein is the zoning of the property. If your lot is zoned for multiple dwellings, it can fetch a higher price than a single family dwelling.
- Listing price vs. sale price: Whether sellers actually get their asking price depends greatly on the market. When you’re pricing your home, it’s important to look at sales prices, not just listing prices. The listing price doesn’t always accurately reflect what a home will sell for. Be sure to take note of average list price vs sold price as well. If homes are consistently selling for over or under listing price, it can give you a good idea of what a fair market value would be.
- Location: Nearby amenities, safety, schools, and noise levels can vary greatly within a neighborhood. Homes in more desirable parts of the neighborhood will sell for a higher price, all else being equal. Walkability is usually a very desirable trait, and so proximity to amenities can be a boost your home’s value. Similarly, being on too-busy of a street can lower your home’s value compared to other homes.
At the end of the day, fair market value is the price a buyer is willing to pay and a seller is willing to accept for a property. The best way to get your home in front of the most qualified and serious buyers is to have a competitively and accurately priced home, something a seasoned real estate broker can help you with!
Good News! You’ve finally put your home on the market. Bad News, you’ll have to spend more time out of the house, leaving it more exposed to the threat of thieves. Even if you’re still living in it until it closes, a for sale sign and an empty driveway might lure criminals, thinking it will be an easy target. Luckily, there are some precautions you can take to ensure that you and your home stay safe all through the selling process.
- Maintain Your Property. Especially in the wintertime, many people stay indoors and neglect issues such as peeling trim or an overgrown yard. But if the home looks unkempt, thieves may think it’s abandoned. This is especially true for homes that are vacant; while you may not be as concerned with thieves in an empty house, squatters can be an issue as well. Removing holiday decorations in a timely manner, clearing out debris, and keeping your lawn maintained will signal the home is occupied, and keep criminals from stopping in.
- Get Your Neighbors Involved. Many people don’t really know their neighbors; it’s more than just saying hi and being friendly. Invite them over to see your home before it goes on the market, and introduce them to the people they may see regularly stopping by during this time (especially your agent). Then they’ll know who is and isn’t supposed to be at your home and can better assess when there may be a threat while you’re gone. It is important to let them know that there will be other agents showing your property, though. Your agent should absolutely have a lock box that is provided by their local MLS to ensure that only bona fide agents can get in. Tell your neighbors that anyone who isn’t using the lock box or seems to be having difficulty with it may be suspicious.
- Assess your home’s vulnerability. Walk to the curb and face your house. Ask yourself, “How would I get in if I were locked out?” The first thing you think of, whether it’s the window with a broken lock or the door that won’t shut all the way, is exactly how a thief will get in. Think like a burglar, and then address the issues that come to mind. Also important to remember is that while a hide-a-key can be a great saver when you’re locked out, make sure it’s not in a place burglars would look. I’ve seen tons of cool diy key storage, but if you’ve got a pill case glued to the bottom of the only pine cone in the yard, there’s a good chance criminals will be able to find it.
- Respect the power of lighting. Criminals are cowards, and they don’t want to be seen. The house that is well-lit at night provides a deterrent because thieves don’t want the attention and the potential to be caught by witnesses. It’s wise to invest in tools that make nighttime light automation easy. That includes dusk-to-dawn adapters that go into existing light fixtures and motion detectors. But beware of leaving your exterior lights on at all times, which signifies the occupant is gone for an extended period of time.
- Use technology to make your home look occupied. In addition to lighting, smart-home technology has made it easier to make it appear like people are home, even when they’re not. Systems that remotely control lighting, music, and appliances such as a thermostat can help you achieve this. Though not considered smart-home tech, lamp timing devices available at hardware stores, or simply playing the radio while you’re away, are also good for this purpose.
- Yes, it has to be said: Lock your doors. It’s amazing how many people think they live in a safe-enough neighborhood not to have to lock their doors when they leave. Some facts sellers should know: In 30 percent of burglaries, the criminals access the home through an unlocked door or window; 34 percent of burglars use the front door to get inside; and 22 percent use the back door, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report.
- Reinforce your locks. A good door lock is nothing without a solid frame. Invest in a solid door jam and strike plate first, and then invest in good locks. Know the difference between a single-cylinder and a double-cylinder deadbolt. Double-cylinder deadbolts are recommended because they require a key to get in and out. For safety and emergency escape purposes, you must leave the key in when you are home. But double-cylinder locks are against regulations in some places, so check with your local police department’s crime prevention office. Another great idea is to replace the screws on your lock with thicker, longer screws. Most locks come with short screws that are easy to kick out of place. By using bigger screws, your lock is more secure and harder to kick or ram open.
- Blare the sirens. Burglars are usually in and out in less than five minutes, and they know police can’t respond to an alarm that quickly. Their bigger concern is witnesses to their crime. For that reason, an external siren is invaluable, whether as part of a monitored security system or a DIY alarm. Even if you don’t have an alarm, it’s not a bad idea to invest in fake security signs and post them near doors.
- Consider surveillance cameras. The Los Angeles Police Department started a program encouraging homeowners to install a device called Ring, a doorbell with video surveillance capability that allows homeowners to view what’s outside their door on their smartphone, in a neighborhood that was a target for burglaries. After Ring was installed in hundreds of homes, the burglary rate dropped by 55 percent, according to reports. Most state and local regulations require posting a warning that people are being recorded. (But again, this can be effective even if you don’t actually have the cameras installed!)
- Mark your valuables and record details. Use invisible-ink pens or engravers to mark identifying information (driver’s license or state ID numbers) on items. Log serial numbers and take photos of your belongings. Check to see if your police department participates in the Operation Identification program. They will have stickers for you to place on doors or windows warning would-be thieves that your items are marked. These steps may prevent them from pawning or selling stolen items and can help you reclaim recovered belongings.
Oh, and these tricks can be used even if you’re not planning on selling anytime soon! Keeping your home and belongings safe is always a good idea. How do you keep your home safe from intruders? Let us know in the comments.
When you’ve just purchased a new home, there’s a ton on your mind. There’s moving, decorating, getting to know your new neighborhood, and more. It is an exciting, if a little overwhelming time. In the rush to get settled, though, there are some important money-saving areas that tend to get overlooked. Here are a few things that should be at the top of your to-do list; they don’t take long, and can save you a ton of money in the long run:
Check on your water heater
Set your water heater for 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This is plenty hot enough for bathing, washing dishes, and any other household use of hot water, so heating water above 120 degrees is a waste of energy and money. And if your water heater is an older model, it’s worthwhile to invest in a water heater blanket to keep it insulated.
Replace air filters
Sellers often put in a lot of cosmetic work to get the home move-in ready, but they often skip or forget about air filters in the HVAC system. Filters can be found at your local hardware store (just make sure to get the right size) and are easy to replace. Doing so will improve air flow and quality, and save on energy costs. Air filters need to be changed periodically (depending on the type of filter and frequency of use, anywhere from every 1-6 months), and this will get you in the habit right away.
Get a smart thermostat
Seriously, a smart thermostat, is an incredible investment in your home. I know I’ve mentioned them before because I can’t get over how cool they are! The thermostats themselves are a little expensive, but you’ll make that money back in energy savings. Plus, in Portland, as well as many other cities, you can send in a mail-in rebate to your power company for switching over. It’s programmable so that your AC and furnace run at lower levels when you’re not home, so you’re not wasting money to cool or heat an empty house.
Set up a space to air-dry clothes
Whether it’s a rack in your laundry room or a clothesline in the back yard, air-drying clothes is a big money saver over even the most energy-efficient dryers. Even just getting a clothes drying rack to set up in one room when you need it is helpful. Air-drying your garments will also help them last much longer. If you’re lucky enough to have space in your yard for a clothesline, nothing beats the fresh scent of clothes dried by Mother Nature!
Check for leaks and running toilets
A leaky faucet or a constantly-running toilet will use up water unnecessarily, and that’ll show up on your utility bill. And in the worst case, they’ll cause expensive water damage and mold. Leaky faucets are usually an easy, inexpensive fix that you can do yourself. A lot of times, it’s as simple as replacing a cartridge. Of course, if you’re unsure of your plumbing skills, it’s always best to call a professional.
Do you have any go-to money savers that you implement in your home? Tell us about them in the comments?
Here’s one that I know my friends in the mortgage industry can get behind. There’s no more important time to work on your credit score than when you’re about to apply for a mortgage. There was once a time when if you could fog a mirror, you could get a loan (hello 2006!) but those days are long behind us. Now if you want to apply for a home loan, there are lots of qualifications. Having good credit is right at the top of that list. The higher your credit score, the lower the down payment you need to qualify, and likely the lower your interest rate. Improving your credit can save you a ton of money—we’re talking about thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. Here are the actions you can take that will have a notable impact on your score:
Pay down your credit card balances
Credit utilization is one of the biggest factors in determining your credit score. Your credit utilization should at least be less than 30 percent of your limit, and it’s even better if you can get it below 15 percent. This rule applies to both individual cards and your overall credit limit.
It may even be worthwhile to use some of the cash funds you were planning to use for a down payment to pay off credit card balances. Speak to your mortgage lender about the best avenues to take to ensure you’re getting the best loan possible!
Do no harm
Possibly the most important item on this list! While you certainly want to improve your score if possible, at the very least you’ll want to keep it steady. Avoid opening new lines of credit if you’re applying for a mortgage in the very near future. This will cause a hard inquiry to show up on your credit report. Whatever you do, don’t go car shopping or start furnishing your new home before the closing date! Otherwise your lender and Realtor® will be none too happy with you!
Take care of negative items
It’s good practice to check your credit report for negative items a few times a year—you can get one free report from each of the three major bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) per year. Sites like Creditkarma.com are great for keeping track of your credit scores for free as well.
If you find any negative items (collections, late payments, etc.), write a letter to the original creditor. Explain the circumstances that led to the negative item, and request that it be removed from your report. It can be surprisingly effective, and removing a negative item will improve your credit score in a hurry. You can find some good templates for a request letter online.
Once your credit is in order, your lender will be able to get you pre-approved for a loan amount. Make sure you get pre-approved before you start house hunting, or else you might fall in love with a home outside your budget!
Got any other credit tips? Leave them in the comments!
Unless you’ve been living off the grid for a while, you’ve probably heard about this great influx of people moving to Oregon–Portland specifically. For those of us that live here, it’s definitely been an adjustment to the increases in traffic, general cost of living, and the changes in housing availability and affordability. And of course there’s the great debate that comes with these changes: whether Portland was better off before all these newcomers, or if the influx has forced improvements that make the city better. Walk 5 feet down any street and you’ll hear 10 different opinions. This migration has got me thinking about something a little different, though: how people decide to move to a new city in the first place.
Moving to a new city can be a fun, but scary experience. I’ve done it a couple times now, and each time I feel the same way: excited but nervous, hopeful but hesitant, adventurous but like an outsider. It’s a mixture of good and bad feelings that forces me to take a good look at the move I’m about to make and ensure I have made a good decision. Now, I do have to say that there’s always unknowns, and no matter how much research you do, there are some things you can’t learn about a place until you move there. You can minimize the uncertainty, however. Answer these questions to figure out if this move is the right one for you.
1. Can I afford to move?
This is the biggest question you need to ask, so might as well get it out of the way first! Moving is expensive. If you’re just moving a town or two over, it’s less so, but there are still a lot of costs to consider. Are you driving to the new city? How much will gas cost along the way? Do you need a moving van? Movers? Boxes and packing materials all cost money, too. If you’re using a U-Haul or Penske truck, do you need a car carrier? When you get there, are you moving straight into your new place? Or are you doing your house hunting when you get there? You’ll have to budget for hotels or rentals while you’re looking at homes if it’s the latter.
You’ll also need to find out what the costs are for transferring utilities and updating your information at the DMV (if you’re moving out of state, find out how long you have to get this done! In Oregon, it’s 30 days after you’ve moved).
So, now that you’ve deducted the costs of the move itself, ask yourself:
2. Can I afford to move there?
3. Do I know anyone in the area?
Picking up and moving away from it all sounds great in theory, but the first few months after you’re in a new place can be very lonely. You can absolutely make it out on your own in a new place and thrive; many people do it every day. I will say, however, that having a point of contact somewhere in the vicinity is such a comforting feeling, even if you’re moving with another person. I live 1000 miles away from my parents, but I’m only 50 miles away from my stepdad’s family. I don’t see them all that often, but when I make it down to visit, I feel welcomed, eat more food than I ever should (plus leftovers!), and get to have that sense of family that I don’t get every day. It also eases my mind that if there is an emergency for whatever reason, family can get to me fairly easily.
Chances are, you know SOMEONE that lives near where you’re going. Between high school and college, I think I have acquaintances in most major cities across the US. Reach out to them before making your move, and you can at the very least pick their brain about the city. If you’re comfortable, try to plan a meet up when you get to town. It will help you feel like you’re not so alone.
4. What is the Cultural Climate?
Most people have a sense of this before they move, but it’s important to think about nonetheless. Different regions have wildly different attitudes, and you don’t want to end up somewhere where your ideals and beliefs make you an outsider before you even get there. Attitudes can change vastly in small areas as well; for instance, Portland is thought of as a very liberal city, but go just a few miles out of town and you’ll find rural, more conservative folk dominate the area. You can even find big differences just within one city. Now, I’ll be the first to say that political attitudes are not the end-all, be-all on what an area is like, but it is important to be aware of how people in general react, as you will be able to make an informed decision.
5. What will I do when I get there?
Obviously, if you’re working, you’ll need to find a job. But it’s just as important to figure out what recreational activities your new home has to offer. Many people move to Portland for the easy access to nature, but that’s far from all the city has to offer. Again, Google will be your friend here, as you can search for any interests you have to find events and communities in the city. If you’ve never heard of Meetup.com, it can be a life-saver for newbies in town to find new people and experiences. There are so many groups to join, and most cities have at least one “New to ____” group specifically for people who have recently moved to the area. I’ve met great people and tried all sorts of things I never thought I would through this website. The human connection can’t be overstated, either.
I hope this has been helpful to you as you think of making your move to a new place. And when you’re ready to buy a home in your new city, be sure to reach out to me!
Not all home improvement projects are created equal. Some renovations may cost a lot but not add significant value to your home. This tends to be the case for things like room additions, which almost always cost more than the added value onto your home. This list goes in the opposite direction: Here are some inexpensive home improvement projects that will not only increase your enjoyment of your home, but will also increase the home’s value.
1. High Quality Ceiling Fans
In a recent National Association of Home Builders survey, ceiling fans ranked No. 1 as the most-wanted decorative item. If your ceiling fans are outdated, spending a few hundred dollars to get new ones is well worth the investment. Firstly, a new ceiling fan is practical. If they haven’t been updated in a long time, chances are a new one will be more energy efficient. Replacing the standard cream colored fan will make your home feel instantly less dated as well. Aside from that, the new look can give your home a high-end feel that isn’t as costly as other finishes.
Mature trees can be worth as much as $10,000 toward the value of your home. Trees also protect your home from the elements and prevent erosion. A nice, shady tree in the yard can do wonders for your curb appeal, as well. It’s a good idea to talk to an arborist about what trees to get and where to plant them. This way, you can ensure that you don’t plant too close to the house or accidentally bring in an invasive species. Another positive to talking to a professional: if your trees are still young, buyers may be concerned about how big they’ll grow and any issues with roots spreading. Having the arborist’s professional opinion will put buyers at ease and they can instead think about that great tire swing they’ll be able to put in.
3. Energy Efficiency
Buyers are increasingly interested in saving energy, so any efficiency update is worthwhile. Like the ceiling fans, most electrical items will increase the energy efficiency of your home simply by being newer. One of the most popular energy efficient updates we’re seeing is people installing smart thermostats in their home. Most likely, you’ve heard of Nest, which runs for around $250, and can save you a ton of money in yearly heating costs. Generally easy to install, it’s a quick way to bring your home into the future, and give your home an stand out selling point.
4. Outdoor lighting
Exterior lighting is great for highlighting the accents of your home. It helps tie the interior and exterior into one living space. Lighting fixtures on a back patio will give the impression that the space is finished and all the new owners will need to do is set up their furniture to start entertaining!
You can finish a room with crown molding or railing for as little as $1.50 per foot if you take a DIY approach, and it’s extremely desirable among prospective buyers. Just that little addition makes a room seem richer, and coupled with a your new ceiling fan, can turn an average living room into a high-end one for way less than a full remodel!
Hopefully, this has given you some ideas for ways to gain value in your home without having to spend a ton of money. Even if you’re not ready to sell yet, these updates are a great idea to improve your home’s worth and your quality of living!