Archive for Homebuyer Advice

Why Choose a New Home?

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Why Choose a New Home?

Earlier this month the Sacramento Bee featured a story detailing home builders’ plans to construct upwards of 10,000 new homes in the Folsom region within the next several years. Just a few days later that same journal ran a story highlighting the forecast for major new home growth all over the Sacramento region. Similar types of stories are popping up in markets all over the nation right now. So it seems it’s now safe to say without hesitation: It’s official – the new home renaissance has begun!

If you’re thinking about purchasing a home right now, you may be wondering whether you should give serious consideration to purchasing a new home instead of a resale home. Since new homes are generally believed to have a slightly higher price tag than resale homes, are the benefits of a new home purchase really worth the extra cost? Here are a few compelling reasons for you to consider a new home purchase:

Customization

This a huge advantage of purchasing a new home vs. a resale home. When you move into an older home, what you see is what you get. While it’s true that you can make simple esthetic changes such as paint schemes, etc., to fit your preferences, doing this is often both costly, time-consuming, and a hassle. And the majority of changes you might be inclined to make will require a lot more than just a simple bucket of paint and a paintbrush. The costs incurred to make significant improvements in the esthetics, layout, or individual features of your home can really add up. By contrast, when you purchase a new home you will be able to make many of these choices before you ever get the keys to your new home in your hands.

Lower utility costs

Older homes have older appliances and older electrical systems. They can often be poorly insulated, leading to higher utility costs. Frequently, when someone buys an older resale home, the first thing they will be advised to do is purchase new windows and newer energy-efficient appliances to keep utility costs under control. New home builders are aware of what a concern high energy costs are to homeowners and they build their homes with careful attention to energy efficiency. The resulting decrease in utility prices can be quite considerable.

Fitted to modern lifestyles

The home features that many homeowners prefer, and often even require, have changed significantly in recent years. Advances in technology, shifting socio-economic factors, and increased urbanization all play a role in determining what kinds of homes modern families are seeking. New homes are built to be more adaptable and more in tune with what the current generation of homeowners need. This can be a powerful factor in determining what kind of home you purchase.

Be the first!

Last but not least, there is the simple, but not insignificant pleasure of being the first to “inaugurate” your new home. There is just something special about owning something as meaningful as your own home right from its very inception. A new home gives you and your family the opportunity to write your own history in every square inch – something that is truly priceless!

The Advantage Group is currently selling homes in a variety of communities in the Greater Sacramento Region. Check out our New Home Communities page for more information!

Real Estate 101: The Final Walk-Through

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013

Real Estate 101: The Final Walk-Through

So you’ve finally come to the finish line of the home buying process. You are just a few days away from closing and getting the keys to your new home in your hot little hands. You are more ready than ever to move in and start your new life. But there’s one last step in the process before you close the deal – the final walk-through. Why is this step so important? How can you maximize the value of your final walk-through? Here are a few tips to guide you through this last step of the home buying process:

Verify that all repairs were performed. This step is important for both buyers and sellers. The final walk-through gives us a chance to make sure that no repairs were forgotten or left incomplete, so carefully check that each and every repair that was agreed upon was performed. Resist the temptation to avoid checking on repairs that are challenging to access – for instance, areas in the basement, attic, or crawl spaces. This process will benefit not only the buyer but also the seller – verifying that all repairs were performed protects the seller from any post-escrow legal issues. Bonus tip: If repairs were performed by a contractor, obtain their contact information from the seller. This can be useful if future issues arise related to the repairs they performed.

Check for any major problems that could’ve arisen since the home inspection. While it may be unlikely, it’s possible that new problems have arisen since your home inspection was performed. Check for any problems that could mean major repair work, especially paying attention to anything that can leak – toilets, dishwasher, shower, etc.

Take your time and be thorough. Sometimes even the things you think of as minor may be the most expensive to repair. So give yourself plenty of time for the walk-through and make sure to give attention to every area of the home. Bonus tip: Make sure the final walk-through is not scheduled too far in advance of the closing date. Ideally, your walk-through should be scheduled for 24-48 hours before closing.

Be reasonable. Almost every home will have flaws and it may become clear during your final walk-through that some minor repairs will be necessary. Think carefully about whether or not the repair in question is important enough to  you to potentially jeopardize the closing of the deal.

If you have concerns during your final walk-through, now is that time to address them because it will be too late once the keys are in your hand! In all the excitement of closing your real estate deal, it may be tempting to rush through this important last step. Resist that temptation! The final walk-through is an important part of the home buying process that deserves your full attention.

Have questions about walk-throughs or any other aspect of the real estate process? Our agents are here to help! Contact us at info@taghomes.com with any questions you have and we will be happy to assist you promptly.

Builder Spotlight: Premier United Communities

Monday, March 25th, 2013

Builder Spotlight: Premier United Communities

New home builders have faced a rocky road to economic recovery in recent years. Even now, with the housing market in a greatly improved state, builders face many obstacles – diminishing supply of lots and land, shortages of workers and building materials, and a tougher regulatory climate. And yet with all these challenges, new homes are getting built and sold here in Sacramento and are proving a key to our economic recovery.

This week on the blog we’d like to put a spotlight on one local builder making a huge positive impact in Sacramento – Premier United Communities. Premier United currently has two new home communities open in the greater Sacramento region – Stone Harbor in West Sacramento and West Colonial Estates in Roseville. The homes in these communities, and other recently closed communities, have either completely or nearly completely sold out and have done so with remarkable speed. Additionally, Premier United will open other new home communities this year in Carmichael, Granite Bay, and Lincoln.

The key to Premier United’s recent successes is based on more than just great locations and high quality homes. Their approach to building homes is based on a true partnership with the home buyers. Collaboration with buyers, being in tune with what they want out of their homes and communities, is a crucial part of their business. In this, they provide a great reminder for all of us in the real estate community that being in tune with our clients, listening and communicating freely, is absolutely essential to success.

If you’d like to learn more about Premier United Communities, please visit their official site: http://premierunited.com/

Getting a Quality Home Inspection

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

Why Should You Get a Home Inspection?
Part Four: Getting a Quality Inspection

In recent weeks, we’ve been discussing the merits of home inspections – for buyers and sellers, on homes both new and old. But how can you ensure that you are getting a quality home inspection?

The value of your home inspection will depend largely on the quality of your home inspector. What should you be looking for when you hire an inspector? Here are two keys to achieving a quality home inspection:

CHOOSING YOUR INSPECTOR

You may want to save a little money by hiring a friend who is house-handy to perform an inspection for you. Big mistake! Anyone hired to inspect your home should have the training and qualifications necessary to perform a sound inspection. This includes meeting, or exceeding, state licensing requirements. A good home inspection company will require that its service professionals have rigorous training and meet ongoing quality review standards. How can you verify this? Ask! You should always feel comfortable asking a home inspector for their credentials and experience.

Additionally, it’s important to work with an inspector with a good reputation. Ask others you know who’ve recently gone through the home inspection process if they had a good experience with their inspector. When considering using a home inspector or inspection company, ask for referrals. A quality company or inspector will happily provide these.

ATTENDING THE INSPECTION

Depending on the size of the home and other details, a home inspection will generally last 2 – 4 hours. It is crucial that you attend the inspection. It gives you a chance to see what the inspector is doing, ask questions (as you will likely have many), and give him a chance to explain his process and findings. This doesn’t mean you have to crawl underneath the house with him or follow him onto the roof. But being available in person gives you an invaluable opportunity to ask questions and feel confident that your home inspection is being done thoroughly.

Some people might be inclined to worry that they will annoy a home inspector by asking many questions, but a quality home inspector will both expect and welcome questions and appreciate the opportunity to explain his process and findings in better detail. So don’t hold back. A good home inspector will never be annoyed by your interest in your future investment.

It’s true that there are many factors to consider when arranging for a home inspection. But the satisfaction and confidence that a good inspection provides is surely worth the effort!

Looking for a quality home inspector in the Sacramento area? We recommend our good friends at Buyers Protection Group!

Why Should You Get a Home Inspection for a New Home?

Tuesday, January 29th, 2013

Why Should You Get a Home Inspection?
Part Three: New Homes

Our previous two blog posts have discussed the value of home inspections for both homebuyers and sellers. Many homebuyers, though, question whether or not a home inspection is really necessary if they are purchasing a new home.

There are a couple of reasons why buyers are tempted to skip an inspection on a new home. They may reason that since the home is brand new, there hasn’t been time for decay to take place. Since everything is brand new, it must be in tip-top shape, right?

Another factor that can come into play when buyers are shopping for any home, but especially a new home, is their desire to save money wherever possible. Many buyers go into the home buying process without knowledge of the many associative costs of a home purchase. They think about down payments, mortgage payments and perhaps about closing costs. For most people, these are not trivial costs. They may have saved for a long time to be in a position to purchase a home and when they are confronted with costs that they didn’t foresee – for instance, appraisal and home inspection fees – there can be a tendency to balk. “Is this really necessary?” they may wonder, particularly when the home in question is a new home.

So what are the valid reasons for getting a home inspection on a new home?

In a word – defects. Just because a home is brand new does not mean it is without defect. Even if it has passed code, significant problems can still be present in a new home. Why?

While a new home may be inspected by a municipal inspector, his inspection will not be as thorough as the kind an independent home inspector performs. Municipal inspectors will be judging a home based primarily on its code compliance, giving little attention to craftsmanship – an area that can cause serious and costly headaches down the road for the home buyer.

Blindly trusting that your home builder did everything just right is a potentially serious mistake. With an investment this important, the relatively small cost of getting a home inspection is well worth it. In short, regardless of when a home was built, a home inspection is always a smart idea.

Next time on our blog we will discuss the final subject of our home inspection series – How Can You Ensure You Get a Quality Home Inspection?

Why Should You Get a Home Inspection – Part One

Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Why Should You Get a Home Inspection?
Part One: Homebuyers

The process of purchasing a home can be stressful, especially for first-time homebuyers. There are so many different recommendations on a myriad of subjects that you will receive from friends and family, from your real estate agent, and from others, that you can end up feeling overwhelmed. But there is one piece of advice you should never ignore when shopping for a home: Get a home inspection!

Since home inspections are not cheap, many are tempted to skip this process. They might assume they know enough about home repair to do their own inspection or that if they are purchasing a new home they don’t really need an inspection. What are some good reasons that all homebuyers, and even home sellers, should get a home inspection? Over the next few weeks we’ll be publishing a four-part series on our blog related to the following questions: Why should a homebuyer get an inspection? Why can a home inspection be valuable to home sellers?  Why should you get a home inspection even when purchasing a new home? How can you ensure that you are getting a quality inspection? This week we will consider the question:

Why should a homebuyer get an inspection?

Remember that Tom Hanks movie from the 1980s – The Money Pit? It tells the story of a young couple who are buying their first home on a budget. They think they’ve found the home of their dreams – until the stairway starts collapsing, and the bathtub falls through the floor, and the chimney breaks into a million pieces, and…well you get the picture. The point is, without a proper home inspection, that could be your future life story!

It can be a challenge for some homebuyers not to get emotionally attached to a home as soon as they see it. Shopping for a home can feel like falling in love – you feel convinced you’ve met the home you want to grow old in! However, it’s best if you can keep your emotions in check until after a home inspection has been performed. An inspection will help you see things in your prospective home that you may not notice at first blush, things that are under the surface. This is invaluable in helping you make a truly informed decision to purchase.

Unexpected repairs are one of the things that all homeowners, especially new homeowners, dread. A thorough home inspection from a qualified professional will give you the peace of mind of knowing exactly what you are buying. An inspector will not only be able to tell you about the overall condition of the home but about potential trouble spots or aspects of the home that might need repair down the road. This can really set your mind at ease as you proceed with your purchase – or conversely, help you avoid a money pit of your own!

But home inspections aren’t just for homebuyers. Next week on the blog, we’ll discuss this question: Why can a home inspection be valuable to home sellers?

Blog Post: How to Get Your Offer Accepted

Monday, August 27th, 2012

How to Get Your Offer Accepted

It’s no secret that inventory of new and resale homes in most U.S. markets are low right now. If you are currently shopping for a home, you already know how challenging it can be to both find a home that suits your needs/preferences and even more challenging to get your offer accepted on that home. When multiple offers are being made on a home, what will give you the best possible chance of getting your offer accepted?

Pre-approval
If you are waiting until you find a home you really like to get pre-approved for a home loan, you are very likely sabotaging your chances of getting an offer accepted. If a seller receives multiple offers from buyers who have been pre-approved for a home loan, they are far less likely to give any attention to an offer from an as-yet-unqualified buyer. Speed is the name of the game for today’s potential homebuyers. Even if you are on the fence about whether to become a homeowner or not, get pre-approved for a loan. If you decide not to purchase, there will be no harm done. However, if you do decide to submit an offer, you will have a much greater chance of having it accepted. For more information about getting pre-approved for a loan, please see our past blog post Qualifying for a Home Loan.

Good Communication
Communication between the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent is absolutely essential in getting an offer accepted. If your agent speaks to the seller’s agent before an offer is made, it will give them a much better idea of where the seller is coming from – what are their concerns, preferences, etc. This information will give you a great advantage moving forward with an offer. During times when competition with offers is heavy, it is more imperative than ever that your agent is competent and prompt. If you have any doubt that your agent is not working hard enough (or fast enough) to get your offers accepted, it’s time to find a new agent.

A Letter to the Seller
Recently, one of our agents was representing a seller who had received multiple offers on her home. One family who submitted an offer wrote a letter, including a picture of their whole family, telling the seller why they loved her home so much and what kind of future they imagined for themselves in it. Even though other buyers submitted higher offers, the seller accepted the offer from the family that wrote this endearing letter. She had lived in her home for many years and cared more about passing it on to a worthy family than about getting the highest dollar amount for it. Not every seller will feel this way, but for those who do, a heartfelt letter can really make your offer stand out.

Shortened Contingency Periods
Shortened contingency periods usually mean shortened escrow periods – something that may really appeal to sellers. But this is something for which careful thought, and especially advice from your agent, is required. Your agent will be able to explain how each contingency works and the potential benefits and drawbacks of shortening contingency periods.

If you have been struggling to get an offer accepted on a home, don’t lose hope! With patience and perseverance, you will undoubtedly find the right home at the right time and for the right price.

Blog Post: Protecting Yourself from Real Estate Scams

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012

Protecting Yourself from Real Estate Scams

In recent years, stories about real estate scams have become all too common. Many people have made the mistake of putting their trust in a so-called expert who turns out to have only their own best interests at heart. The financial and emotional repercussions of falling victim to these scams can be truly disastrous. How can you protect yourself from falling prey to greedy real estate scammers?

Be careful who you trust
It has been reported that a large percentage of real estate scams are perpetrated by the victim’s family members, friends, or long-time business associates. With this fact in mind, it is important to be objective when considering any business proposition. This is not to say you need to become overly suspicious of every person in your life who may want to do business with you. What it does mean is that you need to carefully evaluate every business offer, regardless of who is approaching you with the offer. Don’t allow blind trust or fear of hurting someone’s feelings lead you into making a bad decision.

Do not easily part with personal information, goods
Many mortgage scams require borrowers to pay advance fees for whatever services are being offered. Be wary of any requests to pay fees before any services have been performed. Also, NEVER give out personal information, such as bank account information, social security numbers, etc., until you know exactly who will be receiving the information, how it will be used and who it will be shared with.

Trust your gut
The old adage, “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is,” is never more true than in reference to real estate scams. When considering a real estate transaction, ask yourself these questions: Do I fully understand the details that are involved in this transaction? Does it seem too simple, too easy? On a gut level, any real estate or mortgage deal you’re thinking of making should fundamentally make sense. If it doesn’t, that may be a strong indication that something is not right.

But don’t just trust your gut
Our intuition can be wrong sometimes. That’s why it is absolutely imperative that you speak to a lawyer or financial advisor if you are considering a real estate decision. A home is probably the largest investment you’ll make in your life. Be vigilant about protecting it. Don’t let things fall to chance. The time and expense of speaking to a professional before making an important decision regarding your investments is vital.

Although these are examples of simple ways to avoid getting cheated, don’t underestimate their importance! Oftentimes, it’s the simplest precautions that protect us the most – from any kind of scam.

Blog Post: Making Your New House a Home

Monday, June 25th, 2012

Making Your New House a Home: 10 Tips for Home Buyers

So you’ve recently purchased a home, now what? There are several things home buyers should keep in mind as they prepare to make their new house a home. On the June 2nd broadcast of the show Eye on Real Estate, Dottie Herman, President and CEO of Elliman, interviewed author and real estate expert, Eric Tyson, asking him to discuss tips for those who have recently become home owners. This list originally came from Tyson’s books, Home Buying for Dummies and Real Estate Investing for Dummies. Here are some highlights from their conversation:

Beware of solicitors – Once you buy a home, solicitors will to try to sell you products and services. For example, it is common for insurance providers to claim to pay off mortgage loans if something happens to you or you lose your job, in exchange for a new or increased insurance policy. Be wary of these offers and investigate completely.

Refinancing – Many people consider refinancing because interest rates are low, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good option for everyone. Tyson states: “Historically, the motivation to refinance comes from the ability to save money, and refinancing always costs you money, so what you have to look at is how many years is it going to take me to re-coop the financing cost and is this a worthwhile trade-off?”

Electronic payments –Automated payments are definitely the best option for mortgage repayment. Automated payments guarantee on-time payments, which will protect your interest rate and avoid unnecessary fees.

Set aside cash – Dottie asked Tyson, “Is there a standard rule of thumb for emergency funds? How much is enough?” Tyson answered easily: “I think for most people at a minimum they want to have 3 months’ worth of living expenses.”

Mortgage insurance – Buy a classic life insurance policy as opposed to a mortgage insurance policy.

Protest Tax Assessments – Homeowners should watch their property tax figures carefully, especially if they live in an area where taxes are reassessed periodically or if their home value is based on current market values. “Sometimes local towns and municipalities get it wrong,” says Tyson.

Home receipts – Keeping accurate records is imperative if you really want to minimize capital gains tax should you sell the home at a profit. Keep these documents carefully organized and in a safe place.

Take time to smell the roses – In his book, Tyson relates this old adage to buyer’s remorse. For most people, buying a home is one of the biggest decisions they’ll ever make. It’s important to not only buy something within your comfort zone, but also to practice self-preservation in the buying process.

Talk to Me – 4 Tips for Better Communication

Communication is perhaps the most valuable tool that mankind has at their disposal. Yet, both in our professional and personal lives we may at times struggle to communicate effectively. How can we improve our ability to connect with our clients, colleagues and others?

How to Really Listen - Communication starts, not with speaking, but with listening. Hearing someone and listening to them are two very different things. Listening is an active response, not a passive one. Truly listening to someone takes effort and concentration. When you’re listening to a client or colleague, as hard as it may be, try not to think about what you are going to say in response to them. If you are thinking about what you want to say, you are not listening closely anymore. It’s perfectly fine if you need a few moments to gather your thoughts after the other person stops speaking. Don’t be afraid of a few moments of silence. If you have really listened to the other person, it will show in your reply.

Take Your Time - If we are in a rush, we are unlikely to be able to truly engage in effective communication. Good communication takes time. If you aren’t confident you understand what someone is telling you, take the time to ask them questions. Conversely, take your time in responding to the questions of others. This can be a real challenge for those of us that want to just “get to the point” and move on. It might help for us to remember that rushed, and thus ineffective, communication can end up taking more time in the long run than just having a more comfortably paced conversation in the first place.

Dealing With Conflict – Differences of opinion are unavoidable. Instead of viewing conflict as merely a problem, try to focus on the good that can come from gaining a better understanding of the other person’s viewpoint. Don’t focus on winning an argument or proving that your view is the “right” one. Focus less on proving who is right and who is wrong and instead on how you can come to an agreement. Compromising is not necessarily a sign of weakness. In fact, developing the ability to come to solutions that everyone can agree on is an incredibly valuable skill – both professionally and personally.

Handling Criticism – Of course, criticism is never easy to hear. But taking a defensive view of criticism is unlikely to do us any good. The fact of the matter is that most of the time there is at least some truth in the criticism we receive. Instead of immediately taking offense, look for the truth in any negative feedback you receive. And always remember to focus on the message and not necessarily the messenger. Criticism may not be delivered in the way we would like, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t valid. As difficult as it may be to acknowledge our flaws, without doing so we will never have a chance to improve ourselves and our businesses.

What tips do you have for more effective communication? Please leave a reply in the comments section to share your thoughts.