Solar Power & Your Home

Solar panels are appearing on roofs of homes in neighborhoods throughout the area. As systems become more efficient and government tax incentives make solar energy more affordable – and even an income producer in some cases – an increasing number of homeowners are taking the plunge into renewable energy. 

In fact, increased affordability in recent years has allowed the United States to pass Japan to its current rank of 4th in the world in solar energy production, behind major producers that include Germany, China and Italy. 

Is solar right for you? 

Rooftop solar panels, also known as photovoltaic (PV) systems, are the most common solar technology used for homes. Today, almost 450,000 homes and businesses have solar power systems, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Over the past few years, the cost of solar panel systems has decreased dramatically — more than 50% since 2010 — making this energy-producing tool a more affordable option for many homeowners. If you are installing solar on your residence, government incentives (Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit) further increase the affordability. The Federal Government offers significant tax incentives for homeowners who install approved renewable energy systems; these incentives expire in 2021. A website, www.dsireusa.org, offers local details of grants and other incentives available to homeowners. Another website, http://www.energystar.gov/about/federal_tax_credits, details Federal Tax Credits as well as instructions on how to apply for the credit.

Worried about aesthetics? 

If you don’t like the look of traditional solar arrays, you can now buy solar-powered rooftop shingles that blend seamlessly into your roof. Both Dow and CertainTeed manufacture solar shingles that are similar in efficiency to traditional solar panels. Installation costs are slightly higher for solar shingles; however, if you need to install a new roof before installing solar panels, this option may save you money.

My community has an HOA. Can I install solar?

Two dozen states, including Maryland have “solar access rights” laws that limit homeowner associations from banning solar panels. This law overrides your homeowners’ association contract that restricts you from installing the panels. This doesn’t mean your homeowner association can’t place a few community restrictions; HOAs can still enforce where to put your panels or how to install them– these laws usually say that some restrictions are still possible. But if your HOA denies your request to have solar panels installed, you can recite the law, or, in the worst case scenario, you can sue your HOA and let the courts decide.

I’ve got a long-term lease on my solar panels and now I want to move.

You have options. If you plan to sell your home, solar energy companies make it easy to transfer the lease for solar panels to a buyer. Some will also transfer your solar panel system to your new home. If you plan to transfer your panels to a buyer, speak with your Realtor® about disclosing lease costs as well as promoting energy savings. Not all buyers are familiar with the benefits of solar, so it’s important to show that the added cost of a solar lease will also allow them to reap the benefit of reduced energy costs. Most solar leasing companies will allow the lease to transfer easily to a buyer, making the process a fairly painless part of the real estate transaction.

What is the real impact of solar panel systems on a home’s value? 

The impact on home value varies from market to market. In the past, appraisers have had difficulty finding comps to properly address the added value of solar panels, but that will change as more homes adopt solar. According to a recent study by the solar energy industry, the average sales price of homes with solar in the Baltimore Metro area is 2.52% higher than those without (approx. $13,667). However, the sample studied was not statistically significant. In fact, anecdotally, solar is still a novelty and may increase a buyer’s interest in a property but not increase their desire to pay more for such a property, particularly if they will be assuming a lease for solar panels. As such, the decision to adopt solar should not be based solely upon the potential for an increased selling price.

Sources: Solar Energy Industries Association, solargaines.com, pureenergies.com

- Debbie Pavlik

5 Pros and 5 Cons of Working in Real Estate

Her Mind Magazine reached out to me back in the fall to ask about real estate as a career for their December 2015/January 2016 issue. You can read the article here: http://hermindmagazine.com/wp/grow-your-career-work-force-development/

It’s hard to talk about real estate without laughing, crying and cursing but I managed to keep it professional during the interview. The author cut all but one or two sentences so that helped make me look better. 

Since most of what we discussed did not make the article, I thought I’d highlight a few Pros and Cons, followed by some advice for anyone thinking about getting into real estate: 

Pros:

1 - the barrier to entry is low

2 - the idea that you can create your own schedule is appealing

3 - you have some control over your income and your brand

4 - this is a career where you can be entrepreneurial and creative

5 - you own your business

Cons: 

1 - it can take several years to build your business (3-5 years)

2 - the market is very competitive: our Baltimore/DC community is saturated with agents

3 - it is expensive to be in this business

4 - the work can require evenings and weekends

5 - you are “on” 24/7 and it takes a lot of practice to shut it down and really rest

And bonus #6 (because who doesn’t want more “cons”): it’s getting harder to compete with big teams

Advice:

1 - join a team for faster learning and enjoy a compressed learning curve so that in 1 year, you’ll learn what normally takes an agent 3 years to learn

2 - give it time and commit to this adventure for several years

3 - at a minimum, hook up with a mentor for the first few years

Again, our local Central Maryland market is saturated with agents. It can take 3-5 years to really make the money you want, especially if you are a solo agent.

I am grateful that I get to do work that I love, but it’s not easy work. It takes commitment, stamina and patience. However, as someone who has built a successful and rewarding real estate business, I’m glad I jumped on the bandwagon 10 years ago. If you’re thinking about getting into real estate, shoot me an email and I’d be happy to share my experiences and advice.

- Wendy Slaughter

"Old School" real estate vs “New School" real estate

My buyer wrote an offer 4 days ago and we still don’t have it signed by the sellers.  

The listing agent’s sellers are on vacation and because the agent doesn’t know how to use electronic signing systems, he is taking much more time than is necessary to get this deal in place.

This delay impacts my buyer, the lender, the title company, contract time frames and of course, our confidence in getting the deal done. The seller could have been in jeopardy of losing these buyers due to frustrations and concerns.

 Let’s look at a real life example of the "old school" vs the "new school" way of working.

Imagine that your home is listed for sale and you’re on a vacation you planned months ago. You’re sitting under an umbrella by the ocean, your feet in the sand and a cold drink in your hand. You’re watching your friends and family have fun and it makes you feel happy. You deserve this down time. You glance at your phone and see that you received an email from your agent with paperwork needing your signature. Is your agent “old school” or “new school?"

 The next 3-4 hours of your vacation can play out in two ways:

#1 “Old School" 

The email says you have to print the attachment and sign and then scan back to the agent. Your blood pressure climbs. There is no printer in the vacation house you rented. You’re finally on vacation…one that you more than deserve…and you have to go back to the house, do some research about local Kinkos or UPS stores, call to make sure they are open and get directions, get their email address, send the document to them, go to the store to sign, have them scan back to you and then email it back to your agent. You’re mad. Your family is mad. You missed a great beach day. Tomorrow it will rain and you’ll be even madder.  

#2 “New School”

You gently place your drink in the sand, then click on the link in the email. The link takes you to Dot Loop and it says “click here to start signing.” You click once for each initial and signature and when you’re done, click “confirm signing.” You turn your phone off and pick your drink back up. You realize you’ve been outside for a while and it’s time to reapply your sunscreen.

 “New School” agents help their clients by using the latest technology so that deals are done faster and your life is easier. When you choose your realtor, ask about the systems, processes and technology that your agent is using. Enjoy your vacation and let your “new school” agent do the work for you.

-Wendy Slaughter

Sometimes you learn things, even when you don’t want to.....

Real Estate - Lessons Learned

Life lessons after a decade in real estate

Today is my 10 year anniversary of being in real estate. I truly can’t believe it. I was 35 when I earned my license and the year was 2006 - probably the worst year ever to get into real estate. I started out on my own and after about 3 years, I decided it was time to grow. That’s when I started The Wendy Slaughter Team. 

Over the past 10 years, real estate has taught me a ton about myself and life.

Here are my top 5 takeaways:

1 - Your values are clarified.

Do you really value your family or are you just saying that? Your health? Your home? Your friends? Look around you. What do you see? You made this life with your choices. Your priorities are reflected by what is physically around you and by the relationships you have with people you love.

Real estate asks a lot of you. You have to be firm in setting boundaries.

2 - Thicker skin is a must.

I came into this business as a “pleaser.” I had a hard time with the hard conversations. I wanted everyone to like me. I know it sounds immature and, at the same time, it rings true for many people, no matter what your age. No one wants to be disliked. 

This quality made real estate difficult for me in the beginning. It took a lot of work in the early years but I’m a much better realtor because I pressed on, learned, and grew into my thicker skin. I’m still caring and kind but I’m much better at having the hard conversations. You learn fast that you owe it to yourself and your clients. 

3 - Buddhists are right: nothing is permanent.

Change is a standard in this industry and in life. Regulations, technology, processes and forms change all the time. Contracts have grown to 70+ pages and we learn something new every day.

You have two choices: complain and try to fight the changes….or learn what the changes mean to your clients and the process and then adjust your systems to address the changes. Don’t waste your precious time and energy acting crazy about things that change and are out of our hands. 

4 - Life is better if you are a Lifelong Learner.

I love learning. I was a good student and I still love reading and listening to good books, attending webinars, watching TED Talks and documentaries. It sounds nerdy and I don’t care. Learning is fun. It keeps life fresh. 

One of my favorite TED Talks is about changing your body position in order to positively affect your body chemistry. This is great information for all us, especially teens.

https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are?language=en

5 - You can’t do this alone.

I spent 3 years as an independent agent: 2 years at Long & Foster and then my first year at RE/MAX. 

I realized that if I wanted to increase my production and still take great care of my clients - AND take vacations (and stay as sane as possible), I needed to build a team. I am forever grateful that Debbie Gottwals took that plunge with me when we started the Team back in 2009. 

#5 has been the best thing that I’ve learned.

Working with a Team allows me to live my work life with wonderful human beings. They are smart, funny, kind, supportive, energetic, motivated and their smiles and laughter make this work richer. My life is much more fun because I work with a really great team.

Support comes from home too. My husband, Jason, is committed to my work. He and the kids are the best squad I could ask for. 

This list could be 150 items long. I tried to stick to the important stuff. I’ll check back in when I’m 55 and let you know what else I’ve learned.

-Wendy Slaughter

Divorce and real estate: first steps

Past-Present-Future-Sign-566x198.jpg

This blog is the first in a series of 3 focused on Divorce and Real Estate

Going through a divorce is one of the toughest life experiences to navigate. During that time, it’s important to lean on your “village” for support. You’ll be entering into new territory and relying on people you may have never met including mediators, lawyers, financial planners, CPAs, family therapists and realtors.

Relying on friends and family to refer you to various professionals in the community is the best way to find trustworthy advocates and advisors. Our best advice: seek strong support from people you trust. Gathering information can reduce stress.

Real estate is usually one of the more important pieces in a divorce. Making decisions about real estate can be very difficult. In addition to the financial impact, the emotional impact is high and a move can be exhausting. Your separation agreement will dictate what will happen with your marital home. Be sure it includes language about the decision making process for hiring a Realtor.

When it comes to real estate, your first step should be to reach out to an experienced agent. Consulting with a realtor is free and you can tap into our knowledge about market conditions, the value of your home, and strategies for increasing the value. We can also help you by referring contractors for painting, flooring, and anything else you need as you prepare to sell.

Our Team has helped many families work through the real estate side of the divorce process and we are sensitive to the needs of the families. It’s never easy but we understand the unique nature of the process and help you get to the settlement table, providing support and reducing stress for all parties involved. 

The National Family Resiliency Center provides support for families going through divorce. They are doing important work for adults and children and we’re proud to be sponsoring their 5K, coming up on September 19th at the Lakefront. It’s going to be a great day, filled with good energy and celebration. Come see Tree House School of Music, Mike John, Drama Learning Center, B.Funk Dance Studio and more perform on the stage!

More info: http://nfrchelp.org/index.php/project/5k-for-families/
Register to run: http://www.active.com/columbia-md/running/distance-running-races/5k-for-families-2015?int
To sponsor the 5K or make a donation: http://nfrchelp.org/index.php/event-sponsors/

If you, a friend or a family member needs a free real estate consult, shoot Wendy an email at Wendy@thewendyslaughterteam.com.
 

Send your house to the head of the class - Smart Home Technology is no longer a thing of the future.

Have you ever left home only to wonder if you closed your garage door? Or, have you ever come home after dark and wished your lights would turn on when you opened the door? If only our homes could send us messages when something is amiss or interact with us to meet our needs. Well, they can, and they do.

Wifi and smart phones have expanded the realm of smart technology for homes. New wireless systems go beyond home security and allow homeowners to remotely control and monitor home systems from anywhere in the world via their smart phone, including:

·         Lighting – dimmers and switches, light bulbs, landscape lighting

·         Safety & Security – security cameras, door locks, alarm systems, smoke & CO detectors, garage doors

·         Energy Management – thermostat, outlet controls, water heater, irrigation systems

·         Lifestyle – pet doors, coffee makers, eggs (yes, eggs)

New systems are introduced almost monthly, and consumers can purchase them online or at leading home improvement and office supply retailers. Since the systems are wireless – most require a hub that taps into your internet modem – the devices are easily installed by the home owner. Plus, monitoring costs are significantly lower than those of traditional home security companies – if a consumer decides they want monitoring. These new systems are unique in that they allow the consumer to self monitor their home. In fact, most systems allow the user to interface with and control their home, even view a video feed, using an app on their smart phone.

Iris – Marketed by Lowe’s, Iris offers a full complement of home comfort and security devices. Iris is sold in stores and online, and Lowe’s offers specialized starter bundles for home automation and home security. Or, consumers can buy the devices they need a la carte, from smart plugs to dimmer switches to garage door openers to water heater shut-off valves and more. They also offer monitoring service for security as well as care service – get instant text messages for personal emergencies or if a loved one’s normal routine is disrupted. Use Iris magic to turn on lights or initiate video monitoring when a door is opened or other designated event happens. (see irisbylowes.com for more information)

Nest – One of the original off-the-shelf systems, Nest offers thermostat control, smoke alarms and video cameras. They have also started partnering with other companies to allow everyday household items such as light bulbs, washers and dryers, ceiling fans and more to interact with Nest devices. Nest is currently working with Google to connect more products. (see nest.com for more information)

Wink – Similar to Iris, Wink operates as a hub and an app (free from App Store and Google Play) that control a la carte devices in your home. Not all devices require the hub; some work off the app on your smart phone. Choose from a variety of security devices, home safety devices and home comfort. You can even add an egg minder that monitors the number and age of eggs in your refrigerator! Wink also interfaces with Nest. Again, like Iris, Wink devices can work in conjunction with each other to, for example, turn on lights when a triggering event occurs. Wink is available from Home Depot and Amazon.com. (see wink.com for more information)

Others – There are numerous options in the growing smart home market. A few other players include: Homeseer, Revolv, Belkin WeMo and SmartHome to name a few. If you’re considering improving your home’s technology, research the different systems to determine which offer the devices and systems that best suit your lifestyle. 

- Debbie Pavlik

Singing in the Shower!

The fan in my bathroom stopped working. When I went to Lowes to check out options, I saw a bluetooth speaker/fan combination that looked super cool and it didn’t cost more than the other fans.

We all love music in my family. My kids play instruments and they’re in a band. My husband plays drums. My son plays drums and guitar. My daughter plays bass and guitar and she sings. This summer, my kids are working as “interns” at Treehouse School of Music and they are helping them run their summer camps (great camps BTW).

Music plays constantly in our house. We have different tastes but we like hearing each other’s playlists to mix things up a little. 

So this is where I didn’t think things through. 

Everyone uses my bathroom now. Everyone. All 4 of them. All the time. 

My advice: If you decide to buy this fan, you might want to pick up more than one.

Here is link to the fan if you want to check it out: 

http://www.lowes.com/pd_379193-69305-7130-01-BT_0__

- Wendy

 

 

Conscious Capitalism Central Maryland Chapter Lift Off!

Conscious Capitalism MD Chapter

The Central Maryland Chapter of Conscious Capitalism officially lifted off earlier this week. The room was packed with good people. We gathered at the newly remodeled (and gorgeous!) Coho Grill.

[Important side note: The Coho Grill has a great beer selection including options from Heavy Seas, Evolution, Flying Dog and Jailbreak.]

The Conscious Capitalism movement is not new. Businesses have proven that when you act from your heart, profits are a natural consequence. Costco, Whole Foods, The Container Store and Apple are a just a few of the companies that have put people before profits.

I was asked to speak at the event and talk about how we’re putting some of the Conscious Capitalism concepts into practice.

My Team has been “unconsciously conscious” since we first formed back in 2009. We are realtors but we believe that “what" we do is less important than "how and why" we do our work. Our Team culture has created a foundation for everything that we have been able to accomplish over the past few years. Our culture affects how we engage with our stakeholders: our clients, our vendors, our realtor colleagues and the community. 

The “how and why” both add meaning to our work and it changes the experience for everyone.

For more information about Conscious Capitalism, check out these resources:

Facebook:     https://www.facebook.com/cccentralmaryland?fref=ts

Book:            Conscious Capitalism by John Mackey and Raj Sisodia

Website:       http://www.consciouscapitalism.org

- Wendy 

Mold. Don’t let that four letter word turn your dream home into a nightmare.

Guest Blogger: Bob Pavlik, Certified Master Inspector, Gold Key Home Inspections

Toxic black mold. Toxic mold. Organic growth. The horror stories are all over the news. A family moves into a home, only to have it condemned after they develop serious health issues because of toxic black mold….

If you hear that four-letter word, STOP. Don’t run for the door.

1.       According to the CDC, molds are not toxic. Some produce toxins, but they themselves are not toxic or otherwise poisonous. In fact, while there is evidence to support a link between certain respiratory issues and certain molds, the above example is extremely rare.

2.       Mold exists everywhere, both indoors and outside. There are good molds and bad molds. Mold grows very quickly – a perfectly healthy environment can become overgrown with mold in as little as 48 hours. Some molds can be easily remedied, and other mold conditions will require remediation by an approved contractor.

The important thing to remember is that the presence of mold can only truly be confirmed through testing by an approved lab. So, if you suspect mold or your home inspector suggests that your new home has “organic growth,” ask to have it tested.

A mold inspector will examine areas in the house that are conducive to water intrusion and look for signs of growth.  The inspector will then take air samples and/or swab surfaces and submit the samples to a lab to determine if mold is present and, if so, what kind and at what concentration. Once you have the results in hand indicating elevated mold levels, your next move should be to

1.       Determine the cause or source of the mold. Ask your mold inspector if the cause can be easily fixed or if a hygienist will be required to remediate. If the presence of mold is contained to less than 10 square feet, HUD says you can clean it yourself (or hire a contractor to clean the mold). However, if the presence is greater than 10 square feet, you will need to hire a hygienist to write a remediation plan. Remediation will involve finding where the moisture is entering the house or where it’s originating within the house as well as making necessary repairs. It also involves removal and replacement of damaged cellulose materials as well as drying out the damp areas.

2.       Take the test results to your doctor or an allergist to determine if the molds found in your house are a potential health issue.

The bottom line is that most mold issues can be remedied. The key is to repair or remove the source of moisture and to clean the mold in a recommended manner to restore a healthy home environment.

Sources:

·         Facts about Stachybotrys chartarum and Other Molds, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, http://www.cdc.gov/mold/stachy.htm

·         Molds and Moisture, Environmental Protection Agency, http://www.epa.gov/mold

Need to Sell Furniture? You Have Options! Guest Blogger Dakota Downsizing

The Bottom Line. Most household furniture is considered "second-hand" - usable, but not of high value. Keep in mind that what you paid for an item is only the starting point of what drives the price. The memories you have of your favorite piece provide no benefit to the buyer. Other factors affecting the value include condition, manufacturer, and size.

What is often overlooked is time involved, moving costs and supply and demand. Because a large number of seniors are now downsizing, the market is being flooded with antiques and basic furniture.

Whom to call - plus two DIY options. The list below addresses the pros and cons of each with respect to selling price, time, and costs.

Specialty Dealers. $$$ Start by sending a picture and receive a timely response. No moving costs, quick sale. i.e. Mid-century modern styles are in high demand; dealers abound.

Auction Houses. $$$+/- Great option for high-end or antiques; not interested in basic furniture. Start by sending pictures. Auctions can insure sale but NOT price. Commission is 25-30% plus moving costs. May take 45 days to receive a check.

Craigslist. $$ /- You set the price and need to write an effective ad. Free listing. Time consuming dealing with emails and no-shows. Safety concerns. Upholstered and pressed wood furniture is hardest to sell; this is your best option for these items.

Consignment Shops. $$ /- Automatic price drops over three months. Commission is 50%. Receive check one month after sale. Moving costs. If item does not sell - find another option.

Pickers. $ Buy in quantity, minimum wait time, quick sale. No moving costs. Buy fair condition items to repurpose; so do not trash a damaged antique!

Yard Sale. $ Very time consuming, weather dependent and expect to negotiate. Does not sell - find another option.

Donate. ($) Tax deduction only. Only a few charitable organizations are allowed to enter your home to retrieve furniture. Good condition only. Need at least one-week lead-time, may have to wait hours for pickup.

~Eileen Golian,

Owner Dakota Downsizing

443.545.4912

golian4@verizon.net

Dakota Downsizing has a team of professional organizers who assist families as they part with decades of possessions. If you need help, give us a call - we will coordinate all the details.

Smart Sellers Series: Pictures are Important!

Gone are the days of looking through the newspaper or real estate books and driving around neighborhoods to get a first impression of a house.  Instead, the first glimpse buyers get of a home is online through the pictures uploaded to the MLS.

Buyers are busy and have limited time to search through hundreds of listings, and they will quickly move on or skip listings if there is only one photo (or no photos) or if the photos are of poor quality.

If you’re thinking of selling, look through some listings online and ask yourself:

Do the photos make you want to visit the home? Do they look like they are pulled from a home design magazine? These are the kinds of pictures that will appeal to prospective buyers. Buyers want to be impressed.

Too few pictures, low quality pictures, or homes that do not have pictures of the important rooms lead buyers to question what is wrong with the property.  Buyers will move on and most likely not come back to view these listings.  The first several pictures in the listing are the most important, and should feature an eye-catching exterior front photo, and photos of the main living area, kitchen, owner’s bedroom and bathroom, as well as other attractive features (e.g., deck, patio).

Don’t have photos of the property yet? Don’t list the home until you do. The best photos are those with natural light, so make sure the photographer takes the photos during those times of the day.  Properly lit, high resolution photos are a must!  In addition, maximize the number of photos uploaded to the various websites.  Make sure there are no people (or parts of people) in the photos.  Avoid reflections in mirrors or flash feedback in windows or mirrors.

The Wendy Slaughter Team uses a professional photographer to photograph all of our listings because we understand how important this step of the marketing process is to selling your home.  Call us to learn more about our awesome marketing services can help you sell your home. (PS: Did you know in 2013, the county average “days on market” was 54 and The Wendy Slaughter Team’s “days on market” was just 16 days! Our sellers hug us a lot.)

- Debbie Gottwals

Savvy Buyers: Building a house? Here are some some things to add & some things to skip!

Here are some of our recommendations for making selections on new construction or remodeling your home…and some options to skip!

Skip the Following:

Remove oversized/glued-on mirrors in bathrooms.  This is another easy step to make a home look more custom.  Simply ask the builder NOT to install any mirrors and then go shopping for framed mirrors from a discount store like TJMaxx, Home Goods, or Ikea.  If you are remodeling, remove the glued-on mirror, repair walls if necessary, and replace with framed mirrors (or leave the mirror on the wall and have a contractor frame it out with trim wood).

 
 
 
 

Remove cheap closet organizers.  Remove the cheap wire rack shelves and rods and replace with custom closet organizers you can find at Lowes or Home Depot.  Even IKEA has solid wood closet systems. To save some time and money, ask the builder not to install these if you are building a home.

Delete Drawer Pulls/Knobs and Plumbing and Lighting Fixtures.  Builders often have only a few choices of these and if you do not like them, ask the builder to give you a credit and install the ones that you purchase on your own (that you can find at Anthropologie, Pottery Barn, Overstock, Lowes, Home Depot, etc.).

Make Sure to Include the Following:

Add recessed and puck or pot lights as often as possible. Have your framer build braces for future ceiling fans if you choose not to install them right away.   You may want to hire a lighting specialist to help you with this.  If an attic is above the ceiling, the project is pretty straightforward.  But adding lights to finished ceiling areas requires cutting holes in the drywall and drilling through the joists to fish the wire through the framing.

Extend wood flooring into high traffic areas.  Even though it costs more, it is worth it.  Wood floor hallways or family rooms are always desirable, plus, you can throw a rug down if needed.

Add an outlet in the pantry.  Many homeowners keep a toaster oven, blender, and other small appliances (even a Swiffer Vac) in the pantry.  By adding an outlet, these items can be plugged in at all times and don’t take up valuable counter space.

These are just a few ideas that can get your juices flowing when you’re remodeling or building a new home.

- Debbie Gottwals

Three Little Fixes You Can Make When Prepping a Home for Sale - Guest Blogger Pillar to Post

For Sale (Almost)

Homeowners make a lot of memories in their houses, and there's no doubt it's emotional to say goodbye to your well-loved kitchens and family rooms when you put your home on the market. Potential Buyers will not be charmed by that "lived-in look"!

Here are a few simple DIY projects that you can do to get your home ready to sell. These little fixes will rejuvenate some common trouble areas and make homes more appealing to most Buyers...something you'll definitely want to do!

1) Busted tiles are not classy.

Oops. Did an anvil drop on that tile countertop? Tile holds up almost indefinitely to all kinds of wear-but sadly tile cracks if something heavy is dropped on it.

What you can do: 

  • It's relatively simple to replace broken tile: remove the grout, mask the surrounding tiles with tape, loosen the tile, chisel out the pieces, set the new tile, fill the perimeter with new grout and allow the grout to dry. Goodbye, shabby tile.

2) Scratches and dings and gouges, oh my!

We know your brother-in-law didn't mean to smack his favorite chair into the built-in bookshelves. While that's a funny time to remember, there's no value-add for the prospective home buyer!  So, it's probably best that the you get rid of any and all visible scratches, dings and gouges.

What you can do

  • Minor scratches can be wiped clean with mineral oil, lightly sanded with fine grade sandpaper and sealed with polyurethane.
  • Scratches that penetrate the finish can be filled with a like-colored furniture repair stick. The product consists of wax and putty, and is easy to apply. Follow with a coat of polyurethane.
  • Not quite a gouge, but deeper than a scratch? Use wood putty in a matching color. Gouges also can be treated with wood putty. Make the repair, let it dry and apply the polyurethane.

3) Counter intelligence?

Bags of groceries, stubborn food stains and the occasional misfire with a kitchen knife are all to blame for laminate or Corian counter surfaces looking scuffed and sad. Fortunately, there are simple solutions that won't leave you with an empty wallet.

What you can do:

  • Laminate is a repair-friendly surface: a color-matched repair pen or paste will camouflage most scratches. Be careful not to overfill, and gently sand the excess when dry.
  • The remnants of past meals can be removed using a paste made from baking soda and water. Leave the paste for a few hours and wipe away. No need to rub or scrub.
  • Minor scratches on Corian can be treated by using a mild abrasive liquid cleaner on a damp sponge, rubbing over the scratch in small, overlapping circular motions, and rinsing with clean water. Be sure to wipe the surface completely dry, and repeat if the blemish is still visible. Deeper scratches should be treated following the manufacturer's instructions.

That was easy, wasn't it? With a little elbow grease and a modest investment of time and money, you can bring the sexy back to worn surfaces.

~Rachel Oslund

Pillar to Post

                                                          Cracked tile can be fixed!

                                                          Cracked tile can be fixed!

Did You Ever Wonder What Happens on Closing day at the Settlement Table?

You have made it to the final step in the process of finding your dream home and now what?  It is the day of your closing!  This is the day you close the deal on your home as well as the mortgage to buy that real estate. Essentially it's the transfer of property ownership from the seller to the buyer.  The closing can take place at a title company or at the office of one of the real estate agents involved in the transaction.

Two things take place at the closing and will be described in more detail below: signing documentation and distribution of funds.

Who attends and how long will settlement take?

Most of the time, the sellers, the buyers and both realtors will attend. A settlement officer from the title company will run the settlement. It usually takes about 1-2 hours.

Papers You Will Sign As Buyers

(the first 4 are for purchases involving a loan)

  • Truth in Lending Disclosure – describes the interest rate on your mortgage
  • Note – promises that you will repay the bank
  • Mortgage – states that if you do not pay, the bank can foreclose on your home
  • Escrow paperwork – establishes the process of collecting money from you on a monthly basis so the bank has funds to pay taxes and insurance when those payments are due
  • Deed – states that the sellers are signing the property over to the buyers
  • Tax forms – puts the property taxes in your name
  • Name affidavit – verifies names that the buyers have used over time
  • Corrections agreement – authorizes the title company to resubmit papers for additional signing if mistakes are found
  • HUD-1 Settlement Statement – outlines all of the money that changes hands in the transaction

(This list is a good sample, but there could be additional forms required by your lender)

Distribution of Funds

  • The sellers will receive a check for proceeds they earned from the sale.
  • The real estate agents will receive a check for their commissions.
  • The buyers will provide a cashier's check to cover their down payment, escrow, title insurance policy, and closing costs.

Explanation of Who Pays

Depending upon what is negotiated in the contract of sale, the buyers and/or sellers pay the fees such as real estate commissions, title insurance, and pro-rated property taxes.  In some cases, buyers negotiate to receive money from the sellers that is used to pay some closing costs and fees (some portion or all), or payment of a one-year home warranty.  Some items are pro-rated and some are split between the buyer and seller according to length of use, at closing. Property taxes, insurance, homeowner’s association fees or condo fees, and water bills are the most commonly pro-rated items.  The most common split item is the transfer tax.  The HUD-1 shows line by line each and every expense as well as who is to pay what amount. Therefore, it’s helpful to review the HUD-1 prior to closing if possible.

What Buyers Should Bring to a Closing

As home buyers, your real estate agent and loan officer should provide plenty of coaching on what to bring to your closing. Things you’ll need:

  • A cashier’s check (not a personal check) usually made out to the title company for the total amount due on the HUD-1 Settlement statement. This includes your down payment and any closing costs that are your responsibility.
  • Personal identification with photo – can be your driver’s license or passport

What Buyers Receive at Closing

Lots of paperwork….and a set of keys! Congratulations!

-Debbie Gottwals

Squeaky Floors = Concerned Buyers

While you live in your home, you might be considering changing your flooring. Buyers always point out squeaking floors while touring a home and many will ask me if it is a structural issue.

Even though most often there are no serious problems causing the squeaks, buyers will be concerned – especially if the seller has just replaced the carpet in order to get the house ready to go on the market.  Some reasons for squeaking floorboards include houses settling, floorboards expanding and contracting due to the loss of their moisture from heat/cooling/lack of humidity, and nails becoming loose over time.

Here is my helpful tip: while the old flooring is being removed and the subflooring is exposed, have your contractor screw down the subflooring (do not nail it as many contractors do).  If you have carpet in your home and are not planning on replacing it and have squeaky floorboards, you have a few options.

1. You can have a carpet installation company pull up the carpets from sides, screw the floorboards and then replace the carpet.

2. You can use a tool that allows you to screw down the subflooring directly through the carpet.  Here are 2 tools that clients of mine have used and highly recommend:

Squeak-ender - http://www.squeakender.com

Squeak No More (can be used for carpets, linoleum and hardwood floors) - http://www.oberry-enterprises.com/products.html

Sellers: take pictures of your yard now!

Many sellers have beautiful flower gardens and flowering trees but when they list their homes for sale in the fall and winter, these benefits are invisible.

The exterior of the home may look average or even boring during those months because nothing is in bloom.   Too many sellers tell me that “the house looks amazing in the spring time when the tulips and daffodils are up and when the dogwood tree is in bloom” but there is no way to share this information with prospective buyers.

Take pictures NOW – while your bulb plants are in full glory; while your flowering trees (e.g., cherry, bradford pear, and dogwood trees) are in bloom.  Save these to a file and give these pictures to your real estate agent to incorporate into your listing pictures so you can show how magnificent it is during the non-winter months.

~Debbie Gottwals

Five Things to Consider Before Making an Offer on a Home that has a Well and Septic - Guest Blogger Home Land Septic Consulting, LLC

Septic

  • Hire a company that offers the MD 4-step Septic Evaluation procedure.  Home Land Septic Consulting follows all procedures and guidelines in accordance with Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE).
  • Avoid a Dye Test Septic test.  Dye Testing finds 5% of the problems, 5% of the time. Dye Testing has never been a practical application for determining the health of a septic system, although they were more successful in years past. Septic systems, in the past, were generally no deeper than 1-2 feet under grade.
  • Understand that all Septic Systems will eventually fail.  A Septic System typically lasts 30-40 years.  The cost to replace the system can range greatly.  After evaluating a system we can give you an idea of what to budget for.

Well

  • Testing the well will require two different tests.  We can test the QUALITY of the water and the QUANITY of the water.  We offer a variety of well yields and can advise on what you need depending on what county the property is located in.  We also can discuss what impurities to consider testing for.  A Buyer may have to follow certain loan requirements depending on what loan product they are using (Conventional, FHA or VA).
  • It is a good practice to obtain County Records from the local Health Department.  Home Land Septic does this as a standard practice; once an appointment is made.  But a buyer can access these records for free (most counties) and obtain pertinent information prior to any home inspections.

Visit our website for more information – and to see some great illustrations. Of course you can also give us a call if you have any questions about well and/or septic testing. We’re happy to help!

Homeland Septic

Maryland Non-Resident Sellers

Recently, we attended a meeting with a representative from the Maryland Comptroller’s office who spoke about the Maryland non-resident withholding tax. This is a tax that is charged to sellers at the time of settlement, who are not residents of Maryland. The tax is pretty high too – 7% of the seller’s net proceeds goes to the Maryland Comptroller.

The law that created this tax went into effect on October of 2003, but to this day, many non-resident sellers in Maryland are unaware of the 7% tax until they get to the settlement table and find that their proceeds are 7% less than they had planned.

If you are selling your property in Maryland and you do not live in Maryland, you might consider completing an application for an exemption to this tax. It is worth a shot and you may find that you are partially or fully exempt from paying it. The application should be filled out and submitted (with all supporting documentation) once you go under contract, no later than 21 days before the settlement date. You can still submit it after the 21 day period, however, there is a chance that they will not have time to process your application. The application can be found here.

If you have already settled on a property and you did not receive an exemption certificate (and it is before the end of the year during which the property was sold), you can fill out this application and apply for a refund. There is no guarantee that you'll receive a refund, but it is worth a shot! It must be submitted before December 1, 2014 and may not be submitted sooner than 60 days after closing. If your closing occurs after October 1, 2014, you are not eligible to file this form.

For additional questions or concerns, you can contact NRS Processing – Legal Section for the Comptroller of Maryland at 410-260-6153 or by email at nrshelp@comp.state.md.us

Top 5 Flooring questions - Guest Blogger Bill Iampieri

Before and After Flooring

If I have had these questions asked once… I have had them asked a million times. Here are the top 5 questions I get about the purchase of new flooring.

1) I want the carpet that will “wear” the best. Can you show me that?

When it comes to wear, we are usually talking about “crushing and matting” and “staining and soiling”. These are the main factors to how well your carpet will perform:

a) type of carper fiber used. You may be familiar with nylon carpet, but there is also polyester carpet and a new fiber called triexta. The fiber is important, but not the only factor.

b) how much fiber is used is obviously an important part of performance. But not just how much is used…but how dense the carpet is. Density is created by how close the strands of carpet are stitched together and how long each strand of carpet is. The denser the carpet is, the less chance the carpet can crush and mat.

c) the twist of the carpet fiber. Most people do not realize this is important as well. Carpet will “wear” better the more twists that each strand has. The higher the twist count…the better the carpet will perform.

We will work together to determine which fiber type works best for your particular flooring project.

2) Will this hardwood scratch?

Hardwood has a finish that protects and seals the wood. That finish (polyurethane) can scratch and that is what most consumers are referring to when they say "scratch". You can also penetrate the wood itself, but that is not typically what consumers are referring to. The good news is, that you can get a new urethane finish to restore the original luster and remove most, if not all of the surface scratches at a fraction of the cost of new hardwood…and get a new hardwood look! Ask me about sand and refinishing to see how we can restore your original hardwood look!

3) Does pad make a difference in how long my carpet will last?

Yes and No. Generally speaking, pad helps with the "walk and feel" of the new carpet. The better the pad, the better it will feel to walk on. Does it help the carpet perform well? Not necessarily. In the end, the carpet itself is the most important factor in how the carpet will perform relative to "wear" (crushing and matting). Also if the pad is not a high quality, it will begin to crush along with the carpet in traffic areas and that contributes to the look of carpet beginning to "wear out". I always recommend the best pad for your new carpet, as it is the least expensive part of the carpet installation.

4) Are your installers sub-contractors?

No our installation mechanics are not what most consumers refer to as "sub-contractors" that go from company to company or job to job. Our installation mechanics provide quality craftsmanship and in many instances have been installing with us for many years. A good installation mechanic is where the rubber hits the road. And like any other profession, some are better than others. I personally hand pick the installer that will work on your new flooring.

5) If I drop a can on my vinyl floor will it damage it?

If you drop a can on any hard surface it could damage it. Tile could crack. A can could penetrate hardwood surface and leave a dent. I always tell consumers, no flooring is bullet proof. Let's talk about your lifestyle and determine if we can find a product that suits you best. In the end, we have to care for our flooring and yes it can damage. I get people all the time trying to fix a section of their floor. That's the good news...in many cases the damage can be fixed. In the end, most consumers want to feel that their new flooring will last and be beautiful for many years. With my guidance and experience, we will choose the new flooring that is best for your home!

For more information about flooring of all kinds and more, call Bill Iampieri Jr. at (410)-988-2834 or visit www.AskForBill.com for more information and our current special offers. "Flooring of all kinds....service that's one of a kind!"