Buyer be smart…

4 Things All Buyers Should Keep in Mind | August 27, 2013 | link

Couple Looking at homeNo matter how you slice it, buying real estate is a complicated process that takes time and hard work to get right. Whether you’re looking for your dream home or an investment property to help build your retirement nest egg, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Mortgage interest rates are still low

Mortgage rates have bumped up a little lately, but they are still low by historical standards. Many people have stopped chasing their dream home or investment property because of the recent rate increases, but they’re making a huge mistake. Rates will likely head even higher over the next few years, and you’re going to kick yourself for failing to secure a 30-year fixed interest rate loan before those even higher rates kick in.

It sounds cliche, but real estate is buyer beware

Your real estate agent can guide you to make a smart purchase, but it’s your job to make every decision and do all the analysis that goes along with purchasing property. You’ve got to make sure it is a smart financial move to buy the property. You’ve got to review the title documents, mortgage loan documents and disclosures, homeowners association docs, home inspection reports, seller disclosures, etc. Each document contains important information that you need to understand to avoid problem properties. It’s a real challenge, but you must do the hard work needed to reduce your risk.

You should never buy a property that you don’t love

If you don’t love it, don’t buy it. Real estate is likely the most expensive and complicated purchase you will ever make. So don’t buy a property if it isn’t a great fit for what you want. Don’t buy if your attitude is “we just want to get something even though this isn’t a perfect property for us.” Note: No property is perfect — especially not at the price you’d like to pay — so be realistic when determining which property you “love.”

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Are you fit for an older home?

Historic Homes: Is ‘Owning Old’ Right for You?

Samantha DeBianchi | Zillow Blog | April 4, 2013 | link


This home in Philadelphia’s Germantown neighborhood was built in 1713 and served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. It’s currently on the market for $325,000.

“They just don’t make ‘em like they used to.”

We’re all familiar with this phrase, often uttered by people lamenting the lack of quality and durability of new things, whether it be a car, a set of tools, a kitchen appliance or even a home.

When it comes to homes that are more than 50 years old, this phrase has a double meaning, which could be good or bad — depending on what’s important to you.

A client recently closed on an adorable bungalow built in the 1920s in the heart of Fort Lauderdale. In South Florida, it doesn’t get much older than that. The house was love at first sight, from the Dade County Pine construction — a virtually extinct wood that is highly durable and resistant to wood-destroying creepy crawlers — to the fireplace, lush tropical yard and plaque from the historical society recognizing the home’s historical significance (but not designating it as a historical place, an important distinction).

You literally cannot buy this type of home anymore. Many similar homes fell in to disrepair over the years and were knocked down to make way for multi-family units. This little gem survived and was improved with care by its prior owners, who added central air conditioning and converted the fireplace to gas, among many other labors of love.

This historic home purchase was a win-win for the client, who is excited to own a little piece of local history, and for the sellers, who knew their home would be cared for. But, it wouldn’t be for everyone.

Here are some points to ponder if you’re considering purchasing a historic home.


Many historic homes are smaller in size than newer constructions, particularly when it comes to ceiling height, bathroomskitchens and storage space. If you are tall, you may want to pass on a low-ceiling home, or at least re-evaluate ceiling fan placement! You can also see if there are drop ceilings that could be removed to add more height.

Climate control

“Back in the day” people toughed it out when it came to heating and cooling. Not so much anymore. If the property needs central heat or air, factor in those costs before you purchase.

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Tudor 2.0

Timeless Doesn’t Mean Traditional in These Tudors

Catherine Sherman | Zillow Blog | August 8, 2013 | link

Myth: “Tudor” and “traditional” are synonymous. While Tudor revival architecture dates back to the late 1800s, Tudor-style homes with an updated look and feel are hitting the market across the U.S. We’ve gathered a few for-sale listings combining classic Tudor curb appeal with contemporary interior renovations.

Englewood, CO
23 Sunset Dr, Englewood, CO
For sale: $6.15 million

Englewood, CO
A vine-covered exterior, antique lighting and vintage furniture give this Tudor tons of character, but the home isn’t stuck in 1931. Inside, a remodeled kitchen boasts granite countertops and high-end appliances for serious cooking, while the master bath features a jetted tub for some modern relaxation. The lushly landscaped grounds also include a greenhouse and pool.

Seattle, WA
1664 Federal Ave E, Seattle, WA 
For sale: $2.095 million

Seattle, WA
Described in the listing as “a beautiful home dressed in refined luxury and class,” this Capitol Hill house combines Tudor and craftsman elements to create a space fitting for the Pacific Northwest. While it doesn’t date back to the 19th or 20th centuries, the home replicates architectural details of the period while adding a contemporary wine cellar and bonus room.

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Looking for a new profession? Try lighthouse keeper!

Play Lighthouse Keeper With These Homes for Sale

Erika Riggs | Zillow Blog | August 9, 2013 | link

Before GPS, satellite or automation, the lighthouse keeper was the last safeguard against maritime disaster. Expected to keep the tower’s light lit and maintained through the night, lighthouse keepers are now extremely rare — gone the way of ice-block deliveries and elevator and switchboard operators.

Yet the dramatics of running a lighthouse — real or imagined  — still captivates many of us. Parks have lighthouses tours, waterfront homes boast views of the structures and some people choose to incorporate the look of a lighthouse into their homes. A few others have even purchased lighthouses from the U.S. government.

Care for your own lighthouse? We’re sharing a few currently on the market — some real lighthouses and some replicas — in honor of National Lighthouse Day.

Rhode Island

1 Poplar Ave, North Kingstown, RI
For sale: $4.975 million

1 Poplar Ave North Kingstown RI

Claiming to be the oldest wooden lighthouse in the U.S., this iconic residence sits at the head of Wickford Harbor. Built in 1831, the structure is attached to a lovingly-preserved 4-bedroom, 4.5-bath home with 4,600 square feet of “elegant coastal living.”

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The best in bathrooms

Inside Three of America’s ‘Best’, Most Creative Bathrooms

Sarah Firshein | | September 12, 2013 | link

Screen-shot-2013-09-12-at-1.20.27-PM.jpgPhotos via Cintas

For the 12th year in a row, Cintas, a bathroom-supply company based in Cincinnati, has unleashed upon the masses its “America’s Best Bathroom” contest, pitting 10 finalists against each other in order to determine—as they say—the “King of the Throne.” This year’s contenders include a Pac-Man restroom (above) at the Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade in Portland, Ore., the bathroom at the Alex Madonna Gold Rush Steak House, in San Louis Obispo, Calif. (below), which has a “carved-wooded stall doors adorned with tufted pink leather, an antiqued gold distressed-finished mirror, a dazzling ceiling chandelier, marble countertops, and pink embossed wallpaper with a gold leaf finish,” according to a press release, and an array of tiled lavatories (bottom) in the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisc. (As Cintas’ contest focuses exclusively on public bathrooms, the Louis Vuitton-themed bathroom and the ultimate Spiderman bathroom, both interior design experiments in private homes, were not qualified.) Check out all of the finalists on the official voting page; polls are open through Oct. 31.

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How can watching movies help you buy a home?

How Netflix Account Can Help You Qualify for a Mortgage | August 27, 2013 | link


credit history concept

By Chris Birk

Ideally, prospective homebuyers have a miles-long credit report that leaves little doubt about their ability and willingness to repay debt. That’s clearly not always the reality on the ground, a fact not lost on mortgage lenders.

Consumers with a positive but thin credit profile may still be able to secure financing. Success may hinge on what kind of nontraditional credit you can show to support your creditworthiness, be it a P.O. box, a book club membership or even a Netflix account.

That’s one more reason why it’s important to stay on top of all your recurring accounts, even if they don’t ultimately report to the major credit bureaus.

What Lenders Look For: Credit requirements will vary by loan type and lender. For example, right now VA lenders are generally looking for a credit score of at least 620. Conventional loans are more likely to require a score in the neighborhood of 740.

In addition to the scores, lenders also want to see a certain number of “trade lines,” which is how mortgage folks refer to credit accounts. Do you have a car loan? That’s a trade line. How about a credit card? Boom, another trade line.

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More kind words from clients…

Having known Liz Venema for over 18 years, we were thrilled to have her as our agent when we decided it was time to sell our home and move out of the area.

You’d be hard-pressed to find a real estate agent with more integrity and passion than Liz. She listened, and really “got,” our priorities for listing and showing the house. We had no doubt that she would be our advocate in finding the best “fit” for the property.

Through the entire listing, showing, negotiating, and closing process, Liz and Deanna, her partner, responded promptly (and patiently!) to our many questions. They were always frank and up-front about our options and various trade-offs. Both understood that this was more than just a house – it had been our home for 18 years.

They worked with us to set realistic expectations, and let us know in advance of each step what we could expect. Such a high-level of communication helped keep us levelheaded during what could be a very hectic time! And, thanks to their negotiation strategy, our home sold for a much higher price than we had originally anticipated.

Liz is a joy to work with; always professional, upbeat, and dedicated. We highly recommend Liz and Deanna to any family who is considering listing their home or searching for a new one.

Ronald and Barbara Bissinger

Summer building heated up…

Construction Spending Rises in July, Boosted by Business and Housing

Reuters | September 3, 2013 | link


Builder Sentiment
Chuck Burton/The Associated Press

U.S. construction spending rose in July as more outlays to build homes and businesses countered a decline in the government sector. Construction spending climbed 0.6 percent to an annual rate of $901 billion, the Commerce Department said on Tuesday. The growth rate was above the median forecast in a Reuters poll of analysts.

The biggest gain in spending came from the business sector as firms increased outlays on projects for offices, commercial buildings and factories. Private spending on home construction projects also advanced, a sign builders were still betting on a housing market recovery despite a sharp increase in mortgage rates since May.

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Map for SF hills handy for walkers…

San Francisco Has Needed This for a Long Time: a ‘Hill Mapper’

John Metcalfe | The Atlantic | August 6, 2013 | link

San Francisco Has Needed This for a Long Time: a 'Hill Mapper'
Moreno Novello /

There’s much to love about San Francisco – great food, gorgeous parks, tolerant people – and much to despise, like the infernal rents and the way nobody seems to pick up dog poop. Perhaps highest on the hate list for many locals, however, are the number of hills, awful, ridiculously steep mini-mountains that can turn a novice’s legs into wiggly spaghetti.

Everybody has their own approaches to dealing with the seven major hills and 40-or-so demi-humps that protrude from the city’s 7-by-7 mile plat. Some tough it out and subsequently grow calve muscles the size of cantaloupes. Others go great lengths to dodge them, doubling their travel time and looking from above like aimless, addled ants. The more extreme hill-loathers will only rent homes in flat neighborhoods or, as is the case with somebody I know, have a friend physically push them up inclines with a gentle hand on the back.

Bicyclists, who research has suggested would often go a mile out of their way instead of pedaling up a 100-foot climb, have long had a way of avoiding the more annoying hills. It’s called the Wiggle, a 1-mile path from Market Street to Golden Gate Park that never gets above 6 degrees in elevation. But for pedestrians it’s often a matter of intimately learning the city’s curves and slopes or else carrying around crumpled, topographic maps printed out from the U.S. Geological Survey, like some kind of foreign explorer. (You could also use your eyes to judge the best route, of course, but this city has a weird way of trapping you in corrals of hills that require strenuous effort or tedious backtracking.) That’s why Sam Maurer should be hailed as a local hero: The U.C. Berkeley student has created perhaps the best-yet way to navigate this lumpiest of burgs, the “Hill Mapper of San Francisco.”

“Two years ago I moved to San Francisco. Whenever I take long weekend walks around the city, I wish I had a map of where the hills are,” Maurer says via email. “One day while walking it occurred to me that the beauty of digital maps is that they can adapt based on your actual location – so I could make a map that showed not only how steep the streets were, but whether they’d be going uphill or downhill when you got there.”

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Where will you vacation next season?

7 Best Places to Buy a Vacation Home


Daily Real Estate News | Friday, August 09, 2013 | link

Many buyers are still seeing plenty of opportunities with buying a vacation home,  says Tom Gilmore, chief executive and founder of The home can even turn into a money-maker for those who choose to rent them out.

Twenty-three percent of buyers said they plan to rent out their recently purchased second home, according to a National Association of REALTORS® survey on the second home and vacation home market.

MarketWatch reports that the following are some of the best vacation home hot-spots, based on the potential return from renting, provided by

1. Kissimmee, Fla.
Average rents (from $2,800 to $4,100 per week for eight-bedroom home located five miles from Disney World.

2. Cape Cod in Massachusetts
Average rents: $1,200 to $3,500 per week for a three-bedroom/one-bathroom oceanfront house.

3. The Poconos in Pennsylvania
Average rents: $2,100 to $2,450 per week for a three-bedroom/three-and-a-half bathroom house.

4. Outer Banks, N.C.
Average rents: $595 to $3,495 for a four-bedroom/three-bathroom home.

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