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Thinking of listing your home on the market? Avoid these 3 mistakes!!


Three Things That Can Devalue Your Home


There are many factors to consider when determining a home’s worth.  For instance, a property’s location alone can either increase or decrease its value.  Total square footage and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms also impact the home’s value, as does the school district that’s assigned to the home.  And although some factors cannot easily be changed – it’s pretty tough to get school district lines redrawn – there are plenty of items within our control.

Often when it’s time to sell, homeowners will sit down and think of ways they can improve the value of their home, but in doing so, they fail to realize the ways in which they may be unknowingly be devaluing their house. Did you know that some home improvement could actually harm you when you try to sell?

Here are a few ways that you could unknowingly decrease the market value of your home.

Kitchen and Bathroom Renovations

For years people have been told that the kitchen and master bathroom can “make or break” the sale of a house.  And while it’s true that a lot of focus is given to these particular rooms, you need to be very careful if renovating this space.  It is easy to spend a lot of money when renovating these two rooms and if you select features that are too excessive or overstated in design they will lessen the overall value – even if you’ve paid top dollar for high end materials.

Water Elements Such as a Pool or Hot Tub

The gorgeous, shimmering swimming pool in your backyard may have offered you countless hours of fun and relaxation, and perhaps your kids made lasting summertime memories splashing with their friends, but that pool may not be helping your property when it’s time to sell your home.  A lot of buyers think pools and other water features, such as a hot tub or a pond, are added expenses and extra maintenance required on the home.  Bear in mind, this will change dramatically based on geography; a pool home in a tropical, resort-like location will have no problems, whereas a pool home in a colder, northern climate might not be as fortunate.


Outdoor landscaping plays a huge role in “curb appeal” which can directly impact your home’s value.  If you neglect the landscaping and it becomes overgrown and weed infested it loses all appeal.  Poor curb appeal lowers value.  But did you know that investing in an expensive, lush landscaping package is not necessarily any better?  Decorative landscaping will not increase your property’s value.  Sure, it looks fantastic, but it may not add value to your home. In fact, some home buyers will be turned off by the amount of work it takes to maintain the grounds.  Anything that exceeds a “normal” well-maintained and manicured yard will yield a low return on investment.  Should a homeowner choose to add a lush, vibrant landscape package, they should view it as something that will bring them personal enjoyment only.

Salee Zawerbek, Your Personal Real Estate Consultant For LIFE!



ALL THE LEAVES ARE BROWN: How I love Fall Decorating

3 Quick and Easy Tips for Fall Decorating

While spring is for cleaning, fall is for cozy nooks and crannies that beg for an evening of cider and a good book with a blanket. Create that nesting vibe with these three quick, easy and inexpensive tips!

1. Branch out- Oh how I love LED branches and whoever invented them! I’ve had mine for two years and they have yet to burn out. They’re cozy, they make a statement and they are oh-so fall. 


2. Mask It- With Halloween, the quickly setting sun, and memories of fairy tales and ghost stories, fall to me always feels a little mystical. I add flair around my house with masks by putting them on lamps, hanging them from doorways and fireplaces, etc. They add an element of intrigue.


3. Pinecone Garland-  Like LED branches, pinecones won’t go bad on you. String them together and drape wherever you want for an instant fall look! If you don’t have time to collect your own, check your local market for a bag of them, often times they’re sold with cinnamon scent already added!

I hope you enjoy the season as much as I do.


Salee Zawerbek, Your Personal Real Estate Consultant For LIFE!

How’s The Housing Inventory?


Economy Watch: Housing Inventory, Median Prices Up; Federal Budget Deficit, Initial Claims Down, which is part of the National Association of Realtors, reported on Thursday that the U.S. housing inventory recovery is broad and growing. Not only that, the net number of listings is still increasing, despite the fact that the summer season — when listings are at their highest — is nearly over. Month over month in August, the nationwide total was up 0.93 percent (though down 2.5 percent since last August).

While the national median list price didn’t change in August compared to July, price increases are becoming more widespread, according to NAR. More than 80 percent of the markets covered registered a year-over-year increase in median list price.

California markets continue to dominate the list of areas experiencing the largest year-over-year median list price increases, despite the surge in new property listings that has occurred in most of these markets. Also, Detroit, Phoenix, Reno, and Las Vegas are still among the strongest markets in terms of rising prices since last year. By contrast, a number of smaller industrialized markets in the Midwest and the Northeast aren’t doing as well, and several major Florida markets are showing signs of re-emerging weakness.

Federal Budget Deficit Drops 

The U.S. budget deficit continued to contract in August, according to the U.S. Department of the Treasury on Thursday. Government revenue is up because of the recovering economy, and spending is down because of the sequester, with outlays exceeding receipts by $147.9 billion in August, compared with a gap of $190.5 billion the same month in 2012.

For the 11 months through Sept. 30, the deficit was $755.3 billion, the lowest it has been in five years for a similar period. When the final numbers for the full fiscal year are crunched, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the deficit will be even lower than that, because September will probably be a surplus month.

So far Congress is still being its dysfunctional self, and there’s no agreement yet about funding of the government past Sept. 30, though another three-month resolution to fund federal spending is before that body. The government is also almost near its statutory limit for borrowing — the $16.7 “debt ceiling,” — which will come in mid-October, and Congress hasn’t done anything about that, either.

Initial Claims Drop 

For the week ending Sept. 7, initial unemployment claims were 292,000, according to the U.S. Department of Labor on Thursday, down 31,000 from the previous month, and an unusually low figure. Reportedly, two states made changes to their computer systems that delayed reporting of their claims, thus bumping the total figure downward more than usual.

Wall Street was down a little on Thursday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average down 25.96 points, or 0.17 percent. The S&P 500 lost 0.34 percent and the Nasdaq was off 0.24 percent.


Salee Zawerbek, Your Personal Real Estate Consultant For LIFE!

30-Year Mortgage Rate STEADY at 4.57%

Mortgage Rates 

Getting down to business… Rates!!!


Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages held steady this week, hovering near two-year highs. But rates could change quickly next week when the Federal Reserve addresses its bond purchase program.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said that the average rate on the 30-year loan was unchanged from last week at 4.57%, just below the two-year high of 4.58% reached Aug. 22.

The average on the 15-year fixed mortgage held at 3.59%. The two-year high of 3.60% was hit on Aug. 22.

Long-term mortgage rates have risen more than a full percentage point since May, when Chairman Ben Bernanke first signaled that the Fed could reduce its bond purchases this year. The purchases have been intended to keep long-term loan rates extremely low.

Most analysts expect the Fed to decide at its meeting next week to scale back its bond purchases.

Even with the recent gain, mortgage rates remain low by historical standards. But higher rates have spurred some homebuyers to close deals quickly and could slow the market's momentum if they continue to rise.

Mortgage rates have been rising because they tend to track the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. The yield has climbed 1.3 percentage points in the past four months as bond traders have anticipated that the Fed will slow its bond buying.

The 10-year note's rate was 2.92% on Wednesday, down from 2.97% Tuesday but up from 2.89% a week earlier.

To calculate average mortgage rates, Freddie Mac surveys lenders across the country on Monday through Wednesday each week. The average doesn't include extra fees, known as points, which most borrowers must pay to get the lowest rates. One point equals 1% of the loan amount.

The average fee for a 30-year mortgage rose to 0.8 point from 0.7 point. The fee for a 15-year loan was steady at 0.7 point.

The average rate on a one-year adjustable-rate mortgage fell to 2.67% from 2.71%. The fee declined to 0.4 point from 0.5 point.

The average rate on a five-year adjustable mortgage dipped to 3.22% from 3.28%. The fee was unchanged at 0.5 point.


Salee Zawerbek, Your Personal Real Estate Consultant For LIFE!

For Buyers To Keep In Mind When House Shopping!


4 Things All Buyers Should Keep in Mind


No 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.”

Shop properties for at least 4 to 12 months

Take your time. Look at dozens of properties. Drive the areas you like during the day, night and on weekend. Talk to neighbors. You’re probably risking your entire net worth when purchasing property, so make sure you are adequately educated on what you are buying — and that takes time!


Salee Zawerbek, Your Personal Real Estate Consultant For LIFE!

Before you buy… Some tips about your neighborhood!



How to Investigate a Potential Neighborhood


You’ve gone to the open house. You’ve had a private showing. You’ve read the disclosures. You’ve decided this is the house for you, and you’re ready to make an offer.

Before you take that step, though, you should fully check out the neighborhood. After all, this is where you’re going to live for years. Is there something you don’t know about that could negatively affect the resale value later? Is there a neighbor who comes roaring home late at night on a muffler-free motorcycle? Is the next-door neighbor operating a day care for pre-schoolers?

Given the high stakes of homeownership, it pays to do your homework before making an offer. For example, a potential buyer was ready to sign on the dotted line for a home in San Francisco, a city famous for its microclimates. The buyer had only been to the home during the day, when it was sunny and warm. On his real estate agent’s advice, the buyer returned at night — to find the house blanketed by cold, windy fog. He continued his home search elsewhere, relieved he hadn’t unknowingly bought into the city’s “fog and wind belt.”

Here are five ways to investigate a neighborhood before you buy.

1. Talk to the neighbors

Without being intrusive, look for an opportunity to chat with your potential neighbors. What’s their opinion of the block and the neighborhood? Do they know of any problem neighbors? Are they aware of any recent car or home break-ins? Is anyone planning a big remodel that could impact other homes or their values? Do they know of someone on the block who might be getting ready to sell? An even more desirable home could be coming on the market.

2. Visit day and night, weekday and weekend

As the San Francisco example shows, don’t just visit the house during the day. Check it out at night to get a sense of what’s going on in the neighborhood after hours. Is it noisy or calm? Visit on the weekend and early morning, too. The more times of day you go, the more chances you’ll have to get the feel for the neighborhood.

3. Check out the local newspaper and the neighborhood blog

Some neighborhoods still have their own newspapers. If there’s one published for the neighborhood you’re considering, check it out for local stories. Pay particular attention to the “police blotter,” which typically lists crimes reported in the area. Also, some neighborhoods have blogs where locals ask for tips and advice, or post issues or concerns affecting the neighborhood. A Google search should help you find out whether there’s a blog for the neighborhood you’re considering.

4. Get an app

Some smartphone apps, such as CrimeReports for iPhone, provide information about crime based on your location or address. Among the problems you may see displayed on a map are noise nuisances, sex offenders and vehicle break-ins. The CrimeReports app gives you some specifics, such as when and where each incident occurred.

Zillow’s real estate apps allow you to see estimates of properties on the block. They also allow you to search recent sales or see rentals, a good indication of whether your neighbors are renters or homeowners.

5. Google the street address

If you Google the home’s street address, you might be amazed at what you find. You might, for instance, discover a nearby home-based business with employees (which could reduce street parking spaces). Using Google’s Street View, where photos can be months if not years old, you might discover that the ground-floor bedroom window once had bars on it.

Be a sleuth before the sale

The Internet is an amazing resource of information. Too often, though, potential home buyers don’t fully use it to find out everything they can before entering into a contract on a home. As soon as you’ve identified a home you want to buy, get online and do your homework. You might be pleasantly — or unpleasantly — surprised by what you learn.


Salee Zawerbek, Your Personal Real Estate Consultant For LIFE!


HOA Horrors and How Not to Fall Victim to Them

When purchasing real estate, you might be one of the 25 percent of people who purchase a property in a common interest development, which is more commonly known as a homeowners association, or HOA. And while all properties have issues, HOAs have a unique set of additional operational, legal and financial issues that buyers must consider, analyze and review in conjunction with their purchase.

Because many horror stories are associated with HOAs, some people won't even consider buying into one, which is understandable. It's ultimately a personal choice for a buyer to consider.

These are few of those HOA horror stories. Keep in mind that most of these stories would never have occurred if the buyer had just done proper due diligence by reviewing the HOA documents, financial statements, reserve studies, demand statements and CC&Rs (covenants, conditions and restrictions). Each of these items would offer insight into "issues." It is your responsibility as a buyer to perform the proper due diligence to avoid purchasing into a disaster of a common interest development community.

Ka-ching: Special assessment of $7,500 three days after closing escrow.

Did you hear the one about the couple who didn't read the condominium board meeting minutes and notes about the $850,000 construction defect issue that needed to be repaired and would cost each unit about $7,500 in special assessments? Yup, it was noted extensively for months before this couple purchased, but they didn't read the stack of documents related to their purchase that came from escrow. So they didn't know about the assessment until the first board meeting – three days after they closed.

Tip: Read the board of directors meeting minutes to help uncover potential assessments or other issues.

Surprise! Buying a rental property that you cannot rent.

Many communities are limited to the number of rental units that can be in the property. Once that threshold is crossed, no other owners can rent out their units until other units convert back to personal residences. In this example, a woman put down $20,000 cash on a condo but didn't read the CC&Rs. She closed escrow on a $100,000 unit that she planned to lease out. Unfortunately, the board blocked her from doing this because of the rules in the CC&Rs. Unfortunately for her, she lost the unit to foreclosure about 12 months later.

Tip: Read CC&Rs to understand restrictions such as this one. A simple request to the board or management company would have uncovered the problem, and this woman could have terminated her purchase contract and saved $20,000!

Limited parking space: Compact cars only!

This horror story deals with a man who bought a high-rise unit in an older building. His designated parking space was next to the laundry room door. Due to the proximity to the door, his unit's parking space was restricted, and he was not allowed to have a car wider than 6 feet. Luckily, he drove a smaller car, so it wasn't an issue. But if he had an Excursion, it would have been a major problem.

Tip: Read your HOA documents thoroughly. Walk around and observe everything about the property you are buying.

Speechless: HOA fees greater than mortgage payment.

This story involves a buyer whose HOA fees began to exceed his mortgage payment. He lived in a restricted-income unit, so the price was low and affordable. But, a couple of years in, the older building had capital items that needed to be replaced, such as a roof and elevator. HOA fees skyrocketed, and as a result, his fees went above his mortgage payment.

Tip: Read and understand the Reserve Study, which could have tipped him off to upcoming repairs and replacements.

Pool, clubhouse, common facilities foreclosed upon.

Lastly, this story is about an HOA where the developer built the residential units on one lot and the clubhouse, pool and common areas on another lot. The pool/clubhouse lot had a separate loan that went into default, and an investor group bought that lot/pool/clubhouse at foreclosure. As a result, they started selling pool memberships to community members in the adjacent neighborhoods.

Tip: Read the community governing documents, which would've revealed the recorded map, plat,or plan for the community.

Yes, HOAs can be a huge benefit to real estate ownership, but they are complicated animals. You must understand the risks of common interest development ownership, and most important, mitigate those risks by reading and analyzing all the documents before you close escrow!