Category Archives: How-To

What is an MLS?

Odds are you’ve spent a little time online searching for homes. After all, most home searches begin online. You may have even used a broker’s website or a site like Trulia or Zillow to help you browse listings.

But where does listing information come from?

Way back in the day, prior to the Information Age revolution, brokers used to gather and exchange information about their properties. The idea was fairly straightforward: I’ll help you sell your properties if you help me sell mine. It’s a “private offer of cooperation and compensation.” Cooperation meant the real estate industry could thrive and buyers and sellers could enjoy smoother transactions.

This spirit of cooperation gave rise to Multiple Listing Service(s) (MLS). By consolidating information about housing inventory in an MLS, listing brokers and buyers’ brokers can easily share up-to-date information about homes on the market. Though an MLS is typically a private database available to brokers, much of the information is syndicated to outside sites in the interest of casting wider net for buyers and sellers.

As an MLS is the primary source of information about a property, it tends to be the most accurate. It may also contain private information for use by brokers only, such as times the home is available for showings and seller contact information.

There are upwards of 850 MLS databases in the U.S. alone, and to a certain extent, there is market pressure to centralize these into a national MLS database. We’re sure to see changes in how Multiple Listing Services are used in the future, but the core benefits to home sellers and buyers is sure to remain.

Ready to put the power of an MLS to work for you? Search with me today for homes on the market right now. I’d be happy to help you find your next home:

5 Things to Think About for Your Vacation Home

With favorable interest rates still at hand, you may be considering the possibility of a vacation home. A vacation home can be an excellent investment, providing you with a tangible asset you can also enjoy when you want to take a little time off.

 

Here are some tips to keep in mind before you start your search for the ideal vacation home:

 

  1. How far do you want to travel? A remote cabin in an unspoiled wilderness might be a lifelong fantasy, but how much fun will it be if it takes half your vacation time to get there? Ask yourself how often you might use this vacation home and how much time you’re willing to spend to get there.

 

  1. Have you spent time there before? Don’t buy before you try. Certain locales may sound romantic or exotic, but if your only experience with the place is on the Travel Channel, do yourself a favor and spend some time there first. Choose a living arrangement for your visit which will be most like the sort of home you’re looking to buy (i.e a condo, in a neighborhood, etc.).

 

  1. Understand “the high season.” Almost every vacation destination will have a time of year where crowds flock. Ask yourself if you want to be there during this season or if you’re more interested in the lucrative potential of renting out your property.

 

  1. Build in a renter’s mindset. A significant way to offset expenses and build equity is planning to rent your vacation home out when you’re not around. Talking to local property managers can help you understand the seasons, occupancy rates, and the market for rentals. It will help inform your financial picture.

 

  1. Understand total expenses, not just the mortgage. There will be costs, and you need to see the big picture before you commit. This includes utilities, maintenance, property taxes, and insurance for starters. You want to invest in what you can actually afford.

 

Proper planning can make owning a vacation home a profitable joy. I’m happy to help you plan for your first vacation home. Let me represent your interests as you search for that perfect “getaway investment”: christierobertson@realestatelinks.com

Why you need a final walk-through

When I’m representing buyers in a deal, I always like to be sure a “final walk-through” is included prior to closing. This is especially true in a market where desperate and less-than-reputable sellers may try and walk out with the fixtures. While that may sound a little extreme, the final walk-through can head-off conflict before closing.

The final walk-through allows us to address common issues such as:

• If the current owner is on schedule to move out
• That the property is in the same condition it was when shown
• That any repairs required have been completed

In a best-case scenario, a final walk-through is also a good time to have the sellers explain details about the house that the buyer may need to know, especially tricky pool heaters, access to attics, funny light switches, and sprinkler timers.

The final walk-through also a great time to put together a list of companies who have serviced the house in the past.

I like to schedule final walk-throughs at least 4 – 7 days before closing, as this is often enough time to resolve any outstanding issues before paperwork must be signed. (The walk-through itself may happen within 24 hours of closing.)

I’m dedicated to protecting my clients from the beginning through the end of the home buying experience. If you want to work with someone who pays attention to the details, give me a call today: [YOUR CONTACT INFO.]

Is it Time to Upgrade?

Sometimes a perfectly nice home in fine shape simply won’t sell. Fresh paint, fine curb appeal, a solid neighborhood… and no offers. Sellers are baffled and irritated. “But I’ve been living in this home ten years! There’s nothing wrong with it!”

Often the culprit is “functional obsolescence.”

Never heard of it? You’re not alone. Investopedia defines it this way: “A reduction in the usefulness or desirability of an object because of an outdated design feature, usually one that cannot be easily changed. The term is commonly used in real estate, but has a wide application.”

Functional obsolescence can creep up on a home owner, as when a built-in technological feature is no longer useful. Some homes in the 1970s and 80s had old solid-state intercom systems for communicating between rooms. What was cutting edge then is a retro eyesore now. Built-in entertainment center kiosks or furniture are also a good example of this.

Home owners can introduce functional obsolescence with poor renovation choices. Renovations should always be made with an eye on the possibility that a home will be sold down the line, but occasionally an owner will ignore this. Take, for example, the massive kitchen renovation which takes an unreasonable bite out of the living room.

Inconveniences an owner has put up with over the years can be classified as functional obsolescence as well. If you have a second floor without bathrooms or a bedroom which must be accessed by walking through another bedroom? That’s a design flaw that can bite you when it’s time to sell.

Neighborhoods can introduce a degree of functional obsolescence as well. When an smaller, older home on a large lot is dwarfed by modern homes with more space, the home itself may lose appeal or value in buyers’ eyes.

If you’re thinking of selling or buying, you should be familiar with the idea of functional obsolescence. Either you’ll want to eliminate the problem or you’ll need to realize the problem will be an issue for you should you choose to sell one day.

I can help buyers and sellers see homes with an objective perspective. If you’re curious about where your home fits in this market, contact me today:

5 Questions to Ask Before You Renovate

Over time, almost any home could use an upgrade. Not only is wear and tear an issue, but our needs change as we do. Birth, death, marriage, the kids going off to college… all can have a profound impact on the utility of our home and the pleasure we take in it. Home renovation can be an excellent way to improve your quality of life, but is it always the best choice? By asking yourself these five essential renovation questions, you can gain real insight into the right decision.

1. What are your renovation priorities?
Yes, if you could do it all, it would be great. But odds are you won’t be able to do it all. So brainstorm all of your renovation desires and write them down. Next, rank them by order of importance. Some will be large and some will be small. Consider your budget. Would you be happier with one large revision, or would several small ones be better? Prioritize to clarify!

2. How disruptive will the renovation be to living in your home?
Understanding your appetite for disruption is important. Some renovation projects are minor and may take a day or two. Others could drag on for months and months. What are you willing to tolerate?

3. How will the renovation impact the home’s balance?
Major renovation projects can throw a home’s feel, flow, or look out of line. If you put a commercial-grade, ultramodern kitchen, will the nearby living room look shabby or antiquated? What if you add a bedroom but you only have one bathroom?

4. How long will you enjoy the renovation?
People typically renovate when they’re planning on staying in their home. Which direction is your neighborhood heading? Are you planning to downsize in a couple of years? A renovation may be overkill if you don’t think you’ll stick around long.

5. Will you recoup your investment?
Happiness with your home should be your top priority, but before you renovate you should understand that a major renovation isn’t a guarantee that you’ll get your money out when it’s time to sell. This may or may not be a factor for you.

I’m perfectly happy to walk through these questions with you. Renovating may be the right choice, but sometimes only a move will do. Either way, I’m here to help:

Ways to Save on Your Homeowner’s Insurance

Homeowners insurance is vital for protecting your investment. It’s also required by lenders holding the mortgage on your home. For some reason many homeowners overlook ways they can save money on their premiums. Shopping around is a good idea, but much like auto insurance, there are many simple things you can do to impact how much you pay annually to protect your home.

Raise your deductible.
Do you really need a low deductible on your insurance policy? Many people can absorb the hit if they go from a $500 deductible to a $1000 deductible, and in some cases this simple move can reduce rates up to 25%. Deductible can have a dramatic impact on your premium, so ask your company rep to quote you the difference.

Don’t insure for your home’s purchase price.
Remember, you don’t have to re-buy the land your home is on if you have to rebuild. If you’ve asked for coverage which includes the land cost as well as the structure cost, you could be paying far more than you need to pay to protect your home.

Retired? Seek a discount.
If you’re over 55 and you’re retired, your insurance company may be willing to drop your rate by as much as 10%. Retired folks are home more often. This can help reduce burglaries and provide an early warning system for fires.

Ask for a loyalty discount.
If you’ve been with your insurance company for at least three years, call them up and bring this to their attention. Let them know you’re considering shopping for a new policy, and you’re curious if they can extend you a discount for being a loyal customer. Savings can range from five to ten percent.

Adjust your coverage for possessions.
You may be insuring for more than you own. Certain high-end computers and other luxury goods may depreciate over time. If the limits on your policy far exceed the value of your possessions, make changes to your policy. The difference can add up. (Do this every year.)

Factoring in insurance costs is an important part of determining how much home you can afford. For more information on how different types of homes can have different insurance costs, talk to me today: 317-223-8015

Attention investors: New rules for deducting home improvements

Investment property owners and landlords know that tax deductions are a crucial component of making sure they maximize their returns. In January of 2014 the IRS in the U.S. implemented a somewhat complex distinction as to what constitutes a repair versus improvement.

Why does it matter? Well, repairs can be deducted in a single year. So if you have a $1,000 qualifying repair, you can deduct it at one time. If it’s an improvement, however, the $1,000 worth of work may need to be depreciated over several years. (In some cases, more than 27 years!)

One useful test for understanding if a deduction can be taken in a single year is whether or not it falls outside of the “Betterment, Adaptation, or Restoration” assessment. If the work falls under these categories, they’ll need to be depreciated, not deducted in a lump sum.

There are some subtle considerations for each case. For a detailed look at what constitutes a betterment, adaptation, or restoration, take a look at this handy article:

Repairs vs. Improvements: Complicated New IRS Rules
http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/repairs-vs-improvements-how-tax-deductions-differ-landlords.html

Granted, this blog post shouldn’t be taken in lieu of the advice of a trained tax professional, but I hope you find it helpful as it pertains to your investments.

Looking for a new investment property? I can be of great assistance when it comes to identifying overlooked opportunities in the market. Get in touch today and let’s discuss what might fit your criteria: