3 Things Before Calling A Realtor®

It might seem strange that I would write a blog post telling people not to call a Realtor® when I am a Realtor®. Maybe, but I think it is important to educate my clients. If this helps, then I’m ok with it. If nothing else, it gives you a headstart on things you can look at when getting ready to sell.

What A Realtor® Should Be Telling You To Do

If they’re decent at what they do, a Realtor® is going to tell you these things anyway. Might as well do what they are going to suggest before they ever get there. It saves time. After all, if you’re calling a Realtor®, it’s because you want some help getting your house sold.

Selling your house can be a stressful thing. Will you get the price you want? What happens if it doesn’t sell in the time frame you want it to?

Here are three things you can do with your house before ever signing a contract with a Realtor®.

The First Thing

Before Calling - Get Packing

Get To Packing!

It’s a good idea to remove at least half of what you have in your house before it goes on the market. You may love your collections and sentimental items throughout your house but the people coming to buy it don’t care. Make sure all horizontal surfaces are bare so people can see the “house” instead of your stuff. Buyers need to be able to see themselves living there, picturing their stuff in the kitchen, living room and bedrooms. If your stuff is there, they won’t be able to see it.

The Second Thing

Before Calling - Make Minor Repairs

Fix the small, inexpensive stuff. Whether it is replacing a cracked outlet cover, light bulbs, or cleaning and painting, the idea is to make your house look cared for. Do you need to paint some rooms to get rid of those blaring colors? People generally want to see neutral colors throughout the house. If you aren’t painting, go through and clean around doorknobs, handrails, and any place the kids have been playing.

This goes for the outside too. Make sure the yard is kept. There are usually outlets on the outside too so make sure the covers are in one piece. The garage is an area that can be cleaned and organized. Many garages end up being a disorganized pile. If you have it organized, with proper storage arrangements, it not only looks cared for but shows how well things will fit, even with cars there.

The Third Thing

Before Calling - Appliances Work

Make sure everything is in working order. Appliances, fixtures, switches, outlets, etc. It may require having someone come in to fix some things but it is a small price if you want to get the maximum money for your house.

Keep this in mind. If a buyer comes in to look at your house and sees that there is work to be done, even if it is minor, they might go after the house down the street that has those things fixed already. Not only can it affect the price, but it doesn’t take long for the word to get out that the house hasn’t been cared for.

A Few Examples To Ponder

As a Realtor®, I hold open houses for various properties. Of course, I won’t indicate which houses however, I can describe some conditions that I have seen.

  1. A house that has been painted, however, they did not paint behind the place where the flat screen TV hung on the wall.
  2. The kitchen cabinet doors weren’t hanging straight and the kitchen sink was dripping.
  3. The bedroom that included a rather strange mural on the walls.
  4. Light bulbs burned out in the living room and bathroom.
  5. Not a clear spot on the kitchen counter and the beds were not made.

It’s amazing how the little things can make a big difference.  

Comment below with things you see in your home and what you did to correct them.

Patrick O’Connor – CHMS, GRI, Realtor®

Ebby Halliday, REALTORS®

Plano, TX

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When Computers Go Bad

A Brief Computer History

IBM Personal Computer

The personal computer has been around since about 1991. Although there have been some brands that have been around longer, widespread use didn’t really begin until the Internet became available to everyone.

I can remember a time when the cost of 1Mb of memory cost $1000.00. It was the days when you had to use two floppy disks to load the operating system before you could do anything. It was the days of DOS, the Disk Operating System. It was also the days that Bill Gates announced that there would never be a reason to have a program larger than 1Mb.

Computer Floppy Disk

Now look at us. We don’t even have floppy disks and it is becoming more rare to even find a CD or DVD drive on a computer. After the DVD came the jump drive. With the USB port still available, jump drives can be great for traveling with files. A SSD ( Solid State Drive) is becoming the norm and computers are getting nothing but faster all the time.

Computer CD DVD

Finally, there is cloud storage which allows us to store our files on the Internet. Just like any tweet out there, once something is placed on the Internet, it’s never going away. The only problem there is that the files could be hacked into from outsiders wishing to get the information.

Computer Jump Drive

The Computer Crash

Computer Laptop

Recently, I had my laptop crash. I’d had the computer for over four years and wasn’t too sure how long it would be before it was useless. Trying to run adobe products on the computer was next to impossible. Well, it finally went out. Fortunately, it wasn’t a hard drive crash. Windows would simply not come up. I tried multiple reboots, and even said a prayer or two to see if it would come up. No luck. I was in trouble because there were files on that thing that had not been backed up yet. Important stuff like articles i would read one day, pictures of stuff that I’d never look at again because they came from free image sites, and misc. Ideas for all the dreams I have. However, there were a few that I had wanted to save like some work files, education documents, and some photos of family that had been copied from my AGING PHONE that I might not be able to get back.

The Big Save

Alas, the computer came up and offered some advanced troubleshooting things to try. No luck there either. Then I noticed something. Something I had not considered. Yet, there is was. Access to the command prompt. Boom!

Computer Command Prompt

I accessed that feature and tried to remember some basic commands. I remembered c:\ which gave me the familiar c:> prompt. Then I remembered DIR. Sure enough, I could see the hard drive had stuff on it.

Since the cd-rom had stopped working a while ago, I could not tell which drive would show up if I attached my external hard drive so I started searching. I found it on the F drive.

The next step was to try and navigate the c drive directories and find my files. Once I found them, I actually had to look up on another computer how to copy files and folders and subdirectories. With some quick searches on Google, I was able to find the commands I needed and copy the files from the temperamental c drive to the f drive.

Success!

I checked on another computer and was thrilled to see my files intact. Whew!

I got my new laptop that day and began the process of loading all the adobe products back on and then the biggest snag. Where the heck did I put the Office 2010 disk? And another issue – I no longer have a cd drive. So not only do I need to find the disk, I get to buy an external cd/dvd drive.

In the meantime, I will start using google docs to create my files. They will all be stored on the cloud and I can continue to work with my files as needed.

Tragedy averted.

Of course, I will be making sure that any files I do store on my computer are backed up on the cloud so that I don’t have to worry about this kind of thing happening again.

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3 Things That Affect Your Mortgage Payment

If you are looking for a house to purchase, the best thing you can do to help yourself is to get pre-underwritten. I’ve written another post speaking to pre-qualification, pre-approval, and pre-underwriting.

The reason pre-underwriting is important is the contract can be affected. The contract has two approval processes built into it.

The first is the approval of the borrower. This is where the pre-underwriting comes in. If you are pre-underwritten, it means that the people involved in the loan are fully approved. Their credit, income, employment, debts, etc. has been verified and the lender is confident that the loan is affordable.

What Is Your Home Worth Button

The second approval is for the property. This is where the inspections, appraisal, and general condition of the property is considered and approved. If something comes up during inspections, it doesn’t appraise, or even if a storm comes in and damages the house and it cannot be fixed, the contract could be affected or even terminated.

After you have finally closed on a house, there are many things that can affect the mortgage payment.

Appraisal Value Of A New Construction Home

Every city places a value on your property based on the market conditions in the area. When you purchase a new construction home, sometimes the first year taxable value of the property is based on the price of the land.

Many people get surprised the second year when their mortgage payment goes up several hundred dollars because the city has now attached the house to the appraisal. The year after that, it can happen again.

If you aren’t careful, you can become mortgage poor.

Appraisal Values Go Up

Mortgage Appraisal Values

There haven’t been many times when the value of your property goes down. In 2008, during the housing crisis, property values tanked. People walked away from their properties instead of dealing with the dramatic decrease in value.

Since then, property values have been on a continuous increase in value. The city increases the appraised value of the property. You have an opportunity to dispute the value after notification and then the new value generates additional tax income for the city. This can also contribute to making someone mortgage poor.

Population Increase

Mortgage Appraisal Values

The economy is based on scarcity. The more of something there is, the less expensive it becomes. At least most of the time. When there are not enough of something, the prices go up. This is true for housing also.

Currently, in the DFW Metroplex, many companies and people are relocating to the area. As a result, the inventory of available homes is low which has been raising the prices of homes.

That can be good news or bad news depending on where you are in the market. If you are someone who is selling their home, higher prices means more money in your pocket. If you are buying a home, it will cost more for the home you want to purchase.

Bonus Tip – Interest Rates

Mortgage Interest Rates
St. Louis FED Graphic

Most people are familiar with interest rates – at least a little. It is the cost of borrowing money to purchase something. With credit cards, the interest can be as high as 30% depending on your history. For houses, the interest rates are historically low at this time.

Interest is what it is but you have some control over the amount you pay. Keeping your credit healthy, living within your means, and saving some money for later are all ways you can help get the best interest rates when it comes to purchasing a home.

Remember, there is a difference between a need and a want.

5 Minor Home Repairs You Can Do Yourself

Every homeowner will tell you that it takes a lot to maintain a home. When it comes time to thinking about selling your home, there are some things you can do quickly and inexpensively to make your home more attractive to prospective buyers.

Minor Repairs Candle

Five Things To Consider

  1. New Plantings. Curb appeal matters. People will be looking for a house online first. They will be looking to see about the location, the price and the size before ever walking into the home. While they are looking at the photographs online, they will also be looking at the curb appeal. Planting some colorful flowers and putting down new mulch in the beds will help with the look of your home. Make sure the grass is also cut before photographs are taken.
  2. Fix Minor Things. There’s no reason why you can’t fix a broken outlet cover, a burned out lightbulb, or a missing pull on a drawer. These are very minor fixes with minimal costs but can make a huge difference to someone thinking about purchasing your home. When all these minor things are taken care of, it lets potential buyers know that the house has been taken care of and reduce their anxiety about buying it in the first place.
  3. Clean the Walls and Doors. Nothing says dirty like seeing finger prints on the walls and dirt around the door knobs. Many times, a simple cleaning of these frequently used areas will brighten a room without even getting to the point of having to paint.
  4. Organize. Whether it’s the closet shoes, placing them in clear plastic boxes, or the pantry, getting organized can make a difference. It shows potential buyers that you are meticulous about things. Someone seeing an organized closet or cans in the pantry with the labels facing forward will get the sense that you care about the things you have and therefore, care about the house.
  5. Aroma. I’m not talking about lighting fifty fragrant candles an hour before an open house. I’m talking about a regular clean smell to your home. Eliminate pet odors, clean toilets, and vacuum carpets and let your house speak for itself. If you are trying to cover up odors with other types of smells, people will know.

Minor Repairs Lights

Takeaways

Taking care of the little things in your house can make a difference between an “offer to buy” or a “move on.” Not only can it make a difference about whether there is an offer or not, there is also the potential to affect the price. Someone looking to purchase a home will be considering how much work they have to do to the house once they own it.

What Is Your Home Worth Button  New Build Button

Contact me for more information about how to improve the experience of someone looking to purchase your home.

3 Reasons Your House Won’t Sell

House Won't Sell New Construction

The real estate market is very active in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. It’s possible that it could continue to be a seller’s market for quite a while. It’s also possible that the market could slow or even retract into a buyer’s market.

With houses selling in record numbers, new construction homes being built in all areas, and people moving to the area in one of the larges migrations around the country in a long time, you would think that selling a house would be easy.

Let’s take a look at three reasons why your house may not sell.

Reason One – The Price Is Wrong!

House Won't Sell Price

Just because the market is selling a lot of houses doesn’t mean that you can overcharge for your house. There is one tell-tale sign that your house is priced wrong. If you have your house on the market for a few weeks and no one has come by to see it or make an offer, it’s a pretty good bet it’s over-priced.

It’s likely to be over-priced because the market has a way of determining the market price. If similar houses to yours are selling for $250,000 and you market your house for $285,000, you may have trouble justifying that price. There are a lot of factors that go into determining the correct price for your house and a Realtor® is one of the best ways to find out what that is. Realtors® are looking at the market every day and know many of the factors involved in pricing your home.

According to Realtor.com, using a Realtor® can actually save you money over trying to sell the house on your own. However, not all Realtors® are alike. Do your due diligence when deciding to work with a Realtor®.

What can you do?

Work with a Realtor® and let them help you determine the correct price for the property. If that price doesn’t work for you, then maybe you need to consider staying where you are until such a time when the market will give you the price you want. Remember that the longer your house is on the market, the longer it will take to get where you want to be.

Reason Two – Too Much Work!

House Won't Sell Work

Even if you price your house correctly, it may not sell for what you want. If you have ever gone looking at houses, many times you figure out in the first three minutes inside whether you want to put the work into it that is needed to get it where you want.

Have you ever walked into a kitchen and seen Formica counter tops, white appliances, and green cabinets? Since current standards for kitchens include granite or quartz counters, white or stained cupboards, and stainless steel appliances, people don’t spend as much time looking at the old stuff. This is especially true of people looking for a move-in ready home. They are looking for something they don’t have to worry about.

Another issue might be smaller details that take away from the look of the house. Damaged doors, unique paint colors, broken windows, leaky faucets, all contribute to reducing the desire for your house.

If clients see too many things they will have to take care of, they are likely to move on to the next house down the street that doesn’t need those things done.

What can you do?

Remove clutter. All your collectibles are not staying when you move so pack them. A good rule of thumb is to remove half of what you have in your house. Consider it early packing. Paint those awesome orange walls with a neutral color. Neutral colors allow potential buyers to see the house rather than judge the color of a wall. Remove everything from flat surfaces. A single accent piece is much better than a counter full of stuff. Keep it spic and span. Think from the buyer’s perspective. Would you buy your house the way it is?

Reason Three – Wrong Size Or Location!

What Is Your Home Worth Button

There are some things you just cannot change about your house. The location is what it is. If you purchased your home next to a massive water tower, or along the main road, there are simply going to be fewer people interested in the property.

If you have a three bedroom, two bathroom house and someone wants a four bedroom, two and a half bathroom house – well, they probably aren’t going to purchase your home. It simply doesn’t meet their needs.

Some things you cannot change about your house and that’s ok. It’s ok because there is someone out there who wants your house just the way it is and in the location you have it.

What can you do?

The location is what it is. Maybe when you purchased your house, it was the up and coming neighborhood but now it is not. It’s possible, but it takes a lot to relocate an entire house. If you have a 3 bedroom house, that’s what you have. Unless you plan on adding additional rooms, market your home to those looking for what you have. Some things we just don’t have control of and that’s ok.

Final Thoughts

New Build Button

There is always someone out there who will purchase your house for the right price. If you need assistance buying a home, reach out to me and we’ll find just the right property for you. If you are looking to sell your home, let me know and we will put the best face on your house to get it sold in a timely manner.

The last thing a Realtor® wants is their sign in your yard for a year because your house won’t sell the way it is or for the price. Anyone who tells you they will get a higher price for your house than the market directs is wasting your time.

I’ll be writing about different quick fixes you can do to your house now, so that when you are ready to sell, it is more attractive to those looking to buy.

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5 Types of Financial Roller Coasters

There are many reasons people get in trouble with their finances. If any of these describe you, reach out for help. There are solutions to each of these types that anyone can implement in their lives. Take a look.

Feast or Famine

Financial Roller Coaster

Have you ever met those people who are on an extreme rollercoaster ride with it comes to their finances? The type that seems to be doing fine one day, and the next day you hear they are barely scraping by.

Maybe it’s the people who buy a new home and they are all excited so they go out and buy a whole bunch of new furniture on credit. They are euphoric until the first bill comes in and then they are in panic mode.

Or it could be the person who pays off all their debt and the next thing you know, they are bringing stuff to the pawn shop to get to the next payday. Suddenly, the sell and buy scenario is a regular thing at the pawn shop.

The Slow Death

Financial Roller Coaster Wilted Flowers

These are the people who consistently live above their means. Unfortunately, a lot of Americans live this way. They spend $1.22 for every dollar they make. It’s a slow death because they overspend just a little but over time, that extra $0.22 adds up.

Maybe it’s the couple who is living vicariously through their children and can’t say no to them. You here them say stuff like “I’ll never let my kids go without like I did when I was a kid.” Whenever they go to the grocery store, they have to buy their child a toy – because – well, that’s just what they do. Right? Their kids are in all kinds of sports through school and other after school activities. It’s exhausting!

The Train Wreck

These are the ones you feel sorry for. This is the couple who has the breadwinner that has a heart attack. The person survives but is told they must retire right now! Of course, they planned on working for another ten years but now they have to figure out how to live on $35,000 per year instead of the planned $55,000.

The divorced couple. Neither one makes out ok from this situation. They both end up broke in the process due to lawyer fees, split accounts, etc. All their accounts are frozen during the process so they have limited funds to work with while they are going through the divorce. When everything is finally done, they both struggle for years trying to make all their finances work again on an individual basis.

Apocalypse

Here the spouse has died and there is no more income. Maybe they have been diagnosed with a disease that will take all their finances. A natural disaster takes place and they lose everything only to find out that their insurance won’t cover half of it.

Living on Prayer

This is the person who makes a decent living but never saves any money. When they turn 65 (or whatever the retirement age is for them) they talk to a financial planner only to hear that they can’t retire because the only money they have to live on is what they can sell their house for. If they sell their house, they will have a little money but that won’t last long. No planning was ever considered.

Steps to Avoid Tragedy

Financial Roller Coaster Money

Here are a few steps you can start to take now so that you don’t become one of the people described above.

  1. Live beneath your means. This means putting something from every check aside for later in life.
  2. Don’t make compulsive purchases. 50 years ago, if you didn’t have the cash, you didn’t get the item. It can still work that way today
  3. Make sure you have some type of medical insurance. Sure, the cost is out of control right now but if you don’t have it and something happens, all your plans go out the window.
  4. Have some life insurance. There’s nothing worse than seeing someone lose a loved one and not have enough to live on going forward. It’s a gift for your spouse and your family.
  5. Save. Save. In our current society, it’s all about instant gratification. Believe it or not, you can live with less stuff and still have a happy life.

If you need help with your finances, reach out to local organizations that help in this area. A good place to start is Consumer Credit Counseling. Find support groups and courses that can help turn things around.

What are some ways that you have avoided these tragic scenarios? Comment below.

 

Personal Finance Can Be Scary

Learning about Personal Finance

I learned a lot of what I know about personal finance in the 1980’s while serving in the United States Navy. While stationed overseas, I had the opportunity to take a college course. The course I chose was Personal Finance.

Most people don’t learn anything about personal finance growing up. Either their parents never took the time to discuss it or their school never taught it. Although my parents taught me some things about finances, I probably learned more in this one class than at home.

Personal Finance College

Why are people afraid of their finances?

It’s Embarrassing!

No one wants others to know they are having financial difficulties. After all, what are other people going to do? Most of the time, people are not going to hand over money to correct the situation. So not only is it embarrassing, but now others know that I can’t handle my finances.

But maybe it has nothing to do with handling my finances. Maybe it is an unforeseen event that changes everything. Is it a divorce situation? Did your spouse pass away? An automobile accident can radically change someone’s circumstances. What about a medical diagnosis?

All these situations have the potential of placing someone in a financial situation that is not optimal. Sometimes, these situations can lead to bankruptcy or foreclosure.

Personal Finance Wallet

It’s Scary!

If you have ever looked at your checkbook and wondered how you were supposed to pay for everything before you ran out of funds, it can be terrifying. I can recall at times in my life where I had to choose between paying a bill late or buying food. It was after a divorce situation when all the financial information came out. Making decisions like that adds a tremendous amount of stress to someone’s life and in my case, those late fees took months to catch up on again until the financial situation improved.

It’s Lonely!

No one likes to talk about their finances to others. Some feel it is none of the other person’s business. Others are just too embarrassed to talk about it. Either way, it places us in a position where there is no one to talk to about it. We tend to suffer with massive debt, added stress, and not knowing what to do about it.

People are afraid of judgment!

“Well, you should have paid attention more.”

“If you didn’t overspend, you would be fine.”

There are probably a thousand different things you can hear from others about all the ways you may have handled your personal finances poorly. There are another million things you can tell yourself about things you’ve done wrong. It sure is easy to beat ourselves up over things. You don’t need anyone else judging what got you in trouble with your finances.

I have been through a rollercoaster of events in my life. There have been times when my financial situation has been really good and other times when I didn’t know how I was supposed to make it another week.

One way to avoid those feelings of judgment is to get involved in groups and counselors who are there to offer suggestions on how to improve the situation. Sometimes, family and close friends are the wrong place to look for that and that is ok.

There are a ton of people that can beat you up about it. Instead, find those who will support you.

Solutions are Out There

I know that I don’t have all the answers but here are a few resources to consider when trying to get your finances under control. For immediate assistance, check with your local church. They may not be able to give you money or pay your bills all the time, but they can refer you to other resources that may be able to help.

Personal Finance Grow Your Money

The Little Debt-Free Book – This is a book I wrote that takes you through my financial journey after a divorce. Check out the website for some free resources and ways to order the book online. It not only tells you some of my story of becoming debt-free but offers tools to help organize and budget.

Financial Peace University – This study is offered through Dave Ramsey. Check out the website for information on when and where these classes are available. This is a 13-week course with specific goals for each week to change your way of thinking about finances.

Crown Ministry Financial Classes – These studies vary in length and walk through the financial process with a heavy emphasis on faith. Check out their website for information on when and where classes are available.

Personal Finance can be scary but you don’t have to deal with it alone. I’d love to know if you have tried any of these resources and what the outcome has been.

What Is Your Home Worth