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Assessed Value vs. Market Value

 

Real Home Value Calculator: Assessed Value vs Market Value

 

Understanding a home’s true market value is about more than pictures, software assessments, and price-per-square-foot. Whether you’re a current homeowner thinking of selling or are house-hunting, it’s crucial you understand what factors affect home valuation. By partnering with a local market expert, sellers will avoid pricing their house out of the market (the kiss of death in real estate) and buyers will ensure they get a good deal on their next home.

 

So, how do you accurately calculate a home’s value? After all, the value of a home is assigned by its town or county and the one it’s given when it’s listed are often dramatically different from one another. Which one is accurate and what does it all mean? Read on to learn more.

 

Assessed Value vs Market Value: What’s the difference?

When it comes to home value, you’ll often hear two terms, assessed value and market value.

 

A home’s assessed value is often the lower number of the two, and is the value given by your municipality or county. Investopedia defines assessed value as “the dollar value assigned to a property to measure applicable taxes.”1 Although property tax laws vary, assessors commonly arrive at this number by taking into account the following:

 

●      What comparable/similar homes are selling for in your area.

●      The value of recent improvements.

●      Income from renting out a room or space on the property.

●      How much it would cost to rebuild on the property.

 

A home’s market value, or Fair Market Value, is the price a buyer is willing to pay or a seller is willing to accept for a property. A skilled real estate professional will arrive at the value using a variety of metrics, including:

 

●      External characteristics, such as lot size, home style, the condition of the home and curb appeal.

●      Internal characteristics, such as the number of rooms and their size, the type and condition of the heating or HVAC system, the quality, and condition of construction, the flow of the home, etc.

●      The sales price of comparable homes that have sold in your area.

●      Supply and demand; or how many buyers and sellers are in the area.

●      Location; that is, the quality and desirability of your neighborhood and other community amenities.

 

Why are these values often so different? An assessor usually estimates your property’s market value during a reassessment or if you make a physical change or improvement to it.2 As a result, a property may not be reassessed for many years. While your home’s market value may fluctuate with the market, your home’s assessed value is more likely to remain steady.3

 

What Determines a Home’s Value?

You’ve likely heard the motto of real estate: “Location, location, location.” This means a home’s value relies on its location. While the home and structures on the property will likely depreciate over time, the land beneath it tends to appreciate. Why? Land is in limited supply and a growing population puts increased demand on the housing supply. As a result, values increase.4

 

Other factors that affect your home’s value include the function and appearance of the property, how well the home and other structures are maintained and whether the home is a lifestyle property, such as a ranch style with mountain views or beach bungalow.

 

Ultimately, the best indication of a home’s value is the overall supply and demand of the market. This is why we recommend you partner with a real estate professional who takes all of these factors—the assessed value, local market conditions, home features and has physically walked through and experienced your home— into consideration to determine the most accurate market value.

 

How to determine if a property is comparable to yours.

Both assessed value and market value are partially determined by the sales price of similar, or comparable, homes in the area. To determine if a home is comparable to yours, look for the following characteristics:

 

●      Lot size

●      Square footage

●      Home style or similar architecture

●      Age

●      Location

 

While you may not find a home with the same exact characteristics as yours, you’ll likely find a few that are close. To account for any disparity, adjust the sales prices of the comparable properties. Look at the differences between your property and the one in question and determine if the differences increased or decreased the sales price and by how much. For example, if your home has two bathrooms and a similar home only has three, estimate how much that extra bathroom increased the sale price of the similar home. The adjusted sale price is the estimation of what the property would sell for if the properties were exactly the same.2

 

Where can you find comparable sales?

Fortunately, you can find comparable home sales in a variety of places.2

●      Your local assessor’s office is able to provide a list of recent sales you can browse and compare or a sales history of a particular house, home style or neighborhood.

●      Your municipality. Many cities keep local sales information in their offices or post it online.

●      Online databases, such as a real estate database

●      Your local newspapers may offer some real estate information in the form of quarterly sales reports in the business or real estate sections of the newspaper.

●      Our office. We regularly do Comparable Market Analysis of homes in our local area.

 

How to calculate your home’s value.

By answering a few questions about your home, property and the local market, you can begin to estimate your property’s value. We’ve also included a worksheet for you below...

 

Home Value Questions:

When was your home last assessed?

What was its CMA assessment value?

What is your area’s average sales price?

What is your area’s average price/square foot?

 

Structure:

●      Is the architecture and exterior structure of the home consistent, superior or inferior to other homes in the area?

●      Does the era or genre (Modern, Victorian, Ranch, Cottage, etc.) add a premium based on current design trends?

●      How does the floor plan and room size proportions of the home compare to other homes on the market?

Interior Structure:

●      How does the kitchen compare to others on the market?

○      Updated or outdated

○      Floor plan

○      Appliance packages

●      How does the Master Suite compare to others on the market?

○      Size

○      First/second floor

○      Updated or outdated

○      Access to Master Bath

●      How does the Master Bath compare to others on the market?

○      Updated or outdated

○      Shower and bath

○      Flooring

Outside Areas:

●      Are there views, outdoor living areas or recreational areas?

○      Pools

○      Ponds

○      Patios

●      How does the landscaping and hard-scaping compare to the market? (e.g., built elements such as walkways, patios, decks, etc.)

Overall Condition of Home

●      What is the level of repair needed to compete with other homes?

●      Does the home need to be staged? How does it show?

●      What curb appeal projects are necessary to be consistent with others on the market?

If you want to accurately assess a home’s value, it’s crucial to know about the market activity of our local area. We can help! Give us a call or shoot us an email to get the scoop on the local market.

 

Sources: 1. Investopedia http://www.investopedia.com/terms/a/assessedvalue.asp

            2. New York State Department of Taxation and Finance https://www.tax.ny.gov/pubs_and_bulls/orpts/mv_estimates.htm

                        3. Realtor.com http://www.realtor.com/advice/sell/assessed-value-vs-market-value-difference/

                        4. Investopedia, http://www.investopedia.com/articles/mortgages-real-estate/08/housing-appreciation.asp?lgl=myfinance-layout

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What's Your Home Buying Power?

What’s Your Home Buying Power?

           

If you’re in the market for a new home or investment property, one of the first questions you’ll probably ask is, “What can we afford?” Many buyers become so caught up in how much they can afford that they don’t realize their total buying power—that is, the total amount of purchasing potential they actually have.

 

Buying Power Defined

Your buying power is comprised of the total amount of money you have available each month for a mortgage payment. This means the money you have each month after fixed bills and expenses. Any money you’ve saved for a down payment, the proceeds from the sale of your current home, if applicable, and the amount of money you’re qualified to borrow all impact your buying power as well. When you take all of this into account, you may find you are able to purchase a larger home or a home in a more desirable neighborhood, or you might realize you should be looking for homes in a lower price range.

 

What About Housing Affordability?

Housing affordability is a metric used by real estate experts to assess whether or not the average family earning an average wage could qualify for a mortgage on the average home.1 Although this figure is essential to creating a comprehensive overview of the real estate market, it’s not a factor you should consider in your home search. What may be considered affordable to you based on your income and other factors may be different than what’s affordable to the average buyer.

 

Why Buying Power Matters

A common misunderstanding is that a home’s list price determines whether or not you can purchase it. Although it’s important to look at the price tag, it’s essential to consider what your monthly payment will be if you own the home. After all, the purchase price doesn’t include the housing-related expenses, such as annual property taxes, homeowner insurance, associated monthly fees and any maintenance or repairs. Figuring out the payment will prevent you from overestimating or underestimating your buying power. After all, you’ll live with your monthly payment, not the sales price.

 

Once you have clarity on your buying power, you’ll be able to buy the home you want, instead of settling for a home because you feel it’s the only one you can afford. It will also prevent you from becoming “house poor,” a common term for someone who’s put all their money toward the down payment, leaving them nothing left over for fees outside of their monthly house payment. Both scenarios can negatively impact the lifestyle you want to live. Understanding your buying power can help you get the home you want without sacrificing the lifestyle you desire.

 

If you haven’t sold your current home yet, a Comparative Market Assessment (CMA) will give you a general idea of how much you may get for your home based on what other homes have sold for in your area. Contact us here at The Knox Team for a FREE CMA!

 

Calculating Your Buying Power

You might be wondering, “How do I know what my buying power is?” Buying power is calculated by adding the money you’ve saved for a down payment and/or the money you made from selling your home (minus fees and mortgage payoff) to all of your sources of income and investments that could be used to make your monthly payment. Make sure to include your monthly pay, commissions or tips, dividends from investments, payments from rental properties or other monthly income you receive as well as the loan amount you’re willing to finance and qualify for.

 

Most lenders advised buyers to spend no more than 35 to 45 percent of their pretax income on housing, meaning all your income and sources of revenue prior to paying taxes. Make sure you factor in not only your mortgage payment, but also property tax and home insurance to the cost of housing.2 However, other financial experts advise spending no more than a very conservative 25 percent of your after-tax income on your housing expenses.2Whether you plan to spend the average, play it conservative or split the difference is up to you.

 

Traditionally, mortgage lenders have targeted the ideal housing expense amount to be a ratio of 28 percent or less.3

 

However, these figures bring up an important point: you don’t have to spend all of your savings and available monthly income on a mortgage payment. It’s important to set money aside for regular home maintenance, unexpected repairs and monthly fees, such as a condominium or homeowners association fee. While the above ratios are commonly accepted, a lender will look at your total financial picture when they decide how much they’re willing to lend. It may be tempting to take out a large loan in order to purchase the home of your dreams, but keep in mind the less money you have to borrow, the stronger your buying power may be.

 

4 Things That Impact Buying Power

1. Credit score. A great score can help you lock into a lower interest rate.

 

2. Debt-to-income ratio. The lower the ratio, the better risk you may be to lenders as long as you have an established credit history.

 

3. Assets, including the documentation of where the money for the purchase is coming from and the mix of your investments.

 

4. Down payment. The more you’re able to put down, the less you will have to borrow. With a down payment of 20 percent or more, you won’t have to purchase private mortgage insurance (PMI) and you may also be able to negotiate a lower interest rate.

 

How to Save for a Down Payment

If you’re thinking of buying a home one day, one of the first steps to take is to start saving for a down payment. Here are some tips to make saving easier.

 

First-time buyers:

1. Set a savings goal. One way to figure out how much to save is to use the average sales price for homes that are similar to what you want and figure out your target down payment percentage. For example, if homes are selling for $200,000 in your area and you want to put 20 percent down, you’ll have to save $40,000. Set a goal to save that amount within a specific time frame; just keep in mind the longer you save, the more the average selling price will change. Although the majority of buyers saved for six months or less, 29 percent of all buyers (and 31 percent of first-time buyers) saved for more than two years for a down payment.4

 

2. Cut back on expenses. Review your monthly expenses and look for ways to save. Twenty-nine percent of buyers cut spending on non-essentials items and 22 percent cut spending on entertainment while they were saving for a home.4 Think about items you can live without or cut back on temporarily while you’re saving.

 

3. Look for ways to boost your income. Get a side job or sell items online or at a garage sale to increase your income in a short amount of time. Be sure to save any windfalls you get, including your annual income tax refund or work bonuses.

 

4.  Check out home-buying programs. Your state, county or local government may offer special programs, such as grants, for first-time buyers to use.

 

5. Ask your family. Thirteen percent of all buyers, and 24 percent of first-time buyers, were given money from family or friends to use toward the down payment of their home.4

 

Repeat buyers:

More than 52 percent of repeat buyers used the proceeds from the sale of their primary residence toward the down payment on their next home.4 Similarly, 76 percent tapped into their savings accounts.4 If you’re thinking of buying another home, here are more ways to save more money, in addition to the tips listed above:

 

1. Rent a room. If you have an income flat (or mother-in-law unit) attached to your home, rent it out and channel the income into a high-interest savings account.

 

2. Make your money work for you. If you don’t plan to buy for at least five years, invest it and let the compound interest work for you. Discuss this option with your financial planner or broker to see if this is ideal for you and your goals.

 

3. Tap into your 401(k). If you have a 401(k) plan, you may be allowed to borrow a portion of it, the lessor of up to $50,000 or half of its value, for your down payment. Remember, it’s a loan so you’ll have to pay it back. If you leave or lose your job before you’ve repaid the loan, you’ll have between 60 to 90 days to repay the balance or face stiff taxes and penalties.

 

If you want to buy an investment property

Whether you’re buying a second home or a rental property, here are a couple tips to save for a down payment.

 

1. Tap into your equity. If you’ve paid off or paid down your mortgage on your primary home, you may be able to tap into your equity to purchase another property. Contact your lender to learn more about a HELOC or home equity loan.

 

2. Get a partner. Find a friend or relative who’s willing to purchase property with you. Typically, you’ll split the costs and profits equally. Just make sure to work with an attorney to create a partnership agreement to fit your situation.

 

 

Work Out Your Buying Potential

What’s your buying potential? Fill out this worksheet to get an estimate.

 

Housing Expense Ratio:

1. Monthly income before taxes

$

2. Multiply line 1 by 0.28

X 0.28

3. Monthly mortgage payment (PITI) should not exceed this amount

= $

4. Monthly income before taxes

$

5. Multiply line 4 by 0.36

X 0.36

6. Total monthly payments on all debts (including mortgage) should not exceed this amount

= $

7.  Subtract the total monthly payments on all outstanding debts (e.g., car loans, credit cards, student loans, etc.)

- $

8. The monthly mortgage payment should not exceed this amount

$

9. Look at line 3 and line 8. The lower figure is an estimate of the maximum mortgage payment in consideration of your income and debts.

$

10. Multiply line 9 by 0.80

X 0.80

11. This equals portion of your mortgage payment that is the principal and interest only

$

12. Use the table below to see the size of the loan you may be able to obtain with this monthly mortgage payment.

 

Source: Iowa State University Extension, What is your house-buying power?

 

Monthly Payment on 30-Year Fixed Rate Mortgage

Loan amount

3%

3.5%

4%

4.5%

5%

5.5%

6%

$50,000

211

225

239

253

268

284

300

$75,000

316

337

358

380

402

426

450

$100,000

421

449

477

506

536

568

600

$150,000

632

674

716

759

804

852

900

$200,000

842

898

954

1012

1072

1136

1200

$250,000

1052

1123

1193

1265

1340

1420

1500

$300,000

1263

1347

1431

1518

1608

1704

1800

Didn’t see your desired loan amount? Use the table below to estimate your monthly payment (principal and interest) per $1,000 of your loan. To figure out an estimated loan payment, multiply the factor by the number of thousands in the amount of your mortgage.

For example, if you intend to borrow $400,000, with a loan term of 30 years at 4% interest, multiply 4.77x 400 = $1908 per month.

Interest Rate

15-Year Term

30-Year Term

Monthly Payment

Monthly Payment

3%

6.90

4.21

3.5%

7.14

4.49

4%

7.39

4.77

4.5%

7.64

5.06

5%

7.90

5.36

5.5%

8.18

5.68

6%

8.44

6.00

Source: HSH.com http://www.hsh.com/mopaytable-print.html)

Don’t forget to factor in property taxes and insurance. These are often added to your principal and interest of your mortgage payment—the money used to pay down the balance of your loan and the charge for borrowing the money. Since these numbers vary, contact your county assessor’s office for the current property tax rate and your insurer for a home insurance quote. Once you have these figures, divide each by 12 to estimate how much they’ll add to the above payment amounts.

Do you want a clearer picture of your buying power? Would you like to see what kind of homes you can get with your buying power? Give us a call!

Sources: 1. National Association of REALTORS https://www.nar.realtor/topics/housing-affordability-index/methodology

                        2. Moneyunder30.com https://www.moneyunder30.com/percentage-income-mortgage-payments

                        3. Credit.com https://www.credit.com/loans/mortgage-questions/how-to-determine-your-monthly-housing-budget/

                        4. National Association of REALTORS, 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers

            5. Iowa State University Extension, What is your house-buying power? https://store.extension.iastate.edu/product/pm1460-pdf

            6. HSH.com http://www.hsh.com/mopaytable-print.html

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TOP 5 HOME DESIGN TRENDS OF THE YEAR

TOP 5 HOME DESIGN TRENDS OF 2017

 

The current trends are all about utilizing rich color, maximizing texture and creating comfortable interiors you can’t wait to relax in. We see it daily, across the valley and in other regions, design often brings in several buyers shopping online faster than anything else. And who would not appreciate a well-designed home (to enjoy themselves) in Silicon Valley and beyond? Use these top trends to get inspired to makeover your home’s interiors and create spaces you love that also appeal to your personal style. Remember, if you plan to sell in the next few years, you may want to avoid doing anything dramatic and instead incorporate small changes that would appeal to any future buyers. One thing I always tell my clients is going neutral is a safe bet, regardless, theres some good info in this article listed below, enjoy!

 

Why are these trends gaining popularity?

The underlying theme of these trends is creating a home environment you love; one that appeals to your emotions and feels like a retreat from the stresses of the world. Although the home is a place where you can relax and spend time with loved ones, work expectations are beginning to blur the line between work and home. Even if people don’t work from home specifically, many are stretching their work hours into their evenings and weekends to complete work projects.

 

It’s no wonder the Nordic concept of hygge (most often pronounced “hoo-gah”) has become a hot trend. A centuries-old concept, incorporating hygge in the home means creating simple and comfortable spaces that make you feel cozy and safe and appeal to your senses.1 The emphasis is on simplicity and fostering positive experiences, whether you’re spending time with family, reading a good book or catching up on work emails.

 

WARM AND RICH COLORS.

Whether you want to play with a bold color or stick with neutrals, one thing is clear—paint is the foundation of a great design. Painting your interiors has a return on investment of about 75 percent and is a relatively inexpensive project to complete, costing between $25 to $100 for paint alone.2 If you’re thinking of refreshing your home’s interiors with a coat of paint, popular colors include warm taupe, fresh green and dark tones. These colors are popular choices because they evoke feeling of warmth and coziness when you walk into a room.

 

Wondering how to pair these colors? Taupe is the perfect alternative to traditional neutrals, such as gray and white, and goes well with cool blues, earthy greens and deep shades of wine.  Green goes well with other earthy shades, such as copper and moss, as well as deep plum and bright pink. If you’re hesitant to paint your walls green, incorporate it into your home by way of accent pillows, rugs, lamps, vases and other accessories or add a few house plants.       

         

If you’re interested in adding more drama to a room, include bold, dark colors.  Dark shades add color and sophistication to any space. Plum and dark gray pair well with pale blues, warm whites and light gray.

 

Try one of these Colors of the Year:

 

Poised Taupe – Sherwin Williams

            Greenery - Pantone

Shadow – Benjamin Moore

 

RICH MATERIALS.

Lux materials create a space in which you can’t wait to kick off your shoes and relax at the end of the day. The Danes use a mixture of materials and pattern as a way of adding character and interest; however the overall look still needs to adhere to a color palette to prevent it from looking distracting.

 

Natural materials and textures allow you to maximize the comfort of the bedroom, living room or family room. Wood accents give rooms an earthy feel. Incorporate rustic wood sculptures, trays and furniture into your space. Choose furniture made with sustainably harvested wood certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or use reclaimed wood for an environmentally friendly alternative.

 

If natural elements aren’t your style, but you want to add more visual interest to your room, try mixing patterns. Although it may have been avoided in the past, mixing stripes, florals and geometric prints actually help ground a space as long as the patterns feature complimentary colors or different shades of one color. If you’re worried about going overboard and making your room look “busy,” focus your mix in one area of the room. For example, add throw pillows in a variety of patterns to your sofa.

 

GOING GREEN.

According to a recent study from the American Psychological Association, people are more stressed than ever, with 24 percent of adults reporting they’re experiencing “extreme stress.”3

Top sources of stress include work and money. By incorporating small changes, like making your house more energy efficient, you can start to lower your bills and get back to relaxing and enjoying life like the Danish do (who consistently top the polls as the happiest people).

 

Save money on your energy bills by sealing the “envelope” of your home, which includes the windows and doors, walls, floor and roof. The better insulated your home is, the less heat will escape and the lower your energy bill (and stress level) will be.

  

The most heat loss occurs through the walls of the home: up to 35 percent of heat loss, to be exact.4 Ceramic insulating paint is a space-inspired coating of paint mixed with ceramic compounds and applied to interior or exterior surfaces. It seals your walls and prevents heat from escaping, which means reduced energy bills all year long.

 

THE FUNCTIONAL HOME OFFICE.

Twenty-four percent of employed people do some or all of their work at home.5 Since more people are working remotely than ever, home offices are becoming more popular. Even if you don’t plan on working from home, a home office gives you a place to pay bills, work on personal projects, plan your family’s schedule and more. Home offices tend to be multifunctional, serving as a guest room when family and friends visit, and have the potential to meet other needs that arise.

 

The key idea behind hygge is to enjoy the environment around you and for each room to be a sanctuary to sink into at any given moment. Your home office is no exception! Maximize your productivity, efficiency and focus by painting the walls shades of green or blue.6 If space is an issue, create a nook by installing docking and tech cabinets that are big enough to store a printer and other small office equipment and files without taking over the room.

 

If you don’t have room in your home for an office, look no further than your backyard. Shedquarters, small structures or sheds built in the backyard for use as an office or home-based business, are an attractive option for homeowners who don’t have a room to dedicate to an office and don’t wish to add on their homes. while the jury is out on how much value these structure add to a home, they can convert easily into a storage shed if you plan to sell in the future.

         

SPLURGING ON KITCHEN RENOVATIONS.

The kitchen is often the busiest, most hectic room in the house and one of the top renovation projects with a high return on investment.7 We do more than cook meals there; it’s where homework is done, bills are paid, weeks are planned and more.

 

Kitchen remodels consistently show a respectable return on investment. According to the 2017 Cost vs Value Report from Remodeling magazine, a minor kitchen remodel touts an 80.2 percent return on investment.8 You don’t need to overhaul your entire kitchen to make it more hygge. Smaller additions can transform it into a relaxing and functional space you enjoy spending time with friends and family in.

 

What does a “minor kitchen renovation” entail? In addition to replacing the fronts of your cabinets and drawers, it also includes replacing out-of-date appliances and fixtures. You may also consider replacing countertops. Quartz and quartzite are becoming more common as are other green laminate options, including ones that mimic stone, wood and concrete. Laminates install in less time, often over the existing countertop, make it an ideal choice for busy homeowners as well. Other hot kitchen trends include incorporating sustainable materials like bamboo into your countertops and floors and water filtration systems.

                

Local Realtors are a great source of information and resources when it comes to your next design project. We've helped a lot of our past and present clients with anything from minor bathroom upgrades to full scale kitchen remodels and re-design of floor plans here in San Jose and in other regions up the San Francisco Bay Area Peninsula, and as far south as past Santa Cruz. Want to improve the look and feel of your home’s interior? Are you thinking of upgrading to a home that better fits your changing needs? CONTACT US —we’d love to help you achieve all of your home-related dreams here in Silicon Valley, San Jose and beyond.

 

Sources:  1. Time, Hygge, the Nordic Trend That Could Help You Survive 2016

                        2. Quality Smith

                        3. American Psychological Association, 2015 Stress in America

4.  Department of Energy

5. Department of Labor

                        6. Entrepreneur, How the Color of Your Office Impacts Productivity

                        7. Realtor.com

            8. Remodeling Magazine, 2017

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Increasing Your Home's Value By 28%

5 TIPS AND TRICKS TO INCREASE YOUR HOME'S VALUE

 

Increase Your Home’s Value Up to 28% with These 5 Tips
 

Great curb appeal not only makes your home the star of the neighborhood, it can also improve its value and help you sell it for more. Whether you’re thinking of listing your home or just want to make your home the envy of your neighbors, here are several ways to increase your home’s curb appeal.

 

1. Make your home’s exterior look like new.

For many potential buyers, the condition of the exterior of a home can offer clues to the condition of the interior. The first place to start when boosting curb appeal is the exterior of your house.

 

Paint. Paint is the best way to make your home appear newer. While you can paint your home yourself, if it’s large or more than one story, consider hiring a professional. Painting is a fairly inexpensive improvement with between 60 to 100 percent return on investment.1

 

Maintain your siding. Over time, weather and the elements can make your home’s siding appear dull and dirty. Use a pressure washer to clean stains, spider webs and accumulated dirt and grime, or use a soft cloth and a household cleaner to get into those small nooks and spaces. Although the average life expectancy of siding ranges from 60 to 100 years, depending on the material, extreme weather may reduce this number. If you need to replace the siding, you’ll enjoy a 77 percent return on investment.1

 

Paint or replace garage doors. If your garage doors are in good condition, give them a new coat of paint. If they’re beginning to show their age, consider replacing them. Not only are new garage doors more energy efficient and better insulated than older models, they also have a 91.5 percent return on investment.1

 

Maintain your fence. Replace rotted or worn posts and panels and freshen it up with a coat of paint. If you have a hedge that serves as your property’s border, keep it trimmed and in good shape.

 

2. Pay attention to the small details.

The small details tie your home’s exterior together and help it stand out from others in the neighborhood.

 

Paint front door, trim and shutters. This inexpensive improvement adds brightness to a home, whether you choose a bold color, a neutral tone or classic white.

 

Install new door fixtures and be sure they match in style and finish and complement the style of your home.

 

Update your house numbers. Make sure potential buyers and guests can find your home. If the numbers have faded or need an update, replace them. If choosing a metallic finish, make sure it matches the finish of your exterior light fixtures.

 

3. Tend to your driveway and lawn.

Well-landscaped homes may sell for between 5.5% and 12.7% more than other similar homes and studies show it may also add up to 28 percent to your home’s overall value.5  

 

Place a border along your driveway or walkway made of brick, stone, pavers or another hardscape element to add visual interest to a plain driveway.

        

Maintain your green space. If you have grass, a well-maintained, green lawn makes your home look inviting and picturesque. However, in many parts of the country, water conservation is becoming more important. Xeriscaped landscapes incorporate drought-tolerant vegetation that thrives in warm, dry climates, such as lavender, sage, wisteria and agave, with water-saving drip irrigation and mulch. Xeriscaping has a cost savings of 36 cents per square foot annually through reduced irrigation and maintenance costs.3 Additionally, these landscapes are virtually maintenance free, which makes it an attractive option for busy buyers.

 

Include trees and shrubs to create texture and add interest to your landscape. Planting a few types of trees and shrubs of varying heights, widths and flowering times boosts your home’s curb appeal year-round.

 

4. Make it feel inviting.

It’s no secret that emotions play a role in a person’s decision to purchase a home. Stage the outside of your home to evoke warm feelings.

 

Stage your porch. If you have a front porch, make it feel more inviting by including seating, such as a chair or loveseat, an outdoor rug and a small table. If space is an issue, incorporate small decorative touches, such as a festive wreath or potted plant.

 

Hang flower boxes on your front porch railings and/or below your windows. If you don’t want to affix flower boxes to your home, purchase nice planters and containers and place them around your porch or on your front steps.

 

Choose flowers and plants that bloom at different times of the year for year-round appeal. For example, bulbs not only bloom all spring, they also multiply and come up every year. Perennials often flower for most of the year and will prevent you from having to replant them every year.

        

If you don’t have a green thumb, choose low maintenance plants and flowers. Flowers such as lavender, rosemary, and zinnias are a few low-maintenance and drought-tolerant options.

 

5. Boost Your Online “Curb Appeal.”

For those interested in selling, it’s important to know the effect online curb appeal has on a home. The better impression your home gives online, the more likely buyers will want to see it in person. Here’s how to get your home ready for its listing debut.

 

Stage your home. Staging shows your home in its best light and helps potential buyers picture themselves living there.

 

Hire a professional to take photos. A photographer has the skills and equipment to shoot your home in the best light and make it look its best.

 

Include a short video tour of the home. Videos are becoming a popular way to give buyers a glimpse of the home before they step foot in it.

 

Before you start a home project, keep these four things in mind:

1. Why are you renovating? In other words, is your intention to update your home and get it show-ready or do you want to sell it for more money? Don’t fall into the trap of undertaking major renovations that may not pay off when you sell. If your home is in good shape, a few inexpensive updates may be enough to make your home attractive to buyers.

2. The style of the neighborhood. Whenever you renovate your home, make sure the project fits with the style of the neighborhood and rules of the homeowner association. For example, an HOA may limit the choice and number of trees you can plant on your property. Similarly, a tall hedge border may not fit in in a neighborhood of low, picket fences.

3. Permits. If you’re planning an extensive exterior renovation, you may need a permit from your municipality or other authority.

4. Budget. A budget keeps your project’s costs and scope in check. Make a list of the improvements you’d like to make, set a realistic budget and stick to it. If you’d like advice on improvements you can make to boost your home’s curb appeal, give us a call.

 

Are you thinking of boosting your home’s curb appeal or renovating your home before you list? Do you want help making your home more appealing to potential buyers online and in-person? Give us a call here at the Knox Team and we’ll help you present your home in its best light.

 

Sources: 1. Remodeling, 2016 Cost vs Value Report
            2. Realtor Mag, September 22, 2016
            3. REALTOR.com
4. Houzz, Houzz & Home-U.S., June 2016
5. Houselogic.com

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Why Preparation Is Key

 

WHY PREPARATION IS KEY, EVEN IN OUR BUSINESS.

 

You hear it from agents in the market on a daily basis: each day is never the same.

And neither are the types of transactions as well as the situations that each family faces in the sale of an intimate piece of personal property, their home.

 

Each month we help families across Silicon Valley with what are called regular residential sales but often the situation is nothing but ordinary. Recapping on the last few situations, they included possible 1031 exchanges,  probate and trust property, unexpected short sale due to lender troubles, sellers moving into their next home while also having to sell their current residence on a timely basis or sellers already moved into their new home, only to have to deal with delays with fixing some deferred repairs on the previous home and more.

 

Yes, these are all seller specific situations, and there’s a consistent conversation about how well our buyers need to prepare for the market, but often, the conversation with our prospective sellers are lacking such urgency.

 

This, of course, does not apply to all clients. If you knew tomorrow you were going to sell your home and move, what tasks would you start doing today?

 

That’s a broad and also very minimal time to get anything done in reality, you would hardly be able to sign a simple listing agreement, let alone review some of the supporting docs that are now included to cover certain listing situations, for example, off-market repairs, deferred projects and to cover even the timeline of routine maintenance and spruce up of the home.

 

It often feels more like a sprint than a marathon to get things together before inviting the public into your home - kitchen cabinets need touch up, counter tops may have got worn out, that purple paint in your daughters room may not look so good to someone that may turn it into office, or you had a section of the hallway that had a pile of office stuff that you are not sure what to do with. Once again, speaking from personal experience but it can happen to anyone. I may have to save my “Tale of Two Homes” for another future blog post and another time to tell the story of when I took on a task of an epic proportion of fixing two homes that I own at the same time. Experience counts always, even if it’s your own.

 

In today’s local market, preparation is key.

 

Silicon Valley is the epicenter of not only technology and business growth but real estate growth as well and the demand, despite market fluctuations, never ceases. Buyers nowadays demand newer, updated, renovated, remodeled homes, or expect a home to be in move in condition with all the ends tied up and ready to close.

 

Let’s face it, moving is tough enough. Add on having to worry about a tree that may need trimming to keep from getting too close to the roof of a home, a dishwasher or garbage disposal going out right as your family needs it, the roof leaking in certain corners while having guests over, or termites infesting some parts of wood rotten portions of the home that weren’t patched up and maybe nobody noticed, until now. The list can go on and on, but the idea is as a courtesy to leave the home in a good condition for the next occupant.

 

Thankfully, we make an effort to set courtesy reminders and have tons and tons of checklists available for any potential home seller looking to make their next move on how we can ensure that all parties involved in the sale are happy with the overall outcome.

 

Going back to renovation or remodel projects, due to a home left in a deferred state...which do come up onto the market roughly about 10-20% of the time. It’s not really about money but time, and the underrated amount of effort that goes into these projects. Often funds are not so much a drawback to purchasing a fixer or deferred maintenance property rather than the time and coordination of resources needed to complete a project with the scale size as a home.

 

Resources may include:

 

-Investment Funds for Project

-Architect for Plans on the Home

-Foundation Engineers

-Contractor or Development Company

-City, State, and Other Permits

-Interior Design Specialist

-Other types of Contractors

-And more...

 

What we refer to as house “flips” are also very time, resource and effort intensive. That house flipping show just makes it look way too easy. Speaking from experience, you would be blown away to know that it takes the right level of detail in doing things like changing out sinks and toilets, choosing paints, choosing fixtures and finishes and much more.

 

Sometimes I feel like we should be showcased on those flipping shows, nevermind.

 

What does preparation have to do with it?

 

Preparation is not just an act, it’s the proper execution of an idea, a plan, a task, a checklist, a guide and ultimately the effort that goes into the proper timing of the completion of all these items. And every situation is different.

 

Surprisingly, other local Brokerages can be guilty of lack of preparation for certain situations when it comes to listing a home for sale. Not all, but some of them, and we see it every day in the business. There’s a difference between someone that is simply willing to represent you, your home and your family, versus someone that you prefer to represent you, your family and your home but is also well versed, experienced and well qualified to handle any types of situations.

 

Thankfully we’ve been at the forefront of having plans and checklists and guides and much more info for any potential home seller to best prepare for any and all situations.

We’ve also had a current evolution in some of the ways in which we plan for listing and open house launches, so much that our meetings in office are always about how we can best improve our processes and how we’re already in motion with launching on some of the homes coming on the market soon for this late Spring/Summer season. It’s amazing!

 

The next step in this evolution is getting all this info into the hands of potential sellers just like yourself! Don’t worry, if you are going to be both a buyer and seller, we have some great refinements, updates and overall revamp of a ton of our exclusive content coming out in the next few months.

 

Some guides, reports, and information you can expect to see from us soon, in addition to our monthly Blog postings and email newsletters, are some truly informative and eye-catching guides designed to best serve the needs of local families across Silicon Valley.

 

You can expect us to hit topics across all areas including:

 

How Trust & Probate Work in Real Estate

The Ultimate Seller’s Guide

Exclusive Buyer’s Guide

Common Seller Mistakes

Home Inspection Guidebook

Renting vs. Buying Report

Finding Value in your Realtor

And more!

 

All of this content is taken from our decades of experience in Silicon Valley, through some situations that we’ve faced with clients, agents, prospective buyers, family, friends and much more! And we’re happy to first send the invitation to you, our clients and followers, before anyone else. As markets change and trends shift, you may also see more on how to handle these types of markets best. Wow!

 

Going back to preparation.

 

How can one best prepare for a variety of situations that they may encounter in the Real Estate game? It’s information and truly becoming the expert. The more information one can acquire about a challenge, the best that they can prepare for the conditions are coming down the way.

 

Of course, we live in a digital age where we are truly oversaturated with information, and not too sure where to apply it and when. And when it comes to Real Estate and market information for our particular region, that’s where we come in and help. A lot of articles on the current market may apply to the nation, or even other parts of our state, but not our immediate area here in Silicon Valley.

 

That's where we come in. We're working hard to remain your primary source of market developments and tips on how to be a proactive buyer and seller.

 

Now that we’ve outlined how preparation factors into our Real Estate business as well as your role in all of this as a past, present and future client of us here at the Knox Team at Pinnacle Real Estate, we would love to hear from you!

 

If there’s anything we can do for you at the moment to help best prepare you and your family for current or upcoming market conditions, information we can pass on that can help you in and around your home or if there’s a guide we can send to a friend or family member that has been thinking of buying or selling, contact us below! We will be happy to get in touch with them and get them some of these resources coming soon. It's the season to sell, are you ready?

 

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Building Your Household's Wealth

"THE COMPOUND EFFECT"

Wealth is within reach for many people; however, according to a recent study, 63 percent of Americans said it’s not likely they’ll become rich.1 While younger people are more likely to say they’ll achieve wealth one day, only 34 percent of people aged 30 to 49 and 21 percent of people aged 50 or older say the same. There is no secret to becoming rich: it takes time, sacrifice and good financial sense. Here are a few ways to build your household’s wealth.
Let Compound Interest Work for You

Compound interest is your interest earning interest. While the concept may work against you when you take out a loan to buy a car or use your credit card, it works in your favor when you’re saving money. For example, if your savings is growing at a rate of four percent, your investment will double in eight years and quadruple in 16 years. Your money will grow exponentially the longer you save: the more money you’ve saved, the more your money will grow.

Tap into Your Home Appreciation

Experts expect home prices to appreciate 3.24 percent and grow by 21.4 percent cumulatively.2  If a homeowner purchases a home this year for $250,000, they could earn more than $40,000 in equity over the next five years. Although the home value of the average American family’s home is $165,000, home values vary by market.3 If you’re curious about the value of your home, give us a call!

Build Equity in Your Home

One of the most compelling reasons to own a home is it allows you to build wealth over time. According to one study, the average homeowner has a net worth of $200,000, which is 31 to 46 times the net worth of the average renter.4 Saving for a down payment, especially if you plan to put down more than 20 percent, helps you adopt good financial habits. The more you put down when you buy, the higher your share of equity when you close. Although for the first five to seven years, the majority of your payment will go toward interest, over time more money will be applied to the principal. There are many tools online that calculate your current and future equity in your home, including this one here.

Build equity sooner by choosing a shorter amortization term. While your payment may be higher, you’ll likely qualify for a lower interest rate and will pay less interest over the life of the loan.

**Build Equity Faster in Your Home

Mortgage Term: 30 Years VS. 15 Years

Loan Amount: $118,000 FOR BOTH

Months to Pay: 360 VS. 180

Annual Percentage Rate: 4.0% VS. 3.0%

Monthly Payment: $563 VS. $815

Total Interest: $84,806 VS. $28,680

Interest savings = $56,126

Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, Building Wealth: A Beginner’s Guide to Securing Your Financial Future

Pay Down Your Mortgage…or Not

Many homeowners grapple with whether or not to pay down their mortgage. On one hand, if you pay it down, or pay it off early, you’ll save money on interest, which you can use to make other investments. On the other hand, if your goal is to be debt free, it’s better to pay off your higher-interest debt, such as credit card debt, first before paying down your mortgage debt. Additionally, if you’re saving for retirement, putting extra cash toward your retirement accounts will help you build a nice nest egg to enjoy later on.

If you decide to pay off your mortgage sooner, here are a few ways to do so:

1. Pay more money at the beginning of your amortization period and apply it to your principal.

 2. If you receive a tax refund or other windfall, apply it toward your principal.

3. Make one extra payment each year. You’ll save money on interest and pay your loan off sooner.

4. Add an extra $50, or another amount you can afford, to the principal of your payment each month.

5. If you locked into a 30-year fixed loan, refinance to a shorter, 15-year fixed loan. Your payment may be higher, but you’ll pay it off sooner.

Your financial advisor can help you decide if paying off or paying down your mortgage is right for your goals.

Purchase Investment Property

Investment properties provide passive income to your growing financial portfolio. More than 25 percent of Americans say real estate is the best way to invest money you may not need for the next 10 years.5 While many people flip houses to make money—that is, they buy a home at a low price, fix it up and sell it quickly—others purchase multifamily properties to create monthly cash flow to save or to reinvest in other properties.

The longer you own a property, the better investment it becomes as you’ll continue to build equity. While rental costs rise with inflation, your mortgage will remain the same. The best part? Once you pay off the mortgage, your cash flow will increase. Remember to create a budget for maintenance each month, between 10 to 20 percent of the rent you receive, or more if the home is older. This will help you save more money in the long run and allow you to prepare for unexpected repairs.

There are tax benefits to owning investment property as well. You may be able to claim deductions for depreciation, as long as it fits within the guidelines; repairs, travel expenses, interest and more. If you’re thinking of purchasing investment property, talk to your tax professional to get the details.

Achieve More Wealth by Creating Financial Goals

Setting a goal will help you achieve your desired level of wealth. Once you achieve one goal, reassess and set the bar higher.

1. What is your idea of wealth? Your idea of wealth will change as you earn more money. That’s why it’s vital to set goals along the way. What do you want your net worth to be in 5 years, in 10 years and in 20 years?

2. Write down your short-term and long-term goals. Once you have determined your goals, write them down. This is the first step towards getting your desires out of your mind and into motion and it will be easier to refer to them later on.

3. Develop a budget to help you reach these goals. A budget not only helps you understand where your money goes each month, it may also prevent you from overspending. That way you can have more money to save and invest.

           

**Your Budget

Income Earned

 $

Investments

+ $

Total Income

= $

Daily Expenses

-       $

Monthly Bills

-       $

= Total Available for Investment

 

To increase the amount you can invest, make adjustments to your daily spending and monthly bills, if possible. Look for opportunities to save money and transfer the savings into your accounts.

It’s never too late to begin building your family’s wealth. Whether you’re interested in buying a first home, upgrading to a larger home or are thinking of renovating, we have you covered. Give us a call or send us a message, and we’ll answer all of your real estate questions and offer suggestions to help you increase the value of your home.

Sources: 1. BankRate.com

            2. Pulsenomics, Home Price Expectation Survey Q4 2016

            3. Statistic Brain, August 1, 2016

            4. National Association of REALTORS, Economists’ Outlook, September 8, 2014

            5. The Motley Fool, July 30, 2016

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Many Things Can Go Wrong.

 

"88 Types of Turbulence" During a Real Estate Transaction

 

Working in this business for several years, as in over two decades, you often encounter situations that often teach you multitudes in what to do always, and what to never do at all. Often, thee situations arise with the folks that you end up working with on "the other side of the table" with other Agencies and Transaction Partners.

Thankfully, our experience at Pinnacle along with our commitment to continued education and learning from each transaction that we complete, has provided us a solid basis and understanding on what timely actions to take in protecting our clients and their interests from what can ultimately be a "bad experience" in real estate.

I often feel there's a million things that can truly go wrong when it comes to real estate transactions, as I've gone through most of them. However, we've narrowed it down to about 88 which we've outlined below.

Once again, we cannot stress enough how much preparation plays into prevention when it comes to many of these situations. We often advise all our of clients to go through a few stages before they are truly ready to buy, sell and move. It's no surprise why we continue to have returning clients each year, completing one, two or multiple transactions with us.

We send this flyer out to each and every client, but here it is outlined below, "88 Types of Turbulence" that you can experience in a Real Estate Transaction.

There's two sides of each coin, so we've included what can happen from either side of the table. 

The Buyer/Borrower:

1. Does not tell the truth on the loan application.
2. Submits incorrect information to the Lender.
3. Has recent late payments on credit report.
4. Found out about additional debt after loan application.

5. Borrower loses job.

6. Co-Borrower loses job.
7. Income verification lower than what was stated on loan application.
8. Over time income not allowed by underwriter for qualifying.
9. Applicant makes large purchase on credit beforec losing.
10. Illness, injury, divorce or other financial setback during escrow.
11. Lacks motivation.
12. Gift donor changes mind.
13. Cannot locate divorce papers
14. Cannot locate petition or discharge of bankruptcy.
15. Cannot locate tax returns.
16. Cannot locate bank statements.
17. Difficulty in obtaining verification of rent.
18. Interest rate increases and borrower no longer qualifies.
19. Loan program changes with higher rates, points or fees.
20. Child support not disclosed on application.
21. Borrower is a foreign national.
22. Bankruptcy within the last 2 years.
23. Mortgage payment is double the previous housing payment.
24. Borrower/co-borrower does not have steady two-year employment history.
25. Borrower brings in handwritten pay stubs.
26. Borrower switches to job with a probation period.
27. Borrower switches from job with salary to 100% commission income.
28. Borrower/co-borrower/seller dies.
29. Family members or friends do not like the home buyer chooses.
30. Buyer is too picky about property in price range they can afford.
31. Buyer feels the house is misrepresented.
32. Veterans DD214 form not available.
33. Buyer comes up short of money at closing.
34. Buyer does not properly “paper trail” additional money that comes from gifts, loans, etc.

35. Buyer does not bring cashier’s check to title company for closing costs and down payment.

The Seller:
36. Loses motivation to sell (job transfer does not go through, reconciles marriage, etc.)

37. Cannot find a suitable replacement property.
38. Will not allow appraiser inside the home.
39. Will not allow inspections inside the home in a timely manner.
40. Removes property from the premises the buyer believed was included.
41. Cannot clear up liens – is short on cash to close.
42. Did not own 100% of property as previously disclosed.
43. Encounters problems getting partners’ signatures.
44. Leaves town without giving anyone Power of Attorney.
45. Delays the projected move-out date.

46. Did not complete the repairs agreed to in the contract.
47. Seller’s home goes into foreclosure during escrow.
48. Misrepresents information about home and neighborhood.
49. Does not disclose all hidden or unknown defects and they are subsequently discovered.

50. Builder miscalculates completion date of new home.
51. Builder has too many cost overruns.
52. Final inspection on new home does not pass.
53. Seller does not appear for closing and won’t sign papers.

The Realtor:
54. Have no client control over buyers or sellers.
55. Delays access to property for inspections and appraisals.
56. Unfamiliar with their client’s financial position. Do they have enough equity to sell, etc.
57. Does not get completed paperwork to the Lender in time.
58. Inexperienced in this type of property transaction.
59. Takes unexpected time off during transaction and can’t be reached.
60. Misleads other parties to the transaction. Has huge ego.
61. Does not do sufficient homework on their clients or the property and wastes everyone’s time. The Property:
62. County will not approve septic system or well.
63. Termite report reveals a substantial damage and seller is not willing to fix or repair.
64. Home was misrepresented as to size and condition.
65. Home is destroyed prior to closing.
66. Home not structurally sound.
67. Home is uninsurable for homeowner’s insurance.
68. Property incorrectly zoned.
69. Portion of home sits on neighbor’s property.
70. Unique home and comparable properties for appraisal difficult to find.

The Escrow/Title Co.
71. Fails to notify lender/agents of unsigned or unreturned documents.
72. Fails to obtain information from beneficiaries, lien holders, insurance companies or lenders in a timely manner.

73. Lets principals leave town without getting all necessary signatures.
74. Loses or incorrectly prepares paperwork.
75. Does not pass on valuable information quickly enough.
76. Does not coordinate well, so that many items can be done simultaneously.
77. Does not bend the rules on small problems.
78. Finds liens or other title problems at the last minute.

The Appraiser:
79. Is not local and misunderstands the market.
80. Is too busy to complete the appraisal on schedule.
81. No comparable sales are available.
82. Is not on the lender’s approved list.
83. Makes important mistakes on appraisal and brings in value too low.

84. Lender requires a second or “review” appraisal.

Inspectors:
85. Pest inspector is not available when needed.
86. Pest inspector is too picky about condition of the property.

87. Home inspector is not available when needed.
88. Inspection reports alarm buyer and sale is cancelled. 

Don't let any of these happen to you! Working with the right team and agent that will oversee your relations and communication with lenders, agents and transaction partners makes all the difference. Would you agree? We welcome any comments or feedback on this post.

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Selling Before The Peak Season

5 Reasons to Sell Before the Selling Season Picks Up

 

WE GET THIS QUESTION A LOT IN OUR LINE OF BUSINESS. WE CAN TRULY AGREE THAT TIMING IS EVERYTHING, BUT WHEN FACED WITH LISTING A HOME IN WINTER VERSUS SPRING, THE ARGUMENT SUPPORTING THE FROMER THAN THE LATTER, MAY ACTUALLY SURPRISE YOU. READ MORE BELOW.

 

A common thought in real estate is never list your home in the winter offseason. Perpetuated by industry experts, agents and repeat sellers alike, this saying encourages many would-be sellers to wait until the spring peak to list their homes. However, studies show that homes listed in the winter offseason not only sell faster than those in the spring, but sellers also net more above their asking price at this time. Don’t wait until spring to sell. If you’ve been thinking of selling your home, here are five compelling reasons to list now.

1.    Take advantage of low inventory. Since most sellers are waiting until spring to list, local inventory falls during the offseason. However, there are still motivated buyers who are ready to move now and don’t want to wait that long to purchase a home. According to the National Association of Realtors, 55 percent of all buyers purchased their home at the time they did because “it was just the right time.”2 These eager buyers may flock to your home. You may not need to try as hard to make your home stand out in the sea of other similar homes. With less competition, more buyers, some of whom may have otherwise overlooked your home if you listed during the peak, will express an interest to buy. While you’ll likely have fewer showings in the offseason, buyers who do visit will be more serious about writing an offer. Your home will likely sell faster than it would have during the peak season.

2.    Set a higher listing price. Homes sold during the offseason sell at a higher price, on average, than those sold during the spring and summer peak. There are many reasons for this. First, motivated buyers are willing to pay closer to the asking price for a home. Second, homes are more likely to be priced right and reflect the economics of not only the local market, but the neighborhood as well. Often, homes listed during the peak may be priced to compete with other homes in the area and neighborhood. Sellers may be pressured to sell for less than the list price in order to encourage buyers to choose their home out of the others on the market.

3.    You’ll receive more attention. While our team always strives to give you the personal attention you deserve, when you list during the offseason, we’re able to work more closely with you to ensure your home is prepared for its debut on the market. We can also take more time to answer your questions, address your concerns and prepare you and your home for the sale.

Additionally, if you’d like to hire a tradesperson to handle routine maintenance or undertake a minor home renovation before you list, you may be able to take advantage of flexible scheduling and cheaper rates. Many of these professionals experience a winter offseason as well, and will be able to focus their time and attention on you and your project.

4.    Easier to maintain curb appeal. Curb appeal is intended to attract the buyers who are just driving by as well as those who saw your home online and wanted to see it in-person. It sets the stage for what interested buyers can expect when they step foot in the home during a showing or open house. If you list your home during the peak of the selling season, you may exhaust your time your energy maintaining curb appeal. You’ll likely spend most of your free time mowing the lawn, weeding, trimming shrubs and hedges, planting flowers in pots and in flowerbeds, pulling spent blooms and watering it all to ensure it looks lush and healthy on a daily basis. After all, a lush landscape will attract potential buyers and set your home apart from other similar homes in the area.

The offseason eliminates the pressure to maintain a picture-perfect front landscape. Since most grass, shrubs and plants go dormant at this time of year, you’ll have less to maintain. If you live in an area that experiences a traditional winter, your landscape will be covered with snow. Even if you live in a milder climate, you may not have to mow as often, if at all. It’s still important to ensure your exterior appears well-tended, so make sure your walkway and front porch remains free of snow, ice and debris.

5.    Tap into the life changes of buyers. Many buyers receive employee raises and bonuses at the end of the year. If they’ve been saving to buy a home, this extra money may allow them to reach their goal for a down payment and put them on the path to becoming a homeowner. Additionally, companies often hire new employees and relocate current ones during the first quarter of the year, creating a strong demand for housing. If you live in an area that’s home to a large company or has a strong corporate presence, this may be the perfect time to list.

Thinking of Listing in the Offseason? 3 Things to Do Before You List

Get your home ready to list by following these tips.

1.         Schedule maintenance. Buyers, especially first-time buyers, want a home they can move into right away; they don’t want to repair the roof or the furnace or replace windows with blown thermal seals before they move in. Do the scheduled maintenance and make repairs before you list your home for sale.

In some cases, it may help to have an inspector do a pre-inspection of your home. A pre-inspection will make you aware of any major, potentially deal-killing, issues that will have to be addressed before you list. It also gives you an idea of minor issues that a potential seller may want repaired. Overall, it helps you to accurately price your home and may protect you from claims a buyer might make later.3

2.         Create light. Balance out the lack of natural light outdoors by turning the lights on inside. Since people naturally tend to buy emotionally, turning on the lights helps create a sense of warmth and coziness. Light a fire in the fireplace, if you have one, fill your home with the scents of the season, such as vanilla or fresh baked cookies, and put a throw blanket on your sofa.

If you plan to paint the interior of your home before you list, consider an off-white shade to create consistency throughout your home and make the space feel larger and brighter. If you have photos of your garden or the home’s exterior in the spring or summer, display them so interested buyers can get a glimpse of what the home looks like in other seasons..

3.         Give your home a thorough cleaning. Cleaning puts your home in its best light. Clean and polish all the horizontal surfaces of your home, including countertops, window sills and baseboards; have the curtains dry cleaned or otherwise laundered; wash windows, glass doors and their tracks; vacuum carpeting and polish all wood surfaces, including the floor.

Additionally, this is a great time to pack any personal items and family photos as well as sort through your belongings and donate items you no longer use. This not only eliminates any clutter, but it also gives you less to pack and move when you sell.

If you’re thinking of selling, reach out to us now! We’d love to help you position your home to sell in our market.

Sources: 1. Time, October 30, 2015

            2. National Association of REALTORS, 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers

            3. Forbes, August, 27, 2013

 

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250+ Things you can do WITHOUT

Are you looking for a simplified, organized home?

Moving can be hectic - and we know the biggest pain that most Buyers AND Sellers experience is moving into our out of an entire home they've grown accustomed to, as well as accumulated a generous amount of belongings in. And this usually holds true regardless of what stage you are currently going though in life.

First hand, I can tell you more about my experience as I know how it feels to move while I was starting out in college using the back of a Toyota Tercel, all my belongings fit neatly into the back of that subcompact truck. And then life changed, and my wife and I were moving into our first apartment using a friend's pick up truck. Fast forward again, all the way to upgrading from a cargo van to a small boxed truck, and NOW contemplating whether I really want to move. Would I need a huge semi truck or can unload a bunch of things, and spring for a smaller moving truck after decluttering. Going into spring, it would be a good idea to declutter our home - or any home, the though of moving aside.

Yes, you got that right, the family and I are looking into moving from our house of nearly 15 years close to Cambrian Park, to the architecturally inspiring neighborhood of Shasta Hanchett Park.  Key word: thinking. Stay tuned, nothing is set in stone, as this place we're looking at needs a TON of work, and we're even on the fence about if we're up for it. Once again, feeling what a lot of my clients feel through this process. 

(I always say every few years I need to re-align myself with what my clients feel once every few years, so here I am. And it's always a good time to declutter regardless of the situation.)

Well going back to the topic on hand, organizing and decluttering your home, I found this really great article on Pintrest (and linked it below) on how to simplify your home. Whether you've been there a long time and just need to declutter here and there OR you are like me, and find yourself overwhelmed with how many things you need to be packing up and moving soon. 

And these tips are GREAT if you find yourself moving from a home with an enormous amount of storage space, none of which pertains to me except maybe my garage and my home office, all of course is dedicated to the rest of my family, and I will not name any names in particular...

Just kidding. It may be all me.

So the author of this very useful post, Karen Schravemade, suggests mapping out "8 ZONES" to target through-out your home, starting with your wardrobe/closets, then targeting your Bathrooms, Kitchen, Linen areas, Kids rooms, office/media rooms (do people still use the term "media room"? It may have been a few years since I heard that term) anyways, and lastly the general household areas and the garage in the end.

I doubt you may be housing any excess of junk in your patio area, as often, it can be the most neglected part of your home along with your garage.

Going back to the "8 ZONES" here are just a few of the best tips I found in this post and I've listed them below:

1. Wardrobe/Closets

-Old and word belts, handbags, hats and broken luggage or duffel bags you don't use

-T-shirts that have lost their shape

-Old event wear you may never wear again (weddings, holidays, etc.)

-Dozens of ties you don't use anymore (ahem, may be good to keep a few only)

-Broken watches, jewelry and other items you will NEVER repair

-Dresses with hemlines that make you uncomfortable

-Hangers from dry cleaners or mis-matching socks (will you EVER find the missing pair?)

2. Bathroom

-Sample bottles from hotel rooms (I am guilty)

-Novelty gift products that you have never used

-Excess body lotions (you can NEVER have TOO many? Maybe so.)

-Broken scales, dried out nail polish, and old toothbrushes

3. Kitchen

-Duplicate utensils

-Novelty appliances you may have never used in the past few years

-Unused jars, Tupperware with no lids, extra storage containers

-Expired coupons, or old recipe books

-Travel mugs that leak, are broken, or unused

4. Linen/Storage

-Excess sheets or more than 2 sets per bed

-Unused table linen

-Anything damaged, stained, with holes

-Extra unused pillows

-Too many large quilts or blankets

5. Kids Rooms/Older Adult Rooms

-Excess clothes, hand me downs, damaged clothes

-Old sets of toys, board games, pens, shoes

-Stuffed animals and toys too bulky to keep in storage

6. Office/Library/Media Room

-Cords that don't fit anywhere in the house (Guilty again)

-Out of date calendars

-Old textbooks

-Books you don't read or don't love

-Unused or old magazines, newspapers, brochures, conference notes, etc.

-DVD's you will NEVER watch again

-Remotes that you don't use

-Outdated computer storage

-School paperwork (you can scan and save in Evernote)

7. General Household

-Cleaning products unused

-Out of date vitamins, medicines, etc.

-Unused picture frames, posters, etc.

-Excess vases, leftover curtain rings, ugly decor items or outdated decor

-Left over theme party supplies

-Unwanted gifts

8. Garage

-Rusty or non operating tools

-Leftover building materials

-Old camping gear that needs upgrade or you haven't used lately

-Air beds that leak

-Swimming gear, bikes or other devices the kids may have outgrown

-Unused outdoor bulky recreation gear (we all have it)

-Hardware gizmos you are not sure if you need

Well, that's no where near 250+, but I can keep going. OR you can check out the full article:

I apologize in advance if that was a lot to take in. Phew,  that was exhausting, but the truth is we have ways to go in this process of getting organized/moving, and the best time often comes up as you sell and move home. If you're looking for someone that can REALLY help you through the many stages of this process- I haven't even touched on all the work that goes into doing a partial remodel on the home we are looking to move into, let alone, our home of 15 years which we will need to spruce up with some projects here and there before we sell. Stay tuned, and once again, we represent ALL types of families through out Silicon Valley (& beyond) - moving up OR moving down - and are here to help YOU (or someone that you know). Don't hesitate to send us an email or reach us direct.

 

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10 Anti-Burglary Tips for Home Owners & Sellers

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After the Holidays, many people put the empty boxes their expensive gifts came in out on the curb. What do you think that says to potential burglars? It screams, “I just got a brand-new TV! Come and rob me!” (Perhaps breaking or cutting down the box into smaller pieces may work?)

That’s just one example of some unwise habits homeowners have. If those owners are sellers opening their doors to the public for showings, habits such as these put them in even greater danger. The above example is a good warning to be aware of since we’re in the post-holiday season.

As a real estate company, it's our job to show you how we’ll market your home, and while that is obviously important, we often under explain a serious safety concern: how to keep your home safe while it’s open to the public. At the Knox Team we do remind our sellers to be aware of potential Buyers that may not have intentions to purchase the property but moreover be inclined to cause harm or commit theft. Furthermore, we take the utmost care in pointing out any details that may be of a concern when meeting with our seller clients and conducting one of our detailed walk-throughs of the property and features prior to listing. Use these "10 anti-burglary tips" for home owners or sellers courtesy of National Realtor Magazine  as a great guideline as it goes well into detail on how to protect you and your family from danger.

National Snapshot of Burglaries

A burglary is committed every 20 seconds, with nearly 1.6 million such crimes nationwide annually, according to the FBI’s 2015 Crime in the United States report. That’s down 7.8 percent from 2014. Total property crime, which includes arson, larceny, theft, and motor vehicle theft, reached nearly 8 million instances in 2015, down 2.6 percent from 2014.

***Maintain your property. Especially in the wintertime, many people stay indoors and neglect issues such as peeling trim or an overgrown yard. But if the home looks unkempt, thieves may think it’s abandoned and, therefore, an easy target. Shoveling your walkways to clear them of snow and debris and removing holiday decorations and fallen tree branches in a timely manner will signal that the home is occupied.


***Know your neighbors. Many people don’t really know their neighbors; it’s more than just saying hi and being friendly. Invite them over to see your home before it goes on the market, and introduce them to the people they may see regularly stopping by during this time (especially your agent such as myself or my team). Then they’ll know who is and isn’t supposed to be at your home and can better assess when there may be a threat while you’re gone.


***Assess your home’s vulnerability. Walk to the curb and face your house. Ask yourself, “How would I get in if I were locked out?” The first thing you think of, whether it’s the window with a broken lock or the door that won’t shut all the way, is exactly how a thief will get in. Think like a burglar, and then address the issues that come to mind.


***Respect the power of lighting. Criminals are cowards, and they don’t want to be seen. The house that is well-lit at night provides a deterrent because thieves don’t want the attention and the potential to be caught by witnesses. It’s wise to invest in tools that make nighttime light automation easy. That includes dusk-to-dawn adapters that go into existing light fixtures and motion detectors. But beware of leaving your exterior lights on at all times, which signifies the occupant is gone for an extended period of time.


***Use technology to make your home look occupied. In addition to lighting, smart-home technology has made it easier to make it appear like people are home, even when they’re not. Systems that remotely control lighting, music, and appliances such as a thermostat can help you achieve this. Though not considered smart-home tech, simple lamp timing devices available at hardware stores are also good for this purpose.


***Yes, it has to be said: Lock your doors. It’s amazing how many people think they live in a safe-enough neighborhood not to have to lock their doors when they leave. Some facts sellers should know: In 30 percent of burglaries, the criminals access the home through an unlocked door or window; 34 percent of burglars use the front door to get inside; and 22 percent use the back door, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report.


***Reinforce your locks. A good door lock is nothing without a solid frame. Invest in a solid door jam and strike plate first, and then invest in good locks. Know the difference between a single-cylinder and a double-cylinder deadbolt. Double-cylinder deadbolts are recommended because they require a key to get in and out. For safety and emergency escape purposes, you must leave the key in when you are home. But double-cylinder locks are against regulations in some places, so check with your local police department’s crime prevention office.


***Blare the sirens. Burglars are usually in and out in less than five minutes, and they know police can’t respond to an alarm that quickly. Their bigger concern is witnesses to their crime. For that reason, an external siren is invaluable, whether as part of a monitored security system or a DIY alarm. Even if you don’t have an alarm, it’s not a bad idea to invest in fake security signs and post them near doors.


***Consider surveillance cameras. The Los Angeles Police Department started a program encouraging homeowners to install a device called Ring, a doorbell with video surveillance capability that allows homeowners to view what’s outside their door on their smartphone, in a neighborhood that was a target for burglaries. After Ring was installed in hundreds of homes, the burglary rate dropped by 55 percent, according to reports. Most state and local regulations require posting a warning that people are being recorded. (But again, this can be effective even if you don’t actually have the cameras installed!)


***Mark your valuables and record details. Use invisible-ink pens or engravers to mark identifying information (driver’s license or state ID numbers) on items. Log serial numbers and take photos of your belongings. Check to see if your police department participates in the Operation Identification program. They will have stickers for you to place on doors or windows warning would-be thieves that your items are marked. These steps may prevent them from pawning or selling stolen items and can help you reclaim recovered belongings.

 And as always, when opening up your home to potential Buyers be wary of suspicious calls, visits, or attempts to view your home without an Agent or an appointment. We take the utmost care in ensuring your property is properly secure before and after each showing, as well as screening Agents and potential Buyers prior to taking on the appointment. Although you may be eager to sell,  default to using your best judgement when it comes to requests on odd and late hours of the day or someone that may be asking too many personal questions.

Share your personal tips for keeping your home safe, contact us today!

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Holiday scams to watch out for

8 Scams to Watch Out For This Holiday Season

 

The holidays are a happy time for celebrating with family, friends, and co-workers. Unfortunately, this time of year can also be turned sour by a wide variety of clever frauds, unauthorized debit and credit card transactions, and bogus person-to-person scams. By the end of 2015, individuals, retailers, charitable donors, and companies were victimized to the tune of $1.5 billion… and that number is expected to have gone up in 2016.

Just as you protect your home with an alarm system, you should set up defenses for your credit and identity. During the holiday season, fraudulent activity spikes, but here’s how to protect yourself from the eight most common scams.

Big Data Breeds Data Breaches

Big data during the holidays is great for marketers; it's a bonanza of consumer information to use to lure shoppers to Black Friday deals and the like. However, while companies wrangle in the chaos of holiday orders, scammers search for weaknesses in a company's cyber-security. According to a top executive at one of the leading credit bureaus, “Data breaches are inevitable and most consumers are vulnerable to identity theft… especially during the holidays.” In fact, 25% more consumers were affected by identity theft during the holidays in 2015 than in 2014!

The best way to reduce your risk of data breaches is use cash for all your purchases. According to a survey by TransUnion, however, only 20 percent of shoppers plan to pay with cash. If you're part of the 80 percent using plastic, use a credit card instead of a debit card. You have more purchase protection using a credit card than a debit card if a data breach occurs or fraud happens.

Other protections from data breaches include:

·      Using a low-limit credit card for online purchases so you can detect fraudulent activity.

·      Utilizing services like PayPal to lower the risk of your card information being lost at the retailer.

 

Package Theft

E-commerce is great for holiday shoppers… but it's also great for thieves. Last year, Insurancequotes reported that 23 million people had packages stolen at their front door!

To prevent this from happening to you, have your packages delivered to your office or delivered to a pick-up area such as a UPS store or Amazon Locker.  You can also set up tracking notifications so that you know when to expect delivery.

And while you’re waiting for your packages, be on the lookout for this scam: a note on the front door saying you have a package waiting for pickup. The note asks for a call, often to a pricey number that leaves you on hold for a long period while they collect premium phone rates, or it leads to a person asking for details on your personal information to “verify your identity.” If the note isn’t from a shipper you recognize, or if the Googled number isn’t found, don’t get involved.

 

Online Shopping Scams

The big brother of package thievery is the online shopping scam. Phony online stores lure shoppers in through searches and online ads, enticing you with low-priced, high-quality items. These “bargains” cost you not only money, but also hours of time trying to fight the fraudulent transaction. To put salt in the wound, once these websites nab your personal information, they often also infect your computer with malware that compromises your login to your online bank.

To avoid the pitfalls of the fake online merchant, only purchase from retail names you know and trust. You could also Google the site and look for reviews. Yelp is a legitimate site for reviews as is the Better Business Bureau. Before you make a purchase online, double-check that “https” appears in the URL, which signifies that the site has passed stringent security compliance standards.

 

Poisonous Holiday E-Cards

E-cards are popular during the holidays because they’re a free, fun, and easy way to catch up with friends and family members. But beware because it's just as easy for scammers to use fake e-cards to steal your personal information. A lot of fake e-cards you may get are from your hacked address book or the hacked address book of someone you know. At first glance, the card may look legitimate, but once you open it, you've been phished.

The only way to avoid this from happening is paying attention to detail. The number one tell of a fake E-card is any kind of misspelling. The URL will have a subtle misspelled word or your friend's name is misspelled. Usually the misspelled word will contain a number: T1msmith@comcast.net for instance.

 

Fake Apps

ConsumerAffairs is reporting a huge spike in fake apps. Scammers are using fake retail and product apps found in Apple's App Store to steal unsuspecting consumers' financial information. Many of these thieves rip off company or brand logos to make the fake app look real. So before you get that convenient retail or product app, make sure it's legit.

Just as with fake e-cards, fake apps will seem normal until you start looking at the details. Before you download that convenient retail or product app, make sure you check for the following:

·      A nonsensical description

·      No reviews

·      No history of previous versions

 

 

Gift Card Scammers

Scam artists skim or copy the codes on the back of gift cards before they're bought. After the card has been activated, the scammers drain the card's funds.

To prevent yourself from becoming a victim of compromised gift cards, buy gift cards displayed behind store counters, make sure preloaded cards are still loaded, and make sure the protective scratch-off strip is flawless.

 

Malicious Charities

During the holiday season we all feel an extra sense of giving. Grifters and thieves play on this sensibility by creating false charities and hitting you up on Twitter, Instagram, and in your e-mail inbox.

There are online resources to help you verify the legitimacy of charities. The website Charity Navigator is a non-profit organization that rates over 8,000 U.S-based charities operating throughout the world. Another way to get free reviews and evaluations on national charities is through the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.

 

Corrupted Wi-Fi

You'll probably hit the mall this holiday for some in-person price checking, and you'll probably have your smartphone, laptop, and/or your iPad with you. Please be careful because skimmers and scammers love to manipulate Wi-Fi signals in places like malls and coffee shops to gather your financial information. These people create Wi-Fi signals that mimic the signal you use, then hack your info when you connect to it.

To protect yourself from Wi-Fi manipulators, just don't make online purchases with your credit or debit card when you're in a public space.

 

Who Should You Turn To?

If you catch the trouble soon enough, credit or identity fraud can be an inconvenience. If you don’t, however, one instance can have long-term impacts. If, for example, someone bought an appliance using your name while you were trying to refinance your mortgage, then you might not get approved for the loan!

If you’re curious to know if you’ve been affected, or if you know your credit is in disrepair and need help fixing it, please let us know so we can refer you to our recommended professionals.

 

 

 

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Releasing Buyer Contingencies

Q: What are contingencies?

A: Standard contingencies in an offer to purchase real estate typically include the right to review title, inspect the property and review the seller's disclosure packet. 

Contingencies can be a somewhat misunderstood concept to many new home buyers. I hear it all the time, where as in a tough market to get an offer accepted, you will see many buyers come in with offers already having removed contingencies. Is that a good practice?

Well it depends really on the situation and condition of the home. We are fortunate enough in Silicon Valley to get the gist of a home upfront before even offering any monetary funds let alone an offer.

Although it can mean the difference between a hard and fast deal, read more below to fully understand if it's the right time and situation to remove contingencies upfront, or take the standard contingency removal route.

Q: What is the defined date for removing contingencies?

A: The contingency removal date is defined in the initial offer when a buyer is will remove contingencies and commit to a firm intent to close escrow. 

If a buyer had their mind set on a home and don't want to neglect their 'due diligence' as a smart buyer, you can always adjust contingency removal deadlines to 'up your offer' and appear as slightly more interested than another offer on the table. For example, instead of taking the standard 10 days to conduct all their desired inspections and review of the reports on file, a serious buyer may need only 7.

A well qualified buyer may have been told by their lender, whom has proactively ordered the appraisal on the property right as acceptance of the offer was sent to them the next, that they can get full loan approval in 14 days versus the standard 21 days; including only 10 days to get an appraisal report in their hands versus the normal 17 days. 

Q: What happens if the buyer decides to cancel the contract after removing contingencies?

A: The buyer may be obligated to move forward with the purchase after removing contingencies, and if both parties mutually agree to end the contract they still may be obligated to forfeit their earnest money deposit and be held responsible for other liquidated damages by the seller.

It's a tough situation to be in. And as an experienced Real Estate Consultant it can be a common hurdle in the process of finding your dream home. Life happens, and situations or conditions don't turn out to be ideal in moving forward in the transaction. Personally, having an open channel of communication between all parties of the transaction are a key component of successfully closing a deal and preventing mishaps like these. Having over 21 years of experience, I can't say it hasn't happened. And having a trusted, experienced and organized real estate agent on your side will normally keep you informed of any upcoming hurdles like these, as well ensure we are fully signed off with your lender before removing contingencies. 

 

See more of this article by The Balance below, and feel free to reach me here with any of your personal transaction questions, I am here to help!

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Top 12 Tips for a Safer Holiday Home

Our world is full of risk at every turn—from perilous jobs to dangerous driving conditions. That’s why we all love to get back to our homes and not worry about everyday safety hazards. It’s great to feel comfortable and safe at home, but is it as safe as it can be?

Your home should be your haven: the place where you will be protected from harm. It should be a top priority, and yet every year 1200 people or more visit the emergency room during the holiday months due to accidents and unintended injuries sustained from hidden dangers around the home.

With a sharp eye and preventive action you can reduce the chances of lurking safety dangers for everyone who visits your home.

The Top 12 Home Safety Tips

1. GOOD LIGHTING— Adequate lighting reduces the risk of tripping and falling both inside and outside your home. This is especially important in winters when days are shorter. Critical areas that need to be illuminated are the stairs, outdoors, and foyers. Make sure your street number is well lit and visible from the street to aid first responders find your home. The fix: Make sure adequate wattage is utilized and long-life bulbs and motion detectors are in place.

2. ELECTRICAL PROBLEMS?— Electrical issues, like a flickering light or a dead outlet, can be mild annoyances that actually signal serious dangers. If not addressed promptly, a faulty electrical system can result in house fires and shocks. The fix: If you’re experiencing any problems with your electricity, contact a professional right away. In your daily life, make sure electrical cords are not frayed or pierced and extension cords are securely connected. Do not run too many cords to a single outlet. Unplug small appliances, space heaters, and power tools when not in use.

3. DO ROUTINE CLEANING— Not maintaining your appliances leads to a greater chance of accidental home fires. The fix: Do simple tasks regularly like cleaning grease off your stovetop, emptying the lint trap on your dryer, and keeping your chimney clean and clear.

4. SMOKE AND GAS DETECTORS— Every home needs functional warning devices that detect smoke and gases. The fix: When purchasing smoke alarms, make sure they also detect carbon monoxide, a deadly gas that is especially dangerous because it is colorless and odorless. Replace the batteries every six months—or whenever you change your clocks. Create an emergency evacuation plan, build a preparedness kit, and practice regular safety drills with your family to ensure awareness of procedures.

5. SECURE YOUR HOME— Many homes now have the latest technological advancements but still rely on locks and hardware from decades ago to keep you safe from intruders. The fix: Do an audit of all entry points to your home—doors and windows and screens. If any do not have secure screens, locks, and deadbolts, have them installed. For those entry points that do already have door knobs, handles, and locks, make sure that they are in good working condition.

6. WHEN YOU ARE AWAY— We all enjoy long weekends and out-of-town vacations, but unfortunately that leaves your home vulnerable to intruders. The fix: Create the illusion that someone may still be there. Leave a TV or stereo on in the room where a burglar would most likely break in. Have neighbor pick up mail and the daily paper. Turn down phone ringers, keep blinds drawn, and don’t leave unsecured valuables in the home even if you think they are well-hidden. Never hide keys around the home or garden, and don’t leave notes on the door that suggest you are out of town.

7. HOUSEHOLD REPAIRS— Even if you are an expert and know your way around electrical, plumbing, car or other household repairs, proceed with caution. A poor repair could be a recipe for disaster. The fix: Call a professional or ask me for a referral from our trusted sources.

8. VEHICLE CAUTION— Remember that there is danger even before you drive on the street. If you are backing your car up, watch out for children and pets on the sidewalk and road. The fix: Be cautious and proceed slowly when driving vehicles in or out of your driveway. If your driveway does not have good visibility in both directions, walk down and look in both directions before you get in your car.

9. MAKE IT SAFE FOR VISITORS— If you are hosting friends and family, consider what additional safety challenges they may face. The fix: Put yourself in the shoes of a small child and look for low, hard edges, sharp objects, easy-to-open cabinets with chemicals and cleaning agents. Look for falling and tripping hazards that may fell seniors.

10. BRACE YOURSELF— Heavy objects are rarely braced in the home. Appliances, artwork, televisions, and aquariums present real hazards if they are knocked down by a person or a natural disaster. The fix: Strap and brace heavy objects and use security hardware for large artwork.

11. UNCOVER HIDDEN DANGERS— If your home was built before the late seventies, there’s likely lead in the paint under the top coats on your walls and windows, and there might be traces in the varnish used on many hardwood floors. In addition, asbestos often can be found in insulation and “popcorn” ceiling textures. The fix: Hire a licensed contractor to test for possible contaminants and remove them safely, especially prior to a remodel.

12. MOTHER NATURE— Your homeowners insurance will cover you in many instances, but did you know that you may not be insured against natural disasters like earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes? They typically require an additional policy. The fix: Contact your insurance agent to make sure you have adequate replacement coverage as home values escalate and coverage amounts can stay static. Discuss costs for adding disaster policies for the natural disaster most likely to hit your area. Finally, having a disaster and communication plan can minimize the risks.

 

Safety Dangers to Kids You May Not Think About

 

Do you have small children who live with you? Even if you don’t, with the holiday season rapidly approaching, your home may welcome friends with young children and older family members. This makes now the ideal time to survey home your home for potential safety problems.

OPEN WATER

Did you know that as little as an inch of water can be a major hazard? A pail of water in the yard, large puddles from a storm, even a washing machine can induce a small child to trip or fall into and become at risk. The fix: Watch for open ice chests and other standing water, and don’t leave toilet seats open.

SMALL BATTERIES

Button-sized lithium batteries power small electronic devices, including remote controls, watches, musical greeting cards, and ornaments. When accidently swallowed, they can get stuck in the esophagus and generate an electrical current that can cause severe chemical burns and tissue damage. The fix: Only let small children play with mechnical devices and toys under supervision, and make sure to put these items away when not in use.

WINDOWS AND STAIRS

Every year, more than 5,000 kids end up in the emergency room after tumbling out of a window. Combat that by installing window guards or window stops so kids can’t fall out. Stairs are another potential hazard for youngsters with less-than-perfect balance. The fix: Baby gates can prevent young kids from venturing up or down. Steps should always have firm footing and be clear of objects as even older people can slip and fall or trip on items left on the stairs.

FAMILY PETS

Cats can scratch a child not used to playing with finicky felines. The family dog may be big and loving but can outweigh a child by five times. Children can be easily knocked down, nipped, or even bitten by a dog not used to the activity of small children. The fix: Monitor play activity and make sure your pet is not getting anxious or annoyed.

CORDS

Babies can be strangled by cords on blinds and shades. The fix: Excessive cords of all types should be removed or secured down. Always keep cribs away from windows with loose cords.

Now’s the Time

With the upcoming holidays at hand, now is the perfect time to survey your home and address potential safety hazards to yourselves, your family, and your friends. It doesn’t take long, most fixes are very inexpensive and simple to do, and your efforts will pay dividends in peace of mind for years to come.

If you would like our advice on how to make your home safer and need a list of trusted sources for home repairs, please contact us today. It’s our business to ensure that your home is safe and secure for your family. Or if you have any useful tips of your own, we would love to hear them!

 

 

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Have you tried the "Best Mashed Potatoes" recipe?

Let's be honest, mashed potatoes are very necessary in completing any holiday feast AND everyone has their own take on what makes a great mashed potato. 

Having attended tons of holiday dinners myself, as well as hosted a few, I know that there's a lot of choice when it comes to the following: what type of potato is used, how it's prepped and cut or mashed, whether or not cheese is incorporated and the types of seasoning that can be used.

This popular recipe courtesy of Allrecipes has had tons of views since being uploaded in Fall of 2012, and incorporates tons of flavor using yukon gold potatoes, a popular choice within many homes this season. They also go over what's the best way to heat the leftovers the follow day. 

Amazing!

 

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The Home Equity Playbook

 

What is Home Equity?

Home equity seems to be a very simple calculation — the total amount of mortgages owed subtracted from the current market value of a home. Here is a simple example:

 

Current Home Market Value       $325,000

Existing Mortgage                          $225,000

Homeowner Equity                         $100,000

 

One side of the equation is well defined, and it is found on the monthly mortgage statement, the loan balance. The other side is less obvious — the current market value of the property.

As a homeowner, your down payment purchases your initial equity, and your monthly (or additional) principal payments increase your equity. In strong real estate markets and in-demand locations, equity can increase quite rapidly as the property value increases, but the inverse can also happen — too much available inventory and market down-cycles can lead to falling home values and a reduction in homeowner equity.

It can be difficult to put an accurate value on something that you have emotional and monetary vesting in. It is safe to say that most people think their home is worth more than then it is.

Homeowners can make savvy assessments about their home’s current market value by following the sales of similar properties in the neighborhood, but should stay away from websites such as Zillow and Trulia, which provide inaccurate and outdated estimates. The most accurate measurement requires a comparative market analysis from a real estate professional or having the home professionally appraised. But, the bottom line — your home is worth as much as someone is willing to pay for it.

Download the rest of this PDF article here: 

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Perfect Fall Recipe

Fresh Pumpkin Bread

If you have some fresh pumpkin leftover from that previous visit to your local pumpkin patch or one straight from your garden, this is a wonderful recipe to get you in the fall spirit and warm your home.

The rest of the ingredients can be found laying around in your baking shelf or your fridge. Be sure to invite some friends and family over to enjoy this delicious recipe!

 

For this recipe you will need the following,

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups sugar

3/4 cup vegetable oil

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 cups shredded fresh pumpkin

1 cup toasted pumpkin seeds

1 teaspoon nutmeg

Directions:

1. Preheat over to 325 degrees F.

2. Sift together flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl.

3. Mix together the sugar, vegetable oil, eggs, and vanilla in a separate bowl.

4. Combine the two mixtures and fold in the shredded pumpkin and pumpkin seeds.

5. Pour batter into a non-stick 9x5x3-inch loaf pan. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Cool for 15 minutes and turn out onto a cooling rack

Make sure to have plenty of family and friends over your home to enjoy the warmth, smell and flavor of this recipe. Enjoy!

Recipe courtesy of the Crafty House.


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Ready for Halloween?

Halloween is coming, and your children and family are no doubt excited about dressing up as their favorite animal, superhero or celebrity. As a parent, here are some safety tips to ensure they are safe walking from one house to another.

  • Try on costumes before hand at least the night before to check for proper fit. See if a sweater will fit over in case it gets too chilly, check if it's not too baggy and for features of costumes that can drag or cause trip hazard
  • Check fabrics and labels to ensure they are flame resistant; watch out for materials used in masks and make up as certain materials and ingredients can be cause for potential allergies
  • Map out areas you will be walking, check if the use of a flashlight or LED light will be needed as soon as it gets dark
  • Avoid costumes that can easily blend into the night - instead of dark costumes opt for color or use reflective tape if need be to seen well by vehicle headlights and street lights
  • If concerned about breathing problems, check that masks can easily be removed in case of emergency, and that ear, nose and mouth openings are wide enough for air
  • Wear comfortable shoes such as sneakers or walking shoes

Speaking of safety, is your home also prepared for trick-or treaters?

  • Use battery operated candles vs. traditional candles for lighting porches or inside of carved pumpkins to prevent any unnecessary home fires from occuring in case they are moved
  • Create a well lit path, check your porch lights and outside bulbs if they need replacing
  • Remove any high potential tripping hazards that can be hard to see during the nighttime for those visiting your property, such as extension cords, hoses, outdoor decor, tree stumps or rocks
  • If you have a lot of interior decorations requiring power, don't overload extensions cords or sockets

 Have a safe and wonderful Halloween courtesy of the Knox Team!


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Smart Home Tech

In case you missed it, this article was mentioned on my Facebook this past month and here's an in detail overview on how you can take advantage of some of the recent developments in smart home technology aimed to save you both time and money. We already have the power of efficiency in our pockets and use it daily, why not apply that technology to our Home? Definitely worth the read!

8 Smart Home Technology Trends that Can Save You Money

The ‘smart home’ is the new ‘internet of things’, or objects that can serve you better by communicating with each other or directly with you through apps on your smart phone. In the ideal version of the wired future, all of our appliances and gadgets talk to each other seamlessly.

What could living in a smart home look like? Picture something like this:

The lights in your bedroom slowly illuminate to quietly awaken you in the morning, replacing the typical blaring alarm. The aroma of fresh brewing coffee drifts in and stirs your senses. Once the lights are all the way up, the heating system kicks on, just in time to warm up your room so you’re not shocked once you crawl out from underneath the duvet.


When you step into the shower, it turns on automatically and remembers your preferred temperature and water pressure. And it will shut off right when you’re finished as it knows how long you take to bathe.

Once you’ve driven out of your garage, your home alarm system arms itself. And it will only unlock automatically when it “sees” and recognizes someone else from your family approaching through programmed in biometrics.

Do smart homes really work this way right now? Not exactly…while you may find some of these smart features in certain homes, we’re getting closer and closer toward that shiny, idealized ‘Jetson’ future.

Here are some trends that we see for smart homes, many of which may also help you save money:

Smart Thermostats

Programmable thermostats that are synchronized with the clock have been around for decades. However, they’re often difficult to set and aren’t necessarily efficient; they simply turn on or off as programmed, whether or not you are there.

With the newer models, smart thermostats can be programmed to adjust the temperature when they sense you are present. And once you leave, they can kick back to standby mode so that you’re saving energy and money. Nest does all of this, and it also allows you to check your usage from your cell phone so that you can adjust the temperature remotely and save even more.

Smart Smoke Detectors

Having a working, effective smoke detector saves lives. But unfortunately, many of us still have those battery-run smoke detectors that make that annoying, piercing beep when their batteries are running low on power.

Many of the new smart smoke detectors, like the Birdi, monitor smoke, carbon dioxide, as well as air quality. With this new sensor technology, they know the difference between a real fire and burnt toast.

 

Smart Sprinkler Control

Weather in our area is predictably unpredictable. Often, especially during the summer months, we fall into a severe drought. But then we might have one season that brings extreme amounts of rain, like we did this past spring.

A smart sprinkler controller like Rachio Iro can not only help save you lots of money on your water bill but also help protect our precious resources.

Programmable by computer or smart phone, it can automatically adjust how often you water your lawn based on the season and the weather forecasts. You can also remotely adjust the settings through a mobile app.

Smart Solar Panels

You can put the sun to work for you by using solar technology to power your home. It’s green and renewable, and can save you money over the long term. A recent study conducted by the NC Clean Energy Technology Center determined that Austin customers who invested in a solar system saved an average of $66 per month during the first year that they owned the system.

With smart solar panels, you can program the technology to monitor their performance and even turn them off in case of a weather emergency or fire.

Smart Home Security Systems

Home monitoring has become much more sophisticated in recent years. With the old-style security systems, you had to call in contractors to wire your home with monitoring sensors.

With new smart technology, you can simply place a few smart devices in your home to monitor movement and sense whether doors and windows are closed or opened. Some systems include audio and video monitoring, as well as sirens to scare off intruders. You get real-time feedback on security breaches through an app. And, because you’re alerted as soon as the system senses an intruder, it’s more likely that they will be caught.

Canary is one popular all-in-one audio-video security system, complete with sirens and night vision.

Smart Locks

Go beyond the standard key locks, which can often be compromised by burglars. The new smart lock systems give you more control over those who can gain access to your home.

Some systems, like the Kwikset Kevo, include encrypted virtual keys that you can program for access for a limited amount of time—for example, allowing guests over for a weekend, or cleaning service in during a specific window of time.

Other door locking systems include biometric technology. The Ola smart lock allows you to program your lock to recognize your family member’s fingerprints. Other systems use facial recognition to greet you and unlock your door.

The new August smart lock integrates with Apple’s technology so you can ask Siri to open your door for you.

Smart lighting systems and light bulbs

A well-lit home feels warm and welcoming, and good lighting can instantly increase the value of your home.

However, annual lighting costs can account for up to 12% of your overall electric bill, or over $200 per year according to Energy Star. You can easily reduce this expense simply by using smart lighting technology to add efficiency.

The Philips Hue wifi-enabled lights make it easy to add to your home without installing specialized equipment. Smart lighting dimmers and sensors can give you more control over how much energy you use and allow you to turn them on and off through your smart phone.

New smart light bulbs can give you control over the warmth or coolness levels of your lighting. With the Lifx LED light bulbs, for example, you can program your light bulbs to turn on or off when you want, to slowly wake you up with increasing illumination, or to change from daytime work lighting to entertainment-friendly shades for parties.

Smart Appliances

Programmable slow cookers and coffee makers are the quaint, old-fashioned versions of these home conveniences. Newer, smart appliances give you more control over how your food is kept and prepared, and make it easier for you to complete pesky household chores.

·                Newer coffee makers, like the Smarter coffee machine, let you ‘order’ your coffee exactly to your liking, adjusting everything from bean grind to temperature to strength to time that it’s ready to drink.

·                Smart refrigeration technology can help you store your food at just the right temperature, adjusting the thermostat during peak usage times. For example, the LG THINQ fridge can alert you via smart phone app if a door is accidentally left open.

·                Smart ovens can ensure that your food is cooked to the right level of done-ness, and alert you when your meal is ready to eat. June, a new counter oven invented by former Google, Apple, Go-Pro and Path employees will give you even more control—it will contain cameras, thermometers, and other technology to ‘learn’ what you like to eat and make menu suggestions.

·                Smart washers and dryers have customizable controls so that you can safely wash any type of fabric. Some units include controls to increase drying time to save energy. And soon, connected appliances from GE, Oster, Samsung, and other makers, will be able to re-order soap and fabric softener directly from Amazon, so you won’t even have to think about running to the store at the last minute.

Have you tested any of these technologies in your home? Did we miss any of your favorite home technologies? Let us know in the comments!

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Video Media

Videos are an upcoming and engaging way to learn something new - I love how videos shorten up the time it often takes me to understand a task, issue or get a feel for a new property and listing on the market. Instead of spending 20 minutes reading an article online, I would rather opt into watching the 2 minute video clip on the news report. Instead of reading a how to manual in replacing the window fixtures and updating window frames, I would rather head to youtube.com and check out a quick video, most likely uploaded courtesy of Home Depot.com. And when it comes to properties, the video tours are always a must see!
I love looking at the virtual tours when scoping out the best properties for my clients - our Buyers know what they wan't and we aim to satisfy their needs. Looking at the video walk through on a home, I get a better sense what to expect before actually going there myself. Then a rush of thoughts come to my mind, could I imagine them really enjoying this home? Wouldn't this living room be the perfect size for their family? I know they mentioned they love to cook, would they get the best use out of this dual range oven?
I can try to squint at my phone and look through several pictures at home online, even photos on the MLS and Zillow have their limitations, but videos, slideshows, panoramas make the home buying (and selling) experience much better.
Here at the Knox Team we're committing to getting more involved with this streamlined approach in getting info out there; stay tuned for more integrated videos in our approach!

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1540 Arata Ct.

I'm so excited about this home on a quiet cul-de-sac in Willow Glen and about it's overall floor plan, bright and sunny features and picturesque fireside lounge.
The amazing thing about Willow Glen, besides the unique shops and restaurants downtown, is all the unique custom & semi custom homes on the market, as well as those under construction. I see them everyday driving into our office - a victorian recently updated with customized paint on the exterior, a craftsman with many unique features, also the details that folks around the neighborhood put into decorating their porch. It's all about the details right? 
This ranch style home on a quiet street of Willow Glen features unique details such as a skylit fireside lounge, sky tunnels, beautiful wood flooring and bright & sunny kitchen. We are proud to represent another client in our local community here in Willow Glen. Who's next?

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