Home Inspections

"House/Home Inspection" by Mark MozSo, you’ve got an accepted offer on your house, you think you’re finally through the negotiations, and then you are hit with a home inspection and negotiations start all over again! It can be very stressful for both buyers and sellers.

Your home inspection is a very important step in the homebuying and selling process. It gives you the opportunity to be sure that what you are buying is thoroughly evaluated and you know exactly what you are getting into with this large investment. The inspection provides you with valuable information about the home to help you make an informed decision in your purchase. You should definitely attend you inspection if possible to learn about your new home.

You must remember that no home is perfect and totally free of issues. The important thing is that the inspection is meant to uncover MAJOR defects, even though the inspector may point out many minor concerns, the main intent is to be sure it is safe and to learn about the home.

Selecting a good inspector is very important, your Realtor can recommend a good one to use, but it is still your job to choose the inspector and schedule the appointment. Be sure your inspector is licensed and certified, carries liability insurance and Errors & Omissions insurance, provides a clear, easy to read report in a timely fashion with a summary page, has a reasonable fee (not too high OR too low), the company is well-established and your inspector is exerienced.

If the home inspection does reveal problems with the home, it does not mean you shouldn’t buy it. Sometimes sellers are willing to fix problems with the home, sometimes they are not. I regularly advise sellers to fix everything they know to be wrong with the home as soon as it is listed so that the list of concerns from the inspector isn’t as overwhelming to the potential buyer.

 

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Thinking of building your next home?

There are a lot of misconceptions about building, and especially about using a Realtor when you work with a new home builder. I just wanted to clear a few things up for you:

Some people think that the on-site builder’s representative will take care of everything for them, and yes, they are perfectly capable of doing so. They are generally very knowledgeable about the new home building process, and are very good to work with. However, once in a while there may be a little “misunderstanding” with the builder, or a difference between what you thought you were getting and what you actually get. Then, you will find that the on-site rep. has only the builder’s best interests in mind. They are employed by the builders and it is their job to promote the builder, the product, the neighborhood, and the features (and ADD-ONS!) available in the home. When you work with a REALTOR, like me, I have only your best interests in mind.

I bet you’re wondering what it costs you to use a REALTOR, right? Well, the answer is NOTHING! Builders get upwards of 60% of their business from REALTOR referrals, why would they want to mess that up? They set aside the funds to pay REALTORS in their marketing budget. If you bring a REALTOR, they pay  from that marketing fund and you get the representation you need. If you do not use a REALTOR, they just keep the money. Great for them, not so good for you.

Besides helping clear up any possible disputes or “he said, she said” situations, I can help in many other ways. There are a lot of different builders in the area, and they differ in many ways. I can help guide you to the builders who best suit your needs, your price range, and your style. I can also help with selections with both resale and functionality in mind. I have toured many homes in the area, both new and resales, and I know what trends people are turning away from and which people will be more excited to see. Finally, I can help you assess your budget needs, connect you with a reputable mortgage lender, and take you to tour homes in the correct price range.

THE MOST IMPORTANT POINT TO REMEMBER: You must call me first before going out to look at new homes. Builders require that on your very first visit, you are registered with your REALTOR. This does not obligate you to buy, it just lets them know that you are represented from the beginning. If you visit new home models without me, I will be unable to help you if you decide to build. I would be happy to accompany you to any new home development that you might be interested in. Believe me, I would much rather go with you to find out that you don’t like the neighborhood than run the risk that you will be left without the representation you deserve. After registration, you can visit on your own if you would like, but you would also have the option of having me with you.

If you or anyone you know is thinking of building a home, call me today. I can help answer your questions and I would be happy to meet with you or tour new home communities.

1 in 6 Homeowners Upside Down

Realtor magazine is reporting that about 16% of homeowners (or 1 out of every 6) owe more on their mortgage than they would be able to sell the home for. The situation is even worse for people who bought their homes within the past 5 years and haven’t had a chance to build up equity. Last year, only about 6% of homeowners were upside down in their mortgages, and the year before, it was only about 4%.

Really, I wouldn’t worry too much about this if you have no plans for moving in the near future. The market will stabilize and prices will begin to rise again and as time goes by, you will be paying your mortgage down which will help build equity. The problem comes when people who are upside down (or close) need to move. Sometimes, you think you have no plans to move and then something in your life suddenly changes. When that happens, I often see people who have to find a way to bring money to the closing table to sell their home.

Are you curious?? If you would like to know what the market is doing in your Indy-area neighborhood, I can do a quick (read: not as accurate as it could be, but still useful) Comparative Market Analysis for your property and just e-mail you the results. All I need to know is your address, number of bedrooms & bathrooms, amenities, and things like that. I can give you a ballpark figure with no cost or obligation. Just send me an e-mail (mmorris@callcarpenter.com) with the info and I can help you figure out if you are upside down in your mortgage.

Hendricks County Property Tax Bills Coming Soon…. Finally!

Update, 10/16  Hendricks County has put the new tax numbers on their web site, and it is GREAT NEWS! Most people will see a significant decrease in their tax amount. Many people have already paid the spring installation when we were sent a “catch-up” billing in the summer, and some of you can even expect a refund from your mortgage company!! I can look up your taxes for you (yes, your tax info is available to the general public) or you can visit the Hendricks County Tax look up site by clicking the link below.

Original Post Follows:

We Realtors® have always had a difficult time trying to explain Indiana’s property taxes and the fact that they are paid in arrears. In Hendricks County, as in many Indiana counties, we now have the special problem of trying to figure out how much our clients will have to pay or receive due to the confusion of our late tax bills. Usually property taxes are due in May and November, but we are still waiting on our May tax bills to come!

The wait for Hendricks County residents may soon be over. County Treasurer Nancy Marsh hopes to have everyone’s tax bills delivered by October 10th. They will be due November 10. Yes, these are the bills that were supposed to be sent out in May. “Voluntary” statements were sent out this summer to give people a chance to pay most of their bill, so that the payments would not be so close together. For most of us, our taxes are collected and put into an escrow account by our mortgage companies. However, people who do not have mortgages are going to be feeling the pinch, and need to be sure their tax bills get paid.

What about the November bill? Clearly it would cause a lot of trouble to have to pay it all at once for some, so rather than sending out the November bill on time, they will wait until January to send them out and they will be due around February 10th. Yes, we will be paying taxes for 2007 in the beginning of 2009. Then, we will see if the next bill is on track in May.

Marsh says that she thinks most people’s bills will be going down this year. Indiana now uses trending to assess our values, and with the market moving downward, we are lucky that we are being re-assessed, even though it is a pain. Many peoples’ home values have dropped, and so their assessed values need to go down as well.

If you would like to check your taxes, you can look up your home on the Hendricks County Property Tax lookup site. This will show you what your tax bill will be and what you have paid in the past. You can also check to be sure that you have your property tax exemptions filed. Most people should have their Homestead and Mortgage Exemptions filed, and some will have more for things like disabilities, veteran status, old age, and some energy-saving improvements.

Call Me or leave a comment below if you have any questions about your property Taxes!

Hawaii requires Solar Powered Water Heaters

Hawaii has become the first state to require solar powered water heaters. Beginning in the year 2010, all new homes are required take this step to reduce Hawaii’s dependance on imported fossil fuels. Right now the state relies completely on imported fossil fuels.

With the new law in force, no building permits will be issued for single-family homes unless they have a solar water heater. Exceptions will be allowed for areas without a lot of sunshine, like forested areas.

Of course, some fear that this will only drive up the already high costs of homes in Hawaii, but I think it is another good step towards energy independence. Who knows, I might feel differently if I were required to do it.

What is a Short Sale?

I snagged this article straight from RISMedia because it explains things so well. I have seen a huge increse in short sales, and people asking about them. The most important thing for homeowners who fear that they might not be able to make their payments is CALL YOUR MORTGAGE COMPANY! Sticking your head in the sand might be more comfortable but it doesn’t help you at all. You need to try to work things out with your lender. They may be able to help you, but you must call them and you must be persistant.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

RISMEDIA, May 22, 2008-(MCT)-In real estate, it’s the sale of a home or property for less than the amount owed the lender. The owner nets nothing on the sale and until recently, it also meant a tax liability, as the IRS considered the difference between the sale price and outstanding loan amount as income.

It’s not a favorable option, but a short sale can be the best way for a homeowner to get out from under a loan and avoid foreclosure, according to local real estate representatives.

Trouble is, a successful short sale is entirely dependent on the lender’s authorization. A seller may find a willing buyer, but unless the lender agrees to take a loss on the property, the sale won’t happen.

And as more homeowners near foreclosure — in Deschutes County, there were 528 notices of default, a precursor to foreclosure proceedings, filed between Jan. 1 and Thursday, a 303.5 percent increase over the same period last year — more homeowners are pursuing short sales.

Tom Greene, the president of the Central Oregon Association of Realtors, said roughly 7 percent of the homes currently listed in Deschutes County are short sales. That represents a huge jump, he said, as short sales used to be exceedingly rare.

“This is a new phenomenon,” Greene said. “You used to run into them once every six months.”

Short Sale 101 The reason most homeowners ask a lender for a short sale — be it hardship, a job transfer or a bad investment — is to avoid foreclosure, said Cat Zwicker-Grant, principal broker with Desert Sky Real Estate in Redmond.

The upside of a short sale is it doesn’t negatively affect a homeowner’s credit score, the way a foreclosure would.

The downside is the homeowner surrenders their investment in the home and has to certify he or she has not profited from the sale in any way. In addition, most lenders want proof a homeowner doesn’t have other financial means to pay for the loan, Zwicker-Grant said.

“You are asking the bank to accept a loss on your behalf, so if they do that, they want to know you are worthy,” she said.

In other words, if it’s a second home a homeowner is trying to short-sell, the chances a bank would accept one are slim, Zwicker-Grant said.

Filing for bankruptcy won’t help, either. If you can’t make mortgage payments, you can’t keep your home, said Deidra Cherzan, a Bend attorney who specializes in bankruptcy filings.

Bankruptcy law does provide exemptions for primary residences but only if the mortgage is in good standing and the filer can continue to make payments, she said.

The key to a successful short sale is to start the process early, Zwicker-Grant said. Contact the lender, and begin the application process. The next step is to list the house and find a buyer. If one is found, the buyer submits the offer to the lender, which approves or rejects the sale.

The trick is timing, Zwicker-Grant said. Most homeowners don’t begin the short-sale process until they are behind on payments. This often puts homeowners up against the clock.

A notice of default is generally sent out after 90 days of nonpayment, and a house can be put up for auction by a lender 90 days later. If no one bids on the home, it is foreclosed on by the lender and the lender assumes ownership.

Banks or lenders typically don’t want to own real estate, so even though they may take a loss on a short sale, it’s often less costly in the long run, considering the amount a bank would pay for title fees, to maintain a home, cover its taxes and pay real estate commissions when it sells, Zwicker-Grant said.

Zwicker-Grant said banks can be choosy when it comes to approving short sales and accepting bids. Like other sellers, they often hold out for the best possible deal.

“Just because the first offer came in, (the lender) looks at what’s going to close the quickest and get them the most money,” Zwicker-Grant said. “The bank is really in the driver’s seat.”

As of Wednesday, there were 131 short-sale homes listed in Bend and 68 in Redmond, representing roughly 9 percent and 7 percent of the listings in those markets, respectively, Greene said. Since Jan. 1, 17 short sales have closed in Bend and 34 in Redmond, according to Greene.

Valerie Hunter, principal broker at H & H Preferred Real Estate in Redmond, said she has helped close nearly 40 short sales in Central Oregon in recent months, the most she’s seen in the eight years she’s specialized in them. But as banks back up with short-sale applications, Hunter said the process is getting harder.

“Seventy-five percent don’t get successfully negotiated,” Hunter said.

“It’s a lot of work to do a short sale, and I try not to do them anymore because they are becoming more of a headache.”

If a short sale is approved, and a buyer purchases the seller’s home, the seller is not completely out of the woods. In past years, the amount of the loan forgiven by the lender — the difference between the outstanding loan amount and the sale price — was considered taxable income by the IRS.

That changed in December when President Bush signed the Mortgage Forgiveness Debt Relief Act of 2007. The act excludes income derived from debt forgiveness on a principal residence from taxation, but only for debt forgiven in 2007, 2008 or 2009.

For that reason and because of market conditions, Zwicker-Grant is seeing more homeowners take advantage of the process.

“Short sales have always been around, but we’ve never seen it so prevalent,” Zwicker-Grant said.

Copyright © 2008, The Bulletin, Bend, Ore.
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

Affordable Bathroom Makeovers

Most people like a luxurious bathroom, and buyers look for bathrooms that are more like a spa. Perhaps you don’t have $14,445 to remodel your bathroom. That is the average price of a mid-range bathroom remodel in 2007 accodring to Remodeling magazine. Even if you want to spend a small amount, you can make a big impact in the bathroom.

  • Paint can do a lot, try using a neitral color and then adding big, fluffy towels in brighter colors.
  • Change the light fixture and put in something more modern, better yet, add a dimmer switch
  • Decorative towel bars and paper towel holders can make things look pulled together.
  • Re-caulk the tub and sink
  • Add framed artwork and a few candles

Just a few simple changes can make a big impact, you do not need to completely remodel if it is not in your budget.

Spring means storm season— BE PREPARED!!

From the FEMA website:

Weather Preparedness

Release Date: March 5, 2008
Release Number: 1740-024

» More Information on Indiana Severe Storms and Flooding

LAFAYETTE, Ind. — With spring around the corner, every family should be prepared to face another season of destructive storms and flooding. Every home should have a Disaster Supply Kit that includes a weather radio. The Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS) urge all Indiana residents to act now to assemble their family’s emergency supplies before the start of the spring storm season.

“Weather radios have long been a staple of storm-prone communities,” said J. Eric Dietz, State Coordinating Officer.  “We’d like to educate all Indiana residents to appreciate their broader applications as early warning for nearly all disasters, ranging from flood and weather-related events, tornados, snow storms….even chemical releases. They are a must for any disaster preparedness kit.”

National Weather Service forecasters provide routine weather programming at all times. During life-threatening weather conditions, the radios send out a special alarm tone. This is critical, because weather can turn deadly very fast. Tornados and flash flooding are two examples which can occur when people are sleeping or unaware of the forecast. Both can be deadly if people do not have an emergency plan or enough warning so that they can get to a safe place.

With a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio, you will be alerted to dangerous weather and have time to take shelter. NOAA Weather Radios also broadcast warnings and information regarding technological disasters, such as chemical releases or oil spills. They can be purchased at most stores that sell electronic devices. Most run on batteries or have battery back-up.

“Every household should also have at least a three day supply of food and water,” said Mike Smith, FEMA federal coordinating officer. “Disaster Supply Kits are a central aspect of preparedness, and we ask those who have not yet assembled their kits to do so before the start of the spring storm season.”

Every home should be stocked with a supply kit and when storing the supplies, keep them easily accessible in case of an evacuation.

A Disaster Supply Kit should contain the following:

  • Water – at least 1 gallon daily per person for 3 to 7 days
  • Food – at least enough for 3 to 7 days
    Non-perishable packaged or canned food / juices, foods for infants or the elderly, snack foods, non-electric can opener, cooking utensils / fuel, paper plates, plastic utensils
  • Blankets / Pillows, etc.
  • Clothing – seasonal, rain gear, sturdy shoes
  • Medical supplies – first aid kit, medicines, prescription drugs
  • Special Items – for infants and the elderly
  • Toiletries – hygiene items
  • Moisture wipes
  • Flashlight – extra batteries
  • Radio – battery-operated and NOAA weather radio
  • Cash – (Banks and ATMs may not be open or available for extended periods.)
  • Important documents – in a waterproof container
    Insurance, medical records, bank account numbers, social security card, etc
  • Keys 
  • Toys, books and games
  • Tools –  keep a set with you during the storm
  • Vehicle fuel tanks filled
  • Pet care items
    Proper identification, immunization records, ample supply of food and water, a carrier or cage, medications, muzzle and leash.

Visit www.Ready.gov, www.FEMA.gov, and www.in.gov/dhs/3638.htm  for a thorough look into disaster preparedness and a more detailed list of emergency supplies. Also, www.Ready.gov/kids is an excellent resource for information on how to involve children in the process of assembling the family’s Disaster Supply Kit.

FEMA coordinates the federal government’s role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.

Last Modified: Wednesday, 05-Mar-2008 14:44:14

16 Ways to put more “green” into your life

Everybody’s talking about being more environmentally friendly, going green, and saving the planet. Here are some ways to help you leave a smaller inpact on the earth from the U.S. Green Building Council:

LOWER UTILITY BILLS:

  1. Switch to the Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs
  2. Program your thermostat (or switch to a programmable kind if you don’t have one)
  3. Plug air leaks
  4. Have the heating and cooling systems serviced
  5. Choose Energy Star appliances (in some cases, you can get a rebate from the power company for these!)
  6. Reduce water useage
  7. Switch to green power sources

CHOOSE GREEN PRODUCTS

  1. Buy local
  2. Use low-VOC products (I wasn’t sure what that meant, so I included a link to a Wikipedia article about VOC’s)
  3. Use wood alternatives or FSC-certified wood products (That’s Forest Stewardship Council, folks)
  4. Use rapidly renewable flooring marterials

GREEN YOUR YARD

  1. Plant trees to provide shade and wind protection for your home
  2. Use Native plantings
  3. Use non-toxic gardening techniques

GREEN YOUR TRANSPORTATION:

  1. Carpool, use public transportation, walk,  or bike when possible
  2. Buy a higher efficiency car

Spring sales spruce-up tips

Spring is “Prime Time” for real estate. More home buying and selling will happen in the next couple of months than in any other time of the year. If you are thinking of getting your house sold, now is the time to get it listed. Carpenter Realtors offers an exclusing Home Marketing System that truly gives your home maximum exposure on the market, but it does take a couple of weeks to get all of the advertising out to the public. Let’s get going!

In the meantime, here are some great tips to get your home ready for the brisk Spring market:

  • Get the carpets professionally steam-cleaned
  • Clear out the gutters
  • Use a hose and long-handled scrub brush to clean up the siding and deck
  • Remove any wet, decaying leaves left around your home from the fall
  • Scrutinize your crawl space for water
  • Give your roof the “once over” to check for any missing shingles or other issues
  • Replace storm windows with screens so you can let the Spring air inside
  • Get the air conditioner serviced
  • Clean and lubricate hinges, rollers, and trcks on garage doors
  • Sweep out and de-clutter the garage
  • Check that sump pump to be sure you will be able to handle all the Spring rain coming
  • Inside: start de-cluttering as much as possible to give the appearance of more space