Posted by admin on June 4, 2012
When it comes to the little things that sellers do to make their homes stand out from the competition, a new splash of paint is usually at the top of the list. Sprucing up the front yard and removing the clutter you have learned to live with over the years also rank high.
But the No. 1 step you can take, according to a recent survey of realestate agents, is cleaning the place from top to bottom. Spending a few hundred bucks for cleaning supplies, rolling up your sleeves and getting to work will pay huge dividends, dollar for dollar, according to nearly all the 500 agents who participated in the HomeGain poll.
Actually, cleaning has ranked as the top home improvement suggested by realty professionals ever since HomeGain began asking the question in 2003. In the latest survey, the agents said spending $400 on cleaning is likely to gain sellers $2,000 more at closing. That’s a 400 percent return on investment.
Of course, there is clean and then there is really clean. Here are some tips gleaned mainly from the folks at The Maids, a residential cleaning service with about 150 franchises in 40 states, with suggestions from professional house cleaner Mary Findley (also known as Mary Moppins) thrown in for good measure:
You may not look up when you walk around your house, but would-be buyers do. They look everywhere, so knock down any cobwebs, clean the blades on the ceiling fans and remove the dust that has built up on the top of window and door frames, as well as other places it tends to accumulate.
Now look down and clean your baseboards.
You’ll want to shower your place with light to show it off, especially at night, so remove the bugs that have accumulated in your light fixtures and clean the glass. Replace the bulbs with new ones. That way, Findley says, you won’t have a burnout during a showing.
Walls and ceilings should be dusted. For textured surfaces and rough wood, slip three lint roller tubes over a paint roller and roll.
Wipe down front and back doors, including screens. Remove oil spots from garage floor and driveway. Polish doorknobs, hinges and drawer handles, and clean your trash cans.
Wash the windows, inside and out. Findley cleans windows with a 32-ounce spray bottle filled with 1/3 cup white vinegar, 1/4 cup rubbing alcohol and the rest distilled water.
For best results, wash on a cloudy day. Sunlight dries the glass quickly, causing streaks.
Window treatments tend to trap dust and odors. Dry-clean or at least vacuum drapes. Roll up blinds to remove them. Then loosen and wash in a tub of warm, soapy water with a cup of white vinegar. Rinse and lay flat on a towel outside to dry.
Alternatively, hang the blinds outside with the slats facing down. Spray from bottom to top with foaming tub and tile cleaner, a Findley favorite. Sponge off with water, then flip them over, turn the slats in the other direction and repeat. “Sparkling blinds in 15 minutes,” Findley says.
Clean the stove and oven. If you have burner drip trays, replace them. The cost is minimal, and they will make the range sparkle. As an alternative, Findley suggests placing dirty drip pans in a plastic bag with a 50/50 mixture of water and ammonia. Let sit for a day, then scour and rinse.
Don’t overlook the range hood — not just the top, but also underneath where grease tends to accumulate. Spray foaming tile and tub cleaner, wait a few minutes and wipe.
Eliminate lingering odors in the dishwasher by running it with a couple tablespoons of Tang, the powdered breakfast drink.
Decluttering goes along with cleaning. Since lookers will peer in your kitchen cabinets and drawers, take everything out, pack away what you’re not using and neatly restack what’s left — but not before wiping the shelves and drawers clean.
Cabinet doors don’t need to be replaced or resurfaced, just cleaned, Findley says. Start with a wood cleaner to deep-clean the doors, then apply a wood restorer to replenish the finish.
Shampoo carpets and then vacuum daily. “Nothing screams clean like visible carpet pile lines,” according to The Maids.
Wood and tile floors should be mopped. Clean the grout too. If your linoleum floor no longer holds a shine, strip it with a janitorial-grade wax remover and redo with janitorial non-yellowing wax, which Findley says holds up longer than most store waxes. That way, if it takes longer than expected to sell, at least you won’t have to rewax.
In the bathroom, clean showers, sinks and tubs. Remove hard-water spots and soap scum by spraying them with undiluted, heated white vinegar. Let soak 15 minutes before scrubbing.
Alternatively, Findley suggests applying a concentrated orange-based cleaner full-strength. Give it at least an hour to dissolve soap residue. Then use a white scrub pad — only white; any other color will scratch the surface — to remove the buildup.
To get rid of water rings in the toilet bowl, drain the bowl and saturate several heavy-duty shop paper towels with orange cleaner or white vinegar. Plaster the sides of the bowl with the towels and let sit for several hours. For a quicker solution, try the stuff you use to clean tile grout.
Wash shower curtains and liners. Wash glass doors as you would showers and tubs above.
Hit mildew with straight hydrogen peroxide as opposed to bleach, the fumes of which can be overpowering in small spaces.
By Lew Sichelman
Posted by admin on April 16, 2012
It would take six months to sell all the distressed homes that have not yet hit the market — a shorter time than a year ago, but still a worrisome number, according to national estimates by CoreLogic.
In January there were 1.6 million homes in the “shadow inventory” of homes with delinquent mortgages or other signs of distress that have not been listed for sale, the data provider reported Wednesday morning.
For every two homes on the market, one is in the shadows, according to CoreLogic. The number is virtually unchanged from October, but down from last January, when there were 1.8 million homes in the shadows — an eight-month supply.
A healthy real estate market would have less than a one-month supply of “shadow” homes, which could be absorbed without dragging prices down by much, according to the data provider.
CoreLogic did not report on Long Island’s shadow inventory. However, the data provider found that 10.4 percent of homeowners in Nassau and Suffolk counties were at least 90 days delinquent on their loans in January, up slightly from 10.1 percent a year before. The Island has a 6.4 percent foreclosure rate, CoreLogic reported.
Of all the homes in the national shadow inventory, about half are seriously delinquent on their loans, one quarter are in some stage of foreclosure and one quarter are bank-owned, also known as REO, according to Core Logic.
“The shadow inventory remains persistent, even though many other metrics of the housing market show signs of improvements,” said Anand Nallathambi, president and chief executive of CoreLogic. “In some hard-hit markets, the demand for REO and distressed property is now outstripping supply. As we move into what is traditionally the peak selling season for real estate, servicers will certainly be watching closely to see if now is the time to move more inventory out of the shadows.”
CoreLogic estimates the shadow inventory by calculating the number of distressed properties not currently listed on multiple listing services that are seriously delinquent, in foreclosure or bank-owned.
By: Maura McDermott
Posted by admin on April 2, 2012
So it’s officially a buyers’ market, and you’re all geared up to find a home that makes your heart sing.
But, despite advantages in the buyers’ favor, at least for now – prices that still seem to be falling, low interest rates and lots of houses to choose from – smart house-hunters need to be wary of the pitfalls of buying.
And take care.
We spoke to experts – real estate agents, mortgage brokers, bankers and attorneys – for their advice to buyers.
1. Make a list
If you don’t figure out just what you want, you might just buy the wrong house.
“I always say this to all the young buyers: They have to decide where they want to live and what they’re looking for in a home,” says Michelle Cohen, associate broker and executive vice president for Century 21 Laffey Associates in Greenvale.
“Does it have the proximity to your job? Especially now, with the cost of transportation so high, it might make more sense to look for a house close to your place of business.”
You also have to look at the cost of owning a home – again, with fuel costs high, how much will heating it run you? If it has a large piece of property, keeping it up costs either time (if you do it) or money (if others do), she says. How is the school district? Can you afford the taxes? (They will only go up.)
“You should sit down and write a list of what you’re looking for in a home, and really do your homework,” Cohen says. Even a house that seems like a bargain may not be one if it doesn’t meet your needs.
2. Check it out
Avoid a nasty financial surprise that could ruin a deal.
“I think education is extremely important right now,” says Jeff Barker, Bank of America’s regional executive for consumer banking. “The buyer should fully understand what will be asked of him or her when they are ready to apply for the mortgage.”
It’s important to check your credit reports to see if you can fix any mistakes, he says. And be sure to figure out how much house you can afford – most lenders, including Bank of America, have online tables that will help you figure it out.
You’ll need to get your financial records in order – proof of income, tax records, a solid source for a down payment and the like, he says. Then, get prequalified so you can show a seller you’re a serious buyer who’s ready to go.
Barker says that, even though lenders may be taking more care than in the past, “it’s not a difficult process for people who can afford a mortgage.”
3. First, hire a lawyer
Fools act as their own attorneys in real estate, too – you could get burned. Badly.
You might think you can wait until the closing to hire an attorney – but things can go wrong, so it’s a good idea “from the get-go” to find a good lawyer, says Elysia Prinz, manager of Coach Realtors’ Northport office.
And they’re surprisingly affordable – most attorneys charge a flat fee for the entire real estate transaction, and you’ll probably pay somewhere between $1,000 and $1,500 locally, experts say.
It’s a good idea to have your lawyer look over any legal document before you sign it – no matter how boilerplate it might look, including an agreement with a broker, says David Sappé, a Huntington attorney with a practice concentrating in real estate law. “As soon as they’re out in the market and serious about buying or selling, they should have an attorney – from that first binder handshake,” he says. “There’s no premium that you have to pay for lining up an attorney before or after.” If you don’t have recommendations, he says, you can check with the state or local bar association.
Look at it this way, he says: When else would you get involved in “a half-million-dollar transaction” without protecting yourself legally?
4. Working for you
Not all real estate brokers are alike – and remember, most of them are representing the homeowner. Not you.
Ask friends, neighbors and relatives for recommendations, and find an experienced person who makes you feel comfortable.
Especially if you’re a first-time buyer, you might want to consider hiring a buyers’ broker to represent your interests. (It won’t cost you any more – their fees are split with the seller’s agent, as in any real estate transaction.)
Even brokers who take you around are working for the seller (which is their legal obligation), not for you, unless they’re specifically a buyers’ broker – a concept more common elsewhere in the country, but catching on here.
A buyers’ broker “might be able to do a little better job negotiating,” says Prinz of Coach Realtors. Plus, she adds, a broker representing a seller is not required to reveal things or find things out about the property or neighborhood that might be negative – for example, if a local planning committee is considering an action that would mean “that lovely piece of land that you’ve been looking at, that greenbelt, is going to be an industrial park,” she says.
A buyers’ broker, on the other hand, should do that kind of research for you.
5. Have a cushion
Don’t use a fly-by-night broker (or bank) to finance your mortgage, or you could blow the deal.
No one who’s followed the news in recent months about failing mortgage companies – and even banks – should take the prospect of financing a house lightly.
Make sure you deal with a reputable mortgage broker or a bank, says Robert Bram, senior loan officer for Preferred Empire Mortgage Co. of Melville, an affiliate of Prudential Douglas Elliman Real Estate. And, he says, it’s important that you have a bit of a cushion when you apply for a mortgage in case the situation changes. “The market is changing,” Bram says. “There could be some fluctuations in the interest rate.” You shouldn’t be “down to your last dime.”
If the interest rate suddenly goes up half a point, you shouldn’t be so tight that you can no longer afford the mortgage – not to mention having a fund for repairs and emergencies.
6. Get good advice
Listen to the experts, not your Aunt Bertha – it’s likely she doesn’t know what she’s talking about.
You could drive yourself crazy trying to sort through all the doom and gloom in the news as well as “advice” from people who may have your best interests at heart but don’t know what they’re talking about.
Talking to relatives who don’t own houses but feel free to give advice is “a sure deal killer,” says Michael Daly, principal broker for Beach Properties of the Hamptons in North Haven and author of The Hamptons Real Estate Blog (thehamp tons.wordpress.com).
And “telling your cousin you’re about to buy a house and having him scream, ‘You’re crazy!’” doesn’t help either, he says.
You’ve put together a team of professionals – a broker, a financial adviser, a real estate attorney – so listen to them. That’s what you’re paying for.
7. Don’t skip the report
Don’t buy a lemon (but sometimes, a lemon-in-waiting can help you make lemonade).
When we’re talking about professionals, by no means skip that all-important engineering report.
The seller should handle serious issues, such as removing an underground oil tank or fixing any serious problems with plumbing or electrical systems – and these can be negotiating points. If the house has serious issues and the seller doesn’t want to address them, the best bet might be to walk away, experts say.
But something that comes up on the report could help you bargain for a lower price – that is, if it’s not something vitally important that makes buying the house questionable.
On the other hand, you’re not buying perfection. On a used house, Sappé says, “wear and tear” – say, some outside boards that have rotted, or painting that needs to be done, or the like – are not the seller’s responsibility to fix.
An engineering report can sometimes kill a deal, says Joan Silverman, a Northport attorney whose practice concentrates on real estate.
“Buyers kind of want it perfect, and sellers feel like they don’t want to give it away,” she says – adding that both buyers and sellers need to be reasonable and compromise.
8. It’s not a fire sale
Don’t insult the sellers – if you do, you might never have another chance at their house.
A lowball offer might work – but it might bring only hostility. Let your agent guide you about a negotiating price.
Rick Hoffman, senior regional vice president of the East End for The Corcoran Group, says, “Don’t go out there and think that there’s a fire sale going on, especially on the East End. There are bargains to be had, but it’s not a fire sale, and if a buyer comes in and makes an unreasonably low offer, you’re going to lose because you’ll insult the seller, and they won’t negotiate with you.
“Everyone thinks that their house is special,” Hoffman says. “People are emotionally attached to their homes, they have memories, and they’ve raised their family there. And sometimes, that’s not evident to a buyer. People need to remember that. Just be sensitive to it.”
It’s important to justify your offer, he says. “You can say, ‘I’ve looked at the properties around, I love your home, but it needs this, this and this.’ If you can maintain an amiable relationship between the parties, that helps facilitate the transaction, and that’s what a good broker does.”
9. The short and long
Don’t try to buy a short sale – unless you don’t care about the time.
Short sales, in which a lender will agree to accept less than what the homeowner owes and thus avoid foreclosure, are becoming more common on Long Island, says Philip Tesoriero of Gelip Inc. Consulting of Amity Harbor, a broker and consultant who teaches seminars about short sales for Realtors around the country.
But they can take much longer than the typical real estate transaction. “In this current market, you have to be prepared to be patient,” Tesoriero says. Whereas, a regular house sale could close within 30 days, a short sale could easily take eight to 12 weeks, he says.
Are they worth waiting for?
“I think they could be excellent deals for a person who could be a do-it-yourselfer or a contractor,” he says. But since these houses were owned by homeowners in financial trouble, he says, don’t underestimate necessary repairs – which could make what seems like a good deal a poor deal. Short sales, he says, “could run into a lot of money for people.”
By: Peggy Brown
Posted by admin on November 14, 2011
After a flood, it’s important to restore your home to good order as soon as possible to protect your health and prevent further damage to your house and belongings. Whether you do the work yourself or hire a contractor, this handy checklist will help you organize the clean up.
Immediate action is important. Your house and furnishings are less likely to grow mold if they are dried within 48 hours.
Before You Begin
- Put your own safety first. Avoid electrical shock. Wear rubber boots. Keep extension cords out of the water. Shut the power off to the flooded area at the breaker box. Ask your electrical utility for help if needed.
- Record details of damage, with photos or video if possible. Contact your insurance agent immediately and register with your municipality—your municipality may have resources you need, such as future financial assistance.
- Set up a step-by-step action plan to:
- remove all water, mud and other debris
- dispose of contaminated household goods
- rinse away contamination inside the home
- remove the rinse water
- clean and dry out your house and salvageable possessions.
- Be prepared to make difficult decisions about what to keep and what to throw out. Household items that have been contaminated by sewage, or that have been wet for a long time, will have to be bagged, tagged and discarded according to local regulations.
- Assemble equipment and supplies:
- gloves, masks (N95 respirators) and other protective gear
- pails, mops, squeegees and plastic garbage bags
- unscented detergent
- large containers for wet bedding and clothing, and lines to hang them to dry
- you may also need to rent extension cords, submersible pumps, wet/dry shop vacuums, and dehumidifiers or heaters.
- Store valuable papers that have been damaged in a freezer until you have time to work on them.
- Remove standing water with pumps or pails, then with a wet/dry shop vacuum.
- Remove all soaked and dirty materials and debris, including wet insulation and drywall, residual mud and soil, furniture, appliances, clothing and bedding.
- Hose down any dirt sticking to walls and furnishings, then rinse several times, removing the remaining water with a wet/dry shop vacuum. Rinse, then clean all floors as quickly as possible. Flooring that has been deeply penetrated by flood water or sewage should be discarded.
- Work from the top down. Break out all ceilings and walls that have been soaked or that have absorbed water. Remove materials at least 500 mm (20 in.) above the high-water line. Removing only the lower part of the wall applies if action is taken immediately after the flood or wetting event. Gypsum board walls that have been exposed to high humidity or standing water for a prolonged period of time should be removed in their entirety and discarded. Ceiling tiles and panelling should be treated like drywall.
- Wash and wipe/scrub down all affected or flooded surfaces with unscented detergent and water. Rinse. Repeat the process as needed. Concrete surfaces can be cleaned with a solution of TSP (tri-sodium phosphate) in water (one half cup TSP to one gallon of warm water).When using TSP, which is highly corrosive, wear gloves and eye protection.
Bleach is NOT recommended
The presence of organic (humic) materials, the pH (acidity/alkalinity) of the water, the surface material and contact time affect the effectiveness of bleach for disinfection. Since these factors are not generally controlled, bleach cannot be relied upon for disinfection.The most compelling reason for advising against bleach is that fumes are harmful but in addition, overuse of bleach will result in increased releases of chlorinated effluents which can be harmful to the environment.
- Surfaces that are dry and/or have not been directly affected by the flood water should be vacuumed with a HEPA vacuum cleaner. Further cleaning of concrete surfaces can be done with TSP. Washable surfaces can be washed with unscented detergent and water. Surface mold on wood can be removed with a vacuum-sander. Do not sand without simultaneous vacuuming.Wood that looks moldy after sanding may need to be replaced.
- After cleaning the surfaces, ventilate or dehumidify the house until it is completely dry. Rapid drying is important to prevent mold growth. When the outside weather permits (low humidity and moderate temperature), open doors and windows and hasten the drying process with fans. If the outside weather is not suitable and you notice that drying is not happening fast, use dehumidifying equipment, renting extra units as necessary.
To determine if the outdoor air can help dry the air inside, place a hygrometer in the area to be dried. Let it stabilize then open a window and monitor the Relative Humidity (RH). If it goes down then it means the air is dry enough to assist the drying process. If the RH increases, close the window.
- Carpets must be dried within two days. Sewage-soaked carpets must be discarded. Homeowners can’t effectively dry large areas of soaked carpets themselves. Qualified professionals are required.
- Ensure that all interior cavities and structural members are completely dry (which could take weeks) before closing cavities.
What to Keep or Discard
- Discard and replace all insulation materials, and all less-expensive articles that have been soaked, including particleboard furniture, mattresses, box springs, stuffed toys, pillows, paper and books.
- Separate valuable papers. Ask a lawyer whether you should save the papers themselves or just the information on them.
- The frames of good quality wood furniture can sometimes be salvaged, but must be cleaned and dried by ventilation away from direct sunlight or heat. Consult a furniture restoration specialist. Coverings, paddings and cushions must be discarded and replaced.
- Scrape heavy dirt from washable clothes, rinse and wash several times with detergent and dry quickly.
Before Moving Back In
- Do not use flooded appliances, electrical outlets, switch boxes or fuse/breaker panels until they have been checked by your local utility.
- If they have been soaked, consult an HVAC (Heating,Ventilation and Air Conditioning) contractor to replace the furnace blower motor, switches and controls, insulation and filters. Inspect all flooded forced air heating ducts and return-duct pans and have them cleaned out or replaced. Seek advice from your local utility about a water heater that has been wet. Refrigerators and freezers may need to be replaced.
- Flush floor drains and sump pits with detergent and water and scrub them to remove greasy dirt and grime. Clean footing drains outside the foundation if necessary.
Posted by Admin on August 12, 2011
A stronger-than-expected housing market has helped propel growth in the Canadian economy this year, but economists say recent economic and market tumult could jeopardize momentum in the sector.
The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corp. said Tuesday national housing starts rose to 205,100 units on a seasonally adjusted basis in July, 11.6 per cent higher than the 188,900 reported in the same month last year and up 4.3 per cent from the 196,600 recorded this June.
However, the pickup, driven by strong construction on condos and apartment buildings in urban centres, is likely due to builders catching up to robust demand last year, rather than expectations of coming growth.
Home building activity has been increasing through the first seven months of 2011, but starts are still down 4.6 per cent from a year ago.
The Hamilton area, including Grimsby and Burlington, was a different story.
The agency reported total housing starts declined in July — typically an active month for residential construction. The decline in total starts was driven by fewer single-detached homes being started in the City of Hamilton and Grimsby compared to 2010. Similar trends prevailed for the first half of the year, where single-detached starts matched last year’s pace in Burlington, but decreased by about one-third in the City of Hamilton and Grimsby.
Specifically, the agency reported 80 single-detached houses started in Hamilton in July, down from 116 last year. Year-to-date figures show 502 starts this year, down from 684 last year.
CMHC said total starts here have been relatively flat for the past few months, hinting some remain leery of buying a new home, preferring the resale market where listings have been at record high levels.
Nationally, during the first half of last year, the market was rebounding from recession and buyers were on a tear, prompting an influx of demand and the need to build more units.
Housing starts tend to lag activity in the resale market, and economists believe the recent strong construction activity is the result of increased demand last year.
But they doubt whether the pace can continue as the prospect of a double-dip recession in the U.S. forces them to rethink the prospects for economic growth in Canada.
“While many economic indicators have pointed to much softer growth through the summer, Canadian housing starts is not one of them, still likely responding to a firm rebound in sales activity in the second half of 2010,” said Bank of Montreal economist Robert Kavcic.
“Going forward, expect underlying household formation (about 175,000) and current economic concerns to apply some gravitational pull to starts.”
Buyer sentiment is “vulnerable to recent market turmoil,” as the large decline on stock markets has a negative effect on consumer wealth and confidence, making them less inclined to make big purchases, said CIBC economist Peter Buchanan.
“That, of course, can cut both ways. It can make investors fearful of buying real estate. On the other hand it does mean the Bank of Canada won’t be tightening quite as early,” Buchanan said.
“The other thing is that, if people are worried about putting their money into the equity market, hey real estate may not look so bad.”
But even with low rates that make the cost of carrying a mortgage cheaper, pent-up demand in the housing market could be largely exhausted.
Many buyers rushed into the market during the closing months of 2009 and early 2010, when the Bank of Canada rate was set at an emergency low of 0.25 per cent. Others decided to buy before the implementation of the new HST in Ontario and British Columbia in July 2010, or to beat two rounds of tighter lending rules.
By: The Hamilton Spectator
Posted by admin on July 30, 2011
Nov. 1, 1991, is a very important date for rental properties in Ontario.
If your home, condo or apartment was built after that date, rent review does not apply. So, instead of the maximum increase of 0.7 per cent permitted in 2011 for most rental units, there is no limit on how much a landlord can increase the rent after the first 12 months of your tenancy.
Let’s say you rent an apartment in a building constructed before Nov. 1, 1991, and your rent is $1,000. The maximum your landlord can raise the rent this year is $7, to $1,007.
However, if your unit was built after that date, your landlord can raise the rent as much as he or she wants — to $1,500 for example.
In all cases, the landlord has to use the proper forms under the Residential Tenancies Act and must give the tenant at least 90 days’ notice of any increase. If the required notice is not given, the entire rent increase will be declared void later.
There are now thousands of condominium units in Ontario built after Nov. 1, 1991, that are being rented to tenants. If you are thinking of renting one, consider a clause in your lease that puts a maximum on how much the landlord can hike your rent each year.
For landlords, this right to increase arbitrarily should not be abused. It should be limited to what the fair market rent for a similar type of unit would be. For example, let’s say you rent a two-bedroom unit in Toronto for $2,000. After one year, similar two-bedroom units in the area rent for $2,200. You are having problems with the tenant. Can you raise the rent to $3,000 in order to effectively terminate the tenancy?
In my opinion, if the landlord tries to just get rid of a problem tenant by unreasonably increasing the rent well above fair market value, they may have difficulty terminating this tenancy for non-payment of rent later. A judge may look at the entire process as acting in bad faith.
I am fairly certain this Nov. 1, 1991, exception to rent review will become an issue in the October provincial election. I wouldn’t be surprised if rent review is extended to cover these units as well.
We have a real problem in Ontario in that few new apartment buildings are being constructed. Builders make more money building condominiums. There needs to be creative thinking by our politicians to encourage and provide incentives to building more rental units in Ontario. This will benefit both landlords and tenants in the long term.
Until this happens, tenants must be careful to protect themselves when renting units built after Nov. 1, 1991. Landlords must always make sure to use the proper forms and give 90 days’ notice before any rent increase.
By Mark Weisleder