Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Landscaping That Sells

Architecture Coach By Barbara Ballinger

Attractive landscaping is one of the best ways to make a good first impression on prospective buyers and show that a home is loved.

Though a well-designed landscape can be simple, it also can move far beyond a velvety lawn and colorful flower beds to encompass trees, shrubs, irrigation, hardscaping, and lighting. By making informed choices, home owners can tranform their properties, whether they’re selling or just moved in and plan to stay for years.

Before jumping into a landscaping-improvement project, it helps to have a general knowledge of what kind of plants would thrive on the property, says Steve Jones, (a.k.a. “The Plant Man”) owner of Greenwood Nursery in McMinnville, Tenn. Home owners should do some research to learn about their yard’s various components:

  • Soil condition. To analyze soil, home owners should contact a local college extension service or buy a kit from a garden center. An analysis determines the pH balance. Most plants thrive in near-neutral pH conditions but some like slightly acidic soil, says Jones.
  • Drainage. The type of soil — sandy, silty, clay, or loam — will affect drainage. For example, clay soil may drain poorly, which can prevent nutrients and oxygen from reaching plant roots, but soil can be modified, Jones says.
  • Sunlight. Home owners should stand outside at different times of the day to see when, where, and how much sun strikes their yard, Jones says.
  • Hardiness zone. Also referred to as climate zones, hardiness zones are a guide to help you know which plants will grow where you live, so you don't plant materials that will soon die just because they can't survive the region's temperatures, according to BackyardGardener.com, which provides a hardiness zone map on its Web site.

Next Steps: Make a Budget, Hire HelpA budget will largely determine the scope of a project. If home owners want to replicate the cover photo from a recent Fine Gardening magazine, they should be prepared to pay dearly. Plants, soil, and all the extras that make a garden picture-perfect, can really add up, Jones says. For example, a single 8-foot-tall, 1-inch-caliper, shade-loving red maple may cost $60 to $70, he says.

But buyers should remember to factor in the cost of hiring a gardener, landscaper, or arborist. A gardener may be sufficient for home owners seeking to tidy up to improve curb appeal, while a landscape designer or architect is usually best for those who want to do more extensive work. Either professional can develop a master plan to enhance the exterior, make the site look attractive from the inside out, and keep materials safe from weather, insects, and animals. Many charge between $75 and $150 an hour — or more, depending on the area of the country and complexity of the project, says landscape designer Tim Thoelecke of American Academy of Landscape Design in Glenview, Ill.

For those planning long-term improvements to the property, rather than simple pre-sale enhancements, an arborist also can be brought on board to inspect the condition of trees, the lawn, and the drainage system, says Jones.

When budgeting for a landscaping overhaul, home owners should plan to spend about 10 percent of the value of the home, says Clett. To achieve a grander look, a bigger budget of 15 percent may be necessary, says Thoelecke. But if you’re going far grander — perhaps duplicating the closely clipped lawn at the Augusta National Golf Club, site of the Masters Tournament — even more may be in order.

6 Practical Project Ideas

Here are some simple projects that experts say will make a big impact on the property’s appearance — and possibly boost resale value.

Plant trees. Trees look nice, cut down on heating and cooling costs, and can even help a home sell for more money, the USDA Forest Service says. Properly placing just three trees can save an average household between $100 and $250 in annual energy bills, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. And a report from Arbor National Mortgage found that 84 percent of practitioners believe that a house on a treed lot would fetch at least 20 more than one on a lot without trees.

Go for year-round color. Rather than make do with empty beds and a brown lawn in winter, home owners can pick materials that remain green all year. Examples: evergreen arborvitae, junipers, and boxwood, says Jones.

Help the environment. There are dozens of ways to be a good environmental steward. A rain garden can retain water rather than send it into the nearest storm sewer. In drought-prone areas, xeriscape plants require less water. Large shade trees can screen a roof and windows from sun and block cold wind and air, says Russell Clett, senior landscape architect for Valley Crest Estate Gardens in Calabasas, Calif.

Make your yard livable. A yard can be transformed into livable outdoor “rooms.” High on the wish list are well-equipped kitchens, sometimes with pizza ovens and fire pits, and the newest star — media rooms. Clett installed a projection screen so one client could float in his pool and watch movies. Just add water. Everyone loves water’s soothing sound, whether it cascades into a pond, fills a fountain, or churns in a hot tub.

Build a pergola. A pergola — a set of columns supporting a roof of trelliswork on which climbing plants can grow — add architectural interest, vertical growing space, and shade.

To search for all available homes for sale in the San Fernando Valley & Santa Clarita Valley, visit: http://www.homes.la

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Paying Mortgage Points Rarely Pays Off

By Amy Hoak, MarketWatch

A new report claims that borrowers tend to purchase too many points when selecting a mortgage -- and in the process end up paying more than they would have with no points and a higher interest rate.

The study was co-authored by Abdullah Yavas, Elliott Professor of Business Administration at Penn State's Smeal College of Business, and Yan Chang of Freddie Mac. The two considered 3,785 individual mortgages originated from 1996 to 2003, looking at the points paid, interest rates and loan length.

Data showed that, on average, those who buy points are overestimating the amount of time they will hold their loans. They tended to pay off their mortgages about 37.5 months too early for the purchase of points to actually pay off -- defaulting, moving or refinancing before hitting a break-even point so the strategy made financial sense.

By purchasing points, borrowers lower the interest rate on the mortgage. One point is equal to 1% of the mortgage, charged as prepaid interest. Points that you pay to purchase your primary residence are deductible in the year you pay them on your federal income-tax return; points you pay to refinance must be written off over the life of your mortgage.

"We underestimate the possibility that we may refinance in the near future -- or refinance again in the near future -- and we underestimate the possibility that we may have to move, either for job relocation or other reasons," Yavas said.

Only 1.4% of borrowers who purchased points held their loans long enough to make it pay off; of those who didn't buy points, only 1.5% would have been better off purchasing them, according to the study.

It's significant to mention, however, that the data covers a time of decreasing interest rates and increasing property values, which led to a lot of refinancing activity, Yavas pointed out.

The report also found that borrowers who buy points often don't treat them as costs they can never recover and so are less likely to refinance. When they do refinance, they often do it late, perhaps hoping to compensate for the points paid. If a borrower "paid too many points and the interest rates come down quickly, refinancing right away would be the same as accepting the fact that you shouldn't have paid those points," Yavas said.

Yavas took an interest in the topic after he decided to refinance his own home a few years back and considered the trade-off between points and interest rates.

Richard's notes... When deciding to reduce your rate and subsequently your monthly payment by paying a point, you will want to inquire as to how many months it will take to "break even." Your loan specialist will be able to help you calculate the total months. Once you have an idea, you an decide if its beneficial for you do pay a point or not.

You can search for San Fernando Valley homes and Santa Clarita Valley homes.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Does going solar pay off for homeowners?

By Stephanie I. Cohen
MarketWatch.com

The race is on to install solar panels in American homes thanks to generous government incentives such as California's $3.2 billion solar initiative launched in January.

Despite the minuscule amount of solar power generated today -- roughly one-thirtieth of one percent of all the electricity produced in the U.S. -- recent technological advances and a continued decline in the price of solar systems are prompting more homeowners to ask if this renewable energy source is now worth the investment.

Analysts say they are still crunching the numbers when it comes to deciding whether residential solar systems, also referred to as photovoltaic or PV, make economic sense. The answer hinges on how much and how fast solar can cut a homeowner's utility bills and how long it takes to pay off the initial investment to add solar panels to a home.

"When consumers contemplate the purchase of a [photovoltaic] system for their home, they approach it like any other financial investment and examine the set cash flows and expected return," according to a new report from CIBC World Markets on residential solar.

Like any large-scale purchase, consumers considering solar tend to initially focus on the upfront costs. Solar systems for homes begin around $25,000 but can easily go higher depending on the size of a house and the amount of power they generate, said Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association.

Electricity prices matter

A key factor in figuring out how long it will take to become profitable with a switch to solar is the cost of electric rates for a home, said Jeffrey Bencik, an analyst with Jefferies & Co. Bencik said retail electricity prices can vary from a low of eight cents a kilowatt hour in some parts of the U.S. to as high as 18 cents in parts of San Diego, California.
"Depending on that you really have to do the math on a region-by-region, house-by-house basis," Bencik said.

All eyes on California


CIBC looked at the likely payback for residential solar systems installed in California, the country's largest solar market, and considered the cost of solar systems, government-sponsored incentive programs and electric rates. The returns, it said, were "less stellar" than incentives offered in other countries, even with the new incentives.

CIBC estimates that the cost to install a system in California is about $8.50 per watt. But after a $2.20 per watt state rebate and a $2,000 federal tax credit the net cost drops to $5.77 a watt. This means that buying a solar system can yield homeowners a 6% return on their investment. It would take about 16 years to pay the initial investment, though the payback period can vary depending on peak electricity rates in the region, the report's authors said in an interview. If homeowners are generating power during peak daytime demand when electricity rates are typically the highest they will save more money.

Read more here...click here

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Home Prices Gain 1.1% in 2006

by Lawrence Yun, Senior Forecast Economist
National Assocition of Realtors (NAR)

Despite all the news headlines over the past year about the housing market bubble and housing market slump, the final figures for 2006 actually look quite respectable. Home prices squeaked out a gain of 1.1% for the year. That means that in our 39 years of tracking sales and prices, each and every year has posted positive home price growth. Existing-home sales in 2006 posted 6.48 million units – an 8.4% decline from 2005, but still the third best year on record. The more cyclical new home sales fell by 17.3% to 1.06 million in 2006 for the fourth best year on record. All in all, not that bad.

With the economy and job market performing nicely, 2007 will likely bring another respectable housing year. The number of existing-home sales will essentially match that of last year and home prices again will squeeze out a gain. As for the new home construction sector, the jury is still out. There are few additional months of adjustment left we need to wait for the high inventory of new homes to trim down before builders start to increase production.

The latest fourth quarter economic expansion was much stronger than anticipated. GDP grew by 3.5% in the fourth quarter of 2006 – compared to the 2.4% originally forecast. The job market also is stronger. A regular once-a-year benchmark revision by the Labor Department shows that it had undercounted payroll employment by three quarters of a million people for most of 2006. That’s almost like saying that all of the jobs in the Super-Bowl celebrating Indianapolis area were left out of the original count and are only now being added to the official figures.

The current unemployment rate of 4.6% and the 2.15 million net new job additions over the past 12 months are both indications that the state of the U.S. economy is all fine and good. Record stock market and record housing market valuations also lifted the aggregate U.S. household net worth to $54 trillion – the highest ever. That is five times as high as the U.S. annual consumption. In another words, we have enough wealth to buy the same amount of things and maintain the same standard of living for the next five years without even bothering to work.

View all available Sherman Oaks Real Estate, Encino Real Estate, Studio City Real Estate and surrounding areas for free by visiting this site: http://www.homes.la/

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

No Need to Pay Big Bucks for Copy of Deed

Save home buying clients a few dollars and warn them about a scam that is making the rounds.

New home buyers get an official-looking letter in the mail telling them that it is important to have a certified copy of their property deed. Consumer Reports warns that the companies selling these services use high-pressure sales tactics and charge as much as $100.

Chances are the buyers will get a copy of their deed at closing, but if they don’t, all they have to do is contact their county clerk or registrar’s office. The charge for a copy is less than $10. In some places, they can look at and print a non-certified copy of their deed from the Internet for free.

--MarketWatch.com, Marshall Loeb (02/17/2007)

Richard's notes.... After you have purchased a home, expect to receive an avalanche of advertisements from companies selling everything from refinancing your home loan, copies of documents, furniture, etc... Some documents make look official and ask you to send in money. Before you do, contact your real estate agent or escrow officer if there is a document in question.

To search for all available homes for sale in the San Fernando Valley & Santa Clarita Valley areas, visit: http://www.homes.la

Monday, February 19, 2007

What is a Short Sale

In a declining housing market, the value of a home sometimes falls below what is owed on it. When you can no longer pay the amount owed, you have several options. You can try to hand over your deed to your first mortgage holder. But they might not accept it, since they'd still be on the hook for legal fees, taxes as well as your second mortgage. Or you may just let the house fall into foreclosure. But that should only be a last-ditch approach because it hurts your credit rating. And it may not solve your financial problems either, since you may be held liable for any difference between what you owe and what the house brings at auction.

Another alternative is a short sale -- that is, a sale in which the proceeds fall short of what you owe. It can be a win-win situation for you, the lenders and the buyer (often an investor) of your house. But since you're asking lenders to accept less money than you promised to pay them, there's no guarantee that they'll go along with such a sale. And preparing for it will take considerable work on your part.

First, you must prove that you really can't pay your loans -- and that the reason is new, not something that you concealed from your lenders when you originally applied for the loan.

Then you or someone else, like a real-estate agent, must find a buyer willing to purchase your house at market value. Market value can be determined through a formal appraisal (your lender may insist on one) or by an agent's comparative market analysis.

You or your agent also must figure out all the costs of selling the property. That includes the balance of both loans, accrued interest up until the day of closing, closing costs and fees, and unpaid property taxes.

You then must present the facts to your first mortgage holder, which has the top lien position and gets paid first. If your plan will bring them more money than they'd get if the house were sold at auction, they'll most likely go along with it -- and sometimes pick up some of your costs as well, like real-estate commissions and closing costs. However, it may be difficult to get your second mortgage holder to sign off on the deal because if they do, they might not be repaid what they're owed. But they may be willing to go along with a short sale if the buyer or the first mortgage holder offers to pay them some money, especially if the amount you owe on your second mortgage is small.

Once you close the sale, your problems may not be over. Some hard-nosed lenders may insist that you pay the difference between what the buyer pays for the house and what you owe on the mortgage. Others may forgive that portion of the debt -- but unfortunately, Uncle Sam won't. "Forgiven" debt is considered taxable income.

As you can see, setting up a short sale is complicated and requires some negotiating finesse. Although money is probably tight for you right now, I think it would be worthwhile to consult local professionals with experience in the process, including an attorney, a tax advisor and a real-estate agent.

Source: Wall Street Journal / June Fletcher

Richard's notes.... If you find yourself in a position where you have to sell your house short, it's important you hire a professional real estate agent. A professional will make the selling process a lot easier allowing you to focus on stabalizing your financial situation and finding yourself a new place to live.

View available short sale homes in the San Fernando Valley.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Housing Stocks Strong in 2007

Forbes Magazine money manager Kenneth L. Fisher discounts the notion of a soft landing. He says housing isn’t going to land at all — because it’s already accelerating.
“In the last six months housing stocks are up 24 percent, well-ahead of the overall market," Fisher says. "If housing were destined to fall apart in 2007, these stocks wouldn't be so strong now.”
Fisher says stocks in Pulte Homes, Toll Brothers, and Beazer Homes are worth considering.

Other analysts are similarly optimistic. Horton, the country's biggest home builder, earns "buy" recommendations from Goldman Sachs, AG Edwards, UBS, and Citigroup. Even WCI Communities, whose Florida developments sit at the center of the homebuilding black hole, has seen its shares gain almost 50 percent since last summer, thanks in part to buying by mogul Carl C. Icahn.

Source: Forbes Inc., Kenneth L. Fisher (02/26/07) and The Baltimore Sun, Jay Hancock (02/11/07)

Search for available homes in the San Fernando Valley & Santa Clarita Valley here: http://www.homes.la

Bernanke: Real Estate Hasn't Hurt Economy

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on Wednesday provided his latest insights into the housing market as he addressed the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.
Although the topic of conversation was focused on the Fed's semiannual monetary policy report, he touched on real estate often. Here's what he had to say:
  • Housing slowdown hasn't hurt the economy: “The U.S. economy appears to be making a transition from the rapid rate of expansion experienced over the preceding several years to a more sustainable average pace of growth. The principal source of the ongoing moderation has been a substantial cooling in the housing market, which has led to a marked slowdown in the pace of residential construction. However, the weakness in housing market activity and the slower appreciation of house prices do not seem to have spilled over to any significant extent to other sectors of the economy.”
  • Rents to increase moderately: “The faster pace of rent increases last year may have been attributable in part to the reduced affordability of owner-occupied housing, which led to a greater demand for rental housing. Rents should rise somewhat less quickly this year and next, reflecting recovering demand for owner-occupied housing as well as increases in the supply of rental units. But the extent and pace of that adjustment are not yet clear.”
  • Lenders should consider risk of payment shock: “Just to note one action we've taken recently, along with the other federal banking agencies, we've issued guidance on nontraditional mortgages, mortgages that involve interest-only or option ARMs that may not be amortizing mortgages. And we've emphasized to the lenders that they should be, first, very careful in their underwriting. That is, they should ensure that the borrower is equipped to deal with payment shock, if interest rates go up; that they have sufficient income to meet higher payments. And secondly, that disclosures are adequate, so that the borrowers are fully informed about the nature of the contract that they're getting involved in.”
  • Inventory to normalize in 2008. “The predicate is that we have seen what we think or what we call tentative signs of stabilization in demand for housing. If, in fact, the demand for housing is stabilizing – and, again, we won't know that for sure, I think, until we see sales figures in the spring – then we should see from here a gradual decline in the months for sale inventory. The normal is, at least for the last eight to 10 years, four-and-a-half months of homes for sale. And my anticipation would be that we would get back toward that general level by the end of [2008] assuming that demand stabilizes.”
Source: Dow Jones Business News (02/14/2007)

Richard's notes.... The market will continue to stabalize as long as rates continue to hover at their current levels. If you have been waiting to purchase a home, you will see that there is more inventory to choose from and also sellers are willing to negotiate with you to a certain extent. If your intention is to lowball, you'll find yourself in a position where your offer will be rejected.

To search for available homes in the San Fernando Valley & Santa Clarita Valley, visit: http://www.homes.la

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Mortgage Rates Edge Up Again

The 30-year fixed mortgage rate rose this week to 6.30 percent from last week's 6.28 percent, according to Freddie Mac. The 15-year fixed rate also registered a slight increase, floating up to 6.03 percent from 6.02 percent over the same time span.

The one-year adjustable rate edged up to 5.52 percent from 5.49 percent, while the five-year ARM climbed to 6.01 percent from 5.99 percent. Besides testimony before Congress from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke that inflationary pressures are diminishing, Freddie Mac chief economist Frank Nothaft notes that "there was little new information that would cause any great change."

Source: Philadelphia Daily News, Martin Crutsinger (02/16/07)

To search for available properties for sale in the San Fernando Valley & Santa Clarita Valley, visit: http://www.homes.la

Thursday, February 15, 2007

How Good Are Zillow'sHome-Price Estimates?

How Good Are Zillow's Home-Price Estimates?

By James R. Hagerty
From The Wall Street Journal Online

In the year since its launch, Zillow Inc. has made millions of Americans familiar with computer-generated estimates of home values, created a new online addiction and become a staple of dinner-party chatter.

But just how accurate is it? A Wall Street Journal analysis of 1,000 recent home sales shows that Zillow's "Zestimates" often are very good, frequently within a few percentage points of the actual price paid. But when Zillow is bad, it can be terrible -- off the mark by more than 25% on one in 10 homes. In one case it was off by $2 million.

Zillow, based in Seattle, operates a Web site that offers free estimates and other online tools for real-estate buyers and sellers. It draws revenue from online advertising.

Read more.... click this link:
http://www.realestatejournal.com/buysell/tactics/20070215-hagerty.html

Richard's notes.... Using online home valuation services will give you an idea of what has sold in the neighborhood. A local real estate professional can determine what your home will most likely sell for based on recent home sales, current homes for sale, amenities, etc.... If your thinking of selling, DO NOT base your home selling price to what an online service thinks its worth. Ultimately, your homes value is what someone is willing to pay for it.

To search for available homes for sale in the San Fernando Valley & Santa Clarita Valley, visit: http://www.homes.la

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Buying Foreclosure Properties Has Its Rewards, but Also Risks

By Jeff D. Opdyke
Wall Street Journal

The bidding on home number 546527 -- a moss-colored brick house in Baton Rouge, La. -- began at $103,333.33. Less than a minute later, Ray Williams owned a home he had never set foot in. His winning bid was $130,000. The appraised value: $155,000.

After looking it over, Mr. Williams figured he would spend $20,000 repairing rotted wood and other defects. Then he will put it up for sale -- at $205,000.

Seven months ago, Mr. Williams joined a legion of investors who buy and sell foreclosure properties. So far, he has bought seven.

"If I'm not confident I'll make $30,000 per property, I don't bid," says Mr. Williams, 42, who used to own and run Domino's Pizza outlets. He has hit his goal on the first five.

As interest rates rise, more homeowners are falling into foreclosure. That is what is prompting the wave of bargain-hunting investors now descending on courthouse auctions across the country.

"It's just crazy. We have 100 houses [at auction] each week, when we used to have 10 or so," says Elaine Began, a deed clerk in Macomb County, Mich. Three years ago, the Montgomery County (Ohio) Sheriff's Office was "lucky to get 50 people to an auction," says Laura Wright, a foreclosure clerk there. Today, 120 often show up.

Some may be sorry they did. Novices face a host of risks. Foreclosed homes can come with hidden debts. Homeowners generally won't let you inspect the home before you try to buy it out from under them. Not knowing the local rules, which vary from state to state, can also cost you big.

The notion that $250,000 homes can be had for a few thousand dollars "is largely a myth," says Peter O'Connell, a former banker who has invested in foreclosures for years, including near his home in the Florida Keys. "If there is any equity in a house, you're generally not going to get it cheaply."

Here's a primer:

The Process
The process usually begins when a mortgage fall three months behind on payments. The lender sends a default notice to the homeowner and to the county. If the homeowner can't pay up, a foreclosure date is set. County officials handle the auction and use the proceeds to pay off the mortgage and any other debts secured by the house. Leftover money goes to the foreclosed homeowner; leftover debt, in some cases, is the new owner's responsibility.

The mortgage lenders typically bid up to the remaining principal amount plus any foreclosure fees. Their goal is to recoup what they are owed, either from investors bidding more or by buying the home and reselling it. Foreclosed homeowners sometimes join the bidding and win the auction, even though they don't have the money, effectively delaying their eviction until another auction is held.Investors can get in the game before or after auctions, too. They can try to buy directly from homeowners beforehand or from lenders who win the auction.

What's Available?

Just about every type of home ends up at auctions: wood-frame houses in downtrodden neighborhoods, high-end homes in gated communities, condominiums, mobile homes, partially built residences and vacant land.

To find them, get free foreclosure listings from county court clerks or sheriff's departments; some counties post them online. Commercial services provide access to local and national listings. Foreclosurenet.net provides information on bank-owned real estate for about $30 a month. RealtyTrac.com has nationwide listings of homes in foreclosure and offers geographically tailored email alerts for $50 a month.

Professionals specialize in niches, such as low-income housing or condominiums. Less-seasoned investors should stick with single-family homes in lower-middle- to middle-class neighborhoods, where resale likely will be easier.

Legal Issues

Hidden liens can be a big problem. If a homeowner had two mortgages and defaulted only on the second, the first is still binding. Auction officials aren't obligated to tell you about debts outstanding, so unwary investors could be saddled with having to pay off that first mortgage, generally immediately.

A full-blown title search on a house can cost $400 or more. But for as little as $25, some title companies will do quickie "pencil searches" that detail existing liens -- raw data that you weed through yourself.

In many cases, it is the property's first mortgage in default, in which case subordinate liens are eliminated in foreclosure. But watch out for exceptions: Internal Revenue Service liens and some utility bills will need to be paid off.

Here is another pitfall: Some states give foreclosed homeowners time to reclaim their property by paying the auction price, often plus an additional percentage. In Colorado, they have 75 days (though the state is set to eliminate that grace period). So you could spend tens of thousands of dollars remodeling a house, only to have the original owner grab back the newly improved home.

Investment Stages

Many investors scour default notices in search of homeowners willing to sell cheap before auction. The competition is stiff, given the many services that report new filings to subscribers.

"There are a million investors looking to contact that homeowner with letters and phone calls and drive-bys," says Todd Beitler, president of Real Estate Library, an online provider of foreclosure information (http://www.trel.com/). What's more, homeowners in preforeclosure know their home's value, so don't expect a big bargain.

Preforeclosure investing is medium-risk, medium-return. Executed successfully, an investor could make a 20% to 30% profit, longtime foreclosure investors say.Buying at auction is riskier. You are typically buying "a mystery box" seen only from the outside, says Ken Kulpa, a real-estate agent specializing in foreclosures around San Jose, Calif. Sometimes, the house is a gem, but other times, there are big, costly problems -- faulty plumbing, a 1950s-era kitchen or a leaky roof.

Then there is the belligerent homeowner who trashes the place on the way out or refuses to vacate, requiring a costly eviction process.

Another risk: In the excitement of bidding, many novices overpay. If you are careful, auction investors can expect to notch gains of 40% to 50% or more, professional investors say.

Most bankers won't finance a foreclosure bid, in part because current owners aren't likely to let them inspect the house to appraise it.

The lowest-risk option is buying foreclosed homes from banks that acquired them at auction. Most major banks list properties they own on their Web sites, and some will provide financing.

Banks often list homes in good condition near market value, so there isn't much upside there. But banks also end up with mediocre properties and some real dogs. You can try to negotiate these houses' prices down to less than the outstanding principal, rehab them and then resell quickly at market value or just below.

Profits on such properties can be in the 15%-to-20% range, experts say. Real Estate Library's Mr. Beitler says this is a good place for novices to start. You won't have title worries, because banks do that work, and you can inspect the house beforehand.

That "will help you gain confidence and experience buying and selling a property, negotiating and closing a deal, and doing the rehab work," he says.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

San Fernando Valley Home Prices Up 6%

Despite the decrease in home sales, the median price of a single-family home rose 6.4 percent to a record high of $605,917 and the condominium median rose 8.5 percent to a record $349,917.

The fact that prices not only held firm, but showed modest gains during a period of slowing sales refutes claims that the residential resale market is in recession. This is good news for buyers, sellers, and the local economy.

"The price of homes in the San Fernando Valley during 2006 hit a point where buyers finally said 'Enough. No more.' and that's a good thing," said Winnie Davis, the 2007 president of the Southland Regional Association of Realtors. "Buyers simply refused to continue engaging in bidding wars with multiple contenders who were scratching over an extremely limited inventory."

"Now the market is working its way through a readjustment period," Davis said. "Sellers must post realistic asking prices and buyers finally have a wider selection and more options, but savvy buyers know not to expect deep discounts. Realtors really must educate buyers and sellers about the realities of this new, balanced market."

In fact, unlike some parts of the country where prices also rose to high to fast, no one is predicting a major downturn in the local market or a collapse in prices.

"2007 will see sales increase from last year, albeit not at the feverish pace of prior years, and there will continue to be modest increases in the median price," said Jim Link, the Association's executive vice president. "There is still plenty of demand for homes and sales will pick up as sellers and buyers adjust further to the new reality."

"The downturn in the market during 2006 was because buyers finally became price sensitive, not due to any underlying flaw in the economy, like in early 1990's" Link said. "To have multiple years of 20 percent plus appreciation was simply unsustainable."

The 6.4 percent increase in the single-family median price represented a $36,700 increase over the prior record of $569,208.

"What other investment offers a 6.4 percent annual return?" Link asked.

The annual median price during 2006 continued the dacade-long climb that began after the record low of $160,441 was set in 1996. However, the market went into overdrive in 2002 when 20 percent annual inflation first appeared. The largest annual increase in the single-family median price of 25.3 percent was posted in 2004.

Condominiums also saw resale prices skyrocket during the extended sellers' market.

The condominium annual median price rose to a record high during 2006, up 8.5 percent from the prior year to $394,917. The annual condo median has climbed every year since the record low of $85,334 set in 1996 with four years posting gains of more than 20 percent, including a 28.7 percent increase in 2003.

There were 5,213 active listings at the end of December, which at the current pace of sales represents a 4.7 month supply. At the height of the sellers' market the inventory often was at a less that 1-month supply.

A 4.7-month supply is below the 5 to 6 month inventory that real estate experts believe represents a balanced market, thus again tipping the market slightly in favor of sellers.

"We've probably seen the bottom of this downturn in sales activity," Link said. "While lenders have gotten stricter about their lending rules, all other economic factors - low interest rates, solid employment, strong economy - are in place to encourage people to buy a home."

Source:
Realtor Report
Southland Regional Association of Realtors

To search for all available homes for sale in the San Fernando Valley & Santa Clarita Valley, visit: http://www.homes.la

The Credit Report: 9 Things You Must Know to Get Approved

Mortgage regulations have changed significantly over the last few years, making your options wider than ever. Subtle changes in the way you approach mortgage shopping, and even small differences in the way you structure your mortgage, can cost or save you literally thousands of dollars and years of expense.

Get the Right Information - Whether you are about to buy your first home, or are planning to make a move to your next home, it is critical that you be informed about the factors involved.

Everyday people have their mortgage loan turned down because of one or more credit issues. By taking these few minutes to acquaint yourself with the "The Credit Report: 9 Things You Must Know to Get Approved" you can greatly increase your chances of getting your loan approved and save thousands on your mortgage.

Know Your Credit Score
Your credit score is an essential component of having your loan approved. It determines the loan programs for which you are potentially qualified. The higher your credit score the better. Be sure to ask your Mortgage Lender for details.

Always Pay Your Bills on Time
This is not intended to insult your common sense, but to emphasize how vital on time payments are to your credit score. Late payments can dramatically alter the rate, terms and even whether your mortgage loan is approved. Not making payments in a timely manner will almost always decrease your credit score.

Avoid Collections
Have you ever disputed a bill before? Most of us have. Industry leaders know that it’s almost always better to pay a disputed bill while continuing to work on the issue, than to have a collection filed against you. This can also lead to a reduced credit score.

Limit Your Liabilities
Loans are approved largely on the percentage of your income used to pay off debt and other financial liabilities. You can get approved for a larger mortgage and therefore a more expensive home if you have lower credit card, automobile, student loan and other debt payments. Signing and/or co-signing for someone else’s purchase or loan can also increase you liabilities.

Limit Your Credit Inquiries
Another of the factors used to calculate your credit score is the number of times potential creditors request your report. Too many of these inquiries can lower your credit score.

Do Not Open New Accounts in the Months Preceding Your Home Purchase
Opening new accounts requires the pulling of credit reports, as noted above, this can dramatically reduce your credit score.

Do Not Close Unused Accounts Until The Purchase Has Finalized
The portion of your available credit currently being used helps calculate your credit score. The lower the ratio the better. Closing accounts will increase the overall percentage. However, as discussed, opening new accounts to reduce your ratio is unlikely to help you.

Don’t Try To Hide Your Past Financial Difficulties
One of the important services that a good mortgage broker offers is helping you overcome past financial difficulties that may hinder your ability to have your loan approved. Your mortgage broker should be on your side. Supply the information that helps them provide you with the best possible rate, terms and minimizes the impact these issues can present.

Provide Information That Has Recently Changed
Not every creditor reports to the credit bureau monthly. Providing up to date information can increase your qualifying ability and decrease your rate.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

How to Make Moving Less Stressful on Pets

Moving to a new home can be stressful on pets, but there are many things your clients can do to make the process as painless as possible.
Experts at The Pet Realty Network in Naples, Fla., offer these helpful tips for easing the transition and keeping pets safe during the move. Share these tips with buyers and sellers, and they'll thank you for looking out for their furry friends.
  • Update your pet’s tag. The most important rule is to make sure your pet is wearing an identification tag, with your current contact information, and a sturdy collar. Your pet’s tag should include your destination location, telephone number, and cell phone number so that you can be reached immediately during the move.
  • Ask for veterinary records. If you’re moving far enough away that you’ll need a new vet, you should ask your current vet for a current copy of your pet’s vaccinations. Your also can ask for copy of your pet’s medical history to give to your new vet, although that can normally be faxed directly to the new vet upon request.
  • Keep medications and food on hand. Keep at least one week’s worth of food and medication with you in case of emergency. Vets can’t write a prescription without a prior doctor/patient relationship, which can cause delays if you need medication right away.
  • Seclude your pet from chaos. Pets can feel vulnerable on moving day. Keep your pet in a safe, quiet, well ventilated place, such as the bathroom on moving day with a “Do Not Disturb! Pets Inside!” sign posted on the door to keep off-limits to friends and movers.
  • Prepare a first aid kit. A few recommended supplies for a basic first aid kit include: Your vet's phone number, gauze to wrap wounds or to muzzle your pet, adhesive tape for bandages, non-stick bandages, towels, and hydrogen peroxide (3 percent). You can use a door, board, blanket or floor mat as an emergency Stretcher and a soft cloth, rope, necktie, leash or nylon stocking for an emergency muzzle.
  • Play it safe in the car. It’s best to travel with your dog in a crate, second-best is to use a restraining harness. When it comes to cats, it’s always best for their safety and yours to use a well-ventilated carrier in the car. Secure the crate or carrier with a seat belt and provide your pet with familiar toys. Never keep your pet in the open bed of a truck or the storage area of a moving van. In any season, a pet left alone in a parked vehicle is vulnerable to injury and theft.
  • Get ready for takeoff. When traveling by air, check with the airline about any pet requirements or restrictions to be sure you’ve prepared your pet for a safe trip. Some airlines will allow pets in the cabin, depending on the animal’s size, but you’ll need to purchase a special airline crate that fits under the seat in front of you.
  • Find a new veterinary clinic and emergency hospital. Before you move, ask your veterinarian to recommend a doctor in your new locale. Talk to other pet owners when visiting the new community, and call the state veterinary medical association for vets in your city. When choosing a new veterinary hospital, make a visit and ask yourself: Are the receptionists, doctors, technicians, assistants friendly, professional and knowledgeable? Are the office hours and location convenient? Does the clinic offer emergency or specialty services? If the hospital doesn’t meet your criteria, keep looking.
  • Prep your new home for pets. Pets may be frightened and confused in new surroundings. To reduce the chance of escaping due to fear, or pure excitement of exploring a new territory, immediately set out all the familiar and necessary things your pet will need: food, water, medications, bed, litter box, etc. If your new home is nearby, your pet may be confused and find a way back to your old home. To be safe, give the new home owners your phone number and a photo of your pet, and ask them to contact you if your pet is found nearby.
  • Learn more about your new area. Once you find a new veterinarian, ask if there are any local health concerns such as heartworm or Lyme disease, or any vaccinations or medications your pet may require. Also, be aware of any unique laws. For example, there are restrictive breed laws in some cities. Home owner associations also may have restrictions – perhaps requiring that all dogs are kept on leashes.

To search for all available homes for sale in the San Fernando Valley & Santa Clarita Valley, visit: http://www.homes.la

The Top Ten Ways to Prepare for Retirement

Planning for retirement, usually a major financial concern for those over age 40, has become even more prevalent now that the huge postwar baby boom generation is moving through middle age.

Various surveys indicate that preparing for retirement already ranks as a primary financial goal. A recent survey of mutual fund shareholders showed that 40% ranked retirement planning as their most important financial objective, and two-thirds considered it "very important."

The studies reveal that people not only look forward to retirement, but many also expect to retire early. In addition, retirees are apt to live longer as improvements in health care extend life expectancy. People retiring at age 60 today are expected to live another 25 years, or more than half again the length of their working careers. This makes the challenge of accumulating enough money for retirement even more difficult, since these savings may have to last longer and there will be less time to earn them.

While it's clear that retirement planning has become a leading financial goal, the big question is whether people will be financially prepared to retire when they want to.

1. Know your retirement needs.
Retirement is expensive. Experts estimate that you'll need about 70% of your pre-retirement income- for lower earners, 90% or more - to maintain your standard of living when you stop working. Understand your financial future.

2. Find out about benefits.
Contact the appropriate government department of labour/human resource office in your area to obtain details on payment rates.

3. Learn about your employer's pension or profit sharing plan.
If your employer offers a plan, check to see what your benefit is worth. Most employers will provide an individual benefit statement if you request one. Before you change jobs, find out what will happen to your pension. Learn what benefits you may have from previous employment.

4. Contribute to a tax-sheltered savings plan.
If your employer offers a tax sheltered savings plan, sign up and contribute all you can. Your taxes will be lower, your company may kick in more, and automatic deductions make it easy. Over time, deferral of taxes and compounding of interest make a big difference in the amount of money you will accumulate.

5. Ask your employer to start a plan.
If your employer doesn't offer a retirement plan, suggest that it start one. Simplified plans can be set up by certain employers.

6. Start your own Retirement Savings.
You can put money aside and delay paying taxes on investment earnings until retirement age. It's never too late to start.

7. Don't touch your savings.
Don't dip into your retirement savings. You'll lose principal and interest, and you may lose tax benefits.

8. Start now, set goals, and stick to them.
Start early. The sooner you start saving, the more time your money has to grow. Put time on your side. Make retirement saving a high priority. Devise a plan, stick to it, and set goals for yourself. Remember, it's never too late to start. Start saving now, whatever your age.

9. Consider basic investment principles.
How you save can be as important as how much you save. Inflation and the type of investments you make play important roles in how much you'll have saved at retirement. Know how your pension or savings plan is invested. Financial security and knowledge go hand in hand.

10. Ask questions.
These tips should point you in the right direction, but you'll need more information. Talk to your employer, your bank, your union, or a financial advisor. Ask questions and make sure the answers make sense to you. Get practical advice and act now.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Don't Pay Another Cent in Rent To Your Landlord

It's a dream we all have - to own our own home and stop paying rent. But if you're like most renters, you feel trapped within the walls of a house or apartment that doesn't feel like yours. How could it when you're not even permitted to bang in a nail or two without a hassle. You feel like you're stuck in the renter's rut with no way of rising up out of it and owning your own home.

Don't Feel Trapped AnymoreIt doesn't matter how long you've been renting, or how insurmountable your financial situation may seem. The truth is, there are some little known facts that can help you get over the hump, and transfer your status from renter to homeowner. With this information, you will begin to see how you really can:

save for a down payment

stop lining your landlord's pockets, and

stop wasting thousands of dollars on rent.

6 Little Known Facts That Can Help You Buy Your First HomeThe problem that most renters face isn't your ability to meet a monthly payment. Goodness knows that you must meet this monthly obligation every 30 days already. The problem is accumulating enough capital to make a down payment on something more permanent.

But saving for this lump sum doesn't have to be as difficult as you might think. Consider the following 6 important points:

1. You can buy a home with much less down than you thinkThere are some local or federal government programs (such as 1st time buyer programs) to help people get into the housing market. You can qualify as a first time buyer even if your spouse has owned a home before as long as your name was not registered. Ensure your real estate agent is informed and knowledgeable in this important area and can offer programs to help you with your options.

2. You may be able to get your lender to help you with your down payment and closing costsEven if you do not have enough cash for a downpayment, if you are debt-free, and own an asset free and clear (such as a car for example), your lending institution may be able to lend you the downpayment for your home by securing it against this asset.

3. You may be able to find a seller to help you buy and finance your homeSome sellers may be willing to hold a second mortgage for you as a 'seller take-back'. In this case, the seller becomes your lending institution. Instead of paying this seller a lump sum full amount for his or her home, you would pay monthly mortgage installments.

4. You may be able to create a cash down payment without actually going into debtBy borrowing money for certain investments to a specified level, you may be able to generate a significant tax refund for yourself that you can use as a downpayment. While the money borrowed for these investments is technically a loan, the monthly amount paid can be small, and the money invested in both home and investment will be yours in the end.

5. You can buy a home even if you have problems with your credit ratingIf you can come up with more than the minimum downpayment, or can secure the loan with other equity, many lending institutions will consider you for a mortgage. Alternatively, a seller take-back mortgage could also help you in this situation.

6. You can, and should, get pre-approved for a home loan before you go looking for a homePre-approval is easy, and can give you complete peace-of-mind when shopping for your home. Mortgage experts can obtain written pre-approval for you at no cost and no obligation, and it can all be done quite easily over-the-phone. More than just a verbal approval from your lending institution, a written pre-approval is as good as money in the bank. It entails a completed credit application, and a certificate which guarantees you a mortgage to the specified level when you find the home you're looking for. Consider dealing only with a professional who specializes in mortgages. Enlisting their services can make the difference between obtaining a mortgage, and being stuck in the renter's rut forever. Typically there is no cost or obligation to enquire.

There are many important issues you should be aware of that affect you as a renter. Why on earth would you continue to lose thousands by throwing it away on rent when with your agent you could take a few minutes to discuss your specific needs so that you can stop renting and start owning.

This conversation costs you nothing. And, of course, you shouldn't have to feel obligated to buy a home at the time you review this. But by taking the time to explore your options, and learn about the ways you can afford to buy a home, think how prepared and relaxed you'll be when you are ready to make this important step.

To search for all available homes for sale in the San Fernando Valley & Santa Clarita Valley, visit: http://www.homes.la

Monday, February 05, 2007

Housing Counsel: A Primer on Real Estate Taxation

It’s tax time again. In just 101 days from today, our income tax returns will be due. April 15th this year falls on a Sunday, so we get an extra day to procrastinate. Actually, if you live in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, or Vermont, you get one additional day until April 17th.

According to Mark Everson, the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, "Paying taxes is a unifying experience fundamental to democracy and the rule of law."

In other words, to avoid penalties, interest -- and possibly jail time -- all American homeowners must either file their income tax return or get an extension. The law allows taxpayers to get an automatic six month extension (until October 15, 2007) but only if you file form 4868 no later than the April 16th (or 17th) due date.
Read more - click here.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Selecting a New Water Heater

Selecting a New Water Heater
Many homeowners wait until their water heater fails before shopping for a replacement. Because they are in a hurry to regain their hot water supply, they are often unable to take the time to shop for the most energy-efficient unit for their specific needs. This is unfortunate, because the cost of purchasing and operating a water heater can vary greatly, depending on the type, brand, and model selected and on the quality of the installation.

To avoid this scenario, you might want to do some research now—before you are faced with an emergency purchase. Familiarize yourself today with the options that will allow you to make an informed decision when the need to buy a new water heater arises.Types of Water Heaters AvailableWithin the last few years, a variety of water heaters have become available to consumers. The following types of water heaters are now on the market: conventional storage, demand, heat pump, tank less coil, indirect, and solar. It is also possible to purchase water heaters that can be connected to your home’s space-heating system.

Storage Water Heaters
A variety of fuel options are available for conventional storage water heaters—electricity, natural gas, oil, and propane. They range in size from 20 to 80 gallons (75.7 to 302.8 litres). A storage heater operates by releasing hot water from the top of the tank when the hot water tap is turned on. To replace that hot water, cold water enters the bottom of the tank, ensuring that the tank is always full. Because the water is constantly heated in the tank, energy can be wasted even when no faucet is on. This is called standby heat loss. Newer, more energy-efficient storage models can significantly reduce the amount of standby heat loss, making them much less expensive to operate.

Demand Water Heaters
It is possible to completely eliminate standby heat losses from the tank and reduce energy consumption 20% to 30% with demand (or instantaneous) water heaters, which do not have storage tanks. Cold water travels through a pipe into the unit, and either a gas burner or an electric element heats the water only when needed. With these systems, you never run out of hot water. But there is one potential drawback with demand water heaters—limited flow rate. Typically, demand heaters provide hot water at a rate of 2 to 4 gallons (7.6 to 15.2 litres) per minute. This flow rate might suffice if your household does not use hot water at more than one location at the same time (e.g., showering and doing laundry simultaneously). To meet hot water demand when multiple faucets are being used, demand heaters can be installed in parallel sequence. Although gas-fired demand heaters tend to have higher flow rates than electric ones, they can waste energy even when no water is being heated if their pilot lights stay on. However, the amount of energy consumed by a pilot light is quite small.

Heat Pump Water Heaters
Heat pump water heaters use electricity to move heat from one place to another instead of generating heat directly. To heat water for homes, heat pump water heaters work like refrigerators in reverse. Heat pump water heaters can be purchased as integral units with built-in water storage tanks or as add-ons that can be retrofitted to an existing water heater tank. These systems have a high initial cost. They also require installation in locations that remain in the 40° to 90°F (4.4° to 32.2°C) range year-round and contain at least 1000 cubic feet (28.3 cubic meters) of air space around the water heaters. To operate most efficiently, they should be placed in areas having excess heat, such as furnace rooms. They will not work well in a cold space.

Tankless Coil and Indirect Water Heaters
A home’s space-heating system can also be used to heat water. Two types of water heaters that use this system are tankless coil and indirect. No separate storage tank is needed in the tankless coil water heater because water is heated directly inside the boiler in a hydronic (i.e., hot water) heating system. The water flows through a heat exchanger in the boiler whenever a hot water faucet is turned on. During colder months, the tankless coil works well because the heating system is used regularly. However, the system is less efficient during warmer months and in warmer climates when the boiler is used less frequently. A separate storage tank is required with an indirect water heater. Like the tankless coil, the indirect water heater circulates water through a heat exchanger in the boiler. But this heated water then flows to an insulated storage tank. Because the boiler does not need to operate frequently, this system is more efficient than the tankless coil. In fact, when an indirect water heater is used with a highly efficient boiler, the combination may provide one of the least expensive methods of water heating.

Solar Water Heaters
Through specially designed systems, energy from the sun can be used to heat water for your home. Depending on climate and water use, a properly designed, installed, and maintained solar water heater can meet from half to nearly all of a home’s hot water demand. Two features, a collector and a storage tank, characterize most solar water heaters. Beyond these common features, solar water-heating systems can vary significantly in design. The various system designs can be classified as passive or active and as direct (also called open loop) or indirect (also called closed loop). Passive systems operate without pumps and controls and can be more reliable, more durable, easier to maintain, longer lasting, and less expensive to operate than active systems. Active solar water heaters incorporate pumps and controls to move heat-transfer fluids from the collectors to the storage tanks. Both active and passive solar water-heating systems often require “conventional” water heaters as backups, or the solar systems function as preheaters for the conventional units. A direct solar water-heating system circulates household water through collectors and is not appropriate in climates in which freezing temperatures occur. An indirect system should not experience problems with freezing because the fluid in the collectors is usually a form of antifreeze. If you are considering purchasing a solar water-heating system, you may want to compare products from different manufacturers. Just choosing a solar water heater with good ratings is not enough, though. Proper design, sizing, installation, and maintenance are also critical to ensure efficient system performance. Although the purchase and installation prices of solar water heaters are usually higher than those of conventional types, operating costs are much lower.

Criteria for Selection
As with any purchase, balance the pros and cons of the different water heaters in light of your particular needs. There are numerous factors to consider when choosing a new water heater. Some other considerations are capacity, efficiency, and cost.

Determining Capacity
Although some consumers base their purchase on the size of the storage tank, the peak hour demand capacity, referred to as the first-hour rating (FHR, is actually the more important figure. The FHR is a measure of how much hot water the heater will deliver during a busy hour. Therefore, before you shop, estimate your household’s peak hour demand and look for a unit with an FHR in that range. Gas water heaters have higher FHRs than electric water heaters of the same storage capacity. Therefore, it may be possible to meet your water heating needs with a gas unit that has a smaller storage tank than an electric unit with the same FHR. More efficient gas water heaters use various non-conventional arrangements for combustion air intake and exhaust. These features, however, can increase installation costs.

Rating Efficiency
Once you have decided what type of water heater best suits your needs, determine which water heater in that category is the most fuel efficient. The best indicator of a heater’s efficiency is its Energy Factor (EF), which is based on recovery efficiency (i.e., how efficiently the heat from the energy source is transferred to the water), standby losses (i.e., the percentage of heat lost per hour from the stored water compared to the heat content of the water), and cycling losses. The higher the EF, the more efficient the water heater. Electric resistance water heaters have an EF between 0.7 and 0.95; gas heaters have an EF between 0.5 and 0.6, with some high efficiency models around 0.8; oil heaters range from 0.7 to 0.85; and heat pump water heaters range from 1.5 to 2.0. Product literature from manufacturers usually gives the appliance’s EF rating. If it does not, you can obtain it by contacting an appliance manufacturer association. Some other energy efficiency features to look for are tanks with at least 1.5 inches (3.8 centimeters) of foam insulation and energy efficiency ratings.

Comparing Costs
Another factor uppermost in many consumers’ minds is cost, which encompasses purchase price and lifetime maintenance and operation expenses. When choosing among different models, it is wise to analyze the lifecycle cost—the total of all costs and benefits associated with a purchase during its estimated lifetime. Units with longer warranties usually have higher price tags, though. Often, the least expensive water heater to purchase is the most expensive to operate.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Price Your Home with Precision

By Martin H. Bosworth

Your neighbor's home may have sold about list price in a few short weeks in early 2006, but that doesn't mean your will. That's because California has entered what's called a buyer's market, so buyers now have more properties to pick and choose from. In fact, year-to-year prices have declined as much as 30 percent in some areas since 2005, and many sellers are experiencing waits as long as seven months on the market, according to the CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF REALTORS.

Before placing your home on the market, you need to give careful consideration to pricing your home properly. Here's how to do it:

Step Back: Buyers don't care how much you paid for the home or how long your family has resided in it. Your home's value is determined by how much a capable buyer is willing to pay for it. Your emotional attachment to the home should not factor into the process of setting a price.

Team Up With Your Realtor: Your Realtor is your best asset to ensuring an accurate and reasonable price for your market. Your Realtor can provide an impartial assessment and reconcile the gulf between price and value. Home sellers should interview several Realtors and inquire about their price opinion and tactics for selling the home, before choosing a Realtor.

Research: Your Realtor can obtain competitive market analyses (CMAs) of similar properties that have recently sold in your neighborhood, as well as homes that failed to sell and their listing prices. Your agent can provide counsel and advice on the data contained in the CMAs. In addition, your Realtor may recommend that you hire and appraiser.

Accent the Assets: Does your home sit on a corner lot? Is it in a good school district? Does it have new copper plumbing, a new roof, drought-resistant landscaping, or other improvement? These factors will boost your listing price. Remember, buyers are choosier-and they can afford to be in this market.

Spruce Up the Faux Pine Paneling: Your Realtor can help you evaluate your house objectively for any enhancements that will improve a potential buyer's first impression or remodeling that can help assure a solid listing. In consultation with your Realtor, you can decide whether a professional home stager is need to help improve your homes appearance for open houses.

To view all available homes for sale in the San Fernando Valley & Santa Clarita Valley, visit: http://www.homes.la/

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