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When you decide to sell a house that desperately needs updating, you basically have two choices: Sell it as is—in its current condition without improvements—or make upgrades in the hope of reaping bigger bucks down the line.

While renovating your property will inevitably sell your home faster and for more money, listing your property as is has its perks, too—including not having to fork over lots of cash for major improvements you won't get to enjoy, and not dealing with the headaches of those improvements.

Deciding what to do can be overwhelming, but we're here to break it down for you. If want to unload your property pronto and for maximum cash, here are some things to keep in mind.

Out of house often means out of mind

If you've already purchased another home and have one foot dangling out the door, things can get challenging. Between work and family obligations—plus dreaming about decorating your soon-to-be new home—chances are you won’t have the time or energy to reimagine your old one.

If you're set on upgrading your old home to get top dollar, you'll want to find the right professional to guide you through the process, says Eric Stewart, a Realtor® with Eric Stewart Group of Long & Foster Realtors.

“Unless you find a real estate agent whose experience you can trust, someone who has a very good track record preparing homes and understands how to do the work, you’re often better off to sell the property as is, so that you don't get involved in chasing the market,” Stewart says.

Assess the potential workload, time, and money it'll take to upgrade

Get an expert opinion—or better yet, several opinions—regarding how much updating and repair work would be required to boost the home’s bottom line: Does the place just need a good scrub, or an entirely new kitchen and three new bathrooms? And more importantly, do you have the cash, the time, and the patience to see the project through?

“It’s all about whether people want to deal with renovations or not,” says Paul Morse, a licensed contractor and owner of Paul’s Carpentry Workshop in Stoneham, MA.

Morse, who's worked for several clients who wanted to spruce up a neglected home prior to listing it, suggests that sellers should identify three projects that need doing, and then consult their agent to crunch the numbers.

“Sellers should ask what their return would be if they fixed the bathroom and kitchen, for example, versus what the investment would be," he says. "Then, get three prices from three qualified local contractors.”

And don't forget to factor in the cost of owning the home during major renovations. Depending on how extensive your revamp is, you might need to find temporary housing while your property is being gutted, so add that fee to your bottom line.

Take your location—and the market—into account

If your home sits on a great lot in a sought-after loascation, buyers—especially investors—might line up in droves. When the land is more valuable than the structure sitting on it, you might be better off selling the property as is, Stewart says—there’s little point revamping a house that will probably be torn down as soon as the ink on the purchase agreement is dry.

Stewart recalls a recent listing priced at $650,000 in a hot market.

“We sold it as is for $655,000, and the seller was able to leave everything they didn't want in the house, lock the door, and say goodbye, which provided tremendous freedom for them," he says. "The work they would have had to do would never have got them the return they got by doing nothing.”

‘As is’ doesn’t mean ‘falling down’

Of course, doing some inexpensive repairs often helps sell your home faster, notes Lynn Pineda, a Realtor with eXp Realty in Southeast Florida.

“Even when buyers say, ‘I'm going to sell my home as is,’ that doesn't mean you have to present your home in shoddy light to a buyer; you still need to prepare it and make it look good,” she says. “Otherwise, you will sell for less money, or the house will sit on the market and you’ll lose money in the long run.”

If you just want to do the bare minimum and are willing to shell out a few thousand dollars, Morse suggests painting the entire home and resanding hardwood floors, if there are any. These upgrades would take about a month to do, but will make a huge difference in listing photos.

Selling your home as is won’t stop buyers from trying to negotiate

A house that hasn't been updated in years—or even decades—often attracts builders or investors looking to gut or tear everything down and construct a new home. These "fix and flip" buyers always want to maximize their profit, Stewart says, and might try to haggle down the purchase price.

Find a real estate professional who can help you maximize your profits; look for one who's had considerable success selling homes like yours, in your specific area of town. Some good questions to ask include how long comparable properties have stayed on the market before selling, what kinds of houses are selling fast and what condition they’re in, and which neighborhoods are most desirable.

Together, you can weigh what your home's worth—and negotiate a better bottom line.

Looking to sell your home? Contact The McLeod Group Network and get info on your home's value971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: Realtor.com, Wendy Helfenbaum 

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What happens if you sell your house for more than you owe on your loan? If you find yourself asking this question, congratulations are most likely in order. Selling a house for more than the value of your mortgage often means you'll walk away with a nice profit.

But not always. Sometimes, even if a home's sales price is higher than the mortgage amount owed, a seller may not see a dime—or may even owe money at the closing table instead! Here's how to figure out if you're going to make or lose money when you sell your house.

Where your profits go when you close the deal

During your home closing—the final leg of the sales process where you swap your house keys for a check—there's traditionally a go-between who handles transferring funds from buyer to seller. That might be an escrow company, a real estate agent or attorney, or a title company, depending on where you live, but they're the ones who will take the buyer's money (usually a check from the lender) and use it to pay off the seller's mortgage, says Bryan Zuetel, managing broker of Esquire Real Estate and the managing attorney of Zuetel Law Group, in Pasadena, CA.

Yet that check doesn't just go straight into a seller's pocket. Many other parties must be paid off first. Here are a few costs that may eat up your profits.

Real estate agent commissions

First up, the seller's real estate agent has to be paid a commission—as well as the buyer's agent, if the buyer had one, says Robert Berliner Jr., a real estate attorney with the Berliner Group, in Chicago.

Traditionally, the title company, escrow company, or lawyer handling your closing will cut a check directly to your listing agent, Berliner says. This agent will split this with the buyer's agent who helped secure the deal.The typical commission for a seller's agent is around 5% to 6% of the sales price of the house, although just how much your real estate agent gets will be outlined in the listing agreement—the document you signed when you hired the agent to sell your house.

If for some reason there isn't enough money left over from the sale to pay your agent, you'll need to be ready to write a check at closing to make up the difference.

We know: It's a downer to write a check on the day you sell your home, but it happens if housing prices have dipped since you bought the place. Comfort yourself with the thought that you might be getting out before suffering more serious losses.

Closing costs

The buyer typically pays most closing costs, but sellers often face some closing costs, too. These fees can amount to as much as 1% to 3% of the purchase price of the house. Everything from recording fees to title insurance premiums can come out of the sales price of the house—aka the money the buyer pays to the seller—as part of closing.

And you guessed it, these fees will be paid during the process, so they'll come right out of the money left over after you pay off your mortgage.

Property taxes

After the agents get their cut and the closing fees are settled, any taxes you owe on the property will be levied. In many states, taxes are paid a year in arrears, Berliner says. In other words, the real estate taxes paid in 2019 are actually the taxes on the property for the year 2018. Your buyer isn't responsible for taking on the taxes for the time you owned the property—which means you may have to pay up.

Some states also levy a transfer tax when property is sold, which falls on the seller to pay out of the price of the home.

Just how much you're facing can vary greatly depending on where you live, Zuetel says, but you can expect costs roughly from $50 to $225.

Anything left? It's yours!

After your loan is paid, the agents get paid, and any fees or taxes are settled, if there's money left over, you get to keep the balance. Congratulations! The money can be paid by check or wired straight into your account.

To see just how much you're expected to net, you can ask your closing attorney, escrow officer, or even the title company for a draft settlement statement before closing. This document details all of the closing costs, real estate commissions, fees, and taxes that will come out of the sales price of the home.

Thinking about selling your home? Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your real estate needs! 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: Realtor.com, Jeanne Sager 

Home Staging in a Hurry: Hacks to Spruce Up a Space in 5 Minutes

by Amy McLeod Group


Selling your home
 these days takes more than just finding an agent and listing it. You’ve got to really sell it. That means impressing buyers the second they walk in the door.

One of the best ways to do this? Home staging, where your home's decor undergoes a makeover in order to entice home buyers to swoon and make an offer.

“The statistics don’t lie,” says Samantha Rose Frith of Warburg Realty in New York City. “A well-staged house will sell more quickly and draw a higher sales price.”

But who has time for that? Hiring a pro is pricey (here's more on how much home staging costs). Plus a pro can't do all of the work; you’ll still need to do some sprucing up if you have an unexpected showing.

So if the clock is ticking, here are home staging tips and tricks that you can pull off fast, depending on how much time you have—from an hour to just 5 minutes.

Home staging in 5 minutes

  • Put down the toilet seats: “Yes, that makes a difference,” says Jennifer Okhovat, a real estate agent in Los Angeles. Tracey Hampson, a real estate agent in Santa Clarita, CA, also recommends hiding the plunger and toilet brush, and any reading material you may have accumulated in your bathroom. “A bathroom is a bathroom, not a library,” says Hampson. Amen.
  • Open the blinds: Let in as much natural light as possible—unless you have a spectacularly bad view, in which case, keep those blinds closed.
  • Take out the trash and recycling: You may get that one potential buyer who will look everywhere.

Home staging in 15 minutes

  • Clear your countertops: “The less clutter on countertops, the better,” says Okhovat. A nice bowl of fruit can spruce things up, but if you have several small appliances and all of your spices out, take a few minutes to stash them in your cupboards or a storage bin.
  • Adjust the temperature: You don’t want buyers to rush through your house because it's too hot or too cold. You also want to show that your heating and cooling are working. The ideal temperature depends on your home and the season, but keeping it at around 70 degrees should ensure everyone who sees your home is comfortable.
  • Hide any piles of toys, clothes, and mail: “Remove the clothes from the stair steps, ensure the four piles of mail get reduced to one or tucked away entirely,” says Katie Coombs of Total Home Experience in Reno, NV. Janet Lorusso of JRL Interiors, in Boston, recommends keeping baskets handy in your living spaces for quick cleanup of toys and other clutter.

Home staging in 30 minutes

  • Remove personal items: Buyers like to view each home as a blank canvas, and that’s hard to do with pictures of someone else’s family dominating the space. “Family and vacation pics are great, but maybe the Disneyland throw blanket and the hanging, glued-together puzzle could go in the closet for a bit,” says Coombs. Keep your privacy in mind as well as you clear items. You may want to stash items with your family member’s full names on display, for example.
  • Clean, clean, clean: Vacuum, sweep, and mop as often as you can stand. “Check mirrors for spatters," says Lorusso. Bonus: "The smell of cleaning products will make your house feel clean, even if it isn’t."
  • Add or adjust your lighting: “Use torch lamps if a room doesn’t get a lot of natural light, says Joel Moss of Warburg Realty in New York City. “We also find that replacing LED bulbs with bulbs that give it a warmer feel has a beneficial effect on buyer interest.”
  • Hang a mirror: “Hang a wall mirror strategically to add visual interest and make the space look larger,” says Amber Harris of Keller Williams Capital Properties in Washington, DC, and interior decorator with At Home DC.

Home staging in an hour

  • Rearrange the living room furniture: Instead of arranging your living room furniture based on the best view of the TV, “arrange furniture to face focal points in the room, like a large window with a view or a fireplace,” says Anne Clancy, a Re/Max real estate agent in Cottage Grove, MN.
  • Make small repairs: “That leaky faucet or moldy caulk might not seem like a big deal if you lived there for the last 10 years, but they will almost always factor into a lower offer,” says Frith. If there’s a small project you’ve been putting off, like fixing a hinge on a cabinet door, now’s the time to take care of it.
  • Spruce up walls, outdated countertops, dressers, and more with contact paper: “It’s not just for lining shelves anymore,” says Michael Nelson, chief operating officer of the Pyramid Project, a property management firm in Kissimmee, FL. “We’ve used it on everything from walls to countertops. It holds up well, looks great, and when you want a change, it removes with ease and no damage to the surface.”

Looking to sell your home? Let the professionals with The McLeod Group Network help! 971.208.5093 or [email protected].

By: Realtor.com, Melinda Sineriz 

Should You Do Home Upgrades Now ... or Right Before You Sell?

by Amy McLeod Group


Home sellers are often told to make upgrades to their house before they sell ... but when is the best time to get those home improvements underway, in terms of scoring the best ROI?

It's a tough balance to strike. After all, the sooner you remodel your kitchen or retile the bathroom, the more you'll get to enjoy it all yourself. But if you make those improvements too long before you sell, you risk them looking run-down and outdated by the time you want to market your home. So, when's the right time to give the green light?

If you're agonizing over such questions, we can end your misery now—in a good way! Here’s how far in advance of listing your home you should do certain home improvements, so they'll still look fresh enough to fetch top dollar.

7 to 10 years out

Well, you’re quite a planner, aren’t you? That’s cool … we’ll play the long game with you. Here are upgrades you can safely undertake when you still have significant time until your sale.

1. Redo your landscaping

This is truly one of the few housing projects that gets better with age, since shrubs and trees only improve as they mature. And, bonus: It's likely that it will never look dated, says Lisa Shiroff of Leafy Green Landscaping in Buena, NJ. However, she cautions, think twice about unique or difficult-to-maintain items if you are concerned with resale value—we’re talking elements like a meditation nook, bocce ball court, or koi pond.

“Most people are not willing to invest the time, energy, or finances to maintain those areas, so keep your additions relatively mainstream and user-friendly,” Shiroff says.

2. Update the garage door

Believe it or not, updating your garage door is the top upgrade you can make in terms of return on investment.

“Curb appeal is key when you’re getting ready to sell your home, and garage doors can dramatically improve the look of your home,” says Matt Edstrom of GoodLife Home Loans in Laguna Hills, CA. Since garage doors can last for up to 40 years, this is an update you can enjoy right now, without worrying about taking a depreciation hit.

3. Replace your roof

If your roof is more than 20 years old and you plan on selling, you may want to replace it, suggests Taylor Willson, owner of Willson Home Inspection Inc. in Tampa, FL. For one thing, you may receive immediate savings from your insurance company, he says, and beyond that, “A newer roof is a great selling point.” Choose a hardy material, like concrete tiles or asphalt shingles, that have a long useful life.

4. Keep up on repairs

Repairs should have a permanent spot on your “to do” list. If it’s broke, then, yes, please fix it.

“Don’t put off repairs while you wait for the optimum time,” says Cristina Miguélez, remodeling specialist at Fixr.com. “They help your home retain value and can keep a small problem from becoming exponentially bigger.”

5 years out

This is a good time to start thinking about big-ticket items that will affect your resale and that you won’t want to pay for all at once. Here are some to consider.

1. Replace major systems

We’re talking HVAC systems, plumbing … anything whose average life expectancy is relatively long, and where you want your listing to showcase that these key systems are less than five years old. Replacing them now allows you to enjoy the improved operation and potential energy savings, while avoiding a concession in the sale price when the time comes, Willson says.

2. Check on anything with a warranty

This is also a good time to do a check on any items that have a current warranty—such as windows and appliances—while they are still covered, suggests Frances Dawson, with Re/Max Executive at the Lake in Cornelius, NC.

3. Switch out your front door

Another important element of “curb appeal,” your front door can really make your house pop, says Edstrom, as well as potentially increase your energy efficiency. Front doors can last for decades, but they are also exposed to the elements, so this is a good time frame to allow you to enjoy the aesthetics and energy savings, without running the risk that it will look too weathered come sales time.

2 years out

Two years is nothing in a home’s history, so it’s time to really start getting serious. Here’s what to do to start prepping for a relatively imminent sale.

 1. Reno the kitchen or bathroom

This can be subjective, but you’re probably safe doing an overhaul in this time frame if you are hoping to get some personal enjoyment out of your updates. Miguélez suggests, however, that you pick your decor carefully to avoid being stuck with an upgrade that’s already dated.

"A ‘trend’ is something that’s predicted to last roughly 10 years, so your safest best is to find a look that’s been on the upswing for roughly two to three years," Miguélez explains. "That means it will look relevant for a while, rather than something that is already five years old and potentially nearing its expiration date.”

Dawson recommends seeking the opinion of a local real estate agent, who can steer you to cost-effective updates that will increase the value of your home without over-improving it. And, she says, beware of DIY.

“If you don't have extensive prior experience, hiring a professional is going to be cheaper in the long run, because the DIY look is unappealing to your potential buyer.”

2. Get to organizing

This is also a good time to start cleaning out storage areas, closets, cabinets, the garage, the attic—anyplace you have an accumulation of stuff, Dawson says. Your future self will thank you for getting this time-consuming project out of the way now.

3. Have a home inspection

Very few sellers do this, but it’s smart to have your home professionally inspected right about now, so you won’t run into any nasty surprises when selling time rolls around.

“It is always less expensive to repair items before you get into negotiations with a buyer,” Dawson points out.

1 year or less

It’s crunch time, and now is the time to attend to all the high-traffic areas, as well as make improvements that will freshen up your listing.

1. Redo flooring

Pets and kids can scratch up your floors quickly, so wait as long as you can before refinishing floors. Replace carpet, too, if it’s dingy, and especially if it has pet odors.

2. Roll on a fresh coat of paint

Walls get dinged up constantly, so painting right before putting your house on the market can really make it sparkle. It’s also a quick job that you can get done in a week or two.

3. Replace all your accessory items

These are things like bedding, throw pillows, chair cushions, patio furniture, shower curtains, plumbing fixtures, cabinet pulls—all the embellishments that provide the “lipstick” for the foundational elements.  Shop those sales and switch out everything you can, Dawson recommends.

“You want the house to shine like a new penny, not appear to be well-loved," she says.

Thinking about selling your home? Contact The McLeod Group Network to find out how much your current home is worth! 971.208.5093 or [email protected]

By: Realtor.com, Cathie Ericson

2 Trends Helping Keep Housing Affordable

by Amy McLeod Group


Two positive trends have started to emerge that impact the 2019 Spring Housing Market. Mortgage interest rates for a 30-year fixed rate loan have dropped to new lows, right as reports show that wages have increased at their highest rate in decades!

These two factors have helped keep housing affordable despite low supply of houses for sale driving up prices. First American’s Chief Economist, Mark Fleming, explains the impact,

“Ongoing supply shortages remain the main driver of the performance gap as the housing market continues to face an inventory impasse – you can’t buy what’s not for sale.

 However, an unexpected affordability surge, driven primarily by lower-than-anticipated mortgage rates, rising wages and favorable demographics, has boosted housing demand.”

Mortgage interest rates had been on the rise for most of 2018 before reaching their peak in November at 4.94%. According to Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey, interest rates last week came in at 4.20%.

Average hourly earnings grew at an annual rate of 3.2% in March, up substantially from the 2.3% average pace seen over the last 10 years.

These two factors contributed nearly $6,000 worth of additional house-buying power for median households from February to March 2019, according to First American’s research. Fleming is positive about the prolonged impact of lower rates and higher wages.

“We expect rising wages and lower mortgage rates to continue through the spring, boosting housing demand and spurring home sales.”

Bottom Line

Low mortgage interest rates have kept housing affordable throughout the country. If you plan on purchasing a home this year, act now while rates are still low!

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or [email protected] 

By: KCM Crew


The numbers: 
Existing-home sales ran at a seasonally adjusted annual 5.21 million rate in March, the National Association of Realtors said Monday. That was 4.9% lower than February’s pace and missed the Econoday consensus of a 5.3 million rate.

What happened: Sales of previously-owned homes fell more sharply than expected in March as the usual housing headwinds stalked the market. The surge in February was the strongest in nearly four years, and the Realtor lobby group is attributing the March decline to a return to normalcy after that spike. Still, sales were 5.4% lower than a year ago.

The median price of a home sold in March was $259,400, a 3.8% increase versus a year ago. At the current pace of sales, it would take 3.9 months to exhaust available supply, still well below the long-time average of 6 months. Properties stayed on the market for an average of 36 days in March, down from 44 days in February but a bit longer than the 30 days averaged last year.

According to NAR’s measure of first-time buyers, they accounted for 33% of all transactions in March. But more recent comprehensive research – NAR’s is based on survey data – suggests first-time buyers currently make up about the same share of the market that they have for the past two decades.

Activity was mixed regionally, as always, but all regions saw a decline. In the Northeast, sales were down 2.9%, and in the South they fell 3.4%. In the West, which has suffered for several months, in large part because of the recent tax law changes, sales fell 6%. But the Midwest saw the biggest decline, of 7.9%.

Big picture: The housing market is getting a second wind from the steep decline in mortgage rates over the past few months, although rates may have bottomed out. And there still isn’t enough inventory of the type that’s most needed. “The lower-end market is hot while the upper-end market is not,” said NAR Chief Economist Lawrence Yun.

It’s normally the government’s data on newly-constructed homes that are so choppy, not the existing-home market, which accounts for most of the sales activity in housing.

What they’re saying: “March might be the closest approximation we have seen in a while to the true underlying sales pace,” said Amherst Pierpont Securities’ Stephen Stanley after the release. “The 3-month average through February was 5.14 million. The March pace picked up modestly from there but was still short of the 2018 tally of 5.34 million. The National Association of Realtors is optimistic (when are they not?!?) that lower mortgage rates and a better inventory situation will help to propel sales forward during the peak spring season.”

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or [email protected] 

By: Realtor.com, Andrea Riquier 

5 Strange Things That Can Stop a Home From Ever Selling

by Amy McLeod Group


Ever wonder what could keep a home from selling? Just ask a listing agent. They've seen some doozies.

Listing agents, as the professionals who help prep a home for sale, are often tasked with telling home sellers why their house might not sell in its current condition. It's a tough job, but it sure beats saying nothing and then watching a home sit indefinitely.

While most corrective tweaks are small—say, a fresh coat of paint or a solid decluttering—sometimes the things that stop a home from selling take everyone by surprise. Here are a few that listing agents have dealt with, and the solutions that saved the day.

1. The 'green monster'

Seth Lejeune, real estate agent with Berkshire Hathaway in Collegeville, PA, coined this phrase to describe a "horrendously colored hunter-green carpet” in his home seller's living room. This home had already been listed once with another agent with no offers; Lejeune was quite sure this carpet was the culprit.

“So I told the seller to replace the carpet with something neutral,” Lejeune says. The seller "was surprised, but receptive. I explained the importance of first impressions, and he got it after a few minutes.”

Replacing the carpet cost only $1,500. “We got four showings within two weeks, and it was the fastest townhome sale of the year,” Lejeune says. In fact, the home buyers mentioned at settlement that they especially loved the living room.

Take-home lesson: Even simple cosmetic flaws, like an ugly shade of carpet, can make some home buyers run. Luckily swapping out carpet is an easy fix.

2. Too many pets

Seattle real estate agent Matt Parker recalls meeting with a landlord who was looking to sell his rental property. The problem? The home had been rented to, as Parker puts it, a couple of “pet enthusiasts.”

“They had about 30 injured birds, squirrels, dogs, cats, lizards, snakes, and dozens of fish in a 910-square-foot house,” he says.

The snakes were in cages and the fish were in bowls, of course, but the rest of the animals roamed free.

“You can imagine what the home smelled like, how stained the floors were, and how many ‘hidden treasure’ land mines there were throughout the house,” Parker says.

The carpet, flooring, subflooring, walls, and exposed wood throughout the house had been permeated with a foul odor, Parker says.

Parker told the home seller that his odds of selling were slim, unless it were a teardown. Thankfully, the seller accepted the news without much drama.

Take-home lesson: We love our furry friends, but that doesn't mean potential buyers want to see our pets (or any of their traces) when looking at a home they're thinking of buying. (Here are tips on how to sell a home with pets.)

3. Noisy neighbors

Homeowners value privacy, but, alas, they don’t always get it.

Courtney Poulos, a broker at ACME Real Estate in Los Angeles, experienced this firsthand with a client who was looking to sell a stylishly remodeled three-bedroom home. Unfortunately, the house “was right next to a large apartment complex,” Poulos says.

“When you were in the backyard, you felt that the occupants of the apartment complex were looking right down on you," she adds.

Poulos agreed to list the house, but remembers a couple of troublesome open houses. During one, a couple living in the apartment building out back “were fighting and you could see them and hear them from the backyard,” she says. At another open house, “one of the neighbors had his TV on so loud that we had to blast music of our own in the open house to try to cover it up."

The fix? “Since we were not getting the offers we wanted after the first couple of weeks, we built a 12-foot fence, incorporated canvas sun shades, installed twinkle lights, and made the outdoor space much more private,” Poulos adds.

The costs tallied up to $3,000, but it was a modest expense considering “this backyard solution ultimately helped sell the property.”

Take-home lesson: No one likes noisy neighbors, especially those who can see right in your house without effort. So, if your home is located adjacent to an apartment building or another home, you’ll want to take steps to provide yourself some privacy.

4. An underground oil tank

“I sold a home earlier this year that an investor had purchased through a foreclosure auction,” says Christopher Pagli, associate broker at William Raveis Legends Realty Group in Tarrytown, NY. But a presale inspection turned up some unwelcome news.

“There was a buried oil tank on the property,” Pagli says. “This came as a surprise, because the home was fueled by natural gas.”

Altogether the testing, removal, and backfill for the oil tank cost the seller about $8,000. The good news? Once the oil tank was removed, the home sold in three weeks.

Take-home lesson: Underground oil tanks are rare, but if you suspect your property has one, you’ll want to have the land tested by an inspector who specializes in oil tank location and decommissioning before putting your house on the market.

5. Mold

No word strikes fear into the hearts of home buyers and sellers more than mold.

“It is a four-letter word, and most definitely has been the issue of greatest magnitude for my home sellers," says Michael Edlen, a real estate agent in Pacific Palisades, CA.

One particularly bad experience sticks out: Before listing a house, Edlen spotted mold in a relatively small area of the garage, but that was just the start.

“[Mold] remediators found that the mold had gotten into the wall framing, so they had to open walls up behind and next to primary areas,” Edlen says. “By the time the work was done, it took two full months and nearly $60,000."

Fortunately, the sellers didn't freak out over the bill—or Edlen.

“One way or another, they would have had to deal with it—and better to fix it upfront than leaving it to later,” he explains.

Take-home lesson: Mold can put a homeowner’s health at risk, which explains why it’s one of the most common fears among home buyers. Make sure you check your house for mold and address any issues before listing it.

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or [email protected] 

By: Realtor.com, Daniel Bortz


Mortgage interest rates are a mystery to many of us—whether you're a home buyer in need of a home loan for your first house or your fifth.

After all, what does “interest rate” even mean? Why do rates swing up and down? And, most important, how do you nab the best interest rate—the one that’s going to save you the most money over the life of your mortgage?

–– ADVERTISEMENT ––
 

Here, we outline what you need to know about interest rates before applying for a mortgage.

Why does my interest rate matter?

Mortgage lenders don't just loan you money because they’re good guys—they’re there to make a profit. “Interest” is the extra fee you pay your lender for loaning you the cash you need to buy a home.

Your interest payment is calculated as a percentage of your total loan amount. For example, let’s say you get a 30-year, $200,000 loan with a 4% interest rate. Over 30 years, you would end up paying back not only that $200,000, but an extra $143,739 in interest. Month to month, your mortgage payments would amount to about $955. However, your mortgage payments will end up higher or lower depending on the interest rate you get.

Why do interest rates fluctuate?

Mortgage rates can change daily depending on how the U.S. economy is performing, says Jack Guttentag, author of “The Mortgage Encyclopedia.”

Consumer confidence, reports on employment, fluctuations in home sales (i.e., the law of supply and demand), and other economic factors all influence interest rates.

“During a period of slack economic activity, [the Federal Reserve] will provide more funding and interest rates will go down,” Guttentag explains. Conversely, “when the economy heats up and there’s a fear of inflation, [the Fed] will restrict funding and interest rates will go up.”

How do I lock in my interest rate?

A “rate lock” is a commitment by a lender to give you a home loan at a specific interest rate, provided you close on your home in a certain period of time—typically 30 days from when you're pre-approved for your loan.

A rate lock offers protection against fluctuating interest rates—useful considering that even a quarter of a percentage point can take a huge bite out of your housing budget over time. A rate lock offers borrowers peace of mind: No matter how wildly interest rates fluctuate, once you're "locked in" you know what monthly mortgage payments you'll need to make on your home, enabling you to plan your long-term finances.

Naturally, many home buyers obsess over the best time to lock in a mortgage rate, worried that they'll pull the trigger right before rates sink even lower.

Unfortunately, no lender has a crystal ball that shows where mortgage rates are going. It’s impossible to predict exactly where the economy will move in the future. So, don't get too caught up with minor ups and downs. A bigger question to consider when locking in your interest rate is where you are in the process of finding a home.

Most mortgage experts suggest locking in a rate once you're "under contract" on a home—meaning you've made an offer that's been accepted. Most lenders will offer a 30-day rate lock at no charge to you—and many will extend rate locks to 45 days as a courtesy to keep your business.

Some lenders offer rate locks with a “float-down option,” which allows you to get a lower interest rate if rates go down. However, the terms, conditions, and costs of this option vary from lender to lender.

How do I get the best interest rate?

Mortgage rates vary depending on a borrower’s personal finances. Specifically, these six key factors will affect the rate you qualify for:

  1. Credit score: When you apply for a mortgage to buy a home, lenders want some reassurance you’ll repay them later! One way they assess this is by scrutinizing your credit score—the numerical representation of your track record of paying off your debts, from credit cards to college loans. Lenders use your credit score to predict how reliable you’ll be in paying your home loan, says Bill Hardekopf, a credit expert at LowCards.com. A perfect credit score is 850, a good score is from 700 to 759, and a fair score is from 650 to 699. Generally, borrowers with higher credit scores receive lower interest rates than borrowers with lower credit scores.
     
  2. Loan amount and down payment: If you're willing and able to make a large down payment on a home, lenders assume less risk and will offer you a better rate. If you don’t have enough money to put down 20% on your mortgage, you’ll probably have to pay private mortgage insurance, or PMI, an extra monthly fee meant to mitigate the risk to the lender that you might default on your loan. PMI ranges from about 0.3% to 1.15% of your home loan.
     
  3. Home location: The strength of your local housing market can drive interest rates up, or down.
     
  4. Loan type: Your rate will depend on what type of loan you choose. The most common type is a conventional mortgage, aimed at borrowers who have well-established credit, solid assets, and steady income. If your finances aren't in great shape, you may be able to qualify for a Federal Housing Administration loan, a government-backed loan that requires a low down payment of 3.5%. There are also U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs loans, available to active or retired military personnel, and U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development loans, available to Americans with low to moderate incomes who want to buy a home in a rural area.
     
  5. Loan term: Typically, shorter-term loans have lower interest rates—and lower overall costs—but they also have larger monthly payments.
     
  6. Type of interest rate: Rates depend on whether you get a fixed-rate mortgage or an adjustable-rate mortgage, or ARM. "Fixed-rate" means the interest rate you pay remains fixed at the same level throughout the life of your loan. An ARM is a loan that starts out at a fixed, predetermined interest rate, but the rate adjusts after a specified initial period (usually three, five, seven, or 10 years) based on market indexes.

Tap into the right resources

Whether you're looking to buy a home or a homeowner looking to refinance, there are many mortgage tools online to help, including the following:

  • mortgage rate trends tracker lets you follow interest rate changes in your local market.
  • mortgage payment calculator shows an estimate of your mortgage payment based on current mortgage rates and local real estate taxes.
  • Realtor.com's mortgage center, which will help you find a lender who can offer competitive interests rates and help you get pre-approved for a mortgage.

Contact The McLeod Group Network for all your Real Estate needs! 971.208.5093 or [email protected] 

By: Realtor.com, Daniel Bortz

6 Things You'll Love (and Hate) About Selling a Home This Spring

by Amy McLeod Group


For many home sellers, there’s no better time to list than the spring, and for good reason: This is peak home-buying season, folks! Buyers turn out in droves once warmer weather finally arrives, bringing people out of hibernation mode, and bidding wars abound as buyers look for ways to one-up their competition.

The bad news? Selling a home during the spring isn’t free of pitfalls.

Indeed, “Spring home sellers still face challenges that they need to prepare for,” says Chris Dossman, a real estate agent with Century 21 Scheetz in Indianapolis.

Since knowing what to expect can help you nab a great offer, here are six things you’ll love—and hate—about selling a home this spring.

You’ll love: All the demand

While home sales decline in the winter (chalk it up to bad weather and holiday obligations), many home buyers blitz the housing market in spring, says Dossman. To meet that pent-up demand, many sellers list their homes at this time of year. It’s no surprise, then, that the lion's share of  real estate agents  say March, April, and May are the best months to sell a home. With so many buyers competing for homes, sellers may be in a stronger position to spark bidding wars.

You’ll hate: All the competition

Demand is strong, but so is competition among home sellers, says Kimberly Sands, a real estate broker in Carolina Beach, NC. According to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the four heaviest home-selling months—May, June, July, and August—account for 40% of an average year’s total home-selling volume.

Want to compete with other home sellers and fetch top dollar for your house? Presenting your home in the best light is crucial. This may entail decluttering your house, having your home professionally staged, or making minor repairs so that your property is looking in tip-top shape when you put it on the market.

You’ll love: Selling in warmer weather

Open houses are often more successful during the spring than in the winter, says Dossman, since the nicer weather makes buyers more willing to emerge from the comfort of their homes to shop for houses. Another boon for home sellers: Daylight saving time gives buyers more time to look at houses, which means your property can potentially be seen by more people, says Dana Hill, vice president of Buyer’s Edge Realty in Bethesda, MD.

That said, “Sellers still need to do some prep work before holding an open house,” Dossman adds. To make sure your home is ready to be seen, do a thorough cleaning, remove such personal belongings as family photos and religious artwork, and trim your lawn for maximum curb appeal. Pro tip: Take a hike for a few hours during the open house. Buyers will feel more comfortable asking questions of your agent if you're not hovering in the background.

You’ll hate: Fighting for your agent’s attention

Because this is a busy time for home buyers and sellers, it’s also a busy time for  real estate agents . Unfortunately, some agents may take on more clients than they can handle at one time. That's why it's important to find a listing agent who is going to put the proper level of effort and time into selling your home. “If your agent is distracted, you’re not going to get great service,” Sands warns.

There’s no hard-and-fast rule for the maximum number of clients an agent should be working with, but make sure to address this topic when interviewing prospective agents. If your gut says you’re not going to be a priority, continue looking, says Sands.

You’ll love: The higher valuations

When your home’s value is assessed by a home buyer’s appraiser, the appraiser will look at data for comparable homes (or “comps”) that were recently sold in your neighborhood. The good news: With more homes selling in the on-season, the comparable data tend in your favor, Hill says. In other words, your house is more likely to pass the home appraisal, assuming that you're selling it at around its fair market value.

You’ll hate: The picky buyers

Naturally, some buyers can afford to be more selective when there are more houses to choose from, says Dossman. For instance, if your home clearly needs major repairs, they might simply pass. Add in the fact that most spring buyers aren’t shopping under pressure (as they might be during the winter), and you can expect to have a larger pool of picky house hunters in the spring than you do during other seasons.

The bottom line

Spring is unequivocally the busiest time of year to be selling a house, and though more demand from buyers can be good news for home sellers, there are still obstacles you need to plan for when selling a home at this time of year.

Contact The McLeod Group Network to find out how much your current home is worth! 971.208.5093 or [email protected] 

By: Realtor.com, Daniel Bortz


As you've no doubt heard, the U.S. tax code got a major overhaul with the new Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. So what does that mean for the return you're filing right about now? It means you may not be able to take some deductions from the old tax code that saved you major bucks in the past. Ouch!

But it's not quite as bad as you might think. Many tax breaks haven't disappeared completely; rather they've just morphed a bit, redefining who qualifies and for how much. To clue you in to these new rules, here's a rundown of five major tax breaks that have changed this filing year, and who still qualifies for them.

 
 
 

1. Home office tax deduction

You may have heard a rumor that the home office tax deduction went the way of the dodo. Yes, the deduction is gone for W-2 employees of companies who work in a home office on the occasional Friday.

"For non-self-employed people, the home office deduction is going away entirely," says Eric Bronnenkant, certified public accountant, certified financial planner, and Betterment's head of tax.

The loophole: If you're self-employed full time, this deduction lives on. Here's more info on how to take a home office tax deduction.

2. Unlimited property tax

One of the biggest changes for homeowners in the new tax bill is the cap on deducting property taxes.

"Before, regardless of the amount, all property taxes were tax-deductible," explains Bronnenkant. Yet this season, "the maximum you can deduct is $10,000, and that includes state and local income tax, property tax, and sales tax."

So if you pay more than $10,000 a year between your state and local income taxes, property tax, and sales tax, anything exceeding that amount is no longer deductible. This is something to keep in mind as homeowners consider tax benefits of their current or future home.

The loophole: "It is worth noting that this limit applies to a taxpayer’s primary, and in some cases secondary, residence," says Bill Abel, tax manager of Sensiba San Filippo in Boulder, CO. "But it may not apply to rental real estate property."

Why? The $10,000 overall tax limit is applied on Schedule A as an itemized deduction, which would have no bearing on the tax deduction for a rental property on Schedule E. So if you're a landlord, your deduction could edge past that $10,000 limit; make sure to max it out!

3. Moving expenses

If you moved in 2017, lucky you: You are the last to take advantage of the ability to deduct your moving expenses.

The loophole: Active members of the armed forces who moved (or move) after 2017 can still take this deduction, according to Patrick Leddy, a tax partner at Farmand, Farmand, and Farmand.

4. Mortgage interest

One major change for homeowners who purchased a house after Dec. 15, 2017, is that they will be allowed to deduct the interest on no more than $750,000 of acquisition debt—that's a loan used to buy, build, or improve a main or secondary home, says Abel. This is in contrast to the $1,000,000 limit on acquisition debt, which still applies to existing loans incurred on or before Dec. 15, 2017.

The loophole: Homeowners who refinance their debt that existed on or before Dec. 15, 2017, are generally allowed to maintain their $1,000,000 limit from the original mortgage.

5. Interest on a home equity loan

A home equity loan is money you borrow using your home as collateral. This "second mortgage" (because it's in addition to your original home loan) often takes the form of a home equity loan or home equity line of credit. Traditionally, the interest on these loans could be deducted up to $100,000 for married joint filers and $50,000 for individuals. And you could use that money to pay for anything—college tuition, a wedding, you name it.

But now, home equity loan interest is deductible only if it's used for one purpose: to "buy, build, or improve" your home, according to the IRS. So if you're dying to update your kitchen or add a half-bath, you'll get a tax break from Uncle Sam. But if you want to tap your home equity to go to grad school, well, that's on you.

More bad news: Unlike the mortgage interest deduction—where loans taken before Dec. 15, 2018, could be grandfathered into the old laws—home equity loans have no such exemption. People with existing HELOC debt take the hit just like homeowners applying for one now.

The loophole: To reclaim this deduction, you could refinance your second mortgage and your first into a new mortgage that lumps together both debts. This essentially turns your HELOC into a regular mortgage, which means that you can deduct that interest. Just remember that refinancing can be costly, and that this new loan will be subject to the new, smaller limits on deducting mortgage interest—$750,000.

Worried about losing all of these deductions? Don't freak out!

Though the new tax plan is drastically changing how most people will file their taxes, it doesn't necessarily mean that you will end up owing more. Deductions may be dropping, but so are the tax rates for most income groups. And the standard deduction grew to $24,000 for a married couple filing jointly. So, it may all balance out.

Contact The McLeod Group Network at 971.208.5093 or [email protected] for all your Real Estate needs! 

By: Realtor.com, Margaret Heidenry 

 

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The McLeod Group Network
Keller Williams Capital City
1900 Hines St SE #220
Salem OR 97302
971-208-5093
Fax: 971-599-5229

**Disclaimer: Amy McLeod, and her team, do not initiate, process, or service mortgages.  And provide this information only as a service.  You should confirm information here with your Licensed Mortgage Lender.