Welcome to my blog page. Here I write about hot topics in the Real Estate market for Holly Springs, NC and surrounding areas. I encourage comments and suggestions on what topics need to be discussed. My client's and future client's opinions are very important and welcome.
If you are paying attention to the Real Estate market you had to have seen how many ads are being displayed for "WE PAY CASH FOR YOUR HOME". They will even go on to say that it is a fair offer. Very subjective. These "we pay cash" buyers have been around for a long time and is not going to go away. What is a little different, is that since the market has been so hot recently, there are more of these companies showing up. I know you have seen the ads. Now, you are seeing big names get into the game....Major Corporate names getting involved. Why not right?
Instead of the "cash buyer" theme, we are now seeing "iBuyers". iBuyers stand for 'instant buyer'. Sounds better marketing wise......
That is what it is all about. I can't say I disagree with the concept. It sounds really enticing to have someone walk in your home and just write a cash offer. BUT, some don't even see your home, they just look at the numbers, compare size and age to other homes close by, send you the offer and you are under contract. Then, you MAY have them come back a few days later and say....oh, by the way, we need to adjust our offer because of the condition of your home. Some companies do come in and look at your home and make you an offer. You say 'no' and viola, they say, "OK, I know you don't like our offer, but now let us list your home for the price you think it is worth". JEDI Mind Trick??? Maybe. Maybe it's right for some. I don't know, but talking to more than one Real Estate Firm is worth it's weight in 'equity'.
As noted previously, the cash buyer thing is nothing new. What is new is the big names coming in and making an offer and then saying, "OK....then let us list it for your price". In my opinion this is brilliant marketing and nothing wrong with it. At the same time, most people are smart enough to read between the lines. You are intrigued by the thought of a quick cash offer, get the company in your house for "that offer", you don't like "that offer", then they say they can list your home for "that offer" you want. Again, this may work for some, but one should always think things through. Is this best for you? Maybe.
The one thing I can say for sure is there is definitely a market for this business model and again, there is nothing wrong with it in my opinion. The ideal candidate for this model would be someone who has not kept the house up over the years...it's called 'deferred maintenance'. They really just want to get out as they may or may not have a lot of equity, may or may not have a lot of time for the sale to happen, and frankly, just as the ads say, they don't want to deal with the traditional process of selling a home. There is the flip side to that scenario, a homeowner that wants their house marketed professionally to show off how awesome their house really is and to get top market dollar for what they have rightfully earned.
Just be informed. Make prudent decisions. Choose an agent you trust. It is, obviously, what is best for you!
In North Carolina we see both crawl spaces and slab foundations in residential homes. In some areas, such as Florida, pretty much all homes are on a slab foundation as the water table is very high. Here, in NC, I mainly see crawl spaces, but slabs are pretty common as well. It is less expensive for a builder to build a home with a slab. A crawl space foundation is where the foundation has bricks/cinderblocks built up to a certain height depending on the lot elevation and then the subfloor is built upon floor joists...giving you room to go "under" the house once complete. You can access water pipes, ducts, water heaters, etc. in the crawl space. A slab foundation is simply a concrete floor and the house is built up from there. The water pipes come up through the concrete and all other components of the house are above the cement foundation.
The post is about home inspections and what you may find in the crawl space and the actual foundation walls. Obviously, when buying a home you would want to have a home inspection....whether the home is on a slab foundation or a crawl space.
The things to look for on a slab foundation are cracks around the perimeter and any leaking pipes coming up through the floor. With a crawl space foundation there are many other concerns such as moisture and humidity levels, mold, piers moving, foundation cracks, rodents and vermin...sounds pretty intimidating huh? For the most part, all crawl space foundations are going to have certain moisture and humidity issues, settling and possible animal life. Fortunately, we don't live under there so the animal life isn't too much of an issue and all of these concerns can be controlled.
Most home inspectors, if they see a crack or high moisture levels, will put on the report it is best to consult a crawlspace technician or even a structural engineer. I have seen it all whether there is a $15,000 structural issue or standing water with high moisture levels that really only needing better grading outside of the crawlspace or putting down a new vapor barrier; adding a dehumidifier. If you are looking to buy a home where any of these issues has clearly been corrected, do not be intimidated. The home is likely in better shape than any of your neighbors.
Though there are many scenarios of how a foundation's health may be interpreted, it is always best to consult a specialist if there is an issue from a home inspection. Most of these issues are minimal and can be easily corrected, but be sure to do your due diligence in getting a professional opinion and taking their advice. Remember, all homes have issues, once corrected you should not worry.
When most people hear "sump pump" they are not familiar with the term...unless you are from an area in the country where pretty much everyone has one in their house because they have a basement. Kind of like Radon Mitigation Systems in NC....most folks living in the Mid-West have a Radon System....not common here in the South, but your home still needs to be tested for Radon. A Sump Pump is simply a perforated bucket installed about 3 feet into the ground whether in your basement or in your crawl space. There is a motor with a float connected to it; once the water fills the bucket to a certain level the float kicks the motor in gear and "pumps" the water out of the bucket into the exterior of the home.
In my opinion, NO! Again, just like Radon, water is part of owning a home and controlling it takes care of the issue. Let's use a crawl space as an example. If you have standing water in your crawl space and let it go for a long time with no control measures taken, you will eventually have mold, smells, and if you have hardwood floors, they will eventually "cup".
By installing a sump pump, the water collected is pumped out of the area, so the potential for mold and all other concerns with standing water are eliminated. I sometimes see buyers looking at a house and they either see a Radon Mitigation System or a Sump Pump and are rattled....not wanting to deal with it. Fact is, is that if a house has either of these systems installed, the levels of Radon or standing water are much less than the house next door. So there is an argument that these are GOOD systems to have in place whether you have high levels of either.
My personal residence was built in 1994. When I purchased in 2013 there was a Sump Pump in the crawl space. I am assuming the previous owner had cupped hardwoods and looked under the house to see standing water. I live at the bottom of my neighborhood, so the water table is pretty close to the ground....in other words....after a hard rain water is more prevalent close to the ground surface in my direct area of the neighborhood.
Some houses with a crawl space may not have standing water, but may have high moisture and humidity levels.....this is very common. Sometimes you can just "seal" the crawl space and install a vapor barrier and/or a dehumidifier. Last year I tested my crawl space and my humidity level was in the 80's and my moisture level was close to 20.....a good candidate for mold. I sealed the crawl space and installed a dehumidifier. My moisture level is now under 12 and humidity level around 50....both where they should be.
Recently, I hadn't seen the water pump into my front "natural area" after a hard rain. So, my gut feeling was my Sump Pump was broken...after all, I know it was over 7 years old. Sure enough, there was standing water in the corner of the crawl space by the Sump Pump. I called a plumber, Aqua Plumbing out of Fuquay Varina. Rick, the owner, installed a new motor and float....problem solved within 30 minutes. Below I have posted a few pictures and a video. Notice the amount of water being pumped out....most of it was not on the floor of the crawl space, but rather it was underground....seeping into the bucket. Once the motor was replaced my crawl space was dry as a bone.
Take care of your house with routine maintenance. Here is a good link to see house maintenance recommendations.
Due to the Sherman Anti-Trust of 1890 price fixing was made to be illegal. This means when selling your house there is no set commission fee. You have options. All commissions are negotiable. With this information you can see that the term "discount" is not a true description. Since there is no "set" fee, what are you discounting from?
There are different models out there. The most well known is a Full Service Listing model. This is where the agent you choose will handle all aspects of the transaction such as pictures, negotiating price, repairs, coordinating with the lender and closing attorney. A Fiduciary Relationship is also established with Full Service Listings. Limited Service is a choice that may or may not handle the services previously listed....there may be things you have to do yourself, such as negotiations and contractual paperwork. Lastly, there is the Flat Fee model, where you pay a flat fee to a Firm to 'enter' your house on the MLS, but you may be solely responsible for ALL other aspects of the transaction and also paying a buyer's agent commission on top of the flat fee.
In my opinion, with almost 15 years experience of selling Real Estate, the Full Service model is the way to go. This does not mean you have to pay a high commission fee. There are many Firms out there that will represent your best interests when selling your home and the fees may vary between Firms. My Firm advertises to list homes for a Low Commission Rate, which does include the buyer agent’s commission. We are indeed a Full Service Firm as well.
When looking around for an agent to represent you, probably the biggest factor to consider is the actual agent, not the Firm. Ask around. Read reviews. Google them. If an agent has been around for a while you should be able to dig up some information on their sales history and areas they cover. The amount of commission they charge should not be the sole reason for choosing them; whether it is high or low. Their character should be revealed and considered.
*One common "selling point" from certain Firms is that a higher commission fee results in a faster selling time and higher dollar amount. There is no evidence I have ever seen to support this theory. The biggest names in Real Estate have all had challenging listings that take more time to sell. I have also seen Entry Only/Flat Fee listings sell in 1 day. Let's be fair.
EXPERIENCE- Ask the agent how long they have been in the business and their opinions on certain aspects such as market statistics.
LIKABILITY- You have to like the agent you are working with in a Real Estate Transaction.
HONEST and TRUSTWORTHY- Based on an agent's past references and reviews you should be able to tell if they will be looking out for your best interests.
Your agent will advise you of market conditions and best practices. Please heed their advice. It may be tempting to watch the reality shows, but the experience of your agent will be crucial in helping you understand the market.
TIMING- Sometimes it takes the right weekend, the right weather, the right job promotion, etc. There are so many subjective matters that go into selling a house. Timing is huge. Sometimes it may take more than 30 days to sell a house even if the average days on the market is 20. Sometimes a buyer that viewed your home is not ready to buy, but they come back a month later and it works out. I have seen it all.
CONDITION- Just because the market is hot does not mean your house will sell immediately. Condition of the house is a crucial element. Clean and clutter free is imperative. If you have an older home updates are very important. If your home is not updated you will have to price it accordingly. There is a lot of new construction out there to compete with these days. Though older neighborhoods have more character in my opinion, in order to compete you have to have a 'somewhat' updated house.
PRICE- The obvious one is price. If your agent suggests a price range and you demand listing it $30K higher, it will likely sit on the market with few showings and no offers. This is the market doing it's thing. Your agent cannot control how many showings and/or offers you get, but positioning your house is crucial. Positioning your house too high is the best way to accumulate days on the market and make buyers hesitant to view.
**I'll throw in a fourth....Seller Motivation and Attitude- As a seller you have to be motivated and aggressive. If you have 2 showing requests within an hour of the house going active, DO NOT decline them. If you get continuous feedback such as "stinky carpets and dark red painted walls are a deterrent"....react to this feedback. The market is in control and this is something that agents as well as buyers/sellers have to acknowledge.
Are you ready for the market to calm down a little bit? I know I sure am and it has actually. For the past two years I am sure all of you have heard about multiple offers and how people have been getting into bidding wars. That has calmed down a bit, especially over the $300K price range. There are a lot of opinions out there; different markets, different house conditions, different schools zones, etc. All of these factors play into the 'days on the market' for a particular property. One misconception (out of many) is that all agents are just "killing it". Granted, most are busier now, but the thing the general public doesn't consider is how much time goes into a deal and "if" it doesn't work out, the agent gets paid nothing.
Here is an example. I show my buyers 5 houses, they make an offer. They are one of 8 offering parties. They don't get the house. We go out and look at another 5. Same thing happens. Same thing happens. Same thing happens.....until maybe after the 5th try or so, we get the house! Well, we just worked 5 times as hard for the same amount of money. So in my opinion, agents aren't really making that much more money, but are definitely working much more.
So you have all seen by now at least 4 or 5 companies enter the marketplace...I will not name them, but feel free to call me to discuss them in particular. Let me say this straight away....we live in a free and open-market society and all business models have a right to compete. I will go a bit further and say that some of these business models are "indeed" a better fit for certain types of consumers....I'll go into that later. So, please know I am not bashing any company out there, but some do offer non traditional business models and you need to know what they are before signing anything.
There are 5 companies that I see a lot of commercials for now. All of them offer buying your home (at fair market value) and a few may offer to help you move into a new home before selling your current home. Let me first point out that fair market value is very subjective, so if you get an offer, by all means ask around and see if the offer is indeed in line with other opinions. The appeal with selling your home to these companies is that you do not have to put your house on the market. You do not have to deal with showings, keeping the house clean, putting the pets away, painting the dark brown walls or cleaning the dog hair infested carpets. You bypass all of this by selling directly to these companies.
This is very appealing to people for the obvious reasons. The caveat is that you will likely lose a lot of money. To some people it is worth it and that is why these companies are around. If you have young children and 3 dogs and the house smells like an animal farm, you may just say "forget it", it's worth x amount of money to walk away with a lot less money than to clean it up yourself and go through the traditional process of selling. The majority of homeowners out there are probably not willing to take a huge financial loss though. I did submit my own house to one of these companies and they offered me $30K less than a 'month old' appraisal I paid for when I refinanced my mortgage. They had a certain percentage fee on top of that as well. So, if I were going to sell it to them I would have essentially taken a $60k loss.
Then there are the companies that will offer to purchase your house and buy a new house for you. The details are not fully known to me, but you can look on social media and see reviews about how you will pay them back for the "new" house with a daily interest fee included when you buy it back from them. This type of service eliminates you from having to submit a contingent offer on a home. A contingent offer is a whole other blog post. Again, this is a legit way to buy and sell, but it is very complicated and it may not be for everyone because you are trading convenience for cash.
So you may wonder why these companies are so willing to buy your house for market value. What's in it for them? It has to be profit right? These programs may work for you, but you have to do your homework and do the math.
You should know as a homeowner that there are a lot of options out there for you and you have every right to contact any company/agent you wish to discuss your needs and wants. Some people may call these companies directly and say, okay...let's do it. Some people may call and get their proposal, then talk to other folks, get theirs, then make a decision. Some consumers may just want to go the traditional route with a super large firm. Most people will call an agent that a friend or family member has recommended. Just remember, you as the consumer have choices. You are in the driver's seat.
My personal opinion; from selling real estate for almost 15 years is that real estate is more of a personal business matter than a straight up business transaction. There is a lot of emotion that goes into buying or selling a home. I think someone needs a partner to help them through a transaction, not just "being 'the' transaction". I have always put on my marketing materials that Real Estate is about Relationships and Representation. Make sure the next agent you speak to has a similar philosophy.
If you live in North Carolina you typically have three choices as to what type of foundation your home will have. You will either have a crawlspace, a basement, or your home will be on a slab....which is a slab/bed of concrete. In general, the basement home is the most expensive and requires a certain slope of the lot in order to permit the home and have a solid structure. A slab home is usually less expensive and there will be no access under the home itself. Most homes in North Carolina will have crawlspace. This is as it sounds...you will have a little room to "crawl" under the floor level of the home and this is where you will find HVAC ducts, wiring, etc. Sometimes, depending on the slope of your lot, you will have a walk-in crawlspace....which, is as it sounds, you can stand up and walk under your house.
If you do have a crawlspace it is very important to monitor the moisture and humidity levels. There are various reasons as to why the levels may fluctuate and even more opinions on ways to control the levels. This post is a general rule of thumb snapshot and if you are to take action you should seek advice from a qualified crawlspace contractor. With that said, your moisture levels should be around 14% or less....no more than 20%. Your humidity levels should be around 50-55%. These levels can be read by simple instruments you can buy at most hardware/big box stores.
If you do have higher levels in your crawlspace, depending on it's severity, there are several things you can do to control them. A simple thing to do is to lay a 6-10 mill vapor barrier on the ground and have it cover 100% of the floor of the crawlspace. This will keep the moisture under the plastic barrier. Going a step further, the old school of thought is to open your vents from April to October and close them from November to March. These theories are changing over time and what I am seeing a lot these days are totally sealing the crawlspace.
For the sake of general information, there are two types of sealed crawlspaces; the first is a total seal. This basically means that the crawlspace is covered in a vapor barrier not only on the ground, but also on the sides of the crawlspace totally encapsulating the area. The piers are wrapped, vents are sealed, and a dehumidifier is installed along with removing insulation under the sub floor. An alternative to the dehumidifier is tapping into an air duct and having the space "conditioned" just like the livable area of the home.
A less expensive alternative is placing the vapor barrier on 100% of the ground, sealing the vents and installing a dehumidifier. This does almost the same thing as a totally encapsulated crawlspace, just not as "complete". A lot of new construction of the higher end homes are sealing crawlspaces with one of the methods mentioned.
My home is 25 years old and the previous owner had a sump pump installed as it had accumulated water from heavy rains. There was no real detriment to my home, but my crawlspace levels were high which was leading to my hardwood floors cupping over time. Mine was not extreme, but I could tell it was happening so I took action. Prior to taking action my moisture levels were around 18% and the humidity levels were around 80% plus. I took the less expensive route and had a new vapor barrier laid down, sealed the vents and installed a dehumidifier. Four days later my humidity level was around 58% and moisture level was 14% going down. I can tell not only do my hardwoods "seem" to be flatter, but also, not that there was a stitch in the air, but it seems the air quality (smell and efficiency of HVAC) improved. A semi sealed crawlspace is probably going to be around $2-3K and a full encapsulation is around $5-9K. Below are pictures of a totally encapsulated crawlspace, a dehumidifier, and mild to moderate cupping of hardwoods.
I, like many of you forget about routine maintenance around the house...sometimes major things like having the HVAC serviced once a year or smaller things like changing my air filters once a month. One thing that I could almost guarantee is that the average homeowner forgets to have their dryer vent cleaned regularly. Not the removable screen from the machine that collects lint; but the actual vent (duct) going from the back of your dryer leading to the exterior of the home.
Most people think cleaning the lint from the removable screen does the trick. If you do not even do that you will notice your clothes take longer to dry. If your screen is clear and it is still taking longer to dry your vent (duct) is likely getting clogged with lint and not only will it make your dryer work harder and use more energy, but it is also a fire hazard. Getting it cleaned once a year is probably a prudent idea.
Our towels were taking a very long time to dry so I went outside to look at the exterior of the home where the vent exits the house above our garage. It was totally clogged....pictures below. Some houses have a very short 2 foot duct running to the exterior of the home...if the laundry room is on an exterior wall. My dryer is in a closet on the second floor on the front side our our home so the duct actually runs about 25 feet or so until it exits above our garage.
I called JNJ Dryer Vent Cleaning from a google search. This company is owned by a local full time Fireman. The inquiry was returned within a day and we scheduled a visit. Pete, also a full time Fireman came out on his day off and took care of the vent quickly. The process involves hooking up a vacuum cleaner/dry-wet vac to the duct behind the dryer and then going to the exterior of the home where the ducts exits the house and putting through a brush with long extensions while twisting it making the lint break off and end up being sucked into the vacuum cleaner. It took about 30 minutes and our clothes dry very quickly now compared to the days before.
Be safe. Do routine maintenance on your home and don't procrastinate, even with smaller items like a dryer vent.
**I actually had my house painted last year and the vent they installed is not one that should be used for a laundry vent as it didn't have enough room for lint to exit....see pics.
When Mother Nature or Old Man Winter gets a ruffle in their feathers and decides to make it really cold....and I mean REALLY COLD, you have to take precautions. The biggest one is getting your hind part inside the house...stay out of the elements...preferably with a beverage by the fire. Even if you are not by the fire...with a beverage, you should be sure of another thing...make sure your heat works......but those are obvious right? Your pipes from faucets are exposed to the elements even though they go down under your house. When cold air hits them, if the air is cold enough, it could possibly freeze them....worst case they could bust. So take a few minutes and read these five precautions to take so you don't get stuck being Harry the Homeowner and writing checks all Winter.
Go to your faucets and drip them just enough to where there is a drop of water every 10 seconds or so...it doesn't have to be running on full speed or even very low speed...just enough to see drops moving out. This slows the freezing process by have the water moving through the pipes.
By opening your cabinet doors you are letting the conditioned (warm) air enter into the cabinets and warming the pipes. This may not help the pipes in the walls, but it will keep water moving limit damage if they freeze.
If you can tell the water is moving very slowly when you turn on the tap you can bet the water is well on the way of being frozen...kind of like your favorite slushy at the 7/11....at 2am. By wrapping the pipes you can slow down the freezing process and possibly stop it cold in it's tracks:)). Warm wet towels should do the trick.
Go and borrow your Mom or sister's hairdryer if yours is in the shop. If a pipe is frozen and you can somewhat get an idea of the frozen area of the pipe...turn old faithful on and start warming the pipes...it will loosen the ice and lessen the chance of busting them.
Are your pipes already frozen? Go ahead and shut off the water at the main water shut off...it should be in a closet on the lowest floor of your castle...if you have a dungeon or a basement...that is your lowest floor....you should find it there. Righty tighty lefty loosy....choose righty tighty. This way no more water is entering the home to freeze if you have a melt and refreeze and you are not going to be home.
Owning a home is a great investment. Protecting your investment entails regular upkeep; similar to your body...eat right, exercise, and get enough sleep. Taking care of your home not only means getting the HVAC serviced yearly or repairing normal wear and tear of items such as a roof or leaky toilets. In order to property care for your home you must know the basics and where certain things are located.
In North Carolina most HVAC Systems (heating, ventilation and air condition) have air returns within the house where a pleated filter 'filters' the air moving within the home. The air is pulled 'in' to the return and passes through the filter. Typically you can find one on each floor, but sometimes there is more than one on each floor, depending on the size of the home. It is recommended to change your filters once a month or no more than every 6 weeks. Filters remove dust mites, hair, pollen, and many other particles floating through the air in your home that you would have never thought existed.
Every home that has electricity has an electrical panel or 'circuit box'. Most of the time it is located in the garage, but sometimes you can find it on the outside of the home or possibly in the basement. It is important that you know where it is in case you lose power and have to 'reset' a fuse or if you are replacing a switch or lighting fixture. If you are like me, hire an electrician for electrical work....electricity is tricky and very dangerous if you are unaware of how it works.
Know where your water main shut off valve is located. This is very important because if you ever have an overflowing toilet or any other active leaks you can completely shut off the water just by turning a valve. Most of the time this valve is located in a closet on the lowest level in the home...typically the first floor of most homes in the pantry or coat closet. It is recommended to turn the main 'off' if you are going on vacation or leaving the home for several days. If the water line breaks behind the washing machine.....it will be a mess.
Do you have a heat pump or a furnace? In general, in most metro areas you will have natural gas which means you will have a furnace. If you live outside of the city limits and there is no natural gas available you will have electric heat, which a heat pump is utilized. This is important to know if you are looking to replace a unit or from a safety perspective if you have buried gas lines in your yard.
Do you have a sump pump? If you have a basement where there is a history of water entering the home or if your crawl space has an area where water accumulates; it is recommended to have a sump pump installed. A sump pump is simply a bucket and is buried a few feet under ground level where water is accumulating. When the bucket fills up, the pumps push the water out of the home through a water line directed away from the dwelling. It sounds complicated, but sump pumps are not that expensive, but depending on the location of where it is installed, the labor could add up.
If you have an irrigation system then you obviously have sprinkler heads located in your yard as well as water lines. It is important to know the location of the sprinkler heads and water lines if you are going to be digging in the yard for any reason. If you aerate your yard in the spring, you would want to mark the sprinkler heads so the aerator does not run over them.
I have mentioned irrigation lines, gas lines and water lines. There are also electrical lines and other cables/internet lines buried in your yard. If you are going to be digging in any part of your yard it is prudent to call the underground utility authority in your area to make sure you do not dig into any active lines. It is typically free to have someone come out and locate the phone/electric lines. In North Carolina you can call '811' to have this service performed. Here is a link to their site as well.
I hope this helps. Please contact me if you or anyone you know needs any Real Estate advice.