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Understanding Your Home Appraisal

by Tucker Robbins


During the selling/buying process, after the purchase agreement contract is signed, lenders order a home appraisal.  They want to be sure that the property is worth the mortgage they are getting ready to issue to the buyer, or in case of refinancing,
 the owner.  An appraisal is different from the home inspection, which should have already taken place.   

 

  • - The lender typically schedules the appraisal with a licensed professional, who contacts the homeowner to schedule a time.  Some appraisers don’t mind the owner being present, but usually work alone. 
     

  • - Sellers should have a few things readily available:  recent tax information, property survey, a list of what is being sold with the house, any addition construction information, including cost and construction date. 
     

  • - The assessment can begin before the appraiser even steps onto the property, as they do market information about the house, as well as research comparable sales in the neighborhood, much like the listing agent did for setting the price for the house. 
     

  • - Like someone viewing the house for purchase, the appraiser takes in the exterior appearance, curb appeal, looks for upgrades or additions, as well as the appearance of surrounding homes. 

  • The appraiser takes note of how many rooms are in the house, as well as size, building materials and finishes. 
     

  • - Condition of everything is taken into consideration, including the foundation, exterior finishes, wear on flooring, what shape the windows are in, and all home systems. 
     

  • - The appraiser will also access the basement, attic and crawlspace to check for water or insect damage. 
     

  • - Most of the time, the appraisal fee is set in the loan agreement, but in case it is not, the buyer pays the fee in the closing costs. 

 

Although the actual property inspection may take a few hours, the appraisal itself is normally given to the lender in an average of seven business days. Appraisers commonly use the Uniform Residential Appraisal Report. If everyone has done their homework, literally and figuratively, the value of the home will meet the selling price, and the new buyers will soon be on their way to home ownership! 

 

Courtesy of New Castle County DE Realtors Tucker Robbins and Carol Arnott Robbins.   

Photo credit: Homelight

Checklist for New Home Buyers

by Tucker Robbins


Closing day has finally come and gone - you’re almost finished packing for your move, and let's face it you are BUSY! But, it is important to slow down to take note of a few things that should be done before and soon after you move in.  Go down this list of must-do’s so you’ll be safe, secure and happy in your new home:
 

 

  • - Change all of the entryway locks, keypad codes, and make plans to get a security system set up. 
     

  • - Have utilities turned on in your name, as well as television provider and internet.   
     

  • - Deep clean the new house, even if it looks clean.  This job can be hired out, or you can DIY if time permits.  Keep in mind costs involved with renting any necessary equipment, as well as cleaning product expenses. 
     

  • - Plug in/turn on all appliances, to make sure they’re in working order. 
     

  • - Walk through the house to check for minor things that didn’t warrant repair by the seller. Having your copy of the home inspection in hand will help you find the problem areas that may need to be addressed before they get too big and too costly. 
     

  • - If you want update the home’s color palette with a fresh coat of paint, or do any other small improvement jobs consider getting them done before move in day. This will allow for the painting and repairs to be finished easier and faster before settling in with added obstacles.
     

  • - Typically sellers leave the window treatments, but in case they didn’t be sure to measure the windows. Allow for time and budgeting to purchase and install shades or blinds until curtains or shutters can be hung. 
     

  • - Let everyone know your new address:  relatives and friends, of course, but also medical offices, your employer, schools, and other important people that communicate by mail. 
     

  • - Create a homeowner folder to keep all of your important papers. Be sure to store it in a safe and easily accessible place. 
     

  • - Meet your neighbors!  Once you’ve moved in, introduce yourself and your family by hosting a front porch social, with light refreshments.  Slip invites in mailboxes and simply ask them to stop by to say hello.  

Once you get settled in, you’ll need to get into a homeowner frame of mind.  You will have things to keep an eye on and maintain on a regular basis. Bob Vila’s home checklist gives you an idea of what you’ll need to check regularly. 

Courtesy of New Castle County DE Realtors Tucker Robbins and Carol Arnott Robbins.   

Photo credit: newhomesource.com

Workshops for First Time Homebuyers

by Tucker Robbins


That’s right--classes for home buyers!  If you’re just starting out on your home-purchase process, you may get overwhelmed when you find out all that’s involved.  Sadly, it’s not as easy as finding a house, paying for it, then moving in.  It’s a great idea
 to learn all you can about the process as well as being a homeowner. 

 

  • - Don’t wait until you’ve found a house you want to purchase before signing up!  Find a course that will help you learn the ropes from house-hunting to closing so you’ll feel confident when you contact a Realtor to begin your search. 

  • - Credit counseling is best done about six months before you start looking at homes, so you can learn about improving your credit score, as well as creating a budget and sticking to it.  You want the highest credit score possible so you can receive pre-approval for a mortgage. 

  • - Don’t have enough saved for a 20% down payment?  A workshop will help you find a program that will assist you with finding low down payment programs, as well as if there are any grants available in your community. 

  • - HUD-approved counseling agencies usually offer one-on-one sessions so you can get a better understanding of your own personal financial situation, as well as answer any specific questions you may have. 

  • - Many workshops have more than one “instructor;” you will hear from lenders, appraisers, inspectors, and insurance agents that will discuss their roles in the home-buying process. 

 

When dreaming of buying your own home, don’t let all of the information overwhelm you and keep you from even trying! If you are pressed for time with work and family, online course may be for you!  All it takes is this first step, and you’ll find that a home-buyer course will show you won’t be alone on the road to home ownership.   

 

Courtesy of New Castle County DE Realtors Tucker Robbins and Carol Arnott Robbins.   

Photo credit: solitashouse.com

Protecting Yourself From Moving Scams

by Tucker Robbins


It appears
 every week, we’re reading about a new scam to be watchful for, and sadly, moving scams are out there.  Some news reports have shown interviews with families who have never found their belongings months after a move!  Protect yourself by keeping these tips in mind when hiring movers: 

 

  • - Reputable moving companies charge a fee based on weight, along with their base fee.  If you’ve talked with someone who has given you a basic price without coming to your home to estimate, or who doesn’t look at everything you have, they may throw an extra fee on your balance before they’ll move your items into the new home. 

  • - If the movers ask for a deposit, find another company.  Paying money up front takes away your control over having your belongings delivered where and when you want them.   

  • - Before you or the movers start packing, take a written inventory of your things, and take photos of fragile, expensive, or irreplaceable items. 

  • - Get a contract, go over it with a fine-tooth comb, and once it’s signed, make your own copy so you won’t have and edited version with added charges once it’s time to deliver to the new home. 

  • - If you’re moving to another state, movers are required to give you a booklet called “Your Rights and Responsibilities When You Move,” according to the Office of Inspector General. If the company you’re interested in doesn’t offer it to you, ask for it, and if they don’t have it, find another mover. 

  • - Once things are packed, number your boxes and list them on your inventory, and once you’re moved in, unpack or at least look in every single box.  Your time for filing damages is limited, and the sooner you get that done, the better. 

  • - Most mover’s insurance only covers damage to items that they packed.  If you insist on packing some things yourself, take them with you in your vehicle or rental. 

  • - Stumped on finding a reputable company?  Head over to the American Moving and Storage Association’s website, where it’s easier to find a mover in your area. 

 

Remember, your RealtorⓇ knows all about the ins and outs of moving and can help you locate a good company who will take care of your worldly goods and treat you right. 

 

Courtesy of New Castle County DE Realtors Tucker Robbins and Carol Arnott Robbins

Photo credit: fewmoves.com

For Sale By Owner for Sellers and Buyers

by Tucker Robbins


Some homeowners think they’ll be saving a ton of money by choosing to sell their home themselves, and unless they’re a real estate agent, that may be so.  If you are interested in a house that is offered for sale by the owner (FSBO) what’s the risk for you
?  Read on to find out why it’s not a good idea for seller or buyer: 

 

Sellers 

  • According to realtor.comⓇ, the listing agent and buyer’s agent split about 6% of the home’s sale price.  You’ll need to calculate how much it costs you to stage and photograph your home, get an MLS number, market the house, take time from work to schedule showings as well as host the showings, do all of the paperwork involved, and contact and pay attorneys and others who are involved in a home sale, and compare it to the commission you believe you’ll give up to an agent.   

  • - To be fair, the seller should offer a 3% commission to the buyer’s agent.  Otherwise, most agents won’t bring anyone who’s interested to your home for a showing. 

  • - Sellers are responsible for any mistakes that have occurred once the transaction is in motion.  If you don’t purchase errors and omissions insurance, you may end up paying out of pocket in court or settle out of court for those mistakes. 

  • - Pricing your home takes more than just an online search for sold homes in your area, and not only can you overprice your house, but you can lose thousands by underpricing. 

  • - Scammers abound and can cost you in many ways.  These criminals target FSBO homeowners, because the scammers are savvy enough to make their offer look legitimate.   

 

Buyers 

  • - Beware the owner’s asking price.  Since the majority of FSBO sellers don’t have the experience to set a good market value on their home, their quote will likely be too high. 

  • - Be prepared to wait some time to see the home.  Most homeowners have full-time jobs, and you’ll have to view the home on their time, with them as your host. 

  • - If a seller tells you their house is in perfect condition, and you can save money by not hiring an inspector, walk away.  Every house even brand-new houses should be inspected before changing hands. 

  • - Ask the seller what fees they plan on paying, and in the case that they ask to share the costs with you, it’s time to find another house. 

  • - Do your own research on the house, make sure the person you’ve talked with is the actual owner, and proceed with caution.  There are scams that involve an empty house, FSBO signs, and scammers who will take your money and run, because they aren’t the rightful owner. 

 

The best advice: hire a RealtorⓇ.  Not only are they the ones taking the risk in selling your home (or not), licensed real estate agents know everything you don’t know about selling and purchasing, devote all their working hours to home-buying, and can protect your investment as well as a buyer’s interests. 
 

Courtesy of New Castle County DE Realtors Tucker Robbins and Carol Arnott Robbins

Terms First-Time Home Buyers Need to Know!

by Tucker Robbins


The time has come to begin the steps of buying your first home and looking around the internet and other real estate-related media, you’re finding there’s a lot more to know than finding a house, getting a loan, and signing papers.  There are some key wor
ds that can be unfamiliar to a first-time home buyer, so familiarize yourself with these lesser-known terms so you’ll have fewer questions and stumbles along the way: 

 

  • - In order to be certain that the home is worth the amount of the loan, there will be a home appraisal performed by an unbiased inspector of the lender’s choosing. 

  • - At the final paper-signing, the buyer is required to pay closing costs, which normally include attorney fees, surveyors, inspections, and title insurance, among other things.  Be prepared to have 2-5 percent of the purchase price for closing costs. 

  • - If you’d like to pay less interest over the time of your loan, you can purchase discount or mortgage points.  To learn more about this option, check out these tips from the Nerd Wallet website. 

  • - Earnest money is money that will be paid to the seller to show good faith of the buyer towards the home purchase.  It will be applied to your down payment. 

  • - When you have funds in escrow, you will have given funds to a third party to hold until they have verified that inspections, disclosures or any disputes have been resolved.  Keeping it in escrow protects your deposit before you sign the final contract to buy your new home. 

  • - Pre-approval is very important and differs from being pre-qualified.  If you’re pre-approved for a loan amount, you have a realistic expectation of what you can buy. 

  • - If your down payment is less than twenty percent of the purchase price, you will pay private mortgage insurance typically until that amount reaches twenty percent of the loan or home value. 

  • - Your lender will require the purchase of title insurance, which protects real estate owners and lenders against any property loss or damage for whatever reason.  Learn more about what title insurance is and what it covers from the CFPB. 
     

There are other terms and abbreviations you may find in your search for a house in their descriptions and about real estate in general that you won’t be familiar with.  Here’s a longer, more comprehensive list from realtor.comⓇ.  The more you know before you get started, the smoother the home-buying process will be!


Courtesy of New Castle County DE Realtors Tucker Robbins and Carol Arnott Robbins.   

Photo credit: activerain

Buying an Older House in New Castle County DE

by Tucker Robbins


Many people dream of living in an older home, whether it be a 100-year old farmhouse, or a vintage ranch from the 50’s.  There are certain things that should be taken into consideration, good and bad, when that dream starts to become a reality, and you’re 
on the hunt for an old new home.  

 

  • - If the house was built before 1978, make sure the home inspector looks for lead paint and asbestos, as both can be health hazards. 

  • - Have the foundation thoroughly checked if it is original to the house.  Even the most solidly-built houses can have settling, water damage or corrosion. 

  • - Not only are older mechanical systems likely to fail since they’re at the end of their lifespan, they are less energy-efficient.   

  • - Plumbing and electrical systems can be old enough that they need to be replaced; old pipes can affect water quality and worn out wiring can be a fire hazard. 

  • - Unsafe features that may be charming may not be up to current code.  Check for steep stairs, non-working fireplaces, and laundry chutes, especially if you have younger children. 

 

While all those things are expensive solutions, there are some things that you can’t get with a newer home: 

  • - Older homes are usually in established locations, and are in good school districts, as well as being close to shopping and restaurants. 

  • - Houses built before the 1970’s are generally sturdier, simply because the lumber used to build them was made from old growth hardwoods, something that isn’t available today. 

  • - The lots in areas where you find older homes are usually larger, and that may mean more maintenance, but it also means more room for playing, pet exercise, and outdoor entertaining. 

  • - You just don’t get the charm and character in new construction like you do in an older home, even if the styles are similar. 

  • - Prices of older homes are usually lower, unless there is historical significance to the house itself or to the area. 

 

Do your research, list the pros and cons as they pertain to your life.  No matter what age house you finally decide to buy, the choice should be made because it’s what is best for you and your family. 


Courtesy of New Castle County DE Realtors Tucker Robbins and Carol Arnott Robbins.   

Photo credit: myoldhouseonline.com

Real Estate Disclosures and You

by Tucker Robbins

Zillow.com defines the term disclosure as “...the buyer’s opportunity to learn as much as they can about the property and the seller’s experience in it.”  In most states, this simply means that the seller must let the buyer know about problems that they are aware of.  Whether you’re selling or buying a house, disclosing issues with the house is an extremely important part of the process.  

 

What Disclosure Means for the Seller 

  • - Your listing agent will provide a form for you to fill out, answering questions with either yes, no or I don’t know about different aspects of the house.  This form should be filled out truthfully and to the best of your knowledge. 

  • - Items that most states ask you to disclose to the buyer:  lead paint or asbestos, previous repairs or additions, mold or water damage, pest issues, drainage problems, foundation cracks, problems with HVAC and other appliances, and if the roof is leaky. 

  • - If you think there might be a problem, say possible mold in the crawlspace, have an inspector come and have a look.  It’s better to be safe than sorry here. 

  • - While you’re going over the disclosure form, if you’re not sure if you should report something, report it anyway.  It’s best to err on the side of caution. 

  • - Have the disclosure ready before you’ve accepted an offer for your own protection. 

  • - Your listing agent will be aware of all government disclosure requirements--federal, state, and local--so be prepared to report all that these laws ask of you. 

 

Disclosure and the Buyer 

  • - Once you receive the disclosure statement, go over it carefully and ask questions if you’re not sure about anything listed, because you must sign the disclosure. 

  • - The extra expense of having an official inspection done on the house is vital to this part of the sale.  Have the disclosure form information with you when you meet the inspector at the house, so you can go over the problem places with a pro. 

  • - In the case of any additions to the home, check the local government building permit and zoning information to make sure the addition was done the legal way by licensed people. 

  • - If you have any issues with the seller’s answers on the disclosure statement, and don’t want to make the repairs, and can’t come to an agreement with the seller, it may be best to walk away and look for another house. 

  • - Once you are satisfied with the disclosure and have the peace of mind that the sale should go through, sign off on the disclosure. 

 

A disclosure should be a seller’s protection plan, and smart sellers will be completely honest, and maybe even over-disclose.  Also, be aware that some states even ask sellers to disclose things like traffic noise, and even paranormal activity!  Your Realtor will know everything you need to provide to buyers, so the sale of your home goes smoothly.

Courtesy of New Castle County DE Realtors Tucker Robbins and Carol Arnott Robbins.   

Photo credit: davesellsmetrodenver.com

Getting the Best Home Inspection in New Castle County DE

by Tucker Robbins

Whether your offer on an older home has been accepted, or you’re buying brand-new construction, it’s highly recommended that you have the house inspected.  Yes, it’s an added expense to the home-buying process, but it could save you money and heartache in the end.  Get the most out of the inspection by following these tips: 

 

  • - Ask your RealtorⓇ for a list of qualified inspectors in the area.  Be sure to check reviews, and ask other recent home buyers for recommendations. 

  • - Call at least three different inspectors for price, experience, and whether your state requires a license and bonding or not, ask about these anyway.  A top certification they could have is one by ASHI (American Society of Home Inspectors). 

  • - Once you choose an inspector, choose a date for the inspection when you can accompany them.  If they have a problem with you being there, find another inspector. 

  • - Ask the seller if you can go in the house on your own before the official inspection to get an idea of the condition of the property for your own satisfaction.  Popular Mechanics offers a thorough list of things to look for in your new prospective home. 

  • - While you’re in the house, look for cosmetic things like paint and patching that could be covering bigger issues. 

  • - The inspector will have a process of their own, complete with checklist, but make one for yourself so you can have a record of your own for issues they show you as you walk through the house. 

  • - Don’t be afraid to ask questions during the inspection--a reputable inspector welcomes questions, plus, you’re paying them for their knowledge.  Getting answers before you get their final report will help you understand it better. 

  • - If you’re not quite sure of how to change the hot water heater temperature, how to work the circuit breaker box, or where the water shut-off is, the inspector can help you become more familiar and knowledgeable about the house.  Use your smartphone to take photos and video as they give you a how-to lesson, so you’ll have it in case you need it. 

 

Once you get your report, go over it carefully.  If there are major repairs that need to be made, ask the seller to make the repairs or offer you a credit or reduction in selling price.  Being as knowledgeable as you can be during this process can mean more money saved.  Just be sure to hire a good inspector, and stay involved in the process. 

Courtesy of New Castle County DE Realtors Tucker Robbins and Carol Arnott Robbins.   

Photo credit: drakeshomeins.com 

Adding Value or Not?

by Tucker Robbins

Almost every homeowner has some upgrades or small projects on their to-do list, from installing new gutters to new landscaping.  What they aren’t always thinking is if the next small project will add value to their home.  Not every home improvement increases the value of a property, whether they’re a necessity or not.  
 

  • Roofing While a new roof looks great, it is considered a maintenance issue, so unless your roof needs replacing, or you have damaged shingles, this job rarely adds value.  On the other hand, depending on where you live, a metal roof can add some value to your home, lower your homeowner’s insurance premiums, and may save on the electric bill. 

  • Landscaping Keeping your yard trim and weed-free doesn’t decrease or increase your home’s value, and some landscaping certainly helps if you’re trying to sell. Adding a small fish pond with waterfall, however, isn’t necessarily going to add to add value.   

  • Electric/Plumbing In older homes, an upgrade here is something that’s necessary, and even if you used top-of-the-line products and the most expensive plumbers and electricians in the area, it won’t add value. 

  • Swimming Pool Putting in a pool is simply a personal choice--you have it done because you want to enjoy some refreshment and relaxation on a hot day.  Rarely does an added pool or spa put money in your pocket if you sell. 

  • High-End Upgrades In order for upgrades to add resale value, they must be consistent.  Don’t add imported tile to one bathroom, and then leave vinyl and Formica in the half bath.  

  • HVAC A new A/C unit or heating system is another maintenance item, and though someone looking for a home may find some relief in knowing that there’s a brand-new unit attached to the home, they’re not going to pay more for it because it’s new. 

  • Carpet If you’re thinking about installing new carpet to prep your house for the market, talk to your RealtorⓇ.  Going to the expense of new carpeting may be less desirable to house-hunters in your area.  If you want to make that money back, then consider another type of flooring for your house. 

 

These items don’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t have them done, but it does mean that you likely won’t get the extra money they cost back in case you sell your home.  What it will help is the home sale itself--someone on the search for a new house will be more likely to purchase a home that has a new roof or new flooring.  Nolo.com has some excellent information on what will add value to your home, as well as some other home improvement tips.  When in doubt, do some research, and give your RealtorⓇ a call, as they know exactly what you need to do to get the most out of your house. 

Courtesy of New Castle County DE Realtors Tucker Robbins and Carol Arnott Robbins.   

Photo credit: NationalCashOffer.com

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Tucker Robbins
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices
3838 Kennett Pike
Wilmington DE 19807
(302) 777-7744 (direct)