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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What to Look for in 2011

My Video Blogging Promise to You in 2011

I started video blogging last year to help you make better decisions in real estate. Now, in 2011, I'd like to help you improve and maintain the value of your home so you keep a strong financial asset. So, instead of buying and selling topics, I'd like to share with you tips and tricks to keep the most value in your property. I made a short video with what you can expect from my blog in the coming months, as I want my email updates to be valuable for you.  If you have any special request for topics, reply and let me know, otherwise watch the video I made just for you!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Determine if the "Neighborhood Value" Is There!

"Neighborhood value"
 is the atmosphere of a particular area - the look and feel of the homes and yards and so forth. But, more importantly, it's the "vibe" you receive from the neighbors.

Let's be honest: You can buy the finest home on the planet, but obnoxious neighbors can spoil the whole living experience for you.

Or, it could be the opposite - the neighbors aren't obnoxious; the current owners are. They may have had disputes with their neighbors and created an unhappy climate.

Depending on the nature of the disputes, the neighbors may be glad to see you, or they may be so negative toward the current owners that their attitude may spill over onto you, even though you had nothing to do with the situation! If that's true, then you may want to look at homes in a different area.

I'll give you an extreme example that happened to a friend of mine in a different city. We'll call him "Dave." He was interested in a home in a nice central-city neighborhood. The price seemed high, but the owner was trying to sell the house by himself so that didn't seem unusual since a "For Sale By Owner" often asks for a price above the estimated market value. As I'd advised him to do, Dave did his "due diligence" and talked to the neighbors.

Boy, did he get an earful! Turns out everyone hated "Ted," the owner of the property. As far as Dave could tell, this man had gone out of his way to offend everyone he possibly could in the neighborhood.

"Ted" played loud music at all hours of the night…shot a BB gun at pets that weren't in his yard…disputed suggested changes at neighborhood meetings…and had even tried to prevent a current neighbor (a nice family with two well-behaved children) from buying his present home because…well…no one was quite sure why. "Ted" simply seemed to have "mean" in his circulatory system, instead of blood.
Needless to say, this was a strange situation for Dave! On the one hand, the neighbors were practically begging him to buy the home simply to get rid of "Ted."

On the other, "Ted" was every bit as obnoxious with him in the bargaining process. He was loud, verbally abusive, and ridiculed every offer Dave made.

Well, you can guess the result. Dave felt sorry for the neighbors, but walked away because he didn't need the grief! Let me emphasize once again that this is an extreme case; however, as you can see, it never hurts to investigate a neighborhood thoroughly before buying a home!

But there's also another important reason for you to talk with neighbors; good neighbors can alert you to problems you may not be aware of; for example, basement flooding, termites, leaky roofs, etc.

When that happens, you can either look at a different house or negotiate with the seller to lower the price of the property!

The Best Way to Evaluate a Neighborhood and Its Value

The best way to evaluate a particular neighborhood is write up a checklist of desirable aspects before you ever enter that neighborhood!

Below, I provide you with typical features (in alphabetical order) to check out. However, you should add as much detail as possible to that list since everyone has different needs and wants.

• Association fees (if applicable)
• Closeness to parks and recreation for the kids
• Crime rate
• Length of commute to work 
• Noisy pets (barking dogs, etc.) 
• Property taxes.
• Proximity to busy streets or main thoroughfares.
• Proximity to mall, shops, restaurants, etc.
• Reputation of school district
 • Sidewalks and running trails throughout the neighborhood.
• Type of families in the neighborhood, etc.

The list above has all the "objective" features of a neighborhood; that is, you can measure them, for the most part, by facts and figures.

Assuming a neighborhood meets these objective criteria, then it's time to analyze the "subjective" features by visiting the area.

Drive through the neighborhood to get an initial look. Do this at different times and on several different days to get a real feel for the area.

Assuming you like what you see, you should also get out and walk the neighborhood. You may well see things you missed from the car.

As I suggested earlier, talk to the neighbors to get their opinions of the neighborhood and the property you're considering.

I'd recommend you select a time when they're likely to be outside walking or in their yards (gardening, watering, mowing, etc.). That way, you don't have to knock on their doors and interrupt their personal time.

Since buying a home is such an important decision, you can see that it's vitally important to check both the objective and subjective features of a neighborhood. And, since it's my business to know every one of those aspects, I encourage you to contact me so I can fill you in on the "neighborhood value" of an area you're interested in! Contact me today!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Shop Around Until Interest Rates Drop when Buying a Home

A special thanks to Alex Reilley of Trident Mortgage for coming on with us this week to discuss interest rates and the mortgage market today!

When you're in the market for a home, I'm here to help you find the best mortgage terms around. But I also want you to be a fully-informed consumer! 

As you already know, buying a home may be the largest purchase of your life so you should go into it with eyes wide open! In this article, I'd like to provide you some proven and common-sense guidelines that can save you time, money and hassle during the mortgage-hunting process. 

Guideline 1: Look Beneath the Surface of the Interest Rate! 

If you're like most prospective home buyers, you call lenders or use the Internet to shop for the best interest rates. That's a good first step, no doubt about it! But, the mistake many buyers make is that they stop there and don't consider the fees that may be added on to the loan later by the cheapest lender. 

In other words, it's the lenders' game, and they may want you to play by the rules you're not even aware of. The answer, of course, is to know those rules ahead of time so you know exactly what you're getting when you buy that mortgage. More on this subject later! 

Guideline 2: Chose the Type of Lender That Works Best for You! 

There are several different sources of lenders - banks, credit unions, mortgage brokers, etc. They all have their advantages and disadvantages in terms of the rates and services they can offer you. For example, credit unions often provide the best value and service, but, of course, you have to belong to one in order to receive their services. 

Regular banks and "big lenders" (Bank of America, Citigroup, etc.) also provide competitive rates and services. Of course, they only offer products their companies provide. You can also use a mortgage broker. This person is a "wholesaler" who uses several lenders to give service to their customers. The advantage of a broker is that he or she offers a greater selection of rates and products. However, they also tend to be more expensive than regular banks and big lenders. 

Brokers make money in two ways. One is origination fees ("yield spread" or "rebate"). Essentially, the origination fee is a commission paid by the bank to the brokers to encourage them to use their firm. The second way is by selling a higher interest rate to you. This means there's room for you to negotiate that interest rate down! 

When a broker quotes you an interest rate, ask him or her to tell you what the origination fee, rebate or yield spread on that rate is. For a broker, a reasonable amount would be a total of 1% of the loan amount from yield spread, origination or combination of the two. Most brokers usually want to make at least 2%. 

Tip: Don't pay an origination fee unless the broker informs you that he or she isn't getting anything on the back end of the deal. 

The bottom line: you can (and should) shop among all these lenders to find the lowest rate. It can save you thousands of dollars over the life of the mortgage. 

Guideline 3: Review the Good Faith Estimate with an Eagle Eye! 

By law, lenders are required to provide you with a Good Faith Estimate or GFE. In essence, the GFE gives you a general summary of all the costs and expenses you'll incur at the time you close on your new home. The document should cover closing costs and the amount of cash you need to close on the agreement. It should also spell out which if any prepaid expenses must be handled and the average monthly payment you'll have to make in order to keep up with the loan. 

Most lenders provide complete and straight-forward information on these forms; however, there's no reason for you to accept the GFE at face value. Comb through the information and if you don't understand a particular item or fee, ask for an explanation. If you still don't understand them, you may want a lawyer to review them for you so you have complete understanding. 

Remember: A GFE is only an estimate. Changes may occur through no fault of the lender. A reputable lender will let you know if fees are going up substantially. In general, however, if those fees go up by more than approximately 16%, then a red flag should go up in your mind. 

Guideline 4: Negotiate, Negotiate, Negotiate! 

When confronted with the expertise and "prestige" of banks, we all have a tendency to think they know best, and we should, therefore, agree to their terms. Never think this way! Banks are like any business; you can and should negotiate with them! 

Want more information on banks and other lenders? Contact me today!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving from The Debbie Spaulder Team

Thanksgiving is this Thursday, November 25.

In recognition of this important holiday and to spend time with our families and loved ones, we will be not be in the office this Thursday and Friday. As always, if you need us please leave a message and we will get back to you.

All of us at The Debbie Spaulder Team hope that you take the time this Thanksgiving to reflect on what you are thankful for, and hope that you have the opportunity to spend some time with your friends, family and loved ones as well!

We are all thankful to serve you, and are proud to do so!

Have a wonderful and safe Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How Do I Find the Property Value Trends in My Area?

Knowing property value trends can be very helpful to you as a buyer, seller or investor. As a buyer, you can pinpoint bargains in areas that are trending upward (or downward) in price. As a seller, you can use the information as part of the bargaining process to get the maximum price from the sale. As an investor, you can use the latest forecasts and trends to determine whether you want to invest, when you want to invest, and how much to put into a property. 

Remember, the trends are not guarantees of future performance; they're an educated guess as to which way the market is moving.Whatever your real estate goals, you want the latest and best information, and you want it from experienced professionals. In terms of your neighborhood and/or city, your local real estate agent is the best source for weekly and monthly trends. After all, it's their job to stay on top of such trends in the markets they serve. 

Other organizations provide state, regional and national forecasts. They're often updated on a monthly or quarterly basis. Sources of Information Thanks to the Internet, there are many, many sources for data on real estate property value trends. 

For state trends, go to the Federal Housing Finance Agency website ( Click on your state to get the Housing Price Index (HPI). 

If you're wondering exactly what the HPI measures and how it's calculated, here's what the site says: "The HPI is a broad measure of the movement of single-family house prices. The HPI is a weighted, repeat-sales index, meaning that it measures average price changes in repeat sales or re-financings on the same properties.

This information is obtained by reviewing repeat mortgage transactions on single-family properties whose mortgages have been purchased or securitized by Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac since January 1975. The HPI serves as a timely, accurate indicator of house price trends at various geographic levels. Because of the breadth of the sample, it provides more information than is available in other house price indexes." So, if you want property value trends for Nebraska from the FHFA site, click on "State HPI Summary" and scan down the list of states until you find Nebraska. The handy table gives rankings and trends in quarterly, 1 year, 5 year and "Since 1991Q1" columns.On the same site, you can also click on "Research and Analysis," and you'll get a list of government and industry sites which will provide you with information on property trends. Note: The FHFA site doesn't provide predictions; it simply reports data. To get analysis and predictions, try the respected It reports on current market conditions and provides advice to consumers as well. Another site for information on residential properties is

To find local information, fist click on the "Local Information" tab. That takes you to the page where you'll find the "State," "City," and "Nearby Neighborhoods" tabs. Click on the appropriate names, and you have local information! There are many, many other websites from which you can gather property value information. 

I don't have the space to list them all, so here's a partial list of major industry and governmental agencies: 

- National Association of Realtors = Freddie Mac 
- National Association of Home Builders 
- Census Bureau 

Of course, the network, cable, and satellite channels report many of the finding from the sources listed above on a national basis. But, if you want local information, I recommend you work with your local real estate agent! He or she is best positioned to give you the latest information on property value trends. 

To see what I can do for you in that regard, please contact me today!