Category Archives for "Blog"

September 3, 2020


Right now buyers and sellers alike are frustrated. Real estate is moving slowly due to the restrictions imposed by social distancing.

What that means is that while a few homes will be sold now, when the current health threat has passed, we should see buyers flooding into the market. 

Instead of waiting until that happens, take a few steps right now to be ready as both a seller and a buyer. 
Remember that your tax basis will be what you paid for the house, plus the improvements you’ve made. 

Next take inventory of your house

First, gather all the documentation and information buyers will need or want:

  • Utility bills
  • Property tax bills
  • Permits for any improvements you’ve made
  • Insurance policies
  • Warranties on anything that will stay with the house
  • Instructions / operating manuals for anything that will stay with the house
  • Contact information for services such as cable, internet, etc.
  • Contact information for people who provide services you use – a housekeeper, yard person, pool cleaner, dog walker, etc.

Now, as an income tax precaution, gather receipts for any improvements you’ve made to the house.

with an eye to both selling and your future purchase.

  • Write down everything you really don’t like or have wanted to change.
  • Write down everything you love and would like to have in your next house.
  • Gather attractive photos of the house during each season of the year.

Share the photos and the “loves” with your listing agent. Share the loves and don’t likes with your buyer’s agent when the time comes. 

If you want to go forward with limited showings right now, call me. I’ll be happy to help. 

September 3, 2020

Still at home during Covid & planning to sell… this is prep time!

If you plan to put your Orlando on the market and your still home during COVID, make good use of this time at home. Use it to get ready to sell.

You’ve heard that de-cluttering is important, so go through closets and shelves looking for things you haven’t worn or used in a year or more. If they’re still good and you know you’ll never use them, put them in a box or bag to donate.

  • If you have old blankets and towels that are only taking up space, remember that animal shelters always need more.
  • Do you have craft kits, yarn, or stacks of fabric you purchased but never used? Senior centers would love to have them. The same goes for books you aren’t going to read again.
  • If you have children, help them sort through forgotten toys and fill a box to donate to a women and children’s shelter.

Tackle the refrigerator and the kitchen and bathroom cabinets with an eye toward containers that are out-of-date and or empty/dried out. I have no idea why, but most of us have a few things that have gotten pushed to the back of a shelf and forgotten.

While you’re at it, take everything out and scrub those shelves. It will feel good – and will look good when buyers open the doors to take a peek.

Setting the donation boxes aside for your next trip past a drop point, start new boxes and fill them with seasonal clothes and toys. Label those boxes well, so you’ll know just where they go when you move them into your next home. Do the same with seasonal kitchen items and decor.

Remember – when your closets and cupboards are not crowded, your future buyers will have the impression of “plenty of space,” which is what most people do want. 

All of that can be a good 2 or 3 days’ worth of work – so when you’ve finished, do something to reward yourself for a job well done.

Do call me if you have a question about anything going on in the market – or if you need a suggestion for good places to donate those unneeded items here in Orlando.

September 3, 2020

How to choose the best mortgage lender in Orlando

When you’re getting ready to purchase an Orlando home, the first step (unless you have plenty of cash) is to become pre-approved for a mortgage loan.


Pre-approval gives you the confidence to make an offer, knowing that yes, you can afford that house. It also gives the home seller confidence that yes, you can close the transaction.


Some people confuse the terms pre-qualified and pre-approved. You’ll want to be pre-approved. That means that the lender has checked your credit, your income, your debts, etc. just as if you were ready to buy immediately. Pre-qualification can be done with a phone call, and it means nothing.


Of course, before you can become pre-approved, you need a mortgage lender.


The very worst ways to choose a mortgage lender:


1. Going online. We know. Some people have had success with online lenders. More have been frustrated by being “just a number,” by speaking to different representatives each time they call, and by being given false promises. Some of these lenders even use “bait and switch” tactics to get borrowers committed to them before adjusting their interest rates upward.

2. Assuming that the Orlando bank where you have accounts will serve you well as a borrower. Even if you have a personal relationship with a bank employee, this is a dangerous assumption.


While it’s true that you could be offered the best interest rates and service available, all too often, long-time bank customers are shocked by receiving the opposite. They get delays, frustration, and excessive fees. Sometimes they’re strung along for weeks, only to have their loans fail to close.


The very best way to choose a mortgage lender:

Ask your Orlando real estate agent for recommendations.


Your real estate agent is naturally just as interested in a smooth closing as you are, so he or she will not steer you wrong. Instead, your agent will provide you with 2 or 3 names of lenders who offer the best rates, the lowest fees, and the most efficient service possible.


These will be lenders who have served their clients well, and who are friendly, non-threatening, and easy to deal with. They’ll be cooperative in working with you and your agent and will be happy to provide pre-approval letters upon request.


If your current bank is on your agent’s “preferred” list, you’ll know it’s safe to use them.


Since we all do have different personalities, it can’t hurt to interview more than one lender before making a choice. The ease with which you interact will be important as the transaction progresses. In addition, different lenders have different loan programs available to them. You are entitled to a Good Faith Estimate to use in comparing offerings from competing lenders.


Are you getting ready to go shopping? Call me – I’ll be glad to share my list of preferred lenders who serve clients here in the Orlando area.

March 23, 2020

Should you have your Orlando home inspected prior to listing?

Today, many agents are recommending a pre-listing home inspection, for a few good reasons.

A pre-listing inspection:

  • Gives buyers an added level of confidence over and above the seller’s property condition report
  • Alerts sellers to problems that can or should be addressed prior to listing
  • Allows sellers to have repairs made less expensively
  • Can prevent “escrow fall out”


First, the confidence. 

When a licensed home inspector attests that prior repairs, additions, etc. were done correctly, or that the systems in the home are in excellent condition, it carries more weight than the homeowner’s assurance. If the inspector finds issues, the seller may either make needed repairs or simply disclose them. When repairs are made, the seller can attach documentation in the form of photos, invoices, etc. to assure the buyer that the work was done. On the other side of the question, if a seller discloses problems that he or she is not willing to correct, the buyer has even more confidence in the seller’s integrity. Some buyers will feel that the pre-inspection was “good enough” and will happily not spend the money on a second inspection. Others will hire a different inspector to verify the findings or to examine subsequent repairs.


Being alerted to problems is a benefit to sellers.

Things can go wrong that a seller doesn’t notice, so they cannot disclose or repair. It’s beneficial to know these things ahead of time so they can be addressed or so they can be disclosed and the price can be adjusted accordingly.


Making repairs ahead of listing is less costly. 

Repairs made in the period of time between the inspection and an already scheduled closing must be done in a hurry. They must also be done by a licensed contractor – often of the buyer’s choice. Thus, the homeowner has less chance of obtaining competitive bids or of making any of the repairs himself/herself.


A pre-listing inspection can prevent “escrow fall out.”

When the inspection is done just prior to closing and necessary repairs are extensive or time-consuming, some buyers won’t wait. Additionally, some won’t have confidence in repairs being made correctly, so they simply walk away. Repairs that were already completed will simply be noted on your property condition report and verified by the buyer’s inspector, should they opt for a second inspection.


Discuss a pre-listing inspection with your Orlando real estate professional.

If you decide to go forward, ask your agent to attend the inspection with you and to ask relevant questions. After the inspection, ask your agent for advice on what, if anything, you should do next. If repairs are necessary, he or she probably has a list or reputable contractors here in Orlando who can help. If no repairs are needed, your agent will know how to best use the information in marketing your home.


A pre-listing inspection is not a requirement to offering your Orlando home for sale, but in many cases, it is a wise idea.

February 18, 2020

Shifting the burden of closing costs when purchasing a home

Every home mortgage loan requires closing costs. These costs are separate from the money that will go to the seller at closing.
First, there are lender fees such as processing and underwriting fees. Then there are non-lender fees, which include title insurance premiums, appraisal fees, inspection fees, and perhaps attorney fees. They all add up, and they do have to be paid, one way or another.
You know that it’s wise to become pre-approved for a mortgage loan before beginning your search for an Orlando home. It is also wise to discuss your alternatives with regard to the down payment and closing costs.
Depending upon the market, the seller may be willing to pay some or all of your closing costs. In a buyer’s market, a seller might readily agree. However, in a tight seller’s market, you might have to increase the purchase price to offset this seller concession.
Since closing costs generally come in at between 1% and 2% of the selling price, the house should still appraise for enough to cover the price increase.
Another way to reduce the amount needed out-of-pocket at closing is to pay a slightly higher interest rate in exchange for a lender credit for closing costs.
Here’s how the alternatives will affect your monthly payment on a $300,000 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, assuming that your lender has offered you a 4.25% interest rate:
Option 1:
You pay your own closing costs on a $300,000 loan at 4.25%. Your monthly payment for principal and interest will be $1,476.
Option 2:
Your lender increases the interest rate to 4.5% and gives you a 1% credit ($3,000) for closing costs. Your monthly payment for principal and interest will be $1,520.
Option 3:
The seller agrees to pay 1% of the loan amount ($3,000) to assist with your closing costs. Your interest rate remains at 4.25% with a monthly payment of $1,476.
Option 4:
You increase the purchase price by 1% ($3,000) and the seller pays $3,000 in closing costs. Your loan is now $303,000 with an interest rate of 4.25%, and your monthly payment will be $1,491.
Your true closing costs will be more or less than the 1% used in this example, and a seller may be willing to pay some but not all of your closing costs without raising the purchase price.
Once you’ve shopped for an Orlando home and know the approximate price you’ll pay, go over these details once more with your lender and your agent. Understanding your alternatives will aid both in writing your home purchase offer and in negotiating with the seller.
February 18, 2020

When you want your Orlando home to sell quickly

You know that when you want your home to sell quickly and for top dollar, you need to fix-up, declutter, and clean everything until it sparkles. You may even want to stage the home. But that’s not all you need to do.

The final step, which is the easiest, is to get out of your Orlando home while it’s being shown.

Many sellers argue that they need to be there to answer questions. While it’s true that there may be questions, you still need to leave. If the buyers are truly interested, the questions will come after the showing.

Meanwhile, staying in the house could cause you to lose a sale because buyers can be shy. Many will hesitate to open closet doors or turn on faucets to check the water pressure. They won’t sit down in the living room to “see how it feels” or make comments to each other about the home’s features. They won’t walk through the rooms trying to decide if their furniture will fit.

When sellers are present, they feel uncomfortable and may not stay long enough to realize that yes – this could be the perfect house for them.


The second problem is that sellers who get into conversations with buyers or their agents can destroy their own bargaining positions. 

For instance, the potential buyers or their agent may ask why you’re moving, and your answer might indicate that you’re in a hurry and really need to sell. Thus, their offer will be lower than it might have been.

It really is no one’s business why you’re moving. It has nothing at all to do with the value of the house. But if someone asks you a direct question, you may find it difficult not to answer. If the buyers are truly interested and have a valid question, their agent will contact your agent.


Next, you could be drawn into a verbal negotiation that’s not in your best interests.

Some buyers, rather than being shy, are pushy. These buyers don’t want to wait to write an offer and have it presented. Instead, they’ll approach the seller with “Would you take…”

Answering that question without knowing all the details that go into an offer could clearly be against your best interests. “X dollars” could turn into “X minus many thousands” in seller concessions by the time the offer is written.


Lastly, a personality conflict could prevent a sale.

You (or the buyers) could let personal feelings get in the way of a successful purchase and sale. Sometimes people simply don’t like each other. There may be a silly reason such as their clothing or hairstyle or manner of speaking. One of you might remind the other of someone you don’t like. In today’s climate, a political remark might set one of you against the other.

There could even be no reason – but the negative feeling is there.

You could decide you don’t want your house to go to those folks. Or – they could decide they don’t want a house filled with your “energy.”

All things considered, it’s always in the seller’s best interests to be out of the house when buyers arrive. So, don’t question it – just do it.

February 18, 2020

You want to sell your Orlando home, but don’t want holiday showings…

That’s understandable, especially if you had houseguests or if you have children with vacation activities to juggle with your own work and holiday preparations. It can all become a bit “much.”

But now… the New Year is only a few days away. If you’re serious about selling, it’s time to get moving.

As the guests leave and the holiday decorations are packed away, take a critical look at your house.

  • Do you need to do some fix-up and clean-up?
  • Do you have too much furniture for the size of the rooms?
  • Are your closets and cabinets overflowing?

Rent a storage unit, get some sturdy boxes, and begin to de-clutter, cleaning as you go. Pack those holiday things away, along with the extra furniture, summer clothing and toys, dishes you only use on holidays, and the extra linens that are making it hard to shut the door on the linen closet.

Rid your kitchen and bathroom cabinets of outdated items and pack up the appliances you thought you would use, but never do.

Some of your competitors will have gotten ready before the holidays, so they’ll be ready to “go live” immediately after Christmas or New Year’s. It’s wise to join them or follow as soon as possible because there will be those people who are being transferred and need to find a new home here in Orlando in January.

When you’d like a fresh set of eyes to take a look and let you know what you need to do to get your Orlando home ready for market, call me. I’ll be glad to share what I’ve learned about what appeals to buyers – and I’ll be glad to do a market analysis to let you know your home’s value in today’s market.

February 18, 2020

To Decorate Or Not To Decorate For Holidays When Selling A Home?

We’re almost into the holidays, hard to believe! How can that affect the presentation of your Orlando home for sale?

You have the opportunity to make your house stand out on the block with some colorful décor. Who doesn’t stop for a beat and think “That’s nice” when they see corn stalks, pumpkins, and mums clustered around a gate post or an entry door?
Inside, holiday décor can lend a festive air and create a joyful atmosphere – something everyone wants to feel in their own home. It could be just the thing that makes a prospective buyer think “This is home.”

Each holiday presents that opportunity – but do be cautious.
Homeowners who go “all-out” in decorating could be harming, rather than helping the presentation of their homes.
Why? Because when it’s over-done, visitors will focus on the decorations instead of the house. In some cases, décor can even hide some of a home’s best features, while making rooms appear small and over-crowded.
So decorate. Add some lively colors and create a festive mood. But keep a light touch. You want those visitors to focus on your home, not your decorating skills.

February 18, 2020

First time homebuyers – Are you ready to begin viewing homes?

You are if you’ve covered these first important steps:

  1. Your finances are in order. You’ve put your credit in good shape, and you’ve saved some money for a down payment, closing costs, and moving in.  Yes, it’s true that some loan programs will get you in with no down payment. And in some cases you can combine that with seller-paid closing costs, so you have zero out of pocket to acquire the house.
  2. But don’t forget that even at that, you will have expenses.  They might be as minor as a gallon of paint, a new doormat, or some shrubs to grace the front yard, but there will be expenses. Yard and lawn care tools, garbage cans (if not provided by the city). Remember also that some utilities may require deposits.
  3. You understand your own budget and your own spending habits. Your lender will tell you what you can spend on an Orlando home based on your income and current debt.  However, he or she has no way of knowing about other non-debt expenditures that are important to you. For instance, you may enjoy attending concerts or eating out once a week. You may spend all year looking forward to a week at the beach or on a ski hill. You may believe your children will be deprived if they can’t spend two weeks each summer at an expensive camp.  Leave room in your budget for these important expenditures, and leave room to set a bit aside each month as a safety net or for future investment.
  4. You’re well aware of the costs of homeownership and you’re prepared for them. Taxes and insurance may be included in your monthly mortgage payment, but you’ll still have utilities, possible HOA fees, maintenance costs, and if your new home is farther from work,  commuting costs beyond what you have now.

You’ve sorted out the difference between your needs and your wants.  You may actually need a set number of bedrooms, space for an office, or a yard for your dogs. Your “want” list will likely be much longer.  Speaking of dogs, if they’re part of your family, make sure your agent is aware of the fact. Some communities do restrict the number and/or size of dogs that are allowed.

Before you begin your search for a home in Orlando, know what your future home must have and don’t bother looking at houses that don’t qualify. From there you can work on finding a home with features you simply want.

You’ve chosen a neighborhood, based on your own research. A house is just one small island in a neighborhood. Make sure you’ll be happy thereby meeting a few of the neighbors, checking the crime statistics, researching the schools, and checking the distance to amenities and services that are important to you. (If you must visit the gym every morning before work, you won’t want to drive 30 miles to get there)!

You’ve chosen an agent to help you find the right home and to guide you through the process. Real estate transactions today can be complicated, so don’t try to go it alone. Remember that it costs the buyer nothing to have representation, so choose an agent who will be your ally from start to finish.

Are you ready to begin your search for a home in Orlando? If so, get in touch. I’d love to help you find that “just right” home, and to protect your interests as you navigate the process from offer to closing.

February 18, 2020

Sellers… Are You Ready For That Home Inspection?

Your Orlando / Central Florida home is under contract. Now you get to wait (and possibly worry) until the home inspection and appraisal are complete.
Are you ready for that home inspection?  If you’re like most homeowners, the answer could be “No.”
Even if your home is sparkling clean, it may not offer access to everything the home inspector needs to see. Since home inspectors do NOT move furnishings or go in search of access, that could result in an inspection report with items listed as “not tested” or “unable to access/not inspected.”
Then what? The buyers could disappear, or you could be asked to pay for a second inspection since you did not provide sufficient access. Neither is an attractive option.
The common trouble spot is access to the attic and crawl space. Attic access may be hidden in a closet or located in a garage above a storage space where access is impossible until stored items are moved.
The crawl space access might be beneath stairs or under the carpet. It could even be under a dresser or a washing machine. It could also be outside the house, via a door in the foundation.
If the inspector doesn’t know where to find these access spots, or if they are blocked by furniture, boxes, etc. they won’t be inspected. And, as you might assume, attics and crawl spaces can be the source of problems ranging from mold, to termites, to water damage, to structural problems. The inspector needs to see them.
So be sure to let the inspector know where to find access, then remove all obstacles to getting there.
Access is just the beginning. If the crawl space or attic is crammed full of stored items, the inspector still might not be able to do a complete job, so be sure to remove excess “stuff” before the inspection.
Next, move any furniture or obstruction away from radiators, heating elements, heating vents, air conditioning vents, water heaters, breaker boxes, electrical panels, and electrical outlets. (Yes, he or she will test each outlet.) Replace all burned-out light bulbs so the inspector can see that those fixtures are in working order.
Now get to work on the kitchen and bathrooms. You might want to bring in some sturdy boxes, for this, because you need to remove everything from under the sinks and the top of toilet tank lids.
Empty the fireplace of everything but faux gas logs. Empty the dishwasher. If the kitchen range and/or the washer and dryer are staying, empty them as well.
Trim shrubbery and other plants away from hose bibs, dryer vents, the air conditioner, and outdoor lighting and electrical outlets.
Move all vehicles out of the garage.
Have all keys and codes available so the inspector will have easy access to the entire house – inside and out.
Before you leave your Orlando / Central Florida home for the inspection:

  • Turn off your computer. The inspector may be turning the power on and off, and that could cause data loss or damage.
  • Put your pets in the car with you, or in kennel cages.

If you’ve already moved out:
Be sure that the utilities are turned on and pilot lights are burning.
If your appliances use propane or fuel oil, be sure there is enough in the tanks to keep things running during the inspection.
A bonus for you: Since you’ll be moving soon, look at the things you’ve moved for the inspection with an eye toward putting them in storage or packing them in boxes for the move right now. You’ll be one small step ahead when it comes time for the move.

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