Your Beginner’s Guide to Home Appraisals

 

Appraisals are used as a reliable, independent valuation of a tract of land and the structure on it, whether it’s a house or a skyscraper. Designed to protect buyers, sellers, and lending institutions, appraisals are an important part of the buying/selling process.

Below, you will find information about the appraisal process, what goes into them, their benefits and some tips on how to help make an appraisal go smoothly and efficiently.

 

Appraisal value vs. market value

The appraiser’s value is determined by using a combination of factors such as comparative market analyses and their inspection of the property to determine if the listing price is typical for the area.

Market value, on the other hand, is what a buyer is willing to pay for a home or what homes of comparable value are selling for.

If you are in the process of setting the price of your home, you can gain some peace-of-mind by consulting an independent appraiser. Show them comparative values for your neighborhood, relevant documents, and give them a tour of your home, just as you would show it to a prospective buyer.

 

What information goes into an appraisal?

Professional appraisers consult a range of information sources, including multiple listing services, county tax assessor records, county courthouse records, and appraisal data records, in addition to talking to local real estate professionals.

They also conduct an inspection. Typically, an appraiser’s inspection focuses on:

  • The condition of the property and home, inside and out.
  • The home’s layout and features.
  • Home updates.
  • Overall quality of construction.
  • Estimate of the home’s square footage (the gross living area “GLA”; garages and unfinished basements are estimated separately).
  • Permanent fixtures (for example, in-ground pools, as opposed to above-ground pools).

After the inspection, the appraiser of a typical single-family home will create their report including their professional opinion on what the price of the home should be.

You might hear the lender ask for two reports, the “Sales Comparison Approach” and the “Cost Approach.” These two approaches use different methodologies to find the appropriate value of the home, and help the lender confirm the home’s price.

 

Who pays and how long does it take?

The buyer usually pays for the appraisal unless they have negotiated otherwise. Depending on the lender, the appraisal may be paid in advance or incorporated into the application fee; some are due on delivery and some are billed at closing. Typical costs range from $275-$600, but this can vary from region to region.

An inspection usually takes anywhere from 15 minutes to several hours, depending on the size and complexity of your property. In addition, the appraiser spends time pulling up county records for the values of the houses around you. A full report is sent to your loan officer, real estate agent, and/or lender in about a week.

If you are the seller, you won’t get a copy of an appraisal ordered by a buyer. Under the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, however, the buyer has the right to get a copy of the appraisal if they request it. Typically, the requested appraisal is provided at closing.

 

What if the appraisal is too low?

A low appraisal can present a problem when there’s a large difference between what you’ve agreed to pay and the appraisal price.

Usually, the seller’s agents and the buyer’s agent will respond by looking for recent sold and pending listings of comparable homes. Sometimes this can influence the appraisal. If the final appraisal is well below what you have agreed to pay, you can re-negotiate the contract or cancel it.

 

Where do you find a qualified appraiser?

Your bank or lending institution will find and hire an appraiser; Federal regulatory guidelines do not allow borrowers to order and provide an appraisal to a bank for lending purposes. If you want an appraisal for your own personal reasons and not to secure a mortgage or buy a homeowner’s insurance policy, you can do the hiring yourself. You can contact your lending institution and they can recommend qualified appraisers and you can choose one yourself or you can call your local Windermere Real Estate agent and they can make a recommendation for you. Once you have the name of some appraisers you can verify their status on the Federal Appraisal Subcommittee website.

 

Tips for hassle-free appraisals:

To ensure the appraisal process is smooth and efficient, provide your appraiser with the information and documents he or she needs to get the job done. The documents you will need include:

  • A brief explanation of why you’re getting an appraisal
  • The date you’d like your appraisal to be completed
  • A copy of your deed, survey, purchase agreement, or other papers that pertain to the property
  • A sketch of the property with the property’s dimensions. These are usually available online from the county assessors.
  • If you have a mortgage, provide the information about your lender, the year you got your mortgage, the amount, the type of mortgage (FHA, VA, etc.), your interest rate, and any additional financing you have.
  • A copy of your current real estate tax bill, statement of special assessments, balance owing and on what (for example, sewer, water)
  • Tell your appraiser if your property is listed for sale and if so, your asking price and listing agency.
  • If it’s a multiple offer situation, provide the appraiser with the other offers to prove the demand for the home.
  • Any personal property that is included in the sale, like appliances and other fixtures.
  • If you’re selling an income-producing property, a breakdown of income and expenses for the last year or two and a copy of leases.
  • A copy of the original house plans and specifications.
  • A list of recent improvements and their costs.
  • Any other information you feel may be relevant.

By doing your homework, compiling the information your appraiser needs, and providing it at the beginning of the process, you can minimize unnecessary delays.

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Mistakes to Avoid When Buying and Selling a Home

 

There’s nothing more exciting, rewarding, and fulfilling than buying a home. However, it’s a complex transaction; there are a number of steps along the path that can confuse, betwixt, and befuddle even the most seasoned buyers and sellers.

How can you avoid those potential pitfalls and common mistakes? Look to your real estate professional for advice and keep these guidelines in mind:

 

BUYERS:

 

#1 Review your credit reports ahead of time

Review your credit report a few months before you begin your house hunt, and you’ll have time to ensure the facts are correct and be able to dispute mistakes before a mortgage lender checks your credit. Get a copy of your credit report from Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Why all three? Because, if the scores differ, the bank will typically use the lowest one. Alert the credit bureaus if you see any mistakes, fix any problems you discover, and don’t apply for any new credit until after your home loan closes.

 

#2 Get pre-approved

Before getting serious about your hunt for a new house, you’ll want to choose a lender and get pre-approved for a mortgage (not just pre-qualified—which is a cursory review of your finances—but pre-approved for a loan of a specific amount). Pre-approval lets sellers know you’re serious. Most importantly, pre-approval will help you determine exactly how much you can comfortably afford to spend.

 

#3 Know what you want

You and your real estate agent should both be clear about the house you want to buy. Put it in writing. First, make a list of all the features and amenities you really want. Then, number each item and prioritize them. Now, divide the list into must-haves and really-wants.

 

#4 Account for hidden costs

In addition to the purchase price of the home, there are additional costs you need to take into consideration, such as closing costs, appraisal fees, and escrow fees. Once you find a prospective home, you’ll want to:

  • Get estimates for any repairs or remodeling it may need.
  • Estimate how much it will cost to maintain (gas, electric, utilities, etc.).
  • Determine how much you’ll pay in taxes monthly and/or annually.
  • Learn whether there are any homeowner’s or development dues associated with the property.

 

#5 Get an inspection

Buying a home is emotionally charged—which can make it difficult for buyers to see the house for what it truly is. That’s why you need impartial third parties who can help you logically analyze the condition of the property. Your agent is there to advise you, but you also need a home inspector to assess any hidden flaws, structural damage or faulty systems.

 

#6 Evaluate the neighborhood and location

When house hunting, it’s easy to become overly focused on the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the condition of the home and its amenities while overlooking the subtleties of the surrounding neighborhood. Take time to check crime reports, school options, churches and shopping. If schools are a key factor, do more than simply research the statistics; speak with the principal(s) and chat with the parents waiting outside.

 

 

SELLERS:

 

#1 Avoid becoming emotional or sentimental about the sale

Once you decide to sell your house, it’s time to strip out the emotion and look at it as a commodity in a business transaction. If you start reminiscing about all the good times you had and the hard work you invested, it will only make it that much harder to successfully price, prepare, and market the home.

 

#2 Fix problems (or price accordingly)

Homes with deferred maintenance and repair issues can take far longer to sell and can be subject to last-minute sale-cancellations. These homes also often sell for less than their legitimate market value. If you simply can’t afford to address critical issues, be prepared to work with your agent to price and market your home accordingly.

 

#3 Don’t overprice your home (and/or refuse to negotiate)

Getting top dollar is the dream of every seller. But it’s essential that you let the market dictate that price, not your emotions or financial situation. Allow your agent to research and prepare a market analysis that factors in the value of similar homes in the area, and trust those results.

 

#4 Use quality photos

The vast majority of prospective buyers today search for homes online first. In order to make a good first impression, you need a wealth of high-quality photos of your home and surrounding grounds. You may also need to consider professional staging in order to position your home in the best possible light for prospective buyers.

 

 

The process of buying or selling a home can have plenty of twists and turns, but with some smart decision making, you can avoid the most common mistakes and pitfalls.

 

Click here if you would like to connect with an experienced real estate agent.

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Should I Move or Remodel?

Posted in BuyingSelling, and Living by Kenady Swan 

There are a number of things that can trigger the decision to remodel or move to a new home. Perhaps you have outgrown your current space, you might be tired of struggling with ancient plumbing or wiring systems, or maybe your home just feels out of date. The question is: Should you stay or should you go? Choosing whether to remodel or move involves looking at a number of factors. Here are some things to consider when making your decision.

 

Five reasons to move:

1. Your current location just isn’t working.

Unruly neighbors, a miserable commute, or a less-than-desirable school district—these are factors you cannot change. If your current location is detracting from your overall quality of life, it’s time to consider moving. If you’re just ready for a change, that’s a good reason, too. Some people are simply tired of their old homes and want to move on.

2. Your home is already one of the nicest in the neighborhood.

Regardless of the improvements you might make, location largely limits the amount of money you can get for your home when you sell. A general rule of thumb for remodeling is to make sure that you don’t over-improve your home for the neighborhood. If your property is already the most valuable house on the block, additional upgrades usually won’t pay off in return on investment at selling time.

3. There is a good chance you will move soon anyway.

If your likelihood of moving in the next two years is high, remodeling probably isn’t your best choice. There’s no reason to go through the hassle and expense of remodeling and not be able to enjoy it. It may be better to move now to get the house you want.

4. You need to make too many improvements to meet your needs.

This is particularly an issue with growing families. What was cozy for a young couple may be totally inadequate when you add small children. Increasing the space to make your home workable may cost more than moving to another house. In addition, lot size, building codes, and neighborhood covenants may restrict what you can do. Once you’ve outlined the remodeling upgrades that you’d like, a real estate agent can help you determine what kind of home you could buy for the same investment.

5. You don’t like remodeling.

Remodeling is disruptive. It may be the inconvenience of loosing the use of a bathroom for a week, or it can mean moving out altogether for a couple of months. Remodeling also requires making a lot of decisions. You have to be able to visualize new walls and floor plans, decide how large you want windows to be, and where to situate doors. Then there is choosing from hundreds of flooring, countertop, and fixture options. Some people love this. If you’re not one of them, it is probably easier to buy a house that has the features you want already in place.

 

Five reasons to remodel:

1. You love your neighborhood.

You can walk to the park, you have lots of close friends nearby, and the guy at the espresso stand knows you by name. There are features of a neighborhood, whether it’s tree-lined streets or annual community celebrations, that you just can’t re-create somewhere else. If you love where you live, that’s a good reason to stay.

2. You like your current home’s floor plan.

The general layout of your home either works for you or it doesn’t. If you enjoy the configuration and overall feeling of your current home, there’s a good chance it can be turned into a dream home. The combination of special features you really value, such as morning sun or a special view, may be hard to replicate in a new home.

3. You’ve got a great yard.

Yards in older neighborhoods often have features you cannot find in newer developments, including large lots, mature trees, and established landscaping. Even if you find a new home with a large lot, it takes considerable time and expense to create a fully landscaped yard.

4. You can get exactly the home you want.

Remodeling allows you to create a home tailored exactly to your lifestyle. You have control over the look and feel of everything, from the color of the walls to the finish on the cabinets. Consider also that most people who buy a new home spend up to 30 percent of the value of their new house fixing it up the way they want.

5. It may make better financial sense.

In some cases, remodeling might be cheaper than selling. A contractor can give you an estimate of what it would cost to make the improvements you’re considering. A real estate agent can give you prices of comparable homes with those same features. But remember that while remodeling projects add to the value of your home, most don’t fully recover their costs when you sell.

 

Remodel or move checklist:

Here are some questions to ask when deciding whether to move or remodel.

1.      How much money can you afford to spend?

2.      How long do you plan to live in your current home?

3.      How do you feel about your current location?

4.      Do you like the general floor plan of your current house?

5.      Will the remodeling you’re considering offer a good return on investment?

6.      Can you get more house for the money in another location that you like?

7.      Are you willing to live in your house during a remodeling project?

8.      If not, do you have the resources to live elsewhere while you’re remodeling?

 

If you have questions about whether remodeling or selling is a wise investment, or are looking for an agent in your area, we have professionals that can help you. Contact us here.

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Sellers: Making the Most of your First Impressions

As the old saying goes, you only have one chance to make a first impression. If you’re selling your home, it’s true, except that there are several impressions to be made, and each one might have its own effect on the unique tastes of a prospective buyer. I’ve worked with scores of buyers, witnessed hundreds of showings, and I can summarize that experience down this: a tidy and well maintained home, priced right, listed with professional photographs, enhanced curb appeal and onsite visual appeal will sell fastest. We all know first impressions are very important, but the lasting impressions are the ones that sell your home. It’s not easy, but if you can detach a little and look at your home from a buyer’s perspective, the answers to selling it quickly may become obvious to you.

The very first impression your home will make is through its web presence, whether on Windermere.com, the MLS, Craigslist or any multitude of websites. Fair or not, the price is typically the very first thing people look at, and it will be the measurement by which your home is judged. You can always adjust to the right price later, but the impact is lost. It will take something dramatic to get a buyer to reassess the way they feel about the value of your home.

Closely following price are the listing photos. According to this recent article in the Wall Street Journal, professional photos will not only impact your first impressions, it may also make a difference in the final selling price. Great photos might even overcome those initial price objections. Does the exterior photo capture your home at its hi-res best? Does the accompanying text enhance or distract? Online, your home has only a few seconds to capture the home buyer’s attention. If it doesn’t, they’ll click the “Back” button and resume their search. The goal is to have buyers excitedly calling their agents to arrange a showing.

Another old saying is “Location, location, location,” and sure enough, the first live impression of your home is the location. Forget this one; you can’t move your home. There’s not much you can do about location, right? Actually, there is one thing you can do: price it right from the start.

Let’s move on to the first time a buyer sees your home as they pull to the curb out front. Go stand out at the curb and look at it the way you would if you were shopping for a home. Sometimes, a couple hours of labor and $100 worth of beauty bark can be worth thousands in the sales price. I’ve had buyers choose not to get out of the car when we pulled up to a home that they had once been excited to see.

Likewise, I’ve had buyers say they’ve seen enough simply by peaking into the front door. The nose trumps the eyes when it comes to the first impression when entering the house. Buyers get more caught up in the details. Once the home shopper is inside, it’s easy for them to get distracted and focus on something that seems to have nothing to do with the structure they will be buying, from a dirty dish in the sink to a teenager’s bedroom that’s been decorated in posters and/or melodrama. Do everything you can to set a positive lasting impression. The buyer may look at dozens of homes. What is your strategy to convince them to make an offer on yours?

Guest post by Eric Johnson, Director of Education

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Staging Your Home – Pink Flamingos not included

It can sometimes be tough to hear an agent asking you to hide your prize possessions when preparing your home for sale. I overheard two agents giving each other advice about how to politely help their sellers relocate their pink flamingo display and car collection off the front yard before putting the homes on the market.

Studies indicate that buyers decide if they’re interested within the first 30 seconds Pink Flamingoof entering a home. You get one chance to make a first impression.

Make sure your house looks attractive, well maintained and move-in ready at a glance. Before you put out your “for sale” sign, put these tasks on your to do list.

•  Get your yard in shape—Mow the lawn, trim the hedges, haul away debris, sweep the walk, porches and patio, and consider adding some potted plants or hanging baskets for a touch of color.

•  Keep it clean—Make sure your house can pass the white-glove test. Polish windows and scrub bathrooms, appliances, counters and floors until they gleam. Vacuum carpets, rugs, drapes and upholstery. Dust shelves, floorboards and molding.

• Give it a fresh coat—Paint the front door, walls leading to entrances, ceiling stains, cracks, chipped or damaged areas. A little paint goes a long way to improve the look of your home.

• Just fix it—Repair anything that needs it, including broken doorbells, torn screens, leaky faucets, broken deck railings or banisters, damaged floor tiles or doors that don’t close properly.

• Lose the chaos—Organize your rooms, closets and basement—anywhere a prospective buyer is likely to look.  And don’t forget to remove pets and litter boxes.

• Set the stage—Help prospective buyers imagine life in your house. Remove excess furniture and rearrange what remains so that rooms look spacious and welcoming. Light scented candles, play soft music, add flowers here and there, you might even bake cookies.

• Hire a pro—Don’t have time to get your house ready to show? Turn to a realtor with an ASP® (Accredited Staging Professional) designation to stage your house professionally.

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