Picking the right contractor for your next home improvement

Remodeling projects for your home can be as intimidating as they are rewarding.  Having the right team to get the job done can make a huge difference.  Building your team starts by determining what kinds of professionals you will need.

While small jobs only require trade specialists such as a plumbing contractor or an electrical contractor, larger projects may require architects, general contractors, interior designers…or all of the above.

Whatever the case may be, we have put together a short list to help you begin with more confidence.  Here are five helpful topics to help screen prospective contractors:

1: Check your contractors experience & credentials.  Look up your contractor online at: http://www.cslb.ca.gov and see if they are licensed.  You can also find out how long they have been licensed as well as a list of any complaints against them.

2: Ask for referrals.  Most contractors have references available.  It’s to your advantage to take the time to call the references and ask them questions about quality of workmanship, communication and dependability.

3:  See their work!  Most contractors are proud of their work and often have photos of recent jobs completed.  Looking through photos will provide insight as to what you can expect.  consider visiting recent and older projects to view the craftsmanship and durability of work done.

4:  Discuss the process.  Almost always…homeowners live at the job site.  Discussing things like safety, security and access to your home – all have value for the upcoming project. Remember, some contractors work alone, while others have crews.  Getting clarity on this upfront will help you in feeling more comfortable during construction.

5:  Establish trust.  A contractor with a detailed, specific plan is important, but you should also rely on your ‘gut’ that you could trust someone with a project of this magnitude.  Being comfortable with your contractor is very important.  Is the contractor listening to your requests and providing feedback?  How hard is it to reach your contractor? If there are construction delays…how will they handle it?

As a real estate broker, I appreciate the efforts my clients make to improve their homes…for both their current enjoyment and the added value it adds when the sell.

Hopefully the items listed above will help you in your search for the right contractor.  If you have any feedback or suggestions for a future article, please reply to my blog or email me at scott@mycvre.com


Oakdale Mustangs – Boys Varsity Water Polo 2015

Oakdale Water Polo is on a roll this season!
Oakdale Water Polo is on a roll this season!  With a large number of Senior players, Oakdale High School is on a mission to win their division this year!
Logan Cary is one of the youngest players this season and is working hard to defend the goal.
Logan Cary is one of the youngest players this season and is working hard to defend the goal.  He has worked hard in the off-season to develop his skills and with a tough varsity schedule…The Mustangs will need his best effort.
Oakdale Mustangs Water Polo players are amazing swimmers and hungry for a goal!
Oakdale Mustangs Water Polo players are amazing swimmers and hungry for a goal!

If you are in Oakdale, Ca. catch one of the matches.  Both the boys and girls varsity level games are sure to impress you!

Find out more on Facebook.  Search: Oakdale Water Polo Club

Don’t SINK your Sale!

If you are like most sellers, you want to sell your home for top dollar…in the fastest amount of time!  In order to do this, you will need to keep the potential buyers wishes at the top of your mind.   Across the country, the real estate market has recovered and many traditional sellers are reaping the rewards from the past foreclosure market gains – so expect to have competition!

Many elements which served you well as a homeowner may be potentially damaging when it comes time to sell.  Here are 5 of the most common items that hurt a real estate sale.

1.  Carpeting.  While it is nice to have soft, padded carpeting to walk on, the reality is most potential buyers prefer hardwood or laminate flooring.  Furthermore, many will see carpeting as traps for odors such as pet smells and often feel carpeting is to hard to keep clean and tends to be personalized in color.

2. Transforming or altering bedrooms.  if you have a home that has four bedrooms, when it comes time to sell, you are going to want potential buyers to see four bedrooms. Transforming a bedroom into a walk-in closet or an office or sewing room with ‘built-ins’ may be something you will enjoy while you are living there, but it will be a big negative to potential buyers.

3.  Accent walls.  Accent walls are an inexpensive decorating tip and are popular with many homeowners.  However, the reality is many potential buyers view even small fixes like changing paint as money, worry and work.

4.  Small appliances.  While you may be pressed for space and like the slim-line version of your favorite appliance, most home buyers prefer to see full size and scale appliances.  Appliances are expensive, and many homeowners will not want to purchase new ones when they buy your home.

5.  Pools and hot tubs.  These may be status symbols in your neighborhood, and if you live in a hot climate, they are perhaps a necessity.  Even so, many home buyers see pools as a negative, especially families with small children who have safety concerns.  On the same note, many home buyers are turned off by hot tubs and view them as potential breeding ground for germs.  Both pool and hot tubs are also seen as potential negatives to home buyers because of maintenance costs.

Scott Cary is a real estate Broker in California and an Associate with RE/MAX Executive in Modesto, Ca. If you are considering the sale of your home, Scott can help guide you through the sales process so that you can sell fast and receive top dollar.

What is ‘Staging’…?

Insider tips on staging your home for sale can be found on many real estate websites or blog posts, although many sellers fail to pay attention to the obvious!  As a real estate broker who has viewed hundreds of homes over the past few years…take my word for it – “A clean home is not a staged home.”

I give credit to the sellers that make a point to thoroughly clean their home, touch-up paint and remove clutter and then follow the steps needed to stage their home so that it stands out among the competition.  On the website ‘homesearch209.com’ you will find a dozen short videos on this topic, each covering specific areas of your home.  Sellers are able to watch these videos and identify simple and smart staging ideas for interior and exterior parts of the home as well as topics such as odor and landscaping tips.

Let’s be clear, real estate is a visual experience!  Yes the numbers matter, although because of the online influence in marketing…if you don’t have quality photos of your home, showing the proper display of a room – you have a chance of losing potential buyers.

One may argue that in a ‘seller’s market’ it is not important to stage your home in order to sell it.  Clearly, if you are the only home offered…this could be true, but even in a seller’s market – we still have competition.

Where to start: Contact a good real estate agent! The right agent will guide you in the right direction so you avoid spending to much on items that are not needed.  The last thing I want to see if for my client wasting money on items that will not bring a return!

Every city has one or two professional staging companies that can help…while some homes simply need re-arranging, others may need fresh paint or new furniture added.  If cost is a factor, consider picking up a book on this subject or visit nearby model homes for ideas.

Remember, the best place to start is by watching the online videos at: http://www.homesearch209.com. They are free and informative.  Simply click on the ‘seller’ tab and locate the Video drop down…the rest is easy!

Enjoy and may your home sell fast and for top dollar!

Mastering Real Estate AWARD!

I did it again…Thanks to YOU!

I did it again… Thanks to all the families I was able to help in 2014!  I treasure the friendships I have made and look forward to serving more people in 2015.  And… (We) RE/MAX Executive led the way to another dominate showing in the 2014 Central Valley Realtors ‘MASTERS CLUB’ most successful agents awards.

This yearly award is only met when agents reach a specific number of sales and/ or sales volume qualifying us for this prestigious designation.   RE/MAX Executive had a record ‘12 agents’ who meet the guidelines needed – with only a total of 40 agents among the nearly 1,100 local real estate agents in Stanislaus and San Joaquin County.

In your daily travels…you are sure to meet one if not several real estate agents!  But, when it comes time to buy or sell your home, choosing the right agent makes all the difference!  Remember, an agent with the Master’s Club ‘designation’ simply means the agent is devoted to good work ethics, professionalism and a proven track record of past sales.  Because at the end of the day, your agent is there to make things happen for you and my past sales success means more knowledge for you to get the job done right!

Selling a Home While Tenant Occupied

Selling a home when it is being rented is not the easiest of tasks, although if you have no other choice, consider the following facts and ideas in order to make the process workout in your benefit.

  1. Property management. If you working with a property management company, you will need to contact them to obtain a copy of the current lease agreement.  This will show you the term remaining on the lease so that you know your obligation to the tenant. I recommend sending a certified letter to the property management company for this document to create a paper trail from this point forward.  Remember, not all homes sell quickly, so you may still need the services of a property management company.  Inform them that you are planning on selling your property and they too can also help guide you with suggestions of dealing with this process while it is rented.

Property management companies resign tenants for 6 month and 12 month terms quickly to guarantee their occupancy         levels, so timing is critical here.  If the lease was just renewed, it can interfere with your efforts to sell your home.            Reading through the lease agreement and the property management agreement on file to determine how best to move forward.

  1. Tenant cooperation is vital! Often the best approach is to simply have a conversation with the tenant.  Explain to the tenant that you want to make this experience as convenient as possible for them and with their help, come up with a common ground for showings.  On occasion, I have had pre-arranged ‘showing times’ on Tuesdays and Saturdays between 1:00-3:00.  With a couple options, tenants don’t feel so put out.  Remember, tenants have rights, so if you can’t come to an understanding, you may simply need to start the eviction process.  (Be sure to check with local and state regulations regarding tenant eviction.)  It’s also important to have your agent help communicate with them as he/she will be the one reaching out to them when an appointment is needed.
  1. Realistic expectations. The typical fear of a tenant is that hundreds of people will be walking through their home without notice!  This is not the case.  Often investment properties are marketed with no interior inspections until an offer is presented.  Of course this will delay the sale process and is not recommended.  Most commonly, you can require your agent to simply pre-screen the potential buyers and encourage the buyer’s agent to stick to the guide lines set in the MLS for pre-arranged showing times.  Tenants also need to understand that they will not be forced to move without proper notice.  Rental regulations protect tenants in this situation, although most tenants are not familiar with the eviction rules, so take time to educate them on this topic and you will get more cooperation.

Of course, it is to the seller’s advantage to serve written notice to the tenant once they decide to sell in order to         eliminate a long eviction if the future buyer wishes to occupy the property.

  1. Tenant wants to stay! Often, sellers are selling a rental property and the tenant is happy and wants to stay!  Remind the tenant that many of the buyers are also investors and looking for good tenants.  Encourage your tenant to cooperate and show pride of occupancy, as the next buyer could be the new landlord.  This also gives you an opportunity to clean the carpets, touch-up interior paint and fix a leaky faucet, as it will make a tenant happy and the potential buyer will appreciate the condition.
  1. Don’t offer a discount! Sellers are often sympathetic about selling a rental property and try to create ways to motivate a tenant to gain cooperation.  While this is good, also remember to avoid giving cash discounts.  If you are selling to an investor, the first thing the investor will look at is current rental figures and they will want to see proof of rents.  So, if you have reduced your rent to help motivate a tenant, this will hurt your CAP rate.   Also, it has been proven that this approach will also not benefit the seller, as many tenants do their best to avoid a move-out so that the rental discount continues longer than anticipated.  Past experience has shown that a cash incentive after the sale is more helpful.  Consider it a ‘move-out’ credit to help with relocating or a ‘tenant assistance’ fee for helping keep the property clean and presentable.  This fee is negotiable…it could be as low as $250.  To $1,000.
  1. FACTS.  Understand that the seller will be required to disclose all known facts about the property, and if the tenant stays, there will be additional disclosure needed.  On this note, the tenant will be asked to verify a tenant estoppels form.  This verifies how much deposit was originally made and the monthly rent paid.  Keep in mind, the tenant is also very helpful if asked “What is wrong with this property?”  So, if you know of a problem, rest assured, the tenants does also and will eagerly share it when asked.  The lesson here is, make repairs early, because you will not only have a happy tenant, but the tenant will be able to answer honestly with “Everything works fine.”
  1. Closing costs. Selling an investment property includes some additional tax consequences.  Talk with your CPA or tax advisor regarding the sale of your investment property before you begin marketing your property. Investors often choose to use a 1031 Tax Deferred Exchange to reinvest their profits in a sale.  Due to the complexity of the exchange be sure to consult your CPA for a recommendation.

For more information about this topic, please contact Scott Cary at RE/MAX Executive (209) 402-8000.  www.homesearch209.com or EM: scott@mycvre.com CalBRE#01024173

What should a For-Sale-By-Owner know in 2015?

Why pay a commission if we can do it ourselves!  It can’t be that hard to put up a sign in the yard, plus I can hold an ‘Open House’ on the weekend!…  In the public’s eye, it must appear that selling real estate is just that easy.

In talking with some past sellers who started as for-sale-by-owners, many admitted that they originally perceived the process of selling a home to be similar to that of selling a used car or boat.  In fact, this is the farthest from the truth.  Often, an agent puts in countless hours in evaluation, preparation and marketing time prior to a sale and additional time to review offers, qualifying buyers, negotiating contracts, overseeing the escrow, meeting appraisers and ordering property inspections.

No matter what the market conditions, the real estate agent generally see’s a couple ‘For-Sale-by-Owners’ in the marketplace at any given time. Truth be told, many agents avoid the FSBO’s because they simply think it’s easier to just sell ‘MLS listed’ properties.  The FSBO (for sale by owner) should know that the ‘MLS’ (Multiple Listing Service) has an agreement between all brokerages to pay their office a commission when a sale closes…and not all FSBO are honest.

FACT 1: The experienced real estate agents primarily only show a FSBO as a last resort and only after exhausting all homes on the MLS…more importantly, most buyers find a home before they would even consider looking at FSBO home. “This is a big purchase that buyer’s don’t take lightly”, Scott says “and they want solid representation every step of the way.”

If a real estate agent calls to show a FSBO home, the agent will (in most cases) ask the seller to sign a commission agreement  (before bringing the buyer to the property) confirming the seller will pay them a sales commission when it closes.

FACT 2: More often than not, most FSBO homes are priced higher than the suggested list price. Real estate agents know the area and home values around a particular property, so it’s rare to ever see a property priced below value! In most cases the FSBO price is higher than the area comparable sales and this only hurts their property.

As a previous office manager, many of my agents would share stories of meeting with a FSBO who just wanted confirmation that they were priced right.  Although, many times the seller would not agree with the agent and still challenge the suggested price hoping for more of a return.

FACT 3:  It’s a numbers game…and the frustrating thing for the FSBO is that they only have one home to sell. This fact typically turns them into more of a sales person trying to convince the buyer to purchase one home rather than that of an agent working with other agents in the community who simply are trying to find the buyer the right home.

FACT 4:  Studies have shown that when a buyer finds a home offered by the principle… (FSBO) they know there isn’t a real estate agents commission involved, so they know that there is generally a 5-7% bargaining chip (although commissions are not fixed, buyers see some similarities) when they write an offer.   The FSBO should understand that the buyer has (in most cases) been shopping for a home, either online or with an agent. The knowledge the buyer obtained during this process most likely has helped them appreciate a good home at a good value!  So if a deduction is considered…the FSBO is in essence, working for free!

FACT 5:   The National Association of Realtors reports that 97% of all ‘For-Sale-by-Owners’ end up listing with a real estate.  When asked, over 94% of FSBO’s agreed that they would gladly pay a real estate agent a buyer’s commission of 2.5%. That being said, the same buyer would in most cases come off their price another 5-10 percent…making this stressful transaction a losing transaction!

FACT 6:  Most brokers are able to get a home sold at or above the asking price and sometimes more…if handled correctly. Most people are not trained in contract negotiations…or property marketing for that matter, so when it comes time to market a home, the local real estate agent is the best man for the job.

FACT 7:   As California real estate disclosure laws get more involved, real estate agents understand the importance of avoiding legal disputes before and after a sale closes.  If a seller is adamant about handling the sale himself, consult a real estate attorney to understand the proper disclosures needed to protect him in your transaction. Beware of the cost associated with this approach, although it is more important to protect your position.  The real estate community has come to recognize that the law protects the buyer immensely so ‘sellers beware’!

FACT 8:  Real estate agents work with each other to network and locate the right home for their buyers.  As a FSBO, they only have one home to sell so they come across more needy and pushy.  Buyers can generally sense desperation, so they should avoid being to aggressive and let the buyer walk through the home on their own.

FACT 9:  Market knowledge is priceless!  Some FSBO’s avoid paying a commission to save money, yet often price their property incorrectly or settle for a reduced offer because buyer activity was slow. When a property is effectively marketed by an agent the property will attract more showings and in some cases receiving multiple offers so that the owner gets the highest and best price for the home.

FACT 10:  Selling real estate is a full-time job! Getting a buyer interested is just the beginning!  Monitoring the lending process and making sure the buyer is qualified, coordinating buyer and seller repairs and inspections & appraisal, completing all the requires state and federal disclosures, while at the same time assisting in maintaining the flow of the transaction…takes experience!  Most FSBO’s are regular people who have regular jobs, don’t take this lightly!

Of course, everyone wants to save money these days, but simply know your limits!  Take a look at your job for instance…could just anyone walk in off the street and do what you do? Odds are they may try, although I doubt not nearly as well as you!  A good real estate agent on the other hand will share a detailed marketing plan to effectively market your home as well as show you a list of past sales.  The successful real estate agent will also be present online and have past client reviews to support past sales experience for you to review.

If you still choose to sell your home on your own as a ‘For-Sale-By-Owner’ and want to make the best of the process, consider doing the following:

  1. Put up a for-sale-by-owner sign in your front yard.
  2. Create a detailed property flyer and put it on your sign.
  3. Advertise you home online (Craigslist, Zillow.com & Trulia.com)
  4. Run print advertising.
  5. Fix the problem areas of your home before you market it.  If it’s a problem for you…it will be identified by the buyer, so why wait, fix this problem now or discount it for the buyer.
  6. Hold open houses on the weekends.
  7. Go online or to the local bookstore to gather all the necessary disclosure forms or consult your attorney for copies.
  8. Review the purchase contract before you need one!  A good contract is worth the money because it will cover most items.
  9. Order any reports you think may be needed prior to accepting an offer.  This way you will be clear on your costs associated with the sale.
  10. Order the Pest Inspection report so you know what items need to be addressed.
  11. Contact a few local lenders in order to better understand the buyer’s qualifications when one asks you questions.
  12. Create a “Plan B”! Connect with a real estate broker you can trust for advice.  If you can’t sell it yourself, at least you have tried and now you can keep moving forward with professional assistance without much down time.

With knowledge we can increase our ability to have success.  I hope that this explanation helped deliver some insight toward the for-sale-by-owner approach for 2015.  If you have questions and/or comments please let me know.  I look forward to hearing from you.