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The Important Final Step When Buying a Home

Too many people fail to appreciate the importance of a final walk-through.

As a buyer, your last moment of leverage is signing on the (many!) lines during closing. Just before that day, though, you should do a final walk-through of the home you’re buying. While you might think a quick glance through the rooms is enough, you’d be well advised to take your time.

In fact, a good walk-through should take at least 30 minutes, depending on the size of the home. You might even want to consider hiring a home inspector to revisit the place to make sure any repairs essential to the deal were taken care of properly.

Don’t perform the walk-through too early, either. No more than two days at most. If you complete the walk-through too soon, there’s always a chance severe weather or other adverse events could damage the home. (Recent weather events are also a good reason to check for leaks or water in unexpected places.)

Be sure to check appliances, light switches, heating and air conditioning systems, garage doors, and any other major systems (pool pumps and heaters) along the way, too.

Should you come across anything that raises alarms, be sure to look for a way to settle the issue in a friendly, non-confrontational manner. While you don’t want to jeopardize the closing, you may be well within your rights to seek some sort of concession from the seller.

Even with short sales and foreclosed properties, you’ll want to do a walk-through to make sure all appliances and fixtures promised are still in place before the closing. (A home might be “as is,” but it’s definitely “as is” under the terms of the contract! Don’t get shorted.)

On the whole, the walk-through is an exciting time… after all, it’s almost yours! But don’t let excitement cloud your good sense. Use a little of this walk-through wisdom to protect your investment!

I’m always on the lookout for my clients. If you need representation for buying or selling a home, please get in touch today: email me at joe@debandjoe.com or call our office at 484-893-1234.

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Keeping Cool for Less

Thermometer showing that it's hotHeat waves can take a major bite out of your monthly budget. If you’re looking for ways to take some of the teeth out of your power bill, here are some ways to stay cool and save money this summer:

Thermostat Ping Pong: Set reminders to up your thermostat when you’re not going to be home or when you’re sleeping. Bumping up the temperature a few degrees can add up significantly over the course of a month.

Get Out of Dodge: Do you work from home? Take that laptop on the road. Turn up the temperature at home and find cool libraries, cafes, or other public spaces where the A/C bill is someone else’s problem.

Shade the A/C: Providing shade for your A/C unit can drive up the unit’s efficiency by 10%. While trees and shrubs can shade your house and absorb heat, the same is true for the equipment keeping you cool!

Screen that Sun: Install solar screens on your windows to block around 70 percent of the solar energy streaming into your house.

Invoke the “No Stove” Rule: Hot summer months are the perfect time to turn to salads and cooler foods. Keep the stove off and use the microwave for heating. No baking, no frying, no broiling! The excess heat will drive up the temps inside.

Maintain the A/C: When was the last time you changed the filter? Is the unit draining correctly? Drive the efficiency to lower expenses.

Slow Down Your A/C Fan: When it’s humid, slow down the speed of the A/C’s fan. This will allow the A/C to remove more of the moisture from the air before speeding it along.

Of course, a great way to lower expenses is to downsize if you don’t need the space. If you’re looking for a new place, I’d be glad to help you with the search (and the sale of your current home!): Just give me a call at 484-893-1234!

The Value of Your Home Hasn’t Gone Up…Yet

In my work as a Lehigh Valley Realtor I find that the question that everyone is most interested in is “How much is my home worth?”.  Not surprising, since for most people their home is the biggest investment they’ll ever make and its value is very important to them.  This week several headlines have proclaimed various versions of ‘Home Values Are Up’, and I’ve talked to many people that are excited to see that their home has increased in value.  Unfortunately this still isn’t true for most Lehigh Valley home owners.

The true news this week was that the average sale price has increased from what it was a year ago.  We’ve seen the average sale price increase most months this year compared to year ago numbers.  While this is certainly good news, what it really means is that the increasing number of what we call traditional sales, as opposed to distressed sales (foreclosures and short sales), is leading to a higher average sale price.  For example, if a year ago the market was 20% distressed sales and this year those sales only comprise 15% of the market, invariably we will see an increase in the average sale price.  This doesn’t mean the value of your home has gone up, just that the average price of the homes sold has increased.

So when will the value of your home actually increase?  The National Association of Realtors expects a modest price growth of 2-3% in our area for 2013.  Historically, home values have increased an average of 4% on a national level.  After the depreciation we’ve seen in the last several years, for many home owners the modest growth projected will definitely be a step in the right direction!

Emotional Traps of Selling Your Home

I absolutely feel for clients who are stressed out during the sale of their home. While we do everything we can to make the process as smooth as possible, there are always high-stakes feelings on the table. Unfortunately, these mistakes can cost sellers thousands.

In the interest of protecting sellers everywhere, here are some of the common “emotional traps” that can directly impact how well (and for how much!) a home sells:

Emotional Trap #1: Pricing High

You’ve loved your home. You may have raised kids or started a marriage there. Everywhere you look, you see history, memories, and the reasons you fell in love with the place. I guarantee you: Buyers can’t see these. Remember: What you may think is an amenity might not be for a buyer, too. It could even be a negative. Distance your emotions from the list price.

Emotional Trap #2: Hovering at Showings

Sure, there may be times when you need to be there. But 9 out of 10 times, you’re only going to make buyers uncomfortable, get your feelings hurt when the buyers don’t like something, or take each minor complaint as commentary on how you’ve treated the place. Perhaps worst of all? You might prevent them from giving the agent honest feedback that would help you and your agent sell your home faster.

Emotional Trap #3: Turning Down the First Offers

Some of the sweetest interest in your home is going to happen in the first 14 – 21 days it’s on the market. If offers come during this time, consider them seriously! The longer it sits, the more likely it is you’re going to face price reductions. Don’t get cocky early on when offers come in and think there will be a steady stream. You might end up selling the home to these same people for less down the line.

Emotional Trap #4: Feeling Insulted by Negotiations

This may sound crazy, but when you’re in the middle of a sale, it’s a very real phenomenon. Remember: They’re not buying you, they’re buying the house. Negotiations prove the buyer is serious, so unplug from the nitpicking fast.

We provide our clients with the rational balance and support they need during the marketing and sale of their home. We’ll be glad to help you sell yours: just call us at 484-893-1234 or email homes@debandjoe.com

Hottest New Listing!

We have a great home for sale in Fountain Hill that is going to be a great buy for someone this spring. It’s a really nicely updated brick twin and it’s priced at just $130,000.  This home has all of that beautiful wood trim that you get in older homes and don’t see in the newer ones.  It has new carpet on the first floor and a really nicely updated kitchen.  The bedrooms are all a nice size and one features built-in shelves while another has a huge closet.  The home is priced at just $130,000 and we’ve got more information and plenty of pictures on our website: 612 S Bishopthorpe St

I Can See for Miles at this new Listing!

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Where oh where can you find this great view and still be only two miles away from I-78?  How about beautiful Weisenberg Township near Fogelsville?  We just listed this great home there at 8490 Cliff Forest St and I can’t wait for people to see it!  It’s a 2702 square foot home that was built in 1993.  The owner has done some great things with this one, adding a family room and adjacent Florida room to the existing home several years ago.  The roof was replaced a year ago and the vinyl on the front of the home was redone with brick.  The master bedroom is huge and of course there’s a master bath.  The other bedrooms are also spacious and one of them has a balcony, which is where I shot the photo at right.  The current owner uses this bedroom as an office.  Imagine taking a break from work to sit outside catch this view!  The home is listed for just $350,000 and you can get more information at The Lehigh Valley Home Store!

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Beware the Phantom in Your Home!

LED lightsIf it seems like your energy bills keep going up and up while you’ve been doing everything you can to reduce your usage, read on! There’s a “phantom menace” that’s at work here and it’s all the rage in consumer electronics.

While increased energy costs are certainly playing a part, long gone are the days when shouting at the kids to “turn off the light!” was a sure way to save on electricity (though installing reduced-energy bulbs is a good move, too).  75% of the electricity used to power home electronics is consumed while products are turned off, according to the The U.S. Department of Energy.  The term to describe this is known as “phantom load.”

Home entertainment systems with remote controls, wireless routers, appliances with clocks, electronics that use a power adaptor (i.e. a wall cube) and computer printers are all good targets for reducing phantom loads. If you can feasibly eliminate these loads, you can save a lot of money over the course of the year.

So how do you eliminate phantom load? Unplugging devices every day is a hassle, but one sound alternative is the use of power strips which allow you to kill the connection to the main outlet without having to unplug devices.Check out Staples or your favorite office supply store to find a variety of options for allowing certain devices to “pass through” while others are shut off. This can be useful when you have certain devices which do need to be “on standby” while others do not.

While going green is a perfectly good reason to reduce your power consumption, the money you save on power can go to other household expenses, family vacations, and perhaps even the down payment on your next (or first!) home.

Keep an eye out for those energy vampires! Usually you can tell who they are by their LED lights glowing in the night.

I love to help my clients get the most out of their home. If you’re thinking of selling or searching for a home soon, please get in touch today by calling my office at 484-893-1234 or by email at joe@debandjoe.com.