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Best of Luck in Home Buying

shamrock-752653Dear Vicki,

I’m just starting the hunt for a new home and I’m going to need more than the Luck of the Irish to help me. How can I increase my chances of landing the home of my dreams? Signed – Seamus

Dear Seamus,

It definitely takes more than blarney to seal the deal on your perfect house. I have two solid pieces of advice for buyers when starting the search for that elusive pot of gold. My first tip, and your first stop, should be at your lender’s doorstep. Get a pre-approval letter in-hand before you start looking at homes. It’s best to know how much house you can afford at the onset. Having champagne dreams on an Irish whiskey budget will not only waste your time, but is sure to lead to disappointment. Find out how much you have to spend and remain pragmatic. Your lender will also help you understand the down payment programs available for the different types of loans out there. It’s wonderful to have options, and in home buying, knowledge is power.

My second tip is not as self serving as it sounds, hear me out. I definitely recommend that you have your own buyer’s agent. Sellers have agents and so should you. Your agent will help you set realistic expectations for what you can afford. And when that perfect house comes along, they’ll know how to react as quick as a leprechaun. Your agent knows the comparable sale prices in your desired neighborhoods and will help you establish the most competitive, yet reasonable price offer. I often see buyers without agents lose homes because of silly low-ball offers, and I feel for them. On the flip side- I’ve also seen buyers without agents significantly overpay- ouch!  Once you have a home under contract, your buyer’s agent will assist you with the inspection process and help negotiate repairs. Your agent will also keep on top of your lender to close your loan in a timely manner. When making the largest purchase of your life, having a professional on your side is just plain cliste (that’s Gaelic for smart!).

What do you get when you cross poison ivy with a four-leafed clover? A rash of good luck! I wish you the best of luck in your home buying adventure- without the rash, of course. Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone!

To submit your question, please contact Vicki at  E-Mail


Fall In Love With Historic Phoenix Homes

love-your-homeDear Vicki,

As realtors who live and breathe historic homes, why do you think so many buyers fall in love with our Central Phoenix neighborhoods?”  Signed, Amorous

Dear Amorous,

What a perfect question to answer so close to Valentines Day! Our neighborhood is so very near and dear to our hearts, and it’s not hard to see why buyers are infatuated with our homes. In my experience, I have found that many buyers come from dense metropolitan areas like Chicago, Washington DC, San Francisco and New York City. These folks still want to be in the heart of things, close to downtown. When they discover our neighborhood, they swoon! Willo also sees buyers from suburban areas of Maricopa County who come from spacious but often cookie-cutter style houses. They are drawn to our quaint historic homes with well-kept yards, front porches and sidewalks. The sheer idea of befriending neighbors is a joyous and refreshing discovery. Back to those sidewalks, you really don’t see them in other Phoenix neighborhoods. These narrow strips of concrete work miracles. They allow our kids to run safely to friends’ houses, learn how to ride a bike and even sell lemonade. Residents walk their dogs and stop to chat with neighbors. It’s called civilized living, people! I often get asked at open houses “why don’t they build homes like this anymore?” The primary reason is that construction of our quality is cost prohibitive for today’s builders. The good news is that savvy buyers will pay more to have something they can’t get anywhere else. Add that to our central location, and it’s the perfect combination. With Phoenix light rail light surrounding us, I often meet buyers who prefer Willo to Encanto Palmcroft because of the closer proximity to Central Avenue. What a gem! Can you even count all the new urban restaurants and businesses lining Central? The restaurants alone…I could go on and on!

If you ask me, and I believe you did, our Willo neighborhood is purely irresistible. “Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.” – Robert Frost  Happy Valentine’s Month!

To submit your question, please contact Vicki at E-Mail

Flipping and Flopping in Real Estate

flipping_houses_is_popular_again_different_house_styles_Dear Vicki,

Every time I change the TV channel, I see another reality show about flipping houses. Those people seem to be cashing in while I feel like I’m missing out on easy money! Honestly, how hard can it be? Signed Chip

Dear Chip,

Easy money? For heaven’s sake, no. Getting into the house flipping business is like opening that proverbial can of worms. While money can be made, I am sorry to report that it definitely does not come easily.

House flippers wear lots of hats: accountant, interior designer, general contractor and more often then not, psychic. Most flippers will tell you that Excel spreadsheets for meticulous accounting are imperative at every step to turn a profit. A solid understanding of the current design trends and following the costs of in-vogue materials can be a guessing game. And then there’s construction. On those reality shows, the contractors are always so handsome, aren’t they! I think you know the reality of that one, and finding someone dependable is the true top priority. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a renovation project come in on budget, even doing it myself. You really have to cushion your construction budget for the unexpected, and 30% is not unrealistic.

Please also seriously consider the neighborhood. Is it up and coming? Will you be the most expensive house on the block? It’s your job to know how much the surrounding houses are selling for, and be pragmatic. Go out and look at the renovated homes in the area to understand what the market can bear.

Remember there are many, many fees to house flipping. Factor each one carefully. You don’t want to lose your hard earned profit because you forgot about the taxes. Here’s a short list of fees to remember: property taxes, insurance, utilities, title and escrow fees and of course Realtor commissions, which as the seller, usually account for 6% depending on your agent.

So, have I scared you away? That was not my intention, but please know that reality shows are very rarely based in reality. House flipping is very hard and very risky work. It’s far from the glamour of drum rolls and house reveals. So is that can of worms worth opening? Let’s just say, for now, keep that day job.

To submit your question, please contact Vicki at  E-Mail

Holiday Hosting with the Mosting

urlDear Vicki,

I love how the holidays bring everyone together. In preparation for the upcoming open houses and festive parties, can you offer a few tips on how I can ensure guests feel welcome in my home? Signed, Hostess

Dear Hostess,

Yes, the holiday season is a wonderful opportunity to open your house to friends, family and neighbors.  It’s a time to let your home shine as you show off your favorite decorations and your cheese ball molding skills. But even the most seasoned host will admit, entertaining takes serious hard work. What may look effortless in a Pottery Barn catalogue, probably took 15 set designers three weeks to create. While you prepare for guests in the real world, there are a few things I want you to remember. First, nobody expects you to be Martha Stewart or Colin Cowie. Our homes have gorgeous character of their own. A well lit tree, a beautiful garland or an elegantly set table are enough to raise the holiday spirit. One well executed focal point is all you need to make an impact. On a practical note, get your bathrooms gleaming, switch on holiday music, dim the lights and light all the candles. Answer the door with a drink in hand and sincerely welcome your guests. Your company wants a relaxed host, not a frantic mess. If you are enjoying yourself, I guarantee they will follow suit. And if you are on the receiving end of a holiday invitation? Don’t be an early bird. Arriving fifteen minutes past the start time gives your host a little wiggle room. Emphatically compliment the home, the decorations, the food. A gracious guest is always remembered fondly. A hostess gift is a must. What to bring? Consider a tasteful flower arrangement in a vase, a special bottle of wine or liqueur, a beautifully wrapped ornament or a book on the historic neighborhoods of Phoenix. All are lovely, appropriate and appreciated seasonal gifts. Because home is truly where your heart is, I sincerely hope you take the time to share your heart and your home with your  neighbors this holiday season.

To submit your question, please contact Vicki at E-Mail

Home Buyers Give Weight to Needs of Kids, Grandparents

happy-family-silhouette-For today’s parents, purchasing a home has become a family affair. Baby Boomers may have been concerned about careers and the convenience of commutes when house-hunting, but for Generation X and Millennial parents, the needs of their children and even grandparents are a part of the homebuying process. According to a study from Coldwell Banker Real Estate, the shift is measurable. The survey, conducted among 2,800 parents from three generations, suggests that today’s children may be elevated to the position of “chief purchasing officers” of the family. It found that 79 percent of Millennial parents (ages 18-34) and 70 percent of Gen X parents (ages 35-49) said most of their major purchasing decisions, including home purchases, revolve around their children. Only about 50 percent of the Boomer parents said this was true when they were raising their families.

When shopping for a home, families are focused on schools, square footage and lifestyle amenities such as parks and bike paths. But they want more. In Arizona, where people often relocate from other states, many are seriously searching for that sometimes elusive quality in a neighborhood: a sense of community and connectivity. Like the sitcom “Cheers,” today’s parents want to live in a place where everyone not only knows their name — but the names of their kids and cats as well. Judy Mullins lives and lists homes in Verrado, a master-planned community in Buckeye. She has seen firsthand how kids affect homebuying. “I’ve never seen a market where kids play such a strong role in the decision-making process,” said Mullins, a Realtor for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage.”It’s much different from the Baby Boomer generation.”

Mullins says the streets of Verrado are filled with children riding their bikes and playing. Public events such as the annual Christmas tree lighting and simple ice-cream socials draw friends from outside the community, who return home and hound their parents to buy a home there, she said. “The other children want to be a part of it because it makes them feel like they belong to a community,” Mullins said. Buyers are also making the needs of their own parents a priority when making a move, and grandparents are considering their children when planning for retirement. Many buyers also understand that grandparents can add to the quality of life of their own children in practical and intangible ways. Longer life spans lead to more long-term decisions. According to Malcolm Mac­Ewen, the higher concentration of neighborhoods with families are in the southwest and southeast Valley. In addition to Verrado, master-planned communities in the West Valley include Estrella and Vistancia. In the southeast Valley, family-focused areas can be found in Chandler, Mesa and Gilbert. Eastmark is a new master-planned community in Mesa.

In Verrado, a four-bedroom, 3.5-bath home with nearly 3,300 square feet can sell for as low as $300,000. At that price, children can have their own room and the family can enjoy lots of living space. “If you look at new construction, you’ll see that it is very affordable,” said Mac­Ewen, the president and chief operating officer of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage of Arizona.”That is very attractive to people with kids.” The pressure is also on for families to settle in before kids are established in schools. “Moving your children later and uprooting them from school is a very big deal,” Mac­Ewen said.

In Arcadia and the Camelback Corridor, parents pay a premium to be in what some consider to be a kids paradise. Every Fourth of July, the children in the Arcadia neighborhood in Phoenix decorate their bikes, their dogs and themselves and march proudly through the neighborhood, passing homes with green lawns and lush landscapes. “Children and family are really important to people that are looking for homes in this area,” said Kelly Knapp, a Realtor with HomeSmart Elite Group who has sold homes in the neighborhood for more than 20 years.

Arcadia is in the area from 44th to 68th streets, between Camelback and Thomas roads. An average four-bedroom home with 2,600 square feet runs between $650,000 and $850,000. Arcadia “light,” which is a bit beyond those boundaries, is a little less expensive. The homes are in or near the Scottsdale Unified School District and numerous private and charter schools. “It (Arcadia) really does feel like a neighborhood. Everyone has chairs out on their front patio and you can see that they really live to the front of their homes,” she said. “Everyone wants to know everyone. It really is a nirvana for kids. It’s like Mayberry in a big city.”

Originally written by Dolores Tropiano, Special for The Republic, August 4, 2014

Home Selling During the Holidays

Windsor-Square-Historic-District-PhoenixDear Vicki,
I am thinking of putting my house on the market, but worried that the holiday season may be bad timing. What do you think? Signed, Humbug

Dear Humbug,
Don’t let the season get you down when it comes to listing your home. While real estate activity tends to slow a bit over the holidays, homes do still sell between Thanksgiving and the New Year. It’s simple economics of supply and demand out there, especially in Willo and in Phoenix as a whole. In Maricopa County, inventory of single family homes is down from a normal of approximately 30,000 active home listings to just around 14,000. Currently, there are only 13 homes for sale now in Willo, which is quite low, considering we normally see 30 homes on the market. So our supply of homes for sale is low, but demand is still high. That’s a perfect seller’s market! Remember, this is the time of year when our weather is nearly perfect and we get an influx of “snowbirds” visiting the Valley. With the cooler temperatures, these visitors often decide to buy, rather than rent for their 4-5 month extended vacations. And you can’t deny that with winter grass and holiday decor, our neighborhood really shines during the holiday season. I understand that you may not want to be bothered with buyers coming through your house over the holidays, but you definitely want to get it on the market in early January and ready for the Willo Home Tour in February. There is a reason over 3,350 attendees flock to see our neighborhood. Our unique and historic homes are rare finds in Phoenix and you can bet a for-sale sign during the Home Tour will gets hearts racing. According to a report in the Arizona Republic on 10/28/2012, national analyst John Burns said “We think Phoenix home prices will appreciate 12% in 2013, 12% in 2014 and 10% in 2015.” Buyers know they need to act fast to get the best prices. So my advise is to get your home on the market sooner rather than later.

To submit your question, please contact Vicki at E-Mail