Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Q: We’re first time homebuyers and have been looking for a house over the summer.

There are several homes in our price range, but we can’t make up our minds. I know the $8,000 federal tax credit expires soon but I keep hearing that it will be extended. Do you know anything about that?
A: We are all hearing that it might be extended but not from reliable sources. It’s more a hope than a plan at this point and I don’t think you should just wait and see. That $8,000 can make the difference between getting you into a house or not. Don’t miss this opportunity!
Your purchase must close before December 1st or you lose that $8,000. Some folks are still confused and don’t realize that if you don’t owe $8,000 in taxes you will actually get the remainder in cash! That’s too good a deal to ignore.
There is another thing that you should consider. We have historically low prices on our most modestly priced homes right now. For many buyers this is the first time in many years that we’ve had an inventory of homes that they can afford. That’s not likely to last.
Since there are several homes that you are attracted to, you should get an offer in on one of them soon, so that you can close before that December 1 deadline.
Here are a couple of ways to help you make the decision. First, is the old adage; location, location, location. It should be a location that works best for your family and also offers good resale potential. A busy, noisy street is always less desirable than a quiet one, for instance.
Next, choose the home that’s in the best condition. Buying a fixer is tempting, but you should probably do that only when you have the time, money and experience to handle it.
It’s better to buy a house that’s a little bit ugly but in good structural condition, than one that’s cute but needs lots of expensive work done. Ugly is easier and cheaper to fix.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Q: We’ve been looking at houses for a few months and I am so amazed at how many of them turn out to be nothing like the photos on the Internet.

A few are actually nicer in person than the crummy photos online, and a few are about what I expected. But some of them are just plain misrepresented. I’ve seen these glamour shots of a breathtaking view that’s really only visible from across the street, not from the house, and pictures of huge yards that turn out to be tiny. I’ve even seen photos of these great back yards but the photos don’t show that the front of the house is 20 feet from a busy road. How can agents get away with that?

A: It’s often hard to draw the line between what the industry calls “puffing” or making something look a little better than it is, and misrepresentation. Most of us in the industry tolerate a certain amount of “puffing” since we know it’s the listing agent’s job to try to make the property appealing.

What often happens, however, is that when potential buyers see the property, they not only lose interest in the house when it doesn’t look like what they expected, but they lose respect for the agent who listed the house and even the one showing it to them. In a worst case scenario they lose confidence in all real estate professionals.

There are actually a few places currently on the market where “creative photography” has probably gone far enough to be called misrepresentation. A beautiful view that’s only visible from the top of the roof is not a view. A small yard shot with a fisheye lens to look expansive is a false picture.
While I sympathize with listing agents who are trying to help a seller who has a less than attractive property, I try to make sure that my clients get the real picture. There is a buyer out there for every property if it is well priced and every property has some good features that can be emphasized.