Smart Technology or Home Automation: What’s the Difference?

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on May 25th, 2018

Smart Technology or Home Automation: What's the Difference?Is it worth it to add smart appliances or automated features if you’re selling a home? Just how much connectivity do buyers want? And what exactly do the terms refer to in terms of home updates.

Although smart homes and home automation are sometimes used interchangeably, they actually refer to two basically different concepts about how appliances and home systems can operate. Then there is the need for “connectivity,” adding another dimension to any discussion of futuristic home features.

Home Automation

According to a Texas-based Direct Energy blog, home automation has a long history, beginning with the first labor-saving devices that operated with electrical current. “Automatic” washing machines and hot water heaters certainly made life easier at the time, a time long before wireless technology and integrated home entertainment systems.That may be simplistic, but the truth is that any device that operates without human intervention can be termed automatic. 

Today, however, automation commonly refers to home features that are controlled by computer, or that can be set to operate in specific ways: motion-detected lighting, robotic floor cleaners, dishwashers and ovens with delay settings, and the wide range of room monitors, security cameras and voice or motion-controlled devices.

Smart Technology

Computers introduced American homes to smart technology and the Internet of Things. Today, almost every home has several “smart” devices, even if they are simple ones.  

Case in point: A programmable thermostat, common sensor-operated smoke detectors, and a backyard irrigation system with a timer control can be termed smart devices, albeit maybe only “elementary” smart.

Today, most smart technology is also controllable by wireless remote device. But the true definition of smart is any product that incorporates sensors or data storage, microprocessors or controls that allow autonomous operation. An internal operating system is employed to assure that the product operates as programmed, either through user interface or initial setup. Modern smart technology allows for broad integration of devices, in effect creating a “genius” network.

Connectivity

The third piece of the technology puzzle is connectivity. Both home automation and smart technology can be “connected,” for greater flexibility and integration, but it’s not necessary. And, just because homeowners can change a setting via smart phone or battery-operated remote doesn’t necessarily make an automatic appliance or home product smart. 

Connected products interact with one another over a network; the network collects and shares data, and is designed to monitor and allow some degree of control over the functioning of network-connected products or systems. 

For instance, a smart home with sophisticated lighting controls might automatically sense lower light levels at dusk, triggering an adjustment to window shades and turning on both interior and exterior lighting.

Confused? Actually, there’s no real need to be. No matter what you call them, the home features that make living better are all desirable!

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Home Updates That Make Good Multi-Generational Sense

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on May 24th, 2018

Home Updates That Make Good Multi-Generational SenseMulti-generational households and the growing preference on the part of many retirees toward “aging in place”have altered home design in recent years. Interiors are more open, more functional and more adaptable that they were even a decade ago. Spaces tend to be less formal; living space is better integrated with work space like the kitchen, and rooms tend to serve more than once purpose, both for quiet pursuits and for family gatherings.

Universal Design

Home design has gained a new dimension — planning for the future and for a changing lifestyle. Universal design features and amenities that were once off the radar are now very much the focus. Even younger buyers are tuned in to accessibility concerns. Wider doors and hallways, easy to navigate stairs or single-level living, doorless and curbless showers, motion-activated faucets and lighting — these are just a sampling of what may soon become mainstream in American homes.

Add the popularity of home automation and connectivity, and today’s home is uniquely suited for all ages. If you’re thinking of remodeling an existing home, some of these features are well worth the extra cost. Not only do they offer living options, but they also promise great ROI should you wish to sell.

The New Face Of Home

If you are currently looking for a home to buy, view the existing floor plan with an eye toward modifications that would make it more accessible and multi-generation-friendly. Consider the possibility that you might someday share the home with aging parents or with grown children and grandchildren. 

Integrated “apartments”with separate entrances, “granny pods”or separate guest houses, dual master bedrooms, and “au pair”quarters are just some of the ways to offer future flexibility. They are common across the country, but also across price ranges, as sensible and cost-effective alternatives to home health care or retirement housing. 

Renovate For The Future

Renovations that reflect the changing face of family life are always good choices for return on investment in remodeling. Because the traditional family is no longer the norm, any home that offers such options is desirable. If you have questions about what features are important to buyers in a specific market, speak to a real estate professional about trends that go beyond energy savings and sustainability. 

No matter what choices you make about a home update, rely on professional advice and insist on reliable contractors. There is no substitute for quality materials and first-class work. Whether you’re adding space or rearranging it, planning for your future in the home or hoping to appeal to the right buyer, spending a lot or a little, you won’t go wrong with universal design features. Aging is, after all, a reality that we all face sooner or later.

 

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5 Critical Tips For Buying In A Seller’s Market

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on May 11th, 2018

5 Critical Tips For Buying In A Seller's MarketThis summer, quality homes are being scooped up almost as fast as they’re being listed – and for top price. Yes, it’s a seller’s market out there, which is great news if you’re planning to list your home. For those looking for a home, the competitiveness can be frustrating and aggravating.

Frustrating as it may be, there’s plenty of reason for buyers to stick it out until their offer is accepted. For starters, interest rates are still fairly low. And secondly, there are great homes out there if you act fast enough.

How can you successfully get that dream home in a seller’s market? Here are some top tips:

Stay Dedicated

Make sure that you and your Realtor are on the same page with your must-haves for your new home. Then, make sure you check for new listings daily. If any look good, make an appointment to see it that day. Don’t wait, or it will likely be gone. It can be tempting to make an offer based on listing photos alone, but be very wary of doing this. Go out and see it – and do it quickly.

Start With Your Best Offer

With some good properties gone in a matter of hours, this is no time to nickle and dime a seller. What’s more is that the seller will be unlikely to even entertain the offer and counter it. The best practice in competitive times is to start with your very best offer on the property and give the seller something to seriously consider. Chances are your offer isn’t the only one they’ll be receiving. You want it to make an impression.

Include A Personal Note

Even though they’re essentially getting rid of their property, sellers often like to work with a buyer who is going to appreciate and care for the home they’re purchasing. That’s where a personal note included with your offer to the seller can come in handy. In your note, talk about the things you love about the home and how you know it will be the perfect fit for you and your family. You can even up the ante and include a family photo. 

Make A Significant Earnest Money Deposit

Generally speaking, the larger your earnest money deposit, the more serious of a buyer you are. In a seller’s market, you will want to look for any competitive advantage over the others that are likely to make an offer on a particular property. A big deposit can serve as that advantage.

Stay Patient

Like we said in the opening, a seller’s market can be frustrating for buyers – so try to stay patient. The right home is out there for you, and good things come to those who wait. 

Your trusted real estate agent is ready to talk to you about the impact of a seller’s market and show you the best houses available in your area. Create your must-have list and call today!

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How to Get Along With Your Homeowners Association

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on May 10th, 2018

How to Get Along With Your Homeowners AssociationRules and covenants of a homeowners association can be a bit overwhelming, especially for a first time homeowner. Understanding that the regulations are designed to protect the value of your home helps make some restrictions easier to live with.

Homeowners Association CC&Rs, which stands for “covenants, conditions and restrictions,” can be intimidating. But, with the growing number of communities and subdivisions that have existing HOAs, it’s important to know what you’re getting into before you buy a home.

Associations Come In All Forms

An association’s goal is to maintain the ambience of the community and assure that home values are upheld. Associations are typically responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of common areas, including streets and green spaces, playgrounds and community pools, if they exist.

Some associations, often in retirement communities, include front yard upkeep; Condominium associations commonly include exterior building maintenance as well.

Homeowners Association CC&Rs may be quite restrictive, requiring vehicles to be garaged or disallowing privacy fences, for instance. Alternatively, they may be loosely organized and act primarily as social organizations designed to foster the sense of community and promote safety for resident families.

Only occasionally is HOA membership offered on a voluntary basis; in those cases, the HOA is apt to be a group with little power.

CCRs Are A Legal Obligation

Subdivisions with functioning homeowners associations must supply prospective buyers with a copy of current CC&Rs prior to closing.  If you plan to buy a home that has an existing association, it is important to familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations prior to agreeing to abide by them. Read them thoroughly and understand them completely, because they constitute a legal obligation for compliance as well as for payment of dues and special assessments.

Legal Requirements Of An HOA

Whether the dues are a lot or a little, and whether the association’s affairs are professionally managed or not, the majority of associations are governed and controlled by a volunteer board and elected officers who volunteer their time for the benefit of the community. If you choose to become involved in governance, you might have a great influence over the way rights and responsibilities are defined in your neighborhood.

However, don’t count on being able to make changes to your own property easily if there are clauses in the HOA CC&Rs that initially rub you the wrong way. In some cases, owners require association approval prior to making any changes to the property, whether that be planting a new tree, adding a skylight or changing the color of the front door. 

As you consider making an offer on a home, it’s important to decide whether or not you object to any of the existing regulations. If you feel that the regulations will negatively impact your livability in your new home, it might be better option to look for another house. It can be difficult to be at odds with your HOA and can cause significant ongoing stress. Withholding dues or flaunting existing regulations can have unpleasant legal consequences, even resulting in a lien against your property.

Talk to your trusted real estate professional about any concerns you have about HOAs and what you are looking for in a neighborhood. Your agent can help you navigate the area and offer information about individual neighborhoods to make sure that you find just the right home for you.

 

 

 

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Pet-Friendly Homes: Some Selling Do’s and Dont’s

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on May 9th, 2018

Pet-Friendly Homes: Some Selling Do's and Dont'sNearly 70 million American households include at least one pet, but most prospective buyers won’t want to see evidence of pets in a home on the market.

Here are some tips about how to sell a pet-friendly home.

Prior To Listing

Point out special pet features to your real estate agent — a cat door, feeding station or a pet shower, even a fenced back yard or a dog run can be a bonus to many buyers. It’s important to remember that buyers want to imagine their pets in the home, not yours! Minimize your pet’s presence by decluttering pet supplies as well as your personal items.

While it is best to downplay non-human residents in a home for sale, some pets are more difficult to camoflage or move out of the way. If you have a bird, an aquarium, or large exotic pets, use your best judgment while keeping the “less is more” philosophy in mind.

If there is any pet damage, it should be repaired before you show the home. If necessary, repaint walls, refinish floors, or replace carpeting. Ask a friend or relative (one without a pet) to give your house a sniff test. If there are any odors, do whatever is necessary to eliminate them. It is not likely enough to try to mask the odors with air freshners in order to make the best impression on potential buyers.

Dealing With Showings

Always arrange for animals to be out of the house when a showing is scheduled. If you can’t be there to pick up a pet, trust a neighbor to take the dog for a walk or herd the cat into a carrier and keep it for a few hours. A barking dog in the back yard is annoying, and even the cutest puppy can intimidate a buyer. Cats, too, are notoriously independent, and not all humans are cat-lovers.

Buyers expect even a house with pets to be kept scrupulously clean. Sweep and vacuum up pet hair as often as necessary. Pick up feeding bowls and toys, and remove cat litter boxes prior to a showing. Polish nose prints off glass and put away the scratching pole. Think of pets and pet items the same as you would personal photographs and other memorbillia that clutters your home. Removing those items helps the buyer see themselves in your home and can increase the likelihood of a sale.

It’s also wise to double check with your insurance company to determine your liability in the event that your pet bites or otherwise injures anyone at your property. 

Before And During Moving

Remember that moving is stressful, not only for you, but for your best friend as well. Speak to your veterinarian in advance about possible symptoms of anxiety such as increased accidents, changes in appetite, aggressive behavior or other personality changes that may occur. If you notice any significant signs of anxiety, seek treatment.

If at all possible, take your pet to see your new home prior to your move. If not, continue to look for signs that your pet is feeling disoriented or anxious. Finding a reliable and trustworthy veternarian near your new home beforehand is a good idea in case your pet is struggling. Take extra care that your pet doesn’t try to “escape” back to the familiar and get lost. 

Selling your home and moving into a new home can be exciting, complicated and stressful events. The same can be true for your pets. With a little bit of extra planning, things can go a lot smoother for your entire family. Contact your real estate professional for even more tips for a successful home selling, home buying and relocating experience.

 

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New Home Buyer? Don’t Make These 3 Common Mistakes!

Posted in Home Buyer Tips by Michigan Real Estate Expert on May 8th, 2018

New Home Buyer? Don't Make These 3 Common Mistakes!Looking for your new home can feel like a daunting task, especially if it’s your first time going through the home buying process.  Sometimes, all of the choices may feel overwhelming. You want to make the best decision for yourself and your family. 

Here’s a quick list of three common pitfalls that some home buyers experience:

Choosing to Skip the Inspection

A home inspection is a necessity. This is your opportunity for a professional to uncover any potential problems in a property that you cannot see. Or even something that you might not have known to check. Your new home is likely the largest financial investment in your life, so think about your home inspection as a type of safety net to prevent you from getting repair surprises right after you move into your dream home.

Not Planning Ahead For Life Changes

Life happens in ways that cannot always be planned ahead. Sometimes home buyers get excited about looking for a perfect home that will fit their immediate needs. Alternatively, if you take the approach of looking ahead and seeing how your new home might also meet future potential changes, you can save the time, trouble and expense of moving again. 

For instance, if you are a young couple buying your first home, you might not think you want more space than you can use right away.  In the event that you are thinking about starting a family in the next few years, it can be a cost effective decision to purchase a home with extra space to accomodate your future growing family now.

Trying To Avoid Using A Real Estate Professional

A common misconception among home buyers is the idea that they can save money on the purchase of a home if they can skip utilizing a buyer’s agent in the purchase of their property.  While that may seem like it makes sense, the reality is that the buyer’s representative in a real estate transaction is paid by the person selling the home. 

Not only that, but if you were trying to negotiate a transaction directly with a seller, you might overlook very important opportunities to create a stronger offer. Your seasoned real estate agent can point that out and help you maximize your purchase power.

A buyer’s agent also has access to real-time market information through their local Multiple Listing Service (MLS) which can uncover homes that may fit your needs better than anything you can find on your own. Even with all of the property search services that have been developed over the last few years, the active, professional real estate agent still has their thumb on the pulse of your local market.

Buying a home is a big decision and finding your dream home might take some time. If you avoid these common pitfalls and utilize a trusted real estate professional to help you find the perfect property, moving into your dream home could happen sooner – and easier – than you think!

 

 

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The Home-Buying Closing Process in a Nutshell

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on May 4th, 2018

The Home-Buying Closing Process in a NutshellThe closing process for a home purchase is an exciting time. The home is finished, the purchase is ready to be finalized and it’s almost time to move in. The final steps of the closing process ensures both parties are able to meet their requirements and all the paperwork is in place and verified.

The Key Players

There are actually four parties involved in a typical closing: the buyer, the seller, the bank or lender financing the purchase, and the escrow agent. Each has an important role in making sure the closing happens effectively and efficiently.

As is common with most purchases, the buyer is already familiar with the need to have a down payment ready and to be committed to a purchase. Additionally, the buyer will have already worked out the loan approval preliminary reviews and steps with the bank financing the purchase if it is not an all cash purchase.

The Escrow Process

During escrow the purchase is then validated through a number of steps. These include:

  • Ensuring the property title is clear of any problems or previous liens (a legal method by which other parties get paid for the seller’s outstanding prior debts).
  • Ensuring the property has been appraised and represents the actual worth represented to the bank.
  • Ensuring the bank is ready to pay the seller with a payment check and that the buyer has paid any down payment as well. Both payments are put into an escrow account managed by an escrow agent and not to be released until all the purchase requirements are met.
  • Ensuring the buyer has been notified, read and has committed by signature to all the purchase documentation necessary to complete the sale. This includes understanding the nature of the home loan, payment responsibilities, and what happens if there is a default.
  • Ensuring any property taxes, homeowner’s association fees, and other fees have all been addressed before the seller transfers the property to the escrow agent, which is then transfered to the seller.
  • Finally, passing along the keys and title of the property to the buyer, the title lien to the bank financing the deal, and the payments for the property to the buyer.

When all the above happens, a home purchase is closed and the home officially belongs to the buyer. The seller also gets paid and can deposit his income accordingly. The escrow agent files all the paperwork with the bank, the county recorder’s office, and copies are sent to the buyer and the seller for their own records.

Contact your trusted real estate professional if you have any additional questions about the closing process as well as other aspects of acquiring your new home. 

 

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How To Turn A Profit Flipping Land Into Residential Property

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on May 1st, 2018

How To Turn A Profit Flipping Land Into Residential PropertyReality TV shows have inspired people to flip houses for profit. They make it look fun, easy and the type of business anyone with some capital can get into.

Every once in a while, house-flipping episodes show an underperforming sale and a financial loss. That is why people in the flipping business need a cushion in case things don’t pan out.

This brings us to a slightly different approach. Some speculators start out flipping land. Yes, that’s right. Land.

Flipping Land Can Be Less Risky Than Homes

Rough land can be far less expensive to invest in than blighted homes. There are also fewer unknowns in terms of flipping. Investors won’t need to worry about replacing an electric box, mold behind walls or failing a building inspection. Land flippers can also start with a modest out-of-pocket investment and work their way up to short-term lending to finance endeavors.

The Basic Considerations

There are a few things to keep in mind when selecting a parcel. Property that abuts a street with sewer and water are preferable to scrub land in areas without services. It is not uncommon to run into difficulty drilling an artesian well or getting a permit for a septic system. Developers know this and will jump at street-ready parcels first.

Make certain the parcel qualifies as a buildable lot with the town or city. Then, hire an excavation team or clear the brush and trees yourself. The goal will be to create an open area where a home can be built while leaving suitable greenery.

The next step is to call a real estate agent and list the property. Quick land turnovers can earn several thousand dollars in profit with minimal effort. Remember to factor in hidden costs such as taxes, interest, and recording fees, among others.   

Upping The Ante To Spec Homes

After gaining experience in the land flipping business, take that knowledge and apply it to homes. Rather than scoop up a dilapidated structure, employ that land development acumen and take the next step.

Select a parcel that is in a prime residential location. What a surprise it would be to find a wooded lot at the end of a desirable neighborhood that can be developed.

Create A Budget and Obtain Financing

Work closely with a real estate agent to understand the types of homes that are trending and the average sale prices. With that information in hand, come to an agreement with a general contractor who can oversee the spec house project.

Decide on a design and calculate the total costs. Don’t forget to add 15 percent for overruns. Take that number to the bank for a building loan and put the team to work.

Get The Listing On The Market

Spec home projects can be listed with real estate agents even before the first nail is driven into a 2X4. A savvy real estate agent can get a property up online with design information, an artful rendition of the finished home and key selling points. In a perfect world, a new home buyer may be found before construction begins.

It’s important to realize that it doesn’t require significant wealth to get into the home buying and selling industry. By starting with modest, low-risk land deals and working up to spec homes, a solid living can be earned in the real estate industry. If this idea intrigues you, contact your trusted real estate agent to help you find just the right piece of land for inspiration.

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How Do You Tell If A Neighborhood Is The Right One To Settle In?

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on April 27th, 2018

How Do You Tell If A Neighborhood Is The Right One To Settle In?Choosing the perfect home to settle in can be a tough decision. You have to weigh in on many factors including price, size, features and amenities, number of bedrooms and baths, design, and so on. However, all these factors are not enough to give you a great home ownership experience if you fall into the wrong neighborhood.

Picking the right neighborhood not only guarantees you happiness and comfort, but also helps with home appreciation for the sake of future re-sale value. In most cases, though, it can be tougher to find the perfect neighborhood than it is to find the right house.

Here are some factors that can help you find the right neighborhood:

Schools

If you have kids and the quality of their education is a priority, consider a neighborhood with a reputable school district. Even if you don’t have kids, such a neighborhood will most likely boost your home’s appreciation. You may also find it easier to find a buyer if you decide to move away from the neighborhood.

Crime Rate

No one wants to live in a neighborhood with high crime rates. This is one of the basic factors that you must consider when searching for a new neighborhood. Check the area’s crime statistics from the local authorities, search online, or ask your potential neighbors.

Transport

This is also a key factor to consider. How far do you have to drive to work from the new neighborhood? How much traffic will you encounter in the area?

If you don’t drive, are there adequate public transportation networks in place? How will your kids travel to school? Make sure that the new neighborhood meets all your transportation needs.

Basic Amenities

Is the neighborhood close to basic amenities that you are used to or that you rely on? Such amenities may include a nearby hospital, pharmacy, grocery store, bank or ATM, and law enforcement center. 

Recreational Amenities and Activities

Does the neighborhood have a park where you can go for a picnic with your partner or where your kids can play and make friends? Are there cultural attractions such as concerts, art exhibits and film shows?

Are there bars, movie theatres and restaurants close by? Are there malls or stores where you can go shopping during the weekends? What about a library, gym or community swimming pool?

If you are fun-loving person, make sure your neighborhood can provide as much fun as possible. You don’t want to start having regrets about a boring neighborhood in less than a year after settling in.

Community Engagement

Are you looking for a neighborhood with a sense of anonymity or a sense of belonging? In some neighborhoods, neighbors hardly know each other while in others, block parties and community events are a common thing. Which one would you prefer?

It is not easy to find everything you want in one place, but you can definitely get most of it in a certain neighborhood if you search well enough. Create your wish list and contact your trusted real estate professional so that they can help you find your dream house in the best neighborhood for you. 

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The Basic Facts About Short Sales

Posted in Real Estate by Michigan Real Estate Expert on April 26th, 2018

The Basic Facts About Short SalesAs a potential home buyer, you are probably familiar with what a typical sale looks like. You probably also have a basic understanding of what a foreclosure is and how it works. Another type of sale that may be less understood is called a short sale.

These sales are not as popular in the market, but you may come across a few. You may even fall in love with a home that is listed as a short sale. What does this mean for you as the buyer? These are the basic facts that you need to know about these homes and the process for purchase. 

What Is A Short Sale?

A short sale is negotiated when the lender for the current homeowner’s mortgage agrees to list the house for a smaller mortgage payoff amount. This means that they will be taking in less money than what is owed on the property in order for it to sell quickly on the market.

This usually happens when the current owner of the property, the seller, is in a distressed financial state. There are many reasons why a seller may have lost the ability to pay their mortgage, such as losing income or unexpected expenses. Maybe the owners are going through a complicated divorce and need to unload the property. Regardless of the reason, the lender has an incentive to remedy this situation.

How Does It Work For The Buyer?

When it comes to purchasing a short sale property, the process is not much different than purchasing any other home on the market. The lender will want to make sure that you will be able to complete the purchase, especially under these circumstances, so you will likely need to be preapproved or prequalified before your offer can be accepted. 

One major difference is that the process is typically more drawn out than if you were making a traditional home purchase. Even though it is called a short sale, it is not something that happens very quickly. In fact, it can take an average of 2 to 4 months for a short sale to be approved and for the actual closing to take place. 

Now that you understand the basics of a short sale and how it works, you can decide if it is something that may fit into your criteria and timeline. If so, and you do find a home you love, you should not let something like a short sale stop you from getting it. Your real estate agent can help navigate you through the process to make it as simple as possible. 

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