Best Questions To Ask At Open House

Open houses are useful in gathering information about the neighborhood, getting a feeling about the housing stock or finding good real estate agents to work with. Once you spend the time at an open house, what are the best questions to ask and how to make the best of it?

Open House

An open house can tell you a lot more about a home than its floor plan. Here are some questions to ask the listing agent:
  • Are there any offers on the property? If you are interested in that particular property the answer to this question will tell you if you have competition.
  • Were there any offers rejected and why? This will help you come up with an offer with better chances to be accepted.
  • Has this house been in escrow? If it has, and didn't sell, you'd want to know why. Ask if any inspections were done on the house, so you know what you're dealing with, and what kind of secondary inspections you might need should you decide to make an offer.
  • How long has the property been on the market? You might discover an opportunity for a lower offer, especially if there has been a price reduction.
  • Why are owners selling and why have they decided to sell now? This is a variation on "How motivated is the seller?" You might not get any answer, since sellers' agent has a responsibility to them not to disclose factors that might hurt the seller's chances at getting the best offer possible, but the seller's agent might also let  a few useful details slip. Any information you can glean can help you decide how much to offer, when to close, etc.
  • Are there any liens on this property? You don't want any surprises, so make sure there aren't any claims on the property.
  • What appliances and features are being sold with the house? Most of the time, major appliances come with the house. If they don't, you might want to factor the purchase price into your offer. 
  • Is the home going to meet a lender's appraisal expectations? Appraisal at the listing price isn't always a sure thing. Take a look at the recent comps and have your agent check pending sales to make sure you won't get stuck once you've starting spending money on inspections and other aspects of the process.
  • Are there any other costs of ownership? You want to make sure there's nothing to surprise you after closing. Ask about association dues and additional taxes or assessments. Call the homeowner association to make sure there aren't any rules that conflict with your lifestyle.
It pays to make a visit when the work day ends.  Observe the comings and goings.  If you have or plan kids, check the school at arrival and dismissal.  Check U.S. Census demographics and talk to homeowners in the area if you have the opportunity.

Buying a home is not a child's play. Do your research. Real estate purchases and sales are regional so don't let yourself influenced too much by statistics at a national level. Choose a good real estate agent. You want the person who represents you to be honest, not tell you what you want to hear. The selling and buying process are easy to make emotional. Real estate transactions are complicated and require someone who really knows what they are doing to get the best deal. If you are looking for a home in the North Myrtle Beach area, give us a call at (888) 249-2100 or visit CENTURY 21 Thomas search page.

How To Prevent And Detect Water Damage In Your Home

Water is crucial for life, yet water damage to a home can also lead to wood rot, peeling paint, insect infestation, shorter lifespan of roofing and siding, generating high maintenance and repair costs.

Leaking roof

Water damage can happen when you least expect it. Learn how to detect water damage warning signs in and around your home. Follow these tips to prevent water damage and avoid future costly repairs. Keeping on top of potential water problems can save you a lot of money.

Ensure good drainage
  • Clean your gutters - keep them free of debris and leaves
  • Direct downspouts 5-10' away from the house
  • Adjust gutters capacity - if water overflows the gutters after a few minutes of heavy rain, install additional downspouts
  • Slope your yard and landscaping away from the foundation
Clogged gutter

Drain subsurface groundwater and storm water with a sump pump
  • A battery backup system is recommended. The sump pump should discharge as far away from the house as possible
  • Check your sump pump once a year
  • Test more frequently during storm season
Fix water leaks
  • Repair any noticeable dripping pipes
  • Check for dark spots under pipes and on ceilings
  • Repair any cracked caulking
  • Ensure the exterior materials of your home are properly constructed and maintained.  Inspect the roof for missing, loose or damaged shingles
Leaking pipe

Prepare your home
  • Check the attic for holes, air leaks or bypasses from the house and make sure there is enough insulation to keep house heat from escaping
  • Prepare your basement against a water backup by raising your washer, dryer, water heater, all electrical wiring and personal items above typical water backup levels
  • The relative humidity in your home should be between 30% and 50%. Use the air conditioning system to remove the excess humidity
  • Replace drywalls immediately if any signs of moisture are present
Act quickly if water damage occurs and address the problem thoroughly. Unattended water usually results in structural failure and/or mold growth. Consult with a licensed building professional to determine the extent of the repairs necessary. Swift action will help minimize the time and expense for repairs, resulting in a faster recovery.

How to Get a Good Remodeling Contractor

Remodeling
Thinking about updating your kitchen to something more modern, or maybe give the master bathroom a Jacuzzi tub? The hardest part of a home renovation is finding the right contractor, someone you can trust to do a great job for a fair price.

Remodeling spending is up and prices are 30% from their lowest point a few years ago. Add to that the higher costs of materials and you get the full picture of today's market. Remodeling projects require good planning, money, and great execution. Here are a few tips on how to get a good contractor for the job and manage the process:

  • Be very clear of what you want to accomplish and make sure the contract includes the work needed to be done.
  • Ask for a reference from a client who had to call them back to fix a problem with the work. to make sure  the contractor follows up until the homeowner is satisfied.
  • Verify the contractor's licenses and check them for reviews with the Better Business Bureau to make sure they are legitimate. To do residential building over $200 and commercial building over $5,000 in South Carolina a contractor must be licensed.
  • Get the contractor's input on the plan and on any initial sketches your architect has put together. If the contractor has a lot of experience he might offer valuable feed back and ideas.
Contractor

  • Leave the pricing conversation to the end. Discuss the technical details first and analyze carefully any add-on suggestions.
  • Never sign a contract without all of the blanks filled in. Read the contract carefully and, if the value is significant, have an attorney check it out.
  • Negotiate! Ask for bids from three different contractors if the value of the remodeling project is significant. Be sure to stoke competition by letting them know that you're gathering multiple offers. Skip any bids that are wildly high or low. But be careful, you don't want to end up with a contractor who cuts corners to stay within the budget.
  • Plan for a 10 to 20 percent contingency to cover the parts of the project that have to go over the initially allocated amount.
  • Set the schedule of the project with the contractor, but allow some flexibility. Good contractors have to work around issues and often times good solutions require more time.

Home remodeling

Communication is crucial. You may be on the phone with your contractor several times a day. You may have to work through disagreements over details so select a contractor who is not only skilled and reliable but who is someone you can get along with.  If you are looking for a home in the North Myrtle Beach area, give us a call at (888) 249-2100 or visit CENTURY 21 Thomas search page.

How much house can you afford?

How much home can you afford
Buying a home is one of the most important decisions you make. This is not a simple decision and it should be based on multiple factors. Despite its complexity, the process starts with a very simple question: how much house can you afford? This is the simplified answer: you can afford a house that costs as much as the largest monthly mortgage payment you qualify for.

Before you make any decisions and start shopping for a mortgage you should gather the financial information that allows you to do the affordability calculations. Mortgage companies use something called qualifying ratios to determine how much they will lend you. The ratio is calculated by taking your total monthly debt load and dividing it by your monthly gross income. Most mortgage companies use a 28/36 ratio. The first number is the percentage of your gross income that the lender would consider acceptable as a monthly mortgage payment ((i.e. if you make $3,000 per month, 28% of that is $840 per month).

The second number is used when all debt payments are considered (i.e. if you make $3,000 per month, but also have a $250 a month car payment, 36% of $3,000 is $1,080, minus the $250 car payment equals $830). Generally most lenders want your debt-to-income ratio, including your anticipated new monthly mortgage payment, not to exceed 36 percent.

In order to approach home ownership the right way, you have to think long term. The cost of homeownership extends beyond the monthly payment and includes routine maintenance and repairs, homeowners association dues, and additional utilities that you might not have paid while renting. You also have to consider your credit score. The best thing to do with a less-than-perfect credit score is to wait, while making changes in the spending habits to improve the score. Experts suggest, you should be debt-free and have three to six months of expenses saved in addition to your down payment and closing costs, before you consider buying a home.

If you are looking for a home in the North Myrtle Beach area, give us a call at (888) 249-2100 or visit CENTURY 21 Thomas search page. Click here for real estate mortgage information.

Note: The purpose of this information is to serve as a useful guide. For more exact, personalized information, please contact a certified mortgage representative.

How to Sell a Home With Pets

Cat and dog on the couch
Most of the families with pets think of their dog or cat as a family member. Despite the affection though, pets don't help much with the sales process. A homeowner with pets need to go a few extra steps to clean the house and mend the necessary repairs before it becomes ready for the market at a competitive price.

Here are a few useful tips to prepare for selling your home with pets. Read this article and filter out the information that does not fit your particular situation. We are pretty sure you will still find some tips appropriate for you and your beloved pet.

Pets are known for not adjusting well to change, especially cats or older dogs. Have a serious conversation with a good veterinarian before making any changes. This will make the process easier while helping you identify the critical aspects you need to consider before they leave a mark on the pet.

Make sure the pet is not home when buyers arrive. The best way to handle this is by relocating the pet in advance. You need the help of a friend or relative the pet gets along with. It would be ideal to relocate the animal earlier in the sale process to allow you the time to clean the house of any traces of the pet. This way you make sure no buyer gets turned off no matter how indifferent to animals he or she is. It is also important to make sure your dog is not home during showings for liability reasons. There is always a potential risk of unpleasant incidents when a dog meets new people no matter how friendly the animal is. Even pets have bad days.

Repair any damages made by the pet on carpets, furniture, hardwood flooring, walls, doors, turf in your yard, porch, and fence. It is almost impossible to avoid these damages with a pet in the house. Any such deterioration may have a negative impact on the selling price and the value perceived by potential buyers.

On of the easiest ways to betray the existence of a pet in a house is the smell. A strong odor is in fact one of the top reasons a buyer will pass on a home. Now matter how keen is your sense of smell, you have probably gotten used with it in time. Don't think there is no odor just because you can't smell it. The best thing to do is clean thoroughly and rely on someone that does not live in the house to offer you feedback on how good of a job you have done on removing pet odors.  Extra tip: use a professional carpet cleaner. If nothing works, replace the entire carpet.

Clean the yard if you are a dog owner who gives their pets free reign of the backyard. It may be great for the pet, but it surely leaves a mark on the lawn. Improve the look of your yard by repairing the discolored patches.  A successful backyard will help your home’s outside sparkle and shine as vibrantly as the inside.

Do your best and prepare thoroughly. Sometimes though, even if there are no indications of pets living in the house, potential buyers ask anyway. Be honest and upfront. Some people may try to bargain and push the price down despite the fact that you have successfully cleaned up and removed any traces of your pet. The best approach in this case is to focus on the current state of the house. Emphasize that your house now looks as good as it did before you had the pet.

Selling a home with pets takes work, but it’s worth it in the long run! Clean your house and make the necessary repairs to make sure your home is not devalued in the marketplace. The best thing to do as pet owners is to take action to eliminate the problem before your home goes on the market. Remember, a home is only really worth what a buyer is willing to pay.

Century 21 and Google Sign Exclusive Partnership

The contract recently signed is an exclusive partnership in the real estate industry between two giants: Google, recently named the world's most powerful brand, and CENTURY 21 Real Estate, the franchiser of the world's largest residential real estate sales organization in the world.

Century 21 and Google Partnership

This partnership has the potential to be one of the most powerful programs in real estate, adding a team of professional marketing assistants available to help brokers and real estate agents with the following tasks:
  • design and personalize their myc21 site;
  • create unique property site flyers;
  • enroll sellers in the golden ruler
  • enroll customers into pcc
  • create marketing collaterals with AdMaker
  • generate publicity with PR studio
  • prepare listing presentations
  • implement the new C21 Social Exchange to schedule media posts
  • generate leads.

Century 21 - most visited real estate website

By signing the partnership, Century 21 has a national scope in view, since the company advertises in iconic national media venues and fuels the industry's most visited real estate franchise website.

Century 21 has added two new fantastic websites: Century21Espanol.com and FineHomesAndEstates.com, dedicated to keep the real estate agents front and center in the conversations with customers throughout the year.

During its recent "Sell Like a Champion" 2014 Global Conference, Century 21 announced that it will be advertising in the 2015 Super Bowl.

Century 21 to advertise in 2015 Super Bowl!

For more details visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=39DNpfZMKV4. If you are looking for a home in the North Myrtle Beach area, give us a call at (888) 249-2100 or visit CENTURY 21 Thomas search page.

How to Go Green in Real Estate and Make Your Home Environmentally Friendly

April 22 is Earth Day, observed all over the world. It is a day of action for individuals, companies, and organizations to build awareness and protect the environment. As residents of North Myrtle Beach, we aare very happy with the latest developments regarding the wind energy in the area. In 2012 North Myrtle Beach City Council approved a resolution in support of offshore wind energy in South Carolina and identified North Myrtle Beach as a "Wind Powered Economic Zone."

CENTURY 21 Thomas has been a supporter of these initiatives. Our real estate agents are aware of the importance of promoting a green economy. They are open to managing listings of eco-friendly homes or sustainably-built homes. CENTURY 21 Thomas real estate agents were happy to share a few ways to go green in real estate and help others take steps to make their homes environmentally friendly:

Improve the energy efficiency of your home - work on the key areas of the home that are common trouble spots and frequently contribute to a home's poor energy performance:
  • seal and insulate the outer walls, ceilings, windows, doors and floors
  • perform annual maintenance of your heating and cooling system, clean the filter, install and use a programmable thermostat
  • use geothermal energy to heat and cool your home by using a ground-source heat pump
  • use  energy efficient lighting and appliances labeled as energy star products
Reduce, reuse and recycle - decrease household waste:
  • use the food you already bought and have in the house instead of buying more
  • reuse items around the house such as rags and wipes, empty jars and mugs, party decorations, and gift wrap
  • return used car tires to retailers or wholesalers that recycle or retread them
  • mow higher and leaving the clippings (called grasscycling). Homeowners can reduce their mowing time by 30 to 40 percent by not having to bag clippings.
Buy a solar panel system for your home - Prices for solar panels have plummeted, and industry experts anticipate a continued decline. Most solar panels on the market are high-quality and will have a guaranteed output of not less than 90% after 10 years and no less than 80% after 25 years.

Compare your home's energy use to similar sized homes and climates across the country with the Home Energy Yardstick (home utility bills needed) to see how you measure up with your neighbors. Going green is not just a fad–it’s an important element in our fight to save and preserve our planet for the future.

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