Septic System Inspections

I am planning to sell my home but have heard nightmare stories from coworkers concerning septic inspections.  My home is about 40 years old but I have had no problems with my septic system.  Should I be concerned about this?

It is true that older septic systems have more difficulty passing inspections because standards have become more stringent.  In addition, results of inspections vary according to what inspectors feel is important.  Some will consider your system satisfactory but add a number of concerns which creates worry in the minds of your buyers.

No one wants to own a home with a nonworking septic system.  If a report shows it’s working now, but because of this or that, it may not be working in the future, you suddenly have created doubt in the minds of those interested in your home.   In addition, some inspectors will go so far as to add recommended work with costs, just in case you want to hire them to do the work, creating a conflict of interest.

This sounds like doom and gloom but it doesn’t have to be.  When meeting with a real estate agent to discuss listing your home, the concerns about a septic inspection should be part of the conversation.  One way to offset a negative septic inspection report would be to get your own inspection before you put your home on the market, using a septic inspector who is reasonable and fair, especially one who is not profiting from projected problems.

Like many other facets of selling, a passing septic inspection report is not guaranteed. But working with your agent to offset problems will many times result in an easier, more profitable sale.

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Should I Wait to Sell Until Spring?

I would like to sell my home but the outside looks so drab in the winter and who is looking this time of year anyway?  I’m wondering if it makes sense to wait to sell until the spring when flowers are blooming and things are green.  What do you think?

The question, “Should I wait to sell until the spring?” is asked by many folks this time of year. The perennials they worked long and hard at planting will go unnoticed.  Trees which provide privacy in the warmer months are without leaves, exposing neighbor’s properties.  And who wants to be looking at houses in the cold?  There seem to be good reasons to wait until the spring.

I think the best reason to sell now instead of waiting is because most folks have bought into these reasons and have decided to wait.  This means, if you wait until the spring, there will be many more houses for sale, giving buyers more choices when the warmer weather arrives. More choices are more competition for you which makes selling more difficult.

Although fewer people are looking at homes in the winter, the ones who are looking are more serious about purchasing.  The winter weeds out the “window shoppers”, those who enjoy spending their free time looking at homes.  Instead, you’re preparing a show ready home for people who are more committed to purchasing.

If you feel your home is ready to list and the only reason you’re waiting is because it is winter, I suggest putting it on the market now.  Your chances of your home being the only one like yours for sale is much greater than if you wait ( like most others)  for the spring.  Then, when warmer weather arrives, you’re packing and moving on, perhaps enjoying flowers blooming in your new home.

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Can I Afford to Sell?

My wife and I had our 3rd child this year so our 3 bedroom home is becoming cramped.  Because of our mortgage, I’m not sure if we can afford to sell. How can we find out what we can get for our home?

The best way to get a good idea of what your home is worth is to meet with a real estate agent.  A good agent will schedule a time with you at your house to review comparables which are simply properties similar to yours in location, condition, size and age which have sold recently.  A meeting at your home gives her an opportunity to compare your home with these properties to intelligently price yours.

She will take some time to walk through your home with you to look at the interior features (you may or may not have) which attract buyers, such as granite counters, hardwood floors, large closets, garage space, and if your basement is finished and/or a walk out.  She will also observe the location and views your home affords.  Do you have privacy?  Nice views?  Traffic noise?  She will ask about the age of the roof, heating/cooling system, and windows and if you’ve improved on the home by adding and/or finishing out space.

Pricing a home is not an exact science since conditions vary and no two homes are alike.  Knowing this, she will do her best to find a few homes as similar as possible to yours, adjusting the price if necessary to accommodate differences.

It is important to meet with an agent who is familiar with the area and has a track record of success in selling in the neighborhood you live in.  With her experience, she will generate an estimated seller’s cost sheet so you have the numbers you need to help you decide if you can afford to sell and move on.

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How to Clean Up Messy Credit

My wife and I have decided on the area we’d like to raise our kids in and found a house we love. In the process, we were disappointed to find out our credit is not high enough to purchase.  What can we do to improve it so we can purchase?

To get the keys to your dream home, it’s necessary to clean up messy credit. Your reputation as a debtor is the main deciding factor for a lender in determining not only your interest rate and reliability, but also if you can qualify for a mortgage.

It is important to look carefully at your credit report (which can be accessed free online) to see why your score is low, remembering the following:

  • If you have bills in collection, pay them off as soon as possible. If you don’t have the resources to pay the balance, you may be able to negotiate a lesser amount to satisfy the creditor.
  • If you see errors, get in touch with the consumer bureau and creditor immediately. Once proved, the mistake must be, by law, repaired within 30 days.
  • Pay down loans. Your debt is evaluated in comparison to the total credit available to you, called credit utilization. So $1,000 of total debt with $1,500 total credit limit is probably worse than $3,000 debt with a $10,000 limit. If your credit utilization rises above 50 percent, your credit score will suffer.
  • Pay all of your bills on time every month. Your payment history makes up roughly one third of your credit score, more than any other factor.   If paying the amount due each month is not possible, call your creditors to discuss a reasonable payment plan acceptable to all parties. Then stay with the plan.
  • Avoid applying for numerous new credit lines in a short period of time. Each time you apply for a new credit card, your credit score will take a hit.
  • If you don’t have a credit card, get and use one in order to establish good credit. Make sure to pay it off in full every month.

If you follow these suggestions, your score will improve with time. If nothing else changes, your credit score will gradually creep up on its own and before you know it, you will own the home you love.

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Renting vs Buying

I graduated from college a few years ago and have a job I love.  I’ve been renting a townhome and need to renew my lease.  In so doing, I was told my rent is going to go up $100/month.  This got me thinking about buying a place.  I’m wondering what you suggest I do. 

Your experience of your rent going up is typical of what renters are finding these days. While home prices continue to remain low, rents are rising.  So purchasing a home seems to make sense.

Consider the following advantages to homeownership:

1 – Money matters – You can pay the same monthly payment, or even less, while often building equity (the difference in how much the home is worth over how much you owe on it). In addition, your mortgage interest and property taxes can be deducted on your federal tax returns.  Also, in paying your mortgage each month you are routinely putting money away, forcing you to save.  This especially makes sense now when interest rates are low.

2 – Security and control – By living in your own home, no landlord can kick you out or raise your rent. You can remove walls, remodel and make repairs without anyone’s permission.  Of course, you own the home so this is at your expense.

3 – Stability – A home you own provides a permanent place where you can live and grow.  This promotes a sense of community which encourages involvement to better your neighborhood.

Although these are good reasons to buy a home, if you see your job as short term or you are not sure you want to stay in the area (at least 5 years), renting is your better option.

If you’re convinced home ownership is worth looking into, contact your local realtor who will guide you through the process. Most likely you will find yourself a home owner and happier for it.

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Bring Them In

Our real estate agent told us what she thought we needed to do to get our home ready to sell.   We’ve painted, replaced carpeting, emptied out and cleaned until we’re exhausted.   According to her, we also need to do a lot of work on the outside.  We’re anxious to get our home on the market.  How important is the outside?

In my experience, the exterior of your home is very important because it is the first thing the buyers see. You never have a second chance to make a first impression.  If potential buyers are turned off when they drive up to your home, they will not be impressed with the inside, no matter how perfect it is.  In fact, they may not even come in.  Usually, interested folks drive by a home before they decide to schedule a showing.  A well kept property will bring them in.

Specifically this means pressure washing your home, cleaning and staining the deck, weeding and mulching flower beds, trimming shrubbery and removing dead branches, sealing the driveway, cleaning or replacing exterior lighting, painting or cleaning exterior doors and garage doors, adding colorful doormats, placing outdoor furniture in seating areas, adding color with flower pots, and removing lawn ornaments and basketball hoops.  This list probably looks similar to what your agent recommended.

When selling your home, you essentially have to sell it three times: once online, once when buyers drive by and finally when they come inside.  Making the improvements on the outside will bring them in.

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Buyers Need to Love It

We are getting our home ready to sell. The last time we painted it was about 10 years ago. Our agent told us we should repaint and gave us some neutral paint choices. Wouldn’t it be better to offer money to the new buyers so they can choose their own colors instead of painting it a boring neutral, since they may not like neutral?

Your objection to painting makes sense. Why spend money doing something that your buyer may not like? Instead, offer them a credit to do it their way.

 It sounds good, but unfortunately, homes sales do not support it. Buying a home is an emotional decision. Buyers need to love your place. This love affair begins at the front door. A fresh coat of paint is one of the easiest, most dramatic and most inexpensive ways to enhance their first impression. Freshly painted doors, walls and trim give the message that your home is clean, bright and well cared for. If you do not have experience in painting, hire a painter as a sloppy paint job can be worse than no paint job.

 Why neutral, you ask? Buyers want to imagine your home as a blank canvas for their own vision. Neutral colors will help amplify the experience of light and space and will keep them focused on the essentials. As they leave, you don’t want them referring to your place as “the house with the blue den.” Instead, you’re hoping for “the house with the large kitchen” or “the home with the magnificent fireplace.”

 Buyers need to love your home as soon as they step into it. Without a doubt, a fresh coat of paint of a neutral color is one of the best ways to begin that love affair.

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