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Useful Real Estate Tips & Advice

Welcome to our quick reference for some general tips and pointers pertaining to the real estate world. We hope you find all of the information on this site useful and if in anyway you can contribute to this list, please feel free to contact us. Or, if you know of a friend who'd be interested in visiting this section, please refer this to them. Thanks!

Title Insurance
Below are 20 reasons why titles should be insured.
(1) A fire destroys only the house and improvements. The ground is left. A defective title may take away not only the house but the land on which it stands. Title insurance protects you against such loss.
(2) A deed or a mortgage in the chain of title may be a forgery.
(3) A deed or a mortgage may have been signed by a person under age.
(4) A deed or a mortgage may have been made by an insane person or one otherwise not competent.
(5) A deed or a mortgage may have been made under a power of attorney after the death of the principal and would, therefore, be void.
(6) A deed or a mortgage may have been made by a person other than the owner but with the same name as the owner.
(7) The testator of a will might have had a child born after the execution of a will, a fact that would entitle the child to claim his or her share of the property.
(8) A will may have been revoked by the testator after its execution.
(9) A conveyance by heirs-at-law of a person supposed to have died without a valid will may be defeated by subsequent discovery and probate of a will.
(10) An heir or other person presumed dead may appear and recover the property or an interest therein.
(11) A judgement or levy upon which the title is dependent may be void or voidable or account of some defect in the proceeding.
(12) Unless you have the title insured, you cannot be sure you will never suffer loss through title disputes after buying or lending on real estate.
(13) Title insurance helps speed negotiations when you are ready to sell.
(14) By insuring the title you can eliminate delays and technicalities when passing your title on to someone else.
(15) If your title is ever defeated, title insurance reimburses you for the amount of your loss.
(16) We assume the risk and worries, make all your troubles ours, with the issuance of title insurance.
(17) Each title insurance policy we write is paid up, in full, by the first premium.
(18) Our insurance of a title means that you will have free defense in court, in addition to the payment of any loss you may sustain.
(19) Claims constantly arise due to marital status and validity of divorces. Only title insurance protects against these claims of supposedly non-existent or divorced "wives" or "husbands".
(20) Many lawyers, in giving an option on a title, protect their client as well as themselves by procuring title insurance.
Property Tax Assessments
Challenging Property Tax Assessments
The assessment placed on a piece of property is the value that will be used to determine how much property tax will be owed.

Many times the assessment is placed on the property in the first part of the year and statements are mailed to property owners with bold printing that says "This is not a bill." Unfortunately, since it doesn't require action, many property owners don't give it the attention it deserves.

Usually, there is a deadline for the assessment to be challenged. After that time, it is set for the year and the property taxes according to their rates.

Correcting an assessment is a simple matter and doesn't require the services of a specialist. The first step is to discuss it with the assessor's office. Many times, clarifications can be made on this initial phone call.

The next step is to make an appeal to the local board that is set up to hear disagreements. The board is made up of local citizens. Both the taxpayer and the assessor's office will get to tell their reasons for valuation.

The property owner should have as much evidence to support the claim as possible. An independent appraisal is an excellent piece of data to have. However, if you have comparables of recent sales with documented facts, it will usually carry as much weight.

If the property has detiorated, pictures can be valuable to show its present condition.

There are certain arguments that carry more weight in getting a lower assessment such as incorrect information on the assessment like square footage or age. If the house has detiorated significantly, or there has been a general drop in prices, this could adversely affect the value.

Simply saying the property is too high and you couldn't sell it for that will generally not have much consideration. Neither will saying that it hasn't been revalued lately or that an unfair comparison was made.
Home Improvements
Which different home improvements are worthwhile?
Not all home improvements will add value to your home. Some things that are done to a home must be considered personal and the enjoyment of the family members may be the only return ever received for the expenditure.

For example, a swimming pool or a built-in spa may not cause the home to sell for any additional money. In lower price ranges, it may even hurt the sale of the home. As the price goes up, more of the cost may be recovered but as a rough rule of thumb, you can generally only expect to get half of what the pool cost.

Other examples of items that don't increase value include wool or other high quality carpet, oak paneling compared to ash paneling, solid brass plumbing fixtures, and slate or aluminum roofs. The logic is that the new buyer expects the quality to be good but will not usually pay for the top of the line.

On the other hand, there are some improvements which can cause the home to sell for more money and should be considered by homeowners when updating is appropriate.

Kitchens and bathrooms will date a home quicker than anything. And an updated kitchen with new appliances, counter tops and attractive cabinets will make buyers get excited and can make the difference when deciding between two homes.

A tremendous change can be made in a bathroom by adding new light fixtures, new mirrors, and attractive wallpaper to complement the tile colors.

Don't expect a buyer to have the imagination to be able to see what your home will look like if they replace the carpet, paint, or add new wallpaper. Take the time and spend the money to make these improvements before you put your home on the market. It will sell quicker and for more money than if you give the buyer an "allowance."
Add On Or Move
Difficult decision to make, right? Whether your should move out or add on, either way it's a project and going to take time. Consider the advice below when making this important, and possibly life-altering choice.
This is a question that many people are faced with: Should we add-on to our existing home or should we sell our house and buy a new home? The question can be perplexing but with a little analysis, a logical solution can be arrived at.

There is a principal in real estate appraisal called conformity that says that all homes in a given area should be of similar size and value. If you add-on to your home and in effect, over-build the neighborhood, the value of the smaller homes will bring your value down regardless of how much you have invested in the property.

If you plan to stay in your home for a long time, then you should be able to enjoy the addition and thereby recapture the cost regardless of whether it brings any additional value to the property when it sells.

Another difficulty that homeowners face when making an addition to their home is creating what appraisers call functional obsolescence. For example, if an additional family room or bedroom being built causes an unconventional floorplan, the new room could be functionally hampered and thereby affect value.

Contractors will advise people that an addition has to be of significant size to spread the cost of possible additional heating, air-conditioning, and foundation work. Many times a small room addition may cost as much as a larger one.

Certain room conversions can actually lessen the value of a property. For instance, converting a two car garage to a family room will usually penalize the value of a home and could hurt its marketability. People expect a home to have a garage an even though the additional living space is nice, it still needs a garage.

Once a home gets to a certain size in square footage, prospective buyers expect different types of amenities in the kitchens, bathrooms and all throughout the home. Unless updating occurs at the same time the addition does, these things will be outdated.
Selling Property
When you are about to sell a piece of property, keep these important bits of information in mind.
Homes are purchased by comparison and you have only one property to show.

The average homeowner overprices his home but eventually accepts a price lower than market value. A REALTOR can objectively price the home based on actual comparable sales.

It is difficult for a seller to create rapport with a buyer because no relationship has been established. In some cases, an adversarial position occurs because there is no third party negotiator.

You may hear conflicting suggestions regarding the sale of your home from well intentioned friends. A REALTOR can see the entire picture and offer advice based on a wide range of experiences.

A REALTOR can offer expert advice to sell the home quickly by preparing the home prior to placing it on the market.

Your method of attracting buyers is a sign in the yard and an ad in the paper, but REALTORS have many proven methods of promoting your property.

The average prospect isn't likely to freely discuss his likes and dislikes to a homeowner but will with a REALTOR. This is a necessary step in the decision making process.

It is difficult for you to follow-up with prospects who have seen your home because it might be interpreted as anxiety to sell which could give the impression you will take less for your home.

Is it the highest and best use of your time to try to sell your home or would you be more productive at your chosen profession?
Should I Buy?
Answers to the obvious question.. "Why Buy?"
Pride in owning: Most people buy homes to have control over where they live. Although investment features are important, the psychological reasons for buying - the satisfaction of owning and freedom from paying rent - are at least as important.

In a survey done by the National Association of REALTORS of 6,000 homeowners and 2,000 renters - perhaps the largest ever of attitudes toward home ownership - showed that 76% of owners and 66% of renters considered pride of ownership an important reason for buying.

Dislike paying rent: Almost equal portions of owners and renters - close to 7 to 10 - said a dislike of paying rent was an important reason to buy.

Make home a reflection of you: Also an important reason mentioned by more than 6 in 10 owners and renters was an owner's ability to control and modify a home's features.

Settling down: More than 6 in 10 renters said "settling down" was an important reason to buy.

Good investment: 76% of owners and 69% of renters said the investment aspect of ownership was important.

Long-term appreciation: People consider home ownership a good investment because they view it as a long-term venture. Historically, home prices have risen at relatively steady rates. Existing home prices rose an average of 4% per year between 1980 and 1992.

Leverage investment: People borrow a great deal to buy a home, yet they receive the full benefits of price appreciation.

Source of savings: Home ownership always has and continues to comprise the single largest source of savings for American households.

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