5 Ways to Reduce Yard Work

With summertime comes the need for yard work – it can’t be avoided! But, what if you could trim down the time you need to spend on your yard so that you could have more time to do other things instead? While everyone loves the look of a neatly mowed lawn trimmed with pretty flowers, there is a trend today towards conserving water and reducing the maintenance needs of a large yard. There are dozens of ways you can accomplish this, from quick-growing ground covers that need zero maintenance to replacing grass with different colored and sized stone.

Let’s look at five great ways to reduce your yard work chores.

Continue reading “5 Ways to Reduce Yard Work”

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Why Do Houses “Expire”?

You’ve seen this happen…

A house sits on the market forever, and it doesn’t get sold.

You see an agent’s for sale sign sitting in the yard for months and months. And then, all of a sudden, another one appears.

Sometimes, the new agent will get the house sold.

But sometimes, no matter how many different agents list the house, it just never sells.

You’ve been watching that house “expire”.

That is industry-speak for when a house doesn’t get sold during the time frame an owner has a listing contract with a particular real estate agent.

When a listing expires, it’s not uncommon for the owner to hire someone new to list their home…figuring the first real estate agent just didn’t have what it takes to get their home sold.

But, it usually isn’t the agent that was the problem. There are a few common problems that cause a house to expire.

However, it almost always boils down to one specific issue…and one specific solution.

So, here’s a list of the typical problems that lead to a house “expiring”, so you don’t make the same mistakes when you sell your own house. We’ll end with the one that is the overall problem and solution.

You can’t sell what people can’t see.

Sometimes it just boils down to buyers being unable to get in and see the house easily. Some homeowners make it too difficult for buyers and their agents to come in and view the home.

It’s fine to have some limits. But if a homeowner requests that all buyers give 24-hour notice, and will only allow the house to be shown on Thursdays between 11:30AM and 2:23PM, that makes it pretty tough to go see.

The maid is on permanent vacation.

It can be tough to keep your house spotlessly clean while it’s for sale. People wake up and run out of the house for the day having left some dishes in the sink, or beds unmade. That happens. It isn’t the worst thing in the world.

But some houses are just a mess. Buyers and agents come in wondering how anyone lives there, or even lives like that. There’s stuff everywhere. It smells.

No matter how much imagination a buyer may have, it’s hard to truly look at a house that’s extremely cluttered, or downright dirty, and picture themselves living there.

Location, Location, Location

The location of a house might just be undesirable.

If a home is located on a main road, or under power lines, or train tracks…or across the street from a firehouse…it can be harder to sell and may take some time for the right buyer to come along.

Supply and demand

If the market is “slow”, or a “buyer’s market”, it isn’t uncommon for houses to expire.

Sometimes it’s just a simple matter of supply and demand.

If there are a lot of houses on the market, and only so many buyers buying, there’s only so much you can do.

Sometimes it’s just a matter of buyer preference. A house could be easy to show, clean, and priced well against the competition. But if there’s only one buyer for ten houses that are equal in appeal and priced similarly, there’ll be nine disappointed homeowners, and one happy one. That buyer may have just chosen the house they chose because they knew someone who lived on that street. Or liked the paint color, or layout a little better.

There isn’t much a homeowner or agent can do about this.

To be fair…

It could just be that the real estate agent (or agents) the homeowner hired stink at selling houses.

That could be the case. But that usually isn’t really the problem. And another agent usually isn’t really the solution.

Most of the time agents are advising their client to make the home as easy to show as possible. And to declutter, and keep it as clean as possible.

And they take into account the location of the home and supply and demand.

That doesn’t mean that their clients listen to them in regard to the biggest problem and solution that takes all of the above into account…

Price

You may have heard this before: In real estate, price isn’t always the problem, but it’s always the solution.

Sure, a house could be worth every penny a homeowner is asking. It might very well be justified by recent comparable sales in the area.

But price will always get a home sold. And if a home isn’t selling, it’s almost always due to the price not being appealing enough to overcome any of the above factors.

  • It can overcome having strict showing times. If a homeowner wants to limit their house to being shown one day a week at a certain time… Fine. If you price the house aggressively, buyers will go out of their way to adjust their schedule.
  • It can overcome clutter and messiness. It doesn’t matter how awful the house shows, or how smelly it is…if it’s priced appropriately for the condition.
  • It can overcome supply and demand. If few homes are selling, and there are a lot of similar choices for buyers to choose from, a lower price will certainly make the buyers choice easier.

As much as real estate agents are perceived as being pushy, most are not. And they get blamed for houses not selling — for expiring — when most of the time it’s because the homeowners they represented didn’t listen to their advice about pricing their home. Price takes into consideration every factor.

So, when you see a real estate agent’s sign linger for too long… Or watch their sign disappear, and another one take it’s place…

Don’t be too quick to judge the listing agent for the lack of success.

It’s more than likely due to a homeowner who isn’t listening to good advice, that would help them avoid these common issues, and get their home sold.

Thinking About Selling Your Home?

If you are thinking about selling your home, there are several things to consider working on in your home before listing it. These are typically things I as a REALTOR will go over with you at a pre-listing appointment as well.

This list will serve as a place to start as to ensure that you as a homeowner will be doing things to get the most out of your home when it comes time to sell.

Let’s take a look at several areas for sellers to consider.

Continue reading “Thinking About Selling Your Home?”

Hidden Gems of Fairfield County – Alley Park

In my Hidden Gems of Fairfield County, I will be showing places in and around the County that people, including myself, always seem to forget exist or forget why they are even around.

In today’s installment of Hidden Gems, I want to talk about Alley Park. Specifically named the Charles Alley Nature Park. Alley Park is located on Old Logan Road just off of Route 33 East right outside of Lancaster.  Continue reading “Hidden Gems of Fairfield County – Alley Park”

Why Do I Need a Preapproval to Look at Houses?

If you have ever been in the market for a house, you are familiar with a preapproval. If not, a preapproval is a letter from a mortgage lender stating that they have reviewed your financial status and have determined that you meet their borrowing guidelines for obtaining a mortgage to purchase a house.

Continue reading “Why Do I Need a Preapproval to Look at Houses?”

I’m sorry, but I just cannot answer that question

I have only been licensed for a few months now and fortunately I have started out with a good number of friends and family wishing to purchase a house or list their current home. Being such a new agent has it’s ups and downs as I have to call and ask my mentor tons of questions all the time. Being around real estate since I was 18 though definitely helps.

As an agent, I want to be as helpful as possible to you and your family so before we look at a house, I generally do a ton of research on it so I can answer your questions before, during and after a showing. I do the same thing for a listing so that it gets listed for the best price and I can accurately market the house to sell it for you.

All of this being said, there are just some questions that I get asked and I simply cannot answer. Below are a couple of examples I have been asked in my short time as a licensee.

“Is this area safe? Would my family and I be safe in this neighborhood?”
I am from Lancaster and Fairfield County. I was born and raised here. I probably have an answer for you but the fact remains that I simply cannot answer this question for you. I can provide you with plenty of resources for doing this research on your own though! There are so many websites that cater to this type of knowledge which is awesome however you much do the research on your own.

So why can I not answer this question? There are a number of reasons but the biggest one is that talking about a neighborhood could be seen as redlining or steering. Both are against the law and prohibited for Fair Housing Law. Steering or redlining is basically where I try and limit you to certain neighborhoods or steer you away from other locations for one reason or another.

“Who lives around here? Are there many “insert some kind of demographic here” around here?”
If you ask a friend or family member who is familiar with the area you are looking at houses in, you may get a very different answer from what I will give you.

So why can I not answer this question? By me answering those types of questions, I could be violating Fair Housing Laws. Simple as that. There are plenty of resources online where you can research the makeup of neighborhoods, areas and entire cities or counties! I would be more than happy to proceed those resources for you.

“Why is the owner selling? Who are they? Do they have kids? Are they old? Are they getting a divorce? I just knew they were getting a divorce!”

When buying a home, I think it is good to do as much research as a buyer as you can. And I will do as much as I can for you as well so you are as informed as you can be. However, I likely will not and cannot answer these questions for you as I simply do not know. And it is very likely that even asking the listing agent for this information ahead of time will not yield much good information simply because the listing agent will not disclose the information without explicit permission from the seller. I would leave this information out of your home buying decision making.

“Is something wrong with the house? I heard “insert rumor here” from the neighbor or a friend that this thing is wrong with the house.”

As your agent, it is my duty to inform you of everything I can. That being said, I am not a home inspector, termite inspector, septic inspector, water inspector, electrician, well inspector, structural engineer, or a contractor. HOWEVER – I will provide you a list of people our brokerage has worked with in the past and you may choose to have any inspection done on the home you would like and I would encourage it!

“How are the schools around here? Please find us a home in the best school district in the area.”

Again, steering you toward particular school districts or schools in a neighborhood is against Fair Housing Law and I cannot do it. I can, again, provide you with resources to do research on area schools. Once you have told me where you would like to be, I can help find a house in that area – no problem at all.

I think that is all for today. Just remember that as your agent, I try to answer all of your questions as we progress through this journey that is finding the next place for you to call home. If I do not know an answer or cannot give you an answer to a question, just know that I will find or help you find an answer!

Fire Prevention Week

This week, October 9-15, 2016, is National Fire Prevention Week. House fires occur more often in the upcoming months than in any other months. This is generally due to the holidays and having more cooking going on and having decorations plugged in.

Now is a good time to check your fire extinguishers and make sure they are still good to go. Most newer fire extinguishers will have a pressure gauge on them. If the needle is in the green area, the extinguisher is still okay to use. If it is not in the green area, consider having the extinguisher replaced or serviced by a professional.

Speaking of fire extinguishers, the best place to have one is obviously in your kitchen. Experts recommend that the extinguisher be in clear and plain view and accessible in the event of a fire. This means, please do not put it in a cabinet or on top of the fridge behind a bunch of stuff. Experts also say the best place to put it is not near the stove. In the event of a fire, you may have to reach through the flames to grab the extinguisher if it is too close to the stove. Everyone in your household should also know where the extinguisher is, when to use it, and how to use it. This should be part of your household Emergency Action Plan.
smokealarmplacementThis is also a good time to check your smoke detectors. Before we do that though, let’s talk placement of smoke detectors. There should be at least one on every level of your home. And from there, one in each bedroom. I would not recommend putting on in the kitchen simply because cooking in there may set the smoke detector off. If it is constantly going off, that tends to lead to people disconnecting them or pulling the battery which is a huge safety risk. For the same reason, I would not recommend putting a smoke detector close to a heating or cooling vent.

test-smoke-alarmI generally, at least once per month, check that the smoke detector is still functioning by holding down the test button on it and wait for it to make that obnoxious noise that it makes. In terms of changing the battery in a smoke alarm, every six months is usually the recommendation. The easiest way for me to remember it is when daylight savings time starts and ends. I know, I know, you just put new batteries in them and they are supposed to be good for 5-10 years. I would recommend reading the guidelines about your smoke detector to see what the manufacturer recommends. One thing to remember though is if that smoke detector starts chirping, it is definitely time to change the battery in it. It is trying to warn you!

My last Fire Prevention Week reminder is that smoke detectors do not last forever. In general, alarms should be replaced every 10 years. But when did they get installed? I know. I installed new smoke detectors in 2013 when I bought my house so the inside of the battery compartment says “replace 2023.”

A Treasure Lost

2016 will mark my 29th Fairfield County Fair. I love the fair. Lancaster and Fairfield County are near and dear to my heart but the Fairfield County Fair is something. I’ve never been to another county fair so I guess I’m biased but the Fairfield County Fair is the last and the best fair in Ohio. I have heard people say it is better than the Ohio State Fair which I would honestly believe.

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I love the fair not just for the food and the shows but because I get to see people who I do not see very often. I get to see the pride people take in their hard work over the last year in raising animals, preparing for livestock shows and even growing the county’s tallest sunflower. It is a week long celebration of the heritage and pride we all hold for Fairfield County and Lancaster.

fg-churchI have seen many county fairgrounds before but never have a I seen a grounds that takes pride in preserving our history. The Fairfield County Fairgrounds is lined with historical buildings that once stood proud in various towns and villages throughout the county and then were moved to the fairgrounds to ensure that time will not forget them. There is the Mt. Zion United Brethren Church, the train station, general store, the round cattle barn, and of course the Rolley School House Covered Bridge that was lost in the Spring of 2016.

106285_141950-meThe Fairgounds is not just a staple of Lancaster and Fairfield County history though. It has roots in United States history as well. In the 1860’s during the Civil War, the Fairfield County Fairgrounds were temporarily renamed Camp Anderson and tents and training areas were setup for soldiers.

old-grandstand-1915In 2009, the Fairfield County Agricultural Society and the Fairfield County Commissioners made a decision to demolish a piece of history – the ladies’ grandstand. The ladies’ grandstand was a three story tall structure that originally stood next to the gentlemen’s grandstand on the south side of the horse track. old-grandstandIt was built in 1908 and remained in it’s location until sometime in the 1920’s. In the 1920’s, it was moved to it’s current location on the northeast side of the track.

The grandstand was badly damaged by a wind storm in 2009 and was not structurally safe. Honestly, I do not remember a time when it was safe to occupy except when I was small I remember sitting up there with mom and Nana one year during the fair. Anyway, when the grandstand was slated for demolition in 2009, a group of preservationists got together and were able to raise $100,000 to preserve the structure and make some repairs so that it would not be demolished. The group persevered and the ladies’ grandstand stood for another seven years.

14369891_10202284984721965_8214656706078318051_nIn the early fall of 2016 – September 24 to be exact – a fire was reported at the fairgrounds in the very early hours of that Saturday. When the Lancaster Fire Department arrived, the ladies’ grandstand was fully engulfed in flames. The structure was a total loss and so far the fire seems suspicious.

A piece of Fairfield County’s history; lost forever because of a senseless act.

With the 2016 fair only a couple of weeks away, I imagine that there will be a sense of sadness hanging in the atmosphere this year. For many of us, it feels as if we have lost a dear, old friend. For me, it’ll be sad to walk the outer rim of the fairgrounds and not pass by the ladies’ grandstand and be reminded of an earlier time.

Fraud in Real Estate – Wire Fraud

It sounds technical, but this topic is not. It is about protecting yourself in the day and age of technology. Fraud can happen anywhere and anyone can be a victim. It would seem that the easiest way to gather information from unsuspecting victims is through a method called social engineering.

Fraud

No – it has nothing to do with engineering. In this context, social engineering is the act of using established trust to gain information about someone in order to exploit their technology in a manner that would harm them.

A good example of this in a real estate transaction is wire fraud. You’re currently in contract to buy a house and you receive an email (seemingly) from your Realtor that instructs you to wire $10,000 to the title company in order for the transaction to proceed. Trusting your agent, you call your bank and have the transfer setup to the account indicated in the email you have received. You call your agent to tell them you have transferred the money at which time they state they have never asked you to transfer any money. At this point, let’s hope that the wire transfer can be stopped.

How did this happen though? Social engineering. Likely in this scenario, someone was able to obtain your email login. They then searched your emails and saw that you were currently involved a real estate transaction and then spoofed an email from your real estate agent. It seems quite elaborate just to trick you, however most of the time, the people trying to steal information and money from you are part of a much larger fraud scheme and likely you are one in a group of thousands or tens of thousands that were frauded at the same time.

So how can we avoid this? Well, that is going to require some cooperation on both your part as a buyer or seller and your agent’s part.

  1. When you begin working with an agent, ensure they lay out a communication plan with you. I am always sure to tell my clients that I use many different methods of communication such as phone calls, email, text, and dotloop. TELL YOUR AGENT which you would prefer. If I am going to be sending documents or anything to my client, I generally send it via dotloop or email and then text or call them and tell them I have sent it.
  2. From the agent stand point, we should all have statements in our signatures warning for the potential of wire fraud. The same goes for a confidentiality statement.
  3. Ensure that you are using strong passwords and change them regularly. In the business world, changing your password at least once every 90 days is a standard practice however for the average at home user, once per year is adequate. Use a combination of letters, numbers, symbols and capitalize letters. This ensure better security and they are harder to guess. If you think your account has been compromised, change your password – do not even hesitate. If there is a chance, it is better to be safe than sorry.
  4. Watch out for emails where the sender does not have very good English or has many spelling or grammar issues. And before you click on a link, look at the domain name (something.com) and see if it’s a site you recognize. If you click on a link and it asks for your username and password, I would suggest closing out of it and then typing the website into your address bar yourself instead of using the link.
  5. While most agents would not be dealing with wire transfer, if it does happen, your agent should contact you prior to initiating the transfer. If you receive something asking you to transfer money and you are not sure what it is, call your agent or your title company to verify its legitimacy.
  6. Stay alert of any strange emails you get. With all of the technology used in real estate including email and document management systems, not to mention all of the people who are actually involved in a transaction, it is not out of the question to get messages from people who you do not recognize asking you for documentation or to verify something. If you are not sure of the validity of a communication, do not be afraid to contact your real estate agent or your title agent.

Guys, the bottom line here is to be hyper vigilant and aware of what is going on. If you have questions, ask someone! As a Realtor, if I do not know, I will find out for you. Do not assume anything.

Small Details – Leaded and Stained Glass

As a new agent, I have been given the opportunity to do open houses for other agents in my office. Twice now, I have held an open house at a home on Forest Rose Avenue in Lancaster for my friend, Jackie.

I love this house. It’s so out of place where it sits but then again, it isn’t. If you have ever taken a look at the architecture in Lancaster, you will see that it changes sometimes by block or even from house to house, depending on who built it and in which part of which decade.

The small details in this home are what make it unique. From the white and burgundy tiled floor in the half bath to the almost flawless woodwork – my favorite are the leaded glass windows in the front entry way and the front windows in the living room. Can you imagine the painstaking attention to detail the artist had to have to complete these windows in the house? Or the sheer cost of having those produced custom for the owner at the time?

The home has been upgraded to newer windows everywhere except for several panes of stained glass as well as these leaded glass windows in the front of the house. It’s these small things that makes my heart happy that in modernizing the house, the owners did not erase those windows from the home but instead kept them and added storm windows to insulate and protect the house and those windows.

This home is truly a hidden gem on a side street in Lancaster. If you are in the market for a historic home that is ready to move into, look this one up!