William Neilson
Phone:  267-872-1326Office:  215-679-9797
Email:  wneilson@remax440.comCell:  267-872-1326Fax:  267-354-6937
William Neilson
William Neilson

Bill's Blog

Home Inspections Pave the Way to Smoother Real Estate Transactions

March 12, 2016 11:18 am

When it comes to selling your home, the last thing you want to do is hold up a sale because of a simple problem that could have been identified by investing in a home inspection. While it may not be the No. 1 item on your to-do list as you prepare to list your home, a home inspection is an integral piece of the puzzle. Bringing to light any problems or issues that need to be addressed, a home inspection can save you a lot of time, money and headaches.  
 
Here are some of the most common problems a home inspector can unearth.
 
Bedroom Windows. All rooms listed as bedrooms must have an operating window with 30 square inches of clearance for fire escape. Bedrooms must also have heat. If a home is listed with three bedrooms, and one does not meet both these requirements, it cannot legally be called a bedroom.
 
Furnaces and Compressors. Rust in the heat exchange is a common problem that shows up during home inspections. Another common problem involves missing insulation where required by code at the time the house was built, or an improvement or replacement was installed.
 
Electrical Issues. Common electrical code violations include electrical junctions not enclosed in a junction box, a lack of GFCI outlets in bathrooms and kitchens, or reverse-polarity on outlets. These are inexpensive things to repair, but by not doing so, it can hold up a sale.
 
Lifesaving Equipment. Smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors are required by law in most states, and not having them will be considered a code violation.
 
Plumbing. A number of plumbing issues are very common, with violations ranging from dripping faucets to loose toilets and improper drainage.
 
Structural Problems. While these can be more expensive to fix, if they aren’t taken care of properly, they can prolong a sale. Violations in this area include rotten wood trim around windows and doors, rotten or delaminating siding and missing flashing on roofs or above windows and doors.
 
Extra Rooms. If you had your basement fixed up at some point while living in the home, or even added a sunroom, be sure you have the proper permits in place. This will need to be taken care of before any sale can go through.
 
Don’t put your home sale in jeopardy because of code violations that can be easily fixed. Hire an inspector, make the necessary changes and enjoy the comfort it brings when the closing comes to fruition.
 
For more information about home inspections and code violations, contact our office today.

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Green Features Top the List among Environmentally Conscious Buyers

March 12, 2016 11:18 am

In the age of global warming and high energy costs, more and more homebuyers are looking for houses that are equipped with green features that not only reduce the space’s overall energy consumption, but also cut back on the amount of water used throughout the space.
 
This is one of the main reasons why the National Association of REALTORS® created a Green Designation for REALTORS® in 2008, providing agents with the tools and experience to understand and seek out properties with green features.
 
If you’re selling your house, it’s important that your agent makes note of every green feature found within the home, including energy-efficient appliances, air purifiers and anything else you’ve incorporated into the space. This is critical as many house hunters will automatically disregard a house if some mention of green isn’t included in the listing.
 
No matter what type of green features you’ve incorporated into your home over the years, there are plenty of smaller things you can do around the house to make it more appealing to those who come for showings. Start by replacing light bulbs with more energy-friendly CFLs, which use just 25 percent the electricity as normal bulbs.
 
In addition, installing ceiling fans in bedrooms and other areas will help circulate warm air in the winter and cool down the home in the summer, keeping heating and cooling costs lower throughout the year.
 
When it comes to the bathroom, you may want to consider adding a low-flow toilet, high-efficiency, motion sensor faucets or low-flow showerheads to truly attract those looking for green homes.
 
Larger projects such as adding a tankless water heater, replacing the furnace and installing energy-efficient windows can also go a long way toward helping your home sell quickly.
 
If your home has a lot of green features, create a takeaway pamphlet of all the advantages it has to offer. Just make sure it’s on recycled paper.
 
And last but not least, go the eco-friendly route and have a pitcher of filtered tap water at the ready for prospective buyers who come to view your home. Add some organic fruits and vegetables to the mix and use real plates and glassware to truly drive the point home.
 
Working with your agent to highlight your home’s eco-friendly features may be just what it takes to make the difference in completing the sale.
 
To learn more about going green, contact our office today.

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Simple Tips to Incorporate Color into Your Home This Spring

March 12, 2016 11:18 am

In 2016, for the first time ever, Pantone’s Color of the Year is the blending of two shades: Rose Quartz and Serenity. The explanation for the coupling is that, combined, they “demonstrate an inherent balance between a warmer embracing rose tone and the cooler tranquil blue, reflecting connection and wellness as well as a soothing sense of order and peace.”
 
While you might not think that the use of a specific color can help when it comes to getting your home sold, there’s a wide belief in color psychology—the study of the impact of color on human behavior and emotion—that points to the fact that color has a tremendous influence on the choices we make.
 
If you’re in the process of putting your home on the market, selecting the right paint color can make a big difference. In fact, experts insist that certain colors can ultimately kill a sale, while other colors can have the opposite effect. And using Pantone’s Color of the Year throughout your home can provide a soothing effect among a wide range of prospective buyers.
 
For those that may not have the time to undertake a painting project, you can achieve the same soothing effect by incorporating the color through the use of throw pillows in the living room or a garbage can in the kitchen. To tie everything together, look for artwork that makes use of the colors and hang them in various rooms throughout the house.
 
When it comes to the bedrooms, look for comforters or pillows that mix the two colors. You may even want to consider bringing in a small piece of furniture such as a chair or a bench. Rugs and towels are an easy way to incorporate pops of color into the bathroom.
 
Once you’ve incorporated flashes of Rose Quartz and Serenity into your home, have your agent beef up his or her listing descriptions by adding the phrase “Color of the Year.” With the majority of home searches beginning on the Internet today, this is one more way to help your home stand out from the competition. Plus, adding photos that showcase these colors is a great way to show just how modern your home is.
 
Colors affect people in numerous ways, and by using the principles of color psychology, and the expertise of the people at Pantone, you can help your home stand out from the competition, sell more quickly, and at a better price.
 
To learn more about incorporating color into your home, contact our office today.

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Appraisals Continue to Play an Important Role in Assessing a Home's Value

March 12, 2016 11:18 am

If you’re involved in a real estate transaction, whether you're the buyer or the seller, understanding the importance of an appraisal—and what it says about the home—is critical.
 
In its simplest terms, the appraisal is a professional assessment of a home’s value, performed by a licensed appraiser, who considers things such as the property’s features, current market conditions, and supporting data on sales of similar properties. From there, an appraiser will use a formula to calculate the true value of the home.
 
Appraisals are conducted by independent contractors who have no affiliation with the buyer or seller. Appraisers work for a fee, rather than a commission, so there’s no bias on his or her part when determining the value of a property. Not only does the appraisal allow sellers to establish a fair market value of the property involved in the transaction, the appraisal process also goes a long way toward helping a lender determine how much they can safely lend to buyers.
 
While all appraisals are different, ranging in length from a few pages to more than 100, they all include details about the house, a description of the neighborhood and side-by-side comparisons of similar properties. The appraisal will also contain an evaluation of the area’s real estate market, notations of major problems with the property that will affect its value and an estimate of the expected time it will take to sell the property.
 
Many of today’s appraisals are placing a greater emphasis on green features, with appraisers estimating higher prices when energy-efficiency methods are installed, a trend that’s not likely to go away anytime soon. This is something that you or your REALTOR® should point out if you’re accompanying the appraiser on the viewing.
 
In the end, keep in mind that you don’t necessarily need to agree with the outcome of an appraisal and base your buying or selling decision strictly on the results that come about through the process, but the appraisal is an important barometer to keep in mind as you work with your agent to determine the best price point at which to list your home.
 
To learn more about the appraisal process, contact our office today.

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In this Edition: Home Inspections

March 12, 2016 11:18 am

Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters examines the importance of appraisals in today’s competitive real estate market. Other topics covered this month include simple tips to incorporate color into your home and how to spring clean your home into tip-top shape. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Home Matters and as always, we welcome your feedback. Email us anytime!

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3 Money-Smart Tips for Millennials

March 11, 2016 1:42 am

From witnessing the plight of their parents to navigating a barren employment landscape, most millennials experienced the effects of the economic downturn in one form or another. As a result, they’re cognizant of the importance of monetary well-being, yet unsure how to best manage their finances.

In reality, there are many routes to take on the path to a secure financial future. The specialists at Northwestern Mutual recommend starting with the following money-wise tasks:

1. Set goals. Currently, just over half of millennials have set financial goals. If you haven’t yet defined your goals, take time to create money milestones that align with your future plans. Ask yourself where you want to be at this time next year. If you’ve already set goals, now is a good time to review your plan, assess how you're doing and make updates if needed.

2. Review your 401(k). Approximately three-quarters of millennials expect to work past age 65 because Social Security won't take care of their needs. This finding stresses the importance of a strong 401(k). Are you contributing to your employer's plan? Can you afford to contribute more? Spending even a few minutes analyzing your retirement savings can pay off big down the road.

3. Meet with a financial professional. About one in three millennials say a lack of planning is their greatest obstacle to achieving financial security. The best way to make sure you're making the most of your money is to create a plan with a financial professional.

Says Emily Holbrook, young personal market director for Northwestern Mutual: "Regardless of where millennials are on their financial journeys, completing even one small task today can have a big impact on their financial futures.”

Source: Northwestern Mutual

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The Top 10 Downtowns of 2016

March 11, 2016 1:42 am

Things will be great when you’re downtown!

Livability.com recently released its ranking of the top 10 best downtowns across America, underscoring resurgence in downtowns in mid- and small-size towns. The downtowns included in the ranking offer expanded housing options, diversity and around-the-clock entertainment.

“Having a great downtown is about more than just great stores and great restaurants,” says Matt Carmichael, editor of Livability.com.  “A great downtown needs people. Great cities need great spaces to gather. These cities and towns are wonderful places to get out and engage with your friends, family and other residents.”

The ranking is as follows:

1. Alexandria, Va.
2. Santa Monica, Calif.
3. Greenville, S.C.
4. Bellevue, Wash.
5. Pittsburgh, Pa.
6. Boise, Idaho
7. Tempe, Ariz.
8. Plano, Texas
9. Colorado Springs, Colo.
10. Evanston, Ill.

To determine the ranking, Livability.com evaluated data from various sources, including the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the mapping platform Esri, to pinpoint areas experiencing an influx in population, new development and low vacancy rates. Livability.com also factored in Walk Score and affordability, among other indicators, and included a population parameter to identify downtowns that extend beyond Main Street.

Source: Livability.com

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Mortgage Rates Favorable for Spring Homebuyers

March 11, 2016 1:42 am

Buyers in the market for a home this spring can expect lower mortgage rates across the board.

According to the Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey® (PMMS®), the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage (FRM) stands at 3.68 percent, and the 15-year FRM stands at 2.96 percent.

“The 10-year Treasury yield ended the survey week exactly where it started; however the solid February employment report boosted the yield noticeably on Friday and Monday,” explains Sean Becketti, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “Our mortgage rate survey captured the impact of this temporary increase in yield, and the 30-year mortgage rate rose 4 basis points to 3.68 percent. This marks the second increase this year. Nonetheless, the mortgage rate remains 33 basis points lower than its end-of-2015 level.”

The 5-year Treasury-indexed hybrid adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM) stands at 2.92 percent, according to the survey.

Source: Freddie Mac

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Consumer Protection Week: IRS Scam Warning

March 10, 2016 1:42 am

Around this time every year, the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) National Consumer Financial Protection Week (consumerfinance.gov/ncpw) promotes heightened awareness of consumer rights.

According to the IRS—one of the agencies observing the week this year—one of the most recent and widespread issues affecting consumers are phishing and malware incidents. The IRS has seen an approximate 400 percent surge in these cases so far this tax season.

Consumers affected by this issue reported receiving emails designed to trick them into thinking they are official communications from the IRS or others in the tax industry, including tax software companies.  The phishing scheme asked them about a wide range of topics, including requesting information related to refunds and filing status, confirming personal information, ordering transcripts and verifying PIN information.

Variations of these scams have also been reported via text messages. When people click on these email links, they are taken to sites designed to imitate an official-looking website, such as IRS.gov. The sites ask for Social Security numbers and other personal information. The sites also may carry malware, which can infect computers and allow criminals to access your files or track your keystrokes to gain information.

The IRS urges people not to click on these links. Instead, send the email to phishing@irs.gov.

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When It Comes to Home Security, Safety Tops Convenience

March 10, 2016 1:42 am

Many homeowners purchase home security systems to ensure peace of mind for themselves and their loved ones—and for most, that preference goes beyond smart home-enabled security advancements, according to a recent survey by LivSecure and The Harris Poll.

"Smart home technology is popular, but the survey shows that homeowners want more than a 'smart thing' when it comes to protecting their home and family,” says Amy Kothari, president and CEO of My Alarm Center. “Homeowners want assurances that help will arrive when their family needs it, and professional monitoring alerts first responders in case of an emergency.”

Survey results show 93 percent of homeowners want the authorities to be alerted by their security system in the event of an emergency, and 63 percent do not consider self-monitored systems as safe as professionally monitored alternatives.

Not all homeowners object to smart home-enabled security, however. The survey found 81 percent of homeowners assign importance to remote monitoring systems, whether through their mobile device, tablet or computer, and 72 percent would like their security system to control other home functions, such as lighting and temperature.

Additionally, survey results show that DIY, or self-installed, security systems are growing in popularity: 49 percent of homeowners are open to installing security systems on their own.

Source: LivSecure

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