Real Estate Information

Kingwood Real Estate Blog

Tami Heitzwebel

Blog

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 18

Walk This Way

by Tami Heitzwebel

It’s almost here – your closing date!  Maybe you have been thinking about how you are going to arrange your furniture or getting quotes for some work you want done to make it “your” home.  But there is one thing you need to do prior to closing—a final walk-through.

There are a few really good reasons to do a walk-through before you actually close on your house.  You want to make sure the home is in the same condition as when you made your offer and/or inspection.  You will want to make sure that the utilities—electric, water, gas—are on so that you can make sure that everything is functioning.

It’s also a good time to confirm that any repairs made are to your satisfaction.  Vacant houses can develop problems if they sit for any period of time.  Finally, you want to make sure that the home is actually vacant.

I always suggest that buyers do a final walk-through because you never know what you might find.  Some things to look for include:

  • Checking the outlets to make sure each room has power.  An easy way to do this is by using your mobile phone charger.
  • Looking at all the bathrooms – flush each toilet and turn on both hot and cold water in the sinks, showers and tubs.  Make sure there is hot and cold water.
  • Taking a peek in the kitchen refrigerator – make sure that nothing has been left behind.  Do the same with the dishwasher. 
  • Also take a look in the washer and dryer.  More often than not, in the heat of getting ready to move, sellers tend to forget that final load of laundry.
  • Making sure the air conditioning and/or heating systems are up and running.  Even if it is 100 degrees outside, run the heating system for a few minutes! 
  • Being on the lookout for what my assistant jokingly calls “gifts with purchase.”  Sellers will sometimes leave furniture and other items that they just don’t want to move.  Take a look in the garage or storage sheds for left-over paint, used oil, propane tanks or other items.  These items may require special disposal and if you don’t know they are there, you may be on the hook for some costly disposal fees. 

Be prepared for the house not to look like you remember.  If the house is now vacant, you may notice carpet outlines or fading from furniture being moved.  Remember that some appliances, such as refrigerators, washers and dryers may not be included in the purchase and should have been removed.   There may be some small homes in the wall from prior hanging pictures. Was there a mounted TV?  There may be some larger holes if the sellers took out the mounting brackets. 

A final walk-through could save you time and money.  Take the time to do one before you close.  If you have any questions, give me a call.  Team Heitz is here to help! 

Real Estate Lingo - Part 2

by Tami Heitzwebel

As promised, here are a few more common words you will hear most often after having your offer accepted and you go under contract.  Again, please keep in mind that some of this information may be slightly different in different areas of the country:

  • Inspection:  Once you have signed a contract and paid your option fee, you have an option period which consists of a certain number of days to have the property inspected.  I firmly believe that ALL properties should be inspected.  I had a client who purchased a new three-story townhouse from a builder and opted not to do an inspection.  When they got ready to sell, the buyers’ inspector found stucco issues that were the result of improper installation by the builder.  It cost my sellers over $20,000 to fix these issues.  Their townhouse eventually did sell, but the money they saved by not doing an initial inspection cost them many times over.  A home inspector of your choosing will inspect the house for damage and provides a written report with pictures and suggested repairs/fixes.  The inspector also meets with buyers at the end of the inspection to go over his report.  If there is damage or suggested repairs, I can help negotiate those between buyers and sellers.  I also have worked with several home inspectors in the area and can help you find the one that is perfect for you. 
  • Appraisal:  If you are getting a loan (mortgage), the lender will require an appraisal.  Basically, the appraiser is tasked with assuring the bank that the contract price is comparable to other homes that have sold in the area.  If the home appraises below the contract price, you might have to either re-negotiate with the seller or make up the difference at closing.  Lenders can be pretty particular about appraisals since they are loaning money based on the value of the house. 
     
  • Closing costs:  There are several items that have fees associated with them—loan processing fees, recording fees, title fees, title insurance and the list goes on.  I tell my buyers to budget about 2-5% of the purchase price of the home for closing costs.  Sellers generally should budget around 7-8% for their closing costs.  Most lenders will give you a Good Faith Estimate of closing costs so that you can plan accordingly.
     
  • Title Insurance:  This insurance protects both buyers and sellers.  Coverage includes making sure the seller has the right to sell the house, dealing with liens for non-payment of contractor work or taxes, survey issues and even problems arising from a dispute between heirs regarding an estate property.  Buyers pay for lender’s coverage; however, buyers can also purchase owner’s insurance coverage.  A seller will sometimes pay for owner’s coverage.   
     
  • Closing: Buyers and sellers get together and sign paperwork, the title is transferred and money is exchanged.  Generally, real estate agents will attend, along with someone from the bank (if there is a mortgage) and even possibly a notary.  Most closings take place at title companies.    

There are still several other terms – in fact, I recently learned a new one after doing this for 17 years!  If you have questions, please call me.  Team Heitz is here to help!

Real Estate Lingo – Part 1

by Tami Heitzwebel

When you enter the world of real estate, you will soon realize that we have our own language.  Once you decide to buy or sell, our language will become yours.  Here are a few of the more common words you might hear.  Please keep in mind that some of this information may vary in different areas of the country:

  • Real Estate Agent, Buyer’s Agent and Realtor®:  Real estate agents are licensed professionals that will help you with your real estate transaction.  A buyer’s agent is also licensed and generally represents buyers , while a listing agent represents sellers.  A Realtor® is someone who is a member of the National Association of Realtors and follow a strict code of ethics and other standards.  Yours truly is a Realtor®, and I also have a Buyer’s Agent (Amanda Walker) as part of my team.
  • MLS:  This stands for Multiple Listing Service, which is a online, searchable database with detailed information for each listing.  This is different from some of the other online real estate websites, like Zillow.  I actually use HAR (Houston Association of Realtors ®), which is a MLS-linked searchable database specific to Houston and the surrounding areas.
  • Pre-Approval Letter:  This is a letter from a bank or lender basically giving you an estimate for lending purposes once you have provided them with information regarding income, assets, debts, etc.  There are some listing agents that insist on all potential buyers wanting to look at a property be pre-approved, and they will definitely want to see your letter if you decide to go under contract (make an offer) for a house.
  • Offer/Contract:  This is your official offer to purchase (or sell) a property.  I always advise my clients to read these contracts carefully.  If you don’t understand some of the conditions, I am here to explain them to you.  You also have the right to have an attorney review a contract if you wish.  An offer does not become a contract until it is signed by all parties.  A seller can choose to accept, reject or make a counter-offer.  Buyers can counter a counter-offer.  This is when it really can pay to have an experienced Realtor® (like me) to help you with these negotiations. 
  • Option Fee:  This is a non-refundable fee (can range from $10 to $25 a day or higher) given to a seller by the buyers to compensate the seller while the home is undergoing inspections.  Generally, when a property goes under contract, the status in MLS is changed from “active” to “option pending.” The property can continue to be shown, but most realtors pass by these listings unless their clients insist on seeing.  This fee is usually credited back to the buyer at closing.
  • Earnest Money: This is paid in addition to the option fee.  Earnest monies generally amount to one percent (1%) of the purchase price.  You might have heard this also referred to as a good faith deposit.  It shows the seller that you are serious about purchasing the property, and these funds are held by an escrow agent at a local title company.  Beware—if you back out of a contract without good cause, the seller may have the right to keep you earnest money.

There are many other terms you might hear and wonder about.  Stay tuned for my next blog post and I’ll discuss a few more.

Moving with Fido or Fluffy

by Tami Heitzwebel

You have found your dream house and are packing up to move in.  While moving can be stressful for humans, it can really freak out the family pet.  My assistant moved from New Hampshire to Arizona with two dogs and a cat in tow (along with their RV).  She says that it was fortunate that cats have nine lives, because this cat howled one life away during the cross-country trip.

If you are looking at homes and have family pets, think about including their needs in your “want” list.  Is there a fenced yard for your dog?  Take a walk around the neighborhood.  If there is a local park, does it allow dogs?  Is there a dog park in the area?  If your cat is strictly indoors, is there a room that has a window that would make a perfect home for a kitty condo or shelving?

Cats are notorious for hiding in boxes.  We have all read stories about movers packing up a home, only to find that they have also accidently packed the family cat in a box!  Most animal experts suggest keeping your dog or cat in one room of the house on moving day.  If you can kennel your pets for the day, you won’t have to worry about them “making a run for it” if someone accidently opens a door. 

If you are taking a road trip with your furry (or feathered) family, using a safe, well-ventilated carrier is a must.  Be sure to secure the carrier with a seat belt for added safety.  If you will be traveling for more than a day, you may want to do some research on pet-friendly hotels.  Make sure you have a “travel” bag for your pet that includes food and treats, water, bowls, a few toys and any medications they take.  For cats, a disposable litter box is a must.  Another thing to include in your pet’s travel bag is current veterinary records.  If your pet has not spent time in a crate or carrier, you might want to consider acclimating them about a month before you leave.  Start by putting their meals and special treats in the crate with the door open.  After about a week, put the meal in the crate and close the door.  Gradually increase the amount of time your pet spends in the crate.  Hopefully by the time you are ready to hit the road, your pet will be ready as well. 

Once you get to your new home, consider keeping your dog or cat in one room with food, water, toys and a litter box if needed.  Keep the door closed and labeled so that the movers don’t open it.  It is tempting to let your pet roam throughout their new digs, but it could be a bit overwhelming.  By letting them adjust to their new surroundings, it will make the transition easier on them (and you). 

Finally, don’t forget to update your microchip information with your new address and phone number.  Consider keeping your dog on a leash for their first few walks around the neighborhood.  It may actually be a local law or HOA policy, and this will prevent Fido from getting lost in case something spooks him or he sees Sammy Squirrel.

If you are looking for recommendations for a local veterinary service, groomer, kennel or dog park, give me a call.  At Team Heitz, our pets are an important part of our families and we are here to help.    

Being Efficient Pays!

by Tami Heitzwebel

If you are like me, opening your utility bills for the next several months can cause a bit of angst.  Now that summer is here to stay (at least I think it is), cooling bills are going to be higher.  Watering your landscaping or adding water to the pool?  You will see a jump in your water bill as well.  So what can you do to take the sting out of those month bills?  Here are a few tips:

  • Install programmable thermostats.  There are many different kinds to choose from, but basically, they all work the same way.  You program the climate control system so that the air conditioning temperature setting is higher (or lower if using the heat) during the day if no one is home.  There are several “smart” thermostats available now that will sense movement in a room and adjust the temperature accordingly.  You can even adjust the temperature using an app on your smartphone.  These “smart” thermostats quickly learn your home and away patterns, which help your climate control systems be more efficient.  Depending on which electric company you select, some will even give you a free programmable thermostat. 
  • Do you have ceiling fans?  They are more than just a nice decoration – they can actually help keep the air moving in your home.  And they cost pennies a day to run – much less expensive then running an air conditioner or portable heaters.  Make sure you switch the fan direction forward (counterclockwise) for summer and reverse (clockwise) for the winter.  Also remember to switch them off once you leave the room.
  • Take a peak in the attic.  Does your insulation look compacted?  It might be time to add an extra layer.  Since hot air rises, the attic is one of the biggest places where heat loss appears.  How much insulation do you need?  The US Department of Energy puts out several guides – and a trusted home contractor can also help.
  • Replace lightbulbs.  Switching your lightbulbs to LED bulbs is an easy fix.  Today’s light fixtures are designed to reduce energy costs, which, believe it or not, could be up to one-third of your home’s monthly electric bill!
  • Thinking about updating your kitchen?  Consider Energy Star-rated appliances.  Refrigerators and ovens are the major energy users in your kitchen, and replacing them with more efficient models will not only lower your electric bill, but could also add resale value if you plan on selling in the future.
  • Programmable timers are also useful for landscaping/watering systems.  These timers are getting "smart" as well, with several models available.  Since some of the newer models an be programmed to water only when needed, this could save a lot of money and water.  

I would love to hear from you if you have some other tips or have questions about finding a reliable contractor to help you with some of these projects.  Give me a call or text – Team Heitz is here to help! 

Supporting Our Veterans and VA Loans

by Tami Heitzwebel

I just love living in Texas.  We have a long, proud tradition of supporting our military veterans and honoring the sacrifices they make for all of us.  My father was in the Air Force, which makes Memorial Day even more special to me.

As part of their service to our country, qualified veterans are eligible for VA loans.   Did you know that there are over 21 million veterans that have access to this program?  There are several reasons to choose a VA loan if you are eligible:

  • No down payment – possible 100% financing
  • FICO (credit scores) don’t have to be perfect – although most lenders prefer a score of at least 620
  • Loans are not subject to monthly mortgage insurance – a plus that could save a buyer a couple hundred dollars a month
  • A seller or someone else (like a parent) can make gifts or contribute toward closing costs
  • Loans can be fully assumable by a qualified buyer – and the buyer does not have to be a veteran

I know that when I mention VA loans to other agents in my building, they tend to make a face.  There is a common misconception that VA loans take longer to close.  That may have been the case several years ago, but technology changes have greatly streamlined the process.   One thing to keep in mind is that VA loans are intended for primary residences only – they cannot be used for investment properties.  Another sticking point may be earnest money deposits.  If a VA loan applicant qualifies for 100% financing, some real estate agents will still insist on getting earnest money to protect their clients.  An experienced real estate agent (like me) can help you work through this process.  A final misconception about VA loans is that they are actually processed by the Veterans Administration.  Not true – the loan processing is still handled by a bank or mortgage broker.  If you are thinking of using your VA benefits to buy a house, give me a call.  I would be proud to help you make your home ownership dreams come true.

Power Up!

by Tami Heitzwebel

One of the many decisions buyers need to make as they approach their closing date is selecting various utility companies.  In today’s age of competition, it might surprise you to learn that you could have several options to choose from.  For some of my clients who grew up in small towns that only have one power company, one cable company and one gas company, this may come as a bit of a shock.

Here in the Kingwood area, there are several electric companies competing for your business.  Fortunately, all the information you need to make a smart, informed decision is online and available at https://www.texaselectricrates.com/?s_clid=03bbf152df72b802746ce17d22c51078

There are also several different television, internet and phone providers who service the area.  We have all seen the commercials asking if we can hear them now, showing maps with cell coverage and even luring us with voice-guided television remotes.  I haven’t used one of the remotes yet, but if they work like my Siri does, it might make for some interesting television watching.

All these choices can be a bit overwhelming.  One of the services I provide for my clients is a complimentary concierge service that will help you getting all these new services in place.  This can even include pest control and yard/landscaping services in addition to utilities.  

If you have any questions, please give me or my team a call.  We are here to help!

Lights! Stage! Action!!

by Tami Heitzwebel

You made the decision to sell your house.  You already called your favorite real estate agent (ME!), the listing agreement is signed and we are ready to get your house ready to show.  So what do you need to do in order to make your house stand out from the others?

Staging a house can be inexpensive and easy to do.  We have all seen the HGTV shows that have staged homes that look like they could be on magazine covers.  If you are willing to put a bit of work into it, there are several tips and tricks that could pay off:

  • First impressions are EVERYTHING!  Replace that old, worn-out front door welcome mat with a new one.  It tells buyers that your home is well-cared for, and is a relatively inexpensive fix.
  • Curb appeal is important and often overlooked.  One easy tip – neaten the edges and trim the hedges.  Camouflage utility boxes, grates or meters with a well-placed potted plant.  Wash down the front door and light fixtures – remember that yellow pollen from a few weeks ago?   
  • Do a walk-thru of the entire home interior.  Switch on every light.  Replace any burnt-out bulbs with good quality bulbs in the appropriate wattage.  Consider bulbs with a warmer hue, such as soft pink, for bedrooms and bathrooms. 
  • Set tables and serving areas.  Have a dining room?  Set the scene for a buyer to imagine a dinner with cloth napkins, wine glasses and coordinating plates.  Breakfast nook or bar?  Matching bowls, mugs and coordinating placemats are a great way to highlight this space.
  • Straighten out kitchen cabinets and organize pantries. Buyers will be opening doors and drawers, and they don’t want a precarious stack of pots and pans falling out!
  • Those family portraits are wonderful– but buyers need to visual their own pictures in that space.  Pack them up for now and replace them (if needed) with landscape paintings.   An inexpensive place to look for these is your local Goodwill store or even yard sales. 
  • Buyers are looking for master bedroom and bathroom retreats.  An inexpensive “bed in a bag” can give new life to your master bedroom and other bedrooms.  You can give your master bath a quick makeover with something as easy as fluffy white towels.  Roll them up like the ones at the spa, add a few nice soaps and some candles and a new, neutral shower curtain.
  • Empty those closets!  Buyers are looking for storage space.  While you don’t need to completely empty the closets, leaving them half-full gives the illusion that there is plenty of storage in your home.  Pack up seasonal clothing, unused toys and other items and put them into storage.  If you can’t rent a storage unit, then stack the boxes neatly in your garage.
  • Speaking of garages, this is another space that needs to be basically empty.  Buyers want to imagine parking their cars in the garage, and can be turned off by tools and outdoor equipment strewn all over the place, or worse, smelly garbage. 

Another option is to hire a professional stager to come in and help you.  If you decide to go this route, I have great staging experts I have used in the past.  If you have questions, please give me and my team a call.  Team Heitz is here to help!  

Contacts and Connections

by Tami Heitzwebel

As a realtor with over 17 years of experience, I know the value of contacts and connections.  Back in the “golden days”, I relied on my trusty Rolodex and tape or staples to keep track of business cards for various contacts, service technicians, bankers, brokers, etc.

Technology moved us forward to business card scanners, which allowed me to create databases for our contacts.  That worked well while we were in the office…but what happens if you can’t access your database?

Our smartphones now have the capacity to store all the information on those business cards virtually, and with a few swipes, I can access contact information while I’m on the phone with a client.  This really came in handy a few weeks ago, and saved not one, but two real estate closings.

I had clients who were scheduled to sell their house and close on their new home both on the same day.  A few days before the closing, the title company notified me that there was a documentation issue and that they would not be able to close until they provided (surprise, surprise) additional documents.  Did I mention that this bit of news came two days before the dual closings were supposed to take place?  I was out of the office when I got this news, but it wasn’t a big deal since I had all my title company contacts on my phone.  In a few minutes, I had a back-up title company ready to go.

It turned out that the original title company revisited their documentation requirements, and we were able to smoothly complete our back-to-back closings.  My sellers/buyers were able to pack up their former home and move into their new home on schedule.  Surprises are going to happen in any transaction—but a good realtor with great contacts can keep the transaction moving forward.   Team Heitz is here for you every step of the way.  

Looking to score? Check your credit.

by Tami Heitzwebel

If you are getting ready to buy a home, you have probably been tracking mortgage rates.  If you want a good rate, you should also be tracking your credit score.

Almost all lenders use FICO® Scores to analyze whether you are an excellent, good or poor credit risk.  The Fair Isaac Corporation developed their credit rating system back in 1956, and it has become the gold standard in assessing credit worthiness.

Following is a quick summary of what your score translates to as far as creditworthiness:  

Not everyone has exceptional credit, and let’s face it, things happen in life that can adversely affect your score.  If this has happened to you, it doesn’t mean your dream of home ownership is that—only a dream.  I work with lenders who have access to special programs and grants geared toward first-time home buyers, as well as loans for buyers with lower credit scores.   One of the biggest decisions you can make in buying a home is finding a lender who can work with you.  I can help you with that—give me a call and let Team Heitz make your home ownership dreams come true. 

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 18

Syndication

Categories

Archives

Share This Page

Contact Information

Tami Heitzwebel
RE/MAX Associates Northeast
2940 Oak St.
Kingwood TX 77339-5525
281-361-2245