Unpacking is part of the buying process

unpacking tips
Unpacking tips (infographic from visual.ly)

People don’t really give it much thought until they’ve already moved.  Maybe that’s the reason for a lack of information and guidance about unpacking.  I estimate that for every six articles about packing and moving, there’s probably one about unpacking.  And like buying a home and moving; there should be more thought to unpacking because it’s the first activity that makes your new digs feel like home.

Unlike packing for a move and decluttering, unpacking seems to get left out of the home buying process.  Many believe that you instinctively come home after settlement (or signing a lease) and just unload all the boxes and just begin living as you did in your previous home.  But the reality is that unpacking can be just as, if not more, overwhelming than the move itself.   And this applies to whether you’ve hired a moving company or concierge service to unpack for you, or you do it on your own.

That’s correct, you can hire someone to unpack for you.  However, just like packing house, it can get expensive.  Of course, charges vary.  However, if this is the way you decide to go – get multiple estimates from insured and bonded companies.  Once the service unpacks for you, consider taking the time to review where they stored items.  This will save you time later when you need to find something in a hurry.

Unpacking a house on your own may seem overwhelming (even with the help of friends), but don’t give in to procrastination.  Extreme procrastination can lead you to living out of moving boxes for a prolonged period.  Instead, make a simple unpacking plan and prioritize.  Although the chore of unpacking seems to be the physical aspect of unloading boxes; there can be an emotional drain of deciding where to best place and store items.

When packing your previous home, you most likely packed each room and labeled each moving box for their destination room.  And although unpacking each room in sequence may seem logical, you most likely won’t get it all done in one day.  The result can leave you frantically digging through boxes searching for items you use on a daily basis.

To avoid this trap, consider unpacking essential items first.  Having the essentials put away first will help you feel as if there is continuity.  You will find it easier going about your daily routine without disruption – even if you don’t unpack all the boxes.  Of course, it helps if you’ve marked the boxes containing essential items when you packed.  However, if you didn’t, that’s ok too.

If you’ve unpacked the essentials first, you’ll notice that you’ve become aware of the available storage spaces.  As a result, you’ve set the tone for each room, and the entire unpacking process becomes easier.  You’ll be able to go through your room priority list quicker and get through storing items where they belong with less deliberation and angst.

When unpacking essentials, focus on the kitchen and bathrooms first.  Chances are that you will need to use these rooms throughout the day as you unpack.  Then go through your priority list of rooms, unpacking the essentials.

Once the essentials are put away, you may feel at ease and in control.  You can then unpack rooms in sequence or as prioritized.  You may also decide to go through the remaining boxes at a leisurely pace.

Copyright © Dan Krell

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Disclaimer. This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Readers should not rely solely on the information contained herein, as it does not purport to be comprehensive or render specific advice. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding local real estate laws and customs as they vary by state and jurisdiction. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws.

Home renovations reservations

by Dan Krell © 2010

If you’re like the typical home buyer, you’d prefer to purchase a new home. However, most new homes are too big and too expensive. Buying an older home that has been renovated or updated may be a viable alternative. However, renovations and updates can vary in scale and quality; having a sharp eye and a thorough home inspection can assist you in revealing workmanship issues.

If you are considering purchasing a home that has been renovated or updated, the first question you should ask the seller is, “who completed the work?” Additionally, you should ask if there are warranties and if the warranties are transferrable. Many home renovations are completed by reputable, licensed contractors or builders who are familiar with the permitting process as well as building code requirements and sometimes offer a limited warranty.

However, the quality of the renovation/update is often reduced by some contractors who cut corners to save time and money; component installation is frequently the culprit of these problems and may be due to installer inexperience and/or carelessness. Poor workmanship can make the most expensive material look cheap. All identified issues should be pointed out to the seller to be repaired or replaced.

Although you should hire a licensed home inspector to conduct a thorough home inspection, you can sometimes identify quality issues in a renovated/updated home without much effort. The most common workmanship problems noticed by laypeople in a renovated/updated home are in the kitchen, bathrooms, and flooring; identified quality issues may be an indication of other underlying problems.

When looking at a renovated/updated kitchen, check the cabinets and appliances. The cabinets should be securely fastened to the wall; loose or inappropriately secured cabinets indicate a potential problem that could cause the cabinets to come crashing down at a later time. Refrigerator doors should open freely and should not be obstructed by cabinets or walls. The stove should have an anti-tip device installed; this is a safety device that can prevent a hot stove from falling on a child or an unsuspecting adult. The dishwasher should not feel loose and should be secured to the counter; an unsecured dishwasher can “walk” while operating and have the potential to pull plumbing components apart.

If plumbing is not installed properly, leaks can develop and obviously create future problems. Toilets should be firmly secured to the floor; a loose toilet can break the wax seal and result in a leak. Checking the water flow from the faucets may reveal plumbing problems; poorly connected pipes can sometimes be revealed by feeling the pipes under the sink for drips while the faucet is running.

Renovated/updated homes often have new flooring. Poor workmanship can be easily spotted if tiled or wood floors are not flat, even, and square to the walls. The carpet should feel taut; loose carpet is a trip hazard. Although problems in the subfloor cannot be easily detected, red flags should be raised if there are cracked tiles or uneven floors.

Remember that your keen eye is not a substitute for a thorough home inspection; a licensed home inspector should inspect all systems within the home (including plumbing, electrical, HVAC, etc). However, any issues you uncover while viewing a home will not only help you decide on purchasing, but can also assist you in determining your offer.

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of August 30, 2010. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2010 Dan Krell.

How would you choose your real estate agent?

by Dan Krell © 2010

Buying and selling a home can be one of the most expensive and complex transactions you may undertake in your lifetime. So if you plan to hire a real estate agent to assist you, conventional wisdom dictates that you should interview several. However The National Association of Realtors 2009 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers (NAR 2009) tells a different story. The profile reveals that the majority of home buyers and sellers surveyed (66% of buyers and 64% of sellers) indicated they hired the agent they first encountered.

Although the logic may seem counter intuitive, the means by which home buyers and sellers encounter their agents may provide an explanation. Both home buyers and sellers reported that the top means of finding their real estate agent was through a referral from a friend or family member. Of those surveyed, 44% of home buyers and 40% of home sellers indicated they relied on someone else’s judgment for their choice of real estate agent; first time home buyers were most reliant on their friends’ and family members’ referrals.

Repeat business was the second most frequent way indicated in choosing a real estate agent; meaning that the home buyer and/or seller hired the agent that assisted them in the past. Oh, the internet was also indicated as a way of finding a real estate agent; however it was not one of the top means. However, more home buyers (10%) indicated they found their agent on the internet compared to sellers (3%).

Regardless of how you find your real estate agent, it is probably a good idea to find out more about them before they list or sell your home. A conversation about their experience, knowledge, and expertise is probably a good way to start. Additionally, knowledge about the local market is extremely important these days as market trends have become hyper-local. Two recent conversations with home owners revealed the importance of understanding hyper-local real estate trends; both discussed how the agent they wanted to hire did not have an understanding of the hyper-local impact which resulted in under-pricing or over-pricing their homes.

Because of the increase in number of transactions requiring specialized knowledge (such as short sales, 1031 exchanges, etc), it is probably a good idea to find out if the agent has the experience (or certification) if your purchase or sale falls in this category.

Although choosing an agent should transcend the “big name” myth, some people still get caught up in the name game. It has been many years since residential real estate has been proprietary, brokers now cooperate with each other to sell homes. Home buyers typically search for homes by characteristics, rather than searching for homes sold by individual brokers. Ultimately, your home purchase or sale falls upon the experience and skill of the agent you hire.

If you are considering hiring a real estate team to handle your sale, make sure there is one agent you can call as your point of contact. Questioning the point of contact about their experience and knowledge is also a good idea.

Asking friends and family for referrals as well as calling the agent you previously worked with is a good way to find a real estate agent. However, vetting out potential issues can be achieved by asking the right questions before you hire them.

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of August 23, 2010. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2010 Dan Krell.

Moving day does not have to be stressful

by Dan Krell © 2010.

If it’s not the negotiating, the inspections, the mortgage process that makes you uneasy about the buying/selling process, then it’s the thought of moving. Yes, thoughts of moving and all that may go along with it can make even the most stable person break down.

The two main pieces of advice most professionals offer about moving include planning and organization. Planning your move will keep everything in perspective as you create parameters within which all the activities of your move will be completed. Organizing allows you to keep track of your activities and belongings during your moving period.

Much of the stress that is felt during the move stems from feelings of being overwhelmed by thoughts of everything that must be accomplished during your move. Mitigating the stress and emotion of the move is easier when you have a timeline (of actions and goals) that ends on the day you vacate the home. Having a daily goal will allow you to focus on the task at hand without getting distracted. Each day’s goal can be determined by going into each room noting what needs to be accomplished, including any ancillary activities that need to be completed.

An important aspect of a move is organizing what items are coming with you and what items can be thrown out or donated; this should be easy if you have already de-cluttered your home prior to selling. Staying organized during unpacking can be accomplished by making notes of room destinations for boxes; the notes can be detailed to include whose belongings are in each box as well the contents.

Moving to a new home is not a cheap endeavor; you are sure to spend money on the move even if you’re a do-it-yourselfer. The cost of moving can vary depending on the moving company and services you choose. Doing it yourself is not always the least expensive route; the total cost of a truck rental, packing supplies and your time may compare to the price of a limited service mover. If you’re busy, then you might appreciate a full service moving company that will do all of the packing for you. À la carte moving services may be easier on your pocketbook and also eliminates services you may not need. When shopping for a moving company, make sure they are reputable by checking their credentials and ensuring they are bonded and insured.

Portable storage units have become the “hybrid” of moving because it allows you to do all the work of loading your possessions into a container, but the delivery of the storage unit is carried out by a moving company. The storage unit can either be delivered to your new home or placed in storage until you are ready to unpack.

Moving into a new home is often associated with life events- the good ones and sometimes the not so good ones. Besides having to move, life events have their own challenges; so it’s often helpful to recruit as much help as possible, not just for the physical labor but for the emotional support too.

Although planning and organizing can minimize stress and drama, your plan may need to be flexible to adapt to any unforeseen obstacles; as Robert Burns’ poem To a Mouse testifies: “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an ‘men…(often go awry).”

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. This article was originally published in the Montgomery County Sentinel the week of June 14, 2010. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2010 Dan Krell.

Are you selling a home or a contract?

by Dan Krell © 2010

In a recent home showing, the listing agent remarked that the seller is the “contract seller.” As it turned out, the seller of the home was not on title, but rather had a contract on the home and wanted to sell the contract. The listing agent, trying to explain the situation as best as he could, stated that the seller’s contract gave hime equity in title which allows him to sell the home.

I had to wonder where this agent received his real estate license because, as a title attorney confirmed, equity in title does not permit one to sell a home they do not yet own. Never mind the fact that our local MLS (Metropolitan Regional Information Systems, Inc.; MRIS.com) requires listed properties to be listed by the legal owner of the property. So what are these guys trying to do?

The number of home flipping transactions are increasing as the market recovers. Home flipping received a lot of bad press in the 1990’s when fraud was prevalent in such transactions. Flipping a home per se is not illegal, it is fraud and other irregularities that raise eye brows and get the attention of local (and sometimes national) authorities.

Not all property flips involve fraud and deception. During the heyday of the sellers’ market earlier this decade, real estate investors capitalized on the frenzy of home buyers eager to own a home in the seemingly never ending appreciating market by quickly flipping properties. Of course, many real estate speculators lost a lot of money as the market receded.

A flipping technique that has been thought to be dubious by some and now making a comeback is the simultaneous closing (or double closing); a similar term/technique is selling the contract. Rather than take ownership of a property and obtain the title to a home, investors most likely resort to the double close or contract sale to save on transfer, property, and other taxes.

A local attorney (requesting not to be named) trying to close such a deal was contacted by the buyer’s lender Fraud Investigation Department. Although he felt there was nothing wrong with the deal and he was not withholding any information, the deal was denied by the buyer’s lender. Although the buyer qualified for the loan, the lender’s Fraud Investigation Department nixed the deal. Growing concerns of stolen homes where homes are sold without the knowledge of the legal owner are raising additional red flags.

To avoid such deals, FHA (among many conventional lenders) require that the title to be “seasoned” (the owner must be on title for a required period of time) before they will lend on the property. Finding a lender to finance a simultaneous closing or contract sale is often difficult.

Although the “contract seller” of the home I showed was most likely legitimate, it reminded me that even seasoned agents need to be on their toes. Buying a home is an investment of time and money, so don’t be afraid to exercise due diligence; asking who the seller is and why they are selling the home is often a good place to start.

This article is not intended to provide nor should it be relied upon for legal and financial advice. Using this article without permission is a violation of copyright laws. Copyright © 2010 Dan Krell