Shopping for Your Home

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Inspect for Code Violations Before you Sell




By Ruben Gonzalez Jr
Prudential California Realty (DBA)

Code violations can extend the home-selling process or halt it altogether. Therefore, it’s good business to hire a home inspector before placing your home on the market.
A quality home inspector is well-versed in all local codes dealing with electrical, plumbing, building/structural and more, and can help sellers understand any code violations and the steps and costs necessary to meet codes.
Code violations have a way of popping up in paperwork. When the city records a code violation, a fee is assigned to the property, but because the violations don’t appear as a lien on a title search, it can be difficult to ascertain whether a sanction has been assessed that will delay closing.
According to Code Violation Services Inc., Windsor, Colo., violations can include the presence of garbage in a yard, maintenance issues, overgrown lawns, non-sanctioned improvements, safety issues or other dangerous items needing repair in a property.
Here are some of the most common inspection problems:
Bedrooms -- All rooms listed as bedrooms must have an operating window with 30 square inches of clearance for fire escape. Bedrooms also must have heat. If a home is listed with three bedrooms, and one does not meet both these requirements, it cannot be legally called a bedroom.
Furnaces and Compressors -- Rust in the heat exchange is a common problem that shows up on inspections. So is missing insulation where required by code at the time the house was built or improvement or replacement was installed.
Electrical -- Common electrical code violations include junctions not enclosed in a junction box, a lack of GFCI outlets in bathrooms and kitchens or reverse-polarity on outlets. These are inexpensive fixes that can hold up a sale.
Life-saving Equipment -- Smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are required by law in most states, and by not having them—or having the proper kind—it will be considered a code violation.
Plumbing -- Violations can include everything from dripping faucets to loose toilets to improper drainage.
Structural -- While these can be more expensive to fix, if they aren’t taken care of properly, they can prolong or even cancel a sale. Common code violations include rotting wood trim around windows and doors, rotten or delaminating siding and missing flashing on roofs or above windows and doors.
Extra Rooms -- Many who renovate basements or add sunrooms do so without permits. For the safety of everyone involved, be sure your improvements and additions are backed by the proper permits and resulting inspections.
Don’t hurt your sale because of code violations that can be easily fixed. Get an inspector, make the changes and enjoy the comfort your efforts bring when the closing comes to fruition.

Ruben Gonzalez can be reached at (562) 507-0754 or E-mail
Prudential (dba) is an independently owned and operated broker member of BRER Affiliates, Inc. Prudential, the Prudential logo and the Rock symbol are registered service marks of Prudential Financial, Inc. and its related entities, registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. Used under license with no other affiliation with Prudential. Equal Housing Opportunity.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sellers: Itemize What You’re Taking With You




By Ruben Gonzalez Jr
Prudential California Realty (DBA)

Believe it or not, after months of searching countless homes, finding the perfect one, negotiating price and finally agreeing to a deal, a sale can fall apart over a disagreement about curtains.
When striking a deal to sell a home, it’s important that you are perfectly clear about what you are taking with you and what you are leaving behind. The general rule is that if something is attached to the structure or the ground, it is real property and stays with the house.
If removing the item would ruin or disfigure the walls, the item generally stays. If you need a tool to remove it, it stays.
Legally, these are called fixtures, which include everything permanently attached to the property such as a fence, built-in appliances, ceiling fans, flowerbeds and shrubs.
Conversely, if you can disconnect, unhook or detach an item from the home with bare hands, it’s free to leave when you do. This is known as personal property and should never be assumed to be part of the sale.
Items that fall into this category are furniture, potted plants, free-standing appliances and an outdoor grill.
A good rule of thumb is to not show your home with any fixtures you are planning to take. Replacing them is the better option.
Every real estate agent has a story about a deal falling through because of an argument about what a buyer thought was staying. For this reason, you should walk in each room with your agent and make a list of things that you will be taking with you.
If you decide to leave the curtains, chandeliers or are open to giving up some of the outdoor furniture, it may just help with a sale. People appreciate the notion of getting something for free, and a savvy agent will hint to a prospective buyer that fixtures and furnishing may be negotiable. Unless the items are really important to you, let them go with the home. Use them to get the price you want and then replace the items in your new home.
By itemizing and discussing all the things that stay and go at the outset, there will be no miscommunication on closing day.

Ruben Gonzalez can be reached at (562) 507 0754 or E-mail

Prudential (dba) is an independently owned and operated broker member of BRER Affiliates Inc. Prudential, the Prudential logo and the Rock symbol are registered service marks of Prudential Financial, Inc. and its related entities, registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. Used under license with no other affiliation with Prudential. Equal Housing Opportunity.




Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Thinking About Co-ownership with a Friend?


By Ruben Gonzalez Jr
Prudential California Realty (DBA)


Friends often share holidays, vacation together and are there for all the important moments in life. So, why not buy a home together?

An increasing number of consumers are considering joint ownership. Such as transaction makes sense, as it can help those who may not have been able to afford a home on their own, it gives each owner a real estate investment, and it can even strengthen the friendship.

But the opposite could happen as well. Friends can feud over the most trivial of things, placing the long-term housing investment at risk.

Here are some tips for surviving co-ownership with a friend.

1. Be sure before agreeing to this life-altering decision that all parties are willing to disclose their financial information, agree upon the type of home and location they are after, and are truly comfortable with living with one another.

2. Consult with an attorney: A contract between the parties is vital, as is listing each person’s name on the deed and the mortgage papers. The percentage of ownership must be clearly stated in the contract, including details of each person’s share of the down payment and the way in which mortgage payments will be divided. This sets the stage for deciding each one’s share upon sale.

3. Get pre-approved for a mortgage: Mortgage companies aren’t always thrilled with lending to two unmarried or unrelated people. Odds are those buying a home will need to jointly qualify as co-borrowers on a single mortgage in order to purchase a property held in tenancy in common or joint tenancy.

4. Understand each other’s wants and needs: House options, mortgage rates and contract terms will be contingent on each individual’s credit history, financial health and both short-term and long-term obligations, so it is smart to discuss all of this ahead of time. During the house-hunting stage, the friends may have different ideas on what they are looking for. It’s always a smart idea to sit down and list the most important features to each and figure out what each is willing to give up.

5. Have an exit strategy: Jobs change or a surprising romance could evolve where marriage will soon be in the picture. What happens to the house then? This is something that should be agreed upon before the house is bought.

Once everything is agreed to and a mortgage commitment is in hand, things still aren’t easy. It’s hard enough finding the perfect home, but to have to find the perfect home for two is even tougher.

Friendships can stand the test of housing issues, so don’t be scared off; just make sure that when buying any real estate with friends that you don’t let the friendship cloud your judgment.

Ruben Gonzalez can be reached at (562) 507-0754 or E-mail.

Prudential (dba) is an independently owned and operated broker member of BRER Affiliates, Inc. Prudential, the Prudential logo and the Rock symbol are registered service marks of Prudential Financial, Inc. and its related entities, registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. Used under license with no other affiliation with Prudential. Equal Housing Opportunity.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

It’s a Buyers’ Market for Real Estate Investors, too




By Ruben Gonzalez Jr
Prudential California Realty (DBA)

Turn on any financial news program and at some point you’ll hear the experts extolling the virtues of diversification. Real estate, even through the market downturn, has long been considered a conservative, long-term strategy to growing wealth.
In fact, that very downturn has created a historic buying opportunity for potential homebuyers and investors alike. The combination of lower home prices across American and historically low mortgage rates, two essential factors that usually don’t trend in the same direction, have triggered a buyer’s market in many areas of the country. For real estate investors who want to rent their properties, this can make the difference in achieving positive cash flow sooner or right off the bat.
While some seasoned real estate investors make it look easy, to be successful, beginners should follow some basic principles.
  • Learn all you can. Before committing your cash, you should have a fundamental understanding of real estate. For example, be aware that, in general, investment properties are not liquid investments. Barring exceptional circumstances, real estate does not sell at a moment’s notice. It could take days or months to sell a property, depending on the strength of the market in a particular region.
  • Consider cash flow. You’ll need to have enough capital on hand to cover any short-term losses due to vacancies between tenants.
  • Start small. Look into buying a condominium, single-family home or a duplex. Leave large apartment buildings and commercial properties to the pros.
  • Inquire at the local Chamber of Commerce about companies relocating into or out of the area. Company movement is one indicator of demand for rental and/or office space.
  • Find a property that will be in demand. Look for a moderately priced home with three or four bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a garage that sits on a quiet street.
  • Research the property. The most common way first-time investors lose is by failing to investigate a property thoroughly. Look beyond the front door. Investigate the reputation of the school district, the crime rate, and plans for expanding a nearby highway or developing vacant land. Ask a local real estate professional about the area, its history, and how fast (or slow) properties are moving.
  • Inspect the home you’re considering for signs of water damage, such as stains on the ceiling and crinkling or gathering wallpaper; open and close every door and window; and check all electrical sockets by plugging in an appliance. Get an independent home inspection, roof inspection and termite inspection. Unexpected repair costs can eat away your cash flow. Because even the best inspection can’t always predict problems, try to set aside some of the rental income for unexpected repairs.
  • Spend time driving the streets of the neighborhood noting the condition of other properties. Are lawns maintained? Are roofs in good shape? Are homes kept up?
  • Be ready to make fixes quickly and respond to the renter’s needs. If you’re not prepared to be a hands-on landlord, consider hiring a property management firm.
  • See your tax advisor for related planning and laws that can affect your investment decisions.
Remember, investing in a property is much different than living in one, and while emotion and attachment can be prime motivators when it comes to homes, it is return on investment that counts when investing in real estate.
Ruben Gonzalez can be reached at (562) 507-0754 or E-mail. Prudential (dba) is an independently owned and operated member of The Prudential Real Estate and Relocation Services, a Prudential company. Equal Housing Opportunity.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

The Trouble with Vacant Homes




By Ruben Gonzalez Jr.
Prudential California Realty (DBA)

Today’s housing market makes it tougher to get the price for a home and, often, sellers can’t wait around while their homes are on the market. They may have a new job in a different location, may have already bought their next house or need to move to their new location so the kids can start at their new schools.
If sellers already have a new home, it’s likely that they’ll take all their furniture and leave the property empty during selling process. The U.S. Census Bureau’s most current data shows that more than 2.2 million for-sale houses in the U.S. were vacant in 2008, and that number has risen over the last few years as more homes fell into foreclosure or short-sale status.
Yet it all comes down to perception for buyers, who understand that vacant homes can suffer from a wide variety of ills due to neglect and deferred maintenance. Moreover, vacant houses pose unique challenges for showcasing and selling because many buyers cannot see beyond an empty home. They’re looking to buy a “home,” as opposed to a “house,” and without furniture, wall art, rugs, lighting and d├ęcor, there are few emotional connections.
Plus, with no furnishing to focus on, a potential buyer will be on the lookout for imperfections, such as floor scratches, nail pops, chipped grout and other imperfections.
The easiest fix for a vacant home is to bring in a home stager, who can give the property a comfortable, lived-in look, enabling potential buyers to better visualize how they would use the home.
When a home buyer perceives flaws and can’t see a home’s potential, there will be fewer offers, greater price reductions, more days on the market, higher carrying costs and less profit.  
A vacant home can also hurt your negotiating power. If buyers know that you are already out and most likely paying another mortgage, they will figure you are more motivated to sell and will likely present a low-ball offer.
By staging a vacant home, you will create a proper vision for the property and achieve a quicker and hopefully more profitable outcome.

Ruben Gonzalez can be reached at (562) 507-0754 or E-mail. Prudential (dba) is an independently owned and operated broker member of BRER Affiliates, Inc. Prudential, the Prudential logo and the Rock symbol are registered service marks of Prudential Financial, Inc. and its related entities, registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. Used under license with no other affiliation with Prudential. Equal Housing Opportunity.

Monday, August 13, 2012

VA Loans Are Opening Homeownership Doors for More Veterans





By Ruben Gonzalez Jr.
Prudential California Realty(DBA)

Past and current military personnel looking for financing in today’s more stringent mortgage environment can take advantage of the VA loan program, which has been available for more than six decades to help members of the military own their own homes.

The program, established in 1944 as part of the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, is available for any individual who has served in active duty in any branch of the U.S. military for a minimum of 90 days.

“The beauty of this loan is that it allows financing without requiring a down payment,” said Eric Kandell, founder of lowvarates.com. “It also doesn’t allow the mortgage lender to charge the veteran private mortgage insurance.”

A VA loan does require the borrower to pay a one-time funding fee on their purchase, which can be paid up front or financed into the total cost of the loan. The funding fee for regular military members is 2.15% of the loan. Reservists pay a fee of 2.40%.

Non-active duty personnel, such as individuals in the Army Reserves or National Guard, may apply for a VA-backed mortgage provided they have completed six years of service. Spouses of deceased or missing military members are also eligible if they have not remarried. Those who were dishonorably discharged from any military branch are not eligible.

“I’ve closed more VA loans in the past two years than in the past decade,” said Steve Thorne, area manager for First Financial Services, Inc. in Raleigh, N.C. “It really is a great benefit to the veteran in the ‘New Mortgage World.’ The key to getting more veterans to take advantage of this benefit is simply an awareness of the benefit.”

Statistics provided by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs show that roughly 25 million people are eligible for a VA loan yet only 10-15 percent of those have taken advantage of it when buying or refinancing.

One reason is that for many years leading up to the mortgage crisis, there were many conventional mortgage products that were easier or more economical to the veteran than the VA loan.

“In the wild, wild west of mortgage lending from the early 2000s to 2008, 100% financing was common,” Thorne said. “So why pay the VA funding fee just to have 100 percent financing? Not to mention the VA control of the appraisal process, understanding residual income and all the additional disclosures. It was just a more cumbersome process then the ‘come on down, everybody gets a loan’ of the conventional arena.”

Many veterans, especially those not so recently discharged, aren’t sure of VA loan benefits or that the program even exists. With the VA loan the veteran can buy a home with little to no money out of pocket.

“In the past, veterans were told about other financing on the market and people were more inclined out of ignorance to use non-VA loan financing,” Kandell said. “[The VA loan] is a great loan and you are going to see a massive shift in numbers going forward.”

Talk to a mortgage representative for more on VA financing.



Ruben Gonzalez can be reached at (562) 507-0754 or E-mail. Prudential (dba) is an independently owned and operated member of BRER Affiliates Inc. Used under license with no other affiliation with Prudential. Equal Housing Opportunity.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Consumers Are Returning to the Real Estate Market with an Age-old Question: Buy or Sell First?



By: Ruben Gonzalez Jr.

Prudential California Realty(DBA)

Residential real estate is gaining stability in concert with the recovering U.S. economy. Consumers, drawn by one of the most attractive buyers’ markets on record marked by historically low interest rates and lower home prices in many areas, are returning to the market to move up, trade down, improve location and otherwise enhance their share of the American Dream.
When it comes to home buying, the ideal situation would be to find a new home, just as you receive an offer on your existing home. You would then be able to close concurrently and move into your new home a few days prior to closing on your previous home. This does happen more often than not, but anyone looking to buy a new home needs to consider all the possible scenarios.
Should you buy or sell first? There are many schools of thought on this subject. Ultimately, it depends on you and your situation. For instance, can you afford to pay two mortgages in the event your previous home does not sell by the time you move? Would you consider a bridge loan (a short-term, high interest loan that let you borrow against the value of your old home to covers the bills until you secure the new, larger loan)? Are you willing to move twice to find the home of your dreams if you sell first and can't find the dream home fast enough?
This is where the advice of a real estate sales professional is invaluable. Real estate sales professionals know the current market conditions. They are trained and experienced in working with home buyers and sellers to determine an ideal time to buy and sell.
It is generally less stressful to sell your home first, because you won't have to worry about owning two homes at one time. The market will dictate how long it will take your home to sell, as will your location and the time of year. As a rule of thumb, it is a good idea to put your home of the market as far in advance as possible when purchasing a new one. But, since interest rates are low and confidence is returning to the market, there’s a good change your home will sell faster if priced properly. (Again, your real estate professional’s advice is critically important here.) In that case, you may want to purchase a new home first.
What if your present home sells before you find a new one, putting pressure on you to find the right house for you more quickly? You may then decide to make an interim move or request to rent back your home for a specified amount of time as you continue to look for your new home. Those may be worthwhile options if you have your heart set on a specific location or type of home or if you are purchasing a home that is under construction.
If you buy a home before selling your present home, you may end up with two mortgages. Under those circumstances, you may be able to apply for a bridge loan to assist you in making two mortgage payments until you sell your first home. Your real estate sales professional can assist you in finding a lender.
So should you buy or sell first? This is a challenging question regardless of real estate cycles, yet your own circumstances and a knowledgeable real estate professional will help you make the right decision.

Ruben Gonzalez Jr. can be reached at (562) 507-0754 or E-mail. Prudential (dba) is an independently owned and operated member of Prudential Real Estate Affiliates, Inc., a Prudential Financial company. Equal Housing Opportunity

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Improve Your Credit Score


By Ruben Gonzalez Jr.
Prudential California Realty (DBA)


Those about to start house hunting should check their credit score before things get too serious. There is nothing quite as frightening in the mortgage process as learning that your credit report contains a late payment or other blemishes that can prevent you from buying a property.

The higher your credit score, the better your chances are of financing a home. A credit score of at least 620 will give consumers a fighting chance to secure a home loan; 720 should qualify in most cases.

However, a lower credit score doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t finance a home. Credit score repair begins with your credit report. You can request a free copy of your credit report annually from the Federal Trade Commission at AnnualCreditReport.com. Check the report for errors.

Don’t panic if your report contains blemishes. There are steps you can take to fix negative marks, regardless of whether the marks are in error or if you’ve missed a payment or two. The simplest thing to do if you’ve missed a payment is to call the creditor and ask them to erase the negative listing. You can also do this with a well-documented letter. There is no guarantee that a lender will do this, but if you’ve been a good customer through the years, this method has proven to be successful.

If you are one of the many who have defaulted on a student loan you can enter into a “rehab program,” which will get your account back on track after 12 months. This may not be the quick fix you need when buying a home but the sooner you do this the better.

For disputing a negative mark that was not your fault, you can try disputing the account with the credit bureaus as “not mine.”

One quick fix used by borrowers to boost their credit score is to have an older family member with a sound credit rating add you as an authorized user on a credit card. This can help increase your score and you wouldn’t even need the card in your possession.

With more loans requiring higher credit scores today, it’s never too early to start fixing credit challenges.

Contact me TODAY and let's find out together where you stand. Remember information is POWER!!!

Ruben Gonzalez can be reached at (507) 507-0754 or E-mail. Prudential (dba) is an independently owned and operated broker member of BRER Affiliates Inc. Prudential, the Prudential logo and the Rock symbol are registered service marks of Prudential Financial, Inc. and its related entities, registered in many jurisdictions worldwide. Used under license with no other affiliation with Prudential. Equal Housing Opportunity.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Make Your Offer Stand Out



By Ruben Gonzalez Jr.
Prudential California Realty (DBA)

Real estate consumers are realizing that there has rarely been a better time to buy a home. In fact, historically low mortgage rates coupled with lower home prices have even sparked bidding competition in markets around the country.
A good home in a solid location may attract ample attention only hours after being listed. Home buyers can make their offers stand out from the rest through one or more of the following strategies:

Price. Obviously, price tends to be the primary consideration for sellers. When you’re competing for a home, to get an edge, think about adding a clause stating that you will beat the highest offer by “x” dollars up to “x” amount. Cash offers can be more attractive to sellers as well. Although sellers will receive their money at closing whether buyers pay with cash or take out a loan, cash offers don’t require lender approval.

Financing. It’s not enough to be pre-qualified. Pre-qualification only tells how much you can afford. Pre-approval goes a step further. Your lender will thoroughly evaluate your application—including verifying employment information and financial disposition—then clear you for a loan of a determined amount. Having your loan pre-approved gives you a sizeable advantage by putting you on equal footing with cash buyers.

Good Faith Deposit. Buyers offering a larger-than-customary amount of “earnest money,” a deposit that accompanies an offer, may get a seller’s attention. By committing more money up front, buyers demonstrate greater sincerity and motivation to close the transaction. Your real estate professional can guide you as to the appropriate sum for your specific transaction.

Contingencies. Consider minimizing contingencies, those clauses that allow buyers to back out of a contract if certain conditions are not met. For example, it’s common for buyers to make the purchase contingent upon their securing satisfactory financing. Obviously, offers with the fewest conditions tend to be more attractive to sellers.
From a contingency standpoint, first-time buyers are often better prospects for a seller’s home than move-up buyers. That’s because first-time buyers’ offers are not contingent upon the sale of a present home. Even if a move-up buyer has an offer in hand, that buyer’s offer may be contingent on another contingency, and so on down the line. If one transaction derails, they all might.

Relationship. Help the seller get to know and identify with you by looking for ways to connect. Find common interests, such as a shared appreciation of gardening. You can then persuade the seller that her prize roses will be well tended. Share brief family stories. The more the seller gets to know and like you, the better chance your offer will stand out in a competitive environment.

Considerations for Short-sale and Foreclosure Transactions – Bank-owned properties represent a significant portion of today’s housing inventory. Competition can be most keen for these homes as their prices can run 10% to 20% below current market value.
Banks conduct extensive research to set these prices and generally base them on current market value less the cost of required repairs. Make your offer based on your own check of comparable sales and other due diligence. Banks won’t get offended by a low offer, yet a realistic offer will more likely keep you in the running.
Remember, patience is essential when buying bank-owned property as the process can take up to six months and longer.

Contact me today in order to begin work on buying your dream home or investment property. My knowledge, skill and expertise will help you make sound real estate decisions today or any other time.

Ruben Gonzalez  can be reached at (562) 507-0754 or E-mail. Prudential (dba) is an independently owned and operated member of Prudential Real Estate Affiliates, Inc., a Prudential Financial company.