Shopping for Your Home

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Not Everyone Loves the New GFE Regulations

By Ruben Gonzalez Jr
Prudential California Realty (DBA)

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) instituted the new Good Faith Estimate form in an effort to make a homebuyers’ journey through the mortgage process a bit easier, but many in the mortgage industry are not happy.
The form has gone through many different looks through the years, varying from lender to lender and software platform to software platform. Now, it has expanded to three pages and includes one “lump sum” for all lender charges.
The new standardized GFE must contain the exact language specified by HUD, which HUD says “consolidates closing costs into major categories to prevent junk fees and display total settlement costs prominently on the first page so the consumer can easily compare loan offers.”
The most significant changes to the new HUD-1 Settlement Statement were made with the intention of having consumers be able to easily compare their settlement charges on the GFE with those on the HUD-1.
HUD claims that the new regulations, which went completely into effect on April 20, 2010, is saving borrowers an average of $700. However, the goal was to make things clearer and a lot of confusion still exists.
One common complaint is that the new GFE does not fully explain to the consumer some of the more vital information the consumer is looking for, such as how much money they need to take to the closing.
Another is that the Total Estimated Settlement Charges listed on the new GFE forms does not include the down payment, which inevitably results in thousands of dollars more than what is expected.
There’s also a fear that consumers cannot distinguish between mortgage brokers and correspondent lenders.
The redesigned GFE also now requires consumers who are shopping for a loan to complete multiple loan applications with multiple mortgage providers, have their credit pulled by multiple mortgage providers, and possibly pay upfront fees to each of these providers.
HUD’s goal is to help consumers become better shoppers for settlement services. After all, right on the top of the first page it reads “Only you can shop for the best loan for you. Compare this GFE with other loan offers, so you can find the best loan.”
The new GFE goes a long way in doing this by forcing people to not infer general conclusions from their observations but actually apply rules and regulations.
While the mortgage industry may have complaints, the process was designed to help those searching for the loan and HUD believes they have done so.

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 Affiliates, Inc., a Prudential company. Equal Housing Opportunity.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Make One Final Inspection

By Ruben Gonzalez Jr
Prudential California Realty (DBA)

In the sales contract, the sellers of your new home agreed to leave the custom blinds, refrigerator, built-in entertainment system and those fine cabinets and workbench in the garage. But when you show up on moving day, all of those amenities are long gone. Moreover, the lock on the back door is broken; there is a huge gouge in the drywall near the front bathroom.
Although these circumstances are extreme, they could happen, which is why it is important to have a final inspection of the home you are purchasing before the closing. A pre-closing inspection gives you, one last opportunity to verify that you are getting all that was promised in the sales contract. Although buyers still have legal recourse if they discover—even after closing—that the condition of the home is not as it should be. Of course, the best time to identify problems is before closing when the seller will be motivated to correct any deficiencies to close the transaction.
Typically, a buyer takes possession of a property one to three months after signing the sales agreement. And a lot can happen before the actual move-in. Appliances and fixtures can break, and walls, carpets and doors can be damaged during the seller’s final weeks in the house, particularly during move-out. Sometimes the seller will simply have forgotten that he or she has agreed to leave the refrigerator or window coverings with the house. Whatever the reason, problems identified before the closing have the best chance of being remedied.
If possible, schedule the inspection right before the closing, such as the day before. Ask your real estate professional to attend the inspection with you. Here’s what to do:
 Using a copy of the sales contract as a checklist, first make sure that all items that should be in place (appliances, built-in furniture, window coverings, fixtures, etc.) are there.
Test each appliance to make sure they work properly. Bring along an electrical clock or radio to test each electrical outlet. Test all electrical switches and the garage door opener. Run the garbage disposal and turn on every water faucet, checking under the sinks for leaks. Flush the toilets. Inspect the floors, carpets, walls and doors for recent damage.
If you discover that something is damaged or missing, make a note of it and inform your real estate professional immediately. In most cases, the seller is usually able to take care of small problems immediately, either by making a needed repair or offering compensation to handle it. And, if there are major problems, the seller can even sign a statement acknowledging the deficiency and agree to correct it. Although pre-closing inspections take time and may be inconvenient, they are important and well worth the buyer’s 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. Equal Housing Opportunity.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Home Sellers: What About Your Pets?

By Ruben Gonzalez Jr
Prudential California Realty (DBA)

Home sellers are advised to create the illusion that everything is new and fresh in their homes, but when pets are involved, it’s not always easy to keep things clean and orderly.
The simplest solution for a pet owner who is selling a home is to relocate the pet to a friend’s or family member’s home or to pet daycare while the home is on the market. Keeping a pet in the backyard, the garage or in another room that you keep locked is insufficient, and is certainly not fair to the pet.
When a pet is in a home that buyers are coming to view, it could often scare away the people from even stepping foot into the house. Many people are worried about dogs or freaked out by birds, and then allergies can also come into play if cats or other animals are inside.
Owners may think of their pets as the gentlest creatures, but when strangers come into the home to look around, who knows what the animals are thinking? A dog that barks or jumps on people is never a good thing.
If pets are left in the home, make sure to put them in a carrier and attach a note warning buyers not to disturb them. The last thing you want is somebody sticking their hand inside and getting bit or scratched.
Removing signs that you have a pet is simply smart practice. Make sure you clean the litter box daily and keep them out of sight. Also, keep all food and water dishes somewhere out of the way, or put them away after the pet eats.
Considering hiring professionals to remove all pet stains on the carpet as buyers will spot them and form unfavorable opinions about the rest of the home.
Finally, although a sleeping cat on the bed may make for a cute picture, someone seeing the shot on a website looking for a home may automatically bypass the house because they immediately picture cat smells and claw marks on the rug.
Pet owners must understand that not everyone loves animals as much as they do and that to many, pets are considered smelly, noisy and damaging to a property. Don’t let a pet be the reason you don’t sell your home.

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 Affiliates, Inc., a Prudential company. Equal Housing Opportunity.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Home Staging Should Include the Male Perspective

By Ruben Gonzalez Jr
Prudential California Realty (DBA)  

            Professional home stagers consult with homeowners on ways to sell their homes quickly and for the most money possible, but often lost in the design process is the fact that men are involved in buying decisions as well.
            When having your home staged, it’s important to remember to appeal to both sexes and do some things that will pique a man’s interest just as much as a woman’s.
            Professional stagers take into account buyer demographics, buying psychology, and utilize design elements in planning out the rooms and space and the use of lighting and its effect on the space. Don’t be afraid to let them know if the home is leaning too far on the woman’s side.
            Women tend to look for cozier settings or rooms that facilitate intimate conversations, while males gravitate toward rooms with gadgets, televisions and electronics.
            Open spaces and higher ceilings are also a draw for men as psychologically they have a larger sense of personal space. Professional stagers with men in mind try to create rooms where a man can feel as if he can walk through the house easily without stepping around all sorts of furniture.    

            When it comes to men, the garage and yard tend to be high up on the priority list, so it’s important to get these areas as perfect as possible.

            Garages that have painted walls, clean floors and enough storage for various male-oriented hobbies will impress. Shelf space is almost always looked at as a good thing here and a place to hang tools or a workbench would make a fine addition to attract male buyers. And remember, an empty garage looks much bigger than one with a car parked in it.

            With the yard, showcasing a well-maintained lawn will help sell the male. Thick, healthy grass, minimal bushes to trim and easy to clean garden beds will meet the landscaping criterion the male buyer looks for.

            Appealing to both sexes when staging and selling a home requires an emotional investment that will pay off in the end for all parties, just don’t forget that men need a connection, too.
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 Affiliates, Inc., a Prudential company. Equal Housing Opportunity.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Make Sure Your Home Stands Tall in a Competitive Market

By Ruben Gonzalez Jr

Prudential California Realty (DBA)

Home sellers today must convince a new era of buyers returning to the market that their homes stand for value and quality.
The time-honored open house event remains a terrific way to expose your property to many consumers and gain distinction from the competition. While your real estate professional will advertise and manage the event, it is up to you to ensure that your home is seen in the best light possible. Remember, you only have one chance to make a first impression, so approach your open house event as your property’s showcase. Here are several ways to make your property shine, inside and out.
Start with the outside. Do a visual check of the front of the house from across the street. Does your property have curb appeal? It should look inviting, with a trimmed lawn and flowerbed and a freshly painted front door. Polish door handles and knockers and replace worn items such as a rusty doorbell. Consider adding a new doormat and flowering plants at the entrance. Don’t forget to wash your windows and clean any oil or rust spots from the driveway.
Be sure to inspect the side and back yards. Add some flowering plants to the back as well. Clean and rearrange the outdoor furniture to look inviting. Put away gardening tools, and tidy around the grill area.
Now focus on the inside of the home where cleanliness, space, smell and lighting are vital. First get your house in tip-top condition by cleaning and clearing away clutter. Steam clean and vacuum the carpet. Make sure your floors are waxed and shiny. Touch up nicks on walls and make sure the porcelain sinks and tubs and metallic fixtures shine.
Be conscious of any lingering odors such as smoke, pets or strong-smelling foods. You may need to air out your home prior to your open house event. Consider grinding fresh lemons in the garbage disposal. And don’t forget to empty all trash containers.
Look at your countertops in the kitchen and bathrooms and the tops of your bureaus. Do they seem cluttered? Clear away and store as much as possible. You want your home to seem spacious.
Next, set the mood. Let your prospective buyers picture your home as their own. Rearrange the furniture so that rooms look more spacious, or consider removing furniture and accessories.
Lighting is also important to creating a desirable atmosphere. Bright lights provide a cheerful environment and make a small space appear larger. Pull back all the drapes and open the blinds. Turn on all the lights. Make sure all light sockets have fresh bulbs. Use softer lights for rooms in which you want a warm, cozy feeling.
Don’t forget little touches such as fresh flowers, lighted candles in the bathrooms, new logs in the fireplace, or a bowl of fresh fruit on the kitchen counter. You may even want to set your dining-room table with color-coordinated table settings.
Home buying is steeped in emotion. Sellers shouldn’t rely on buyers to use their imagination; they must capture buyers’ imagination. Remember that buyers may see seven or eight homes in a single day. The most memorable home will be the one that seemed the brightest, the most spacious and the most cheerful.

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 Affiliates, Inc., a Prudential Financial company. Equal Housing Opportunity.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Eleven Reasons to Use a Real Estate Sales Professional When Buying a Brand-New Home

By Ruben Gonzalez Jr.
Prudential California Realty (DBA)

Existing and potential homeowners are looking at real estate from all angles as the U.S. economy and local housing markets continue their recovery. For many, there is strong appeal in buying brand-new homes as myriad builder incentives and low interest rates create significant value.
Today’s new homes boast exciting floor plans and designs tailored for specific lifestyles, complete with a huge array of features and appointments. They include energy efficient products and building techniques, reducing buyers’ utility bills. Of course, new-home consumers love that their properties, from roofs to appliances, will not need replacement for many years.
It might not seem necessary to involve a real estate professional in a transaction where a buyer can deal directly with a builder. Yet by using a real estate professional you gain a skilled professional to protect your interests and guide you along the right path.
Here are 11 advantages to using a real estate professional when buying a newly constructed home.
1.      Just as a real estate professional calls on experience and knowledge of an area to help buyers locate pre-owned homes in a community, he or she can also direct buyers interested in newly built homes to developments and communities that match client specifications.
2.      A sales professional can suggest builders with reputations for delivering a high-quality product, responding quickly to issues, and being financially sound.
3.      A sales professional may be familiar with how a builder prices his products and where there may be room to negotiate price or upgrades.
4.      Without representation, you are one buyer purchasing only one home. But a sales professional can significantly impact a builder’s bottom line by providing a steady supply of customers. This leverage may work in your favor at the negotiating table. [Note: The builder may require your sales professional to accompany you on your first visit to the site. Check with the builder.]
5.      The lender approval process may go smoother if a sales professional schedules visits, accompanies you to lenders, and helps expedite required documents.
6.      What may seem like a simple transaction can grow legally complex and risky. A sales professional is familiar with those complexities and risks inherent in the homebuying process. When such questions arise, we can steer you to the right advisors and services you may require.
7.      If your contract includes a contingency to sell an existing home your real estate sales professional assuredly can help, though your sales professional will explain that buying before selling isn’t always in your best interest as it can undermine your bargaining. 
8.      When relocating to a new area, sales professionals can be particularly valuable resources. In addition to providing local area information regarding schools, day care or elder care services, public transportation, proposed development, and so on, once construction is under way, they can periodically stop by the work site, supply you with progress reports, and photograph or videotape phases of the construction.
9.      A sales professional can assist you as you face hundreds of design choices and consider which upgrades could potentially add value to the home when it comes time to sell.
10.  A sales professional can accompany you at the site while you okay the plumbing and electrical locations prior to dry walling, as well as on the walk-through or builder orientation.
11.  Lastly, most often the builder pays the sales professional’s commission. You enjoy individual attention and support at no cost to you.
Builder incentives and heightened affordability have many real estate consumers considering brand-new homes. Rather than rely on builders’ agents – who are paid by the builders – savvy shoppers are hiring real estate sales professionals to help them through the buying process and on to the American dream.

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. Equal Housing Opportunity

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Second Home Ownership: Could It Be For You?

By Ruben Gonzalez

Prudential California Realty (DBA)

Hollywood stars are not the only ones with homes in both California and New York. Farmers escape the Heartland for the sandy Floridian shores, too. Second home ownership has become an extremely popular trend in today’s real estate market. Why? Because demographics and technology are converging to create a historic opportunity for buyers and sellers. As Baby Boomers rush toward retirement, second homes suitable for play now and retirement later have enormous appeal.
Today, thanks to technology, second homes are becoming a place to work as well as play. Second homes may be located in resort areas. Others may be located near a second work environment for those who commute frequently between different business destinations. And the second home phenomenon stretches from Alaska to Florida, from Hawaii to Nova Scotia, and all points in-between.
How you use a second home is up to you, but if it’s something you’ve been considering, now is the time to get the information you need to make an informed decision. A qualified real estate professional can help guide you through financial considerations, assist you in finding the right community and even refer you to a resort property specialist for the destination of your dreams. Your real estate professional may be able to get you the information and advice you need to use the equity in your current home to finance the down payment on a second home, for example.
For many, a second home in a vacation or resort area can be an income property when not in use. Once again, a real estate professional will help you consider property management options that can be a crucial financial factor as well as important to peace-of-mind.
Married couples, generally over age 35, with or without children are almost twice as likely to own second homes as single persons. And the fastest growing segment of second home buyers are age 35 to 54, without children at home.
Some of the best locations are not more than two to three hours away from major metropolitan areas by car or plane. For example, Bostonians gravitate to Cape Cod. San Franciscans retreat to Lake Tahoe and Angelenos head for Palm Springs. Many people who live in the West also have second homes there. Yet, the biggest feeder market for second homes in the South are buyers from the Northeast.
What makes a second home location ideal? Natural beauty is great, but don’t forget about cultural and social resources, as well as first-rate golf, tennis and other popular sports facilities.
Second homes are a discretionary purchase, and everyone wants to feel secure in their environment. That’s why gated and guarded residential communities will continue to increase. And locations such as Sante Fe, New Mexico, and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, which are removed from most urban problems, continue to be attractive.
Nevertheless, you will likely get more enjoyment out of a property you can get to quickly and can use frequently. Since you know this area, chances are you’ll make a better real estate investment closer to home. And be sure to look at each property with an eye toward tomorrow, because the vacation homes likely to appreciate the most are the ones that Boomers can play in today and retire in tomorrow.

Once you’ve narrowed your search to two or three communities that fit your price range and lifestyle, make comparisons of price and sales activity. Your real estate professional can help you determine which communities are most sales-worthy at present, and which are more likely to continue to be.
There are many factors involved in selecting the right community for you and your family. Discuss your options with your real estate professional. This will provide the information he or she needs to help you find property listings to tour. Remember, a targeted approach to house hunting is less time consuming, less expensive and more efficient.

New research from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) shows vacation-home sales in the US rose 7.9% to 553,000 in 2009. Although well off the market peak of 1,067,000 sales in 2006, this represents the first time in three years the US vacation-home market has seen a lift.

Although the median sales price for vacation homes has increased to $169,000, up from $150,000 in 2008, this “may reflect increased sales in higher priced markets, particularly in areas of Florida and California where prices became highly attractive for buyers over the past year”, according to NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun.

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 Affiliates, Inc., a Prudential Financial company. Equal Housing Opportunity. (Note: Have the newspaper to insert the Equal Housing Opportunity logo here)

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Home Not Selling? It’s Not Personal, It’s Probably Price

By Ruben Gonzalez Jr
Prudential California Realty (DBA)

Home sellers face a new reality as they look to move up, down, in or out of their American dream in today’s market. Consumers, particularly those who purchased their homes within the last five years, often find their options limited by a lack of equity. Those who can sell are sometimes numbed by deflated home prices and find it difficult to justify yesterday’s valuations with today’s reality.
Many home sellers have dug in on price hoping to lose no additional ground. Others seem to have taken this market personally, letting emotions override analysis when setting price. Buyer sentiment has shifted as well, centered on maximum value with abundant amenities – resulting in stalemates and homes languishing on the market. Both sides should be realistic as comparable sales and local-market dynamics still determine fair-market value.
And there are compelling reasons to be realistic and make a move now. Sellers, assuming their objective is to buy another home, can capitalize on some of the lowest mortgage interest rates on record and an inventory of homes at attractive prices. So while they will sell for less, they will also buy for less and with significantly cheaper borrowing costs.
Of course, professional sales representation is essential this transitioning market or any other. The Prudential Real Estate Network, recently recognized for “Highest Overall Satisfaction for Home Sellers Among National Full Service Real Estate Firms” in J.D. Power and Associates’ 2010 Home Buyer/Seller StudySM, is composed of true, local-market experts whose experience, analysis and consultation generate results in all market conditions.
As the local experts, they’ll help set fair-market prices using factual reference points, such as an appraisal, comparables sales and personal knowledge to help estimate market value. Today, a house priced at or slightly below market value will attract the interest of real estate professionals and buyers, while overpricing chases them away. Even if the sellers adjust their prices later, it’s difficult to recapture buyer interest.
Sales professionals develop comprehensive marketing strategies to sell a home. They generally use open houses, yard signs, Internet exposure, MLS, newspaper ads, brochures and other means to market properties.
Beyond that, they counsel sellers on other conditions that may keep sellers’ homes on the market, including:
  • Condition and appearance. Sellers shouldn’t rely on buyers to use their imagination; they need to capture it. Remember that buyers may see seven or eight homes in a single day. The most memorable home will be the one that seemed the brightest, the most spacious, and the most cheerful. This invariably means rearranging and eliminating furniture, removing excess knickknacks and so on, to create an open, uncluttered look. Outside, do a visual check of the front of the house from across the street. Does it have curb appeal? It should look inviting, with a trimmed lawn and a freshly painted front door. A real estate professional can offer some guidance in this area.
  • Terms/conditions. Even if the home is accurately priced, and the buyer is delighted with what he or she sees, if the buyer can’t live with the terms of the sale, he or she may walk away. Keep an open mind on terms and conditions and evaluate how they may affect a potential sale.
  • Incentives. Offering incentives can be just the impetus a potential buyer needs a buyer needs to choose your property over others. Consider offering a carpet or paint allowance. If the buyer knows up front there is allowance for the worn carpet or paint, then may overlook those cosmetic flaws. You could pay for a professional home inspection or a home warranty, or pay closing costs.
Indeed, real estate opportunities abound for sellers and buyers who can come to terms with today’s market conditions. A qualified real estate professional will help you navigate the market, protect your interests and keep you moving toward your housing dreams.

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. Equal Housing Opportunity