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Donna Fitts

Broker; CDPE, REALTOR®

My Blog

Don't Wait to Sell Your House

1/4/2016

Are you thinking about selling your house in 2016? Don’t wait… WHY?

The buyer demand continues to outpace the supply of available home to buy. According to the National Association of REALTORS’

Check out the latest Existing Homes Sales Report there is about a 5.1 month supply of homes for sale … 6 month supply is “normal”… so 5.1 puts the market on the sellers’ side!

So… contact me and let’s get your house SOLD!

2015 homes report

Disposal... Can be a Nightmare!

12/28/2015

Do you realize that your house is full of hazardous materials!  The biggest problem is how to dispose of these items. Knowing the hazardous waste and how to dispose of it will good for the environment and will make for a safer home. 

 

Light Bulbs

  Compact fluorescent bulbs may be an energy saver but they contain mercury which is a hazardous product. If you can't throw away in the garbage.. what do you do with them? Home Depot will accept your used CFLs. 

 

Batteries

 If you have regular alkaline batteries like the ones in the picture... you CAN throw these in the garbage.  Of course recycling is always the best option. But if you have an rechargeable batteries, automotive batteries or lithium, lithium ion or zinc  air, these must be disposed of properly. Auto batteries can usually be disposed of at your local auto store such as Auto Zone--there may be a small fee.  "Batteries Plus" stores will take most other types of batteries. 

 

Household Cleaners

Some cleaners are corrosive and should not be put "down the drain". This is also true for pesticides and herbicides and Aerosols!  Find a place in your area that will properly dispose of these items.  

 

Electronic Waste 

Computers, cell phone... what do you do with them? You want a reputable business because after all these devices have you LIFE on them!  Search the internet for a resource. 

 

Automotive

do you have a car? A lawnmower? Weed eater? You probably have had old gas and did not know what to do with it! Do NOT pour onto the ground.  Find a reputable source in your area! 

 

It is OUR job and inhabitants of this beautiful God made earth to take care of it! 

 

 

Family Wealth Grows as Home Equity Builds

10/21/2015

 

Family Wealth Grows as Home Equity Builds | Simplifying The Market

With residential real estate values rising quite substantially in most parts of the country over the last few years, many homeowners are seeing a major increase in their family’s wealth as equity continues to build in their house.

 

A recent study by the Joint Center of Housing Studies at Harvard University revealed that home equity grew nicely last year and has grown dramatically over the last five years…

Inflation & Home Equity | Simplifying The Market

Buyers looking today may not see the same build-up in equity but could still do quite well.

Let’s assume you went into contract in the next six weeks and closed on a $250,000 home in January. If we take the house value projections from the last Home Price Expectation Survey, here is how your equity would grow over the next four years:

Home Price Expectation Survey Home Equity | Simplifying The Market

Bottom Line

Homeownership has historically been a great way for the average American family to build wealth over time.

Bugs and Your Home…

2/25/2015

Homeowners have many responsibilities but one that is often overlooked is BUG control.

Termites

In Alabama these itty bitty bugs can do a whole lot of damage. Remember that termite bond that was transferred into your name at closing? It will come due for renewal within the next year. Watch for the renewal date and it is strongly recommended that you do not let that coverage lapse.

 

Ants

Ants in the yard, in the house…. Ants everywhere! A nuisance for sure. There are many remedies to keep them from entering your home. Spray the perimeter, caulk openings but to truly rid them you must get them at the “mound”.

 

Flies

The nastiest of all! Since they land on the yuckiest of stuff… the germs they touch are carried to the next surface they touch.

 

Spiders

Let me say first… I do not like spiders (nor snakes … there is a song about that…) One way to rid your home of them is first…keep them out but if they come in you can vacuum the web preferably with the spider!

 

Home Danger Zones

11/26/2014
Home Danger Zones

Everyone wants their home to be safe and free from dangers. Some of the most common items and appliances in a home can be harbingers of hazards, and knowing what to be wary of will help you prevent any unforeseen issues down the road. Listed below are the top areas in a home that can potentially lead to problems, and what you can do to prevent them from occurring.

 

Cooktops

Statistics show that 40 percent of fires start in the kitchen (redcross.org), and many of those are a result of the cooktop or stovetop. Prevent issues and fires in the kitchen by storing combustibles away from the gas or electric burners (paper towels, pot holders, etc.). Also, it's always a good idea not to leave burners unattended when in use, especially when boiling water or heating oils.

 

Dryers

Dryers also have the potential to start fires in the home. Lint can build up inside the dryer cabinet, where the heating element is housed, creating a fire hazard. Clean the lint trap each time you use the dryer, and brush or vacuum buildup around the lint filter every couple of months. Dryer maintenance is also important – have the cabinet cleaned out every two years to prevent potential buildups that could cause a fire.

 

 

Washing Machines

Old hoses have the capability of bursting, which can result in a torrent of water gushing into your laundry room or area, and any low placed electrical outlets could be impacted by water leaks. Replace any old hoses with braided steel hoses, which can be found at any home improvement store or website. Also, check hoses regularly for any leaks or loose connections.

 

Pipes

In the fall and winter when temperatures drop, pipes can freeze and crack. A pipe with an 1/8 of an inch crack can leak up to 250 gallons of water per day (thisoldhouse.com). Pipes should be insulated to prevent cracking, and before the temperature drops turn off the water supply to outdoor spigots and leave taps open to relieve any internal pressure buildups that could wreak havoc on your home.

 

 

Smoke Detectors

We've all heard the very annoying chirp of a dying smoke detector. Dead, dying or missing batteries are the top reasons for smoke detector malfunctions. Batteries should be changed at least once a year, and older models that are over 10 years old should be replaced. Some detectors are also equipped with a test mode, so testing your detectors throughout the year will also help indicate if any maintenance needs to take place.

 

Fireplaces

Fireplaces are more prone for use in the winter months in those regions where the cold temperatures set in. Creosote buildup can cause chimney fires, where sparks fly out and ignite rugs and furniture. For avid chimney users, have your chimney swept once a year, and remember to keep the screen closed when not using the fireplace. It's also important to have your chimney damper or flue open before lighting a fire and when it's in use.

 

 

Electrical Wiring

Bad wiring in a home can short out and potentially start a fire, and a lot of times you won't be able to see direct issues with electrical wires. Signs to look for are frequent blown fuses, flickering lights, or feeling a tingling sensation when a wall switch or appliance is touched. If you have a home that is more than 40 years old, consider replacing the wiring and updating the electrical systems.

 

Roofs

Roofs are known for providing excellent space for snow and ice buildup. A roof that is too warm will cause snow to melt. When this happens, runoff freezes in gutters, which forms into ice, creating a dam that forces water below the shingles. To help prevent issues, make sure your roof is properly insulated by adding attic insulation and vents, which will help keep the roof cool and prevent snow melt.

 

 

Gutters

In the fall and winter months, gutters have the tendency to become clogged and backed up by rogue leaves and debris. When gutters become clogged, they can overflow, which allows water to pool around home foundations, potentially leading to basement leaks or water underneath the house. If you live in an area with lots of trees, clean gutters regularly during the fall months to help prevent clogs and potential problems, and clean them again in the spring.

 

How to prepare your house to sell.

5/14/2014

Before you put your house “Up For Sale”…
Put yourself in the “Buyer’s Shoes”…
Identify the negatives and the positive.

Walk thru your house like you will when you shop for your next house. If you can see the problems… so will potential buyers!

  1. Do all your light fixtures have working bulbs in them? Light is the most important factor for many buyers. Replace burned out bulbs and fix/replace light fixtures that do not work.
  2. Are your appliances in good working order? Have them repaired or replaced. The buyer will ask for this and if they are getting an FHA or VA loan the repair may be required before the loan can be funded. Also, change all filters to the HVAC… this should be done every month on most systems.
  3. Do you have any rooms with paint colors that may not fit a buyer’s taste? Paint is cheap… go neutral.
  4. Check all windows, doors and siding for rotting wood? This needs to be repaired/replaced and repainted. The buyer will request this repair and if they are getting an FHA or VA loan the repair may be required before the loan can be funded.
  5. Are there water spots on the ceiling from an old roof or plumbing leak that has been repaired? Paint the ceiling (not just the spot). Otherwise the potential buyer will be worried that the problem is not corrected.
  6. Is your termite bond current? Don’t wait until closing to find a hidden termite problem. A buyer will request a bond so go ahead and get one.
  7. You can also hire an inspector … the buyer will… so you might as well find the problems now, correct them and take away that post contract negotiating tool.

Are there issues you noticed that are cost prohibited to correct and not structural nor mechanical in nature?

  1. Is the landscaping overgrown… grass not growing? Cut back overgrown shrubs and put pine straw down.
  2. Does the driveway have cracks in the concrete (a common occurrence)? Seal the cracks and pressure wash.
  3. Does your garage smell musty? First make sure there is no water problem. Then clean garage thoroughly. An organized fresh smelling garage makes the entire house seem cleaner!
  4. Is your house small? This rule is good for any seller even if they have a spacious house. Less is best… less furniture and less stuff. Most bedrooms only need a bed, one nightstand and a chest or dresser… especially if the room is small.

 

Now while you still have on the “Buyer’s Shoes” … what did you like most about your house? Accentuate and focus on those features! Make them pop… 

  1. Great kitchen? Clear the counter tops (really clear them) and have fresh baked cookies out. Slice and bake work just fine! You want a potential buyer to "see themselves" cooking in your kitchen. 596376_0551405.jpg
  2. Is your Master Suite special? Decorate it like a minimalist and place a small bouquet of yellow flowers on the bedside table. Yellow is inviting and flowers are romantic.
  3. Do you have great outdoor space? Focus on making the area very neat, clean and manicured. Make sure the chairs are clean ... maybe they will sit in them and take in the ambiance!
  4. Do you have a finished basement? Make sure it looks like you use and enjoy it. Have some games on the shelf… a deck of cards on the coffee table.

You get the idea… fix the fixable… make the flaws forgettable… focus on the fabulous…

Now you have the wow FACTOR!

#stagemyhouse

#sellingmyhouse

3/6/2014
11 Landscaping Tips to Help Your Home Sell Quicker - Keep it simple like this house in Forest Lakes (Chelsea Sterrett area) 
 Forest Lakes Sterrett Chelsea

We have all heard how kitchens and master bedrooms sell properties when they're done right. What you probably haven't heard is that front and back yard spaces add, or remove, value to a home.  A buyer's first impression of your home will happen the moment they pull up to your house. Immediate, and often deal-breaking, opinions are made based on what they see. If you have a front yard full of weeds, un-mowed grass, and dead plants or trees, you can bet your potential buyer is automatically going to assume the interior is just as bad. Don't kill the deal before the buyer even walks in your front door!

Fixing up your exterior yards will not only make a positive first impression, it will also add value to your home. By doing the work yourself, you can save thousands of dollars and still make your yard look amazing.

Consider these lawn and garden ideas to help your home sell quicker:

  • Pull weeds and replace dead, or dying, trees and plants
  • Lay down fresh sod, or pull up dead grass and lay decorative rock
  • Make sure that no shrubs or low-hanging tree branches block the view of your home.
  • Add yard "art", such as bird baths and other yard ornaments
  • Add a simple water feature, which will give a relaxing feel to your yard
  • Plant bright, beautiful flowers that are easy to maintain
  • Add mulch to your garden
  • Light up your yard with style for entertaining, relaxing, beauty, security, and safety.
  • Add potted plants with seasonal flowers
  • Purchase a simple, elegant patio set
  • Clean up/throw away old kid and dog toys

Most buyers want something they can literally walk into and not have to make changes to.  The above improvements can be done by yourself and likely purchased at your local hardware store!  If you have any other landscaping tips that you think add to the beauty of your home, then please feel free to leave those in the comments section of this blog. 

4 Most Common Reasons Purchase Offers Are Rejected

3/5/2014

Rejection is a common experience among homebuyers, especially in the areas surrounding Birmingham where home inventory is declining and buyers are competing for the same homes.  Yes this has happened a lot lately… I have recently been involved in several “bidding wars” in the “over the mountain” areas of Birmingham. We all know that a lot of time goes into making an offer to buy a home. You've searched and searched and finally found the home you have been looking for.  You make an offer and sit back and wait with excitement and anxiety. Two days later the seller responds back, and you find out that your offer has been rejected! What went wrong? Why did the seller reject your offer?

Here are four common reasons purchase offers are rejected:

  1. You offered less than the listed price.  Lowballing has become a pretty common in light of the foreclosures and short sales going on in the real estate market.  However, not every seller has to sell.  Sellers can easily be insulted if a buyer offers too little.  Some sellers are willing to counter a lowball offer, but others may simply refuse to respond.  Ultimately, it is your decision of what to offer, but your agent has a fiduciary duty to keep your best interests in mind.  Listen and consider carefully, all suggestions your Realtor has regarding your offer.
  2. Bidding Wars. When home inventory is limited, buyers are competing for the same home and the seller has received bids from multiple buyers.  In this case, you may find yourself in a bidding war.  This is the time to work with your agent and strategize and improve your offer.  If this is the case, you will likely be paying close to, if not more than, asking price for the home.
  3. Buyer didn't meet specific needs.  Sometimes the sellers need specific conditions to be met, and even though your offer was fine, you just didn't meet those conditions.  Perhaps, the seller has to move out of their home by the end of the month, and you want to close the deal a month later.  If buyers and sellers can't agree on terms, the seller will oftentimes wait until a buyer comes along who can be a little more flexible.  Your Realtor should work with the listing agent on that property to discover what needs the seller has that the buyer must meet, and work with you to determine how you can meet those needs.
  4. Despite being told otherwise, sellers sometimes don't have the best judgment about the value of their home.  Sometimes a buyer can make a solid offer, backed with approved financing, and reasonable terms and still get rejected.  The seller may have an inflated view of the home's value and may not be able to separate from that attachment.  Don't be discouraged. Try to get your agent to reason with the listing agent regarding the seller's price, but also be prepared to walk away and look for another property.

Sometimes there is just no rational explanation as to why a seller may reject your offer.  Maybe the seller just got cold feet and decided it wasn't the right time to sell.  Don't take it personally.  Remember, sellers have their own bottom line, and they need to make decisions that will be in their best interest. Also, keep in mind that the longer a home is on the market, the more willing a seller may be to reconsider your offer.  If the seller refuses the initial offer, ask your agent to remind the seller about your offer. Everything eventually works out for the best!!

10 Tips to Improve the Curb Appeal of Your Home

3/4/2014

 

Curb appeal is very important, especially when you are considering things you need to do to before selling your home.  Your home and yard need to look amazing right now, especially buyers are likely doing an initial drive-by before they schedule a showing to see your home.  Even if the weather is not cooperating you need to get outside and get your home ready for a quick sale! You want to stand out from other houses in your subdivision.  If you live in a place like Highland Lakes for example... drive around and compare the "curb appeal" to the other houses on your street! This list below are suggestions that may make your house stand out!

  1. Paint Front Door - Adding a new coat of paint to your front door instantly enhances your home's appearance, and what's more, it can greatly increase resale value.
  2. Update Hardware - Update the hardware outside your home by getting new house numbers and put new numbers on the mailbox. Also consider adding a new door latch to your front door.
  3. Decorate Your Porch - Add some furniture pieces or a table and chairs.  Be sure to spruce up your porch with some colorful pots and fill them with vibrant colors. Add a welcome mat that will greet guests as they walk through the door.
  4. Update Windows - This will also save you money down the road.  Look for windows that clean easily.
  5. Garage doors - Change them up and bring a little color to your home, such as carriage doors.  Remember to keep the space behind the doors tidy as well.
  6. Install outdoor lighting - Show off that beautiful lawn of yours with outdoor lighting. You can also invest in path lighting as well to light the path that your guests walk on to get to your front door!
  7. Landscaping - Make sure your yard looks neat, clean and colorful! Clean out your flower beds, pull weeds and make sure your gardens are presentable.
  8. Replace damaged siding - Refresh your home's exterior by painting or changing out the siding for a fresh new look! If none of these are necessary, get out your power washer and clean the dirt off the house.
  9. Add Architectural Detail - Consider adding a few architectural embellishments that will enhance your homes curb appeal, like decorative shutters or molding around the garage door. Replace your mailbox, if your old one is worn down.
  10. Roofing - Install new roofing, if necessary, or just clean out your gutters.

Most buyers cannot visualize changes, and often won't take a second look at a house if the first look doesn't appeal to them.  Then there are some buyers who can visualize changes, and are prepared to make them, but will expect you to reduce the price of your home to compensate for the work they plan to do.  Put these tips into action and stay within your budget, and your house will be ready for that quick sale!

Is a Home Warranty Worth the Cost?

11/20/2012

When you purchase or sell a home should a Home Warranty (Home Protection Plan) be included? The inclusion of a Home Warranty may provide peace of mind to both the seller and purchaser that if a component of the home fails it should be able to be fixed affordably. A home warranty is a good form of financial protection against expensive, unforeseen home repairs. A HOME WARRANTY SHOULD NEVER TAKE THE PLACE OF A HOME INSPECTION BY A QUALIFIED LICENSED INSPECTOR.

The standard home warranty is a one-year service contract that protects a resale home buyer or current homeowner against the cost of unexpected repairs or replacement of major systems and appliances that break down due to normal usage. Coverage is also available to home sellers during the listing and escrow period to help them keep unforeseen breakdowns from potentially delaying the close of sale.A home warranty is not the same thing as homeowners insurance, nor is it a repla cement for homeowners insurance. Homeowners insurance covers major perils such as fires, hail, property crimes and certain types of water damage that could affect the entire structure and/or the homeowner's personal possessions. A home warranty does not cover these perils. It covers specific components of the home.

A home warranty is a contract between a homeowner and a home warranty company not the buyer and the seller. The warranty provides for discounted repair and replacement service on a home's major componentsShould something that is covered by the home warranty breaks, the homeowner calls the home warranty company, and the home warranty company sends one of its service providers to examine the problem. If the provider determines that the needed repair or replacement is covered by the warranty, he completes the work. The homeowner pays the fee that is outlined in the purchased warranty.

Coverage by a home warranty does not mean the homeowner will never have to spend money on home repairs. Some issues may not be covered by the warranty. This may be due to the fact that the homeowner did not purchase coverage for that item or because the warranty company does not offer coverage for that item. Also, home warranties usually do not cover components that have not been properly maintained. If the company denies the claim, the payment for the service call may be the responsibility of the homeowner.

A home warranty is supposed to protect against expensive, unforeseen repair bills and provide peace of mind.  Home warranties also make sense for people who are not handy nor want to worry about tracking down a contractor when they have a problem. Warranties can also make sense for people with expensive taste in appliances.The subject of home warranties often comes up during the sale and purchase of a home. . A warranty can also be helpful for someone who has just depleted their savings to buy a home and wants to avoid any additional major expenses.
For home sellers, having a warranty during the listing period can be a money saver if a major appliance fails and needs to be repaired. Usually, HVAC coverage during the listing period is an additional fee. Offering the buyer a paid-up, one-year home warranty with the home purchase may provide a measure of protection against buyer complaints about any home defects that arise after the sale closes.

What are the Drawbacks of Home Warranties?
One major problem with a home warranty is that it will not cover items that have not been properly maintained. What is considered proper maintenance can be a significant gray area and is the source of many disagreements between home warranty companies and warranty holders. Another common problem is that when a homeowner purchases a used home, it might come with a 10-year-old furnace that the previous owner did not maintain. At that point, no matter how well the new homeowner tries to care for the furnace going forward, it is not possible correct the previous lack of maintenance. Warranties may have numerous exclusions, as well as dollar limits per repair and per year.

Home warranties are not expensive compared to the cost of repairing or replacing most of a home's important components, and this fact is one of a warranty's major selling points.

Home warranties do eliminate the need to find a contractor when something breaks. However, they also eliminate the freedom to choose your own contractor if you want the warranty to pay for the repair or replacement. If you do not like the contractor or the work they do, you may be stuck with them. Furthermore, repairs may be more complicated with a third party (the home warranty company) involved in the process than a direct negotiation between a homeowner and a contractor would be. Also, the homeowner may have little or no say in the model or brand of a replacement component - though the warranty contract should provide for a similar- or equivalent-quality replacement. 
Homeowners should read the fine print in the home warranty contract and carefully consider whether the warranty is likely to pay off. Home sellers who want to offer a warranty to buyers and homeowners/buyers who would feel more comfortable having a home warranty should also do careful research to find a reputable home warranty company that will actually pay for legitimaterepairs when they are needed.

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