How to Evaluate Schools Before You Buy Your Home

Schools are a contributing factor for anyone buying a home.  The question remains: How do you evaluate schools?  What’s the best approach for understanding if your local schools will score your property an “A” or relegate it to the land of “D-” ?

Luckily, there are some excellent resources out there for vetting schools online.   Here are a few I’ve come across which provide a good place to start:

Education.com    A major portal site for education everywhere.   You’ll want to pay particular attention to the schools section, found here:    http://www.education.com/topic/school-and-academics/

GreatSchools.org    A good search engine for researching schools, you can do zip code based searches and learn lots about the public and private institutions in the area.

ProjectAppleseed.org    A website dedicated to improving public schools.  You can learn a lot here about the crucial elements of what makes a local school and excellent local school.

Finally, here are a handful of questions to ask yourself if you’re doing research:

How comprehensive is the school’s safety policy?

What social/support services are available at the school?

How does the school handle discipline?

Are people involved in a parent/teacher organization?

How healthy is the school district’s annual report?

Finally, be sure to ask your agent!

Looking for neighborhoods with great schools?  I can help! 

Lynette Williams
626-788-9288
lynettewilliams@irealtypro.com

Home Hunt Tip: Don’t disregard these 3 crucial details

Think you’ve found the perfect home?  Think again! There are three little details which can turn an ideal house into the world’s most annoying location.  Before you make your offer, take into account these three small, but surprisingly important details:

#1: “Let me call you back on my landline.”

Does your future dream home have cell reception?  Check your signal when you’re on the property and see if it has dead spots, poor/limited data connections, or flat out “NO SERVICE” messages.  This is especially important if you telecommute or had planned on skipping a landline entirely.  While you can try and live on VoIP connections, WiFi, and other options, the hassle of a hole in cell coverage can wear on you.

#2: “Wow, the commute is longer than I thought.”

It’s a sunny Saturday afternoon, and for kicks, you decide to see how long the drive is from your potential dream home to your office.  Doesn’t seem too bad, does it?  Now try it during rush hour on a Monday (in bad weather if you can swing it). You might be surprised how school zones, backed-up interstate ramps, new construction, and peak transit schedules extend that commute. T his goes for urban commutes too, so even if you don’t drive to work you’ll want to evaluate the commute in real-world conditions.

#3: “What do you mean we’re outside your delivery zone?”

The neighborhood was gentrifying.  The home price was within your range.  Now you find out that there’s no such thing as food delivery to your new address!  Don’t assume that just because you’ve seen pizza delivery cars whipping through the ‘hood means they stop there.  Restaurant delivery areas are often drawn like congressional districts, so if you can, check out what the local food delivery options are like ahead of time.  Look up a few places, call them, and verify they deliver to your address.  (Asking the average delivery time is a good idea, too.)

Markets can be super competitive, but remember that you’re planning on living in this new house for a considerable amount of time. (Most people would tell you at least 5 – 7 years.)  Perhaps your priorities don’t include these three details, but they might to other buyers when you’re ready to sell.  Time changes things, but ask yourself:  Do you want to put up with the annoyances for two years?  Even one?

I respect the time it takes to find the best home for the best price, and I’d be happy to show you around.  Let’s talk! 

Lynette Williams
626-788-9288
lynettewilliams@irealtypro.com

 

5 Questions You Must Ask Yourself Before Home Shopping

It starts innocently enough… you pass a house in a neighborhood you like, you hear someone is selling their home, you happen to look up home prices online.  Before you know it, you’re knee-deep in home shopping and open house visits.  This can actually be exceedingly dangerous to your financial future.

Falling in love with a home before you actually know what you want in a home is risky.  To avoid the “buy first, think later” syndrome that burdens family finances, marriages, and work life, ask yourself these important questions:

  1.  How much do we want to spend each month on home expenses?

There’s a tendency for people who shop first to try and “make the math work” on purchasing a home.  Often this leads to stretching the home budget and ignoring crucial expenses such as maintenance and property taxes in order to “make the mortgage.”  Determine a comfortable, conservative range for home expenses first.

  1.  Which neighborhoods make sense from multiple angles?

You may love a neighborhood for its leafy streets and family-friendly atmosphere, but what if it adds thirty minutes to your commute?  Are the schools good?  What are the crime stats like?  What’s the walkability score?  Don’t view a neighborhood with rose-colored glasses based on a single quality you like.

  1.  What’s a priority and what’s a nice extra?

You may think you want extra bedrooms for guests and a home office, but which one is more important?  Rank the must haves against the “nice to haves.”

  1.  What’s our long-term ownership picture look like?

Are you settling in for ten years, or do you suspect you’ll need to move in four?  While you can’t predict the future, you can make some estimates.  Those estimates will help you understand how much home you should buy, what kind of down-payment you’ll want to have, and what the picture might look like in terms of renovations.

  1.  When can you move vs. when would you like to move?

Rental leases, selling your current home, and job and schooling factors all impact the timeline for a purchase.  Wrap your head around the pragmatic timeline as best you can.

I’m more than happy to help you think these through.  Contact me for help today:

Lynette Williams
CalBRE# 00880613
iRealty Professionals
(323) 251-6011
http://www.searchlosangelescountyhomes.com

Three Myths about Home Buying

I’m here to save you pain, buyers.  There are myths about the home shopping experience that must be addressed.  I like to make the home buying experience as stress-free as possible, so please hear me out on these three big myths about home buying:

Myth #1:  “That house has been on the market so long I bet we can work the seller down easily.”

Not necessarily.  Exceptionally high days on market could mean almost anything.  The seller could be bullheaded about their price.  The seller may not be particularly motivated to sell for emotional or other personal reasons.  Don’t forget:  A sales-weary seller isn’t likely to respond to your host of rational reasons why their house should be a bargain.

Myth #2:  “I want to look at foreclosed homes because they’re a real bargain and the banks need to unload them.”

Banks, like entrenched sellers, don’t always make decisions which seem rational based on obvious information.  You can have a hard time divining the reason a bank chooses to reject an offer for a foreclosed or distressed property, and their decision may be based on financials which seem counter-intuitive.  The truth is, many distressed sales can be longer and more fraught than regular sales.

Myth #3:  “I liked this house a lot, but with this market, I bet it will still be there if I decide to buy it.”

It’s very, very painful to see a client love a home but fail to make a move to purchase that home.  If you fell in love with it, why wouldn’t someone else?  Just because a property has been on the market a little while doesn’t mean it will stay on the market.  The bonus myth in this one?  Your “perfect” home is probably going to be a home with some small compromises.  If you don’t make an offer on a home, you’re effectively saying, “I’m comfortable losing this home.”

My job as an agent is to represent your interests and do my best to protect you along the way.  If you’re pursuing a home purchase in the near future, please get in touch.  There are many other ways I can lower your stress and help you find a great home:

Lynette Williams
626-788-9288
lynettewilliams@irealtypro.com

 

 

Should I get a mortgage even if I don’t need one?

Many of my clients (especially Baby Boomers who are downsizing or relocating) ask me if they should pay cash for their next house or finance it with a new loan.  While the idea of owning a home free-and-clear is certainly appealing, I always present them with a series of questions to help them clarify the big picture.  Perhaps you or someone you know may benefit from these as well:

How much will you be left with after an all-cash purchase?  Maintaining a safety net of three to six months’ worth of living expenses can be a real comfort after you’ve done well on the sale of your home.  How comfortable will you be if an all-cash purchase brings you near zero?

Are you retiring soon?  This goes to two issues:  First, whether or not the absence of a mortgage will significantly improve your monthly position, keeping in mind you’ll still need to make insurance, tax payments, and maintenance.  Second, if you’re thinking about applying for a loan.  It can be a challenge to qualify for a loan after you’ve retired, so if you think you’ll need a loan, it may be better to get it in advance.

What’s your tax and income situation look like?  For some people, the mortgage interest deduction on income taxes has a significant impact on their annual tax bill and overall cash flow picture.  It’s always a good idea to consult with a financial professional before you “write off” the write off.

Might you need to help someone out in the near future?  Sometimes having the liquidity to help family members or close friends in need is important.  Are you planning to help someone else with a down payment on a home?  Is it likely you’ll have to help a close friend or relative through a tough time?  Having cash on hand can be a comfort.

How important is “free and clear” to your mind?  For some, there’s nothing that compares to the idea of owning a home free and clear.  Sometimes the feeling of “no debt” simply can’t be overpowered by tax or liquidity benefits.  It’s important to be honest with yourself, and if you’ve always dreamed of dodging a house payment, it could be the right emotional move.

For all of these reasons and more you’ll want to choose wisely before you go in for an all-cash purchase of your next home. Naturally, if you need any help selling your current home or looking for the next one, I’d be happy to help:

Lynette Williams
626-788-9288
lynettewilliams@irealtypro.com

Making Little Feel Big: Tips to Upsize Your Small House

Has your home started to feel a little small for your family?  It happens to the best of us.  The things we own gradually end up colonizing a lot of our free space, and the house which felt “just right” a few years ago can suddenly feel as tiny as a shoe closet.

Fortunately, there are some simple tricks you can try to supersize your small space.  Most of these tricks are a matter of changing perspective rather than opening up more square footage.  Before you try them, consider a real effort to declutter first.  If your declutter campaign falls short, though, these tactics may come to your rescue:

Lighten up the walls.  Color can make the difference between breezy, cozy, and claustrophobic.  Dark colors on walls make them seem smaller and denser, while lighter ones broaden your view and reflect more light.  While white can be a bit harsh, there are other cheerful tones such as lemon, mint, and cornflower which can transform a space.

Aim high.  Many times, our gaze tends to lock onto the things in the way of our feet.  If you have zones of heavy storage occupying square footage, look for ways to get those items off the ground.  Corner shelves, hidden cabinets, and even hanging racks can do wonders for widening up narrow spaces.  Hanging pictures higher up on walls can make rooms feel taller, too.

Widen up the windows.  Big curtain rods which extend beyond the border of the window can make a window seem larger, and making the move to keep them open (perhaps with sheer drapes for privacy) can let in crucial light.  If you have a little renovation money, consider adding windows to rooms where less-than-ideal lighting conditions exist.

Cast mirror magic.  Amplifying light is a big theme here, so position large mirrors across from windows to create “windows” where no window can exist.  Even if you don’t have a window handy, a large mirror can double up the tiniest room.

Demand double duty furniture.  Hidden storage in large furniture can be a boon for making the most diminutive room more manageable. Take, for example, raised bed platforms with drawers built in the frame.  Look for any opportunity to hide storage in existing objects.

Hopefully these five tips will make your small house more spacious.  If they still don’t make enough room for peace of mind, it might be time to consider upsizing.  I’m happy to help you assess how much home you can afford, and what you might be able to get for the house you’ve outgrown.  Drop me a line if you’re ready for the big time!

Lynette Williams
626-788-9288
lynettewilliams@irealtypro.com