Calabasas Conservancy

Ninety-five acres of prime Calabasas, California acreage preserved as open space and realtor Jeff Schermer was in on the deal. Click on the link below the photo to read the article.

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Insurance Companies’ Policy About Dog Bite Claims Surprise Dog Owners

Hey DOG OWNERS!  (And Landlords of Tenants with Dogs) Guess what?

Did you know that if your (or a tenant’s) dog bites someone and you have an insurance claim that your policy will NOT be renewed?

jeff-dog

You would think that when a company  takes your application and asks you what kind of dog you have they would have the presence of mind to also say, ‘by the way, if there’s a dog bite claim, you won’t be renewed’.

I sell Real Estate for a living. We have pages and pages of disclosures to fill out about many things. Shouldn’t there be a rider that alerts us dog owners to the fact that if your dog happens to bite someone and there’s a claim made, it’s ‘bye bye insurance’?

In my case, my dog, having been startled by an earthquake, hopped our fence and was on top of the wall on my own property. A neighbor, walking his German Shepherd, tried to help my frightened dog down, and my dog, unfortunately bit him.  The neighbor later went to the emergency room and an insurance claim was filed.

It was all settled but then I got a letter informing me that my insurance company is not renewing.

They may, indeed, have that policy in place and it appears others do as well. In fact, it appears normal and customary. However, the problem is why doesn’t anyone know about it? Why isn’t this publicized?

What angers me is that the agent or insurance company should put some sort of disclaimer in that goes something like this: “Should there be a dog bite claim, be aware the carrier may not agree to renew.”

In Real Estate, there are forms for even less than this.

So, isn’t this crazy? And, when they’re taking an insurance application over the phone, for insurance, they already ask you ‘what kind of dog do you own?’  How about saying then, “by the way, a dog bite claim by keep your policy from being renewed”.

This is important information for all dog owners to know.  Please pass this on to your dog owner friends and family members.

Prepare Your Home for Showing

After you’ve decided on the market price for selling your home and how you will market your home (things that are best decided between you and your realtor – ME!) now YOU need to get your house ready to show potential buyers.

Now you should put the finishing touches on things —  just like a quick housecleaning you do before company comes for dinner.

Outside:

  • Keep your lawn trimmed, the rose bushes pruned, the weeds tamed.
  • Put away the garden hose and the tools.
  • Make sure the bulbs in your home’s exterior lighting fixtures are all in working order.
  • Be vigilant about removing flyers, handouts and newspapers left on your front doorstep or driveway.

Inside:

  • Brighten the rooms by opening the drapes, turning on the lights, cleaning the windows.
  • Clear the clutter on the kitchen counter, bathroom sink, coffee table and couches.
  • Make all the beds.
  • Clean all your bathroom and kitchen fixtures.
  • Do a quick vacuuming of the entire house, being sure to catch any cobwebs in the corners along the ceiling.
  • Take out the garbage!

Pets:
If you have pets, find a safe place to keep them during a house showing: in the garage, in the basement or at a friend’s house. You may be having lots of people over (hopefully) and you don’t want your pet getting nervous, or worse, escape when someone accidentally leaves the door open.

Now It’s Your Realtor’s (ME!) Turn:
Try to be away from home during a showing.  This gives potential buyers more freedom in asking questions or making observations about your home.  But if you do happen to be home when the potential buyers arrive, greet them at the door then politely excuse yourself. Make yourself scarce or go take a walk. It’s easier for a buyer to picture himself or herself living in the house when you’re not there. This is your home’s time to shine.

Visting Your Potential New Home

Once you know what you want in a house where you want it to be located and what you can afford for it, it’s time to check out the houses for sale. To help stay focused, bring with you a checklist of things that you’ve decided ahead of time are important qualities of your future home.

These might include:

  • Is there enough room for you to grow in if you’re planning a family?
  • Is the house structurally sound?
  • Is the house in move-in condition or will it need work?
  • If it needs work, how much work and what is the time frame you have to complete that work?
  • Is it close enough to everyday needs, such as grocery stores, schools, work?
  • If you need public transportation, is there anything nearby?
  • Will you feel safe here?
  • Do the appliances that are part of the sale function properly?
  • Is the backyard or front yard right for your needs?
  • Are you happy with the floor plan?
  • Is there enough storage either in a basement, garage or outdoor shed?
  • Will you be happy in this house in all seasons: winter, summer, spring, fall?

Info on Selling Your Home

house4saleWhether you’re planning to sell your home in the next few months or just studying up for that eventuality, there’s no time like now to prepare. If buying a house seems complicated, selling involves even more responsibilities and expenses.

Here are some common steps to selling your home:

1. Prepare Your Home for Sale

Well before you’re ready to plant that “For Sale” sign in your front yard, there is work to be done to prepare your home for sale.

Remember how keen your eye was to every small detail and defect in the houses you saw as a buyer? Now that door to your bedroom that never quite closed properly or that leaky faucet that you never got around to fixing will be seen by a potential buyer with that same keen eye.

Start making the obvious repairs today – even if you don’t plan to sell until a year from now. These repairs can cost money and take time. Plus fixing it now will allow you to enjoy the results before it’s time to move out.

If you plan on doing some improvements before the sale, the best place to start is where the buyers start: at your curb. Potential buyers base a large part of their decision on a property’s “curb appeal,” so make yours say something positive. That means a tidy front yard, a house with well-painted trim, a tidy driveway and a clear, welcoming entryway.

Inside, the biggest return on your investment continues to be improvements to the kitchen, followed closely by improvements to the master bedroom. If you’re making these improvements shortly before selling the house, consider painting and decorating the rooms in neutral colors, the most appealing choice to the greatest number of potential buyers.

Inside and outside, start reducing the clutter. When it comes time to show your home, less will mean more. Potential buyers don’t want to see how your closets overflow with clothes, how every room feels cramped with furniture, or how the yard is difficult to maneuver with that rusty swing set in the way. So downsize now; it not only will make the preparation for showing your home easier, it also will make packing for your move faster.

2. Find a Real Estate Professional

If you’ve been through the home-buying process, you already know how complicated the real estate business can be. While you can opt to sell your home yourself, it can be time-consuming and often not worth the money saved on commissions.

However, if you do hire a real estate professional as your selling agent, do your homework. Ask friends and family for recommendations, interview several candidates, attend a few open houses and watch the professional in action. Do you think this person would present your house well to potential clients?

When interviewing me or another candidate, ask him or her to prepare a “comparative marketing analysis” for your house. This might include a demographic of the neighborhood, the quality of schools in the area and a suggested list price for the property.

If you’ve chosen me or another real estate professional to help sell your home, you’ll have to sign a contract stating that you’ll work solely with them for a designated number of months, often between one and six months. This means no other real estate professional will be allowed to sell your home on your behalf during this time.

So put some thought into the professional you choose and if you decide to choose me, I will help you sell your home to a qualified buyer for the highest market price in the quickest, most convienent timeline.

3. Get Your Paperwork Together

After you sign the Listing Agreement with me she will need a lot of documents from you to prepare your home for sale. Among the things she will want to see are:
• Pay-off Notice: A letter to the lender stating intention to payoff the mortgage.
• Assessments or Easements: If there’s a tax assessment or easement on the property, documents stating such will have to be included in the purchase contract.
• Property Taxes: Proof of property taxes paid.
• Utilities: Provide a record of the past 12 months’ utility bills.

You’ll want to make it clear now which items in the home you want to take with you – the heirloom chandelier in the dining room, the washer and dryer set you just bought last month – and which can stay behind as part of the home sale. I can help show you which items you should put away or replace before your house goes on the market.

4. Price Your Home

There are a number of factors that will affect the success of your home sale. They include: location of the home, interest rates, economic conditions, time of year, condition of the home, marketing the home, terms of the sale and accessibility to the home.

Some of these are not within your or my control – location of the home, interest rates, economic conditions. The other factors are items you should discuss with me to determine what would benefit the sale of this property most.

For example, marketing your property in more innovative ways, such as on an Internet site like this one, may broaden the pool of potential buyers. If you can, waiting for a good time to sell your home – spring or fall, the most popularly home buying times – also may help it sell faster except in this Seller’s market, anytime is a good time. And pricing the home properly can make a huge difference in whether a house is snapped up within the first several weeks of listing or sits on the market for more than a year.

To price a home properly, you and I will have to study the local market, research comparable properties and consider current market conditions. This is where the “comparative marketing analysis” you requested when interviewing for a listing agent will come in handy as a place to start.

Now check around your neighborhood, your newspaper and Internet sites like this one for:
• Your competition: Are there many properties just like yours for sale in your area right now?
• Listing prices: What are other properties like yours listing for?
• Selling prices: What are other properties like yours selling for?

Based on these findings, I have the experience to help you price your property at the right price for a sale that benefits you.

5. Market Your Home

Products that sell well usually have a good marketing strategy. The same can be said for your home. Work with me to decide where you want to advertise. Will the house be advertised only with a yard sign? Do you want your house listed for sale not only in newspapers but also on Internet sites like this one? When can you make your house available for an “open house” showing?

When a potential buyer arrives for an “open house” or drives by and sees the for sale sign, you’ll want to provide a home profile handout that they can take with them. Decide what information should be included in the description of your home that will make it a must-see – and hopefully, a must-buy. Include one or more photos of the home to showcase the most appealing features of your property and help remind potential buyers of what they saw as they visit home after home.

You may even want to include a few lines about benefits of moving to this property, such as good schools, convenience to mass transit and other desirable community features.  You’ll work with me to discuss what the features and benefits of your property are.

6. Prepare Your Home for Showing (Your Job!)

Now that you’ve decided with me on the market price and how you will market your home now there’s little time left to get your house ready for visitors.

Now is the time to put on the finishing touches, just like that quick housecleaning you do before company comes over for dinner.

Outside: Keep your lawn trimmed, the rose bushes pruned, the weeds tamed. Put away the garden hose and the tools. Make sure the bulbs in your home’s exterior lighting fixtures are all in working order. Be vigilant about removing flyers, handouts and newspapers left on your front doorstep or driveway.

Inside: Brighten the rooms by opening the drapes, turning on the lights, cleaning the windows. Clear the clutter on the kitchen counter, bathroom sink, coffee table and couches. Make all the beds. Clean all your bathroom and kitchen fixtures. Do a quick vacuuming of the entire house, being sure to catch any cobwebs in the corners along the ceiling. Finally, take out the garbage.

If you have pets, find a safe place to keep them during a house showing: in the garage, in the basement or at a friend’s house.

Now leave the work to me. Try to be away from home during a showing, but if you happen to be home when the potential buyers arrive, greet them at the door then politely excuse yourself. Make yourself scarce or go take a walk. It’s easier for a buyer to picture himself or herself living in the house when you’re not there. This is your home’s time to shine.

7. Respond to an Offer

Depending on market conditions, you may receive one or more offers for your property from interested buyers. Each offer will include the proposed offer price, proposed closing date, proposed move-in date, financing, and contingencies that may include an appraisal or sale of the buyers’ current home. Let me help you sort through the variables to determine whether you should accept, counter-offer or reject the offer.

If there are multiple offers, each offer will be presented to you in the order registered. You don’t need to decide anything until after you’ve seen all the offers. If you do accept or counter more than one offer, you are required to establish an order of precedence noting which is the primary offer, followed by the backups in order. This will help you avoid selling the house to more than one buyer.

8. Complete the Settlement

Once you have accepted an offer to buy your house, expect to make your house available to a housing inspector, a termite inspector, an appraiser and other inspectors. After seeing the results of the inspections, the buyer may request additional work is completed before purchase, such as repairing a damaged roof or fixing a leaky faucet. You should consult with me to determine whether to comply with the buyer’s request or risk losing this offer.

During this flurry of activity, try to keep your home in show condition. The deal has not closed and still may fall through, which may mean showing your home to more potential buyers.

In the meantime, the buyer is working with a lender to secure a loan for the purchase. When the buyer has written loan approval, a closing date can be set.

There will be a final walk-through before all signatures are collected and the deal considered done. The buyer will go room by room to check that everything is in working condition and, if you had agreed to do so, any additional work requested after inspection is completed.

Now you can prepare for your own move, notify your utility companies of the date to transfer your account to a new address and start packing. Congratulations, you’ve sold your home!

Info on Buying a Home

happy-familyA home is probably the biggest financial investment you’ll make in your life. Before you get started, do some homework. This handy Buyer’s Guide will show you some things to keep in mind as you’re hunting for that home of your dreams.

1. Determine How Much You Can Afford

How much house you can afford is largely dependent on how large a mortgage – basically, a home loan — you can handle. Start your research by using the simple mortgage calculators I have on my website to see whether you can afford to pay the monthly mortgage on the kinds of houses you have in mind.

You may even apply for a mortgage at a lender before you start looking for a home. This is called getting pre-qualified for a loan; it will tell you exactly how much you can afford and may make the closing process go faster.

But, remember that owning a home involves more than a monthly mortgage. You’ll also have to consider money you’ll need to have at hand when you make an offer, when you close on a home and on a monthly basis after the home is yours.

Payments you may have to make when you submit an offer and at closing include:

  • Earnest money, usually 1% to 5% of the cost of the house, which you pay as a deposit on the house when you submit your offer. It’s your proof that you’re a serious buyer
    down payment, usually 10% to 20% of the cost of the house, which you must pay at closing
  • Mortgage insurance, paid by borrowers making a down payment of less than 20%
  • Closing costs, usually 3% to 4% of the cost of the house, to pay for processing all the paperwork
    Don’t forget the day-to-day expenses you may incur once you own that home. This includes:
  • Utilities
  • Homeowner or condo association dues
  • Property taxes
  • City or County taxes

2. Shop for a Home

House hunting can be both exciting and frustrating. Most homebuyers see roughly many houses before buying one. To make the search easier and faster, nearly half of all house hunters today begin by browsing for properties on the Internet, using web sites like this one.  Please go to my home page and click on the “Search For Homes” link and you will have access to the same data as Realtors in the areas from Burbank to Thousand Oaks in Los Angeles County.  For Ventura County Property information click on the other link “Here” on my homepage.  This information is up-to-date and accurate.  Other sites on the internet do not provide up-to-date data and lag behind my site.

The Internet is a quick way to see whether the houses that are currently available meet the following critical criteria: in the right location, with the right features and at the right price. If you find after your search on my website that few properties meet with your expectations, you may want to readjust your criteria – change the location, features, price – to increase your chances of finding a house that works for you. If you have any difficulties in this initial search, feel free to contact me for assistance. Homes can become available instantly and I’am always the most current resource for literally up to the minute new home listing information.

Once you know what you want, where you want it and what you can afford, it’s time to see the houses for yourself. To help stay focused, bring with you a checklist of things that you’ve decided ahead of time are important qualities of your future home.

This might include:

  • Is there enough room for you to grow in?
  • Is the house structurally sound?
  • Is the house in move-in condition or will it need work?
  • Is it close enough to everyday needs, such as grocery stores, schools, work?
  • Will you feel safe here?
  • Do the appliances that are part of the sale work?
  • Is the yard right for your needs?
  • Do you like the floor plan?
  • Is there enough storage?
  • Will you be happy in this house in winter, summer, spring, fall?

You may also want to take some exterior and interior photos of each house you visit so that you can keep track of its pros and cons.

3. Find a Real Estate Professional…That’s were I come in…

While you’re not required to use a real estate professional, it is a good idea. A professional has access to a network of contacts and can draw from extensive market knowledge to help pinpoint the right house for you quickly.

A professional also can help you structure your deal to save money, explain the advantages and disadvantages of different types of mortgages and guide you through the paperwork.

4. Research Different Mortgages

There are a variety of mortgage types available today, each with advantages and disadvantages depending on how long you plan to live in the home, the financial marketplace and your income potential, among other things.

A fixed-rate mortgage is the most common. In a fixed-rate mortgage, your interest rate and payment stay the same for the life of the loan.

An adjustable-rate mortgage usually starts out at lower interest rates and lower monthly payments than fixed-rate mortgages, but your rate and monthly payments may rise and fall based on a financial index.

There are also several government mortgage programs available, including FHA mortgages, which are designed to help people who might not otherwise qualify for a loan.

You may also have a choice in loan terms. There are 30-year loans and 15-year loans.

It’s best to talk to me about your best mortgage option.  I may refer you to a Mortgage Broker that can discuss current market financing packages and provide a FREE Loan Qualification.

5. Make an Offer

When you’ve found a house you really want, it’s time to make the offer. How much you offer may depend on a number of factors:

  • Is the asking price fair? Here’s where the legwork you put in while shopping for a home pays off. Decide whether this house is priced right or out of line in the current marketplace.
  • Is the house in good condition? Is this house in move-in condition or will it need a lot of work? Take any costs of improvement into consideration when deciding your offer price.
  • Has it been on the market long? Usually the longer a house has been on the market, the more likely it is the owner would accept a lower offer. Or maybe it’s just overpriced for the market.
  • Is it a seller’s or buyer’s market? If the houses you’re interested in are being bought as soon as they’re listed, that means you’ve got a lot of competition from other buyers; offer accordingly. If houses aren’t selling fast, you may have more leverage in negotiating a lower price.
    Once you’ve determined how much you’d like to offer, work with your real estate professional to submit the proper information. This includes:
  • A complete, legal description of the house
  • The amount of earnest money you’re paying
  • The down payment and financing details
  • A proposed move-in date
  • The price you’re offering
  • A proposed closing date
  • The length of time your offer is valid
  • Details of the deal

This can be just the beginning of the negotiation process. The seller has three options: accept your offer, counter your offer or reject your offer. Let me advise you on the best way to present your offer for a good outcome.

6. Begin Contingency Period

When your offer has been accepted, the contingency period begins. This is time that allows you to obtain financing, perform inspections and satisfy any other contingencies of your purchase agreement.

Obtaining financing might include loan approval, which will include an appraisal of the property. Also be prepared to make your down payment, which is usually due several days before the close of escrow.

Now is the time to schedule a professional inspection of the property; it is one of the best safeguards you can take before buying. A home inspector should check (and may give you a rough price for repairs on) the electrical system, plumbing and waste disposal, the water heater, insulation and ventilation, water source and quality, pests, foundation, doors, windows, ceilings, walls, floors and roof.

Keep in mind that the inspector isn’t there to tell you whether you’re getting a good deal. He or she is there to give you an educated opinion on whether the house is structurally and mechanically sound and fill you in on any repairs that are needed.

7. Buy Homeowner’s Insurance

A paid homeowner’s insurance policy is required at closing. I will help make sure your insurance company and your title officer are working together to put your policy in effect by the close of escrow. But, if you get your insurance agent involved early in your home-buying process, he or she may also help point out ways to help keep your insurance premiums lower.

8. Complete Settlement or Closing

When the property you’re buying has been inspected and you’ve had your final walk-through of the property to see that all contingency conditions – such as final repairs made by the seller — have been met, it’s time to face the paperwork. You will be signing loan documents and closing papers, paying the balance of your down payment and closing costs. This is the day you get the keys to your new home. Congratulations!