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XERISCAPING – A FUNNY WORD!

XERISCAPING – A FUNNY WORD!
“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.”  – Khalil Gibran

According to Wikipedia, Xeriscaping “refers to landscaping and gardening in ways that reduce or eliminate the need for supplemental water from irrigation. It is promoted in regions that do not have easily accessible, plentiful, or reliable supplies of fresh water, and is gaining acceptance in other areas as climate patterns shift.”

Xeri, comes from the Greek “xeros,” meaning dry, and “scape,”  is a kind of view or scene. When you put the two words together you have a  landscape with slow-growing, drought-tolerant plants to conserve water and establish a waste-efficient landscape.  Xeriscaping will also reduce the high cost of your water bills and comes in very handy during the drought periods we sometimes have in Florida.

For an in-depth explanation with lots of suggestions for choosing plants please click on the following link – xeriscaping. This link will bring you to the IFAS website, which looks like a newsletter.  There is a plethora of helpful information other than gardening and landscaping.  For example, you can find helpful information on energy, water conservation, waste management, wildlife, natural history, food and other local information.

There is a home on NW 8th Avenue in Gainesville that makes use of one aspect of xeriscaping.  All the plants have been strategically planted so that the water runoff on the property goes to these plants. It is truly a zero maintenance yard in spite of the variety of plants growing there.This home sits next to Rattlesnake creek and boasts a magnificent variety of trees such as:

  • Japanese persimmon
  • grapefruit
  • Orange
  • Satsuma tangerine
  • an avocado tree from Mexico and
  • Three varieties of olive trees
    1. green olive
    2. black olive
    3. brown olive
  • a Hong Kong Orchid tree and/or Mountain Ebony
  • camellias
  • two kinds of Bougainville’s
  • Paw Paw trees, and of course
  • Saw Palmettos

If having all this fruit isn’t enough, the home itself is an architects’ delight with  2 story soaring windows in the family room, an updated kitchen, a mother-in-law suite, a loft overlooking the pool area and a free form salt water pool.

There is a ravine along the back portion of the property, where rattlesnake creek runs, which has a cross-country trail system running through it.   This ravine sustains the life of, and breeding habits of, 60 of the 65 varieties of dragon flies found in Florida.

This home has over 3000 square feet of heated and cooled living space and is located only 8 blocks from the University of Florida in Gainesville. This is not only a great home, but you can purchase it at the great price of only $219,000.00.  This is a pre-approved short sale and the home will not last long on the market. For more information about this great home, please click on the following link: MLS# 329532.

Regarding the slide show below, the smaller pictures are of the home cleaned up when someone who cared about the property was living there.  The larger pictures are of the home in its current condition.  It can very easily be restored to the way it used to look – all it needs is some elbow grease and trimming of the yard. If you would like to take a tour of this property, please call for an appointment at the numbers below.

Jocelyne Grandjean-Brown

CDPE Trained

RE/MAX Professionals

Gainesville, FL 32606

Office: 352-375-1002

Cell: 352-870-9929

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DON’T WAIT UNTIL IT’S TOO LATE!

“For most folks, no news is good news; for the press, good news is not news.”  – Gloria Borger

You hear the bad news everywhere you turn. It’s on the television, the Internet, the radio and in print headlines. A lot of negative coverage has been devoted to today’s housing market.  What you don’t hear is the good news about the real estate market and the many reasons why the current real estate market may be beneficial to you.

Bad news sells newspapers and gets high television ratings; therefore, the media has no reason to report the upside of today’s real estate market to the average American. This is where I come in. For example, did you know that approximately 30 percent of homeowners own their home free and clear?

The current market also affords some great opportunities for those looking to purchase a home. First-time homeowners, move-up buyers and investors can all benefit from low home prices, and historically low-interest rates, making now a great time to lock in a long-term mortgage. Also, the large selection of homes and low sales prices make it a great buyer’s market. And did you know that if you buy in a rural area –Alachua, High Springs and Newberry qualify as rural areas –  you may qualify for a USDA loan, which is a 100% loan – a “no money down” loan.

Ultimately, though, these favorable conditions will go away. As inflation rises, so do interest rates. If you are looking to become a homeowner, you need to strike while the iron is hot!

SELLERS; IF YOU WANT IT, ASK FOR IT!

SELLERS; IF YOU WANT IT, ASK FOR IT!

“Ask, and it shall be given unto you.”  –  Jesus Christ

There’s nothing more frustrating to a ready, willing, and seemingly able buyer than to lose an offer to another buyer — especially since the seller was not specific (down to the letter) about what he expected to receive.

Sure, there’s the list price; but in today’s fast-paced market, a buyer/ prospect may offer thousands more than the list price and STILL not be the lucky buyer who gets the property!

That’s why sellers should be as specific as possible with buyers in what they want to receive and achieve in a successful offer.

Let’s tackle the major elements the seller should be prepared to address with serious buyers. I suggest that sellers (or their real estate agent) prepare a “Suggested Contract Requirement” sheet to give to buyers, outlining what they expect in the following:

Loan pre-approval
By now, it should go without saying that buyers without loan pre-approval shouldn’t be competing in the current market; but sadly, some are. That’s why it’s important for the seller to specify that buyers be pre-approved for loans ample enough to fund the purchase price, AND detail the type of loan and respective costs (if any) the seller would cover.

For example, a buyer might claim to be pre-approved for a mortgage of “x” amount. What she fails to disclose, however, is that it’s Veteran’s Administration (VA) financing and she expects the seller to cover her two discount points. On a $140,000 sales price (with zero down) that’s a hefty $2,800 for the seller.
Or what about the buyer who claims to have “cash” coming to him to fund the purchase (often coming from proceeds of an estate or settlement of a law suit.) The buyer’s funds are delayed. In order to close the sale, he must borrow the money, causing the seller a three-week delay in accessing his proceeds. Verifying the buyer’s funding (which is tougher to do in a “cash” sale) is vital for sidestepping potential delays for the seller.

Earnest Money
In the old, slower school of home buying a decade or more ago, buyers would offer a meager amount of earnest money or even a post-dated check with the idea that they could always up the ante if need be. In today’s market, more (rather than less) earnest money is advised in most situations. Not only does it subtly signify to the seller how financially motivated a buyer is, but can serve as a buyer’s first (and often only) shot at a strong first impression to the seller.
By letting prospective buyers know (in writing on the “Suggested Contract Requirement” sheet) the minimum amount of earnest money the seller is seeking, it places a strong buyer on equal footing with competitors. It also gives a heads-up that if you want a stronger foothold with the seller in this area, exceeding the suggested minimum amount is certainly in order! If a buyer structures an offer to include minimal contingencies like obtaining financing in a certain amount and the property appraising for at least the sales price, etc., earnest money would be at little risk of loss.

And what about contingencies? Should a seller require that buyers make all offers free of positively all contingencies if they’re serious about the property? Hardly. But keeping contingencies to a minimum (as we’ll see in Part II of this article) definitely gives buyers an added advantage over their competition and results in a smoother sale for you as a seller.

WHAT DID I FORGET TO CHOOSE FOR MY NEW HOME?

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WHAT DID I FORGET TO CHOOSE FOR MY NEW HOME?

“Bureaucrats: they are dead at 30 and buried at 60. They are like custard pies; you can’t nail them to a wall.”
– Frank Lloyd Wright

An upgrade #5 carpet with a #2 pad. Some extra telephone and TV outlets. The den option with the double door entry. The list goes on and on. You have just completed the upgrade selection for your new home and feel pretty good about it. The option list given to you from the builder’s design center looked thorough enough, and you just plowed through it, choosing everything from flooring, to plumbing to electrical enhancements.

Once the builder has started on the house, he informs you that it is too late to make changes, except at a big non-refundable expense. Your builder has budgeted out his costs and everything has been ordered. But are there any upgrade choices the builder’s representative didn’t present because you forgot to ask about it? It seems as if this is every home buyer’s worst fear when selection time is over. Suddenly all kinds of advice and new ideas come pouring out from well-meaning friends and relatives.

If you have exceeded the cut-off times for adding anything more to the house at this point, there isn’t too much you can do. This advice, then, is for those thinking of going down that home buying path, but haven’t made their final decisions on upgrades. There always seem to be some upgrades and enhancements that can be added to your list that the builder may not offer you because, although they may be available, the builder does not have them as standard, pre-priced options.
The most common items I can think of that get overlooked by buyers and design center personnel alike are items that aren’t visually evident in the home. A biggie is insulation. Ask your builder about the thickness of the insulation they use in walls and between floors. If noisy living areas are not far from bedrooms, you may want to inquire about upgraded insulation to muffle the sound. Insulation is also important to energy efficiency. Is the new home a model of energy efficiency, or is there more that you can do through the builder to improve it?

What exposure is your new home? If one side of the home will experience brutal sun exposure, is there something you can do to add tinted or higher grade windows to that side, such as triple paned or the new “low-e squared” glass? What about more doors to the backyard, or a French door off the master to a deck or balcony? When asked, builders may be willing to add them or at least put in headers over windows that can be used for door openings later on, when the “hole in you pocket” syndrome is behind you.

And then there are what we in the industry lovingly call “pre-plumbs” and “pre-wires”. These are builder preparations for systems you intend to install later on. Pre-plumbs can be stubs for gas log-lighters in your fireplace, Jacuzzi tubs, central vacuüm systems, or a utility sink to your laundry room or garage, to name a few. They remain as behind-the-wall goodies you can use when you wish to add the full system later on. Pre-wires are for electrical enhancements for later on. An extra garage door opener, speaker wire in your family room ceiling, an intercom, or a security system.

Some buyers don’t think in terms of “extras” with some items they choose and regret it later on. A larger fireplace, more burners on the cook top, extra cabinets in the laundry room, more fans in bathroom areas, more security lights in the backyard, and even an outlet for Christmas lights in a place you don’t have to risk life and limb to get to, for instance.

Although new home builders have finally started to offer extra “flat work” (extra concrete for walkways or patios) to buyers, design center personnel may not be the experts in suggesting or designing it, so it may be something you have to inquire about. It’s not that the builders don’t want to make more money by permitting you to add these things; they sometimes don’t present them as part of their normal option package. What happens, all too often, however, is that by the time a buyer thinks of adding them, it’s too late in the construction process.

There are few buyers I have met that haven’t thought of something they would have added when choosing their options and upgrades, if they had the chance to do it over again. My advice would be to become the squeaky wheel when you are about to make these important decisions. Ask the sales person to give you examples of what others in the neighborhood have chosen for their new homes that isn’t evident on the builders’ standard option list. Then make a list of all the “behind the walls” additions you may want to opt for to take with you on that confusing, but exciting trip to the design center.

SHOULD YOU PURCHASE A MODEL HOME?

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SHOULD YOU PURCHASE A MODEL HOME?

“People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity, no matter how impressive their other talents.” – Andrew Carnegie

Ever noticed how even the most palatial home can look, well, vanilla when there’s nothing inside of it? Turning an empty home into a model home can turn a “maybe” into a “yes” in no time at all. The problem is, it’s easy to become intoxicated by a model home. A professional interior decorator has worked his or her magic. The drapes are perfect. The French impressionist artwork on the walls perfectly matches the color scheme in that overstuffed chair upon which no shedding dog has ever set foot on. The immaculate white carpeting has no Kool-Aid stains. Toys don’t litter the stairwell, and a week’s worth of newspaper isn’t strewn haphazardly on the kitchen table. Wow … from which strange alien planet do model home families hail? It’s as if the Neat-Home Fairy waved her magic wand and erased reality. So you find yourself asking that question: “How much for the furnished model?”

Is buying a model home such a great idea? Yes, sometimes … and sometimes no. Model homes are, of course, professional decorated with all of the trappings that lure prospective buyers just like yourself. They also contain extras like professional landscaping, wood floors, shelves, perhaps a converted garage for a game room. These are the extras that make you want to buy a home just like it. The problem is that the value of the model exceeds the non-models, which don’t contain any of these extras. The garage is a garage, the front yard is bare, the shelves aren’t there and the wood floors are vinyl. The big question is: Are you going to have to pay big bucks for the extras in this model home? That depends on market conditions.

If, for example, the market has slowed down considerably, and the development in which the model home is located is nearly sold out, the builder may be willing to strike a deal with you. If that’s the case, you may be in for a great deal — scoring extras like upgraded plush carpeting, wood floors, shelving, even an extra room — for almost nothing. In fact, many of the extra amenities that make model homes so desirable can be written off by the builder as “expenses.”

Depending upon market conditions, the builder may or not may not choose to pass those expenses along to the buyer.
But, as with any other home purchase, take off your rose-colored glasses when you’re considering a model home. You’ll need to find out some background information on the builder. Is the company reputable? Do you have any friends or family members who own homes constructed by this builder, and if so, would they advise you to buy or to run fast? Even if the builder has a good reputation in your area, the model home you’re considering may be a “test model”.  In other words, the home may be the first plan of its kind for the builder. The company may have tried new construction techniques or features in this model home that they’ve never experimented with before, and if so, you’ve got to consider that those “experiments” may or may not have been wise decisions.

While you’re touring the model home, you, as a prospective buyer, should hold it to the highest standards of quality. Scrutinize details, such as cabinet construction. For example, are cabinets crooked? Open and close the doors to make sure that they do, indeed, open and shut. Do you notice any shelves that slope down the wall slightly? These are signs of sloppy and hasty construction, and they should be red flags that this is not a wise purchase, no matter how low that builder is willing to go.

You’d also to be wise to consider that the home you’re considering is, in many aspects, a “used” home. Many people have walked on the carpeting, tracking in dirt and mud; the wood and linoleum floors may be scuffed or chipped; the paint covering the walls may be scuffed; and the air conditioner or heating unit may be broken after being on nearly 24 hours a day during open houses. Keep in mind that some open houses have been open not for months, but for years, meaning that the home may be exhibiting signs of damage that only a very careful inspection could reveal. As you walk throughout the model home, keep a running list of any signs of disrepair you spot. Talk to the builder about these items, and determine his or her willingness to negotiate the cost of their repair. The builder may offer to cover some of the repairs and not others — for example, offering to have the carpet professionally cleaned, but the job of repainting the walls would be left up to you.
Before you sign anything, ask to see warranties for all appliances included in the home — air conditioner and heater, refrigerator, washer and dryer, security system, etc. And perhaps even more important, find out when the builder’s warranties expire for construction. This is critical because some builders offer workmanship warranties that begin upon the conclusion of construction, not from the date of purchase. If the model home has been open for years, and then you purchase it, you may be covered by the workmanship warranty for a mere month before it expires. Attempt to negotiate with the builder if the warranty started at the end of construction. Again, if market conditions have slowed considerably in the area and the builder wants to sell the home badly enough, you may be able to hammer out a mutually agreeable deal.
And, of course, before you sign on the dotted line, ask yourself if you’re buying impulsively — based on those fancy drapes, that white carpeting and the new-paint smell. Have you done your homework about the local school system? The neighborhood in which the home is located? What this new home would mean for your daily commute to work? All of those factors have a profound effect on your family’s quality of life.

If everything meets to your satisfaction, you just may have found the home of your dreams. If not, then you’ve saved yourself from an impulse buy that could have tied you and your family to a money pit. Consider yourself a smart shopper, and keep house-hunting.

MOVING ON UP!

MOVING ON UP!

“Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody expects of you. Never excuse yourself.” –  Henry Ward Beecher

The kids are warring over bedroom space — even the dog wants more room! So one Saturday you innocently load everyone into the car, in search of a larger home. Emotionally, it makes sense.

But financially, are you prepared to part with some of your hard-earned equity (not to mention a bit more of your paycheck) in order to purchase a larger home? It’s going to cost you money to move up.

Simply explained, equity is the difference between what you owe on your home (all its mortgages, liens, etc.) and what you could obtain on the open market LESS YOUR COSTS OF SALE. (And the last part of that sentence is often overlooked by over-zealous move-up buyers!) But looking before you leap can make the difference between a financially prudent new purchase and a haunting economic disaster! Let’s evaluate the costs.

1) Some increased costs of purchase are obvious: You’ll be paying a larger mortgage payment monthly to own a larger home (depending on your down payment) your taxes will increase, and yes, even your home owner’s insurance will be more. And if your down payment isn’t at least twenty percent of the purchase price, you may even have private mortgage insurance to pay. It all adds up; but

2) Some increased costs of purchase aren’t so obvious: What about upkeep and maintenance? Utilities? Even the extended period of time it takes to clean the home on the weekend, taking time away from your family and other “fun” things—are you prepared for that?

3) One category most of us overlook when taking the “move up” plunge is to evaluate the chunk of equity it will cost us to sell our existing home, pay our buying costs, and move into another. Since 80% of all sellers hire a broker to sell their existing home (often saving money overall in doing so), you’ll no doubt benefit by that cost. You’ll add to it the additional sales costs of title insurance, transfer taxes, deed preparation, tax pro-ration—-basically all the costs paid by the seller when you purchased the home.

So should you move up? The answer depends on what you’re trying to achieve. If you’re purchasing a home that will appreciate faster than your current one, gives you more space, is in a better neighborhood, and/or will make you psychologically happier, it may make sense to move. It’s true that happiness becomes the over-riding factor to the move-up buyer. Yes, you may want different features than you have in your current home; but you also know that housing is housing— but being happy where you live is paramount!

The bottom line is that homebuyers purchase with their “gut” and justify the purchase with their wallet. Long after you’ve crunched the sales cost numbers and consulted with an expert to evaluate a new neighborhood, you’re still likely to follow your gut instincts and purchase the home that tugs hardest on your heart-strings. After all, it’s what living the American Dream is all about.

REVIEW YOUR CREDIT REPORT BEFORE YOUR LENDER DOES

REVIEW  YOUR CREDIT REPORT BEFORE YOUR LENDER DOES

“Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any other. ”  –  Abraham Lincoln

Consumer credit information is obtained and stored in the United States by three major credit bureaus, Experian, formerly known as TRW, Trans Union Corporation and Equifax.

Credit reports contain significant information on more than 190 million Americans, about the entire adult population of the United States. These reports include your name, date of birth and social security number.

Offered in the reports for lenders to see are your lists of credit card accounts, including credit limits, your outstanding balances, payment history (late payments) for each account, your current loans, and any bankruptcies, civil judgments or liens against you. The credit report should also state the name of any company who has requested a copy of your report.

The biggest complaint that most people have about these credit reporting services is that they are often inaccurate, and getting the problem corrected is time-consuming and often difficult. An astonishing two out of five people are reported to have one or more errors on their consumer credit reports, so the odds of your having an error are high. When credit reporting companies make a mistake, they don’t incur any penalty, but you well might.

Although these credit reporting services include instructions and contact information so that you can correct mistakes on your reports, the damage could already be done. An inaccurate report that cannot be quickly cleared up can cause you to miss getting a loan on time to get your dream house. You may have to wait as long as 30 days to hear that a complaint has been corrected. And you will have to supply the corroboration that the account is in fact paid in full, or paid on time, etc. A canceled, dated check will do nicely.

Not anticipating that there might be a problem, people often wait to check their credit reports until they apply for a loan. Then they find out from the lender that there is a problem. If you are able to show proof that the report is in error, the lender will usually proceed with the loan, but s/he will insist that the credit reporting service post the correction before the loan goes through. If the lender is not satisfied that this has been done before closing, s/he may opt to close the loan at a higher rate or put off closing until the information has been posted.
As you can see, either way, it will be a nightmare for you if there is a problem. That’s why you should review your credit report before you go to a lender.
You will have to see the reports from each of the credit reporting services. One report isn’t enough. Again, you will be surprised at how often they are out of date, or inaccurate. And they don’t accept information from each other. If you call Experian and say that Trans Union’s report is correct but Experian’s isn’t, they will still make you prove the error.

So you have a choice – contact each of the credit reporting companies separately or use a new service which offers access to all three from one convenient site. QSpace, makers of iCreditReport.com, is the first service to deliver credit reports in real time over the Internet. iCreditReport.com gives Internet users the ability to access their credit files at any time, determine if their report contains information or inquiries that they do not recognize, and challenge inaccuracies more rapidly. iCreditReport.com allows users to instantly receive their personal credit reports over the Internet for $8 a report.

iCreditReport.com offers users a quick and secure method which includes the highest encryption protocols for securing transmissions, for users to monitor their personal credit records online. The proprietary system authenticates your I.D., then will release credit information to you in a secured environment.
In order to ensure privacy on the user’s side, the service does not use unsecured connections such as email, nor doe it store credit reports on its servers once the transmission is complete.

Watch Out for Credit Scoring

Lenders also get more than the credit report when they access credit rep orting company records – they get a score or a credit rating on the borrower. The score indicates a statistical probability that the borrower will default on the loan.
According to real estate columnist, Robert Lee, innocent maneuvers to consolidate your debts can inadvertently cause your score to go up. Lee advises caution when canceling many cards with small balances and then shifting the debt to a single or fewer cards.

“The maneuver will effectively raise the ratio of your unpaid balances to the maximum credit lines available on fewer cards. To the software (used by the online lenders,) it appears as if your financial situation has tightened,” says Lee.
So not only do you have to worry about your balances but the score they produce.

Lee explains that quick fixes won’t help you get the loan, but that there are some strategies you can follow to raise your score. One of them is paying a visit to Fair, Isaac and Co. Inc., a company which developed credit scoring for mortgage applications. The site includes consumer information on credit scoring. Used by both the site offers information on how credit scores are developed and used and how they can be improved.

Once you obtain a credit report, even if it is all in order and your credit is good, you will not be able to use the report to get a loan. Your lender will still want to run his/her own credit check, but at least the report will be a step in the right direction toward getting you pre-qualified and prepared to buy.

A word of caution. The reason lender fees are so high for credit report checks is that they typically will run your credit report a second time, right before closing. So when you hear that your loan has been approved, don’t do anything foolish like go out and run up a lot of bills. Every action will show up on the credit report.

Many closings have been delayed or canceled because the lender has found out something new that changes the dynamics of the loan. Don’t allow your closing to be one of them.

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