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Let's Talk About Home Inspections

by Diane Cardano-Casacio & Her Team

As a seller, we highly recommend having a home inspection prior to putting your home on the market. This can alleviate a lot of hassles down the road in negotiations.

For buyers, this HGTV video talks about why it is important to get an inspection.

What Is A Seller Assist?

by Diane Cardano-Casacio & Her Team

What is a Seller Assist?

A "seller assist" is a feature of many loan programs that is used to help a buyer pay for a portion of their closing costs.

Usually with a "seller assist" each lender and programs has it's own specific guidelines as to how much assistance from the seller the lender will allow. For example one lender may allow the seller to contribute 3% towards your closing costs, while another lender may allow 6% to be contributed from the seller. Consult your mortgage professional for specifics details for your situation.

A "seller assist", or the seller paying an amount toward your closing costs, must be written into the original offer/contract. Few lenders will allow that to be written in later, unless the selling price is remaining the same and the seller is simply paying toward your closing costs out of that amount. If you need the seller to assist with closing costs, be sure your real estate agent knows from the beginning.

A seller assist is a great feature that allows the seller to pay some of your closing costs. In a market where sellers find it difficult to sell their home, many are willing to sell for less than the original listing price. Buyers should never be afraid to negotiate a lower price. By asking a seller to provide a seller assist, you can effectively lower the overall amount you incur in closing costs.

In most cases, a simple example can help overcome a seller's fears about paying for a buyer's closing costs. Lay it out in simple terms: if they agree on a sales price of $100,000, and the buyer's closing costs are going to be $3,000, the buyer can tell the seller that they will bump the offer up to $103,000, with the seller paying $3,000 in closing costs. The net effect is the same to the seller, and it essentially finances the closing costs into the loan for the buyer. Just make sure the property has enough value to justify the higher sales price.

In our current economy with housing markets slowing down, one could see home prices falling. A great incentive to sellers as well as buyers is having these seller's incentives in place. This allows for home prices to remain steady which helps everyone over the long term.

Another form of seller assist is a seller paid buy down. This is where the seller assists the buyer with a cash concession that is used to buy down your interest rate. This is useful for many first time home buyers because the lower rate helps reduce their monthly mortgage payment and may allow them to qualify for a more expensive home.

 

» DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this article on 'seller assist' is a collection of contributions by licensed mortgage professionals.

 

4 Steps To Selecting The Right Color

by Diane Cardano-Casacio & Her Team

4 Steps to Selecting a Color

To select the right color for each room of your listing, design experts recommend applying the following strategies.

1. Coordinate with the room's use. Certain colors lend themselves to certain activities. For example, studies show that kitchen and dining areas painted in "food colors"—such as celery green or red—increase appetite, whereas blue acts as an appetite suppressant. On the other hand, the tranquility evoked by blue makes it ideal for bedrooms, Fisher says.

2. Paint for the season. Color directly impacts your senses, making a room's temperature feel cooler or warmer. For example, bring in warm colors—such as reds, oranges, and yellows—in the fall and winter months, and cooler colors—greens, blues, and purples—during the spring and summer. To save yourself some hassle, paint just one accent wall in a room, or bring out the season-appropriate colors using accessories such as throw pillows or a vase of flowers.

3. Use a directional approach. The effect of color on perceived temperature also means that the direction a room faces should influence color choices. North-facing rooms may not feel as warm and inviting to buyers because they don't get as much sunlight, an impression that can be lessened by painting them a warm color. "If you have a very warm room that is facing south, and you want to cool it or calm it down, use cooler hues of blue or green," Zimmer suggests.

4. Harmonize. You can also use color to provide a sense of order and balance in a home. Using variations of the same color throughout a house, rather than painting every room a different, contrasting color, provides a sense of flow from one room to another and doesn't distract buyers' eyes.

"Color is always a very personal choice," Zimmer adds. "So color choices can be subtle. A color doesn't have to be McDonald's yellow or Red Roof Inn red to be noticed. It can be a derivative or a subtle tint or tone of those particular colors to create the warming effect buyers want in a home."

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Remember learning about the color wheel in grade school? This 12-step circular rainbow graphic shows the relationship among colors and can serve as a helpful guide in choosing what colors to mix and match in a home to get pleasing results. Here's a refresher. 

The color wheel is broken down into three main categories: primary (foundation colors used to create all other colors), secondary (created by combining two of the primary colors), and tertiary (formed by combining a primary and an adjacent secondary color). 

To mix and match colors easily, you can use the color wheel in one of two ways:

1. Complementary Two colors that fall directly opposite one another on the color wheel (e.g. red and green, blue and orange, and yellow and purple). They create a maximum contrast and can be visually intense.

2. Analogous Color schemes that consist of any three colors located side by side on the color wheel (e.g. yellow, yellow-orange, and orange). One of the three colors usually dominates. This color scheme can add depth and energy to a room.

Source: Color Matters, www.colormatters.com

Can Color Cost You A Sale?

by Diane Cardano-Casacio & Her Team
Use Color Psychology on Your Listings - The science behind color can guide your color decisions.

Take care when giving color advice to home sellers. Their color choices might be sending the wrong message to potential buyers.

Many salespeople and stagers say neutral beige or off-white walls are what sells listings—but a touch of color may be just what you need to revive buyers' interest in a languishing listing. And although beige may offend no one, the right color on a home's walls or spotlighted in the accessories can trigger positive physiological and psychological responses among potential buyers.

"Color can change how you feel; it has an instantaneous effect," says design psychologist Constance Forrest, principal of Forrest Painter Design in Venice, Calif., who incorporates psychological techniques in the design of interior spaces. "If people walk into a space and sense a warm color, they immediately get a sense of a cozy home and will probably reactive positively."

White, on the other hand, "makes the room invisible," Forrest says. "White is a missed opportunity to create a feeling in the space. It doesn't help buyers imagine themselves in the home." (Not to mention, in Asian cultures, white is associated with death and can add a certain doom to listings.) Forrest says that pastel colors—which have a mostly white base—can have a similar, invisible effect.

Responsive Hues

Research on color responses has shown that warm colors, such as orange and red, can increase excitement and energy, whereas cooler hues, such as blue, can be calming and relaxing. Indeed, research shows color can influence a person's senses—even body temperature—and make scenes more memorable. Knowing the responses colors evoke offers insight into where and when you should use color in a home to appeal to buyers.

Go Green, Cautiously

"Many studies have been done on the impact of color in packaging on purchasing decisions," says Debbie Zimmer, spokeswoman for The Rohm and Haas Paint Quality Institute, a research and education group on decorating and color techniques. "You can take that concept of color and paint and apply it to a space to create a mood in a home."

So what color can lift a buyer's spirits? The most potent color is green, Forrest says. In light-spectrum research that focused on treatments for season affective disorder, she notes, subjects exposed to green colors were in better moods than any of the other subjects tested.

But before you start splashing green on all your listings, take caution. Not all shades of green are a safe bet. For example, lime greens—or any yellows with green undertones—"look sickly to most buyers," says interior designer Jeanette Fisher, an author of 22 books on design psychology. Fisher has used color techniques to redo and sell homes for more than 20 years. Medium shades of green such as sage—and bedrooms painted in creamy tones of green—can be a good choice, she says. Fisher also favors buttery yellows inside and out, complemented with white trim accents.

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Tips For Preparing Your Home To Sell Fast & For Top Dollar!!!

by Diane Cardano-Casacio & Her Team

 

 

As an Expert Realtor, Diane has years of experience staging homes and preparing them to sell for top dollar, fast. She has a whole list of secret staging tips she and her Team will go over with you.

We found this clip online and thought it would be a great way for you to get started. Contact The Team for more information on how to prepare your home for sale!

What Did You Do Last Night?

by Diane Cardano-Casacio & Her Team

What Did You Do Last Night?

Whatever it was, it could not have been more fun and informative than our monthly Buyer Workshop! Our workshop was held at the Abington Free Library and despite the yucky weather, folks turned out to learn about the home buying process.

If you missed our workshop, you can still attend the next one! Log on to www.SavvyHomeBuyerWorkshop.com for more information and to sign up.

 

Updates From Suburban Realtors Alliance

by Diane Cardano-Casacio & Her Team

Updates On Montgomery County From the Suburban Realtors Alliance

Commissioners compile stimulus wish list

Montgomery County commissioners have compiled a $43 million list of projects that the county could spend stimulus money on, should the federal stimulus funds trickle down to the county level. The county listed projects in all four categories being discussed by federal lawmakers: transportation; energy efficiency and alternative green technology for government buildings; redevelopment; and healthcare. The most costly of the proposals is a $15 million project to replace windows and construct a more energy-efficient façade at One Montgomery Plaza, an office building purchased by the county two years ago. The most costly transportation project slates $14.5 million to provide new ramps at the Upper Merion interchange of the Schulkill Expressway and Henderson Road. Another $3.2 million is earmarked for traffic signal upgrades throughout the county and another $2.1 million for road repaving and guide rail replacement.

Source: The Intelligencer; 2/9/09

Commissioners approve county road projects

Taking aim at the traffic problems facing Montgomery County, the commissioners have signed off on four “jump start” regional transportation projects intended to relieve traffic congestion. The commissioners have slated $5.7 million in capital dollars to push the projects from the drawing board into construction. The projects will require $150 million in borrowed money over the next ten years, which must be approved by voters in a referendum on the November ballot. The four projects include:

§          A $7.5 million widening and reconstruction project of Sumneytown Pike in Upper Gwynedd, and the construction of a new overhead railroad bridge;

§          The purchase and installation of eight new traffic lights along Route 611 in Jenkintown, which would complete the coordination of all traffic signals on Route 611 from Philadelphia to Doylestown, costing the county $576,000;

§          The purchase and installation of a new traffic light at routes 63 and 29, costing the county $135,000;

§          The widening of Matsonford Road to allow two lanes of traffic at a cost of $700,000 for the county.

Source: The Intelligencer; 2/8/09

North Penn approves preliminary budget

The North Penn school board approved a $206.5 million preliminary budget that calls for a tax hike of about $136 for the average homeowner in the district. The 4.89 percent increase would raise the property tax rate from 20.54 to 21.54. The 2009-2010 budget is about $10 million more than the current budget of $196.3 million.

Source: The Intelligencer; 2/11/09

Hombuyers Receive $8000 Tax Credit

by Diane Cardano-Casacio & Her Team

Final score: $8,000 for homebuyers

First-time purchasers get a tax credit windfall if they buy before December.

By Les Christie, CNNMoney.com staff writer

Last Updated: February 17, 2009: 12:13 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- There's a nice windfall for some homebuyers in the economic stimulus bill awaiting President Obama's signature on Tuesday. First-time buyers can claim a credit worth $8,000 - or 10% of the home's value, whichever is less - on their 2008 or 2009 taxes.

A big plus is that the credit is refundable, meaning tax filers see a refund of the full $8,000 even if their total tax bill - the amount of witholding they paid during the year plus anything extra they had to pony up when they filed their returns - was less than that amount. But there has been a lot of confusion over this provision. Adam Billings of Knoxville, Tenn. wrote to CNNMoney.com asking:

"I will qualify as a first-time home buyer, and I am currently set to get a small tax refund for 2008. Does that mean if I purchased now that I would get an extra $8,000 added on top of my current refund?"

The short answer? Yes, Billings would get back the $8,000 plus what he'd overpaid. The long answer? It depends. Here are three scenarios:

Scenario 1: Your final tax liability is normally $6,000. You've had taxes withheld from every paycheck and at the end of the year you've paid Uncle Sam $6,000. Since you've already paid him all you owe, you get the entire $8,000 tax credit as a refund check.

Scenario 2: Your final tax liability is $6,000, but you've overpaid by $1,000 through your payroll witholding. Normally you would get a $1,000 refund check. In this scenario, you get $9,000, the $8,000 credit plus the $1,000 you overpaid.

Scenario 3: Your final tax liability is $6,000, but you've underpaid through your payroll witholding by $1,000. Normally, you would have to write the IRS a $1,000 check. This time, the first $1,000 of the tax credit pays your bill, and you get the remaining $7,000 as a refund.

To qualify for the credit, the purchase must be made between Jan. 1, 2009 and Nov. 30, 2009. Buyers may not have owned a home for the past three years to qualify as "first time" buyer. They must also live in the house for at least three years, or they will be obligated to pay back the credit.

Additionally, there are income restrictions: To qualify, buyers must make less than $75,000 for singles or $150,000 for couples. (Higher-income buyers may receive a partial credit.)

Applying for the credit will be easy - or at least as easy as doing your income taxes. Just claim it on your return. No other forms or papers have to be filed. Taxpayers who have already completed their returns can file amended returns for 2008 to claim the credit.

Lukewarm reception

The housing industry is somewhat pleased with the result because the stimulus plan improves on the current $7,500 tax credit, which was passed in July and was more of a low-interest loan than an actual credit. But the industry was also disappointed that Congress did not go even further and adopt the Senate's proposal of a $15,000 non-refundable credit for all homebuyers.

"[The Senate version] would have done a lot more to turn around the housing market," said Bernard Markstein, an economist and director of forecasting for the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB). "We have a lot of reports of people who would be coming off the fence because of it."

Even so, the $8,000 credit will bring an additional 300,000 new homebuyers into the market, according to estimates by Lawrence Yun, chief economist for the National Association of Realtors.

The credit could also create a domino effect, he said, because each first-time homebuyer sale will lead to two more trade-up transactions down the line. "I think there are many homeowners who would be trading-up but they have had no buyers for their own homes," Yun said.

Who won't benefit, according to Mark Goldman, a real estate lecturer at San Diego State University, are those first-time homebuyers struggling to come up with down payments. The credit does not help get them over that hurdle - they still have to close the sale before claiming the bonus.

One state, Missouri, is trying to get around that problem by creating a short-term loan on the tax credit of up to $6,750. The state would loan borrowers the money so they could use it at closing as part of the downpayment. Then, when the buyers receive their tax credit from the IRS, they pay back the state. Other states may follow with similar programs, according to NAHB's Dietz.

Many may look at the tax credit as a discount on the home price, according to Yun. A $100,000 purchase effectively becomes a $92,000 one. That can reassure buyers apprehensive about purchasing and then watching prices continue falling, he added.

And it provides a nice nest egg for the often-difficult early years of homeownership, when unexpected repairs and expenses often crop up. Recipients could also use the money to buy new stuff for their home - a lawnmower, a rug, a sofa - and, in that way, help stimulate the economy.

CORRECTED: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated how much taxpayers who were owed a refund would receive under the credit. To top of page

First Published: February 16, 2009: 5:38 PM ET

How High-Tech Is Your Home?

by Diane Cardano-Casacio & Her Team

How High Tech Is Your Home?

If the latest technology or entertainment options are important in your new home, add the following questions to your buyer’s checklist.

1. Are there enough jacks in every room for cable TV and high-speed Internet hookups?

2. Are there enough telephone extensions or jacks?

3. Is the home prewired for a home theater or multi-room audio and video?

4. Does the home have a local area network for linking computers?

5. Does the home already have wiring for DSL or other high-speed Internet connection?  

6. Does the home have multizoning heating and cooling controls with programmable thermostats?

7. Does the home have multi-room lighting controls, window-covering controls, or other home automation features?

8. Is the home wired with multi-purpose in-wall wiring that allows for reconfigurations to update services as technology changes?

Visit the Consumer Electronics Association (www.ce.org/techhomerating) for a complete Tech Home ™ Rating Checklist.

New Trends In Kitchen Materials

by Diane Cardano-Casacio & Her Team
Corian to Cork: New Trends in Kitchen Materials

 

As granite becomes almost ubiquitous, buyers are wowed by stylish Corian, quartz, and even cork.

 

Granite countertops may still impress some buyers, but true trendsetters will be on the lookout for kitchens that incorporate some of the hottest new materials. A countertop, backsplash, or floor in a dazzling material may be just what’s needed to give a room a stylish kick and spur a sale.

 

Help educate home owners about the growing list of new possibilities, including the pros and cons of various materials. A trendy look carries a lot of weight, but durability, affordability, and sustainability also count.  

 

We asked design experts about the hottest and freshest materials, and some old favorites, that can make a big impact in the kitchen. While some experts agreed, we found some differing opinions on each material’s pros and cons. Because every buyer’s style is different, urge clients to study materials up close and find the answers to these key questions:

 

  • How durable is it?
  • Will it stain or crack?
  • Does it need to be sealed and resealed? How often?
  • Is it eco-friendly?
  • Does it come in slabs, tiles, or both?
  • What surface is most suitable for this material?
  • How much does it cost to buy, install, and maintain?

 

Another piece of advice from the experts: For the best overall look in a kitchen, never use a material as the only surface in a room. “Too much of any single material loses freshness,” says designer Mick de Giulio of DeGiulio Kitchens & Bath in Chicago and Wilmette, Ill.

 

 

Materials to Consider

 

Concrete. Simple, clean, and durable, this material can be left rough or honed, stained a color, edged with another material, and sealed, although some scratches and cracking may be inevitable, says designer Mariette Barsoum of Divine Kitchens in Westboro, Ma. It can also be sculpted into curved countertops. Installation is critical, and the best installers charge top dollar, often $275 a square foot, says Arthur Tanturri, owner of Chelsea Fine Custom Kitchens in New York. Do-it-yourselfers can cut costs by following advice from Fu-Tung Cheng’s book, Concrete Countertops Made Simple (The Taunton Press, 2008).

 

Quartz. Engineered or manmade quartz, plus epoxy resins, creates the material that’s generically referred to as quartz. However, manufacturers also call it by other names: Cambria, Zodiaq, CaesarStone, and Silestone. Colors vary, but all are durable and heat resistant. “It provides the look of granite but doesn’t have that material’s porosity,” says Naperville, Ill., designer Joan M. Kaufman. It can also be heated and molded into curved shapes, says Doug Durbin, owner of NuHaus, a design firm in Highland Park, Ill. Some designers like the consistency of its colors and patterns; others think such sameness looks unnatural and prefer the one-of-a-kind slabs of granite and marble. Price varies by the slab selected, but it can be more costly than a natural stone.

 

Bamboo. Eco-friendly, warm, and available in different hues, bamboo is a durable wood-like grass that can be used on any surface. It requires sealing. When it comes to price, top-notch bamboos rival high-quality granites. Jeff Taub, owner of Kittle’s Flooring Co. in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., favors the strength of strand bamboo, which is mixed with resin and compressed.

 

Mosaic glass tiles. A hot contender for today’s favorite material, these tiles are sustainable and available in a rainbow of colors, textures, and sizes. They can be mixed with metal, stone, and ceramic tiles for a rich textural display. The downside is price, which is comparable with or even greater than nice granite. Chicago designer David Kaufman likes to use glass tiles in different sizes and shapes on a backsplash.

 

IceStone. Recycled glass is mixed with cement to create IceStone, a speckled surface that’s chip- and burn-proof, although four times costlier than good granites.   

 

Hardwood. Wood will always be a classic, but the specific species, colors, and widths come and go in popularity. Frank Fontana, host of HGTV’s “Design on a Dime” currently prefers darker woods such as Brazilian cherry, walnut, mahogany, and oak-stained ebony. He also likes wide planks that mimic barn floorboards. New York designer Jeani Ziering thinks reclaimed teak flooring is an elegant must-have.

 

Cork. Though it may look soft, this flooring material wears like wood and can be dyed with vibrant reds, greens, blues. It’s also affordable, at $15 to $18 a square foot.

 

PaperStone. Durable and sustainable, PaperStone is made from layers of recycled paper in thicknesses of ¾-inch to 11/4-inch, making it suitable for countertops. Edges can be varied. Price is comparable to lower-end granites but a seasoned installer is essential, says Durbin.

 

Marble. Another natural material, marble’s elegance comes from its classic simplicity, quiet color range, and subtle veining. Though durable, it’s more porous than granite and requires periodic sealings, says David Kaufman. Some consider it a bad choice for kitchen counters, but Fontana thinks it’s fine as long as home owners understand how to care for it. Honing helps it withstand wear, says Jacksonville, Fla., designer Judith Sisler Johnson. Prices can be steep, $10 to $12 per square foot compared with $8 to $10 per square foot for granite that’s the same size and comparable quality, and $6 to $10 for porcelain, says Tanturri. A middle-grade granite slab might run $80 to $110 installed; the same size and quality marble slab would be 15 percent more.  

 

Granite. Like a black cocktail dress, granite will never go out of style, even if it is something that everybody owns. This natural material looks freshest when selected in a classic color or one of the newer but low-key variations such as sky pearl or black with gold or tan veining. Available in tiny mosaics, larger tiles, and slabs, its price depends on the thickness, edging, color, and finish. Prices have dropped due to competition, though newer granites like rainforest green may still run as high as $250 per square foot, says Durbin.

 

Other Options to Consider. Though less popular, and on the pricey side, here are some other materials our experts mentioned:  

 

  • Alkemi. This recycled metal with a jewel-like look shimmers and is resistant to chipping.
  • Copper. It offers an elegant sheen, but it can ding, so you may be safer using this material on walls rather than counters or floors.
  • Leather tiles. Another green material, these tiles offer a rich dramatic look in a variety of skins such as ostrich and vibrant colors like orange.
  • Pyrolave. A French-made glazed Volvic lava stone that’s hard, heat resistant, and comes in vibrant tones can cost $250 a square foot and require a seam because of its lengths.
  • Seeta. Environmentally-friendly and made by Torzo Surfaces from sunflower seed hulls, this material is durable, green, 100-percent formaldehyde free, and available in multiple colors and patterns. It costs about the same as an average-priced granite does, says Los Angeles designer Sarah Barnard.  

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Diane Cardano & Associates
CARDANO Realtors
1021 Old York Road, Suite 401
Abington PA 19001
Office: 215-576-8666
Fax: 215-576-8677