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Moving With Kids? How to Learn About the School Districts in Your New Area

November 27, 2019

How to Find Information About The School District You're Thinking of Moving Into

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Your search for the perfect house involves more than just the home itself. Beyond seeking out the perfect number of bedrooms and an entertainment-ready backyard, you also need to find the right neighborhood. Maybe that means walkability and proximity to a farmers market, or a commutable distance to your job. But if you have kids, buying a house situated in the right school district will likely move to the top of your decision-making list.

You’ll have plenty to learn about when it comes to an unfamiliar neighborhood. But how can you learn about the school districts there before you buy a house?

Where to find school district info

Fortunately, there are plenty of resources that can point you in the right direction.

“The district’s website will give you the most thorough information about the district and the schools within it,” says Erik Schwinger of Chicago-based brokerage Baird & Warner. He also recommends reaching out to the parent-teacher association of a particular school to learn more about the school, its curriculums, level of parent involvement, and what the parents really think of the school.

You can also research schools and school districts online. Samantha Scalzo, director and broker at S&S Global Corp. in Miami, lists GreatSchools and Niche as two valuable sources of online information.

Alina Adams, author of “Getting Into NYC Kindergarten” and “Getting Into NYC High School,” also recommends SchoolDigger. However, she says there’s no substitute for visiting a school and gauging your gut reaction.

“No school is one-size-fits-all, and families may be surprised that a school’s reputation is different from what they see on a tour—for better or for worse,” she says.

There’s also another source for reliable information on a potential school district: your real estate agent.

“The most established and experienced real estate agents in a buyer’s area of interest—who have had clients with children in the school system, or have children of their own in the school system—will be able to provide an overall feel of the local schools,” says Tim Smith of The Smith Group, an Orange County, CA–based Coldwell Banker Team. “This knowledge and experience will enable them to best match a buyer with the schools that meet the particular needs of their children.”

What to look for

There are numerous factors you should take into account when looking at school districts. These include class sizes, special needs programs, inclusion classes, language immersion programs, advanced placement programs, arts, athletics, music, and other extracurricular activities, says Alison Bernstein, president and founder at Suburban Jungle, a real estate firm focused on buyers leaving the city for the suburbs. You also want to find out as much as you can about the staff.

“You want to know about the administration (principal, vice principal, etc.) as well as the teachers. What are their education and experience levels?” says Schwinger.

Ibrahim Firat, chief educational consultant at Firat Education, in Houston, says the process of finding a school is different for each and every student. He has written books on the topic of finding the right school, and has helped families who are relocating find the right schools before they find the right home.

“Just because a [school district] is ranked high in the region/state/nation doesn’t mean it is the right place for your child, so identifying the best-fit school is the first step to a quality education,” he says.

The post Moving With Kids? How to Learn About the School Districts in Your New Area appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Try Before You Buy? How a Pre-Offer Inspection Could Hurt Buyers’ Chances

November 22, 2019

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You wouldn’t buy a car without kicking the tires, right? Well, likewise, there’s no reason why you should buy a house without having an inspection first.

For most buyers, the home inspection happens after their offer has been accepted by the sellers. But did you know that you can order an inspection before submitting an offer?

If you’re the type of buyer who wants to cover all of the bases before jumping in head first, you can have your real estate agent speak to the sellers and request a pre-offer inspection. However, it might end up doing more harm than good. Here’s a look at the pros and cons.

Reasons to get a pre-offer inspection

It might seem like you’re putting the cart before the horse, but there are actually several advantages to a pre-offer inspection.

“It can help ensure buyers that they are focusing on properties that fall within their requirements,” says Ruth Shin, founder and CEO of Brooklyn, NY-based PropertyNest. In fact, she recommends it for properties that seem to be too good to be true.

You don’t want to go through the hassle of putting an offer on a home that could turn out to be problematic.

“A pre-offer inspection gives you the ability to discover issues with the home that make you hesitant to move forward with the purchase,” says George Beylouny, senior branch manager and construction specialist at Silverton Mortgage in Woodstock, GA.

Especially if you’re buying a home “as is,” you’ll want to know, in no uncertain terms, exactly what shape the home is in.

For example, you may encounter major problems that could change your mind about purchasing the property.

“If the interior walls and ceilings have visible water damage, or there are uneven floors, cracks, or other signs of potential structural or foundation issues, it could warrant getting those issues checked out upfront,” says Andrew Sacks, licensed real estate salesperson at Citi Habitats in New York. “Before you become emotionally invested in the property, you need to have those potential red flags investigated.”

Additionally, a pre-offer inspection can help you submit a more realistic offer.

“You can make an offer that reflects the true condition of the home and takes into account any necessary work that needs to be performed,” says Sacks. He says that any negative findings will justify an offer below asking price.

A pre-offer inspection can also reveal the commitment level of both parties.

“If buyer and seller agree to a pre-offer inspection, it shows that everyone involved is serious about the sale,” says Beylouny.

Disadvantages of a pre-offer inspection 

Being a super sleuth may not work in your favor. Some sellers might not be motivated to schedule a time for an inspector to come through, and it could leave a bad taste in their mouth.

“You will need to get permission from the seller before pursuing a pre-offer inspection, which may be difficult to obtain,” warns Beylouny.

This action could also decrease how competitive your offer is.

“One risk of such a request is that the seller may go with another buyer who is prepared to make an offer without any preconditions,” says Beylouny. A pre-inspection is not a contract, which means the seller isn’t contractually obligated to you, and could end up selling to someone else.

Another issue: the cost of a pre-offer inspection.

“Potential buyers would be paying for this service, which can cost hundreds of dollars, without knowing if they and the current owners can come to an agreement over the sales terms,” warns Sacks. “It’s a risk to pay for the inspection before the final sales price, closing date, contingencies etc. have been negotiated.”

And if you get in the habit of requesting pre-offer inspections for every questionable home you view, you’ll end up spending a lot of money.

“Before deciding whether or not to request a pre-offer inspection, make sure you have a good reason to do so and are prepared for the possibility of losing your opportunity to purchase the property,” Beylouny says.

The post Try Before You Buy? How a Pre-Offer Inspection Could Hurt Buyers’ Chances appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

Should You Buy a House With Roof Damage? The Surprising Benefits—and Challenges

November 8, 2018

For most home shoppers, any mention of roof damage is enough to send them sprinting in the opposite direction. Buyers who are not in the market for a fixer-upper are typically trying to nab a house in the best possible condition, and roof damage can be seriously costly to repair.

But should a faulty roof scare you off, or does it present an opportunity to negotiate the price of the home? Consider these factors before making a decision.

How bad is the damage?

The extent of the roofing damage is one factor that should help sway your decision.

“If some or all of the shingles have been blown off during a one-time event like a tornado, hurricane, or tree collapse because of a storm, then correcting any structural damage and replacing the shingles should suffice,” says Frank Lesh, former president and executive director of the American Society of Home Inspectors.

The problem with roofing damage, however, is that it can be more extensive than it appears.

“Be aware that a bad roof could lead to other issues such as ceiling drywall, insulation, or even structural replacement,” says Shawn Breyer, owner of Breyer Home Buyers in Atlanta. And these additional issues can add to the cost of fixing the roof.

Are you getting an FHA loan?

Buyers who plan on using a Federal Housing Administration loan to finance the house can end up putting down as little as 3.5%. But to be approved for the FHA loan, the property must be in livable and insurable condition, and the buyer must have secured property insurance before closing.

To get property insurance, the insurance company will require a four-point inspection, which covers electrical, plumbing, HVAC, and the roof’s condition and life expectancy, according to Juan Rojas, licensed real estate broker at JPR International Real Estate in Miami.

“Typically, if the roof doesn’t have at least three years of life expectancy, an insurance company won’t be able to insure it,” he says.

Therefore, if you’re planning on getting an FHA loan, trying to buy a home with roof damage might be more trouble than it’s worth.

What if it’s just an old roof?

Perhaps there’s no proven damage to the roof; maybe it’s just really old, like, 20 years old. The life span of your roof is determined by the material it’s made of and the weather conditions in your area. Slate, copper, and tile roofs can last 50 years or longer; wood shake roofs last about 30 years; fiber cement shingles last 25 years; and asphalt shingle roofs last about 20 years, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

Home buyers shouldn’t necessarily shy away from a home with an older roof, Lesh says.

“It would depend on the quality of the workmanship and materials, and whether any signs of abnormal wear are visible,” he says. “For example, a 20-year-old undamaged, clay tile roof in the southwestern United States is more likely to last longer than a brand-new composite shingle roof in the same area.”

Should you buy a home with roof damage?

Ultimately the decision is yours; however, most of the experts we spoke to believe that problems with a roof should not deter you from purchasing a house—as long as there are stipulations.

“As long as the damage has been or will be repaired, there should be no problem buying a house with a roof that has been damaged,” says Lesh.

Maya Madison, a real estate agent at Keller Williams Realty in Metairie, LA, believes you should absolutely consider buying a house with roof problems.

“During the inspection period, get a quote from a licensed contractor to repair or replace” the roof, she says. “Either the seller will agree to fix it before the act of sale, or take the amount off the purchase price.”

And if you don’t agree with the seller’s decision, Madison says you can cancel the contract during the inspection period.

However, if you decide to proceed with the purchase, Breyer warns against letting the sellers make the repairs. He advises buyers to get their own quotes and then negotiate the price down based on the amount it will cost to repair or replace the roof.

“The sellers’ goal would be to save money, meaning that they are going to hire the cheapest contractor, and you might end up with a roof repair that is lacking in quality,” Breyer says.

The post Should You Buy a House With Roof Damage? The Surprising Benefits—and Challenges appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.

‘White-Boxing’ Is the Hot New Real Estate Strategy That Lets Buyers Visualize Their Dream Home

August 3, 2018

what is white boxing?

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Home shoppers usually want to see a property at its best. This means that sellers truck in staged furniture, slap on fresh paint, and repair potential problems for buyers.

“When you walk into a beautifully designed and furnished unit, people can much more easily place themselves in this atmosphere,” says Jade Mills, a real estate agent at Coldwell Banker in Beverly Hills.

However, there’s an entirely different alternative that home sellers are trying. It’s called “white-boxing.” Home sellers—especially those in luxury markets with high-end properties that are in great locations—are ripping out everything in a home before showing the property.

As counterproductive as this may sound, white-boxing lets prospective home buyers start from scratch. It allows them to focus on potential and maybe even the views outside the residence, rather than what’s inside the home, which may not suit their tastes.

“White-boxing” is the exact opposite of staging a home to enhance its appeal. Instead of using furniture and accessories to sell the space, it presents a blank canvas, without the aesthetic choices in place, and allows the buyer to dream up layouts and floor design.

Why white-boxing works for luxury real estate

White-boxing is most relevant in luxury markets like New York City and Los Angeles, where breathtaking views and a desirable location are common selling points of a house, Mills says.

“As recently as a few years ago, it would be relatively rare for a seller to go to market with unfinished luxury space, but now, there’s increasing recognition that ‘designer-ready’ is exceedingly more attractive than ‘move-in ready’ to the ultrawealthy,” Josh Greer of Hilton & Hyland told CNBC.

One case in point was a penthouse apartment in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY, that was listed for nearly $3.5 million, a high price even in a coveted location where the median listing price is $1.6 million. The three-bed, two-bath property has 360-degree views of all New York City boroughs, but was in serious need of new plumbing, which meant the floors would need to be ripped up. Rather than restoring the interiors, the seller decided that it made more sense to white-box the penthouse. The strategy worked—the home is currently under contract, with a closing expected this month.

The key to the successful sale? Listing agent Scott Klein says it’s tied to buyers being able to dream up their perfect home. When they came to tour the empty house, buyers were given an iPad with a virtual reality tour that allowed them to explore the house and view potential floor plans. It gave them a better sense of what the apartment would feel like after it had been completely redone.

When white-boxing makes sense (it doesn’t always)

White-boxing definitely isn’t for all properties and buyers.

Most home buyers like to see a home in good condition. That’s one reason why home staging is a popular tool many sellers use when marketing their home. White-boxing, on the other hand, isn’t about improving aesthetics. It’s about playing up the value of the location and giving home buyers the freedom to use their imagination.

One major drawback of a white-boxed property is that the buyer can’t move in immediately. It might take even more than a year to move in, depending on the amount of work that needs to be done.

“There are people who want instant gratification,” Mills says. “They want to buy something and move in tomorrow, and white-boxing does not work for these people.”

That said, any buyer who plans to gut the house and put their customized touch on it will appreciate a white-boxed property. Why? A demolition crew has already completed the work of tearing down walls and clearing the place out. That can save the buyer thousands on demolition costs and allows them to start designing the new space immediately.

Should you white-box your property?

If you’re considering the idea of white-boxing your house, there has to be something about the property that will get a buyer to overlook the condition of the home, such as its great location, breathtaking views, or top-ranked school district.

Mills says a home that needs significant repairs (i.e., a fixer-upper) may be an option for white-boxing. But showing properties in poor condition isn’t easy. A buyer may focus more on the problems rather than the potential. Hopefully, though, if everything is removed and the home is in an enviable spot, the buyer will concentrate on the possibilities.

The post ‘White-Boxing’ Is the Hot New Real Estate Strategy That Lets Buyers Visualize Their Dream Home appeared first on Real Estate News & Insights | realtor.com®.