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Walk This Way

by Tami Heitzwebel

It’s almost here – your closing date!  Maybe you have been thinking about how you are going to arrange your furniture or getting quotes for some work you want done to make it “your” home.  But there is one thing you need to do prior to closing—a final walk-through.

There are a few really good reasons to do a walk-through before you actually close on your house.  You want to make sure the home is in the same condition as when you made your offer and/or inspection.  You will want to make sure that the utilities—electric, water, gas—are on so that you can make sure that everything is functioning.

It’s also a good time to confirm that any repairs made are to your satisfaction.  Vacant houses can develop problems if they sit for any period of time.  Finally, you want to make sure that the home is actually vacant.

I always suggest that buyers do a final walk-through because you never know what you might find.  Some things to look for include:

  • Checking the outlets to make sure each room has power.  An easy way to do this is by using your mobile phone charger.
  • Looking at all the bathrooms – flush each toilet and turn on both hot and cold water in the sinks, showers and tubs.  Make sure there is hot and cold water.
  • Taking a peek in the kitchen refrigerator – make sure that nothing has been left behind.  Do the same with the dishwasher. 
  • Also take a look in the washer and dryer.  More often than not, in the heat of getting ready to move, sellers tend to forget that final load of laundry.
  • Making sure the air conditioning and/or heating systems are up and running.  Even if it is 100 degrees outside, run the heating system for a few minutes! 
  • Being on the lookout for what my assistant jokingly calls “gifts with purchase.”  Sellers will sometimes leave furniture and other items that they just don’t want to move.  Take a look in the garage or storage sheds for left-over paint, used oil, propane tanks or other items.  These items may require special disposal and if you don’t know they are there, you may be on the hook for some costly disposal fees. 

Be prepared for the house not to look like you remember.  If the house is now vacant, you may notice carpet outlines or fading from furniture being moved.  Remember that some appliances, such as refrigerators, washers and dryers may not be included in the purchase and should have been removed.   There may be some small homes in the wall from prior hanging pictures. Was there a mounted TV?  There may be some larger holes if the sellers took out the mounting brackets. 

A final walk-through could save you time and money.  Take the time to do one before you close.  If you have any questions, give me a call.  Team Heitz is here to help! 

Real Estate Lingo - Part 2

by Tami Heitzwebel

As promised, here are a few more common words you will hear most often after having your offer accepted and you go under contract.  Again, please keep in mind that some of this information may be slightly different in different areas of the country:

  • Inspection:  Once you have signed a contract and paid your option fee, you have an option period which consists of a certain number of days to have the property inspected.  I firmly believe that ALL properties should be inspected.  I had a client who purchased a new three-story townhouse from a builder and opted not to do an inspection.  When they got ready to sell, the buyers’ inspector found stucco issues that were the result of improper installation by the builder.  It cost my sellers over $20,000 to fix these issues.  Their townhouse eventually did sell, but the money they saved by not doing an initial inspection cost them many times over.  A home inspector of your choosing will inspect the house for damage and provides a written report with pictures and suggested repairs/fixes.  The inspector also meets with buyers at the end of the inspection to go over his report.  If there is damage or suggested repairs, I can help negotiate those between buyers and sellers.  I also have worked with several home inspectors in the area and can help you find the one that is perfect for you. 
  • Appraisal:  If you are getting a loan (mortgage), the lender will require an appraisal.  Basically, the appraiser is tasked with assuring the bank that the contract price is comparable to other homes that have sold in the area.  If the home appraises below the contract price, you might have to either re-negotiate with the seller or make up the difference at closing.  Lenders can be pretty particular about appraisals since they are loaning money based on the value of the house. 
     
  • Closing costs:  There are several items that have fees associated with them—loan processing fees, recording fees, title fees, title insurance and the list goes on.  I tell my buyers to budget about 2-5% of the purchase price of the home for closing costs.  Sellers generally should budget around 7-8% for their closing costs.  Most lenders will give you a Good Faith Estimate of closing costs so that you can plan accordingly.
     
  • Title Insurance:  This insurance protects both buyers and sellers.  Coverage includes making sure the seller has the right to sell the house, dealing with liens for non-payment of contractor work or taxes, survey issues and even problems arising from a dispute between heirs regarding an estate property.  Buyers pay for lender’s coverage; however, buyers can also purchase owner’s insurance coverage.  A seller will sometimes pay for owner’s coverage.   
     
  • Closing: Buyers and sellers get together and sign paperwork, the title is transferred and money is exchanged.  Generally, real estate agents will attend, along with someone from the bank (if there is a mortgage) and even possibly a notary.  Most closings take place at title companies.    

There are still several other terms – in fact, I recently learned a new one after doing this for 17 years!  If you have questions, please call me.  Team Heitz is here to help!

Moving with Fido or Fluffy

by Tami Heitzwebel

You have found your dream house and are packing up to move in.  While moving can be stressful for humans, it can really freak out the family pet.  My assistant moved from New Hampshire to Arizona with two dogs and a cat in tow (along with their RV).  She says that it was fortunate that cats have nine lives, because this cat howled one life away during the cross-country trip.

If you are looking at homes and have family pets, think about including their needs in your “want” list.  Is there a fenced yard for your dog?  Take a walk around the neighborhood.  If there is a local park, does it allow dogs?  Is there a dog park in the area?  If your cat is strictly indoors, is there a room that has a window that would make a perfect home for a kitty condo or shelving?

Cats are notorious for hiding in boxes.  We have all read stories about movers packing up a home, only to find that they have also accidently packed the family cat in a box!  Most animal experts suggest keeping your dog or cat in one room of the house on moving day.  If you can kennel your pets for the day, you won’t have to worry about them “making a run for it” if someone accidently opens a door. 

If you are taking a road trip with your furry (or feathered) family, using a safe, well-ventilated carrier is a must.  Be sure to secure the carrier with a seat belt for added safety.  If you will be traveling for more than a day, you may want to do some research on pet-friendly hotels.  Make sure you have a “travel” bag for your pet that includes food and treats, water, bowls, a few toys and any medications they take.  For cats, a disposable litter box is a must.  Another thing to include in your pet’s travel bag is current veterinary records.  If your pet has not spent time in a crate or carrier, you might want to consider acclimating them about a month before you leave.  Start by putting their meals and special treats in the crate with the door open.  After about a week, put the meal in the crate and close the door.  Gradually increase the amount of time your pet spends in the crate.  Hopefully by the time you are ready to hit the road, your pet will be ready as well. 

Once you get to your new home, consider keeping your dog or cat in one room with food, water, toys and a litter box if needed.  Keep the door closed and labeled so that the movers don’t open it.  It is tempting to let your pet roam throughout their new digs, but it could be a bit overwhelming.  By letting them adjust to their new surroundings, it will make the transition easier on them (and you). 

Finally, don’t forget to update your microchip information with your new address and phone number.  Consider keeping your dog on a leash for their first few walks around the neighborhood.  It may actually be a local law or HOA policy, and this will prevent Fido from getting lost in case something spooks him or he sees Sammy Squirrel.

If you are looking for recommendations for a local veterinary service, groomer, kennel or dog park, give me a call.  At Team Heitz, our pets are an important part of our families and we are here to help.    

Being Efficient Pays!

by Tami Heitzwebel

If you are like me, opening your utility bills for the next several months can cause a bit of angst.  Now that summer is here to stay (at least I think it is), cooling bills are going to be higher.  Watering your landscaping or adding water to the pool?  You will see a jump in your water bill as well.  So what can you do to take the sting out of those month bills?  Here are a few tips:

  • Install programmable thermostats.  There are many different kinds to choose from, but basically, they all work the same way.  You program the climate control system so that the air conditioning temperature setting is higher (or lower if using the heat) during the day if no one is home.  There are several “smart” thermostats available now that will sense movement in a room and adjust the temperature accordingly.  You can even adjust the temperature using an app on your smartphone.  These “smart” thermostats quickly learn your home and away patterns, which help your climate control systems be more efficient.  Depending on which electric company you select, some will even give you a free programmable thermostat. 
  • Do you have ceiling fans?  They are more than just a nice decoration – they can actually help keep the air moving in your home.  And they cost pennies a day to run – much less expensive then running an air conditioner or portable heaters.  Make sure you switch the fan direction forward (counterclockwise) for summer and reverse (clockwise) for the winter.  Also remember to switch them off once you leave the room.
  • Take a peak in the attic.  Does your insulation look compacted?  It might be time to add an extra layer.  Since hot air rises, the attic is one of the biggest places where heat loss appears.  How much insulation do you need?  The US Department of Energy puts out several guides – and a trusted home contractor can also help.
  • Replace lightbulbs.  Switching your lightbulbs to LED bulbs is an easy fix.  Today’s light fixtures are designed to reduce energy costs, which, believe it or not, could be up to one-third of your home’s monthly electric bill!
  • Thinking about updating your kitchen?  Consider Energy Star-rated appliances.  Refrigerators and ovens are the major energy users in your kitchen, and replacing them with more efficient models will not only lower your electric bill, but could also add resale value if you plan on selling in the future.
  • Programmable timers are also useful for landscaping/watering systems.  These timers are getting "smart" as well, with several models available.  Since some of the newer models an be programmed to water only when needed, this could save a lot of money and water.  

I would love to hear from you if you have some other tips or have questions about finding a reliable contractor to help you with some of these projects.  Give me a call or text – Team Heitz is here to help! 

Supporting Our Veterans and VA Loans

by Tami Heitzwebel

I just love living in Texas.  We have a long, proud tradition of supporting our military veterans and honoring the sacrifices they make for all of us.  My father was in the Air Force, which makes Memorial Day even more special to me.

As part of their service to our country, qualified veterans are eligible for VA loans.   Did you know that there are over 21 million veterans that have access to this program?  There are several reasons to choose a VA loan if you are eligible:

  • No down payment – possible 100% financing
  • FICO (credit scores) don’t have to be perfect – although most lenders prefer a score of at least 620
  • Loans are not subject to monthly mortgage insurance – a plus that could save a buyer a couple hundred dollars a month
  • A seller or someone else (like a parent) can make gifts or contribute toward closing costs
  • Loans can be fully assumable by a qualified buyer – and the buyer does not have to be a veteran

I know that when I mention VA loans to other agents in my building, they tend to make a face.  There is a common misconception that VA loans take longer to close.  That may have been the case several years ago, but technology changes have greatly streamlined the process.   One thing to keep in mind is that VA loans are intended for primary residences only – they cannot be used for investment properties.  Another sticking point may be earnest money deposits.  If a VA loan applicant qualifies for 100% financing, some real estate agents will still insist on getting earnest money to protect their clients.  An experienced real estate agent (like me) can help you work through this process.  A final misconception about VA loans is that they are actually processed by the Veterans Administration.  Not true – the loan processing is still handled by a bank or mortgage broker.  If you are thinking of using your VA benefits to buy a house, give me a call.  I would be proud to help you make your home ownership dreams come true.

Power Up!

by Tami Heitzwebel

One of the many decisions buyers need to make as they approach their closing date is selecting various utility companies.  In today’s age of competition, it might surprise you to learn that you could have several options to choose from.  For some of my clients who grew up in small towns that only have one power company, one cable company and one gas company, this may come as a bit of a shock.

Here in the Kingwood area, there are several electric companies competing for your business.  Fortunately, all the information you need to make a smart, informed decision is online and available at https://www.texaselectricrates.com/?s_clid=03bbf152df72b802746ce17d22c51078

There are also several different television, internet and phone providers who service the area.  We have all seen the commercials asking if we can hear them now, showing maps with cell coverage and even luring us with voice-guided television remotes.  I haven’t used one of the remotes yet, but if they work like my Siri does, it might make for some interesting television watching.

All these choices can be a bit overwhelming.  One of the services I provide for my clients is a complimentary concierge service that will help you getting all these new services in place.  This can even include pest control and yard/landscaping services in addition to utilities.  

If you have any questions, please give me or my team a call.  We are here to help!

Looking to score? Check your credit.

by Tami Heitzwebel

If you are getting ready to buy a home, you have probably been tracking mortgage rates.  If you want a good rate, you should also be tracking your credit score.

Almost all lenders use FICO® Scores to analyze whether you are an excellent, good or poor credit risk.  The Fair Isaac Corporation developed their credit rating system back in 1956, and it has become the gold standard in assessing credit worthiness.

Following is a quick summary of what your score translates to as far as creditworthiness:  

Not everyone has exceptional credit, and let’s face it, things happen in life that can adversely affect your score.  If this has happened to you, it doesn’t mean your dream of home ownership is that—only a dream.  I work with lenders who have access to special programs and grants geared toward first-time home buyers, as well as loans for buyers with lower credit scores.   One of the biggest decisions you can make in buying a home is finding a lender who can work with you.  I can help you with that—give me a call and let Team Heitz make your home ownership dreams come true. 

Running the Marathon

by Tami Heitzwebel

I recently went to Boston to watch my husband run in the 121st running of the Boston Marathon.  This was his 5th time running in the marathon and we really enjoy soaking in the whole marathon atmosphere.

It dawned on me that helping you, my clients, is sort of like running a marathon.  Sometimes, it does feel like a race to the finish line, especially when a property ends up with multiple offers.  But, there are several similarities between gearing up for a marathon and your real estate transaction.

First and foremost, you need to train for a marathon.  You also need to have a trained real estate professional when you buy or sell a home.  As a Realtor© with over 17 years of experience, I am more than ready and able to go the distance for my clients.  The next important thing marathon runners need to have is stamina.  My husband has a whole training routine he follows religiously so that he does have the stamina to make it through the 26-mile course.  Real estate pros also need to have the stamina to take your transaction from the initial contract negotiations through the option period, inspections, appraisals and if all goes well, closing.  Sometimes the marathon goes smoothly and according to schedule; other times, detours pop up and it’s my job to make sure that we navigate through them and still make it to the finish line. 

Finally, it takes a team effort to successfully complete a marathon.  There are certainly some people who do it on their own, but generally, friends and family are there to cheer on and encourage a runner.  I also have my own team – Team Heitz – here to help you get to the finish line.  Give me a call – I’m ready to run to new "Heitz" for you.

Feeling Adventurous? Eat in Kingwood!

by Tami Heitzwebel

If you have been feeling a bit in a rut when it comes to dining out, have I got some great news for you.  Kingwood is the happening place for new restaurants, and I have three (yes, three!) to tell you about.

Yama S Fusion Sushi recently opened their doors at the front of Kingwood, and I’ve been hearing some great things about them.  Now I’m not a huge seafood fan, but I do enjoy some sushi and I really enjoy hibachi-style dishes.  And I’m told that Chef Yama is hard to miss with his red hair!   The menu is quite extensive and the prices are reasonable. 

If you prefer tacos over sushi, then you may have heard that Torchy’s Tacos is coming to Kingwood later this spring!  They are building their latest restaurant in the new H-E-B plaza at the intersection of West Lake Houston Parkway and Kingwood Drive.  What started out as a food trailer in 2006 has grown to over 30 restaurants in Texas, Colorado and Oklahoma.  They offer all kinds of tacos, including vegetarian and breakfast options and even a taco of the month.  My buyer’s agent, Amanda, says that the tacos are “amazing” and that Torchy’s has a quite a fan following.

Now that you have had breakfast, lunch or dinner, you might need some dessert.  SUB ZERO Ice Cream and Yogurt is also making its home at the same H-E-B plaza.  If you have watched any of the network cooking shows, you have probably seen someone making ice cream using liquid nitrogen.  At Sub Zero, your ice cream is “made to order” right in front of you.  Pick a flavor and add-ins, and watch as the liquid nitrogen does its magic and turns the cream into a creamy, cold treat. 

There are several other new restaurants in the area as well, and more planned.  If you have one that you think I would enjoy, let me know and I’ll check it out!

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Tami Heitzwebel
RE/MAX Associates Northeast
2940 Oak St.
Kingwood TX 77339-5525
281-361-2245