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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.    

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. 

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!

Buying Home Insurance in Texas

by Tami Heitzwebel

You have been searching for that new place to call home for days, weeks or maybe even months.  Working with your favorite realtor (me!), you found the perfect place.  You get a call from the title company asking for information about your homeowner’s insurance policy. 

There are several options available for purchasing a policy – you can use a local agent or shop online.  One of the first things to determine is the amount of coverage you need.  You want to make sure you have enough to replace your home and belongings.  Believe it or not, your credit score comes into play here as well.  Do you have cars, recreational vehicles or a boat?  You might qualify for a multi-policy discount.   Does your new home have a security system?  Another discount!

Is your new home in a designated flood plain?  The Seller’s Disclosure Notice will tell you if the property is in a floodplain or currently has flood insurance coverage.  If this is the case, I can help you find a local agent. 

Other things to consider when shopping for home insurance include your belongings and contents.  Do you have an art or baseball card collection or some of grandma’s priceless antique furniture?  If your new home has additional “outbuildings” – like RV storage – make sure it is all covered.  

Your insurance company will most likely use a CLUE report for your new home.  No, it’s not the game – CLUE actually stands for Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange.  A CLUE report gives you the claims history of the house.  If the seller has disclosed major repairs that might have been paid by an insurance claim, then I tell my buyers that it’s OK to ask for a copy of the CLUE report. 

The family dog may be another piece of information an insurance agent will ask about.  Owners of certainly presumed “aggressive” dog breeds could pay a higher insurance premium.  You really don’t want to fib to your insurance agent about this.  If you do have one of these dogs and you don’t disclose it up front and Fido does accidently injure someone, your insurance company may deny coverage.  Deductibles are yet another item to consider.  Generally, your policy premium is lower with a higher deductible; however, you will end up paying more out of your own pocket if you have a claim. 

While I’m not an insurance expert, I know many people who are just that.  Have questions?  Please call, text or email.  I’m here to help!

Surprise – You have a New Water Feature!

by Tami Heitzwebel

Part of my service as your realtor goes above and beyond guiding you through the process of buying or selling your home.  My clients often contact me in the following weeks or months after closing on their homes, looking for recommendations for local service providers, doctors, veterinarians and even the best restaurants with gluten-free options.

A few months ago, we had a freeze that left many homeowners with drooping landscaping and in some cases, burst pipes.  I got a text that day from one of my recent clients.  Apparently, they were driving back home from a trip to the local hardware store and noticed that someone had water running down the street.  As they pulled into their driveway, they realized that they were that someone.  Not only was the water running down their driveway, but they now also had a new water feature—a fountain of water spewing forth from the outdoor landscaping control box! 

After a few frenzied minutes of identifying where the shut-off was for the control box, they managed to stop the water fountain.  Since they had moved here from Colorado mountains, they were not familiar with outdoor landscaping systems.  Who did they need to call—a plumber, a landscaper or a sprinkler service company?  It turns out the answer was a sprinkler service company.  My new owners did not know that the sprinkler system had not been winterized, and the “water feature” they discovered was the exploding backflow preventer. 

While it is unusual for our temperatures to dip low enough to cause pipes to freeze, it does happen. Still, it probably doesn’t hurt to make sure your outdoor landscaping trees, shrubs and sprinkler systems are prepared.  Need a recommendation?  Please give me a call, text or send me an email.  I’m always here to help!

Greenbelts – Not Just for Karate!

by Tami Heitzwebel

Living in Kingwood—“The Livable Forest”—means that you will see verdant green trees, flowers in just about every shape and colour and landscaping in both home yards and common areas.

But there is another living part of Kingwood that most people don’t know about – the Greenbelt Trails.  Kingwood has over 75 miles of interconnected paved, tree-lined paths that are open to pedestrians, leashed dogs, bicycles (non-motorized) and even roller blading.  These well-maintained trails are designed to give Kingwood residents a safe place to walk without having to worry about vehicle traffic.  Maintenance is paid through HOA fees.  

My assistant purchased a house in Kingwood, and the greenbelt trails were a huge attraction.  She says she lives about a minute from the nearest access point.  Her poodle (Fenway) has quickly acclimated to walking the trails and has made several dog acquaintances during his walks.  He especially enjoys meeting a “cousin” doodle whose owner gives out low-calorie treats to friendly dogs.

Fenway is also happy to report that the vast majority of dog walkers are leashed (the dogs, not the walkers) and for the most part, they pick up what the dogs drop. 

Want to see more?  Click on the map link.  If you have a picture of you (or your furry friend) walking on the greenbelt trails, post it on my Facebook Page – I would love to see it!

Homestead Exemption – Not Just for Pioneers!

by Tami Heitzwebel

Back when the West was won (and young), the fledgling US government granted homesteading pioneers land ownership at little to no cost as long as they remained on the property for a certain number of years. 

Flash forward to today, and while land is no longer available for homesteading, the State of Texas does give new homeowners a bit of a tax break in the form of a Homestead Exemption.  So, it works like this:  If you have a house that is currently valued at $100,000 and you qualify for a $20,000 exemption, your taxes are calculated on the $80,000 value.  The exemption can add up to some pretty substantial tax savings.

New homeowners can apply for their homestead exemption between January 1 and April 30 of the year following the purchase of their home.  It’s important to make sure that you file within these dates since the taxing districts do not accept early applications.  Once your exemption is approved, you will receive an annual postcard notifying you that the exemption is still in place.  Watch your mail for that little postcard, because it means your home is still eligible.  A few years ago, my postcard did not arrive.  I really didn’t think much of it until I got our tax bill.  YIKES!  I called the County and was told that since the post card was returned as “undeliverable” by the US Postal Service, they automatically presume that the owners have moved and no longer qualify for the exemption.  Um, we had been living in our home for over a dozen years and certainly had not moved.  After filling out a few forms, I was able to get the exemption restored. 

I also make sure to tell my new buyers not to fall for the mailers they will get shortly after they close on their new homes.  These companies offer to sell you a copy of your own deed or offer to complete your exemption application for a fee.  You should receive a copy of your deed as part of your closing – and the exemption application is pretty easy to complete.  You don’t need to hire anyone to do it for you.  If you have questions on the application or how it works, please let me know.  You can also CLICK HERE for Texas first-time property owner information provided by Harris County.  

 

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