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Real Estate Lingo – Part 1

by Tami Heitzwebel

When you enter the world of real estate, you will soon realize that we have our own language.  Once you decide to buy or sell, our language will become yours.  Here are a few of the more common words you might hear.  Please keep in mind that some of this information may vary in different areas of the country:

  • Real Estate Agent, Buyer’s Agent and Realtor®:  Real estate agents are licensed professionals that will help you with your real estate transaction.  A buyer’s agent is also licensed and generally represents buyers , while a listing agent represents sellers.  A Realtor® is someone who is a member of the National Association of Realtors and follow a strict code of ethics and other standards.  Yours truly is a Realtor®, and I also have a Buyer’s Agent (Amanda Walker) as part of my team.
  • MLS:  This stands for Multiple Listing Service, which is a online, searchable database with detailed information for each listing.  This is different from some of the other online real estate websites, like Zillow.  I actually use HAR (Houston Association of Realtors ®), which is a MLS-linked searchable database specific to Houston and the surrounding areas.
  • Pre-Approval Letter:  This is a letter from a bank or lender basically giving you an estimate for lending purposes once you have provided them with information regarding income, assets, debts, etc.  There are some listing agents that insist on all potential buyers wanting to look at a property be pre-approved, and they will definitely want to see your letter if you decide to go under contract (make an offer) for a house.
  • Offer/Contract:  This is your official offer to purchase (or sell) a property.  I always advise my clients to read these contracts carefully.  If you don’t understand some of the conditions, I am here to explain them to you.  You also have the right to have an attorney review a contract if you wish.  An offer does not become a contract until it is signed by all parties.  A seller can choose to accept, reject or make a counter-offer.  Buyers can counter a counter-offer.  This is when it really can pay to have an experienced Realtor® (like me) to help you with these negotiations. 
  • Option Fee:  This is a non-refundable fee (can range from $10 to $25 a day or higher) given to a seller by the buyers to compensate the seller while the home is undergoing inspections.  Generally, when a property goes under contract, the status in MLS is changed from “active” to “option pending.” The property can continue to be shown, but most realtors pass by these listings unless their clients insist on seeing.  This fee is usually credited back to the buyer at closing.
  • Earnest Money: This is paid in addition to the option fee.  Earnest monies generally amount to one percent (1%) of the purchase price.  You might have heard this also referred to as a good faith deposit.  It shows the seller that you are serious about purchasing the property, and these funds are held by an escrow agent at a local title company.  Beware—if you back out of a contract without good cause, the seller may have the right to keep you earnest money.

There are many other terms you might hear and wonder about.  Stay tuned for my next blog post and I’ll discuss a few more.

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! 

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