Get Your HVAC System Ready for Winter

Get Your HVAC System Ready for Winter

Now that it’s officially winter, get your HVAC system ready for winter with these steps.  Regardless of where you live every homeowner should be getting their systems in tip top shape.  If you’ve not yet gotten started prepping your central heating system, there’s no time like the present.

Furnace Season Basics for Every Homeowner

Being a first time homeowner may mean you have very little experience with home repair.  Here are some of the ways to improve your heating system’s safety and performance this year.   Here are a few items you may want to put on this weekend’s “to do” list:

Check that your carbon monoxide detector and smoke alarms are in good working order. Furnaces get hot and that makes them a minor risk for fire, especially as they age.

Reverse your ceiling fans. Ceiling fans can help save a bundle on home heating. There’s a switch on most ceiling fan motors that allows you to control which way they spin. In the winter, you’ll want them to turn clockwise at low speed.  This will pull the hot air away from the ceiling and push it toward the living area.

Change your filters. Your furnace performs best when the filter is clean. The filter is  like a surgical mask for your HVAC system. When too many particles are clogging up the pores, the furnace struggles to bring in a full breath.  Ideally, you should change filters when they appear dirty, not when there’s physical material sticking to them. Investing in an electrostatic filter can mean huge savings on replacement filters and gives you a chance to rinse your filter out weekly, so you’ll always have optimal airflow.

Rearrange the furniture. Blocked vents are vents that aren’t living up to their potential. Move furniture out of the way so you can take advantage of  hot air coming out of the furnace.

Upgrade your thermostat. Besides being able to turn the furnace up before getting out of bed on a cold morning, smart thermostats can save a lot of energy and money all year long. Since many Americans have their largest utility bills in the winter, this is a great time to make that investment. Products like Nest’s Learning Thermostats, Honeywell’s Lyric and Ecobee 3 are designed to work with popular home assistants like Amazon’s Alexa, too!

Additional Considerations

it’s a good idea to have a regular inspection to ensure that your HVAC system is ready for winter and it’s in prime working order. Things like cracked heat exchangers are real health hazards. An HVAC inspection and routine cleaning is a very minimal expense and can often be reduced further in price with a longer-term service agreement from a reputable service provider.

These service agreements not only give you peace of mind knowing that your equipment has been carefully inspected and will continue to be at regular intervals, but helps you build a lasting relationship with a high-quality HVAC expert You can find many of these shops in HomeKeepr, just open it up and see who your Realtor has recommended locally!

While you wait for your new HVAC service provider to come and check your furnace, go through our winter maintenance checklist to ensure that you’ve covered all your bases before the cold winds really start to blow.

10 Questions You Should Ask Your Realtor

10 Questions You Should Ask Your Realtor

Here are 10 questions you should ask your realtor before signing the dotted line.    .

Are you a full-time professional real estate agent?

How long have you worked full time in real estate?  How long have you been representing buyers? What professional designations do you have?
Knowing whether or not your agent practices full time can help you determine potential scheduling conflicts and his or her commitment to your transaction.  As with any profession, the number of years a person has been in the business does not necessarily reflect the level of service you can expect, but it is a good starting point for your discussion. The same issue can apply to professional designations.

Do you have a personal assistant, team or staff to handle different parts of the purchase?

What are their names and how will each of them help me in my transaction?  How do I communicate with them?It is not uncommon for agents who sell a lot of houses to hire people to work with them.  As their businesses grow, they must be able to deliver the same or higher quality service to more people. You may want to know who on the team will take part in your transaction, and what role each person will play.  You may even want to meet the other team members before you decide to work with the team.  If you have a question about fees on your closing statement, who would handle that?   Who will show up to your closing?

Do you have a Website?

Can I have your URL address? Who responds to emails and how quickly? What’s your email address?
Many buyers prefer to search online for homes because it’s available 24 hours a day and can be done at home. So you want to make sure your home is listed online, either on the agent’s Website or on their company’s site. By searching your agent’s Website you will get a clear picture of how much information is available online.

How will you keep in contact with me during the selling process, and how often?

Some agents may email, fax or call you daily to tell you that visitors have toured your home, while others will keep in touch weekly. Asking this question can help you to reconcile your needs with your agent’s systems.

What do you do that other agents don’t that ensures I’m getting top dollar for my home?

What is your average market time versus other agents’ average market time?
A real estate professional’s unique method of research and delivery can make the difference between selling quickly or lanquishing on the market.   For example, an agent might research the demographics of your neighborhood and present you a target market list for direct marketing purposes.

Will you give me names of past clients?

Interview an agent like you would interview a potential employee.  Contacting references can be a reliable way for you to understand how he or she works, and whether or not this style is compatible with your own.

Do you have a performance guarantee?

What happens if I am not satisfied with your performance?

In the heavily regulated world of real estate, it is almost impossible for an agent to offer a performance guarantee. If your agent does not have a guarantee, it does not mean they are not committed to high standards. Typically, he or she will verbally outline what you can expect from their performance.  Keller Williams Realty Allen understands the importance of win-win business relationships: the agent does not benefit if the client does not also benefit.

How are you paid?

How are your fees structured? May I have that in writing?

In many areas, the seller pays all agent commissions.  Some agents charge other administrative or special service fees that are charged to clients, regardless of whether they are buying or selling. Be aware of the big picture prior to signing any agreements.  Furthermore, ask for an estimate of costs from any agent you contemplate employing.

How would you develop pricing strategies for our home?

Although location and condition affect the selling process, price is the primary factor in determining if a home sells quickly, or at all.  Access to current property information is essential, and sometimes a pre-appraisal will help.  Ask your agent how they created the market analysis, and whether your agent included For Sale by Owner homes, foreclosed homes and bank-owned sales in that list.

What will you do to sell my home?

Who pays for your advertising?  Ask your real estate agent to give you a clear plan of how marketing and advertising dollars will be spent.  If there are other forms of marketing available but not specified in the plan ask who pays for those.  Request samples or case studies of the types of marketing strategies that your agent proposes (such as Internet Websites, print magazines, open houses, and local publications).

Buy New or Pre-Existing Home?

Buy New or Pre-Existing Home?

Should you buy new or pre-exiting home is another big decision to make during the home-buying process.  If you decide to go with new construction, a real estate agent can be a powerful advocate in your corner as you negotiate upgrades, a move-in date and other terms with the home builder.


Below are some basic pointers to prepare you for the journey ahead.

Selecting a builder

Shopping for a large production or custom home builder can be a daunting task.  Start by defining what architectural styles appeal to you and then seek out the builders in your area who offer those styles. Due diligence is essential.  Ask friends for referrals to get firsthand accounts.   Verify the builder’s state license status. Check whether they’re certified by the National Association of Home Builders.

The builder representative and your real estate agent

A builder representative’s ultimate goal is to sell you a home.  His or her role is to provide a wide range of information to help you in your decision-making, from building restrictions, roads and easements to inspections, warranties, rebates and upgrades.

A real estate agent knowledgeable in new-home construction will be able to help you wade through all the data and point out the downsides and upsides of each line item. Your agent also can look out for your interests in reviewing the builder’s contract, which often contains more legal jargon than consumer-friendly language.


It’s all about timing

Market conditions greatly dictate a builder’s incentive to make a deal you cannot refuse.  When a builder has inventory on his hands, his carrying costs start adding up.  When this happens, a builder might be more amenable to strike a favorable deal, whether it’s throwing in upgrades or taking a bit off the asking price.

A real estate agent can help you know when market conditions are right for these benefits.  Also, watch for builder close-out sales.  Builders promote these special events when a new subdivision is near completion but empty inventory still remains.

A word about paying up

While there are always exceptions, most builders require a deposit when a purchase agreement is signed. They also require that the buyer pay for any upgrades prior to closing.   If you back out prior to closing, unless the agreement states otherwise, you will lose that money.  Make sure you understand every detail in the builder’s contract before signing it.

Create a Home Wishlist

Create a Home Wishlist

Create a home wishlist because your real estate agent will want to know as much as possible about the features and amenities you desire. To help your agent better serve you, analyze what you want and what you need in a home’s features and amenities.

Your Home Wishlist Might Include:


Home Wishlist Features:

  • Age: Do you prefer historic properties, or newer ones?
  • Style: Do you have a special preference for ranches, bungalows, or another style of construction?
  • Bedrooms: How many?
  • Bathrooms: How many? Are they updated?
  • Living and Dining Areas: A traditional, formal layout, or a more open, contemporary plan?
  • Stories: How many?
  • Square feet: How much space?
  • Ceilings: How high?
  • Kitchen: How big? Recently updated? Open to other living areas?
  • Storage: Big closets, a shed, an extra-large garage?
  • Parking: A garage or carport? Room for how many cars?
  • Extras: Attic or basement


Home Wishlist Amenities:

  • Office
  • Play/Exercise Room
  • Security System
  • Sprinkler System
  • Workshop/Studio
  • In-law suite
  • Fireplace
  • Pool
  • Hot tub
  • Additional sidewalks or walkways
  • Wooded lot
  • Patio, deck, or porch
  • Laundry room
  • Jack and Jill bathroom


Home Wishlist Location:

  • Walking distance to parks? Schools?  Stores?
  • Homeowner Association?
  • Close to major roads?  Off the beaten path?
  • Location of home in regards to the direction of the sun?


8 Steps to Buy a Home

8 Steps to Buy a Home



Here are the 8 basic steps to buy a home.   A qualified, experienced Realtor will guide you through the process.

1. Decide to buy.


Although there are many good reasons for you to buy a home, wealth building ranks among the top of the list.  Home ownership is  the best “accidental investment” most people ever make.  When done right, home ownership becomes an “intentional investment” that lays the foundation for a life of financial security and personal choice.  There are solid financial reasons to support your decision to buy a home. These reasons include equity buildup, value appreciation, and tax benefits.

Base your decision to buy on facts, not fears.

If you are paying rent, you likely can afford to buy.
There is never a wrong time to buy the right home.  Find a good buy and make sure you have the financial ability to hold it for the long run.
You may not need a large down payment to make your first home purchase.
A less-than-perfect credit score won’t necessarily stop you from buying a home.
The best way to get closer to buying your ultimate dream home is to buy your first home now.
Buying a home doesn’t have to be complicated.   There are many professionals who will help you with the steps to buy a home.


2. Hire your agent.


The typical real estate transaction involves at least two dozen separate individuals.  Insurance assessors, mortgage brokers and underwriters are some of the individuals involved in the steps to buy a home.  Other individuals are inspectors, appraisers, escrow officers, buyer’s agents, seller’s agents, bankers,  and title researchers.   Numerous individual actions have to be orchestrated in order to get a home sale closed.

It is the responsibility of your real estate agent to expertly coordinate all the professionals involved in your home purchase.  Moreover, your agent must act as the advocate for you and your interests throughout the process.


Seven main roles of your real estate agent:

Educate you about your market.
Analyze your wants and needs.
Guide you to homes that fit your criteria.
Coordinate the work of other needed professionals.
Negotiate on your behalf.
Check and double-checks paperwork and deadlines.
Solve any problems that may arise.


Important questions to ask your agent:

Qualifications are important.  However, finding a solid, professional agent means getting beyond the resume, and into what makes an agent effective.  Start with these questions to ask a potential real estate agent.


Why did you become a real estate agent?
Why should I work with you?
Tell me what do you do better than other real estate agents?
Explain the process will you use to help me find the right home for my particular wants and needs?
Describe the most common things that go wrong in a transaction and how would you handle them?
List some mistakes that you think people make when buying their first home?
What other professionals do you suggest we work with and what are their credentials?
Can you provide me with references or testimonials from past clients?


3. Secure financing.


The thought of home ownership is thrilling.  However, the thought of taking on a mortgage may be downright chilling.  Many first-time buyers may be confused about the mortgage process.  Others may be about making such a large financial commitment.

Here is a six-step, easy-to-understand process to secure the financing for your first home.

Choose a loan officer (or mortgage specialist).
Make a loan application and get preapproved.
Determine what you want to pay and select a loan option.
Submit to the lender an accepted purchase offer contract.
Get an appraisal and title commitment.
Obtain funding at closing.


4. Find your home.


Many think that shopping a home starts with jumping in the car and driving all over town.  And it’s true that  looking at homes is probably the most exciting part of the home-buying process.  However, driving around is fun for only so long. If weeks go by without finding what you’re looking for, the fun can fade pretty fast. That’s is why the first step to buy a home is to carefully consider your long and short term values, wants, and needs.


What do I want my home to be close to?
How much space do I need and why?
Which is more critical: location or size?
Would I be interested in a fixer-upper?
How important is home value appreciation?
Is neighborhood stability and priority?
Would I be interested in a condo?
Would I be interested in new home construction?
What features and amenities do I want? Which do I really need?


5. Make an offer.


Approach this process with a cool head and a realistic perspective of your marketplace.  The three basic components of an offer are price, terms, and contingencies.

The right price to offer must fairly reflect the true market value of the home you want to buy.  Your agent’s market research will guide this decision.   Other financial and timing factors are terms that will be included in the offer.

Schedule-a schedule of events that  happen before closing.

Conveyances-the items that stay with the house when the sellers leave.

Closing costs-it’s standard for buyers to pay their closing costs, but if you want to roll the costs into the loan, you need to write that into the contract.

Home warranty-this helps to cover repairs or replacement of appliances and major systems. You may ask the seller to pay for this.

Option Period– the option period is the time set aside for the buyer to complete their due diligence.

Earnest money-this protects the sellers from the possibility of your unexpectedly pulling of the deal and makes a statement about the seriousness of your offer.



6. Perform due diligence.


Unlike most major purchases, there is not a return policy that comes with a home purchase.  That’s why home owner’s insurance and property inspections are so important.

A home owner’s insurance policy protects you in two ways.  It will protect you against loss or damage to the property itself and liability in case someone sustains an injury while on your property

Ideally, the property inspection should expose any issues a home might hide so you know exactly what you’re getting into before you sign your closing papers. The major concern is structural damage.  Don’t sweat the small stuff.   If you have a big problem show up in your inspection report, you should bring in a specialist.


7. Close.


The final stage of the home buying process is the lender’s confirmation of the home’s worth  and your continued credit-worthiness.  This entails a survey, appraisal, title search, and a final check of your credit and finances.


Your preclosing responsibilities:

Stay in control of your finances.
Return all phone calls and paperwork promptly.
Communicate with your agent at least once a week.
Before closing, confirm with your agent that all your documentation is in place and in order.
Obtain certified funds for closing.
Conduct a final walk-through.


Finally, you’ll sign documents that confirm you are the new homeowner on closing day.

Finalize your mortgage.
Pay the seller.
Pay your closing costs.
Transfer the title from the seller to you.
Make arrangements to legally record the transaction as a public record.

Because your expectations are clear and you follow directions, closing should be simple conclusion to your home-search process.


8. Protect your investment.


Throughout the course of your home-buying experience, you’ve probably spent a lot of time with your real estate agent .  Hopefully, you now know each other fairly well.  Therefore,  there is no reason to throw all that trust and rapport out the window just because the deal has closed.


After you close on your house, you agent can still help you:

Provide information for your tax return as a homeowner.
Find contractors to help with home maintenance or remodeling.
Help your friends find homes.
Keep track of your home’s current market value.




Property Survey- Questions and Answers

Property Survey- Questions and Answers

Sometimes it can be confusing for both buyers and sellers on why a property survey is necessary when selling or buying a home and which party is responsible for paying for the survey.


What is a Property Survey?


A survey is a document that shows exactly where the property lines begin and end.  In addition to the boundary lines, a survey shows any easements on the property and where they are located.   The survey also shows the location of any fence lines, any water or flood plain issues and any right of ways and access.


Example of a single property survey in Texas

Survey Example


In Texas, it is a very common practice for the seller to provide their existing survey (if they have one) along with a notarized document to the new buyer.

I recommend that my buyer clients purchase a new survey even if there is an existing survey available because things can change over time.


Is a Property Survey really necessary?


A property survey is not always required to purchase the property.  However, if  you are the buyer, it is to your benefit to know exactly how much land you are paying for. There could be issues that only a surveyor will be able to find.  Maybe there is a fence that  is not between the boundary line of the adjoining properties.   Or, the driveway or deck may be on part of the neighbor’s land.   These are important things to know when you are buying a property.    An existing survey may not show these types of issues.


Who Pays for the Property Survey?


The party that pays for it is the party that agrees to pay for it.   I personally believe that it is a buyer’s fee.   The seller likely paid for their existing survey when they originally purchased the home way back when.    A buyer who accepts an old survey generally has no claim against the surveyor and that buyer must rely on the coverages in his or her title policy if a survey issue should come up.

I suggest that a buyer get a new survey rather than relying on an old survey.  Now the surveyor is liable for any errors.    The survey cost will vary depending upon the size of the property but it is a small price to pay to protect your investment.