Laurel Property Search: Anything but a Passive Exercise
For anyone who has never participated in a serious house-hunting effort, their mental image of how the experience will unfold may be a little off. They might imagine that, after narrowing down their requirements for a Laurel home (size, price range, and the like) they will agree on a day and time, then just climb into their Laurel agent’s car and settle back to have the likely prospect properties exposed before them.
In fact, the house-hunting procedure is almost like that, except for one major detail:
A property search is a participation sport!
Experienced Laurel property searchers have learned to husband their energy on any day that includes home showings. Especially when their property search doesn’t immediately yield a find that fits their target criteria, they know that it may take a while—and more than a few house-hunting outings—before they identify a suitable house.
What takes so much energy? Sophisticated home buyers know that every showing holds the possibility that they could be setting foot in what might just become their future home. Every showing is literally the only time they will ever have a valid ‘first impression’ of the place that might become a major purchase. And each of those first impressions often come as part of a day that includes multiple showings—one that can easily result in a jumble of impressions, where homes with similar features are easily confused in memory. Since second and subsequent showings should be reserved for properties that qualify as serious contenders, wasted time and effort (not to mention inconvenience to the homeowners) can be avoided by alert, sharp-eyed property searchers. It takes stamina!
That’s why more experienced prospects know from the outset that a home showing isn’t a passive experience. It’s not a bad idea to have a pen handy for jotting notes on the listing sheets the Laurel agent provides—notes about distinguishing features (good and bad!) that will help with comparisons at the end of the day.
For those who are veterans of previous property searches, this is old news: they remember reviewing sessions that include, “No – that was the one with the bay windows, not the one with the [fill in the blank].” For first-timers, it’s good to know in advance: a property search is a participation sport. And you’re the team captain!
- Written by Russell Stucki
Path Cleared for Laurel Home Buying Geniuses
One of CNN’s most popular sites is called CNNMoney. Dollars and cents are its singular focus—no film reviews, fashion statements, or political insights. For Laurel readers minding their bank accounts, it makes consistently interesting reading.
The other day, an eye-catching ad for CNNMoney appeared on the screens of real estate sites. If you’d been browsing the Laurel listings, there it was, with this challenge: “Are you a home buying genius?” For anyone who couldn’t be absolutely sure of the answer, the ad led to an online quiz. A simple mouse click brought up the first question.
It was a good thing CNNMoney isn’t called CNNGrammar, because the first question was “How will a bad credit score effect (sic) your ability to buy a home?” The choices were four, starting with “I may not qualify for a mortgage.” Then came, “I may need a bigger down payment;” “I’ll have to pay a higher mortgage rate;” and the last, “All of the above.” They all looked possible, so Laurel home buying geniuses had an easy time with that one.
But others could have tested the neurons of any home buying Einstein.
“What’s the most surefire way to get the financing you need?” was one. “Play the Powerball” was clearly not the right answer, but the difference between “Get pre-approved for a mortgage” (choice #2) or “Have the mortgage pre-underwritten” (#3) might depend on the Laurel mortgage broker’s office terminology. If you went for #3, you got it right.
If you knew that Laurel closing costs usually run between 2%-5% of the selling price, you had another right answer. Likewise, if you chose the standard “28% of your gross monthly income” as the most you should budget for a mortgage payment. By now, it had become clear that this quiz had been put together by someone with an interest in promoting mortgage loans. All the questions were dealing with mortgages, and now ads for national mortgage outfits were beginning to appear at the bottom of the screen. Since this is nothing new when it comes to web quizzes, most readers would have kept at it.
They would have run into one question about how much savings you “should have left” after you buy a home—the kind of question that could start a debate. This one could challenge any genius. For instance, if you are The Donald, you really wouldn’t need the “at least six months’ worth of savings” that was ruled the right answer. The explanation sounded reasonable (“you’re probably spending freely to furnish or update the place”), but what if you had just bought a new home or one of the spotlessly renovated Laurel listings that are now on the market? The amount it would cost to move in could just as easily be next to nothing!
Such quibbling in internet quizzes isn’t allowed. If you got all the answers right, you were pronounced a home buying genius (with an exclamations point)…and an offer to tell the world via Facebook or Twitter. If not, you could retake the test before you told anyone anything, which does seem a little bit like an offer to peek at the teacher’s answer sheet…
- Written by Russell Stucki
A Property Manager Can be a Landlord's Key Resource
At first blush, deciding to hire a Laurel professional property manager may seem counter-productive. Whether you bought the property you will be renting out specifically for that purpose, or else are simply holding onto your former home rather than selling it, the expense of employing a Laurel property manager will materially reduce the cash benefit your rental promises to throw your way.
In fact, many new landlords don’t seriously consider hiring a property manager. It’s an offshoot of their own long-time home owning experience. They’ve learned to handle the residential maintenance issues that crop up from time to time, so it seems unnecessary to hire a professional manager for the occasional problems they know how to solve themselves. They may acknowledge that there will be twice as much to handle, it still may seem to be a needless extravagance. After all, the two great benefits of becoming a landlord are to build equity and generate income, so why give away part of the latter?
One cogent reason is the principal difference between managing a rental and your own household. In your own home, you aren’t answerable to any outside entity. When a faucet starts leaking or a circuit breaker blows, you are free to ignore it until the weekend or whenever it’s most convenient. That’s simply not true for a conscientious landlord. Even with a cooperative, understanding tenant, in a way, you almost become your tenant’s employee (or at least it can seem that way when the phone rings at an inconvenient moment). A good tenant rightfully expects his residence to be maintained promptly and diligently; it’s your part of the rental bargain.
Another factor that argues for opting for a reputable Laurel property manager goes to another difference between managing your own residence and a rental. The professional has so much experience in all aspects of property care that he or she is considerably more likely to have dealt with any given situation. Likewise for handling the technicalities of attracting and interviewing tenants, and seeing that contractual issues are completed correctly—tasks that need to be handled with legal exactitude.
There are plenty of reasons that can make hiring a property manager a sensible move, starting with those quality of life issues—your life! For retirees or others with abundant spare time, they may not be as significant; but for fully-employed persons, the time factor and necessity to “be on call” can be crucial. I always recommend giving the professional management option full consideration. Of course it’s always possible for a first-time landlord to test the waters for a while before making the decision—though it’s important to realize that one false step can escalate into costly legal troubles when it comes to national and state civil codes, fair housing laws, and tenant rights. Ignorance of the law will be no excuse for do-it-yourself landlords who are unlucky enough to find themselves on the wrong side of a tenant dispute—so be sure to educate yourself and have access to a reputable Laurel landlord-tenant attorney
- Written by Russell Stucki
The Rent Also Rises (with sincere apologies to E. Hemingway)
“WHY YOUR RENT CHECK JUST KEEPS GOING UP” was the headline in CNN Money’s real estate special report last month, which could have explained to Laurel renters why it is that U.S. rents keep rising faster than home values. After all, that doesn’t seem to make sense!
The list of reasons was long, and taken all together, fairly convincing:
· Millennials are renting longer
· Housing inventory is tight and getting tighter
· The housing crash scared those who would otherwise have become homeowners
· Baby Boomers are downsizing
· Rental construction slowed when confidence sank after the housing crisis
It all comes down to demand and supply—less of the latter, more of the former. Although the author may have exaggerated a detail or two (“…there just aren’t enough ‘For Rent’ signs to keep up with the demand”), more than one Laurel renter will probably agree with the gist of the piece: rents have been on the rise long enough that it makes you want to think about the alternative: buying.
Some of the more extreme cases are urban: in San Francisco and Denver, for instance, renters have seen yearly increases of 15% and 11.6%, respectively, according to Zillow. Laurel renters can find themselves in something of a bind, though—since those higher rent bills make saving for a down payment more difficult. It’s just one reason. Per CNN, “There are a bunch of things keeping renters on the sidelines, meaning “the folks that would be normally making the switch to become homeowners are still taking up the rental units.”
The result: more units remain occupied, vacancies go down; rentable units remain scarce…so prices renters pay continue to go up.
Will this Catch-22 situation persist forever? Most likely not: the broad economic news is that this year’s steady job growth coupled with the pronounced turnaround in builder confidence is likely to loosen the supply stranglehold. Last Tuesday, there was also the kind of news that can prompt builders to really get going: government data showed purchases of new U.S. homes surged (particularly in the Northeast and West), with sales of new homes soaring 24% so far in 2015. That’s the best showing since 2007.
- Written by Russell Stucki