AirBNB – Here to Stay?

The world of travel has been recently revolutionized by Airbnb – an innovative company that allows travelers to have a more home-roots experience when venturing to new cities.

Available in over 191+ counties, the site gives home owners an opportunity to capitalize on empty rooms or vacant apartments. It describes itself  as “a social website that connects people who have space to share with those who are looking for a place to stay”.

While Airbnb certainly makes travel more convenient, more affordable and let’s face it – more fun, a few cities are concerned with their casual approach to the travel industry and argue that it is contributing to the current housing crisis.

Should we, as homeowners/renters in one of the most populated cities in the country be concerned with the growth of Airbnb?


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To start, some lawmakers are anti-Airbnb because it allows people to make money without having to pay hotel taxes. The company charges guest a 9-12% service fee on every reservation made, as well as charging hosts a 3% fee.  Worth over $10 billion dollars, the company’s current valuation exceeds that of many global hotel chain. It has lessened our reliance on traditional hotels and motels – which ultimately means that the hospitality industry is losing money. In fact, HVS estimated that hotels lose approximately $450 million in direct revenues per year to AirBnb.

Beyond this financial impact, the popularity of Airbnb could ultimately be contributing to the rising cost of living in your city. It is more profitable for home owners to offer short-term rentals (think $150 a night) rather than long-term monthly rental agreements – think $150/night vs $800/month!

According to research done by Vice, this issue is aggravated in cities where vacancy rates are low and rental rates are historically high. Bennett Baumer, an organizer with the Housing Conservation Coordinators, shared, “Airbnb is exacerbating the affordability crisis and the general anyone-looking-for-an-apartment crisis by taking almost 20,000 apartments out of the market.” While this powerful statement was made in reference to New York City, Los Angeles no doubt fits the “low vacancy rates, historically high rent” description and it is likely that this issue translates over to the West coast.

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Further, renters who list who list their apartments or homes on the site may very well be in breach of their rental agreements. People who use their spare rooms to make quick cash on Airbnb without approval from their land-lord or the home owner, may find themselves evicted or in court! While Airbnb encourages its users to be “responsible hosts” and check renting laws and lease agreements prior to listing their spaces, the company does not take responsibilities for any legal issues that may arise.

On a more personal note, there is always the risk of bringing loud, irresponsible and reckless groups into your home/neighborhood. While you have the opportunity to screen and ultimately decline guests, the site does not require background checks. There have been instances of neighbors or fellow tenants reporting properties that are illegally renting out their homes.


In family friendly Redondo Beach, it is easy to see why your neighbors may be wary of you listing your home on Airbnb. While we see both the pros & cons of Airbnb, we urge you to be cautious if you are considering listing your home on the site. If you currently in a lease, be sure to double check your rental agreement and run the idea by your landlord. If you are a homeowner, we advise being open with your neighbors and selective in your guest selection.

Do you have an Airbnb experience you would like to share with us? We would love to hear more 🙂

 

 

Con’s of Contingent Offers

Looking at a real estate purchase agreement can be overwhelming…Even the name of the contract is an unnecessary mouthful (Residential Purchase Agreement and Joint Escrow Instructions). Each page is full of confusing terms & dense explanations. One area of a contract that a majority of people have trouble comprehending is the “contingency clauses.”

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According to Investopedia: “A contingency defines a condition or action that must be met in order for a real estate contract to become binding. These becomes part of a binding sales contract when both parties (i.e., the seller and the buyer) agree to the terms and sign the contract.”

Basically, a contingency is generally put into a contract as a way for the buyer to back out of a sale if something goes wrong  without losing their full deposit.

There are two main kinds of contingency clauses within a Residential Purchase Agreement there are :

  1. Appraisal Contingency: This requires hiring a third party to determine the current fair-market value of the home. If the appraised value is lower than the sale price, the buyer is given the option to cancel the deal. Buyers still have the option to move forward with the sale , but should remember that a lender will only provide money based on the APPRAISED COST, not the agreed upon sale price. You could also chose to waive this contingency entirely when writing an offer, but this could drastically raise the amount you pay out of pocket.
  2. Home Inspection Contingency: This allows the buyer to have the home professionally inspected and then, based on the inspection results, to request repairs to be made by the seller. If the seller refuses to make the requested fixes, the buyer is given the option to back out of the sale. A good home inspection looks for major issues (such as foundation problems or mold), but also examines the functionality of the home’s major systems (such as water heaters). Again, a buyer could choice to waive this contingency clause but we generally do not suggest it.

 

It is important not to confuse these contingency clauses with a contingent offer!

 

A contingent offer is an offer that is reliant on the sale of your buyer’s home. Generally speaking, contracts contingent upon the buyer’s sale of his home do not even enter escrow and or being inspections, appraisals, etc until the buyer actually sells his/her home. We suggest caution when it comes to accepting a contingent offer for a few reasons:

  1. Once you accept a contingent offer, the MLS will require your to change the status of your listing.. meaning that it will be listed as “pending” or “contingent”rather than “active”. While this does not completely remove your home from search sites, it will limit it’s visibility or marketability. Buyers and agents are less willing to take the time to see or make offers when a home is not 100% available, which makes it more difficult to line up a back-up buyer.
  2.   It is stressful  enough worrying about selling your own home.. but accepting a contingent offer means that you are now dependent on the sale of second home. You also have no say in how this home is marketed or how proactive the owner’s/owner’s agents are being. This scenario could increase your stress level, drag out the sale of your home and culminate in a frustrating outcome.

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However, there are exceptions to the general rule.. and each situation must be evaluated individually. For example, if the buyer’s home is in the last stages of escrow then accepting their contingent offer is a much lower risk. It might be worth considering if it is your only offer OR if their offer is significantly better than any other offer you have.

In general though we suggest to avoid contingent offers by asking the buyer to remove the sale contingency and replacing it with a longer escrow. This gives the buyer more time to sell their home, but compensates you for your time by allowing you to keep their deposit. If the buyer is unwilling to do so, you could always suggest that the buyer resubmits an offer once his or her home is sold.

 

Creating An Eco-Friendly Home

From solar panels to green-lifestyle dating sites (yes, those are a thing!), it is hard to miss the emergence of new products/lifestyle options that take eco-friendly living to a whole new level!

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While it is inspiring to see more Californians opting for a less harmful existence, many still view taking on a greener lifestyle as a daunting and expensive endeavor! We have devoted this week’s blog post to putting together a list of simple, cost-effective, and in a few cases, fun tips to help make your home more eco-friendly. You do not have to implement all the suggestions below, but try to pick one that seems feasible and go for it!

Anything else you’re interested in is not going to happen if you can’t breathe the air and drink the water. Don’t sit this one out. Do something. – Carl Sagan

Upgrade Your Insulation & Windows

Adding insulation to prevent leaky  walls, windows, doors and duct can reduce your home’s energy usage up to 20 or 30 percent. If totally updating your insulation is too expensive for your fall budget, consider trying out thermal shades. These shades are made not only to block the sun in the summer, but also to retain heat in the winter! Energy-efficient windows also help to better insulate your home. Check out this article by House Logic to learn more about the importance of efficient windows and to find the best models for the most reasonable prices.

Opt for Fragrance-Free Products

Conventional fragrances often contain chemicals that may be harmful to the ecosystem when washed down the drain. If you like your soaps, cleaning products, or cosmetics to smell good (we certainly do!) read the labels to find ones that are made with essential oils. Real Simple offers a huge selection of all-natural cleaning solutions! This helpful blog post also provides a list (and reviews!) of the best eco-friendly cleaning products for your home.

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Low-Flow Your Bathroom

Flushing toilets accounts for 30%  of indoor water use! An average family can reduce water used for toilets by 20 to 60 percent and save $$ in water costs by replacing old toilets with newer WaterSense labeled models.  While you are in the bathroom, go ahead and install a low-flow shower head as well. Also, regularly check your toilets and faucets for leaks.

Replace Your Lightbulbs

Save up to 66% of energy by replacing all of your incandescent lightbulbs with Compact Fluorescent Lightbulbs! Beyond saving energy, CFLs also last up to 6 times as long as incandescent bulbs. (Saving money and time!) Also, turn off the lights when you leave a room.. or consider installing automatic timers in your forgetful teen’s room!

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Cool Down Your Clothes.

According to Huffington Post a huge amount of energy goes into heating water to wash your clothes. Try selecting the “cold water cycle” on your washing machine next time you throw in a load! Also, always make sure you are washing a full load every time. Running a full cycle for just a few towels or a pair of pants uses a substantial amount of water!

Grow An Indoor Garden

Living plants such as the Gerbera Daisy can act as natural air filters and help to improve indoor air quality. Check out this full list of 15 houseplants that not only brighten up a room, but help to absorb harmful pollutants throughout your home!

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Create a Recycling or Compost Station

Nearly half of the trash that a home produces is made up of food scraps. Rather than sending these scraps to the dumb, why not get a compost bin at your house and use those scraps to make fertilizer for your garden?! Get creative and build your own…(or check out these top-selling Amazon options!)

 

We are working to implement these changes in our own homes, so we are open to any tips or suggestions  our readers have!

 

HOAs .. & YOU!

When you purchase a townhouse, condo or any property within a planned development, you are required to join that development’s homeowners’ associations (HOA) which includes paying a monthly or annual HOA fee.

Generally, the HOA is in charge of the upkeep of common areas, landscaping and the buildings themselves.  Each HOA is unique however, and the responsibilities (and fee amount) of each varies based on the development and the amenities that it has. A more upscale complex may include a wide range of facilities such as swimming pools, clubhouses, fitness rooms, security gates and tennis courts.

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Also, beyond keeping the grounds in good condition, an HOA also sets the “code of rules” that governs life within a development. This set of rules must be followed by all residents and is known as the CC&Rs (covenants, conditions & restrictions). CC&Rs may dictate a variety of things: from the types of vehicles that may be parked on the street to fence height restrictions to the color of your window frames. If you, as a homeowner, decide to break one of these rules, you must appeal to the HOA to grant you a variance.  While CC&Rs are a great way to keep a neighborhood consistent, they could pontially limit your creative juices when it comes to decorating your home!

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An HOA is beneficial, because it ensures that all residents are equally responsible for maintaining the condition of their community. This helps to guarantee a high quality of life, while also preserving property values for the units within the development.

However, HOA fees do tack on an additional cost when it comes to owning a home and it is essential to factor that cost into your price of living. Average HOA fees are generally around $400 a month, but could run less or more based on the amount of amenities.

Another responsibility of a homeowner’s association is plan for the long-term well being of the community. That means looking ahead to larger scale repairs and improvements that will need to be made in the future. Each HOA holds a reserve fund, which is kept to pay for these long term projects, as well as any emergencies that may arise. However, if the reserve fund is inadequate, the association may require all occupants to pay a “special assessment” in order to supply the necessary funds. Special assessments may occur at any time.. meaning another unexpected cost for development residents.

HOAs are either professionally managed or are run by residents within the development. There are pros and cons to both scenarios, so we recommend getting in touch with the HOA prior to joining the development. It is a good idea to get a feel for the way that the development is run and to evaluate who is making the decisions that will affect your daily life. You can also find out specifics about that exact homeowner’s association.

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Some good questions to ask:

                                          – What services are covered by your HOA dues?

– Are there any services for which you have to pay extra?

– How often do fee increases occur, and by what percentage?

– Are any special assessments planned for the immediate future?

As a homeowner (especially one paying HOA fees) it is always better to be over educated, than under educated. Stay involved in your community, be aware of the CC&Rs and take full advantage of the perks of having a homeowner’s association!

Title.

 

In California, title to real property may be held individuals in either Sole Ownership or in Co-Ownership (when held by two or more persons). In each instance, there are a number of variations as to exactly how title may be held. In this blog, we will discuss 8 of the most common situations.

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  1. Title may be held as a single man or woman who is not legally married
  2. You may hold title as an unmarried man or woman. This is different from holding title as a single man/woman because it refers to someone has has been legally divorced or who has dissolved a registered domestic partnership.
  3. If a married man/woman or a registered domestic partner desires to hold title in his or her name alone, he or she may do so with consent from the spouse/partner. Consent is given through a quitclaim deed that relinquishes all right or interest in the property. Thus, it is possible to hold sole and separate property, even if legally married.
  4. As defined in the California Civil Code, community property is property that has been acquired by either a husband or wife. When real property is conveyed to a married man or woman (or those in a domestic partnership), it becomes community property unless otherwise specified. This gives both spouses the right to dispose of exactly half of the property. If one spouse was to pass away, their half of the community property would automatically transfer to the surviving spouse. However, it is possible to leave one’s share of the property to a third party via a will.
  5. The Civil Code defines joint tenancy  as “owned by two or more persons in equal shares, by title created by a single will or transfer when expressly declared in the will or transfer to be joint tenancy.” Each share is equal. This style of holding title is made unique by the “right of survivorship” which declares that when a member hold joint tenancy dies, his or her interest in the property is automatically given to the survivor. A major advantage is that probate costs and delays are avoided when a joint tenant dies. However, it is important to note that property held in joint tenancy is not susceptible to being transferred to a third party by a will.
  6. Similar to joint tenancy, tenancy in common occurs when co-owners hold undivided interests, BUT these shares do not need to be equal or established at the same time. Another difference is that there is no right of survivorship, meaning that upon death each person may vest his or her interest to an heir.  A disadvantage to this is that the remaining tenant in common could wind up co-owning property with a stranger.
  7. Married couples and domestic partners have the ability to hold title as community property with right of survivorship, meaning that no share of the property may be given to anyone other than the surviving spouse or partner. This must be specified in writing that is signed by the grantees.
  8. Lastly, title to real property may be held in a living trust. In this scenario, a trustee would hold the legal and equitable title to the property for the beneficiary who is to retrain all of the rights and responsibilities. There are many advantages to a living trust, including avoidance of probate costs and delays. Further, until the death or disability of the trust creator, the property in the living trust is treated normally.

This chart from Fidelity helps to clarify:

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As a home owner, it is essential to not only familiarize yourself with the various ways to hold title, but also to be certain as to how you are holding title to your real property.

This knowledge is important because it may influence many tax and legal consequences during your life time and how (and whether) the property is transferred to your heirs when you die.

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There are significant tax and legal consequences that stem from how you hold title. We strongly encourage contacting an attorney and/or CPA for specific advice on how you should actually vest your title.

 

 

STOP in the name of Low Mortgage Rates

Seriously, stop what you are doing.

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BECAUSE, low mortgage rates = amazing opportunities for buyers, sellers, or homeowners looking to refinance!

While rates on mortgages change daily, they are currently holding steady at near record lows. In fact, according to the Bankrate.com rates have not been this low since December 2012!  The graphic below demonstrates the drop in rates from just last week.

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Both 15-year and 30-year mortgage rates are down more than 0.5% since the start of the year.

What does this mean for buyers?

This drop in rates means that those looking to buy have experienced a purchase power increase of 7%…meaning that buyers who could afford an $800,000 home in December can now afford an $852,000 home!  For many on the house-hunt, this increase in purchase power could put their dream home just in reach!

What does this mean for sellers?

Lower mortgage rates translate to a surplus of buyers looking to take advantage of their higher purchasing power; which means you, as a seller, have the ability to get top dollar for your home! More active buyers are out looking increases the desirability of your home.. making it a hot commodity.

What does this mean for refinancers?

Refinancing gives a homeowner access to a new mortgage loan which replaces the existing one. The details of the new loan’s mortgage rate, loan length in years, and amount borrowed can customized by the homeowner. Thus, refinancing during a period of lower mortgage rates could benefit borrowers by lowering their monthly housing payments and/or shortening the term of their mortgage.

For a personalized rate, check out this helpful site: http://themortgagereports.com/ratequote/

Remember: Mortgage rates change quickly and there is no guarantee that these rates will last. Whether you are a seller or a buyer, it is time to take advantage of the current market!

R E A P – Find Out What It Means To Me .. & You!

Ever been scanning across apartment listings in LA and been confused by the statement “Property in REAP. Looking for an all-cash buyer”? You are not alone. Read on for a brief synopsis on the program and whom it affects.

What exactly is REAP?

The Rent Escrow Account Program has been established by the City of Los Angeles and exists to resolve health, safety and habitability issues found in rental properties. It essentially functions to protect tenants from unsound housing, while also preserving the value of LA’s properties and housing developments.

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How does REAP work?

Rental properties and units get placed in REAP if they do not correct cited health, safety and Housing Code violations within the allotted time. This placement may be appealed by the landlord, but once the decision to put a property into REAP is finalized a rent reduction is put in place. Based on the severity of the violations, the reduction may be between 10% to 50% of the monthly rent.

The tenant may continue to pay the reduced monthly rate to the landlord or he or she can opt to send the payments to an escrow account established by the Housing & Community Investment Department of Los Angeles (HCIDLA).

Tenants will be alerted that their rental property is in REAP via mail or by a visit from one of REAP’s outreach counselors. An outreach counselor is assigned to every case and is accountable for educating the tenants and the landlord on their respective rights and responsibilities within the program.

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How is the property owner affected?

Once a property or unit is put into REAP, the HCIDLA also records a notice on the property’s title. This notice alerts potential buyers and their lenders, that there is a problem with the property.. which means that no one will lend to the owner or attempt to buy the property using a loan – this is why REAP properties are required to sell for cash. The owner is also charged a monthly administration fee of $50. Owners are further negatively impacted by spending more money on repairs while simultaneously being required to lower rental rents.

How does a property get taken OUT of REAP?

 A property remains in REAP until the HCIDLA can verify that the violations have been  resolved and that all the issues have been signed off on by a Department inspector.  Once the HDICLA confirms that Los Angeles Department of Water and Power bills have all been paid off, the City Council will evaluate (and most likely) approve the property’s removal from the program. Tenants will be alerted by mail that the property has been removed from the program and that required rent has been reverted back to it’s normal rate. It is important to note that if a tenant has been paying rent through an escrow account that they are required to return to directly paying his or her landlord.

Know your responsibilities as a land lord so REAP does not happen to you, as well as your rights as tenant when it comes to the quality of your rental property.

For more information on the Rent Escrow Account Program, check out the HDCILA’s info page: http://hcidla.lacity.org/what-is-reap-for-renters

What can Props 58 and 193 do for you?

By: Cathy Strini

As real estate agents, it is our fiduciary duty to act in the best interest for our clients. This requires us to constantly expand our areas of expertise.. from termite infestations to mortgage applications, we deal with it all! We also realize the value in sharing our acquired knowledge and educating our clients (and blog-readers). Knowledge is power..and often can lead to saving you or your loved ones thousands of dollars! Today we will be introducing Propositions 58 and 193 and their significance in the current real estate market.

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In California, real property* is reassessed at market value if it is sold or transferred. A home is generally taxed at 1% of it’s assessed value, meaning that in today’s market your property taxes may increase dramatically following a reassessment.

For example:  Imagine you bought your home in 1996 for $110,000. The original property tax would be $1,100 a year. Assume that you now want to sell or transfer the home and it is worth $1 million in the current market. The new owner would pay property tax on $1 million, or $10,000 the first year.

If you are selling your home to stranger, this increase in property tax probably means nothing to you. However, if you are looking to transfer your home to your child or grand-child this significant increase in annual property taxes may be off-putting.

Introducing Propositions 58 & 193 (codified by Section 63.1 of the Revenue and Taxation Code):

These constitutional initiatives provide property tax relief for real property transfers from parents to children (58) and from grandparents to grandchildren (193). Essentially, Props 58 and 193  exclude these home transfers from reassessment which makes it easier (and more affordable) to keep property in the family.

This exception, however, is contingent upon certain conditions, namely that the proper application is filled out within 3 years of the transfer date. We want to highlight a few of the other requirements/stipulations of the propositions.

  1. Transfers of primary residences have no value limit. So, even if your home is worth $4,000,000 in the current market, your child may still pay taxes as if it is still worth the $450,000 you originally paid for it. It is important to know, your primary residence does have to have a Homeowners exemption recorded on title prior to the transfer to reap this benefit.  Note: The amount that is taxed can be increased by a maximum of 2% each year. Thus, the property tax may have increased since you first purchased the home.
  2. If you are transferring property that is not your primary residence, the first $1 million is exempt from reassessment. This means that while multiple non-residence properties may be transferred, the cumulative exclusion amount may not exceed $1 million. Note: The million dollar exclusion applies separately for each transferor. Thus,  there is a $2 million limit to property owned by an eligible married couple.
  3. Eligible children are defined as:
    1. Any child born of the parents
    2. Any stepchild while the relationship of stepparent and stepchild exists
    3. Any son-in-law or daughter-in-law of the parent(s). Spouses of eligible children are also eligible until divorce or, if terminated by death, until the remarriage of the surviving spouse, stepparent, or parent-in-law.
    4. Any adopted child who was adopted before the age of 18.
  4. An eligible grandchild for purposes of Proposition 193 is any child of parent(s) who qualify as child(ren) of the grandparents as of the date of transfer.
  5. Transfers by sale, gift or inheritance qualify for the exclusion. The person doing the transfer, who can only be the parent or the child, must own the home.
  6. Important note for Prop 193: The parent of the grandchild must be deceased as of the date of the transfer.

A little research could save your children or grandchildren a significant amount of money! However, we have worked with enough families to know that sometimes the worth of a family home is not just weighed in it’s market value, but in the memories and love it also holds. Make it easier to keep property in the family by taking advantage of Props 58 and 193.

Remember, the exclusion does not happen automatically. You must complete a “Claim for Reassessment Exclusion for Transfer between Parent to Child” (Prop 58) or a “Claim for Reassessment Exclusion for Transfer from Grandparent to Grandchild” (Prop 193) form within 3 years of the transfer. Copies of each form are attached below. For more detailed information, check out the sites below. Feel free to fact-check and let us know what additional facts you would have liked us to include.

http://www.boe.ca.gov/proptaxes/faqs/propositions58.htm

http://www.sfaa.org/mar2008/0803ogrady.html

*Real property is defined as any property that is attached directly to land, as well as the land itself.

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Congratulations to the Griggs!

By: Michelle Accetta and Lauren Weber

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We were so fortunate to have met the Grigg Family through our friend Heather Valentine,  aka @onefitmother, and had a hunch that if they were friends of hers they were going to be nothing short of amazing. Our instincts were right!  From the moment we met them they exuded the same positive energy that Heather has and we were instantly impressed with their parenting skills. With four little ones under their belt, they sure made parenting look easy!

One of the reasons we love what we do… we get to meet inspiring people like the Griggs. The Griggs family atmosphere was what really inspired us. Their family operates from a place of love. Amy and Nathan are such amazing parents, their children are inquisitive, bright and extremely well behaved (we think they should write a book – they really are that great). From our experiece with them, we saw that as parents the Grigg’s are always acting for what is best for their family and always looking to expand the minds of their children. A great example of this is at the close of escrow, Nathan held their one year old , Gwen, who wanted to touch the chandelier in the kitchen. From our experience, most parents would ignore the request or even scold the child for making it. Instead, Nathan let her touch the chandelier and explore what happened when she touched it. We can see from this short glimpse into their world that learning and growing is really supported in their home. We imagine each and every one of them to do big things in this world because of their supportive family atmosphere and the encouragement of curiosity and wonder!

It was a family affair every time we showed the Griggs a house and no one was left out. They packed up the kids, headed out, and always showed up with a cheerful attitude. Because the Griggs knew exactly where they wanted to live, what qualities they needed in their home, and what their nonnegotiables were, it made identifying a home for them very easy. They would apologized for being “picky” when they would immediately say “no” to a potential home, but knowing what they wanted made the search process quick. We assured them that being “picky” was a good thing, because it meant they knew what they wanted. Finding a home really is mostly a process of elimination and identifying your “must haves” and “nonnegotiables”.

Here are three tips to help identify your home quickly and efficiently:
1. Location, Location, Location!
If you are unsure of where you’d like to live, start driving around the different neighborhoods you are open to and eliminating the areas and streets you can not see yourself living in. This way when a home comes on the market you don’t waste your time  driving to the property, arriving to an area you know you would never live in and then contemplate a kitchen remodel when the whole thing is wrong from the start. Believe us  you will save your self precious time and energy this way. Visit the different neighborhoods at different hours of the day. If you can narrow down your ideal neighborhood first, you are in good shape!

2. Must Haves and Nonnegotiables
Make a list of your top three “must haves” or “nonnegotiables”. If there is more than one decision maker in the buying process be sure to have an open discussion about what these items are. You may be surprised at what is important to everyone involved, make no assumptions!  ie: can not be on a busy streets, close to the freeway, must have a large yard, must have a walk-in closet, can not have a death on the property in recent years, etc.

3. Are you willing to do work to the house?
Knowing whether or not you are willing to do work to the house is important in the beginning stages of your process. If you are open to doing work, set aside a budget so you know once  you view the home if the amount of work needed to make it what you want is worth the time and money.

Thank you again to the Griggs for allowing us the privilege of representing you in your home buying journey. It was great getting to know your loving family.