Too Good to Be True: How to Tell if a Home Listing is a Fake

Too Good to Be True: How to Tell if a Home Listing is a FakeWith so many ways for individuals to find properties for sale, it may seem tempting to skip working with a real estate broker altogether. The bad news is that there are reasons that real estate agents must pass tests and maintain their licenses – the real estate industry is one that many people would love to exploit.

At Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties we have heard too many stories about individuals thinking they found their dream home for an unbelievable price, only to find out that it literally should not have been believed – it was fake. The easiest way to avoid this is to work with a Realtor who can provide qualified real estate listings. You can also keep reading to find out how to tell if a property listing is real or fake.

Potential issues with online real estate listings

The bottom line when it comes to internet listings is that there are few regulations about what can be posted and what can’t. There are many situations that can arise when you look at homes on the internet instead of a trusted source. For example, the home may have already been sold but not been removed. It may be that a link farm has posted a home for sale that is not for sale simply so they can get traffic to their website.

Another common issues with online property listings is that the home could be in pre-foreclosure. This means that a Notice of Default has been filed against it, which may mean that it will be up for auction but not for months – and most homes that have a NOD filed against them do not ever make it to the auction block.

Potential issues with homes printed for sale in the newspaper

If you see a home listed for sale in your local newspaper you should look to ensure it is listed as a “new listing.” If it is not then it is most likely already listed in the MLS. The agent may list it in the newspaper with no address and just their phone number. This is often a ploy to get you to call them.

It is common practice for a newspaper to prohibit a real estate agent from advertising a home if it’s not already listed in the MLS. That said, they may give the agent 48 hours to add the listing. As a result, if you do see something you like in the newspaper then you should contact Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties as soon as possible to get you more information on the listing.

If you are ready to find the home of your dreams then we hope you will contact us at 310-373-0021 right away. We have access to the most up to date listings in the area and can provide you with qualified leads so you don’t waste your time.

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Do You Want to Sell Your Home in the Winter? Follow These 5 Tips

Do You Want to Sell Your Home in the Winter? Follow These 5 Tips

Even in California, where most of the state does not see freezing-cold winters, it is not uncommon for a person who wants to sell their home to hear that they should not try to sell a home during the winter months. While it is true that winter months tend to be slower for moving inventory, this does not mean you shouldn’t try – and there can even be advantages to selling in winter months.

If you are considering taking the plunge this winter then we urge you to contact Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties at 310-373-0021. In the meantime, read on for five tips for selling property in the winter – and check out our additional tips for sellers.

  1. Make your home move-in-ready
  2. No matter what time of year you are interested in selling your home, making it move-in ready is an excellent way to get more buyers interested. Buyers who can see themselves moving into your home as-is are likely to be much more motivated buyers – which can mean a faster sale and a higher price. Making it move-in ready does not have to mean remodeling the entire kitchen. A few coats of paint, new faucets, and new flooring can be enough.

  3. Set a reasonable price
  4. Again, this is good advice any time of year but especially in winter when you are likely to have more competition and fewer buyers – set your home at a reasonable price. It is important not to be emotional when setting the price. It should be set based on comparable properties in the area – not what you paid for the property or what you’ve put into it.

  5. Leave your home on the market during the holidays
  6. The advice of the past always included taking a home off the market around Thanksgiving and re-listing it after the beginning of the year. This is not recommended. It’s true that some homeowners do not want to deal with the hassle of selling a home during the holiday season – which means you will have less competition. Many potential buyers travel during the holidays and it may be the only time they have to check out homes in an area they’re about to move to.

  7. Use the lack of inventory to your advantage
  8. Home sell throughout the year. While many sellers get nervous when there are dips in inventory, because they believe this is a sign that it’s not a good time to sell, the opposite can be true: Get your home on the market while your competition is minimal.

  9. Look for pictures of spring and summer
  10. When you’re looking for your MLS listing, look for exterior shots on bright summer or spring days. The unfortunate thing about winter is that it can look a little drab and depressing. The more light you can get shining on your home, the more appealing it is likely to be.

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7 Tips to Improve Your Chances of Getting Approved for a Mortgage When You’re Self-Employed

7 Tips to Improve Your Chances of Getting Approved for a Mortgage When You’re Self-Employed

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 15 million people in the United States who are self-employed. There are many advantages to being your own boss but there can be downsides as well. One big downside is getting approved for loans – especially mortgage loans.

At Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties we are proud to offer full services for real estate buyers. Keep reading to find out more about how a self-employed person can increase their chances of getting approved for a mortgage. Then contact us at 310-373-0021 if you are ready to start the process of buying or selling a home.

Some aspects of the process are the same for everyone

Whether you’re a W2 employee or self-employed, you will have to fill out an application and you will need to provide documentation of your income. The requirements for down payments, debt-to-income ratios, and credit scores are the same for people who are self-employed. The main difference in this part of the process is that self-employed people must provide the 1040 form from their tax returns while wage earners will need only their W2s.

Your net income is likely lower than it would be for a wage earner

One thing that can get in the way for a self-employed person is the fact that are often eligible to write off many of their expenses. This is great when it comes to lowering their tax burden but it can also lower their net income – which negatively affects their debt-to-income ratio. Some lenders consider self-employed people to be higher risk and will charge them higher interest rates.

The seven steps you can take to increase your chances of being approved

Though not all self-employed people would be eligible to complete these seven steps, each of them can have an impact on loan approval:

  1. Register and license your company.
  2. Keep separate bank accounts for business and personal needs.
  3. Pay yourself a W2 wage.
  4. Pay off debt.
  5. Lower your deductions
  6. Keep great records if income and expenses.
  7. Be ready to make a larger down payment.

Again, you may not be able to do all of these – for example, it does not make sense to pay yourself a W2 wage if you are the only employee of your company – but following just one or two of these tips can make a difference.

Remember that while there may be more hoops to jump through, it is not impossible for you to get approved for a mortgage. The number of self-employed Americans has been rising in recent years and many mortgage lenders are making adjustments to reflect these changes. To find out more about what your options are in buying a home, work with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties by calling 310-373-0021.

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4 Ways to Make Money in the California Real Estate Market

4 Ways to Make Money in the California Real Estate Market

If you’re like many people, the idea of investing in the California real estate market is an exciting prospect. However, it’s also a frightening prospect. How do you get started? What are your best long-term options or short-term money makers?

At Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties we work tirelessly to help our clients buy and sell property. Keep reading for four ideas on how you can make money in the California real estate market and then contact us at 310-373-0021 so we can help you get started.

  1. Invest in up and coming areas
  2. Real estate appreciation is one of the most popular ways to invest in real estate. It refers to buying a property and then letting it increase in value. This can be a smart way to make money but it takes some luck and a lot of research. It is often the case that by the time the public knows an area’s real estate values are skyrocketing, investors have already scooped up the cheap properties.

    Another option that falls under this category is flipping houses. For this to work, you need enough capital to buy a home and pay for significant upgrades – but the potential for profit is huge. You begin by buying a property in a great location but that is in disrepair. You purchase it as-is, make changes to improve the resale value, and then sell for a tidy profit.

  3. Rental properties
  4. Also known as cash-flow income, rental properties are a great potential option to make money on real estate. Options include buying an entire rental building, buying an office building and renting to commercial tenants, buying a home to rent to an individual, or buying a condo. In some areas, you can buy a home and immediately rent it to make more money than your mortgage payment is. Others buy duplexes, rent out half, and have their mortgage payment covered by their tenant’s rent checks.

  5. Get involved in the real estate industry
  6. You do not have to buy and sell or rent property to make money in the real estate industry. Another option is to get involved as a real estate broker and make a commission on properties that are bought and sold by your clients. This does require passing a test and maintaining a professional license and it can be a challenge to get clients. Other options include property management, staging, and other real-estate adjacent services.

  7. Ancillary real estate investment income
  8. If you already have a real estate investment then ancillary real estate investment income can be a huge bonus. It involves things like adding vending machines in a commercial building you own, or laundry facilities that you charge to use. These are essentially small businesses within the properties you own.

If you are ready to buy or sell a property then we urge you to contact Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties at 310-373-0021 now. We can help you find just what you are looking for.

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5 Affordable Ways to Make Your Affordable Home Look Like a Luxury Home

5 Affordable Ways to Make Your Affordable Home Look Like a Luxury Home

Not everyone can afford to buy a luxury home. At Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties we are here to help you buy or sell a home no matter what your price range. However, once you get into that dream home you may want to help it look a little more luxurious. Today we are here to offer some tips to help you do just that. Read on for those fantastic tips and then call us at 310-373-0021 if you are interested in buying or selling a home.

  1. Get rid of clutter
  2. This tip is not only affordable, it can actually make you money. One of the easiest ways to make your home feel like a luxury home is to get rid of the clutter. This includes accessories, electronics, and anything that makes a room feel busy. It may even involve getting rid of furniture you don’t need, such as large foot rests or extra coffee tables. If it does not have a function and get used regularly, then it can go. Have a yard sale to make a few bucks off of the items you are getting rid of.

  3. Focus on your window treatments
  4. One of the most cost-effective ways to make a home instantly feel more glamorous is to invest in window treatments. You can switch out your current window treatments with high-end fabrics or unique textures. If you get rid of cheap blinds and add your own draperies, you may be shocked to see what a difference it makes.

  5. Light up your space
  6. Changing out your lighting does not cost much but it can make a big difference in a number of ways. First, the actual light fixtures you choose can be beautiful and add a touch of glamor. Second, adding more light can help highlight the glamorous areas of your home or that one special piece of art you have.

  7. Make your home lush
  8. Bringing in natural elements like plants and flowers is a great way to make a home feel lush – which can help make it feel more luxurious as well. Get a unique decorative vase at a local thrift store, then add flowers or greenery. Next time you walk into a luxurious home, pay attention to the plants and flowers in the space.

  9. If you can’t replace, reface
  10. If you have elements of your home that are less than luxurious, but are too expensive to replace right now, consider refacing them. For example, do you have flooring that has seen better days? Cover it up with a beautiful area rug. Do you have cheap cabinets in the kitchen? Make them look more luxurious with a coat of shiny paint.

These are just a few of the ways that you can take an affordable home and make it feel more luxurious. Of course, you have to start with the right home in the first place. You can find out more about how to find that perfect home by contact Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties at 310-373-0021.

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6 Potential Pitfalls to Beware of When Buying an Older Home

6 Potential Pitfalls to Beware of When Buying an Older Home

There are many things to love about moving into an older home but there are serious things to consider as well. At Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties we can help you buy a home no matter what you are looking for. That said, we always want our clients to know exactly what to expect from their home. Today we are going to cover some potential problems that you should look for when searching for an older home.

  1. Asbestos and lead should be looked for
  2. Asbestos was banned by the EPA but not only 1989. Any home built before then could potentially have asbestos in it. It is common for older homes to have already had the asbestos replaced but if they have not, then you should know that it is a costly process to do so. The same is true of lead paint. If the home was built before 1978, then lead paint was still legal. If the home still has lead paint, and there will be a child six years or younger living in the home, then federal law requires that the lead be removed.

  3. The foundation and sills should be thoroughly inspected
  4. Older homes can have foundations that have been cracked, are leaning, are sunken, or otherwise need repair. Remember that entire house sits on the foundation and even a minor issue can be a major problem. The sill plate should be checked thoroughly as well. As time goes on, it can be susceptible insects, water, or other elements. Both the foundation and the sills should be checked by a qualified inspector.

  5. Be on the lookout for electrical issues
  6. If you’re looking at a home that was built more than 50 years ago, then you are looking at a home that was built with an electrical system that’s not designed for today’s usage. For example, an older home may have knob and tube wiring, which was prevalent from the late 1800s through the 1930s. It involves single-insulated copper conductors that do not have the capacity to handle today’s electricity needs.

  7. Look into insurance costs
  8. It can be very expensive to insure an older house, especially if there are older electrical or plumbing systems. Some policies may be affordable but not cover any damage caused by these symptoms. The cost of insurance can significantly increase your monthly costs.

  9. Pay special attention to a roof
  10. Any home you are considering buying will need to have the roof inspected but this is even more true of an older home. Why? Because on many older homes, instead of replacing the roof, previous homeowners may have simply covered the roof with new shingles. This looks fine but will not stand up for decades the way a new roof would.

  11. Consider how much you are willing to spend on utilities
  12. Unless it has been significantly updated an older home is unlikely to be very energy efficient. In fact, when you talk to people who own older homes that is likely one of their first complaints: It is so expensive to heat and cool.

Does any of this mean that you should not buy an older home? No – it just means that you should take all the relevant factors into consideration. Talk to a real estate professional today to learn more about available homes for sale in your area.

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Are You Buying a Home with Solar Panels? Ask These 5 Questions First

Are You Buying a Home with Solar Panels? Ask These 5 Questions First

There are many advantages to buying a home with solar panels already installed. You get the benefits of significantly savings on your utilities but there can be downsides too. For example, if the seller bought them outright then you will own them when you buy the home. However, if the solar panels are leased, then you will have some responsibility.

To learn more about what you need to know before putting an offer in on a home with solar panels, keep reading. Then reach out to Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties at 310-373-0021 for additional tips for buying a home.

  1. Are the solar panels owned or leased?
  2. If the panels are owned then you are good to go. If they are leased, then you will need additional details about the contract. You will need to find out what the monthly fees are and how long the contract is for. A lease for solar panels can last from ten to twenty years and it may be quite expensive to buy out the system or roll the lease into the purchase price.

    In some cases, the solar lease can have escalating payments, which can cost significant money as time goes on. Make sure you ask to review the contract before you finalize the sale.

  3.  Who made the solar panels?
  4. Find out who the solar panel manufacturer was and do some research into them. The best scenario is that the panels were built in the United States because this means they are covered by the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act. This Act protects you from misleading warranty terms.

  5. Who installed the solar panels?
  6. Next, find out what company installed the solar panels. They can be the highest quality panels in the world, but if they were not properly installed then they are not likely to last as long as they should. Most solar panel installation companies should offer a warranty. Ideally, the warranty will be for ten years and will transfer to you when you buy the property.

  7. What’s the size of the solar system?
  8. The size of the system itself will have a big impact on how much it can save you on your monthly utility bills. When you are making a budget, you will need to know how much power it generally generates. You can ask the seller for previous energy bills to get proof of what it can do, or you can ask for more details about the system to find out the number of kilowatts it produces.

  9. Is net metering offered by the utility company?
  10. Net metering allows you to sell any excess electricity your system products back to the grid. If it is offered where you are buying a home, then it can lower your monthly bills even more. Just remember that some months may produce more excess solar power than others.

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How to Successfully Buy and Sell a Home at the Same Time

How to Successfully Buy and Sell a Home at the Same TimeIn a perfect world, you would be able to comfortably sell your home before buying another home. After all, no one wants to get stuck paying two mortgages. The unfortunate reality is that this is not often possible. At Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties we get questions all the time from potential clients about whether they should put their home on the market first or sell their home first.

The answer is not a simple one and many things must be considered. However, we want to stress that it is possible to buy a home and sell a home at the same time – and we can help you do it. Today we are going to share a few strategies that will help you do so successfully.

Have a home in mind to buy but don’t make an offer

One option is to always have a home in mind that you are ready to buy if your home gets an offer. We recommend having a few different suitable options in mind. This allows you to quickly get into a new home when your home sells, without having to worry about your home sitting on the market for months.

List your home for a fair price and offer a fair price

The key to buying and selling a home at the same time is to ensure that your home sells as quickly as possible. The best way to do that is to hire an appraiser and to get a fair price for your previous home. If you have all the time in the world then you may want to try and get top dollar, but if you are at risk of paying two mortgages, then you can save money in the long run by selling your home quickly for less compared to paying duel mortgages or three months just to make a few thousand extra dollars.

Consider the financial and credit implications of buying first versus selling first

There are a number of factors to consider when deciding if you should buy or sell first, including your financial situation. If you have a current mortgage then you may have a hard time getting approved for an additional mortgage because your debt-to-income ratio will be skewed. Yes, it makes moving easier if you buy first but it can be difficult to qualify for a second mortgage when you are still paying your previous mortgage.

There are options that give you more time within your home

There are also options that can allow you to sell your home but remain in it for a period of time. This is known as a rent-back agreement and it allows you to negotiate with the lenders and buyers to stay in the property for up to 90 days after the sale. Depending on the agreement, you may get a lower selling price or you may pay rent to the buyers. However, it could relieve some of the pressure of finding a new home.

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5 Tips to Follow When You Are Buying an Out-of-State Home

5 Tips to Follow When You Are Buying an Out-of-State Home

In a perfect world, a person would live in the same city they were buying a home in – or at least in the same state. The truth of the matter is that many people must buy a home in a state they have little experience with. At Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties we know how nerve-wracking this can be and we are here to help you through it. Keep reading for our best tips for buyers who are buying a home out of state, then contact us at 310-373-0021 for personalized help.

  1.  Research is your friend
  2. You should do oodles of research before buying any home but this is even more true when the home is out of state. You will have a qualified agent to help you find the right home, but you can also do your own research to find out which neighborhoods are best, what an average home costs, and more. It is true that the more information you have, the better your experience is likely to be.

  3. There is nothing as important as choosing the right real estate agent
  4. When you are moving to another state, you need a real estate agent to be your eyes and ears. You need to choose an agent who will take the time to understand what you want, what you need, and what you will not accept. If you find an agent who truly understands what you are searching for and does not waste your time trying to talk you into something above your budget or that otherwise does not work, then you will find the right home must faster.

  5. Consider working with a relocation expert
  6. You may think of relocation experts as an option for corporate moves, but they are great for individuals too. They can help with a number of aspects of the move, such as finding the right movers, helping get utilities turned on, finding out when school starts, etc. These services are often free because they make their money from vendor referrals.

  7. Remove the word “stupid” from your vocabulary
  8. You should always feel free to ask your real estate agent any question you have, even if it feels “stupid” but this is even more true in the case of a long-distance move. For example, if you have bought a home in your current state then you may be confused about normal practices in other states. Do not be afraid to ask – every state is different and it is essential to know the facts about your closing.

  9. The inspection may be more important than the closing
  10. If the state you are moving to allows you to close the transaction without being physically present, and you can only attend either the inspection or the closing, then you may want to choose the inspection. This is a good time to not only see the property in person but get an expert, unbiased opinion about the potential pitfalls of the property.

At Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties we stand ready to be the eyes and ears for you. Contact our offices at 310-373-0021 to learn more.

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Don’t Buy Your First Home Without Reading These Tips

Don’t Buy Your First Home Without Reading These Tips

If you are on the lookout for your first home then you are likely full of a lot of different emotions. Many people are excited about the idea of buying a home, but they are also nervous. They don’t know what to expect or how to prepare. The best way to ensure that you are moving forward in the best way is to work with an experienced real estate professional who can walk you through the process.

Those who are considering buying a new home should begin by contacting Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties at 310-373-0021. You can also read on to get some of the best tips to ensure you have the best experience possible.

Find out what your credit rating is

Today it’s fairly easy to get your credit report and it is important to do so before shopping for a mortgage. If you want the best possible loan rates, then your credit score should be at least 740. If it’s significantly lower than that, then it may be a good idea to wait until you have improved your credit to buy a home.

Get rid of debt

If you have significant debt and have not yet bought a home, then you may want to wait until you have paid it down (or most of it). You will find it harder to pay down this debt after buying a home and it can affect the terms of your mortgage. That said, in some markets it is much more affordable to own a home than to rent, so it may make sense to take on the debt of a mortgage even if you have existing debt.

Know the top three factors in securing loan terms

As the lender considers whether to approve a loan and how much that loan should be for, they are going to consider three main factors:

  1. Credit rating
  2. Income to debt ratio
  3. Income

Once you know what the banks are looking for, you will have a better chance of getting yourself into position for the best possible mortgage.

Have a savings account for home emergencies

If you currently rent or live with your parents, then you do not have to worry about home repairs. You do not have to worry about what would happen if your boiler stopped working. When you buy a home, you do have to worry about these issues. As a result, make sure that you have a home emergency savings account.

If you are buying an older home then this emergency savings account should be larger. If you are buying a new construction property then it should come with a home warranty that would cover most everything that is not covered by your homeowner’s insurance. When you work with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties we can help you assess the financial risk of any property you are considering. Contact us today at 310-373-0021 to get started.

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