Category Archives: Home Buying

A Window with a View – Your neighbors may be increasing the value of your home?

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What do you see when looking out your front window?  I sit here and write from a comfy chair, looking out my front, picture window, onto a tree-lined street, with flowers beginning to blossom.  My neighbor across the street has a red front door and a matching red bird house in the tree that we can see from our window too.  I am very fortunate and try not to take for granted our entertaining view.  Kids play on their scooters and shoot each other with Nerf guns.  People walk their dogs and converse while strolling [our dog barks or whines, trying to get their attention].  Three or four retired men on the street meet up for a weekly bike ride.  Birds flit and perch… a squirrel jumps from a tree branch onto a roof.  I had no idea the beauty and entertainment I would receive from this window and view.  I am thankful for my neighbors and the hood in which I live.

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Many buyers spend hours sitting in front of a home they contemplate purchasing… Curb appeal is everything, right?  Yes, everyone wants a sharp-looking home.  And yes, a lack of curb appeal detracts from value.  I do NOT see many people standing at the front window and look out, asking, “Do we love this view?”  Most of us are focused on our house and the interior.  What about the view out front and back?  These, I believe, are overlooked assets.  I understand that not every price point has this option, yet there are many nooks, even in the worst neighborhoods where where neighbors comes together and have pride of ownership.  There are also so many ways to simply beautify your own yard, yet it’s difficult to control what you neighbors do.  If you are looking to buy a home, consider this concept when considering a neighborhood and the houses around the subject property.  I have a lot of ideas from years of experience and insight into what others may ignore when it comes to buying a home.  I hope to share with you this attention to detail on your next deal.

Best

Keith Klassen, Real Estate Broker – 916.595.7900

Specializing in Residential Sales & Property Management

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Listen Up! You Cannot Go Wrong with this Skill Improvement

Client Review:

We loved working with Keith to buy our home in Sacramento. He asked us really good questions that we didn’t even know to think about to help select homes that would be a good fit. Everything about the process felt low-stress and positive. He even helped us write a letter to a seller that got us our home! He has a lot of knowledge and is just a kind, friendly, fun person – we highly recommend him as a realtor. Also, he has a truck, so he can totally help you move. Tell your friends!

Christine Fischer

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Agents, listen up… Hot tip… people like to be listened to.  We all know this, but it’s easy to get caught up in the, let-me-tell-you-how-much-I-know role.  You learn so much by listening.  And, studies show that people think you are smarter when you listen attentively.  You will help your clients by doing more listening that talking.  Be careful not to assert you opinions when unsolicited.  Believe me, I’ve learn through my own failings.  You are representing them and their desires after all, not yours.

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Me:  Can you believe the color they painted this house!?!  Isn’t it horrid!

Buyer:  Well… Um… pink is our favorite color.

OOOPS!

Better approach:  What do you think of the color of the house?

Buyer:  Oh man, it’s horrid – that’s the first change we will make!

Me:  Well, I guess there’s a color for everyone.

This is an easy one, but there many more examples of how I’ve stuck my foot in my mouth with assumptions and just blurting out opinions and said dumb when NOT listening.

Beyond colors and preferences, like my clients, the Fischers and most all others, don’t do this every day and need someone to foresee the potential pitfalls , or point out blind spots.  For instance, “I noticed this house doesn’t have a dining area and I know you love to entertain… does that bother you or affect your opinion of this house?”  Client:  Oh wow, we didn’t even see that, we were too busy staring at the shiny counter tops and the period light fixtures.”

Since I have a pretty high view of my family, one secret I employ is to view my clients like family.  I ask myself questions along the way too, for instance, “Would I want my mom living in this neighborhood?”  Or, I remember a young, investor client of mine wanted to purchase a duplex across from a very dangerous apartment complex, known for gang violence.  I had to ask him, “Are you okay with your tenants calling to complain about gun shots in the middle of the night and constant drug dealing in front of this property?  As your advocate,  I don’t feel comfortable with you buying this property.”  This in particular client said, “Thanks for your concern… I really appreciate it, but I don’t care about that stuff – It’s a great deal!”  Good reminder – you are your client’s advocate and have a fiduciary duty to them, but what you’d do, isn’t always what your client wants.  So don’t assume!   It might be a good thing to review the definition of “fiduciary duty” from time to time to put things into perspective.    It’s simply, “The highest standard of care,” putting their wants and desire ahead of your own.

By the way, I have found my wife loves it when I listen and so do my kids!  We cannot go wrong by growing and improving in this area of our lives.

Keeping growing!

Keith Klassen – Real Estate Broker – 916.595.7900

Specializing in Residential Real Estate Sales & Property Management

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Adding Value to a Home & to Your Life

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Many have asked me about what adds value to a home when it comes to backyards.  Most people know that a $60K pool will usually not add $60K in value to a home.  In some cases, it can even be a liability, or it highly depends on where the home is located and what is expected in that area of town.   What about fancy landscaping? When it comes to property management, many savvy investors love a yard that has little to no maintenance, saving on landscaping expenses.  Flippers many times just leave a yard like a blank canvas, putting money into the front yard and curb appeal.  When it comes to one’s personal residence, much of the value can be seen in the intrinsic joy a yard brings and the usability for the owner.  I had one client that wanted to make sure the backyard faced a certain direction., was not sloping and had certain feng shui characteristics.  Another wanted to make sure the sun came across the yard in a perfect path for their love of gardening, so she could grow the best produce.  One client had to have a space for pexels-photo-715134.jpega Japanese Maple.  Others are in love with having a fire pit, or an outdoor eating area.  Recently I sold a home where an appraiser called and was curious as to why it sold for $11,000 over asking, relative to other similar homes?  I believe it was due to the high-end landscaping, custom lighting, a water feature, perfected irrigation and watering system, etc.  This stuff is also very expensive and sometimes costly to maintain, but definitely added value to this homes selling price.  What I’m getting at, many times an addition of this or that it’s not a value add to others (or a buyer), but it adds tremendously to your life and perhaps family.  And, if done with some forethought, you may be able to accomplish both.

My backyard has gone through some serious renovation over the last few years, and I can now write this post without feeling shame for having a half finished, project-of-a-backyard.  The first dilemma for many, to hire a professional, or do it yourself.  I tend to be a glutton for punishment, so I took on the “art project,” as I like to call it.  The term gives me room for error – ha ha ha.  Whether it’s a financial thing, or you want to tap into your creative juices, there are so many things to consider before undertaking a project like this.  I found that it can be like pulling a thread… one thing leads to the next… things you have not even considered, whether it be drainage, lighting, plumbing (gas for a grill and water coming in and going out); electrical outlets, furniture, BBQ, shade, space and functionality – the list can be endless.  Again, remember the term, “art project” if you’re a DYI’er.

 

First of all our yard is postage stamp sized –  No football game or kicking the soccer ball around there.  We tried to tend the landscaping that there when we purchased the home, but it either died or became over grown with weeds and ivy coming over the fence.  We’ve tried to plant a garden, but it just does not get enough sun.

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The water feature broke and we just stopped going out there except to dump food scraps into the compost.  With a dog chasing squirrels, rats living in the ivy, and kids in Jr. High, we decided that we needed a 5th Space, or outdoor room – a place to host; an extension of our kitchen; an outdoor living area; a place where our kids and their friends would want to hang out.  This, for us, has added tremendous value to our family’s life and to the value of our home.  During our Christmas party we found a group of people sitting by the fire until late night … mission accomplished!

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I only posted a handful of pictures – let me know if you are interested in seeing more, or any of the particulars of the concrete counters, or brew pub inspired metal fence, or what I choose cinder block over metal, etc.?  I’m happy to share more pics or thoughts on construction, err, artwork.

In addition, check out this cool article from our friends over at Houzz.com – 30 Creative Backyard retreats. I do dream of a little office, or chill spot, or retreat in the backyard – maybe I will convert our garage/carriage house.  These pictures get my juices flowing.  How bout you?  Which one is your favorite?

[See my backyard pics below]

Keith Klassen, Real Estate Broker – 916.595.7900

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Backyard pictures…

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Excavating and Forming base for cabinet

I managed to get a little help from my oldest

Got some free brick on Next Door

Used a pasta faucet, attached to a funky post I found in the alley.  Built the forms for the counter tops, even thought it looks like I poured in place.

Grabbed the wood siding from someone down the street that was throwing it away

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Drought tolerant lawn, errrrrr, fake grass!

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Fence inspired by Moonraker brewery

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View from our bedroom balcony… 9/10ths complete!

Dart boards are fun!

Real Estate Growth in Sacramento

 

I found this little article and video on McKinley Village interesting – Let’s go take a look!

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Best,

Keith Klassen, Real Estate Broker

916.595.7900

Primer on Private Mortgage Insurance

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I just had a quick review on private mortgage insurance (PMI), due to a real situation with a client.  Most Realtors have to know a little something about mortgages, but with the ever-changing rules, laws and climate of the financial industry, it’s hard to stay on top of it all.   My client was quoted a certain rate on their PMI before getting into a contract to buy a home, and by the end the price had gone up almost $100/mo. from the original quote. While to some 100 bucks is chump change, to this client it almost broke the bank and killed the deal.   The client saw it more as $1200 extra a year and $6000 extra over 5 years. Here are some tidbit and a few new things I learned.

Most people know that PMI is required for FHA loans.  However, it’s any loan that is over 80% of the loan to value.  Or another way to put it, if a borrower does not put down 20% or more of the purchase price, PMI is required by the lender.  Many would see it like a punishment for not having enough money to put down.  This type of mortgage insurance is not for the borrower, rather it’s insurance for the mortgage company or note holder.  They are protecting themselves against the borrower defaulting on their loan.  The theory being, if a borrower puts more money down (in this case 20%) they are less likely to default or not pay their mortgage payment.  Or conversely, when there is less “skin in the game,” there is more reason to bail or default when times get tough.   A borrower can be relieved of this dreaded insurance by paying down their mortgage so that they have 20% equity, or their loan is 80% of the home value.  I’ve heard that mortgage companies are required to cancel the PMI once it hits 78%, but the savvy borrow might keep a closer eye on things and get it cancelled sooner.   The other way to get rid of PMI is if the market is favorable – over time values can increase to a point where the home is reappraised and the market has worked it’s magic… no more PMI!

Mortgage insurance is actually run by private companies, hence, private mortgage insurance (PMI).  It’s not run by the bank/lender or mortgage broker.  There are three main companies here in Sacramento, CA.  They post their rates, kind of like title companies, so there’s not much negotiating.  I learned though that the rate varies (goes up and down slightly) based on one’s credit score and amount of down payment.  FHA loans require 3.5% down payment – it may be worth it to see what the difference is if you can afford to put down 5% (1.5% more).  It could lower your cost in the long run.

Any other lenders and real estate buffs have more to add – feel free to comment.

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Keith Klassen, Real Estate Broker

Klasssen & Associates / 916.595.7900

Wind-Water Knowledge in Real Estate

I’ve had several clients in the past that caused me to think more seriously about feng shui and pushed me to get a bit more educated on the topic.  This was especially the case when we would find, what I thought was the perfect home, yet the responses were, “Yeah, but it’s located on a ‘T’,” or “I really wish you could see the fireplace when you walk in,” or simply, “There’s not enough natural light.”  I understood people like natural like, but some of the other comments left me scratching my head.  I began to ask more questions and do some simple research.  Each one of these items and more stop the flow of the home for me have gotten in the way of a home sale.  Some things can be corrected with simply measures, while other items are almost impossible to over-come.   Here are some basic examples I’ve come across and a few links at the bottom of the page to guide you deeper.

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The term feng shui literally translates as “wind-water” in English.  While a fad to some or superstition to others, feng shui has been popularized among people with money and hipsters alike, others take it more seriously, as a deeply rooted practice and way of being.

Colors are important, which can also be easily changed.  The placement of color in specific areas of your home can enhance your mood and demeanor.  Others would say that colors attract or magnify the energies of your life.  For example, certain colors in the bedroom can spice up one’s love life (or maybe just picking up dirty clothes would help!  My wife gets turned on when I clean the bathroom – ha ha).  Green is known to be the color of health and family – it makes sense to add plants to the living/family room of your home.

Flow and Organization – If a home is built a certain way not conducive to good flow, this may be hard to overcome, while arranging one’s furniture in a congruent, life-given way can be an easy enhancement.  The same goes for getting rid of clutter and cleaning – this a personal decision that takes just a little effort.  Entries and exits are important in feng shui.  Attracting good energies and blocking negative forces is key.  Open up the entryway for the good to flow in.   Some guru’s attest that a toilet lid must be kept down!  This “waterway” can suck positivity out of a home.  Fireplaces that can be seen from the entry encourage prosperity to leave one’s home, or be sucked out of one’s life (so I’m told).

The direction the house faces or is oriented is key … I’ve heard East is good.  But another friend said that the entrance to the North is better, due the sun exposure.

Numbers seem to be important.  Eights are good.  I know some agents price their listings with $_____, 888 at the end.  I’ve had buyers tell me to write the offer with 8’s (for good luck).  Someone told me that if the last two digits of the address adds up to eight, that’s good too.

Corners – I’ve heard that sharp corners are not good, say when it comes to small eating tables.  Some don’t like corner houses.  Homes located on a “T” are definitely bad feng shui.  Practically speaking, cars can run into a home easier in this case (nothing that some scrubs/trees or a few blockades won’t fix).  We had a neighbor whose parents warned them about bad spirits entering into their home since they lived on a “T.”  The fix was simply to hang a small crystal (like you’d see on an old chandelier) from a string at the entrance, as well as a small mirror and this did the trick.  When I asked why these objects, they said that this confused and repelled the bad spirits.

Death – Dead plants, trash around the house, a cluttered table, and dead people… many buyer’s have a hard time seeing through a mess, and many more clients buying a home want nothing to do with a property where a death has taken place – Some just want to know that it was peaceful, or not violent.  Whereas, I had an investor client who was not happy (or just not alarmed) to find out that a gang shooting had taken place at the house they were purchasing!  Really?  This became a negotiating tool for a deep discount.  A friend of mine had a dying tree in front of this home.  His father sternly told him, “Get rid of it… it’s blocking your wealth!”  He swears that they very next day his stock portfolio began to soar!

Whether your desire is to gain deeper soul-strength or just have a better flow in your home, I hope you found some inspiration, creativity and practical help in this post.  I’d love to hear some of your stories on how feng shui has affected your life.

Here’s some links to explore future.

http://fengshui.about.com/od/glossaryofterms/ss/Feng-Shui-Basics-Create-Good-Feng-Shui-Home.htm

http://inhabitat.com/9-simple-tips-to-feng-shui-your-home/

http://inhabitat.com/feng-shui-101-getting-started-with-the-basics-of-feng-shui/

 

Cheers,

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Keith Klassen, Broker

Klassen & Associates

916.595.7900

Love Letter to Seller – Does it Make a Difference?

Does it make a difference for a buyer to write and include a personal letter with an offer?  I jokingly call them love letters, because they can ooze with emotion and sometimes be kinda cheesy.

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Over the years, working with home buyers, I’ve been an advocate for the buyer writing a personal letter to the owner.  One might wonder if this even makes a difference?  I got my real estate license in 2005 and wrote my first offer on the house I’m living in today.  During those days, buying a home was extremely competitive and the prices were going through the roof.  A buyer had to do whatever they could to get an offer accepted.  So, I too wrote a “letter from the heart” on my first deal as a licensed agent.  It was flowery, heart-warming, and true – we loved the house (and still do!).  The seller subsequently told us that this separated our offer from the others, especially the part where you said, “[your child] immediately ran into the back yard and jumped on the play structure.”  Hmmm, I instantly learned, there’s something to this letter writing thing.

Subsequently, I’ve had many of the same experiences with other clients.  Just recently I listed a home where we received 3 offers.  One of them included a personal letter.  To my surprise the seller said, “I know that this one is lower in price, and you might think we are crazy, but we just love this buyer’s story and want to go with that offer!”

Try this with an investment property and the owner may laugh out loud.  I’ve actually had investor sellers tell me to not show them the personal letters because they didn’t want to be influences by their emotions.  This statement nails it on the head… We are humans with emotions.  Even though every seller wants the most money out of their sale, there is always the human element and emotions involved.

“What should I say in the letter?” is the next questions I get.  While I enjoy writing, not everyone is as confident with their prose.  Here are some suggestions.

  • Make it short and to the point – most people don’t want to read several pages on your life and journey of buying a home. Several paragraphs get the job done.
  • With that said, introduce yourself. Briefly say who you are and maybe something interesting that relates to the home.  Example:  We love the river and are so glad it’s in walking distance! OR,  This home is close enough for me to bike to work – this is so relieving since I’ve been commuting by car for 8 years, an hour each way! OR, I’ve always loved trains and always wanted to live next to the railroad tracks [I kid you not, I actually heard someone say this!]
  • You may even want to start by complimenting the owner in some way, without being heavy handed. Example:  When we walked into the house, we immediately knew this was the one for us!  Purple is our favorite color and we absolutely love the stenciled lettering above the bed, that reads, “YOU ARE AWESOME!”  The deal was done when we saw the bidet in the bathroom – ahhh to be back in Paris again!  Okay, I’m trying to be funny here and this is an example of heavy-handedness, but you get the point.   When done appropriately, a little flattery goes a long way.  How about this:  We love your sense of style and can tell you really cared for this house.
  • Briefly talk about how this house fits you. Do you have a family that you will raise here and enjoy it for years to come?  Is your elderly mom going to live with you and the downstairs bedroom is perfect?  Are you single, and this downtown loft is a “babe magnet?”  [okay don’t say that].
  • End with a “thank you for considering our offer.  And, we look forward to a smooth transaction.

What else would you include or omit?  Do you have success stories of your own, or maybe a reason why not to include a personal letter?  Your stories and feedback are always welcome.

Cheers!

Keith Klassen, Real Estate Broker – 916.595.7900