Bruce Ballatine, SRES, CSA is a Realtor Associate with Evergreen Realty. CalBRE #001783833. He can be reached at (949) 632-2923 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Before the Internet, consumers had few resources to gain insight into what homes were selling for. They could talk to neighbors, call a real estate agent, or manually search through public records.
Today, however, consumers can turn to one of the many Web-based home valuation sites for a price estimate of almost any home in the country.
As useful as they may seem to buyers and sellers, you have probably discovered by now that the price estimates on websites are usually not very accurate.
For people who are going to buy or sell a home this year, knowing this kind of information is crucial. Even if you are staying put, it is smart to know where you stand when it comes to your biggest investment.
Several real estate websites and their companion apps, will help you do just that.
Type in your address — or any home you’re curious about — to see what the “Zestimate” is. If you are a homeowner and disagree with a Zestimate, check to see if the facts about your home are wrong or out of date. You are allowed to update your home facts, but you can’t remove your home from the site.
Keep in mind that estimates are only starting points. They are no substitute for a professional appraisal or a comparative market analysis done by a professional real estate agent.
At Trulia, you can get an estimate of your home’s value simply by entering your address. Edit or add facts about your property if information is wrong or missing. Trulia is an excellent tool if you’re house hunting. It is helpful whether you’re looking to move across town or across the country. Search for homes for sale by city, state or zip code.
In addition to standard searches based on price range and number of bedrooms and baths, Trulia allows more creative searches, too. Trulia’s unique Heat Maps provide a graphic picture of an area’s sales, price trends and popularity. Adjust the Heat Map by neighborhood, city, county and state. You’ll also find school ratings, information about nearby businesses and comments from local residents. Have a question? Try asking it in the Q&A forum and get advice from a local real estate agent.
More than 900 Multiple Listing Services across the United States funnel home listings here — the official site of the National Association of Realtors If you are serious about selling your home and want an informative report on your home’s value and comparable sales in the neighborhood, this is the place to go.
Click past the front page and Realtor.com becomes a trove of information about mortgages, real estate trends and other topics. In the Home & Garden section, for instance, you will find advice about how to tackle common home improvement projects and save money on energy.
At best, home valuation Web sites can occasionally be spot-on. However, the market value of any home can also be influenced by factors a valuation web site will miss. Most sites clearly state their value is an estimate only—never an actual appraisal. To get the most accurate picture of what you home is worth it is best to contact a professional real estate agent for accurate, timely, pricing information.
The village concept is a relatively new model for retirement, helping seniors remain in their homes as they age. Seniors frequently struggle with increased needs associated with aging but are determined to maintain their independence while staying in their homes.
The Village Movement is a grassroots concept sweeping across the nation. The virtual village idea originated in 2001 in Beacon Hill, a neighborhood of Boston.
Where It Came From
Nearly 90 percent of Baby Boomers say they want to stay in their homes and close to family and friends as long as possible, according to a survey by AARP. The challenge these individuals face, however, is that if they do nothing to prepare for future needs, they may not be able to continue living in their homes as long as they would like.
Residents of Beacon Hill responded to the challenge of staying in their community by joining their neighbors to take control over where and how they will live in the years to come. They formed a non-profit, Beacon Hill Village, which serves those aged 50+ in central Boston, to take advantage of social, cultural and wellness activities without leaving their homes. The various services provided are designed to respond to the members’ specific needs and wants and include concierge services, comprehensive home care, home repair, house cleaning, grocery shopping, transportation and other services.
What It Involves
Across the nation, village networks have been providing the resources necessary for seniors to stay in their homes for longer periods of time. Nationally, the average village member age is 74, and the annual membership dues average $400.
The design and implementation of individual villages is customized to the needs and wants of the specific neighborhood. Most of these groups have done informal and formal research to determine what the members want, and are designing their program to address those needs. Consequently, no two programs will be exactly the same.
Where It Is Going
The original Beacon Hill has now grown to nearly 400 members. In Orange County there are currently five villages open or currently under development: Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, Anaheim, and two in San Clemente. The innovative concept has also grown exponentially. Hundreds of other communities have been founded based on the same principles in the United States and beyond. In fact, by the tenth anniversary of the original Beacon Hill, more than 60 Villages had opened. These Villages are all connected through the Village-to-Village Network, which is a means for villages to learn from each other, exchange ideas, pool resources and share tools.
Not only does the village concept benefit seniors but often their adult children as well, because they are seeking resources within the market to provide quality services for their parents.
Many seniors prefer to stay in their homes as long as possible. Of course your ability to do this depends on several factors, including the nature of the challenges you face in your current home. Major home renovations may be required, but there are also numerous inexpensive steps you can take to improve your living situation.
Flooring: carpeting is preferable to area rugs because it reduces tripping hazards and can cushion falls. But if area rugs are used, make sure they’re secured to the floor.
Handrails: on stairways, you can add a second handrail along the opposite wall for improved stability.
Footwear: to prevent falls, using non-slip shoes is preferable to slippers or socks.
Non-skid safety strips: adhered to the floor of a tub/shower, non-skid strips are preferable to removable in-shower bath mats.
Bathroom grab bars: ideally these should be anchored into the studs in the wall, but if that’s not possible opt for a safety rail clamped onto the side of the tub.
Quality stepladder: purchase a broad-based heavy-duty stepladder with a hand-hold bar across the top to safely reach items stored out of reach.
Lighting: whether it’s making a bathtub brighter or installing motion-activated night lights in the hallway and bathrooms, better lighting can help prevent falls and make hobbies, reading, etc. more enjoyable. Lighting improvements might be as simple as changing the bulbs (to higher wattages or to bulbs that mimic daylight instead of “yellow” soft lighting) or adding battery-operated units.
Hand shower: convert a standard fixed showerhead into a hand-held system with flexible hose.
Raised toilet seats: no need to buy a new toilet when a removable seat can be added to most standard toilets.
Mail catcher: mail delivered via a slot in the door may be easier to retrieve from a mail box, especially if a narrow basket is mounted below the door opening so the recipient doesn’t have to pick up mail off the floor.
Knobs: replace round door and/or faucet knobs with lever styles, which are easier to turn. Likewise, loop pulls can make drawers easier to open.
Eating: specially designed cups and eating utensils can minimize food spills, including weighted options that help counterbalance shake-prone hands.
Cooking utensils: lightweight and ergonomically designed utensils are readily available now, many offering non-slip handles and bright, attractive colors.
Keep things handy: move often-used items to easy-to-access locations.
Eliminate excess “stuff”: having fewer items to store, sort, juggle, and handle can make aging in place an easier and more enjoyable proposition.
Many items can be purchased at a local durable medical equipment (DME) store. When needing to have anything built, removed, or adapted in your home, always consult with a professional contractor. There are contractors who specialize in home adaptations for seniors. If unsure who to contact, please give me a call and I can provide a list of resources for you to call to get further information and help.
If you have not bought or sold a home in a number of years or maybe decades, it is likely there are a few new trends in real estate you should know about when you interview real estate agents.
One trend now common among many real estate brokerage firms is called the practice of “going paperless.” This can be a bit scary for some people, especially senior adults who are not accustomed to using computers and tablets in their personal or professional lives.
If you have any reservations about the paperless process, you should talk with your agent about any concerns. Here is some basic information about the paperless process and some key questions to ask your real estate agent.
How your agent handles your questions may just help you determine if they are the right agent for you!
Going paperless simply means that instead of printing out every contract, form or disclosure for your signature, you may be asked to sign certain documents electronically.
If you have never used this type of technology, it can seem a little unusual. This is why it’s important to educate yourself to help mitigate potential delays, avoid unnecessary frustration, and preventing surprises down the road.
Good agents know that the best method of communication (phone, email, text, instant messaging) is the one that best serves the client, so agreeing upon the method is important — for both you and the agent.
If you want to communicate strictly by phone, be sure that you and your agent agree on the protocols for leaving and returning messages, hours of availability, and which phone numbers are best for certain times of day. Similar discussion about email and text messaging, should be had as well, if that is your desired method of information delivery.
The goal here is to understand your options. Many agents are still in the conversion process of going paperless and they are more than willing to use “old school” methods of getting signatures.
Some may be required by their brokerage firms to utilize only paperless systems. If this is the case, ask the agent to show you examples of the types of things that may be asked of you during the course of working together.
Even if you are completely prepared to enter the paperless world with no reservations whatsoever, it can only be done if you have the right equipment. Before agreeing to a paperless process, ask the agent to do a “test run” using a non-official/non-binding document on your system to insure its functionality.
If you do not have a trusted advisor who can help you with troubleshooting potential technology issues, make sure your agent or their staff is capable, patient, and willing to personally walking you through the steps.
Are you flexible if I choose to use phone and paper over electronic communication and documentation?
While some agents are extremely flexible in how they deliver their services, others may be married to a very specific process or style. Insure the agent you are considering is willing and able to do what is right for you, based on your comfort level, knowledge, and ability.
It is very important to have the conversation with your real estate professional about their paperless processes and communication methods.
Not only will doing so put your mind at ease regarding unfamiliar territory, but it may also provide your agent with necessary information so he or she can serve you more effectively.
If you have any questions about real estate please give me a call to get further information and help.
With April 15th only a few weeks away, the time has come to look at some of the available tax deductions for homeowners or for those who bought or sold a home in 2015.
In most instances you will need to itemize your taxes in order to qualify for the below tax deductions and credits.
If in doubt, talk with a tax attorney or certified public accountant (CPA) to ensure you can claim the deduction.
The following expenses can be eligible for a tax deduction:
Additional Tax Benefits For Home Owners
Home Energy Credits - You may be entitled to a tax credit of up to 30% of the installation cost of geothermal heat pumps and solar/wind energy systems. Unless the laws change, these credits will expire at the end of 2016.
Home Improvements - Improvements required for medical care.
Home Office Deductions - If the space, up to 300 square feet, is regularly and exclusively used for business purposes.
Deductions not allowed for a personal (primary) residence:
If you purchased your home in 2015, these are some costs that can be deductible:
Title fees, real estate commissions, appraisal costs, home inspections, documentary stamps, credit report costs, costs of an abstract, transfer taxes, flood certificate, attorney fees, etc. are not deductible, but are added to the cost of the property.
If you sold your home in 2015, these are some costs that can be deductible:
There are special provisions for both active duty military and those whose spouse died during the tax year.
Items such as advertising costs, attorney and Realtor fees, escrow and title services, administration fees, and many other closing costs are not permissible deductions (they may be allowable for the new buyer though).
Always consult with a tax professional before finalizing your annual tax filings to make sure your homeowner deductions are done properly. If unsure who to contact, please give me a call and I can provide a listing of resources for you to contact to get further information and help.
In real estate, capital gains are the difference between the purchase price of your real estate and the price you sell it for. Capital gains tax is what you pay on that difference, after adjusting for a variety of exemptions, deductions and tax breaks.
The tax on capital gains income is calculated separately from the tax on your regular income and often at a different rate. In addition to federal capital gains taxes, most states, including California, tax the gains too.
In most instances, the real estate exemption rules are as follows:
To qualify for the exemption, you have to meet all of the requirements:
This tax break is designed for people who are selling the home they live in, not investment property. You have to live in this residence for two out of the last five years. There are no limits on how many times you can use this as long as you meet the two-year requirement. As far as living in the home for two out of the last five years, there are no hard and fast rules regarding this situation. You could have lived in the home the first year; rented it the next three, and lived in it again in the last year and you would be fine as far as the capital gains exclusion goes.
Remember that selling a second home does not yield the same tax benefits. Even if you move into the second home and live there for two years, some of the profit from the sale will still be taxable, based on how long the residence was used as a secondary home.
Although the law is fairly lenient on residency times for marriages, it is not so lenient on previous uses of the exclusion. If your new spouse used the home sale exclusion within the past two years – like selling his own house to move in with you – this will impact your ability to use it for the current home sale. If he just sold the house, you will need to wait a full two years before you can take advantage of the full exclusion. You may be able to get a partial exclusion though, depending on your situation.
Being in the military has its benefits when it comes to capital gains and selling a home. Because of being deployed, those in the military often find it hard to meet the residency rules and end up paying taxes when they sell. A law put in place in 2003 exempts military personnel from the two-year use requirement mentioned above for up to 10 years, letting a service man or woman qualify for the full exclusion whenever they must move to fulfill their service commitments. There are also additional tax benefits for being a veteran that should be understood.
Another provision in the tax law was changed in 2008. This change takes into account the special circumstance an owner faces after their spouse dies. Previously in order to exclude the full profit amount excluded from taxes the surviving spouse had to sell within the same year of the death. The change allowed the widower to have up to two years to sell the property without facing the burden of paying taxes. As long as the surviving spouse sells within the two years window they will be able to exclude the full amount of profit.
It is very important to get the advice of trusted professionals (tax attorneys, real estate agents, financial planners, etc.) to answer questions and provide guidance.
If you have any questions about real estate please give me a call and I can provide a listing of resources for you to contact to get further information and help.
California is a prime target for senior financial abuse as it is the nation’s highest retirement destination, with an estimated 4.2 million people over age 65 living in the Golden State in 2012.
The California Department of Finance projects that by 2020, California’s over-65 population will have increased by 50 percent from 2010 to 6 million and by 2020 will have doubled to 8.4 million as even the youngest baby boomers reach 65 years old.
At an age when the labors of a lifetime should be enjoyed, con artists, unscrupulous companies, caregivers, and even trusted family members are exploiting many seniors. The outcome often is devastating. Without financial resources, physical and emotional well-being decline and seniors lose their independence.
Seniors are often looking to sell their home to move to an assisted living facility and working with a licensed real estate agent is the proper way to go. But many seniors are not even thinking of selling – until a fraudster shows up their door. The scammer sweet-talks vulnerable seniors with “a sure-fire way to sell their home and make a great profit.”
Often times, it takes a senior a little longer to understand what is being said, process the information and decide whether the offer sounds reasonable. Fast-talking thieves take advantage of this weakness.
Remember, they do this for a living and are very good at it!
These “red flags” are some of the things you should watch for:
The person who contacts you calls himself or herself a real estate agent or broker in the real estate industry. They claim they already have a pre-existing buyer set up. The buyer is interested in buying the home right away. The “agent” has a contract. All the senior needs to do is sign the contract.
A real estate agent contacts the senior and says they have an out-of-town purchaser who wants to get a contract signed before they leave. If seniors fall for this, they have no way of tracing that person; no way of knowing if they actually exist. This scam usually involved a spur-of-moment decision. He or she may say something like; “My out-of-town buyer is getting on plane in 30 minutes. If I don’t tell them before they leave, the deal is off.”
An “agent” who doesn’t answer questions directly may be a scammer. Being vague about the buyer, what real estate company they represent, or why the buyer does not want to look at the inside of the home are all red flags and mean the deal is very likely a scam.
The “agent” has a valid-looking contract in hand – all it requires is the senior’s signature, right away. The reason for an immediate decision is typically tied to the other red flag – the out-of-town buyer is ready to leave.
To protect yourself from real estate fraud:
If a caregiver or family member has regular, open communication with the senior, frauds can be prevented. Ask your senior to never sign anything or give any personal information, such as a social security number or credit card numbers, without calling a family member first.
Whenever possible, seek out the advice and guidance of trusted professionals (attorneys, real estate agents, financial planners, and mortgage brokers, etc.) to answer questions and provide guidance.
As discussed above, fraud by predators and scammers against seniors in the area of real estate requires that you be vigilant and skeptical, proceed cautiously and do your homework.
If you have any questions about real estate fraud please give me a call and I can provide a listing of resources and agencies for you to contact to get further information and help.
We all know - or maybe we assume - that spring and summer are the best times to sell a home. And it’s true that many buyers do plan their new home purchases during the warmer months. But that doesn’t mean all the serious buyers evaporate after Labor Day.
The thinking used to be that trying to sell your home during the holiday season was a terrible idea. Real estate agents often advised their clients to either wait to list the home or to take their home off the market between Thanksgiving and New Year’s! Like many old ideas, this has changed! By following a few basic guidelines, you could be ready for a holiday treat of your own: a house marked SOLD!
There are definitely benefits to selling during the fall/winter holiday season.
You’re not alone — but there’s less company. Fewer homes on the market this time of year, so your competition has decreased.
Anyone who takes time out of their busy holiday schedule to shop for a new home is serious about buying now. Perhaps they are buying a home for tax reasons or are relocating to start a new job in
the new year. Maybe they’ve been looking for months and just haven’t found that perfect home yet.
Whatever their reason, make it easy for these folks to get a good look at your home by staying flexible with your showing times and be open to negotiating contract terms that work with their schedules.
Emotion plays a huge role in which home a buyer purchases, and you can capitalize on that by making your home cozy and cheery during showings. Decorate, but don’t overdo it. Holiday décor can make your home seem welcome and cozy and inviting, especially to people feeling the pressure of home buying during this time of year.
Keep it seasonal with winter-themed decorations rather than specifically holiday-themed trinkets; go for holly and evergreen boughs, twinkling lights and snow scenery. Make sure your decorations enhance rather than detract from your home’s best features.
Take advantage of the shorter days. A well-lit room is inviting any time of year, but even more so during the long hours of darkness in winter. Bright lamps, a roaring fire if you have one, and candles — real or electric — will brighten the mood.
Remember the other senses. Agents always encourage their home sellers to light pleasant-smelling candles or set out potpourri no matter what time of year it is. During the holidays, try sugar cookie-scented candles, fresh pine boughs or peppermint air freshener. Play festive seasonal music. Put out blankets that are soft and cozy to help prospective buyers envision themselves curled up in warmth and comfort.
And remember to remove them as soon as the season is over. And keep packing up your personal items in preparation for moving!
Your real estate agent will be able to provide even more advice that will best set off your property during this time of year. If you need help finding an excellent agent in our area or you have any questions about the home buying and selling process, please give me call. I’m happy to provide assistance and help your holiday home sale go smoothly!
It dawned on me recently when I read an article that describes the 5 stages of mourning and grief typically experienced when we lose a loved one that these same feelings can be experienced when selling and moving from a long-term home.
I have been fortunate to help seniors and their families make the transition from the home where they have lived, loved and raised their families for decades to downsize into condominiums, senior apartments and senior communities. Your home represents so much more merely just the structure – it is about family, memories, neighbors, and what you have known for so many years.
The five stages of normal grief that were first proposed by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross in her 1969 book “On Death and Dying.”
The first reaction to any traumatic circumstance is to deny the reality of the situation as it relates to loss. With regard to the loss of one’s home, it is common for family members of the senior to observe this rejection of the reality of their situation. It is hard for the child of a senior to watch mom or dad resist and ignore what is happening around them.
It is so difficult when facing a home that was once the center of family gatherings falling to disrepair, with steps that can’t be navigated or does not provide the wide hallways and bathrooms outfitted with appropriate equipment for safety. This is difficult to accept for any of us, but at some point in all of our lives, change is a requirement to remain fully active and healthy.
How many of you have been so angry loved ones you are trying to help perceive your best intentions as an invasion of their privacy and intellect? When faced with a move that you know is right for you or a loved one, it’s understandable to feel a sense of bereavement and loss.
The need to control the situation is a normal reaction to a feeling of helplessness. We get into “scolding ourselves” - I should have gone to the doctor sooner; we should have purchased that ranch years ago and on and on. We make deals with our higher power to put off the inevitability of the situation. In the end, step 4 is the result.
We are now getting closer to step 5 and therefore can fall into a low point as we begin to worry about the process. It is in this stage that depression can lead to isolation. This is a time for families to talk about what is happening. It may entail a visit to the doctor as well as a family meeting.
This is a gift that not all of us will get to. Many may remain in one or all of the previous stages and may result in a crisis that involves immediate action and little planning. But for those who do reach this phase relating to a loss of one’s home, a peace and calm may follow.
Understanding the grieving process as it relates to selling your long-time home will help lessen this process of moving from a home you love to a new situation that offers that same love and security that you have experienced over the years. “Know thyself” is the mantra. Understand we are all made of the same stuff and grief and mourning with the 5 stages discussed are expected. Acceptance comes sooner for some, but for others a bit of time and patience is needed.
In the end we all want what is best for our loved ones and ourselves.
The range of available housing and care services is wide, ranging from in-home caregivers to live-in facilities that can provide skilled nursing. Planning ahead for senior housing is not easy. The best anyone can do is to first become informed. Then, communicate early and often about the eventual life transitions.
Next, organize the legal paperwork and start planning financially for long-term care. When the need arises make an educated and possibly even a professionally-supported decision about the best possible living situation. This includes evaluations of certain aspects of an individual’s current daily living needs and to consider their needs on a long-term basis.
The choices of housing for seniors include:
Active adult communities aim to service the interests of active adults over the age of 55. Housing types often include condos, townhouses, and single-family homes, and all are planned with an eye to offering a maintenance-free lifestyle for residents. Designed for independent and active adults who have few or no health care needs but who choose to downsize from their current homes. These communities offer a wide variety of activities including exercise, social clubs, and lecture series.
Residents live in their own apartments, but have the benefit of an on-site staff, meal service in common dining rooms, and planned activities and outings. Some facilities also offer access to nurses and assistance with activities of daily living. Facilities can range in size from small six bed homes to large 80 to 150 apartment communities. These facilities are regulated by the state.
Certain assisted living facilities have either a section of apartments to care for residents with dementia or are exclusively only dementia care facilities. Along with more help with activities of daily living, these facilities incorporate many features and services to provide comfort to and the easing of resident’s anxiety. These facilities are regulated by state and federal law.
The more information that is gathered prior to the move, the easier it will be to find the right environment and have a smooth transition into a new lifestyle
Continuing Care Retirement Communities or CCRCs are facilities that offer progressive levels of assistance from independent, to assisted living, to memory care, and skilled nursing care - a full continuum of housing and services within the same community. The concept is that the resident does not have to move out because they need more assistance or need nursing care.
A move to an assisted living facility can be daunting and confusing for both seniors and their families. After a lifetime of independent living, a move of this magnitude alters what is familiar and comfortable. Adjusting to new surroundings, new routines, new people, and uncertainties about the future all take time.
However, information is power. The more information that is gathered prior to the move, the easier it will be to find the right environment and have a smooth transition into a new lifestyle. Once the senior and/or their family have decided that an assisted living environment is required, asking friends, colleagues, or senior care professionals for referrals is a good start to locating quality facilities.
Take a tour of each facility and come prepared with questions. It’s best to make an appointment for the tour so that you meet the people best suited to answer your questions. Talk to several of the residents as well. If you drop in, you could have a tour with someone who may not be best able to answer your questions. Asking the same questions and making consistent observations from one facility to the next will provide a method of comparison that will present the best feedback.