Tips for Appraising Lakefront Property


Hidden Lore, Michigan
When determining the value of lakefront property, there’s so much more to the equation than just measuring waterfront space. Here’s what appraisers and agents need to know. — Rachel Massey:  As summer approaches, activity on lakes—large and small—increases. But in my experience as a REALTOR® and certified appraiser, it is apparent that many agents, brokers, and appraisers have not acquired all the knowledge, skills, and perspective needed to accurately evaluate lakefront property. In the hope of filling in some of the gaps, here are some tips on how appraisers can provide a more defensible appraisal on these complex properties as well as some of the nuances that agents who are new to lake properties should consider.

The Why of the Buy

Both appraisers and agents alike need to be aware of the motivations that result in sales. Appraisers need to be in touch with the vagaries of the different submarkets in order to adequately analyze the properties they appraise, and agents need to understand that there is much more to selling lake property than front footage.

What motivates a buyer to purchase a lake property? Is it the tranquility? The beauty of the water? The excitement of a speedboat and waterskiing, or casting a line into the water in hopes of landing a trophy catch? It is all of these things, and none of these things. The motivations are almost as numerous as the buyers looking for a lake house are, and one buyer’s paradise is another’s hell. Different types of lakes attract different buyers, and the buyer looking for tranquility is going to be very unhappy purchasing a house on a lake crowded with jet skis and powerboats. The same would be true for the avid motorist who buys on a small, quiet fishing lake.

Quality Over Quantity

While some depend on how many “front feet” the property has on the water to determine value, that is not necessarily the best course. The amount of frontage usually relates to space between neighbors and how much area is available for docking and beach toys. But consider the house sitting on the edge of a bluff, with 200 feet of frontage and 100 steep steps down to the water. What if the shoreline is also rocky and reedy? Five lots south, the topography has sloped in to a gentle, almost level lot and the frontage itself is a natural sandy beach. This lot has only 50 feet at the lakefront. Which is more valuable?

The value of a lake property could be tied not only to the ease of the access and the quality of the frontage but also to the lake itself. For a clean swimming lake, the narrower 50-foot lot might be much more valuable than the less accessible 200-foot lot. But for a lake that is picturesque but not good for swimming or boating, the 200-foot lot with the elevated views might be the more valuable site. It all depends on the lake and why buyers might be interested in that particular spot.

Present and Future Demand

I live and work in Michigan, a state surrounded by lakes of all kinds. The Great Lakes are a treasure, but not exactly the bastions of privacy and quiet you see on some of the smaller inland lakes. Many of our inland lakes are massive in size, deep, and clean. Some are shallow, reedy, and mucky, making them more of a viewing amenity than anything else. Some lakes allow all the toys and others only a kayak or canoe. Some are merely ponds in buyers’ eyes.

There are many questions that buyers, real estate agents, and appraisers should consider in addition to the present appeal of the lake itself, because these issues contribute to whether the lake remains appealing into the future. Some lakes are manmade in that they are the result of damming a river. Some municipalities are considering removing such dams—in that case, what happens to the manmade lake? Some lakes have been invaded by unwelcome species such as zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil, and other nuisances. Lakes with public access sites tend to have more trouble with these invasive species, though they do also travel naturally through waterfowl and other means. Could a lake with an invasive species problem become less desirable than one without? Is there any guarantee that a pristine lake will remain so? What about the life cycle of a lake? Is it a dying lake, or is it likely to stay in similar condition for the foreseeable future? How is the management on the lake? Is there an active association that seeks to ensure the health of the lake? Are septic systems monitored? Does the association have prohibitions against fertilizers?

But just as bodies of water can change, so too can our perspectives on them. Is it possible that we are starting to see a shift, as our population ages, to the desire for quiet lakes that do not allow gas motors? It used to be that these quiet “no-wake” lakes had less appeal, but in many instances, they are now attracting buyers that would not have considered them 10 or 20 years ago. There is something to be said for the quiet of a lake without loud motors and loud reveling at all hours of the day and night. On the other hand, these lakes have limitations of use, and buyers who want to have it all might find the sportier lakes desirable, in particular if there are limited year-round residents. The lack of year-round residents could mean that the owner has quieter weekdays, with increased activity on the weekends and over holidays.

The Tools at Your Disposal

The Department of Natural Resources maintains lake maps in most areas. These maps show the topography and composition of the lake bottom. DNR maps will also show public access points, existing housing, and other features. Appraisers and agents alike should become familiar with these maps. Plat maps are also available in many areas, and these can be used to examine other features, such as ownership issues where a third party may control the frontage in between a property and the lake shore. Another concern that can impact value is keyholing or funneling, where backlot owners have rights to a parcel on the water. Just being aware of some of these issues can help you be a better advocate for your client and know when to direct them toward legal counsel to help determine whether they have water rights.

Not All Sales Are Comparable

If possible, it’s best to find comparables on the same lake, but remember, lakes also have varied topography, both on shore and to the lake bottoms, and just because the potential comparable property is on the same lake might not mean that the properties are actually comparable.

Appraisers need to understand the lake itself and which lakes are reasonable alternates if nothing is available on the lake upon which we are doing our appraisal. Know your market and write about what is important to the target audience. How large is the lake? How deep is it? What types of activities are allowed on the lake? What are the other lakes that the buyer for our property would reasonably consider and why? Fully describe the topography, frontage, and access to the water at the subject site. Write about whether the beach is sandy, mucky, rocky, reedy, and so forth. Document sunrise and sunset views, parking, and docking. Agents don’t have the same communication requirements as appraisers do here, but they should be aware of what appraisers are considering and what they are reporting, because such factors affect the pricing conversation as well.

Determining logical comparable search criteria is incredibly important in lakefront homes because buyers may consider properties on lakes that are 20 or 30 miles apart, something that might scare some of the most experienced underwriters if not properly explained. A smart appraiser will set the stage ahead of time through the narrative in the report, which will help the underwriter and reviewers understand the thought process for the choice of comparables. Once the appraisers have spelled out the reasons that have drawn a buyer to the subject lake, discussion follows about the lakes that are competitive and why they are competitive. This can justify the use of sometimes very distant comparables.

Agents can help by providing appraisers with information about the lakes that the buyer considered and why they considered them as competitive. If your buyer would only consider one lake, explain why. While it might not be possible for the appraiser to stay on that lake due to lack of recent sales data, the buyer’s motivations to that lake over others can still be helpful.

Summer is coming and lake buyers will be out in force again soon. Be prepared to have a lake appraisal take longer and be costlier than a regular subdivision job. Take the extra time necessary for these lake deals to research the lake and the site, in addition to the improvements on the site. Hopefully the extra effort will pay off and you’ll be better able to enjoy your next lakeside sunset or cool dip in the water.

via Rachel Massey… An AQB Certified USPAP instructor and began her career as a real estate agent in 1984. She has been appraising full-time since 1989. She is a certified residential appraiser in Michigan, specializing in review work for various clients, as well as lake properties and other residential properties in and around the Washtenaw County market.


Want To Be A More Confident Speaker? Tell A Story

Telling A Story

You might get stage fright when you have to present, but chances are you’re already a natural storyteller.

Don’t like public speaking or giving presentations? You’re not alone–most people don’t. We’re fighting our primeval fear of ostracism whenever we stand up and begin to regale an audience. But chances are good that you like telling stories and sharing experiences a little more than you like delivering a keynote or running through a slide deck; after all, some 65% of our daily conversations are made up of personal stories (and, well, gossip).

So if you could use a bit more confidence for your upcoming speech or presentation, storytelling can give it to you. Not only do stories make for more effective, memorable experiences for the audience, they can also make delivering them easier on you. Here are five reasons why.


Quick check: Are you a human? Yes? Great! Your ancestors have been sitting around campfires for tens of thousands of years telling stories. Our brains are wired for story; it’s part of who humans are as a species. Marketers know this, Hollywood knows it, and neuroscience bears it out.

We are all natural storytellers, and when we deliver stories, we smile, show emotion, and radiate authenticity. Not only is authenticity engaging and persuasive, but you’ll feel infinitely more comfortable and confident when you’re up there just being yourself.


Stories provide structure. Nobody likes a presentation or speech that lacks focus or a point, but every story, by definition, has a natural, built-in structure that can anchor the rest of your presentation. Stories follow a natural, linear progression of A leading to B and then, uh-oh, a crisis at C! Followed by recovery and success at D. As the late novelist Kurt Vonnegut pointed out decades ago (facetiously yet correctly), stories are effective because they follow recognizable arcs:

Beyond being compelling, these fundamental narrative structures make it easy for audiences to follow along and comprehend your message as they listen to you. We’ve all sat through enough bad presentations to know that good ones are the exception, so anything you can do to make your audience’s brains work less hard will make them love you.


It’s for the same reason–their comprehensible structures–that stories are easier to remember than a series of points or ideas. Stage fright often stemsfrom fear of making a mistake or forgetting to say something. Telling a story, especially a personal one, doesn’t take a lot of memorization or practice; you already know it and you may have already told it dozens of times.

Stories are also much “stickier” than facts, words, or even visuals. We’re much better (according to one Stanford researcher, 22 times better) at remembering figures, stats, and corporate jargon when it’s incorporated into a narrative. So don’t ditch your data–just wrap it up in a story.


So, it comes naturally to you, provides structure, and is easy to remember and share. Sounds like a great way to open your presentation, right? The very start of your talk is the time when you’re most likely to be nervous or stressed, but it’s also when you need to hook your audience.

When we tell stories, we’re conversational: We smile, use good body language, make eye contact–everything that builds trust with listeners. If you start your presentation like that, you preempt any chance of anxiety or presentation jitters to get the better of you. Instead, your audience immediately starts to give you positive feedback; when you see them smile, react, look engaged, and lean forward in their seats as they listen to your story, your own confidence will inevitably rise.


We all carry around a lifetime’s worth of stories–both personal and professional–probably more than you’re even aware of, and you can draw on just about all of them. At its most basic level, a story is “something that happened to somebody,” so think about all those “somebodies” you can tell stories about: yourself, your customers, your company, your product, your colleagues, or your competition.

Before your next presentation, set some time aside to brainstorm the stories you already have available from your life. Find one that ties into the topic of your presentation–and, ideally, look for one that’s personal. Talk about overcoming a hardship or about a life lesson you learned, and build that into the presentation.

You’ll feel great about it, and your audience will, too.

via Darren Menabney.  He lives in Tokyo, leading global employee engagement at Ricoh and teaching MBA students at GLOBIS University. Follow him on Twitter at @darmenab.

Homes That Make a Good First Impression Have 5 Things in Common

House Staging

NEW YORK – Jan. 17, 2018 – It takes just 26 seconds for a guest to form an opinion of your home when they walk through the front door. What does your space say about you? While we try to resist the urge to judge, there’s no doubt that first impressions count.

Whether you’re expecting guests or you’re hoping to transform your spare room into a rental, experts agree there are five key areas that friends notice first about your house. Thankfully, it takes minutes to correct them. Here, Miranda Cresswell, brand director at OneFineStay, and Ariel Kaye, CEO of Parachute and the newly opened Parachute Hotel, explains the most effective ways to update your home before guests arrive. Got five minutes to spare? Make these simple changes for a home that makes a lasting impression.

A styled entryway

“A clean and welcoming entryway is crucial in leaving a good first impression – it’s the first thing a guest sees!” says Cresswell. When transforming a home into a OneFineStay property, she says it’s crucial that the entrance introduces a design theme. “A good first impression – that moment when a guest’s breath is taken away – comes from stepping into a home with striking, deliberate design,” she says. “Think bright, organized and neutral. There’s a place for the eclectic or quirky, but the entryway is not that place.”

Instant fix: If you don’t have time to restyle your entryway, Cresswell says updating wall decor is a simple way to unify the space. “Rather than cobbling a bunch of different frames or odds and ends together, choose a few specific things that pair perfectly. A precisely placed mirror can make a space look much bigger and brighter.”

An uplifting scent

If you only pay attention to the look of your home, you’re missing one of the most important factors that influence guests: fragrance. “Scent can be one of the most immediate factors in making a first impression, and it is often overlooked,” says Cresswell.

A Trulia study suggests it could also increase the value of your home; 30 percent of real estate agents said scent was the single most important sense during an open house and named vanilla and fresh scents as the most popular among house hunters.

Instant fix: Light a vanilla or citrus candle in the living room or near the entrance to infuse your home with an uplifting scent. If you’re turning your home into a rental, be sure to use a tall lantern to shield the open flame. “Flowers always add an elegant but subtle fragrance, and baking cookies is another great way to get a welcoming air on arrival,” says Cresswell.

A lack of clutter

It’s time to address that discarded pile of magazines or strewn shoes – when it comes to first impressions, clutter counts: 73 percent of real estate agents said cleanliness is the most important sight-based feature during a viewing, possibly because unnecessary furniture and decor can make a space feel small.

“A foyer should have absolutely no clutter,” says Cresswell. “Everything, from decorative knickknacks to practical things like shoes, should have a designated place. Keys should be hung neatly on a key rack, and shoes should have a rack or boot tray. As for cleanliness, dusting and vacuuming go a long way.”

Instant fix: Use decorative baskets to mask mess. Position them by the doorway, under a coffee table, or beside a sofa to fake a cleaner-looking home without removing any items.

White paint

The color you choose to paint your home can have a big impact on its value. A report by Zillow Digs found that slate gray was among the most disliked colors among guests and cut the value of a home by over $1000. If you’re painting a guest room, real estate agents told Trulia that white, ivory, and eggshell are the most appealing shades to create an inviting space.

Instant fix: If repainting your home isn’t an option, pay attention to lighting. A carefully chosen floor lamp with the right colored bulb can subtly change the intensity of paint and is a perfect way to make a slate-gray room feel bright and fresh.

Thoughtful touches

To turn a good first impression into a lasting one, Kaye says personal touches matter most. “A well-made bed is the most important thing you can offer your guests. It is the key to making your visitors feel completely comfortable, cozy, and relaxed!” When creating the brand’s first-ever hotel, Kaye channeled five-star vibes with a few expert touches. “You should always provide at least two pillows of varying firmness per guest and dedicate a few sets of towels and sheets for guest use only. This will allow them to last longer than if you added them to your daily rotation of linens.”

Instant fix: Caught off-guard by unexpected guests? Try this hotel-approved towel folding method for a thoughtful guestroom touch. “First, lay the towel flat on a surface, and smooth out any wrinkles. Then, starting with the long side of the towel, fold the length in thirds,” says Kaye. “Grasp the short side, and fold the towel in half. Repeat this step,” and you should be left with a neat square.

Get the latest on home decor trends, design ideas, shopping guides and food news, and take a look inside your favorite celebrity homes on

Copyright © 2018, Clique Media Inc., Sophie Miura Domaine. All rights reserved. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Selling New Construction For Rookies: Part 2

‘BURG Development, LLC, St Petersburg, FL

This article is part two in a two-part series from David Hakimi, Realtor Magazine, on how to sell newly-constructed homes. Read part one here.

In my last post, I discussed the buyer’s agent’s duties in a new construction transaction and the sales process. Now I’d like to touch on hurdles clients may face buying new construction, as well as contracts, financing, and agent compensation.

Selling new-construction isn’t without its own set of unique hurdles, all of which can prove to be sufficiently challenging.

In most states, challenges arise largely from the differences between the builder’s contract and the normal re-sale contract that agents are more familiar with. Many states allow builders to circumvent the normal re-sale contract provided by your state’s real estate commission or REALTOR® association, and substitute a proprietary contract of their own instead. These proprietary contracts are typically crafted by the builder’s attorneys and they normally contain extensive language that heavily favors the rights of the builder. Additionally, a typical builder contract is often 60 to 80 pages long, compared to the 3 to 15 pages found in most states’ resale contracts.  A smart agent should always ask the builder’s sales person for a copy of the contract a day or two in advance so that they can carefully read it in its entirety—highlight any crucial dates or clauses that a buyer should be particularly aware of. This will also lead to a much smoother signing once the buyer is present, because you won’t have to read and explain an entire 80-page contract on the spot. Many experienced agents keep a file in their office containing example contracts from every active builder in their area. This allows you to quickly re-familiarize themselves with each builder’s contractual nuances in advance, so you’re prepared when a buyer asks you to go see a that builder’s model homes.

Financing can be particularly tricky when dealing with builder transactions.

Most mortgage lenders typically cannot cost-effectively lock-in an interest rate for more than 90 days in advance of a closing. Therefore, when dealing with an unfinished (or dirt-start) home that likely won’t be completed for 4 to 18 months, this can pose a substantial risk. If a buyer’s debt-to-income ratios barely qualify them to purchase the home at the time it’s contracted, then there’s a risk that they may no longer qualify to buy it at all if mortgage rates increase before they’re eligible to lock-in their rate. Because none of us own a crystal ball to predict which direction the rates may go, it’s always very prudent to make sure your buyers will still qualify even if the rates increase. A good rule of thumb is to make sure they would still qualify even if the rates climb by 1 percent. If not, then they are taking a major gamble buying new-construction. If a buyer barely qualifies for the amount they are trying to spend, then it makes more sense to find that buyer a home that they can close on within the term of their rate-lock. None of us wants to hear the lender tell our buyer that after waiting 13 months, they no longer qualify for enough to close on their new home.

Most builders also have an ownership stake, or affiliated business arrangement of some kind with a lender and a title company. Additionally, most builders will tie their incentives and/or discounts to the requirement of using this lender and title company. While they cannot force a buyer to utilize these service providers, they will routinely withhold discounts and incentives from buyers who insist on using an outside lender or title/escrow company. Often, these incentives are substantial enough that most buyers will comply with this requirement in order not to lose them. Therefore, it is prudent that the buyers understand this in advance, so that it doesn’t cause issues if they are particularly loyal to their current bank or lender.

Make certain you understand exactly how the builder will compensate you for bringing them a qualified buyer.

Builder co-op commissions are often structured differently then re-sale commissions, so you need to be clear on how you’ll be compensated. In most instances, builders only pay a disclosed percentage of the home’s base price, but do not pay any commission on the lot premiums, structural upgrades, landscaping, or design center options. This is important to factor in, because these costs can reach as much as 50 percent of the final price on some homes such as former “model homes.” Make sure you clarify in advance whether a builder pays commission based on the home’s base price, or on the home’s final purchase price. Also clarify the percentage they intend to pay as well. In most cases it’s slightly higher than the percentage paid on a resale to compensate for the fact that we aren’t paid on the home’s entire price. However, in some instances builders do pay on the complete amount, and there are some instances where the percentage paid is slightly higher than the area average for resales. This typically occurs when a development is selling too slowly, the builder has too many completed spec homes in inventory, the market is declining, or the builder is closing out the development. In these instances, selling new-construction can be particularly lucrative!

Make sure your client has never registered in the past while touring model homes without including your name on the registration card.

The builder’s salespeople are tenacious about pressing everyone who enters the model homes to fill out a registration card. Much like an open house on a re-sale, they want to capture the buyer’s information for follow-up purposes. However, those registration cards also serve a more insidious purpose as well. There are questions on the card that ask the buyer how they found out about the development, and whether they are represented by an agent or not. If your buyer previously visited the sales office without you (even if it was before they started working with you) and they didn’t put your name on their care, the builder now has a record of it. If you bring that buyer back later and attempt to register them as your client, the builder may not allow you to. The builders only intend to pay you if they determine that you were truly the procuring cause and initially brought the buyer to them. If they determine that the buyer found them on their own, without your involvement, then the builder will most likely refuse to pay you a commission. So be careful and ask your clients early in the process if they have registered with any builders before hiring you!

As long as you do your homework, the pros outweigh the cons.

Selling new construction can be very rewarding, and it can provide you with precious inventory in a market where re-sale homes are in short supply. If you take the time to tour all the builders’ models in your area, and learn as much as you can about their homes and policies, it will be time well spent. Get to know the sales people and their floorplans, because a solid knowledge of the builders in your area will be a benefit to both you and your clients. Be confident in your abilities and go sell some new homes!

David Hakimi runs the Hakimi Team with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Innovative Real Estate in the Denver and Boulder, Colo. market. Connect with David at or on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.

Selling New Construction For Rookies: Part 1

‘BURG Development, LLC, St Petersburg,FL

This article is part one in a two-part series in Realtor Magazine on how to sell newly-constructed homes, by David Hakimi. Read part two here.

It’s no secret that the housing market has fully rebounded over the past eight years and is now experiencing tremendous growth. In fact, demand in many major metropolitan markets has clearly outpaced supply. In numerous cities, builders have been spurred to start churning out new homes as fast as they can build them.

According to economic data from the U.S. Census Bureau, builders are now producing approximately 1.18 million homes per year nationally. Given the proliferation of new construction, new agents entering the business will be wise to quickly familiarize themselves with the key differences between selling existing homes and brand-new homes.

Understand the key differences between a buyer’s agent’s duties when dealing with re-sales vs. new-construction transactions.

There will always be some difficult deals that require extra steps on the agent’s behalf, but for the most part, a buyer agent’s primary responsibilities on a re-sale transaction typically revolve around the same five general functions:

  • Structuring the offer terms competitively to compete against other offers, and lining up any contingent sales that must occur concurrently.
  • Researching price by analyzing comparable sales to maximize the chances the home will sufficiently appraise, and ensuring that the buyer isn’t over-paying.
  • Negotiating price, post-inspection repairs, and concessions.
  • Managing deadlines such as loan application, earnest money delivery, appraisal scheduling, title review, review of HOA documents, binding homeowner’s insurance, contingent sales, and closing.
  • Protecting the buyer’s earnest money, by recognizing any inability (or unwillingness) of the buyer to comply with a date outlined in the contract, and working to either extend that deadline or terminate the offer in time.

By comparison, an agent’s primary role in a new-construction transaction is a little different, and can generally be summarized by the following eight functions:

  • Interpreting the buyer’s rightsoutlined in the builder contracts, and noting any crucial deadlines relating to the buyer’s ability to terminate without forfeiture of the deposit money.
  • Negotiating the price, incentives, and inclusions. Just like a car dealership, new home salespeople can often offer extra inclusions, or discounts to secure a contract.
  • Solidifying the price the home will come to after lot premiums, design center options, structural upgrades, low voltage options, appliances, landscaping, and builder incentives have all been factored in. The builder’s advertised “base price” is generally tens of thousands of dollars below the final completed price, once these factors are added together.
  • Analyzing the meaning of soil surveys/engineering reports pertaining to the chosen lot, or reading blueprints and floorplans.  The amount of expansive soils found during the soil survey, determine the type of foundation that the engineer will require the home has to be constructed on. Slab-on-grade foundations can be used when the expansive soil content is low, but costlier pier-and-beam foundations must be used when high amounts are present.
  • Advising the buyer on making the best use of the budget. Choices like which lot, what structural upgrades, or which design center options, can all make-or-break a buyer’s budget. Some cosmetic options can be done more affordably after closing, while some structural items cannot easily be done at all after the house is completed. Most builders will also require additional deposit money, once a buyer’s design center choices exceed a set amount. This can be up to 50 percent of the cost of the upgrades, once the cost of the options goes past a predetermined dollar amount.
  • Questioning the builder’s sales rep about all the inclusions, contingency terms, financing and incentives that a buyer might not think of on their own until it’s too late. The model homes are packed with every imaginable upgrade, so it’s extremely crucial to ask which features are included with the basic home, and which items are upgrades. Even basic things like lawn grass, sprinklers and fences in the back yard, are often not included. Refrigerators, garage door openers, window blinds, and central air conditioners aren’t always included eitherSee my complete “Builder Questionnaire.”
  •  Accompanying the buyer on the walk-throughs the foreman will conduct at the various stages of construction. Pre-drywall, electrical, low voltage, and the final pre-closing walkthrough for identifying touch-ups. It’s the agent’s job to help hold the builder’s foreman accountable for completing any repairs or necessary corrections discovered at these walk-throughs.
  • Protecting the buyer’s earnest money remains a common thread. There aren’t as many crucial deadlines, but there are still a few like the loan application deadline and the contingent sale deadline. It’s your job to make sure the buyer understands them. Also, some builder contracts have verbiage that entitles them to keep a percentage of the deposit, even if the buyer backs out for a legitimate reason defined in their contract. Make sure you and your buyer are clear on this point, so there are no unpleasant surprises.

Selling new-construction is a different process, but it’s certainly nothing a new agent should be afraid to take-on.

In fact, most experienced agents consider selling new construction a less taxing process than selling a re-sale. This is true because there is often less negotiation over earnest money, possession dates, concessions, post-inspection repairs, and even price in some circumstances. Post-inspection repair negotiations don’t exist, because new homes are fully covered by the builder’s warranty and a builder’s reputation depends on delivering homes that are free of problems. However, you should pay close attention to the verbiage in their contract that deals with defects that are discovered during the routine walk-throughs. Most builders will not allow a buyer to terminate over these items, but rather insist that the buyer allow them to correct the issues before the home is delivered. Also make sure your client is aware that builders will not normally allow changes to materials, or structural features once construction has started. This is because the builders cannot deviate from the initial plans they submitted to the county to obtain the building permit. Likewise, materials such as tile, wood flooring, countertops, appliances, cannot easily be changed midstream either. Builders place their material orders in bulk to receive wholesale pricing, therefore, it isn’t feasible for them to make changes after the materials order has been placed.

Completion timelines can also have variances and delays that push the closing back. Things like bad weather, materials shortages, labor strikes of unionized trades, delays with county permit issuance, project financing issues, etc., are all factors out of the builder’s control that can prolong the construction process. Make sure you are clear on the maximum time frame the contract provides a builder to complete a home. Most builders typically promise delivery somewhere between 6 and 13 months, but the contract may allow them to delay completion up to 24 months without penalty or legal recourse.

Builders will often insist that their prices are non-negotiable. This may or may not be true, depending on the market.

This varies from market to market, and sometimes even between neighborhoods and builders. If a particularly hot neighborhood is selling faster than a builder can release lots, then odds are they won’t deal on price. However, if the builder has several unsold “spec” homes in inventory, then it’s usually a good bet that they will negotiate. This is even more true at the end of the month, the end of the fiscal fourth quarter, or when the builder is down to the last few homes and they are trying to close out the development. In these instances, a smart agent will negotiate hard for their client!

New homes are typically offered on a first-come, first-served basis, which means that the first qualified buyer to place a deposit on a newly released lot, gets it.

Therefore, creatively structuring offers to be more competitive against competing offers often isn’t necessary. Researching comps is rarely a factor either, since the builder prices are carefully set at levels that the builder can justify based on the value of the land and construction costs. Unless a buyer goes overboard with design center options, new construction homes rarely fail to appraise. However, it’s worth noting that many builder contracts state that the buyer is still required to close on the home, even if the appraisal does somehow come in low. Therefore, agents need to advise their buyer’s not to over-improve the home (in the design center) too far above the norm for the neighborhood. The burden of managing deadlines is greatly reduced as well, because most builder contracts make a buyer’s earnest money hard within 2-3 days after the contract is executed. Aside from the buyer’s loan getting declined (assuming it was no fault of the buyer) or the builder failing to compete the home in time, builder contracts generally have no other provisions in place for a buyer to terminate without forfeiting their deposit. Therefore, there are far fewer crucial deadlines to manage on a new-construction transaction.

In Dave’s second post, he touches on some common challenges associated with new construction, including buyer financing.

David Hakimi runs the Hakimi Team with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Innovative Real Estate in the Denver and Boulder, Colo. market. Connect with David at or on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.

Top 12 Apps for Homeowners and Renters 

More than 77 percent of people own a smartphone.1 The average person checks their smartphone 46 times a day, with people under the age of 24 checking it an average of 74 times a day.1 We check it while we’re waiting in line and during our leisure time, whether we’re scrolling through social media, reading emails or getting up-to-date on the latest news.

Smartphones are not only a useful tool for communication. With the following apps, you can get organized (whether you plan to buy or sell), save money, learn about the homes in your neighborhood and get inspired for your next renovation project. If you’re like 81 percent of people, you have your smartphone with you during most of your waking hours; let it help you stay organized and make your life easier.3

Apps For Homeowners: Get Renovation Inspiration

These apps not only offer ideas for your next remodel or home décor project, some of them even give you a preview of what your home may look like once it’s finished.

1.) Houzz (Free)

The Houzz app is the number one app for home design and it’s no wonder; the app gives you access to all the inspiration, blogs and design ideas from the Houzz site on your phone or tablet. The app features View in My Room 3D, which allows you to view products in your home before you buy. Just take a photo of the space and a 3D version of the product will appear. Browse products, save photos of designs you’d like to view later and connect with local professionals in your area. Whether you’re gathering ideas for your next renovation and décor project or you’re just browsing, the Houzz app will satisfy all your design needs.  (Android, iOS)

2.) iHandy Carpenter ($1.99)

Make sure the photos, shelves, mirrors and other artwork you hang are even and aligned with this helpful app. It’s an all-in-one tool kit that features a plumb bob, surface level, bubble level bar, ruler and protractor. No need to purchase these tools separately; just hold your smartphone up to the wall and the app will take care of the rest.  (iOS, Android)

3.) Color911 ($3.99)

If you’re thinking of changing the color scheme of your home or want to find the right shades for lamp shades, rugs or throw pillows to match your vintage sofa, the Color911 app provides pre-selected color palettes to match any color scheme. Take a photo of the room or the furniture and the app will create a custom palette full of complementary colors. Write notes about your palette and organize it all into folders to share with family, friends or your design professional.  (iOS)

Bonus Apps for Homeowners:

AroundMe (Free)

Hungry and looking for a local hotspot? Meeting friends at a coffee shop nearby? Or just need to find the closest ATM? AroundMe allows you to search for the nearest restaurants, banks, gas stations, book a hotel or find a movie schedule close to where you live. Open the app and start learning more about your neighborhood. (iOS, Android, Windows)

BrightNest (Free)

From keeping things clean to making them colorful, Brightnest, developed by Angie’s List, is loaded with suggestions on how to make your home a better place to live. With categories of customized tips (money-saving, cleaning, eco-friendly, healthy, cooking, and creative) there are plenty of great ways to pull inspiration from the app. BrightNest will help you tackle important home tasks with easy-to-follow instructions, a personal schedule and helpful reminders. (iOS, Android, Web)

Apps For Sellers: List & Sell Your Home Quickly

Are you a homeowner who is thinking of selling? If you’re preparing to sell, you know there are a lot of tasks to complete before putting your home on the market. These apps help you manage your to-dos so you can list and sell your home more efficiently with fewer distractions.

4.) Homesnap (Free)

Using the Homesnap app, you can snap a photo of any home, nationwide, to learn more about it. When you’re ready to sell, snap a few of the homes in your neighborhood to find out their valuation. This app isn’t perfect, which is why you should always consult with a local real estate agent. However, it can give you a general idea of the value of your home compared to others in the neighborhood. (iOS and Android devices)

5.) Docusign (Free)

Use the DocuSign app to complete approvals and agreements in hours—not days—from anywhere and on any device. Quickly and securely access and sign any documents. The benefit to using the app (over your desktop computer) is you will receive push notifications when a document is waiting for your signature and you can view and organize all your docs on-the-go. Using the easily downloadable app, receive and sign documents for free. You can receive and sign documents for free, but will need a paid account to send documents; pricing starts at $10 a month. (iOS, Android, Windows, Web).

6.) Wunderlist (Free)

Designed for use on the Web and mobile devices, Wunderlist is a well-designed to-do list and task management program that makes it easy to create a list and add tasks, due dates and reminders. Organize your ideas or focus into separate lists or create tasks within one list. You can also email them with whomever you collaborate, such as a spouse or your real estate agent. (Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Web)

Bonus App for Sellers:

Real Estate Dictionary (Free)

Not sure what all those industry specific terms mean? Search thousands of words and phrases from real estate, mortgage, and financial dictionaries for clear, in-depth definitions. This is a handy app for anyone who’s buying or selling and wants to learn more about the process. (iOS, Android)

Apps For Renters: Get Ready to Buy

Not ready to buy a home just yet? These apps will help you get into the perfect rental while you save money, build a budget and get on track for homeownership.

7.) Mint (Free)

Do you know where your money goes each month? Manage your bills, budget and credit score all in one place. Mint is a free app that helps you view your complete financial picture and track your spending. We recommend this app to anyone, but it’s especially useful for renters who need to crack down on their spending in order to save for a down payment. Use Mint to look for areas you can cut spending in order to save a little extra each month. (iOS, Android)

8.) Acorns ($1 a month to start)

Acorns is modernizing the practice of saving loose change with their automated savings tool. The app rounds up your purchases on linked credit or debit cards, then sweeps the change into a computer-managed investment portfolio. Acorns is free for four years for college students and everyone else pays $1 a month until their account balance hits $5,000, then 0.25% of their account balance per year. This is a useful tool for those who have a hard time saving. (iOS, Android)

9.) Neighborhoods & Apartments

Built for the on-the-go apartment hunter, this app from Walk Score takes the hassle out of finding your next home or apartment and helps you live near the people and places you love. They collect listings from top rental listing sites and we like them because they share how walkable each address is, determined by access to public transit, things to do, bike trails, shorter commutes, etc. (iOS, Android)

Bonus Apps for Renters:

Wally (Free)

Wally is a personal finance app that helps you compare your income to expenses, so you can understand where your money goes each month, and set and achieve goals. Wally lets you keep track of the details as you spend money: where, when, what, why, & how much. We love how simple it is to set a personalized savings target and scan receipts. (iOS, Android)

Credit Karma (Free)
If you’re preparing to buy, boosting your credit score is likely a goal you’ve set. Credit Karma is a free app that allows you to safely monitor your score and receive updates on ways you can improve it over time. They provide financial calculators and educational articles to help you better understand what credit is all about. Check as often as you want, and it doesn’t hurt your score. (iOS, Android, Web)

Apps for Buyers: Find the Perfect Home

When you’re ready to buy, there are several apps that can help you stay on top of the process. Whether you’re browsing online at different neighborhoods and homes and can’t seem to remember where all your saved data and information went or you want to save an important task or a neighborhood or listing clipped from the Web, these apps help you keep it all straight.

10.) Dwellr (Free)

Dwellr is run by the U.S Census Bureau and provides demographic information about the neighborhoods you are considering moving to. You get a variety of education/school, real estate, transportation, and population statistics to give you an idea of what it would be like living there. If you want to get the feel of a potential neighborhood, then Dwellr may just be the app to help you find the best home. (iOS, Android)

11.) Evernote (Free for the Basic version, $34.99 per year for Plus and $69.99 per year for Premium)

Collect ideas, notes and images in one place to access later on your computer, tablet or smartphone. Categorize your notes so you can find them quickly and easily and share them with others in a group notebook. Add the Web Clipper feature to your browser and clip and save articles, blogs and images from the Web. Whether you’re collecting research on a business idea or you’re looking for inspiration for a home renovation, Evernote can help you keep it all together. (Web, iOS, Android) 

12.) Mortgage Calculator (Free)

There are a lot of free mortgage calculators available for download that will help you quickly determine what your monthly payment will be while you’re house hunting. We recommend picking your favorite and using it to help you shop in your price range. These numbers should be used as a guide, work with your agent and mortgage professional to learn exactly what type of loan you’ll qualify for. (Web, iOS, Android)

Bonus App for Buyers:

Google Maps (Free)

Google Maps is a must-have for anyone who’s house hunting. When you’re ready to visit a property or check out a neighborhood, you can use Google Maps to give you turn by turn directions to the house. You can use their satellite view to get a good idea how far important things like schools, parks, shopping, bus stops, and restaurants are to a home you are interested in and check out the other houses on the street. (Web, Android, iOS,)

Ready to move beyond the app?

If you’re thinking of buying or selling your home, or know someone who is, keep us in mind because we’re happy to help!

Source: 1. Pew Research Center, January 12, 2017

  1. Deloitte, 2016 global mobile consumer survey: US edition
  2. Gallup, July 9, 2015

The 5 Greatest Benefits of Home Ownership

Benefits of Home Ownership

Keeping Current Matters

Recently, Freddie Mac reported on the benefits of homeownership. According to their report, here are the five benefits that “should be at the top of everyone’s list.”

  1. Homeownership can help you build equity over time.
  2. Your monthly payments will remain stable.
  3. You may have some tax benefits.
  4. You can take pride in ownership.
  5. Homeownership improves your community.

Let’s expand on each of Freddie Mac’s points:

Homeownership can help you build equity over time.

Every three years, the Federal Reserve conducts a Survey of Consumer Finances in which they collect data across all economic and social groups. The latest survey, which includes data from 2010-2013, reports that a homeowner’s net worth is 36 times greater than that of a renter ($194,500 vs. $5,400).

In a Forbes article, the National Association of Realtors’ (NAR) Chief Economist Lawrence Yun reported that now the net worth gap is 45 times greater.

Your monthly payments will remain stable.

When you purchase a home with a fixed rate mortgage, the majority of the payment (principle and interest) remain constant. On the other hand, rents continue to skyrocket. Your housing expense is much more stable if you own instead of rent.

You may have some tax benefits.

According to the Tax Policy Center’s Briefing Book -“A citizen’s guide to the fascinating (though often complex) elements of the federal Tax System” – there are several tax advantages to homeownership.

Here are four items from the Briefing Book:

  • Mortgage Interest Deduction
  • Property Tax Deduction
  • Imputed Rent
  • Profits from Home Sale

You can take pride in ownership.

Most surveys show that a major factor in purchasing a home is the freedom you have to design the home the way you want. From paint colors to yard accessories, you don’t need a landlord’s permission to make the house feel like a home.

Homeownership improves your community.

The National Association of Realtors recently released a study titled ‘Social Benefits of Homeownership and Stable Housing.’ The study explained:

“Homeownership does create social capital and provide residents with a platform from which to connect and interact with neighbors…Owning a home means owning part of a neighborhood, and a homeowner’s feelings of commitment to the home can arouse feelings of commitment to the neighborhood, which, in turn, can produce interactions with neighbors.”

Bottom Line

There are many benefits to homeownership. That is why it is still a critical piece of the American Dream.

via The KCM Crew