Joseph Domino 480-390-6011

One simple improvement homeowners can easily make to their house.

Homeowners have a big investment in their homes. Anything that they can do to make it better is always welcome. But sometimes big improvements simply are not in the budget. So what can the average homeowner do to improve their home, make their life easier without busting the budget? One such project involves replacing the old fashion incandescent and halogen light bulbs with modern Light Emitting Diode (LED) lamps.

Incandescent bulbs while cheap to purchase cost much more to operate, have a very short life span and radiate heat. Halogen bulbs while more energy efficient also emit dangerous levels of heat that can burn skin or start fires with direct contact. CFL bulbs while cheap to operate are difficult to dispose of and contain dangerous gases.

The chart below illustrates both the reduction of cost to operate and the life expectancy of each of the various options available to homeowners.

While LED bulbs can cost as much as 10 times the cost of incandescent or CFL bulbs the reduced operating costs and life expectancy not only provide a payback period of fewer than 6 years, the LED will last many years beyond the payback period saving money over the life of the unit. In addition, the extended life of the LED means that you no longer have to go to the store to buy more bulbs, get out the ladder to change the bulb and look for a place to discard the old bulb. In fact replacing an old style bulb with an LED may be the last time you will ever have to replace that bulb.

Since every homeowner eventually sells their house replacing old style bulbs with modern LED bulbs can become a selling point by making the home more energy efficient and lower in maintenance. You can even brag to your friends how you are helping to save the planet.

The best part about this project is that any homeowner, no matter their skill set can change a light bulb.

Want more helpful information for homeowners? Visit www.Scottsdale-AZHomes.com

Originally published at: From The Outside Looking In a real estate blog offering the latest tips and opinions.

Does Your Agent Use Meta-messages?

You ask a question and the reply never really provides an answer, and even worse the reply is patronizing and makes you feel inadequate. When this happens it not only makes you uneasy, it distracts you from finding the information you are seeking. When it happens over and over, it makes you question whether your agent really knows anything at all. We know that everyone cannot possibly know everything, but when someone does not know the answer he or she should not pretend that it is not important. The correct reply should be, “I don’t have that information, but I will be happy to help you get the right answer”.

As a real estate agent, I often wear two hats. Sometimes I wear the hat of a salesperson because after all, I sell houses, that is what I do. But as an agent, I am also the representative of the buyer or seller, so it is my job to protect my client’s interest. That means that I must know the market so my client gets the best deal possible, I must know the contract so that we negotiate the best terms and I must fully understand the closing process to ensure that the sale goes smoothly without any delays.

Occasionally during the home sale, a problem may arise or a question may surface. That is when it is my place to help resolve the situation. It is also when my expertise becomes so important and even if I do not have the answer immediately available, I can find the answer quickly.

So when my client asks me a question I either answer it directly or I work to find the answer, no lip flap, no meta-messages. Honesty is always the best policy.

Have a question about real estate in the Phoenix metro area? Contact me and I will help you find the right answer. Visit: www.Scottsdale-AZHomes.com
Want more great Real Estate Made Easy tips? Visit my blog From The Outside Looking In.

It should be Buyer Aware, not Buyer Beware.

We often hear the phrase Let the Buyer Beware (caveat emptor). The phrase comes from the contract law principle that buyers typically have less information about the property they are purchasing, while the seller has more information. Certain defects, known to the seller, may be hidden from the buyer either inadvertently or purposefully.

So as a home buyer how do you protect yourself and somewhat level the playing field? The best way to avoid problems down the road is by using what I call Buyer Aware (emptor cognito). As a buyer, who is about to make one of the largest financial transactions in your life you should make every effort to discover all you can about the property.

Fortunately, the internet has made it much easier for buyers to research all forms of information about not only the property but the area, the costs of acquiring the property even to compare one property to another. But, there is so much information on the internet today, some of it conflicting in nature, that it can be confusing. So how do you as a buyer sort out the reliable information from the inaccurate or incorrect?

The first thing any buyer should do is to find reliable sources of information. That means finding a local team of experts to help you sort out the good and false information. As an agent, I am often asked questions regarding details that are beyond my possible area of expertise. “Do you know what is going to be built on the land behind this home?”, “Will I be allowed to put an addition on this house in 3 years?”

These types of questions are often unanswerable and it would wrong to attempt to speculate. My job then becomes one that can provide the buyer with a source of information that can satisfy the question. Knowing where to turn for answers is as important as knowing the answer.

One document that I really like to use is the Arizona Association of Realtors® (AAR) Buyer Advisory. It is a great place to start whenever questions come up that require a little research. I always provide my buyer clients a copy of this important document early on in the home search process. Should a more specific question come up that requires a particular area of expertise, ever agent should have knowledge of where to direct the client to find the answers to those questions.

When a client is Aware, they can significantly reduce the feeling of Beware.

Need a copy of the AAR Buyer Advisory? Simply click HERE

For more information on buying or selling a home in Arizona, just give me a call or visit my website at: www.Scottsdale-AZHomes.com

Probing the psyche of the millennial home buyer.

One of the more difficult challenges in the real estate business today is trying understand the mindset of the millennial. Many millennial’s have adopted the mindset that home ownership is simply not worth the sacrifice(s) required to make ownership possible. It certainly is understandable. Most millennial’s have a fresh memory of the economic meltdown and housing crash and feel that the reward is not worth the risk. But the housing crash of 2008 was unusual, and hopefully a one-time event that should not reoccur in their lifetime.

But how do we as agents, lenders (and parents) convince them that home ownership is not only worthwhile, it is a necessity if they ever want to achieve the same level of wealth and security that previous generations have been afforded?

Home ownership was so important to members of previous generations of Americans that they were willing to make the sacrifices necessary to purchase a home. Those sacrifices often meant doing without some things like dining out, attending concerts and sporting events or buying new cars. But doing without those things at a young age may have been the secret to having them at an old age.

There have been many studies showing that homeowners achieve greater wealth in their lifetime than that do not buy. A recent publication by Benchmark shows that owners achieve greater wealth in part because of “forced savings” (paying a mortgage) rather than spending on things that do not build wealth. According to author and self-made millionaire David Bach “If Millennials don’t buy a home, their chances of actually having any wealth in this country are little to none.”

So as real estate professionals we must find a way to show the reluctant buyer the advantages of ownership. For many of us, that means speaking a new language. Mastering social media, using streaming video, and offering mobile ready websites and mobile apps are ways to make contact. Then we must pique their interest, show them the value and wet their appetite for building a future through home ownership.

For more great tips on making real estate work for you visit my blog:
From The Outside Looking In

You Can Observe a Lot Just By Watching…

I borrowed this title; “You can observe a lot just by watching”, from the late Yogi Berra the Hall of Fame Yankee catcher that seemed to have a marvelous way with words.

Yogi was right in many ways. We often are so busy talking or trying to make a point that we forget to observe what is really important. Even when we think we are listening, we may be planning for our next response or our next riposte, to overcome an objection.

As real estate agents, we are taught to try and spin the positive viewpoint, to try and get a “yes” into the client’s mindset. A “yes” will make the outcome of our negotiations more favorable for both the client and ourselves. But failing to sense how the client really feels could bring the negotiation to a swift and unfavorable result.

It is only through truly listening to the client and watching their body language and facial expressions can we observe what they are thinking. If the client is not truly comfortable with the situation, whether it is negotiating a listing or showing a home, it is our job to recognize their reservations. Only when we observe their views will we really provide the help they require.

When you want to talk to an agent that listens to you, contact me. You can find me 24 hours a day at my website: www.Scottsdale-AZHomes.com

Title Company or Escrow Agent?

We often use the terms interchangeably. But there really is a difference and consumers should be aware of the important differences.

When buying or selling a home, most parties use a 3rd party to handle the transaction. Their duties might include the processing paperwork, researching deeds and ownership history, providing HOA, collecting and disbursing funds, ordering title insurance and coordinating between banks, lenders, real estate agents, inspectors and more. Here in Arizona, these tasks are normally assigned to a someone called an Escrow Agent. Escrow Agents are licensed and governed by the Arizona Department of Financial Institutions (AZDFI), for all intents and purpose they are bankers

As part of the sales and closing process, the buyer and seller may also agree to purchase title insurance. Title Insurance is just exactly how it sounds. It is an insurance policy that protects the beneficiary against these claims and title defects. The sale, issuance, and underwriting of title insurance policies are governed by the Arizona Department of Insurance (ADOI). Title insurers are insurance agents.

Why is this distinction so important? Quite simply because as consumers we have choices as to which services and insurance policies we wish to purchase. So as an example is it possible to have a buyer choose an escrow agent to handle their funds and paperwork, while the seller chooses a different escrow agent to handle their settlement? Yes, it is possible and may be necessary under certain conditions.

The same is true for title insurance. It is conceivable that a seller may wish to purchase a title insurance policy from one insurer, while the buyer may wish or be required to purchase insurance from another. In fact, we are seeing a lot of insurance providers encouraging buyers and sellers to price shop for title insurance before purchasing. While it may be possible to save some money it could add an element of complexity to the purchase transaction because the buyer and seller would have to agree and include language in the purchase contract to allow it, prior to contract execution.

The standard Arizona Association of Realtors (AAR) Residential Purchase Contract empowers the escrow agent to obtain and deliver to the Buyer and Seller a commitment for title insurance, so most parties simply agree to purchase the policies the escrow agent recommends. However many times homes are purchased using a contract other that the AAR contract (one example might be a new home builder), so other choices may be available.

Whether you are purchasing a home or selling a home, be sure to ask your real estate agent to explain your options before you execute a contract.

Want to know more about the escrow process and title insurance?

Visit me at: www.Scottsdale-AZHomes.com

When “smell-o-vision” replaces television, everyone will be selling bacon.

When I was growing up there used to be an old joke that the next improvement to television would be “smell-o-vision” (addressing a person’s other senses). The idea is not without its merits. In the 1930s theatre owners would pump in artificial smells into the theatre to enhance the experience. The scent of a freshly mowed lawn to an outdoor scene or salty air to an ocean scene. Some owners would cook bacon (who doesn’t love the smell of bacon cooking?) hoping it would make customers hungry. Even today, the smell of freshly popped corn will have moviegoers waiting in line at the concessions stand.

Walking past a bakery that is baking fresh bread can make you hungry, just as walking past a garbage can quickly take away your appetite. Science has shown that smell is the sense most closely linked to memory.

How does this relate to real estate? It is no secret that selling a home requires putting your best foot forward when advertising and marketing a home. Offering the perspective buyer something more than few lines of text and a few pictures just may capture that buyer’s imagination. So as marketers we must attempt to differentiate our property from similar homes.

Every agent knows that a batch of fresh baked cookies at an open house is a great way to entice a buyer and perhaps keep them in the house just a little longer.

It starts with cleaning, deodorizing and decluttering will allow the buyer to visualize themselves in the home. Fresh flowers will warm their hearts and stimulate their sense.

Writing the best description possible to point out the features and qualities of the home. Why this one is better than all the rest. Simply describing the home as “Nice home in great neighborhood” just isn’t going to do the job.

Lastly, using high-quality pictures, videos and virtual tours can pique the buyer’s interest and make them see all the possibilities that the home has to offer.

Making use of more of the prospective buyer’s senses can be the key to a quick and easy sale. Triggering the buyer’s other senses can also trigger their imagination. When that happens your property will be the one they want above all the others.

For more information about homes in the Phoenix/Scottsdale metro area visit: www.Scottsdale-AZHomes.com

It’s Still Location, Location, Location

When it comes to real estate we often hear the familiar mantra “Location, Location, Location”. But what does it really mean and why is it so important? As an agent I often encounter buyers that look first at the building they are buying and secondly at the location. They rationalize by saying “I can get more square footage in this area, more bang for the buck” or “I really like this builder of this house”. While we all want the best house we can get for the money, we also must recognize that the reason one area of the city commands a higher price than the other is desirability. People are willing to pay more for the same house in neighborhood A over neighborhood B for a reason (or several reasons).

So when we consider Location, Location, Location what are we really talking about? Some of the factors you need to consider when buying include:

– Being in or near the place(s) that will best support you everyday life. This is about lifestyle. It could include being close to family & friends. It may mean a better school district, a church, shopping and dining, or other amenities. It may mean being close to work or limiting your commute. The best location for your life.

– Safety and security is important to everyone. Lower crime, reliable fire protection, adequate police protection, low traffic, like minded neighbors or a pollution free environment. Perhaps being close to hospitals and doctors. Factors that allow you to live worry free.

– Financial stability, which might include potential for appreciation and high resale value. Ensuring the surrounding homes and neighborhoods maintain values equal to or above your property. Buying a million dollar home in an area of $400K homes may not be your best investment. The house may be great but the location not ideal.

So when considering your next home purchase do not forget that you are not just purchasing a house but choosing a place to live. The extra 200 sq. ft. may not mean much if living is a chore, safety is a concern or your investment is at risk.

Need help finding the best location for you? Visit me at: www.Scottsdale-AZHomes.com

Adding your children’s name to your deed may not be a good idea.

It used to be a common practice that when a parent got older that they would simply add their children’s names to the deed of their home in an attempt to avoid probate and circumvent estate planning. But this practice is old thinking and presents several pitfalls to both the owner and their heirs.

This type of transaction may have tax implications now and in the future. Tax laws and the tracking of transfers and gifts has become more sophisticated over the years so the likelihood of slipping through unnoticed is more difficult.

When adding a child (or other persons) name to a deed to make them joint owners or tenants in common without compensation, you are essentially giving them a gift of equity. This gift may be subject to federal gift tax laws if the amount exceeds current federal gift amounts (currently $14K per person). The original property owner should file with their tax return Form 709 and pay appropriate tax in the year of transfer.

But even if you avoid any tax liability at the time of transfer, adding additional names to a deed may also come with additional risks not foreseen at the time of the transfer. Suppose one of the children’s death precedes the original owners? Now the children’s estate may place cloud on the title that will need to be resolved before the property can be sold. In addition financial hardships or divorce by one of the added parties may affect the solvency of the original owner’s home. Of course there is always the possibility of dispute between heirs that could complicate the transfer and disposition of the property.

Finally, adding names to a deed to avoid probate carries with it the potential for additional tax liabilities later should the property be sold after the death of the original owner. The tax basis for the property is created at the time the new names are added to the deed. Should the property be held for several years and show any significant appreciation there may be capital gains tax owed at the time of sale.

There are several other ways to avoid probate and also avoid the risks of ownership and tax liability. One such way is through a revocable trust, which is a sophisticated estate plan that should be considered by anyone with significant assets. But in many states there is a simpler, cheaper alternative by using a Beneficiary Deed (sometimes called a Time of Death deed). A Beneficiary Deed is one that is drafted and recorded to show that at the time of death the designated parties (son, daughter, sister, brother, etc.) are to be the beneficiaries of the property. The transfer occurs without probate or tax implication. In addition the tax basis for the property is created at time of death. If the property is disposed of soon after the transfer it is much less likely to generate a taxable gain.

Estate planning should always be done with a long term outlook that accounts for many different scenarios, even if you think that those scenarios may never happen to you.

We never plan to fail, but we often fail to plan.

Arizona Real Estate is changing. How will affect you?

The Arizona Association of Realtors and local Realtor Associations are about to implement a major change in standard resale contract and effectively change the way resale homes are bought and sold in Arizona.

Beginning in February 2107, several major contract provisions and contract addendum will be modified or deleted.

How will it affect home sellers? Home sellers may misinterpret their responsibilities with regard towards maintenance and repair of the home that they are marketing. In addition any repair requests that come from the buyer may be more specific than in the past and may be viewed as excessive. Sellers will need to keep in mind that their objective is to sell the home and not be offended by specific contract language.

How will it affect home buyers? Home buyers that used to rely on certain contract provisions to ensure that they are protected from hidden defects will now have to rely on their own research and inspections, a process known as due diligence, to protect themselves from problems that may arise after close of escrow.

These changes also affect the relationship between agents and their clients. Agents must become more proficient with explaining to clients their responsibilities and requirements both before contract acceptance and through the sale process. Doing business the “old way” may result in an unhappy client, something that no one wants.