Word Wednesday: HOA

Homeowners Association (HOA)

An organization of homeowners of a particular subdivision, condominium or planned unit development. The purpose of a homeowners association is to provide a common basis for preserving maintaining and enhancing their homes and property.

(HOA Law and Legal Definition)

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Homebuyers have wishlists…each has their own…

“big kitchen with an island that can fit six”

“three car garage, I have to have a three-car garage”

“a big backyard”

“no backyard”

“master bath with dual vanities and a big walk-in shower”

“southern exposure”

“close to my parents”

Buyers wishlists…those things that make the home search fun, those things that make their eyes light up when they find them.

I’ve been at this real estate thing for a pretty long time I’ve heard a bunch of wish lists but in all this time I’ve never had a buyer include…

“a super reasonable, financially stable homeowners association with enough money in reserves to pay for the big stuff without charging a monthly arm and a leg and an association with less than 20% of its residents behind on their dues.”

That ↑ is not nearly as fun as a backyard or as sexy as dual vanities and a big walk-in shower.

So…nope…never heard that one on a buyer’s wish list.

But when you’re considering purchasing a property with a Homeowners Association…it’s got to go on the list.

The HOA can make an impact a big impact on your enjoyment, finances and future value of the property you purchase. When you’ve found that perfect condo, or townhome, or home or any other “wishes come true” property with a HOA…you have to pause before you proceed.

Before you reach the “all my wishes have come true here” emotional point of no return, pause and get in the know:

Know the Rules

Can you have a grill on the balcony? Are pets ok? How big and how many? Can I rent my condo after I buy it? What happens if I break the rules?

The HOA has a list of rules and you’ll want to make sure you can live with them.

Know yourself

Do you hate being told what you can and cannot do? If so, you’ll have to reconcile your independent streak with the control the HOA maintains. Consider your own your desires and temperament.

Know what’s included and what isn’t (FEES)

Fees will differ from one community to the next and you’ll want to know the answers to the fees questions of each…What does the monthly fee cover? How often have fees increased and by how much? How large is the HOA’s reserve fund? Is a special assessment on the horizon? How do the fees compare to others in the area?

Know the Association 

Some associations are self-managed, others are managed by an outside company. Know how the association works…how are conflicts resolved? Is the association wrought with drama and silly politics? You’ll want to know what you’re getting into. Meeting minutes and talking with residents can be revealing.

Know you’re not alone 

If you’ll be getting a mortgage for your purchase, the mortgage company will be checking out the HOA as well to ensure their lending on a good bet. They won’t lend on an association that’s financially weak by their standards. The mortgage company doesn’t care about grilling on balconies, but they do care whether the association has enough money in reserves to handle those big-ticket items that are sure to come up.

Homebuyers have wishlists, each has their own…but an HOA you can live with merits being on all of them…put it on the list.

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The Housing Market Has a Heart as Cold Winter

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I am SO done with this winter.

I’m done with hats and gloves and my expensive North Face parka that doesn’t keep me any warmer than my less expensive parka did. I need this winter to end; I need my chapped lips and dry cracked hands to heal. I don’t want to leave my kitchen faucet dripping so my pipes won’t freeze.I don’t want to buy any more salt.  I want to hear some birds chirp, I want to see a daffodil. I don’t want it to be below zero, I don’t want it to snow, I want this winter to be over, I need it to end.

It’s March. March weather in my hometown is never perfect. March usually means gray skies, chilly temperatures, highs  in the 40’s. It’s not beautiful, but there’s usually a sense that spring is just around the corner. Not this year. This year it’s polar vortex, this year, if it’s not snowing, it’s freezing. This year it’s the winter that just won’t go away…and I’m just gonna lose it.

As I look out the window and see the seventy-fifth inch of snow start to fall, one thing is blatantly clear…what I want and need just doesn’t matter, I don’t control the weather.  All the wishing, hoping, complaining, wanting and needing won’t change a thing. I better  just grab my hat, gloves and not warm enough parka, bundle up and deal with it.

You’d never know it by the weather, but  the spring housing market is underway. With the spring market comes a whole new batch of home buyers and sellers…and often they come to the market with  wants and needs regarding home values. It usually goes something like this…

“I need X for my house because I owe Y on my mortgage.”

“The house is worth more, but I need to get the house for X, I’ve only been approved for  Y.”

“I want X for my house because I want to put Y down on my next house.”

You get the idea.

With their wants and needs regarding home values, buyers and sellers want to control the ” weather”. It’s as fruitless for them as it is for me.

The market, not buyer or seller wants and needs, determine property values. The market delivers its weather in the form of supply and demand, closed comparables, appraised values, motivation of the competition. The market doesn’t care what a seller owes, or what a particular buyer has been approved for. A buyer wants this, a seller needs that? The market couldn’t care less. The market has a heart as cold as this never ending winter.

Buyers and sellers have to recognize that they participate within a market they have no control over. They can make the best of it, put their best foot forward in it, they can push it to its limits, but they can not control it or change it.

Like me, buyers and sellers need to bundle up and deal with it.

What does that mean?

For buyers,  bundling up means having that preapproval letter ready, making a realistic offer with attractive terms, maybe even including a heartfelt letter to the seller.

For sellers,  bundling up means having your house in tip-top shape, making the small improvements your agent and stager suggested, it means presenting your property in its best possible light to the widest audience and it means pricing it appropriately for the market.

This winter WILL come to an end, birds will chirp and daffodils will bloom…but remember the market’s heart…it’s cold, no matter the weather.

Bundle up!

Had an “I love my job” week

 
I had an “I love my job” week in real estate this week.

 
I got a new listing, sold one of my listings and had a buyer sale. That’s a good week. Selling houses means the promise of future paychecks and that’s a good thing. But a new listing, selling a listing and a buyer sale in and of itself isn’t what made it an I love my job week.

 
What made it an I love my job week was…Anna, Linda, and Joe and Britany…

 
This week I met Anna. I was interviewed and hired by Anna’s son Bob a couple of weeks ago. This week I was meeting Bob at the townhouse to have the photographs taken and to sign the listing paperwork. The townhouse belongs to Anna so she was there. Anna is 90 years old, born in 1923. Anna has moved to an assisted living community, she can’t really live on her own anymore, so she is sadly selling her beautiful townhome. Her age, her pretty white hair, the unsteadiness in her hands, as she signed the paperwork in that perfect handwriting you just don’t see anymore, the vulnerability of her demeanor…Anna moved me and I liked being near her. The townhouse is lovely and it will sell, but Anna was beautiful and getting to spend just that little bit of time with her…that was an I love my job thing.

 
The listing I sold is a house that’s been on the market for what seems like forever. The house belongs to Linda, it’s the family home; it’s her inheritance. Linda lives in Kentucky,  her husband is in Wisconsin where he was transferred over a year ago. The house selling means that she and her family can buy a house in Wisconsin and be together again. It’s been a long and difficult time for her and I am so happy that her wait is almost over. Listing sold…great. Seeing Linda get to finally be on her way…that’s an I love my job thing.

 
And then, just moments ago, I heard from the listing agent that the offer my buyers made on a house this week has been accepted. My buyers are Joe and Britany. They are a super sweet couple; been married for six years and are so ready to start a family. And they want the family they start to be close to Britany’s family…not 45 minutes away let’s make a plan for Sunday close, no, they want to be coffee close, stop by close. Showing them houses has been a family affair. Sometimes Britany’s mom and dad have come along; sometimes brother Ryan and his wife Kate have popped in to check out the house too. And whenever they all see one another, there’s handshakes and hugs all around.  Their affection for one another fills a room. They are all really good people so working with Joe and Britany has been a pleasure. And now they have a house! The house needs all kinds of updating: There’s wallpaper and paneling everywhere, bathrooms need to be updated, and the kitchen has awful fluorescent lighting that’s gotta go…and yet it’s perfect. Sold a house…great. Joe and Britany being over the moon happy and 60 days away from coffee-close…that’s an I love my job thing.

Definitely an I love my job week.

Happy Friday!

 

Hiring an Agent by Amy Curtis

image courtesy of gettressed.com
image courtesy of gettressed.com

Maggie has been cutting and coloring (yep it’s a must) my hair for the last eight years. Maggie is good at what she does. She gives a really good haircut, and when it comes to color, she’s the bomb. Maggie is a stylist at a pretty exclusive, pretty pricey, salon in my hometown, Orland Park. I think there are probably a bunch of really good stylists there. I could probably go to any one of them and be happy with my haircut and color. I’d expect that they would know what they were doing, expect that they were up to date on the latest trends and products and styles. But I choose Maggie. Getting your haircut is a personal thing, you expose alot of yourself sitting in that chair. It’s a vulnerable place to be. In that chair, you express your doubts about your appearance, your hopes for a good outcome…and when you’re in the middle of your appointment and the dye has been applied and your hair is just sort of sticking out all over and you look incredibly ridiculous…well, you wouldn’t want just anyone to see you like that!  I choose Maggie. She knows what she’s doing, she does a good job but I choose Maggie because I trust her, I feel comfortable with her, she suits me. She might not be the right stylist for everyone, but she’s the right one for me.

I’d approach hiring an agent in much the same way.

The criteria for a hair stylist is obviously different from that of a real estate agent. The “knows what they are doing” in real estate  includes thorough market knowledge, tech savvy, marketing and negotiation skills. A good company with strong market and internet presence is a good thing too.  And when you’re hiring  an agent, you should expect that. But once the criteria is met, comfortable is important. Trust and the right fit is important. Just as sitting in the stylists chair with your hair sticking out all over the place, buying or selling a home is a vulnerable and personal place to be. It’s about your finances,  life decisions, all your personal stuff. You’re not going to want just anyone in  on all of that! So find the agent that’s the right fit for you. The agent you feel comfortable with, the agent you trust…hey…maybe even the agent you wouldn’t be embarrassed to run into at your next hair coloring appointment!

I’m off to a listing appointment…wonder if I will be the right fit for them.