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Check back frequently to read my blog about real estate related topics and my perspectives on all things Central Florida!

An Amazing Altamonte Springs Renovation

Posted by on Feb 21, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

When my family friend asked for my advice on a property in Altamonte Springs I was happy to lend my expertise. This small block house built in 1960 belonged to her stepmother who had moved to a nursing home a year or more prior. The elderly woman had guarded her privacy and hadn’t let family in for years. She eventually did pass away while in the nursing home. When the family finally entered the house they found out she had been a bit of a hoarder and so they went about the task of cleaning and removing personal items from the home. It had sat uninhabited for over a year, save for the stray cats and bugs that took up residence.

The place was dark and scary with all the dead bugs all over the place by the time I saw it. I gave my friend several price scenarios and we both crunched numbers. The first scenario was selling the house as is, most likely to an investor who would be willing and able to take on an extensive renovation and pay cash. This was a relatively low number, considering the amount needed to update and renovate and of course an investor wants to make a profit. The second scenario was to renovate the house and sell it for top dollar. The third scenario was to renovate the house and my family friend could rent it out and eventually retire there.

She and I had the vision of what the house could be. I had shared with her that I’m learning all I can to become a flipper. I told her what I would offer her for the house as a cash investor. We both created our spreadsheets of what we thought the house needed and our best estimate of costs. We were very similar in our budget. I offered to get together some estimates from local contractors and subcontractors, since I wanted to make those sorts of connections anyway. She ended up going with a contractor I met at CFRI (Central Florida Realty Investors) and she was quite satisfied with his work and the work of his team.

After only eight days on the market and multiple offers we are under contract at OVER asking price —because the renovations are simply beautiful. My friend added about 100 sq. ft. to the “under air” portion of the house by enclosing and attaching the laundry room at the back of the carport. She added an HVAC system where there was none prior. The antiquated heating system was removed as was the window A/C unit. All new windows were installed, electric and plumbing were updated, all new floors of wood looking ceramic tile were installed, brand new cabinets, appliances, light fixtures, doors and more. The house was literally transformed from darkness to light! See the pics below! For more details, click here.

Front before and after

Front View Before & After

Kitchen & Laundry Before & After

Kitchen & Laundry Before & After

Bathroom Before & After

Bathroom Before & After

Bedroom Before & After

Bedroom Before & After

Half Bath Sink Before & After

Half Bath Sink Before & After

Laundry Before & After

Laundry Before & After

I’m very proud to have been involved with this amazing transformation. I look forward to partnering with my family friend and hopefully doing our first flip together later this year! Stay tuned! As always, you know I love ugly houses so if you have one to sell CALL ME at 407-236-6559.

To FSBO or Not To FSBO, That is the Question

Posted by on Jan 25, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

FSBOPeople who have a property to sell sometimes decide they want to sell it themselves and save that Realtor commission. Whether or not handling a FSBO (For Sale By Owner) is a good move for you depends on several factors. Here are some points to consider.

Do you have a realistic expectation regarding sale price? Almost always sellers think their home is worth more than it really is. It’s understandable, they have their heart invested in the property. But, in the end, it comes down to what an appraiser says it’s worth and that is based on recent sales of nearby similar properties. Improvements (or lack thereof) make a big difference. An appraiser uses much of the same data a Realtor uses to come up with a property valuation. And, a bank won’t lend on more than the appraised value. If a FSBO property is priced too high, it will not sell very quickly, if at all.

If the property is occupied by the seller, are you ready to answer the door to strangers 24/7? It seems easy to put a sign in the yard but keep in mind that dealing with the general public can be anything but easy. They will knock or call whenever they want. Then there is the danger factor of allowing strangers into your home. Realtors pre-screen the people they bring to your home and they accompany their clients, so you don’t have to deal with them alone.

If the property is not occupied by the seller, are you going to schedule all the showings? It will become your full time job to field inquiries and schedule showings.

Do you have experience negotiating? One of the great aspects of using a Realtor is that he or she plays the role of middle man, conveying the interests and concerns of each party, and working towards an equitable solution for all.

Do you have experience marketing? It takes more than a sign in the yard to sell a house. You have to hold Open Houses and you have to advertise. To that end, you can’t beat the exposure you get when a Realtor puts your listing in the MLS. With over 12,000 Realtors in the Orlando area, chances are good that SOMEONE is looking for a house just like yours.

What will you do if something goes wrong? Things happen, they just do. The longer I’m in real estate, the more strange situations I hear about. An experienced Realtor, with the backing of a great Brokerage, can navigate pretty much any sticky situation. From unexpected horrors surfacing at inspection to unexpected deaths of participants in the contract to financing falling through in the last minute, we’ve seen it all!

If you have some experience in real estate, perhaps you could handle a FSBO. For the rest of you, please consider calling me at 407-236-6559 for a free, no obligation consultation. I’ll show you how I can make the process super easy for you and sell your property quickly for top dollar. In the end, the peace of mind you’ll enjoy will make my commission well worth it. At the very least, allow me to write up the contract for a small fee and ensure you have all the necessary paperwork to cover yourself legally.

You Know Seller Pays Realtor Commissions, Right?

Posted by on Jan 25, 2017 in Blog | 0 comments

Getting to know new buyer clients can sometimes feel like going on a first date. It can feel a little uncomfortable, with everyone feeling a little self conscious. After all, buyers and sellers have over 12,000 Realtors they can choose from in the Orlando market. Why would they choose me?

I recently showed a listing to some new buyer clients who were referred to me by my company. It was our first meeting and we were getting to know each other. I ask lots of questions so I can get to know them better, much like on a first date. I don’t want to ask TOO many questions, but I’m definitely interested in finding out what their needs are, as well as their likes, dislikes and time frame.

When I sense a bit of hesitancy with new buyer clients, I often feel like someone rushing towards marriage after only one date. I know there is urgency involved in this market, especially for buyers. There is real competition nowadays since there is much demand and so few listings. So, whereas I’m ready to get down to doing the work to FIND the house they’d like and SHOW it as soon as possible, buyers may think they don’t want to rush things. Keep in mind, it takes about 45 days to close on a house after an accepted contract!

Sometimes I wonder if my new buyer clients are seeing other agents. It’s okay, we’re still dating, but at some point buyers need to decide which Realtor they click with and then be loyal to that one. We all do the same job, have access to the same MLS listings, and our income is based on closing deals and earning commission.

DollarsSome buyers may be under the mistaken impression that they should go it alone and thus save on paying a Realtor commission. It doesn’t work that way. The buyer does not pay the Realtor commission, the seller does. That is already set and negotiated with the listing agent. So, there really is no reason for a buyer to go it alone. Your Realtor can make it so much easier and efficient for you. Yes, you can scour Zillow, Trulia or Realtor.com and find listings you like (and that is welcomed and helpful) but you don’t have to. I’ll set up a special search for you with all the criteria you seek and updated listings will hit your inbox automatically.

Give me a call if you’re looking for an agent who communicates well and goes above and beyond the call of duty to make sure her clients are well taken care of. You can reach me any time at 407-236-6559.

Setting Intentions For 2017

Posted by on Dec 22, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

As 2016 draws to a close and I review the year, I’m pleased with how my real estate business has grown. I deeply appreciate all the loyal clients and friends who put their trust in me to buy or sell this year, contributing to a nice increase in my overall income. It was a year of learning more about bank owned property sales and the short sale process. I attended foreclosure property auctions at the Sanford courthouse and made connections with professionals in the renovation business.

For 2017, I believe it’s important to set some specific intentions or goals. And, it’s important to make sure you’re balancing that focus across all aspects of your life. That way you don’t neglect one part of your life in order to overly obsess in another. What those life aspects are depends on your definition. For me, it’s professional, physical, personal, spiritual and relational.

Professional Intentions

Solar PanelsI love being a Realtor and I love learning. My next class will be in January to brush up on my Core Law. I’ve learned quite a lot about how to buy and flip properties, special financing available, estimating renovations/repairs and building a team of reliable contractors and subcontractors. I’d like to think of property renovation as a highly desirable form of recycling and I intend to tackle my first flip in 2017. It makes more sense to me to fix up a run down house and bring up local property values, over new construction. The environment is very important to me and so I’d like to incorporate healthy green or natural building concepts along with sustainable living home additions. I want to learn more about adding solar panels, a rainwater catchment system, compost bin, backyard garden, chicken coop, home automation and more.

Physical Intentions

Bike RidingI won’t bore with you my annual New Year’s Resolution to finally lose weight. It’s much more than just shedding fat that I want to achieve in 2017. I’ll be 50 this year and I’d love to be able to say, “I’m in the best shape of my life!” Not just for vanity, but for strength. Strength is what my intention is for 2017. And so, I have already started being a more regular fixture at the local LA Fitness. I’m incorporating weight training along with cardio sweat sessions. Plus, my husband and I FINALLY bought some sweet bikes from Orange Cycle in Orlando and we LOVE riding the Seminole Wekiva Trail near our house in Altamonte Springs. Besides physical fitness training, I intend to take some self defense training. This coming year I plan to achieve proficiency in using a firearm. I know. It doesn’t seem like something this peace loving hippie would do, but in view of the world today, I’d rather be able to defend myself and/or others than be weak and defenseless.

Personal, Spiritual and Relational Intentions

Feeding The HomelessThese aspects of life are closely intertwined. It is my intention to be as conscious and present as possible as I continue to discover what is really important to me. I truly love the diversity of the American melting pot and will do what I can to protect people, animals and the environment. I intend to be an example of enlightened living and an ambassador of love through my actions. As Jesus said, his true followers can be recognized by how they love, and I hope to do Him proud. I want to inspire others to be leaders and defenders, to step up for love in their own personal sphere of influence. I will express this personally in 2017 through the subjects of my original art, activism against water pollution in Florida, and community volunteer projects through my Meetup group, Step Up For Love.

I encourage you to write down some intentions for 2017 for yourself and let’s compare notes again next year at this time! I wish you a wonderful holiday season, whatever your traditions and beliefs are, and a blessed new year. If I may be of service in any way, please feel free to call my cell any time, 407-236-6559. Follow me on Facebook!

The Dream of Home Ownership

Posted by on Nov 11, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

I’ve recently been struck by just how meaningful it is to watch someone’s dreams come true. It was my pleasure to assist some buyers recently who had been searching with me for literally a year. Their shopping budget was a little low, so the things we were seeing weren’t in good shape. One of the buyers spoke broken English so her sister served as translator. We looked at house after house, bringing along kids and family, with each one hoping it would be the one.

ClosingTo make a long story short, we finally found a short sale that seemed perfect. After much negotiating, we had a deal. Then, health issues caused delays and Hurricane Matthew threw us a curve ball, but we finally made it to closing and what an emotional closing it was. There were hugs and tears all around as we felt the magnitude of the moment. Home ownership, finally…

If you’re dreaming about home ownership and don’t know if it’s possible, here are some tips for getting started.

  1. Check your credit. Everyone can get a free credit report once a year from freecreditreport.com. And, creditkarma.com really is free and, although not entirely accurate, it can give you a good idea about what’s on your credit report. If you haven’t checked it in a while, there may be some errors you could dispute. There may be an old bill you forgot about that you could easily pay off. Either way, you know what you’re dealing with and what you can do to improve your score, if it needs improving. If you’re in the 700s, you’re golden. High 600s are quite acceptable too. In the 500s you’ll have some trouble getting financed and you’ll likely have a higher interest rate.
  2. Maximize your credit. If your credit needs serious repair, let me recommend Trinity Enterprises to help with that. Creditkarma.com will also recommend what you can do to improve your credit. Sometimes you don’t have enough lines of credit so they’ll recommend you get another credit card. (Having no credit is as bad as having bad credit. If there is no history, there is nothing proving that you’d be a good credit risk.) If you are carrying too high a balance on your credit cards, they may suggest you pay some debt off. It’s best to keep your balance under 30% of available credit. Don’t take on a new payment unless you need to show more credit history.
  3. Save some cash. The more money you have to put down on a property the better. If you can put down at least 20% you can avoid Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) being added to your mortgage payment. There are programs available with as little as 3.5% down. Veteran programs exist with zero down. Besides your down payment, you’ll also need cash for closing costs, to pay for inspections and the appraisal.
  4. Stay employed. Try not to change jobs unless it’s a step up in a similar industry. Part of what is considered by the lender is your job stability and reliable income.

These days, mortgages can actually be less money than a rent payment. If you want to apply right now and see what you qualify for, please visit applywithwatson.com! Then, when you have your pre qualification letter, we can go shopping! Call me when you’re ready or if you have any questions, 407-236-6559. It would be my honor to assist you in making your dream come true!

The Seller’s Roadmap

Posted by on Oct 12, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

So you’ve decided to sell your property. Now what? Here is a nice little graphic Watson created to show the process:

Seller's Roadmap

The first step is to Meet With A Real Estate Professional — like me! Call me at 407-236-6559 to request your free, no obligation meeting for us to discuss your property and your goals.

Dealing With Closing Delays

Posted by on Oct 12, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Closing DelaysAs much as everyone involved with a real estate transaction wants to bring it to a successful, on-time close—things happen. In fact, ALL KINDS of things can happen to derail well-laid plans for a smooth transition. I’m not saying this to scare you about an already stressful life situation, I just want you to be prepared. Be patient. Be flexible.

Ever since October last year, the process of closing on a real estate transaction got a bit more complicated. There were new forms introduced, new rules and a mandated 3-day waiting period before closing when the buyer gets final closing numbers and has three days to think about it. That makes things very tricky now when there are back to back closings. Sellers are often in limbo between closing on the house they just sold and buying their next house.

As a Realtor, I’ve seen people work this out in various ways. Some put their things in storage and stay somewhere temporarily. Others ask to rent back their place from the new owners for a short period of time. This is something us Realtors generally do not advise, since legal issues could crop up should something happen during their stay. However, a legal document could be drawn up by an attorney, with perhaps a deposit held as security.

My husband and I just bought a house on September 27th—but we still have not moved in yet! We are in a situation as mentioned above. We allowed the sellers to stay until October 7th but then Hurricane Matthew happened! Their closing on their new house was postponed since everything shut down last Friday because of the storm. So, we patiently waited for the new closing date and just got word it will be next Friday!

We saw this coming as we were approaching our supposed moving date last week and watched the Weather Channel. There really was no point in fighting the inevitable inconvenience and we simply made the best of it. I just sat down and called everyone to reschedule all the stop and start of services, movers, etc. Then I took my time to clean and pack some more.

When it’s time for you to buy or sell, it would be my pleasure to guide you through the sometimes sticky process. Call me at 407-236-6559 and let’s chat about your goals. Need to get pre qualified for a mortgage? Watson makes it easy. Simply visit www.ApplyWithWatson.com.

Retiring & Selling Your Home

Posted by on Aug 23, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Sold HomeWhen my elderly parents had to move, it was overwhelming to them. After spending so many years in the same location, uprooting was almost traumatic. But, changes in their circumstances and changes in their health, required that they live elsewhere. Ultimately, we ended up moving them a second time after that initial upheaval, because living independently was no longer feasible. That was when we moved them to Woodland Towers in DeLand.

The fact that my brother, my sister and I were nearby made all the difference. Not everyone has the benefit of family nearby to help pack, enlist the services of movers, make sure utilities are turned on, and help sort through many years of collected personal possessions to cull things no longer needed and figure out what to do with them. There are some professional organizations that specialize in assisting the elderly and can help with some of these duties. I refer my clients to them and I also know of several nonprofit organizations who are happy to pick up donations.

I’m honored that the folks in the marketing department at Waterman Village in Mount Dora refer their clients to me if they have a home in Central Florida that needs selling. I’m very patient and always pride myself on excellent communication. There is no such thing as a silly question. I’m happy to do all I can to make moving on to the next phase of life, whether a retirement community, assisted living facility, nursing home or wherever… as easy as possible.

Call me at 407-236-6559 if you or someone you know is facing this sort of life transition. Or, if family members have been tasked with finding a Realtor, I can help! References are available!

We’re Under Contract On Another Property

Posted by on Aug 23, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

Contract RescindedThe house my husband and I are renting has gone through foreclosure proceedings, went to auction and was essentially repossessed by the bank, which in this case was Fannie Mae. We’ve been very cooperative with the listing agent and the agent working for the property management company. We have a For Sale sign in our front yard and have been available to open the house for prospective buyers to look at it with their agent.

Our hope was that we would be able to buy the house once it was  no longer encumbered in the foreclosure process. The listing agent listed the house at a price way above any comparable sale in the area. I honestly don’t know what they’re thinking. They started out at $279,900 when the highest recent sale was $275,000 for a property that was completely updated. This house needs updating to two bathrooms and the kitchen, as well as a new A/C and screening the back patio, to compete in this price range.

The first month we only showed a handful of people. This is an obvious result of overpricing, considering how quickly properties sell in this neighborhood and this market. After 30 days they lowered the price $10,000 and we figured it’s time for us to put in an offer. After consulting with a contractor, we justified our relatively low offer of $230,000 with the fact that the home needs about $45,000 in repairs and updates. They countered with $269,000. (The house across the street sold for that and is also completely updated.) We countered back with a final offer of $240,000. They countered back at $260,000. We rescinded our offer and went looking for something else.

We’re happy to announce we are under contract at $260,000 on a fabulous house in Altamonte Springs that is fully updated and only needs new windows! The lesson here? Don’t be afraid to walk away! Something better is probably out there!

The House We Rent Is Now For Sale

Posted by on Jul 26, 2016 in Blog | 0 comments

House For SaleThe house we rent officially hit the market last Friday when it was put in the MLS. If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll know that we’ve rented this house for over two years with hopes of purchasing it once the foreclosure was over. Well, now it’s getting real…

I was shocked to see the list price, well above what I believe this house is worth. They listed it at $279,900 when the highest recent sale of a similar property was $275,000 and it was fully remodeled with high-end finishes — unlike our house. Perhaps their strategy is to list high and simply lower the price after a while. It sure garnered very little interest its first week on market.

We’re required to comply with showing the property and the first and only showing this week came literally an hour late. (I’ve requested 24 hours notice, with showings by appointment only.) Again, my appreciation for the tenants involved in real estate sales situation has reached a new level. Dealing with the general public can be challenging and having strangers come into the sanctity of my home seems like such an intrusion.

So, my husband and I are looking at other options while awaiting the first price drop. It some point we’ll likely put in an offer, but it won’t be anywhere near what they’re asking for now. We have inquired about that “cash for keys” incentive to move. No answer. I guess that won’t come into play until they have a buyer who wants us out.

Stay tuned! As always, if you have any real estate related questions or if I may be of service in any way, call me at 407-236-6559.