Outdoor Spaces Are a Bonus for Homebuyers

By Lisa Doyle
Serving all of your Bay Area Real Estate needs

Many would-be home sellers are concerned about reduced housing prices, and those who are highly motivated are pulling out all the stops to make their homes more appealing than the competition.

If you are preparing to sell this spring but aren’t in a position to invest in ambitious renovations, such as a kitchen remodel or new hardwood floors, the best advice is to look to the bonus spaces in and around your home and maximize their appeal.

Decks, patios, sunrooms and porches have always been popular with home buyers, but real estate agents say that too often those spaces are neglected or not used to their best advantage.

Anything that adds living space adds value, and the least expensive way to gain space is to build a deck or room by staging it so that it flows seamlessly with the rest of the house. A great deck can set your home apart from others with the same interior floor plan or square footage.

A bonus space, for example, a tiny deck or rarely used balcony off a master bedroom can be transformed into a romantic getaway by staging it with cozy, cushioned seating and a raised fire pit. You can safeguard your deck and add designer style with deck stones, 16-inch interlocking square tiles made of natural slate or granite. Deck stones can provide an effective fire barrier that is an asset under fire pits or grills, or when used to create an outdoor kitchen.

Whether working with an old deck or a brand-new one, details count when it comes to staging. Outdoor lighting on a deck or patio provides ambience and adds versatility to the space, showing buyers endless possibilities for evening entertaining.

If you want to open up the view on a bonus room, consider replacing wooden deck balusters with contoured glass baluster, or update the rails with distinctive aluminum balusters. New rails will add a dramatic difference to your deck.

Buyers always react positively to nice decks that look like a great place to hang out. From a buyer’s perspective, if all else is equal, it is true that the home with the best deck wins.

Help Save Money and the Environment

By Lisa Doyle
Serving all of your Bay Area Real Estate needs

Spring is here, and after the long winter many people are taking the opportunity to do some much-needed maintenance to their homes, lawns and gardens. While you are pulling together your list, consider making some eco-conscious or green changes, which will help shrink your carbon footprint and save money.

Take an inventory. Most homeowners have no idea how much energy they consume, so the first step is to take an inventory and find out where the energy in your home is going. Power meters can be used to give an accurate read-out on the operating cost of your household appliances. Some models even break those costs down by the week, month and year.

Shedding light on your lighting. The easiest way that people can save on their energy bills is by updating their current lighting with low energy light bulbs. Today, there are 2 options on the market, CFL bulbs and LED bulbs.

Let Mother Nature water your lawn. Good lawn care means making sure your lawn receives around an inch of water a month. In the warmer months, you may want to increase this to 2 inches to make up for evaporation. Instead of turning on the hose, many homeowners are now collecting rainwater and recycling it to keep their grass green.

Home Inspections Help You Sell

By Lisa Doyle with J. Rockcliff Realtors
Serving all your Bay Area Real Estate needs

When you are ready to sell your home in the current market, you need to take every step you can to ensure a timely sale at the price you want. A surplus of homes for sale means that yours needs to stand out in style, amenities and quality to make an impression on potential buyers. The more steps you take to make your house sale-ready the better results you will get. In today’s real estate market, you need to set the state for home selling success. Having an updated decor and proper staging certainly help present your home well, but do not think that cosmetic fixes are all you need. Buyers want to know the home they are considering is safe and sound, and the best way to establish that is to hire a home inspector.

Twenty years ago, it seemed extravagant to hire a home inspector, but today it is standard practice. Buyers will often bring their own inspectors to the table, so you need to start by hiring one yourself. Hiring a professional will give you a realistic perspective on what’s going on in the bones of your home.

In a down market, a pre-sale inspection can make a home stand out. More and more, sellers are obtaining pre-sale inspections to help uncover and address potential issues before the first prospective buyer walks through the door. This simple step allows for better planning and lowers repair costs, adds value to the home, and it could increase the likelihood of an offer.

Even if someone in your family is handy, a professional home inspector will be able to point out issues that might go unnoticed by someone who does not know the ins and outs of inspecting. Today’s buyers are quick to point out flaws uncovered by the home inspectors they bring with them, particularly if the flaws could compromise health or safety.

Buyers can use problems as bargaining chips, causing previously agreed upon prices to be lowered or even the cancellation of a deal. Inspections help uncover imperfections that often can be fixed easily and inexpensively, so it would be wise to have your home inspected before you list it.

Short Sale Help

HAFA Benefits

How HAFA Can Help

The Home Affordable Foreclosure Alternatives (HAFA) Program was designed to complement the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) by helping current homeowners with mortgage debt who are eligible for HAMP but still cannot keep their home.

When a borrower applies for help from HAMP, not everyone succeeds with the program. Sometimes their lender is unable to approved a loan modification. Other times the borrower declines the terms of the loan modification. Some borrowers are approved and accept the terms of the modification, but fail to complete the program for various reasons. Before HAFA, these borrowers were usually headed for foreclosure.

HAFA gives those borrowers a viable alternative to foreclosure. If they have or want to find a buyer for their home, they may request approval for a short sale with pre-approval short sale terms and minimum acceptable net proceeds. If not, they may request approval for a deed-in-lieu. When a borrower applies for help with one of the HAFA solutions, the program already has their financial and hardship information from their HAMP application.

HAFA also imposes limits on the lender to help the borrower. Under the terms of this program, a lender must release the borrower from all future liability for the first mortgage debt. The lender may not ask the borrower for cash or a promissory note, and the lender may not ask a court for a deficiency judgment. The program also prohibits the lender from asking the listing real estate agent to discount their commission at the closing of a short sale.

All documents have been standardized and procedures, time frames, and deadlines have been streamlined under HAFA to make the process easier for both borrowers and lenders.

HAFA also provides financial incentives for both borrowers and lenders to participate in the program. Borrowers are entitled to receive $1,500 in relocation assistance, to be paid at closing. Lenders or loan servicers may receive up to $1,000 to help with administrative costs. There are also financial incentives for the lender or investor on the first mortgage to allow some of the proceeds from the sale of the property to be paid to subordinate lienholders.

Finally, participation in the HAFA program puts the foreclosure process on hold for the borrower. The lender may initiate the foreclosure process, but if the borrower is in the middle of the application process, or if any approved short sale or deed-in-lieu agreement has not been completed or reached its deadline, the lender may not complete the foreclosure process.

HAFA Relocation Assistance

$1,500 Relocation Assistance For Homeowner

When HAFA successfully closes a short sale or a deed-in-lieu, the program provides for $1,500 in relocation assistance to be given to the borrower. In the case of a short sale, the money comes out of the property sale proceeds. When a deed-in-lieu is completed, the service provides the funds.

Normally, the title company will add this amount to the HUD-1 statement before closing. They will then give a check at the borrower at the same time that all other payments are disbursed at closing.

In the case of a deed-in-lieu where there was no formal closing and the borrower has vacated the property, the loan servicer must mail the check to the borrower within 5 days of signing the paperwork.

Whether there was a closing or not, if the borrower has not vacated the property before the execution of the short sale or deed-in-lieu, the servicer or the title company must mail the check to the borrower within 5 days of the date they move and deliver the keys to the property to the servicer or the servicer’s agent.

HAFA will reimburse loan servicers for this amount after the transaction has been properly reported.

Do I qualify for HAFA?

A mortgage loan meets the basic eligibility criteria for HAFA if all of the following are true statements:

– The loan was for the principal residence of the borrower.
– The loan was a first lien mortgage originated on or before Jan. 1, 2009
– The mortgage is delinquent, or default is reasonably foreseeable.
– The unpaid principal balance on the loan is no more than $729,750 for a single-family property. $934,200 for a dual-unit property. $1,129,250 for a 3-unit property, or $1,403,400 for a 4-unit property.
– The total monthly payment on the mortgage including principal, interest, property taxes, hazard and flood insurance, condominium association fees, homeowner’s association fees, and any escrow payment shortage amounts subject to a repayment plan is more than 31% of the gross income of all borrowers on that mortgage.
– The loan servicer has already considered the borrower for a HAMP loan modification, and one of the following conditions applies.
– 1) The borrower does not qualify for a Trial Period Plan
– 2) The borrower does not successfully complete a Trial Period Plan
– 3) The borrower is delinquent on a HAMP modification by missing at least 2 consecutive payments.
– 4) The borrower requests a short sale or a deed-in-lieu.

Use of the term “borrower” means all borrowers on the mortgage in question.

HAMP-eligible borrowers must be considered for HAFA within 30 days of either the termination of the HAMP agreement or the request for either a short sale or a deed-in-lieu.

Every potentially eligible borrower must be considered for HAFA before the borrower’s loan is referred to foreclosure or the servicer allows a pending foreclosure sale to be conducted.

Loan servicers retain the right to accept or deny a HAFA application based on external factors, such as the severity of the loss involved, local market conditions, the timing of pending foreclosure actions, and borrower motivation and cooperation.

If you need help with your short sale, or know of anyone that needs help with their short sale, contact me anytime.

Your short sale expert,

Lisa Doyle

New San Ramon Home For Sale!

615 Rock Rose Lane
San Ramon

5 Bedrooms, 3 Baths, 3375 Sq. Ft., 3-Car Garage

Amazing location in Gale Ranch that backs to lush open space. Great open and light floor plan. Huge bonus room. Full bedroom and bathroom on the main level. It won’t last! Hurry, no extra taxes. Not a short sale.

For more information on this property or any other homes for sale, call me anytime!

Lisa Doyle
J. Rockcliff Realtors

Great Home In Danville Coming Soon!

234 Laurelglen Court
4 Bedrooms, 3 Baths, 3,281 Square Feet, 3-Car Garage

Gorgeous home in beautiful Shadow Creek neighborhood. This home has many great features and is located close to award-winning schools. The price is TBD. Should be hitting the market very soon. If you would like to see this home or have any other Real Estate questions, contact me anytime!

Lisa Doyle
J. Rockcliff Realtors