Real Estate Information Archive


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Tips on Selecting a Contractor For Home Improvement

by Dan Groteboer

Home repairs can cost thousands of dollars and are the subject of frequent complaints.  Here is a list of things to consider when selecting a contractor:
  1. Get recommendations and references. Talk to friends, family and other people for whom the contractor has done similar work.

  2. Get at least three written estimates from contractors who have come to your home to evaluate what needs to be done. Be sure the estimates are based on the same work so that you can make meaningful comparisons.

  3. Make sure the contractor meets licensing and registration requirements with your local consumer agency. Some areas require licensees to pass tests for competency and scrutinize licensees for financial solvency. They may also have a fund to cover some financial losses that result from problems with licensed contractors.

  4. Check to see if local laws limit the amount by which the final bill can exceed the estimate, unless you have approved the increase.

  5. Check contractor complaint records with the Better Business Bureau or similar agency.

  6. Get the names of suppliers and ask if the contractor makes timely payments.

  7. Contact your local building inspection department to check for permit and inspection requirements. Be wary if the contractor asks you to get the permit. It could mean the firm is not licensed.

  8. Be sure your contractor has the required personal liability, property damage and worker’s compensation insurance for his/her workers and subcontractors. Also check with your insurance company to find out if you are covered for any injury or damage that might occur.

  9. Insist on a complete written contract. Know exactly what work will be done, the quality of materials that will be used, warranties, timetables, the names of any subcontractors, the total price of the job, and the schedule of payments.

  10. Try to limit your down payment. Local law may specify that only a certain percentage of the total cost may be made as a down payment.

  11. Understand your payment options. Compare the cost of getting your own loan versus contractor financing.

  12. Don’t make final payment or sign an affidavit of final release until you are satisfied with the work and know that subcontractors and suppliers have been paid. Local lien laws may allow unpaid subcontractors and/or unpaid suppliers to attach your home.

  13. Pay by credit card when you can. This may allow you the right to withhold payment to the credit card company until problems are corrected.

  14. Be especially cautious if the contractor:

    • comes door-to-door or seeks you out;
    • just happens to have material left over from a recent job;
    • tells you your job will be a "demonstration";
    • offers you discounts for finding other customers;
    • quotes a price that’s out of line with other estimates;
    • pressures you for an immediate decision;
    • offers exceptionally long guarantees;
    • can only be reached by leaving messages with an answering service;
    • drives an unmarked van or has out-of-area plates on his/her vehicles; or
    • asks you to pay for the entire job up front.

11 Things You Must Know When Finding a Home

by Dan Groteboer

Once you've decided to buy a home, there's a number of issues that need to be considered.  Because buying a home will be one of the biggest purchases you make in your life, learning the "11 Things You Must Know When Finding a Home" can make the process easier.

In this report, we outline 11 Questions and Answers to help you make informed choices when purchasing a home.

1. What Should I Look For When Deciding On A Community?

Select a community that will allow you to best live your daily life. Many people choose communities based on schools. Do you want access to shopping and public transportation? Is access to local facilities like libraries and museums important to you? Or do you prefer the peace and quiet of a rural community? When you find places that you like, talk to people that live there. They know the most about the area and will be your future neighbors. More than anything, you want a neighborhood where you feel comfortable in.

2. How Can I Find Out About Local Schools?

You can get information about school systems by contacting the city or local school board or the local schools. Your real estate agent may also be knowledgeable about schools in the area.

3. How Can I Find Out About Community Resources?

Contact the local chamber of commerce for promotional literature or talk to your real estate agent about welcome kits, maps, and other information. You may also want to visit the local library. It can be an excellent source for information on local events and resources, and the librarians will probably be able to answer many of the questions you have.

4. How Can I Find Out How Much Homes Are Selling For In Certain Communities and Neighborhoods?

Your real estate agent can give you a ballpark figure by showing you comparable listings. If you are working with a REALTOR®, they may have access to comparable sales maintained on a database.

5. How Can I Find Information On The Property Tax Liability?

The total amount of the previous year's property taxes is usually included in the listing information. If it's not, ask the seller for a tax receipt or contact the local assessor's office. Tax rates can change from year to year, so these figures maybe approximate.

6. What Other Tax Issues Should I Take Into Consideration?

Keep in mind that your mortgage interest and real estate taxes will be deductible (USA residents). A qualified real estate professional can give you more details on other tax benefits and liabilities.

7. Is An Older Home A Better Value Than A New One?

There isn't a definitive answer to this question. You should look at each home for its individual characteristics. Generally, older homes may be in more established neighborhoods, offer more ambiance, and have lower property tax rates. People who buy older homes, however, shouldn't mind maintaining their home and making some repairs. Newer homes tend to use more modern architecture and systems, are usually easier to maintain, and may be more energy-efficient. People who buy new homes often don't want to worry initially about upkeep and repairs.

8. What Should I Look For When Walking Through A Home?

In addition to comparing the home to your minimum requirement and wish lists, consider the following:

  • Is there enough room for both the present and the future?
  • Are there enough bedrooms and bathrooms?
  • Is the house structurally sound?
  • Do the mechanical systems and appliances work?
  • Is the yard big enough?
  • Do you like the floor plan?
  • Will your furniture fit in the space? Is there enough storage space? (Bring a tape measure to better answer these questions)
  • Does anything need to be repaired or replaced? Will the seller repair or replace the items?
  • Imagine the house in good weather and bad, and in each season. Will you be happy with it year 'round?

    Take your time and think carefully about each house you see. Ask your real estate agent to point out the pros and cons of each home from a professional standpoint.

    9. What Questions Should I Ask When Looking At Homes?

    Many of your questions should focus on potential problems and maintenance issues. Does anything need to be replaced? What things require ongoing maintenance (e.g., paint, roof, HVAC, appliances, carpet)? Also ask about the house and neighborhood, focusing on quality of life issues. Be sure the seller's or real estate agent's answers are clear and complete. Ask questions until you understand all of the information they've given. Making a list of questions ahead of time will help you organize your thoughts and arrange all of the information you receive.

    10. How Can I Keep Track Of All The Homes I See?

    If possible, take photographs of each house: the outside, the major rooms, the yard, and extra features that you like or ones you see as potential problems. And don't hesitate to return for a second look. You may also wish to find out if the home is available online. Photos of the property may already be up on a website for you to review.

    11. How Many Homes Should I Consider Before Choosing One?

    There isn't a set number of houses you should see before you decide. Visit as many as it takes to find the one you want. On average, homebuyers see 15 houses before choosing one. Just be sure to communicate often with your real estate agent about everything you're looking for. It will help avoid wasting your time.


Information On The Tax Credit

by Dan Groteboer

The link below is a GREAT website on the Tax Credit.  The National Association of Home Builders has done a great job providing information on the Tax Credit.  

If you have any questions or need further information, please feel free to give me a call.

Group Cooking Party

by Dan Groteboer

The winter season usually plays itself out with overflowing schedules, making it difficult to even sit down for a family dinner.  For a spin on the traditional party with a finished product that will be a gift to your guests, gather your closest friends together for a group cooking party.

In advance, select twelve main dishes that will freeze and reheat well.  Print out the recipes and divvy up who will bring which groceries for the group, being sure to buy enough packaging for each person's twelve meals.  With five participants, multiply each recipe by five so that each person takes home one of each dish.

During your group cooking party, each participant chooses a recipe, making and packaging it for all five families, until the group has all twelve meals ready to go home in their individual coolers with reheating instructions, guaranteeing many delicious meals in the weeks to come.

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