What is Echo Sign?

Well it’s 5:30 on a Friday night and the Contract is ready to be signed. The Buyer and Seller are on the move. The agents are completing their daily tasks and are anxioulsy waiting for paperwork. Fortunately for all  Echo Sign  is available in our office. With Echo Sign I was able to email the Contract for signatures and through the technology of computers, I-pods and blackberrys all parties were able to sign and within minutes eveyone including the agents had a signed contract in their mailbox.  Settlement is next week.

Contractors? How Do You Pick?

   I guess it should be easy for me to find a contractors.  I’m in real estate, so I have had contact with many contractors through home inspections and repairs.  (Good and bad)  I’ve lived here for over 25 years.  Since my home is near I can meet them at the property to get some quotes.  So how do you pick?

   First and foremost, you should rely on someone who has had work done.  They will know if the contractor completed the job in the time promised, in a workman-like way, and was flexible with work order changes.  Sometimes, the cheapest contractor is not the best.  There is a reason why you get what you pay for.

   With the new property, we are planning to add a new kitchen, master bedroom and master bath.  We will almost double the size of the house.  So we started with someone we trust, Paul Burgin of Paul Burgin Builders is our general contractor.  We met Paul at the property and did a walk through and discussed the changes that we thought we would like to make tot he house.  Paul then took a copy of our survey and drew on graph paper a basic plan of what we discussed.  With the basic plan and square footage planned out, we made copies of the survey and layout and have handed them out to several electricians, plumbers, and a heating and cooling company.  Once the quotes come back in, and we decide which professionals to use, they will need to contact Paul to fill out all the permit applications.

   When planning to have major work done, you must go to City Hall and get permits.  When doing a project the size of ours, the entire permit package must be completed.  So the plumber, electrician, heating and cooling permits must all be handed in at the same time with the general contractors information.  Our plans do not require architectural drawings, so we are saving our selves some additional expense there.  Also, when planning our addition, we did not exceed the local zoning requirements for the area.  (These may be found on the City of Cape May website under zoning laws, or the people at City Hall are more than willing to help.)  Since we are abiding by the zoning requirements of the R-1 district, we will not need a variance to build.  Permits do not happen overnight.  The construction official needs time to review the application, and inspect the property.

   In the meantime, we have begun the hopefully magic transformation from ugly duckling to beautiful swan.   Our time frame is tight, because we are looking to get summer rentals booked for June, July and August.

Winter Blues No Better Time to Buy

There is no better time to buy than now! The interest rates are still at a record low, inventory is high and pricing is at an all time low. HomeStead provides a one-of-a-kind quality of personal service that you’ll want to recommend to all your friends. Our Agents know the Cape May County Market. Our agents have consistently maintained the reputation of being service oriented and understanding. They understand that you do not hire just a company, but a person. HomeStead’s clients and customers are very satisfied and seem to make lasting friendships with their agents.

Dagmer Chew, Broker/Owner
The way to work out the winter blues is beat the Spring Market Buying traffic and call a HomeStead Agent today to get the head start on buying your new home. Once the weather breaks prices will be rising again and with more demand in the spring if you buy NOW you are likely to get a better price. Keep in mind that traditionally Spring is the time the flowers bloom and so does the buying. Get in ahead of the competition, other buyers, and beat the winter blues. Call a HomeStead agent today to set up a meeting to discuss your buying strategy.

Finally Ready to Begin

  With the help of the police – Big thanks to Cape May Police Department – the Seller has removed all their personal belongings and we are ready to begin the rehab. 

   Our goals are fairly simple.  We would like to enlarge the property from three bedrooms to four bedrooms and add at least another bathroom and maybe a bath and a half.  This works needs to be completed by April or May so that we can have it on the rental market before June.

   Tonight, the decision makers will be meeting to discuss the financing of the work.  We have met with a builder who has quoted us a price of $100.00 a square foot.  Our plan is to knock that down to $80.00 a square foot if we do a lot of the finishing work ourselves.  That price is probably realistic, since we will be moving the kitchen to the addition, adding bathrooms, central air, insulation, and all new siding.

   Finally, here is the before picture.  I hope by June you will not recognize the after picture.

New Year – Old Headaches

   Sometimes in business, an old adage is  an old adage for a reason.  The one today is “It doesn’t pay to be nice.”  The Seller still does not have all her belongings out of our home, although we went to settlement on December 17, 2009.  Understand this, when you sell a house, you don’t own it anymore.  You don’t get the money and then get to keep your stuff there for a few more days while you make arrangements to pack up and move.  The Buyers made the arrangements to get your money there on time.  The contract calls for the house to be empty and broom swept, yet still my Seller begs for more time.  We did accept $400.00 dollars from the Seller with a signed agreement that everything would be out by December 24, 2009.  That date has come and gone.  The Seller was planning to leave some things in the shed, thinking that we would dispose of them.  This is why real estate agents put money in escrow when some issues are not resolved at the settlement table.  Buyers and Sellers are more motivated to meet deadlines when money is involved in the outcome.

Settlement TODAY !!

   Well, we had settlement today, and with all my expertise in real estate, I have to tell you it did not exactly go smoothly.  Our wire was late, so we went to the bank and took additional money out of savings (since we were paying cash) and by the time we got to the Title Company, the wire had cleared.  No real damage there, just extra funds we have to give back.  The big hold-up was the Seller did not have all of their belongings out of the house.

   This is important if you are selling a house.  YOU DON’T OWN IT ANYMORE!!!  The Seller couldn’t understand why we were being so picky about her coming back and getting more things out of the house later next week.  There are three big reasons why this shouldn’t happen.  First, what if the Seller decides they have taken all the “good” stuff and doesn’t really care now about removing that gold shag sofa-bed that weighs 10,000 pounds.  Now I have to pay someone to remove the sofa-bed and pay to have it hauled to the dump.  Secondly, as a new owner, I don’t want to be responsible for your belongings.  If someone breaks into the house and steals your mothers china, it shouldn’t be my responsibility.  The Seller should have found the time to wrap that china  up and get it out of the house if it meant that much to them.  Finally, I don’t want you making a claim against my insurance if you fall while carrying that sofa-bed or china out of what is now, my house.

   So, after consulting dueling attorneys.  We came up with a “hold harmless” agreement that both parties signed.  Basically it says that the Seller may leave their belongings at the house for a set number of days for an agreed upon amount of money.   If someone moving furniture or belongings gets hurt while removing the furniture from the property, they can not sue the current owner.

   We’ll see if the Seller returns for the items left behind.  In the meantime, we will begin having our construction guy come in the house and give us some quotes on the work that needs to be done.

Why Are We the Experts?

Our Mission Statement at HomeStead is to serve our customers, clients and each other with honesty, integrity and professionalism.  After being with the company for 8 years, I can say that this philosophy has held true over time and is a large part of why we are the Cape May Experts!  There is dedication to our work and a sense of cooperation within our company both in sales and rentals.  We do our best to match the right property with the right owner or renter!   At  HomeStead our Team knows the market, we know the area, and we listen to the needs of our clients so we can best serve them.  Because we believe in sharing our knowledge with our colleagues, we work well together toward a company goal of achievement and success.  Therefore, we are all able to be more expert in our field, to be more fluent in the language of real estate, and to be more conversational in helping the client to understand what we recommend.  To truly be an Expert means to be in touch, to be available, and to listen and respond promptly and with professionalism.  I believe we at HomeStead always set the bar in Cape May, with our knowledge, technology, and spirit, and therefore We Are the Experts!

Short Sale After 11 months?

Well we finally received a word from the lender. After 11 months of waiting they have declined the short sale for the property. What does this mean? At this point the property will go to Sheriff Sale. The Buyer can bid on the property at the Sheriff Sale but will be responsible for outstanding liens over and above the lenders “upset figure.” If the lender takes the property back it will then be listed for sale. This process can also take months.  Anyone looking at a short sale needs to be prepared, not only to wait for responses but also to realize that they may not get the approval/house.  In the meantime mortgage commitments and appraisals are a cost to the Buyer. It is important to know the property and its’ encumbrences. Time, patience and committment are requirements for a short sale with all parites including a realtor. Ask questions, do your homework and be prepared.

Almost Ours

   The investment house is “officially” ours.  I say officially because the contract is out of the attorney review period (3 business days in New Jersey).  Since we are purchasing the house in “as is” condition, we will not be having a home inspection, although I did have our contractor look at the house prior to the end of the attorney review period so that we could get out of the contract should something been terrifically wrong.

   I have sent the contract to the title company.  The first thing they will do is a search to make sure that there is clear title to the property.  That means no one that owned the house in the past, or a relative, has a claim of ownership against the house.  They will also run a search against the Buyers and Sellers to make sure that there are no liens against them that would need to be paid with the proceeds from the purchase.  New Jersey has become very strict about back alimony and child support.  I think it’s a good thing. 

   The title company will also pro-rate the taxes to the day of settlement and in this case the water and sewer bill.  Because we are paying for the house with cash, we will not be required to show proof of insurance.  Insurance is usually required by your mortgage company because they want to know if something happens to the house, that you will be able to re-build and keep up with your mortgage payments.  We will get insurance even though it is not required because my husband will kill me if we don’t have it.  We will not be required to have flood insurance.  That is also a requirement of your mortgage company, not the title company.

   By paying cash, we will significantly lower some of our immediate out of pocket costs.  There is no mortgage application fee, appraisal fee, credit check fee, flood zone check fee, flood insurance required or hazard insurance.  (Although we are planning to get insurance on the house.)  Also, the mortgage company usually requires a Buyer to pay 1 full year of hazard insurance and then they escrow three additional months of payments.  They will also escrow three months worth of taxes.  It does add up to the cost of buying a house.

  We will have to pay, title insurance, to record the deed, pro-rated taxes, water and sewer.  Also there is usually a charge for holding the settlement and the cost of the settlement officer to notarize all documents.

   As I said, it is almost ours…..