Olympic Medalist’s Home for Sale

Photos courtesy of Zillow.

In honor of the Winter Olympics, we’re going to highlight the home of two-time Olympic figure skating medalist Michelle Kwan which is for sale in Newport, Rhode Island for almost $4.4 million. It was built in 1900 and Michelle and her husband Clay Pell purchased it in 2014 for $1.5 million and have since completed a major renovation.

It is in an historic district just off of Ocean Drive, sits on almost 2 acres, includes a formal garden and a large chef’s kitchen designed for entertaining. The home has two Master suites, each with private balcony and en-suite, for a total of 4 bedrooms on the second floor.

In 2017 it was announced that the couple had filed for divorce and the home sale is part of the divorce filings. As it often is, a home that is bought together is sold and the proceeds divided. If the couple can’t agree on a REALTOR®, the court will appoint one.

 

*** Cara Czarnecki is a Maricopa County Real Estate Special Commissioner which is a court-approved agent to work with Lawyers in court-appointed real estate sales in Arizona.***

 

 

Does Your Popcorn Ceiling Contain Asbestos?

AbatementIf you have a home that has popcorn ceilings, or if you bought a home that has been remodeled and the popcorn ceilings have been removed, then this article is a must-read article for you.

Popcorn ceilings, although they are not the trend now, were originally designed to hide ceiling imperfections and to improve acoustics. Asbestos is in the adhesive that binds the popcorn ceilings, and in the Clean Air Act of 1978 the use of asbestos in ceiling treatments was banned. This article is specifically addressing homes that were built before 1980.

First and foremost, if you have inherited a home you are going to update and sell, or if you have bought a home as an investment property that you are going to “flip”,  you need to know that if you remove the popcorn ceilings you MUST disclose that to the new buyer. If you are going to take down the popcorn ceiling in your own home, here are some important facts you need to know.

Some facts about asbestos:

  • Asbestos has the ability to break down into microscopically thin fibers.
  • These fibers are so small they can remain airborne for days after they were initially disturbed.
  • Asbestos fibers can attach to the body or anywhere else porous, including clothing, curtains, etc.
  • Many of the fibers will become trapped in the mucous membranes of the nose and throat where they can then be removed, but some may pass deep into the lungs, or, if swallowed, into the digestive tract.
  • Because it is so hard to destroy asbestos fibers, the body cannot break them down or remove them once they are lodged in lung or body tissues.
  • Once lodged in the lung tissue, these fibers can cause several serious diseases, including lung cancer, asbestosis (a scarring of the lung tissue) and mesothelioma (cancer of the lining of the lung cavity).

Asbestos is most hazardous when it is friable. The term “friable” means that the asbestos is easily crumbled by hand, releasing fibers into the air. Sprayed on asbestos insulation is highly friable. Asbestos floor tile is not. If an asbestos ceiling tile is drilled or broken, for example, it may release fibers into the air. If it is left alone and not disturbed, it will not. Damage and deterioration will increase the friability of asbestos-containing materials. Water damage, continual vibration, aging, and physical impact such as drilling, grinding, buffing, cutting, sawing, or striking can break the materials down making fiber release more likely.

Asbestos fibers can attach to the body or anywhere else porous, including clothing, curtains, etc. Cases of mesothelioma have occurred in children whose only exposures were from the dust brought home on the clothing of the family members who worked with asbestos. Asbestos on clothing that is washed with non-contaminated clothing can affect the whole load. The younger people are when they inhale asbestos, the more likely they are to develop mesothelioma. This is why enormous efforts are being made to prevent school children from being exposed.

If you currently have popcorn ceilings in your home and are considering removing them, have the ceiling tested first. Accurate Interior Testing is one such Phoenix company. I called them to test my home in Tempe, Arizona.

The testing company will usually test three rooms to get an accurate reading, then send the test pieces to the lab. If the lab results come back “hot”, then you can proceed accordingly. Anything over 1% asbestos usually requires an abatement company to remove the popcorn ceiling.

I know it’s tempting to do this project yourself. There are many YouTube videos on how to diy this, and even machines you can rent at Lowe’s and Home Depot to assist in the project. First make sure it is safe to do this yourself with a simple test. Risking your health and the health of your family is not worth saving a few dollars.

Some of the resources we used:

http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/eh/asbestos/homeowner/heffects.html

http://ehs.oregonstate.edu/asb-when

How to Identify a House Being Used for Sex Trafficking

Sex trafficking raid in SFICE raid in West Oakland related to sex trafficking involving minors

 

A few years ago when the Super Bowl was in Phoenix I wrote an article about how to recognize a home in your neighborhood that is being used for sex trafficking. With the Super Bowl coming up again in a few weeks I felt it was time to re-post this information.  Human-trafficking happens in all areas, even luxury subdivisions or new apartments. This is not something that happens in the slums or the ghetto, and in many cases this is happening right in front of us. The United States Department of Justice considers Phoenix one of the top human-trafficking areas in the country and most victims are forced into sex trafficking before they are 15 years old.

Although the Super Bowl is not in Phoenix this year, we do have many events around the valley in January through March including Barret Jackson, The Waste Management Open and Spring Training, just to name a few. As our events increase, sadly, so does the demand for this trade.

Whether you are in the Phoenix area or not, here are some signs that should raise suspicion in your neighborhood, especially in the Minneapolis area around the Super Bowl over the next few weeks.

  • Are there bars on the doors and windows or are windows boarded up?
  • Is this appropriate considering the level of crime in the neighborhood?
  • Is there barbed wire present and does it seem out of place?
  • Is there an unusual amount of surveillance equipment on exterior, interior, or both?
  • Does it appear that the level of security is intended to keep people out or, of great concern to police, keep people in? For example, are the locks on the doors and windows to keep people in, instead of out?
  • Is there an abnormal amount of traffic to and from the home (or apartment unit) and at unusual hours of the day?
  • Is the trash can full of fast food packaging or containers, and condom packaging?
  • Do the tenants seem closely supervised (restricted in movement)?
  • Are there people in the house who are always with others who must speak for them, but do not appear to know each other well?
  • Are there younger boys or girls in the home who show signs of malnourishment, abuse or fearfulness?

If you see any of these signs or suspect there is a home in your neighborhood being used for human-trafficking, please immediately call the local authorities or the National Trafficking Resource Center at 1-888-373-7888.

To learn more about how to help protect your child or teen from becoming a target or trafficking victim, please follow this link.

Eight Phoenix Metro Cities Make the List of 2018’s Top Places to Find a Job

WalletHub recently wrote an article about 2018’s top places to find a job. Out of 182 cities mentioned, eight Phoenix Metropolitan cities made the list. Chandler and Scottsdale ranked number one and number two respectively, ranking higher than San Francisco.

Top Ranking Cities

In order to determine the best job markets in the country, WalletHub compared 182 cities – 150 of the most populated cities, and at least two of the most populated cities in each state. They looked at the job market and socio-economics of those cities. The socio-economic factors most heavily influence a job seeker’s decision when it comes to relocating for employment.

Of the other categories mentioned, Chandler and Peoria tied for highest employment growth, with Gilbert a close second.

For the highest median annual income category, Gilbert and Scottsdale ranked number two and number five respectively.

Phoenix has been a great place to relocate for many years. While once seen as a retirement state, we are catching up with our technology companies and start-ups. Large companies like IBM, Intel, American Express, Amazon, Infosys, and several Universities are major employers of these cities, but our start-up community is supportive and tech companies are finding headquarter-friendly cites throughout Arizona.

The taxes are fairly low, the real estate – both residential and commercial – is very reasonably priced, the weather is conducive to year-round productivity, and Phoenix has an International Airport that makes travel for business convenient and easy. For those reasons, the Metropolitan Phoenix area is a great place to relocate for work.

 

If you or someone you know are relocating to Phoenix or the surrounding areas, contact me and I can help you with your housing needs.

CaraBizCard2017 (2)

The Queen’s Christmas Broadcast for 2017 and How It’s Relevant to You

Queenie

In the Queen’s Christmas Broadcast for 2017 she talks about “home” and what it means to her and others.

“We think of our homes as places of warmth, familiarity and love. Of shared stories and memories which is perhaps this time of year why so many return to where they grew up. There is a timeless simplicity to the pull of home. For many, the idea of home reaches beyond a physical building. “

While Christmas is now over and we celebrate New Year’s Eve in a few days, many people are reflecting on what they’ve accomplished in 2017 and planning and goal setting for 2018. The sentiment of “home” exists because you have a physical structure in which to create those memories and feelings. Whether it’s a single family home, a duplex, townhouse, condo or another structure, the “home” that you make begins with a physical structure of some sort. For some, the thought of home ownership can be limiting and overwhelming. For me, I see it as empowering. Home ownership can open doors you never even thought of before, and help you build a nest egg for retirement and a passive income, even an inheritance for your children.

Be sure to follow the Dream Street Society in 2018 here on the blog, on Facebook and Instagram as we look at ways that your home can financially empower you.  This idea goes beyond investment properties. That’s just one aspect of it. There are so many other ways to make your home earn income for you. As we close out 2017 and enter into 2018, if your goal is to buy or sell a home to help you achieve another goal, relocate for a job, buy an investment property, or simply learn how to make money on your existing home, then we need to stay connected. If you would like to contact us for further information or to have a specific discussion about your real estate needs, contact us here.

I would love to hear your goals for 2018 as it pertains to your “home”. Comment below and see who else has the same goals.

I wish for you a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year!

Why December is a Great Month for Buying and Selling a House

Most real estate agents I know decide they are going to take vacation between Halloween and New Year’s Eve. I hear that mindset over and over and over. They talk about how they work hard the rest of the year so they can take the holidays off and spend time with their families. Let me tell you why I don’t follow that crowd.

As a REALTOR®, I work for my clients. I am hired by them to get results, and I’m good at it. All that being said, while I would like to sit around and sip wine and watch Christmas movies on the Lifetime channel, I also know that December is a great month to buy and sell a home, and here are some reasons why.

  • Generally speaking, people are in good moods during the holidays. They are celebrating, opening presents, reflecting on the year, and enjoying family and friends. Those good moods make for more pleasant responses to requests for inconvenient showing times or last-minute showings.
  • During the holidays, homes are usually clean, decorated, and visually welcoming. An important part of listing a home is presenting it in a visually appealing way, which often requires some sort of staging. In December, that just comes naturally to some people. Staging is all about creating an emotional response when entering a home. It’s all psychological. What’s more welcoming than the smell of cookies and seeing a decorated tree, or a decorated gingerbread house on the kitchen table?
  • People are more inclined to be generous during the holidays. Most people are in the “giving” mindset, which makes for easier negotiations when it comes to negotiating price and terms of a sale, and negotiating repairs after the home inspection. Both sides of the transaction are more likely to compromise which makes it a win-win for all parties.
  • As for competition, few buyers are out looking at homes during Christmas time, so those who are have low probability of multiple offer scenarios. Sellers who list in December are serious about selling and buyers who are looking are serious about buying. If buyers are giving up their Saturday at the mall Christmas shopping to look at houses, they are ready to make an offer when they find something they like.

If you are thinking about buying or selling a home, please reach out to Cara to help you plan and implement a strategy for your home sale or purchase in the Phoenix Metropolitan area.

If you are currently working with a REALTOR® this is not meant to be a solicitation.

How to Keep Your Home Safe During Holiday Travel

home alone

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. At least that’s what Andy Williams sang. If you are traveling to see friends and family during this holiday season, here are some tips to help keep your home safe.

  1. Keep your travel plans off social media. As tempting as it is to tag yourself at an airport or to post on Facebook and tag all your family and friends that you’re excited to see them in X number of days, it just alerts everyone that you are away, and you never know who is watching.
  2. Limit your information on your luggage tags. If you are traveling through the airport, limit your information on your luggage tags; don’t put your address on them. Putting your address on your luggage tag, especially if you are checking bags, just alerts everyone in the line around you, and the baggage handlers as well, that you are not home. Instead, put your address on a piece of paper and put it inside your luggage.
  3. Notify a trusted neighbor. If you are planning to go out of town during the holiday season, be sure to notify your neighbor. Ask them to keep an eye on your house and report any suspicious activity. If someone is house-sitting for you, tell your neighbor which car they drive and who will be staying there in your absence.
  4. Make your house look like someone is home. To deter a burglary while you are away, there are simple steps you can take. If you live in a colder climate, have someone keep your walkways clear of snow and ice. Have someone pickup your mail and newspapers. Lastly, timers for indoor and outdoor lights are an inexpensive way to make it look like someone is home.
  5. Conceal valuables in inconspicuous places. If you have jewelry, guns, electronics or other valuables, lock them up in a safe or conceal them in inconspicuous places before you leave. Ovens, freezers, the laundry room, in shoes, bowls in the kitchen, these are all places off the top of my head, but I’m sure you can think of places in your home that would be the last place a burglar would look. They are looking for a quick grab-and-go, so the harder it is to find things, the less they will take (in theory).

I wish for you safe travels and the happiest of holidays!

 

Preparing for Home Ownership in 2018

2018 Home Ownership Goal

Have you found yourself dreaming of having Christmas in your own home next year? Do you have the dream of home ownership for 2018? Here are some steps you need to take in order to prepare to buy a home by the end of 2018.

1) Check Your Credit Score –  You can go to the free website creditkarma.com or use the free app. Credit Karma will give you updates on two of your three credit scores, credit history, and suggestions on how to improve your score.

You can also go to annualcreditreport.com and request free annual credit reports from all three credit reporting bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. For a small fee, you can also get your credit score.

Check the reports thoroughly for any errors that need correcting and any negative information.

A higher credit score makes it easier to qualify for the lowest interest rates, which in turn lowers your mortgage payment. Did you know that higher credit scores also affect your auto insurance rates?

2)  Save Money – The average down payment rates for home buyers in various programs are 3%, 3.5%, 5%, 10% and 20%. There are criteria and benefits for each of these rates and programs, but that’s a different, more detailed blog post. You will also need about 3% for closing costs, although sometimes you can get the Seller to help with the costs. You will also need readily available funds for your Earnest Money Deposit, the Home Inspection and your Appraisal. Although there are down payment assistance programs, Seller Concessions and real estate rebates and credits at close of escrow so your costs may be lower, it is still a good idea to have all of these fees saved so you have home buying options.

One suggested saving strategy is to save the difference between your rent and what you estimate your mortgage payment will be—or more. It helps contribute to your cash reserves to buy a home, and you’ll need to prove to a lender that you can afford housing payments that may be higher than what you are currently paying in rent.

Dave Ramsey suggests you are also out of debt, you have 3-6 months of expenses in your emergency fund, plus enough cash for a 10–20% down payment on a 15-year fixed mortgage. He also suggests that you pay cash up front or your mortgage payment is no more than 25% of your monthly take-home pay.

A standard rule for lenders is that your monthly housing payment (principal, interest, taxes and insurance) should not take up more than 28% of your income before taxes. This debt-to-income ratio is called the “housing ratio” or “front-end ratio.”

3) Earn Extra Money – If you’re low on cash, as most first-time buyers are, consider taking drastic steps to cut spending. Or try some ways to increase your income, such as selling some of your stuff or taking a part-time job.

4) Start Scouting Neighborhoods – Unless you already know where you want to live, take the time to visit a variety of potential neighborhoods. You’ll want to scout out neighborhoods that meet your needs in terms of school districts, public transportation options, and distance from home to work and traffic challenges you might face, as well as seeing what amenities your neighborhood might provide. Exploring different locations will help you narrow your priorities.

One app you can use to see houses listed in your area or other neighborhoods throughout the US is Home Scouting. You can use the website or download the app. Use the VIP code “CaraCz” for a free subscription.

 

Once you have made significant progress on those first four steps, it will be time to talk to a Lender and gather more information and start with the next steps. (See next week’s blog post for that additional information).

Home ownership is a beautiful thing. Let me help you bring your dream to fruition.

 

 

 

Preparing Your Home for Holiday Visitors

Kitchen Photo Rebecca West

Photo: Rebecca West Interior Designer (www.happystartsathome.com)

Thanksgiving is one week from today. Are you preparing for holiday visitors? Here are some tips to get your home not just family ready, but “company ready”.

Prep the Porch:

This is the first thing guests see when visiting your home, so make sure it is well lit, freshly swept, and touch-up any chipped paint around windows and doors. You can add flowers or plants, or just make sure weeds and any dead plants are removed. Here in Arizona, spiders are an issue, so make sure to sweep the spider webs away and deter any Arizona creepy-crawly guest you don’t want visiting for the holidays. If you live in colder climates, keep the walkways free of ice and fallen leaves or any other walkway hazard.

Lights:

Make sure outside lights are working so your guests don’t trip on the way to your door. Put motion-activated night lights in hallways, bathrooms, and bedrooms to ensure safe passage after dark.

Guest Room:

1) Give the guest room a deep cleaning. Clean the curtains and wipe the blinds. Clean the floor and dust the shelves. You never know what allergies your guests might have.

2) If you have carpet or rugs and they are spotted or looking dingy, have them cleaned.

3) Clear out some closet and drawer space and make sure you have hangers for your guests to hang their clothes. Also provide a place for them to put their suitcase.

4) Provide a bedside clock and reading lamp. Not everyone goes to bed or wakes at the same time.

5 ) Make sure you have fresh linens on the bed and provide an extra blanket and pillow. Martha Stewart suggests having four pillows on a queen bed. Two medium or firm, and two soft.

6) Make sockets available near the bed. If you live in an older home, you can buy plug-in surge protector/sockets with USB ports to make charging devices easier for your guests.

7) Empty the wastebasket.

8) Provide a box of tissues on the nightstand.

9) If the guest room also serves another purpose, put away papers and toys that might be in there and remove anything you may need from the room during their stay.

10) If you have a guest room, consider replacing the light fixture with a ceiling fan so your guests can adjust the temperature without moving your thermostat temperature settings.

11) If you don’t have a guest room and are making use of public space like a sofa or air mattress in a public room, consider using a folding screen or rolling bookcase for privacy.

Bathroom:

1) Remove all towels, washcloths and rugs, and wash them.

2) Spray shower/tub walls with diluted vinegar and let it sit, then scrub with a hard-bristle brush and rinse. If you live in Arizona, our hard water can leave mineral deposits around sink and tub drains. If they are not coming up easily, you can use scissors or a razor blade to scrape off the residue. Some also suggest using steel wool.

3) Wipe down all cabinetry and counter tops with appropriate cleaners. You can use tinted wood markers or tinted furniture polish to touch up any scuffs or scratches in your wood cabinetry.

4) Clean windows, fans, mirrors, and countertop containers.

5) Make sure the bathroom fan and window are in operating condition. Ventilation is an important part of keeping your bathroom clean and mildew-free.

6) Empty the wastebasket.

7) Sweep and mop the floor, and wipe down the baseboards. If you live in Arizona, you know we have lots of dust. Sometimes that even sticks to the walls. You can use a Swiffer and give the walls a quick wipe down.

8) Place extra toilet paper, towels and toiletries in a place that is visible. If you don’t have extra shelf space, then add a basket with these items. (This is a good time to repurpose those extra hotel toiletries you never use.)

9) Some helpful items to have on hand in case your guest forgot something: shampoo and conditioner, toothbrush and toothpaste, deodorant, disposable razor and shaving cream, cotton balls and swabs, hand cream, holiday first-aid supplies such as pain reliever and acid reducer for those hearty turkey dinners.

10) Provide a tub matt to avoid slips.

11) Replace freshly washed or vacuumed rugs and any laundered items. Martha Stewart suggests having two large bath towels, two face towels, and a washcloth for each guest. Consider using holiday themed towels (or at least a holiday hand towel) to keep with the spirit of the season.

12) Add a nightlight so you guests can find their way in the dark. If you’ve traveled any, you will know the feeling of waking up somewhere in a pitch-black room and not remembering where you are. Adding a night light can help. Add a festive one for the holiday season.

Just like with a guest room that does double duty, a bathroom used by other members of the family should be decluttered as much as possible. Move any items not used on a regular basis to inside cabinets and create space for your guests.

Kitchen:

After a deep clean of your kitchen, here are some additional tips to help with traffic flow and help your guests find what they need.

1) Create a simple breakfast station. Keep fresh fruit, breakfast cereals and other essentials together on the counter for early risers. Give guests a quick kitchen tour the night before so they can get their morning coffee or tea without waiting for you in the morning.

2) If your kitchen is small, move your coffee station into a family room or dining room so guests don’t crowd the kitchen when you’re trying to fix meals.

3) If you like to visit while you’re cooking, place extra stools and chairs around the perimeter of your kitchen so guests can sit and visit without interrupting the flow of the kitchen.

4) To provide more space in your kitchen, try installing appliances under countertops or consider investing in a kitchen island.

5) Check the condition of the countertops, cabinets, and appliances. Replacing the appliances can make a huge difference when you’re preparing meals for large groups. (And a little tip from someone who works at a home appliance store – the Black Friday sales on appliances usually start mid-November so if you need new appliances you can get a good deal and still have it installed before Thanksgiving.)

 

These are some tips that will hopefully help you make your guests feel right at home for the holidays. If you can think of any other helpful tips, comment on this post and share with us what has worked for you or what you’ve experienced as a guest yourself.

 

 

What’s the difference between a Townhouse and a Condo?

Seattle WaterfrontPhoto: The Seattle Waterfront near Pike Place Market

This is a topic that confuses most people, even REALTORS® on occasion. It looks like a townhouse but why is it considered a Condo?

The definition of a Condominium is a form of ownership where units are owned by individuals but the land and common areas are owned jointly with all owners.

Why does it matter if it’s a Townhouse or Condominium? The answer is simple – financing. There are certain criteria necessary for it to be financed, especially if you are a first-time home buyer and want to use an FHA loan. The ratio of rental versus owner occupant units in a community will also determine if it qualifies for an FHA loan.

One way to check whether it’s a Condo or Townhouse is to check the tax records. If the Legal Description on the tax records lists a lot number, it is most likely not a Condominium.

Don’t go by the name alone or by information on the MLS. Most owners (and sadly, most agents) don’t actually read the tax records. Just because the name of the complex is “Garden Grove Townhomes”, doesn’t mean they are actually Townhouses. That being said, there is a special exemption from project approval for “Site Condominiums” defined as detached units with no attached/shared garages, etc. Site Condominiums are typically only for a few states.

Still confused? If you live in Arizona and have a Townhouse or Condominium (or you just aren’t sure which it is), contact me and I will help clarify this for you.

Note: If you are paying cash for your Townhouse or Condo, most of this information is irrelevant to you.

 

Do you know someone who has a Townhouse or Condo to sell? Are you considering moving into a single family detached home with more space and a backyard? Contact me. I’m never too busy for your referrals.