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Displaying blog entries 1-8 of 8

What is a Buyer's Agent

by The Jana Caudill Team

This blog piggy-backs on the previous article, “Buyer Self-Representation.”  The answer to the question Can I represent myself? is Yes, but why would you?

That article naturally leads to the question of agency, and specifically for this article, buyer agency.  A buyer’s agent represents and has a fiduciary duty to the Crown Point, Hobart, and Dyer buyer in a Real Estate transaction.  That’s the simple answer.  The listing agent represents and has a fiduciary duty to the seller in a Real Estate transaction.  This way each side has their own representation.

Here’s where it gets a little sticky.  As the buyer, and to establish the agency relationship with a buyer agent you must have a contract with that agent stating explicitly that you and the agent have an agency agreement (Buyer Agency Agreement.)  Without this formal, signed agreement all Realtors default position in the transaction are to represent the best interests, and hold a fiduciary duty to the seller.

That’s right.  The default status of any and all agents participating in a Real Estate transaction is to have an agency relationship to the seller unless stated otherwise in writing.  It doesn’t matter that the agent took you through twenty homes last Sunday, or gave coloring books to your kids to keep them busy while you toured all those homes.  It doesn’t matter if they are your neighbor, your cousin, or belong to the same PTA board.  If you do not have an agency agreement, in writing, stating that the Realtor is working on your behalf and as your agent THEY ARE NOT YOUR AGENT.  They are just the Realtor who drove you to all those home showings.

Good Realtors want that agency agreement too.  Transactions close more smoothly when each side has someone watching out for their best interests.  Be sure to request a buyer agency agreement from your Realtor.

Buyer Self-Representation

by The Jana Caudill Team

Can I represent myself when buying a Crown Point, Munster, or Chesterton home?  What most people who ask this question really mean to say is, “Won’t I save money (translated commission) by doing it myself instead of using a Realtor?”  The answer to the first question is, Yes.  You absolutely can, and you have every right to represent yourself when buying a home.  You can find homes for sale by owner in the newspaper, call to set up showing appointments for yourself, negotiate on your own behalf, etc.  You can hire the appraiser and an inspector.  If you’re going it alone you will probably at a minimum need to hire an attorney to draw up the contract to purchase, but beyond that you can do it all for yourself, drawing on your own life experience to help guide you through every decision until closing.

The answer to the second question, “Will I save money by doing it myself?” is NO.  As a homebuyer, doing it yourself, you will not save money by not using a Realtor, and you may in fact spend more.  There are many reasons for this, primarily including who pays commissions in a Real Estate transaction, and higher average sales prices for homes for sale by owner.

In a Real Estate transaction the seller generally pays all commissions, both to the listing agent representing the seller, and to the buyer agent representing the buyer.  If this is your first Real Estate purchase this may not make sense on the surface (click here for a lengthier discussion on agency).  However, all commissions are paid out at closing by the seller, NOT by the buyer.  The bottom line is the buyer does not pay commissions.  Just like at the car lot, the buyer does not come in and have to pay a commission to the sales person who sold them their brand new car.  That commission is paid by the dealer (seller).

In addition, homes listed for sale by owner tend to be advertised for a higher price than like homes listed with a Realtor.  This is because a Realtor will show sellers how much homes are going for in their market at that time by providing a CMA (Comparative Market Analysis), and will use that information to price their home competitively with other homes on the market.  And again, if you’re looking to purchase a home that is listed for sale through a Realtor you need to keep in mind two things.  First, the seller pays all Realtor commissions, and second, and just as importantly, that Realtor is professionally representing that seller only.  They will use all their skills to negotiate and secure the highest sales price possible for their sellers – treating the buyers fairly through the entire process – but representing the seller’s interests above all others.

So, the question, will you save money by representing yourself ?  No, you’ll probably end up paying more for the house you ultimately purchase, and since commissions are paid by the seller, AND the seller has professional representation with their Realtor shouldn’t you have professional representation too?

The Purchase Offer - Part 2

by The Jana Caudill Team

We talked about price, good faith or earnest money, down payment, and financing terms last time.  All of these issues are important in putting your best offer forward, but in order to make one that will be sound and attractive to the seller your offer to purchase must also address the issues of time of possession, contingencies, and inspections.

  1. Time of possession.  The contract for purchase must spell out a specific time when the home is turned over and available for occupation by the new owners.  Possession is often defined by an event such as “day of closing” or “two days after closing.”  That’s the time when the previous owners will be completely moved out and the home is ready for the new owners to move in.  Some offers may request early possession, meaning the home is turned over for occupancy prior to the closing date.  You will certainly want to consider a time of possession that is most convenient for all parties, however venturing too far from possession on the day of closing may warrant a rental agreement to bridge the gap on the calendar.
  2. Contingencies, such as appraisals, inspections and mortgage funding are common in offers to purchase, and protect the buyer in case of the unexpected.  An appraisal coming in under the expected valuation can affect the mortgage approval process as can inspection issues like a leaky roof, lead paint, or a faulty foundation.  Cover your bases by including appropriate language specifying what contingencies need to be met in order for you as the buyer to proceed to the closing table.
  3. Consult with your Realtor.  Chose a reputable Realtor with the experience to help you with your Crown Point, Valparaiso, or Chesterton home purchase.  They can help you gather information on recent home sales that is useful in determining an offer price.  They will also help you navigate the offer to purchase contract and take the time to consult you on the various contingencies, inspections, and other issues that can help spell out an offer no seller will refuse.

Troubleshooting the Hot Water Heater - Part 2

by The Jana Caudill Team

(continued from last blog…) 

Last time we dealt with stinky and discolored water from your Crown Point, Munster, or Cedar Lake hot water heater.  Today we’ll cover little hot water and no hot water at all.

Little hot water:  The first question is, does your water heater have a large enough capacity for the demand in your household?  Remember as a teenager when Dad complained about not having any hot water when he took his shower after the rest of the family had already taken theirs?  Use this handy hot flow rate calculator to find out if you have an undersized unit for your family’s needs.  Also check that you don’t have hot and cold water lines crossed somewhere in the house.  If you have a crossed line from the water heater to the washing machine, for example, you’re unintentionally using hot water where you don’t need it.

No hot water:  You’ve got either a faulty gas pilot, thermocouple, or pilot control valve.  First off, is the pilot light off?  If so, follow these directions to safely light.  If you’re unable to light the pilot light it might need replacing.  The thermocouple’s job is to sense when the pilot is on and hot enough to ignite natural gas.  If the pilot’s out the thermocouple will not open, as may also be the case if the thermocouple is defective.  Again replacement the defective part.  Same goes for the pilot control valve.

If you have water appearing externally around the base of the heater it’s more than likely one of three things.  One, you have a faulty temperature and pressure control valve which you can flush clean, re-check, and replace if leaking persists.  Two, with tank corrosion you should be able to see the area where corrosion has begun to eat through the tank in which case the tank will need to be replaced.  Three, leaking connective plumbing.  Again, easy to locate.

You’ll have to decide if you’re going to do any of these repairs yourself or call in a plumber.  Just because you know how to identify the problem doesn’t necessarily mean you’re the best person to fix it.  BE SAFE.

Troubleshooting the Hot Water Heater - Part 1

by The Jana Caudill Team

All of a sudden – or more likely the problem started small and got worse with time – you have an issue with your water heater.  There’s not enough hot water, or NO hot water.  Maybe your hot water smells a little funny or has a rust colored tinge to it.  Maybe you even have water on the floor of your Crown Point, Chesterton, or Dyer basement.

Ok, first things first.  BE SAFE.  This article is on troubleshooting water heater problems, and although I’ll suggest how to fix the issue, this is by no means a comprehensive step-by-step repair plan.  If at any point you become “a little iffy” around a troubled water heater call in a professional.  You may very well be an accomplished do-it-yourselfer, but accidents do happen, and more often than not they happen at home.  Now, if you’re one to dig a little deeper into the issue a little home safety review is in order.  If you have an electric water heater be sure to turn it off by cutting power at your circuit/fuse box.  For gas water heaters turn the burner setting to pilot.  Then, for all heaters turn off the water supply to the heater.  On to the diagnostics:

Rust colored water:  Either the sacrificial anode rod has deteriorated (by design) to the point of necessary replacement or there is corrosion inside the water tank.  Most often this can be fixed by replacing the old rod with a new magnesium anode rod.

Smell:  The rotten egg odor you have is a bacteria growing on the inside of the tank.  The bacteria is being kept alive by feeding off the hydrogen gas emitted by the corroding anode rod.  You’ll need to flush out the tank with hydrogen peroxide and probably also replace the old anode with a new magnesium anode.  If the problem persists you may have to replace the tank lining as well.

We’ll continue the diagnostic next blog with the issues of little and no hot water, and discuss leaking water collecting at the base of the heater.

Teaching Your Children How to be Safe at Home

by The Jana Caudill Team

You often hear about new parents “child proofing” a house.  They have safety latches for door knobs, oven doors, toilet lids, kitchen drawers and cabinets.  There are electric outlet covers, safety gates, drapery cords hung high, and knives, matches, chemicals, and medications all locked safely away.  There’s a lot parents can do to make their homes safer for their children. 

The problem is, with the term children, at least in the context of “child proofing,” we often only mean babies and toddlers.  What about when our kids are not only walking, but old enough to be talking and learning too?

Here are some tips that go beyond the measures you take to protect your children and venture into the realm of educating your children to help protect themselves.

  1. Water and electricity don't mix.  You already don’t let your kids put their glass of water or milk on top of the television in the family room.  Now’s the time to explain to them why.  Electricity and liquids do not mix.  Teach them about electric fires.  Tell them the age old story about the person using the hairdryer in the tub.  You can make your point without giving your kids nightmares.  Then do a planned tour of your home, visiting each bathroom, every television/DVD player/game system set up in the house.  Help them identify potential electric fire threats in the home.  Tell them how much you appreciate their participation in keeping your Crown Point, Cedar Lake, or Schererville home safe.
  2. Animals.  Tell the kids to never pull on tails or ears, and never to interrupt a house pet who is having his dinner.  Even the best behaved dogs can get a little annoyed with a younger family member who refuses to leave them alone during what would otherwise be a peaceful meal.  Talk to your children about avoiding strange animals, whether it’s the stray dog or cat in the neighborhood or it’s your neighbor’s pet just on the other side of the fence.  Mom and Dad should get to know potential new animal friends on the block and ensure there are proper introductions with little ones.
  3. Knives, matches, meds, chemicals.  Yes, it’s time for those talks too, and YES, KEEP THEM LOCKED UP.  Talk to your children about all potential dangers in the home – just don’t overwhelm them right out of the shoot.  If you unload everything on them all at once you risk creating a sense that the house is a giant booby trap.  Have these conversations as opportunities present themselves.  You will still keep items like medications, matches, and so on locked up until the kids are a little older.

Of course everything depends on communication and how mature your children are.  If you find yourself constantly removing that nighttime glass of water from the top of the cable TV box and your constant reminders go unheeded there should be repercussions.  And that’s okay.  You’re just trying to keep your kids safe.

Budget Bathroom Redo's

by The Jana Caudill Team

Getting the itch to do something about that dreadful main level guest powder room but you’ve never really pictured yourself as a do-it-yourselfer?  Maybe you’re ready to put a hole in the peach walls or smash the forest green tiles of your outdated master bath though you’ve never picked up a hammer before in your life.  Here are a handful of tips and some easy and inexpensive Crown Point, Chesterton, and Valparaiso bathroom redos for the budget conscious first time do-it-yourselfer:

  1. Evaluate the project before you spend any money.  What can you realistically do yourself and what do you need help with?  Are there any structural items that need to be addressed?  Are you already looking at holes in the drywall, leaking plumbing, rot, or questionable wiring?  If so, and this is your first rodeo, it might be time to call in the pros.  Get estimates specifically for that work only.  You don’t need a contractor to buy your paint.  That’s when things start to get pricey.  Are you being realistic with your budget?  Is it going to cost more than you originally thought to complete all the changes on your bathroom redo wish list?  Are you okay with spending more if it becomes necessary?
  2. Replace low cost items that require no or easy installation.  We’re talking about the little things that combined can completely change the feel of a room like a new decorative toilet seat, candles, towels, wall hangings, soap dishes.  Anything that contributes to the new feel you’re after in the bathroom.
  3. Paint.  There, I said it.  Yes, paint.  The most affordable anyone-can-do-it remodel item on a room’s to do list is fresh paint.  Remember those drab peach walls that looked great thirty years ago?  A gallon of paint with a warm hue will work wonders.
  4. Self-adhesive tiles.  They’re cheap, they’re easy to apply, and they’re available in a large variety of sizes, colors, and styles.
  5. Be frugal.  Only replace what you have to.  You can often replace a sink without having to replace the entire vanity.  Shop for sale, one-off, close-out, bargain lighting, tiles, towel holders, sconces, etc. that can add that perfect affordable and unique accent.

Attic and Basement Storage

by The Jana Caudill Team

I was thinking about storage solutions for your Crown Point, Dyer, or Munster home.  I’m not talking about color coded, stackable bins, or any of that.  What I had on my mind was how to make effective use of underutilized space.  After the garage the two most likely candidates for family storage are the basement and the attic.  Here are a couple pros and cons for storage both above your head and below your feet, and a thought or two on how to do it right.

As a rule basements are cooler than the rest of the house, and by comparison with the attic, much more accessible.  Generally if a large item like a couch or an exercise machine can fit through the front door and into the house it can also fit down the stairwell and into the basement.  But accessibility can have its drawbacks as well.  Anything you store in the basement will be seen every time you venture down there, and if there’s enough stuff down there it can easily get cluttered.  Not such a great strategy if you also use the basement as a family common area.  Take into account children and pets, particularly cats.  Nosy fingers and paws can accidentally overturn Great Granny’s antique china, or disturb Great Grandpa’s military medals and ribbons.  So anything you store in the basement should be clearly labeled in secure boxes.  Plastic containers are good, especially if there’s even the most remote threat of flooding.  Another drawback of storage in the basement is the simple convenience, and by that I mean anytime you have extra space life generally expands to fill it, which can inadvertently steal away usable living space.  It’s often easier to “take it downstairs” and deal with clutter later than to properly dispose of expendable items right away.  Basement storage in itself is a great argument for a garage sale.  So if you’re going to use the basement consider one or more of those standing, folding screens to store (hide) you stuff behind and out of site.  And don’t forget the space under the stairs.  It’s great for hiding more than childhood monsters.

Attics are difficult to access, and their entry points are significantly narrower than the hallway downstairs.  However, attics are great out of the way, forgotten spaces in the house, and anything you are able to haul up a ladder can be easily put out of site and out of mind.  That means no nosy children or pets accidentally breaking priceless family keepsakes.  A word of caution though.  Attics are warm, and can get downright miserable during the summer.  Be careful not to store Grandpa’s old letterman jacket up there.  Painted leather, like the sleeves on many of those coats can sweat natural oils in the heat and ruin the finish.  So it’s safer to keep delicate materials and fabrics elsewhere if possible.  This includes old family reel to reel movies, video tapes, and music cassettes.  All of these can suffer in the heat.  Here’s the hot tip for using your attic for storage: install a folding ladder and some flooring for safety, and easier accessibility.

Displaying blog entries 1-8 of 8