Incline Village real estate blog, Lake Tahoe real estate blog.


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Spring Home Prep and Maintenance Inside and Out

by Lakeshore Realty

The spring real estate market is picking up. Is your home ready for the many buyers who will see it in the coming days? It's imperative that your home stands out among all of the others so you'll get the best offer possible. Don't leave one stone unturned -- inside or out -- when it comes to spring home maintenance and preparation. Here's a checklist to help you prepare:

Home exterior courtesy of Roof Real Clean

On the outside:

The spring real estate market is picking up. Is your home ready for the many buyers who will see it in the coming days? It's imperative that your home stands out among all of the others so you'll get the best offer possible. Don't leave one stone unturned -- inside or out -- when it comes to spring home maintenance and preparation. Here's a checklist to help you prepare:

Home exterior courtesy of Roof Real Clean

On the outside:

Lawn: Clean up the lawn following the frigid winter. To prevent weeds, lay down an herbicide. Check that your in-ground sprinkler system is still working.

Decks/patios: Sweep off the deck and patio to remove any debris. Clean, stain and reseal your deck. Hose down your patio to get back to the original layer.

Exterior wall: Look for trouble areas following the cold winter months and climate conditions. Water stains mean your gutters aren't handling runoff well, for example. Look for holes, cracks and other issues and repair as needed.

Roof: Any cracked or missing shingles? How is your roof deck performing following any ice dams? Address any issues to keep your roof in top shape.

Chimney: If you have a stone chimney, check to see how the bricks are doing. Look for efflorescence, a white calcium deposit that means your chimney is absorbing water. Reseal chimney if needed.

Gutters and downspouts: Clean the gutters and make sure downspouts are in the right position so they direct water away from your house. You can hire a professional to clean your gutters for between $100 and $200 to avoid injury.

Home interior courtesy of JFC Real Estate Development, LLC

Inside the house:

Windows: Check caulking and weather stripping and replace as needed.

Leaks: Check for leaky faucets, clogged drains and broken pipes. Look for any puddles around the dishwasher. Call a plumber to perform repairs if needed.

Attics: Search for pests and mold and repair as necessary. Proper insulation and good ventilation will prevent more problems, so you might add a new layer around the attic floor.

Air conditioning unit: Change the filter, check for leaks around the house and make sure the drain pan is working correctly. Vacuum all the dust away and have an air conditioning professional perform any necessary repairs.

"Spring" cleaning: Your house should be in tip-top shape to welcome the new season. To get out the last of the cold and welcome the warmth, you should:

  • Dust window frames, wood furniture, ceiling fans and areas above the cabinetry.
  • Vacuum furniture and carpet; steam clean if needed.
  • Wash cabinets and walls.
  • Clean tile and repair any missing grout.


This is only a portion of the spring checklist you might have for your home, but it focuses on the major areas that may need work following a frigid winter. You never know how much damage snow and ice may have caused to your roof or attic, and you don't want your air conditioning system to fail halfway through the warm months ahead. Tackle the problem areas now as spring begins. Then you can work to update and stage rooms for the spring market ahead.

Photos courtesy of DesignMine

Sellers: Ramp Up Your Curb Appeal!

by Lakeshore Realty

Curb appeal is one of the most important factors in selling a home, and one of the most difficult to quantify, but one thing is certain -- homes sell for more money when they have it.

It's common knowledge that drive-up first impressions count. Buyers want to be charmed and excited about a property as a whole. A clean, tidy front yard, front walk swept of leaves and snow, pavers laid safely and evenly, and an attractive frame of landscaping set the tone for a positive buyer experience.

On closer inspection, buyers can see that the trim has been freshly painted and that you've put out a cheery new welcome mat by the front door. So how much more work do you need to do to win buyers over?

Since 2003, replacement costs have generated more value at resale than remodeling, according to the latest Remodeling Magazine 2014 Cost vs. Value report. That's good news for sellers who want to ramp up their home's curb appeal.

In fact, the five projects with the best cost to value ratios were all directly related to curb appeal: Midrange roofing replacement rose 5.9% over last year, while midrange garage door replacement was up 5.6%. The 20-gauge steel replacement entry door was up 5.4% and vinyl siding replacement rose 3.2%. In the upscale category, the fiberglass replacement entry door was up 1.7%.

Exterior projects such as these are crucial to any home's integrity, says the National Association of REALTORS®(NAR.) "These projects also do not require expensive materials and they have the added bonus of instantly adding curb appeal," says the trade organization.

The quality of materials may also make a difference in resale. For example, a wood deck addition returns 80.5 percent of costs, while a composite deck addition returns only 68.0 percent. A steel entry door returns 101.8 percent of its cost, while a fiberglass replacement door returns only 72 percent of its cost.

While it may seem counterintuitive to pay $100 and only get $72 back at resale, updating is the best way to help a property maintain its appeal to future homebuyers.

"Resale value is just one factor among many that homeowners need to take into account when making a decision to remodel," advises the NAR. "The desirability and resale value of particular remodeling projects also varies by region and metropolitan area."

If you're planning to update your home for resale, ask your real estate professional for guidance. He or she can tell you which improvement projects will provide the most upon resale in your market.


by Lakeshore Realty

You may think it's your last chance to refinance your mortgage before interest rates go through the roof. Or, you feel your home's value has risen enough that you can get a better deal on your mortgage debt.

So how do you determine whether or not you qualify to refinance? First, establish how much equity you have. To refinance without paying private mortgage insurance, your LTV has to be 78 percent or less.

According to Zillow, you should find out how much your home is worth and how much you still owe on your current mortgage. Then divide the loan amount by the value amount. The answer is your loan-to-value (LTV) ratio. If your home is worth $300,000 and you owe $220,000, your loan to value is 73 percent. Your property value is going to be high enough to allow you to refinance.

Next, look at the affordability of refinancing. LendingTree.comsuggests that the total of refinance payment plus other debts should be no more than 43% of gross income. Lenders weigh your monthly income and debt payments through a debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, advises LendingTree. To be on the safe side, your total monthly debt service, including your refinance payment, should be no higher than 38% to 43% of your gross monthly income.

Your refinance will go smoothly if your credit scores are high enough to exceed lender minimums, usually 620 to 660. Conforming loans -- those that qualify for the secondary market -- require higher credit scores than government-guaranteed loans, such as FHA loans. Check your credit at one of the free sites like

Last, make sure it's worth it to refinance. Most families stay in their homes a median of seven years. To cover closing costs, which can run into the thousands with loan origination fees, title searches and so on, you'll need an average of three to five years before you break even. It's only worth it to refinance if you can make a significant monthly savings and you plan on occupying your home for a few more years.

You may want to consider selling your home. A purchase loan costs about the same as a refinance, because the risks are the same to the lender. With the equity you've built, you could have enough after closing to put down on another property.

If you feel better off in the home you're in, the advantages of refinancing are many. You can lower your monthly payment, or you can opt to pay more to get a shorter term on the loan, saving you thousands of dollars in interest.

Be prepared to show the same financial background as you did when you first purchased the home. Contact your lender and find out the requirements, which may include employment verification, your checking and savings accounts, and your debts. Take along some recent sold comparables of homes similar to yours from your local appraisal district or your real estate agent.

Why the Real Estate Market & Mortgages are Looking Good for 2015!

by Lakeshore Realty

The national average for the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage last week was 3.86 percent, according to Freddie Mac's most recent survey. Freddie's Deputy Chief Economist Len Keifer believes 2015 will be a great year, with the highest number of housing sales since 2007. The outlook for 2015 is even better, assuring almost instant equity if you purchase now.

Keifer names several reasons why Freddie Mac is optimistic:

1. Jobs have grown at a rate of 250,000 per month for over a year, with strong job growth in the first-time home buyer age group.

2. About 80 percent of metro markets are affordable for the median family income to purchase the median priced home.

3. Rents have risen 11 percent over the last three years, which may be the tipping point for renters to become homeowners.

So with interest rates only slightly above record lows, why aren't you running to the nearest lender to get a home loan? Maybe you're spooked by two mortgage myths - that you have to have 20% down to buy a home and that only buyers with perfect credit can get a loan. Neither one is true.

Lending requirements aren't as strict as media horror stories might lead you to believe. Freddie Mac is making it possible for more borrowers to meet conforming loan standards. Qualifying borrowers who buy within maximum loan limits, up to $417,000 in most areas and $625,000 in high-cost areas such as parts of California can get loans with less than 20 percent down. Of course, any loan with less than 20 percent down will require private mortgage insurance, but PMI is tax deductible along with the interest you pay on your mortgage if you itemize.

Low-income and first-time buyers can get a conforming loan with as little as three percent down from Fannie Mae, and after March 23, 2015, so will Freddie Mac borrowers. You'll have to meet certain credit and income qualifications, but the upside is you can start building equity now.

Government-guaranteed loans are also available with as little as zero down through the Veterans Administration for veterans and active-duty military. And the Federal Housing Administration has programs as low as 3.5 percent down. All FHA loans require PMI for the life of the loan.

It's also not true that only borrowers with perfect credit can get loans. Higher credit scores help borrowers qualify for a better rate. You can get an FHA loan with a credit score as low as 580 if you can provide the 3.5 percent down payment. A credit score of 650 or above will get you in the game for a Fannie or Freddie conforming loan if other variables in your financials are in order.

The rule of thumb is simple -- less money down requires a higher credit score and vice versa.

Credit scores tell you how much money you have to put down and they're a factor in your interest rate. If you put 20 percent down, you can get a loan even if you have a low credit score of 580 or 620. If you have a 740 or 760, the lender will allow you to put less money down.

Other lending myths are also out there, such as lenders are no longer doing stated income loans or jumbo loans. Again, that's not true. Lenders are doing loans that don't require an income verification if the customer has a large portfolio of liquid assets.

You may qualify for a better rate on one criteria, but not qualify on another. Lenders look at approximately 15 to 20 pieces of criteria, including credit scores, down payments, liquid assets, current employment, revolving loans, ownership of other properties, and much more.

The lesson for you is this - don't try to outsmart the market. The housing market is getting stronger. In fact, there’s rarely been a better time to buy a home.

Easy & Affordable Design Changes to Brighten a Small Space

by Lakeshore Realty

Almost everyone has that room in the house or apartment that is small, cramped, cave-like and hard to work with.

Unfortunately, we can’t always renovate or change our homes to let more light in or open up the space. If you are renting and can’t alter the house, or if you simply don’t have the budget to take out a wall or add a skylight, there are some affordable interior design changes you can make to make your tiny dark space look lighter and more spacious.



Change Your Window Coverings

You might not be able to replace those tiny windows with big, bright panes, but you can swap out heavy drapes with sheer curtains or light blinds. Use roman shades to minimize the space that your window treatments take up and are easy to use to let natural light in the room. Semi-sheer or opaque window treatments will let light in all day, but still give you privacy. If you want to make your windows look bigger, you can use long sleek curtains that are either sheer or a lighter color.

Choose The Right Colors

Even if your room gets plenty of natural light, decorating a small space with dark or busy colors can still make it seem cramped and dim. Use pale or pastel colors such as mint, sky blue, lilac or ivory instead of white, which can be too stark. Mixing a palette of light colors will keep your room looking bright, but still give your decor dimension and contrast.

Choose Your Decor And Furniture Wisely

In a small space, less is more. Instead of a clunky sectional couch that takes up most of the room, choose a sleek modern sofa in a light color with glass or mirrored side tables to brighten up the space and make it look bigger. Don’t overdo it with the decor, either. Instead of shelves of knick-knacks or large sculptures and vases, use fresh natural elements like a bowl of apples or get some fresh-cut flowers delivered. Instead of hanging photos or paintings on the walls, hang large decorative mirrors to create the illusion of a larger space.

Bring In Your Own Lighting

Some rooms just don’t have access to a good natural light source. If all else fails, you can use lamps and other lighting options that brighten the space without being obtrusive. Fresh Home recommends recessed lighting or small pendant lights to add light to a dark ceiling without taking up space. Adding a tall stylish lamp to the corner of the room will also help brighten the space.

Clean Up The Yard

Ok, so this isn’t exactly an interior design tactic, but trimming back the trees and bushes around your yard is an easy fix that can let in a lot more natural light. In an article in the Erickson Tribune, real estate experts say that trimming back overgrown trees and possibly adding some flower beds or pots around windows and porches not only lets more light into your rooms, but makes your entire house look brighter and more welcoming.

Why Use a Realtor? 6 Important Reasons

by Lakeshore Realty

Real estate is a big deal. For most Americans, a home is the most expensive purchase they’ll make in their lifetime. It’s a serious transaction with significant financial and emotional ramifications for the parties involved, and having proper representation is critical.

Today’s buyers and sellers agree. In 2012, a full 89 percent of buyers used a real estate agent, and so did 88 percent of sellers.1

Realtor® representation during a real estate transaction is important for both buyers and sellers. Here are six of the chief reasons:

Fiduciary responsibility. When you work with a Realtor®, their fiduciary responsibility is to you. That means you have an expert who is looking out for your best financial interests, an expert who’s contractually bound to do everything in their power to protect you. That’s big — the value of that commitment cannot be overstated. “For more than 100 years, Realtors® have subscribed to the NAR’s strict Code of Ethics as a condition of membership,” says National Association of Realtors® President Gary Thomas. “Realtors® have the expertise and experience to help sellers protect their investment and help buyers build theirs.”

Complex, ever-changing real estate regulations. Buying or selling a home is not like purchasing a plane ticket. Every home is different, and laws change every year and vary from state to state. Generally speaking, people purchase a new home every 7-10 years, and a lot can — and usually does — change between transactions. Realtors® are immersed in real estate, and they must stay current with all the updates in regulations, laws, contracts and practices. Once you retain your Realtor®, they put that knowledge to work for you.

Help finding the right home, beyond square footage and baths. Browsing online is a terrific way to start a home search — in fact, almost 90 percent of people start their home search online.1 But when it’s time to buy, knowing all the pros and cons of a property can help you make the right decision. Realtors® live and breathe real estate, and they can share information about a home that you wouldn’t otherwise know. For example, they can tell you about the perils of polybutylene piping (a plumbing material that’s prone to bursting), or the concerns with FRT plywood (a roofing material that can spontaneously combust in higher temperatures, like those in attics). Your Realtor® can go beyond the aesthetics and tell you important details about homes you’re considering.

Pricing and selling a home. There are lots of sites where you can view price estimates for your home before you list it for sale, but you take a risk using them. In some markets, online estimates can be off by as much as 35 percent, and they often rely on tax records and data that can be as old as 6-12 months. Realtors® know the local market, have access to the freshest sale data, and can price your house in line with the market to maximize your earnings. In 2012, sellers using an agent got $40,100 more: The median sale price for the 88 percent of sellers who worked with an agent was $215,000, versus a median sale price of $174,900 for the 9 percent of sellers who didn’t use an agent.1

Contracts and negotiations. Finding the right home is the fun part. Then the real work begins.: Today’s contracts can be 50 pages long — not counting addendums and riders. Realtors® can help you navigate these complex documents and craft an attractive offer that makes sense for you. Plus, when it comes to negotiation, your Realtor® is your advocate and can bring an objective voice to a very subjective situation.

Following a code of ethics. When you work with a Realtor®, you’re partnering with a professional who operates according to a strict code of ethics. In place for over 100 years, the Realtor® Code of Ethics ensures that consumers who work with a Realtor® are treated professionally and ethically in all transaction-related matters.

1National Association of REALTORS® 2012 Survey of Home Buyers and Sellers.


How to Boost Real Estate Sales in the Digital Age

by Lakeshore Realty

‚ÄčNine out of 10 buyers rely on online searches as their main source of information when looking for a new home, according to a survey conducted by National Association of Realtors. In such a competitive business like real estate, not having a strong online presence means missing out on a wealth of opportunities. Take a look:

Be Accessible Online

Today's home buyer wants to search for homes quickly, easily and on the go. Consider these stats:

  • Google reports a 120 percent increase of real estate-related searches conducted via mobile phone from 2011 to 2012, and that trend continues to grow.
  • The 2012 Google and Compete New Home Shopper Mobile Survey found that 86 percent of buyers use the Internet to learn about the specific neighborhood of their choice, and a further 70 percent will use it to see inside the homes they are considering.
  • The emphasis has definitely moved from traditional marketing media. Only 9 percent of home buyers would use newspaper ads as their primary source of information when it comes to buying a new house today, according to the NAR.
  • Today's consumers respond more to visual media than to written information, with video listings proving the most popular. According to Digital Sherpa, real estate listings with videos attract 403 percent more inquiries.

Increase Your Market

Ordering the information online properly to facilitate the search process is also vital. With Zillow, for example, users can narrow the search parameters to within a specific neighborhood or even a specific street. It's hard for real estate agents to beat that.

To remain competitive, today's real estate agent needs to offer a website that is not only visually appealing, but also offers information in well-organized segments. People need to be able to get to the information that interests them quickly and easily, or they will simply turn to a different site.

Stay Organized With DAM Software

Digital asset management software such as WebDAM is essential to a well-run and organized real estate site, especially when you have several listings online. With the right DAM software, your clients will be able to filter results according to the parameters they set—price, location, number of bedrooms, etc.

Information can be backed up into the cloud and accessed from any location. This proves to be a valuable tool for agents in the field, as they can show home buyers several suitable properties and pinpoint prospects without physically going to each property. Realtors can update client preferences in the field and the DAM software will manage all backups to the cloud, freeing up servers and ensuring that private client information is protected.

An all-in-one DAM software solution can help by managing listings, protecting data and managing sales leads and client information, all at the same time. You can access the data where you need it and when you need it, and you can also make it convenient for your potential clients to do the same. This will help maintain your competitive edge.

What is Your Home Really Worth?

by Lakeshore Realty

Selling a house today is like being on a reality show. And that show is called "Everyone's An Expert." Especially when it comes to the sales price. If you're a REALTOR, don't bother showing neighborhood comparables. The seller clearly knows what the price should be - based on what they owe, what they need to move up to their dream house, or what they simply think it's worth. Never mind that their "must get" price is way out of the line for their house, their neighborhood, and the real estate market as a whole.

Perhaps there is a new idea for a realty show there, with a well-known name and a few special guest stars.

Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to "The Price is Right", the reality game show where we buy sellers' homes, and all they have to do is give us a sales price that's within three percent of the market value.

Seem too easy? Play along.

You're the next contestant, and you've been called in to "sell" your home to the show. You're nervous, but confident. Heck, you have the best home on the block. Your kitchen is killer, your landscaping pristine. You never got around to remodeling the bathrooms, and your basement is unfinished, but still.

So you walk into a room with the judges and you tell them all about your house—the great curb appeal and scenic drive up. The newly painted living room. The granite counters and farmhouse sink in the kitchen. Lookin' good and feelin' good, you're uber-confident when you say. "I will sell my house for $230,000."

The judges confer and look over the comps on their iPADs. Jennifer Lopez announces she has goosies. Kim Kardashian looks perplexed. Gordon Ramsay is wildly interjecting and cursing. Finally, "Dancing With The Stars" judge Bruno Tonioli interjects, "I'm sorry, the market value of your home is only $214,000, my darling. The Price is Wrong. But please do bring your gorrrrgeous self back next year."

As you turn to leave, you hear Blake Shelton saying, "You know your house has a lot of good qualities and with a little more practice on pricing, you could run away with this thing…"

But you're not really listening. You're too busy thinking of your family waiting outside for the exciting news that you've sold your house. They trust you. They believe in you. They're all packed.

They know you've got this. Those were your last words to them before the cameras rolled. But now you're getting ready to head back down the hall, and The Bachelor is offering to "walk you out."

You step outside and your family sees that you are not waving the sales contract. Ryan Seacrest sends you off with a, "Maybe you should have listened to your real estate agent, Buddy."

Yes, maybe everyone should. After all, it's the agent's job to know the market and develop a pricing strategy to get their clients' homes sold. They have no emotional connection to the home like a seller does, which gives them another advantage.

The reality is that there is no more important factor in the sale of a house than price. Even an ugly, old, never-updated house will sell if the price is right. Get it wrong, and you might be doing the walk of shame back home, where not even Carson Daly's consolation can make it any better.

What Sellers Should Know About CMAs (Comparative Market Analysis)

by Lakeshore Realty

Whether you are buying or selling a home, your real estate professional can give you a snapshot of the local market known as the competitive or comparative market analysis or CMA. These are convenient reports that help sellers choose a listing price and buyers to make competitive offers on a given home.

CMAs are generated from multiple listing service software and vary greatly depending on the search fields that are input by the real estate professional. Each quantifier makes the search increasingly specific - type of home (detached vs. attached), zip code, number of bedrooms, baths and living areas, square footage, and numerous other search criteria.

The result is a report that tells you which homes have recently sold, their selling prices, how long they were on the market and other information. The CMA will also tell you about homes in competition with yours that are similar in size, price, amenities, and location.

As many fields of information as there are, some criteria simply isn't available in a CMA. If the MLS has a field for "water views," you'll know. But if not, you'll have to learn more in the remarks section that is filled in by the listing agent. There you might find "great views" or "lake views." But who's to say what makes a great view?

CMA results may vary even between identical homes. One property may simply offer better drive-up appeal or is in better condition than the other. One may be updated or staged more attractively. Those differences can be reflected in the sales price.

When you're looking at properties that sold, you can also learn how long the home took to sell. This is where a real estate professional who is a neighborhood specialist can be invaluable. He or she may seen these homes while they were being marketed and can tell you if they were in condition similar to yours.

One thing a CMA can't tell you is why a seller agreed to take less for their home or why a buyer paid over market for another home. Family problems, corporate relocations and other reasons all play a role. If the sale was quick, the seller was likely highly motivated to take the first offer. If it didn't sell quickly, the seller may have overpriced the home.

For these reasons, CMAs are not home valuations. They are simply tools to use alongside your real estate professional's knowledge of the market. Your real estate professional will suggest a pricing strategy for you based on the CMA, but the asking price will be up to you.

Last, a CMA is only as good as the most current information. Ask your real estate professional to keep you abreast of the market with new sold and listings information.

How to Make A Purchase Offer On A Home

by Lakeshore Realty

You're ready to make an offer on the home of your dreams. But before you do, make sure you're really ready. Ask yourself and your household members if this is the home for the next five or so years. Make sure everyone is on board with commitments to make it work, from putting off the dream vacation to putting in the elbow grease to clean, paint and do the yard work.

Have your real estate agent pull up the most recent sold comparables (CMA) within a reasonable radius of the home, so you can compare the home with other similar homes in terms of location, size, features, and amenities.

Next, consider the most current market conditions, so you can choose the right offer strategy.

In a buyer's market, discounts are common because there are fewer buyers, more properties for sale, and home prices are soft or falling so offers under list price are common.

In a seller's market, homes sell quickly for full price or higher because there are plenty of buyers and few homes for sale.

Whether you are in a buyer's market or a seller's market, your goal is to buy the home at a fair price. If you were the seller, what is the lowest possible price you'd accept?

To show the seller you're serious, include a copy of your lender's pre-approval letter, along with a cover letter summarizing your strengths as a buyer in terms of creditworthiness, flexibility in closing, and why you love this home. Include a copy of the comparables you used to show why your offer is a fair price for the property.

If the seller's home is offered at a reasonable price, don't waste time. Pay asking price or close to it. A home priced to sell will sell quickly and you'll lose it if you mess around.

Offering too little for a property is risky. If the seller feels insulted by your offer, you've lost the opportunity to negotiate. On the other hand, some sellers are simply unrealistic about their home's value. Maybe your offer will be their wake-up call. The seller will probably respond with a face-saving still-high offer, but at least they're negotiating with you.

If your offer is conditional, such as your need to sell another home before closing on the seller's, you'll have to find a way to sweeten the deal, such as a full-price offer. Few sellers will accept a discount and a contingency.

Your real estate professional will help you draft the offer with a price, estimated closing date and terms, including earnest money (a guarantee that you'll perform as a buyer in good faith,) final approval by your lender and your right to have an inspection. Your earnest money check will be forwarded to the escrow agent when your offer is accepted.

You'll have a brief period to get your home inspections completed. Your home inspector will go through the home with you and point out the condition and potential lifespan of all systems and appliances. You should only renegotiate when a problem wasn't obvious before, or when a system is found to be unsafe or not functioning.

Once you and the seller have agreed to terms, your offer is now a binding contract and you're on your way to owning a home!

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 15




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Lakeshore Realty
954 Lakeshore Blvd.
Incline Village NV 89451
Fax: 775-831-6777


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