Buyers

Welcome to the buyers page. Here I have information oriented toward buyers’ needs and interests. Please click on a topic below to be directed to the information you need, or simply fill out an inquiry form, and I will respond to you directly.

Besides being a place to call your own, a home is also a great investment for all sorts of reasons, like the tax deduction for your mortgage interest, leveraged appreciation of the money invested, and protection of the gain from taxes.

I am excellent at finding properties in any price range, and having lived in the area for 30 years, I am very familiar with all the neighborhoods. My buyers routinely beat the competition for desirable properties, and I'm with them every step of the way to get them into contract and close on their dream home!

Remember, there are always good values out there, and with interest rates remaining at historically low levels, buyers’ purchasing power is extended even further.

The Home Buying Process

The process of buying a home, especially for first-time buyers, can sometimes seem cryptic and intimidating. Here I have laid out for buyers some information about the process to help demystify it a bit.

Step 1: Select an agent

Selecting a good real estate agent is a key step in the home purchase process. It pays to shop around a bit to find an agent that is a good fit for you.

In working with buyers, I always explain the buying process carefully, especially with first-time buyers, and educate my clients about home ownership and finances, as well as the current real estate market.

I seek to understand exactly what kind of property you are looking for: price, location, size and style, school requirements, and access to commercial districts, as well as the inevitable trade-offs you will need to make based upon your priorities. I pay particular attention to understanding the different priorities that may arise when two people are buying a property together, in order to make sure that each person’s needs are fully addressed.

Remember that when you buy a property, you do not pay commission to your agent. Buyer’s agents are paid by the seller of the property. You will need a down payment of between 3.5% and 20% of the purchase price in cash, as well as about 3% of the purchase price for closing costs.

Once you have selected an agent, and are satisfied with your working relationship with him or her, stay loyal to that agent to give them the incentive to stand by you and give you the best possible service. If you are not happy with your agent, be sure to discuss your concerns with him or her, so that he or she may address those issues.

Step 2: Select a mortgage broker and get pre-approved

The financing part of buying a home is a critical one. With the ongoing reform of the lending process, one of the key determinants of the success of your purchase is the quality of the mortgage professional that you select.

I can refer you to a select number of carefully-chosen mortgage brokers, mortgage bankers, and bank loan officers, with whom I have successfully worked on recent transactions. That way, no matter which choice is right for you, you are assured of the excellent service and expert knowledge that enables you to get the loan you need when you finally find the right home!

The mortgage professional you select will look at your current income, assets, and liabilities to determine the maximum size of the loan you can afford, and will get you pre-approved for that amount. You should be prepared to provide documentation on your income and assets, as well as recent tax returns.

Step 3: Make a budget

Now that you’ve been pre-approved, it is important to confirm the price you can comfortably afford to pay for your home. A good way to do this is to create a detailed monthly budget. Your budget should include your normal monthly expenses as well as the costs of paying your mortgage, your property taxes, and your annual homeowner’s insurance. If you are purchasing a condo or townhouse, you will also need to factor in the cost of the monthly HOA dues. Your agent and your mortgage broker can help you calculate these costs.

In creating the budget, make sure to include not only your recurring monthly expenses like your car payment, food, medical insurance, and utility bills, but also those expenses that you incur only occasionally. For example, costs for car maintenance and repairs, clothing and shoes, entertainment, home furnishings and appliances, vacations, pets, etc. should be tallied and converted into a monthly amount.

Also remember to factor in expenses for maintenance of your property, such as putting on a new roof every 15 years or so, painting every 10 years or so, landscaping and its maintenance, etc. If you wish to make contributions to a 401(k) or IRA retirement account, or a college or health care savings account, add those amounts to your budget as well.

On top of these expenses, it is important to also allow room in your budget for saving money in a liquid fund that can be used for emergency spending. It is a good rule of thumb to have a fund equivalent to 6 months or more of monthly expenses. Once you have your budget completed, you will have a good idea of the price range you can afford in purchasing your new home.

Step 4: Begin your property search

With the help of your agent, begin to look at property in your price range. Remember that in all but the highest price ranges, there are trade-offs inherent in looking for a home. The three basic parameters are price, location, and size or type of dwelling.

Also remember that it is very important to actually look at property with your agent to get in tune with and learn the current market. Many properties that look attractive in photos may look different when you actually see them, and there are neighborhood factors to take into account. Looking at property also allows you to adjust your search so that it is more focused and efficient.

Step 5: Offers and contracts

Once you have learned about the current market and see a property you like, it is time to make an offer. Making offers gives you real-time information about prices and the level of competition in any market; generally in the competitive markets that we have in the Berkeley/Oakland area, it takes making an offer just to learn the process. Sometimes it takes several offers on different properties over time to be successful, so it is important to stick with it.

Once your offer is accepted by the seller, you are officially in contract to purchase a property. One of the important parameters of your offer is the contingency periods. Contingencies are time periods that give you a chance to inspect and investigate the property and to obtain financing before agreeing to follow through with the sale.

Upon entering contract, you put a deposit into an escrow account. If you decide not to buy the property by the end of the contingency period, your deposit will be refunded to you. If you remove contingencies and proceed with the deal, and then attempt to back out, you are at risk of losing your deposit.

After you have removed contingencies and your loan has funded, you are ready to sign paperwork at the title company, after which your deal will close. You are now the owner of a new home!

Step 6: Home ownership

Once you are the owner of a home, it is important to maintain it and improve it to preserve and increase its value. Here are some things to consider:

Water is the number one enemy of your home’s value

Water promotes the growth of dry rot, a fungus that destroys wood, which is generally costly to replace, especially underneath the home or in other inaccessible areas. Water intrusion can occur through a faulty roof, around windows, through damaged siding, or below the house. Thoroughly inspect these areas for evidence of current or past water intrusion on a periodic basis. A good contractor or home or pest inspector can help you identify problem areas.

Never let dirt touch wood

Contact between dirt and wood is the way termites are able to infest your home. The places to look out for are around the outside perimeter of your house, where the siding or stucco (which has wood behind it), comes down to meet the foundation. Another place to be careful of is under the house. Make sure that dirt is not touching any of the wood structural members under the house, and that there are no scraps of wood or cellulose debris on the ground, as these attract termites.

When remodeling, keep the following in mind:

  • Modern style and turn-key features (i.e. ready to move in) are paramount, and will bring the best price for your home upon resale.
  • Good layout is universally sought after—is the space in your home used efficiently? Is your (or someone else’s) family able to function well in this space?
  • Create or improve indoor/outdoor connection. Remember that we are lucky to live in a Mediterranean climate, and make sure that your home makes the most of it! The most important outdoor connections to make are from the kitchen and dining areas.
  • Open up the kitchen to the living areas of your home, so that your family and friends can interact with your while you are cooking. Consider adding an island to the kitchen to facilitate such interactions and to use space more efficiently.
  • Create high ceilings—open up the ceiling to the rafters if possible to create a feeling of space. Remove those popcorn ceilings from the 1960s and 1970s! Keep in mind that some of the older popcorn ceilings contain asbestos, and need to be removed by a remediation specialist for your safety.
  • Consider replacing older windows with any good quality double-paned type.
  • Renovated and modern kitchens and baths will also add value to your home. Granite counter tops add a modern flair, and have become much less expensive recently.
  • Hire an architect and interior designer to help plan the layout and choose interior colors and styles. Color is very important, and the cheapest way to add value to your home is to choose the right colors. Hire or consult someone who is good at this if you are not!
  • Create usable backyard space if you own a detached home, and landscape with low-maintenance, low-water plants and shrubs. Consider adding an outbuilding that can be used for storage, an income-generating use, or for an entrepreneurial activity.
  • Replace your roof every 15 years and paint and repair or replace damaged wood every 10 years.
  • Paint or stain any exterior wood to protect it from the sun. UV rays from the sun break down untreated wood. Protect exterior wood from water by painting, staining, or sealing to prevent dry rot.

 

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How I Work With You

My Values:

  • Honesty, ethics, and integrity
  • Communicating consistently throughout my working relationship with you
  • Responding quickly to you with relevant information
  • Maintaining a positive attitude
  • Negotiating the best possible price and terms for your sale or purchase
  • Providing value to my clients
  • Keeping a service-oriented mindset
  • Providing education about the market, finances, investment, and home ownership
  • Providing tools and support to enable my clients to succeed
  • Working with local companies
  • Maintaining a high-quality network of professionals to help you with your needs
  • Promoting green building, recycling, and conservation
  • Pursuing entrepreneurship and maintaining a business-minded outlook
  • Creating social good and building neighborhoods
  • Harnessing and building the value of human capital
  • Acting as your team captain to coordinate all participants in your transaction

Additional information:

I am a proud member of the Berkeley Association of Realtors, the California Association of Realtors, and the National Association of Realtors.

I follow and uphold the Realtor code of ethics established by the National Association of Realtors. View the entire code at: www.realtor.org/code

In California, as in other states, real estate agents are licensed professionals who are fingerprinted and background-checked, required to renew their license every four years, and to take ongoing educational classes to keep their license in good standing. The Department of Real Estate (DRE) is the state governmental body that regulates the industry in California. Anyone can check the standing of an agent’s license by visiting the DRE website and entering the agent’s DRE license number. My license number is 01826113.

The Berkeley/Oakland area has the lowest rate of lawsuits arising from real estate transactions, and the highest customer satisfaction levels with their Realtors in the entire state of California, according to the DRE.

Investors:

I work with real estate investors in the following areas:

  • Income-producing property
  • 1031 Exchanges
  • REO/Bank-Owned Property

 

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