Thursday, February 20, 2014


Countertops make a huge difference in the look, function, and wear of a kitchen. They can also be a great change artist to spruce up an existing home for resale. Find out how you can guide home owners to make smart kitchen choices.

When it comes to finding the right kitchen countertops, home owners need to study up — and you can help. Have your clients ask themselves these questions:
  • Do you want to rest hot pots and pans on your surfaces?
  • Are you in danger of spilling acidic salad dressing or red wine?
  • Will kids run toys across them?
There are also the more traditional considerations to weigh in: color, pattern, thickness, durability, source material quality, and budget.
Help your clients do their renovation homework up front. The following is a roundup of popular countertop options, complete with pros and cons, pricing, and more.
GRANITE. Still popular for its cachet, natural colors, patterns, movement, and reputation for durability, Granite also offers another perk: It has come down in price due to improvements in extracting and processing and the availability of more imports.
“In the Michigan area where I’m located, there’s almost a stone store on every corner,” says Bryan Adkins, a contractor with A&G Contractors and consultant for Countertop Guides, a Web-based source. “You can get a very common Uba Tuba for as little as $35 a square foot (finished but not installed), though less ubiquitous examples sell for $135 a square foot,” he says.
A word of caution: Granites vary greatly and it’s tough to find slab-to-slab consistency. “The best sources sell stone that is harvested deeper and has more vibrant, richer color; inferior sources sell shallow, younger stone and colors may look painted on,” Adkins says.
Tip: Most well-stocked kitchen and stone showrooms allow samples to be taken home to try out.
Since granite is a natural stone, its porosity and absorbency also vary, so test samples, says Ryan Burden, owner of Countertop Specialty, an online consumer resource and stone product supplier. Home owners should buy granite from a supplier with a slab warehouse, since it’s best to see a slab rather than a small sample, and ensure that similar slabs exist if a problem occurs.
Natural stone is cut at a factory into slabs of 2 to 3 centimeters, which stone warehouses then purchase to sell to fabricators and designers who install them for clients’ countertops. But confusion abounds about fabrication. “The way you get a thicker edge profile is to laminate the edge to make it look thicker,” Burden says.
Before you buy…
Installation price. Edge detail, number of sinks, cooktop cutouts, slabs, and seams—all affect price. Prices are quoted as “installed” estimates because there are too many variables, says Burden.
Thickness. The trend of going thicker costs more to fabricate, transport, and install.
Edge. Most popular right now is a simple square, eased, or pencil edge rather than fancier, curved, and pricier ogee of the past. Choose the edge based on your kitchen style. In one kitchen, Kaufman is using an ogee edge on an island for traditional flavor and a flat edge on the perimeter for a contemporary touch.
Shape. If it’s a square or rectangular counter, it’s easier and less costly to fabricate and install than if round or angular, but sometimes a traditional shape won’t do.
Finish. Hone or polish? Each has fans depending on kitchen style, says Pascal.
Overhang. How much depends on personal preference; it can be flush, or extend half-inch, 1-inch, or longer if the counter is for eating, says Pascal. Be sure there’s adequate support underneath.
Resale. Home owners often purchase countertops for resale rather than for themselves, Adkins says. If resale is imminent, Pascal urges a classic granite without too much movement, such as cashmere white, running about $50 to $70 per square foot.
Next comes the finish: Polished for a shiny look, honed for softer appeal (fingerprints show more on darker, solid colors), or antiqued or leathered for a more novel look. Some granites come with a sealer applied, which can be reapplied every few years, but some are naturally dense—virtually stain-proof—and don’t need to be sealed. In addition, granite can almost always be repaired, Burden says.
LIMESTONE AND SOAPSTONE. Limestone is softer than granite, and most experts don’t recommend it. A similar looking material is soapstone, which comes in dark charcoals and blacks and grows richer-looking over time, says Adkins. Soapstone’s downside is that it can scratch easily and require attention. “Imagine how soft a bar of soap is,” says Louise Pascal principal with her husband Ken of True North Cabinets LLC in New Canaan, Ct. Its price is similar to higher-end granites at $80 to $200 per square foot finished.
CONCRETE. Once considered the “it” material among countertop choices, concrete is still popular for edgy kitchens, especially when pigments and curving shapes are desired. But Chicago designer Tom Kaufman has found it doesn’t hold up well because of its porosity, vulnerability towards dings, and need for a competent fabricator. Necessary skills can translate to $65 to $135 per square foot with color or 20 percent less without.
MARBLE. A long-time favorite because of its crisp white palettes, veining, and old-world connotation—think Parisian cafes—marble continues to attract attention despite its potential to stain and etch from contact with acidic foods, drinks, and harsh cleaning products. Even more troublesome, says Adkins, is putting materials like china atop it—they can have a rough bottom and scratch the marble surface. But some people love the patina that develops. “It’s definitely more difficult to maintain. Honing will make marks less evident,” says Pascal. Prices vary from $35 per square foot for common, nice grades like Carrara to $75 for Calcutta and $100-plus for statuary.
CORIAN. A manmade material once highly touted because of its promise of durability, some experts say it scratches and nicks easily. But it can be repaired, and seams can be concealed, and it offers an affordable price at $35 to $65 per square foot.
QUARTZ. A hard-working, highly durable, and low-maintenance manmade or engineered counterpart to “real” stone, quartz comes in a huge assortment of colors and patterns. Easy to cut, install, and detail, Kaufman likes them for contemporary settings and used the material in his own kitchen.
One of quartz’s biggest pros is that it has consistent patterns and colors, which make seams less visible, Burden says. At the same time, it’s not 100 percent bulletproof. “It’s as durable as granite, but care is still needed,” he says. Prices have dropped to $50 to $125 per square foot, making it generally competitive with granite, though, as with other materials, installation influences price.
QUARTZITE. Quartzite is the real McCoy with a crystallized rock surface. It’s more durable and denser, and less porous than marble, says Pascal. It comes in a range of colors, some softer looking than the 1970s vibrant green and blue granites, says Kaufman. Prices are comparable to granite—$40 to $95 per square foot. Two downsides: Some slabs are half the size of granite, and some are more prone to etching, says Burden.
SLATE. Rarely suggested because of its high cost—$150 to $170 per square foot, but less expensive examples can be imported from China. Slate is soft and can scratch.
STAINLESS STEEL. For those who favor an industrial, even restaurant vibe, and a surface that hot pots and pans won’t easily damage, stainless steel is a great choice. But like home owners who favor marble, buyers of stainless should prepare for scratches—as well as fingerprints. As with marble, some are willing to take the risk. Adkins prefers stainless as an accent, perhaps paired on an island with reclaimed wood to break up the surface. It runs $70 to $150 per square foot finished and requires a seasoned installer.
GLASS. Hard, luminous, and able to be tinted to glorious hues, glass is a “green” countertop material made from recycled glass pieces (with other materials sometimes added), says Kaufman. Glass ranges from $60 to $100 a square foot. Adkins prefers a thicker fabrication of one-quarter to three-quarters of an inch.
RECLAIMED WOOD, BUTCHER BLOCK, BAMBOO. Wood warms a kitchen visually because of its graining. Scratches can be sanded away, it’s highly durable, and it can be sealed and oiled to make it look new. Kaufman says it works extremely well for a butcher block, perhaps on an island. It should be used thick—at least 2 inches, says Burden. The cost remains affordable at $35 to $40 a square foot. Reclaimed wood is more expensive—as much as $75 to $225 a square foot because of the difficulty of securing it, but it’s gorgeous and durable. Popular species include walnut, cherry, and maple. Bamboo can be porous and unable to take high heat.
LAMINATE. Still the most affordable choice, averaging $22 to $45 per square foot, and available in numerous colors and patterns, laminate is made better today and often available for a fast transformation for resale. Warning: Some buyers expect fancier choices. Laminate can be scorched and seem ho-hum as compared to stone materials.

3 #red flags when #applying for a loan

More lenders are scrutinizing mortgage applications since the financial crisis fallout, which has triggered fears of borrowers who will default or walk-away from their mortgage or mortgage fraud.
Here are the triggers that may cause the most lender scrutiny of loan applications, according to a recent article at The New York Times:
Large deposits of money: Lenders are required to account for any cash gifts for down payments, such as from relatives. So if a borrower earns $5,000 a month and suddenly deposits an extra $10,000 beyond that, lenders may question where the money came from when applying for a loan.
The home’s new address: Buyers who are purchasing a primary home three hours from where they work may also draw increased scrutiny from lenders, according to The New York Times article. Borrowers may even need a letter from their employer stating that they work from home a few times a week. That’s because lenders may want to ensure the borrower plans to be an owner-occupant and not buying the property to rent or flip, which must be disclosed.
Signing up for new credit cards: Borrowers should avoid taking on extra debt when applying for a loan — so they may want to wait to buy all the new furniture. Extra debt can be a red flag to a lender and could even jeopardize closing on a new home if the debt pushes the borrower’s total debt levels beyond lender-accepted limits.

5 #Mortgage Tips for #Homebuyers offers some tips for your home buyers on securing a mortgage, getting the best rate, and more.
  1. Be prepared to document your finances. Buyers should be prepared for extra review by lenders when underwriting mortgages due to new mortgage regulations that took effect in January, particularly in proving borrowers’ ability to repay their loans. Borrowers should be prepared to show bank statements, tax returns, W-2s, investment accounts, and documentation of any other assets they own. Also, they should be prepared to explain any large deposits to their accounts—even a $500 check from a family member during the holidays. If they can’t prove where the money came from, it has the potential to delay closing.
  2. Lock in a rate soon. Mortgage rates are expected to rise in 2014 as the Federal Reserve winds down its $85 billion per month bond-buying stimulus program. A rate lock is usually good for 30, 45, or 60 days, although that time period can vary among lenders.
  3. Shop around. Buyers may have the upper hand in 2014. Lenders have lost a large amount of their refinance business this year as rising rates encourage fewer home owners to refinance. That means they are turning their attention to home buyers and may be more willing to compete for their business. Home buyers will want to shop around for more than just the best interest rate on the loan, looking at points and closing costs as well.
  4. Pay careful attention to credit. The best mortgage rates often go to borrowers with credit scores of 720 or higher, Bankrate reports. While those with a credit score of 680 can still likely qualify for a loan, they may end up paying higher rates or higher closing costs.
  5. Watch your spending. Make sure your buyers aren’t tempted to go outfit their new home with all new furniture—on credit—before closing on the home loan. Lenders will be carefully scrutinizing their debt obligations, such as credit cards and student loans. Borrowers are advised to keep their monthly debt obligations, including mortgage and property taxes, to below 43 percent of their income.
Source: “10 Mortgage Tips for 2014,” (February 2014)

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Keller Williams Reports Record Growth, Productivity and Profitability Gains » KW Blog

Keller Williams Reports Record Growth, Productivity and Profitability Gains » KW Blog

#Sellers Getting Ahead of Spring #Housing Rush | Call today for your listing appointment

Sellers Getting Ahead of Spring Rush Daily Real Estate News | Tuesday, February 11, 2014 The spring selling rush may already be under way, as some home owners are already throwing their properties on the market to take advantage of rebounding home prices and improved equity. Paul Reid, a real estate agent with Redfin in Temecula, Calif., says some sellers are listing properties earlier than usual in anticipation of the spring season. Sellers are “nervous about what the spring is going to bring,” says Reid. “They don’t know if everybody will list this spring — then you’ll have a big counterbalance toward too much inventory — or if there’ll be a crunch again. They figure they’ll get out ahead of the market, list, sell, and be done with it.” Inventory shortages persisted last year, when supply was at a 12-year low leading into the spring. The shortages helped boost home prices, but gave home buyers limited choices and sparked bidding wars in many markets. New-home construction is now at a third of its 2006 peak, which likely will keep inventories tight this spring. But, economists say, improved home prices will likely convince more sellers to sell this year, and that should relieve the inventory crunch in many markets. In the last four months of 2013, year-over-year inventory levels of homes for sale began to climb after 30 straight months of declines, according to the National Association of REALTORS®. Inventories increased in some of the states with the tightest markets, such as Arizona, California, Georgia, and Florida. In Sacramento, Calif., asking prices rose 11 percent last year, and listings soared 58 percent in December, according to®’s housing report. Inventories also rose by 20 percent or more in Minneapolis; Orlando, Fla.; Atlanta; Dayton, Ohio; Oakland, Calif.; and Phoenix. “Rising inventory is the primary reason that we expect the pace of price gains to drop back,” says Paul Diggle, property economist for Capital Economics Ltd. Prices are expected to rise only 4 percent nationally this year, compared to an 11 percent gain in 2013. CLICK HERE TO GET STARTED AND REQUEST A CMA OF YOUR HOMES VALUE

Saturday, February 8, 2014


Now is a great time to buy new construction. I have NEW CONSTRUCTION HOMES with both Henry Company Homes and Adams Homes that are ready to move in or start your plans. Adams Homes has a FEBRUARY buyer incentive if the home is standing inventory or 70% completed they will throw in 10,000 in incentives toward closing cost, blinds, fences, refrigerator's, washer & dryer, flood-lights and allot of other options. With our preferred lenders you can get all of your closing cost paid + 10,000 in buyer incentives. If you want to pick your lot and pick all your colors, flooring, cabinets, granite, everything then they will pay 2,000 in buyer incentives. Homes are ready now starting at 174,620 and up in 8 communities in Pensacola. ****THIS INCENTIVE IS GOOD THROUGH FEBRUARY 28TH**** Call me today to discuss what communities and homes are available. CLICK HERE TO VIEW ALL HOMES FOR SALE IN PENSACOLA AND SURROUNDING AREAS.


The time is right to buy a home. Interest rates are still low and there is Down Payment Assistance available. CLICK HERE TO SEE HOME AND REGISTER FOR ASSISTANCE. THE WEBSITE AND ALERTS ARE FREE.