How do I know when it's the right house to purchase?


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Hello! I am Elizabeth Russo, if you don't already know.   So, why are you purchasing real estate.  Are you a renter looking to live in the property?  Possibly you already live in the property, and you’re looking to move up or just add an investment to your portfolio?  There is a question you want to ask yourself when purchasing the property: 

How long do you want to hold onto this property?

Are you are a flipper? 

In my opinion flippers are best paired with cash buyers and contractors.  Just because the contractor, though your Realtor can give you a good starting point on how much a kitchen remodel costs,  the contractor contractor can really tell you and you won't have this bottomless pit of money that's just being thrown into.  You really don't want to be in that situation.  So, if you're looking to flip, you should be a cash investor paired with a contractor. 

<5 Years

Now, lets just say you're going to hold it for five years. You've got a great job, you just finished University, and you're working on a robot.  You know this robot is going to pay off, and you're going to be able to buy a 2 million dollar property in a minute here.  So, you just want a place where your family can be, so you can keep plugging away at life and at least have your foot in the door.  That's a really good strategy too.


And then, there's keeping it long term. I believe personally, that's just the best way to go.  It's just, hold it forever, unless something crazy happens and you're forced to sell it.  Now, when keeping it forever, you don't have to live in it forever.  You can later use it as an investment property and rent it out to other people.  You can keep it as a second home.  Maybe it is going to become your forever home.  There are a few things you should know about forever homes.  They certainly aren't forever...  Unless you're really familiar with the neighborhood and the neighbors, I would not count on this being your forever home.  You don't really, in your forever home, care for your house.  You just care for the people all around you.  Those are the best forever homes. 

Now, in purchasing your home, you should probably figure out how it's priced when negotiating to purchase it. 

List vs. Sold 

I mean, you have list vs sold value.  How much it's listed for vs how much it will traditionally sell for.  In the Berkeley and Oakland Hills and things, you're looking at a 20% difference in what it's listed vs what it sold for.  In Walnut Creek / Concord area, Martinez or Clayton, you're looking at maybe 4%, in your difference in the list to sold...  At least currently here in 2018.

Priced for Attention

Another thing you can look at is maybe, is it priced to gain a lot of attention? So, you have a 200,000 dollar asking price, but the home is really going to sell for somewhere around 500,000 dollars?  But that's just their starting bid or something like that.  You need to be mindful, this might not be an awesome deal.  They're just trying to gain attention.  This is not what it will actually sell for. 

Price per Square Foot and Good Condition

And then the next thing is, the price per square foot. In my many years in real estate, I have found, your price per square foot, is...  well, you're getting what you pay for.  Like that guy down the street may have sold his for 300 dollars a square foot and this one isn't.  This one maybe is asking 500 dollars a square foot.  The thing is, it has Viking stove, a SubZero refrigerator and there's just way nicer things.  The flooring's not cork, it's actually some kind of really nice wood, like Acacia or something like that...  And so you really should be looking at your price per square foot as the amenities or the luxury of the house.  What makes it luxury?  Now, the condition of the property is what the price per square foot would be. 

And it's one thing you need to look at in making sure it's properly priced out. 


Look at the foundation. You know the perimeter of the house.  Are you seeing any weird horizontal cracks that looks like, the whole house went *slide*.  Or you go into the garage, and you're looking at the garage floor and you realize that's the same exact foundation that's attached to the rest of the house.  There's like humongous gaps put into it.  I mean, I have been out into properties that it didn't really matter it was just the way it was.  We had a soils engineer come in and look at it.  It wasn't as scary as it seemed.  So, I wouldn't necessarily discount properties just because you see a few notable cracks.  The thing about getting into escrow is holding your foot into the door, so you can get these expensive inspections, to make sure you are investing in the right home.  You can always get your deposit back if you're within your guideline or your timetable of getting that deposit back.  You just won't get the money back for your inspections, ok? 

How much does a soils engineering report cost?  I mean out here in earthquake country, it's a pretty good idea to get one.  Next to your home inspection, I'd say those two are pretty important.  It's around 500 dollars.  Your home inspection is also around 450-550, somewhere around there, depending on the square footage.  And then there's the pest inspection.  Those are my favorites...  Always get a roof...  And you're fairly good to go.  If one of those inspections says to further inspect some other part of the house.  Then you might want to get an asbestos or something like that... a mold inspection...  That's a good starting point. 

Kitchen and Bathrooms

Also, look at the kitchens and bathrooms. Are you good with how it looks?  Do you feel happy when you're in that kitchen?  Is it embarrassing when you walk in?  Can you imagination your friends and family being there?  If you don't really care, then don't think about it. 

The Rest is Paint and Floors

BUT if you do care, you're going to need to factor in those costs.  Everything else is just paint and flooring.  I mean, it's minimal.  So, if you're good with the kitchens, the bathrooms and the foundation looks good.  This might be a pretty good property, if it's properly priced out. 

Now, if this is going to be a rental property:

Good Neighborhood

You probably want to purchase something in a good neighborhood, so you have less vacancies. 

More than 2 Bedrooms

I would go for something with more than two bedrooms, so you have a chance with a growing family, that they'll stay longer...  In a one bedroom, you might have a flip it every year or something like that.  And then you have vacancies to worry about and re marketing fees and tenant screening fees. It's just better, if you're going to buy an investment property, you make it two bedrooms. 

Year-over-Year Value

Now, if it does have a year-over-year value that is just incredible, like some places, it's just incredible....  It's just like, I'm blown away... You can make 14% year-over-year.  If it's one of those places, I mean, do you really need to rent it out, if it's in a rent controlled neighborhood?  Just hold it as an investment.  I don't know about any stock that is going to be long term awesome like that.  Personally, that doesn't hold a massive amount of risk.  So, there's just different considerations when buying a property. 

What are the best homes, or what homes sell the fastest? 

Turn Key

That's turn key homes. I mean, the kitchen, the bathrooms, the flooring, the paint, there's not wild weird foundation problems.  Most importantly people freaking love gardens!  No one really, I mean, lots of people don't really want a garden, but they like to think they would have a garden.  Just ask my husband, I do the gardening around here. 

Unique Homes

You know, in unique homes, your list to sold price is going to be a lot different.  What's a unique home?  It's something that a robot can't tell you what the price is going to be, with a high, medium and low.  You're going to need the expert advice of either your agent or an actual appraiser.  It would be places with a view, luxury features, second dwelling, like a guest house or a pool house.  Something like that... 

Homes with pools aren't necessarily unique homes.  You're not going to gain any more from it.  50% of my clients want that pool and 50% do not want that pool.  It can be a make it or break it situation. 

For instance, the mid century modern, 50% of my clients hate it.  I personally love it.  I think it's so amazing how they bring the outdoors in, but someone who doesn't want to do gardening and doesn't want their privacy kind of like, looked in on, you know...  They probably wouldn't want a mid century modern home. 

Lack of Inventory

And then, there's just lack of inventory. This can make a unique situation and quick to sell.  So, these are kind of the aspects of buying a house and things to consider. 

In unique homes, I've seen it go all of the way up to 50% over the asking price, and you should be prepared, when it appraises lower...  Possibly come in with the difference in the value of the appraisal vs.... 

Another thing you've got to look at when you're paying over the appraised value, you are setting a market price for the next guy.  So, later on in years, your home hopefully won't be dropping in value, because you just made it go up in value. 

When you're ready, please contact me.  Don't forget to subscribe and set up a search.  Customize your search and remember, I built my own website.  I'm interactively searching with you.  All of my listings are kept up to date, and I'm looking forward to meeting you soon, bye!

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