March Reality Check

 SFSellingTodaysMarket
As the Sacramento area’s housing market continues to bounce back from the recession, more and more buyers have decided they can’t wait any longer – now is the time to get back into the market to find their next home.While the real estate market still has its challenges, things are very different today than they were in 2009, 2010 and even early last year. Buyers are generally more optimistic about the future, ready to purchase, much better qualified for a loan and, in many cases, are paying big down payments or even all cash for their next home.

Indeed, the scales of supply and demand are once again moving back in the direction of home sellers after being out of balance for several years. While countless buyers are out there pounding the pavement for a home, the problem now is that there just aren’t enough sellers to meet the demand in many communities.

As the economy continues to improve and with a shortage of attractive properties in good neighborhoods, buyers are once again paying good prices for properties rather than simply looking for distressed homes at bargain basement prices. And in some cases, properties are even getting multiple offers, driving up the sale price above the asking price.

So if you’ve been thinking about selling your home, now may be an ideal time to do so while buyers are eager, interest rates are still low and there isn’t as much competition from other sellers as there usually is this time of year. Here are several suggestions on how to get started and the best way to get top dollar for your home in today’s market.

  • Pick the best agent for the job. Selling a home is never easy, but in today’s complex real estate market it’s particularly challenging. So it’s more important than ever to find an experienced professional Realtor to help you get the job done. This is no time for amateurs. Start by interviewing several agents to see who has a proven track record of successfully marketing properties in your area. Ask them about their marketing plan, including print media, social media and online marketing via major real estate websites. Find out how well networked they and their brokerage are to other agents with potential buyers. Do they have offices beyond your city limits and even outside the state? Today’s buyers are just as likely to be relocating from across the country as they are from across town.
  • Go online and be visual. Remember the days of sticking a sign in the front lawn and taking out an ad in the local paper? Those days are long gone. Nearly 90 percent of buyers start their search for a home online, according to the National Association of Realtors. So you must be there in a big way to compete for the attention of buyers. Work with your agent to put up lots of high-resolution photos and as much information as possible. Make sure to show photos of all the major areas of your home and yard to give buyers as much of a sense of being there as possible. If not, buyers may wonder what you’re hiding. And strongly consider using video and virtual tours. Such marketing tools are no longer just for luxury homes.
  • Price your home competitively for today’s market. Just because a house comparable to yours sold for a certain price before the recession doesn’t mean you will be able to get the same price today. A lot has changed since then. And while prices are firming up, it’s still important to realize the new realities of today’s market. Talk with your Realtor to determine the appropriate, competitive listing price for your home based on current market conditions. You may even choose to have an appraisal done in advance of setting the price. Remember that in this market, homes that are priced aggressively attract the most buyers and – in some cases – multiple offers that push your final sale price even higher.
  • De-clutter and de-personalize. De-personalizing and de-cluttering a home before putting it on the market can help make it easier for buyers to imagine themselves living there – a crucial step in the selling process. Take down family portraits, personal collections and knickknacks. Homebuyers are looking for a home they can picture their family living in, not yours. Removing these items will also eliminate clutter and ensure that people are looking at the house itself, not at the photos from your last family vacation.
  • Update, freshen up. Keeping in mind that some buyers take move-in condition to be important, put your home in its best light. Possibilities include replacing outdated kitchen and bathroom fixtures, applying a fresh coat of paint and/or refinishing the kitchen cabinets. Replace worn carpet or fix broken tiles. Many cosmetic touches are surprisingly affordable but may yield much higher sale prices. The less work buyers have to do when they move in, the faster they may be willing to make an offer.
  • Conduct a full home inspection. If a professional home inspector determines that there are negative issues with the home, consider repairing the problems before buyers show up at your door. Potential buyers will cast an extremely critical eye over your home if it needs too many repairs – especially if they are trying to decide between your home and another one without problems. Be sure to have the home inspection report available for prospective buyers along with an itemizing all of the repairs that have been made and the associated cost for each to demonstrate the investment you’ve made in your home.
  • Make your home and yard picture perfect. As the old saying goes, you only get one chance to make a good first impression. When a buyer sees your house for the first time, a positive impression can make or break the sale. You can maximize curb appeal by trimming trees, planting flowers and even rolling out a new lawn if needed. A fresh exterior coat of paint might also prove valuable. And consider having a professional “stage” your home to make it even more attractive for buyers by rearranging what you have and/or bringing in other furnishings and accessories.
  • Be patient and flexible. You’ve done all the right things to put your home in the best position to sell. But there will undoubtedly be bumps along the way. A buyer may have difficultly securing financing. The appraisal may come in lower than expected. The escrow period could drag on longer than you thought before the deal closes. It’s not unusual to have occasional issues pop up. After all, buying a home is the single biggest financial transaction most of us will ever make in our lives. Through it all, remember that your Realtor is there by your side. He or she will be there with you every step along the way, managing the tough issues so you don’t have to and helping you achieve all of your home selling goals in today’s market.
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Housing Crisis to End in 2012 as Banks Loosen Credit Standards (Maybe)

While I certainly don’t expect to see any major improvements in the local housing market this year (with respect to average sales prices or price/sqft), I also don’t anticipate any drastic declines. Elk Grove currently only has 238 Single Family Residence listings available on the market (this includes equity sales, short sales, and bank owned homes- one house on one lot).  Couple this with the fact that there are currently 855 Elk Grove Single Family Residence listings in contract (this includes homes listed as short-contingent, pending, and pending/bring backup), and you’ll realize that we are actually seeing the pendulum swing back in the direction of this being a seller’s market! This is NOT to say that prices will sky-rocket. However, the simple laws of supply and demand still apply. There are more buyers out there looking to purchase homes in Elk Grove than there are listings. We’re seeing a lot more bidding wars over competitively priced homes and the average “Days on Market” time before listings are going into contract has dropped substantially.  Dare I say it? Stabilization may be on the horizon.

01/24/2012BY: KRISTA FRANKS Printer Friendly View

Capital Economics expects the housing crisis to end this year, according to a report released Tuesday. One of the reasons: loosening credit.

The analytics firm notes the average credit score required to attain a mortgage loan is 700. While this is higher than scores required prior to the crisis, it is constant with requirements one year ago.

Additionally, a Fed Senior Loan Officer Survey found credit requirements in the fourth quarter were consistent with the past three quarters.

However, other market indicators point not just to a stabilization of mortgage lending standards, but also a loosening of credit availability.

Banks are now lending amounts up to 3.5 times borrower earnings. This is up from a low during the crisis of 3.2 times borrower earnings.

Banks are also loosening loan-to-value ratios (LTV), which Capital Economics denotes “the clearest sign yet of an improvement in mortgage credit conditions.”

In contrast to a low of 74 percent reached in mid-2010, banks are now lending at 82 percent LTV.

While credit conditions may have loosened slightly, some potential homebuyers are still struggling with credit requirements. In fact, Capital Economics points out that in November 8 percent of contract cancellations were the result of a potential buyer not qualifying for a loan.

Additionally, Capital Economics says “any improvement in credit conditions won’t be significant enough to generation actual house price gains,” and potential ramifications from the euro-zone pose a threat to future credit availability.

 

See Actual Article Here.

2011 Real Estate Reality Check!

SACPoliticalHeadwinds
Leslie Appleton Young, the chief economist for the California Association of Realtors, recently noted that all that California’s real estate market really needs to right itself is six straight months with no surprises. All the ingredients for a turnaround are there — record low interest rates, outstanding affordability, and very attractive home prices. But economic and political headwinds at home and abroad kept the market from really gaining much momentum this year. To be sure, 2011 was anything but predictable. On top of the tepid economic recovery here in the U.S., there was one crisis after another around the world — the Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami, the “Arab Spring” uprising, a spike in oil prices, political standoffs on Capital Hill, the debt limit ceiling and downgrade of U.S. debt, and most recently the sovereign debt crisis in the eurozone and the subsequent stock market volatility here at home.While California’s real estate market did show some encouraging signs of improvement in certain price segments and communities, skittish consumer confidence, the sluggish economy, stubbornly high unemployment and volatile financial markets all combined to keep home prices and sales flat in most areas. Locally, The Sacramento Bee reported on November 17 that home sales in the Sacramento region in October — the most recent figures available — jumped 19.6 percent from a year ago, according to research by DataQuick, the La Jolla real estate information firm. But the median price edged lower as distressed home sales continued to be the lion’s share of the market. The median sale price in Sacramento County was down 8.2 percent to $157,000, according to The Bee. Placer County saw the median drop 12 percent to $252,000. In El Dorado County, the median was down 12.2 percent to $230,000. And in Yolo County it was off 14.6 percent to $194,750.The California Association of Realtors, in its annual forecast predicts that home sales in California will rise just 1 percent in the coming year. But as we know, real estate is really all about location. And in this challenging housing market, it’s also a matter of price segments. Locally, entry level homes and distressed properties continue to see robust sales in many areas as bargain hunters rush to take advantage of attractive prices and, of course, low interest rates. As a result, we actually have seen inventory drop sharply this year to the lowest level in about two years.Market wide, we are down to 4.2 months supply of homes on the market, according to MLS figures — a 31 percent decline year over year. At the same time, sales year over year market wide were up 16 percent. That trend, if it continues, could be very positive for the market and help it move back towards normalcy.Distressed vs. Luxury Markets
One trend we’ve noticed of late is a drop in the number of bank-owned properties that are listed for sale and an increase in short sales. The reason may be that government regulations and controversies over “robo-signing” have kept more foreclosures from coming on the market. As banks put the robo-signing debacle behind them, we may see more REO properties released in 2012.
While the release of additional distressed properties could keep prices of all homes down in 2012, we suspect that strong demand by investors for these homes will probably keep prices from falling much further. We’ve seen multiple offers for many bank-owned properties, sometimes all cash offers, as investors snap up what they believe to be great bargains.On the other end of the spectrum, the high-end market saw solid buying throughout much of 2011. But in recent weeks we have seen that interest decline, with sales dropping 8 percent in September and inventory levels rising 2 percent from the previous month. Non-distressed mid-market
Homes that are somewhere between distressed and luxury properties – the bulk of the market here in Northern California – probably were the most challenged in 2011. One big reason for the softness is that we didn’t see very many move-up buyers trading their entry-level homes for larger, more expensive properties as they have traditionally done in the past.
Equity homeowners stayed on the sidelines, perhaps due to a lack of confidence in the housing market and the economy in general. They may have been frightened away by doom and gloom news headlines about the housing market, or maybe fear over whether they might lose their job should the economy stumble again. This uncertainty and lack of confidence, I suspect, will continue to some degree into 2012 until there is more positive improvement in the economy.But as we approach the new year there are glimmers of hope that the housing recovery could finally gain some traction.Gradually we’re seeing fewer distressed sales and more “normal” transactions. Despite the recent downturn, the high-end market had a solid year in 2011, which is a good sign for the entire market.In the past, luxury homebuyers – the so-called “smart money” – are often the first to declare a market bottom and jump back in because they have the means to do so once they are convinced the time is right. The other segments eventually follow.Buyers are far more active right now and that, coupled with tight inventories, is helping to firm up pricing while getting serious buyers to be a little more realistic when making offers–especially in the entry-level arena. Properties priced correctly and that show well are getting a tremendous amount of traffic as well as multiple offers in some cases.Additionally, we are finally seeing many banks starting to process short sales in a more streamlined fashion, allowing us quicker short sale approvals. Finally, the news media are starting to join the chorus suggesting a turnaround is near and that now is the time to get back into the housing market. A recent Fortune magazine article declared, “Forget stocks. Don’t bet on gold. After four years of plunging home prices, the most attractive asset class in America is housing.” And The Wall Street Journal followed with a headline declaring, “It’s Time to buy that House.”So will 2012 usher in a steady, predictable economic recovery at long last or another wild rollercoaster ride of economic and political surprises? Only time will tell how it all plays out. Fasten your seat belt

From the first time buyer to the savvy investor – From the seller with equity to the seller underwater and needing options. I am here for you.

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What’s the DEAL with Short Sales?!

This is a question I hear on a daily basis.  It’s important to understand and accept that a short sale will take longer than a straight equity sale, and even a bank owned home in most cases.

Here’s a quick break down of the overall process, and why it seems to take so long.

  • Once an offer is made it has to first be accepted by the home owners.  This is usually not a difficult step, as the average home owner is not overly concerned with the net sheet because it’s ultimately not that person’s net loss.
  • After the homeowner accepts the offer, their agent then submits it to the bank(s).  In the best case scenario, the subject property will only have one mortgage, and in turn one bank to negotiate with.  We’ll assume that this the case for now, and then go over the possible differences at the end of my spiel.
  • Normally, the agent will put together a short sale package containing a myriad documents that are requested by the bank to go along with the offer.  Each bank has its own requirements, but almost all banks will ask for the following:
  1. Listing Agreement
  2. MLS history for the property
  3. Comparable Listings to justify the list price (usually 3 active, 3 sold, and 3 pending if possible)
  4. Executed Purchase Agreement
  5. Pre-Approval letter or Proof of Funds for the buyer making the offer
  6. A HUD-1 Statement for the purchase (this breaks down the banks expected net loss from the sale after all fees are accounted for)
  7. Financial Statements for homeowners applying for the short sale including but not limited to: bank statements, retirement accounts, investment portfolios, pay stubs, evidence of other income, a signed 4506-T granting the bank access to your tax returns, a completed budget worksheet which breaks down the homeowner’s end-of-month net after all necessary expenses are deducted from their gross income, etc.
  8. A well written, one page hardship letter explaining what event(s) have occurred that have left the homeowners less able to pay their monthly mortgage payment than they were on the day they were approved for their home loan.  It’s important to note that being upside down in itself is not generally accepted as being a true hardship for the purposes of a short sale.  There must be an extenuating circumstance that lessens your ability to afford your regular payment, i.e. loss of employment, death in the family, unexpected medical expenses, an adjustment in your ARM loan, reduction in income, or some other catastrophic event.
  • When your agent submits this well organized package to the bank, there will be an administrative person who receives it from the bank’s short sale department in most cases.  This person’s function is to ensure that the package is complete and ready to be reviewed for negotiation. If your package is not complete, it will not be sent to a negotiator’s desk, so make sure everything is done right the first time around.
  • Once your file has been reviewed and accepted as a complete package it will then be assigned to a negotiator.  This alone may take two to three weeks.  Keep in mind that yours is just one of many files on the negotiator’s desk, which will absolutely mean a delay between the time he/she receives your file and the time he/she actually begins reviewing it.
  • The negotiator’s job is to protect the bank financially.  He/she needs to examine the numbers and ensure that the net loss on the short sale will overall be less expensive than a foreclosure would potentially be.  He/she also needs to determine that foreclosure is eminent if a short sale is not approved (this is where all of those financial documents and hardship letter come in).  Keep in mind that in most cases the bank sells off mortgage debt to third party investors which means the bank must be able to justify any losses to those individuals.

IF the homeowner can be financially interpreted on paper as being able to afford the mortgage payment, then there is no real reason for the bank allow that person to do anything less than what was agreed upon in their contract- which is pay the full amount due, with interest, as promised .

IF though, that person’s financial situation has drastically changed and it’s clear through their financial records and hardship letter explanation of their circumstances, that there is just no possible way for them to continue paying the loan payments, regardless of whether or not a short sale is granted, and if it isn’t granted then the home will in all likelihood end up in foreclosure (an expensive process in itself), then the bank will be more likely to negotiate for an acceptable loss.

  • Usually the negotiator will calculate a “Magic Number” so to speak that the bank needs to be able to net in order for it to be financially sensible for them to accept a short sale, but of course they will not normally share this number with the agent until the very end of negotiations (if at all) in an effort to maximize their earnings from the sale.  They will then take the difference between that number, and the number at hand with the given offer on the table and attempt to trim costs as necessary.  They may do this any number of ways.  For example: it’s very rare that a bank will pay any non-essential fees, or costs that could potentially be passed on to the buyer (i.e. home warranty, closing costsexcessive commissions, etc.)
  • Once all of this back and forth has been handled you might be ready to close!  UNLESS THERE ARE SECONDARY LIEN HOLDERS OR MI COMPANIES (and there often times are).
  • IF the property has mortgage insurance, a 2nd mortgage and/or a HELOC you will need to negotiate a payoff with them as well.  All of the same rules that come with negotiating with the 1st bank will apply to the other bank(s) involved in the financing.  Other possible lien holders include Home Owner Associations, or government entities for unpaid tax liens.  Each secondary lien holder will have to be settled independently of each other.  Once the secondary lien holders have agreed upon their respective payoffs, your agent will then add their payoff amounts to the HUD-1 to be paid through escrow once the home is sold.  The bank that holds the 1st mortgage must agree to the payoff amounts for each secondary lien holder, and each secondary lien holder must be paid through escrow.  It is ILLEGAL for a buyer to pay a secondary lien holder outside of escrow!

If all the payoffs have been negotiated and approved by the 1st lender, AND if the remaining balance after those payoffs are made is still enough to satisfy the 1st mortgage’s previously mentioned “magic number” THEN you will have the makings of a successful short sale.  Of course all of this is dependent upon a very strict time table, because in many cases there may be a looming foreclosure on the horizon.

Bottom Line? Short Sales are complicated, and time consuming, and stressful.  That’s just part of the deal.  They are also a means of salvation for the struggling home owner under water who is looking to minimize the long term damage to their credit so that they can start rebuilding towards future home ownership.  AND they are often competitively priced because of the added frustration that comes along with the process, which means a golden opportunity for buyers on a budget!

Feel free to contact me if you have any questions or concerns specific to your situation that I may be able to address for you.  Before you consider a short sale, I highly recommend you speak with a real estate attorney to determine the possible consequences that may or may not apply to your unique situation.

From the first time home buyer to the savvy investor – from the seller with equity to the seller underwater and needing options – I am here for you.

 

 

What Should You Expect from Your Real Estate Agent?

I am committed to providing you with more than just a successful real estate transaction.  I believe my clients are entitled to an experience that is convenient, stress-free (or as close to- as possible!) and remarkably satisfying.  Here’s how I do it:

  • Constant Communication. Communication is a key factor in every real estate transaction.  I make a point to ensure that my clients are well-informed with the progress of their transaction from start to finish.
  • Personal Attention to Every Detail.  Real estate transactions are complex by nature.  It is imperative that your agent have the ability to multitask in an organized manner so that nothing slips through the cracks.
  • Price your home competitively.  I have a deep understanding of this marketplace, and always conduct thorough research before suggesting a listing price.  In pricing your home too high, you may be essentially pricing yourself out of the market.  When buyers search for a new home, their paramount search criteria often revolves around pricing.  Even your home fits all of their other needs to a T, they will never see your listing because of the price.  Of course, the risk of improper pricing is a double-edged sword.  Under pricing your home could lead to your receiving an offer quickly, but it could also mean a missed opportunity, or worse- it could mean the bank rejects your sale in the case of a short sale.
  • Help find the right buyer for your home.  I market every listing actively, meaning I do everything possible to ensure the maximum number of prospective buyers see your listing during their search.  In cases of multiple offers, I assist my clients in deciphering the differences between them.  Most people have a natural inclination to assume that the highest offer automatically gets the property.  However, depending on the seller’s needs, price may not always be their first concern.  If the sellers are anxious to move as soon as possible, they may want to consider an all cash offer that’s slightly lower than an FHA funded offer.
  • Problem solving skills backed by experience and a strong brand name.  There are often bumps in the road to success.  Knowing how to navigate through them is key.  I pride myself on being an expert in my field.  In cases where I feel a second opinion is necessary I need only look to my amazing team.  I am fortunate enough to be a part of the Coldwell Banker Elk Grove Office- one that is highly trusted and respected, with more than 100 years of experience that I can draw upon in supporting you, the client.

If you’re in the area and looking for a real estate agent, please consider contacting me first.  If you already have an agent, make sure that person is servicing your transaction completely and thoroughly.  Please feel free to contact me if there’s anything I can do to assist you.


From the first time home buyer to the savvy investor – from the seller with equity to the seller underwater and needing options – I am here for you.


Some Common Myths about Energy Saving | Live Green | Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate

Some Common Myths about Energy Saving | Live Green | Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate.

Myth #1 – All fluorescent lighting is bad

Today’s compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) use up to 75 percent less energy than traditional incandescent lighting and, on average, have a life span of up to five years (source: ENERGY STAR). Next time you’re replacing lighting around the home, remember that incandescent lighting has changed very little since the 1800’s, and that one CFL bulb lasts ten times longer than incandescent bulbs of equivalent wattage.Energy Saving Myths

Myth #2 – Installing foam gaskets around electrical outlets and light switches will reduce air leakage

Test measurements conducted by the US Department of Energy show that less than two percent of air leakage in a home is through electrical wall outlets. However the big criminals in this regard are one-pane windows, with a thin sheet of glass, which serves to heat the outside. Or doors left open, particularly in the fall and spring months.

Myth #3 – Leaving lights, computers, ‘sleeping’ TVs, game consoles and DVD/video players on is better than switching them on and off.

This myth has been around since the time that electricity was first harnessed, at the turn of the last century. The small surge of power that occurs with ‘some’ devices when they are turned on is miniscule compared to the power wasted by leaving them on when not in use. And here’s another surprise for you. Even when you’ve turned them ‘off,’ a lot of appliances continue to draw power – ‘phantom power’ as it were – to keep the device in ‘instant-on’ mode or to power lights and LED readouts on the devices. Pull their plugs when not in use, or connect to power bars and switch those off when the devices aren’t in use.

Others-Myths – Cleaning refrigerator coils deliver major energy savings and duct tape placed around joints will keep in the heat (or cold).

Not so. The air in most homes is not so dusty that the heat exchanged through the refrigerator back coils is impeded. And duct tape, while strong, exchanges heat and cold easily.

Rand on Real Estate: Why Now Has Never Been a Better Time to become a Landlord

RISMEDIA, Tuesday, June 21, 2011— Greg Rand, CEO of OwnAmerica.com hosts “Rand on Real Estate” on 77WABC Radio in New York, where this week’s discussion comes from a caller from Orange County who does not believe that this is a time to buy real estate. Rand addresses a question about the effects of shadow inventory on the market and gives his recommendation to buy now, noting it has never been a better time to become a landlord. Rand also tackles the issue of high taxes making it difficult to turn profits from investments from a caller in New Jersey.

To see more clips on Rand on Real Estate, click here.

Greg Rand is the CEO of OwnAmerica, a company dedicated to teaching real estate professionals and consumers how to build wealth in American housing. “Rand on Real Estate” is a weekly video series where Rand offers his expert insights into how to grow wealth in the current real estate market. OwnAmerica also offers a web-based certification course for real estate agents who want to capture the residential investor market. Learn more about the course, “OwnAmerica Real Estate Investment Certification Program,” (OICP) by visiting OwnAmerica.com for details.
RISMedia welcomes your questions and comments. Send your e-mail to:realestatemagazinefeedback@rismedia.com.

*Credit RISMedia

From the first time home buyer to the savvy investor – from the seller with equity to the seller underwater and needing options – I am here for you.

 

Short Sale Workshop!!!

IMPORTANT NOTICE: Better Homes & Gardens Real Estate is not associated with the government, and our service is not approved by the government or your lender. Even if you accept this offer and use our service, your lender may not agree to change your loan. If you stop paying your mortgage, you could lose your home and damage your credit. 2. Even if you accept this offer and use our service, your lender may not agree to change your loan.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Did you know…?

As of July 1st 2011 all homes in the state of California are required to have carbon monoxide detectors in them!  I highly doubt that the government will be sending any inspectors to your homes to confirm that you’ve complied.  I mean, how often to you hear about men in black suits knocking on random doors to verify a property has smoke detectors or that their water heater is properly braced to the wall? BUT, if you are selling your home and you will record after July 1st, you will need make sure that you have these detectors before you record to ensure that your property is up to code.  If you’re not selling your home any time in the near future, you may want to consider picking up a few of these detectors anyways… You never can be too safe, right?  As always, From the first time home buyer to the savvy investor – from the seller with equity to the seller underwater and needing options – I am here for you.

  

1st Annual Rancho Laguna Community Garage Sale a Huge Success!


Hello All! You may have noticed that I’ve been posting a little less frequently over the past couple of weeks. That’s because I’ve been focusing quite a bit of my time organizing a community wide garage sale event that took place on Sunday, and it was *awesome*!! If you had the chance to make it out, I hope you got some great deals and I hope you had as much fun as I did! We’re going to be hosting two more this Summer on June 5th in the 95757 area and on June 12th in the 95624 area. Keep an eye out on my twitter @JessSellsHomes for more information. I promise to keep you all posted on the details. Happy Shopping!!

From the first time home buyer to the savvy investor – from the seller with equity to the seller underwater and needing options – I am here for you.