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Home Matters with Yvonne

Use Caution And Compromise When Buying A Home
Posted by Yvonne Hefner on Feb 1, 2003 - 11:19:00 AM

LOS ANGELESDuring the month of January in Canyon News territory, approximately 218 single-family homes were listed for sale and approximately 998 closed escrow. Also, during this time period there were approximately 115 properties listed for lease and approximately 474 residences were leased. During the first week of January the national average commitment rate on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was 5.85 percent. This rate was down from 5.93 percent. Last year at this time the 30-year fixed mortgage averaged 7.14 percent. Issues such as the possibility of military action abroad and heightened terrorism alerts contributed to the decline in mortgage rates. Economists are finding it difficult to make predictions about mortgage rates for the near term due to the amount of uncertainty of the future. However, they continue to expect rates will hover around six percent for at least another few months.

Photo by Kibiwot Limo

Having made the decision to purchase a home, there are several benefits. A home can build equity over time. If one buys in the right place, does their research including past sales in the area, there is an enormous chance of appreciation. There also can be a tax advantage and a source of cash down the line. Part of the quest in selecting your home is to research the school district quality including public and private schools. Figure the commute time to and from the school. Check on the crime rates, which can be easily accomplished by calling the local police department. Research the shopping. Are food markets, post offices, drug stores and banks located in a comfortable distance? Will living in the hills or canyons present significant challenges for young children playing or visiting friends where public transportation is very limited if available at all? How long will the commute be to and from work during rush hour?

Most of all, take your time to purchase what may very well be the most expensive investment one will make. Keep in mind compromises may be necessary. If a 4-bedroom home is in your plans but the "perfect home" offers 3 bedrooms with a den or office, take a look. The 3-bedroom home may work. Should you tell your Real Estate Agent you are interested in a home with 2,000 square feet and the Agent suggests a home that is exactly what you are looking for but has 1,700 square feet. Look at it. A home may have 2,000 square feet but with the existing floor plan this home can feel like 1,200 square feet. A home that may be 1,500 square feet with a different floor plan may feel like you are in a 2,000 square foot home. Visualize. If a home is located in the desired area, is within the determined price range but is smaller than planned with a large lot size, check with the city concerning adding on. However, be certain to inquire from the Agent recently sold prices for larger homes in the neighborhood. You do not want to have the largest and most expensive home on the block by overbuilding should you decide to sell in the future.

When viewing potential homes to purchase, look carefully. Look at the curb appeal as well as the curb appeal of the neighbors� homes to see if the homes are neat and maintained. If there are trees on the property check for uplifted cement or other indications of tree root problems. Notice the condition of the exterior of the home, does it need painting, does the roof appear to be in good condition, are the steps leading into the house in good condition? Are there any windows with cracks? Does the chimney appear to be in tact? Is there sufficient parking for visitors with easy access to the home especially if you like to entertain? Once inside, look up to the ceilings in every room for water marks which could indicate a present or past roof leak. Listen to see if floors squeak and be aware that the floors feel level when walking in all areas. If there is carpet, ask what type of floor is underneath and the condition. Is the kitchen dated appearing to need substantial work? Is there ample functional kitchen space according to one's needs? Do the bathrooms have broken tiles, cracked marble or dripping faucets? Are there rust stains in the sinks and bathtub? Check size of bedrooms for needed space as well as closets in the bedrooms and throughout the home. Open and close all doors inside to see if they operate with ease. Determine if every family member can live comfortably. Garages are used for cars by some and for storage by others and should also be viewed carefully to see if they will accommodate your purpose as well as the condition.

This initial viewing of a home is an appropriate time to ask the seller's Agent of any known information about the plumbing, electrical and roof condition and age. Walk around the exterior of the home. Pay attention to the exterior walls for cracks as well as any cement walkways and driveways. Some cracks may be insignificant while others could indicate foundation problems. Of course, it is strongly advised to have a home inspection by a professional once a home has been chosen, the offer has been accepted and escrow has opened. It is also strongly advised to have a geology inspection of the soil if the chosen home is located in the hills and/or canyon areas. With the viewing of every home considered for purchase, take notes of any cosmetic work you feel would be necessary or needed to meet your taste. Later, you can do an estimate of the costs required to give the purchase your signature look. While many of us would prefer to purchase a home that is "turnkey" or "move-in" condition, do not overlook homes priced well but needing some work costing less than you may think. Until next time, home matters.

Yvonne Hefner, a licensed Real Estate Agent, can be reached at 323-650-8812 or at


Cliffside Malibu




Serving Bel Air, Benedict Canyon, Beverly Hills. Brentwood, Laurel Canyon, Los Feliz, Malibu, Pacific Palisades, Melrose, Santa Monica, Sherman Oaks, Studio City, Topanga, Canyon, Westwood & Hollywood Hills.