Pros and Cons of Smooth Surface Cooktops

Ask 10 homeowners how they feel about their smooth surface cooktop, and you’ll hear 10 different answers. We’ve gathered these pros and cons to help you decide for yourself.

You’re determined to buy a new range, but the decisions never seem to end: Gas or electric? Standard or commercial-style? Do you need convection cooking? How about a warming drawer?

One especially important choice you’ll need to make concerns your cooktop: Do you want traditional burners or a smooth surface? This decision affects not only the way your range looks but also how you’ll cook on it and how you’ll clean it.

All but the least expensive electric ranges now feature smooth, ceramic glass cooktop designs rather than traditional coil burners (the price jump from entry-level coil-burner electric ranges to those with smooth tops is roughly $150).

Smooth, sealed-burner designs are also available on many gas ranges. You may hear sales clerks refer to these models as “gas on glass.” Smooth surface gas cooktops are also available in stainless steel.

Ask 10 homeowners how they feel about their smooth surface cooktop, and you’ll likely hear 10 different answers. That’s why we’ve gathered these pros and cons, so you can decide for yourself.

Pros

  • The smooth cooking surface is easier to clean after a messy meal. Sauces can’t drip into crevices, and crumbs can’t fall into crannies.
  • The ceramic cooktop’s design is sleek and can easily make your kitchen look more modern and updated.
  • Because the surface is flat, with no protruding burners, a ceramic cooktop can double for counter space in a pinch.

Cons

  • You must use specialty cleaning products to avoid damaging the smooth ceramic surface. And don’t be fooled, with even with the right products, some burned on messes are nearly impossible to clean.
  • Ceramic cooktops aren’t exactly fragile, but they can be scratched or cracked if a pan (or anything else) is dropped on the surface. Replacing the entire cooktop can cost upward of $1,000, while replacing just the glass may run $300 or more.
  • It’s pretty easy to tell when a traditional electric coil or gas burner is turned on. With a ceramic cook top, it’s not nearly so simple to tell. You – or more likely, a child – could easily be burned by touching a smooth surface cooktop that hasn’t adequately cooled.

It is important to note that not all smooth surface cooktops are created equal. Several manufacturers, for example, now offer induction cooktops, which use a magnetic field similar to the way your microwave oven works. A magnetic pan is used, and, underneath it, a magnetic field is created that transfers heat to the pan instead of the glass cooktop itself. These induction cooktops, which cost upward of $3,000, allow for more even distribution of temperature for even cooking.

In January 2012, Thermador took induction cooking a step further with the introduction of its Freedom Induction cooktop. The full-surface induction appliance uses mapping interfacing that recognizes cookware size, shape and position to deliver heat without boundaries. The cooktop is built with 48 individual 3-inch induction heating elements below its surface and can accommodate a pan as large as 21-by-13 inches.

Source: zillow.com

How Does a Court-Confirmed Probate Sale Work in Real Estate?

Properties sold in probate court can be a good deal, as they’re often priced lower than other homes. But there are risks, and probate sales often take longer than traditional real estate transactions.

If you’re an active real estate buyer, at some point you’ll likely come across a probate sale. Properties sold in probate court can be a good deal, as they’re often priced lower than other homes. But there are risks, and probate sales often take longer than traditional real estate transactions.

As a result, as with short sales, some buyers keep the probate sales at bay and their real estate agents discourage them from getting their hopes up on actually buying a home through probate courts.

Here’s the story on probate sales in real estate.

Why a home is sold through probate court

A home is sold in probate court when someone dies intestate or without bequeathing their property. When that happens, the state takes over and administers the property’s sale.

The court wants to be certain the property is marketed and sold at the best possible price. To ensure this, the court requires certain steps, processes and procedures be followed.

Probate laws can vary from state to state, but any good real estate agent should be sufficiently knowledgeable about the ins and outs of probate sales.

Marketing a probate sale

In a probate sale, the property is marketed just like any other property. The probate attorney or the estate representative will hire a local real estate agent, sign a listing agreement, and show the property, just as they would a traditional listing.

Generally, the list price is based upon the listing agent’s suggestions as well as an independent appraisal ordered and issued by the court.

Making an offer

An interested buyer may make an offer on the property at any time. However, in the case of a probate sale, the offer must be accompanied by a 10 percent deposit. The estate representative will then accept or counter the offer, just like any other sale.

The offer is subject to the court’s confirmation. Even though the seller may have accepted a buyer’s offer, the seller is not committed to that buyer or their offer. The estate representative, through their probate attorney, will then petition the court to confirm the sale. A future date is chosen for the sale to be confirmed in the court.

Playing the waiting game

Once the sale date is determined, the parties now must wait a minimum of 30 to 45 days. During this time, the court requires that the property be properly advertised and marketed with the new accepted price. In California, for example, the court will take that accepted offer and raise it by 5 percent plus $500. The total becomes the new probate price to be marketed.

Going to court

In order for the sale to be confirmed, the court requires that the new buyer, plus any other interested party, come to probate court to confirm the sale. The property is then sold auction style with the opening bid being (in the case of California) the accepted offer price plus the 5 percent, $500 increase.

Sometimes multiple buyers show up to bid on the property in increments of $5K. If nobody shows up to bid on the home, the first buyer gets the property for their original offer price. If the property is sold to one of the bidders, they must immediately hand over a deposit of 10 percent.

The deposit may not be refundable

There are some things for buyers to be aware of when moving forward on a probate sale. Many times, the 10 percent deposit that’s required with the offer is not refundable unless the original buyer isn’t the final court confirmed buyer.

Also, since the seller is deceased, there usually isn’t anyone to disclose a previously leaky window, illegal work done on the property, plans for a major change to the neighborhood, or anything else that may negatively affect the property’s value. That’s why probate sales can be risky.

An early inspection is your best defense

Any serious buyer should have the property inspected from top to bottom before writing an offer. Yes, you’re gambling the price of the home inspection without knowing if your offer will even be accepted, or if you’ll be outbid by someone else in probate court. But would you rather gamble the cost of an inspection — or the cost of a house?

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Source: zillow.com

30-Year Fixed Mortgage Rate Holds Steady

As of May 5, the rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow for 30-year fixed mortgages was 2.72%.

Abstract illustration of houses and charts

As of May 5, the rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow for 30-year fixed mortgages was 2.72%.

Mortgage rates fall to lowest levels in months.

“Mortgage rates fell slightly again this week, pushing rates to their lowest level since mid-to-late February,” said Zillow Economist Matthew Speakman. “With few surprising economic data or pandemic-related developments this week, mortgage rates and the bond yields that tend to influence them saw little reason to move significantly over the past seven days. Unlike stocks, bonds and mortgage rates brushed aside comments made by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, in which she suggested (but did not recommend) that interest rates will likely have to rise somewhat in order to ensure that the economy doesn’t overheat. But this period of relative calm will be put to the test in the coming days. April employment figures and inflation data, two key gauges of the economy’s path forward, are due this week, and stronger-than-expected readings of either – or both – reports will likely revert mortgage rates back upward.”

Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate was 2.09%, and for 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 2.38%.

Check Zillow for mortgage rate trends and up-to-the-minute mortgage rates for your state, or use the mortgage calculator to calculate monthly payments at the current rates.

The weekly mortgage rate chart above illustrates the average 30-year fixed interest rate for the past week. Here’s a comprehensive look at the current mortgage rates for all loan types:

Today’s Average Rates for Conventional Loans

Program Interest Rate APR 1 Wk Change
30-Year Fixed 2.76% 2.81% 0.02%
20-Year Fixed 2.59% 2.66% 0.06%
15-Year Fixed 2.07% 2.16% 0.03%
10-Year Fixed 1.97% 2.05% 0.08%
7/1 ARM 2.2% 2.91% 0.03%
5/1 ARM 2.15% 3.04% 0.03%
3/1 ARM 0% 0% 0%

A 30-Year Fixed loan of $300,000 at 2.76% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,225. A 20-Year Fixed loan of $300,000 at 2.59% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,602. A 15-Year Fixed loan of $300,000 at 2.07% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,939. A 10-Year Fixed loan of $300,000 at 1.97% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $2,756. A 7/1 ARM loan of $300,000 at 2.2% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,138. A 5/1 ARM loan of $300,000 at 2.15% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,130. A 3/1 ARM loan of $0 at 0% APR with a $0 down payment will have a monthly payment of $0. All monthly payments displayed assume a maximum Loan to Value (LTV) of 80% and 740 credit score, and do not include amount for taxes and insurance. The actual monthly payment may be greater.

Today’s Average Rates for Government Loans

Program Interest Rate APR 1 Wk Change
30-Year Fixed FHA 2.35% 3.02% 0.06%
30-Year Fixed VA 2.5% 2.69% 0.11%
15-Year Fixed FHA 2.05% 2.73% 0.21%
15-Year Fixed VA 2.29% 2.64% 0.33%
5/1 ARM FHA 2.59% 2.97% 0.02%
5/1 ARM VA 3.03% 2.59% 0.1%

A 30-Year Fixed FHA loan of $300,000 at 2.35% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,161. A 30-Year Fixed VA loan of $300,000 at 2.5% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,185. A 15-Year Fixed FHA loan of $300,000 at 2.05% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,937. A 15-Year Fixed VA loan of $300,000 at 2.29% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,971. A 5/1 ARM FHA loan of $300,000 at 2.59% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,200. A 5/1 ARM VA loan of $300,000 at 3.03% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,268. All monthly payments displayed assume a maximum Loan to Value (LTV) of 80% and 740 credit score, and do not include amount for taxes and insurance. The actual monthly payment may be greater.

Today’s Average Rates for Jumbo Loans

Program Interest Rate APR 1 Wk Change
30-Year Fixed Jumbo 3.21% 3.26% -0%
20-Year Fixed Jumbo 3.17% 3.22% 0.11%
15-Year Fixed Jumbo 2.82% 2.89% -0.02%
10-Year Fixed Jumbo 2.44% 2.5% 0.08%
7/1 ARM Jumbo 2.7% 3.17% -0.04%
5/1 ARM Jumbo 2.78% 3.21% -0.03%
3/1 ARM Jumbo 2.14% 2.74% 0%

A 30-Year Fixed Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 3.21% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $2,597. A 20-Year Fixed Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 3.17% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $3,378. A 15-Year Fixed Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 2.82% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $4,092. A 10-Year Fixed Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 2.44% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $5,639. A 7/1 ARM Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 2.7% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $2,431. A 5/1 ARM Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 2.78% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $2,459. A 3/1 ARM Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 2.14% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $2,259. All monthly payments displayed assume a maximum Loan to Value (LTV) of 80% and 740 credit score, and do not include amount for taxes and insurance. The actual monthly payment may be greater.

Source: zillow.com

30-Year Fixed Mortgage Rate Rises

As of May 5, the rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow for 30-year fixed mortgages was 2.72%.

Abstract illustration of houses and charts

As of May 5, the rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow for 30-year fixed mortgages was 2.72%.

Mortgage rates fall to lowest levels in months.

“Mortgage rates fell slightly again this week, pushing rates to their lowest level since mid-to-late February,” said Zillow Economist Matthew Speakman. “With few surprising economic data or pandemic-related developments this week, mortgage rates and the bond yields that tend to influence them saw little reason to move significantly over the past seven days. Unlike stocks, bonds and mortgage rates brushed aside comments made by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, in which she suggested (but did not recommend) that interest rates will likely have to rise somewhat in order to ensure that the economy doesn’t overheat. But this period of relative calm will be put to the test in the coming days. April employment figures and inflation data, two key gauges of the economy’s path forward, are due this week, and stronger-than-expected readings of either – or both – reports will likely revert mortgage rates back upward.”

Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate was 2.09%, and for 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 2.38%.

Check Zillow for mortgage rate trends and up-to-the-minute mortgage rates for your state, or use the mortgage calculator to calculate monthly payments at the current rates.

The weekly mortgage rate chart above illustrates the average 30-year fixed interest rate for the past week. Here’s a comprehensive look at the current mortgage rates for all loan types:

Today’s Average Rates for Conventional Loans

Program Interest Rate APR 1 Wk Change
30-Year Fixed 2.75% 2.8% 0.03%
20-Year Fixed 2.65% 2.73% -0.01%
15-Year Fixed 2.09% 2.18% 0.01%
10-Year Fixed 1.94% 1.99% 0.14%
7/1 ARM 2.2% 2.91% 0.03%
5/1 ARM 2.15% 3.03% 0.04%
3/1 ARM 0% 0% 0%

A 30-Year Fixed loan of $300,000 at 2.75% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,223. A 20-Year Fixed loan of $300,000 at 2.65% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,611. A 15-Year Fixed loan of $300,000 at 2.09% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,942. A 10-Year Fixed loan of $300,000 at 1.94% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $2,752. A 7/1 ARM loan of $300,000 at 2.2% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,138. A 5/1 ARM loan of $300,000 at 2.15% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,131. A 3/1 ARM loan of $0 at 0% APR with a $0 down payment will have a monthly payment of $0. All monthly payments displayed assume a maximum Loan to Value (LTV) of 80% and 740 credit score, and do not include amount for taxes and insurance. The actual monthly payment may be greater.

Today’s Average Rates for Government Loans

Program Interest Rate APR 1 Wk Change
30-Year Fixed FHA 2.3% 2.98% 0.11%
30-Year Fixed VA 2.5% 2.76% 0.04%
15-Year Fixed FHA 2.02% 2.82% 0.12%
15-Year Fixed VA 2.62% 3.09% -0.12%
5/1 ARM FHA 2.59% 2.97% 0.02%
5/1 ARM VA 2.88% 2.52% 0.17%

A 30-Year Fixed FHA loan of $300,000 at 2.3% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,154. A 30-Year Fixed VA loan of $300,000 at 2.5% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,185. A 15-Year Fixed FHA loan of $300,000 at 2.02% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,933. A 15-Year Fixed VA loan of $300,000 at 2.62% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $2,017. A 5/1 ARM FHA loan of $300,000 at 2.59% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,200. A 5/1 ARM VA loan of $300,000 at 2.88% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,245. All monthly payments displayed assume a maximum Loan to Value (LTV) of 80% and 740 credit score, and do not include amount for taxes and insurance. The actual monthly payment may be greater.

Today’s Average Rates for Jumbo Loans

Program Interest Rate APR 1 Wk Change
30-Year Fixed Jumbo 3.24% 3.28% -0.03%
20-Year Fixed Jumbo 3.32% 3.37% -0.03%
15-Year Fixed Jumbo 2.81% 2.89% -0.01%
10-Year Fixed Jumbo 2.44% 2.5% 0.08%
7/1 ARM Jumbo 2.7% 3.17% -0.04%
5/1 ARM Jumbo 2.8% 3.2% -0.02%
3/1 ARM Jumbo 2.14% 2.74% 0%

A 30-Year Fixed Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 3.24% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $2,606. A 20-Year Fixed Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 3.32% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $3,423. A 15-Year Fixed Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 2.81% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $4,089. A 10-Year Fixed Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 2.44% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $5,639. A 7/1 ARM Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 2.7% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $2,432. A 5/1 ARM Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 2.8% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $2,466. A 3/1 ARM Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 2.14% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $2,259. All monthly payments displayed assume a maximum Loan to Value (LTV) of 80% and 740 credit score, and do not include amount for taxes and insurance. The actual monthly payment may be greater.

Source: zillow.com

30-Year Fixed Mortgage Rate Hits Yet Another Record Low, Falls Below 3.2 Percent for the First Time

As of May 5, the rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow for 30-year fixed mortgages was 2.72%.

Abstract illustration of houses and charts

As of May 5, the rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow for 30-year fixed mortgages was 2.72%.

Mortgage rates fall to lowest levels in months.

“Mortgage rates fell slightly again this week, pushing rates to their lowest level since mid-to-late February,” said Zillow Economist Matthew Speakman. “With few surprising economic data or pandemic-related developments this week, mortgage rates and the bond yields that tend to influence them saw little reason to move significantly over the past seven days. Unlike stocks, bonds and mortgage rates brushed aside comments made by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, in which she suggested (but did not recommend) that interest rates will likely have to rise somewhat in order to ensure that the economy doesn’t overheat. But this period of relative calm will be put to the test in the coming days. April employment figures and inflation data, two key gauges of the economy’s path forward, are due this week, and stronger-than-expected readings of either – or both – reports will likely revert mortgage rates back upward.”

Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate was 2.09%, and for 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 2.38%.

Check Zillow for mortgage rate trends and up-to-the-minute mortgage rates for your state, or use the mortgage calculator to calculate monthly payments at the current rates.

The weekly mortgage rate chart above illustrates the average 30-year fixed interest rate for the past week. Here’s a comprehensive look at the current mortgage rates for all loan types:

Today’s Average Rates for Conventional Loans

Program Interest Rate APR 1 Wk Change
30-Year Fixed 2.75% 2.8% 0.03%
20-Year Fixed 2.59% 2.67% 0.05%
15-Year Fixed 2.1% 2.19% -0%
10-Year Fixed 1.99% 2.07% 0.06%
7/1 ARM 2.19% 2.92% 0.03%
5/1 ARM 2.13% 3.03% 0.04%
3/1 ARM 0% 0% 0%

A 30-Year Fixed loan of $300,000 at 2.75% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,223. A 20-Year Fixed loan of $300,000 at 2.59% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,603. A 15-Year Fixed loan of $300,000 at 2.1% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,944. A 10-Year Fixed loan of $300,000 at 1.99% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $2,758. A 7/1 ARM loan of $300,000 at 2.19% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,136. A 5/1 ARM loan of $300,000 at 2.13% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,127. A 3/1 ARM loan of $0 at 0% APR with a $0 down payment will have a monthly payment of $0. All monthly payments displayed assume a maximum Loan to Value (LTV) of 80% and 740 credit score, and do not include amount for taxes and insurance. The actual monthly payment may be greater.

Today’s Average Rates for Government Loans

Program Interest Rate APR 1 Wk Change
30-Year Fixed FHA 2.29% 2.97% 0.11%
30-Year Fixed VA 2.51% 2.77% 0.02%
15-Year Fixed FHA 2% 2.76% 0.18%
15-Year Fixed VA 2.51% 2.97% -0%
5/1 ARM FHA 2.59% 2.97% 0.02%
5/1 ARM VA 2.74% 2.52% 0.17%

A 30-Year Fixed FHA loan of $300,000 at 2.29% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,153. A 30-Year Fixed VA loan of $300,000 at 2.51% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,187. A 15-Year Fixed FHA loan of $300,000 at 2% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,930. A 15-Year Fixed VA loan of $300,000 at 2.51% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $2,002. A 5/1 ARM FHA loan of $300,000 at 2.59% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,200. A 5/1 ARM VA loan of $300,000 at 2.74% APR with a $75,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $1,223. All monthly payments displayed assume a maximum Loan to Value (LTV) of 80% and 740 credit score, and do not include amount for taxes and insurance. The actual monthly payment may be greater.

Today’s Average Rates for Jumbo Loans

Program Interest Rate APR 1 Wk Change
30-Year Fixed Jumbo 3.17% 3.21% 0.04%
20-Year Fixed Jumbo 3.5% 3.55% -0.22%
15-Year Fixed Jumbo 2.78% 2.85% 0.03%
10-Year Fixed Jumbo 2.38% 2.47% 0.1%
7/1 ARM Jumbo 2.69% 3.17% -0.04%
5/1 ARM Jumbo 2.76% 3.2% -0.02%
3/1 ARM Jumbo 2.14% 2.74% 0%

A 30-Year Fixed Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 3.17% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $2,583. A 20-Year Fixed Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 3.5% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $3,480. A 15-Year Fixed Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 2.78% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $4,081. A 10-Year Fixed Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 2.38% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $5,622. A 7/1 ARM Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 2.69% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $2,430. A 5/1 ARM Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 2.76% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $2,452. A 3/1 ARM Jumbo loan of $600,000 at 2.14% APR with a $150,000 down payment will have a monthly payment of $2,259. All monthly payments displayed assume a maximum Loan to Value (LTV) of 80% and 740 credit score, and do not include amount for taxes and insurance. The actual monthly payment may be greater.

Source: zillow.com

Think Twice Before Posting a Negative Rental Review

If you plan on making comments or reviews, it is suggested that you take a few things into consideration to protect yourself and offer the best online review to the public.

San Diego Premier Property Management

The landlord won’t make timely repairs, the common area laundry room is a mess or the management company never answers the phone. These are very common complaints found online from renters regarding their experience with property management companies across the country.

In the past, potential applicants would only discover these complaints by either word of mouth, knowing someone in the complex or, worse, once it was too late and they were already experiencing issues firsthand. Well, social media has certainly changed that, and with a click of a mouse, past and present tenants can now comment on their rental experience.

Sites such as Yelp, Kudzu, Angie’s List and, of course, Facebook and Twitter are respected open forums that allow reviews, dialogue and comments that in some cases can have lasting and serious consequences — good or bad — for property management companies. This form of feedback and review seems fair and useful in helping determine which property management companies have built better tenant relations. But should tenants beware when posting something less flattering or even downright negative regarding their experience with a property management company?

Helen Maslona of Chicago was recently sued over her posting of a negative online review about a contractor. These types of lawsuits are becoming more common, and are referred to as SLAPP lawsuits (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation). As many as 27 states have anti-SLAPP laws, but many don’t, leaving unsuspecting reviewers vulnerable to backlash from their comment or review.

If you plan on making comments or reviews, it is suggested that you take a few things into consideration to protect yourself and offer the best online review to the public:

  • Tell the truth about the experience.
  • Comment with the intent to help others benefit from your review.
  • Stay clear of vulgarities, heavy opinions and accusations.

If you do find yourself posting a negative review, allow the property management company to respond and hopefully clear up the misunderstanding. Most reputable companies will try to accommodate their tenants and preserve their online reputation. In kind, make sure you follow up that negative comment with an update showing the resolution.

Just remember that reviews on social media sites are both necessary and important but can have consequences, so be careful what you post out there.

Salvatore Friscia is a seasoned real estate investor and a residential property management specialist, focusing on single-family homes, condos and small apartment complexes. He is the founder of San Diego Premier Property Management as well as The Friscia Group One, an investment group focused on distressed properties. He is a regular contributor to the industry blog All Things Property Management by Buildium, a property management software company.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Source: zillow.com

How Close Is Too Close to Power Lines?

If the thought of buying property located near high-voltage power lines gives you pause, you might think ahead to how it will affect resale value.

The property you’ve fallen in love with has everything you want: open floor plan, updated kitchen, beautifully landscaped lawn. But it’s located near high-voltage power lines, and that’s risky. Right?

The belief that living near power lines is dangerous has been around for generations. In fact, many researchers have studied whether proximity to power lines might be the cause of leukemia and other cancers, abnormal heart rhythms, miscarriages, low birth weight and birth defects; the results of those studies have been mixed.

A 2006  Medical College of Wisconsin review of studies on the subject revealed that:

  • 46 percent of those studies found exposure to power frequency fields had no effect on subjects.
  • 22 percent found that exposure resulted in DNA damage.
  • 32 percent of the studies were inconclusive.

The same Wisconsin review concluded that even those studies that do show an association between cancer and power lines don’t provide consistent guidelines as to what distance or exposure level might be associated with increased cancer incidence.

If you are concerned about electric and magnetic fields (EMFs) emitted by a power line or substation near your home, you should contact your local power company to schedule an on-site reading. You can also measure EMFs yourself with a gaussmeter or magnetometer.

If you’re house hunting and the thought of buying a property near high-voltage power lines gives you pause, you might think ahead to how it will affect your ability to sell the home in the future.

Long Beach, CA real estate agent Daniel Kim says power lines are an instant turnoff for some home buyers.

“As soon as they get out of the car, they’ll tell [their agent], ‘Um, no thank you,’” he said, noting that resale value is a key consideration but not as important as your own peace of mind. “If you are going to worry every time you look up at the power lines and hear some crackling, then I’d say pass on the property and buy somewhere else.”

Related:

Mary Boone is a freelance writer for Zillow Blog. Read more from her here.

Source: zillow.com

How to Negotiate Lower Rent With a Potential Landlord

It starts with determining your leverage.

By Alex Starace for MyFirstApartment.com

When you’re looking for an apartment, you might be under the impression that the list price is the only price. In some cases, that’s true. But if you’re a bit savvier, you could end up negotiating your way into a great deal. Before you approach the landlord, however, make sure you’ve done your homework.

Determine your leverage     

Are you in a tight or loose rental market? In tight markets — where there are more renters than available apartments — it’s unlikely a potential landlord will negotiate. Why? If three or four other people are willing to pay list price for the apartment, a landlord has little motivation to lower the price for you.

A good way to determine whether you’re in a tight rental market is to browse apartment listings for a few days. How many open units are in each building? How quickly do listings disappear? The longer the listings are on the market and the more listings per building, the looser the market. Another way to tell: Have you had any apartment showings canceled because the place was suddenly rented? If not, this again points to a looser market.

In loose markets, landlords will be anxious to rent their place, even at a rate lower than list price. After all, an empty unit is a money-sink for landlords. If you’re offering to fill the vacancy, the landlord might be happy to lower the price, especially if the choice is between renting to you or letting the apartment sit on the market a month longer.

Can you demonstrate that you are a responsible person? Even in a tight market you can have personal leverage. Landlords want security and predictability. In the long run, these things save a landlord a lot of money. If you can demonstrate that you have these qualities — the primary attributes landlords look for are a steady job and good credit — you may get a landlord to knock a bit off your rent or to make other concessions.

Can you show commitment to staying? If you’re planning on staying in the apartment for two or three years or longer, that’s a big benefit in a landlord’s eyes. When a landlord has to rent an apartment to a new tenant every year, he or she loses a lot in transaction costs (repainting, brokers fees, professional cleaning fees), as well as in the simple effort of finding a new tenant. So if you’re planning on staying a while, highlight this when discussing what makes you a great potential renter.

Negotiate from strength

After you have determined where your points of leverage are, it’s time to make your move. When approaching the landlord, the key is to be confident and calm. Avoid hyper-aggressiveness or a mouse-like timidity. A good way to strike the right balance and show confidence is to know your stuff. Know what an average apartment rents for in the neighborhood. Compare the amenities in the apartment to those available in nearby complexes. Have in mind a price you think is fair for your potential place, and have reasons why — whether it’s because the kitchen is too small, or it doesn’t provide parking, or it’s simply too expense relative to comparable places in the neighborhood. And emphasize your points of leverage — that you’ll be a responsible, long-term tenant.

When negotiating, ask for an even lower price than you’re hoping to pay. Do this for two reasons: First, you might end up getting it. Second, if the landlord is at all interested in bargaining, you’ll likely need to meet halfway between your initial offer and the list price. If you give a low (but not unreasonable) initial offer, meeting somewhere in the middle will be a win for you, and both you and the landlord will feel like you’ve made a good deal.

In the end, successful negotiating is all about knowing the market, doing research about the specific apartment in your sights and negotiating calmly and rationally. If you do all this, you have a good chance of paying lower monthly rent. Good luck!

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Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Source: zillow.com

8 Tips for Lowering Your Homeowners Association Dues

Llike any budget, there could be lots of ways to reduce HOA expenses.

Whether you just bought a condo or have owned one for years, you’ve probably accepted the monthly homeowners association (HOA) dues at face value. But there are reasons why you shouldn’t.

HOA dues are money out of your pocket. They can have a huge impact on your decision to buy, or not buy, a particular condo. For example, you might have fallen in love with a condo in a big complex but decided you just can’t afford the HOA dues. Also, high HOA dues can be a deterrent to future buyers, too, when you go to sell later.

An HOA is made up of residents of the condo building or complex — volunteers who are busy with their jobs and families just like everyone else. It could be that no one on the HOA board has time to look for ways to reduce the monthly HOA dues.

But like any budget, there could be lots of ways to reduce expenses. Here’s how you can have a positive impact on your HOA dues.

1. Ask to see the HOA budget

As a condo owner, you have the right to review the HOA budget. Get a copy and check it over thoroughly. If you have questions, ask the HOA president or a board member.

2. Join the HOA board

If you’re on the board, you’ll have more opportunity and more clout to dig into the HOA’s finances — such as its contracts with the property management company, landscapers and so on.

3. Review the HOA’s contracts

An HOA often has agreements with a variety of vendors: the property management company, a landscaping/grounds maintenance company, and so on. In some cases, those agreements or contracts may have been negotiated years ago and might be renegotiated today in more favorable terms for the HOA.

For example, the recent buyer of a condo in an Atlanta complex felt like the HOA dues were too high. So he asked to join the board, and the members were happy to have him. He then performed an audit and discovered money was being wasted in several areas, such as on landscaping/gardening.

The HOA’s agreement with its gardener had been negotiated five years earlier. The gardener, by default, raised his fees every year. The Atlanta condo buyer, with the HOA’s approval, sought bids from a variety of other gardening companies and succeeded in finding a reputable gardener at a lower monthly cost.

4. Reduce landscaping costs

If finding another landscaping or gardening company isn’t an option, maybe the HOA can reduce the frequency of these services, without jeopardizing aesthetics. It’s worth asking.

5. Determine if HOA is paying too much in property management fees

In large condo developments, the property management company would likely be the one to lead the charge to reduce expenses. But they’re unlikely to advocate lowering their own fees. So you’ll need to work with your HOA directly in exploring ways to reduce the property management company’s fees.

6. Look at insurance premiums

Insurance is often a big HOA expense. Get quotes for insurance premiums and be prepared to renegotiate with your current carrier once your policy comes up for renewal.

7. Defer non-essential maintenance or other projects

Aside from HOA dues, condo owners are often hit with assessments to cover things such as roof repairs and hallway painting. Talk to the HOA board about deferring any non-essential HOA projects for a year or two.

8. Reduce reserves, if possible

Every HOA has reserve funds to cover unexpected expenses. Over time, those reserves, if not tapped, build up. Find out how much the HOA has in reserves. If it’s a healthy amount and no major improvement or repair projects are in the works, ask the HOA board to consider temporarily reducing the amount it puts into reserves every month.

Easier said than done?

Most HOAs will welcome your participation. But your belt-tightening suggestions may require a formal vote from HOA board members or the entire association before they’re enacted.

At any rate, understand that changes to the budget may not happen overnight. Finding the fat, renegotiating fees, and asking for additional bids can be extremely time consuming.

Still, it’s worth a try. Talk to your HOA president, treasurer or other board member. Tell them your goal is to simply explore possible ways to lower the association’s cost for everyone’s benefit. A little bit of legwork may save you — and your neighbors — some money every month.

Note: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of Zillow.

Source: zillow.com