Friday, October 26, 2012

What You Can Get For Around $300K In The Asheville Area

Each week, TODAY real estate expert Barbara Corcoran looks around the U.S. to see what home buyers can get for their money.

This week’s search goes from Georgia to Wisconsin in search of truly unique properties you can get the keys to for $300,000 or less.

The Asheville Area has various opportunities for you to do the same, check out some of these great options under $300K:

Interested in purchasing a home under $300K?  Call The Puffer Team today, 828-771-2300, or visit our website,

Thursday, October 25, 2012

So You're Ready To Make An Offer?

5 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Setting Your Offer Price 

On An Asheville Area Home


Today’s buyers do more legwork than any other generation of home buyers, on everything from mortgage rates and programs to neighborhoods and schools, to comparables for the home they want, because so much more of this information is freely and easily accessed online.  But none of that information diminishes the anxiety around making the final decision what number to ink onto an offer for a home.  In fact, this inundation of information can shift a normally sane buyer into overwhelm and overload, and actually interfere with smart decision-making.
And the decision of what to offer to pay for a particular home is particularly high-stakes – one you don’t want muddled by panic or irrelevant inputs. On this one number hinges whether a particular home becomes your home - or not.  It also represents a near-final step in one of the biggest financial commitments you’ll ever make.

No pressure.

If you feel like the final dollar amount selection is a little bit of a stab in the dark, on a subject you’d rather be able to handle confidently and with precision, let’s talk. Here are five questions you should ask yourself to collect the targeted and essential information you need to pinpoint your exact offer price:

1. How close/recent/similar are the comps – and what story do they tell?  Your agent will present you with the recent sales prices of similar homes near your target home (assuming you’re in an area where there are recent sales). This information, in conjunction with the listing price should begin to narrow your thoughts on offer price into a ballpark price range.  But once it’s time to pin down a precise offer dollar amount, it behooves you to look beyond the sales prices of the comparables and to work with your agent to suss out the story they have to tell – and what implications that story has for your own offer price.

In particular, you’ll want to look at the listing details and even the photos of the comparable properties to understand which ones are truly similar – or dissimilar – to the property you’ve targeted, beyond the basic specs.  If a home that has the same number of beds, baths and square feet as ‘yours’ had archaic, out-of-date kitchens and bathrooms and a massive electrical pole in the front yard when it sold six months ago, it might not be as good a comparable as a home that just sold 3 weeks ago with similar upgrades and updates to your target property, even if the latter comp has one less bathroom than yours.

Also, look for the bigger picture story that the comps are telling you.  Did all the most similar comps sell for more than, less than, or right at the asking price? If they all sold for 5-10% over or under asking, that suggests the direction you might need to move from the list price. How long did it take for them to sell, and how long as your target property been on the market, by comparison?  If everything is selling in 30 days, and the house you’re trying to buy has been on for 75, the takeaway might be that you can be more aggressive in offering a price below asking than you might if the place has only been on 20 days.

I can’t emphasize enough how critical it is to collaborate with your agent when it comes to gathering this fuller picture and story from the data on recently sold nearby properties and applying it in the course of setting your own offer price. 

2.  What kind of shape is the place in?  Fixer-upper homes may not qualify for low-down payment FHA financing. That can force you to come up with a larger down payment or evaluate the feasibility of obtaining a rehabilitation loan. On the other hand, if you had planned to put a large amount of your cash savings down on a home that needs a lot of fixing, you might want to conserve some to fund repairs.  In these cases, it’s very helpful to review any disclosures or reports the seller has made available. It’s also essential to include your mortgage broker in the offer-price setting conversation, as condition issues might impact the loan programs available to you and, thus, the down payment, closing cost and monthly payment required at a given offer/purchase price point.

I’ve seen buyers that had planned to buy a fixer shift their offer price upwards because they knew a home was in move-in condition, and vice versa – people who had planned to buy a non-fixer end up coming down on their target price to hit the rehab loan guidelines and/or conserve down payment cash and redirect it to post-closing repairs. 

It’s wise to have a quick conversation with your mortgage pro before you decide upon your final offer price in any event, but it’s particularly necessary if the place has obvious condition issues.

3.  What’s the competition like?  If you’ve ever watched an auction on television, you’ve gotten a glimpse into the difference between making an offer on a home where you’re the only buyer, and making an offer on a home where even 1 or 2 others are vying to get it.  And that difference can usually be measured in thousands of dollars.  It’s a simple, but profound truth: if you know there are other buyers competing for a property, you’ll likely want and need to offer more for it than you would if the players were limited to just you and the seller.

And the more buyers are bidding, generally speaking, the higher the victorious offer price is likely to be.
How will you know what your competition is like?  Ask your agent – and they’ll likely give the listing agent a ring, let them know you’re serious about making an offer and feel out whether there is competition or not, and how fierce it is. 

The most frequently asked question I get about how this works is this:  don’t listing agents just lie and say there are more offers than there are?  It’s possible, but improbable.  Every agents know that some buyers can’t or won’t bid more than asking on a given home. Accordingly, every listing agent I know would rather have a sure offer from a buyer who loves the place than risk running that buyer off by fabricating multiple offers that don’t exist.

4.  How much do you want it?  Your personal desire and motivation level to get a particular property is an absolute must to factor into the offer price decision-making mix, especially when you get close to putting a final number of dollars and cents on the table. Of course, your home is an asset and a major investment, so your offer price is a decision about which you want to be smart, logical and deliberate. But we’re also talking about the place that will serve as the backdrop and environment for your everyday life, and your family’s lives, too.  To ignore the emotional impact and logistical implications of the place you live when you’re deciding what to offer is to make the decision based on an incomplete portfolio of information.  (And that’s also how so many buyers who lose properties end up regretting their offer price, wishing they had offered just a smidge more for “the one that got away,” sometimes for years on end)

The need to tweak your offer priced based on your motivation level (within the range of what you can afford, of course) is particularly true when it comes to multiple offer situations. Would you regret it if another buyer got the place at X price? Then you should offer X price.  Would you be disappointed, but totally comfortable with knowing you’d offered as much as the place was worth to you, if the seller turned down your offer at Y price? The price at which you can answer that question with a ‘yes’ is a good boundary for the absolute max you should offer.

When you are actively bidding in multiple offer situations, you might never get the opportunity to nudge your price upwards or go back and forth with the seller.  Asking yourself these questions can help you pinpoint your precise, best offer so you can make it, then let the chips fall where they may, without regrets.

5.  What can you truly afford?  No, really.  It’s not that you haven’t asked yourself this question, worked through your monthly financials, pored over the numbers with your mate, your financial planner and your mortgage broker ad nauseam.  It’s more that a lot of time can elapse between that deep financial dive and the time you actually have to decide how much to offer on a particular home. And in that time, lots of variables might have changed:

Interest rates might have changed.·         You might have decided you need to move your price range up, because you can’t find anything that works in a lower range.·         You might have realized you need to offer more than the asking price, due to the competition.·         Your expenses might have changed, because you had to put a kid in daycare or start some new service up.·         Your cash cushion might have changed, because you had to repair your car or fix something at your existing house.·         Your cash needs might even have changed, as you realize the home you are trying to buy needs a lot of work that will take a lot of cash.
And so, throughout the course of a house hunt, it’s not at all bizarre to experience price range creep. The best practice is to walk through the comps with your agent, determine their story, get as much information as you can about your competition and the home’s condition and get clear about how much you want the place then, just before you finalize your offer price, touch based with your mortgage broker or banker and tell them what you’re planning to offer. Ask them to give you an updated set of numbers, including what your down payment, monthly payment and cash to close would look like at that price, based on today’s interest rate. 
Then, you’ll be in a position to make that offer confidently.  I can’t promise you’ll have no anxiety at all, but you’ll certainly feel less like you’re taking a stab in the dark and more like you’re positioned as well as you possibly could be.

Are you ready to let one of our agents get to work for you?  Call The Puffer Team today at 828-771-2300 or visit our website,

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

10 Most Haunted Houses In The US

Are you excited about Halloween?  Are you easily spooked by haunted houses?  Here's an interesting story on the 10 Most Haunted Houses in the US.

Ever had any haunts in your Asheville Area Home?  Tell us about them.

The Puffer Team, Keller Williams Professionals, 828-771-2300,

Monday, October 15, 2012

5 Confessions of a First-Time Home Buyer

Check out this great article with first hand experience on what it's really like to buy your first home:

I know a lot about real estate - now. But when I bought my very first home, I knew nothing about real estate and hadn’t even starting working in the field. In fact, I was like any other brand-new home buyer out there: fired-up, overeager and completely uninitiated.

So, I made a mistake or two. Or twelve, give or take. Many of these were mistakes I didn’t even realize I’d made until a few years down the line. Fortunately for me, none of my first-time home buying mistakes were disastrous - and fortunately for you, I’m going to share them here, so you don’t have to repeat them!

Here are five lessons I learned in the course of buying my first home, so all you first-timers don’t have to. (Agents and homeowners, please share your lessons in the comments, too!)

Confession #1:  I would never have found my house searching in what I thought was my price range. 
I started my house hunt pretty clear on what price range I should be searching in, based on what I could afford and how much my lender said I was qualified to borrow. Then, as buyers are wont to do, I began to inch my search price range upwards, looking at homes listed above what I could afford in hopes that I could find a higher-priced (read: better) home, then negotiate my way back down to my target price range.   

In one way, this strategy worked: tweaking my price range upward opened up a number of new properties that I’d never seen before. Unfortunately, the market climate was then very similar to what it’s like now - in my area, it was very common, at the time, for the better homes to get somewhere between 3 and 10 offers. So, I would make an offer on a listing priced slightly above my max, and not only could I not bring the seller down, the home would actually sell for more than it was listed for.

In the end, I tweaked my home search price range a bit below where I’d been looking before, and voila - that opened up lots of new properties, too. But these were properties where I could be very competitive, even against other buyers, at offer prices well within what was affordable to me. One of these lower-priced homes, in fact, turned out to become my home.

The upshot: 
If property pickings seem slim, tweak the price range you’re using to search for homes - in both directions.

Confession #2:   I had to learn to walk a fine emotional line.  
Here’s the deal - at the time, my home was the biggest purchase I had ever made - by far. I was a lawyer, so I’d worked on some major transactions, but still - we were talking about the place where I’d live every day, the place for which I’d be writing what then seemed like a whopping check every month, the place where my kids would grow up, for Pete’s sake! So, I wanted to get it right, like every first-time buyer does.

At first, I did not want to even consider making an offer on a place unless I found everything about it to be utterly breathtaking. I mean, I wanted the place to literally sweep me off my feet, sing me a love song and woo me with rose petals before I’d even give it the time of day.

And I saw homes that did - they seemed perfect. To me and, apparently, to every other buyer in the greater East Bay area, that is: the places I loved beyond all reason ended up being the subject of 10, 15, even 18 offers.

At the same time, my agent showed me this dumpy little house that just did not do it for me. Someone from another era and with a decidedly different design aesthetic than mine had lived there, for sure: there were actually rooms wallpapered - wallpapered! - with roses, bows and kittens. And there was what I liked to call “puke green” shag carpet all over the place. But the layout and neighborhood were nice, it had panoramic Bay Views and hints of hardwood could be seen in the closets.  

But my agent showed me this place at least three times, and at some point, something clicked in my head. I started to be able to visualize how things *could* be in that home, after some work. Eventually, I bought this house -  because it showed so poorly, as a listing, I had zero competition and was able to get it for a song. (It’s the Bay Area, so it was a big, long song, but much less than I’d expected to spend.)

And even more eventually, it became more beautiful and much lovelier to live in than I’d ever imagined it could. But that only happened after much more work, much more money and much more time than I’d ever expected. Without the vision for what could be, I’d have certainly gotten discouraged at some point along the way.

So, yes - it is important to fall in love, before you pull the home buying trigger. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be with the property in precisely its present condition. Ultimately, I realized that your love for either the home or for your vision of the life you could realistically live in that home someday are equally solid foundations for making an offer on a property. At the same time, I learned, it is foolhardy and exhausting to get so emotionally attached to a home that you overextend yourself trying to get it, or have a hard time moving on to the next listing if you are ouitbid.  

It’s a fine emotional line, but one that you have to learn to walk.

The upshot:  
Don’t make an offer unless you’re excited about the home - as it is now, or as it could be. But don’t get too excited until after you’re in contract and past the inspections and appraisal.

Confession #3:  A “free” agent is the most effective sort. 
Allow me to be frank: I’ve been called bossy. I know what I like, what I don’t like and how to get it - in every sort of situation. I know the keywords that have proven success getting me exactly what I want from every vendor: from the tailor to the vet to the over-the-phone order taker at my favorite Vietnamese restaurant (“A number 64, please; no tomatoes - pause while they find the “no tomatoes” button; no onions - pause while they find the “no onions” button; substitute shrimp for the tofu.  Thanks!”)

Here’s what I found out: buying a home is simply not like placing an order. And working with a real estate agent is not like working with any other sort of salesperson. Rather, working with a great agent is like a hybrid experience of working with an expert salesperson who intimately knows their inventory and the ins-and-outs of how to make a deal, and working with an expert advisor like a CPA or an attorney, who you pay specifically for their advice, insight and expertise at complex topics that you know little or nothing about.

My agent showed me that little ugly kitty wallpapered house first. Then he showed me the places I wanted to see, we made offers, and I didn’t get any of them.  Then he showed me the puke green carpeted house again.  And then again.  And eventually, I could see what he saw: the massive untapped value. The huge potential. The sound investment and the great place to live that this home ultimately represented for my family.

And so it was that I learned this: if you trust your agent, give them the freedom to show you things that may not fit inside the little, precisely defined box of what you think you want. I’ll go even further - give your agent the freedom to show you things that you don’t think you’d like. Then have a dialogue: ask them to help you see what they see - ask them to make the case for why you should consider the property.  And stay open to seeing things through their eyes - that sort of flexibility can open up whole new realms of possibilities and properties.  (And if you don’t trust your agent, you’re just working with the wrong one. There are plenty out there worthy of your trust.)

The upshot:  
Stay as flexible as you can, as long as you can. Keep your deal-breakers and must-haves to a minimum to get maximum benefit from your agent’s expertise.

Confession #4: I didn’t do my due diligence.  
Now, I was no idiot: I went to all the inspections, read all the reports, asked all the questions. Yet and still, I missed things - a couple of big things.  I’d been told my new home, which was in an unincorporated area between two towns, was in the school district of the closest town - which was a very desirable district. But I didn’t actually call the district to verify this and, as a result, my kids spent a year taking two buses to get to the not-so-great schools of the district we were actually in before I pulled them out and spent a small fortune on private schooling for a number of years.

Further, as I became friendly with the neighbors after I moved in, they asked me how I’d felt about the “tragedy” that had taken place in the property before I moved in, and expressed admiration for my bravery at buying the place. I had no idea what they were talking about, did some digging and found that someone had tragically killed themselves in the home not long before I bought it.

Were these lapses in the legally required disclosures?  You bet: the seller absolutely had a legal obligation to make accurate and complete disclosures on both these points, and didn’t. More importantly, though, these were both things that I could have uncovered quickly myself by simply calling the school district and doing an online Google search for the property’s address (the unfortunate death had been covered in the news which was just starting to be available online). And I didn’t. But that was the last time I ever made those mistakes!

The upshot: 
Hire the pros for your inspections and such, but ultimately, due diligence is a dish best served DIY (do it yourself).

Confession #5: I didn’t know what was really important to me.  
I thought square footage, good views, safety and quiet were all criticaI. I insisted those items were deal breakers - and got them. I also wanted a big yard for the kids, fantastic views and a good commute to a wide variety of areas, but these were a little lower down on my priority list.

In retrospect, I can say that I definitely missed the mark on a number of other things. I thought a safe, quiet neighborhood was great - something off the beaten path. I thought an area with no rowdy school kids around would be ideal for the serenity I sought. So, I bought a home in a neighborhood filled with retired couples, some of whom I still count as dear friends, high on a hilltop with stunning views. I thought I’d be so delighted to take my kids and dog to the park to play that I’d rather have lovely views than a backyard.

Unfortunately, “off the beaten path” translated to “really far from the nearest Trader Joe’s.” And no noisy kids meant that my own kids had no neighborhood friends. Before we even made it to the next autumn, the aging population cause the powers that be to shutter the nearest schools, so we had to bus the kids two towns over to get to our “local” elementary school. And before long, I started my own business, having zero time to take kids or canine to the park, so all of my little monsters spent much more time indoors than I would have liked.

Needless to say, my next home was on a quiet street, just a few blocks away from a bustling shopping district, near the kids’ school - and it had a big backyard, a much more diverse age mix of neighbors and a dog park at the end of the block.

The upshot:  
Cultivate clarity about your vision for your life, rather than just the specs of the home you think you want, before you start your house hunt.

The other upshot:  
Whatever you dislike about your home (and there will be something) you’ll have a chance to correct the next go-round.

All: What lessons would you like to share with those buying a home for the first time around?  Fess up!
Ready to get started with your Asheville Area home search and talk through the process with a savvy agent? Give The Puffer Team a call, 828-771-2300, or visit our website,

Sunday, October 14, 2012

10 Things That Make a Home a Good Home

Are you looking to buy a home in the Asheville area?  Here are some great tips to get you through the initial thought process.  (source)
Buyers spend a lot of time looking at properties online, touring homes on the Sunday open house circuit, and talking to their real estate agent. They’re laser-focused on finding the best home that meets their needs. The problem is, buyers sometimes don’t take the long view of a property. They’re only looking at a home as a potential buyer — and not as someone who, years down the road, may also have to sell the property. Given that homes are such a big investment, there should be a little inside your head, picking away at your options and decisions.
As the home buying market starts to heat up again, here are ten things you should consider when choosing your next home.

1. Location, location, location

Perhaps nothing is more important than the three L’s, and there’s a reason why it’s said three times.
Location is extremely important when it comes time to sell. You can have the worst house in the world with the ugliest kitchen and bath. But put it on a great block or in a good school district, and your home will be coveted.

Location location location matters on so many different levels. At the highest level is the town where the house is located, then the school district, then the neighborhood and the block — right down to the location of the lot on the block. Keep all of this in mind when shopping. Also remember that while real estate markets rise and fall, no one can take a great location away from you.

2. The school district

The school district is right up there on the list of what’s most important to many buyers. It’s not uncommon for buyers to start their search based solely on the school district they want to be in. Parents want their kids to go to the best school, which can drive up prices of homes in those districts. Even though you might not have children, buying a home in a good school district is always smart. If the schools are desirable, homes tend to hold their value. As a homeowner, you should always be aware of how the schools are doing, not unlike being aware of your roof’s condition, the neighborhood development or city government.

3. The home’s position on the lot

Where the home sits on the lot in relation to the street or the overgrown oak are key elements in picking out a home. In the case of a condo, an end unit vs. an interior unit is a key consideration. You may have chosen the most beautifully renovated home in the best school district and figure all is good. But if the main living areas are shaded by a neighbor’s extension or the master bedroom looks into the neighbors’ family room, you may have a location problem. Light or privacy may not be a hot button for you, but chances are, they might be concerns for a future buyer.

4. Crime

It’s a good idea to check the latest crime figures for a neighborhood. It can give you a good snapshot about the number and severity of crimes over a time period. So much information is online nowadays that when you find your perfect home, a quick Internet search on the area should provide you with the much-needed information.

Most municipalities post their police blotters or crime statistics online these days.  Don’t freak out if you notice more crime than what you’d have expected. Crime, especially petty crime, is everywhere. If you’re new to the area, consult with your real estate agent if you have concerns.

5. Walkability

More than ever, ‘walkability’ is becoming a key factor in the search process.  There are entire websites, apps and algorithms that help people figure out how walkable their future home is. As a matter of fact, Zillow even has a Walk Score for most homes.  As people get out of their cars and slip into their Keds, they want a home in a walkable neighborhood. People put high value on the ability to walk to a store, school, work or public transportation.  The more we move away from cars and the more we see invested in public transportation over the coming decades, the more of a huge value-add walkability will become.

6. The neighborhood’s character

You may have found the absolute most perfect home, on the best block, in the best school district and on a great lot. But there could be circumstances outside your control that may give you pause — specifically, the character of the surrounding neighborhood.

Check out the area late at night, early morning and in the middle of the day. See if there are any odd weather or traffic patterns and try to observe some of the neighbors. You may even go so far as talking to some neighbors. It’s important to walk around, open your eyes and ears and make sure there isn’t anything you’re overlooking. That next-door neighbor practicing drums in the garage at 9 p.m. could be a source of immediate neighbor conflict. Go into it with eyes wide open.

7. Don’t buy the best house on the block

Simply put, avoid buying the best house on the block because there may not be any room for your investment to grow (unless you physically have the house moved to a better neighborhood). It’s better to buy the worst house on the best block, because you can improve the house to add value to an already great location.

8. Is it a fixer-upper?

If you’re buying a fixer-upper, make sure you understand what you’re getting into.  Did you set out to buy a home that needed work? Or does the home just happen to be in the most desirable neighborhood, the block of your dreams?

Do your homework upfront. If you want to build an extension or add another story to the property, make sure it is within local zoning or building codes. Have the property inspected so that you know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. Sometimes, what appears to be a simple kitchen needing cosmetic work turns out to be a huge project. Ask yourself repeatedly if your life can support a home renovation. Not only does a renovation take money, it takes time, energy and emotional stress.

9. Will the home hold its value?

A good real estate agent who’s been working the neighborhood for some time can vouch for the long-term value or investment potential of the property. But be sure to find ways to add value, or at least be certain the home will hold its value.

The market may be strong when you purchase, but ask yourself, “Am I in a seller’s market?” “What would happen to this property if the market changed tomorrow”? Check out the median home value in the neighborhood as it compares to neighborhoods around it. The Zillow Home Value Index gives you one, five, and 10-year snapshots of how home values have gone up or down in neighborhoods and cities.

10. Taxes, dues and fees

Many people overlook the monthly fees associated with homeownership. Nearly every property will have taxes, and any sort of planned community or homeowners association (HOA) will have regular assessments.
Be sure that the amount of property tax and assessments are clear from the get-go. If in doubt, go to city hall or do research online. If you’d be buying into a condo complex, be sure to get your hands on the meeting minutes, financials of the HOA and the condo documents. Any mention of changes coming down the pike? Does the HOA seem well funded? It could take one quick $10K assessment to immediately affect property values if you need to turn around and sell your new home. And any uncertainty about the building, its integrity or the financials could scare off buyers when it’s time to sell.

Ready to discuss the home buying process with a buyer's agent?  Call The Puffer Team today, 828-771-2300, or visit our website,

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Buying an Asheville Area Foreclosure? Watch Out for These 5 Landmines


These are trying times for many homeowners. Walk away from a mortgage? Something that was unthinkable and morally offensive 10 years ago is now an option many people are choosing. Home foreclosed? Some people who’ve lost their homes to the bank are stripping the property bare, hoping to sell the appliances to recoup at least some money.

As you might expect, buying a foreclosed home comes with opportunities — and certain challenges. Here are five potential landmines to look out for when buying a foreclosed property.

The process is highly impersonal

With a foreclosure, you’re not buying the house directly from the person who lived there. You’re buying it from the bank that foreclosed on the previous owner. And in the bank’s mind, the property is simply an asset it needs to get off its books. The bank doesn’t see it as a place to live or where someone raised a family or even where you’ll potentially raise a family and make memories.

Because you’re dealing with a bank, not an individual homeowner, be prepared to wait for a few days, if not weeks, for a response. Don’t think about writing a cute note or introducing yourself directly or through your real estate agent. For the most part, the bank’s agent doesn’t even show the contract, the pre-approval letter or any of the offer pieces to the bank. Instead, the bank’s agent inputs the data into a website or piece of software. The asset manager — the bank’s seller of the property, in other words — simply sees the bottom line number. For the bank, it’s just a numbers game. Are you getting the sense that this will be a highly impersonal process?

Don’t expect disclosures

REO stands for “real estate owned.” An REO property is one owned by a bank after going through the foreclosure process.

In an REO sale, there aren’t any disclosures. You won’t have any knowledge of the previous seller’s experience. If there’s not a seller on hand to answer questions about the home and the neighborhood, you’re going into the foreclosure sale blindly. So it’s important to do the most due diligence possible. This may require going to the city’s building department to check past permits and records and to double- and triple-check the preliminary title report.

Bottom line: Work with your buyer’s agent to learn as much as possible about the home and the neighborhood. If the property sold in the past five years, your agent may be able to obtain past disclosures.

Prepare to see homes stripped bare

A multi-million dollar home was once foreclosed on in San Francisco’s Castro neighborhood. Before the seller left, he removed every appliance and expensive light fixture as well as the majority of faucets.

Some homeowners may have struggled to keep the property or even attempted to sell as a short sale, but the bank wouldn’t cooperate. The homeowner may have hard feelings toward the bank and therefore might felt justified damaging the property before leaving. Ultimately, this will hurt the home’s value. You, as the buyer, will be responsible for any fixes. And you should account for any missing fixtures and features in your offer.

Don’t expect the bank to give you credits or fix things

Your offer and the likely discounted list price (discounted from similar comps nearby) should already account for the risk you’re taking on an “as is” property. There won’t be a disclosure about a leaky window or the broken water heater from last year or the outlet in the kitchen that’s not working correctly.

As a buyer, your contract will allow you to have an inspection, so get the biggest and best inspection you can possibly have. If you can get your hands on an old inspection report, review that prior to making your offer.
For example, prior to a home going into foreclosure, the seller had a buyer lined up. The home was to be sold in a short sale. The inspections came up with too many issues, and the buyer walked away. Through the real estate community, the agent representing a potential buyer of the property after it had been foreclosed upon got her hands on the old inspection report. She gave the report to her client, saving him a lot of time and money.

The bank will have its own processes

The bank usually won’t use the local contract from the board of Realtors. Nor will the bank follow any of the norms, processes or mores that are standard in the local real estate community. Instead, the bank will have its own contract that protects its interests. This contract will be followed by dozens of pages protecting the bank from future lawsuits, referring to the sale as “as-is” and putting nearly all the burden on you, the buyer. The bank won’t allow the property to transfer unless it is done this way. In some states, if the bank requires the buyer to use a particular title company, then the bank would be required to pay the buyer’s premium on the title insurance. This could translate into huge savings for the buyer.

To sum up: There are many tempting deals out there among foreclosed homes. You should absolutely consider them — but make sure you’re not getting less than you bargained for.


Would you like to meet with an agent to discuss the process of buying a foreclosure?  Give The Puffer Team a call today, 828-771-2300.  Feel free to also visit our website,

Friday, October 12, 2012

What You Can Get for $500K Or Less In The Asheville Area

Each week, TODAY real estate expert Barbara Corcoran looks around the U.S. to see what homebuyers can get for their money.

This week’s search goes from Arizona to Portland, Ore., in search of truly unique properties you can get the keys to for $500,000 or less.

Check out what's available in the Asheville Area for $500K or Less.

What price range are you looking in?  Give The Puffer Team a call today to discuss what's available, 828-771-2300, or visit our website,

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What To Expect When You're Inspecting Your Asheville Area Home

There is a lot that goes into the home buying process, aside from getting the mortgage, feeling comfortable about the condition of a home is an important step, home inspections are usually at the forefront of the process.  Below is a great article about inspections and what you should expect through the process.

If you’re a first-time buyer who just nabbed your first place, you’re likely in one of the scarier places in the real estate transaction. After weeks or months of looking, your new home is becoming a reality.
But before you can pick out the paint colors and decide how you’ll redo the basement, the property needs to be inspected.

Here’s a guide to the roles and responsibilities each of the players has during a typical property inspection.

You, the buyer

You’re there to learn as much about the property as possible. But you should have already done your homework before the big day.

Prior to the inspection, review the seller’s property disclosures and know up front what questions you have for the inspector. Things may have come up during the marketing or during a walk-through that concerned you. Or maybe the seller disclosed that some unpermitted work was done in the basement years ago. Before you release your inspection contingency, know exactly what you’re getting into and that there aren’t any surprises down the road.

Block out a few hours on the day of the inspection, depending on the size of the home. Nearly everyone from the transaction will be present, and these few hours can be critical. Most inspections go smoothly, but some can be the beginning of tough negotiations.

The buyer’s agent

Your agent should be standing by your side to walk you through the inspection once it is complete. Good agents have been through dozens of inspections and know how they work. They should have basic knowledge of what to look for, but we rely on inspectors for their expert opinion.  Most importantly, they know what’s important and what matters in the big picture. If you’re getting a really good price on the home, your agent would likely advise you not to bother the seller for small fixes. If you’re paying top dollar and discover serious flaws, your agent can guide you on how to best proceed after the inspection.

The inspector

As the buyer, you hire the property inspector, who should be licensed by the state. You sign an agreement with and pay the inspector. Most buyers get a referral for an inspector from their real estate agent.
The inspector is not a contractor, though some inspectors were contractors in their previous careers. While they may be able to shed light on what you can or can’t do to a property and its potential costs, their main purpose is to inspect the property, its systems and the overall state of the home.

A good inspector will remain impartial and not be an alarmist, though they will point out things to be addressed. The inspector isn’t a part of the transaction and shouldn’t get into the nitty-gritty of your deal, nor would they want to.

The inspector should look around, make notes and provide you with a detailed report as well as some feedback on future maintenance. Be sure to walk through the property with the inspector. Whenever possible, go where the inspector goes. Get on the roof, go into the basement, venture into the crawlspace. It will be helpful for the inspector to point things out to you in real-time and demonstrate where the systems are and how they work. Also, some things are better understood in person than read about in a report later.

Your "Uncle Bob"

Finally, it’s important to understand why having "Uncle Bob" on hand during the inspection isn’t necessarily a good idea. While it may seem logical to bring a relative or close friend who is a contractor, be mindful that these people aren’t licensed property inspectors. Sometimes, the most well-intended people can end up causing harmful consequences. "Uncle Bob" may feel it’s important to point out as many negative things as possible, just to seem helpful. He’s far from impartial, however, and you run the risk of raising red flags when they don’t need to be.

Time for a huddle

After the inspection, you and your agent will likely huddle to talk about what went on and to strategize next steps. Hopefully, the inspection was flawless and you are one step closer to picking out your new paint colors.

Or some additional negotiations may be needed after the inspection.
Either way, it helps to know what to expect going in and to be prepared for anything.
Are you ready to begin the home buying process?  Give The Puffer Team a call, 828-771-2300, we have a team of Buyer Specialists ready to assist you.  Feel free to also visit our website,

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Bob Vila’s 5 ‘Must-Do’ Projects for October

Home updates aren't just for spring time, check out this great article to see what you can do to prepare your Asheville Area home for fall/winter. (source)

By Bob Vila
If the calendar hasn’t convinced you of autumn’s arrival, the cooler temps and falling leaves no doubt have. It won’t be long before the thermostat will need to be inched up, and the lawn furniture will have to get cleaned, covered and stored for the winter. This is the month to finish your Fall Home Maintenance Checklist (and even tackle some weekend projects). But don’t let the time pass without enjoying the simple pleasures of the season, from leaf peeping and apple picking to every kid’s favorite — Halloween. Here are my 5 “Must-Do” Projects for October.

Keep the home fires burning

Since the cost of heating accounts for nearly 50 percent of your home’s energy costs, it’s important to do everything you can to make certain that your home is weathertight and that your furnace is operating at peak performance. In short, reduce home heating costs. Sealing drafts around windows and doors and installing sufficient insulation, particularly in the attic, are two economical ways to keep your indoor temperatures and energy costs in line. Having your heating system checked by a licensed contractor is a smart fall habit. Heating systems, no matter the fuel, will work more efficiently, last longer and have fewer problems if properly serviced. At the very least, make certain the filter is cleaned or replaced.
If you have a wood- or gas-burning fireplace, insert or stove, make certain it is in good working condition. Examine door gaskets for a tight seal, inspect the glass for cracks and if the unit is equipped with a blower, make sure the unit is clean and operating smoothly. If you have a wood-burning fireplace, be sure to have the chimney cleaned by a professional.
Lastly, put your ceiling fan to work year-round. By changing the direction of your fan in the winter, you can recirculate the warm air near the ceiling to where it is needed most. Don’t have a ceiling fan? You’re likely to find a great end-of-season bargain in stores now.

Plant some spring bulbs

For gardeners in areas where the weather has cooled, it’s time to plant bulbs for spring tulips and daffodils. Bulbs are nature’s perfect packages, having all they need to grow inside. All they require is a bright, sunny location and a little soil preparation. The best blooms start with loose soil and a few inches of well-aged compost mixed in. Tulips and daffodils should go in 6 inches deep and 6 inches apart. Remember to examine the bulbs before tucking them in — don’t bother using ones that feel squishy or dried out. You can plant through the last week of November, although some gardeners don’t stop until the ground is completely frozen!

Tackle a weekend project

This is a great time to tackle a weekend project. Since adequate storage is every homeowner’s biggest complaint, consider building a bookshelf. It is one of the most basic DIY projects imaginable, and one that offers the greatest flexibility in terms of design, materials, tools and level of skill. We discovered five “Make in a Weekend” Bookshelf Projects constructed of everything from pipe fittings and cinder blocks to shipping pallets. And if you happen to be in possession of a shipping pallet or two, there are many other ways to upcycle them into innovative desks, daybeds, plate racks, kitchen islands and more.

Ready the yard for winter

This is the month to drain fuel from all gas-operated equipment, such as lawn mowers, leaf blowers and chain saws. Cover and store outdoor furniture and barbecues in a protected area. Make sure all soil is emptied from pots, containers and planters (dirt left in clay pots outside will freeze and cause the pots to crack). Disconnect and store garden hoses. If your home has a separate shut-off for external faucets, turn it off and drain the water from those faucets. If you have a sprinkler system, you may want to call in a professional company to blow out any leftover water in the underground lines. Finally, check to see that all of your snow equipment is close at hand and ready to be put into service. That includes snow blowers as well as shovels and roof rakes.

Do something fun with the kids

In addition to figuring out the scariest, coolest or most innovative costume for Halloween, this is the time to get creative with some pumpkin carving DIY. Have fun experimenting with concepts and techniques, from drilling and etching to stenciling and old-fashioned carving. Not only is this a great family endeavor, it’s a good way to familiarize the kids with basic tools and safety. And remember, even a pumpkin in its natural state can add some beautiful seasonal decoration to a front porch or mantel.

Is your home market ready?  Call The Puffer Team today for a free market analysis, 828-771-2300, or visit our website,

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

7 To-Dos to Make Your Dream Home Come True


In 1750, Samuel Johnson wrote that “to be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition.”  And there’s truth to this; for most Americans, our homes are our launch pads for being and doing our best in the world, and the places where we live out our most precious, private moments. So, if you follow our most important dreams to their logical conclusions, they almost all boil down to having a happy home, where we and our families can thrive and enjoy happy, secure lives.

Fortunately, dreams do come true - and dream homes can become reality. Here is a short list of musts for developing the vision, strategy, commitment and effort it will take to make your dream home your actual home.

1.  Know what a dream home is - and is not.  Like anything else in life, you can’t realize your dream home if you don’t know what it is - and isn’t, definitionally. For purposes of this conversation, our definition of a dream home is closely related to our aspirations and our visions in a couple of key ways. Aspirationally, dream homes take some work and effort to achieve - they aren’t usually handed to us on a silver platter.  

And our dream homes are related to our holistic visions for our lives, as well. By that I just mean that our dreams of home are less about owning a particular building, and more about creating a vision for our whole life as it will be impacted by our choice of home. We want a home that will allow our children to flourish, that is safely located, that allows us to personalize it and either does or doesn’t require much work, depending on our personal preferences. By the same token, our dream home is also one that doesn’t create problems for our lives or prevent us from doing the things we want and need to do.  

If a given home is beautiful, but owning it requires us to work overtime at a job we hate, causes relationship problems, or simply requires too much repair or work for the time and resources we have, then that home is - by definition - not our dream home.

Here are some other concepts of home that are often confused for dream homes, but don’ fit the bill. Your dream home should not be defined by:
  • the over-the-top fantasy mansion you saw on TV (if it’s bizarrely unattainable, in other words, it’s a fantasy home - not a dream home)
  • some antiquated notion of the biggest, flashiest home with the most amenities
  • the most expensive home you can afford
  • your mother’s, sister’s or best friend’s dream home.

Understanding what makes for a dream home - and what doesn’t - can help you avoid the common pitfalls of being upset when your dollar doesn’t stretch to get you a home like the one you saw on Million Dollar Listing, overextending yourself, or assuming that the types of homes your friends and relatives think are ideal for you are the same as your dream home. While they might overlap, they don’t always - and trying to fulfill someone else’s idea of what your dream home should be is the fastest way to create a nightmare home buying experience.

2.  Get and stay clear on your personal vision. There are various tools you can use to create a clear vision of your dream home, to avoid the above pitfalls. The most important of these is to sit in a still and quiet place and literally start writing down what you want your life to look like after you’re in the home of your dreams.

Don’t start with the technical characteristics of the building: you’ll get there soon enough, and the reality is that your co-buyer’s wants and needs, your budgetary limitations and the inventory available on your local market at the time will all impact the granular details of the property you end up with.

Instead, start with big picture life objectives, like who lives with you; what activities everyone does in the home that may require dedicated nooks, crannies, whole rooms or outbuildings; where and how much you work (at home? 3 towns away? around the clock?); how you get there and home every day; and what you do in your down time - be it hiking, home fixing, entertaining or strolling to the corner cafe.

3.  “Be stubborn on the vision and flexible on the details.”  Amazon founder Jeff Bezos delivered this one-liner in explaining his philosophy of creative problem-solving. And it applies just as powerfully to the creativity that is essential when hunting for your dream home. Compromise is unavoidable. Whether you’re spending $25,000 or $2.5 million on your next home, you will be required to compromise in order to reconcile your dream with your financials, the dreams of any co-buyers you have and realities of the real estate market, the inventory of available homes and geographic and other realities.

You may want a water view, but your wife wants to walk to the shops - and no home exists with both of those things. Or maybe you want to keep your payment below $2,500 per month, but you also want to buy a move-in ready home in The Best School District Ever. And all of those things are simply not possible with the down payment money you have in hand.

Bottom line: you’ll need to be somewhat flexible on the precise specs of the home you end up in as your ‘dream’ home - and the only way to do this is to ensure that you know what your whole-life vision is. Once you have your vision of life/home document ready,
then you can get granular about the number of bedrooms, bathrooms and square feet you need, as well as location specifics, brushing your absolute must-haves and absolute deal-breakers in the most minimalistic of strokes.

Adopting this Amazon-style ‘flexibility on the details’ empowers your experienced local agent/partner to suggest creative solutions for homes that will allow you to create the happy home life you’re trying to achieve, despite the circumstantial limitations.

In any event, hold onto your vision of life vis-a-vis your home journaling document for later. If you end up in contract on a home and have second thoughts, it’s a powerful document to revisit before you finalize the deal, to make sure the inevitable compromises haven’t completely wiped out all traces of the life you hoped to create in this dream home.

4.  Communicate your dream vividly to those who need to know.  A frequently expressed dilemma of wanna-be dream home buyers is that their agent is not showing them homes that fit the bill. In my experience, this issue often arises when buyers’ champagne tastes and beer budgets don’t align, and their agent is trying hard to show them the best they can afford, but it still disappoints.

To make sure that you are communicating your vision and dream to your agent with crystal clarity, consider doing some or all of the following:
  • Send your agent the Trulia listings for homes that reflect features of your dream home - or the whole enchilada, if you can find it.
  • Attend Open Houses and save flyers of homes months, even years, before you start house hunting in earnest, to share what you loved about them with your agent when the time is right.
  • Ask your agent to show you at least one home that reflects what they *think* you want in your dream home - regardless of price. You might be stunned and astonished at what your dream home really costs, but the experience can help you manage your own mindset, and expectations, back into the realm of reality.

5.  Mind your business.  Dreams may seem fluffy and soft, but the dream of a home is one which requires you to click into hard-core numbers mode in order to make things happen. Don’t fall into the trap of fixating on images of wainscoting and tree-lined streets until your money matters have been fully handled. I’m often surprised at how many buyers believe their dream home is just out of their financial reach, but have so much fat that can still be cut from their monthly budgets: money they spend on things they would say are much lower than their home on their priority list.

Sit down and comb through your existing spending patterns with a fine-tooth comb and ask yourself whether your fantasy football habit is truly more or less important than getting closer to affording the home of your dreams. Talk with a financial planner and your mortgage broker about putting an action plan in place to eliminate bills that are impacting your ability to afford and/or qualify for your target type of home. Get clear, in your own household and spending plan, on what you can truly afford to spend on housing every month, versus looking to your mortgage broker to tell you what you can afford.

Making your dream home come true involves some heavy duty bookkeeping and an intense commitment to managing your finances in a way that lines up with your values.

6.  Get uncomfortable. Being a grown-up is full of paradoxes, isn’t it? A few of my faves:
  • Living an easy life takes a lot of hard work.
  • With fashion and food, often less really is more.
  • I get younger and younger with every day that passes. (Humor me, please.)

Here’s one more to keep in mind as you pursue your dream home: creating a comfortable home might require you to do some uncomfortable things. Writing - and sticking to - a spending plan, is one. Reading eye-glazing contracts and hundreds of  pages of uber-boring HOA disclosures is another.  Having frank conversations with your partner, negotiating, managing your emotions around affordability and the like - there are loads of uncomfortable moments that take place in and around the process of buying your home.

These discomforts are temporary. But avoiding these uncomfortable moments can get you into some long-term un-dreamy drama: surprise HOA special assessments, a decade of living in a home you (or your partner) truly despises and years of living paycheck-to-paycheck from having overextended yourself are a few that come to mind.

So, dive on into being uncomfortable for this short period of time, with the knowledge that doing so will set you up for long-term success in your dream home.

7.  Know the difference between your vision for “this” dream home, and your long-term vision.  The home you buy now might not be your forever home. It’s essential that you feel comfortable with the prospect of staying put for at least 5-7 years before you buy, in most areas. But don’t feel like this home must have every feature you’ll ever want to have in a home. Especially if you’re buying your first home, the reality is that you’ll likely move up several times in your future, as your career, earnings and savings grow over time.

Also, if your ‘dream’ home features list is particularly aggressive and/or your budget is particularly tight for your area, you might have to exercise serious visionary powers to visualize how you can develop the home you can currently afford into your dream home over time. Focus on location, expandability, and these other characteristics of a hidden gem of a home, and find someplace that is livable right now, but has the potential, with your hard work, to become the home of your dreams down the road.

So tell us, have you scored your dream home? If you're still on the hunt, what's on your short list of features that makes a home your family's ideal?

Call The Puffer Team today to begin searching for your dream  home, 828-771-2300, or begin your search online,