Defining Homes • Timing is everything

All signs point to now as the right time to buy

palm-beach-real-estate-sold— Rich Lopez

The ironic bit of this troubled economy is that this is an advantageous time to buy a home. A huge purchase doesn’t seem wise in the air of unemployment, higher prices and an unstable stock market. But by all appearances, housing prices are going down while everything else goes up.

“It’s like our parents used to spend 10 to18 percent and now, rates are now at 4 percent and lower,” Realtor Sandy Maltese says.

Last month, the Primary Mortgage Market Survey set a record low with a 4 percent rate for a 30-year mortgage and 3.28 percent for 15-year fixed-rate mortgages. Maltese urges contemplative buyers to act now.

“Payments can be so much lower right now and rents are rising,” she says.

Maltese and her group, DFW Urban Realty, work with many properties in the Oak Lawn/Uptown area. With many rental properties throughout, renting has been cheaper than buying. Where sellers unintentionally become landlords, rents rise so owners can afford to keep paying on the property.

“People can either downsize to fit into a rental space or can afford to buy,” she says.
Realtor Derrick Dawson agrees.

“Most people don’t realize they qualify to own their own home,” the Texas Pride Realty agent says. “I’d encourage anyone interested in owning a home to seek a lender today and find out if they qualify. It is free to do.”

In the Sept. 29 article “Good Time to Lock in a 30-Year Fixed Home Mortgage Rate?”, the International Business Times advised to evaluate the probability of a rising fixed mortgage rate to its decline probability.

The piece points out that historically, upside risk is higher than downside gain which should encourage buyers for nailing a fixed rate now.

Maltese points out that initiative is what’s needed. Qualifying for financing is crucial , but after that, then comes the nerve to plunge in now to lock in a low rate and have a home sweet home.

“Here in Dallas, I say give it a shot,” she asserts. “If a property, especially a foreclosure, is marked low, there will be  offers for it quick. If you’re paying cash, you jump to the front of the line, but that’s not always the case. At the very least, show up and try.”

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This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 7, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Little crooked house • Defining Homes

Don’t get tripped up on uneven floors before buying that new home

By M. ­­M. Adjarian

After a long stretch of searching, finding that perfect house is not only a relief, it’s a glimpse into a whole new future. When the pieces fall together, such as location, price and a great neighborhood, you might pinch yourself thinking “Is this too good to be true?” The idealism in it’s close proximity to work, school, shopping and the big yard for the dogs is shaded by beautiful trees might give the impression that this really is home sweet home.

But you keep hitting your foot on that little bump in the floor. Before you think it’s just the character of the house, give it another look and then have a professional take a gander. There could be more to that misstep than you think.

“If there is unevenness in the beginning,” Brian Mulvehill warns, “between heat and contraction and all other issues, it’s only going to get worse over time.”

As the Fort Worth-based owner of Carpet Direct, Mulvehill knows his floors, and uneven ones can slip through the buying process if one doesn’t take a close eye to the walk-throughs. For instance take a look at where the floor meets the baseboard and if you see gaps; those will indicate uneven floors.

Once a floor starts to warp, one of two things will eventually happen. The floor will either pull away from the house walls or start pushing against them. Neither scenario is especially desirable, but when the floor pushes against the walls, it’s also pushing against molding and drywall, which could get messy — and expensive.

“Once drywall starts to crack, or moisture gets into the drywall, then you’ve got big structural issues,” says Mulvehill.

Regardless of whether the flooring is wood, tile, laminate or carpet, warping problems usually have to do with the installation — something to which a potential homebuyer will not have been privy. Reputable installers should be licensed and come with a good reputation and references. That person should always check the slab or sub-floor before laying any material on top of it. A problem with either indicates a need for structural rebuilding, which could cost thousands of dollars. More typically, though, the problem will arise from the quality of the materials actually used.

“One of the big things a buyer should know is [to] ask the potential home seller what the floor is made of,” advises Mulvehill.

He notes that if the floor is made from cheaper imported wood, chances are that’s why it’s uneven. “You can take a plank out of a box coming in from China, and just twist it. It will actually warp in your hand.”

If faulty building materials are to blame for uneven floors, a potential homebuyer could have them repaired through a procedure called floating,which usually runs about $200 per 1,000 square feet floated. A contractor will pour concrete-like material under the affected areas to raise them up so they are level with the rest of the floor.

So exactly how can a homebuyer tell whether floors are level are to begin with?

“It might sound crazy,” says Mulvehill, “but just get down on one side of the floor and just look across.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition of Defining Homes Magazine October 8, 2010.

—  Michael Stephens