With Terry Story, a 31-year veteran with Keller Williams located in Boca Raton, FL
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In this week’s Real Estate Roundup with Terry Story, the 31-year veteran with Keller Williams Realty in Boca Raton, Steve asked Terry to field some real estate questions he got from an article written by Gary Singer for the Sun Sentinel. Steve and Terry also discussed the age-old question of renting versus buying a home.
Dealing With Contractors
Steve’s first question to Terry was about dealing with contractors. Here’s the question:” In the middle of a major renovation, my contractor disappeared, leaving the work half done. I already paid her for most of the work. What should I do?”
Terry’s answer was, “It’s not about what you should do—‘cause, oh, boy, you’re in trouble now—it’s about what you should have done before you signed a contract. There’s not a whole lot you can do now except sue, if you can find them. What you should do first is some research, check them out with the Better Business Bureau. Make sure they’re licensed.”
Steve brought up an important point from Gary’s article, one that a lot of people may not be aware of. “If the contractor hasn’t paid the subcontractors, the subcontractors are going to come after you. And according to this article, you have to pay them, even though you’ve already paid the general contractor.” Terry gave listeners some good advice on how to avoid that situation. She said, “It’s really important before you pay the contractor the final sum, talk to the subcontractors, ask them ‘Hey, have you been paid? Are you being paid?’”
Issues With Emotional Support Animals
Steve’s next question had to do with people who have emotional support animals. Question:” I live in a condominium. Recently a disabled friend was coming to visit with her emotional support animal. The front desk would not let her up, stating that because she was not a resident, they did not have to allow her in with her dog. Is that legal?”
Terry’s answer was a resounding, “No”, that’s not legal. You have the legal right to have your emotional support animal with you even if you’re not a resident. She explained that this issue is covered under the Fair Housing Act, which protects not only residents but disabled people associated with the residents. Steve brought up the fact that you might be having to deal with someone at the desk who doesn’t really know the law, and he advised listeners who may run into this kind of problem to go to the condo board or homeowners’ association and make sure that they make it clear to all employees. Terry added that it’s a good idea to keep handy a note from your doctor authorizing you to have your support animal with you.
A Question About Fences
Here’s a question about an issue that often causes problems between neighbors, fences:” My neighbor attached bolts into my fence to secure some items in his yard. I’m concerned that this will damage my fence, especially if there’s a storm. I asked him to remove the bolts, but he blew me off. What can I do?”
Terry and Steve agreed that the important thing is to document everything, everything that’s done and everything that you do. That way you avoid having things devolve into just, “He said, she said”. Terry said, “You’ve already spoken to him, so the next step would be to send a polite and professional certified letter telling him to please remove them.” She advised listeners to be very careful about what steps they take when dealing with fences. “For example, say you’re dealing with some vines that your neighbor is growing on his side of the fence. You can cut the part of the vines that’s hanging over on your side of the fence, but you can’t cut them to the point where it kills the plant.” That’s why you have to be careful because the law can be kind of tricky.
Before they moved on, Terry made sure to point out that the first thing to do with any fence-related issue is to have a surveyor come out and make sure that the fence is yours. Don’t just take the previous homeowner’s word for it. What counts is what a surveyor says.
Renting Versus Buying A Home
Steve’s final question to Terry was about the debate over renting versus buying a home. He said, “A lot of people are still renting. Maybe they’ve been renting for years, and maybe they want to buy a house, but they don’t really think that they can afford it, or that their credit is good enough—all the kinds of things that keep people, through sheer inertia, continuing to rent instead of buying a house. What would you tell those people to consider to help them decide whether they could—and whether they should—make the move from renting to buying a home?”
Terry gave listeners a good, solid checklist of questions to ask yourself to help with making the renting versus buying a home decision.
Number 1: How much is your rent versus what kind of mortgage payment you’d have if you bought a house? Even with property taxes and homeowners’ insurance, you might be able to get into a house that’s bigger and nicer than your apartment and be paying less per month for it.
Number 2: Has your credit score improved? Your credit score is the key factor in (A) whether you can get a mortgage loan, and (B) what kind of interest rate you can get. Steve added that along with checking your credit score, you also want to check to see if lenders have loosened some of the FICO requirements, so maybe you qualify for a loan now when you didn’t before.
Number 3: Other things to think about are how much money you’re going to need upfront to cover the down payment and closing costs and about how much money you need to set aside to take care of the inevitable maintenance and repair costs that will come up from time to time when you own your home.
Number 4: And one last very important question to ask yourself is simply, “Have I gotten to the point in my life where I know what I want, such as a condo on the beach and where I’m ready to settle down?” In other words, are you mentally ready to buy a house?”
Steve and Terry wrapped up their conversation by repeating some questions Steve asks Terry all the time. “What’s the best time to buy a house?” As always, Terry’s answer was, “Now. It’s always now, Steve.” And what’s the best time to sell your home? “Always now.” Terry also made a point about selling your home right now that some people might not have considered. She said, “It’s wintertime, right? And some people think they shouldn’t put their home up for sale in the winter because there’s not as many buyers out looking during the winter, right? But think of it this way: less supply because fewer people are trying to sell their home right now means stronger demand and that means you might be able to get a higher price.” Terry smiled and repeated one more time, “It’s always a good time to sell your house.”
If you’re thinking about either buying or selling a home, get in touch with Terry Story at Keller Williams.
Disclosure: The opinions expressed are those of the interviewee and not necessarily of the radio show. Interviewee is not a representative of the radio show. Investing involves risk and investors should carefully consider their own investment objectives and never rely on any single chart, graph or marketing piece to make decisions. Content provided is intended for informational purposes only, is not a recommendation to buy or sell any securities, and should not be considered tax, legal, investment advice. Please contact your tax, legal, financial professional with questions about your specific needs and circumstances. The information contained herein was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, however their accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed. All data are driven from publicly available information and has not been independently verified by the radio show.
Steve Pomeranz: It’s time for Real Estate Roundup. This is the time every single week we get together with noted real estate agent Terry Story. Terry is a 31-year veteran at Keller Williams located in Boca Raton, Florida. Welcome back to the show, Terry.
Terry Story: Thanks for having me Steve.
Steve Pomeranz: Always nice to have you in the studio.
Terry Story: Always happy to be here with you.
Steve Pomeranz: I’ve got some questions for you, these are questions that were actually written to Gary Singer at the Sun Sentinel who I’ve had on the show as well, and he always answers them really well. So I thought we’d discuss it and see if you have any personal experiences, being the veteran that you are.
So here’s a question: in the middle of a major renovation, my contractor disappeared, leaving the work half done. I already paid her for most of the work. What should I do?
Terry Story: Oh, boy. You’re kind of already in trouble. It’s what you should have done before you sign the contract. And really, there’s not a whole lot you can do, except sue if you can find them. We saw this so much after the hurricanes, so many people came into town, “Oh, I can take care of this for you,” and they scammed so many people.
As a matter of fact, I’m sitting here looking for a front door, impact front door. And I called three contractors. And I decided I can’t pick one, I don’t know which one to go with. So I went online and checked out the Better Business Bureau. That’s useful information.
Steve Pomeranz: What did you find out?
Terry Story: The one has 26 complaints versus the other with three complaints. When you’re doing this kind of work, there’s always going to be complaints, I’m not even worried about complaints because there’s always stories.
Steve Pomeranz: But to get onto the Better Business Bureau books, it’s got to be pretty serious, someone’s got to be pretty teed off.
Terry Story: Really teed off, I agree. So you really should do some research before you get into this. Make sure their license, there’s so much –
Steve Pomeranz: As far as what’s going to happen, is number one, if the contractor has not paid the subcontractors, the subcontractors are going to come after you. And according to this article, you have to pay the subcontractors even though you’ve already paid the general contractor.
Terry Story: Right, it’s a big mess. And so, it’s really important, before you pay the contractor your final sum, talk to the subcontractors, “Hey, have you been paid? Are you being paid?”
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah, and I think the idea is don’t get ahead of yourself. Don’t pay for work that hasn’t been done yet. Make sure that you check all the boxes before you release every check along the way.
Terry Story: Right.
Steve Pomeranz: Okay, good. All right, here’s another question: “I live in a condominium. Recently a disabled friend was coming to visit with her emotional support animal. The front desk would not let her up, stating that because she was not a resident they did not have to allow her in with her dog. Is this legal?”
Terry Story: No. This falls under the Fair Housing Act, which protects not only residents, but disabled people associated with the residents. And disabled, also we’re talking emotional support animals, so that falls within those guidelines.
Steve Pomeranz: They are not pets according to the law.
Terry Story: They are not pets, correct.
Steve Pomeranz: They are animals that provide therapeutic benefits to disabled people.
Terry Story: There’s abuse.
Steve Pomeranz: That’s what I was just going to say.
Terry Story: We know that, there’s a lot of abuse.
Steve Pomeranz: And we see it all the time, right?
Terry Story: But it’s not fair to somebody who’s truly disabled to take that away from them.
Steve Pomeranz: Right.
Terry Story: So it’s wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong. Especially if you have an emotional support animal, I would assume you have your doctor’s letter and I would carry that with you.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah, but the thing is if you’ve got someone managing the front desk, let’s say you live in a condo on the ocean or something like that, you’re not dealing with anybody from the board. So he’s been told what to do. So you may not get through, even though you present the doctor’s, but if you’re a resident of the building, you better get to the board and say, “Hey, this is against the law. Stop it.”
Terry Story: Now, it’s the animals that are troublesome. Like what if I walked in with my pet alligator? Not my pet alligator –
Steve Pomeranz: Your peacock.
Terry Story: My peacock or my emotional support gator.
Steve Pomeranz: Well, I think that if it went to court, I mean I’m not even going to answer that question. You’re just making trouble.
Terry Story: No, I know, I’m just thinking of the peacock on the airplane, wasn’t it a peacock?
Steve Pomeranz: That was a peacock, yeah. As a matter of fact, we had a great picture on the weekly update of a peacock on the airplane. How we ever found a picture of that is beyond me, but we did.
Okay. All right, here’s another question. “My neighbor attached bolts into my fence to secure some items in his yard. I’m concerned that this will damage my fence, especially if there’s a storm. I asked him to remove it, but he blew me off. What can I do?”
Terry Story: Well, you’ve already spoke to him, so the next step would be to send a polite and professional certified letter telling him to please remove them.
Steve Pomeranz: Even though he’s your nextdoor neighbor, you want to go by the book here and start to document everything. Otherwise it’s really he said, she said kind of thing.
Terry Story: Correct, if this gets elevated. And then, it’s when people have their vines growing over on the other side and all that kind of stuff, you have to be careful.
Steve Pomeranz: You can’t cut their vines, can you?
Terry Story: Well, you can if they’re on your side, but it can’t be to the point that it kills the plant. And I’ve had that before, their vines are growing all over my fence.
Steve Pomeranz: Oh, I’m sure. Well, I mean you see all this all the time.
Terry Story: Oh yeah, it’s fun.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah. So this is under the heading: fences don’t always make good neighbors.
Terry Story: Right. And make sure the fence, this is another one, people fight over whose fence it is. Start with the survey and make sure the fence is yours. Just because you bought the house and the owner said that it was your fence, survey tells the truth.
Steve Pomeranz: Okay. Very good, very good. A lot of people are still renting, they’ve been renting for a lot of years and they may want to buy a house, but they don’t really think that they can afford it, or they have the right credit or all kinds of things that keep them, through inertia, continuing to rent. What would you say to those people to consider to see whether they should or could qualify for a home?
Terry Story: It’s interesting, a lot of times rent is more expensive than homes when you look at the monthly payments. So that’s something first to take into consideration. But here’s some of the thoughts. Are you tired of the rising rent prices? Because the rent prices constantly, if you have a fixed-rate mortgage that’s going to stay fixed. In a rent, guess what? It usually goes up.
Steve Pomeranz: Yeah, but on the other side taxes, those are variable too. But I don’t think they necessarily go up quite so much.
Terry Story: Right. Here’s another thought: has your credit score improved?
Steve Pomeranz: Maybe you don’t know. Maybe actually the lenders have loosened some of the FICO requirements, so maybe you do qualify.
Terry Story: And here’s another one: are you good at managing debt?
Steve Pomeranz: What does that mean?
Terry Story: So basically, what’s your debt to income ratio? Do you pay your credit card bills in time? Do you pay them off in full?
Steve Pomeranz: Okay, maybe you’ve established good credit.
Terry Story: Maybe you have good credit. Do you know these things? You have enough set aside for extra costs for owning a home.
Steve Pomeranz: So owning a home is subject to depreciation, things are always kind of going wrong and things like this, so you have to have enough money put aside. Maybe you’ve done that now.
Terry Story: Right, exactly. You can afford a down payment and closing costs. Maybe you have squirreled enough money aside to purchase.
Steve Pomeranz: Some loans only require 3 or 3.5% down now, the FHA loans.
Terry Story: That’s right. Here’s another thought: are you ready to settle down in one place? You think about it, you’re in a rental complex, it’s very transient and it’s hard to make long-term friends.
Steve Pomeranz: And especially for your kids, your kids are making friends and then they’re losing your friends, right? So that’s not so great.
Terry Story: Exactly. You’re going through a major life change, this is when a lot of people buy. Having a birth of a child, they need more space, they just got married, something along those lines. And here’s another one: you know what you want. So now you’ve decided, “I know what I want, I want a house on the ocean near the beach.”
Steve Pomeranz: Okay, “I want to own it.”
Terry Story: “I want to own it.”
Steve Pomeranz: So you’re ready. Mentally, you are ready.
Terry Story: You’re ready. So if you’re saying those things, maybe it’s time to –
Steve Pomeranz: And so when is the best time to buy a house?
Terry Story: It’s always now, Steve.
Steve Pomeranz: Well, I don’t understand, so when’s the best time to sell a house?
Terry Story: Always now.
Steve Pomeranz: Okay.
Terry Story: It’s winter time, right? And people think they shouldn’t put their homes up for sale in the winter because there’s no buyers, right? Well, Florida is different, but who’s buying houses in the middle of the winter? Well, think of it this way: less supply …
Steve Pomeranz: Higher … okay. Higher prices maybe.
Terry Story: It’s a good time to put your home up for sale.
Steve Pomeranz: It’s always a good time.
Terry Story: It’s always a good time.
Steve Pomeranz: Okay.
Terry Story: There’s always buyers out there.
Steve Pomeranz: My guest, as always, is Terry Story, 31-year veteran with Keller Williams located in Boca Raton, and she can be found at terrystory.com. Thanks, Terry.
Terry Story: Thanks for having me, Steve.