Tiffany Cloud's Arizona Blog

musings from 35 yr AZ resident and Realtor®

A Random Act of being Neighborly – Taking the Lead in Protecting Your Neighborhood’s Value

I read an article today that I found fascinating.  It was just a little snippet of an article, only 4 short paragraphs.  It was entitled, “Survey:  Well-Kept Yards Most Important Factor in Determining Neighborhood Safety.”  The survey conducted by relocation.com , reported by RIS Media and sponsored by Lowes, found that,  “75% of Americans believe the most important factor in determining a neighborhood’s safety is the up-keep of surrounding homes, especially the front lawns.”  The Chairman and Founder of Relocation.com was quoted as saying, “It’s interesting to see how home buyers determine neighborhood safety based on the neighborhood’s appearance and not as much based on police statistics or crime reports.” As a Realtor® who happens to have a foreclosure or two in my own neighborhood, I couldn’t help but think how the increase in distressed homes in our neighborhoods is a variable that we can’t control.  What used to be an anomaly, has become the norm.

For a couple of years the government has been trying to stop the downward spiral that is our housing market.  The government has infused billions of dollars into housing programs, kept interest rates low, shored up the banks making real estate loans and offered cash incentives for home buyers.  Yet, we still find that foreclosures top the news on a daily basis and that more and more people are either being forced out of their homes or are voluntarily walking away from homes.  The phenomenon is no longer something we hear about on the news, but one we drive through everyday on our way to work as we exit our neighborhoods…. our very own neighborhoods.

So what about our neighborhoods?  What about the value of our homes? What about those homes that sit with the lawns overgrown, leaflets stacking up at the front door, empty driveways and that eerie sense of abandonment we drive past everyday?   My Grandmother used to say that asking the right questions was often the beginning of the finding the right answer.  If my Grandmother was right ,and she almost always was; the internal questions we ask ourselves as we drive past these abandons homes could be the key to the solution.

When is the government going to fix this housing crisis so my housing value stops free-falling?

or

Is there anything I can do to stop the value of my homes decline?

 

When is someone going to start taking care of that home?

or

Is there anything I can do to take care of that home?

 

Could the answer be as simple as a random act of being neighborly?  What if you cleaned up that yard?  Maybe a neighbor seeing you work on the yard would offer to help, or maybe they might do it in a week or two?   What if neighbors took turns occasionally parking their cars on the street out in front of the home lending a ‘presence’ to the home? What if several neighbors got together and made a rotating schedule of when they would do some front yard maintenance?  [Although it irritates me to no end to have to make this side note, I must.  I am not a lawyer and I can’t give legal advise – but you do need to have a property owner’s permission before trespassing or working on another’s property and you do need to be aware of the fact that there might not be any kind of homeowner’s insurance policy on that home. Don’t give up easily though, contact some local authorities to see if there is a way you can work around such a dilemma.  Is there a neighborhood task force that the City helps underwrite and insure to clean up these properties?  If not should there be one…hint, hint, hint? Contact the bank that own the property, contact the local health department if there is garbage left, see if a local boy scout troop could do a clean-up….Let’s think outside of the box folks, this is important.  There, done – now back to the benevolent spirit of this post]

Starting with abandoned homes is a great first step, but let’s take it a step further, a BIG step further.  What about those homes in your neighborhood where there are still people living in them and you see them start to deteriorate?  Oouch, that is a lot harder.

We had a home in our neighborhood that has always been maintained start to go into dis-repair.  I knew something must be going on because for 6 years the home had always been maintained.  My gut reaction was that I needed to check in with these neighbors and see if everything was OK; but then I immediately started talking myself out of it.  They might think I am being nosy, what if they think I just want to gossip to the other neighbors? What about their privacy?  What business is it of mine?  We had only ever chatted about our kids and the weather….I took a risk and called them up and as non-threatening as I could be, asked them if there was anything I could do to help.  I let them know that my attention was not to intrude, but that if they had some kind of need that I might be able to help with, I would sure like to know about it so I could help.  They were so relieved that I had asked. I was a little shocked at how relieved they were.  What followed was an hour-long conversation and several follow-up conversations after that.   It turned out that in fact there was something I could do to help, and 4 months later that yard looks better than it has in years.  Their mailbox has been replaced, the yard looks fantastic and those neighbors of mine have some hope again and they are taking pride in their home as they once had.  It made me feel really good.  The government couldn’t help my neighbors out, but I could and in doing so, I helped my whole neighborhood out.

I thought that worked out pretty good, so when the opportunity arose again a month later I again forced myself to take the initiative.  In another home just outside of my neighborhood I had seen an elderly gentleman struggle in and out of his car.  His whole property was in disrepair and had been for quite some time.  While I had often muttered to myself as I drove by that I wished he would clean it up, I had never stopped to ask myself, “Can he clean it up and might he need some help?”  So, I forced myself to stop one day when I saw him outside and chatted with him for a while.  I had never met or spoken with this man before.  We had a lovely conversation and I was able to at one point say to him, “You know I have been driving past here almost everyday and have always meant to stop.  You have a really large yard and I hope you don’t mind me asking if you need help with the yard or anything else?”  He very kindly told me he was,”good” and didn’t need any help.  I left feeling glad to have made the connection with him and to let him know that a neighbor cared about him.  Do you know that he was out there working on his yard not two days later with a big smile on his face?  Possibly he just needed to know that the neighbors cared and in turn that caused him to want to care about us back by cleaning up his yard a bit.  I actually have had several really good interactions with him since then and he has spotted me at the store since then and come over to say Hi and chat.  Not only did I make a new friend, but I also think that in the future if he ever does feel he needs some help, he might just be a little more willing to accept it from me or maybe feel comfortable enough to ask.

You decide... waiting for something or offering something.

I want to be a good neighbor, I love my neighborhood.  I want my kids and my family and my neighbors to take pride in our lovely neighborhood.  What starts out as a random act of being neighborly can morph into so much more.  Let’s take pride in our neighborhoods.  The responsibility for our neighborhoods start with us not the government or the banks.  Let’s start locally by loving on our neighborhoods again …. I dare you….

Tell me after reading this post… are the hands in this picture waiting for something to be given to them or are they outstretched to lend a hand to a neighborhood or neighbor in need?  You decide.

What other ways can you think of to impact your neighborhood for the good in this depressed housing market.  Please do share.

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November 16, 2010 Posted by | Arizona Ecomony, Arizona Housing Market, Foreclosure, home buyer, home seller, Neighborhood Tours, REALTOR | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Etiquette and Manners for purchasing Short Sales in Arizona

etiquetteSince Short Sales etiquette is not included in the Emily Post’s Etiquette Daily, I thought I might share a few things I have learned and observed the last 2 years that short sales has become a regular part of my real estate business.

1.  Short Sale and Pre-Foreclosure are the same thing.

2.  Make an extra effort to view a home advertised as ‘short’ or ‘pre-foreclosure’ when the occupants are not around.  They don’t want to talk to you.

3.  If you happen to run into owners or occupants/tenants while viewing a home advertised as a ‘short-sale’  Don’t ask them questions.  If it’s a tenant, they might not even know that the owner is selling short and the owner might not be ready for them to know that yet.  If it’s an owner….they are losing their home, this is not the time or place to ask questions.  have your buyer’s agent discuss details with the owner’s listing agent.  Don’t put the owner on the spot to discuss details of their uncomfortable position.laundry

4.  Just because someone is selling short, doesn’t mean that they do not deserve the same etiquette when scheduling appointments, keeping appointments, locking up and leaving your business card.

5.  When writing a contract, DO NOT ask for any of the owners personal property  including appliances, furniture, lawn equipment, etc.  Don’t add insult to injury – they are already losing their home don’t ask for the few personal items of value they DO get to take with them.

Do you have a right to ask questions and find out specifics about the situation of the homeowners’ situation?  If you are a consumer/buyer – you have the right to ask your agent.  If you are an agent you better ask questions!  Don’t ask the owner though, ask the co-operating agent.  You need to find out some specifics regarding how many liens, amount and status of the liens, who holds them, at what stage the foreclosure is in, what documents have been sent to the bank etc…that is your job and you better do it – via the listing agent.

If you have additional items of etiquette for us to consider please leave a comment.  Thanks for reading.

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August 12, 2009 Posted by | Arizona, Arizona Housing Market, East Valley Real Estate, Uncategorized | , , , , | Leave a comment

‘Special Warranty Deed’ When Purchasing Foreclosed Home in Arizona

When conveying title on a resale home in Arizona the seller will usually convey title with a ‘general warranty deed‘; an exception to this is when that resale home happens to be a foreclosed home.  When purchasing a foreclosed home in Arizona, the seller (bank) will offer you a ‘Special Warranty Deed’ instead of a ‘General Warranty Deed’.  So what is the difference and how does it effect the purchaser/buyer?  Tiffany Malcom, branch manager at Grand Canyon Title in Gilbert, AZ explains what you need to know about a General vs Special Warranty Deed.

grand canyon title

A general warranty deed is a promise to the buyer that the seller will warranty any prior problems with title, not just during the seller’s ownership, but back along the chain of ownership.

A special warranty deed, on the other hand, limits the seller’s promise (or warranty) to title problems that come up while the seller owned the property, but gives no warranty for problems prior to that point. They only owned the property long enough to build the homes so they aren’t willing to warrant buyers against something that happened to cloud title before they may have owned the land. Foreclosure property is another example where you often see special warranty deeds. The bank, like the builder, has no close relationship to the property and won’t bend over backwards to promise anything about the condition of title before they acquired the property through foreclosure.

These days, title insurance is the buyer’s best friend. Title insurance insures the buyer against past ownership problems, old liens, boundary issues, and so on. There may be exceptions in the title insurance policy, and owners should know what their exceptions are. For example, without a survey, a title company won’t insure against problems that a survey would have made known — encroachments, for example. That’s an exception and they won’t pay for problems that would have shown up with a survey. But unless there’s a specific exception, any other past title problems are covered.

For any other questions you might have on Title Insurance or Escrow procedures feel free to contact Tiffany Malcom @(480) 831-6066.

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April 3, 2009 Posted by | Arizona, Arizona Housing Market | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment