What does a loblolly pine have to do with an appraisal?


It’s such a good question, and a month ago I would have told you I have no idea, or asked you what a loblolly pine is. I‘m currently the listing agent of the most adorable renovated College Park bungalow. It’s your classic 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom 1100 square foot home located just steps from Dartmouth Park in what has become one of the most popular zip codes in Orlando. It’s a well done renovation and sits on a nice deep lot with a detached two car garage in the back. One side of this garage is finished off with some nice flooring, cute light fixtures and its own air conditioning system. This is all gravy and the space wasn’t listed or marketed with this square footage included. I listed this home on a Wednesday and received a full price offer on Thursday morning, the buyers were qualified for a VA loan, sellers were thrilled. That next week we sailed through inspections with a small wood rot repair. My husband and I talk about how every once in awhile you get a sweet deal, solid property, amicable buyers and sellers, smooth sailing! I thought I was in the middle of one of those rare gems.. and the only thing left was opening the door for the appraiser. I went and met the appraiser at the home on a day when there was a wild bear roaming the streets of College Park and as weird as that sounds, it was more normal than the conversation I had with this guy. I greeted him with a smile and a folder full of comparably sold properties. I was hoping to push for a nice adjustment for that finished space in the garage. We were at a pretty high dollar per square foot but with the finishes, the lot and that nice bonus space I thought we could easily hit the purchase price. I asked the appraiser about that space and with a deep southern accent he explained to me, rather condescendingly that trying to give an air conditioned, finished bonus space value is like when he and his wife moved to Florida from south Georgia and they fell in love and bought a home in Orlando because it had loblolly pines in the yard. Huh?! That was my first clue..The conversation went downhill from there and I actually told the guy it was a pleasure, handed him my folder and headed out. 6 days later we got the appraisal and not only had Mr. Loblolly not given the bonus space any value, he had decreased the homes heated square footage. Now follow me for a second, this home is a block home and in College park, many of the homes had old porches or florida rooms that have been enclosed long ago and are under air. This home has a 125 square foot room on the front that has air conditioning and is on public record as part of the living space. Our appraisal decreased the square footage to just over 1000. When you’re talking about $248 per square foot and you “lob” off 117 square feet, well you do the math. Appraisal came in short, deal fell apart, both buyer and seller were frustrated  and complaints were filed but so much for that smooth sailing. Since then I have spoken with four different appraisers and talked with both city and county officials and been told by all that the square footage of the home is exactly as it is listed in public record. Thankfully with solid marketing the home has gone pending again. Getting a home from listing to closing is complicated but with the help and perseverance of a knowledgeable real estate agent it will happen!  

Don’t let your septic tank be a smelly surprise!

My husband and I own an older home in Orlando and one of the many joys of that property is the fact that our waste water doesn’t travel far! It goes right into the tank and drain field located behind our house. How lovely!? The positive side is that you don’t pay the utility company for waste water but other than that, I might be hard pressed to come up with other benefits. We have owned this home since 2011 and when we bought this wonderful foreclosure it came with no sellers disclosure.

We were budgeting for many things after our purchase and one of them was a new septic tank. We had a company that I have worked with for years come out and do a septic inspection. They pumped the tank, certified the condition of it and did a great job explaining and even showing us the different parts of our septic tank and location of our drain field. This inspection helped us understand the condition of the equipment that we had, the approximate age, size and to start fresh, in terms of what was in the tank. This is my kids playing in the drain field during the inspection.



I’m kidding, but I’m not kidding about the importance of having a septic tank inspected and certified prior to closing. Luckily, our inspection revealed that our tank was in good condition and everything was functioning as intended. Huge score, for me, more money for my bathroom renovation. Like all inspections, it’s helpful to have as much knowledge as you can as a buyer, in order to plan and budget accordingly. The cost for this inspection can range from $250-$500 depending on the company. The cost for a new tank and drain field can range anywhere from $5-10k depending on the number of bedrooms and bathrooms.  I would highly recommend anyone purchasing a home with a septic tank to have an inspection done prior to closing!

Online marketing and selling your home

One of my favorite things to do before I fall asleep at night is to shop/surf the internet on our iPad. I love to research purchases, compare prices, check various sites for coupons before I make a purchase. I do this with everything from new patio furniture to planning my son’s 7th birthday party. It should come as no surprise that people are using this same approach when it comes to buying a home.  I recently took a listing and planned the kick off weekend, as I mentally refer to the first weekend a listing is on the market. We came up with a plan, entered the home into the MLS and marketed the first open house.

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I use Craigslist, Zillow, Facebook, Google+, postlets, and a few others to market listings. Our open house was Sunday from 1-4pm and the weather was very cooperative. I came in with my water with lemon, flyers and a multitude of signs and balloons. The open house was a huge success and about 50 people came through the home. The interesting part about this open house was that at least 75% of the prospective buyers came through with no agent. They had seen the open house advertised on one of the many websites, the home was being marketed on. These buyers were educated on the market and had researched what the seller had paid, what the property most likely would rent for and what schools the home was districted for before they even stepped foot through the front door. This was incredibly insightful as a residential broker as to the path most buyers are walking towards finding a home.  As a broker, it challenges me to stay ahead of the curve with my marketing approach and to hone my negotiation and contract writing skills. Gone are the days when a real estate broker was the only way to gain access to information. The role as a real estate broker is changing and I think there is so much more value in the contract writing and negotiation in addition to accurate, updated market knowledge and an aggressive online marketing strategy.