Home Improvement Projects That Will Pay Off for Sellers

With low inventory levels and a strong housing sellers’ market in California, you may be thinking it’s a good time to sell your home—or start making some improvements in preparation of selling. A few upgrades may be the difference between a disappointing home-selling experience and finding a buyer willing to pay your asking price or maybe a little more.

So, without draining your bank account, what can be done to your house to maximize its value when it comes time to sell? Below are some home improvement projects that are relatively inexpensive—a few thousand dollars or less, and much less in some cases—that could be the difference in convincing potential buyers that yours is the perfect home for them.shutterstock_50097079

Fresh paint. This is an inexpensive first step, along with a thorough cleaning, that should be done by nearly all homeowners ready to sell. The scuffs and seemingly minor blemishes you may have gotten used to can turn off a potential buyer. Avoid bold colors. The purple your son or daughter may be fond of in their bedroom may make others cringe. Real estate agents recommend staying neutral with colors to appeal to the most buyers.

Front-yard facelift. In short, curb appeal is crucial—and first impressions count. Having a nice yard tells people you take pride in the home and it is well cared for. Small upgrades like a paver pathway or adding new bark mulch under a tree can have a significant impact. A splash of color with some fresh flowers or a few bright planted pots is an easy way to perk up a front yard. Be sure your shrubs and hedges are trimmed; crisp lawn edges are always a nice touch.

Front door. A new or repainted front door can be an easy and fairly inexpensive way to make a positive initial impression with prospective buyers. It’s a custom touch that adds visual appeal and can set your home apart from similar-looking facades in the neighborhood.

Lighting. Experts universally agree that dark spaces are not appealing. Adding canned or recessed lighting to a bathroom or kitchen can dramatically alter a room’s appearance. Because electrical jobs can be tricky and potentially dangerous for novices, hiring a qualified contractor may be a wise choice. The Contractors State License Board is a good place to start, with the “Check a License” online tool providing information on whether a contractor is licensed, insured, and in good standing. CSLB licenses nearly 300,000 contractors in 43 different classifications.

Bathroom. A few upgrades can enhance the appearance of a bathroom immensely. Replacing dated fixtures or adding a mirror can provide a modern look, and re-grouting a shower may be well worth the time and effort.

Kitchen. Experts often single out the kitchen as a potential deal-breaker when it comes to selling a home, but it’s easy to spend a lot of money on upgrades. Because kitchens are often a matter of personal taste and may be overhauled by new owners anyway, focus on any negatives that could be potential turnoffs. Have you been getting by with a particularly old dishwasher or microwave? Could your cabinets use new hardware or refacing? Does the counter tile grout need a good scrubbing? When it comes time to show the home, avoid cluttered countertops by putting away everything but absolute necessities—the more visible counter space the better.

Flooring. Experts say that old, worn, or dirty flooring can be a major buyer turnoff. As a starting point, any carpets should be thoroughly cleaned, with particular attention paid to the entryway area. If deep-cleaning isn’t going to be enough to revive your carpets—and you can afford it—consider investing in new carpets or engineered wood flooring. If you already have wood flooring, brighten them up with a mopping or other product treatment.

If you decide to hire a contractor for any home improvement projects, remember that anyone who contracts to perform work in California valued at $500 or more for combined labor and materials costs must have a valid CSLB license. The CSLB website provides information on finding and hiring the right type of contractor and on home improvement contracts.

If you’re looking for a real estate agent, or have any questions about buying or selling a home, the Bureau of Real Estate offers a license search, consumer information, and more in the “Consumers” section of its website.


Get it While it’s Hot: Check out the Summer Issue of Consumer Connection

Summer’s not over yet. There’s still time to take a road trip to one of California’s manyConsumer connection summer 2016 state parks. From beaches and deserts to redwood forests and mountain summits, California parks offer a variety of amazing and beautiful sites to explore. The Consumer Connection article “Time for a Road Trip!” details 10 state parks—including Angel Island, Marshall Gold Discovery, Humboldt Redwoods, and Crystal Cove—to consider for your next destination, and ways to make sure your car is as ready for the trip as you are.

Also inside this issue is an article about the recently enacted California End of Life Option Act. The new law provides legal guidelines on how terminally ill adults can choose to die in a humane and dignified manner.

Readers will also find features about the recent trend of more Americans choosing to rent instead of buying a home, dealing with the repo man, the dangers of DIY braces, wills versus living trusts, the dangers of buying from a rogue online pharmacy, and more.

To download or read DCA’s award-winning Consumer Connection magazine, visit the DCA website. You can also pick up a printed copy in the DCA Headquarters lobby at 1625 North Market Boulevard in Sacramento. Or, to have a copy mailed to you at no charge, call (866) 320-8652 or send an e-mail request to consumerconnection@dca.ca.gov. Get connected!


The Philosophy of Real Estate

If you watch Modern Family, you’re familiar with Phil Dunphy, suburban Los Angeles real estate agent and self-proclaimed real estate guru. You may have even caught one of the Real Estate Phil’s-osophies commercials for the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) starring Ty Burrell, the actor who plays Dunphy. It’s not part of the show: NAR hired Burell to star in-character in a series of commercials that advise consumers to seek out a REALTOR® when buying or selling property.

A real estate agent talking about the pros of hiring a REALTOR® —are you confused? Is there a difference between the two?

There is. And there isn’t. dunphey

When you enter the world of buying and selling real estate, you are confronted with several different titles: real estate agent (also known as real estate salesperson), REALTOR®, real estate broker.

Let’s start with Real Estate Agents, or Real Estate Salespersons. These professionals are licensed by the California Bureau of Real Estate (CalBRE), which licenses and regulates the more than 400,000 Mortgage Loan Originators, Real Estate Brokers and Salespersons in California. In order to be licensed in California, you must qualify for and pass a written examination, then submit an application to CalBRE for approval. Anyone who conducts real estate activities in California must be licensed and must conduct business as stated in the California Real Estate Laws and Regulations.

A Real Estate Broker has continued his or her education past that required at the real estate agent or salesperson level and has passed the real estate broker licensing exam. Real estate brokers can work as independent real estate agents or they can have agents working for them. Brokers can work on their own, while agents or salespersons have to work under licensed brokers.

Last but not least, there’s REALTOR®. In order to join this one-million-member national association, you must be a licensed real estate agent in your state, and you must uphold the NAR’s strict code of ethics and standards.

It sounds like a Phil’s-osophy: Not all licensees are REALTORS®, but all REALTORS® must be licensees.

And there you have it—a little information to help you get through the maze of buying and selling—or at least know who’s who.

Don’t forget to check the license before you decide on a real estate agent! To check a license, visit the CalBRE website, www.calbre.ca.gov, or call (877) 373-4542. To verify that an agent belongs to the National Association of REALTORS®, go to www.realtor.com.


It’s Remodeling Season: What You Need to Know Going In

shutterstock_70184671Warm weather makes newly painted walls dry faster, projects less likely to be rain-delayed and spawns desire for that outdoor kitchen. But before you put big bucks towards a better abode, the Contractors State License Board (CSLB) reminds you to do your due diligence before hiring any contractor to perform work in or on your home.

While most contractors are honest, hard-working professionals, consumers must always protect themselves from unlicensed, unscrupulous contractors who prey on them. You’d never buy a car without thoroughly researching it; do the same before investing in your home. Here are some tips from CSLB:

  • Check the license: For your protection, hire only state-licensed contractors. Verify a license by calling CSLB toll-free at (800) 321-CSLB (2752) or visit cslb.ca.gov. Any contractor doing $500 or more in work (including materials and labor) must be licensed by CSLB to work in California. Confirm that your contractor carries general liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance for employees that might be working in your home. Otherwise, you could be liable for their injuries.
  • Get at least three bids: Obtain at least three price estimates and ask for references on work the contractor has completed locally. Check out the finished projects in person if possible.
  • Get it in writing: In California, there must be a written contract for all home improvement projects over $500 in combined labor and materials costs.Contractors cannot ask for a deposit of more than 10 percent of the total cost for the job or $1,000, whichever is less. Ask for a current list of contact information for not only the contractor, but also the subcontractors and suppliers.
  • Manage the project and monitor payments: Never pay in cash and don’t let payments get ahead of the work. Keep all receipts, and don’t make the final payment until you’re completely satisfied with the finished job.

CSLB’s quick and comprehensive video is a must-see for those about to undertake home-improvement projects: www.cslb.ca.gov/Consumers/Hire_A_Contractor/Do_It_Right_Video.aspx

Also keep in mind the recent State Civil Code law change—effective January 2014—that requires anyone applying for a building permit that will alter or improve a single-family residence built in 1994 or earlier to replace all plumbing fixtures with water-saving designs. Replacement is a condition of receiving final permit approval from a local building department. In an Industry Bulletin published for contractors, CSLB clarified that building permits issued for property maintenance and repairs (such as re-roofing, water heater replacement, window replacement and some others as determined by the State Building Code) do not trigger the new requirements. Be sure to check all the details here: www.cslb.ca.gov/Media_Room/Industry_Bulletins/2014/January_17.aspx.

Don’t Miss the 10th Anniversary Issue of Consumer Connection

CC_Fall_15_FLWBR7B-1Our special issue celebrates 10 years of consumer news. In line with our previous years’ Consumer Connections, this issue features articles that help consumers stay informed about the latest trends and scams.

Read about acupuncture and the health benefits it can provide, plus information and news about LASIK surgery, consumer warnings about reverse mortgages, how to get your finances in order for the coming year, 3-D printing at home, and more. This fall issue also reports on the latest news regarding the prescription drug abuse epidemic and holiday shopping scams.

Visit the DCA website to download or read the magazine. You can also pick up a printed copy in the DCA Headquarters lobby at 1625 North Market Boulevard in Sacramento. Or, to have it mailed to you at no charge, call (866) 320-8652 or send an e-mail request to consumerconnection@dca.ca.gov. Get connected!

Legislative News from the California Bureau of Real Estate

The 2013/2014 legiCalBRE_Logo_HiResslative season ended September 30, 2014, with the Governor signing 931 bills into law in 2014.  Summarized below are recently signed bills that affect California Bureau of Real Estate (CalBRE) licensees and subdividers. All statutes are effective January 1, 2015, unless otherwise indicated.

Assembly Bill 2018 (Bocanegra) – This bill amended Section 10159.5 and added Sections 10159.6 and 10159.7 to the Business and Professions Code. It allows a real estate broker to delegate to a licensed salesperson, under specified conditions, the process of filing a fictitious business name. Moreover, this bill allows a real estate salesperson to contract with a broker allowing the real estate salesperson to retain ownership of a fictitious business even though the real estate broker may file the fictitious name with the county. This bill also allows a salesperson to use a “team name” without filing for a fictitious business name if certain conditions are met.

Assembly Bill 2540 (Dababneh) – This bill amended Sections 10150, 10151 and 10162, and added 10165.1 to the California Business and Professions Code. This bill requires real estate licensees to provide the Bureau of Real Estate with an up-to-date mailing address, telephone number, and email address used for licensed activity. The bill also requires applicants for licensure to disclose valid contact information in the application.

Senate Bill 1171 (Hueso) – This bill amended Section 2079.13 of the Civil Code as it pertains to real estate licensees. The bill extends to commercial transactions the duty of a real estate broker to disclose, in writing, that the broker is acting as a dual agent. Prior to this bill, disclosure of dual agency in commercial transactions involving real property did not have to be in writing.

Assembly Bill 1159 (Chau) – This bill amended Section 30 of the Business and Professions Code as it pertains to the Bureau of Real Estate. The bill eliminates the requirement that a license applicant show proof of legal presence before obtaining a real estate license. Real estate license applicants will still need to provide a social security number/individual tax identification number in order to obtain a real estate license. The provisions of this bill will be implemented on or before January 1, 2016.

New Regulations of the Real Estate Commissioner – CalBRE has adopted regulations (2907.1 – 2907.4) to implement, interpret, and clarify Business and Professions Code Section 10080.9, which established the Citation and Fine level of discipline for both licensees and unlicensed persons. The final regulation language can be found at here. The new regulations became effective July 1, 2014.

NEW PUBLICATION — 2015 Real Estate Law Book Each year, the Bureau’s Real Estate Law book is updated to reflect changes in laws and regulations, including those set forth above.

This important reference for licensees contains:

  • The Real Estate Law (from the Business and Professions Code);
  • The Real Estate Commissioner’s Regulations (from the California Code of Regulations);
  • The Administrative Procedure Act (from the Government Code); and
  • Pertinent excerpts from various California Codes.

The 2015 Real Estate Law book will be available online free of charge on January 1, 2015. The print version, which includes a CD copy, is expected to be available for purchase from the Bureau in mid to late January 2015. The cost for the book is $25 (plus tax) and can be ordered by completing the RE 350 – Publications Request form.

For more information about CalBRE, visit http://www.bre.ca.gov.

California Bureau of Real Estate Issues Valuable Tips for Seniors on how to Avoid Becoming Victims of Real Estate Fraud


Those who commit fraud often target and exploit senior citizens. According to the FBI, the reason they do is because senior citizens are most likely to have a sizeable “nest egg” that criminals can target, and seniors are typically seen as more trusting of others. Older Americans are also less likely to report fraud because they don’t know who to report it to and are often too ashamed at having been scammed. Sometimes they aren’t even aware they have been scammed.

The California Bureau of Real Estate recently issued an advisory directed at California seniors to offer them essential advice and tips on how to protect themselves from becoming victims of real estate fraud schemes, including those scams involving home loans, rentals, timeshares, and false or fictious deeds.   Check out the advisory here.