Blog :: 03-2010

Cash for Keys

Sounds like something you'd hear about in Arizona, Florida, Las Vegas or California real estate markets. But we live in Madison WI and the Madison WI real estate market isn't that bad! Puhlease people, the economy and the burst housing bubble has sprinkled (and sometimes exploded) into every corner in the United States. I'm a glass is half full kind of a girl, but I'm also very tuned into reality. And even when the glass is half full and there are just as many opportunities in a swimming pool of threats, you've got to know what is out there.

Cash for Keys is when the lender just wants the keys back to the house that they hold the mortgage on and is willing to pay the homeowners (who are in default on their loan) to move out and sign the deed over to the bank. This gives the bank the ability to sell the house and get it off their books.

Why would a homeowner do this?

1) The homeowners are ready to move on from what is many times a nightmare of a situation. Typically there is a hardship that has happened; a divorce, loss of a job or the inability to refinance for a more manageable monthly payment and it has become clear that the homeowner won't be able to get back to the same place they were and will need a less expensive monthly payment.  

2) Cash in hand. When times are tough and money is tight, getting cash to move on and into a new place is appealing. You aren't pushed out quickly, you can typically negotiate with your bank so you have time to find an apartment and get the house clean before signing the paperwork and handing the keys over.

3) Avoid foreclosure. Let's get something straight though, you are not avoiding foreclosure consequences completely, you are signing over the deed in lieu of foreclosure. It still can have a negative effect on your credit. Check with a credit counselor or attorney before making a decision like this.

Why would a bank want the house back? That we'll leave for another post.

Yes, we live in our bubble in Madison WI, and life is progressive and purposeful here YET there are many suburbs of Madison that have been hit hard and as a homeowner, a concerned neighbor and/or an investor, it is important to understand what is happening and what options are available.

Selling your Madison WI Home in 10 Steps

We Sold It!Everyone talks about staging your home to get it ready to sell...but there is much more to the process than preparing your home for showings in the Madison WI real estate market. What happens after you've removed everything from the front of your refrigerator? And what is expected of Sellers throughout the process? Here is a basic overview from beginning to end.

1.  Define your goals, wants, needs and expectations.  A good place to begin is by exploring your short and long term goals in life and how selling your home fits in. 

2.  Determine the best price for what's going on in the market right now.  Assess the current state of the market and what comparable homes are actually selling for by reviewing a Comparative Market Analysis (CMA) on your home. That way, you can objectively determine its fair market value and price it right. In any market, a Buyer's or a Seller's market, it is important to price your house ahead of the market. Positioning your home correctly in the market will get you top dollar. Contact Alvarado Group to help get you started.

3.  Prepare your property so that it is in top-selling condition.  Most of us don't keep our homes in top-selling condition. Think about your home from a buyer's point of view. Repair, replace or remove items in your home so that it makes a GREAT first impression.

4.  Implement time-proven, research-based marketing strategies.  Market your home to as many people as possible using for sale signs, internet, open houses, feedback tracking, Realtor connections and relationships, neighborhood mailings, and web listings. Hiring the right Realtor will help get your home the best exposure and detailed reports that will interpret the market's response to your home.

5.  Show your property.  Ensure that your home is always in top-selling condition. When you leave for work, make sure that your home remains in top-selling condition; you never know when the phone will ring and an agent will be requesting a showing. You know what they say about a first impression!

6.  Receive an offer.  When a buyer decides to buy your home, an offer will be presented and you'll most likely have 24-48 hours to respond.

7.  Negotiate to sell.  Most offers require a certain level of negotiation. Decide your parameters and be prepared to negotiate towards a win-win situation. There are many different negotiating strategies to consider. And there are different areas in the selling process to negotiate. Don't get stuck on price when there might be inspection issues or closing dates that could be deal makers too. Negotiation is a skill and if you are too emotionally invested in what you are negotiating, work with your agent to make sure that this part of the process is handled professionally and focus on the end results.

8.  Have your home appraised and inspected.  Once you have accepted an offer, you'll work with you agent and your transaction coordinator to arrange an appraisal, inspections and a survey (if required). If the buyer requires that certain repairs be made on your home, negotiate or make the necessary repairs to move successfully from contract to closing.

9.  Prepare for closing.  A few days before closing (also known as settlement), your transaction coordinator will be in contact with the title company and the buyer or buyer's agent to ensure that all the necessary forms and documents have been prepared.

10.  Close!  At the closing, ownership of your property is legally transferred to the buyer. Don't forget to bring all keys and garage door openers! Congratulations!

How much time does all of this take? It depends on your market, your situation and your motivation. I've seen some sales happen within 30-40 days from the time of the first conversation to the cutting of the checks. And in other situations it may take a family two months to prepare their home for sale, get new appliances, and clear out the clutter before it is ready for showings. If your first question is how many days will my home be on the market, contact Sara Alvarado for a phone consult and you'll be on the right track, 608.438.5005.

Home Buyers Fair - March 20, 2010

The First Time Home Buyer's Tax Credit deadline is coming soon! All first time home buyers who want to take advantage of the $8,000 tax credit need to enter into an accepted offer by April 30, 2010 (and close before June 30, 2010). That means that the time is perfect to check out the Home Buyer's fair on Saturday to learn all about the home buying process. Mark your calendars now for the 2010 Home Buyers Fair. The event will be located at the Alliant Energy Center and is jammed packed with education and local connections. Carlos Alvarado, The Alvarado Real Estate Group, will be there to answer questions in English or in Spanish. He'll be the only Spanish Speaking Real Estate Broker available at the Fair so spread the word!

2010 Home Buyers Fair March 20, 2010, 8:30am-3:00pm Alliant Energy Center, Exhibition Hall 1919 Alliant Energy Center Way Madison, WI 53713

The fair is FREE and open to anyone interested in learning about the home buying process. The fair will offer first time home buyer education classes, an opportunity to win one of two $1,500 down payment grants and there will be housing industry exhibitors on hand to answer any questions that you may have.

  • Learn how to own a home for under $1,000/month.
  • Earn a Home Buyer Education Certificate in one day.
  • Learn how to qualify for the extended Home Buyers Tax Credit
  • Win one of two $1,500 grants to put toward your down payment.

For more information check out the website:

Simple Ways to Make Your Home Greener


Not everyone can invest thousands of dollars into solar technology as a means to upgrade their home.  Plenty of families would love a hybrid car, but a new car is out of the question for most.

Making the switch to a greener lifestyle doesn't have to be difficult or expensive.  There are many everyday tasks that can contribute to a greener community. Just to make it easy, here is a list:

1. Unplug:  A recent EU study suggests that 22% of power used in a home is due to "vampire electricity" or electricity being used by appliances that are plugged in but unused. Next time you leave your home, make sure the TV, DVD player, phone charger, etc are unplugged.2. Cut the Car:  Bike, walk, or use public transportation to get to your destination. If you ride the bus to work, use places along the route to handle shopping and other tasks. When your car is an absolute must make sure to plan your trip so you will only need to make one trip to accomplish your goals.

2. Lose the paper:  Virgin paper towels (paper towels made from non-recycled material) and napkins create a massive amount of waste.  According to switching to recycled paper towels would save 1.4 million trees per year. To take it a step farther, paper towel production uses double the energy when compared to cloth alternatives.  So why stop at paper towels and napkins.  Look to all the varieties of cloth items including cleaning rags, diapers, and kitchen towels.

3. Heating and Cooling:  Using your blinds and shades properly will give your HVAC system a break.  Close your blinds at night to keep heat in and open them up during the day and let the sun do the rest.

4. Waste vs Recycle: Have you ever seen how much garbage we produce every day?  According to the EPA, Americans produce over 4 pounds of waste per day, 1600 pounds per year!  Try using Tupperware instead of a carry out box or cutting out bottled water. The best way we learned to recycle more was to place two large garbage bins in our kitchen and we compare how much trash goes in the garbage bin vs. how much recycling goes in our recycle bin. And it is amazing now, how fast we fill up the recycling bin!

Like we said it's the little things that make a difference.  Do you have any other tips?  Let us know!



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Finding the Right Neighborhood

People think it is all about the house but after years of working in real estate in the Madison WI area, the house is usually second on the list of what is important for buyers. The house is second?! I know it sounds a bit off the wall, when we are spending thousands of dollars on a home, how could something be more important than the actual house? But I say this confidently because every day Buyers meet with us in our office or at the neighborhood coffee shop and talk about community, about neighborhood and the importance of walking their kids to school, or being close to work or a neighborhood grocery store. Some couples talk about mature trees and big yards as being more important than if the home has a 1 car or 2 car garage. While others want a small yard so they aren't spending so much time maintaining the yard and prefer to live close to the bike path and park.

Is it just in Madison WI that we are surrounded by people who care more about the community than they do about square footage? That sounds kind of dreamy. And I am aware that we live in this wonderful bubble in Madison and so I wonder what it is like in other cities in the United States. And I wonder what it is like for families in Spain or Russia when they start the home buying process.

From the Madison Suburbs to the Right Neighborhood

Julie Campbell, Buyer Specialist on our team, recently helped a young couple who lived in an area that made it a convenient commute to Anna's job in Verona, at Epic. As Julie worked with Anna and Matt, they made it clear that they were ready to sacrifice the big newer house with the two car garage and the large walk in closet and master bath suite for a neighborhood. She was okay adding on to her daily commute so they could find their place in a neighborhood that fit their lifestyle and their values. They went from a 10 year old 3 bedroom home with 2 full and 2 half baths and 2,159 square feet to a 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom, 1,298 square foot home in Monona. They are so happy and so in love with the simplicity of their home and the community feeling in their neighborhood.

The house was second on the list of priorities for Anna and Matt as they searched for their dream home. And as a Real Estate Broker that bought my house because of the school district and the fabulous yard, I get it. And I think you all do too.