consumer reports

Tips for Buying New Kitchen Appliances for a Remodel

buying new kitchen appliancesBefore you look at buying new kitchen appliances, especially during a remodel, you should consider future needs. For example, the trend is wider and taller. This means if you’re planning to create a space for your refrigerator, for instance, think about accommodating a larger refrigerator down the road. If you have an older home, most likely your space for a refrigerator is 33 inches. You will find limited choices in the 33-inch-wide refrigerator categories.

Of course, another reason to remodel is to raise the cabinets over your refrigerator space. But if you lock in the width, especially by installing a matching cabinet panel up the side of your refrigerator, you are stuck with that width forever. You might think about a counter-depth refrigerator, too. With those, you are sacrificing depth in the refrigerator, which means less room to store food. But if you go wider, you can retrieve part of that lost space.

Next, think about whether all your appliances need to match each other. Manufacturers love to sell you matching and coordinating appliances. However, there is a catch. I don’t know why but not every manufacturer excels in every area of appliance making. What I mean is some make better refrigerators than they do microwaves. Whatever you do, do NOT buy based on price and appearance or you may live to regret those decisions.

What needs to match is the finish. The brands do not need to match. While working on buying a bath tub, I discovered the drain is sold separately. Further research uncovered the fact that a soaking drain from Jacuzzi is a better drain than the one suggested for our tub. But, the salesman warned, it will read Jacuzzi on your tub and not American Standard. Some people care about those things. Like you can switch out the red logo in exchange for other options on a KitchenAid dishwasher, which seem to be the best dishwashers in the world.

I have learned that you can buy new kitchen appliances in a variety of colors, but the trending color right now is black stainless, more so than slate. Black slate is available only through GE. A concern, of course, in a place like Hawaii where it’s humid and things rust in the salt air is whether stainless will rust. But you can also apply a marine wax. Anything eventually will rust, except pewter.

Cast iron white sinks, for example, cost a lot more than stainless. If you might have to replace a sink due to rust, it’s probably better to go with a less expensive sink. Another trending item is slide-in ranges that take the place of a free-standing range. They match the depth of a standard counter width, not to mention, you don’t have to look at annoying controls. But do make sure the knobs for an electric slide-in are not in a place on the front of the range where you’ll accidentally turn on the burners.

Because you’ve got to do your homework when buying new kitchen appliances. If you walk into the store and stroke the prettiest models, you’ll regret it. Do all of your research online. Consumer Reports offers excellent recommendations for buying new kitchen appliances. The problem there is maybe they have not reviewed the one you want to buy or maybe their top pick is not available in your area.

I really like the Lowe’s website for shopping. They post reviews from the manufacturer’s website and also from their own shoppers. Some appliances have thousands of reviews. There is also a community question-and-answer section where you can click yes or no to add to the authority of the question. Honestly, I don’t know how we ever bought anything before the internet.

You can learn from other people’s mistakes that way. Which is really the best way to learn. I recall a dishwasher we bought once that broke down a couple of times a year, right after the warranty expired. Never again. Now we buy appliances that tend to last. Which means style, color and finish are all important but the number consideration should be reliability.

After the warranty expires, is it likely to continue to do the thing you bought it to do?

Elizabeth Weintraub


Don’t Look for Answers About Agents in Consumer Reports

Real_Estate_Agents_300x262Consumer Reports says it interviewed 303 real estate agents . . . and 86% of those agents said real estate agents are out to screw you and are dishonest. Now, it could be the manner in which Consumer Reports phrased the questions or it could be that they are talking only to the dishonest agents or maybe the cross section is skewed. Whatever, this Sacramento REALTOR aligns herself within the minority — the meager 42 agents of those surveyed who believe agents want to do the best job possible.

They couldn’t have tried to trash an industry any better than the March issue of Consumer Reports. It seems to me that they didn’t interview enough people. The numbers are off. They say buyers care more about interest rates than buying a home because they got married or they need more space. Wha? They say an agent’s median fee is 4.2%, which might apply to a tiny real estate market in Idaho somewhere but certainly is way off in other markets.

If you ask Consumer Reports, it will tell you that they pulled the stats from real estate agents, not outta their butts. Below is their claim:

  • Agents will steer buyers to homes yielding higher commissions: 32%
  • Agents make exaggerated claims when marketing themselves: 30%
  • Agents refuse to disclose structural problems: 26%
  • Agents persuade sellers to sell for less than their homes are worth: 27%

The only thing they got right was when is the best time of the year to sell, which is April. They neglect to point out that homes selling in April tend to close in May. I wonder if they talked to any experienced real estate agents at all or just those with their feet up on the desk watching the homeless sleep in the park.

Who among us hasn’t thought at one time or another to lie, or hasn’t been tempted under certain circumstances to bend the truth? Would an agent lie? It’s normal to consider. The fact is most of us would not do it. Like last week I discovered a referral had closed escrow and the company that had referred the buyer to us was not paid. I use a tight system to track buyers but this one had slipped through, with the buyer’s agent forgetting to source the lead.

I looked at the buyer’s name. The name given to us by the referral company was slightly different than the name that had closed escrow. In fact, the referral company most likely would never track this referral. I could have just left it lie. Forgotten about it. Nobody would know. The thing is I would know. And I do know. And I agreed to pay that company, and that company should be paid, even after the fact. So, I contacted the referral company and arranged for payment. Also, fixed a hole in my referral business tracking so this kind of thing doesn’t occur a second time.

I believe that most agents are honest and ethical, and they would do the same thing under similar circumstances. But when a company is out to provide “insider advice,” sometimes the only way to do that is to paint an entire industry with a tainted brush and proclaim that everybody is a crook — create a little hysteria, even if the facts are wrong.

The real estate industry is such an easy target. We walk around with a bullseye drawn on our foreheads. I’m not sure Consumer Reports could recognize a real estate pro, though, if they found one. It’s a sorry day when we can’t even rely on Consumer Reports to get the facts straight.

Tips For Buying a New Car Are Useful When Buying a New House

lying couple on grass and dream house collageMy husband accused me of car shopping because I was reading the new Consumer Reports about new cars for 2013, but I was really comparing the marketing to the new homes of 2013 in Sacramento. I’m talking about buying a new home from a builder. Personally, I don’t sell very many brand new homes — I mostly handle resale — but one of my Elizabeth Weintraub team members, Linda Swanson, has more than a decade of experience in new home sales. She was once a new home sales manager, too. So, while she is out showing homes to buyers, if they run across a new home subdivision, she’s extremely qualified to go to bat for her buyer.

Caution: new home buyers! Don’t ever walk into a new home subdivision alone because, if you do, they will track you, get your name and number, and no other buyer’s agent anywhere in Sacramento will be allowed to represent you. You will be on your own. With the builder’s agents who are experienced and with training you do not possess. You should hire your own separate buyer’s agent.

Here are new car tips from Consumer Reports, which also apply to buying a brand new home in Sacramento:

1. Start Online: Absolutely, spend all the time you want in your comfy PJs, search naked if you want, just don’t forget and use FaceTime. Get a feel for the homes that have come on the market and the homes that have sold, the types of neighborhoods where you might want to live.

2. Take Test Drives: Go to open houses. Book a private tour of a few homes you might want to buy. Sit in the living room and imagine what it would be like to entertain guests, ditto at the kitchen table. Just don’t fall asleep in the bed.

3. Get Approved For Financing Early. You can’t go home shopping without the ticket to ride in your hand. You need that preapproval letter. It’s not to prove to your agent that you are qualified because your agent probably doesn’t give a tiddlywink about it. Your preapproval letter is for the builder and because every other buyer competing with you will have one. Don’t be the odd guy out or people will poke fun and laugh at you.

4. Find Your Old Car’s Trade-in Value. If you have a home to sell, interview a couple of agents and ask for a comparative market analysis. Just don’t choose the agent who gives you the highest price because you might never get that price. Choose the agent you trust. Don’t sleep with your agent, either. You may develop a close bond, but keep the relationship professional.

5. Get Price Quotes. Ask your buyer’s agent to give you the complete financial history of this home and competing homes around it. Knowledge is power. You need numbers. You need to know what other homes have sold for, how much homes are presently pending at (because they will be your future comps) and, in this seller’s market, don’t pay too much attention to the sold comps because most homes are higher in price now than they were last week. Just don’t ask your agent to write a lowball offer in a seller’s market or she might be tempted to smack ya.

6. Have Dealers Compete. You can go with your agent to different new home subdivisions and look at the inventory offered for sale from various builders. If you can find a similar home in a different neighborhood, you might be able to use that home as a comparison to the home you prefer to buy. Remember, though, that in a seller’s market, the builder is in the driver’s seat, and if the subdivision is not overbuilt, this strategy might not work.

7. Negotiate Everything Separately. New home builders often want to bundle services and offer you a package deal on the lot, the home itself, the upgrades for the home, the appliances, the furniture (in a model home) and the mortgage and homeowner’s insurance to boot. All of these things have separate price tags and buying them in a package does not mean you are getting a discount. It could mean you are paying a premium. Unless you just like to throw around money, then go for it. Throw some in my direction, too.

8. Skip the Add-Ons. If you really need those granite counters, put them in afterwards. Granite is cheap, cheap, cheap right now. If you want hardwood flooring, buy the floors and install them after closing. If you desire top-of-the-line appliances, work out a price with a wholesale dealer from a distributor and don’t buy these items from a builder. Because you’ll pay through the nose. And we have enough problems with our noses and spring pollen allergies around here.

9. Check the Math. Everybody makes mistakes because we are all human. But even machines can make a mistake because they are input with data from human beings. It’s easy for a line to be eliminated or a zero to show up in the wrong place. Just think about text messaging and auto correction on your cellphone. Have you never sent an inappropriate message before by mistake? Hey, it can happen in a purchase contract, too.

10. Finalize the Paperwork. Don’t move in before you close escrow. Don’t sign any blank documents if all of the information has not been completed. Use a reputable title and escrow company. Oftentimes, builders will send all of their escrows to a particular company because they have negotiated a whopping discount in exchange for volume. When a company is flooded with volume, sometimes service vanishes and integrity diminishes. Make sure your paperwork is completed correctly. You won’t know what most of the financial documents say, so make sure your name is spelled correctly and the property address is right. That will be half of your battle right there.

The other half will be moving.

If you’re thinking about buying a brand new home in the Sacramento area, please call Elizabeth Weintraub at 916 233 6759.

10 Easy Steps to the Best Deal, Money-saving tips from our car-buying pros, from Consumer Reports April 2013


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