Sharing my Knowledge & Experience

Dear Susan,

Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge and expertise with the agents. You truly are the best and they always learn from you. You make my job easier and Star (Real Estate) better.

Myna McCutcheon, Manager

Posted on April 1, 2016 at 4:55 PM
Susan Saurastri | Category: Real Estate News

Impressed Buyer and Seller

Dear Susan,

Thank you so much for your friendship, care, diligence and hard work. We are blessed to have met you. Nothing tangible can adequately express our appreciation for you. Wishing you the best.

Paul and Tiffany

Posted on April 1, 2016 at 4:47 PM
Susan Saurastri | Category: Real Estate News

Loan Talk

 At open houses, the grocery store and sometimes just stopped at a red light I am approached by Orange County residents with questions about the types of loans available and the interest rates. There are many different types of loans that one can acquire relating to real estate. As with all contracts and loan agreements, read it and understand it before you sign it.

A purchase loan: You are borrowing to purchase a home from a mortgage lender, credit union or bank. Rates, loan costs and terms vary from lender to lender. Before you celebrate the great interest rate you obtained, get all the costs up front in writing. Whether you are a first time buyer, an investor or are downsizing from your current house, interest rates are at historic lows.

In 2014 Interest rates are expected to rise but not more than five percent. If you’ve been waiting for the best time to buy, wait no more. The one obstacle to purchasing your dream home may be that you will have to compete with other buyers who have also recognized that now is the perfect time to acquire real estate.

Home equity loan: using the equity in your current home to obtain funds. This loan goes in second position behind your first mortgage loan.

Refinancing: usually to obtain better terms and conditions including a lower interest rate. Sometimes borrowers will pull cash through a refi.

Bridge loan: used to provide temporary assistance with down payment by using the equity in your current home to purchase a new home. The majority of lenders no longer provide this type of loan.

Reverse mortgage: all borrowers must be 62 years of age or older to qualify. You must occupy the home as your principle residence. A reverse mortgage allows you to draw funds from the existing equity in your home. The loan is payable only when you sell or expire. The amount of money received by the homeowner is determined by the borrower’s age. You are still responsible for the payment of taxes and insurance on the property. Wells Fargo and Bank of America both of whom were responsible for 43 percent of funding reverse mortgages are no longer offering the loans. As the economy faltered and home prices fell, for some homeowners the equity evaporated making it a questionable investment for lenders.

Susan Saurastri is a Realtor with Star Real Estate. Contact her at 714-317-0664 or

Posted on January 21, 2014 at 2:29 PM
Susan Saurastri | Category: Real Estate News

Renovations That Get You Bang for the Buck

Our homes are an extension of who we are and how we live our lives. A house is as individualized as the people that occupy it. Some want a hermitage, a peaceful retreat, an entertainer’s Mecca, a meditative cocoon or a beachside paradise.  Whether you are purchasing, selling, investing, renting or house swapping many decorating options exist to create a sense of tranquility, charm and comfort.

One of the many benefits of living, working and playing in Orange County is that I get to mingle with the friendly residents. Folks invite me into their homes and solicit my opinion on décor and upgrades. It’s common for homeowners to put their signatures on a place. The décor should reflect the personalities of the residents. That’s what serves to make a house a home. One of the questions I’m asked most often is what renovations we should do to prepare our house to sell and how much value it will add. Why not do the upgrades in the years prior to selling so you can benefit from the fruits of your labor? If you expect to obtain dollar for dollar return on your investment when you sell, you will be disappointed.

Kitchen and bath remodels will always provide the biggest bang for your buck. Depending on the materials used a kitchen renovation will give you as much as an eighty percent return. It’s like grocery shopping, it all depends on what you put in the bag; granite versus tile, travertine as opposed to wood laminate, etc. These are some suggestions that will enhance the aesthetics and add value to your home.

1)      Scrape the popcorn/cottage cheese ceilings by a qualified company.

2)      Remove the florescent light box in the kitchen. Install a tray ceiling with some recessed lights.

3)      Consider crown moldings and 3-4 inch baseboards.

4)      Replace the original countertops with Corian, quartz or granite.

5)      Install new kitchen cabinets. Glass display inserts are a hit with buyers.

6)      Under cabinet lighting and puck lighting in the glass cabinets brighten the area.

7)      Apply fresh paint throughout. I always recommend Dunn Edwards Nomadic Taupe with bright white trim. You can put any color accessories with this warm, neutral color.

8)      Multiple options in flooring exist today. Hardwood, concrete and travertine tile are just a few of the choices available.

9)      Bead-boarding, chair rails or wainscoting add dimension, charm and style.

10)   Epoxy the garage floor.

While you’re beautifying your home don’t forget to rid yourself of the excesses. Reorganize the clothes and linen closets. Clean out the garage, donate or sell whatever you haven’t used in the last several months. One man’s crumbs are another man’s banquet. Any homeowner can tell you that there will always be budget-busting renovations that you can incorporate to increase the value of your home. Stay within your budget and don’t over improve for your neighborhood. Don’t take on too many projects at one time unless you plan to move out, otherwise you’ll be shaking up your marriage along with the plaster.

Need a contractor, electrician, handyman, interior decorator, or painter? I’m always happy to refer from my list of trustworthy vendors. At this time of year when we are more mindful of having an attitude of gratitude, I thank you, the readers of this column for your thoughtful comments. Your input and suggestions over these last eleven years has been helpful in providing useful real estate advice on a weekly basis.

Susan Saurastri is a Realtor with Star Real Estate. Contact her at 714-317-0664 or

Posted on January 21, 2014 at 2:21 PM
Susan Saurastri | Category: Real Estate News

Selling with Feng Shui

Selling? Attract more buyers with Feng Shui

Feng shui literally translates to “wind and water.” It basically means living in harmony with the environment. In the real estate industry it’s become a verb, so that many people feng shui their homes to create a feeling of harmony, relaxation and abundance. The concept of living in harmony with the environment has been honored in the East for thousands of years.

By rearranging your furniture or hanging wind chimes you can affect the universal force called ch’i the energy that attracts luck and prosperity.

Richard Webster is the author of “Feng Shui for Beginners,” a tool I use in my real estate practice. Certain buyers believe everything in the world belongs to one of five elements: fire, earth, wood, water or metal. You may attract a flow of buyer traffic to your home if you incorporate the five elements when selling.

These are issues that can impact buyer interest:

  • The direction of the house, some buyers will purchase a house based on their individual, auspicious direction.
  • Negative energy is created when the street ends directly in front of the house, otherwise known as a T street.
  • The interior staircase faces the front door. This allows the ch’i to escape.
  • The center of the house is the best location for the kitchen.
  • The bathroom should be private and not visible from the front door.
  • Dried flowers should be avoided, silk are acceptable but live are best.
  • Exposed beams create negative ch’i. Sleeping under an exposed beam is especially bad and can lead to headaches, dishonesty and bad luck. For these reasons it is also bad feng shui to place a desk or chair directly below an exposed beam.

Steps you can take to create good ch’i:

  • A large mirror in a dining room reflects the food on the table and is very beneficial, in effect, it doubles the amount of food available.
  • Place a large red potted plant at the front door along with a black doormat.
  • Books represent education and should be displayed along with healthy green or colorful blooming plants.
  • A water feature in the foyer such as a fountain or aquarium.
  • Only use pairs in the master bedroom, two candles, two vases, etc.
  • Exterior flower gardens symbolize progress, happiness and longevity; plant an array of color.
  • Open all blinds and curtains. Light attracts good ch’i.
  • If the house is in good condition, an abundance of good ch’I will be present.

Pricing your house with feng shui:

In the Asian culture and the practice of feng shui numbers are very important.   People throughout the United States often look for certain house numbers and avoid properties if the house numbers are considered unlucky. The number eight is auspicious in the Chinese community. If you remember the Beijing Olympics were held on 8/8/08. The number nine is auspicious in the Vietnamese community. Some real estate agents know that the listing price of a home made up of lucky numbers will most likely sell quicker. Proper pricing is the single most important detail when selling your home.

Other agents always ask me how I get so many potential buyers through my open houses. Feng shui pricing is just one of my now-exposed secrets.

Susan Saurastri is a Realtor with Star Real Estate. Contact her at or 714-317-0664

Posted on January 21, 2014 at 2:10 PM
Susan Saurastri | Category: Real Estate News

Sell Smart!

This Fountain Valley seller asked for my assistance:  “My house has been on the market for 89 days. We had a couple of offers right away and our agent advised us to counter offer but we figured we’d wait to see if we’d get better ones. The offers have stopped coming. What are my options now?” It would be a breach of ethics for me to respond directly to this particular seller as he is already represented by an agent, instead my responses are provided for any sellers facing these issues.

Your house will receive the most attention from realtors and buyers during the first two weeks on the market. Usually your best offers will come during that period. It is always better to negotiate with an offer that is already on the table than to fantasize about what might come in the future. The buyer is motivated to deal or she would not have written the offer.

It’s always about location, condition and price. If a house is in pristine condition when it hits the Multiple Listing Service and the professional photographs reflect that condition, buyers will flock to the house. The only deterrent would be if the house is overpriced. The buyers are examining the same comparable sales that the appraiser will be using to assess the value for the lender. Sellers are wise to price the house correctly according to the comparable sales within the last three to four months. Use comparatives that have the same number of bedrooms and baths, square footage, same housing tract or within a mile of the subject property. If your house backs or sides to a busy street, or is near the freeway, the appraiser will deduct eight to ten percent for that location. Consider that fact when choosing your price.

Prepare a house prior to putting it on the market. If your kitchen and baths are in original or in dated condition solicit estimates for new countertops and appliances. After reviewing the comparable sales decide if the upgrades will garner you a better return on your investment.  Buyers want a house that reflects beauty and value. They will deduct for imperfections. Scrape the ceilings, paint throughout, replace worn carpet; have the house professionally cleaned. Remove excess furniture, dried flower arrangements and wall paper. Have the house professionally staged. I can refer you to two local stagers that I use for all my listings.

Place a lock box on the front door or gate to provide easy access for agents to show your home.

Schedule open houses. The more perspective buyers through the house the more likely you are to receive offers within the first two weeks on the market. Exit the house during showings and do not converse with the buyer’s agent or the clients. Refer questions to your agent. Deals are broken by erroneous he said, she said comments.

When marketing in Fountain Valley an agent may strike up a conversation with a homeowner and infer that you should list with them because it is members of their race who are the predominate buyers in the community.

In most instances the buyer will be represented by their own agent. Their ethnicity or that of their agent has no bearing on the negotiations for the sale of your house. Don’t be fooled by agents who say they have a buyer for your property or agree to overprice your home just to acquire the listing. It’s referred to in the industry as “buying the listing”. Soon the same agent will be appealing to you to lower the price every two weeks until you are within the range of comparable sales. When choosing an agent to market your property, be careful not to be swayed by aggressive tactics. Good realtors come in all colors, sizes and ethnic backgrounds.

Agent reputation is paramount in real estate transactions. This is not only important in that other agents like and respect your realtor, but it means we colleagues are always eager to preview their listings and look forward to being in transactions with him or her.  I am not alone in admitting I would go out of my way to show a client the home represented by a local agent with a sterling reputation in the off chance my buyer might like it, knowing the transaction will be positive: smooth and equitable.  This can mean a faster sale and more competitive buying environment for Fountain Valley sellers.  Happy selling!

Susan Saurastri, is a Fountain   Valley resident and a realtor with Star Real Estate. Contact her at or 714-317-0664.  Realtor Maggie Etheridge-Ureno of The Etheridge Team contributed to this column.




Posted on September 25, 2013 at 3:27 PM
Susan Saurastri | Category: Advice Column, Real Estate News, Sellers

Home Inspection, what to expect.

Now that the seller has accepted your offer you have a contractually agreed upon timeline to remove your home inspection and other contingencies. The California Residential Purchase Agreement stipulates that the house you bought is sold in “AS IS” condition.

In other words you accept the house in its current condition at the time of purchase. The California Civil Code does require sellers install smoke detectors in each sleeping quarter. They may be battery operated.  Confirm that the batteries are working. The newest law mandates all homeowners, whether or not you are selling, must install one carbon monoxide detector on each level of the house.

It is never a good idea to waive your right to a home inspection. The average cost of a home inspection is $300-$500 depending on the living square footage. The seller is not obligated to make any repairs recommended in the inspection report but many sellers will negotiate to do some or all repairs or issue monetary compensation through the close of escrow.

An inspector may recommend you contact a professional in a field for a particular repair such as the furnace or air conditioner. Think of it as your primary care physician referring you to a gastroenterologist specialist. Major issues of contention that could be deal breakers include structural damage, mold, excessive moisture, major roof damage or considerable soil expansion that might compromise the foundation.

Yesterday, I spoke with a woman whose home I will be putting on the market next month. She voiced concern about the possibility of the home inspection revealing some unknown issue. A seller may be wise to have a home inspection prior to listing her home for sale. It’s a proactive method to address any potential buyer objections.

Some of the minor items most often noted in the report are: no spark arrestor on the chimney, no C-clamp to keep the fireplace flute open, no GFCI (grounded electrical)

near water sources such as kitchen, baths, laundry sinks, exterior pool and spa equipment. Remove any extension cords used in place of hard wiring particularly in the garage.

An automatic reverse mode is required on all motorized garage doors so that if an obstacle was preventing the garage door from closing it would reverse to the open position. The door from the garage into the house should have an automatic closure. Check for moisture under the sinks. Do the sink and bath tub stoppers work properly? Does water drain effectively from the sinks, showers and bathtub? Are all the appliances operational? Do all the circuit breakers work? Are their tripping hazards in or outside the house? Does the roof have loose tiles or shingles?

Finally, sellers may want to consider a home warranty during the time the house is on the market. It will cover all unknown pre-existing conditions. The approximate cost is sixty cents per day. My friend, Patricia Vidal of Realty One Group has shared stories with me of a water heater exploding three days prior to close of escrow. Another time she was representing a seller on a tenant occupied property with a leak behind the shower wall.

The repairs would have cost several hundred dollars rather than the sixty dollar home warranty service fee. Buying or selling a home doesn’t have to be a nerve wracking experience if you have savvy professional representation.

Posted on September 25, 2013 at 1:05 PM
Susan Saurastri | Category: Advice Column, Buyers, Real Estate News, Sellers

Well-groomed, Well-priced Homes Earn Multiple Offers

Last week I wrote about my clients in the Classic Fountain Valley tract, north of Warner Avenue and east of Newhope Street, who received seven offers on their home. It sold for $8,100 over the list price of $569,900 within the first week on the market. The victorious buyers agreed to remove the appraisal contingency.

This past week, my seller in the Meadow Homes tract, south of Talbert Avenue and west of Bushard Street, received four offers on her home. John and Linh attended the open house. They wanted to buy it. The asked, and I agreed to represent them. I disclosed that the seller had received three other offers. When an agent represents both the buyer and the seller, dual agency is established in which the Realtor cannot disclose to the buyer, the seller’s bottom line, nor can she reveal home much the buyers are willing to pay. The seller was out of town. I emailed her the four offers. She decided to issue a counteroffer to each of the buyers, containing the following stipulations: 1) buyers to provide their best and final offer, and 2) buyers agree to remove the appraisal contingency. When the buyer removes his appraisal contingency, he is agreeing to pay the contractually agreed upon purchase price, despite the possibility of a lower appraised value.

To achieve a fair and equitable result for all the principles involved, I asked the agents and my buyers to place their counteroffers in a sealed envelope and deliver it to my office. On Wednesday morning, the seller opened the envelopes. John and Linh’s best and final offer was $2,000 more than the next highest offer. All the buyers agreed to remove the appraisal as a contingency of the contract.

The seller accepted John and Linh’s offer. John is a manager at Hyundai in Fountain Valley and Linh works for Orange County. They have two young children. Grandma lives nearby and will baby-sit the kids. The house is in escrow for $18,000 over the list price. Note to Fountain Valley homesellers: Condition your house to sell and price it according to the comparable sales, and you too, will receive multiple offers.

Susan Saurastri is a Realtor with Star Real Estate in Fountain Valley. She write a weekly real estate column for the OC Register’s Fountain Valley VIEW. Contact her at 714-317-0664 or or

Posted on April 12, 2012 at 12:37 PM
Susan Saurastri | Category: Real Estate News

Remodel or Move?

Remodel or Move?

That question is often parlayed into further family discussions.  Today’s column will offer some suggestions on answering the question. Before you can determine whether to move or remodel there are many factors to consider:

 Do you truly love your home’s floor plan?

Does your home offer you the space your family needs?

Do you plan to live in the house for at least the next five years?

How’s the neighborhood? Can you envision living there for years to come?

Will the current room remodel provide you with the home you want or will you need more remodeling in the future?

    Last month our eight-week master bathroom remodel was completed.  The walls and interior doors were removed to open up the space. It consists of 200 square feet and houses his and her mirrored wardrobe closets, an 8-foot by 4-foot shower with dual showerheads, a travertine shower surround and a travertine floor. The custom cherry cabinets on Queen Anne legs contain dual sinks and a center vanity with marble countertops. A lighted wall cabinet for towels, lotions and potions was also installed. Recessed cans provide the lighting.  The ceiling was raised to 9 feet and a remote controlled skylight was installed. We’re thrilled with the result. We bought the house 2 years ago and plan to retire here.

    Choosing the contractor will be your primary priority.  Quality Builders of Fountain Valley was a no-brainer for us.  Many of our neighbors and friends had their homes remodeled by this company within the last few years.  Referrals are imperative. Licensed contractors with good track records will provide the contact information of their previous clients. 

 Questions to ask the references:

Did the contractor complete the job within the timeline and the budget?

Were the workers on time to the job each day; did they perform as directed?

Did they clean up before leaving?

How responsive was the contractor? Did he return calls promptly?

Was the contractor on the job site regularly?

Did you have any problems? How were they resolved?

Would you use the same contractor again?

Would you mind if we came to see your remodel?

     If the homeowners are happy with the job, most will invite you to see the finished product. Kitchen and bathroom remodels garner the highest return when selling your home. You’ll spend anywhere from $25,000 to over $100,000 depending on the project, that’s why it’s so important to consider the first three questions. If your current house doesn’t provide the room you need, consult a trustworthy lender to determine how much house you can afford in today’s market. Take a ride with your local Realtor and view some homes for sale.  Doing your homework, will result in making the right decision for your particular needs.

Susan Saurastri is a Realtor with Star Real Estate. Contact her at 714-317-0664 or or

Posted on April 8, 2012 at 9:10 PM
Susan Saurastri | Category: Real Estate News

Selling Your Home Quickly & For Top Dollar

     As always three factors govern a sale: location, condition and price.  If you are a seller in Fountain Valley and your home has been on the market for more than 30 days without an offer, it’s time to examine the reasons why and take action. If your house has an interior location in the tract and does not back or side to a busy street, then you have a good location. A cul de sac is a premium location.

    Do you wonder why some homes sell and others don’t? In the last nine months I have listed and sold three homes within 45 days that had languished on the market for 9 months, 8 months and 6 months respectively with other agents. The houses had been priced correctly and each had an excellent location. In each case the condition of the homes was a negative factor. It wasn’t that the homes were in bad repair or needed paint or new flooring, oftentimes it was just a matter of removing clutter, re-arranging furniture, removing wallpaper and de-personalizing the home. By depersonalizing the house the buyer can then focus on the amount of space available for their furnishings. There is a difference between livability and marketability. When you place your house on the market, it becomes a product. It’s important that you divorce yourself from the emotions connected to the house and focus on the business of selling it. 

      Sellers must employ the 6 “p’s” in this slower market. Proper prior planning prevents poor presentation. I educate my seller clients about the importance of seeing the house through the eyes of the buyer. Staging a house prior to putting it on the market will generate more agent and buyers showings. The end result is that the house will sell faster, for a higher price and oftentimes with multiple offers. I will happily share my list of staging companies and tips for preparing your home for sale. Once the house is in escrow, it’s the appraiser’s estimated value that will determine the amount the lender will provide the buyer for the purchase.

      The criteria the appraiser will use to assess your home’s value will include homes that have sold within a mile of the subject property. He or she will also compare square footage, usually using properties that are within 200 square feet of the home for sale and he will compare those homes that have sold within the last six months. The appraiser will also factor in upgrades to the property. It’s always a good idea to keep your receipts and provide a list of any major upgrades or remodeling to the appraiser.

Posted on April 8, 2012 at 9:01 PM
Susan Saurastri | Category: Real Estate News