All posts by Chris Iseley

Artificial Grass – Making OC Homes Permanently Green

CI pic March BlogTurf has become more and more popular over recent years in Southern California. There is a wide array of reasons for the newly found popularity. Clearly droughts have played havoc on homeowner’s lawns and the ever-rising water costs don’t help. As the droughts continue, yards get browner and wallets emptier.
Artificial grass has become an easy alternative for homeowners frustrated with their lawns. While artificial grass may not have the exact look and feel as natural grass, the product has come a long way in recent years. In many instances it is difficult to tell the difference. Due to this fact, many homeowners are researching the possibilities.


Let me help you out. Artificial grass has numerous advantages over natural grass. Water Districts are currently offering large rebates to balance installation costs. In some cases the rebate programs can almost pay for entire installation of artificial grass.


Here are the advantages:

-Less maintenance

-Lower your monthly water bill

-Water District Rebate Programs (Often up to $3.50 a sq. ft. and the cost of labor)

-Lower cost to maintain

-Pet and Kid Friendly


There are clearly monetary reasons to consider the switch, but the up keep and maintenance is virtually nonexistent. Installing turf could lower your monthly water bill by $30. That could mean a $360 savings year after year!


There are very little disadvantages to installing turf. Clearly the look and feel of natural grass can’t be beat, but do the pros outweigh the cons for your family? Find out for yourself and schedule a time to meet with an artificial grass professional to review your “turf” options. If you need help, we have recommendations.

Location, Location, Location!

I work with a lot of first time home buyers. They are probably some of my best clients. For the most part, they are willing to learn the tricks of the trade. They ask all the right questions and cover their boundaries. In a lot of ways, they are trusting and accept advice easily. However, whether you are a first time home buyer or purchasing your 3rd, 4th or 5th home one rule of real estate always stands firm.


Location, Location, Location!


Location is one of the first things I discuss with my first time home buyers. As an agent, it is always at the forefront of my mind when touring properties.

When determining a home, and more importantly its value, the location of the property will determine the long term value and stability of that property. This can be said for a large geographic region such as Orange County all the way down to the specific location in a particular neighborhood. Orange County has higher home values than San Antonio, Texas for a reason. The value is in the land, location and proximity to certain desires such as, the beach. The beach may be the obvious determining factor in driving home values in Orange County, but there are many other factors to consider that drive the cost of your home.


When buying a home in Orange County, consider these items:

-Proximity to freeways

-Ease of getting to the beach

-Lot size and location

-Proximity to shopping, restaurants and grocery stores


Cities such as Costa Mesa, Aliso Viejo and Irvine have all seen significant gains in home values over the last year. One of the common denominators with these cities is the relative ease to freeways or toll roads allowing for shorter commutes to beach cities and work. There is a high demand for spending less time in your car and more time in the sun. All of these cities offer great shopping and dining, as well. As you move further out to Foothill Ranch, Mission Viejo, Rancho Santa Margarita or San Juan Capistrano (all great cities in their own right) you will see slight drops in home values due to their geographic location. They are often associated with a little longer commute and fewer “Town Centers” where you can get all your shopping done. However, when picking a neighborhood regardless of city one thing stays consistent in determining price. Land! For example, think about a neighborhood in Aliso Viejo. The average home price for that neighborhood may be $600,000. If you have a corner lot in that neighborhood, your home may sell for $50,000-$75,000 more just because of the lot. If you can find a deal with a corner lot, snatch it up quickly. It will retain its value year after year. Many people don’t realize that the value of their home is in the land. If you currently own a home, take a look at your next tax statement. Say, your home is in the same neighborhood as the example above. You get your tax bill and your property was assessed for $600,000. Take a closer look at your bill. I would be willing to bet my own home that your tax bill reads “Land Value $425,000” and “Structure Value $175,000”.  The fact is, building a home doesn’t cost a great deal comparatively speaking. The value is in the land and location!

Solar Panels: Are They the Right Investment for Your Home?

Photo Credit: Michael Coghlan
Photo Credit: Michael Coghlan

You don’t have to look very far to find information on solar panels. There are all types of products and low financing options that guarantee to save you money. The average home owner may see solar panels as a way to avoid the ever increasing price of energy. I am not here to tell you solar panels are or are not a good investment.  As a Realtor, I am here to give you my professional, unbiased opinion on solar panels in the housing market and how they effect sellers.

How do solar panels work? Solar panels are typically sold on a long-term lease of 20 years with a monthly payment. In turn, the solar company will use the energy captured by the panels to eliminate your monthly energy bill from your existing energy company. If you sign up for a monthly lease of $150 and your typical energy bill is $200 a month, then you save $50/month or $600/year. Multiply that over the term of the lease and you just saved $12,000. Sounds great, right? Not so fast… Remember, you signed a 20 year lease. You are bound to the payments of the long-term contract and based on the example above that would be $36,000. What happens if you decide to move? What happens if technology advances and there are cheaper alternatives?

What happens if I want to sell my home and I have a long-term lease on the solar panels?  If you do want to sell your home, the potential buyer will have to take over the solar panel lease in order to purchase it. OR the new owners could purchase the home without taking over the lease, leaving you responsible for the payments even after you moved out.  At first glance, the monthly savings look great and the innovative technology is a must, but make sure you are familiar with the long term ramifications.

What could the future hold? Pretend it is the year 2024.  You own a home and purchased solar panels 10 years ago. You are halfway through your lease. In that time, technology has advanced and we can capture the same amount of energy on one panel as you can with the 20 rusty panels currently on your roof. In addition, the cost in the solar panel market is a monthly payment of $40 a month. Now you want to sell your home. When you list your home, interested buyers are notified that the home is attached to a 20 year solar lease with 10 more years remaining. Why would the buyer take over a lease at $150 a month when they can get it at $40 a month? Why have 20 solar panels on their home when they could have one? Why spend more for old technology? These are all valid questions that will cause problems in your future sell.

Let’s say you don’t plan on selling in the next 20 years. My initial response would be: 20 years is a long time. Your plan today may not be your plan tomorrow. My second response would be: keep in mind you are leasing solar panels. Once your 20 years is up, you still won’t own them. But you have the option of forking up about $5,000 to buy them at their market value.  Another extra expense…and to add insult to injury, any repairs that need to be done to the solar panels during your lease will be at your own expense. The hidden costs are everywhere.

Know the facts before you decide to lease or buy. Ask yourself one question. Is saving $50 a month worth the long term issues? You may save on the front end, but if you ever decide to move, it will likely cost you. In my professional opinion, if you want to go the solar panel route, purchase them or avoid them all together. Otherwise, your solar panel leasing agreement could be a disaster when it comes time to sell.

Feel free to contact me directly for some personal experiences with solar panels in the housing market.


Photo Credit: Michael Coghlan,

Commission Contradiction! Who pays a Realtor’s commision?

Photo Source: Richard Busch
Photo Source: Richard Busch

It is often assumed in a Realtor’s day-to-day interactions that home buyers and sellers understand who is paying the Realtor fees and commissions. As of late, many buyers have expressed to me that they went with Realtor X because he or she was not charging them a commission when helping them find a home. While this is true, it is often a deceptive sale for some realtors to gain a client.

Here are the facts: BUYERS NEVER PAY A COMMISSION TO A REALTOR. Commissions are always the responsibility of the seller. Typically, the commission is broken down into two parts.


1) 2.5% – 3% to the agent who is listing the home

2) 2.5% – 3% to the agent who is bringing in the buyer.


Depending on the market, this could range from 5%-6% of the total purchase price. This payment is solely the seller’s responsibility. It is important to note as a homebuyer that when you turn around to sell your place 5 years down the road, you will be responsible for these costs.


Often agents will take advantage of homebuyers who do not understand the commission structure. Buyers who do not understand the commission structure agree to work with them and it typically is the beginning of a rocky home search.


Another disconnect with buyers / sellers and Realtors is that it is believed that a Realtor’s job is solely to sell the home or help the clients find a house.  At Iseley & Walsh Real Estate Group we know the job does not stop there! Realtors earn their commission on the level of services they provide. Our team has a 4-page document outlining important tasks that need to be done once escrow opens. This could be anything from ordering HOA docs to negotiating request for repairs. A good Realtor’s value is in their ability to quarterback all the responsibilities of escrow to assure a successful close. Just because you agreed to a purchase price, doesn’t mean the deal is done.
I cannot express enough how many times buyers or sellers have tried to cut corners with Realtor fees or discount shops only to receive poor service, feel lost in the transaction and ultimately lose a coveted property. Trust me, seeing someone who was already emotionally attached to a place lose the property due to “going cheap” is not an easy conversation to have.
In closing, I think it is important to focus on two things when picking an agent. First, understand that the seller pays all commissions. Second, understand your Realtor’s roles and responsibilities. Feeling comfortable communicating with your agent should be at the top of your list. You want to know that person has your best interests in mind, will be there to answer any question you have and ultimately will help guide you to a successful close of the property.

5 Cheap Ways To Increase Your Home Value

The cost of homeownership and maintenance can be expensive.

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Complete remodels can cost upwards of $50,000 dollars and your return on investment may be minimal depending on the current housing market. However, there are some easy, cheap fixes to consider prior to listing your home.

  1. 1. Paint – Day to day life can leave your walls and ceilings looking scuffed and dated. A few fresh cans of paint can make those faded walls look vibrant and new. For only a few hundred bucks you could paint your entire house while dramatically increasing your home value. Be sure to paint with neutral colors to attract more potential buyers.
  1. 2. Replace Fixtures – Outdated fixtures can discourage potential buyers and decrease your home’s value. Replacing fixtures is generally a cheap and easy fix if you are willing to put in a few hours on the weekend.
  1. 3. Landscape – First impressions are everything! A dated lawn sets the mood for the house tour. Go to your nearest landscaping store and spend a few hundred dollars on mulch and flowers. The increased curb appeal will pay for itself tenfold.
  1. 4. Step up your storage – The only cost to the homeowner here is sweat equity. It will cost you nothing out of pocket to take things off your shelves and put them into storage. A decluttered home sells a lot quicker and generally for a lot more than a home that has a lot of “stuff” laying around.
  1. 5. Update the Bathroom – Removing old laminate and replacing it with tile can only cost you a few hundred bucks. Paint or stain those dated oak cabinets and simply regrout what is already there. There is no need to completely remodel and deal with headaches of demolition. Simply work with what you have and replace the cheaper aspect of the bathroom with something new and modern. It is well within reason to think you can remodel your bathroom for under a grand. Potential buyers will reward you for your efforts with a higher offer.

These cheap and easy fixes will result in more buyers’ interest and more offers. It is reasonable to think that you could complete all these updates for under $3,000. If I told you this could increase your home’s value by $20,000, why wouldn’t you consider it? Help yourself when you are considering selling your home. Your bank account will thank you.