If 2020 is the year for you to buy a home, consider making these 5 New Year’s resolutions to help you be as prepared as possible to become a homeowner.
1. Cut down on monthly subscriptions.
With each month, there is a new subscription service out there. What starts as convenience turns into an endless list of subscriptions that we often don’t use enough to justify the costs. Sit down and go through your monthly/yearly subscriptions and cancel whatever you don’t use. Set aside that extra money with the rest of your savings so your down payment can continue to grow.
2. Build a better credit history.
Paying bills on time and paying off debts will help create a solid credit history. Make sure you have some utilities or rent in your name so that you can pay them on time and continue to build a solid credit history.
3. Avoid changing careers.
Alongside income, your employment history will be a major factor during your mortgage application evaluation. While a new job could be a good career move, most evaluators are looking for a steady job history with little to no gaps in your employment over the last few years.
4. Check your credit.
If you don’t know where your credit is at currently, now is the best time to check. Most credit sites will tell you what is impacting your credit, and you can use those tips to change your choices heading into the new year. If large debts are negatively impacting your credit, get started on a pay off plan so your score can improve in the new year.
5. Avoid large purchases.
Your debt-to-credit ratio makes a major impact on your mortgage approval. If you buy a brand new car or fund a large vacation, that ratio could sway in the wrong direction. If you want your lender to be willing to give you the maximum amount possible, make sure you aren’t making any large purchases heading into the new year.
If you’re preparing to sell your home, curb appeal should be a priority. When someone is walking by or coming to your open house, the outside of your home is the first thing they will see. If there is no curb appeal, potential buyers may never even set foot in your home. Instead of ignoring your home’s outdoor appearance, consider making some budget-friendly changes that can add appeal to your home without breaking the bank.
1. Landscape Your Walkway
Create a smooth transition from the street to your front door. A clear path will allow a potential buyer’s eye to look straight to your home, rather than stopping to concentrate on unkept landscaping. Clean your walkway and create groupings of mid-size shrubby and florals close to the road and by your front door.
2. Hang a Wreath
Adding a wreath to your front door is a simple way to make your home look more welcoming. Consider a DIY wreath that is easy to create and cost-friendly.
3. Treat Your Lawn Better
Consistent upkeep is the best way to save money when it comes to your front lawn. You should apply a weed-and-feed treatment to your lawn as often as needed to supply the necessary nutrients while also killing off any weeds. Be sure to provide proper maintenance to your lawn mower and keep your mower blade sharp.
4. Add Porch Appeal
If you have a front porch, add an affordable outdoor furniture set. This can create an inviting space that will make potential buyers want to try it out!
5. Consider Color Accents
If your door or shutters need a fresh paint job, consider finding an accent color that will help your house pop. It doesn’t have to be extreme, just enough to catch the eye of a potential buyer. Be sure to test your paint color alongside your siding or brick before fully committing.
6. Restore Your Driveway
Your driveway can be a major eyesore if it isn’t taken care of. Fill any holes or cracks in your asphalt and apply a fresh sealer. A driveway that looks new is sure to help your curb appeal.
7. Power Wash Your Home
Sometimes, all your home needs is a good cleaning. If you don’t own power washer, rent one from your local home improvement store and take a weekend to power wash your entire exterior. Even if your home is relatively new, a deep cleaning can make it look like a new build.
You don't need thousands of dollars to fully refurbish your home to make it feel like new again. Instead, you can DIY a lot of features in your house to help spruce it up for the upcoming season. Whether you plan to sell your home, have guests over, or are just tired of how drab it's been feeling lately, here are a few tips and tricks you can use to refresh your space...
Throw out all of the junk taking up space! You'd be surprised by how much more you'll fall back in love with your home when you take out the collection of accumulated stuff that has piled up over the years and finally get to see your home's features for what they are. Store what you don't need/use in either the attic, basement, or in a storage unit. After you've decluttered, be sure to finish it off by cleaning your home. Clean windows, walls, and the floors for the best results.
Do you have heavy curtains covering your windows? Bring them down! Not only will this make your space feel bigger by removing stuff off the walls, it'll also feel alive again with all of the natural light that pours in.
Nothing refreshes a home like a new coat of paint. If you have dark dull colors, opt for lighter tones. Covering up stains on the walls, or drab old paint, can help your house feel brand new all over again. Although neutral colors are always recommended as the base of any home decor, don't be afraid to compliment your neutrals with a pop of color. You can add it throughout the home by using flowers, pillows, decor, or even light curtains that are staged on the sides of your windows. By the way, Color Consults are one of my areas of expertise, so I can help you select the perfect color for your favorite spaces!
Consider adding a tile backsplash in your kitchen or bathroom. You don't have to spend a lot of money to get beautiful results. Be sure you get tiles that compliment the colors in the space, so it doesn't clash and look unappealing.
You'd be surprised by how much more a kitchen can look different just by replacing the hardware on the cabinets. A bathroom or living room can come alive again by installing a brand new light fixture. If you moved into a place that still has the same stock hardware or fixtures, replace them and add a little creativity with the new pieces you have installed.
Head to Pinterest and get inspired for new living room, bedroom, or dining room arrangements. Most homeowners decorate "incorrectly" when it comes to standard staging rules. View a variety of furniture set-ups on social media and let it motivate you to rearrange your space. You don't have to buy a bunch of new furniture to make a drastic change.
Newlyweds are saying “I do” to each other, and equate to over half of first time home buyers that are also saying “I do” to their dream homes. It makes sense! When you put two hearts together, the time comes to find a home to nourish that love. A home that brings two of your places together, and makes it one. If you and your spouse are ready to fall in love with the perfect house together, here are five tips to make sure the process goes smoothly, and you come prepared.
1. YOUR WEDDING BUDGET: Your wedding is a one-time event that shouldn’t be less than what you’d imagine. It’s a beautiful time to put all of your dream pieces together. However, it’s best to sit down and find out ways you can shift the budget to help with your down payment for a home, if you plan to purchase. The average couple spends a little over $20,000 on their wedding. Even a savings of $5000 from your wedding budget can help with owning the perfect home.
2. WEDDING GIFTS: Wedding bliss comes with wedding gifts. Let’s admit, one of our favorite times during the wedding season is all of the gifts that come pouring in! Have any friends or family pitching in cash? Save that to put towards your down payment. And depending on the generosity of your gifts, you can even open an account dedicated to your down payment, that friends and family can gift to.
3. GET PRE-APPROVED: One of the least brought up conversations in relationships is the credit and financial history of your soon-to-be spouse. Get together with a lender to go over both of your histories to know what needs to be done to put you guys in a position to own together. In some cases, only one person can get approved, while the other can’t. If you want to put both of your incomes toward the cost of the house you want, talking to a lender early on can ensure you are prepared to make the right moves.
4. THE RIGHT AGENT: That’s where I come in! For starters, I can connect you with a lender to ensure you guys are being watched over from the best recommendations. And it’s an absolute joy to take the stress out of buying a home for my newly wed couples. We all know how stressful, although joyous, a wedding can be. To then jump into buying a house shortly after, well, it’s certainly a lot to get through. But I can guide you through all of the steps to make sure you end up with a house you love. Just think of me as a wedding planner, but for homes.
5. NOW THERE’S TWO: Although some spouses are a match made in heaven, loving and adoring the same exact things, often times that’s not the case with most couples. You still are your own persons, and have your own tastes. This is where the first step to comprise really begins. Spending a good bit of money on a place you both will love and call home. A happy marriage starts with a happy home, so be sure you both are considerate of each other’s wants and needs in style and location, so you both are happy with the home you end up getting. I have a unique process to help you and your new spouse find THE home that is the best fit for both of you!
Finally ready to make the transition into home ownership? That’s awesome, and in this exciting time you can be turning to friends and family for an insight into the process. However, there seems to be a circulation of misinformation spreading around, so we’re here to clear up a few myths.
1. THE FIRST STEP IS SEARCHING FOR A HOME
You know the saying, “Don’t put the cart before the horse,” well that’s important to remember when it comes to buying a home. You don’t want to start looking for a house until you have gotten to sit down with a lender and discuss what the bank will qualify you for. If you fall in love with a house that’s $250,000 and come to find out you’re only qualified for $200,000 you can get your hopes crushed and waste a lot of time. Don’t start the process on the wrong foot and make sure the numbers line up.
2. YOU DON’T NEED A REAL ESTATE AGENT
Real Estate agents look out for your best interests and help navigate and avoid potentially costly mistakes. Especially in markets where competition is high and inventory is low, having an agent may mean the difference between finding and getting your offer accepted or not. Having a real estate agent on your side means you’ll get to see homes that aren’t as readily available on public searches, you avoid outdated listings and scammers (there are lots of them), and you have protection when it comes to navigating the legalities of contracts and buying a home. Why wouldn’t you want an awesome negotiator working to ensure you get the best from the transaction?
3. YOU CAN’T BUY A HOME WITH BAD CREDIT
Fortunately for some, this is a myth. Lenders and banks come by the hundreds of thousands and all though there are a few loan options, a lot of lenders can work with credit scores down to the low to mid 500’s. Get in touch with an agent to help you connect with the right lender who can help you potentially approved. There is a lot of factors that go into approvals, but your credit doesn’t have to be a sore thumb during the process. However, you will be doing yourself a favor if you connect with a credit repair specialist to at least get those numbers in the 600’s. A better score will lower you interest rate.
4. YOUR DOWN PAYMENT HAS TO BE 20%
Think you have to sell an arm and a leg to buy a home? Not at all! An FHA loan only requires 3.5% while a conventional only requires 5%. There are a lot of programs that can potentially help you with down payment assistance or be 0% down mortgage. USDA and VA loans are the most popular 0% down programs. If you qualify, this can take a big chunk off the amount of cash you have to bring to the closing table.
5. DOWN PAYMENTS ARE THE ONLY UPFRONT COST
This is one of the biggest misconceptions. There is a lot of cost that goes into buying a home, and that includes upfront costs. One of the mandatory ones are a termite and appraisal. If you are getting a mortgage, the home will have to appraise and get a letter stating there are no termites in the home. Termite can range between $25-$75 dollars. An appraisal can range from $300-$700 dollars. Aside from your down payment, you then have to pay for closing costs. And NO, they are not the same thing. Closing costs can range anywhere between 3-6% of the purchase price. In certain markets, this can be negotiated for sellers to cover by rolling into the offer price, but whether that decision is smart to do or not when it comes to landing your dream home will need to be discussed with your agent.
Now that you have some knowledge to get the process started, get in touch with an agent who will help you get through the process as smoothly as possible.
Are you ready to buy a home and considering going the route of new builds? It may seem like an easy enough process, where you get to call the shots of how you want your dream home to be, but there is a lot of risk when it comes to new construction if you are going in blindly. It’s unfortunately not as trouble free as we’d like to hope, if you don’t have the right representative by your side to help with the things that need to be looked out for from a professional’s eye. Below, we’ll dive into the many reasons you need a professional buyer’s agent representing you in the sale. They are, after all, on your side. And it’s their role to ensure you aren’t taken advantage of by the builders and their representatives in the transaction.
The most important part of finding an agent is having a professional’s perspective to finding a builder with a great reputation. You get to benefit from your agent’s network of vendors, lenders, and home builders. They have the industry expertise to connect you with a builder that matches your needs, and more than likely, have already had experience with the builder with a past client. Or, if they haven’t worked with a builder you want to use directly, they can gather person-to-person recommendations from other agents to know the expected experience with said builder. They will help you find one, that not only delivers exactly what their clients want, but in a timely fashion.
The lot you choose to go with in a new build can either be a positive to your new home, or detrimental. In the excitement of the process, we tend to overlook important features of a property. It’s important to have a professional to ensure you make a purchase that will best serve you. They’ll be able to find a neighborhood that best fits your lifestyle and a lot that has a location that works for you. Whether you’re single with pets, or a family with children, the lot location can really make a huge impact. Especially when it comes time to selling it in the future. These are important things your agent will be able to help walk you through, so your decisions work in your favor in the long term, as well as now.
Not only will your agent be able to ensure you get the upgrades and modifications that will best suit your lifestyle, but will also help you make decisions that will increase the value of your home in the long term. They are working for your best interest long term, and with an agent’s guidance, you can be sure to make changes that end up benefiting you.
Your agent will handle the contract and all of the paperwork, and they will be sure to review it to ensure that it is in your best interest. They will be able to help you break down the best loan types, purchasing processes, and steps to take that benefit YOU, not the builder. They are, after all, working for you. They’ll make sure there are no overlooked terms in a builder’s contract that could end up hurting you after you move in. Or even during the building process. You want to make sure you have a professional who is experienced with the paperwork and contracts and knows how to make revisions that work in a way that make you happy.
It is imperative in the purchasing process to have an agent that is able to represent you and negotiate for you. The building process is so much more than having the builder put in your favorite counters and floors. They will be able to get you a price that actually benefits you – not the builder. They will be able to run a comparative market analysis to ensure you are paying a fair price for the property. You don’t want to end up overpaying for the home – it could put you in a tough spot when it comes time to sell. They’ll also be able to negotiate terms around building time frame, closings costs, and so many other aspects of a contract that you may otherwise overlook.
It may seem easy just to pop into an office of a new build, or a builder’s office, and use the onsite agent. But keep in mind that this agent works FOR the builder, NOT for you. So they will be working to make sure the builder gets the best deal at the end of the day. By having a buyer’s agent of your own, you can ensure there is a professional on your side that can walk you through the process and avoid being taken advantage of during the transaction. They will also have a better handle on things when you hit bumps along the way. If you end up working with a builder who isn’t holding their end of the deal, they will have the power to make connections that ensure the builder holds their end of the contract terms.
Home buyers tend to have a lot of questions about home inspections. Are they required? How are they different from appraisals? When does it take place? Here are answers to these and other common questions.
1. Home inspections aren’t required, but they’re worth it.
There is no law that says you have to have an inspection when buying a house. It’s an option that is generally left up to the home buyer. But while you’re not required to have a house inspected before purchasing, it’s generally a wise idea to do so. Unless you are a licensed contractor or builder, you probably don’t have the experience necessary to evaluate the structural aspects of the home. Home inspectors specialize in that very thing.
2. It’s different from a home appraisal.
Home appraisals and inspections are similar procedures, but they have two very different goals in mind.
If you are planning to use a mortgage loan to finance your purchase, there’s a good chance the mortgage lender will require you to have a home appraisal. They do this to determine how much the house is worth. But the inspection is usually optional, and it focuses on the condition of the home. They are two different things.
3. It usually happens soon after the contract is signed.
As far as the timeline goes, a home inspection typically takes place shortly after the buyer and seller have agreed on the purchase price and signed a contract. At that point, the buyer will often hire an inspector to perform a complete home inspection.
The seller does not need to be present for the inspection. In most cases, the seller will actually leave the premises so the inspector can come in and do what he/she needs to do. Home buyers are almost always present during this process. The seller’s listing agent might grant the inspector access to the home. Or they might put a lockbox on the door. But as far as the timing goes, it typically takes place soon after the purchase agreement has been signed.
4. It helps you uncover any serious issues with the house.
The inspector will closely examine almost every aspect of the house. That includes the foundation, the roof, the electrical and plumbing systems, HVAC and more. He will provide you with a detailed report of any repair issues or other problems that he finds. This kind of report is invaluable to someone buying a home, especially when you consider how much money is on the line.
5. It’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.
Home inspections typically range from $250 – $400, depending on the size of the house and other factors. When you consider the amount of money you are going to put into the home – and the amount you might be borrowing from a lender – it’s a relatively small price to pay for peace of mind.
If you’re in the market for a new home, contact me today to help you navigate the process!
Home buyers tend to have a lot of questions about the house hunting and buying process. This is particularly true for first-time buyers who have never navigated their way through it before. This article lays it all out for you, from start to finish. Here are seven steps you should take when buying a home.
1. Review your credit situation.
Credit scores are an important qualifying factor for home buyers who need mortgage financing. The FICO score, in particular, is the one most commonly used by mortgage lenders. According to industry experts, home buyers generally need a credit score of 600 or higher to qualify for a loan. But that number is not set in stone, and some loan programs are more flexible than others.
You can order your credit reports from Experian, Equifax and TransUnion, and then review them for errors. You can also order your credit scores (different from your reports) to see how you stack up against the national average. A higher score could help you qualify for a better mortgage rate.
2. Determine your monthly housing budget.
A mortgage lender cannot tell you how much of a monthly payment you can comfortably afford. They can only tell you the amount you qualify for. You should determine your home-buying budget for yourself, before shopping for a loan. The idea is to get a basic budget on paper, including the most you are comfortable spending each month toward your housing costs. This will come in handy later on.
3. Get pre-approved for a mortgage loan.
If you’re planning to pay cash for a home, you can obviously skip this step. But if you’re like most home buyers, and you need mortgage financing to complete your purchase, you can benefit from getting pre-approved.
Pre-approval is when a mortgage lender reviews your financial and credit history to determine your “creditworthiness.” When you get pre-approved for a specific loan amount, you’ll be able to narrow your house search to that price range.
Having a pre-approval letter also shows sellers that you are serious about (and capable of) purchasing their home. This can make a big difference in active real estate markets, where the seller may receive multiple offers from competing buyers.
4. Find a real estate agent to help you.
All home buyers can benefit from having professional help from an agent. This is especially true if you are buying a home for the first time, or in a new city you’re not familiar with. An agent can help you find a home that meets your needs, evaluate the seller’s asking price, put together a strong offer, and negotiate effectively based on current market conditions.
5. Start house hunting.
House hunting is the most exciting part of the home buying process. This is where you and your agent visit homes to find one that matches your needs. If you have a smart phone, be sure to bring it along so you can take pictures. And focus on the more permanent features of the home, such as the location, the lot, the square footage, etc. Don’t worry about the paint or the decor — you can always change those things.
6. Make a smart offer based on market conditions.
Once you’ve determined that the seller’s asking price is fair and reasonable, you are ready to make an offer on the property. In most cases, it’s wise to make the offer contingent upon the home inspection. It gives you a way to back out of the deal if the inspector uncovers an issue you’re not comfortable with. Your agent will help you prepare an effective offer. It’s one of their core skills.
7. Attend closing to sign your paperwork — and get your keys!
Once you’ve made it through the inspection stage, you’re ready to attend the closing. (It’s also called “settlement” in some parts of the country.) This is when the title to the property is transferred from the seller to the buyer. You’ll also be signing a lot of paperwork and paying any other fees that are due.
If you are ready to start your home-buying journey, contact me today to schedule your Buyer Empowerment Consultation!
Sellers seem to have mixed reactions when they hear the word “staging.” Some go all-in, while others are somewhat resistant to the idea. The more reluctant homeowners ask questions like: Why would anyone bother staging a home before selling it? It sounds like a lot of extra work for me. What do I get out of it?
There’s a simple answer to these questions. By staging your home effectively, you have a better chance of selling it quickly and for the highest possible price. This alone should be enough to motivate even the most reluctant seller.
But those aren’t the only reasons to stage your home before inviting buyers for a visit. Here’s a more complete list of benefits…
1. Staging forces you to de-clutter and organize the home.
Clearing away shelves, cabinets and closets is a big part of the home staging process. It also helps with the moving process, because you’ll have to pack things away at some point anyway. So when you stage your home, you will also be giving yourself a good head start on the packing and moving process (in addition to making it seem more spacious).
2. Staging requires you to think like a home buyer, and that’s a good thing.
When you set out to stage your home for the market, you’ll be viewing the property as if you were a buyer and not the actual owner. You’ll be thinking about the home more objectively, with less personal attachment. Adopting this kind of mindset early on will help you in many ways, from marketing to negotiating.
3. Staging increases the likelihood of a quick sale.
When listing your home for sale, you’ll want to do everything in your power to increase the chance of a quick sale. Because let’s face it, having your home on the market isn’t very much fun. It can be invasive and inconvenient. Anyone who has sold a home in the past can attest to this fact. So the less time your house is on the market, the better. Besides, you probably have a timeline for your move, your next residence, etc. Home staging can give you an extra edge in selling the home quickly.
4. Staging helps to justify the asking price.
If you are in a seller’s market, and you price your home correctly, you probably won’t have to go back and forth negotiating over the asking price. You’ll get offers soon enough. But in a market that leans toward the buyer, you need everything in your favor to get top dollar. When done right, staging can help you justify the asking price by positioning the home more favorably in the buyer’s mind. And even if you are in a seller’s market, you still want to earn the best possible price. So stage away!
5. Staging can actually be fun!
At first, home staging might sound like “all work and no play.” De-cluttering, painting, strategic furniture placement — all of these things require some effort on your part. You’ll have to roll up your sleeves and put in some elbow grease. But staging a home can be a creative process as well, and many people find they enjoy it once they’ve begun. Put on your amateur decorator hat, and have some fun.
If you’re thinking of selling, contact me today!
Home prices in the U.S. have risen more or less steadily over the last few years. In many cities, home values are now at their highest point in history — even higher than the last housing boom.
But what determines the “market value” of a home? How do sellers determine their list prices, and how can buyers evaluate a listing based on current market conditions. Here’s a crash course in determining market value, for sellers and buyers alike.
The Definition of ‘Market Value’
Let’s start off with a quick definition. In a real estate context, the “market value” is the most likely price a home will sell for within a reasonable amount of time. It is based on local housing market conditions and recent sales activity.
You’ll notice this definition does not mention the original price paid by the homeowner. Unless they bought the home a month ago, the original purchase price is likely irrelevant to the current market. Likewise, the market value of a home has nothing to do with the homeowner’s current mortgage balance. Some sellers list their homes for the amount needed to pay off their mortgage loans. But that doesn’t always line up with the current market value of the property.
How to Determine Market Value
So, with that introduction out of the way, let’s get to the heart of the matter. How do you know the market value of a home you’re thinking about buying? Or the value of your own property, when listing it for sale?
The first thing you’d want to do is track home sales in the area. The longer you do this, the better. It gives you a good base of knowledge with regard to asking prices versus selling prices (hint: it’s the latter of these two that determines market value).
Next, you’ll want to review sales data on homes that are similar to the one you’re considering. This is what real estate agents refer to as comparable sales, or comps. The more alike the two properties are, the more accurate the pricing comparison.
Try to find as many comparable home sales as possible. This will help you support your offer amount, by showing the seller you’re using actual market data from recent sales in the area. Remember, home prices can change over time. So recent comps will give you a better idea of what’s happening now, in the current real estate market.
When you determine the market value of a home, you also need to take any unique features into account. For example, let’s say I’ve found sales data for two colonial-style homes that are 2,000 square feet. The home I’m considering is also a colonial with 2,000 square feet. But it has a completely renovated kitchen, a pool, and sits on a more spacious corner lot with a great view. The other houses lack these qualities. So the house I’m considering will likely sell for more than the two comps, despite the fact that the homes are similar in size and style.
Here’s a good “formula” to keep in mind when considering the market value of a home in a particular area:
Comparable sale prices + unique features = a good asking price
An Easier Way: Work With a Real Estate Agent
This is just a basic overview of market value within the context of real estate sales. There’s more work involved to properly evaluate the value of a particular property, especially when the market is changing constantly. And that’s where real estate agents come into the picture.
Real estate agents undergo extensive training in this area. Much of their education has to do with real estate market cycles, home prices and values, and related topics. So whether you’re buying or selling a home, you could save yourself a lot of time and energy by having an agent on your side! It would be my pleasure to be your advocate through your home-buying journey! Contact me here!