With the great weather and sense of newness spring brings, it is a great time to prepare for and start remodeling projects. Whether you are upgrading, updating or customizing your home, hiring the right contractor will be the key to the success of your project.
A great starting place would be a contractor referral from a friend or family member. Even if a contractor comes to you with good recommendations, it is advised to check their references, licenses and insurance. You still should get at least three estimates and a firsthand look at the contractors’ past work to help assure a good pick. Inquire if the contractor will be doing all of the work or if he or she will be using subcontractors as well.
Once you have selected a contractor, carefully scrutinize the details of the written agreement for the work to be performed. Make sure that every aspect of the project is spelled out, and see how any changes will be handled. The types of materials to be used should be listed and should meet your specifications. The commencement date and estimated finish date must be included with language addressing what your recourse is if the project is not completed per the contract. It is equally important to be indemnified in the event the work doesn’t meet building codes.
The payment schedule should include only a small-percentage up-front cost in the event the work doesn’t get completed. The final payment should be due at completion if the work is done to your satisfaction.
When considering a remodel or improvements, be sure to consult with us to ensure your upgrades are in alignment with your neighborhood, target buyers and trends to consider when selling your home. Reach out with your questions about remodeling. We are happy to help and can also refer you to contractors.
When it’s time to sell your home, will you be the one who puts up the For Sale sign? The idea of putting up a For Sale By Owner (FSBO) sign will probably be a consideration with the hope of avoiding the majority of the 6–10% selling costs that come with having a real estate agent list your home.
With an FSBO, prepare to take on all of the duties and liabilities that you otherwise would be paying an agent to assume. You will have to find access to comps to accurately price your home, and you will need to be aware of the legal aspects of a home sale. Be sure to check your state’s laws for selling your home and determine if there are any regulations you must additionally comply with as a FSBO. Any omissions may be costly and litigious.
If you are an inexperienced seller and choose to market your home and take on the challenges of a For Sale By Owner, you will quickly appreciate the skills that a real estate professional brings to the table. FSBO listings usually have a hard time targeting the right buyers and are often underpriced and less attractive.
Working with a real estate agent will help you avoid these common problems, assure a successful sale and still realize a profitable outcome. Our team is here to list and market your home for you so your next home sale will be as stress-free as possible. Call or email us, and let’s put you in the best possible position when you sell your home.
Prior to buying a home, you need to assess the amount and source of your down payment funds and check in with a lender of choice to determine what kind of loan is best for you. You should work on getting your credit score as high as possible and create a reasonable budget so you can save the needed down payment funds.
There are down payment assistance programs that will help keep the size of your down payment to only 3.5 percent of the purchase price. In some cases, with lender-required education, there may be no down payment required.
Plan on buying a home that fits your savings plan of an amount equal to 3.5 percent of the price. You can always move up to a larger home later as your equity grows.
It is not uncommon for all or part of a down payment to be gifted from a family member. This option may allow you to buy a home sooner than expected because your funds are immediately available.
To help save money to buy a home, have your bank set up an automated transfer of at least 10 percent from every paycheck to a separate account that is reserved for your down payment funds. Have your budgeting plan include reducing some of your more luxurious indulgences. Eat out less often, shop for more affordable getaways and evaluate how much you are spending on items you could really live without.
If you can find a way to increase your income, even if only temporarily, your down payment fund will grow even more quickly. You may have a hobby that could be a marketable commodity, or freelancing your skills could supplement your income.
Reach out to learn how you can put yourself in the best possible position to purchase a home.
A home purchase is likely the biggest investment you will ever make. To protect your investment and your personal health and safety, you want to be aware of red flags that could signal significant problems with the home that you wish to buy.
Structural red flags are the most serious because they threaten the integrity of the home. Look for large basement floor cracks and bumps. Doors and windows that are out of alignment, along with steps that have separated from the foundation, are all indications of settling of the home.
Mold-related issues are often detected in older homes with deferred maintenance and may not have easy fixes. Keep an eye out for patches of black mold in the house as well as any mold-related odor, unventilated bathrooms or bubbled paint.
Even an untrained eye can uncover red flags associated with destructive pests. Powdery residue around wood elements, grinding sounds, and hollow areas in floors and walls are indicators of wood-destroying pests. Droppings and bug body parts are also signs of insect infestation.
Defective roofing can present you with several threats to a home’s integrity. Beware of a roof that is over 20 years old and displays cracked and missing shingles or has evidence of previous repairs. Once inside the home, keep an eye on the ceiling, where there may be staining or patchy paint.
Our team will help point out red flags like these so your home-buying process will result in fewer risks to your health, safety and bank account.
Even if you are not moving, one of the more challenging parts of home ownership is keeping your home clutter free, knowing how to downsize your spaces and how to practically reduce the number of your belongings. This guide will help you improve your skills so you can get the job done with the outcome you planned for.
Once you know why you need to declutter and downsize, how you do so will make more sense. Take a moment to realize the mental and physical benefits of the task at hand. Create a mental picture of what end result you wish to achieve. Hold on to that idea and enjoy the process.
Start with items that no longer have meaning to you or are no longer functional. They will be the easiest to discard and will create your decluttering mindset and enable you to keep going.
Next are the things that still bear a bit of a question mark as to whether they stay or go. These items may be duplicates of things you have kept “just in case.” Analyze their real value, rarity and usefulness. Doing so will answer the question of if they are worth taking up precious space.
The final step would be to address those pieces that still stir memories. It is hardest to declutter the photos and heirlooms that stir your emotions, especially if they’ll make you feel guilty if you part ways. Consider scanning old documents and photos. Friends and relatives may feel honored if you pass on small collectibles. Some items can be repurposed to start new lives in your newly created spaces.
It is a learning process to successfully declutter and downsize. Stay focused on your mission. We have guided many clients through the process and can do the same for you.
Experience will be your best ally when it comes to avoiding pitfalls when buying your first home. We are here to help you avoid these most common mistakes.
1. A real estate agent who doesn’t have your best interests at the forefront or the right tools and resources to assist in getting the job done effectively won’t likely produce good results. Be selective in choosing who will represent you.
2. Relying on a lender just because of a past banking relationship may not yield the best rate and terms for your loan. Explore the competition.
3. In a hot seller’s market, hesitating to put in an offer on a suitable home could mean losing a rare buying opportunity and creating uncertainty when it comes to future prospective properties.
4. Not staying within your budget and moving forward with a higher-priced home can cause you to pinch pennies to make ends meet and trigger unnecessary anxiety.
5. If you are in the midst of a seller’s market and you have not been preapproved for a loan, your offer is in a very weak position. You risk losing every buying opportunity until you do get preapproved.
6. You will miss valuable buying opportunities if you make your home search parameters too broad. Don’t spend too much time looking at properties that really aren’t for you. Narrowing down what features of a home are on your bucket list will allow you to home in on those properties from the start.
We are here to ensure you have a smooth home-buying experience. Call or email us and let us help you avoid these mistakes and other potential pitfalls.
While renting a home gives you the freedom of picking up stakes and moving whenever you want, realizing the dream of home ownership can give you far more benefits, the most obvious being the growth of your nest egg coming from normal market appreciation and the additional equity increase that you gain from making home improvements over time.
Home ownership can also enhance your financial status with some of the following tax advantages.
1. Making monthly principal and interest payments on your loan may qualify you for a mortgage interest deduction, which reduces your income tax liability proportionately.
2. Owning your own home means paying property taxes and, with some limitations, may give you an additional tax deduction on your income taxes.
3. If your loan includes a mortgage insurance premium and your income qualifies, that premium is deductible and also lowers your tax liability.
4. A percentage of some home improvements can increase your tax deductions, especially if they are eco-friendly. Solar panels and wind turbines are examples.
5. Having a home-based business and the improvements that are associated with that business may also contribute to decreasing your tax liability. The square footage percentage of the portion of your home where you conduct business may give you additional tax deductions.
If you feel that owning your own home will benefit your financial future, then we are here to take you down that path.
As a home buyer, you can optimize your home buying if you move forward with your search during the off-season of where you wish to live. In very hot climates, the off-season will be during the summer, while in most other parts of the country, it would be during the winter months. Here are a few reasons you may want to consider buying your home out of season.
1. A seller who lists his or her house during the off-season is more likely to be very motivated to get the home sold. Therefore, you can benefit because the seller will be more willing to negotiate on price and terms, especially if you present a fair offer.
2. There are usually fewer buyers when you decide to shop when it’s not peak market time. Fewer buyers mean less competition and no price wars. Buyers tend to be more focused on the holidays during the winter, while communities in hotter climates draw virtually no competing home-buying snowbirds during the summer.
3. Since the off-season can mask the usually attractive curb appeal of a home, it can also provide a more realistic viewing of a home without the gingerbread. You can better see the “bones” of a home with minimal landscaping and possible deferred maintenance.
4. The durability of a prospective property can be better tested when you shop off-season since the mechanics of the home are being put to use on a daily basis. The furnace output is being tested to its maximum capability in cooler winter zones, while the air conditioning is being constantly challenged in the desert climates during the summer. The insulation and soundness of doors and windows are also best evaluated during these times.
Even though the market traditionally slows down during the off-season, we are here 365 days a year to improve the results of your home-buying experience.
The valuation of your home will consider a variety of contributing factors. The appraised value will weigh everything from location and demographics to the physical attributes of your home. These are key influences.
1. First is the location. The neighborhood’s location value will be relative to its proximity to area schools, amenities and accessibility to those amenities. A home’s location within the neighborhood can add positive value if it is in a cul-de-sac or on a large lot and does not back up to any main roads. Location value is reinforced if surrounding homes are clean, neat and owner-occupied.
2. Value will be influenced by what upgrades and updates are contributing to making a home more current in quality, energy efficiency and safety.
3. Appraised value is enhanced when a home has been built in the last 20 years because it presents a lower risk for needed repairs and has newer amenities.
4. Buyers will pay higher prices when the design of a home is timeless and has good appeal for the majority of buyers.
5. As important as the value of the interior of a home is in the appraisal process, so is the exterior landscaping and overall curb appeal. Landscaping that is easy to care for and complements the home’s exterior will yield more value.
6. The value of the number of bedrooms and baths will be of prime importance when comparing to competing sold and listed homes. As the bedroom and bath count goes up, so does the value of the property.
7. The square footage and the efficiency of the floor plan contribute to the value. Finished livable basements add value, but not to the same extent as those living spaces that are above grade.
If you have any questions about home appraisals, call or email us. We are always here to help guide you so you can make the decisions that are best for your goals.
In a world of scamming via Internet connections and communications, we want to warn you of the wire fraud that could be a product of sending or receiving emails that takes root during the closing process in a real estate transaction where large sums of money are being transferred to consummate home sales.
Once scammers gain access to a real estate agent’s or title company’s email account, they can deceive home buyers by “forging” emails to falsely convey closing money wiring instructions. If successful in convincing a buyer to send closing funds to an account other than that of the title company’s financial institution, the scam won’t likely be discovered until the funds cannot be recovered.
It is important to protect yourself from this potentially huge loss of your life savings. Whenever you receive an email from a title company or your agent with wiring instructions for closing, you always need to call the source to confirm the content of the instructions that you have received. Typically, real estate agents should not be in receipt of wiring instructions because it provides another avenue for potential fraud.
Most title companies protect themselves and their clients by communicating wiring instructions via encrypted email once the buyer calls to ask for those instructions. While nothing is foolproof, email encryption helps assure the secure transfer of closing funds.
We are aware of the perils associated with this part of the closing process and are here to assist you in the verification process. We can direct you to title companies with encryption capabilities.
A number of factors can come into play when it comes to the timeline for selling your home. Let’s take a look.
Location and neighborhood desirability have traditionally impacted marketing the most. Good location and community appeal attract more interested buyers and can greatly reduce the number of days your home is on the market.
When interest rates are low and the economy is doing well, there will be more qualified buyers. An often-overlooked factor in the loan qualification process is that the house must also qualify for the sought-after loan. A home with lots of deferred maintenance or significant code violations runs the chance of receiving a negative appraisal for the buyer’s loan, potentially causing the deal to fail and the house going back on the market in search of a cash buyer.
A home’s age and amenities will influence a buyer’s decision to make an offer. A home will sell faster if it is in move-in condition, with a buyer having to do very little to make it “home.”
Your house should “hit the market running” and can do so by having a competitive listing price that comes from a proper valuation of recent comparable sales and active listings. Most buyers have done their homework and will be drawn to those properties that present good value and will appraise near the sales price.
Knowing the market trends of who is buying, what the present supply of housing inventory is and the demand for that inventory are also key factors that will influence your days on the market.
We want to help you enhance the positive factors so that they can offset those influences that we cannot control. Our goal is to make the marketing time for a home sale as predictable as possible.
If you have any questions about factors that impact the selling timeline, please give me a call or send me an email. I would be happy to go over them with you. I’m always here to help.
Elevating your home’s value does not mean having to drain your savings. Take a look at these great suggestions.
Outdoors are as important as indoors. Liven up your yard by planting a new tree or some native shrubs. Older carpets and rugs can harbor odor-causing soil, so invest in new fresh floor coverings.
For a few hundred dollars, you can enhance the first impression of your home by hiring someone to help detail your yard, especially if it is starting to look rough around the edges. Having things clean and fresh will attract even the most finicky buyer, so indulge in a professional cleaning service to scrub your home from floors to ceilings. Visually decluttering your home and giving it a more spacious feeling can be accomplished by changing out bulky curtains with blinds or shutters.
Revitalizing your kitchen and baths with new tile flooring can often be done for under $1,000 and reap far greater rewards. Consider replacing some appliances, a sink, or a plumbing or lighting fixture in these areas and notice how much your kitchen and baths will shine. Take care of the deferred maintenance issues around your home so buyers will have a positive perception of how it has been maintained.
When it comes to increasing home value without breaking the bank, our sellers have always looked to us for guidance and for professional recommendations. Call or email us today and we’ll help you choose the options that are right for you.
Top-notch first impressions of your home can help ensure its successful marketing but also create an inviting feeling to your casual visitors when they step onto your property. Boosting curb appeal doesn’t have to be an expensive undertaking or one that takes weeks to accomplish. As a matter of fact, a whole lot can be achieved in just one day. Here are six easy ways to create a first impression that is a lasting one.
1. Start with a thorough cleaning of the front porch slab, door, windows, walls and ceiling. This will set the stage for your curb appeal makeover.
2. If scrubbing down the front door doesn’t make it visually “pop,” then paint it a color that complements the color of the house but also brings a visitor’s eye to the entry with some brightness.
3. An easy and fun fix is to find a new doormat with a classy look, often incorporating color that coordinates with the front door. What an inexpensive way to take your curb appeal up a notch!
4. While shopping at the home improvement store for paint and a doormat, be sure to check out the aisle with new house numbers, especially if your old ones are dingy and cannot be cleaned up. Be sure the style of the numbers is in tune with the character of the front of your home.
5. If you shop carefully, you can also find reasonably priced new door hardware to harmonize with the new house numbers.
6. To add additional color, introduce well-placed potted flowers on the porch and the entry walkway. Low-maintenance plants will endure through the season without requiring a lot of attention.
If you’d like additional ideas to boost curb appeal, we’re always here to provide guidance. We’re just an email or call away.
To help avoid being a victim of homebuyer anxiety, we would like to give you some pointers to better prepare yourself for what lies ahead when you set out to buy a home.
A good starting point is to go to your lender of choice and get preapproved for a loan. In doing so, two major things will be accomplished. You will know what kind and price of home that you can afford to buy, and you will be able to accompany any offer to purchase with a loan preapproval letter, which adds strength to your offer.
Before you set out on your search, if you list the characteristics of a home that will suit your family, your time will be rewarded more quickly because we can help you target amenity-specific homes. In today’s market of limited inventory, you want to be mentally prepared to pull the trigger when you view a home that fits your needs. Hesitation can result in missing out on the property that really works for you.
To assist in the decision-making, evaluate your funds on hand so you can afford to do fix-its or be able to enhance a new build home if that’s what you would choose to purchase.
Have your yellow pad filled out with these items when you call upon us to partner with you in the homebuying process. By understanding your needs and what you qualify for, we can then move forward efficiently, meet your needs and not miss your best opportunities. We can help you determine what is right for you, given your individual financial circumstances and goals. Call or email us today.
What better way to start the fall season than to have a home maintenance checklist to guide you through the preparations needed to avoid any casualties during the winter season or any unwelcome surprises in the spring? We are providing you with this checklist to show you that getting ready for fall goes far beyond just changing the wreath on your front door.
1. Take a tour of your home and check all of the window and door weather stripping. Any cracked or missing stripping will compromise your heating efficiency and can be remedied with new weather stripping rather inexpensively.
2. Replace your furnace filters as often as every 3-6 months. Air filters are rated and priced per air filtration effectiveness and estimated longevity.
3. Now is a good time to check your gutters and downspouts if you didn’t do so after last winter. Autumn leaves will soon be your gutter’s nemesis, so consider having some sort of leaf guards to save gutter-cleaning time and possible water damage from clogged drainage.
4. Check for concrete cracks that can get worse when water freezes and expands, causing the cracks to widen and the concrete to deteriorate. Patching compounds are an easy remedy and will help maintain the concrete’s integrity.
5. To avoid freezing pipes, drain your outdoor faucets. Stash your hoses out of the weather.
6. When springtime comes knocking, you will enjoy your yard more if your lawn turns green quickly after the cold weather. Be sure and fertilize your lawn prior to winter, and feed your evergreens at the same time.
7. Protect the investment in your outdoor furniture by storing everything or protecting it from the elements with furniture covers, readily available for a reasonable cost.
Please call us with any concerns that we may be able to give you additional guidance on.
ou may not be subject to estate tax, which is applied to estates with values that exceed the exclusion limit set by law, but that does not mean you should avoid estate planning.
Here are five tasks for everyone to consider that fall under estate planning.
Check your beneficiaries. If you have filled out beneficiary designation forms for your financial accounts (such as your life insurance or 401(k) plan), they override any other estate planning documents, so review them and ensure they are up to date.
Create two wills. That is correct: two wills. You need a living will to indicate how you would like to be cared for if you become unable to express your wishes, and you need a last will and testament to explain how you’d like your assets distributed after your death.
Draft two powers of attorney. You also need two powers of attorney to indicate who will handle your affairs if you are incapacitated. One will specify who will handle healthcare decisions, and another will specify who will handle financial matters. You can designate one person to handle both.
Designate guardians if necessary. If you have children, you will want to name a guardian to look after them (day to day and financially) if you are unable to care for them.
Name an executor. When you die, your executor will make sure your assets are distributed in accordance with your will. You can specify a family member or a professional, such as a bank trust officer.
Just be sure to tell your executor that you have named him or her.
As smart technology continues to leap forward, so does its integration into our living spaces. Per Google Dictionary, the definition of “smart” has been expanded to also mean “a device programmed so as to be capable of some independent action.” “Smart” in our homes now means an automated home with artificial intelligence, or AI, connecting to smart home automation and beyond.
In recent years, we have become intimate with the ability to use control devices and appliances with the help of the Internet, but now AI takes us to new heights. Imagine “smart wellness” that can help identify early signs of some illnesses or automation that sets the stage for a perfect night’s sleep, regulating bedroom lighting, temperature, and even the firmness of your mattress. How smart is it that AI can track your grocery-buying habits and automatically keep your shelves stocked by ordering what it knows are your dining preferences?
When it comes to protecting some of the physical aspects of your home, artificial smart intelligence can be set up for things such as leak detection in attics, walls, and basements. Couple that with the ability to detect water loss in your plumbing system, and you can rest easy knowing that water will not cause damage to or create mold conditions in your home.
While monitored home security systems have been around for years, new technology now allows you to be your home’s best security monitor with systems that include facial and voice recognition, smart locks, fingerprint entry capabilities, and customized motion zones, creating fewer false alarms and saving dollars typically paid to security companies.
We look forward to helping you navigate today’s new smart home innovations. If a smart home is on your wish list, we can help you find the available homes that have already taken advantage of smart technology and organize safe showings for you.
What better way to kick off your house hunt than to log on to your computer to “virtually” check out the availability of homes that will complement your lifestyle? We have tuned into the online needs of buyers, putting comprehensive property information at their fingertips. Search filters, property data, and media production quality are better and easier to access than ever before.
Your virtual house hunt enables you to insert yourself into a prospective home without physically being there, all through virtual tours, 3D images, a multitude of still photos, floor plans, and written descriptions that accurately depict the property you are viewing. Not only can a comprehensive online presentation leave you feeling like you just physically toured the home, it will also give you a great picture of the exterior spaces and the neighborhood and how the house is located by incorporating satellite imaging links.
Be aware of possible “red flags” that result from omissions in the virtual viewing. Missing views of exteriors or some living spaces may be a sign that a property has some deficiencies. This will be an opportunity to have us investigate what is not in view so you can decide if the property is worth pursuing.
Your online tour will often provide uploaded seller disclosures, giving you further insight into a home’s physical being. After you have completed your virtual house hunt, we can help you coordinate safe viewing appointments of the properties that you feel will fulfill your needs. We’re here to help you through every step of the process.
Before you begin your hunt for a new home, even if it’s online, we suggest that you do some important information gathering ahead of time so that the fruits of your labor will be more immediate and more satisfying.
The place that you will call “home” will be the result of understanding what your needs are now and into the future. Condo or loft living may be your chosen lifestyle if you don’t want to deal with much maintenance and have no outdoor living requirements.
If so, be sure and note that there will be added monthly housing costs via homeowners association fees. To give yourself or your family room to grow, a detached single-family home with ample outdoor spaces may head your list of criteria.
“What location is best?” Probably the most important part of your information gathering will be how you answer this question. The value of your new home will be influenced by its location, so you will need to analyze your needs regarding how and where you work and play.
The type and locale of a home will determine your overall cost of ownership. Will it be city life, country living, or nesting in the suburbs? Additionally, you will want to include the cost of home maintenance and commuting costs as part of your cost of living fact-finding.
Once you decide whether you are a candidate for a remodeling project or if a newer home better suits your way of life and patience, you will want to get prequalified for a loan that is tailored for the type and location of the home that works for you.
Please remember that we are here to make your information gathering easier so that the end result is a home that is a perfect fit for you and your family.
Any improvement you make to your home should be done with the forethought of improving its value and increasing its appeal to prospective buyers. One of the least expensive ways to accomplish this is to grab a can of paint and a brush and get to work to create a positive first impression of your home.
HomeGain, a leading provider of marketing ideas to real estate agents, has found that the return on investment (ROI) for interior painting is 107% and 55% for new exterior paint. This makes the ROI for interior painting the top home improvement.
Selecting warm neutral colors can make buyers more easily visualize themselves living in your home. Color choice will determine if an interior space appears larger and more spacious or smaller and cozier. Light tones can help increase the openness of a small space, while darker tones tend to create more intimacy.
Since buyers seem to home in on kitchens and bathrooms during the hunt for a new home, you will want to prioritize your painting to transform these two areas. The right colors and application will help define important spaces. Consider creating colored accent wall areas to draw attention to any unique architectural features, such as alcoves, recesses, and soffits.
For exterior painting, focus on the true “first impression” of your home by selecting colors that will appeal to a wide array of buyers. If in doubt, give me a call or send me an email so I can share more helpful hints for increasing your home’s value and marketing success.