It’s Tempting, but Don’t Do It: The Perils of Moving in Prior to Closing

It is not a given that every sale will close on the contracted closing date. With this in mind, it is important to have contingency plans to cover any delays that will hinder moving plans for both buyer and seller. The buyer who wants to move in prior to a delayed closing and the seller who accommodates such a request may find themselves in a predicament if things don’t go according to plan. Keep in mind that even if there is a written agreement to allow an early move-in, a legal dispute can still evolve from the unforeseen.

Early occupancy by a buyer means that the seller will have to maintain insurance on the property until closing, but there will be a potentially costly change to that policy. The new coverage would be landlord insurance to cover the now “tenant-occupied” home. Part of the closing process is the funding of the buyer’s loan and a final check of clear title. If a final verification of employment is not in order for the underwriter, funding will not occur and may cause the lender to withdraw the loan commitment. If the final title check reveals a last-minute recorded encumbrance against the property, the sale closing could be indefinitely delayed. These are all good reasons for early occupancy to be avoided.

While the buyer benefits the most from an early move-in, the seller potentially suffers great loss in the event of any buyer default. The seller will have vacated their home, thinking it was sold. This, coupled with the house possibly having been altered or damaged by the buyer during early occupancy, could create unanticipated financial hardship. The seller still owns the house and remains liable for activities on the property.

In any of these scenarios, it wouldn’t be long before buyer and seller would find themselves entangled in a legal battle over monetary damages. The message is loud and clear. Both the buyer and seller need to plan their moves with a flexible timeline and avoid early buyer possession in the event unexpected delays cause a late closing.

If you’re considering upsizing or downsizing, let me know what I can do to help make that transition as smooth as possible for you.

Getting a Pest Inspection Before You List

Before your real estate agent places the “For Sale” sign in your front yard, you want to be sure that no stone has been left unturned when preparing your home for marketing. The “To Do” checklist that your agent gives you is created to help protect you from the unknown once you are under contract to sell. It is also a great checklist for taking care of everyday preventative maintenance of your home.

One of the key items on your list will be the recommendation to obtain a professional structural pest inspection prior to listing instead of waiting for an acceptable offer to see if your home is the subject of hidden pest or water damage.

For a fee of $100-$200, a state-licensed pest inspector will scrutinize everything from the rafters down to the foundation, looking for signs of active wood-boring invaders and/or dry rot.

Termites and certain beetles can be causing behind-the-scenes damage to the structure, while water could be causing wood to rot where it is not properly protected. Once the inspection is complete, you will receive a report with suggested remedies and estimated costs for any areas of active infestation or dry rot. If and when you want to correct any problems is up to you.

Having this information before you move ahead with an offer gives you great advantages when selling your home. You will know the cost to get a clear pest report prior to agreeing on a selling price. Your buyer’s loan approval may depend on having a clear report so closing delays will be avoided.

Don’t hesitate to reach out if you have any questions about the home selling or buying process. I’m here to be your resource.

How to Get the Most from a Home Inspection

Buying a home is probably the single most significant investment you’ll make in your lifetime. When you’re making such a significant purchase, you want to know exactly what you’re getting.

This is the goal of a home inspection. A professional inspector will review the home and point out any potential concerns. Here’s how it works.

1. Arrange for the inspection: Typically, you will include an inspection contingency as part of your offer to purchase the home. This contingency will allow you to order an inspection (at your expense), then determine if you would like to proceed with the purchase, based on the results.

2. Complete the inspection: You should be present during the inspection so the inspector can review any items of concern with you in person.

He or she will inspect all the home’s systems, structural components, and general condition and provide a report that notes any areas of concern.

3. Request repairs: You’ll review the inspection report with your real estate agent and decide if there are any items you would like the seller to address. You can request that the seller make the repairs or provide a credit to cover their cost.

Typical things to address are safety concerns and anything that is not up to code. If the sellers refuse to negotiate, you can decide whether you want to move forward with the purchase or move on to another home.

I’d be happy to connect you with a qualified inspector and help you smoothly navigate this process.

5 Financial Benefits of Owning a Home

You want to make smart financial choices for your future. Do those include buying a home? Here are five financial benefits that point to yes.

1. Tax breaks: As a homeowner, you may qualify for tax benefits. These deductions can help offset other costs of homeownership. Potential deductions include the interest on your mortgage, property taxes, and home equity lines of credit.

2. Stability: If you take out a fixed-rate mortgage, you’ll know what payments to expect for the life of the loan. Rent, on the other hand, often increases annually. When you own a home, you also typically have more control over expenses such as utilities, so you can make choices that encourage efficiency and save money each month.

3. Forced savings: Each month, as you pay down your mortgage, you are adding equity. This can be an excellent way to build wealth. In the future, you can sell the home for a profit or borrow against the equity to obtain needed funds. Medical emergencies, college tuition, and home repairs or renovations are common uses for these funds.

4. Good health: A mortgage looks good on a credit report and can help you establish a healthy score. As you faithfully pay off the loan, your score can increase. This can prove helpful in obtaining lower insurance rates and qualifying for lower rates on future purchases.

5. Final payment: When you buy a home, there will come a day when you no longer have to make your mortgage payment. It will eventually be your property, free and clear. (Time to celebrate!) This scenario is much different than paying rent, which will continue for a lifetime.

Are you wondering if a home purchase makes sense for your financial future? I’d be happy to discuss these and other benefits and help you determine if now is a good time for you to pursue homeownership.

3 Questions to Ask Before You Buy a House

Whether you’re thinking about buying or are already in the market for a new home, make sure you ask yourself these questions before making a move:

1. What are my “musts”? As you start your home search or are considering a particular home, make a list of your “must-haves.” These are your top priorities. They might include a certain number of bedrooms, a garage, or a specific school district. Note which items are not up for negotiation so you can refer back to this list as you look at homes.

To maximize your options, limit your “must” list to items you can’t easily change after purchasing the home. For example, you can’t change the home’s location, but you could easily switch out the flooring.

2. How long do I plan to stay? Consider various life factors that might influence how long you’ll live in your next home. Will you likely relocate due to a job transfer? Are you getting ready to settle down in the next couple of years? Is your family growing?

The answers to these questions will help you determine if it’s a good time to buy and, if so, what size and style of home to include in your search.

3. How’s my credit? If you’re planning to take out a mortgage to buy a home, your credit score will be a crucial factor. Lenders look at this number to determine the amount of money they are willing to loan you and at what interest rate.

Credit scores range from 300 to 850. Scores between 750 and 850 are considered excellent, while scores lower than 650 are considered weak. You can get a free copy of your credit report annually from the three consumer credit reporting agencies: Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. Examine these reports carefully to determine if everything is correct and if you’ll need to raise your credit score before you can qualify for a home.

If you need assistance with your credit, feel free to give me a call. I can provide additional resources to help put you in a buy-ready position.

Student Debt Could Buy Every Home on the Market

If you wanted to buy all the homes on the US real estate market, you’d need around $780 billion, according to Realtor.com. To pay off all the outstanding student loan debt in the US, you’d need $1.5 trillion.

Why is student loan debt nearly double today’s real estate market? It’s because almost 43 million Americans are shouldered with student loan debt, and this burden is blocking many of them from homeownership.

This statistic isn’t surprising when we compare the typical down payment for a home to average student loan amounts: $26,000 versus $34,500. Twenty-six percent of Millennials say student loans are the main obstacle they face when trying to save up for a down payment on a home.

Fortunately, there are many options for buyers in this situation. If you’re among them, here are some steps you can take to put yourself on the right track.

Improve your debt-to-income ratio: This ratio is key to qualifying for a mortgage. Lenders want to make sure you can handle the additional house debt with your current income. To improve your ratio, pay down (or pay off) any debts where you can, and increase your income if possible. Consolidating your student loans may also help.

Improve your credit score: Your credit score is another critical number that lenders consider. To increase your score, pay all your bills on time, avoid opening new lines of credit, and lower your use of credit. It’s also a good rule of thumb to check your credit report at least once each year to ensure it is accurate. If there are any errors, report them to the credit bureau immediately.

If you or someone you know is facing student loan debt and are interested in learning more about your options, I can connect you to a mortgage professional who can help you make owning a home a reality.

Is a Fixer-Upper the Right Investment for Me?

You’ve read the headlines: Build sweat equity. DIY special. Needs some TLC. These homes are far from turnkey, but they can offer good opportunities. With the right renovations, fixer-uppers can be a profitable investment.

But is this type of purchase right for you? To answer this question, consider three important factors.

Your plans. If you’re hoping to get a good deal on real estate and flip it for a profit, this can be a good option. Another great option is buying a fixer-upper and doing the repairs yourself in order to transform the house into your dream home. On the other hand, if you have watched a lot of real estate shows and expect to spend a couple of weekends working on the home and then make big bucks, you’re probably on the wrong path. Keep in mind that renovations are often costly, time-consuming, and far more complicated than they look on television.

Your budget. Consider whether you can realistically afford the renovations. How much would it take to make the home liveable? Would basic cosmetic changes be enough, or do you need a budget for more extensive repairs? If major construction is required, you may qualify for a home improvement loan program. If you’d like more information about current loan programs, I can review what is available and connect you with a lender to check your eligibility.

Your time. Examine your calendar. First, consider if you will have a place to live while renovations are completed. If you’re selling your current home and need to move out by a certain date, you’ll need to make plans for temporary housing. You must also consider the time required to manage this type of project. You’ll need to hire and coordinate contractors, or, if you’re doing the work yourself, you’ll need to budget significant time for your labor.

Think a fixer-upper might be right for you? I can help you find deals in your area. Just give me a call.

Hottest Housing Markets of 2019 Across America

You might be surprised to discover the hottest zip codes of 2019. The real estate market saw some new trends this year that caused a shift in hot spots. Metropolitan giants like New York and San Francisco are no longer leading the pack. To find the fastest-selling homes in America, we have to set our sights on smaller locales.

Realtor.com reports that Grand Rapids, Michigan; Omaha, Nebraska; and Boise, Idaho took the top three slots in 2019 for hottest zip codes. The rankings are based on how quickly homes sell and how frequently they are viewed on Realtor.com. The top ten list, which also includes zip codes in New Hampshire and Kansas, demonstrate growing trends in the real estate market.

One of the most significant shifts is the influx to areas outside the big cities. With prices in the Big Apple and other metropolises beyond many buyers’ budgets, home seekers are looking to markets where housing is less dense and is smaller and more affordable.

Millennials are a big part of the new trends. Making up the largest percentage of Americans taking on mortgages, millennials are seeking strong local job markets and affordable homes.

According to Realtor.com, millennial salaries in the top ten zip codes are, on average, 13 percent higher than the national median millennial income. Additionally, job growth projections for these areas are exceeding national growth projections. Lastly, the average home price in these areas is significantly lower, at $272,000, than the national median price of $316,000. If you’d like to learn more about current housing trends, I’m just an email or phone call away.

Should It Stay or Should It Go with You?

Moving is an immense undertaking. Among the myriad tasks on your plate are decisions about what to take with you when you move. Should you bring those living room curtains, or let the new owner enjoy them? Should you try to bring Spidey, your favorite houseplant, to your new home?

These can be tough calls. Following are a few things that most homeowners are better off leaving behind when they move.

Household documents: Do you still have the manual for your refrigerator? Did the furnace you installed last year come with a ten-year warranty? If you have any documents that relate to structural components, utilities, or appliances that are staying with the home, leave these for the new owner. You won’t need them anymore, but the new owners might find them very handy.

Curtains: Sure, you may have chosen the perfect bedroom curtains to match your comforter, but taking curtains with you when you move is usually not worth the hassle. The window coverings aren’t likely to fit on your new set of windows anyway, and buyers typically appreciate when they are included in the price of the home. Even if they want to switch them out eventually, the current curtains will provide privacy in the meantime. And it will give you the opportunity for a decorating fresh start at your new place!

Paint: Do you have a stash of old paint cans from previous renovations? Do not put these in the “go” pile. Often, buyers like to have these on hand to complete touch-ups in the home. Place the cans in a location where the new owners can easily access them. If you discover the buyers do not want the paint, check your local regulations about proper disposal and follow these procedures to get rid of the cans before you move.

Houseplants: If you’re moving a long distance, try to find new homes for your houseplants rather than transport them to your new location. The conditions in a moving truck aren’t conducive to plant life, and the plants are likely to get damaged or die during the move. Consider gifting your plants to your green-thumbed friends and neighbors instead.

Financial Mistakes to Avoid When Buying a Home

A home purchase is likely one of the largest financial investments you’ll make in your lifetime. It’s important to get this one right. For the best financial outcomes, avoid the following mistakes.

Taking on too much: You think you’ve found your dream home, but it’s outside your housing budget. So, you try to stretch that budget and simply take out a bigger mortgage. This decision can be disastrous. Taking on more debt than you can afford will leave you struggling to pay utilities and zap any other financial goals. A good rule of thumb is to limit the cost of your house payment (including taxes, insurance and any HOA fees) to 25 percent of your take-home pay.

Skipping the preapproval: Getting preapproved will help you with not taking on too much, as it will provide guidelines for what you can realistically afford. It will also give you a financial advantage when negotiating for a home. Sellers prefer to work with buyers that they know can afford their home, so get preapproved before you shop, so you can submit your pre-approval with any offers.

Skimping on the down payment: The more money you pay up front, the less interest you’ll pay over time. If you save at least 20 percent for a down payment, you can also avoid PMI, which is a fee to cover insurance that protects lenders when a buyer has little equity in the home. And don’t forget to include closing costs and moving expenses as you save up for your purchase.

Going it alone: An experienced agent helps you determine a reasonable price for any home you are considering. We can also negotiate the best price for the home. Plus, the seller pays the agent’s commission, so you get all the expertise at no cost to you. When you’re ready to start your home search, just give me a call!

Home Decorating: What to Finish Before You Start

When it comes to home decorating, deciding where to start can sometimes feel overwhelming. Should you start with furniture shopping or painting? Should you hire a pro or do it yourself?

You may be looking at the decisions you make today for many years to come, so you want to make sure they are ones you can live with. To get the best results, start with a few pre-project tasks. These will give you perspective and guide your efforts in a good direction.

1. Reflect: Consider your current surroundings. What do you like? What would you like to change? Think about what appeals to you most regarding colors, fabrics, and styles. Avoid choosing things just because they are familiar or match your current décor. Determine what you truly like and let that guide your redecorating plans.

2. Write: Make a wish list. If cost were not a factor, what would you do with your space? Write everything down. This will give you a starting point. From this list, you can prioritize and decide what projects you can and will do based on room size and budget size.

3. Review: Look at pictures. See what others have done with similar spaces. Get ideas on how you can accomplish the look and feel that you want for your home. Find inspiration online and in magazines that can help you nail down the details for your redecorated surroundings. This research will get your creative juices flowing.

With a little reflecting, writing, and reviewing, you’ll be ready to tackle your redecorating projects with confidence. Now go ahead and get started!

Protect Your Privacy (and Your Curb Appeal Too)

A 50-foot fence would provide plenty of privacy. A moat will keep people out of your yard. But I’m guessing you probably want something a little more attractive for your property.

Fortunately, there are tasteful, appealing options that will allow you to keep nosy neighbors at bay. The two main areas to focus on are windows and landscaping.

Windows provide sunlight, outdoor viewing, and fresh air, but they can also provide your neighbors with a play-by-play of what’s going on inside your home. If your property is feeling more like a fishbowl than a house, try adding a privacy feature to the windows.

Window tinting can be a great option. These tints can block visibility from the outside while allowing you to enjoy your views. As a bonus, some window tinting can also reduce sun exposure, which can help keep your home cool and protect décor from fading.

Of course, window treatments such as curtains and blinds can also provide privacy, but these can make your home feel like a cave. To maintain privacy and natural light, choose cellular shades or lightweight and light-colored curtains that keep rooms bright.

The right selections in your yard can also provide privacy. Plan your landscaping to include features that block neighbors’ views into your yard and home.

Attractive trellises are a good choice. These create wonderful privacy screens while adding greenery to your surroundings. Choose your favorite vine or other decorative plant and arrange it so that it adds beauty to your backyard and privacy to your home.

Potted plants are an alternative to trellises and can be just as effective in making your home less visible to prying eyes. Place tall plants strategically in your space to create a private backyard oasis or shield your living room window from the world.

What else is nice about all of these options? They are versatile. While fencing is a fairly permanent fixture and can be expensive to install, these privacy options are easy to switch out at any time, and they can fit budgets of any size.

Finding the Perfect Hues for Your Home

How do you usually choose the colors for your walls? Many consider their favorite shades, or they try to match existing furniture or other décor. This is how some people like to do it, but did you know that there are optimal colors for each room type?

The next time you’re ready to splash a new color on your surroundings, consider choosing a hue that suits the room’s purpose. Here are some guidelines you can use as you pick your paint.

Bedrooms: Green. This color is typically associated with calmness and relaxation. Green in the bedroom can help you rest well after a hectic day.

Offices: Blue. This shade is a productivity booster. As a calming color, it can help lower your heart rate so you can focus, yet it also stimulates energy so you can work hard.

Dining rooms: Red. The color red is believed to make people hungry. It’s an exciting color that whets the appetite, making it ideal for the dining room.

Kitchens: Yellow. When cooking, this bright, cheerful color adds to the joys of food preparation. It also creates an inviting atmosphere for the heart of your home, where family and guests often gather.

Living rooms: White. By reflecting light, white makes a room appear larger. This hue also encourages relaxation. These qualities make it the perfect choice for lounge spaces.

Media rooms: Black. It sounds extreme, but consider the atmosphere of a movie theater. Black, or another dark shade, allows viewers to focus on the screen as the only light-colored area of the room. The darkness also reduces reflections and improves viewing color.

Thinking that some of these may be too bold? Is your kitchen white, and you want it to stay that way?

If these colors don’t appeal to you for paint selections, consider adding splashes of these shades in each room. Add red decorations around the dining table. Add some green throw pillows in your bedroom. You might be surprised at how well these accents enhance the ambiance of each space.

You Don’t Want to Forget This Maintenance Task

Many homeowners focus on fall clean-up and winterizing in September, but don’t forget an often-overlooked task: dryer vent cleaning.

This seems like a simple to-do, and it is. Yet it’s commonly forgotten, which can lead to serious issues such as fire and carbon monoxide poisoning when the ductwork cannot vent properly.

To prevent these hazardous situations, make it a habit to clean your dryer vent regularly. Clean the small lint trap after each load, and clean the entire vent system once a year.

Depending on your laundry habits, you may need to clean the vent more often. If your clothes require more than one cycle to dry, your clothing has an odd, burning smell, or your laundry room feels unusually warm while the dryer is running, these are warning signs that you need to clean your vent.

When it’s time for this cleaning, use the following simple procedure to get the job done quickly and effectively.

1. Disconnect: Complete this process carefully. Start by unplugging your dryer from the power source. Then, remove any clamps from the vent pipe so you can detach it from the dryer. Next, pull the pipe away from the wall duct. If you have a gas dryer, take extra care during this process. You may need to contact a professional to avoid the risk of disturbing the gas line.

2. Clean: Use a vent cleaning kit to thoroughly clean your duct and vent. This kit will include a brush that extends the entire length of the duct to remove all debris. It might be easiest to work from the exterior of your home.

3. Reassemble: Reattach everything and enjoy a clean, efficient, safe dryer.

Property Appeal: What Makes a Home Safe?

Location. Layout. Landscaping. A host of home features affect a property’s appeal. One quality that tops many “must-have” lists is safety. What should buyers look for if they want a home that offers the best safety possible for themselves and their families?

Several features can improve the safety of a home to make it more desirable. As a bonus, these devices can also reduce the cost to insure a home. If you want to modernize your home with innovative safety measures or are looking for a new home with the latest safety features, consider these list toppers.

Smart Devices

The internet of things has taken home security and convenience to a new level. Homeowners are empowered with a host of tools and systems to keep their homes safe. In fact, technology has become so prevalent that few items aren’t equipped with smart features. Appliances offer improved safety and efficiency. Garage doors offer additional security. High-tech lawn systems prevent overwatering and flooding. A few devices are particularly desirable for homeowners interested in boosting the safety of their surroundings. These include:

Water alerts: Did you know one of the most common homeowners insurance claims is water damage? Smart leak-detection sensors can now prevent these calamities. They alert homeowners of leaks so they can take immediate action to prevent damage.

Fire detection: What happens if no one is home to hear the smoke detector? A smart fire detector will alert a homeowner via a Wi-Fi-connected device anywhere in the world. This can improve emergency response times and minimize damage.

Burglar deterrents: Smart technology has enhanced security on many fronts. Homeowners can deter thieves with timed lighting, access smart door locks to maintain tighter security, and monitor video surveillance from anywhere.

Wondering what features make the most sense for your market? Contact our office. We can review current trends and determine what safety features to look for in your next home.

Remodels: What’s Good for Resale and What’s Not

You want to get the best price for your house. You’re willing to do some remodeling – if it will deliver significant ROI. What’s worth the effort? Here are three projects worth considering and three that you can skip.

The kitchen: Kitchens sell homes. If your culinary center is looking worse for the wear, it will likely turn off potential buyers. Updating your kitchen is a good way to increase the value and appeal of your home.

Bathrooms: These areas are also high on buyers’ priority lists, so they should be on yours, too. Focus efforts on the master bath and the powder room.

Curb appeal: First impressions are important and the front of your home is the first thing buyers see. Make efforts that will boost curb appeal, such as repainting the exterior, adding plants, and sprucing up the entry with a new door. These projects can often be completed at low cost but offer high return.

Pools: While you may enjoy countless hours of fun in your pool, this feature probably won’t pay for itself in home value increase. In fact, it could be a turnoff for some buyers.

Wine rooms: While they may sound elegant, wine rooms or other original-design spaces are often too niche. Their limited audience makes them a poor investment choice.

Removals: Just because you never use that fireplace doesn’t mean you should demolish it. Removing features is typically not a good investment. Potential buyers may wish it were still there, and you aren’t likely to recoup the cost of removing the feature.

For expert input on your remodeling efforts, contact our office. We can discuss the projects that could get the best return on investment and what I’ve seen in demand in your market.

5 Buyer Turn-Offs to Avoid This Summer

When you’re in the process of selling a house and moving, you have a lot on your plate. You might be job-searching, researching your next home, and doing everything you can to keep your kitchen spotless for the next showing.

With so much going on, it can be easy to let seasonal maintenance items slide, but this would be a mistake. It’s crucial to care for these items to keep your home in top shape. The exterior provides the first impression of your home, so put forth the effort to boost your curb appeal. Here’s how.

1. Manicure the yard. Keep your landscaping tidy. Sweep walkways, cut the grass and pull weeds. A well-kept yard with attractive flowerbeds and an inviting front porch are appealing to buyers. Dead tree limbs, piles of leaves and overgrown lawns are not. In fact, they can be instant turn-offs.

2. Clean the gutters. This task is easy to forget about, but its neglect can lead to significant issues. Clogged gutters can cause drainage issues that damage your landscaping and your foundation. If buyers see puddling water and piles of debris on the roofline, they won’t get a good impression of your home. Let them know it’s a well-cared-for property by keeping gutters clear.

3. Check for critters. Uninvited guests are a sure turn-off for buyers. Make sure no pests have made your home their own this season. Inspect any attic, basement and crawl spaces. Cover vents with wire mesh and plug any holes or cracks that could allow animals access to your home.

4. Wash the windows. That’s right – this isn’t just a spring-cleaning project. To attract buyers, keep those panes sparkling all summer. Be sure to wipe them down after storms to keep windows looking sharp.

5. Stay in season. You never want to let your home look out of season. It gives the impression that you no longer care about the home and it is not well maintained. Be mindful of what is in the yard, on the deck or sitting on the front porch. Keep furniture, plants and decor in season. Let potential buyers know your property is well cared for by staying on top of these seasonal tasks.

Hey, That’s My Stuff! How to Avoid Mover Scams

4,100 consumers filed moving fraud complaints in 2017, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. How can you avoid negative experiences? Be aware of common scams, and take steps to protect yourself from these fraudulent activities.

Get it in writing: It might be tempting to get a quick quote and schedule your move over the phone. Don’t do it. This is one of the easiest ways to get scammed. Since you have nothing in writing, the movers can easily charge whatever they want once they begin, and they may hold your belongings hostage until you pay an outrageous amount. Always schedule an in-house walk-through to get an accurate quote, and get the agreed-to amount in writing.

Read the fine print: When you sign a contract with a mover, read all the fine print. Make sure you understand the terms of payment before you sign. Unscrupulous movers may include terms that allow them to hijack your belongings after demanding more money. If you’ve signed anything that allows for these practices, the police will be unable to intervene.

Vet the movers: Before you agree to work with a moving company, research its reputation. Contact the Better Business Bureau to check the company’s rating. Ask for recommendations from friends. Read online reviews. Ask movers for proof of registration, proof of insurance and an office address. Take the time to vet the mover, so you know you are working with someone you can trust.

Try a hybrid approach: Consider renting and driving the truck yourself, and hiring movers for loading and unloading only. This will keep your possessions under your control to prevent hijacking scams. (It can also reduce the cost of the move!)

5 Things You Need to Know about Your Future Neighborhood

Are you currently on the home hunt? You probably have a list of needs and wants. Have you included anything about the neighborhood?

In addition to bedrooms, baths, and interior upgrades, it’s a good rule of thumb to ask a few questions about the potential neighborhood you may want to call home. When you’re thinking about buying, here are some questions you can ask to help determine if the neighborhood will be a good fit for you.

1. Is the area well-maintained? Take a walk around the block. Drive through the neighborhood. Are properties well-maintained? Are roads in good condition? The appearance of the lawns, homes, and public spaces can reveal a lot about the area.

2. Are there any rules and regulations you need to be aware of before you commit? Do you mind if your renovations and landscaping are restricted by homeowner association bylaws? Find out if the neighborhood has any rules and regulations, and what they are.

3. What is the reputation of the school district? Even if you don’t have children, the school district’s status can affect property values. Get the scoop on the district’s rankings in academics and financial stability.

4. What’s the crime rate? Oftentimes you can find maps provided by the city that show what crimes occur in the area and how often. The FBI may also have reports available for the area. Do a little research to make sure you’ll feel safe in your new home.

5. What amenities are nearby? For some homebuyers, access to public transportation is important. Others want to live near parks, shops, or restaurants. Find out what amenities the area offers to ensure that you choose a neighborhood that suits your lifestyle.

3 Real Estate Myths Television Has Taught Us

Jim and Suzy Homebuyer just found their dream property for $50K and fixed it up in three weeks.

Stories like this have skewed viewers’ expectations of real estate reality.

Shows about home buying and renovation projects can be fun to watch, but we may not realize that they often don’t depict the realities of buying, selling, and owning a home.

Here are three common myths popularized by today’s TV lineup.

“Three homes will do.”

On TV, a couple looks at three homes and is able to find the property of their dreams. This isn’t how things work in the real world.

The number of homes buyers must look at before finding the right one for them differs in each situation. It’s not uncommon to look at 20 homes. It may even work out that you look at just one (but it’s not likely).

“I can afford that.” 

Shows that depict real estate purchases and renovations rarely reflect prices that are realistic for viewers. We may witness a bargain deal on TV and assume we could get something similar.

The fact is, markets vary greatly. The price of a home or a remodel in the area where the show is filmed may be completely different from what we can expect in our home town – either much higher or much lower.

“This will be a cinch.” 

While some DIY projects can be completed quickly, the amount of time most renovations take is longer than TV would have you believe. Homeowners shouldn’t expect to dive into a basement remodel on Friday and wake up Monday morning with the project behind them. Even if you hire professionals, they may encounter unexpected delays or simply need more time to do the renovation right.

If you’re considering buying, selling, or renovating, the more information you have, the better prepared you can be. Contact me for some professional input – I’m happy to help.