A Checklist For the First-Time Homebuyer

Like shopping for anything expensive, shopping for a home requires research and a game plan. When you have a list of steps to take, the process will be far less perplexing and far more enjoyable. You’ll also be more successful if you have a strategy, so let’s take a look at some of the initial steps to take to get you into that new home. Check them off as you complete them.

Get ready to buy a home – check your finances

No, working on your finances won’t be the most exciting part of the process, but it just may end up being the most rewarding. Just as you wouldn’t go car shopping without knowing exactly how much you can afford to spend, neither should you step foot in even one home for sale without understanding where you stand financially.

A good place to start is with your credit score. If you haven’t checked it in a while, order your credit reports. By law, you are entitled to one free credit report (from each of the three reporting agencies) every 12 months. The only company that is authorized by the Federal Trade Commission to supply consumers with these free reports is annualcreditreport.com.

Go through the reports and dispute any errors you find. Fixing even one error may significantly impact your credit rating.

Then, go over your budget (if you don’t have one, create one using the template here). Tally up all of your debts and figure out how much money you have coming in every month.

Finally, determine where you can make cuts or how you can bring in more money to set aside for your down payment and closing costs. Your down payment requirement will depend on which loan program you use and closing costs, although variable, typically run between 2 and 7 percent of the loan amount, according to the National Association of Realtors.

Shop for a mortgage

Meeting with a lender is the next important step in the game plan. Based on the outcome of your first meeting with a loan officer, you can request a preapproval letter, which puts you in a strong negotiating position with home sellers.

Lenders want stacks of paperwork, all proving that you can afford a home. Plan on supplying your lender with at least the following:

  • Tax returns, including Schedule C if you are self-employed
  • Pay stubs,
  • W2s,
  • Bank statements (all pages, including the blank ones)
  • Identification, including your Social Security card and driver’s license

The self-employed and those pursuing jumbo loans may be asked for additional documentation.

Make a list of must-haves in your new home

Now that you know how much you can spend on a home, it’s time to make a shopping list, which can include items such as:

  • Location – proximity to public transportation, schools, shopping or whatever is important to you.
  • Neighborhood must-haves – community pool, security gate, guard, trails, clubhouse, etc. Do you want friendly neighbors or those that keep to themselves? A neighborhood with or without kids?
  • Architectural style – if you have a particular style in mind, such as colonial or Victorian, list that, as well as the number of bedrooms and bathrooms you need.
  • Interior features – If there is anything you absolutely must have, such as a formal dining room or a chef’s kitchen, make note of it.
  • Exterior – Do you need a large lot or just a small yard? Is a carport sufficient or do you require a garage? Don’t forget to list pool, spa, fencing and any other exterior features you want in your new home.

Finally, organize the list, placing the three most important items at the top. These are your priorities, and you should share them with your real estate agent.

Tip: To determine your priorities, think about what you find intolerable about your current living situation. For instance, if barking dogs drive you crazy, vow to find a quiet neighborhood. If you’re sick and tired of mowing the lawn when you’d rather be relaxing, seek a home with low-maintenance landscaping.

Find a real estate agent

Since you’re now ready to look at homes, you’ll need a real estate agent’s help from here on. Remember, the services of a buyer’s agent won’t cost you anything – the seller pays all real estate commissions, so there really is no reason not to have your own representation and many, many reasons you should.

While all of the steps in the above checklist are important, and should be taken in the order listed, securing the services of a professional real estate agent to help in the purchase of a home is critical. Having a pro represent your interests, negotiate on your behalf and walk you through all the piles of paperwork — at no cost to you – will give you peace of mind during the process.

Keeping Your Home Buying Wish List On Track

Although experts in the real estate industry continually suggest the importance of seeing a lender before doing anything else with regards to purchasing a home, many buyers don’t. Instead, they merrily attend open houses, mine Internet real estate databases and hound real estate agents to show them homes that they may not even qualify to purchase.

We want to help you be a smart homebuyer, so we’ve developed a checklist to help you keep your home buying wish list realistic.

To avoid creating a fantasy wish list you absolutely must know how much money you can spend on a house. Only a lender can help you determine this figure. Once you know what you can spend, we can help you determine where you can afford to live. From there, you can build a realistic wish list.

The Home

The first items on your wish list should be based on what you absolutely can’t stand about your current home. Is it too far from work? Then your list should include that you want a shorter commute. Does it drive you nuts to have to find a parking place every night when you get home? Put a garage on the list.

Next, determine what you need. If you have a large family, maybe you need additional square footage or more bedrooms and bathrooms. If you work from home, perhaps an office is a must. Bad knees and staircases don’t mix so a one-story home may be a necessity.

Finally, it’s time to think about the extras – those items that you can live without, but it would be wonderful if they were included in your new home.

The Neighborhood

Now that you’ve figured out what your ideal home should include, it’s time to think about the type of neighborhood in which you’d like the home to be situated. Some items to consider:

• Crime: A neighborhood’s crime rate is something that you will need to investigate on your own as laws prevent real estate professionals from discussing this with you. Call the local police department for neighborhood crime statistics. You’ll also find information online, with the FBI’s Sex Offender Registry.

• Property values: Look for a neighborhood where property values are rising. You’ll usually find these types of neighborhoods on the fringes of more expensive communities, according to the    National Association of Realtors.
• Easy Ingress and Egress: The ease of entering and leaving a neighborhood is especially important to commuters.
• Future Plans: Many homebuyers underestimate the impact of an area’s future plans on their property values. The best way to find out what the city has in mind for the area surrounding your neighborhood is by visiting the city planner’s office.
• Noise Level: While many people don’t mind the sound of kids playing and loud music, others aren’t comfortable in anything less than complete silence. If you are of the latter group, cruise the neighborhood in question at different times of the day and night and on weekends as well as weekdays.
• Lifestyle: If you’re a young, single professional you probably won’t feel at home in a family neighborhood so consider a place downtown, or close to it. If you can put up with the typically higher crime rate and lack of convenient parking, a home in the urban core may be ideal. Folks with kids, on the other hand, may want to look at neighborhoods with cul-de-sacs so the little ones are safe from traffic.
• Neighbors: Because the condition of your neighbor’s homes will affect the value of yours, take a good look at the other houses on the block. Foreclosures will drag down the value of neighboring homes. Unsightly landscaping and poorly maintained homes do likewise.
When the list is finished, we’ll find you some affordable neighborhoods and get down to the serious business of the Great American Househunt.

Here’s a checklist to bring along with you:
 Determine exactly how much you can afford to spend on a home.
 Ask us to point you to some neighborhoods with homes priced within your budget.
 Determine what drives you crazy about your current home
 Get clear on your needs in a home
 Decide on your “wants-but-can-live-without” items

Investigate potential neighborhoods:
 Crime
 City planning
 Traffic
 Noise level
 Does it fit your lifestyle?
 Do the neighbors take care of their homes?
 Proximity to schools
 Proximity to city amenities

Little Governments: The Homeowners Association

The phrase “Homeowners Association” may sound innocuous enough to some but it sends shivers down the spines of many. In books and movies this group of homeowners is typically portrayed as power hungry, meddling and suspicious. Think Big Brother meets Mussolini and you’ll have an idea of this group’s image.

Is this reputation deserved? It’s hard not to believe the rumors while being bombarded with news stories about Homeowners Associations (HOAs) that force residents to take down American flags, or those that seize homes when residents are late paying their dues.

HOAs are like “little governments,” according to Jackie Faye of NBC News. Like all governments, they exercise the power granted to them in one of two ways: with benevolence or dictatorially. Perhaps Abraham Lincoln foresaw the rise of the HOA when he claimed that “. . . if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

So, who are these people?

A HOA is actually a legal entity whose purpose is to manage a group of housing units, or a common interest development, as they are known in some regions of the country. These developments may be single-family dwellings or condominiums. The decision-making body of this entity is typically known as “the Board,” and there may be committees as well. The HOA board is composed of homeowners who act as volunteers, and are generally chosen in annual elections open to all homeowners within the community.
The reasons for volunteering to sit on a HOA board are varied. Some homeowners want more of a say in how the HOA money is spent, others are concerned with maintaining home values.

HOA duties and responsibilities

Although it seems as if HOA boards have unlimited power to do as the members wish, most states have laws that govern what they can and cannot do. Yes, they sometimes overstep these laws. While duties and responsibilities vary across the country, here are some that are common to most HOAs:
• Paying taxes on the common areas
• The enforcement of the association’s rules, such as the bylaws and the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&Rs)
• Creating the association’s budget
• Creating rules for the use of the common areas
• Disciplining homeowners for violations of HOA rules

Buying a home in a HOA-governed community

The HOA must supply the homeowner with certain documents when there is an offer to purchase the property. The seller then gives these documents to the buyer. There is usually a charge for the copies and the seller typically pays this fee.
HOA doc packages are usually quite thick and may be extremely complex and boring. It is essential, though, that you read and understand everything in them. If you need help, contact an attorney. Once you own the home, you are obliged to follow the HOA’s rules.
Some items to pay close attention to in the CC&Rs include:
• Pet policies, if you have pets
• Parking rules, for yourself and guests
• The rules and restrictions for the use of onsite amenities
• Landscaping rules
• House color, exterior decorations allowed
• Restrictions on the construction of outbuildings, such as sheds and gazebos
• The rules regarding leasing your home
Look at the HOA’s budget:
• Does the income cover the costs? If not, why?
• How is the money spent?
• Does the reserve account hold enough money for emergencies?

Check out the board’s meeting minutes:
• What type of issues does the board typically face?
• What type of actions have they taken against homeowners?
• Have they talked about increasing fees or any upcoming special assessments?

Read over the governing documents, or bylaws, to determine how and when elections are held, how to sit on the board and the length of board member’s terms.

One of the most important aspects of purchasing a home governed by an HOA involves determining if there is pending litigation. Sometimes the HOA is suing the developer or a homeowner or the HOA is being sued. If there is litigation pending, you may not be able to get a loan, so make sure you get all the information you need about this.

Buying a home regulated by a homeowners association has advantages, such as security and the regulation of the area’s appearance and noise levels. The drawbacks, on the other hand, are numerous and include the additional monthly outlay for HOA fees and the sometimes-meddlesome members of the HOA. Do your homework when considering purchasing into a common interest development governed by a HOA. Investigate it thoroughly to make sure you don’t end up in a HOA horror story on the nightly news.

The Appraisal: What You Need to Know When You Buy a Home

The seller of that home you are about to purchase no doubt thought long and hard about how much to ask for it. She consulted with her real estate agent who spent some time poring over statistics and the prices of recently sold homes in the area to come to a rough estimate of the home’s value.

You made your offer based on what you felt the home was worth (hopefully based on your agent’s research). When all is said and done, however, neither your opinion nor that of the seller matter. The home is worth what the appraiser says it’s worth, at least as far as your lender is concerned.

Who is the appraiser?

A professional appraiser is an unbiased third party that is trained to determine the value of a piece of property. While not all appraisers are state-licensed, federally regulated lenders are required by law to use only those who are. Like many real estate agents that belong to a national association that adheres to strict ethics, so do many appraisers.

Are appraisers always accurate in their evaluation of homes? Usually they are, but not always. It depends on the information available to them at the time.

What affects a home appraisal?

Numerous factors can influence a home’s appraised value. Some of these include:

  • The national and local economies
  • The location of the home
  • Nearby foreclosures
  • The condition of the home
  • The value of other, similar homes that were recently sold in the area
  • The appearance of the home compared to those that have recently sold
  • Upgrades made to the home.

A day in the life of an appraisal

Let’s assume you’ve made a full-price offer on a house that is listed at $300,000. The lender will order an appraisal of the house before giving you the final decision on your loan application.

The appraiser visits the home and looks at every aspect of its exterior, from the roof to the soil. Then, she inspects the interior, from the ceiling to the floors. Finally, most appraisers measure the square footage of both the house and the lot.

Back at her office, the appraiser uses the information she compiled to compare it against comparable sales nearby. She takes other facts into account as well, such as any problems with the house and any upgrades. She may also check local planning departments to ascertain if anything is planned in the nearby community that may impact the home’s future value. Finally, the appraisal is compiled and handed off to the lender.

The best news a buyer can receive is that the house appraised for more than he offered. The next best news, for both buyer and seller, is that it appraised at the offered price.

Then, there’s the worst news

A buyer typically has four choices when an appraisal comes in under the agreed-upon sale price: ask the seller to lower the price, increase the cash down payment, negotiate with the seller to pay half of the shortfall and you pay the other half, dispute the appraisal or walk away from the deal.

Sellers, on the other hand, have several choices as well. These include lowering the price of the house to meet the appraised value.

If you feel the appraisal was too low, work with your agent to find discrepancies in the report. Check that it accurately reflects the square footage, the age of the home (as well as those of comparable homes) and the number of bathrooms and bedrooms. Check the comps the appraiser used for errors regarding the home’s condition.

If you find errors, have your real estate agent contact the lender for a new appraisal. Most experienced real estate listing agents come close to the figure that the appraiser gives. Typically, it’s the homeowner that sets an unreasonably high home price and a buyer that either wants the home so much she is willing to overpay or a buyer that doesn’t do her homework and fails to research the sales prices of nearby homes.

5 Easy ways to Increase Your Property Value Before Selling

It’s funny how a house doesn’t feel like an investment until it comes time to sell it. All of a sudden, after years of living there, the thought of its value hits you upside the head. Hopefully, you’ve practiced good home maintenance over the years and can now focus on cosmetic changes to increase value. And these won’t cost a fortune because many are typical do-it-yourself projects.

Lipstick on a pig

All the cosmetics in the world won’t make a pig look any prettier. Sure, if you choose those fixes carefully you can realize a tidy sum at the close of escrow. But, if the house has major problems, such as with the roof or heating system, you may end up giving that money back to the buyer for repairs.

If you suspect there may be problems with the house, hire a home inspector to come in a do a thorough check. It’s worth the fee because it may allow you to head off a slowdown in the future transaction with a buyer. Home repairs that buyers expect to be made and that increase value the most include:

  • Plumbing repairs
  • Updating electrical system
  • Repairing damaged floors
  • Don’t forget the little things: the dripping faucet, torn window screens and damaged countertops. You may have been able to live with these details but a buyer will notice them.

Larger projects, such as roof problems, are sometimes better dealt with by disclosing them to potential buyers and letting it be known that the price of the home reflects the need for the repair.

Clean

It’s a fact: clean houses sell faster and for more money than dirty ones. Buyers like houses that have been well cared for and a clean house looks like a maintained house.

They also place a higher value on houses that appear to be ready to move right into. Nobody wants to have to clean a house before settling in. Some sellers think they’ll get around this chore by offering to have the house professionally cleaned before moving out. There’s no value added in that plan. The time to clean is before it hits the market.

Paint

Painting the walls creates an instant transformation in a number of ways. Paint adds color to a room and makes it look and smell cleaner. Keep to the neutral colors on the color wheel, as they appeal to a broader segment of buyers.

Update the kitchen

In general, kitchens are usually most important in terms of enhancing the return on your home investment. Bathrooms are a close second. Attention to some of these little kitchen details can add to the home’s value.

  • Replace the lighting fixtures.
  • Put in new cabinets or, at the very least, replace the existing hardware.
  • Replace old appliances. New appliances make a good impression on prospective buyers.
  • Upgrade the faucet
  • Buy new curtains and throw rugs
  • Remove everything from the countertops with the exception of a few decorative items. Check decorating magazines for ideas.

Fix up the bathrooms

Nothing kills a real estate deal quicker than a nasty bathroom. Thoroughly cleaning it and painting the walls provides an instant transformation, but there’s more you can do that will add value to the entire home:

  • Install new lighting. New fixtures can create a statement with minimal effort.
  • Replace old sink, shower and bath faucets and handles with new decorative faucets.
  • Install new towel racks.
  • Replace shower doors.
  • Re-caulk the tub and sink to freshen their appearance.
  • Replace mirrors and medicine cabinets.
  • Hang new towels and add throw rugs that compliment the wall color.

That oh-so-important curb appeal

It doesn’t do you any good to invest in home improvements and updating if the exterior of the home doesn’t invite potential buyers inside. Plus, updated landscaping adds around 10 percent more to the home’s value. Here are some general considerations:

  • Clean up the yard. Remove toys, trash, leaves and dead plants.
  • Clean the front porch by removing cobwebs from the light fixture, sweeping and applying a fresh coat of paint to the front door.
  • Mow the lawn. If it’s discolored, de-thatch and fertilize.
  • Trim trees and prune perennials to make them look tidier.
  • Add container plants to the porch or next to the front door.
  • Add surprising pops of color with seasonal flowers.
  • Apply fresh mulch to the beds.
  • Plant trees. According to the U.S. Forestry Service, trees increase property values by as much as 10 percent.

Keeping a perspective on all the work that you do in, on or around your home is important. Specifically, focus on the kinds of improvements that will enhance your return on investment. And bear in mind that improvements should be appropriate for the immediate neighborhood. While your aim should be to have the most attractive home on the block, don’t over-improve for the neighborhood.

What’s with all the different types of insurance I have to buy when I purchase a home?

Affectionate couple showing paper question mark and looking at c

Ok, so, you didn’t set out to become an insurance expert – all you wanted to do was buy a house, after all. Yet, in the process, you ran up against at least four different types of insurance – and these are just the mandatory policies.

We are willing to bet that you never dreamed you would learn so much about insurance as you have during the home-buying process. From PMI to hazard insurance EVERYONE has their hand out, wanting to make sure their interests are covered.

Think title insurance is frivolous?

A Utah couple put their home on the market and quickly found a buyer. Escrow was opened and the title search was ordered. During the process, the title company discovered a lien against the property, which happens frequently. What happened in this case is when the homeowners originally bought the home, the sellers lent them some money for the purchase. This loan created a lien against the property.

The escrow company contacted the original homeowners (the originators of the loan) and informed them that the folks they lent the money to were selling the home and, thus, paying off the loan. The lien could be removed, right?

When dealing with reasonable people the answer would be yes. Unfortunately, the original homeowners turned out to be quite disagreeable and refused to take the payment in full for the money they lent. They offered no explanation.

The sellers worked overtime, trying to get the uncooperative former owner to accept the loan repayment. When the closing date came and went, the buyers for their home ― a family of five ― were forced to move into a weekly apartment because they’d already given notice to their landlord.

Finally, the original homeowner came forward and demanded more money than what was owed. To get their buyers out of the weekly rental and to move on with their own lives, the sellers paid the former owner more than what they owed.

There is a moral to this story, which I’ll get to in a minute. First, let me explain what title insurance is and how it works. When a home goes under contract, the lender demands a search of the home’s title to determine that the homeowner is truly the owner of the property and that nobody else has a full or partial claim to it. The title search will also reveal outstanding judgments or liens against the property, information about unpaid taxes and many other issues.

After the title search, the title company will release a summary of its findings, typically called an abstract of title or a preliminary title report, and an opinion about the validity of the property’s title.

If the lender sees anything negative it will refuse to issue the funds and the home will not close until the problem is cured. If, on the other hand, the researcher validates the title, the lender will proceed, with the requirement that the buyer purchase an insurance policy to protect it against any claims that weren’t found during the research. This is commonly known as the lender’s title policy, although there is also an optional owner’s policy that protects the new homeowner as well. The lender’s policy only protects the lender, even though it doesn’t pay the premium, the buyer or the seller does.

So, the moral of the original story about the Utah homeowners is that home sellers should order a title report before actually going under contract with a buyer. You never know what might turn up and most clouds on title take time to remedy – time you won’t have once there is a closing date.

Nobody likes PMI

Private mortgage insurance (PMI) has been in the news a lot over the past few years. FHA raised and then lowered the costs of its premiums (which they call the Mortgage Insurance Premium or MIP) and that hit the headlines. Then the advice columns on how to get rid of PMI started making the media rounds. American homeowners try desperately to rid their house payment of the PMI premium.

PMI covers only the lender and will kick in if you default on the loan. It is required for most loans when the buyer pays less than 20 percent of the purchase price for a down payment. This is, in a nutshell, the price borrowers pay for low down-payment loans. Without it, you’d have to come up with 20 percent of the purchase price of the home. So, it’s not entirely “useless” after all. Annoying, yes.

Let’s talk about homeowner’s insurance

Homeowner’s insurance is another lender-requirement but the homeowner also benefits in the case of a claim. Hazard insurance is a part of a homeowner policy.

Homeowner’s insurance coverage varies from the basic theft, weather damage and fire to more- costly coverage including that for earthquake or flood damage. The lender will let you know which basic coverage you will need to purchase.

The whole topic of insurance is confusing to most folks and when you are trying to cover such an expensive investment the only counsel you should obtain is that of an experienced and knowledgeable insurance agent.

Life is tough when your credit score stinks, so let’s fix it

 

Whether it was a foreclosure, short sale, deed-in-lieu of foreclosure, a job loss or just plain irresponsibility, there are some steps you can take to get your credit score back into the range where it is attractive to mortgage lenders and you can finally buy that house.

Where does my credit score come from?

Credit scores range from 300 (the worst) to 850. Although a score of 700 will get you lower rates and more credit opportunities than lower scores, 760 and above is considered prime.

If you’ve ever ordered your credit report you did so from one or all of what are commonly known as “the big three” credit reporting agencies: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax.

These agencies compile massive amounts of financial information obtained from companies from which Americans have obtained credit in the past. From this, they determine each person’s payment history, the length of the person’s credit history, the various types of credit he or she has and the amount of credit debt held.

When the big three agencies turn their information over to Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) or, in some cases, Vantage, it’s fed into a complicated formula and out pops a three-digit number that pretty much rules your financial life. Thankfully, your credit score adjusts, according to how risky you appear.

Pay on time

The best way to repair your credit score is by paying your bills on time, every month. Yes, it sounds simple and it is the responsible thing to do, but it’s also one of the quickest ways to pump your score into a more acceptable range. Don’t believe us? According to a study conducted by Experian,100 percent of super prime consumers and 97 percent of those with prime credit have no late payments on their credit reports.

Furthermore, The Raleigh Area Development Authority says that a person with a 707 credit score can raise it 20 points, just by paying bills on time for one month.

Manage the plastic

Your use of credit cards may be the culprit when your score is at rock bottom.

First, credit scoring agencies look at the age of your credit. New credit, such as opening new credit card or department store accounts, makes them leery. Just what will you do with all this new-found credit? Since they don’t know, you become a higher credit risk and take a 10 point ding on your score.

High balances make you appear risky as well. If your cards are maxed out you may lose up to 70 points on your credit score.

Don’t close your credit card accounts, just pay them on time. Consumers with no credit cards or installment loans look risky (it’s that fear of the unknown again) and tend to be penalized with lower scores. Besides, closed accounts still show up on your credit reports and may still affect your score.

If you have the money in your budget, another quick way to raise your score is to pay down high credit card balances. Try doubling your payments for a few months or at least pay a payment and a half.

If you build it, you can buy it

Many Americans didn’t do anything to deserve a low score other than to have never used credit. To credit scoring agencies, these people are, again, unknown entities. How they will use credit when they receive it is a mystery and therefore makes them a credit risk in the eyes of the agencies.

Unlike the folks that need to slow down on their credit card usage, you need to obtain a card, use it and pay the balance on time. Ensure that you obtain a card from an institution that will report your responsible use of credit.

To make it easy on you, we’ve compiled this handy, fix-your-credit checklist:

  • Order your credit reports from each of the big three agencies to determine where you stand
  • Dispute any errors you find on your credit report. Some shady credit counseling companies may suggest you dispute everything on the reports, which may do way more harm than good. The Federal Trade Commission offers advice on how to file disputes on its website.
  • Pay all your bills on time, every month
  • Pay down your credit card balances. If you can only afford to pay one at a time, pay department store cards first, if you have them, otherwise, pay off the one with the highest balance first. Aim to get the balances within 30 percent of your credit limit.
  • Use old credit cards that you haven’t used lately to keep their histories active. Remember, old credit is worth more than new credit when it comes to your score.
  • Obtain a secured credit card if you have no credit history. Use the card for small purchases and pay the balance on or before the due date.
  • Consider obtaining a small loan if your credit report lacks an installment loan history. Ensure that the lender reports to all three agencies.
  • Ask creditors to re-age your accounts. This might be challenging but if even one creditor agrees to do so your score may improve dramatically.
  • Ask the credit card companies to increase your credit limit

4 Tips To Get That Home Sold ASAP

 

When homeowners ask how to get a home sold, there is typically more to the question. For instance, some really want to know how to get it sold quickly, some are wondering how to sell a home to get more money out of it while others have a home languishing on the market and just want to know how to get the thing sold.

There’s no mystery to getting a home sold; it all starts with basic real estate principles and practices.

Timing

It’s important to know the current trends in your local real estate market before putting your home up for sale. Is it a buyer’s market – where there are more homes available than buyers? Or is it a seller’s market, with few homes available and lots of buyers?

Your local newspaper most likely covers your regional real estate market but this is also information you can obtain by asking your real estate agent.

This information is important for several reasons:

• If you can afford to wait to sell your home, the current market may be the deciding factor as to whether you sell it now or wait.

• It helps you price your home appropriately.

• It gives you an idea of what to expect during the time the home is on the market.
Another aspect of timing the sale of your home is the season. Home sales are seasonal and the ideal time to sell the home is in spring. This doesn’t mean, however, that homes don’t sell at other times during the year, even in the dead of winter.
In fact, although fewer homes are listed and sold in winter than in spring, the likelihood that you’ll sell your home is higher in the former than in the latter.

Price

The number one reason a home sits on the market and doesn’t sell is price. To make matters worse, sellers of overpriced homes typically reject initial offers because they think they are too low, when, in reality, they are most likely close to the market value of the home.

In a buyer’s market, it’s even more important to price your home competitively. If you choose the right real estate agent, your list price should be very close to the home’s true market value. It’s up to you, then, to either lower it a bit to create more interest or to overprice the home and risk eventually having to drop the price.

Condition

It almost sounds trite in today’s real estate market to mention that a home needs to be cleaned and decluttered before putting it on the market. While the advice is common, it’s still very good. A clean home with maximum curb appeal will put your house above the competition.

Make repairs to anything that obviously needs it. This means dripping faucets, loose banisters, cracked windows – anything that a buyer will notice. These little things make it appear that the home hasn’t been maintained – something no buyer wants to take on.

We can discuss larger repairs and whether or not they should be tackled.

Realtor

Your Realtor can make or break the deal. Keep that in mind when determining who to hire to assist you in the sale of your home. This is not the time to hire that friend of a friend or your Aunt Martha.

Choose your agent carefully and then work as a team, following up with one another frequently throughout the process.

Getting your home sold requires, overall, patience. Take your time with each step in the process, ensuring that nothing falls through the cracks. Listen to the advice of your real estate agent and you’ll soon be on your way to the next phase of your life.

The 2 Things You Must Do Before Closing On That Home

Once upon a time, in a sleepy little town in Minnesota, a man with big ideas and lots of vacant land decided to build a subdivision. The problem he faced was that his parcel was zoned for commercial development. City leaders, however, were more than accommodating when he asked for a zoning change on enough of the land to build 170 houses. The rest of the parcel retained the commercial zoning designation.

 

The subdivision was developed, homes were built and families moved in. It became one of the more in-demand neighborhoods because of the majestic and natural beauty of the heavily wooded acreage that fronted it.

 

Almost 30 years later, the original landowner’s son, who inherited the vacant parcel when his father died, decided to sell it and a major big-box retailer decided to purchase it. The plan is for a 24-hour, 180,000 square-foot superstore, directly across the street from the sleepy little neighborhood.

 

Environmental impact studies show that traffic in the area will go from 2,000 vehicles per day to a whopping 14,000. The back of the superstore will face the neighborhood. The back of the store is where huge diesel trucks make their deliveries in the middle of the night – big trucks that beep when they back up and idle while they unload.

 

Homeowners are upset, to say the least. Although hundreds attended each city council meeting in which the subject of the new commercial development was discussed, voicing their concerns over the noise, the traffic and the decimation of their home’s value, the city council finally granted the store’s developers their conditional use permit.

 

The Moral of the Story

 

Homes surrounded by open space are attractive to many home buyers. For these people, you just can’t put a price on the seclusion and serenity such a location offers. Vacant land near a residential area, however, should raise a red flag. After all, if it’s vacant, it’s buildable.

 

The only way to find out for certain if anything is planned for the vacant land is to consult with the local city government.

 

Zoning

 

A northern California real estate agent represented Jack, who owned a 5-acre ranchette that he wanted to sell. Situated on a prime piece of Wine Country real estate Jack purchased the property several years ago and paid a hefty price.

 

Because he didn’t bother checking the zoning in the area, Jack lost about half of the value of his home when the property fronting his was purchased by someone who then used the land to slaughter and butcher pigs.

 

Zoning rules also affect how you can use your own property. If you plan on operating a business out of your home, remodel the house or add structures, park a boat or RV in your driveway, or even cut down trees you will need to check your area’s zoning rules.

 

Check the zoning of nearby vacant land or the property you want to purchase by going to your county’s courthouse or planning department. Don’t forget to ask for the long-term plan for the area as well.

 

Taxes

 

It’s hard to think of doing a background check when you’re in love with a house, but it’s critical to do so. One of the checks that most homebuyers fail to run is the property’s tax history. Real estate taxes go up – that’s a given. But knowing how quickly and how high the taxes on the home of your dreams have moved in the past is important information.

 

This is especially pertinent if you’re purchasing in a new development where there is a greater need for services. Excessively high property taxes make a huge impact on your monthly payment.

 

Known as “tax traps” by Bankrate.com’s Marcie Geffner, they include unexpected reassessments and rate hikes, among other unanticipated surprises. She suggests that you check with the local tax assessor to determine the following:

 

  • How the assessor calculates taxes
  • If the home will be reassessed when you purchase it
  • The date of the next reassessment
  • Which exemptions, if any, apply

 

There is much to consider when purchasing a home. Don’t allow your emotions to get the best of you, do your research and that home may just turn out to be one of the best investments you’ll make.

 

4 Reasons To Live In A New Home Before Renovating

It’s no secret that we all love our homes, and buying a new one can be an exciting investment. We put great effort into personalizing that home so that it represents who we are.

Now the big question here is; should you live in a new home before renovation or renovate it before you move in? 

Basically, if it’s lighting or plumbing repairs that you need to make the house habitable before you move, there’s no problem at all. Proceed with those minor renovations. However, if this is a big project it will require a lot of thought, planning, and resources to complete. Therefore, recommend you live in your newly acquired home for some months before knocking down its walls.

In this article, you’ll read four good reasons you should consider living in your home before you dive right into major improvements or renovations.

1. You may change your mind

You may have great ideas for the kind of improvements you would like to make on a new home as soon as you become the owner. However, until you live there for a while, it is difficult to know whether its current condition is right for you and your family.

For instance, you may have immediate plans to expand the available space by demolishing a certain wall. While these plans may seem great at the first, you may not know the benefits of that initial layout to your family without actually living in the house for a few months

Your day-to-day experiences in that new house could make you change your mind about your early ideas for major renovations. So be patient and give it a little time before you do anything major.

2. Immediate renovations can add significant stress

Buying a home is not a straightforward task. It’s a huge undertaking that can require a lot of thought, planning, and dedication. All these can be stressful. However, If you have successfully overcome all these hurdles, carrying out major renovations right away can add unforeseen stress and deny you the happiness that comes with remodeling a home.

Instead of rushing into carrying out major renovations, move in right away and start to experience life in your new home and its immediate surroundings. After you have settled in, you’ll find you’re more relaxed and focused on the task at hand.

3. Give yourself time to carefully plan

Home renovations can not be done without careful planning. No matter the size of the project, they are time-consuming and should be planned well in advance. This means contacting multiple contractors to get their take on what you really want and to give you an estimate. Once you have settled on a contractor, discuss the duration of the project and oversee it carefully with patience.

In some cases, a contractor may not know your desired wants and needs. The only true way to become familiar with these problems yourself is to become well versed with daily life in your new home.

 

4. Waiting allows you to save for your dream project

Waiting for at least a year before you dive into major home improvements and renovations will help you set a budget and save the required amount needed to complete the projects successfully.

The cost of major projects such as bathroom renovation, second-storey addition or kitchen renovation varies considerably depending existing parameters, scope, size, and goals. Your budget will ultimately determine the kind of renovation projects you can carry out right away and what will have to wait.

 

Bottom lines

While you should be open to updating a new home that doesn’t fulfill your needs, don’t feel stressed about getting all that work done right away. Move into that new house and stay there for at least six months. You may be surprised at how your priorities and decisions change once you settle in.