Have you considered a newly-built home? Maybe you should

Homebuilders are paying attention. “Homebuilders are downsizing the American Dream to lure in entry-level buyers frustrated by the resale housing market,” according to Dani Romero at Yahoo Finance.

They’ve already increased housing starts, which reflects their aim to meet the wants and needs of homebuyers who are frustrated by the paltry number of existing homes for sale.

This is huge news for you if you’re among that group. Would you ever imagine that you could buy a brand-new home? No greasy smells from someone else’s cooking, no nasty carpet. Everything, down to the last detail, is brand new.

But wait … there’s more

Have you ever met a homeowner who threw in a pricey country club membership as an enticement to purchase his home? We haven’t either, yet we have met home builders who do just that.

It’s called an incentive and in slow-moving real estate markets, it takes more than offering a choice of countertops and sexy landscaping to sell a home. In some luxury home communities, in fact, huge incentives are the norm.

Incentives from builders run the gamut from appliances to gift cards to mortgage rate buydowns. The latter should be particularly attractive to first-time homebuyers.

If you aren’t familiar with rate buydowns, learn more at CNBC.com.

Incentives aren’t the only reason, however, that many Americans are touring new home communities.

Shop smart and you’ll save money in the long run

Most new homes are energy efficient. If you go a step further and buy a house that bears the ENERGY STAR label, you’ll use 20 to 30 percent less energy every year than you would had you purchased an existing home without ENERGY STAR labeling.

Considering that the average American spends $2,368 on utility bills every year (NerdWallet.com), this reflects substantial savings. What would you do with an extra $473 to $710 a year?

Add that to any incentives you’re offered and you may save a significant chunk of money, not only on the purchase, but down the road with less expensive power bills.

While all of this is good news for homebuyers there are aspects of the new-home purchase that should be considered.

Don’t shop without representation

The builder is represented by a real estate agent. As such, he or she owes a fiduciary duty to the builder, not the buyer.

To protect your interests, use a real estate agent while shopping for and purchasing a newly constructed home. It will cost you nothing, as the builder pays all real estate brokerage fees.

Try to ignore the bling

Model homes are alluring – it’s easy to fall head over heels in love with them. The builder knows this and loads the models with her top-of-the-line options and upgrades.

So, while you dream of having a replica of the model home, the builder dreams of giving it to you – at tens of thousands of dollars over the original price of the home.

New home specialists suggest that you choose options and upgrades that appeal to you and will make living in the home more pleasant, rather than trying to copy the model home’s features.

Ask the builder’s representative if you will be held financially responsible for installed upgrades should you need to cancel the sale.

Finally, if you absolutely must have an expensive upgrade, find out how much it would cost to have an outside contractor purchase and install it after the close of escrow. You may be surprised how much money you can save by going this route.

Inspect to protect

“Buy a new one [home], and you’re essentially the guinea pig testing how well the HVAC system works and whether the basement floods during a storm,” cautions Lisa Kaplan Gordon at Realtor.com.

There are several other reasons you should have the new home professionally inspected by an independent third party prior to closing escrow.

Experts with the California Real Estate Inspection Association take the inspection process one step further, suggesting that the home should be inspected during construction. This helps “… ensure that the work completed is in compliance with plans, specifications, and the construction schedule.”

Finally, real estate legal experts suggest that you purchase a new home warranty that takes up any slack in the builder’s warranty.

So, what are you waiting for? Grab your real estate agent (that would be us, by the way!) and head out to tour the new homes under construction. You may be surprised by what you find.


It’s storm season: Protect yourself and your home from lightning strikes

Here we are, smack dab in the middle of storm season and the time when electrical storms are most likely to occur. “About 25 million cloud-to-ground lightning strikes occur in the United States each year,” according to the National Weather Service.

These lightning strikes resulted in 51 fatalities, on average. This is why they call lightning “The Underrated Killer.”

It’s time to take it seriously and learn what to do, from the experts, during a thunderstorm.

Protect electronics

With the advances in technology, we’ve come a long way from the days of looking at the sky to determine if a storm is coming. Today, we often learn days ahead of a coming hurricane or tropical storm.

As it looms closer, however, we have work to do. First, if you lack a whole-home surge protector, buy one now.

Otherwise, unplug your electronics, such as televisions, computers, routers, etc. Why?

“… an average [lightning] stroke carries about 30 million volts,” according to the experts at StrikeCheck. Our electronics are accustomed to receiving 120 or 240 volts.

This excess voltage, when it hits a tree, power line or other structure, then travels to nearby homes (plural, if they are connected).

Back to that surge protector we mentioned earlier. There are two types, according to the editors at Dell.com. The most common device contains a metal oxide varistor (MOV) which absorbs all that overflow of voltage and redirects it to the ground.

The second type of surge protector contains a gas discharge arrestor (GDR), which is a bit harder to describe. Check out the description at Dell.com. Both, by the way, work just as effectively.

And, no, that power strip is not a surge protector. You’ll need one surge protector for each device you are going to protect.

When shopping for surge protectors, “… check the joule rating, which tells you how much energy the surge protector can absorb before it fails … The higher the rating, the better,” according to the editors at Progressive.com.

They go on to caution that we should “Avoid joule ratings under 1,000.”

OK, so there was no strike, but you lost power

This is another situation you should get out in front of. Do you know anything about your home’s circuit breakers? Do you know where they are located, for instance? What it looks like when a breaker is tripped?

The first step is to locate the box, which is typically on an exterior wall, near the garage, but not always.

Open the box. Are the breakers labeled as to which breaker controls which circuit? You may see a numbered list on the interior of the box’s door. The number typically refers to the circuit breaker (they are numbered, if you look closely) and which circuit it controls is typically written next to the number.

If the power goes out during an electric storm, you will need this information to determine if a circuit breaker was tripped or if the problem is more extensive, such as at the substation, with the transformers or because of downed power lines.

You’ll find a walkthrough of how to reset the circuit breakers in this YouTube video.

Do you need backup power?

Backup generators have been all the rage in the past few years and, if there is someone who uses medical equipment in the home, a generator may be a lifesaver during an outage.

At the very least, a generator will run essential appliances, such as the refrigerator. “A generator with 2000 watts of power will be sufficient to operate the freezer and refrigerator without any difficulties,” according to Erik Watson at PowerAll.

When lightning strikes your house

“It may start a fire. In some cases, the fire may start in areas that aren’t immediately obvious, such as in your attic insulation,” according to the pros at PennyElectric.com.

They go on to say that, to avoid being electrocuted, you should not use a landline phone during an electrical storm. Other ways to protect yourself include:

  • Avoid using a desktop computer (you unplugged it, right?). Use a tablet or laptop instead.
  • Avoid bathing (shower or bath) or swimming in a pool during an electrical storm.
  • Stay away from any windows that have metal frames.

It may be tempting to leave the home, but it’s not wise unless you are in danger, such as a fire or even if you smell smoke. “You are safer in your house in the center of a room than outdoors,” say the folks at Penny Electric.

Do call the fire department as soon as possible if lightning strikes your home. They will come out and look for fire in areas of the home not visible to you.

While severe electrical storms can occur any month of the year “September is the month during which most storms strike the U.S.,” according to research from NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory.

Stay safe this storm season!



Selling your home? What to look for in a listing agent

If you’re thinking that finding the perfect real estate to help you sell your home is akin to finding a white cat in a snowstorm, you’re not alone. In fact, ask Google “how to find a listing agent” and you’ll get 151,000 answers.

The task isn’t quite as challenging as it seems when you understand that the listing agent’s primary job is to market your home. So, yes, you want to find an agent you feel comfortable with and one with experience listing homes. Beyond that, there are three important qualities to look for as you interview agents (and please interview more than one) for the job of selling your home.


One thing I hear most often from my clients is that their last agent was unresponsive. I understand that selling your home is stressful and that you’ll have questions along the way. It’s a pity that not all agents feel the same, so ensure that the one you choose will respond to your calls in a timely manner and keep you updated on the progress of the sale.

Experience and Expertise

Look for a listing agent with a proven track record in the local market. An experienced agent is more likely to have a deep understanding of current market trends, pricing strategies, and effective marketing techniques. A seasoned professional will also have the negotiation skills necessary to maximize your profit.

Scrutinize the Agent’s Suggested List Price

Yes, determining an accurate market value for a home and suggesting a strategic listing price is very much a part of an agent’s marketing plan. Homes priced right sell faster and the quicker your home sells, the more money you’ll get for it.

Beware of the agent who suggests a price considerably higher than others you interview. This is an old, dishonest trick known as “buying the listing.” Thankfully, not many agents attempt this but those who do will price your home high at the outset and then continually ask you to drop the price.


Homeowners hire a real estate agent to not only list their homes but market them as well. The listing aspect is merely sticking a sign in the yard and information in the Multiple Listing Service database.

Marketing it is how he or she will get the word out about your home to other agents and unrepresented homebuyers.

Ask the agent to explain his or her approach to marketing homes and exactly how your home will be marketed. And, since most homebuyers start their search online, clear, compelling photographs act as bait to get them off the couch and into your home.

Additional marketing tools that attract homebuyers include floor plans and 3D virtual tours.

In today’s digital age, an agent who leverages technology and online platforms effectively can significantly increase your home’s visibility to potential buyers.

Personality Fit

Selling a home can be an emotional process, and it’s important to find an agent whose personality aligns with yours. A compatible working relationship can help reduce stress and facilitate effective collaboration throughout the selling process.

Hiring the right listing agent is critical to the successful sale of your home. Take your time and don’t rush the process.

Get Your Wood-burning Fireplace Ready for Fall

While slogging through a snowy commute, is there anything more comforting than envisioning your cozy home, complete with a crackling fire?

Now, imagine that picture also includes a cup of hot cocoa or a glass of your favorite wine. It’s something to look forward to, isn’t it?

There are just a few things you need to do to make that dream a safe winter reality.

Before You Call a Chimney Sweep

Chimney sweeps handle one of the dirtiest, most unpleasant home maintenance tasks. But, (usually) they only work with fireplaces that don’t need other maintenance or repairs. You don’t want to call out a chimney sweep if what you really need is a mason … or pest control.

Before calling a sweep, check for:

  • Cracks in your fireplace, or on the exterior of your chimney. You’ll need a powerful flashlight and possibly a ladder. If you notice any cracking, call a licensed mason as fireplaces need special materials. If you suspect that faulty flashing is causing leaks, call a roofer.
  • Branches hanging over your chimney. These become dangerous if a spark flies out the top. It’s unlikely that your fireplace has a steel cap. Even then, branches can restrict the chimney draft causing problems inside.
  • Animal nests inside the chimney. If critters have moved into your chimney, there’s a good chance you’ve heard them arranging their nest. But you should still take a look from both sides (inside the fireplace and down the chimney). If you spot the tell-tale signs of birds or animals, you may need to call animal control.

Get the chimney cleaned

Over time, creosote, a flammable substance, can accumulate inside the chimney, increasing the risk of a chimney fire.

Hire a professional chimney sweep to clean out any creosote and ensure that your chimney is clear of debris and obstructions.

Most experts recommend a professional cleaning of your chimney about once a year (or every 80 fires). The Chimney Safety Institute of America offers advice on how to hire a chimney sweep. Also, be sure to check reviews on Yelp.com and similar review sites.

Clean the firebox

The firebox is the area where the fire burns. A clean firebox not only improves the aesthetics but also provides a better surface for the wood to burn efficiently.

Remove the grate and scoop out the burnt wood chunks, ash and other debris. Use a small hand broom to sweep down the walls and floor of the firebox.

Finally, use a vacuum cleaner or shop vac to suck up any remnants that remain.

Don’t light that fire yet!

Take a tour of your home to test your smoke detectors and, if you have them, carbon monoxide detectors.

“You should always check the manufacturer’s instructions for the proper method of testing your smoke detector and fire alarm,” cautions the editors at AllState.com. Use Google to search for the model number, which is listed on the alarms.

Now all you need to do is stock up on firewood. And, during the winter, don’t forget to clean out the ashes about once a week, or whenever they’re about an inch thick.

If you’re up for it, why not store those ashes in a bucket until summer? They make a delicious treat for flower and vegetable beds, according to the Oregon State University Extension Service.

3 FAQs from home sellers and the answers you need

You have questions and we have the answers. If you’re considering selling your home, read on.

Is one season better than another to sell a home?

I know – it seems like summer only just started and here we are on the cusp of autumn (it starts September 23). And, while we’re all trying to wring out every last drop of this glorious summer, I am starting to get what I call the “seasonal selling” questions from homeowners.

Long ago, “Spring is the best time to sell a home” became the media’s mantra. And, to be fair, they’re partially correct. The media are also fond of telling us that winter is a terrible time to sell. There, they are wrong.

Home sales in November do tend to fall around 8 percent, nationwide. By January, the number of homes sold tumbles further, to 27 percent. But what the media gets wrong is the fact that so many homeowners choose not to sell their homes in the winter. With fewer homes on the market, naturally, fewer homes will sell.

For my friends who love statistics, the official tally is that 40 percent of any year’s home sales will occur in May, June, July and August, according to research from the National Association of REALTORS.

These same numbers tell us, however, that homes put up for sale in the winter actually sell one week faster, bring in more money and there is a 9 percent better chance that the home will sell than at any other time of year.

And, lest you think this isn’t true for regions with frigid winters, think again. The numbers held, whether the home was located in Fairbanks, Alaska or in Hilo, Hawai’i.

According to the NAR, fall is the second-best home-selling season, and for good reason:

  • The weather is still conducive for house hunting
  • Folks who want to buy a home and are thinking of tax breaks will be incentivized to move now
  • Many want to be in their new home before the winter holidays

If you think you may be putting your home on the market this fall or winter, let’s get some exterior photos of it now, while everything is still green and the sun is shining. Think how much your listing will stand out in the MLS, compared to those with dormant trees and lawns.

2. How will you determine what our price will be?

If there is one aspect of selling a home that confuses home sellers more than anything else it’s the evaluation process. It doesn’t help that there’s so much misinformation online, so I get the befuddlement.

In a nutshell, your home is worth what a buyer is willing to pay for it – known as “market value.” And, no, we don’t read minds to find out how much buyers are willing to pay. That amount is reflected in the prices they’ve paid (in the recent past) for homes similar to yours.

So, we’ll study recent sales in close proximity to your home, and compare your home to each of these to come up with a list of what we call “comparables.”

We’ll then analyze these homes – features, size, age and more – to determine if your home’s market value is more or less until we arrive at a figure that we believe represents the market value of your home.

Next, we’ll need to figure out a list price for your home. While the homeowner has the last word with regards to the asking price, we will offer our expert opinion. By the way, we offer a free evaluation of your home’s current market value. No strings attached. . .no obligation.

3. How long will it take to sell my home?

While this question is common, because there are many variables to consider, it’s not one that has an easy answer.

The first of these variables is the current state of the local housing market. In a sellers’ market (when there are many buyers but few homes on the market), the home may sell quickly. That’s the market we’re in right now.

In a buyers’ market, where there is a large inventory of homes for sale and few buyers competing for them, the home may take longer to sell.

Your list price will also impact how long your home sits on the market. Price it too high and you’ll have few people view it, thus lengthening the time it will take to sell. There is a very good chance that you will end up taking less for the home than you’d hoped.

The agent you choose can make or break the sale of your home. A novice, or an agent who lacks a marketing budget, won’t be able to market your home in ways that will make buyers snatch it up. With a marketing-savvy agent, your home will spend less time on the market.

Finally, the offer to purchase will contain timelines that the buyer must meet for tasks such as loan approval, home inspections and others. These timelines, or contingencies as they are known, are negotiable, however, so you will have a say in how long the buyer has to complete them.

There are other variables to consider as well and we’re happy to discuss these with you. Feel free to reach out to us.

Avoid these 7 common mistakes when hiring an exterior home painter

When it comes to giving your home a fresh new look, few things can make a bigger impact than a fresh coat of paint on the exterior. Hiring a professional exterior home painter can save you time, avoid the hassle of doing it yourself and give you peace of mind that the job was done right (or a warranty in case it wasn’t!).

However, not all painters are created equal, and making the wrong choice can lead to costly mistakes and disappointment. Here are some common mistakes to avoid when hiring an exterior home painter to ensure a successful painting project and a beautiful, long-lasting finish.

Mistake #1: Not researching the painter’s reputation

One of the most critical steps in hiring an exterior home painter is to research their reputation. Don’t simply hire the first painter you come across. Take the time to read reviews, ask for references from friends or neighbors, and check their online presence.

Look for a painter with a track record of positive customer experiences and a portfolio showcasing their past projects.

A reputable painter should be fully insured and licensed, giving you peace of mind in case of any unforeseen accidents during the job.

Mistake #2: Choosing the cheapest option

We all love to save money, but going for the cheapest painting contractor is often a recipe for disaster. Low-cost painters may cut corners on materials, use inexperienced labor, or lack the necessary insurance.

While it’s essential to find a reasonably priced painter, prioritize quality and reputation over a discounted price tag. Remember, a quality paint job can enhance your home’s curb appeal and protect it from the elements for years to come.

Mistake #3: Not getting multiple quotes

Getting quotes from multiple painters will help you gauge the average cost of the project and identify any potential red flags. Each painter may have different techniques, timelines, and material choices, so comparing quotes will give you a better understanding of what to expect.

Aim for at least three quotes from different painters, and don’t be afraid to ask questions about their process and recommendations for your home.

Mistake #4: Ignoring the contract details

A written contract is a crucial safeguard when hiring an exterior home painter. It should outline all the essential details, such as the scope of work, timeline, paint colors, specific materials to be used, and payment terms.

Be cautious of any painter who hesitates to provide a written contract or avoids discussing important details. Review the contract thoroughly before signing and seek clarification on any unclear points.

Mistake #5: Paying the painter up-front

Some painters may require a down payment. If the amount they are asking seems high, either try to negotiate or don’t hire the painter.

Never pay for the entire job up-front.

Mistake #6: Not asking what type of paint will be used

The type and quality of paint used can significantly impact the longevity and appearance of the paint job. Ask for the brand and type of paint that will be used on your home. Get that information in writing.

Make sure the pain that he or she will use is high-quality exterior paint that is appropriate for your specific climate and conditions.

Cheaper paints may save you money upfront, but they are more likely to fade, crack, or peel over time. A reputable painter will be knowledgeable about different paint options and recommend the best one for your home.

Mistake #7: Not asking about warranties or guarantees

A professional exterior home painter who stands behind their work will often provide warranties or guarantees on their services.

Inquire about the painter’s warranty policy and what it covers. A reliable painter will be willing to fix any issues that arise due to their workmanship or the quality of the paint used.

Oh, and don’t forget to obtain a copy of the warranty for your records.

The national average cost of an exterior home painting job is $3,000, according to Brionna Farney and Lowe Saddler at Forbes.com.

For many, that’s a huge amount of money, making hiring an exterior home painter a decision that should not be taken lightly.

Do your research, get multiple quotes, prioritize quality over cost, and make sure to have a detailed contract in place.

By paying attention to these essential factors, you’ll be well on your way to transforming your home’s exterior and boosting its curb appeal for years to come.

How to pay off a 30-year mortgage in 15 years

The news of quite possibly yet narrowly escaping a nationwide recession was eagerly accepted by most Americans. The problem is, however, that while the S&P is up and jobs are being added, “… millions of individual recessions are playing out all across America,” according to Andrew Lisa at Yahoo Finance.

These mini “recessions” include the nearly-17 million folks who have lost their jobs since the beginning of 2023, according to research at Statista.com.

Then, there are those Americans who were on the margins financially, now paying inflated prices at the gas pump, facing huge grocery bills and paying skyrocketing home energy bills.

Suffice it to say that these folks probably aren’t in a position to begin the journey to paying off their mortgage early.

If you are among those who can, read on for some tips.

It’s all about financial freedom now, not in 30 years

If you’re looking to gain financial freedom faster, paying off a 30-year mortgage (or however many years are left on yours) in 15 years, there are several strategies from which to choose.

Refinance to a shorter-term loan

One of the most effective ways to accelerate mortgage repayment is by refinancing to a shorter-term loan, such as a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage. If you bought when rates were low, however, you may be shocked by what you’ll be asked to pay for even a 15-year mortgage.

Consult with your financial adviser to determine if this is a good route to follow, financially.

Increase your monthly payments

Paying more than the minimum monthly requirement can significantly speed up your mortgage payoff. Even a small increase each month can make a big difference over time.

Make bi-weekly payments

If, like a lot of us, you can’t stomach a bigger chunk of money going out, consider cutting it up into bite-sized bits. This is especially helpful for those who get paid bi-weekly.

Divide your monthly mortgage payment in half and pay that amount every two weeks instead. By doing this, you’ll make 26 half-payments each year, which equals 13 full payments. This extra payment each year can cut years off your mortgage term and all that interest you’d end up paying on it.

Take Advantage of Windfalls

If you receive any unexpected windfalls, such as an inheritance, work bonus, or a sizeable tax refund, consider using a portion of it to make an extra mortgage payment. Remember, every additional dollar you put toward your principal reduces the amount of interest you’ll pay in the long run.

Cut unnecessary expenses

Review your monthly expenses and identify areas where you can cut back. It may mean cooking at home more often, canceling unnecessary subscriptions or finding cost-effective alternatives for entertainment. Redirect the money saved into your mortgage payments.

Consider mortgage recasting

Mortgage recasting is a lesser-known strategy that allows you to make a substantial lump-sum payment to your lender, which in turn reduces your monthly mortgage payments.

This can be useful if you come into a large sum of money but want to maintain a lower monthly payment for flexibility.

Learn more about mortgage recasting and its amazing benefits at RocketMortgage.com.

Refinance if interest rates drop

Keep an eye on interest rates and consider refinancing your mortgage if rates significantly drop below your current rate.

Refinancing can help you secure better terms and potentially lower your monthly payments, which can be redirected toward your principal.

Seek professional advice

If you’re unsure about which strategies suit your financial situation best, consider consulting with a financial advisor or a mortgage specialist. They can provide personalized advice and guidance based on your specific circumstances.

Remember, the journey to becoming mortgage-free requires patience and perseverance. Celebrate your milestones along the way, and don’t be too hard on yourself if unexpected expenses arise. Keep your eye on the prize, and you’ll soon enjoy the peace of mind that comes with owning your home outright.

We are not attorneys, accountants or financial advisors and the information in this blog post is not a substitute for professional advice. It is for educational and informational purposes only.

The Real Estate Commission: A detailed explanation

Like any other service, when you enlist the services of a real estate broker or agent, there will be a fee. In the real estate industry, this fee is known as the “commission.” Some real estate consumers don’t believe that professionals are worth their fee so they attempt to sell the home themselves.

They typically end up losing more money on the sale than they would have paid for professional representation.

“FSBOs typically sell for less than the selling price of other homes; FSBO homes sold at a median of $225,000 last year [2022], significantly lower than the median of agent-assisted homes at $345,000.” (National Association of REALTORS® “Profile of Homebuyers and Sellers.”)

Paying for expert services, be it a plumber, an attorney or, yes, a real estate agent, saves you from losing money and gives you the security that the job will get done.

So, let’s dive into the whole real estate commission topic.

How much will it cost me to hire a real estate agent?

The answer to this question is, it depends.

First, it depends on whether you are the buyer or the seller. Buyers do pay closing costs just as sellers do, but the real estate commission is typically charged to the seller.

How much? It depends on where the seller lives. Brokers in different regions charge different fees, but typically you can expect to pay between 5% and 6% of the sale price of the home.

Here’s an example: Joe sells his home for $300,000. Let’s assume that the real estate fee (which the commission is generally called) is 5% of that price, which works out to be $15,000.

Yikes! Does my real estate agent make THAT much money from each sale?

Wouldn’t that be nice? But, no, there are others that need to be paid. The broker for the buyer’s agent gets half of the commission and that of the seller gets the other half.

Then, it is divvied up to the agents. How much the agent will get depends on his or her arrangement with the broker.

For instance, newer agents tend to make less of a percentage than seasoned agents, but each agent negotiates his or her cut of the broker’s fee, which generally ranges from 50% to 95%. According to most studies, the average commission split is 50/50.

If you still think this represents a big gob of money, consider this:

The “… median income for real estate agents and brokers was $48,770 annually in 2021, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics,”

according to Kellye Guinan and Taylor Freitas, Bankrate.com.

What does the seller get for this money?

The typical listing agent faces a hefty outlay of money for each listing he or she takes. Here are a few of the ways the commission money is spent:

  • Lockboxes
  • Online marketing
  • MLS fees
  • Direct mail marketing
  • Photography
  • Signage
  • Fliers
  • Broker’s open expenses
  • Errors and Omissions Insurance
  • Brokerage fees
  • Association fees
  • Lead generation website to bring in buyers

That’s the shortlist. Depending on how challenging the market is or the attractiveness and condition of the home, the agent may spend thousands of dollars to help you sell your home.

What you also get for that money is a buyer for your home. Priceless, right?

Questions? We’re happy to answer them. Feel free to reach out!

Buying a house with bad credit: Is it possible?

The one thing that many of our first-time homebuying clients worry about is whether or not they qualify for a home loan. The reason for this is the dreaded credit score; those three numbers can make or break the dream.

The worry is overblown for the most part. Yes, lenders rely heavily on the potential buyer’s credit score. After all, it is typically an indication of whether or not the borrower uses credit responsibly, if he or she pays bills on time and how much of a risk the borrower presents to the lender.

There are loans available to folks with less-than-perfect credit. The downside is that you may pay more in mortgage interest, fees and may need a higher down payment.

What’s a good and what’s a bad credit score?

Typically, credit scores can range from 300 to 850. “Although ranges vary depending on the credit scoring model, generally credit scores from:

  • 580 to 669 are considered fair
  • 670 to 739 are considered good
  • 740 to 799 are considered very good
  • 800 and up are considered excellent,”

According to the experts at equifax.com. Let’s put the above numbers into perspective. On a loan for $350,000, borrowers with credit scores between 760 and 850 will receive (as of July 2023) a mortgage interest rate that is 1.589 percent less than borrowers with a score between 620 and 639.

So, yes, provided all other stipulations are met (stable employment, income, etc.), you can buy a home if you have bad credit. You will, however, pay more for it than someone with better credit.

Your credit score may not be considered “bad”

Americans with less-than-stellar credit scores, those that fall below 670, are considered subprime borrowers. Learn more about getting a subprime mortgage at Experian.com.

If your score is lower than 579, it is considered “bad.” This is why it’s important to check your score before embarking on the journey to buy a home. It may not be as bad as you think, or it could be worse.

Thankfully, lenders also look at other aspects of your financial situation. These include:

  • Your current debt and any delinquencies
  • The amount of your down payment
  • Your income

There are loans for that

The best route for those with poor credit is government-backed mortgages. These include mortgages backed by the:

  • U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development Department
  • Federal Housing Administration (FHA)
  • Veterans Affairs (VA)

USDA loans typically don’t require a down payment. The catch is that the home you will purchase must be located in what the department considers a “rural” area. If you have an idea of where you want to live, especially the address of a property, enter it on the USDA Rural Development’s website to see if it is eligible for the program.

The best part of this program, aside from the zero down payment for those who qualify, is that the credit score requirement is quite low: at least 580. Higher scores, however, qualify for the no down payment bonus.

FHA loans are quite popular among those with poor credit scores. The minimum credit score required is 500, although if yours is at least 580, you may only be required to put down 3.5% of the purchase price. Learn more about down payments at consumerfinance.gov.

If you or your spouse have served in the U.S. military, or are a widow or widower of someone who did, check out the mortgages offered by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Available to both veterans and active-duty members of the military, the minimum acceptable credit score is 580.

There is no down payment requirement for those who qualify. Learn more online at benefits.va.gov.

Additional tips

Before you begin the mortgage application process, take a deep dive into your credit reports. Look specifically for errors. Why?

“More Than a Third of Volunteers in a Consumer Reports Study Found Errors in Their Credit Reports,” according to Lisa L. Gill at consumerreports.org. Fixing these errors is one of the easiest and fastest ways to raise your credit score.

“You should dispute with each credit bureau that has the mistake,” suggests the experts at the Federal Trade Commission.   Follow the link to read a walk-through of the dispute process.

If all options fail, take the time to save cash. It’s king, remember? And lenders are more likely to approve your loan if you have cash to pay the difference between the price of the home and your loan approval amount.

Poor credit shouldn’t put an end to your homebuying dreams. There are options out there and we’re happy to discuss them in further detail with you.

The information above is not to be considered as financial advice, but is for informational purposes only. We are not financial or mortgage specialists.

How to find and hire a professional home inspector

Buying a house is a big deal – it’s like reaching for the stars and finally touching one.

But before you reach Sirius, you have some work to do. One of those is critical to your future use and enjoyment of that home you want so badly: hiring a home inspector.

These professionals are like the superheroes of home buying, ensuring your dream home is in tip-top shape. Let’s dive in and discover how to find the perfect home inspector and what questions you should ask to make the best decision.

Why a home inspector is your hero

Picture this: you’ve found the house of your dreams – cozy, charming, and just right. But wait! Before you get all starry-eyed, let a professional home inspector work their magic. These awesome folks are licensed and super-knowledgeable.

Their mission? To check the systems in your potential new home, from the roof to the foundation. They’ll spot any red flags that could turn your fairytale home into a real-life nightmare.

Mind you, their superpowers are limited. They only inspect what they can actually see. This means they can’t tell you what is happening behind the walls, under the floors or deep into the recesses of the HVAC system.

Those limitations, however, shouldn’t keep you from having the home inspected. What they can tell you may turn out to be the determining factor, positive or negative, on whether or not you still want that particular home.

The quest for the perfect home inspector

Now, let’s embark on the grand quest of finding the perfect home inspector.

Start by asking your family, friends and colleagues which inspector they used when they bought their homes. Many homebuyers turn to their real estate agent for a referral to a home inspector, but in some states, that activity is illegal.

Another good source of referrals can be found on neighborhood sites, such as NextDoor.com and any location-specific Facebook neighborhood groups.

While you’re online, check the review sites, such as Yelp.com and, of course, look at the home inspectors’ Better Business Bureau rating. Don’t forget to navigate to the inspector’s (or company’s) websites and peruse the reviews and general information.

Just in case you need more help in your quest:

This sounds basic, but it’s surprising how many homebuyers neglect this step: ensure the home inspector is licensed. We also urge you to interview more than one inspector.

Your list of questions for the home inspectors you interview

  • “Are you licensed and insured?” A professional home inspector will proudly show you their credentials, including insurance. That way, the homeowner is protected if anything unexpected happens during the inspection.
  • “How long have you been in the game?” The more experience, the better. An inspector with years of inspecting homes under their belt knows how to spot even the sneakiest of problems.
  • “How long does the inspection take?” Most inspections take from 2 to 4 hours, according to Tobie Stanger at ConsumerReports.org.  Regardless of how experienced the inspector is, if he or she says he takes less time than that, reconsider hiring“. . . being knowledgeable doesn’t mean the inspector is going to be diligent or conscientious,” according to Stanger,  which they can’t be if they are “ … rushing through the inspection.”
  • “Can I join you during the inspection?” Tagging along during the inspection allows you to ask questions you may not even think to ask if you just work off the written report. You’ll get to see first-hand what the inspector uncovers.
  • “What do you check during an inspection?” A good inspector will cover everything, from the roof, plumbing, electrical, and more.
  • “When will I get the report?” Residential home inspectors are aware that time is of the essence when one is under contract in a home sale so they are pretty speedy in getting the report finished.
  • Let the inspector know the end date of your inspection contingency (it’s in the purchase agreement or, give us a call, we’re happy to help).
  • “May I see a copy of an inspection you have performed?” This sample copy should give you an idea of how detailed the inspector’s reports are, what is inspected and the scope of work you can expect.

Also, compare this inspector’s report to the others you are interviewing.

“In Consumer Reports’ examination of reports from home inspectors across the country, we found that the typical report consists of a few dozen pages covering findings on all the major systems in the house, and includes photographs and descriptions of documented problems and maintenance suggestions,” Stanger said.

The home inspection is one of the most important aspects of the home purchase process. Ensure that you are getting what you pay for before you pay.