How to save money when you buy a home

If you’re considering buying a home, statistics say that one of the first things you’ll do is surf the Internet. From looking at homes for sale to learning about the process and choosing a real estate agent, you’ll find lots of information.

Be forewarned, however, that not everything you read is factual. For instance, some real estate agents, especially, recommend that your first step to homeownership is to hire a real estate agent.

While it’s important that you go into the current market alongside an expert, the first and most important step doesn’t include hiring that expert.

All homebuyers who will not be paying cash for a home should see a lender before hiring an agent and WAY before looking at homes for sale, either online or in person. But even that isn’t the first step.

So, what is the first step?

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the homebuying process when all you really want to do is skip over the boring steps to get to the fun stuff: looking at homes.

Especially considering that the beginning of the homebuying process has to do with finances.

If your dream is to buy a decent home, in a decent area, with a comfortable mortgage payment, step one must come first: raise your credit score.

Raising your score even a smidge can make a huge difference

The Fair Isaac Corporation, commonly known as FICO, is an analytics company that takes all of your credit information and scores from the credit reporting agencies and calculates a FICO® scores

These scores can range from 300 to 850, and a “good” credit score is considered to be between 670 and 739.

Yes, many borrowers obtain an FHA-backed mortgage with lower scores and a lower down payment, but they pay more for the home in the end.

Plus, what many first-time homebuyers may not realize is that the loan that the FHA guarantees comes from a lender who will charge big-time interest rates because of a low FICO score.

Those rates result in a higher monthly home payment ― which will already be elevated because of the tiny down payment and FHA’s mandatory mortgage insurance premium that accompanies it.

Boosting your score, on the other hand, can mean big savings on your monthly mortgage payment.

Here’s a scenario, using a base rate we determined randomly (current rates are far lower). A borrower with a credit score of 700 to 759 might be offered a rate of 3.73 percent on a 30-year fixed rate loan. The borrower with a 620 to 639 score, on the other hand, would be offered a rate of 5.09 percent.

If you’re the low scorer in the above scenario you’ll pay $187 more a month on your mortgage payment than the high scorer. You will also pay $67,181 more in interest over the life of the loan.

If you were to raise your score to 640 you would end up saving more than $238,700. Raise it even higher, to 660, and you’ll save $42,000. Finally, if you can get that score up to 700 you will save more than $58,000.

As you can see, patience and a bit of hard work before you purchase a home definitely pays off.

How to boost that score quickly

At the very least, pay down bills, don’t apply for new credit and pay bills on time.

In fact, the folks at FICO specifically caution borrowers to cease the use of their credit cards completely and pay down what is owed on them.

Start paying off other debt that appears on your credit reports one-by-one; hack away at them and before you know it, those balances will be gone and your credit score will reflect the new, more financially responsible you.

Now you’re ready for step 2 of the home buying process – so strut into that lender’s office and confidently ask the representative to pull your credit score.

How to compete against cash homebuyers and win

Got cash?

If not, and you’re in the market to buy a home, you are at a distinct disadvantage.

The volume of cash buyers in the market has increased significantly over the past year. In Florida, for instance, the number of homebuyers who paid cash for a home increased 150%, according to Bernadette Berdychowski at the Tampa Bay Times.

Alicia Adamczyk at cnbc.com tells the story of a young Virginia family, first-time homebuyers, who kept losing out on homes for sale to other buyers who “… would offer $20,000 or $30,000 more than the listing price, in cash.”

It sounds a bit trite, but it’s nonetheless true, especially in the housing market: Cash is king.

In fact, “… all-cash offers increase homebuyers’ chances of getting a home up to 290 percent,” said Johnny Hannah at utahbusiness.com, citing recent research.

Those are some crazy odds and equally stiff competition to face in the search for a new home. Let’s dive into some tips that we offer our clients that help give them a leg up.

Money talks and cash screams

When a homeowner is confronted with multiple offers, the first thing he or she will look at is the amount of money each buyer is offering. Naturally, the lowest offers get little consideration, regardless of how we urge them to seek out the terms the buyer is offering.

Often, terms trump price

The seller will then take the highest offers and look for the most favorable terms. These start with the loan contingency.

An offer with no loan contingency, because the buyer is paying cash, will naturally catch the seller’s eye. With no lender involved, there will be no mandated appraisal, no lender-demanded repairs and a smoother road to closing. It’s almost a slam-dunk.

That’s tough to compete against for the mortgage-bound homebuyer, especially those with FHA or VA loans. This doesn’t mean you can’t compete. You just need to pull out the big guns.

Sure, a cash offer screams. But, if you are in a position to provide the buyer assurances about your financial position, you can scream just as loud.

Don’t stop at obtaining a loan pre-approval letter; give the lender permission to share your salary, your bank balances and even your credit report.

“Overload the seller to show them [sic] that you’re as solid as the cash buyer,” suggests Brendon Desimone at Zillow Porchlight.

Show the seller you’re as nimble as the cash guys and gals

Not all lenders will conduct an appraisal before the offer is accepted, but many will. Ask your lender if you can order a pre-appraisal.

This way, you can submit an offer on which the appraisal has already been ordered and scheduled (hopefully within 24 to 48 hours of acceptance), negating one of the positives of the cash offer.

Desimone suggests that you also work with a lender who will give you “a head start on the mortgage.” Then, get your agent in the loop to ensure that the seller understands that your mortgage is on steroids – which includes hyper-accelerating the lender’s receipt of the preliminary title report, HOA documents and others.

Do everything you can on your end, such as ensuring your paperwork has been submitted well in advance and quickly responding to communications from the lender.

Take advantage of the cash buyer’s biggest weakness

Cash buyers are an arrogant lot. No, we’re not dissing them, but just pointing out to you that they understand the power and leverage they possess that mortgage-bound buyers don’t.

So, they typically come in with a lower price, knowing that cash screams and overwhelms most sellers’ better judgment.

If you can afford to over-bid, we suggest that you do. Not a lot, but enough to overcome the cash advantage, which may be “a little more than you think the home is worth,” according to Desimone.

First, the higher bid will catch the seller’s attention and put you in contention. Then, if you’ve guessed correctly, and your bid price is higher than the cash buyer’s, it may just win you the home.

“If you plan to live in the house for many years and it’s the home of your dreams, paying a little more to get the deal might only translate into $20 per month over the course of a long-term mortgage,” claims Desimone, and we agree.

The aforementioned strategies are ideal for the financially-fit, serious homebuyer. They involve doing some initial legwork on getting your finances in order, strategically choosing a lender and home inspector and ensuring you have a nimble and resourceful real estate team backing you up.

The latter, by the way, is most important. After all your hard work, it’s only natural that you’ll want to ensure that your agent can structure the offer that will win you the home.

Feel free to reach out to us if you need additional advice.

Low income? Yes, you can buy a home

Despite what many first-time mortgage shoppers imagine, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae aren’t members of the cast of “The Beverly Hillbillies.”

They are both what are known in the economic world as Government Sponsored Enterprises, or GSE for short, and since they have some pretty impressive loan products out right now you should get to know them.

Today, we introduce you to a Freddie Mac program that we’re particularly fond of.

First, some history

Freddie Mac stands for Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation. Both it and Fannie Mae were created by Congress, Fannie in 1938 and Freddie in 1970.

What they do, in a nutshell, is buy mortgages from lenders and either hang on to them or bundle them into what are known as “mortgage-backed securities” which are then sold to investors.

Their most important function, at least for consumers, is that the money they spend buying these mortgages is then used by the lender to make more loans. In essence, they help ensure that there is always a continuous supply of mortgage money.

A home is possible, even with a low income

The Freddie Mac Home Possible® mortgage helps “…very low to low-income borrowers attain the dream of owning a home,” according to the GSE’s website.

Our favorite feature of the product is the down payment—as little as 3%. But there is more:

  • The down payment funds can come from a variety of sources, including gifts, a second mortgage and grants.
  • Co-borrowers who do not live in the home can be included (on the purchase of a one-unit residence).
  • Yes, you can have another financed property and still qualify.

You will be required to purchase private mortgage insurance (PMI) unless you put 20 percent of the loan amount down.

Unlike the FHA-backed loan where the mortgage insurance remains in place for the life of the loan, once your Home Possible loan balance falls lower than 80% of the home’s appraised value and “… cancellation criteria is met,” you can cancel the PMI.

How to Qualify

You’ll need to meet the lender’s credit score requirements (typically 680, although you may qualify with a lower score), your earnings must not exceed 2021 area median income (AMI) limits and you’ll need proof of funds for the down payment and closing costs.

You can find your area’s 2021 AMI at fanniemae.com.

If this will be your first home, you’ll also need to attend a homebuyer education course.

To apply, contact a mortgage lender and let him or her know you’re interested in the Home Possible mortgage.

While we aren’t mortgage professionals, we are happy to refer you to someone we know and trust. Give us a call!

Appraiser coming? How to make a brilliant first impression

The home inspection and the home appraisal are undoubtedly the two most nerve-wracking events of the home sale. Either of them can completely derail a deal.

Unless, of course, you prepare for them. Many home sellers obtain a pre-sale home inspection to get an idea of what they may be on the hook for as far as repairs are concerned.

Although the appraiser isn’t concerned with cosmetic issues, the perception of a well-maintained home can lead to a higher appraisal.

That ball is completely in your court. So, let’s take a look at some tips to ensure that the first impression of your home is amazing. It all starts with what the appraiser sees from the curb.

Get your landscaping spiffed up

Our favorite landscaper gave us a tip for this blog post: start at the top of your landscape and work your way down. With that as a guide, start your curb appeal project with tree trimming.

Dying, broken and bare branches need to come off (unless the tree is dormant, of course).

Next, move on to the gutters and windows. Yes, we get that window cleaning isn’t ‘landscaping,’ but in keeping with the advice we mentioned earlier, if you don’t take care of these items now, you’ll take a chance of smashing bedding plants and scattering mulch if you put it off for later.

Get rid of the debris in the gutters, such as leaves and twigs. Run some water through them while you’re at it.

Next, give the outside of the windows a good cleaning, wipe cobwebs from the front porch, clean the porch light cover and the doormat.

Next, assess the rest of your front yard. Get rid of and replace any plants that didn’t make it through the heat of summer. Trim shrubs and hedges and rake garden beds.

Finally, add a fresh layer of mulch to the beds.

Work on the little things

While few people consciously notice the little things you do, they give an overall perception of a well-maintained home. Consider the following for the exterior of your home:

Pressure wash your driveway

This is an easy DIY project but there are professionals you can hire to do it for you.

Since the process involves the use of chemicals, the latter may be preferable to some. Prefer to DIY the project? Watch this youtube.com video for tips.

Add pops of color to the walkway and the front porch

Flowers and plants with colorful foliage are ideal for the walkway while potted plants and flowers can get the job done on the front porch.

You’ll find tons of inspiration online, at pinterest.com and bhg.com.

Go shopping. Here is your list:

If you prefer to DIY your doormat, check out the tutorials at simplyss.com, diybeautify.com and these on youtube.com.

  • Front door light fixture – It’s doubtful that the appraiser will be at your home in the evening, but if your front porch light fixture is shabby in the daylight, he or she will have a negative perception before even stepping inside.

Learn how to choose the right front porch light fixture for your home at build.com. Then, go shopping!

Mailbox – If yours is free-standing, curbside, and has seen better days, buy a new one. Or, clean and paint the one you have.

Sure, it sounds like a lot of work, but if you prepared the home for potential buyers, getting it ready for the appraiser should just be a matter of cleaning up what nature has brought in and purchasing (or DIYing) a few items.

Here’s to a sky-high appraisal!

Going FSBO? Don’t make these mistakes!

If you think this is going to be yet another blog post from a real estate agent telling you how dim-witted you are for trying to sell your home by yourself, think again.

There are some common mistakes that most FSBOs make and some assumptions that they shouldn’t. Both will cost them money in the end.

If you work with an agent will you sell your home for more? Maybe not, according to a Stanford University Economics Department study. Yet a National Association of REALTORS study says otherwise.

Will it sell faster? Yes, studies show that one of the benefits of using an agent is that homes sell demonstrably faster than when you don’t work with an agent.

So, there are huge benefits to listing your home with a real estate agent. But I get that most FSBO sellers are trying to save money and who am I to poo-poo that idea?

So, if you insist on going it alone, at least be aware of some of the mistakes commonly made by homeowners in your position.

Incorrect Pricing

Incorrect pricing is the number one problem I see among FSBO sellers. I have seen some crazy prices out there and can’t help but wonder where the homeowners came up with them.

Market value is determined by what willing buyers will pay for a home during any particular time period. The only way to know what they’re willing to pay is to look at what other buyers have, indeed paid, and that means looking at the sales prices of homes in your area.

It’s not just the prices, however. You’ll need to be brutally honest with yourself when comparing your home to those that have sold.

Is yours smaller, older, in worse condition or in a less desirable area? If so, it’s worth less than the homes you’re using as comps. The opposite is true as well. If your home is in better condition, is newer, larger or offers amenities the others lack, it’s worth more.

How much more? I wish I could tell you. Pricing homes takes much research and there’s no set dollar amount for any of the criteria when comparing homes.

Incorrect pricing is the most expensive mistake a FSBO can make. Unfortunately, we see it often.

Lack of Curb Appeal

If you’ve watched any of the DIY TV shows about curb appeal you may be under the misconception that you’ll need a team of landscapers, landscape architects and truckloads of landscaping plants to give your house an appealing aspect from the curb.

Nothing could be further from the truth. While you’ll need to do some spiffing up, depending on the condition of the house and landscaping, there’s no need to do a complete makeover.

Understand that while we’ve been told not to judge a book by its cover since we were knee-high, we still do. Houses are no different.

Real estate agents across the country can attest to driving up to a home with a prospective buyer in the car and then immediately driving away. The buyer simply refused to get out of the car, based solely on what the house looked like from the curb.

Since you can’t sell your house unless buyers look at it, you can imagine the importance of curb appeal.

Painting the exterior of the house is probably one of the best ways to increase its curb appeal and sellers typically see a hefty return on the investment when they sell the house. At the very least, clean out the planting beds, spread fresh mulch around and green up the lawn.

Lack of Interior Appeal

Studies show that homebuyers want a home that appears move-in ready. If the interior of the house is dirty, it’s not move-in ready. Not only that, a dirty house makes buyers wonder what other maintenance you’ve let slide and offers to purchase will be low.

Clean the house until it sparkles, get rid of offensive odors and let in all the natural light you can.

Pay special attention to kitchens and bathrooms while cleaning. Leave the counters bare of any item that isn’t decorative in nature and ensure that the rooms are impeccably clean.

Marketing

Where will you market your home? While newspapers are still accepting real estate classified ads, homebuyers typically don’t read them. It’s all about the Internet these days, and finding the best places to market your home is critical.

Even more important than where you market the home is how. Buyers want to see photos, and lots of them.

Photos should be clear and show your home in the best possible light. Include as many photos as possible and don’t forget to include photos of the kitchen, bathrooms, backyard and front of the home.

While selling the home on your own isn’t rocket science, it’s not something you do every day, so arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible. We’re happy to offer advice.

Information you need if you’ve got your eye on a condo

=

They’re typically smaller than single-family homes and they require far less upkeep. Yet the process of purchasing a condo may be much more detailed than that of purchasing a house.

Some of the advantages to purchasing a condominium, rather than a single-family home, include the obvious facts that condos are typically less expensive and may offer more amenities. Let’s take a look at some of the other advantages:

  • Maintenance chores are greatly reduced for condo owners. Although there may be landscaping in front of your unit, it is typically (though not always) up to the Homeowner’s Association (HOA) to maintain it. The same holds true for the roof, fencing and other items.
  • The typical HOA maintenance fee imposed on owners includes paying for items such as water, trash collection and sewer fees. Insurance is also paid for by the HOA, bringing down the cost of living in a condo even more, although you will still need to insure the contents of your condo.
  • The appearance of the complex and issues such as noise and other types of disturbances are regulated by the HOA.
  • Condominiums may offer more security than a single-family home. Many have doormen, guards or gates at the entry. The proximity of neighbors also adds a certain level of security that may not be present in an area’s single-family home selection.

Yes, there are disadvantages to owning and living in a condo:

  • The proximity of neighbors, while also listed as an advantage, may be a disadvantage for those who crave privacy.
  • The HOA, while advantageous for many reasons, may be intrusive and dictate unreasonable restrictions.
  • Condos tend to have less storage space than single-family homes, a concern especially for families with lots of “stuff.”
  • When you purchase a house, unless it sits on leasehold property, you are also buying the land beneath it. Not so with a condo. In most instances you will own only the space inside the unit and share ownership the common areas of the complex.
  • Your share of the common areas, however, does not grant you the right to alter them in any way. So, although you may despise the tree in front of your unit, you are not allowed to remove it unless the HOA approves.

The Condo Purchase Process

If you’ve purchased a house before you’ll notice that the condo purchase requires far more paperwork. This is because the seller must provide the buyer with certain HOA documents, which vary by state. These documents may include:

  • Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CC&Rs)
  • HOA budget
  • Bylaws
  • HOA meeting minutes

Each document in the HOA package provides valuable information. For instance, the meeting minutes let you know the type of issues that the board deals with frequently and whether there has been discussions regarding raising fees or if they are considering special assessments.

By far, the most important documents are the HOA’s financials, especially the reserve balance, sometimes called “reserve funds,” or “reserves.”

This is money set aside to cover major repairs, replacement or maintenance of common area elements, such as a broken sewer line. A well-funded reserve account ensures you that there will most likely not be future special assessments imposed on the owners.

Another red flag to look for in the HOA documents is the number of non-owner occupied units. There are several reasons that a large number of tenants make the condo less attractive. First, many lenders won’t finance a condo in a complex with a tenant ratio over 25 percent.

Next, tenants don’t have the same incentive as owners to keep the property maintained so an overabundance of them may tend to bring down the value of the complex.

Lots of tenants also means a noisier environment and heavier usage of common area amenities such as the pool and exercise equipment, according to Robert Irwin, author of “Tips and Traps When Buying a Condo, Co-op, Or Townhouse.” Irwin suggests looking for a complex with 10 percent or fewer tenant-occupied units.

If you have any questions about anything in the HOA documents, consult an attorney before signing an agreement to purchase the condo.

Since these documents govern how you can use your unit and the future costs of owning it, you owe it to yourself to understand every word.

How to remove a lien on your home

Unless she checks her credit report periodically, the average American will often not realize that there is a lien against her property until she applies for credit or tries to sell property.

A lien will stop the sale of your home until it’s taken care of.

A lien is a type of security for an unpaid debt, and it can be placed on a home, an auto, a boat, a business and any other type of property with significant cash value. It essentially keeps the property from being sold until the debt is paid.

There are several types of liens that find themselves slapped on a home. Among the most common are mechanic’s liens, tax liens and judgment liens. Let’s take a look at each.

Mechanic’s lien

Homeowners who have had remodeling or other construction work done around the home should check to ensure that the contractor or a subcontractor didn’t place a lien for non-payment.

“For example, if you are remodeling your bathroom and the supplier who supplied the bathtub isn’t paid by the general contractor, a lien can be placed against your house to recover the money,” warns the attorneys at FindLaw.com.

Even if you paid the contractor for the bathtub, you’ll be held liable if the contractor failed to pay the supplier for it.

No, it doesn’t seem fair, but the law presumes that you can sue the contractor for the money. When you’re knee-deep in a home sale, however, time is of the essence and court cases take time.

Tax lien

Don’t pay your taxes and the government can and will put a lien on your home. This includes federal, state and local governments.

Judgment lien

If you’ve ever sued or been sued in small claims court, you may be familiar with the judgment lien.

Investopedia defines the judgment lien as “a court ruling that gives a creditor the right to take possession of a debtor’s real property if the debtor fails to fulfill his or her contractual obligations.”

Liens must be removed before you sell your home

Unless the buyer agrees to buy your house subject to the lien, it will need to be paid and released before the sale can go through. Even if the buyer did agree to this, however, his or her lender most likely will not.

  • The first step you should take when you learn of a lien against your property, and you feel you don’t owe the debt, is to contact an attorney.
  • If you agree that the debt is valid, contact the lien holder for instructions on how to pay it off. Request that he or she sign a Release-of-Lien, in front of a notary public. These forms are available from your attorney, the county clerk and online.
  • Pay off the debt to the lien holder if the debt is valid. Sometimes an attorney can negotiate a lower payoff for you.
  • Request that the lien holder sign a Release-of-Lien, in front of a notary public. Release-of-Lien forms are available from an attorney and from the county clerk’s office.
  • File the Release-of-Lien at the county recorder’s office. This makes the release a matter of public record. There is usually a charge for this, and the fee varies by region.
  • Consult with your real estate agent about how to notify the title company of the release.
  • Keep a copy of the Release-Of-Lien in a safe place, for your records.

We are not attorneys and can’t offer legal advice, so your best course of action when concerned about lien removal is to contact your attorney.

 

Selling your home when it’s hard to let go

Letting go can be brutal. Often, we have no choice, such as when it’s time for our kids to leave the nest, or we decide to leave a relationship that has soured.

It is often the same for homeowners when they decide to sell their homes. For some, letting go of a home isn’t just divesting themselves of a structure, but also from the lifestyle it represents, the memories made under that roof – all that life lived in it.

Selling a home can be an emotionally-charged transaction, but it doesn’t have to be. If you can put your emotions aside for a time and realize that the sale of your home is a business transaction —and stay in that mindset— you’ll avoid the pitfalls we see some home sellers contend with.

Those pitfalls

There are several commonalities among home sellers who are attached to their homes. The first is that they tend to overvalue it for the market.

It’s important to keep in mind that what you feel the home is worth may not be the same as the value the buyer puts on it. Then, there’s the appraiser’s valuation.

Depending on the type of market we’re in, be prepared for buyers coming in with lowball offers. These buyers aren’t intentionally insulting you, but treating the transaction for what it truly is, a business deal.

Ditto when buyers appear to be criticizing your taste in décor, such as by asking you to remove the wallpaper in the kitchen or for new carpet.

No home is ideal for everyone, not even yours. When you approach the sale with less emotion, you’ll be better able to let these unintentional slights roll off your shoulders.

Vow to be flexible

If your attachment to your home is strong, it’s easy to talk yourself into little ways that may sabotage the sale.

Take showings, for instance. We’ve seen some sellers who become completely unreasonable when an agent requests a showing.

Yes, we know how very challenging it is to keep a home spotless while “real life” carries on (kids to get to and from school and lessons, pets, etc.).

Remind yourself that as busy as life is, if you want to sell the home you must be accommodating to buyers. Take some deep breaths, straighten the chaos and take the kids to the park.

An offer is just an offer, not an insult

There is a reason you may be intensely emotionally attached to your home. Whether it’s because of the memories it holds, the hard work it took to get it to its current condition or something else, this attachment can cloud your judgment.

Seldom is this more evident than when entertaining offers from buyers. As mentioned earlier, many homeowners who are attached to their homes treat a simple request, such as for new carpet or a minor repair, as a personal affront.

Remember, your home is perfect for you, but it may not be for everyone. The buyers certainly don’t mean to be insulting.

Even lowball offers can cause defensiveness. Keep in mind that an offer is just an offer and selling your home is a business transaction.

And, by the way, in a tough buyers’ market, a lowball offer may be worth negotiating. Put on your business hat so we can work together on a solution.

Additional coping strategies

“Sure, this house was perfect, but the home selling and buying process isn’t [about] finding ‘the one’ that sticks around forever,” suggests Catrina Sun-Tan at homelight.com.

“It’s more about finding the home that fits your needs best, based on your current situation,” she concludes.

She goes on to suggest that you keep your focus on your ‘why.’ That may be a particular lifestyle you crave, living closer to your children and grandkids or to have a snappier commute. Keep that ‘why’ top-of-mind.

Take photos of the home, especially those areas where you spend the most time and have built the most memories.

Some homeowners will take a plant or even soil from the garden to plant at their new home (let me know if this is your plan because we’ll have to move the plant to a pot before the home goes on the market).

Then, change your focus. Focusing on the future during the sale process is one way to alleviate that panicky feeling many get when they begin dwelling on the loss of their home.

Look to the future instead – where you’re going next, how you’ll furnish and use your next home.

Get excited about what lies ahead.

4 reasons to sell your house a.s.a.p.

If you’ve toyed with the idea of moving up, downsizing or just craving a change of scenery, you may want to consider selling your home a.s.a.p.

In pockets across the country, the housing market is showing signs of change. Yes, in June we saw record high median home prices nationwide. But there are hints of change coming that you should be aware of if you hope to make maximum profit from the sale of your home.

Read on to find out why.

1. Homebuyers may start rethinking their decision to buy

Battle-weary homebuyers are starting to reconsider purchasing a home right now. In some areas of the country, they’ve chosen, “ever so slightly,” to rent a home while awaiting better opportunities for buyers, according to Rick Palacios, director of research for real estate research firm, John Burns.

In fact, the high home prices resulted in a 6% decrease in mortgage applications in mid-July. This represents a decrease of 18% over this time last year.

Selma Hepp, deputy chief economist with data analyst firm Core Logic feels that “There are signs that the hottest days of the market are behind us.” She predicts an increase in housing inventory for the remainder of the year.

Yes, the market is still red-hot for home sellers, but if you’re waiting for it to get even hotter before placing your home on the market, you may be disappointed.

Take advantage of the current pool of homebuyers to get the most money for your home.

2. What will interest rates do?

Some economists are predicting rising mortgage rates throughout the latter half of 2021, cooling off the housing market.

In late July, “The average rate for 30-year fixed loans increased slightly to 3.11% after two weeks of declines,” according to Diana Olick at cnbc.com.

“So far, the increase in rates has come with ups and downs marked by a gradual rise over time,” Stauffer claims. As this incremental rise continues “as some experts have forecasted,” he adds, the market will cool, even if it’s just slightly.

3. You’ll have little competition from other homeowners

According to the National Association of REALTORS®, the inventory of available homes in June increased 1.4%, month to month.

“We may have turned a corner on inventory,” the chief economist for the National Association of Realtors tells Olick. “There is some softening in the demand.”

When the inventory of homes for sale increases, expect home prices to soften. When this will happen is anyone’s guess, so keep an eye on housing market news. Or, give us a call; we’re happy to share with you what we’re seeing in the market.

The bonus for you as a home seller right now is that you’ll have little competition from other sellers. A well-prepared home in a decent area can easily become the belle of the local market and receive multiple offers from qualified homebuyers.

Don’t try to time the market. By the time it turns a corner for sellers, it will be too late; you will have missed the top of the market.

4. Money, money, money

Chances are good that you’ll be surprised how much equity you have in your current home.

Last year, American homeowners, on average, gained $33,403 in equity. Let that one sink in a minute. That figure represents a nearly 20% increase from the previous year, according to the number crunchers at Core Logic.

Summer appears to be heralding yet another hot real estate market for sellers. Give us a call to find out how much your home is worth.

DIY tips to increase curb appeal

What happens – or doesn’t – between the curb in front of your home and the home’s front door is known as curb appeal. It makes or breaks the potential buyer’s first impression.

It’s that important.

But, it’s the area around the front door that’s considered the focal point of the exterior of the home. While they may not be conscious of it, this area will be the potential buyers’ first impression.

Many homeowners are quite successful taking the DIY route to staging this area for maximum appeal. We’ve gathered some tips from the experts to help you get started.

Understanding landscape design is important

One of the principles of landscape design, according to the experts at Environmental Landscape Associates (ELA), a Doylestown, PA landscape architecture firm, is to ensure the landscaping near the entry area matches the home’s architecture.

For instance, while a free-flowing cottage garden in the home’s front yard may be the perfect choice for a Tudor cottage, when planted in front of a modern home it creates confusion and appears chaotic.

“Is your home a traditional colonial or a casual contemporary? The style of your home should trump your personal style preferences for the greatest curb appeal,” caution the pros at ELA.

Staging the exterior of the informal-style home

Informal-style homes, such as bungalow, ranch-style, Craftsman and cottage demand informal landscaping. Here, you can be creative in your use of hardscaping and plants. The aforementioned cottage garden works well.

Additional ideas to help you update the front of an informal-style home include:

  • Line the walkway with flowers or evergreen plants to help draw the eye to the front door.
  • Place lanterns near the front door.
  • Add a coordinating door mat.
  • Change the door hardware and house numbers to compliment the home’s architecture.
  • Check all the lighting to ensure the covers are clean and the bulbs function.

Tips to spiff up the exterior of a formal-style home

Popular formal-style designs include colonial, Georgian and Greek revival. To coordinate and compliment the home’s exterior, landscaping should rely on organization and symmetry.

A good example of this is a carefully staged entryway with “two of everything,” according to the experts at betterhomesandgardens.com. Identical planters holding identical plants on either side of the door creates symmetry and balance.

Consider well-manicured boxwood shrubs, grown as a hedge, to line the walkway.

The key to success with a formal home is to avoid over-staging the exterior entry area. Keep it sophisticated and simple.

There is a lot to consider when it comes to increasing curb appeal. We’re happy to answer any questions you may have.