Our Real Estate Blog

Aug. 23, 2019



There is a lot of advice out there concerning selling your home – and a lot of that advice you would do best to ignore. You want to sell your home for the best possible price, in a reasonable amount of time. To accomplish your goals you need to do what works, and avoid doing the things that will make selling your home harder. Below you will find some of the biggest myths about selling real estate. These are myths that somehow some homeowners have come to believe are true. When you follow the worst home selling advice, you often end up with worst possible results. A home that didn’t sell and caused you a lot of stress in the process!


1. Selling for sale by owner is easy and will save you money.

On the surface for sale by owner appears to be a cheaper alternative to using a real estate agent. You avoid paying the agent’s commission, so why wouldn’t you get more money from your sale? In reality, the final price paid for a home can vary considerably based on numerous factors. A good real estate agent will be doing everything possible to boost the price of the home, but on your own, you may not be able to achieve the same goal. Practice makes perfect, and a great agent typically has a lot of experience. It is unlikely that you can hit all the right notes. And even if you can market to the right buyers, determine what improvements give the most bang for the buck and negotiate effectively to drive the price higher, doing so will be much, much more work for you than it will be for a practiced agent.

2. Zillow Zestimates are a good way to price your home.

Price estimates from sites like Zillow are great for a general overview of what your home might be worth, but they are inadequate to price a home for sale. Part of what makes an experienced agent so desirable is his or her ability to compare one home to numerous other homes, based on years of experience, and use both data and instinct to price a home for sale. Price too high, the home won’t sell and may wind up selling for less than it could have, months later. Price too low and you lose money. There is too much at stake to trust a free calculator on a website. Zillow is a valuable site for looking at and researching homes. Far too many believe, however, that the Zillow Zestimates are accurate. Using this as a means to price your home can cause your asking price to be way off the mark. Never rely on an online valuation tool to give you an accurate estimate of your home’s value. Instead, seek out a top local real estate agent or an appraiser. You will dramatically increase your odds of pricing your home correctly. Keep in mind that the wrong asking price is the number one cause of home sale failure!

3. Only sell your home in the spring.

Selling in spring is the most popular choice, but the other seasons offer opportunities as well. Different types of buyers come out in different seasons, buyers that may be primed for buying and willing to pay what you are asking. There is no need to wait for the perfect season if you are ready to sell. There are also some types of properties that might do better in one season or another. Selling a waterfront home in the summer would be a prime example. If you live on a lake or ocean, this season offers one of the best times to showcase what makes your property special!

4. Don’t make improvements to your home.

The buyers can do what they like after they buy it. By avoiding any improvements to your home before you put it on the market, you may be missing out on easy money. You don’t want just to start renovating randomly, though. Certain improvements are ideal for getting more money back or improving the odds of making a sale. The best way to determine what will help your specific sale is to talk to a local real estate agent who knows your area and is experienced in selling your type of home. Some sellers are in the position to make changes financially but don’t for various reasons. Often this can cause the seller to lose thousand of dollars they could have put in their pocket by just making a few sensible changes.

5. The agent you pick isn’t that important – they all do the same things to sell a home.

All real estate agents are not equal. Sure, they may all be happy to try and sell your home. They may all put your property on the MLS and be glad to collect a commission if somebody buys it. But if you want to get the best possible price for your property, it’s going to take a lot more than creating a listing and collecting a check. Knowing how to pick a real estate agent is vital to your success. A good agent will have an extensive plan primed for marketing your home. You need to attract the right buyer, and you need to convince that buyer that your home is worth what you are asking. Doing so requires experience, marketing savvy, negotiating skills, extensive market knowledge, the ability to price the home right the first time, and much, much more. When selling a home one of the most important aspects, any homeowner should look for it accurate pricing. Who wants to list their home for sale only to find out what they were expecting to sell it for was totally unrealistic? When there is a price reduction it says one thing – the home was not priced correctly! Not pricing your home accurately coming out of the gate is a sure fire way to sell it less than if it was priced appropriately. Don’t make the mistake of choosing a real estate agent based on an unrealistic sales price. Folks this happens all the time!

6. The listing agent needs to accompany all of the showings.

Unfortunately, some sellers have the mistaken belief that having the listing agent in attendance somehow increases the odds of success. Sorry, that is not the case! In fact, accompanied showings can hinder a home sale! It is not necessary for your agent to be at the showing. Real Estate agents do not talk people into buying a home. Buying a home is an emotional decision. Usually, within five minutes of walking through the door, a person can tell if they are interested in buying or not. Many owners are under the false assumption that if the real estate agent is there pointing out some feature like a security system, central vacuum, or something else, it will make a difference. Fat chance! Many buyers and their agents detest the listing being around for a showing. For one they can’t speak freely with the listing agent hanging over them. Have you ever walked into a store only to be attacked by a salesman asking if you need any help? Was it a turn-off? Of course, it was! The only time an accompanied showing should be necessary is when you are selling a luxury home and have a significant amount of valuables that can’t be put away. Part of why it is so important to take your time in choosing an agent is because you need someone representing you that you can trust. If you have made a decision you are happy with; then you can feel confident that your agent has your best interests in mind. Instead of coming to every showing, he or she may be better utilized in other ways. If all real estate showings were accompanied, the productivity of every real estate agent would suffer. This is why we use lock boxes. Think about this – How would the agent be working on selling your home if he or she was accompanying the showings of every other property they were marketing? They wouldn’t be!

Aug. 16, 2019

Closing Costs

What are closing costs?

Closing costs include the myriad fees for the services and expenses required to finalize a mortgage. You’ll have to pay closing costs whether you buy a home or refinance. Most of the closing costs fall on the buyer, but the seller typically has to pay a few, too, such as the real estate agent’s commission.

How much are closing costs?

Average closing costs for the buyer run between about 2% and 5% of the loan amount. That means, on a $300,000 home purchase, you would pay from $6,000 to $15,000 in closing costs. The most cost-effective way to cover your closing costs is to pay them out-of-pocket as a one-time expense. You may be able to finance them by folding them into the loan, if the lender allows, but then you’ll pay interest on those costs through the life of the mortgage. When buying a home, you can comparison shop and negotiate some of the fees to lower your closing costs. And some states, counties and cities offer low-interest loan programs or grants to help first-time home buyers with closing costs. Check with your local government to see what’s available. Your lender is required to outline your closing costs in the Loan Estimate you receive when you first apply for the loan and in the Closing Disclosure document you receive in the days before the settlement. Review them closely and ask questions about anything you don’t understand.

Here are the fees that the buyer’s closing costs can include:

Property-related fees

Appraisal fee: It’s important to a lender to know if the property is worth as much as the amount you want to borrow. This is for two reasons: The lender needs to verify the amount you need for a loan is justified and make sure it can recoup the value of the home if you default on your loan. The average cost of a home appraisal by a certified professional appraiser ranges between $300 and $400.

Home inspection: Most lenders require a home inspection, especially if you’re getting a government-backed mortgage, such as an FHA loan insured by the Federal Housing Administration. Before lending you hundreds of thousands of dollars, a bank needs to make sure the home is structurally sound and in good enough shape to live in. If the inspection turns up troubling results, you may be able to negotiate a lower sale price. But depending on how severe the problems are, you have the option to back out of your contract if you and the seller can’t come to an agreement on how to fix the issues. Home inspection fees, on average, range from $300 to $500.

Loan-related fees

Application fee: This covers the cost of processing your request for a new loan and includes costs such as credit checks and administrative expenses. The application fee varies depending on the lender and the amount of work it takes to process your loan application.

Assumption fee: If the seller has an assumable mortgage and you take over the remaining balance of the loan, you may be charged a variable fee based on the balance.

Attorney’s fees: Some states require an attorney to be present at the closing of a real estate purchase. The fee will vary depending on the number of hours the attorney works for you.

Prepaid interest: Most lenders require buyers to pay the interest that accrues on the mortgage between the date of settlement and the first monthly payment due date, so be prepared to pay that amount at closing; it will depend on your loan size.

Loan origination fee: This is a big one. It’s also known as an underwriting fee, administrative fee or processing fee. The loan origination fee is a charge by the lender for evaluating and preparing your mortgage loan. This can cover document preparation, notary fees and the lender’s attorney fees. Expect to pay about 0.5% of the amount you’re borrowing. A $300,000 loan, for example, would result in a loan origination fee of $1,500.

Discount points: By paying discount points, you reduce the interest rate you pay over the life of your loan, which results in more competitive mortgage rates. The cost of one point equals 1% of the loan amount. So if the loan were $250,000, a 1-point payment would be $2,500. Generally, paying points is worthwhile only if you plan to stay in the home for a long time. Otherwise, the upfront cost isn’t worth it.

Mortgage broker fee: If you work with a mortgage broker to find a loan, the broker will usually charge a commission as a percentage of the loan amount. The commission averages from 0.5% to 2.75% of the home’s purchase price.

Mortgage insurance fees

Mortgage insurance application fee: If you make a down payment of less than 20%, you may have to get private mortgage insurance. (PMI insures the lender in case you default; it doesn’t insure the home.) The application fee varies by lender.

Upfront mortgage insurance: Some lenders require borrowers to pay the first year’s mortgage insurance premium upfront, while others ask for a lump-sum payment that covers the life of the loan. Expect to pay from 0.55% to 2.25% of the purchase price for mortgage insurance, according to Genworth, Ginnie Mae and the Urban Institute. FHA, VA and USDA fees: If your loan is insured by the Federal Housing Administration, you’ll have to pay FHA mortgage insurance premiums; if it’s guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs or the U.S. Department of Agriculture, you’ll pay guarantee fees. In addition to monthly premiums, the FHA requires an upfront premium payment of 1.75% of the loan amount. The USDA loan upfront guarantee fee is 1%. VA loan guarantee fees range from 1.25% to 3.3% of the loan amount, depending on the size of your down payment. Property taxes, annual fees and insurance.

Property taxes: Buyers typically pay two months’ worth of city and county property taxes at closing.

Annual assessments: If your condo or homeowners association requires an annual fee, you might have to pay it upfront in one lump sum.

Homeowners insurance premium: Usually, your lender requires that you purchase homeowner’s insurance before settlement, which covers the property in case of vandalism, damage and so on. Some condo associations include insurance in the monthly condo fee. The amount varies depending on where you live and your home’s value.

Title fees

Title search fee: A title search is conducted to ensure that the person selling the house actually owns it and that there are no outstanding claims or liens against the property. This can be fairly labor-intensive, especially if the real estate records aren’t computerized. Title search fees are about $200, but can vary among title companies by region. The search fee may be included in the cost of title insurance.

Lender’s title insurance: Most lenders require what’s called a loan policy; it protects them in case there’s an error in the title search and someone makes a claim of ownership on the property after it’s sold. Coverage lasts until the loan is paid off.

Owner’s title insurance: You should also consider purchasing title insurance to protect yourself in case title problems or claims are made on your home after closing. The owner’s coverage lasts as long as you or your heirs own the property. The cost of the owner’s policy is about 0.5% to 1% of the purchase price, according to the American Land Title Association. Whether the buyer or seller pays for title insurance varies by region. A discount is sometimes offered when both the lender’s and owner’s policies are purchased at the same time.

Mortgage closing documents

With so many closing costs to consider, it’s obvious you’ll face a lot of paperwork just prior to and during the loan signing. Two of the most important closing documents are the Loan Estimate and the Closing Disclosure. You’ll receive the Loan Estimate three days after applying with a lender. It will officially detail all fees, the interest rate and the other costs to close your loan. It’s legally binding, so you’ll want to read it carefully. Then, three days from loan settlement and prior to making the big commitment, you’ll receive the Closing Disclosure from your lender. It confirms — or makes minor adjustments to — what you saw on the Loan Estimate. Again, it’s worth a big cup of coffee and a thorough review.



Posted in Buying a Home
Aug. 8, 2019

What is an Escrow Account?

Homebuyers, especially first-time homebuyers, may not fully understand the issue of escrow and how it relates directly to a home purchase. 


But understand it they should, as escrow plays a vital - and protective - role in the home-buying process and thus needs to be thoroughly understood by homebuyer and seller alike. 


What Is Escrow? 


Escrow is defined as an impartial third party in a major financial transaction between two parties that holds a valuable asset (usually cash) until the transaction is complete. When something is referred to as being "in escrow," they mean the asset is currently being held by that third party. While escrow is typically linked to real estate, it can extend to other major financial transactions. 


Escrow is often used so that a neutral party can be involved in a transaction, giving the buyer more comfort in the deal (and the seller as well) knowing an independent mediator can mitigate the possibility of anyone trying to rip off the other party. An escrow service can also be the unbiased mediator that can help resolve the complications that inevitably arise in a large-scale transaction. 


Mainly, there are three things that the term escrow may be referring to - real estate escrow, online escrow and escrow accounts: 


Real estate escrow 


Mortgage lenders typically insist on a real estate escrow account for the buyer prior to the purchase, before any home inspection or disclosures on the home's condition are completed. Often, escrow is required for any home purchase to occur. With real estate, both property and money will be considered "in escrow" before the deal goes through. 


Once the buyer and the lender knows the property is in satisfactory condition, the money from the escrow account is released on the home purchase closing date. 


Escrow account 


Both in real estate and other areas, escrow accounts are what is used prior to a sale officially going through. Once the buyer has put their funds into an account, it is then incumbent on the seller to hold up their end of the bargain. Once the transaction has occurred, the money owed to the seller is released from the escrow account. Specific to real estate, the funds would not be the entirety of the cost of the home, but those funds still go to the seller upon completion of the purchase. 


An escrow account can also be used after the buyer moves into the home, as the mortgage lender pays money owed on property taxes and homeowners insurance out of the escrow account, funded by the buyer. Minimum balances are often required in an escrow account. For mortgage lenders and homeowners alike, an escrow account can work as a safety measure to help ensure payments get made on time with money saved away for these payments. 


Online escrow 


Consumers doing business online use online escrow to provide a measure of protection on a digital purchase of a product or service. No matter how much the internet grows and develops, online sales continue to be an incredibly risky endeavor for many. Not every online transaction is as big as that of a home purchase, but you still want a safeguard to get your money back if something goes awry with an attempted purchase. 


The escrow model works the same way, as the money is kept in an escrow account by a trusted third party, until the conditions of the purchase agreement are satisfied by both the buyer and seller, and the escrow money is released. 


Real Estate Escrow Process 


During the home sales process, the buyer puts up a predetermined amount of cash in an escrow account after an offer is accepted by the homeowner, and is held by a bank or other financial institution in an escrow account until the sale is finalized. This is what real estate and mortgage professionals refer to as "being in escrow." 


Expect the home sale escrow process to last about 30 days - or the time it takes to fully sign off on the home sale between both parties and the mortgage lender. The homeowner doesn't get access to the money during escrow and the amount of cash put into escrow by the homebuyer is applied to the overall home sales price once the deal is finalized. 


Escrow After Home Purchase 


After the home is purchased, the buyer also uses an escrow account to pay property taxes and home insurance charges incurred as a homeowner. The mortgage loan servicer makes these payments for you, and has direct access to the escrow account. Mortgage lenders prefer escrow accounts especially for property tax payments, as they don't want the property, backed by their mortgage loan, to fall behind in taxes and risk a tax lien on the property. The same thinking applies to homeowner's insurance, where the lender can't afford the homeowner to miss payments, and thus risk losing insurance coverage on the property. 


For homeowners dealing with an escrow account, a good rule of thumb is to expect to pay two months' worth of expenses on an escrow account at the home sale closing. Typically, once per year your mortgage lender will review your escrow account to make sure you have sufficient funds in your escrow account to cover property tax and home insurance payments. 


How to Get an Escrow Account 


While home sale escrow accounts aren't all that complicated, it's advisable for both parties to agree to a professional title agent, real estate lawyer or a mortgage loan servicer to handle the escrow process. Your real estate agent can direct you to a qualified escrow professional. In a home sale, generally the realtor will handle the creation of the escrow account to keep everything running smoothly. 


In the event that you are handling the transaction yourself, you'll have to do some digging. You can search online for an escrow agent or service, or it may be easier to contact your local bank and ask for information on whether you're allowed to create an escrow account with them. 


Is There Interest Paid on an Escrow Account? 


There's no federal law guaranteeing financial institutions to pay interest on the money held in an escrow account. However, a growing number of states - including Alaska, California, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont and Wisconsin - do require banks and financial institutions holding escrow payments to pay interest to account holders. 


Is it Okay to Not Use an Escrow Account? 


You can avoid an escrow account after a home sale (having an escrow account active while the home sale is completed is mandatory, however), but only under certain conditions. For example, if you put 20% cash down on your home, the mortgage lender may waive an escrow account, but could charge a significant fee for doing so. In general, mortgage lenders want to be sure those property tax payments and homeowner's insurance payments are on hand, in good order, and readily accessible for payments. Lenders can make it difficult to avoid an escrow account after a home purchase. 


Are Escrow Account Totals Fixed? 


Escrow accounts aren't fixed. The amount of money held in an escrow account may vary, most notably due to fluctuations in local property tax assessments, which can and do move up and down during the time the homeowner is repaying his or her home mortgage loan. Additionally, if you pay off your homeowner's insurance early or if your home declines in value, your escrow payments can decline, as well. 


Escrow Account Fees 


There are fees linked to escrow accounts. Typically, an escrow agent will charge a fee of about 1% of the home sales price for handling the escrow account, paid at the home sale closing. The homebuyer and seller can negotiate who winds up paying the fee, or whether the buyer and seller will wind up splitting the fee. 


After a home sale, it's up to the new homeowner to make sure his or her escrow account has enough cash to cover property tax and homeowner's insurance payments. The homeowner should expect the mortgage lender to be directly involved to make sure escrow payments are being made - and on time. 


                                                                                                                                           - The Street        


July 30, 2019

What is an escalation clause?

When you're deciding on what price to offer on a home, the situation may call for a single price or, in some cases, an escalation clause. An escalation clause is a real estate contract, sometimes called an escalator, that lets a home buyer say "I will pay x price for this home, but if the seller receives another offer that's higher than mine, I'm willing to increase my offer to y price." In theory, an escalation clause is fairly simple. In practice, there are a lot of details involved.

How does an escalation clause work?

While escalation clauses vary significantly, the general escalation addendum has a few basic components: What is the original offer of purchase price? How much will that price be escalated above any other competitive bid? What is the maximum amount that the purchase price can reach in case of multiple offers?

For example, buyer Adam offers $100,000 for a home. His Realtor adds an escalation clause that, in the case of a higher competing offer, will increase Adam's offer in increments of $2,000 above the competing offer. His escalation clause goes up to a maximum of $110,000. If no other offers are submitted, Adam's offer remains at $100,000. If buyer Green offers the seller $103,000, then Adam's offer would automatically escalate to $2,000 above that, bringing Adam's offer to $105,000. If buyer Orange offers $111,000 for the home, then Adam's maximum of $110,000 will be eclipsed, and Orange will have the top offer.

Will the seller accept an escalation clause?

Some home sellers simply state that they will not accept an offer with an escalation clause. They would prefer that every buyer submits exactly what they're willing to pay. Sellers sometimes prefer this method because it motivates buyers to outbid one another on the first try. It also streamlines the paperwork and the decision-making process.

Will there definitely be multiple offers?

Escalation clauses should only be used when the buyer is fairly confident that there will be multiple offers, or when the buyer expects to pay an escalated price. If a buyer submits an offer with an escalation clause, they're laying all their cards on the table: The seller knows immediately how far the buyer will go to secure the home. If that offer ends up being the only offer submitted, it technically remains at its original price. A Realtor representing the seller will know, however, to counteroffer to the buyer at a higher, escalated price, since the buyer is clearly willing to pay more. While there's no guarantee that the buyer will agree to the higher price, it is likely that they will. A buyer gives up a lot of negotiating power and potentially leaves money on the table when using an escalation clause that goes unmet by a competitor.

Has the seller's agent clearly stated a one-day review or multiple rounds of offers?

In hot markets, there's a wide variety of offer-review processes. Some state that the property is going on the market on Friday, and all offers will be reviewed the following Thursday. The seller and their Realtor will make a final decision that day. This situation can be ideal for the escalation clause, when a buyer knows it's an all-or-nothing offer. Other sellers take a back-and-forth approach. They may collect offers from buyers for one week, and then respond to a handful of the best offers by saying "Send us your highest and best offer." This technique is particularly disliked by many consumers and professionals for its lack of clarity, but it's important to know that it exists. Before writing an offer, a buyer's Realtor can inquire to feel out the details and make sure the buyer is prepared for the situation. Writing an escalation clause on the initial offer in a multistage situation could put the buyer in a weak position during the second round. It's perfectly legal for a seller's Realtor, with the seller's permission, to reveal to all potential buyers what the top initial offer is and to ask everyone to beat it. In this case, the escalation clause would flesh out that buyer's maximum, and they would lose a competitive edge.

Bid with careful confidence and know that each situation is unique.

If you're considering an escalation clause, your Realtor is probably knee-deep in researching the circumstances around the seller's process of reviewing offers. The Realtor's knowledge of normal practices and probable outcomes in your market will make your offer much more likely to succeed. Escalation clauses can cause a lot of stress for home buyers, but when they're boiled down to the basics, they're fairly straightforward. Remember to be realistic, to be comfortable with how much you're willing to offer, and to confidently go after a home at that price. Buyers shouldn't be tempted to escalate their purchase price above what they are comfortable paying. At the same time, they should realize that inventory and interest rates are low, and aggressively pursuing a good home at a good price is necessary to winning in a competitive market. Potential buyers who are only looking to get a steal often end up not being buyers at all.

Posted in buying
July 26, 2019

How Can You Avoid Pricing Your Home Too High?

How Can You Avoid Pricing Your Home Too High?

There are many potential problems if your home is priced higher than what comparable properties dictate. Here are a few tips to help you avoid this situation.

Pick the right agent, not the one who suggests the highest list price

If you ask several agents how much they think you can get for your house, and one gives you a significantly higher number than the others, be cautious. The agent may be throwing out a high ball number just to get your business. A good agent will not fill you with false hope. Ask each agent for a Competitive Market Analysis (CMA). You want to choose the agent who can back up their suggested listing price with comparable sales data, not false promises that they can get you an unrealistic price. It's easy to hear a high number and get all excited, don't fall in the trap!

Overpricing because you have "time"

Sellers who aren't in a hurry often decide to test the market by listing their homes at a high price and waiting to see where the market goes. But in markets where home prices are dropping, waiting it out may actually cause you to lose money. It's key to price properly right out the gate because you have a greater chance of selling once your property just hits the market. Everybody wants something that's brand new, not been shopped around, and not on sale.

Don’t get emotionally involved

You’ve likely spent a lot of time, money and energy in your home over the years, so it’s natural to be emotionally invested in its sale. But, the biggest mistake sellers can make is to confuse prices or costs with property value. Just because a seller may have spent thousands of dollars on a wine cellar in the basement does not mean those costs will be fully recouped in the sales price. Buyers may not care about or value this amenity as much as the seller. Market value is determined by how the home is valued in the market, not by one individual. Sellers need to stay objective during the pricing process by focusing on the prices in the CMA.

Don’t rely on Zillow and other online estimates

There are some sellers who mistakenly believe that Zillow’s pricing estimates, called "Zestimates", and other online valuations tools can be used as a good gauge of estimating real estate market value. However, an online valuation tool is never going to replace a good real estate agent who knows the local market. Remember, Zillow has never seen the inside of your home and its condition, you will be surprised at how far off these estimates can be to the actual selling price of a property.

Find out what your home is worth below.

Fill in the information for an estimate and accuracy score.

We would be more than happy to set up a meeting to give you an in depth market analysis to pinpoint and price your home in that "sweet spot".


July 18, 2019

The Pros and Cons of Purchasing a Condo Over a Single Family Home

If you’re looking to buy a property in the near future, you may be considering a condominium as a part of your search criteria. There’s so much to consider when you are deciding on whether to buy a condo or a traditional home. Condos can be great for the right buyers. You just need to be sure that your needs will be met by purchasing a condo. Hopefully, laying out the pros and cons will help you to make an informed decision that’s right for you.The Positives

There’s many great pros to buying a condo. For people who seek security and easy upkeep living, buying a condo can be great for the following reasons:   

The Pros

Security: Many condominiums offer gated communities with security staff on duty. In this way, living in a condo gives you a special sort of safe community feel. 

Amenities: Condos also offer many different kinds of perks for owners. These can include a pool, a clubhouse, or community events. You won’t get all of these unique benefits living in a traditional house.

Maintenance: You don’t have to worry about maintaining your home or the surrounding areas. In a condo, someone else takes care of it for you! When your heating unit fails, it will be taken care of. This is one of the great benefits to this style of home.  

Accessible prices: Condos are much more affordable than homes in many places.  Purchasing a condo can be a great first step to home ownership.   

The Cons

HOA Fees: All of the amenities that condos carry come at a price. You as the homeowner cover the costs of maintenance and security in the community. This fee is paid on top of your mortgage payment. In some cases, the association fees can vary widely, so plan your finances accordingly. 

Privacy: Living in a condo is similar to living in an apartment. There’s a lack of privacy that exists when you’re sharing walls with your neighbors. You’ll hear people going up and down the halls and fellow owners will be around you 24 hours a day. If you enjoy your privacy and space, condo living may not be for you. 

Condos Have Rules: Living in a condo means you’re living under the management’s rules. You may not to be able to install the technology that you want like solar panels and satellite TV under the community regulations, for example. A condominium's home owner association may limit things like what you can do in your yard or hang on your door, and even animal restrictions.  

In Summary

The decision to buy a condo over a single family home is a big one. There’s many different things that need to be considered on an individual basis for your choice to be complete. Look at your decision from all angles. A condo could be a great pathway to home ownership for many people.  

Posted in condo
July 10, 2019

What's a Good Credit Score?

One of the most important factors that many home buyers face is that of their credit score. You have the right to get one free credit report per year. There are also many different apps and websites that keep you updated on your credit score and any changes in your credit report. These programs even guide you in how to improve your score. 

Why Do We Have Credit Scores? 

A credit score is a number that shows how creditworthy a person is. Lenders look at this score in order to assess how risky a person may be to lend to. This lessens the potential risks that the lender may face, keeping people who may be at high risk for defaulting from securing a loan in the first place. 

What’s A Good Score?

Credit scores range from 300 to 850, with 850 being the highest score that you can get. A credit score of 700 or above is considered good. A credit score above 800 is seen as excellent. The bottom line is that the better your credit score is, the more reliable of a borrower you will be seen as by lenders. 

If your credit score is less than stellar, however, you need to get to work so that you will be able to get loans in the near future. Here’s some steps that you can take to improve your credit:

Pay Off Outstanding Debt 

If you owe anything on medical collection accounts, credit cards, legal judgements, student loans; basically any debt that will show up on your credit report, you need to pay these off. Getting rid of debt can help you to increase your credit score more quickly. 

Rebuild Your Credit

You’ll need to keep up any accounts that you have with good payment history and maintain the good work. You should be diligent to maintain those on-time payments for an increased good payment history. Even if you have accounts that have had late payments previously, you can still work to get the accounts back in good order. 

If you don’t happen to have any existing credit accounts, you’ll need to get one in order to begin establishing credit. A good way to do this is to apply for a credit card and only charge what you can afford each month in order to help establish a credit history.     

Look At Your Whole Financial Picture

Aside from your credit score, you’ll need to take a look at your bigger financial picture. Everything from the amount of savings that you have available to how much of a home you’ll be able to afford is important. You need sufficient income so that you’ll be able to buy a home and provide a down payment along with money to pay closing costs. 

Once you start investigating your credit score and how to improve it, you’ll be on your way to better financial health.

Posted in credit
May 30, 2019

Buying and Selling a Home at the Same Time

There are countless reasons a homeowner might want to sell their home and buy another. Some want to move for a change of scenery or to relocate for work. Others are parents with a recently empty nest who want to downsize to something more affordable that meets their needs.

The good news for second time homebuyers is that you already have an idea of what to expect when buying a home. The research, paperwork, disappointments, and delays that come with buying a home can all be prepared for. However, if you have the burden of selling your old home, finding a temporary place to live, and then moving into a new one, your responsibilities can be doubled or tripled.

In these tips we’ll go over how to prepare for selling your old home and moving into the new one, and offer some advice to keep you sane    throughout this daunting (but exciting!) process.

Buying or selling first

For most homeowners, selling first makes the most sense financially, and especially in a competitive market. Holding onto a second house often means having to make two mortgage payments at once. Similarly, selling first will give you a much clearer idea of your budget for your new home.

Depending on market conditions, your home may or may not sell for as much as you were hoping. It’s important to keep this in mind before signing onto a new mortgage.

Moving logistics

Once you sell your home, you’ll have to work out living and storage arrangements until you are ready to move into your new home. It may seem easy at first--just rent for a couple months until your move-in date, right? It isn’t always that simple, however, as deals can sometimes fall through and you can find yourself with a move-out date from your own home without having finalized a deal on your new home. Because of this, many homeowners elect to pay their current mortgage for an extra month or two until they can move in to their new home. 

Research your options for short-term living and storage in your area. See if you can work with moving companies who will give you a discount for helping you move twice; once to the storage facility and again to your new home.

One way around this is to time your move out and move-in dates so that you don’t have to worry about storage. Some homebuyers will even move into the new home before officially closing on the home (i.e., take possession before closing). While this may be convenient, it can also be dangerous for the buyer and the seller.

Plan meticulously

One of the best piece of advice we can give is to stick to your schedule and keep good records during your buying and selling processes. Make sure whoever buys your home is aware of your plans for moving out, and that anything that could delay those plans (inspection issues, moving logistics) are taken care of.  

Keeping track of all this information can be difficult, so don’t be afraid to keep a daily list or planner of the things you need to take care of, and never be afraid to reach out to your real estate agent who will be able to advise you on the best way to make your move as smooth a process as possible.

May 22, 2019

Final Walkthrough Tips for Homebuyers

Buying a home is a very detail-oriented process, and there's a lot of important things you can overlook if you're not organized.

Home buyers generally have the opportunity to do a last-minute inspection of the premises to make sure everything's up to standards prior to closing on the property.

A real estate buyer's agent can accompany you on the final inspection or provide you with advice on what to look for.

If you've already visited the home a couple times and had the house professionally inspected, you're probably well-acquainted with any major malfunctions, flaws, or repair issues. In many cases, home buyers may reach an agreement with the seller to fix, replace, or make allowances for mechanical or cosmetic problems. While real estate negotiations and sales agreements are as varied as the people and properties involved, there are typically dozens of things buyers need to check on before they sign the final documents and accept ownership of the property.

Final Walkthrough Tips

As you're doing the final walk-through of the house, it's necessary to remember or have notes on the condition of the home when you last looked at it. You'll also want to have a clear idea of what appliances, fixtures, and window treatments are supposed to be remain in the house after it's been vacated by the seller. Depending on how close your final walk-through is to the actual closing, that has probably already happened.

If there's anything missing that the seller agreed to include in the sale, then that's an issue you'll want to discuss with your real estate agent or attorney. Any property damage that may have resulted from moving furniture and other belongings should also be discussed before final papers are signed. The same thing would apply to landscaping changes that appear to be inconsistent with the sales agreement. Your buyer's agent and/or lawyer can serve as intermediary in getting these issues clarified and ironed out.

To make sure your final inspection is thorough, it's a good idea to have a "final walk-through checklist" to help keep you organized and focused. You'll want to take a last-minute inventory of items that are supposed to be included with the property sale, such as appliances, lighting fixtures, furnishings, window treatments, children's play structures, hot tubs, and anything else that was agreed to in the sales contract.

Other items you'll need access to may include garage door openers, manuals for appliances and mechanical systems, warranties, invoices for repairs made, and remote control devices for things like ceiling fans, alarms, and other systems.

Your checklist and final walkthrough should focus on a variety of items, including the working condition of appliances, the electrical system, plumbing fixtures, and the condition of walls, floors, ceilings, doors, windows, and landscaping features. For a complete checklist, look online or consult your real estate agent.


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Posted in closing on a home
May 15, 2019

Staging a Pet Friendly Home

Staging your home for potential buyers can be quite the hassle. You may start moving your furniture around spontaneously, or become tense when your children or spouse make messes in a room that you just prepped for show. With all of the planning that one can put into making their home shine, one crucial step in home staging is often overlooked: your family pet.

For the sake of simplicity, I will outline a few things that you must keep in mind when cleaning up after your pet in a home for sale.

Pet presence - For obvious reasons, some pets can't leave the house. Giant enclosures, aquariums, and disabled pets are hard to relocate sometimes, and a lot of people will be understanding of this. But if your dog or cat is healthy, then you'll want to strongly consider relocating your pets temporarily. Many people aren't pet owners, and don't like being around an excitable golden retriever or a yippy chihuahua when they are trying to imagine their family occupying your home. Remember....You are trying to make the potential buyer as relaxed as possible. Ask a friend if they wouldn't mind looking after your loved one for a bit, and if all else fails, look into a reputable boarding service for your pet. 

Fur - Fur can get everywhere. Even in places that you, as a resident of your home, don't necessarily notice all of the time. Be sure to give your couches, chairs, and love seats proper attention. That means taking the pillows and cushions off, and using a hand vacuum or brush to remove all of the fur you see. After you are sure that they are thoroughly cleaned, use a fabric freshener to finish it off. Try to do this well in advance of the potential buyer, as some people have sensitivities to fabric fresheners.

Litter - No matter what kind of animal you have, odds are you have do deal with some form of waste. It may sound pretty obvious, but make sure your litter beds are clean and well hidden. Even if you own an exotic pet like a reptile of amphibian, this includes you too. Many people don't like snakes, but they'll like a messy snake cage even less. Another important thing to remember as an exotic pet owner is this: even though you may not be able to smell anything offensive coming from your reptile's cage, that doesn't mean that there isn't an odor. Many people who live with reptiles get used to the subtle odors that emit from the cages, and will tend to spot-clean their animal's cage without giving it the proper scrub-down that it needs.

Odors - Don't use air fresheners to mask pet odor. It is meant to freshen the air...Not cover pet odors up. Instead, use powdered cleaners on carpets and rugs that your pets frequent. These can be purchased at your local pet store in the cleaning isle. Odds are, if someone has a severe allergy to animals, then they are going to be at risk of having a reaction. The cleaner the house, the less dander will be in the home.

Posted in Pets and Your Home