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Keeping the Homeownership Dream Alive

Buying and owning your own home is no easy task, and there are moments on everyone’s journey when they feel like it’s impossible. However, there are plenty of resources available to help make your dream of becoming a homeowner a reality.

The first step you should take when you’re ready to consider buying a home is to check your credit score and/or start building your credit. Lenders want to see that you’ve been able to pay back borrowed money on time, and without missing payments or defaulting on the loan.

If you have a poor credit score, you’ll need to spend the next several months, or even years in some cases, improving it by paying off any debt you currently have and making sure to make all payments on time in the future. This is a great time to find a mortgage loan officer that you trust. They will periodically check in on your progress and make any suggestions to further improve your credit score.

Another way to keep your dream of homeownership alive is to start saving NOW, at whatever stage you’re at. Putting aside even a few dollars here and there will be a step toward that dream. When you’re ready to purchase your first home, you’ll need to make a down payment and you’ll be responsible for all the services and expenses required to finalize a mortgage at the time of closing. These typically cost between 2% to 5% of the total loan amount. So, get in the habit of putting some money aside from every paycheck to help fuel your dream of owning a home.

When the time comes for you to start looking at houses, tell your realtor your budget upfront. Contact your mortgage lender to get pre-approved for this amount. Remember to take into consideration your down payment and closing costs. This will make sure your realtor only shows you homes that you can afford, to avoid the stress of trying to figure out how to make payments on a home you love but can’t afford.

In the end, remember not to get discouraged. Even if you’re not able to become a homeowner right now, that doesn’t mean that you won’t in the future. Utilize your trusted loan officer and realtor to help you decide when you’re ready to buy a house and to help you stay within your desired price range.

Your dream of homeownership is closer to coming true than you might think!

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Is Your New Neighborhood Safe?

How to Research Your New Community Before You Buy

Finding the right home for you and your family involves more than the right number of bedrooms and a lovely front yard; the neighborhood in which it’s located can make a huge difference in the quality of your experience in the home. The most important consideration must be the safety of the community. Not only is it a critical component of a healthy lifestyle, but it can also have a drastic effect on resale values. Fortunately, there are some strategies and tools available to help you learn about the safety of your potential new home.

  • Talk to the Neighbors – The first step in researching your new location is to talk with the locals. Start with the neighbors next door if possible, but also spend time in the local shops and ask about the community.
  • Drive through the Neighborhood at Varying Times – One visit on a Saturday morning will never give you a sense of the neighborhood. Drive by on a Friday night and weekday afternoons to learn more about the community. Watch for children playing in the parks and older couples out for a walk.
  • Use Online Tools  – There are a variety of online tools available. Crime research sites such as CrimeReports, SpotCrime, and NeighborhoodScout offer crime statistics. The National Sex Offender Public Website is another good research tool. Each city will also have a published crime blotter report available to review.

The safety and security of your new community should be a top consideration as you search for your new home. Taking the time to research the area will ensure you make the best decision possible for you and your family

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Top Tips When Buying Vacant Land

Building a new home from scratch can be a dream come true. The idea of designing the perfect property with morning sun in the kitchen and evening breezes on the deck can be exhilarating; the first step to a successful project is finding the right piece of land on which to build. This can present challenges if not approached correctly.

Top Tips When Buying Vacant Land

  • Hire Experience – More than most real estate transactions, it’s critical to hire an agent who specializes in vacant land purchases and can guide you through the steps.
  • Expect to Pay Cash – Finding a lender for vacant land can be very difficult. Those who will finance land typically require a 50% or higher down payment and above average interest rates and terms.
  • Get the Neighborhood Comps – Do not neglect to understand home values in the community so you do not over, or under, build your home.
  • Do Your Due Diligence – It is critical to research the property thoroughly. Just a few considerations include:
    o Site Surveys and Environmental Testing
    o Easements and Zoning Restrictions
    o Lot Survey and Boundaries
    o Utilities and Water Rights

Once you’ve completed these preliminary reviews, it’s time to consult with an architect and general contractor who will then begin to develop concept drawings to consider. Even at this stage, you might find that the home you want is not appropriate for the land you’ve chosen. Staying flexible is a key component to searching for land; remember that by following a few tips, you can ensure you find the right lot for your dream home.

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Preparing Your Home for a Virtual Tour

Technology is helpful in so many areas of life, even real estate. Twenty years ago, if someone were moving across the country, they’d have to wait to buy a house until they arrived to start their new life, or they’d have to buy a home without seeing it in person beforehand. Both options would cause extra unwanted stress on top of moving to an unfamiliar place. Luckily, with the rise of technology, virtual tours are here to save the day!

When it comes to creating a virtual tour, don’t panic. Your real estate agent will be there to guide you through the entire process. An agent may help to schedule a videographer to come to your house, or may have their own software to create a virtual tour  that can be added to the listing.

There are a few ways to prepare your home before filming a virtual tour. Start by turning on all the lights in your home and opening the blinds or window coverings. You’ll need optimal lighting to get the best footage, so your realtor will most likely schedule filming in the morning or late afternoon. Take time to clean your house before the virtual tour and remove all clutter and any furniture you don’t want to be seen. Your realtor will help you with a simple staging of your home beforehand so it looks presentable in the video. The great thing about staging for a virtual tour is you’ll only have to keep it that way for a couple of hours before you can put everything back where it belongs.

Once the virtual tour of your house has been edited, it’ll be ready to show potential buyers. Your real estate agent will add it to your listing. Anyone interested in taking a virtual tour can easily watch it online to get a good idea of what to expect in person.

When you’ve decided it’s time to sell your home, a virtual tour can be a great way to get more people to see it and secure a buyer in less time than a traditional open house. Not only does it give potential buyers a first glimpse, but it also ensures that only people who are seriously considering purchasing your home request a tour or show up to the open house.

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Changes in the Mortgage Market Since COVID-19

It’s been difficult to adjust to the new normal during the past few weeks. With many residents being asked to stay at home, there are many who have recently lost their jobs or been asked to work remotely. The mortgage industry has also taken a big hit that has directly affected homeowners, renters, and investors alike.

There are many who are in the final stages of closing on their homes, and the current pandemic has made it difficult to efficiently move forward with the process. To help, desktop and exterior-only appraisals are being accepted as long as there is sufficient property information available online. Potential borrowers can also now submit their verification of employment via email, paystub, or bank statement to help streamline the process.

Significant changes have been made during the recent outbreak of COVID-19 to help homeowners get through this trying time. Those who have lost their jobs may be eligible for reduced or suspended mortgage payments for up to 12 months while they regain their footing and find new employment. All foreclosure sales and evictions have also been suspended for 60 days to give borrowers a chance to catch up on their payments. Homeowners who are behind on their mortgage will also receive help to create a plan to maintain or reduce their monthly payments moving forward.

Renters who are currently unable to make their monthly rent payments are advised to reach out directly to their landlords. Owners of these properties will be given mortgage forbearance by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac if they suspend all evictions for renters that have been directly affected by COVID-19. This plan is directly designed to prevent tenants from being evicted because they are unable to pay their rent due to a recent loss of their job.

One benefit of the recent changes in the mortgage market is that interest rates have been near an all-time low, and it may be an excellent time to buy your first home or refinance your current mortgage. If you’ve had your eye on the market for a while now and want to take advantage of the current interest rates, it’s the perfect time to call your loan officer and start the process of locking in your rate before interest rates start to increase again.

It can be hard to keep track of all the changes. Lenders are working around the clock to answer all your questions and will support you in any way that they can. Give them a call if you need help or have any specific questions regarding your loan.

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5 Reasons Selling Without an Agent is a Bad Idea

Do-it-yourself projects are in vogue these days. You can find advice online for everything from investing in crypto-currency to tearing down the living room wall. When considering the cost of moving, it’s natural to wonder if real estate commissions are one way to save money, but it would be a mistake. A good real estate agent might make it seem easy, but the fact is that selling your own home could actually cost you thousands of dollars.

5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Sell Your Home without an Agent

1. The Safety of Your Home and Family is a Priority – Real Estate agents control access to your home.

2. Most Serious Buyers Start their Search Online – A professional listing area will market your home aggressively online, which is where the buyers are searching.

3. The Buyer Might not be Qualified – A real estate agent knows how to qualify a buyer and what to look for with lender letters. Selling your home on your own risks wasted time with an unqualified buyer.

4. You Don’t Know How to Negotiate Properly – Every aspect of a real estate transaction is negotiable; you don’t have the experience to know what to negotiate to get the best deal.

5. You Could Expose Yourself to Liability – Required disclosures and paperwork for a home sale is extensive; unless you plan to use an attorney, you could miss critical disclosures and expose yourself to financial harm.

Finally, more often than not, sellers net more when they use an agent than when they try to do it themselves. In addition to selling faster, a professional agent knows how to properly price and promote your home, ensuring you get the best possible sales price and terms.

So call us anytime. 843-272-6754 We are happy to answer any questions and look forward to offering our professional services.

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5 Questions Buyers Have During the Coronavirus Outbreak Answered

 

Everyone is being affected in some manner by the outbreak of Covid-19 coronavirus. During this time, buyers will have more questions than normal about the home buying process and their ability to buy a new home. While we can’t predict what the next few weeks and months will bring, the more we can educate ourselves, the better we can help buyers navigate the buying process smoothly during the pandemic. Here are a few common buyer questions as they related to the Coronavirus outbreak and real estate answered.

1. Can we still go see home listings in person? 

This is the hardest question to answer and it will depend on the home, the seller, the agent and any fast-changing governmental policies put in place. Agents should be able to offer a Skype or Face Time home tour virtually. Talk to your agent to find out what they have available for the buyers to prescreen the home virtually before setting up the visit; they might have virtual tours already available which can help rule out those that don’t suit their needs.

2. How can I stay safe while visiting homes?

Everyone’s health has to be the priority; this includes the buyers, sellers, and agents. If you are going to see a home in person during this time, carry hand sanitizer and wipes to use before, during and after the tour. Drive separately from your agent meet at the homes. During the tour, designate one
person to open doors, drawers, and closets and use disposable gloves during the showing.

3. What happens if I lose my job during the escrow period?

Most real estate contracts include a contingency that protects the buyer in the event they can’t get final loan approval and close the loan. Typically during the process, this contingency is removed after a set time frame, or after receiving the loan approval. Since every aspect of real estate is negotiable, consider asking for the contingency deadline to be extended and in place until the close; talk through this aspect with the seller and their agent in advance to set the right expectation.

4. Will I still have access to the home during the escrow period? 

It’s very common for the buyer to have easy access to the home during the escrow period; home inspections, appraisals and just measuring are all common reasons to visit the home during escrow. Consider grouping these activities whenever possible.

5. Will I get a better deal if I wait to buy a new home? 

We all know there’s no crystal ball, but with everything that’s going on, sellers on the market should be very motivated
to sell. There are also historically low-interest rates on home loans. There is no way to predict the future, so if the right home comes along, it makes sense to consider it.

The Covid-19 outbreak is causing some uncertainty among home buyers, sellers, and even agents. However, with the use of technology and following best practices, you can still find the home you’ve been waiting for during this time.

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Answering 5 Questions Sellers Have about the Market during the Coronavirus Outbreak

There are so many questions and concerns amid the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak. The real estate market is especially hard hit and sellers are concerned. Real estate at its core is a people business. It relies on person-to-person interaction and the coronavirus necessarily limits this contact. As the summer selling season begins, home sellers may  have questions, and it’s important to our agents to acknowledge concerns and offer practical advice and concrete information to help sellers make the best decision for themselves and their families.

  1. Should I still try and sell my home? 

    Of course, there are many aspects to this question. First and foremost, the health concerns of the sellers’ family have to be taken into consideration. Unless absolutely necessary, the elderly and those with underlying health issues should not allow unnecessary people into their homes; including buyers and agents. If the household is essentially healthy and not considered high-risk, then this could be a great time to sell. Consider the advantages of lower inventory coupled with low-interest rates; as listings become rarer, the remaining inventory will get more attention which could create better offers.

  2. Is it safe to have people through my home?

    This is certainly a concern, but there are practical steps you can take to ensure safer home showings.
  3. What can I do to protect my family during showings?

    Protect the home, family and visitors alike by taking the following precautions.
    Keep hand sanitizer at the front door to offer buyers and their agents when they enter the home.
    If there is a guest bathroom, keep disposable hand towels and soap for guests to use and make the request known to the showing agent.
    Offer disposable gloves for use with a receptacle for used gloves.
    Limit the showing days and hours so you can properly clean between showings.
    Have cleaning wipes handy.
    Request agents to wipe surfaces, door handles, and banisters which are touched during the showing.
    Ask your agent to offer virtual showings or host virtual open houses
  4. What happens if my buyer loses their job? 

    Most real estate contracts include a contingency for the buyer loan approval and funding. Now more than ever, it’s critical to keep that contingency in place. In the unfortunate event the buyer loses their job or can no longer qualify for the loan during the contingency deadline, the parties cancel typically cancel the contract.

  5. Will I get a higher price if I wait to list my home?

    The truth is that no one knows. We don’t know how long or short the crisis will be, and we don’t know how the financial market will weather the outbreak. While this is a question the seller will ultimately need to decide, the old adage about a “bird in the hand” is important to remember.

The recent spring selling season was proven to have unique circumstances. Please contact us to learn more about the current outlook and opportunities in the  local market.