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5 Tips for Starting Your Home Search

Everyone wants to time their home purchase “just right.” Ideally, you want to choose the picture perfect buyer’s market with plenty of well-­‐priced listings, low interest rates and a slow moving real estate market where the buyer has plenty of time to decide on an offer. The reality is that the current market is a fast paced environment where the best homes move quickly and serious home buyers need to be prepared to act when they find the right home.

Fortunately, starting your home search the right way is easy by following these simple tips:

  1. Find a Lender and Get Pre-‐Approved – Know what you can afford before you start your search.  By getting a pre-­‐approval letter, you demonstrate to sellers that you are serious when you write your offer and it proves you can afford the home.
  2. Research Neighborhoods – Each community will have its own personality and advantages; before you spend time looking at homes, choose the right area for your lifestyle and family needs.
  3. Pick the Right Home Style – Learn about the various home styles available in your community. Do you want a single story? Large yard? Do you like older homes or historic-­‐ style properties?
  4. Make a List of Must Have and Like-‐to-­Have – There is a difference! Make a list and be ready to compromise when appropriate by ranking the items.
  5. Take Notes – Often a home buyer can see 6-­‐7 homes in a single day; take notes, and if possible take pictures so you can remember the things you like and don’t like about the homes you see once you get home.

In a fast paced real estate market, spending some time preparing for your home search will help you move quickly when you find the right home for you and your family.

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Discount for Cash Offer?

Most parts of the country are seeing a strong seller’s market. Inventory is low and buyers want to take advantage of the low interest rates. As a result, sellers may be in the enviable position of a bidding war. Some buyers believe that presenting an all-cash offer to the seller can earn them a lower price by being more attractive.

But as a seller, should you accept a lower price from a buyer just because it’s all in cash? The short answer is, “it depends.”

  • Do you need to close quickly?
  •  What are the terms of the offer?

The best advantage of an all-cash offer is the ability to close faster than traditional financing. Typically, loan processing will take several weeks from appraisal to underwriting. A cash offer can be completed in a matter of days; the monies need to transfer and the title needs to be recorded. If it’s important for you to get the money quickly, then accepting a slightly lower sales price in return for the speed of closing could be worth the cost.

Consider all terms of cash offer

Even if the offer is all-cash, that doesn’t guarantee it will close any sooner than another buyer. The most important consideration is the terms of the offer. Even though there is no lender involved, the offer might still be contingent upon an appraisal, a home inspection and other standard contingencies. Simply paying in cash by itself does not guarantee that the sale will close any faster than a well-qualified buyer who will use financing.

Compare all offers

The bottom line is that before discounting your home price for an all-cash buyer, compare all the offers. Your goal is to net as much profit from the sale as possible. If the speed of closing is important, then a small discount might be warranted; but if not, consider all the terms carefully before assuming an all-cash offer is better.

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How to Hire the Right Service Professional

The popularity of home improvement television shows has increased the number of home projects. Unfortunately, not everyone is capable of knocking down walls and retiling their kitchen on their own. If you’re one of these non-DIY-ers, you will need to find service professionals to help, but choosing the right person for the job is critical. Here are a few simple tips to help ensure you hire the best person for your project.

  • Check References and Reviews – One of the easiest ways to verify the experience and professionalism of a contractor is to read online reviews. If someone has been in the business for a few years or longer, you should expect to find plenty of reviews to read on Yelp, Angie’s List, and other sites. Asking for local references is also important. Call references and, if possible, go see completed projects in person.
  • Confirm Licenses and Permits – Verify the contractor is licensed by the appropriate agency and that the license is in good standing. It’s also important to have any required permits for the project by your local city or county. Unpermitted work can result in loss of value, fines, and even forced removal of the work.
  • Proof of Insurance – All contractors need insurance and most are bonded. Ask to see the proof of insurance before allowing anyone to work in your home.
  • Get it in Writing – Get a written estimate with the scope of work and question any confusing terms. This should include clear expectations, deadlines, and pricing. Make sure you understand everything before signing any type of contract.

Hiring the right person for your home improvement or maintenance job can be time-consuming, but is well worth the effort. Do your homework upfront and you can avoid costly mistakes.

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Organize and Declutter

During a time when so many people are hunkering down at home, it can be challenging to keep a tidy house, especially when you have kids, pets, and other adults living in the same space. It can be stressful and overwhelming at times, trying to find a balance of keeping everything organized and clean while maintaining one’s sanity. There are a few tips to help keep your house in order while everyone is home, and while you have some downtime to knock out some much-needed organization projects.

Schedule Clean-Up Time Before Bed

Take ten minutes every evening for the entire family to help clean up the house. Run the dishwasher, wipe down the countertops, and put away any clothes lying on the floor. This is also a great time to have your kids help by cleaning up their toys, books, or any crafts they used during the day. Everyone will start each morning off with a clean living space and play area. It’ll make it much more manageable to maintain throughout the day, and when the time comes to tidy up in the evening, the mess won’t be so overwhelming.

Clean Out the Junk Drawer

There is always at least one drawer or cupboard in every household that becomes a collecting place for items without homes. Take some time to clean it out and make it into a manageable space again. Make it easier to identify where odds and ends go, to help prevent the drawer or cupboard from getting cluttered again.

Combine Similar Items

Use any containers you already have at home, or order a few online to get organized. Totes, boxes, or baskets can help contain items and make them easier to find. Start with your kitchen and craft area by combining similar items together—for example, cereal, pasta, rice, crayons, beads, etc. This makes it easy to take inventory of everything you have by keeping the same types of items together.

Label Your Containers

Once you’ve taken the time to consolidate and put all like items together, make sure to label each container with its contents. This will make it much easier to find what you’re looking for, especially when you can’t see inside the boxes or jars you’re using for storage.

Spending a significant amount of unplanned time at home can seem daunting at first. However, if you take the time to organize while you’re at home with your family, it’ll leave your space feeling much cleaner, and you’ll better enjoy your surroundings. In addition, it will be much easier to find everything that you need once your life gets back to normal, and everyone gets back into their routines.

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Downsizing? What to Do with Your Stuff

Whether you call it downsizing or rightsizing, the bottom line is you’re moving
into a smaller space and have no idea what to do with all the stuff you’ve
collected over the years. Many people consider moving from a larger home to a
smaller home at some point in their lives. Often this move is made after the child-rearing years,
when homeowners no longer need the extra bedrooms or living space,
and want less home to worry about (or to clean!). The problem is that they
have accumulated items to fill the space that they aren’t ready to part with, yet all
their stuff won’t fit in a smaller home.

If you’re considering this type of downsizing, begin by sorting your possessions
into three piles: keep, donate, trash. After trashing, donating, and storing what
you can, here are some clever ways to store your stuff in the new, smaller space.

  • Dual-Purpose Furniture – Find furniture that offers hidden storage, such as
    a coffee table or ottoman with storage compartments for extra pillows,
    throw blankets, games, or books.
    Baskets and Cubes – There are a lot of great options for cube storage units
    that incorporate baskets to store extra items for easy access when needed.
    Digitize – This is the perfect time to put your important papers and pictures
    into a digital format. From treasured pictures to tax forms, there are
    companies who specialize in transferring your items for later access.
    Repurpose – Take a careful look at your furniture…and Pinterest. You’ll find
    great ways to use some of your favorite pieces in different and useful ways.
    Closets – Consider a closet consultation to make sure you maximize your
    closet space, not only in the bedrooms but also in your kitchen pantry and
    hall coat closet

Downsizing doesn’t mean you have to throw out everything you love. Take a hard
look at what matters and then use some of these tricks to store the items you
treasure without adding clutter to your new home.

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Consider Upgrading before You List

Most people have wandered through new home developments and wished their own home
looked as modern and chic. Model homes showcase the latest upgrades and decorating
trends; for home sellers these homes are their competition, and it can feel daunting to offer
an older floor plan and design.

While it might seem like a smart idea to simply offer a buyer credit and list, there are
downsides to this plan, and taking the time to update a bit on your own first could mean
thousands of dollars in your pocket.

Here are a few reasons why offering a credit might not be the best strategy:

  •   Buyer Impression – A dated home looks old and not all buyers can see the potential.
    Lower Offers – Offering a credit could be viewed as high seller motivation, resulting in
    lower offers.
    Value Differences – You and your buyer might disagree on the value of needed
    upgrades. For example, you might feel $7,500 is a fair cost for a new countertop
    whereas your buyers might expect considerably more; this can lead to more
    negotiations and lower sales price.
    Home Condition – A property that shows its age can prompt the buyer to worry about
    the overall condition.
    Loan Approval – Lenders are wary of buyer credits; in fact, upgrade credits are no
    longer possible. You might have a buyer unable to take advantage of the credit at all and
    you could lose the buyer.

Home design trends change quickly. If you’re ready to sell, it could be tempting just to list your
home in its current condition. Before you just add a credit to the listing, consider some simple
updating so your buyers can see the value of your home.

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Down Payments Explained

A down payment is the amount of cash a home buyer puts toward the price of a
new home. It accomplishes a few things; first it reduces the amount of money you
need to borrow and it reduces the risk the lender takes in loaning the money. By
reducing the risk, the borrower will typically get a better interest rate on the loan
and increase the amount of home they can buy.

How Large a Down Payment Do You Need?

The amount of down payment needed depends on the type of the loan, the
lender and the property price itself. While most of the 0% down home loans of
the last decade are gone, Veterans can still purchase a home loan with no down
payment. Other programs include FHA loans with as little as 3.5% down.
Conventional loans typically require a 20% down payment, but some allow as
little as 5%.

Is it Better to Make a Larger Down Payment?

In addition to the down payment, buying a home also requires cash for closing
costs and some reserve savings to guard against unexpected financial concerns.
One thing to remember though is that any financing with less than 20% down will
require private mortgage insurance – a monthly payment which protects the
lender in the event of default.

The best amount of down payment should be determined in consultation with
your lender and your tax or financial advisor, but the quick answer is “it depends.”
By working with a trusted lender, explore your options and you will make the best
decision for your needs.

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The Home Selling Process

Are you planning to sell your home? Regardless if this is your first time as a home
seller, or maybe you’ve sold many homes, understanding the selling process can
assure you that things are going smoothly. Successful transactions don’t just
happen; it takes experience and professionals to navigate from staging to closing.

Who Are The Experts?

Real Estate Agent – Before you start, do your homework and find an
experienced listing agent in your area.
Escrow Officer – Your escrow officer is a neutral 3rd party, they take the
terms agreed to by the parties and ensures they are fulfilled properly.

Timeline For Your Home Sale

  • Meeting With Your Agent – Your agent will tour your home and discuss
    your market value (including a comparative market analysis), timing and
    financial goals in order to create a custom plan for selling your home.
    Preparing Your Home For Sale – Typically even a dated home can be
    spruced up with small changes in furniture placement, fresh paint, new
    lighting and/or minor repairs.
    Listing Your House – Once your home is ready for buyers, you will list your
    home, and your agent will implement their marketing plan.
    Offers – Once you receive offers, you will meet with your agent to review
    them together and determine how to respond.
    Escrow Process For Sellers – The buyers will complete funding
    requirements, obtain an appraisal and home inspection. As the seller,
    you will also complete any conditions you’ve agreed to, such as repairs
    or termite work.
    Closing – Once all conditions have been completed, you will close the sale
    and receive the proceeds.

The sales process is a series of steps that you and your agent will take together.
Knowing what to expect, and when, can alleviate the uncertainty you might feel
as a seller.

 

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Four Reasons to Sell this Fall

Traditional lore says that the best time to list your home for sale is spring and if it
hasn’t sold by the end of summer, you’re out of luck. Along the same lines,
homeowners across the country are often advised not to list in the fall and wait
until after the holidays to list. The truth is that a great home will sell at any time
of year and in fact there are some very good reasons to list in the fall, while
everyone else is busy doing other activities.

4 Reasons to Sell this Fall

1. Less Competition – As mentioned above, most sellers list in spring, so as a
seller fall provides you less competition which increases the opportunity
for buyers to view your home.
2. Serious Buyers – Home buyers in fall often have a timeline to move before
the holidays. They tend to take the home search seriously and move to
write offers faster and avoid wasting time.
3. Curb Appeal – Fall is a beautiful time of year and homes always seem cozier
as the weather turns. Fall colors in the trees and the scent of baking entice
buyers to feel “at home” which encourages offers.
4. Closing is Easier – The pace of home sales slows during the fall; as such
lenders can move faster and the process tends to take less time.

The last and best reason to sell this fall is that it’s the right time for you and your
plans. Regardless of whether you are relocating, moving up or scaling down, if this
is the right time to sell, then this is the best time to sell.

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Should I Consider Selling My Short-Term Rental Property?

The travel industry has changed significantly over the past decade. With the popularity of vacation rentals advertised by such sites as Airbnb, VRBO, and Home Away, travelers have more options than ever for lodging during their vacation. Unfortunately, 2020 has seen a serious decline in travel due to the COVID-19 crisis and many owners of these short-term rental properties are wondering what to do.

If you have a short-term rental property, you might be wondering if this is the right time to sell. Here are a few considerations as you weigh your options:

Long-Term Goals – While travel is down significantly right now, this slump won’t last forever. If this property is part of your overall investment portfolio which makes sense for the long run, consider other strategies to keep the rental. If you have a mortgage, speak to your lender about payment options during this time.
Housing Inventory and Local Home Prices – Housing inventory is down about 20% year over-year according to the National Association of Realtors®. Lower inventory has also prevented home prices from falling in most areas.
Historically Lower Interest Rates – Interest rates have dropped significantly since the beginning of the year. It might be time to refinance the property. In addition, if you do decide to sell, buyers are better positioned to buy.

This is a confusing time for everyone. The robust business of short-term rentals has certainly been affected over the past few months and the travel industry will suffer this summer. If you own a short-term rental, consider all your options as you decide whether it’s the right time to sell your property.