Buyers & Sellers

Buyers Articles

Sellers Articles

Buyers Articles

Buying a new home is an exciting time for you and your family! Whether you’re buying a home for the first time or looking to relocate, it’s important to know the best home buying practices!

Keeping these tips in mind will make the process smoother and more enjoyable for your family. Not only will you find the perfect home that suits your needs, you’ll find a community ready to embrace you.

But first, it’s time to learn more about the home buying process to make this transition as seamless as possible. Whether you want to learn more about mortgage payments, home considerations, or the process itself, we’ve got you covered! Check out our articles below to learn more!

Buyers Articles

7 Tips for Getting a Pre-Approved Home Loan

After weeks of shopping the market, you’ve finally found that perfect home! It has all of the amenities that you and your family need as well as a lovely, spacious yard for your children and garden. Oh, and it’s also impeccably positioned within close proximity of your workplace and children’s schools. Doesn’t it make sense to determine whether or not you can afford a home before you fall in love with it?

Getting pre-approved for a home loan isn’t as difficult as you might think, and it ensures that you can afford the home that you’re considering. This first step in the home buying process can seem tedious with all the paperwork and forms that you need to complete. But by keeping these tips in mind, you’ll be able to get the best loan possible for your situation and focus your efforts on finding the perfect home.

Pre-approval means that your credit files have been reviewed and that you’ve met with a loan officer who’s determined that you qualify for the specified amount. This gives you borrowing power throughout the home-buying process. To get the best deal possible:

1. Explore your options. Be sure to shop around with different mortgage lenders to find the perfect package that fits your needs. Since loan packages are generally similar and comparable, it’s normal for potential home buyers to shop two or three lenders before making a final decision. Also do this early in the process to ensure that you know how much you can borrow and which houses you can afford.

2. Organize your paperwork. Getting your financial biography prepared for this process is crucial to be pre-approved. Be sure to include all related tax statements, bank statements, pay stubs or proof of income, and anything else that is pertinent to your finances.

3. Remember your commitment. Pre-approval means that the lender is willing to make a conditional loan to you. However, this doesn’t mean that you’re committed to take the loan from this lender – you’re not legally bound. By remembering that this isn’t a commitment on your end can save you money if a better loan deal comes around.

4. Manage your credit score. Your entire financial profile will be analyzed during this process. Ensure that your FICO score is at a good standing to keep interest rates and other terms reasonable. 5. Work with reputable lenders. The old adage about “sounding too good to be true” is especially true in the financial realm. Just because a home loan deal sounds amazing, it doesn’t mean that it’s legitimate or that you can trust the lender.

6. Keep track of time. Most pre-approved loans are time sensitive. Maybe the letter is valid for 60 days – perhaps 90, if you’re lucky. Check the terms to ensure that you complete your house hunting within the time frame stated.

7. Browse specific mortgage programs. There are different programs designed to help homeowners and buyers. See if there’s one that’s right for you.

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5 Questions Every Home Buyer Should Ask Their Realtor

Your Realtor becomes your go-to person for all questions and issues that arise during the home buying process. By providing exclusive resources to help you find a home and negotiating the terms of the sale, your Realtor helps you leverage your buying power.

However, a Realtor is only as useful as you allow them to be. It’s crucial to maintain open lines with your Realtor so that they understand exactly what you want and are searching for during the home buying process. To always stay on the same page with your Realtor, be sure to ask the following five questions:

1. What was the seller’s buying price? Since the housing market is so fluid, it’s important to know any property value changes that have happened in the area. In other words, it would behoove you to know how the current price compares to the original price at which the seller purchased the home. This allows you to gauge the general value trend, which is especially important if you intend to sell the house within several years.

2. Is the house available for a short sale? A short sale is where the home is sold for the difference between what the current owner owes on the mortgage. While most short sales are clearly marketed, it’s always a good idea to investigate on your own to ensure that you’re not missing an opportunity.

Furthermore, if the property is available for a short sale, inquire why this is the case. Is the current owner currently struggling with payments? Is there something wrong with the property? Knowing why the home is available for a short sale could determine whether or not you even want it in the first place.

3. What’s the history of the home? The seller disclosure is not legally required to include a comprehensive record of previous problems. Ask about any renovations that were performed such as plumbing or electrical work. Even roofing reconstruction could signal a warning sign. The point is to ask why these renovations were made. A more poignant question would be, “Has the property previously been flooded or burned?”

4. Can you tell us about the schools? The community? For young families with children, you’ll want to ask about school systems in the community as well as all the activities that the town and general region has to offer. Keep in mind that stronger school systems also mean stronger land value.

5. Are there any considerations about the grounds? Is the house situated below, at, or above flood level? What are the weather trends in the area? For those who are superstitious, it might be worthwhile to ask whether or not a tragedy has previously occurred on the property. It’s better to know the history of the home and its property upfront.

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How to Financially Prepare for Buying a Home

Purchasing a home is the largest investment that most people will make in their lifetime. For most people, the biggest obstacle will be financial considerations, so it’s important to ensure that you’re financially ready for such a large purchase.

One of the worst situations that appear is when home buyers agree to a mortgage that they later realize they can’t afford. Preparing financially for a home purchase can prevent the risk of a future foreclosure or mortgage modification. Wise financial planning can make the difference between a smooth transaction and a financial nightmare.

Remember the 20 Percent Rule

Though the Federal Housing Administration allows down payments that are less than 20 percent of the home’s total value, try to save 20 percent for your down payment. Keeping this amount in cash or equivalent accounts ensures that any unexpected market bumps don’t ruin your plans. Not only does placing a 20 percent down payment make it easier to pay off the rest, it saves you money from would-be interest rates.

Pay Off Your Existing Debts

Paying off your debts has incredible benefits during the home buying process. First, eliminating liabilities from your personal finances gives you more freedom as you shop for a home. Being timely with your payments or even accelerating them have positive impacts on your credit score. A stronger credit score means that your home loan terms will likely be more favorable to you.

Find an Agent You Can Trust

Realtors are armed with incredible resources and negotiating power that can save you money during the home buying process. They ensure that you’re getting the best deal possible and can help you investigate the history of the property and home.

If you decide to get an appraisal to determine the true market value of the home, a Realtor can offer recommendations and guidance as well. Aside from qualifications, also be sure that your Realtor is personable, as this will be your go-to person during the process.

Be Realistic with Your Budget

It’s always better to underestimate your financial health than to overestimate it, especially when you’re purchasing your home. By keeping track of your monthly spending as well as keeping your savings and investment strategies in check, you’ll make it easier when it’s time to place a down payment and make monthly mortgage payments. Also be sure to build wealth with your home even after the purchase.


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Strategic Ways to Lower Homeowners Insurance Costs

New homeowners looking to protect their property from environmental or accidental disaster need to know the value of good homeowners insurance coverage. However, this protective net can come at a costly price, and not all plans are created equal.  Some plans cover only certain types of damage.  For instance, many standard homeowner insurance policies fail to cover damages caused by septic back-up, floods and termites.

Regardless of your plan and its coverage, strategically managing your finances and negotiating the terms can drastically lower your homeowners insurance premiums. Not only will this make monthly payments more manageable, but you’ll also save thousands of dollars over the years. To get the lowest homeowners insurance premiums possible, be sure to:

Raise your deductible. The deductible is the amount that you have to pay before the insurance kicks in to cover the damages. Typically, a higher deductible means lower premiums. In fact, deductibles as high as $1000 typically save as much as 25 percent annually. Since disasters are the exception, consider raising your deductible to lower your homeowners insurance premiums.

Renovate your home. By making your home more disaster resistant with renovations, you can lower your insurance costs if you let your provider know the upgrades that you are making. New storm shutters and a reinforced roof can protect your home from powerful storms and other natural disasters.

Even internal plumbing and electrical changes can lower your insurance premiums. Aside from the structure of the home, be sure to improve home security as well. Smoke detectors can reduce costs by 5 percent while a sprinkler system could save you as much as 20 percent.

Maintain your credit score. By staying up to date with your bills and avoiding excessive credit card usage, you can maintain a high credit score. Higher credit scores translate to lower interest rates and reduce homeowners insurance premiums. Check your credit report annually to ensure that it’s accurate and that it’s where you want it to be.

Stick with the same insurer. There are many benefits to being a long and loyal customer such as discounts. However, you’ll want to ensure that your rates are still in line with the prices of other insurance companies. If prices go up, remember that you have negotiating power. It’s better to negotiate before flat out changing your insurance policy.

Consider the cost before you even purchase the home. If you are currently shopping for a home, be sure to consider the cost of homeowners insurance. Factoring this into your budget will help you determine how much you can afford on a home.

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A Home Inspection Checklist for Buyers

Just because sellers are legally required to disclose information about the property and any potential hazards, it doesn’t mean that they know all the existing problems or are honestly revealing them. To ensure that you’re getting exactly what you bargained for, it’s important to be sure the house is in pristine condition through a professional inspection.

Unfortunately, most buyers are unaware of all the essentials that should be checked or don’t know how to dissect the inspection report. By knowing what to look at for, you’ll know everything you need to know about the property before you finalize the house purchase.

To find a home inspector, speak with your real estate agent about any suggestions. Friends and family in the area are also good sources for referrals and the American Society of Home Inspectors will have a list of reputable inspectors.

The biggest trait you want to look for is someone who will be thorough and tough during their inspection. Since their report is paramount to your financial interest in the home, you want it to be as accurate as possible.

Request a Pest Report

Once you choose a home inspector, one of the things you specifically want to ask for is a pest report. Critters such as termites can damage the structure of the home and your family definitely won’t want to deal with flying beetles or cockroaches. Even if the home isn’t infested with pests, the inspector might find rot and other fungal conditions that are dangerous for humans and inviting for pests.

Ask About Specific Conditions

You’ll also want to ensure that the home is free from asbestos, methane, radiation, lead, and molds. While older homes are more susceptible to these conditions, some newer homes can have these negative conditions as well; it’s important to inquire about them.

General Considerations

More general elements of your home inspection checklist should include structural elements. You’ll want to ensure that nothing is inherently wrong with the walls, ceilings, floor, and foundation.

Also inquire about the elements that you can’t see such as plumbing and electrical systems. Any problems with these components aren’t readily visible, so it’s important to make sure that the main panel, wiring, and circuit breakers are in good shape.

Other considerations include appliances that are included in the purchase such as the oven, garbage disposal, and built in microwave. Now, it’s important to remember that all of these components don’t have to be in perfect condition. Rather, you’re looking to ensure that nothing is defective.

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Sellers Articles

Are you looking to sell your home as quickly as possible and for the greatest value? Then it’s important to know how to prepare your home for the market. Preparing your home to maximize its value can be a complicated process, but it doesn’t have to be a difficult one.

Strategically renovating, listing, and marketing your home are key elements for your success! Not sure where to get started or how to capitalize on your efforts? No worries! We cover all the latest home market trends and insights so that you can attract a great deal for your home.

Check out the best practices and strategies in our articles below!

Seller Articles

10 Ways to Add Value to Your Home Before Selling

Whether you’re in the business of flipping homes or are simply in the process of relocating, it’s the goal of homeowners to turn a profit as they sell their property. This can be harder than expected, though, and not every renovation will actually add value to your home! While you’re preparing your home for the market, it’s important to ensure that your investments will improve the property value. Some simple actions that are guaranteed to improve value include:

1. Landscaping your yard. A beautifully manicured yard and garden won’t break your budget and leaves a big impression of your property. Be sure to make your yard more lively and vivacious with new flowers, bushes, and trees. Eliminate any gaps in the grass with new seed or mulch.

2. Updating the kitchen. Homeowners like modern conveniences in the important rooms of their home, especially the kitchen. Notice current kitchen trends and features such as the cabinets and the oven. Small improvements here can add massive value.

3. Adding luxury upgrades. Changing out the carpet, adding a wooden floor, and replacing counter tops can make your home appear more luxurious. However, keep in mind that buyers might not be willing to proportionally pay the price.

4. Cleaning your home’s exterior. Years of dust and dirt can cover the beauty of your home. Get a power washer to clean the exterior of your home. Just be sure not to stand too close, or you might accidentally damage the paint on the structure! Speaking of paint, an updated coating of paint can make a huge difference!

5. Removing your clutter. While your personal belongings have nothing to do with your home, a cleaner interior is more inviting and makes the property appear more valuable. After all, a responsible homeowner would want to maintain a valuable home, right?

6. Fixing household repairs. Is there something wrong with the plumbing? Is that electrical problem bugging you? If so, then these problems will bug the value of your home as well. Ensure that any problems are fixed, especially since potential buyers might request a home inspection.

7. Converting extra rooms. Is your basement or loft nothing more than a storage room for all your extra belongings? Then clean these rooms up so that they’re useful and add value and use to your home.

8. Replacing doors and windows. These components have a subtle yet powerful impact. New exterior components make your home appear newer and more valuable.

9. Adding light. Natural light and light fixtures make your home more appealing. Remember that potential buyers might inspect your home at night, so it’s important that your interior is illuminated at all times of day.

10. Trusting your senses. Does your house smell, look, and feel good? People really on their sense and gut instincts to determine whether or not they like something. Get their attention and trust by trusting your senses as well.

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Tips for the First-Time Home Seller

In real estate, we always talk about the best practices for the first time home buyer. However, selling your home for the first time can be just as daunting. Knowing how to prepare your home for the marketing and get the best value for your home can be difficult to navigate on your own. With all of the recent changes that have shifted the housing market, it’s just as important for first-time home sellers to know what they’re getting into.

For first-time sellers, it’s important to remember that showings are typically front-loaded. In fact, one North Carolina broker finds that most showings happen within the first 2-3 weeks that a new home is on the market.

Since buyers are now using the internet to scour potential homes, they immediately check something out when it meets their criteria. Since inquiries tend to be front-loaded, it’s crucial for sellers to price their property realistically and competitively right from the start.

One of the most unfortunate truths about today’s market is that your home is more valuable than buyers are willing to pay for it. In other words, home sellers should also be prepared to lose money or sit on their home until the price rises. Of course, this isn’t always the case, as many people profit on their homes every day! The point, though, is to be realistic about the market.

Today’s Market is All About Promotion

Both you and your Realtor should be prepared to reach your home’s ideal target audience. If you’re targeting young families, then prepare to list your home online, since this is where these home buyers are spending their time. So aside from preparing your home physically, make sure that it’s ready for some glamorous shots that will be uploaded for an online tour.

Aside from promoting your home, be sure to throw in extra incentives to lure considering buyers. Freebies such as your washing machine and dryer, refrigerator, mounted flat screen television, and anything else that’s appealing can appeal demand the attention of potential buyers. Remember, buyers are looking for the best deal that they can get. Including these extras is a great way to boost the value of the purchase.

By preparing your home and including these freebies, you’re appealing to “lazy buyers.” When someone is relocating, the last thing they want is “another thing to do.” This means it’s your responsibility to make repairs and update various components of your home. Aside from increasing the home’s value, it will also make the property newer and more vivacious.

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Top 5 Incentives that Sell Homes in Today’s Market

Home buyers in today’s market are looking for the best deal that they can get. This makes it difficult for sellers who are likewise trying to get the most value that they can out of their homes.

While balancing this equilibrium can be a challenge, home sellers that use incentives to sell their homes can make both parties happy. Not only will the buyer feel like they’re getting a good deal, but you’ll also be able to sell your home for the value you deserve.

Incentives are completely up to you as the seller. You can be as creative, generous, and perky as you want. The more powerful your incentives, the more excited home buyers will be to consider you home. Whether you’re listing your home for the first time or are trying to rejuvenate interest on your existing listing, consider the following incentives.

1. No closing costs. Many sellers decide to pay for the buyer’s closing fees such as the escrow, inspection, and title search fees. Since these fees can add up to several thousands of dollars, eliminating these closing costs is a huge incentive for buyers on the market. However, as the seller, make sure that the profit from your home covers these expenses and that you’re not being personally hit by offering this incentive.

2. Freebies. Allowing the buyer to keep your refrigerator, oven, washer/dryer, and other accessories is a big perk. Not only will they have fewer things to move into the house, they’ll feel like they’re getting a greater value. Sure, these personal goods might not amount to much, but they are commodities that many buyers look for.

3. Interest rate buy-down. This removes pressure from the buyer. They no longer feel the sense of urgency to lock in an interest rate and are more likely to consider your home. The longer they consider the property, the greater chance they have of making and sealing the purchase.

4. HOA credit. Is your home part of the Homeowners’ Association? Be sure to include a credit for the next owner! Buyers love benefits that save them money after the initial purchase is made. Aside from finding a great deal on a home, the HOA credit is an exciting perk!

5. Broker incentives. Did you know that over 90 percent of home buyers use a broker? Giving incentives to the broker is a strategic way to get both parties on your side. Not only will the homeowner like the perks that you have to owner, but the broker will be excited and privately rooting for the purchase as well.

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Costs to Expect When Selling Your Home

Selling your home can be an expensive process, but it’s important for home sellers to think of the costs as an investment. The more that you spend to renovate and prepare your home for the market, the higher its value becomes. However, these costs can add up and don’t necessarily translate into a higher value. Buying a home is expensive – but selling one incurs its own costs as well.

Expenses Before the Sale

Before the sale is made, most of the expenses you should expect will come from renovations. Some cheap but effective ways to boost the value of your home include a new paint job and window washing.

Various fix ups such as fixing door hinges and updating cabinets make a noticeable difference. Be sure to keep track of these maintenance costs to ensure that they aren’t getting out of hand and that the return is parallel to the investment.

You’ll also want to de-clutter your house and “stage” it for the market. Sellers can either hire an interior designer to help with the process or do everything themselves.
By ensuring that everything (even your own personal belongings) is visually appealing, you’re creating an environment that potential buyers can see themselves living in. Pre-inspection reports that check for pest and structural damage can be costly as well.

Aside from the interior of the home, sellers will want to focus on their landscaping. A beautifully manicured yard, garden, and pathway bring out the beauty and value in the home. Whether you decide to do this yourself or hire a 3rd party to fix up the yard, landscaping can potentially incur noticeable expenses.

Expenses After the Sale

One the home is sold the seller is also responsible for closing costs such as the real estate agent commission and any associated transfer taxes. Other closing costs, credits to the buyer, taxes, moving costs, and warranty to the buyer are expenses that the seller should be prepared to handle.

While all of these expenses add up, home sellers can begin preparing today to avoid being hit by such high costs. By ensuring that the profit margins of the house are large enough and beginning to manage their finances today to account for upcoming costs, sellers can avoid the headache that these expenses incur. Selling a home smoothly is all about preparation and planning, and by knowing what costs to expect, sellers can prepare for pre- and post-sale expenses today.

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