I love working with first-time home buyers. Helping you find your first home, learn the home buying process, and guiding you from house-hunting to move-in day gives me the warm fuzzies. Here are three things you should know before you start looking.
1. Work with one real estate agent. It’s best to have one agent who is helping you with your search. Your agent will be dedicated to finding you the right property, and then negotiating on all the terms of your transaction on your behalf. You want that person to get to know you and your family’s needs and preferences, rather than starting over with someone new each time you go look at a house. Keep in mind that the agent who shows you a home is, ethically, the one who should continue the transaction. Also, when you call an agent from a yard sign or advertisement, you are dealing with the seller’s agent. While most real estate professionals are adept at handling both sides of a transaction professionally, it makes more sense to deal with someone you have already taken time to get to know and who has your best interests at heart as the buyer. You aren’t paying your agent; unless otherwise stated, he or she is paid by the seller upon closing. Still, you are hiring someone to work for you, so feel free to interview multiple agents and pick the one that you feel fits you best.
2. You need to be pre-approved for financing. Unless you are paying cash for your home, you do need to talk to a lender before you start looking at houses. One reason is that it helps you set an accurate price range for house hunting. Looking at homes that you can’t afford to make an offer on just leads to frustration. A mortgage lender will not only tell you what amount you can borrow, but also your projected monthly payment, your closing costs, and what you should or shouldn’t do with your finances to maintain your eligibility throughout the lending process. Another reason for having an up-to-date pre-approval in hand is so you don’t lose out to another buyer. If you find the perfect house, you will want to get an offer in before someone else gets it, and that pre-approval letter must accompany your offer. I would be happy to provide you with names of mortgage lenders in our area who have provided excellent service to my clients.
3. There are some up-front costs. When you find the right house, and you and the seller have agreed on the price and terms and have signed the contract, you will first need to make your escrow, or “good faith” deposit. This is money you are risking if you back out of the deal for reasons not protected in the contract. Usually it is between 1% and 5% of the sales price but can be more or less depending on what you and the seller agree to in the contract. Your agent will help you with this during negotiations. The escrow deposit counts towards the sales price.
4. Next, you should have an inspection of the property done by a certified home inspector. This cost varies depending on the size, condition, age, and features of the home, but is usually a few hundred dollars. You will need to pay this at the time of service. You may elect to pay for other inspections based on the results of the initial inspection. For example, if the inspector notes an issue with the HVAC system, you may need to pay a service fee for an HVAC contractor to look at the system. You want to get as much information during your inspection period as you need to confidently move forward with the purchase.
5. An appraisal and a survey of the property will be ordered, but these are usually added to your closing costs and not expected to be paid in advance. However, you may be asked to provide a credit card number to be charged in the event that the closing does not take place.
I will guide you through all of these steps throughout your home buying journey. Ready to get started? Give me a call!
We all want people to love our home as much as we do, but especially when you are trying to sell it! While it’s impossible to please every buyers’ taste, there are several easy things you can do to make your home more appealing without spending a lot of money. Try some of these tricks and see if your showings cause buyers to swoon.
1. Check your curb appeal. Take an honest look from the curbside. What are buyers seeing first? If your home needs to be painted or pressure washed, consider making that investment. Clean up landscaping by trimming trees and bushes, planting some fresh annuals, and laying new mulch. Clean windows, repair sagging soffit, or porch railings, and have any trip hazards on your driveway or front walk repaired. Finally, consider some attractive, yet subtle decorations for your front porch.
2. Create an inviting entryway. When buyers step inside your front door, you want them to feel welcomed. If you have a foyer or front hall, it is easier to make an attractive entryway, but even if your front door opens right into your living room, you can create the feel of an entryway with a couple of simple tricks. Clear the area of clutter things that tend to pile up at the front door, like backpacks, dog leashes, or shoes. Place a small table or bench beside the door with plants, candles, or another simple décor. A small area rug can help define the space as the entryway.
3. Let the light shine in. Take advantage of natural light as much as you can. Trimming any bushes or trees outside your windows can help immensely. Wash your windows inside and out and replace or remove any worn screens. Make sure to open blinds or curtains before all showings.
4. Add some fresh color. Painting is an easy and inexpensive way to make an older home look new and is especially important if your current wall color is dark or outdated. Choose a light neutral color like a warm grey or light beige and use the same color throughout the house. If your home tends to be dark, this will help brighten it up.
5. Let storage spaces speak for themselves. Many sellers make the mistake of waiting until they have a contract to start cleaning out closets. Cleaning out clutter is part of getting ready to show, not just getting ready to move. You want buyers to perceive that there is ample storage in the home, and this doesn’t work if every drawer, cabinet, and closet is stuffed to the gills.
6. Eliminate distractions. Streamline your decorating so your buyers see the house and not your personal belongings. Go ahead and pack up collectibles and family photos and keep decorative touches to the minimum. Too many plants, magazines, or toys distract the buyers from seeing the home as their own.
7. Entice them with outdoor space. The back yard shouldn’t be an empty space of infinite possibility, nor should it be a storage area for neglected toys. Get rid of any eyesores you’ve been avoiding dealing with, spruce up your landscaping, repair irrigation or pool issues, and create an entertaining space with a patio set, or a backyard oasis with some potted plants and a hammock.
8. Make it easy for them. Taking care of minor repairs is another step you can take to help buyers see your home as an easy and comfortable move. You want them to be mentally arranging their furniture as they walk through, not making a list of nicked woodwork, torn window screens, and leaky faucets. The less work involved, the easier it is to fall in love.
Building a custom home is hard work that is rewarded when you move into the home of your dreams. The first step is finding the perfect lot to build on. Before you purchase a lot to build on, be aware of these do’s and don’ts.
Do work with an agent to find the land. Your real estate agent can help to research the property and make sure that you are making a safe investment. Buying vacant land is different than buying a home; work with an agent who knows what questions to ask and knows how to negotiate on your behalf.
Do have your finances in order. You will need to have proof of funds for the purchase amount, so make sure you understand what you can afford to spend on your lot.
Do find out what utilities service the area. If you are looking outside of a developed area, you need to know what utility services are available already, or if any infrastructure needs to be added.
Do find out if incentives are available. In areas where natural disasters have occurred, local governments may offer incentives for building where previous homes have been destroyed.
Do visit the tax assessor’s office. The tax assessor will be able to tell you the estimated value of your lot as well as your projected property taxes.
Do price the neighborhood. Your agent can help you with a market analysis of the surrounding homes. You don’t want your home and land cost to be vastly higher than the rest of the neighborhood.
Don't expect to finance your lot. Lenders often don’t lend money for vacant land, and if they do, they may only lend up to half the land value. This is why it’s so important to talk to your financial advisors before you start looking.
Don't skip the soil tests. You should have the soil tested to make sure there aren’t pollutants or foreign materials buried beneath the surface. If you will have a septic sewer system, you will need a percolation test to make sure the property is fit for a septic tank. In areas where sinkholes are common, a soil test can tell you if clay layers deep in the soil make your property more susceptible to foundation issues.
Don't forget to get a survey done. Before you purchase the lot, ask to see a recent survey or have one done to validate property lines and make sure other neighbors aren’t already encroaching on the lot with access roads, fencing, or structures.
Don't let neighbors know of your plans. Don’t get too friendly just yet. If the land you plan to build on has been enjoyed by nearby property owners for the view, for parking, or for recreation, your plans to build may be met with resistance.
Don't assume you can have property rezoned. Make sure you know the property zoning regulations for the property. If you are in a rural area and plan to have chickens or horses, make sure that is permitted. Be wary of sellers who tell you that you can subdivide the land or build two homes on one lot, as this may not be the case.
Don’t rely on a drive-by. You need to walk the property, no matter the size or your plans for its use. If you are buying multiple acres, don’t assume that the topography is consistent throughout with no hidden problems. Things to check for include flood-prone areas, environmentally protected-animal dwellings, trash deposits and neighbors that are involved in activities that may affect your enjoyment of the property, such as dog kennels or shooting ranges.
Both buying and selling a home are equally stressful, but what about when you are trying to coordinate both at the same time? There are a lot of moving parts, and the agents involved work together to insure the smoothest possible transactions for our clients. If you are selling your home and want to close on a new home purchase at the same time, here are some things to think about to make your move as smooth as possible.
Truly simultaneous closings are rare these days, especially when financing is involved. Regulations put in place to protect consumers have made simultaneous, or double, closings very difficult to pull off. Concurrent closings occur when a party is selling and buying properties at about the same time, usually within a couple of days of each other. If you wish to close on the sale of your home and the purchase of a new home back-to-back, the best scenario is to work with the same title company and escrow company for both transactions. Usually the sale of your home is closed first, your mortgage is paid off, then the purchase of your new home is closed.
Selling your home ahead of buying is the most risk-free alternative, as neither transaction is contingent on the other. However, this requires your family to make an extra move and have a place to live while you wait to close on a new home, so in terms of convenience and expense, it’s not always the best scenario. If you have the ability to secure a short-term rental, or to put your belongings in storage and stay with family, then you can enjoy the luxury of taking your time to look for and close on your new home. One option that sometimes works out is to rent your home back from your buyers while you wait to close on your purchase. This works well when the buyers are not in a hurry to move in themselves and you can agree on a timeframe for you to remain in the home.
Buying ahead of selling is a dream in terms of convenience. You can take your time moving, and maybe do some renovations or decorating before you move in. But will you qualify for a new mortgage without a contingency on selling your existing home? If you can swing the mortgage, or are paying cash, it may be a great option for you. Remember to realistically consider how long you can afford to maintain two properties– with maintenance costs– in case it should take you longer than expected to find a buyer for your present home. In this scenario, you may want to rent your new purchase back to the sellers, or list it as a short-term rental, while you wait to close on the sale of your existing home.
Consider your buyers and sellers carefully when trying to coordinate a sale and purchase within a short amount of time. The last thing you need is a seller or buyer who is displaying signs of being uncommitted to the deal. While no deal is guaranteed until all the closing documents have been signed, when you need a purchase or sale to coincide with your schedule, you should carefully evaluate who you sign a contract with. A contract with contingencies on other deals going through, a lender expressing doubt about final financing approval, a low good faith deposit, buyers asking for unreasonable repairs or allowances, or sellers whose moving plans are questionable are red flags that your deal could fall apart.
If you have a home to sell, you’re probably excited to get the process started. There are many things you need to consider when selling your property, and it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed by the task. The good news is we’ve done extensive research about what you need to know about selling your home – and we’ve answered the questions you’re probably wondering:
How will you determine my home’s value?
To determine your home’s value and set a listing price, I will complete a Comparative Market Analysis. The CMA uses recent sales of homes close in geography, age, size, and features to yours. (A CMA is not the same as an appraisal, which a licensed appraiser can perform.) Is it a good idea to start high? Many sellers like the idea of “starting high” to see if they get higher offers, but this strategy isn’t usually practical. First, buyers may not see your listing if they use a price filter set to what they expect prices in the area to run. Second, you run the risk of the appraisal coming in lower than your contract price, which will require your contract to be renegotiated or canceled. Third, if your listing price puts your home higher than your neighborhood value, your home will likely sit on the market longer as buyers wait for you to make a reduction. It’s best to set a realistic listing price that will bring you buyers quickly. My goal is always to get you the highest possible price in the shortest amount of time.
What percentage of the listing price can I expect to get?
The list-to-sell ratio is determined by dividing the selling price by the listing price. The ratio is largely market-driven. In a sellers’ market, which is when inventory is low, sellers may get close to 100% or over 100% if the home sells above list price. In a market with a large inventory of homes, a buyers’ market, buyers have more negotiating power, so the list-to-sell ratio may be closer to 90%. My goal is to get you as close to a 100% list-to-sell ratio as the market will bear.
How soon can I get my home on MLS?
Once we agree to work together, I will begin entering your home information on the MLS system. I will also schedule a time for a professional photographer to take photos of the property. As soon as all the information and pictures are uploaded items, your listing can go live on MLS.
What do I need to do to get ready to list?
For your part, it’s a good idea to begin cleaning out or organizing storage spaces, closets, and drawers and putting away some of your décor or belongings. You may also want to have the exterior pressure washed, and the landscaping cleaned up. We can talk further about specific things that will help your home show better.
How will showings be conducted?
You and I will agree on the terms you are comfortable with for showings. We want to make the home accessible to buyers without too much disruption to your personal life. We can use a showing schedule, and unless we agree otherwise, I will notify you in advance of showing requests. We typically use electronic lockboxes that only active members of our local Realtors association can access. We can set the lockbox on a schedule, if necessary. Any time the lockbox is accessed, I receive a notification.
How will you market my property?
Marketing your listing is of utmost importance. Most buyers find their properties online through MLS (via their agent,) Realtor, Zillow, or other search engines. Listings in our MLS system automatically show up on these sites within a day or two of becoming active. In addition, I share my listings with the agents in my network, on my website, and on my social media. We can discuss additional opportunities such as hosting open houses and marketing within your neighborhood.
How long will it take to find a buyer?
Several factors influence the time it takes to find a buyer. These include the market conditions, price range (higher-priced or luxury homes typically take longer to sell,) location (whether your home is in a desirable neighborhood or a unique location,) and the condition of the home (is move-in ready or in need of renovations?) In a balanced market, most houses, when priced accurately and without significant damage or extenuating circumstances, go under contract within thirty days. Homes sell faster in a seller’s market, while buyers take more time to look when inventory is high.
Will you qualify the buyer?
When an offer is received, I will work with the buyer’s agent to vet the buyer. All offers should be accompanied by either a pre-approval from a mortgage lender or, if paying cash, by verification of funds available to cover the purchase price. Once you accept an offer, the buyer must put down the agreed upon escrow deposit, schedule any inspections as stipulated in the contract, and, if financing is involved, their lender will initiate the loan approval process. I will stay in close contact with the buyer’s agent to make sure due process is followed.
What are the costs involved?
The seller usually pays for the real estate agent fees, which are divided between the buyer’s agent and the seller’s agent. The seller also pays their share of the property taxes and HOA dues. If the full annual amount has been paid, the buyer will repay their portion back to the seller at closing. Often the seller elects to pay a portion of the buyer’s closing costs to help make the transaction work for the buyer.
Is your commission negotiable?
The commission is not negotiable. Keep in mind that the commission is split between the two sides, and both agents must abide by the structure their brokerage follows. If we were to reduce the commission upfront, buyers’ agents might be less likely to advocate for your property. I will work very hard to represent you honestly with full loyalty and integrity to earn the designated commission. This work is my livelihood, and I often go above and beyond the call of duty to earn my pay and close transactions for my clients. Will you also represent the buyer? If I happen to find the buyer for your home, be assured that I am trained and experienced in handling both sides of the transaction fairly. As a professional, I respect the confidentiality and loyalty required in dealing with both parties. On the plus side, communication is easy when I am representing both sides. Working on both sides of the transaction is hard work, but it would not be a problem.
Can I cancel if I find my own buyer?
The listing agreement is a contract between you and me and/or my brokerage. It stipulates the terms for cancellation, which you are encouraged to review. Once we have signed the listing agreement, a prospective buyer that approaches you directly should be redirected to me.
How often will we communicate?
Communication is key to an easy and successful sale. I will keep you appraised of events every step of the way. You are welcome to reach out to me with questions or concerns. When we go over the listing information, we will discuss our preferred means of communication and schedules to make sure we know each other’s availability and boundaries.
Thinking of selling? I'm here to help! Shoot me a message or give me a call today.
The final walk-through on your new home is an exciting event. It means you have successfully maneuvered through negotiations, inspections, and financing approval, and are on the verge of signing your closing papers. Most buyers attend the final walk-through with thoughts of furniture placement and paint colors in their heads. But the walk-through is about more than just making sure your favorite chair will fit by the fireplace. Be sure to do your due diligence to make sure there are no issues that should be resolved before you reach the closing table. The purpose of the final walk-through is to ascertain that the home is being conveyed to you in the same condition it was when you agreed to purchase it. Here are a few of the things you should check:
1) Make sure no damage has occurred to the home that the sellers are responsible for repairing. Weather conditions or careless movers can cause accidental damage, and old and forgotten damage may be uncovered when the sellers’ belongings are removed.
2) Check that appliances are still in working order and no new plumbing or electrical issues have popped up. While you aren’t doing a complete home inspection, you can visually check for obvious problems that should be repaired before you move in.
3) Confirm that items contractually conveying are present. If the sellers agreed to leave particular furniture, décor, or equipment, see that it has not been removed.
4) Make certain the sellers have removed all their belongings. You don’t want to arrive with the moving truck only to find out that the sellers left behind an assortment of unwanted furniture or trash. The sellers should be held responsible for removing everything that doesn’t convey with the sale.
As exciting as it is to move into a new home, not many people look forward to the actual moving day. Whether you are moving across town or across the country, moving is stressful. Here are some helpful hints from expert movers to make the big day a little more bearable.
1. Schedule your move well ahead of time. Moving companies get booked up weeks in advance, so don’t wait until the last minute to schedule your move. Make sure they know ahead of time if you have any very large or heavy items to move. The last thing you want is for the movers to show up with a truck that isn’t big enough or without enough people to move your belongings safely.
2. Consider letting the moving company pack your items. If it’s within your budget to hire packers, it may be money well spent. Packers are usually very efficient and take time to wrap fragile items securely. Packers will usually pack you the day before your move, so you don’t have to pack items away that you may need up until the day of your move.
3. Schedule services. Don’t forget to have services transferred or started at your new home. These may include: Power Water Trash service Internet/TV/Phone Gas Lawn service Pool service Security system monitoring.
4. Have your new home professionally cleaned. If your seller is not arranging for cleaning to be done prior to closing, arrange to have it done before you move in so that you won’t arrive to a dirty house.
5. Pack a moving supply box. Your moving supply box should contain items you may need while you are unpacking and getting settled in your new home, such as:
Toilet paper Paper towels Sponge All-purpose cleaner and glass cleaner Shelf liner paper Scissors Furniture moving pads Tape measure Cordless screwdriver Hammer Picture hanging kit Bottled water, snacks, pet food Paper plates, cups, and disposable utensils Dish Soap and Hand Soap 6. Make Your Bed. As soon as your bed frames and mattresses come off the truck, put them together or have the movers put them together, and make them up. Pack your sheets, blankets, and pillows together in well-marked boxes so you can find them easily. When you are ready to collapse at the end of moving day, you’ll be thankful the beds are made up and ready to fall into.
7. Ditto for your towels and bath soap. Pack bath towels and soap with your bed sheets so you can jump in the shower before retiring without having to search for towels.
8. Make Plans for Your pets. The last thing you need on moving day is a stressed-out pup or kitty, or worse, one that escapes in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Make plans for your pets to spend the day with family or friends, a pet sitter, or boarding facility until you are ready to introduce them to their new home.
9. Say Yes to Helpers. Sometimes it’s hard to accept extra help from family or friends if you aren’t sure what they can help with. Here are some tasks you can delegate:
Lay shelf liner in the kitchen and bathroom cabinets and drawers. Unpack and put away your kitchen items (you can rearrange later!) Babysit or keep your children occupied. Make up your beds. Place towels in the bathrooms. Wipe down cabinets and counters. Break down packing boxes. Hang clothes in closets. Organize tools and equipment in the garage. Pick up lunch or dinner.
10. Hire a Sitter. If you have little ones, they will be very excited about their new home, new rooms, and yard. They will want to be with you, but they will not be interested in unpacking boxes! Make plans for someone to be available just for them, so you can concentrate. A family member, friend or hired sitter can help them explore their new surroundings, build a box fort, or organize their toys in their new rooms without you worrying about where they are.
11. Hire someone to hang your art. Unless you love to hang things yourself, you might consider having a handyman scheduled to come in and hand your wall art and window treatments for you. This can save you a great deal of time getting settled. If you need help deciding where to hang art or portraits, a decorator may be a better choice than a handyman. They can help you decide on placement and hang items themselves or direct a handyman where to hang items.
12. Check out of the old house. Prior to closing, you should have submitted a change of address form with the post office. You’ll also need to remember to leave all keys and garage door or gate openers, and make sure the movers don’t pack up things like ceiling fan remote controls or other loose items that stay with the house. Don’t forget to clean out spaces like the attic, backyard sheds, crawl spaces, or any other hideaway spaces you might have stored items. It’s always nice to have the home professionally cleaned for the new owners, and, if you feel inclined, leave a list of recommended local vendors for household services.
Where are all my Type-A friends? No shame, I'm right there with you!
If you live for the feeling of being organized, I've compiled my 5 best pieces of advice for staying orderly during your home search:
First up: Create a digital or physical folder for all of your important documents. This can include pre-approval letters, listings you're interested in, and any other important papers.
Number 2 - Keep track of your budget. Determine how much you can afford and stick to it – this will save you time, energy, and heartache in the long run. Trust me!
Third - Make a list of your must-haves and nice-to-haves. This will help you prioritize what's important to you in a home. Use a shareable document or list if you’re buying with a significant other so you stay on the same page
Next, Keep track of the homes you've seen. Create a spreadsheet or use a note-taking app to jot down the pros and cons of each home. This will come in handy when all the home features start to blur together
Last - This step is super important. Take lots of pictures! You'll want to remember the details of each home, so pictures will be key.
Implement these tips, and you'll be on your way to finding your perfect home. Happy hunting!
When I work with clients who are downsizing to a smaller home, one of the hardest chores they face is letting go of sentimental belongings they no longer have room for. Souvenirs collected during travels, family heirlooms, and your children’s keepsakes can be quite stressful to part with. It doesn’t matter whether the items have monetary value or not; in fact, often the most difficult items to let go of are worthless in terms of money, but priceless in sentimental value.
Here are some tips to help you part with belongings you are attached to but no longer want to keep.
1. Remember that our memories reside within us, not within our possessions. Psychologists say that letting go of sentimental items can be extremely therapeutic. When we keep things, the items occupy both physical and mental space in our lives. It’s healthier to focus on your memories and not the items that represent your memories.
2. Focus on the present. Letting go also helps to bring your focus to the present. Sometimes things are continual reminders of the past and hold us back from living in the present. Dwelling in the past can make one more prone to depression and can affect our ability to deal with stressful situations in our lives. Realize that while we can always cherish our memories, we don’t need the past to be happy in the present.
3. Let go of guilt. People often hold onto an item they don’t want or need because someone special gave it to them or it represents a special person. Learn to let go of the guilt associated with getting rid of gifts you can’t use. Appreciate the thoughtfulness of the giver or the special memory it represents but pass the item on to someone else who can use it or donate it to charity.
4. Don’t save it for your grown children. Times have changed and today more young adults are able to buy their own furnishings. And they aren’t as sentimental about family heirlooms as prior generations were. Talk to your kids now and find out if you are holding onto your china, crystal, and silver tea service for nothing.
5. Compromise with your spouse. It’s not uncommon for one spouse to resent the others’ favorite belongings while holding onto their own special stuff. It’s important to recognize that, while you may not understand your husband’s need to keep a ball cap for every MLB team he’s seen play, he may feel the same way about his hats that you do about keeping every book you have read. Decide together on a reasonable number to keep.
6. Start with the easy stuff. If you have a lot of belongings to sort through, start with the easier decisions and work from there. Often people find that once they get some momentum going it feels good to let go.
7. Write a family memoir. Hold onto your memories with words instead of things by writing your memoir or the story of your family. Writing your story can be very therapeutic and can help you release your hold on tangible items. If you need help, try a service like Storyworth.com.
Home equity…Everybody wants it, but what exactly is it, and how do you get it? Equity represents the degree of ownership an individual or entity has in an asset after subtracting any debts against the asset. To say someone shares equity in a company means they would share in any assets remaining after all debts are accounted for. For example, if your business has sold $500,000 worth of product this year, but you have rent, operating expenses, and a business loan payment totalling $400,000 for the year, you have $100,000 of equity in your business. Equity changes as the value of your assets and debts change.
Jason Shadbolt, BMgt
As a Realtor, Builder and previous Mortgage Specialist, if you have questions, all you have to do is ask!