From Realtor.com -- Lexie Holbert on 15th October 2020
Trying to buy a home in today’s market is tough. COVID has motivated a lot of people to look for a home, but also deterred a lot of people from listing their home so the options are limited. Even though I look at housing trend data every day as part of my job at realtor.com and my husband and I just bought our second home, every time you buy feels a little bit like your first time, especially in such a HOT market.
This time around we learned a few things that are helpful no matter how experienced you are, such as the importance of familiarizing yourself with the home buying process beforehand. We also used some of the same strategies that we used in our first home purchase such as using the realtor.com app and saving searches so we could find out in real time as homes hit the market.
One of the more challenging parts of our home search was going toe-to-toe with other buyers in a bidding war. I’m proud to say, we beat out the other buyers and are now the owners of a beautiful three-bedroom, three-bathroom home in Porter Ranch, Calif. Here are some things to consider if you find yourself in the same situation.
Tip #1: Know how much you can afford — This is extremely important for all buyers, especially first-time home buyers who have never been locked into a mortgage payment. There’s a lot of emotion that goes into buying a home, and it’s easy to let those emotions get the best of you. Use a mortgage calculator to figure out the maximum amount of house you can afford and be prepared to walk away if a home doesn’t fit in your budget.
Tip #2: Get pre-approved — Sellers want to make sure that at the end of the day, the sale is going to go through. Pre-approval letters are necessary in today’s competitive market. You can even go one step farther and have your lender prepare a pre-approval letter that is specific to the property you are bidding on. This will help show that you have the financial wherewithal to purchase the home.
Tip #3: Increase your down payment or earnest money — A higher down payment or increasing your earnest money (the deposit made when you make an offer) shows the seller that you are serious. A higher down payment can be enticing when a bidding war is pushing the selling price above the potential appraised value. Consider talking to your agent about upping your earnest money from the typical 1% to 10 or 20% of the purchase price as another way to reinforce your interest.
Tip #4: Offer a higher price — For many sellers, cash is king and they will sell to the highest bidder. However, that doesn’t mean you have to offer tens of thousands of dollars more. Often, just going up a few thousand dollars can make the difference between winning a house and losing out on it. You’ll need to keep in mind that just because you are willing to pay more, your lender may not be. Your loan cannot exceed the appraised value of the home, so you’ll have to cover anything over the appraised value by bringing additional cash to the closing.
Tip #5: Consider waiving contingencies -- This tip is not for everyone. While some buyers are willing to go to extremes and will waive financial and inspection contingencies in order to show how badly they want a house, it can come at a price or at least some sleepless nights. Contingencies give the buyer the ability to back out should financing fall through or renegotiate terms and price or walk away if the inspection turns up major issues. Waving one or more contingencies could be what it takes to get the house, but you’ll need to decide if it’s worth the risk.
Tip #5: Be prepared to move quickly -- If you think there are going to be multiple offers on a home you are bidding on, ask your agent to prepare several contracts with different purchase offers. This gives your agent the ability to act quickly. Another strategy is to include an escalation clause as an addendum to your offer that lets the seller know that you are willing to increase your offer by a set amount if another buyer matches your offer. Sellers may also favor your offer, if you agree to do the home inspection quickly. This will allow them to know where they stand with you and not lose a lot of time with other buyers should you decide not to move forward.
Tip #6: Be flexible -- Make it easy on the seller. Although some sellers may want to move as quickly as possible, others may want to stay in their home longer if they are waiting on new construction or would like their children to finish the school year. If you can, agree to a closing date that accommodates their needs or allow them to stay in the house for a few days without compensation following the closing. If they need more time, consider allowing them to rent back the house for a set period following the closing.
All that being said, sometimes, no matter how good your offer is, you are just going to be out bid. And while inventory is low, it’s important to remember that more homes that you like will come along and while it might take some time, you’ll find the home that’s right for you.
Thanks to Reator.com for this great post!
Ever get the itch to do a DIY project? Whenever we do, our favorites involve getting outdoors and mixing up our landscaping features.
Whether it's as simple as installing some lighting or a little more time-consuming like re-plotting plants, a fresh look for the lawn always gives your home a fresh look as well. Here are our top five easy landscaping projects!
Create a pathway.
To guide you and visitors throughout your yard and link different areas together, install a pathway. You can use materials from a variety of materials, including reclaimed pallet wood, flagstones, gravel, and more to add texture and color.
Add a wall or border.
Installing a flagstone, rock, or brick wall around flower beds or trees adds a sleek, clean look to your landscaping and helps separate different sections of your yard.
Install a water feature.
Nothing says zen quite like the sound of trickling water as you relax in your backyard. You can start simple with by purchasing and installing a small feature powered by a solar panel or create a larger focal point in your yard by installing a waterfall wall or small pond.
Light your way.
An easy way to transform your yard is to strategically use lighting. Place cool-colored lights high in trees to recreate a moonlight feel, use pathway lights to naturally guide the eye, or highlight objects or plants.
Expand your yard space by drawing the eye to the sky with a trellis fence or screen made of wood or metal. Once you install your trellis, select your climbing plants and vines and get to planting!
Have Real Estate Questions? Text/Call us 5089*726*0622 & 508*207*2501
Lauren Sieben | Oct 5, 2020
You probably don't think—or don't want to think—much about the creepy crawlers and rodents that could be hiding in your home. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t there. (Cue the spooky music!)
The truth is, many of us unknowingly live alongside bugs, mice, and plenty of other uninvited guests lurking in our homes. And when it comes to pest control, ignorance is not bliss. You need to know what you’re up against in order to prevent and evict unwanted critters.
We talked with entomologists and experts to learn everything you could be doing that unwittingly invites the creepy crawlers in. Here's what they say are the top mistakes you might be making.
1. Being reactive—instead of proactive—about pest control
If you notice an ant in the kitchen, it might not send you into full mitigation mode. Likewise, if you see one little mouse scurry across the garage, maybe you set a trap and move on with your day.
“Sometimes that works—and other times it may only be the beginning of the infestation,” says Todd Johnson, associate certified entomologist and technical services manager for Western Exterminator.
It's far easier to prevent infestations than eliminate problems after they pop up, Johnson says. Prevention is also much cheaper than removal.
“Spraying pesticides or placing traps inside the home may only temporarily correct the concern but not permanently solve the problem,” Johnson says. “Look for any issues that are attracting insects, and remove these situations to reduce attractions for pests.”
2. Not checking the doors, window screens, and seals around your house
Even with the doors shut and windows closed, it’s easy for insects to sneak inside your home. "Due to their exoskeleton being on the outside, they can condense themselves to a smaller size to pass through very small cracks,” saysJohn Bell, product development and staff entomologist at TruGreen. He says homeowners often don’t understand how bugs get past closed doors and windows.
“I then have to show them that the door sweep is worn out, which is evident when you can see outside light shining through it, or that rips in the screen are enough for that ant to slip through,” Bell says.
“Making sure door sweeps are in good working order, fixing damaged screens, and sealing cracks and crevices around the structure with caulk can help prevent pests from entering,” he advises.
3. Letting your landscaping overgrow
The outside of your house can be a comfy sanctuary for pests without your realizing it. If you have overgrown landscaping like bushes or shrubs that make contact with the house, you’re unwittingly creating tons of potential hiding spots for critters. Firewood leaning against the house or garage and overgrown grassy areas are also popular havens for pests.
“Moving firewood away from the home and keeping grass mowed will make it less desirable for insects and rodents,” Johnson says.
4. Leaving out temptations for critters
If you leave the lid off your trash can or let the dog abandon a treat on your patio, you may as well send a personalized invitation to all the pests in your neighborhood.
“Critters are opportunistic,” says Ray Hess, region technical training manager at Arrow Exterminators. “If food and things to live in are left out for them, they will take full advantage of it.”
So take away the temptations: Dispose of trash in a timely manner, and don’t leave any food sitting out (whether you’re indoors or outdoors) that could appeal to pests.
5. Allowing water to pool around your yard
“The more stagnant water around your home, the greater the potential for mosquitoes,” explains Bell. “As a rule of thumb, the earlier in the season and the greater the precipitation, the larger the potential for insect populations.”
If water frequently pools in your yard or near your house after a heavy storm, you may want to work with a landscaper to improve your drainage system.
6. Using the wrong pesticides
If you reach for the wrong pesticide, you could make your pest predicament even worse—especially if you’re dealing with ants.
“If you apply the wrong pesticide without doing research first, it can cause the ant colony to bud or ‘split’ and spread throughout the home,” Johnson says.
Do your homework before you start spraying pesticide, or reach out to a licensed pest management company to handle the pesticide application for you.
7. Not timing your efforts with the season
Sure, spring is a big season for bugs: As temperatures rise, insects become more active and reproduce, Bell explains. By summer, insects are living their best lives and thriving outside.
Then as temperatures drop, some pest populations begin to die off. But others head inside—and into your house—to seek warmth. “They are living creatures just like us, and they want to be warm and safe, too,” Hess says.
If you aren’t eager to play fall and winter host to a crew of rodents or a slew of spiders, double up on your efforts to close up the openings to your house. Alternatively, you can call in a professional pest control company to survey your home and close up gaps as the season changes from warm to cold.
8. Not knowing the pests unique to your area
No matter where you live in the nation, every region deals with mosquitoes, ants, and mice, Johnson says. Beyond that, pests vary from region to region.
To make sure you’re prepared to deal with your local variety of critters, do your research or work with a local pest mitigation company that has expertise in your area.
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Thanks to Realtor.com for this great article!
By Lisa Marie Conklin | Sep 10, 2020
It's been six months since many of us were last in the office, tapping away on our ergonomic keyboards and drawing on whiteboards in conference rooms during (gasp!) in-person meetings. Since then, we've been forced to find a new path forward in our homes, to create feasible workspaces where there really are none. And frankly, the kitchen table just isn't cutting it anymore.
Buyer demand for home office space has accelerated during the pandemic. In a realtor.com® survey conducted this summer, 63% of respondents indicated that they plan to buy a new home in light of their ability to work remotely. And, on average, listings featuring a home office command a 3.4% price premium and sell nine days faster than listings without one, according to realtor.com data.l
"Showcasing a dedicated working area can help attract buyers to your property," says Jennifer Smith, a real estate agent at Southern Dream Homes.
*So, sellers, take note: If you have a home office, now's the time to promote it. Here's how to set up a space that will bring in the buyers and seal the deal.
Be mindful when converting a room into a home office
If you don't have an official home office, you might be frantically looking around your house, wondering which room could be converted into a workspace. But before you go all in swapping out guest beds for built-in desks and bookshelves, know this: While buyers are looking for home office space, bedrooms still take priority, according to real estate agent Susan Bozinovic of Century 21 Town & Country. And you could inadvertently turn off buyers if one of your three bedrooms suddenly works only as a home office.
Instead, look for opportunities to create dual-purpose spaces. After all, you're probably not entertaining many guests during the pandemic (we hope), so now's a great time to create a combination guest room and office. Remove the bed, and replace it with a sleeper sofa or love seat.
"This will result in less visual clutter while you're working in the room, but allow it to easily be transformed back to a bedroom for guests," says Smith.
Choose a free-standing desk to fit the space without overwhelming it. Or consider a wall-mounted desk as an alternative.
"They can be installed in virtually any room of a home and can be easily put away when not in use," says Smith.
And don't forget to update the closet.
"Maximize your closet space with shelves and containers to store office and bedroom supplies, while also making the space available to store your guests' belongings," recommends Smith.
Short on bedrooms? Try carving out space in another area such as the dining room. Keep the dining table, but remove the buffet or remove the leaves in the table and extra chairs to make room for a chair and desk.
"As a seller, you are not erasing the dining room, but signaling to the buyer that the room can be repurposed further to suit an office," says Bozinovic.
Pick a quiet area
The noisy central hub of any home is hardly conducive to productivity, so setting up a workspace in the kitchen or the TV room isn't likely to woo buyers. If you currently don't have a designated home office, consider the location when staging one.
"It's best to choose a room with adequate space that's far from the main living spaces and not frequented by family members or guests," Smith advises.
Transform an unused area into a workspaceTake a look around at the underused areas in your home, and you can probably find a place to carve out a workspace buyers will covet. If you have a finished, walkout basement, you can turn that into a comfy and private workspace. The area underneath the staircase or the dead space at the top of a staircase, or even an alcove, makes a compact office.
If you have no choice but to set up a home office in the main area of the house, present it in the most appealing way possible.
"Separate the work area from the rest of the room with portable dividers such as a curtain, a folding screen, partition wall, or even tall houseplants," says Smith.
Keep the area tidy, and neatly bundle up computer and extension cords. Illuminate a poorly lit zone with a small desk lamp.
If you have access to dependable and fast internet, flaunt it. Buyers are looking to make sure there are enough outlets, ways to minimize cords, and locations for wall-mounted routers, Bozinovic says.
Also critically important is the quality of the Wi-Fi. Buyers want dependable and fast internet with ample bandwidth to be productive at home.
Stage your home office as you would the rest of your houseIf you already have a dedicated home office, the time-honored advice of staging—beginning with a clean and clutter-free space, void of personal objects—stands true. If needed, invest in fashionable, functional office storage options like wall shelves or a filing cabinet, Smith says.
"For decorating and design, it's best to keep colors neutral and avoid bright paint or busy patterns on the walls," she adds.
But the office shouldn't be too bland. Create ambiance with pops of color in office essentials such as an area rug, houseplants in pretty pots, or fresh flowers. If blinds are the only window covering, consider buying some curtains or drapes to add warmth. Be sure to raise blinds, draw the curtains to the side to allow natural light, and feature a lovely view if you have one.
The desk should be featured prominently in the room, Bozinovic says. After all, it is the main component. Facing the desk to the entrance looks more dramatic, hides background clutter, and enhances the room's purpose—all while offering a welcoming atmosphere.
Thanks Realtor.com for this awesome article!
**My kids are IN the nest... but would not trade my single level home for ANYTHING!!
Once the kids have left the nest, you may be wondering what to do with all of the extra space in your home. Chances are, you don’t need four bedrooms anymore, and it may be a great time to sell your house and downsize, maybe even into a single-story home. You’ve likely gained significant equity if you’ve lived in your home for a while, so making a move while demand for your current house is high could be your best step forward toward the retirement goals you set out to achieve several years ago.
The dilemma, though, is where to go next. A big concern for many homeowners who are ready to sell is finding a home to move into, given today’s lack of houses available for sale. There is, however, some good news: the number of single-family 1-story homes being built today is on the rise, improving your odds of finding the right home for your changing needs. In a recent article, The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) explains:
“Nationwide, the share of new homes with two or more stories fell from 53% in 2018 to 52% in 2019, while the share of new homes with one story grew from 47% to 48%.”
Here’s a map showing the breakdown of newly constructed homes being built by region, and the percentage of 1-story and 2-story homes in that mix:
What are the benefits of buying a one-story home?Still not sure about buying a single-story home? An article from Home Talk covers several advantages of switching from two floors to one:
1. Energy Efficient
“It is easier to heat and cool a single-story house [than] it would be to regulate the temperatures of a multi-story house.”
Most single-story homes only need one heating or cooling unit, and they typically stay cooler than a two-story home, both of which can lead to significant savings.
2. Easier to Maintain
“Doing a general cleaning in a single story requires less effort and you will be able to see all areas that need cleaning and the areas are easily accessible.”
Cleaning and maintenance of a single-story home can take less time and effort, and better upkeep helps improve the overall value of the home.
3. Accessible for Everyone
“A single-story house can be accessed by anyone, whether they are young children or the senior citizens.”
If you’re looking for a house that provides a safe and easily accessible environment at any age, a single-story home may be optimal.
4. Good Resell Potential
“When buying a single-story house, you should consider the resale value should you think of reselling it in case of a circumstance that can happen. Look at the growth rate of that area. Due to the high demand of these types of houses it is [easy] to resell them and depending on the growth rate of an area, it increases in value significantly.”
Single-story homes have a lot of benefits and are often in higher demand. This bodes well for future resale opportunities.
Bottom Line There are many benefits to downsizing into a one-story home. Doing so while demand for your current house is high might make it easier than ever to make a move. Talk to your local real estate professional if you’re ready to purchase the single-story home you need while homes are so affordable today.
Thanks, KCM for this great article!
Thanks KCM for this great infographic!
Buying a home often entails also buying various types of insurance to protect your property, and one type you might need to get is called title insurance.
So what is title insurance? When you buy a home, you “take title” to it and establish legal ownership. A title insurance policy protects you against the possibility that someone else might have a claim on your home.
If you need a mortgage to buy real estate, your lender will likely require you to buy a title policy from a title insurance company. Although it's a cost home buyers incur, getting a title policy from a title insurance company is critical to establishing peace of mind.
Here's more about how a title company works, why a title search is required for a mortgage, and more that home buyers should know.
Why a title search is required with a mortgage When getting a mortgage to buy real estate, you'll find that most lenders will typically require that you get a title search before you close the deal with your escrow company. Basically this would mean you'll have to hire a title company to search local records on your property. Some of the issues they’re looking for include the following:
Lender’s title insurance vs owner's title insurance: What's the difference?
When getting a mortgage, the home buyer pays their lender’s title insurance premium. But keep in mind that this policy will only insure the lender in the case of a claim against the title. The lender's title insurance policy pays for the expense of the insurer researching a claim and any court costs incurred due to the dispute.
In addition to offering a policy to the mortgage lender, a title company will offer the home buyer their own insurance, called owner's title insurance. In many states, owner's insurance is optional. In most areas, it's common for buyers to purchase owner's title insurance, but in some areas it’s more common for the seller to buy the policy.
Owner’s title insurance is recommended, because lender’s insurance won’t protect you personally if the insurance company loses a battle over legal title. You'd be required to pay for the continued fight over the title and could lose your investment in the property.
You can purchase basic or enhanced owner's title insurance, with the enhanced insurance policy offering more coverage for things like mechanic’s liens or boundary disputes.
While your title insurance covers you for things such as mistakes in the legal description of your property or human error, be aware that it will have some exclusions—particularly in cases where violations of building codes occur after you bought your home.
How much does title insurance cost?The average cost of title insurance is about $1,000 per policy. However, that amount varies widely based on the price of your home, where you live, and any potential issues that crop up during your title search (here's more on how much title insurance costs).
Unlike other types of insurance, a title insurance policy is paid with a single premium during escrow while closing for your mortgage. If you’re buying a real estate resale or refinancing, you may be eligible for a "reissue" rate, which could offer a substantial discount off the regular premium—because the title policy is already in effect, and the title research has already been completed.
In some states, title insurance premiums are the same no matter who you work with, but in the majority of states, you can save money by shopping around.
Get recommendations on title companies from real estate agents, lenders and friends, and be sure to check out the license and reputation of different title companies online. Always compare the features of each policy and get adequately covered for the real estate you're purchasing.
*Thanks to Realtor.com for this important article!
Awesome infographic about Buying vs. Renting today and int he past...thanks, KCM!
How a Conventional 30 Year Fixed Mortgage Works
You’ll pay off the mortgage in 30 years. Although you’ll pay more interest over the life of the loan compared to lower term year mortgages (like a 15 years mortage), your monthly payments will be lower.
Need more information? Read more at Stonegate Mortgage
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