Home Renovating FAQ’s

Renovating Your Home? Check the FAQ’s!

1. How do I pick a contractor?

Ideally, you want to build the same kind of relationship with your contractor as you do with your real estate agent: one built on trust that makes you want to go back to that person for any future needs. Your contractor should be a very good listener and communicator. You want them to “get” your vision for your home, and to keep you in the loop every step of the way. Do your due diligence by checking out contractors’ reputations, talking with other clients, and looking at work they have done previously before you make your selection.

How much will my project cost?

Of course, the answer depends upon the scope of your project, but in order to get the best estimate from your contractor, take time to write down each detail of your plan so that the contractor can include everything in their estimate. Renovations are famous for taking longer and costing more than originally planned, but this is often because the homeowner makes additions or changes along the way, or they don’t realize that, for example, if you move a wall in your home, you may have to then reroute electricity and outlets. One item often leads to another, so you have to look at everything piece by piece.

How long will renovations take to complete?

As we said above, this depends on the amount of work being done– and how many changes are made along the way. The more pre-planning you do, the better estimate your contractor can give you.

How do I prioritize projects?

If you are living in your home during renovations, you may want to plan out the project in phases, so you can live out of some rooms while others are being worked in. You may also need to phase projects based on cost and availability of funds.

Where do I begin?

You begin by conducting a lot of research. Start a look book for your home, either in a notebook or online, collecting pictures of the look and finishes you want. Talk to different contractors, and visit kitchen, bathroom, appliance, and flooring showrooms to get ideas on selections and pricing.

Do I need permits?

Your contractor will know what projects require permitting. Make sure that you do abide by permitting regulations, as failure to secure proper permits can come back to bite you if further work is needed down the road.

How much will renovations increase my home value?

Every homeowner hopes that making improvements will increase their home’s value, and this is usually the case, but sometimes what homeowners view as improvement can turn out to be liabilities to future buyers. For example, don’t put so much money into the house that it becomes more expensive than the rest of the neighborhood. And be careful not to add personal style preferences that can’t be easily changed, like ornamental fixtures, radical architecture, or unusual landscape features.

How should I pay for renovations?

If you have the cash to pay for your renovations, that’s certainly a good way to go. Otherwise, you might consider a home equity loan with a manageable monthly payment or a revolving line of credit that you can use for renovations as well as emergencies that may arise later.

Tips for an Easier Move 🚚

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.

📦 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.

📦 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

📦 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 at a dirty house.

📦 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

📦 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.

📦 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.

📦 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 a boarding facility until you are ready to introduce them to their new home.

📦 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.

📦 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.

If you are making the move and searching for local vendors like movers, cleaners, painters, etc., reach out and I will contact you with great service!

When Should you Refinance?

When Should I Refinance My Home? 🏡
Low interest rates have many homeowners wondering if it’s a good time to refinance. Refinancing can save you a lot of money in the long term when done correctly. It’s important to consider the drawbacks as well. Here are some reasons why you might want to refinance and a few things to be cautious of!

Reasons you may want to refinance:

  1. To lower your monthly payment. If today’s interest rates are lower than when you purchased your home, refinancing to a lower rate will reduce your monthly payment down, freeing up cash to help with other bills, your children’s education, or to save towards retirement.
  2. To pay off your mortgage earlier. A great way to use the money you save with a lower mortgage payment is to apply it right to your principle, which will help you pay your loan off earlier.
  3. To take advantage of a better credit score. If your credit score has increased significantly since you bought your home, you may get a better loan if you refinance.
  4. To save on total interest. For some, the desire to pay less interest overall makes refinancing an attractive option. Reducing the interest rate and/or the loan term will save you money long term.
  5. To change loan types. If you have an adjustable-rate mortgage that has been increasing or is nearing the end of the fixed period, you may want to switch to a fixed-rate mortgage.

If you have extra cash on hand to make larger monthly payments, it may make sense to change to a 15-year mortgage so you can pay it off earlier.

  1. To consolidate debt or take cash out. If you have built up equity in your home, you may be able to borrow against your home to obtain cash to pay off higher-interest debt, to make improvements on your home, or for things like your children’s education or medical expenses.

Be careful when borrowing against your home. If the cash you take out goes to increasing your debt rather than resolving it, then you could end up putting your home in jeopardy.

Don’t forget about the closing costs involved in refinancing. You will have fees associated with your new loan just like you did when you purchased your home, so remember to figure the closing costs when you do the math.

Also, be cautious about extending your loan term. If you refinance with a 30-year mortgage when you are 10-15 years or more into your current mortgage, you’ll end up paying way more in interest overall and have extended your payments for many more years.

Of course, a mortgage lender is the best resource for answering your financing questions. If you need someone to talk to further, I’m happy to give you a referral!

The Do’s and Don’ts of Buying Vacant Land

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 research the property and make sure that you are making a safe investment. Buying vacant land is different from buying a home; work with an agent who knows what questions to ask and 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 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 have a septic sewer system, you will need a percolation test to ensure 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 assume you can have the 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.
There is a lot into buying vacant land 🌲 however it is so rewarding building your dream home start to finish 🏡

Understand your home equity!

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 totaling $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.

Home equity works the same way! When you take out a mortgage to purchase a home, your home is collateral on the mortgage loan, so the outstanding mortgage principal must be deducted from the value of the home to determine your home equity.

In most cases, you make a down payment when you purchase your home. That down payment is your initial home equity! If you pay a 20% down payment on a $200,000 home, you have $40,000 equity when you close on your purchase.

As time goes on and you continue to pay down your mortgage principal, your equity grows! Usually, the longer your own your home, the more equity you gain because you are paying down your mortgage. However, any debts you take on using your home value as collateral, such as a second mortgage or home equity line of credit (HELOC,) decrease your home equity.

The changing real estate market also influences your equity! If you paid $200,000 for your home, and two years later the homes in your neighborhood start selling in the $400,000 range, your theoretical equity increases. (Theoretical because you don’t realize your home equity until you sell your home and pay off all debts against it.) You can also lose equity if the market takes a dive but be patient, and it should recover in time!

Equity also grows if you make improvements to your home that increase its value. Let’s say you add a swimming pool and all new appliances. You have increased the value of the home. Your equity doesn’t increase by the amount you spent on the improvements, but on the value, you get upon resale. This is an important point when considering making improvements before putting your home on the market and one that is often misunderstood!

Let’s say James spends $50,000 on upgrades to his home. He might tell his neighbor, “I have $50,000 in my home,” but when he goes to sell, the current market dictates how much he will actually get in return. If Joe ends up selling for $40,000 more than he originally paid, his $50,000 investment got him $40,000 in home equity!

Some things you can do to increase your home equity include:

1) Make a large down payment when you purchase your home. The more cash you put down, the more equity you begin with.

2) Make increased or extra payments on your mortgage principal. Adding to the principal portion only on your monthly payments, or making extra payments when you are able, helps chip away at your outstanding debt.

3) Be smart when making home improvements! Not all improvements build equity. Some improvements may be personal preferences that don’t necessarily add value for resale. Improvements such as a new HVAC system, new appliances, or a new roof are usually more reliable investments than a fountain in the front yard or surround sound speakers throughout the house.

4) Don’t borrow against your home equity unless you must. Home equity is often a homeowner’s biggest asset, and can help to build your retirement nest egg, but it can also come in handy if life throws you a curveball and you need to borrow against it for an unforeseen emergency. Be careful not to borrow against your equity for frivolous purposes, so it will be there if you really need it.

5) Sell when the market is favorable! If you are counting on your home equity to help finance your next home, pay for your children’s education, or add to your retirement funds, try to sell during a seller’s market when inventory is needed in your area.

If you have any questions about building your home equity to help support your future, reach out, I would be happy to help!

Samantha Haycraft, REALTOR®

Buying Your First Home? you need to Know These 3 Things!

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.
    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.
    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 through all of these steps throughout your home buying journey. Ready to get started? Give me a call!

8 Ways to Make Buyers Fall in Love with Your Home

We all want people to love our home as much as we do, but especially when you try 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 do buyers see 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 other 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 collection of roosters. 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!

Fresh Year, CLEAN Start!

Many of us could not wait to close the door on 2020 and usher in the new year– with cheer, laughter, and a CLEAN start! As you look forward to 2021, you may have spent some time thinking about your intentions for the coming year, whether for personal or professional growth, health, fitness, or family goals. Let’s face it, 2020 was stressful, and while many people look to each new year to freshen up their lives, this year, more than ever, people are looking inward to reexamine what is important to them. But one thing that is just as important as setting intentions for your behaviors or habits is creating a peaceful and joyful place to practice your senses.

If you, like most, spent a record amount of time inside your home last year due to the pandemic, you may have accumulated more stuff than you have in previous years. Many people acquired new hobbies to pass the time at home, started – and maybe even finished – home improvement projects, or simply went a little overboard with boredom-induced online shopping. If this sounds familiar, it may be time for a decluttering session.

Living with too much stuff can cause stress, anxiety, and depression. People with too much clutter in their environment also tend to suffer from relationship issues, sleep problems, and chronic allergies or asthma. 

So, before you pack a suitcase and hop on a flight for that vacation that got canceled last year, take some time to clean out your home for the new year.

 Here are a few strategies recommended by professional organizers.

1. One category at a time: This method is used by Marie Kondo, author of the bestselling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and TV show, Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. She advocates for decluttering items by category: clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous items, and sentimental items, in that order. 

2. One room at a time: Another method is to focus on one area at a time. It could be a room, the garage, or the basement. If that amount of space is still overwhelming to you, break it down to one closet, one cabinet, or one drawer at a time. 

3. Arrange, keep, sell, and donate spaces. As you progress through your decluttering, it will save time and energy if you have already designated areas to accumulate items to be kept, sold, or donated. Then you can deal with each group of items once you have everything separated.

Once you have cleaned out your home, you might adopt some of these habits for preventing clutter from piling up again:

1. Set a rule where you don’t purchase a new piece of clothing, toy, book, or gadget without getting rid of something you are no longer using.

2. Get into the habit of always putting everything back in its place. This will keep you from purchasing items you already have but can’t find or forgot about.

3. To prevent clothes from piling up, try choosing your outfits for the coming week every Sunday, and don’t let clean laundry sit unfolded.

4. Look through your refrigerator and pantry before shopping and shop with a list of needed items.

5. Live by the rule that if you haven’t used it or worn it in the past year, chances are you don’t need it.

Here’s to a new year with a clean and fresh start! 🧽🧹🧼

Six reasons why december is a good month to buy a home.

Most people cringe at the thought of buying a home in December. Only the Grinch would want to pack up and moving during the holiday season! But hold on Cindy Lou Hoo, there are several reasons December can be a great time to buy.

1. Sellers are highly motivated. People who are listing their homes in December are usually on a timeline. They may be relocating for work, wanting to move over the school break, or need to sell their home before the end of the year.

2. You have less competition. Listings do go down in December, but many buyers also take a break during the holiday season. So while the overall number of homes available might be lower, you also have less competition looking.

3. You can get a better price. Motivated sellers and fewer lookers means you can make a better deal. If your seller needs to make a move before the end of the year, they will be willing to work with you on all other terms besides closing date.

4. Rates are staying low. Mortgage rates are forecast to remain low through the end of this year, and into 2021, so it’s a good time to buy.

5. Take advantage of tax benefits. If you close on your home purchase by December 31st, you can take tax deductions for mortgage interest, loan points, and property taxes.

6. Schedules are more flexible. You might think December is too busy a month for moving, but most people tend to have more flexible schedules in December. Children’s activities are suspended, work schedules are more lax, for both you, your sellers, as well as your lender, home inspector, and moving companies, so scheduling all the parts of your transaction and move may actually become easier.

I’d love to help you find your next home. Let’s make your holiday wishes come true!

5 reasons why fall is a great time to sell your home.

Are you thinking about selling your home but unsure if the fall is the right time of year? It’s a great time to put your home on the market! Here are some of the benefits of listing your home in the fall.

  1. There is Less Competition. Typically spring and summer are high seasons for listing family homes. People want to move over the summer before the new school year starts, so listings usually decrease in the fall, which means less competition and higher sales prices.
  2. Great Weather for Buyers. When the summer heat is gone and cool crisp days return, people want to be out and about more! That may be especially true this year, as we have all spent more time at home during COVID. With precautions put into place, buyers can safely visit your home this fall.
  3. Fall Enhances Curb Appeal. Spend the summer taking care of any external repairs that need finishing; then you can celebrate fall by planting some fresh flowers, staging you or front porch with potted mums, pumpkins, and a fall wreath, and carry the theme inside with fall scented candles.
  4. Buyers are Serious. Fall and winter buyers tend to be more serious. They may need to move by the end of the year, or they want to get settled before the holiday season. The demographics of buyers may shift towards younger professionals, first-time homebuyers, empty nesters, and retired people, who have more flexibility over when they move than people with schoolchildren and are therefore more likely to be serious when they do go looking.
  5. Increased Corporate Relocations. Similarly, companies that relocate employees regularly sometimes take advantage of the fall market, knowing they can get better deals on moving expenses. Companies also tend to make personnel changes in the fall, which often corresponds with their new fiscal year.