THINGS TO DO BEFORE THE MOVE

The day has finally arrived! You leave the closing table with the keys to your new house, and you’re officially a homeowner. You’re ready to take a few pictures in front of the sold sign, pop open a bottle of champagne to celebrate, prepare to unload a truck full of boxes, and eventually order a pizza to refuel from the busy day. It’s going to be an exciting time, but before you get settled in for a Netflix binge, make a list and tackle these few things first!

TEST YOUR SMOKE & CARBON MONOXIDE DETECTORS: This should be one of the very first things you do to protect your home and your family. Pick up extra batteries to keep on hand or consider updating these to smart devices for extra safety. The smart smoke detectors, such as the Nest, will allow you to integrate the device to an app that will alert you when smoke is detected. They’re more expensive than your typical smoke detector but well worth the extra cost. While you’re at it, purchase fire extinguishers for your home and know how to use them incase of an emergency.

CHANGE THE LOCKS: Changing the locks on a new home is a standard safety measure to take but can’t be done until after closing. Swing by your local hardware store to pick up new locks before the big moving day so that you are sure to get them taken care of right away. Sometimes the simplest things can get buried to the bottom of our to do lists when we don’t prepare in advance!

GET TO KNOW YOUR HOUSE: Before you move in, you’ll have had a Home Inspection, which is a fantastic way to learn about your new home. You’ll want to know where major things are located, such as the circuit breaker box and the main water shut-off valve. Keep a copy of your Home Inspection report so you can refer back to it if you are just learning about how all of these mechanicals work.

FORWARD YOUR MAIL: I know this sounds like common sense, but the US Postal Service will actually stop forwarding mail 6 months after you move. In order to be sure that you are receiving everything you need, go online and get this taken care of first thing on the day of closing to get it out of the way.

DO A DEEP CLEAN AND TACKLE LARGER PAINTING PROJECTS: This one can be done while watching your favorite Netflix show if you want! The best time to do a deep clean is when the house is empty and free from large furniture. If you’re moving in the day you close, you could wait to unpack boxes for rooms that are harder to clean such as the kitchen and bathrooms. You could even hire a professional cleaning service to do one big clean before you move in so you don’t have to worry about it and instead focus on unpacking!

Painting is one of the first projects new homeowners tackle when moving into a new house. Everyone has different tastes, so its unlikely that you’ll love all of the paint colors that the previous owner chose. Consider picking out the colors you like and painting before moving your furniture in. It makes the process a whole lot easier, and you can even invite your friends to help. It’s called a painting party – all you have to do is provide them with pizza and beverages, and people always seem more than happy to help!

Time to get to start tackling this list, so you are ready to go when closing day arrives. You’ll be able to sleep safe and sound knowing you took care of these things before the sold sign goes up!

If you’re not in the middle of a home-buying purchase but want to learn more about the process, reach out to me so we can set up a time to chat! 🔑

Samantha Haycraft, REALTOR® | Slhaycraft1@gmail.com

Movie Night at Home: Fall Edition 🍁

WARNING: You’ll want to watch all the Fall movies after reading this!

After a long day of Realtor-ing, nothing beats coming home, getting cozy, & watching movies under the coziest blanket. On these movie nights, I always love a pumpkin-infused snack & a PSL coffee in hand!🎃

I wanted to share all the cozy vibes with my homebodies out there, so I put together your FALL watch list – with a side of scented candles, snacks & beverages! Which one are you watching first?

🍁 Your FALL Romance watch – Sweet Home Alabama

🍁 Your FALL Thriller watch – Beetlejuice

🍁 Your FALL Witchy watch – Hocus Pocus

🍁 Your FALL Vibes watch – Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas

🍁 Your FALL Comedy watch – Ghostbusters

🍁 Your FALL Family watch – It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

🍁 Your FALL Horror watch – Stephen king’s Carrie

Lights off, fireplace on! Add in your fall fav scented candle and shake up a caramel apple martini or pumpkin spice latte ☕️ For the snacks, start with a cheese board followed by chocolate drizzled caramel corn! Don’t forget extra blankets!

I’m turning on my favorite spooky flick, Hocus Pocus, followed by a few episodes of Friends before bed, so I don’t have nightmares!

If you can’t decide, the good news is you can watch them all 📺 Now your weekend plans are set with your Fall watch list! Send me an email with your favorite Fall movie!

Samantha Haycraft, REALTOR® | Slhaycraft1@gmail.com

Ways to unwind – Househunters edition!

Feeling overwhelmed in this crazy market? It can be tough searching for your home & beating the competition. Sometimes, the offer you submit does not get accepted…BUT, don’t worry because with a strategic plan & patience, your dream home will come!

Kick back with your favorite drink & check out these ways in unwind HOUSE HUNTERS editions 👀 After a full afternoon of showings, try…

✨ Cooking a meal – enjoy the space you are currently in & think about what you want in your next home! Larger dining room? double ovens? Think about what your current space is missing to give you motivation in your search with a side of tacos!

✨ Start packing – I know this isn’t the most relaxing activity, but you can get a jump start on a huge project & imagine your things in your new home. Will that closet hold all my shoes? Do we need a smaller couch?

✨ Get some fresh air – take an evening for yourself & go enjoy your fav local spot to get out & about! Where do you go locally to unwind? Coffee shop? Brewery? The Lake? Comment below!

✨Read a book – dive into a great story to let your mind unwind. Try reading a home design book like Homebody to get you inspired for your next space!

This market can be overwhelming, but stay motivated, enjoy the process, & know that you will find THE ONE 🏡

Want to start the search? Send me an email to set up a meeting to chat about real estate & your next home 🔑

Samantha Haycraft, REALTOR® | Slhaycraft1@gmail.com

What to Check on Your Final Walk-Through

The final walk-through of 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.

Ready to start your buying process & get to your final walkthrough?

Send me an email today to get your Buyer’s guide that will have all the information you need for a smooth closing! 🏡

Samantha Haycraft, REALTOR® | Slhaycraft1@gmail.com

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!