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.

Fall decorating on a budget

There is something about decorating for fall that gives me the warm fuzzies! It may be the promise of cool, crisp evenings with brilliant sunsets or the fact that fall decorating is all about creating a cozy atmosphere in your home. The fun thing about fall decorating is that it’s easy and inexpensive. Here are a few of my favorite fall decorating ideas that are easy to accomplish on a shoestring budget.

Hit your local nursery, grocery store, and fabric store for fall color. Place potted chrysanthemums, pansies, croton, purple fountain grass, or flowering kale on your front porch, in your foyer, or around your fireplace to add color—Tuck some mini pumpkins, Indian corn, or gourds around the base of the plants. Instead of spending money on pots, wrap the plant containers in fall print remnants from the fabric store.

Scavenge your yard for fresh ornamental cuttings. Put on your gardening gloves, grab your cutting shears and a basket, and head outside for some free décor. Fall leaves, small branches, ivy, ornamental grasses, flower blooms, pinecones, and seed pods make great accents. Arrange cuttings on your mantel or dining table with LED flameless candles and small gourds, or place branches and blooms in a large mason jar or vintage pitcher.

Get creative with pumpkins. There are lots of fun things you can do with a pumpkin besides carving a jack-o-lantern. Try painting some pumpkins in fall colors that coordinate with your home’s decor. Or wrap a few large pumpkins in light strands to light up your front porch. Make pumpkin topiaries by stacking three or four on top of a plantar, largest to smallest, and wrap them in garland or light strands.

Go antiquing for cheap accessories. Your local antique market or thrift stores can be a treasure trove for great fall finds. An old wagon, a wooden ladder, woven baskets, ceramic jugs, aluminum tubs, antique picture frames, straw hats, and vintage farm tools all have a rustic fall flavor.

More ideas for fabrics. You don’t need a sewing machine to make use of fall fabrics. Many fabric stores stock fall prints or have remnant pieces for quilting. Fold a couple of yards of plaid fleece like a throw blanket and drape it over a chair. Wrap your throw pillows in a yard of a fall print and secure it with craft ribbon or safety pins. Fold the raw edges under and iron to make a simple table runner. Wind strips of fabric around a grapevine wreath or use them to tie big bows around your pumpkin stems.

Do you have any fall budget tips or questions? Comment below, and let’s talk!