Is Your Home Budget Cramping Your Style?

livingYou’ve found the perfect place and made it your own.

The boxes are unpacked and it’s been a great time getting settle in and making it your own. But well…you haven’t really changed much yet.

Part of that could be because you really found the perfect place, just the way it is, but if you’re like many homeowners the biggest challenge you face when the honeymoon days are over is budget. So here are some great ideas for decorating your home on tight purse strings and still getting a lot for your dollar!

Paint It Up!
Tried and true a fresh coat of paint works wonders to transform any room and is also one of the most affordable updates you can do yourself as well. While you can always hire a profession if it’s in your price range you really can handle most paint jobs on your own. Maybe start small, do a closet or kids room one weekend to get your skills honed in and then go for it!

Get Rid Of Stuff
Believe it or not, the cheapest update – one that could even make you money – is just not buying more stuff you don’t really need. If it’s too late to prevent that you should look into possibly getting rid of some stuff you don’t need to clear space. Not to get all hoopy-froopy but having more open space really does lend a cleaner feel to a space rather than having it over stuffed with…well…STUFF.

Think Storage Friendly
Getting a new piece of furniture? Remodeling a room? Think storage-first! One thing the tiny house movement has taught us is that any time you can reuse or re-imagine how an area works you can save space.  Foot stools with lids that open, hide-away spaces under stairs, and wisely cycling out home items based on season are all great examples of thinking storage-forward.

These three things are just a good place to start – get creative! There are always new ways to transform a space if you put your mind, some time, and a little elbow grease into it. And of course don’t hesitate to talk to me, your trusted real estate pro about ideas for making your home even better!

Selling Your Home? Here’s Things NOT to Do!

home seller helpThe market is heating up and with the prospect of selling a home is looking very enticing.  As with any major change, it’s not something to be rushed into, and while it’s easy to start dreaming of where the next chapter of your life will take you there are some very real things to consider to make sure it’s a smooth transition. Everyone knows the basic things like prepping for staging and curb appeal, but here are a few things you might want to NOT do that may not have crossed your mind.

Don’t Hide Things
Now, we’re not talking about tucking the kids toys into the closet or hiding the dog bed when guests come over. This is more about not hiding problems with the home, like cracked foundations, mold, or other real issues that potential buyers will need to deal with. Not only is it dishonest, but it only serves to be a problem issue later when they get the home inspect and it’s found out.

Don’t Over Price
Look at other similar homes for sale in your area, and of course talk with a real estate professional about the market conditions. These are the two best ways to gauge the price you should be selling your home at; your agent should have good insight into the perfect initial price. Don’t worry if they mention reducing the price in a few weeks – this tends to be fairly common in the market.

Don’t Hire The First Realtor You Find
Don’t just type ‘find a realtor’ into google and go with the number one result. Who knows, they may be awesome, but it’s wise to at least check around a little bit to find the right real estate professional for you. Look at not only their experience and track record but also how they interact with you – you will after all be spending at least a decent portion of time with this person, it’s best if you enjoy each others company.

We hope these tips will help you steer clear of these potential pitfalls! It’s easy to get lost in the excitement of a change of life, especially once the process has started, but one sure way to stay on the right path is to work with a REALTOR® you can trust.

Best Kept Home Buyer Secrets

home buyer helpEverybody loves a good secret, a little wink wink inside tip, that in itself is no hidden knowledge.

Buying your first home can be really intimidating and first time home buyers are often full of questions, never having experienced real estate from the inside before; whether your new to the process or an old buying pro we’ve put together some good insight and guidelines to help you get the most for your dollar.

Keep It In Your Pocket
One of the worst things you can do when you’re considering buying a home is to start spending money. In fact, it’s likely wise to put a hold on big expenditures before you even begin looking for a home. Not only will you need all those funds for closing costs, moving, and other things but large purchases – specifically with credit can reflect poorly when it comes time to qualify for a home loan.

Get Pre-Qualified
Boom! Biggest, likely best thing you can do. Talk to a lender – your agent should be able to recommend a few – and see what you’ve got going on in the finance department and see what you still need to take care of. Getting pre-qualified for that home loan will take a lot of the hassle and waiting out of the first part of your home purchase; also keeps you from running around looking at houses that aren’t within your price range.

Don’t Play Romeo
It’s easy to get excited and emotional about the idea of a new home – especially when you find one that is just THE perfect one – but check your emotions at the door. Emotional buying at the market is bad, emotional buying a home can be devastating. Emotions change, your lifestyle will change, and so it’s important to look at your potential new home with a practical eye.

Always Get An Inspection
No, really. ALWAYS. Not having the home inspected is akin to buying a car site unseen without even sitting behind the wheel – much less taking it for a test drive. A home inspection can help you spot major issues as well as minor ones and will save you a lot of pain in the pocketbook.

Bid Boldly, But Be Smart
This isn’t a market for the feint of heart! Big boldly but understand your bid should be based on two things: how much you think the home is worth and how much home you can actually afford. Look at what other homes in the area that are similar have gone for and use that as your metering stick. Don’t be afraid to give a non-round number as a bid either, whether it’s a Jedi mind trick or just science, for some reason sellers often like an odd number as it stands out from all the typical offers they’ve received.

The best advice that’s no secret at all of course is to work with a qualified real estate professional who puts your needs first and listens to what you’ve got in mind. Haven’t found on yet? Get in touch!

Tips to Maintain Your New Homes Value

dollasMany first time home buyers get a big surprise when their home values are different than what they thought they might be; unfortunately it’s rare to buy a home and have it’s value automatically climb with inflation or the market itself.

This is not to say that your home value cannot appreciate, but rather that it doesn’t generally happen overnight. Thankfully there are a few things you can do to help your new home hold it’s value over time – here are some tips to get you on the right path!

Fix Drafts
A drafty house is an inefficient house! Whether it’s Summer or Winter having your HVAC working double time just to keep up with temperature leaks can be a real money drain – when you live there and when it’s time to sell. Find and fix drafts throughout your home to insure that you’re not spending too much on energy costs and to help keep that home value stable.

Regular Ole Maintenance
It seems mundane and ordinary but the run of the mill stuff – that a lot of people just don’t pay attention to – are most often the things that can end up leading to costly repairs if not properly managed. This includes cleaning gutters, changing air filters, and having the furnace serviced – all common things to make sure you keep tabs on.

Landscaping and Curb Appeal
It’s easy to overlook the lawn, even though you walk by it every day, and believe it or not your yard plays a big role in your resale value. Many would-be buyers can be turned off and turned away if the curb appeal isn’t up to snuff. Turns out landscaping is one of the updates you can make to your home with the most return on investment.

Don’t Skimp On The Big Stuff
Need a new furnace? New roof? New Floor? Chances are unless you’re a contractor you don’t have the skill set needed to truly to those big jobs right; doing them wrong can be absolutely disastrous and cost you even more money by needing to have someone come back in and do it right. So don’t skimp! Hire a professional, chances are your agent knows several they can recommend.

Leary about selling? Not sure if the market is ready? Not sure if YOU are ready? Good news – we can help! Get in touch today to find out how a qualified real estate professional can help you avoid pitfalls and make the right choices throughout your next move!

Home Buying: Consider This Before You Start Looking

homesellersThe time has come to buy your first home.

Maybe you’re tired of dealing with a landlord, or your parents are tired of you mooching of them, or maybe you’re just ready – ready to put down some roots, starting building equity, and growing towards a more stable future.

Whatever the reason you’ve been thinking about buying a home there are a lot of costs to consider outside of the actual purchase price of the home that many first time home buyers don’t consider, or don’t even know about. We’ve put together some of these in a quick list to help you get started on the path towards home ownership:

Landscaping – Variable  Cost
Most homes, especially if they’re already built, will come with some sort of basic landscaping – a lawn, maybe a shrubbery or two. Beyond that, getting creating and making the yard your own will be up to you, but even if you leave it as-is there will still be the cost of maintaining the yard. Depending on the size of the yard your plans for it this can be as low a cost as just fertilizing and gas for mowing or well into the thousands of dollars if you go all out.

Appliances – Middle to High Cost
Unless your new home comes pre-furnished  or you’re stealing your room mates stuff chances are you’re going to need appliances. Even if it’s just a couple things, the costs can add up quick – particularly for larger or higher end appliances. Shop around here. Maybe even consider rent-to-own if budget is tight. You can always shop used also, and remember appliances are always something you can upgrade down the road when there may be more finances available.

Insurance – Low to Middle Cost
It’s a good idea. Some would even recommend going a step further and getting a home warranty – this can help you protect those newly acquired appliances and help keep things running smoothly overall. You can plan on about $700 annually for most basic home insurance with prices varying based on the home, amenities, and credit. It may seem like an unnecessary expense, but home insurance can really save your shirt if something unforeseen should happen.

Utilities – Variable Cost
Depending on your previous situation the cost of monthly utilities may not have popped up on the radar, and even so until you’re in the new place using the services for a few months you really won’t know for certain what those costs will be. It’s a good idea to at least plan for a few hundred dollars a month to cover electricity, gas, and water. It never hurts to talk to the neighbors in the area when you’re looking at homes and gently asking what their average utilities run.

Taxes, Fees, Etc Etc – Who Can Say
Plan for the first of the year. Set money aside specifically for “We Just Don’t Know” because that first year will include some surprises whether it be fees from the HOA or cost of repairs, it will happen. Another thing of course is Property Taxes and other tax fees associated with being a homeowner. Don’t fret, it’s all part of putting on those grown up pants and doing the paperwork shuffle .

Your new home should be EXCITING! Nothing will kill that excitement faster than having to turn around and ask the folks for a loan just a few months after moving out all because you didn’t plan ahead. Keep all these things in mind, but more importantly talk to your chosen REALTOR®  ( you DID start with finding a qualified real estate agent first, right? ) they will have insight and advice that can save you a lot of trouble!

Keep Your Home Safe On Vacation!

16222298Warmer weather has arrived and the days are already starting to get longer; this means it’s time to start thinking about getting out and enjoy a little vacation time.  Nothing can ruin the memories of that time well spent like returning home to find a disaster area. Common sense things like turning off water, having mail picked up, and  locking all the doors are easy to remember, but there are some things many people may not have considered.

Here are some things you can do to be proactive in keeping your home safe when you’re out of town.

Save The Status Updates
We know it’s difficult but you might want to save posting those pictures of the vacation until you get back from the trip. Believe it or not, would be evil doers now use social media to see if people are out of town and target their home. If you can’t resist the urge maybe only share pictures via private messages or to selected friends.

Knock Knock!
Of course someone is home! It might not be a bad idea, even if you don’t have pets, to hire a house sitter or talk to a trusted friend about coming over and just spending some time in your home to help make any potential door knockers believe that there is someone home.

Lights!
Burglars often will watch a home for some time and may know your schedule, so they will notice things like a lack of lights on in the house. So, leave a few lights on, or better yet get a timer to have lights come on at dark to give the illusion that someone is home.

What Needs Power
Go through the house before you leave and take a look at what actually needs to be plugged in and what doesn’t. Things like computers, steroes or TV’s that won’t be in use while you’re out can be a big power drain even when not on, worse yet if there is a power surge while you’re gone they might be damaged.

These few things can help keep your home a little bit safer while you’re away enjoying your leisure time. It never hurts to talk to your next door neighbors and let them know you’ll be away so they can keep an eye on the house as well.

Real Advice for First Time Home Buyers

homeraceSo you’re just getting settled into the first new home of your own; as might be expected you’ve learned some valuable lessons during the process of making it yours.

Now, there are plenty of “10 Tips for Home Buyers” out there on the internet, so we won’t bore you with more of those, but what about the things you need to consider that aren’t typical?

Here are a few things that most first time buyers don’t even consider:

Make a Checklist
Buying a home can be an emotional process; ideally you would set those feeling aside to make the most logical decisions. It never happens, but it would be ideal – so a good way to help fight the effects of the inevitable is to make a list of things you want in your new perfect place. Organize it with Must Haves, Would Be Nice, and lastly No Big Deals – this will make it easy to visualize the home you want and clearly asses which items may or may not be deal killers. Print this list out and keep it with you when you’re out house hunting – if nothing else it will keep the important features of your potential home in front of you.

Think Long Term
Thinking long term in home ownership means thinking re-sale. Thinking re-sale means thinking about VALUATION, so consider all the factors that go into improving your home and how easily they can be accomplished. Also, your needs as homeowner will change over time as well; your job may change, you may have kids, or other more unexpected life changes that might not fit with the ideal home you start with.

Grill the HOA
Find out the facts about the Napoleonic authorities that will be governing the home you worked so hard to own. In many cases these over-powered authorities can make your time in your new home difficult at best – and their word is law – so it’s definitely a good idea to find out as much about the HOA organization before you buy. Some might say it may be an even better idea to choose a community that does not have these sort of antiquated restrictions on how you can live in the house you’re paying for.

Don’t Get Upstaged
Houses are often staged for sale in order to look more appealing, and while there’s nothing underhanded about the sellers wanting to present the house in the best light you do need to look through the glamour. Realize that as nice as the house looks now that the furniture and everything else you see will be gone when you move in. Dispel the staging and instead visualize how your own furniture and accessories will fit the home.

The Legends Are True
There are a lot of old adages about real estate…location, location, location of course and buy the view not the house are common. Lesser known axioms that can truly be life savers include: have an emergency fund! Save for your down payment of at least 20%, and start saving early on. Don’t buy more home than you can afford, and avoid large purchases (especially on credit) right before you start house hunting.

The last most obvious tip of course is to work with a qualified and experienced real estate professional. Your REALTOR® will do much more than just shuffle the paper work for you — although believe us you’ll be glad to have them around for that too! If you’re thinking of buying, or are just starting to look don’t hesitate to get in touch and find out how we can help you!

Are You Buying The Right Home? Are You SURE?

home buyersThere’s nothing that quite compares to the feeling of first stepping foot into a new home. The time and effort put in to finding the home, getting through the paper work and procedures have finally paid off and that big breath relief hits you. Ahhh!

But before that golden moment there are a lot of things to consider; as a lot of work goes into that warm happy memory, it’s important to make sure we’ve made all the right decisions along the way. It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of it all but here are a few rational questions you’ll want to ask yourself before you rush into a commitment to buy.

Condition
Unless you are buying new or having your home built this is one of the big items to really take your time with. Will this home need a new roof or other major repairs soon? Will we be in a flood plain? Is the landscape something too lush and extravagant for me to handle on my own? Fixer-upper homes have tons of potential but you have to be ready to own those rough edges until you can smooth them out the way you envision.

Pricing Counts
Even if your lender says the home of your dreams is within your reach you need to make sure you are actually comfortable with the monthly terms. The price of the house itself is not the only factor in the end cost either – don’t forget down payments, closing costs, and other fees (not to mention moving costs!) That new house “ahh moment” might not feel quite as fresh if you are living on ramen for the first year, so it’s always good to plan for more than is listed in the black and white details.

Size Matters
Is the home you’re considering big enough for you or your family? Right combination of bedrooms and baths? Could the living room be a little bigger, or do you need a separate office? You’ll want to make sure the home you select is going to have enough growing room for your needs – in most cases you can expand later but that is often costly.

Creature Comforts
Does your potential dream home have central air conditioning or heat? Maybe you have fantasies about a heated garage floor. Will having a two level house make it difficult for visiting guests? Are there adequate bathrooms to accommodate your traditional summer time patio bbq fiesta? Make sure you give these things some thought even though in most cases adjustments can be made, there should never be a reason to compromise.

Resale Potential
You just got here…and you’re thinking of moving already?! Well, statistics show that people move into a new home nearly every seven years on average. Life can throw some wild curve balls at us without warning; if you were forced to sell your home how easy would that task be? Having a home with high resale potential can help this item not be of concern. Whether it be the newness of the home, it’s location, or special features, generally most homes will have some element that lends them a little extra resale potential. Thinking about the future through home improvements is also a great way to not only protect but to also grow your home investment.

Thinking about all of these things while you are in the home finding mode is a great place to start. Some buyers will fall in love with over the top amenities that often seem attractive in the showing stage but later turn into real headaches. There’s nothing wrong with shooting for the moon, your house should be as fabulous as you can imagine it, but it also never hurts too keep your feet on the ground while your head is in the clouds.

Reasons Why FSBO’s Fail (And Why You Need A Realtor!)

Home-SoldEveryone wants a good deal. Unfortunately that’s the reason many homeowner’s take the For Sale By Owner (FSBO) route instead of hiring a real estate professional. Either they think it will save them money, save them hassle, or they are just confident that they can navigate the process on their own. Fact is, there are some really good reasons why many FSBO efforts fail; they are the same reasons you like should work with a qualified REALTOR®.

Too Many People To Deal With
A person can only handle so much. You’re already dealing with getting the house ready to show, possibly still finding a new place, packing…and then you’re going to meet with the buyer, the buyers agent, your bank, the home inspector, the appraiser, and maybe even an attorney? It’s a full time job just keeping up!

Homeowner’s Don’t Know The Market…or How to Market…
Do you know the median home value for your area? Are you knowledgeable in the best ways to market and advertise your home for maximum return? There are any number of things that need to be taken care of before you even list your home; a good agent should know all of them.

The Process
There’s a lot more to selling a home than just putting a sign in the yard. Even after you’ve found a qualified buyer there are further challenges like the home inspection, home assessment and what to do about them – surprises lurking in your foundation or attic could kill the deal before it even starts. Speaking of qualifying buyers: that’s one of the biggest parts of the deal – just finding people not only interested in your home but who are financially able to buy it.

The Paperwork
This item alone should be caveat enough. Familiarity with the paperwork is essential and not knowing the correct processes can sink a sale quick! The sheer volume of the paperwork itself is another factor as well, not to mention that much of the paperwork itself must follow very specific timelines.

The old adage is true: Many hands make light work!
And considering that you’ll almost need to be in multiple places at once, besides having a familiarity with the system that only comes with experience, a skilled real estate professional is an invaluable asset when it comes time to sell your home.

Insanely Clever Moving Tips!

nicefamilyOne thing most people will agree on: moving will make you CRAZY! And while it’s true that moving can be one of the most physically and emotionally challenging tasks you can take on next to running the ironman marathon there are some ways to keep it clever and add some calm to the chaos. Check out these great ideas!

Think Outside the Box
Boxes are the go to way to pack your stuff, but they might not be the best way to go. For clothes, bulky items, things that squish, or even shoes a good ole plastic trash bag does great! They are durable and best of all they are great for packing in those tight in between empty spaces in the truck.

*bonus tip: if you have luggage use it to pack too! There’s no sense in moving an empty suitcase!

Don’t Pack Clutter
You’re moving to a new place; this is the perfect time for a fresh start! Use this time to de-clutter and get rid of junk you’ve just been holding on to, and whatever you do don’t pack it up and move it with you – it just makes more stuff to move and less usable space when you get where you’re going.

Skip the Bubblewrap
Yes, it’s great fun, and you’ll likely need the stress relief but bubble wrap can be expensive! Get creative and use tshirts and socks to wrap and pack some of your less breakable fragile items – this not only saves on cost and throwing away wrap, it acts as double purpose packing for clothes that you have to move anyway.

Label Doors
Everybody knows to label their boxes but one way to help movers or friends who might be helping is to label the doors of your new home when you get there. Just slap a piece of paper on the door for “Bobbi’s Room” and it will save you a ton of “where does this go?!” questions throughout the day.

Clear Plastic Bins
You can find these fairly affordable, so grab one for each member of the family. Use these clear plastic bins to pack up the more essential day to day items for each person – phone charger, favorite teddy bear, or important medicines. This will make it easier to find those must have items during the whirlwind of activity when the move happens.

Moving is a huge chore – especially if you take it on yourself – but using these simple tips will help make it hopefully just a little less crazy. Not sure if you’re ready to move? Is the market good? The best way to find out is to talk with a qualified real estate professional! Contact me today to find out how I can help!