Spring is the time of year when the housing market typically heats up. Buyers who are financially prepared are attractive to sellers, especially those who have consulted a lender and received a pre-approval letter.
As a buyer, you need to get your financial ducks in a row by taking the necessary steps to be fully prepared to jump into the market so that you can hit the ground running when it comes time to make an offer on your dream home. Home buying transactions have a lot of moving parts, and working with trained professionals will ensure that you have someone assisting you every step of the way.
Check Your Credit Score
Check not only your credit score, but your credit report to ensure that it is accurate and that you don’t have any red flags that would keep you from getting approved by a lender. Problems, such as late payments and judgments or wrong information, can keep you from getting loan approval.
Secure Access to Down Payment
Make sure you have the necessary down payment and closing costs on hand, depending on the type of loan you qualify for or want to apply for, so that you are able to complete the transaction once you are under contract.
Find a Great Mortgage Lender
Consult a reputable lender who can help you determine the best loan products and scenarios for your individual situation. First time buyers, especially, can get loan products designed to assist with down payment and/or closing costs.
Your Realtor is Your Personal Advocate
Work closely with your Realtor who is specifically trained to help you find a lender, a home, and a settlement agent who can make the transaction proceed as smoothly as possible. Your Realtor is your advocate!
Buying a new home is an exciting adventure, but it can be stressful. Ensuring your financial picture is in order will go a long way towards making the process more relaxing and enjoyable. Contact us for assistance with the entire home buying process. We are ready to be of service to you!
You want to sell your home, and you want to get top dollar. You added thousands in renovations, but did those thousands you spent translate into added value? Many homeowners pour money into upgrades and additions only to find that the dollars were not wisely spent on things that would induce buyers to pay more for their home. So, how do you know if your upgrades added actual dollar value to your home versus simply making it more marketable?
Know Your Market
One of the biggest mistakes that homeowners make in renovating is upgrading beyond the market for their location. If the houses in your neighborhood are all roughly 2000 square feet and you add an additional 1000 square feet, you probably will not get your money out of it when you go to sell. Almost all home sales are subject to an appraisal. (Most lenders require an appraisal and even many cash buyers will require an one.) An appraiser has to show comparable properties in the area to assure that the property is good collateral for the lender. If the appraiser can’t find comparable properties, your house will be appraised at a level where it will actually sell, which likely won’t be top dollar. So, if you’re going to add square footage, be aware of how you are positioning yourself relative to your location.
Kitchens and Bathrooms Sell Houses
There is an adage in real estate that says that kitchens and bathrooms are the most important rooms in your house for resale. There is some truth to that. While the saying oversimplifies reality, a nice kitchen still goes a long way in impressing potential buyers. Again, know your market, but even in smaller homes, buyers like to see high end finishes, especially in the kitchen. When everyone around you is sporting granite or marble countertops, or some other expensive finish, that old laminate counter will not impress anyone. Dingy, worn cabinets, old appliances, and yellowing vinyl floors will turn off buyers quickly. And while you’re at it, update faucets, fixtures, and hardware, too. Bathrooms are also important, especially in the master suite. If you’re going to sacrifice part of your master bath to expand your walk-in closet, make sure you renovate the bathroom with high end finishes at the same time. If your master bath is smaller, it needs to be impressive. It won’t matter that you spent $20,000 on that closet expansion if it makes the bathroom look cramped and shabby.
But I Spent $100 Grand On That Garage!
You needed additional space for your boat, your RV, your motorcycles and your ATV, so you spared no expense building a slammin’ garage that’s completely finished and even has a rec room over it. Unfortunately, when you go to sell, buyers don’t see $100,000 additional value in having that magnificent garage. The value of some additions and improvements is only obvious to the current homeowner. If you built it knowing that it’s for your own personal pleasure, terrific, but do it with the understanding that buyers may not think it’s worth what you did.
Regular Maintenance Items Do Just That, Maintain Your Home’s Value
Homes require regular maintenance, especially as they age and things wear out. A roof usually lasts anywhere from 20-30 years, but a worn out roof will eventually need to be replaced. Windows, too, only last for a certain period of time before they have to be repaired or replaced. Flooring endures a tremendous amount of wear and tear, and has to be replaced or refinished. Cabinetry also has a tendency to become marred and worn over time. Repairing or replacing these items probably will not add dollar value to your home, unless you upgrade significantly. Even then, know your market. A well maintained home is very attractive to buyers, but upgrading beyond the real market value of your home will not necessarily net you additional money. However, maintaining your home will make it more marketable.
Paint Long and Prosper
Painting walls, trim, and wooden exteriors is sort of boring and is something that most people don’t like to do. Whether you do it yourself or hire someone to do it, clean, fresh paint goes a long way towards pleasing buyers. That grapey purple bedroom that your teenager thought was cool or that fire engine red dining room that was so popular in the 1990s could be a show stopper for potential buyers. While it’s not necessary to paint rooms that are done in muted or neutral colors, wild colors or textures (hopefully, we’ve seen the last of sponge painting) can be a deterrent to buyers. Trendy decorating is just that, trendy. The same goes for personal preferences; they’re personal and may not be shared by buyers. Let’s face it, painting is one of those mundane chores that isn’t sexy or fun, but it’s an improvement that makes a big difference in how buyers view your house.
And The Walls Come Tumbling Down
Open floor plans have become popular in the last few years, and they can be very appealing to buyers. Sometimes, it’s easy to remove walls and open up closed in spaces, but it can also be expensive. If you decide to renovate to open up a space, know exactly what you’re getting into and how much it will cost. Also, make sure that removing walls actually makes sense for the space you are reinventing. Simply tearing down walls may not make it more useable or practical. If you’re unsure, it may pay to consult a designer who is skilled at creating beautiful, practical spaces. Many buyers will be attracted to an open living space, and it is something that can add value to your home, but once again, you don’t want the cost to outpace the marketplace.
The Great Outdoors
Another area where it’s easy to get carried away with renovations is outdoor spaces, such as decks, patios, and gardens. Make no mistake, beautiful spaces outside your home can make it more attractive to buyers, giving it curb appeal or creating the feeling of luxury. But just as with any other renovation, it’s easy to spend a lot of money for improvements that won’t translate into additional dollars at sale. A gorgeous $20,000 water feature is awesome, but buyers may not see the value. The same thing goes for swimming pools. They’re called “an attractive nuisance” for a reason. They are expensive to install, maintain, and insure, and many buyers actually are very specific about not wanting a house with a pool. No matter how much they might like the house, the pool may stop them from even scheduling a showing. Sprinkler systems and water treatment systems are another feature that may make a home more marketable, but won’t necessarily add value. It’s okay to love your outdoor spaces, and many buyers want beautiful outdoor surroundings, but if you spent a bundle creating your own personal park like setting, don’t expect to get the money back out of it when you sell.
An Ounce of Prevention
Many renovations require a building permit and inspections to complete, and if you don’t get the work permitted, it can create major headaches when you try to sell. That additional bedroom you and your brother-in-law built onto the back of your house on the weekends isn’t reflected in the tax database because you didn’t get it permitted, and the appraiser is having trouble valuing your property because of it. Now, the city or county is requiring you to get the permits and inspections, but you will have to do some additional work to bring it up to code. Oops! If you aren’t sure whether your project needs a permit, contact your local government office and they will be happy to advise you about whether you need one and the processes and costs involved. If you’re using a contractor, they should know how to acquire permits and schedule inspections during construction. It is not uncommon for homeowners to have to make additional renovations to an existing project because they didn’t get the proper permits and inspections at the time the projects were done.
As your Realtors, we will be happy to advise you about pricing your property and which improvements add value versus making it more marketable. Contact us for a complimentary Comparative Market Analysis that will help you determine whether you can recoup the money you’ve put into renovations and improvements. We are ready to be of service to you!
Most homeowners would like to make some improvements on their abode. Inconveniences of the home become so “normal” that they are hardly noticed – consciously. However, they may be creating subconscious irritations that impact your life – and the enjoyment of your relationships – every day. Let’s look at 3 types of improvements that can make a difference in the harmony of your home.
The little irritants can often be eliminated with improvements to maintenance issues. Do you enjoy standing in water while showering due to a slow drain? When it does drain, you have soap scum on your feet and either wipe it on the towel or rinse your feet when it’s drained. This can waste a valuable few minutes and start the day with an unnecessary irritant. Slow drains at any fixture can usually be remedied without significant investment. Liquid drain cleaners work well as a short-term solution. However, you may need to really clean the drain or in more difficult circumstances, rework some plumbing. One way of cleaning out the clogs is to use a plumbing snake. Personally, I think you come up with a very dirty snake that is a mess to clean. You may not need to invest in the snake, just grab a bucket, put it under the trap, and remove it. Then you can clean them out easily or just replace them with a new one. They should be hand tightened if they are PVC but a pair of channel lock pliers will do the trick with most any trap. Note: shower drains are sometime hard piped and may not be removable so you might need that snake.
An outside irritant is a clogged gutter that put the water where you don’t want it. That may cause dampness and a soggy yard or wash away that mulch your spouse spent a weekend putting in place. If you are comfortable working on a ladder, clean them yourself – usually twice a year. If you try to stay off ladders, or have a two-story house, hire someone for that work. The cost may be less than your emergency room insurance deductible. Ask your neighbors and friends for recommendations or check Craigslist.
There are almost limitless opportunities to eliminate maintenance irritants – light bulbs (replace with LEDs that last longer), carpet (replace the builder grade with something more serviceable), landscaping (check with your local nursery for plants that need less maintenance), etc. If you don’t see problems, ask your spouse and be willing to listen without becoming defensive.
When you bought your home, you probably did not get everything on your wish list. Even the things you liked may have become obsolete and have better solutions. Upgrading some of those things can provide more enjoyment of your home and happiness in it. Maybe you have laminate countertops and your friends have granite, marble, or quartz. When you entertain, you feel self conscious about it. Upgrading the counters are not too expensive but be aware that it may cause other aspects of your kitchen to look shabby. Cabinets, in particular, may look worse next to that shiny new granite. If you don’t have the money for new ones, consider reworking the existing cabinets at a fraction of the cost. It is likely they are built better than most new ones.
Other upgrade improvements to consider are replacing problematic carpet with hardwood, laminate, or tile. These will hold up and look good longer while taking less work to maintain. This leaves more time for family and fun!
Renovations are the big-ticket items that you undertake occasionally – or never. They can be hard on relationships if you don’t plan carefully. We renovated our kitchen once including removing walls, new cabinets, lighting, windows, and floors. Our kitchen was out of service for almost 3 months but the results were amazing! Good renovations can make the difference between loving your home and leaving it.
As realtors, we advise clients to consider two questions when purchasing a new home. What is it that you cannot live with? and What can you not live without? The things people cannot live with often involve location – distance from work, near major road, etc. Those things cannot be changed without moving. When you purchased your home, you may have settled for something you couldn’t live with because of limitations. Perhaps it is something you can change like only one bathroom, no utility room, no garage, cramped kitchen, etc.
It is more likely that you bought a home without something you see as a deep need or desire. If you love to cook, that may be a gourmet kitchen. If you are a weekend mechanic/classic car lover, that may mean a garage. Adding a master bath would help a lot too!
Savoring Family Relationships
These improvements make your home much more of what you want it to be by meeting the needs and desires of you and your family. Some of them are easy so begin with them. Identify the importance and feasibility of the renovations, research them rigorously, and plan for them carefully. If you find that your desired renovation is not feasible at your current home, call us to find the home that will fit you and your family for the years ahead and be a place where your relationships flourish!
Patrick Whitaker, PhD, Realtor
You’ve decided it’s time to sell your house. Now, you need to get it ready to go on the market. There are several measures you can take, inside and out, that will make it highly attractive to buyers.
You only get one chance to make a first impression on buyers, so the exterior of your house should radiate curb appeal. A well maintained house is very appealing to buyers, especially those who are looking for “move in ready.” When they see a beautiful exterior, they are much more likely to have positive expectations about the interior.
- Power wash the exterior of the house and clean out gutters, if needed. Keep the lawn cut, leaves raked, and the shrubs trimmed and free of debris. Weed and mulch flower beds. Sweep sidewalks and the driveway to keep walking paths clear. Neatness counts!
- The entrance should say, “Welcome, Please Come In.” Clean and paint the front door and any woodwork that shows signs of wear. Arrange flower pots around the front porch.
- If you have a deck or patio, make sure it is clean and tidy, especially if you have a grill. Clean outdoor furniture and decorate the deck or patio with flowers, if possible.
- If you have a garage, clean it out and get rid of excessive clutter. Garages often become the place that gets the least attention from home owners because, after all, it’s “just the garage.” However, a neat, clean garage sends a signal to buyers that you care about the condition of the entire property.
- Check under your house for any leaking pipes, insect damage or rotting wood. If necessary, have a licensed contractor make repairs. Also, check exterior faucets for leaks or damage.
- Even the condition of the mailbox communicates the condition of the house to buyers. Clean the mailbox post if it shows signs of dirt or mildew and replace the mailbox if it’s dented or worn out.
Once buyers have seen a beautiful exterior, they will be excited to tour the interior. Make sure the interior meets their expectations.
- Again, neatness counts! Nothing turns off buyers more quickly than dirt and clutter. Buyers will be impressed if the house is clean and tidy, especially the kitchen and bathrooms. If possible, replace worn fixtures and appliances. New, modern appliances can really enhance the look of your kitchen and new bathroom faucets can eliminate years of deterioration.
- De-clutter is not the same as de-personalize. Buyers are comfortable seeing some personal items that make your house a home, but they will not be comfortable if there is too much stuff in the way. When it comes to furniture, counters, and tabletops, less is more. They should be able to visualize their own personal furnishings in the home.
- Closets, too, should be neat and uncluttered. Store any out of season clothing or items you don’t need immediately. You’re moving anyway, so you might as well get a head start on packing. Attics and basements can be used for storage, but even they should be arranged neatly.
- Painting rooms is nice, but it’s necessary only if you have unusual colors or textures, or the paint is dirty. That deep purple bedroom or lime green bathroom could be a sticking point for buyers who see dollar signs to have rooms painted.
- Clean carpets, rugs, and hard surface floors. Replace any flooring or floor coverings that show signs of wear and tear.
- Wash windows and glass in doors, especially on the sunny side of the house where sunlight streaming in may expose dirt and streaks.
- Clean out the fireplace if it’s wood burning. Buyers will open fire screens to look at the inside of the fireplace. Make sure the hearth is clean and free of ashes, wood chips or other debris from the fire box.
- You love your pets, but they may be an issue for buyers who can be turned off by dog or cat hair or pet smells all over the house. Keep cat boxes clean and as much out of the way as possible, and clean up any excess hair or dirt left by pets. Even a dirty fish tank or bird cage could put off a buyer.
Sellers also need to have a handle on the financial status of their house. Too often, sellers are met with an unwelcome surprise when they find out at closing that they owe more on the house than they thought, cutting into the amount of money they expected to make.
- Check with your lender to ascertain the balance of your loan and if there are any late fees or penalties that will attach at settlement.
- Make sure there are no tax or mechanics liens on your property. If so, they will have to be paid prior to settlement.
- If you have an HOA/POA or Community Association, bring your dues and any special assessments levied by your association up-to-date.
The more appealing your house is, inside and out, the more likely you are to get a quick contract at a good price. Items that need to be repaired or replaced are red flags for buyers who will be adding up the dollars it will take to do the work, inviting a lowball offer or worse, no offer at all. One way to avoid nasty surprises when a potential buyer has a home inspection is to have a pre-listing inspection to uncover problems that can be addressed before you put your house on the market.
As your Realtors, we will advise you on preparing, pricing, showing, and negotiating offers. We will help you find reputable contractors to do any necessary work and market your property for maximum exposure, keeping you informed of buyer feedback and potential interest. We can suggest settlement agents who will take care of the paperwork and work with the buyer’s settlement agent to ensure a smooth transaction. We will be with you before, during and after the sale, answering any questions and concerns you have along the way. As your Realtors, we advocate for you every step of the way. We are ready to be of service to you!
Page 2 of 2