Buying a home is overwhelming – plain and simple. There are just so many decisions to make. When is a good time to buy? What neighborhoods are on the upswing? How old is too old? How much is too much? Are we truly fixer-upper kind of people? How badly do we need a fenced yard? Do the neighbors look friendly? More importantly, do they look quiet? Which lender is the best? What in the world is an adjustable rate mortgage? Is this really worth all the stress?
Okay, let’s slow it down and tackle those questions one at a time, starting with the easiest: Yes, it really is worth all the stress.
Next, we’ll jump up a level and work through a tougher one: the world of adjustable rate mortgages. But before we go too deep, let’s look at its counterpart – the fixed rate mortgage – because to understand one, you have to understand the other.
Fixed Rate Mortgages
The fixed rate mortgage is just that – a mortgage that has a fixed interest rate, one that does not change over the life of the loan. Whether it be 10 years or 30, that interest rate is going to stay the same.
For homebuyers who prefer to stay on-budget, tend to avoid financial risk, or plan to stay in the home for at least five years, the fixed rate mortgage is most likely the best bet. While the interest rate might be higher than the initial percentage offered on an adjustable rate mortgage, over the life of the loan, homeowners tend to pay a considerable amount less in interest. Additionally, this route allows the buyer to build a budget and stick to it as the payment amount never changes (not withstanding any escrow payments that could fluctuate due to property taxes or insurance costs).
Those looking for consistency in their monthly expenditures and a bit more peace of mind in the homebuying process will do well to consider this type of loan. Fixed rate mortgages are dependable, reliable, steadfast – much like that trusty dog laying by your side, the one you just have to get a fenced yard for, right? Seriously. There are so many questions.
Adjustable Rate Mortgages (ARMS)
So back to the big one: What in the world is an adjustable rate mortgage? Let’s start with the basics. An adjustable rate mortgage (ARM), also commonly referred to as a variable rate mortgage, is a loan in which the interest rate is subject to change after a fixed number of years. This type of loan usually begins at an attractively low rate for the initial period (typically 3, 5, 7 or 10 years) after which time the interest rate adjusts annually or even monthly based on the index it is tied to.
These types of mortgages often appeal to buyers planning to sell the home prior to the end of the initial fixed period, those hoping for more house than their current debt-to-income ratio allows, or folks purchasing a second home for the purpose of future rental income to help offset the increase in payment amounts. An ARM can be a great option for buyers with specific goals like these, but like all methods of financing, it is important to do ample research before laying down any signatures. To better understand how variable rates are determined, organizations like Debt.org are available to fill in the blanks. Mortgage calculators designed to help consumers considering variable rate loans are also a handy tool.
Financing a home is a big deal, and the decision on which type of mortgage to pursue plays a key role in how quickly and comfortably you can pay down that debt. For this reason, be sure to take your time, plug in the numbers and ask great questions of your lender before making the final decision. An adjustable rate mortgage might just be the ticket, but much like those seemingly serene neighbors, looks can be deceiving. In five years, that quiet couple might have four barking dogs, two sets of twins, a new affinity for the drums and a rooster that crows from sun up to midnight – and that’s okay as long as you had the foresight to plan for the increase in volume, as long as you’ve prepped during the honeymoon period and stocked up on ear plugs. An adjustable rate mortgage is kind of like that, a perfectly suitable option for those who are well-prepared.
For more information and to talk with a lender to find out which option is best for you, give me a call!
The term “seller’s market” is something we have heard a lot over the past couple years, but does that mean you put forth less effort to market your home properly…NO! Favorable interest rates and an influx of millennial buyers have created demand for houses as well as home loans. Now is a GREAT time to sell! But while garnering an offer might be easier than in years past, good marketing and preparation are still extremely important.
- Prep work pays.Some sellers order a pre-inspection from a licensed home inspector ($300-$500). Others consult with their Realtor regarding potential issues and fix things before their home goes onto the market. When demand for homes is high, sellers may be tempted to list a home as-is (i.e. without fixing it up first), but this will result in lowball offers. Consult with a professional to learn where the weakest links exist in your home and remedy those problems before you go to market. Some of the issues known to curtail a full-price offer include:
- Missing/damaged roof shingles
- Peeling paint on the exterior and bold color choices inside
- Dirty windows
- A chimney in need of maintenance or one that has never been inspected or cleaned
- Mold in the attic. Even just a few inches of non-toxic mold or mold residue can alarm buyers.
- Decluttering is a big deal.This applies whether our economy is at the height of excess or the bottom of the barrel. Cluttered spaces are a big turn-off to buyers. Also, personal tastes matter, so consider repainting your rooms with neutral colors. Granted, this makes absolutely no financial sense. Things like bright paint colors and too much furniture really shouldn’t make a difference to potential buyers, but they make a difference nonetheless. Consider some of the following modifications before you present your home on the marketplace:
- Neutral paint colors – You can save on cost by purchasing 5-gallon buckets and painting every interior room the same color as long as you choose from a neutral palette.
- A home that looks “lived-in” is not necessarily a good thing. Have a friend or family member walk through your home and offer you a fresh perspective on your space. If they think an area looks cluttered or contains unnecessary furniture, have a garage sale, donate unneeded items, or move some things into a rented storage space before you schedule any showings. Keep in mind you are moving so boxing things you won’t be using regularly is suggested.
- Clean, clean, clean.Make sure your home is spotless for every showing. If you’re averse to cleaning or don’t know where to start, hire a professional cleaning crew. Some areas of deep-cleaning that you might have overlooked until now include:
- Light fixtures including ceiling fans
- Check the attic.Get up into your attic. Inspect and clean the area. Pretend to be a buyer and look for any “red flags” that need addressed. Better to do this now than during the inspection phase of your transaction. Also, inspect any other forgotten areas like storage closets and cellars.
- First Impressions Matter.Buyers have choices. Put your home’s best face forward by doing the following.
- Work with a real estate agent who commissions a professional photographer. Most buyers begin their home search on the internet and will use photos to decide whether an actual showing appointment is worth their time.
- Do an exterior audit of your home before you list and before each showing. Was there a storm last night that blew leaves and sticks around? Did Fido leave a little presents in the yard? Buyers are understandably critical as they approach the front door of the biggest investment of their life, so show them more positives than negatives.
- Keep the grass mowed or sidewalks shoveled free of snow
Consider a Home Warranty.
- Home warranties have been around for several years now and can sweeten the deal for a prospective buyer. For around $400 you can offer buyers one year of enhanced insurance against unexpected repair costs. Longer coverage periods are also available.
When you’re ready to bring your product to market, don’t go it alone. Work with a real estate agent adept at marketing who can advise you on proper presentation of your home. Also, negotiate with buyers who are financially informed. Even in a seller’s market, enlisting the help of professionals puts you in the best position possible when it’s time to price, negotiate, and close on the sale of your home. Remember that “inking” the contract isn’t an end but a beginning.
Mortgage industry terms—there are many and it can be hard to make sense of them, especially when they seem so similar. Pre-qualification and pre-approval are often used interchangeably, but there are some major differences between the two. Both options can be helpful to your Realtor and other mortgage professionals while shopping for a home, but a pre-approval can help you further along your mortgage journey than a pre-qualification. This guide will help break down the benefits of both options.
How Pre-Qualification and Pre-Approval Differ
1.Pre-approval gives you a more accurate estimate.
2.A pre-approval will give you a much bigger picture of the home you can afford. After you finish the pre-approval process, you will receive a formal letter that states what your budget is. Your pre-approval is usually good for 90-120 days, but can be easily refreshed.
4. A pre-approval is going to give you documentation on your credit from a hard inquiry, as well as information on your assets, income, and debts. This is usually the first step after applying for a mortgage, so it is very helpful to your mortgage professional if this is already complete.
How Pre-Qualification and Pre-Approval are Similar
1. They can estimate the loan amount you qualify for.
When you first start looking for a home, you will have your own thoughts about how much house you can afford. Getting either a pre-qualification or pre-approval will give you an estimate based on things like income and credit score. From there, you can start to eliminate homes that are too high for your price range and start to look for the home that fits all of your needs including your budget.
2. They can show sellers that you are a serious buyer.
When we are experiencing a seller’s market, which means the housing inventory is low and houses don’t stay in the market for long, it can be important to have a pre-qualification or pre-approval. This will show the seller’s that you have already gone to a mortgage professional and taken the first steps in buying their home. This means you are a more serious buyer, which is a more confident sell for them!
3. They can give you a better chance of getting a loan for the amount you’ve offered the seller.
Getting a pre-qualification or pre-approval means that a professional has taken time to look through your finances to see what you will qualify for. As you continue through the mortgage process, you will receive a loan amount that is not far off from what you have already been approved or qualified for.
You’ll save yourself and others a lot of time and energy by getting pre-approved for home financing. Most real estate agents prefer that you have a letter of pre-approval before starting to shop for a home. The great news is that there is no charge and no commitment to go through our easy online pre-approval process with a trusted lender.
I get asked this A LOT…..how much money am I going to get back if I remodel, or if I upgrade my kitchen counter tops and paint my cabinets, replace my flooring, etc.? A question I ALWAYS ask in my design consultations is what the foreseeable future looks like. Are we upgrading or modifying for you for 2 years, 5 years, 10 years? That has a definite impact on how we proceed. In real estate, I will work with clients many months in advance sometimes because the seller is curious where to allocate funds to take care of necessary repairs, deferred maintenance, and suggested updating. Education and conversation assists my clients in making choices they feel confident about.
The biggest misconception I see (reality TV home improvement shows have influenced this) is that homeowners expect to profit from their investment after upgrading or putting money in to their home. Obviously, that is the goal if you are flipping homes, but for homes that are owner occupied, if you spend $2500 on new counter tops, don’t expect that the value of your home has now increased by $5,000.
I wrote an article recently on the difference between upgrades and deferred maintenance. If you haven’t cleaned your carpets in well over a year, touched up your exterior trim paint that’s peeling, have a roof that’s 20 years old, or ever had your furnace professional serviced, the cost to take care of those first (considered more necessary) may impact what you have left to upgrade a bathroom, for example. What some folks may not realize is that taking care of needed repairs and possibly doing some updating may be what your home needs in order to put it more in line with the comparable homes around you so that it sells for a comparable price and much faster.
Our goal is to enhance your home whether it is for you or for the next homeowner, or a combination of the two. If selling, we want to attract as many buyers as possible while maximizing your home’s potential to appeal to each of those buyers.
One of the questions buyers often wonder is whether it is necessary to have a buyer’s agent when purchasing new construction. The answer is a resounding yes! Some don’t even think about it or realize you can and should use a buyer’s agent when considering building.
As with any home purchase, there are too many potential pitfalls, hidden risks, and complications involved in the process to guarantee a good result unless you have experienced help.
It is vital to have a list of questions to ask a builder before moving forward. The answers to these questions could have a dramatic impact on whether you enjoy your home building experience or end up a frustrated mess!
Your agent can help ensure you hire the right builder. With new construction just about anything can go wrong. You are, after all, building a home that takes a while to construct. There are a number of things that can cause problems including weather, labor shortages, as well as issues with materials.
While you can choose to work with any real estate agent, having someone in your corner with experience selling new construction can be a huge asset! A buyer’s agent can guide you on appropriate upgrades and plan modifications, as well as choosing the right neighborhood and lot location. Many buyers do not realize when they drive by a new neighborhood and see “Homes Starting At” what is not included in the base package price.
Real estate purchases involve a lot of paperwork, documents that can be confusing and overwhelming. Your agent will make sure all the paperwork is filled and filed correctly. They will also ensure you are fully educated on the warranty policy offered by the builder and will address questions you may not think to ask.
The agent at the builder’s site represents the builder, not you. You do not want to go directly to the listing agent in most circumstances, so why would you not consider a buyer’s agent for new construction? When buying any home it is always wise to have an exclusive buyer’s representative in your corner working hard for your best interests.
Most households acquire a host of cherished items over time. Eventually, you may find yourself surrounded by more possessions than you can handle. Whether you are considering retiring in your own home or moving to a new space, it is important to create a plan to live comfortably. There are many issues that arise that can make the upkeep and maintenance of the home a challenge. Preparing for a new “rightsized” space can be an overwhelming prospect, especially when you have a home full of memories and keepsakes to go through.
5 tips to help you prepare to “Rightsize” for whatever comes next in your life.
Don’t be ashamed to get rid of items that belong to other people.
Quite often, the first place you can begin to clear is where other people’s items gather. Have you held on to your children’s old furniture or stored items for family and friends? If your answer is yes, start clearing their items. Contact family members and friends to find out if they want their items back or no longer have use for them.
Reduce your inventory of seasonal décor items.
Seasonal décor is often difficult for many of us to part with because of the sentimental value and memories attached to the items. Unfortunately, many of us end up with more memorable decorative items than we have room for. This is a sign to declutter before you decorate! Decluttering can save you time and money while allowing you to take inventory of all the wonderful items you want to preserve.
Dispose of broken and outdated items…..things that no longer fit.
In most cases, broken items are no longer useful or functional, but a hazard. Consider discarding well worn, old, holey, or torn clothing, bed linens, and towels as well as chipped or broken dinnerware. We all have those jeans in our closet that we will get back in to some day or clothes our kids have simply outgrown.
Start the process by identifying items you absolutely love and need.
Experts say the purpose of this process “is to create a new living environment that reflects a meaningful, comfortable lifestyle for the years ahead. Personal possessions that have purpose and meaning are honored and preserved for the new home.” After deciding what items are you need to live safely and comfortably, such as a bed, place for clothes or eating utensils, you can then consider which items you love most that are not essential to daily life or comfort.
Be patient and prioritize
In a world driven by immediacy, we often want instant results. Remember that Rightsizing is a process that works best with a plan and lots of patience.
For every milestone in our lives, we use space differently. Re-evaluate, adjust, and modify based on your needs in the present and for the future at a length of time you are comfortable with.
In our market we definitely have our fair share of multiple offer situations, especially in the heat of buying and selling season. How do we handle them as a buyer and seller?
Buyer: You have found the perfect home, but so have 3 other people and after putting in your offer, your REALTOR delivers the news that other offers have been received as well. You may have even been notified of this up front before putting in your offer. One of the first things I do as an Agent representing a buyer is verify status of the property to ensure I am in tune with the interest level. If a property has been on the market for a bit of time, chances are multiple offers are not in the equation, but the potential is always there. There are some factors that will determine how you will compete with others in this situation. How strong is your financing, down payment, length of time to move, do you have another home to sell in order to move forward with this purchase, just to name a few, AND how much do you LOVE the property? In a multiple offer situation, sometimes people get caught up in the competition and intensity of it, so they are willing to pay more for the home than they would in a less tense negotiation. How can we try to avoid competing with other offers? First, consider the time of year you are shopping. If you have a very strict budget and are shopping in a competitive price range, if possible, try to avoid shopping for a home when the majority of other people are. If this is unavoidable, we will discuss, in length, the strategies we will take.
Seller: You have prepped well to list your home. Your REALTOR feels strongly that you have a product that will be in high demand, however nothing is guaranteed to bring multiple offers once you hit the market. But they come and you are SO excited! In most situations, multiple offers tend to come very quickly after a property is marketed, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possibly after either. Trust in your Agent’s experience and expertise to evaluate each and every offer received to determine if: A) you want to select one to move forward with or B) you want to request that each person who has interest is given the opportunity to submit their highest and best offer by a certain day and time. There are a few factors to keep in mind while driving the price up. Will the property appraise for the agreed purchase price and if it does not, then what? What is the circumstance of the sale with each and every buyer…..is it contingent upon another sale, what are their financing terms, can they close when it is convenient for you, so on and so forth. Selecting the highest price is not always best.
In any negotiation, your REALTOR will provide you with the best advice possible, but the ultimate decision is yours!
Too often clients planning to sell their home confuse the difference between deferred maintenance and updating. When was the last time you had your furnace maintenance? Cleaned your duct work or carpets? How about the paint chipping on exterior trim? While many homes that are “updated” tend to sell faster, do not ignore maintenance and upkeep of home ownership. When it comes time to sell, some of my clients are surprised at the cost of to take care of deferred maintenance.
Being you live in the home daily, dirty siding, cracked mortar joints, or paint touch ups may not be as noticeable to you, but they are VERY important for the next buyer. I try to help my clients understand the cost and obligation associated with the musts in order to move on to what we need to do in terms of updating. The cleanliness of your home is also a representation of how well you may have, or may not have, taken care of other aspects of the home. I am speaking in terms of return vents, blinds, base boards, interior of appliances and light fixtures, etc. being cleaned…the things you don’t think about regularly when you put in a pair of earbuds and go to town with the vacuum or Swiffer on a Saturday afternoon.
Transforming your house from a home to a product (to sell) can be a challenge for some, especially those with a busy lifestyle, children, two full-time working adults, pets, etc. Planning ahead is key to avoid stressful crunch time. I offer very helpful and easy to follow guidelines for all of my clients in terms of prepping to sell, being ready for inspection, and staging your home for showings.
I would be honored to help you!
The cool temps have arrived and there are armies of pests busy looking for ways to infiltrate our homes. We can take steps to avoid the bands of bugs and vermin hoping to claim our dwelling for themselves.
Seal It Up
While this tactic is relatively time-consuming, expending the energy to seal up your windows, doors and foundation is definitely effective. Without easy entry, pests hoping for a new home will have to go next door. As an added benefit, you will also increase your energy efficiency, thus lowering your heating and cooling bills, while also protecting your home against water damage resulting from leaky foundations. There are DIY options out there for the aspiring handyman, but plenty of companies specialize in this type of work, as well.
Keep a Clean House
It’s easier said than done, but keeping your home clean is a great way to help prevent pests. Understanding that a lot of common household nuisances are attracted to food (think ants and mice), it is essential to keep your non-perishable items in airtight containers and promptly clean up spills and kitchen messes. Maintaining a tidier home can alert you to potential problems much sooner, too, as bugs have fewer places to hide, helping you avoid an all-out infestation by catching the issue early.
Make Fleas Flee
Fleas are right up there with bed bugs and head lice when it comes to the amount of work it takes to rid your home of infestation. Because of this, prevention is your best bet. Pet owners of both indoor and outdoor animals should be vigilant with monthly anti-flea meds. Use of these products is encouraged throughout the winter months, as well, since unforeseen thaws and warmer temps are all it takes for eggs to hatch. A few bucks a month will save you a huge hassle and extermination bill down the road – not to mention hours of itching.
There are several products at various retail stores that will stop pests and insects from wanting to enter your home. Utilizing these at key times throughout the year is very beneficial. There are also Professionals who offer a regular routine service to take care of this for you.
Home is where you often go to relax and de-stress after a long day. Sometimes though, home can be the cause of our stress. This happens to a lot of us when our house is cluttered or unorganized.
There are many steps you can take to eliminate the clutter and start creating a stress free environment for yourself. Here’s just a few of them:
IDENTIFY YOUR STRESS TRIGGERS
Does it drive you crazy when you get home from work and there are ten pairs of shoes by the door? Do you hate opening your overstuffed pantry cabinet and getting a can of green beans straight to the face? Whatever your top stress trigger is, remove it immediately! It may seem small but your irritability will begin to diminish by removing even one of your stressors. The more stress triggers you remove, the better you’ll feel.
TAKE A WEEKEND TO ORGANIZE
None of us feel like cleaning when we get off work, so make the effort to set aside a weekend and get everything in your home cleaned and organized. By doing this once you can maintain the cleanliness by simply picking up the house 10-15 minutes every couple of days. Closets, storage areas and pantries seem to get the least attention but we are reminded each time we view those spaces that they may need some organizing. Choose small projects here and there so you don’t feel overwhelmed.
FIND YOUR HAPPY PLACE
With your stress triggers eliminated and your house clean and organized, you can begin to find what relaxes you. Create a space where you can go to feel your best. Whether that be the living room you designed or your bedroom that always brings you comfort. By taking even a couple minutes to yourself in this setting you can reduce some of the stress picked up throughout the day!
While there are many other steps and strategies to reduce stress at home, these are a couple that can be done quickly and easily (and even provide some instant gratification).
You probably spend the majority of your time at work and at home. You have the ability to control the stress levels at one of these places, use it!