NEW BUYER beware!

If you’re looking to become a first-time homeowner, it’s easy to get excited, and in the process, get ahead of yourself. There are several financial aspects you must examine when navigating the purchasing process. Here are a few important warnings, or homebuying ‘don’ts,’ that you should consider.

Don’t delay on getting preapproved. Just because you say you’re in the browsing stage of buying a home doesn’t mean the home of your dreams won’t fall into your lap. If you find a home that you love before you’ve been approved for a home loan, you may be out of luck. Due to a low inventory of homes across the country, competition is high, so don’t delay getting preapproved.

Don’t ignore closing costs. Closing costs, which can involve a wide variety of fees, are often forgotten during the excitement of the homebuying experience. Many people focus strictly on the down payment costs when shopping, but escrow, application and inspection fees may apply to you during the closing process. Be sure to budget for these extra expenses.

Don’t forget about month to month costs. Whether it’s normal living expenses or taxes, insurance and homeowner’s association fees, you’ll be spending money related to your home on a monthly basis. Expenses such as utility costs for water and electricity often get overlooked when purchasing a home. Less essential costs such as landscaping/lawn care are also lurking. So be prepared to research all of these potential monthly bills prior to closing.

Don’t try to do it yourself. You may save money buying a home with no professional help, but it can turn into a nightmare. Not knowing the ins and outs of real estate transactions could come back to haunt you if another party takes advantage of your lack of knowledge. Unless you have extensive experience in real estate, the smart move is to always consult a professional to assist you with all facets of buying a home.

PROS AND CONS OF VIRTUAL STAGING

Trying to sell a home can often be difficult. Everyone likes something different. The question then becomes, how do you present your home so that a wide variety of potential buyers become interested? Enter the practice of staging a home. This is when you furnish your home to show off its most attractive qualities and properties, making it more appealing to buyers.

Taking the art of staging a step further is the practice of virtual staging. With no actual furniture involved, this is a digital rendering of what a potential home could look like when furnished. Here are some of the benefits and drawbacks with virtual staging:

Pros:

– If your home is empty, it’s easier to showcase its best features

– Considerably cheaper than traditional staging

– Grabs the attention of buyers who primarily view properties online

– Allows the variation of styling for flex rooms, or rooms that can be used for different purposes

Cons:

– If you need to remove items or furniture from photos, this could raise the cost

– Buyers can’t see the room as designed in person, sometimes deterring a purchase

– Often difficult to configure if the house is occupied, unless you have previous listing photos

Marked Appreciation

A home generally appreciates in value between 3 and 4 percent each year, but not every home appreciates equally. While every market is different—and appreciation is naturally affected by factors homeowners can’t control— there are certain home features that create greater appreciation than others. Realtor.com did some research, analyzed millions of listings over the past five years and here’s what they found:

Size -Small homes are in high demand, especially by millennial first-time buyers. Homes smaller than 1,200 square feet appreciated an average of 7.5% a year for the past five years. Larger homes (more than 2,400 square feet) only rose by 3.8%.

Bedrooms – Two bedrooms appreciate 6.6% while five bedrooms appreciate just 4.3%.

Floor Plans – Open floor plans appreciate 7.4% a year—beating out other home features like a patio (6.8%), hardwood floors (5.7%), a fireplace (5.3%) and a finished basement (4.6%).

Style – Modern and contemporary architectural styles appreciate 7.7% a year. Bungalows and traditional homes appreciate at 6.5% and 5.6%, respectively.

Adjacency – Homes overlooking a park appreciate at 7.9% a year, hold value over a longer period of time and recover quickly from a downturn. Homes with mountain views appreciate 5.1% a year, while lake homes appreciate 4.9% annually

Know Your Coverage

There are many misunderstandings out there about homeowners insurance— misconceptions that can lead to expensive mistakes.

According to a survey by insurance marketplace InsuranceQuotes, homeowners tend to overestimate the amount of flood protection they have. Fifty-six percent of respondents still mistakenly believed that a standard homeowners policy covers flood damage. For millennials ages 18 to 36, the percentage rose to 67 percent.

Meanwhile, more than onethird of respondents thought auto insurance would cover items stolen from their car, but actually homeowners or renters insurance would cover those.

Most homeowners underestimate their coverage for dog bites: Regarding potential lawsuits filed by someone bitten by a policyholder’s dog outside their property, few knew they would be protected by their homeowners policy.

Dog Day Deals

According to Realtor.com, summer is the most popular time of the year to buy and sell a home. While you might think that waiting until the market cools down before starting your home search is the better choice, there are some distinct advantages to buying during housing’s hottest season.

Inventory is broader. Because summer is the busy season, there are more options to choose from, which is especially good for buyers looking for specific aspects in a home. Plus, knowing there are more homes out there gives you leverage during price negotiations and peace of mind if your bid is rejected.

Buying and selling may be easier. If you need to sell your home before you can buy another, it will likely be easier during the summer because houses are selling more quickly and at potentially better prices.

School is out. This could be an advantage for buyers with children because their schedules will be more flexible. Kids can more easily attend showings, and there will be less disruption to their lives during moving time. Sellers with children may want to cement a deal before school starts again, which can also be an advantage for buyers.

You may get to see more of the neighborhood. Nicer weather will likely draw out the neighbors and their children, allowing you to get a better idea of the level of noise or activity in the community. Trees and flowers are also in bloom, so you can see what your prospective yard truly looks like.

Turn It Down

If there’s one thing you can count on when you own a home, it’s the arrival of the energy bill each month. One homeowner’s energy costs will be higher or lower than the next, but there are easy ways to save a little money each month.

Use the dishwasher. Dishwashers, especially Energy Star appliances, are more efficient than washing dishes by hand. It’s also important to load your dishwasher as effectively as possible, so check your manual for the best way. If you don’t own a dishwasher, save water by turning the tap on only when you need to rinse.

Unplug idle electronics. Electronics and appliances still use standby energy even when not in use. Since unplugging every cord in your home is not feasible, consider using power strips with multiple plugs that you can turn off and on with the flip of a switch.

Circulate air with fans. Even with central air conditioning, it can be tricky to keep every room at a steady temperature on hot days. Position standing fans to circulate air throughout your home, rather than lowering the AC thermostat temperature. If you have ceiling fans, make sure they’re circulating in the correct direction: counter-clockwise during the summer—so air is being pushed down—and clockwise in the winter.

Measure laundry loads. Washing clothes in cold water instead of warm saves energy. And make sure there’s enough space inside the dryer for hot air to circulate, or you could end up running two cycles.

3 Steps to Effective De-Cluttering

Spring cleaning is a yearly ritual that most homeowners find themselves tasked with annually. While some people enjoy the activity, others find it tedious and difficult. When attempting to sell your home, you may be even more wary, as such daunting tasks can cause added anxiety and stress.

Here are a few tips on how to help get rid of your stuff:

Look for support. Friends and family are often great motivators for getting rid of clutter. Think about asking other people’s opinions on what should stay and what should go. If you’re in the process of selling your home, your REALTOR® could be a trusty resource. They have experience in helping people just like you prepare their homes for prospective showings and eventual moves.

 Professional help may be necessary. Sometimes the task at hand may be a bit too much for homeowners to handle. Years of clutter and storage build up quickly and figuring out where to even begin can be tough. So enlisting the help of a professional organizer could go a long way to speedily cleaning your home.

Consider your options. When you are actually ready to de-clutter, the question then becomes: Where should all the stuff go? There are a few options to think about when cleaning:

  • Sell. Some things you may want to consider selling, such as antiques or collectibles.
  • Donate. Old clothes and furniture that you don’t use anymore may be better suited for others in need.
  • Store. Consider getting a storage unit off-site, if you are unsure about getting rid of your possessions.
  • Trash. Some items you have stored have no value or are damaged. Throwing them away is a quick way to create much needed space.

DON’T SWEAT the sale

The process of selling a house can induce many different emotions in people. Some get excited about new adventures on the horizon, while others get nostalgic about memories made in the past. But one feeling that is extremely common for sellers is anxiety. How can you help manage these stresses in order to make your home selling experience more pleasant? Here are some tips to help you relax:

Schedule a designated “worry time”—Try setting aside a brief window in your day where you allow yourself to worry. During that time, write down all of your fears or issues about the selling process and try to generate solutions. This will give you a better sense of control over the situation.

Use a “time out”— If your anxiety is interfering with the rest of your normal routine on a daily basis, try a more definitive approach to de-stressing. Working out, doing yoga or even meditation can help your anxieties drift away.

Nighttime no-no—Avoid talking about or discussing your home selling plans at night. Stressing over the sale late in the evening could end up costing you sleep, which you’ll need so you can make informed and rational business decisions.

Consult the informed— Many people fall into the trap of asking the opinion or taking the advice of an untrained or uninformed source. Don’t do it! This only furthers the stress. Stick to the sound advice of your real estate professional for the sale of your property.

5 red flags FOR OPEN HOUSE EVALUATIONS

It’s easy to get excited when you start looking for a home to purchase, but don’t let that adrenaline rush cloud your judgment! Sellers who are eager to sell might not be totally forthcoming in revealing any existing issues with the home. Here are a few red flags you should be on the lookout for when attending an open house:

1 Something smells. While at first it may seem pleasant, prospective sellers may try and add overwhelmingly powerful scents to their home for the showing. This could be an attempt to mask a serious odor problem in the home.

2 Amateur tiling. When looking at all the floor and kitchen tiling, you need to notice the details. If there are spaces or grouting issues, that’s a sign that the homeowners have done the tiling themselves, which may lead to an
expensive future project for you.

3 Cracks in the foundation. Of course, every home has its share of small cracks. But it’s important to observe whether the base of your prospective new home has serious foundational issues. Check to see if doors or windows stick when opening and closing them, signifying a shifting foundation. Also, look for large, noticeable cracks on walls, floors or ceilings.

4 Freaky fungus. Make suret to check out all pipes and drains in the home to see if there is any mold present. Take it a step further and check to see if there are any faults or leaks, which may lead to fungus growth later on.

5 Cosmetic enhancements. If any changes to the home seem extremely recent or out of place, that could be a sign that the owners are trying to hide something. Fresh new paint or plaster on the walls could be a sign of mold growth. A brand-new rug on the floor can mean there’s a stain or flooring issue that’s being hidden.

Garage Storage Mistakes

If you use your garage as storage space, you’re not alone. Unfortunately, because the space isn’t climate-controlled, it’s best to keep these items elsewhere, according to Realtor.com:

➊ Family photos. Pollutants, moisture and heat can quickly destroy your photos. Digitizing all photos is the best practice, or keep printed copies in a dry area inside your home.

➋ Propane tanks. These should never be kept indoors or too close to your home because they can leak or ignite. Store them outside on a flat surface instead.

➌ Car batteries. Batteries can be greatly affected by external moisture. Don’t store them on the floor; rather, place them on a piece of wood or cardboard.

➍ Artwork and collectibles. Dampness can cause tarnish and mold to grow. Insects can infest and rodents can feast on certain items. Dirt and dust can cause stains and buildup on almost anything. And car fumes can penetrate textiles and canvases. Keep prized possessions indoors.

➎ Food. Unless you have a refrigerator or freezer in your garage, fresh food can attract vermin even in a sealed container. Canned foods are best indoors, as sweltering heat can hasten their spoilage and freezing temps aren’t great either.

➏ Paint. If not sealed correctly and exposed to extreme temperatures, paint can actually spoil. Find a space that’s dark, dry and cool, like a utility closet, laundry room or mudroom.

➐ Carpet and rugs. Fresh air is vital for rug fibers and garage spaces aren’t usually well-ventilated, which can cause mold and mildew. Store in a place with low-humidity levels. Or if the garage is your only option, block any direct sunlight and place a dehumidifier near it.

5 DIY TIPS

As a homeowner, there’s no landlord or engineer to ask for help. So Realtor.com recommends you learn to handle these five basic problems:

1. Change HVAC filters: Replace quarterly to keep your system running smoothly and cut energy bills.

2. Cutting the water supply: Find and tag the shut-off valve when you first move in. When you need to turn it off, turn the handle 90 degrees.

3. Unclogging drains: Chemical drainers may work, but a drain snake is also an excellent option.

4. Resetting a circuit breaker: Open the panel cover and find the breaker in the “off” position, then turn to “on.”

5. Clean gutters: When gutters aren’t cleared of debris, water can get trapped, seep into your house and cost thousands in damages. Clean them annually or every two years.

SMALL FLAWS can be a big deal.

What may seem like small problems in your home can be a big deal to prospective buyers who will want to discount the price. Realtor.com names six of the minuscule things that could be big hurdles to closing:

An old electrical panel. Buyers will want it “up to code.” Get bids from multiple electricians to try and get a reduced repair quote, or offer that amount as a credit in lieu of repair at closing.

Ripped window screens. Window screens will wear out over time, but tears should be taken seriously. Either replace them before listing or offer credit at closing.

The location of the laundry room. The laundry on the ‘wrong’ level can be a big negative, especially in a three-level house or townhouse. Offer to move the washer and dryer to a new location if possible.

The bathtub or shower. Some people prefer showers, others want bathtubs, especially parents with small children. A bathtub with a showerhead above is the best option.

Kitchen walls. Many people prefer open kitchens. If you think your kitchen’s walls make it feel cramped and that’s stalling your sale, consider opening it up yourself.

Small closets. There isn’t much you can do to ease these concerns, but try to make your closets look roomier by de-cluttering. Hiring a contractor to build or extend closets where needed—or pointing out to buyers that they can do this themselves – is another fix.