5 New Year’s Resolutions Every Homeowner Should Make for 2017

new years resolutions cover 300x157 - 5 New Year’s Resolutions Every Homeowner Should Make for 2017

2016 is coming to a close, and with the new year just around the corner, people across the world are gearing up to set their intentions for the upcoming year in the form of New Year’s Resolutions. And while you’re bound to make at least one standard resolution (like “finally get in shape” or “eat more vegetables”), as a homeowner, there are some home-specific resolutions you’ll want to think about to get the most out of your property and the experience of owning a home this upcoming year.

Here are 5 New Year’s Resolutions every homeowner should make for 2017:

1. Bump Up Your Mortgage Payments

If you have any sort of expendable income in 2017, you might want to think about putting it towards your mortgage. Making extra payments on your mortgage can have a huge impact on the total you end up paying out over the course of the loan. It can also shorten the amount of time you’ll be saddled with payments and can have you owning your house free and clear sooner than you expected.

The more you can contribute, the better. But even if you can only make a few extra payments per year – do it. Those extra dollars will add up and end up saving you serious dollars in interest over the course of your mortgage.

Create a 2017 budget and look for any areas where you can shave a few dollars, like your daily trip to the coffeehouse or an expensive gym membership. Then, re-purpose that cash and put it towards paying down your mortgage faster.

2. Explore Refinancing

2016 saw near record low interest rates on mortgages, and while they’ve slowly crept up towards the end of the year (current rates are around 4%), they’re still HALF of the average interest rates over the past 40 years (which averaged at 8.45%).

If you haven’t refinanced your mortgage recently, now is the time to do it. With a new president taking office, the economy may shift, and interest rates may rise.

Talk to your loan officer about refinancing and getting a lower interest rate. And if you’re in a variable rate mortgage, shift over to a fixed rate mortgage and lock in the low interest rates while you can.

3. Review and Renew Your Homeowners Insurance

A lot of homeowners roll over their insurance year to year, but if you haven’t reviewed your policy in a while, you might be missing out on some money-saving opportunities.

Shop around and get quotes to see what rates are competitive in the current market and if you’re paying more, see if your current company will match the lowest quote. If you have a stand-alone policy, think about bundling your auto and homeowners insurance with one company. Insurance companies will often offer discounts for customers who hold multiple policies. If you’ve made any major improvements to your home that could impact the insurability of your house (like clearing trees, installing a high tech security system or adding storm reinforcements), let your agent know. Improvements can often lower your premiums.

4. Declutter, Declutter, Declutter

While spring is traditionally the time for organizing (in the form of “spring cleaning”), there’s no better time for a fresh start – and a more organized home – than the New Year.

Cleaning out closets, getting rid of things you no longer want or need and taking a more minimalist approach to life can have huge benefits. Not only will your home look better, but you’ll also FEEL better as a result. Messy, cluttered homes can cause increased stress and anxiety, making it much harder to relax and enjoy your space. Clutter has also been shown to decrease creativity, productivity and focus, so if you want to have a happy and productive 2017, it’s time for the stuff to go.

Plan a day to go through all of your closets, cabinets and storage space. If you’re not actively using something, get rid of it. The benefits you’ll reap from decluttering will far outweigh the value of the things you get rid of.

5. Get Up To Speed On Safety

The new year is the perfect time to review the current state of your property and take any precautions necessary to ensure that you’re safe in the upcoming year.

Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors and replace them if necessary. Check your house for radon, a common, carcinogenic gas that can increase your chance of lung cancer (you can pick up a radon testing kit at the hardware store for less than $10). Meet with your family to review emergency evacuation plans in case of a fire, flood or other emergencies.

With these 5 resolutions, you’ll get the most out of your property – and of owning your home – in 2017 and beyond.

Dealing with Financing

As the events of the last few years in the real estate industry show, people forget about the tremendous financial responsibility of purchasing a home at their peril. Here are a few tips for dealing with the dollar signs so that you can take down that “for sale” sign on your new home.Dealing with Financing 300x200 - Dealing with Financing

Get pre-approved. Sub-primes may be history, but you’ll probably still be shown homes you can’t actually afford. By getting pre-approved as a buyer, you can save yourself the grief of looking at houses you can’t afford. You can also put yourself in a better position to make a serious offer when you do find the right house. Unlike pre-qualification, which is based on a cursory review of your finances, pre-approval from a lender is based on your actual income, debt and credit history. By doing a thorough analysis of your actual spending power, you’ll be less likely to get in over your head.

Choose your mortgage carefully. Used to be the emphasis when it came to mortgages was on paying them off as soon as possible. Today, the debt the average person will accumulate due to credit cards, student loans, etc. means it’s better to opt for the 30-year mortgage instead of the 15-year. This way, you have a lower monthly payment, with the option of paying an additional principal when money is good. Additionally, when picking a mortgage, you usually have the option of paying additional points (a portion of the interest that you pay at closing) in exchange for a lower interest rate. If you plan to stay in the house for a long time—and given the current real estate market, you should—taking the points will save you money.

Do your homework before bidding. Before you make an offer on a home, do some research on the sales trends of similar homes in the neighborhood with sites like Zillow. Consider especially sales of similar homes in the last three months. For instance, if homes have recently sold for 5 percent less than the asking price, your opening bid should probably be about 8 to 10 percent lower than what the seller is asking.

Relocating to the Big City

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Moving from a small town or suburb to a large city can be an intimidating proposition. Here are a few tips to help make your move as painless as possible.

Research before you move. It’s important to understand the culture you’re joining. Do research online and find out about school systems, neighborhoods, parking, weather, public transportation, and laws that are native to that area. If you can, visit a city before moving and connect with someone who’s lived there before.

Have a plan. There are a lot of steps to go through before you start packing the moving truck. Find housing before you leave, or at least know where you’ll stay while you look for a home. Never sign a lease on an apartment that you haven’t seen. If you can’t get there, find a friend or an employer to check for you. Have a job waiting for you, or if that’s not possible, know what you’ll do for money in the first few weeks of living there. Try to line up things like driver’s licenses, car insurance, renter’s insurance, and parking passes ahead of time as well.

Get involved. Meeting people in a big city can be daunting. Don’t expect the neighbors to knock your door down with a casserole when you arrive: city life is often too noisy and hectic. Take the initiative. If there are things you liked to do in your town, find ways to do those things in the city. Try new things. Volunteer. Big cities offer so many opportunities to engage other people, so find what you like.

Mind your wallet. City life is expensive. Everything costs more: food, insurance, clothes, rent. There are also a lot more ways to get ripped off, whether legally or criminally. Be careful how you spend, and know where your money is going.

5 Tips for Buying a Home

 

Looking to buy a home? Here are five essential tips for making the process as smooth as possible.5 Tips for Buying a Home 1 300x200 - 5 Tips for Buying a Home

Get your finances in order.

Start by getting a full picture of your credit. Obtain copies of your credit report. Make sure the facts are correct, and fix any problems you find. Next, find a suitable lender and get pre-approved for a loan. This will put you in a better position to make a serious offer when you do find the right house.

Find a house you can afford.

As with engagement rings, there’s a general rule of thumb when it comes to buying a home: two-and-a-half times your annual salary. There are also a number of tools and calculators online that can help you understand how your income, debt, and expenses affect what you can afford. Don’t forget, too, that there are lots of considerations beyond the sticker price, including property taxes, energy costs, etc.

Hire a professional.

While the Internet gives buyers unprecedented access to home listings and resources, many aspects of the buying process require a level of expertise you can’t pick up from surfing the web. That’s why you’re better off using a professional agent than going it alone. If possible, recruit an exclusive buyer agent, who will have your interests at heart and can help you with strategies during the bidding process.

Do your homework.

Before making a bid, do some research to determine the state of the market at large. Is it more favorable for sellers or buyers? Next, look at sales trends of similar homes in the area or neighborhood. Look at prices for the last few months. Come up with an asking price that’s competitive, but also realistic. Otherwise, you may end up ticking off your seller.

Think long term.

Obviously, you shouldn’t buy unless you’re sure you’ll be staying put for at least a few years. Beyond that, you should buy in a neighborhood with good schools. Whether you have children or not, this will have an impact on your new home’s resale value down the line. When it comes to the house itself, you should hire your own home inspector, who can point out potential problems that could require costly repairs in the future.

Downsizing Your Home? Use These Tips to Plan Your Move

kitchen and dining roomMaybe the thought of moving to a smaller, low-maintenance home has only briefly crossed your mind, or maybe you’re seriously considering downsizing. But before you trade your too-large house in for, say, a cozy condo downtown, there are a few things to consider.

Downsizing requires quite a bit of planning: You may need to figure out what to keep and what to discard, choose between the love seat and the sofa for your new living room, and determine which furniture pieces can serve multiple functions.

Here are a few downsizing tips to help you prepare to sell your current home.

Start Reducing Your Possessions Now

The sooner you are able to get rid of furniture, household items, and knickknacks you no longer use or need, the better off you’ll be. When you do decide to sell your home, you will thank yourself for spending a few hours a week decluttering now rather than waiting to do everything all at once.

If You Can, Sell Instead of Discard

Many homeowners choose to downsize to spend less money on a mortgage and more money on fun experiences. If you are able to start decluttering weeks in advance, you will have the time to sell unwanted possessions and save the money for future vacations. Consider hosting a yard sale, posting items for sale online, or having high-end items appraised.

Have a Plan

notepad with wadded paperTo avoid getting overwhelmed by all the work involved in downsizing, form a plan to keep your stress at bay. Consider these planning tips:

  • Make a checklist of possessions you cannot live without in your new home.
  • Create a checklist of wants and needs for your new home.
  • Determine which items you can pack now and which items you need to keep handy.
  • Start packing your nonessential belongings.

Get Started by Working with a Real Estate Expert

One of the biggest mistakes home sellers make, whether or not they’re downsizing, is not hiring a real estate professional to make the most of their investment. An agent’s experience and knowledge will help you sell your home for the most money possible, allowing you to use the proceeds to purchase a smaller home.

Are you thinking about downsizing? Start the process by requesting a market analysis for your property. Contact us to learn more.

The Essentials for Entertaining Big in a Small Home

homeowner setting dining tableWith the holiday season approaching, many homeowners are starting to plan get-togethers with friends or family. While entertaining can be more of a challenge in a smaller home, it’s not impossible to host a memorable dinner party with your loved ones if you’re working with limited space.

Here are a few tips for throwing a large dinner party in a small area.

Before Guests Arrive, Clean and Clear Your Home

You don’t have to put as much effort into cleaning and decluttering as if you were selling a home; the basics will do.

Put away any unnecessary furniture, home décor, and kitchen appliances before the dinner party. Clean and dust the rooms that guests will visit: bathrooms, the kitchen, and the dining area. If you have pets, don’t forget to vacuum upholstery and stash toys or the litter box out of sight.

Get Creative with Guest Seating

You likely don’t keep a dozen matching chairs in storage just for dinner parties. Show off your creativity by relocating chairs, stools, benches, or ottomans currently in your home around the dinner table.

appetizers on raised food standsMaximize Your Table Space

Invest in a tiered platter for dinner parties. Raising the serving plates gives the appearance of more space on your counters and tables and keeps your serving stations from looking cramped.

To further free up space on your dining room table, keep the centerpiece decorations to a minimum. Instead, hang decorations from your walls or ceiling to maximize your space.

Trying to Make the Most of Your Space?

If you’re downsizing but still want to entertain friends and family in your new home, there are many ways to make the most of your space while still enjoying memorable occasions with your loved ones. As real estate experts, we can share downsizing tips and help you find a home that’s just the right size. Contact us to learn more.

5 Home Staging Mistakes That Frighten Buyers Away

house with dark staircaseHalloween is just around the corner. For many homeowners, that means carving pumpkins, hanging up Halloween decorations, and stocking up on fun-sized candy. But if you’re a homeowner who is thinking about selling this fall season, you might be preparing your home for buyers instead of trick-or-treaters.

Home staging is a crucial part of home selling preparation. According to the National Association of REALTORS® 2015 Profile of Home Staging, 32% of buyers’ agents and 37% of sellers’ agents believe that a staged home increases the amount buyers are willing to pay up to 5%. On a $200,000 property, that’s $10,000!

But is your home effectively staged to sell? If you are preparing your home yourself, beware of these staging mistakes that scare away home buyers — and potentially thousands of dollars.

1. A Dark and Spooky Entryway

Your front entry is one of the first things buyers notice about your home. Peeling paint, deep shadows, and uninviting colors don’t create the best first impression. Turn your front entryway into a focal point by painting your door a bright color that complements your home.

cobwebs on dusty night stand2. Cobwebs in the Corners

At a showing, buyers are going to inspect virtually everything: light fixtures, closets, ceilings, you name it. Thoroughly clean your home from top to bottom (or hire a professional) to make it look like new. You can always ask a friend or neighbor to take an objective look at your home.

3. Startling Colors on Your Walls

The goal of home staging, besides selling your home for top dollar, is to help buyers visualize themselves living in your home. If you have bold, bright colors on your walls, switch to more neutral colors to appeal to all potential buyers.

4. Menacing Halloween Decorations

Staging your home for Halloween is fine in moderation. But remember, not all buyers will think the fake spiderwebs or rubber arms are festive. Unless the headless horseman himself is buying your home, it’s best to keep him out of your front yard.

standing in a long dark hallway5. Hovering Like a Ghost During Showings

How you present your home when it’s on the market goes hand-in-hand with home staging. Make your home available and make yourself scarce during showings. Potential buyers might find it creepy if the current homeowner is lurking somewhere in the shadows.

Thinking of Selling Your Home This Fall?

Selling your home doesn’t have to be scary. We have a wealth of home staging tips and home selling resources that will help you sell quickly and for top dollar. Contact us to learn more.

A Trendy Solution for Home Interiors: The Barn Door

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By Melissa Dittmann Tracey, REALTOR® Magazine

Sliding barn doors can add a modern twist to an interior space. Malte Strauss, broker and owner of Trust International Real Estate LLC in Deltona, Fla., says the barn door trend has caught on in central Florida.

“They are great for locations where a swinging door would infringe on the space and where there is not a conventional doorway,” Strauss says. “We use them all the time in master bathrooms where there is a vanity area that is separate from the tub commode area.”

They can also be a great solution in modernizing the vanity area of homes from the 1970s and 1980s, which tended to have the vanity in the master bedroom rather than in the bathroom. “Now we just close those off with a barn door and buyers love that solution,” Strauss says.

 

Mill Valley
Low Country
Hornstein Residence
Source:  Realtor.org

3 Questions to Ask Before Buying Your Dream Home

3 Questions to Ask Before Buying Your Dream Home | Keeping Current Matters

 

If you are debating purchasing a home right now, you are probably getting a lot of advice. Though your friends and family will have your best interest at heart, they may not be fully aware of your needs and what is currently happening in the real estate market. Ask yourself the following 3 questions to help determine if now is actually a good time for you to buy in today’s market.

1. Why am I buying a home in the first place?

This truly is the most important question to answer. Forget the finances for a minute. Why did you even begin to consider purchasing a home? For most, the reason has nothing to do with money. For example, a recent survey by Braun showed that over 75% of parents say “their child’s education is an important part of the search for a new home.” This survey supports a study by the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University which revealed that the four major reasons people buy a home have nothing to do with money. They are:

  • A good place to raise children and for them to get a good education
  • A place where you and your family feel safe
  • More space for you and your family
  • Control of that space

What does owning a home mean to you? What non-financial benefits will you and your family gain from owning a home? The answer to that question should be the biggest reason you decide to purchase or not.

2. Where are home values headed?

According to the latest Home Price Index from CoreLogic, home values are projected to increase by 5.3% over the next 12 months.

What does that mean to you?

Simply put, if you are planning on buying a home that costs $250,000 today, that same home will cost you an additional $13,250 if you wait until next year. Your down payment will need to be higher as well to account for the higher home price.

3. Where are mortgage interest rates headed?

A buyer must be concerned about more than just prices. The ‘long term cost’ of a home can be dramatically impacted by even a small increase in mortgage rates. The Mortgage Bankers Association (MBA), the National Association of Realtors, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have all projected that mortgage interest rates will increase over the next twelve months as you can see in the chart below: Mortgage Rate Projections | Keeping Current Matters

Bottom Line

Only you and your family will know for certain if now is the right time to purchase a home. Answering these questions will help you make that decision.

Source:  Keeping Current Matters

6 Ways to Save Money for Your First Home

savings jar filled with coinsFor many first-time home buyers, the idea of a 20% down payment is terrifying. It’s one of the biggest obstacles to homeownership. Maybe you want to own a home someday, but the thought of saving up thousands of dollars for a home purchase has deterred you from seriously considering it.

Believe it or not, it is possible to save enough money for a down payment and make your dreams of homeownership a reality. Here are just a few of the ways that you can start saving.

1. Track How Much You Spend Now

When saving for your first home, you’ll need to stick to a budget. Awareness of how much you spend can help you figure out where you can cut your costs. Consumer.gov outlines a few tips for creating a budget here.

2. Determine What You Can Afford

home buyer tracking financesEven if you don’t plan to buy a home for a few years, figuring out how much you can afford for your home will make your savings goal more concrete. Don’t forget to include taxes, insurance, utilities, and maintenance in your monthly payment calculations.

3. Start Small

Start saving for your down payment and other homeownership costs as soon as you can. The earlier you start, the less you will have to cut your spending and the more time you’ll have to reach your goal.

4. Shop Around for Other Loans

If you find that a 20% down payment is unrealistic, you can opt for a mortgage that offers lower down payment options. FHA loans, for instance, offer 3.5% down, and VA loans offer no money down.

Make sure to do your research. If you put less than 20% down on a home, you will have to purchase private mortgage insurance. We can talk more in depth about home financing options available to you.

home buyer looking at bank account5. Make Your Savings Automatic

Many people find it’s easier to save money if it’s automatically transferred into a savings account every month. Check to see if your bank offers automatic funds transfer services, or ask if your employer can direct a portion of your paycheck into your savings account.

6. Create a Separate Savings Account

Establishing a savings account specifically for your down payment and homeownership costs is another great way to set aside money for a home. If you decide to automatically transfer money to savings, creating a separate account may make it even easier.

We Can Make Your First Home Buying Experience Easier

first-time home buyers moving inWhen you’ve saved up enough money and are ready to buy a home, we have all the resources you need to make your homeownership dreams a reality. Have a question about owning a home? Call us.