Home BuyingRelocation April 13, 2022

Final Walkthrough on Closing Day

It took me a while to post this video on YouTube of my final walkthrough on closing day because…I’m lazy, with video editing at least.

Sue me!

This past Monday was closing day for my clients! Yay! They were moving from Forest Hills in Queens to Cortlandt Manor in Westchester County. I got there a little bit earlier than they did because they were caught in some traffic coming up north.  In this video you will see the outside of their beautiful bilevel home on a gorgeous lot that backs into a creek. Talk about an upgrade!

Creek

We had to perform a final walkthrough on closing day prior to closing because of their work schedule. A Final walkthrough can be done on the same day or a few days before a scheduled closing, whichever works best for the clients, just as long as it’s done before closing. Do not skip it and remember that the closer to the closing day, the better. The purpose of a final walkthrough is to insure that the home is in the same state it was in during the inspection. Of course, this would be minus any furniture and trash that belonged to the old owners. Homes should be broom swept but if a seller wanted to, they could do a deep cleaning as well.

Other things that you check during a final walkthrough:

  • Operational appliances
  • Working hot water heater
  • Working heat and/or air conditioner
  • Electrical outlets are operational
  • No noticeable damage like holes in the walls, broken windows, or any other damages that were not there before
  • No leaks
  • Windows and doors are operational
  • Electricity is operational
  • Home is vacant

Of course, if you are purchasing a home that is in need of repair or a gut renovation, it may be in disarray. In those cases, you wouldn’t expect for it to have working water or electricity if it didn’t have it already. In example, if you are buying a bank owned or REO property, the power may be shut off. Or, it may not even have an operational kitchen. In these cases, you wouldn’t expect it to have those items when you do your final walkthrough unless the seller agreed to rectify those issues. Always expect that the state of the home should be in the same state as when you did your home inspection.

Outside a bilevel home

I will say it again, do not skip it!

It is so important to get this done before closing and to check everything! You never know what you might find after you close if you don’t check the home prior to closing. Once you close on a property and issues arise that could have been addressed during the final walk-through, it is all on you! When issues arise during the walkthrough, you would bring it to the attention of your attorney. At that point, your attorney would negotiate with the seller on ways to rectify the issue.

Let’s say you walked into the home during the final walk-through and found that the place was trashed. You would let your attorney know and at the closing table, the attorney would negotiate with the seller. They may state that the seller has to put $5,000 in escrow and within 10 days, clear out the home. If the seller doesn’t clear out the home, the buyer gets the $5000. If the seller does clear out the home before the deadline, the seller gets the money back. This is just a possible scenario of what would happen if an issue arises during the final walk-through.

But if you didn’t do a final walkthrough and an issue was found after closing, you are now responsible for it, not the seller. You can’t go after seller after the fact.

So do your final walk-through!

For my clients, everything in the home was operational and the condition of the home was what we had expected it to be. It day went smoothly and now they are fellow neighbors in the Hudson Valley! I had a bit of a laugh as they had sent me a text later that day, saying that they got stuck by the creek. Instead of asking help, they asked for Sangrias! Love my clients sense of humor!

Anyway, I hope that you enjoy the video and found this information useful. If you are need of assistance with buying or selling real estate, contact me! I’m here to help!

 

Family FunLocal EventsRelocation December 8, 2021

December Happenings of 2021

Here are some December Happenings version 2021! Yes, I am a bit late with this post and I do apologize about that! Since working with so many transplants from the city, many of whom are eager to get to know the area, I am bombarded with a plethora of questions on what to do up this way. They are seeking fun local activities, events, and such. So, I have decided to create monthly newsletter-type entries showcasing a few local fun things to do for the month.

December is underway, Christmas is almost here and Hanukkah just wrapped up for the year. I love the holidays, don’t you? The lights, the energy, the shopping, and the fun things to do! But being from the city, it’s not as simple as just a train ride or bumping into something interesting randomly while walking down the street. Up here, you’ll have to do some research or be a part of a great Facebook group in order to get an idea of what’s happening for the month. So to keep it a bit more simple for you, here are some great things to do this month with your family in tow or just solo.

December Happenings

Christmas in a small town

1 – Museum Village’s – Christmas in the Village – Monroe

From December 11th at 11 am to December 12th at 4 pm, experience Museum Village’s winter wonderland! Listen to carolers, shop local vendors, and meet Santa and Mrs. Claus.

2 – Sugar Loaf Holiday Celebration – Sugar Loaf

December 11th at 11 am, the Sugar Loaf Holiday Festival is extra-spirited this year. Guests will enjoy a festive day full of holiday cheer including:

  •  Hot cider courtesy of the Sugar Loaf Community Foundation;
  • Treeside caroling with the Warwick Valley Chorale, Warwick Valley High School Treble Choir, and the Warwick Valley High School Meistersingers;
  • Visits with Santa to share wishlists and capture keepsake photos;
  • Horse Drawn carriage rides through the village of Sugar Loaf (weather dependent) from 1-4:30pm;
  • Tree lighting at 4:30pm;
  • Shopping the dozens of artisan shops and boutiques
  • Dining and snacking at local village eateries.
  • Shopping Discount Ticket for all guests! Stop in White Rabbit Restorations at 62 Wood Road to pick up a ticket valid for shopping discounts and freebies from shops and eateries throughout the Village of Sugar Loaf.

Additional details and updates available at https://www.sugarloafnewyork.com/events

3 – Breakfast With Santa! – Chester

December 19th at 7:30 am, Santa’s Firehouse Elves are hard at work cooking breakfast for you!

  • $10 per elf
  • $5 per seasoned elf (65+)
  • Free for tiny elves 4 and under

Santa clause's hand, reaching for a cookie

4 – Santa Paws – Pet photos with Santa – Tractor Supply Co. in Pine Bush

December 11th at 11 am, all pets and children are welcome to have their photos taken with Santa for just $10! They will also have a raffle table of goodies and Christmas gift ideas.

-Each photo will be printed out on site. The photos will also be posted on this page the week after the event.

5 – Breakfast with the Grinch – Home2 Suites by Hilton Middletown

Sunday, December 19th at 10 am – 12 pm, Visit Home2ville at the Home2 Suites Middletown on Sunday, December 19th from 10 am-12 pm! Enjoy breakfast with the Grinch, crafts, and face painting by Legends Barbershop!! Bring your cameras for lasting memories. Reservations are required. Please email: Heather.Parkinson@hilton.com to reserve.

  • $20.00 for Adults & Children (in advance)
  • $25.00 at the door
  • Children under 1 are free

6 – Holiday Craft & Vendor Fair – Sloatsburg

December 11th from 10 am to 4 pm, shop this year at our special Holiday Library Holiday Craft & Vendor Fair, which sets up this season at the Sloatsburg Senior Center.

7 – Brunch with Santa – The Thayer Hotel at West Point

December 5th, 12th, and 19th starting at 10:30 am, join in for their award winning Sunday Champagne Brunch with special guest, Santa! View the Menu: https://www.thethayerhotel.com/santabrunch.html

Reservations required.
10:30 AM, 11:00 AM & 1:30 PM
Call to make your reservation: 845-446-4731 ext. 7929

8 – Wynonna Judd – Sugar Loaf Performing Arts Center

Wednesday, December 15th, at 6 pm, Orange Motorsports & Entertainment is pleased to present WYNONNA JUDD with a special holiday show at the Sugar Loaf Performing Arts Center, in Chester, NY. Tickets · $60 – $75.

gold wrapped Christmas gift

9 – Holiday Artisan Fair – Mamakating Environmental Education Center

December 11th at 10 am to 3 pm, Enjoy a festive atmosphere as you peruse the wares of local artisans. Find unique gifts, enjoy holiday refreshments, and support local business at the same time.

10 – Santa at the Tap House – Pine Island Tap House

December 18th from 2 pm – 5 pm, guess who is coming to the Tap House??? You got it, Santa! Oh, what fun this is going to be!!!!

Santa will be here from 2 pm till 5 pm on Saturday, December 18th. Please stop by with your children or adults and say hi to Santa and take a picture and tell him what you want for Christmas!
This is a free event.

11 – Winterfest – Sloatsburg Train Station

December 12th, 12:00 PM – 5:00 PM, Save The Date – Chamber’s Annual Winterfest! Join in and enjoy decorations and holiday music, food & craft vendors, children’s crafts, warming stations, our Chili Contest (judging at 2pm), Ugly Sweater Contest (judging at 3pm). Contact Jessie at jssitylr@gmail.com to register for the Chili contest. Contestants should bring chili croc pots by noon to the pavilion. Winner announced at 2:00pm. $5 to taste and vote for best chili. Good luck!
festive Christmas cookies

12 – Holiday Market – The Yard – Beacon

December 11th at 10 am, this market will feature 30+ Hudson Valley Artisans. There will be food vendors, live music, an airstream turned bar serving beverages (alcoholic + non-alcoholic), incredible artisans with SO MANY HOLIDAY GIFT IDEAS and so much more…

13 – Ugly Sweater Party – Hillcrest Entertainment Inc – Florida

December 11th at 8pm, Join in at Hillcrest Entertainment for an ugly sweater party! Come enjoy a night out where the food is always great and the drinks are always cold, all while wearing your ugliest sweater! Saturday. Please bring a New unwrapped toy to contribute to the Toys for Tots program to Make Christmas special for a Child who may otherwise not have one.

14 – Home At Last – the Brewery at Orange County Hops – Walden

December 1oth at 5:30 pm to 7:30 pm, beer and music always makes for a good time! Performance by Tom Rausch Gigs.

15 – Holiday Boutique – Stony Point

December 12th from 9am to 3pm, the Holiday season is upon us. So get your shopping started by supporting local businesses at Powerhouse Dance Center’s Holiday Boutique.

cup of hot cocoa with whip cream on top

16 – A Christmas Carol – Dinner Theatre Show – New Windsor

December 18th at 4:30pm, You’ve seen Scrooge, Tiny Tim and the Ghosts of Christmas from a theatre seat. This season, why not dine with them?

17 – Westchester’s Winter Wonderland Drive-thru Holiday Light Extravaganza – Kensico Dam Plaza

Holiday season from 6pm to 9pm, Westchester’s Winter Wonderland Drive-Thru Holiday Light Extravaganza, presented by Westchester Medical Center Health Network, returns to Kensico Dam Plaza bigger and better than ever with thousands of more lights, magical holiday animations and a live Santa!

boy playing in snow

18 – Kids New Years Bash – Newburgh Mall

December 29th, at 1 pm to 3 pm. First… Live Magic Show with The Great Charlini. Afterwards celebrate the New Years with the countdown and the ball drop. Then… race painting and fun with Ms. Bubbles and Pals. Snacks and bottle of water will be provided (please note that snacks may not be allergy-friendly).

19 – Holiday Lights on Jenkins Court – Ossining

Reoccurring until January 6th 4:30-9:00 pm. Lights on Jenkins Court is the Staples family’s home light show. The show has run each year since 2017 during the holiday season. Jeff started designing and programming holiday light shows as a hobby over 6 years ago. Today, hundreds of Ossining residents stop by the house to see the 23 minute light show.You can watch the show at 12 Jenkins Court, Ossining. Tune to FM 90.5 to hear the medleys that accompany the display of lights.

Enjoy the holidays and check out some of these December Happenings! As I stated at the beginning of this post, this is only some of what’s going on in the area but it’s plenty to keep you busy! And if you’re looking to migrate up this way, looking to buy or sell in the Hudson Valley area, contact me! I’d love to help!

 

 

 

Howeowner ResourceRelocationSelling Your Home October 13, 2021

Fall Market Update: Is the Fall a Good Time to Sell?

Fall Market Update

Before I dive in, I just want to share a bit about what is going on in our market in Orange County, New York. New listings for single family homes is down so far, compared to this time last year from 569 to 404, a -29% decrease. As for those that sold, that is also down from 434 to 349, a -19.6% decrease. Days on market have also decreased from this time last year, from 74 to 47 days. What does all this mean? Not a lot of listings, less sales, higher demand, lower days on market. Current inventory is around 500 less than this time last year and median sales price is up 18.1%. This is only in regards to single family homes but condos are following suit as well.

Snapshot of market update

Is this all sustainable?

Well, as long as the inventory remains low and buyer demand remains up as well as the interest rate remaining steady, this will continue. I have seen in my personal experience that multiple bidding, waiving contingencies that protect the buyers, and over bidding have all been slowly declining. Buyers with FHA and VA loans are starting to be able to win their bids which was pretty much impossible a few months ago.

Properties are also being relisted recently and it’s due to two issues: 1) Buyers not being able to get approval for their loan, either they did something silly and made a purchase that they should have waited for or, they simply can’t afford the home. 2) The home didn’t get appraised for the price that was agreed upon and the buyer does not have the extra funds to match their offer price.

The front of a house during sunset with lights on and a wet road infront of it

How to fix this?

First, ensure that you’re vetting the buyers. They can use whatever lender they want, but if you have a preferred lender that you trust, have them vet the buyers for you. If you have an agent, they should also vet all potential buyers, even if they are represented by a buyer’s agent.  Secondly, don’t over price your home! It will take longer to sell and you will end up having to settle for a lower price anyway. You can always contest an appraisal or get the buyer to switch a lender and get a another appraisal but that doesn’t guarantee you’ll get your price. Also, FHA appraisals are set in stone, so if you get another FHA buyer, they will go off of the other FHA buyer’s appraisal price.

Now, is the fall a good time to sell?

The early spring through the summer are generally the busiest times of the year for home sales, but the fall can be a particularly advantageous time of year for sellers. Housing inventory drops off during the fall months, as I had mentioned at the beginning, inventory is lower than it was this time last year, so sellers definitely have less competition. That means you can expect higher offers, and still aim for fewer contingencies, and less scrutiny from buyers. You maintain more power over your terms, as it is still a strong seller’s market.

Fall buyers are serious buyers!

Early in the year you can get lots of lookers who are just thinking about buying at some point, but by fall the buyers still looking are ready to get under contract and often have a deadline. Many fall buyers are anxious to get settled before the holiday season and, if they have children in school, they will want to get them in their new schools before too much of the school year passes.

Employers who pay to relocate employees also like to shop off-season to save on moving costs. If you live near a large hospital, university, technology center, or industrial area, your home may be attractive to relocation services.

Fall is also prime time for buyers who aren’t shopping school districts. Young professionals and empty-nesters are two populations more likely to shop in the fall. If you are marketing to these populations, you might want to show off multi-use spaces for exercise rooms, a home office, or game room.

house in the fall

The fall is much more fun for showing a home than the dead of summer. Use the mild weather and a festive atmosphere to enhance your home’s showing potential. As the temperatures cool and we welcome crisp, clear fall days, it becomes easier to maintain your yard and add to your curb appeal. You can use fall colors and foliage in your home décor to create a cozy atmosphere. Don’t forget some pumpkin spice scented candles or warm oatmeal cookies to warm buyers up for a sweet deal.

If you’re thinking about selling but can’t decide between listing now and waiting until after the holidays, now is the time. Give me a call or reach out to me here, and let’s tie the whole process up in a pretty red bow long before the new year.⁣

Home BuyingRelocationSelling Your Home September 14, 2021

12 Tips for an Easier Move

As exciting as it is to move into a new home, not many people look forward to the actual moving day. Whether you are moving across town or across the country, moving is stressful. Here are some helpful hints from expert movers to make the big day a little more bearable.

1. Schedule your move well ahead of time.

Moving companies get booked up weeks in advance, so don’t wait until the last minute to schedule your move. Make sure they know ahead of time if you have any very large or heavy items to move. The last thing you want is for the movers to show up with a truck that isn’t big enough or without enough people to move your belongings safely.

zoomed in calendar

2. Consider letting the moving company pack your items.

If it’s within your budget to hire packers, it may be money well spent. Packers are usually very efficient and take time to wrap fragile items securely. Packers will usually pack the day before your move, so you don’t have to pack items away that you may need up until the day of your move.

3. Schedule services.

Don’t forget to have services transferred or started at your new home. These may include:

  • Power
  • Water
  • Trash service
  • Internet/TV/Phone
  • Gas
  • Lawn service
  • Pool service
  • Security system monitoring

4. Have your new home professionally cleaned.

If your seller is not arranging for cleaning to be done prior to closing, arrange to have it done before you move in so that you won’t arrive to a dirty house.

cleaning

5. Pack a moving supply box.

Your moving supply box should contain items you may need while you are unpacking and getting settled in your new home, such as:

  • Toilet paper
  • Paper towels
  • Sponge
  • All-purpose cleaner and glass cleaner
  • Shelf liner paper
  • Scissors
  • Furniture moving pads
  • Tape measure
  • Cordless screwdriver
  • Hammer
  • Picture hanging kit
  • Bottled water, snacks, pet food
  • Paper plates, cups, and disposable utensils
  • Dish Soap and Hand Soap

6. Make Your Bed.

As soon as your bed frames and mattresses come off the truck, put them together or have the movers put them together, and make them up. Pack your sheets, blankets, and pillows together in well-marked boxes so you can find them easily. When you are ready to collapse at the end of moving day, you’ll be thankful the beds are made up and ready to fall into.

7. Ditto for your towels and bath soap.

Pack bath towels and soap with your bed sheets so you can jump in the shower before retiring without having to search for towels.

8. Make Plans for Your pets.

The last thing you need on moving day is a stressed-out pup or kitty, or worse, one that escapes in an unfamiliar neighborhood. Make plans for your pets to spend the day with family or friends, a pet sitter, or boarding facility until you are ready to introduce them to their new home.

dog

9. Say Yes to Helpers.

Sometimes it’s hard to accept extra help from family or friends if you aren’t sure what they can help with. Here are some tasks you can delegate:

  • Lay shelf liner in the kitchen and bathroom cabinets and drawers
  • Unpack and put away your kitchen items (you can rearrange later!)
  • Babysit or keep your children occupied
  • Make up your beds, place towels in the bathrooms
  • Wipe down cabinets and counters
  • Break down packing boxes
  • Hang clothes in closets
  • Organize tools and equipment in the garage
  • Pick up lunch or dinner

10. Hire a Sitter.

If you have little ones, they will be very excited about their new home, new rooms, and yard. They will want to be with you, but they will not be interested in unpacking boxes! Make plans for someone to be available just for them, so you can concentrate. A family member, friend or hired sitter can help them explore their new surroundings, build a box fort, or organize their toys in their new rooms without you worrying about where they are.

11. Hire someone to hang your art.

Unless you love to hang things yourself, you might consider having a handyman scheduled to come in and hand your wall art and window treatments for you. This can save you a great deal of time getting settled. If you need help deciding where to hang art or portraits, a decorator may be a better choice than a handyman. They can help you decide on placement and hang items themselves or direct a handyman where to hang items.

12. Check out of the old house.

Prior to closing, you should have submitted a change of address form with the post office. You’ll also need to remember to leave all keys and garage door or gate openers, and make sure the movers don’t pack up things like ceiling fan remote controls or other loose items that stay with the house. Don’t forget to clean out spaces like the attic, backyard sheds, crawl spaces, or any other hideaway spaces you might have stored items. It’s always nice to have the home professionally cleaned for the new owners, and, if you feel inclined, leave a list of recommended local vendors for household services.

 

If you are moving to my area and would like some great moving company referrals for your upcoming move, please contact me! If you aren’t at this stage yet but would like to be, please do the same! Hoping to hear from you soon!

Family Fun March 28, 2021

Getting Out: Our day at Space Farms: Zoo & Museum

We couldn’t resist this wonderful weather anymore. Being suck at home due to the winter weather AND COVID has been a nightmare so finally being able to get out, while social distancing of course, has been godsend!

It was near the mid 60’s today with mostly clear sky’s. We took a little drive (okay, maybe not so little as it took us about 40 minutes to get there but the drive was smooth and scenic) out to a place called Space Farms: Zoo & Museum in Wantage Township NJ. My husband actually suggested it but unfortunately couldn’t join us since he had to head in for work.

It wasn’t packed at all, lots of room to roam, and an ample amount of animals to view and learn about from their bulletin boards. It’s no Bronx Zoo but it gets the job done and made my son happy (as well as myself). He was teaching me so many things about the different animals, facts that I didn’t even know. We truly enjoyed ourselves.

Note: the animals couldn’t care less for the corn kernels, except the deer, they don’t care what you feed them – “just feed me” mentality. But most of them did love the cookies.The museum wasn’t amazing. It’s a pretty quick to walk through, although my son had mentioned somethings he learned from school about Native Americans, since they did have Native American artifacts there. Really, the trip is more for the animals than anything else there.

We didn’t try the food since we ate before we got there and it took us a little over an hour to check out all of the animals.

You can find out more from their website www.spacefarms.com

Music: Country Life
Site: https://icons8.com/music/

Howeowner ResourceSelling Your Home March 1, 2021

What is a mortgage forbearance?

Experiencing a short-term hardship?  A mortgage forbearance may provide temporary payment relief to assist you. These hardships typically come from dealing with a job loss, disability, illness, a recent disaster, divorce, death of a wage earner or other unique circumstances.

In this video, I describe a brief definition on what a mortgage forbearance is. If you have any other questions regarding a mortgage forbearance and you would like to see if you are qualified for it, speak to your mortgage servicer. The mortgage servicer is the company that you pay your mortgage loan payments to and they also perform other services in connection to your mortgage.

What is an escrow?

An escrow account, or impound account depending where you live, is an account that your mortgage lender uses to pay certain property-related expenses such as taxes and home insurance. If you are using a forbearance or thinking about using a forbearance, be mindful. The forbearance does not cover your escrow. Ensure that your escrow is property funded or take care of those property-related expenses on a regular basis, when they are due. Being in default with taxes will lead your property to be foreclosed upon by the government.

What is the CARES Act?

Cited directly from the U.S Department of Treasury’s website,

“The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 provide fast and direct economic assistance for American workers, families, and small businesses, and preserve jobs for American industries.”

In other words, the CARES Act was put in place to assist home owners who are experiencing difficulty with making on-time mortgage payments due to the national coronavirus emergency.

Find out more here, on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s website.

If you are thinking about buying or selling real estate or have any other real estate related questions, please contact me today! I service the Hudson Valley area of New York but I do have a great network all across the country, so if you are looking elsewhere, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Home Tours November 13, 2020

Tour with me: Get this view for $250K?!?

I had an appointment this past weekend (November 8th) to show a lovely home out in Newburgh, NY. It was a bit outdated since the last owner had it custom built and lived in it for many years. Sadly, the owner has passed away and it’s now an Estate Sale.

Although it was outdated, definitely a blast from the past, the previous owner took very good care of it. You can tell by looking at the home that they loved it and the view, was to die for! I really couldn’t believe that you could get this view for $250k. The rooms are spacious and bright and there was ample storage.

I have to say, if my own family would have seen this home while on our own home search earlier this year, we may have went for it ourselves!

Who ever does buy this one, will definitely build amazing memories there. For my clients however, they weren’t fond of the idea of updating the space as they prefer something a bit more move-in ready.

I am truly loving living and working upstate! Well, for me, everything north of the Bronx is considered upstate, as I am a city girl! You could never get properties like these back in my hometown or get this view for $250K!

Enjoy the tour and if you’re looking for assistance finding your own dream home or looking to sell and move on, feel free to contact me! I have a contact page for a reason!

Also, check out my YouTube channel for more videos: HERE

First Time Home Buyer September 10, 2020

The 5 Biggest Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Your First Home

two people shaking hands in front of a house

Buying your first home can be an anxiety-ridden process, and that potential anxiety gets amplified for anyone who’s embarking on homeownership for the very first time. There’s so much to do and so much you don’t know that “being overwhelmed” hardly seems like an appropriate description of how it feels.

And even though you don’t want to scare yourself away from the entire process, you still need to be wary of falling into a few common traps that first-time buyers generally don’t avoid. If you’re aware of these five potential mistakes — and able to keep yourself from making them — then you’ll be saving yourself some significant stress on your home buying journey.

Here are the 5 Biggest Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Your First Home

Mistake No. 1: Not understanding your down payment options

The biggest headache for so many first-time buyers is the down payment. If you’ve ever bought a car, then you’re probably familiar with the concept — it’s money that you contribute to the total cost of the purchase.

A down payment of just a couple thousand dollars can get you a head start on your car. If you don’t have a certain amount to put down on your home loan, however, you might find yourself paying private mortgage insurance (PMI). Depending on your credit score, the bank and other factors, PMI could cost between 0.5 percent to 1 percent of the total loan amount.

Most banks require at least a 20 percent down payment before they will waive the need for PMI on the loan. And most homes in this area average about $300,000, so that means a buyer would need to bring $60,000 to the table in order to avoid PMI.

However, there are loans that allow you to put as little as 3 percent down on the home ($9,000 for a $300,000 home), which is much more reasonable for a first-time buyer, especially if you can accommodate the annual cost of $1,500 to $3,000 in PMI into your monthly payment amount. And veterans could be eligible for zero-down loan programs with no PMI through the Veterans Administration (VA) loan program, so that’s something else to think about.

There’s one more thing to know about down payment options: Some government organizations and lenders try to incentivize first-time homeownership by offering free down payment grants or loans to qualified buyers. Depending on your age, income level, credit score and other factors, you could qualify for free money to wrap into your down payment; a full rundown of programs is available at downpaymentresource.com.

Mistake No. 2: Not getting pre-qualified for a loan

Between the amount of money you plan to put down on the home, the potential PMI and other cost factors, your monthly cost could be significantly more (or possibly less) than some of those calculators will show you online.

So before you trust those “estimated monthly mortgage loan amount” numbers that you see popping up next to your potential new dream home on Realtor.com, Zillow or a brokerage website, it pays to figure out what you can actually afford — and that means getting prequalified for a home loan.

This means you will need to talk to a mortgage loan officer and submit a slew of documentation, from your monthly pay stub to your credit score, in order for that loan officer to tell you how much money you can get for your home loan. It’s a little bit painful, but the prequalification letter you’ll get as a result is much more credible than a quick qualification you can pull up on an app — and that means sellers will take it more seriously when it comes time to put in an offer. You’ll have to qualify for a loan eventually anyway, so why not get the painful part out of the way?

Be careful: A bank might approve you for a loan amount that’s realistically more debt than you can carry month-to-month. Consider that you’ll need to pay homeowners’ insurance, taxes and possibly flood insurance on your new property or PMI on your loan, and try to make sure you’re not setting yourself up for a total monthly payment that’s more than about one-third of your household’s take-home pay.

Not only will this help you set your price range for the search stage, but it will also give you confidence that you — yes, you! — can be a successful homeowner someday soon.

woman sipping coffee while doing research on laptop

Mistake No. 3: Not finding a qualified real estate professional 

It’s so easy to find homes online these days that you may wonder why a real estate professional is even necessary. After all, isn’t the hard part — finding the place you want to buy — something you can do yourself?

Well, maybe. But the process of buying and selling a home is filled with 100’s of details that need to be planned for and navigated to a successful outcome. Not to mention areas with competitive markets where you’re probably not seeing the most updated listings — that home you just fell in love with online might be under contract before you can set up a time to tour it.

Not only can a real estate professional make sure you have access to listings the second they hit the MLS, but a licensed real estate professional can also provide expertise on the area where you want to move. Whether that’s feedback on who can help you with homeowners’ insurance quotes to warnings about some of the challenges of owning a home in that particular area, you want to work with an honest professional dedicated to protecting your interests and those of the public.

A real estate professional is an invaluable resource.

Here are some questions to ask any real estate professional you’re interviewing:

  • How long have you sold real estate?
  • How long have you sold real estate in this neighborhood in particular?
  • Can you tell me about the energy options in the area?
  • What else should I know about utilities, like water/sewer and other amenities?
  • What do other clients who have moved here like about the area? What don’t they like?
  • What do people in this area like to do for fun? What are some popular weekend activities?
  • What can I expect about the buying process? What steps should I be especially aware of, and how will we stay in communication?

A real estate professional who’s an area expert should have no trouble answering the lifestyle questions, and a real estate professional who’s a transaction-management ace can help you understand exactly what you’re in for, how long it’s likely to take and what rewards await you at the end of the tunnel.

Mistake No. 4: Not spending the night in the neighborhood

If it’s at all possible, see if you can find an Airbnb or another vacation-rental type of setup where you can crash for a night or two — preferably closer to a week — so you can try your new neighborhood on for size.

Is an 8 a.m. arrival time at work still reasonable with this neighborhood’s commute? This is an opportunity for you to start navigating your way around public transportation or new routes to work so you know exactly what you’re signing up for.

Where are the closest grocery stores, parks, rec centers and hiking trails? Figure out where you’re going to shop and work out, and where you can spend time outside walking the dog or enjoying nature. That way you won’t kick yourself later for realizing too late that something you really value isn’t available.

And what are the overnight noise levels like, anyway? If there’s a train that rolls through town in the early hours of the morning, you’re near a highway or a flight path — and any of that is going to disturb you — then it’s best to figure it out before you’re spending your first night in your new home and wake up to unpleasant (and unexpected) noises.

At the very least, you can learn enough about the neighborhood to know how close to (or far away from) the bus line you need or want to be and target your home search accordingly.

Mistake No. 5: Not understanding what’s fixable and what’s a deal-breaker

Those drop panels in the ceiling are hideous, and you can’t imagine how anyone can fit into that minuscule bathtub.

Are those annoyances that can be fixed or deal-breakers that mean you should pass on the property entirely?

This is another area where a good real estate agent can help. They see so many houses in various stages of repair and updating that they can show you where you can claim another foot or two for bathtub space (and help you figure out how much it will cost and who’s trustworthy enough to take on the job) or let you know that the ceilings are too low for any changes to make much of a difference. They can also give you an idea of what’s up to code and what simply won’t pass an inspection in 2017, so you know what concessions to request as soon as you’re ready to make an offer.

In markets where entry-level homes are getting snatched up as soon as they hit the market, knowing what’s acceptable and what you just can’t take is a huge advantage — it’ll help you make a decision, with confidence, on the fly.

None of these mistakes will keep you from buying a home of your own — but they could delay the process and cost you hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars at the end of the day. But if you’re able to avoid them when your buying your first home, you’ll be signing the closing papers on your dream home before you know it without the delays and saving some cash while your at it!

Home StagingSelling Your Home September 10, 2020

5 Home Seller Strategies for Staging Your Home Perfectly

an open kitchen with a kitchen island with chairs and views of the living room

There’s a reason why people love looking at photos of homes for sale — it’s rare that we get to see a place look it’s very best which makes it so appealing when we do. Also, scrolling through gorgeous room after room helps serious buyers see themselves settling down in those very rooms which makes this one of the best seller strategies one can implement.

But as any seller (or photographer) can attest, getting a home ready for its close-up (also known as “staging”) is not easy and is definitely not always fun. It involves a ton of cleaning, some furniture removal (or placement), a plethora of attention to detail, and usually a lot of light. This is why professional home stagers charge hundreds (sometimes thousands) of dollars for their services.

If hiring a home stager isn’t in your budget or you’re simply more of a do-it-yourself type, consider taking advantage of these relatively quick and easy methods for helping your soon-to-be-sold home appear shiny and new.

Here are 5 home seller strategies for staging your home perfectly.

1. Clean, clean, clean, clean, clean

Even if you follow every other tip on the list to an exacting standard, if your home isn’t clean, you won’t be reaping all of the benefits that staging could generate for you. There are two big steps to cleaning for staging:

  • Decluttering your home
  • Deep cleaning everything … everything

First is the clutter. This might be a good time to join the neighborhood garage sale or arrange for your sister-in-law whose kids are a few years younger to come pick up all the hand-me-downs you’ve been promising. It always makes sense to start with things that you don’t want to pack up and move to a new location.

Don’t forget about the furniture — too much furniture in a room makes it look cramped and small, so remove what you don’t need.

Resist the temptation to box everything up and stash it in one room, the garage, a basement or attic — unless it’s not your room. Buyers are going to want to open doors, cabinets, and drawers, and peer into closets and utility rooms, so if you want your home to look its best, you need to keep those areas neat, too.

Some sellers rent storage facilities during the process, and that’s always a possibility, too. If you have family or good friends in the area who can take some of the larger items for you, then you might be able to get a smaller storage unit. (Make sure to pay your loved ones back with a gift or thoughtful gesture when the home is sold!)

When the surfaces are clear and your surroundings are feeling more vacation-home than lived-in, it’s time to deep clean those surfaces. Scrub the inside from ceiling to floors; wash your windows; consider power-washing the outside to brighten it up. Plant new flowers, keep your sidewalks and walkways clear and weed-free and set some inviting chairs with fluffy cushions on your (freshly polished, cobweb-free) front porch.

Once the decluttering is done, it’ll be much easier to get everything looking shiny and new — and easier to hire help, too — so make sure to tackle this step first.

2. Light up

One of the most simpler and cost effective seller strategies can be done with just a simple switch of a bulb. If you haven’t changed a light bulb in a while, then you might be surprised by how much brighter they’ve gotten — or what a difference a bright bulb can make in a room that you thought was naturally dreary and dim.Changing out your bulbs can be a quick way to give your entire home a quick lift, brightening up every room and helping potential buyers see exactly how well-maintained those original wood floors are, and examine the crown molding close up.

Experts suggest that you obtain 100 watts of lighting for every 50 square feet in your home, and consider using three different types of lighting (not just overhead lighting) to get there. Overhead or ambient lighting is important, of course, but accent lighting (on walls and tables) and task lighting (reading or under-cabinet lights) will help showcase your space in all its glory.

Bedroom with dark wood bedroom set consisting of a king sized bed, night stand, and chest of drawers

3. Rearrange with an eye for balance

Most of us don’t live in perfectly symmetrical surroundings, but if there’s a way to achieve it with your furniture, then it’s worth it to try — at least for the photos. Try to balance any shelves, counters, and mantelpieces in the same way, with an eye for highlighting the accessories that will help make your home look like a retreat from a messy world.

You can do the same thing with area rugs and artwork. Arrange your floor and wall coverings to draw the eye down the halls and through the house, which will give touring buyers a pleasant sense of welcome and discovery.

4. Organize and energize

There are always going to be parts of your house that are made to hold “stuff” — but you can make that stuff look presentable with a little bit of organization.

Some decluttering and color-blocking on your bookshelves can make the display draw the eye instead of distracting from the rest of the room, for example. Kids’ and pets’ toys are another opportunity to organize and beautify with a decorative box or basket, or a fun shelving unit that holds everything with style.

Straighten your shoes on the closet floors and neaten up the hanging areas, then open up the doors when you leave for a buyer’s tour. They’ll enjoy the welcoming feeling of the open doors (and you know they were going to open them up, anyway).

5. Polish up the appliances

If you can afford it, new appliances in the kitchen can go a long (long!) way toward helping a buyer fall in love with the heart of the house. New appliances tend to help generate high returns for sellers, so depending on the condition and upgrades in the rest of your home, you might want to consider it — you might be able to find some good deals on floor models or end-of-season sales, too.

If not, help your appliances look their best by using stainless steel polish, glass polish, or whatever else you might need to help regenerate the shine on your stove.

These 5 seller strategies have helped my past clients

But you don’t need to take all these tips when staging your home — just don’t ignore them all when you’re selling, either. Taking the time to pay a little bit of attention to staging before a buyer even sees the place can reap big rewards at the closing table. If you have anything to add please feel free to comment or if you would like to hear more seller strategies to get your home sold, contact me.

First Time Home Buyer September 10, 2020

Smart Buyer’s Guide to Choosing the Perfect Property

in front of a house during sunset with lights on and a wet road infront of it

Daydreaming about owning your own home is one of the most intoxicating practices known to modern man, especially now that HGTV and all the house flipping shows make choosing the perfect property look like a cake walk. But when the time comes to actually put your money where your daydream is, it can be challenging for first-time buyers especially to understand how a home that doesn’t currently come anywhere close to the “dream” status but could be whipped into shape — and how a home that they think is perfect now will end up feeling like a mistake in a couple of years.

To avoid that unfortunate scenario, first-time buyers will need to think carefully and weigh all of their options. After considering all of these factors, you’ll be well-prepared to choose a house that feels like home today and for years to come.

mansion with col-de-sac driveway

Before choosing the perfect property, think about pricing

First and foremost, you need a home that you can afford. There’s no sense in deciding that you must have four bedrooms when the most you could afford in your market is two.

You don’t need to go through the entire process of getting pre-approved for a mortgage before you can start even considering what you want, but do a little bit of research around what your current housing market looks like, and then think about the down payment size and your own current finances. Check out my websites mortgage calculator to start and it’s almost always helpful to talk to a real estate professional, like a mortgage broker or a real estate agent, so you can get a realistic idea of what you might need to spend and what you can spend on your new home.

Beds, baths, and size

You know what size your household is and whether it’s likely to grow in the future. You also know how much space you’re likely to need based on your own current household’s configuration — if you work from home, then your desire for a little more space (and a room for a home office) might be non-negotiable, whereas if you’re used to commuting to an office every day, you may not need a home office at all.

So get a handle on the minimum number of bedrooms and bathrooms you’ll need in any home you buy. If you can, try to come up with some parameters for square footage, too. And you may want to think about your overall lot size if, for example, you’re an avid gardener or you have large dogs who’ll need some space to romp in the yard.

Special features

Once you understand your basic requirements for a home, you can start thinking about additional features that you’d like it to have. Perhaps you want a garage to store your tools, or a fenced in yard for the aforementioned dogs — or a deck where you can lay out and soak up some sun on weekends.

You should also think about the ideal heating and cooling setup in any home you buy, and it’s also wise to consider the school district (because even if you don’t have kids, it’s smart to keep in mind any buyers who could purchase your home from you in the future — they might have kids).

Some of these special features might be “nice-to-haves,” and you might decide that some are absolute necessities. Spend some time talking to a general contractor or a real estate agent before you make any final decisions about necessities, though — it’s quite possible that some of the things on your “must-have” list can be easily added once you move in.

grand central terminal clock

Location matters — a lot

Smart first-time buyers will want to think beyond a school district when choosing a home. How close is your home to major highways in the area (and is that a good thing or a bad thing)? How close are you to work, and are there other job opportunities or thriving industries nearby? What’s the shopping like? Are there parks or recreation centers, and where are the best grocery stores?

You’re buying a neighborhood just as much as you’re buying a home, and unlike your home, there isn’t usually a lot you can do to change the neighborhood. So make sure you’re fully aware of what the area where you’re hoping to buy is like, both positive and negative, and understand how that’s going to affect your life while you’re in the home and any buyers who may come after you.

When choosing the perfect property focus on what you can’t change

It’s really easy to fall in love with one part of a home and allow it to cloud a truer vision of your future. Maybe that kitchen is perfect for re-imagining yourself in a scene from Julia and Julia, but if there aren’t enough bedrooms or bathrooms in the home, then you’ll regret the purchase soon after you move in.

Try to look beyond trims and finishes to focus on the aspects of the home that are fixed and unchanging, like the lot size or the location of the property. If you’re touring a potential home with an agent, give your agent your list of must-haves and ask your agent if the house could fit that list with a little bit of work.

A real estate professional can help you figure out if a house that you think is just OK today might actually be your dream home in disguise. You can change out carpeting for hardwood floors and redo a kitchen over time, but if your heart is set on waterfront property … that might take a few thousand years to manifest, and you don’t have that long.

Is that really a “bargain”?

When you are choosing the perfect property, if you’re faced with a choice between a home that seems like a bargain but requires some fixing-up and a home that’s more expensive but requires little or no work, which should you choose?

In general, you probably want to opt for paying more out-of-pocket today for a home that’s still standing solidly tomorrow. There might be a good reason why that home is listed at a “bargain” price — it might be too expensive and time-consuming for anyone to reasonably fix.

This is another area where your real estate agent can help you understand whether a home’s condition is really worth the savings. Agents have seen homes in the area of all ages and in many different conditions, and they can let you know what issues typically arise in homes and whether the place you’re considering might be at risk for exhibiting one or more of those issues.

When you know how to choose the perfect property, you’re in a good place to start your home search — even if you’ve never bought a home before. Once you’ve got your short list of what you’re seeking, talk to a real estate professional so you can take the next step toward your homeownership dream.