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April 17, 2018

WHICH DOWN PAYMENT STRATEGY IS RIGHT FOR YOU?

 

You’ve most likely heard the rule: Save for a 20-percent down payment before you buy a home. The logic behind saving 20 percent is solid, as it shows that you have the financial discipline and stability to save for a long-term goal. It also helps you get favorable rates from lenders.

But there can actually be financial benefits to putting down a small down payment—as low as three percent—rather than parting with so much cash up front, even if you have the money available.

 

THE DOWNSIDE

The downsides of a small down payment are pretty well known. You’ll have to pay Private Mortgage Insurance for years, and the lower your down payment, the more you’ll pay. You’ll also be offered a lesser loan amount than borrowers who have a 20-percent down payment, which will eliminate some homes from your search.

 

THE UPSIDE

The national average for home appreciation is about five percent. The appreciation is independent from your home payment, so whether you put down 20 percent or three percent, the increase in equity is the same. If you’re looking at your home as an investment, putting down a smaller amount can lead to a higher return on investment, while also leaving more of your savings free for home repairs, upgrades, or other investment opportunities.

 

THE HAPPY MEDIUM

Of course, your home payment options aren’t binary. Most borrowers can find some common ground between the security of a traditional 20 percent and an investment-focused, small down payment. Your trusted real estate professional can provide some answers as you explore your financing options.

April 12, 2018

Easy Ways to Save for a Down Payment

 

With rising rental costs and the amount of student debt at an all-time high, it's no surprise that many potential buyers are unable to save up for a down payment. If you've found yourself in this boat, don't lose hope. With the help of technology and a little foresight, you can save for that down payment -- and probably sooner than you think.

Here's how:

Set up automatic deposits. Enable automatic deposits into your savings account. Schedule them right after paydays, when you know you'll have the cash available. If you can't automate your deposits, set a reminder to transfer money every two weeks.

Try a round-off app. What if you could round off every purchase you make to the nearest dollar and then put that extra cash to good use? Apps like Acorns and Clarity Money round off your transactions and either invest your money or add it to a savings account.

Cut down on spending. Find an area of spending that you can afford to cut back on -- maybe eating out or grabbing to-go coffees. Each month, tally up your saved funds and add them directly to your savings account. You'll be surprised at the impact.

Clean house. Do a little spring-cleaning, and declutter those closets, drawers and shelves. Sell anything you don't want on Facebook, Craigslist or a consignment app. It may only be $20 to $50 at a time, but when added to an interest-paying savings account, it'll make a big difference.

Remember, you don't need the mythical 20 percent down payment ready and available to buy a home. In fact, thanks to low down payment loan options and a plethora of down payment assistance programs, you can actually buy a property with much less than that -- sometimes just 3 percent!

Posted in Real Estate Advice
April 3, 2018

DEALING WITH SCRATCHED HARDWOOD FLOORS

 

Hardwood floors are highly desirable for most homeowners, but they come with their share of challenges when it comes to cleaning, maintenance, and repairs. After a few months or years of heavy use from kids playing with toys and chairs being shuffled around, it may be time for some DIY fixes.

Hiding scratches: If you’ve got a good eye for matching colors, you can actually use crayons or markers or purchase wax sticks from the hardware store to fill-in scratches. Try to match the stain color on your floors, but don’t worry if it’s a little off. If the color is close, once the scratch is filled, it’ll look like a variation in the wood grain.

Polishing floors: You can make a polish solution for your floors from household ingredients. Mix olive oil and vinegar in equal parts, pour it directly into scratches, and then wipe it off after 24 hours. It may take several applications, but this homemade polish will fill and cover most scratches.

Clever decor: It’s not a long-term solution, but sometimes the most painless way to fix scratches in your floors is to cover them with a rug or furniture arrangement.

Spot sanding: For deeper scratches, you’ll need to spot sand with fine steel wool or sandpaper, use wood filler, and stain and seal the repaired area.

Posted in Home Tips
March 30, 2018

Spring Home Maintenance Checklist

Spring is here and it's time to make sure your home is in tip top shape.

 

Posted in Home Tips
March 28, 2018

4 Home Improvements With High Returns

 

Remodeling your home can be a great way to increase its value and ensure you get good returns when it comes time to sell. But before you go tearing out your floors or adding another bedroom, take note: Not all projects are created equal. In fact, according to recent data from Remodeling magazine’s Cost vs. Value report, there’s a pretty big discrepancy between which projects deliver high returns and those that don’t.
 
Want to make sure your remodels are worth the effort? Here are some top options:
 
  • Get a new garage door. It seems simple, but replacing your garage door is the most value-adding project you can take on. On average, it delivers returns of more than 98 percent upon resale.
  • Focus on curb appeal. Upgrades to exterior areas saw serious growth over the last year. Wood deck additions increased over 18 percent in value, while stone veneer installation value was up almost 14 percent. 
  • Replace your entry door. Don’t bother sprucing up old doors. Replacing them with steel models can deliver a whopping 91 percent ROI. And at an average cost of $1,471, they’re one of the most affordable updates for your home.
  • Upgrade your kitchen. Minor kitchen remodels continue to be a top value-adding project. This year, the average small remodel adds about $17,193 to your home’s value and recoups more than 81 percent of your costs.
You might want to rule out projects like backyard patios, master suite additions and major kitchen remodels -- they’re notorious for low returns. If you’re looking to boost your home’s value and increase its marketability, focus your efforts on projects that improve aesthetics and add ease and convenience instead. 
March 19, 2018

12 House-Hunting Tips to Help You Make the Right Choice

Buying a home is no joke. There are a lot of things to consider and really think about. It will be one of the biggest decisions you'll be making in your life, so finding the right home is of utmost importance. 

 

Posted in Real Estate Advice
March 16, 2018

UPSIZING YOUR HOME

 

Unfortunately, our homes don’t always grow with us. What may have initially worked fine for a single person, a young couple’s starter home, or a family with a newborn can quickly become too small as families expand and multiple generations live under one roof.

Remodelling and adding to your home is one option for creating more space, but it can be costly, and the size of your property may be prohibitive. That’s when moving to a bigger home becomes the best solution.

WHERE DO YOU NEED MORE SPACE?

The first thought when upsizing your home is to simply consider square footage, bedrooms, and bathrooms. But it’s important to take a more critical approach to how your space will actually be used. If you have younger children (or possibly more on the way), then focusing on bedrooms and bathrooms makes sense. But if your children are closer to heading off to college or starting their own families, it may be better to prioritize group spaces like the kitchen, dining room, living room, and outdoor space—it’ll pay off during the holidays or summer vacations, when everyone is coming to visit for big gatherings.

MOVING OUTWARD

 

If you need more space, but don’t necessarily want a more expensive home, you can probably get a lot more house for your money if you move a little further from a city center. While the walkability and short commutes of a dense neighborhood or condo are hard to leave beyond, your lifestyle—and preferences for hosting Thanksgiving, barbecues, and birthdays—might mean that a spacious home in the suburbs makes the most sense. It’s your best option for upsizing while avoiding a heftier price tag.

 

March 15, 2018

Curb Appeal: 4 Fixes for a Lush Lawn

 

The colder months are notoriously hard on foliage -- and subsequently, curb appeal. Fortunately, spring is just around the corner, and that means now is the perfect time to prep your lawn for its revival.

Try these easy fixes, and you'll have lush landscaping in no time.

  1. Reseed and fertilize. Have bare or thinning spots of grass? Take the time to reseed now, and use fertilizer to encourage new growth. Be sure to scrape any bare patcheswith a rake before seeding, and keep the area moist until it begins to sprout.
  2. Look for problematic slopes or shaded areas. Sometimes large, shady trees or steep inclines can hinder lawn growth. Step back and analyze your yard for these potential problem areas. Consider planting fescues in shady zones, and look into hydroseeding in sloped regions.
  3. Use sod to patch extensive dead areas. If the cold weather has killed large swaths of the lawn, resodding may be your best bet. You can install sod anytime of year; just make sure to water it often until it sets.
  4. Consider xeriscaping. Xeriscapingis the easiest way to weatherproof your lawn no matter where you live. It's also super-low maintenance and low cost, and it can be a big selling point if your home's in a hot or arid climate.

Whether you're planning to sell your property or you just want a great-looking home, your lawn -- and its health -- is going to play a big role. Take care of it, address any problems now and by spring, you'll have an outdoor oasis you'll be proud to call your own.

Posted in Home Tips
March 15, 2018

5 CRITERIA FOR PRICING A HOME

 

When you put your home up for sale, one of the best ways to determine the asking price is to look at comparable sales. There’s rarely a perfect apples-to-apples comparison, so a pricing decision often relies on comparisons to several recent sales in the area. Here are five criteria to look for in a sales comparison.

  1. Location: Homes in the same neighborhood typically follow the same market trends. Comparing your home to another in the same neighborhood is a good start, but comparing it to homes on the same street or block is even better.

  2. Date of sale: It varies by location, but housing markets can see a ton of fluctuation in a short time period. It‘s best to use the most recent sales data available.

  3. Home build: Look for homes with similar architectural styles, numbers of bathrooms and bedrooms, square footage, and other basics.

  4. Features and upgrades: Remodeled bathrooms and kitchens can raise a home’s price, and so can less flashy upgrades like a new roof or HVAC system. Be sure to look for similar bells and whistles.

  5. Sale types: Homes that are sold as short sales or foreclosures are often in distress or sold at a lower price than they’d receive from a more typical sale. These homes are not as useful for comparisons.

March 13, 2018

Tiny Homes: What Are the Pros & Cons?

 

The tiny house trend is a big movement. Everyone from millennials to retirees is opting to live small, but that doesn't mean the lifestyle is right for you. Consider these pros and cons before you downsize. 

What constitutes a tiny house?

Generally, tiny homes measure between 100 and 500 square feet. Many are portable, but some city ordinances and housing divisions require homes to be set on a foundation.

What are the pros?

People are drawn to tiny houses for a number of reasons. Owners of tiny homes often cite price as the deciding factor. Tiny homes range from $10,000 to $60,000, depending on the manufacturer. Even a top-of-the-line custom unit typically costs less than $100,000.

Other perks include the freedom of mobility and the ability to live more sustainably. There's also the added flexibility to use the structure as a rental unit, add-on expansion or mother-in-law suite.

What are the cons?

Of course, not everyone is willing to contend with the realities of owning a tiny home. For instance, despite their low sales price, there are hidden costs that can sneak up on potential buyers. From construction crew markups and shipping fees to property taxes and plot purchases, the final figure can add up quickly.

What's more, unless you have enough liquid funds to make a cash purchase, financing for tiny homes can be difficult, and there are also obvious drawbacks such as space restrictions that complicate hosting guests and storing nonessentials.

No doubt our collective desire for simplification and financial freedom has birthed the tiny home movement. However, before you commit to one, it's important to educate yourself about the complicated regulations and overlooked nuances of owning a tiny home.

 

Posted in Real Estate Advice