Getting Pre-Approved Should Always Be Your First Step

In many markets across the country, the number of buyers searching for their dream homes greatly outnumbers the number of homes for sale. This has led to a competitive marketplace where buyers often need to stand out. One way to show you are serious about buying your dream home is to get pre-qualified or pre-approved for a mortgage before starting your search.

Even if you are in a market that is not as competitive, understanding your budget will give you the confidence of knowing if your dream home is within your reach.

Freddie Mac lays out the advantages of pre-approval in the ‘My Home’ section of their website:

“It’s highly recommended that you work with your lender to get pre-approved before you begin house hunting. Pre-approval will tell you how much home you can afford and can help you move faster, and with greater confidence, in competitive markets.”

One of the many advantages of working with a local real estate professional is that many have relationships with lenders who will be able to help you with this process. Once you have selected a lender, you will need to fill out their loan application and provide them with important information regarding “your credit, debt, work history, down payment and residential history.”

Freddie Mac describes the ‘4 Cs’ that help determine the amount you will be qualified to borrow:

  1. Capacity: Your current and future ability to make your payments
  2. Capital or cash reserves: The money, savings, and investments you have that can be sold quickly for cash
  3. Collateral: The home, or type of home, that you would like to purchase
  4. Credit: Your history of paying bills and other debts on time

Getting pre-approved is one of many steps that will show home sellers that you are serious about buying, and it often helps speed up the process once your offer has been accepted.

Bottom Line

Many potential home buyers overestimate the down payment and credit scores needed to qualify for a mortgage today. If you are ready and willing to buy, you may be pleasantly surprised at your ability to do so.

 

Posted by The KCM Crew

Are you ready to get pre-approved? Visit our website to get started!

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Cheap House Improvements Under $500 That Will Increase the Value

Whether you intend to sell your home in the near future or stay put for the long haul, house improvements can increase the value of your property. But if you shudder at the thought of wasting your time on labor-intensive projects that may or may not add equity, you’re not alone.

Luckily, you don’t have to spend your entire savings—and every weekend from here to eternity—to keep your house up to date. We found a slew of smart projects that are relatively simple, will cost you no more than $500, and will be catnip to future buyers—or just make your everyday life a bit brighter.

iStock

Before you begin your house improvements…

We’ll offer this pre-project tip that will make your life a lot easier: declutter.

“A common problem I see when I initially start working with a client is too much stuff that is not being used,” says Tracie Stoll, a DIYer, designer, and decorator who blogs at CleverlyInspired.com. “Declutter first—and in many cases, you can sell those extra items to make money to tackle home improvement projects.”

Now let’s get to the projects!

Make a splash in the bathroom

The bathroom is one of the most visited rooms in your home, and just a few changes can make it one of the most functional and stylish rooms as well. Simple touch-ups like regrouting and recaulking can instantly make the room look cleaner and newer.

Also, swapping out inefficient toilets, faucets, and shower heads for products that aid in water conservation can make a big difference. A low-flush toilet uses 20% less water than a standard toilet, and water-saving shower heads can help families save almost 3,000 gallons of water a year.

“Touchless water faucets are all the rage right now, especially if you have kids,” says remodeler and licensed contractor Mark Clement of MyFixItUpLife. “Touchless faucets are clean and easy, and there are literally thousands of fixture choices, including stainless steel, brushed nickel, chrome, and bronze.”

Just be sure to keep your fixture finishes consistent throughout the bathroom.

Create style underfoot

While updating your flooring is typically seen as an expensive project, it doesn’t have to be.

“If the carpet has seen better days, pull it up to see what is underneath,” says Stoll. “If it is concrete, that surface can be cleaned up and painted. Throw an inexpensive area rug down, and the room will be updated immediately.”

Tiling is another budget-friendly flooring update for your kitchen or bathroom.

“Porcelain and stone are very inexpensive,” says Alan Zielinski, owner and president of Better Kitchens in Niles, IL, who adds that linoleum floors are also very cost-effective, and come in several styles.

“[Porcelain] tiles are very strong, and they can mimic the look of stone and wood,” says Judy Mozen, designer and president of Homecrafted Homes in Atlanta.

Beware: Tearing out an existing floor can add significant labor costs, so if it’s at all possible, lay the new flooring on top of the existing one.

Customize your cabinets

Another inexpensive bathroom and kitchen update to tackle? Fix those cabinets. If they’re in good shape, you can simply clean, sand, and paint them.

“This is also an opportunity to provide a pop of color in the bathroom,” says Clement.

So, what color should you paint them?

“White is a popular color because it is clean, and it looks good with any style,” says Mozen. Black is another popular cabinet color.

Mozen advises homeowners to weigh the condition of the cabinet’s interior area. “If there’s water damage, it’s not worth it to repaint them—that’s like polishing an old shoe,” she says.

Both Clement and Mozen say that sometimes it may be just as cost-effective to purchase new stock cabinets from a big-box store such as Lowe’s or Home Depot.

You can also update your cabinets by simply replacing the hardware. New knobs, handles, and pulls in the kitchen and bathroom will make a huge difference.

Add architectural details

You can use wainscoting, shiplap, and crown molding to add craftsmanship to your home.

“I love wainscoting,” says Clement. “It takes a two-dimensional drywall surface and immediately makes it feel homey. And there are a lot of wainscoting choices ranging from wood to PVC.”

However, Clement warns against using trims made from medium-density fiberboard in a room with a lot of moisture, because this material cannot withstand water and will mold.

“Adding crown moldings to the ceiling of various rooms or adding shoe moldings to the floor is a great way to dress rooms up without major additions,” says Allen Shayanfekr, CEO and co-founder of Sharestates, a real estate investment company that focuses on fix-and-flip properties. “Working with a trim carpenter to have these added can do a lot aesthetically for the appearance of rooms and the overall value of a home.”

Light it up

Lighting is another way to update your home without spending a fortune.

“Adding inexpensive new lighting fixtures in areas with a lot of visibility in the house can have a large impact on a home’s value,” says Shayanfekr. “Adding a few sconces and possibly an inexpensive chandelier—something around the $300 price point—can make a huge difference in a hallway, living room, or kitchen,” he says.

Create the perfect palette

Perhaps the easiest way to transform a room is with paint.

“I would say paint is the No. 1 room changer with very little expense,” Stoll says. “And don’t forget the trim; that is the icing on the cake.”

The beauty of paint is that you can use it to update practically anything. You can paint the interior or the exterior of the home. You can paint the walls, the cabinets, and other furniture.

Stoll even recommends spray-painting your lamps and then buying new lampshades. On the outside, you can paint the front door and paint or stain your deck or wood fence. You can paint your outdoor furniture and, depending on the material, you can even paint your garage doors.

 

Posted by Terri Williams on realtor.com

What Should You Look for In Your Real Estate Team?

How do you select the members of your team who are going to help make your dream of owning a home a reality? What should you be looking for? How do you know if you’ve found the right agent or lender?

The most important characteristic that you should be looking for in your agent is someone who is going to take the time to really educate you on the choices available to you and your ability to buy in today’s market.

As the financial guru Dave Ramsey advises:

“When getting help with money, whether it’s insurance, real estate or investments, you should always look for someone with the heart of a teacher, not the heart of a salesman.”

Do your research. Ask your friends and family for recommendations of professionals they’ve worked with in the past and have had good experiences with.

Look for members of your team who will be honest and trustworthy; after all, you will be trusting them to help you make one of the biggest financial decisions of your life.

Whether this is your first or fifth time buying a home, you want to make sure that you have an agent who is going to have the tough conversations with you, not just the easy ones. If your offer isn’t accepted by the seller, or they think that there may be something wrong with the home that you’ve fallen in love with, you would rather know what they think than make a costly mistake.

According to the Home Buyer and Seller Generational Trends Report:

Buyers from all generations primarily wanted their agent’s help to find the right home to purchase. Buyers were also looking for help to negotiate the terms of sale and to help with price negotiations.” Additionally,“Help understanding the purchase process was most beneficial to buyers 37 years and younger at 75 percent.”

Look for someone to invest in your family’s future with you. You want an agent who isn’t focused on the transaction but is instead focused on helping you understand the process while helping you find your dream home.

Bottom Line

In this world of Google searches, where it seems like all the answers are just a mouse-click away, you need an agent who is going to educate you and share the information that you need to know before you even know you need it.

 

Posted by The KCM Crew

Find your agent today!

 

99% of Experts Agree: Home Prices Will Increase

Some believe that the combined effects of the new tax code and rising mortgage rates will have an adverse impact on residential real estate prices in 2018. However, the clear majority of recently surveyedhousing experts believe that home values will continue to rise this year.

What is the Home Price Expectation Survey?

Each quarter, Pulsenomics surveys a nationwide panel of economists, real estate experts and investment & market strategists. Those surveyed include experts such as:

  • Daniel Bachman, Senior Manager, U.S. Economics at Deloitte Services, LP
  • Kathy Bostjancic, Head of U.S. Macro Investors Service at Oxford Economics
  • David Downs, Real Estate Finance Professor at VCU
  • Edward Pinto, Resident Fellow at American Enterprise Institute
  • Albert Saiz, Director at MIT Center for Real Estate

Where do these experts see home values headed in 2018?

Here is a breakdown of where they see home values twelve months from now:

  • 21.6% believe prices will appreciate by 6% or more
  • 71.6% believe prices will appreciate between 3 and 5.99%
  • 5.7% believe prices will appreciate between 0 and 2.99%
  • Only 1.1% believe prices will depreciate

Bottom Line

Almost ninety-nine percent of the top experts studying residential real estate believe that prices will appreciate this year, and over 93% believe home values will appreciate by at least 3%.

 

Posted by The KCM Crew

The Cost of Waiting: Interest Rates Edition [INFOGRAPHIC]

Some Highlights:

  • Interest rates are projected to increase steadily heading into 2019.
  • The higher your interest rate, the more money you end up paying for your home and the higher your monthly payment will be.
  • Rates are still low right now. Don’t wait until rates hit 5% to start searching for your dream home!

 

Posted by The KCM Crew

Are you ready to buy? Visit our website to meet our agents and start searching for homes!

How to Set a Home Renovation Budget

Before you start picking out tile and paint chips, be sure you know how much it will cost to remodel your house.

Ready for a kitchen renovation? Anxious for a bathroom remodel? The easy part is knowing your goal for home remodeling — whether you’re trying to keep up with your growing family, add office space, or increase your home’s value.

But figuring out how to plan a home renovation that doesn’t break the bank can be tricky.

Here are five key steps in planning your home remodeling project.

1. Estimate home renovation costs

As a general rule of thumb, you should spend no more on each room than the value of that room as a percentage of your overall house value. (Get an approximate value of your home to start with.)

For example, a kitchen generally accounts for 10 to 15 percent of the property value, so spend no more than this on kitchen renovation costs. If your home is worth $200,000, for example, you’ll want to spend $30,000 or less.

A kitchen remodel should cost no more than 10 to 15 percent of your home’s value. Photo from Offset.

Something else to keep in mind: Contrary to popular belief, kitchen renovations offer among the lowest return on investment, according to analysis from Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate. Every dollar you spend on a kitchen remodel increases the value of your home by 50 cents.

The highest return on investment? A mid-range bathroom remodel.

2. Consider home remodeling loan options

If you plan on borrowing money to fund your home renovations, there are a number of loans out there to help with just that.

  • Refinancing. Depending on your current interest rate, you might be able to refinance your mortgage at a lower rate and/or for a longer loan term, which could lower your monthly payments and help you save up for your renovations.
  • Cash-out refinance. If you have enough equity, you could also consider a cash-out refinance, which means refinancing your existing loan for an amount that’s higher than what you owe. Going this route, you pay off your original mortgage and have cash left over. Use a refinance calculator to see if refinancing makes sense for you.
  • HELOC. If refinancing sounds like too big of a leap, a home equity line of credit (HELOC) might work better. A HELOC works a lot like a credit card in the sense that it has a set limit that you can borrow against.
  • Home equity loan. Although it sounds similar to a HELOC, a home equity loan is a bit different. This loan requires you to take out all the cash at one time. They’re often referred to as “second mortgages” because homeowners get them in addition to their first mortgage.

Refinancing, getting a HELOC or taking out a home equity loan are all big decisions, and it can be tough to know which one makes the most sense for you. As with any new loan, consult with a lender to see which option is best for your situation.

3. Get home renovation quotes from contractors

Some contractors will give you an estimate based on what they think you want done, and work completed under these circumstances is almost guaranteed to cost more. You have to be very specific about what you want done, and spell it out in the contract — right down to the materials you’d like used.

Make sure that contractors’ estimates include the full scope of your project. Photo from Shutterstock.

Get quotes from several contractors, tossing out the bid from the one who gives you the lowest estimate. Going with this choice could be asking for problems, as low-priced contractors are known to cut corners — at your expense.

4. Stick to the home remodeling plan

As the renovation moves along, you might be tempted to add on another “small” project or incorporate the newest design trend at the last minute. But know that every time you change your mind, there’s a change order, and even minor changes can be costly. Strive to stick to the original agreement, if possible.

Even minor changes to your remodeling project’s scope can add significant costs. Photo from Offset.

5. Account for hidden home renovation costs

Your home may look perfect on the outside, but there could be issues lurking beneath the surface. In fact, hidden imperfections are one of the reasons renovation projects end up costing more than you anticipated.

Rather than scramble to come up with extra money after the fact, give yourself a cushion upfront. Factor in 10 to 20 percent (or more) of your contracted budget for unforeseen expenses, as they can — and do — occur. In fact, it’s rare that any project goes completely smoothly.

 

Posted by Vera Gibbons on Zillow

 

4 Reasons Spring is a Great Time to Buy a Home!

Here are four great reasons to consider buying a home today instead of waiting.

Prices Will Continue to Rise

CoreLogic’s latest Home Price Index reports that home prices have appreciated by 6.6% over the last 12 months. The same report predicts that prices will continue to increase at a rate of 4.3% over the next year.

The bottom in home prices has come and gone. Home values will continue to appreciate for years. Waiting no longer makes sense.

Mortgage Interest Rates Are Projected to Increase

Freddie Mac’s Primary Mortgage Market Survey shows that interest rates for a 30-year mortgage hovered close to 4.0% in 2017. Most experts predict that rates will rise over the next 12 months. The Mortgage Bankers Association, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the National Association of Realtors are in unison, projecting that rates will increase by nearly a full percentage point by this time next year.

An increase in rates will impact YOUR monthly mortgage payment. A year from now, your housing expense will increase if a mortgage is necessary to buy your next home.

Either Way, You Are Paying a Mortgage

There are some renters who have not yet purchased a home because they are uncomfortable taking on the obligation of a mortgage. Everyone should realize that unless you are living with your parents rent-free, you are paying a mortgage – either yours or your landlord’s.

As an owner, your mortgage payment is a form of ‘forced savings’ that allows you to have equity in your home that you can tap into later in life. As a renter, you guarantee your landlord is the person with that equity.

Are you ready to put your housing cost to work for you?

It’s Time to Move on with Your Life

The ‘cost’ of a home is determined by two major components: the price of the home and the current mortgage rate. It appears that both are on the rise.

But what if they weren’t? Would you wait?

Look at the actual reason you are buying and decide if it is worth waiting. Whether you want to have a great place for your children to grow up, you want your family to be safer, or you just want to have control over renovations, maybe now is the time to buy.

If the right thing for you and your family is to purchase a home this year, buying sooner rather than later could lead to substantial savings.

 

Posted by The KCM Crew

Are you ready to buy? Click HERE to start searching for your next home!