House Hunting in One Day: 6 Tips for Maximizing Your Time

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In the ideal home-buying scenario, attending open houses and pinpointing the perfect place is a breeze. But in a seller’s market, finding a home is no small feat, which is why it’s important to make the most of the time you spend touring houses. Since most open houses happen on the weekend, you’ll need to do some prep work to manage your time wisely, so you don’t waste the better parts of your Saturdays and Sundays. We’ve got you covered with these tips to help you make your home search as productive as it can be.

1. Get pre-approved for a mortgage

Do not start touring houses before you are pre-approved for a mortgage. Not only will this crystallize exactly the price range you should be considering, but it will solidify your status as a serious buyer when the time eventually comes to make an offer, says Spencer Chambers, real estate expert and owner of the Chambers Organization in Newport Beach, CA.

2. Clarify which amenities matter most

You won’t be able to zero in on the right property if your wish list is a mile long or too vague. “Make a list of your absolute necessities and another of your wants; together, these will become your guide on which houses you’ll look at, based on the boxes they check,” Chambers says.

Beyond the physical house, brainstorm other variables that will help you narrow down the neighborhood: school district, walkability, proximity to downtown, etc. “Think about what you like to do on the weekend and what you need access to,” says Wendy Hooper with Coast Realty Services in Newport Beach, CA. Do you love dining out? Is a thriving music scene important? Do you need to live in a top-notch school district? “All of these factors help narrow communities quickly,” Hooper says.

Finally, if you’ll be commuting, check out typical drive times during the hours you’ll be on the road, using Google Maps or Waze. “Just because a property is near a highway doesn’t mean you’ll have smooth sailing if the highway is clogged with daily bumper-to-bumper traffic,” Taylor notes.

3. Find a savvy real estate agent

Once you are clear on your parameters, it’s time to start touring these homes. You’ll really want a real estate agent who knows the area. One way to find one is to start perusing listings in your preferred location and see what names keep popping up; they are likely to be the local experts. In many instances, they will be familiar with the homes for sale, and they may even catch wind of homes that are about to hit the market, so you can have a first look.

The goal is for your real estate agent to help you whittle down the list of homes you like online to a handful you’ll tour in person during the weekend.

4. Plan your route wisely

Once you’ve settled on the houses you’ll tour that day, have your agent create an itinerary of the most efficient route to see them. Grouping properties by neighborhood helps clients get their bearings on relative distances and a feel for what each neighborhood offers, says real estate agent Jake Tasharski with Center Coast Realty in Chicago.

However, if you’re short on time, Taylor recommends prioritizing by preference to make sure you’re able to see your top prospects. Or front-load your schedule with the newest listings, since those are the hottest homes that other buyers are eager to tour.

5. Take notes (and photos) as you go

When you are touring many houses in one day, they are naturally going to blend together. To keep them all straight, take plenty of photos—at least one of each room—and take notes of anything you notice, both positive and negative. Spencer also recommends giving each house a nickname, something that stands out to you, so that you can easily remember it.

Remember, this is the time to be judgy. Tasharski encourages clients to eliminate homes as they go by comparing each current home to the previous showing, and to their favorite home so far. “Seeing so many properties in a short amount of time can get overwhelming, so if my client knows a home they just saw isn’t ‘the one,’ we throw that listing sheet away, so it’s out of sight and out of mind.”

6. Block out the last half of the afternoon to revisit your top choices

If at all possible, leave the final hour to revisit your favorite properties. Still have extra time? Get to know the neighborhood. enjoy a snack or cocktail in a local bistro, and soak up your new neighborhood vibe, Taylor suggests. You’ve earned it.

 

Posted by Cathie Ericson on realtor.com

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Fact or Fiction? 6 Down Payment Myths You Should Stop Believing Immediately

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If you’re thinking about buying your first home, that pesky down payment has probably kept you awake more than a few nights. We get it—while a pre-approval is crucial for determining your buying power, it’s the down payment that shows you mean business.

But saving up is hard. In a study conducted by NerdWallet, 44% of respondents said a lack of a down payment was the roadblock keeping them from buying a home.

Making things even worse? Your well-meaning friends and family have probably given you at least one piece of well-meaning, but ill-informed advice, leaving you in more of a blind panic than you need to be.

We’re not saying that saving for a down payment will be a cake walk, but separating fact from fiction can go a long way. Here’s the truth you need to know.

Myth No. 1: You need 20% down

In the NerdWallet study, 44% of respondents also believed you need 20% (or more) down to buy a home. For decades, this was standard, but it isn’t always the case anymore.

“It really depends on the type of buyer you are,” says Robert Garay, a broker associate and team leader of the Garay Groupat Lifestyle International Realty in Miami.

For instance, a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan only requires 3.5% down. If either you or your spouse served in the military, you’re likely to be eligible for a Veterans Affairs (VA) loan, which can be approved for 0% down. The same goes for United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) loans.

And if you’re a qualified buyer, you can get approved for a conventional loan with less than 20% down, but there’s a catch: You’ll be on the hook for private mortgage insurance, or PMI. PMI is paid directly to your lender, not toward your principal. Think of it essentially as insurance you pay to prove to the lender you won’t default on your loan.

Myth No. 2: Paying mortgage insurance is smarter than paying a bigger down payment

Perhaps that mortgage insurance seems like a small price to pay in order not to deplete your bank account and win the house. So what if you make some additional payments for a while?

It might not be a big deal, but you’ll want to calculate what you’ll pay in the long run. Take, for example, conventional loans. If you put less than 20% down, you’ll get stuck with PMI, but only until the principal balance reaches 78% or less of the original purchase price.

FHA loans, on the other hand, require mortgage insurance for the life of the loan. That means you’ll be paying an extra monthly fee for as long as you live in the home (or until you pay off the mortgage).

Before you brush off mortgage insurance, compare your options—and know that paying less upfront could mean paying much more over the life of your loan.

Myth No. 3: Cash is king

If you’re shopping in a competitive market, you’ve likely heard horror stories about first-time buyers getting snubbed over investors or all-cash buyers. If you’re working with a loan and a small amount down, it might seem like your chances of getting picked over the other guys are slim to none.

There is some truth to this belief. Cash offers offer one big benefit to a seller: They’re guaranteed to close on time with no loan approval hiccups.

But on the flip side,“That myth assumes that sellers care most about a fast and certain close, and that’s not always true,” says Casey Fleming, mortgage adviser and author of “The Loan Guide: How to Get the Best Possible Mortgage.”

Often, if you make the bigger offer, or you write a killer personal letter that resonates with the seller, you stand a better chance of getting approved over an all-cash offer.

Fleming’s seen it happen: “I’ve actually beat out all cash offers with 10% down because our offer price was a little higher,” he says. “I’ve also had deals where we were competing against a higher cash offer and the seller took ours because the buyers were a young family wanting to raise their kids in the home—and that meant something to the seller.”

Myth No. 4: Down payment assistance is easy!

We hate to burst your bubble—or discourage you from trying to get down payment assistance if you qualify—but finding, applying, and getting approved for help isn’t always easy.

First, there are no national, or even many state-run, assistance programs.

“Pretty much every program is locally run, sometimes by county or even by city,” Fleming says. You can check the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s website for a smattering of state-run “homeowner assistance” options, but you’ll have to do some digging.

And then there’s the other rub. “You have to be under a certain income to qualify, usually the median income in the county,” Fleming says.

Some programs may make special exceptions—say, for single parents—but in general, income is going to be a big factor.

For example, to be eligible for down payment assistance in Grand County, CO, applicants must work a minimum of 32 hours per week in the area and meet income limits. Nevada’s “Home Is Possible Down Payment Assistance Program” has a cap on income, credit score requirements, and the cost of the home bought. In Tamarac, FL, applicants must meet income requirements, wait until an open enrollment period and then get picked from a lottery system.

Still, if you think you might qualify, call your local housing authority office—it can usually point you in the right direction.

Myth No. 5: You shouldn’t put more than 20% down

Let’s say you’re lucky enough to have saved more than 20% down. Odds are good some well-meaning friend is going to tell you to put only 20% down—no more, no less. After all, now that you’ve successfully avoided PMI, why fork over more cash than you have to?

A couple of reasons, Fleming says: First, a higher down payment could signal to your lender that you’re a trustworthy borrower and get you a lower interest rate on your mortgage. Plus, the more you pay upfront, the less you’re borrowing—which means lower mortgage payments.

But you’ll have to put down at least 5% more to see that difference, according to Fleming.

“Your interest rate drops a little more with 25% down, and even more with 35% down,” he says.

Compare your options to see if it makes more sense to pay the extra down or to keep that money in investments that can work for you.

Myth No. 6: You can take out a loan for a down payment

Truth: There’s nothing wrong with getting help with your down payment, but it has to be a gift. If a lender suspects the money might be a loan, repaying said loan will be factored into your mortgage approval amount and you’ll qualify for less than you might have wanted.

In order to prove it’s a gift, you’ll have to get a letter from the gifters, swearing that they don’t plan on asking for the money back. And don’t try to game the system—lying on a mortgage application is a felony.

Dori Zinn contributed to this article.

 

Posted by Angela Colley on realtor.com

Thinking of Selling Your Home? Why You Need A Pro in Your Corner

With home prices on the rise and buyer demand strong, some sellers may be tempted to try and sell their homes on their own (FSBO) without using the services of a real estate professional.

Real estate agents are trained and experienced in negotiation and, in most cases, the seller is not. Sellers must realize that their ability to negotiate will determine whether or not they get the best deal for themselves and their families.

Here is a list of some of the people with whom the seller must be prepared to negotiate if they decide to FSBO:

  • The buyer who wants the best deal possible
  • The buyer’s agent who solely represents the best interest of the buyer
  • The buyer’s attorney (in some parts of the country)
  • The home inspection companies, which work for the buyer and will almost always find some problems with the house
  • The termite company if there are challenges
  • The buyer’s lender if the structure of the mortgage requires the sellers’ participation
  • The appraiser if there is a question of value
  • The title company if there are challenges with certificates of occupancy (CO) or other permits
  • The town or municipality if you need to get the CO permits mentioned above
  • The buyer’s buyer in case there are challenges with the house your buyer is selling
  • Your bank in the case of a short sale

Bottom Line

The percentage of sellers who have hired real estate agents to sell their homes has increased steadily over the last 20 years. Let’s get together and discuss all we can do to make the process easier for you.

 

Posted by The KCM Crew

Are you ready to sell your home? Visit our website today to find an agent!

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!

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.

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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

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