Merry Christmas from all of us!

Want to see our behind the scenes team? We may not go out and show houses, but we keep everything in our office running smoothly and support our Realtors in everything they do!

A few weeks ago we went down to the KMIZ TV Station in our city of Columbia, Missouri to film our holiday greeting. It took us about 10 silly takes to get it right-and now we understand why people on talk shows wear short sleeves-it gets hot under those lights!

We’ll be playing 8 times a day on the ABC 17, Fox 22, and MyZou stations.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all of us!

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Buying a home for the holidays: 5 tips

The year-end holiday season is a good time for exchanging gifts, entertaining and general merriment. But what about buying a house? Should you try to squeeze that in before New Year’s, too?

© kevin miller/Getty Images

© kevin miller/Getty Images

If you’re not picky about the home you intend to buy, the answer might be yes.

Sellers tend to avoid the end of the year due to the short days, wintry weather and conventional wisdom that says buyers are otherwise occupied, says Tim Deihl, associate broker at Gibson Sotheby’s International Realty in Boston. But those who do choose to sell at year-end are often under pressure and highly motivated to cut a deal.

“A seller who’s looking to move a piece of real estate during the holidays is a seller who needs to sell, because nobody in their right mind would pick that as the most convenient time to list their property,” Deihl says.

And that’s why the year-end might be a smart time to buy: Determined house-hunters can take advantage of sellers’ urgency.

Here are five things to remember when shopping for a home over the holidays.

1. Fewer homes for sale

The biggest downside is the limited supply of for-sale homes, which occurs mainly because sellers are so uninterested.

“You won’t have tons of inventory to pick through,” Deihl warns.

If you can’t find a home you like, you might be able to tap into homes that aren’t on the market, says Ken Pozek, a real estate agent at Keller Williams Realty in Northville, Mich.

One strategy is to research what brokers call “old expires,” which refers to homes that were for sale several years ago but weren’t sold at that time.

Another approach is for the broker to send letters to homeowners in your preferred neighborhood, trawling for someone who’s willing to sell a home that meets your criteria.

A third technique is to call brokers who sell a lot of homes in your target area and ask them about homes that aren’t yet listed, but are being prepped for sale and are “coming soon.”

“If they make the right calls to the right agents, they will trip over those deals,” Pozek says.

2. Winter clearance prices

Less competition from other buyers during the holiday season might mean you’ll be able to negotiate a favorable price for a home you want to purchase.

“Those properties oftentimes are priced to sell,” Deihl says. “It could be an opportunity to sacrifice a little bit of time during an otherwise very busy time of the year to get a better investment opportunity.”

Still, with fewer homes from which to choose, you might have to lower expectations.

“If a house comes up that works for you, it should be a pleasant surprise. I wouldn’t set a realistic expectation of finding your dream home during that period,” Deihl adds.

3. Look out for seasonally obscured defects

© Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

© Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

One pitfall in year-end house shopping is that homes in cold-weather states might have defects hidden by snow, only to be discovered by thaw in spring. That should be a concern for buyers in, say, the Northeast in December, January and early February, Deihl suggests.

“Snow covers a lot of things,” he says. “Make sure you understand the landscaping and (feel assured) that the sellers aren’t trying to hide something.”

Photographs of the home taken earlier in the year and a home inspection can help mitigate some of the risk that a home might be listed in the snowy season to hide its faults.

4. Who’s working . . . and who’s not?

It’s not just sellers and buyers who like to take time off from work in November and December. Real estate professionals from Realtors to mortgage brokers have friends and family, too.

That said, many pros do work during these months, precisely because they know many buyers have vacation time to devote to year-end house hunting, Pozek says.

Either way, it’s a good idea to ask your agent what his or her plans are so you won’t be caught off guard or left hanging if your calls or emails suddenly aren’t answered as quickly as you’d expected.

Individual mortgage brokers also might take some time off at the end of the year. But it would be unusual for a mortgage company or bank to be closed any normal business day other than Thanksgiving, the day after Thanksgiving, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, according to Julie Miller, branch manager at Broadview Mortgage in Tustin, Calif.

“I don’t know of any mortgage company or bank that closes for longer than the typical holidays,” she says.

5. Get a head start on the holidays

Buyers can ease into year-end home shopping by completing holiday tasks ahead of time.

“Check some holiday things off early, so you don’t have to scramble to take care of them while you’re scrambling to take care of your mortgage,” Deihl suggests.

If you’re a serious buyer, you needn’t be shy about intruding into sellers’ homes at a time normally reserved for family and friends. If a home is for sale, presumably the owners want sincerely interested buyers to see it.

“If a seller is willing to put their house on the market during the holiday season, they really want buyers to come in,” Pozek says. “If there is a for-sale sign, it’s a welcome sign.”

This article was originally published by Marcie Geffner of Bankrate.com on MSN Real Estate. See the original article here.

 

Moving In Together? Make Moving Day Go Smoothly

Planning on taking the plunge and moving into a new place  with your significant other? Moving day can be one of the most exciting experiences of the journey — as long as everything goes smoothly, of course.

By the way, you’re not alone. A survey by the National Center for Health Statistics found 48 percent of women aged 15-44 interviewed between 2006 and 2010 had lived with a male partner before marriage — compared with 34 percent of women in 1995.

Use these tips to keep the first day you live together organized and easy.

Toss What You Won’t Use

Many couples move only to realize once they start packing that they have more than they know what to do with. To reduce the excess, you and your partner should spend a few days clearing out your respective clutter before you move. Go room by room and take out anything you haven’t used in six months. You can sell those items or donate them to charity for a tax deduction at the end of the year.

Combine Belongings

Once you’re both done purging your stuff, decide what will go into your new home. Making these decisions may not be easy, but finding agreement ahead of time will make moving easier. To avoid  arguments, start by deciding what is a “must keep” for both of you and then use a floor plan of your new home to decide where to put your favorite items. Finally, fill up the rest of the space with your best pieces and sell or store the rest.

Manage Expenses

Moving inevitably comes with costs. Before you move, sit down and decide how you’ll do the move. For example, do you want to pay for professional movers or rent a truck and enlist the help of friends? How are you situated with boxes and other package supplies? Once you have a plan, set a date with the movers or friends and find packing supplies as soon as possible. Being an early bird may help you cut costs.

Create a Battle Plan

Packing and moving from two separate locations can get hectic, but a well-organized plan will keep problems to a minimum. For example, a few days — or weeks — before you move, come up with a battle plan that includes packing each person’s belongings and setting the pick-up times for each house. It will also help to assign tasks ahead of time. If you both know your roles, you’ll be able to work faster and avoid arguments in the process.

Keep Boxes Organized and Labeled

Combining stuff is more complicated than moving one person. To avoid moving day mistakes, make sure your boxes are well organized. For example, writing the designated room on each box will make the moving process easier, and writing the content of each box will make unpacking a breeze.

If you can get through the move smoothly, it might just mean you’re meant for each other.

By Angela Colley of Realtor.com

Source: http://www.realtor.com/advice/moving-in-together-keep-moving-day-running-smoothly/#.UrSFdcRDthl

10 Warm & Cozy Spaces

Oh, the weather outside may be frightful, but inside it can be so delightful. To turn up the heat on your winter home design, check out these 10 warm and cozy spaces from Zillow Digs.

Chaise for curling up

Zillow Digs Board of Designers featured designer, David Scott created a rustic bedroom retreat with a stone fireplace and chaise lounge in this Bridgehampton estate.

Fireplace for gathering

Winter is the season to huddle around a fireplace. Dovetail Construction designed this Georgetown Lake Retreat as a place to soak in the natural beauty and thriving landscape of Montana’s Pintler Mountains.

Rustic tub for soaking

Architecture and design firm Locati Architects gives thought to how homeowners are going to experience a space over time. This Beartrap residence is sure to be a relaxing respite from the elements for generations to come.

Dining room for sharing a meal

Locati Architects also designed this Quiet Waters residence. Candles, rather than a contemporary light fixture, add warmth to the rustic dining room.

Illuminated staircase for night owls

Architectural Justice added a warmly lit staircase during an Akron, OH home remodel. Not only do the stairs prevent sleepy travelers from losing their way, but they also warm up an easily overlooked part of the home.

Cellar for trying a new blend

After the kids are in bed, a dim wine cellar, such as this one designed by Locati Architects, is a great way to wind down. Enjoy some good conversation while sipping on your favorite red in this Whitefish yacht-club residence.

Sleek nook for e-reading

A fireplace and bench as sleek as this calls for an e-book, not your dusty hardback. Designer Jamie Herzlinger filled the modern home with luxurious comforts.

Lodge for making your bank shot

General contracting firm JG Development made this game room feel like a ski lodge with a rustic pool table.

Wingback for grandpa & his cigar

Chris Barrett Design used sophisticated finishes and rich furnishings in this Crescent Drive home. The result is a stately space for grandpa to smoke his cigar.

Rooftop deck for warming up

There’s nothing like stepping from snow into a hot tub. This one is in a prime spot for some winter star gazing.

This article was originally published by Catherine Sherman on Zillow Blog. See the original article here.

Understanding Mortgage Closing Costs

Shopping for the best mortgage involves more than just checking interest rates and loan terms. Many borrowers are surprised by the many additional costs involved in closing the loan.

Understanding Mortgage Closing Costs

Almost all closing costs relate to fees that the mortgage lender is charged by a third-party company and then passes on to the borrower. Some of the fees are additional costs the lender levies. Because these fees are all settled at the closing table, they are commonly referred to as closing costs.

Breaking down closing costs

Closing costs usually account for 2 to 5 percent of a home’s sale price, although they may be more or less in some cases. These costs typically cover:

  • Obtaining a credit report
  • Processing paperwork for the loan (loan origination fees)
  • Legal fees
  • Home inspections
  • Appraisals
  • Surveys
  • Title insurance
  • Title searches
  • An escrow deposit
  • Recording the transaction in the city or county’s records
  • Underwriting the mortgage (evaluating the borrower and the property)

In addition to these fees, home buyers may elect to increase their closing costs through discount points, which lower the mortgage’s interest rate and saves the borrower money over the life of the loan.

Who pays closing costs?

In most cases, the buyer pays the bulk of the closing costs. In some cases, however, other parties may absorb a portion or all of these costs. For instance, if a home is purchased using a Veterans Affairs (VA) loan, then the seller will pay some of the closing costs, and the buyer will pay the remaining costs.

Some mortgage lenders advertise mortgages without closing costs. These may or may not be a good choice, depending on the specifics of the mortgage. Home buyers, however, should realize that any bank offering mortgages without closing costs will likely build those fees into the structure of the mortgage. Buyers (or sellers) will probably pay the fees associated with purchasing a house, one way or another.

Saving for closing costs

Home buyers should be aware of the closing costs they will be expected to pay because these fees can significantly increase the amount of money needed at closing. The good news is that lenders must provide a Good Faith Estimate (GFE) of these costs shortly after the borrower applies for the loan. The law now states that the final settlement of the loan must not deviate from this estimate by more than 105 percent — and for some loan products not at all.

But, borrowers can still be surprised by the GFE if they are not already planning to pay at least some closing costs.

Consider the following example: A home is sold for $100,000, and the buyer will make an initial down payment of $10,000 (10 percent). But that’s not all the money the buyer will need to bring to the closing table. The closing costs can be expected to be around 5 percent, or $5,000. The buyer actually needs to have $15,000, not $10,000 at closing. The fees increase how much the home buyer needs at closing by 50 percent, in this case.

This article was originally published by Rick Grant on Zillow Blog. See the original article here.

Do You Buy or Sell First When You’re Ready to Move?

Homeowners who decide they’re ready to become move-up buyers face a chicken-or-egg dilemma: Should they sell their current home first and then buy another, or buy a new one and then sell? The answer depends on several factors, including your local market conditions, your financing options and your feelings about potentially moving twice if you sell your home before your next residence is available.

Buy or Sell First

Market Conditions

Before you blithely assume that your real estate market is a buyer’s market or a seller’s market, you need to realize that you must be very specific about the market for your particular neighborhood, the style of home you own, and the price range for your property. In addition, you need to assess the availability of homes that meet your criteria. You’ll need to work with a knowledgeable, professional REALTOR® who can talk to you about how quickly homes that are similar to yours are selling and for how much. On the buying side, you should do some preview shopping to get an idea of what you want and how easy it is to find it. For example, if you must live in a particular, popular school district, you may want to consider buying a home first so that you’re sure you have a place you want.

Financial Options

In an ideal world, everyone would have the funds to pay cash for their next home, but the reality is that most people need the equity from the sale of their current home for the down payment on the next house. One option is to sell your home and then negotiate to rent it back from your buyers, but remember THAT you’ll need to pay them for the rental. Also, lenders will limit the rent-back term to a maximum of 60 days because a rental lasting longer than that would be considered an investment property.

Alternatively, you can temporarily live with friends or family or in a short-term rental while you’re between homes. In that case, you might need to pay for a storage facility for your possessions.

A drawback to selling your home first is that you may be unable to find a home to buy, or you may feel rushed into taking a place that doesn’t meet your expectations.

If you can qualify for the mortgage loan on both your current home and the next home, you can access the equity in your current home with a line of credit. You’ll need to take out the line of credit before you put your home on the market and then you can pay it back at settlement.

You may also be able to borrow money for a down payment from relatives that you can repay after your home sells.

Some lenders also offer bridge loans for transitioning homeowners as long as they have excellent credit and sufficient equity in their current home. A lender can help you evaluate your options.

Risk Aversion and a Plan B

You’ll have to ask yourself what scares you most: selling first and having nowhere to live or buying first and being stuck with two mortgage payments. The answer depends on your finances and your local market, but in either case you should have a back-up plan to deal with the worst case scenario — either another source of income for those mortgage payments or an identified place to live for a few weeks or months while you shop for a home.

This article was originally published by Michele Lerner on realtor.com. See the original article here

10 Ways to Boost Your Home’s Christmas Curb Appeal

Whether you plan to wrap string lights around the house, hang illuminated icicles from the eaves, or install glowing blow-up figures in the front yard, it doesn’t take much to whip up some amazing holiday curb appeal at your entryway. Here are 10 easy tips!

from Zillow

from Zillow

Be aromatically festive

Bring the beauty and fresh scent of evergreens to the front hall by filling an oversized clay pot with cut boughs and pine cones. Add a couple of ornaments or drape with a single strand of miniature lights, and let your arrangement sparkle!

Use winter props

Sometimes the objects of winter can serve to elevate holiday curb appeal. A woven basket hung on the door with fresh greens and a standing sled can help create a charming scene that evokes Norman Rockwell. Next year’s card, perhaps?

Get a holiday doormat

Even if you already have a distinctive doormat, celebrate this season in every way possible by adding a themed outdoor mat to your landing. You’ll find many holiday welcome mat designs, patterns and colors, but hurry — the best of them sell out quickly.

Light lanterns

Lanterns and luminaries are both functional and beautiful either along walkways or on the porch, regardless of the season. Those that you buy now can be used year-round. Choose real candles or one of the new non-flame varieties.

Hang a festive wreath

Nothing could be simpler than hanging a festive wreath on the front door. You will find a wealth of options at your local garden centers and even more varieties online. Feeling crafty? Make your own with this step-by-step guide.

Place your tree outside

No one said that you couldn’t buy a cut tree to display outdoors. HGTV featured one decorated with burlap garland, twig snowflakes, pine cones and ornaments. Copy it, or decorate one of your own design.

Drape garland

Garland is another easy way to add some holiday flair to your front entry. Use it to wrap around columns, drape over railings and frame doorways. You’ll find fresh varieties at your local nursery and garden center. You can also make one yourself — as we did with pine cone garland.

Display wrapped presents

If you’ve been looking for ways to re-use cardboard boxes that your online purchases have arrived in, here’s the perfect solution. Wrap them in festive papers, decorate with ribbon and bows, and put them on display.

Add vibrant traditional color

Want to add some traditional color? You can’t do much better than a potted poinsettia — or two or three or more. Cluster a group next to the door, place them on steps, or line a walkway with their blooms. The bold red and green coloring makes them instant accents with a long holiday tradition.

Border with a single strand

Sometimes a simple string of white lights is all you need to make a bold statement. Use single strands to outline door and window frames, columns or railings. Or, get creative and suspend them like stars from the ceiling to provide a welcoming, magical glow.

This article was originally published by Larry Bilotti of Bobvila.com on Zillow Blog. See the original article here.