5 Holiday Looks on the Nice List

Festive ideas for decking your halls this season, straight from the source.

If Santa’s decor has been on the top of your wishlist ever since he claimed his home on Zillow, now you can make it happen. We highlighted five ways you can easily incorporate his holiday style into your home.

 

 

Posted by Renee Meininger on Zillow

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The Cost of NOT Owning Your Home

Owning a home has great financial benefits, yet many continue to rent! Today, let’s look at the financial reasons why owning a home of your own has been a part of the American Dream for as long as America has existed.

Zillow recently reported that:

“In reality, buying or renting a home is an intensely personal decision, with emotional and even financial considerations that go beyond whether to invest in this one (admittedly large) asset. Looking strictly at housing market numbers, there is a concrete point at which buying a home makes more financial sense than renting it.”

What proof exists that owning is financially better than renting?

1. We recently highlighted the top 5 financial benefits of homeownership:

  • Homeownership is a form of forced savings.
  • Homeownership provides tax savings.
  • Homeownership allows you to lock in your monthly housing cost.
  • Buying a home is cheaper than renting.
  • No other investment lets you live inside of it.

2. Studies have shown that a homeowner’s net worth is 44x greater than that of a renter.

3. Just a few months ago, we explained that a family that purchased an average-priced home at the beginning of 2017 could build more than $48,000 in family wealth over the next five years.

4. Some argue that renting eliminates the cost of taxes and home repairs, but every potential renter must realize that all the expenses the landlord incurs are already baked into the rent payment– along with a profit margin!!

Bottom Line

Owning a home has always been, and will always be, better from a financial standpoint than renting.

 

Posted by The KCM Crew

Ready to start searching? Click HERE to find all of our latest listings!

Buying in 2018? 7 Steps to Take Now

With some careful prep work in the next few months, your family could be in a new home by summer.

Now is the time to get things in order for a home search next year.

If you’re thinking about buying a home in 2018, November and December are the perfect time to “warm up” for the house hunt so you can hit the ground running in the new year. And whether you’re looking in Athens, GA, or Athens, NY, the prep work is relatively the same.

We’ve asked real estate and mortgage professionals to chime in about what prospective homebuyers should do to ready themselves for buying a home. From organizing your finances to save money to finding a real estate agent and mortgage lender, there is plenty to keep you busy!

7 Steps to Be Ready to Buy a House in 2018

  1. 1. Check your credit score.

    A credit score is a numerical representation of your credit report. FICO scores range from 300 to 850, and the higher your score, the better. “Good credit is like gold when obtaining a mortgage,” says Denise Supplee, a Pennsylvania agent. Typically, you’ll get the best interest rate on a loan if your score is 740 and above. “A higher credit score should net you a lower mortgage rate,” says Lee Gimpel, co-creator of The Good Credit Game, which specializes in financial education. “That lower rate, even if it’s only 1 or 2 percent lower, can mean saving thousands of dollars per year.” If your credit score falls short, get busy repairing it. Correct any errors that might be on your report, start paying all your bills on time, and get your credit limit raised. Note, though, that you shouldn’t max out your card each month. It’s best to use 30 percent or less of your total available credit.

  2. 2. Don’t open new credit cards.

    If you think resisting taking a selfie when you’re face-to-face with your fave celebrity is a testament to your willpower, that’s sissy stuff compared with turning down every offer to open a credit card, even if you could save 20 percent (or more!) on your holiday purchases. Tempting as saving at checkout can be, opening new credit may hurt your chances of getting a mortgage, or at least of getting the best rate on a loan.

    “By opening the account, you have created another line of credit,” says Paul Anastos, president of Mortgage Master, a division of loanDepot, a nonbank lender. “That credit line, and what is borrowed, can change the application numbers and jeopardize the application.” What could save you a few dollars now could cost you far more in the long run if your mortgage payments will be higher. And along those same lines, “Don’t overspend during the holiday season,” says Dean Sioukas founder of Magilla Loans, an online lending exchange. “Especially on impulse purchases that can be tempting during the holidays.”

  3. 3. Suggest financial gifts for the holidays.

    Besides the mortgage loan, you’ll need a sizable amount of cash to buy a house. There’s the down payment to consider, closing costs, and moving costs. You should also set aside money for unexpected repairs and costs, says Brian Betzler, regional sales manager at TD Bank. Not being prepared “is probably why nearly half of millennials incurred up to $5,000 in unexpected costs during the mortgage process, according to a TD survey,” he says.

    A potential solution? Bulk up that emergency fund. “Instead of getting gifts for the holidays, [prospective homebuyers] can suggest cash instead that will be put toward their home,” says Paul Sian, a Kentucky and Ohio agent. And remember, you might be getting some money back after you file your tax return. Don’t blow it on vacation. “A tax refund is a great way to add to your cash reserves for a down payment,” says David Hosterman, branch manager of Castle & Cooke Mortgage in Colorado.

  4. 4. Interview potential real estate agents.

    If your neighbor, relative, or friend of a friend happens to know (or is) a real estate agent, that’s great. This person might be the perfect agent for you. But you owe it to yourself to shop around. “Look for [an agent] who is knowledgeable, good, integral, and can assist you in reaching the goal of homeownership,” says Chantay Bridges, a Los Angeles, CA, real estate agent. “Make sure they are not a novice, new, or just unaware of how to do a specific transaction.” The end of the year is usually a slow time for agents, so chances are they’ll be more accommodating to making an appointment on your schedule.

  5. 5. Keep tabs on interest rates.

    If you hear that interest rates are at historic lows or that interest rates are on the rise, you should not assume that you can get the rock-bottom rate. Not everyone gets the same interest rate on a mortgage loan. It depends on your financial picture and on the lender you choose. “Everyone knows that home prices are, at least to some extent, negotiable, but we find loans to be the same,” says Warren Ward, CFP with WWA Planning & Investments in Indiana. He advises that homebuyers shop around for the lowest interest rates. Note that closing costs can vary too, so discuss with your real estate agent ways to keep yours down. “We saved $150 on the closing fees by selecting the cheapest title company,” says Ward. “I guess that’s not much, but I think most people would bend over to pick up three $50 bills if they were lying on the sidewalk.”

  6. 6. Find a mortgage lender.

    Before you even start looking for a home (and yes, we even mean browsing online listings), look for a mortgage lender to find out if you can afford to buy a home. If you can’t right now, there’s no use torturing yourself by finding your dream home that’s just out of reach. But how do you find a lender? “If you have a bank you’ve been with for years, ask them,” says Bridges. “Your [real estate agent] can also refer a good lender to you. Compare [that lender] with two others. Look at what they offer, costs, points, and how long to close.” Once you know how much home you can afford, perform your home search based on your preapproval amount or less.

  7. 7. Get preapproved.

    When a lender gives your financials the once-over and preapproves you for a mortgage, you’ll be able to show sellers that you really can buy their house. But how do you get preapproved? By preparing a few documents, which you can do several months in advance of the actual purchase. Here’s what you need to buy a house.

    • Tax returns for the past two years
    • W-2 forms for the past two years
    • Paycheck stubs from the past few months
    • Proof of mortgage or rent payments for the past year
    • A list of all your debts, including credit cards, student loans, auto loans, and alimony
    • A list of all your assets, including bank statements, auto titles, real estate, and any investment accounts

    Paul Anastos also advises not to change jobs, make big purchases, or miss any debt payments as you prepare to get a mortgage.

    Originally published October 17, 2016. Updated October 30, 2017. 

    Published by Laura Agadoni on Trulia

5 Holiday Splurges to Avoid If You Hope to Sell Your Home Next Year

elenaleonova/iStock

The holidays are officially here—and while  merrymaking and gift shopping are likely top of mind, you may have to keep some of those celebratory urges in check if you’re planning to sell your home next year. Why? Because many holiday season activities can come back to haunt you when your house is on the market, even if it’s months later.

Don’t believe us? Here are five holiday splurges to avoid if you hope to have a smooth home-selling process next year. It’s our gift to you! (You’ll thank us later.)

1. Don’t do decorations that could damage your home

Yes, we know you want to display your holiday spirit. But avoid any decor that could leave behind damage you’ll have to repair later—holes in the walls, marks on the floor, screws that mar the side of the house. If you have a live Christmas tree, be careful not to let spilled water sit on hardwood or laminate flooring, which can warp and stain. And it should go without saying that you don’t want to paint walls dramatic colors; save the winter wonderland mural for another year.

Think about curb appeal, too. “Avoid blow-up animals and reindeer in the yard,” advises Flor Blanchett, a Realtor® at the Keyes Company in Florida. “When you take those things out, especially in the South, they leave spots on the grass that are totally dead for months afterward.”

2. Don’t clutter your home with huge holiday gifts

The mantra of anyone trying to sell a home? “Declutter, declutter, declutter,” says Blanchett.

Don’t buy a bunch of gifts that are going to have to be hidden away after the new year.

“If you have young children with toys all over the place, I advise packing it all away in a container under the stairs or somewhere people won’t see it,” she says.

The basic organizational rule is that you don’t want your closets to appear bursting at the seams, which will give the impression there’s not enough storage.

Obviously, nobody is saying that Santa has to skip your house this year, but consider forgoing the bulky play kitchen or drivable toy car in lieu of smaller action figures or electronics.

Remember: You’re going to have to move all that stuff after you sell the house. You’ll thank yourself at packing time if you spring for a gift certificate or jewelry instead of sports equipment or kitchen gadgets.

3. Don’t buy appliances or furniture that may not fit your future home

It’s another prime gift-giving no-no. Avoid shelling out for appliances, furniture, or anything that’s specific to your current home’s layout. Unless you already know where you’re moving, that gorgeous (and large) new couch might not fit correctly in your new digs. And that sparkling new washer-dryer set is probably going to be a gift for the buyers, since appliances usually stay with the home. Grills, sheds, anything bulky—you’re going to either gift it to your buyers in a few months or pay someone to move it. Save the heavy stuff for next year.

4. Don’t take on too much holiday-related debt

This is not the year to live out your “new car with a giant bow on it” fantasies. Taking on debt, whether it’s credit card debt or a car or boat loan, can hurt your chances of getting approved for a mortgage when you’re ready to buy your next home. So, don’t go out and buy expensive things; a lender will take note and it could work against you. When in doubt, ask first.

“Speak with your lender if making a real estate purchase after the sale on how much you can spend on big-ticket items,” says Dillar Schwartz, a Realtor in Austin, TX.

5. Don’t surprise the family with a new pet

The holidays are a common time for families to get a new furry friend—there are even adoption drives based around getting a holiday pet. However, right before you’re ready to sell your house is not a terrific time to be housetraining a puppy or teaching a cat not to scratch the couch.

Showing a house with a pet can be challenging enough even when it’s not a new pet, and then they’re going to have to go through the wildly pet-unfriendly process of moving. However much you’re longing for a cat, pup, or capybara, it just makes sense to wait until after the move. Especially the capybara.

 

Posted by Audrey Ference on realtor.com

Top 4 Home Renovations for Maximum ROI [INFOGRAPHIC]

Some Highlights:

  • Whether you are selling your home, just purchased your first home, or are a homeowner planning to stay put for a while, there is value in knowing which home improvement projects will net you the most “Return On Investment” (ROI).
  • While big projects like adding a bathroom or a complete remodel of a kitchen are popular ways to increase a home’s value, something as simple as updating landscaping and curb appeal can have a quick impact on a home’s value.

 

Posted by The KCM Crew

Wondering how much your home is worth? Click HERE to find out!

Your Friends Are Crazy Wrong If They’re Telling You Not to Buy

The current narrative is that home prices have risen so much so that it is no longer a smart idea to purchase a home. Your family and friends might suggest that buying a home right now (whether a first-time home or a move-up home) makes absolutely no sense from an affordability standpoint. They are wrong!

Homes are more affordable right now than at almost any time in our country’s history except for the foreclosure years (2009-2015) when homes sold at major discounts. As an example, below is a graph from the latest Black Knight Mortgage Monitor showing the percentage of median income needed to buy a medium-priced home in the country today in comparison to prior to the housing bubble and bust.

As we can see, the percentage necessary is less now than in those time periods.

The Mortgage Monitor also explains that home affordability is better today than it was in the late 1990s in 47 of 50 states.

Bottom Line

Your friends and family have your best interests at heart. However, when it comes to buying your first home or selling your current house to buy the home of your dreams, let’s get together to discuss what your best move is, now.

 

Posted by The KCM Crew

Ready to buy? Click HERE to start your home search!

5 Signs You Need to Upgrade Your Kitchen

Brighten it, expand it, organize it — whatever it needs, your kitchen is an update away from ideal.

Your kitchen is likely the most loved room in your home — and the wear and tear proves it. It’s the hangout for hungry teenagers, the conversation station during the holidays and the catch-up room after a busy workday.

A functional and appealing kitchen is important not only for your family but for your guests, too. After all, a delicious meal is only so appealing in a messy and cluttered kitchen.

Here are five signs that your kitchen may need an upgrade.

1. Outdated appliances

Perhaps they were there when you moved in, or maybe they came with you decades ago when you bought the home. Either way, outdated appliances are usually less attractive and drain more energy than newer models on the market.

Consider their safety, too. If you have to press a secret combination of buttons and chant a spell to light your range, it’s time to upgrade to newer, safer appliances.

When you do upgrade, consult a professional electrician to make sure everything is wired properly and up to code.

2. Damage and wear

Nobody expects your kitchen to stay in like-new condition forever, but damage beyond normal wear and tear needs addressing.

Water damage from a leaking fridge or dishwasher can cause mold on and underneath the flooring or peeling on the countertops, floors and walls, depending on the materials.

Cracked, peeling or chipped countertops and floors are prime spots for dangerous bacteria to reside — and hide from cleaning supplies. Even clean counters and floors with stains can cause your guests to think twice when they’re invited over a second time.

Upgrading to newer counters made from a durable material like granite is a good investment that can last practically a lifetime.

3. Not enough counter space

If your counters are covered with appliances, utensils and food, you need an upgrade. Ideally, your counters should always be clutter-free, and everything should have an easily accessible place.

Adding more counter space doesn’t have to mean tearing down walls and rehauling the layout. If your floor plan allows, installing an island is a great and relatively simple way to add counter space.

If it’s not the space but the clutter that’s the problem, larger cabinets or deeper drawers will increase storage so you can reclaim your counters.

4. You can’t find anything

Do you look forward to cooking or dread the time commitment? How much time is actually spent on food prep versus searching for the right utensils, appliances and dishware?

A disorganized kitchen makes it difficult to find anything, which can cause anxiety over cooking and render your kitchen useless. A fresh design and organization strategy is a worthy investment to get you eating in your own home again and enjoying the cooking process.

5. Your house won’t sell

Saving for your new home is often the priority when moving. But upgrading your current kitchen before you go is an investment that may very well pay for itself.

Home shoppers often gravitate first toward the kitchen. So, if you’ve been having trouble selling your home and the kitchen’s outdated — that could be the reason.

Buyers are usually more interested in move-in ready homes that require little or no remodeling. A more appealing, upgraded kitchen can be a motivating factor for buyers, hopefully resulting in less time on the market and a better selling price.

Make the necessary upgrades when the time comes, and your kitchen will reclaim its rightful place as the heart of the home.

 

Posted by Luke Caldwell on Zillow