Buying or Selling in 2018? 5 Reasons to Resolve to Hire a Pro [INFOGRAPHIC]

Some Highlights:

  • As we usher in the new year, one thing is for certain… if you plan to buy or sell a house this year, you need a real estate professional on your team!
  • There are many benefits to using a local professional!
  • Pick a professional who knows your local market and can help you achieve your dreams!

 

Posted by The KCM Crew

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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

Start 2017 Off Right… List Your House for Sale

As we are about to bring in the New Year, families across the country will be deciding if this is the year that they will sell their current house and move into their dream home. Many will decide that it is smarter to wait until the spring “buyer’s market” to list their house. In the past, that might have made sense. However, this winter is not like recent years.

The recent jump in mortgage rates has forced buyers off the fence and into the market, resulting in incredibly strong demand RIGHT NOW!! At the same time, inventory levels of homes for sale have dropped dramatically as compared to this time last year.

Here is a chart showing the decrease in inventory levels by category:

Bottom Line

Demand for your home is very strong right now while your competition (other homes for sale) is at a historically low level. If you are thinking of selling in 2017, now may be the time.

 

Posted by The KCM Crew

Home Sales Expected to Increase Nicely in 2017

The National Association of Realtors, The Mortgage Bankers’ Association, Freddie Macand Fannie Mae are all projecting that home sales will increase in 2017. Here is a chart showing what each entity is projecting in sales for this year and the next.

As we can see, each is projecting sizable increases in home sales next year. If you have considered selling your house recently, now may be the time to put it on the market.

Posted by The KCM Crew

7 New Year’s Resolutions For Homeowners

Leave your bad home habits behind in 2015, and start the year off right with these home-related resolutions.

Rethink your resolutions and add these attainable home goals to your list.

New year, new you, new home. The calendar change always invites all sorts of resolutions, some of them attainable, many of them impractical and stress-inducing. Especially if you just closed on that house for sale in Denver, CO. But changes needn’t be big or difficult to be life-altering. Here are seven simple real estate–related New Year’s resolutions you can make for 2016 that will pay big dividends with minimal effort.

Start making extra mortgage payments

It’s the financial reality you hate to face: the amount of money you actually end up paying for your house over the length of a 30-year mortgage. So what do the interest savings look like if you make one extra mortgage payment over a 12-month span? In short, pretty good — if you keep it up for the duration of your loan, you’re likely to save tens of thousands of dollars. It’s especially worth considering in the first five years of a mortgage, when the majority of your monthly installment goes to interest payments rather than the principal.

The only thing to keep in mind is that once you start making the extra payment, that extra money is locked up in your home equity (and not sitting in your bank account as an emergency fund).

Get new homeowners’ insurance quotes

You probably don’t think about this too often because your insurance automatically renews every year. But as it happens, you may now be eligible for some discounts that weren’t available when you first applied — and your existing insurance company isn’t obligated to check in every year and see if you now qualify. Call your agent and see if you can knock down your yearly installment; if they won’t budge, then start shopping around for a better rate.

Have your home reassessed for tax purposes

Did you know that your house gets reassessed by your county only every few years? Which means your assessed property value might be higher than your current market value, which means you might be paying too much in taxes and not even know it. In most states, you can simply go online and request a reassessment for free. A note of caution: Be wary of outside companies offering to get your home reassessed for you for a small fee — it could be a scam.

Get an energy assessment

Yep, those gas and electric bills can get out of control in the winter months, but they don’t always have to be static. Some states have nonprofits that will come to your home and offer an energy assessment free of charge, but otherwise you can hire a professional energy auditor. That person will then make a series of suggestions both small (LED light bulbs) and large (solar panels) so that you can stretch your energy dollar. Even tiny lifestyle changes, such as unplugging unused devices or programming your thermostat on a schedule, can make a difference.

Plant a vegetable garden

You have some time with this, given that it’s only January, but then again, there’s no time like the present to start strategizing a kitchen garden. Growing your own food saves money and, in its own way, helps the environment too. It also benefits your health, as you’re more apt to eat fruits and vegetables that you’ve cultivated yourself. And of course, as head farmer, you get to decide what pesticides and fertilizers you (don’t) use. Start small, only growing veggies and herbs you love to eat, and if you lack backyard space, start garnering inspiration from blogs featuring rooftop, fire escape, and flower box farmers.

Start composting

If you’re anything like us, this has been on your to-do list for years. But somehow it just feels too time-consuming or messy, especially if you live in the city. Keep it simple and buy a composting kit that walks you through the steps. If you don’t have an actual use for your own compost, there are small outfits around the country that will pick it up for a minimal fee; some cities even include compost pickup in their trash services.

Buy a rain barrel

So simple, yet so valuable. Just a few benefits of collecting rainwater and repurposing it later: It cuts down on your water bill, it lessens the moisture around your home’s foundation, it’s healthier for your plants and garden, and it helps reduce runoff pollution (and hopefully inspires your neighbors to do the same).

Rainwater is also great for washing your dog and car, as it’s free of salt and other chemicals. (Poor dog! Poor car!) If you’re in a drought district, the benefits of a rain barrel are obvious. And remember that composting you just started? Adding rainwater to your brand-new pile is a far more sustainable practice than mixing it with tap water. Just be sure to check local laws: some communities have rules against collecting rainwater.

Posted by Meaghan Agnew on Trulia

Year-End Home Insurance Checklist

Wind down the holiday season with assurances that your home is ready to start the new year right.

Shutterstock ID 58862720; PO: Cat Overman; Job: blog post

Shutterstock ID 58862720; PO: Cat Overman; Job: blog post

Soon, colorful ornaments and Christmas carols will be replaced by confetti, noisemakers and the strains of Auld Lang Syne.

As 2015 draws to a close, home maintenance can easily take a back seat during the excitement of the holidays.

Much of the country has experienced an unseasonably warm December, but January and February could unfold much differently. That means your home may be subject to cold weather damage. To prevent that, follow this home maintenance checklist to ensure your residence is prepared for the big chill ahead.

Test your alarms

You should do this several times throughout the year, but it’s worth a reminder. Test smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, and fire and burglar alarms. Make sure the batteries are full of life, and that everything functions properly so you’ll be alerted if disaster strikes.

If you have children, it’s also a great time to revisit your emergency evacuation plan to ensure they know what to do if a fire, tornado or other devastating peril strikes too close to home.

Gutters and roof

In some parts of the country, the leaves are still falling from trees and covering lawns of residential neighborhoods. No matter if the leaves are just falling or if tree branches have been bare for months, if leaves are piled or packed in your gutters, they need to be removed sooner rather than later.

When leaves accumulate, it causes drainage problems. This means that when it rains, water won’t be able to go down the spout and away from your home, which could lead to it forcing its way into your home’s walls and ceilings.

While you’re at it, inspect your roof. Make sure no shingles are damaged or ruined, and confirm that there aren’t any leaks. Roofs must be strong and functional to withstand the weight of snow in the winter, so it’s important to make necessary repairs or replacements now. Just remember that it’s probably best to leave these fixes to the pros.

Inspect your foundation

The last thing you want to deal with during the winter months is ice seeping into a crack in your foundation, widening it and causing structural problems with your home.

Take a walk around your home and keep an eye out for cracks. Though small cracks are completely normal, it’s best to seal them with caulk to prevent further damage.

Seal windows and doors

Letting air escape through gaps around window and doorframes could mean an exceptionally high heating or cooling bill.

While you’re sealing cracks in your foundation, seal the spaces around your windows and doors, too. Keep warm air inside the house and cool air outside, and vice versa.

Maintain heating and cooling systems

Speaking of your heating and cooling bills, it’s wise to inspect and maintain these systems.

Ensuring that heating and cooling systems are in good working condition and tackling repairs are more tasks you may want to leave to professionals. Just make sure your vents are clean, and that no spaces are obstructed by dirt, debris or other types of buildup.

Create a home inventory and review your policy

With a new year on the horizon, most of us make resolutions to be better versions of ourselves. Some changes such as being more responsible and more aware can apply to your home insurance.

Making a home inventory — a complete list of everything you own and the value of each item — can help better prepare you for the unknown. If a disaster such as fire strikes, destroying your home and all your belongings, you may be in too much distress to remember everything you own (and certainly not how much each item cost).

Do yourself a favor and tackle creating this type of list in the New Year, and store it in a safe place. This act could save you stress and time down the road, as it’ll make the claims process significantly easier.

Understanding your policy and being aware of every facet listed will greatly benefit you. Insurance can be tricky, so go over your policy with an agent so that you’ll understand every provision in it. Reviewing your policy can alert you to the fact that you may need more coverage than last year, or that you could qualify for new discounts.

Posted by Shannon Ireland on Zillow

Marsala: Using Pantone’s 2015 Color of the Year in Your Home

Incorporate this year’s splashiest color into your home decor with these design tips.

Source: Zillow Digs

 

Over the past month, some of our favorite paint manufacturers have announced their top colors for the new year. Kelly Moore touts the vibrant blue of its Coast Surf, Sherwin Williams goes preppy and powerful with Coral Reef, Benjamin Moore brings on the soft organic tone of Guilford Green and Pittsburgh Paints flaunts bold and bohemian Blue Paisley for 2015.

Meanwhile, Pantone, the design industry’s color authority, has chosen its own Color of the Year for 2015: Marsala, an earthy reddish-brown shade.

Marsala “has an organic and sophisticated air,” says Pantone’s Leatrice Eiseman. The color imparts “a vintage but neutral feel, which evokes pleasant memories.”

Eager to apply this hot new color to your interior? Here are a variety of ways to incorporate it.

As an accent

A splash of Marsala’s earthy hue may be just the trick for freshening your interior space. Consider a pillow, lamp or side chair to put you right on trend for the new year. Marsala’s soft lipstick-like shade is effortlessly set off by gray, white and navy blue backdrops.

Source: Zillow Digs

Source: Zillow Digs

As an anchor

With a more neutral interior, Marsala can be used to anchor a space by incorporating an area rug or upholstered wall in a room. The rich, yet unpretentious shade can warm a space that may otherwise feel uninteresting.

Source: Zillow Digs

Source: Zillow Digs

As a complement

To tie in some of the other colors of the year, consider pairing Marsala with a washed denim or even a turquoise shade. The unique combination sounds intimidating, but actually creates an interesting approachability in a living room or bedroom.

Source: Zillow Digs

Source: Zillow Digs

As a contrast

When contrasted against white, Marsala’s ruddy tone can be as dramatic as shades of gray. White trim and ceilings contribute the perfect amount of contrast to balance a well-designed space.

Source: Zillow Digs

As a backdrop

With the popularity of wallcoverings and graphic images on walls, Marsala can offer the ideal backdrop to a traditional, transitional or more modern room. A wallcovering with varied shades of Marsala can create texture and interest that pairs easily with metallics, too.

Source: Zillow Digs

Source: Zillow Digs

Share with us how you will use the Color of 2015 in your space!

This article was published by Kerrie Kelly on Zillow Blog.