Posted in Home Buyer Tips

Making the Grade: How to Research Local Schools Before Buying Your Next Home

Making the Grade: How to Research Local Schools Before Buying Your Next HomeThere are so many things involved in moving into a new home in a different neighborhood that it can be easy to forget about the proximity of many nearby amenities. However, if you have children, the local schools available can make-or-break the decision on whether or not to invest in a house. If you’re wondering how you can find out more about the local school, let the following tips be your guide.

Take a Web-Search To SchoolMatch.com

One of the benefits of so many things being online these days is that local schools are no exception, and SchoolMatch.com is a great resource that puts this information at your fingertips. While you’ll have to pay a fee to get the details on many public and private institutions, this resource features ratings on schools throughout the country which can make it worth the price.

Contact The NAEYC

With a wealth of information on preschools, kindergartens and elementary schools located throughout the country, the National Association for the Education of Young Children is another helpful website to visit. While the organization offers informational pamphlets that can help you decide a school’s benefits, you can also call in if you want to speak with someone directly about a particular institution.

Make A Visit To The Neighborhood

While it can take a lot of time to visit the schools in the neighborhood you’re considering, this is a great way for you to get a sense of the area you’re moving to and what it affords. By taking a walk through the hallways to view the building’s upkeep and even visiting the office to talk with the Principal, you’ll be able to decide whether it’s a good fit.

Talk To An Agent

It might seem a bit strange to talk to a realtor about local schools, but real estate agents are responsible for providing a multitude of information to potential homebuyers so they have to be in the know. Whether they’re able to help you with a house or not, it’s certain they’ll have some of the basic details about your neighborhood’s educational offerings, whether it’s good or bad.

There are a variety of amenities that can improve the appeal of a new neighborhood, but good schools are a necessity when it comes to the kids. If you’re currently searching for schools and are interested in local neighborhoods, contact one of our real estate professionals for more information.

Posted in Home Buyer Tips

5 Major Red Flags to Watch for When You’re Touring an Open House

5 Major Red Flags to Watch for When You're Touring an Open HouseAn open house is one of the best opportunities a potential homeowner will have to take stock of a home and determine if it will work for them. However, it can also be a good opportunity to discover some glaring red flags that might make it a less worthwhile investment. If you’re currently perusing the open houses in your neighborhood, here’s some things you should make sure to watch out for.

A Selling Hot-Spot

It’s well and good if you love the home you visit, but ‘location, location, location’ is a popular phrase for a reason. If you’ve noticed a lot of homes for sale in the area, this could be a sign of neighborhood issues that are less than pleasing.

An Odd Smell

Baked goods or room spray are quite common when it comes to an open house, but it’s possible that they’re masking a less-than pleasant odor. Since this can point to a hard home fix-up, it’s worth checking out the closets or the basement where a strange smell can indicate mildew or mold.

A Bad Paint Job

Paint that’s peeling may mean that a few fresh coats are long overdue, but it can also indicate moisture issues in the home that have gone untreated. As this kind of repair can cost a pretty penny, it’s worth determining if there are sealing issues with windows or doors.

A Few Obvious Fix-Ups

A sticky door or a damaged wall may not seem so bad on their own, but if you notice a few things that need to be fixed around the home, it can be a sign that there’s more afoot. If a homeowner has cared for the property during their ownership, it will likely show in small details like this.

Incomplete Construction

It may seem like a good sign to see a house that’s undergoing a renovation, but it can actually be a risk to invest in a home that’s not complete. Instead of leaving this to chance, you may want to check with the construction contractor to determine the scope of the work and when it will be finished.

An open house may be a good time to decide if you’re interested in a home, but it can also be the perfect opportunity to search for deficiencies that may end up costing you. If you’re currently in the market for a new home, contact your trusted real estate professionals for more information.

Posted in Home Seller Tips

Five Ways to Make Your Home’s ‘Curb Appeal’ Better Than Your Neighbors’

Five Ways to Make Your Home's 'Curb Appeal' Better Than Your Neighbors'Curb appeal, or how your home looks from the street, is an essential part of preparing to sell your house. It’s also where comparison with your neighbors’ homes is inescapable which poses a problem if you’re both on the market. Read on for five ways to boost your own curb appeal.

Open Up: Garage Doors With Impact

In most homes, the external facade is taken up largely by the garage door which means it’s a big influence on how people see your home. Embrace that. Style your garage door to suit your home, touch up the paint or trim, or even do a full overhaul with a brand-new door.

Balance Out: The Appeal Of Symmetry

Not only is a symmetrical design visually appealing, it’s also quick and easy to do. If your home doesn’t allow for large symmetrical designs because of its structure — if it has a garage on one side, for example — focus in on specific elements. Consider the front door, maybe, where fixtures are easier and cheaper to update.

Sit Back: Inviting Outdoor Seating

A great way to attract buyers is to think like them and what search-weary buyer doesn’t enjoy a moment to relax? Arrange an aesthetically pleasing seating area outside your home. It will become a welcoming space that can offer buyers the chance to sit down and dream about owning your home. A clear and attractive walkway is also very inviting, so be sure to spruce yours up or install a whole new one to, literally, lead buyers to your door.

Admire The Art: Accent With Outdoor Pieces

Put a little of your home’s personality out front to attract the interest of like-minded buyers. Weather-resistant art pieces are a great way to accent your lawn or entrance. Consider the welcoming sound of wind chimes, or a sculpture or two. Even birdbaths can provide simple but effective artistic highlights.

Look Critically: Get Outside Eyes

When you’re close to your home, it can be hard to view it as a buyer would in other words, critically. This is an essential step, though, in creating effective curb appeal. So, consider getting another person involved. Someone who can look at your home objectively and provide a clear assessment of your home’s strengths and weaknesses.

Speaking of outside eyes, don’t forget about your local real estate agent. Turn to us with questions, or for advice, at any time after all, we know what works in your neighborhood!

Posted in Around The Home

3 Easy Ways to Make Your Home More ‘Pet Friendly’

3 Easy Ways to Make Your Home More 'Pet Friendly'Whether you’re moving to a new home or you have a new family pet, it can be a struggle to make the place a little friendlier for them. From the garbage can to the cupboards and doors, there can be a lot of dangers that have the ability to hurt your furry friend you might not be aware of. If you’re looking for some simple ways to make their life a little easier, here are a few things you can do.

Take Care Of The Trash

The image of dogs sifting through the trash is common for a reason, so it’s important to guard your animal against the dangers of the dustbin. In addition to taking out any perishable goods on a consistent basis, it’s a worthwhile investment to purchase a tougher trash bin that your animal can’t get into. This will ensure they won’t be able to get at foods like fruit pits, coffee grounds and chocolate, which can be very harmful to their system.

Pick The Right Flooring

If you have the choice, ceramic tile or hardwood can be a great way to alleviate the tidy-up of having a live-in pet since you can easily wipe or sweep away the damage. If this isn’t possible and carpet is your only option, stick with something that closely matches the color of your pet. As well, if you’re letting your pet on the furniture, it’s worth investing in materials like leather and suede that are more durable and easy to clean.

Give Them Their ‘Space’

You may not have to worry about cleaning up after your pet as much if you can provide them with a space that’s all their own. While it doesn’t have to be anything fancy or sprawling, providing a comfortable bed where they like to nap and a water bowl or selection of toys will do the trick in making them feel right at home. It may also have the added benefit of keeping them away from the family couch!

Many homeowners are so pre-occupied with making themselves comfortable in their family home that they forget about the animal in the family. While it won’t necessarily take much to please your pet, watching the waste and giving them their own comfortable area can go a long way in making your home pet-friendly. If you’re currently in the market for a new home, contact our trusted real estate professional for more information.

Posted in Mortgage Rates

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 12, 2016

As 2017 winds down, analysts are forecasting economic developments for 2017. Forbes identified three indicators that the U.S. housing market has recovered. Mortgage rates rose again last week; jobless claims fell and consumer sentiment jumped rose five points. The details:

Housing Market Recovery Complete: Forbes

Three conditions were cited by Forbes as evidence that the housing market has recovered:

Analysts said that homeowners are putting their homes on the market after years of waiting for home prices to peak. On the flip side, mortgage rates are expected to rise further and home buyers may be taking a “now or never” plunge into buying homes before market conditions and mortgage rates combine to make home prices unaffordable.

The Federal Reserve reported that U.S. mortgage debt increased by 1.90 percent in Q3 2016; this was the highest growth rate for mortgage debt since Q3 2008. While population growth and household formation are lower, the overall ratio of mortgage debt to disposable income is near historically low levels. Stricter mortgage qualification standards are keeping home buyers from borrowing mortgage loans that they can’t repay.

After years of high demand for short supplies of available homes, home builders are ramping up construction. Housing starts rose by 25 percent in October and matched construction rates not seen since mid-2007.

Mortgage Rates Rise, New Jobless Claims Dip

Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates last week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage rose five basis points to 4.13 percent. The average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage was two basis points higher at 3.36 percent. The average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage also rose by two basis points to 3.17 percent.

New jobless claims fell last week to 258,000 new claims, which matched expectations and was lower than the prior week’s reading of 268,000 new claims. Job openings held steady in October with a reading of 5.50 million.

What’s Ahead

Next week’s economic calendar includes readings on retail sales and inflation along with the Federal Reserve’s Federal Open Market Committee Statement and a press conference by Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. The National Association of Home Builders Housing Market Index will be released in addition to Commerce Department reports on housing starts and building permits issued. Weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims will also be released.

Posted in Home Mortgage Tips

Should You Pay Your Mortgage Bi-weekly or Monthly? Let’s Take a Look

Should You Pay Your Mortgage Bi-weekly or Monthly? Let's Take a LookMost homeowners look at their monthly mortgage payment as their largest cost per month, and something they must do to maintain a good credit history. However, you may have heard of bi-weekly mortgage payments and their ability to lower your debt load and help you pay off your mortgage more quickly. If you’re wondering if bi-weekly payments are too good to be true, here’s some information worth consideration.

What Difference Does Bi-Weekly Make?

Making a bi-weekly mortgage payment may seem to mean that your interest will be automatically reduced, but because the lender is not necessarily receiving that payment until the end of the month, this is not necessarily the case. However, while a typical monthly payment will equate to 12 mortgage payments per year, a bi-weekly payment means 26 half payments will be made each year, which equates to 13 months of payments and an additional month. As a result, this can reduce the amount of interest paid on the principal.

Consider More On A Monthly Basis

Bi-weekly payments have the ability to shave a bit off the principal and thereby lower overall interest, but that doesn’t mean you have to switch to paying every two weeks. Instead of bi-weekly, consider dividing your monthly mortgage amount by 12 and adding that amount to your monthly payment. This will bump up your mortgage cost per month, but it will also reduce the total amount you owe. For example, if your mortgage payment is $1200 per month, divide it by 12 to get $100, and add this to your payment, bumping it up to $1300 each month.

Be Aware Of The Options That Work For You

In the event that you decide to make bi-weekly payments, be aware that there may actually be additional fees associated with this offering that will nullify your money savings. As a homeowner, it’s important to stay aware of changes on the market and new mortgage offerings that can benefit you. However, it’s also important to ensure that whatever you choose, you’re aware of the risks involved so they can make for a positive financial shift.

Making a bi-weekly payment on your mortgage may have the benefit of lowering your overall home cost, but you may be able to get this benefit from simply bumping up your monthly payment. 

Posted in Home Buyer Tips

4 Common Problems Home Sellers May Try to Hide

Buyer Beware: 4 Common Problems Home Sellers Try to HideIt’s easy for buyers to fall in love with properties when they’re looking at polished hardwood floors, new appliances or renovated kitchens. During open houses and showings, glamorous features get all the attention. However, these dream homes right away can be dangerous.

Asbestos and electrical wiring are hard to get excited about, but ignoring them can be a financial disaster. Buyers risk serious costs and a huge amount of hassle if they don’t do their research.

It can be daunting for buyers to do their due diligence. There are many factors to take into consideration and they’re not always obvious. Being fully prepared before putting down an offer can be difficult, even for the most experienced buyers.

This list of the four most common problems home sellers may try to hide will guide buyers every step of the way, from pictures to purchase.

1. Risk of Water Damage

Water damage can be one of the most expensive issues homes can have. It’s also easy to ignore when they’re especially beautiful or unique.

Homeowners may also be tempted to conceal past, present and future problems, particularly if they’re looking to maximize the price of their homes or make a fast sale. Buyers will benefit when they watch for water damage when looking to make a purchase.

2. Rotting Wood

Rotting or otherwise damaged wood is also relatively simple to forget about, but can lead to thousands of dollars in repairs. Poor drainage, termites and other factors are all factors that should be considered.

Whether it’s the deck or the floor, buyers need to be mindful of the status of wood components in homes.

3. Damaged or Outdated Roof

Roofs aren’t the first things buyers notice, but they’re crucial parts of every home. Damaged or outdated roofs can cause considerable personal and financial stress.

Buyers need to keep important features that are out of sight like roofs top of mind when they’re looking to put down an offer.

4. Codes and Other Regulations

Going through confusing building codes and other types of regulations can be a confusing task. Though it can be very time consuming, buyers can save themselves significant hassle and costs by being familiar with them. Consult your real estate professional for more information about how you can make an informed purchase today.

Posted in Around The Home

Winter’s Coming: Learn How to Prepare Your Plants, Trees and Other Landscaping

Winter's Coming: Learn How to Prepare Your Plants, Trees and Other LandscapingFrom the approaching holiday season to the New Year, there are a lot of things to prepare for when it comes to the winter. It’s important, though, not to forget about the needs of your lawn for the upcoming cold season. If you’re wondering how to ready your trees, your plants and your yard, here are some tips for saving your vegetation until the springtime.

Fertilize For Grass Growth

It might seem like a waste of time to fertilize your grass going into the winter months, but this is actually the perfect time to prep it for spring. As fertilizer will provide much-needed nutrients to the grass in the months when there is less growth, it will actually stimulate improved growth down the road. It’s just important to ensure that you provide a consistent amount of fertilizer so a patchy-looking yard can be avoided. Since weeds scale back in winter, like most other varieties of plants, it can also be an ideal time to apply a herbicide.

Garden Plants And Perennials

While plant maintenance duties like pruning can be done in the spring or fall months, it can actually be a better idea to give your plants the summer months to grow before diving in. Cutting them back will enable the plant to focus its energy on maintenance through the cold winter months, so it’s a good idea to get to work in before the first signs of cooler air set in. If you happen to have plants that won’t last through the winter, you’ll want to compost them so they can be used for soil in the next gardening season.

Clearing Away The Wood

Beyond the garden and the lawn, it’s also worthwhile to provide a little care for your favorite trees before the winter hits. While you’ll want to be cautious about what you do and may want to consult with a gardening professional, clearing away dead branches can help your tree retain its health throughout the year. You may notice the difference in your trees when the spring rolls around again, as they’ll likely have a revitalized look and show signs of new growth.

Winter is a busy time for many people, but it’s important to make the time to fertilize your grass and prune your perennials so your yard will be ready for spring. If you’re currently prepping your yard for a spring home sale, contact your local real estate professionals for more information.

Posted in Home Buyer Tips

Buying a New Home? Use This Checklist to Ensure Your Finances Are in Order

Buying a New Home? Use This Checklist to Ensure Your Finances Are in OrderBuying a home is a significant expense. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a first-time buyer or have experience. Unless you have a large pile of cash, you’ll need to ensure your finances are in order before closing. In this post we’ll explore four financial items you’ll want to check off before buying a new home.

Figure Out Your Current Monthly Budget

First, you’re going to want to sort out your monthly budget. If you’ve never done a budget before, start with something basic. Open up a spreadsheet or take out a piece of paper. Make two columns: ‘income’ and ‘expenses’. Fill in each column with the amounts that you make or spend each month. Bank, credit card and other statements can help with this process. It’s a good idea to go back at least 3 months to ensure you’re capturing your true spending.

Make A Debt Management Plan

Do you have any debts? If so, you’ll want to make a plan for how you’re going to manage these when you buy a new home. For example, you may have a car payment, student loans, a line of credit or credit card debt. Write down your debts, how much you owe and when payments are due. If any debts are due monthly, make sure you include those in your budget.

Keep in mind that your outstanding debts may impact your ability to borrow for a mortgage as well. If you plan on taking out a mortgage to pay for your new home, it’s best to get your debts figured out beforehand.

Understand All Your Real Estate Costs

Next, you’ll want to determine what all your real estate costs are going to be. If you’re not yet close to the bidding or closing process, this might be a bit challenging. But ask your real estate agent for a breakdown of what you can expect to pay for a home in your price range.

Set Up An Emergency Savings Cushion

Finally, you’ll want to set up a financial cushion in case of emergencies. It’s not much fun to think about, but losing a job or having a health event is possible. Most financial experts recommend having at least six months of expenses saved up. Of course, this is always easier said than done. What’s important is that you have at least some cash tucked away, just in case. If you can, save a bit extra each month or from each pay check and add to this emergency fund.

When you’re ready to buy a new home, a licensed real estate agent is your best bet for success. Reach out to us today and learn more about how affordable a new home in your community will be!

Posted in Mortgage Rates

What’s Ahead For Mortgage Rates This Week – December 5, 2016

Last week’s economic news was plentiful with releases on Case-Shiller Home Price Indices and pending home sales. Readings on government and private sector jobs created, the national unemployment rate and weekly readings on new jobless claims and Freddie Mac’s mortgage rates survey were also released.

CaseShiller: Western Cities Dominate Home Price Growth

Case-Shiller’s 20-City Home Price Index reported that Seattle Washington topped year-over-year home price growth with an increase of 11.00 percent. Portland, Oregon followed closely with a reading of 10.90 percent, and Denver Colorado held third place with year-over-year home price gains of 8.70 percent.

San Francisco, California, which had posted high home price gains in recent years, posted a month-to-month reading of -0.40 percent and a year-over-year gain of 5.70 percent. Analysts said that this reading was evidence that home prices in high cost areas were topping out. Affordability, strict mortgage requirements and low inventories of available homes continued to present obstacles to home buyers.

Mortgage Rates Rise, Pending Home Sales Dip

According to the U.S. Commerce Department, pending home sales dipped in October to 0.10 percent as compared to a growth rate of 1.50 percent in September. Winter weather and holidays can cause would-be home buyers to postpone their home searches until spring.

Freddie Mac reported higher mortgage rates last week, although the 10-year treasury rate, which is tied to mortgage rates, was unchanged from the prior week. The average rate for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was five basis points higher at 4.08 percent; the average rate for a 15-year fixed rate mortgage rose by nine basis points to 3.34 percent and the average rate for a 5/1 adjustable rate mortgage rose by three basis points to 3.15 percent. Mortgage rates have risen by 51 basis points in three weeks. This trend, coupled with high home prices, doesn’t bode well for first-time and modest income home buyers.

Consumer spending for October increased by 0.30 percent as compared to predictions for a reading of 0.50 percent and September’s 0.70 percent reading. The core inflation reading for October was unchanged and in line with analyst expectations at 0.10 percent. The core reading excludes volatile food and fuel sectors.

Labor Reports: Job Creation Grows, Unemployment Rate Lower

According to the Labor Department’s Non-Farm Payrolls report for November, 178,000 government and private sector jobs were created as compared to expectations of 200,000 jobs created and October’s reading of 142,000 jobs created in October. According to the Commerce Department, the national unemployment rate for November was 4.60 percent as compared to the expected reading of 4.90 percent and October’s reading of 4.90 percent. Analysts noted that while a lower reading could indicate good news, it was also the result of fewer workers in the work force. The unemployment rate is based on unemployment claims filed by those actively seeking work; it does not include those underemployed or those who have stopped seeking work.

First-time jobless claims rose to 268,000 as compared to expectations of 250,000 new claims and the prior week’s reading of 251,000 new claims filed.

In spite of higher mortgage rates and dubious labor reports, the Consumer Confidence Index rose to 107.1 in November from October’s reading of 100.8; Analysts had expected an index reading of 102.5.

Whats Ahead

Next week’s economic reports include releases on job openings and consumer sentiment along with weekly readings on mortgage rates and new jobless claims.