September 9, 2011 12:09 pm
It’s easy to fall in love with a house, but buyers need to think about more than just the home itself before deciding to live there. While the home may have the perfect number of rooms, a large play area for the kids and that master bathroom you have always dreamed about, you also need to consider the neighborhood in which the home is located.
That’s why before buying any home, a buyer should explore the surrounding neighborhood and area to make sure it has everything they want and need.
For buyers with children or those thinking of starting a family, the first thing you will want to look at is the local school system. You’ll also want to research the closest parks and community centers and consider how busy the streets in the neighborhood get. Even if you are single, living in a top school district will raise your property value.
Another consideration is your daily commute to work. You’ll want to understand the traffic patterns to and from your job and figure out if you’re going to be sitting in traffic for several hours a day. Researching the local mass transit system is also important, as you may want a neighborhood that gives you the option to not have to drive to work.
Profiling the perfect neighborhood also involves scoping out the neighbors themselves. Are there a lot of kids on the block? Are there neighborhood events? Do you see a lot of fences and “Keep Out” signs? It’s never a bad idea to take a walk through the neighborhood and say hello to some of the people you see and ask about the neighborhood before putting in an offer.
Don’t forget to map out stores and restaurants in the area as well. You may be used to a five-minute drive to the local grocery store, only to find out that the home you are interested in is 25 minutes away from the nearest place to buy milk. And if you like to walk to stores and shops, make sure to tell your agent that you want a place where this is possible.
You also want to find out if your potential new home is part of a neighborhood association and if your community has lawn or construction restrictions and if there’s a yearly fee involved. The last thing you want is to find out that you can’t put those holiday decorations up because of a strict town ordinance.
Also consider warning signs that the neighborhood could be in trouble. If you see abandoned buildings, vandalism or a lot of “For Sale” signs, it could be a sign that the community is heading in the wrong direction.
A perfect home isn’t always in the perfect neighborhood and you’ll want to make sure that both meet your expectations.
For more information on choosing a good neighborhood to call home, contact our office today.
September 9, 2011 12:09 pm
It used to be that if you weren’t married or living with someone, the idea of purchasing a home was considered a bit outlandish, however, more of today’s home buyers are single than ever before.
According to the National Association of REALTORS®, in 2010, unmarried women made up 20% of all home buyers and single men comprised 12%.
Savvy men and women understand that now is one of the best times to buy a home and they can probably get a price that won’t stop them from enjoying their single lifestyle.
These buyers may be just starting out and still envision getting married and having kids someday; some may be divorced and are looking to start fresh; still others may see it as an investment that will pay off down the line.
In her book, “Buying a Home When You’re Single,” Donna Albrecht walks through all the steps that take place when searching for a home, getting pre-qualified, finding an agent, and struggling through escrow.
“Before anyone buys a home—single or not—they need to consider what they want their future to look like,” Albrecht said. “If kids are a big hope, buying a studio condo could be a mistake. Going the other route and buying a five-bedroom place may not be the best idea either.”
Purchasing a smaller home, say with two bedrooms or less, has a number of advantages for a single buyer. The lower purchase price will likely net you a mortgage payment that is lower than rent and you will save on utilities, maintenance and cleaning costs. You will also have fewer rooms to furnish and decorate.
Another important point to consider is that it could be easier to sell when you are ready to move on. Single buyers know that their circumstances may change so they want to be prepared, so making sure that the home can be sold or rented out is often a key interest to this group.
Single parents are more inclined to buy a home to give their children a more stable environment and the chance of a great school system.
According to Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Statistics State of the Nation’s Housing report, the nation's 4.5 million single parents have greater space needs and must worry more about safety and school quality when choosing homes than households without children.
Since there is only one name and one person responsible for buying the property, a person’s credit score and ability to meet all payments is more important to single buyers. The FHA even offers a special loan for single mothers that can help reduce mortgage costs.
Mortgage experts recommend that a monthly mortgage for home buyers with one income should not exceed 28% of a borrower’s pre-tax monthly income.
For more information on taking advantage of today’s market, contact our office today.
September 9, 2011 12:09 pm
In today’s fact-paced real estate market, having information at your fingertips has become more important than ever before. As real estate professionals and prospective buyers alike continue to turn to technology to make the home-buying and -selling process a little easier for everyone involved, applications (apps) have become the next big thing.
Applications can do everything from helping one accurately price a home, to improving its appearance to even controlling the home’s environment and energy usage from a distance.
Here are 10 popular apps available today:
Control4 My Home: This app turns your iPad into the ultimate touchscreen home control and automation system and enables homeowners to control audio, video, Web cameras, security systems, lights, thermostats, and other functions. In addition, this free application can manage your commands in Czech, Hebrew, Portuguese, Turkish and other languages.
Zillow: This free app allows prospective buyers to find homes in any neighborhood based on factors such as number of bedrooms, bathrooms and price. It’s also a helpful tool for sellers as it provides estimates of what your home and those in your area might be worth.
Gardening ToolKit: For $1.99, this application offers great gardening advice that will turn your thumb green. It will tell you the perfect flowers, shrubs, fruits and veggies that will thrive in your area using the built-in “automatic zipcode hardiness zone finder.” It also includes a watering guide, month-by-month gardening advice, colorful plant photos and information on what to sow and when, depending upon where you live.
ID Wood: Want to know what kind of wood your floors or dining chairs are made of? With this app, you’ll be provided a reference guide that can help you ID any kind of wood so that you can easily choose a color and grain that you love for future projects.
Lutron Radio RA2: For $14.99, this application lets you remotely control your home using an iPad. Not only can you control the lights, temperature, appliances, window shade positioning and energy usage, it’s perfect for turning on the air conditioning before summer home showings and it helps make a house look “lived in” when you’re away from home.
LoopNet: A real estate search tool, this application is perfect for the homeowner looking to upgrade, downsize or just make room for an expanding family.
Trulia: Trulia has thousands of home listings, making it easy to find real estate in your desired area and check out pictures online.
Home Value Pro: Another free application—for the iPhone and iPod Touch—that gives home sellers and buyers accurate and reliable market data on over 140 million residential properties in the U.S. It includes up-to-date property values, foreclosure information, 12-month median home price trends and analysis of housing statistics at the county and zipcode level.
Mortgage Calculator Pro: A quick and easy-to-use calculator for brokers, REALTORS®, and home buyers, where within seconds, you will be able to calculate the monthly payment for a mortgage, car payment, credit card, or other types of fixed rate loans. The calculator lets you add different adjustments such as insurance, property tax, and monthly fees such as an HOA to see how they would affect the monthly payment.
Dream Home HD: For $4.99, this application will enable you to integrate the latest interior design trends into your home by providing thousands of decor solutions from professional designers. You’ll also receive inspirational ideas, tips, real-life photos and an extensive menu of colors and styles for a variety of room types.
For more information on popular real estate apps, contact our office today.
September 9, 2011 12:09 pm
Every home buyer has a vision of their perfect house and the rooms that are most important to them. Because of their relatively small size in comparison to the rest of a home, bathrooms are often overlooked in the staging process, but for many, it could be the most important room when making the decision to put an offer on a home. Not only do bathrooms contribute to a home’s value, a well-designed bathroom will also increase the home’s appeal in the eyes of a buyer.
“A bathroom is more than just a place for grooming; it’s a sanctuary,” said Marcia Sullivan of the Staging Bug Blog. “It’s a place one can relax in a hot bath and escape the stresses of daily life for a few moments at a time.”
Updating a tired looking bathroom is one of the best things you can do to increase a home’s resale value and the fixes are not too costly or labor intensive. Easy fixes include adding luxurious towels, replacing the shower curtain and placing candles around the bathtub. However, with a little more money and effort, your bathroom can become a talking point of the house.
“Newly remodeled bathrooms will add value to your home and help your home sell faster,” said Debbie Batts, manager of Metropolitan Bath and Tile in Bowie, Md. “You don’t have to feel cramped for space in your average-sized master bath. Light, café-au-lait colors and white will give you a bright wake up call in the morning. Washed, natural cabinets and polished granite countertop with double white sinks and porcelain keep it light.”
Adding decorative glass, stone tile or accents to the bathroom will help the home stand out among the other houses in the neighborhood that are for sale. Extra-wide wall tiles are popular these days and wood cabinets can be beautifully embellished with intricately carved wooden onlays.
“Add more lighting options around the room, especially around the vanity to reduce shadows and glaring,” Sullivan said. “This is something that isn’t too expensive and can really highlight the positive features of a bathroom. Mood lighting around the tub area is also increasing in popularity.”
While there’s nothing better than coming home from a hard day’s work and relaxing in a big soothing tub, putting in a new tub and creating a spa-like atmosphere will enable prospective buyers to imagine themselves washing their cares away. Adding a massage element to the showerhead or one that replicates rain showers is also something that will appeal to buyers.
Changing out the fixtures in a bathroom can also dramatically enhance the space. From cabinet handles to faucets, the addition of brushed nickel or other metals that are polished and elegant are always a huge hit. If space permits, you may want to invest in adding a second sink.
When buyers walk into a renovated bathroom that exudes quality and offers an intimate, contemporary feel, it’s one of the top things that people will remember about a home.
For more tips on how to update your bathroom, contact our office today.
September 9, 2011 12:09 pm
Purchasing a new home can be a huge undertaking, especially if you are in the market for your first home. That’s why it’s important to have an experienced real estate agent by your side to guide you along the way.
Almost every first-time buyer feels hopelessly confused in the beginning, but it’s important to remember that you hold the power and you shouldn’t feel forced into making a decision you are not comfortable with.
“In the world of real estate sales, you are the most important person in the entire process,” said John Adams, who has written six books on the process of buying and selling a home. “It’s easy to think everyone else carries more weight than you. The seller owns the house and has all the money. The agent talks fast and has an answer for everything. The lender may decline your loan application, and on and on. But the truth is that you, the buyer, are the one person in this transaction who makes it all happen. If you decide not to buy, the entire process comes to a grinding halt.”
According to the National Association of REALTORS®, the number of first-time home buyers rose to a record high 50% of all home sales last year, which can be greatly attributed to the first-time buyer tax credit which began in 2009.
For those looking to continue the upward trend in 2011, first-time buyers should consider a number of things to make the buying process as smooth a transition as possible.
First-time buyers need to look at their financial situation and crunch the numbers to see if now is the right time to buy. Chances are, the numbers they see today will be the best they will see for some time, which is why so many are considering homeownership.
Still, understanding the money that goes into a home purchase is important. The biggest mistake new buyers make is underestimating the costs of buying a house and maintaining it over time.
First-time buyers need to understand that it takes more than just the downpayment to purchase a home. When buying a home, one needs to consider the closing costs and future expenses that will come with the new property.
“As renters, people are accustomed to paying rent and basic utilities. As homeowners, you’ll also pay for water, sewer and trash collection,” said Ilyce Glink, author of “100 Questions Every First-Time Home Buyer Should Ask.” “Then there are property taxes, homeowners insurance and homeowners association dues, plus yard care, snow removal and other expenses unique to your location.”
Many experts agree that homeowners should have 1-3% of their homes’ purchase price in savings for improvements and surprise expenses. Mortgage experts also say it’s wise to have at least six mortgage payments in the bank after closing.
While those numbers may not be feasible for everyone, if you are spending above your means on a new home, you may quickly find yourself in financial trouble.
Inspections are also important for the first-time buyer, as they list repairs that will be needed for the home. A buyer should put together a short-term and long-term plan based on the inspection so they know how much money they will need in the months and years ahead.
Buying a home is one of the largest investments you’ll make and if it’s done wisely, it can be one of the best decisions of your life. Your real estate agent will help you do it right by providing you with a realistic price point for your home purchase and a clear understanding of monthly financial requirements.
For more information on purchasing your first home, contact our office today.
September 9, 2011 12:09 pm
Our lead story in this month’s Home Matters, brought to you through our company's membership in RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network (RREIN)® - Leading Companies Providing Leading Information – examines what first-time buyers need to know before making a home purchase. We also bring you some other timely pieces this month on choosing the perfect neighborhood, how single buyers can take advantage of today's market, and more. As a benefit of our membership in RREIN, you will receive these relevant, powerful real estate articles each month that you’ll find timely and helpful in your real estate interests and pursuits. We hope you enjoy this month’s edition of Home Matters and as always, we welcome your feedback. Email us anytime!
September 8, 2011 10:57 pm
Will someone in your household be beating the pavement soon in search of employment? Read on. Higher education publication The Best Degrees has published a report of the top 51 degrees based on job potential in the current U.S. economy. The study set out to identify the best degrees for students seeking both strong job opportunities and high earnings.
While most studies have concentrated solely on wage potential, this research also evaluated the volume of job seeker competition within each field along with a candidate's probability of securing a job offer following graduation. The published report effectively matches college degrees to the current needs of the U.S. economy. Data was compiled from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the U.S. Department of Labor.
According to this report, the Master in Business Administration degree with a concentration in Technology Management offers the best overall job potential in the current economic environment.
The top ten rankings include:
1. M.B.A. in Technology Management
2. Ph.D. in Computer Science
3. B.S. in Software Engineering
4. M.A. in Education Administration
5. M.S. in Geoscience
6. Bachelor's Degree in Computer Science
7. Bachelor's Degree in Databases
8. Master's Degree in Operations Research
9. Bachelor's Degree in Computer Networks
10. Bachelor's Degree in Nursing
Not surprisingly, the report reveals a strong demand for degrees in technology, computers, and healthcare, according to Dee Barizo, editor of The Best Degrees. Additional highlights of the report include:
• Several highly ranked two-year associate degrees
• Relative absence of degrees in finance
• High potential of bachelor's degrees without additional graduate school
September 8, 2011 10:57 pm
For many, gardening chores are winding way down as vegetables are harvested and fall approaches. However, the gardening experts at Lifetime Gardens, Inc. say it should be quite the opposite, pointing to cooler fall weather as the perfect time of year to prepare your garden for spring. A little work now will keep your raised garden beds springing up green all year long. Here are some tasks to address over the next couple of months:
• Clean out all dead plant debris like leaves, vines, stalks, and roots.
• Fill holes from harvested plants with compost and mix it in. Typically, one trowel full of compost for each square foot is a good guideline.
• After adding compost, replant the space. One advantage of raised garden beds is that soil stays warmer in the fall and warms earlier in the spring than a traditional garden, which extends the growing season and can help plants mature faster.
• Vegetables - Root crops like parsnips, turnips, carrots, and red beets can be planted now. Cover with straw when frost threatens or snow falls to extend harvest all winter. Cool weather crops like spinach, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, and peas can also be planted in the fall.
• Flowers - Flowers improve the overall beauty of a garden and improve pollination. Plant flower bulbs including tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, daylilies, and crocus for vibrant color next spring. Bury large bulbs 4 to 8 inches deep and small bulbs 2 to 4 inches deep.
• To further extend the growing season, consider covering raised beds with clear plastic to capture heat like a greenhouse to protect crops from frost.
September 8, 2011 10:57 pm
The benchmark conforming 30-year fixed mortgage rate set a new record for the third consecutive week, dropping to 4.35 percent, according to Bankrate.com's weekly national survey. The average 30-year fixed mortgage has an average of 0.38 discount and origination points.
The average 15-year fixed mortgage remained at 3.48 percent while the larger jumbo 30-year fixed rate set a new low of 4.86 percent. Adjustable rate mortgages were mixed, with the average 5-year ARM ticking higher to 3.1 percent while the 7-year ARM slid to another record low of 3.21 percent.
A lackluster jobs report brought mortgage rates down for a sixth consecutive week. Fears of a looming recession or prolonged economic malaise have enhanced the appeal of long-term Treasury securities, with yields venturing into record-low territory. Fixed mortgage rates and yields on mortgage-backed bonds are closely related to yields on 10-year Treasury notes. While the Federal Reserve may take steps to further reduce these long-term interest rates in hopes of bringing mortgage rates still lower, expanding the pool of eligible refinancers would make the low mortgage rates more impactful on the economy.
The last time mortgage rates were above 6 percent was Nov. 2008. At the time, the average 30-year fixed rate was 6.33 percent, meaning a $200,000 loan would have carried a monthly payment of $1,241.86. With the average rate now 4.35 percent, the monthly payment for the same size loan would be $995.62, a difference of $246 per month for anyone refinancing now.
September 7, 2011 4:57 pm
The biggest nemesis to many a household budget is the seemingly ever-growing grocery bill. While many food-related cost increases are beyond our control, there are many strategies and habits you can develop to help bring your food bill down, in addition to the traditional and somewhat cumbersome coupon-clipping process. Try putting the following into action:
• Plan ahead – Plan meals based on what’s on sale…and what’s currently about to go bad in your fridge. Make it a point to use the ingredients that you already have on hand and that may otherwise go to waste.
• Look around – The highest priced items on store shelves are usually at chest level. Look up or down to find less expensive brands or unadvertised specials.
• Leave the kids home – Those little hands can add many dollars in unneeded items piling up in your food basket. If you must keep the kids in tow, allow them to choose one item only.
• Shop the perimeter – The most value is found on the store’s perimeter – fresh produce, dairy, meats and breads. Avoid the middle aisles if you can. That’s where the priciest items are.
• Don’t shop when hungry or tired – When you’re hungry, everything looks too tempting. And when you’re tired, you just want to get out of the store fast and will make quick decisions.
• Stock up on items when on sale – Something like butter can be stored in the freezer for up to six months. Pack the butter in an airtight container so it doesn’t take on the flavor of whatever else you’re freezing.
• Buy generic/private label products – Private label products have come a long way. Give them a try to find out which you like best.
• Take a quick inventory – Before leaving for the store, take a quick look through the fridge, cabinets and freezer. Chances are, something on your list is already buried in the freezer or hiding on the top shelf of the cabinet.
• Make meals in advance – Prepping a meal in the crock pot or doubling a recipe and freezing half will have an impact on your food budget. Many dollars are wasted at grocery stores and restaurants on last-minute meals.
• Shop wholesale clubs with caution – The big-box warehouse stores can take a big toll on your wallet. What seems like a great deal often ends up going to waste. Only shop there for items you truly use in great abundance.