Posts for Syndication

Buying a Home with a Fireplace

By Virtual Results

Buying a Home with a Fireplace

Is there anything more inviting at this time of year than a roaring fire? If you’re buying a home, then you may be looking at properties that have fireplaces. Perhaps you’re daydreaming about winter afternoons cozied up with a cup of hot chocolate, a good book, and a crackling fire in the fireplace. While owning a home with a fireplace can be a great joy, it comes with its share of challenges. Here’s what you should ask yourself if you’re thinking about buying a home with a fireplace.

Is a fireplace on your wish list?

When you decided to buy a home, you probably compiled a list of all the things you want and need to have in a home. Was a fireplace on that list? It’s easy to get swept up in the romance of a fireplace. But if it’s not a high-priority item for you, you may get bogged down by the maintenance and end up not using it. Really consider whether or not a fireplace is something you need to have and whether you can commit to taking care of it properly.

What are the fuel costs?

While you may imagine yourself sitting by the fire every night, is that financially reasonable? When you’re touring a home with a fireplace, notice what kind of fuel it uses. It may be gas, electric, or wood burning. No matter which kind of fireplace it is, you will need to spend money on fuel. Review what the costs of fuel are in your area to determine how much you may end up spending each season to use the fireplace regularly. Is it worth it?

What condition are the fireplace and chimney in?

A fireplace needs to be regularly maintained. Otherwise, in can develop issues that are expensive to repair. Do you notice any water damage around the fireplace on the inside of the home? How does the chimney look on the outside of the home? Does it have a chimney cap to keep animals, water, and debris out? Are there cracks in the concrete at the top of the chimney? Does the chimney lean, is it missing bricks, or is the mortar cracked? These can all be red flags that may indicate some costly repairs down the line.

Are you prepared to get a chimney inspection?

While home inspectors will do a general inspection of the fireplace and chimney, it is not comprehensive. They may check to make sure the damper works and that there are no obstructions in the chimney. But that is where their services end. If you really want to get an accurate picture of the condition of the chimney, you need to hire a professional chimney inspector. A Level 1 inspection will check for creosote or soot buildup, which can easily start a fire. A Level 2 inspection is even more comprehensive and includes an inspection of the attic, roof, and crawl space to check for specific damage.

While fireplaces are a hot commodity with homebuyers today, they don’t come without risk. If you’re considering buying a home with a fireplace, then be sure you understand what is involved before you seal the deal.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Holiday Decorating for Home Sellers

By Virtual Results

Holiday Decorating for Home SellersDecorating your home for the holidays is one of life’s big pleasures. But if you’re selling your home this time of year, then you may want to rethink your usual décor. While it isn’t necessary to banish all your decorations to storage this year, you probably shouldn’t deck those halls like you usually do. Here’s what you need to know to strike just the right balance.

Choose decorations that are right for your home

In order to create the right atmosphere for potential buyers, you should choose holiday decorations that match the style of your home. If you’re got a classic colonial, then choose more traditional decorations. Those with more modern homes can work with décor that is more modern and minimalist. The bottom line is – the style of the decorations should not compete with the style of your home.

Consider the neighborhood vibe

If you live on Candy Cane Lane and all your neighbors go all-out for the holiday, then it would look strange if you didn’t decorate. Consider the neighborhood vibe when you decide how to decorate the outside of your home. Those that live in festive neighborhoods can afford a few more decorations outside. But if most of your neighbors opt not to dress the house with lights and inflatable snowmen, then you shouldn’t, either.

Opt for general decorations

There are many different kinds of ways to celebrate during the holiday season. You don’t want to alienate any potential buyers by choosing decorations that are very specific. Instead, opt for decorations that create a seasonal vibe. Good choices include simple evergreen boughs, white twinkle lights, bowls of pinecones, and lightly scented candles.

Don’t eat up space

We know how incredible it is to have a huge tree that fills up your living room over the holidays. But those giant trees can make your room look small – which you definitely don’t want. Instead, choose a tree that takes up less floor space. And go easy on the ornaments. This is not the year to pack the tree with all the ornaments the kids made over the years. Instead, choose tasteful ornaments that coordinate with each other for a cohesive and elegant look.

Don’t display the gifts

While we agree that a tree packed with presents underneath can look amazing, you shouldn’t display your presents when you’re selling your home. After all, strangers will be walking through your house while you aren’t there. This year, keep those gifts in storage, or lock them in the trunk of your car when you have a showing.

Make it cozy and inviting

One of the things that make the holidays so special is that warm and cozy vibe. Aim to create that kind of atmosphere inside your home. If you have a fireplace, build a fire before a showing and have hot chocolate ready for buyers. Put a pot of simmering potpourri on the stove and fill the air with the scents of the season. Place some battery-operated candles in your windows, which will look very inviting when buyers pull up to your home. 

Compliments of Virtual Results

Moving During the Holidays

By Virtual Results

Moving During the HolidaysYou’ve sold your house – congratulations! Signing those closing papers and handing over the keys to new owners can be a great relief. But that means that it’s time to move – during the holiday season, no less. While it isn’t necessarily the most ideal time to pick up and move, it can be done. In fact, there are even some benefits to moving during this time of year. Here’s what you need to know to keep your stress at a minimum.

Book early

If you’re relying on a moving company to help you with your relocation, then you should make your reservation as soon as possible. Some moving companies may take time off over the holidays to let their employees enjoy time with family and friends. And try to avoid moving over a holiday weekend. You’ll pay a premium, and you’ll have to deal with holiday traffic.

Strategize your packing

Are you the kind of person who gets depressed when you can’t decorate for the holidays? Just because you’re moving doesn’t mean you can’t get into the holiday spirit. Set out a few of your decorations, and plan to pack them up last. The key is not to go overboard – you don’t want to be in a rush to get them all put away on moving day. The added benefit of packing them up last means you can unpack them first when you get to your new place.

Plan your budget

Moving can be expensive. That can be a challenge when you’re also spending money on holiday gifts. Save money by planning to move in the middle of the week. You may be able to score a deal on your moving services. You can also save money by packing up your own truck and moving yourself. Score used boxes and packing material on sites like Craigslist. Use your blankets and towels to cushion furniture instead of purchasing moving blankets. And if you can convince friends and family to help you – even better! Turn it into a celebration with holiday music and cookies.

Donate what you don’t need

Don’t make moving harder than it needs to be. While you’re packing up your belongings, be honest about what you use and what you don’t use. There’s no sense in packing up box after box of items you won’t need in your new place. Instead, donate those items to a local charity, or give them to family and friends. During this time of year, it feels great to be able to donate to those who may be in need.

Include your new address in holiday cards

If you’re planning to send out holiday cards this year, then why not kill two birds with one stone? Include your new mailing address in the cards that you send to your friends and family. This will save you both money and time, and let your loved ones know where they should send their holiday cards.

Wait until after Christmas

Do you normally take time off of work between Christmas and New Years? Then why not schedule your move to coincide? As a bonus, your family and friends may also be taking off work and may be available to help you with your move!

Compliments of Virtual Results

Giving Thanks to Your New Home

By Virtual Results

Giving Thanks to Your New HomeBuying a new home is such an exciting – and stressful – experience. It’s one of life’s major milestones, and frankly, it deserves celebrating. You did it! Since this is the week where we here in America give thanks for all we have, we think it’s also a great idea to express thanks to your new home. After all, think about all the things it provides for you – shelter, stability, and a place to gather with your loved ones, to name a few. So how exactly do you show your gratitude? Here are some of the most creative ideas we’ve seen.

Make it sparkle

Is there anything that feels better than being clean? We don’t think so. Which is why it’s a great idea to deep clean one area of your home to show it your gratitude. Is there a corner that you’ve been neglecting, like that space in the garage? Spend an hour or two cleaning it up and getting it organized. How about that shower door with the hard water stains? Read up on the best ways to banish those deposits and get to it. You – and your home – will be glad you did.

Fill it with plants

Is your home missing a little something? All you may need to give it that lived-in feeling is a plant or two, or a vase of fresh flowers. This is a particularly good time to bring living things into your home, since it can be so grey, dreary, and dark outside. Nothing perks up a room like a snake plant or a bouquet of roses. Plants have also been shown to clean your air – which makes them a good bang for your buck.

Make it smell good

Have you noticed a mild funk in the air that you can’t quite locate? Bad smells can be a serious mood-killer, so freshen up your home with some good scents. Think about the kinds of scents you enjoy, especially at this time of year. Maybe you love the smell of cookies baking in the oven, or spices simmering on the stove. Get seasonal and decorate with some fresh evergreen boughs. Not only will they smell good, but they’ll also get you in the holiday spirit.

Instagram it

Even if you think your home doesn’t have a finished look, you should take some photographs of it anyway. You will appreciate them in a few years when you look back and see how far your space has come. Celebrate your new space by sharing it with the people you love. Take some great shots and post them on social media. Try looking at rooms, corners, or vignettes in ways you haven’t before. We promise, this will improve your home’s mojo.

Plan a date with your home

Maybe it sounds silly, but have you really taken the time to enjoy your home since you moved in? Are you taking advantages of all those amenities that first drew you to the home, like the wood-burning fireplace or the deep Jacuzzi tub? Mark you calendar and plan a date where all you do is enjoy your home. After all, this is what you’ve been waiting for – isn’t it?

Compliments of Virtual Results

Celebrate Thanksgiving in Your New Home

By Virtual Results

Thanksgiving in Your New Home

Closing on a new home is certainly something to be thankful for this holiday season. But if you’ve just moved in, you may be wondering how you can possibly get it together in time to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. Moving is always a stressful process, and it can be doubly so if you’re doing it over the holidays. But fear not! If you find yourself in this position, it is still possible to have a wonderful and meaningful Thanksgiving celebration. Here’s how to get it done.

Keep it simple if you’re hosting

We’re not sure how you got assigned hosting duties if you’ve just moved, but hey, it happens. The key to a stress-free Thanksgiving in your new home is to keep it simple. It is perfectly acceptable to buy a pre-made turkey from a local grocery store or restaurant. The same goes for all those delicious side dishes. Either order them from a local establishment or turn your celebration into a potluck. Your guests are sure to understand – especially if your kitchen isn’t set-up to prepare a big meal yet. And don’t fret about setting a perfect table. Opt for pretty disposable dishes and cutlery. It will make cleaning up that much easier. Remember – the most important part of Thanksgiving is spending it with the people you love. Who made the turkey and which plates you ate the turkey off of is not what anyone will remember years from now.

Head to a restaurant

Want an even better idea for celebrating Thanksgiving in your new home? Head to a local restaurant! If you have time before the big day, then do some research to find out which restaurants will be open on Thanksgiving Day. That way you can find out which times and menus will work best for your family, and you’ll know ahead of time what the cost will be. And if you’re willing to eat at an off-peak time, you may even be able to get a reservation at one of the most popular restaurants. This could be a great way to discover some of the area’s best dining options, especially if you’re new to the neighborhood.

Volunteer at a local charity

Closing on a new home is a major life achievement, and it’s something that can inspire an enormous amount of gratitude. Having the resources available to buy your dream home is a big deal, and not everyone has the means. Perhaps the best way to celebrate Thanksgiving in your new home is to pay it forward. Why not volunteer this year instead of having a big meal? Find out if there is a homeless shelter or soup kitchen in your community that is hosting a Thanksgiving dinner. Contact them ahead of time to see if there are any volunteer opportunities. During the holiday season, nothing feels better than giving back, and volunteering is one of the best ways to do it. If you really feel like you’re missing out on turkey and all the fixings, you can always have a low-key feast a few days later.

Compliments of Virtual Results

What Does an Escrow Agent Do?

By Virtual Results

What Does an Escrow Agent Do

If you’re buying a home for the first time (or even the second or third time), then you may be a little confused about who does what exactly. For example – what does an escrow agent or escrow company do, and why do you need them? Let’s take a closer look at this important part of the closing process.

What is an escrow agent?

First of all, let’s take moment to clarify what an escrow agent (sometimes known as a title agent) actually is. When you’re dealing with a large financial transaction such as buying a house, the buyer and the seller will enlist the help of a third party to hold on to paperwork, money, and other assets until the process is finalized. This neutral third party is known as an escrow agent. Escrow agents help to keep these assets safe until all aspects of the agreement have been met. They have a fiduciary responsibility to both the buyer and the seller during the closing process.

How is escrow opened?

Depending on your particular situation, either the real estate agent or the lender will open escrow. Once the sales agreement is executed, the buyer’s agent places the earnest money deposit in escrow. The escrow agent may require that you provide personal information at this time, such as your social security number and birthday. They will also request information about how you would like to hold title. This means providing the details about how you want your name listed on all the documents that will be prepared.

What are an escrow agent’s duties?

The escrow agent plays a vital role during any real estate transaction. Their duties include:

  • Serving as a neutral third party between all the other parties involved in a real estate transaction.
  • Performing a preliminary title search in order to ascertain who currently holds title to a property and the title’s status.
  • Requesting a statement from the seller that includes all of the debt and other obligations that will be taken by the buyer.
  • Making sure that all the lender’s requirements are met.
  • Ensuring that all contingencies stated in the sales agreement are met.
  • Preparing documents related to the escrow, such as the deed.
  • Receiving money from the buyer and funds from the lender.
  • Closing the escrow as detailed by the buyer, seller, and lender.
  • Recording the deed and other documents related to the transaction.
  • Disbursing all funds including those for fees, loan payoffs, and commissions.
  • Preparing the final statements for each party.
  • Securing the policy for the title insurance.

How long is the escrow process?

Escrow is created once the sales agreement is executed. Escrow cannot be closed until all the obligations of the agreement have been met and all documents have been signed. While there is no set number of days for the escrow process, the average length is approximately 45 days. Less complicated transactions can take a shorter amount of time. On the other hand, transactions that are more complicated can take several months to close.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Buying a Vacation Home

By Virtual Results

Buying a Vacation Home

With the holiday season approaching, your mind may be daydreaming about getting away to a vacation home. In fact, maybe buying a vacation home is on your holiday wish list this year. While purchasing a home away from home can be a wonderful investment, it should not be taken lightly. Here are some things you should ask yourself if you’re deciding whether or not to buy a vacation home.

Can I afford it?

First of all, it’s important to know whether or not you can actually afford to purchase a vacation home. Understand that lenders often require a higher credit score to purchase a second home. The interest rates for home loans may also be higher for vacation homes. For many buyers, paying cash for a vacation home is the best option. Do you have those resources available?

Will you share the cost?

If you’re not sure that you can swing the cost of a vacation home on your own, then you may be tempted to share the cost with others. This could include family members or close friends. Keep in mind that buying a vacation home is a huge financial commitment. Are you ready to enter into that kind of relationship with your family or friends? How will the costs be split, and how will that affect how each party can use the property? These are all questions that should be answered before you buy a vacation home with other people.

Does it fit my lifestyle?

While it can be exciting to imagine life in your vacation home, does it really fit your lifestyle? If you have a family with young children, are there enough amenities nearby that will satisfy everyone’s tastes? What happens when your children are grown? Will you still want to visit this house then? You should also consider whether it fits your lifestyle if you’re nearing retirement age. Does the area cater to older adults in terms of culture and entertainment? Are there medical facilities nearby?

How often will I use it?

Many buyers who purchase vacation homes have pie-in-the-sky ideas about how they will use their property. But are those ideas realistic? How often will you be able to get away? Is this a place that you’d like to return to again and again? Think about how far away the vacation home is, and how that will affect your ability to visit it on a regular basis. And remember that vacation homes need regular maintenance, too. You may need to hire someone to keep the property maintained if you are only visiting a few times a year. Consider giving your vacation home a trial run. Rent out another property in the same location and see how often you actually use it. It will help to inform your future purchase.

Will I rent it out?

Finally, consider whether or not you’ll rent out the home when you aren’t there. Although it can be appealing to have that extra income, it doesn’t come without challenges of its own. Be sure you know what the tax laws are regarding rental income. And understand that you will need to put time and effort into finding renters and keeping the home maintained while others are living there.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Selling During the Holidays

By Virtual Results

Are you selling your home during the holiday season? While putting your home on the market right now may have you feeling like Scrooge, it can actually be a great time to sell. The trick is to put yourself in the right frame of mind and to understand how to use the holiday season to your advantage. Here’s what you need to know about selling your home over the holidays.

Use holiday decorations wisely

One of the best reasons to sell during the holiday season is that you can capitalize on the cozy feeling that the holidays inspire. You can use tasteful holiday decorations on both the inside and the outside of your home to make it feel both warm and inviting. The key is to use these kinds of decorations in moderation. For the outside, stick to basics like potted poinsettias and a simple evergreen wreath for the door. On the inside, choose general winter decorations like pinecones and candles. A few decorations placed strategically throughout your home will create that feeling of coziness you desire.

Lighting is key

Now that Daylight Saving has arrived, it’s more important than ever to consider lighting when selling your home. Make sure that all the interior lights in your home are working and turn them on during a showing – even during the day. Open all the curtains and let in as much natural light as possible. You can even use a few strands of twinkle lights as part of your holiday décor. Outside, be sure that people have plenty of light to see driveways and sidewalks and that your front porch light adequately lights up the outside.

Take great photos

As the weather turns colder, more and more buyers will be conducting their home searches online. For this reason, you should take great photos of your house for your listing. The photos will give buyers their first impression of your home. Make sure they represent your home in the best possible light so that buyers are motivated to see your property in person. If possible, hire a professional to take top-quality photos. And if you have any great photos from the spring and summer when trees and flowers are in full bloom, even better.

Price it right

One of the most important things you can do when selling your home during the holidays is to price it right. Homes that are priced too high will sit on the market for weeks or months, making them much less attractive to potential buyers. One way to avoid this problem is to price your home correctly from the beginning. You might also consider offering other incentives such as paying towards repairs or closing costs.

Work with a professional

Finally, if you’re selling your home over the holidays, then it’s best to work with a professional real estate agent. Working with an agent who is an expert in your market will make the process much less stressful. They can advise you on critical issues such as price, and help shoulder the load so that you can enjoy the holiday season, too!

Compliments of Virtual Results

9 Common Title Problems

By Virtual Results

9 Common Title ProblemsEvery home sale will include a title search. This is a process that helps to discover who legally owns the house, and thus, who has the right to sell it. While it may seem pretty straightforward, a title search can turn up hidden claims or liens that might make it difficult to purchase title insurance. This could prevent the sale of a house if the sale is contingent on qualifying for this insurance. Here are nine of the most common title problems you might encounter when doing a title search.

Errors in the public records

One of the most common title problems is clerical or filing errors in the public records. Unfortunately, these errors can affect the status of the title and be difficult and costly to repair.

Forgeries

Much like errors in the public records, forgeries can also present problems when completing a title search. Sometimes forged documents are submitted into the public record, which makes it more difficult to ascertain who legally owns a property.

Liens

Another common problem that a title search can uncover is unknown liens against the property. A lien is a legal ownership claim on a home, and can be filed by anyone who is owed money by the homeowner. This could include tax departments, contractors, and utility companies and is common with distressed properties.

Illegal chain of title

The chain of title refers to all those who have previously owned a property. During a title search you may discover that a previous claim of ownership was not legal. This is possible if a minor, someone of unsound mind, or someone who claimed to be single but was actually married made a previous deed.

Property or boundary disputes

A title search may also uncover disputes about the boundaries of the property. It is possible that different surveys completed in the past show different boundary lines. This could mean that a neighbor could claim part of your property or vice versa. This kind of dispute must be cleared before you can purchase the property.

Bankruptcies

If a previous owner has filed for bankruptcy, you will need to verify that the case has been discharged. The person filing for bankruptcy must have signed off on the property and petitioned the court to release the property in order for the sale to continue.

Missing heir

Many people will their homes to their heirs when they die. But if an heir is missing or unknown when they die, it can become a problem when trying to purchase the property. You may also discover that family members have contested a will.

Missing will

If someone dies with no will or heir, then the state may sell the home. However, sometimes after the sale is complete a will is found and your rights as the homeowner may be compromised.

Unknown easements

Finally, the property may include an unknown easement. This could prevent you from using all or part of the property as you want to. It might also give someone else access to some or all of your property. This can affect your ability to enjoy your property as you had intended.

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How to Make an Offer on a House

By Virtual Results

How to Make an Offer on a HouseMaking an offer on a house can be a very exciting – and very nerve-wracking – experience. Finding a home you love can be a challenging process. Waiting to hear back about your offer can have you on pins and needles. This is the point in the home-buying process where things get serious and the exchange of paperwork starts to escalate. In order to keep your cool during this wild ride, it’s helpful to know what to expect.

Choose a starting price

When you’re making an offer on a house, you must begin with deciding exactly how much to offer. You will need to consider local market conditions, your budget, and how motivated the seller is, among other things. Evaluate local comps, and take into consideration how competitive the market currently is. This will help you decide how close you need to be to the asking price.

Determine your contingencies

Contingencies are items that can change or terminate your offer. It is common to include contingencies about appraisals and inspections. That way, if the home appraises for less than the asking price or the inspection reveals serious issues that weren’t previously disclosed, you can walk away. You may also include other contingencies such as securing financing or specifying the amount of time you need to find a buyer for your current home. In a competitive market, it’s wise to limit the number of contingencies to make your offer more attractive than others.

Prepare a written offer

Once you’ve decided on a price and your contingencies, your real estate agent will prepare an offer letter. This letter is legally binding and is guided by local and state laws. The letter will contain such things as the property description, the purchase price, other terms including closing costs and other fees, a mandate requiring a clear title, a projected closing date, and the offer’s expiration date. It will also include how much you will be offering as earnest money.

Consider including a personal letter

In competitive housing markets, it can be helpful to include a personal letter to the seller detailing why you love the home. Appeal to the seller’s emotions and let them know why their home is the perfect one for you. It could be just the edge you need to make your offer stand out.

Submit your offer

Once your offer letter is complete, your agent will send it to the seller’s agent. You will then enter the waiting game. One of three things will happen — the seller will accept your offer, decline your offer, or make a counter-offer. You and your agent can then respond accordingly.

Work with an experienced agent

In the end, when you’re making an offer on a home you love, it’s reassuring to know you’re in good hands. That’s why it’s so important to work with an experienced real estate agent who is an expert in your market. Partnering with a professional who has walked down this road many times with other homebuyers will put your mind at ease and help you submit an offer that a seller simply can’t refuse.

Compliments of Virtual Results