Posts for Syndication

How to Be a Good Neighbor

By Virtual Results

How to Be a Good NeighborYou’re not just buying a home. You’re becoming part of a neighborhood. One of the perks of homeownership is feeling invested in your community. Having good relationships with your neighbors can be a great benefit. It can help you feel safer, make you feel less lonely, provide a lifeline when you need help, and add to your sense of well-being. So how do you be a good neighbor and build lasting relationships? Let’s find out.

Introduce yourself

When you move into your new neighborhood, introduce yourself to your nearest neighbors. If you feel uncomfortable knocking on doors, then just take the opportunity to say hi to those you meet when you’re out for a walk.

Be aware of noise

Noise can be a big problem for some neighbors, so be aware of how much noise you are making. Also, pay attention to the general level of noise in your new neighborhood. Communities with young families may have more tolerance for noise than a street of empty-nesters. Be mindful of when you’re doing certain noisy activities like mowing the lawn. Try to wait until at least 10 am. Avoid loud conversations outside late into the night if your driveway or porch faces a neighbor’s bedroom window.

Maintain your yard

We all know how important curb appeal is when it comes to the value of your home. When your yard looks nice, it elevates the whole neighborhood. Mow your lawn regularly, and remove mold from the exterior with a power washer. Keep trees and shrubs neat and don’t let them grow into your neighbors’ yards. Remove toys and other objects from the front yard every day.

Be nice online

If you’re not already on Nextdoor, then you should know it’s a great way to connect with your neighbors and learn about things going on in your community. But be aware that it’s not anonymous — don’t say anything online that you wouldn’t say to someone in face-to-face conversation. Keep it polite, limit complaints, and keep in mind how difficult it can be to convey tone with text.

Avoid gossip

There always seems to be a neighborhood gossip — don’t let it be you. It can be easy to get caught up in community gossip, but it can definitely sour your relationships with your neighbors. If someone is trying to put you in the middle of a conflict, then politely suggest they talk with the person directly.

Be a good pet parent

If you have a pet, then they’re going to be part of the neighborhood, too. Make sure your pet stays in your yard, and be mindful of a dog that won’t stop barking. It can become a real nuisance to your neighbors. When you take your dog out for a walk, always bring baggies so you can clean up their messes. Don’t leave it in a neighbor’s yard for them to clean up.

Help out

Lending a hand when a neighbor needs it is a great way to build trust and community. If you have an elderly neighbor, considering clearing snow from their sidewalk after a storm. If a neighbor is going out of town, offer to pick up their newspaper or water their plants while they’re away.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Fixing an Uneven Lawn

By Virtual Results

Fixing an Uneven Lawn

Have you found a lump, bump, or hole in your lawn? This is a common problem for most homeowners. Lawns can settle over time and become less-than-perfect no matter what type of grass you have. The good news is — you can fix an uneven lawn and amp up your curb appeal in the process. Here’s what you need to know to get the job done.

Determine what’s causing the problem

Before you begin leveling out your lawn, you should get to the bottom of why it’s uneven in the first place. For example, if you have an indentation in the lawn near water pipes that is causing drainage issues, then you should consult a professional to repair the pipes. Other things that can cause your lawn to become uneven include:

  • Ground settling because of seasonal freeze/thaw cycles.
  • Diseased grass.
  • Buried objects, like dead tree roots that decay and sag.
  • Animals burrowing under the grass.

Choose the right time

If you’re going to fix your uneven lawn, then you need to choose the proper time. The best time to fix your lawn is during the active growing season. In most locations this is from spring to mid-autumn. Try to avoid repairing the lawn in the heat of summer when it is already stressed from lack of water and high temperatures. Choose a cooler stretch of weather when your grass will have a better chance of recuperating.

Fixing shallow holes with topdressing

The easiest way to fix a shallow hole in your lawn is by topdressing. It’s best to choose a topsoil that matches the area you’re trying to repair. If possible, take topsoil from another area of your yard, perhaps a garden bed. In cases where topsoil is not available, sand can also be used. Prepare your grass by mowing it with the mower on the lowest setting. Aerate and dethatch or rake the area. Apply the topdressing with a shovel a little bit at a time. Avoid completely covering the grass and rake to even out the topdressing. Then water the grass. You can also reseed the area at this time if you like. Be sure to keep it watered throughout the season. If the topdressing settles and there’s still a depression, repeat the process.

Fixing shallow holes with dirt

Another popular technique to fill shallow holes is to lift up the turf and sweep dirt underneath. Cleanly cut the turf around the area that is sunken and carefully remove. Spread a layer of topsoil or potting soil to level the area and water to remove air pockets. Then replace the turf and press into place. Keep an eye on the patch and water as needed.

Fixing deeper holes

If you’ve got a hole that is deeper than two inches, then your best bet is to fill the hole with soil mix and reseed. It will be easier to get new grass to grow in this area than to try to topdress the existing grass. Make sure to compact the soil so it settles to the right height and keep the area watered throughout the season.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Pros and Cons of Self-Service Moving

By Virtual Results

Pros and Cons of Self-Service MovingMoving — it’s one of those things that’s fun once you get settled in your new destination, but stressful when you’re in the midst of it. Deciding how to get your stuff from Point A to Point B can be overwhelming given how many different options you have. One of the most popular choices is self-servicing moving. But what does that mean, and it is right for you? Let’s look at the pros and cons.

What is self-servicing moving?

Self-service moving can be described as the halfway point between hiring movers to do everything and doing everything yourself. When you opt for self-service moving, you pack and unpack the boxes as well as the truck. But a professional drives the truck to your new location. When you opt for self-service moving you’re basically paying for the truck and the driver while you do all the other tasks yourself.

Pros of self-service moving

There are many advantages to choosing self-service moving and it is a popular option for those who want to relocate. The pros of self-service moving include:

  • Control over timing — When you choose self-service, you get to control the process of moving as well as the timing. You can decide to try to get the bulk of your packing completed in one day. Or you can spread it out over a couple of weeks or even months. If the idea of completing everything in one day is daunting, then self-service moving can be a good choice.
  • Control over packing — A full-service moving company will pack your belongings for you. They assume the liability and will ensure that your items arrive intact. But when you do a self-service move, you will pack your own boxes. You can be as careful or as haphazard as you like.
  • Save money — This is perhaps the biggest advantage of choosing a self-service move. It costs less than full-service moving. If you’re on a budget, then this is a good option. Just remember to factor in the cost of supplies like boxes and tape as well as any time off of work you may need to take.

Cons of self-service moving

As with anything in life, there are disadvantages to self-service moving as well. These include:

  • Working up a sweat — Packing and unpacking boxes and a moving truck can be pretty taxing. You’re going to work up a sweat. Some boxes may be heavy, so you may also be lifting and carrying heavy items. And let’s not even talk about stairs. If you’re going to move all your items by yourself, make sure you know how to lift heavy items properly so you don’t hurt yourself.
  • Dealing with problems — No matter how much you plan, you’re going to encounter some problems along the way. When you choose a self-service move, you’re going to have to troubleshoot those problems yourself. This could include figuring out how to get your extra-long couch around a tight curve, researching where the truck can be parked while you unpack, and setting up your furniture.

Is self-service moving right for you?

If you want more control over your move, hope to save a little money, and are reasonably fit, then self-service moving can be a good option for you. But if you’re willing to spend a little more and don’t want to worry about logistics, then consider hiring a full-service moving company.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Staging Mistakes to Avoid

By Virtual Results

Staging Mistakes to Avoid

Just because we’re in a seller’s market doesn’t mean it’s not important to stage your home for sale. Staging will make your home stand out among the competition and could lead to more and better offers. And while you probably know you should declutter, clean, and neutralize your space, there are some pitfalls you should avoid. If you’re getting ready to sell your home, then don’t fall prey to these common mistakes.

Not thinking about proportions

Many homebuyers in today’s market are looking for more space. So when you stage your home for sale, you want it to look as spacious as possible. That means using furniture and art that are in proportion to the size of the room. While you may love that huge sectional sofa that lets your whole family lounge in front of the TV, it might not be a good fit when you’re staging. Avoid using large furniture pieces in smaller rooms. On the flip side, don’t skimp on size, either. If you have a large wall, for example, then avoid using a small piece of framed art. It will look out of place and actually make the wall look smaller.

Not understanding your buyer

When you’re staging, you need to think about who your potential buyers will be. Is your home a good fit for young families? Or perhaps your neighborhood caters to empty nesters or young professionals? Know who your buyer will likely be so you can stage your home to their needs. Young professionals may want a home office, so stage that second bedroom with a desk. Empty nesters, on the other hand, may be eager to have adult children visit, so stage that second bedroom for guests. Or if a young family may be your potential buyer, that extra bedroom could be staged as a nursery. Think about who is likely to buy your home so you can make smart staging decisions.

Being too neutral

You’ve no doubt been told that one of the secrets to successfully staging a home is to neutralize your decor. But there is such a thing as being too neutral. You want potential buyers to be able to imagine themselves in the home — you don’t want to put them to sleep as soon as they enter. You can choose neutral shades for walls and furniture, but don’t be afraid to add some personality in other ways. You can do this with colorful throw pillows, pretty bed linens, interesting art, or even one or two beautiful flower arrangements in the space. Adding a touch of seasonal decor can also do the trick, such as an autumnal wreath on the front door or a swag of evergreen garland on the staircase in winter.

Forgetting the outside areas

Finally, outdoor living spaces are just as important when selling as your interior rooms. So don’t leave them out of the equation when you’re staging to sell. Turn that small patio into a breakfast nook with a cafe table and two chairs. Or show how the backyard can be used as an entertainment space with outdoor furniture and/or a dining table. You want to demonstrate to buyers how the whole property can be used, not just the inside.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Choosing Your Home’s Exterior Color

By Virtual Results

Choosing Your Home’s Exterior ColorNothing updates your home like a fresh coat of paint! A new exterior color can be just the thing to amp up your curb appeal, especially when you’re selling. But choosing just the right color can provoke anxiety in even the calmest of homeowners. What color will look best and fit into the neighborhood? Will other people like it? And how do you decide? Let’s take a look at what you should consider when choosing a new exterior color for your home.

Work with what you have

If your home or property has existing elements such as stone or brick, then work with those colors when choosing your exterior shade. You’ll want to choose a color that pairs well with the underlying tone of what you’re working with. Feel stuck? Then try using a color that has the opposite tone. For example, let’s say your home is constructed with warm, red bricks and you aren’t planning to paint over them. For the parts you want to paint, choose a color with a cool tone, such as blue or gray. Also, think about how the color you’re choosing will work with the color of your roof.

Think about your home’s architectural style

You’ll also want to consider your home’s style when choosing an exterior paint color. After all, the colors that would be appropriate for a midcentury modern home may not look good on a Colonial. Spend some time online researching traditional colors for homes that are the same architectural style as yours. Some paint manufacturers also offer color collections suitable for a specific style.

Consider current trends

The choice of exterior color of your home is impacted by current trends as much as anything else. Look around your neighborhood. What colors are currently popular? Which ones do you like? You don’t have to always stick with neutrals. Are any other neighbors experimenting with color? Take a walk or a drive around just to see what others are up to and don’t be afraid to copy something that you like.

Work for harmony in your landscape

Unless you’re also planning to overhaul your landscaping, then you should choose a color that works well with the plants, flowers, shrubs, and trees that are in your yard. Your curb appeal will skyrocket when you choose a color that harmonizes with your landscape. Keep in mind that light colors tend to pop while dark colors recede.

Try samples

Just like you might paint swatches on your interior walls to test out different colors, you should do the same with your exterior color. Sunlight will have a dramatic impact on how the colors appear, so testing a few out before you dive in can help you narrow down your choices.

Don’t forget about trim and accents

Remember that when you’re painting the exterior, you also need to choose colors for your trim and for accents like doors. White is a safe choice for trim and accents. If you want to experiment, then try a color that’s a few shades lighter than your main color. For something truly bold, choose trim and accent colors that contrast with your main color.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Repairing Your Credit

By Virtual Results

Repairing Your CreditYour credit history and credit score are key components that lenders will evaluate when you apply for a mortgage. The better your credit score, the better your terms will be on your home loan. But what happens if your credit score is lower than you’d like it to be? It can certainly affect not only the rate your receive, but whether or not you qualify at all. If you’d like to repair your credit so that you can buy a home, then here’s what you need to do.

Check your credit report

The very first thing you should do when you’re ready to work on your credit score is to get a copy of your credit report. This report shows you your credit history for the past ten years, which is used to calculate your credit score. Unfortunately, there are sometimes mistakes in your credit report. Even worse, you may discover that you’ve become a victim of identity theft and someone has taken out a line of credit in your name. If you find information on your credit report that is not yours, you will need to dispute errors to have them removed. You should also report your identity theft to the FTC and the police.

Make payments on time

Your payment history figures heavily into your credit score — 35 percent to be exact. If you have a history of late or missed payments, it will lower your score. The best way to increase your score is to always make your payments on time. Choose to have your bills automatically paid online. If that’s not an option, then pay your bills as soon as you receive them.

Improve your credit utilization ratio

Your credit utilization ratio is how much money you owe compared to how much available credit you have. If you are using a large amount of your available credit, then it can have a negative impact on your score. You want to aim for a credit utilization ratio of 30 percent or less. Pay down your balances to help improve your ratio.

Don’t close accounts

It’s tempting to close credit card accounts when you’ve paid them off. But if you’re preparing to buy a home, then keep them open. These cards not only help you establish a longer credit history, but they can also improve your credit utilization ratio, as described above.

Don’t take out new loans

This one is very important — if you’re trying to repair your credit to buy a home, then don’t be tempted to take out and other new loans. When you apply for a new line of credit, the creditor will do a hard check on your credit, which can drop your score. And if you open a new account, it will lower your average account age, which also figures into your score.

Keep at it

You won’t be able to improve your credit score overnight. It can take time to pay down balances, dispute errors, and recover from problems in the past. Give yourself ample time to fix your credit before you apply for a home loan. You’ll have an easier time qualifying for a loan, and you’ll surely be offered better rates, which will save you money in the long run.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Recovering From Identity Theft When Buying

By Virtual Results

Recovering From Identity Theft When Buying

Having your identity stolen can be an extremely challenging experience. Whether you’re the victim of a data breach, lost your wallet, or had your financial information stolen in some other way, recovering from identity theft can be stressful and time-consuming. But it can feel even more overwhelming if you’re trying to buy a house. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to repair the damage that has happened. Here’s what you need to know.

Check your credit reports

In some cases, you may not even know that you’ve been the victim of identity theft until you go to apply for a mortgage. Before you begin your house-hunting journey, get a copy of all three of your credit reports. Check them for errors or for signs that someone may have opened a line of credit in your name.

Contact companies where fraud happened

Next, you should contact the companies where the fraudulent activity occurred. Ask to speak with their fraud department and close any accounts associated with the fraud. Work to have charges removed and ask to get documentation about the fraud.

Change logins

Once a criminal has some of your information, it is easier for them to access more of your accounts. For this reason, you should change the login and password for all of your accounts. This will prevent the criminals from striking again.

Report the fraud

If you discover that someone has stolen your identity, then you need to report it immediately to the Federal Trade Commission. You can report your identity theft at identitytheft.gov. You should also contact the credit bureaus to report the fraud. Use the documentation you were provided including the report from the FTC. You may also wish to file a police report.

Show your documentation to your lender

Just because you’ve been the victim of identity theft doesn’t mean you can’t buy a home. Mortgage lenders understand that identity theft happens. In fact, there were nearly 1.4 million reports of identity theft in 2020. Be prepared to show your documentation to the lender including your FTC report and a police report. You should also prepare a letter of explanation detailing the fraud.

Unfreeze your credit

When you report your fraud, your credit may be frozen. Once you’ve addressed the situation, you need to unfreeze your credit when you apply for a mortgage. Otherwise, underwriters will not be able to assess your application.

Ask for manual underwriting

When a lender evaluates your application, the underwriting process is often automated. Ask your lender about manual underwriting because of your specific situation. You will likely need to explain some of the findings, and when the underwriting is done manually you will have an opportunity to explain yourself.

Shop around

Finally, your credit score may have taken a hit because of the identity theft. It can take time to have the fraud removed from your account, so your score may be lower than what it might otherwise be. That’s why it’s so important for you to shop around for a mortgage. Compare different lenders and their rates to make sure you’re getting the best deal under the circumstances.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Protect Your Home From Extreme Weather

By Virtual Results

Protect Your Home From Extreme Weather

It’s that time of year when we see stories on the news of communities negatively impacted by severe weather. Whether it’s hurricanes, tornadoes, or Derechos, at some point, every homeowner will experience extreme storms. That’s why it’s so important to get ahead of the game and protect your home before the forecast calls for storms. Here’s what you need to do to get prepared.

Check your insurance policies

Not all insurance policies are created equal. If you’re unsure what would be covered in the case of extreme weather, then review your policies. Damage that is caused by extreme weather may not be covered. This could include sewer back-ups, flooding, or toxic mold caused by water damage. If you live in an area that is prone to extreme weather, then you should consider buying additional coverage from your provider.

Keep your roof in good shape

One of your best lines of defense in a bad storm is your roof. The roof can prevent damage from occurring to your home’s interior during intense weather. Keep your gutters free of debris. If leaves are clogging your gutters or downspouts, then the water will spill over the sides. This can soak into your foundation and cause flooding in your basement or other damage. You should also seal cracks around vents and chimneys to prevent water from seeping in.

Clean up the yard

Another way to protect your home from extreme weather is to keep the yard clean and tidy. Tree limbs can pose a significant threat, so be sure to remove any branches that are dead or dying. Your home can also be damaged by flying objects, such as lawn furniture, toys, and garden ornaments. If a storm is coming, then take these items inside or ensure they are completely secured. High-speed winds can cause even the smallest object to become hazardous.

Consider back-up power

It’s not unusual to lose power during a strong storm. And if the damage is widespread, then it could be hours — or even days — before your power is restored. If extreme weather has knocked out your power in the past, then consider purchasing a backup power supply such as a home generator. It can help keep the important stuff running, like your refrigerator, until full power is restored.

Be ready to shelter in place

There’s no avoiding extreme weather, and sometimes we just have to ride out the storm. Know where you will go inside your home to best protect yourself against strong winds. Keep an emergency kit stocked and ready. It should include flashlights, batteries, a battery-powered radio, and tarps. Also, consider stocking up on other essentials like non-perishable foods and water.

Know where to go in an evacuation

Finally, sometimes the weather is so extreme that local authorities will call for an evacuation. Have a plan for where you will go in a case like this. Make arrangements to stay with family or friends or even a hotel that is outside the danger zone. Take with you important papers and your valuables. A little preparation can go a long way in keeping you safe and calm during a weather emergency.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Dealing With a Low Appraisal

By Virtual Results

Dealing With a Low Appraisal

When you’re buying a home, part of the closing process will include getting a home appraisal if you’re applying for a mortgage. Basically, an appraisal evaluates the home to determine its value. When an appraisal comes in below what you’ve agreed to pay for the home, it puts your home purchase in jeopardy because the lender won’t loan you the amount that the seller wants. So what do you do if you get a low appraisal? Here are your options.

Why appraisals sometimes come in low

First of all, let’s discuss why appraisals can come in low. Sometimes, you may get a new appraiser who isn’t familiar with the market or lacks the experience to evaluate your home correctly. Other times, the sellers may have priced their home too high, which isn’t altogether uncommon in today’s seller’s market. Market values have been rising quickly during the pandemic, and it can take time for appraisers to catch up. This results in the appraiser saying the home is worth less than what you’ve agreed to pay for it. So now what happens?

Pay difference with cash

If you have the means, the easiest way to deal with a low appraisal is to simply pay the difference in cash. The lender will not loan you more than what the appraiser said the home is worth, so you’ll need to cover that gap with your own cash. Your lender is only concerned with the loan-to-value ratio, which means how much of the value of the home is taken up with the mortgage. The lender will only make a loan for the loan-to-value ratio as agreed to in your contract.

Negotiate a price reduction

Another way to deal with a low appraisal is to negotiate a price reduction with the seller. Of course, the seller will want to get top dollar for their home. But they may realize that if your deal falls through, the next deal could also fall through for the same reason. In addition, an appraisal has a term of validity. These usually last anywhere from 120 – 180 days, so the seller will be stuck with that valuation for some time. If you don’t have the cash to cover the difference, then asking for a break on price is your next best bet. You can also split the difference 50/50, where the buyer pays half the difference in cash and the seller knocks half the difference off the price.

Dispute the appraisal

Sometimes the appraiser gets it wrong. If you think that’s the case, then ask your lender to request a second appraisal. You can also get a list of comparable sales from your real estate agent and give it to your underwriter. Ask the underwriter to review the appraisal using the comps you’ve provided. You can also ask your agent to find out the sales prices of pending sales in the area. Housing values have increased quickly this year, so this may be a good route to try.

Back out of the deal

Finally, you may just need to back out of the deal if there’s no compromise that can be made. If you have a financing contingency in your contract then you won’t be penalized. This is one reason why including a financing contingency is so important when making an offer on a home, especially in today’s market.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Fall 2021 Is a Great Time To Sell

By Virtual Results

Fall 2021 Is a Great Time To Sell

The housing market continues to perform strongly in 2021. Buyer demand remains high due to low interest rates and changing trends caused by the pandemic. But there is one thing that the housing market still lacks — homes for sale. There has been a shortage of inventory for quite some time, and although more and more homes are being listed, it’s still not enough to keep up with demand. If you’ve been on the fence about selling your home, then it’s time to consider listing. Fall 2021 is turning out to be an excellent time to sell your home. Here’s what you need to know.

Less competition from other sellers

One of the best things about selling your home during the fall of 2021 is that you’ll see less competition. In any market, you want your home to stand out from the rest. But when there’s a shortage of homes for sale, it’s easy to get attention from buyers. In essence, you will be selling during a seller’s market, and there really is no better time than that.

Still need to price your home correctly

Even though there are more buyers than there are homes for sale, that doesn’t mean you can price your home sky high. If you price your home too high from the beginning, then you’ll likely scare away most buyers. They will see that your home is priced more than other comparable homes in your area. Your home could sit on the market for too long while buyers wait for a price reduction. You’ll be in a better position if you price your home correctly from the beginning. It’s entirely possible that you’ll still receive offers at, near, or above your asking price.

Get your home ready for listing

Buyers still want to see homes that are well taken care of. You’ll get more and better offers if you properly prepare your home for listing. This means de-cluttering, de-personalizing, and cleaning your entire home. Make small repairs like fixing leaky faucets or patching holes in drywall. Paint your rooms in neutral colors and spruce up your curb appeal. If you think your home may need major upgrades before listing, then talk to your agent. They can advise you about whether or not it makes sense to make those repairs or let the buyer do it once you close.

Be prepared for multiple offers

You may receive multiple offers on your home in today’s market. It is not uncommon in these unusual times for homes to spark bidding wars amongst buyers. The competition for homes is fierce, and some buyers will go to any length to make sure their offer stands out. But when you get multiple offers you need to know how to deal with them. Sometimes you may decide to choose the offer for the most money. Other times, you may wish to choose the offer that lets you stay in your home until you find a new one to buy. Or you may be swayed by the buyer’s personal story and attraction to your home. Ultimately, you need to decide what your priorities are when selling so that you can choose the offer that best meets those needs.

Compliments of Virtual Results