Posts for Syndication

Buying a Starter Home

By Virtual Results

Buying a Starter HomeIf you’re a first-time homebuyer, then you’ve no doubt heard the term “starter home” before. But what exactly is a starter home? And what should you look for in this kind of property? Here are some great tips on what to look for in your first home so that you can love it for many years to come.

What is a starter home?

First of all, a starter home is often defined as the first home that a buyer can afford to purchase. Starter homes tend to be smaller and have fewer luxury amenities than higher-priced homes. In suburban areas, starter homes often have three bedrooms and two bathrooms. In more urban areas, starter homes may only have two bedrooms or one bathroom. They can also be condos or even studio apartments, depending on where the property is located and what the real estate costs are in the area.

Buy what you can afford

When you’re buying your first home, it can be easy to get carried away. You’ve been dreaming of this moment for a long time. But it’s very important that you buy a home you can actually afford. Don’t just look at homes that are at the maximum amount you can borrow. Remember – your financial situation could change at any time. There’s nothing worse than knowing you can’t afford your mortgage payments. For your starter home, stay well within your budget.

Know what you want

If you begin your home search without knowing what you want, then you will be overwhelmed by the choices. Take time before you begin your search in earnest to create a list of things you need and want in a home. Don’t just consider the inside of the home. Take into consideration the neighborhood, the distance from your job, and nearby amenities. Know what would be a deal-breaker and know what you can flexible about.

Buy a well maintained home

Unless you’re very enthusiastic about buying a fixer-upper, you should look for a starter home that has been well maintained by the previous owners. It’s easy to underestimate how much time and money it will take to repair and upgrade a home. It’s also easy to underestimate how much you’ll pay each month in regular maintenance. Don’t assume you’re getting a great deal if you buy a fixer-upper. It could end up costing you more down the line.

Look to the future

Starter homes are just that – they are the homes that first-time buyers start out with. But that doesn’t mean you won’t live there for many years. Think about your plans for the future. Are you hoping to grow your family? Then you may need more space. Are you hoping to make money on your starter home? Then you’ll want to buy in a neighborhood that is popular with young families. Are you hoping that you can live in your home indefinitely? Then make choices that will work for you as you age, such as proximity to amenities or a quieter neighborhood.

Compliments of Virtual Results

How to Make an Offer

By Virtual Results

How to Make an Offer

Finding a home you love is one of the most enjoyable – and sometimes most stressful – parts of buying a home. When you finally find the home that you know will be a good fit for you, then it’s time to make an offer. But just what goes into making an offer on a home for sale? Let’s go over the steps you and your real estate agent need to take to get the purchase rolling.

Get a mortgage pre-approval

The most important step you need to take when you’re buying a home is to get pre-approved for a home loan. Getting pre-approval shows a seller that you are serious about your offer. It also lets them know that you are likely to qualify for a loan to buy their home. If you are making an offer in a competitive market, then it is absolutely essential that you get a pre-approval letter. You can be sure that other buyers making offers will be pre-approved. If you aren’t, then you will lose out.

Determine your offering price

You can see from the listing how much the asking price is for the home. But is that the price you should offer? Many things go into determining how much to offer for a home. Find out what the comps are in your area and use those figures to help guide you to a reasonable offer. Also take into consideration how competitive the market is. If you know that several other buyers will likely be making offers, then you may want to consider offering more than the asking price. Just remember – if the home appraises for less than what you offered, you will be responsible for coming up with the difference. Lenders will not approve a loan that is more than what they believe the home is worth.

Prepare your documents

Once you’ve come up with an offer, it’s time to submit formal paperwork. Your agent will help you prepare the offer letter or purchase agreement. This is a legally binding sales contract that includes all the terms of the deal. It will list a description of the home, your offer price, how much you will contribute to the down payment, and a proposed closing date. This document will also include contingencies like a home inspection, details of the escrow, and the proposed date of possession.

Submit your earnest money

When you make your offer, you will also be submitting earnest money. Earnest money is usually one to two percent of the purchase price and is considered a good faith deposit. When you close on the home, the earnest money will be applied to your down payment. The money is held in escrow until that time. Be aware that your earnest money is non-refundable if you terminate the deal for any reason that is not explicitly stated in the purchase agreement.

Wait

You’ll discover that there can be a lot of hurry up and wait when buying a home. Once you submit your offer you will wait for a response from the seller or their agent. They may accept your offer, reject it, or make a counter-offer. Your agent will negotiate on your behalf until both parties come to an agreement that all are satisfied with.

Compliments of Virtual Results

New Year’s Resolutions for Your Home

By Virtual Results

New Year’s Resolutions for Your Home

It’s a brand new year, and if you’re like most Americans, you’ve made a New Year’s resolution or two. Perhaps you’ve made a commitment to eat better or exercise more. But have you thought about resolutions you can make for your home? We’ve got some great ideas to help you make your home life better in 2020. Choose any one of these goals to make your home healthier, more efficient, and more beautiful in the coming year.

Clean out your cupboards

If you’ve made a resolution to eat healthier in the new year, then cleaning out your kitchen cupboards will fast-track you to success. Not only will you eliminate any trigger foods, but your kitchen will also feel cleaner. Plus you’ll be making room for healthier eating habits. Start by tossing out or donating all those holiday sweets that have been stockpiled since October. Then re-stock your staples like sugar, spices, and canned goods. Store healthy snacks in easy-to-reach places so you’ll be less tempted to grab that bag of potato chips when hunger strikes.

Make cleaning kits for each room

Everyone wants a clean bathroom and kitchen. But when you have to lug all your cleaning materials from one room to the next, you don’t always stick to a regular schedule. If keeping a cleaner home is on your to-do list for 2020, then get started by making cleaning kits for each room. Use a bucket or other tote to store cleaning products in each room so that you always have them handy when the mood strikes.

Prioritize safety

When was the last time you changed the batteries in your home smoke detectors? If the answer is more than six months ago you may be opening yourself up to risk. A great resolution is to prioritize safety and security. Make sure you have carbon monoxide detectors and fire extinguishers on every floor. And don’t forget to clean out the lint from your dryer. Dryer lint is highly combustible and causes more than 15,000 building fires each year.

De-clutter your possessions

Getting rid of unnecessary stuff is often a high-priority for more homeowners – but it doesn’t often get done. Make 2020 the year that you finally purge your clutter. Each month, tackle a new room and go through all the closets, cabinets, drawers, and storage containers. Let go of the things that you’ll never get around to repairing or will probably never use again. Donate or sell items that are still in good condition. By the end of the year, your home will feel clean, organized, and maybe even a little bigger!

Invite friends over

When was the last time you actually entertained in your home? Buying a home is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and you can experience even more joy when you share it with those you love. Make it a priority to host some kind of event in your home once a month. This can be a simple dinner with family, game night with your neighbors, or even a monthly book club. Arrange your furniture in a way that promotes conversation, and don’t be worried if your home doesn’t feel “perfect.” You’ll cherish the memories of the time spent together, and no one will remember that you had a sink full of dishes or a pile of laundry to fold in the guest bedroom.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Home Design Trends for the New Year

By Virtual Results

Home Design Trends for the New YearIt’s a new year AND new decade! Could there be a better time to update your home’s interior? We don’t think so. Whether you’ve just moved into your new home or you want to refresh your home for sale, we’ve got some great ideas for you. Here’s a sneak peek at the home design trends you’ll be seeing lots more of in the coming year.

Colorful kitchens

All-white kitchens have been popular for many years, but 2020 may be the year they are finally outpaced by kitchens with more colorful hues. Look for a return of natural colors and materials, such as wood, and soft shades like grays and blues. If you have an all-white kitchen you can experiment with pops of color. Try swapping out towels and window treatments for more vibrant shades. Or choose dinnerware that features an interesting color or pattern.

Cheerful laundry rooms

Until recently, laundry rooms have been dark and dingy caves located in the corner of your basement. They’ve been completely utilitarian, and aren’t especially warm or inviting. 2020 is the year that will change. More and more homeowners are looking for ways to incorporate cheerful design into their laundry rooms. Paint and wallpaper can perk up your space, as can colorful storage bins. You can even paint or buy decals to make your washer and dryer truly unique.

Formal dining rooms

Dinner parties are becoming more popular with homeowners. Instead of dining out, more people are choosing instead to entertain at home. It’s a great way to connect with those you love without spending a fortune. So look for a return of the formal dining room. These spaces will transform from rooms that you only use on special occasions to unique places to be used on a daily basis. This is a great room for visually impactful art, interesting patterns and textures, and soft, layered light.

Comfortable living spaces

Gone are the days of plastic-wrapped couches that your grandma didn’t want you to sit on. Instead, 2020 will usher in a decade of comfortable living spaces. Decorating will no longer be about displaying items that you can’t use and don’t touch. You’ll see far more homeowners incorporating everyday items into their décor, to be touched and used. This could include beautiful books and other items like musical instruments that you can interact with.

Secondhand pieces

Our culture is increasingly adopting the idea of sustainability, and it’s permeating into our homes. Look for more eco-conscious design, such as using reclaimed materials in new furniture. There will also be much more interest in secondhand items used in conjunction with newer pieces. Using a mix of pieces of various designs and from different periods will create a unique, curated look to your living spaces.

Fun powder rooms

Finally, we’ll see powder rooms that take exciting design risks. Powder rooms are perfect for experimenting, and you’re going to see more bold wallpaper, dramatic colors, and statement art pieces used. If you’re itching to have some fun but don’t want to overhaul a major space like the living room, then your powder room is the perfect place to start.

Compliments of Virtual Results

2020 Housing Trends

By Virtual Results

Not only is it a New Year – but we’re also heading into a new decade! That can bring lots of change, especially if you’re buying a selling a home in 2020. We’ve looked at what the experts have to say about what to expect in the coming year and are sharing their knowledge here with you.

Home prices continue to slowly rise

2019 was an incredible year for the housing market. In fact, median home prices hit a record high of $316,000. However, be aware that even though prices increased, those increases were slower than in 2018. Experts are predicting more of the same for 2020. Many agree that home prices will rise by 2.8 percent in 2020. If you’re selling, then that can mean that you may make a tidy profit on your home – though there may be fewer buyers. Some buyers may be getting priced out of the market as prices continue to rise.

There will be a shortage of inventory

In the first half of 2019, there was a build-up of inventory around the U.S. The number of available homes for sale increased quickly. But when mortgage rates decreased in the spring, inventory started to shrink. This trend will continue into 2020. Even though there are improvements with new construction, the coming year will see a lack of growth in available inventory. In fact, some experts think we may hit a historic low.

Mortgage rates will continue to decline

In 2019, mortgage rates dropped below four percent for many types of common loans. Many experts think that mortgage interest rates will hover around 3.7 percent for 30-year loans and 3.2 percent for 15-year loans. However, changes in tariffs and looming trade wars can affect this, should they occur in 2020. In which case, the Federal Reserve could decide to increase mortgage interest rates. Lower rates can be great for sellers, but be aware that if they rise, your home may stay on the market longer.

Millennials will still dominate the market

In 2019, Millennials represented 37 percent of homebuyers. Experts predict that they will continue to be the largest segment of buyers. What does that mean for home sellers? For starters, your online listing needs to stand out. Millennials are the Internet generation, and most will begin their home searches online. Be sure to use high-quality photos and consider using video tours as well. These buyers are also looking for smart home innovations as well as eco-friendly amenities. If you’re selling, then be sure to keep in mind what the largest pool of buyers may be looking for in a home.

Buyers seeking affordability

Although one of the trends of the last decade has been for younger people to live in urban cores, that trend is beginning to change. Younger buyers are trading the convenience of downtown living and moving outside the urban core. This is being largely driven by affordability. Large cities like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco are seeing buyers moving to mid-sized cities where real estate is more affordable.

Compliments of Virtual Results

When Santa Makes Your Down Payment

By Virtual Results

When Santa Makes Your Down Payment

Did Santa bring you the cash for a down payment on a home this year? Lucky you! That’s a fantastic gift to receive. However, you must be aware of certain requirements that need to be followed when you’re using a gift of cash as your down payment on a house. If you find yourself in this enviable position, then here’s what you need to know to make sure you’re within the guidelines.

Who played Santa?

Unfortunately, most lenders won’t recognize “Santa” as a legitimate giver of cash for a down payment. In fact, most lenders have limitations on who can give a gift of cash to use for a home purchase. If you’re getting an FHA loan, then you’ll have some wiggle room. The gift can come from family, close friends, your labor union, or even your employer (where can we find that job?). For conventional loans, there are more restrictions. In these cases, the gift usually needs to come from a parent, grandparent, sibling, spouse, or the person to whom you are engaged.

Get a letter

The cash for your down payment didn’t just appear out of thin air, so you’ll need to document where it came from. You’ll need to obtain a gift letter from the person who gave you the money. The letter needs to state their relationship to you, the amount of the gift, and the address of the home. It also needs to clearly state that the gift is not a loan. Lenders want to be assured that you will have the means to pay back your home loan.

Create a paper trail

The money for the down payment needs to be properly deposited in your account in order to create a paper trail. First of all, the person giving you the money needs to write a check for the exact amount of the deposit. You will then need to take this check to the bank and deposit it in person to the account you will use for the closing. Do not make any other deposits at this time. And be sure to get a receipt!

Get additional documents

You can never have too many documents when it comes to verifying where your monetary gift came from. If possible, get bank statements from the giver’s account. If the money came from the sale of stocks or it was a transfer from a brokerage account, then get those documents as well. Save any paperwork that is applicable – you never know what you may need down the line. It’s best to cover all your bases.

Pay your taxes

You didn’t think that gift money was going to be tax-free, did you? Uncle Sam will want a piece of this transaction. The gift giver usually pays the taxes. However, if both parties are in agreement, the person who received the gift can be on the hook for the taxes, instead. If you have any questions about what taxes need to be paid and by whom, talk to a professional tax accountant.

Compliments of Virtual Results

5 Ways to Quickly Cozy Up Your Home

By Virtual Results

5 Ways to Quickly Cozy Up Your HomeThe holidays are here, and nothing beats curling up in a cozy home. If you’ve just moved or you’re currently selling, then creating a cozy vibe quickly is a must. Luckily, it doesn’t take tons of time or money to make your home warm and inviting. Here are five ways to quickly amp up your home’s coziness factor.

Use battery-operated candles

Everyone looks amazing in the glow of candlelight. But real candles pose a huge fire risk. Why chance it? You can create the same instant cozy vibe by using battery-operated candles. There are tons of choices on the market, and many of them can be operated with a remote control. This means you don’t have to spend time turning each candle off and on – you can do them all with the click of a button. If you have last-minute guests or showings, then battery-operated candles can quickly create a cozy vibe in every room.

Choose smart lights

While we’re on the subject of flattering lights, let’s talk about smart lighting options for your home. While smart lights can be a bit pricy, they can create the exact mood you’re going for. Many of the systems on the market allow you to change the color of each individual bulb to create pleasing palates in each room. Best of all – these lights can be controlled from your phone or device. So if you’re not home when you find out an agent is coming over for a showing, you can remotely create the vibe you want from an app on your device. When the agent shows up with potential buyers, your home will look warm and inviting without the agent having to touch a single switch.

Add blankets and throws

Nothing says, “stay awhile” quite like a luxurious blanket or throw draped on the couch. If you want to create a cozy and inviting vibe in seconds, then provide several options for curling up with a good book. Choose blankets and throws in warm hues with soft textures like faux fur or velvet. Your guests will never want to leave, and those potential buyers will be imagining themselves curled up on the couch with a cup of hot chocolate!

Display plants

One foolproof way to soften your home’s atmosphere is with a plant or two. Plants quickly make any room feel cozier – especially in the winter. Who doesn’t want to rest their eyes on a living green thing when all you see outside is gray? If you don’t have a green thumb, don’t worry. There are plenty of fake plants out there that look just as good as the real thing. Position a few of them in corners or on tabletops to make a room feel fresh and inviting.

Offer warm drinks

Finally, who doesn’t love to sip a hot drink on a cold day? Whether it’s coffee, tea, hot chocolate, apple cider or wassail, having hot drinks on hand makes everything feel cozier. Have a pot ready to offer guests or buyers to quickly make them feel warm and welcome.

Compliments of Virtual Results

How To Choose the Best Agent

By Virtual Results

How To Choose the Best Agent

If buying or selling a home is on your list for 2020, then you’ll want to start searching for a professional real estate agent to help you during the process. Working with an expert in your market will help make the process smoother, easier, and less stressful – and who doesn’t want that? You will be able to lean on them for suggestions and advice, and a good agent will be your partner through the entire process. The question is – how do you choose an agent that is the best fit for you? Read on to find out.

Get recommendations

It’s not hard to find a real estate agent in your neighborhood. You’ve no doubt seen ads on benches and billboards for agents who are active in your area. But how do you know if any of these agents will be a match for you? In short – ask family and friends. Find out if you know anyone that has worked with agents you’ve heard of, and ask for recommendations for those whose names you may not already know. Nothing beats getting a firsthand account of what it’s like to work with someone, and the best people to ask are those whom you already know and trust.

Research online

Nearly every professional real estate agent these days has a strong online presence. If they don’t, then that should be a red flag. So much of the real estate process takes place online that it should give you pause if an agent doesn’t have a website or social media accounts. If they’re not tapped into the Internet, then they’re missing a huge part of the market. Check each agent’s sites and accounts. You should also find out if the agent is properly licensed, and whether or not any disciplinary actions have been taken against them. Read online reviews to discover how other buyers and sellers feel about their work, and let that inform your decision.

Schedule an interview

You don’t have to work with the first agent you talk to. In fact, it’s always a good idea to interview several real estate agents before deciding on the one that will work best for you. Schedule appointments for a consultation with each agent you’re interested in. Ask them pertinent questions about how they work and request references. Trustworthy agents will have no problem providing you with contact information from satisfied clients they’ve recently worked with. You should also make sure that they handle real estate transactions that are similar to yours, such as dealing with foreclosures or selling luxury estates. In today’s market, knowledge is power. Working with an agent who has expert knowledge in your specific market is key.

Trust yourself

In the end, you may discover that more than one agent will fit the bill. That’s a great problem to have! This means you really can’t make a bad decision when choosing the right agent for you. If you’ve weighed the pros and cons of each and determined that each candidate is about equal, then go with your gut. Whose personality is the best match? Remember – you’ll be spending a lot of time with each other over the coming weeks, so work with someone with whom you will enjoy spending time.

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Avoid These Winter Home Selling Mistakes

By Virtual Results

Avoid These Winter Home Selling Mistakes

While winter is often considered the off-season in real estate, that doesn’t mean there aren’t serious homebuyers out there. And though there may be fewer buyers in the market for a home, that doesn’t mean winter isn’t a good time to list. However, selling your home in winter can present its own set of challenges that you should be prepared for. These are the mistakes you will want to avoid when you’re selling your home this winter.

Pricing your home too high

The biggest mistake you can make when selling your home in winter is to price it too high. Unless you live in an ultra-competitive market that sees bidding wars happening year round, it’s unlikely that a buyer will want to pay more for your home than what it is worth. When you price your home too high, it can sit on the market for weeks or even months without an offer. Homes that have been on the market too long can become stigmatized. This makes it even less likely you’ll find an interested buyer. Avoid these problems from the beginning by pricing your home correctly when you list.

Trying to save on the heating bill

If you live in a region where you need to turn on the heat in the winter, then you may be tempted to keep the temperature low in the house. After all, you’re trying to save money for your big move. While this can be a noble effort during other times, you should not scrimp on the heat when selling your home in winter. When it’s time for you to leave your home for a showing, set the thermostat to a comfortable level. Plan to leave it between 68 and 70 degrees – it will make your home feel more cozy and inviting.

Not being available for showings

If you’re putting your home on the market before the end of the year, then you’ll need to consider what you’ll do on the holidays. Don’t assume that buyers won’t want to view your home on Christmas, Hanukkah, New Year’s Eve or New Year’s Day. Although you probably won’t want to vacate your home for a couple of hours on a holiday, it could mean the difference between getting an offer or not. Buyers who want to see your home on a holiday are serious, and you could be denying yourself a great sale if you don’t try to accommodate them.

Keeping up your holiday decorations

Though you don’t have to forgo holiday decorations when you’re selling, you should keep them simple and tasteful. And even though you may love all your special decorations, you should not keep them up after January 1. If you really want to create a lasting cozy vibe, decorate with simple winter seasonal décor that can be used past the holiday season.

Not working with a trusted professional

The best thing you can do when listing your home in winter is to work with a trusted real estate professional. By working with an expert in your market, you can avoid any potential pitfalls that the winter season may bring. The end result can be closing your home sale before you even see the first signs of spring. Now wouldn’t that be a great way to start the year?

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Preparing to Buy a Home in 2020

By Virtual Results

Preparing to Buy a Home in 2020

Is your 2020 New Year’s resolution to buy a home? Congratulations! Buying a home is a major lifetime achievement. Resolving to make it happen brings you even closer to your dream of home ownership. If you want to put yourself on the path to success, then there are some things you can do to make sure you’re ready to buy when the time comes. Here’s what you need to do to prepare to buy a home in 2020.

Order your credit report

One of the most important things you should do when you’re preparing to buy a home is to order a copy of your credit report. Your ability to qualify for a mortgage is dependent upon what your credit report reveals. The better your report, the better rate you will get on your mortgage. Unfortunately, many credit reports contain errors. If you find an error on your report, you need to take the appropriate steps to have it removed. It can take up to a few months to have your credit report fixed, so give yourself plenty of time.

Pay down debt

Once you’ve ordered your credit report, you’ll have a clearer picture of exactly how much debt you already have. If you can pay off some of your debt before applying for a mortgage, you can improve your credit score. This will help you get better terms on your loan. Try to pay off credit cards if possible, or at least lower the balance you are carrying. Aim for your debt to be 50 percent or less of your available credit. And don’t take out any new lines of credit now, including auto loans.

Save money

Are you ready to put a down payment on a house? Depending on the type of loan you secure, you may be on the hook for up to 20 percent of the purchase price. The more you have saved for a down payment, the more home you can afford. Now is the time to start tightening the purse strings. Even small changes like making your coffee at home in the morning instead of buying it on the way to work can add up over time.

Determine your budget

Now that you’ve got a clearer picture of your financial health it’s time to determine your budget. One of the best pieces of advice we can give you is to stay within your budget – only buy a home you can reasonably afford. There is nothing worse than having to stretch to make your mortgage payment each month. To find out how much house you can afford, use one of the many online calculators that will give you an estimate.

Begin your search

Once you’ve determined how much house you can afford, it’s time to begin your search. Start by researching neighborhoods and looking at online listings in those communities. This will give you an idea of where you can afford to buy a home and the kinds of amenities that are nearby. Make a list of all the things you are looking for in a home and be clear about what you really need verses what you’d like to have.

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