Posts for Syndication

Bringing Home a New Pet

By Virtual Results

Bringing Home a New Pet

While the pandemic has been challenging on many fronts, there is one good thing that has come out of it – pet adoptions have skyrocketed. Many animal shelters around the country have reported that their cages are empty as more Americans decide to adopt a pet while we’re staying at home. And while pet adoption can be a wonderful thing, it is important to make sure you – and your home – are prepared. Here’s what you need to do when you’re bringing home a new pet.

Have your supplies ready

Don’t wait until you’ve brought your new pet home to get the supplies you need. You should have everything you need for the first few weeks before introducing your new furry friend to your household. The types of supplies will vary by pet, of course, but some common necessities include:

  • Food as well as food and water dishes
  • Toys and treats
  • Collar and leash
  • Bedding
  • Crate
  • Gates
  • Cleaning supplies that are safe for your new pet

Create rules

Adopting a pet is a big commitment. Everyone in your family should be on board with welcoming a new pet. Have a family meeting before bringing your pet home to discuss who will be in charge of what. Determine who is responsible for feeding the pet every day and who will take the dog for walks. Discuss where the pet will sleep and if there are any rooms in the house that are off limits. If everyone is on the same page before your new pet comes home, then the transition will be much easier.

Prepare your home

For dogs and cats, you shouldn’t give them full reign of the entire home on the first day – especially if you have other pets. Give your new pet a chance to explore its surroundings before introducing other pets. In the beginning, restrict your new pet to a small area of your home. You can simply keep them in one room, such as a bedroom. Or you can create a smaller space by using baby gates. If you adopt a cat, make sure your cat knows where the litter box is, and show any new pets where their food and water dishes are located.

Know what will happen on “coming home day”

Create a plan for the first days that your new pet will be with you. If possible, try to schedule your pet’s “coming home day” when you will be home as much as possible. It’s good to bring a new pet home on the weekend or when you’re on vacation. You want to spend a lot of time with your new pet when they first arrive. And don’t neglect your other pets! Make sure to spread the love around, or you current pets may get a little jealous and act out.

Have patience

Finally, it’s important to remember to have patience. Try to imagine things from your pet’s perspective. It must be very scary to be in a new environment with all these new people! Give them time to adjust and come out of their shell. Be prepared to deal with “accidents” as your pet adjusts to their new home. You’ll be rewarded with many happy years together.

Compliments of Virtual Results

Moving to a Bigger Home

By Virtual Results

The lockdown has caused many Americans to reconsider how much living space they need. With students once again attending virtual classes and many employees working from home, you may have decided its time for a bigger house. And while moving into a bigger space can be exciting, it can also present a few challenges. Here are some important tips to help you make the transition.

Stick to your budget

Once you begin looking at homes, it can be tempting to extend your search to homes that are outside your budget range. It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of your new home, dreaming about all the things you’ll do there. But one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to buy a home you can’t afford. You don’t want to stress out every month when it’s time to pay the mortgage. Instead, find out how much house you can afford before you begin your search. And keep your search limited to that price range.

Resist the temptation to go shopping

When you move into a bigger home, you’re probably going to need more things to fill it. While it can be tempting to go shopping for new furniture after you’ve put in an offer, you should wait until you’ve closed on the home. Deals can fall through, and you don’t want to be stuck with items you can no longer use.

Don’t spend too much

In addition to postponing your shopping spree, you should also reign in your spending on new items for your home. When you purchase a home, you’re spending a good deal of money upfront on your down payment, closing costs, and other fees. Plus you’ve taken on the responsibility of a large home loan. You don’t want to plunge further into debt by decking out your new house. While it’s fine to create endless Pinterest boards about how you’d like to decorate your home, don’t spend too much in the process.

Focus on important rooms first

If you can’t tackle every room right away, then you should focus on the ones where you’ll be spending most of your time. Did you buy a bigger house so that you could have a dedicated home office? Then get that room set up first. Do your kids need a quiet place to attend virtual classes and do homework? Then get those homeschool spaces squared away. Focus on your needs first. When you have the extra time and money, you can begin to turn your attention to other areas of your home.

Use things in new ways

Just because you’ve always used that side table in the bedroom doesn’t mean it might not work in another room, too. Moving into a new space gives you the opportunity to see things from a new perspective. You don’t have to use items the way they’ve always been used before. It’s OK to move that comfortable chair from the living room to your new home office. Don’t be afraid to move lamps and decorations from one room to another. By changing up where you put things in your new home, you’ll see them with fresh eyes and gain a new appreciation about what they mean to you.

Compliments of Virtual Results

How to Calm Home-Buying Nerves

By Virtual Results

How to Calm Home-Buying Nerves

Buying a home can be stressful in the best of times. But when you’re house hunting during a pandemic and economic recession it can be downright debilitating. It’s normal to experience anxiety when you’re making one of the biggest purchases of your life. But you don’t have to let the stress get to you. Here are proven strategies that can help you calm your home-buying nerves.

Know what you want

If you’re buying a home right now, then you’re entering into a competitive market. You’ll likely be competing against other buyers for the same house. One way to calm your nerves is to know exactly what you’re looking for in a home. When you’re buying in a sellers’ market, you have to be decisive and act fast. When you know what you want, you’ll know when you’ve found it. You won’t have to agonize over whether you’re making the right decision, and you’ll be able to put in a competitive offer quickly.

Know when to give

Knowing what you want also means knowing what you can be flexible about. It’s unlikely that you’ll find a home that checks every box on your list. So you need to know which items are deal-breakers and which items you can be flexible about. That way when a home that fits all of your needs and some of your wants comes around, you can feel confident putting in an offer.

Get your finances squared away

Buying a home is both an emotional and a financial transaction. While it’s easy to get swept up in your feelings during the process, it’s important to remember that this is also a business deal. Make sure your finances are in good shape before you begin. This includes saving enough money for a down payment and getting pre-approved for a mortgage. You’ll also need enough cash on hand for other expenses related to buying a home. This includes application fees, earnest money deposit, inspection fees, appraisal fees, and other closing costs. You don’t want to worry about running out of money before the deal is closed.

Understand the process

Fear of the unknown can cause major stress for most people. That’s why educating yourself about the home buying process is key to eliminating anxiety. Become familiar with each of the steps that you’ll take to close on your home. Know the lingo. Look over all the documents so you know exactly what you’re agreeing to. And don’t be afraid to ask questions. Lean on the experience of your agent and loved ones who have gone through the process before you.

Work with a professional

Finally, the best way to help ease home buying anxiety is to work with a trusted real estate professional. An expert agent has been through the process countless times. They know the hurdles that need to be jumped and obstacles that may cross your path during the way. They can offer invaluable practical advice when you’re feeling conflicted or overly emotional. In the end, a good agent will make sure that you cross the finish line and feel good about the life-changing purchase you just made.

Compliments of Virtual Results

There’s Never Been a Better Time to Sell

By Virtual Results

There’s Never Been a Better Time to SellWhat strange times we live in. Even though we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic and an economic downturn, our housing market is strong. This has come as a surprise to many – especially those who want to sell their homes. Many home sellers have been understandably hesitant to put their homes on the market during these conditions. But the reality is that there’s never been a better time to sell your home. Here’s why.

Demand is high

Since lockdown restrictions have eased in many locations, demand for housing has picked up. In fact, you could say that homebuyers are flooding the market – especially in smaller cities and the suburbs. While many homebuyers put off their home searches in the early spring during the beginning of the pandemic, they are now back. And those whose needs have changed are also entering the market. The lockdown showed us just how important our homes are to our safety and well-being. Many new buyers have decided that it’s time for a change.

There’s a shortage of homes for sale

With all the pent-up demand, there is also a shortage of inventory. There are more buyers in the market than there are homes for sale. In 2019, inventory was already down. A year later, and the shortage of inventory is even more pronounced. Obviously, some sellers have been reticent to list because of the pandemic. But we’re also seeing fewer distressed homes on the market because of the federal economic stimulus support including mortgage forbearance and additional unemployment benefits. Some sellers have even experienced bidding wars, helping to ensure that they’ll get the best possible price for their homes.

Home prices have increased

The combination of high demand and low inventory means that home prices have held steady and even increased this year. Sellers have discovered that they can get top dollar today. According to the National Association of Realtors, median home prices have increased 7.7 percent. Home prices are actually higher today than they were before the coronavirus pandemic. This is excellent news for sellers who may have been worried that they wouldn’t get a good price on their homes.

Mortgage rates are at all-time lows

Feeding into the demand for homes are current interest rates, which have hit all-time lows. According to Freddie Mac, average interest rates have hit a record low of just over three percent. Buyers with excellent credit may even qualify for interest rates just under three percent. This means that buyers could potentially save thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. As a result, buyers continue to be attracted to the market.

The economy is picking back up

While it’s true that the U.S. has experienced high rates of unemployment because of the pandemic, recent data suggests that the economy is picking back up. Businesses are beginning to reopen and adding back jobs. Consumers are starting to spend again. And many companies are working hard to keep up with new demand. Even though it will take time for the country to completely recover from the economic downturn, it is heading in the right direction.

Compliments of Virtual Results

How To Get the Best Mortgage Rate

By Virtual Results

How To Get the Best Mortgage RateIn case you haven’t heard, mortgage rates are at an all-time low. But scoring the best deal requires more than just shopping around. If you want to take advantage of these historically low rates, then it’s important to understand what factors into the calculations. Here’s what you need to know in order to get the best rate for your unique situation.

Improve your credit score

If you want to qualify for the best rates, then you need to have an excellent credit score. When you have a good credit score, you could save thousands of dollars on your home over the life of the loan. You want to aim to have a score of at least 760. If your score is less than 760, there are ways you can improve it before you apply for a mortgage. Make all your monthly payments on time and pay down your debts like credit cards. Avoid taking out new lines of credit, which can lower your score. And be sure to get a copy of your credit report so you can check for errors. If you find any mistakes, then take the necessary steps to have them removed.

Buy a home that is affordable for you

Buying a home is one of the biggest financial commitments you will make in your lifetime. It’s important to limit your search to homes that fit comfortably in your price range. But the price of a home can also affect your interest rate. Loans that are $424,000 or less will have lower rates than those that are above that amount. These are known as “conforming” loans. If you live in an expensive area, then you may need to opt for a “super conforming” loan, which are loans that are $636,150 or less. The highest rates are charged to “jumbo” loans, which exceed the amounts of conforming or super conforming loans.

Make a large down payment

You can qualify for a home loan that requires you pay as little as three percent down (other loans, like VA loans, may require no down payment at all). But the more money you put down for a down payment, the better your interest rate will be. This is because lenders assume less risk when you pay more upfront. Lenders will charge higher rates when they have to take on more risk. Aim to pay at least 20 percent of the purchase price for your down payment.

Choose the appropriate loan product

The length of your loan can also affect your interest rate. You will pay a lower interest rate for a 15-year loan than you will for a 30-year loan. Again, this comes down to how much risk the lender will need to assume. You also have the option of choosing a fixed rate or a variable rate mortgage. While a variable rate mortgage will most likely have a lower rate to begin with, that number could go up significantly over the life of the loan. In addition, each type of loan product, such as an FHA, VA, or USDA loan, has different interest rates. You may score a great interest rate on these loans, but you must also meet strict income requirements.

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Why Working With a Pro is Essential

By Virtual Results

Why Working With a Pro is Essential

The real estate market can be stressful during normal times. Throw in a pandemic and an economic recession and it can be even more challenging. That’s why working with a real estate professional is more important than ever. Read on to find out how a real estate pro can help you whether you’re buying or selling a home right now.

They know the process inside and out

Buying or selling a home is a multi-step process that can test the nerves of even the calmest person. That’s why working with an expert can be such a relief. A professional real estate agent knows all the forms to fill out and disclosures to make. They know the lingo and can help explain things to you in a way that is easy to understand. And now during the pandemic, much of the real estate process has shifted online. An agent can help you navigate the process so that it’s as smooth and stress-free as possible.

They have a wealth of information

Working with a pro can help you learn about all the details of a neighborhood or community. This can be especially helpful if you’re moving in from out of town. Your agent can supply you with information about schools, local organizations, utilities, zoning, places of interest and much more. They also have a wealth of information about the local market including comparable homes that have recently sold. They understand and can communicate to you other factors that may influence the local market such as unemployment rates, median sales prices, average cost per square foot, and ratios of list-to-sold prices.

They know how to negotiate

Not everyone has negotiating skills, which is why a professional real estate agent can be invaluable. Negotiating is part of the job, and a good agent will know how to negotiate on your behalf so that you get the best deal possible.

They’re a good sounding board

Buying or selling a home can be a very emotional process. And as much as we may try to distance ourselves from those emotions, it can be difficult. After all, your home is where you make some of your most precious memories. An agent can help you navigate those tricky moments by helping you look at things more objectively. They can provide sound business advice for what is ultimately a huge financial decision.

They have marketing power

Selling a home requires more than just putting up a few ads. Professional agents have a wealth of contacts that they can network with when it comes time for you to buy or sell a home. They also have an array of tools at their disposal from open houses to virtual tours that can help you get to the closing table more quickly.

They can be counted on for years to come

Finally, your relationship with your agent doesn’t end when you reach the closing table. Your agent can be a good contact for years to come. Agents generally keep all records of their deals should you need any paperwork down the line. And they’ll be there in the future if you need to buy or sell again, or if you want to refer a loved one to them.

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What Happens When Your Mortgage Forbearance Ends?

By Virtual Results

The pandemic and resulting economic recession has taken its toll on many Americans. For many, mortgage forbearance has come as a welcome relief during tough times. However, mortgage forbearance does not go on indefinitely, and will be ending soon. If you’re one of the millions of homeowners who has taken advantage of this program, then what do you do when mortgage forbearance ends? Let’s take a closer look at your options.

Contact your lender

The first thing you should do before your mortgage forbearance expires is to contact your lender. Every lender approaches forbearance differently. The only way to know exactly what your options are for your unique situation is to talk with your lender. Those options will be determined by the terms of your forbearance agreement.

Request an extension

If you’re still facing financial difficulties when your forbearance period ends, then contact your lender and ask for an extension. Was your forbearance granted under the CARES Act? Then you can ask for a 180-day extension. This allows you to postpone your payments for a total of 360 days. But don’t just stop making payments. You must contact your lender and formally extend your forbearance, or those late payments will have a negative impact on your credit score.

Refinance your mortgage

Mortgage interest rates have hit an all-time low. Right now, you can score a home loan for as little as three percent – possibly even slightly lower. If you’re planning to stay in your home long term, then refinancing your loan at a lower rate can save you thousands of dollars over the life of the loan. But be aware that refinancing will include closing costs that could amount to as much as six percent of the loan total. Refinancing may only make sense if you plan to live in your home for many more years.

Get a loan modification

Another option your lender may offer you is the ability to get a loan modification. If you’re at risk of defaulting on your loan, then you may be able to renegotiate the terms of your loan. This could include your monthly payment amount, the interest rate, or even the length of the mortgage. While this can save you money, you should know that loan modifications could cause a dip in your credit score. There may also be fees associated with your loan modification.

Sell

The real estate market is surprisingly hot right now. There are many more buyers looking for homes than there are homes for sale. If you’re in a tough spot financially, then now could be an excellent time to sell if you have equity built up in your home. Housing prices have remained steady through the pandemic, so this could be a smart financial move.

Foreclose

Finally, foreclosure is another option – but should be the last option you consider. If you’re too far behind on your payments and you can’t afford the fees associated with selling or refinancing, then foreclosure may be your only option. However, please note that the CARES Act prohibits lenders from foreclosing on homes until at least August 31 for those with loans backed by the federal government.

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What Buyers Are Looking For Right Now

By Virtual Results

What Buyers Are Looking For Right NowSellers – now is a great time to put your home on the market. If you’ve been hesitant to list because of the pandemic, then you should know that buyers have been flocking to the market this summer. Record low interest rates are motivating many buyers to find new homes. But what exactly are buyers looking for right now? These are the features and amenities that are at the top of most homebuyers’ lists.

Home office space

Millions of Americans began working from home this spring. And by many accounts, some of the jobs will become permanent work-from-home situations. For that reason, many homebuyers are in need of a dedicated home office space. And they’re looking for a space that can function as an office as its primary purpose – not something cobbled together as an afterthought. Do you have a room in your house that could be used as a home office? Then consider staging it this way when you sell.

A big kitchen

Restaurants are a big part of American culture. But since the pandemic forced restaurants to close, we had to learn how to prepare our own meals at home. And with many of our favorite eateries permanently closing because of the economic hit they’ve taken over the last few months, it’s more important than ever to have a spacious, functional kitchen at home. Many buyers are on the lookout for kitchens that make it easy to prepare meals every day.

More than one bathroom

It’s difficult to predict how much longer we may need to stay at home. With so many family members at home at the same time every day, the number of bathrooms has become even more important. Homebuyers are on the hunt for homes that have more than one bathroom.

Extra space for extended family

Some Americans have adapted to pandemic life by forming “quaranteams” – a group of people who form their own social circle and limit contact with outsiders. Many families have decided to move in together during these unprecedented times. That means more homebuyers are looking for homes that can accommodate extended family. With many generations now looking to live under one roof together, having that extra space can be critical.

More outdoor living space

With gyms closed, people are looking for ways to get their exercise in at home. Having outdoor space to exercise helps people to keep up with their health regime even in the midst of a pandemic. And with many people nervous about going to grocery stores, having a backyard garden can be a great perk. Not only does it provide you with fresh produce, but it’s also great for both your physical and mental health.

Swimming pool

Finally, homebuyers would like to have some amenities that make their homes more fun and relaxing. With all this time spent at home, it’s nice to know you can simply step outside to take a dip in the pool. And for homebuyers with kids, swimming pools can be a great way to keep the kids occupied all summer long.

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What’s Driving the Bullish Housing Market?

By Virtual Results

What’s Driving the Bullish Housing Market?

Despite the global pandemic and national unrest caused by protests and the upcoming election, America’s housing market is experiencing a remarkable comeback. Median home prices are up and homes are selling faster than they did at this time last year. Bidding wars are becoming common and Americans are feeling confident about buying and selling homes. So just what is driving this bullish housing market? Let’s take a closer look.

Historically low interest rates

Mortgage interest rates have hit historic lows, which is great news for homebuyers – especially those with tighter budgets. The average mortgage rate for the week ending July 9 was just 3.03 percent. Rates have not been this low since Freddie Mac started tracking rates in 1971. Those with excellent credit scores have been able to qualify for rates at just below three percent. This can save homebuyers tens of thousands of dollars over the life of a loan and reduce monthly payments by more than $100. And the low rates help to offset the cost of higher home prices in today’s market. They also make it cheaper to buy than to rent in some markets.

Large number of buyers

The pandemic has thrown into sharp relief how important a home can be to our safety and well-being. Buyers whose plans to purchase a home early in the year were stymied by the pandemic are now back in the market. They’re joining those buyers who were already planning to buy a home this spring or summer and urbanites who suddenly feel the need to escape hard-hit cities. Having lived in lockdown for several months, many buyers want to set themselves up in a home with more space – especially if we have to shelter in place again this fall or winter. In addition, the real estate market has quickly pivoted to virtual closings, making it easier than ever to shop for and close on a home from the comfort of your couch. And those with good-paying jobs who didn’t get furloughed during the lockdown have been able to boost their savings over the last few months, making it easier to have a sizable down payment on a home.

Shortage of inventory

Finally, while there are many buyers in the market, there is a severe shortage of inventory. In fact, there is approximately one-third less inventory now than this time last year. And there was already a lack of inventory in 2019. Many sellers were understandably concerned about selling their homes during the pandemic. In addition, there has been a suspension of building in most areas with a resulting loss in hundreds of thousands of construction jobs. Inventory was already stretched thin, and the pandemic just widened the gap between supply and demand. With homes in short supply, it has driven up home prices, even amidst a pandemic and an economic recession.

While Americans may have been worried about the housing market early in the year during the beginning weeks of the pandemic, the market has remained strong. In fact, evidence suggests that the real estate market is poised to lead our nation into economic recovery in the following months.

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Winning a Bidding War in a Sellers’ Market

By Virtual Results

Winning a Bidding War in a Sellers’ Market

The housing market remains strong despite the pandemic and high unemployment in America. And although buyers have been returning to the market in high numbers since restrictions eased, sellers are not returning in the same numbers. In fact, the real estate market is experiencing a shortage of inventory, making it more competitive for those looking to buy a home. In some markets, this may lead to bidding wars between potential buyers. So what do you do if you find yourself in this position? How do you win a bidding war in a sellers’ market?

Get preapproved for a mortgage

The very first thing you should do when shopping for a home is to get pre-approved for a mortgage. In a hot market, it is essential that you get pre-approved before you make an offer. It signals to the seller that you are a serious buyer. When there is high demand for a home and a seller receives many offers, you will not be the offer they choose if you are not pre-approved.

Make an immediate offer

If you find an off-market property or a home that has just been listed that you are very interested in, then make an offer immediately. And make an offer the seller simply can’t refuse. Work with your agent to determine what your offer should be and limit the contingencies. Sellers will be more likely to accept a full-price offer that requires little hassle. And put a time restriction on your offer – say, four to six hours. You may be able to avoid a bidding war if you can act quickly and make an excellent offer.

Offer all cash

If you have the means, then offer to pay cash for the home. If a seller receives multiple offers, then they will certainly be attracted to an all-cash offer. Cash purchases minimize the amount of hassle involved with a home purchase. Many home purchases can go south because of troubles closing on a mortgage – from issues with the lender to problems with the appraisal. Cash purchases can significantly reduce the amount of time it takes to close on a home.

Use an escalation clause

Are you really in love with home and willing to increase your offer? Then consider using an escalation clause. An escalation clause lets the seller know that you are willing to outbid the other buyers vying for the home. Your agent can help you to determine if including an escalation clause in your offer would be appropriate.

Write a personal letter

Do you feel very strongly about the home you’re trying to buy? Then it may help you to write a personal letter to the seller. Let the seller know why you love the home, and point out things you may have in common. One note – this strategy only works if you’re buying from a typical homeowner, not an investor like a house flipper.

Work with a trusted professional

Finally, one of the most important things you can do when shopping for a home is to work with a trusted professional. Having an expert agent on your side in a competitive market can mean the difference between closing on your dream home or watching as another buyer swoops in and takes the prize.

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