No Comments

Top Trends for Your Outdoor Living Space

Summer is in full swing and you’re spending more time outdoors. For most of us, this still
means primarily in our own backyards. Personal outdoor space has never been
more popular and if yours could use a little sprucing up, here are the hottest
trends for 2021.

Outdoor Kitchens – This trend is going nowhere. Ever since the first built-in
BBQ showed up, homeowners have loved cooking outdoors. Choose from a
simple pizza oven to a full chef’s set-up with multiple ovens, refrigerators,
cooking spaces, and bar.

Edible Gardens – While home gardeners have enjoyed seasonal tomatoes
and herb pots for decades, the rise of sustainability trends have increased
the attention on home-grown, organic fruits and vegetables. Any small
space can be transformed to grow your favorites.

Privacy Structures – Creating some private outdoor space is relatively easy.
Simple strategies, such as a large, well-placed umbrella or planter
containing tall grasses, can carve out some private outdoor space. Another
trend is using larger furniture, such as covered daybeds or gazebos have
made a strong return to the pages of design magazines.

Front Yards – With the lock downs and restrictions of the past year, front
yards have made a comeback. As people have enjoyed the ability to
socialize with neighbors and friends as they pass by, not only have front
porches become more popular but adding a patio or sitting area in the front
yard has topped the garden trends this year.

The warm weather is here for a while. This is a great time to explore the many ways to enjoy
your outdoor space. From simple weekend projects to large-scale remodels, the
trend toward using the outdoors to supplement indoor living space is here to stay.

No Comments

5 Refinancing Mistakes to Avoid

Mortgage interest rates are the lowest they’ve been in years and perhaps you’re wondering if it’s time to refinance your loan. Lenders advertising their refinancing services make it sound as easy as filling out a form and paying less each month. While refinancing does not need to be complicated, here are 5 common mistakes that could cost you thousands of dollars over the course of the loan. Refinancing can be a great experience if you can avoid making these mistakes.

  1. Not Shopping Around – Not all loans are structured the same. It’s important to compare your options. Even loans with the same interest rate can have different costs, fees, and terms.
  2.  Shopping for Too Long – Interest rates change quickly and, in this volatile market, it’s possible to lose a great interest rate by looking for too long. Consider getting three different loan options at the same time and choosing the best option out of those three to work with.
  3. Adding Years to Repayment – Interest rates are not the only consideration in deciding to refinance. If you are 7 years into a 30-year loan, restarting the clock with a new 30-year loan can cost you thousands of dollars. Never refinance with a longer term than your current status.
  4. Not Considering Your Job Stability – The pandemic has created instability in the job market; consider your employment situation carefully before using precious savings for loan costs. Additionally, if you are moving from a 30-year loan to a 15-year loan, your payment might go up. Make sure you have the income to comfortably pay that increase each month.
  5. Assuming Your Credit is Great – Before looking for a refinance, check your credit score and make any adjustments before you get a surprise at closing.

This is a great time to reduce your mortgage interest rate, while rates are low. Consider all the aspects of the refinance offer first and make sure you get the best option to save money.

No Comments

10 Home Inspection Red Flags

Most homebuyers realize that they can’t expect a perfect home inspection report when buying a resale home. Cosmetic flaws and minor repairs are easily managed and shouldn’t be deal breakers. That said, there are some issues that are more serious and should give the buyer pause if not addressed adequately.

10 Home Inspection Red Flags

1. Leaky and Rundown Roofing – watch for signs of current or past water damage.
2. Poor Drainage – drainage issues can cause serious damage to the home foundation, siding and basements.
3. Foundation Issues – signs of foundation problems can include cracks around doors and windows or uneven floors. Foundation problems can cost thousands of dollars to correct.
4. Plumbing Problems – major plumbing issues should be considered carefully and further explored.
5. Pest Infestations – termites and other wood-eating pests can cause extensive damage that can be hard to find and costly to repair.
6. Mold – that musty smell could be due to hidden mold and further investigation should be undertaken as mold can be dangerous to the health of the family. Depending on the type of mold, it can be very difficult to remove entirely.
7. Faulty Heating System – a malfunctioning furnace can be a fire hazard.
8. Electrical Wiring – faulty wiring can cost thousands of dollars to repair.
9. Structural Damage – sagging joists, rafters and door jambs can be evidence of larger issues.
10. Deferred Maintenance – a home in poor condition could be hiding more serious issues due to chronic neglect.

Homebuyers should be alert to these issues and know the costs to repair before concluding the sale. Home sellers should address these issues before putting the home up for sale to ensure they get the best possible sales price

No Comments

Home Issues That Shouldn’t Be Deal-Breakers – and a Few That Are!

Finding the right home can sometimes feel like hunting for a needle in a haystack. Unless you’re buying brand-new construction, every home has some drawbacks, whether it’s style or real maintenance issues. If you’re looking for your next home, understanding the difference between minor issues and true deal-breakers can help you evaluate your options and make the best possible choice.

Manageable Annoyances

• Cosmetic – All aesthetic concerns can be fixed – for a cost. The key is to understand the difficulty and level of effort or money involved. A dying lawn can be addressed with new sod. Is the kitchen dated? A new backsplash is relatively inexpensive. With some fresh paint and new lighting fixtures, you can easily brighten a room and make a small space seem more expansive.
• Healthy Homes – Many homes have older carpet, drapes, and other elements that can irritate allergies. Home air filtration systems are affordable and very effective in clearing the particulates out of the air. Replacing the attic insulation and cleaning the vents are easy and inexpensive ways to correct these situations.

Deal-Breakers

• Foundation Problems – Foundation cracks and other issues can be expensive or impossible to correct.
• Mold – While treatments for mold are available, they normally involve major demolition to open walls and flooring for access. Unless the sellers will correct the mold issue before closing, it’s better to reconsider on this one.
• Water Leaks – Signs of water damage or existing leaks could be a reason to search for a different home. Leaks and water issues will most likely bring you to the mold issue above.

Buying a resale home almost always involves some kind of preexisting issue, but not all should be reasons to walk away. If the home you like has problems, before you move on, consider the costs involved to remedy the challenge.

No Comments

5 Typical HVAC Problems to Avoid This Summer

The summer heat is almost here and it may seem like your air conditioner has been running almost constantly. Your air conditioner is an important part of your home, and you certainly don’t want to discover that it’s stopped working on a hot, humid day. Here are five of the most common HVAC problems and how to avoid them in the first place so you can enjoy your air conditioning all summer long.

1. Clogged Drain Lines – Your air conditioner has a drain line attached to the evaporator coil which removes moisture from the air. Clogged lines can create a back-flow into the unit, causing damage. You can clear these lines periodically with a wet-dry vacuum.
2. Leaking Refrigerant – Refrigerant leaks are typically caused by low levels of refrigerant, which prevent absorbed liquid from converting to gas, causing build-up and damage.
3. Faulty Capacitor – Your air conditioner has two capacitors that keep the compressor functioning properly. If one of these burns out, the entire unit can malfunction. Regular servicing by a professional can ensure these continue to work properly.
4. Thermostat Malfunctions – Issues with the thermostat inside your home can often be the culprit responsible when your air conditioner is not working properly. Simply replacing the batteries in your thermostat regularly can solve many problems with the HVAC system.
5. Blown Fuse – The most common reason for a blown fuse is an obstruction that blocks airflow. Replacing a dirty air filter is an inexpensive way to ensure proper operation.

Summer soon will be in full swing and our air conditioners are working harder than ever. Ensure that your system operates at its best by getting a professional to check your system for these common problems before they create a larger issue.

No Comments

Understanding the Back-Up Offer

“When can I consider my home sold? This is one of the most common questions real estate agents are asked. While the laws vary in different states, generally the contract is binding once both parties sign the offer. At that time the closing process begins. This is also the time when sellers must stop considering other offers, but they can accept back-up offers.

What is a back-up offer? This is when the seller accepts an offer contingent upon the first one falling through. There are many reasons why the home purchase might not close—the buyer may fail to secure the loan, the home inspection may find issues the two parties can’t resolve, or it could even be that the Homeowner’s Association has rules that the buyer is unprepared to accept. Whatever the reason, real estate agents know that the deal isn’t done until it closes.

A back-up offer should be carefully executed. Both buyer and seller must be able to pursue other options. Unless the buyer is willing to wait without seeking an alternative property, the back-up offer should be written to allow for the possibility that they find an alternative home in the meantime. The seller, on the other hand, must make clear they are currently obligated to another buyer and will consider the back-up offer only if the current one cancels.

Back-up offers can be a great tool in a fast-moving real estate market. Writing the offer virtually guarantees the listing agent will notify you if the home becomes available again. This gives the buyer an advantage in a seller’s market, increasing the opportunity to capitalize on a home that fell out of contract.

No Comments

Real Estate Investment 101

Real estate offers a solid investment opportunity that can provide not only an income stream, but long-term value appreciation as well. It’s never too late to begin investing in real estate. Regardless of the ups and downs of the market, people will always need housing, so real estate will remain a good way to create wealth.

By understanding some of the basics of real estate investing, you can begin to create a successful investment plan.

  • Start Now – Every market offers opportunities for buyers; there is no perfect time to get started.
  • Understand the Risks – Before investing, you should be certain that you can hold the property until conditions are right to sell.
  •  Do Your Homework – Know the market and understand the trends which can affect your purchase and ownership.
  •  Invest for the Long-Term – Real estate investing should not be viewed as a “get rich quick” scheme. While you might find an opportunity to have a quick flip, most real estate equity is realized over years, not months.
  •  Understand your Expected Cash Flow – In simple terms, cash flow is what is left over after all expenses are paid. For a rental property, expenses could include mortgage, interest, maintenance, insurance, utilities, rental agents, and more.
  • Budget for the Unexpected – Even the most carefully planned project can have unexpected costs. Have a back-up plan to meet these costs.

Real estate can offer solid investment opportunities. Even a first-time investor can realize profit and positive cash flow with careful planning and research. Start building your real estate portfolio now; a real estate purchase could provide a low-risk addition to your other investments for both income and asset value growth.

No Comments

3 Major Factors To Consider When Choosing a Neighborhood

Buying a new home is exciting. Whether you’re moving across the country or across town, finding the right house is just one part of choosing the best option. The neighborhood in which the home is located is a critical component of lifestyle as well. Here are 3 of the most important considerations as you search for the right community to call home.

1.Safety – First and foremost, the safety of the neighborhood is important. Fortunately, there are multiple ways to get details concerning safety. Search local crime statistics through local police sites and public online search sites. Spend time driving through the community, talk with neighbors, and pay attention to the security of the homes themselves; a community where most homes have extra security could be a sign of trouble.

2.Schools – Regardless of whether you have children in the home, or plan to, the quality of the local schools is a big factor in home values, and is easy to research. Visit the district’s website and read about their test scores and rankings. Extracurricular activities are also a large factor in the desirability of the schools; watch for art, music, and athletic programs.

3.Conveniences – Remember that you’ll need to shop for groceries, work out at a gym, enjoy entertainment, and dine out. As you drive through potential communities, take note of the local availability of the extras you need.

Finding the right home is not enough to live a nice lifestyle. The neighborhood is just as important. Not only for your enjoyment, but it affects the resale value as well. Choosing the right community takes a little research, but it’s well worth it to love where you live.

No Comments

Tips for the First-Time Home Seller

There is a lot of attention paid to first-time homebuyers. Most real estate agents and lenders have some kind of guide to help first-time homebuyers navigate their first home purchase, but what about the first-time seller?

Selling your home for the first time can be just as confusing as a home purchase, so here are a few things to remember as you navigate your home sale.

Before that first showing, it’s important to prepare. This involves not only cleaning, decluttering, and staging the home, but also learning about your local real estate market and finding the best agent for your needs.

Interview more than one agent and ask lots of questions. Learn about the services they offer: do they include professional photography, video, or virtual tours? Ask for a comprehensive market analysis (CMA) and ask each agent their suggestion for the listing price and their method for arriving at that number. Use this information to determine the best agent to assist you.

Once you have an agent, stay involved. Discuss the plan for showings and open houses. Try and be flexible to allow for as many potential buyers as possible viewing your property. Review the listing online for accuracy and stay in touch with your agent for feedback from showings.

Once you start getting offers, respond as quickly as possible. It’s not just about the price; watch for terms, such as length of escrow and contingencies, when evaluating these offers. Be prepared to move so that you can take advantage of a good offer, such as all-cash.

The most important aspect of a successful home sale is the relationship you have with your agent. Be transparent about your needs, concerns, and goals; insist that your agent do the same, and working together you will navigate through your first home sale successfully.

No Comments

7 Things That Affect What You Pay for Homeowner’s Insurance

Homeowner’s insurance is a non-negotiable. Not only does it protect you in the event the home is damaged, but it also includes liability insurance in the event someone is injured at your home. When evaluating the policy, insurance companies consider multiple items to determine their risk—and your cost.

Here are 7 things that affect the amount you pay for homeowner’s insurance—some that might make sense and some that might surprise you.

1. Square Footage – First and foremost, the size of the home is considered. The larger the home, the more it would cost to replace if damage occurred. More space also means more furniture, fixtures, personal belongings, and other items which would be replaced in a claim.
2. Layout – The style of the home is another factor in determining replacement costs. A single-story home, for example, might have higher foundation and grading costs, whereas a two-story home would need alternative construction methods.
3. Construction Materials – The type of material used to build the structure is important. Wood roofs would cost more to insure against a fire claim, as would a home with expensive travertine floors. A simpler home of modest building materials would cost less to insure.
4. Property Age – The assumption is that an older home might have more deterioration than a newer home and this is considered in the replacement cost.
5. Home Features – Homes with extra buildings or pools will be insured at a higher cost than other properties without these amenities.
6. Neighborhood – Local crime rates are reviewed to determine the risk to property and personal items.
7. Credit Score – Finally, the insurance company will consider the homeowner’s credit score. Not only does this help them understand if they are at risk for non-payment, but serious credit issues might be a factor in how well a property is maintained.

Homeowner’s insurance is important to every homeowner. Not only is it required by lenders, but it also protects the homeowner against financial disaster in the event of theft, fire, severe weather, and more. Understanding how rates are determined can help you compare options and get the best policy for your home.