3 Must-Do’s Before Listing Your House for Sale

Before you list your home for sale, it’s time to do a little work around the house – to prepare and make sure your home is seen in the best possible light. These “must-do” items are about showing your home to buyers as one which is cared for and ready for them to add their own brand of home to the space. Taking a little time up front can mean thousands of dollars as buyers start writing their offers.

3 Must-Do’s Before Listing Your House for Sale

  1. Declutter, Depersonalize and Clean – This is the time to take spring cleaning seriously, in any season. Clear out all unnecessary items from the home; closets, drawers, extra clothes, old unwanted furniture. Donate to charity, hire a dumpster or rent a storage space; buyers will look in every space and open all drawers and cabinets, make sure your home seems spacious. Spend some time to depersonalize by removing excessive pictures and hide heirlooms. Finally, deep clean every space top to bottom.
  2. Address Deferred Maintenance – Make small repairs or hire a handyman to take care of problems which could appear during the home inspection. Replace caulking, fix broken windows and screens, replace light bulbs and freshen up and clean grout; buyers want
    to see a home that is cared for with “good bones.”
  3. Go for Curb Appeal – Spend some time in the yard. Trim bushes and trees, clean and repair hardscape and make sure there is adequate lighting. Welcome your buyers with seasonal flowers or décor and place a fresh mat by the front door.

Before you put that sign in the front yard, spend a little time and elbow grease to make sure you welcome your potential buyers with the best version of your home.

The A Team

4 Reasons to Sell this Fall

Traditional lore says that the best time to list your home for sale is spring and if it hasn’t sold by the end of summer, you’re out of luck. Along the same lines, homeowners across the country are often advised not to list in the fall and wait until after the holidays to list. The truth is that a great home will sell at any time of year and in fact there are some very good reasons to list in the fall, while everyone else is busy doing other activities.

4 Reasons to Sell this Fall

  1. Less Competition – As mentioned above, most sellers list in spring so as a seller, fall provides you less competition which increases the opportunity for buyers to view your home.
  2. Serious Buyers – Home buyers in fall often have a timeline to move before the holidays. They tend to take the home search seriously and move to write offers faster and avoid wasting time.
  3. Curb Appeal – Fall is a beautiful time of year and homes always seem cozier as the weather turns. Fall colors in the trees and the scent of baking entice buyers to feel “at home” which encourages offers.
  4. Closing is Easier – The pace of home sales slows during the fall; as such lenders can move faster and the process tends to take less time.
    The last and best reason to sell this fall is that it’s the right time for you and your plans. Regardless of whether you are relocating, moving up or scaling down, if this is the right time to sell, then this is the best time to sell.

The A Team

Foreclosures – What is a Foreclosed Property?

Unfortunately since the mortgage meltdown, foreclosed properties have become more common. Many home buyers see this as an opportunity to find a great home for a bargain price. While foreclosures can offer some nice discounts, understanding how foreclosures work and how this affects the buyer is critical to ensure you are getting a good deal and not a disaster.

What is a Foreclosure?
First it’s important to understand what qualifies as a foreclosure. A foreclosure is a property which has been taken back by the lender in order to satisfy an unpaid mortgage debt. It is owned by the bank or lender and they have now listed the property for sale.

Can I save money buying a foreclosure?
Yes and no! It’s true that lenders do not want to hold onto their foreclosed properties longer than they need to, but they also understand the value of the home in its current condition. While deeply distressed properties might be listed at very low prices, good homes in decent condition might not be listed below comparables in the same area.

Is the buying process different from a traditional sale?
The actual buying process is the same; you write an offer, obtain financing and close. The differences lay in the protections and opportunities for negotiation during the process. Most foreclosures are sold “as is” and the lender will not negotiate repairs of any kind. There could also be clauses which remove other contingencies, such as financing or appraisal. The buyer needs to read the agreement very carefully.

Buying a foreclosure can be a great way to find a nice property at a discounted price. Not all properties are a good deal however. Understanding the foreclosure market and reading the contracts very carefully is the key to buying a foreclosure – this way you get the most home for your money without buying a problem.

The A Team

All About Appraisals

Appraisals are one of the most confusing aspects of buying or selling real estate for the consumer. When a buyer and seller agree on a sales price, it can be frustrating to hear that the appraisal came in with a value too low. It’s not enough for the principals to agree to the price, the appraisal is the lender’s way to ensure they are not loaning money over the actual market
value of the property.

The appraised value is reached by a licensed professional who looks at the real estate market in which the target property is located. They start with the target property and then look for recent sales in the area of comparable properties. These comparable properties will be located within a short distance of the target home, normally within a 5 mile radius. They should also be of comparable size and often fall within the same housing development.

Once these homes are identified, the appraiser will adjust for the specific differences. For instance, does the target home have an upgraded kitchen or swimming pool? They add or subtract value based on such things as location, view, lot size, upgrades, additions, condition and many other factors. They can then arrive at a valuation for the target home.

Once the appraisal has been completed, the lender is notified of the value. At this point, the loan amount is either confirmed or declined. If the appraisal comes in too low, the principals can choose to make up the difference in sales price, lower the sales price or cancel the transaction.

Appraisals are not as complicated as they appear. By learning about recent sales in your area ahead of time, you can price your home appropriately up front; then the appraisal should come back as expected.

The A Team

Tips to Pay off Your Loan Faster

For generations, homeowners would buy a home for life. Working over the years to make the payments and celebrating the end of the 30 year mortgage were great milestones in the family. Today, few home buyers expect to be in their home for longer than 7 years on average. Paying off a 30 year mortgage seems like an impossible task. Fortunately, there are great ways to pay off your loan which do not involve time. Here are a few tips for paying off your mortgage loan faster.

  • Biweekly Payments – Work with your lender to determine how they handle biweekly payments. If processed immediately, you can save 8 years of payments on a 30 year loan.
  • Extra Payments – By making just one extra payment each year, you can pay off your loan 11 years earlier.
  • Refinance to 15 years – There are great interest rates available for mortgage loans. Consider a 15 year mortgage.
  • Principal Reduction – Watch for ways to add to your monthly payment a little at a time. When possible, increase the principal payment you make.

Paying off your mortgage builds wealth. Consider your life goals, including retirement. A 30 year loan taken out at 37 years old will not be complete until 67 – retirement age. The loan needs to be part of the overall financial plan from the beginning and making payoff a priority with a few simple steps can add up to huge savings in interest which can then be used for better investments.

Top Tips When Buying Vacant Land

Building a new home from scratch can be a dream come true. The idea of designing the perfect property with morning sun in the kitchen and evening breezes on the deck can be exhilarating; the first step to a successful project is finding the right piece of land on which to build. This can present challenges if not approached correctly.

Top Tips When Buying Vacant Land

  • Hire Experience – More than most real estate transactions, it’s critical to hire an agent who specializes in vacant land purchases and can guide you through the steps.
  • Expect to Pay Cash – Finding a lender for vacant land can be very difficult. Those who will finance land typically require a 50% or higher down payment and above average interest rates and terms.
  • Get the Neighborhood Comps – Do not neglect to understand home values in the community so you do not over, or under, build your home.
  • Do Your Due Diligence – It is critical to research the property thoroughly. Just a few considerations might include:
    • Site Surveys and Environmental Testing
    • Easements and Zoning Restrictions
    • Lot Survey and Boundaries
    • Utilities and Water Rights

Once you’ve completed these preliminary reviews, it’s time to consult with an architect and General Contractor who will then begin to develop concept drawings to consider. Even at this stage, you might find that the home you want is not appropriate for the land you’ve chosen. Staying flexible is a key component to searching for land; remember that by following a few tips, you can ensure you find the right lot for your dream home.

The A Team

What does “Move-in Ready” Really Mean?

If you’ve been searching for a new home no doubt you’ve seen the term, “move- in ready.” This description sounds very appealing, but understanding what it actually means is important so you have the right expectations when arranging your home listing tour.

First it’s important to remember that the descriptions in real estate listings are written by the listing agent or broker. There is no set industry standard for what agents can say in their listings. While there are guidelines and rules which prevent blatant lying, most home buyers have become aware of the fluffy language used to market a home for sale.

The meaning of “move-in ready” is fairly straightforward; it means that the home is in a condition which is acceptable for immediate occupancy. The home meets the standards of living and assures the buyer that the essential elements needed to occupy the home are present and in running condition. For example, the home should have working plumbing, appliances, sound roof, electricity, gas and locking doors and windows.

What “move-in ready” does not necessarily mean is that the home is in pristine condition. A home that is “move-in ready” might still need significant updating and while systems are assumed to be operational, they might still be old or outdated.

“Move-in ready” is a common phrase in real estate listings. Understanding that the home might still need quite a bit of work to suit your taste and lifestyle, you can approach the listing with realistic expectations and determine if the property is the right fit for your needs.

The A Team