Elizabeth's Tips October 15, 2021

How To Make Your Offer Stand Out

In today’s market,  it’s not uncommon to be in competition with several other buyers for your dream home.  When you find that perfect house, with the chic chandelier and the doggy door for Fido,  the last thing you want to do is lose it because your offer didn’t stand out to the seller, Taking the time to put forth a well-written offer can work wonders for a buyer. Each seller and agent may have different opinions on what makes the best offer, but here are some that we’ve found are the most consistent:

1. Include a pre-approval.

If you want to show the seller that you’re serious about buying a home,  get pre-approved before you ever sign an offer.   Not only does it show that you didn’t just waltz up, see the for sale sign and throw something out there, but it also alleviates some of the seller’s worries that you’ll back out when the bank finds out your credit isn’t actually as good as you thought it was.  Be sure to include that pre-approval letter from the bank with the signed offer.

2.  Make a decent earnest money deposit.

When you’re sure you can’t picture yourself without this house,  be ready to boost your earnest money deposit. Earnest money shows the seller that you’re putting your money where your mouth is, and you’re prepared to give up that chunk of cash if you back of the contract for any reason other than those allowed under the contract terms.  There is usually a typical amount offered for your area, so if you really want to look good, go above and beyond that amount.

3.  Remove all the contingencies you can.

Having two mortgages while trying to sell the home you’re in now isn’t really a dream that anyone has, but if you have the cash to do it, it’s definitely going to make your offer more desirable.  Anytime you can waive contingencies in the contract, like the sale of your current home,  it gives the seller more confidence that the deal will go through without a hitch.  Another option would be to shorten the typical time periods.  If it’s customary for your inspection period to be 15 days, shorten it to 10 to let the seller know you’re looking to make this happen quickly.

4.  Make it Your Best

When you’re up against multiple offers,  don’t waste a lot of time expecting to negotiate.  Base your offer on solid research of surrounding comparables and really offer what you’d be willing to pay.  If you don’t,  your offer may be tossed aside for others that did. This includes more than the price, too.  Maybe pay out of pocket for some of those extras, like a home warranty or closing costs, instead of asking the seller to contribute.

5. Get Personal ( that is if letters are accepted)

It’s time to let the seller know why you’re dying to buy their house, and be honest.  Is it because you want to raise your family in the neighborhood?  Do you see Fido rolling around in the big, fenced backyard?  Connecting with the seller and creating a sense of relatability can go a long way, but avoid sounding desperate.  The idea is to keep it short, simple, and honest, and don’t forget to have your buyer’s agent proofread it. Don’t hesitate to go out of the box to make your offer standout to the seller. It may end up getting you your dream home.

Elizabeth's Tips October 9, 2021

Tips on the Real Estate Closing Process

1. WHAT AM I BUYING?

Make sure you have done your due diligence and inspected the property thoroughly. This could be the biggest investment you ever make (emotionally as well as financially) so know what you are getting yourself into before you seal the deal.

2. WHAT SORT OF LOAN AM I GETTING?

Before you close you will get a stack of papers ten reams high and you will be signing and initialing every last one of them. Make sure you know what you are signing – is the interest rate the attractive one you were quoted when they were begging for your business? Do you have a pre-payment penalty? When is your first payment due and where do you send it? All important questions to ask and have answers to before you seal the deal.

3. HOW MUCH MONEY DO I NEED?

You may have your loan in place, but you will probably have to come out of pocket to close on your new dream home so where is that money coming from and how is getting from THERE to the escrow account in order to close on time?

Make sure all parties involved have the proper information to wire funds, pick up checks and get it done so your close is not held up while you are already paying interest on your funded loan.

4. IS EVERYTHING TURNED ON?

Have you transferred the utilities into your name and avoided unnecessary costs to have them turned on if there is a gap between you and the previous owner’s shut-off date? Ensure that you have addresses, account numbers and all contact information for the following:

-Mortgage
-Utilities (electric, gas, water, trash)
-Maintenance
-Property taxes
-Homeowner’s insurance

And make sure your escrow officer has all the information they need (such as contact info for your insurance company) in plenty of time before the close.

5. DID THE PREVIOUS OWNER HOLD UP HIS END OF THE BARGAIN?

You may have negotiated some repairs during escrow – did you receive a credit for them and is it on your closing statement? Did the previous owner complete the repairs they agreed to do and are they up to code?

If you have realtor, rely on them to hold the seller accountable.  Make sure you have checked it out before your close as there is very little recourse once the previous owner has your money!

6. AM I AWARE OF (ALL OF) MY CLOSING COSTS?

When it comes time to close on your property, it may seem as if everyone and his brother is waiting for a handout. They are. All these fees together make up your CLOSING COSTS.

These charges can and do vary widely, but don’t be surprised to see these charges:

Escrow fees — Who will pay escrow fees (buyer or seller) is usually decided during the negotiation on the sale. Splitting these fees is common.

Credit check — Yes, you have to pay for your lender to verify your loan-worthiness (seems like a cost they might absorb, but alas, no).

Document prep fee — Again, one might assume that the mortgage and escrow companies could pay their own employees to prepare your documents, but once more you get the honors.

Title insurance — A lender won’t give you any money without guaranteeing its interest in the property. Title insurance covers you in the unlikely event that there’s a blemish on your property’s title history.

Miscellaneous fees — A courier is employed to transport your paperwork from the title company to the escrow company. Money is wired from your lender to your seller’s account. Your lender incurs an underwriting fee and passes it on to you. Count on a few hundred dollars worth of “misc. fees.”

Elizabeth's Tips September 30, 2021

What is APR and how Does It Impact My Mortgage?

If you’ve ever gone shopping for a home mortgage or refinance you’ve probably seen an interest rate advertised as, for instance, “Rate: 2.65%; APR: 2.7%.” The annual percentage rate (APR) represents the average annual finance charge you’ll be paying on the loan when including all the fees and costs associated with getting that loan. This can include things like closing costs, broker fees and discount points (a lower interest rate charged in exchange for an additional upfront fee). The APR is usually higher than the interest rate. The APR is a valuable number to know so you can compare directly the total costs of loans that might have widely varying terms. Here is an example of how this works.

Let’s say you want to borrow $200,000 to finance your home purchase. The closing costs, broker fees, etc. come to another $5,000. So, you are actually borrowing $205,000. The original interest rate was 5 percent, meaning an annual interest payment of $10,000. But including the additional $5,000 will yield an annual interest payment of $10,250 (5 percent of $205,000). Dividing the $10,250 by $200,000 will show an APR of 5.125%. If you’re comparing two mortgage loans, generally the one with the lower APR is the better deal as it means that the lender has lower upfront fees than the other lender.

You also encounter APR on credit cards. This is the cost associated with the credit card company financing your financial activities. Lenders may charge one APR for purchases, another for cash advances and a third for balance transfers. How you plan to use your credit card will determine which APR you should pay the most attention to. If you pay off your balance each month, you won’t incur any APR charges for purchases, though you still may for balance transfers and cash advances. Sometimes credit cards will offer introductory specials with 0 percent APR, so you’ll want to investigate those as well.

Elizabeth's Tips September 23, 2021

Deciding To Buy A Fixer-Upper

If you are a fan of HGTV, you have probably seen your fair share of fixer-uppers. TV shows tend to make everything look easy, especially home flipping or updating. So how do you decide if a fixer upper is worth your time? Here are a few scenarios where diving in usually pays off.

1. The upgrades are simple.

First, you need to find out what types of issues are going to need updated and recognize your personal skills. If a home has foundation, electrical, or plumbing issues, chances are those aren’t easy fixes unless you are a contractor yourself. When it comes to cosmetic fixes, there is usually less of a safety risk so if you’re willing to do the work, those are the houses for you.

2. When the numbers pencil out.

You need to ask yourself if all the work you will put in is going to make the property worth as much or more after you’re finished. Sit down and run the numbers, and decide if you are willing and able to stick to a budget. If you’re handy and willing to put in the hours, your budget may be much smaller than what you would spend on a move-in ready home.

3. You have the time and resources.

Sometimes when investing in a fixer-upper, there will be work that needs done where you may not be able to be in the house. Do you have a friend of family member close by where you can crash while the house is getting rewired, or the insulation is getting installed? If not, is there wiggle room in your budget for a night or two in a hotel when there’s a small emergency with the water pipes? It is important to recognize where you are in life and if you are mentally, physically, and fiscally able to invest in a fixer-upper.

Elizabeth's Tips September 16, 2021

What To Expect During Inspection

When you are buying a home for the first time, you’re likely to run into many processes that you haven’t been through before. One of the most important parts of the purchasing process is your property inspection. It may seem daunting, but if you know your role and the role of others, it can make the process less stressful. Here is what you should expect for each role in the property inspection process.

The Buyer

Your job will be to learn about the property during inspection. Before the inspection, you should prepare by looking over the property disclosures or any other building department documentation that you’ve received up until that point. Make a list of any questions or concerns you have about those documents and address any issues that the listing agent may have pointed out. Ask your agent what the typical inspections are for your market and make sure you set aside a few hours for the inspection.

The Buyer’s Agent

Your agent should be with you and help to walk you through the inspection. Your agent should know what to look for during inspections and be able to let you know what is important and needs to be addressed before the transaction is complete and what is a quick fix.

The Listing Agent

In some cases, the listing agent may not be present for the inspection. Otherwise, the listing agent will be there to advocate for the seller and help to address any issues that may arise, as they are likely the most familiar with the property.

The Inspector

You will hire the property inspector as the buyer. You can get a referral from your agent to find a licensed inspector in your state. The inspector is there to explain what may need changed about a property and the potential cost it would have for you. They are not there as a contractor and will not be fixing thee problems, simply inspection the property and overall state of the house.

Elizabeth's Tips September 9, 2021

How Homeowners Are Ditching The Tub

Homeowners are looking for large, high-tech bathrooms with sleek color palettes and finishes, according to the Houzz 2017 Bathroom Trends Report.

On average, homeowners spent $21,000 to remodel bathrooms exceeding 100 square feet. That cost drops to about $12,300 for homeowners with smaller bathrooms that are less than 100 square feet. When it comes to age demographics, those aged 55+ spent the most on remodeling their bathroom since the majority of them reported that they don’t plan to sell their home anytime soon.

Meanwhile, millennials, who see their home as a short- to medium-term residence, are choosing to invest less in bathroom renovations. Out of the 4 percent of millennials who renovated their bathrooms this year, most spent $9,200 to 12,500.

Homeowners of all ages were willing to shell out the extra dough for showers (42 percent), cabinets and vanities (40 percent), faucets (35 percent) and countertops (35 percent). On the other hand, it seems that homeowners weren’t so willing to spend extra money on an upgraded toilet.

Beyond updating showers, toilets and faucets, 90 percent of homeowners decided to change the entire style and color scheme of their bathroom during renovations. Contemporary is the most popular style at 25%, followed by transitional and modern. Contemporary is most popular among baby boomers, while Gen-Xers and millennials favor modern styles with clean finishes.

When it comes to wall colors and cabinet, countertop and floor finishes, homeowners of all ages favor a white and gray palette over neutral or more colorful options. Although baby boomers and Gen-Xers are more partial to using wood grain and darker tones, Houzz says paying attention to millennial design preferences is important, especially since they’ll be leading the housing market for the foreseeable future.

Beyond design and decor, homeowners (27 percent) swapped out bathtubs for large showers, and 73 percent of homeowners chose to add high-end features such as rainfall shower heads (55 percent), dual showers (24 percent), curbless showers (21 percent) and body sprays (18 percent). Also, 29 percent of homeowners purchased a high-tech toilet — a 19 percent year-over-year increase.

The most coveted features among toilet techies were self-cleaning (12 percent), optional bidet (8 percent), overflow protection (8 percent) and motion activation (6 percent). The least important features were a self-deodorizer (4 percent) and hands-free flushing (3 percent). Baby boomers also looked for increased accessibility with comfort-height toilets (68 percent).

Previous studies have shown that bathroom renovations yield some of the highest ROIs. It showed that blue and periwinkle bathrooms sell for an average of $5,400 more and that buyers tend to favor homes with clean, neutral colors.

“Color can be a powerful tool for attracting buyers to a home, especially in listing photos and videos,” said Zillow chief economist Svenja Gudell. “Painting walls in fresh, natural-looking colors, particularly in shades of blue and pale gray not only make a home feel larger, but also are neutral enough to help future buyers envision themselves living in the space.”

Elizabeth's Tips September 2, 2021

What Is the Top Financial Benefit of Homeownership?

There are many financial and non-financial benefits of homeownership, and the greatest financial one is wealth creation. Homeownership has always been the first rung on the ladder that leads to forming household wealth. As Freddie Mac explains: “Homeownership has cemented its role as part of the American Dream, providing families with a place that is their own and an avenue for building wealth over time. This ‘wealth’ is built, in large part, through the creation of equity…Building equity through your monthly principal payments and appreciation is a critical part of homeownership that can help you create financial stability.”

Odeta Kushi, Deputy Chief Economist at First American, also notes: “The wealth-building power of homeownership shows that home is not only where your heart is, but also where your wealth is…For the majority of households that transition into homeownership, the most recent data reinforces that housing is one of the biggest positive drivers of wealth creation.”

Last week, CoreLogic released their latest Homeowner Equity Insights Report, which reveals the surge in wealth created over the last twelve months through increased home equity. The report makes five key points:

  1. Roughly 38% of all homes are mortgage-free

  2. The average equity gain of mortgaged homes in the last year was $26,300

  3. The current average equity of mortgaged homes is greater than $200,000

  4. There was a 16.9% increase in total homeowner equity

  5. Total homeowner equity reached over $1.5 trillion

Here’s a map that shows the equity gains by state:Increasing equity is giving homeowners the power to better manage the challenges of the pandemic, especially for those spending more time at home. In the report, Frank Nothaft, Chief Economist for CoreLogic, explains: “This equity growth has enabled many families to finance home remodeling, such as adding an office or study, further contributing to last year’s record level in home improvement spending.”

The financial advantage homeowners have has not gone unnoticed. In the same report, Frank Martell, President and CEO of CoreLogic, states: “This growing bank of personal wealth that homeownership affords was noticed by many but in particular for first-time buyers who want a piece of the cake.”

INCREASING WEALTH BENEFITS MORE THAN JUST HOMEOWNERS.

Last year, the Rosen Consulting Group released a report outlining the benefits of homeownership. In that report, they explained what an increase in net worth – which they call the “wealth effect” – means to the economy: “In economic literature, the wealth effect is a term used to describe the fact that individuals have a tendency to increase their spending habits when their actual or perceived wealth increases. For homeowners, the latent savings achieved by building equity in their home and the growth in home values over time both contribute to increased net worth. Through the wealth effect, this in turn translates to households having a greater ability and willingness to spend money across a wide range of other types of goods and services that spur business activity and provide a positive multiplier effect that creates jobs and income throughout the economy.”

Homeownership builds wealth through equity, and this creates a positive impact for homeowners and their communities. Contact your local real estate professional today if you’re ready to invest in a home of your own.

Elizabeth's Tips August 26, 2021

Tips on the Real Estate Closing Process

Before you sign on the dotted lines, ask yourself these six crucial questions.

1. WHAT AM I BUYING?

Make sure you have done your due diligence and inspected the property thoroughly. This could be the biggest investment you ever make (emotionally as well as financially) so know what you are getting yourself into before you seal the deal.

2. WHAT SORT OF LOAN AM I GETTING?

Before you close you will get a stack of papers ten reams high and you will be signing and initialing every last one of them. Make sure you know what you are signing – is the interest rate the attractive one you were quoted when they were begging for your business? Do you have a pre-payment penalty? When is your first payment due and where do you send it? All important questions to ask and have answers to before you seal the deal.

3. HOW MUCH MONEY DO I NEED?

You may have your loan in place, but you will probably have to come out of pocket to close on your new dream home so where is that money coming from and how is getting from THERE to the escrow account in order to close on time?

Make sure all parties involved have the proper information to wire funds, pick up checks and get it done so your close is not held up while you are already paying interest on your funded loan.

4. IS EVERYTHING TURNED ON?

Have you transferred the utilities into your name and avoided unnecessary costs to have them turned on if there is a gap between you and the previous owner’s shut-off date? Ensure that you have addresses, account numbers and all contact information for the following:

-Mortgage
-Utilities (electric, gas, water, trash)
-Maintenance
-Property taxes
-Homeowner’s insurance

And make sure your escrow officer has all the information they need (such as contact info for your insurance company) in plenty of time before the close.

5. DID THE PREVIOUS OWNER HOLD UP HIS END OF THE BARGAIN?

You may have negotiated some repairs during escrow – did you receive a credit for them and is it on your closing statement? Did the previous owner complete the repairs they agreed to do and are they up to code?

If you have realtor, rely on them to hold the seller accountable.  Make sure you have checked it out before your close as there is very little recourse once the previous owner has your money!

6. AM I AWARE OF (ALL OF) MY CLOSING COSTS?

When it comes time to close on your property, it may seem as if everyone and his brother is waiting for a handout. They are. All these fees together make up your CLOSING COSTS.

These charges can and do vary widely, but don’t be surprised to see these charges:

Escrow fees — Who will pay escrow fees (buyer or seller) is usually decided during the negotiation on the sale. Splitting these fees is common.

Credit check — Yes, you have to pay for your lender to verify your loan-worthiness (seems like a cost they might absorb, but alas, no).

Document prep fee — Again, one might assume that the mortgage and escrow companies could pay their own employees to prepare your documents, but once more you get the honors.

Title insurance — A lender won’t give you any money without guaranteeing its interest in the property. Title insurance covers you in the unlikely event that there’s a blemish on your property’s title history.

Miscellaneous fees — A courier is employed to transport your paperwork from the title company to the escrow company. Money is wired from your lender to your seller’s account. Your lender incurs an underwriting fee and passes it on to you. Count on a few hundred dollars worth of “misc. fees.”

Elizabeth's Tips August 19, 2021

Perks Of Selling Your Home This Summer

The housing market forecast for the second part of this year remains positive, but there may not be a better time to sell than now. If you’re wondering what to consider when deciding if now is the time, here are some things to think about:

1. Your House Is Probably Going To Sell Quickly

Homes from the beginning of the year through this summer are selling fast according to the National Association of Realtors. With an average of just 17 days on the market, this indicates buyer competition. Homes going fast is a great sign for sellers. This is a major indicator that buyers are motivated to do (and pay) what it takes to purchase the home of their dreams.

2. Buyers Are Competing For Homes

In addition to selling fast, homes are receiving multiple offers. NAR reports sellers are seeing an average of 5 offers, and these offers are competitive ones. Shawn Telford, Chief Appraiser at CoreLogic, said in a recent interview: “The frequency of buyers being willing to pay more than the market data supports is increasing.” This confirms buyers are ready and willing to enter bidding wars for your home. Receiving several offers on your house means you can select the one that makes the most sense for your situation and financial well-being.

3. Low Supply, High Demand

One of the most significant challenges for motivated buyers is the current inventory of homes for sale, which while improving, remains at near-record lows. Total housing inventory at the end of May was down 20.6% from one year ago. There are signs, however, that more homes are coming to market. If you’re looking to take advantage of buyer demand and get the most attention for your house, selling now before more listings come to the market might be your best option.

4. If You’re Thinking of Moving Up, Now May Be the Time

Over the past 12 months, homeowners have gained a significant amount of wealth through growing equity. In that same period, homeowners have also spent a considerable amount of time in their homes, and many have decided their house doesn’t meet their needs. If you’re not happy with your current home, you can leverage that equity to power your move now. Your equity, plus current low mortgage rates, can help you maximize your purchasing power.

But these near-historic low rates won’t last forever. Experts forecast interest rates will increase in the coming months. As interest rates rise, even modestly, it could influence buyer demand and your purchasing power. If you’ve been waiting for the best time to sell to fuel your move up, you likely won’t find more favorable conditions than those we’re seeing today.

Elizabeth's Tips August 13, 2021

What To Prioritize When Selling Your House

Today’s housing market is full of unprecedented opportunities. High buyer demand paired with record-low housing inventory is creating the ultimate sellers’ market, which means it’s a fantastic time to sell your house. However, that doesn’t mean sellers are guaranteed success no matter what. There are still some key things to know so you can avoid costly mistakes and win big when you make a move.

1. PRICE YOUR HOUSE RIGHT
When inventory is low, like it is in the current market, it’s common to think buyers will pay whatever we ask when setting a listing price. Believe it or not, that’s not always true. Even in a sellers’ market, listing your house for the right price will maximize the number of buyers that see your house. This creates the best environment for bidding wars, which in turn are more likely to increase the final sale price. A real estate professional is the best person to help you set the best price for your house so you can achieve your financial goals.

2. KEEP YOUR EMOTIONS IN CHECK
Today, homeowners are living in their houses for a longer period of time. Since 1985, the average time a homeowner owned their home, or their tenure, has increased from 5 to 10 years (See graph below):This is several years longer than what used to be the historical norm. The side effect, however, is when you stay in one place for so long, you may get even more emotionally attached to your space. If it’s the first home you purchased or the house where your children grew up, it very likely means something extra special to you. Every room has memories, and it’s hard to detach from that sentimental value.

For some homeowners, that connection makes it even harder to separate the emotional value of the house from the fair market price. That’s why you need a real estate professional to help you with the negotiations along the way.

3. STAGE YOUR HOUSE PROPERLY
We’re generally quite proud of our décor and how we’ve customized our houses to make them our own unique homes. However, not all buyers will feel the same way about your design and personal touches. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you stage your house with the buyer in mind.

Buyers want to envision themselves in the space so it truly feels like it could be their own. They need to see themselves inside with their furniture and keepsakes – not your pictures and decorations. Stage, clean, and declutter so they can visualize their own dreams as they walk through each room. A real estate professional can help you with tips to get your home ready to stage and sell.