The Path to Successful Home Ownership

Although statistics may not be reflective of your individual real-estate buying habits, the “typical” homeowner tends to stay put in their home for around a decade — give or take.

One of the few “drawbacks” of being a long-term homeowner is that, over time, you tend to forgot many of the details of the home-buying process.

However, an advantage of buying a home in the Internet Age is the availability of instant information on everything from interest rates and real estate agent reviews to house hunting tips and choosing a moving company.

Your Real Estate Journey

Buying a home can be an extremely satisfying experience… or it can be filled with frustration and disappointment. However, by having a basic understanding of how the house-buying process works, you’ll be more effective at preparing yourself for what’s to come, anticipating what you need to do, and creating a clear picture in your mind of your requirements and ideal living environment. As various thought leaders have said over the years: If you’re not clear on what you want, you’ll probably end up with something else!

The cornerstones of a successful real estate search are knowing your credit score, having enough money on hand for a sufficient down payment and closing costs, enlisting the help of an experienced real estate agent, and being proactive about meeting with mortgage bankers and shopping for a competitive interest rate (and terms).

Staying organized, creating priority lists, and continually educating yourself about the nuts and bolts of buying a home will help ensure that your real estate experience will be a positive one. Even though there may be a few bumps and detours along the way, taking the time to be organized and well informed will help you stay on track and produce the type of results you and your family are looking for.

Although it does pay to read articles from credible online sources, you don’t have to achieve “expert status” as a house hunter and real estate buyer. If you choose your real estate agent with care, they should be able to provide you with the expertise, advice, and professional guidance you need to clear the hurdles and make it all the way to the finish line!

How does one choose a great real estate agent? The ideal way is to get a referral from a trusted family member, friend, coworker, or neighbor. If someone you trust can attest to the service level and results a particular real estate agent has produced, then chances are good that your experience would be comparable. If more than one person you know recommends a top-notch agent, then that creates a “multiplier effect.” In other words, it increases the likelihood that you’ll be satisfied with the service and results this agent provides. If you don’t know anyone personally who has worked with a great agent, there are well-known websites that post reviews, years of experience, and relevant sales information on licensed real estate agents.

Not Ready to Buy a Home?

Buying a home tops your long-range goals list, but are you ready? As a first-time buyer, you have loads of questions and concerns. After all, a home loan is an obligation for years into the future. You want to make savvy decisions and be comfortable that you’ve negotiated the best deal. On top of that, learning all about credit scores, how to pre-qualify and the difference between pre-qualification and pre-approval. And what are options and closing costs?

Fannie Mae, the Federal National Mortgage Association (FNMA) government-sponsored enterprise (GSE) that serves the mortgage industry, knows what you need to know about buying a house. They’ve put together a course for new homebuyers called HomePath Ready Buyer Education Program.

Enroll now

The online course lets you attend from the comfort of your sofa. After completion, a “graduate” may qualify for assistance up to three percent of the closing cost of purchasing a qualified HomePath property. You won’t end up with an education loan either. Tuition is just $75, and Fannie Mae says it could even reimburse your tuition during closing on your new home. Now that’s a deal!

What you learn

Because the course design has new buyers in mind, you’ll learn to determine how much you can afford to buy and ways to figure out what home is best for you. Making the deal and learning about down-payment options will get you on your way. Finally, you’ll learn to avoid the pitfalls, and all the navigate the paperwork required to close the deal.

How long does it take?

The entire course is nine 30-minute sessions, so along with the quiz at the end (no final exam though), the total class takes about four to five hours. Designed to be intuitive and self-directed, you can work your way through the course over a few evenings, on your lunch hour, or even during your morning commute (provided you’re not the driver, of course!).

How you benefit

In addition to the three percent closing cost assistance and tuition reimbursement, your Certificate of Completion may qualify you up to take advantage of the First Look program. By giving first-time homeowners an exclusive “first look” at newly-listed foreclosed properties, this innovative program serves new home seekers and promotes neighborhood stabilization.

Fannie Mae relies on real estate professionals to follow through on the home-buying process. For more information, express your interest in the HomePath program to your real estate professional.

Questions to Consider As You Evaluate Your Mortgage Options

Getting pre-approved for a mortgage may prove to be a long, arduous process if you are not careful. Fortunately, homebuyers who plan ahead should have no trouble obtaining a mortgage so they can enter the housing market with a budget in hand.

Ultimately, there are many questions to consider as you assess your mortgage options, and these questions include:

1. What type of mortgage should I get?

The two most common types of mortgages are adjustable- and fixed-rate varieties. If you understand the differences between these mortgage options, you can make an informed mortgage decision.

An adjustable-rate mortgage generally features a lower initial interest rate than a fixed-rate option. However, after a set amount of time, an adjustable-rate mortgage’s interest rate will increase.

Comparatively, a fixed-rate mortgage has an interest rate that will remain intact for the life of your mortgage. This means you will pay the same amount each month until your mortgage is paid in full.

When it comes to deciding between an adjustable- and fixed-rate mortgage, it pays to look at the pros and cons of both options. Remember, no two homebuyers are exactly alike, and a mortgage that works well for one buyer may not work well for another. But if you evaluate adjustable- and fixed-rate mortgages closely, you can make the best-possible decision.

2. What differentiates an ordinary lender from an outstanding one?

There is no need to settle for an “ordinary” lender as you pursue mortgage options. Instead, you should seek out an exceptional lender that goes above and beyond the call of duty to assist you.

Typically, an outstanding lender employs mortgage specialists who are ready to respond to any concerns or questions. These specialists can help you evaluate a broad array of mortgage options and decide which mortgage best suits your individual needs.

Don’t be afraid to meet with several banks and credit unions, either. This will allow you to assess many lenders and select one that matches or exceeds your expectations.

3. Which mortgage should I select?

There is no one-size-fits-all mortgage that works well for all homebuyers, at all times. As such, you should conduct plenty of research as you explore your mortgage options. This research will enable you to analyze assorted mortgages and lenders and make the optimal choices.

Once you have a mortgage, you can move one step closer to acquiring your dream house. And if you collaborate with a real estate agent, you can receive expert support at each stage of the homebuying journey.

A real estate agent is a must-have for any homebuyer, regardless of the current housing market’s conditions. This housing market professional can teach you everything you need to know about buying a house. Also, he or she can help you examine a vast collection of available houses.

Ready to kick off a house search? Get pre-approved for a mortgage, and you can enter the housing market with a homebuying budget at your disposal.

How to Cook at Home More Often

Many people find it difficult to find the time and energy to prepare meals at home. Cooking at home may seem like another task on your to-do list for the day, but it carries many benefits for you and your family. It not only benefits your wallet, but it will also create lasting memories with your loved ones. 

Meal Planning

Before you make the leap and decide to quit eating out so often, it is essential to prepare for this new lifestyle change. The initial thing to do is come up with a plan of action. Meal planning can ensure your success. Start by planning which days of the week you would like to start cooking on. These days can be reoccurring in your schedule each week. For example, you can cook on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evenings and eat leftovers or takeout on the other days of the week. Pick days in your schedule that are not jam-packed with activities. Once you decide upon the days you would like to cook at home, begin to make a recipe list for that week. Find recipes online and print them out so that they’re easy to access when you’re ready to cook them. If you’re not a huge fan of at-home cooking, try to find one pot meals that can go a long way for you and your family.

Grocery Shopping

After you have your recipes for the week, create a shopping list for those recipes. Try and steer clear of buying unnecessary ingredients that will go bad before you use them. Stick to your list as much as possible. If you’re too busy to find time to make it to the grocery store, utilize the free pickup option that many grocery store chains now offer. 

Fall in love with cooking

A love for cooking may not be something that comes naturally to you at first, but do not fret, before long you will be enjoying the benefits of utilizing your kitchen more. To develop a love for cooking, you need to make it as stress-free as possible. Now that you have your meal plan operating make sure you have the right tools to make it work for you. Look into tools like a pressure cooker or a food processor to cut down the tasks of preparing your meals. If chopping veggies are going to add stress to your prep time, opt for pre-cut vegetables in the frozen food section. 

Make it an event

Food often brings people together. Cooking can become a family activity that you enjoy throughout the week. Involve everyone in the family by assigning tasks to each person and work as a team to create a delicious meal. Invite your neighbors over for a family dinner and get to know the neighborhood. If cooking for a party seems too overwhelming, ask others to bring a dish. 

Once you get the hang of cooking for your family consistently, enjoy the quality time you now get to spend with your friends and family at your dinner table. Invite your neighbors over for your next homemade meal!

Evaluate Several Home Offers at the Same Time

Receiving multiple offers on a residence is a home seller’s dream come true. However, if a home seller faces a tight deadline to review several homebuying proposals simultaneously, making the right decision may prove to be exceedingly difficult.

Ultimately, evaluating multiple home offers at the same time can be quick and seamless – here are three tips to ensure that you can review various home offers and make an informed decision.

1. Consider the Homebuyer’s Perspective

Although you probably won’t be able to find out the identity of a homebuyer who submits an offer on your home, you may be able to learn about the homebuyer’s perspective if you study a home offer closely.

For example, a homebuyer who wants to close on a residence as soon as possible may face a time crunch. And if this buyer has fallen in love with your home, he or she may do anything possible to acquire it.

On the other hand, a homebuyer who submits a lowball proposal may be looking for a bargain. Therefore, this home offer may fall far below your initial expectations, and you should not hesitate to decline or counter the proposal.

2. Analyze the Housing Market

Operating in a buyer’s market or a seller’s market may dictate how you proceed with multiple offers on your house.

If you’ve listed a house in a seller’s market, the number of homebuyers likely exceeds the number of first-rate houses that are available. As such, you may want to accept a home offer in a seller’s market only if it matches or exceeds your expectations.

Comparatively, if you’re working in a buyer’s market, there likely is an abundance of high-quality residences and a shortage of homebuyers. Thus, you may be more inclined to accept a home offer that nets you the biggest profit – even if the home offer falls shy of your initial home selling expectations.

3. Collaborate with a Real Estate Agent

If you’re unsure about how to approach multiple offers on your home, it certainly pays to consult with a real estate agent. In fact, a real estate agent can help you examine various offers and decide which home offer – if any – is right for you.

By hiring a real estate agent, you’ll gain an expert ally who will support you throughout the home selling journey.

Typically, a real estate agent will learn about your home selling goals and ensure you can set a competitive price for your residence. He or she also will host home showings and open houses, negotiate with homebuyers on your behalf and do everything possible to help you get the best price for your home, regardless of the real estate market’s conditions.

Perhaps best of all, a real estate agent is prepared to respond to your home selling concerns and queries. And if you have questions about a home offer, your real estate agent is available to respond to your questions at any time.

Take the guesswork out of evaluating multiple offers on your home – use the aforementioned tips, and you can determine the best course of action based on the home offers at your disposal.

Do you Want to Install An Indoor Pool

An indoor swimming pool would be a pretty awesome item to add to your next home improvement to-do list. Indoor pools have a lot of perks and advantages, such as allowing you to swim at any time and replicate the outdoor experience regardless of the weather conditions. 

Advantages of an indoor pool

Apart from bringing the pool indoors to replicate the exterior experience, indoor pools can give you a taste of luxury living also. Some benefits include:

– You get year-round swimming whether in the summer or winter

– Efficient cost of maintenance because you won’t have to deal with outdoor debris in your pool.

– More natural water: Since sunlight won’t have a menacing effect on the water’s chlorine and sanitizers, you don’t have to use so much of chemicals to keep your pool clean and fresh.

While there are many benefits to owning an indoor pool, here are some drawbacks to also consider:

– Lack of direct sunlight: Indoor pools don’t get enough sunshine like outdoor pools, and this contributes to an increase in the cost of running the pool.

– Increased energy consumption: You have to heat the air space and pool water to prevent unsightly algae growths due to excessive moisture.

How much does an indoor pool cost?

A swimming pool alone typically costs between $40,000 and $60,000 in most parts of the United States and can go as high as $200,000 depending on what features you want to add, your location and many other factors like the dehumidifier system which protects the structure from moisture damage, and it’s not optional. Other factors include:

– The size of the pool – the large the pool, the more expensive it will be.

– The heating system used – this also gets costlier depending on the size of the pool and your location too.

– The type of pool – depending on what kind of lining materials you use, poolside accessories and even kind of pool lights and shower area.

– Accessories like automatic pool covers.

These are some of the factors responsible for the large charge. There are ways to bend around them and fit the project into your budget. You can choose fiberglass or vinyl liner pools instead of the costly concrete option. Automatic covers can also help to trap solar energy which warms your air space and pool, and in turn, reduce the amount you have to spend on maintenance.

Before you start on an indoor pool project, be sure to speak with a general contractor in your area to give you a detailed quote for the swimming pool.

Staging Your Home on a Budget

If plans for selling your home are in the near future, you’re going to want to start strategizing the most cost- and time-effective ways to make your home irresistible to potential buyers. One of the most proven ways of giving your home the edge it needs to stand out from the competition is good photography and attractive staging.

In today’s post, I’m going to share my tips on home staging that can be achieved on a budget and in a short period of time. That way you can focus more time on finding a new home and stop worrying about selling your current one.

Tip 1: Start packing

Before you start worrying about arranging furniture, it’s important to make sure you have a clean slate to work with. Start by packing personal effects into boxes and labeling them accordingly.

Staged homes are homes that look appealing to the widest audience as possible. Having personal reminders, like family photos, trophies, etc., makes it harder for viewers to picture themselves living in the home.

Most of us keep our homes arranged in a way that is convenient to our lives. And. let’s face it–life can be messy. But, when it comes to staging, less is usually more.

Not only will this cleaning process help you reduce clutter and make the home look better for staging, but it will also make your moving process easier since many of your boxes will already be organized and sealed.

Tip 2: Color scheming

Expertly staged homes tend to have one thing in common–a cohesive color scheme. Think of choosing your color scheme like creating an artist’s palette. You want a few colors that compliment one another and that will work together to brighten up your home.

If you have any furniture that appears worn, dated, or that clashes with the scheme of the room, it’s a good idea to place them in storage while you prepare for photographs and visitors.

Tip 3: Decorate sparingly

Now that you’ve packed away your family photos, you might be wondering what to put on the walls in their place. The best answer is often nothing. However, that doesn’t mean the walls need to be completely bare.

For smaller rooms, you can make them appear more spacious with the use of hanging mirrors (just make sure you can’t see yourself in any of those mirrors when you take your photos!).

Tip 4: Don’t forget the outside of your home

The value of curb appeal can’t be overemphasized. The exterior of our homes, along with our yard and driveway, are essentially what we show the world about our lives. Since most home buyers want their house to look nice, fit in with the neighborhood, but have its own unique flair all at the same time. They want to know that your house has that potential.

Furthermore, the driveway and yard are two of the first things people see when they visit. You’ll want to take advantage of this moment by making a good impression.

Craft a Homebuying Blueprint

Buying a house can be simple, particularly for those who craft a blueprint before they embark on the property buying journey. Now, let’s take a look at three tips to help you craft an effective homebuying blueprint.

1. Analyze the Housing Market

The housing market varies in cities and towns across the United States. However, if you analyze the local real estate sector closely, you can map out a successful property buying journey.

Assess the prices of recently sold residences and find out how long these homes were available before they sold. That way, you can determine whether a buyer’s or seller’s market is in place.

Remember, the more housing market data you review, the more equipped you’ll be to understand the current state of the local housing sector. And if you allocate time and resources to analyze housing market data, you can gain the insights you need to make informed decisions throughout the property buying cycle.

2. Establish Homebuying Criteria

Create a list of homebuying criteria – you’ll be glad you did. Because once you know what you want to find in your dream home, you can narrow your house search.

As you put together homebuying criteria, think about where you want to reside too. This will enable you to hone your home search to preferred cities and towns.

Don’t forget to consider your short- and long-term plans as you craft your homebuying criteria as well. For instance, if your goal is to work in the city, you may want to focus on houses in or near the city itself. On the other hand, if you plan to start a family soon, you may want to explore residences near the top schools in your area.

3. Collaborate with a Real Estate Agent

If you’re unsure about how to craft a homebuying blueprint, there is no need to worry. Real estate agents are available nationwide, and these housing market professionals can help you put together a homebuying plan.

A real estate agent is a housing market expert who is happy to teach you everything you need to know about buying a residence. He or she also will respond to any of your homebuying concerns and questions.

In addition, a real estate agent will act as a guide along the homebuying journey. He or she first will learn about your homebuying criteria and goals and help you put together a property buying plan. Next, a real estate agent will help you search for your dream residence and set up property showings. And once you discover a house you want to buy, a real estate agent will help you submit a competitive offer to purchase this home.

For those who want to achieve the optimal results during the property buying journey, it generally is a good idea to create a homebuying blueprint. By using the aforementioned tips, you can craft a homebuying blueprint so you can achieve your desired homebuying results.

Appraisal versus Assessment – What’s the Difference?

Home valuation is one of the tricky areas of real estate. In general, you want a high appraisal and a low assessment. But shouldn’t they be the same? Well, in a perfect world your assessment and your appraisal would be the same, but you don’t want the world to be perfect in this regard. Here’s why:

Appraisal

An appraised value comes from the report completed by a licensed professional appraiser to determine property value at a specific point, typically for a buyer to obtain a mortgage. It is a tool used by underwriters for lenders to determine if the home has enough collateral for the loan needed to purchase or refinance it.

Appraisers compare the home to similar properties in their evaluation. They look for both similarities to find a base value and difference to increase or decrease the value such as the roof’s age, livable square footage, exterior materials, upgrades, and other finished. Using these numbers and other valuation formulae such as the cost to rebuild the home (similar to your homeowner insurance values), and potential income from rental or other uses, the appraiser determines a possible value.

The market value is not the same as the appraised value, however. While it starts with the appraised value, other determiners such as the desirability of the area, or circumstances such as a tornado, hurricane, or eminent domain issues may adjust the market value above or below the appraised value.

Assessment

A home’s assessed value typically comes from the taxing authority for the municipality. It is the method of determining the tax basis (or valuation) of the property. The tax assessment is a percentage of that value that the homeowner pays annually to provide the municipality money for water and fire services, schools, capital improvements to roads, bridge, and public parks and additional essential services.

The amount of the percentage and its designations differ for every taxing authority, so a home in one neighborhood might have a different assessed value from an identical house in another block nearby if the boundary lines for the taxing authority (school district, for example) differs.Some counties and cities reassess homes only when they sell, while others have periodic assessments. And the percentage rates of the assessments change when voters approve various tax levies for a variety of purposes.

An appraisal affects your ability to obtain a mortgage for your home while an assessment relates to the ongoing yearly tax expenses. Since a third factor determines the home’s selling price, the market value, your professional realtor should guide your understanding of how these factors affect your home purchase or sale.

3 Reasons for Home Sellers to Take a Wait and See Approach

If you plan to sell a house, it can be easy to try to rush through the home selling cycle. However, doing so may do more harm than good, particularly for home sellers who want to maximize their profits.

Ultimately, a wait and see approach can be beneficial for a home seller. Some of the key reasons to consider taking a wait and see approach to selling a house include:

1. You can clean your house from top to bottom.

A messy home is unlikely to generate interest from large groups of homebuyers. Comparatively, a neat, tidy and pristine home is sure to stir up plenty of interest once it reaches the real estate market.

If you spend some time enhancing your house’s interior and exterior, the benefits can be substantial. In addition to making your residence more attractive to homebuyers, you may be able to raise your chances of receiving offers at or above your initial asking price.

To clean your house’s interior, you should spend some time mopping the floors, wiping down walls and ceilings and doing whatever you can to make each room look great. Meanwhile, to improve your house’s exterior, you may want to mow the front lawn, trim the hedges and do everything possible to ensure your house has plenty of curb appeal.

2. You can conduct a comprehensive home appraisal.

A home seller who immediately adds a residence to the real estate market might not understand what his or her house is worth based on the current housing market’s conditions. As such, this home seller risks pricing his or her house too high or too low.

Conversely, if you perform a home appraisal, you can set a competitive price for your residence from day one. This appraisal also will enable you to identify your home’s strengths and weaknesses and find ways to transform assorted weaknesses into strengths.

Employ an experienced home appraiser to evaluate your house – you’ll be glad you did. With a top-notch home appraiser at your side, you can receive the expert insights that you need to price your house appropriately.

3. You can discover the right real estate agent.

When it comes to selling a house, why should you be forced to work with an inferior real estate agent? Unfortunately, if you rush to add your residence to the real estate market, you may select the first real estate agent that you meet. And in this scenario, you risk making a poor choice.

On the other hand, a home seller who takes a wait and see approach can spend some time evaluating many real estate agents. Then, this home seller can make an informed selection and increase his or her chances of enjoying a successful home selling experience.

There is no reason to hurry through the home selling journey. Instead, deploy a wait and see approach, and you should have no trouble remaining patient and capitalizing on the right opportunities to maximize the value of your house.