Choosing your First Home

If you are ready to move out of your apartment, there is no time better than now.  Beginning to search for your first home is an important step to having the ability to build better finances and to live in a place that is comfortable.  If you are considering a new home, there are specific things that you will want to know before jumping in with both feet.

Before you even begin to look at homes, make sure that you conduct your own investigation.  This will mean that you should find the going rates, how much other owners are paying every month, and what you can or can’t afford.  You will also want to see what types of houses are going and what they are going for.  If you know the basics of what is available, it will be easier for you to get exactly what you want.  You should also consider things such as your credit rating and your pay check.  You don’t want to walk into something that is over your head or start to look for something, only to find out that you won’t be able to move in. [Read more...]

Should You Buy A Rental Property For Your College Student?

If your college student is getting ready to live off campus, buying a rental property or condo may be an option worth considering. Of course, with high rental costs and the opportunity to create a tax shelter for your hard earned money, this is a strategy many parents have found to be beneficial.
An investment property is an excellent opportunity to put your money to work for you, and may even help offset some of the income invested into your child’s education. However, there are various factors you should consider before making any final decisions.
1. Long term goals – Although appreciation rates may be favorable, it is important to discern how long you intend to keep the property. Within a few years your son or daughter will be finished with their education, and you will still be left with a property to care for.
Some individuals would rather keep the home as an investment and continue to rent the property out to new students. Additionally, this may be a place that you will plan to use for future visits or football games long after your child is done with school.
The problem with solely relying on strong appreciation rates is that you may not be able to command the price you desire a few years from now. So unless you are prepared to hold onto the property for a longer time period to make the investment worthwhile, this may be something worth reconsidering.
2. Maintenance & management – Next, purchasing a rental property is a big investment, so you want to ensure that your property is kept in good condition. Although your son or daughter may be extremely reliable, you may need to consider other friends or roommates that will have to share in on the rent.
Are you comfortable with trusting in 2 or more college students to watch after your property? Also, it may be required to pay a property manager (especially once your child graduates) to help manage the home if you live at a distance.
Finally, it will be important that you can find reliable contractors to take care of any maintenance hassles and ensure that the property remains in tip top shape.
3. Cash flow & taxes – After carefully reviewing the first 2 points, you may still feel that a rental property for your student is well worth the investment. If this is the case, then there are a few things you must know about finances.
First of all, be sure that you are buying smart. Work with a qualified agent who knows the area and can help direct you to the best deals. They will be able to help you figure out projected rental income and appreciation rates as well.
After factoring in taxes, insurance, maintenance, associate fees, your mortgage, etc. you will want to make sure that you have some cash flow for extra profit and to cover unexpected problems that may arise down the road.
This will also make your investment pay off more in the long run and can free you up to invest in future properties as well. For those who are married, you must be aware that there is a limit to how many itemized deductions you can write off if your gross income exceeds approximately $240K.
Therefore, though it is possible that you can include the taxes and mortgage interest as deductions on your second property, this is something you will still need to review with a tax professional.
Finally, be aware that the property can also be susceptible to capital gains tax once you are ready to sell. Either way, you will still be eligible for some depreciation on your home and to write off a portion of your maintenance and utilities, so there are always good reasons to buy.
All in all, buying a rental property for your college student can be a wise investment for you and your family. We strongly advise that you take time to sit down with your financial advisor and/or tax pro to discuss the options available to you. For further guidance on locating a property, please contact us using the information listed above.

6 Easy Tips to Cut Back on Utility Costs

With rising utility costs and overall living expenses, people everywhere are looking for creative ideas on how to reduce spending. One of these major areas that can have a significant impact on your bottom line long-term is with heating, cooling and electric bills.
Therefore, it is important to take strides whenever possible to help alleviate this financial burden. We have devised a checklist of 6 items for you to review and determine where you can start cutting back expenses and improving efficiency in your home:
1. Maintain your furnace and air conditioning units: This is one area that homeowners can tend to disregard. Yet, just like conducting routine repairs on your automobiles; likewise, it is just important to keep up with these items as well. And it’s only necessary once per year!
In fact, the amount of money you can save in the long run by avoiding more significant maintenance hassles or losing a unit well before it’s time makes this step well worth it. Additionally, you will maintain a higher efficiency and experience cleaner air too.
2. Standby power: Did you know that many items around your house such as your TV, entertainment system, Wii, computer, microwave, etc. are constantly drawing electricity even when they are not powered on?
In fact, items throughout your house such as these typically can account for approximately 10% of your total energy consumption! Simply by having certain items plugged into a power cord that can be switched off when not in use may have a significant impact.
3. Consider investing in a programmable thermostat: Installing one of these can be fairly inexpensive and is extremely useful for families that are always on the go! Simply set the meter to fluctuate a few degrees during key timeframes, and the savings will really start to add up.

4. Decrease your water heater’s temperature: By switching the temperature down to the lowest setting can impact your energy bills from 5-10%. You will still have plenty of hot water and can enjoy some extra cost savings as well.

5. Change you appliance settings: Many dishwashers, washers, and dryers have advanced settings that could also be increasing your utility bills. Consider turning off those extra bells and whistles such as the heated dry, automatic sensor settings, or wrinkle shield. Also, you can wash with cold water and only do larger loads when necessary.

6. Dimmer switches and motion detectors: Another tip is to replace your current fixtures or switches with these energy efficient alternatives. You will be able to consume far less energy and your family will only use light when necessary. Even if you do not install these items, get in the habit of shutting off the lights in any room that is not occupied.
By following these 6 simple steps, you will begin to save more money and consume fewer resources. There are so many other ways that you can improve energy efficiency as well, so we encourage you to take the time to research what may be beneficial for you. Be sure to bookmark our page for regular updates and other free real estate related tips. Also, please don’t hesitate to refer us to a friend or family member! Thanks for stopping by.

Read This Before Buying Homeowner’s Insurance

In order to guard yourself from risk and liability, it is essential to invest in a homeowner’s insurance policy that will give you the protection you need. Although such policies are not a requirement by law, any mortgage company will require this as a stipulation to receiving your next home loan.

Types of Policies

Several types of plans are available that include various optional riders dependent on your particular needs. There are specific policies for old homes, mobile homes, condos, and anything from basic protection to high liability coverage. However, a majority of owners will invest in something know as an HO-3 policy, because it offers protection for both the dwelling as well as your contents that are available in your home.
For example, the HO-3 policy will guard the outside of your property from any of the open perils (i.e. threats or dangers) to your home and also named perils for your contents. However, there will be a list of specific issues that the policy will not protect you from (such as earthquakes or water damage). Uncovered perils may be added at an additional cost.
On the other hand, others may be interested in reviewing the options available with the newer HO-5 policy. This coverage takes the HO-3 a step further by providing open peril policies for both the home and also contents. So essentially you would be protected for more items within your house, without having to prove that damage occurred under one of the named perils.

Other Important Factors

Next, there are liability limits. In the event that damage would occur, this amount would provide the coverage necessary to help restore your home. However, please keep in mind that this is not the same thing as the home’s actual value. There are other things that you need to consider such as the land, possessions, living expenses (if you need to rebuild), or other structures that are located on your property.
Therefore, take the time to assess what type of limit you would need to help cover the total loss in the event of a major catastrophe. Also, be sure to revisit your policy from time to time as the property appreciates, and/or you consider making changes and additions to the property.
Finally, it’s important to review the differences between actual cash value and replacement costs. For those who have a lot of contents that hold a high value, it may be better to consider replacement cost coverage, which could be worth the added price. This will provide a brand new replacement for all covered contents.
On the other hand, for people who are less concerned with replacing everything at market value with comparable items, may want to consider actual cash value protection for household items which will take into account depreciation.
Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg when considering a homeowner’s policy. Other things that can be considered include:

  • Jewelry Coverage
  • Personal Articles Coverage
  • Umbrella Coverage
  • or Liability Claims Protection

Therefore, take the time to schedule an appointment with a qualified agent to discuss your needs and review what else may be available. Please contact us now for referrals and to obtain more information on how you can get started.

Get The Best Price On Your Next Home Purchase!

One of the most important aspects to buying a home is to ensure that you purchase for a fair price. Since there are certain key steps that you must follow in order to make a sound decision, it pays to have a knowledgeable Realtor on your side who will be able to help obtain the best and most realistic asking price for a property.

Determining Market Comparables

For example, one of the first ways that your agent will discover the price of a home is by researching local market comparables. In most cases, they will be able to bring up a list of properties sold over the last 6 months within a 1 mile radius. Properties should also not be bigger than 20% of the subject size.
Additional features to consider would be the neighborhood each home resides in, structural differences, bedrooms and bathrooms, overall condition and other amenities such as a pool, a/c, or garage. Other factors, such as if a particular home sold for much lower due to foreclosure is something your agent can uncover as well.

Houses That Have Not Sold

Next, many homes could be on the MLS for 6 months or longer without ever selling. Others that are comparable could have been taken off the market after not getting enough offers or being listed for too high. This is valuable information, because you may be able to get a particular property for a substantial discount or it may not even be worth pursuing.

Neighborhood Reputation & Appreciation

When it comes to buying a house, this is one of the most important reasons to work with a Realtor. Since your agent will have a familiarity with various local market trends and statistics, you will be able to learn what makes a particular neighborhood desirable and also which areas to avoid.
A lot of things can affect a home’s value such as the school district, crime levels, or even other properties located nearby (such as those burnt in a fire or properties that were a bank sale). In fact, sometimes these factors can even differ from block to block!
Your agent will also help you to assess the appreciation rates for various neighborhoods and future development plans that could affect home prices, so that you can get a decent indication of what to expect down the road. This can be extremely valuable information dependent on how long you plan to live at the said property and the length of time the home may need to sit on the market.

Appraisals & Inspections

After you place an offer on a property, you will have the opportunity to get an appraisal and home inspection as further due diligence. Even with an agent, there are sometimes issues that may arise with a property that could affect the home’s value that you were not even aware of.
Some of these problems could include structural issues, plumbing or electrical, termites or insects, mold or even water damage to name a few. Obviously many of these things could impact the price significantly and would either have to be fixed by the seller or renegotiated to get a fair price.
In conclusion, there are a lot of areas to consider when choosing a home and getting a fair price on a property. Since this is one of the biggest purchases you will ever make, it is crucial that you protect your interests and ensure that you are getting the best deal possible.
In order to get started researching homes in our local area, contact us right away using the information located above. We look forward to serving you as you search for your next future home!

3 Things To Consider Before Listing As FSBO

If you’re looking to sell your home in the near future, you may feel inclined to list it as a For Sale By Owner (FSBO) before working with a Realtor. For many, this is considered one good way to cut back on costs and possibly earn a little more profit on the sale.
However, there are certain aspects you may want to consider before going down this path. Statistically, over 80% of FSBO’s end up being listed with a Realtor at some point. Therefore, it pays to take the time to fully assess whether or not this is the right plan of action for you.

Properly Marketing Your Property

First of all, listing a home for sale can be a very time consuming and difficult process. Unfortunately, this typically is not as easy as posting a sign in the yard and setting up a classified ad in the local newspaper. There is certainly a lot more than meets the eye.
For instance, many FSBO websites will tout that you can obtain a wide exposure to buyers nationally, but this pales in comparison to the results that you can expect from big named sites like Realtor.com, which only agents can post to.
Next, your agent will have a lot of expertise with implementing online real estate marketing strategies that will gain you a ton of locally targeted searches. And in fact, nearly 90% of all searches for real estate related inquiries start online.
Realtors will also have a strong network of both agents and buyers that they work with on a regular basis. This is a business where it pays to network. More contacts equals greater exposure.

Asking Price & Showings

For starters, a lot of FSBO’s will start at the wrong asking price. This is by far one of the most important factors that goes into marketing your home, so you want to do this properly off the bat. But, without being fully invested in your local market and understanding the current trends, it can be difficult to price the home accurately.
As alluded to in section one, selling a home can be a lot of work. Most individuals these days have to juggle a full time job, family obligations, recreational activities, household chores, etc. Where do you find the time for fully investing into the sale as well?
When the opportunity would arise for interested parties to view your property, you would need to schedule individual showings, open houses, inspectors, appraisers, etc., while also trying to stage and maintain your property’s appearance. Miss out on a good opportunity for matching schedules and you can quickly lose interest.

Negotiations & Contracts

If you get to the point where you negotiate with a buyer, it is much more difficult to handle this aspect without a qualified agent. Selling your home can be a very emotional undertaking, so it is easier to set unrealistic expectations, or to even concede on more than necessary when you don’t have a 3rd party buffer.
During most real estate transactions, both the buyer and seller will typically have a set of concessions and contingencies. For a majority of buyers, they will expect to have some type of a financing, inspection and/or termite contingency.
This is set up for their protection, in order to complete their due diligence on the home before moving forward to closing. If other issues are found, this may even been grounds for further negotiation or eventually walking away from the deal.
Or you will be expected to lower the price, fix the issue or offer a concession on something else in order to alleviate the problem. Likewise, you want to ensure that the buyer is not overstepping their boundaries or that you are pressured into giving away more than is reasonable.
In summary, it’s worth taking the time to carefully consider these 3 areas before making any final decisions. If you still decide to take the FSBO route, we sincerely wish you great success. Also, please feel free to share our information with a friend and to bookmark our page for future reference as well!

What To Know Before Buying Your Next Fixer Upper

If you’re looking to buy a fixer upper here are some rules to follow:

  • Pick the right location!
  • Know Your Stuff
  • Make sure you consider the time and cost associated with doing a rehab
  • What are your financing options?

5 Reasons To Use A Real Estate Agent

Working with a true real estate professional comes with a lot of advantages over trying to go after it alone.
By working with a pro you’ll get:

  • Someone with Market Knowledge who can help you navigate existing inventory and get you a good deal
  • Someone with the industry contacts to help you through a pain free transaction
  • To save time! Avoid common newbie mistakes. Plus you’ll be able to quickly focus in on properties fitting your unique criteria
  • A 3rd Party Buffer when it comes time to negotiate. You won’t want too many emotions involved here – having a buffer could make you lots of $$$

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