Advice for First-Time Home Buyers

Getting ready to buy your first home can be daunting. But understanding every step of the process and a little preparation can go a long way toward helping to make one of the biggest investments of your life a successful experience.

Are your finances in order? How much house can you afford to buy? Do you understand escrow? Are you aware of closing and insurance costs? What about property taxes and homeowners’ association (HOA) fees?

Making the transition to first-time homeownership may seem overwhelming as you learn various real estate terms, provide proper documentation for financing and navigate the many things needed for the home purchase to be approved. While it’s easy to turn to the internet for answers, some issues won’t be easily resolved without the help of an experienced mortgage broker and real estate professional.

In its most recent 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, the National Association of Realtors® (NAR) reported that of the approximately 6 million homes sold in 2017, 34 percent were purchased by first-time buyers. Additionally, 87 percent of buyers bought their home with the assistance of a real estate professional.

If you are considering buying your first home, here are a few points you may want to keep in mind throughout the process:

1. It is important to understand the financial aspects involved in buying a home. For example, you will need to set an honest and realistic budget for an affordable mortgage payment. Compile all the necessary financial documents, including credit reports and scores, save up for a down payment and improve your credit if it is not already rated very good to excellent. According to the 2017 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, NAR reports that most buyers paid 10 percent of the purchase price as a down payment and obtained financing for the remaining 90 percent, while first-time buyers typically financed as much as 95 percent of their home. If you’re unsure where to start, a mortgage broker should be able to help.

2. Consider all the costs involved in buying and owning a home, including principal and interest on the loan, taxes, insurance and inspection costs. Also remember to think about future costs like utilities, maintenance, commuting, HOA fees and possible home upgrades.

3. If you don’t understand a term or know what to do next, always consult an expert. I  can help you find a property, negotiate the deal and guide you through every step of the home-buying process.

To learn more about how to start planning for your first home purchase, contact me at anytime.

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Sellers Remain in Driver’s Seat

The lazy days of summer may be here, but it’s a busy season for the real estate industry. Home buyers are out in force looking for new homes, but fewer “For Sale” signs are popping up in neighborhoods across much of the nation, creating stiff competition for those seeking their dream homes.

This spring’s home-sale numbers reflect the continued housing inventory shortage. In May, existing-home sales decreased modestly, according to the National Association of Realtors® (NAR). Existing-home sales dropped by 0.4% from April and 3% from a year earlier to a seasonally adjusted rate of 5.43 million, NAR reported.

New-home sales are faring much better. Sales of new single-family houses climbed 6.7% in May, the highest level since November 2017, according to the Commerce Department. Construction of new homes is expected to increase 10% this year, to about 1.3 million new single-family homes, but that still won’t be enough to keep up with the growing demand, said Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, in an interview with CNN Money.

Besides low inventory, buyers are facing a gradual rise in loan interest rates, which have been trending slightly higher throughout 2018 and are expected to continue increasing the rest of the year. So, despite the tough competition, if you’re thinking of buying a new home this year, now is a good time to start.

Here are a few more reasons why the summer of 2018 is a great time to sell:

  • NAR’s latest Buyer Traffic Report shows that buyer demand remains very strong in most parts of the country. Buyers are ready and able to purchase, with multiple buyers often competing for the same home.
  • NAR’s Realtor® Confidence Index showed that properties were typically on the market for just 26 days in May, giving homeowners time to sell quickly and get settled in a new home before kids return to school.
  • More buyers are getting pre-approved for loans before beginning their home search, making the selling process much faster and simpler. According to Ellie Mae® Origination Insight Report, the average time it took to close a loan in April was 41 days.
  • With trees, flowers and other plantings flourishing, curb appeal is typically at its peak during the summer.

To make the most out of your summer real estate goals, contact me at anytime.

Kristy Heyne

Coldwell Banker Realtor

kristyheyne@yahoo.com

(925)321-1253

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Moving Soon? Here’s a Great Guide to Help!

Guide to a Stress-Free Move – Five Essential Tips

If you’re new to the moving game, you’ve probably heard some helpful tricks from friends, family and colleagues.  Add these key tips to your mental checklist and you’re well on your way to a smooth and easy move.

Plan It!

If you’re using a professional mover, you’ll want to invest the time to research the company so you can make a well-informed choice. Get answers to all your questions, check out the supplied references, and ensure the firm is experienced and established in the industry. If your move schedule is flexible, find out if booking on a certain day of the week can get you a helpful discount. Depending on the day you select, you’ll need to consider traffic patterns, rush hour and even special events that may affect transportation to your new digs. Make a map so everyone involved knows an efficient route – either the pros or your accommodating friends and family who agreed to pitch in – and that they take the quickest path between the two locations, especially when multiple trips are required.

Mark It!

Label, label, label! Even though you think you’ll remember that you packed the mixing bowls with the silverware, go ahead and write it on the box (the side of the box) just for kicks. When the time comes to load up the new kitchen cabinets – or make your inaugural meal! – you’ll be thankful that you were so meticulous. It also helps to think big: Make sure each box is labelled clearly and in LARGE LETTERS with the appropriate room so movers know instantly where to place it. Use specific terms like “Bedroom 1” and “Bathroom 2” in your labels, then tape corresponding signs to the doors of the rooms in the new house so you don’t have to be available to give directions.

Protect It!

Head to a liquor store and grab some wine boxes that contain cardboard grids. You’ll be able to safely transport items like your delicate drinking glasses. Bonus: These boxes often sport convenient, built-in handles that can make them easy to lift. Also, keep in mind that your sheet sets, blankets and tablecloths can pull double duty: Use them as additional protective material between breakable items. They have to get packed up anyway – why not have them provide more protection to your packed goods?

Document It!

Walk around and take pictures of specific details in your current home so you have a quick reference when organizing your new place. If you like the way your bookshelves are staged, snap a few photos to ease setup. And, it will help take the guesswork out of hanging your new picture galleries too. If your framed artwork or photos are presently arranged a certain way and you plan to duplicate the design in the new pad, why not capture it? This is also a great practice for electronics, so before you box them up, take a pic of the hookups – which cords fit where – to make your computer, gaming system or TV hum and come back to life hassle-free.

Bundle It!

Pack a separate box of the items you will need immediately – such as light bulbs, power strips, extension cords and chargers. Keep that box handy (along with your overnight bag of clothes and toiletries) for easy access. You’ll have one standard go-to spot and won’t waste time digging around in several scattered cartons. And, you won’t want to pack certain items until your actual moving day. Designate one shelf or corner for necessities like a heavy-duty marker for last-minute labeling, extra rolls of packing tape, large trash bags, a few rolls of paper towels and standard cleaning supplies.

Make sure you keep all of these handy tidbits in mind when planning the ins and outs of your next move!

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How to Survive Today’s Real Estate War

A Survival Guide for Spring

Real estate agents are reporting increased showings at open houses, bidding wars, and multiple offers over asking price within days, sometimes even hours.  Basically, it’s a jungle out there.

Before you jump into the fray, ask me to guide you through the process.

As a homebuyer, this time of year and competitive environment can seem overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. As you enter the busiest selling season, here are a few tips for both buyers and sellers that should make the entire process easier.

Buyers, take the time to review your credit score. A sound financial track record and solid credit score may help you lock in a loan at lower interest rates, and try to obtain a mortgage pre-approval, which you may need in this fast-paced selling environment.

Keep in mind your housing priorities, preferences and desired locations when hunting, and remember your budget. Don’t get caught-up in the emotional drama of bidding, and price yourself higher than you can afford. Of course, select and work with an affiliated Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage sales professional who will guide you through the entire process.  A local real estate expert with years of negotiating experience is invaluable when it comes to closing the deal in this competitive market.

Sellers, while homes are selling faster, you still need to do your homework as well.  Do some spring cleaning, painting and sprucing.  Be forewarned that buyers are still looking for a great deal, so ensure that your home is priced accordingly and in good condition. Again, work with a local real estate expert who can advise you on a pricing and marketing strategy.

For those sellers sitting on the fence, don’t try to time the market. By the time most sellers sense a shift, the tables have typically already turned. Focusing instead on lifestyle needs is usually the better option.

For survival guidance during the spring selling season for buyers and sellers, contact me today. While the process may be challenging, I can help lead your way.

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It’s a Seller’s Spring in Most Markets

While it may seem premature to prepare for the spring selling season now, the reality is spring is almost here. Whether you’re thinking of putting your home on the market or planning to buy a home, right now is a prime time to meet with a sales professional affiliated with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage to discuss your options.

Historic low interest rates and rising rents are driving buyers who want to realize the dream of homeownership. With limited housing inventory, buyers are competing against one another for those properties that are priced well and in good condition. The competition is resulting in fierce bidding wars, which can drive-up housing prices.

The message is clear for sellers.  Buyers want your home and they want it now!

To take advantage of this opportunity, sellers should consider acting now.  A sales professional can help sellers prioritize and establish a strategic marketing plan that includes an effective pricing strategy, home presentation suggestions, and a comprehensive approach to online marketing.

A Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage affiliated sales professional can provide a competitive market analysis that includes a review of current inventory, recent comparable sales prices and other data. A sales professional can also direct one on how to prepare a home for maximum appeal and ensure that a property is featured on the leading real estate websites.

Buyers should be prepared as well.  With a lack of inventory, competition for that dream home is rigorous.  Come prepared with solid financing, be ready to make a quick purchase decision, and be reasonable with your offer and expectations.

For homebuyers, a Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage affiliated sales professional can lead you through the process and help you identify homes for sale as soon as they come on the market.  Your sales professional can also negotiate on your behalf.

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Simple Landscaping Upgrades to Attract Prospective Buyers

A home can be modern and cozy inside, but without curb appeal, potential buyers will lose interest before they step inside. An attractive, well-kept lawn is one of the first things people will notice. The good news is that upgrading an existing lawn doesn’t have to take months, and it doesn’t need to cost a fortune. Here are a few simple upgrades to help boost your curb appeal.

Remove Weeds

If weeds have gained the upper hand, pulling is still the tried and true method for getting rid of weeds in a hurry. If the act of pulling the weeds won’t do the trick, you’ll need to attack them with an herbicide. Always use chemicals strategically and make sure to use the correct amount–different weeds require different treatment.

Declutter

Take a stroll around your lawn and pick up anything that doesn’t belong. Take a wheelbarrow if you have a lot of branches, twigs or other debris. Pick up children’s toys and gardening tools. Put hoses away, or invest in an attractive roller.

Overseed

Rake over brown spots to remove dead grass, then spread grass seed. For a more enhanced effect, aerate the soil before overseeding to help break up the soil and allow nutrients to get to the root of the grass more efficiently.

Mow

Taller grass stays green longer than short grass. Set your mower relatively high and take a little off the top every three to five days. Be sure the blade is sharp. A dull blade tears the grass and leaves ragged, brown edges.

Fertilize

Nitrogen-rich fertilizer will green up your lawn quickly, make sure to use the right amount according to your soil and grass type. A little nitrogen is a good thing, but too much may damage your lawn. Limit this trick to once or twice a year. Be sure and water well immediately after applying any type of fertilizer.

Iron is also helpful in turning a drab grass into a lush and healthy green lawn. Mineral supplements can be inexpensive and can be found at your local garden center or nursery.

Freshen up

Refresh any flower beds around your lawn by laying down a new think layer of mulch. The deep tones of fresh mulch will help compliment the more potent hues within the rest of the landscaping, making everything else pop. Fresh mulch is relatively inexpensive and doesn’t take too much time to apply yourself.

You can also consider investing in an inexpensive edger to smooth out and even out the edges of your lawn. This is a quick and easy way to make your landscaping look trim and neat.

Add color

Flower beds and container gardens are a great way to add a pop of color into your landscaping. Plant a few cheerful annuals such as geraniums, petunias or marigolds. Clean up an exterior furniture or give it a fresh coat of paint. Don’t be afraid to use bright, bold colors.

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New Tax Reform Law

The new tax reform bill, which was signed into law by President Trump in late December, will be effective for the 2018 tax year. The National Association of REALTORS® has put together a useful summary to help you understand how the law affects homeowners and the real estate industry. Below, I have shared direct excerpts from that summary about a few of the major provisions affecting current and prospective homeowners.

Tax Rate Reductions

  • The new law provides generally lower tax rates for all individual tax filers. While this does not mean that every American will pay lower taxes under these changes, many will.
  • The tax rate schedule retains seven brackets with slightly lower marginal rates of 10%, 12%, 22%, 24%, 32%, 35% and 37%.

Exclusion of Gain on Sale of a Principal Residence

  • The final bill retains current law – a significant victory that NAR achieved.

Mortgage Interest Deduction

  • The final bill reduces the limit on deductible mortgage debt to $750,000 for new loans taken out after December 14, 2017. Current loans of up to $1 million are grandfathered and are not subject to the new $750,000 cap. Neither limit is indexed for inflation.
  • Homeowners may refinance debts existing on December 14, 2017 up to $1 million and still deduct the interest, so long as the new loan does not exceed the amount of the mortgage being refinanced.
  • The final bill repeals the deduction for interest paid on home equity debt through December 31, 2025. Interest is still deductible on home equity loans (second mortgages) if the proceeds are used to substantially improve the residence.
  • Interest remains deductible on second homes, but subject to the $1 million/$750,000 limits.

Deduction for State and Local Taxes

  • The final bill allows an itemized deduction of up to $10,000 for the total of state and local property taxes and income or sales taxes. This $10,000 limit applies for both single and married filers and is not indexed for inflation.
  • The final bill also specifically precludes the deduction of 2018 state and local income taxes prepaid in 2017.

Standard Deduction

  • The final bill provides a standard deduction of $12,000 for single individuals and $24,000 for joint returns. The new standard deduction is not indexed for inflation.

None of the information in the NAR report is intended as tax advice, so please consult your tax adviser for additional guidance. 

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