Before Taking on a Fixer-Upper Right Now Consider These Current Issues

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With the inventory of homes so low, some buyers are binge-watching HGTV and beginning to consider buying a fixer-upper. Fixing up a property can be a fun, fulfilling experience for many homeowners. But fixer-uppers can be challenging in the best of times—and with some of the challenges in today’s market, this doesn’t exactly qualify as “the best of times.”

recent article from realtor.com outlined some of the reasons why now might not be the best time to buy a fixer-upper property, including:

  • Material costs are high… The pandemic has created a high demand for home renovations, which has sent the prices for materials through the roof, doubling—or even tripling—in many cases. So, the renovations that you need to make on a fixer-upper property? They’re likely to cost significantly more than they would have at this time last year.
  • …and crews are busy. The demand for home renovations also has many contractors booked out for months—which means that, if you buy a fixer-upper, you could have to wait a significant period of time to start tackling projects.
  • There’s a higher risk for issues. Any property could have issues you don’t notice on your initial viewing—but the risk of safety, environmental, or inspection-related issues is much higher for older homes that need a lot of work.

The Takeaway:

Bottom line? There are definite challenges associated with buying a fixer-upper in today’s real estate market—and buying a new construction or a newer home with fewer necessary repairs is probably going to be a safer bet. But if you’re set on making a fixer-upper purchase? Talk to your real estate agent (us!) as we can help you better understand the challenges associated with buying a fixer upper—and help you get a plan in place for navigating those challenges. Kevin and Jennifer Hanley, REALTORS http://www.HanleyHomeTeam.com The Hanley Home Team of Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Partners Southside

What Could 2021 Mean for the Housing Market?

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This year has been nonstop uncertainty. The coronavirus pandemic led to shutdowns and major changes to our everyday lives. Those changes are likely to continue as we head into winter. Cities have been hard-hit, not only in terms of public health, but also economically. 

Despite everything, the housing market is one thing that’s been consistently strong this year. So, what do experts think next year will bring? Will that positivity hold steady, or are we in for a bust? 

Rising Prices
If inventory remains low into early 2021, it’s possible that home prices will continue to go up. The median asking price for properties in September 2020, according to Realtor.com, was $350,000. That’s up 11% compared to last year. Inventory has declined 39% year-over-year, despite a quick burst of new listings in August. Increased demand and a dwindling supply are great for sellers but not so much for buyers.

Sprawling out in 2021

Suburbs Reign Supreme
There has been a shift in interest away from urban areas, as many people are packing up to find homes with more space and less proximity to others. Some of the most popular areas in 2020 have included Colorado Springs, CO; Reynoldsburg, OH; and Rochester, NY. We could see continued flight from urban areas to suburbs in 2021. 

Builder Confidence
Despite all of the headwinds and what feels like a barrage of negative information, there is some optimism in housing starts. Consumer confidence was high in September, and builder sentiment similarly seems to be at an all-time high. 

Could There Be Downsides?
While there are some indicators of positivity, there are also potential negatives that could come into play. Unemployment numbers are still high, and rolling lockdowns throughout the winter could cause those numbers to rise. Some predict that foreclosures could also rise as a result. 

When facing uncertainty and anxiety, there’s a tendency among consumers and would-be homebuyers to hoard their cash. Personal savings rates have actually gone up recently, but that means there may be less spending going on, particularly on bigger items like houses. 

Finally, while there are some unnerving indicators, we do know with almost certainty that record-low mortgage rates will hold. The fed has signaled their intention to keep rates low for the foreseeable future.

IT’S A GREAT TIME TO BUY OR SELL! Please get in touch today – Kevin and Jennifer Hanley, REALTORS The Hanley Home Team of Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Partners Southside HanleyHomeTeam.com

Why Lenders Use Gross Monthly Income vs. Take-Home Pay

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It might seem strange that mortgage companies use gross monthly income when determining affordability instead of ‘take-home’ pay. After all, it’s the take-home pay that consumers use for their monthly expenses and bills – including the mortgage. But there are a few good reasons why lenders use the gross amount. 

First, it’s universal. Lenders A, B, and C all use gross monthly income to calculate debt-to-income ratio (and thus affordability), so everyone is qualified using the same guidelines. There are a few loans that do take monthly expenses and ‘residual’ income into consideration, but most every other program uses gross monthly income. 

Second, it’s a figure that most consumers readily know. Calculating net income with taxes, deductions, etc. is complicated and can vary month-to-month. Gross income is stable and easier to quickly calculate monthly. It would be impossible for lenders to adjust their loan programs for each individual’s specific expenses and deductions. 

Third, employers report income each year to the IRS, and the amount reported is gross income, not net. When consumers are asked to document income on their loan application, the last two years of W2 forms are needed along with recent paystubs. The gross amounts on the paystubs should align with the W2 forms. Trying to parse net income from these documents is impossible. 

If you’re thinking about buying your first home and want to know what you might qualify for, there’s no shortage of online prequalification calculators to help you get started. Just remember to enter your gross monthly income, not your net or take-home pay, so you don’t short-change yourself. We are here to help, too! Just reach out to Kevin and Jennifer Hanley, REALTORS, The Hanley Home Team of Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Partners Southside – HanleyHomeTeam.com 904-515-2479

Relocating far away? These Are The Must-Know Mistakes To Avoid

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COVID-19 has caused many people to reevaluate their living situations—and, as a result, many of those people are planning to relocate to an area that better suits their needs.

Relocating is always a process—but if you don’t do it right, that process can quickly become stressful and overwhelming.

But how, exactly, do you do it right? What mistakes do you need to avoid to ensure the relocation process goes as smoothly as possible?

video from realtor.com outlined the key mistakes to avoid when relocating to a new area, including:

  • Listing your home before you know where and when you’re relocating. Homes are selling extremely fast in today’s market—so before you list your home, you’ll want to have clarity on where and when you’re relocating.
  • Not researching your new area. Every area is different—and before you decide to relocate, you need to know that your new area has the amenities and features that you’ll need. For example, if you have children, research the schools and childcare options before you commit to moving to a new town or city. If you’re planning to work from home, make sure the neighborhoods you’re considering have high-speed internet so you can do your job effectively.
  • Expecting your belongings to arrive and be available immediately. If you’re doing a long distance relocation and shipping some of your belongings, there could be delays—so if you know you’re going to need an item, make sure to keep it with you and transport it yourself.

New Federally Backed Loan Limits May Help Homebuyers In 2021

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Home prices have been steadily increasing in 2020—and as home prices increased, many buyers found they needed larger mortgages in order to purchase homes. But because there’s a limit on conforming loans, many buyers either had to explore alternative loan options (which often carry a higher interest rate) or look for homes in a lower price range (which, with inventory low in markets across the country, proved extremely difficult).

Luckily, access to larger conforming loans is on the horizon.

On November 24, the Federal Housing Finance Agency announced they would officially be increasing the conforming loan limits for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac-backed mortgages in 2021. Currently, the limit for conforming loans for single-family units for most areas of the United States is $510,400. That limit will increase to $548,250 in 2021—an increase of 7.4 percent.

In higher cost markets (like areas of California and New York), the limit for conforming loans will be higher at $822,375—which is 150 percent of the baseline conforming loan limit of $548,250.

The Takeaway:

What does that mean for you? Increasing the limit for conforming loans will allow buyers to increase their purchasing power and keep up with rising prices—so if you’ve been thinking about buying a home, 2021 is looking like a great time to make a move. Let’s get started! Kevin and Jennifer Hanley, REALTORS The Hanley Home Team of Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Partners Southside 904-515-2479 HanleyHomeTeam.com

Last Minute Tips for Winterization

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It’s not too late to address a few home maintenance musts before winter fully sets in. Here’s a list of last-minute tasks to knock out before you go into hibernation mode. 

Photo by Mitchell Henderson on Pexels.com

1. Check and clean the gutters one last time. As the last leaves have fallen, take time now to make sure your gutters are completely cleared out. Blockages can create ice dams, which will damage your gutters and prevent proper drainage of water away from your foundation.  

2. Check your furnace. If you have a furnace, replace your filter if you haven’t already, and commit to changing it once a month. A dirty filter will increase your heating costs and reduce the life of your equipment. Home heating systems that aren’t properly maintained may be less than 50 percent efficient. If you can spring for it this year, an inspection done by a licensed professional is always recommended.  

3. Maintain your home’s exterior. Trim back trees and branches that are hanging too close to your home. Seal driveways, brick patios, and wood decks. Look for cracks and gaps around doors, windows, and eaves, and seal them.  

4. Test smoke/carbon monoxide detectors This one is easy to overlook, but takes only a couple seconds: hit the “test” button on your smoke/carbon monoxide detector. If the alarm sounds — you’re good to go. If not, replace the batteries and test again. Replace your smoke detector if fresh batteries don’t result in a proper test.  

5. Consider an energy audit An energy audit can show you how and where your home is using energy, so you can make simple updates to increase your home’s efficiency – saving you money. Home energy audits typically range in cost from $200-$400, and many energy companies offer rebates that make them even more affordable (or sometimes free). 

Perform your own quick energy audit by following some of these tips from Energy.gov. Taking these steps will not only lower your utility costs, but they will protect your largest investment, your home, from the unexpected weather conditions ahead. If you have questions about professional services for home energy audits, contact us! Kevin and Jennifer Hanley, REALTORS http://www.HanleyHomeTeam.com The Hanley Home Team of Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Partners Southside

Getting Home Insurance Right

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HOMEOWNERS INSURANCE FEELS LIKE A “NECESSARY EVIL.” BUT IT DOES SERVE A SAINTTLY PURPOSE—TO PROTECT YOU. SINCE YOU HAVE TO PAY IT EVERY MONTH, THE TRICK IS TO PAY AS LITTLE AS POSSIBLE FOR AS MUCH COVERAGE AS POSSIBLE. HERE’S WHAT TO LOOK FOR.

If you own a home free and clear, you are not required to have homeowners insurance (also called hazard insurance). But if you have a mortgage on the property, your lender will require you to carry it. Here’s how to get quotes to compare prices and coverage.

What is a homeowners insurance quote?

A quote is an estimate of the price you’ll pay for a policy. It’ll be given to you either as a yearly, 6-month, or monthly amount. Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples when looking at different quotes. 

A quote will be based on the size of home, location and likely replacement value of the home, condition you want to replace it to, how far it is from a fire house, etc. 

Each company uses its own formula to calculate house insurance quotes, so prices can vary widely. You boost your chances of finding the best rate when you compare homeowners insurance rates from several companies. Get at least three quotes! The rate and amount of coverage can vary by hundreds of dollars.

A quote is only an estimate at the time it’s given. The actual amount you’ll end up paying will not be determined until the policy is issued. It’s usually close to the quoted amount, though.

Who gives homeowners insurance? 

Many companies, including the companies that you might already be insuring your car with. Examples include USAA, Farmer’s, State Farm, Travelers, Wawanesa, Desjardins, Allstate, and many others. 

What do you get from having homeowners insurance? 

Protection in case of damage or loss. These amounts can vary! These are broad averages only. If you get three different quotes, you’ll begin to see what kind of coverages are available for your property and can compare. For instance, if two quotes are similar, but one offers $8,000 of additional living expenses in case of a claim, and the other offers only $6,000, then the first might be a better policy for you (if all other factors equal).

How your price can change…

In addition to the standard coverages shown above, you’ll also need to make choices when you compare home insurance quotes. These choices will affect your price, so make sure you use the same choices when comparing different policy quotes. 

Your deductible. This is the amount you pay out of pocket, before the insurer will pay anything per claim. It’s typically $500 to $2,000 per instance. Choosing a higher deductible will lower your monthly premium payment. If you choose a higher deductible, make sure you can afford to pay that deductible.

Earthquake, flood or windstorm coverage. Standard insurance doesn’t cover earthquake or flood damage, and windstorm coverage is limited in some hurricane-prone regions. If you live in an area affected by these risks, you may want to ask about optional coverage. Flood insurance is required for some properties in high-risk zones.

Replacement cost coverage for your belongings. Most standard homeowners insurance policies won’t pay to replace old items with new ones unless you choose this upgrade. You can ask for more coverage for your belongings (like computers, clothes, art pieces, dishes, etc.). 

Extended or guaranteed replacement cost coverage for your home. Standard policies won’t pay more than your dwelling coverage limit to fix your house. Extended replacement cost coverage will pay out more if repairs require it, up to a specified limit, and guaranteed replacement cost coverage will pay the full cost.

How to get a homeowners insurance quote

You can call a local insurance agent or broker who can give you a quote. It’s often nice to talk to someone who specializes in insurance in your area. 

You can also contact insurance companies online and fill out their online quote request form. 

I prefer talking to an agent, because many of the items in the online forms are not applicable, and you’ll end up having questions. The live agent can help you faster, and often make suggestions you won’t get online. However, it might be wise to get at least one online quote, once you know what you want to be comparing.

KNOW SOMEONE WITH QUESTIONS ABOUT BUYING A HOME? PUT THEM IN TOUCH WITH US FOR HELP. Kevin and Jennifer Hanley, REALTORS The Hanley Home Team of Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Partners Southside http://www.HanleyHomeTeam.com

Homeownership Creates Wealth Even If That’s Not the Goal

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Homeowners who spent a lifetime working, raising families and paying mortgages have a greater net worth later in life. Among U.S. families who own rather than rent, a primary residence accounts for 90% of total wealth – and 99% for the bottom 20% of low-income owners.

Source: Homeownership Creates Wealth Even If That’s Not the Goal

Stage Your Outdoor Space This Winter

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Colder weather ahead doesn’t mean you have to forfeit your precious outdoor space. This year especially, you’ll want to enjoy your backyard or balcony as long as possible. Here are some tips to make the most of your space this fall and winter. 

Clean up ahead of winter
Spruce up your yard to create an outdoor environment you’ll be motivated to enjoy. Take time to clean up and dispose of leaves and fallen branches. For your flower beds, pull out the dead annuals, add compost, then plant cover crops or add mulch. 

Warm it up
Electric or propane outdoor heaters can help extend the outdoor mingling season. With free-standing, tabletop, and umbrella-style versions available in a variety of sizes, there are options available to fit your needs. (If you live in a condo, check regulations first.) 



Use what you have
Instead of putting it all in storage, leave your patio furniture outside. Add some machine-washable covers to give your cushions a fresh look. Circle your furniture around a fire pit and you’ll be roasting (and burning) s’mores in no time. 

Look on the bright side
Garden lighting at ground level will illuminate your landscape, and string lights with clear white LED bulbs can create an inviting ambiance. Solar powered, weather-resistant lights are more affordable than ever and make for hassle-free installation and upkeep. 

Food for thought
Keep the barbecue in working order and your propane tank filled. Grill up some goodies, then enjoy them outside. It’ll be just like a winter tailgate, only cheaper and without a line for the bathroom.
Last Minute Tips for Winterizationdecorative imageIt’s not too late to address a few home maintenance musts before winter fully sets in. Here’s a list of last-minute tasks to knock out before you go into hibernation mode. 

1. Check and clean the gutters one last time. As the last leaves have fallen, take time now to make sure your gutters are completely cleared out. Blockages can create ice dams, which will damage your gutters and prevent proper drainage of water away from your foundation.  

2. Check your furnace. If you have a furnace, replace your filter if you haven’t already, and commit to changing it once a month. A dirty filter will increase your heating costs and reduce the life of your equipment. Home heating systems that aren’t properly maintained may be less than 50 percent efficient. If you can spring for it this year, an inspection done by a licensed professional is always recommended.  

3. Maintain your home’s exterior. Trim back trees and branches that are hanging too close to your home. Seal driveways, brick patios, and wood decks. Look for cracks and gaps around doors, windows, and eaves, and seal them.  

4. Test smoke/carbon monoxide detectors This one is easy to overlook, but takes only a couple seconds: hit the “test” button on your smoke/carbon monoxide detector. If the alarm sounds — you’re good to go. If not, replace the batteries and test again. Replace your smoke detector if fresh batteries don’t result in a proper test.  

5. Consider an energy audit An energy audit can show you how and where your home is using energy, so you can make simple updates to increase your home’s efficiency – saving you money. Home energy audits typically range in cost from $200-$400, and many energy companies offer rebates that make them even more affordable (or sometimes free). 

Perform your own quick energy audit by following some of these tips from Energy.gov. Taking these steps will not only lower your utility costs, but they will protect your largest investment, your home, from the unexpected weather conditions ahead. If you have questions about professional services for home energy audits, give us call before Spring is already here! Kevin and Jennifer Hanley, REALTORS Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Partners Southside 904-515-2479 http://www.HanleyHomeTeam.com

Thinking About Buying a New-Construction Home? These Are The Things To Look Out For

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There are a lot of buyers that prefer new-construction homes, thinking that they’ll be in better condition (and be a better long-term investment) than existing homes.

And while that certainly can be true, there are also things buyers need to be aware of when shopping new builds.

recent article from realtor.com outlined the essential elements that should be on your radar when shopping for a new-construction home, including:

  • Build quality. Not all new-construction homes are created equal—and some are higher quality than others. Before you purchase new construction, make sure you ask to review the home’s architectural plans to check for any issues and get insights on the materials used to build the home.
  • Builder reputation. Before you buy a home, you want to make sure you’re buying from a reputable builder—so do your research and find out everything you can about the builder and their reputation in your area.
  • Upgrade and design options. Many builders offer buyers the option to customize different features in the house (like countertops, flooring, and fixtures). Before you commit to building a new build, make sure you understand the features that come standard with the home, the different design and customization options, and how much it will cost to upgrade.

The Takeaway:

Bottom line? Buying a new-construction home can be a great choice for your next home purchase—as long as you know what to look for during the home buying process.