Top tips for House Hunting online

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Hunting for a new home online is a great place to start your search, but it should not be your end all be all. Good listing agents are excellent at highlighting the best features of the home, but keep in mind there may be more than meets the eye. To make the most of your time and efforts and gather a well-rounded picture of home listings online, keep the following three things in mind.

  1. Stay up to date. When you start your search, make sure you find a site that pulls up-to-date listings directly from the multiple listing service (MLS) where real estate agents actively post their most current homes for sale. Many online resources update less often or fail to remove listings that are off the market, making it more difficult to sort through the clutter.
  2. Pictures can be deceiving. Real estate photographers are experts at showing a home in the best possible light. Many use tools and strategies to boost appeal, such as a fisheye lens to make areas look larger and creative editing to make colors and textures really pop. But, often listings will not contain photos of unappealing parts of the home, like small closets or outdated bathrooms.
  3. See it to believe it. Once you find what appears to be your dream home online, call up your real estate agent and schedule a showing. You want to take the opportunity to vet the home in person and explore every part of it before beginning the offer process. Your real estate agent will help you cover all your bases and will ask questions you may not have thought of.

Give us a call today; we are happy to lead you in the right direction. We have an app to make you your home search efficient & simple!!

Kevin and Jennifer Hanley, REALTORS Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Partners Southside 904-515-2479 http://www.HanleyHomeTeam.com


The difference between Home Warranty & Home Insurance

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When purchasing a new home, it’s important to do in-depth research on all facets of the homebuying process. One thing you’ll need to understand is how to best protect yourself and your investment if anything were to go wrong. Check out the information on home insurance versus home warranty below to educate yourself on your options.

Home Insurance

Homeowners insurance pays for any accidental damages and loss that are caused by fire, lightning strikes, windstorms, and hail, however, damage from earthquakes and floods is typically not covered. It also covers the replacement of personal property in case of theft or damage and liability if a person were to get injured in your home or on your property. According to American Home Shield, the average annual cost of a homeowner’s insurance policy ranges between $300 and $1,000 and the bank usually asks you to obtain a policy before the mortgage is issued. Make sure to keep in mind that each type of coverage in the policy is subject to a limit and, in most cases, you will have to pay a deductible.

Home Warranty

A home warranty is designed to cover the cost of repairs and replacements of larger appliances and crucial systems in your home that may fail or break due to age and wear and tear. This includes but isn’t limited to HVAC, electrical, or plumbing components, kitchen appliances, and your washer and dryer. With a home warranty, you are required to pay premiums year-round, even if you do not use it, and it won’t cover damages if appliances were not maintained properly or if the damage is from a fire or other disaster.

Give us a call today; we are happy to lead you in the right direction.

Kevin and Jennifer Hanley, REALTORS Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Partners Southside 904-515-2479 http://www.HanleyHomeTeam.com

New Homeowner? Avoid these lawn care mistakes

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It’s easy to take a few missteps when it comes to lawn care, especially if you’re a new homeowner and it’s your first time being solely responsible for your yard and landscaping. Here are a few tips that will help you avoid lawn-related frustrations.

Cutting the grass short. Lowering the height of your mower blades may give you a few extra days between each mowing, but it’s bad for your grass in the long run. Don’t go any shorter than 2.5 inches, or your grass could be starved for sunlight.

Watch where your dog urinates. Finally out of an apartment and ready to let the dog into the back yard when it’s time to go? You might regret it. Your pets’ urine can kill your plants and grass. Try to train your dog to go in one spot, preferably in stone or gravel.

Be careful with fertilizer. Fertilizing your lawn isn’t as simple as picking up any bag at a local store. Choosing the wrong fertilizer, using too much, or ignoring the instructions is a recipe for disaster. Do plenty of research or ask a professional if you need help choosing.

Give your plants room to breathe. The nutrients in soil are a finite resource, and your plants and shrubs also need their fair share of water and sunlight. If you plant your shrubs, trees, and flowers too close together, they’ll have to compete for those resources and may become malnourished. Pay attention to the planting recommendations for each plant to make sure that they have the proper space to thrive.

Kevin and Jennifer Hanley, REALTORS Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Partners Southside 904-515-2479 http://www.HanleyHomeTeam.com

Be a better landlord

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Rental properties are one of the best ways to earn passive income and build wealth, but “passive” is a little misleading—it can still be a substantial amount of work. However, with a little planning and dedication, you can run your properties efficiently while also keeping your tenants happy.

Treat it like a business
Successful businesses have plans and procedures that keep things running smoothly, and the same should be true for renting and managing your properties. That means committing to customer service, outsourcing work appropriately, and paying close attention to income and expenses. Don’t just assume that you’ll collect a check each month and everything else will be a breeze.

Thoroughly vet your tenants
Collecting applications, interviewing tenants, and checking references means a lot of legwork up front, but it’s worth it in the long run. Choosing the right tenant could mean going years without incident—no late payments, no legal issues, and no property damage. Choosing the wrong tenant could mean monthly calls and visits to collect late rent, expensive property damage and repairs, eviction processes, court dates, and a whole lot of stress.

Make sure your lease is rock solid
Lease agreement laws vary from state to state, so don’t cut corners—find a lawyer who specializes in lease agreements. You’ll be glad you were thorough if you ever have legal issues with a tenant.

Are you ready to purchase an investment property? We can help! Give us a call today; we are happy to lead you in the right direction.

Kevin and Jennifer Hanley, REALTORS Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Partners Southside 904-515-2479 http://www.HanleyHomeTeam.com

How can you refinance your Home Renovation?

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Outdated kitchen. Overrun backyard. Unusable basement space. If you have a home renovation project on the mind, the first thing you have to consider is how you are going to finance it. Here are the most common options to make your dreams become a reality.

Cash. Paying in cash is the most straightforward financing option, just save until you have enough money to cover the expenses. This will help eliminate spending outside your budget; however, it can also extend your timeline.

Mortgage Refinance. If you’ve been making payments on your home for a few years and your interest rate is higher than current market rates, you may be eligible for a mortgage refinance, reducing your payments and freeing up some money.

Cash-Out Refinance. You can tap into your home equity and borrow up to 80 percent of your home’s value to pay off your current mortgage plus take out more cash to cover the renovations. This option is encouraged only when you’re making improvements that will increase the value of your home, as it can add a lot of interest and fees.

Home Equity. Getting a home equity line of credit allows you to borrow money against the value of your home. You receive usually up to 80 percent of your home’s value, minus the amount of your loan.

Retirement Funds. Homeowners can consider pulling money from a 401K or IRA account, even though they aren’t specifically meant to cover a home renovation. This option might incur additional penalties or tax payments, but may be worth it when making improvements that will benefit them financially in the long run.

Give us a call today; we are happy to lead you in the right direction. Kevin and Jennifer Hanley, REALTORS Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Partners Southside 904-515-2479 http://www.HanleyHomeTeam.com


Home appraisal 101

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Your Guide to the Home Appraisal

You’ve found your dream home and now it’s time to cross all your T’s and dot all your I’s before it’s all your own. And one of the first items on your closing checklist the home appraisal. So, what exactly is that?

The home appraisal is essentially a value assessment of the home and property. It is conducted by a certified third party and is used to determine whether the home is priced appropriately.

During a home appraisal, the appraiser conducts a complete visual inspection of the interior and exterior of the home. He or she factors in a variety of things, including the home’s floor plan functionality, condition, location, school district, fixtures, lot size, and more. An upward adjustment is generally made if the home has a deck, a view, or a large yard. The appraiser will also compare the home to several similar homes that were sold within the last six months in the area.

The final report must include a street map showing the property and the ones’ compared, photographs of the interior and exterior, an explanation on how the square footage was calculated, market sales data, public land records, and more.

After it is complete, the lender uses the information found to ensure that the property is worth the amount they are investing. This is a safe-guard for the lender as the home acts as collateral for the mortgage. If the buyer defaults on the mortgage and goes into foreclosure, the lender generally sells the home to recover the money borrowed.

Give us a call today; we are happy to lead you in the right direction. Kevin and Jennifer Hanley, REALTORS.

Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Partners Southside 904-515-2479 http://www.HanleyHomeTeam.com


Townhouse vs. Condo, which should you buy?

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Whether it’s your first time buying or you just want to purchase something smaller, townhouses and condos are both great options. Check out the differences between the two to help aid you in your search!

Condominiums

Condominiums are similar to apartments in that you purchase an individual unit inside of a larger building, but not the property it sits on. This generally includes access to the building’s amenities, such as the clubhouse, pool, and gym. However, condo owners are not responsible for the upkeep and repair of these common areas. Because of the number of shared spaces, living in a condo often allows for meeting new people and building a strong sense of community. There is a fairly similar vetting process for loan approval as for a full-sized home; however, the lender will also look at the health of the condo association.

Townhouses

Those who purchase a townhome are generally purchasing the complete unit, both inside and out, including the land it sits on. This might also include the driveway, yard, or roof. Traditionally, these units are two- or three-stories tall and may also include common areas like pools and parks. Townhome owners pay a fee to a homeowners association every month and the loan process is the same as buying a full-sized home.

Which is the best choice?

Both townhomes and condos offer less maintenance than a traditional home and generally offer great shared areas. Your decision ultimately comes down to you and your family’s needs and wants. Things you’ll want to take into consideration include location, lifestyle, family growth, and price.

Give us a call today; we are happy to lead you in the right direction.

Kevin and Jennifer Hanley, REALTORS Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Partners Southside 904-515-2479 http://www.HanleyHomeTeam.com


Dispelling Refinancing Myths

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“Refinancing” is a scary word for many people, but that shouldn’t be the case for you. For many homeowners, refinancing can not only lower your monthly payments and help with your monthly budget, but it can save you thousands of dollars in the long run.

YOU’RE NOT TOO LATE.

For years now, we’ve been hearing that interest rates will be on the rise, and although there have been some small increases, you’re still in a great position to drastically lower your interest rate. The general rule is if your mortgage interest rate is more than one percent above the current market rate, you should consider refinancing.

IT’S NOT TOO TIME CONSUMING.

Don’t brush off refinancing just because it seems like a long and daunting process. An informational call with a lender to see how rates compare will only take a few minutes. There are also some programs for streamlining the application process. And besides, isn’t the amount of money you could save worth the time and effort?


ARMS CAN BE REFINANCED, TOO.

Seeing your Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM) increase after the introductory period can be incredibly stressful and place a squeeze on your budget. Many people assume they’re stuck, but ARMs can be refinanced, just like fixed-rate mortgages. You can even switch to a shorter term fixed-rate mortgage, such as 15 or 23 years. The longer you’re planning to stay in the home, the more sense it makes to look into refinancing.

Give us a call today; we are happy to lead you in the right direction.

Kevin and Jennifer Hanley, REALTORS Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Partners Southside 904-515-2479 http://www.HanleyHomeTeam.com


 

Questions to Ask When Choosing a Lender

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Loan terms, rates, and products can vary significantly from one company to the next. When shopping around, these are a few things you should ask about.

 

General questions:

What are the most popular mortgages you offer? Why are they so popular?

Are your rates, terms, fees, and closing costs negotiable?

Do you offer discounts for inspections, home ownership classes, or automatic payment set-up?

Will I have to buy private mortgage insurance? If so, how much will it cost, and how long will it be required?

What escrow requirements do you have?

What kind of bill-pay options do you offer?

Loan-specific questions:

What would be included in my mortgage payment (homeowners insurance, property taxes, etc.)?

Which type of mortgage plan would you recommend for my situation?

Who will service this loan—your bank or another company?

How long will the rate on this loan be in a lock-in period? Will I be able to obtain a lower rate if the market rate drops during this period?

How long will the loan approval process take?

How long will it take to close the loan?

Are there any charges or penalties for prepaying this loan?

How much will I be paying total over the life of this loan?

Have any questions or are you ready to start your new home search in 2019? Give us a call today!  Kevin and Jennifer Hanley, REALTORS Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Partners Southside 904-515-2479 http://www.HanleyHomeTeam.com

What Is the Best Time to Buy a House?

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Sure, you can consider market conditions. But when to buy a house is really all about you.

Timing determines so much when you’re buying a house. Although the best time to buy a house is when you’re ready both financially and emotionally, there are other factors that can help you decide when to buy a house.

By timing your purchase just right, you can nab a great home that’s just right for you.

What Is the Best Month to Buy a House?

Let’s make this clear: There’s no such thing as a guaranteed “best month” to purchase a home. (C’mon, we never said this would be easy!)

While some conventional wisdom says there is a best time of year to buy a house — during spring home buying season (April to June) — there are pluses and minuses when it comes to what month you choose to purchase a home.

(Note: Real estate is local. Determining a best time ultimately depends on conditions in your local market.)

Here we’ve outlined some of the reasons different months can turn out to be the best time to buy a house for you:

January to March. Winter isn’t such a bad time to buy a house. Though there’s less inventory — meaning there are fewer homes for sale — there are fewer home buyers too, so you have less competition. That means there’s a lower likelihood of a bidding war, which can be a stressful experience for home buyers. Another benefit of buying a house during the cold-weather months: Home prices are typically the lowest they’ll be all year.

Still, there are drawbacks to buying a house between January and March. Inclement weather can also be a challenge, since snow or ice could make it difficult to drive around and view homes or do a thorough home inspection of some elements, such as a roof.

April to June. Welcome to spring home buying season— the peak months for not only housing supply, but also the number of home buyers shopping for houses. Because most families want to move when the kids are out of school, there’s a big incentive to buy a house this time of year, since many home buyers need to allow 30 to 60 days for closing.

The warmer weather also makes open houses more enjoyable, landscaping easier to evaluate, and inspections more comprehensive.

Even though it’s generally regarded as the best time of year to buy a house, there are downsides to the spring market. For starters, you’ll face more competition from other home buyers —  meaning you have to move quickly when a great listing hits the market. Bidding wars are a lot more common, you tend to have less negotiating power, and home prices tend to tick up during spring.

July to September. If you can handle the heat (and a little competition), summer may be the one of the best times of year to buy. Now that the spring home buying craze is over, most home prices return to normal, allowing you to save some money. The sunniest time of the year also makes being outdoors and attending open houses more enjoyable.

The hot temperatures also give home buyers the opportunity to test how well a property’s air conditioning system holds up in warm weather, which is something they can’t usually test during other times of the year.

October to December. The main downside of buying a house in autumn is that there may not be as many homes for sale in the fall as there are in the spring. But it’s not like the market goes completely quiet.

Many home buyers consider fall the best time of year to buy a house because of price reductions. Because home sellers tend to list their homes in the spring, sellers whose houses haven’t sold yet may be motivated to find buyers, and prices start to reflect that.

Is 2019 a Good Year to Buy a House?

Economic forecasts vary every year, but waiting around for annual market fluctuations isn’t the best way to decide when to buy a house. The best year to buy a house is when you and anyone you intend to buy a house with are ready.

To help, complete this home buying worksheet with your home buying partner to help determine if now is the best time to buy a house you can reasonably afford in the location you want. Then take your worksheet to a REALTOR® and discuss your options.

Why doesn’t the year matter much? The housing market and your local real estate market do change, but they tend to change gradually. Even if waiting a couple of years for those factors to change can save you a bit of money, the bigger question is how much more money you could gain in equity by owning a home during those two years.

While everyone’s financial situation will be different deciding when to buy a house is mostly about the timing that is best for you, not when the market is perfect.

Are Interest Rates Good in 2019?

Many home buyers try to time the market by monitoring mortgage rate changes with the hopes of pouncing on a remarkably low rate. But interest rates are like the stock market — no one has a crystal ball that can accurately predict when rates will rise or fall.

Plus, what’s considered a good interest rate is relative. Interest rates today are low compared to what they were 20 to 30 years ago. Mortgage rates reached an all-time high of 18.45% in 1981, as the U.S. Federal Reserve drove up rates in an effort to counteract double-digital inflation. By the end of the 1980s, though, mortgage rates had finally crept below 10%.

Interest rates continued to decrease over the 1990s and 2000s. Today, mortgage rates are at historic lows.

Market interest rates are just one part of how affordable a house will be for you at any given time. Your credit score, for example, helps to determine the interest rate a mortgage lender will offer you.

Then, fluctuations in property taxes and homeowner’s insurance can affect overall home ownership costs as much as changes in interest rates can. So overall, current interest rates play a pretty small role in the best time to buy a house for you.

Does 2019’s Economy Support Home Buying?

Economic conditions are different from region to region and even from one ZIP code to another in the same city, so whether this year is the best time to buy a house can depend on where you are.

One tool you can use to assess the state of your local housing market is realtor.com®’s Market Hotness Index, which tracks home sales and home buyer activity across the country. In addition, the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) measures monthly single-family home sales in the four major U.S. regions (Northeast, Midwest, South, and West).

Still, nothing beats having a savvy real estate agent in your corner to gauge the local market for the best time to buy a house. After all, the right agent knows your local housing market down to the neighborhoods — and can help you interpret the raw housing market data to help you time your home purchase well.

When Is the Best Time in Your Life to Buy a House?

There’s no magical age or life stage at which you’ll know for sure exactly when to buy a house. There are, however, a few factors you’ll want to take into account.

Finances. How’s your credit score? Can you afford to take on a monthly mortgage payment? Do you have enough cash to pay for a down payment and closing costs? Sit down with a mortgage lender who can help you evaluate your finances.

You’ll also need to budget for home maintenance expenses. One rule of thumb says homeowners should set aside 1% to 3% of their home’s purchase price a year for home maintenance and repairs. So, if your home cost $400,000, you’d set aside at least $4,000 annually. (Doing preventative maintenance, however, can go a long way toward staving off expensive repairs.)

Stability. If you’re on solid ground financially, with a stable job to support you, buying a home can be a way to lower your monthly housing costs (real talk: Owning is often cheaper than renting in some cities), gain a valuable financial asset, and, if you itemize, reap some tax benefits.

If you’re ready to commit to a home and city (and your job) for a few years, you’re probably in a stable enough situation to be a homeowner.

Lifestyle: Owning a house allows you to develop a strong relationship with a local community. Buying a home should align with your life goals. If you’re starting a family soon, planting your roots in a kid-friendly neighborhood with a great school district is usually a good reason to buy a house.

There’s also something to be said about the pride of owning a home and having a place you can call yours — one that you can customize to your heart’s desire.

Should You Buy or Rent?

To rent or to buy a home — it’s a common conundrum. Often this is the core financial decision potential home buyers wrestle with when deciding when to buy a house. To sort it out, start with your exit plan.

If you expect to be moving within the next couple of years, you probably should rent. Why? Because the general rule is it only makes sense to buy if you plan to stay in the home for at least two to three years.

Likewise, if you’re not ready to take on the maintenance responsibilities of being a homeowner, or aren’t ready to commit to a particular community right now, renting an apartment likely makes more sense than buying a home.

The local housing market is also a factor in the decision to buy or rent. In some cities, renting can be cheaper than owning, though price appreciation often brings wealth to buyers. Therefore, the financial benefits of owning a home and gaining equity over time is a better way to spend your money than forking it over to a landlord.

Investing vs. Living

The best time to buy a house for the first time is generally when you’re ready to live there long term. Long term, real estate can be a lucrative path towards financial success, particularly if you can nab a low interest rate in the right housing market.

But a lot of factors go into whether buying an investment property is the right move for you, including how much risk you can tolerate and the local economy.

Generally, it’s smart to consider your first home purchase all about you. It’s about investing in a place you can make your own and live your life day to day.

The moral? There’s nothing quite like home ownership. While not everyone is ready for it, if you’ve determined the best time to buy a house is right now, it can be the beginning of the most satisfying journey of your life.

Have any questions or are you ready to start your new home search in 2019? Give us a call today!  Kevin and Jennifer Hanley, REALTORS Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Partners Southside 904-515-2479 http://www.HanleyHomeTeam.com

By: Daniel Bortz / Originally Published: April 18, 2019