9 Open House No-No’s


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When buying a home, there may be no single event as important as the open house. Attending an open house gives you the opportunity to see, feel, and experience the home for yourself, far beyond what’s possible from looking at photos, taking digital tours, or driving by on a sunny afternoon. The open house is when you really get to find out whether you can see yourself living in the home or not. 

But if you want to get the most from an open house, there are some things to keep in mind (and some costly mistakes you’ll want to avoid). Not only is it possible to cost yourself money at an open house, but in some (rare) instances, a seller might not even entertain an offer based on somebody’s behavior at the open house. 

So if you want things to go smoothly, and want the best opportunity to buy your dream house, here are nine things you should never do at an open house: 

1. Keep your shoes on when you’ve been asked to take them off

No one likes to walk around without shoes on, especially in somebody else’s home. But as an open house guest, you need to respect the seller’s instructions. If you refuse, you might be asked to leave, and blow your chance at landing an accepted offer. 

2. Let your children roam around unattended 

Parenting is difficult, and bringing your kids along with you to an open house is understandable—after all, they’ll be living there too. But when touring an open house, make sure to keep an eye on your children, because, as we all know, they tend to get into things, and a packed home is full of all sorts of interesting items. A good rule of thumb is to just pretend that you’re at a museum. 

3. Loudly make negative comments about the house

We all have opinions, especially when it comes to a house that we’re considering paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for. But keep your negative opinions between you, your partner, and your agent, because if the seller’s agent overhears you, they might not only feel insulted, they’re likely to relay the comments to the seller, who might not take them too kindly if you put in an offer. 

4. Pry into the seller’s personal belongings 

Being allowed into someone’s home for an open house does not give you carte blanche to go through their personal stuff, no matter how intriguing it might be. Opening dresser drawers, touching clothing, pulling back bedding, and rifling through bookcases is a no-no, and violators are likely to be asked to leave. You’re there to see a property, not personal property. 

5. Overshare 

Unless you’re a trained spy, you probably don’t think too much about tempering your speech when chatting with strangers. But an open house is an exception, and you might want to consider what you’re revealing during conversations with (and around) seller’s agents. Even though talking about how much you’re pre-approved for, where your kids go to school, how desperately you need a new home, or that your lease is ending soon might seem harmless, it can put you in a poor position when you begin negotiations, so act accordingly. 

6. Make an offer

Even if you absolutely love the house and would be willing to give up a kidney for the chance to live there, you don’t want to make an offer during the open house. Not only would this be out of the norm, but it would also reveal your eagerness and put you in a position of weakness during negotiations. So even if you’re absolutely obsessed, take a deep breath, step outside, and regroup with your agent and your loved ones before making a decision. 

7. Spend too little time there (if you’re interested) 

There’s no need to spend hours at an open house, but if you walk in and walk right out, you might be doing yourself a disservice. To be sure, sometimes you know that it’s not a fit right away, but if you dolike it, there’s nothing wrong with spending some time looking around and taking in the details. At the very least, it might help you remember the little things that you’ll be thinking about once you start planning to move

8. Lie about your intentions 

Some people like to play games, but there’s really no upside to being disingenuous about your intentions during an open house (or after). Whether you’re just there to look, or are truly serious about making an offer, don’t present yourself otherwise. Not only is it bad form, but word can travel a lot quicker than you might think, and the next time you want to be taken seriously, you might not be. 

9. Show too much enthusiasm 

When we love a property, it can be difficult to contain our excitement, especially if we’re not used to playing our cards close to the chest. The open house, however, is one occasion when you’ll want to put on your poker face and play it cool. If you show too much enthusiasm, the seller’s agent (and therefore the seller) will know that you’ll do just about anything to get the house—and that’s not the position you want to be in. 

We are happy to attend an open house with you! Just reach out – Kevin and Jennifer Hanley, REALTORS 904-515-2479 HanleyHomeTeam.com The Hanley Home Team of Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Partners Southside

Homeownership Still More Affordable Than Renting In Most US Counties


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Most people think that renting a home is a more affordable option than buying. But, as it turns out, in the majority of counties across the US, the opposite is actually true.

According to the 2021 Rental Affordability Report from ATTOM Data, which analyzes rental, wage, and home price data in markets across the country, owning a median-priced three-bedroom home is more affordable than renting a three-bedroom home in nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of counties in the US—even though home prices are increasing at higher rates than rental prices in 83 percent of those counties.

“Home-prices are rising faster than rents and wages in a majority of the country. Yet, home ownership is still more affordable, as amazingly low mortgage rates that dropped below 3 percent are helping to keep the cost of rising home prices in check,“ Todd Teta, Chief Product Officer at ATTOM Data Solutions, said in the report. “It shows how both the cost of renting has been relatively high compared to the cost of ownership and how declining interest rates are having a notable impact on the housing market and home ownership.”

The Takeaway:

So, what does this mean for you? If you’ve been holding off on buying a property because you thought renting was the more affordable option, you may be able to transition to homeownership for less than you’re paying in rent—making now a great time to explore buying your own home. Give us a call to discuss today! Kevin and Jennifer Hanley, REALTORS The Hanley Home Team of Keller Williams Realty Atlantic Partners Southside 904-515-2479 HanleyHomeTeam.com

Among so many things, Dr Martin Luther King, Jr was important to real estate, too


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Fill in the blank…

“I have a _________…”

It doesn’t take a psychic to know what word you chose.

Was it “dream”?

Good chance it was. We all know this line from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous speech. So when we hear those first three words, it sort of naturally comes to mind.

But what many people aren’t aware of is how much he affected the lives of real estate agents, buyers, and sellers.

It was his death that gave Congress the last push needed to pass the Fair Housing Act, back in 1968. It’s pretty involved, but to put it simply…

This was put in place to ban racial discrimination in housing. You can’t be refused the rental or purchase of a house, based upon your race.

Seems simple enough to most people now. A given, if you will. But it didn’t happen overnight. And believe it or not, it still can and does come up.

But guess who’s a big part of making sure this Act is followed…

On the front lines, it’s real estate agents. We’re tasked with making people aware that discrimination based upon race (and many other things) are not acceptable, and they must refuse to work with anyone who wants to do so.

Real estate agents are proud to be a part of this ongoing history.

Today is the day where we take a moment to reflect and pay him respect. It’s also a good day to share some insight into how much more responsibility real estate agents have than meets the eye. He has made us all better people and professionals.

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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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