Questions About Closing Costs


If you’re getting ready to buy a home, you’re probably focused on saving as much as you can for the down payment. But don’t forget: You’ll need to cover closing costs, too. 

To create a realistic home buying plan, make sure you factor in this additional upfront expense so that you can set yourself up for success.

Are you eyeing a home purchase in the near future? Here’s what you need to know about closing costs:

What are closing costs? 

Closing costs include several fees, including those associated with originating, processing and underwriting your loan, recording the transaction with your county, appraising your home and more. Taxes and insurance are also part of these expenses. 

When do you pay them? 

Closing costs are paid on closing day, once your loan is ready to be finalized. You’ll also pay your down payment at this time.

How much are closing costs? 

The exact amount you’ll pay will depend on various factors, including your location, loan amount, lender and more, but you can generally expect to pay somewhere between 2% and 5% of your total mortgage balance.

Are there ways to reduce closing costs? 

You can reduce your closing costs by shopping around for your lender and title company, asking the seller to contribute, or, in some cases, negotiating with your lender.

Selling a house comes with closing costs, too, so make sure you’re prepared if you’ll need to sell a property before buying your new one. 

Ready to start your home search? Get in touch today.

Smart Moving Tips


No matter how much you prepare and how excited you are about your new home, moving will always be a bit stressful. 

There are endless to-do’s and tiring tasks, and once you’re finished, there’s still unpacking and organizing to be done.

Even so, you can take steps to streamline your relocation and minimize problems.

Are you planning to move properties soon? Take a look at these helpful tips as you get started.

  • De-clutter and donate. Your first step should be to de-clutter your house and donate any items you no longer need. You should do this a few months out — long before you start packing. 
  • Start vetting and reserving services early on. Book your packers, movers and moving trucks early on. This will ensure you get the dates you need (as well as the best rates). 
  • Pack an overnight bag for each member of the family. Think about what you’ll want access to on moving day and on the first night in your new place. Make sure to include snacks, water and anything else you might need. 
  • Get creative with packing materials. You don’t necessarily need packing peanuts or costly bubble wrap to keep your items safe. Consider using hand towels, dishcloths, blankets, socks and other soft belongings instead. (They need to be packed anyway, after all.)
  • Label boxes systematically. Pack items by room and label each group of boxes with its own color (using stickers or a marker). This makes them easy to spot when loading, unloading and unpacking. 
  • Plan for your pets and kids. Little ones and pets could get in the way during the big move, so make sure you arrange for them to stay somewhere safe until you’re more settled. 

Thinking of buying a new home this year? Get in touch to start your search.

Add Value to Your Home with Spring Cleaning

Clean Up the Yard

You never get a second chance to make a great first impression, so make the most of your home’s first impression by cleaning up the yard.

  1. Clear away fall and winter debris such as fallen branches and leaves.
  2. Pick up and put away toys and other items that are not lawn ornaments.
  3. Be sure that all walkways are clear and easy to navigate. If you have broken or misaligned steps, consider hiring a professional to fix them.
  4. Clean the gutters, or hire a professional to clean them. When gutters are clogged, they can overflow and cause water damage to the exterior of your home. If they overflow into a window, the water damage can extend into the interior, as well.
  5. Treat your lawn to a spa day: feed it, weed it, give it moss treatment, and mow it on a dry day. When you know it’s going to rain, or shortly after rain, apply fertilizers for best results.

Clean Up the Exterior Walls of the House

Over the course of a year, a lot of dirt, muck, and grit can collect on the exterior walls of a home—not to mention moss, mold, and mildew growth along brick walls.

  1. On a warm, dry day, wash away the dirt on the exterior walls of your home. Take care not to damage any surfaces, let water get underneath the siding, or dislodge any bricks.
  2. If it looks like there is water damage on the outside of your home, call a professional.
  3. Take the chance to clean the outside of your windows as well, and check for any damage to them. Cracked panes should be replaced and peeling windowsills should be tended to, as well. Once you’re back inside, wipe the inside of the windows down and clear away any cobwebs.
  4. Peeling windowsills are a great opportunity (after removing the old paint) to repaint them with a refreshing new color. Not sure what color to pick? Our blog post can give you an idea on what might be the best color, depending on what effect you want to achieve.

Clean Up the Garden

If you have a garden with clearly defined borders, be sure to freshen those borders up. In addition, give your garden some attention and care:

  1. Fork the soil around plants to introduce fresh air and reveal any pests or weeds.
    • To prevent pests from getting inside your home, check out our blog post 5 Ways to Stop Pests This Spring.
  2. Remove weeds and other unwanted plants.
  3. Add mulch to control additional weeds or refresh existing mulch.
  4. Check to see if any bricks or stones have become misaligned and realign them.
  5. To help your plants grow and add nutrients to the soil, add compost or other organic matter.

If you don’t have a garden but would like to increase the curb appeal of your home by adding some plants, try adding flower pots or hanging plants outside!

  1. Check that the flowers and plants won’t be at risk of dying from a last frost before adding the pots or hanging plants outdoors.
  2. If you want to grow the plants from seeds, consider starting them indoors to avoid losing them to hungry birds or animals before they’ve had the chance to sprout. Otherwise, pick potted flowers and plants you like from your local garden center.
  3. Arrange the potted flowers and hanging plants how you like: on your front porch, flanking your front door, along your walkway, or even in your back garden. The options are endless!

Don’t Forget the Fence!

Last but not least, if you have a fence, inspect it for any damage.

  1. Ensure that all gates are properly attached and that locks function smoothly.
  2. Fill in any holes animals may have dug underneath the fence. If you have a dog that keeps digging a hole to escape, bury a toy, or pursue some other destructive behavior, you may want to check with your local dog academy to see whether training can correct the behavior.
  3. Check for loose boards, rusted wires, damaged bricks or stones, etc. and repair the fence accordingly. If you don’t know how to maintain your fence and find that a section has decayed, call a professional.
  4. If you want to give your yard a fresh look, consider painting your fence a new color, adding flowers along the boundaries, or adding climbing plants to transform your fence into a garden wonderland. Check with your local garden center first on which climbing plants would be best.
    • Beware: climbing plants require a certain amount of maintenance and care to keep them from becoming unruly and overtaking your yard. If they attach to a tree, they can cause serious damage.

Enjoy the fruits of your hard work!

Big Housing Decisions You May Face


Housing decisions are never small. Where you choose to live impacts your budget, your job prospects and your social life. 

And in the future, your home plays a major role in what your retirement might look like (financially and logistically). 

For these reasons, housing decisions require plenty of careful consideration.

Want to be prepared to make the right choice when the time comes? Start here.

1. Should you build or buy? 

Both building a new home or buying an existing one can be good choices. You’ll typically pay more for a new home, but it will likely need fewer repairs and have lower maintenance costs. 

Existing homes, on the other hand, are usually cheaper upfront. They may come with more issues and potential repairs, though.

2. Is it better to move or to remodel? 

There will typically come a time when you outgrow your first house. When this happens, you’ll need to decide whether updating (or expanding) that property is best or if you’re better off finding a new home instead. 

Renovating will come with some hassle and mess, but if you love your location or your kids’ schools, it can be a smart choice. Buying a new property would allow you to change some of those foundational aspects — things like location, school district and community amenities.

3. Is it time to downsize? 

As you age and your kids move out, you might consider a smaller house. Downsizing can reduce your monthly costs, free up cash flow and reduce the amount of cleaning and maintenance you need to do. 

On the other hand, it may be hard to part with your long-standing home — both for you and your grown children. You’ll also want to think about things like your budget, long-term retirement plans, physical comfort and more.

Need help making a big housing decision? We’re here for you. Get in touch today to discuss your options. 

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Fun Bathroom Ideas for Kids

A bathroom designed exclusively for your kids will make them feel special. It keeps them out of the adult bathroom, giving you a private and relaxing space. Choosing the decor for a child’s bathroom can be difficult with so many fun themes available. If you’re looking for inspiration to design a kid’s bathroom, the following ideas can help you get started.


It might be the most common bathroom theme, but that doesn’t mean it has to be cliché. You can do a lot of things for an under-the-sea theme, such as focusing on specific creatures, like whales or sharks, or go with a classic nautical look.


Bold colors, stripes and animals all come to mind when you think of the circus. This can make a great bathroom theme that you can take over the big top or bring a little more down to earth. Use red and white stripes to create the feel you want.


Fantasy can mean anything from dragons and unicorns to a theme based on a favorite book or movie. Take magical elements and turn your child’s bathroom into a fun experience. Colors, artwork and fabrics can be used to emphasize your dream design.


Natural material and woodland animals can come together to create a fun outdoor-themed bathroom. You can keep it simple and classy or turn the entire room into a camper’s paradise. Greens, browns and other natural colors can add to the outdoor feel.


If your kid dreams of interstellar travel, try shooting for the stars. Rockets, stars and planets can give your space-themed bathroom a finished look. Blues and other dark colors are evocative of our galaxy and beyond.

Call us today to talk about a perfect bathroom design for your children.

The Do’s and Don’ts of Dog Parks

Dog parks can be the best, or worst, places for your dog.

Dog owners and their best buddies tend to love dog parks. They can be  terrific places for dogs to socialize, from learning how to be part of a pack to learning doggie social graces. Dog parks are also great places for exercise. However, just like playgrounds for our kids, dog parks hold hidden dangers, such as opportunities to catch whatever sickness might be going around, to get bullied, and learn bad habits.

To ensure that your trip to the dog park is a fun and safe experience for your dog, take a look at our list of dog park tips and tricks. And have fun!

1. Make sure your dog is at least 4 months old and current on all vaccinations. Dog parks can be very dangerous for a dog that isn’t fully vaccinated or is too young to be exposed to certain infectious diseases and parasites.

2. Assess who’s at the park before you enter. See if the dogs in the park have the same energy as your dog (calm, high-strung, assertive, or submissive) and are good pairings with regard to size.

3. Keep your eyes on your dog at all times — don’t talk on the phone, get distracted by other dog park friends, or read a book. It is important to know what your dog and others around him or her are doing every moment you’re there.

4. Make sure your dog is under voice control. You need to know he’ll come when called, no matter what, to ensure that you can get him by your side and away from any scuffles or quarrels with other dogs.

5. Watch your dog and read his body language. Arguments and fights happen every day, at every dog park, even among the best dogs (just like with kids at a playground). Your dog is likely going to be aware of an impending tussle before you are: if he seems to become nervous, agitated, or on guard, call him and prevent any squabbles before they happen.

6. Remember, it’s the people at dog parks that ensure a safe and fun experience. If you feel like other pet owners might not have appropriate control over their dogs, it’s probably best to take your dog on a walk elsewhere, find a well-attended daycare with the opportunity for your dog to socialize, or just enjoy an afternoon in the backyard.

If you have any questions or concerns, you should always visit or call your veterinarian – they are your best resource to ensure the health and well-being of your pets.

Spring Planting Guide

If you’re ready to get outside and get your hands dirty now that winter is over, there is nothing more rewarding than planting flowers. Planting some annuals that will give a pop of color to your yard is a great way to celebrate the spring. Here is our spring planting guide to give you a few ideas to kick-start your new spring flower bed.


Pansies, or violas, are a great way to add color quickly to your garden. They come in a variety of shades of purple or yellow and can match any outdoor decor. They provide ground cover, generally not growing taller than a few inches, and prefer sun over shade as well as soil that drains well. You can plant them directly in the ground or in containers.


There are dozens of petunia species, all with different colors and characteristics. They can tolerate pretty harsh conditions, except frost. That means it’s best to plant them after you’re sure the last frost has passed. Reds, purples and whites tend to be the most common colors for the flowers.


These flowers enjoy a more temperate climate and are good for either ground or container planting. They are perfect for hanging baskets, which accentuate your porch decor by adding color at eye level. There are many types of geraniums, but the annual flowers tend to be primarily purple.


Impatiens have become one of the most common garden annuals in the U.S. They come in bright, bold colors that can take your flower bed to the next level with yellows, oranges and bright pinks.


This small annual flower is a great choice for filling in bald spots in your flower beds or containers. Most often found in shades of pink, white or purple, it’s an easy-to-keep annual that won’t take a lot of work to maintain.

Are you ready to plan your own spring flower beds? Call us today.

Amenities for a Healthier Home


If your New Year’s resolution is to improve your health and wellness, your home can inspire you to do it. In fact, your living space plays a significant role in your overall well-being. 

A room dedicated to workouts can motivate you to reach your goals. And healthy, clean air and elements inspired by nature can make your home feel more open and calming.

Are you hoping to make some improvements in 2021? Check out these five home amenities. 

  • Air Filtration System: This can improve your air quality by reducing allergens and bacteria. Regular HVAC maintenance can also ensure cleaner air in your home.
  • Indoor Garden: Are you planning to focus on your mental health? Adding a calming indoor garden, a Zen garden or even just a few plants can help. Some plants can improve air quality, too, including English ivy and spider plants.
  • Home Gym: It could be as simple as adding a treadmill to an empty corner or as elaborate as converting an entire room into a workout area. If you’re tight on space, consider compact fitness equipment, like a yoga mat, resistance bands or free weights. 
  • Touchless Upgrades: Faucets, light switches, trash cans and door locks are high-contact surfaces. Replacing them with touchless alternatives can help you minimize contact with germs in your home.
  • Nonporous Countertops: Certain materials are more porous than others, allowing germs and mildew to be absorbed into the surface. Sealing them or replacing them with a nonporous option, such as quartz, may help you reduce the spread of bacteria in areas like your kitchen and bathrooms.

If your current property doesn’t inspire wellness, get in touch today. Together, we’ll find a home that better fits your goals.

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Make Your Yard Safe for Pets

Whether you have cats or dogs — or maybe both — in your house,  you want to keep them safe, healthy and happy. And your home extends to your yard. It is important to consider the common hazards to pets outside your home and learn what you can do to make your yard safe.

Following are ideas to get you started.

Remove Dangerous Tools

Dogs can be curious and can easily get into the tools you leave out in the yard. Make a space to properly store items that you would use for gardening or lawn maintenance so that your dogs can stay safe. Keeping these tools in a shed, garage or basement is a good first step.

Avoid Toxic Plants

Many plants are toxic to dogs and cats. Avoid planting these plants where your pets might decide to snack on them. Some popular but dangerous plants include the following:

  • Lilies
  • Begonia
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Daffodil
  • Iris
  • English ivy

Check with your local nursery to identify plants that are safe for your pets.

Remove the Dangers of Fleas and Ticks

Fleas and ticks pose a dangerous health threat to your dogs and cats. Make sure your pet is on a preventative medication if they will be outside. You also can restrict the habitats for fleas and ticks by removing long or dry grasses and keeping the lawn well maintained.

Install a Fence

The surrounding neighborhood also can pose hazards. Cars, other dogs and even some humans can pose additional threats to your pets. Installing a fence can give your dogs a place to exercise without the dangers of escaping or getting lost.

Build a Catio

The safest place for a cat may be indoors. But if you want to give your cats an outdoor experience, consider building a catio. This is a completely enclosed outdoor structure with plenty of places to climb that will enrich your cat’s experience while also keeping them safe from predatory animals, cars and feline diseases.

If you and your furry friends are looking for a new home, call us today.

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Planting Trees in Your Yard

Planting trees in your yard may not be as simple as heading to the nursery to buy a tree and digging a hole. Trees require some tender loving care to thrive in their new home. The following tips can help you get started if you want to plant a tree in your yard.

Think Before You Dig

The first step of planting trees has nothing to do with the trees at all. You need to make sure the place where you want to plant the tree is truly free space. Watch for underground utilities so you don’t damage your home’s systems or, worse, city lines.

Make a Shallow and Broad Hole

You don’t have to dig deep to plant a tree. They need room for their roots to grow, so a shallow but broad hole is the best bet. If you dig too deep, the tree may not be able to grow properly.

Inspect Roots

Once you have the right hole for the tree, remove the container. Now is the right time to inspect the roots. If anything is growing in a circle, untangle them to make sure the roots will have room to spread out once they’re planted.

Place the Tree at Proper Depth

Look for the place on the tree just above the roots where it begins to flare outward. This is the part of the tree that should be just above the ground. Place the tree at the right depth so that when you cover the roots, this will be the base of the trunk.

Fill in the Hole

When you fill in the hole with dirt, try not to pack it down too hard. Keep it a little loose, but make sure the tree is stable. You can stake the tree, but some experts suggest trees that are not staked can grow stronger and sturdier.

Care for the Tree

Now you can enjoy your new tree. Make sure to fertilize and water it regularly. Using mulch around the base of the tree will keep it healthy as well. If you do all of these things, you’ll enjoy the tree for the rest of the time you live in the home.

Call us today to discuss the vision you have for your perfect yard.

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Spring Home Maintenance Tasks


Your home is an investment — and protecting that investment is probably one of your top priorities. 

So as the seasons change and you start to spruce up and refresh your space, be sure to make time for maintenance as well as spring cleaning. 

Structure and Foundation

Keeping up with essential tasks will help ensure your home stays hazard-free, retains its value, and maybe even delivers a profit in the future.

Here are the top spring maintenance tasks to add to your to-do list today.

  • Check the foundation and exterior walls for cracks.
  • Clean gutters and downspouts and repair any leaks or holes.
  • Inspect the roof, looking for loose or missing shingles, damage to any pipes, or unusual wear and tear.
  • Check for gaps around doors and windows and reseal them.

Systems and Appliances

  • Test smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • Schedule an HVAC tuneup to ensure your system is ready when it’s needed.
  • Clean the refrigerator coils to lengthen your fridge’s life span.
  • Flush the water heater to remove all the sediment that has built up over the last year.
  • Replace air filters if you haven’t done so lately.
  • Clean your dryer vent duct to prevent fires and keep the dryer working more efficiently.

Outside Details

  • Check for termites to stop a damaging infestation as soon as possible.
  • Clean the siding, check for damage to exterior woodwork, and repair and reseal these areas as needed.
  • Check the sprinkler system to make sure all the heads are facing the right direction and do a test run before setting up your watering schedule.
  • Clean up the landscaping by trimming, mowing and clearing debris. You may also think about planting some seasonal flowers. 

Proper maintenance is critical to maintaining your home’s value. If you’re planning to sell soon, it’s even more important. 

Are you thinking of selling your house and buying a new one soon? Get in touch today.

Blending the New and Old

You may have noticed that buying second-hand items has become popular. This practice reduces consumption, and up-cycling can be better for both the environment and your budget. If you have a home that was built in the 1920s, 1940s, or even the 1960s, you may want to preserve some of that history while still keeping the home livable and comfortable.

Here are some of the ways you can blend the old and the new in your home.

Repurpose Furniture

Whether you select hand-me-downs and family heirlooms or purchase worn pieces at thrift stores and flea markets, old furniture can make a real impact when used in the right way. You may not want to repurpose sofas or chairs without completely recovering them, but wooden furniture is more easily refinished and cleaned up.

Up-cycle and Redesign

A trend known as up-cycling uses older furniture and other discarded pieces to reinvent a like-new statement piece for your home. For example, people often use pallets as wood for shelves, small cabinets and tables. Check out local junk shops for items that can be completely repurposed and re-imagined.

Research the Era

Some people can take inspiration from the house itself. Is your home a working-class bungalow built-in the 1940s? Tons of styles can help you decorate your house preserving its history while updating it for modern use. Mid century homes, for example, are popular and people love including mid century design in these spaces.

Create the Right Balance

Ultimately, blending old and new is all about creating the right balance. Using a large statement piece but adding smaller more contemporary elements can give your home amazing personality and make it really pop. Look at the pieces you’ve collected and decide what the unifying theme is and play with that.

If you want to talk about the style you envision for your new home, call us today to learn more.

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Sleep Well with These Bedroom Designs

Did you know that your bedroom could be affecting your ability to sleep well at night? Your bedroom should be decorated with a good sleep in mind. If you’re not getting enough restful sleep, it may be time to redecorate. The following ideas can help you improve the mood in your bedroom to help you sleep better and wake feeling refreshed.

Get a Great Mattress

Good sleep starts with a good mattress. Old or uncomfortable mattresses can place pressure on the wrong parts of your body, making it impossible to get comfortable. You can visit a mattress store or check out some of the new space-age foam mattresses available online to find one that is right for you.

Choose Soothing Colors

The psychology of color is fascinating. Bold, energetic colors such as red, orange or yellow aren’t great for a bedroom. Instead, choose cool calming colors, such as blue or neutral tones. If you want a little color, you can add it with accessories.

Reduce Clutter

A cluttered room makes for a cluttered mind. If you want restful sleep, keep your bedroom organized. That means putting away clothes and ensuring that additional clutter doesn’t find its way into the bedroom.

Keep It Dark and Cool

Light and temperature also affect our sleep cycles. If you want to sleep well, make sure the room is dark at night. You may need room darkening shades if the rooms gets any ambient light from the street. You should also block out light from alarm clocks, computers and televisions when you are sleeping.

If you are ready for a great night’s sleep in a new home, call us today.

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Projects to Finish Before You Sell


Are you ready to make the transition to a new home? Or at least take a few steps to get there?

If so, you’ll need to think about selling your current property, and you’re probably hoping to get the best price possible. 

Renovations can be a great value booster. The right changes appeal to buyers and help you make a great return on your investment.

Here are four ways you might want to renovate before selling.

  • Fresh Paint Job: A new coat of paint is one of the most affordable renovations — and you can even do it yourself. Uplifting colors, like taupe or soft teal, can make a room look brighter. Remember that the more neutral the area, the easier it is for buyers to picture themselves living there.
  • Countertops and Light Fixtures: If you want to make your home look new without undergoing a full remodel, updating the countertops and light fixtures can work wonders. Similar to paint colors, it’s best to stick with simple styles.
  • Break-Even Remodel: Did you know the kitchen and bathrooms are the most important parts of the house? To interest buyers, consider a break-even remodel in these lived-in spaces. If the cabinets and floors are outdated, try low-cost upgrades (like new hardware) so the rooms look more modern.
  • Market Trends: Before deciding which renovations to make, check out the latest trends in home design. Choosing improvements based on what’s popular can help your house stand out to buyers — both online and in person.

Preparing your home to sell is easier with an experienced professional in your corner. To learn more about value-adding renovations, or to start looking for a new property, get in touch today.

Steps to a Cleaner Kitchen

Your kitchen might not be used just for eating breakfast, lunch and dinner. Many families use this space for homework, gathering, crafting and more. Keeping this space clean and clutter-free can feel like a losing battle. With a little planning and some tricks and tips, you can keep your kitchen neat and tidy. Let’s take a closer look at 5 simple steps.

1. Run Your Dishwasher at Night, Empty it in the Morning

Have you ever fallen into the trap of leaving dirty dishes in your sink for far too long? An easy way to handle this problem is to create a schedule to empty and fill your dishwasher. Run your dishwasher every night when you go to bed. Empty it in the morning while you make coffee, tea or breakfast. Then you can fill it immediately throughout the day rather than letting dishes pile up.

2. Assemble Your Supplies

When you begin to clean your kitchen, first get out all your supplies. This will save you time and also help you know where everything is. Have your surface cleaner, rags, sponges and whatever else you’ll need on the counter so you don’t have to dig under your sink to find what you need when you need it.

3. Wipe Down Surfaces

After every meal, wipe down the surfaces of your kitchen. It will be much easier to do each time throughout the day rather than to let things build up. Clean the counters and stovetop immediately. You don’t have to do a deep clean for this step, just a simple wipe with soap and water is enough to cut down on the grease and grime, making it easier to do a full cleaning later.

4. Put Everything Away

If you used it, put it in the dishwasher. If you didn’t, put it back in the cupboard. Don’t let your kitchen counter or table become a catch-all for non-kitchen items either. It’s easy to dump mail on the table to deal with later, but any time you put something off, it becomes clutter and will be much harder to sort through in the future. Have a place for everything and put everything in its place.

5. Take Out the Trash

Don’t wait to take out the trash, either. Some people are willing to cram the trash can full to avoid taking it out, but that becomes a problem sooner rather than later. Instead, when you clean the kitchen after dinner, take the trash out right away. Not only will you avoid unpleasant smells but also you won’t attract bugs, which can become a menace.

Call us today to discuss the features you want in your dream kitchen.

Things To Know Before Buying A First Home

Millenials are getting ready to buy their dream homes. Image Via: Wettling Architects

Right now, millennial’s might have a reputation of crazy twenty-somethings not quite ready to settle down. But, a recent report by the Joint Center for Housing Studies of Harvard University found that “the number of households in their 30s should increase by 2.7 million over the next decade.” Ready or not, the millennial boom is coming.

Whether you count yourself in that demographic or are just a first time homebuyer. There are some topics in the buying process that are essential to know before taking the plunge.

We’ve compiled a list of the ten most important things that everyone new to the housing market needs to know. Look them over and keep them in mind as you start your housing search. You only buy your first home once, so let us help you make it count.

1. Hire a Professional Realtor

Let’s all admit it. Real estate agents often get a bad rap as swindlers. It’s because of that stigma – and the thought of saving a few dollars – that keeps many people from using them. However, listening to the hype may cost you more in the long run.

Your first time in the real estate market can get confusing. There’s lots of legal negotiation and large sums of money are often involved. There is no reason to add on the stress of having to navigate through the transaction alone, especially since if you decide to go it alone. Hire a professional to assist you.

A qualified professional can help you sort through the industry terms that make up the majority of contracts and inspection reports. They do the leg work of setting up showings and act as your advocate during the transaction so that you’re free to focus on preparing for your move. In the middle of all that craziness, you’ll appreciate the extra assistance.

2. Look Realistically At Your Budget

Your budget is the first thing that you need to look at when getting ready to buy a home. After all, it determines which properties you see and you don’t want to find yourself in a situation where you miss out on the perfect house because you’re not sure how much you can spend. Or, worse yet, find yourself falling in love with a dream home you can’t afford.

Budgeting is the way to make sure that you only look at houses that you can feasibly and comfortably. Doing so will help you save time and help you get into your new property much faster.

Sit down and budget your income versus expenses. Try to settle on two amounts: One figure that shows the amount you’d be comfortable spending monthly and another that shows your absolute maximum. You can use a budget calculator to help, if necessary.

Try to figure out exactly how much space you can afford. Image Via: Allen+Killcoyne Architects

3. Prioritize Your Wish List

We all have a wish list for our for our future dream homes. Whether it’s a gourmet kitchen or fabulous outdoor pool setup, odds are you know what you want and exactly how it should look. We’re happy to tell you that can take some your wish list with you when looking at properties, just not all of it.

When it comes to looking at real estate and especially when you are looking at starter homes, prioritization is key. You may not get every item on your list, but if you narrow it down to the features you absolutely need, you’ll likely end up happy with the result.

So make two lists. One with items that are absolutely necessary like the number of – bedrooms and bathrooms in a home – and another for nonessential items that would make you happy to have in a home. Focus on finding properties that check off all of the items on your first list and think of items on the second list as added benefits.

Decide which features - like layout - are necessary in a home. Image Via: Flow Home Staging & Design

4. Focus on Location

As for what should top your wish list, location is absolutely key. If you think about it, it is the one feature of your new home that absolutely will not change. Since you’re unable to alter it in any way, take the time to make sure that it will suit your needs for many years to come.

Before putting an offer in on a property, do your homework. Map out how long it will take you to get to work or school. Check the proximity to all essential spots like grocery stores and pharmacies. Make sure you’re happy with the amount of nightlife in the area.

It may be a good idea to have a few target areas in mind before meeting with your real estate agent. That way, he or she will be able to target your home search to properties that fit your needs.

Make sure you're home's location is one of your favorite features. I'mage Via: Chioco Design

5. Don’t Sweat The Small Stuff

Once you’re finally get to start the showing process, it’s exciting and overwhelming. You’ll be seeing a lot of houses rather quickly. Sometimes it can be hard to separate one property from the other and to pick out the features you like the most.

In an effort to keep everything straight, many first time buyers have a tendency to identify properties by focusing on the small details – a wallpapered dining room or some vinyl flooring in the kitchen. But, continually focusing on the small details can hurt in the long run, if you decide not to move forward on a house because of them.

Instead, every once in a while, try to force yourself to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Is the house structurally sound? Does it require any monumental repairs? As long as those things are okay, small details like wallpaper can be fixed later down the road.

Don't let small details like a lack of upgrades turn you off a house with the perfect footprint. Image Via: A+B KASHA Designs

6. Go In With Your Best Offer

Real estate is one of the few areas where sale price is still up for negotiation. Unfortunately, this means that many people, especially those like first-time homebuyers who may be working on a lower budget, go in to the buying process with the mindset that they can try and score a deal on their new property.

However, by doing so you may actually be setting yourself up for disappointment. If their is another offer on the table, submitting an offer that is far below the sale price will almost certainly put you out of the running. Even if there is no other competition for the property, a super low offer may insult the sellers and they could decide to reject it as a result.

When you’re thinking of what price you’d like to put forward, ask yourself how you would feel if you received the same. If you would turn your nose up at an identical offering, consider going in a little higher. This particular piece of advice comes with one caveat. If you absolutely love the property, go in with your best foot forward. However, if you feel lukewarm about the house, feel free to try and score a deal.

7. Gather All Your Inspection Information

It’s true. Home inspections are optional. Some people choose to skip them to avoid paying the upfront costs. However, especially when it’s your first time buying a home, we do not recommend skipping them. In fact, we suggest you gather as much inspection information as possible.

This is because inspections can often reveal hidden issues like expensive repairs. Plus, since buyers are still able to walk away from the transaction during their inspection timeframe, if you find that the repairs are too much to handle, you will be able to move on to another home that better suits your needs.

However, if you opt out of your inspections, you are essentially agreeing to take the home in its current condition, whatever that may be. If you happen to find a major issue later down the road, it will be your responsibility. Whenever possible, get the information upfront.

8. Keep A Level Head When Negotiating

Once you’re under contract and headed to the settlement table, every decision becomes a negotiation – who will shoulder the cost of repairs, what items will get left behind, even when settlement will be. The best thing that you can do in these situations is to work at keeping a level head.

It can be easy to get over invested in getting your way, particularly when making a decision that you are truly passionate about. But, remember that successful negotiations work on a system of give-and-take.

Stand your ground when you believe that you have a cause and try to do so in a polite and respectful manner. However, don’t underestimate the power of striking a compromise or ever conceding on issues that aren’t so important to you. You never know when that act of good will may be returned by the sellers.

9. Don’t Tackle Every Improvement At Once

This is the biggest mistake that many new homeowners make. While it’s sounds like a great idea to get all of the annoying construction out of the way at one time, taking on too many improvements at one time is a sure way to become overwhelmed with your new home before you’ve even truly had a chance to unpack.

Instead, only focus on the repairs that are absolutely necessary to make your home livable. Then, live in the space for a few months before taking on any cosmetic fixes. Living in your home may open your eyes to better repair scenarios than you had originally envisioned.

Then, when it’s time to tackle those upgrades, take on one project at a time. Remember, presumably you’ll be living for at least the next few years, so you have time to make your mark.

Update the rooms in your home one at a time instead of all at once. Image Via: Jason Arnold Interiors

10. Aim For Resale Value

Let’s be honest for a second: It’s very unlikely that your first home will end up being the home you live in until you become old and gray. In a few years, you may need to relocate for a job or your family may grow.

That’s why when buying your first home you should focus on resale value. While it’s obviously important to find a home that you love, you should also focus on finding one that will appeal to others, if you need to sell it in the future.

As for what counts as resale value, think about things that appeal to the younger generation – first-time homebuyers. Things like proximity to shops and restaurants, curb appeal, and neutral upgrades tend to have mass appeal.

Focus on making improvements that will add resale value to the property. Image Via: Axis Mundi

Buying your first home is exciting, nerve-racking, and downright terrifying all in one. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience and we are here for you every step of the way. We’ve compiled a list of all the thing’s that millennals – and those who love them need to know before entering the housing market. Keep them in mind as you search for your first home and beyond. After all, you never outgrow good advice.

Millennial’s, what questions do you have about the housing market? What are you looking for in a home? Let us know in the comments below. Or are you planning to buy or sell property this year? Reach out today.

Organizational Hacks from the Experts

The age of home organization is upon us. Sorting, editing and retaining joy have become big business for organizational experts around the globe. Marie Kondo’s KonMari Method tells us to keep only those things that bring us joy. The experts at The Home Edit suggest color-coded organization in their signature rainbow pattern.

What easy techniques can you apply at home today to help you stay organized? Following are 4 tips to get you started.

1. Make a Plan

Before you start any organization in your home, make a plan to help you see the final vision. Many homeowners simply start going through their stuff without conceptualizing how it will all go back into the space. Expert organizers suggest making a list or even a  map that will help you know how much space you have and how to use it in the best way.

2. Clean as You Go

If you’re taking things out of a room, storage area, or off shelves, don’t start putting anything back until you thoroughly clean the space. This means dusting, sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, disinfecting and thoroughly deep cleaning. Many people will skip this step, which defeats the entire purpose of organizing the area into more usable space.

3. Use Labels

The Home Edit specifically encourages the use of labels to help keep things organized once your space is put back together. Labels can be used in closets to help you identify boxes of items stored away, such as seasonal clothes, or even in a pantry so you know exactly where specific food items are kept. Labeling prevents you from throwing unrelated items in the same bins.

4. See What You Have

Along with labels, you also should use bins that allow you to see what you have. Clear bins, easily available at organizational stores, will help you keep things neat if you can see what you have at a glance. You won’t have to go through boxes to find out whether you need more of something — you can see what is inside without having to pull the bin off the shelf. Clear bins also help you avoid junk drawers, closets or rooms, which can quickly grow out of hand.

If you are ready to tackle a big home organizational project, call us today.

Make Sure Your Remodeling Pays off When It’s Time to Sell?

Now that spring is here, many homeowners are looking to start a remodeling project. And home buyers look at homes with eyes to remodel after purchase or review existing remodeled spaces and decide how much extra—if any—they’re worth. Others are deciding whether spending money to remodel is a good use of funds, or if it’s better to just save your money.

Remodeling magazine and the National Association of Realtors® completes a cost vs. value study each year. The latest report from 2020 can give you some insight as you review remodeling plans.

Something as simple as a front door replacement will recoup much of the expense, but not all. The study found the national average cost for a fiberglass entry door replacement to be $9,254 with an average resale value of $4,930 making that an 53.3% return. The report also found that a steel entry door replacement costs $1,881 nationally, with a resale value average of $1,294, showing a 68.8% return. So, if you need a new front door, go for it. Don’t expect buyers to repay you for every cent of the change though. Instead, enjoy the new addition and how it makes your home look nicer!

Other popular projects that provide a decent return include a bathroom remodel and major and minor kitchen remodels. Again, though, don’t expect a full return on cost. If your home needs updating, do it to enjoy the update before you have to sell your home.

A bathroom remodel costs on average nationally $21,377 with an average return of 64.0% or $13,688. Similarly, with an average return of 58.6%, a major kitchen remodel (new cabinets, appliances, countertops, paint room/trim, etc.) costs $68,490 and the resale value is $40,127. However, if you go for a minor kitchen remodel (re-facing kitchen cabinets being the main difference between a major and minor kitchen remodel), on average you’ll spend $23,452 according to the national average, but resale will return you $18,206 or 77.6%. So, if money and time are tight, you might consider a minor kitchen remodel for the best return when compared with a major kitchen remodel.

For more information about what remodeling projects will pay off when it’s time to sell your home, give me a call today.