Are you financially ready to buy your first home? Let's find out!




If you're wondering whether you're ready to stop renting and purchase your first home, we are here to help!

With current interest rates still being low, and the cost of rent in our area increasing year over year, now might be the ideal time for you to take the plunge into homeownership. Some might wonder if it makes sense to purchase a house before they are married and have a family, others might think they are too young, and still, others might think their current income would never enable them to qualify for a mortgage. Not to worry, we are here to help you navigate those questions, and any others that may arise. 

We want to share what the typical first-time homebuyer actually looks like based on the National Association of REALTORS most recent Profile of Home Buyers & Sellers. Here are some interesting revelations on the first-time buyer:

Bottom Line

You very well may be ready to purchase your first home, and start building equity! Every situation is unique, and we are always available to answer questions for you.

8 Costly Home Selling Mistakes To Avoid

The housing market is on an upswing as spring ushers in a new batch of homes for sale. Before you list your property for sale, take a look at this list and avoid these common pitfalls. 



There are a plethora of details involved in selling a property...there's a reason Real Estate Professionals are licensed! Trying to navigate the complexities on your own is a recipe for disaster. The facts don't lie; homes listed without licensed representation spend more time on the market and sell for less. Save yourself the stress, and get every penny you can for your home...enlist professional help.


Finding the correct asking price without overpricing or underpricing your home is crucial. You want to attract potential buyers without selling yourself short. Your agent will go over comparable homes in the area that are currently on the market, as well as ones that have recently sold, to help set the ideal price for your home. 


Take care of repairs before potential buyers have the chance to notice them. If you wait, you run the risk of recieving lower offers, or having buyers ask for credits to complete the repairs before closing. Your home will be more attractive if buyers don't see it as a project. Your realtor can assist you in pointing out any potential problems and giving you contact information for specialists to assist.


Buyers want to picture themselves living in your home and unfortunatley, your family photos and knicknacks take that ability away. Pack up anything that creates clutter to create more open space in your home. You want buyers to think back and remember what your home looked like, not the pile of dirty laundry or the dishes in the sink.


While your space shouldn't be cluttered, it also shouldn't be completely bare. If you've already moved, consider leaving a few pieces of furniture behind to set the stage of how the home could look. 


When it comes to negotiating, keep your head in the game. Buyers will most likely try to not take it personally. Remember, this is a business transaction and both parties are looking for the best possible outcome. Look for a win-win scenario.


Many sellers have lost big money by not being forthcoming about all property imperfections. Being upfront with potential issues will prevent many potential issues that could arise later in the transaction. You don't want a deal to fall apart at the last minute because of something simple that could have been taken care of early on.


Too many listings are uploaded with dark, crooked, blurry or otherwise unappealing listing photos. With over 90% of buyers beginning their home search online, it is CRITICAL that your home looks picture perfect on the web. You and your agent need to work together to take the best listing photos possible; as a seller, make sure to have your home spotless and neat before photos are taken. Take a look at your agent's current listing photos and examine the quality. If you have concerns, bring them to your agent's attention! Showcasing your home in the best possible light is of the utmost importance. 

Home Buyers Series: How To Avoid Paying Too Much Vol. 5


Shop with your head, not with your heart.

What type of home is right for you? This is one question you need to begin answering before you step foot into a home for sale.

Remember the 'Wants' and 'Needs' list you made a few weeks back? It's time to pull that back out and look at it after each home you visit. Check off what items the home fulfills and soon enough you'll find the most logical choice. Be sure to go over this list with your agent as well - the unbiased feedback from a third party can often times help resolve uncertainties. As you begin looking for homes, don't forget the purpose of your list. Shopping for a home is an emotional process. Following your heart will cost you money; using your head will save it.

Home Buyers Series: How To Avoid Paying Too Much Vol. 2


Shop for a mortgage before you shop for a home.


Being pre-approved for a home loan before hitting the market is the smart way to shop for a home. It tells sellers that you're a serious prospect, and you know in advance the maximum mortgage you can afford. Make sure you get a commitment in writing. Many buyers make the mistake of learning what they qualify for without getting a written pre-approval letter from their lender. The good news is that it's easier than ever to qualify for a home loan, and there are many good loans to choose from. Visit our Concierge Page for a list of respected mortgage lenders in our area who would be happy to get you started.

Home Buyers Series: How To Avoid Paying Too Much Vol. 1

Needs V Wants

Know what you're shopping for before you start.

Before you begin shopping for your next home, you should understand that there are two homes out there vying for your interest--the one that meets your needs and the one that fulfills your 'wants'. Ideally, you'd find a home that satisfies both. But, in reality you're going to find yourself confronted with choices. Do you choose the three-bedroom home with room for your family to grow, or the one with the big backyard and deck that's perfect for entertaining? Is having a big kitchen more important to you than a few extra rooms?

When you start shopping, you're going to find homes you fall in love with for different reasons. That's why you should list the features you want before you start shopping. Make a list with two categories--"Needs" and "Wants"--and prioritize the items you come up with. Understanding what you really need as opposed to what you'd like to have will help you keep your priorities straight as you shop around.

Don't let emotions cloud your judgment. Satisfy your needs first. If you find a home that meets your needs and fulfills some of your desires, great! Jump on it. The important thing is to know the difference before you get caught up in the excitement of the hunt.

VA Loans Provide Accessible Financing For Veterans


If you are a Veteran, you should know about the special mortgage benefits available to you through the VA Financing Program. Take advantage of this program! It's designed to make purchasing a home as affordable, and accessible as possible.

Here are the four biggest benefits of financing with a VA loan:

1. No Down Payment! This is HUGE, and certainly the defining benefit of the VA program. Instead of having to pony up the usual minimum down payment of 3.5-5% Veterans are given the opportunity to finance the entire cost of their home.

2. No Mortgage Insurance. Conventional borrowers who cannot afford at least a 20% down payment will be required to purchase mortgage insurance which can easily tack a couple hundred dollars onto their monthly mortgage payments. VA loans do not require mortgage insurance as they do not require a down payment. There is an upfront fee, however, that can be completely financed. If you were wounded during service that fee will be waived entirely.

3. Flexible Requirements. The VA program is designed to get Veterans into homes. With that in mind, normal requirements are suspended or made much more achievable. For example, a Veteran will receive full financing even with a credit score 100 points lower than what a normal borrower could get away with. Veterans can even secure financing if they have very recently gone through bankruptcy, foreclosure or a short sale. If you think you're situation puts you in too tough a spot to receive financing - think again! Please visit a lender to find out how they can help.

4. Closing Cost Limits. Unfortunately closing costs can never go away entirely, but the VA puts a cap on what Veterans are allowed to pay. They even make it possible for sellers to pay ALL of the buyers closing costs AND up to 4% of the loan amount in concessions. Keep that in mind when you and your Realtor negotiate the contract!

Thank you for your service. Visit our Concierge Page for a list of lenders we trust and work with regularly to help guide you through the mortgage process.

What A Buyers Agent Will Do For You

Whether you're an old hat at buying homes, or you're just starting the process, you've probably wondered at some point what an real estate agent could do for you. Of course, part of an agents job is to answer questions for you, but there is so much more to it than that. A seasoned professional will take the guesswork out of the process and the stress off of your shoulders.

When you work with Signature Properties, you can expect a higher level of personalized service.

Here are some of the many services we offer our home buyers:

  1. First off, a buyers agent will ask if you've been pre-qualified by a mortgage lender and what amount you are pre-approved to borrow. If you have not yet been pre-approved, an agent will be able to explain the process and point you in the right direction. See Why you need a pre-approval letter for more in depth information.
  2. Listening to your wants and needs, we will work to find the best matches currently on the market in your desired location and in your price range. A knowledgeable agent will be able to provide details on any property that you are interested in, or be willing to communicate with the listing agent to find out any information that is not readily available.
  3. Provide you honest feedback on homes that may seem appealing, but could pose potential problems (such as diminishing resale value).
  4. A buyers agent will help you place an informed offer and negotiate with the seller until you both agree to terms you are comfortable with, or advise you how to proceed if the deal does not come together. This is the time to ask your agent for perspective, as they've worked through hundreds (if not thousands) of contracts.
  5. You should expect advice when it comes to working with your mortgage lender and how the process will work.
  6. Your agent will be a liaison between you, the sellers, your attorney and your mortgage lender. They will be responsible for sharing the contract and any attached documents, as well as coordinating any necessary meetings and, when the time comes, your closing.
  7. You can expect your agent to assist in coordinating inspections and any testing on the property that may be needed. They will review the results of the tests and interpret them for you. If necessary, they will work with you to create a list of items that need to be corrected in order to keep the deal on track, and deliver that to the seller's agent.
  8. If there are documents, such as those from a Home Owners Association, your agent will review them and explain any important points to you.
  9. When the time comes, your agent will explain all closing documents, the amount you will need at closing and how the process works. Coordinating the closing is one of the biggest tasks of any transaction, and a well qualified agent will make sure that you are in the loop and under the least amount of stress possible.
  10. Possibly most importantly, a buyers agent will make themselves available to you at any time to answer questions, concerns and provide advice. They will work as your advocate to ensure you receive the best deal possible and make your transition into your new home as easy as can be.

Are you interested in buying a home? Please give one of our Signature Agents a call - we are more than happy to answer any and all questions, or just point you in the right direction!


Cost Vs. Value Study Finds Remodeling Really Pays Off


If you are considering a home improvement project to boost the quality and appeal of your  home, this list of top 10 midrange and upscale projects will give you the biggest return on your effort when it comes time to sell!

Top 10 Midrange Projects

1. Entry Door Replacement (steel) Job Cost: $1,162 Resale Value: $1,122 Cost Recouped: 96.6%

2. Deck Addition (wood) Job Cost: $9,539 Resale Value: $8,334 Cost Recouped: 87.4%

3. Attic Bedroom Job Cost: $49,438 Resale Value: $41,656 Cost Recouped: 84.3%

4. Garage Door Replacement Job Cost: $1,534 Resale Value: $1,283 Cost Recouped: 83.7%

5. Minor Kitchen Remodel Job Cost: $18,856 Resale Value: $15,585 Cost Recouped: 82.7%

6. Window Replacement (wood) Job Cost: $10,926 Resale Value: $8,662 Cost Recouped: 79.3%

7. Window Replacement (vinyl) Job Cost: $9,978 Resale Value: $7,857 Cost Recouped: 78.7%

8. Siding Replacement (vinyl) Job Cost: $11,475 Resale Value: $8,975 Cost Recouped: 78.2%

9. Basement Remodel Job Cost: $62,834 Resale Value: $48,777 Cost Recouped: 77.6%

10. Deck Addition (composite) Job Cost: $15,437 Resale Value: $11,476 Cost Recouped: 74.3%

Top 10 Upscale Projects

1. Siding Replacement (fiber-cement) Job Cost: $13,378 Resale Value: $11,645 Cost Recouped: 87.0%

2. Garage Door Replacement Job Cost: $2,791 Resale Value: $2,315 Cost Recouped: 82.9%

3. Siding Replacement (foam-backed vinyl) Job Cost: $14,236 Resale Value: $11,124 Cost Recouped: 78.1%

4. Window Replacement (vinyl) Job Cost: $13,385 Resale Value: $10,252 Cost Recouped: 76.6%

5. Window Replacement (wood) Job Cost: $16,798 Resale Value: $12,438 Cost Recouped: 74.0%

6. Grand Entrance (fiberglass) Job Cost: $7,305 Resale Value: $5,163 Cost Recouped: 70.7%

7. Deck Addition (composite) Job Cost: $35,158 Resale Value: $22,881 Cost Recouped: 65.1%

8. (tie) Bathroom Remodel Job Cost: $51,374 Resale Value: $32,660 Cost Recouped: 63.6%

(tie) Major Kitchen Remodel Job Cost: $109,935 Resale Value: $69,973 Cost Recouped: 63.6%

9. Roofing Replacement Job Cost: $34,495 Resale Value: $21,731 Cost Recouped: 63.0%

10. Bathroom Addition Job Cost: $72,538 Resale Value: $43,936 Cost Recouped: 60.6%

The data used in the Cost vs. Value Report was collected with the help of REALTOR® Magazine in an online survey between August and October 2013. More than 4,500 NAR members participated from 101 U.S. cities, up from 81 cities included in last year's survey.

Construction cost estimates were generated by RemodelMAX.

Rental Payments Could Soon Affect Credit Scores

Renters who have never been late with a rent payment will find that their stellar record wont do anything to lift their credit scores when it comes time to shop for a mortgage. But that may soon change: Two of the main credit reporting agencies, Experian and TransUnion, reportedly are starting to incorporate verified rental payment data into credit files and using it to compute the consumers' credit scores when they apply for a mortgage.

"At a time when record numbers of first-time buyers are missing in action in the home-purchase market -- many of them in part because their credit scores don't make the grade -- the non-reporting of key credit records is costly to them and the economy as a whole," The Columbus Dispatch reports.

Some companies also are stepping in to ensure renters get their on-time payment histories included when applying for a mortgage. ECredable, an alternative credit data company, says it will verify renters' payment histories that haven't been reported to the major credit bureaus, and then generate a credit report and score. Potential home buyers are then urged to present the report to mortgage loan officers and ask that the information be considered in their application for a mortgage (which the lender is required to do under federal credit regulations).

{Source: "Credit Scores Might Soon Reflect Rental Payments," The Columbus Dispatch (June 29, 2014)}

How to Hold a Successful Yard Sale


Garage sales can be a great way to get rid of clutter -- and earn a little extra cash -- before you sell your home. But make sure the timing is right. Follow these tips for a successful sale:

  1. Don't wait until the last minute. You don't want to be scrambling to hold a garage sale the week before an open house. Depending on how long you've lived in the home and how much stuff you have to sell, planning a garage sale can demand a lot of time and energy, so the sooner you plan it out the better.
  2. See if neighbors want to join in. You can turn your garage sale into a block-wide event and lure more shoppers if you team up with neighbors. However, a permit may be necessary for each home owner, even if it's a group event.
  3. Schedule the sale. Sales on Saturdays and Sundays will generate the most traffic, especially if the weather cooperates. Start the sale early, 8 a.m. or 9 a.m. is best, and be prepared for early birds.
  4. Advertise. Place an ad in free classified papers and Web sites, and in your local newspapers. Include the dates, time, and address. Let the public know if certain types of items will be sold, such as baby clothes, furniture, or weightlifting equipment. On the day of the sale, balloons and signs with prominent arrows will help to grab the attention of passersby. Sites like Front Porch ForumCraigslist, and Facebook are a great place to start!
  5. Price your goods. Lay out everything that you plan to sell, and attach prices with removable stickers. Remember, garage sales are supposed to be bargains, so try to be objective as you set prices. Assign simple prices to your goods: 50 cents, 3 for $1, $5, $10, etc.
  6. If it's really junk, don't sell it. Decide what's worth selling and what's not. If it's really garbage, then throw it away. Broken appliances, for example, should be tossed. (Know where a nearby electrical outlet is, in case a customer wants to make sure something works.)
  7. Check for mistakes. Make sure that items you want to keep don't accidentally end up in the garage sale pile.
  8. Create an organized display. Lay out your items by category, and display neatly so customers don't have to dig through boxes.
  9. Stock up on bags and newspapers. People who buy many small items will appreciate a bag to carry their goods. Newspapers are handy for wrapping fragile items.
  10. Manage your money. Make a trip to the bank to get ample change for your cashbox. Throughout the sale, keep a close eye on your cash; never leave the cashbox unattended. It's smart to have one person who manages the money throughout the day, keeping a tally of what was purchased and for how much. Keep a calculator nearby.
  11. Prepare for your home sale. Donate the remaining stuff or sell it to a resale shop. Now that all of your clutter is cleared out, it's time to focus on preparing your house for a successful sale!