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5 Expert Tips for First Time Home-Buyers

 

April 1st is historically the beginning of real estate's busy season with both buyers and sellers beginning to flood the market. We're sure you've heard time and time again that interest rates are at an-all time low, but will be rising in the very near future. That means that now is the best time to get the home buying process started!

 

 Here are 5 of our best tips to help 1st time home-buyers get started on the road to financial stability:

1. Evaluate your financial health.

First things first, run a credit report on yourself, and anyone else who will be on your mortgage with you. Generally speaking, lenders are looking to see a credit score of at least 600 which indicates that you have a track record of being responsible with your money. While you're looking at your credit report, be sure to take note of any ongoing liabilities and make sure that 1) they are all accurate and 2) check to see if there are any which you could pay off right away. The fewer monthly bills you have (car payment, student loans etc.) the higher your buying power will be!

Next, make an honest budget of your monthly income and expenses; don't forget to factor in the "extra" things like entertainment and dining out! Once you have an accurate assessment of your monthly funds, decide on how much you're comfortable allocating for housing. Keep in mind that the bank will most likely require your monthly housing costs to be at or below 30% of your gross income. 

2. Talk to a lender.

Once you've evaluated your credit and budget, it's time to seek out a knowledgeable lender in your area to determine your borrowing power. We recommend speaking to someone local and accessible as it can make your entire home buying process much less stressful. Your lender will ask for a list of documents in order to complete your pre-approval application, so be prepared to provide things like your most recent pay-stub, bank account information and tax information. The pre-approval process is very quick and relatively simple. Within a day or two you'll know the maximum amount that the bank would be willing to lend to you based on your financial situation. 

Your lender will also be able to discuss their current mortgage programs with you, and help you to decide on the one that will be most viable for your personal situation. Be sure to keep in mind that certain programs will only be available for certain properties, so be sure to discuss your preferred lending program with your realtor. 

3. Find a knowledgeable realtor. 

Speaking of realtors, the next task to tackle is finding a knowledgeable, trusted realtor to assist you. Keep in mind that as the home buyer, you do not pay commission to the realtor, the seller of the home does (there are certain circumstances where that is not the case, but they are very rare). It is of your best interest to have someone on your side negotiating for you and fighting for your best interests. 

We suggest researching testimonials from past clients to get a feel for each realtor's individual style and specialty. Once you've decided on someone you'd work well with, they will ask you to sign a few routine documents, talk to you about your individual needs, preferences and price range, and set to work finding homes to show you. 

Your realtor will be your go-to person during the entire home-buying process. An experienced realtor will be able to field any question you may have and either answer it themselves, or provide you with the resources you need. The process can be stressful, but a good agent will communicate all details and deadlines with you and work to ensure that everything is handled seamlessly. 

4. Decide on your comfort zone.

Now that you know your borrowing power, and you've found a qualified agent to help you, it's time to get down to the details. You'll need to decide first and foremost what you're comfortable spending each month on your home. Share that with your realtor who will help you determine what that means in terms of your down payment and the overall price range of homes you'll be looking at. Remember, just because you're pre-qualified for a certain amount doesn't mean you have to actually spend that much. It's a personal decision, but often times people would rather buy below their maximum and feel more comfortable with their cash flow each month, instead of feeling pinched for cash. 

With your budget in mind, it's time to talk about your preferred locations. Be flexible here; you may start out having your heart set on a certain neighborhood, but see a house across town that meets all of your criteria. Prepare a list of areas that would interest you, and likewise, a list of areas that are out of the question. The more information your realtor has, the more efficient they'll be at finding you something you love!

5. Remain calm and trust the process.  

Once you've found a home, made an offer, and begun the purchase process, your lender will need to turn your pre-approval into a mortgage application. They will set up a meeting with you and give you a list of items that they'll need to get the ball rolling. This may seem intimidating, but hang in there, stay organized, and make sure to ask questions if you have any. Your lender and realtor are working on your behalf, toward a common goal, so be sure to utilize their expertise when needed!

You will, most likely, opt to have your prospective home inspected. This will uncover any abnormalities and give you a solid idea of the home's condition. Next, the bank will require that the home is appraised to ensure that they are making a good investment. The home will be expected to "meet value" meaning it must appraise for at least the amount that you are borrowing. For example, say you're purchasing a $200,000 home and lending $180,000 from the bank, the appraisal must state that the home is valued at $180,000 or above. 

Most importantly, try your best to stay calm during the process. It can be stressful, but keep in mind that 9 times out of 10, any hiccups can be resolved - just keep the lines of communication open. Most purchases take 4-6 weeks from contract to closing day, so just hang in there and focus on the end goal of owning your chosen home!

6 Garden Tips To Transition From Summer To Fall

Summer isn't over yet, but it's time to start thinking about the upcoming transition to fall. We've put together 6 tips to keep your garden looking beautiful into the foliage season.

 

Before you do anything, take lots of photos of your current garden and landscaping. Take notes on which plants did well, which didn't and where you would like to see changes next year. Put together a binder, or digital photo album to look back on next year when spring rolls around. 

 

Now the real work begins. It's time to remove any annuals that are past their prime, rake the soil and add fresh mulch where necessary. This is also a good opportunity to trim bushes, and prune perennials. 

Fall is the time to look at your perennials and divide any that may be getting too large. This is a great opportunity to re-plant in other areas, or trade with friends to diversify your garden!

Fall doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your flower garden! There are lots of hardy plants that will thrive this time of year. Mums and pansies add a vibrant pop of color and look wonderful planted in your garden, or in pots by your entry!

With the change of seasons comes a change in temperature. Invest in some frost covers for planted flowers and bushes, and prepare to move potted plants indoors at night. 

 

Last but not least, fall is the time to think ahead to your spring garden. Remember those photos you took? Re-purchase any bulbs that did especially well, because now is the time to get those in the ground for next season. If you're not sure which bulbs will do well in your garden, this site has a comprehensive list with planting tips. 

Tips to make your mudroom look like a million bucks

What better time to revamp your mudroom than at the beginning of a new school year? We have some tips to put your entryway to work and keep your family organized. These suggestions won't break the bank and they'll be sure to help you get out the door faster every morning, and keep your home from seasonal damage.

 

A message board, or large calendar, will help keep you and your family organized. I've found making lists not only helps with organization, but also time management and stress relief. Plus, if everyone knows what's on the schedule for the upcoming week, it'll be a lot easier to get out the door on time!

 

Add some hooks for easy and quick organization! We'd suggest at least 4 hooks per person to keep every day essentials (keys, backpacks, totes, jackets etc.) at-the-ready when you need them.

If space allows, building cubbies is an EXCELLENT way to maximize space and really take organization to the next level. Imagine the convenience of every family member having a designated space for the things they take to work or school every day! This may not seem life changing in the summer, but think about winter when we have to add bulky coats, hats, mittens and boots into the mix. You'll be thankful for the extra space. 

Mud rooms and entry ways are typically on the smaller side. Adding a mirror will make your space look larger while also giving everyone one last chance to get themselves together before running out the door. 

If space allows, we would highly suggest adding a bench or two to your mud room. Not only will it make it easier to put on and pull off boots and shoes, but it'll encourage your guests to remove footwear before entering your home.

We can't stress this tip enough! We know by now that life in Vermont gets messy - especially in the winter and spring. Choosing flooring that will hold up to moisture is crucial. We'd suggest tile flooring which will withstand whatever you throw at it, and is easy to clean.

The mud room is an excellent place to organize your pet's accessories as well! A couple of hooks will keep leashes and other necessities at-the-ready when walk time rolls around. This is also a nice place to keep extra pet food, toys and pet carriers. 

Top Home Staging Tips That Sell Homes Faster & For More Money

 

 

According to the National Association of Realtors, for every $100 invested in staging, the potential return is $400! Staged homes not only bring in higher offers, but they normally sell much quicker than their non-staged counterparts. If you're thinking of listing your home, we would highly recommend at least some level of staging. Read on for our top tips to get your home prepped for sale.

 

 

 

Keep Decor Neutral.

Neutral doesn't have to mean boring. What we mean is avoid bold, bright colors (this includes stark white!) all throughout the home. The goal here is to appeal to the masses, and while your favorite color may be fuchsia, it won't necessarily translate well to potential buyers. That being said, we're providing tips to give you the best return on your investment, so if re-painting is out of the question, it'll just require some extra attention and thoughtful accessorizing to convince buyers that fuchsia might be their new favorite color.

 

 

 

De-Clutter

When buyers walk into your home, they want to be able to picture themselves, and their belongings there. Think of this step as a head-start on packing, and really minimize any extra possessions. A vase of flowers and a nice painting here and there will be great, but it's time to pack up personal pictures, diplomas, framed certificates, refrigerator art, etc. It's not that buyers wouldn't like your taste, it's that their goal is to make the space their own. It's easier to do that if personal possessions are kept to a minimum. While we're on the topic, this is also a good time to consider removing anything that could be considered divisive (think political memorabilia and the like). 

 

 

 

 

Strike a balance.

Yes, you're right, we just told you to minimize your personal possessions. But, what you don't want to do is go too far and remove every stitch of personality from the home. Selling a vacant home can be just as challenging as selling an overcrowded one. Remember how we said buyers are trying to picture themselves living in your home? That'll be a lot easier to do when rooms remain furnished. Surprisingly, furnished rooms actually appear bigger than empty ones! They also show less flaws and make it appear as though you're not in a huge rush to sell. Sometimes a vacant home can give that impression and therefore bring in lower offers. 

 

 

 

 

Remodel with caution.

Not only is remodeling generally a very pricey and time consuming process, but it can be a big gamble. Furthermore, if you need to take out a loan in order to fund your remodel, it could be harmful to your credit score and run you the risk of not recouping your investment. Even sellers with the best of intentions can't predict what buyers will be looking for in terms of decor. This is one of those situations where you'd be wise to consult with your realtor and get their opinion before taking on an extensive remodel. That being said, cosmetic fixes and repairs are always good things to get taken care of before listing your home. 

 

 

 

 

Be Timeless.

Interior design trends, just like fashion trends, come and go and there is a fine line between retro-funk and just plain out dated decor. When preparing your home for sale, it's best to air on the side of caution and avoid anything too trendy. A pop of color here and there (think pillows, curtains, bedding) can be very tasteful, but avoid anything that could read as out dated (shag carpeting, ruffled tapestry etc.).

 

Did you know that we offer home staging advice? If you're considering listing your home, we will happily offer personalized guidance to steer you in the right direction! Send us an email for more information. 

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.