tips

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!

Tips to get your grill ready for summer

 

Memorial Day weekend is upon us, and with it comes a time to remember the sacrifices made by so many to defend our freedom, as well as the official kick-off to the summer season! We hope you'll be enjoying some rest and relaxation with friends and family. In fact, this may be the perfect opportunity to whip out your grill if you haven't already this season. Here are some tips to make sure your weekend festivities go off without a hitch!

 

If you have a gas grill:

 

First, get the outside of your grill looking brand new using a solution of 1 part white vinegar with 2 parts warm water and a microfiber cloth, and soft bristled brush. The vinegar will help cut through any grease stains, and the soft cloth will ensure you don't scratch the metal. 

Next, move onto the inside of the grill, where you can be a little more aggressive. Remove the grates and place in a large container filled with warm water and dish soap. Using a stainless steel grill brush and some elbow grease, slough off any residue that's baked on, and rinse well. If you forgot to clean the tray out at the end of last season, remove it and brush any remnants into the trash. 

After you've replaced the tray and grates, be sure the gas tank is filled and secure before closing the lid of the grill and turning the heat on high for 15 - 20 minutes. This last step will ensure any leftover cleaning residue has been removed and help keep your burgers from sticking the next time you grill.

If you have a charcoal grill:

The first step is the same as if you have a gas grill -  using a solution of 1 part white vinegar with 2 parts warm water and a microfiber cloth, and soft bristled brush. The vinegar will help cut through any grease stains, and the soft cloth will ensure you don't scratch the metal. 

Next take a look inside and be sure there is no remaining charcoal left from last season. Remove the cooking grate, and leave it to soak in a solution of warm water, vinegar and dish soap. While that's soaking, take a look at the bowl of your grill - if you grill a lot, you may see some peeling, which is most likely carbonized grease. Using a stainless steel grill brush, and warm soapy water, scrub the inside until all of the layers have come off. Now that the bowl is clean, the soap solution should have loosened up any debris on the cooking grate. Go after that with the stainless steel grill brush and it'll look like new before you know it!

 

You're officially ready to start grilling!

 

If you're looking for a new home with a great backyard for barbecues, check out these listings!

 

Tick Prevention Tips

In recent years, ticks have become a big nuisance in Vermont. We've put together some facts about these pests to keep you safe while you enjoy the outdoors this summer. We've thrown in some prevention tips and information to help if you find one on yourself or your pets. 

What are ticks anyway?

Ticks are parasitic creatures of the arachnid family; they have 4 long legs on either side of their rounded body. Thankfully they cannot jump or fly, but they do crawl onto hosts to feed. Ticks spread Lyme Disease, which can cause serious, long-term issues for the infected person or animal. 

Where do ticks live?

Tall grass, shrubs, wooded areas and low brush are havens for ticks. If you're going for a hike, be sure to keep as much skin covered as possible, and stay near the center of the trail to decrease exposure. Hunters should be warned that ticks also live on other animals, such as deer, and will move from the animal to a human if given the opportunity. According to the CDC, it is best to use a bug spray, or combination of lemon and eucalyptus oil to discourage ticks from biting. 

How do I avoid getting a tick?

In addition to keeping as much skin covered as possible, you should avoid walking in tall grassy areas as much as possible. Rake and remove loose leaves from your yard, and clear away any tall grass or brush that you can. Placing wood chips or gravel between any shrubbery and your yard will provide a barricade and keep ticks away. Make sure to keep play areas away from shrubs and vegetation. 

If you've spent any time hiking, hunting, or in known tick havens, wash your clothes in hot water and shower as soon as possible. The CDC suggests that showering within 2 hours of possible tick exposure reduces your risk of contracting Lyme Disease. Do a thorough tick check while you're at it; they love to hide so be sure to check your hair, ears and in between fingers and toes. 

If ticks are of major concern, tick repelling chemicals are available to homeowners. According to the CDC, one application of acaricide during the spring time reduces the tick population by 68-100%. Pest control companies will be able to assess your property and give you a personalized suggestion to best deal with the threat of ticks. 

What if I find a tick?

If you discover a tick on yourself or a loved one, take a pair of tweezers or a tick removing tool, and pinch the tick as close to the head as possible. Pull straight back, doing your best to remove the entire pest, and most importantly, the head. If you are unable to do this yourself, go to a doctor's office as soon as possible. 

If you've been bitten by a tick, be alert to any rashes, pains or fevers that develop in the subsequent days and weeks. If anything seems unusual, see your doctor immediately. Lyme Disease is an infection with chronic, and potentially debilitating, life long symptoms. It is best to air on the side of caution and have yourself tested for Lyme Disease at the time of exposure. 

How do I keep my pets safe?

Unfortunately, pets love to play in areas that are appealing to ticks. Ask your vet about oral and topical medications for dogs and cats that will aid in tick prevention. There are also collars and shampoos available which are effective prevention supplements. It's best to check your pet for ticks daily during the spring and summer to be safe. 

We hope these facts and tips are helpful to you! 

 

 

5 Tips to take your patio to the next level

Is there anything better than relaxing outside during the warm, sunny summer months? We've put together 5 tips to make your outdoor space the perfect place to unwind and entertain. You may even increase your home's value in the process!

 

 

 A few well placed pops of color can really tie a room together and make it look expensive. You don't have to spend a fortune, or overhaul your existing furniture to achieve a more cohesive look. Pick up a few outdoor throw pillows , a fun rug and a coordinating umbrella  and your patio will be instantly refreshed! Think of your potted plants as accessories and display them around the area for added interest. 

 

 

No need to head inside once the sun sets! Add some festive lighting to your patio and we're sure you'll find yourself hanging out there long into the evening. You can find tons of fun string lights, lanterns and even outdoor lamps at any hardware store these days. You can even add in a few citronella candles and torches to keep the bugs at bay. 

 

 

Add a stylish outdoor rug to your patio to make the area feel more cozy and pulled together. It's amazing how an area rug can make the space feel like an extension of your home! There are tons of inexpensive options available online

 

 

Turn your patio into a real retreat by adding a privacy fence and some tall landscaping around the perimeter. These plants are great for creating natural screens for your yard. 

 

 

Add a fire pit, hammock, outdoor bar or lawn games to your patio for added entertainment and fun! You may find yourself spending more time outside than inside this summer!

Do these things now if you want to sell your home this fall

We're not trying to wish away the last few weeks of summer, but if you're thinking of listing your home for sale this fall, now is the time to prepare. Fall and winter may not traditionally be the busiest times for real estate sales, but they do attract the most serious buyers. With inventory decreasing, you can bet more eyes will be on your home! These tips will help make it even more attractive.

 

 

The most important step you can take when you decide to sell your home is to find a trustworthy agent to assist you. According to the National Association of Realtors, 89% of home sellers choose to work with a realtor rather than attempting to sell their home themselves. There are many reasons home sellers seek out professional help, including a notable increase in selling price, a decreased amount of time spent on the market, and the peace of mind that comes with having a seasoned realtor on call. 

It's important to find a realtor that you feel comfortable and secure with. A home is usually the largest financial asset our clients own, and it deserves to be treated with care and respect. A great realtor will keep in contact, explain every detail of the sales process, market your home widely to qualified buyers, and most importantly, help you get the greatest return possible on your investment. 

If you're considering selling your home, one of our agents would be more than happy to hear your thoughts, and provide you with a report on your home's value!

 

 

Our second tip is to start a home maintenance "to do" list and start checking things off. Take care of any obvious repairs and maintenance that you can in advance so your home is ready to be shown when it hits the market.

Below are a few commonly forgotten items that really make a difference to prospective buyers:

Inside:

- touch up paint 

- replace burned out light bulbs

- be sure doors and windows are jam-free

- shampoo carpets

- replace any broken screens

- deodorize areas exposed to pets or smoke

- pack up any superfluous belongings to make the home show-ready

Outside:

- keep grass and landscaping tidy

- rake excess leaves - especially important this time of year!

- be sure any outdoor lights are working properly

- clean garage/barn

- touch up paint if necessary

- clean gutters and windows

- be sure walkways are clear of debris

 

 

Fall in Vermont is one of the most beautiful times of year! As the daylight hours become fewer, it's important to add a few extra lights to your home before you list it. If you don't already have a porch light, it would be a very nice, welcoming touch - be sure to leave it on before showings, too! Inside you may want to add a few lamps here and there to brighten your space.

If your home has a fireplace, now is the time to emphasize it! With chilly days ahead, making your home feel cozy and warm will be especially attractive to buyers.

 

 

Curb appeal is essential for home sellers regardless of season, but it's especially important in the fall. Summer spoils us with lush greenery and beautiful flowers, and can make late fall feel dreary in comparison. Add a few potted plants or pumpkins by your front door or mailbox, remember the front porch light, and keep landscaping tidy. All of these things will help your home to stand out when it comes time to sell!

Tips To Sell Your Home Faster (And For More Money!)

When our clients ask for our assistance selling their home, their two main concerns are timeline and price. 

 

We've been in the Real Estate industry a long time, and have amassed countless tips and strategies to address both of those concerns. We decided to put together an online magazine to make our best advice available to the whole community!

Below you'll find a link to check out our magazine and learn some of our best home selling strategies. When the time comes to list your home, we'll be here to walk you through the process and make it not only quick and painless, but fun and profitable as well! Give us a call any time, we're always happy to help.