6 Questions to Ask Yourself When Considering a Neighborhood

Maybe you’re a longtime local looking for a change. Or, you’re an out-of-town buyer who has a bit to learn about the area. Either way, these questions to ask yourself when considering a neighborhood can have a big impact on your quality of life. Don’t make an offer without running through them first!

Will you be dealing with a Homeowner’s Association (HOA)?

Opinions on HOAs can be mixed. Some love how they ensure that home values stay high in the neighborhood with regulations in place. Others think they can be a little overbearing.

They will also come with additional costs, so you should keep the financial aspect in mind as well. When perusing a potential neighborhood, be sure to ask whether there is an HOA and if so, how that specific HOA operates.

What is the neighborhood close to?

Proximity can be a big advantage—or disadvantage, depending on what’s near your neighborhood.

Grocery stores, schools, and great downtown areas are all a plus. Sewage treatment plants, livestock farms, and highways, on the other hand, can ding your property value—and make life a whole lot more stressful.

It’s always wise to take a drive around the area, just to see if you’ll like where you’ll be living.

What are the schools like?

Speaking of schools—they’re one of the questions to ask yourself when considering a neighborhood. What schools is the neighborhood zoned for, and what are they like?

You don’t even need to have children to benefit from a great school system. The better the education, the higher your home value will be—and it could even make it easier to sell in the future.

Is it safe?

Some neighborhoods are safer than others. Buying a home is a big investment—and you will do yourself a disservice if you don’t determine how safe the area is.

If you don’t know where to start, call the local police departmentand ask them about safety and crime rates.

Is it new construction or an established development?

New construction neighborhoods may be in the development phase for months or years to come. While they offer the advantages of a brand-new house, you may find the construction distracting or overwhelming.

Meanwhile, established developments likely will not have the same level of activity. As a drawback, they may need updating.

How do the other homes look?

The appearance and value of surrounding homes can impact your house’s property value. Take a little time to drive around the neighborhood. You can also look up estimates on nearby homes online.

Summary

The homebuying process can be confusing. Even with these questions to ask yourself when considering a neighborhood to help, you’ll benefit from having expert guidance. That’s why it’s so important to hire a skillful, experienced Realtor who knows the area inside and out.

Well, our members fit the bill! Contact the Lee County Association of Realtors to begin. As for learning more about how to navigate the market, browse our blog here.

6 Pieces of Advice for Home Buyers in Today’s Market

Congratulations! You’re starting your home buying journey—or you’re about to. During this process, there are a few ways that you can leverage your resources to find your new place. These pieces of advice for home buyers in today’s market can make all the difference. Please keep in mind that these are just suggestions—not things that you necessarily have to do to make your home buying journey a success!

Obtain your pre-approval letter ASAP.

You don’t want to add any extra obstacles between you and your new home. Obtaining your mortgage preapproval letter should be step one.

Consider shopping around for more than one preapproval.

Don’t worry—you’re not bound to your first preapproval letter from a lender. While time does matter in this seller’s market, you may consider shopping around for more than one lender to compare loan costs and program options. Your Realtor should also be able to recommend a lender.

Look lower, because prices may go high.

It can be daunting looking at the homes on the market—especially if you don’t know the pricing trends. As buyers keep outbidding each other in this fast-paced market, the price a home is listed for may not reflect its final price. You can set more realistic expectations by looking at homes $5,000 or $10,000 below what you can afford with the expectation that bidding will drive the price higher.

Budget for a longer timeline.

Another one of the most important pieces of advice for home buyers in today’s market involves the timeline. Because of the competitive market, you may be up against many highly-motivated, qualified buyers. That doesn’t mean you won’t find your home. It just means you may need to expect to extend your home search timeline.

Act fast.

Because of low inventory and high demand, you may not have a moment to delay. Act fast if you see a home you love!

Contact the Lee County Association of Realtors.

With a market like this, you’ll want a Realtor on your side. Reach out to us to find a Realtor knowledgeable about today’s local market!

Summary

If these pieces of advice for home buyers in today’s market have you motivated to start looking, we can’t wait to work with you. And, if you have any questions or concerns along the way, we can help with those too.

Whether you want to buy, sell, or rent, you can reach out to us here. Finally, for more real estate tips and advice, browse our blog.

7 Ways to Save On Your Utility Bills This Winter

Do you ever feel like reading your monthly utility bill drops you right into a cold sweat? You’re in the same boat as millions of other Americans! And, just like them, you can do something to manage the cost with these ways to save on your utility bills this winter.

Dial down the thermostat.

According to ENERGY STAR, 68 degrees Fahrenheit is the ideal temp to set your thermostat on in the winter when you’re spending time in the house. Then, when you leave, dial the temperature down to around 60 degrees.

Ultimately, these designations will make your system do the least amount of work. That way, you spend less as well!

Remember to turn appliances and lights off.

Lamps. Laptop chargers. Kitchen appliances. The power they use, even when just plugged in, can add up. If you remember to turn them off or even unplug them when you’re not using them,however, you can save some cash.

Wear an extra layer or two.

Instead of dialing up the degrees, walk over to your closet! You won’t have to spend an extra cent when you layer up with sweaters, cardigans, and coats that you already own. Plus, you’ll have cozy winter style covered too!

Along the same lines, throw on some socks or slippers. They’ll keep your feet warm through the day and night—and make it easier to stop yourself from putting a hand on the thermostat.

Make sure everything is sealed.

Hey, do you feel a draft coming in? Just as cold air enters, warm air can escape, making heating your house a costly endeavor.

Take a few minutes to see if your windows and doors are properly sealed. If not, you can call a professional or even fix the issue yourself. The money you’ll save on your bill will make the task well worth it!

Use smart outlets.

Our homes are smart these days! Plug your lights into smart outlets to minimize energy use. Time your outlets to turn on each day only when you need them.

Give the oven some time off.

Your oven uses a whole lot of heat! Instead of turning it on, consider using a toaster oven, a crockpot, or the stove.

Rely on natural lighting.

This is one of the simplest ways to save on your utility bills this winter. All you have to do is open the drapes and let the sunlight seep in!

Summary

Be the coolest one in town when you use these ways to save on your utility bills this winter. Even better, you can spend the saved money on other home projects—or just to treat yourself!

Want more helpful tips? Check out our blog here!

Hoping to buy or sell in the New Year? Our Realtors have that covered too. Contact us to begin.

5 Items Lenders Look For When Reviewing Your Mortgage Application

Before you score your dream home, you usually need to secure a loan. What’s a good way to do that? For starters, you can review these five items lenders look for when reviewing your mortgage application now to see how you stack up.

Income and Expenses

Obviously, lenders will look at your income—and having steady income is a good thing. In a nutshell, good income equals good chances of making your payments consistently.

However, lenders will look on the other end of the spectrum too. They will review your expenses—fixed and flexible—to help determine your debt-to-income ratio.

Down Payment

Down payments vary and depend on buyers’ personal situations. With that said, typically the larger the down payment, the better.

For instance, lenders are more likely to give lower interest rates with lower loan amounts. In general, a solid number to aim for when it comes to down payments is 20 percent.

Credit History

This is one of the items lenders look for when reviewing your mortgage application that is in-depth. First of all, it goes well beyond your credit score. Lenders will want to see a full credit report.

Below is a quick look at other factors lenders might check:

  • Payment history: It pays to make payments on time. Having a good payment track record when it comes to credit cards and past loans reflects well on potential borrowers.
  • Negative marks: This includes missed payments, collections, delinquent accounts or bankruptcy.
  • Recent credit applications: Some lenders may see too many recent applications for lines of credit as a sign of financial woes.
  • Being an authorized user: Be careful who you share credit card accounts with. If you are an authorized user on someone else’s card, how they handle it reflects on your report as well.

These are but a few prime examples of what lenders will discover in your credit report. The good news is you can also access your credit report for free at least once a year at AnnualCreditReport.com.

Employment History

Basically, proof of stable employment for multiple years works in your favor. It demonstrates a pattern of responsible behavior.

Liquid Assets

Perhaps liquid assets can be thought of as security blankets for lenders. Knowing what assets borrowers could turn to cash quickly in a pinch is comforting when it comes to their return.

Summary

Remember, this list of items lenders look for when reviewing your mortgage application is just a start. Consider being proactive and accessing your credit report. Then make any adjustments you can to improve your overall report.

In the meantime, you can always talk to your Realtor more about what lenders may consider as well as what you, as a borrower, should look for in a lender. Check out our other blogs for more real estate news and local market trends!

 

9 Winter Maintenance Tips for Homeowners

If you are looking for things to do around the house over the Thanksgiving holiday, look no further. Our list of winter maintenance tips for homeowners can act as your to-do list for cold-weather prep!

Do a property walk-about.

Walk around your home and inspect it. Look for small cracks and openings in the foundation. Seal them yourself if possible. If not, reach out to a professional.

Also, check for other potential air leaks around windows, doors and ventilation pipes.

Check your roof.

Make sure to check your roof for any loose shingles that could allow water and moisture to seep into your home. Replace shingles as needed. Don’t forget to check the seal around your chimney as well.

Clean and inspect your gutters.

Fall is messy! Leaves and debris can quickly clog gutters. Keep water flowing away from your home by keeping your gutters clean.

Look for ailing tree limbs.

Strong winds during winter storms could be dangerous to both people and properties if a tree branch snaps. If you see weak or dead limbs, contact a professional tree removal service.

Repair patios and pavers.

If you have loose pavers or stones on your patio, try to fix them before the first freeze.

Winter will only make it worse thanks to what is known as “frost heave.” Basically, it’s when the soil pushes the stone farther out of place.

Protect your pipes.

You can find pipe insulation at local hardware stores and do this money-saver on your own. Put it around pipes under sinks, in crawl spaces and attics, outside and so on.

Insulate your attic and crawl space.

Proper insulation goes a long way. It may cost a little up front whether you opt for a service, or you buy materials and do it yourself.

Add protection to your windows.

As far as winter maintenance tips for homeowners, this one has options. First, you can store your screens and install storm windows.

Or you can hang curtains. Then there’s the option to add caulk or weather stripping to windows as needed. Whatever you choose, adding an extra barrier to your windows is a good idea.

Inspect furnaces and fireplaces.

In fact, your furnace and fireplace should both be inspected annually. This ensures they are safe and working efficiently.

Summary

Finally, reach out to your local utility company and request a home energy assessment. Their assessment might provide additional winter maintenance tips for homeowners that will help save more energy and money! For more homeowning tips and other real estate news, keep reading our blogs.

 

The Pros and Cons of Renting a Home

Renting is often the first step before home ownership. But when is it time to make a move to buy instead of signing another lease? The pros and cons of renting a home may help you decide.

The Pros

Maybe you just graduated from college. Perhaps you just moved to town. Regardless of the why, looking at the pros and cons of renting might help you see the big picture. Let’s start with the pros of renting:

  • Limited responsibility. As a renter, if something breaks or needs repairing, you tell the landlord who in turn handles the expenses and the repairs.
  • Renting can be budget friendly. To clarify, renters know exactly what they owe each month without the worry of unexpected home repair expenses. This helps you plan and stick to a budget.
  • No down payment. Not having to cough up a large lump sum of money for a down payment is one of the pros of renting a home that’s hard to argue with!
  • More flexibility and freedom. For example, renting offers the comfort of being able to make a quick move if needed. Leases typically range from 12-months to 24-months but can be month-to-month for a higher cost.
  • Good for anyone who travels a lot. For those who travel often, renting allows them to do so easily without the worry of property management.

The Cons

Now, it’s time for the flip side.

  • Not building home equity. Oftentimes, people say renting is throwing money away. While that is not exactly true (as you are paying for a home whether it’s rent or a mortgage) what they mean by that is when you rent, the home is not your asset. When you pay mortgage toward home ownership, you are building valuable equity.
  • No tax benefits. Simply put, there are no tax benefits to renting.
  • Lack of stability. When renting, the landlord can increase the rent at any time. Moreover, you could be evicted at any time and not necessarily with much notice.
  • Less opportunity for customization. When it comes to picking a new paint color for the walls or making any aesthetic change, renters usually need the landlord’s approval. On top of that, often restrictions imposed by the landlord or property management company will make any allowable changes limited.
  • Bound by the terms in the lease agreement. You are obligated to keep the terms of the signed agreement. That could even mean restrictions like no pets!

Summary

If you are struggling to decide what’s best for you and your current situation, these pros and cons of renting home may help make the decision easier. Thinking it’s time to buy? Reach out to a trusted local Realtor for guidance!

Looking for more real estate news, trends and advice? Keep reading our blogs!