A Guide to Spring Cleaning Your Home

Spring is right around the corner, so it’s time for spring cleaning.

Though you spend time year-round doing typical housekeeping tasks like washing dishes, dusting and vacuuming, this is a good time to go the extra mile to deep-clean and refresh those neglected spots in your home.

Not sure where to begin with your 2023 spring cleaning? Here are five tasks that should be on your radar.

Wash windows and doors.
Each door and window needs a good washing inside and out. Be sure to rinse the screens and wipe out the window casings. You should also clean your window treatments — both blinds and curtains.

Clean out kitchen spaces.
Make sure to clean your dishwasher and oven, then wash and reorganize the interior of your fridge. If it’s been a while since you’ve cleaned your pantry, tackle that next. Be sure to throw out any old or expired food products.

Dust the vents and ceiling fans.
Give your vents and ceiling fans a good wipe-down. You should also replace your air filters if you haven’t in a bit. Typically, they should be replaced every three months for optimal HVAC performance, so this is a good time to start keeping track of that schedule.

Clean or vacuum furniture and upholstery.
Furniture can get quite dirty over time. Pull up couch cushions to vacuum under them, then vacuum the cushions too. You can also carefully wipe down leather furniture and vacuum your mattress.

Tidy up outside.
Take some time to work on curb appeal, too. Tidy up the deck or patio, pick up any stray kids’ or dog toys, and spray down your outside furniture. You may also want to refresh your landscaping while you’re at it.

Are you getting your home ready to sell? Get in touch for expert help today.


4 Signs a Property Is Priced Too High

No one wants to pay too much for a house. It can be a frustrating prospect, plus it makes your payments higher and could make appreciation seem less likely.

If home values fall too much, you could end up underwater, which means owing more on your mortgage than your home is worth.

But you shouldn’t be worried about that. 

Fortunately, there are ways to spot an overpriced home. To ensure you don’t overpay, we’ll watch for these signs.

  • Its days on market (DOM) is high. If a home has been on the market a while, it likely means no one who has toured it has thought it was worth the price. This typically indicates a price point that’s too high or something wrong with the home.
  • It has a higher price than similar properties. Unless a home has standout or luxury features, it should be priced similarly to those around it. If its price is notably higher for no obvious reason, consider it overpriced.
  • It’s gone on and off the market repeatedly. When a house is put on and taken off the market several times, it often means one of two things: Either they’re trying to reset the DOM, or it’s gone under contract multiple times, but the buyers have pulled out.
  • Nearby homes are selling much faster. If a home is priced appropriately for its area, size and condition, it should sell at relatively the same price and speed as neighboring properties.

It’s true that sometimes a home is priced higher due to luxury amenities or other features. If that’s not the case and a home is just overpriced, there are strategies we can use to make the deal work in your favor.

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

4 Tips for Your Final Walk-Through

When you buy a house, you’ll do a final walk-through of the property in the days or hours before closing.

This is an important step in the homebuying process, as it gives you one last chance to assess the condition of the house before signing on the dotted line. Attention to detail is paramount during your walk-through.

As you approach your closing day, here’s what you’ll want to consider as you walk through the home.

  1. Were the requested repairs completed? If you asked the seller to make certain repairs after the inspection, you’ll want to make sure those were done properly. If they weren’t, we might want to delay the closing or ask for credits from the sellers to make up for it.
  2. Do the electric, HVAC and plumbing systems work properly? Turn on all the lights, flush the toilets, run each faucet, and adjust the thermostat. You’ll want to be sure all systems are working before finalizing your purchase.
  3. Has anything been left in the home? The home should be clean and clear of all the previous owner’s belongings (except for items included in the sale). Anything left behind will need to be removed before you move into the property.
  4. Are the fixtures in the house (and functioning)? Check all the fixtures and appliances that were agreed upon, too. If you negotiated with the seller to leave their TV mounts or washer and dryer, are they there? Are they working? We can double-check your sales contract if you’re unsure what should be included.

You should also snap photos during the final walk-through, particularly if you spot anything that wasn’t repaired or needs to be removed. We can use them to show the seller’s agent and address things.

Please get in touch if you have questions about homebuying or any other real estate needs.

Improve Your Home’s Energy Efficiency

If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, smart technology can help.

There are plenty of smart home technologies that can make your home more sustainable, reduce its carbon footprint, and lower the costs it takes to operate.

Want to improve your home’s energy efficiency? Try one (or more) of these smart options.

  • Thermostats: Smart thermostats automate your home’s temperature, customizing it based on your schedule and habits. There are several different kinds, and they can save you an average of 8% annually on your energy bills.
  • Lightbulbs: You can program smart LED lightbulbs, allowing you to set a schedule and minimize the amount of time they’re in use. You can often even turn them on and off remotely with a smartphone app.
  • Sprinklers: The exterior of your home can be upgraded with sustainability in mind, too, thanks to smart sprinkler systems. The sprinklers integrate with live weather data and can be customized for the shape of your yard, thus reducing your water consumption.
  • Plugs and Power Strips: Much like smart bulbs, these allow you to turn small appliances and other power-hogging items on and off with ease. Just open an app or ask your smart home hub to turn them off for you. You can even set schedules to ensure you’re conserving the most power possible.

Are you ready to save on your bills? Reach out if you’re on the hunt for a more energy-efficient home.

Get Tips for Your Home Goals in 2023

It’s a new year, and that means new possibilities.

For some, that might mean buying a house for the first time. For existing homeowners, it could mean improving your current space — or selling it to move on to a place that feels like a better fit for your family.

Whatever your plans, setting small milestones can help you get there. Are you ready to make those home-related goals a reality this year? Here’s how:

If you want to buy a home:

  • Get your finances in order. Improve your credit score, pay off larger debts, and save for upfront costs.
  • Have the right professionals on your side. Choose your mortgage lender, home inspector and other professionals you want to work with — and get in touch for assistance from an expert agent.
  • Keep an eye on the market. Set up listing alerts within your price range. Once something catches your eye, reach out to schedule a showing.

If you’re selling your home:

  • Declutter and make repairs. Remove personal items and make major and cosmetic repairs to items that could otherwise take away from the home’s value.
  • Get professional, staged photos. Make the home look move-in ready, and bring in a real estate photographer to take listing photos and create a video tour.
  • Have a plan for a new property. Determine what’s next: Will you downsize or look for a bigger home? Solidify your plan before you sell.

If you plan to make home improvements:

  • Do research. Find out which projects can add value. Then, see if you need permits from the city and get cost estimates from contractors.
  • Figure out financing. How will you pay for the updates? Cash-out refinancing and home equity loans and lines of credit are popular options.
  • Hire professionals for big projects. Don’t attempt to DIY anything that needs specialty knowledge, including electrical and plumbing tasks. 

Do you need help buying or selling a home this year? Get in touch today so we can get started.

4 Tips for Self-Employed Homebuyers

Getting a mortgage can be challenging when you don’t have a 9-to-5 job — or at least one that offers consistent pay stubs.

Don’t fret, though. If you’re a freelancer, gig worker, business owner or another type of independent contractor, it’s still possible to buy a home — it just takes a proactive approach and some planning to make it happen.

Are you a nontraditional worker hoping to get a mortgage? Here are some steps you can take:

  1. Focus on consistency. It’s vital to show lenders that you have regular income when applying for a mortgage. Try to work steadily in the lead-up to your home purchase — and be sure all your income is documented with invoices, deposit slips and bank statements.
  2. Make your financial picture appealing. Lenders often see nontraditional workers as a risk because their income isn’t as consistent as that of a salaried worker. You can offset this risk by improving your credit score, paying off some debts or increasing your income if possible. (Maybe you can take on a side hustle or an extra project in the months before applying.)
  3. Keep financial paperwork organized. Since you won’t have pay stubs to verify your income, other forms of documentation will be key in your application. Make sure you have the following on hand: your bank statements; your business’s profit-and-loss statements; proof of past invoices, deposits and contracts; and any other important paperwork.
  4. Get creative with your financing. Conventional and FHA loans aren’t the only options. Non-QM mortgages can be smart for self-employed borrowers, and bringing in a co-buyer can help, too. Talk to a loan officer for more recommendations based on your situation.

Get in touch if you’re ready to start your home search or need a referral to a trusted lender.

A Homebuyer’s Guide to Using Gift Money

Coming up with a down payment can feel like quite a hurdle.

For millennials, who are currently the largest cohort of homebuyers, getting help with the down payment is fairly common — roughly 29% of younger millennials receive gift money from a loved one.

Are you considering using gift funds during your homebuying journey? It’s important to understand the rules surrounding this strategy when applying for a mortgage.

Here’s what you need to know:

Q: How much can you get?
A: This depends on your mortgage program: With FHA loans, for example, the entire down payment can be funded via gift money. Conventional loans will only allow this if you put down 20% or more.

Q: Who can offer gift money?
A: Again, this depends on the loan type. A conventional loan only allows for family gifts, while others may let you use gift money from friends, employers, down payment assistance programs and more.

Q: How should it be documented?
A: If you’re using gift money for your down payment, your lender will require a letter from the gift-giver which states that you, the recipient, do not need to repay the funds. If you do repay the money later, it could be considered mortgage fraud.

You may also need a copy of the check or wire transfer from the gift-giver, your deposit slip and the withdrawal slip showing them taking the funds from their bank account. You might be asked to share a copy of your bank statement (showing when and how much was deposited), too.

Do you need help finding a home — and a trusted lender? Reach out for more guidance.

Homebuying: Act now or wait it out?

The housing market is always changing, so it can be hard to determine exactly when to buy — and when to wait it out.

What if home prices or interest rates rise? What if lower costs are just around the corner? No crystal ball can give us these answers, but there are some factors you can take into account before making your decision.

Are you hoping to buy a home soon? Not sure if you should act now or wait until next year? Here’s what to think about:

  1. The State of the Market: Is a housing market crash or recession likely? Look to expert predictions to determine how the future of the market may look. Then, you can evaluate any risks there might be in buying now.
  2. Supply and Demand Trends: If supply is up and demand is down, you might be able to get a great deal. If the opposite is true, there’s probably a lot more competition (and higher prices due to bidding wars). We can talk about the market trends to come up with a strategy for you.
  3. Mortgage Interest Rates: Keep tabs on overall economic trends. If rates are expected to keep rising, acting sooner could save you money in the long run, especially if home prices also rise. And you may be able to refinance for a lower rate in the future, too.
  4. Home Prices: Consider that price declines can help you get a deal upfront, but they could also mean your home may not gain as much value immediately; this might be more of an issue if you’re not planning to stay there for the long haul. Small price fluctuations in either direction are usually not indicative of larger trends.
  5. Personal Finances: Your financial situation is the most important factor. Does it make sense for you to buy a house now? Consider your credit score, debts, income and other expenses when evaluating whether or not buying a home is affordable.

Are you interested in buying a home? Do you have questions about the market? Let’s chat.

4 Ways to Prevent Water Damage at Home

Homes often get a lot of water exposure in the back half of the year due to storms and winter weather. And that doesn’t even include the internal issues that can cause water damage, like undetected plumbing problems.

It’s important to consider how that water could threaten your property: It can damage your roof, cause mold and mildew, and ruin your belongings.

These four steps can help prevent water damage to your home and everything in it.

  1. Keep gutters and downspouts clear. Clogged gutters cause water and ice melt to build up instead of flowing out. This can cause damage to the roof and lead to expensive repairs.
  2. Monitor water pressure and plumbing issues. It’s important to catch leaks and other plumbing problems early — before they cause serious destruction. You may want to consider installing a water leak monitor for your pipes; many come with handy apps that alert you of even the smallest leak or potential problem.
  3. Make sure your roof and chimney are maintained. Get your roof and chimney inspected annually. Sometimes, just repairing a small area of the roof can make all the difference in a storm.
  4. Keep an eye out for mold and mildew. Monitor your ceilings for signs of mold and mildew, which typically indicates a leak or deeper moisture issue at work. If you see anything remotely suspicious, call a plumbing professional to look at it.

Those in flood- or hurricane-prone areas should look into their options for a flood insurance policy — separate from homeowners insurance — that protects you in case of weather-related flooding.

If you want to learn more about homeownership or anything real estate-related, please get in touch.

What Does (and Doesn’t) Come With a Home

When you tour a house for sale, it’s often staged, complete with appliances, window dressings, furniture and decor.

These items can certainly make a place look appealing, but the reality is that most of them won’t come with the house if you decide to buy.

So, what exactly do you get when you purchase a house from its previous owners? Do you know which items stay and which ones go? Here’s what you should know:

Only “attached” fixtures tend to come with the house. This means ceiling fans, security systems, built-in appliances, window screens, storm doors, blinds and similar items should remain part of the home. Removable items — like curtains or furniture, for example — aren’t attached and probably wouldn’t be included.

Outdoor items that are fixed to the property are included. The mailbox, a built-in fire pit, plants, shrubbery and an in-ground pool would all be examples of items that stay. Portable things, though — like a hot tub or unattached grill — typically would not come with the house.

Almost everything is up for negotiation. If there’s a certain item you saw and loved in the home, we can discuss it to negotiate with the seller and their agent. Depending on how in-demand the property is (and how special the item is), the seller may ask for more money — but, in some cases, they may be willing to throw it in for free.

Sometimes, sellers will specifically call out items they don’t want included in the sale — even some attached items. We’ll talk about negotiating and comparing these elements of an offer as we go.

Do you need help finding your next home? Get in touch today to get started.