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.

How You Can Reduce Homebuying Stress

Buying a home can be stressful (especially in a hot market). 

But you’re in luck: There are ways to combat any worries you have and make homebuying a more enjoyable journey.

Are you getting ready to purchase a home? Want to ease the stress of it all? Here are four strategies that could help.

  1. Prep your finances early. Having your finances in order can help make the process significantly smoother. You should have plenty saved up for your down payment and closing costs, and be sure to gather all the documentation you’ll need to apply for a mortgage (W-2s, bank statements, etc.).
  2. Communicate openly about what you want. Knowing your needs and deal breakers — and communicating them early on — is critical to a hassle-free process. We’ll go over your budget, home purchase goals and any questions and concerns you might have along the way.
  3. Delegate where possible. You don’t have to do everything on your own; in fact, that could make the process more stressful. Instead, rely on the experts — your loan officer, home inspector and other pros involved in the process. Lean on us for help and support, and don’t feel like it all rests on your shoulders. Family and friends could help carry some weight, too.
  4. Keep the big picture in mind. There may be hiccups along the way, but never lose sight of the big picture: your dream home and all that comes with it. Keeping things in perspective can help you weather anything that might come your way.

Get in touch so you can have an experienced real estate agent by your side and reduce your homebuying stress considerably.

What to Know About the Housing Market

Anyone who lived through the 2008 recession and subsequent housing market crash is likely feeling a little worried. After all, home prices have risen quite a bit in the past few years, and inflation is at a 40-year high.

But does that mean we’ll find ourselves in a situation similar to the late 2000s?

Likely not — because today’s market conditions are starkly different from what was happening in that period.

And in fact, the 2022 housing market is quite strong. Here’s why:

Demand far outweighs supply. Housing inventory is extremely low, and demand continues to surge. Demand will likely remain strong for the foreseeable future as the practices of remote work and buying and selling online continue. These two factors keep home values up and provide a steady stream of buyers as properties hit the market.

Lending standards are stricter. It was much easier to get a mortgage 15 years ago. After the crash, lenders created more rigorous standards for borrowers and the financial situation they need to be in to take on a mortgage. Due to these tighter requirements, most homeowners aren’t at risk of foreclosure if the economy heads toward a recession.

Homeowners have a lot of equity. The average homeowner gained over $55,000 in equity in 2021 alone. In the event of a recession, most homeowners could sell their homes and still make a healthy profit.

There’s no crystal ball to predict the future, but the housing market is on strong footing, even through the ups and downs. 

Want to discuss your goals for buying or selling real estate in today’s market? Please reach out.

4 Reasons a Home is a Retirement Asset

As a homeowner, your house is likely your biggest asset.

It can help you build wealth and improve your finances — and in retirement, it might serve as a much-needed source of financial support.

That last part is important. Whether you’re 25 or 55, having a plan is critical to an enjoyable and worry-free retirement.

Want to know how your home can help you plan for your golden years? Here are four ways it can factor in:

  1. You can leverage your home equity. Most homeowners are sitting on serious amounts of equity right now. You can tap into that by taking out a home equity loan or home equity line of credit (HELOC). In retirement, these can be great options for covering medical bills, paying off higher-interest debts, or funding home improvements.
  2. You can sell and use the profits. Many retirees choose to sell their homes and downsize to a smaller property. If you decide to take this route, you can use the sale proceeds to support your retirement — plus, you’ll enjoy a smaller home that’s easier to maintain.
  3. You can refinance. Refinancing could help in a couple of ways: A regular refinance may help you reduce your monthly payment and create liquidity. But if you opt for a cash-out refinance, it could also give you funds to use toward your retirement goals.
  4. You can rent out your home. Your house can become a source of regular income in retirement if you rent out a room or the whole home for short- or long-term tenants. Get in touch to learn about local laws and restrictions.

A home can be a valuable financial asset at any life stage. Are you interested in buying a new property? Get in touch today for help.

What to Know About Home Inspections

You probably know that home inspections are often part of the homebuying process.

But do you know why they’re so important — or what they mean for your home purchase or sale?

Home inspections can play a big role in whether your homebuying (or selling) efforts are successful.

Are you hoping to buy or sell a house soon? Here’s what you should know about how a home inspection might impact your goals.

Inspections aren’t required. A home inspection is generally encouraged for buyers, but it’s not required. In a hot market, buyers might waive their right to an inspection to win a bidding war. But be careful: This could hurt you financially if you find yourself having to make large repairs and renovations.

The results can influence your deal — and your price. If the inspector finds issues, the buyer will often want to renegotiate. They might ask the seller to make repairs before closing or offer a lower price point to account for them. If they have an inspection contingency, a buyer can even pull out of the deal without losing earnest money.

You have to pay for an inspection. Home inspection costs vary by market and inspector, but they typically cost between $250 and $500 per property. Since the inspection is for the buyer’s benefit, they cover this cost out of pocket, usually as part of the closing costs.

Sellers sometimes get pre-listing inspections. By getting one before the home hits the market, sellers can identify any problems that could hold back their sale. In many cases, sellers are required to disclose any issues their inspector finds if they haven’t been fixed.

If you’re preparing to buy or sell a home, get in touch today to start working with an experienced real estate professional.

What to Do if You Can’t Find a Home

Finding a home in a hot market can be challenging: Supply is limited, and bidding wars are common with demand so high. 

You may find yourself up against dozens of buyers, making it hard to snag the home — and at a price you can afford.

It’s important not to lose hope, though. Despite the competitive market, there are ways to find (and buy) your dream home.

Are you having trouble with your home search? These tips might help:

  • Get preapproved for your mortgage. Having preapproval is critical in a highly active housing market. It could give you a leg up over other buyers, and it can help you gauge your budget more accurately.
  • Expand your search area. Branching out a little often helps open up more inventory — and it may reduce your competition. If your lifestyle allows for it, you might even want to try looking in more rural areas.
  • Change your ideal property type. Rather than only focusing on single-family homes, what about searching for townhouses, condos and duplexes too? If you choose the latter, you might be able to rent out the other half to help cover your mortgage.
  • Shop under your budget. Looking for properties well under your maximum budget allows you to bid comfortably above list price and beat out other buyers — without risking your financial standing.
  • Look into building or renovating. Maybe you’d like a new construction home instead of buying an existing house. Or, you can look to fixer-uppers and plan to renovate the home before moving. Just make sure you talk to your lender about loan options, as your choice may change what type of mortgage you need.

Do you need help on your home search? Get in touch today.

Tips for Managing a Cross-Country Move

With remote work so common these days, moving to your dream locale across the state, country or even the world isn’t as difficult as it once was.

Still, that doesn’t mean a long-distance move will be easy. The logistics, the travel and the timeline can all be tricky to manage, and preparing for these potential challenges is key.

Are you considering a big move this year? If so, follow these tips to help everything run smoothly.

1. Map out a detailed timetable. Set milestones for each important step, such as booking your movers, scheduling cleaning services, and having everything packed up and ready to go. 

2. Calculate a realistic budget. Start a spreadsheet of all the expenses you can expect. Remember to include homebuying costs (down payment, closing costs, etc.) as well as things like packing supplies, movers, moving pods, truck rentals, travel and more. 

3. Declutter and do a home inventory. Begin by decluttering your house and donating anything you no longer need. Then, do an inventory of the items you’re bringing. When you pack, label every box clearly so you know exactly where to put it upon arrival.

4. Account for the comfort and safety of kids and pets. If you have children or furry family members, you’ll need to make arrangements for them. For kids, this might mean getting a babysitter to watch them on moving day and stocking up on road trip entertainment. For pets, you’ll need to sort out transportation and accommodations as needed.

5. Don’t forget about utilities, internet and insurance. Make sure you schedule on and off dates for all home service providers. You may need to make deposits for your new utilities, so be sure to plan for these costs as well.

Looking for a new property? Reach out today.

How to Prepare for Your Home Search

Whether you were outbid on every home you liked or you never found the right fit because of limited inventory, you probably encountered a few challenges if you tried to buy a home this year.

With a new year around the corner, are you thinking about continuing your search? No matter what the market looks like in 2022, we can work together to find the right home for you.

To start, take these four steps to prepare for a successful experience, and reach out when you’re ready.

1. Stick to a budget. Tighten those purse strings and start funneling away as much money as possible for your closing costs, down payment and other expenses. Typically, the higher your down payment is, the easier it is to get a mortgage loan.

2. Work on your credit. Increasing your credit score can help you get a lower mortgage rate, which means a more affordable home purchase on the whole. Try to pay down some debts and set your bills to autopay. Both steps may help you improve your score.

3. Consider where you might compromise. Sometimes compromising on a few nice-to-haves can help you find a home within your price range. Could you settle for three bedrooms instead of four? A rural home instead of a suburban one? One story instead of two? You may also think about buying a condo or townhouse.  

4. Do some deep-dive research. Make sure you know about all your possible mortgage loan options, as some can lower your upfront costs (or even cover them entirely). Talk to a few lenders, ask questions and consider getting preapproved for your loan before starting your search in the new year.

Make sure to keep in touch as you get ready to begin house-hunting. And if you need guidance on lenders, mortgage options or local market trends, reach out anytime.

4 Key Questions About Down Payments

Down payments can be a challenge to navigate, even for experienced homebuyers. 

How much do you need to put down? Do current market conditions change anything for you? Even the most basic questions aren’t always easy to answer.

Whether you’re thinking of buying soon or planning ahead for a purchase in 2022, now is a good time to clear up any uncertainties and come up with the right strategy for your household. 

Take a look at these frequently asked questions, and reach out if you need a helping hand.

How much should your down payment be?

The minimum down payment depends on what type of mortgage loan you’re getting. Some loans (conventional and FHA mortgages) require 3 to 3.5%, while others (VA and USDA loans) require zero. Your credit score will also play a role in some cases. 

Is a large down payment always better? 

It depends on your budget and goals. A big down payment will mean a smaller monthly payment and fewer interest costs in the long run. If it eats into your emergency savings or puts you in dire financial straits, though, it’s probably not the best move.

What should you consider when setting your goal amount? 

You’ll want to look at the price range you’re shopping in, your budget and the types of loans you’re eligible for. Talking to an experienced loan officer can help you get an accurate idea of what to expect.

Do you have to come up with all of it on your own? 

Many loan programs allow “gift” funds, which means money given to you by your parents or another family member. You’ll just need a letter stating that the funds are a gift, not a loan, before you can use them.

Need help finding your next home? Get in touch today.

Buying a Fixer-Upper: 5 Things to Know

In today’s busy market, many homebuyers have found themselves weighing options they would normally pass by. 

One of the more common compromises is to consider a home that needs some work.

On the plus side, fixer-uppers often come with lower prices, less competition and a lower-pressure sale on the whole. Still, they’re not without challenges.

Are you considering a fixer-upper? Here are five things to think about first.

1. You may need an alternative mortgage program. If you want to finance the home purchase and the renovations and repairs the property needs, you might consider loans like the FHA 203(k) loan or the Fannie Mae HomeStyle loan. Your loan officer can help you choose the best option for your purchase.

2. There may be appraisal and inspection issues. If the home is in disrepair, you might face challenges with your inspection or appraisal. This is especially true if you’re using an FHA, USDA or VA loan, as properties must meet strict requirements with these programs.

3. You should have a backup living space. You might not want to end your lease or sell your existing home just yet. If the property needs serious repairs or renovations, you’ll probably need to live off-site until they’re complete.

4. You may want to bring a contractor along when you tour the home. This will help you gauge what repairs might be necessary and how much they’ll likely cost.

5. Be prepared for problems below the surface. Not all issues will be visible in a fixer-upper. There may be major problems lurking below the surface (like mold or termites, for example) that won’t crop up until later. Make sure you leave wiggle room in your budget to account for these potential surprises. 

Fixer-uppers are just one of the many options you have when buying a home. Have questions or need more help with your homebuying journey? Reach out today.