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.

How to Reduce Your Homeownership Costs

From taxes and insurance to maintenance and repairs, homeownership comes with a variety of costs. 

But don’t worry: These expenses don’t have to break the bank.

With a strategy (and maybe a few key home updates), you can reduce your costs in the long run. You may even make your home safer and less prone to damage.

Want to cut the costs of homeownership? Try these five approaches:

  • Homeowners Insurance: Want to reduce your insurance premiums? You could bundle your home and auto policies, upgrade older systems in your home, or add safety devices (like burglar alarms and smoke and carbon monoxide detectors).
  • Utilities: To reduce your monthly utility bills, invest in Energy Star-certified appliances, and consider getting a smart thermostat. Other things that may help include seasonal weatherproofing, updating your windows, adding more insulation and installing LED lighting.
  • Taxes: If your property taxes increase, you can challenge them with your local appraisal board. You might also be able to file for a homestead exemption for a primary residence, which puts a cap on how much your taxes can increase each year.
  • Repairs: Contractor costs and building material prices are still rising. Shop around for the parts you need, and consider doing any projects you’re qualified for on your own rather than outsourcing. You can also shop secondhand for lower-cost supplies.
  • Mortgage: Refinancing for a lower rate could lower your monthly mortgage payment and help your financial situation overall. Even if you refinance to a shorter term (raising your monthly payments), you can typically reduce your long-term interest costs.

If you have questions about homebuying and homeownership, reach out today.

Stage Your Home with These 5 Tips

Staging is a vital tool when selling a property. The majority of buyer’s agents say staging can increase offers by anywhere from 1% to 20%, according to a report from the National Association of Realtors. 

On a home listed at $400,000, that could mean up to $80,000 more.

Do you want to market your property better, or potentially fetch a higher sale price? Keep these staging tips in mind:

  1. Focus on important rooms. If you don’t have time or want to spend enough to stage the whole house, focus your efforts on a few rooms. NAR’s staging report shows that buyers value staging most in the living room, main bedroom and kitchen.
  2. Let some light in. Light (particularly natural light) opens up a space and makes it appear larger, so focus on light-reflecting colors and lightweight drapery. You can also add a few carefully placed mirrors to reflect even more light.
  3. Consider the use of the room. You want buyers to envision themselves in the home, so focus on what each room is used for when staging. Show them what life could be like if they purchase the home: Set the table in the dining room, add a cozy throw blanket to the living room sofa, and turn on the reading lamps by the bedside.
  4. Don’t forget outdoor spaces. Curb appeal is important, too. Spend time arranging your front door and porch, cleaning up the yards and making your home look more welcoming.
  5. Keep it simple. Be wary of staging your home with too-trendy decor. Minimalist, neutral palettes are timeless, and they’ll ensure your home appeals to everyone who steps foot in it.

Want help selling your property? Get in touch so we can work together to make it stand out from the competition.

How to Pay for Your Home Improvements

You’ll probably want to improve your home at some point.

It might be out of necessity if you need a new roof or fence — or you might want more space or additional amenities, like an updated kitchen or a swimming pool.

Whatever the reason for your projects, you’ll likely need some help paying for them.

Are you planning to make some improvements around the house soon? Here are four ways to cover the costs.

  • Home Equity: You can leverage your home equity to cover home improvements. Among your options are a home equity loan, cash-out refinance and home equity line of credit (HELOC). The latter, which functions more like a credit card, is a good option if you’re not sure how much you need or if you need cash over an extended period.
  • Cash Savings: This can be a great way to pay for any home repairs or updates — just make sure you’re not draining your emergency fund. You should always have a healthy amount of savings as a homeowner so that you’re ready for maintenance, repairs and other expenses even if you hit a financial snag.
  • Home Remodeling Loans: Renovation and remodeling loans are designed just for this purpose. You can use them to cover repairs, updates and other improvements, then pay the costs back over time as with any other type of loan.
  • Credit Cards: These should be a last resort, since credit cards typically come with higher interest rates than other financing options, like loans and lines of credit mentioned above. 

Are you considering buying a new property instead of doing updates? Or do you need a referral to a trusted loan expert? Get in touch today for assistance.

Look Out for These Common Home Hazards

Homes can have safety issues that aren’t always obvious — problems that could endanger you and your family.

Fortunately, doing an annual safety audit of your property can help identify some of these hazards and allow you to remedy them before they cause larger problems. It may also help you to avoid using your home warranty or homeowners insurance.

Want to make sure your home is safe for you and your loved ones? Here’s a room-by-room breakdown of what to do.

Kitchen
If you have kids, make sure sharp knives and utensils are stored safely in a drawer. You should also check that your vent hood is working properly and that there’s a fire extinguisher within easy reach.

Bathrooms
Do your rugs have nonskid undersides that are in good condition? If not, replace them or add a nonskid mat underneath. You should also check that your electronics are kept away from water sources like the sink and tub.

Bedrooms
Make sure heavy furniture is secured to the wall or somehow anchored. This is particularly important if you have small kids who may be injured pulling down shelves or dressers.

Laundry Room
Regularly empty your dryer vent, and make sure the lint trap is clear after each load of laundry. These can both become fire hazards when clogged.

Living Room
If you have a fireplace, have it inspected by a professional annually. Adding a fire screen (if you don’t already have one) is also important. Be aware that area rugs can be tripping hazards, too.

If examining your property has made you realize that you’re ready to move on to your next home, get in touch so we can start the search together.

5 Ideas to Improve Your Outdoor Space

We’re finally approaching summer: The days are getting longer, the sun is shining and the weather’s getting warmer — it’s the perfect opportunity to spend more time outdoors.

Is your backyard or patio ready for heavier use?

If not, there’s still time, and you don’t need to spend a lot to make it happen. Here are five great ways to upgrade your outdoor area as we close in on the summer months.

  • Update Fences: Are there broken posts or holes your neighbors can see through? Repair the fence to ensure your privacy before summertime rolls in. You can also give it a new coat of paint or stain to improve your yard’s overall aesthetic.
  • Install a Focal Point: Every outdoor space needs a focal point — something to add visual appeal and interest. Fountains can be a great option, as can blooming gardens, well-lit walking paths or vine-covered pergolas.
  • Include Nature: Adding potted or planted flowers and bushes are great ways to bring nature into your outdoor area. You can also invite local fauna by installing a birdbath or hummingbird feeder.
  • Create an Outdoor Room: Outdoor dining rooms, living areas and even full-fledged outdoor kitchens are on-trend. They can extend your usable living space and provide a great area for entertaining.
  • Add a Gathering Point: Have a place your family and guests can gather. It can be a fire pit surrounded by folding chairs, an outdoor kitchen with a full dining set or a cozy outdoor couch to sit on and mingle. Choose one that fits your aesthetic, budget and entertaining style best.

Are you looking for a home with plentiful outdoor space? Get in touch today to start your search.

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.