Category: BM Insights (5)

Spring is a beautiful time of year. Flowers come out to bloom (including DC’s famous Cherry Blossoms), the weather warms up, neighborhood kids come out to play, and BBQ’s are abundant. But during this wonderful time of year, home maintenance needs to be done. Heavy April rains and intense July heat can cause significant wear and tear on your home. Use the following items as a checklist to make sure your house is ready for whatever the season throws at you.

 

Check the Roof

Examine roof shingles to see if any were lost or damaged during winter. If your home has an older roof covering, you may want to start a budget for replacement. The summer sun can really damage roof shingles. Shingles that are cracked, buckled or loose or are missing granules need to be replaced.

 

Clear Gutters

Check around your home for loose or leaky gutters. Improper drainage can lead to water in the basement or crawl space. Make sure downspouts drain away from the foundation and are clear and free of debris.

 

Inspect Wood

Heavy rains and intense heat are especially tough on wood. Use a screwdriver to probe the wood trim around windows, doors, railings and decks. Make repairs now before the spring rains do more damage to the exposed wood.

Test Outdoor Faucets

Check outside hose faucets for freeze damage. Turn the water on and place your thumb or finger over the opening. If you can stop the flow of water, it is likely the pipe inside the home is damaged and will need to be replaced. While you’re at it, check the garden hose for rot and damage.

Service the AC Unit

Have a HVAC professional come and clean the outside unit for your air conditioning system. Clean coils operate more efficiently, and an annual service call will keep the system working at peak performance levels. Be sure to also change interior AC filters on a regular basis.

Lay Compacted Soil

Low areas in the yard or next to the foundation should be filled with compacted soil. Spring rains can cause yard flooding, which can lead to foundation flooding and damage. Also, when water pools in these low areas in summer, it creates a breeding ground for insects (such as mosquitoes).

Trim Overgrowth

Spring is a good time to trim plants and trees that border your home. Start cutting back before leaves have a chance to grow so you can see individual limbs. Keep branches a few feet away from your house so they can’t transfer moisture onto your roofing and siding. Trimming will also help discourage squirrels and other animals from exploring ways to nest in your attic.

 

Plant Some Color

Ensure that your home looks lovely by planting some nice spring flowers. Now only will it make it more enjoyable to relax in your yard, your neighbors will also love you for it. Especially if you’re selling your home, well placed landscaping makes a world of difference. You can even turn it into a family activity so everyone can get their hands dirty.

When buying or selling a home, closing day is the light at the end of the tunnel, the final hurdle to clear before it’s all over. A successful closing day is a cause for celebration. The day can either be a breeze or an anxiety filled headache. But if you follow these 3 simple steps, we ensure that your closing day will be as smooth as possible.

 

Step 1: Get Your Paperwork in Order

Before you even think to walk into your closing, all of your paperwork should be settled, organized, and in order. This shouldn’t be finished the day before, or even a few days before. Ideally, your paperwork should be finalized at least a week before your closing date.

If you are a home buyer, you should have the completed the following items:

  • Finalize your loanArrange to meet with your lender before the closing date to ensure that all necessary paperwork is complete and your loan is finalized.
  • Obtain homeowners insuranceYour homeowners insurance policy should list the buyers as insured, as well as the lender. Once you purchase the policy, you should make sure to have the insurance company send you a proof of insurance document.
  • Obtain Title Insurance. A title officer will perform a title search to make sure there are no clouds on the title (third-party claims to a property). If there are, these problems will need to be resolved before the property becomes yours.
  • Complete the Home Inspection. A home inspection is not required, but you’d be stupid not to have one performed. If you find a serious problem with the home during the inspection, you’ll have an opportunity to back out of the deal or ask the seller to fix it or pay for you to have it fixed.

 

Step 2: Review, Question, and Review Again

Mistakes are not unheard of at closing. There are hundreds of pages of documents that all need to be 100% accurate. In addition to reviewing your own documentation, make sure to look over the review the Settlement Statement, which is typically used for residential real estate closings, and contains an itemized list of all of the closing costs associated with the mortgage loan. Make sure you have relevant documentation of your homeowner’s insurance, a paid receipt of your first year homeowners insurance premium, and a certified check for the closing amount.

While you are reviewing everything, be sure to ask questions. Your loan officer, real estate agent, inspector, and other professionals are there to help. Don’t be afraid to bother them. If anything is unclear or not as previously discussed, be sure to make a note and contact the relevant party. There is no problem in asking questions, but problems do happen if you are too afraid to speak up.

 

Step 3: Clear Your Calendar and Have Patience

While closings can sometimes take as little as 30 minutes, they have a tendency to drag on for hours or more. It is important that you are not in a rush to complete everything and have the time to make sure everything is done right. After all, one mistake at closing (or a failed closing) will end up costing you months or years worth of work; so taking off one day is more than worth it. Especially don’t try to close during your lunch break. Not only will you be late for work, but you’ll also be hungry and frustrated.

Most important of all is to go into the closing with a Zen like mindset. Even if you have checked and doubled checked all of your paperwork, you still have to rely on the other party. Just have patience if something does go wrong and remind yourself that they want to complete this transaction just as much as you do.

Oh and…

 

Step 4: Celebrate!

When selling your home, seemingly small details can be the difference between “sold in a week” and “sitting on the market for months”. From the moment that a buyer arrives at your home, they want an emotional connection with what they see. They want to picture their family growing up in the house. They want to fall in love.

While triggering such an emotional response from a buyer may seem like an expensive ordeal, it can be quite cheap and simple if you work smart. By avoiding structural changes and sticking to DIY improvements, you can save tens of thousands of dollars. Here are 6 surprisingly inexpensive ways to make your home sell faster (and at a higher price):

 

  1. Focus on curb appeal

First impressions go a long way in real estate. Make sure that your lawn, garden and bushes are properly maintained. Trim unsightly hedges, branches, and shrubs. Planting fresh flowers greets visitors with a smile and signals that you actively maintain your property. Put a wreath or similar decorations on your front door for extra charm. Also, think about replacing your door knob with a sleek, modern design to make your home look more secure.

 

  1. Let there be light

Dark, underlit rooms look creepy, cheap and scare away buyers. You want a potential buyer to be able to see how great your home is. So to make your home look more attractive, light it up.

Replace older light bulbs with newer, higher wattage bulbs to illuminate every corner. Install dimmer switches to be able to set the right mood for each room. You can even install additional ceiling lights in main rooms that need a more luxurious look. Ceiling lights may come at a higher cost, but they make a massive difference.

 

  1. A fresh coat of paint can do wonders

Most of the surface area in your house is walls and ceilings (paint). One of the biggest differences you can make in an afternoon is to re-touch and re-paint your interiors. Since you don’t know who will end up buying your home, you need to appeal to a wide range of potential buyers.

Remove old, dated wallpaper and paint over polarizing colors (too bright or too dark). Use neutral colors that don’t elicit negative reactions. In smaller spaces and rooms, use lighter colors to make the area seem larger. And if a house filled with neutral colors seems too dull, you can always use a tasteful accent color in the right places such as doorways, windows, and select walls.

 

  1. Fix what’s under your feet

The second largest surface area of your home is your floors. When you’ve lived in your house for years, it’s easy to overlook areas of wear and tear. Luckily, making your floors look better can be done on the cheap.

If areas of hardwood are worn out (such as under tables) put a surface rug to cover the heavy usage. Replacing fraying carpet with generic (even commercial) alternatives is not too costly and goes a long way to make your home look new. In the kitchen, cracked or dated linoleum can be replaced for more modern styles without breaking the bank.

 

  1. Upgrade your kitchen and bathrooms

The kitchen is the focal point of the house and one of the first places buyers go when touring a home. It is very important for your kitchen to feel warm, welcoming and up to date. Instead of replacing old cabinets, simply repaint them a neutral color. After painting the cabinets, replace the knobs for a more modern feel. Finally, check that all the caulk and tile grout is in good condition and looking new.

Updated bathrooms can add a ton of value to your home, but often come at a steep price. To fix up your bathroom on the cheap, replace small, dated vanity mirrors with a large framed mirror. You can find simple mirror panes from any hardware store, and then use a picture frame for a great finish.

 

  1. Deep clean and declutter

No one likes a dirty house. Hire a professional cleaner to clean in areas that you might miss during your normal routine. You may not notice much of a difference, but your guests sure will!

Also, move your family’s personal items, pictures, and knick knacks to storage unit. Homebuyers want to be able to picture themselves in the space, not your family. Removing excess clutter also makes your home feel much larger and less stressful.

 

While you can go all out adding additions and renovating your kitchen, know that you don’t have to spend mega bucks to make your home stand out. Finding tasks that you can do yourself saves tons of money. Small improvements add up, especially when you are smart about what you are fixing. And most of all, be sure to consult an expert when selling your home.

 

Home buying is an exciting, yet complex, process that many Americans go through each year. Purchasing your first home is the biggest purchase and financial decision in your life so far. It is important that you keep a cool head and avoid these 5 common mistakes to ensure you get the best deal possible.

 

  1. Getting pre-approved for a loan too late (by searching for a home first)

Many first-time homebuyers start searching for a new home before taking with a lender. Searching for a home is more glamorous and fun, but you are wasting your time by not having a pre-approval letter from a mortgage provider.

When getting pre-approved, it is important to give the lender enough time to process your request. Many pre-approvals are straightforward, but some can take as long as 45-60 days. Once you are qualified for a loan, you’ll be able to close faster, which is extremely important in more competitive housing markets.

It can be scary to talk to a lender, since there is always the possibility they you’ll be turned down for a loan. But it is much better for everyone involved to be turned down before spending hours looking at homes and talking with sellers. Once you are pre-approved for a mortgage, you’ll know exactly what you can afford and be able to target your perfect home easier.

 

  1. Not budgeting beyond monthly mortgage payments

Affording a home means much more than simply being able to pay the mortgage each month. New homeowners are often surprised by all the additional expenses that arise once they move in. In addition to your monthly mortgage payment you’ll also have to budget for property insurance, taxes, homeowners association dues, maintenance, and higher electric and water bills (compared to renting).

The first year in your new home will also be the most costly. There are often necessary repairs that arise that were unable to be caught in a simply home inspection. And when you move in, you want to make sure you have money on hand to customize your new home based on what your family needs.

 

  1. Putting too much money into the down payment

Another common budgeting mistake is to strictly adhere to the “20% rule” (aka thinking you always need to put down 20% of your home’s value as a down payment). As we talked about above, your first year of homeownership is this most expensive, and you need to make sure your have reserve cash on hand for emergencies or improvements.

Putting less than 20% down is nothing to be ashamed of. While, private mortgage insurance may increase your monthly payments, it can be a great tool to give you peace of mind. Plus, once you pay off 20% of your home in total, you can always refinance to drop your PMI.

 

  1. Putting too much faith in online information

By now, most people know that just because you see something online, it doesn’t mean that it’s true. Zillow’s Zestimates are famous for being incorrect, often by up to 20% or more. Home information in your local MLS can be famously lacking, out of date or inaccurate.

Be sure to verify all information that you see online. A quality home inspector can save you tons of headaches down the line and verify facts about a property. Also, be sure to use a REALTOR even when buying a home. They can find comparable properties that have sold recently to have a much more accurate appraisal of a home’s true value.

 

  1. Falling in love with a house

One of the most common mistakes is getting too emotionally tied to a particular property. Strong emotions are the enemy of negotiating, and can cause you to overpay or overlook warning signs of a particular property.

Know that there will always be more homes for you to consider. Being able to walk away from a deal gives your the leverage you need to get a fair deal. So get excited about your potential new home, but check that excitement at the door when examining the details.

 

So by all means, fall in love with a house, just make sure your do it after closing. Of course, having an experienced buyer’s agent by your side is one of the smartest moves you can make.