The Home Buyer's Guide to Getting Mortgage Ready


Don’t wait until you’re ready to move to start preparing financially to buy a home.

 If you’re like the vast majority of home buyers, you will choose to finance your purchase with a mortgage loan. By preparing in advance, you can avoid the common delays and roadblocks many buyers face when applying for a mortgage.

 The requirements to secure a mortgage may seem overwhelming, especially if you’re a first-time buyer. But we’ve outlined three simple steps to get you started on your path to homeownership.

 Even if you’re a current homeowner, it’s a good idea to prepare in advance so you don’t encounter any surprises along the way. Lending requirements have become more rigorous in recent years, and changes to your credit history, debt levels, job type and other factors could impact your chances of approval.

It’s never too early to start preparing to buy a home. Follow these three steps to begin laying the foundation for your future home purchase today!

 

STEP 1: CHECK YOUR CREDIT SCORE

 Your credit score is one of the first things a lender will check to see if you qualify for a loan. It’s a good idea to review your credit report and score yourself before you’re ready to apply for a mortgage. If you have a low score, you will need time to raise it. And sometimes fraudulent activity or erroneous information will appear on your report, which can take months to correct.

 The credit score most lenders use is your FICO score, a weighted score developed by the Fair Isaac Corporation that takes into account your payment history (35%), amounts owed (30%), length of credit history (15%), new credit (10%), and credit mix (10%).1

 

Source: myFico.com

 Base FICO scores range from 300 to 850. A higher FICO score will help you qualify for a lower mortgage interest rate, which will save you money.2

 By federal law, you are entitled to one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and Transunion). Request your free credit report at https://www.annualcreditreport.com.

 Minimum Score Requirements

 To qualify for the lowest interest rates available, you will usually need a FICO score of 760 or higher. Most lenders require a score of at least 620 to qualify for a conventional mortgage.3

 If your FICO score is less than 620, you may be able to qualify for a non-conventional mortgage. However, you should expect to pay higher interest rates and fees. For example, you may be able to secure an FHA loan (one issued by a private lender but insured by the Federal Housing Administration) with a credit score as low as 580 if you can make a 3.5 percent down payment. And FHA loans are available to applicants with credit scores as low as 500 with a 10 percent down payment.4

 Increase Your Credit Score

 There’s no quick fix for a low credit score, but the following steps will help you increase it over time.5

 1. Make Payments on Time

At 35 percent, your payment history accounts for the largest portion of your credit score. Therefore, it’s crucial to get caught up on any late payments and make all of your future payments on time.

 If you have trouble remembering to pay your bills on time, set up payment reminders through your online banking platform, a free money management tool like Mint, or an app like BillMinder.

 2. Avoid Applying for New Credit You Don’t Need

New accounts will lower your average account age, which could negatively impact your length of credit history. Also, each time you apply for credit, it can result in a small decrease in your credit score.

 The exception to this rule? If you don’t have any credit cards—or any credit accounts at all—you should open an account to establish a credit history. Just be sure to use it responsibly and pay it off in full each month.

 If you need to shop for a new credit account, for example, a car loan, be sure to complete your loan applications within a short period of time. FICO attempts to distinguish between a search for a single loan and applications to open several new lines of credit by the window of time during which inquiries occur.

 3. Pay Down Credit Cards

When you pay off your credit cards and other revolving credit, you lower your amounts owed, or credit utilization ratio (ratio of account balances to credit limits). Some experts recommend starting with your highest-interest debt and paying it off first. Others suggest paying off your lowest balance first and then rolling that payment into your next-lowest balance to create momentum.

 Whichever method you choose, the first step is to make a list of all of your credit card balances and then start tackling them one by one. Make the minimum payments on all of your cards except one. Pay as much as possible on that card until it’s paid in full, then cross it off your list and move on to the next card.

 

Debt

Interest Rate

Total Payoff

Minimum Payment

Credit Card 1

12.5%

$460

$18.40

Credit Card 2

18.9%

$1,012

$40.48

Credit Card 3

3.11%

$6,300

$252

 

 4. Avoid Closing Old Accounts

Closing an old account will not remove it from your credit report. In fact, it can hurt your score, as it can raise your credit utilization ratio—since you’ll have less available credit—and decrease your average length of credit history.

 Similarly, paying off a collection account will not remove it from your report. It remains on your credit report for seven years, however, the negative impact on your score will decrease over time.

 5. Correct Errors on Your Report

Mistakes or fraudulent activity can negatively impact your credit score. That’s why it’s a good idea to check your credit report at least once per year. The Federal Trade Commission has instructions on their website for disputing errors on your report.

 While it may seem like a lot of effort to raise your credit score, your hard work will pay off in the long run. Not only will it help you qualify for a mortgage, a high credit score can help you secure a lower interest rate on car loans and credit cards, as well. You may even qualify for lower rates on insurance premiums.6

 STEP 2: SAVE UP FOR A DOWN PAYMENT AND CLOSING COSTS

 The next step in preparing for your home purchase is to save up for a down payment and closing costs.

 Down Payment

 When you purchase a home, you typically pay for a portion of it in cash (down payment) and take out a loan to cover the remaining balance (mortgage). 

 Many first-time buyers wonder: How much do I need to save for a down payment? The answer is … it depends.

 Generally speaking, the higher your down payment, the more money you will save on interest and fees. For example, you will qualify for a lower interest rate and avoid paying for mortgage insurance if your down payment is at least 20 percent of the property’s purchase price. But what if you can’t afford to put down 20 percent?

 On a conventional loan, you will be required to purchase private mortgage insurance (PMI) if your down payment is less than 20 percent. PMI is insurance that compensates your lender if you default on your loan.7

 PMI will cost you between 0.3 to 1.5 percent of the overall mortgage amount each year.8 So, on a $100,000 loan, you can expect to pay between $300 and $1500 per year for PMI until your mortgage balance falls below 80 percent of the appraised value.9 For a conventional mortgage with PMI, most lenders will accept a minimum down payment of five percent of the purchase price.7

 If a five-percent down payment is still too high, an FHA-insured loan may be an option for you. Because they are guaranteed by the Federal Housing Administration, FHA loans only require a 3.5 percent down payment if your credit score is 580 or higher.7

 The downside of getting an FHA loan? You’ll be required to pay an upfront mortgage insurance premium (MIP) of 1.75 percent of the total loan amount, as well as an annual MIP of between 0.80 and 1.05 percent of your loan balance on a 30-year note. There are also certain limitations on the types of loans and properties that qualify.10

 There are a variety of other government-sponsored programs created to assist home buyers, as well. For example, veterans and current members of the Armed Forces may qualify for a VA-backed loan requiring a $0 down payment.7 Consult a mortgage lender about what options are available to you.

 

TYPE

MINIMUM DOWN

ADDITIONAL FEES

Conventional Loan

20%

Qualify for the best rates and no mortgage insurance required

Conventional Loan

5%

Must purchase private mortgage insurance costing 0.3 - 1.5% of mortgage annually

FHA Loan

3.5%

Upfront mortgage insurance premium of 1.75% of loan amount and annual fee of 0.8 - 1.05%

 

 Current Homeowners

If you’re a current homeowner, you may have equity in your home that you can use toward your down payment on a new home. We can help you estimate your expected return after you sell your current home and pay back your existing mortgage. Contact us for a free evaluation!

 Closing Costs 

Closing costs should also be factored into your savings plan. These may include loan origination fees, discount points, appraisal fees, title searches, title insurance, surveys and other fees associated with the purchase of your home. Closing costs vary but typically range between two to five percent of the purchase price.11

 If you don’t have the funds to pay these outright at closing, you can often add them to your mortgage balance and pay them over time. However, this means you’ll have a higher monthly payment and pay more over the long term because you’ll pay interest on the fees.

 STEP 3: ESTIMATE YOUR HOME PURCHASING POWER

Once you have the required credit score, savings for a down payment and a list of all your outstanding debt obligations via your credit report, you can assess whether you are ready and able to purchase a home.

 It’s important to have a sense of how much you can reasonably afford—and how much you’ll be able to borrow—to see if homeownership is within reach.

 Your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio is one of the main factors mortgage companies use to determine how much they are willing to lend you, and it can help you gauge whether or not your home purchasing goals are realistic given your current financial situation.

 Your DTI ratio is essentially a comparison of your housing expenses and other debt versus your income. There are two different DTI ratios that lenders consider:

 Front-End Ratio 

Also called the housing ratio, this is the percentage of your income that would go toward housing expenses each month, including your mortgage payment, private mortgage insurance, property taxes, homeowner’s insurance and association dues.12

 To calculate your front-end DTI ratio, a lender will add up your expected housing expenses and divide it by your gross monthly income (income before taxes). The maximum front-end DTI ratio for most mortgages is 28 percent. For an FHA-backed loan, this ratio must not exceed 31 percent.13

 Back-End Ratio 

The back-end ratio takes into account all of your monthly debt obligations: your expected housing expenses PLUS credit card bills, car payments, child support or alimony, student loans and any other debt that shows up on your credit report.12

 To calculate your back-end ratio, a lender will tabulate your expected housing expenses and other monthly debt payments and divide it by your gross monthly income (income before taxes). The maximum back-end DTI ratio for most mortgages is 36 percent. For an FHA-backed loan, this ratio must not exceed 41 percent.13

 Home Affordability Calculator

To get a sense of how much home you can afford, visit the National Association of Realtors’ free Home Affordability Calculator at https://www.realtor.com/mortgage/tools/affordability-calculator.

 This handy tool will help you determine your home purchasing power depending on your location, annual income, monthly debt and down payment. It also offers a monthly mortgage breakdown that projects what you would pay each month in principal and interest, property taxes, and home insurance.

 The Home Affordability Calculator defaults to a back-end DTI ratio of 36 percent. If the monthly cost estimate at that ratio is significantly higher than what you’re currently paying for housing, you need to consider whether or not you can make up the difference each month in your budget.

 If not, you may want to lower your target purchase price to a more conservative DTI ratio. The tool enables you to scroll through higher and lower price points to see the impact on your monthly payments so you can identify your ideal price point.

 (Note: This tool only provides an estimate of your purchasing power. You will need to secure pre-approval from a mortgage lender to know your true mortgage approval amount and monthly payment projections.)

 Can I Afford to Buy My Dream Home?

 Once you have a sense of your purchasing power, it’s time to find out which neighborhoods and types of homes you can afford. The best way to determine this is to contact a licensed real estate agent. We help homeowners like you every day and can send you a comprehensive list of homes within your budget that meet your specific needs.

 If there are homes within your price range and target neighborhoods that meet your criteria—congratulations! It’s time to begin your home search.

 If not, you may need to continue saving up for a larger down payment … or adjust your search parameters to find homes that do fit within your budget. We can help you determine the right course for you.

 START LAYING YOUR FOUNDATION TODAY

 It’s never too early to start preparing financially for a home purchase. These three steps will set you on the path toward homeownership … and a secure financial future!

 And if you are ready to buy now but don’t have a perfect credit score or a big down payment, don’t get discouraged. There are resources and options available that might make it possible for you to buy a home sooner than you think. We can help.

 Want to find out if you’re ready to buy a house? Give us a call! We’ll help you review your options, connect you with one of our trusted mortgage lenders, and help you determine the ideal time to begin your new home search.

 The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to be financial advice. Consult a financial professional for advice regarding your individual needs.

 Sources:

1.     Quicken Loans Blog –
https://www.quickenloans.com/blog/how-does-your-credit-score-affect-your-mortgage-eligibility

2.     myFICO –
https://www.myfico.com/credit-education/credit-report-credit-score-articles/

3.     Bankrate –
https://www.bankrate.com/mortgages/what-is-a-good-credit-score-to-buy-a-house/

4.     Bankrate –
https://www.bankrate.com/finance/mortgages/7-crucial-facts-about-fha-loans-1.aspx

5.     myFICO –
https://www.myfico.com/credit-education/improve-your-credit-score/

6.     The Balance –
https://www.thebalance.com/having-good-credit-score-960528

7.     Bankrate –
https://www.bankrate.com/mortgages/how-much-is-a-down-payment-on-a-house/

8.     Bankrate –
https://www.bankrate.com/finance/mortgages/the-basics-of-private-mortgage-insurance-pmi.aspx

9.     Bankrate –
https://www.bankrate.com/finance/mortgages/removing-private-mortgage-insurance.aspx

10.   The Balance –
https://www.thebalance.com/fha-home-loan-pitfalls-315673

11.   Investopedia –
https://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/closingcosts.asp

12.   Bankrate –
https://www.bankrate.com/finance/mortgages/why-debt-to-income-matters-in-mortgages-1.aspx

13.   The Lenders Network –
https://thelendersnetwork.com/fha-debt-to-income-ratio/

June 11, 2018

Real Estate Relocation Guide: 7 Steps to a Seamless Move

Real Estate Relocation Guide: 7 Steps to a Seamless Move

Whatever your reasons are for relocating to a new area, the process can feel overwhelming.

Whether you’re moving across town or across the country, you’ll be changing more than your address. Besides a new house, you may also be searching for new jobs, schools, doctors, restaurants, stores, service providers and more.

Of course you’ll need to pack, make moving arrangements, and possibly sell your old home. With so much to do, you may be wondering: Where do I start?

In this guide, we outline seven steps to help you get prepared, get organized, and get settled in your new community. Our hope is to alleviate the hassle of relocating—so you can focus on the exciting adventure ahead!

 

1. Gather Information

If you’re unfamiliar with your new area, start by doing some research.1 Look for data on average housing prices, demographics, school rankings and crime statistics. Search for maps that illustrate local geography, landmarks, public transportation routes and major interstates. If you’re moving across the country, research climate and seasonal weather patterns. 

Check out local newspapers and blogs for information on political issues and developments that could impact your new community. You may also want to search for online forums and Facebook Groups relevant to your new area. These can be a great place to find information, ask questions and just observe local attitudes and outlooks.

 If you’re relocating for a job, find out if your new employer offers any relocation assistance. Many large corporations have a designated human resources professional to assist employees with relocation efforts, while others may contract this service out to a third party. Some employers will also cover all or a portion of your relocation and moving costs.

 

By gathering this information up front, you’ll be better prepared to make informed decisions down the road.

 

Let us know if you’d like assistance with your information gathering process. We have a wealth of knowledge about this area, and we keep a number of reports and statistics on file in our office. We would be happy to share information and answer any questions you may have.

 

 

2. Identify Your Ideal Neighborhoods 

Once you’ve sufficiently researched your new area, you can start to identify your ideal neighborhoods. 

The first step is to prioritize your “needs” and “wants.” Consider factors such as budget; commute time; quality of schools; crime rate; walkability; access to public transportation; proximity to restaurants, shopping, and place of worship; and neighborhood vibe. 

If possible, visit the area in person to get a feel for the community. If you’re comfortable, strike up conversations with local residents and ask about their experiences living in the area. 

Still not sure which neighborhood is the best fit for you and your family? Contact a local real estate agent for expert assistance. It’s usually the most efficient and effective way to narrow down your options.

 

We provide neighborhood assessments and advice as a free service if you’re relocating to our area. Or, if you’re moving out of town, we can refer you to a local agent who can help.

 

 

3. Find Your New Home (and Sell Your Old One) 

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of preferred neighborhoods, it’s time to start looking for a home. If you haven’t already contacted a real estate agent, now is the time. They can search for current property listings that meet your needs, typically at no cost to you. 

Create another list of “needs” and “wants,” but this time for your new home. Include your basic requirements for square footage, bedrooms and bathrooms, but also think about what other factors are important to you and your family. An updated kitchen? A large backyard? Double sinks in the master bathroom? 

Narrow your list down to your top 10 and prioritize them in order of importance.2 This will give you a good starting point to begin your home search. Unless you have an unlimited budget, don’t expect to find a home with everything on your list. But having a prioritized list can help you and your Ray Cook Realty Agent understand which home features are the most important, and which ones you may be willing to sacrifice. 

If you already own a home, you’ll also need to start the process of selling it or renting it out. A real estate agent can help you evaluate your options based on current market conditions. He or she can also give you an idea of how much equity you have in your current home so you know how much you can afford to spend on your new one. 

Your agent can also advise you on how to time your sale and purchase. While some buyers are able to qualify for and cover the costs of two concurrent mortgages, many are not. There are a number of options available, and a skilled agent can help you determine the best course given your circumstances.

 

We would love to assist you if you have plans to buy or sell a home in our area. Please contact us 727-330-3333 to schedule a free consultation so we can discuss your unique needs and devise a custom plan to make your relocation as seamless as possible. If you’re relocating outside of our area, we can help you find a trusted agent in your new city.

 

 

4. Prepare for Your Departure 

While everyone considers packing a fundamental part of moving, we often overlook the emotional preparation that needs to take place. If you have children, this can be especially important. Communicate the move in an age-appropriate way, and if possible take them on a tour of your new home and neighborhood. This can alleviate some of the mystery and apprehension around the move.4 

Allow yourself plenty of time to pack up your belongings. Before you start, gather supplies, including boxes, tape, tissue paper and bubble wrap. Begin with non-essentials—such as off-season clothes or holiday decorations—and sort items into four categories: take, trash, sell and donate/give away.5 

To make the unpacking process easier, be sure to label the top and sides of boxes with helpful information, including contents, room, and any special instructions. Keep a master inventory list so you can refer back to it if something goes missing. 

If you will be using a moving company, start researching and pricing your options. To ensure an accurate estimate of your final cost, it’s best to have them conduct an in-person walk-through. Make sure you’re working with a reputable company, and avoid paying a large deposit before your belongings are delivered.6 

If you plan to drive to your new home, map out the route. And, if necessary, make arrangements for overnight accommodations along the way. If driving is not a good option, you may need to have your vehicles transported and make travel arrangements for you, your family and your pets. 

Lastly, if you will be leaving friends or family behind, schedule final get-togethers before your departure. The last days before moving can be incredibly hectic, so make sure you block off some time in advance for proper goodbyes.

 

Looking for a reputable moving company? We are happy to provide referrals, as well as recommendations on where to procure packing supplies in our area.

 

 

5. Prepare for Your Arrival 

To make your transition go smoothly, prepare for your arrival well before moving day. Depending on how long your belongings will take to arrive, you may need to arrange for temporary hotel accommodations. If you plan to move in directly, pack an “essentials box” with everything you’ll need for the first couple of nights in your new home, such as toiletries, toilet paper, towels, linens, pajamas, cell phone chargers, snacks, pet food and a change of clothes.7 This will keep you from searching through boxes after an exhausting day of moving. 

Arrange in advance for your utilities to be turned on, especially essentials like water, electricity and gas. (And while you’re at it, schedule a shut-off date for your current utilities.) Update your address on all accounts and subscriptions and arrange to have your mail forwarded through the postal service. If you have children, register them for their new school or daycare and arrange for the transfer of any necessary records. 

You may want to have the house professionally cleaned before moving in. And if you plan to remodel, paint or install new flooring, it’s easier to have it done before you bring in all of your belongings.8 However, it’s not always feasible without someone you trust locally who can supervise. Another option is to keep a portion of your things in storage while you complete some of these projects.  

If there are no window treatments, you may need to install some (or at least put up temporary privacy film), especially in bedrooms and bathrooms. And if appliances are missing, consider purchasing them ahead of time and arranging for delivery and installation shortly after you arrive. Just be sure to check measurements and installation instructions carefully so you aren’t stuck with an appliance that doesn’t fit or that requires costly modifications to your new home. 

If you own a car, check the requirements for a driver’s license and vehicle registration in your new area and contact your insurance company to update your policy.8 If you will rely on public transportation, research options and schedules.

 

If you’re relocating to our area, we can help! We offer “VIP Relocation Assistance” to all of our buyer clients. Contact us for a list of preferred hotels, utility providers, housekeepers, contractors and more!

 

 

6. Get Settled In Your New Home 

While staring at an endless pile of boxes can feel daunting, you should take advantage of this opportunity to make a fresh start. By creating a plan ahead of time, you can ensure your new house is thoughtfully laid out and well organized. 

If you followed our suggestion to pack an “essentials box” (see Step 5), you should have easy access to everything you’ll need to get you through the first couple of nights in your new home. This will allow you some breathing room to unpack your remaining items in a deliberate manner, instead of rushing through the process.7 

If you have young children, consider unpacking their rooms first. Seeing their familiar items can help them establish a sense of comfort and normalcy during a confusing time. Then move on to any items you use on a daily basis.10 

Pets can also get overwhelmed by a new, unfamiliar space. Let them adjust to a single room first, which should include their favorite toys, treats, food and water bowl, and a litter box for cats. Once they seem comfortable, you can gradually introduce them to other rooms in the home.11 

As you unpack, make a list of items that need to be purchased so you’re not making multiple trips to the store. Also, start a list of needed repairs and installations. If you have a home warranty, find out what’s covered and the process for filing a service order. 

Although you may be eager to get everything unpacked, it’s important to take occasional breaks. Have some fun, relax and explore your new hometown!

 

Need help with unpacking, organizing or decorating your new home? Contact us 727-330-3333 for a list of recommended professionals in our area. And when you’re ready to start exploring local “hot spots,” we’d love to fill you in on our favorite restaurants, stores, parks and other attractions!

 

 

7. Get Involved In Your New Community 

Studies show that moving can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression. People who have recently moved tend to be isolated socially, more stressed, and less likely to participate in exercise and hobbies. However, there are ways to combat these negative effects.12 

First, get out and explore. In a 2016 study, recent movers were shown to spend less time on physical activities and more time on their computers, which has been proven to lead to feelings of depression and loneliness. Instead, get out of your house and investigate your new area. And if you travel by foot, you’ll gain the advantages of fresh air and exercise.12 

Combat feelings of isolation by making an effort to meet people in your new community. Find a local interest group, take a class, join a place of worship or volunteer for a cause. Don’t wait for friends to come knocking on your door. Instead, go out and find them. 

Finally, be a good neighbor. Make an effort to introduce yourself to your new neighbors, invite them over for coffee or dinner, and offer assistance when they need it. Once you’ve developed friendships and a support system within your new neighborhood, it will truly start to feel like home.

 

Want more ideas on how to get involved in your community? Contact us 727-330-3333 for a free copy of our report, “Welcome Home: 10 Tips to Turn Your Neighborhood Into a Hometown Haven.”

 

 

LET’S GET MOVING 

While moving is never easy, these seven steps offer an action plan to get you started on your new adventure. To avoid getting overwhelmed, focus on one step at a time. And don’t hesitate to ask for help! 

In a 2015 study, 61 percent of participants ranked moving at the top of their stress list, above divorce and starting a new job.13 But with a little preparation—and the right team of professionals to assist you—it is possible to have a positive relocation experience. 

We specialize in assisting home buyers and sellers with a seamless and “less-stress” relocation. Along with our referral network of movers, handymen, housekeepers, decorators, contractors and other service providers, we can help take the hassle and headache out of your upcoming move. Give us a call or message us to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation!

 

 Sources:

1.     You Move Me -
https://www.youmoveme.com/us/blog/105-tips-for-a-successful-relocation

2.     HouseLogic.com -
https://www.houselogic.com/buy/house-hunting/must-have-items/

3.     Livestrong -
https://www.livestrong.com/article/436651-the-effects-of-sunlight-fresh-air-on-the-body/

4.     Parents Magazine -
https://www.parents.com/parenting/money/buy-a-house/make-moving-easier-on-you-and-your-kids/

5.     The Spruce -
https://www.thespruce.com/starting-to-pack-for-your-move-2436470

6.     Moving.com -
https://www.moving.com/tips/hiring-quality-movers/

7.     The Spruce -
https://www.thespruce.com/unpack-your-entire-home-2435815

8.     HouseLogic.com -
https://www.houselogic.com/buy/moving-in/before-you-move/

9.     HGTV -
https://www.hgtv.com/design/real-estate/moving-checklist

10.   Moving.com -
https://www.moving.com/tips/how-to-unpack-and-organize-your-house/

11.   ASPCA -
https://www.aspca.org/pet-care/general-pet-care/moving-your-pet

12.   Psychology Today -
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/is-where-you-belong/201607/why-youre-miserable-after-move

13.   The Daily Express -
https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/574171/Divorce-stressful-moving-home

May 3, 2018

10 Staging Secrets From the Pros for a Quick Home Sale at Top Dollar

According to the National Association of Realtors, staging a home prior to listing it can result in a faster and more profitable sale. In fact, the Real Estate Staging Association estimates that professionally staged properties spend 73 percent less time on the market, receive more foot traffic, and typically sell for more money.

Source: National Association of Realtors

Following are 10 tips you can use to get your home “show ready” prior to hitting the market. These easy and cost-effective ideas will help your house look its best—and help buyers visualize themselves living there. Even if you’re not currently in the market to sell, you can use these tactics to breathe new life into your existing home decor.

To get a plan customized for your particular property, give us a call to schedule a free consultation. We’d be happy to share our insider knowledge of the buyer preferences in your neighborhood … so you’ll know where to focus your time, money and energy to maximize your results.

1. REMOVE CLUTTER

Decluttering is typically the first thing we tell clients to do to prepare their home for sale. And according to the National Association of Realtors, a whopping 93 percent of agents agree. Decluttering is the act of removing excess “stuff” from your home to make it appear clean and spacious.

Overflowing closets and cluttered countertops can make your house feel small and cramped. In contrast, sparsely-filled closets and clear countertops will make your home appear larger and assure buyers that there will be plenty of room to store their belongings.

Don’t neglect drawers, cupboards and even your refrigerator in your decluttering efforts. Serious buyers will check out every nook and cranny of your home, so pack up anything you don’t use on a daily basis and store it off site. The same goes for jewelry, sensitive documents, prescription medication, firearms and other items of value. Store them in a locked safe or storage unit before opening your property to buyers.

Make sure any items that remain are clean, tidy and well organized. The good news is, when it comes time to move, a large portion of your packing will be done!

2. DEEP CLEAN AND DEODORIZE

From carpets to bathrooms to appliances, having a clean home is a MUST. If you’ve ever checked into a dirty hotel room, you can imagine how buyers can be turned off by a home that hasn’t been thoroughly cleaned.

If you have a large home, or are short on time, you may want to invest in a professional cleaning service. And if you have carpet, we generally recommend you rent a steam cleaner or hire a company to clean your carpets for you.

In addition to cleaning, it’s equally important to neutralize odors in your home that can be off-putting to buyers, especially pet smells and cigarette smoke. If the weather allows, open your windows and let in fresh air. Empty the trash frequently, and especially before a showing. Avoid cooking any strong-smelling food such as fish or heavy spices. You may need to clean (or remove) drapes and upholstery if odors are particularly strong.

Try to keep your home in clean, show-ready condition while it’s on the market. You never know when a potential buyer will want to drop by for a viewing.

3. DEPERSONALIZE

Your family photos and personal mementos are often your most treasured possessions. For many of us, they are what make a house a home. However, buyers will have a hard time envisioning themselves living in a place if it feels like YOUR home. Pack up any items that are personal to you and your family, such as photos, books, children’s artwork, travel souvenirs and religious items. Collectibles and excessive knickknacks can be distracting to buyers. Instead, keep your decor items minimal and generic to appeal to the largest number of buyers.

4. NEUTRALIZE YOUR COLOR PALETTE

Along those same lines, bold color choices may not appeal to all buyers. By incorporating a neutral color palette throughout your home, buyers can better visualize the addition of their own furniture and decor, which may contrast with your current color scheme.

But don’t limit yourself to white and beige. Incorporating earth tones and midtone neutrals—like mocha and “greige” (grey-beige)—can add a touch of modern sophistication to your decor.

One of the quickest and most cost-effective ways to neutralize your home’s decor is with paint. Walls painted in dark, bold or bright colors can turn off buyers. A fresh coat of paint in a neutral color like greige (try Benjamin Moore’s Revere Pewter) or warm white (such as Kelly-Moore’s Rotunda White) offers a clean palette upon which buyers can visualize adding their own personal touches.

If your sofa is worn, stained or has a bold pattern, consider purchasing a neutral-colored slipcover. Dated or overly busy window coverings should be taken down or replaced. Instead, bring in tasteful pops of color with throw pillows and accessories.

5. INCREASE YOUR CURB APPEAL

You only get one chance to make a first impression. According to a 2017 report by the National Association of Realtors, 44 percent of home buyers drove by a property after viewing it online but did NOT go inside for a walkthrough. That means if your curb appeal is lacking, buyers may never make it through the door.

Walk around your home and look for any neglected areas that might seem like “red flags” to buyers, such as missing roof shingles or rotted siding. Trim trees and shrubs if needed, and make sure your lawn and flower beds are well maintained. Add some colorful flowers to your front beds and/or flower boxes to brighten up your landscaping.

Make sure the exterior of your home is as clean as the interior. This can often be accomplished with a simple garden hose. But if your siding, walkway, or driveway are stained or dingy, you may want to rent a pressure washer.

Thoroughly wash windows and screens, and remove and store dark solar screens if you have them. Open shutters, curtains and blinds, which will not only make your house look more inviting from the outside, it will brighten the inside.

Consider a fresh coat of paint on your front door, trim and shutters. And small, cosmetic improvements like new house numbers, a colorful wreath and a clean front doormat can have a big impact.

6. FRESHEN KITCHENS AND BATHS

Kitchens and bathrooms will show better and appear larger if all items are cleared from the countertops, except for one or two decorative pieces. You should have already packed up non-essentials during your decluttering process, and the remaining items should be neatly stored in pantries and cupboards.

If your cabinets are dingy or outdated, adding a fresh coat of paint and new hardware is an easy and inexpensive way to make them modern and bright. Consider purchasing new shower curtains, bath mats and towels for the bathrooms and new dish towels for the kitchen.

Before each showing, make sure kitchens and baths are spotless and trash cans are empty and out of sight. To add a comforting aroma, try baking cookies, or in the fall, simmer some cinnamon sticks and cloves in a pot of water before you leave the house. In the spring, try a vase of fresh cut lilacs.

7. SET THE TABLE

Buyers often imagine hosting family gatherings in their new home, and the dining room plays a large role in that vision. If your dining room chairs are stained or outdated, you may want to recover them or use slipcovers. In most cases, an imperfect table can be camouflaged with a neutral and stylish tablecloth.

Be sure the table is centered underneath the chandelier and on the area rug if you’re using one. If your dining room is small, remove all other furniture and leave only four chairs.

Dress up the table using nice tableware and cloth napkins or a table runner and centerpiece. For a long table, try lining up a series of small vessels down the middle.

8. REARRANGE FURNITURE

Start in your living room and think about what you want to emphasize (and de-emphasize) about the space. For example, do you have a beautiful fireplace or a stunning view? If so, arrange the furniture with that focal point in mind. Use a symmetrical seating arrangement to create a cozy conversation area adjacent to the focal point.

If the room is small, consider removing some of the furniture to make it feel larger, especially oversized pieces. That includes oversized television sets, unless it’s a designated media room. Pulling furniture away from the wall can make the room feel more spacious, and placing your largest furniture piece in the far-left corner (as opposed to near the entry) can create the illusion of a larger space.

For small bedrooms, remove all the furniture except the bed, bedside tables and a dresser. If it’s a large room, add one or two chairs and a table to create a seating area. Place lamps on the bedside tables and seating area if you have one.

Make sure each space in your home has a clearly defined purpose. For example, if you’ve been using an extra bedroom as a catch-all storage space, stage it as a guest room or office instead. Turn an awkward alcove into a workstation or a reading corner. Help buyers imagine how they could use the space themselves.

9. LIGHTEN UP

Lighting can have a drastic impact on the look and feel of a home. Few buyers seek out a dark house; most prefer one that’s light and bright. Make sure windows are clean, and open curtains and blinds to let in the maximum amount of daylight.

Each room should have three types of lighting: ambient (general or overhead), task (such as a reading lamp or under-cabinet light), and accent (such as a floor or table lamp). Aim for a goal of 100 total watts per 50 square feet.11 If your mounted light fixtures are dated, replacing them with something more modern is an easy and inexpensive upgrade that can have a big impact.

Strategically placed landscape lighting can add a dramatic effect to your home’s exterior. Welcome evening visitors with a lighted walkway, or use a spotlight to accentuate trees or other landscaping features. Solar lights require no wiring; simply place them in a sunny spot and they will turn on automatically at dusk.

10. HIGHLIGHT YOUR BACKYARD’S BEST FEATURES

While your home’s interior often takes center stage, don’t forget about staging your home’s outdoor areas to help buyers imagine how they could utilize the space.

Even a small patio can become a selling feature with the addition of a cafe table and chairs. Add a tray of plates and coffee cups to help buyers envision a peaceful breakfast on the back porch. Place chairs and wine glasses around an outdoor firepit or hang a hammock with a book in your favorite shady spot. These small, simple additions can help buyers visualize the possibilities your backyard has to offer.

BEFORE YOU GET STARTED

If you’re in the market to sell your home, this list provides a great starting point for your preparations. But nothing beats the trained eye and expertise of a real estate agent. Before you do any work, we recommend consulting a professional for advice about your particular property.

We offer free, no-commitment seller consultations and will walk through your home with you to help you assess which projects and upgrades are worth your time and money, and which ones you can skip.

As local market experts, we are intimately familiar with buyer preferences in your area. We’ll run a comparative market analysis to find out how your home compares to others currently on the market, as well as those that have recently sold. Then we’ll tailor a custom plan to suit your particular property, budget and needs.

*Please call 727-330-3333 or email us at Ray@RayCook.net today with questions or to schedule a free consultation!

Sources:
1. National Association of Realtors –
https://www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/migration_files/reports/2017/2017-profile-of-home-staging-07-06-2017.pdf
2. Real Estate Staging Association –
 http://www.realestatestagingassociation.com/content.aspx?page_id=22&club_id=304550&module_id=164548
3. Houzz –
https://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/2661221/list/sell-your-home-fast-21-staging-tips
4. HGTV –
https://www.hgtv.com/design/outdoor-design/landscaping-and-hardscaping/10-curb-appeal-tips-from-the-pros-pictures
5. National Association of Realtors –
https://www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/reports/2017/2017-home-buyer-and-seller-generational-trends-03-07-2017.pdf
6. The Spruce –
https://www.thespruce.com/must-try-neutral-paint-colors-797983
7. HouseLogic –
https://www.houselogic.com/sell/preparing-your-home-to-sell/home-staging-checklist/
8. StageMyOwnHome.com –
http://www.stagemyownhome.com/staging-the-dining-room.html
9. Realtor.com –
https://www.realtor.com/advice/sell/small-living-room-staging-tricks/
10. SFGATE –
http://homeguides.sfgate.com/stage-master-bedroom-34573.html
11. HGTV –
https://www.hgtv.com/shows/designed-to-sell/15-secrets-of-home-staging-pictures
April 7, 2018

Ray Cook Realty's 2018 House Care Calendar

HOUSE CARE CALENDAR:
 A Seasonal Guide to Maintaining Your Home

 From summer vacations to winter holidays, it seems each season offers the perfect excuse to put off our to-do list. But be careful, homeowners: neglecting your home’s maintenance could put your personal safety—and one of your largest financial investments—at serious risk.

In no time at all, small problems can lead to extensive and expensive repairs. And even if you avoid a catastrophe, those minor issues can still have a big impact. Properties that are not well maintained can lose 10 percent (or more) of their appraised value.1

The good news is, by dedicating a few hours each season to properly maintaining your home, you can ensure a safe living environment for you and your family ... and actually increase the value of your home by one percent annually!1 You just need to know where and how to spend your time.

Use the following checklist as a guide to maintaining your home and lawn throughout the year. It's applicable for all climates, so please share it with friends and family members who you think could benefit, no matter where their home is located.

  Spring

 After a long, cold winter, many of us look forward to a fresh start in the spring. Wash away the winter grime, open the windows, and prepare your home for warmer weather and backyard barbecues.

 Inside

 

?     Conduct Annual Spring Cleaning
Be sure to tackle those areas that may have gone neglected—such as your blinds, baseboards and fan blades—as well as appliances, including your refrigerator, dishwasher, oven and range hood. Clear out clutter and clothes you no longer wear, and toss old and expired food and medications.

 

?     Shut Down Heating System
Depending on the type of heating system you have, you may need to shut your system down when not in use. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for proper procedures.

 

?     Tune Up A/C
If your home has central air conditioning, schedule an annual tune-up with your HVAC technician. If you have a portable or window unit, be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper maintenance.2

 

?     Check Plumbing
It’s a good idea to periodically check your plumbing to spot any leaks or maintenance issues. Look for evidence of leaks—such as water stains on the ceiling—and check for dripping faucets or running toilets that need to be addressed. Inspect your hot water heater for sediment build up. Check your sump pump (if you have one) to ensure it’s working properly.3

 

?     Inspect Smoke Alarm and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Check that your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are functioning properly. Batteries should be replaced every six months, so change them now and again in the fall. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to test your individual devices. And even properly functioning devices should be replaced at least every 10 years, or per the manufacturer’s recommendation.4

 

Outside

 

?     Inspect Perimeter of Home
Walk around your house and look for any signs of damage or wear and tear that should be addressed. Are there cracks in the foundation? Peeling paint? Loose or missing roof shingles? Make a plan to make needed repairs yourself or hire a contractor.

 

?     Clean Home’s Exterior
Wash windows and clean and replace screens if they were removed during the winter months. For the home’s facade, it’s generally advisable to use the gentlest method that is effective. A simple garden hose will work in most cases.5

 

?     Clean Gutters and Downspouts
Gutters and downspouts should be cleaned at least twice a year. Neglected gutters can cause water damage to a home, so make sure yours are clean and free of debris. If your gutters have screens, you may be able to decrease the frequency of cleanings, but they should still be checked periodically.6

 

?     Rake Leaves
Gently rake your lawn to remove leaves and debris. Too many leaves can cause an excessive layer of thatch, which can damage the roots of your lawn. They can also harbor disease-causing organisms and insects.7 However, take care because overly vigorous raking can damage new grass shoots.

?     Seed or Sod Lawn
If you have bare spots, spring is a good time to seed or lay new sod so you can enjoy a beautiful lawn throughout the remainder of the year. The peak summer heat can be too harsh for a new lawn. If you miss this window, early fall is another good time to plant.8

 

?     Apply a Pre-Emergent Herbicide
While a healthy lawn is the best deterrent for weeds, some homeowners choose to use a pre-emergent herbicide in the spring to minimize weeds. When applied at the right time, it can be effective in preventing weeds from germinating. However, a pre-emergent herbicide will also prevent grass seeds from germinating, so only use it if you don’t plan to seed or sod in the spring.

 

?     Plant Flowers
After a long winter, planting annuals and spring perennials is a great way to brighten up your garden. It’s also a good time to prune existing flowers and shrubs and remove and compost any dead plants.

?     Mulch Beds
A layer of fresh mulch helps to suppress weeds, retain moisture and moderate soil temperature. However, be sure to strip away old mulch at least every three years to prevent excessive buildup.9

?     Fertilize Lawn
Depending on your grass type, an application of fertilizer in the spring may help promote new leaf and root growth, keep your lawn healthy, and reduce weeds.10

 

?     Tune Up Lawn Mower
Send your lawn mower out for a professional tune-up and to have the blades sharpened before the mowing season starts.11

?     Inspect Sprinkler System
If you have a sprinkler system, check that it’s working properly and make repairs as needed.

 

?     Check the Deck
If you have a deck or patio, inspect it for signs of damage or deterioration that may have occurred over the winter. Then clean it thoroughly and apply a fresh coat of stain if needed.

 

?     Prepare Pool
If you own a pool, warmer weather signals the start of pool season. Be sure to follow best practices for your particular pool to ensure proper maintenance and safety.

 

Summer

Summer is generally the time to relax and enjoy your home, but a little time devoted to maintenance will help ensure it looks great and runs efficiently throughout the season.

 Inside

 

?     Adjust Ceiling Fans
Make sure they are set to run counter-clockwise in the summer to push air down and create a cooling breeze. Utilizing fans instead of your air conditioner, when possible, will help minimize your utility bills.

 

?     Clean A/C Filters
Be sure to clean or replace your filters monthly, particularly if you’re running your air conditioner often.

 

?     Clear Dryer Vent
Help cut down on summer utility bills by cleaning your laundry dryer vent at least once a year. Not only will it help cut down on drying times, a neglected dryer poses a serious fire hazard.

 

?     Check Weather Stripping
If you’re running your air conditioner in the summer, you’ll want to keep the cold air inside and hot air outside. Check weather stripping around doors and windows to ensure a good seal.

 Outside

 

?     Mow Lawn Regularly
Your lawn will probably need regular mowing in the summer. Adjust your mower height to the highest setting, as taller grass helps shade the soil to prevent drought and weeds.

 

?     Water Early in the Morning
Ensure your lawn and garden get plenty of water during the hot summer months. Experts generally recommend watering in the early morning to minimize evaporation, but be mindful of any watering restrictions in your area, which may limit the time and/or days you are allowed to water.

 

?     Weed Weekly
To prevent weeds from taking over your garden and ruining your home’s valuable curb appeal, make a habit of pulling weeds at least once per week.

 

?     Exterminate Pests
Remove any standing water and piles of leaves and debris. Inspect your lawn and perimeter of your home for signs of an invasion. If necessary, call a professional exterminator for assistance.

 

 Fall

 Fall ushers in another busy season of home maintenance as you prepare your home for the winter weather ahead.

 Inside

 

?     Have Heater Serviced
To ensure safety and efficiency, it’s a good idea to have your heating system serviced and inspected before you run it for the first time.

 

?     Shut Down A/C for the Winter
If you have central air conditioning, you can have it serviced at the same time as your furnace. If you have a portable or window unit, ensure it’s properly sealed or remove it and store it for the winter.

 

?     Inspect Chimney
Fire safety experts recommend that you have your chimney inspected annually and cleaned periodically. Complete this task before you start using your fireplace or furnace.

 

?     Seal Windows and Doors
Check windows and doors for drafts and caulk or add weatherstripping where necessary.

 

?     Check Smoke Alarm and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
If you checked your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the spring, they are due for another inspection. Batteries should be replaced every six months, so it’s time to replace them again. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to test your individual devices. And even properly functioning devices should be replaced at least every 10 years, or per the manufacturer’s recommendation.3

 

 

 

Outside

?     Plant Fall Flowers, Grass and Shrubs
Fall is a great time to plant perennials, trees, shrubs, cool-season vegetables and bulbs that will bloom in the spring.12 It’s also a good time to reseed or sod your lawn.

 

?     Rake or Mow Leaves
Once the leaves start falling, it’s time to pull out your rake. A thick layer of leaves left on your grass can lead to an unhealthy lawn. Or, rather than raking, use a mulching mower to create a natural fertilizer for your lawn.

 

?     Apply Fall Fertilizer
If you choose not to use a mulching mower, a fall fertilizer is usually recommended. For best results, aerate your lawn before applying the fertilizer.13

 

?     Inspect Gutters and Roof
Inspect your gutters and downspouts and make needed repairs. Check the roof for any broken or loose tiles. Remove fallen leaves and debris.

 

?     Shut Down Sprinkler System
If you have a sprinkler system, drain any remaining water and shut it down to prevent damage from freezing temperatures over the winter.

 

?     Close Pool
If you have a pool, it’s time to clean and close it up before the winter.

 

 Winter

While it can be tempting to ignore home maintenance issues in the winter, snow and freezing temperatures can do major damage if left untreated. Follow these steps to ensure your house survives the winter months.

Inside

 

?     Maintain Heating System
Check and change filters on your heating system, per the manufacturer's instructions. If you have a boiler, monitor the water level.

 

?     Tune Up Generator
If you own a portable generator, follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper maintenance. Make sure it’s working before you need it, and stock up on supplies like fuel, oil and filters.

 

?     Prevent Frozen Pipes
Make sure pipes are well insulated, and keep your heat set to a minimum of 55 degrees when you’re away. If pipes are prone to freezing, leave faucets dripping slightly overnight or when away from home. You may also want to open cabinet doors beneath sinks to let in heat.

 

Outside

 

?     Drain and Shut Off Outdoor Faucets
Before the first freeze, drain and shut off outdoor faucets. Place an insulated cover over exposed faucets, and store hoses for the winter.

 

?     Remove Window Screens
Removing screens from your windows allows more light in to brighten and warm your home during the dark, cold winter months. Snow can also get trapped between screens and windows, causing damage to window frames and sills.

 

?     Service Snowblower
Don’t wait until the first snowstorm of the season to make sure your snowblower is in good working order. Check the manufacturer’s instructions for maintenance or have it serviced by a professional.

 

?     Stock Up on Ice Melt
Keep plenty of ice melt, or rock salt, on hand in preparation for winter weather. Look for brands that will keep kids and pets safe without doing damage to your walkway or yard.

 

?     Watch Out for Ice Dams
Ice dams are thick ridges of solid ice that can build up along the eaves of your house. They can do major damage to gutters, shingles and siding. Heated cables installed prior to the first winter storm can help.14

 

?     Check for Snow Buildup on Trees
Snow can cause tree limbs to break, which can be especially dangerous if they are near your home. Use a broom to periodically remove excess snow.15

 

 While this checklist should not be considered a complete list of your home’s maintenance needs, it can serve as a general seasonal guide. Systems, structures and fixtures will need to be repaired and replaced from time-to-time, as well. The good news is, the investment you make in maintaining your home now will pay off dividends over time.

Keep a record of all your maintenance, repairs and upgrades for future reference, along with receipts. Not only will it help jog your memory, it can make a big impact on buyers when it comes time to sell your home … and potentially result in a higher selling price.

Are you looking for help with home maintenance or repairs? We have an extensive network of trusted contractors and service providers and are happy to provide referrals! Call or email us, and we can connect you with one of our preferred vendors.

 Sources:

1.     HouseLogic.com – 
https://www.houselogic.com/organize-maintain/home-maintenance-tips/value-home-maintenance/

2.     Home Advisor – 
https://www.homeadvisor.com/r/servicing-your-air-conditioner/

3.     Keyes & Sons Plumbing and Heating – 
http://keyes-plumbing.com/things-to-check-in-spring/

4.     Allstate Insurance Blog – 
https://blog.allstate.com/test-smoke-detectors/

5.     Houzz – 
https://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/17268616/list/how-to-wash-your-house

6.     Angie’s List – 
https://www.angieslist.com/articles/why-gutter-cleaning-so-important.htm

7.     Angie’s List – 
https://www.angieslist.com/articles/what-thatch-and-how-does-it-impact-my-lawn.htm

8.     HGTV – 
http://www.hgtv.com/design/outdoor-design/landscaping-and-hardscaping/lawns/top-spring-lawn-care-tips-pictures

9.     This Old House – 
https://www.thisoldhouse.com/more/may-mulching

10.   Lowes – 
https://www.lowes.com/projects/lawn-and-garden/fertilize-your-lawn/project

11.   The New York Times – 
https://www.nytimes.com/guides/realestate/home-maintenance-checklist

12.   Better Homes and Gardens Magazine – 
https://www.bhg.com/gardening/yard/garden-care/what-to-plant-in-the-fall/

13.   The Spruce – 
https://www.thespruce.com/late-fall-fertilizing-2152976

14.   This Old House – 
https://www.thisoldhouse.com/how-to/how-to-get-rid-ice-dams

15.   Houzz – 
https://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/55572864/list/your-winter-home-maintenance-checklist

 

Dec. 15, 2017

Redington Shores Christmas Home Decorating Contest Winners

Christmas Home Decorating Contest Winners

Redington Shores Home Decorating Contest Winners

1st Place: 17607 Sterling Terrace

2nd Place: 326 176th Ave. Circle

3rd Place: 246 176th Ave. East

Posted in Beach Updates