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Linda Martignetti

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Just Bought a Home? Here's What Not to Do!

by Linda Martignetti

Buying your first home is an exciting milestone, putting you on the path to a smart financial future. There are certain traps you can fall into as a new homeowner, however, that can put your financial well-being at risk. Avoid doing the following too soon:

  • Remodeling. Unless there’s something in need of serious repair, hold off on any remodeling projects. This will give you time to assess the cost vs. value of the project, ensuring that the money you put into it actually increases the value of your home. Waiting will also give you time to research and secure the best professionals to work with.
  • Furnishing the whole house. You don’t have to have every room perfectly outfitted at once. Take your time and settle in to your new home. This will give you time to make better furniture choices. It will also allow you to budget over time as opposed to a big financial hit all at once.
  • Taking out an equity loan. Let your equity serve as a cushion for future needs. As homeownership plays out, there are countless needs and issues that will arise. If you’ve already exhausted your equity, you won’t have that emergency fund at the ready.
  • Moving up. You might be on a mission to get to your next bigger and better home as soon as possible, but wait it out a bit. You want to make sure you have the finances to do so comfortably, and you want to make sure you choose the right location. Living in your current home will teach you a lot about your likes and dislikes.
  • Making major aesthetic changes. Don’t go crazy with paint, wallpaper or any other bold design statements just yet. You’re still in the getting-to-know-you phase, so feel your new home out for a while before you start changing its look.


  • If you need more real estate information, feel free to contact me at Linda@CrossroadsRealtyTeam.com.

Some Helpful Insight for First-Time Home Buyers

by Linda Martignetti

 


Owning a home is probably on everybody’s “success” checklist. Yet, it is a box that often goes unchecked for many years for those first starting out in the workforce. We all know it takes more than just the desire to buy a home in this day and age—if you have not been working toward it for some years, it’s time to put thoughts into action. Keep these insights in mind when working toward owning a home.

First and foremost are your finances. If you don’t have enough money saved up for a down payment nor a steady income to pay your mortgage bill, then homeownership is still out of your reach. Of course, even with our finances in check there is more to consider, such as appraisal fees, home inspections, closing costs, homeowners insurance, private mortgage insurance (PMI) if your down payment is below 20%, any repairs a home may need or furnishings, to name a few. Make sure you are prepared for additional spending.

The ideal home-buying scenario is when you’re not in a rush. You don’t want to rush through open houses to later realize that you’ve overlooked some important features of the home or neighborhood. You also don’t want to rush into buying a home if you’re not sure that you will be staying in the same area for at least a five-year period. Do you anticipate a big job move? Are you applying to out-of-state positions? Then it might be in your best interest to wait until you are ready to settle down.

Becoming a homeowner isn’t an impossible feat. You just need to be aware of what your step-by-step goals should be. Short on down payment funds? Save up. Feeling pressed for time? Extend that rent contract one more year while you settle your affairs. Taking a big leap at the workplace? Do it now.

Homeownership is on people’s success checklist because it is a good investment, and it gives you a sense of pride and security. Reorganizing a few things in your daily routine will have you a homeowner in no time. Just take it one step at a time, and remember to breathe.

Three BIG Things Homebuyers are on the Look-Out for

by Linda Martignetti - Realty Times

As a seller, you have a lot more control in pleasing buyers than you think. If you start the selling process by learning what buyers really want, you can prepare your home to come as close to their dreams as possible.

Here are the five biggest turn-ons for homebuyers and what you can do to please buyers.

Curb Appeal

You only get one chance to make a first impression. Your home should sell to the buyer from the curb. That's how important curb appeal is. Your buyer should be so impressed, so charmed, so delighted that they want to leap out of the car and run inside.

How do you create curb appeal? Show attention to detail. Your home has to be prettier, cleaner and in better condition than its neighbors.

Start with sweeping the drive, walkway, and porch or entry of dirt and debris. Get rid of leggy bushes, wilted flowers and broken tree limbs. Plant fresh flowers in the front garden or in containers at the entry.

Power-wash the exterior and hand-wash the windows. Touch up paint around the windows, if needed. Paint the front door a fresh, modern color. Replace the door hardwareand porch sconces.

Space

The number one reason why people buy homes is to have more room. Whether they're moving from an apartment or moving up from the home they have, they want to have plenty of space to do the things they enjoy.

If you have a large home, you're golden, but that doesn't mean you've got it made. You can ruin a buyer's first impression with too much clutter, so make sure to keep your home picked up so your buyer can see your home's features clearly and easily.

What if you don't have a lot of space? Plan to do some storing and staging. Rent a storage unit and put away all out of season clothes, toys, and home decorations and accessories. Clean off all tables and countertops so you have only the minimum of things your need to operate your home. Empty closets of anything that is "stored" and move it to the storage unit. The small expense you'll pay in storage fees you'll more than make back from your buyer's offer.

Updates

There's a reason why first-time buyersand singles tend to buy older homes - they're more affordable than buying new. So unless your buyer is a building contractor, chances are they want a home that's as updated as possible.

You may not be interested in putting in a new kitchen in order to sell your home, but you can do a few things to make buyers happy. Replace the most dated features - countertops, cabinet pulls, or appliances.

Bathrooms are so personal that they can easily turn buyers off. Invest in new towels, bathmats and a shower curtain. Throw out slimey soaps and limp ragged bath sponges. Replace with liquid shower and bath products. You can take all the new stuff with you to the next home.

Painting is expected by buyers, but don't repaint the same colors that you chose 10 years ago. Pick an updated neutral like a warm grey instead of beige. Be sure to choose a color that will complement the architecture and flooring in your home.

Keep in mind that the typical home purchased in 2013 was 1,860 square feet and built in 1996, so homebuyers aren't expecting your home to be a mansion, nor do they expect it to be new, but they do expect to see pride of ownership. The more tweaks, updates and repairs that you perform, the more confident your buyers will be that they're choosing the right home.

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7 Common Home-Selling Mistakes!

by Linda Martignetti

How To Pick A Neighborhood You'll Love

by Linda Martignetti - Realty Times

Nothing stinks more than finding a home, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, moving yourself your family your pets and all your stuff, and ending up with buyer's remorse. Especially if you're relocating to another area, it can be hard to know where to go, or even where to start. These tips will help you keep on track to find the best neighborhood for your needs.

Whether you're looking to move across the country, the state, or the city, moving away can be an overwhelming proposition. Local real estate agents and relocation specialists are key to this process. But, if you're just starting your search or have no idea where you may possibly be moving, do what so many other do today: Consult some of the many "best place" lists that are out there.

Google "Best place to live" and you'll have pages of options to sift through. Getting more specific, you can find lists outlining the best cities in which to find a job, raise a family, be a successful millennial, retire, live off the grid—and that's just the beginning. The great news is that these websites and news outlets have done a lot of the legwork for you, with data, statistics, and other details that can help you quickly see where you might want to concentrate your search. At the very least, it'll provide a good starting point that will allow you to do further research.

Consider the value

There are countless ways to look at the value of an area. But one of the strongest indicators of growth in neighborhoods today is what can be found around it. Like a popular coffee shop. "Call it the Starbucks Effect: Proximity to a local coffee shop has a very real, and positive, effect on home values, new data shows," said Time. "How much faster? Over 17 years…leading up to 2014, homes adjacent to the local Starbucks almost doubled in value, up by 96%. Those further out appreciated by 65% over the same period."

And that's not it. "Houses near Targets experience much higher appreciation, according to a new study from RealtyTrac," said CBS News - as much as a 27 percent price appreciation and average property values of $307,286, or 72 percent higher than homes near Walmart locations."

Whole Foods and Trader Joe's also factor in. "A 2015 study by the real estate information company RealtyTrac analyzed this trend," said US News. "The study included 4 million homes located in a ZIP code with either a Whole Foods or Trader Joe's location, finding that average property values in a ZIP code with Trader Joe's appreciated by about 40 percent since they were purchased, while homes with a Whole Foods in the ZIP code appreciated by nearly 34 percent, which matches the national average increase according to the survey."

Look at the schools

Don't yet have kids, never want them, or have an empty nest? It doesn't matter. Living in a good school district still helps to maintain your property values. "Living near a high-scoring school can increase your home's value by over $200,000, according to the Brookings Institution," said AOL. "That's not chump change. There are plenty of attractive advantages that come with proximity to a school, including increased police protection, personal use of school facilities and living in a ‘Drug-Free School Zone.'"

Make the drive

Commuting is a big deal for everyone, and if you have a limit to how much time you want to spend in the car, it makes sense to drive from any of the neighborhoods you like to work during rush hour and back as a test run. It might just turn out that the drive is so long it allows you to kick several options off your list.

Go to Starbucks

Once you recognize that the neighborhood Starbucks can help stabilize and even raise your property values, go hang out there for a while. Hit the park, one of the popular lunch spots, and the supermarket, while you're at it, paying attention to the type of people who are there. Are they friendly? Rude? Is everyone in a hurry? Is there an interesting mix of people? Do you see families or retirees or whatever type of demographic you're looking for? Spending some time in the area can tell you a lot about what it's going to be like to live there.

Now, take it even more local

Case the specific neighborhoods you're considering. Not in the "We're going to rob you" way, of course. Spending as much time as possible in the area where you may soon be living will give you a better feel for how you'll fit in. Maybe the streets fill with kids in late afternoon and you're looking for a quieter environment. Or maybe there's not a peep on the street at all, even on weekends, and you're looking for a livelier atmosphere.

Listen to your head and your heart

Living on the beach would be amazing. Except for the fact that it would mean adding a good hour to your commute - each way. Understanding and accepting your priorities and then using them to establish an action plan is critical when choosing the right neighborhood. If you ditch your plan to find a great family home in a neighborhood with lots of kids and amenities nearby because you fall in love with a remote mountain enclave populated mostly by survivalists, you'll probably end up frustrated down the line.

Don't be blinded by a great house

Walking into a house and getting that feeling in your gut…you know, that intangible thing that just makes it feel right…is dreamy. We all want that "meant to be" thing. But a great house is only the right house if it actually works for you.

You don't want to be a few months out and hating your life because you chose the home with the great bones but you don't actually have the money to do the updates needed to bring it into this century. Or because the neighborhood just doesn't meet your needs in terms of schools, commute time, amenities, neighbors, or all of the above.

Real estate experts often recommend choosing neighborhood over house, because, while you can change your house, it's a lot harder to pick it up and move it to a better neighborhood.

10 Pitfalls to Avoid When Making Home Improvements

by Courtesy of YGrene Energy Fund

Homeowners are generally aware that problems could arise during an improvement project, but most do not realize they can lower the chance of setbacks by taking certain steps before and during the process.

Here are 10 common pitfalls that often surprise homeowners when they are making major home improvements. Not only can this knowledge lower stress levels, but it can also save money.

1. Trying to Do Too Much

The most common problem that improvement-minded homeowners encounter is a simple one: they try to do too much.

Laying tile, hanging wallpaper, or installing drywall seems easy enough, even for those with little experience. However, with work and regular chores comprising most of the day, do-it-yourself projects can quickly become a burden.

The best way to maintain sanity levels is to tackle one project at a time, while leaving room for unexpected setbacks. Rather than laying tile in the entire basement, for example, complete one room or one section at a time. Develop a better understanding of the process by starting with the smallest room.

Another advantage of the room-by-room approach is that everyone who lives in the home will be able to use the rest of the areas during the project. Continuing with the basement tile example, moving section by section will prove more convenient than tearing up all the tile at once and rendering the whole basement off limits for the duration of the project.

2. Trying to Get By With Cheaper Materials

Inexpensive materials may keep a project under budget, but a low price can mean poor quality. It is almost pointless to paint the walls if the paint is going to start peeling in a year or two.

When it comes to major building materials like windows, doors, insulation, and roofing, make certain that your chosen contractor provides an honorable warranty. For do-it-yourself projects, choose quality materials that have long warranties and positive customer reviews.

3. Unprecise Measurements

One of the biggest mistakes for do-it-yourselfers is failing to take accurate measurements. This oversight can cause issues in two different ways.

First, it can make a project much more complicated than it needs to be. If wood or tile is cut to the wrong dimensions, it will be completely useless, and most home improvement supply stores will not accept returns of altered materials. The homeowner will have to purchase new materials, which increases the overall cost.

Second, precise dimensions (down to the tenth of an inch), can help limit the overall initial cost. Recheck measurements to make certain that they are as accurate as possible, leaving little room for purchasing surplus.

4. Foregoing the Proper Permits

Many cities issue permits for major projects. Others have zoning laws that only allow for certain kinds of improvements. These rules differ from city to city. Local authorities often require permits for major structural work or any work to the home’s exterior.

Permitting issues can also arise after a project is completed. Home sellers must disclose their improvements during a sale. Therefore, the city will ultimately become aware of the project even if the property owner did not obtain the necessary permits beforehand. The disregard may also deter prospective buyers if they discover any upgrade is not up to code.

5. Working Without a Budget

A surprising number of people, 37% according to a recent survey by Harris Interactive, fail to set a budget for their home remodeling projects. While these survey respondents had a vision for the finished room and a rough idea of their available spend, they did not calculate exact numbers.

The cost of any project can spike unexpectedly. For example, if one coat of paint does not produce the desired color, a second coat becomes necessary. This is a simple example, but the result illustrates the issue clearly: twice as much paint means double the cost. With additional brushes and rollers, even those seemingly cheap purchases add up.

6. Failing to Call Professionals for Help

A repair job or home improvement project may seem simple on a YouTube video, but renovations rarely as straightforward as they appear.

Homeowners can save money by taking the do-it-yourself approach to projects like hanging wallpaper or installing counters. However, when it comes to altering the infrastructure of a home – the wiring, walls, windows, major pipes, etc. – a professional should take the lead.

7. Moving Forward Without a Written Agreement From a Contractor

When it is time to call in a pro, be sure to obtain prices for materials and labor up front. Even if the contractor came recommended by a trusted friend, all aspects of the work should still be in writing. Most reputable contractors will do this anyway so that there is a clear understanding of expectations.

If the written agreement is light on details, include information about the kind of materials your contractor should use. Then, if this professional fails to live up to their end of the bargain, there is a paper trail to prove what they did wrong.

8. Not Considering ROI

One of the main reasons a homeowner will initiate an improvement project is to increase their return on investment (ROI) when they sell the home.

Kitchens and bathrooms, for example, are the trickiest rooms to renovate. The owner could easily end up paying handsomely for renovations, only to recoup a small percentage of the project price added to the sale price of the home. If the upgrade costs $10,000, be certain that the home’s value will increase by at least $10,000.

9. Making Too Many Improvements for the Local Market

Extensive upgrades – a new kitchen, a deck or a swimming pool – do not guarantee a higher selling price. In fact, depending on the location, these over-the-top improvements could make it more challenging to sell a home.

Houses in the same neighborhood typically sell in the same price range. Some may be in the higher part of the range and some in the lower, but it is very rare to sell a house for $300,000, for example, in a neighborhood filled with $100,000 houses.

The goal of an improvement project should be to bump a house into the top price category for the neighborhood. Any improvements beyond that will not lead to a higher selling price.

10. Not Taking Month-to-Month Costs Into Account

Improvements should add value to a home, but there can also be a second benefit: an increase in a home’s overall efficiency. This additional benefit can pay off both in the short-term and in the long-term (because a more efficient home will be more attractive to potential buyers).

Achieving this double benefit is simpler than it might seem. For example, do not opt for the most inexpensive windows when Energy Star certified options are available. Cheaper materials, if they make a home less efficient, will end up costing more in the long-run due to higher energy bills.

Avoiding these 10 pitfalls can make success easier to achieve when it comes to home improvement. Some special programs, like Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing programs, can further increase the chances of smooth and profitable home improvement projects.

To qualify for PACE financing, a homeowner has to prove that their project will lead to savings that are greater than the cost of the improvement – so any project paid for with PACE financing is virtually guaranteed to provide added value to a homeowner.


Find out how PACE financing can help you upgrade your home enjoy the benefits of energy conservation – contact YgreneWorks at (855) 901-3999; info@ygreneworks.com.


WHAT TO EXPECT FROM THE 2017 REAL ESTATE MARKET

by Linda Martignetti

If you are considering purchasing a home this year, do not delay!  According to Realtor.com, interest rates are expected to continue to rise and the inventory of homes for sale to shrink as 2017 continues. 

Here's what you can expect from the market this year:

Millennials are growing up and baby boomers are retiring.  Many millennials are reaching their 30s and are looking to commit to a home, while baby boomers are reaching retirement age and are looking to downsize. This influx of new buyers does not seem to be slowing down, and there may not be enough inventory to keep up.

Mortgage rates are rising. During the first quarter, the average 30-year mortgage rate was just above 4 percent, which still remains historically low. It's projected to climb to 6 percent by 2020.

New construction is in demand. Single family home construction is predicted to grow 10 percent this year, according to the National Association of Home Builders.

Spring Tune Up for Your Home!

by Linda Martignetti

Spring is a great time to do a quick tune up of your home.  Before things get busy for the summer, take a moment to make sure your home is humming along.

Here's a quick checklist of fixes to make now to save you time and money later!

For the Interior:

 

  • Check seals around windows, doors and bathtubs
  • Check and fix leaky faucets
  • Replace your HVAC filters - although this really should be done monthly
  • Clean out your dryer vent
  • Replace batteries in smoke detectors
  • Make sure you have a working fire extinguisher
  • Check exterior walls for moisture or mold
  • Vaccum refrigerator condensor coils
For the Exterior:
  • Inspect the roof
  • Clean the gutters
  • Wash window exteriors and check screens for repairs
  • Check driveway and walks for repairs
  • Inspect deck and patio for warped, molded or splintered boards
  • Trim bushes and trees, or any vegetation near an air conditioning unit in particular
  • Remove leaves and other debris from lawn
  • Patch up your home's paint job
  • Look for cracks or weak spots along the lower section of the exterior

 

Closing costs - Yikes!

by Linda Martignetti

According to a recent survey conducted by ClosingCorp, over half of all homebuyers are surprised by the closing costs required to obtain their mortgage.

After surveying 1,000 first-time and repeat homebuyers, the results revealed that 17% of homebuyers were surprised that closing costs were required at all, while another 35% were stunned by how much higher the fees were than expected.

“Homebuyers reported being most surprised by mortgage insurance, followed by bank fees and points, taxes, title insurance and appraisal fees.”

Bankrate.com recently gathered closing cost data from lenders in every state and Washington, D.C. to be able to share the average costs in each state. The map below was created using the closing costs on a $200,000 mortgage with a 20% down payment.

Over Half of All Buyers Are Surprised by Closing Costs | Keeping Current Matters

Keep in mind that if you are in the market for a home above this price range. your costs could be significantly more. According to Freddie Mac,

“Closing costs are typically between 2 and 5% of your purchase price.”

Bottom Line

Speak with your lender and agent early and often to determine how much you’ll be responsible for at closing. Finding out that you’ll need to come up with thousands of dollars right before closing is not a surprise anyone is ever looking forward to.

Buying or selling a home in spring? Be ready to drive in rush hour

by Linda Martignetti

Keep your hands on the wheel at all times!

 


 

  • There are benefits to avoiding peak real estate seasons for homesellers, like less competition. The buyers in the market are often more motivated.
  • The benefits for buyers in the offseason can go the same way, because sellers are also more motivated.
  • Ancillary services, like home appraisers or lenders, are more available during the offseason.
Traditionally, the spring real estate market is March through May, but in many markets it can start as early as February, around Ground Hog Day. Sometimes sales continue to be robust, and the peak selling season will stretch into June.

Lessons from rush hour

Rush hour for traffic in many metropolitan areas is from 7 to 9 a.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. Commuters wanting to beat the heavy traffic will get on the road as early as 5 a.m. and often wait to leave after 7 p.m. In many ways, homesellers and buyers choose to follow that example.

Rush hour occurs because there are more cars than the highway system was designed to handle; it isn’t economic to construct enough roads for peak travel times.

There are incentives for traveling during peak hours, such as High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes, reduced fees on toll roads and free-flowing traffic on clear thoroughfares.

There are benefits to avoiding peak real estate seasons as well, with the most significant being less competition.

Avoiding peak season

As a homeseller, the buyers in the market are often more motivated. This can translate to buyers being less particular and more committed to the idea of purchasing a home rather than waiting for the “perfect” home. In spring, when many homes are coming on the market, the seller’s home may get lost in the traffic jam.

As new inventory continuously appears, buyers may be distracted in waiting until something better comes along, and not feel enough urgency to commit.

The benefits for buyers in the off season can go the same way — because sellers are also more motivated.

Sellers choosing to go or remain on the market in the slower seasons are usually “real sellers.” Rather than being on the market to test the waters, these sellers are responsive to market forces and willing to negotiate. And with less competition, a buyer’s offer is more likely to stand out and be considered.

Finding a ride during peak rush hour can be challenging, which is why Uber or Lyft have surcharges when demand outpaces supply.

Buyers and sellers can apply that to real estate: Ancillary services such as mortgage lenders, home inspectors, title and settlement companies, attorneys and representatives are more available during the offseason.

The season can also affect the contract-to-settlement process. True professionals should rise to the occasion and meet heightened demand, but there is more time and space available during the offseason.

Karen Briscoe is the author of Real Estate Success in 5 Minutes a Day: Secrets of a Top Agent Revealed, a top-seller on Amazon Books. She is the principal of HBC Group at Keller Williams located in Northern Virginia. 

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 154