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Moving Day Survival Kit

by Desi Sowers

You’ve closed on your new home and it’s time to move in!  This is an exciting time, but can also be a bit stressful.  Where do you even begin?  A good place to start is to create a moving day survival kit for yourself. It should include anything and everything that is important or of great value to you and should stay with you and not go with movers. Here is a list of “must have” items to make your move as organized and stress-free as possible:

  • Toilet Paper.  At least a few rolls. Trust me on this one.
  • Pain reliever and all your medications.  You don’t want to be searching for these necessities, so make sure they are easily accessible.
  • Toilet Plunger.  Yes, really. Especially if your new place only has one bathroom. Better safe than sorry!
  • Cash for tipping your movers.
  • A Multi-Tool.  While having a whole tool box handy would be great, there is only so much you can (and should) fit into your survival kit.  Something like a Leatherman will provide you with a way to open boxes and other small tasks…and it will fit in your pocket!
  • Trash Bags.  And clear recycling bags.  Look up where you can recycle locally and have the address in your phone so you can take packing boxes/materials there after you unpack.
  • Power Strip and Mobile Phone Charger.  There is nothing worse than discovering your phone is dying and you have no idea where your charger is!  The power strip will come in handy because you will probably clear one small area and can plug in your electronics, a lamp, a coffee pot, etc.…
  • Personal Hygiene Items.  Pack an overnight bag with your toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, soap, shampoo etc.  That way, when you are ready to call it a day you can jump right in the shower without having to search through boxes for them.
  • All Purpose Cleaner and a Roll of Paper Towels (or two). Hopefully move-in day won’t be cleaning day, but you never know.  Be prepared.  Even if the house looks clean, you are going to want to wipe down the toilets, sinks and counters.
  • Bottled Water and Granola Bars.   You are going to be hungry. And tired.  Have water and snacks on hand to get you through the day.  Look up some Take Out Restaurants and have their numbers in your phone so you can have food delivered.
  • First Aid Kit.  Well, at least a box of Band-Aids in case you cut yourself opening boxes.
  • Note Pad and Pen.  Because you WILL come up with a list of things you need and need to do as you are unpacking and you will want to write them down so you don’t forget.
  • Scented Candles or Air Fresheners.  Even the cleanest house will smell a little musty if it has been closed up for a while.
  • Flashlight.  Some rooms won’t have overhead lights and if you haven’t unpacked the lamps yet, a flashlight will come in handy.

Enjoy your new home!  And if you haven’t found your dream home yet visit desisowers.com and start your search today!

Preparing for a Bidding War

by Desi Sowers

It is a seller's market in real estate this year and now that spring has arrived, the competition for homes is likely to get even more fierce.  If you are looking to purchase a home right now, chances are you may find yourself in a bidding war.  Be prepared!  Here are six ways to come out on top in a bidding war:

  1. Get your finances in order and get as much cash as you can.  It is never too soon to get pre-approved for a loan. In fact, the sooner the better.  Sellers will have lots of options and will be leery of those who do not have loans set in stone.  If possible, bring cash to the table.  Sellers will fear appraisals coming in low and loans falling through, so be prepared to cover the difference with cash.
     
  2. Don’t hesitate!  Be the first to make an offer, and make it a good one.  An insulting offer will put you at the bottom of the seller’s list, so it is not a good time to low ball.  Come in at or slightly below asking price so that they know you are serious about purchasing their home.
     
  3. Escalation Clause.  This is the amount of money the buyer agrees to increase the offer if there are other bids. If you offer the asking price of $400,000 on a house, but it might sell for $450,000, put in an escalation clause stating that you are willing to go as high as $460,000.  But know your limit.  Don’t offer more than you can handle.  Also, make sure the clause states that the seller can only take the winning bid up to a level just above the competing offers.  For example, if an offer comes in for $430,000, your bid would be upped to $431,000.
     
  4. Get a pre-inspection.  It will cost you a few hundred dollars, but it can help you in a super-tight market.  If you can make a bid that is not contingent upon inspection, sellers will look favorably on your offer versus the same offer from someone who has a contingency in their contract.
     
  5. Show the love!  If you have found the perfect house and really love it, don’t be afraid to let the sellers know, either directly or through your Realtor.  You can write a letter, send pictures of your family or even make a video describing why you love the house so much.  Be specific in your praise.  Sellers may appreciation the connection you feel with the house and choose you over other bidders.
     
  6. Think with your head, not your heart. Be smart! Purchasing a home is an emotional thing for sure, but emotions can get in the way of making wise decisions.   Make sure you have done thorough research of the market: look at the most recent comparable sales, compare prices from a year ago, visit local school, have coffee at the closest café and speak to potential neighbors.  Look at listings nearby.  Whatever you do, don’t overpay because you get caught up in the heat of the competition.  While the house may seem perfect for you, it is not the only house that will be perfect for you. So, keep a level head and make intelligent decisions.

 

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/The-Top-Ten-Things-to-Look-for-When-House-Hunting

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/How-to-Determine-if-You-are-Ready-to-Buy-Your-First-House

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Dont-Wait-Buy-Your-Home-in-2017

The Top Ten Things to Look for When House Hunting

by Desi Sowers

House hunting can be overwhelming sometimes, especially when beginning the search for your first home.  Chances are you might get caught up in the process and important details might slip by you. While the number of rooms, condition of the kitchen, and size of the yard are important, there are other things to consider before you make an offer.  This list of things to look for can help get your search off to the right start.

 

  1.      Location, Location, Location
    They say that the 3 most important things to look for when buying a home are location, location and location.  While a home might not be perfect, loving your neighborhood and neighbors can make all the difference in living with imperfection.  And face it…you can change almost anything about your house, but you can’t change its location or the people living nearby.  When you go house hunting, make sure to consider the home’s proximity to your work, the appeal of the neighborhood, when in the neighborhood the home is situated, ease of access, noise from neighbors, traffic, pets and access to parks, shopping, schools and public transportation.

 

  1.      Home Placement
    Beyond location, look at how the home is situated.  If the home is on a hill does it have a view, a walkout basement, or lots of stairs to climb? Do neighbors' windows look directly into the home? Is the yard suitable for kids, pets, gardening, or other uses? Is their safe access to the home? These are all important questions to ask yourself when determining if it is the right property for you.

 

  1.      Check Out the Neighborhood
    While it’s important for your house to meet your expectations, it’s equally important that the neighborhood meets them too. Take a drive around the development you are interested in on week days and weekends, during the day and in the evening.  Are the homes in good repair? Are yards kept clean and tidy?  Is the neighborhood safe enough for people to walk, run or bike?  Are there children playing outdoors?

 

  1.       Consider a Home’s Curb Appeal
    You want a home that is going to reflect your lifestyle. Do you live a    casual, laid-back life? Then you probably won’t want a formal Victorian or Tudor style home.  A simple, contemporary home might better suit you.  Pay close attention to exterior features.  Think about maintenance.  For example, a brick home is easier to maintain than one with siding.  Do you like working in the yard?  If not, you might not want a house with extensive landscaping.  Is the roof in good condition?  Attention to detail will help you choose the home with the best curb appeal for you.

 

  1.       Size and Floor Plan
    You may be thinking about buying your dream home. But is your dream home practical?  Do you actually need 4 bedrooms and 4 baths when you live alone? A spacious home may provide  the extra room you've always wanted for a home office or a theater room, but you'll pay higher heating bills and have higher taxes. Additionally, it will take more furniture to furnish and money to decorate. Think about how the new home space will be used and whether it will fit your lifestyle now and in the future.

 

  1.        Bedrooms and Bathrooms
    Decide how many bedrooms and bathrooms you will need and only    look at homes that meet that criteria.  You don’t want to fall in love with what is otherwise a perfect house if it doesn’t provide the space needed for your family.  It’s smart to consider counting an extra bedroom in that number so that you have extra space for a home office or guest room. If you think you might add on to the home later, make sure you consult an architect who can advise you on space planning and regulations.

 

  1.         The Kitchen
    For many people, the kitchen is the heart of the home. Don’t settle for a home with a kitchen that doesn’t work for you.  Yes, you can remodel later, but at great expense.  If it’s an easy fix like replacing cabinets or countertops, get a price quote before committing the house so that you will know if it is within your budget to take that on.

 

  1.          Closets and Storage
    Older homes often have small closets and lack storage space.  As you’re looking at a home ask yourself where you will store your belongings.  Tiny closets don’t have to be a deal breaker.  There are ways to maximize storage without renovations. Newer homes tend to have lots of storage and you may sacrifice living space while having more closet space than you actually need.

 

  1.          Windows and Lighting
    While looking at a home keep in mind your preferences regarding light and privacy.  Do you want a lot of windows to provider bright, sunny rooms?  Pay attention to the locations of electrical outlets and fixtures to make sure they will meet your lighting needs. 

 

  1.            Finishing Touches
    Even a simple home can look spectacular with the right moldings, hardware, and a fireplace.  If elements like these are important to you, look for them while house hunting. 

 

You may not find everything you want in one house, but keep this list handy and you are more likely to find the home that best suits your needs and desires.  Happy House Hunting!

If you are interested in buying a New River Valley home, contact Desi Sowers at 540-320-1328, and discover the difference she can make during your family's move. 

 

Lucky Number 7 for First-Time Homeowners

by Desi Sowers

With the tax code constantly changing, first-time homebuyers need to educate themselves to understand year-to-year changes.  As an incentive to buy homes, the government provides tax breaks to existing and new homeowners.  Homeowners receive multiple tax deductions, tax credits and other breaks that aren’t available to those who rent.  If you bought your first home in 2016, it is smart to familiarize yourself with current homeowner tax breaks so you can take advantage of them and save some money.

  1. HOME MORTGAGE INTEREST DEDUCTION

The mortgage interest deduction is one of the largest home tax breaks and is a significant new homeowner tax credit.  It covers interest paid on loans of up to $1 million, or $500,000 if you’re married but filing a separate return. This deduction can especially benefit borrowers with new loans because interest changes on mortgages are typically steeper in the early years of the mortgage’s term. Don’t miss out on this money saving tax credit.  Your loan provider should send you a form 1098 which will show how much interest you paid the previous year.

Instructions For Home Mortgage Interest Deduction

 

  1. MORTGAGE INTEREST CREDIT

The federal government's mortgage interest credit provides another chance for first-time homebuyers to claim a tax break for the mortgage interest they paid. Unlike the mortgage interest deduction,             which reduces your taxable income, this mortgage interest credit directly counts against your tax bill, lowering what you owe.  To be eligible for this strategic tax break, a state or local government must have issued you a MORTGAGE CREDIT CERTIFICATE.  Typically, this certificate is issued when you originate your mortgage.  It tells you how much interest you can claim as a credit.  If you also claim a    mortgage interest deduction when you file your taxes, you must reduce the credit by that amount.   Mortgage Interest Credit Form

 

  1. MORTGAGE POINTS DEDUCTION

You can also deduct what you pay in points to obtain the mortgage loan in the first place. Mortgage points are prepaid interest that can help a borrower qualify for a lower interest rate over the life of the loan. How to Deduct Mortgage Points on Your Tax Return

 

  1. TAX FREE IRA WITHDRAWALS

Saving money for a down payment and closing costs is something many people have to do when buying a home. The IRS says you can pull funds from your IRA to help. You can take up to $10,000 from your IRA without penalty to buy a home, although you'll still need to pay taxes on the money. Your 401k plan does not qualify for the exception to the 10 percent penalty. How to Tap an IRA for a Home Purchase

 

  1. PROPERTY TAX DEDUCTION

Property taxes are one of the many advantageous tax breaks for first-time homebuyers. You can deduct property taxes paid during the year for which you're filing. If you purchase a home midway through the tax year, you can claim all taxes paid from the date of sale onward.  How to Claim Property Taxes

 

  1. HOME IMPROVEMENT TAX BREAKS

Improvements you make to a home can qualify for a tax break. If you use a home equity loan or other loan secured by your home to finance improvements, the loan will qualify for the same mortgage interest deductions as your main mortgage.  Home Improvements that are Tax Deductible

 

  1. HOME ENERGY TAX BREAKS

Unfortunately, two property-related home improvement tax credits have been eliminated as of Jan. 1, 2017. That means both credits will no longer apply beginning with the 2017 tax year.  They are: the Nonbusiness Energy Property Credit and the Residential Energy Property Tax Credit.  However, you can still claim these credits if you made qualifying improvements to your home during the 2016 tax year. Keep all receipts and contracts from the home improvements and use Form 5695 to file for this credit.

 

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Real-Estate-Myths-Dont-Let-Them-Fool-You

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Mortgage-Information

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Top-10-Remodeling-Projects-for-Adding-Value-to-Your-Home

How to Determine if You are Ready to Buy Your First House

by Desi Sowers

The decision to purchase your first home is not one that should be made lightly.  It is an important, life-changing decision that should be given serious consideration.  So, before you take the plunge into searching for the prefect home, here are some questions you should ask yourself to make sure that you are ready.

  1. Can I afford a home?  The first step is to determine if you can afford to buy a home based on your current financial situation.   Using a home affordability calculator will help you figure out how much you can afford by plugging in your income, debt and the amount of a down payment you will be able to make.   You will now have a number of the highest amount you can afford and what the monthly payment will be.
  2. Is it better for me to rent or buy?  The answer to this question depends upon what kind of market you are in because inventory can make a huge difference. Using a rent vs buy calculator will allow you to crunch the numbers. You can enter the current amount of rent you’re paying (or how much you would be able to pay) and the zip code where you want to live. The calculator will provide a comparison of the cost of buying a home versus renting in that area.  You will also be able to see which option is more cost effective over time.
  3. How long will I live here?  If you plan to stay in a home for a long time, it is generally better to buy versus rent. If you’re going to be living somewhere for a short term, renting might be the better option.  The reason is that when you buy a home you will likely have to pay closing costs which can total in the thousands of dollars.  In addition, most of your early mortgage payments go toward interest rather than paying down the principal, which is the actual amount you owe on the home.  A good rule of thumb is that home buyers should stay put for at least five years.  Otherwise, renting is better.
  4. Are you saving for retirement?  Retirement may seem a long way off to young home-buyers, but it is important to start saving early.  It’s not a good idea to neglect your retirement accounts in order to “save” money to put down on a house. Consider meeting with a financial counselor who can help you find a balance in saving for retirement and saving for your first home at the same time.
  5. Am I ready for the responsibility?  Owning a home is a huge responsibility.  With rentals, you can call your landlord to fix things that aren’t working in the home, but as an owner, it all comes down to you.  You need to be sure that you have the time, willingness and resources to keep up with home and yard maintenance.

 

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Dont-Wait-Buy-Your-Home-in-2017

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/How-to-Get-Out-of-Debt-and-Buy-a-House

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Mortgage-Information

Don’t Wait! Buy Your Home in 2017!

by Desi Sowers

If you have been thinking about buying a home, now is the time to do it.  And here are three significant reasons why:

  • Interest rates have begun to rise and will likely continue to do so.  Last year rates on 30 year mortgages bottomed out at 3.55%.  Now that the Federal Reserve finally decided to raise its key interest rate, mortgage rates have begun to slowly climb.  Currently the average rate is just above 4%; by 2019-2020, rates could climb to 6%.  The upside is that when rates go up, competition and housing prices generally go down.  Higher rates can mean that sellers might be more flexible in pricing.

  • Inventory is shrinking. In November, 2016, there were only 1.85 million homes for sale.  That is a 10% drop from the year before. And the number of homes for sale continues to steadily decline since just before the housing crash when inventory peaked.  It is predicted that that inventory will continue to shrink for the foreseeable future.  That means as a homebuyer, you have more homes to choose from today than you will next year. Or even next month.  Winter is commonly considered to be real estate’s off season. So if you get moving now, you’ll have less competition for those homes than you will in the peak spring and summer months.  The longer you wait to look for a home, the more competition you will face for fewer homes.
  • Home prices are still rising. Unfortunately for buyers, home prices now stand higher than before the 2007 crash.  They increased 5% between 2015 and 2016.  It is expected that they will continue to increase and additional 2% to 3% in 2017.  While it’s anyone’s guess how high prices will rise and how long they will remain high, the good news is that if you jump into the market right now you might just get into your home before prices go up! 

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Blacksburg-VA-Home-Sales-October-2016

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Mortgage-Information

 

 

 

 

If you are interested in buying a New River Valley home, contact Desi Sowers at 540-320-1328, and discover the difference she can make during your family's move. 

How to Get Out of Debt and Buy a House

by Desi Sowers

As a real estate agent, I love helping people purchase their first home.  However, there are two major challenges that I see time and time again with first time home buyers:

  1. They often carry too much debt.
  2. They don’t have enough cash for a down payment.

These two issues are strongly related in that people need to reduce debts that inhibit them from saving money.

We all know that we shouldn’t spend more than we earn, but falling into the debt trap is easy to do.  You see a pair of boots that you must have and you think, I will use my credit card now and pay for them with my next paycheck.  It sounds reasonable at the time, but next thing you know you’ve done something like that often enough that there is a beastly credit card balance hanging over your head.

So, now you’re in debt.  You have regrets, but no use doing the “should have, would have, could have” dance.  Now it’s time to move forward and take the steps needed to reduce your debt.  Here is a list of things to do to change the way you manage your money.  Follow these steps and before you know it you will be on your way to saving for a down payment on your first home!

 

  1. Stop adding to your debt. The first step to getting out of debt is to stop adding to your outstanding balances. To remove temptation, carry only one credit card with you…and make sure it is the one with the lowest limit so that it is impossible to get into serious trouble with it.  Leave any other credit cards in a safe place at home to keep yourself from going on an impulsive shopping spree. 
  2. Take an inventory of your spending habits. This may not be a fun activity, but it is helpful to see how you are spending.  Create a list of where your money goes each month including rent, utilities, car payments, food, credit cards etc. Once you have done this, split the list into two categories: bills you always have to pay every month and debts you need to pay off.  The second list then can be organized in order of urgency, either based on outstanding balance or highest interest rate.  Now you will have a clear picture of your debt situation. Inventory of Finances 
  3. Eliminate the largest debts first. Make a minimum payment for each of your credit card bills, but then make an extra payment on the bill that is at the top of your list. Do this monthly until that bill is paid in full.  Now take the money you were using for that bill and start applying it to the second item on your list.  Continue this until all of them are paid off. 
  4. Cutting expenses and making the payment.  If you are already in debt, how are you going to find money for an extra payment?  Well, some sacrifices will have to be made.  Cutting back on extras like trips to Starbucks, entertainment and eating out can free up cash that can go toward that extra payment each month.  40 Ways To Save on Monthly Expenses
  5. Prepare for the Unexpected. Sometimes life is a struggle and unexpected challenges such as car repairs or medical expenses will pop up from time to time.  As you cut expenses and start to save money, set up an emergency savings account just for these occasions.  That way you will be prepared and won’t have to use a credit card and add to your debt.
  6. Lower your interest rates. Give your credit card company a call to see if they will lower your interest rate. If they say no, shop around for a card with a lower rate and transfer your debt (be careful of transfer fees to make sure the transfer benefits you). You can also seek out a consolidation loan from your bank. They will pay off your debt and you can pay them back at a lower interest rate. How To Lower Credit Card Interest Rates
  7. Stick to it!  As you see your debt decrease and see your cash increase, don’t fall back into old spending habits. As you have more money available, put it right into your savings and soon you will have the money you need for a down payment on your first home!

 

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Knowing-When-Youre-Ready

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Buying-Remains-36-Cheaper-than-Renting

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Improve-Your-Credit-Score-Before-Applying-for-a-Mortgage-Loan

New Home New Traditions

by Desi Sowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If this is your first holiday in your new home, it is a perfect time to start some new traditions!  When you move, you don’t leave everything behind.  You bring your belongings and your memories and yes, your traditions.  But a fresh start in an unfamiliar house is just the inspiration you need to begin unique traditions that will make that house feel like your home.

Check out these fun ideas for creating new traditions:

  • Take and annual family photo. Choose a theme or a pose that you can recreate every year.  Label the photos with the date and create a photo book or framed collage with them.  It will be so much fun for your family to see how everyone changes through the years. Creative Family Photo Ideas
  • Incorporate a cultural tradition.  No matter what holiday you celebrate, you will find a cultural tradition to go with it.  Make it a family activity to research your heritage and make new discoveries about how your ancestors celebrated.  Multi-Cultural Holiday Celebrations

     
  • Gratitude. Sometimes we take all that we have for granted. A wonderful way to experience the holiday spirit is to express gratitude.  This can be a fun and meaningful activity for the whole family.  Go outdoors and find a branch to use to hold your “leaves of gratitude”. Cut leaves out of colorful paper and each day have family members write something they are grateful for on a leaf. Then hang the leaves on the “tree” to create a beautiful reminder of all that is right with your world!  Gratitude Tree

If you are still in search of the perfect house to make your new home, contact

Desi Sowers for all your real estate needs! Happy Holidays!

Attaining the American Dream: 5 Financial Reasons to Buy

by Desi Sowers

It also makes sense financially.Attaining The American Dream: 5 Financial Reasons To Buy | Keeping Current Matters Heading into 2015 many people have their sights set on buying a home. The personal reasons differ for each buyer, with many basic similarities. Eric Belsky, the Managing Director of the Joint Center of Housing Studies at Harvard University expanded on the top 5 financial benefits of homeownership his paper - The Dream Lives On: the Future of Homeownership in America.

Here are the five reasons, each followed by an excerpt from the study:

1.) Housing is typically the one leveraged investment available.

“Few households are interested in borrowing money to buy stocks and bonds and few lenders are willing to lend them the money. As a result, homeownership allows households to amplify any appreciation on the value of their homes by a leverage factor. Even a hefty 20 percent down payment results in a leverage factor of five so that every percentage point rise in the value of the home is a 5 percent return on their equity. With many buyers putting 10 percent or less down, their leverage factor is 10 or more.”

2.) You're paying for housing whether you own or rent.

“Homeowners pay debt service to pay down their own principal while households that rent pay down the principal of a landlord.”

3.) Owning is usually a form of “forced savings”.

“Since many people have trouble saving and have to make a housing payment one way or the other, owning a home can overcome people’s tendency to defer savings to another day.”

4.) There are substantial tax benefits to owning.

“Homeowners are able to deduct mortgage interest and property taxes from income...On top of all this, capital gains up to $250,000 are excluded from income for single filers and up to $500,000 for married couples if they sell their homes for a gain.”

5.) Owning is a hedge against inflation.

“Housing costs and rents have tended over most time periods to go up at or higher than the rate of inflation, making owning an attractive proposition.”

Displaying blog entries 11-19 of 19

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Photo of Desi Sowers,  Associate Broker,  Real Estate
Desi Sowers, Associate Broker,
Certified Residential Specialist at REMAX 8
1344 N. Main Street
Blacksburg VA 24060
Phone: (540) 320-1328

Each Office Independently Owned and Operated