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Dog Lovers Unite! How to Find a Dog-Friendly Neighborhood

by Desi Sowers

When searching for your new home you want to make sure the neighborhood is a good fit for everyone in the family, including your pup. You will likely be looking for a nice yard, but it’s important to look beyond the property line. The type of neighborhood you end up in can make a huge difference in the quality of life for you and your fur babies. Here are a few signs that you have found a dog friendly environment:

- There are more groomers in a two-mile radius than hair salons…walk in appointments welcome!

- Restaurants and shops have water bowls and treats for visiting pups.

- Pet waste stations are abundant.

- The local dog park is always busy with happy pooches frolicking with friends.

Here are some more serious things to think about when considering the home and neighborhood that will work best for you and your pets:

- NEIGHBORS WITH DOGS.  They will be more understanding if your dog occasionally barks and are more likely to be helpful should you need someone to let your dog out or walk them while you are away from the house.

PET SHOPS.  Areas with a lot of pets mean that there will be pet shops conveniently available.

- SIDEWALKS. A neighborhood with sidewalks is idea for dog-walking.  Bonus point if they have waste stations too.

DOG PARKS. These are especially nice for urban areas. Check if there are off-leash hours or dog runs, or at least grassy areas where pups can run and play.

- MEET-UP GROUPS. Check and see if there are local meet-up groups available for playdates with other families with dogs. This is a great way for you to make friends as well!

If you are looking to move to the New River Valley area and want to find a pet friendly neighborhood, contact Desi Sowers at 540-320-1328 to start your home search today!

Photo Credit: thespruce.com

It’s a challenging time to purchase a home this spring because you not only have to find a property you want; you must also beat out all the other homebuyers who want to make an offer on it as well.  It is a Sellers' Market right now and that means supply is low and demand is high. This is especially true in the price ranges desired by first time homebuyers. The latest figures from the National Association of Realtors show that that there was only a 3.4-month supply of homes for sale in February, which is lower than the six-month supply that indicates a balanced market that equally benefits buyers and sellers.

So, home sales are moving quickly and often have multiple offers.  That means you need to be strategic to get into the home of your dreams.  Going to open houses and perusing listings is not enough to acquire the house you want in this market.

Seeking out an experienced Realtor to assist you in your search is vital to your success in buying a home this spring.  Realtors can help you with everything from finding properties, to placing appropriate offers and negotiating terms.   Knowing what is most important to sellers is key to winning a bidding war.  A good agent will know what motivates sellers.

Take the following steps to prepare and you will have a better chance at success:

  • Get your finances in order and shop for a Mortgage Pre-Approval prior to making an offer on a house.
  • Move quickly once you find the house you want.
  • Don’t make snap judgements based on listing photos. You must see a home in person to know if you truly love it or hate it.  Pictures do not tell the whole story!
  • Be realistic about the inspection and repairs.  In a competitive market, owners don’t need to make repairs to sell.  Inspections should be utilized to find major flaws that may be deal breakers for prospective buyers.
  • Start with your best offer. A competitive market is not the right market for negotiating a bargain.
  • Write a personal letter to the seller. You never know what might influence their decision.  Some homeowner love their house so much they want it to go to someone who will love it as much as they do.
  • Make a big earnest money deposit. A large deposit will let sellers know that you are serious about the purchase.
  • Make a backup offer. Even if a house is already under contract, the deal might still possibly fall apart for various reasons such as inspection issues or financing.  If you love a house, put a backup offer on it so that you will be first in line if the initial buyer walks away.
  • Consider waiving or shortening contingencies. Most offers are made contingent on the buyer being approved for a mortgage, the appraisal being equal to the purchase price and the buyer approving the inspection. Waiving any one of those contingencies can be risky, but may be worth taking a chance on in some circumstances.

Desi Sowers is an experienced, professional Realtor serving the New River Valley area in Virginia. If you’re looking to buy a home here, give her a call at 540-320-1328 and let her help you navigate this sellers’ market and successfully purchase the home of your dreams!

Searching for the right home is a huge endeavor.  Your home is where your heart is…where you feel safe and comfortable and happy. It’s the place where you spend time with your family, where you raise your children, where you come together in times of joy and sorrow.  So, choosing the perfect house is something that should never be taken lightly.  While feeling emotionally drawn to a home might feel good, it’s important to also consider practical aspects as well.  When deciding to make what will probably be your largest financial investment, you cannot rely solely on what you feel.  Both your head and your heart should be part of the decision-making process.

When you start your home search, chances are you’ve been thinking about it for a while and you have an idea of what you want.  If you’ve provided your Realtor with a list of wants and needs, she will find homes to show you that have as many of your wants and needs as possible.  You may walk into the very first home and immediately fall in love with it.  And that’s ok.  But that doesn’t mean you should stop your search and make an offer.  Here are some reasons why you should keep looking:

- There may be other homes with similar features, but lower asking prices.  Maybe the first home you fall in love with is the best one for you, but you can’t possibly know that if you haven’t compared it to any others.  It’s wise to shop around and compare that first home to others.

- You should take time to consider resale value.  Whether you are planning to stay in your new home long-term or you know you might be moving in a few years, resale value matters.  Shopping around will help you get a feeling for the area where you are looking. Is your “first love” home the nicest in the neighborhood?  If so, it may not appreciate in value as much as the others.  Educate yourself about features that provide high resale value before making a final decision on a home.

- Getting super excited about the aesthetics of a home can cause you to miss red flags.  You may walk into a home and immediately see beauty and perfection.  But that doesn’t mean it is in perfect condition.  Be careful to not get swept away by the look of the home.  Remember, you can’t judge a book by its cover and in the same respect, you can’t judge a home by its appearance.  There may be hidden problems that only a thorough, professional inspection will unearth.

- You will save yourself from experiencing “buyers’ remorse”.  Have you ever impulsively gotten a haircut, then looked in the mirror and wondered “what was I thinking?”  Choosing a home should never be an impulsive decision.  Don’t rush into it.  If, after looking at several more houses, you’re still in love with the first one you saw, go for it!  You can be confident in knowing that you are making an educated, thoughtful decision.

Falling in love with a home is just part of the equation when it comes to choosing the perfect place for you and your family to live.  Desi Sowers is committed to serving real estate clients in the New River Valley area. Contact her at 540-320-1328 and let her help you find your dream home today!

YOUR HOME SEARCH STARTS HERE            FIND OUT WHAT YOUR HOME IS WORTH  

Photo Credit: thestoryfiles.wordpress.com

Finding Your Dream Home: Tips for Success

by Desi Sowers

With interest rates still relatively low, but expected to rise in 2018, now is the time to start your search for a new home.  Here are some tips to help you find your dream home:

 - Make a list of priorities.  Ideally, your dream home would have everything you want in it, but it’s still a good idea to make a list of what you want in order of importance to you. What are you most concerned about?  Location? Square footage?  Private backyard? You may have to give up one thing to get another, so you want to be prepared with your priorities so you will know what is non-negotiable for you.  Also, think about desires verses needs when making your list.  For example, a home might not have the vaulted ceilings that you love, but meets your needs and wants in every other way. Those vaulted ceilings are a “want” more than a “need”.

 - Think ahead.  How long do you plan to live in the home?  If you are single or newly married you may want a starter home that you will only stay in for a few years while you save for a larger home.  But if you are expanding your family or planning to work from home, make sure you factor in the space that you will need.  Don’t buy a house that will only suit your needs for a year if you think you may live there for ten years.  There is always the chance that things will change, but plan for what you know for sure now.

 - Decide on your “most lived in” spaces. Where do you spend the most time in your current home?  If you love to cook, chances are the kitchen is going to be the most important room for you.  If you are a homebody who likes to kick back and watch movies, your den or family room might be the room to focus on.  It might be challenging to find a home where you love every room, but you can give a little on the others if the one you use the most is perfect for you.

 - Stick to your budget.  While searching for your dream home, it may be tempting to extend your budget a bit. Don’t do it. A standard goal is to keep your mortgage payment (with taxes and insurance included) at around 25% of your monthly household income.  Make sure that you have looked at your overall monthly budget to see what you can really afford, and then limit your house hunting to properties in your price range.  Refrain from looking at houses 1-2 price ranges above yours. You don’t want to get excited about a property that you can’t afford. In addition, once you have seen them, the houses that you can afford won’t look as good in comparison.  The exception is that if it is a buyer’s market, you might be able to negotiate a lower price, so it is ok to look at homes just slightly above your budget.

 - Decide if you want to do renovations or if you want a move-in ready home.  If you are handy, you might see a diamond in the rough that you want to fix up yourself.  Make sure if you do this that you are not shopping at the top of your price range because you will need extra funds for doing the renovation.

 - Try to see through the “ugly”.  It’s easier said than done for some people, but try not to just pass on a home because of cosmetic reasons.  Look at the bones of the house and imagine its potential. Focus on layout and flow rather than paint and décor.  If it’s the right home for you, cosmetic changes are easy and will give you the opportunity to make the home your own.

 - Don’t give up!  It might take a while to find exactly what you want.  Be patient and don’t settle for something just because you’re tired of looking.  You never know when just the right house will go on the market.  It will be worth the wait when you move into the home of your dreams!

 

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Open-Floor-Plans-Love-Them-or-Leave-Them

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Home-Inspections-are-Important-Heres-Why

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Investing-in-Real-Estate-Tips-for-Success

A Home for the Holidays: 5 Reasons to Buy Now!

by Desi Sowers

Buying a home in the midst of the holiday season might sound like a crazy idea, but the truth is there are good reasons to purchase a home this time of year.  Here are 5 good reasons to purchase a home during the holidays:

- Less Real Estate Market Activity - With lots of family, school and work activities happening during the holidays, fewer real estate transactions are taking place.  Because fewer people are looking for houses, there is less competition for buyers.  And with less competition, buyers have more leverage when negotiating purchases.  People selling homes during the holidays must often lower asking prices or make other concessions to sell.  So, if you buy this time of year, you might get a bargain!

- Highly Motivated Sellers:  If someone is selling their house at the end of the year, it’s because they need to.  Usually sellers avoid the end of the year due to shorter days and cold weather, so if they are selling this time of year they are likely under pressure and motivated to make a deal.

- Lower Interest Rates: Because of limited demand during the holiday season, there is greater competition among lenders so there is a general trend of lower rates. 

- Tax Perks: Buy a house before the end of the year and you can deduct any points you paid upon closing.  You can also deduct property taxes and mortgage interest.  Learn about the tax benefits of purchasing a home and find out if it is to your advantage to buy before year’s end. While your decision to buy a home shouldn’t be made solely for tax reasons, you certainly want to take advantage of the perks that exist!

- Faster Closings: Everybody involved in the home buying/selling process has incentive to complete transactions before the end of the year.  Lenders want to close their books, Realtors want to receive their commissions before the new year and sellers are anxious to move on.  Since everyone is so motivated, and there is less real estate activity, closings should happen quickly and efficiently.

So, if you’re thinking of buying a house anytime soon, don’t wait for the holidays to be over. Contact Desi Sowers at 540-320-1328 and start your home search today!

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Selling-to-Millennial-Homebuyers

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Debunking-the-20-Down-Payment-Myth

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Help-for-First-Time-Homebuyers

Selling to Millennial Homebuyers

by Desi Sowers

Generation Y, better known as millennials are buying homes. In fact, per the National Association of Realtors’ 2017 study of generational housing trends, millennials (those born between 1980-2000) make up the largest portion of the buyer market at 34%. That being said, when selling your home, it would be wise to think about the wants and needs of millennials as potential buyers.  Here are 7 must-haves for selling a home to millennials:

  • Updated kitchens and baths –  young homebuyers have been saving for a down payment and budgeted for mortgage payments, but they want move-in ready homes.  Updating kitchens and baths are expensive, so unless they are specifically looking for a fixer upper, they are going to want these rooms in particular to already be updated.
  • Location, location, location - millennials are not only facing higher gas prices, but they are more environmentally conscious.  They are looking for homes in areas that have easy access to public transportation and a good walk score.
  • Great Rooms – there was a time when a formal dining room was on every buyer’s wish list. But this generation of buyers prefers a great room with combined kitchen and living space.  And because of how younger homeowners entertain, they prefer an open floor plan for easier flow throughout the house.
  • Home office – millennials make up a huge portion of our work force. Working from home has risen in popularity by 80% over the past ten years.  So, having a home office is definitely a must for most young buyers.  Even if you have a room staged as a bedroom, it would be prudent for your agent to point out that it could be used as a home office.
  • Low maintenance – young buyers want low maintenance homes.  Things like wood floors and granite countertops appeal to them because they are both attractive and easy to take care of.  Smaller yards are their preference as well. They want to spend their free time relaxing or traveling, not doing yardwork and cleaning.
  • Technology – this generation life without the internet and cell phones.  Good service is vital to them.  Many millennials don’t even use a landline.  You may not be able to control the strength of cell service at your home, but you can be sure that young buyers will be asking about it.
  • Energy efficiency – With a growing interest in protecting the environment, younger buyers look to buy "green homes".  While energy efficiency is not the top reason to purchase a house, it can certainly be an advantage when dealing with millennial buyers.

If you are a millennial looking to buy a home in the New River Valley, let Desi Sowers help you find the perfect home to suit your needs and desires.  Call her today at (540) 320-1328!

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Welcome-to-the-New-River-Valley

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Help-for-First-Time-Homebuyers

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/To-Renovate-or-Not-to-Renovate-Should-You-Fix-Up-Your-Home-or-Sell-it-As-Is

Help for First Time Homebuyers

by Desi Sowers

Are you ready to buy your first home, but worried you won’t be able to come up with the cash required for a down payment?  Don’t fret my friends!  There is help out there for you.  The Virginia Housing Development Authority (VHDA) has a down payment assistance program (DPA) in the form of a grant, and it just might be the best shot for a first-time homebuyer.  The DPA grant can provide eligible first-time homebuyers with the funds needed for their down payment.  If you qualify for the DPA program, you may receive a percentage of the purchase price to help with the down payment. You can check out the guidelines and requirements for your eligibility here.  Here is more information to help you determine if this program is right for you:

  • Maximum grant will be 3 - 3.5% of the purchase price, based on the down payment required for the eligible VHDA loan.
  • Buyers must have household incomes at or below program limits.
  • Down Payment Assistance Grant may be used with eligible VHDA loans only.
  • Grant funds may NOT be used in combination with other down payment assistance resources (including FHA Plus).
  • Down Payment Assistance Grant has no repayment.
  • VHDA’s eligible first mortgage must be locked on or after the program implementation date.
  • The eligible first mortgage must be locked prior to reserving the grant funds.
  • All borrowers receiving this grant are eligible for a Mortgage Credit Certificate (MCC). Borrowers must apply for an MCC through an approved MCC lender and receive an MCC commitment/approval prior to closing.  (And MCC is a dollar-for-dollar credit against your federal income tax liability. 
  • Other program requirements may apply.

A video tutorial is available to help you with the process of understanding and applying for the DPA Program.

Desi Sowers can also help you understand how you CAN afford to purchase your first home!  Give her a call at (540) 320-1328 and start your search for your first home today!

 

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Buying-a-Home-is-a-Sound-Financial-Investment

http://www.desisowers.com/Blog/Negotiation-101

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

Buying a Home is a Sound Financial Investment!

by Desi Sowers

Trulia recently reported that buying is cheaper than renting in 100 of the largest metro regions by an average of 33.1%.   Surely this makes you stop and think, “why am I paying someone else’s mortgage when I could be a homeowner myself?”  Being a homeowner allows you to build long-term wealth because it is like a forced savings account.  By paying down your mortgage, you are building equity and basically paying yourself.  So, before signing another rental lease, take a look at some other benefits of owning a home:

  • Mortgage payments can be fixed while rents go up.
  • Equity in your home can provide future financial resources.
  • You can build wealth without paying capital gains.
  • You can become a landlord yourself and not only pay your mortgage but possibly make a profit.
  • You have the freedom to make a home your own with renovations and décor.
  • You can take advantage of tax breaks..
  • You will build closer ties to your community
  • Over the long run you will have greater net worth than if you were a renter.

With current mortgage interest rates still low, now is a great time to consider buying a home.  I can help you better understand your options and why owning is better than renting.  Contact me at (540) 320 - 1328 or at Desi Sowers and we can start your home search today!

Negotiation 101

by Desi Sowers

It seems that negotiation has become a lost art in the world of real estate, and that’s unfortunate because the truth of the matter is, if you don’t ask…you don’t get. While sellers want the highest price and buyers want the best deal, they must meet somewhere in the middle for the deal to close. Negotiation is a vital part of selling or buying a home because it is the largest asset people own and there is a lot of money at stake. Here are some guidelines for what sellers and buyers might ask for in real estate negotiations:

  1. Price

Negotiating the best price means different things for sellers and buyers.  The seller wants the highest price and the buyer wants to pay as little as possible.  For a successful transaction, they have to compromise and come up with a price that is acceptable to both.

  1. Closing Costs

Prepaid closing costs are paid by buyers for their mortgage.  These are funds that the mortgage lender holds in escrow for expenses like taxes and insurance.  A buyer may ask a seller to cover some or all their closing costs either with a flat dollar amount or up to a percentage of what’s an allowable contribution for a lender.  If a buyer asks the seller to do this, they are likely going to pay a higher asking price.

  1. Closing Date

Sometimes sellers want to get out of a home quickly because they need the capital from that house they are selling to put toward a new real estate purchase.  The closing date will also affect they buyer’s monthly cash-flow because when a buyer closes on a house, they skip the next month’s mortgage payment, therefore they may want to negotiate to close at the beginning of a month.

  1. Financing Contingencies

When there is a financing contingency in place for a real estate transaction, it can tie up a seller’s property for a required 30 to 60 days.  For this reason, many buyers prefer buyers coming to the table with cash offers. If you are competing with cash buyers, you may want to figure out if you can drop the financial contingency, which will shorten the closing time line. You can do this by getting pre-approved for a home loan prior to making an offer.  Mortgage preapproval shows that your finances are in order and you can afford the home.

  1. Home Warranty

As a buyer, you can request a home warranty. As a seller, you can offer one.  This home protection plan covers things like appliances and systems such as the hot water heater or air conditioning, in the event they repair or replacement.

  1. Leaseback

The moving process is stressful and labor intensive.  Sometimes a seller will need extra time to get into their new home.  When this happens, buyers can offer a zero-cost rent-back for 30 to 90 days to persuade the seller to accept their offer over others. 

  1. Home Repairs

With a home that needs a lot of updating there comes ample opportunity for negotiation. Buyers need to consider the cost of bringing the home up to current standards and use the estimate of that cost to request a lower asking price.  The seller, on the other hand, can specify that the house is being sold “as is” and not offer any repairs.

  1. Appraisal Contingency

A seller can push for a buyer to waive the appraisal contingency, however, if for some reason the appraisal falls short of the expected amount, they need to be prepared for the amount of cash they might have to pay should the bank only be willing to lend them money based on the appraised value.

  1. Furniture

Personal property such as patio furniture, window treatments and chandeliers is all up for grabs.  If the buyer can ask for these things to be included in the contract.  Sellers need to determine what they are willing to leave behind.  And any exclusions need to be specifically listed in the contract as well.

  1. Appliances

Depending on the market, sellers don’t always leave every appliance for the buyer.  They may include the dishwasher, stove and built in microwave in the contract but not the refrigerator, washer and dryer.  Sometimes they don’t want to give everything away up front so that they can use these as items for negotiation.

  1. Inspection

When sellers waive inspection, they often find themselves with "buyer's remorse", but they can try to shorten the time frame for inspection, from ten days to five.  However, today’s lending practices and the TILA RESPA Integrated Disclosure (TRID) make this hard to do.

  1. Condo/Co-op Assessments

These are fees that are used to maintain common areas in a community. If there is an open assessment, it can become a negotiation between the buyer and seller as to who will pay for it.

 

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

 

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

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