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Scaling Down for an Empty Nest

by The Hat Team


Facing the dilemma of what to do with your empty nest can be overwhelming. You are not only dealing with the emotional turmoil of no longer having your children at home, but now you have this BIG, empty house as well.  You might already be considering a move to a smaller house, but the thought of giving up the home where you raised your children has you feeling melancholy.  Your current home likely holds a lot of wonderful memories for you. But remember, it’s just a house. There are a lot of perks to downsizing:

  • Your house will be easier to maintain and you will spend less time cleaning.
     
  • You will spend less money on everything from your mortgage, taxes and insurance to your heating, cooling, and electricity. 
     
  • Having less debt will eliminate the financial stress that comes with a huge mortgage payment.
     
  • A home that doesn’t drain your resources and energy will give you peace of mind.  And that is priceless.
     
  • A smaller home has a positive impact on the environment because it requires less resources to build and maintain.
     
  • You will have more free time for living the life you want.
     
  • It will force you to declutter and cut back on your belongings and keep you from buying more. The Ridiculously Thorough Guide to Decluttering Your Home
     
  • If decorating is not your thing, a smaller house will make it less overwhelming for you.
     
  • When the time comes to sell, a smaller, more affordable home will appeal to a larger percentage of the population.

Scaling down doesn’t mean you should move into one of the tiny houses that are trendy right now.  It might be just going from four bedrooms/three baths to three bedrooms/two baths.  A professional Realtor can assist you in finding a smaller home that will suit all your needs and provide you with a happier, more peaceful lifestyle. 12 Life-Changing Benefits of Living in Small House

If you have an empty nest and you are ready to sell your LARGE home for a smaller home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Negotiation - A Guide for Home Sellers and Home Buyers

by The Hat Team


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 crucial 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 is a simple guide for what sellers and buyers might ask for in real estate negotiations:

  • 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 must compromise and come up with a price that is acceptable to both.

  • 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. What is Escrow and Why is it Needed?

  • Closing Date

Sometimes sellers want to get out of a home quickly because they need the money from that house they are selling to put toward a new real estate purchase.  The closing date will also affect the 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.

  • 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 sellers prefer buyers coming to the table with cash offers. If you are competing with cash buyers, you can shorten the closing timeline substantially 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.  5 Things You Need to Be Pre-Approved for a Mortgage

  • 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 need repair or replacement.

  • 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. 

  • 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.

  • 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, buyers need to be prepared for the amount they might have to pay should the bank only be willing to lend them money based on the appraised value. How an Appraisal Contingency Can Protect You

  • Furniture

Personal property such as patio furniture, window treatments and chandeliers is all up for grabs. 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.

  • 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.

  • Inspection

When buyers 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.

  • 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 in the market to buy or sell a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

A Guide to Home-Selling During Spring

by The Hat Team


Spring is a great time to sell a house.  In fact, per a Zillow study, homes listed between May 1 through May 15 sold, on average, around 18.5 days faster than homes not listed during this period.  Add this to the fact that the largest number of buyers are actively searching for homes in the months of April, May and June and you will see that getting your property on the market this time of year is a must!  This is especially true right now because interest rates are still relatively low.  Here are some tips that will help your house stand out among the plethora of homes that get put on the market in spring:

  • Wash windows inside and out and polish all mirrors.  A little bit of sparkle goes a long way in impressing potential buyers.
     
  • Rake the yard and trim back bushes.  Your yard is the first thing people will see. Dead leaves and debris do not paint a pretty picture.  In addition, you want as much natural light as possible flooding through your windows, so make sure bushes aren’t blocking the rays. Budget-Friendly Home Staging Tips to Maximize Curb Appeal
     
  • Mow the yard diagonally and edge along the driveway and sidewalks.  Mowing diagonally makes yards look larger. And edging shows that you give attention to small details. 
     
  • Plant yellow flowers.  Yellow tulips and daffodils promote feelings of happiness and contentment.
     
  • Clean window treatments and open windows.  It will be worth your while to take down your drapes, curtains and blinds to clean them and give them a crisp, fresh look.  Weather permitting, opening windows lets the fresh air in and gives the whole house the feeling of spring.
     
  • Have fresh, fragrant flowers in the house.  Artful home-staging brings color and pleasant aromas indoors. Flowers for Home Staging
     
  • Polish floors to a high gloss.  Make those floors shine!  Refinish them if necessary.
     
  • Use light colors. Even if you must spend a little to replace items, towels, linens, throws and sofa pillows are inexpensive accents that will pay off.  Use soft, spring colors such as yellows, pinks, pale blues and lavenders to light up a room.
     
  • Spruce up your entryway. This is the part of your home where buyers will get their first impression.  Make it a good one!

If you are in the market to buy or sell a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs! Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Which Should You Do First - Buy or Sell?

by The Hat Team


It’s time for you to move. Maybe it’s because your family is growing and you need a larger home. Or perhaps your nest has recently emptied and you want to downsize.  Whatever the reason, as a home owner, you not only need to find a new home, you also need to sell your current home.  This brings us to the question…which should you do first?  Buy, then sell? Sell, then buy? Or do both at the same time?  There is no one right answer for everyone, but certainly there is one that is right for you. Here are the pros and cons of each of these options:

BUYING FIRST - PROS

  • One perk of buying a new home before you sell your current one, is that it allows you the time to find the ideal home without having to rush to a decision. There is no pressure to get out of your current home by a certain date, forcing you to maybe choose a house that isn’t quite right.
  • If you are a planner by nature, then knowing where you’re going to be living once you sell your home is definitely a positive aspect of buying first.  It will give you peace of mind to know that you can move directly to your new house once you have sold your current one.
  • If you buy first, you can take your time moving.  You will also have the time to do any work on your current property that is needed, such as home improvements and/or updates, before you put it on the market.

BUYING FIRST - CONS

  • Ideally, you would be able to sell your current home within a month of purchasing your new one so that you don’t have to pay two mortgages.  But there is no guarantee that will happen.  Your house might sit on the market for a while, and if it does, you need to be prepared to make two mortgages each month until it sells.  If this is not something you are able to do, you probably shouldn’t buy before selling.
  • If you buy before selling your income will need to be able to support both mortgages.  This will increase your debt-to-income ratio ( DTI )meaning that if you’re already struggling to qualify for a new mortgage, it’s going to be even less likely you will qualify if you have two mortgages.  You may want to sell first to lower your DTI so you will qualify for your new mortgage.

SELLING FIRST - PROS

  • Depending on the state of the current real estate market, there may be a lot of competition for homes.  In this case, you will find that selling first and having cash on hand will be an advantage when competing with other buyers.  You will also be in a better negotiating position if you don’t need a contingency when you buy. Home Sale Contingencies for Buyers and Sellers
  • When you sell your current home first, you will have a clear picture of how much you can afford for your new home.  It will also provide you with cash to put toward your down payment.  If you can put a full 20% down, depending on your loan program, you can avoid paying mortgage insurance each month. This will save you money over the life of your loan.
  • Selling first will eliminate some expenses.  If you buy a new home before you sell, you will not only be making two mortgage payments until your current property sells, but you will also be paying for utilities in both homes.  These expenses can add up quick!

SELLING FIRST - CONS

  • When you sell your house before you have found a new one, you may have to find temporary housing…which can be a real hassle. Trying to find a place to live on a short-term lease is challenging and becomes even more complicated if you have pets or you are looking for specific school district.  It also means you will have to move…twice. Moving once is stressful enough. Moving twice in a short period of time is exhausting. And when you do find your new home, you may have to juggle both a rent and mortgage payment for a month or more depending on your lease.
  • If you’ve sold your current home, but haven’t found your new one, you may feel panicked about finding a home quickly.  This feeling might lead you to rush your search and to perhaps settle for a home that isn’t right for you.  Buying a home is likely the largest financial investment you will ever make, not to mention the logistical and emotional implications, so it is a decision that you definitely don’t want to rush.

Believe it or not, it is possible to buy and sell simultaneously.  For example, you can make a contingent offer, meaning that your offer is dependent on your current home selling.  A contingent offer may not be as appealing to sellers in a competitive market, but it eliminates the risk of ending up with two mortgages. Another option is to use a HELOC: Home Equity Line of Credit to cover the cost of purchasing a new home while still paying mortgage on current home.  There is also the possibility, depending on your lender, of getting a Bridge Loan to help cover expenses in the time between buying and selling.

There are many factors involved when deciding whether to buy or sell first. Let an experienced Realtor like Sandra Nickel assist you in navigating the home buying/selling process.

If you are in the market to sell or buy a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

On the 12 Days of Christmas My Realtor Gave to Me

by The Hat Team

On the first day of Christmas my Realtor said to me:

Buyers: if you’re looking to buy your first home, now is the time! There might be less inventory now, but there is also less competition and more highly motivated sellers. 5 Reasons to Buy a Home This Fall

On the second day of Christmas my Realtor said to me:

Sellers: if your home is for sale during the holiday season, feel free to decorate, but don’t go overboard.  You want your home to look its best while still enjoying your personal touch.  Avoid large decorations that can be overwhelming or distracting.  Remember that potential buyers want be able to envision your home as their own.

On the third day of Christmas my Realtor said to me:

Buyers: take advantage of less competition from other buyers during the holiday season. Less competition might mean you'll be able to negotiate a favorable price for a home you want to purchase. Homes are often priced to sell this time of year. Although there is so much going on during the holidays, it might be worth it to go house hunting if it means a better price for you!

On the fourth day of Christmas my Realtor said to me:

Sellers: make your home feel inviting. If it’s cold outside, make it warm and cozy inside. Play soft, classical music and offer homemade holiday treats. If potential buyers are comfortable, they will spend more time in your home and will have more time to appreciate all its best features.

On the fifth day of Christmas my Realtor said to me:

Buyers: consider possible tax advantages.  If you itemize your taxes, you can deduct any points you paid upon closing, as well as property taxes and mortgage interest. Whether it is to your advantage to buy before or after year’s end depends on factors such as how many other deductions you have this year and expect to have next year.

It is best to consult with a tax professional before purchase. Even though you do not want to decide on a home purchase strictly for tax reasons, it could be to your benefit to close before the end of the year. Buying a Home: The Tax Impact of Your New Home

On the sixth day of Christmas my Realtor said to me:

Sellers: there will be motivated buyers this time of year. If people are house hunting during the holidays, they probably have a good reason for doing so. For example, they may be relocating for a job or investing for a tax deduction.  If they are on a deadline, they will be highly driven to find a home quickly.  It may be worth it to do the extra work involved in showing your home during the holiday season.

On the seventh day of Christmas my Realtor said to me:

Buyers: you may find that there are better interest rates this time of year. Generally, there is often a cyclical trend of lower interest rates during the holidays due to limited demand forcing greater competition among lenders.

On the eighth day of Christmas my Realtor said to me:

Sellers: price your home to sell.  A home that is reasonably priced for the market will make buyers feel merry and bright.  Many real estate agents advise sellers to initially price their home to sell rather than making small price reductions over time.

On the ninth day of Christmas my Realtor said to me:

Buyers: you may get a faster closing on your new home since all parties involved have incentive to complete the transaction before the end of the year. Lenders want to close their books; realtors want to receive their commissions and buyers and sellers want to settle into their new homes. Since all parties are motivated and there are fewer transactions taking place during this time, in many circumstances, it should be easier to put everything in place for a smooth and rapid closing.

On the tenth day of Christmas my Realtor said to me:

Sellers: provide photos that show your home year-round.  Yards and landscaping aren’t always at their best during the winter months.  Make sure that potential buyers see the beauty of your home during other times of year when the grass is greener and trees and flowers are in bloom.

On the eleventh day of Christmas my Realtor said to me:

Buyers: motivated sellers may mean a better deal for you. People who are selling their homes over the holidays often have a need to sell fast. If a house has already been on the market for a while, that need is even greater. It may be advantageous for you to buy now. You can negotiate fairly but firmly with the sellers for a lower price and/or other concessions such as having them pay closing costs.

On the twelfth day of Christmas my Realtor said to me:

Sellers: create a video tour for the web. You might get less foot traffic during the holidays due to the business of the season.  By posting a video tour, you may attract house hunters who don’t have time to go to your home in person.

If you are in the market to sell or buy a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs! Call them today at 334-834-1500!

How to Pack Like a Pro!

by The Hat Team

Congratulations!  You have successfully sold your home!  What a relief, right?  Now comes the hard part. Moving.  Moving is one of the 10 Most Stressful Life Events along with job loss, death of a loved one, divorce and major illness. Sounds fun, huh?  That’s why it is important to go about moving in a thoughtful and organized manner.  The more prepared you are, the less stress.  Packing up your house can be overwhelming, but you can make it easier by spreading it out over several weeks rather than trying to do it all right before you move.  Here is a general timeline for packing that you can use as a guide:

FOUR WEEKS BEFORE MOVING DAY: PRE-PACKING - Hopefully when you sell your house, you won’t have to immediately vacate.  About a month before moving you can begin to pre-pack items that you won’t need or use before you move.  Out of season clothing, tools and small appliances, and collectibles/knick knacks are items that you won’t miss. Hint: if your house is still on the market you can take this step as well, and it will help with staging your home for prospective buyers.

THREE WEEKS BEFORE MOVING DAY: NON-ESSENTIALS - Among the items that you didn’t pre-pack, choose those that you know you likely won’t need before moving.  Books, extra linens, and kitchen items can be packed up because you likely won’t be doing much reading, and you only need enough linens, plates, and utensils for the number of people living in the home.  CDs and DVDs can go as well.

TWO WEEKS BEFORE MOVING DAY: THE SERIOUS PACKING BEGINS - Yes…now it is time to start paring down the amount of “stuff” still in your home. If you have children, allow them to choose a few toys/games to keep out, and box up the rest. If you have a home office, clean it out and pack what you plan to take with you.  Any jewelry and shoes that you don’t wear daily can go as well.  You may feel that two weeks is a long time to go without these items, but trust me, before you know it you will be unpacking them in your new abode! 5 Ways Children Can Help During a Move

ONE WEEK BEFORE MOVING DAY: SEVEN DAYS AND COUNTING - Now it is time to pack up all but the few things you will need to get through the last few days at your current home.  The rest of your clothes and kitchen items can go (leaving yourself what you will need until the move, of course).  Go through your medicine cabinet and toss any expired medications. Pack the rest except for the ones you take daily.

TWO DAYS BEFORE MOVING DAY: IT’S GETTING REAL YA’LL - At this point your stress level may be peaking, but if you have been following the time-line and packing a bit each week, you should be almost finished!  Box up your electronics (in their original packaging when possible), bathroom items, and any miscellaneous items that are left.  Keep a box for essential items that you will keep with you as you are moving.

MOVING DAY: IT’S HERE! -  All that should be left is furniture and appliances.  Whether you have hired movers to load the large items or you are doing it yourself, it will be so much more manageable with everything else already boxed up and ready to go.

IMPORTANT TIP - Label every box.  You can either write what is in the box or what room the box should go to.  Or both.  You will be glad you did when you are unpacking!

Remember that this is simply a general guideline.  You should do what is right for you and your family when it comes to packing and moving. But hopefully this will make what can be a trying and overwhelming time a little less stressful.

If you are in the market to sell or buy a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs! Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Cleaning Your Home After Selling

by The Hat Team

SOLD!  What a relief!  Your house is sold and soon you will be moving out.  Pride in ownership means that you will likely want to leave your house in good shape for its new owners. In some states, the Real Estate Purchase Contract may stipulate that the home is to be “swept clean”, meaning the seller should at least sweep the floors and leave walls and ceilings bare.  But the language can often be vague.  Here is a list of cleaning tips for home sellers to help you leave the house reasonably clean and to create a feeling of goodwill toward your buyer:

Cleaning the Interior of the Home Before Moving Out:

  • Remove all personal property.
  • Vacuum the floors.
  • Clean kitchen appliances including the inside of the refrigerator and over.  Wipe down the counters.
  • Scrub sinks and tubs.
  • Wipe down interior cabinets and shelves.
  • Wash tile/vinyl/wood flooring.

Cleaning the Garage Prior to Closing:

  • Remove personal belongings.
  • Throw away trash.
  • Properly dispose of toxic chemicals.
  • Sweep the floor.
  • Stack items pertaining to the home such as paint cans, roofing materials or extra flooring.  Check to make sure the buyer wants the extra materials first.

Basically, you want to leave the home in the condition that you would like to find your new home.  Your buyers will appreciate it!  What Are House Cleaning Expectations When a Seller Moves

If you are in the market to sell or buy a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: tm-cleaning.com

Home Closings - What Can Go Wrong

by The Hat Team

Closing on a home is the final step to the home selling/buying process.  It can feel stressful and overwhelming, especially to first-timers.  Here are some things that most often go wrong with home closings, and how to avoid them!

     WALK THROUGH - A walk through of the home is done before closing to confirm that everything is as it was when you signed the purchase agreement.  It’s also the time to make sure any repairs that you requested were completed.  If you get to your walk through and discover that the owner took the washer and dryer they had agreed to leave or there were agreed upon repairs not done, your closing will definitely be put on hold.  Money will be placed in escrow to cover the costs and deadlines will be extended.

     FEES - You will want to look at a copy of your HUD-1 Settlement Statement before going to your closing so that you can look over all the fees and ask questions should you have any. Fees on the statement will include those from your lender, closing attorney, city, insurance, surveys, and transaction fees among other things.  You don’t want to get all the way to your closing and find out there are fees you weren’t aware of which may delay proceedings.

     TITLE SEARCH - Make sure the title search is completed with plenty of time to deal with any issues that may arise.  A professional title examiner should be utilized by your closing attorney to be sure there are no defects on the title that would prevent the property from being sold.   If the title search is done at the last minute and there are problems, it might take a long time to fix thus holding up the closing.

     WIRE TRANSFER - The wire transfer of funds needs to arrive within a specific window of time for closing.  An issue with the wire can hold up closing.  It’s vital to check with your lender and closing attorney to be sure that all parties have the correct wire information and timelines.

     CLOSING PACKAGE - A common problem that delays closings is the Closing Package not being ready.  At the end of the loan process, there are a lot of loose ends that must be tied up and they can sometimes cause delays. Timing is everything.  You may be scheduled to close at 11:00 AM, but if your package isn’t ready until 2:00 PM and your lender and attorney has other closings scheduled, your closing may be postponed to the next day.

If you are in the market to sell or buy a home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs.  Call them at 334-834-1500 today!

Photo Credit: realtor.com

Buyer & Seller Guides Fall 2018

by The Hat Team

Selling in the Fall is a Great Idea - Here’s Why!

by The Hat Team

While summer is considered by many to be the hottest time for selling a house (both literally and figuratively), sometimes circumstances require you to sell during a different time of the year.  This fall might be exactly the right time to sell.  Homes are still in demand and there is a good chance you will find a buyer before the end of the year.   Here are some perks to selling in the fall:

- Buyers are seriously looking in the Fall. They want to get settled into a new house before the holiday season begins.  The pressure is on for them to find their new home quickly and this puts you (the seller) in the driver’s seat when it comes to negotiations.

- There is less competition in the fall. Many sellers need to close and move before school starts, so fewer houses are for sale.  With less to choose from, buyers can’t afford to be quite as picky.

- You will be dealing with different types of buyers.  Families often move in the summer to accommodate school schedules. Empty Nesters and Millennial Home Buyers are more likely to be looking in the fall. In addition, employers who need to relocate their workers often wait for fall to avoid the hot market during spring and summer.  A speedy closing is the goal of most of these buyers, which means you are more likely to get the best price possible for your house.

- Fall is pretty.  The weather is cooler; the leaves are changing colors and fall décor can make homes look and feel warm and cozy.  This is a great time of year to dress up your house to entice buyers.

So, if you have been thinking about putting your house on the market, don’t wait until spring.

Contact Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of Professional Realtors at 334-834-1500 and get your house listed and sold this Fall!

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