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Cringe-Worthy Home Décor Trends

by The Hat Team


If you are preparing to sell an older home, you might have some cringe-worthy home décor that needs to be updated to get the best price for your home, especially if you are a selling a starter home.  Buyers looking in the starter home category are looking for move-in ready homes that won’t require a lot of money to fix up.  If you have any of these home décor styles that have fallen out of favor in your home, you may want to makes some changes before putting your house on the market:

  1. Shag Carpeting

If you still have shag carpeting in your house, it’s way past time to bid it adieu.Shag style rugs hit their peak during the 60s and 70s.Back then, wall to wall carpeting was still relatively new and people were excited to incorporate the deep piled rugs into their home décor. But as early as the 1980s it was already considered dated and passe’. So, if you still have it in your house buyers will likely not be impressed. Cheap Flooring Ideas: 8 of the Cheapest Flooring Options with Style

  1. Wall Paneling

Another 1970s staple was wood wall paneling. With exaggerated wood grain and fake wood knots, they made dark rooms darker and gave a truly dated appearance. You don’t have to remove it though. There are many ways to update wood paneling for a lighter, more modern aesthetic. An Easy and Cheap Way to Update Wood Wall Paneling

  1. Green & Gold Appliances

If you still have “avocado” and “mustard” colored appliances, congratulations!Because they have lasted a LONG time!But seriously?It’s time to let them go.They might be deal breakers for buyers who can’t afford to buy a house and immediately replace appliances.

  1. Country Kitchens

The 1980s brought with it an influx of “country” décor.Think cornflower blue, ducks and geese, ribbons and bows.Wall paper border embellished with cute little farm animals frolicking in flowering fields accented by dark wood cabinets was quite popular.But now it is dated and buyers probably won’t be thrilled with the idea of having to live with it if they couldn’t afford to change it right away.

  1. Pastel Bathrooms

Back in the 1950s pastels became de rigueur for bathrooms across the country. Bathed in floor to ceiling pink, powder blue, or mint green, they looked like confections fit for Barbie’s dream house.While it might be a large undertaking, you may want to consider a bathroom update to get a more interest from buyers and a bigger profit on the sale of your home in the long run. But if your home is what you'd call "contemporary" or Mid-Century modern, leave that pastel bathroom alone because your buyer will love it!  

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: pinterest.com

Starter Home - A Guide for First-Time Homebuyers

by The Hat Team


Purchasing your first home is a huge milestone…and not one that should be taken lightly.  It’s a big commitment and you want to make sure you get it right.  It’s important that you educate yourself before you begin the home buying process so that you can find the right property and procure the financing for it. 

Here are some things you should know as a first-time homebuyer:

  1. PEOPLE INVOLVED IN THE HOME BUYING PROCESS

Entering the home buying process for the first time might feel a little overwhelming. You will have a lot of questions, but don’t worry, there will be people who will guide you through.The first thing to do is to find an . Your Realtor will assist you in finding your starter home, making an offer, and negotiating with sellers. Another person you should meet with prior to starting your home search is a mortgage lender. Your mortgage banker will help you complete your loan application along with determining the amount you qualify for. Getting pre-approved for a mortgage is an important step that will set you on the right course for buying your first home. 3 Essential Reasons to Get a Mortgage Preapproval

  1. STARTING YOUR HOME SEARCH

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying in relation to real estate. It exists for a reason. Because location is one of the most important aspects in choosing a home.The first thing you must do when searching for your starter home is determine the area you want to live in.You should take many things into consideration when making this decision. Do you want city, suburban, or country living?What is the reputation of the school system?Are there shopping, dining and entertainment activities nearby?The answers to these questions aren’t just important for you when you’re living there, but may also have an impact on resale value. Remember, this is your starter home; not necessarily your forever home. So, you should take resale value into consideration when choosing the location. Once you’ve determined WHERE you want to look, you can create a list of what you’re looking for in a home.You may have to compromise on some things, but going into your search knowing what you want will make things less confusing. Home Buying Wish List

  1. FINANCIAL IMPLICATIONS

When buying your starter home, there may be some expenses that you didn’t anticipate.  Don’t risk being blindsided by unexpected expenses.  Do your research and make sure you know what you are getting into.  Here are some costs you may not have thought of:

  • Closing costs
  • Home inspection
  • Moving expenses
  • Setting up your new house

Remember that your Realtor and Mortgage Banker are there to answer questions you may have, so don’t hesitate to take advantage of their expertise!

If you are considering the purchase of your starter home, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you with all your real estate needs!  Call them today at 3234-834-1500!

Incorporating Eco-Friendly Features into Your Home

by The Hat Team


Today’s homebuyers are much more environmentally conscious and they are looking for homes that are eco-friendly.  Luxury homebuyers especially want design elements that support sustainability.  The National Association of Realtors' 2018 Report on Sustainability stated that 71% of members noted that promoting energy efficiency in listings was valuable to them.  In addition, millennials are big proponents of “green” living and with millions of them reaching the age where they will be buying homes in the next couple of years, there will be a large desire for eco-friendly homes that will play a part in protecting the planet.

So, how do you make your home more eco-friendly?  It’s surprisingly easy to upgrade your home with green features, while keeping it aesthetically pleasing. Here are some ways to get started:

  • USE ENERGY-EFFICIENT LIGHTBULBS

While they have been around for many years, lots of homeowners are just now beginning to use energy-efficient lightbulbs. They have many benefits, including reducing electricity use and extending the life of the bulb. Per , if each American household exchanged one lightbulb for an energy efficient one, the country would save enough energy to light up to 2.5 million homes each year, and save $600 million in energy costs!One of the most common types of energy efficient lighting are LED bulbs.They come in all kinds of colors and styles and fit into current fixtures, making switching to energy efficient bulb one of the easiest ways to go green.

  • MAKE YOUR HOME A “SMART” ONE

Many people may think having a “smart home” is out of reach; that it’s something only luxury homeowners can afford. But truthfully, it’s one of the best ways to make your home eco-friendly and in the long run, it will save money.Home automation allows appliances to run with the lowest amount of energy required, thus creating lower bills for the homeowner.Automated controls save money, time, energy and reduce your carbon footprint. It’s a win for everyone to add smart home technology! How Smart Home Systems Reduce Your Footprint

The desire to eat healthy has many people participating in home gardening. With that in mind, urban home owners have started installing green roofs, if you don’t live in a designated local historic district.There are many benefits to green roofs; they don’t require a backyard, they provide natural cooling, and they are aesthetically pleasing.But most importantly, they are energy efficient. During the summer a green roof protects the building from direct solar heat. When winter arrives, it minimizes heat loss thanks to the extra insulation on the roof. And finally, thanks to the energy conservation it provides, there are fewer greenhouse gas emissions.

If you enjoy gardening and desire to be environmentally friendly, consider creating a living wall in your home.Not only is a living wall a beautiful, organic addition to your living room, entryway, or terrace, it is also very eco-friendly.It provides natural insulation, reduces energy consumption, and aids in humidity level maintenance.They are especially popular in hot climates because they require less energy to cool your home. 30 Breathtaking Living Wall Designs for Creating Your Own Vertical Garden

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!

What is Title Insurance and Why Do You Need It?

by The Hat Team


When you are purchasing a home, especially if you are a first-time homebuyer, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by all the things you need to think about.  Something like title insurance is probably not even on your radar. It’s a fee that will appear on your closing document and chances are you don’t even know what it’s for.  If that’s the case, we’ve got you covered.  Here are five things you need to know about title insurance:

  1. Like other insurance policies, title insurance is something that protects you financially should there be a loss.  In this case it protects you with regard to property ownership. It not only ensures that the property you are purchasing will be legally transferred to you from the previous owner, it also protects you from possible future Title Defects.  There isn’t a monthly premium with title insurance; it is a one-time fee paid at closing.  This one-time payment will protect the insured from title defects for the life of the loan.
  2. Title insurance is important because while a title research company will look into the history of ownership of the home to be sure there are no title defects, there is always a possibility that an issue could arise later due to several reasons such as improperly recorded documents, mistakes in ownership history or other legal matters that occurred prior to your purchase of the home.
  3. There are two types of title insurance; one that protects the home owner and one that protects the mortgage lender.  Your lender will require that you purchase the lender’s policy to protect them from any loss should a problem arise.  The owner policy protects you and will cover legal fees or other losses that occur due to a title defect. You are not required to get an owner policy, but it’s well worth it to have it in place just in case something goes wrong in the future.
  4. It can be frustrating to pay for insurance that you might never use, but it is risky to not have it in place. Think of it as paying for peace of mind.  With title insurance, you will be protected from catastrophic circumstances should a title defect be found.  You could not only lose a lot of money; you may even lose your home.
  5. Title insurance is purchased when closing on your home. You have the option of buying it from whatever company you choose, but if your lender has a preferred company, you may find it less expensive to add your owner’s policy onto your lender’s policy. Average Cost of Title Insurance 2019

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: wsj.com

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!

Buying a Home in 2019 - Tips for Success

by The Hat Team


Are you planning to become a home owner in 2019?  If so, it’s important that you educate yourself about the real estate market so that you know what steps to take to successfully find and purchase the right home for you.

With the continued shortage of homes for sale, buyers need to be prepared for competition with other home buyers as homes will likely get many offers.  That being the case, it is vital that serious buyers put their best foot forward from the very start.  Their first offer will need to be their best one in a situation where there are likely to be multiple offers, because they may not have an opportunity to negotiate.  Unless you intend to pay cash, the best thing you can do is to get Pre-approved for a Mortgage Loan before you start shopping for your new home.  This will let buyers know that you are serious and that you can afford the purchase price.  Remember that in a seller’s market, homeowners are calling the shots and it’s not a time to take risks.  It’s also worth mentioning that the best offer might not be the offer of the most money.  Sellers will take into account the financing and likelihood of a successful closing. The more cash in the offer, the more likely the loan will close.

As a buyer in this market it benefits you to be flexible when it comes to a closing date. The best strategy is to have your Realtor find out from the sellers when they would like to close.  If they need to close by a certain date, they may pass on an offer if those buyers can’t close by that date.  Being flexible about when you want to take possession of the house will help you stand out to sellers as well. Sometimes sellers might need a little extra time to move out and if you can work with them, they might accept your offer over someone who needs to move in right away.

Be ready to make an offer right away. When a house comes on the market that you would like to bid on, have your pre-approval letter ready.  Take a look at the home as soon as possible and if it’s right for you, have your Realtor make an offer as soon as possible. This is not a time for a low-ball offer. A Realtor who is very familiar with the market can help you decide on the right amount to offer. In fact, one of the most important things you need to do to prepare to buy a home is to hire a professional, experienced Realtor like Sandra Nickel to assist you in the home buying process.

Finally, don’t wait!  Home prices are rising, as are interest rates. So, if you’re planning on becoming a home owner this year, now is the time to start your home search! 2019 National Housing Forecast

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!

Smart Home 101: A Guide for Beginners

by The Hat Team


I remember watching The Jetsons when I was a kid and being fascinated by the idea of being able to actually see somebody when talking to them on the phone. And a robot maid? Who wouldn’t want one of those?!  I had no idea that in my lifetime, the things I saw on that cartoon fantasy would become a reality.  FaceTime and Skype allow us to see our loved ones no matter how far away they are. And while we may not have live-in robot maids (yet), things like Roomba have made house cleaning a breeze.  Technology moves fast and sometimes it’s hard to keep up with all the options available to make life easier and safer.  If you’ve been thinking about turning your house into a “smart home”, but you don’t know where to begin, here are the basics to get you started:

    - Create your command center with a voice-controlled smart speaker.  Smart speakers come equipped with smart assistants and they usually come with an app that will be a hub for all your smart-home devices.  The speaker allows you to control them all with voice commands without having to log in to different apps.  You want to be sure that you use the right type of speaker based on the other technology services you use. For example, if you use an Apple HomePod, it will only work with Siri and iTunes and is only compatible with other iOS smart products. The Best Smart Speakers for 2019

    - If you feel like setting up your smart home is going to be too expensive to do all at once, then smart lighting is a good place to start.  It’s relatively inexpensive and is one of the best applications for voice control.  By using Smart Bulbs not only will help save energy, they can create a more secure home because you will be able to control your lighting remotely.  You can also turn basic light switch into a dimmer…think romantic ambiance!  Once you make the one-time purchase of a small hub that is plugged in and connected to your router via Ethernet, all you have to do is replace your current bulbs with smart bulbs.  The whole process just takes a few minutes, and since the hub can accommodate up to 50 bulbs, you will only need one.  When purchasing the smart bulbs, make sure they are compatible with the smart assistant you are using in addition to making sure you are buying them in the correct size to replace the ones you have.  Some brands, like Philips Hue offers starter kits that are compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri.

    - Invest in smart plugs. They will make almost everything easier! Smart plugs are adapters that turn simple appliances into smart appliances.  With a smart plug you can control many of your devices from anywhere by simply using an app. 

    - Smart home-security devices are a little more challenging to install, but are worth it for the security they provide. A smart doorbell is a good place to start. It lets you monitor who is coming to your door whether you are home or somewhere else.  It uses a camera and an in-app calling feature that utilizes two-way audio and one-way video.  The Best Smart Home Security Systems 2019

    - A larger expense comes into play when you desire large smart appliances such as washers, dryers and refrigerators.  Smart plugs cannot be used to control them.  So, that means replacing current large appliances with new smart ones. And as you can imagine, that can be very costly.

    - Set up an IFTTT app.  IFTTT stands for “If This, Then That”, and it adds an extra layer to your smart home.  Available on the App Store, Google Play and in a desk top version at IFTTT.com, this app will help you connect your smart home features in creative ways based on your personal needs.  35 Amazingly Useful IFTTT Recipes to Simplify Your Life

Keep in mind that this is a simple guide to begin the process of turning your house into a smart home. There are a lot of products available, so do your research and find the one that is the best fit for you and your family!

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: pcmag.com

Building Wealth by Investing in Real Estate

by The Hat Team

 

Investing in real estate is a time-tested way to successfully build wealth.  While there are many ways to invest your savings, investing in real estate is unique in that it offers cash-flow, liquidity, profitability, and tax and diversification benefits that other investments do not.  If you’ve been thinking about how to build wealth for your retirement, you would be smart to consider investing in real estate. Diversification and Real Estate Investing

There are four primary ways to make money in real estate:

  1. Appreciation. When a property increases in value, you have real estate appreciation. Sometimes is happens due to changes in the market and other times it may be due to upgrades made on the property.
  2. Cash flow income (rent). Cash flow income is a nice perk of real estate investment that you don’t have in other types of investments.  It is generated when you purchase a home or apartment building or an office building and rent them out.
  3. Real Estate Income.  This is income earned by people who earn commissions through real estate transactions or buy property managers who oversee the operations of rental properties.
  4. Ancillary Real Estate Income - This can be a huge source of profit.  Things like application fees, vending machines and laundry facilities are money makers that go beyond the monthly rent.  Increase Your Bottom Line - Supplementing Rent with Ancillary Income

While there are certainly Risks of Real Estate Investing, there are a lot of benefits that outweigh the risks:

  1. Real estate is something that people who grew up lower to middle class are familiar with.  They may not have been exposed to things like stocks and bonds, but they likely know the importance of owning a home.  Buying a home is an investment that is reachable for them.
  2. Having an investment that you can see; something that is tangible, is psychologically important.
  3. You have the control in a real estate investment.  You don’t have to worry as much about being defrauded the way you might when entrust your money to someone else to invest for you.
  4. You will reap the benefits of tax advantages.
  5. You can Leverage Your Debt to buy more real estate and increase your net worth.

Whether you are thinking of purchasing a home for yourself and investing in your own future by building equity or you are considering buying property to rent out, investing in real estate is great way to build wealth!

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!

Wallpaper - It’s Back!

by The Hat Team

Wallpaper has been out for a long time, but as most trends do, it is making its way back into homes everywhere.  Wallpaper designs have changed a lot and unlike the dark floral prints of the 80s and 90s, new wallpaper looks more like murals or custom wall art.  So, if you’re thinking about a new look for a room (or several rooms) in your house, you may want to consider using wallpaper instead of paint.  Here are some current popular wallpaper trends to choose from:

  • Eastern Influence - Think Japanese and Indian designs with hand finished patterns; the perfect backdrop for classic decorative designs and geometric prints.


Photo Credit: pinterest.com

  • New Retro - Everything old is new again! Geometric patterns such as chevron, honeycomb, and zigzags are back in vogue in retro colors like orange, teal, and mustard.  Use as the backdrop for your funky mid-century modern furnishings.


Photo Credit: wordpress.com

  • Traditional Florals - Florals inspired by watercolors and oil paintings have been given a more modern look with oversized prints. Plain linens and lush velvets create a beautiful contrast to floral prints.


Photo Credit: archiexpo.com

  • Modern Rustic - Influenced by mother nature, modern rustic wall décor is a beautiful collection of faux textures. Cover your walls with paper that represents the natural beauty of the untamed wilderness and features raised patterns that mimic elements like brick, bamboo, limestone, cork, rock, and wood.


Photo Credit: blackforestdecor.com

  • Quiet Patterns - Create a peaceful, calming landscape with nature-inspired prints in the modern-country style featuring layered designs in a color palette that includes pale tints of gray, taupe, pink, and blue.


Photo Credit: pinterest.com

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!

New Year’s Resolutions for Homeowners

by The Hat Team


The holidays are winding down and the new year is upon us. Chances are you are thinking about some personal goals you would like to achieve in 2019, but if you are a homeowner, you might want to add some resolutions to your list regarding your home.  Here are some homeowner resolutions for you to consider in 2019:

  1. Do a HOME INVENTORY and put together a DISASTER KIT for your home.  You never know when disaster may strike, and while it’s no fun to think about, it’s important to be prepared.  Include your home inventory and financial documents in your disaster kit so that you will be ready should the unthinkable happen.  Make sure that your kit is stored in a fireproof, safe place that will be easily accessible if you need it.
     
  2. Think about getting a HOME WARRANTY.  If your appliances are nearing the end of their life cycles, a home warranty could possibly help prevent high costs for replacements.  Just be sure you do your research and read customer reviews regarding different home warranty options.  And always read the fine print so that you don’t get blindsided by exclusions.
     
  3. Thoroughly examine your HOMEOWNER'S INSURANCE You likely got a standard homeowner’s insurance policy to satisfy the lender when you purchased the home, but that does not assure that you are adequately covered. Each policy has unique coverage options and exclusions that you may not be aware of.  Look it over and find out what it does and does not cover and then decide if it is adequate for you or if you need to purchase a different one.
     
  4. Make saving for an emergency a priority.  Sometimes homeowners are blindsided by unforeseen expenses.  An EMERGENCY SAVINGS FUND can be a life saver when that happens!  Think of it as a safety net for your home.  An idea emergency fund will be able to cover several months of expenses.  Don’t let that overwhelm you.   You have to start somewhere.  Just start setting aside a small portion of your income each month and before you know it, you will have a sizeable savings for emergencies.
     
  5. Start building your equity. If you financed your home mortgage, it will be years before you own your home outright.  But there are ways to BUILD EQUITY  faster, which will enable you to enjoy the benefits of homeownership sooner.  Home equity is a valuable asset that can be used to pay for things like home improvements or student loans. 6 Ways to Build Home Equity (and Savings) Faster

If you are not a homeowner yet, but would like to become one in 2019, let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals help you find the perfect home!  Call them today at 334-834-1500!

Photo Credit: success.com

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