Real Estate Information Archive

Blog

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 23

A How-To Guide to Buying a House Quickly

by The Hat Team


If you are in the market to purchase a home right now, I am sure you would like to be moved in and settled by the time the holidays arrive.  Does that sound too good to be true?  Well, no promises, but there are steps you can take to buy a home fast.

Whether you are buying a house for the first time, or you have navigated the home buying process before, chances are you know that it can be lengthy and complicated.  But there are certain strategies you can use that will speed things up. Here are some tips to help you get started:

  • Chose the right type of house.  There are certain types of homes you will want to avoid if you’re in a hurry.  Co-ops, for example, can be problematic because it can take six to eight weeks to get a board interview scheduled, finalized and approved.  You should also avoid bank-owned homes or foreclosures, which generally take much longer to close.  The fastest way to go is to focus on condos or new developments. Closings for condos and new developments can take as few as three to four weeks to happen.
     
  • Get pre-approved for a mortgage.  This is a strategic move that will give you a head start so that when you do find a house you want to purchase; you will already be approved for a mortgage loan and can make an offer right away.  This will also help you to stay within your budget when looking at homes because you won’t want to waste time looking at properties that cost more than what you are pre-approved for. How to Get a Mortgage Pre-Approval
     
  • Have your documents in order and ready to go.  Get all the paper work that you will need organized so that it is ready and waiting when you find the right home.  Generally, a home buyer will need the following: federal tax returns for the past two years, supporting information such as W-2, 1099, or other tax forms for the past two years, two months’ worth of bank statements for your checking, savings, 401K, retirement and other accounts, and pay stubs from the past month. Homebuyers: What to Bring to Your Closing
     
  • Find the right Realtor to guide you through the process.  You will want an experienced, professional Realtor like Sandra Nickel who knows the area well and can use their expertise to get you into a home quickly.
     
  • Offer to shorten contingency deadlines.  Don’t risk waiving home inspection or financing contingencies, but consider a shorter time frame to effect a faster closing.
     
  • Be prepared for your move.  Don’t wait until you have closed on your new home to start packing and preparing for your move.  Start early so that as soon as you close, you are ready to go!

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!

Photo Credit: veteransunited.com

Making an Offer on a Home - Tips for Success

by The Hat Team


You’ve found the perfect home, and now it’s time to make an offer.  This is a decision that should not be taken lightly. It requires some thought and strategy. It’s vital that you plan carefully and have your finances in order prior to making an offer on a home.  Here are some things to consider when you are preparing to make an offer:

  1. GATHER INFORMATION - While your Realtor can assist you in deciding on an offer price, it’s important that you understand what you are getting into. This is likely the largest financial investment you will make, so you need to know what is going on. Take advantage of your Realtor’s expertise and learn about the Current Market so that you will be aware of what’s going on in your area. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if there is something that you don’t understand.
     
  2. GET PRE-APPROVED - Before you make an offer, get pre-approved for a mortgage loan.  Not only will this help you determine how much you can spend on a home, it will also make you appeal to the seller because they will know that you have already been financially vetted and you can afford the home.  That means the sale is less likely to fall through. How to Get Pre-Approved for a Mortgage Home Loan
     
  3. TURN ON THE CHARM - People can get very sentimental when it comes to selling their homes.  Being friendly and showing a seller how much you love their home can sometimes influence them to choose you over other prospective buyers. Write a letter letting them know the reasons why their home will be the perfect home for you and your family. 
     
  4. DON’T MAKE AN INSULTING OFFER - While everyone wants to get the best deal possible, a lowball offer is risky. You might end up offending the seller and creating a situation where they just say no and are unwilling to negotiate.  This one reason why it’s important for you to understand the market value of the home. Allow your Realtor to guide you in deciding what a reasonable offer is.  You can still offer lower than the asking price and leave room for negotiation.
     
  5. NEGOTIATE OTHER THINGS BESIDES MONEY - Not all real estate negotiations involve the home price.  You can ask for things like a home warranty, home improvements to be made, closing costs, and new appliances.  If the seller will only accept the asking price, but is willing to negotiate other terms, you can still come out with a great deal on your new home. 5 Things to Negotiate When You Buy Your First House
     
  6. TRY TO BE FLEXIBLE - Things may come up that require some flexibility on your part. For example, the seller might need continue living in the home for a month or two while they look for a new home. Your willingness to rent the home to them for that time period could make you stand out over other buyers.

Making an offer on a home is not just about the money; it’s also about appealing to the seller while at the same time doing what is right for you. It can be complicated, but it is worth it when the right house comes along!

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!

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!

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 Raise Your Credit Score to Save Money

by The Hat Team

Want to buy a house but a low credit score has you down?  Don’t despair! There are ways to raise your credit score and save thousands on your mortgage.   A strong credit score can lead to better interest rates, additional loan programs to benefit homebuyers, and easy and quick approvals which will put you on the fast track to home ownership.  Here are some tips for raising your credit score:

  • Make sure your credit reports are accurate.  The first step toward improving your credit score is checking your credit reports.  You will find your credit scores on three different reports, one each from the 3 Major Credit Bureaus.  Keep in mind that credit reports can have mistakes…and they often do.  That’s why it’s important that you analyze them carefully.  Make sure that the information on the reports is accurate, because if there are mistakes, they will be reflected in your score.  It’s easy to check your credit reports and doesn’t have to cost anything since you are entitled to a free copy, once a year, of all three thanks to the Fair Credit Reporting Act.  Once you have copies of your credit reports go through them carefully and make sure of the following:
  • Is your personal information is accurate?
  • Are all your credit accounts are being reported?
  • Are there any late or missed payments that you remember making on time?
  • Are there any applications for credit that you don’t recognize?
  • Are there any accounts you don’t recognize?
  • Are there decades old items still on your report?

Highlight any discrepancies you find.  If you do find errors, you will have to dispute each one separately.  How to Dispute Errors on Your Credit Report

  • Figure out what you need to fix/change/improve.  Here are some examples of things that could be causing your score to be lower than it should:
  • Your identity may have been stolen and someone is screwing up your credit.
  • An old collection account could still be haunting you, way past its statute of limitations for your state.
  • Do you have an ex-spouse? Perhaps he or she has not paid a bill he or she was supposed to pay per your divorce settlement.  Unfortunately, you could be suffering the consequences.
  • If you have ever defaulted on a loan it might be showing up as several defaults on your credit report because it has been sold to other debt collectors.
  • It might be a simple name mix up…your credit information might be mixed up with that of someone with a similar name.
  • Devise a plan to improve your credit score.  You can open a free account on Credit.com where you can get tips to help you determine where your poor credit issues are and they can assist you in creating an action plan for improving your score.  To get started, try keeping your credit card balances as low as possible, and start paying down debt rather than moving it around.
  • If you have a habit of making late payments…stop.  It’s vital that you make payments on time. Set up alerts when payments are due so that you won’t forget.  If due dates don’t coincide with when you get paid, make some calls to get the dates moved around to better suit your schedule.  Don’t be afraid to ask a credit card issuer or lender to forgive a past due payment. You might be surprised to discover they will happily work with you if you have a history of making on-time payments.
  • Open a secured credit card.  This is a type of credit card that allows you to make a deposit into a checking account that “secures” the line of credit being extended to you.  You will be able to get a secured credit card even if you already have bad credit, and adding a new account with a positive payment history will help improve your credit score over time.

2018's Best Secured Credit Cards for Building Credit

Once you get your credit score where it needs to be, you will reap the benefits by qualifying for better rates and save money on your mortgage loan!

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: cfcw.com

Surprise! You Don’t Need a 20% Down Payment to Buy a House!

by The Hat Team

You are ready to purchase your first house.  Your credit score is great.  You know you can afford a monthly mortgage payment based on your budget.  You are sure you will be approved for a mortgage loan.  But that down payment!  How the heck are you supposed to come up with 20%?  Don’t despair, because the truth is, you don’t need a 20% down payment to purchase a house!

Saving for a down payment on a house can seem overwhelming for many people.  Keep in mind that it can come from various sources.  Funds can come from bank accounts, stocks or mutual funds, an inheritance, or a gift from a family member.  Some people will even use assets from their retirement portfolio.  Requirements regarding where the money comes from for your down payment depend on the loan type.  Also, purchasing a primary residence usually requires a lower down payment than if you are purchasing a second home or buying an investment property. The Different Types of Mortgage Loans in 2018, Explained

The myth about down payments is that 20% is the norm. While that may have been true in the past, it’s not anymore.  The fact is that per the National Association of Realtors, a majority of homebuyers purchased their home with a down payment of 6 percent or less. Unfortunately, a lot of people don’t even consider buying a home because they still think they need 20% down.  The NAR'S Aspiring Home Buyers Profile 2018 found that 36% of non-owners believed that saving for a down payment would be very difficult. Chances are they still believe in the 20% down myth and it is just not the case anymore!

So, now that you know you don’t have to have 20%, perhaps buying a home seems more within reach.  But there are still some things you should be aware of before taking that first step toward homeownership.  Various factors are at play in determining if you should take on a mortgage with lower down payment.  For example, the less you put down, the larger your mortgage payment will be each month.  That is because you will have a larger loan amount, possibly a higher mortgage interest rate, and the added cost of Mortgage Insurance.  So, while you don’t have to come up with more cash, your monthly costs go up.

Once you have educated yourself about the requirements, you can make informed decisions about your budget and how much you can afford.  Don’t let the 20% down payment myth stop you from pursuing your dream of home ownership! 

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!

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

Resale Value - What Matters Most

by The Hat Team

Unless you plan to stay in a home for the rest of your life, resale value should be a major consideration when purchasing a house. Home-ownership is a huge financial investment and the goal should be to get as much monetary return as possible when you sell.  While you can’t always predict what the future holds for the real estate market, there are some basic guidelines for what kind of properties have good resale value.  Don’t make the error of focusing only on what you want when doing your home search.  Think about the following factors that will affect the resale value:

  1. LOCATION - This should be a primary consideration when looking for a home that will provide a good return on your investment.  A desirable location is likely to remain a hot market for home sales.  Think about the school district you will be in.  Even if you don’t have children in school, a top district will draw many buyers.  Different people will be looking for different things, but most buyers will want basically the same things from the location of the home. Home Buying: Location Matters
  2. NUMBER OF BEDROOMS - A house with more than two bedrooms will sell faster and for a better price than one with only one or two bedrooms.  Even a couple with no children will want extra space for an office or guestroom (or both).
  3. NUMBER OF BATHROOMS - Buyers will expect to pay much less for a home with only one bathroom.  If people are choosing between a house with one bathroom and one with two, they will almost always be willing to spend a little extra to get that additional restroom.
  4. GATHERING SPACE - Buyers want a large, informal space for relaxing and entertaining family and friends.  You will get more value out of a spacious family room than you will out of a formal living room. 
  5. STORAGE - These days people have a lot of “stuff” and they need places to put it all.  Storage space, including closets, a pantry and loads of cabinets will improve the odds of getting high bids for your house. 
  6. GARAGE - People who live in suburban areas need places to park their cars.  A covered parking place or two is ideal.
  7. OPEN FLOORPLAN - Buyers are looking for homes with open spaces and rooms that flow from one to the next.  A house with an Open Floorplan will improve your chances for a profitable resale.
  8. OVERALL CONDITION - A property that is well-cared for, updated and remodeled will greatly enhance resale value.  Focus on rooms that matter most to buyers - kitchens and bathrooms. Make sure everything is in good working order.  Some people might be looking for a fixer upper, but many buyers are willing to pay a premium for a move-in ready home.

If you are in the market for a new home let Sandra Nickel and her Hat Team of professionals assist you in finding your dream home.  Call them at 334-834-1500 today!

Displaying blog entries 1-10 of 23

Syndication

Categories

Archives

   cdpe    crsHat Lady on Zillow