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Home Buying 101: What can you expect when purchasing a home?
Buying a home is exciting, but it can also be stressful, especially for first time homebuyers. The process may seem overwhelming, lengthy and confusing. There’s so much to do! But, with the right network of professionals – a loan officer and realtor, for starters – you can make it through.
Here are some of the steps you will take when you go to buy your home.
You will need to start by checking your credit and resolving any issues that may prevent you from buying a home. There are many companies out there that will check your credit for you. Or, you can check your credit yourself. By law, you are entitled to receive a free credit report from a credit bureau such as Experian once every twelve months.
Next, you will need to find a loan officer through a bank, mortgage lending institution, or a local realtor. You will want to get a lender who can explain your financing options and the requirements of each so you can make an informed buying decision.
Once you have a lender, you will want to get pre-qualified or pre-approved for financing and receive the lender’s pre-qualification letter. When you do, you will have a better sense of which homes are in your price range and the responsibility you will have when making the purchase. Getting pre-qualified will also save you a lot of time once you start looking at homes and will help make your offer competitive .
The next step is to meet with a local realtor. You will want a realtor who is familiar with the area in which you are looking and educated in the latest real estate trends. A good realtor will be able to show you the kinds of homes in your budget, explain how to structure an offer and negotiate on your behalf to get the home of your choice.
When you begin looking at homes, you should have a checklist. How many bedrooms and bathrooms will you need? How much property would you like to maintain? Do you need a basement? What size garage is important? These are all factors to consider as you begin the home buying process.
Have you decided on a home? If so, with the help of your realtor, it’s time to make the offer. The offer will include an earnest money deposit, which is a good faith deposit. You will have to place money up front with the offer to show you are serious about buying a home. Your realtor will address the need for inspections and will prepare the offer in a way that best meets your needs and remains competitive.
Prior to closing the transaction, you will have a final walk-through inspection to verify the condition of the property. When it is time to go to settlement or closing with a title company or an attorney, you will be asked sign off on the loan commitment and accept the transfer of title along with several other documents to make your purchase official. Once you accept the keys, the house is yours!
As you can see, this process is not simple, nor is it necessarily short – but don’t let that scare you out of buying a home! Finding the right team of experts will help make for a smooth and hassle-free experience. For a more detailed explanation of how to buy a home, call Belinda Jacobson-Loehle at 703-338-9678 or emailBelinda@JacobsonRealty1.com.
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Ten Steps to Prepare Your Home for Sale
So you have decided to sell your home. You are excited about the prospects, but also a little nervous. You want to get the best sale price you can, but other than getting a professional cleaner, you’re not sure what you should do to prepare. Well, fear not. This article should help point you in the right direction. Here are ten items you can start working on.
1. Know how much your utilities cost. This might sound like an odd place to start, but it’s important that you be able to tell your realtor and potential buyers what you pay each month for utilities. The amount will have to fit into the buyer’s budget, so these numbers are relevant.
2. Collect house manuals. When a buyer purchases your home and moves in, he/she will want to know what is in the home and how to care for it. If you do not have original manuals, consider ordering some or printing them off from the Internet.
3. Put away valuables and medicine. For the sake of safety, it’s better to store these items. Some homeowners opt to use offsite storage for valuables. This might be something to consider, especially if you intend to have multiple open houses.
4. Take care of basic maintenance. Go through your home and take inventory of any mechanical features due for routine cleaning or tuning up. You should take into consideration your water heater, air conditioning and heating systems and appliances.
5. Repair. Repairs can take the form of anything from fixing flooring to spackling walls to sealing windows to addressing plumbing. Go through your home, room by room, and make a list of needed repairs. Then start taking care of those one by one.
6. Landscape. You’ve heard of curb appeal, right? Curb appeal is largely dependent on the attractiveness of your landscaping. If you do your own landscaping, make sure you weed, rake, mow, etc. It might be helpful to have a professional landscaper come in to assess your yard, make recommendations and take care of anything that needs to be done.
7. Don’t forget about decks, pools and driveways. Outside is just as important as inside. Potential buyers will want to see that decks are secure, the wood healthy. Driveways should be free of cracks and need to be sealed. Pools should be clean and in good working order. Sheds should be in good condition. You want all of these elements to add, not detract, from the beauty and value of your home.
8. Have your home professionally staged. In a previous article, we talked about the importance of home staging. If you want your home to be attractive, you will need to depersonalize it so potential buyers can visualize themselves living there. Start by de-clutttering your home. Donate, give away or throw out unused and unnecessary belongings. Make the most of the space you have for the things you really need. Show buyers there is room to grow.
9. Re-paint. A fresh coat of neutral color paint often can make a great difference in how potential buyers view your home. Dirty, scratched or faded paint is a huge turnoff. You can choose paint colors yourself, or, for maximum benefit, ask a home stager to recommend a color.
10. Re-floor. Carpets age and wear, hardwood fades and shows scratches and tile cracks. Check all floors to ensure they are good condition and show well. If not, consider replacing.
Preparing to put your home on the market can seem like a lot of work. It takes time to do things right. So plan ahead, factor in the time and prep your home for market. In the end, it’s worth the effort because it will actually reduce stress when buyers present offers. Remember, a well-prepared home will keep you competitive, and it should bring you the highest sales price in the shortest amount of time!
If you would like more tips on preparing your home for sale, call Belinda Jacobson-Loehle at 703-338-9678 or email Belinda@JacobsonRealty1.com.
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Home Staging – Quicker Sale, Higher Sales Price
It’s not just about making the home “prettier.” Home staging is about using the principals of space, color and interior decorating. It’s about depersonalizing the rooms. It’s about accentuating a home’s architectural features. And it’s about selling your home faster for the higher price.
You want potential buyers to see the best representation of your home that you can possibly provide. Home staging ensures that your home not only invites but intrigues, through color choice and placement of furniture and décor. Home stagers assess paint, flooring and furniture. They take into account open space – how much is attractive, and how much is too much? And a home stager will address clutter. After all, a cluttered house is rarely attractive to potential buyers who want to see the home, not the belongings in the home…
…which brings us to the concept of depersonalizing rooms. Depersonalizing sounds negative. In fact, it’s the opposite. You want to depersonalize your home so potential buyers can visualize the home as theirs, not yours. This cannot be accomplished if the knickknacks and pictures are too specific to the current owners. Try going into a home, for example, where there are china closets filled with collections of baby dolls. While this might be interesting, what if you hate dolls and can’t get past the visual? If you can’t, your emotional response to the home is also affected. You don’t want this to happen when you are trying to sell your home.
You also do not want to obstruct your home’s architectural features – you want to showcase them. No matter what kind of home you live in, that home has certain features built into the structure. Some of these features are simple, some decorative, some functional. No matter what, you do not want to cover up what makes your home unique and attractive. For example, what if the edges of your walls are curved, as opposed to angled? You would want to make sure furniture is placed in such a way that the ends of walls are exposed. Or say you have a column in your living room. You would not want to put a cabinet in front of it. Architects spend a lot of time designing homes in specific ways. You need a stager to help you identify what those are and highlight appropriately.
A professional home stager has the experience and know-how to make your home attract potential buyers and keep them interested, not only as they tour the home, but after. Home staging creates a lasting visual and emotional effect that truly influences the potential buyer.
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Virginia Supports Homebuyer Savings Plan
It’s an exciting time to be a first-time homebuyer in Virginia! Why? Among other reasons, Virginia has a homebuyer savings plan!
Many people still have not heard of the Virginia bill (HB 331), the first-time homebuyer savings plan introduced by the Virginia Housing Commission. This is an amazing, relatively new piece of legislation that encourages saving for a home by reducing Virginia state tax.
Here is what you need to know to take advantage of this plan.
How does it work?
First, an investment or savings account is designated by a qualified, first-time homebuyer for the sole purpose of saving for a home. You can designate almost any existing account as a first-time homebuyer savings plan.
To create the plan, you include a form when you file your state taxes. The form will state that you should not be taxed on any earning (such as capital gains or interest) because the account is for a qualified, first-time homebuyer purchasing a home.
After you use the money towards the closing costs on a first home, you send in a different form to the Department of Taxation, showing that the funds were put toward an “eligible cost.”
The bill allows for individual income tax subtraction for income earned on contributions to the account if the funds are used for saving for a home.
Who is a qualified homebuyer?
A qualified homebuyer would be someone living in Virginia who has never owned property, individually or jointly, anywhere in the United States. The Virginia Association of Realtors says, “If you owned a home at some point but did not purchase one — e.g., if you inherited — you can still qualify.”
What are qualified expenses?
Qualified expenses are anything included on the settlement statement, such as a down payment, closing costs, inspections and lender fees.
How much money can be put into the account?
The bill limits the amount of principal that can be contributed to any account to $50,000 and limits the total amount that can be retained in an account at any time to $150,000.
What are the restrictions?
Money saved cannot be used for anything other than eligible costs without penalty.
If money is withdrawn from the account for purposes other than to pay eligible costs, any income previously subtracted would be subject to state tax, and a five percent penalty would be imposed.
Note, there are no penalties if the funds are withdrawn because of the death or disability of the account beneficiary, if there is a disbursement of assets protected under federal bankruptcy laws or if funds are transferred to another first-time homebuyer savings account.
How can I find out more?
Contact Belinda Jacobson-Loehle, real estate broker and certified home stager, at 703-338-9678 or via email, Belinda@JacobsonRealty1.com.
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Forget toasters. Try a home registry!
It happens all the time. A couple plans to marry. They’ve chosen the church, the reception hall, the meal, the cake, the band, the flowers. Now it’s time to let guests know what they could use as gifts. But there’s a problem. These two soon-to-be-wed individuals lived on their own before they decided to marry. Not only do they have the basic household needs plus some, they have doubles! The last thing this couple needs is another toaster or another set of china. No, what they could really use is a home to call their own. That’s where home registries come in.
Home registries are the up-and-coming trend in gift giving, not only for people intending to marry but for those expecting a child, those who are hard to buy for and those who simply don’t need anything but a path towards home buying. The concept is based on the traditional registry: the couple makes a list of items they could use, and the gift givers choose from that list of items. Instead of buying household goods, however, the gift givers are “buying” pieces of a home.
No, friends and family are not out at Home Depot purchasing sinks or flooring. Rather, they are using a website like Hatch My House where they pay for pieces of a virtual home, gifting real money that can be used as a down payment for an actual home. For example, a family member might “buy” a window. The suggested value is $75. Another family member might “buy” a front door for $200. The money goes into the couple’s PayPal account, which essentially becomes a savings account for the new home.
There are other ways to use home registries as well. Say there’s a baby on the way. Maybe the family needs nursery furniture. The family can “build” a house and furnish rooms with items they need. Friends can visit the virtual home and “buy” a cradle, a changing station, a dresser or whatever necessities the couple has furnished the virtual home with.
Sites such as Feather the Nest show different uses of the registry, including for home repair and renovations. In this scenario, the home owner describes items necessary to complete a project. For example, a home owner might need a new roof or a new kitchen floor. Or it could be the home needs a complete overhaul. Contributors help “feather the nest” by giving money to the cause.
For first-time homebuyers in particular, the advent of home registries is a boon. Starting out can be difficult, and these registries help ease the burden, giving new homebuyers peace of mind that there is a way to finance their dream. And loved ones are eager to help out, knowing they are giving gifts that matter. It’s a win-win that can really make a difference!
Belinda Jacobson-Loehle is an experienced real estate broker and certified home stager. Contact her at 703-338-9678 or via email, Belinda@JacobsonRealty1.com. Visit www.JacobsonRealty1.com or www.JacobsonRealtyandHomeStaging.com for more information.
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Autumn is the Best Time of Year to Purchase Land for your Custom Home!
Autumn is the best time of year to purchase land to build your dream home so you can move in next spring! See the “lay of the land” when the leaves are falling so you can properly orient your house to have the best exposure. Autumn also makes site testing and foundation work easier for your contractor, which should save you money. If you agree, think about visiting my new listing at 15770 Palmer Lane Haymarket, VA 20169. The land has been certified for a 4+ septic system and has a southern exposure!
15770 Palmer Lane Haymarket, VA 20169
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Ensure a Good First Impression
Buyers make up their minds about a property in the first few minutes. Make sure your home makes that vital first impression. New paint does wonders. Make sure the front yard is flawless with manicured lawns and attractive foliage. Add a hanging basket or some flower pots at the door. The front door is also critical, make sure the hardware is presentable.
Make them Feel Welcome
Don’t forget buying a home is in many ways an emotional decision, so it’s important to give buyers that warm and fuzzy feeling! Keep the temperature in the home at a comfortable level. Light some candles in the bathrooms and make sure it smells nice and clean. Have fresh flowers around the house.
But don’t make it too personal
Make them feel welcome, but don’t go too far. Too much personality, for example in the form of personal possessions and family photos makes it hard for buyers to visualize living in the space.
Clear out the Clutter
Make sure your property is clutter-free for all your viewings. This will make your home look and feel bigger, and the buyers will be able to imagine how they could make the space their own. Make sure that there is a clean, logical flow through the home by getting rid of all excess furniture. Less is more.
This is another way to make your home seem more spacious. Open all your curtains and flood the space with natural light. Make sure the darker rooms are also lit. Invest in some light fixtures and fittings, and place them strategically to illuminate even the gloomiest of areas.
Decorate to Sell That House
Slap on a fresh coat of paint in a neutral color to give it that blank canvas look but do not be too sterile. Have some contrast in the trim as well as the ceiling. Neutral colors make properties appear lighter and brighter, so take advantage of this inexpensive and easy option. You may also add color with decorative window coverings, rugs, and towels.
Clean Up Your Act
Your home should be spotless. Make sure the beds are made and the countertops are free of clutter. The dishes should be put away and nothing should be scattered on the floor. Don’t forget to tidy your garden too: Cut the shrubs back, sweep the patio, and wipe down the backyard furniture.
Those Minor Repairs You Put Off
It is easy to forget things such as broken doorknobs, cracked tiles, holes in walls and damaged but buyers will notice them first thing as they are walking around your home.
Maximize Your Space
The golden rule of selling is to make your space look and feel bigger and better than what your competitors have to offer. We’ve already mentioned that lighting your home, both naturally and artificially, can maximize your assets, but getting rid of bulky furniture can also be a great way of making the most of what you have. Large pieces of furniture make a space feel smaller, so put these items into storage and dress your home with more compact pieces.
Don’t Forget Your Floors
Make the investment of improving and investing in those floors. Worn carpets and damaged vinyl floors need to be replaced, and wooden floors especially should undergo some maintenance. This is not chap by any means, but the prospect of selling your home for the best possible price will likely outweigh the cost.
Remove Pets During Showings
You do not need to remind the potential buyer that the previous owner kept pets.
Try to remove your pets from your home when you are showing the home. Having a pet in the house or yard can create complications for your agent while trying to show the house, and puts your pet at risk of accidentally getting out during the showing. There are also liability issues to deal with as well. They may react differently to stranger and it may cause them stress. All pet-related damage should be repaired prior to showing the home. Make sure to also remove all odors and stains. New visitors will notice smells when they come to view the house. This is not something you want to happen. Have your carpet and floors professionally cleaned or replaced. Pick up any messes in the backyard and have any sod replaced and other damage repaired.
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FHA Financing Becomes More Costly!
If you are a first-time buyer or a buyer planning to use FHA financing with a 3.5% down payment in 2013, you should be aware of the new changes. Effective April 1, 2013, the MIP ( mortgage insurance premium) charge for newly approved loans has increased. For a $250,000 loan, the monthly loan payment will increase by approximately $20 per month. This may not initially sound like a lot of money but over time (30 years) it adds up! Consult your mortgage loan officer to understand how it will affect you.
More importantly, effective June 1, 2013, the MIP charge will carry through the life of the loan! FHA currently allows the borrow to remove the MIP up charge after the loan amount has been paid down by 15 – 20%. You would simply make the request to your lender to have the charge removed, and upon verification, your loan amount would be adjusted to a lesser amount. This will no longer hold true after June 3, 2013.
The bottom line – Try to have a ratified contractor or lender case number issued by June 3, 2013, to save money that you can be used for home improvements instead of lending fees.
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SELLER LISTING TIP: Use Professional Photography!
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