Welcome to The Wickland Group Real Estate Blog!

Our mission is to provide our readers with relevant and interesting information regarding all things real estate. Look for future articles covering tips on buying and selling real estate, home improvement tips, new construction information and ways to maximize your homes value. 

We'll also cover tax related items, home equity questions, real estate investing and even buying vacation properties. We'll cover geographical areas such as the Metro Ann Arbor and the Metro Detroit Suburbs(e.g., Royal Oak, Birmingham, West Bloomfield, Novi, Northville, Plymouth and Canton, Saline, Dexter and Chelsea)

Sept. 29, 2019

Hows the Current Real Estate Market?

 

The U.S. unemployment rate is at a 50-year low, and consumer confidence remains high. In fact, the University of Michigan’s latest Surveys of Consumers found that Americans have their most positive personal finance outlook since 2003.1

 

However, if you follow national news, you’ve probably heard speculation that we could be headed toward a recession. Global trade tensions and a slow down in the GDP growth rate have sparked volatility in the stock market, leading to economic uncertainty.

 

Given these differing signals, you may be wondering: How has the U.S. housing market been impacted? Where is it headed? And more importantly … what does it mean for me?

 

 

MORTGAGE RATES ARE NEAR HISTORIC LOWS

 

In August, Freddie Mac reported that the average 30-year fixed mortgage rate hit its lowest level since November 2016, falling to 3.6%, down a full percentage point from a year earlier.2 Variable mortgage rates also fell when the Federal Reserve cut interest rates at the end of July for the first time since 2008.3

 

This was welcome news for many in the real estate industry. Freddie Mac predicts that low-interest rates and a robust job market will help the housing market remain strong despite the threat of recession.

 

“There is a tug of war in the financial markets between weaker business sentiment and consumer sentiment,” said Sam Khater, Freddie Mac’s chief economist. “Business sentiment is declining on negative trade and manufacturing headlines, but consumer sentiment remains buoyed by a strong labor market and low rates that will continue to drive home sales into the fall.”2

 

What does it mean for you? If you’re looking to buy a home, now is a great time to lock in a low mortgage rate. It will shrink your monthly payment and could save you a bundle over the long term. Or if you plan to stay in your current home for a while, consider whether it makes sense to refinance your mortgage at today’s lower rates.

 

 

PRICES CONTINUE TO RISE AT A MODEST PACE

 

According to the S&P CoreLogic Case-Shiller Indices, housing prices continue to rise. But the rate at which prices are rising is slowing down. For May 2019, the National Home Price Index rose by 3.4%, down from 3.5% the previous month.4

 

Of course, national averages often don’t present the whole picture. Some markets have seen modest declines, while other areas are witnessing double-digit increases. The key differentiating factor in most cases? Housing affordability.5

 

Since 2012, home prices have increased at about three times the pace of wages, according to National Association of Realtors chief economist Lawrence Yun.6 

 

“Housing unaffordability will hinder sales irrespective of the local job market conditions,” said Yun. “This is evident in the very expensive markets as home prices are either topping off or slightly falling.”5

 

But what about all this talk of a recession? Will we see housing values plummet like they did in 2008? Economists say no.

 

If we look at history, the real estate crash experienced during the Great Recession isn’t typical.

 

The recent Housing and Mortgage Market Review report from Arch Mortgage Insurance provides data to support this. “What we found is that the next recession is likely to be far less severe on the housing market than the last one. It’s not that this time is different; it’s that last time was really different from historic norms.”6

 

“A large decline in national home prices is unlikely in the next recession,” Arch economists write. “A persistent housing shortage should help cushion home price declines.”6

 

What does it mean for you? If you have the ability and desire to buy a home now, don’t let the threat of a recession hold you in limbo. The market is cyclical, and it will experience ups and downs. But over the long term, real estate has consistently proven to be a good investment.

 

 

STARTER INVENTORY REMAINS TIGHT WHILE LUXURY MARKET SOFTENS

 

As we’ve seen in the past, it’s become a tale of two sectors.

 

The low-end of the market remains highly competitive as buyers compete for affordable housing. A lack of new construction during the last recession led to an undersupply of starter homes. This trend continues—despite growing demand—due to a lack of skilled workers, rising land and material costs, and a slow permitting process in many areas.7

 

The result? There’s a shortage of homes for sale that Americans can actually afford to buy.

 

The luxury market, on the other hand, has softened. Economic uncertainty, changes to tax laws, and rising prices have slowed demand. Plus, to recoup their higher costs, builders flocked to this segment—causing an overabundance of supply in some areas.

 

“If you're selling an entry level home, you're probably still looking at a pretty competitive market in most places,” according to Danielle Hale, chief economist at Realtor.com. “But if you're selling a more expensive home you probably have to adjust your expectations.”8

 

What does it mean for you? Move-up buyers, you’re in luck! If you’re ready to trade in your starter home for something more luxurious, you may get the best of both sectors. We’re still witnessing strong demand for entry-level homes, giving sellers the upper hand. At the same time, buyers of high-end homes are finding a greater selection (and more negotiating power) than they’ve had in years.

 

 

INVESTORS ARE BUYING HOMES AT RECORD LEVELS

 

There’s one group that hasn’t been slowed down by lack of affordability or economic uncertainty: investors.

 

According to CoreLogic, investors are purchasing homes at a record pace. In 2018, the share of U.S. homes bought by investors reached 11.3%—the highest level since the company began tracking nearly 20 years ago.9

 

Notably, this increased activity wasn’t led by institutional investors, but instead by small and individual investors focused on the starter-home segment.7 Declining interest rates and an uncertain stock market have led investors to flock to real estate as they seek out greater stability and higher returns.

 

“With declining mortgage rates … they’re searching for a better return for their money,” said NAR chief economist Lawrence Yun.10

 

What does it mean for you? If you’re looking for a way to “recession proof” your money, you might want to consider investing in real estate. People will always need a place to live, and (unlike the stock market) a rental property can provide a steady source of cash flow during uncertain economic times.

 

 

WE’RE HERE TO GUIDE YOU

 

While national real estate numbers can provide a “big picture” outlook, real estate is local. As local market experts, we can guide you through the ins and outs of our market and the issues most likely to impact sales and home values in your particular neighborhood.

 

If you have specific questions or would like more information about how market changes could affect you, contact us to schedule a free consultation. We’re here to help you navigate this shifting real estate landscape.

 

Sources:

1.     University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers -
http://www.sca.isr.umich.edu/

2.     Freddie Mac -
https://freddiemac.gcs-web.com/news-releases/news-release-details/mortgage-rates-drop-significantly?_ga=2.29332539.689041222.1565464527-928629548.1565464527

3.     CNN -
https://www.cnn.com/2019/07/31/business/fed-rate-cut-july-meeting/index.html

4.     S&P Dow Jones Indices -
https://us.spindices.com/documents/indexnews/announcements/20190730-965771/965771_cshomeprice-release-0730.pdf?force_download=true

5.     National Association of Realtors -
https://www.nar.realtor/newsroom/metro-home-prices-increase-in-91-of-metro-areas-in-second-quarter-of-2019

6.     Forbes -
https://www.forbes.com/sites/alyyale/2019/04/18/with-a-recession-looming-is-now-the-time-to-sell-your-home/#7d3a21665bce

7.     CNN -
https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/09/economy/mortgages-home-buyers/index.html

8.     Forbes -
https://www.forbes.com/sites/carolinefeeney/2019/07/01/halfway-into-2019-how-is-the-housing-market-holding-up/#7e656e3ec5d8

9.     CoreLogic -
https://www.corelogic.com/blog/2019/06/special-report-investor-home-buying.aspx

10.   Fox Business -
https://www.foxbusiness.com/economy/investors-snapping-up-homes-at-record-levels

 

 

Aug. 22, 2019

5 Step Strategy for Downsizing Your Home

 

In our “bigger is better” culture, there’s an expectation that each home should be larger and grander than the last. But life changes like divorce, kids leaving for college, or even the simple act of growing older can prompt us to find a smaller home that better suits our shifting needs and lifestyle.

In fact, the advantages of downsizing are being increasingly recognized. A “tiny house movement” has gained passionate advocates who appreciate the benefits of living simply at any age and stage of life. Not only does a smaller home typically cost less, it also takes less time and effort to maintain.1

Whatever your reasons are for downsizing, the process can seem overwhelming. That’s why we’ve outlined five steps to guide you on your journey. And in the end, we hope you’ll find that less is more … more comfort, more security, and more time and energy to spend on the activities and the people that you love.

5 STEPS TO DOWNSIZING SUCCESS

  1. Determine Your Goals and Limitations

The first step is to figure out your goals for your new living environment. Do you want to live closer to family? Are you hoping to cut down on home maintenance? Are you looking for a community with certain amenities?

You should also consider any limitations that will impact the home you choose. For example, are stairs an issue? Do you need access to medical care? In the case of divorce, are there child-custody issues you need to take into account?

Estimate how long you plan to stay in your new home. Do you expect your needs to change during that time?

Make a “wish list” of features and prioritize them from most to least important. If you’d like any assistance with this process, give us a call! We’d be happy to sit down with you for a free consultation. We can also help you assess the value of your current home so you can set a realistic budget for your new one.

  1. Find the Perfect New Home

Once you’ve established your “wish list,” we can begin the search for your new home. As local market experts, we know the ins and outs of all the top communities in our area. We can help you determine the neighborhood and type of home that will best fit your wants and needs.

From family neighborhoods to retirement communities, we serve clients in all stages of life. If you or a loved one are in need of extended support, we can also share our knowledge of the assisted living facilities in town and help you identify those that offer the optimal level of care.

Are you planning to relocate out of town? We can refer you to a trusted real estate professional in your target area who can help you with your search.

  1. Sell Your Current Home

If you’re ready to sell your current home, we’ll begin the process of preparing to list it as we search for your new one.

We have a special interest in helping homeowners who are facing major life transitions, and we offer a full-service real estate experience that aims to remove as much of the stress and hassle of selling your home as possible. We also understand that many of our clients choose to downsize for financial reasons, so we employ tactics and strategies to maximize the potential sales revenue of your home.

We do this by employing our proven three-part approach, which focuses on optimum preparation, pricing, and promotion. As part of that plan, we invest in an aggressive marketing strategy that utilizes online and social media platforms to connect with consumers and offline channels to connect with local real estate agents. This ensures your property gets maximum exposure to prospective buyers.

  1. Sort and Pack Your Belongings

Even before you find your new home, you can begin preparing for your move. A smaller home means less space for your furniture and other possessions, so you will need to decide what to keep and what to sell or donate. Sorting through an entire house full of belongings will take time, so begin as early as possible.

Parting with personal possessions can be an extremely emotional process. Start with a small, unemotional space like a laundry or powder room and work your way up to larger rooms. Focus on eliminating duplicates and anything you don’t regularly use. If you have sentimental pieces, family heirlooms, or just useful items you no longer need, think about who in your life would benefit from having them. For large collections, consider keeping one or two favorite pieces and photographing the rest to put in an album.2

Make sure the items you keep help you achieve the goals you outlined in Step 1. For example, if you want a home that’s easier to clean, cut down on knickknacks that require frequent dusting. If you’re moving to be closer to your grandchildren, choose the shatterproof plates over the antique china.

Allow yourself time to take breaks if you start to feel overwhelmed. If you’re helping a loved one with a move, try to be a patient listener if they want to stop and share stories about particular items or memories throughout the process.3 This can be therapeutic for them and an opportunity for you to learn family history that may otherwise have been forgotten.

  1. Get Help When You Need It

Moving is stressful in any situation. But if you’re downsizing due to health issues or a major life change, it can be an especially tough transition. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Seek out friends and family members who can assist with packing and decluttering. If that’s not an option, or if you need additional help, consider hiring a home organizer, full-service moving company, or even a senior move manager, which is a professional who assists older adults and their families with the physical and emotional aspects of relocation.4 You can find one accredited by the National Association of Senior Move Managers at https://www.nasmm.org/find/index.cfm.

If financial constraints are holding back, let us know. We can help you explore the possibility of tapping into the equity in your current home now. That way you can afford to get the assistance you need to make your transition as smooth as possible.

ARE YOU LIVING YOUR BEST LIFE?

If your current home no longer suits your needs, maybe it’s time to consider a change. We would love to help you explore your options. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.

Sources:

 

  1. The Tiny Life -
    https://thetinylife.com/what-is-the-tiny-house-movement/
  2. My Move -
    https://www.mymove.com/moving/senior-guide-downsizing/
  3. Daily Caring -
    https://dailycaring.com/5-tips-to-downsizing-for-seniors-keepsakes-mementos/
  4. National Association of Senior Move Managers -
    https://www.nasmm.org
July 19, 2019

Will Your Remodel Pay Off?

 

Most new homeowners have something about their property that they want to change. And as family needs and design trends shift over time, many will eventually choose to remodel. Some homeowners make updates to their property before listing it to maximize their potential sales revenue.

 

Whatever your reasons are for taking on a home improvement project, it’s wise to consider how the money you invest will impact your home’s value.

 

We’ve taken a look at six popular home renovations and identified those that—on average—have the best and worst returns on investment. So before you lift a hammer or hire a contractor, take a look at this list and see if your remodeling efforts will reward you when it comes time to sell.

 

 

RENOVATIONS THAT PAY OFF

 

These three common home improvement projects not only add function and style to your home, but they also offer a strong return on investment. Making strategic upgrades to your property will help you increase its value over time.

 

Minor Kitchen Remodel

The kitchen is often referred to as the “heart of the home,” and for good reason. Traditionally used for preparing food, it has morphed into so much more. Many of us now eat our family meals in the kitchen, it serves as a favorite spot for homework and kids’ art projects, and it’s the place guests tend to gather when we host events.

 

Because we spend so much time in our kitchens, it’s natural that we will eventually want to make updates and upgrades to better suit our needs and changing style preferences.

 

Luckily, a minor kitchen remodel is one of the best investments you can make in your home. According to Remodeling Magazine’s annual Cost vs. Value Report, it has an average 80.5% return on investment.1

 

The key to making a kitchen remodel pay off is to keep it modest in scale. Spend too much on custom or high-end selections, and you are less likely to recoup your investment. Instead, make an effort to keep your existing layout if it works for you and your family. Paint or reface cabinets instead of replacing them. Update countertops with low-maintenance quartz and swap out old light fixtures with modern alternatives. Replace outdated appliances with energy-efficient models. The average cost for a minor kitchen remodel is $22,500, and it’s likely to recoup more than $18,000 at resale.1

 

Wood Deck Addition

A deck addition is a popular way to extend and enhance the use of your outdoor space. It’s the perfect spot for grilling, dining alfresco, and entertaining. In fact, 81% of surveyed homeowners said they have a greater desire to be home since completing a deck addition.2

 

For a 16 x 20-foot wood deck, you can expect to spend around $13,000. Fortunately, the money you invest offers an average return of 76%.1

 

Decks made of composite material are a popular alternative these days, as they don’t require the regular sanding and staining that wood decks need. However, at an average cost of $19,000 for a 16 x 20-foot composite deck, they are significantly more expensive. Plus, the expected return on investment is only 69%.1 Still, if you plan to hire someone to provide regular maintenance to a wood deck, then a composite deck may offer cost savings over time.

 

 

Siding Replacement

Everyone knows good curb appeal is important when selling your home. And while it may not be the most exciting way to spend your remodeling budget, new siding can make a big impression on buyers … and your selling price.

 

Your home’s exterior is one of the first things buyers see when they view your home. It sets the tone for what they are going to see inside. It also gives an impression of how well the property has been maintained. Worn, peeling, or rotted siding can be a major red flag for buyers.

 

Replacing 1,250 square feet of siding costs around $16,000 and will net you an average of 76% at resale.1

 

For an even greater impact, consider replacing a portion of your siding with manufactured stone veneer. It can have a dramatic effect on the visual appeal of your home. A 300 square foot area will run you around $8,900, but you can expect to see a nearly 95% return when it comes time to sell.1

 

 

RENOVATIONS WITH WEAK RETURNS

 

These three popular remodeling projects are homeowner favorites. However, don’t expect to see a high rate of return at resale. Instead, consider them an investment in your current quality of life. Just make sure you’ll be living in the home long enough to make them worthwhile.

 

Major Kitchen Remodel

If there’s one room the majority of homeowners dream about making over, it’s their kitchen. From custom cabinetry to high-end appliances, the possibilities are endless. But those dreams can come at a cost.

 

An upscale kitchen remodel with high-end cabinetry and countertops, commercial-grade appliances, and designer features can cost upwards of $130,000. And unfortunately, you’ll only get back around 60% at resale. Even a mid-range kitchen remodel that includes new semi-custom wood cabinets, laminate countertops, and energy-efficient appliances could run you around $66,000 and net you a mere 62% at resale.1

 

Of course, an outdated or non-functional kitchen could turn buyers off from your home completely …  and keep you from enjoying it yourself! So if your kitchen needs a major remodel, you shouldn’t necessarily scrap your plans. Just go in with the realization that you may only get back a fraction of what you invest. Then you can decide which upgrades are worth the splurge.

 

In-ground Pool           

Few additions deliver more entertainment or enjoyment than an in-ground pool. It brings families and friends together, provides a break from the summer heat, and offers a fun and convenient way to stay fit. Plus, you’ll be the envy of your neighbors! But before you dive into a pool addition, consider whether the benefits outweigh the (substantial) costs.

 

The average expense to install a standard 18 x 36-foot in-ground pool is $57,500. And the estimated return at resale is only or 43%.2 In addition to the installation cost, plan to spend money each year on maintenance, repairs, and additional insurance.

 

However, 92% of surveyed homeowners said they “have a greater desire to be home” since installing a pool, and 83% have “an increased sense of enjoyment when they are at home.” For you and your family, the perks of a pool may be priceless.2

 

Master Suite Addition

If you own a house built before the 1980s, there’s a good chance it lacks a master suite, which is a feature that has become commonplace in most newly constructed homes.3

 

Master bedrooms have evolved from a simple place to sleep into a homeowner’s retreat—often featuring a sitting area, his-and-hers walk-in closets, and an attached bathroom with double vanities, a soaking tub, and a walk-in shower.

 

And master suite additions have become increasingly popular—both in homes that lack one as well as those with aging owners who can no longer accommodate stairs to an upper-level bedroom.

 

But what’s the typical return at resale? Unfortunately, a master suite addition offers one of the lowest returns of any remodeling project. With a median cost of $125,000, most sellers will only recoup around 52% of their investment. Nevertheless, in a survey of homeowners, the majority were satisfied with their decision to add a master suite, giving it a “Joy Score” of 10 out of 10.4

 

 

WEIGHING COST VS. BENEFIT

 

It’s always wise to enter into a remodeling project with knowledge of how it will impact your home’s value. In most cases, upscale or highly-customized upgrades are less likely to offer a high rate of return. That said, home renovations that improve your quality of life and enhance your enjoyment may be worthwhile no matter the cost.

 

 

GET A CUSTOMIZED ANALYSIS OF YOUR PROJECT

 

We’ve been talking averages. But the truth is, the actual return you can expect on a home improvement project will vary depending on your particular home and neighborhood. If you have plans to remodel, call or send us the details. We’d be happy to conduct a free analysis to determine how the renovations will impact the value of your home!

 

 

Sources:

1.     2019 Cost vs. Value Report -
https://www.remodeling.hw.net/cost-vs-value/2019/

2.     NAR’ Remodeling Impact Report - https://www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2018-05-remodeling-impact-outdoor-features-05-23-2018.pdf

3.     Zillow -
https://www.zillow.com/blog/evolution-of-the-master-bedroom-48286/

4.     House Logic -
https://www.houselogic.com/by-room/bedroom-closet/master-suite-addition-return-investment/

June 22, 2019

Increase Home Value Up to 28% with These 5 Tips!

 

Great curb appeal not only makes your home the star of the neighborhood, it can also improve its value and help you sell it for more. Whether you’re thinking of listing your home or just want to make your home the envy of your neighbors, here are several ways to increase your home’s curb appeal.

 

1. Make your home’s exterior look like new.

For many potential buyers, the condition of the exterior of a home can offer clues to the condition of the interior. The first place to start when boosting curb appeal is the exterior of your house.

 

Paint. Paint is the best way to make your home appear newer. While you can paint your home yourself, if it’s large or more than one story, consider hiring a professional. Painting is a fairly inexpensive improvement with between 60 to 100 percent return on investment.1

 

Maintain your siding. Over time, weather and the elements can make your home’s siding appear dull and dirty. Use a pressure washer to clean stains, spider webs and accumulated dirt and grime, or use a soft cloth and a household cleaner to get into those small nooks and spaces. Although the average life expectancy of siding ranges from 60 to 100 years, depending on the material, extreme weather may reduce this number. If you need to replace the siding, you’ll enjoy a 77 percent return on investment.1

 

Paint or replace garage doors. If your garage doors are in good condition, give them a new coat of paint. If they’re beginning to show their age, consider replacing them. Not only are new garage doors more energy efficient and better insulated than older models, they also have a 91.5 percent return on investment.1

 

Maintain your fence. Replace rotted or worn posts and panels and freshen it up with a coat of paint. If you have a hedge that serves as your property’s border, keep it trimmed and in good shape.

 

2. Pay attention to the small details.

The small details tie your home’s exterior together and help it stand out from others in the neighborhood.

 

Paint front door, trim and shutters. This inexpensive improvement adds brightness to a home, whether you choose a bold color, a neutral tone or classic white.

 

Install new door fixtures and be sure they match in style and finish and complement the style of your home.

 

Update your house numbers. Make sure potential buyers and guests can find your home. If the numbers have faded or need an update, replace them. If choosing a metallic finish, make sure it matches the finish of your exterior light fixtures.

 

3. Tend to your driveway and lawn.

Well-landscaped homes may sell for between 5.5% and 12.7% more than other similar homes and studies show it may also add up to 28 percent to your home’s overall value.5 

 

Place a border along your driveway or walkway made of brick, stone, pavers or another hardscape element to add visual interest to a plain driveway.

              

Maintain your green space. If you have grass, a well-maintained, green lawn makes your home look inviting and picturesque. However, in many parts of the country, water conservation is becoming more important. Xeriscaped landscapes incorporate drought-tolerant vegetation that thrives in warm, dry climates, such as lavender, sage, wisteria and agave, with water-saving drip irrigation and mulch. Xeriscaping has a cost savings of 36 cents per square foot annually through reduced irrigation and maintenance costs.3 Additionally, these landscapes are virtually maintenance free, which makes it an attractive option for busy buyers.

 

Include trees and shrubs to create texture and add interest to your landscape. Planting a few types of trees and shrubs of varying heights, widths and flowering times boosts your home’s curb appeal year-round.

 

4. Make it feel inviting.

It’s no secret that emotions play a role in a person’s decision to purchase a home. Stage the outside of your home to evoke warm feelings.

 

Stage your porch. If you have a front porch, make it feel more inviting by including seating, such as a chair or loveseat, an outdoor rug and a small table. If space is an issue, incorporate small decorative touches, such as a festive wreath or potted plant.

 

Hang flower boxes on your front porch railings and/or below your windows. If you don’t want to affix flower boxes to your home, purchase nice planters and containers and place them around your porch or on your front steps.

 

Choose flowers and plants that bloom at different times of the year for year-round appeal. For example, bulbs not only bloom all spring, they also multiply and come up every year. Perennials often flower for most of the year and will prevent you from having to replant them every year.

                

If you don’t have a green thumb, choose low maintenance plants and flowers. Flowers such as lavender, rosemary, and zinnias are a few low-maintenance and drought-tolerant options.

           

5. Boost Your Online “Curb Appeal.”

For those interested in selling, it’s important to know the effect online curb appeal has on a home. The better impression your home gives online, the more likely buyers will want to see it in person. Here’s how to get your home ready for its listing debut.

 

Stage your home. Staging shows your home in its best light and helps potential buyers picture themselves living there.

 

Hire a professional to take photos. A photographer has the skills and equipment to shoot your home in the best light and make it look its best.

 

Include a short video tour of the home. Videos are becoming a popular way to give buyers a glimpse of the home before they step foot in it.

 

Before you start a home project, keep these four things in mind:

1.            Why are you renovating? In other words, is your intention to update your home and get it show-ready or do you want to sell it for more money? Don’t fall into the trap of undertaking major renovations that may not pay off when you sell. If your home is in good shape, a few inexpensive updates may be enough to make your home attractive to buyers.

2.             The style of the neighborhood. Whenever you renovate your home, make sure the project fits with the style of the neighborhood and rules of the homeowner association. For example, an HOA may limit the choice and number of trees you can plant on your property. Similarly, a tall hedge border may not fit in in a neighborhood of low, picket fences.

3.            Permits. If you’re planning an extensive exterior renovation, you may need a permit from your municipality or other authority.

4.            Budget. A budget keeps your project’s costs and scope in check. Make a list of the improvements you’d like to make, set a realistic budget and stick to it. If you’d like advice on improvements you can make to boost your home’s curb appeal, give us a call.

 

Are you thinking of boosting your home’s curb appeal or renovating your home before you list? Do you want help making your home more appealing to potential buyers online and in-person? Give us a call and we’ll help you present your home in its best light.

 

Sources: 1. Remodeling, 2016 Cost vs Value Report

                        2. Realtor Mag, September 22, 2016

                        3. REALTOR.com

4. Houzz, Houzz & Home-U.S., June 2016

5. Houselogic.com

June 6, 2019

Serious About Selling?

 

 

We all want to be good neighbors. But when it comes to selling your home, it’s not just about “keeping up with the Joneses.” It’s about outshining them at every opportunity!

If you’re looking to sell your home fast and for the most money possible, you’ll need a strategy to set it apart from all the other listings competing for buyers in your area. That’s why we’ve outlined our proven, five-step plan for serious sellers.

Use these five tactics to help your listing get noticed, win over buyers, and net a higher sales price than your neighbors!

STEP 1: Stage Your Home to Show Its Full Potential

The average seller will do the minimum to prepare their home for market: clean and declutter, fix anything that’s broken, mow the lawn. And while those tasks are essential, today’s buyers want more than just a clean house and tidy yard. When they dream of buying a new home, they envision a designer house with modern finishes. Help them see your property’s full potential by staging it.

Home staging is one of the hottest trends in real estate—because it works! According to the Real Estate Staging Association, homes that are professionally staged spend 73% less time on the market.1

So what exactly is staging? In a broad sense, staging is the act of preparing your home for market. The goal is to highlight your home’s strengths, minimize any deficiencies, and help buyers envision themselves living in the space. When staging a home, you might rearrange the furniture to make a room feel larger or remove heavy curtains to make it appear brighter.

Some sellers choose to hire a professional home stager, who has specialized training and experience, to maximize the appeal of their home to the largest number of potential buyers. Others may opt to do it themselves, using guidance from their agent.

We can help you determine the appropriate budget and effort required to push your home ahead of the competition in your neighborhood. The good news is, an investment in staging pays off. A 2018 survey found that 85% of staged homes sold for 6-25% more than their unstaged neighbors homes. 

STEP 2: Draw Buyers in with High-Quality Listing Photos

You only have one chance to make a first impression with potential buyers. And many buyers will view photos of a listing before they decide whether or not to visit it in person. In fact, 87% of buyers find photos “very useful” in their home search.3 Poor-quality or amateur-looking listing photos could keep buyers from ever stepping through your door.

Since good photography plays such an important role in getting your property noticed, we only work with the top local professionals to photograph our listings. But we don’t just rely on their photography skills when it comes to showcasing your home.

We go the extra mile to ensure your listing photos showcase the true essence of your home. We’re always on site during the photo shoot to help the photographer capture the best angles and lighting, and to let them know about unique or compelling selling features that they should photograph. The extra effort pays off in the end. In fact, listings with high-quality photography sell 32% faster than the competition … and often for more money!4

STEP 3: Price It Properly From the Start

Even in a strong real estate market, there are homes that will sit unsold for months on end. This can be the “kiss of death” in real estate, as buyers tend to imagine that there must be something wrong with the property, even if it’s not the case.

But why are those houses still on the market in the first place? It’s because they are often priced too high.

Every buyer has a budget. And most will be viewing listings within a particular price range. If your property is overpriced, it can’t properly compete with the other houses they’re viewing that are priced correctly. Which means it’ll sit on the market until you’re eventually forced to drop the price.

Alternatively, if you price your home aggressively, it can be among the nicest homes that buyers have seen within their budget. This can lead to emotionally-attached buyers, who are often willing to pay a premium or settle for fewer seller concessions. And in certain markets, it can lead to a multiple-offer situation, or bidding war. The end result? More money in your pocket.

We can help you determine the ideal listing price for your home in the current market. Pricing it properly in the beginning is the best way to ensure a fast and profitable sale.

STEP 4: Put on a Good Show at Each Showing

Once buyers are interested enough to schedule a visit, it’s crucial that you put on a good show at each showing.

The first step is to make your home readily available—and often on short notice—for buyers to see it. A missed showing is a missed opportunity to sell your home. If you set too many restrictions on when it’s available to view, busy buyers will simply skip over your listing and move on to the next one.

Part of making your home available means keeping it relatively show-ready as long as it’s on the market. Most of us don’t live picture-perfect lives, and our homes reflect the day-to-day reality of our busy (and sometimes messy) families. But a little extra effort spent keeping your home clean, fresh-smelling, and ready for buyers will help it sell faster … which means you can get back to your regular routine as quickly as possible!

STEP 5: Use a Proven Promotion Plan

 Most agents are still marketing their listings like they did 20 years ago  … put a sign in the yard, put the listing in the MLS, and pray that it sells. Yet, we know that 93% of buyers search for real estate listings online.3

That’s why we invest in the latest training and technology—to ensure your listing appears in the places where buyers are most likely to look. Our dual-level promotion strategy includes both pre-launch activities designed to seed the marketplace and post-listing activities to ensure your home stays top-of-mind with potential buyers.

By utilizing online and social marketing platforms to connect with consumers and offline channels to connect with local real estate agents, your property gets maximum exposure to prospective buyers.

LET’S GET MOVING

Are you thinking about listing your home? Get a head start on your competition! Contact us for a copy of our Home Seller’s Guide, which offers a complete guide to the home selling process. Or call us to schedule a free no-commitment consultation. We’d love to put together a custom plan to maximize the sales potential of your property!

Sources:

 

  1. Real Estate Staging Association - https://www.realestatestagingassociation.com/content.aspx?page_id=22&club_id=304550&module_id=164548
  2. Home Staging Resources -
    https://www.homestagingresources.com/2018-home-staging-statistics/
  3. National Association of Realtors -
    https://www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2018-real-estate-in-a-digital-world-12-12-2018.pdf
  4. RIS Media -
    https://rismedia.com/2018/12/12/shocking-stats-importance-photography-real-estate/
May 24, 2019

Spring Cleaning That Pays Off!

 

Thanks to Marie Kondo and her hit Netflix series “Tidying Up,” home organization is a hot topic right now. Marie encourages her viewers to minimize their possessions and keep only those items that “spark joy.”

 

With spring in full bloom, now is the perfect time to do some spring cleaning and add organizational systems to your own home. Not only will you clear out clutter, your efforts can actually increase the value of your home.

 

Ready to give it a try? Here are six home organization ideas that will “spark joy” for you and your property value.

 

Boost Bathroom Storage Capacity

When was the last time you cleaned out your bathroom cupboards? If it’s been awhile, remove everything and take a look at each item. Toss any old or expired products—keep only what you actually use.

 

If your vanity has drawers, add drawer organizers, so you have a dedicated space for smaller items, like makeup and jewelry. For deep cabinets, install roll-out shelves or baskets to maximize the use of space.

 

And don’t forget about the walls! Mount open shelves to store towels. If you’re short on storage space, a cabinet over the toilet can offer additional room for supplies. These inexpensive additions can make your morning routine a little easier while giving your bathroom a more custom feel. And on average, minor bathroom remodeling projects like these see a 102% return at resale.1

 

 

Upgrade Your Laundry Room

Sort through the items in your laundry room and throw away or donate anything you no longer need or use. If you’ve been holding onto a collection of old washcloths and single socks, it’s time to say goodbye. Then give your laundry room an upgrade with some customized organizational features.

 

A mix of open cubbies and cabinets with doors will give you plenty of options for storing detergents and supplies. If you have space, a divided hamper or set of laundry baskets can provide a place to sort your clothes before washing. Install a hanging rod or drying rack for delicates and a flat work surface for ironing and folding clothes. With a few simple tweaks, you can turn this chore into a score!

Fully Utilize Your Basement or Attic

Basements and attics can easily become a dumping ground for clutter. If that’s the case in your home, you know what to do!

 

Once you’ve conducted a thorough clean out, think about how you can better utilize the space to meet your family’s needs. Install cabinets and a table so you can use the area as a craft room. Or you could turn it into a game room with a media center and ping-pong table. Investing in your basement will not only add function for your family, but also the average basement remodel can see up to a 70% return on investment when it’s time to sell.2

 

If you have an attic, consider adding a cedar closet to store your off-season clothing. The cedar lining will keep your clothes free from moths and smelling fresh year round.3 Turning your attic into a more usable space will pay off down the road, too. A finished attic sees an estimated 60% return on investment.2  

 

 

Customize Your Closets

Cleaning out the closet is a chore most of us dread, but by now, you’re a pro! Get rid the clothes and shoes that don’t fit you, are uncomfortable to wear, or that no longer “spark joy.”

 

Then it’s organizing time. So where do you start? You’ll want to create a designated space for each type of clothing: high hanging rods for dresses and long jackets, lower rods for skirts and shirts, and shelves for folded items like jeans. And accessories need a place to go, too. Add racks for your shoes, drawers for jewelry, hooks for hats, and shelves or racks for handbags.

 

A well-equipped closet can be a major draw for buyers—the average return on a closet remodel is 57%.4 But more importantly, it’ll improve your day-to-day life. Surveyed homeowners gave their closet remodel a “Joy Score” of 10 out of 10, higher than kitchen or bath upgrades.5

 

 

Install Built-in Bookcases and Cabinets

Built-in furniture adds functionality and storage to a room while giving your home a high-end look. Built-in bookcases can turn an empty room into an office. Custom cabinets can be used in a living room to display media equipment while providing hidden storage for DVDs, board games, and family albums.

 

When designing any built-in feature, remember not to go too custom. A design that only fits your tastes or belongings could turn off future buyers. Instead, select standard sizes and classic finishes to appeal to a broad range of buyers when it comes time to sell.

 

 

Equip Your Garage

If you can no longer fit your car in your garage, it may be time for a clean out. Similar to an attic or basement, the garage can quickly become overrun with clutter. A thorough cleaning will help you assess which items are worth keeping.

 

When adding organizational systems your garage, start with a small rack to store yard tools and larger racks for bikes and sports equipment. Overhead racks are a great place to put seasonal items and bulky luggage. A workbench against a wall lined with pegboard and hooks creates a dedicated space to use and store tools. If you have children or pets, add a cabinet with a lock. This will give you a place to securely store harsh chemicals and sharp tools. With a little effort, you’ll be pulling in your car (and buyers) in no time!

 

 

SPRING INTO ACTION

 

If you’re searching for service providers to help with your spring cleaning or home organization efforts, let us know! We can connect you with our trusted network of local home improvement professionals. We can also help you determine which organizational upgrades will add the most value to your home. Call us today, and let us know how we can help!

 

 

Sources:

 

1.     HGTV -
https://www.hgtv.com/design/real-estate/top-home-updates-that-pay-off-pictures

2.     Nationwide -
https://blog.nationwide.com/valuable-home-improvements/

3.     HGTV -
https://www.hgtv.com/remodel/interior-remodel/maximum-home-value-storage-projects--attic

4.     The Closet Doctor - https://www.closet-doctor.com/news/what-is-the-return-on-investment-on-closet-organizers

5.     NAR Remodeling Impact Survey -
https://www.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2017-remodeling-impact-09-28-2017.pdf

 

May 7, 2019

The Home Equity Playbook

 

 

 

What is Home Equity?

Home equity seems to be a very simple calculation — the total amount of mortgages owed subtracted from the current market value of a home. Here is a simple example:

 

Current Home Market Value  $325,000 

Existing Mortgage $225,000 

Homeowner Equity $100,000

 

One side of the equation is well defined, and it is found on the monthly mortgage statement, the loan balance. The other side is less obvious — the current market value of the property. 

 

As a homeowner, your down payment purchases your initial equity, and your monthly (or additional) principal payments increase your equity. In strong real estate markets and in-demand locations, equity can increase quite rapidly as the property value increases, but the inverse can also happen — too much available inventory and market down-cycles can lead to falling home values and a reduction in homeowner equity. 

 

It can be difficult to put an accurate value on something that you have emotional and monetary vesting in. It is safe to say that most people think their home is worth more than then it is. 

 

Homeowners can make savvy assessments about their home’s current market value by following the sales of similar properties in the neighborhood, but should stay away from websites such as Zillow and Trulia, which provide inaccurate and outdated estimates. The most accurate measurement requires a comparative market analysis from a real estate professional or having the home professionally appraised. But, the bottom line — your home is worth as much as someone is willing to pay for it. 

 

Creating Value is in Your Hands

Maintaining the condition of a home is vitally important to retaining and increasing value. Homes are judged against their peers: how they compare to similar homes in the neighborhood. Another way to retain value is to not over upgrade, since it is rare to ever recoup the money spent if you exceed neighborhood value. Keep up the landscaping and do the little things to add curb appeal.

 

Putting Home Equity to Work

Home equity represents the largest single asset of millions of people, and because it represents so much of an individual’s net worth, it must be treated with respect. Home equity is not a liquid asset until a property is sold, or it is borrowed against. 

 

There are two types of loans that tap into homeowner equity as collateral. 

 

Home Equity Loans 

 

Many home equity plans set a fixed period during which the person can borrow money, such as 10 years. At the end of this “draw period,” the person may be allowed to renew the credit line. If the plan does not allow renewals, the homeowner will not be able to borrow additional money once the period has ended. Some plans may call for payment in full of any outstanding balance at the end of the period. Others may allow repayment over a fixed period, for example, of 10 years. 

 

A home equity loan, sometimes called a second mortgage, usually has a fixed rate and a set time to pay it back, generally with equal monthly payments.

 

Home Equity Line of Credit

 

A home equity line of credit is similar to a credit card. The lender sets a maximum amount you can borrow, and you can draw money as you need it, though many home equity lines of credit require an initial draw. The interest rate varies daily, and is usually prime plus a set number, but the required payment is usually interest only. Once the loan has been paid down, the payment is reduced, and it can be paid off and initiated as many times as a homeowner requires.

 

How Much Equity can be Accessed?

Since the financial institution is lending money and using a home as collateral, they will not lend 100% of the home’s equity. The bank does not want to take the risk that if the house price drops, they would be carrying a loan for more than its market value. Therefore, most banks will allow a qualified homeowner to borrow approximately 80% of their equity. 

 

It’s Important to Use Your Home Equity Wisely

Because it is likely the biggest asset most people have, losing your home equity is hard to overcome. It must be used in prudent ways, and the payments against the loan must be affordable. Using equity money to make the loan payment is only acceptable for a short-term solution. 

 

There are number of good reasons to use money from a home equity loan… and some really bad ones. First, let’s cover smart uses.

 

1. Invest in Your Home

The best way to use the money is create more equity in the home. Among the very best returns on your investment (ROI) include kitchen and bathroom remodels, adding square footage or an extra bath, enhancing curb appeal and repairing/keeping the existing structure sound. Making prudent investments in your home is a wonderful win-win: you enjoy the upgrades and the repairs can add value to the home.

 

2. Invest in your Children’s Education

Using your home equity to finance a child’s higher education may be the greatest payoff of all. Not only is the rate much lower than a student loan, it is an investment in the child’s future.

 

3. Supplement Retirement Needs

Older homeowners spent their working lives paying down their mortgage. At retirement, when monthly income is reduced, a home equity loan could pay for a dream vacation or an unexpected major expense.

 

4. Augment the Impending Sale of a Home

If you’re planning to sell soon, a home equity line of credit may be the best way to finance improvements, and you can pay it off entirely when you sell. Investing wisely on upgrades and repairs may even reap a profit on your investment.

 

Here are some examples of some not very wise choices.

 

Adding luxury amenities like a swimming pool, a hot spa, lavish landscaping, expensive appliances and exotic countertops and flooring rarely pay off. 

 

Purchasing a car or boat or most any personal luxury items is a poor use of the funds, since these items quickly depreciate in value.

 

Also stay away from using money on risk-heavy investments. Financing stock purchases, start-up businesses and paying routine bills is not financially smart. If you cannot afford to purchase those items with available funds, using equity from your home means they should not be in your budget. 

 

You should treat a home equity loan as an investment and not as extra cash when making financial decisions. If your intended use of the money doesn't pay you back in some way, it's not the best use of your valuable equity.

 

We Are Happy to Assist You

If you would like an assessment of the market value of your home and the current equity you can access, give us a call for a comparative market analysis.

 

 

 

April 23, 2019

What’s Your Home Actually Worth?

It’s easy to look up how much money you have in your savings account or the real-time value of your stock investments. But determining the dollar value of a home is trickier.

As a seller, knowing your home’s worth helps you price it correctly when you put it up for sale. If you price it too high, it may sit on the market. But price it too low and you may be losing out on a good chunk of money (nobody wants that!). For buyers, it’s important to know a home’s worth before you make an offer. You want your offer to be competitive, but you don’t want to overpay for the property. 

Even if you’re not a buyer or seller right now, as a current homeowner you might just be curious about the value of your home. Keeping track of your home’s worth year over year helps you understand the trends in your market. So when you are ready to sell, you can take advantage of a good window of opportunity. 

The good news is, a trained real estate agent—who understands the nuances of your particular neighborhood—can determine the true market value of your property … and at no cost to you!

THE THREE TYPES OF HOME VALUES 

When you start the process of buying or selling a home, you’ll frequently hear the words appraised value, assessed value, and true market value. It’s important to know the difference between each one so you can make better, informed decisions. 

Appraised Value

A professional appraiser is in charge of determining the appraised value of a home. These appraisals are typically required by a lender when a buyer is financing the property. And while the lender is the one requiring this information, the appraiser does not work for the lender.1 Your appraiser should be an objective, licensed professional who doesn’t have allegiance to the buyer, seller, or lender—no matter who is paying their fee.

The number the appraiser comes up with (the appraised value) assures the lender that the buyer is not overpaying for the property. For example, imagine a seller lists a home for $400,000. They reach a deal with the buyer to sell the home for $375,000. However, if an appraiser evaluates the property and determines that the appraised value is actually $325,000, then the lender will not lend for an amount higher than that appraised value of $325,000.2

When figuring out this number, an appraiser will compare the property to similar homes in your neighborhood, and they’ll evaluate factors such as location, square footage, appliances, upgrades, improvements, and the interior and exterior of the home.  

Assessed Value

The assessed value of a home is determined by your local municipal property assessor. This value matters when your county calculates property taxes each year. The lower your assessed value, the less property tax you’ll pay.3 

To come up with this value, your assessor will evaluate what comparable homes in the neighborhood have sold for, the size of your home, age, overall condition, and any improvements or upgrades that have been made. However, most assessors don’t have full access to your home, so their information is limited. 

Assessments are done annually to determine how much property tax you owe. Many counties use a multiplier (typically between 60%-80%) to calculate the final assessed value. So, if the assessor determines that the value of the home is $300,000, but the county uses a 70% multiplier, the assessed value of the home would be $210,000 for tax purposes.4

If your assessed value isn’t as high as you envisioned, don’t sweat it. Many homeowners appeal their assessment in favor of a lower valuation so that they can save money on property taxes. If you’re interested in appealing your property tax assessment, let us know. We offer complimentary assistance and would be happy to help you build your case.

True Market Value

True market value is established by your real estate agent. It basically refers to the value that a buyer is willing to pay for the property. A good real estate agent is an expert in determining true market value because they have hands-on experience buying and selling properties. They understand the mindsets of buyers in your market and know what they’ll pay for a desirable house, townhouse, or condo.

As a seller, knowing your true market value is important because it helps you choose how much to list your property for. It can also help you decide if you want to make any improvements to your home before putting it on the market. Your agent can help you figure out which updates and upgrades will have the biggest impact on your true market value.

WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH ONLINE CALCULATORS? 

When figuring out your home’s value, you might be tempted to see what popular real estate sites like Zillow, Redfin, and Trulia have to say. When you use an online calculator to determine your home’s value on these sites, it is just an estimate. It’s not an actual appraisal or the “true market value.” These sites all have their own algorithms for coming up with their estimates. For example, Zillow comes up with their “Zestimates” by calculating “public and user-submitted data, taking into account special features, location, and market conditions.” 5 

These online estimates can be a great starting point for opening up the conversation with your real estate agent about your home’s worth. But even Zillow recommends that you use a real estate agent for coming up with the actual market value of your home. The site says that once you get your “Zestimate,” you should still get “a comparative market analysis from a real estate agent.”

Having an agent involved in this process is essential because they understand the market better than a computer ever could. They’re showing property in your city every single day, and they know the particular preferences of buyers and sellers in the area. Young professionals, large families, empty nesters, and other groups are all looking for different things in a home. A local agent has most likely worked with all of them, so they understand what every segment in your market is specifically looking for. 

HOW AN AGENT FINDS YOUR HOME’S TRUE MARKET VALUE

So, how does an actual real estate agent determine true market value? They’ll start by doing a comparative market analysis (CMA). This means they’ll compare your home’s features to similar properties in your area. For the CMA, the agent looks at the below factors to influence their assessment of your home’s worth:6 

Neighborhood sales - Your agent will look at similar, recently sold homes in your neighborhood to see what they sold for and what they have in common with your house. 

The exterior - What does your home look like from the outside? Your agent will factor in curb appeal, the style of the house, the front and backyard, and anything else that impacts how the house looks to everyone walking and driving by.

The interior - This is everything inside the walls of the house. Square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, appliances, and more all influence the overall market value.

Age of the home - Whether you have a newer or older home affects the number your agent comes up with as part of their assessment. 

Style of the home - The style of your home is important because buyers in different markets have different tastes. If buyers prefer ranch-style homes and you have one, then your home may sell for a premium (aka more money!). 

Market trends - Because a local agent has so much experience in your market, they have their finger on the pulse of your area’s trends and know what buyers are willing to pay for a property like yours. 

Location, location, location - This one’s probably the most obvious. Your agent will think about how popular the area is, how safe it is, and what schools are like. 

A computer algorithm simply can’t take all of these factors into account when calculating the value of your home. The reality is, nothing beats the accuracy of a real estate agent or professional appraiser when it comes to determining a home’s true market value.

YOUR AGENT IS THERE EVERY STEP OF THE WAY

Determining a home’s true market value is a real estate agent’s forte. If you’re a seller, your agent will help you find your home’s market value so you can list it at the right price. 

For buyers, your agent will help you determine the value so you can come up with a fair offer. Your agent can also set up a personalized home search on the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) for you so you’ll receive emails of listings that meet your criteria. This will help you see what’s out there in your city and how properties are being priced. 

Get a Complimentary Report With Your Home’s True Market Value

Curious about your home’s true market value? Call us to request a free, no-obligation Comparative Market Analysis to find out exactly how much your home is worth!

Sources:

1. Chicago Tribune -

https://www.chicagotribune.com/suburbs/chi-ugc-article-what-is-the-difference-between-market-value-a-2013-09-30-story.html

2. SFGATE - 

https://homeguides.sfgate.com/market-value-vs-appraised-value-1206.html

3. ValuePenguin - 

https://www.valuepenguin.com/mortgages/what-is-the-assessed-value-of-a-house

4. Movoto - 

https://www.movoto.com/blog/homeownership/assessed-value-vs-market-value/

5. Zillow - 

https://www.zillow.com/how-much-is-my-home-worth/

6. Realtor.com - 

https://www.realtor.com/advice/sell/assessed-value-vs-market-value-difference/

 

 

 

Posted in Selling Your Home
April 3, 2019

Homeownership and your taxes

You can't avoid paying taxes, and we all need to pay our fair share. However, paying your fair share shouldn't place an unjust burden on you. As a homeowner, your tax burden is doubled because you pay both income and property taxes. To decrease that burden and boost your tax savings, take advantage of these homeowner tax deductions. As a result, you can use your tax savings to go on a vacation, increase your child's college fund, build upon your retirement fund, or complete another home improvement project. 

Home Improvement Tax Deduction

You spend so much of your time at home, and you try to make it as comfortable a place to live as possible. If your home needs some upgrades, consider improvements that will help foot the bill for themselves. 

Mortgage Interest and Refinancing

If your mortgage payment makes you cringe each month, you’ll be glad to know you can deduct taxes on the following: 

* Interest towards mortgage

* Mortgage payments for additional property

* Rental properties

* Refinancing and home equity lines of credit (HELOC) up to $100,000 of debt. 

If you own multiple properties, the mortgage interest on additional property is deductible as well. The cool thing is that it doesn't have to be a house. It can be a boat or RV; as long as it has cooking, sleeping, and bathroom facilities, it counts as additional property. 

Regarding using your second home as a rental, you need to vacation at least 14 days at the property or spend more than 10 percent of the number of days you rent it out. 

Furthermore, you can claim points on your mortgage the year you paid them if the following happened: 

* The loan was to purchase or build your main home 

* Payment of points is an established business practice in your area and the points were within the usual range

Property Taxes

Now, this is the big one. Property taxes you pay each year are tax deductible. The amount of property taxes you paid for the year shows up on your lender's annual statement. You must deduct them as an itemized expense on your Schedule A tax form.

First-time homebuyers, look at your settlement sheet to see additional tax payment data. You may deduct the portion of property taxes you paid during the first year of your homeownership. 

Protesting Your Assessment to Lower Your Property Taxes

Although you must pay property taxes, you can make sure that you pay a reasonable amount based on the true value of your home and land. Many homes get overvalued because assessors err in valuing a home and homeowners don't pay attention to these mistakes. Consequently, homeowners unwittingly pay more than they should in property taxes. 

However, if you’ve owned your home for more than a year, you can potentially lower your property tax burden by showing that your home has been overvalued, meaning that your tax assessment claims your property is worth more than it is. 

Even if the number on the tax assessment seems close, you should still consider protesting your property tax. Typical savings from a successful tax protest is over 15%! 

According to SmartAsset, the national median property tax paid is roughly $2,839.00. That's about 1.192 percent of a home valued at $238,200.00.

If you're able to reduce your assessed value by 15 percent to $202,470.00 and consequently save 15 percent on your tax bill, your new tax bill will be about 2,413.00. That’s a savings of $426.00!

To get started protesting your property tax, read your assessment letter. Your assessment letter will list data about your property and the assessed value of your house and land. Make sure your assessment letter has the correct information about your property. 

Understanding that assessors can make mistakes assessing your home value will help you with your appeal. There are three key mistakes assessor make when assessing property. These mistakes include: 

1. Outdated Historic Sales Data: Sometimes assessors will use sales data from previous years. Because the real estate market is fluid, this data changes quickly, as a result; this data can over value your home. 

2. Mass Appraisal Methods: Also, when assessors use mass appraisal methods, they do not take into account all the market adjustments that occurred over time. Consequently, there sales data can't always produce useful comparable properties to set future sales. 

3. Living Area: Assessors notoriously make mistakes about the living area of your house. This is especially true if you live in a 1.5 or 2 story home. Check any previous appraisals to ensure correct measurements and description of our home. Does the assessment letter show the right number of bathrooms and bedrooms? Does it report the correct size of your lot? .5 acres differs greatly than 5.0 acres. 

After reading your assessment letter, consult a Realtor. We can find three to five approximate values of comparable properties similar to yours, and these comps can then be used to support your claim that your home is overvalued. This is especially useful if the assessor used poor historical sales data.

You'll have 30 days to file an appeal of your assessment, so you’ll want to get the comps as soon as your assessment arrives. You can speak with an assessor on the phone or request a formal review. 

You'll then need to fill out a form and follow specific instructions regarding your supporting evidence. Typically, it's not necessary for you to appear at the review. The review can take one to three months to complete, and you'll receive a decision in writing. 

The majority of assessment appeals are successful. However, if at first you don't succeed, appeal. You'll need to pay a small filing fee for an independent appeals board to hear your second appeal. This process could take up to a year to complete, so you'll need to decide whether it's truly worth it. 

As a homeowner, you have plenty of options available to decrease your tax burden. The benefit is that you can use your tax savings for major life events such as weddings, vacations, and home improvements. 

You can also contact me directly and I'll gladly lead you in the right direction towards saving you money on your taxes. 

 

Posted in Real Estate News
March 12, 2019

New Construction or Buy Existing?

 

Should You Buy a New or Existing Home? 

 

Maybe your dream home has the intricate details that you usually find only in older construction - wainscoting and crown molding in the interior, the front porch with a swing, an older tree shading the back yard, and the white picket fence. 

 

Or maybe your dream home has all the conveniences of modern living - open floor plan in the living and dining spaces, large windows, connected, “smart” appliances and security systems, and minimalist design elements. 

 

Whether you go for a brand new construction or an existing home, both types of properties have their pros and cons when it comes to purchasing. What type of home is right for you will depend on which factors are most important for your lifestyle. 

 

Build your dream home with new construction

 

If you’re making a home purchase that’s still in the pre-construction phase, you may be able to customize many of the details. Many home builders will give you the option to add design elements that will give you the exact dream home you desire. If it’s a new subdivision, you may even be able to pick which lot you like best. 

 

Very early in the building process, you may have more room to customize. For example, if the walls aren’t complete, you may be able to add extra outlets in each of the rooms or custom wiring for surround sound in the media room. Perhaps you could move the laundry room to the top floor instead of the basement. You might be able to get a separate mudroom entrance. 

 

Later in the building process, you may be able to add marble countertops, an island, and custom cabinets in the kitchen. Your master bathroom could be upgraded with a steam shower, spa tub, and European fixtures. You will want to check with the builder to understand which features are included, and which ones are extra. 

 

New homes save money with fewer repairs and more efficiency

 

Once your home is complete, all you’ll need to do is move in. New appliances will be under warranty for a few years if they need repairs, and will likely work well for several years without needing fixes. Often, new construction is under a builder’s warranty, so any repairs needed in the first year should be covered. 

 

New homes often contain energy efficient and green appliances, like high-efficiency stoves, refrigerators, washing machines, heaters, or air conditioning units. These energy-saving appliances, along with good insulation and energy-efficient windows, will help you save money on monthly utility bills. 

 

New homes also often use new building materials that require less maintenance — for example, using composite siding instead of wood, which doesn’t need annual repainting. You won’t need to spend as much to maintain your new home. 

 

If you customized it during pre-construction, you won’t need to spend any money on renovations or upgrades for several more years. You can just enjoy it and not worry about saving for major home repairs. 

 

What you need to do to make a good new home purchase

 

Before you put in your offer, do some research on the builder. Do they have a good reputation? What else have they built? Did their other new properties have issues such as poor construction or unfinished details?

 

You like the model home, but will you like where it’s situated? After you look at the home itself, come back to the neighborhood to see what it’s like at different times of the day. Walk around during the day and in the evening, and see how you like the area. 

 

Brand new communities usually attract similar types of buyers—urban professionals, couples, or young families, for example. These will be your neighbors, so you’ll want to make sure that you want to be part of this new, homogeneous community. 

 

You may also need to be flexible with your move-in date. Builders will only be able to let you move in if they can meet their construction schedule. If the wiring is delayed, the walls can’t be finished. And because there are so many construction tasks that are dependent on the completion of prior tasks, schedules tend to slip. 

 

Get more variety and established neighborhoods with an existing home

 

Existing homes are those that have generally been built and lived in between the 1920’s and 1970’s. With existing homes, you will get more variety in home styles, as different types of construction have gone in and out of style throughout the decades. Within one neighborhood, you may be able to find a mix of different styles like Victorian, modern Tudor cottages, tract style, ranch or split-ranch, or contemporary homes.

 

Existing homes are situated in established neighborhoods, which may have more amenities nearby that a new home in a brand new subdivision may not have. Your new neighborhood may have restaurants, cafes, and boutiques within walking distance. 

 

You might also have access to more supermarkets, dry cleaners, discount stores, and gas stations nearby. An established neighborhood might have a nice park, running path, or playground for the kids to enjoy. You might also be closer to a library or the post office. 

 

Resale homes can be a less expensive purchase 

 

If you’re considering a resale home, you may be able to get into a beautiful, unique property at a lower purchase price than a new home. 

 

There are many more resale homes available than there are new homes — according to the National Association of Homebuilders, about 10 times as many. With such a large pool to buy from, the market for resales can be more competitive. You may have more room to negotiate the  selling price of the home. With a brand-new construction, you won’t likely be able to have the same kind of negotiating power. 

 

Before putting a home on the market, sellers often make home renovations or remodel parts of their homes to make them more attractive to buyers and to be able to potentially increase the list price. If the resale home has a brand new, modern kitchen, an updated bathroom, or even a new roof or upgraded windows, you could end up getting a home that’s comparable to new construction without having to pay the potential more expensive new-home list price. 

 

Existing homes have already been inspected at least once on the last sale, so you will know about any potential structural problems or repairs that have been made on the home. Knowing the track record on your potential home will help you avoid purchase mistakes—you’re much less likely to end up with a property that has a rotting roof, dangerous electrical wiring, or a crumbling foundation. With a new home, you could end up with incomplete construction or major issues that you didn’t know about because they weren’t yet documented. 

 

What you need to do to make a good resale purchase

 

Before you go too far down the road to a purchase, you can protect your purchase by first having the home inspected. A good home inspector will document all flaws, no matter how small they appear. If the inspector finds any major problems, like foundation cracks or leaky roofs, you may be able to counter offer and get the seller to either fix it or reduce the selling price. 

 

Even if the inspection doesn’t uncover any major issues, you will need to expect the unexpected. Older homes will eventually need replacement appliances, a new air conditioning unit, or a plumbing repair. As long as you know that before you buy a resale home, you can plan for surprise repairs. 

 

With an older home, you may want to eventually remodel parts of it. Will you be happy living in your house while you’re doing major work on the living room or the kitchen? If you know that it would disrupt your lifestyle too much, you may want to consider whether you really want to buy an older property. 

 

Whether you choose to buy a new home or an existing home, the best way to get started is to speak with your trusted real estate professional. We will have access to both new properties and resale homes that may fit your goals, and will know which neighborhoods will serve your needs. 

Posted in Buying a Home