It’s an exciting time when you start looking for your first home. Maybe you know what areas you like or the type of home you would prefer, maybe even your budget, but no matter your knowledge base, the task can be daunting. A lot of first time home buyers are uncertain how to start looking or who they can trust in the process. I offer a few suggestions below that may aid in the process.
Write It Down Write down what you are looking for in a property and what you would like to avoid. If you are buying with another person make your own lists and compare and contrast your needs.
Searches These days most home searches start on the internet where first time home buyers can go through many listings, virtual tours and photo albums. Look at maps and decide which areas you would consider and or avoid. Once you start looking at homes you can cross off areas you find don’t meet your needs. Drive around the areas you think you may want to live and commute from.
Finances If you’re uncertain about the lending process and what you can afford, go talk to an expert. Most banks have loan officers who will sit down with you and talk about your finances free of charge. This is the time to ask questions and determine what monthly mortgage you would be comfortable paying. The loan officer can also show you different loan programs that you qualify for with the best interest rate. Shop around for the best rate and loan options just know when you get serious about a home you must have a lender lined up. A lender will be writing your pre approval letter which you will submit with any offer on a property.
Realtors Referrals, referrals, referrals! If you’re on the search for a Realtor ask your friends, coworkers and family members for referrals. Chances are if they were happy with their Realtor you might be too. If you’re not from the area and can’t obtain a referral from someone who lives in the area go on the internet. Make sure you look at their websites, blogs and or social media pages to determine how well they know the area. Once you pick a Realtor, make your needs known and be honest if you don’t care for certain properties.
If you find this small bit of information helpful I would love to help you find your first home!
It’s a question a lot of folks ask themselves when they start thinking about selling their home. My husband and I ran into the same quagmire when we started discussing needing more room for the kids in the future. There was no easy answer. We talked about how we loved our current neighborhood and ease of travel to anywhere we needed to go, the friends that we already made and also how sought after our current neighborhood was. It took us about 3 years before we committed to remodeling our home. I joke that my husband had a real estate search running for 2 years but his Realtor refused to take him out and look at homes.
A couple things to think about when considering renovation over moving are:
- How much equity will it add to your home?
- Can you find another home that will fit your needs?
- Will the changes fix the current issues you face today?
- Does equity really matter if you plan to stay in the house for years?
- How to finance the renovations?
How much equity will it add to your home?
Equity is important if you think you might want to sell your home in 3 to 5 years. You are not going to get all of the money back dollar for dollar for everything you might change so keep that in mind. I tell my listing clients if you are going to update kitchens and bathrooms make sure you get some use out of them before listing. It won’t sting as bad if you don’t get all your money back from the changes that are made. In our situation we were juggling with our budget, not going over board with additions to the home and pricing the home out of the market. In the end we justified being over budget a little by knowing that this is our forever home. It helps that we have a fantastic lot and one of the smaller houses in the neighborhood.
Can you find another home that will fit your needs?
Of course! There are plenty of homes in the Northern Virginia Area to choose from. Our needs most likely were going to come with a much higher price tag and we were going to have to leave the neighborhood we love. We absolutely love Loudoun County and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. With us we already knew what we needed to change to make the home fit our needs and that was really hard to walk away from. Now I have a beautiful Kitchen, Great Room and Master Bedroom Walk-In Closet. My kids have plenty of room for friends and we can hold a party without feeling cramped.
Will the changes fix the current issues you face today?
This is important. If you’re not going to get everything you want out of remodeling and spend a good amount of money doing it, don’t even consider it. The process of remodeling can be very stressful and be rough on a relationship.
Does equity really matter if you plan to stay in the house for years?
It matters in regards to overspending when it comes to doing renovations on your home. Remember to take into account the homes that are in your neighborhood. If you have a neighborhood with smaller homes you don’t want to have the extra large home among the smaller homes. It would be a better option to sell and find a home that fits your needs better.
How to finance the renovations?
- There is the obvious way by saving up and paying out of pocket. This might insure that you stay on budget.
- You can find out from a lender if you can do a Home Equity Line of Credit. In order to do a HELOC you need to have equity in your home either because you have paid down your primary loan over the years or the appraised value of the home has risen. A HELOC is great because you can pay it back and use it over and over again. You can also write off any interest that has occurred just like your primary mortgage.
- Renovation/Construction Loan is another option. These are becoming more popular. You can obtain a loan based on what you think your home may be worth after you have completed your project. Fannie Mae and FHA have these home renovation mortgages. Here is a little more about these programs: http://www.bankrate.com/finance/mortgages/mortgages-pay-home-renovations-1.aspx
Hope this information is helpful when trying to make your decision to move or to renovate! If you have any further questions I would love to help. You can reach me at email@example.com or by phone at 571-299-8307.
Selling your home can seem like a daunting task but here are a few steps to help keep you sane and help you put your best foot forward when listing your home.
- VALUABLES: Place valuables like pain medications, jewelry, cash, firearms, and valuable documents in a safe or off site while your home is listed.
- DECLUTTER: Most folks have items around the house that are just taking up space or cluttering a room. You can place items in a temporary storage unit, box up or take advantage of online yard sale sites and or hold your own yard sale. Donating unused items is also a good way to get rid of items you don’t need anymore.
- STAGING: Don’t think you are in this on your own! ASK your Realtor for advice on staging or hire an a professional stager. Choose a stager that fits your budget, there are plenty out there that can fit your budget. Need a referral? Contact me for folks who professionally stage.
- APPRAISAL: Your real estate agent will pull together comparables of recent home sales to give you an idea of what your home is worth. Purchasing an appraisal is also another way to get an idea of how much your home is worth. Appraisers do this every day and have the resources to give you a better idea of what your home is worth.
- PETS: I’m a huge pet lover and hate the idea of removing animals from the home but not every person may enjoy your pet like you do. If it’s feasible during showing hours have pets retire to a neighbors or a friend’s home. If this is not possible then pets should be placed in an area or crate marked with signs to let people know that Fido or Kitty is in the laundry room or another area of the home.
- CARPETS: If needed plan on having the carpets in high traffic areas cleaned and if carpets are beyond cleaning, think about replacing.
- PAINT: Now it’s time to repaint bedrooms that may have been a fun color for the kids but may not appeal to all buyers. Touching up spaces that are high traffic areas like staircases and hallways are also a good idea.
- UPDATES AND REPLACEMENTS: The major items buyers look for to be updated or recently replaced are Bathrooms, Kitchen Appliances, Kitchen Countertops, Washer/Dryer, A/C Unit, Furnace, Roof, and Decks. It’s great if you can compile a list for your Real Estate Agent of all the items that have been replaced or recently updated.
- FURNACE AND A/C UNIT: If you don’t already have a yearly maintenance contract on the Furnace and A/C Unit, have a company come out and service your unit. This will eliminate any surprises during a Home Inspection. The Heating & Cooling company will then place a sticker on the unit showing when the last maintenance was performed on the system. A fresh filter should always be placed every 1-3 months depending on how dusty your home is and if you have pets.
- FIREPLACES: It’s not a bad idea to get the chimney swept and inspected. Most home inspectors are not qualified to comment on the chimney so they will recommend to have it cleaned and inspected.
- LANDSCAPING: If needed, add fresh mulch to flower beds. Remember to keep mulch away from siding on the home as this is a great way for pests to find their way up into the house. Trim trees away from the house to reduce damage to roof, siding and reduce ways for animals to get on the roof. Freshen Decks up with a good powerwashing and fresh coat of sealant or paint if needed.
These are just few things you can do to help sell your home in Northern Virginia. If you’re thinking about selling your home I would love to help! You can contact me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org or 571-299-8307.
Are you thinking about selling your home with young children in tow? There are a few easy tricks you can use to keep the process a little less stressful.
Selling your home is always a slightly stressful situation. You always worry about your home being clean and presentable for prospective buyers. Add children to the mix and stress levels can go up a little more. As a Mom of two boys I can relate to parents who are trying to sell their home and the chaos that can overtake your home on a daily basis. Don’t panic, these tips will help you get through the process a little easier.
- Obtain an agent that is child friendly. These agents will understand what you are going through when you complain to them about how stressed out you are with the process. They will also understand when you have screaming children in the background and won’t get irritated if you have to get off the phone to attend to your little ones….:) These agents also understand that a short and to the point email or text will also get the job done since answering the phone with small children always ends up with them hanging on your leg while you try and have a conversation.
- Have a plan. Set up a plan before the home goes on the market. Decide on how you are going to keep the home picked up, handle showings, and if you have pets where are they going to be secured in the home.
- Kids come with lots toys and accessories. Pack up about 50% of the toys and place them in a basement storage space or a relatives garage for safe keeping. You were going to have to pack them up when you move anyway so why not do it now. The kids won’t miss the toys while the home is on the market and it makes clean up a lot easier on you if an agent calls to get into the home. Also when you unpack the toys at the new house it will be like Christmas all over again for them.
- Infants come with lots of items too including bassinets, play mats and swings. Buyers are not going to think less of you if these items are in the home. Dedicate an area for these items and leave them out if you need them. As long as they are not blocking walkways or making a room feel cluttered, leave them out.
- Have a catch all basket. Showings can be much easier on you if you create a place where you can put items that the kids want to have out to play with. If the kids are old enough to help pick up, have them use the basket to clean up a rec room or family room before an agent arrives with prospective buyers.
- Request an hour notice before agents come to show the home. This gives you a little breathing room and doesn’t allow for any surprise visits from agents with prospective buyers.
These are just a few things that can help take the pressure off of you and your family while trying to sell your home.
Our Geothermal Heating and Cooling system has now been fully installed for over a month and we couldn’t be happier. The system saved us over a $100 during the month of March where we saw extremely low temperatures and snow. Next month’s electricity bill should show decreasing energy use as the temperature outside has been more on the mild side. The graph below, which I will be updating throughout the year, shows us a 4 year trend of our homes energy costs.
All that is left for the completion of the project is for them to hydro-seed our yard and replace some of our planters stone work. Once a year we will have the system maintained to make sure the system is operating correctly. We will also change the air filter out every 2-3 months to assure the air flowing through the house has less pollen and dust. The desuperheater on the hot water heater will be turned on once the warmer weather stays around. The function of this piece of equipment is to take the unwanted heat from the home and put it towards heating the hot water heater also saving us some money on energy costs.
If you ever want to know how about Geothermal Thermal Heating and Cooling feel free to reach out and ask.
Before the big storm hit on Wednesday night, the drilling company came out and dug our trenches to the house. The Earth loops they installed into the wells were hooked up and brought to the house via the trenches. The technicians then drilled into the side of our home into where the Water Furnace sits in our basement. This was an all day project and the men were trying to beat the storm that was going to drop 16 inches of snow. Once the piping was in the house they quickly back filled the trench and called it a day.
Valves into the Home
The following day the crews were going to do the flush and purge of the system but the snowy roads made this impossible for some of the crew to make it in. So now we are in a holding pattern until hopefully this week. We will also be getting our larger hot water heater along with the desuperheater that uses the heat from the earth to heat our hot water. This addition is also another way we will be saving on electricity.
Till next week……
Currently we have hit a snag in our installation of our geothermal system. The first snag was an application that missed a signature by the geo company on our permit application to the County. The second snag dealt with Miss Utility not marking the lines for the home water and sewer lines. So recently when we got home from a trip we noticed that Miss Utility had come out along with the drilling company to flag our property. My husband noticed that the drilling flags were right on top of our water and sewer lines that enter and exit our home. The county further came out and noticed the same issue. We contacted the geo company and they came out today with line locators to mark our lines in the front yard.
One obstacle is going to be the county telling the Geo company how far away the wells actually need to be from each line in order to drill in the correct location. Not to mention if our main line ever went out we would need to be far enough away from the wells as to not disturb them. So far Loudoun County hasn’t been any help because on three separate occasions they have told the Geo company three different distances the wells need to be from the utility lines.
At this point we are completely frustrated with the process as it’s now January 20th and nothing has been started but a bunch of fingering pointing. If we hadn’t said anything to the County the drillers would have severed both the water and sewer line in our front yard. Here is hoping that the County inspection tomorrow goes well and we can get our permit for the wells. Drilling can’t start soon enough as the temperatures are going to dip down into the 20s for about a week.
Crossing my fingers…..
Our permit was approved and drilling can commence. Now for snag number three. We are third in line for drilling to begin and with the weather being just a tad above freezing it’s most likely going to happen in February. Makes me wonder if they hadn’t missed a signature on our application for permit would we still be waiting until February. Not to mention they have about $18,000 of our dollars with nothing but flags in our yard and our old system working hard to get through these cold days.