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What are you looking for in your new home?

35289396_MWhat are the features you want to see in your next home?

The National Association of Realtors recently surveyed home buyers nationwide on the home features that are most important to them. They found that the typical home buyer currently is looking for a three-bedroom, two-bathroom home with a garage and updated kitchen.

The study also found that home buying needs and preferences vary by age. According to the survey, family needs were the biggest factor in prioritizing home amenities for home buyers under the age of 55. For many families with small children, for example, features such as the number of bedrooms, school quality and yard size can be important considerations. For those 55 years and older, privacy — having a space solely of their own — was the main goal. In that age group, the number of bedrooms and lot size are not as important for many home buyers.

Contemporary and colonial homes were the preference of Millennials, while ranch homes, which typically have a single level and no stairs, are the most popular home style for buyers 55 and older. Lastly, while many home buyers age 55+ are moving from other homes, many Millennials are moving from rentals and purchasing their first homes. In fact, the survey shows that rent increases are driving many Millennials to become homeowners this year.

Can homeownership make you happy?

12656437_MDid you know that numerous studies over many years show a link between owning a home and happiness and overall well-being? For example, a report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau shows that homeowners generally have higher financial well-being than non-homeowners.

In the CFPB’s report, homeowners have an average financial well-being score of 58. That’s higher than both renters (with average of 49) and those who neither rent nor own (average of 50). The U.S. average financial well-being score is 54. You can read the entire report at this link.

Research studies have linked owning a home to a number of positive outcomes. Researchers at the University of Southern California and the University of San Diego, for example, have linked homeownership to a reduced risk of teenage pregnancy and a lower possibility that a child will drop out of school. A study conducted by Ohio State University found that children of parents who own their own homes are more likely to score higher in reading and math and have fewer behavioral problems.

At the very least, buying the right home can a key ingredient in being happy, according to a report by HomeAdvisor. The company’s research in the area has found that homeowner happiness boils down to an affordable and comfortable home in a safe and connected neighborhood and with a reasonable commute. Good things to keep in mind during your next home search.

You’re in a multiple-offer situation. Now what?

38391470 - female realtor giving young couple key from real estateYou found a home your family loves. But you’re not the only one who wants it. What’s the best way to make an offer on a home that other buyers are vying for as well? Here are some ways to put your best foot forward:

Start off with your best offer. This isn’t the time to start with a lowball offer and wait for the seller to make a counteroffer before you offer more. If you have competition, you’ll want to consider making your best offer right off the bat. That said, don’t let a multiple offer situation push you into offering more than you’re comfortable paying.

Make sure you’re pre-approved. Make sure you’re pre-approved for a home loan before you start your home search, not just prequalified. Attach your pre-approval letter to your offer.

Don’t skimp on earnest money. An adequate earnest money deposit is a sign that you’re serious about buying the home.

Don’t waive the home inspection. In multiple offer situations, it’s easy to get caught up in the competition and do whatever it takes to win. To stand out, some buyers will even elect to not make a professional home inspection a contingency of their offer. Home inspections are an important part of the home buying process and can help you spot costly problems.

Relax. There are so many parts of a multiple offer situation you have no control over, so try not to let the stress get to you.

Make your offer stand out this spring

39393958_MReady for the spring home buying season? In today’s strong housing market, multiple offers are the norm in many areas. It’s definitely a seller’s market. Here are some things to keep in mind as you get ready to make an offer on a property:

Think twice about making lowball offers. It’s an enduring myth among home buyers: Many people think the only way to make an offer on a home is by making a lowball offer and work up from there to get the best deal possible. But in reality, lowball offers aren’t as effective as you might think unless the property has languished on the market for a long while. In a hot real estate market, consider making your best offer upfront.

Have your financing lined up before you begin. Make sure you’re preapproved for a home loan before you look at a single property and definitely before making an offer. Many sellers will not accept offers from buyers who haven’t yet lined up financing. When making an offer, ask your real estate agent about making a larger earnest money deposit; doing so could help position yourself as a serious buyer.

Carefully plan contingencies. Offers should almost always be made contingent upon a home inspection. Beyond that, though, sellers in a strong housing market are likely to reject an offer that contains several buyer conditions or contingencies. For example, in a hot seller’s market, you probably aren’t going to have much success making an offer contingent upon the sale of your existing home or a similar demand.

The spring home buying season has arrived

31001061_MThe spring home buying season typically doesn’t shift into high gear until April or May, but if you’re thinking about purchasing a home this year you may want to consider getting started now.

Mortgage rates remain low, and lenders aren’t quite as busy now as they will be later on, especially during the summer months. The first step is getting pre-approved for a home loan. By applying for pre-approval, you’ll know how much house you can afford before you start looking at homes. You’ll also be able to make an offer right away on a home that’s in your price range. Most sellers won’t entertain offers from home buyers who aren’t pre-approved.

By starting your home search now, you’ll also have less competition from other home buyers who plan to wait to start the home buying process until late spring and summer. Many sellers are getting their properties ready for sale right now and plan to put them on the market in the coming weeks.

Home buying activity tends to climb throughout the spring, peaking in June and July. Many people prefer to move during the summer months for a variety of reasons. Many people can more easily take off a week during the summer months to make a move. Families with children in school typically want to have their moves completed by the end of the summer so their children can begin the school year in their new location.

A quick and easy way to change your address

31009982 - woman sealing boxes ready for house movePart of the moving process is changing your address so that all of your bank statements, bills, magazines and other mail goes to your new home. The quickest and easiest way to do that is to hop online and go to the U.S. Postal Service website. You’ll need to verify your identity by using a credit card, and you’ll be charged $1, but the change can be done in minutes, and without leaving home. (You also can go into a post office and make the change without using a credit card.)

After your change of address is processed online, mail sent to your old address will start going to your new home. The USPS mail forwarding service lasts one year for most first-class mail. Magazines are forwarded for 60 days.

Certain classes of mail, however, will not forward to your new address through a change-of-address request. Companies and organizations you’ll need to contact directly to change your address include banks and credit unions, mortgage companies, insurance companies and utility companies. Don’t forget to notify the Internal Revenue Service and the motor vehicle department as well that you’ve moved.

Your tax refund could help you purchase a home

53965504_MAre you getting a tax refund this year? According to the IRS, the average U.S. tax refund is more than $3,000. While big tax refunds make it a popular time of year to purchase big-ticket items such as large-screen television sets, we’d like to remind you of another use for that money: As a downpayment on a home.

If you’ve already saved some money toward a downpayment, your tax refund could help boost your downpayment fund. Haven’t started saving yet? This year’s refund can also help you jump-start a downpayment savings account.

One of the biggest home buying myths today is that you need a lot of money to buy a home. In reality, the median U.S. downpayment in 2017 was 10 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors. There are low- and even no-downpayment home loan programs available. Questions about buying a home? We’re here to answer your questions.

Four steps to a faster home sale

980286_MYou’re ready to move on. Maybe your house is too small, you’re moving because of a job, or you want to be closer to family and friends. According to the National Association of Realtors, those are the three top reasons for selling a home.

Like all home sellers, you want your home to sell fast. Here are four ways to help accomplish that:

Set a realistic price. Many home buyers want to ‘test the market’ by setting a high price on their home. But most buyers won’t even make an offer on a property that’s priced out of line with similar homes in the area. You definitely do not want to leave money on the table. But the strategy of setting a too-high price on a home just to see what happens isn’t a viable strategy. Properties with inflated prices stay on the market longer than average and often sell for less than homes that are fairly priced to start with.

Don’t put up the sign until the house is ready. Even though you’re ready to sell, is your house ready to be shown? Fix the leaky faucet, repaint the dingy dining room and replace the broken front step before you list the house. You’ve lived with these annoyances for years, but these problems can distract a buyer.

Make the house easy to show. Keep your schedule flexible. Although it’s inconvenient to tidy up on a Tuesday night, it’s in your best interests to make it as easy as possible for people who may want to purchase your home.

Leave home. When buyers view your house, you should be anywhere but at home. Prospective buyers will feel uncomfortable looking through a home when you’re present, and they want to be free to discuss the pros and cons of the house without fear of offending the owners.

What does ‘as-is’ mean when buying a home?

41917682_MYou found a home that’s in the right neighborhood and an easy commute to work. The only problem: It’s listed for sale in ‘as-is’ condition. What does that mean? A home that’s being offered for sale in ‘as-is’ condition means that the owner is making no guarantees about the condition of the property and will make no repairs or improvements. It means the price reflects the fact that repairs may be needed.

Being listed in ‘as-is’ condition doesn’t necessarily mean there is something wrong with a home. Most bank-owned properties are listed for sale ‘as is,’ but you also may find an individual seller lists a property this way because they can’t afford or don’t want to make repairs to the property. They just want to sell it.

While ‘as-is’ condition shouldn’t cause you to rule out a property, this is definitely not the time to skip the home inspection. If you decide to make an offer, you should make it contingent upon an inspection. (That’s good advice when buying any type of home.) Also know that you can still negotiate on price with a property being sold ‘as-is’. Just because a seller isn’t willing to make any repairs, doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t lower the selling price to compensate for what you discover during the inspection process.

The cost of waiting to buy a home

48217628_MThinking of waiting another year or two to buy a home? If home prices and mortgage rates increase in the next year or two, home buyers could end up with significantly less buying power than they have today.

Today’s mortgage rates are near historic lows. But they aren’t expected to stay that way. Various housing groups and economists are predicting mortgage rates will rise to between 4.5% and 5% by the end of the year.

The National Association of Realtors also is expecting home prices to increase in 2018 by an average of 3.2 percent nationally, with the highest appreciation predicted in the lower price ranges, which are in high demand. The combination of higher home prices and higher mortgage rates could make for a mortgage payment that’s significantly higher than it would be if the home were purchased now.

There are, of course, many other factors that come into play in the decision to buy a home, such as how long you plan to stay in your home, the stability of your job and how much money you’ve saved up for a down payment. If you’re thinking about purchasing a home, visit us and we’ll help you crunch some numbers.