Mortgage Rates Rebound as Inflation Worries Mount

Mortgage rates have soared back to their highest levels since November as inflation concerns increased long-term bond yields, which normally move in tandem with mortgage rates. So reports MarketWatch.

According to Freddie Mac, the average on the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage was 2.81% for the week ending February 18, up from 2.73% the previous week.

Freddie Mac economist Sam Khater said in a press release, “Economic spending has improved, due to the most recent stimulus, but supply chain shortages are causing downstream inflation, leading to higher mortgage rates.”

Read the full article from MarketWatch.

Source: themortgageleader.com

10 Awesome Real Estate Tips for Home Sellers – Redfin

When you bought your first house, you likely felt excitement with a hint of nervousness and maybe you even had a “What have I gotten myself into?” kind of moment. However, those emotions passed and you settled in and made that house your home. Whether you’ve stayed in this home for a couple of years or a couple of decades, when you decide it’s time to sell, you might experience a very similar emotional roller coaster, especially in today’s housing market. To ease your stress, here are 10 awesome real estate tips that will help you get started and possibly even take some of the emotion out of the ride.

An agent discussing with a couple great real estate tips to consider to help them sell their home.

An agent discussing with a couple great real estate tips to consider to help them sell their home.

Tip #1 Find the perfect listing agent 

Probably the best real estate tip there is: find a dedicated, responsive, and knowledgeable real estate agent – someone you can trust to guide you through every step of selling your home. A good seller’s agent will make informed recommendations about a listing price, advise you on which repairs will help you sell your home, and make recommendations about decluttering, staging, and maximizing your curb appeal.

A good seller’s agent shines the most when it comes time to negotiate an offer. The goal is to make sure you earn top dollar for your house and to sell it quickly. This process starts by honing in on the right listing price. 

  • If your home is priced too high it will likely sit on the market and possibly longer than most homes in your area. This may cause prospective buyers to second-guess its value.
  • If your home is priced too low, you could leave money on the table and diminish the equity you’d bring to the purchase of your next home.

Your ideal selling agent will have well-developed instincts for what the real estate market is doing in your area. Take your time and speak to several agents to find someone you can comfortably work well with and will work hard for your interests. 

Tip #2 Determine the best time to list your home

Reliable real estate wisdom suggests that spring into summer is when most people start hunting for a new house. Buyers will typically research properties online months before touring their first home in person. This way they can understand how much house they can afford in neighborhoods that appeal to them most. 

Usually, the end of March or the beginning of April is considered the start of homebuying season. However, this year’s homebuying season seems to have hit early as nearly half the homes listed mid-January into February went under contract in under two weeks. Meaning we are currently in a seller’s market and you don’t have to wait to fetch top dollar for your home.

Getting a 3D walkthrough scan of your home is a great real estate tip that will help you sell your home.

Getting a 3D walkthrough scan of your home is a great real estate tip that will help you sell your home.

Tip #3 Professional photography and 3D walkthroughs are key

Many real estate agents now offer 3D tours of their listings. Virtual walkthroughs are a massive advantage for both buyers and sellers. Buyers can “shop” any time of the day or night, and sellers can “show” their house 24/7. It also cuts down on showings to only the serious buyers. If a buyer is genuinely interested, they will view the virtual walkthrough (probably several times) and then request a showing. 

Professional photography is another great option to show your home in its best light.. Homes listed with high-quality, professional images are known to sell quicker and for more money. A professional real estate photographer will capture each room at the best angle, and highlight its best features. You can also request photos shot at dusk with both interior and exterior lights shining. It’s all about painting those special pictures in your buyer’s mind. 

If you’re selling a luxury listing with a view or large plot of land, consider drone photography to fully capture everything your property has to offer.

Tip #4 Handle the repairs from a pre-listing home inspection

It might be tempting to put off small repairs and let the next owner handle them. Unfortunately, if you list a house with evident and necessary repairs, prospective buyers will also scrutinize your property more closely for larger deferred maintenance issues. If you want to be proactive, one of the best real estate tips for selling your home is setting up a pre-listing home inspection

When you choose to fix everything the inspector finds before you list your house, you gain valuable peace of mind during the closing process. Your buyer will most likely want their own inspection as part of the sales contract, but when that inspector finds everything is in perfect order, your buyer will have confidence in the sale.

Tip #5 Boost your curb appeal

It may feel counterintuitive to work on the outside of your home as you get ready to sell. But when you keep up with lawn maintenance, pull weeds, fix the fence, power-wash the siding, and clean up the cobwebs, your property will stand out and really “wow” prospective buyers. 

Think back to the last time you drove around looking at houses for sale. If the house looked like it was in rough shape on the outside, most of the time, you probably didn’t bother to request a showing. Good curb appeal will draw buyers into your home. They will start to envision themselves playing basketball, grilling in the backyard, or relaxing on the porch. You want to help buyers fall in love with your house and curb appeal will help you do that. 

Tip #6 Declutter… and then declutter some more 

It’s no secret, we all accumulate stuff. However, you want potential buyers to be looking at your home, not your belongings. So another great real estate tip is to have your home appear move-in ready so homebuyers can see themselves – and their things – in your space. To do this, you’ll need to be relentless about removing as many personal items as possible and commit to a minimalist lifestyle, at least until you go under contract on your house. 

Of course, you have items you use daily and weekly. Keep those accessible but out of sight if you can. Remove anything seasonal, like decorations, extra blankets, or anything you won’t use for months. Renting a storage unit or on-site storage container could be helpful and allow you to eliminate extra furniture and other items from your home until you move into your new space. It’s all about perception. A house with minimal furniture, unstuffed closets, tasteful artwork, and a general lack of surface clutter will look clean, spacious, and appealing. 

Staging your home is a great real estate tip to consider when selling your home.

Staging your home is a great real estate tip to consider when selling your home.

Tip #7 Stage your home

One of the most important real estate tips is staging your home. Key staging tactics involve placing furniture and throw pillows invitingly. You can also set a dining room or kitchen table. And placing a vase or two of fresh flowers around the home is a nice touch. The purpose of staging is to show buyers the home’s potential. You want all the main rooms – kitchen, dining room, living room, bathrooms, and master bedroom – to create the feeling that they are already home. 

Tip #8 Always be ready for a showing

When you list your home, you could get calls from agents within hours regarding potential buyers who want to see your home. It’s easier to handle those calls if you do your best to keep your home “show ready.”Of course, that involves keeping the home clean at a minimum. Before you list the house, do a good deep cleaning in every room. 

Be sure to give extra attention to air vents and ductwork by cleaning out the dust and any debris stuck in the vent. Dust all remaining furniture and artwork. Wash the windows and glass doors so they sparkle, and run the vacuum to help refresh the carpets.

Finally, use an odor remover to eliminate any pet odors or lingering smells from last night’s dinner. You can make an incredibly positive impression if the only scent a buyer remembers is the smell of fresh-baked cookies or fresh flowers. 

Tip #9 Accommodate requests for last-minute showings

Unfortunately, buyers are not always available to see the home when it’s most convenient for you. Here’s a list so you can easily clean up and be out of the house in 20 minutes. 

  • Place any dishes in the dishwasher.
  • Wipe down the bathroom and kitchen countertops.
  • Wipe down the toilet seats.
  • Grab a bin and place any loose toys or books inside.
  • Toss any stray clothing in the laundry hamper.
  • Close all the closet doors.
  • If you have paperwork or other clutter on the countertop, tuck it out of sight in a drawer, or worst case, make an organized pile. Organized is better than scattered. 
  • Make the beds.
  • Sweep the floors. 
  • Take out the garbage as you leave and bring your pets with you.

And real estate tip #10 Respond to offers in a timely manner

Be respectful of all reasonable offers. You know what price you’ll accept and on what terms, including what you’d be willing to negotiate on if asked. Most contracts expect a response within 48 hours, but why wait? Respond with a counteroffer or acceptance as soon as a good offer comes in. 

Selling your first house is not easy. But with these 10 real estate tips, moving on to the next chapter in your life can be just as exciting.

Source: redfin.com

66 Questions to Ask When Buying a House

As a first-time homebuyer, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed even before you begin your homebuying journey. After all, this is a new process for you and, simply put, you don’t know what you don’t know. First off, there are no silly questions you can ask during any stage of the homebuying process. So always feel free to ask a question, no matter how trivial you think it might be. You owe it to yourself – and your family – to find out everything you can about a home, especially since it will most likely be the largest investment you’ll ever make. To help you get started, we’ve created a list of 66 questions to ask when buying a house, broken down into each stage of the homebuying process to help keep you informed.

11 questions to ask before you go house hunting

As you well know, buying a house is a significant investment. Before you start house hunting, think through your goals for homeownership. Why do you want to buy a house? 

  1. Do you want to earn equity and build wealth by owning a house? 
  2. Do you expect you might need more space for a future family? 
  3. Do you have a pet or see one in your future and you want a backyard? 
  4. Do you want to live in a quiet, established area or somewhere more lively? 
  5. Do you enjoy yard work, gardening? How much backyard space do you require?
  6. Have you considered the local schools and neighborhoods? 
  7. Have you looked at crime rates around the neighborhoods you’re interested in? 
  8. Is it essential for you to live close to your work? Or, is a commute ok? 
  9. Have you narrowed down a range of purchase prices you can afford?
  10. How much money do you need for a downpayment? 
  11. Are you pre-approved for a mortgage

When you’re wrapped up in the excitement of house hunting, you may forget which questions to ask when buying a house.. If you are a pet owner looking at condos, you’ll have to be sure the homeowners’ association allows pets. Or, let’s say you want to live in a popular downtown neighborhood, but plan to have children in a few years – will this neighborhood still suit your needs? It’s always worth giving some thought to the type of home and area to help focus your search. 

Also, be aware that being approved for a home loan saves time for everyone by ensuring that you, as the buyer, can actually afford the home and be able to follow through an offer. 

7 questions to ask when you interview agents

Contacting the agent listed on the for-sale sign of a house you’re interested in may not be the best way to protect your interest as a buyer. When you work with your own agent, that agent’s job is to represent your interests. They help research the house, find answers to all of your questions, and serve as your professional intermediary for communicating with the seller’s agent and homeowner.

Naturally, you will want to choose a great real estate agent that you are comfortable with and feel like they have your best interests in mind. Most real estate experts recommend that you interview at least three agents identified by recommendations from friends and family who have bought or sold a house recently. Here are some questions to ask potential agents to see if they are the right agent for you.

  1. How long have you been a real estate agent? 
  2. What kind of experience do you have in this specific market area?
  3. Do you usually work with buyers or sellers? 
  4. How do you usually communicate with clients? What should I expect for response time? 
  5. How will you help me search for homes? 
  6. What days and times are you typically available for showings? 
  7. How will you ensure transparency about any issues you see with a house? 

When you set your expectations for communication, home tours, and other information you count on your agent to provide, you have a good chance to establish a productive relationship from the start – which will help you through your homebuying journey.

stylish living room

stylish living room

37 questions to ask when touring homes

This is an extensive list, and not every question applies to every situation. For example, if your goal is to purchase a single-family home, questions relating to condominiums don’t apply. However, this list of questions to ask when touring a house should give you an excellent start in making well-informed decisions when buying your first home. 

  1. What’s the reason for the sale? How long have the sellers lived there?
  2. How long has the house been on the market? 
  3. What is the neighborhood like?
  4. When was the house built? 
  5. What are the property taxes?
  6. Are there any upcoming condo or homeowners association fees?
  7. What are the average utility costs? 
  8. Have there been any major repairs to the property? If so, do you know if they provided a warranty?
  9. Are there any boundary disputes with neighbors?
  10. Are there any shared driveways or communal spaces?
  11. Are there any public rights of way passing through – or near – the property? 
  12. How old are the major appliances and systems?
  13. Are the appliances included in the sale?
  14. What is the sales history of this house, and how would it affect my offer?
  15. Is there enough storage space? Room to grow? 
  16. Is there any evidence of water problems? Can you see damp drywall, basement floors, or open leaks? Can you smell mildew? Or is there a smell of fresh paint that might be intended to cover up a water issue?
  17. Are the walls structurally sound? Look for cracks and look for evidence of cracks covered over by wallpaper that doesn’t look right or paint applied over filler.
  18. Is the chimney in good condition?
  19. Are the windows sound? Will any of the glazing need to be replaced?
  20. Do the ground floor windows have working latches to lock the windows? 
  21. Is the attic insulated? If so, when was the insulation installed?
  22. Is there any soundproofing in the house? (Try viewing the home at different times to hear road noise or neighbors.)
  23. Are there working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms?
  24. Is there adequate cell phone reception indoors? How’s the broadband service in the area?
  25. What type of system is used to heat and cool the house? 
  26. Ask to see the circuit box – does the wiring look up to date?
  27. How is the condition of electrical outlets and switches? (You can bring something to plug into try outlets.) 
  28. Do all of the lights work? If not, why not?
  29. Does the property have any lead pipes? Do you see any issues with pipes in need of repair?
  30. What kind of drainage system does the property have? Is it on the city sewer, or is there a septic tank? 
  31. Is there any asbestos in the property, or has there ever been an asbestos survey completed?
  32. What kind of roof does the property have? When was it last replaced, and what is its current condition? 
  33. Do you see any gutter leaks? Are the gutters cleaned out, or do they need work? 
  34. Are there any trees growing within 15 feet of the property? Can you discern if roots are likely to be a problem? 
  35. Which way does the yard face, and is there any part of the yard that doesn’t receive sunlight throughout the day? 
  36. Would the real estate agent buy this house? If not, why not?
  37. What’s the lowest price you think we could offer for this house and still close the transaction?

You can ask these questions when buying a house – and others as applicable – to understand your likely overall costs to own this home. When you understand all of your costs, you’ll confidently be able to make an offer you can afford

open concept new kitchen

open concept new kitchen

11 questions to ask when making an offer and closing on a home

Real estate agents make offers on homes every day. Their job is to help you make the best offer while protecting you against potential risks with the transaction. 

  1. How does the offer work? Do we communicate with the seller or seller’s agent? 
  2. What contingencies do you recommend including in the offer? 
  3. How much earnest money should we put in the offer? 
  4. When do we need to provide earnest money? 
  5. When should we expect to hear back from the seller? 
  6. If we receive a counter-offer, when do we need to reply? 
  7. How can we sign the paperwork? Digital? In-person? 
  8. If the offer is accepted, what are the next steps? 
  9. How far out is the potential closing date from an accepted offer? 
  10. What are our next steps once the offer is accepted?
  11. What do we do at closing? 

Your real estate agent wants to make the home buying transaction as smooth as possible. If they do not provide this information upfront, be sure to ask. 

You should prepare a list of your own questions to ask when buying a house. It can include any given here, or others that represent your own interests and concerns. Answers to these questions will ease your mind and help you understand what you can expect during each stage of the homebuying process. Completing your research is perfectly acceptable, but don’t skip asking questions of your mortgage broker, real estate agent, and title company. When you gather enough information, you can make the best decision buying your first home. 

Source: redfin.com

Zillow Turns Price Estimates Into Cash Offers

Fix-and-flip investors have a deep-pocketed new rival: Zillow Group, which has begun taking its hotly discussed “Zestimates” and making them into cash offers. So reports Bloomberg.

Zillow now allows owners of more 500,000 properties across 20 U.S. markets in the U.S. to sell to the company for the value estimated on the site.

Like competitor Opendoor Technologies, Zillow is making a volume play with small margins, as well as hoping to cross-sell mortgages, title insurance and other products.

Read the full article from Bloomberg.

Source: themortgageleader.com

8 Ways to Use Synthetic Turf to Beautify your Yard

Choosing between installing artificial grass, also known as synthetic turf, and natural grass can be a difficult decision for some homeowners. While you may be drawn to natural grass for its feel and organic look, there are a number of benefits to choosing synthetic turf that may make you think twice. If you are too busy to upkeep your lawn, turf provides less maintenance and a longer lifespan compared to traditional grass. It’s also typically created from recycled materials, comes in a variety of textures and colors, and even has the potential to increase your home value.

In some locations, it might even make sense to install artificial grass over natural grass. For example, if you live in a city that has a hot and dry climate such as Las Vegas, NV or Austin, TX, having turf can prevent your lawn from wilting and dying due to the amount of sun those cities get annually. However, if you’re set on using natural grass for your lawn, there are still many creative and aesthetically pleasing ways to incorporate artificial grass into your lawn. Take a look at these 8 ideas on how you can work with an artificial grass company to beautify your yard.

1. Install a synthetic turf golf green 

Your short game is just as important as your long, so installing an artificial grass putting green is the perfect way to get some practice without leaving your home. Golf greens are easy to install and can be customizable. Typically, they are around 1,000-1,500 square feet. For best results, source out an area that is flat, has minimal bumps and extrusions, and gets just the right amount of sunlight. A local turf company can then help excavate, cut, and install the artificial grass and holes. Finished with the proper landscaping, golf greens can serve as a stunning backyard feature that is both aesthetic and fun for the whole family.

2. Build a dog area for play and potty time

If you own a dog and live in a small place like an apartment, having a synthetic turf potty pad for your dog can be a great solution. Typically, they are built with short bristles for cleaning and a drainage system to catch urine. Turf doggy mats are versatile in size and can fit on a sunroom, patio, terrace, or balcony. They are especially great for training puppies or older dogs with bad bladder control. When not in use, synthetic turf potty pads blend in to look like a patch of grass. Not to mention, it saves your real grass from developing brown spots.

If you have the outdoor space, you can use turf to create a play area for your pet. Pet-friendly synthetic turf is a great option if you are trying to keep your dog away from natural grass chemicals. Installing artificial grass for pets also helps prevent fleas and ticks, worrying about patches and brown spots, and digging unwanted holes. Give your dog the ability to roll around in the grass without the worry of getting sick.

3. Use synthetic turf walls and dividers for privacy 

Fences can be an eyesore. However, they are critical for privacy and to keep intruders out. Installing artificial grass fences or hedges is a great way to maintain privacy, while also elevating the look of your backyard by adding greenery. If you are looking for flexibility, some individual paneled artificial grass fences come on rollers that can be used to section certain parts of your yard if you are hosting a garden party or small get together.

4. Make an entertainment area for backyard hangouts 

Do you love to have people over for bonfires, casual wine nights, or backyard parties? Maybe you want to kick your feet up by the fire while you sip on a glass of wine. If you are worried about your feet suffering from uncomfortable surfaces, installing artificial grass around your bonfire pits and patio is a comfortable and stylish solution. Section off a small area, place patio furniture on top, and enjoy a relaxing hangout area on the turf.

5. Create an elegant driveway

For a touch of added elegance, use synthetic turf in between your driveway to bring in patterns and color to the exterior of your home. Real grass can become compact due to the weight of a car. Installing artificial grass between flagstones or concrete can make your driveway pop and always looks fresh.

6. Cover your outdoor furniture with synthetic turf

If you’re tired of boring patio furniture, a fun and unique way to include synthetic turf in your backyard is by purchasing turf-covered furniture. These pieces are designed for outdoor living, are low maintenance, and can be left outside year-round. They are a great way to blend nature with your home and can be designed to look good under a deck, gazebo, fire pit, or play area.

7. Design a multipurpose sports field

For the athlete looking for a way to get some practice in, installing an artificial grass sports field in a larger backyard can get you the training you need without having to go to the local park. Multipurpose sports fields can be used for soccer, lacrosse, or even spikeball whether you want to increase your skills or just get a friendly game in. 

8. Construct a playground 

When constructing your playground, safety will likely be top of mind. In that case, you’ll want to choose a surface that has some cushion to it and is free of chemicals. Synthetic turf is a great alternative to wood chips or gravel, as it has a soft texture and natural aesthetic feel. You can even include a shock pad underneath turf to reduce fall injuries. 

*Before attempting these projects, consult with a turf professional.

Source: redfin.com

10 Awesome Real Estate Tips for Home Sellers

When you bought your first house, you likely felt excitement with a hint of nervousness and maybe you even had a “What have I gotten myself into?” kind of moment. However, those emotions passed and you settled in and made that house your home. Whether you’ve stayed in this home for a couple of years or a couple of decades, when you decide it’s time to sell, you might experience a very similar emotional roller coaster, especially in today’s housing market. To ease your stress, here are 10 awesome real estate tips that will help you get started and possibly even take some of the emotion out of the ride.

An agent discussing with a couple great real estate tips to consider to help them sell their home.

An agent discussing with a couple great real estate tips to consider to help them sell their home.

Tip #1 Find the perfect listing agent 

Probably the best real estate tip there is: find a dedicated, responsive, and knowledgeable real estate agent – someone you can trust to guide you through every step of selling your home. A good seller’s agent will make informed recommendations about a listing price, advise you on which repairs will help you sell your home, and make recommendations about decluttering, staging, and maximizing your curb appeal.

A good seller’s agent shines the most when it comes time to negotiate an offer. The goal is to make sure you earn top dollar for your house and to sell it quickly. This process starts by honing in on the right listing price. 

  • If your home is priced too high it will likely sit on the market and possibly longer than most homes in your area. This may cause prospective buyers to second-guess its value.
  • If your home is priced too low, you could leave money on the table and diminish the equity you’d bring to the purchase of your next home.

Your ideal selling agent will have well-developed instincts for what the real estate market is doing in your area. Take your time and speak to several agents to find someone you can comfortably work well with and will work hard for your interests. 

Tip #2 Determine the best time to list your home

Reliable real estate wisdom suggests that spring into summer is when most people start hunting for a new house. Buyers will typically research properties online months before touring their first home in person. This way they can understand how much house they can afford in neighborhoods that appeal to them most. 

Usually, the end of March or the beginning of April is considered the start of homebuying season. However, this year’s homebuying season seems to have hit early as nearly half the homes listed mid-January into February went under contract in under two weeks. Meaning we are currently in a seller’s market and you don’t have to wait to fetch top dollar for your home.

Getting a 3D walkthrough scan of your home is a great real estate tip that will help you sell your home.

Getting a 3D walkthrough scan of your home is a great real estate tip that will help you sell your home.

Tip #3 Professional photography and 3D walkthroughs are key

Many real estate agents now offer 3D tours of their listings. Virtual walkthroughs are a massive advantage for both buyers and sellers. Buyers can “shop” any time of the day or night, and sellers can “show” their house 24/7. It also cuts down on showings to only the serious buyers. If a buyer is genuinely interested, they will view the virtual walkthrough (probably several times) and then request a showing. 

Professional photography is another great option to show your home in its best light.. Homes listed with high-quality, professional images are known to sell quicker and for more money. A professional real estate photographer will capture each room at the best angle, and highlight its best features. You can also request photos shot at dusk with both interior and exterior lights shining. It’s all about painting those special pictures in your buyer’s mind. 

If you’re selling a luxury listing with a view or large plot of land, consider drone photography to fully capture everything your property has to offer.

Tip #4 Handle the repairs from a pre-listing home inspection

It might be tempting to put off small repairs and let the next owner handle them. Unfortunately, if you list a house with evident and necessary repairs, prospective buyers will also scrutinize your property more closely for larger deferred maintenance issues. If you want to be proactive, one of the best real estate tips for selling your home is setting up a pre-listing home inspection

When you choose to fix everything the inspector finds before you list your house, you gain valuable peace of mind during the closing process. Your buyer will most likely want their own inspection as part of the sales contract, but when that inspector finds everything is in perfect order, your buyer will have confidence in the sale.

Tip #5 Boost your curb appeal

It may feel counterintuitive to work on the outside of your home as you get ready to sell. But when you keep up with lawn maintenance, pull weeds, fix the fence, power-wash the siding, and clean up the cobwebs, your property will stand out and really “wow” prospective buyers. 

Think back to the last time you drove around looking at houses for sale. If the house looked like it was in rough shape on the outside, most of the time, you probably didn’t bother to request a showing. Good curb appeal will draw buyers into your home. They will start to envision themselves playing basketball, grilling in the backyard, or relaxing on the porch. You want to help buyers fall in love with your house and curb appeal will help you do that. 

Tip #6 Declutter… and then declutter some more 

It’s no secret, we all accumulate stuff. However, you want potential buyers to be looking at your home, not your belongings. So another great real estate tip is to have your home appear move-in ready so homebuyers can see themselves – and their things – in your space. To do this, you’ll need to be relentless about removing as many personal items as possible and commit to a minimalist lifestyle, at least until you go under contract on your house. 

Of course, you have items you use daily and weekly. Keep those accessible but out of sight if you can. Remove anything seasonal, like decorations, extra blankets, or anything you won’t use for months. Renting a storage unit or on-site storage container could be helpful and allow you to eliminate extra furniture and other items from your home until you move into your new space. It’s all about perception. A house with minimal furniture, unstuffed closets, tasteful artwork, and a general lack of surface clutter will look clean, spacious, and appealing. 

Staging your home is a great real estate tip to consider when selling your home.

Staging your home is a great real estate tip to consider when selling your home.

Tip #7 Stage your home

One of the most important real estate tips is staging your home. Key staging tactics involve placing furniture and throw pillows invitingly. You can also set a dining room or kitchen table. And placing a vase or two of fresh flowers around the home is a nice touch. The purpose of staging is to show buyers the home’s potential. You want all the main rooms – kitchen, dining room, living room, bathrooms, and master bedroom – to create the feeling that they are already home. 

Tip #8 Always be ready for a showing

When you list your home, you could get calls from agents within hours regarding potential buyers who want to see your home. It’s easier to handle those calls if you do your best to keep your home “show ready.”Of course, that involves keeping the home clean at a minimum. Before you list the house, do a good deep cleaning in every room. 

Be sure to give extra attention to air vents and ductwork by cleaning out the dust and any debris stuck in the vent. Dust all remaining furniture and artwork. Wash the windows and glass doors so they sparkle, and run the vacuum to help refresh the carpets.

Finally, use an odor remover to eliminate any pet odors or lingering smells from last night’s dinner. You can make an incredibly positive impression if the only scent a buyer remembers is the smell of fresh-baked cookies or fresh flowers. 

Tip #9 Accommodate requests for last-minute showings

Unfortunately, buyers are not always available to see the home when it’s most convenient for you. Here’s a list so you can easily clean up and be out of the house in 20 minutes. 

  • Place any dishes in the dishwasher.
  • Wipe down the bathroom and kitchen countertops.
  • Wipe down the toilet seats.
  • Grab a bin and place any loose toys or books inside.
  • Toss any stray clothing in the laundry hamper.
  • Close all the closet doors.
  • If you have paperwork or other clutter on the countertop, tuck it out of sight in a drawer, or worst case, make an organized pile. Organized is better than scattered. 
  • Make the beds.
  • Sweep the floors. 
  • Take out the garbage as you leave and bring your pets with you.

And real estate tip #10 Respond to offers in a timely manner

Be respectful of all reasonable offers. You know what price you’ll accept and on what terms, including what you’d be willing to negotiate on if asked. Most contracts expect a response within 48 hours, but why wait? Respond with a counteroffer or acceptance as soon as a good offer comes in. 

Selling your first house is not easy. But with these 10 real estate tips, moving on to the next chapter in your life can be just as exciting.

Source: redfin.com

Hazy Economic Outlook Leaves Mortgage Rates Adrift

Mortgage rates have held steady after a week when the spread of new COVID-19 variants and debate over federal pandemic relief efforts clouded the near-term economic picture. So reports Moneywise.

According to Freddie Mac, the average for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage was unchanged for the week ending February 4 at 2.73%. The average for a 15-year fixed rate loan edged higher by one basis point to 2.21%.

Zillow economist Matthew Speakman noted that “economic data and pandemic-related developments paint a conflicting picture of the economy’s path forward.”

Read the full article from Moneywise. 

Source: themortgageleader.com

A Guide to Property Taxes in 2021: States With the Highest (and Lowest) Rates

With tax season upon us, it seems like a good time to check what homeowners pay in property taxes—and a new survey confirms that where you live makes a huge difference in how much you’ll have to cough up.

According to researchers at WalletHub, which analyzed tax data on all 50 states and the District of Columbia, the average American household pays $2,471 on real estate property taxes. But that can vary widely. And just in case you thought the country wasn’t polarized enough already, political leanings can often be an indicator of state tax rates: “Blue states” (defined by WalletHub as how they voted in the 2020 presidential election) generally pay higher property taxes than “red states.”

As for the state with the highest property tax rate, that’s New Jersey, where residents pay a rate of 2.49%, which means that people living in a median-priced home in the area ($335,600) will pay Uncle Sam $8,362 in property tax per year.

In fact, the five states with the highest tax rates are all east of the Mississippi.

Meanwhile, people in Hawaii are blessed with the lowest real estate tax rate of 0.28%. So even though a median-priced home in the area is expensive ($615,300), homeowners end up paying only $1,715 in taxes per year. In Alabama, the state with the second-lowest tax rate (0.41%) as well as bargain-basement median home prices ($142,700), you’ll pay even lower property taxes of just $587 per year.

Curious how your state stacks up? Below are the top 10 states with the highest—and lowest—property taxes:

States with the highest property taxes

  1. New Jersey: $8,362 (2.49%)
  2. Illinois: $4,419 (2.27%)
  3. New Hampshire: $5,701 ( 2.18%)
  4. Connecticut: $5,898 (2.14%)
  5. Vermont: $4,329 (1.90%)
  6. Wisconsin: $3,344 (1.85%)
  7. Texas: $3,099 (1.80%)
  8. Nebraska: $2,689 (1.73%)
  9. New York: $5,407 (1.72%)
  10. Rhode Island: $4,272 (1.63%)

States with the lowest property taxes

  1. Hawaii: $1,715 (0.28%)
  2. Alabama: $587 (0.41%)
  3. Colorado: $1,756 (0.51%)
  4. Louisiana: $890 (0.55%)
  5. District of Columbia: $3,378 (0.56%)
  6. South Carolina: $924 (0.57%)
  7. Delaware: $1,431 (0.57%)
  8. West Virginia: $698 (0.58%)
  9. Nevada: $1,614 (0.60%)
  10. Wyoming: $1,337 (0.61%)

Why are my property taxes so high—or low?

While property taxes may be high in some states, lower home prices may offset this tax burden. For example, Illinois—which has the second-highest tax rate, at 2.27%—has a low median home price of only $194,500, resulting in annual property taxes hovering around $4,419. That’s less than you’d pay in other states with lower tax rates (like New Hampshire and Connecticut).

So what can you do if you live in a state with high tax rates and high home prices?

“Unfortunately, living in the Northeast has become a very expensive proposition if you want to own properties,” says Ralph DiBugnara, president of Home Qualified and senior vice president at Cardinal Financial. “But homeowners should be aware of what they can write off when it comes to homeownership, especially in these high-tax areas.”

In other words, in high-tax-rate states with pricy properties, the good news is that you are allowed to write off (or deduct) up to $10,000 of your property taxes. Just remember that this may not cover all of your property taxes; it depends on how much your home is worth.

“If your home is worth $500,000 or below, you should be able to write off all of your property taxes,” says DiBugnara. “But if your home value is above $500,000 and in a state with tax rates around 2%, most of the time this is not enough of a write-off to cover all of your property taxes.”

This problem is typical in Northeast states. Still, any write-off is better than none, right?

To help with your overall tax bill, you can also write off mortgage interest as a tax deduction for a balance of up to $750,000. And if you buy or sell a home in a tax year, in most cases you will be able to write off transfer taxes—local or state taxes charged in any real estate transaction.

Green energy sources for homes that are powered by solar are also tax-deductible. You also have the right to appeal the amount of your property taxes if you think the assessed value of your home is too high.

Also weigh what your property taxes go toward when deciding where you want to live.

“People should definitely consider property taxes when they move, alongside information about the local services that those property taxes pay for,” says Stephanie Leiser, lecturer in public policy at the Ford School at the University of Michigan. “They should consider the ‘value for the dollar’ they would get from paying property taxes.”

For example, in some communities, services like trash pickup will be covered by property taxes, while in others, there will be a separate fee.

“It’s also important to keep the overall tax picture in mind when deciding where to move,” adds Leiser. “Low property taxes may sound great, but they may be offset by higher local sales taxes or other taxes and fees.”

Source: realtor.com

66 Questions to Ask When Buying a House – Redfin

As a first-time homebuyer, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed even before you begin your homebuying journey. After all, this is a new process for you and, simply put, you don’t know what you don’t know. First off, there are no silly questions you can ask during any stage of the homebuying process. So always feel free to ask a question, no matter how trivial you think it might be. You owe it to yourself – and your family – to find out everything you can about a home, especially since it will most likely be the largest investment you’ll ever make. To help you get started, we’ve created a list of 66 questions to ask when buying a house, broken down into each stage of the homebuying process to help keep you informed.

11 questions to ask before you go house hunting

As you well know, buying a house is a significant investment. Before you start house hunting, think through your goals for homeownership. Why do you want to buy a house? 

  1. Do you want to earn equity and build wealth by owning a house? 
  2. Do you expect you might need more space for a future family? 
  3. Do you have a pet or see one in your future and you want a backyard? 
  4. Do you want to live in a quiet, established area or somewhere more lively? 
  5. Do you enjoy yard work, gardening? How much backyard space do you require?
  6. Have you considered the local schools and neighborhoods? 
  7. Have you looked at crime rates around the neighborhoods you’re interested in? 
  8. Is it essential for you to live close to your work? Or, is a commute ok? 
  9. Have you narrowed down a range of purchase prices you can afford?
  10. How much money do you need for a downpayment? 
  11. Are you pre-approved for a mortgage

When you’re wrapped up in the excitement of house hunting, you may forget which questions to ask when buying a house.. If you are a pet owner looking at condos, you’ll have to be sure the homeowners’ association allows pets. Or, let’s say you want to live in a popular downtown neighborhood, but plan to have children in a few years – will this neighborhood still suit your needs? It’s always worth giving some thought to the type of home and area to help focus your search. 

Also, be aware that being approved for a home loan saves time for everyone by ensuring that you, as the buyer, can actually afford the home and be able to follow through an offer. 

7 questions to ask when you interview agents

Contacting the agent listed on the for-sale sign of a house you’re interested in may not be the best way to protect your interest as a buyer. When you work with your own agent, that agent’s job is to represent your interests. They help research the house, find answers to all of your questions, and serve as your professional intermediary for communicating with the seller’s agent and homeowner.

Naturally, you will want to choose a great real estate agent that you are comfortable with and feel like they have your best interests in mind. Most real estate experts recommend that you interview at least three agents identified by recommendations from friends and family who have bought or sold a house recently. Here are some questions to ask potential agents to see if they are the right agent for you.

  1. How long have you been a real estate agent? 
  2. What kind of experience do you have in this specific market area?
  3. Do you usually work with buyers or sellers? 
  4. How do you usually communicate with clients? What should I expect for response time? 
  5. How will you help me search for homes? 
  6. What days and times are you typically available for showings? 
  7. How will you ensure transparency about any issues you see with a house? 

When you set your expectations for communication, home tours, and other information you count on your agent to provide, you have a good chance to establish a productive relationship from the start – which will help you through your homebuying journey.

stylish living room

stylish living room

37 questions to ask when touring homes

This is an extensive list, and not every question applies to every situation. For example, if your goal is to purchase a single-family home, questions relating to condominiums don’t apply. However, this list of questions to ask when touring a house should give you an excellent start in making well-informed decisions when buying your first home. 

  1. What’s the reason for the sale? How long have the sellers lived there?
  2. How long has the house been on the market? 
  3. What is the neighborhood like?
  4. When was the house built? 
  5. What are the property taxes?
  6. Are there any upcoming condo or homeowners association fees?
  7. What are the average utility costs? 
  8. Have there been any major repairs to the property? If so, do you know if they provided a warranty?
  9. Are there any boundary disputes with neighbors?
  10. Are there any shared driveways or communal spaces?
  11. Are there any public rights of way passing through – or near – the property? 
  12. How old are the major appliances and systems?
  13. Are the appliances included in the sale?
  14. What is the sales history of this house, and how would it affect my offer?
  15. Is there enough storage space? Room to grow? 
  16. Is there any evidence of water problems? Can you see damp drywall, basement floors, or open leaks? Can you smell mildew? Or is there a smell of fresh paint that might be intended to cover up a water issue?
  17. Are the walls structurally sound? Look for cracks and look for evidence of cracks covered over by wallpaper that doesn’t look right or paint applied over filler.
  18. Is the chimney in good condition?
  19. Are the windows sound? Will any of the glazing need to be replaced?
  20. Do the ground floor windows have working latches to lock the windows? 
  21. Is the attic insulated? If so, when was the insulation installed?
  22. Is there any soundproofing in the house? (Try viewing the home at different times to hear road noise or neighbors.)
  23. Are there working smoke alarms and carbon monoxide alarms?
  24. Is there adequate cell phone reception indoors? How’s the broadband service in the area?
  25. What type of system is used to heat and cool the house? 
  26. Ask to see the circuit box – does the wiring look up to date?
  27. How is the condition of electrical outlets and switches? (You can bring something to plug into try outlets.) 
  28. Do all of the lights work? If not, why not?
  29. Does the property have any lead pipes? Do you see any issues with pipes in need of repair?
  30. What kind of drainage system does the property have? Is it on the city sewer, or is there a septic tank? 
  31. Is there any asbestos in the property, or has there ever been an asbestos survey completed?
  32. What kind of roof does the property have? When was it last replaced, and what is its current condition? 
  33. Do you see any gutter leaks? Are the gutters cleaned out, or do they need work? 
  34. Are there any trees growing within 15 feet of the property? Can you discern if roots are likely to be a problem? 
  35. Which way does the yard face, and is there any part of the yard that doesn’t receive sunlight throughout the day? 
  36. Would the real estate agent buy this house? If not, why not?
  37. What’s the lowest price you think we could offer for this house and still close the transaction?

You can ask these questions when buying a house – and others as applicable – to understand your likely overall costs to own this home. When you understand all of your costs, you’ll confidently be able to make an offer you can afford

open concept new kitchen

open concept new kitchen

11 questions to ask when making an offer and closing on a home

Real estate agents make offers on homes every day. Their job is to help you make the best offer while protecting you against potential risks with the transaction. 

  1. How does the offer work? Do we communicate with the seller or seller’s agent? 
  2. What contingencies do you recommend including in the offer? 
  3. How much earnest money should we put in the offer? 
  4. When do we need to provide earnest money? 
  5. When should we expect to hear back from the seller? 
  6. If we receive a counter-offer, when do we need to reply? 
  7. How can we sign the paperwork? Digital? In-person? 
  8. If the offer is accepted, what are the next steps? 
  9. How far out is the potential closing date from an accepted offer? 
  10. What are our next steps once the offer is accepted?
  11. What do we do at closing? 

Your real estate agent wants to make the home buying transaction as smooth as possible. If they do not provide this information upfront, be sure to ask. 

You should prepare a list of your own questions to ask when buying a house. It can include any given here, or others that represent your own interests and concerns. Answers to these questions will ease your mind and help you understand what you can expect during each stage of the homebuying process. Completing your research is perfectly acceptable, but don’t skip asking questions of your mortgage broker, real estate agent, and title company. When you gather enough information, you can make the best decision buying your first home. 

Source: redfin.com

A Mentee’s Educational and Marketing Plans

The purpose of a mentorship program is to facilitate field training for new hires that are not experienced so that they will receive the support they need to transition into productive members of the sales force. A mentee will need to participate in a field training program.

Dave Hershman

This program will contain two personalized components:

  • The development of an individual marketing plan.
  • An individual education plan.

The educational plan will be individualized for each mentee and might include the following (some of these may be covered in an orientation):

  1. LOS training delivered by the mortgage company or the LOS organization.
  2. Training on investors/programs of the company and secondary procedures.
  3. Advanced knowledge beyond the training class – secondary, self-employed, advanced qualification, comparing loans, managing a pipeline and more.
  4. Outside courses, such as underwriting, real estate licensing, valuation and other topics.

The Marketing Plan is one of the most important components of a mentorship program for those joining a company that does not provide leads. In the case of a company that provides leads, more emphasis would be placed within the area of sales training, especially with regard to converting leads. But, for the vast majority of companies, a professional marketing plan is needed for every sales person.

  • Formulation of short-term and long-term goals. These goals would include training and improvement, activities and actual production. The goals must be very specific. For example, increasing calls or production is not a specific goal statement.
  • Identification of targets, the solicitation of whom will help us meet our goals.
  • Selection of tools which will help us reach and deliver value to our targets.
  • Choosing actions that will utilize the tools to reach the targets.
  • The implementations of these actions on a regular basis (frequencies).
  • The evaluation of the results of these actions.

It is important to note that the loan officer will be tempted to use every marketing tool available to reach every target possible. This is a recipe for disaster as most sales people who try to sell all things to all people fail. The marketing plan must be initiated by delineating the sphere of influence of the loan officer, as well as the sphere of their target in an “inside” environment, such as a bank. This is the same exercise that a manager would undertake in developing their recruiting plan.

Prioritize. The next step is to prioritize. Who are the most important targets in terms of concentration of business and the importance of the relationship? The loan officer should have anywhere from 1,000 to 5,000 within their sphere. They must decide how to market each segment in accordance with this prioritization.

  • The top priority should be potential synergy marketing partners.
  • The second priority should be those with a very close relationship to the loan officer who either have a high concentration of business to refer (for example, CPAs and real estate agents) or can introduce them to the same.
  • The third priority would be previous customers, previous coworkers, personal contacts and those who they have served before.
  • The last priority would be comprised of those who have something in common with the loan officer, for example, members of their alumni association.

Limit the actions. The marketing plan must be compromised of a series of very limited and simple activities that are linked to each other through synergy. Do not try to undertake or use too many marketing methods.

Skills development. The development of skills will help sales personnel implement actions. We are talking about more than the development of basic finance skills and many of these are facilitated through the implementation of the mentorship program’s “field training and educational” segments:

  • How to deliver great customer service through the application process.
  • How to make deals happen through the use of finance skills.
  • Role playing with their peers in sales meetings and training sessions.
  • Listening to others on the phone, taking lead calls and having their conversations monitored.
  • Going out on the street with successful loan officers and rookies.
  • Going out on the street with their manager or mentor.

Monitoring of the implementation of the marketing plan. Monitoring will take place during coaching calls and during general sales meetings. Of course, these activities can be combined: you can perform one-on-one coaching sessions while out on the street together.

In order to be an effective manager or mentor, you must combine activities so that all goals can be met without neglecting others. It is at this juncture that you must adjust training plans and activities in such a way that your sales personnel can increase their performance.

Dave Hershman is Senior VP of Sales of Weichert Financial and the top author in the mortgage industry. Dave has published seven books, as well as hundreds of articles and is the founder of the OriginationPro Marketing System and Mortgage School – the online choice for expert mortgage learning and marketing content. His site is www.OriginationPro.com and he can be reached at dave@hershmangroup.com.

Source: themortgageleader.com