Buying a home is a multi-step process that can be complicated, particularly for first-time buyers. It is crucial to be aware of each step, as competition can be steep: one misstep and the keys to a dream home could go to another family. Read on to discover the best path to acquire one of the greatest investments to date.
Step No. 1: Decide on a REALTOR®
A real estate agent and a REALTOR® are different. While both must be licensed to sell real estate, a REALTOR® goes through numerous background checks and must follow a strict code of ethics, which is consistently enforced by local real estate boards. Another distinction between a real estate agent and a REALTOR® is that a REALTOR® is a member of the National Association of REALTORS®. Ask for referrals and read online reviews/testimonials. Interview multiple agents to find the right one. Look for agents who have realistic expectations and are experts in desired neighborhoods.
Step No. 2: Get finances in order
A three-digit credit score and credit report tell financial stories more than bank accounts do. Everyone must carry debt in some form, and the process of paying it can span a lifetime. Paying cash for everything results in a lower score than responsibly carrying debt. A steady job and income can bypass a bad score if prospective clients are willing to put down 10-20 percent. To improve scores, future homeowners should pay all bills on time. A single missed payment can stay on credit reports for seven years, with recent delinquencies impacting scores the most negatively. Additionally, credit limits should not be exceeded, and balances should be kept below 30 percent of the credit limit.
Step No. 3: Apply for pre-approval
A pre-approval letter is a statement from a lender demonstrating that one is a qualified buyer who sellers will take seriously once ready to make an offer. Unless one plans on paying cash, a mortgage pre-approval is a good idea before beginning the home-buying process.
Step No. 4: Know the difference between wants and needs
Real estate agent will not know where to begin if a prospective client does not. Start thinking about must-haves. They can range from location to the number of bedrooms. Wants can include a pool or a guest home. Compromises are the things one is willing to exchange for needs. For example, a great school district can be attainable if the number of bedrooms is reduced.
Step No. 5: Begin the home search
Open houses will become a favorite activity when a real estate agent begins showing homes that fit criteria. This is a fact-finding mission. Take notes and jot down ideas about what is liked and not liked. This will streamline the process and give real estate agents all they need to know to make a happy homeowner.
Step No. 6: Check off mortgage approval
An accepted offer will begin the closing stage of the home-buying process. A lender will give the final approval for the purchase and specify the closing date. This is not the time to celebrate by splurging on big ticket items. Unexpected expenses can show up without warning. Paying property taxes or insurance for the first full year on the closing date might be a noted point.
Step No. 7: Get a home inspection
A good home inspector will audit the house from top to bottom, literally. They will look at the basement and the roof and everything in between, including the heating system, plumbing and windows. Given that purchasing a home is likely one of the largest investments a person will make, don’t skip this critical step. If repairs are necessary, this can be negotiated with the seller before the final sale.
Step No. 8: Prepare to close
Once at the final step in the process, one can pat themselves on the back for a job well done. The closing table is the desired location where the deed will be transferred from the seller to the buyer. John Hancocks should be ready because there could be hours of paperwork. An attorney or settlement agent will most likely be present.
May your new home be the happiest one on the block!
Almost every sale entails having a home inspection. Sellers can take steps ahead of time to ensure this goes smoothly. Below are some tips to help prepare for inspection day.
- Make repairs in advance of the scheduled inspection and don’t try to hide what’s not working. If something breaks with no time to fix it, leave a note and how it will be corrected.
- The house should be clean and in showing condition. The inspector and buyers will be going through it in much more detail.
- Provide easy access to the attic, furnace, utilities, and under sinks. An inspector should not have to spend time moving your belongings to inspect.
- Replace any burned out light bulbs.
- Leave a sketch of the septic system so it can be easily found.
- Make plans for both you and any pets to be gone from the property for at least 3 hours.
While it’s a little nerve-racking to have your house so thoroughly examined, taking steps to get ready will help ease the process. Contact me if you would like more tips on preparing your home for sale! 603-526-4116, Donna@DonnaForest.com, www.DonnaForest.com
You can create a home office anywhere—but it helps to have a plan for corralling clutter and organizing your workspace first.
Look beyond the boring cubicle walls and get inspired to create a home office that’s just that: part of your home. You don’t need a whole room reserved for an office (although that would be nice!); a desk, a chair and some good organizational and storage strategies are all it takes to carve a nook out of your home for an office.
A fully functional home office doesn’t need to have its own separate room. Tuck it into the corner of a dining room and give plenty of storage and ample work surfaces. Use space wisely by installing shelves above the desk and cabinets below the work surface.
If your office needs are more sporadic, consider a simple writing desk for the occasional bill-paying sessions or mail sorting. This writing area is stylish but serves the function of an office as needed.
A handsome secretary can turn any room into an office. Paint it to match the bedding and draperies and it will blend into a cottage-style bedroom while providing a spot to write and a place to store stationery, books and more.
Put your walls to work in your home office space. Floating shelves can be stacked with binders, magazine boxes and more. Wall-mounted baskets are an easy way to file mail or to-do tasks.
Perfect office setup
Create a corner office at home by zoning a section of a larger room (such as a living room or family room) as a work zone. For more storage, hang floating shelves along the wall. When planning your home office, make sure there are adequate outlets nearby for computers, printers and task lighting.
Surround yourself with beauty while you are hard at work. Hang art that you love above your desk, or add a few decorative items to your desktop. Improve function by adding a pretty lamp or wall sconces for better lighting.
Old desks often have plenty of drawers and storage, but might not be up to par in the style game. Paint a secondhand desk a fresh color that suits your room’s style.
Smarter office storage
In a small space, take office storage to the walls to keep work surfaces clutter-free. In this space, cubbies were mounted to the wall and magazine holders were screwed into the bottom of the cubbies for an innovative mail sorter. For an easy and affordable work surface, transform a slab door into a desktop by mounting it to a wall and placing bookcases or file cabinets beneath it for support.
A small desk tucked into a kitchen is suited for many tasks, such as doing homework or jotting down a grocery list. Incorporate a few drawers and cubbies to maximize the space’s storage capacity.
Office with a view
Bump a desk up against a window with a deep windowsill and use the sill as an improvised shelf for baskets and boxes. Plus, placing a desk near a window provides plenty of natural light.
Cozy work space
Turn an awkward closet into an office with a few quick changes. Remove the closet doors and paint (or wallpaper) the interior. Hang shelves along the wall and tuck in a desk for a quick-fix office that packs efficient function into a small sliver of space.
Build a desk
For a simple, do-it-yourself desk, employ sturdy file cabinets as a base and a large desktop, or painted panel, as the work surface. Position the desktop on the file cabinets and screw into place.
Inconspicuously add an office to a living area with a few simple tricks. Incorporate as much concealed storage as possible without distracting from the rest of the room. Take steps to add in elements to tie the space to the rest of the room. A bamboo chair and burlap-covered bulletin board harmonize with the living room’s natural look and help the office adhere to interior-design principles.
As we approach the end of 2017, there are a number of articles out with predictions on what the 2018 housing market will bring, based on the opinions of economists and housing experts. While no one can say for sure, it sounds like it could be similar to what we experienced this year. Below are some of the highlights.
- Interest rates are expected to gradually rise from around 4% to 4.5% by end of year.
- Low inventory will continue to be a challenge for buyers.
- Millennials could be the most active home buyers in 2018 and they will be looking in higher density, amenity-rich neighborhoods.
- Baby boomers haven’t downsized as much as anticipated. Some speculate this is due to the fact they are working longer and also desire to age in place and not move.
- Home values are expected to grow – some predict 3.2% and others are at 4.7%.
Whether buying or selling, contact me if you’d like to know how the market could impact you. Donna@DonnaForest.com; www.DonnaForest.com; 603-526-4116.
The answer is “yes”. It is both depending on the property you are trying to buy or sell. I know, the news is full of stories on the shortage of inventory, high demand, and rising prices. The truth is the type of market you face is dependent on the price point and condition. In general, our area does not have enough listings in the price range for the bulk of buyers who are buying. Home prices have reached unaffordable levels for many 1st time buyers. And the downsizing baby boomers have specific needs (newer, 1st floor master, near town amenities, mostly under $400k) for which there is pretty low inventory.
Overall, sales are about the same as 2016 in New London, Sunapee, & Newbury, mainly due to lack of desirable inventory. New London is actually down from last year YTD, thru Oct. With a median price of $342,000 in these 3 towns combined and an average days on market of 127 days, it can be confusing to understand what type of market is in play.
Bottom line, buyers trying to find a move-in ready home under $300k are in a sellers’ market. Sellers with homes that don’t fit the desired condition and price for the bulk of buyers are in a buyers’ market. Whether buying or selling, contact me if you want to know what you are facing!
Figures are based on information from the Northern New England Real Estate Network, Inc. for the period 1/1/16 thru 10/31/16 and 1/1/17 thru 10/31/17.
Donna Forest 603-526-4116, www.DonnaForest.com, Donna@DonnaForest.com
I recently spent 2 days at a class put on by the Real Estate Business Institute to become a certified negotiation expert and thought it would be good to share some points made during this time. Some might just surprise you!
- Negotiations are really between the two agents and not the buyers & sellers. While the goal is for each to get the best possible outcome based on their clients’ needs and wants, the reality is that it is the two agents who are communicating with each who make it happen. How well the agents negotiate with each other can make or break it for their clients.
- In any negotiation, you need to know if the market conditions are with or against you. For example, if you are a buyer in a sellers’ market, the market may push you to make decisions quickly.
- If a deal gets “deadlocked”, sometimes taking a time-out is helpful to allow everyone to re-group and re-assess their wants and needs.
- There are always at least 2 negotiation points in a sale – the first with the offer and the 2nd after the home inspections.
- The best negotiator will focus on the fix and not the fight.
Contact me if you’d like to have a skilled negotiator working on your side to help achieve your “yes”! Donna Forest 603-526-4116, www.DonnaForest.com, Donna@DonnaForest.com.
Don’t Be Surprised By….
Next to price, most buyers focus on the location and appearance of the property. Below are some lesser known factors to consider when house hunting.
- Private Roads – if the house is located on a private road, find out if there is a road maintenance agreement with the other owners. Lenders may require one before they issue a mortgage.
- Flood Zone - Looking at waterfront? Flood insurance could be required if the structure is located in the flood zone.
- Lead Paint – Homes built prior to 1978 could contain lead paint and the paint flakes or dust can present a health hazard. Even if the paint is in great condition, keep in mind any renovations by a contractor that would disturb areas with lead paint may cost more as they have to be certified and follow specific safety practices.
- Age of Systems – Even if it is well maintained, systems don’t last forever. Well pumps, furnaces, water heaters, and even septic systems have a life span. Knowing the age of these systems will help prepare for future expenses and may factor into your offer price.
Avoid costly surprises on your home purchase by working with me as your Accredited Buyer’s Representative! 603-526-4116, www.DonnaForest.com, Donna@DonnaForest.com
People often assume that the kitchen or living room is at the heart of the home, but when you see these ideas to help corral the chaos in your mudroom, you might decide that the area just inside your front door is the true command center of your house. If you don’t have a dedicated room or hallway carved out for a purpose-built mudroom, don’t despair: a few hooks, storage baskets and designated shoe racks can make all the difference in a house where multiple family members use—and abuse—the front hallway as a dumping ground. Good mudroom design can be just what you need to corral clutter and get an entryway you—and potential home buyers—absolutely love.
Establish a mudroom zone
Even homes with grand entries sometimes find themselves challenged by the lack of front- or back-door space to store daily necessities. A few options can help. A slim drawer underneath a bench offers a spot to stash seasonal items. With no room for traditional shoe storage solutions, boots and other footwear sit close by; place them in a tray to catch loose moisture and dirt. A tray makes it easy to clean up melted snow or mud that comes in on boots; simply take the entire tray outside to dump accumulated dirt or snow, then replace.
Use baskets for outdoor items
It makes sense to have some items close at hand for out-of-house comings and goings. A shelf above coat storage in this mudroom has space for containers with various items such as sunscreen, bandages and more. Keep similar items, such as bug spray, together and label the containers (adhesive or tied-on tags work well). You might also consider assigning a basket to each member of your family, then letting them use it however they like to corral their personal clutter
Tuck shoes out of the way
Although it’s handy to have all mudroom storage together, sometimes a dedicated shoe-storage solution just isn’t feasible. Instead, carve out nooks and crannies where you can. A small recessed area offers a just-right spot for multiple shoe shelves.
Sliding shelves are a useful tool in mudrooms, too, helping to streamline access to items. Choose heavy-duty, easy-to-clean surfaces in a mudroom, particularly for the floor, that rely on color and texture to mask any messes or daily dirt. And don’t forget to put a tray under a shoe rack to catch the debris from several rows of shoes above.
Use extra storage for essentials
Some mudrooms are hidden and expansive enough to store more than just coats and shoes. For peculiarly shaped items that may not easily stay grouped—toilet paper, for example—use decorative baskets (lidded or not) to keep them in order.
Buying a home is a big investment. Knowing what to steer clear of will help make this experience a positive and rewarding venture. Here are some common mistakes to avoid.
- Not knowing what you can afford. Get pre-qualified with a lender. Lending standards have tightened considerably; it’s important to know IF you can borrow money and how much.
- Failing to consider additional expenses. Taxes, insurance, utilities, and maintenance are costs on top of your mortgage.
- Being too picky. There is no such thing as a perfect home. Every house has trade-offs. Evaluate what’s important to you and let the little stuff slide.
- Not researching the neighborhood. Check school systems, traffic, potential noise situations, etc.
- Not hiring your own agent. Hire a buyer’s agent and use their expertise to represent your best interests.
The more educated you are as a buyer, the better chance you’ll have for a smooth and easy home buying experience. Give me a call if you are looking for an accredited buyer’s agent! Donna Forest, Broker Associate, 603-526-4116; Donna@DonnaForest.com; www.DonnaForest.com
As our area market continues to see strong demand and low supply, it becomes more important for buyers to be prepared and ready to make an offer when the right property comes along. Here are a few tips to help strengthen your buying position:
- Do your homework and know what you are looking for in a home.
- Get pre-qualified for a mortgage before looking.
- Stay in touch with your agent and be ready to view any new listings that match your criteria.
- Don’t play games when bidding; you’ll likely be competing with other offers.
- Don’t make your offer contingent on selling your house first. It will be the last offer considered if you do.
While it can be discouraging to buy in a tight market, remember, “Luck favors the prepared”. Be ready to act and to present an attractive offer. Contact me if you’d like to know how to make home buying an easier process. Donna@DonnaForest.com, www.DonnaForest.com, 603-526-4116