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June
22

Selling Your Home? These Simple Upgrades Can Increase Your Home's Value

Thanks to the pandemic, our lives have changed in the last couple of years. How and where we work, shop, and live in our homes have been centers of significant change and re-evaluation. Whether you're considering selling your home or just looking to improve your quality of life, it's more important to know what upgrades have the best return on investment and adds value to your home.

For example, a dedicated home office and outdoor entertainment and living spaces are coveted by buyers in a house for sale. This blog post will look at trending home improvements that can add value to a house for sale in 2022.

An Overview of 2022 Home Renovation Trends

We used surveys from real estate agents, expert data from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), and other industry experts to determine what home buyers are looking for in a house for sale in 2022.

Researchers estimate that total spending on remodeling projects in the U.S. could reach $430 billion by the second half of 2022. Growth is expected to taper in the third quarter due to rising costs of materials, labor, construction, and interest rates. A 7% annual inflation rate, the highest since 1982, is making everything cost more, including putting in new floors or refreshing a dated kitchen or bathroom.

According to a Remodeling magazine survey of real estate professionals, the average recoupment of 22 popular projects came in at about 60% nationally in 2021. That's down from 63.7% in 2020 and 66.1% in 2019. Some upgrades can add perceived and actual value to a house for sale if you're considering selling, making it stand out to buyers and offer a good return on your investment.

Home Improvement Projects That Add Value

The way we live in our homes has changed since the pandemic. Homebuyers are looking for specific features when touring a house for sale.

Buyers always appreciate space. However, over the past year, they want even more. The NAHB report What Home Buyers Really Want – 2021 Edition found that buyers wanted a median of 2022 square feet, about 8% more than they currently have. Specifically, 46% were looking for three bedrooms, 37% wanted two bathrooms, and 42% preferred a two-car garage. A 2020 survey of real estate agents found that 44% of buyers said the need for more space was their number one motivator. Another 31% cited the desire for more private outdoor space as a top motivation.

Here are some upgrades that will make your home stand out to buyers.

Major Upgrades

These can be pricey upgrades but make your home more appealing to buyers. If you're not ready to sell, these upgrades can improve your quality of life while adding to your home's resale value when it comes time to sell!

Build or Covert A Space into a Dedicated Home Office

The trend for remote work was growing before the pandemic. The need for home office space exploded as we were forced into working from home in the early days of the pandemic. Even as we slowly return to the office today, remote work is here to stay.

A 2021 survey by Home Light found that 60% of top agents cited a home office as a top priority. Today, buyers care about a home office more than whether a home is move-in ready. Some buyers are looking for multiple home offices.

Creating a new room or dedicating existing space for a home office is a good investment if your buyers telecommute. Home Light data from mid-2020 indicates that a home office adds over $10,000 in resale value. Today, that number might be even higher as the hybrid work model takes hold.

Options include converting a walk-in closet or building an accessory dwelling unit. The estimated value that an ADU adds has gone from $47,600 to $66,000 since pre-pandemic times.

Finish Your Basement or Attic

If you have an unfinished basement or attic, you have potential livable space future buyers can enjoy. Whether as a home office, a home theater, an extra bedroom, or an in-law apartment. according to HomeAdvisor, a finished basement between 400 and 1500 square feet has a potential ROI of 75%

Adding heated square footage bumps your house value to another level. Today, an unfinished basement adds $15,000 to $20,000 in value. A finished basement can add $40,000 to $50,000 to your asking price.

Open Your Floorplan

Buyers today love an open concept floorplan. People need a dedicated space to work, but they still want to entertain and enjoy time with family and friends. NAHB's survey found that 85% of buyers want an open floorplan between the kitchen and dining room. 79% prefer an open arrangement between the kitchen and family room.

While an open layout is great for adding natural light, you should speak with a contractor before knocking down any walls!

Exterior Upgrades

Simple exterior upgrades to your home's curb appeal can add significant value to your home. These affordable upgrades can grab a buyer's attention before opening the door!

Up Your Home's Curb Appeal

Curb appeal impresses buyers before they enter your home. Attractive landscaping implies you maintain your home. In fact, buyers will pay a 7% premium for a house with stunning curb appeal. The highest ROI for curb appeal is in the Northeast, where an investment of about $3600 for curb appeal upgrades can yield a $14,800 bump in resale value for a 309% ROI!

Basic lawn care like cutting the grass, fertilizing, and controlling weeds costs around $340 but offers a 539% ROI!

Update Your Garage Door

Is your garage door looking worse for wear? Is it a dated design compared to your neighbors? A new garage door is another inexpensive way to add value. According to Home Light, a new garage door costs around $1200 but can add an average of $2797 in resale value for a 133% ROI.

Add A Parking Spot

If you live in a city, or town where street parking is at a premium, consider adding a concrete parking pad. It costs around $1200 and is a considerable upgrade in the city. It's affordable and can add significant value and up your asking price!

Outdoor Living Upgrades

We've embraced the physical and mental benefits of being outdoors in the past few years. Today, outdoor living ranks third on the list of homebuyers' priorities, behind only a home office and excellent schools. Here are a couple of outdoor upgrades that can add resale value.

Add a Patio or Deck

A deck or patio is the centerpiece of an outdoor living space. It's a place to eat dinner, entertain, have a drink, or work outdoors on a beautiful day. A deck can add over $7000 in resale value. You can build a deck for around $4380 to $10,000, so you'll likely break even or see a positive ROI for this upgrade.

Put in a Fire Feature

54% of agents surveyed by Home Light said that 54% of their buyers cited having a fire feature, like a fire pit or outdoor fireplace, as a top priority. It's a great place to spend time with family and friends. An outdoor fireplace adds an average of $5700 in value.

Cook Al Fresco

Once reserved for luxury homes, today, everybody wants an outdoor kitchen! Along with a built-in grill, outdoor kitchens can include cabinetry, a bar, sink, and standard kitchen appliances. They can even include an outdoor flatscreen. The value of outdoor kitchens has increased since the pandemic. Pre-pandemic, an outdoor kitchen added $6100. An outdoor kitchen adds about $9800 in value in today's market.

Adding Value in a House For Sale

These are just a few upgrades and projects that can add significant value to a house for sale. If you're considering selling your home, simple improvements can add interest to buyers and drive up your asking price.

As you look around your home and consider which upgrades are worth the investment, first consider your quality of life. If you're planning on selling in the future large projects like adding square footage can enhance your current enjoyment of your home, but when you decide to sell, they can add resale value.

If you're planning on putting your house for sale, look at any upgrades from a potential buyer's perspective. Does your home lack the modern features and amenities that a remote professional needs to balance family, work, and relaxation? Maybe it's time to add a dedicated home office or outdoor kitchen. If you're not sure, speak with a local Realtor®. They can tell you what buyers in your area value most.

September
15

Winning a Bidding War and Buying A Home

Before the pandemic, the population growth of many cities in the U.S. with over 1 million people was stagnant or declining. As the pandemic peaked, smaller communities began to experience a growth surge as people, newly working from home, realized that they could live anywhere and chose to relocate away from cities.

As urban populations disperse, smaller metropolitan areas, suburban counties, and rural areas have experienced unprecedented demand for housing. This has caused many markets to heat up and become hyper-competitive. 

In a market where supply is low, and demand is high, it's not uncommon to find yourself in a bidding war as multiple offers push prices higher and higher. Add low mortgage rates to the mix, and you may find yourself edged out of the running several times when trying to buy a home!

While no single strategy can guarantee that you'll win a bidding war, there are several steps you can take to make your offer stronger when buying a home and put you in the best position to compete and prevail!

Prepare For War!

When you're competing in a hot housing market like we're experiencing today, most agents agree that it's best to push aside your emotions, regardless of how difficult that might be. After all, much of the home buying process relies on making an emotional connection with a home. However, to succeed in a bidding war, you need to begin your home search with a fully stocked arsenal!

That means, having your finances in order, thoroughly researching potential target neighborhoods, and building a team of trusted experienced professionals well before you need to move a deal along. This team should include everyone from your banker, to your broker, lawyer, and engineer, as well as a contractor.

Getting your finances in order means deciding the maximum comfortable number you're willing to pay for a home, which doesn't necessarily mean what the bank will approve you for.

Along with all of this, you also need to bring a willingness to compromise to the bargaining table. Right now, it's a strong seller's market. Sellers have the option of asking for the world, and more often than not, they're getting whatever they ask for!

Here are some tips for coming out ahead when buying a home in a bidding war.

• Get A Pre-approval Letter

This is one of the first and most important steps of the entire process! A mortgage pre-approval letter shows a seller that you've done your homework, and you're not only a serious buyer, you're also a qualified one. This is an especially effective tactic should you enter a bidding war.

It's important to understand that a pre-approval letter is different than a mortgage prequalification. To get a preapproval letter, your lender evaluates every financial detail, including your credit score and report, then decides whether they will loan you the money to buy a house, and the amount they will loan. Pre-approval is based on documentation which includes W-2 tax forms and bank statements.

• Make an All Cash Offer, or A Larger Downpayment

Sometimes the highest bid does not win. Sometimes money talks when bidding on a house. Paying cash is often much more appealing to a seller because it virtually eliminates the possibility that financing will fall through before closing. Cash deals also typically close faster. Offering a substantial down payment or making a cash offer often go right to the front of the line in a bidding war. 

Can't pay cash? Your earnest money deposit can show a seller that you are a serious buyer. The typical earnest money deposit is 1 to 2% of the purchase price, but this varies by location. A higher earnest money deposit can catch a seller's attention and signal that you're serious, especially in a hot housing market.

• Include an Escalation Clause in Your Offer

Including an escalation clause can work to strengthen your offer. if other offers come in that match or beat your initial bid, an escalation clause states that you are willing to incrementally increase your offer up to a fixed limit 

For example, say the asking price is $200,000. Your REALTOR® would prepare your office to state:

My initial bid is $200,000 with an escalation of $2000 over any and all competing offers with a cap at $210,000. However, if another bidder offers more than $210,000 you'd be out of the running.

• Limit Contingencies

Contingencies allow buyers to walk away from a deal without losing their earnest money if certain conditions are not met. In a bidding war, you want to carefully choose them. 

Try to submit a clean offer without too many contingencies. To be competitive today, you need to do your homework. Know you can obtain financing so you can eliminate a credit review contingency. Understand what to look for when walking through the home before submitting an offer to forego the inspection. Agree to pay a certain amount over the list price, and know you can afford that over the appraised value.

• Be Flexible on the Closing Date

This can be an effective tactic in a couple of ways. For example, let's say you get outbid by a few thousand dollars, but you're willing to give the seller more time to move out. That flexibility can often make you the frontrunner in a bidding war. 

Extra closing time might be attractive to a seller who might otherwise have to spend more on moving or storage. Especially if they're crunched for time to find another home in a tight market. Sometimes you can win the bidding war by extending the closing date. For example, if the sellers are in a crunch, offer to rent the home back to them cheaply, for a fixed period. If the home is already vacant, you can sometimes win by offering to close quicker, reducing the seller's expenses of carrying two mortgages. 

Even If You Lose the Battle, You Still Could Win The Bidding War!

One final thing to keep in mind...

Just because another buyer was chosen over you doesn't necessarily mean you've lost the war. When buying a home, transactions can often fall through for any number of reasons. If you make a well-thought-out offer, a strong enough bid, and are ready to act quickly, you might be next on the seller's list!

If you're serious about winning a bidding war, work with a seasoned real estate professional with experience in this type of market. A real estate agent or REALTOR® will have the skills to help you prevail in a bidding war. They will also have extensive market knowledge, which is critical for determining the fair market value of any home you're interested in. 

July
30

When starting your home search and looking for an agent, the first question a real estate professional will usually ask is "Have you been pre-approved?"

What is a mortgage pre-approval?

A mortgage pre-approval from a lender means they have verified and pre-approved the borrower to borrow a specific loan amount and possibly a specific mortgage type. It is the initial process of qualifying for a mortgage loan. The borrower has submitted the required financial information. This process usually requires pay stubs, bank statements, w-2's, social security number and an inquiry on the borrower's credit.

Why is pre-approval Important when home shopping?

  • It can help you find a reputable and experienced REALTOR®. Many seasoned agents only want to work with buyers who have already been mortgage pre-approved before shopping for a home.
  • Getting pre-approved by a lender at the start of your home shopping process will save you, and your agent, valuable time. Knowing how much you can afford helps narrow down your home search. You can avoid disappointment by shopping too far above your price range. This also helps you avoid settling on a home that may be under your budget that you're not 100% in love with. Your REALTOR® can now find the perfect dream home within your price range.
  • Home sellers will take you more seriously. Having a mortgage pre-approval letter from your lender can give you an advantage when making an offer, especially if there happens to be multiple bids on a property. A seller may be more apt to accept the offer with the pre-approval backing it over an offer from a buyer without. The seller knows that your offer is less likely to fall through, and fewer issues to arise, knowing your lender has already gone through a screening process.
  • It can help in negotiating a price if the seller is eager to sell.
  • A pre-approval helps speed up the process when you are ready to purchase and your offer is accepted. You have already done part of the leg-work and there will be fewer hurdles to jump through.
  • It holds more value than being pre-qualified. Receiving a pre-qualification from a lender only shows that you meet certain criteria to apply for a home loan. This usually only requires a few basic questions. It is not a great indicator of your ability to actually purchase or receive funding.

If you are accepted for a mortgage pre-approval:

  1. Keep your finances operating as-usual.
  2. Don't open any new lines of credit.
  3. Don't fall behind on current payments.
  4. Your pre-approval is usually valid for 60-90 days

How to become pre-approved

Requirements for Mortgage Pre-Approval

  1. Proof of Assets
  2. Good Credit
  3. Proof of Income
  4. Employment Verification
  5. Any other two types of documentation: usually a driver's license or Social Security number

According to Investopedia, Consulting with a lender before the homebuying process can save a lot of heartache later. Gather paperwork before the pre-approval appointment, and definitely before you go house hunting.

Are you ready to get started? Click here to learn about our reliable mortgage partners!

https://www.masiello.com/mortgage-services

Click here to find your next home!

 

https://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/0411/5-things-you-need-to-be-pre-approved-for-a-mortgage.aspx

February
8

Buying Land

Know that you want to buy a new home, but haven't found a property that meets your needs? Consider buying land and building your own home. When you purchase land, you control the size and location of your home's lot. Here are some things to keep in mind if you're buying land this year. 

  1. It's Essential to Scout Out and Research Surrounding Land Plots
    Our real estate agents know that clients purchasing land may find plots in a variety of environments. The plots might be surrounded by land that has already been developed or is currently under construction. If so, you'll want to know if these plots will be used for residential homes or commercial businesses. Or, you may find the land plot surrounded by seemingly undeveloped land. Do your research to understand who owns the land. Are there any zoning restrictions? Are there farms nearby? Is there any history of criminal activity on the surrounding land plots? Check that you're comfortable with the neighboring land's current and potential usage. Investigate any restrictions that apply to your plot. It's not uncommon for local laws and ordinances to provide guidance on dwelling sizes or how many buildings may be placed on a piece of land. Don't assume that ordinances or restrictions can be appealed. Even if an ordinance is repealed, this is a lengthy process that may take years. 
  1. Financing Looks Different
    It's harder to finance the purchase of land than it is to take out a mortgage. When you use a mortgage to buy a home, the home acts as collateral for the lender if you default on the loan, permitting the lender to offer attractive lending terms. With land loans, the terms aren't nearly as favorable. Undeveloped land isn't as in demand as land with a home, so it's riskier for the bank to finance. You'll pay a higher interest rate, and you'll likely only be able to borrow a portion of the value of the land. It's not uncommon for lenders to require a downpayment of 50 percent for a land loan. You'll need accessible liquid savings to cover the difference. Some affordable land loans are available through the USDA for individuals purchasing land in qualified rural areas. 
  1. See What Utilities and Access Rights the Land Has
    A gorgeous plot of land is of little use if you can't access it. Confirm that the plot comes with access rights or an easement. Any easements concerning the land's access should be in writing. Depending on the location of the plot, you may need to add a private road to safely access your new residence. Make sure you consider this expense, as the cost of clearing and paving land quickly adds up. If the land isn't currently outfitted with utilities (like water, electricity, and internet), all of these items will need to be added. Check with your local utility companies that it's possible to run service to the land plot, and inquire about the cost. Some companies may run service to the land for free, while others will charge for their services. 
  1. A Land Survey is a Necessity
    You should hire a land surveyor to determine the exact boundaries of the land. Not only will this give you a better understanding of the plot's limits, but you can confirm that neighbors aren't intentionally or accidentally using the land. 

Ready to start searching for land for your home? Contact us today to get started!

February
1

VA Loan Changes 2021

Each year, changes are made to the existing legislature that provides additional advantages to many men and women. Prospective homeowners will be pleased to know that in 2020, Congress passed a new bill which changes the benefits that the men and women enlisted in our armed forces receive in 2021. It's known as the Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe, M.D., Veterans Health Care, and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020.

Click Here to Read More...

May
4

Real Estate Terms to Know

If you're a first-time homebuyer or seller, you may not be familiar with the lingo used during the process. Even those who've been involved in a real estate transaction can usually do with a little brushing up. While this list isn't comprehensive, it'll get you started with some of the real estate terms you might run into.

  1. Adjustable Rate Mortgage
    This is a conventional loan where the interest rate can change at five-, seven- or ten-year intervals. Adjustable rates may not work for those who plan to stay in a home for a while, as rates can zoom upwards quite suddenly.
  2. Amortization
    Amortization combines interest and principal in payments so a homeowner can build more equity in the loan, rather than pay off the interest at first.
  3. Annual Percentage Rate
    The APR is how much interest is charged on your loan yearly.

    Click Here to Read More...

April
13

Neighborhood for Your Dog

There's so much to consider when picking out a new neighborhood. It needs to be the proper place for you and your family, but what about Fido? Will your dog love and appreciate the neighborhood that you choose? Here are five tips for picking a neighborhood your dog will love.

  1. Get a Big Yard
    It's convenient to let your pooch play in your own yard without having to take him on a leash to the park each day. Consider how much space your dog will have to roam. Bonus points if there is a safe, reliable fence, doghouse, or kennel already included with the yard.
  2. Check Out Other Dogs
    When you go to check out a house or neighborhood be on the lookout for people out walking their dogs. Or maybe you'll see some pups playing in a fenced-in yard. These are good clues that your neighbors enjoy dogs and that you'll probably be warmly welcomed.
  3. Find Easy Access to Dog Care
    As a pet owner, you want to be prepared when you move into your new neighborhood. Have an idea of where to find the following pet services. 
    • Does this new neighborhood offer close proximity to a veterinarian clinic? If your dog currently has prescriptions, can you or another family member get to the clinic easily to fill them when they're due?
    • Does the vet clinic offer 24/7 emergency services? 
    • Are there obedience classes and groomers in the area?
    • Are there specialty pet stores or wholesale stores that offer the necessities?
    • If you work long hours, take vacations, or need to hop on a plane for a family emergency across the state or country, is there a highly-rated doggy daycare, a network of pet sitters, or any kennels nearby?
  1. Seek Safe Walking Paths
    Your dog will love a neighborhood where they can go on frequent walks with you. Be on the lookout for well-lit sidewalks. If there are no sidewalks, is the street full and safe enough to walk in regularly? You and your dog need a convenient way to exercise, and whether you walk down the sidewalk for an hour a day or need a quick way to get to the local dog park, great walking paths are a necessity. If you live in a snowy area, take notice of whether your neighbors and the city/town employees clear the sidewalks promptly. 
  2. Check Out Community Camaraderie
    Does your neighborhood seem to welcome four-legged friends? Be on the lookout for the following things when touring the neighborhood:
    • Are there several "No Pets Allowed" signs? 
    • Do community members allow their pets to wander? If so, will rogue cats and dogs drive your pup crazy and turn stress-relieving walks into nightmares?
    • Do the restaurants include seating for pups or outdoor patio areas for you and your canine companion to dine?
    • Are there trash cans along the main streets to offload stinky poop bags during outings? 
    • Are dog parks within walking distance? Try to hit the park on a busy weekend to see if the dogs and their owners seem respectful of one another.
    • Are there community canine-themed events like dog shows and parades?

These tips will help you get a good idea if this new neighborhood will be the best fit for you and your canine. Our real estate agents are also here to assist you. Contact us, and we can help you find the perfect neighborhood for you and your pooch.

February
24

VA Loan 2020

If you are planning on using a VA loan to purchase a home this year there are several changes you should know about. 

Following the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2019, veterans and military service members will enjoy more borrowing power but pay slightly higher fees when applying for VA home loans. The Act was signed into law in June 2019 but took effect Jan 1, 2020.

Navigate these changes to VA loans with a little help from our team. Our REALTORS® highlight everything you need to know about using VA loans in 2020!

No VA Home Loan Limits in 2020

The VA loan limit is the maximum loan amount the Department of Veterans Affairs can guarantee a veteran or military service officer without making a down payment. The loan limit adjustment is a big win for veterans across the nation, especially for those buying in pricier markets. Extending the zero-down purchasing power will save many veterans a lot of cash and help them remain competitive.

However, the elimination of loan limits doesn't signify unlimited borrowing power with no down payment. Veterans will still need to have adequate income and meet their lender's credit demands to qualify for the VA loan amount. And if you still have impending VA loans or have defaulted on a previous loan, the loan limits will still be applicable throughout 2020.

Before this act went into effect, VA loan limits equaled the limits set by the Federal Housing Finance Agency on complying loans. In 2019, the limits were set to $484,350 in a typical US county and slightly higher in high-cost counties.

Click Here to Read More...

January
20

Starter Home Tips

Every first-time homebuyer is quickly faced with the same question: to build a budget for a forever home, or shop for a starter home that suits your current needs? A starter home can be an excellent option for a first-time buyer, allowing you to get used to the homeowner's lifestyle, build equity in the home over time, plan for the future, and eventually move on to a forever home. Our real estate agents know exactly what it takes to find the right home for any buyer, and we've put together a guide for what you should look for in a starter home.

  • Neighborhood and Location
    The neighborhood that you choose plays an important role in both the price of the property and how much you'll enjoy living there. To start, decide whether you want to live in an urban, suburban, or rural location. Then look at specific neighborhoods to find a spot with the right mix of attractions, services, and commute times for your needs. The most popular neighborhoods tend to be more expensive, but most neighborhoods have affordable starter options if you're willing to search.

    Click Here to Read More...

December
23

New Home in 2020

If you've been dreaming of buying your first home or selling your current house, New Year's is the time to resolve to make it happen.

Our REALTORS® suggest the following five ways to make a New Year's resolution of a new home a reality in 2020.

  1. Check and Fix Your Credit
    Your credit will affect whether you can qualify for a mortgage loan and the interest rate you'll pay. Start by checking your credit report with the three main reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – by requesting it for free at AnnualCreditReport.com, a site recommended by the Federal Trade Commission. If you see any errors, request a dispute form from the reporting agency. And if your credit is poor, start working to pay down your debt.

  2. Save for a Down Payment
    Most mortgage loans require a down payment, so you may want to trim your budget to help bolster your down payment fund. Tax refunds can also be an excellent way to jumpstart your savings.

    If you can afford to pay 20% down, you'll avoid paying private mortgage insurance (PMI). This is an extra monthly payment that helps protect the lender in case you default on your loan. The higher your down payment, the lower your monthly payment will be, and you're likely to be offered a lower mortgage rate.

    Click Here to Read More...

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