An Open Letter from an Agent to Anyone Considering Selling Their Home

So you’re thinking about selling your home? I realize you didn’t arrive at this decision lightly, and that you might be nervous or scared. There are so many things that are probably going through your head right now. I’d like to help you by offering some advice, and hopefully putting your mind at ease.

First, do some research.
It’s important for you to understand how much money you can expect to get for your home. We need to be realistic. Unfortunately, checking online sites like Zillow or Trulia isn’t going to give you the most accurate picture of your home’s value. This is why it’s important to sit down with a real estate agent that understands the market and will give you a realistic home value estimate by comparing similar properties that have recently sold in your area.

This meme is pretty funny (and rather sarcastic)… but at the same time, it illustrates a painful reality.

0f623ccf64c89770002aafec8359a4c3

Discuss your situation.
Discussing your situation with a real estate agent will also help you identify any other aspects of the transaction that you might be forgetting. For instance, there might be something glaringly obvious that could get in the way of a smooth home inspection that you might not be considering… or, on the other hand, a unique feature that your home might have which could help maximize its value. Also, discussing the process with an agent will help you understand how much money you can expect to walk away with after the closing.

Considering braving it alone?
If you’re considering selling your home without an agent, remember that you’re doing so at your own risk. There are quite a few things that can go wrong (many of them legal) which an agent is trained and perfectly set up to handle. Also, do you really want to deal with random strangers showing up at random times throughout the day, wondering whether they’re even qualified to buy a house or if they’re just bored and looking for something to do?

Or said a different way…

2851429eb35bb75383321e65acff8477

Let an agent worry about these things; you’ll thank yourself later.

Pick the right agent.
Working with the right person can mean the difference between a smooth transaction and a less-than-memorable experience. How do you pick the right one?

First, make sure you feel comfortable with the person. You might spend a lot of time with them, so it’s important that you have a rapport.

Secondly, if the agent is giving you some inconvenient feedback or information, don’t dismiss them. The best agents will tell you the truth because they understand that setting the right expectations is more important than promising you the world.

a986ba52c13b87576ba94f7002a11358

Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Lastly, ask as many questions as you need to until you feel comfortable with your level of understanding. The right agent will be patient with you and will understand just how big of a deal this is.

Don’t stress!
This might be easier said than done, but try to keep things in perspective. Your home is probably your most valuable asset and the most consequential transaction that you’ll ever work on. But people buy and sell their homes every day, and there’s a very comprehensive system in place that helps facilitate those transactions. Your agent will help guide you through the process and will help you feel at ease. Remember, you’re not the first and you won’t be the last person to feel the stress.

Expect the unexpected.
It would be lovely if I could promise you that everything will go perfectly smooth, but it rarely does. Obstacles almost always come up during a real estate transaction, but that doesn’t mean you should pull your hair out worrying. Agents know there will be bumps in the road, and they’ll also know how to get over them and get your home sold with as little stress for you as possible.

So don’t stress, be realistic, find the right agent to help, and remember that small hiccups are just part of the transaction.

And by the way, feel free to give me a call. 🙂

I’ve created a free guide to help my clients properly prepare their house for sale. If you’re thinking about selling your starter home in the near future (or ever…), grab a copy!  How To Prepare Your House For Sale

Eliminate Pet Odors in Your Home

Eliminate Pet Odors In Your Home

Eliminating bad odors from your home is incredibly important, you want to make sure you’ve removed them before putting it on the market. Often times, the first thing buyers notice upon entering your home, is how it smells. If there is an odd odor, it will instantly put them off. No matter how beautifully staged and presented it is, strong odors or stale air can make your home unappealing to prospective buyers. Opening windows and exhaust fans will only go so far in removing foul odors, but won’t generally eliminate it completely. To ensure you don’t lose potential buyers, follow these odor eliminating tips to ensure your home smells and feels fresh and new.

Don’t Use Artificial Freshening Sprays
Don’t make the mistake of spraying artificial room freshener sprays in hopes that it will remove the bad odor. Deodorizers will quickly fade, and only mask the smell, sometimes in an overwhelming way. If a buyer walks into your home, your air freshener can cause a reaction, like a runny nose or a headache, and will make them suspicious of an underlying foul odor. Instead of trying to mask it, locate the actual source of the bad odor and get rid of it.

Best Pet Carpet Cleaners for Accidents
We all love our furry friends, but unfortunately, they can get your home pretty smelly. Whether the smell is on the carpet, furniture, or even on the walls – it’s essential to have it removed. Most odors stem from accidents. You always want to attend to the accident right away. Blot them with a paper towel and use mild dishwashing liquid to help remove the odor. Once completely cleaned, blot again with fresh paper towels to dry the spot. If the accident is not recent, use an enzyme cleaner to eat the bad bacteria. Another great idea is to use activated charcoal. It is a form of carbon that has been activated to make it extremely porous. You can get activated charcoal meant for pet odors at most pet stores.

Green Cleaning Products
Using natural odor eliminators is a great green alternative to most of the chemicals sold at stores. One of the most recommended products is to use baking soda. You can place an open box of it in a room to help absorb unwanted smells. It also helps to remove musty aroma in dark spaces, like a basement. On top of being used to remove pet odors, it also works great for cigarette smells. If you don’t wish to use baking soda, most pet supply stores will have green cleaning products that help remove odors, while still being safe for your household.

download

Reasons You Should Sell Your Starter Home

When buyers are ready to purchase their first place, most are in the market for something relatively small and economical — in other words, a starter home. These diminutive dwellings are a smart first move for newbies because, ideally, they offer a chance to build equity without over-burdening the budget or requiring more maintenance than a novice homeowner is prepared to undertake.

But, as time passes, that once-sufficient space begins to feel a bit cramped and owners may find themselves pondering putting their starter home on the market.

If this feels like a scenario you can relate to, there’s no time like the present, as the old saying goes. “Why?” you ask. Read on!

Inventory is disappearing
Anyone who’s been shopping for a modest starter home lately knows it’s slim pickings out there. It’s not just your area that is suffering a shortage either; it’s nationwide. In fact, according to Trulia Inventory and Price Watch, the number of starter homes has dropped 8.7 percent in the last year.

One reason inventory is limited is that senior citizens who previously sold their houses and moved to assisted living facilities or nursing homes are embracing the aging-in-place trend.

That decision is making it difficult for millennials and first-time homebuyers to find affordable houses for sale. According to Trulia, those 55 and older own 53 percent of U.S. owner-occupied houses, which is the largest percentage since the government started collecting data in 1900.

Investors, too, are responsible for the shortage of starter homes available at attractive prices as after the 2008 recession many swooped in and scooped up lower-priced houses to improve and flip, upping property values exponentially.

Prices are soaring as bidding wars erupt
A decrease in supply means an increase in prices. New homebuyers are finding themselves forced to spend an average of 2.9 percent more of their annual income on a new home, particularly in popular markets.

With a limited number of properties available, being in possession of a starter home is a bit like owning Mickey Mantle’s 1952 Topps Baseball Card. In short, it’s more valuable than you might have initially realized.

In fact, starter-home owners might be shocked by the level of interest and the amount they could get for their abodes.

What starter homes lack in square footage they’re more than making up for in investment potential. According to Forbes.com, 55 percent of offers written by Redfin agents ranging from $200,000 to $400,000 faced competition earlier this year, while 60 percent of offers from $400,000 to $800,000 sparked bidding wars.

If you’d like to lock in a profit, this could be your chance.

Interest rates are low
According to Freddie Mac’s latest Primary Mortgage Market Survey, interest rates for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage are currently at 4.72 percent, which is near record lows in comparison to recent history.

Lower interest rates give buyers greater purchasing power. So, if you’ve been hoping to upsize, here’s your chance.

There’s no shortage of luxury homes
There appears to be a relative glut of premium homes available. While the market share of starter and trade-up homes both dropped to 22.1 percent, the share of premium homes rose 55.8 percent.

I’ve created a free guide to help my clients properly prepare their house for sale. If you’re thinking about selling your starter home in the near future (or ever…), grab a copy!  How To Prepare Your House For Sale

Simple Sprucing Tips for Your Home

Simple Sprucing Tips For Your Home

You don’t need thousands of dollars to fully refurbish your home to make it feel like new again. Instead, you can DIY a lot of features in your house to help spruce it up for the upcoming season. Whether you plan to sell your home, have guests over, or are just tired of how drab it’s been feeling lately, here are a few tips and tricks you can use to refresh your space:

Clean and Declutter
Throw out all of the junk taking up space! You’d be surprised by how much more you’ll fall back in love with your home when you take out the collection of accumulated stuff that has piled up over the years and finally get to see your home’s features for what they are. Store what you don’t need/use in either the attic, basement, or in a storage unit. After you’ve decluttered, be sure to finish it off by cleaning your home. Clean windows, walls, and the floors for the best results.

Bring in Natural Light
Do you have heavy curtains covering your windows? Bring them down! Not only will this make your space feel bigger by removing stuff off the walls, it’ll also feel alive again with all of the natural light that pours in.

Add Fresh Paint
Nothing refreshes a home like a new coat of paint. If you have dark dull colors, opt for lighter tones. Covering up stains on the walls, or drab old paint, can help your house feel brand new all over again.

Add Tile
Consider adding a tile backsplash in your kitchen or bathroom. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to get beautiful results. Be sure you get tiles that compliment the colors in the space, so it doesn’t clash and look unappealing.

Add Color
Although neutral colors are always recommended as the base of any home decor, don’t be afraid to compliment your neutrals with a pop of color. You can add it throughout the home by using flowers, pillows, decor, or even light curtains that are staged on the sides of your windows.

Change Out Fixtures and Hardware
You’d be surprised by how much more a kitchen can look different just by replacing the hardware on the cabinets. A bathroom or living room can come alive again by installing a brand new light fixture. If you moved into a place that still has the same stock hardware or fixtures, replace them and add a little creativity with the new pieces you have installed.

Rearrange Furniture
Head to Pinterest and get inspired for new living room, bedroom, or dining room arrangements. Most homeowners decorate “incorrectly” when it comes to standard staging rules. View a variety of furniture set-ups on social media and let it motivate you to rearrange your space. You don’t have to buy a bunch of new furniture to make a drastic change.

3494004845_c52f88f2b2_z

What Or Who Are Fannie And Freddie, Anyway?

If you are a home buyer or seller or pay any attention whatsoever to the housing market, you have probably heard about “Fannie” and “Freddie.” Fannie stands for Fannie Mae but is really the acronym – FNMA – For Federal National Mortgage Association. Freddie is for Freddie Mac, or FHLMC, the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation. These two companies keep the money for mortgages flowing. Here is how they do it and why they are important.

Both Fannie and Freddie are backed by the federal government, so the U.S. has a vested interest in helping them provide money. These two companies buy the mortgages that have already been made by banks, and are often referred to as “the secondary market.” Then, they pay themselves back by packaging big bunches of existing mortgages and selling them to big investors, such as pension funds, insurance companies, etc. who are looking to collect the interest. Fannie and Freddie have also created guidelines – and forms — that just about every lending institution uses for just about every loan.

You are probably wondering why banks cannot just fund loans, keep them, and earn the interest. If you live in a largely populated area, the big banks probably do have plenty of cash to lend. But let us say you live in a smaller area, such as Flagstaff, Arizona or Joplin, Missouri. Your local lending institutions may simply not have enough money to continually make home loans. So, they make you a loan according to certain common guidelines, and then they turn around and sell it to either Fannie or Freddie. Now, the local lending institutions have more cash to continue making more home loans. The truth is, without Fannie and Freddie, the mortgage market and housing market would dry up in many parts of the country. Not good. This is another reason why the government gets behind these two entities – homeownership is generally seen as good for the country.

Another thing that these entities have done is create the 30-year loan. If we had to pay off our homes in, say, five years, home ownership would be pretty unaffordable in large parts of the country. And the longer the loan term, the more interest is charged and the more profit is made by the large investors. Win-win, right?

Some economists and politicians want to privatize Fannie and Freddie and stop the government from backing them. They argue that there is too much risk if the government, and an endless flow of money from taxes, is involved. It is thought that this may have contributed to the 2008 economic crash. There are lots of views on this issue, but the majority agree that maintaining the status quo is a good thing. If you would like to know more, please check out the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac websites.

Fannie Mae: http://www.fanniemae.com
Freddie Mac: http://www.freddiemac.com

Image courtesy of www.FutureAtlas.com.

AlexLarsen REALTOR -VA New Construction One Loudoun v1

Can I use an agent to purchase a new construction home?

Yes!  In fact, some builders pay agents to find prospective buyers.  You can also use a buyer’s agent to help negotiate the price and upgrades on a new home.  An agent can be particularly valuable for directing you to newly built developments that match your needs, as well as helping you select reputable builders who are financially sound and respond promptly to buyer’s concerns.

Builders normally require an agent to be present on your first visit to the site.  This is a sensible procedure that allows the agent to be paid a commission should you decide to buy within that community.  Otherwise, if you find a development on your own, make the first visit without the agent, and later make a purchase, the builder may refuse to pay the commission – even if, at some point, the agent became involved in the process.

I’ve created a free guide to help my clients properly prepare for purchasing a home. If you’re thinking about buying a home in the near future (or ever…), grab a copy! The Ultimate Home Buyer’s Guide

survey-downpayment-home-cover

New Survey Finds Misconceptions About Down Payments Keeping People From Purchasing Homes

One of the main reasons people aren’t buying homes is they think they can’t afford it—especially the down payment. But, as it turns out, there are plenty of buyers out there who actually can afford to purchase a home, but their misconceptions about affordability are holding them back from making a move.

According to a recent survey by lender Laurel Road, 53% of Americans are concerned about their ability to afford a home. But a lot of that concern is because they don’t know what their options are.

A solid 58% of Americans surveyed said they planned to put down a 20% payment on a home, but 35% (and 46% of millennials) didn’t think they could afford to save that kind of down payment. But with alternative lending options, you don’t need 20% in order to buy a home! According to the National Association of Realtors, the median down-payment for first-time buyers is at 6%—significantly less than the 20% the majority of Americans believe they need in order to purchase a home.

The Takeaway: Your misconception about how much you need for a down payment could be holding you back from purchasing property. Explore the alternative loan options available to you and make your dream of owning a home a reality!

Energy efficiency and save money concept in construction. 3d illustration

Home Prices Predicted To Rise Nearly 5% By January 2019

According to the most recent CoreLogic Home Price Insights Report, housing prices across the nation are expected to rise a total of 4.8% between January 2018 and January 2019. While that’s not as high as the 6.6% growth the market saw between January 2017 and January 2018, it’s still substantial. According to CoreLogic’s predictions, a home that was listed for $350,000 last January will cost you $366,800 in January 2019—a change of $16,800 in just 12 months.

And not only are homes getting more expensive, but so are mortgages; according to a recent report from Freddie Mac, mortgage interest rates are predicted to rise a full percentage point by the end of the year (from 3.9% for a 30-yr fixed-rate mortgage at the end of 2017 to 4.9% by the end of 2018).

ac-kitchen-efficiency-cover

Sellers, Take Note: A/C, Kitchens, And Energy Efficiency Top Criteria For Buyers

When you’re getting ready to list your home, you want to make sure any changes or renovations are going to give you a return on your investment by making your home more appealing to potential buyers. But what, exactly, are the things buyers are looking for?

According to Zillow’s 2017 Consumer Housing Trends Report, there are a few clear winners when it comes to upgrading your home to make it more appealing to sellers. According to the report, 62% of buyers require a home has air conditioning before they make a purchase. And while the perfect kitchen and an energy efficient home aren’t exactly “needs” for most buyers, they do rank high on their list of “wants” (at 48% for both)

Takeaway: If you’re thinking about making changes to your home in order to generate more interest from buyers, your money would be best spent installing central air. Improving your kitchen and making your home more energy efficient come in a close second.

new-construction-cover

Nearly 1.3 Million New Homes Completed In May—The Most In Over A Decade

The housing inventory crisis—which, according to Realtor.com’s recent Housing Shortage Report, is the worst inventory shortage in the United States in over two decades—hasn’t been an easy time for people on the market for a new home. The low inventory and the intense competition for available homes has driven up prices in markets across the country, making it difficult for potential buyers to find and buy property.

But it looks like building is (finally) starting to pick up to keep up with buyer demand. According to a recent report on new construction from the US Census Bureau and the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, builders completed new homes at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of a whopping 1,291,000 in May 2018—the most homes completed in over a decade.

The Takeaway: If you’ve been thinking about buying a home, this is good news! As new inventory becomes available (and as builders continue to construct new homes to keep up with demand), the fierce competition for property that’s become the norm in today’s real estate market will cool off, making it much easier to find a home (and, most importantly, to get that home at a reasonable price).