All posts by Bija Satterlee

The 5 Most Important Things to Do After Buying a Home

So, you bought a house. First of all, congratulations! The search is over, no more weekends filled with open houses and showings, and you can finally breathe a sigh of relief. Phew.

But your work isn’t quite done yet. Once you buy a house, there are a few things that need to happen before and after move-in day. Check out our list of to-dos, and get prepared for what comes after closing—trust us, your future self will thank you.

Do a Deep Clean

A vacuum.

When you first buy your home, there won’t be any heavy dressers blocking off corners, couches and beds to clean under, or stacks of boxes covered in cobwebs in the attic. Your house will never be this empty again—well, until you sell it, that is—so take advantage of the wide-open space.

Whether you want to hire professional cleaners or DIY, you should pour some serious TLC into your new house. Dust, vacuum, mop, scrub, polish—look up a few cleaning checklists for inspiration—and put in some elbow grease.

Change Your Address

A painted mailbox.

This process will be a little tedious, but it has to be done. First, you should fill out a change of address form from your post office, so any mail sent to your old address will get forwarded to your new one—although these days you can even complete the process online!

Next, get in touch with credit card companies, your cell phone provider, and anyone else who will need to continue sending you bills. Big fan of online shopping? The last thing you want is for your package to get dropped off at your old house, so be sure to update your Amazon info, as well.

Set Up Utilities & Security

A door with various locks.

Running water, electricity, internet…all things you probably want working when you move in, right? If you already have a provider, you’ll need to communicate the change address to them, stop service to your old address, and set up a date for service to continue at your new address.

While you’re getting things installed, you should also consider setting up a security system. These days you’ll have plenty of affordable and high-tech options, so be sure to browse what’s available. At the very least, consider changing your locks, since old copies of the keys from the past owners could still be floating around.

Keep Your Documents Organized

Once you’ve closed on your home, you’re going to have a lot of important documents to keep track of, and moving is going throw everything into chaos (although hopefully organized chaos) for a bit. As soon as you’ve closed and before you move in, collect all of the documents you used for your mortgage loan, as well as any copies of closing papers.

You never know when you might need some of them again, so invest in a secure storage system to keep them organized and around at all times.

Say Hi to the Neighbors

People talking in a group outside of a home.

Even if you’re a little shy, it’s a good idea to introduce yourself to the neighbors once you move in. After all, close neighbors can help with anything from lending you an extra cup of sugar to watching your pets while you’re out of town.

You don’t have to organize a mixer or bake cookies for everyone, but just saying hello while you’re out and about can go a long way in establishing those important relationships.

Ready to Buy Your Dream Home?

Now that you know what to do after you’ve closed, let’s get started with your home search! From guiding you around the area to helping you navigate your mortgage options, our team is here to help you reach your real estate goals—and answer all of your questions along the way.

If you’re ready to get started or have a few questions, just give us a call today!

The Top Tax Deductions & Credits for Homeowners in 2019

Taxes are confusing, which is why many people in the U.S. choose to hire an expert to do their taxes for them. After all, there are so many numbers to know, forms to have ready, records of income and expenses, W-4s, 1099s, 380-Ts—we could’ve just made that last one up, and there’s no way of knowing!

Even though taxes might be complicated, they (sometimes) have a few perks. And if you own a home, those perks could mean a major bonus on your return. If you’re thinking of buying a home before next year’s taxes are due, here’s everything you need to know about how making a home purchase can affect your returns.

A calculator app on an iPhone.

Deductions vs. Credit

Before we kick off the fun stuff, it’s important to know a little jargon—namely, the difference between a deduction and a credit.

When it comes to credits, think of them like tax-related coupons that reduce your dollar-for-dollar total. A few major tax credits include child tax credits, adoption credits, education or retirement credits, or credits for energy efficient homes and cars. Depending on the credits you qualify for, you could get anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars taken off of your tax liability.

Deductions are a little different: they reduce your taxable income, which can then adjust the total that you owe. Claiming certain deductions means that that part of your income is exempt from being taxed. Knowing which deductions to claim is key when filing, especially for homeowners.

Tax Benefits for Homeowners

Buying a home is expensive, but when it comes to tax time, here are the ways you can make some of that money back.

Various tax documents.

Mortgage Interest

One of the reasons that taxes for homeowners are so confusing is because they tend to change based on federal standards. Over the past few years, the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act pretty drastically altered the tax benefits for home ownership.

The most important change to know this year has to do with mortgage-related deductions. Previously, the tax deduction for home mortgages was limited to interest paid on $1 million debt for jointly filing married couples and single filers and $500,000 for married couples filing separately. Now, the numbers look more like $750,000 for the former and $500,000 for the latter. Additionally, interest paid during closing can also be counted towards this number.

Property & State Taxes

Did you know that the amount you pay in property taxes, state income taxes, and local sales tax is also deductible? If you pay property taxes through escrow, your lender will need to get the amount for you on your 1098 form, otherwise you should be able to find it in your personal records. The latest tax laws have instituted a cap at $10,000, but every little bit counts!

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

Believe it or not, tax deductions on PMI are a hotly contested subject. Until recently, buyers were able to deduct the payments they made on Private Mortgage Insurance, but as of 2017, that ability expired. If you did buy your home before 2017, then your yearly income will determine how much you can deduct.

There’s no timeline on when deductions for PMI could return, but, unfortunately, if you’re a more recent home-buyer with these payments, those perks aren’t currently available.

Credits

We talked a little bit earlier about the difference between deductions and credits, so what sort of credits can you get as a homeowner? One of the biggest tax credits that homeowners can cash in on is having energy-efficient homes. In fact, if you installed geothermal heat or solar energy, you could be entitled to credit for up to 30% of the installation fee.

Other energy-efficient features, like storm doors and added insulation, can net you a few hundred dollars in credit, as well.

A person holding several one hundred dollar bills.

Tax-Free Profits

While many parts of the tax law have changed in the past few years, one aspect has stayed the same: tax-free profits. Selling your home not only means a big profit after the sale, but a large portion of the money you make won’t even get taxed—meaning you get to pocket more.

Married homeowners who sell their homes won’t have to pay capital gain taxes on up to $500,000 from the sale, while single filers can keep half of that as non-taxable income.

While there are some guidelines—like the home must have been a primary residence for at least two of the past five years—it’s a big plus when it comes to selling.

Want to Explore More of the Benefits of Home-Owning?

Believe it or not, there are a lot more benefits to owning a home than tax deductions. If you need help navigating the ins and outs of the home-buying and home-owning process, our team is here to help. With years of local experience and real estate know-how, we have the skills and resources necessary for home-buying and selling success.

Ready to learn more? Just give us a call.

Up Your Home’s Resale Value with These 5 Outdoor DIY Projects

Spring is here, and summer is closer than ever. That makes it a great time to get outside and spruce up your home’s exterior!

If you’re planning on selling your home soon, a little outdoor maintenance can go a long way. In fact, here are five outdoor projects you can do yourself that are sure to add resale value to your home.

Install a Fire Pit

Fire burning in a backyard fire pit.

Imagine spending a warm summer evening out back with your friends, sipping cool drinks and roasting marshmallows over an open fire. The truth is, installing a fire pit is easier than you might think!

A fire pit is made out of fireproof materials and should sit on a flat surface at least 15 feet away from your home and any trees. Here’s a how-to guide for building a backyard fire pit.

Remember, check your local building codes before beginning any type of construction!

Don’t have a yard for a fire pit? Turn your balcony into a cozy dining area instead!

Add Some Outdoor Lighting

Transform your backyard space for summer with lights that add both ambience and security. You can safely add low-voltage lighting to your front or backyard by yourself, even if you don’t have extensive electrical experience.

Whether you opt for motion-activated LED lights or hanging fairy lights, you have some great options to consider for your yard!

Have a nice back deck or balcony? Add some lights to make it a great place to gather any time, day or night.

Fix the Front Door

A front door with a key in the lock.

Your front door should be clean, bright, and welcoming! After all, it’s the first thing potential buyers will see when they enter your home.

There are a couple of different options to freshen up your front door. If it’s very old or damaged, you could replace it altogether. Other options for sprucing up your door include painting it a different color,touching up the paint job, or replacing the doorknob or knocker.

Live in a condo with an interior front door? You can still spruce up your entryway with a nice welcome mat and some potted flowers.

Power Wash the Exterior

Dirty siding on your home can make it look old and neglected, which can be a major turn-off for buyers! A simple solution to get your home’s exterior looking like new is to rent a power washer to take care of any dirt. We recommend renting a heavy-duty, gas-powered pressure washer, as these are the most efficient.

Depending on your home’s specific material (vinyl, stucco, brick, etc.), you will need to obtain a specific type of detergent to power wash your home. Be sure to opt for an environmentally friendly version!

Refresh Your Landscaping

The front exterior of a home that's been manicured with trimmed shrubs and flower beds.

Taking the time to properly maintain your landscaping—and adding a few new features here and there—can both increase your home’s resale value and attract more buyers. After all, real estate is all about the curb appeal!

Installing an attractive stone walkway, mulching your flowerbeds, planting new flowers or shrubbery, and planting trees are all great ways to improve your home’s landscaping.

Don’t have a yard? You can still spruce up your entryway and outdoor areas with potted flowers or hanging planters.

Looking for More Home-Selling Strategies?

We can help you increase your home’s value and get it sold fast. Contact our team today to learn more.

Saving up for a New Home? Here Are All the Costs You Need to Know

Once you’ve found the perfect home and secured the loan, all that’s left to do is start chipping away at those mortgage payments…right? In actuality, there are a handful of other, often-overlooked expenses that come with buying a home, but as long as you know what you’re getting into, they’re plenty manageable.

Take a look at our comprehensive list of all the costs of buying a home.

One-Time Payments & Closing Costs

A person holding up keys to a house.

Closing Costs

For buyers, closing costs are typically low and range from 2-5% of your purchase price. A lot of these costs are one-time expenses, and totals can vary from state-to-state.

If you want a better idea of what closing costs could be for you, check out this helpful guide on the average payments for each state.

Miscellaneous Fees

There are quite a bit of one-time fees bundled into your closing costs, but most of them are pretty inexpensive. Some of the most common expenses include the home inspection, appraisal, credit report, deed recording, land survey, notary fees, title insurance, and document prep fees.

Recurring Payments

A woman and a child counting coins.

Mortgage Payments

Mortgage payments are the most obvious cost when buying a home. These are your predictable, monthly payments decided by both the final price of your home and your down payment—in addition to a few other bundled costs. A larger down payment means a smaller mortgage payment, and it’s a good idea to pay this off quickly, since it will accumulate interest.

Property Taxes

Property tax payments don’t go towards just one thing—they actually cover quite a bit, like road construction, community maintenance, public works, and local government salaries. The exact amount you’ll pay in property tax is calculated by the county based on your home’s value, and the rates tend to rise and fall over time. Many buyers pay their property taxes through an escrow account set up by the lender.

Homeowner’s Insurance

It’s better to have insurance and not need it than need insurance and not have it, so homeowner’s insurance is pretty crucial to home owning. While it’s almost always required when you get a mortgage and then bundled into your monthly payments, be sure to double-check that you’re covered.

Private Mortgage Insurance

If you can’t afford a 20% down payment on your home, you’ll have to pay PMI as a way to ensure that the lender won’t go under if you default on your loan. You don’t have to pay PMI forever—it ends once you pay off 78% or more of the principal amount—but until then, expect to pay up to 2% of your loan amount annually.

HOA Fees

Moving to a neighborhood with an HOA? Your dues can range anywhere from under a hundred dollars to over a thousand, but they come with perks like landscaping and exterior maintenance, and some even include added benefits like swimming pools and fitness centers. Not all neighborhoods have an HOA, but your agent can tell you what your payments will be if yours does.

Utilities

Lastly, utility fees can come as a surprise to new homeowners who are used to renting. Depending on the size of your home, you can expect to pay a few hundred dollars per month for water, electricity, heating and cooling, and trash services. If you’re curious what your utility bills might look like, just ask your agent, and they can likely secure a few statements from the past owners.

Ready to Make an Offer?

A man and a woman sitting on a couch with a dog and a cat.

When it comes to buying a home, the most important thing you can do is be prepared. While there are a handful of costs to keep in mind, the satisfaction of calling a place your own is well-worth it in the end.

Are you ready to get started on your home-buying journey? With years of professional and local experience, our team knows all about navigating the expenses that come with buying. Give us a call today to get a better idea of your costs, and let’s get started!

Spring into the Selling Season with These Pro Cleaning Tips

In just a few short days, we’ll turn the corner into warmer weather. There’ll be no more cold mornings, flowers will bloom, trees will grow, birds will sing, and it will officially be spring. Okay, maybe the changing of seasons doesn’t work quite so suddenly, but spring does mark the beginning of a notoriously busy home-buying season.

Since buyers are so active during spring, there’s no better time to list your home. But if you want to stand out in the crowded market, you’re going to have to dig deep into some spring cleaning beforehand.

Here are a few things you can do to kickstart your home-selling, spring cleanup process!

Make a Plan

You don’t have to get all of your cleaning done in one day—or even one weekend. All you need is a solid plan, even if it takes you a few weeks to complete. Take a look at what areas in your house need the most work, and get down to planning out nitty-gritty details.

Coordinate your plan by room and move along space by space, leaving nothing but sparkling clean surfaces in your wake.

Get out Stubborn Stains

A pair of boots sitting on a white carpet.

Maybe you’ve been avoiding cleaning because you know your home has some serious problem areas. Whether it’s getting a years-old stain out of the carpet or returning grungy bathrooms and appliances to their former glory, it’s possible to get out even the worst of stains.

Vinegar, dish soap, warm water, baking soda—these simple household items can get rid of anything from wine stains to mud tracks to coffee spills. All it takes is a little time and some elbow grease!

Try Some Value-Adding Projects

A man rolling a paint roller in a tin of yellow paint.

Since you’re already devoting some time and energy to making your home look its best, why not try a few DIY fixes, too? There are tons of small updates that’ll only take up a few hours of your time, but are worth your while when it comes to selling.

From putting a fresh coat of paint on the walls to power washing your siding, all it takes is a quick trip to your local hardware store to make your home look 10/10.

Dig into the Kitchen & Bathroom

A kitchen sink with the water turned on.

It’s no secret that the kitchen and bathroom are the two most important areas to a buyer. So when you’re making your spring cleaning plan, put some extra time and thought into how you can improve these spaces.

In the kitchen, focus on scrubbing every surface—floors, cabinets, countertops, etc.—cleaning out your drain, and polishing up the appliances. For the bathroom, get rid of any mildew or grime discoloration, and put some elbow grease into cleaning the cracks and crevices in the room.

Think Green

A closeup of blades of grass.

Cleaning can introduce a lot of dangerous chemicals into both your home and the area around your home, but using them can sometimes seem unavoidable. If you’re worried about storing and using hazardous materials around your home, there are plenty of safer ways to make your own cleaning products.

In fact, vinegar, dish soap, baking soda, and water can get most of the jobs you need done, and done well. You can also find a few eco-friendly cleaning products at your local grocery store.

Sell Your Home this Spring

Spring is one of the best seasons to sell your home, so don’t miss out on all of the potential buyers browsing the market. If you’re thinking of selling this spring, now is the time to get started.

Contact us to learn more about what you need to do to get your home in top shape for spring selling, and let’s get started with your real estate journey today!

Searching for a Smaller Home? Here are the Top Tips for Downsizing

Downsizing can be a great choice for homeowners looking to make a financial or lifestyle change. After all, a smaller amount of space means less money on utility bills and less stress from clutter.

Are you a recent empty-nester? Moving for financial reasons? Or maybe you’ve watched a few episodes of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo and feel inspired?  No matter your motivation, you’re not alone—downsizing has become an increasingly popular trend for homeowners everywhere.

If you’re making the move to a smaller place, here are the top tips for a Marie Kondo-style downsizing experience.

Know What You Have

A suitcase filled with random belongings.Walk through your house room by room, and make a detailed list of your belongings. A helpful tip for keeping track? If you aren’t in a rush to downsize, take note of each item and how often you use it over the course of a few weeks or a month. That way, you learn exactly what you’d miss most and what you could go without.

Some downsizers use a color-coded sticker system, some jot notes in a notebook, and some just sort things into piles. Find the method that works best for you, and go from there.

…And What You Don’t Need

A row of clothes hanging in a closet.Once you’ve found out what items aren’t essentials, it’s time to toss them out. Try to focus on things like duplicate items, such as more than one kitchen utensil, and large collections that have accumulated over the years. To paraphrase the aforementioned organizing consultant Marie Kondo: keep the things that spark joy….but get rid of the rest.

There are plenty of great options for rehoming your unwanted items. Try making a little extra money by selling online, donating things to a good cause, or giving items to friends and family.

Maximize Your Space

A built-in wall shelf with small trinkets.When your overall amount of space goes down, you’re required to think of ways to use what you have more efficiently. Storage gadgets such as wall racks, built-in shelves, and pull-out cabinets can tuck belongings out of the way and give you a surprising amount of real estate to work with.

You might also have some furniture that can do double duty. Lots of kitchen or coffee tables either come with or can be customized to include drawers underneath, and bed frames are great for hiding away sliding storage units.

Measure, Measure, Measure

Measuring tape and two rulers laying on a white surface.Hopefully, you’ll have a solid idea of the space you’ll be moving into—at least as far as square footage goes—so you’ll know exactly how much room you have for all of your belongings.

Once you know the size of your space, break out the measuring tape, and take note of the dimensions of the furniture you’re bringing along. The last thing you want is to haul your couch all the way to your new home only to discover that it doesn’t fit in the living room.

Ready to Make a Move?

We know that paring down your possessions can be tough, and moving comes with a wide range of emotions. Try taking pictures of the things you’ll miss most, so you can keep the memories around in your new space.

Once you’re ready to get started on your new home search, give our team a call. With years of local experience and a wide range of professional expertise, we’re here to make sure your real estate experience is successful and stress-free.

Make Buyers Fall in Love with Your Home with These Easy Staging Tips

Love is in the air! We’re not talking about Valentine’s Day — we mean all of the buyers falling in love with your home thanks to these easy staging tips. From simple DIY projects to decor and decluttering pointers, these effortless staging tips will wow the next buyers that step through your front door.

Clean, Clean, Clean

A woman mopping her kitchen floor.The single most important step for staging success? Clean. Break out those rubber gloves and scrub every corner, crack, and crevice that you can find. Not only will a clean home convey to buyers that you take good care of your space, but it’ll also ensure less work and fewer problems when they move in.

The home-staging cleaning process is more than just regular vacuuming, dusting, mopping, and scrubbing; you’ll need to go the extra mile. We’re talking waxing the floors, deep cleaning the carpets, polishing all of the handles and doorknobs, and more. Make an extensive list, and devote a whole weekend to tidying up.

Tackle Any Unfinished Projects

A toolbelt on a roofDo you have a notoriously leaky faucet that you haven’t gotten around to fixing, or a stain on the floor that you’ve been covering with a rug? Now is the time to take care of it.

Take an inventory of any unfinished projects you’ve accumulated. Whether it’s repairing a lighting fixture or patching a hole in the roof, ticking off pending projects is critical in the staging process. The last thing a buyer wants is to inherit problems from a home that they could’ve avoided.

Try Small-Scale DIY

A man rolling a paint roller in a tray of yellow paintYou don’t have to add an extra room or install an in-ground pool to make your home stick out to buyers. There are plenty of simple and affordable DIY projects, from decor improvements to easy upgrades and repairs, that’ll make your home pop!

Need some ideas to kickstart the process? Try putting a fresh coat of paint on the walls, replacing outdated lighting, upgrading cabinet handles and doorknobs, or de-popcorning your ceiling — just a few of the many easy ways to elevate your home’s look.

De-personalize and De-clutter

A row of succulents against a white wall.While decorating plays a big role in catching a buyer’s eye, there’s a fine line between standing out and overdoing it. While you might like your style of decorating, buyers could find it off-putting, so keeping it neutral is key. Using house plants and seasonal greenery is always a solid option for filling empty space!

While you’re putting up that new decor, you’ll want your space to be clutter-free and open. If you have any old couches, outdated decorations, or unnecessary accent pieces, take the opportunity to get rid of them before showings start.

List Your Home with Local Experts

From helping you get your DIY on to handling the complicated closing paperwork, our team is dedicated to helping you have a successful and stress-free real estate experience.

Are you ready to get started on your selling journey? Don’t hesitate to give our team of local experts a call today!

The Pros & Cons of a Buyer’s Letter: Standing Out in a Busy Market

Imagine, after weeks of searching, that you’ve finally found your dream home. It’s in the perfect location with the right features and exactly the amount of space you need. But after requesting more information, your agent informs you that there are already several offers made on the house. How do you stand out in a busy market and snag your dream home?

When buyers are looking to make a lasting impression on sellers, they often opt to submit a letter to the seller. In fact, a recent study found that buyers who submitted letters were 9% more likely to have their offer accepted.

A Buyer’s Letter can work both with you and against you, so it’s important to understand what they are and when you should use one.

What is a Buyer’s Letter?

A man typing on a laptopA Buyer’s Letter is pretty much what it sounds like — a letter written by the buyer for the seller in order to stand out in a busy market. The letter is your chance to make a case for why you should get the home over other buyers.

Many people opt to write about how they envision their lives in the home, how well they would take care of it, how much owning this specific home would mean to them, and similar sentiments.

You might also use this space to talk yourself up, bringing up steady finances, your down payment, and job security — things geared towards making the seller confident in choosing you.

Advantages of a Buyer’s Letter

A man and a woman shaking handsA Buyer’s Letter sets you apart from the crowd and makes you more than just an offer on a sheet of paper — it allows you to connect with the seller on a personal level. In a constantly growing and changing market, being able to stand out or connect puts you a big step ahead of other buyers.

Is the home close to a golf course? Does the seller have bikes in their garage? Are there signs of pets in the home? If you notice you have common interests, including them in the Buyer’s Letter can elevate your standing.

When you choose to forgo a Buyer’s Letter, you miss out on the chance to advocate for yourself, which can go a long way in the seller’s final decision.

Disadvantages of a Buyer’s Letter

A woman writing in a notebook. While there are plenty of pros to using a Buyer’s Letter, there are also pitfalls to consider. Making your case is great, but it does give the seller leverage. If you really love the house as much as you say, then what’s to stop the seller from raising the asking price?

Maybe the seller accepts your offer, and you move to the home inspection stage. If issues turn up, then the seller might refuse to make costly repairs, assuming that you’ll buy the house no matter what.

Another unexpected con of a buyer’s letter? It can be tricky for sellers to navigate around discrimination issues. If a seller picks a buyer of a certain race, religion, gender, or family status instead of another, they could face backlash. Be aware of this when writing your letter so as to not put the seller in an uncomfortable position.

Need Help Standing Out?

If you’re kicking off the home-buying process and need help standing out, we’ve got you covered. Get in touch with us today, and we’ll help you secure your dream home, and answer any and all of your questions in the process.

New Year, New & Improved Home Value

Happy 2019! What do you want to accomplish in the New Year? If you’re thinking seriously about selling your home this year, or just want to add some value to your property, then it’s time to make a game plan for 2019.

You don’t have to break the bank to build your home equity; there are a number of small, easy projects you can do to increase your home’s value. And bonus: they’re indoor-only, so you can get started right away!

Here are three DIY, cost-effective ways to add value to your home.

Update Your Kitchen

Light-filled kitchen with hanging light fixture.Kitchens and bathrooms sell homes. It’s just a fact. If you’re aiming to add value to your entire home, start with these areas.

In the kitchen, refinish wooden cabinets or use a faux-wood finish on non-wood cabinets to give them an updated look. You can also replace your sink with a trendy single-basin fit and sprayer nozzle, and upgrade your appliances to stainless-steel.

With just a few small updates, you can have your whole kitchen feeling brand new!

Give Your Bathroom a Facelift

New construction bathroom with a soaking tub and granite countertop.Let’s head to the bathroom. With a few small upgrades, you can have your entire bathroom feeling like new.

Consider installing a low-flush toilet, updating your faucets, updating your flooring, re-caulking your bathtub, and even replacing the vanity. Strike the perfect balance between energy-efficient upgrades and aesthetic finishes to create a space that’s peaceful, luxurious, and comfortable.

Bring Some Light Into Your Home

Chandelier light fixture.Consider replacing all the lights (and light switches) in your home for a more modern aesthetic. Swap out traditional light switches with dimmers, install wall-mounted lights in your bathroom for a more luxurious feel, and be sure you’re using high-wattage bulbs in every room.

Adding light to your home will instantly make it appear more open and spacious.

Planning to Sell Your Home in the New Year?

We can help with that. Give us a call to begin exploring your real estate options. We’d love to share some additional tips on how to add even more value to your home!

How to Buy a Home in One Year: A Step-by-Step Guide

Let’s start the new year off right. If you’ve been dreaming of a new home, it’s time to get started. Here’s a month-by-month guide to planning for and buying a new home. It’s about time to set your new year’s resolution, right?

January: Brush Up on Your Market Knowledge

Woman typing on a laptop with a paper pad and pen sitting next to her on the desk.The best way to get started? Brush up on your real estate knowledge. Scour the market with a fine-tooth comb. Check out things like current inventory in your city, average sales prices, and the listing-to-sales-price ratio.

This research will help you familiarize yourself with the market.

February: Address Your Budget

Let’s finalize our budget shall we? The easiest way to do this is to get pre-approved for a mortgage.

Meet with a lender (let us know if you’d like a recommendation) to review your finances. The lender will go over your financial history, and then let you know what the bank is willing to lend you.

Now you have an idea of what your mortgage will be and what you can afford in a home.

March: Find Your Perfect Location

A park full of bright trees, each at a different stage in the fall process (one is red, one yellow, and one green).Do some soul searching. Where will you be happiest? Explore locations based on their job market, housing affordability, and overall quality of life. The goal is to narrow down your search to one city.

If you have the means, try to take some time off to go and visit a few cities. Once you find a city, it’s time to narrow your search down even further by pinpointing specific areas or neighborhoods that will best meet your needs.

April: Find the Right Agent

Find the right real estate agent to help you buy a home. Trust us: they’ll save you time, money, and more than a few headaches.

If you need any recommendations, let us know. We have more than a few ideas.

May: Define Your Dream Home

Luxurious living room with winding staircase, bright furniture, and hanging light fixtures.Now is the fun part! Start putting together a list of everything you want in your dream home. We recommend starting by defining your “must-have” features. Think of the things in your home you can’t live without. That’s a great place to start.

It’s also important to know the difference between “must-have” (i.e. you need 3 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms) and “nice-to-haves” (it would be nice to have granite countertops but you can also live without them.)

June-July: Begin Searching

Use a handy home search tool like ours to begin browsing homes for sale in your target area. Once you find a home that you like, it’s time to schedule a tour.

Private home tours are often better than traditional open houses because you have more time to walk through the home, without the pressure of competing with other potential buyers.

At some point in your home-search journey, you’re likely to come across at least one home that calls your name.

August: Fall in Love and Make an Offer

Bright dining room with hardwood floor, small black table, modern decor, and a ceiling fan.You’ve found the one; now make an offer!

Work closely with your agent to compare recently sold homes in the area and craft the perfect offer.

Ask your agent for their advice—like whether or not they think the price is right for this home, as well as what other contingencies you might want to include in your offer. This is when your real estate agent will prove truly valuable: they’ll be able to provide useful insight in order to help you get the home of your dreams for the best possible price.

September: Schedule All the Things

Let’s get down to business. It’s time to negotiate with the seller, schedule an inspection, have your real estate agent complete any renegotiations (based on that inspection), and get the home appraised by a professional.

You’ll also have to take care of some more paperwork to finalize your mortgage loan.

October – December: Let’s Start Closing

Two adults reaching over a table to shake hands.Next, you’ll start the closing process.

Buckle up, because we’re in it for the long haul! Here’s where you’ll finalize your mortgage approval (this requires a ton of paperwork) and meet with an attorney to set closing dates and sign paperwork prior to closing. This is also the time when you’ll review closing fees and the exact monthly costs for your home.

At the end of it all comes the close. You’ll pay the remaining closing fees, sign all the paperwork, and collect your keys Congratulations! You just bought a home.

Ready to Begin?

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