Archive for the ‘Latest News’ Category

  • How to Prepare for Your Home Search

    Whether you were outbid on every home you liked or you never found the right fit because of limited inventory, you probably encountered a few challenges if you tried to buy a home this year.

    With a new year around the corner, are you thinking about continuing your search? No matter what the market looks like in 2022, we can work together to find the right home for you.

    To start, take these four steps to prepare for a successful experience, and reach out when you’re ready.

    1. Stick to a budget. Tighten those purse strings and start funneling away as much money as possible for your closing costs, down payment and other expenses. Typically, the higher your down payment is, the easier it is to get a mortgage loan.

    2. Work on your credit. Increasing your credit score can help you get a lower mortgage rate, which means a more affordable home purchase on the whole. Try to pay down some debts and set your bills to autopay. Both steps may help you improve your score.

    3. Consider where you might compromise. Sometimes compromising on a few nice-to-haves can help you find a home within your price range. Could you settle for three bedrooms instead of four? A rural home instead of a suburban one? One story instead of two? You may also think about buying a condo or townhouse.

    4. Do some deep-dive research. Make sure you know about all your possible mortgage loan options, as some can lower your upfront costs (or even cover them entirely). Talk to a few lenders, ask questions and consider getting preapproved for your loan before starting your search in the new year.

    Make sure to keep in touch as you get ready to begin house-hunting. And if you need guidance on lenders, mortgage options or local market trends, reach out anytime.

  • 4 Ways to Update Without Renovating

    Renovation projects can be time-consuming and expensive. Fortunately, they’re not your only option if you’re looking to change up the look or feel of your house.

    Even a few small changes can make a big impact — as long as you pick the right ones.

    Do you want to update your house without overspending or committing to weeks or months of construction hassle? Then try one of these four simple projects:

    Create More Space

    Want more space but can’t afford a full-on addition? Try to enlarge your rooms organically. Add more lights and mirrors, paint the walls a brighter color, or rearrange the furniture to make better use of the space.

    Try a Backsplash

    You don’t need new counters or cabinets to make a big impact in the kitchen. Sometimes just adding a new backsplash — even the stick-on tile kind — can be a great way to transform a room. It even works in the bathroom, too.

    Add an Accent Wall

    Full paint jobs can be expensive, especially if you call in a pro. Can’t afford it? Consider an accent wall instead. You could even use a fun, patterned wallpaper for an extra pop.

    Reimagine Your Pantry

    Adding more storage space in the kitchen is always a valuable improvement. And you don’t necessarily need to knock out a wall or add more cabinets. Instead, add more shelves, install pot organizers, or add pull-out trays to make grabbing back-of-the-cabinet items easier.

    Is your house no longer meeting your needs? It may be time for a new property. Get in touch today to start your next home search.

  • 4 Key Questions About Down Payments

    Down payments can be a challenge to navigate, even for experienced homebuyers.

    How much do you need to put down? Do current market conditions change anything for you? Even the most basic questions aren’t always easy to answer.

    Whether you’re thinking of buying soon or planning ahead for a purchase in 2022, now is a good time to clear up any uncertainties and come up with the right strategy for your household.

    Take a look at these frequently asked questions, and reach out if you need a helping hand.

    How much should your down payment be?

    The minimum down payment depends on what type of mortgage loan you’re getting. Some loans (conventional and FHA mortgages) require 3 to 3.5%, while others (VA and USDA loans) require zero. Your credit score will also play a role in some cases.

    Is a large down payment always better?

    It depends on your budget and goals. A big down payment will mean a smaller monthly payment and fewer interest costs in the long run. If it eats into your emergency savings or puts you in dire financial straits, though, it’s probably not the best move.

    What should you consider when setting your goal amount?

    You’ll want to look at the price range you’re shopping in, your budget and the types of loans you’re eligible for. Talking to an experienced loan officer can help you get an accurate idea of what to expect.

    Do you have to come up with all of it on your own?

    Many loan programs allow “gift” funds, which means money given to you by your parents or another family member. You’ll just need a letter stating that the funds are a gift, not a loan, before you can use them.

    Need help finding your next home? Get in touch today.

  • Easy Ways to Boost Your Curb Appeal

    Great curb appeal can make a big difference when selling a home. Not only can it make your property stand out from the competition, but it could also bring in higher offers.

    An attractive house can also be a benefit even if you’re aren’t planning to sell right now. After all, who doesn’t want to take pride in their home while keeping it in excellent condition?

    Do you want to boost your home’s curb appeal without spending a lot of time or money? Take a look at these budget-friendly ideas:

    1. Freshen up your door. You don’t have to replace your door to give it a makeover. Try a new coat of paint, new address numbers, upgraded hardware or even just a decorative welcome mat. A brassy kickplate can be nice, too.

    2. Update your mailbox. Still stuck with that old aluminum mailbox up front? Upgrade to brick or another stylish look. You can also paint the old box a new color or replace the pole if it’s rusted.

    3. Make the porch more inviting. If your front porch looks a little bland, add a sitting area with chairs and a rug or install a bench swing. Potted plants and warm lighting also go a long way.

    4. Clean up the exterior. Power-wash the brick and siding, give your shutters a new coat of paint, and fix any holes or stains on the driveway. You’d be surprised what a little deep cleaning can do.

    5. Outline your garden. Add a new layer of mulch and install pavers around the outside of each garden area. They make the yard really pop — even without flowers or other foliage.

    Planning to list your house soon? Just want to check in? Reach out today.

  • 3 Things That Change When You’re a Homeowner

    You signed the papers, got the keys and opened the front door. Now, that quaint little place is all yours.

    But more freedom comes with more responsibility. A lot changes once you’re a homeowner. Here’s how to prepare for a few of the adjustments — emotionally and financially.

    1. You think about money more often

    Ideally, you start thinking about money long before you sign the papers for your home.

    Say a mortgage on your dream house would be $2,000 a month, but your current rent is $1,500. You should live at the new expense level to test it out before you buy, says Marianela Collado, CEO and senior financial advisor at Tobias Financial Advisors in Florida.

    For example, you could try putting the $500 difference into savings for several months to see if you can manage.

    “You give yourself time to adjust to living within the new cost of housing,” Collado says. “This way you start getting a feel for what the new budget is going to look like.”

    For an even more complete picture of your new budget, go a step further. Collado recommends calling local companies before buying a house so you can gauge how much you should expect to pay for monthly bills like water and electricity.

    Your money mindfulness will need to continue after you’ve settled into your house and placed a welcome mat on the porch.

    A budget needs to be revisited regularly, especially since you can expect home-related expenses to go up over time. It’s crucial to have flexibility in your budget to cover an increase in utility expenses or a financial emergency.

    “Financial planning is never a set it and forget it,” Collado says. “It’s so fluid. Life changes.”

     

    2. You need things you didn’t before

    New homeowners will buy things they never needed before. That may include items such as a screwdriver set, claw hammer, pliers, smart thermostat and smart lighting, according to Jordan Ribelin, a Lowe’s spokesperson.

    You’ll probably need a basic toolkit, water shut-off tool and plunger, too, says Danny Lipford, a national home improvement expert and host of “Today’s Homeowner” on television and radio.

    These are relatively minor, but there are big expenses, too. In an apartment, you may not have needed to purchase a washer, dryer or refrigerator because they were supplied for you. And you probably didn’t need a lawn mower.

    Depending on what you already own, expect to buy appliances for your new place. Start setting aside money for these items while you’re saving for a down payment and closing costs. And keep an eye out for sales and deals.

    But don’t make major purchases until you move in, advises Rianka R. Dorsainvil, CFP, founder of Your Greatest Contribution, a fee-only financial planning firm. That’s because you want your debt-to-income ratio to be as low as possible at closing.

    “After you purchase the home and you’ve slept in it one night, do what you want,” Dorsainvil says. “Buy the furniture. Finance it if you need to and [if] you can afford it.”

     

    3. You manage time differently as a homeowner

    Once you’ve officially moved and sent out your change of address announcements, you’ll quickly realize you’re responsible for upkeep. That means you’re on the hook when the water heater breaks or the air conditioner goes out.

    It’s not just repairs, either. Lipford points out other expenses like yard work and pest control. And for maintenance, you have two options: handle things yourself or hire someone to do it.

    “You really have less free time if you’re going to do items yourself,” Lipford says. “Or if you’re going to hire it done, then you have less available income.”

    Managing a home is a financial balancing act, but you can view this added responsibility as a source of pride. Homeownership isn’t right for everyone, but for those who choose it, the experience is unparalleled.

    “For most people, it’s just a gratifying experience when you go, ‘This is my house. This is one environment that I can truly control. I can make it bright. I can make it dark. I can make it cold. I can make it hot.’ You can’t do that everywhere you go in every aspect of your life. So from that standpoint, there’s nothing like it,” Lipford says.

     

    This article was written by NerdWallet and was originally published by The Associated Press.

  • Why Is Now a Good Time to Buy a Home in Lehigh Valley

    Maybe you are reading online or in the newspaper (really, who does
    that?) that things are slowing in the real estate market. Well when you
    have been around as long as I have, 40 years plus selling real estate in Lehigh Valley, you tend to look a little deeper, no matter what the headlines.
    After a brief period of higher interest rates tipping at just over 5% for
    mortgage rates, we now see a drop to a more stable high 3 -mid 4%
    range.

    You can attribute the decline to all sorts of economic factors but fact of
    the matter, the economy is booming, and housing inventory is slowly
    increasing. More homes on the market, lead to seller competition and
    therefore slower increases in prices.


    Some of you might remember the craziness of last spring when time
    and time again buyers for properties were faced with multiple offers on
    the homes they wanted to buy. With an increase in inventory, I suspect
    that buyers might get more of a choice. If you are a seller, the high rate
    of appreciation in value has slowed depending on your market but
    there has been no discernable decrease in values.


    Regardless of the situation, a home is only worth what a willing buyer
    and willing seller agree to for the sale.


    An adage in real estate is that “January 1 is the beginning of the spring
    market. Well we are there. My suggestion is to contact a trusted agent
    and depending on your situation of whether you are a buyer or seller,
    prepare to hit the ground running. If you are a seller have your agent
    perform a Market Analysis to see what your home could be worth and
    begin the “Dealer Prep” for the market.

    If you are a buyer, find an agent who can advise you for a “pre-
    the qualification” with a lender. Gather your pay stubs, your savings, your
    debts, credit cards and the like, so you know what you can borrow.

    Once you get the financial info out of the way, get set up by your agent to view homes online.

    What’s important: style, square footage, bedrooms, lot size, school district, taxes? Narrow it down, drive by and then go look at the homes.

    If you prepare now, you will be able to act quickly and reasonably when
    you are ready to sell or buy. In the meantime, if you have any
    questions, give us a call at Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Choice
    Properties at 6107597833 and we will start your journey with you to
    make it as enjoyable as possible.