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The Commonwealth Blog

Friday, July 20, 2018

Is It Worth a Long Commute for a Dream Home?

With the advent of long and costly commutes, you may want to think twice about purchasing a home far from your place of work or study. Take into account these factors before picking up the keys to your new dream house -- you may save yourself time, money, and relief from a major headache.

Time on the Road Breaks the Bank

According to the Census Bureau, the average commute time in the U.S. is 25.4 minutes. This sounds doable, but bear in mind that transportation times vary widely depending on where you live. Larger metropolitan areas like Los Angeles, New York, and Boston boast some of the longest commutes, with average driving times of 102, 91, and 79 minutes respectively. That’s a lot of time, and there’s more to consider than the mere madness of gritting your teeth in gridlock.


The amount of time you spend behind the wheel affects how much is spent on gas and maintenance, so it’s important to estimate how often you’ll stop at the pump or repair shop. According to Lifehacker, a whopping $795 is added to annual transportation costs with every additional mile. Significantly reducing your commute time (or even cutting it in half) could save you money on items for your new home or help with a down payment.

Each mile matters, and it’s wise to calculate just how far you’re willing to go for your dream home. We’ll take the National Association of Realtors’ advice and encourage prospective buyers to compare commutes in different areas before signing any legally binding documents. Realtor apps can help by finding homes close to important destinations like school and work, making your search a bit easier.  

There are many factors to consider when searching for a new place. Why not calculate the time and money required for traveling, too? You’ll feel more prepared when you need to compare potential homes and make a final decision.

Investigate Hidden Costs


Many buyers move to the suburbs for the promise of an affordable home that’s well-kept. This is a lucrative prospect if travel times are minimal, but keep in mind that costly commutes to work, school, or the city can offset low housing prices. In a study published by the Urban Land Institute, research shows that suburban homeowners may spend more than their counterparts in the city when travel expenses are taken into account.

But don’t be fooled. While living close to the city center cushions you from traveling expenses, the cost of city living can be pricey. Parking passes are as much as $200 a month, and insurance and tax rates skyrocket when densely populated areas are more prone to accidents and theft. When making your decision, it’s necessary to research costs associated with both city and suburban life -- and to weigh the pros and cons of each.

Be Sensible About Your Sanity


Another worthwhile thing to consider is, well, your mental health. Studies show that long commute times can, not surprisingly, have a negative impact on your health. Research from Washington University suggests long travel times put drivers at risk for high blood pressure, weight gain, and other health issues associated with chronic disease.

The next time you commit to an hour-long journey to and from work, understand that your physical and mental health may be at stake. Determine if lengthy travel times will drive you off the rails, or if you can peacefully get by with help from a podcast or some music.

Live the Life You’re Meant to Live


Making an important decision like buying a house requires much thought and ultimately depends on the kind of lifestyle you want to live. Do you see yourself settling down in a quiet neighborhood to raise a family? Are you intrigued by the hustle and bustle of large metropolitan areas? Is proximity to parks and greenery essential to your well-being?

These preferences carry weight and help inform your house-buying decision -- and they should because where you’re at in life matters. You’ll be happier knowing your community supports your unique personality, goals, and aspirations.

Just don’t forget about commute times and all associated costs. With a bit of preparation and research, you’re well on your way to making a confident decision about a home you love.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

4 Ways to Make Moving Day Easier

We all know how stressful moving can be; fitting pots and pans into boxes becomes one big puzzle and hauling books to the car seems unnecessarily evil. But moving doesn’t always have to be a stressful ordeal.

In fact, with the right mindset and preparation, moving is made simple and can be accomplished in an organized and chaos-free fashion. Follow these steps on how to make your next move smart, easy, and maybe even fun.

Steer Clear of Clutter

Now is the time to take a good hard look at the things you’ve been hoarding in your closet for the last decade. Before packing, consider which items are essential to your happiness and if they’ve recently been put to good use. Rid your space of old socks, rusty pans, and books that will never be read.

It’s okay to be brutally honest in this phase. You’ll thank yourself later when you move into your new home without having to sift through old and neglected items. 

Now that things have been sorted, decide which pieces to sell or donate. Donation centers like the Goodwill, Salvation Army, and Donation Town accept a variety of used household gems. Clothes, furniture, electronics, toys, and sporting equipment can be scheduled for pickup, and getting rid of your things is as easy as making a phone call.

Plan Like a Professional

Just like decluttering your space saves you from a potential headache, planning your move ahead of time helps prevent unwanted mayhem. Research different moving companies and call a month in advance to schedule the best time for your move. Make sure your moving company of choice is certified in your state and has a reputation for responsible handling. After all, you can’t afford to have delicate dishes tossed around when no one is looking!

It will also be beneficial to contact all utility providers so money isn’t spent on services you no longer use. Changing your home address a week in advance ensures important documents arrive safely at their new location. Taking steps such as these, while sometimes easy to forget, makes your transition less dizzying and gives you a leg up on your moving experience. So, pull out the calendar and start planning.

Find the Right Tools for the Job

A packer’s journey usually begins with boxes. There are small ones, large ones – ones with labels and color-specific tape. Basically, there are a lot of boxes out there that will get the job done. We suggest making a trip to your local liquor or grocery store to pick up recycled boxes no longer in use. Why not buy a couple of cold ones while you’re at it? Toast to all your hard work and the friends and family who’ve made your move a bit more doable and fun.

When it comes to packing strategy, there are some things all packers should know. Place heavier items like books and glassware in smaller boxes. They’ll be easier to carry, and you won’t break as much of a sweat. Consider placing books in suitcases to avoid more heavy lifting and use durable trash bags for clothing items instead. Stack dishes vertically and wrap fragile items in blankets, towels, or bubble wrap so they can endure a rickety car ride.

Alongside boxes, you’re going to want plenty of Ziploc bags for screws, chords, and miscellaneous objects. Be sure to invest in durable packing tape and label the sides of boxes to make unloading easy. Packing boxes by item type or room will make unpacking even more straightforward, and it’s a good idea to have a game plan in mind before you load up the car.

Celebrate Your Victory

Moving undoubtedly takes a lot out of you. After all the cleaning, sorting, and hauling of furniture, you deserve a break. Whether hired movers did most of the heavy lifting or your friends and family were recruited for the job, everyone deserves some type of post-moving reward.

Put thought into tipping your mover. Order a pizza and a round of drinks for friends and family. Best of all, sleep soundly in your new home knowing the bulk of work is done and that the all the planning paid off. 

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Spruce up Your Deck This Summer

 

Owning a deck has its perks. It’s a place where family and friends come together to soak up the sun and where grill masters find joy in a well-cooked steak. Alongside being a place of pleasure, a sturdy deck adds value to a property in a competitive housing market and is appealing to prospective buyers.

So, what can you do to ensure your deck stays in great shape all year round? We’ve made a list of DIY deck-improvement steps that will keep your deck looking fabulous without breaking the bank.

Start with a Clean Slate

Before you get to decorating, make sure all surfaces are clean and free of dirt. We suggest using a leaf blower to blast away dust on deck surfaces, railings, and furniture, ridding your deck of grime and pollen that has accumulated over time.

Consider what furniture will be refurbished and what pieces need to be replaced. Keep in mind that refurbishing chairs and tables may cost more in the long run, so don’t be afraid to make room for newer and nicer pieces.

After materials are free of dirt and dust, it’s time for a good old-fashioned wash. Make your own DIY soap and clean all areas affected by blemishes. For a solution that rids of stains, combine lavender oil, unscented soap, and one tablespoon of sodium borate into a 16-ounce bottle. Lavender oil naturally wards off bugs and offers a pleasant aroma.

After applying the solution, dilute the soap with warm water, scrub well, rinse, and enjoy your spiffed-up deck. Don’t forget to clean railings and sand down any areas worn from weather and heavy use. Now that you’ve put a bit of muscle into making your deck new again, you’re ready for next steps.

Painted to Perfection

Your deck furniture is now clean, smooth, and ready for a fresh coat of paint. Before applying paints, consider the sorts of materials you’ll be working with. Plastics, metals, and wood wear certain paints better than others, so make sure to do the appropriate research before applying any products. Place cardboard beneath all objects to protect surfaces from unwanted residue.

If you’re applying spray paint, use a circular motion to create an even and polished look. Using several coats will ensure your paint job looks great and withstands harsh weather and everyday use.

It’s all in the Details

A deck is an extension of your home and looks great when you dress it up a little. Adding colorful cushions, rugs, and plants make your space come to life, offering a cozy retreat for casual and formal gatherings. While shopping for new pieces, consider what patterns and fabrics suit your style and opt for materials that will last in both hot and cool weather.

Umbrellas and couch cushions made with UV-protected materials are great for hotter climates and are durable and long-lasting. If you’re a fan of fun patterns, don’t be afraid to go all out, but consider purchasing simpler couch cushions if you wish to cover them in the future. Use colorful rugs made with synthetic materials to visually widen the space, withstand foot traffic, and give your deck a festive feel. Umbrellas are of equal importance, as they shade you from the sun and are colorful and fun.

Be sure to store them in cool, dry areas so you can use them for years to come. To make your deck come to life, bring a bit of the outdoors indoors by decorating your deck with potted plants. Place flower boxes and herbs on deck railings to frame your outdoor space with color and texture.

The Value of Joy

In the December 2016 Remodeling Impact Study by the National Association of Realtors and the National Association of Landscape Professionals, research concluded that adding a wooden deck to your home recovers 106% of its value after it has sold.

Homeowners not only receive a fiscal profit from their investment but enjoy the many perks their deck has to offer while it’s in use: a cozy gathering space, outdoor pleasantries, and the joy of lounging on a worthy investment. 

Monday, July 9, 2018

Why You Need a Buyer’s Agent

It’s tempting to take full control when you’re trying to buy a home, but even if being in charge of your entire home-buying process makes you comfortable, you’ll actually be making things much more difficult for yourself. Buyer’s agents have:

  • Experience searching for specific needs in real estate
  • Access to more available houses on the market
  • Negotiating skills for when you’re ready to buy

Consider some of the reasons that other buyers frequently opt for a buyer’s agent:

They Will Take Care of Confrontation

Buying a home comes with risks, and as you, your real estate agent, and inspectors continue to explore the condition of the home, some problems that may not have been immediately obvious may begin to appear. To take care of those problems, you’ll have to confront the seller or the seller’s agent about making fixes and changes that they may not want to (but have to) pay to make.

Having those talks during the buying process can be stressful and frustrating. Fortunately, buyer’s agents are profoundly experienced in dealing with common issues that arise during the buying process and have gentle and constructive ways of making sure that work that needs to be done gets done.

They Will Guide You through Paperwork

There are mountains of paperwork to be done when you’re buying a home, but don’t worry; it’s there to protect both you and the seller. Your buyer’s agent will help explain to you what you’re signing and why so that you can confidently proceed with the buying process. Without the help of a buyer’s agent, you may find yourself poring through paperwork for hours that could have been spent getting a better price or even finding a better home.

They Give You Easy Access to Local Information

You can spend your time deeply researching your potential new neighborhood or finding out what restaurants and entertainment are nearby, but it’s your buyer’s agent’s job to either know the area well enough to provide that information right away or to look it up for you. Your buyer’s agent also likely knows zoning ordinances well and may have useful referrals for inspectors and movers to ease your move-in.

They Set Appointments for You

Managing your calendar while buying a home is just another tedious part of the process. Luckily, buyer’s agents have superior calendar and time management skills, and they’ll make sure that your appointments for looking at houses you love and finalizing paperwork are set on a schedule that works with your lifestyle.

They Cost Nothing

Believe it or not, the burden of paying the buyer’s agent falls on the seller and is included in their net earnings on the house. Sellers pay commission to the seller’s and buyer’s agent in almost all real estate transactions. That means you don’t have to pay anything to the buyer’s agent to relieve a large amount of the burden of searching for and finalizing paperwork on a new home.

 

Don’t be afraid to inquire about the services that a buyer’s agent can offer and confirm that the services you receive will be covered by the seller. It’s an opportunity for you to focus on what you love about the home and not have to spend time learning the processes of searching for and finalizing a new home purchase.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Top 3 Bidding Strategies to Win Your Home

You may not think placing an offer for your new home will become a bidding war, but in an energetic market, you’ll be sure to go up against competitive bids on the home you want. After all, nearly a quarter of homes that closed in 2017 did so at a price higher than the asking price. In situations like these, you may be tempted to jump to the highest bid or else bow out. A high bid is certainly one way to attract the seller’s attention, but it’s not the only way. Utilizing data from Redfin, we’ve put together a list of the top three strategies you can use to try to ensure you’re the one that walks away with the keys to the property.

Submit an All-Cash Offer

All-cash offers promise a quick and definitive closing process that’s also almost completely frictionless. In part, that’s because no one must bother preparing or acquiring a loan or appraisal, which are not only time-consuming but can kill the deal altogether if the borrower is turned down. However, it’s mostly because an all-cash offer is incredibly attractive to sellers. An all-cash offer immediately speaks to the seriousness of your interest in the property, especially to motivated sellers in high-demand markets with tight inventory. This puts you in a stronger position when bargaining over the price.

Improved Chance of Success for Offers

Standard Market: 97%                   Luxury Market: 438%

 

Waive the Financing Contingency

The financing contingency included in many sales contracts makes closing on the home fully dependent on the buyer’s ability to obtain a mortgage. With the contingency in place, if the buyer doesn’t get the loan, the sale doesn’t close, and the seller must start over. Waiving this contingency guarantees the seller that you will be responsible for finding the funds to pay for the house whether you receive the loan or not. This is risky for some buyers because if they don’t go about the process in the right way, they can end up on the hook for debt they can’t pay for. However, you can reduce your risk by speaking to your mortgage lender about your options before bidding. They may be capable of providing a fully-underwritten, pre-approval letter, which ensures that you’ll get the loan if the sale moves forward. (Please note: Never assume what your lender is ready or able to do. Always contact them before waiving this contingency.)

Improved Chance of Success for Offers

Standard Market: 58%                   Luxury Market: 76%

 

Write a Personal Letter

Writing a letter may seem old-fashioned, but it’s one of the easiest ways to connect with a seller on an emotional level, especially if they’re motivated and have several offers to consider. By helping them relate to who you are, what you value, and your personal circumstances, you may also give them a reason beyond cold, hard cash to choose you. Perhaps it’s knowing that your children will adore playing in the halls and yard the way theirs did, or that its accessibility options make it easy to care for an ill or disabled family member. Maybe it’s knowing that the property will go to someone who loves and cares for it as much as they did. Whatever the point of connection is, it has a chance of resonating with them on a deep, emotional level, allowing you to win their hearts even if you weren’t the first choice for their wallet.

Improved Chance of Success for Offers

Standard Market: 52%                   Luxury Market: N/A*

 

When buying a home, it’s natural to hope you’re the only bidder or that you’ve offered the best bid. However, the more competitive the market is, the more you need to understand the tactics necessary for winning a de facto bidding war on your property of choice. The strategies we’ve outlined above will help give you the upper hand in negotiations. Be sure to discuss them with your real estate agent and leverage the best option for your unique circumstances.

 

Monday, July 2, 2018

5 Benefits of Selling Your Home this Fall

Every industry has its peak season, and as with anything to do with homes, summer is the most popular time of year for buying and selling a house. Of course, just because the leaves are falling doesn’t mean realtors don’t have properties they need to sell. You shouldn’t sit on selling your property just because it’s the offseason. Here are just a few of the benefits that selling a home in autumn can offer.

Avoid the Competition of Summer

Summer is the most popular season for selling homes, and that does mean there are a lot more buyers looking for property. However, it also means more competition between realtors. The marketing space is more crowded, and price negotiations are more heated because they may have other options on the line. In the fall, the competition thins out, giving you more room to stand out to potential buyers. What’s more, those buyers are more likely to be qualified, and you’re less likely to have to sift through people who are looking just to look.

Autumn Is a Safer Time of Year

We don’t always think of crime as having a peak season, but it does – summer. While some families are away on vacation, others are putting their property up for sale holding open houses, or have contractors going in and out as they make repairs and upgrades. In fall, families have returned to normal schedules, and it’s easier for neighbors to keep an eye out on behalf of their friends. Autumn presents less risk of theft for you and can also be a selling point. Potential buyers will have time to install security systems or smart home features before riskier seasons, like summer or the holidays, are in full swing.

Leverage Urgency in the Small Window before the Holidays

Speaking of the holidays, they present yet another tool for sellers. Most home buyers want to be settled into their new home before they must attend to responsibilities like decorating, hosting parties, and welcoming friends and family. This urgency can encourage a faster closing process, which is beneficial to sellers during negotiations.

Take Advantage of End-of-Year Bargains

Have you ever noticed that Christmas shopping seems to start earlier and earlier every year? Well, the deals do, too, and in fall, you’ll see discounts and other promotions on products and services you may want or need for renovations, upgrades, or staging. Fall and winter are also the off-season for home improvement companies so you may be able to get a better price on services you can’t do on your own. While Black Friday marks the latter half of autumn, it offers significant discounts on carpeting, furniture, and appliances to help take your curb appeal up a notch.

Remind Buyers about the Impacts of Property Taxes

As a seller, you already know about the benefits of property tax and mortgage interest payments – the deductions once tax season rolls around. You can help nudge buyers along by reminding them that even if the sale closes in December, they can apply those deductions against that year’s income. As a seller, there are additional deductions in it for you as well – the cost of home improvement, selling expenses, and closing costs can all be deducted. (Note: Tax regulations may change from one year to the next. Be sure to talk to your realtor, attorney, or financial advisor about which deductions are applicable to you.)

The summer is a peak season for real estate, and there are plenty of good reasons for that. However, when you consider the benefits we’ve named here, you can see why the fall provides its own prime opportunities. Be sure to take full advantage of each when selling your home during autumn.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Can Smart Devices Add Value to Your Home?

Digital devices are a standard in modern America, and it’s often thought that people no longer distinguish the virtual world from the physical in the way they used to. The more advanced technology becomes, the more seamlessly our devices and digital services integrate with our every day lives. Of course, we want all our devices to work together, and inevitably, this led to the types of innovations that gave birth to the smart home.

It’s a term you’ve probably heard bandied about quite often, but you may not have stopped to think about what it means. A “smart” device is one that can act both interactively and autonomously, and it connects with the internet and other devices via wireless options including Bluetooth, NFC, or even Wi-Fi or cellular connections (e.g., 3G, 4G, LTE). Thus, a “smart home” is one that leverages one or more of these devices for a variety of tasks.

Why Own Smart Home Devices?

The answer to this question will vary by owner. For instance, the disabled or elderly may want improved accessibility and communications, while families with children may be more interested in security. Similarly, single, young professionals may be looking more toward convenience.

However, the power of smart devices is in their interconnectivity and personalization. A homeowner isn’t limited to just one type of device. They can mix and match as desired to suit their lifestyle.

What Are They Really Capable Of?

Smart home devices have been developed to meet practically any need, and it would be a safe bet that if a need hasn’t been met yet, there’s an innovation on the horizon to match. Browsing the top electronics and news sites (e.g., PCMag, Fortune, CNET), you can find list after list of the top devices or the latest services to debut at major conventions. If there’s a popular device brand you love, chances are good that they offer some sort of device; Google, Apple, and Amazon all offer options for various purposes. Here’s a snapshot of what you can find on the market:

Security

From surveillance cameras to video doorbells and even the very locks on your doors, smart devices can handle safety concerns wirelessly. Most will connect with your phone, laptop, or tablet to give you complete control and tune in from anywhere. These options can provide additional security – for instance, they can’t be interrupted by cutting your landline – along with piece of mind. Many times, they’re also simpler to set up, and may be less expensive than traditional security systems.

Lighting

Smart bulbs can be programmed to turn on by request, or simply by coming home. In fact, depending on the brand, they can even be programmed to change color to indicate an alert on your phone (e.g., a text from work or a phone call from you kids). They’re made with LEDs, so even if you don’t have them programmed to turn off when you leave the house, they’ll save on your electric bill.

Temperature Control

You’ve probably heard of the Nest thermostat, but it’s hardly the only option on the market anymore. Program these thermostats to change settings throughout the day or control them directly from your phone. Depending on the brand, it may even feature computer learning that learns your habits and programs itself for you based on a variety of indicators, including time of day, outdoor and indoor temperature, or humidity. Furthermore, you can amplify both savings and comfort because if you’ve forgotten to turn off the air conditioning before you go, you can do it from your phone. If it’s really cold outside, you can also start the heater before heading home.

Personal Assistants

If you’re used to using Siri or a similar digital assistant, then this concept won’t be all that foreign to you. These hubs listen for voice commands and follow through with a variety of procedures. That may mean reordering paper towels from an online store, calling your mom, turning on the lights in individual rooms, or playing your favorite song. The more smart home devices that you connect to it, the more versatile they become.

And Much More

It might not be hyperbole to say the sky’s the limit with the potential for smart devices. There are smart cooking devices to manage perfect sous vide or smoked barbecue, cleaning devices that make the typical Roomba seem outdated, and even smart hubs to control both your sprinkler system and hands-free lawnmower bots. If you’re interested in smart home technology, it’s well worth your time to peruse developments from events like CES, where major brands unveil their latest offerings.

But Do These Devices Add Real Value to My Home?

If you’re worried about whether investing in smart home devices can hurt the value of your home, don’t. Consider the fact that conservative estimates peg the global smart home market to be worth $53.4 billion by 2022 alone (per Statista). Already, household penetration is at 32% here in the U.S., but that will grow to more than 53% by 2022, and North America is the leading market (Statista Forecast). By its very nature, this growth indicates that more and more homebuyers will be interested in having smart home devices.

However, if you’re preparing to sell your home, make this choice carefully. Choose trusted brands with great reviews, which will help improve how attractive the system is to buyers. You may also want to stick with core basics that are unquestioningly valuable. Smart lighting systems help save money while adding a significant level of convenience, for example. Security systems are also a good choice, especially if you utilize technology that doesn’t require a service contract, or which can be integrated with certain services (e.g., security firm ADT will integrate Nest devices).

Smart home technology is quickly becoming the new norm, whether it’s in small ways like leveraging a digital assistant such as Amazon’s Alexa or crucial ways like home monitoring systems that let parents watch if their kids open the front door. These tools add convenience to our every day moments, and more than that, they add value. Choosing the right devices will add real value to your property if you’re looking to sell.

Monday, June 25, 2018

7 Reasons You Should Attend Open Houses

Open houses present a world of opportunity, even if you aren’t prepared to buy just yet. There are several benefits and insights you can gain from attending one and paying a bit of attention. If you’re going with a purpose – and if you’re honest with the agent hosting the open house – then you aren’t an annoying looky-loo. You’re making strategic efforts to prepare yourself for what can be a stressful process.

Meet Potential Agents

While you should always remember that the hosting real estate agent is working for the seller, it gives you the chance to see agents operating in the market you’re interested in first hand. Attending multiple open houses from different agencies can give you a good idea of what kind of agent you want representing you during the buying process. Attending multiple open houses by the same agents lets you get to know them face-to-face without having to go through the process of formal appointments, especially if you’re not ready to buy. Agents should also be knowledgeable about the market overall, so it’s also a good opportunity to get expert information.

Size Up the Market

Markets change regularly, so this is especially important if you’re in the process for preparing to buy sooner rather than later. When you visit an open house, the number of people who sign in – that is, the number of people who the agent can follow up with – will likely indicate current demand. A high visitor count means you’ll need to be ready with an offer quickly, or someone else will scoop the property out from under you. What’s more, multiple open houses in the same area will help gauge the price range for that market.

Scope Out the Neighborhood

There are two elements to this tip. First, you can peruse the neighborhood as you drive to the open house. Second, looky-loos abound at open houses, and often, they’re curious neighbors. You can learn a lot about a community’s personality by chatting with these neighbors. For example, it will become easy to see whether the area is filled with retirees, young professionals, or established families. Don’t be afraid to ask questions – neighbors are more likely to be honest and won’t have a sales pitch attached. You should also remember to consider whether it seems like the sort of neighborhood that comes together for events like block parties, or if it’s mostly quiet; it’s the little things that build your true experience in a community.

Set Realistic Expectations

This is especially important for first-time buyers, but it never hurts for those who already own property to be reminded that the perfect property probably doesn’t exist. Real estate agents are all too familiar with first-time buyers that have a dream home in mind but which, in reality, is impossible to find, especially when it comes to price. Open houses will show you what kind of homes are on the market in the area along with the price tag. You can use this to plan how much you’d like to save, or even turn your attention toward a neighborhood that’s more aligned with your finances. You can find a beautiful home that appeals to you, and you can afford, but it might not what you expected before you started browsing.

Realize What You  Want

Hand in hand with realistic expectations, open houses let you experience potential homes in a fully sensory way. You may think you prefer a certain layout, but once you visit a home with that layout, you realize that it doesn’t suit your needs. Alternately, you may not have considered a certain type of house (e.g., modern versus older homes) before perusing it on a casual open house but realize you love it; had you waited until you were seriously hunting, you may have avoided that style of home in favor of focusing on what you thought you wanted. You may have certain amenities or maintenance ideas in mind, but seeing what different homes offer, you come away with new ideas about what you want. Visiting open houses gives you a framework for what you’ll request from your agent later.

Prepare for Serious Hunting

You may have noticed a trend through each of the benefits we’ve outlined above. Attending an open house is key for prospective buyers to find the homes they want to make an offer on. Yet it’s also important for those preparing for the buying process because it offers real-world experience of the market, the neighborhood, and different types of properties. It’s just as important as preparing your finances!

Get Creative Insight

Perhaps you’re ready to buy a home, and you’re not sure how you’d like to design your décor. Perhaps you’re selling your home, and you want inspiration for how to stage it. Either way, open houses have often been professionally staged or designed, showing off the latest aesthetic to appeal to customers. Often, these designs are wallet-friendly, since they’re implemented solely for selling the house. That makes it easier for you to use it as inspiration later without hurting your own budget.

Whether you’re ready to buy soon or you’re only planning and preparing to buy later, an open house presents an opportunity for you to best position yourself for such an important purchase. You’ll have the chance to understand the market, selling prices, and what you really value in a future home. Take full advantage of these benefits by attending open houses in the neighborhoods you’re interested in.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

How to Sell Homes to Millennial First-Time Homebuyers

Whether you’re a new Realtor or you’ve been in the business for decades, there’s a recent group of homebuyers that have entered the market in a big way. Millennials are now the largest generational group in the United States, having surpassed Baby Boomers around 2016. In this study, the millennial generation encompassed individuals born from 1981 to 1997, who would be 21-37 years old in 2018.

Although millennials don’t yet have the buying power of older generations, they’re the largest group of first-time homebuyers and represent 34% of the market, according to the National Association of Realtors. It’s essential to realize that these buyers differ from other generations and what motivates them to purchase properties. With these important tips, you can sell more homes to millennial homebuyers and expand your business.

Market the Neighborhood

For many buyers in the millennial demographic, it’s not as much about the house as the community. They’re looking for a neighborhood that matches their interests and passions and can support their needs. This demographic’s needs likely differ from other buyers and are focused on urban centers with better public transportation.  

Millennials own cars in fewer numbers than Generation X or Baby Boomers, preferring public transportation. When targeting millennial buyers, focus on the amenities of the area, including local businesses, restaurants, breweries, music venues, whatever appeal to your buyer.

Do your research for your clients to discover which neighborhoods match their desires and find a community that they can participate in that has properties that fit their lifestyle. If you can enter showings armed with the knowledge of the surrounding area, you’ll be off to a good start for your new millennial clients.

Improve Your Social Media

Word of mouth and referrals have always been the bread and butter of real estate. Many Realtors have created social media profiles, but it’s more important than ever with millennial clients. 88% of adults aged 18-29 indicate they use social media, while 78% of those aged 30-49 do according to a recent Pew study. Facebook and Twitter are the most popular though Instagram and Snapchat are rising in popularity.

As a Realtor, you can use social media to engage with potential clients (both sellers and buyers) in a format where they’re already comfortable. Enhance your social media presence by posting and creating unique content for your clients.

Respond and Act Quickly

Often deemed the “instant gratification” generation, millennials expect things more quickly. While it’s not a universal truth, many homebuyers in this generation are impatient and want communication to happen more quickly than may normally occur. Accepting this faster-paced lifestyle and message style may be difficult but can help you secure additional clients.

If you’re ready to answer emails, text messages, and other forms of communication quickly (and at odd times), you can be a resource to your buyers and differentiate yourself from competitors.

Make Yourself a Resource

Many millennials are first-time homebuyers and may not know much about the real estate and purchase process. Instead of positioning yourself as an agent trying to sell a home, first be a resource to your client. Buying a home can seem complicated and overwhelming, so walk them through this daunting process. Build trust and establish good rapport by answering questions and guiding them through the steps toward buying their first home.

One of the easiest ways to be a resource is to have content ready for your millennial clients. Whether you write it yourself or hire someone in content marketing, your real estate articles can be invaluable in building trust with millennial buyers.

Targeting a new generation of homebuyers can be challenging, but with these tips, you can expand your business and sell homes to more millennials.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Negotiating in a Seller's Market

In many parts of the United States, the real estate market has become a seller’s one. This can be a challenge for buyers, as there are fewer homes than buyers. It's difficult to negotiate in such a tight market and even harder to find the perfect home for you. With help from an experienced Realtor, you can prepare yourself to be ready in a seller’s market.

As a buyer, it may be frustrating to feel you’re not in control of your home buying process. However, with the right techniques that address the seller’s market, you’ll more likely get the deal you’re looking for and the home you want.

Have a Prepared Preapproval or Pay in Cash

To properly negotiate, you need to be in a place of financial strength. A seller’s market often has investors and flippers with full cash offers, so you need to have your financing in place. A prequalification isn’t enough for an offer, so make sure you have an accurately written preapproval letter (related to your offer for the home) or offer cash. Your mortgage lender can customize the preapproval letter for you, which will make you look more serious to the seller and their agent.

Negotiate Respectfully

In a seller’s market, you probably don’t want to submit a lowball offer. While this may make sense for a home that’s been on the market for a while or in a buyer’s market, this can insult in a seller’s market. Your Realtor can walk you through the skilled negotiating tactics you need in a seller’s market. The seller’s agent may even bluff, suggesting they have better offers than yours. Be prepared to walk away or provide comparable properties you can purchase if you don’t want to or can’t increase your offer.

Show You’re Serious About the Listing

In a seller’s market, there may be multiple offers on a home. You need to set your offer apart from the others. If you know, you can close, offer a generous earnest money deposit and consider making it nonrefundable. This will show the seller you really love the house and want it more than a flipper or real estate investor. You can also submit a letter and photo of your family to show them why you’d be a good fit for the property. Though this doesn’t always work, it can elevate your offer.

Make a Clean Offer

While you might want to make demands of the seller in another buying scenario, in a seller’s market, this can harm you offer. If you want extensive décor removed or repainting, don’t include this in your offer. The only necessary demand should be a home inspection. If significant issues do come up, you can address them after the home inspection. Keep the rest of the offer clean and free of demands to help your offer stand out, move through the process quickly, and get you the keys.

 

Sellers’ markets can be difficult to negotiate, but with a little help and advice, you can still find your dream house. You may need to readjust your expectations slightly, but you can still find a good deal on a property you’ll love living in.

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