Clear to Close: The Closing Table

From Contract to Closing Table: Avoiding Pitfalls - Houseopedia

Your offer was accepted, the inspection is over, anything that needed to be resolved has been. The only thing standing between you and moving into your new home is the closing table.  What should you expect?

Preparing for the closing date:

Depending on how condensed your contract period is, you may receive the final settlement and HUD-1 statements with enough time to review them with your lender and real estate broker.  It isn’t uncommon, with the volume of new mortgages and refinances, to receive these documents just hours before closing.  Either way, you will have time at the closing table to have all your questions answered about the details and account for every penny of the transaction.

Prior to your closing, you will do a final walk-through of your new home with your broker to inspect its condition.  This is your opportunity to ensure all agreed upon inspection items have been completed, the condition of the home hasn’t changed from when you went under contract, and all contractual items are in the home.  The final walk-through is not an opportunity to re-inspect the home.


Make sure to bring a form of government issued identification for the closing agent to verify you are, in fact, you.

You must bring funds that are immediately available for withdrawal, which includes wire transfers, cashier’s checks, or teller’s checks.  Title companies vary slightly as to what they will accept as good funds, so ask your Realtor before you gather documents. The actual dollar amount you will be required to bring to closing will be derived from the settlement statement prepared by the title company.


The closing is usually held at a title company location that is convenient to both parties of the transaction.  Most closings will include the seller and seller’s agent, buyer and buyer’s agent, lender, and the closing agent.  With more complex transactions there may be attorneys present for one or both sides.

There are three parts of the closing, the first two parts pertain to transferring the real estate from the seller to the buyer.  This includes all the documentation and accounting for the transfer.  If you are borrowing money, you will need to complete the third and final part, paying for the home.  This portion will contain the majority of documents and disclosures required by your lender.  Your lender should be present to answer any questions you may have during this section.

The keys!!

Once all the documents have been successfully signed and all money dispersed, you are now the proud new owner of the home!  This will also be a good opportunity to ask the seller any additional questions you may have about your new property.  It is also a good idea to exchange contact information in case questions arise during the move-in process.

The bottom line

Though it may seem like the closing process is a lot of complex work, it’s worth the time and effort to get things right instead of hurrying up and signing a deal you don’t understand. Be wary of any pressure to close the deal fast. Real estate agents and other entities helping you will want their cut, but they won’t be around to care about the problems you could face in the long run from a bad deal.

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Bathroom Changes to Sell a Home

One of the most effective ways of improving a home’s desirability to buyers is a great bathroom remodel.  Bathrooms are always high on potential buyers’ lists, therefore making an investment in updating your home’s could possibly be one of the best options for increased resale value.

  • Repair and Repaint: Cleanliness is important and a fresh coat of paint will make a big impact. Match the paint color to the existing tile or stone for the most expansive, modern look. If you have ceramic tile that is perhaps a little too colorful already, a simple white paint on the walls will be the easiest choice.
  •  Improve storage space: Storage is important in the bathroom. Add improved options with a deeper medicine cabinet, storage above the toilet and adjustable shelving in the linen closet, if there is one. Installing pull-out shelves in a vanity is also a great way to expand storage space.
  • Replace all fixtures, faucets and door hardware: Much like fashion, the right jewelry will make a simple outfit look like a million bucks. There is nothing like a brand new faucet set to spruce up the sink area and add sparkle … not to mention the fact that old fixtures are harder to keep clean, can be rusty and simply look tired. Purchase a new toilet seat or if your budget allows, completely replace the toilet itself.
  • Replace the vanity or pedestal sink: If the countertop is in good condition, a simple paint job on the vanity will be an quick DIY upgrade. Pedestal sinks are often classic in design style and don’t usually look out of date. However, they don’t offer any storage and if space is needed, a new vanity might be the right choice.

Even some minor upgrades to bathrooms can make a big impact on buyers. Some of these less expensive options would be:

  • Paint or refinish cabinets instead of replacing them.
  • Install a new toilet (white and comfort height, with an elongated bowl).
  • Add new lighting, like sconces that give a high-end look.
  • Include a new mirror or recessed mirrored-front medicine cabinet.
  • Update hardware and make it match throughout, including knobs, pulls, the vanity light, faucets and towel bars
  • Replace scratched or cracked countertops (consider buying a prefabricated vanity with the counter included for ease and affordability)
  • Deep clean — getting rid of rust stains, scrubbing every surface and recaulking can make a big difference.

Get in touch with a Realtor that has the most knowledge about your neighborhood. Learn what buyers are looking for right now. Get an expert opinion, get several opinions and see just what type of updating and repair work would be required to sell your home for a good price. Do you need to update the bathroom, or just give it a good clean and paint?

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How to Decide Between Renting and Owning

The possibility of owning a home is exciting, but it’s easy to get swept up in the glamorous and fun aspects of this buying decision. While it can still be a fun process, deciding whether to rent or buy is a difficult personal decision that requires the thoughtful consideration of a variety of factors. 

Due to the immense financial investment, long-term commitment, and overall risk associated with buying a home, you’ll need to analyze your financial situation, the current housing market, and your goals to determine whether renting or buying is right for you. While it can be a substantial risk, especially if you don’t plan carefully, it can also be a highly beneficial investment.

Weighing the general pros and cons and cons is one thing, but when it comes to making the right choice for your lifestyle, it comes down to evaluating the hard facts of your personal situation. To start you off on the right track, there are some important questions to ask yourself to help guide your decision.

Is It the Right Time to Buy? 

It’s important to understand where the housing market stands right now so you have a basic understanding of what you’re entering into purchasing property.

Timing is everything when it comes to buying a home. You need to consider whether it’s a buyers’ or sellers’ market, what seasons see the most competition, and how the current state of the economy will affect mortgage rates, the ability to get approved for home loans, and property prices. 

As we saw with the Great Recession, we are now experiencing stock market issues and job losses which are impacting the housing market. This is all due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has halted normal life for most people. Even after things begin to return to normal, the effects the pandemic has had on the economy and individual financial situations is expected to last for quite a while. 

According to Whiterock Locators, here are some of the current housing market issues you should be aware of:

  • Lending restrictions are becoming more rigid
  • Salaries are not increasing at the same rates they used to
  • Housing costs are high with an average of over $300,000

With this information in mind, you can determine whether now is the right time to even consider purchasing real estate.

Can You Afford to Buy?

According to iProperty Management, buying is more affordable than renting in about 64% of U.S. housing markets, which is why many people who’ve been content renting are now considering taking the leap into homeownership. However, one of the most important questions you need to ask yourself is, “Can I afford to buy?”. 

Whether it’s a home, apartment, or condo, purchasing real estate is an investment. First, you have to save for the down payment. While in the past, down payments have traditionally been 20%, that requirement has become much lower with the many new loan options available—especially if you’re a first time buyer. 

Down payments are typically much lower nowadays; the average down payment was 6% in 2019, according to the National Association of Realtors. That said, it’s still a lump sum of money (usually upwards of $10,000) that you need to have in-hand at the time of purchase—which is no small feat for many people who have barely surpassed living paycheck-to-paycheck or are now unable to make rent because of COVID-19 layoffs.

Buying a home requires more than just saving up the down payment. You also have to consider the many other costs associated with homeownership, such as: 

  • Mortgage payments
  • Insurance
  • Homeowners’ Association fees
  • Repairs and maintenance
  • Emergencies 

Not to mention, many of your bills may be higher if you’re moving from an apartment or condo to a full-size home. 

If you’re uncertain about being able to manage any of these costs, and you’re finding places to rent in your budget, you may want to keep renting until you can save up or increase your income. 

Is Your Financial Situation Stable?

While you can never be absolutely sure that your job is stable, you should consider certain factors to determine whether your financial situation is reasonably sound. To get a general idea, ask yourself: 

  • Have you been in the same job for more than a year (at least)? 
  • Do you plan on staying in the same career or is a change on the horizon?
  • Do you have savings to help cover the cost of emergencies? 
  • Are you able to afford your estimated mortgage payment without making significant changes to your current budget? 

If you said yes to all of these questions, then you likely have a stable financial foundation to at least consider buying. However, you should also think about whether any other major changes could affect your stability now, or any time in the near future. For example, is it likely that you’ll need to purchase a new car, go back to school, or welcome a baby into your family? If so, it may be better to hold off and stay in your rental until you’re more certain that your finances won’t be fluctuating. 

Are You Planning to Put Down Roots?

If the possibility of moving is in the cards for you, you may want to hold off on purchasing a home. Unless you’re looking to flip the property, buying is typically best if you’re looking to put down roots since it’s a long-term investment. After all, most mortgages are 15 to 30 years. 

However, if you live in a highly competitive region where it’s fairly easy to find reliable renters, buying a home that you can turn into a rental property may be a smart investment. Plus, if you decide to move back, you’ll have somewhere to come back to without having to search for a rental. 

That said, for most people who think moving somewhere else is a possibility in the near future, or those who plan to travel long-term, it’s probably best to stick with renting for now. 

Final Thoughts on Renting vs. Owning 

When it comes down to it, only you can decide whether renting vs. owning is right for you. As rental costs continue to increase, for more and more people, it will likely be the latter. However, the answers to these questions will be your guide to whether you are ready to seize the opportunity and start building your own equity, or if you need the flexibility of renting for a while longer while you sort out your finances and life plan. Either way, starting the conversation to consider homeownership is a step in the right direction so you can start planning for the future and buy when you are ready

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Financial Essentials to Prioritize when You Own a Home

Owning a home is one of the biggest and most important, if not the biggest and most important, financial responsibilities people take on in their lifetimes. Knowing which financial priorities to put first can be challenging, and many first-time homeowners can feel lost in the confusing world of mortgage payments, property taxes, and equity ownership.

We’ll help you clear a few things up. This post will walk you through which financial essentials you need to prioritize when you own a home. Whether you’re considering buying a home in the future, you’re a first-time homeowner, or you just need a refresher, check out this list to help get your home finances on track. 

Mortgage Payments

You guessed it: the first thing that you should absolutely prioritize when you own a home is making payments on your mortgage. A mortgage is a loan from a bank; the bank purchases the house, then you pay them back for it with interest.

For most people, purchasing a home outright isn’t exactly an option, so a mortgage is a way to make homeownership affordable. Mortgages require that you pay back the money you borrowed in monthly installments, so if you own a house, making sure you pay those installments is essential.

If you fail to pay your mortgage on time for a number of months, you may be subject to penalties imposed by the bank from which you borrowed the money. If you get far behind enough, you may get evicted. A good idea is not to take on a mortgage that requires payments more than 30% of your monthly income. However, the lower, the better.

Emergency Fund

Life happens. You might lose your job, or be faced with a large medical bill, or face expensive car repairs. That means that establishing an emergency fund is an important part of homeownership, as your ability to keep up mortgage payments will depend on having enough cash around in case your usual revenue stream dries up.

How much should you have on hand? The exact amount will vary depending on your personal finances. However, a good rule of thumb is to have somewhere between 3 and 6 months’ worth of wages saved up and easily accessible.

That may sound like an insurmountable task, but if you’re diligent about saving, it can be done. Start by aiming for having 3 months’ worth saved up. Then, once you’re there, slowly and steadily try to keep saving until you hit 6 months. Even if it’s a slog, your future self — the one with a sudden emergency — will thank you. 

Upkeep & Expenses

The next financial essential to prioritize is the regular upkeep, maintenance, and expenses that come with owning a home. Many first-time homeowners are surprised by how many unforeseen expenses pop up when you have a house. Here are a few to keep in mind: 

  • Gardening & housekeeping
  • Plumbing repairs
  • Electrical repairs
  • HOA fees (if they apply)
  • Reroofing, when necessary

Another expense to keep in mind is the property tax rate in your area. Property tax rates vary by state and by county, so you’ll need to research your specific county’s tax rate to know how much to set aside. Even for those who have completely paid off their mortgage, property taxes remain an expense to plan ahead for. 

Of course, that’s not an exhaustive list, and something might come up that you hadn’t anticipated at all. If you plan ahead, however, and keep money stashed aside to put toward housing needs, you’ll be in a much better financial position to tackle expenses as they arise. 


Not everyone who owns a house decides to have children, but for many, owning a home coincides with starting a family and having kids. If that’s your situation, and you’re considering having kids, it’s key that you financially plan ahead to the many expenses that come along with them.

Here is a handy list of a few of the expenses that come along with having a child, so you can more easily factor them into your budget:

  • A two-bedroom home, so your child can have their own room
  • Monthly baby care expenses like diapers, baby food, and doctor’s visits
  • Larger grocery budget to account for children’s meals
  • School supplies and expenses related to school trips and events
  • Children’s clothing and shoes
  • Medical expenses, like doctor’s visits, prescription medicine, vaccinations

If you do plan on having kids in the near future, or you already have some, It’s important to factor in all these expenses before deciding on a home to purchase. 

Your Will

Lastly, it’s critical that homeowners consider their wills. As we stated before, your home is often one of the biggest, most important purchases of your life. For many, it’s the largest asset they own. That means that, if they should have an untimely passing, knowing who the home will transfer ownership to is essential. 

It’s an unpleasant thing to have to think about, but in the long run, your next of kin will be glad for it. All too often, people pass on without having established a will, which can lead their family to fight over the property and assets that the deceased has left behind. In order to save your family that pain and frustration (in addition to the pain they would feel if you did pass away), it’s wise to establish a clear and direct will. 

If you’re not sure where to start, don’t worry; you’re not alone. There are plenty of resources available for those who want to establish their will. Online will services are one accessible option that many choose to use. You may also simply see if there are any law firms in your area that will help you put your will together.

Owning a home is a huge financial responsibility. However, with the right planning and prioritizing, you’ll find that the satisfaction of owning your own home is well worth all the financial effort that goes into it. 

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Kitchen Changes to Sell a Home

First Friday Feature: An Updated and Modern Kitchen | Kitchen ...

The kitchen is king. A newly renovated kitchen can help you sell your home for more money and sell your home faster. But, before you take on the work, prospective sellers should talk to the Realtors local to them and find out how they compare to the rest of the market. Find out what their home, their kitchen in this instance needs to have for the buyers out there looking for a new home. Often the kitchen can make or break a home sale. Kitchens can be the deciding factor.


The cheapest thing to do is to start with an immaculately clean kitchen. Clear counters of clutter and remove any items from the tops of cabinets and the refrigerator. This makes the kitchen appear larger and getting rid of any personal items will help potential buyers focus on seeing their own things in the area.


Fresh paint is a relatively inexpensive way of changing the entire look of a room. Opt for light, neutral colors. There is an endless amount of primers and paints available now, making it easy to really make a transformation. Sometimes just cleaning and painting is all it takes to make your kitchen look totally transformed!


It might not be in the budget to change out the cabinetry completely, but there are little things that can be done to create a total makeover.

  • Replace doorknobs and drawer pulls with classic finishes such as brushed nickel or stainless steel for a brand new look. Hardware stores carry a variety.
  • Painting cabinets always make an instant upgrade. Ask a knowledgeable Realtor what color is the most popular. Add a pop of color by simply painting the inside of the cabinets.


Have some fun with this update. Make a bold statement or blend it into the background. If it is outdated, it’s fairly simple to replace it DIY. This is a way to help make a kitchen stand out from the others on the market. Realtors often select subway tile and while white is the most popular, a color can be used to coordinate with the countertops.


Refinish wood floors or replace broken ceramic tiles. For scratched, torn, or faded linoleum, it might be time for a complete redo. Most Realtors will confirm that hardwood flooring is the biggest preference closely followed by tile. Consult with a good Realtor on which is the best seller in the neighborhood.


A bigger job but can make an incredible difference in the kitchen. If changing the countertops and living in the home for a time before selling it, install what is enjoyable to live with but will also add value. If changing countertops to sell a home, upgrade to the standards of the neighborhood.


Replace old and outdated light fixtures with pendant lights. Spray paint any brass fixtures. Upgrading lighting fixtures can help improve potential buyers’ first impressions. Buyers all know they will spend most of their time in the kitchen and proper lighting is a good purchase. Proper lighting can make the difference between a dull room and a rich first impression.


Potential buyers want to envision themselves and their “things” in the kitchen. Again, have a Realtor that will speak the truth of what should be done.

  • For eat-in kitchens, use a smaller table and chairs to make the area appear larger. Place a throw rug under the table to define the separate space.
  • A few well-placed plants bring life and warmth.
  • Add gourmet touches to your now cleared counters such as a bowl of polished fruit, a full bottle of herbed olive oil, or a small wine rack.
  • Polish fixtures, replace light bulbs, and dust every corner.
  • Remove magnets from the refrigerator to help depersonalize.
  • Window treatments should be light or neutral colored.
  • Stow cleaning products under the sink.

The Botton Line: First impressions really matter in Real Estate. Within seconds, we all decide whether we like something or not. The house might be in the best neighborhood, but if the first impression isn’t up to par, it will be tough to sell. And, again, the kitchen is still king when selling a home and a “modern, updated kitchen” tops the list every time in surveys.

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Get Outside and Update the Outside of Your Home to Sell

Spring Curb Appeal: The Colors of SpringBECKI OWENS | Exterior ...

Spring has always seemed to be the best time of the year to sell a house. The trees and flowers are blooming and people are tired of being stuck inside, especially now when the world has been in COVID lockdown. The change in season brings the most buyers that are searching for a home and right now, they are simply doing drive-bys. So, if you are getting ready to put your home on the market, remember the importance of your curb appeal.

One of the most impactful ways to boost your home’s curb appeal is to clean up your current landscaping. Remove any yard debris left over from winter. Trim the hedges, prune flowers to make way for new ones or encourage new growth on your perennials and add some fresh greenery and flowers. Right now, in most states, nurseries hard doing curbside pick up and the big box stores are still open and have a good choice of flowers, etc. and at pretty good prices.

Update your front door. This is the home’s exterior focal point — ramp up the appeal by painting it a rich hue, updating door hardware, or adding a new knocker. You can always replace your front door or add a screen door. But if an entirely new door isn’t in the budget, painting it is just fine. A new color can transform the look not only of the door itself but the entire front of your house.

If you have a lawn, May is the best time to re-seed or add sod if it looks like it’s coming back patchy. Mulch flower beds with a natural mulch to help the soil retain moisture and give the beds a finished look. Keep the lawn freshly mowed.

Clean windows and siding. Give your siding a fresh start this spring by washing off the dirt, road salt, and cobwebs using a power washer or a regular hose with washing attachment. A hose with a window washing attachment can get windows shiny and clean. Just remember to clean inside windows too for the most sparkle.

Determine what type of lighting will enhance the look and safety of your home. Common exterior lighting includes pathway, landscaping, porch and security lights. If you’re adding a front porch fixture, make sure the size is proportionate to your space to create a sleek and inviting look. The fixture you select should support the total wattage you need for proper illumination. Be sure to keep in mind the availability of outdoor outlets. You may want to consider solar powered outdoor lighting.

The Bottom Line: People are itching to get out of their homes from being trapped inside. The stay-at-home orders will be lifted and when they are you will want your home to be in shape, or to be at the top of someone’s list to see. If they only driving by, make your home stand out to them.

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