Holiday Home Buying & Selling

One of the best deals people can make is buying a home during the Christmas holiday season. There are a variety of reasons for buying a home during this time of year including less competition, year-end tax advantages as well as lower home prices, and faster closings. The inventory is limited with fewer people selling homes, but it is an advantage to buyers. The truth is negotiating a favorable price will be much easier than at other times of the year.

Closing on a new home before December 31 will bring tax benefits. Deductions can be itemized such as points paid upon closing, property taxes, and mortgage interest rates. Often times, a move at this time of the year has to do with an employment move which can bring more tax breaks. Sometimes even the costs associated with hiring a local moving company (if the move is work-related) can be itemized.

Sellers who choose to have their home on the market during the holidays are usually more motivated than the rest of the year. Listing a home during an off peak time such as this often means a job relocation, or some time sensitive issue that puts buyers in a position to get a better deal. 

Everyone involved with the real estate deal – sellers, Realtors, title agencies, banks, inspectors, lenders – want to wrap the deal up before the holidays. This time of year brings about a much more focused and speedy process that takes longer during the rest of the year. Just make sure before you begin the process that the Realtor that you choose will not be leaving for vacation and become MIA for a week or so. 

Favorable financing comes at holiday time. Interest rates on mortgages and loans typically hit a lower point around the holidays because fewer people are looking to borrow. There is historically, less financial business being done during December.

Find a well-connected Realtor. Fewer homes are listed between Halloween and New Year’s Day but a good Realtor knows other Realtors and they all talk about what’s coming on the market.  

And, another pretty fine reason to buy a home during the holidays? January and February bring the seasonal sales. Think –  new furniture, appliances, decor, even next year’s holiday decorations! 

The Bottom Line: Buyers should watch the market conditions as well as look online at what is out there. Get the word out to Realtors that can help find any  “pocket listings”. Check out the many online calculators that are available and see how much can be saved over the life of a mortgage with even a little decrease in interest rates that tend to happen during the holidays.  

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Title Insurance Importance

What is Title Insurance?

Title insurance is an insurance policy or contract issued by a title company to protect the purchaser, owner or lender against a loss that may arise by reason of a defect in the ownership or interest in real property. In addition, title insurance companies agree to defend an owner or lender in court if there is an attack on the title of an insured property. 

Title insurance is different from other types of insurance in that it protects you, the insured, from any loss that may occur from matters or defects in the past that affect your property. Other types of insurance (such as auto insurance, life insurance or health insurance) cover you against losses that may occur in the future. Title insurance does not protect against a defect that may originate after your closing.

There are two basic types of title insurance policies:  Owner’s Title Insurance and Mortgagee’s Title Insurance.

An owner’s title insurance policy protects the owner’s interest as the buyer or owner of the property. As an owner, you want to have the same assurance as the lender that the investment you have made cannot be lost because of a problem or defect with the title. Since most property owners mortgage or borrow money at the time of purchase or during ownership, the lender can be expected to request protection of its investment against loss. Lenders know that many things can cause loss of title or that expenses are incurred while defending an attack; they insist upon a mortgage title insurance policy to protect their loan secured by the property.

Bottom Line. Why?

Errors in public records

To err is human, but when it affects your homeownership rights, those mistakes can be devastating. Clerical or filing errors could affect the deed or survey of your property and cause undo financial strain in order to resolve them.

Unknown liens

Prior owners of your property may not have been meticulous bookkeepers — or bill payers. And even though the former debt is not your own, banks or other financing companies can place liens on your property for unpaid debts even after you have closed on the sale. This is an especially worrisome issue with distressed properties.

Illegal deeds

While the chain of title on your property may appear perfectly sound, it’s possible that a prior deed was made by an undocumented immigrant, a minor, a person of unsound mind, or one who is reported single but in actuality married. These instances may affect the enforceability of prior deeds, affecting prior (and possibly present) ownership.

Missing heirs

When a person dies, the ownership of his home may fall to his heirs, or those namedwithin his will. However, those heirs are sometimes missing or unknown at the time of death. Other times, family members may contest the will for their own property rights. These scenarios — which can happen long after you have purchased the property — could affect your rights to the property.


Unfortunately, we don’t live in a completely honest world. Sometimes forged or fabricated documents that affect property ownership are filed within public records, obscuring the rightful ownership of the property. Once these forgeries come to light, your rights to your home may be in jeopardy.

Undiscovered encumbrances

When it comes to owning a home, three can be a crowd. At the time of purchase, you may not know that a third party holds a claim to all or part of your property — due to a former mortgage or lien, or non-financial claims, like restrictions or covenants limiting the use of your property.

Unknown easements

You may own your new home and its surrounding land, but an unknown easement may prohibit you from using it as you’d like, or could allow government agencies, businesses, or other parties to access all or portions of your property. While usually non-financial issues, easements can still affect your right to enjoy your property.

Boundary/survey disputes

You may have seen several surveys of your property prior to purchasing, however, other surveys may exist that show differing boundaries. Therefore, a neighbor or other party may be able to claim ownership to a portion of your property.

Undiscovered will

When a property owner dies with no apparent will or heir, the state may sell his or her assets, including the home. When you purchase such a home, you assume your rights as owner. However, even years later, the deceased owner’s will may come to light and your rights to the property may be seriously jeopardized.

False impersonation of previous owner

Common and similar names can make it possible to falsely “impersonate” a property owner. If you purchase a home that was once sold by a false owner, you can risk losing your legal claim to the property.

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Real Estate Social Media Mistakes

Social media is helping the marketing efforts of real estate agents. However, many are not getting the results they wish for. There are many common mistakes made frequently that Realtors just are not aware of. As real estate agents continue to have a stronger presence on social media, they tend to observe wrong practices online. This will harm more than help them.

Boasting about your real estate business will only chase people away. You should, however, show your pride in closing deals. Showing appreciation for your clients is the best means to show off your hard work without seeming like you are boasting. Simply thank your clients and say how happy you are for them.

Avoid posts that are overly promotional. Do share your listings, special offers, homes you have sold but not all the time. Too often and you will turn people off as just another person trying to sell something. Social media is for fun and should be social. If you were at a cocktail party, would you ever just keep selling through a conversation? People would do whatever they could to get away from you. Don’t do it here either.

It’s important to mix in other content like blog posts and infographics with your promotional messages. If you don’t have much original, useful content to share with your audience, then take a step back and focus on producing content to share.

Another mistake that must be avoided when formulating a real estate social media strategy is uploading only third-party content. Realtors tend to do that because as busy professionals they do not have the time to generate original ideas constantly. In this case, sharing content from trade publications, industry bloggers, and other related organizations seems like a nice idea. It does not need much time and shows the realtor’s knowledge and interest in the industry. 

However, if all the agent does is post links from other sources rather than putting in some effort to create their own materials, their online presence can go stale and they lose followers. An effective real estate social media strategy needs to strike a harmonious balance between third-party content and original ideas.

It’s really important to reply to the comments that you do get, even if it’s as simple as to say “Thanks” or answer questions that people are asking. Social media is about building relationships and if you’re just posting posting posting but not stopping to engage, it will be hard to ever make meaningful connections on social media. As you make these connections, the people you’re engaging become more than just leads, but potential referral sources.

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Price Your Home To Sell not Sit on the Market

How much is your home worth? That is the first question most homeowners ask when it’s time to sell. Having the best Realtor is key to getting the “right number”. You need someone who will price your home properly, quite possibly the most important thing a skilled Realtor can do. Too many Realtors tell sellers what they want to hear instead of what they need to hear to sell their home.

Pricing a home is a skill that takes training, understanding of the market and the comparable sales (comps). When a home is listed too high, buyers pass on even looking at it. It will end up being on the market for a long period of time and the price will eventually be forced to be lowered to be competitive. But, by that time buyers assume there must be something wrong with the home and it will gain a bad reputation and continue to be bypassed. Even the buyers who do look at it will lowball the new price and the home will end up being sold for less than what it would have had you priced it correctly to being with. Homes sell for the most money when they are on the market for less than 30 days in almost all markets.

You don’t want your home priced lower than it is worth, but you want it low enough to create excitement among buyers and possibly even multiple offers coming in. This is an excellent option if you want to sell a home fast.

A good Realtor will make sure that the seller’s home shows up in online searches. To make sure this happens, a proper price is paramount. If the neighborhood comps are lower, the house may not show up if it’s even slightly higher! For instance, if the comps top out at $300,000, and the buyer wants a 4 bedroom home in that neighborhood under $300,000, the house listed at $325,000 won’t even show up in the search.

Pricing a home to sell properly is a skill that the best Realtors have. It is the most critical piece to selling your home. The right price is 75% of the marketing for any home on the market. It’s what will attract buyers. So, when you are interviewing Realtors to sell your home, ask the question “what’s my home worth” and know they can’t tell you what it will sell for but expect comparable sales, pending sales, and active sales. Finally, ask to see a track record of their previous listings – the original price and the final sale number. And, don’t be afraid to ask for a personal guarantee from them.

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The First Home Showing is Online

“According to the National Association of Realtors, 63 percent of home buyers will drop by after viewing a home they like online. What will they see? The home’s exterior – including the front entry, yard, driveway, sidewalk — should serve as a snapshot of what’s to come when potential buyers enter your home.” (HGTV)

Curb appeal is important, but to get potential buyers actually to and then in your home, it is all about your home’s web appeal. Your first showing usually happens online. Studies show that sellers and their agents have seven to 10 seconds to capture a buyer’s attention online and if not, they swipe left, pass on the home and move on to the next one. In such little time, you’ve got to make sure your Realtor has upped your web presence!

Start with preparing and staging your home, both inside and outside. Once it has been staged, the key to creating Internet attention is to compose sharp, clear photos that are big and bright! Using a professional photographer can mean the difference in your home selling or not even being seen. Remember, if the photos do not show well, the home will likely be passed over with a simple click of the mouse, with little chance of consideration for an in-person viewing 

What is your home’s best feature? Is it the recently updated chef’s kitchen or the beautiful outdoor pool and patio space? How about that marble fireplace or the home’s front exterior? Whatever it is, be sure to take plenty of photos of the home’s best features. Your Realtor may even want to make one of these photos the first picture that buyers see in the MLS database and other online real estate marketplaces. We recommend walking the home with your real estate agent to assess the property’s best selling points. Prior to the photo shoot, be sure to point out these features to the photographer.

Remember: when it comes to listing photos, quality trumps quantity. Unless your home is the size of a castle, there’s no reason to have 100 listing photos. Not only is having an excessive number of photos overwhelming for homebuyers, but it also doesn’t leave them wanting more. On the other hand, if the listing has too little photos, most buyers will wonder what exactly the sellers are hiding. Your Realtor should be able to provide you with guidance as to the appropriate number of listing photos. Just be sure to choose only the best for the listing. After all, no one needs to see 10 photos of your master bathroom.  

The Bottom Line: So many decisions are being made by home buyers just by the photos they find of your home online.  Make sure your home is at its very best when it comes time to take the listing photos of your home.  When it comes time to hire a Realtor don’t be afraid to ask to see some of the listings they have done so you can check the quality of their real estate photography.

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Pop-Up Office

“The pandemic was unexpected, working from home was unexpected, but nonetheless many companies realized that workers can be just as productive working from home,”

So, here we are. Homebuyers are now, more than ever before, looking for flexible home office space. A room that is quiet and away from distractions and noise. Staging an area where buyers can easily imagine themselves setting up their laptop, making phone calls, storing paperwork, hosting meetings and have video calls is important to highlight.

When staging a space, the room should connect to the buyer on not only the square footage but how potentially functional the area will be for them. If the office is shared with a playroom or a guest bedroom it becomes a deterrent to the buyer by announcing that the home is too small to fit in all the features of a home office. Avoid confusing buyers about the purpose of the room. It’s not a great idea to have a combination of home office, gym and playroom.

Depersonalize and declutter the room. Remove family photos, diplomas, memorabilia, and anything political. All that paperwork that clutters an office? Remove it by filing it away or tossing it. Consider getting cube shelving with attractive file baskets to keep paperwork near, but out of sight. Be sure to dust, especially around the computer and hide all the wiring as best you can. Keep only the bare minimum of fixtures needed for work and arrange them to make the most of the space.

Appeal to the greatest number of potential buyers by working with a calm and neutral color scheme. Never underestimate the power of a new paint job. It can completely redo the look and feel of any space. Painting is one of the most cost-effective ways to stage. If the area is dark, add additional light sources such as light fixtures, floor and table lamps. Possibly even find a bright overhead light. If there are windows in the room, remove dark or light blocking drapes. Allow all the light in (this will also make the space appear larger). Fill the empty walls with simple artwork to add life to the room.

Minimize furniture. You really only need a few pieces to make the room look like an appealing home office. A simple desk, a chair, some accessories are all you really need.

The Bottom Line: Buyer demand for home office space has accelerated because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Look at your area and make sure you are presenting it in the best way. Office space requires a place to not only work but to inspire and motivate. Neglecting to put a bit of effort into a “pop-up” home office can turn away buyers. As always, find an experienced Realtor to come in and see your space with new eyes and offer you solid opinions to get your home sold.

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Home Selling Mistakes

To sell your home, you will have to be objective about everything. It’s a financial asset. The decision to place your home on the market can involve a number of stresses and strains. Regardless of the reason you are selling, the goal is to sell it for the most money in the shortest amount of time. And, with the least amount of hassles and distractions. There are many things to think about, prepare for and to organize.

Overpricing your home

One of the most important pieces in selling your home is determining the right price. The first thing buyers look at when searching for a home is the price. Your home might be perfect but if the price is too high you will miss out on a big group of buyers as it sits on the market longer. A skilled and knowledgeable Realtor will use comparative market analysis and determine the right listing price.

Not making repairs

Over the years while living in a home, it’s easy to overlook small wear and tear issues. When buyers are looking at a home, they are looking at the details. Do all the lights work? Appliances? Small leak in bathroom? Do all the windows open? Don’t forget these details. Even the smallest of issues can turn buyers off and leave them wondering if the owner of the home has neglected bigger issues. Consider hiring an inspector for a pre-inspection to head off any potential issues.

Not staging

Staging a house is a good strategic move for all sellers. Get rid of clutter by purging and removing knick-knacks, hide your political affiliations, degrees, family photos and any other personal items. Box them up and consider renting a storage unit. Open blinds and pull curtains back to make rooms brighter and bigger. A good rule of thumb is to remove about half of your furniture as it will make the home look bigger and more appealing. Next arrange the furniture to create a cozy, intimate space. Paint trendy colored rooms to spruce up the appeal of your home by using traditional colors.

Skipping the curb appeal

The outside of your home is the very first thing that a potential buyer sees when arriving. The aesthetic look of the home’s exterior can be very telling as to what might be found on the inside. Buyers are more inclined to look inside if they like what they see on the outside. Be sure that the yard is well maintained, the paint isn’t chipping or faded, the siding looks good, the roof looks intact, and weeds are pulled.  Burned grass patches can make the home feel old, dated, even neglected and is an easy fix. Consider calling a landscaper to have your yard professionally updated and gardens replenished with mulch, new bushes put in and fresh flowers planted for the season.  

Not marketing well

Be sure to hire a Realtor that knows how to market your home to sell. Professional photos are important for the internet as 79% of buyers search for homes online first and those photos will be their first impression. And, don’t stop at photos – a good virtual tour will pull a buyer in and lead them room by room. The Realtor you hire should know how to use social media platforms to market your home with the photos.

The Bottom Line: Choosing the right Realtor is paramount when putting your house on the market. One who is knowledgeable on the local market and with experience selling in your neighborhood. Selling a home is a big life milestone and can be complex with all the many steps involved. The consequences of a mistake can make a big impact. It pays to spend the time and money to make sure you are getting your home on the market and ready for success.

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Home Selling in The Fall

There’s less competition

Spring seems to steals the show when it comes to selling a home. Reason being that sellers want to capitalize on the weather and with it the beautiful curb appeal. However, because so many sellers want to take advantage of this, the market becomes more competitive making your own home more difficult to stand out from the rest. It’s thought that Fall is a quieter real estate market, but there are many advantages to putting your home on the market for the season, including less competition.

The serious buyers are out

Summer vacations are over giving buyers less time to spend house hunting. Those that are shopping in the Fall are dedicated buyers. Chances are that those who come to view your home are in the middle of a serious house search, which could perhaps make an offer all the more likely. You are now dealing with a more serious pool of buyers. By the time September or October rolls around, these buyers are itching to get their move settled. Nobody wants to move in the snow or during the busy holiday season, so potential buyers usually want to get things signed and sealed as quickly as possible.

Curb appeal

Curb appeal is thought to peak during the Spring, and we all know how important it is to have your property looking its best when you have it on the market. The colors of the leaves are turning beautiful golds and reds making for a dramatic and incredible backdrop for your home. Throw in some potted flowering mums and keep the late-flowering plants cleaned up and you’ve got curb appeal that blows away Spring. Be sure to keep up with the raking as the leaves fall!

Appeal to the senses

The fall and winter months are associated with certain smells and flavors ( pine needles, cinnamon, peppermint, and pumpkin pie). Beyond setting the mood with decorations, you could try appealing to buyers’ senses in multiple ways. When it’s chilly outside, it’s important to make buyers feel warm in more ways than one. Aside from keeping your thermostat at a comfortable level, it’s a good idea to make your home seem inviting.

The Bottom Line: Marketing from a good Realtor will always be a big part of selling any home, and if you sell at their busiest time, which is spring, you run the risk of getting a little less attention than you may want. However, grab them during the off-season of Fall or Winter and your home will be given more attention. There will be extra challenges in selling in the Fall, but if you embrace the season, you shouldn’t have a problem finding a buyer. Take all the necessary steps to improve your chances of selling.

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How to Stage Your Home Like a Pro When Selling

When you stage a home, you’re trying to show it in its best light. It should be styled in a way that highlights its best assets while downplaying its faults. Professionals real estate agents understand this, and that’s why they go to great lengths to ensure that any home on the market is immaculately clean and equipped with fresh, attractive furnishings. But if you’re selling your own home, you’ll face a unique set of challenges. 

Unlike real estate companies that have robust communication streams and many hands on-deck, you’re likely trying to keep in touch with potential buyers while juggling your own job and personal responsibilities. Luckily, staging your home doesn’t take much more than a bit of foresight and some elbow grease. Read on for our best tips on staging your home like the pros when it comes time to sell.

Do a deep clean 

Doing a thorough cleaning of all the living spaces is one of the most important steps when it comes to staging your home. Nobody wants to live in somebody else’s mess, and every imperfection that a potential buyer notices deducts from their estimated value of the home. 

So you’ll want to clean every corner of your home. Make sure the floors are vacuumed, the windows are polished, and any dust or dirt is gotten rid of. 

When cleaning, pay special attention to the kitchen and bathrooms. The kitchen appliances and countertops should be sparkling clean, free of any grease or food matter. In the bathroom, the toilet and shower should be so clean that they basically look unused. The room should be spotless, all the way down to the grout. 

Take care of clutter

Too much clutter can make a space look small and crowded. And it doesn’t just encroach on the space, it also forces your own style and personality upon potential buyers, whose sensibilities may be entirely different from your own. 

Therefore, you should store away all the unnecessary items and trinkets you would usually have around the house and just keep the essentials. Don’t stuff all your clutter into an empty closet either—visitors are going to want to look over every part of the house, and when they open up a closet to see shelves full of random items it’ll have a negative impact on how they perceive the closet space. If you don’t already have a new place where you can store your excess stuff, then consider renting a temporary storage unit. 

Clear out personal items 

While the family pictures on the mantle might make you feel at home, they won’t have the same effect on the strangers who are visiting your house. In staging your house, you should make an effort to depersonalize it. 

Remove family pictures, personal items, and anything else that makes the house uniquely yours. By doing this, you’ll provide visitors with something of a blank slate, and potential buyers will be able to envision the space as their own home rather than feeling like they’re taking a tour of someone else’s. 

Keep pets away 

Even though dogs and cats are beloved by so many, it’s unlikely that potential buyers will find them appealing. Instead, they’ll probably be more focused on the stains and smells left behind by a pet. This is why you should remove any signs of your pet from the house. Clean up fur, treat lingering stains, and put things like food bowls, toys, and pet food in storage. 

Make visitors feel at home

While you do want to clean up the house and remove your personal effects, you shouldn’t make the space completely sterile. Potential buyers want to feel like they’re in an idealized version of what the house could be, so cater to that idea by creating a warm and inviting atmosphere for visitors. 

There are many ways to go about achieving this. You could offer freshly baked cookies at the door or put out a healthy smoothie for guests to enjoy. You might also pick up some fresh flowers and put them in a vase or set the dinner table to make the space feel even more homely. 

Turn up the lighting 

One of the first things visitors will notice when walking into your home is the lighting, so make sure your house is well-lit. Clean windows and open curtains around the house to let natural light inside. This is an important step, as the amount of natural light a home gets is a major consideration for many potential buyers. 

Also, switch on the lights in the home and bring in supplemental lighting anywhere that needs it. Purchase bright new light bulbs to replace any of the existing ones that are weak or burnt-out. 

Apply a fresh coat of paint  

Clean up the walls of your house for visitors by removing any previous wallpaper and applying a fresh coat of paint. It’s a simple task that can completely transform the room and make it look new again. 

When choosing the paint color, opt for neutral shades rather than bolder ones. After all, you want to cast a wide net and bright, bold colors on the walls might not appeal to everyone. So stick with warm neutral shades that add to the welcoming atmosphere you’re attempting to build. 

Optimize the exterior

Curb appeal is extremely important when you’re trying to sell your home. Potential buyers most likely won’t even walk in the house if they’re put off by its exterior. This means you have to ensure that the facade of your home and the yard, if you have one, are in great shape. 

Trim the hedges, cut the grass, and remove any unsightly weeds from the yard. If the paint on the outside of your home is peeling, consider giving it a touch up or, if that’s too much work, power wash it to remove dirt and grime. Also give the outside of the windows a good washing to make them sparkle. 

In addition to making all the existing parts of the exterior look nice, you might even introduce new items that improve the look of your home, such as freshly planted flowers or patio furniture. 

By properly staging your home, you can make it sell faster at a higher price. Every bit of time and work you put into the staging will likely pay dividends in the end. So be sure to go the extra mile in trying to turn your old house into a stranger’s dream home. 

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Neighborhood Red Flags to Be Aware of When Buying a Home

When a home buying budget is tight, there’s always the temptation to buy a fantastic, big house in a less costly area. However, buying a home in an undesirable neighborhood might be a huge mistake, especially when it’s time to resell in the future. Occasionally, there are some qualities you can’t discover about a neighborhood until after you’ve moved in. But there are ways to scout out red flags ahead of time.

When you see homes that are rundown throughout the community, it could be a sign that the residents have given up and the neighborhood is in rapid decline. A street that is full of homes with broken/cracked windows, overgrown, unkempt yards, home vacancies, gutters filled with leaves and vines, sagging rooflines, pooling water in yards, homes with obvious chipping paint & broken fences should sound off an alarm. It’s a clue that the neighbors don’t take pride in their homes and with no upkeep, they can end up decreasing the property values for the entire street.

Are there too many houses that are for sale in the neighborhood? When driving through notice if there is an abundance of “for sale” or “for rent” signs. It everyone is trying to sell, it’s probably not a coincidence. There are plenty of reasons this could be going on, but it’s important to have your Realtor dig in and find out the details. Also, check with the local police department and find out about the crime – a real reason people would be making a mass exodus from the neighborhood.

How is the local school system? Are there fewer students enrolling? A sure sign of a healthy community is a blossoming school. Another reason to have a good, knowledgable Realtor with you – he/she should know all these details or at least where you can find the information about the schools.

Most streets have some cracks and bumps but are you noticing big potholes in the neighborhood? This could mean that this is an area of neglect in the city. Is the local park a mess? If you can see that there is no organization to take care of the streets, the parks and any public spaces in the neighborhood it is a sure sign that the property values are headed down.

Drive through the neighborhood on a beautiful day. Do you see people out and about? Kids playing ball in yards? Bike riding? Anyone sitting on front porches? A big red flag if you don’t see people. This could signal that residents stay inside and don’t allow their children to play outdoors because they don’t feel safe outside. Again, check with the local police department.

The Bottom Line: Attention to the surroundings of any neighborhood is important. Often, the focus is on the home and how perfect it is for you, but a huge part of the way you live is where you live. You’re purchasing a home AND the neighborhood. A good Realtor will remind you that the overall area the home is in can/will impact the resale value of the home. Buying a home in an area that is decreasing will create problems in the future.

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