The Virtual Home Showing

Back in 2019, before the dreaded pandemic, there were occasional situations in which a home buyer was unable to view a specific property in person. Whether moving from out of state or navigating busy work schedules, when a buyer is unable to make an in-person showing, agents would show a home virtually, live or pretaped.

Now, the ability to have a virtual showing of a home to a buyer is crucial. The pandemic has put us all on a reboot. Everything has changed – how we buy and sell real estate how we shop, and how we interact with others. With limited ability to travel, or even be in the same room as someone who is not part of our household, many businesses and industries have had to change their game.

Technology can put agents and buyers in the same room as a potential home, to help narrow a buyer’s choices. Through platforms like Facebook, FaceTime, Skype, and Zoom, Realtors have been able to quickly adapt to the times without having to worry about draining their marketing budgets or struggling to learn new technologies.

Be ready! Just like an in-person showing, virtual showings must be pre-staged, the walkthrough must provide the clients with a sense of the layout, and the online experience must be easily accessible to all users. Don’t forget the outside of the home – where you should begin your tour as you would normally. You’ll want to make sure the buyer is getting a good look at the exterior from all angles. Buyers will want to get a grasp of the home’s curb appeal, the parking situation, and the surrounding neighborhood as much as possible.

You’ve got to drastically cut down on clutter, and make each space shine. Open the shades and turn on lights to eliminate unnecessary shadows. There is such a thing as too much light – which will overexpose your visuals and make things harder to see.  Let your Realtor run a practice showing a day in advance. Try to do it at the same time as your scheduled showing to replicate what the conditions are during the scheduled tour.

A live virtual tour will give prospective buyers the opportunity to ask questions on the spot and go back to certain areas for a closer look. Expect buyers to ask directions, such as zooming in on a spot, opening a closet door, or taking a step back. Don’t forget the attention to all the little details, upgrades, finishes etc. In addition give some brief information about the neighbourhood, local amenities, schools, facilities and so on.

The Bottom Line: More than ever, agents are relying on virtual showings for when their buyers are unable to see homes in person. Technology can now help you bring those clients into the listing virtually, and provide nearly the same experience as if they were standing in the home with you. 

You can record your livestream video and reuse it for YouTube or to publish on your website, Facebook page or other Social Media platforms. This can generate many additional leads and prolong the life of your tour. 

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Home Buyer Mistakes

On the hunt for your first home? Are you worried about choosing the wrong house or making a mistake and want to know what you should take into consideration before you buy a house? Buying your first home can be just as stressful as it is fun. It’s really hard to know all the right questions to ask. 

Some mistakes made include not doing enough research before looking at homes, not knowing what type of financing you will qualify for, failing to set a budget, and making an offer too quickly without getting all of the questions you need to be answered from the seller. By learning about these pitfalls now, you will significantly increase your chances of making a wise property investment. Here are a few common first time home buyer mistakes:

Be aware of the cash you have to spend

To close on a house, you will need cash on hand for your deposit and closing costs, which can include insurance, taxes, and the service providers’ fees. Since these costs aren’t included in the price of a listed home, they can sometimes come as a surprise to first-time home buyers. Knowing how much cash you have for your deposit and closing costs can help you decide which loan option is best for you and even what price point you can afford.

A conventional loan isn’t always the best

There are tons of loan options available and a conventional loan might not be the best for you right now. For example, if you don’t have a lot of cash to put down but have a good credit score, an FHA loan might be the better option because you’re only required to put 3.5% of the purchase price down as a deposit. If you’re a veteran, look into a VA loan, which helps you secure a home with no down payment or mortgage insurance requirements. Depending on which state you live in, there may even be first-time homebuyer grants available to you; these can help with closing costs, deposits, or home upgrades. Educating yourself on the options available to you can be tedious but will help you make the best financial decision.

Know what you can afford per month

Sometimes the easiest place to start with the home-buying process is to know how much money you can afford to spend on a mortgage per month. Taking this approach allows you to set a realistic budget and stops you from going house poor which is spending all of your available money on homeownership. To do this effectively, write down your monthly income and start subtracting all of your monthly expenses from that number. Then, factor in what you strive to save per month, other expenses like going out to eat, getting your nails done, or going to the barber. Finally, you will have a good idea of what amount you can afford to pay for your home.No matter what amount you’re pre-approved for, give the amount you would like to spend on a mortgage per month to your lender so you don’t spend all of your money on your home.

No big purchases during the process

Once you’re approved to buy a home, it’s important to not make big purchases until you close, specifically on credit cards or with another type of financing. You may be eager to finance a new couch or bed for the house but you have to wait until after closing. These large fluctuations in your credit can affect the purchasing process by changing your debt-to-income ratio and your credit score. This could force you to start over on your loan approval process and could change the amount you were once approved for.

Don’t get emotionally attached

This is a tip that’s easier said than done, every person that has looked seriously into buying a house knows the disappointment that can come if you lose out on it. For starters, only look at houses in person that you know you can afford and would want to buy. It’s not worth your time and energy to look at a house beyond your budget or so below it that you hate everything about it. When you do see a house you love, it’s easy to get caught up in imagining your life in this new home and feeling emotionally attached to it. Try to remember that every house has pros and cons, and your future home is out there now or ready to be listed any day now!

Know that there will be future expenses

Owning a home means that the expenses will likely never stop. There will constantly be upgrades you want to do, decor to buy, and bills you need to pay. Always remember that just because you’ve closed on a home, doesn’t mean you’re done spending the bulk of your money. If possible, have extra money saved to help you get settled into your new home. Whether you have a big home repair to do or just want to have your home decorated exactly how you’ve dreamt of, it’s important to save for these future expenses as well.

No matter how much you prepare, there will always be bumps in the road when it comes to buying a house. However, it’s an exciting time so try to enjoy the process and utilize the people around you that can help. Experienced professionals like realtors, lenders, and lawyers help first-time homebuyers every single day and should be used to your advantage so you can avoid common pitfalls on the path to buying your first home!

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Stage to Sell Your Home Fast

Prospective home buyers never like walking into an empty house where they can’t imagine themselves living. There should always be furniture and accessories to make the house, feel like a home. Hiring a professional Stager can help lessen the time a home is on the market as well as boost the offered price. A good stager will create an environment that will help the buyer feel the “at home” feeling and never even consciously know exactly why! Your Realtor should have access to a good photographer once your home is staged. During this pandemic, many people are shopping online for everything, including homes. Show off your newly staged home by having many pictures.

It’s always hard on the sellers. They have loved their home and don’t see what a “stranger” can see in their home. Buyers like everything “spelled out” for them and may not be able to see that the dining room is really a family room. Or windows with different treatments may make the room look brighter and bigger. Rearranging furniture to balance and maximize a sense of space in rooms is key to the staging process. Too big a cozy couch that the seller loves could possibly dwarf the room it’s in. Sellers don’t often see that boxing up knick-knacks and family pictures can actually add more value to a room.

Many sellers are told to paint walls in classic ivory and beige color scheme. That’s fine, but putting a twist on that to stand out from other homes on the market is a great idea. This way, at the end of the day, after a buyer has looked at many homes, they can easily call it to mind. The overall goal is to make each room feel fresh and inviting and easy for buyers to envision themselves and their belongings in. Grey, a very light blue, pale serene turquoise, charcoal, yellow – all accented with white are always pleasing. A skilled Stager will put a seller on the right path.

The Bottom Line: The seller’s goal is to have the house that potential buyers remember. The home that makes they can feel and see themselves living in. Open all the doors. Get rid of old window treatments. Rip up carpeting. Take down and box family photos. Fake plants, fake food, and blow-up mattresses are a turn-off.  Buyers open closets and cabinets! Remember to make sure they are organized and clean.

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Homebuying 2022

The pandemic has changed the world as we know it: our society, the economy, and beyond. Homebuyers have changed what they want over the past year as well, particularly those who work from home or have children who had to go to school online. There are ways to appeal to homebuyers in 2022. Here are four of the features most desired.

Home Offices: A lesson from the pandemic was the importance of having a place for adults to conduct office work and the kids to do schoolwork. There have been many requests from homebuyers for a home office, either an existing one or a room to create that perfect space. If you are a seller or plan to sell in 2022, repurpose an existing room as an office and make sure it’s in your listing. There have been buyers unable to find homes with room for office space so they narrow down their search to a home with more bedrooms than they need to for the opportunity to turn it into an office.

Kitchens: Another lesson from the pandemic – multifunctional spaces are important. With people spending so much time at home now, the kitchen can be a room for both working at the table or kitchen island while also cooking and eating a meal. The kitchen often sells the home. Features such as smart appliances and quartz in an open floor plan are the 2022 expectations. Add in a pizza over, wine fridge, pot filler, touchless faucet, butcher block, steam oven, and gas cooktop, and the value of your home increases dramatically. Even adding only one or two of these features can make your home the top of the list.

Outside Living Spaces: The look and feel of an entire home can be changed with outdoor renovations. The more time people spend at home, the more they want an oasis outside to spend time barbequing or relaxing. The rewards will be high by updating or adding a patio/deck, getting a smart sprinkler system put in, incorporating drought-resistant landscaping, room for a dog to run and kids to play ball, and adding a privacy fence. A mention of an outdoor kitchen or outdoor fireplace could attract buyers in 2022.

Energy Efficiency: Sellers are advised to include as many energy-efficient upgrades in their homes as possible if they want to attract the interest of first-time buyers. Today’s buyers will be more interested in the amount of money they will save on energy bills over the course of them living in the home. First-time homebuyers are interested in anything that will save them money in the long run, not excluding low-flush toilets, attic insulation, double-paned windows, and anything else that will reduce their carbon footprint and energy consumption.

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MYTH: You Don’t Need Title Insurance and Other Fables

MYTH: Nobody needs title insurance

Everyone needs title insurance. You may think you know the entire history of the house you’re purchasing, but it’s impossible to know everything. Title insurance protects your right to the property in the event that a previously unknown heir claims ownership of the property if it is later revealed that the “sellers” were not the rightful owners, or if liens against the property resurface. If you have an owner’s title insurance policy, you will not be responsible for paying any of the fees associated with protecting your right to the property, should these types of issues arise.

MYTH: New construction homes don’t need title insurance

Your home could be brand new, but the land on which the house is built isn’t. Chances are, the land had several previous owners before construction began. Buying property on such land opens you up to certain risks tied to ownership issues from previous owners.

Disputed wills, easements, and property liens are just a few of the issues common to land ownership. You could get caught in between the mess and end up losing your resources or, worse still, your new property as well. Title insurance is crucial even for a new home and should be among your list of priorities during the closing process.

MYTH: If no one challenges ownership, then the title policy is a waste

At the closing, when you purchase a title insurance policy, the closing company does the bulk of the work behind the scenes. The title company goes through many steps to make sure that everything is in place by that time, including conducting a comprehensive title search and identifying any potential issues. The team investigates the entire history of the property to ensure that you, the buyer, will be aware of any problems that will need to be addressed before closing. By the time the closing comes around, the title company has completed a great deal of research and legwork for you.

MYTHTitle insurance offers only minimal protection

When you purchase a home, you receive the “title” to the property. This title is your legal right to own it. Early in the home buying process, a title search is conducted to review the history of the property and uncover any issues that could limit your right to ownership. Even after the most meticulous search of public records, there can be hidden title defects, such as tax liens, forged signatures, claims by ex-spouses, and recording errors. These title defects can remain undiscovered for months or even years after you purchase the home.

MYTH: Title insurance is the same thing as homeowner’s insurance

Homeowners insurance protects you so you have the resources to pay for any damage that might occur to your property. Title insurance protects you from anyone else claiming your home is theirs or for some prior owner’s back taxes or encumbrances or any other real property dispute

Title First Agency: Dedicated to innovation and passionate about service, Title First Agency is your comprehensive, nationwide resource for title and real estate settlement services. Headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, Title First has branch offices throughout the Midwest and a robust virtual partner network throughout the country. Title First got its start in 1956 as an affiliate of a local law firm and has since emerged as one of the largest independent title agencies in the nation. Proudly servicing Realtorslendersbuildersdevelopers, law firms, buyers and sellers, Title First is equipped to serve your residential and commercial title and settlement needs.

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The Messy Next Door Neighbor

You’re about to put your house on the market and it’s in tip-top shape. You’ve done everything you can to make your home shine. You’ve hired the best Realtor, it’s been professionally staged and your home is priced right. But, there is just one problem. The messy neighbors next door could potentially scare away buyers. What is your game plan? Here are some peaceful ideas.

The first step of dealing with difficult neighbors should be to approach them in an open and non-confrontational manner. In a respectful and diplomatic way, let them know you are preparing to sell your home and would love their help, but without insulting their home. Let them know you would appreciate anything they can do to showcase the neighborhood well.

There may be reasons the outside of the home looks unkempt. The owner could be sick, or there is a new baby, to name just a couple of reasons. If they complain that it would be too difficult for them to do, offer to help clean up the mess, or hire professionals to get the job done. While it will be money out of your pocket, you won’t be forced to lower your asking price and in the end, you will be able to recoup that when you sell your home. A professional yard clean-up typically costs approximately $500 per quarter acre of land, so to put this cost into perspective, $500 is only 0.2% of a $250,000 home. Even if the clean-up only increases your property value by 2%, you’ll recoup ten times your investment.

The next step if your efforts are futile would be to try city hall. Explore how they can help you. Many cities and counties have ordinances that prohibit things such as a vehicle on jacks, old tires, or an inoperable trailer/truck parked on a lawn. Beyond being an eyesore, it could be dangerous to a child who might wander onto the property, thus the police should be contacted. The fire department and health officials might be concerned about any tall, dead grass that could be a fire hazard and an attraction to rats or other animals.

The problem may not be the fault of the homeowner if they rent out their home and their tenants aren’t taking care of it or behaving in a way that impacts the neighborhood. If after you have had a kind conversation with them and things still aren’t getting better, you should find the owner. Your Realtor will be able to assist you in tracking him down and help in encouraging cooperation from him.

The Bottom Line: The effects of a messy neighbor can be major. The entire neighborhood can be beautiful, but if there is just one home that has overgrowth, messy gardens, waste, or junk spread about it can bring down the value of all the homes in the area. While you might be the only one putting your home on the market at the moment, you can probably get the other neighbors to help the situation. A clean yard benefits all.

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Paying Cash For a House

You’ve offered to buy a home for cash and it has been accepted. You will make the earnest money deposit and provide the evidence of the available funding as soon as possible, if not before signing the contract. It’s still important to get a title search done, conduct a final walk-through, have inspections all before you go to closing where you will sign paperwork to transfer the property.

Buying a home for cash may feel great, but it’s not always the best choice for everyone who can afford to do it.


Faster Closing

First, sellers may take less than the asking price to a buyer who offers cash. Closing costs are lower and there aren’t any fees for a bank attorney or mortgage broker. There are no loan origination fees or other lender fees assessed. During a typical home sale, it averages about four weeks to close. If you’re buying in cash without a lender the closing can happen within as little as a week.

No Contingencies

Mortgages can fall through for buyers that are preapproved. When you pay in cash, you eliminate that possibility. Presenting a cash offer removes the need for a financing contingency which is usually a requirement in a real estate transaction where the buyer is using bank financing. Depending on market conditions, the buyer may present a lower offer than what other bidders with financing are offering the seller. The seller may be willing to accept a lower purchase price in exchange for being able to close a deal quickly.

You Own Your Home

Bottom line, if you’ve got a mortgage, you don’t actually own your house — the bank does. When you buy a house in cash, you can feel secure knowing that no one can take that house away from you, and big, unexpected problems like a job loss won’t leave you without a roof over your head. Furthermore, you have immediate equity in the property.

Interest Money is Saved

Even today when interest rates are extremely low, interest paid on mortgage loans adds up to a large sum of money, sometimes you would be paying nearly double the asking price of the home.


Tying Up Your Funds

If you spend your life savings buying a house in cash, you’ll tie up all your money in one large investment. The money you use to buy your house isn’t liquid (meaning you don’t have direct access to the cash, and you’d have to sell your home to get your hands on it), so if you need your money for any other reason, it won’t be readily available. Additionally, you may face a shortage of cash that could have been used to invest in other lucrative assets. Taking some of the cash you use to pay for a home and investing it instead, could possibly make you more money in the long run.

No Tax Deductions

A buyer that uses a mortgage to purchase a real estate property enjoys tax breaks on the mortgage interest payments. When a buyer decides to purchase a home using cash only, they miss out on the tax deductions that they would’ve enjoyed if they used mortgage financing to complete the transaction.

Extra Title Protection

Reviewing the title for any other claims, liens, or issues that could prevent you from taking full ownership is all part of the home-buying process. The title research takes place whether you pay in cash or get a mortgage, and it’s always smart to get title insurance on your investment, which will protect you in the event that the title research missed any claims.

When you get a mortgage to buy your house, there’s another entity interested in making sure the title is clear and that you stay in the house and keep paying your mortgage: the mortgage lender. Your lender will secure title insurance, too, so that if there is a claim filed at some point, you’ll have an additional layer of protection that a cash buyer wouldn’t have.

The Bottom Line:

It’s scary to spend your entire nest egg in one place. If you can pay cash for a house and still have money left over for emergencies, home repairs, and other unexpected things that come your way, paying in cash is probably a great financial move. On the other hand, if paying cash for a house completely wipes you out, you might want to reconsider.

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Prepare Your Home to Weather Cold Temperatures

Indoor Preparations

  1.  Insulate exposed pipes to prevent them from freezing. These pipes are often found in crawl spaces, exterior walls, attics and garages.
  2.  Make sure your attic is properly ventilated and insulated. This can prevent ice dams and costly water damage.
  3.  Test your heating system early to make sure it works before it gets too cold.
  4.  Replace your air filters and make sure vents are clean and clear.
  5.  Insulate your water heater to help it work more efficiently in cold weather.
  6.  Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. Heating, candles, holiday décor and storms can increase the risk of house fires and dangerous CO levels during the winter.
  7.  Make sure your doors and windows seal correctly. In some cases, you’ll need to seal exterior gaps with caulk. In other cases, you may want to invest in more energy-efficient windows.

Outdoor Preparations

  1.  Check the roof for loose, damaged or missing shingles. Make repairs before the winter storms hit to prevent more serious damage to your roof and your home.
  2.  Clear out all the gutters to make sure water drains properly. This can prevent expensive water damage inside and outside your house.
  3.  Shut down your sprinkler system and blow out the line. (You may want to hire a local professional for help.)
  4.  Disconnect and drain outdoor hoses and faucets to prevent freezing.
  5.  Repair cracks in driveways, walkways and stairs leading to your house. This makes your home safer and makes it easier to clear snow.
  6.  Put away or cover patio furniture, barbeque equipment, gardening tools, etc.
  7.  Stain or seal your deck so it is more resilient during winter storms.
  8.  Check the trees in your yard and make sure there are no weak branches that could damage your home (or someone else’s property) if they broke under a heavy snowfall or in a windy storm.

We wish you well this winter! Contact us anytime if you have questions about your home financing options.

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Selling a Home During the Holidays

Putting your home on the market to sell during the holiday | Winter season is not the most optimal but if you hire a Realtor that knows your market well, you still can sell your home at a competitive price. If you are living in the Northeast, Midwest, or other cold areas, the following are some ways that can help to sell your home faster and at a fair price during the busy month of December and then through the darker months of January and February.

There are fewer homes being sold now, and winter in general, which makes people nervous about putting their homes on the market. More home buyers are house-hunting in the Spring months when the weather is warmer, and the days are longer. But, you might be surprised to find out that Winter could actually be a great time to put your home on the market. The new year is a time when most people are back at work after the holidays and will often search the web for their next big move. If you are serious about selling your home, it should be online and marketed early to ensure they don’t miss this audience.

Because it isn’t a high-selling time, you will need a very experienced Realtor to help price your home as it can be complex. You don’t want to scare off buyers by pricing too high or even too low, causing buyers to wonder what’s wrong with your house. When your home is put on the market in the winter, buyers often assume you are desperate to sell your home and may lowball you thinking you’ll sell for any price. Buyers that are house hunting during this traditional off-season time, usually mean they are eager to buy and more willing to negotiate the price.

One of the beauties of the holiday months is that many people adorn their homes with festive lights and decorations. People purchasing a home during that time may see the neighborhood in a different light—more festive and cheerful—and may be more willing to consider an area that they may have been on the fence about.

Stirring up some interest during cold January is to price your home slightly under comparable homes in order to draw in multiple offers. More offers tend to drive up the value of your home prompting more competitive bids from buyers who often will end up paying more than the initial asking price.

The real challenge might be to help dress up your home after the holidays in dreary January and February weather. To help make your home feel more welcoming, shovel the walks, add outdoor illumination along paths, light candles indoors, add cozy throw blankets, have holiday-type smells such as cinnamon or cookies.

Furthermore, during the cold, any problems you may have in your home can become more prominent including drafts and leaks. To help lessen these potential problems, crank up the heat so buyers feel toasty warm and will be less likely to notice any issues.

While it may be difficult to sell your home during the holidays and January and February, it’s not impossible especially if you hire an experienced Realtor who knows your neighborhood well and can guide you to list your home at the best possible price. Sometimes, waiting to list your home during the beautiful Spring months when the sun is out and the trees are blooming and flowering can mean that you could miss out on potential buyers. Many Realtors will tell you, some of their best sales happened in the new year.

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The First Offer Is Usually The Best

Often, when a seller has taken the time to properly prepare their home for sale, and they’ve hired the best Realtor who takes pride in presenting and marketing that home well a seller will receive offers right away.

The time a home is on the market to sell decreases its value. The longer it is listed the less interested buyers and Realtors are in the property. People will begin to wonder what is wrong with the property. Sellers are in the best position to get a good price for their home when it is new to the market. If the home does not sell buyers become suspect.

So that first early offer? Sellers tend to reject it because they felt it happened too quickly and they want to hold out. Days, weeks even months later, they find themselves settling for less. That first offer should always be taken seriously and it’s probably the best opportunity you’ll have to control your price and terms. It might not be what the seller was hoping for, a good Realtor will walk the seller through a counteroffer, and even the ability to negotiate for other details can work for the seller.

With a “for sale” sign in any yard too long, no matter the reason, it makes it more difficult to stir up interest. As the days go on, the home becomes less desirable. The market could change and take a downturn leaving the home that is priced on the comps when it was listed, now priced too high. An identical home could enter the market at a lower price. 

The Bottom Line: The first three weeks are usually the most active that a property will have. If an offer is made during that time it’s worth working with that offer unless it’s ridiculously low.

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