Tools and Resources for the Modern Home Buyer

Tools and Resources for the Modern Home Buyer

In today’s society, technology has become a crucial part of our everyday life. So big, that we tend to involve it in everything we do; home buying is no exception. Just like in any other industry, customer experience has become a key aspect and companies all over the world have finally started to step up in this area. And what better way to do so than digitizing everything in order to entertain better communication with clients and give them quick access to information?

Whether you’re a first-time home buyer, or you’re a real estate agent who’s looking to better advise clients, in this article we’ll help you by listing some of the best tools and resources to use for home buying.

Educate Yourself

First and foremost, you need to make sure that you are financially ready to take this step. After all, buying a home will probably be one of the biggest expenses that you’ll have in your entire lifetime. If the time is right indeed, you’ll need to figure out what you can actually afford to buy. This is where a budget worksheet could become extremely handy, especially when it comes to keeping things organized. Try to see a little bit into the future, and imagine your life in the next few years while having to pay the mortgage. Use the worksheet to figure out your budget, and then you’ll be ready to make a decision.

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Calculators

Like most people nowadays, you probably don’t have a huge amount of money available for buying an entire house, so you’re gonna end up going for a home loan. But there’s nothing wrong about this, as there are so many great calculators and financial tools out there, that can make the process ten times easier for you.

From working out how much you can actually borrow based on what you earn and what you owe to figuring out how much money will go to a mortgage payment for a certain property. All of these are readily available to you with only a few keystrokes. These tools help you take the first steps towards buying a house, without even having to leave your current one.

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Mobile Apps

We live in an era where we practically have our smartphones glued to our hands. So why not take advantage of that and download some apps that can help you in the process of buying a new house?

If everything works out well with your home loan, now it’s time for house hunting! House hunting can be a very tiring process and also a very stressful one. What the modern home buyer can do about this, is to use real estate mobile apps that include map features, information about schools and other points of interest around properties, and maybe some other high-tech features, like virtual tours of the properties. At the end of the day, not only will you be able to save time, but you’ll also be less stressed when you’re able to go through multiple houses in a matter of minutes.

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Final Steps

After you’ve narrowed your options down to a few houses, it’s time for you to go and visit them. This part of the process might be the key to a successful purchase, as you’ll need to talk to the real estate agent (in this case, call Norma!). And if you don’t know how to entertain one such conversation, you might want to do a little research beforehand. Be aware of the fact that a real estate agent can’t actually lie to you, but if you won’t ask the right questions, you probably won’t get the information that you need. You don’t want to end up buying a home that is not what you’ve thought it was in the first place.

And lastly, make sure that the house that you buy has the potential to become your actual home. You’ll never find your dream house while hunting for it, but you’re definitely able to find one that has the potential of becoming one.

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The real estate business is adapting to our digitized world, a change that could bring nothing but profit and satisfied customers. Websites are still the standard for online house hunting, but mobile apps are so much more efficient! People take countless trips to the bank for home loans, while there are online tools that you can use from the comfort of your own bed. Buying a home is definitely a very time and energy consuming process, but fortunately, with the help of technology, it is gradually becoming easier to be a homeowner.

7 Things To Avoid After Applying for a Mortgage!

7 Things To Avoid After Applying for a Mortgage!

Congratulations! You’ve found a home to buy and have applied for a mortgage! You are undoubtedly excited about the opportunity to decorate your new home! But before you make any big purchases, move any money around, or make any big-time life changes, consult your loan officer. They will be able to tell you how your decision will impact your home loan.

Below is a list of 7 Things You Shouldn’t Do After Applying for a Mortgage! Some may seem obvious, but some may not!

1. Don’t change jobs or the way you are paid at your job! Your loan officer must be able to track the source and amount of your annual income. If possible, you’ll want to avoid changing from salary to commission or becoming self-employed during this time as well.

2. Don’t deposit cash into your bank accounts. Lenders need to source your money and cash is not really traceable. Before you deposit any amount of cash into your accounts, discuss the proper way to document your transactions with your loan officer.

3. Don’t make any large purchases like a new car or new furniture for your new home. New debt comes with it, including new monthly obligations. New obligations create new qualifications. People with new debt have higher debt to income ratios… higher ratios make for riskier loans… and sometimes qualified borrowers no longer qualify.

4. Don’t co-sign other loans for anyone. When you co-sign, you are obligated. As we mentioned, with that obligation comes higher ratios as well. Even if you swear you will not be the one making the payments, your lender will have to count the payment against you.

5. Don’t change bank accounts. Remember, lenders need to source and track assets. That task is significantly easier when there is consistency among your accounts. Before you even transfer money between accounts, talk to your loan officer.

6. Don’t apply for new credit. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a new credit card or a new car. When you have your credit report run by organizations in multiple financial channels (mortgage, credit card, auto, etc.), your FICO score will be affected. Lower credit scores can determine your interest rate and maybe even your eligibility for approval.

7. Don’t close any credit accounts. Many clients have erroneously believed that having less available credit makes them less risky and more likely to be approved. Wrong. A major component of your score is your length and depth of credit history (as opposed to just your payment history) and your total usage of credit as a percentage of available credit. Closing accounts has a negative impact on both those determinants of your score.

Bottom Line

Any blip in income, assets, or credit should be reviewed and executed in a way that ensures your home loan can still be approved. The best advice is to fully disclose and discuss your plans with your loan officer before you do anything financial in nature. They are there to guide you through the process.

The Housing Market Will “Spring Forward” This Year!

The Housing Market Will “Spring Forward” This Year!

Just like our clocks this weekend, in the majority of the country, the housing market will soon “spring forward!” Similar to tension in a spring, the lack of inventory available for sale has been holding back the market.

Many potential sellers believe that waiting until Spring is in their best interest. Traditionally, they would have been right.

Buyer demand has seasonality to it. Usually, this falls off in the winter months, especially in areas of the country impacted by arctic conditions.

That hasn’t happened this year.

Demand for housing has remained strong as mortgage rates have remained near historic lows. Even with an increase in rates forecasted for 2019, buyers are still able to lock in an affordable monthly payment. Buyers are increasingly jumping off the fence and into the market to secure a lower rate.

The National Association of Realtors (NAR) recently reported that in 2018 the top 10 dates sellers listed their homes all fell in April, May, or June.

Those who act quickly and list now, before a flood of increased competition, will benefit from additional exposure to buyers.

Bottom Line

If you are planning on selling your home in 2019, contact the Norma Langston Group to evaluate the opportunities in your market.

2019’s Top Must-Have Home Features and Interior Design Trends

2019’s Top Must-Have Home Features and Interior Design Trends

It’s the billion-dollar real estate question: What are the must-have home features that home buyers simply have to have in 2019?

The surprising—and extremely practical—answer: laundry rooms! An overwhelming 91% of home buyers said laundry rooms are an essential, or at least desirable, feature they want in their abodes, according to the National Association of Home Builders’ newly released 2019 home trends and buyer preferences report.

The report was based on a survey of about 4,000 home buyers. It was presented this week at the group’s annual convention, along with new research from design and remodeling site Houzz.

Having a room devoted to washing soiled clothes, as it turned out, outweighed some of the far sexier and trendier home features out there, including hardwood floors or a tricked-out, outdoor living space, according to the NAHB report.

“Laundry rooms have become so popular because most people no longer want to see or step over messy lumps of dirty clothes in the hall or in the kitchen,” says Rose Quint, who oversees survey research at NAHB. “Buyers want all that behind a door they can close and get to when they have time.”

Next up in popularity were Energy Star windows (officially certified to be energy-efficient); outdoor patios; Energy Star appliances; and ceiling fans.

Meanwhile, the least popular home feature was an elevator. Hey, stairs are cheaper and better for your figure!

Buyers also said they could live without wine cellars; day care centers; plant-covered green roofs; and trendy pet-washing stations. (Sorry, Fido.)

Buyers also have some strong preferences for the type of homes they want to live in and where they want those residences to be. The vast majority of shoppers, 77%, prefer detached, single-family homes, compared with 13% for townhouses, 4% for multifamily units such as condos, and 4% for manufactured (typically mobile) homes, according to the report.

When it comes to location, nearly two-thirds of buyers, 64%, want to be in the suburbs, while 11% pine for the big city and 24% prefer rural areas. But no matter where they live, they want to be near retail space where they can grab a bite or go shopping and walking or jogging trails.

“Suburbs are preferred locations since they offer a better possibility of getting a larger home—necessary for growing families,” says Robert Dietz, NAHB’s chief economist.

The hottest kitchen design trends right now

Buyers aren’t the only tastemakers out there. Homeowners undergoing remodels are also weighing in on the features and design trends they crave. And they’re focusing on the kitchen more than anything else, according to Houzz research presented at this week’s NAHB convention.

“Kitchens will continue to be the hub of the home, the place where homeowners invest the [bulk] of their savings,” says Nino Sitchinava, the chief economist at Houzz. “It’s becoming a showpiece.”

The transitional-style kitchen is the biggest trend, according to the research. The marriage of traditional and modern styles is signified by features such as Shaker cabinets, contemporary light fixtures, and more traditional marble countertops.

The second most popular style is contemporary, which features “a pop of slightly more industrial features,” says Sitchinava. The farmhouse style, popularized by HGTV shows like “Fixer Upper,” is also gaining in favor.

Homeowners are still clamoring for white-toned kitchen cabinets, but Houzz is seeing more creamy, off-white or oyster shades with a hint of yellow. Wood cabinets are the second most desired.

Remodelers also prefer stronger, engineered quartz over granite for countertops.

“It’s more expensive than granite,” says Sitchinava, “but it’s extremely durable. You don’t have to worry about chipping, heat, or cold.”

The most popular kitchen floors are ceramic or porcelain tiles, followed by engineered wood or laminate and hardwood. Resilient vinyl flooring is also growing in popularity, particularly with aging baby boomers who prefer a textured floor that’s more slip-resistant.

And homeowners are doing more to open their kitchens to the outdoors. That could be by turning a single door outside into double doors or installing a wall of windows.

The hottest master bathroom trends right now

Master bathrooms are another hot remodel, often paired with a master bedroom renovation, according to Houzz research.

“It’s becoming one larger, private retreat,” says Sitchinava, noting that folks are creating complementary spaces with similar color schemes, fixtures, and cabinetry. Some homeowners are even removing the doors to their bathrooms to create one continuous room. Yikes! But fear not: They usually create toilet rooms—with doors or walls—to create somemeasure of privacy.

The contemporary style reigns supreme in this space, followed by the traditional look, according to Houzz. The farmhouse style, which incorporates lots of wood and more rustic elements, came in third.

But Victorian-style bathrooms are also on the rise.

“It’s all about the details” with this style, says Sitchinava. “They are a reflection of a past century.”

Article first published on Realtor.com.

7 Gardening Ideas for 2019

7 Gardening Ideas for 2019

This is the perfect time to start planning your garden for 2019. It’s too early in a year to actually do any yard work, but if you make a plan and prepare for it right now, there will be much fewer stressful and time pressing tasks in the spring.

When it comes to gardening trends, it’s perfectly fine to make your garden fashionable and to try to be innovative this year. However, have in mind that trends are often short-term and therefore fleeting. A neat and nicely managed garden looks good no matter what.

Asymmetry

Asymmetrical patterns have been popular for a while now and they will really take the over suburban gardens in 2019. This is partly due to the fact that ordinary and well-kept symmetrical gardens have been around for decades. Suburban homes are now using this change to appear more interesting.

It’s best to use this fact to make your garden stand out. When patterns and plants aren’t designed symmetrically, you can also experiment with different materials, colors, and the overall aesthetic of the garden.

Low maintenance gardens

Usually gardens are seen as more of a hobby than just an aesthetic choice for your home design. It’s something to do when you have time to spare and something to plan for and organize around. However, this too is changing. There’s a growing trend of making low maintenance gardens that you can enjoy throughout the year.

The key to having a low maintenance garden is to choose the plants that don’t need that much work. For the most part, it’s about selecting plants that don’t need watering on regular bases. Equally important is choosing a suitable soil for such plants.

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Patios

One of the biggest projects you could undertake with your garden is to try to merge the outside and the inside with a patio that’s an extension or even a part of your garden. Adding cantilever umbrellas and some lighting to create the atmosphere and make the patio useful is the biggest part of the job. What remains after that is just to design it as a part of the garden.

Patios can be a great place to entertain guests and they can really increase the value of your property. However, if they are set up with proper materials, they can also be easily pulled apart and you can use most of your yard.

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Green fences

Good fences make good neighbors! And the way you decide to distinguish your garden from your next-door neighbor could mean quite a lot. Installing green fences will make the transition from one yard to the other feel more natural. However, keep in mind that these type of fences mean a lot more work, especially when it comes to trimming and maintenance.

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Edibles

Planting edible plants in the back yard isn’t something that many suburban homeowners consider doing. However, there are a few reasons to try to get into it this year and to decide whether the operations could expand in the years to come.

It’s a way to make sure you have much less-expensive green and healthy food. In the end, many eco-aware homeowners should consider how their real estate could be used in a more productive way.

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Garden decorations

It’s fashionable to make your own garden decorations and you should dedicate a portion of your time to such creative projects in 2019. This is also less expensive and gives your garden a homey look.  They don’t require that much artistic talent and can be made from all sorts of stuff, usually lying around the yard.

Old barrels just need to be painted over and used as a canvas, as long as they are wide enough and you know how to draw. Decorative bird feeders are also a good idea. They look nice and can be quite useful, especially during the winter.

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Adding structure

In the end, 2019 should be the year to finally install and organize the supporting structures that will keep your garden maintained and clean. For the most part, you’ll need just one or two solar-powered small buildings. Taking the time to make these structures both well-organized and nice looking will make your future garden work much easier.

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It might be possible to leave this part of the work to a professional contractor, but there’s no real need for it. A DYI project can be lots of fun!

The New Year is going to be great for gardening because there are a lot of new eclectic trends to try. Some of them are here to stay, like focusing on more eco-friendly gardening, while others are aesthetic choices and have an expiration date.