Attention First-Time Buyers: Here’s the Key Stuff You Don’t Know About Mortgages

When it comes to mortgages, there’s a big gap between what people think they need in order to get one and the reality of what buyers are successfully doing—especially young people.

But you know what? When it comes to what might be the biggest purchase of your life—one that can be incredibly intimidating for first-time buyers—it’s nice to know real facts. And in the mortgage market, reality is very often different from perception. Or, for that matter, myth.

Last week, the National Association of Realtors® issued its 2017 Aspiring Home Buyers Profile report. The report cites data from surveys taken in the third quarter of 2016 about down payments.

The report summarized that 39% of nonowners believe they need more than 20% for a down payment on a home, 26% believe they need to put down 15% to 20%, and 22% believe a down payment of 10% to 14% would work.

So on average, those nonowners thought a down payment would need to be about 16%. The reality? The average down payment on purchase mortgages in 2016 was 11%.

In fact, when we drill into the purchase mortgages taken out by people under 35, who represent the majority of first-time buyers, we see the average down payment was even lower, at just under 8%. In other words, aspiring first-time buyers think it takes twice as much to buy a home than it really does.

Perception, meet reality

But averages can be misleading, right? Especially when there is a wide distribution, like we observe with down payments. When we dig into what actually happened in 2016 we find that most young people buy homes with … less than 5% down. That’s less than one-third of what the average nonowner had assumed!

As with many things in life, the most correct answer to the question of how much you need to put down is “it depends.” There are a slew of important factors like who you are, your financial circumstances, the home’s location, and the price of the home.

It is possible to buy a home with a mortgage with no money down. VA and USDA loans are the most popular loans that offer the ability to put no money down. In 2016, 16% of buyers under 35 put no money down.

The largest share (36%) of loans for buyers under 35 in 2016 was for people putting down something less than 5%. The options there include loans offered through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but also 3% down payment programs backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (aka conforming loans). And, of course, this includes the traditional 3.5% FHA mortgage that is primarily targeted to first-time buyers.

More than half of young people who successfully bought a home with a mortgage in 2016 put at most 5% down. The average dollar amount for these buyers was $3,500. That’s right, if you have #FOMO from your friends buying homes, the majority of them are putting down just a few thousand dollars.

How are they doing it? The aforementioned mortgage products (conforming, FHA, VA, and USDA) represent almost 99% of the mortgages to people under 35 in 2016. There is nothing exotic about this.

And it doesn’t require perfect credit, just fair credit. The average FICO was 713, and the floor we observed in FICOs (below which very few mortgages were made) was 639.

Put that all together and you can see that for the millennial dreaming of buying a home this year, you need a FICO score of at least 639 and enough money that you could put down at most 5%. If you live in a typical American town, what you need could be as little as $3,500.

That sounds a lot more attainable than most people think. The truth is out there! Take advantage of it.

Article source: Jonathan Smoke for



When preparing to buy a home, it is good to revisit some of the lessons our parents and grandparents learned long ago.


Your housing budget depends on your situation and priorities. Two-income households with strong earnings potential can probably spend a little bit more than one-income households — as your income rises over the years, your housing costs are likely to become a smaller piece of your expenses. (Of course, that is not necessarily the case if you later buy a bigger house.) The same goes for individuals who have saved extra money or people who may earn less, like teachers, but who are unlikely to lose their jobs. Just be sure you stick with a plain-vanilla 30-year fixed mortgage because payments will remain steady.

One exercise I remember from school involves simple math and planning. Write down all of your expenses. Break them down into expenses that are fixed (utilities, groceries, auto expenses, insurance, etc.) and variable (everything else). Now, look at the variable costs…what am I willing to give up that could be reallocated toward housing?

Another exercise is to start by establishing savings goals, and then working backward. Set aside 10 to 15 percent of your salary, preferably in tax-deferred accounts, and then work with what’s left over for living expenses and housing costs.


Before you start hitting open houses, sketch out a rough budget based on the 28 percent rule of thumb, using a simple mortgage calculator. For instance, a family that earns $10,000 a month — or about $7,000 after taxes — should keep their total monthly housing costs, including mortgage, taxes and insurance, to about $2,800 a month. In one example, the family may be able to spend $440,000 on a home, or about 3.6 times their annual income, as long as they can come up with a 20 percent down payment (and closing costs). If they finance the remaining $352,000 with a 30-year mortgage with a fixed rate of 5.5 percent (of course lower rates are available, but let’s be conservative here), that would translate into a monthly payment of about $2,000, leaving $800 to pay real estate taxes and insurance. That leaves $4,200 of their monthly after-tax income to pay for everything else, giving them some breathing room.


A higher down payment is usually required, but if you have a good credit score, you can get by today with historically lower down payments (FHA loans are also an option). If you do not, or cannot afford a higher down payment, it can cost you dearly in the form of a higher interest rate or fees. The ability to put down at least 20 percent is often emblematic of your financial discipline and ability to afford the monthly payment.


Consider the tax savings associated with buying a home, but do not use it as an excuse to buy more than you can afford. Property taxes and mortgage interest are generally tax-deductible, but only if you itemize your deductions. Itemizing makes sense when your individual deductions exceed the standard deduction. For many taxpayers in the 28 percent tax bracket who itemize, a $350,000 mortgage may reduce their tax bill by as much as $5,357 in the first year of the mortgage. Since you pay more in interest in the loan’s early years, your tax savings will decline over time.


Ideally, homeowners should have six months of net pay in the bank. But if you halve that figure and save three months of your take-home pay that generally translates into eight months of payments. That does not account for food and other necessities, but it does provide some cushion. Two-income households can get away with just a few months of savings put aside, but single-breadwinner households should have at least six months. You also need to account for unforeseen costs.

To the homebuyer or the homeowner, saleability matters!

To the homebuyer or the homeowner, saleability matters!

To the homebuyer or the homeowner, saleability matters!

What makes a house sell?

Whether you are a homeowner thinking about selling or a homebuyer in the market for anew home, saleability matters! You want to make sure you are taking care of and getting the most from your real estate investment. This month we are exploring the keys to making your home more appealing to the buyer, AND how to add value to your real estate investment. There are many ways to do both – from home improvements to “fixing up” before your home goes on the market, to pricing and location – they all factor in to your home having “saleability”.

What makes a house sell?

A successful sale requires that you concentrate on six considerations:

  1. the listing price
  2. the terms of sale
  3. the condition of your house
  4. location of the house
  5. accessibility, and
  6. Marketing exposure your house receives.

While some of these factors are beyond your control (such as the list price the market demands), you can compensate by taking advantage of other items, like a new paint job or landscaping the front yard, to make your property as attractive to prospective buyers as possible.

What about home improvements?

Renovating your home for sale may or may not be a wise move depending on how much you plan to spend. In some cases, a home is in bad shape and the money must be spent to make it salable. On the other hand, spending too much may represent a loss. It is important to discuss with your real estate agent how much home improvement upgrades needs to be done. A new toilet, sink, and shower stall in your bathroom, a new paint job for the first level floor, and new kitchen sink fixtures might create the best overall value for the least investment. Your agent can tell you after an evaluation what aspects of your home are a liability and which problems will actually kill the sale. An experienced agent will know what they need to fix to make the sale. Other issues can be negotiated.

Statistically, there is only one improvement that a homeowner can make which will actually produce a profit when the home sells. We call it “Paint & Petunias”. Yes, it’s curb appeal. Research available from the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University tells us that paint touch up and minor landscaping will actually return 109% of its cost. It is interesting to note that research shows yellow flowers are the most appealing to prospective homebuyers.

The same Real Estate Center report says that other fix-ups and updates return less than their actual cost. A kitchen refurbishment will return about 78% of cost on average, and a bathroom update recoups about 67% of the cost for a Seller. In addition, the lowest recapture of investment is the good ol’ swimming pool. It will return about 15 to 20% of the installation cost.

The obvious question is: “If I’m going to take a loss on the improvements, why do them anyway?” Think of it this way: your house might not be competitive and won’t sell at all without the updates. The partial “loss” on a component upgrade will actually make the overall product, your home, sell more quickly and for more money.

Home Staging

“Staging” is the latest buzzword in real estate, but it simply means to present your home in its best and most appealing light. If you are preparing your home to sell, it is to setup your home to appeal to prospective buyers and showcase the property in a way that makes buyers eager to purchase! In theory, “staging” isn’t hard or costly, but in reality, many homeowners find it difficult because it’s often hard to see something objectively when we love it.

Professionally staged homes sell in 80% less time than non-staged homes, according to a survey conducted by ASP* (Accredited Staging Professional). The money spent on staging will always be less than your first price reduction and statistics also show that 94.6% of staged homes sell on average in 35 days or less.

The following is’s national survey, based on the ten areas of home improvement identified by real estate agents in HomeGain’s survey. They are listed from the highest to lowest returns on investment:


Clean and de-Clutter $100 – 200 $1,500 – 2,000 872%
Stage Home for Sale $300 – 400 $1,500 – 2,000 586%
Lighten and brighten $200 – 300 $1,000 – 1,500 572%
Landscape Front/back $300 – 400 $1,500 – 2,000 473%
Repair Plumbing $300 – 400 $1,000 – 1,500 327%
Update Electrical $300 – 400 $1,000 – 1,500 309%
Replace/Clean Carpets $400 – 500 $1,000 – 1,500 295%
Paint Interior Walls $500 – 750 $1,500 – 2,000 250%
Repair Damaged Floor $500 – 750 $1,500 – 2,000 250%
Update Kitchen $1000-1500 $2,000 – 3,000 237%
Paint Outside $750 – 1000 $1,500 – 2,000 201%
Update Bathroom $750 – 1000 $1,000 – 1,500 172%


If you are thinking about selling your home, contact Norma and her team today to get more information about the options available to you.  

Empty Nesters – Now What?

Empty Nesters – Now What?

Our lives are a series of changes, many that we initiate and many that are out of our control. We reinvent ourselves, our children grow up and leave home, we get divorced or struggle through personal loss of a loved one. Whatever it may be, we find ourselves with choices. One of those choices is where to live and HOW to live.


For many people, being an “EMPTY NESTER” offers seemingly unlimited possibilities. Some of the most popular choices include:

Move to the mountains, lake or ocean to enjoy resort-style living: This is a great option for the over 65 crowd, or for those who are ready and willing to pull up your roots and relocate to a more desireable area to live and play!

Pay off your mortgage and stay put: You may be perfectly happy as an empty nester and ready to settle into the peace and quiet of your home. Consider planting that garden you have always wanted or build a workshop for your hobby. Who knows there may be a new business in the making!

Downsizing: Selling a large house and opting to move into a smaller house, apartment, condo or retirement housing is often a good decision, especially if the mortgage on your existing house is paid off.

Going into business: If you have a large house (or the money to invest in one) and a flair for hospitality, you may wish to consider running a bed-and-breakfast out of your home. This can be a great source of income, particularly if you live in a touristy or urban area, or near a college – these areas have lots of travelers arriving at various times during the year.

Hosting an exchange student: Providing a temporary home for a foreign-exchange student can be a rewarding experience. Empty nesters who miss having children and teenagers around often enjoy having a young person in the house again, and they get the opportunity to learn about other cultures from the students they host.


Transitioning from an active household to an empty nester can be an emotionally troubling time. Some people lose their sense of purpose when their children leave home or when they find themselves alone from divorce or death. Others are reluctant to sell the house in which they watched their children grow up and where so many memories have been made. But staying in a house that’s too big for your needs can create an unnecessary tax burden. It’s always better, from a strict financial standpoint, to downsize or use your larger home to generate income. But take the time to make sure it’s the best decision for you emotionally.


Whether you are living in Dallas Fort Worth, Austin, Portland, San Diego or Boston, the diversity in real estate offers generous opportunities for the empty nester. Finding the type of home that fits your needs is key. Here’s our list of options that match the statement for your lifestyle choice. What would you choose?

Luxury, downtown or historic lofts – I like open space and want to be around people and the buzz of activity. I am an artist and want lots of open space and light.

Luxury high-rise – I want something with a fabulous view of the city and concierge services.

Townhomes and condominiums – I like living around a lot of people but I’m done with yard work!

Mixed-use Development living – I want to be close to shopping and food, no more commuting for me!

Suburban homes – The kids and grandkids are around the corner and I want to stay active in the grandkids school activities.

Luxury homes – I have worked hard to get to my position and with the money I have saved and earned from my investments, I intend to live in style!

Farm and Ranch – I hate traffic and the city, I want land and space to breathe and enjoy the peace and quiet.

Mobile and modular homes – I am on a limited income now and just need to get into something that will be easy on my pocketbook.

Lake homes – I’m ready to retire and fish and play!

Duplexes – It would be nice to have rental income to help on my house payment.

Garden/zero lot homes – I want a real house but since the kids are gone, I don’t need a big yard, besides, I hate to do yard work!

Vacation homes – I need a small place I can escape to but don’t want to give up my home and all it’s memories.

Gated communities – I want a place to feel safe and secure.

Remember, when you decide to make a move, don’t do it alone. Contact The Norma Langston Home Team and we will be there for you every step of the way!





Moving to a new place can be exciting, but if you’re missing your old digs, homesickness can linger for a long time. In fact, psychologists are beginning to consider homesickness a distinct emotional state, somewhat akin to grieving. So if you’re feeling homesick after a move, rest assured that you are not alone—and there are plenty of things you can do to feel better. Here are some tips from people who’ve been through a tough move (or many) and found smart ways to cope.

The snail mail solution

“As strange as it sounds, ‘snail mail’ helped me feel less homesick. It’s old-fashioned but true. Seeing the familiar handwriting of my friends and family on envelopes and cards instantly brightened my day. The art of letter writing is not lost!” – Emily Kennedy, Cincinnati, OH

Take advantage of tech

“Video chatting via smartphones and tablets is a lifesaver. Not everyone has an iPhone or uses FaceTime, so we use apps like Duo, which is more user-friendly than Skype. I’ve experienced homesickness here as well, but it helped when I gathered several brochures at local tourist attractions and looked up places we could visit. Moving is expensive, so we started out with the areas that were little to no cost, and we have found some fascinating places to visit and learned about the culture and rich history here. I challenged myself to focus on the things we did like about our new town. I also got involved in our local church. That emotional support system has been a lifesaver.” – Tonia Clarke, Lafayette, IN

Join an activity you enjoy

“In the past four years I’ve moved three times for my job—including stints living overseas—so I have honed the art of overcoming homesickness. You have to be proactive or it will get you. Whenever I first move somewhere, I get straight into the process of seeking out events that interest me, whether they offer me a chance to engage with similarly minded people, make professional connections, or learn something new. I only tend to feel homesick when I feel disconnected, so making myself feel like I’m part of a community helps right away.” – Monica Mizzi, Taipei, Taiwan

Try new things, but keep the old

“One cure I’ve found is doing a combination of both your old favorite things and activities that are unique to your new city. If you just stick to your old habits, you’ll miss the way they were back home. If you just do new things that your new city is known for, you’ll also quickly start missing what you had in your old life. But by capitalizing on new opportunities while still satisfying your old habits and hobbies, you’ll find balance and enjoyment of both.” – G. Brian Davis, Abu Dhabi

Hit the local highlights

“You need to really get excited about the new place. What are you looking forward to? What are the kids looking forward to? And what are things that you could only do in the new place? For us, so much of that is about the beach—being able to get on the sand in half an hour has been mind-altering. Focusing on that beforehand made the actual move so much easier and more enticing.” – David Panarelli, San Diego, CA

Make some road trips back home

“My biggest concern when we moved was for our 13-year-old—an athlete and a very popular child. So after we settled in, I would drive him back home—six hours in the car—every two weeks to spend time with his friends while my husband and I would work diligently to fill his activities and sports calendar in [our new hometown]. The next step was having some of his friends come out and spend time with him. Within six months, I was done taking frequent road trips up north and he had stopped asking to go. It took a lot of work and accommodations on our part, but it has been smooth sailing for the past three years.” – Tonya McKenzie, Redondo Beach, CA

Virtual tours and care packages can go a long way

“I am currently living apart from my 9-year-old and 12-year-old while they gear up for the move from New York City to Colorado. To keep from missing each other too much, sometimes my daughter and I connect on FaceTime, then go virtual grocery shopping together, or I take her on virtual tours of houses I’m looking to buy. Once the whole family sat in the living room there and I sat in the living room here, and we watched the same TV show together on demand. We also get each other gifts. They sent me an amazing care package and a card that says ‘Love went with you … and love waits for you each day until you’re home again.’” – Erika Parker, Boulder, CO

Article by Sasha Brown-Worsha for @sashabrownworsh

The ABC’s Of House Flipping

The ABC’s Of House Flipping

While house flipping can be very lucrative, you can lose everything with one bad decision. It’s important to approach this profession with caution and educate yourself as much as possible.

Before you even dream of entering this field, you have to be great with your hands or at the very least well versed on the topic of trades and renovations. You should also have a feel for the market. The last thing you want is all your profits sunk because you bought at the wrong time. It’s not as fun and easy as it looks on TV. This is a job that is not only very stressful but requires a lot of hard work.

It goes without saying that you need investment capital and excellent credit before embarking on a project of this magnitude. This step-by-step guide will set you in the right direction, but it’s important to remember that this isn’t an exact science. Never be complacent and always stay on your toes.

1. Scouting Homes

The most typical way to find homes is through the regular channels, finding a real estate agent, searching online, etc. However it’s important to be patient, always look out for the right deal.

The best bang for your buck is foreclosed homes. Make a habit of routinely checking the Internet for new foreclosed homes. Once you find one that looks good, never buy it on a whim. Always see it in person and bring an inspector.

2. Timing

The real estate market is generally steady, but there can be significant fluctuations from time to time. The last thing you want is to be a victim of these fluctuations. The most important thing to take into consideration when scouting a new home is locations. The better the location, the easier to flip. Selling fast mitigates the risk of these fluctuations. It’s also important to have great relationships with contractors so you don’t get caught with them dragging their feet.

3. What to look for in a house

It’s important not to purchase a potential tear down. What you’re looking for is a home that is structurally sound and only requires cosmetic upgrades. That’s why it’s important to have an inspector to verify that there is no mold or asbestos and that the wiring is sound. You also have to ensure that it’s built on a solid foundation.

4. Which renovations to focus on

As mentioned in step 3 you want a house that only requires cosmetic renovations, structural ones are very pricey. Even when narrowing it down to cosmetic, make sure you are focussing on cosmetics that will actually increase the value of the house. For example, installing a swimming pool is very costly and while it attracts more buyers, it won’t make you any extra money.

The most important room to focus on is upgrading the kitchen. Fresh tiles, a new backsplash, and marble or granite counter tops are essential. It’s also vital that you upgrade the appliances to stainless steel.

Other essential renovations include upgrading the bathrooms, installing fresh hardwood floors and fresh paint of course. Be sure not to neglect painting and landscaping the outside of the house to increase curb appeal.

5. Flip

Once you’ve located a sound house in a good location and finished all the renovations, flipping it should be a cinch. Also, it’s a good idea to be proactive and look for buyers before the project is complete.



Buying a home is probably one of the biggest purchases you’ll ever make in your life, which is why it’s so important that necessary repairs are made to ensure your safety, financial stability, and overall happiness. However, where do you draw the line when requesting repairs from sellers as to not jeopardize the sale of the property all together?

Cosmetic repairs.

Cosmetic repairs are arguably at the top of the list of what to never ask sellers when interested in a home. Sure, the tile in the kitchen may look worn out and the backyard’s grass may be almost completely dried out; but you should avoid asking sellers to fix them. These repairs are completely cosmetic– meaning they don’t pose a threat to your safety or day to day well-being; therefore, they’re not worth risking the sale. The bright side? You can pick contractors and repairmen that you trust and can be sure the job gets done exactly the way you want it.

Inexpensive fix-its (under $100).

Fixing things like faulty faucets or jammed windows are considered inexpensive and somewhat petty. Many real estate agents encourage buyers to eat the costs of minor repairs as to not become annoying to the seller. If sellers become too agitated with buyers, they may decide the deal isn’t worth it and will move on. If you find a home you can’t live without, don’t ruin your chances with petty repair requests.

Minor water damage.

It’s not uncommon to find water stains along sinks or along bathroom walls– leaks happen. For little water stains that pose no real threat, they’re not worth complaining about to sellers. However, if there is an underlying problem, like a severe leak or mold, your inspector should let you know so you can negotiate with the buyers and handle it appropriately.

Basic electrical issues.

Requesting things like light switch replacements aren’t really worth the risk of losing the sale– they’re fairly easy to fix and don’t cost too much. If you already have a long list of things that need repairing, this definitely doesn’t need to be one of them. But, if your home inspector sees something major you’ll have to bring them up with the seller or walk away.

Looking for someone to help you navigate the home buying process? Contact Norma Langston Home Team, we will walk you through the process and get you to the closing table successfully.



Home Staging is a method of decorating that is designed to showcase a home’s best features by making the space appealing to a broad range of potential buyers’ tastes. First impressions are a key factor in selling a home– most buyers make up their minds within just ten seconds of entering the property. Contrary to common belief, home staging is more than just preparing your house for a sale; staging is what you do after you’ve cleaned, painted and decluttered. When preparing to sell your home, it’s important to convince potential buyers that your house is perfect for them, and that it will fit all of their needs.


According to a 2015 study done by the National Association of Realtors, 81% of prospective buyers said staging their home helps them visualize the property as their future home, while 46% said it makes them more willing to walk through a home after seeing its pictures online. While it’s easy to assume home staging costs a fortune, the average cost to stage a home is actually just $675. Some home stagers will even drop the price if your own furniture is used as opposed to pieces they’d provide.


Once you’ve put your home on the market, it’s time to decide if you want to invest in a professional home stager or just do it yourself. Before making the decision, you need to ask yourself if you’re prepared to take on the task of home staging. Although you may have an eye for decorating, when confronted with the grueling tasks of painting, hiring workers, and searching for the perfect accessories to make your home feel complete; the time you spend on these tasks can be exhausting. When you hire a home stager, you relieve that extra stress and can use your time focusing on the many other important aspects of home selling. Investing in a professional home stager could even increase your home’s value from one to five percent.

If you don’t decide to hire a professional home stager, be prepared to take on the following tasks:

  • Remove clutter
  • Add clean, attractive furniture (minimal furniture is always best)
  • Paint walls with neutral colors
  • Depersonalize (take down any family photos and loud artwork)
  • Tend to front and back yards
  • Clean floors and carpet

When selling your home, there are many factors that contribute to your home’s worth. Whether or not you decide to stage your home yourself or hire a professional, these improvements can make a big difference in your home’s selling price. Showcasing your home’s best attributes is an excellent way to attract and secure buyers, and it’s sure to increase your home’s market value.

Would you stage your home yourself or hire a professional? If you’re looking to sell your home, contact Norma, she and her team will help you get a plan together for staging and preparing your home to sell to achieve the best results possible.

Building Wealth in Real Estate

Building Wealth in Real Estate


More millionaires are made through real estate than in any other industry!

Did you know…

  • 60% of homeowner’s wealth is from the equity they have built in their home.
  • The average homeowner’s net worth is 46 times the net worth of the average renter.
  • During the last three decades, home values have increased an average of more than 6.0% per year.
  • There have been more millionaires made through real estate than through any other wealth building medium anywhere in the world!

A wealth of housing data clearly demonstrates that housing is a good long-term investment. According to a study by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 60 percent of a homeowner’s wealth is from the equity they have built in their home. A Federal Reserve study has shown that the average homeowner’s net worth is 46+ times the net worth of the average renter.

You might be wondering if buying a home right now is a smart financial decision. The fact is, homeownership is key to building long-term wealth, no matter when someone buys. Studies show that, over time, most homeowners will steadily build equity. For example, during the past three decades, home values have increased an average of more than 6.0% per year*.


Can the average person really build wealth with real estate?

  • Utilize a long-term growth strategy
  • Buy then sell to make a quick profit
  • Hold properties over a long period of time
  • Never run out of money! Spend less and save more

There have been more millionaires made through real estate than through any other wealth building medium anywhere in the world. It is based on one simple premise. That premise is the cost of land which appreciates through time. You cannot build more of it because there is a finite amount of it. As the demand for the land increases, so does it’s value. The world population is growing by leaps and bounds and people need places to live. As cities grow, land gets developed; the infrastructure built around it raises the value of the land a great deal because of its increased utility. The location of plot of land and the building situated on it also increase in value due to the demand.

Can an average person do this? The answer is yes. What do you have to do?

  1. You must work to have an income
  2. You must keep that income
  3. You must put savings program on cruise control, in other words, make your money, make money

Some choose to utilize a long term growth strategy by buying single family and multi-unit properties, renting them out and letting them appreciate thru time.

Others prefer to buy and sell to make a quick profit and then repeat the process over again. This strategy works on the basis of finding properties below their market value and selling them at market value for a profit. A variation of this is to buy properties and make improvements on the building or land and then sell at a higher value. Or you can hold properties over a long period of time and watch your investment grow!

If you’re one of the millions of people who will list their home for sale this year, it has been shown that when it comes to selling a home, you’re better off using a real estate professional. Someone who can get the job done in half the time and can sell it for more than if you sold it on your own. That’s because a professional Realtor like Norma Langston is an expert in her field – Norma has extensive experience staging the home, marketing it, showing it and attracting qualified buyers to view it. She can explain options in your area that best fit your situation. Every market is different, contact Norma before you embark on buying or selling real estate.

*NAR existing home sales historic series.


Back-to-School Helpful Hints

Back-to-School Helpful Hints

Make Life Easier!

  • Pack lunches the night before and refrigerate!
  • Make sure backpacks are packed and ready to go the night before.
  • Create a homework center. Stock with extra crayons and supplies needed to complete homework. Make sure it’s not near a TV.
  • Lay out clothes the night before.
  • Remember kids need to make as many decisions as possible. Avoid power struggles by letting them make small decisions.
  • Create a special hamper in the laundry room for uniforms and other rush items.
  • Fold T-shirts so that the design is recognizable without unfolding.
  • Each evening have a 30-minute family clean up time to get everything back in place.

Back To School Shopping!

  • Buy smaller glue and crayons. Space is limited and teachers stress children sometimes lose these items easily.
  • Remember school dress rules when buying clothing. Some schools have rules about the verbiage appearing on t-shirts.
  • Don’t buy plastic scissors for your school aged children as they just don’t perform up to standards.
  • Consider the Velcro straps for books as some schools require backpacks be stored upon arrival at school.
  • Buy socks that are all the same for easy matching at laundry time.
  • Again when possible let kids choose their own items or at least the color or design.
  • Buy a good backpack and lunch box as these are probably the most abused. Save on the trendy stuff.
  • Make sure you buy a lunch box or backpack that your small child can open easily.
  • When buying shoes buy extra shoe-strings and polish if necessary.
  • If you have trouble telling your kid’s socks and underwear apart; Buy different brands as they usually have a different colored stripe, or band on them.

Getting Psyched For Back To School!

  • Before school starts, begin going to bed and getting up on a school schedule.
  • The weekend before school starts: Don’t make any stressful plans for big events or trips.
  • Don’t forget to check out that bus schedule!
  • Call your school or organization and get the facts about fall sports teams and social clubs. Don’t be late or miss something!
  • Make sure to get all immunizations and physicals completed.
  • Make a master list of Mom and Dads phone numbers along with doctors and emergency numbers. You are sure to need these several times.
  • If you have medical concerns make sure to meet with the school nurse prior to the first day, especially if medicine must be given at school.
  • Get a couple of rolls of quarters and dimes. Put them in the cabinet so you don’t have to hunt for change at the last minute.
  • Make a check list of items easily forgotten at the last minute and hang it in an obvious place.
  • Put up several hooks for backpacks, jackets, and lunch boxes. Don’t hang them too high!
  • Make up some freezable lunch and breakfast items for those crazy days. Thaw and nuke!
  • Label, Label, Label; All items that will be taken to school or worn and taken off at school!
  • Make a list of rules and adjustments for school days: Homework schedule, TV schedule, bath time, bed time etc…
  • Make sure to arrange after school daycare!
  • Try to set up a time to meet the teacher; some schools provide this occasion.
  • Go over school rules with your child.
  • Make a calendar to place in a visible spot; fill in events and school vacation days.
  • Make a special box for your children to place forms from school that need special attention.
Smart Technology and Millennials Setting New Home Standards

Smart Technology and Millennials Setting New Home Standards


The millennial generation is defined by their ability to quickly adapt to technology, and to access just about any service they could possibly need with just a click of a button. In fact, 87% of millennials use between two and three tech devices at least once on a daily basis — it makes sense that these technology trends are creeping their way into the realm of real estate. According to the National Association of Home Builders, the millennial generation is specifically looking for homes that cater to their advanced technological needs. Because millennials are leading the way in implementing smart home technology into their daily life, homes on the market are now being held to new standards.

Internet connectivity and smartphones are two of the driving forces in the development of smart home devices.  Millennial consumers value a device based on its ability to sync with multiple electronics. Smart home systems boast advanced technology with lighting systems, integrated security, blinds automation, home cinema and digital door locking technology;  all accessible on the go thanks to smart phones. One in four Millennialshave already installed at least one of these smart home devices in their home, compared to only 12% of the total population. Not only do millennials appreciate smart technology for it’s usability, but they love how it benefits the environment by saving buyers as much as thirty minutes worth of energy a day.

This growing demand for smart homes from this younger generation is quickly changing the state of the  housing market.  Along with other typical factors that determine a home’s value, so will the presence of smart technology in a property. In a 2016 survey by Coldwell Banker, 72% of millennials said they would pay $1,500 or more for properties with smart home systems, while 44% said they would pay up to $3,000 more.


Flat design style modern vector illustration concept of smart house technology system with centralized control of lighting, heating, ventilation and air conditioning, security locks and video surveillance, energy savings and efficiency. Isolated on white background.

As a seller trying to appease to millennial buyers, you may want to consider making environmentally friendly upgrades to your home before putting it on the market.  Upgrades like installing a Smart Thermostat, or even motorized window shades that can be controlled by a smartphone app are very appealing to millennial home buyers.

This customization though, is not reserved just for homeowners– millennial renters also look for these smart advancements in their rental properties. If you are planning to rent out a property, chances are you’ll attract more renters by adjusting the property to be more technology friendly.

As more and more millennials become homeowners, the more you will have to stay on top of technology trends as a seller. Before you put your home on the market, consider making necessary upgrades to your home in all contexts.  As smart technology is getting implemented more and more into homes on the market, it will prove to be instrumental in the ushering of the next generation of connected consumers and future homeowners.

What are some smart technology that you’ve implemented in your home? If you haven’t what would you consider?


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4 Pet Tips for Buying and Selling Your Home

4 Pet Tips for Buying and Selling Your Home

With 56% of American homes housing furry family members, many pets go through the moving process at least once in their life-time. Buying or selling a home while taking care of your pet can easily become overwhelming. Consider the following tips to ease your stress as well as theirs.

Remove your pet while showing your home.

First off, removing pets from the home is likely to get your home sold faster.  If people looking at your home see that a dog or cat lives there, they may assume there’s damage to the home or that it’s unclean.  Take the time to put away any toys, cages and even food bowls during the time potential buyers are going through your home. It’s also wise to give your home a deep cleaning to get rid of any lingering odors and pet dander your pet has left behind.

Secondly, removing your furry friend from the home temporarily during open houses and private showings is a good idea due to the fact that it can really stress them out. Seeing new faces coming in and out of their territory can make them feel defensive and scared. The last thing you want is a pet to attack a child visiting because they’re frightened. If you have a dog consider taking the dog to a family member’s house, a trip to the park, or a dog-sitter.

Pay attention to pets during the packing process.

Even before you make the big move, cats -and especially dogs- will sense that something off is about to happen. They see you packing boxes, letting strangers into the home and may even sense that you’re stressed. If dogs feel anxious or scared, they will appear lethargic and may even become destructive. If you notice your dog is being affected by the move make sure to do the following:

  • keep meal times the same as normal
  • take an hour to play with your pet and give them undivided attention
  • if they’re used to going to the park or on car rides, take them on outings once in a while to get them away from the chaos at home

Establish rules the second you move to your new place.

No matter what, an animal is going to be somewhat confused upon moving to a new home. In order to prevent them from having an accident or getting sick in the house, it’s important to be mindful and cautious of their behavior. During the first couple days in a new home, your pet may be more skittish than usual– which could be a form of anxiety that can make them more likely to run away.  For this reason, keep them on a leash or in a cage until they get used to the new space. Be sure to set up their food bowls, bed and toys right way so that they have something familiar to comfort them.

As weeks progress in your new home, continue to keep an eye on them and get them back into a familiar routine.  Avoid any housewarming parties right away, as it can be overwhelming for them in a new environment.

When in doubt, talk to your vet.

Pets can’t tell you when they’re anxious, depressed or uncomfortable. That’s why it’s always a good idea to talk to your vet before your family does anything that could put any stress on your pet. If you have a senior dog or cat, find out how they’re expected to react to change and what you can do to help ease the process.


Open House: The Kitchen Inspection That Everyone Needs to Know About

Open House: The Kitchen Inspection That Everyone Needs to Know About


Open House: The Kitchen Inspection That Everyone Needs to Know About


Attending an open house gives you the perfect opportunity to take a close look at every room in the house–especially the kitchen– to determine right off the bat if the home would be a good investment or not, because generally speaking, the kitchen happens to be one of the most important rooms that is a determining factor in attracting buyers (should you want to resell the home in the future). While the design and style of a kitchen can often be subjective, logically determining its functionality is also an important step in deciding whether or not you would want to buy the home. So the next time you walk through a home for sale, consider the following when evaluating the kitchen.

Appliance Updates

When going through a kitchen in a home for sale, be sure to test every appliance. While this may sound like an obvious step, plenty of buyers fail to do so and get stuck having to make a costly repair or replacement.  Test the stove-top and oven. If the home will be coming with a refrigerator, be sure it’s keeping the food as cold as it should be. Check out the inside of the dishwasher—does anything look damaged? Does it look neglected at all? If you see any problems at all with any of the kitchen’s major appliances, be sure to communicate that to your agent and decide whether or not to bring them up when it comes time to negotiate.


Replacing counter-tops can be extremely costly– all the more reason to make sure they’re in good shape and that you’re happy with the state they’re in. Be sure to inspect for chipped tiles or badly stained grout. If the counters are laminate, take note of any scratches or stains. Again, be sure to note everything you see and make sure your real estate agent is aware of it. If you’re planning on replacing the counter-tops in a restoration project down the road, be sure the kitchen is compatible with the materials and style you have in mind.

Cabinetry and Hardware

While most buyers judge kitchen cabinets based on their particular design taste, it’s important to determine their level of functionality.  Cabinets made of man-made materials (plastic, melamine or thermofoil) are likely to have a shorter life than cabinets made of solid wood. Be sure to take note of any wear and tear or water damage that may be present. Take into account whether you like the style of the cabinets. Would a fresh coat of paint fix the problem, or would you want to replace them all together? Perhaps new handles would give the kitchen the upgrade it needs.  These are important details to factor into your decision to invest in the property or not.

Electrical and Plumbing

If you’re interested in a home, both an appraiser and an inspector will run tests to make sure the plumbing and electrical systems are safe and high-functioning.  Before putting the home through those inspections, there are a couple things you can do yourself initially at the open house to see how things are working.  Bring a night-light or phone charger with you and test the kitchen’s outlets.  This is a quick way to see if they’re connected and working or not. Take the time to check the sink’s water pressure to make sure it’s up to your standards (the same goes for the bathrooms or laundry room sink as well). Poor pressure can be a sign of plumbing issues.  Again, an inspector and appraiser will check the plumbing and electrical systems and let your agent know if there is anything to be concerned about.

What do you look for in a kitchen when shopping for a home?

Three Cheers To Norma Langston

Three Cheers To Norma Langston

Three Cheers To Norma Langston


Three Cheers is a weekly collection of upbeat letters on that inspire readers to think and act positively. Here is a shout out to Norma Langston and her team that recently appeared in the Three Cheers column of the online newspaper that gives accolades for her dedication to the communities she serves…

To Norma Langston of Keller Williams Realty in Plano — For the last several years, she has placed an American flag at every home in our neighborhood celebrating the Fourth of July.

It gives me a sense of pride driving through our neighborhood and seeing all the flags.    ~ Carol Wassenar, Plano





Hunting for your next home can be both thrilling and overwhelming. You’re bound to come across several properties that you think would be perfect for you and your family. Make your decision easier while avoiding a bad one by doing the following during your hunt:

  1. Make a must-have list

Before looking around, it’s important to nail down what you want in a home. Get the family together and make a list of features you desire, whether it’s a pool, big garage, or expansive back yard. Searching for homes while you have 3-5 things as top priority will help you stay focused on what you actually want to buy.

  1. Bring a pen and paper

Depending on how many houses you go out to look, remembering all the details can either be very easy or a challenge. To help you keep track of the small things, bring something to write with so you can jot down how much natural light there is in each room, the storage space, cost per square foot, etc. This will make all the difference when you’re still undecided and have a comparison checklist to help you.

  1. Walk through once, then a few times again.

It’s easy to get excited when exploring a gorgeous home for the first time. This is OK; house hunting should be enjoyable! But after you’ve taken in your first impression, we recommend going back out and walking through again. This time, take that pen and paper we mentioned in our last point and start inspecting the place for any details worth taking down.

  1. Don’t forget the camera

Or your smartphone, which is probably your go-to device for taking pictures. Once you’ve asked the realtor for permission, take out your phone/camera and snap all the photos you think you’ll need. These aren’t for posting on social media (you can get in trouble for doing that), they’re so you can keep a fresh idea of the home well after your memory has gone fuzzy. A video tour is also recommended.

  1. Try imagining yourself already living there.

While walking through the home, start envisioning how you and your family will utilize the space. Even if a room is set up as an office, use your imagination to see if it’d be a great place for your kids or guests. Imagining how your furniture will be arranged, especially if you bring measurements with you, can help you get an idea of how it compares to your current home in terms of space.

  1. Take the necessary peeks

Don’t be afraid to look where no one else does to really see what that particular home offers. Checking under rugs, for example, can reveal concealed damage that will cost you down the road. Open cupboards and closets while carefully inspecting windows, under the sink, the ceiling, etc. Finding one or more hidden issues can be the negative you needed to help you decide which house to consider purchasing.

  1. Visit the home later in the day

Open houses are generally done between morning and late afternoon. This gives you a good look at the property when it’s sunny out… but how are things at night? Coming back after sunset lets you get an impression of the neighborhood’s atmosphere. It’s in the evening when school is out and most people are off work that you’ll discover if the neighborhood is quiet, has a lot of young families with children playing outside, and other important factors.

Happy House Hunting!