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buying a home | 95 Posts
mortgage | 4 Posts
real estate news | 44 Posts
selling a home | 34 Posts
Uncategorized | 8 Posts
October
2

Deciding whether to jump into the housing market or rent instead is rarely an easy decision – especially if you're a first-time homebuyer. But in today's whirlwind market, you may find it particularly challenging to pinpoint the best time to start exploring homeownership. 

 A real estate boom during the pandemic pushed home prices to an all-time high.1 Add higher mortgage rates to the mix, and some would-be buyers are wondering if they should wait to see if prices or rates come down.

 But is renting a better alternative? Rents have also soared along with inflation – and are likely to continue climbing due to a persistent housing shortage.2 And while homebuyers can lock in a set mortgage payment, renters are at the mercy of these rising costs for the foreseeable future.

 So, what's the better choice for you? There's a lot to consider when it comes to buying versus renting. Luckily, you don't have to do it alone. Reach out to schedule a free consultation and we'll help walk you through your options. You may also find it helpful to ask yourself the following questions: 

1. How long do I plan to stay in the home?

 You'll get the most financial benefit from a home purchase if you own the property for at least five years.3 If you plan to sell in a shorter period of time, a home purchase may not be the best choice for you.

 There are costs associated with buying and selling a home, and it may take time for the property's value to rise enough to offset those expenditures.

 Even though housing markets can shift from one year to the next, you'll typically find that a home's value will ride out a market's ups and downs and appreciate with time.4 The longer you own a property, the more you are likely to benefit from its appreciation.

 Once you've found a community that you'd like to stay in for several years, then buying over renting can really pay off. You'll not only benefit from appreciation, but you'll also build equity as you pay down your mortgage – and you'll have more security and stability overall.

 Also important: If you plan to stay in the home for the life of the mortgage, there will come a time when you no longer have to make those payments. As a result, your housing costs will drop dramatically, while your equity (and net worth) continue to grow. 

2. Is it a better value to buy or rent in my area?

 If you know you plan to stay put for at least five years, you should consider whether buying or renting is the better bargain in your area.

 One helpful tool for evaluating your options is a neighborhood's price-to-rent ratio: just divide the median home price by the median yearly rent price. The higher the price-to-rent ratio is, the more expensive it is to buy compared to rent.5 Keep in mind, though, that this equation provides only a snapshot of where the market stands today. As such, it may not accurately account for the full impact of rising home values and rent increases over the long term.

 According to the National Association of Realtors, a typical U.S. homeowner who purchased a single-family existing home 10 years ago would have gained roughly $225,000 in equity — all while maintaining a steady mortgage payment.6

 In contrast, someone who chose to rent for the past 10 years would have not only missed out on those equity gains, but they would have also seen U.S. rental prices increase by around 66%.7

 So even if renting seems like a better bargain today, buying could be the better long-term financial play.

 Ready to compare your options? Then reach out to schedule a free consultation. As local market experts, we can help you interpret the numbers to determine if buying or renting is the better value in your particular neighborhood.

3.Can I afford to be a homeowner?

 If you determine that buying a home is the better value, you'll want to evaluate your financial readiness.

 Start by examining how much you have in savings. After committing a down payment and closing costs, will you still have enough money left over for ancillary expenses and emergencies? If not, that's a sign you may be better off waiting until you've built a larger rainy-day fund.

 Then consider how your monthly budget will be impacted. Remember, your monthly mortgage payment won't be your only expense going forward. You may also need to factor in property taxes, insurance, association fees, maintenance, and repairs.

 Still, you could find that the monthly cost of homeownership is comparable to renting, especially if you make a sizable down payment. Landlords often pass the extra costs of homeowning onto tenants, so it's not always the cheaper option.

 Plus, even though you'll be in charge of financing your home's upkeep if you buy, you'll also be the one who stands to benefit from the fruits of your investment. Every major upgrade, for example, not only makes your home a nicer place to live; it also helps boost your home's market value.

 If you want to buy a home but aren't sure you can afford it, give us a call to discuss your goals and budget. We can give you a realistic assessment of your options and help you determine if your homeownership dreams are within reach.

4. Can I qualify for a mortgage?

 If you're prepared to handle the costs of homeownership, you'll next want to look into how likely you are to get approved for a mortgage.

 Every lender will have its own criteria. But, in general, you can expect a creditor to scrutinize your job stability, credit history, and savings to make sure you can handle a monthly mortgage payment.

 For example, lenders like to see evidence that your income is stable and predictable. So if you're self-employed, you may need to provide additional documentation proving that your earnings are dependable. A lender will also compare your monthly debt payments to your income to make sure you aren't at risk of becoming financially overextended.

 In addition, a lender will check your credit report to verify that you have a history of on-time payments and can be trusted to pay your bills. Generally, the higher your credit score, the better your odds of securing a competitive rate.

 Whatever your circumstances, it's always a good idea to get preapproved for a mortgage before you start house hunting. Let us know if you're interested, and we'll give you a referral to a loan officer or mortgage broker who can help.

5. How would owning a home change my life?

 Before you begin the preapproval process, however, it's important to consider how homeownership would affect your life, aside from the long-term financial gains.

 In general, you should be prepared to invest more time and energy in owning a home than you do renting one. There can be a fair amount of upkeep involved, especially if you buy a fixer-upper or overcommit yourself to a lot of DIY projects. If you've only lived in an apartment, for example, you could be surprised by the amount of time you spend maintaining a lawn.

 On the other hand, you might relish the chance to tinker in your very own garden, make HGTV-inspired improvements, or play with your dog in a big backyard. Or, if you're more social, you might enjoy hosting family gatherings or attending block parties with other committed homeowners.

 The great thing about owning a home is that you can generally do what you want with it – even if that means painting your walls fiesta red one month and eggplant purple the next!

 The choice – like the home – is all yours.  

HAVE MORE QUESTIONS? WE'VE GOT ANSWERS 

The decision to buy or rent a home is among the most consequential you will make in your lifetime. We can make the process easier by helping you compare your options using real-time local market data. So don't hesitate to reach out for a personalized consultation from our Montague Miller & Co trusted real estate professionals, regardless of where you are in your deliberations. We'd be happy to answer your questions and identify actionable steps you can take now to reach your long-term goals.

The above references an opinion and is for informational purposes only.  It is not intended to be financial, legal, or tax advice. Consult the appropriate professionals for advice regarding your individual needs. 

Sources:

  1. CNN -
    https://www.cnn.com/2022/08/11/homes/home-prices-second-quarter/index.html
  2. NPR - https://www.npr.org/2022/07/14/1109345201/theres-a-massive-housing-shortage-across-the-u-s-heres-how-bad-it-is-where-you-l
  3. Bankrate -
    https://www.bankrate.com/mortgages/5-year-real-estate-rule/
  4. Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis -
    https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/MSPUS
  5. National Association of REALTORS - https://www.nar.realtor/blogs/economists-outlook/price-to-rent-ratios-by-state-from-2014-2019
  6. National Association of REALTORS -
    https://www.nar.realtor/blogs/economists-outlook/single-family-homeowners-typically-accumulated-225K-in-housing-wealth-over-10-years
  7. Statista -
    https://www.statista.com/statistics/200223/median-apartment-rent-in-the-us-since-1980/
September
30

Selling your home upon retirement is a question millions of people grapple with. While it might seem logical to scale down when you retire, is it really the best option? 

There's no "one size fits all" solution for selling your home. Most people will find there are pros and cons to the choice they have to weigh before making a decision.

  • Pro: Selling Can Give You Retirement Income
    If you've worked hard to build equity in your house, selling it could be exactly the step you need to take to ensure a comfortable retirement. Plus, if you've been living in the home consistently in recent years, you may be eligible to shield much of the sale's proceeds from taxation. This can be the solution for retirees who find themselves without enough savings.

  • Pros: Selling Means Fewer Recurring Costs
    No matter how well-maintained your home is, there'll always be costs involved in keeping it running. Your HVAC system, plumbing, electrical wiring, and much more can all fail without much warning. By selling, you avoid all these inevitable challenges of home ownership. Plus, you may find that you can reduce the overall costs of your utilities.

  • Pros: Selling May Mean More Accessible Accommodations
    With age, many people face security and safety concerns they did not have in their youth. One of the most serious ones is the risk of a serious slip and fall, particularly when your home has many stairs. The cost of remodeling a home to make it more comfortable in retirement may be greater than what you are willing to invest in your retirement income.

  • Pros: Selling May Mean More Flexibility in Retirement
    Your desires in retirement might be very different from what you wanted from your home years or decades ago. You might want to move closer to relatives, for example, get into a community more in keeping with your needs, or even move to another country. In all these situations and more, maintaining your home can make it harder for you to focus on the present.

  • Cons: Renting May Not Be Worth It
    One of the biggest questions about selling is whether it makes financial sense. While your home might be appreciating in value, the cost of rent in your community is probably rising as well. If you know where you want to live after selling, take a close look at the nearby housing and the financial resources it will take for you to live comfortably there.

  • Cons: Sentimental Value Matters
    By the time they reach retirement, many people have spent decades in one home. There's simply no way to put a price on the sentimental value such a property can offer. It may make more sense to keep the home in the family if you consider it an important part of your legacy. This may be a matter to bring up with adult children or others with a close connection to the place.

  • Cons: It May Not Be the Right Time for Selling Your Home
    If your home is appreciating in value — or a minor improvement could substantially raise its sale price — it may be worth it to wait a little longer before making your move. In a "seller's market," a delay of just three months can make a big difference in what you can expect from your sale. If conditions are ideal, it may make sense to wait six months or even another year.

Ultimately, selling your home is a deeply personal decision. It's best made with input from a real estate agent you can rely on. Reach out to a Montague Miller & Company real estate professional to help you make your next move.

September
30

Selling your home soon? As you look at your finances and list your home, it's probably tempting to focus on your potential earnings. However, every real estate transaction comes with closing costs for the buyer and the seller.

You probably already know you're responsible for the agents' commissions, but what about the rest of your closing costs?

Before selling your home, make sure you understand all the closing costs you'll be expected to cover. Here are some common costs that may surprise you:  

  1. Pro-Rated Property Taxes
    You're responsible for all property taxes up to the date of the sale. That means if you're selling in July, you need to pay your property tax for the first seven months of the year — not wait until next year to file. Make sure you're aware of the final number because you must provide this to the buyers. This is required because buyers will get a bill next year for the whole year, including the months you still owned the home.

  2. Transfer Taxes and Fees
    Real estate transactions are essentially title transfers from one owner to another. Before your sale is complete, you must pay state and county or city fees in order to process this transfer. You may also need to pay transfer taxes. While most sellers are aware that it costs money to transfer a title, many are surprised by the final percentage, which can fluctuate wildly depending on your location. Make sure you're aware of the local requirement beforehand.

  3. Title Insurance
    If you think buyers are always responsible for buying a title insurance policy, think again. Many states now require sellers to cover the new homeowner's title insurance policy. This coverage is designed to protect the mortgage lender from any future claims, and they won't approve the transaction without it. Find out now if you will be responsible for the buyer's title insurance coverage.

  4. Home Preparations
    Staging a home for market success is about more than just cleaning thoroughly and rearranging the furniture. Your real estate agent will know which services are the most valuable, especially to sellers who want to ask for more money or sell more quickly. For example, renting a storage unit will make it much easier to clear out a third of your clutter and personal possessions, leaving a more neutral and walkable space for potential buyers. Carpet cleaning, painting, lawn care, and professional photography services are also important investments for serious sellers.

Of course, your final closing costs before selling your home will depend on a lot of different factors. From zip code and loan terms to the buyers' willingness to negotiate, these factors will help you figure out just how much to set aside for closing. Understand your responsibilities and prepare yourself for every possible expense.

September
7

Mortgage rates have been on a roller coaster ride this year, rising and falling amid inflationary pressures and economic uncertainty. And even the experts are divided when it comes to predicting where rates are headed next.1

This climate has been unsettling for some homebuyers and sellers. However, with proper planning, you can work toward qualifying for the best mortgage rates available today – and open up the possibility of refinancing at a lower rate in the future.

How does a lower mortgage rate save you money? According to Trading Economics, the average new mortgage size in the United States is currently around $410,000.2 Let's compare a 5.0% versus a 6.0% fixed-interest rate on that amount over a 30-year term.

Mortgage Rate
(30-year fixed)

Monthly Payment on $410,000 Loan
(excludes taxes, insurance, etc.)

Difference in Monthly Payment

Total Interest Over 30 Years

Difference in Interest

5.0%

$2,200.97

 

$382,348.72

 

6.0%

$2,458.16

+ $257.19

$474,936.58

+ $92,587.86

With a 5% rate, your monthly payments would be about $2,201. At 6%, those payments would jump to $2,458, or around $257 more. That adds up to a difference of almost $92,600 over the lifetime of the loan. In other words, shaving off just one percentage point on your mortgage could put nearly $100K in your pocket over time.

So, how can you improve your chances of securing a low mortgage rate? Try these eight strategies:

  1. Raise your credit score.

Borrowers with higher credit scores are viewed as "less risky" to lenders, so they are offered lower interest rates. A good credit score typically starts at 690 and can move up into the 800s.3 If you don't know your score, check with your bank or credit card company to see if they offer free access. If not, there are a plethora of both free and paid credit monitoring services you can utilize.

 If your credit score is low, you can take steps to improve it, including:4

  • Correct any errors on your credit reports, which can bring down your score. You can access reports for free by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.
  • Pay down revolving debt. This includes credit card balances and home equity lines of credit.
  • Avoid closing old credit card accounts in good standing. It could lower your score by shortening your credit history and shrinking your total available credit.
  • Make all future payments on time. Payment history is a primary factor in determining your credit score, so make it a priority.
  • Limit your credit applications to avoid having your score dinged by too many inquiries. If you're shopping around for a car loan or mortgage, minimize the impact by limiting your applications to a short period, usually 14 to 45 days.5

 Over time, you should start to see your credit score climb — which will help you qualify for a lower mortgage rate. 

  1. Keep steady employment.

If you are preparing to purchase a home, it might not be the best time to make a major career change. Unfortunately, frequent job moves or gaps in your résumé could hurt your borrower eligibility.

When you apply for a mortgage, lenders will typically review your employment and income over the past 24 months.5 If you've earned a steady paycheck, you could qualify for a better interest rate. A stable employment history gives lenders more confidence in your ability to repay the loan.

That doesn't mean a job change will automatically disqualify you from purchasing a home. But certain moves, like switching from W-2 to 1099 (independent contractor) income, could throw a wrench in your home buying plans.6

  1. Lower your debt-to-income ratios.

Even with a high credit score and a great job, lenders will be concerned if your debt payments are consuming too much of your income. That's where your debt-to-income (DTI) ratios will come into play.

There are two types of DTI ratios:7

  1. Front-end ratio — What percentage of your gross monthly income will go towards covering housing expenses (mortgage, taxes, insurance, and dues or association fees)?
  2. Back-end ratio — What percentage of your gross monthly income will go towards covering ALL debt obligations (housing expenses, credit cards, student loans, and other debt)?

What's considered a good DTI ratio? For better rates, lenders typically want to see a front-end DTI ratio that's no higher than 28% and a back-end ratio that's 36% or less.7

If your DTI ratios are higher, you can take steps to lower them, like purchasing a less expensive home or increasing your down payment. Your back-end ratio can also be decreased by paying down your existing debt. A bump in your monthly income will also bring down your DTI ratios. 

  1. Increase your down payment.

Minimum down payment requirements vary by loan type. But, in some cases, you can qualify for a lower mortgage rate if you make a larger down payment.8

Why do lenders care about your down payment size? Because borrowers with significant equity in their homes are less likely to default on their mortgages. That's why conventional lenders often require borrowers to purchase private mortgage insurance (PMI) if they put down less than 20%.

A larger down payment will also lower your overall borrowing costs and decrease your monthly mortgage payment since you'll be taking out a smaller loan. Just be sure to keep enough cash on hand to cover closing costs, moving expenses, and any furniture or other items you'll need to get settled into your new space.

  1. Compare loan types.

All mortgages are not created equal. The loan type you choose could save (or cost) you money depending on your qualifications and circumstances.

For example, here are several common loan types available in the U.S. today:9

  • Conventional — These offer lower mortgage rates but have more stringent credit and down payment requirements than some other types.
  • FHA — Backed by the government, these loans are easier to qualify for but often charge a higher interest rate.
  • Specialty — Certain specialty loans, like VA or USDA loans, might be available if you meet specific criteria.
  • Jumbo — Mortgages that exceed the local conforming loan limit are subject to stricter requirements and may have higher interest rates and fees.10

When considering loan type, you'll also want to weigh the pros and cons of a fixed-rate versus variable-rate mortgage:11 

  • Fixed rate — With a fixed-rate mortgage, you're guaranteed to keep the same interest rate for the entire life of the loan. Traditionally, these have been the most popular type of mortgage in the U.S. because they offer stability and predictability.
  • Adjustable rate — Adjustable-rate mortgages, or ARMs, have a lower introductory interest rate than fixed-rate mortgages, but the rate can rise after a set period of time — typically 3 to 10 years.

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, 10% of American homebuyers are now selecting ARMs, up from just 4% at the start of this year.12 An ARM might be a good option if you plan to sell your home before the rate resets. However, life is unpredictable, so it's important to weigh the benefits and risks involved. 

  1. Shorten your mortgage term.

A mortgage term is the length of time your mortgage agreement is in effect. The terms are typically 15, 20, or 30 years.13 Although the majority of homebuyers choose 30-year terms, if your goal is to minimize the amount you pay in interest, you should crunch the numbers on a 15-year or 20-year mortgage.

With shorter loan terms, the risk of default is less, so lenders typically offer lower interest rates.13 However, it's important to note that even though you'll pay less interest, your mortgage payment will be higher each month, since you'll be making fewer total payments. So before you agree to a shorter term, make sure you have enough room in your budget to comfortably afford the larger payment. 

  1. Get quotes from multiple lenders.

When shopping for a mortgage, be sure to solicit quotes from several different lenders and lender types to compare the interest rates and fees. Depending upon your situation, you could find that one institution offers a better deal for the type of loan and term length you want.

Some borrowers choose to work with a mortgage broker. Like an insurance broker, they can help you gather quotes and find the best rate. However, if you use a broker, make sure you understand how they are compensated and contact more than one so you can compare their recommendations and fees.14

Don't forget that we can be a valuable resource in finding a lender, especially if you are new to the home buying process. After a consultation, we can discuss your financing needs and connect you with loan officers or brokers best suited for your situation.

  1. Consider mortgage points.

Even if you score a great interest rate on your mortgage, you can lower it even further by paying for points. When you buy mortgage points — also known as discount points — you essentially pay your lender an upfront fee in exchange for a lower interest rate. The cost to purchase a point is 1% of your mortgage amount. For each point you buy, your mortgage rate will decrease by a set amount, typically 0.25%.15 You'll need upfront cash to pay for the points, but you can more than make up for the cost in interest savings over time.

However, it only makes sense to buy mortgage points if you plan to stay in the home long enough to recoup the cost. You can determine the breakeven point, or the period of time you'd need to keep the mortgage to make up for the fee, by dividing the cost by the amount saved each month.15 This can help you determine whether or not mortgage points would be a good investment for you. 

Getting Started

Unfortunately, the rock-bottom mortgage rates we saw during the height of the pandemic are behind us. However, today's 30-year fixed rates still fall beneath the historical average of around 8% — and are well below the all-time peak of 18.45% in 1981.16, 17

And although higher mortgage rates have made it more expensive to finance a home purchase, they have also eliminated some of the competition from the market. Consequently, today's buyers are finding more homes to choose from, fewer bidding wars, and more sellers willing to negotiate or offer incentives such as cash toward closing costs or mortgage points.

If you're ready and able to buy a home, there's no reason that concerns about mortgage rates should sideline your plans. The reality is that many economists predict home prices to continue climbing.18 So you may be better off buying today at a slightly higher rate than waiting and paying more for a home a few years from now. You can always refinance if mortgage rates go down, but you can't make up for the lost years of equity growth and appreciation.

If you have questions or would like more information about buying or selling a home, reach out to schedule a free consultation with your local Montague Miller & Company real estate professional. We'd love to help you weigh your options, navigate this shifting market, and reach your real estate goals!

Sources:

  1. Washington Post - https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2022/08/04/mortgage-rates-sink-below-5-percent-first-time-four-months/
  2. Trading Economics - https://tradingeconomics.com/united-states/average-mortgage-size
  3. NerdWallet - https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/finance/what-is-a-good-credit-score
  4. org - https://www.debt.org/credit/improving-your-score/
  5. The Balance - https://www.thebalance.com/will-multiple-loan-applications-hurt-my-credit-score-960544
  6. Time -https://time.com/nextadvisor/mortgages/how-lenders-evaluate-your-employment/
  7. Bankrate - https://www.bankrate.com/mortgages/why-debt-to-income-matters-in-mortgages/
  8. NerdWallet - https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/mortgages/payment-buy-home
  9. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau - https://www.consumerfinance.gov/owning-a-home/loan-options/
  10. NerdWallet - https://www.nerdwallet.com/article/mortgages/jumbo-loans-what-you-need-to-know
  11. Bankrate - https://www.bankrate.com/mortgages/arm-vs-fixed-rate/
  12. MarketWatch - https://www.marketwatch.com/picks/as-mortgage-rates-rise-heres-exactly-how-more-homebuyers-are-snagging-mortgage-rates-around-4-01656513665
  13. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau - https://www.consumerfinance.gov/owning-a-home/loan-options/#anchor_loan-term_361c08846349fe
  14. Federal Trade Commission - https://consumer.ftc.gov/articles/shopping-mortgage-faqs
  15. Bankrate - https://www.bankrate.com/mortgages/mortgage-points/
  16. CNBC - https://www.cnbc.com/select/mortgage-rates-today-still-relatively-low/
  17. Rocket Mortgage - https://www.rocketmortgage.com/learn/historical-mortgage-rates-30-year-fixed
  18. MarketWatch - https://www.marketwatch.com/picks/continuing-home-price-deceleration-heres-what-5-economists-and-real-estate-pros-predict-will-happen-to-the-housing-market-this-year-01659347993
September
7

If you have a dark, unfinished basement that is primarily used for storage or laundry, you might be wondering if it's worth the time and investment to enhance the space prior to selling. After all, basements are versatile and can serve many different functions, all of which make them an attractive feature for buyers.

While finishing your basement prior to selling can serve as a significant value-add, recovering your entire investment can be challenging. Therefore, it's often not recommended to invest heavily in a new basement, unless you plan on using it yourself for a few years before selling. However, there are many affordable upgrades and enhancements you can do to make the space more appealing:

  • Enhance Your Lighting
    You'd be surprised how much of a difference good lighting can make in a basement. Basements are often thought of as dark and gloomy, but good lighting can really help reshape a buyer's perception. Switch to brighter LED lights. If you don't have enough lighting fixtures, invest in some standing lamps or table lamps. If your basement does receive any natural light, make sure nothing is blocking the window.

  • Add A Home Office
    If your basement is already finished, staging a home office can make a significant difference. With so many people working from home, a home office is a necessity these days. You can easily find an inexpensive desk and chair and add in a bookshelf or some filing cabinets. A home office is a great way to demonstrate the versatility of the space.

  • Partition The Room
    It can be hard to make the basement appealing when it's home to a water heater, washer, dryer, furnace, and other household appliances. If this is the case, you can attempt to divide the appliances from the remaining space with standing partitions or screens. Room dividers are very affordable and can make a big difference.

  • Add Vinyl Flooring
    If you're looking for an easy and affordable way to cover up the concrete, consider adding some vinyl flooring. Vinyl is becoming a popular option for basement flooring — it not only looks great, but it's also easy to install.

  • Keep It Dry
    The single most important thing a seller can do is keep the basement dry. Signs of water or dampness can be a major red flag for buyers, as it can signal more serious issues with the foundation. It might be worth investing in a professional to ensure the space is waterproof.

Sellers shouldn't feel like a full basement makeover is necessary, but keep in mind a little work can go a long way. At the end of the day, you don't want people to dread going down into the basement. Instead, make it a place that is inviting and accessible. Your Montague Miller & Co real estate professional can guide you on how to proceed.

September
7

Home improvement is the key to enhancing your home's value and increasing its ever-elusive curb appeal.

Of course, you probably already know that, but what you might not know is that upgrading your property doesn't have to be exp ensive or time-consuming. The right DIY home improvement projects improve your home, add value, and bring buyers to your door.

  1. Improve Your Landscaping
    Why hire a professional landscaper? You can save money by trimming, mulching, planting, and decorating your own home into a garden showplace. With one trip to your local garden shop or hardware store, you can get everything you need to give your landscape the wow factor home buyers love.

    • Design your dream landscape, and then bring it to life.
    • Seed your lawn. Cut back overgrown bushes so buyers can see your home.
    • Add seasonal color with potted and hanging flowers.
    • Enhance your landscape with solar lights and pavers that save energy.

  2. Beautify Your Bathroom
    You spend an awful lot of time in the bathroom. It should be a beautiful sanctuary that increases your home's value, not a shabby refuge. Change your perceptions and add value with these DIY home improvement projects.

    • Install trendy light fixtures.
    • Replace your sink with a designer vanity and a marble bowl.
    • Install a copper or chrome faucet and metal-coordinated accessories.
    • Eliminate unfortunate color choices with white wall paint.

  3. Welcome Light into Your Home
    If you have large windows that allow natural light into your home, lucky you. If you don't have large windows, try these light-enhancing projects.

    • Install brighter light fixtures.
    • Paint your walls white and replace your drapes with neutral-colored blinds.
    • Remove some furniture to open up your space.

  4. Up Your Energy Efficiency
    Green technologies save money, increase home values, and reduce your carbon footprint. When a potential buyer queries your utility company about your average energy bill, they'll like what they hear. You can perform several green upgrades yourself.

    • Replace light bulbs with energy-efficient versions.
    • Replace your stove, refrigerator, and small kitchen appliances with models rated high for energy savings.
    • Install solar-powered exterior lights.
    • Repair window seals to minimize hot/cold air exchange.

  5. Modernize Your Kitchen
    Home buyers love grand spacious kitchens. Even if your kitchen isn't as big as a buyer desires, you can complete these DIY projects to make it irresistibly grand.

    • Redo your kitchen floor with trendy wood-look, gray, wide-plank, or natural wood tiles.
    • Upgrade your stove, refrigerator, and dishwasher with popular stainless steel or black steel models.
    • Install a farmhouse sink and faucet for a country modern workspace.
    • Replace your countertops with granite. You'll need someone to measure and cut the openings and a buddy to help you lift them into place.|

  6. Make Your Home Intelligent
    Guys like gadgets. Okay, ladies like gadgets too. With a little time and effort, you can make your home gadget central. Internet-connected and digitally enhanced appliances and devices give your home an intriguing, high-tech feel.

    • Install a Wi-Fi-connected refrigerator.
    • Replace your stove with an intelligent version that lets you control cooking remotely.
    • Upgrade your home security system with cameras that let you watch your home and interact with visitors wherever you are.
    • Connect your coffeemaker to your alarm clock to brew your coffee when you wake up.

With these fixes, buyers will be more inclined to be flocking to your property and making top offers. And remember, it's not always the costly changes that give the best ROI, so consult your Montague Miller & Company real estate agent about which home improvement changes will be better suited for your home.

August
30

Selling your home can be an exciting adventure full of surprises and pitfalls. Taking the time to properly stage it can make selling your home less of a chore and allow you to get the best price possible. Follow these five tips from the pros to help you prepare your home and set the stage for a successful sale.

  1. Start Outside
    The first impression a buyer has of your home can make or break a sale. To make the buyer eager to step inside your home and see more, make sure the outside of your home looks fabulous. It doesn't cost a lot to cut the grass, pull weeds, prune the hedges and plant some flowers. Put away all bikes, toys, and trash cans. If you can, pull your cars out of the driveway, so there's a clear view of your home and property. A freshly painted door and prominent house number can also make your home more appealing.

  2. Clean and Get Rid of Clutter
    The most important thing you can do when getting ready to sell your home is to get rid of clutter. Removing your stuff and making your home less personal makes it easier for buyers to imagine themselves living in your space.

    Take a good look at each room and ask yourself what you really need to keep. Remove personal items like family photos, knickknacks, awards, and collectibles from tables, windowsills, shelves, and other surfaces. In the kitchen, put away towels, refrigerator magnets, sponges, paper towels, and dish soap, and remove small appliances from counters. It's also a good idea to remove pet beds, toys, and bowls.

    In the bathroom, remove all toiletries, hairdryers, and trash cans, open the shower curtain, and close the toilet lid. Keep closets and cabinets tidy throughout the house. Messy, packed-full closets are unappealing and will make the buyer think they are smaller than they are.

    Too much furniture can also contribute to a cluttered look. Professional stagers often remove half the owner's furnishings and put them in storage. Consider boxing up things like books and pictures and putting them in storage as well.

    Once you have removed the clutter, give your home a deep cleaning. Hiring a cleaning crew to come once every two weeks while selling your home will keep it looking fresh and cut down on stress. If you're doing the cleaning, don't forget windows, behind the toilet, grout, and under sinks. Move furniture and vacuum behind and under it.

  3. Make Repairs
    Repair squeaky doors, hinges, broken fixtures, and fittings. Replacing light fixtures, light switches, outlets, and door & cabinet hardware is an affordable way to give your home a more modern look. If you don't have time to refinish, inexpensive area rugs can also disguise the look of old hardwood floors.

  4. Keep it Neutral
    Use a fresh, neutral paint color like beige or taupe for living spaces and neutral green or blue hues for bathrooms. Stay away from bold wall colors, which are often a turnoff to buyers. If you want to make a room pop, add colorful accents with pillows and simple vases of flowers. Keep wall art and paintings neutral and simple.

  5. Accentuate Architecture
    Arrange furnishings to highlight ceilings, windows, views, fireplaces, and other architectural features. Put tall objects such as large bookshelves against walls, and hang art a bit lower to make ceilings look higher. Experiment with different ways to arrange your furniture; create cozy seating areas instead of lining couches and chairs along the walls. Open up blinds and draperies to make sure there's sufficient natural light throughout your home.

Staging doesn't have to be scary. After these fixes, you'll be excited to show people how great your property really is.

Reach out to your local Montague Miller & Company real estate professional to help guide you with your home's specific needs.

August
15

Remember the first time you laid eyes on your home? Your jaw dropped at the beautiful front yard. You were amazed at how all those windows sparkled as you walked up to the door. After you moved in, you thanked your lucky stars for sending you your dream home. You loved your house when you first bought it and knew you would live there forever. Wait a minute... Forever? That's an awfully long time to live at the same address. Here's what to do when you think you've fallen out of love with your home. 

There are different reasons people fall out of love with their dream homes. The good news is more often than not, it's possible to identify the issue and fall back in love with your home all over again.

Before selling your home, you need to answer a few questions:

  • Have you really given your house a chance?
  • Would you fall back in love with your house if you invested a little into some home improvement projects?
  • Is the house the problem, or are you secretly dissatisfied with your life and laying the blame on your home?

If you've only been in your house for a few months, it's likely that you haven't actually fallen out of love with the place but are simply suffering from either a case of buyer's remorse or feelings of being unsettled. In this situation, the best thing to do is give things some more time. The chances are good that you'll relax and fall in love with your home all over again. If you discover that your emotional detachment from your house stems from it needing work or remodeling, you need to come to a few decisions. You can choose to invest the time and money into making the improvements your happiness relies on, or speak to a real estate agent about selling your home. It's important to note that sometimes finding your dream home means making improvements.

If you decide that it's not your house but rather something else triggering your sense of dissatisfaction, look around the community. You may find that it holds the secret to helping you feel fulfilled. The odds are that there are volunteering opportunities and clubs near your home to help you fill up your life and feel happier.

If you absolutely can't stand the idea of spending any more time in your house, then it's time to talk to a real estate agent about selling your house. When shopping for a new house, remember the issues that caused you to fall out of love with your house and avoid those pitfalls with your next purchase.

When you decide that selling your home is the best solution, always make sure you deal with a real estate agent you trust to get you the best price for the home. Call on one of our Montague Miller & Co real estate professionals to help you with your next move.