Posts by Carol Solis

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buying a home | 99 Posts
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selling a home | 41 Posts
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January
20

Developing a plan and setting attainable goals are two of the biggest ingredients in the process of selling a home successfully. By understanding what steps you need to take, when you need to take them, and where you can look for help along the way, you'll put yourself in a great position to sell a home quickly while maximizing your return on investment.

This step-by-step guide to selling a house is designed to prepare you for the process and help you achieve your goals.

From "For Sale" to Sold: A Step-by-Step Guide to Selling Your Next Home

Step One – Find the Right Real Estate Agent

The first step on our list just might be the most important because finding the right real estate agent will make all the steps that follow so much easier to handle. Remember that you definitely don't have to settle for the first agent you meet unless that agent truly shows that they're the right person to sell your home. Ask around for referrals, interview agents, and find the right agent for your unique needs. 

Step Two – Research the Market and Pick a Price

One of the first things that your agent can help you with is understanding your local real estate market, and picking a price that will help get your home sold. Your agent should offer a comparative market analysis (CMA), which will help you understand what other similar homes in your market are selling for, and set a price that attracts competitive offers.

Step Three – Clean, Clear Out Clutter, and Prepare Your Home for Sale

With a great agent on your side and a fair market price chosen for your home, you'll be ready to prepare your home for potential buyers. This is a great opportunity to start the process of moving out: clear clutter, store personal items, and make your home as attractive as possible for buyers. You'll want to clean every inch of your home, from the basement to the master bedroom. Curb appeal is a big deal, too, so make sure that your yard is looking its best.

Step Four – Market Your Home to the Masses

With your home ready for buyers to visit, it's time to start attracting attention and introducing buyers to what you have to offer. Your real estate agent can help you market your home through social media, online listings, and traditional marketing tools. You can also do your part by spreading the word and letting others know that your home is on the market.

Step Five – Prepare for Multiple Offers

By working with an experienced agent, picking the right price, and marketing your home effectively, you'll set yourself up to receive multiple offers on your home. Make sure that you understand exactly what you're looking for from an offer, so you can negotiate the deal that best matches your needs.

Step Six – Negotiate and Close the Deal

All of the work that you do up to this point leads up to the process of negotiating with the buyer and closing the deal. Work closely with your real estate agent to ensure that all of the key legal details are covered and that you're maximizing the value you receive in return for all of the hard work you've done to sell a home.

No matter where you are in the sales process, remember that there's plenty of help available, both from your real estate agent and from other homeowners you trust. Start by following our step-by-step guide, and you'll already be ahead of the game when you decide to sell a home.

January
16

According to data from the National Association of REALTORS®, most home sellers hire the first real estate agent they meet.

Now, that might not necessarily be a bad idea if you happen to meet a great agent right out of the gate, but selling your home is a big move, and it's important to choose your listing agent carefully.

To find the best agent for the job, you need to ask questions — and not just "how much will you get for the property?" and "what will the commission be?" Include these questions during the interview process:

  • What are your credentials?
    A real estate agent should have a state license and belong to the local real estate trade association. You may also find someone who is a licensed REALTOR® (a member of the National Association of REALTORS®), which requires additional training and a strict code of ethics.

  • Do you specialize in my neighborhood?
    Local expertise is crucial. Your agent needs to have in-depth experience in your local real estate market, including inside knowledge about any upcoming developments that might affect the value of your home.

  • How many homes have you sold in the last year?
    Past performance doesn't always ensure a quick sale, but you'll be able to put your mind at ease knowing that your agent has a track record of success. Ask about how much these homes sold for, so you know that your agent has experience selling homes in your price range.

  • How do you determine the listing price?
    The "money talk" is the make-or-break conversation for many home sellers. It's important that your agent can help you land on a listing price that you feel good about but is also appropriate for the market. An underpriced home doesn't give you the profit you deserve, but an overpriced home could end up languishing on the market. Be sure you understand how the agent arrives at a price for your home.

  • What's your sales plan?
    Your agent should have a plan laid out for marketing your home. Mailers, listing services, open houses, and social media are all important.

  • What will it cost me to sell my home?
    From broker's commission to closing fees, there are a number of costs that can really add up when you're selling your home. Find out what it will cost, and compare from one agent to the next.

  • Will I be working with you directly?
    There's a balancing act between working with a specific agent and a team of agents. Either way, you'll want to know for sure whether you'll be working with one specific agent or a member of the agent's team. It's also important to know how you will be communicating with your agent.

  • How long will it take to sell?
    No agent can say exactly how fast any home will sell. The national average is 65 days, but this depends on a variety of factors.

Your goal should be to finds an agent with whom you are confident and comfortable with and who can sell your home quickly and at the right price. 

Reach out to a local Montague Miller & Company real estate professional. Our agents are licensed REALTORS® with expertise and dedication to help guide you through the home selling process.

January
16

Before you engage in any real estate transaction, you need to know as much as you can about the home's value. There are two related but distinct processes that help people pin down the valuation of a property before they move forward: comparative market analysis and home appraisal.

Both of these will be performed at different steps in the sale process. Knowing the difference between the two can save you some valuable time.

  • Comparative Market Analysis (CMA)
    comparative market analysis is typically performed by a real estate agent. Thanks to MLS, real estate pros have the opportunity to compare your home to others that have sold in your general area. Selling prices, time on market, home improvements, and square footage can be used to determine an approximate value of your home.

    When a CMA is completed, it will provide you with a low, medium, and high selling price for your home. It will also give an estimate of the average number of days your home may be on the market.

  • Home Appraisal
    The home appraisal is paid for by potential home buyers — either out of pocket or as part of the fees they will ultimately finance in their mortgage.

    An appraisal of the home is performed after the buyer applies for a loan with a bank or other lender. Once the buyer submits an offer and requests financing, a licensed appraiser is dispatched.

    All practicing home appraisers must be licensed or certified by the state. Although they visit a property at the request of the bank, appraisers are intended to report neutral observations about each home. The comprehensive report they compile helps to determine the home's fair market value.

    This protects the bank from lending too much money for any given home.

    Though an appraisal will include some basic information on the home's condition, more time is spent on recent information about similar listings and housing market conditions in the neighborhood.

    Minor repairs and renovations performed before an appraisal can help raise the home's assessed value.

CMA Versus Home Appraisal: Final Considerations

Both a comparative market analysis and home appraisal provide valuable insights that help you and your real estate agent move toward a successful sale. Assuming a property spends only a moderate amount of time on the market, each usually needs to be completed only once.

Sometimes, however, a lender might request a new appraisal even if the previous appraisal was only a short time ago. You might even get a CMA before you make a final decision about selling your home. Each situation is different.

An experienced real estate agent can help you by ensuring you're equipped with an accurate CMA. Plus, when the time comes to prepare for an appraisal, they can guide you on the most important steps to raise your home's value in your budget and timeline.

As with anything in real estate, the sooner you get started with selling your home, the smoother the process.

Reach out to a trusted Montague Miller & Co real estate professional to help you make your next move.

January
1

 

Last year, one factor drove the real estate market more than any other: rising mortgage rates.

In March 2022, the Federal Reserve began a series of interest rate hikes in an effort to pump the brakes on inflation.1 And while some market sectors have been slow to respond, the housing market has reacted accordingly.

Both demand and price appreciation have tapered, as the primary challenge for homebuyers has shifted from availability to affordability. And although this higher-mortgage rate environment has been a painful adjustment for many buyers and sellers, it should ultimately lead to a more stable and balanced real estate market.

So what can we expect in 2023? Will mortgage rates continue to climb? Could home prices come crashing down? While this is one of the more challenging real estate periods to forecast, here's what several industry experts predict will happen to the U.S. housing market in the coming year.

MORTGAGE RATES WILL FLUCTUATE LESS

In 2022, 30-year fixed mortgage rates surged from roughly 3% in January to around 7%. According to Rick Sharga of real estate data company ATTOM, "We've never seen rates double in so short a period."2

This year, economists forecast a less dramatic shift.

In an interview with Bankrate, Nadia Evangelou, senior economist for the National Association of Realtors, shares her vision of three possible mortgage rate scenarios:3

  1. Inflation continues to surge, forcing the Fed to repeatedly raise interest rates. In that scenario, she predicts that rates could reach as high as 8.5%.
  2. Inflation decelerates and mortgage rates follow suit, averaging 7 to 7.5% for the year.
  3. Rising interest rates trigger a recession, which could ultimately lead mortgage rates to drop closer to 5% by the end of the year.

Realtor.com forecasts something similar to scenario #2 above: "Mortgage rates will average 7.4% in 2023, trickling down to 7.1% by year's end."4 The Mortgage Bankers Association, however, projects something closer to Evangelou's scenario #3, with the 30-year fixed rate declining steadily throughout the year, averaging 6.2% in Q1 and 5.2% by Q4.5

Economists at Fannie Mae fall somewhere in the middle. In a recent press release, they predicted that the U.S. economy will experience a "modest recession" this year.6 But in their December Housing Forecast, they project that 30-year fixed mortgage rates will only fall by half a point from an average of 6.5% in Q1 to 6.0% in Q4.7

"From our perspective, the good news is that demographics remain favorable for housing, so the sector appears well-positioned to help lead the economy out of what we expect will be a brief recession," said Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan.6

What does it mean for you?  Even the experts can't say for certain where mortgage rates are headed. Instead of trying to "time the market," focus instead on buying or selling a home when the time is right for you. There are a variety of mortgage options available that can make a home purchase more affordable, including adjustable rates, points, and buydowns—and keep in mind you can always refinance down the road. We'd be happy to refer you to a trusted mortgage professional who can outline your best options.

SALES VOLUME WILL FALL AND INVENTORY WILL RISE

It looks like the home-buying frenzy we experienced in recent years is behind us. While the desire to own a home remains strong, higher mortgage rates have made it unaffordable for a large segment of would-be buyers.

Many economists expect the number of home sales to continue to decline this year, leading to an increase in listing inventory and days-on-market, or the time it takes to sell a home. But, there is a wide range when it comes to specifics.

Economists at Fannie Mae forecast that total home sales will fall by around 20% this year before rising again by nearly 15% in 2024.7 National Association of Realtors Chief Economist Lawrence Yun projects a less extreme dip of 7% in 2023 with a rebound of 10% next year.8

Realtor.com Chief Economist Danielle Hale foresees something in between. "The deceleration in home sales is likely to continue as high home prices and mortgage rates limit the pool of eligible home buyers. We anticipate that existing home sales will decline another 14.1% in 2023." She expects this drop in sales to lead to a nearly 23% increase in inventory levels this year, offering more choices for buyers who have struggled to find a home in the past.9

However, given the severe lack of housing supply, even with a double-digit increase, the market is expected to remain relatively tight and below pre-pandemic levels. Hale points out: "It's important to keep historical context in mind. The level of inventory in 2023 is expected to fall roughly 15% short of the 2019 average."9

What does it mean for you?  If you've been frustrated by a lack of inventory in the past, 2023 may bring new opportunities for you to find the perfect home. And today's buyers have more negotiating power than they've had in years. Contact us to find out about current and future listings that meet your criteria.

If you're hoping to sell, you may want to act fast; rising inventory levels will mean increased competition. We can help you chart the best course to maximize your profits, starting with a professional assessment of your home's current market value. Reach out to schedule a free consultation.

HOME PRICES WILL REMAIN RELATIVELY STABLE

While some economists expect home prices to fall this year, many expect them to remain fairly stable. "For most parts of the country, home prices are holding steady since available inventory is extremely low," said Yun at a November conference.8

Nationally, Yun expects the average median home price to tick up by 1% in 2023, with some markets experiencing greater appreciation and others experiencing declines.8 Economists at Fannie Mae offer a similar projection, forecasting a slight decrease in their Home Price Index of about 1.5%, year-over-year.7

Other experts foresee a larger fluctuation. Hale expects U.S. home prices to rise by 5.4% this year, while Morgan Stanley is forecasting a 7% drop from the peak in June 2022.9,10

Still, many economists agree that a housing market crash like the one we experienced in 2008 is highly unlikely. The factors that caused home prices to plunge during the Great Recession—specifically lax lending standards and a surplus of inventory—aren't prevalent in our current market.10 Therefore, home values are expected to remain comparatively stable.

What does it mean for you?  It can feel scary to buy a home when there's uncertainty in the market. However, real estate is a long-term investment that has been shown to appreciate over time. And keep in mind that the best bargains are often found in a slower market, like the one we're experiencing right now. Contact us to discuss your goals and budget. We can help you make an informed decision about the right time to buy.

And if you're planning to sell this year, you'll want to chart your path carefully to maximize your profits. Contact us for recommendations and to find out what your home could sell for in today's market.

RENT PRICES WILL CONTINUE TO CLIMB

 Affordability challenges for would-be buyers, inflationary pressures, and an overall lack of housing could continue to drive "above-average" rent price increases in much of the country.11 The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas expects year-over-year rental price growth to tick up to 8.4% in May before moderating later in the year.12

According to Hale, "U.S. renters will continue to face challenges from limited supply and excess demand in the coming year that will keep upward pressure on rent growth. At a national level, we forecast rent growth of 6.3% in the next 12 months, somewhat ahead of home price growth and historical rent trends."9

However, there are signs that the surge in rent prices could be tapering. According to Jay Parsons, head of economics for rental housing software company RealPage, there's some evidence of a slowdown in demand. He predicts that market-rate rents will rise just 3.3% this year. Still, analysts agree that a return to lower pre-pandemic rental prices is unlikely.10

What does it mean for you?  Rent prices are expected to keep climbing. But you can lock in a set mortgage payment and build long-term wealth by putting that money toward a home purchase instead. Reach out for a free consultation to discuss your options.

And if you've ever thought about purchasing a rental property, now may be a perfect time. Call today to get your investment property search started.

WE'RE HERE TO GUIDE YOU

While national real estate forecasts can provide a "big picture" outlook, real estate is local. And as local market experts, we can guide you through the ins and outs of our market and the issues most likely to impact sales and drive home values in your particular neighborhood.

If you're considering buying or selling a home in 2023, contact us now to schedule a free consultation. We'll work with you to develop an action plan to meet your real estate goals this year.

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. Forbes -
    https://www.forbes.com/advisor/investing/fed-funds-rate-history/
  2. Bankrate -
    https://www.bankrate.com/mortgages/will-mortgage-rates-go-up-in-december-2022/
  3. Bankrate -
    https://www.bankrate.com/real-estate/housing-market-predictions-2023/
  4. com -
    https://www.realtor.com/news/trends/2023-the-year-of-the-homebuyer-our-bold-predictions-on-home-prices-mortgage-rates-and-more/
  5. Mortgage Bankers Association -
    https://www.mba.org/docs/default-source/research-and-forecasts/forecasts/mortgage-finance-forecast-dec-2022.pdf?sfvrsn=b584bf7_1
  6. Fannie Mae -
    https://www.fanniemae.com/newsroom/fannie-mae-news/economy-still-expected-enter-and-exit-modest-recession-2023
  7. Fannie Mae -
    https://www.fanniemae.com/media/45801/display
  8. National Association of Realtors -
    https://www.nar.realtor/newsroom/nars-lawrence-yun-predicts-us-home-prices-wont-experience-major-decline-could-possibly-rise-slightly
  9. com -
    https://www.realtor.com/research/2023-national-housing-forecast/
  10. The New York Times -
    https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/04/realestate/housing-market-interest-rates.html
  11. CNBC -
    https://www.cnbc.com/2022/09/28/how-much-higher-rent-will-go-in-2023-according-to-experts.html
  12. Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas -
    https://www.dallasfed.org/research/economics/2022/0816

 

December
27


 

From summer vacations to winter holidays, it seems each season offers the perfect excuse to put off our to-do list. But be careful, homeowners: neglecting your home's maintenance could put your personal safety—and one of your largest financial investments—at serious risk.

In no time at all, small problems can lead to extensive and expensive repairs. And even if you avoid a catastrophe, those minor issues can still have a big impact. Properties that are not well maintained can lose 10 percent (or more) of their appraised value.1The good news is, by dedicating a few hours each season to properly maintaining your home, you can ensure a safe living environment for you and your family ... and actually increase the value of your home by one percent annually!1 You just need to know where and how to spend your time.

Use the following checklist as a guide to maintaining your home and lawn throughout the year. It's applicable for all climates, so please share it with friends and family members who you think could benefit, no matter where their home is located.

Winter

While it can be tempting to ignore home maintenance issues in the winter, snow and freezing temperatures can do major damage if left untreated. Follow these steps to ensure your house survives the winter months. 

Inside

  • Maintain Heating System
    Check and change filters on your heating system, per the manufacturer's instructions. If you have a boiler, monitor the water level.
  • Tune Up Generator
    If you own a portable generator, follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper maintenance. Make sure it's working before you need it, and stock up on supplies like fuel, oil and filters.
  • Prevent Frozen Pipes
    Make sure pipes are well insulated, and keep your heat set to a minimum of 55 degrees when you're away. If pipes are prone to freezing, leave faucets dripping slightly overnight or when away from home. You may also want to open cabinet doors beneath sinks to let in heat.

Outside

  • Drain and Shut Off Outdoor Faucets
    Before the first freeze, drain and shut off outdoor faucets. Place an insulated cover over exposed faucets, and store hoses for the winter.
  • Remove Window Screens
    Removing screens from your windows allows more light in to brighten and warm your home during the dark, cold winter months. Snow can also get trapped between screens and windows, causing damage to window frames and sills.
  • Service Snowblower
    Don't wait until the first snowstorm of the season to make sure your snowblower is in good working order. Check the manufacturer's instructions for maintenance or have it serviced by a professional.
  • Stock Up on Ice Melt
    Keep plenty of ice melt, or rock salt, on hand in preparation for winter weather. Look for brands that will keep kids and pets safe without doing damage to your walkway or yard.
  • Watch Out for Ice Dams
    Ice dams are thick ridges of solid ice that can build up along the eaves of your house. They can do major damage to gutters, shingles and siding. Heated cables installed prior to the first winter storm can help.14
  • Check for Snow Buildup on Trees
    Snow can cause tree limbs to break, which can be especially dangerous if they are near your home. Use a broom to periodically remove excess snow.15

 Spring

After a long, cold winter, many of us look forward to a fresh start in the spring. Wash away the winter grime, open the windows, and prepare your home for warmer weather and backyard barbecues.

Inside

  • Conduct Annual Spring Cleaning
    Be sure to tackle those areas that may have gone neglected—such as your blinds, baseboards and fan blades—as well as appliances, including your refrigerator, dishwasher, oven and range hood. Clear out clutter and clothes you no longer wear, and toss old and expired food and medications.
  • Shut Down Heating System
    Depending on the type of heating system you have, you may need to shut your system down when not in use. Check the manufacturer's instructions for proper procedures.
  • Tune Up A/C
    If your home has central air conditioning, schedule an annual tune-up with your HVAC technician. If you have a portable or window unit, be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper maintenance.2
  • Check Plumbing
    It's a good idea to periodically check your plumbing to spot any leaks or maintenance issues. Look for evidence of leaks—such as water stains on the ceiling—and check for dripping faucets or running toilets that need to be addressed. Inspect your hot water heater for sediment build up. Check your sump pump (if you have one) to ensure it's working properly.3
  • Inspect Smoke Alarm and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
    Check that your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors are functioning properly. Batteries should be replaced every six months, so change them now and again in the fall. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to test your individual devices. And even properly functioning devices should be replaced at least every 10 years, or per the manufacturer's recommendation.4

Outside

  • Inspect Perimeter of Home
    Walk around your house and look for any signs of damage or wear and tear that should be addressed. Are there cracks in the foundation? Peeling paint? Loose or missing roof shingles? Make a plan to make needed repairs yourself or hire a contractor.
  • Clean Home's Exterior
    Wash windows and clean and replace screens if they were removed during the winter months. For the home's facade, it's generally advisable to use the gentlest method that is effective. A simple garden hose will work in most cases.5
  • Clean Gutters and Downspouts
    Gutters and downspouts should be cleaned at least twice a year. Neglected gutters can cause water damage to a home, so make sure yours are clean and free of debris. If your gutters have screens, you may be able to decrease the frequency of cleanings, but they should still be checked periodically.6
  • Rake Leaves
    Gently rake your lawn to remove leaves and debris. Too many leaves can cause an excessive layer of thatch, which can damage the roots of your lawn. They can also harbor disease-causing organisms and insects.7 However, take care because overly vigorous raking can damage new grass shoots.

  • Seed or Sod Lawn
    If you have bare spots, spring is a good time to seed or lay new sod so you can enjoy a beautiful lawn throughout the remainder of the year. The peak summer heat can be too harsh for a new lawn. If you miss this window, early fall is another good time to plant.8
     
  • Apply a Pre-Emergent Herbicide
    While a healthy lawn is the best deterrent for weeds, some homeowners choose to use a pre-emergent herbicide in the spring to minimize weeds. When applied at the right time, it can be effective in preventing weeds from germinating. However, a pre-emergent herbicide will also prevent grass seeds from germinating, so only use it if you don't plan to seed or sod in the spring.
  • Plant Flowers
    After a long winter, planting annuals and spring perennials is a great way to brighten up your garden. It's also a good time to prune existing flowers and shrubs and remove and compost any dead plants.

  • Mulch Beds
    A layer of fresh mulch helps to suppress weeds, retain moisture and moderate soil temperature. However, be sure to strip away old mulch at least every three years to prevent excessive buildup.9

  • Fertilize Lawn
    Depending on your grass type, an application of fertilizer in the spring may help promote new leaf and root growth, keep your lawn healthy, and reduce weeds.10
  • Tune Up Lawn Mower
    Send your lawn mower out for a professional tune-up and to have the blades sharpened before the mowing season starts.11

  • Inspect Sprinkler System
    If you have a sprinkler system, check that it's working properly and make repairs as needed.
  • Check the Deck
    If you have a deck or patio, inspect it for signs of damage or deterioration that may have occurred over the winter. Then clean it thoroughly and apply a fresh coat of stain if needed.
  • Prepare Pool
    If you own a pool, warmer weather signals the start of pool season. Be sure to follow best practices for your particular pool to ensure proper maintenance and safety.

Summer

Summer is generally the time to relax and enjoy your home, but a little time devoted to maintenance will help ensure it looks great and runs efficiently throughout the season.

Inside

  • Adjust Ceiling Fans
    Make sure they are set to run counter-clockwise in the summer to push air down and create a cooling breeze. Utilizing fans instead of your air conditioner, when possible, will help minimize your utility bills.  
  • Clean A/C Filters
    Be sure to clean or replace your filters monthly, particularly if you're running your air conditioner often. 
  • Clear Dryer Vent
    Help cut down on summer utility bills by cleaning your laundry dryer vent at least once a year. Not only will it help cut down on drying times, a neglected dryer poses a serious fire hazard.
  • Check Weather Stripping
    If you're running your air conditioner in the summer, you'll want to keep the cold air inside and hot air outside. Check weather stripping around doors and windows to ensure a good seal.

Outside

  • Mow Lawn Regularly
    Your lawn will probably need regular mowing in the summer. Adjust your mower height to the highest setting, as taller grass helps shade the soil to prevent drought and weeds.
  • Water Early in the Morning
    Ensure your lawn and garden get plenty of water during the hot summer months. Experts generally recommend watering in the early morning to minimize evaporation, but be mindful of any watering restrictions in your area, which may limit the time and/or days you are allowed to water.
  • Weed Weekly
    To prevent weeds from taking over your garden and ruining your home's valuable curb appeal, make a habit of pulling weeds at least once per week.
  • Exterminate Pests
    Remove any standing water and piles of leaves and debris. Inspect your lawn and perimeter of your home for signs of an invasion. If necessary, call a professional exterminator for assistance.

Fall

Fall ushers in another busy season of home maintenance as you prepare your home for the winter weather ahead.

Inside

  • Have Heater Serviced
    To ensure safety and efficiency, it's a good idea to have your heating system serviced and inspected before you run it for the first time.
  • Shut Down A/C for the Winter
    If you have central air conditioning, you can have it serviced at the same time as your furnace. If you have a portable or window unit, ensure it's properly sealed or remove it and store it for the winter.
     
  • Inspect Chimney
    Fire safety experts recommend that you have your chimney inspected annually and cleaned periodically. Complete this task before you start using your fireplace or furnace.
  • Seal Windows and Doors
    Check windows and doors for drafts and caulk or add weatherstripping where necessary.
  • Check Smoke Alarm and Carbon Monoxide Detectors
    If you checked your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the spring, they are due for another inspection. Batteries should be replaced every six months, so it's time to replace them again. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to test your individual devices. And even properly functioning devices should be replaced at least every 10 years, or per the manufacturer's recommendation.3

Outside

  • Plant Fall Flowers, Grass and Shrubs
    Fall is a great time to plant perennials, trees, shrubs, cool-season vegetables and bulbs that will bloom in the spring.12 It's also a good time to reseed or sod your lawn.
  • Rake or Mow Leaves
    Once the leaves start falling, it's time to pull out your rake. A thick layer of leaves left on your grass can lead to an unhealthy lawn. Or, rather than raking, use a mulching mower to create a natural fertilizer for your lawn.
  • Apply Fall Fertilizer
    If you choose not to use a mulching mower, a fall fertilizer is usually recommended. For best results, aerate your lawn before applying the fertilizer.13
  • Inspect Gutters and Roof
    Inspect your gutters and downspouts and make needed repairs. Check the roof for any broken or loose tiles. Remove fallen leaves and debris.
  • Shut Down Sprinkler System
    If you have a sprinkler system, drain any remaining water and shut it down to prevent damage from freezing temperatures over the winter.
  • Close Pool
    If you have a pool, it's time to clean and close it up before the winter.

    While this checklist should not be considered a complete list of your home's maintenance needs, it can serve as a general seasonal guide. Systems, structures and fixtures will need to be repaired and replaced from time-to-time, as well. The good news is, the investment you make in maintaining your home now will pay off dividends over time.

    Keep a record of all your maintenance, repairs and upgrades for future reference, along with receipts. Not only will it help jog your memory, it can make a big impact on buyers when it comes time to sell your home … and potentially result in a higher selling price.

    Are you looking for help with home maintenance or repairs? We have an extensive network of trusted contractors and service providers and are happy to provide referrals! Call or email us, and we can connect you with one of our preferred vendors.

    Sources:

    1. HouseLogic.com –
      https://www.houselogic.com/organize-maintain/home-maintenance-tips/value-home-maintenance/
    2. Home Advisor –
      https://www.homeadvisor.com/r/servicing-your-air-conditioner/
    3. Keyes & Sons Plumbing and Heating –
      http://keyes-plumbing.com/things-to-check-in-spring/
    4. Allstate Insurance Blog –
      https://blog.allstate.com/test-smoke-detectors/
    5. Houzz –
      https://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/17268616/list/how-to-wash-your-house
    6. Angie's List –
      https://www.angieslist.com/articles/why-gutter-cleaning-so-important.htm
    7. Angie's List –
      https://www.angieslist.com/articles/what-thatch-and-how-does-it-impact-my-lawn.htm
    8. HGTV –
      http://www.hgtv.com/design/outdoor-design/landscaping-and-hardscaping/lawns/top-spring-lawn-care-tips-pictures
    9. This Old House –
      https://www.thisoldhouse.com/more/may-mulching
    10. Lowes –
      https://www.lowes.com/projects/lawn-and-garden/fertilize-your-lawn/project
    11. The New York Times –
      https://www.nytimes.com/guides/realestate/home-maintenance-checklist
    12. Better Homes and Gardens Magazine –
      https://www.bhg.com/gardening/yard/garden-care/what-to-plant-in-the-fall/
    13. The Spruce –
      https://www.thespruce.com/late-fall-fertilizing-2152976
    14. This Old House –
      https://www.thisoldhouse.com/how-to/how-to-get-rid-ice-dams
    15. Houzz –
      https://www.houzz.com/ideabooks/55572864/list/your-winter-home-maintenance-checklist

     

    December
    5

    You don't have to break the bank to celebrate the holidays in style—even in this season of inflation. Prices may be higher on everything from food to gifts to decorations, but there are still plenty of opportunities to eke out extra savings.

    For example, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), you can save a couple of hundred dollars a year just by sealing your home and boosting its insulation.1 Other small fixes—such as swapping old light bulbs for LEDs and plugging electronics into a powerstrip—can boost your yearly savings enough to pay off some of your holiday budgets.

    And thanks to a pandemic-era boom in online shopping, it is easier than ever to find deals on new and pre-owned furniture, thrifted gifts, DIY decor, and more. Even secondhand stalwarts like Goodwill have joined the digital fray, making it a cinch to score gently-used treasures at extra-low prices.2

    You won't be the only one bargain-hunting your way to a more financially-stable New Year. Multiple surveys have found that inflation is not only chilling people's spending, it's also prompting shoppers to search for better deals and creative ways to reduce their bills.3

    Here are some strategies you can use to boost your holiday budget by trimming household expenses:

    1. Hunt for Deals on Groceries

    If you're finding it harder than it used to be to serve your family dinner on a budget, you're not alone. With the U.S. food-at-home index (a measure of grocery price inflation) at a 43-year high, many families are struggling to control costs on food staples, such as meat, dairy, produce, and grains.4

    That's made pulling off holiday gatherings especially stressful lately. But don't despair: Even with inflation, retailers are still giving motivated shoppers plenty of opportunities to whittle down their bills.

    The key is to pay attention to the cost of each item on your shopping list—not just the most expensive—and look for easy swaps and discounts. For example, try buying non-perishable items in bulk, especially when they're on sale, and only in-season produce. Or trade name-brand goods for less expensive options from a store's private label. As you tap into your inner bargain hunter, you could be surprised by what you save when you're more mindful of your selections.

    And unlike in the old days, you no longer have to clip your way through paper flyers to snag a bargain. Instead, you can save both time and money by scouting for deals online, digitally clipping coupons, and earning cash back through special apps and browsers. For example, coupon aggregation sites, like Coupons.com, and shopping apps—such as Checkout 51 and Ibotta—make it easy to score discounts and cashback on a variety of purchases, including groceries.

    Also, check to see if your neighborhood grocer posts their weekly flyers online. If you're hosting a holiday party, the markdowns you find can help you narrow your food and recipe choices, based on what's currently on sale.

    2. Prep Your Home for Holiday Guests With Pre-Owned Finds

    You don't have to sacrifice style for the sake of preserving your holiday budget either. If you're expecting company this year and would like to add some festive flair to your home, you can do so inexpensively—especially if you're willing to decorate with items that are secondhand.

    Thrifting is back in vogue, with an increasing number of shoppers preferring pre-owned furniture and home goods. A recent study found that the "re-commerce" market grew almost 15% last year, which was twice the pace of general retail.5 Plus, buying used isn't just a great way to save money, it also helps the environment by keeping reusable items out of landfills.

    Fortunately, it's become easier to score secondhand deals online. For example, you can scout consumer marketplaces on Facebook, Craigslist, and OfferUp. Or you can take advantage of neighborhood freecycles and "Buy Nothing" groups. And a number of thrift shops now have e-commerce sites, including major chains, like Goodwill.

    If you're handy with a paintbrush or have some basic carpentry skills, you can also modernize some of your existing furniture by upcycling it yourself. Or, if you enjoy crafting, search through your own recycling or sewing bin for raw materials to make one-of-a-kind decorations.

    Don't stress yourself out, though, if you don't have the time or money to dress your home the way you hoped. "A house doesn't have to be perfect or completely done for it to feel festive or inviting," designer Justina Blakeney noted in an interview with the Washington Post. "These are family and friends, and they are not judging you."6 

    3. Forgo Major Renovations in Favor of DIY Home Improvements

    Holidays are always a tricky time to undergo big renovations. But with ongoing worker and material shortages, now is an especially bad time to commit. Inflated costs can add thousands to your reno budget –—and unnecessary stress to your holiday.

    Instead of suffering through an ill-timed remodel, you're better off saving this time of year for simpler, less expensive projects you can do yourself.

    One winter-perfect upgrade to consider: Build a DIY fire pit so that you and your guests can roast marshmallows and relax in the cozy comfort of your backyard. You can also add some extra ambiance by hanging energy-efficient LED outdoor string lights that change from white to colorful. These are festive enough for the holidays, but also versatile enough to use year-round.

    Or, if you'd rather curl up by an indoor fire, channel your DIY energy into a fireplace upgrade. Adding a wooden beam to the top of your mantel can add an extra layer of coziness. Alternatively, re-tiling or painting your fireplace surround can lend contemporary flair.

    Just be sure to stick to DIY projects that you know you can do a quality job on—especially if your changes will be difficult to reverse. Feel free to reach out for a free assessment to find out how your planned renovations could impact your home's resale value. 

    4. Invest in Home Maintenance Projects That Cut Your Utility Bills

    You can save money by completing basic home maintenance tasks, such as swapping your furnace filter and updating your lightbulbs. But if you really want to lower your bills this winter, consider projects that make your home more energy efficient.

    According to the EPA, 9 out of 10 homes in the U.S. are under-insulated, which wastes energy and money.7 Luckily, there are plenty of DIY insulation projects that you can complete in just a few days. For example, the EPA offers guides on how to:

    • Insulate your attic or basement crawl space
    • Weatherstrip doors and windows
    • Seal areas around the house that may be leaking air, including electrical outlets and fireplaces

    The savings you get from these projects can really add up. The EPA estimates that sealing and insulating your ducts can make your HVAC system up to 20% more efficient.8 And thanks to new provisions from the Inflation Reduction Act, you can also save a bundle this year by investing in certain energy-efficient upgrades and claiming a tax credit.9 Be sure to check with us about any local rebates and incentives that may be available, too, before getting started on a project. 

    5. Use Expense Tracking to Boost Your Holiday Budget

     To avoid overextending yourself during the holidays (or anytime), one of the best things you can do is track your income and expenses. If your monthly budget is usually tight, you may need to make some adjustments to free up cash for holiday expenditures.

     For example, here's a sample budget worksheet. Start by adding in your expenses: Under the "Typical" column, you can list your standard expenses, and under the "Adjusted" column, list any areas where you could cut back on spending.

    Then consider how your standard wages may be adjusted this month by extra shifts, additional tips, or an end-of-year bonus. By decreasing your spending and/or increasing your income, you can build room in your budget for holiday gifts and gatherings.

    HOUSEHOLD BUDGET WORKSHEET

     

    Typical

    Adjusted

    Difference (+/-)

    HOUSING

    Mortgage/taxes/insurance or Rent

     

     

     

    Utilities (electricity, water, gas, trash)

     

     

     

    Phone, internet, cable

     

     

     

    Home maintenance and repairs

     

     

     

    FOOD

    Groceries

     

     

     

    Restaurants

     

     

     

    TRANSPORTATION

    Car payment/insurance

     

     

     

    Gas, maintenance, repairs

     

     

     

    OTHER

    Health insurance

     

     

     

    Clothing and personal care

     

     

     

    Childcare

     

     

     

    Entertainment

     

     

     

    Charitable contributions

     

     

     

    Savings, retirement, college fund

     

     

     

    INCOME

    Salary/wages

     

     

     

    Bonus, tips, other

     

     

     

    MONTHLY TOTALS

    Total Adjusted Income

     

    Total Adjusted Expenses

    -

    EXTRA SAVINGS FOR YOUR HOLIDAY BUDGET

     

    Feel free to use this worksheet as a template that you can personalize to your needs.

     WE'RE HERE TO HELP

     We would love to help you meet your financial goals now and in the year ahead. Whether you want to find lower-cost alternatives for home renovations, maintenance, or services, we are happy to provide our insights and referrals.

    And if you're saving up to buy a new home, we can help with that, too. This is the perfect time to score a great deal because only the most motivated homebuyers and sellers are active in the market right now. So reach out to schedule a free consultation. We can fill you in on some of the exciting programs and incentives we're seeing that help make homeownership more affordable.

    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. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) - https://www.energystar.gov/campaign/waysToSave#!card0-GW91
    2. USA Today - https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/retail/2022/10/05/goodwill-launches-online-store-goodwillfinds-website/8185084001/
    3. Retail Dive -
      https://www.retaildive.com/news/inflation-drives-shopping-changes-consumers-survey/629973/
    4. NBC News -
      https://www.nbcnews.com/select/shopping/how-save-groceries-ncna1299053
    5. CNBC - ​​https://www.cnbc.com/2022/09/14/secondhand-shopping-is-booming-heres-how-much-you-can-save.html
    6. Washington Post -
      https://www.washingtonpost.com/home/2021/11/09/holiday-entertaining-tips/
    7. S. Environmental Protection Agency - https://www.energystar.gov/campaign/seal_insulate/why_seal_and_insulate
    8. Energy Star -
      https://www.energystar.gov/campaign/waysToSave
    9. The White House -
      https://www.whitehouse.gov/cleanenergy/?utm_source=cleanenergy.gov

    November
    6

    Over the past few years, a real estate buying frenzy bid up home prices to eye-popping amounts. However, as mortgage rates have risen, buyer demand has cooled. 1 Consequently, home sellers who enter the market today may need to reset their expectations.

    The reality is, it's no longer enough to stick a "for sale" sign in the yard and wait for buyers to bang down the door. If you want to net the most money possible for your property in today's market, you'll need an effective game plan and a skilled team of professionals to implement it.

    Fortunately, we've developed a listing strategy that combines our proven approach to preparation, pricing, and promotion—all designed to help you get top dollar for your home. But you will play an important role in the selling process, as well.

    Here are some crucial steps you can take to set yourself up for success as a home seller in this market: 

    1. Make Strategic Repairs and Improvements

    When you sell something, it's important to consider what your customer wants to buy. And according to the National Association of Realtors, only 6% of today's buyers report that they are looking for a DIY fixer-upper.2 The vast majority want a move-in-ready home, which means that any outstanding repairs or dated features can be a major turn-off.

    Before your home goes on the market, we'll conduct a thorough walk-through to identify any problems that could prevent it from selling. In some cases, we may recommend a professional pre-listing inspection. Finding and addressing issues like leaks, rot, and foundation problems up front can pay off in the final sale price. Plus, it prevents sales from falling through because of a red flag on the home inspection, a scenario no seller wants to face.

    Beyond repairs, we'll also help you identify the simple upgrades that offer the highest return on your investment. For example, new paint can give your home a fresh look at a reasonable cost. However, it's important to choose the right colors. One study found that painting your bathroom light blue could lead to a 1.6% increase in the offer price!3 Similarly, minor landscaping improvements can pay off in a major way. A healthy lawn offers an estimated 256% return on investment.4\

    2. Declutter and Depersonalize

    When buyers look at a home for sale, they're trying to envision themselves living there. That's hard to do if it's chock-full of the current owner's family photos, children's artwork, and souvenir collections. Plus, cluttered homes look smaller, and older items can make them feel dated.

    Decluttering before you put your home up for sale will help you in the long run—after all, you'll need to move all your things to your new home eventually. Now is the time to shred, digitize, or organize old documents, donate old clothes, or move bulky furniture into storage. At a minimum, you'll want to pack away excess items neatly before potential buyers view the home. Remove personal photos and other trinkets to create a blank slate that viewers can imagine decorating with their own prized possessions.

    If you feel overwhelmed by this process, we'd be happy to make recommendations or refer you to a local service provider who can help. 

    3. Stage Your Home for Success

     Just as you take care to dress professionally for a job interview, you should always ensure your home looks its best for potential buyers. Home shoppers today are used to scrolling through Instagram and Pinterest, and they want to see the same wow factor when touring a home.

    The process of making your home look its best and appeal to potential buyers is called staging, and it can be a game changer. According to the International Association of Home Staging Professionals, an average priced staged home sells 5 to 11 times faster than its unstaged counterpart. Even better, the majority of staged homes sell for 4% to 20% over list price!5

    Some sellers hire a professional stager, who may bring in furniture and decor to increase the home's appeal. Others choose to stage their homes themselves. We can help advise you on which route to choose and how much to invest in the process.

    It's also important to consider what buyers in your neighborhood are likely to be looking for in a home. We can help guide your staging choices with our local market insights. For example, in neighborhoods where a large share of residents work from home, it may be effective to stage one room as an office space so potential buyers can envision their day-to-day routine.

    4. Prep for Each Showing

    Most of us don't live picture-perfect lives, and our homes reflect that (sometimes messy) reality. But when your home is on the market, it's important to ensure that it is always ready for viewers, even on short notice. A missed showing is a missed opportunity to sell your home!

    Before your home hits the market, it may be worth hiring professional cleaners to get in all the nooks and crannies. After, try your best to keep things spic and span. Just a few minutes a day wiping down counters, sweeping the floors, and vacuuming can make a big difference.

    It's also worth noting that most buyers will open cabinets, drawers, and closets—so try to make sure everything is as neat and organized as possible. Keep toiletries and small appliances off countertops, and secure valuables and sensitive documents in a safe or off-site.

    Want help finding a cleaning service to make your home shine for buyers? Reach out for a referral!

    5. Price Your Home Correctly From the Start

    In the past few years, you may have seen homes in your neighborhood sell for shocking amounts and wondered if you could get a similar price for your property. The temptation to list your home on the high side can be strong, but it's best to be realistic from the start. Even in a hot market, some homes will sit for months. And the longer a property is listed, the more buyers worry that something is wrong with it.6

    Of course, you also don't want to set your price too low and lose out on potential profit. That's why it's essential to work with real estate agents (like us!) who know the ins and outs of our local market and what buyers are willing to pay today. In a quickly-evolving market, comparable sales from a few months ago can lag the current market reality.

    Fortunately, if you've owned your home for several years, chances are good that it's worth much more today than you paid for it. That means you stand to walk away with a handsome profit. In fact, recent reports show that homeowner equity is at an all-time high.7

    6. Avoid Acting on Emotion

    The past few years of over-asking-price offers with few contingencies have set certain expectations for many sellers. It's only natural to feel hurt or even offended if an offer comes in lower than what you think your home is worth.

    However, it's important to keep in mind that those market conditions were unprecedented, and we are now returning to a more typical market. Home sellers who act rationally, rather than emotionally, are going to get the best results.

    Remember: You can always counter a low offer. The same goes for repair requests and contingencies—everything is negotiable. However, it's important to accept that the market is adjusting and flexibility is key. Keep your expectations reasonable, and remain open-minded. And you can rest assured knowing that we'll be by your side every step of the way to help you navigate the process and negotiate a great deal.

    7. Work With a Local Market Expert

    The economics impacting mortgage rates may be national, but real estate markets are hyperlocal. That's why working with a professional agent who understands your neighborhood's dynamics is essential. Through our experience, we've gathered insights that can help us position your home for success in this market. Plus, we have the resources to connect with qualified buyers searching for a home like yours.

    Working with a knowledgeable agent is also the secret to getting as much money as possible for your home. We have access to extensive data on recent sales in your neighborhood, which we will use to price and promote your property. That's one reason why homes sold by agents draw much higher prices than those sold by their owners alone. While for-sale-by-owner homes went for a median price of $260,000 in 2020, the median for homes sold by agents was $318,000.8 That's a difference of $58,000—and money you don't want to leave on the table.

    YOUR AGENT AND ADVOCATE

    Selling a home in a fast-changing market can be stressful. You're likely to hear conflicting advice and opinions from people in your life, and decisions like what color to paint your front door or how much to list your home for can be overwhelming.

     That's where we come in. The market may be adjusting, but it's still highly advantageous for sellers—and we're here to help you make the most of it. We're listing experts in our area, and we know what steps you need to take for a smooth, profitable transaction.

     If you're considering buying or selling a home, we invite you to reach out to schedule a free consultation. We're happy to talk through your specific situation and goals and help you identify your next steps.

    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. Yahoo! Finance - https://finance.yahoo.com/news/bidding-war-rate-drops-lowest-120000537.html
    1. National Association of Realtors - https://cdn.nar.realtor/sites/default/files/documents/2022-home-buyers-and-sellers-generational-trends-03-23-2022.pdf
    1. Zillow - https://www.zillowgroup.com/news/paint-colors-that-could-lead-to-higher-offers/
    1. Angi - https://www.angi.com/articles/smart-landscaping-tips-can-increase-home-value.htm
    1. International Association of Home Staging Professionals - https://pages.iahsp.com/home-staging-statistics/
    1. Washington Post -https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2019/07/22/just-because-its-sellers-market-doesnt-mean-you-should-overprice-your-home/
    1. com - https://www.realtor.com/research/changes-in-value-of-household-real-estate-q2-2022/
    2. National Association of Realtors - https://www.nar.realtor/research-and-statistics/research-reports/highlights-from-the-profile-of-home-buyers-and-sellers#purchased

     

     

    October
    30

    According to Redfin, a national real estate brokerage, there's a pretty good chance you can find a condo or co-op that'll cost you less to own per month than it would to rent one!

    Landlords have every right to get as much for their rental as possible. If there are renters who are ready, willing, and able to pay them what they're getting per month, then the market has spoken, and that is ultimately what defines and creates the market value.

    The good news is, you might be able to buy your own home and pay less per month than you do in rent!

    People often presume that buying a home will cost them more than renting. It certainly can, but it doesn't always. A lot depends upon:

    • Where you live
    • What's available to purchase
    • How much homes sell for in your area
    • How much rents are in area

    It's not a no-brainer. You have to look into those things. But most likely you won't be able to buy just any house on the market and have it cost you less per month than something you could rent in the area. That's not how it works. For instance, you're probably not going to be able to buy a 4-bedroom, 3-bath colonial on a cul de sac for less than it costs you to rent a 2-bedroom, 1-bath apartment. But, you might be able to find a 2 bedroom, 1 bath condo or co-op that'll cost you less per month than that apartment!

    In fact, according to recent monthly rental market data from Redfin, there's a pretty good chance you can find a condo or co-op that'll cost you less to own per month than it would to rent one! While other types of property cost more per month to own than to rent, condos and co-ops are about $200 cheaper per month to own on average on a national level. And that's not just right now; it has been cheaper to own a condo — by even more than that at times — going back to at least April of 2019.

    Again, real estate values and markets function on a local level, so you can't entirely bank on national statistics. But they're at least a good indication that there are possibilities worth looking into if your rent is creeping higher, and you'd like to have some control over how much you're shelling out every month for a place to live! In the least, it's worth asking your local real estate agent to help you figure out if there are condos (or perhaps even another type of home) for you to buy, that'll cost you less per month than your current rent.

    The Takeaway:

    If you're feeling like rent prices are skyrocketing, you're not imagining things. While they're driven by supply and demand in the market, some landlords are also using software that helps them not only determine how much they can get for rent, but also encourages them to avoid bargaining with renters and to be firm on higher monthly rental rates.

    The good news is that you might be able to buy your own condo or co-op, and pay less per month than you would in rent, based upon national rental market data. Reach out to your local real estate agent for a more accurate assessment of the options and possibilities in your area. With offices in Charlottesville, Madison, Amherst, Orange & Culpeper, our Montague Miller & Co real estate professionals can help you with your home search!

    Resources: Redfin