You’ve saved a down payment, chosen an experienced local Realtor, set your budget, and you know how much you can afford to pay for a home. But your mortgage is not the only cost you need to consider when buying a home. There are many other costs. Here are six expenses you might not think about but should plan for:
- Transportation costs: In the greater Seattle area, transportation costs can be quite expensive, especially if you have a long commute, use the toll lanes or take the ferry to and from work each day. Mass transit is also an option, but it isn’t free. Regardless of your method of transportation, you’ll want to budget for transportation expenses, including parking, car insurance, fuel and car maintenance if you’ll be driving yourself to and from work.
- Taxes: There are many kinds of taxes (e.g., property taxes, income taxes, personal property taxes, etc.), and they will vary by state and local jurisdiction. Before moving to a brand new area, especially if you are moving out of state, make sure you know what all of the taxes are that you will be responsible for paying.
- Utilities: The types of utilities you’ll pay will depend on where you’re located and the types of services you need (e.g., gas, electric, water, sewer, stormwater, etc.) In addition to the monthly expenses, some utilities will require a deposit, especially if you are moving from outside the area.
- HOA fees: If the home you are buying or building belongs to an HOA, there will be HOA dues. Find out what these are in advance and under what circumstances the fees can be raised.
- Moving: Are you hiring a moving company to help you get from home A to home B? Are you moving yourself? Consider the costs of a moving company or truck rental, packing materials, gas, mileage, etc.
- Cleaning: If you are moving from a rental apartment or home, you may have cleaning or repair fees to cover.
Thanks to Jennie Trapanese for telling it like it really ease – buying a home isn’t easy – but it can be less stressful with the right Realtor.
“No one said buying a house was easy but, hot damn, the speed bumps along the way are enough to knock out a filling! Marti handles all the stress so well and never gives up on a client. No matter the circumstances, she will be at your side in a moment’s notice. I don’t know how she does it, but she does it well. Highly recommended forever!”
~ Jennie Trapanese, November 25, 2017
Read Jennie’s five-star review on Facebook here.
It was so nice to have a white Christmas for the first time in many years. However, along with snow comes cold temps. If your home isn’t properly winterized, that can mean big heating bills. Here are six ways to save money while staying warm this winter:
- Close the flue when not using your fireplace. Warm air from your home can escape from your fireplace when it isn’t in use. When not using it, close the flue and consider reducing how often you use the fireplace. If you can’t resist a roaring fire, install glass fireplace doors to keep the warm air inside.
- Reduce drafts by installing door sweeps on exterior doors to keep the cold air from seeping in. Also, keep interior doors to unused rooms closed, like the guest room that rarely gets used.
- Seal windows with plastic film. Companies like 3M make window film kits to help you seal your windows from the inside. They are inexpensive and easy to install and could help cut your heating cuts this winter.
- Window treatments like wood blinds and insulated curtains can make a big difference in keeping the cold air out. Just remember to open them during the day to let the sunlight warm your home naturally.
- Install a programmable thermostat. Set the thermostat on a lower temperature when you’re away from home or asleep at night, saving those toasty warm temps for when your family is home and active.
- Keep heating ducts, vents and registers free from obstacles. To make sure forced air can circulate properly throughout each room, make sure heating ducts, vents and registers are not blocked by furniture. Not only will this keep your home warmer, but it can prevent a possible fire.
Thanks so much to Erik Swanson for this five-star testimonial on Facebook! We love helping clients like this get into their first home. We’re so glad you love your new home, Erik!
“Man, we only could get an FHA loan and, in this market, it wasn’t pretty for what we were looking for. Marti was a true fighter and got us an awesome house that we truly feel like it was the best home that we could have possibly gotten, without relying on a massive bank heist or waiting for the prince of Nigeria’s check to clear (still waiting!)
Marti was quick to respond to concerns and never gave up on us! You will be treated like a priority client If you are a first time home buyer who just smashed open the piggy bank to get your first home or got the budget for a Lake Meridian house. I’m quick to recommend Marti any time I hear someone murmur buying or selling a house!
~ Erik Swanson, November 25, 2017
Read Erik’s review and others on Facebook here.
Like it or not, winter is just 10 days away. If you haven’t already prepped your home for winter and freezing temps, there’s still time. Use our handy checklist to make sure you and your home are ready for winter weather:
- Reverse the direction of your ceiling fans so the blades rotate clockwise. Keep on a low speed to push air down from the ceiling into your room.
- Have your furnace surfaced at the beginning of the season and make sure you change the filters according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Lower your thermostat or use a programmable thermostat to save on energy costs.
- Remove window screens and install storm windows and doors, if you have them.
- Shut off exterior water sources and cover the faucets to prevent freezing.
- Insulate exposed pipes to prevent burst pipes.
- Insulate your hot water heater.
- Block drafts from doors and windows and seal cracks with door sweeps, door gaskets, calking and weather stripping.
- Have your chimney cleaned annually to decrease your risk of fire and buildup and residue.
- Remove any portable air conditioners and cover condensing units.
- Make sure your gutters and downspouts are clear and free of debris. This will be particularly helpful when the heavy rains come.
When we think of the holidays, we often think of shopping, cooking, decorating and spending time with friends and family. We don’t want to think about moving, but sometimes selling your home during the holidays is the right time for you to sell. If that’s the case, make it easy on yourself by following these seven tips.
- Focus on curb appeal. There are fewer homes on the market this time of year, making a tight market even tighter. That’s no excuse to skimp on the curb appeal though. In fact, tasteful holiday decorating can make the exterior of your home very inviting. Don’t go overboard though – a natural wreath, simple holiday lighting and a well-groomed lawn will get the attention of potential buyers.
- Choose an experienced Realtor who knows your market. Ask for referrals from friends, and check out real estate websites like Zillow for reviews and testimonials.
- High quality photos and staging will showcase your home’s best features. A good Realtor will have a top notch photographer on speed dial, and will know what staging is appropriate for the time of year.
- A cozy atmosphere will make potential buyers feel welcome. This includes everything from curb appeal to the staging of your home’s interior. Choose a warm color palette, depersonalize your home, clear the clutter and choose soft lighting. Inviting smells like a fresh baked pie, scented candles or holiday greenery can also help create an inviting experience for potential buyers.
- Clear your calendar. The holidays are a busy time for all of us, but make sure your home is available and accessible as often as possible to accommodate the schedules of prospects who want to tour your home on their own schedules.
- Keep it clean and clutter-free. It can be hard to keep your home clean and clutter-free while you are preparing to move and to host holiday gatherings, but this is essential to help buyers imagine themselves in your home. A dirty or messy home will distract from your home’s best features, and may even send your buyers scrambling to find a well-maintained home instead.
- Price your home to sell. With the right Realtor, you’ll be able to choose the right price point to your home attractive to possible buyers. She’ll know what comparable homes have sold for, what your home is worth and what you are hoping to get out of it.
For more tips for selling your home during the holidays, call Team Marti at 206-391-0388 or 253-859-8500. We’d love to help!
Happy Holidays and Happy Selling!
Good credit is important in qualifying for a mortgage, but potential homebuyers with less-than-perfect credit can still get a mortgage. No matter what your score, these seven financial habits will make buying a home much easier:
- Paying your bills on time or early. This means paying all of your bills on time, not just the ones on your credit report. In addition to credit cards and loan payments, this means utility bills, rent and other regular payments that show you are a responsible adult. Ideally, pay your bills early. This is much easier now that we can access our credit card and loan accounts online.
- Pay more than the minimum balance due. If your minimum payment on your Target card is $50 a month, pay $75 or $100. This will reduce your total debt faster as well as the amount of total interest you are paying.
- Use less than 30 percent of your available credit. While it is helpful to have credit cards for emergencies, you want to keep your total balances under 30 percent of your total credit limit. For example, let’s say you have a Visa card with a $1,000 credit card limit. Don’t charge more than $300 on that card.
- Review your credit report for errors. This is a good habit to get into no matter how good your credit is. If you check your credit report annually, you’ll be able to identify mistakes and get them corrected before it is time to apply for a mortgage loan. See a mistake? Contact the original creditor right away and contact the credit bureau to dispute the information. It could take several months to clear a mistake, so staying on top of your credit report is helpful.
- Start building a credit history early. If you are in your early 20s, you ideally have established some credit already, whether it is an introductory credit card or a student loan. Start small by applying for a low limit credit card or getting a car loan with a parent as a co-signer.
- Keep paid off accounts open. The length of your credit history is important to a mortgage lender. Even if you don’t use that Visa card you got in 2010, and the balance is zero, keep the account open. It shows a seven-year credit history, and it will help lower your total debt-to-credt ratio (see #3 above).
- Set a budget and stick to it. With credit cards so readily accessible, it is easy to treat yourself with a nice dinner, a manicure/pedicure or furnishings for your man cave. But is this the best use of your money? Probably not – unless you budget for it. Set a monthly budget and only indulge in those little luxuries when you have the money to do so without charging it to a credit card.
These good money habits will help you position yourself to qualify for a mortgage loan when you are ready to buy your first – or next – home!
We’ve said it a thousand times, but it still remains true – curb appeal is everything. It’s what draws a potential homebuyer to want to see the inside of your home. Here are 5 simple, affordable upgrades you can make to your home now to improve its curb appeal this fall:
- Landscaping: Add fresh mulch to the base of your treas and other plans, and add seasonal plants like mums to your flower beds for a colorful fall look. If the weather doesn’t cooperate, but you still want seasonal decor for your home, add a fall-themed wreath or to your front door or potted mums to your porch.
- Upgrade outdoor accessories: Replace those faded house numbers, paint your mailbox or get a new front door. These small, but affordable changes can give your house a fresh, well-maintained look that will entice homebuyers to want to see more.
- Keep your lawn groomed. Yes, it is fall and it can be hard to keep up with the falling leaves, but it is important to keep your lawn groomed, especially if you are trying to sell your home. Keep your lawn freshly mowed, the weeds under control, trees and shrubs trimmed and the leaves raked.
- Pressure wash the exterior of your home, your porch and patio or deck. Particularly in the Pacific Northwest where moss can accumulate, it is important to pressure wash your home and outdoor living areas. This also makes your home look cared for.
- Add or upgrade your outdoor lighting. As our days get shorter, outdoor lighting can create an easy-on-the-eyes aesthetic while also providing an important function – a well lit path to your door. Consider decorative lights along sidewalks, flood lights near entrances and new porch lights.
You and your family are thinking of buying a new home – or your next one – in 2018. There are things you can do now to prepare yourself. Here are seven steps to get you ready for this exciting move!
- Check your credit score. Target a credit score of 740 or higher to get the best mortgage rate. See mistakes on your credit report? Because this process can sometimes take months, you’ll want to start doing that now.
- Follow the real estate market and interest rates. What is the market doing in your area? Is inventory low? What about interest rates – are they inching up? You’ll want to lock in the lowest interest rate you can to lower your monthly mortgage payments and long-term financial outlay.
- Save, save, save. We can’t stress this enough. Make sure you have enough to cover a down payment, closing costs, moving expenses, etc. Read our article on closing costs to get a better idea of what those might run.
- Don’t use your credit cards or rack up more debt. Obviously, you don’t want to open any new credit cards before you apply for a mortgage, but it is just as important not to use the existing credit you already have. Banks will look at your debt to income ratio, so you want that debt figure to be as low as possible.
- Don’t overspend during the holidays. It can be tempting to spoil your loved ones during the holidays, but this could make it harder to get a mortgage – particularly if you use your credit cards for holiday shopping. Instead, get creative. Offer services (e.g., dog walking, babysitting, home organizing, handyman skills) or experiences (gourmet meals, outings, etc.) instead of giving gifts.
- Meet with two to three potential Realtors. We say “Realtor” instead of “real estate agent” because “Realtors” have different and a code of ethics to abide by. Real estate agents are held to a lesser standard. Talk to friends, family and co-workers to get recommendations, and do your research before scheduling no obligation appointments to interview. In addition, check their online reviews on Facebook, Zillow, LinkedIn and other sites to see what they’re clients are saying about them.
- Shop for a lender. Just like you would shop for a Realtor, explore your mortgage lending options. Check with your bank, local credit unions and mortgage brokers to see where you can find the best deal and the best long-term relationship.
- Gather your documents. When you meet with a mortgage lender, you’ll need to provide tax returns and W-2s for the last two years, pay stubs for the last few months, proof of your current living expenses, a list of debts and other expenses, etc.
- Get pre-approved for a mortgage. Once you’ve selected a mortgage lender and have pulled together all of your documentation, it’s time to get pre-approved! This will help you determine what your interest rate will be and how much home you can afford. Read more about getting pre-approved here.
Not sure what’s next? Have questions? Call Team Marti at 253-859-8500. We’d be happy to help you prepare to buy your next home in the New Year!