Sellers: Clutter-Free Tips That Can Make Your Home Look More Appealing

Tidying up your home for your open house or a buyer’s showing can make all the difference when it comes to selling your home. Yet, sometimes sellers neglect to do this even though it will help increase their chances of getting an offer.

A little bit of tidying up, organizing and showcasing your home’s best features can help shorten the amount of time your home is on the market.

Here are some hot clutter-free tips that can make your home look more appealing and–an added benefit–easier for you to live in, too.

The kitchen is an area that tends to get cluttered easily. Even if the countertops are cleared off, inside the cabinets often lies a cluttered mess. Those crammed cabinets are not appealing to buyers. They often see the disarray and think there’s less room for their own items than there really is because they can’t see behind the clutter.

Star Hansen, a professional organizer, says cans create the most clutter. She recommends using soup can racks to store them. They’re inexpensive and they store three times as many cans. Spice racks are a great way to clear the clutter out and make it look clutter-free.

Hansen also shows how to use storage solutions like airtight containers, hanging baskets, shelf dividers to separate food items, and how to use chalkboard and magnetic paint.

Painting the inside of your cabinet with magnetic paint allows you to hang light-weight items like aprons, towels, or recipes inside your utility cabinets. Using chalkboard paint, you can write notes inside your cabinet about which supplies you need to purchase.

Using airtight containers to store pastas, grains, and other food works well in the cabinet to conserve space because they’re stackable. Hansen also recommends using a label maker to mark all the food sections.

Grouping food together in categories such as ingredients or prepared food and then placing those items in boxes allows you to easily grab what you need without having to move 15 items just to get to the one you need.

The key to this type of clutter-free reorganization is to make sure it’s portable. Since you’re selling your home, you likely don’t want to spend the money installing professional systems that will remain with the home when you move.

Fortunately, there are wonderful products on the market that help you organize without having to drill or glue them into your cabinets. These shelving products look good and, when all the items are placed inside the shelves or under-shelving hanging baskets, you’ve created the illusion of more cabinet space–a plus for all buyers.

So where do you look for these products? Without even leaving your home, companies like Rubbermaid, make it simple to view a wide selection as well as see some creative options for organizing your pantry. Many of the products are under $20 and well worth the price to reduce the headache of searching through a crammed pantry or over-stuffed cabinet. One of my favorites is the Corner Helper Shelf: it holds up to 10 pounds and allows you to stack food items below it.

The best part of doing this type of reorganization is that when you move, the inside of the cabinets look great for buyers and you’ll be able easily pack up and take all this work with you to your new home.

 

Let’s Talk Transportation! Stay Informed About Road Projects in Our Community

We’re just a couple weeks away from spring, which means road construction season is about to begin. Your support keeps St. Charles County’s transportation infrastructure improving and growing. Voters approved a ½-cent Transportation Sales Tax in 1985 and reauthorized it three times to allow for road improvements that enhance mobility and safety. Join us for two events to learn more about what’s happening with road construction in our community:

  • The Route 364 Page Extension (pictured above at Highway 40/61) is a necessary and valued thoroughfare in our community.To improve traffic flow and stimulate economic development, a project to add interchange ramps and other improvements on the route at Gutermuth Road is in the planning stage. Learn more at an open house from 4-7 p.m., Thursday, March 8, at Cottleville City Hall, 5490 Fifth St., Cottleville. Interested persons can attend at any time during the open house; there is no formal presentation.

    Read more about the open house and project online. For questions, call the St. Charles County Highway Department at 636-949-7305.

  • Learn about the development, maintenance and improvement of roads and traffic flow throughout the county at the #SCCMore Speaker Series, “Let’s Talk Transportation,” at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 20, at the St. Charles City-County Library’s Kathryn Linnemann Branch at 2323 Elm St. in St. Charles. County Manager of Roads & Traffic Amanda Brauer and County Engineer Craig Tajkowski will lead the presentation and take your questions. The event is free, but registration is requested. Register online or contact St. Charles County Community Relations Manager Molly Dempsey at 636-949-7900, ext. 3724, or mtdempsey@sccmo.org

Throughout the year, stay informed about local road projects by visiting these sites:

Small Kitchen Updates That Make A Big Impact

Does walking into your kitchen make you want to walk right back out? A kitchen that’s outdated or just plain drab can be depressing, but so can the realization of how much it will cost to renovate it. The good news is that you don’t need to do a complete overhaul to get happy in your space again. Little changes can actually make a big impact, and many of them can be done inexpensively, easily, and without having to hire someone.

New faucet

It’s amazing how a little thing like a new faucet can change how you feel about doing dishes. Especially if your existing faucet doesn’t have a modern design or is lacking features like a sprayer, a new version will be much appreciated. Go crazy and get a touchless faucet for some cool technology the whole family will love.

Backsplash

A new backsplash can make your whole kitchen look fresh, and it’s generally an inexpensive update (unless you pick some kind of super-fancy, limited edition, hand-forged, imported tiles). With a little instruction – check out this step-by-step guide from Home Depot – you may be able to do it yourself in a few hours.

Paint

Anyone who’s even painted their own kitchen cabinets will tell you it’s not an easy or pleasant job. But, in the end, it’s worth it to have a kitchen that looks brand new – not to mention the savings. Opt for a professional paint job, and you can be looking at spending several thousand dollars!

If you’re going for it, make sure you do your research, and your prep work. You don’t want to spend all that time only to end up with a splotchy, streaky, or uneven finish.

Hardware

“Think of hardware as kitchen jewelry – add new metal or glass knobs for an easy kitchen cabinet update,” said Better Homes and Gardens. If you’re using metal hardware, choose one finish for the scheme. Be sure to count the number of doorknobs, handles, or drawer pulls before heading out to stores, garage sales, or flea markets. And if the new hardware doesn’t fit the old holes, simply buy some backplates to cover the gaps and then drill new holes

Get new lighting

If you have an island or breakfast bar, consider hanging pendant lighting. A series of three pendants gives you sufficient lighting and is also in line with today’s trends.

Chalkboard paint

Modern kitchens are a place for family to gather, and designating a space for young kids to have some fun is an easy way to foster that togetherness. “Chalkboard paint inexpensively turns a ho-hum kitchen into a hip family-friendly hangout,” said HGTV. “Simply paint a wall or section of smooth cabinet doors, then tell your family they can write on the walls.” We love the fact that chalkboard paint comes in all sorts of colors now, and you can also get whiteboard paint and magnetized paint.

Glass panels

New cabinets are expensive! You can lighten up the look of your cabinets without changing them out completely by popping out the panels and replacing them with glass; this will give you a more updated look and also bring more light into the space. “Replacing existing doors with glass-paneled ones looks like a major upgrade,” HGTV’s Scott McGillivray told Good Housekeeping. “Opt for frosted glass, if you feel like your shelves aren’t display-worthy.”

Create your own unique open shelving

You’ve seen it all over TV. Open shelving is a kitchen trend, and it’s one you can easily create without much fuss by completely removing a cabinet or two from the walls. Or, you can create this unique look that’s even easier to accomplish. “Create the look of a built-in china cabinet by simply removing a set of cabinet doors and filling the space with shelves displaying your favorite dishes,” said HGTV. “For added pop, line the back of the cabinet with wallpaper or paint it in a complementary color.”

 

Spring Cleaning The No Muss, No fuss, Get It Done Quick Way

Let’s face it. Spring cleaning is a drag. Regular cleaning is a drag, but the kind that requires a real commitment beyond your basic vacuuming and dusting on Saturday morning? Ugh.

But here’s the thing: It’s gotta get done. You don’t want to look up one day and realize it’s July and you still haven’t tackled those tasks, however unpleasant they might be. These tips will make it easy.

Enlist help

And when we say, “Enlist help,” we mean, “Get the kids involved.”

And when we say, “Get the kids involved,” we mean, “Break out the bribes and/or threats.”

Spring cleaning should be a family affair, and kids of any age can help. There’s a pretty good overview of age-appropriate chores here, but you know your children, so feel free to go off book.

Dance it out

Because everything is better with music. This mix is a pretty good sampling of current Top 40 hits, but POPSUGAR’s Cleaning Playlist, filled with Rihanna, the Black Eyed Peas, and even Queen, is our current go-to.

“Some great music can help pass the time and even make cleaning fun,” they said. “Blast these upbeat ditties in the background of your next tidying task, and it’ll be over before you know it!”

Do the twist

Your dancing feet also come in handy when it comes to cleaning the floor. Two words: Mop. Slippers. How will anyone in the family be able to say no to cleaning the floors with these on their feet?

Set a timer

Ten minutes of whirlwind activity doesn’t sound so bad, right? If you just can’t fathom an entire day – or weekend – of cleaning, build short bursts into your day and GO HARD until the timer sounds. You’ll be surprised how productive you can be in such a short time.

Make a Schedule

Staying focused is a challenge when you’re not enjoying your activity. Whether you write it on a white board, print out calendar pages, or make shirts for everyone in the family with their specific tasks written on them (We’re totally doing this!), making a plan and a schedule is a great first step. “Scope out your home: What areas need the most work? Where do you skip during routine cleaning? Those are the best places to start,” said Sylvane. “Regardless of where you start, having a plan for when you’re tackling each room will keep you focused on the task at hand.”

Get rid of your stuff a little at a time

Getting everything in your house spic ‘n span is great, but the real challenge is going beyond the cleaning to achieve clean-out status. Of course, that’s easier said than done, especially for those of us who have an attachment to our things.

Do a sweep of the house for things in plain sight that can be trashed, given away, or sold. If you love EVERY SINGLE THING IN YOUR HOME, think about it this way: Decluttering can actually lower your stress level. Science proves it!

Now get into those closets. If you can only get rid of a few items or one bag at a time, give yourself credit for whatever progress you’ve made and then make a plan to go at it again next week or even next month. Spring lasts an entire season, after all!

Protect your family

When is the last time you had your dryer vent checked? If the answer is, “Not sure,” or “Never,” it’s probably a good time to make that call. You could also DIY this, BTW, but that’s not very no fuss.

 

New Construction: Should You Go Builder Grade Or Upgrade?

 

Who hasn’t walked through a model home and thought, “I’ll take it! Even down to those fancy place settings on the dining room table!” That exclamation is typically followed by a sad-face realization that, A) The place settings are not for sale, and; B) All those fancy upgrades are going to cost you. A lot.

Models are typically fancied up by the builder and interior designer and outfitted with all kinds of bells and whistles including upgraded flooring, countertops and appliances, lighting, window coverings – you name it. The idea is to show buyers what their home could be. If they have an extra $100K or more to sink into it.

If that’s not you, either because you want to stay within a certain budget or you’re already stretching to buy a new home, you don’t have to forgo upgrades altogether. In fact, buying a home with builder grade everything is not considered a great idea from a value standpoint.

“A surprisingly large amount of the money you spend on your new home will be determined by the options and choices you make – and those options are forever changing,” said New Home Source. “For example, granite countertops and stainless steel appliances, both considered pricey upgrades for years, are now standard in most new homes. However, going with the most common (or lowest) denominator is not always the best way to save—or spend – your dollars.”

There’s also the fact that, when you do go to upgrade later on, you’ll have to deal with a number of issues. Here are five reasons to do some smart upgrades now.

The cost

Ultimately, how much you upgrade (or not) is dependent on cost. Finding out that a model home has $86,000 worth of upgrades, which far exceeds your budget, can be devastating. Breaking them down to individual items and comparing the cost to what you would spend down the road is a good first step.

It’s also important to remember that your selected upgrades don’t require you to write a check to the builder. They get rolled into your mortgage. Add $20,000 in upgrades to your $400,000 mortgage, and you’re looking at about $80 a month.

Photo by Arthur Rutenberg Homes – More kitchen photos
Yes, you may be able to finance your new floors or countertops at Home Depot, and you may even be able to qualify for zero percent interest. But, those payments will be spread out over only 24 or 36 months, instead of 30. If you’re worried about adding to your bottom line, an extra $300 per month could hurt.

The value

In considering your options and upgrades, weigh wants and needs against potential value. “When selecting builder upgrades for your new home, you need to be strategic,” said Houzz. “You want to choose the upgrades that will save you hassle and money by doing them upfront.”

Some upgrades provide instant value. “The idea that you have to wait years to see a return on your investment is false,” said New Home Source. “A quality refrigerator and freezer can keep food fresh longer without drying out – and with the cost of food rising, this is a savings you’ll notice immediately,” certified kitchen designer Joyce Gardine Combs told them.

Hardwood flooring is a classic that “never seem to go out of style,” said New Home Source, and kitchen cabinets are a great way to go. “Moving up from standard cabinets to semi-custom gives you way-better construction and longer-lasting finishes,” said Houselogic. “You’ll get a wide range of colors and styles to choose from, lots of storage options, and long-lasting details such as dovetailed drawer joinery and cool hardware.”

Other upgraded appliances may provide additional value – a great dishwasher can use less water and provide other energy savings. Quartz countertops may not be provide much in the way of cost savings but they do represent the most popular material today, which is predicted for many years to come. If it’s something you just can’t live without, and you’ll regret not doing it from day one, the extra cost may be worth it. But, keep in mind the reality of countertops when it comes to new construction. “Though the glitz of sparkling quartz or luscious marble countertops may be pretty compelling to go for now, if you can wait and get them later, you’ll gain choice and may end up saving money,” said Houzz. “Builders typically use only one supplier for natural stone or quartz counters and may offer limited options. And with the builder’s premium, the cost can be quite a bit higher than if you sourced the material and labor yourself.”

You don’t have to worry about contractors

We’ve all heard the horror stories about contractors, but even if you find a good one, you’re still going to have to contend with having people in your home and making sure they show up on time (or at all), work within the agreed-upon timeframe and budget, and do what they said they will do. There is freedom in knowing that everything is going to be as you expected on day one, and that you don’t need to worry about what happens if the flooring guy is sick or doesn’t show up for work.

No mess

Your contractor will say they’re going to clean everything up and leave your home spotless. They may even mean it and make a valiant effort. But, let’s face it. You’re going to be cleaning up dust for a while. And that doesn’t account for all the mess that is created day to day. If you’re staying in the house while these renovations are being made, expect to be dirty. All the time.

No fuss

Speaking of which…How many times have you heard people say the worst decision that they ever made was living in their home during a renovation? The alternative—relocating for a few days or more to a hotel could get expensive, and staying with a friend or family member will get old, eventually. When you upgrade before you move in, you avoid all the fuss, moving in to a brand-new home that’s ready for you right away.

No Perfect Home Exists: What You Should Know About Home Inspections

No Perfect Home Exists: What You Should Know About Home Inspections

For many first-time buyers, buying a home can be a scary experience. They know they’ll be maintaining or improving a home with little to no maintenance experience, so the solution is to buy a home in perfect condition. So they hire a home inspector to point out all the flaws.

The problem is — no perfect home exists. Air conditioners break, plumbing pipes leak, and roof tiles blow off in the wind.

If you’re buying a home, start with a reasonable expectation of what home inspectors can do. Their job is to inform you about the integrity and condition of what you’re buying, good and bad.

A home inspection should take several hours, long enough to cover all built-in appliances, all mechanical, electrical, gas and plumbing systems, the roof, foundation, gutters, exterior skins, windows and doors.

An inspector doesn’t test for pests or sample the septic tank. For those, you need industry-specific inspectors.

Here’s what else you need to do.

1. Make sure the inspector you hire is licensed. The responsibilities of home inspectors vary according to state law and their areas of expertise.

2. Ask what the inspection covers. Some inspection companies have extensive divisions that can provide environmental for radon and lead paint. Be prepared to hire and schedule several inspectors according to your lender’s requirements and to pay several hundred dollars for each type of inspection.

3. Some inspection reports only cover the main house, not other buildings on the property. For specialty inspections such as termites, make sure the inspection covers all buildings on the property including guest houses, detached garages, storage buildings, etc.

4. Attend the inspection and follow along with the inspectors. Seeing problems for yourself will help you understand what’s serious, what needs replacement now or later, and what’s not important.

5. Don’t expect the seller to repair or replace every negative found on the report. If you’re getting a VA or FHA-guaranteed loan, some items aren’t negotiable. The seller must address them, but otherwise, pick your battles with the seller carefully.

A home inspection points out problems, they also point out what’s working well. It can help you make your final decision about the home – to ask the seller to make repairs or to offer a little less, to buy as is or not to buy at all.

Tips To Keep Your Home Show-Ready At All Times

Once your home goes on the market, real estate agents may call to show your home anytime, day or evening. Keeping your home “showtime” ready can be challenging, especially if you have children and pets.

What you need to stay organized is a handy checklist so you can be ready to show at any time. When you get the call that buyers are on their way, give everyone in the household a basket and assign them each to a room to pick up clutter quickly. Set a timer and tell everyone to grab up any toys on the floor, clear tabletops and countertops of junk, and quickly Swiffer-sweep the floors. Check for hazards like dog chews on the floor.

Turn on all the lights, and get ready to skedaddle. You have to let buyers have privacy so they can assess your home honestly. Take the kids for an outing. Put pets in daycare, sleep cages or take them with you:

Keep your home show-ready with these nine tips:

Eliminate clutter: Not only is clutter unattractive, it’s time-consuming to sort through and expensive for you to move. If you have a lot of stuff, collections, and family mementoes, you would be better off renting a small storage unit for a few months.

Keep, donate, throw away: Go through your belongings and put them into one of these three baskets. You’ll receive more in tax benefits for your donations than pennies on the dollar at a garage sale. It’s faster, more efficient and you’ll help more people.

Remove temptations: Take valuable jewelry and collectibles to a safety deposit box, a safe, or store them in a secure location.

Remove breakables: Figurines, china, crystal and other breakables should be packed and put away in the garage or storage.

Be hospitable: You want your home to look like a home. Stage it to show the possibilities, perhaps set the table, or put a throw on the chair by the fireplace with a bookmarked book on the table.

Have a family plan of action: Sometimes showings aren’t convenient. You can always refuse a showing, but do you really want to? If you have a showing with little notice, get the family engaged. Everyone has a basket and picks up glasses, plates, newspapers, or anything left lying about.

Remove prescription medicines: Despite qualifying by the buyer’s agent, some buyers have other intentions than buying your home. It’s also a good idea to lock your personal papers such as checkbooks away. Do not leave mail out on your desk.

Get in the habit: Wash dishes immediately after meals. Clean off countertops. Make beds in the morning. Keep pet toys and beds washed and smelling fresh.

Clean out the garage and attic: Buyers want to see what kind of storage there is.

5 Tips To Refresh Your Home For Spring Time

It may still be snowing in some parts of the country, but spring is almost here. Before the flowers start budding outside, refresh the inside of your home to give your interior spaces that springtime glow.

Bring the outdoors inside

Adding fresh plants or flowers to an otherwise ho-hum space can spice things up in the blink of an eye. Even if you don’t have a garden full of fresh flowers to choose from, greens make a lovely addition to your living room, or even an eye-catching centerpiece for your dining room table. Better Homes and Gardens suggests gathering a few fresh fern fronds for dramatic texture and rich color.

Don’t be afraid to add color

One of the easiest ways to perk up your space is to invest in a gallon of paint, call in reinforcements to help you out, and go to town with brushes and rollers. If you’re not incredibly adventurous when it comes to color choices but still want a pick-me-up, try going with a warmer, creamier version of the neutrals you already have; a creamy barely-yellow adds so much more warmth and interest than stark white.

You could even paint an accent wall a bold, fun color and use that space to showcase some of your favorite art or family portraits for your own personal art gallery. ForRent.com suggests incorporating bright colors in a breakfast nook or one of the smaller spaces of your home or apartment. It’s less of a risk than painting your entire kitchen or living room, but still packs a punch.

Reorganize your bookshelves

If you’ve got a fantastic library, now is a great time to take everything off the shelves, blow the dust off the covers, and reorganize. You might even consider artfully stacking books in different directions, some horizontal and some upright. Apartment Therapy reports some pretty impressive results simply by arranging books by color for a uniquely eye-catching display.


Photo by Craig Conley via Wikimedia Commons
Update window treatments

Spring is a great time to trade in your richly-textured drapes for lighter, breezier, more summery colors. If privacy isn’t a huge issue in a space, try adding light, breezy sheer curtains on a thin, minimalist rod. You’ll love how much the change automatically brightens your space. You might also consider substituting your ordinary blinds with Roman Shades. They’re a classier way to control light and privacy, and to update your style.

Make your entryway welcoming

Upgrade (or thoroughly clean) your front-door mats and add a wreath to your front door. This could be a fun DIY project for the entire family. Make sure you have an efficient landing spot just inside your front door — a place to drop keys and hang up a coat or jacket before coming inside. This is also a great place for a fun mirror and a flower arrangement. Your home’s entryway often gives guests their very first impression of your home, so make it shine with your family’s personality and a touch of style.

How To Handle The Stress Of Selling Your Home

Three things are certain in life: death, taxes … and undue stress caused by moving. Whether or not you use the services of a REALTOR® to help you wade through the uncertain waters of the buy-and-sell process, moving is stressful, period. And there’s not much you can do to avoid it. And we’re not just talking about packing and paperwork. Moving is an emotional process. If your’e not calming down your nervous children, you’re trying to reassure yourself that you’ll meet people in your new neighborhood, that you bought the best house within your means, and that your kids’ new schools will measure up.

It’s easy to forget while we’re dealing with all of these jitters that moving actually can represent an exciting adventure, a growth opportunity and the prospect of new beginnings. Once the dust settles after your move, you’re entering one of the most memorable times of your life. With any luck, you’ve recruited a REALTOR® who’s familiar with the obvious stresses as well as the insidious (and subsequently more detrimental) ones. Depending upon your relationship with your Realtor, you should be able to rely on him or her for more than just closing the deal. Your Realtor also should be able to calm your trepidations by giving you the support you need — giving you the facts about that new school district, reassuring you that your jitters are perfectly normal, and giving you as much information about your new hometown as possible, increasing your familiarity with the previously unknown.

It’s important to remember throughout the entire selling and buying process, however, to reserve time for yourself and your family. It’s not a waste of time, but rather an insurance policy for your sanity and continued happiness. Stress is sneaky, as we’ve all discovered. It can eat away at us during what are supposed to be the happiest of times, because after all, any major change in life is stressful. If it’s supressed, it can wreak havoc both emotionally and physically and spread throughout the family. And there’s nothing worse than moving a grumpy family across the country. For the sake of your continued family unity, keep in mind the following stress-relieving measures:

First, remember that it’s perfect normal to feel unsure of your decision right now. You’ve just made a major commitment, and all of us experience those last-second “What on earth did I just do” worries after signing contracts and making life-changing decisions. Instead of becoming overwhelmed with “what ifs” and dread, reframe this decision as a prime opportunity to begin your lives in a new environment. The old saying “When one door closes, another one opens” definitely applies here. Trust that your Realtor is looking out for your best interests, ask as many questions as you need to throughout the entire process (that’s part of what your Realtor is paid for), and look forward to the adventure that lies ahead of you.

If you can, keep an emergency fund in case you run into any unexpected costs. One example: If your buyer comes forward after a home inspection is completed and requests a series of repairs prior to move-in, you’ll be prepared. Chances are good that you won’t necessarily agree with the buyer’s requests, but at least you won’t face the additional stress of being short the money for repairs if you plan ahead and save some extra cash (no set amount — just as much as you can handle. A goal you might try to shoot for would be in the range of $2,500). It’s probably in your best interests not to try to guess what the buyer will want to repair, and then fix it ahead of time. That’s because buyers have a habit of isolating areas of your home that you never considered having repaired, and not even noticing the ones you expected them to pinpoint. So save yourself any expenses until you’ve determined their requests.

And while we’re on the subject of finances, try to anticipate and prepare for the initial expenses you’ll face upon move-in. Resign yourself to the fact that during the moving process, you’re going to feel as if you’re holding your wallet upside down, and everyone — movers, contractors, buyer, etc. — is sitting underneath, catching the windfall and demanding a larger share. Keep in mind that this is an investment for the good of your family, and that these costs are a one-time inevitability.

Remind yourself of why you’re moving in the first place. A job transfer, or is it a voluntary choice? Obviously, whether or not you had some degree of control over the decision will affect your outlook. Regardless of your answer to that question, round up as much information as you can about your new hometown. What kinds of cultural offerings does the town/city offer? What are its landmarks and natural attractions? Research some possible day trips you might take with the family once you’re settled. Is your new hometown near state borders, giving you the opportunity to explore different regions of the country without much effort?

Envision your new home. Where will you place the furniture? Remind yourself of the home’s primary selling points. Will you have more space? More closets? A large backyard and/or swimming pool? What does your new street look like? Do a lot of young families reside there? If so, your children are likely to be reassured by that knowledge. As often as possible, try to picture yourself and your family fully adapted to your new environment.

Remember to have a little fun occasionally. You’re still allowed, even if you feel as if you don’t have a penny left to your name. Take the family out to dinner, to a movie or a picnic — anything that gets all of you out of the house and away from boxes, paperwork, emotions and all of those pre-move concerns. Keep a regular “date” to get out together — for example, every Friday night leading up to the move. Take your mind off your stress for a few hours, and remind yourself that your family members are experiencing many of the same emotions. Like misery, stress often loves company, so enjoy your time together and remember that this stress won’t last forever. Regardless of what you’re feeling now, the move will happen and everything will eventually fall into place. Journeying into the unknown is what makes life rewarding, so trust in your Realtor’s expertise and in your family’s resilience, and look forward to the journey ahead.

8 Ways To Up Your Chances Of Buying Your First Home

Between rising prices, tough loan limits, and massive competition among other eager would-be buyers, it can seem like an impossible feat to purchase your first home. Homes in first-time buyer ranges are highly coveted and stories abound of buyers having made offers on numerous homes, only to be shut out time and again by multiple offers that drive prices up and out of their budget. But, there are ways you can put yourself ahead, even if the situation seems desperate.

Work with a good REALTOR®

Everyone has a real estate agent in their neighborhood or in their family or friend group (or all three!). And, while you would undoubtedly love to give business to someone you know and care for, you have to balance your sense of loyalty against your goal. This may not be the time to entrust your financial future to a brand-new agent or one who simply dabbles in the industry in his or her spare time. You’ll likely need a seasoned agent to buy your first home, especially if you’re looking in an area where the market is highly competitive. An agent with extensive experience and good industry relationships can help find you homes that may not be listed yet and then negotiate a winning offer.

Get that preapproval

It goes without saying today that you need a preapproval to buy a house. Many real estate agents won’t even take clients out to tour homes unless they have received their preapproval amount from a lender. Even if you are just casually looking, make sure you talk to a lender before you head out on a househunt. You don’t want to fall in love with something and lose out on owning it because someone else was already preapproved and you first had to start pulling your paperwork together. Nor do you want to fall in love with a house that’s out of your budget because you didn’t know what your purchasing power was.

Talk to landlords

If there are rental homes in your target area (and there probably are!), you might have an opportunity to buy a home that isn’t even on the market yet—and might not be listed for sale anytime soon. Your real estate agent should be able to locate some homes and initiate a conversation about the potential of purchasing. Some rental home owners may want to sell but be reluctant to take the steps to update the home and get it on the market. You may be able to slide right in there, which would be a win-win!

Consider a home that needs work

You might have better luck buying a home that isn’t updated and/or staged because they can tend to stay on the market longer. But, a home that’s a real fixer-upper can be a great buy thanks to the 203(k) loan, which packages the home loan and money for needed repairs.

“An FHA 203k loan allows you to borrow money, using only one loan, for both home improvement and a home purchase,” said The Balance. “203k loans are guaranteed by the FHA, which means lenders take less risk when offering this loan. As a result, it’s easier to get approved (especially with a lower interest rate).”

There are a number of improvements that can be made with a 203(k) loan, including bathroom and kitchen remodels, additions, HVAC, plumbing, and flooring, but if you’re looking to add a pool, you’ll have to do that on your own dime. “Luxury improvements” are not allowed under the terms of the loan.

Look just outside your target neighborhood

In the city of Frisco, TX, a suburb of Dallas and one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation, home prices have climbed to levels that can put even the smallest and oldest homes out of reach for many first-time buyers. In the adjacent city of Little Elm, however, home prices are lower – even though it’s also a desirable, growing city—and many of the neighborhoods feed into the preferred Frisco ISD schools. For young families that are looking to get their foot in the door and make sure their kids have access to great schools, looking just outside your target neighborhood can be a great way to go.

Consider a transitioning neighborhood

Buying in a neighborhood that is transitioning can be tricky…you’ll have to depend a lot on your real estate agent’s knowledge and your own gut to make sure you’re buying in an area that is going to appreciate—and is also going to meet your needs now. The current state of the the neighborhood might not fit that dream home idea you’ve had in your head, but, if you’re in it for the long haul, you could be making a smart move by looking in an area that isn’t exactly top of your list in its current state. The obvious draws of buying a home in a transitioning neighborhood are: more affordability or more home for the money, and the possibility to make some money as the neighborhood changes.

“Getting a lot of bang for your buck is one of the benefits of buying in a so-called transitional neighborhood,” said LearnVest. “Keys to finding such a place: “The area’s proximity to public transportation is one of the most revealing factors. Pinpoint your favorite trendy neighborhood – and then take the local train or subway one or two stops past it. That’s how you’re most likely to spot emerging areas because they’re already linked to established routes of transit.” Also, a neighborhood “that’s adjacent to a much-desired one is much more likely to gentrify than one that’s surrounded by less prime areas.” Paying attention to decreasing local crime and DOM (days on market) for real estate listings in the area, and noting whether there is a vibrant art scene in the area, are additional tips to locating an up-and-coming neighborhood.

Raise your budget

Some people get a number in their head and decide that’s the most they’re comfortable with spending. Say you’ve decided you can’t spend more than $300,000 on a home, but you’re not having any luck finding anything in your target neighborhoods and you’re not willing to look elsewhere. Consider this: Is your preapproval from your lender higher than that magic $300,000 number? If so, consider upping it. That $20,000 difference could open up your search to numerous additional properties, and would cost you only about $100 per month. Bring a lunch to work instead of eating out a couple days a week or skip one night out at the movies and dinner per month and you’ve got it covered.

Go back to your lender

If you’re already looking for homes at your max approval amount and not having any luck, have a conversation with your lender. There might be a way to reconfigure your loan options to get you more money to spend.

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