Looking for a Home? Download Free App

You can download a free app designed for you to look for homes in any market listed in the MLS, Realtor.com, Zillow, etc.  If it is not one that J. Lynn Kronk is associated an affiliate Realtor is available for you to contact.  If you already have a Realtor just give them the info to schedule a showing.  It also provides info on Open Houses in your geographic area listed on the local MLS.

Text to (484) 427-2222 SIRJLYNNKRONK

I would like comments on how you enjoyed this new app.

 

 

Online Home Valuation?

With the advent and growth of the internet, many tasks are much easier now – you can shop without leaving your home, place your dinner order before arriving at the restaurant, get all the information needed to write a paper without going to the library, and, according to some believers – get accurate property valuations in order to buy or sell a home without a Realtor.  Let’s look at the problem with this last part.

Online home valuation sites (like Zillow and Trulia, to name a few of the more popular ones) are more prevalent today, making home buyers and sellers feel as if they have access to the same information as Realtors. The misnomer is that this is very far from the case. Although there are times when the numbers provided are realistic, more often than not they are incorrect – sometimes by a few thousand dollars, or even as much as $20-50,000. Would you want to make an important decision on value based on a number that may be incorrect?

Realtors still play a very important role in home valuation. Working with a local, experienced agent who knows your area provides not only peace of mind, but information beyond just value. There are many facets involved with pricing a home, and while the starting point is always comparable sales, there are many other important things to consider that software cannot detect. For example, what if you have an oversized yard compared to your neighbors? A view? Multiple upgrades to your home? An addition? These are some of the things that a Realtor will take into consideration in determining value.

Comparable sold properties have likely been appraised before they sold – and appraisers are specifically trained to value homes, taking into consideration similarities and differences between properties. Realtors in turn use these comparable values and then tweak them, as do appraisers, when it comes to factors other than square footage or similar location, that can alter prices. Being a Realtor does not magically allow one to be skilled at this – it takes an in-depth knowledge of the business, the area and the market, as well as experience.

It is important to note that the same is true of rental values. While some sites that offer rental income information may be close or even spot-on, they are not always correct. If you need to obtain rental information I highly advise you to contact a skilled property management company in your area.

While obtaining information online is a good place to start to get an idea of your home’s value, deciding to forgo the expertise of an agent could end up costing you both money and time. There is a big difference between a computer valuation of a home and one completed by an expert. So, if you are thinking of selling your home, or if you are a buyer who is home shopping, please consult with an expert so that you are completely informed and able to make the right decisions.

Lynn Kronk – Realtor

Deciding on a “Fixer Upper”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here’s what to find out before you sign up for a major home project.

Buying a fixer-upper is a whole new ballgame; before you sign on the dotted line, it’s important to find out as much as you can about exactly what you’re getting yourself into. Agents use the term “fixer-upper” liberally — it could be code for a train wreck of a house, or it could refer to a home that simply needs cosmetic updates. Use the questions below to begin useful conversations with professionals on your team.

Questions for your agent

What are the neighborhood stats? Neighborhood dynamics become mission-critical when buying a fixer-upper. Will the remodel dollars needed to make this home livable work well with the neighborhood? Ask your agent for her analysis (and the stats to back it up). If you invest $30K in improvements but update the home beyond the neighborhood’s value, your ability to recoup your investment is greatly diminished.

Is the home located in a historic district? Buying and fixing up a charming Victorian home sounds dreamy: original crown molding, wainscoting, and lovely stained-glass windows. But buyer beware: If the property is historic or located in a historic neighborhood, the remodeling and finishes may have to be completed to an association or city standard. In many cases, this means getting approval for improvements and updates and often comes with a hefty price tag.

Questions for your inspector

What is the state of the home’s major systems? Given that the term “fixer-upper” is often synonymous with “a ton of work and cash,” it’s important to choose your inspector wisely and to listen carefully. Cosmetic work is expected, but what about the foundation, electrical, and plumbing systems? Better yet, how is the roof — can it hold in heat and keep out rain? These items can run easily into the tens of thousands — and could turn a quick fix into a money pit.

What are the huge hidden expenses? Ask your inspector to dig deep into the home’s details. For example, does the unfinished basement have an adequate ceiling height and is there any evidence of flooding? If the basement needs a new subfloor and vapor barrier, do you need a permit to complete the work and must you hire a licensed and bonded professional? If an issue is uncovered, you may need to call in an inspector who specializes in that area. Your inspectors are the first line of defense against a poor investment. Use reputable professionals with relevant experience; their advice can be worth their weight in gold.

Questions for your contractor

What is the total investment? Once you formulate a plan based on the inspector’s report, sit with your contractor and discuss your options. As with any project, it doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing approach. There are plenty of middle-road solutions that can satisfy your bottom line as well as a time commitment that’s comfortable. With that said, budgets and timelines may run over, so work with a reputable contractor to minimize the headache of living in a construction zone.

Questions to ask yourself

How is the overall layout of the home? With considerable cost and headache, it’s possible to change the structural layout of a home. However, I would counsel you to closely consider the existing layout of the home. Are there many small rooms with random nooks, whereas you’re more of a great-room kind of buyer? What about the number of existing bedrooms and bathrooms? If you require a four-bed, two-bath home and it’s currently a two-bed, one-bath, be certain this home will truly meet your needs.

Do I have the time, energy, and patience for this project? This is where you dig deep in your soul and be honest with yourself: Are you prepared to have a DIY project every weekend for the foreseeable future? Or on the flip side, are you prepared to drop a boatload of cash, paying professionals to make your fixer-upper into the dream home you’ve always wanted? Get real with your expectations and available resources.

Fixer-uppers can be a great investment and allow you to customize a home to your specific needs. But it’s best to have a sense of what you’re signing up for! With some strategic due diligence upfront, you can purchase and remodel your new home with confidence.

Lynn Kronk – Realtor

How to Find an Affordable Neighborhood

o-most-expensive-neighborhoods-facebook

 

Trulia Maps offers a wealth of information on low-cost areas across the country. Find out all you need to know.

There’s more to consider when buying a house than the house itself. The neighborhood can be equally, if not more, important. You might already have must-haves in mind for the type of property you’ll buy — at least two bathrooms to stay sane, for example. Now you need to focus on finding the best neighborhood that fits your budget. Read on for some tips, techniques, and practices to help you find affordable neighborhoods.Top of Form

 

Bottom of Form

 

1. Use the Affordability layer in Trulia Maps

The most important factor when looking for an affordable home is price. No surprise there. But the listing price doesn’t tell you the full story. The seller could have simply picked a number because that’s what they’d like to get, a price that might have nothing to do with reality.  Use the Affordability layer in Trulia Maps to compare listing prices with recent sales prices. Just scroll over your neighborhood of interest to see the median listing price, change your filter, and then scroll over the same area to see the median sales price. There may be a huge price difference between the two, which besides a too-optimistic seller could also reflect a softening market. A once-unaffordable neighborhood, based on listing prices alone, might now be in reach once you see what homes are actually selling for.  Also look at the sales price per square foot, a real eye-opener. You can see exactly how much location affects a home’s price. If using a price-per-square-foot comparison, the homebuyer must be sure to compare similar-sized properties or allow for the different results based upon the differences in size.

 

2. Explore other neighborhoods

If you already have a neighborhood in mind, take some time to look at the bordering neighborhoods as well. You might find more affordable options that have the same benefits. As home prices increase within desirable areas, generally speaking, locations on the periphery become in demand.  Pick your neighborhood of interest and note the listing and sales prices. Then pick a bordering neighborhood that costs less to buy into. Compare amenities in Trulia Maps, and you can see where the restaurants, grocery stores, nightclubs, cafes, stores, arts and entertainment areas, spas, and active-life spaces are located.  Don’t rule out up-and-coming neighborhoods. Yes, you’re taking a risk here. “Up-and-coming,” as a description, might turn out to be a tad too hopeful if the neighborhood is really going nowhere. How do you minimize the risk? Look for warning signs. Distressed areas generally are identified by low sales volumes, elevated value decreases, and poor access to amenities.

 

3. Look for fixer-uppers

If your heart is set on a neighborhood that lets you bike to work and raise urban chickens, you might not be able to get a dreamy, move-in-ready abode with all new upgrades. Instead, target fixer-uppers, or remodels, or teardowns. You might wish to consider a house with “good bones,” as they say, meaning there’s potential in there somewhere. If the house doesn’t even have that, a teardown might be in order. You can often find fixer-uppers in the foreclosure arena. But beware. Purchasing an REO/short sale or auction property when the asset is sold ‘as is’ necessitates a network of professionals to understand the condition and to project rehab costs.  Contractors, electricians, plumbers, even structural engineers may be required in order to adequately analyze a property.  You’ll also need to devote some time, or sweat equity, to save money when you buy a fixer-upper. It is important to have a sense of how much work would be needed to get the house in the shape you would want it to be. You would need to get estimates for the work — the final cost will probably be higher than the estimates — and try to determine how long it will take to get permits approved and contractors in the door … [and] it will probably take longer than everyone tells you. But when you are pulling your hair out because you are cooking dinner in a half-finished kitchen, remember all of the money that you saved when you bought.

4. Factor in the cost of your commute

Trulia Maps has you covered when it comes to figuring out commute time. Once you determine yours, figure your expenses. Although the house might be cheaper farther out, the cost in gas and car maintenance will be higher. Living an hour from work could potentially cost you a bundle in gas and car maintenance costs — no wonder commute times are a top factor for those looking to move.  Determine if the lower-cost home purchase in the suburbs offsets the time spent commuting and the commuting costs involved outweigh the higher-priced properties more proximate to employment centers and urban areas.

 

5. Consider a house that’s not a house

When is a house not a house? When it’s a condo. If you just cannot afford a single-family house in the neighborhood of your choice, look at other options. Condos and townhouses are often less expensive than single-family homes. But wait, there’s more. The advantage of a condo or townhouse is the reduction in exterior maintenance, which is typically taken care of by the property management.

 

Now that you have a keen sense on how to search for an affordable neighborhood. Let’s find that property! Call me today ~

 

Lynn Kronk ~ Realtor

 

Spring Listing – Prep NOW

il_fullxfull_403231353_8c5u

Even though it’s the middle of the winter season, before you know it, spring will be here. Historically in most real estate markets, the spring is the busiest season. The spring real estate market generally yields the highest prices for those selling their home. This is only possible though if the proper preparations are taken prior to when spring is upon us!

If you’re thinking of selling your home in the spring, you should be aware that even though you may receive top dollar for your home, there will also be a lot of competition. Therefore it’s absolutely critical that you’re prepared for the spring real estate market. These tips below will help you prepare your home for listing.

Begin Interviewing Prospective Realtors

It doesn’t matter what time of year you decide to sell your home; it’s critical that when selling a home, you know what questions to ask when interviewing realtors. Make sure you start reaching out to the agents you think would be a great representative to sell your home sooner rather than later.

Know What Your Plan Is

A common mistake sellers make is not knowing what their plans are once their home sells. Are you planning on purchasing another home? Do you have the option to move in with family? Could you rent, if need be? Do you need to sell your current property to purchase another? These are things you should think about and know the answers to before the spring real estate market hits. It’s a great idea to discuss your financing options with a local lender before you list your home for sale. If you can get pre-approved to purchase a home non-contingent on the sale of your home, it will give you a huge advantage.

Consider Having a Pre-List Inspection

One of the biggest reasons a home sale gets derailed is due to the home inspection. Almost all buyers will have their offer contingent on a home inspection. The smallest home inspection finding could turn off some buyers. It can be easy to avoid this possibility and have your home inspected by a professional before listing it. This way you can remedy issues that may arise prior to listing.

Clean & Organize

It’s imperative to give your home a thorough “spring cleaning.” This doesn’t mean wait until spring though. Be proactive and start cleaning now; you’ll be glad you didn’t wait. Huge turnoffs for prospective buyers are foul odors. Things such as pet and smoke odors will hurt your chances of offers.

Here are a few items to make sure you clean before listing your home: wash your windows, dust your blinds, dust baseboard trims, clean appliances, clean showers, sinks & toilets and clean inside cabinets. It is also important to de-clutter and organize your home. A great way to achieve this is by packing, you will need to pack at some point anyways, so why not do it now! Clean out closets and pack away items that you do not currently need. It is incredible how much better a home will show and how much quicker it will sell if it’s organized and de-cluttered.

 

Lynn Kronk ~ Realtor

5 Tips for Buying a Home If You Have Student Loans

student_loan_debt

Credit to: Teddy Nykiel is a staff writer at NerdWallet.

When Kristin and Sean Couch were ready to buy their first home, they feared that one thing would hold them back: Kristin’s student loans. Her broadcast journalism master’s degree from Syracuse University had left her more than $80,000 in debt.

The Couches are part of a generation that’s delaying major life decisions, like whether to buy a home, because of student loan debt. More than half of student loan borrowers say their debt affects their ability or decision to become a homeowner, according to a 2015 survey of 1,934 student loan borrowers by American Student Assistance, a Boston-based nonprofit. But becoming a homeowner is possible even if you have student loans. The Couches bought their 2,900-square-foot Craftsman home in Gainesville, Georgia, last spring. Here’s how you can do it, too.

Shop for a home you can afford

Home shopping can be tempting. Three-car garages! Granite countertops! Stainless-steel appliances! Before you get carried away, research the type of home you actually can afford. If you’re a first-time homebuyer, you may have to settle for a starter home instead of your dream abode. But there are good reasons to buy a home sooner rather than later, namely tax incentives and the opportunity to build equity, says Brian Koss, executive vice president of Mortgage Network, a Massachusetts-based independent lender.

Minimize debt from credit cards and car loans

When lenders evaluate you for a mortgage, they typically look at four things:

  1. Your income.
  2. Your savings.
  3. Your credit score.
  4. Your monthly debt-to-income ratio.

Your debt-to-income ratio shows the lender your total financial obligations — including car payments, credit card debt and student loans — compared with your income. Lenders are looking for borrowers with a debt-to-income ratio of 36% or less, including the monthly mortgage payment. To keep yours low, pay off as much debt as possible before applying for a mortgage.

The Couches focused on paying off Sean’s truck and their credit cards, which they’d relied on when Kristin was “making less than peanuts” in her first few jobs. When they got their mortgage, their only remaining debt was from Kristin’s student loans.

Lower your monthly student loan payments

Even without other types of debt, having a lot of student loans could give you a high debt-to-income ratio. To lower that ratio and show your mortgage lender you have enough extra cash to make your monthly mortgage payments, consider refinancing your student loans or switching to an income-driven repayment plan to lower your monthly student loan payment.

There are tradeoffs involved with both refinancing and income-driven repayment plans. When you refinance federal student loans, they become private loans and you lose federal protections, including access to income-driven plans and federal forgiveness programs. Income-driven plans, which cap your monthly payment at a percentage of your income, increase the amount of interest you’ll pay over time because they extend your term length.

Most mortgage lenders won’t mind if your overall student loan debt will increase; they’re primarily concerned with your monthly payment, says Kevin Hanson, director of lending at Gate City Bank in Fargo, North Dakota. But you’ll save the most money on your student loans if you minimize the amount of interest you’ll pay over the life of the loan.

Make your student loan payments on time

When mortgage lenders look at your credit history, they’ll want to see that you’ve paid off other debts on time, including your student loans, car payments and credit cards. If you’ve proved you can handle debt responsibly and you have a good credit score to show for it, mortgage lenders will be more likely to approve you — even if you still have outstanding student loans.

“A student loan is never negative,” Koss says. “It’s just a question of whether you pay it on time.”

Save for a down payment and closing costs

Buying a home doesn’t just involve taking on a mortgage — you’ll also have to pay upfront for closing costs and the down payment. Closing-related costs include the home inspection, mortgage loan origination fee, mortgage insurance, home owner’s insurance premium and title fees. In total, closing fees cost the average homebuyer about 2% to 5% of the home’s price, according to Zillow.

A traditional down payment is 20% of the cost of the home, but there are other options for borrowers today, such as putting less down and paying for private mortgage insurance each month until you build 20% equity in your home (though the less you put down, the more you’ll pay in interest).

Despite Kristin’s student loans, the Couches were able to buy their home with just 3% down through a local bank. But that doesn’t mean her student loan payment isn’t still a burden. “It’s as much as a second mortgage,” she says.

Still, to her, owning a home is worth the extra responsibility. “It’s yours,” she says. “You bought it. It’s something tangible that you can see.”

Lynn Kronk ~ Realtor

 

 

New Construction – get the FACTS

shutterstock_524257219-1-640x427

It’s not often that home buyers find a house that embodies everything on their wish list.  If compromising on your wish list isn’t an option, building a custom home is the path that makes the most sense.  It sounds exciting.  You find a buildable lot in your price range, hire a contractor and in a few months’ time, you’re moving into your brand new dream home.

If only it worked out that way.  For most people, building a custom home requires many steps, an infinite amount of due diligence on the buyer’s part, and a ton of research.  Time is also a key factor.  It’s rare that construction ends on time and the entire building process from the property search to move-in can be well over a year.

Here is a list of 8 key questions and points of interest that buyers should research.

1.Cost

Cost of land is only a piece of the budgeting for building a custom home.  It’s important that you first price out what you can afford overall and then work backwards from there.  If you’re paying cash you know the cold hard number.  If you’re paying for this through a mortgage, you’ll have to consider what your down payment will need to be, how much you can afford per month and, if the land price will come from the mortgage, you’ll have to deduct that price from your overall number to determine what you have left to spend on the construction.

With that being said, there’s more to pay for than what it costs to build the house.  You have to consider the price for demolition if you’re buying a lot with an existing structure, permitting, potential excavating, establishing a connection from the property to nearby utilities, water, energy, and sewer, among other items.  It’s recommended that you work with a buyer’s agent that has experience working with clients who’ve purchased land for which to build.

2. Financing the Project

Finding a spare plot of land in the area you desire may be hard to come by.  What is more likely to happen is that a property will become available on the market that has a structure on it which needs to either be completely demolished, or significantly renovated.   Cash is king- if you can pay cash for the entire job (property purchase to demo to move in) then this doesn’t apply to you.  For a bank to finance the project, the appraisal of the plans (which will assess the future value of the newly constructed home) must show that you’ll have at least 20% equity.

3. Location, location, location!

Your next step is to find a lot that’s zoned for residential construction, but more than likely in this area, you’re buying a “tear down” -an existing home to knock down.  You determined your area of the world; you know which state, town, and neighborhood you’d like to establish your foundation.  Now you’ve narrowed this area down to a few lot options if you’re lucky.  Don’t fall in love just yet.  You must first determine if the lot is zoned for the type and size of house you’re planning.

You also have to determine if the neighborhood has Covenants, Codes and Restrictions, which essentially are the neighborhood rules.  Some guidelines may end up restricting the style or size of house you’d like to build.  They can also have rules that prohibit fences, paint colors, and other decorative items, so look into this before you make an offer.

4.  Don’t be set back by “setbacks”

Buildable plots of land have predetermined borders called ‘setbacks’ which determine how close to the border of your property a house can be built.  Depending on the lot size, that may reduce how much surface area your home or garage can consume.  Hire a licensed property surveyor to determine the property lines so you know what you’re working with.

5.  Utility installation costs

You’re going to need a water pipe connection from your house to the nearest water main, you’re going to need gas or oil for energy, power lines, a septic tank or a hook up to the town sewer.  You’ll need permits for each, installation and inspections.  Price this out!  You may find this property has zero utility connections and that you’re going to have to start from scratch.  Some undeveloped land does have these connections already which could save you a lot of money.  A tear down will likely have these utilities installed which can be a huge money saver, but they may be in disrepair and need maintenance, so get them checked.

6. Is the land construction ready?

It’s probable that the land itself will need care before the home can be built.  It’s important for you to research what needs to be done prior to construction and what the fees will be.  You’ll have to know if there are problem soils, tree clearing costs, grade issues that may require filling with soil, gravel or stone, potential blasting requirements for the foundation or utility installation, site drainage installation and as well retaining walls that may need to be constructed.  Just because the land looks flat doesn’t mean its ready- so do your homework!

If your first step is knocking down a home prior to construction you should see what the towns rule are and how they compare between complete demolitions and partial renovations.  It may be easier to obtain permitting if you knock down the existing structure but build on the same foundation or keep a few of the original walls up.

7. Bring in the professionals

It’s highly recommended that you hire an engineer and an architect who work together.  It streamlines the process and can save you money in the long run.  As well, when you determine which builder you want to hire, it makes sense to work with a professional who is familiar with the neighborhood.  This will make it easier for you and your team to identify what needs to be done more efficiently.  They’ll likely be knowledgeable about required permits, costs, and town regulations.  Timeline should be determined with your building team as well.  You should have a solid idea of when your move-in date will be so you can plan accordingly.

Make sure that you learn about which permits are required to build and what they each cost, as this is a significant expense and can cause hold-ups if you don’t have what you need on time.  A team specializing in tear downs- if that’s your path- is highly recommended.

8. What will the neighbors think?

Will your neighbor be residential, commercial or conservation land?  If there’s already a person or business next door, you might need to notify them of your building plans.  If there’s no one there, it is suggested that you determine who owns the land or what it’s zoned for.  It may be a lovely wooded area now with a great view, but if the land behind your property is zoned for commercial construction, you may be looking at a gas station in two years instead of fall foliage- not an easy home to sell if your dining room faces loading docks.  Buyer beware!

Research, research and research more, make sure if you build that it’s done right.

Lynn Kronk ~ Realtor