5 Tips for Buying a Home If You Have Student Loans

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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

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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

 

Planning to sell in the New Year?

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Get a head start by listing early. Being early has its benefits: “The early bird catches the worm” or “Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.” You get the idea. So if you’re thinking about listing your home for sale in Alabama or Tennessee, in 2017 — or if you already know you will — why not do so early, as in January or February? By getting in on the real estate market at the beginning of the year, you could benefit in some unexpected ways. Here are six of them.

  1. There’s low inventory. When inventory’s low, it’s usually a great time to put your house on the market. Your new listing could cause buyers to pounce when there’s little competition, especially if your home is in a desirable neighborhood. Research conducted by Trulia revealed that 2016 was the year of low inventory.
  2. There’s more urgency. There are plenty of reasons people need to get in a home fast. Many companies transfer employees at the start of a year, for one. Whatever the reason, if you encounter a homebuyer in the dead of winter, they probably need to buy sooner rather than later. And unless you’re in a hot climate, January and February are not the months most people want to be out hitting the streets to browse. Winter buyers often have a sense of urgency — when they find what they’re looking for, they’ll make an offer.
  3. Spring starts early in warm markets. If your home is in a southern climate, you could really benefit by listing your home for sale early. Real estate websites receive at least double the number of visitors starting the day after Christmas. While homebuyers may not be personally visiting houses as quickly, they will be looking online. I advise that listing a home earlier helps a home stand out in the market. Also, when the weather outside is frightful, Retirees and people in the market for a second home seek a more temperate climate.
  4. There’s early movement for lower price points. The lower-price-point markets move a little earlier. If you’re a first-time homebuyer and are currently saving in preparation to buy, you might have earmarked that tax refund coming to you for the purpose. When these potential buyers get a refund on their taxes, they’ll sometimes use that as a down payment to roll into a purchase. The sooner you turn in your tax return, the sooner you’ll get your refund, usually in fewer than 21 days.
  5. There’s a new administration. Speculation and uncertainty abound whenever a new administration takes the helm. If you think the Trump administration will make it tougher for people to buy a home, you might want to sell early in the year. Many people worry that some of the reforms laid out in the Republican platform could potentially force buyers to fork over larger down payments. This could be a problem for many home sellers as the pool of eligible homebuyers begins to shrink. Of course, speculation is just that. But if you believe this to be true, it makes sense to sell a home now.
  6. There’s a potential interest rate hike coming. Some people are concerned about rising interest rates this year. If homebuyers think rates will rise, they might buy sooner rather than later. The interest rates have been very low for a very long time, as they begin to tick up, you will start to see consumers’ buying power drop because of the cost to cover mortgage payments. It is all an unknown, but there is some thought that rates could continue to rise in 2017 like they have been doing slightly at the end of 2016.

Selling or buying let’s begin 2017 ahead of the game! Call me today and let’s review your options now!

Lynn Kronk ~ Realtor

New Year, new you, new home

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The calendar change always invites all sorts of resolutions, some of them attainable, many of them impractical and stress-inducing. Especially if you just closed on house in the South. But changes needn’t be big or difficult to be life-altering. Here are seven simple real estate–related New Year’s resolutions you can make for 2017 that will pay big dividends with minimal effort.

Start making extra mortgage payments

It’s the financial reality you hate to face: the amount of money you actually end up paying for your house over the length of a 30-year mortgage. So what do the interest savings look like if you make one extra mortgage payment over a 12-month span? In short, pretty good — if you keep it up for the duration of your loan, you’re likely to save tens of thousands of dollars. It’s especially worth considering in the first five years of a mortgage, when the majority of your monthly installment goes to interest payments rather than the principal.

The only thing to keep in mind is that once you start making the extra payment that extra money is locked up in your home equity (and not sitting in your bank account as an emergency fund).

Get new homeowners’ insurance quotes

You probably don’t think about this too often because your insurance automatically renews every year. But as it happens, you may now be eligible for some discounts that weren’t available when you first applied — and your existing insurance company isn’t obligated to check in every year and see if you now qualify. Call your agent and see if you can knock down your yearly installment; if they won’t budge, then start shopping around for a better rate.

Have your home reassessed for tax purposes

Did you know that your house gets reassessed by your county only every few years? Which means your assessed property value might be higher than your current market value, which means you might be paying too much in taxes and not even know it. In most states, you can simply go online and request a reassessment for free. A note of caution: Be wary of outside companies offering to get your home reassessed for you for a small fee — it could be a scam.

Get an energy assessment

Yep, those gas and electric bills can get out of control in the winter months, but they don’t always have to be static. Some states have nonprofits that will come to your home and offer an energy assessment free of charge, but otherwise you can hire a professional energy auditor. That person will then make a series of suggestions both small (LED light bulbs) and large (solar panels) so that you can stretch your energy dollar. Even tiny lifestyle changes, such as unplugging unused devices or programming your thermostat on a schedule, can make a difference.

Plant a vegetable garden

You have some time with this, given that it’s only January, but then again, there’s no time like the present to start a kitchen garden. Growing your own food saves money and, in its own way, helps the environment too. It also benefits your health, as you’re more apt to eat fruits and vegetables that you’ve cultivated yourself. And of course, as head farmer, you get to decide what pesticides and fertilizers you (don’t) use. Start small, only growing veggies and herbs you love to eat.

Start composting

Maybe this has been on your to-do list for years. But somehow it just feels too time-consuming or messy, especially if you live in the city. Keep it simple and buy a composting kit that walks you through the steps. If you don’t have an actual use for your own compost, there are small outfits around the country that will pick it up for a minimal fee; some cities even include compost pickup in their trash services.

Buy a rain barrel

So simple, yet so valuable. Just a few benefits of collecting rainwater and repurposing it later: It cuts down on your water bill, it lessens the moisture around your home’s foundation, it’s healthier for your plants and garden, and it helps reduce runoff pollution.

Rainwater is also great for washing your dog and car, as it’s free of salt and other chemicals. (Poor dog! Poor car!) If you’re in a drought district, the benefits of a rain barrel are obvious. And remember that composting you just started? Adding rainwater to your brand-new pile is a far more sustainable practice than mixing it with tap water. Just be sure to check local laws: some communities have rules against collecting rainwater.

What resolutions are on your list for 2017?

Lynn Kronk ~ Realtor

Buying a Manufactured Home ?!

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Buying a new home is stressful and exhilarating!

A mobile or manufactured home is a major purchase and as a consumer you should take the time to educate yourself about every aspect of the deal.

You can avoid potential pitfalls and make a decision you will not second guess in the future. Education and negotiation will always be your greatest weapons to get the best deal.

Manufactured home dealers are similar to a car dealership. They use the same mark-up and commissions system. Knowing your target price, finance options and being ready for the dealer’s maneuvers is your best strategy against it. Here are a few tips to help you save money, time and avoid unnecessary problems.

Know What You Want In A Home

First off: Do your homework. Reading this article is a great start but don’t stop now!

Research everything and use as many different resources as possible. Know what manufacturer you like best as well as your favorite floor plan and features.

Upgrades increase the price but you can save money in the long run with upgrades like thicker walls and insulation.

The 3 ‘Classes’ of Manufactured Homes

You get what you pay for in the manufactured housing world. 

You will not be able to pay $50,000 for a double wide and get the same fixtures, materials, and construction aspects as a $150,000.00 home. It’s simply not possible.

Owners are often upset or dissatisfied because their home has cheaper flooring materials, or flimsy trim, or thin carpet but they only paid $34,900.00 for a brand new 1200 square foot double wide. With that said, the home should be well constructed and every owner should be 100% happy but expectations must align with price. 

Features and Upgrades

Certain features and upgrades can drastically extend the life of your home and make living in it more cost efficient and comfortable.

  • Choose a shingled roof, rather than a flat roof, if possible. Make sure the roof hangs over the edge of the house, that it is properly ventilated and it extends over the home, this will increase the longevity of your new home.
  • Look for a home with exterior wall studs 16 inches apart (as opposed to 24 inches). Choose vinyl siding rather than metal or hardboard siding and with exterior walls at least 7 1/2 feet high. Housing wrap is always a good idea, too.
  • Choose high-quality plumbing fixtures, such as standard kitchen and bathroom faucets and sinks (this may require an upgrade). Request a shutoff valve at each plumbing fixture.
  • Avoid particleboard sub floors. When it gets wet, particleboard is more susceptible than plywood to problems such as swelling, warping and loss of strength. Larger joists, smaller joist-spacing, and thicker subflooring can reduce floor flexing and sagging.

 Research, Research, Research

Although you may have chosen your favorite manufacturer, you may get a better price from a different one. Use online reviews and ask for customer testimonials. Getting the best price for the features you want is just as important as after sale customer service and good references from the companies past purchasers. Of course pretty is important but longevity and service is more important!

  • Avoid pinning your hopes on only one home or one dealer. Get firm prices from several dealers and several brands either online or via phone, since dealer markups on homes can vary widely.
  • Check the “blue book” value for a similar make and model from the previous year listed in the appraisal guides online.
  • Know the prices of substitute housing options in your area, such as condos, houses, and apartments; this can help you place sticker prices (along with land rental and other required monthly costs) in a larger perspective.

 Investigate your financing options before setting foot on a lot.

Investigate your financing options before setting foot on a lot. Check out banks and credit unions as well as traditional manufactured housing lenders.

Traditionally, dealers finance mobile homes using personal property or chattel loans rather than mortgage loans, at rates 2-4 percentage points higher. Dealers often get a commission for obtaining credit for you, so you may be better off talking directly with the lenders. Even if you end up getting financing through the dealer, you’ll be able to negotiate better if you know your options. Same goes for insurance.

Be sure to evaluate all costs of homeownership, including land rental (or purchase), financing charges, insurance, taxes, maintenance and more. Avoid wrapping costs unnecessarily into your home purchase loan. Interest rates on manufactured home loans that are not tied to land are typically several percentage points higher than typical mortgage loans.

Think carefully about where you place your home. Placing your home in a rental community reduces the chances you will gain equity from your purchase. Even the best rental communities are subject to ownership changes and rent increases, which can add unexpected costs to your monthly budget. If you own the land, you can reduce your financing costs as well as increase the stability of your tenure.

Price Comparison on Manufactured Homes

Once you have chosen the manufacturer, features and the financing, start price comparing your local or state dealers online.

Get firm prices from several dealers and several brands either online or via phone if possible, since dealer markups on homes can vary widely.

Do not give your personal information to each dealer to run your credit, when multiple dealers check your credit it can actually reduce your score, ask them to give you a home price and estimate of the loan terms based on the credit information you give to them, notate names, dates and discussions.

Check the “blue book” value for a similar make and model from the previous year listed in the appraisal guides online. Know the prices of substitute housing options in your area, such as condos, houses, and apartments; this can help you place sticker prices (along with land rental and other required monthly costs) in a larger perspective.

First Visit to Dealer

On your first visit to the dealer establish quickly that you are a serious and knowledgeable buyer, not just a browser. Don’t say: “I’m looking for a double wide.” Say instead: “I plan to buy a Clayton Celebration 3bdrm/2bth within the next month and I know exactly what features I want. I will buy where I get the best price. Let’s talk about it.” This puts you in control from the beginning.

Know Your Budget

It is important to buy a home that fits in your budget, not the home that a salesperson wants to sell you. That means watching the total cost as well as the monthly payment. Dealers may cite reasonable sounding monthly payments – but remember, the length of the contract can vary from 7 to 30 years. The interest rate can vary greatly as well. Higher interest over a longer term can more than double the actual cost of the home.

Beware of…

Don’t let the dealer coax you into naming a price or a monthly payment you’d be willing to pay. Ask for a total cash price, and negotiate from that. Better yet, ask to see the invoice price. Dealers may resist, but it is better to negotiate up from the invoice price than down from the retail price.

Do not put money down on a home until you are 1000% positive that you are buying that home.

You may have trouble getting your money back if you change your mind, especially if you ask for any customization.

Beware of the Package Deals

Shop around for each component of your package.

Dealers may offer to act as your real estate broker, insurance broker, and mortgage company, but he or she may not be able to offer you the best deal on these services.

You pay for items in a package deal – prepaid park rent, insurance premiums, even furniture and stereo systems – by adding the cost onto your loan. This will cut into your equity in the home. Given the relatively high interest rates on personal property and chattel loans, it will cost you more than the items are worth in the long run.

Resist High-Pressure Sales

Buying a home, any home, is a long-term commitment.

Manufactured home contracts frequently require payments for 30 years. In contrast, dealers can get you approved and have the contract ready for you to sign in a matter of hours or days. Resist high-pressure sales techniques that entice you to “sign today.”

Reputable dealers will still want to sell you a home next week.

Be skeptical of “special” prices, freebies, and other enticements to sign quickly.

Be prepared to walk away from the deal if you ever feel uncomfortable. Follow your gut instinct. If something doesn’t feel right, walk away.

Have someone else with you that doesn’t have a strong emotional investment, they can sometimes see things that you aren’t able to.

The Warranties Trap

Manufacturers, retailers, installers, and component manufacturers may offer separate warranties, each of which covers a different part of the home.

Consumers can have trouble determining who is responsible if problems after the purchase. In a recent survey it was found that people who purchased directly from the factory dealer had few problems after the sale than those that bought from an independent dealer.

Find out what voids the warranty. Sometimes moving or selling the home can void the warranty, as can improper site preparation.

Ask the retailer or manufacturer to examine your lot and certify that your site preparation meets the standards required by the warranty. Discover what, if any, regular home maintenance is needed to keep the warranty in force. Recently, we learned that one carpet manufacturer requires that you get your carpet professionally clean at least once a year to keep the warranty in effect.

Little details are usually much more important than the larger ones, and small print is ALWAYS more important than larger print!

Financing the Manufactured Home

Once you’ve settled on a home and a price, you’ll sit down with the dealer to sign the purchase contract and loan documents.

Carefully review the contracts, making sure the numbers (home price, interest rate, payment, points, charges, etc.) all are listed as you believe they should be. If they are not, don’t be afraid to leave and come back when the papers are in order.

Stop and review the disclosures and warnings such as the “formaldehyde health notice.”

Be prepared to halt the transaction if you do not agree with or understand anything.

Beware of contracts that appear to charge you finance fees (origination fees, prepaid points, “buyer” fees) then appear to deduct these fees from the “Amount financed” as if you are not actually required to pay them. You will pay these, plus interest.

If the dealer tells you that a family member with better credit must co-sign or even buy the home for you, that family member may end up the permanent owner of the home. Dealers may promise to change these arrangements in the future, but they will be unable to fulfill such promises.

Never sign any documents you do not fully understand. Do not rely upon representations made by the salesperson about these contracts. If you do not understand them, bring someone you trust with you who can explain them to you. Remember, a purchase contract is a legally binding document-don’t be afraid to wait until you have help if you need it!

I hope this gives you a base to jump start your research. Buying a new manufactured home is truly a life changing event and should be considered as such. Please research and educate yourself further so that you may make the best decisions for you and your family.

Lynn Kronk – Realtor

 

Baby its COLD outside – Winterizing a vacant home.

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With the nights getting colder and winter arriving it is time to make sure those vacant homes are protected. Over the years we have seen homes lose as much as 50% of their market value from fall to spring when pipes freeze, break, and then leak, ruining the floors, walls, and even flooding basements. It can destroy a house and cost thousands of dollars to fix.

Both plastic and copper pipes can burst when they freeze. An eight-inch crack in a pipe can leak up to 250 gallons of water a day, causing flooding, structural damage, and the potential for mold. Remember, most basic homeowner insurance policies do not cover homes when they become vacant.  If you do have adequate vacant home insurance, check to see if there is a clause requiring someone regularly checking in on your vacant home.

Whether you plan to sell or return to your vacant home, protect your investment by winterizing your home with these main points:

The Most Important Step in Winterizing a Home: 

  1. Hire a plumber who is qualified to winterize your home.  This involves shutting off the water supply to your home, and blowing air through all the pipes in the house with an air compressor. The plumber will also properly drain water heaters, spas, sprinkler systems, and any appliances that use water.
  2. Clean your gutters and downspouts to reduce the risk of ice forming inside them.
  3. Place moth balls throughout the home to prevent insect infestation.
  4. Close fireplace dampers and seal all openings (i.e., dryer vents). Birds and rodents will try to make nests in chimneys and attics.
  5. Store firewood away from the house. Remove leaves near the house under and around the porch or deck.
  6. Disconnect any propane tanks. Call the gas company and have them turn off the natural gas.
  7. If you have kept the electricity on: Buy light timers and set them to turn on automatically in the evenings. Invest in motion detectors or timers for both your indoor and outdoor lights. Make sure all light bulbs around the house are in working order. If you have turned off the electricity: Make sure battery-operated smoke detectors are in working order.
  8. Schedule landscapers to upkeep driveways and walkways for potential buyers. Nothing says “vacant house” more than a walkway that hasn’t been cleared from leaves or debris. Make sure buyers have safe, easy access into your home. If a buyer can’t easily park or get access to the home, it won’t sell.
  9. Disconnect and drain outdoor hoses.
  10. Trim branches that hang over your home.

It’s a good idea to have a neighbor or friend check up on the home if you’re not available. Once your home is winterized, place signs throughout the house to warn visitors and buyers that the plumbing has been shut off.

Lynn Kronk ~ Realtor

Be careful what you LIST for

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If you are thinking of selling, refinancing, or just want to get an idea of what your home is worth, you have many options. Most people these days like to do things themselves, since there is so much information available at our fingertips online. There are also some great real estate sites and many local brokerage sites, so there are multiple ways to access the information. But you need to be careful, as what you get on some of those sites may be inaccurate, especially in today’s market.

Sites like Zillow and Trulia provide easy access to recent sales, and even provide estimates for the value of your home. Some things they may not take into consideration are:

  1. The condition of your home and comparable sold properties
  2. Upgrades
  3. Additions – sometimes these take a long time to show up in the public records, which could alter the valuation of your home
  4. Very recent sales (closed in the last few days)
  5. Pending sales that are about to close escrow (as they will have an effect on your sales price should you decide to sell)
  6. Whether or not your property is distressed or other recent sales were distressed
  7. Inside knowledge about other homes that may have just gone into escrow or appraised
  8. Other factors. There may be other factors that can affect your sales price, such as information displayed in the confidential remarks on sold properties (that only licensed agents can see) that provide details – for example, commissions may have been reduced, sellers may have reduced the sales price due to expensive necessary repairs, or other factors could have affected the sales price. Also, there may be information about construction in the surrounding area that can affect sales prices in the future (freeway extensions, plans for new shopping centers, Or there could be issues with the condition of the home that sold.

All of these details are important in analyzing your home and making sure you get the correct information. Thus it is very important that you consult a local area real estate broker or agent to provide you with a specific and detailed market analysis.

There are many things we can do ourselves these days online, but if you are considering selling make sure you get the right information so that you can make an informed decision. I have 25+ years in the real estate market and I am here to help you, and I do NOT charge for a detailed market analysis. Call me today and together we will make sure we have all the pertinent information before making any major decisions.

We have ONE goal, to SELL your property!

Lynn Kronk – 256-226-3099