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Q: What Should I Do to Prepare My Home for Sale?

A: Start by finding out its worth. Contact a real estate agent for a comparative market analysis, an informal estimate of value based on the recent selling price of similar neighborhood properties.  Or get a certified appraiser to provide an appraisal.

Next, get busy working on the home’s appearance.  You want to make sure it is in the best condition possible for showing to prospective buyers so that you can get top dollar.  This means fixing or sprucing up any trouble spots that could deter a buyer, such as squeaky doors, a leaky roof, dirty carpet and walls, and broken windows.

The “curb appeal” of your home is extremely important.  In fact, it is the first impression that buyers form of your property as they drive or walk up.  So make sure the lawn is pristine – the grass cut, debris removed, garden beds free of weeds, and hedges trimmed.

The trick is not to overspend on pre-sale repairs and fix-ups, especially if there are few homes on the market but many buyers competing for them.  On the other hand, making such repairs may be the only way to sell your home in a down market.

Mike Spruell
Realtor®/Broker/ePRO
The Lake Norman Homes Team
Southern Homes Elite
www.LakeNormanRealEstate.pro
866-LakeNorman
704-907-7907

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.

U.S. Waterfront Home Values Twice as High as Overall Home Values

Nationwide, the typical oceanfront or lakefront, single-family home is worth more than double the median value of all homes, and in some communities the median waterfront house could be worth ten or more times the median value of non-waterfront houses, according to a new analysis by Zillow®. In the U.S. at the time of this analysis, the median single-family home was worth about $171,600, while the median waterfront house was valued at $370,900, a waterfront premium of 116.1 percent.

Among large cities analyzed, the biggest difference between median non-waterfront single-family home values and median waterfront house values are in Tampa, Fla. (waterfront premium of 733 percent); Honolulu, Hawaii (waterfront premium of 334.5 percent) and Long Beach, Calif. (waterfront premium of 321.6 percent).

“The allure of ocean and lakefront living is powerful and undeniable, and millions of homeowners nationwide dream of one day owning a home on the water. But those dreams come at a price,” says Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Stan Humphries. “Waterfront properties are both relatively scarce and highly coveted, and that high demand and limited supply leads to higher home prices. Additionally, added insurance, floods, environmental mitigation and infrastructure costs are often part of the tab when buying a waterfront home. Still, as long as buyers understand the added costs and potential headaches, waterfront living is likely to remain one of life’s simple pleasures for many, many years to come.”

The median waterfront home value is calculated in the same way as the Zillow Home Value Index, and represents the median value of all single-family waterfront homes in a given community. The index includes single-family homes located 150 feet or closer to the waterline of an ocean or lakes with a total combined size of 10 square kilometers or greater. Properties separated from direct waterfront by a road with a speed limit of 25mph or less are also considered waterfront. Riverfront properties were not included in this analysis, nor were condominium or co-op housing units. Zillow’s initial analysis covers 250 cities and towns nationwide with at least 100 waterfront homes meeting the above criteria.

Information on all 250 cities analyzed can be found on Zillow Research here.

Mike Spruell
Realtor®/Broker/ePRO
The Lake Norman Homes Team
Southern Homes Elite
www.LakeNormanRealEstate.pro
866-LakeNorman
704-907-7907

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.

Six Homeowner Expenses Renters Must Consider

Transitioning from renter to homeowner means much more than simply having a place to call your own. Purchasing a home is well worth the investment, but it’s important for renters to be totally financially committed. Renters seeking to buy a home should budget not only monthly expenses, but also these overlooked costs:

Home maintenance
– Unlike renters, homeowners are responsible for upkeep, including expensive projects like replacing a roof or windows.

Utility bills
– Keep in mind that bills are generally higher than those for apartment dwellers, where some are often included in rent.

Closing costs – Closing costs can vary by state, so if you plan to relocate from a rental in one area to a home in another, research thoroughly while budgeting.

Home repairs
– Renters typically don’t have to save for emergency repairs. As a homeowner, make sure you have funds set aside for unexpected issues.

Furniture
– Furnishing an apartment is normally cheaper than furnishing several rooms in a home.

Seasonal projects – Many first-time homeowners fail to factor in seasonal projects, such as spring and summer landscaping and holiday decorating.

Source: Zillow

Mike Spruell
Realtor®/Broker/ePRO
The Lake Norman Homes Team
Southern Homes Elite
www.LakeNormanRealEstate.pro
866-LakeNorman
704-907-7907

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.

Why the School District Should Impact Your Home Search

By Deanna Lawley

Buying a home in a good school district can result in resale advantages, offer protection from market fluctuation and provide a great education. Real estate experts in markets across the country share what you should know about a school district’s impact on real estate, whether or not you plan on using the school system.

Determine what you’re looking for in a school district

Before you begin your search, determine how you are looking to benefit from the school district.

According to associate broker Aisha J. Thomas, the most important quality of a good school district is unique to every buyer. “Although test scores and statistics are a great starting point, schools require a closer look. Factors to consider are the environment, active parental participation, teacher credentials/support, offering of core competencies, extracurricular and after-school options. These factors can contribute to a well-rounded education.”

“The quality of the school district is one of the first things home buyers evaluate before making a purchase. Many buyers filter their search by only looking for homes in a certain district,” says agent Jake Cain. “Defining what a ‘good’ school district is varies from one family to the next. While we often think of high test scores, some families may be concerned with their budding athlete playing for a top program and others may place a particular premium on student-to-teacher ratio.”

You don’t need to have children to benefit from buying in a top school district.

“A home located in a good school district carries the benefit of maintaining its value in comparison to lower tiered school systems,” says real estate consultant Linda Brincks. “Even if you do not plan to use the school systems yourself, many buyers (especially relocation buyers) will opt for homes in the top notch school systems when it’s time to sell the in the future.”

Consider the resale value potential

When thinking of the area’s long-term potential, the school district should be a top consideration.

“Before you invest in an area you should research as much as possible to determine the factors that could affect your resale ability in the future,” says agent Kristie Zimmerman.

“A school district is a very important factor to consider when buying a home even if you don’t have children, because it can have a dramatic effect on the resale value of the property,” says Thomas. “Properties located in good school districts tend to hold value or even increase in value when the rest of the market has stalled.”

“Parents of young children or individuals without children will look for schools in up-and-coming areas, where the influx of buyers could substantially change the schools, due to the increased enrollment and tax base, while the home prices remain on the lower end,” says Thomas.

“A good school district definitely adds to the value of a property whether you have children or not, however in my experience better school districts are usually located in more upscale neighborhoods, says agent Jim Esposito. “They are safer, offer higher appreciation, will hold value better through market fluctuations.”

Buying without children

Even if you don’t plan on using the schools, the school district should still be an important part of your home hunt.

“It is always a better investment to buy into a top school district,” says real estate professional Carol Huston. “In Los Angeles, properties located in high ranking school districts, which is California’s Academic Performance Index, school districts with scores of 9-10+ always sell at a premium.“

“Real estate values are driven by demand,” says Zimmerman. “The end buyer may make their decision to purchase based solely on a school.”

If you don’t plan on using the school district, it still pays to get involved.

“I always advise clients to support the school in their neighborhood even if they don’t have children,” says Huston. “It will help children and bring up the value of their own property.”

Weighing the cost of buying in a higher-priced school district

In addition to a higher resale value, buying in a good school district can save on the costs of a private school.

“Many of my clients sold their homes to take their kids out of private school and to move into a great school district, says Huston. “They felt that they would rather support public school and pay it into their house mortgage, than pay it to a private school.

“The higher home costs of a top district are worth it when you factor in the cost of private schools, says Thomas. According to the Digest of Education Statistics 2010, National Center for Education Statistics report the average cost is $8,549.”

Do your homework

To gain a full understanding of the school district, broker/owner Nicole Lee recommends looking into the teacher student ratios, testing scores, and any recent school of excellence awards.

Cain says, “One great place to get district information is from SchoolDigger.com.”

“Find your state’s website, which should offer district report cards that will let you compare schools against another,” says Brincks.

“Ask your real estate agent and any personal contacts in the prospective areas, or via Internet posts for opinions. There always seems to be one school or district that gets repeated,” says Thomas.

“Speaking from personal experience as I’ve relocated from Michigan to California then to Georgia within the past year; online resources, like GreatSchools.org, were instrumental in helping me find a good school for my child, like,” says Thomas.

Huston encourages her clients to go to the local school and check it out themselves. She says, “See if there are parents walking their children to school. Are there local businesses that support the school? How crowded are the classrooms? Are you guaranteed a space in the school just by living in neighborhood, or is it so popular that you have to be put on a waiting list or go into a lottery?”

Use this advice when home hunting to make the most out of your investment and increase your resale value—whether or not you have children.

This article was originally posted on the Homefinder.com blog.

Mike Spruell
Realtor®/Broker/ePRO
The Lake Norman Homes Team
Southern Homes Elite
www.LakeNormanRealEstate.pro
866-LakeNorman
704-907-7907

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.

7 Helpful Tips for First-time Homebuyers

By Bill Gassett

Looking for a new home can be a pretty exciting task. With that much money on the line, it's worthwhile to read up on the process before you set out. Unnecessary mistakes can and should be avoided while trying to get the best deal for your money. As a first-time homebuyer, proper guidance from seasoned professionals can make all the difference.

Here are a few tips first-time buyers can take when trying to find their first home:

Get clear on what you want—This is the most important part of your preparation. You are about to enter a shopping experience that is unlike any other. At times, it can be stressful and difficult. There is a lot of money on the line and a big commitment to be made, so prepare accordingly. Get clear on what you really want and what you are willing to compromise on. This will make your home shopping experience much more efficient and will give you a map to go off of should tensions run high. The better prepared you are, the better chance of having a smooth transaction.

Do your research—Home shoppers today are more empowered than ever before. You have so much information at your fingertips. Go online and find the areas you want to live in. Narrow down the neighborhoods you want to consider to three or four, and focus on those. Learn about the cost of the things you really want and the cost of the things you can do without. The more knowledgeable you are the better you will be at negotiating a good deal.

Talk to the bank—Preparing to get a mortgage in advance of your actual purchase will be super important. Before you start looking at houses you should have a discussion with your lender. The lender will be able to give you an honest assessment of what your finances look like, how much house you can afford and what your rates will be. You want to know all of this – what it will really cost you – before you start looking at homes you can't actually afford. Find out what your monthly payment will be at different amounts and determine what your personal limits are as well. Depending on your credit, the lender may be willing to give you far more than you need. Once you know the time is right to buy a home make sure you get pre-approved by a lender. Make sure you understand the difference between getting pre-approved and pre-qualified for a mortgage. Without a doubt you will want to get pre-approved as a pre-qualification letter is not worth much. A savvy REALTOR® representing a homeowner will pick up on this right away. If you are competing with other buyers and are not financially prepared, you could lose out on your dream home!

Need some additional tips on how to save money? Check out these suggestions from Pillar To Post Home Inspectors.

Think about the future—Is this going to be a starter house that you will move out of in five years? Is it going to be a property that you fix up and flip? Is it going to be the home for your new family that you will be in for 10 or 20 years? Your long term plans will help dictate your purchasing choices. It is important to understand what you really want this home for before you go and sign any papers and spend any money. One of the biggest mistakes first-time homebuyers make is not thinking about their long term plans.

Find a good REALTOR®–A real estate agent can prove invaluable when shopping for a home. If you find one that is good – an agent that is finding people the homes they want at a price they are happy with – then much of the work will be done for you. The agent will talk about what you want, will run you through much of the above mentioned areas and will help you find the houses that are really what you are looking for. The agent will also be an effective negotiator, meaning that you will probably get more house for your money than if you went at it alone.

Set a timeline—The situation you are in is uniquely your own. You want to set a timeline for when you will find and buy home—a timeline that reflects your realities. If you have bad credit that needs to be cleaned up first, for instance, you will need to spend some time working on that before you actually start house hunting. If you need to move right now, that is another factor in your timeline. Give yourself some restrictions so you will be encouraged to move at a steady pace and get the job done. Hunting for a house can be quite stressful and it is not something that should be drawn out any more than necessary. Determine what you want, work with a REALTOR®, and get it as efficiently as possible.

Understand your fiscal responsibility—Another problem that first-time homebuyers don't always properly think through is the financial responsibility of owning a home. A large amount of buyers will think about making their mortgage payments and nothing else. If you have been renting for a while, or even living with mom and dad, it is easy to see why this can happen. Unfortunately, owning a home comes with quite a few more additional first-time home expenses that you may not have considered such as appliances, furniture, and even taxes and insurance. These are all important things to consider when putting together your home buying budget.

Use all of the above tips for finding your first home and you will be well on your way to enjoying your new life as a homeowner!

Bill Gassett is a nationally recognized real estate leader who has been helping people move in and out of the Metrowest Massachusetts area for the past 27-plus years.

View this original post on RISMedia's blog, Housecall.

Mike Spruell
Realtor®/Broker/ePRO
The Lake Norman Homes Team
Southern Homes Elite
www.LakeNormanRealEstate.pro
866-LakeNorman
704-907-7907

Reprinted with permission from RISMedia. ©2014. All rights reserved.