If you are a homeowner and are thinking about selling your home, now is the time. Homeowner equity is increasing because the average time a homeowner stays in their home is longer than in the past. According to the 2019 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers, the median tenure for sellers was 10 years in 2019. After the recession in 2008, the median tenure in a home started to increase yearly. Now is the time to change the trend and sell with buyer demand high and inventory low.

Over the past 10 years, the equity position of homeowners has positively changed as a result of more than eight years of rising home prices. As the economy climbed out of the recession in the first quarter of 2010, 25.9% or 12.1 million homes were still underwater, compared to the first quarter of 2020 when the negative equity share was at 3.4%, or 1.8 million properties. Borrowers have seen an aggregate increase of $6.2 trillion in home equity since the first quarter of 2010 and the average homeowner has gained about $106,100 in equity,” explains CoreLogic.

To sum it up, the longer a homeowner stays in their home, the home price rises and more equity is gained. This is a form of forced savings that can go towards the purchase of a new home. This increased equity will increase the homeowner’s profit on the sale of their home.

According to the Q2 2020 U.S. Home Sales Report from ATTOM Data Solutions, the second quarter of 2020 saw a gain of $75,971 on a typical sale of a home. This was a huge difference from just the year before in the second quarter which saw $65,250 in a typical sale.

If you are considering selling your home, now is the time to make that move. It is important to determine how much equity you have in your home if you decide to sell. A local Realtor can help you determine your equity, selling your home and purchasing a new home.

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There are many steps to follow when purchasing a new home. One you should never skip is your final walkthrough. If you do skip this step, you might unwittingly take on large financial burdens that you had not planned for.

“It allows the buyer and their agent to check the property for any new signs of damage, inspect appliances and systems, and ensure that the home is reasonably clean and in good condition,” says Baruch Silvermann, CEO and founder of The Smart Investor, a free online academy for investors, and a real estate investor himself.

It is a good idea to always take your Realtor to the walkthrough. If there is a problem your agent can make a huge impact when addressing the problem. Take your phone to take pictures, videos and notes. Here are some additional tips you should follow during your final walkthrough.

Check the electrical system. If one switch or outlet does not work, that could be a sign of a bigger problem with the wiring. Go through your home and check the security system, doorbell and garage door as well as the outlets and light switches.

Run the AC/Heating. This should be one of the first things to check in the home. The HVAC is a very important unit and one of the most vital systems in the home.

“The big problem with heating systems is that part of the unit could be outside – the compressor, coil, electrical components, and fan – making it difficult to find the fault,” says Silvermann. “Other common problems can be related to lack of gas, corrosion, or a faulty compressor.”

Look for wet spots. Leaks can cause things such as mold and rotten wood. The repercussions can be termites and even worse foundation issues which can be expensive repairs.

“Visually look around for wet areas on the ceiling or discoloration from leaks by windows,” says Jeff Lichtenstein, owner of Echo Fine Properties in Florida.

Run anything mechanical. Go through and flush all the toilets, run the dishwasher, washing machine, dryer and all the fans (including ceiling fans and exhaust fans). It would be a disappointment to move into your home and then find out that the dishwasher is not working after you have closed.

Inspect the bathrooms. According to Remodeling Magazine, bathroom remodels retain their value at resale. It is important to check the toilets to make sure they are not running, and turn on all the faucets to make sure they work correctly.

“Check that bathrooms are free of water damage, standing water, and mold by the shower, sink, and base of the toilet,” says Silvermann, who says mold can develop within days, so it’s worth taking a close look after the inspection.

Take a look around outside. Make sure all the exterior doors and windows are properly sealed.

“Any small leak can cause the heating and air conditioning system to operate at higher power and raise the electricity bill,” says Silvermann. “And check wood and concrete around the exterior of the home for cracks and water damage.”

Following these six tips can help with the walkthrough process. Make sure to take give a copy of your inspection to the seller so the items will be corrected before closing.

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What most homebuyers today are looking for in a home will be completely different than what a homebuyer pre-pandemic saught in a new house.

“The pandemic has brought about a seismic shift in people’s perspective on housing,” said Jordan Ayan, an agent who leads the North Scottsdale Luxury Real Estate Team at the Lifestyle Collection, under Keller Williams Realty in Arizona. “They are thinking more about where they want to be and what kind of environment they want to be in.”

People want to live in a less congested area now. Many homeowners work from home more because of the times so traffic is not a problem anymore. Homebuyers are looking for a more laid-back lifestyle, where they can both work and decompress.

Homebuyers will be looking for very efficient spaces such as tucked away home offices. Home offices have become very popular since the pandemic.

“The office was somewhat of a flex space, previously,” said Laura Powers of the Laura Powers Property Group, part of Compass in Houston. “Maybe it was also a guest bedroom or more of a library. Function has become much more critical.”

Homebuyers want a separate living space from their home office. When working from home, you need a quiet space with privacy. Ideally, the home office would have built-in shelving, space to move around, and good natural lighting.

Homes have become the live, work and play of 2020. Homeowners are taking formal living rooms and updating them to a comfortable place to relax. Many are “tech-free zones” where homeowners can get away from screen time.

Many Realtors have found that homebuyers are seeking larger garages, extended foyers and mudrooms. They are also interested in LEED-certified homes that are environmentally friendly and built to the standards of the U.S. Green Building Council.

Outdoor covered areas such as patios, porches, decks, and outdoor kitchens are another must. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone has been stuck at home. A nice area to enjoy the outdoors is a must during these times. In Florida, Realtors have reported that access to the water has become more popular along with docks, pools, expansive decks, covered patios, fire pits and outdoor kitchens.

In urban areas, homeowners use public parks and greenspace for their outdoor living, however, with the pandemic many of these spaces are restricted. Homebuyers are now seeking an outdoor space included in their urban home.

“Any other time, we would talk about parks and the neighborhood. But now, they might not even be able to use it,” said Patrick Ryan, owner and managing broker at Genuine Real Estate in Chicago. “So outdoor space at home has become huge.”

Homebuyers in the suburbs are seeking homes on a golf course with views of the greens and larger lots. Many even want extra acreage where they can have distance between their neighbors. Others have emphasized a guest house or in-law suite for multi-generational living.

“They want space. They don’t want to be cooped up,” Ryan said. “But they also want community and to be able to connect with their neighbors.”

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When it comes to your home, you want to make it is your own space with timeless pieces. Estate shutters are a good investment because they fit every style of interior and most any room in your house.

“Classic, sophisticated, timeless, this window treatment is never a mistake. They can be modern, contemporary, or traditional. They work everywhere,” said interior designer Karlie Adams, of Denver.

Here are six reasons why you should install estate shutters in your home.

The very first reason is obvious, it’s for the looks. Shutters are an element that can stand alone in almost any interior of a home. Shutters have a finished look on their own. Even the ancient Greeks used them in their homes back in 800 BC. Shutters have been around for an extremely long time because of their goods looks and sun-blocking ability.

Next, they are very versatile. They fit in all kinds of different style interiors and all different kinds of rooms. From informal to formal they work perfectly. The same shutter can work in a laundry room that is also in the formal dining room.

Another reason is control. Sometimes you want a dark room while other times you want an open and bright airy feel. Shutters can allow you to control privacy, light, and airflow which keep your home cool and save energy.

Color choice is another good reason. Shutters can come in a variety of colors and can also be stained. Most people choose white shutters because they reflect the sun and heat. In fact, over 90% of the shutters sold, said Nathan Swartz, who owns Shutter Professionals, in Orlando are white.

Longevity is a great reason to install shutters. “People like shutters because they never have to cover their windows again,” said Swartz. Curtains fade and also change in style with the design trends. Shutters also do not have mechanical parts that break or not cords that can be a risk to children or animals.

The last reason and most important reason is for resale value. Realtors will include shutters in their descriptions but will skip out on blinds and curtains. This is a great added bonus to a buyer. Shutters are rarely ever changed out like curtains or blinds.

Remember if you are planning to add these classic window treatments to your home, shop and compare prices and samples.

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Natural disasters are something everyone around the world fears. There are many construction techniques that have been tested and passed approval to improve the resistance of houses during high wind events such as less-severe (EFO-EF2) tornadoes and intense hurricanes.

Data has been collected two ways to see what products pass high wind conditions. The first way products are reviewed is by the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) which tests different products under controlled wind tunnel conditions. The second way data is collected is by post-storm assessments taken on what works during these high wind conditions by both the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety and the Engineered Wood Association (APA).

The International Residential Code® (IRC®) created by the U.S. Department of Energy is the ” Code for residential buildings that creates minimum regulations for one- and two-family dwellings of three stories or less. It brings together all building, plumbing, mechanical, fuel gas, energy and electrical provisions for one- and two-family residences.” Homes that have been built to the IRC code have shown high performance during high-wind events but builders are now finding ways to build homes that are above the IRC® standards.

Focusing on other ways to strengthen the roof and enable a “continuous load path through the structure to the foundation” can help builders build homes that can withstand high-risk tornadoes and intense hurricanes. By doing this, homeowners would be able to stay in their homes after a high-wind event and home repair cost would be lowered.

One way they have found to strengthen the roof is by sealing it. If air is kept from being able to seep underneath the roof components the roof will stay intact and not tear off. During a study IBHS did on homes in Florida after Hurricane Michael, those with sealed roof decks held up better than those that were not sealed. Taping the roof deck seams, using tighter nail spacing to fasten roof decking to trusses and rafters, using ring shank nails A, upgrading the underlayment to 30lb felt, properly fastening drip edges and gutters to minimize the ability of the wind to get up underneath roof covering and using self-adhered or synthetic underlayment are construction techniques used to strengthen roofs when homes are under construction.

There are many ways wind can damage a home. As mentioned previously uplift pressure can take the roof off, shear loads can cause a house to lean, and lateral loads can make the home slide off the foundation. Wind load is defined as the load in pounds per square foot placed on a structure by the wind. Builders are finding ways to allow a constant load path in the construction of homes. To prevent leaning wood structural panels or other structural sheathings (allowed by the IRC®) are used to brace walls, anchors are used against base shear and hold-downs are used against overturning. These types of construction techniques fight winds from tearing a home apart.

When building a home for a consumer, builders can take this information and inform them about these preventions. When living in a geographical area that is prone to these events, it is important for homeowners to be aware of the risk when not using these techniques or materials approved by the International Residential Code®.

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Purchasing a home is a huge event in a person’s lifetime. There are so many steps and hurdles to go through and once the home buying process has ended, it is now time to focus on giving your home a personalized touch.

Your new home is a blank slate just waiting for you to design and create the perfect living space for your family. Here are some tips on how to get started during the first 30 days in your new home.

Take time to focus on your vision. Visualizing and planning your space is a very important step that you do not want to rush through. Do not rush to get everything set up in the space. Live in the space for a few days to plan the best path for each room. If kids are in the picture, give them the task of deciding on a theme for their new bedroom. Getting the whole family involved will make your new house feel like home for the whole family.

Use what you already have. This is a perfect budget-friendly way to personalize your new house. Find ways to use the furniture that you are bringing from your last home. Cherished memories are attached to many of our items. Using items that you already own makes your new house feel like a home.

Paint for today and tomorrow. Painting your entire home is a feat in itself. Once you have your vision, take smaller steps. Pick a few rooms to start with or accent walls and remember to paint for the future and not just today. Use a timeless color over a trendy color that will be out of style in a few years. Another quick and easy way to add your colorful mark on your new house is to paint the front door.

Choose decor that inspires. Choose decor with a meaning behind it. Something free can be just as priceless to you as something that is extremely expensive. Choose an item that says something to you and about you. Using objects that are important to you is a fantastic way to personalize your new home.

Buy some new basics. If you are moving into a larger space, you will need to purchase new furniture but this is not the only reason to purchase new items for your new space. Upgrading some of your old items will also add to your new vision for your home. This can be an expensive task so choose one or two items to splurge on within the first month.

Grow with the flow. As mentioned before, live in your home for a few days to get a feel of the space. In order for a new house to feel like a home, it needs to be lived in. Even though you have a vision for your space, that vision needs to be flexible. You will change and grow in your home.

Remember even though this seems like a huge undertaking, by taking small steps and following these tips, your new house will feel like a home in no time.

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The National Home Builders Association (NAHB) has seen a new housing trend with the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest quarterly NAHB Home Building Geography Index (HBGI) found that residential construction is growing faster in lower density markets.

“We expect the virus could affect future housing preferences for those currently living in the hardest-hit, high-density environments like central cities and that housing demand will continue to increase in medium- and low-density communities,” said NAHB Chairman Dean Mon.

“The first quarter HBGI data reveals that construction growth expanded over the last year more quickly in low population density areas than high-density regions,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “This trend will continue as households seek out single-family homes further from urban cores, particularly as telecommuting continues in greater numbers.”

The report reveals that proximity and affordability were two of the biggest catalyst in the shift. People are now second-guessing living in metropolitan areas after the public health crisis hit. During the COVID-19 pandemic, metro residents were more vulnerable because of the crowded living conditions, mass transit, insufficient health and public sector infrastructure. Builders are starting to look outside of metropolitan areas where the land is cheaper and there are more building opportunities.

“The HBGI data is consistent with the fact that housing costs are increasing fastest in large metro suburban counties and smaller metro areas with populations under 1 million where demand for housing is high but supply constraints are tight,” said NAHB Chief Economist Robert Dietz. “Supply-side issues that are hurting affordability and raising costs for builders include excessive regulations, labor shortages, rising material costs and a dearth of buildable lots in mid- to high population centers.”

All national economic geographies in the country showed a 9.1% growth increase in the suburbs over a one-year moving average. In the education and health services sector (EHS), 4% made up the total single construction and made up close to twice the growth rate in the multifamily construction over the past year. The HBGI also found that the education and health services sector was the top quartile of counties and totaled 25.7% above the total employment sectors.

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The shelter-in-place orders have most Americans working from home. This huge shift in where we spend our time has changed the way certain specialty rooms are viewed. The National Association of Home Buyer’s (NAHB) data that was just collected shows that specialty rooms such as home offices and exercise rooms are on the must list for current home buyers.

The certain preference study data comes from the NAHB’s What Home Buyers Really Want. The survey asks recent and current home buyers what features they want in a home and a community. The most recent study was conducted in 2018 but the NAHB believes this trend will only grow with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Houzz.com recently conducted a survey that concluded that 55% of homeowners and practitioners have a home office, 25% work from their kitchen or dining room table, and 11% work from their sofa. The study also looked at the challenges the country is currently facing working from home. Thirty-percent find it hard to find a quiet location away from high-traffic living areas while 25% have trouble with getting a strong Wi-Fi connection as well as creating a comfortable workspace.

Working from home has become the norm and here are a few quick tips to enhance the space from NAR’s Realtor Magazine. Pick the right location such as a spare bedroom, dining room, den, or any quieter space you can find. Always make sure your lighting is perfect in the space to avoid eye strain. Last, make it ergonomic by arranging your chair, desk, computer, keyboard, mouse, and phone in a safe and efficient way. Make sure you are comfortable, this will allow for a more productive work from home day.

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Veterans are a big part of our community in the United States. The country honors these men and women who have served in the United States Armed Forces in many ways. One example is through VA Loans for veterans who would like to purchase a home. A VA Loan is provided by private lenders and is partially guaranteed by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

VA Loans are a great way for military borrowers to obtain a mortgage. They have been helping military families purchase a home since 1944. If you are interested in purchasing a home through a VA Loan here is what you need to know.

According to veteransunited.com, “A VA loan is a $0-down mortgage option issued by private lenders and partially backed, or guaranteed, by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Eligible borrowers can use a VA loan to purchase a property as their primary residence or refinance an existing mortgage.”

Unlike conventional mortgages, VA Loans are partially backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Lenders who originate the loans have more confidence with this guarantee from the VA and are able to offer $0 down financing and many great rates and terms.

There are many ins and outs of a VA Loan. A borrower can use full VA entitlement as many times as they would like to if the loan is paid off each time. You can have more than one VA loan at a time and even obtain another VA loan if you lost one to foreclosure.

VA Loans are mainly used for properties that are “move-in ready” and are not usually used for a fixer-upper or a property such as a working farm. They can only be used for a primary residence and not for investment properties or vacation homes.

Even though a VA Loan does not require mortgage insurance, you will be required to pay a mandatory fee. The VA Funding Fee enables the VA to keep VA Loans available and can be paid all at once or rolled into the loan amount. The VA loan entitlement will not let you get a loan with just any co-borrower. You can find some lenders who lend a joint loan. One of the great benefits of a VA loan is there is no prepayment penalty. Making an extra payment or adding money on top of your monthly payment is not penalized like with some conventional mortgages.

If you are a military veteran and would like to obtain a VA loan, here are the steps to the process. Before you can be approved for VA loan entitlement, you must be prequalified for a loan. A lender will be able to prequalify you for what you can afford based on income, credit, entitlement and any other financial factors they require. Once a lender prequalifies you, then you must be preapproved. This is the step in the process where a lender will verify income and your financial information. Once preapproved, the lender will give you a preapproval letter. When searching for a home and placing an offer, you must make sure that the home is VA loan approved.

Once you place your property under contract you will begin the VA appraisal. The VA appraisal is a requirement to make sure the property under contract is of fair market value and meets the VA requirements. When the VA appraisal is cleared you will be able to close on your new home.  Remember when purchasing a home, VA loans represent the most powerful lending program on the market for military borrowers.

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When buying a home there are many steps to the process. Once you have made an offer, you need to make sure you have money for a down payment, but that is not all the money you will need to bring to the table. Many homebuyers do not take into account closing costs. This can come as an unpleasant surprise, but if you understand closing costs and have saved for them, the home-buying process will run much smoother.

First, you will need to understand what closing costs actually are. This is important to the buyer because most of the closing costs are the buyer’s responsibility. Closing costs consist of the many fees for the services and expenses it takes to finalize a mortgage. Typically they are broken down into property-related fees, loan-related fees, mortgage insurance fees, property tax and homeowners insurance and title fees.

More importantly, is how much are closing costs? The amount usually runs between 2% and 5% of your loan amount. So if you have a $300,000 home purchase, your closing costs would run between $6,000 to $15,000. The best way to pay for them is out of pocket all at once. Some lenders do allow you to finance them by merging them into the loan, but you will end up paying more because of interest over the life of the mortgage. Some states, counties and cities offer low-interest rate loan programs and grants for first time home buyer’s closing costs.

Next, let’s look at the property-related fees that are included in the closing costs. These include the appraisal fee and the home inspection fee. When purchasing a home you will need to know how much the property is worth and what shape the property is in. A certified professional appraiser will be sent to the home to evaluate the home’s worth. This is very important when obtaining a mortgage. The lender needs to know if the property is worth the amount that you want to borrow. A lender wants to make sure they can recoup the value of the home if you default on your loan. Typically the appraisal fee will run between $300 to $400. A home inspection is required when getting a mortgage. A lender wants to make sure the home is structurally sound and in good enough shape to live in. A home inspection fee usually runs between $300 to $500.

Other fees included are loan-related fees. First, there is the application fee which covers the costs of processing your application. These costs usually include credit checks and administrative expenses. Assumption fees can also be included when there is an assumable mortgage that you are taking over from the seller. Many states will require the use of an attorney at the closing. This will add attorney fees which will vary depending on the amount of work the attorney does for you. Pre-paid interest fees are also included. Lenders typically require you to pay the interest that accrues on the mortgage between the date of settlement and the first monthly payment due date. The biggest chunk of loan-related fees goes to the loan origination fee a.k.a the underwriting fee, administrative fee, or processing fee. This fee is the cost for the evaluating and preparing of your mortgage loan. This cost is about 0.5% of the loan amount. Just like a realtor, if you work with a mortgage broker, there will be a fee. A broker commission will usually be about 0.5% to 2.75% off the home’s purchase price.

Mortgage insurance fees are also included. These include mortgage insurance application fees, upfront mortgage insurance and FHA, VA and USDA fees. Mortgage insurance application fees are included if you make a downpayment of less than 20% of your mortgage. Upfront mortgage fees are there because many lenders require first-time borrowers to pay the first year mortgage insurance premium upfront. FHA, VA, and USDA fees will be tacked on if the Federal Housing Administration insures you, Department of Veterans Affairs, or the U.S. Department of Agriculture. For an FHA you will pay 1.75% of the loan amount, for the VA loan you will pay between 1.25% to 3.3% and the USDA will cost 1%.

Property taxes, annual fees and insurance will also need to be considered. Property taxes will cost about two months’ worth of city and county property taxes at closing. The homeowners association fees will also be required upfront as well as the homeowner’s insurance premium.

When purchasing a home one of the most important documents handled is the title. Title fees include the search fee (to make sure the title is clean and the seller really owns the property), the lender’s title insurance (this protects the lender in case there is an error in the title search) and owner’s title insurance (this protects the buyer if the title comes up with any problems).

So there will be no surprises before you go to closing, mortgage documents will be given to you prior to closing. The loan estimate and the closing disclosure are the two most important. The loan estimate details all the fees, interest rate and other closing costs for your loan and the closing disclosure confirms what was written in the loan estimate. These documents need to be read carefully before you go to closing.

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