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Six Things to do if You’re Preparing to Sell Your House
Selling a house is stressful. There just isn’t any way to sugarcoat it. But there are steps you can take to make the process a little easier – and a little more successful. Here are six things you need to do if you are about to put your house on the market.
1. Fix it up
That loose stair that you’re used to skipping every day; those holes in the wall behind the couch that resulted from an ill-fated indoor skateboarding incident – these are great examples of things you will want to address before you take any further steps to sell your home.
Even things that don’t pose a physical danger, like the peeling paint on your front door, still need to be worked on if you want your home to sell. Speaking of paint, now is the time to turn your neons into grays – if you have a lot of brightly painted rooms, consider painting them a more neutral color. Yes, people should look past things like paint color, but they often don’t, and it could make or break your success story with selling your house.
Okay, don’t literally try to become invisible – what we mean is that you and the personal touches in your home should not be the most obvious thing a potential buyer sees. It may sound a little harsh, but the goal is to help the buyer feel as though they can make their own home in your house, which is hard to do if you have monogrammed throw pillows covering every inch of the couch.
You don’t have to go through your hallways and take down every single photo, but, at least when you know there will be a showing, try to make your home more neutral all around.
3. Keep it Clean
If you have kids and/or pets, you know how difficult it can be to clean your home in a moment’s notice after a realtor contacts you about a showing. If possible, try to schedule showings in advance, rather than having people stop by anytime. However, since you don’t want to miss an opportunity to show off your house to a potential buyer, you should also try to keep your house “showing-worthy” as much as possible.
You can even practice with your family – assign everyone a specific job, and then give them a signal to start cleaning. See how quickly you can get it done, and soon you will all be pros.
4. Take a Walk on the Wild Side
And by “wild side,” we mean your yard. You may be so used to the out-of-control hedges by your mailbox that you don’t even notice them anymore. But a buyer will definitely notice. Ask a friend or neighbor to walk around your yard and point out some areas that may need a little TLC before you put your house on the market.
Addressing the details outside of your home is just as important as addressing the details inside of your home. Keep the yard mowed, pull the weeds, and give your house the royal treatment to help others see its full potential.
5. Practice Some Feng Shui
Your house is set up to perfectly suit you and your family, which makes sense. However, one size does not fit all when it comes to furniture preferences. Take a look at your current living room arrangement, for example – are there any “bottleneck” areas that disrupt the flow of movement through your home? What about the couch and chairs – do they allow for conversation and group gatherings?
Even if you don’t use your home for these things, interested buyers might, so showing them how they can make this house work for them as well as it has worked for you is important.
6. Be Flexible
Everyone has their own opinion about what looks good, right? So you may spend three hours painting a room a neutral color, only to be told the house looks too plain. You may pull up weeds all weekend and learn that someone thinks your yard is too bare. The truth is, you can’t please everyone, so don’t take every piece of feedback from potential buyers to heart.
If you receive the same feedback over and over again, it would be wise to give it serious consideration. But if one person thinks your kitchen is too small, too dated, too blue, or not blue enough, remember that sometimes your house just won’t be a fit for everyone.
The right buyer is out there – if you put the work in on the front end, you and your family can reap the rewards down the line. Give your house its best chance to be seen for all its beauty, and consult your realtor for any other ideas they have seen work for their clients. Happy selling!
Buying vs. renting: What’s the best move?
Many people make the decision daily on whether they want to buy or rent a home—however, it’s a choice that is not to be taken lightly. Like everything, there are various advantages and disadvantages to buying or renting a home. We’re here to break down those pros and cons to help make your decision process a little simpler.
Buying a home
Acquiring a home has numerous advantages that aren’t provided when it comes to renting. First, the financial benefits: when you purchase a home, you build equity. If the value of your home increases, then you have the opportunity to cash in on that value if you eventually sell. Also, there are potential tax benefits—if you choose to itemize deductions, you can itemize your mortgage interest when you file your tax return and thus cut your tax bill. Not only that, if you have a fixed-rate mortgage, you won’t need to worry about the rising cost of rent.
In addition to the financial perks, there are other substantial benefits. When you purchase a home, it’s truly yours. You don’t have a landlord to answer to, which means you don’t need to worry about seeking permission for home upgrades—you’re free to make all the renovations you desire. You also eliminate the possibility of your landlord selling the home and having to quickly scour for a new place.
Lastly, there are some intangible benefits. When you buy a home, you feel a sense of pride and accomplishment—you’ve finally achieved your lifelong goal of buying a home. While there is a sense of pride in being able to pay your rent and bills, finally reaching your goal of purchasing a home is an entirely different feeling. There is also a sense of belonging and stability. You now have a place you can truly call home for years to come.
Despite some of the amazing pros of purchasing a home, there are a few downsides to ponder. The most glaring drawback: it’s expensive. Let’s face it—buying a home costs a ton of money. Between closing costs, home inspections, and possible repairs, it can become egregious. It’s also a considerable amount of money upfront—a typical down payment is around 20% of the home’s cost. For example, if you are attempting to secure a home that costs $200,000, that would require a $40,000 down payment.
Another downside—when you own a home, repairs are solely your responsibility. From a new roof to broken air conditioning, there is an exorbitant number of things to be taken care of. Some things like fire, wind, or hail are covered by homeowner’s insurance. On a case by case basis, water damage is sometimes covered. However, the cost of home repairs can add up quickly and rapidly deplete your bank account.
Lastly, there is always potential to lose money if your home value declines. The environment, amenities, seasons, and maintenance are determinants of your home’s value. Bad schools, poor roads, or neighbors who neglect their property’s appearance are all factors that could drastically decrease the value of your home.
There are copious benefits when it comes to renting, like extreme flexibility. If you needed to quit your job, pack up, and move across the country, it’s more manageable to get out of a lease agreement than sell your home. Even if you wanted to move across the city, you have the freedom to do so, practically hassle-free.
Renting can also be significantly more affordable. It requires fewer upfront costs, aside from a security deposit, which is a fraction of what you’d spend on a down payment for a home. You also forego property taxes, which saves a notable chunk of money. You’re also not responsible for maintenance or repairs. All of those combined make your monthly payments more predictable—you’re not scrambling at the last minute for unforeseen costs.
While there are advantages when it comes to renting, like anything, there are also downfalls. One downside: your landlord can raise the rent, which could potentially cost you more in the long-run, compared to a fixed-rate mortgage. Factoring in the spiraling cost of rent is a tremendous thing to consider—according to CNBC, rents are rising at the fastest pace in two years. There are also no tax benefits, and there is no ability to establish equity. Various restrictions also apply when it comes to upgrades—most landlords won’t permit you to paint walls, install new appliances, or remodel. There is limited freedom on what you can change.
Deciding to purchase or rent a home is an enormous decision, and it’s not cut and dry either. There are various factors to think about when you’re questioning if you should continue renting or choose to make the big leap and acquire your own home. It’s critical to think about how long you want to stay in your home, how much money you have for unforeseen expenses, as well as if you’re carrying any debt. At the end of the day, it’s about you, your needs, and what works best for your lifestyle.
6 tips to save for your future home
So, you’ve decided you want to buy your first home. It’s an exciting time, but there are various things to consider—the most significant being a down payment. Standard down payments are approximately 20% of a home’s cost. If you’re purchasing a $200,000 home, your down payment could cost upwards of $40,000—that’s a considerable amount of money! It seems daunting to think about saving that much money, but it can be accomplished—here are some tips to help you start saving towards your first home purchase.
Determine a goal
If you haven’t already, determine how much you need to save. Set a definite goal and time frame, that way you have a tangible end within your reach. Then, set a monthly budget so you aren’t overspending and can accumulate as much money as possible. An essential thing to consider is ensuring you are debt-free—focus on paying off your debts before you acquire more. It’ll save you more stress in the long run if you pay off that student loan or credit card before making a big purchase like this.
If you already have a savings account, then great. However, there are more options than a traditional savings account that will help immensely when saving for a down payment. Look into a high-yield savings account or money market account. You’ll earn more interest than you would with a traditional savings account—the longer your money sits in the account, the more interest you earn, which ultimately puts you closer to attaining your goal of owning a home.
You can also consider a Certificate of Deposit, otherwise known as a CD. CDs enable you to set money aside for a predetermined time, so you earn a set amount of interest. There is less flexibility and liquidity, but this is ideal if you have a particular time frame where you want to meet your goal. However, it’s crucial to note that you could be subject to a fee if you prematurely withdraw funds.
Cut out unnecessary expenses
When you’re preparing your budget, look at where you spend the most amount of money. If it’s unnecessary, cut it out. Things like going out to dinner or buying coffee start to add up—if you spend $5 per day on coffee, that totals up to $25 per week. It doesn’t sound horrible, but if you proceed to do that weekly, it costs $1,300 per year. Shocking, right? Imagine how much closer you’d be to your down payment if you simply brewed that coffee at home.
Pause saving for retirement
Odds are, you’ve probably begun saving for retirement. It may seem strange not setting money towards your 401(k) at first, but just remember, it puts you that much closer towards your goal of owning a home. If that idea scares you, just remember—it’s only temporary. You can start putting money towards your retirement again once you’ve purchased your home. However, despite what some websites may say, absolutely do not withdraw from your retirement account. You could be slapped with penalties and taxes for withdrawing early.
Set aside your bonus
Got a bonus or tax refund? Be responsible: put it into your savings—you’ll be thankful you did when you’re relaxing in your cozy breakfast nook, sipping on a hot cup of home-brewed coffee. As tempting as it is to solely use your refund on a new wardrobe or a fancy dinner, every dollar counts when you’re saving for a home.
I can assure you, things are lying throughout your apartment and collecting dust. Scour and gather everything you’re not using, and sell them. Or, ditch the summer vacation. According to Business Insider, people fork over nearly $2,000 annually on summer vacations. I know—vacations are sometimes necessary, but foregoing your family trip this year will catapult you towards attaining your goal. Do you like animals? Start offering to pet sit or walk your neighbors’ dogs. Or, you could begin driving for a rideshare service or food delivery. Take that extra cash you earn and immediately put in your savings. You won’t miss it—I promise.
If you’ve done all of these but still need some backing, many credit unions offer down payment assistance programs for first-time home buyers. These programs help with home financing, loans for first-time buyers, and more. There are also various federal and state programs that offer similar support. However, it’s critical to keep in mind that you’ll pay more interest with a lower down payment.
Saving up for a home seems intimidating, and with such a large amount of money, it’s hard to imagine ever being able to save that much. These pointers will aid you in reaching your goal, so you can finally fulfill your aspiration of owning a home.
Have questions about buying your first home? We’re here to help!
The Lowdown on Down Payment Assistance
If you’re looking to buy a home, don’t let the fear of a big down payment hold you back. In today’s market, there are so many programs to aid you in the home buying process. So, even though a 20% down payment is typical, it isn’t always necessary. Keep in mind that you’ll pay more interest with a lower down payment, but make the choice that best suits you and your situation. Every home buying experience is different.
Learn about Georgia’s Own Mortgages
What are your options?
For starters, your credit union may offer special programs to help you purchase a home. Georgia’s Own has programs for first-time homebuyers and offers up to 100% financing on mortgage loans. There are also federal, state, and local first-time home buyer programs you may be eligible for, including:
- Dekalb First-Time Homebuyers Assistance Program
- Gwinnett Homestretch Down Payment Assistance
- Fulton County HOP (Home Ownership Program)
- Georgia Dream Homeownership Program
- U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
For more ways to save, try cutting out vacation time and expenses that you can afford to do without for a while. Set a strict budget and consider meeting with a financial advisor. It’s important not to empty out your savings completely to pay for a down payment, so explore all of your options before making a decision.
Are you really ready?
Regardless of how much you’ve saved for a down payment, buying a home is a big commitment – consider these factors before making a down payment so you’ll know that you’re ready.
- You won’t be clearing out your savings or emergency funds
- You’ll be staying at this home for at least five years
- You have a good credit score (720 or higher is best)
- You’ve paid off other loan debt (student loans, credit card bills, auto loans, etc.)
- Know all of the fees that come with buying a house rather than just the monthly mortgage payment
If you’ve got all your financial ducks in a row and now’s the time to buy, know that you don’t have to go it alone. Whether you’re still feeling a little overwhelmed or just want more personal help, contact a mortgage specialist to help find the best – and most affordable – way to get into your first home.
Want to know what a potential monthly mortgage payment might look like? Try out our mortgage payment calculator on our mortgage page.
How recent credit score changes may be helping you
Recently, the three major credit reporting agencies removed nearly all civil judgments and about half of all tax liens from consumer credit reports. It’s all part of the National Consumer Assistance Plan (NCAP), a series of changes initiated by Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian. The actions were the result of a study by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that identified problems with credit reporting and recommended changes to improve credit reporting, accuracy, and quality, and to increase consumer credit education.
Improved reporting requirements
Under the NCAP, in order for any public record to be included on a credit report, it must include the name, address, and social security number or date of birth of the consumer. The provider of the information must also visit the courthouse at least every 90 days to obtain newly filed or updated public records.
Non-compliant reporting raises credit scores
The bureaus estimated that over half of all the tax lien records and 95% of all judgments did not meet the new data criteria, which required them to be excluded. Because both judgments and tax liens negatively impact credit scores, some consumers may have seen a boost, depending on which credit scoring model was used.
The most common impact was an increase of 11 points, but 18% saw gains of 30+ points. People who saw the most significant jump started with a relatively low credit score. In contrast, almost 20% of consumers saw a decline in their credit score once collections were removed, but it was more likely because those consumers worsened their scores in other ways.
Mortgage rates may still be impacted
Just because judgments and tax liens won’t necessarily be reflected in your credit score, doesn’t mean, however, that you can escape the financial consequences that they bring, especially if you’re applying for a mortgage.
Mortgage borrowers who have a judgment or tax lien were found to be 5 ½ times more likely to go into pre-foreclosure or foreclosure, so many mortgage lenders still want to see this type of information. Fannie Mae, for example, requires their approved lenders to follow their Selling Guide, which requires borrowers to pay off delinquent credit, like judgments and tax liens, at or before closing.
If you’ve seen a bump in your credit score, good for you! Leverage the momentum and keep your score moving up. Pay every bill on time, keep your credit utilization low, and monitor your credit report. Reporting errors are not uncommon, so check your report regularly for inaccuracies.
To request a copy of your free credit report, visit www.annualcreditreport.com By law, you are allowed one free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the three major credit bureaus — Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.
Ready to “List It?” Here’s what you need to know before selling your home
Late spring or early summer is arguably the best time to list your home, according to Zillow. School’s out so families are ready to relocate, the warm sun is shining, your lush landscaping is in full bloom, and the longer days invite the opportunity for more showing time. The winner of peak home sales is June, so you’ll be perfectly positioned for the mad rush of eager buyers.
Timing, however, is not the only thing you need to factor into a successful sale. If you’re getting ready to put your home on the market, there are some other important things to consider:
Choose a listing agent
While many sellers would love to avoid paying a real estate commission and list their home on their own, it can be risky. Unless you have considerable experience and understand real estate law, listing your home “For Sale by Owner” could cost you significant time and money. Do your research and find a few licensed real estate agents who are experienced and well versed in your specific market. Interview each one and choose the agent who you feel has the most comprehensive marketing plan, can attract the most qualified buyers, is an effective negotiator, and who can be upfront an honest with you.
Gather important docs
Buyers like to see that a house is well maintained and that repairs and upgrades are done timely and by licensed contractors. A real estate agent should also be aware of any details that can be included in marketing your property. Gather warranties, instruction manuals, and receipts for repairs. Know the age of your home’s appliances, roof, furnace, air conditioning and hot water heater. Include the dates of any home improvement projects such as a bathroom or kitchen remodel, new carpeting or hardwood floor installation, room additions, and window replacements.
Order a pre-listing inspection report
When you’re selling your home, there’s nothing more disappointing than securing a contract and being surprised during the inspection process. Buyers have an easy out if anything of significance or too many items are found to be in need of repair. Hire a licensed inspector to perform a pre-listing inspection, and you’ll know about and have the opportunity to make repairs in advance. This will also alleviate much of the anxiety that accompanies the due diligence period.
Prepare your home for potential buyers
You want potential buyers to oooh and ahhh over your home, not comment on the mess and the clutter. Clear countertops, tables, windowsills, and all other visible areas. Also, don’t forget to straighten closets, cabinets, and drawers since buyers are always curious. You might even consider removing some furniture to make the space feel bigger. Rent a temporary storage unit, donate it, or sell it. You’ll have to decide what to do with it sooner or later, so why not now?
Depersonalize your living areas, too. Potential buyers want to envision themselves living in your home and not be distracted by family photos, keepsakes, or finger paintings. Try to create a blank canvas so they can project their own ideas and visions of a home.
Consider repainting for a fresh, crisp, and neutral look, touch up scuff marks, and make sure your home is clean–especially the kitchen and bathrooms. It’s also a good idea to ask your most honest, unbiased friend to perform the critical odor test. While not necessarily offensive, any distinctive smell in your home can be a deal breaker.
Staging can be a valuable service when selling your home. Professional stagers are design and space experts who evaluate your current furniture and accessory placement and recommend adjustments. They can rearrange what you already own or suggest that you rent or purchase some new items. In the end, they’ll help you take your decorating style to a new level while consciously making choices that are appealing to potential buyers.
Don’t ignore your curb appeal
You only have one chance to make a first impression. Your home’s curb appeal is critical to getting potential buyers in the door. Make them want to see more by mowing the lawn, mulching the gardens, pruning trees, and planting flowers. Consider painting the exterior of your home if it’s been more than five years and pressure wash your sidewalk and driveway. Be sure your mailbox is in good repair and add a plant or two to your front porch. Buyers do judge a book by its cover.
While a professional real estate agent can offer more specific suggestions for your home, these tips will help you get started. The preparation process may not be quick and easy, but in the end, it’ll have more eager, interested, and serious buyers knocking on your door.