4 Tips for Choosing a Real Estate Agent

Whether you’re buying or selling a home, choosing a real estate agent is one of the most important decisions you’ll make. A great agent has your best interests at heart, understands the market and works to get you the best deal. 

Finding one who fits your needs is crucial to having a great experience and getting the most for your time and money. Use these tips for choosing a real estate agent:

Interview several agents before choosing. Start with referrals and some online research, then speak to your top three picks. There are a variety of questions you should ask, but you also want to make sure you generally like and trust the person.

Check their marketing plans. How will your house get in front of the potential buyers who need to see it? Take a close look at the agent’s listings, website and social media pages to see if they’re updated regularly and with engaging content. 

Learn about their experience. Years are a good sign, but it’s not the only measure of experience and success. Do they have any special credentials? How many sales do they close every year?

Find out how they communicate. Do you prefer to text, call or email? Find an agent who can communicate using your preferred method, and ask how often you can expect to hear from them. You want someone who will keep you in the loop and be available to answer your questions as they arise. 

Are you in need of a great agent who can help guide your sale or purchase? Get in touch today for a personalized recommendation.

5 Advantages of Owning Your Home

You’ve spent years handing over your hard-earned cash to a landlord. But what do you really have to show for it?

Life as a renter can be frustrating, as well as expensive. But is the huge financial commitment of homeownership actually a viable alternative to renting? You may be surprised to know that the answer is usually “yes.”

Purchasing a home can be more beneficial than continuing to rent. These five reasons will prove it:

  1. Cheaper Payments: With rental rates on the rise, low fixed-rate mortgage payments can be a more affordable option. And while purchasing a home could require a large deposit upfront, the chances of recovering those initial costs increase the longer you stay in the home.

  2. Tangible Value: Unlike renting, homeownership is a long-term investment that stands to provide a substantial return. Quality properties in sought-after locations tend to appreciate in value. And, as you pay down your mortgage, your home equity will increase.

  3. Community Ties: As a homeowner, you’ll be more invested in your community and have an incentive to get to know your neighbors. In fact, 30% of homeowners make friends with their neighbors — something renters are far less likely to do.

  4. Freedom: Rental properties come with rules and regulations. That often means no painting, no remodeling and — perhaps worst of all — no pets. And even if pets are allowed, you’re likely to be paying exorbitant pet deposits and monthly fees. As a homeowner, you can customize your home at will and keep your pets!

  5. Tax Benefits: While it’s true that homeownership comes with additional expenses, some of those costs might actually be tax-deductible. They may include mortgage interest, property taxes, energy-efficient updates and private mortgage insurance premiums.

And these five advantages are just the beginning — you’ll also enjoy more privacy, less noise and no more pesky landlords. So yes, homeownership can be better than renting.

Ready to become a homeowner? Get in touch for a mortgage consultation today.

Buying a Home When You’re Self-Employed

While being an independent contractor, freelancer or entrepreneur can certainly be a freeing career choice, it also comes with some challenges. For instance, it can make getting a mortgage loan harder.

Without W-2s, a consistent salary and an employer to back you up, it’s harder to prove your income as a self-employed professional — let alone show you’re not a risk as a borrower.

Are you planning to buy a home or refinance while self-employed? These five tips could improve your chances of approval:

  1. Get your finances in order. You’ll need to prove your income through bank statements, invoices, profit-and-loss statements and balance sheets. Be sure they’re ready and organized before applying for your loan.

  2. Reduce your tax write-offs. Maxing out your deductions can seem smart, but when a home loan is on the line, it can actually hurt you. The more write-offs you take, the lower your income looks, meaning you seem like a riskier bet.

  3. Boost your credit score. Higher credit scores are always more appealing when it comes to getting a loan, so take time to improve yours. Pay down debts, settle any overdue accounts and ensure your credit report is accurate.

  4. Bring in a co-borrower. When you add a second borrower to the loan, their income is factored in, too. Make sure you choose a co-borrower with good credit, a low debt-to-income ratio and steady pay.

  5. Keep your work consistent. Don’t switch industries just before applying for your loan. It’s best if you’re in the same line of work for at least two years.

Getting a mortgage while self-employed certainly has its challenges, but it’s not impossible by any means. Reach out today for more home financing guidance.

Why use a local mortgage professional?

If you’re thinking about buying pretty much anything today, it’s second nature to start looking online. But purchasing a home isn’t like buying a new pair of shoes. If you want to find the best deals and services, it’s time to put down your smartphone.

When you’re ready to work with a mortgage professional, you should work with a local advocate who will take the time to get to know you and understand your interests. Here’s why it pays to take your search offline:

  1. Better Service: Working with someone locally means partnering with someone who knows the ins and outs of homebuying in your area. They can also better gauge your situation and offer you the best loan options for your unique financial situation. On the other hand, an “instant quote” online may not take the more subtle aspects of your finances into consideration; they simply match you with “cookie-cutter” plans that are notorious for offering worse terms and higher interest rates.

  2. More Stability: Online services are often less stable than local, brick-and-mortar ones. The former are usually newer and less established, which makes it more likely for them to go out of business — causing you more hassle in the long run.

  3. Personalized Attention: When you enter your information into a standard lender comparison tool, you’ll get quotes from those in their database, but that may leave out great lenders in your area. Instead of sharing your information with many people you don’t know (and receiving endless marketing calls as a result), in-person consultations will maintain your privacy and ensure that you get a quality face-to-face interaction.

Are you planning on buying a new home? Or are you ready to refinance your current place? Reach out today.

Which problems might be deal breakers?

You’ve been to so many open houses that you’re starting to feel like a real estate expert. But it paid off! You finally found your dream home and made an offer.

But the time for making big decisions isn’t over. One question you probably have is: Do I really need to pay to get an inspection?

While an inspection is not always an absolute requirement, you should get one to rule out any major issues. Not all problems are deal breakers — you’ll likely just overlook that unpainted deck or loose doorknob.

Of course, some more severe issues may crop up during the home inspection:

  • Electricity and wiring troubles can be dangerous if the electrical system is outdated. But they’re merely an inconvenience in some cases. For example, some older systems can’t accommodate the power demands of modern appliances.

  • Foundational issues are hugely problematic and can run up quite a tab. Plus a home’s age doesn’t always factor into whether or not it has a faulty foundation. If the owner refuses to fix cracks (especially horizontal ones), it may be best to walk away.

  • Problems with doors can indicate greater issues, like overexposure to water. Structural complications can also lead to defective doors.

  • Exterior caulking that has deteriorated can lead to water damage, mold and greater long-term defects in your home.

So what can you do to protect yourself from a house with these issues?
The short answer is “inspection contingency.” Make sure you have one in your contract when you make your offer — before the inspection takes place. You could make the sale contingent upon negotiating repairs or price with the seller if the inspection reveals major issues. It also gives you the ability to walk away if a deal can’t be negotiated.

Each situation will be different, and it will depend on the home, the seller and your preferences.

Have questions about financing your home purchase? Get in touch today.