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The Importance of Homeowners Insurance

In addition to providing shelter and comfort, our home is often our single greatest asset, and it’s important that we protect that precious investment. Most homeowners realize the importance of homeowners insurance in safeguarding the value of a home. However, what they may not know is that about two-thirds of all homeowners are under-insured.

 

What a Standard Homeowners Policy Covers

A standard homeowners insurance policy typically covers your home, your belongings, injury or property damage to others, and living expenses if you are unable to live in your home temporarily because of an insured disaster.

The policy likely pays to repair or rebuild your home if it is damaged or destroyed by disasters, such as wildfires, a winter storm, or lightning. Your belongings, such as furniture and clothing, are also insured against these types of disasters, as well as theft.

Some risks, such as flooding or acts of war, are routinely excluded from homeowner policies. Special coverage is needed to protect against these incidents. Your insurance company can let you know if your area is flood or earthquake prone. The cost of coverage depends on your home’s location and corresponding risk.

Other coverage in a standard homeowners policy typically helps cover the legal costs for injury or property damage caused to other people. For example, if someone is injured on your property and decides to sue, the insurance would cover the cost of defending you in court and any damages you may have to pay. Policies also provide medical coverage in the event someone other than your family is injured in your home. If your home is seriously damaged and needs to be rebuilt, a standard policy will usually cover hotel bills, restaurant meals and other living expenses incurred while you are temporarily relocated.

Keep in mind that homeowners insurance policies provide coverage for the owner(s) living in the home. If you plan on renting out your home, you’ll need to purchase landlord insurance in addition to your homeowners policy.

 

How Much Insurance Do You Need?

Homeowners should review their policy each year to make sure they have sufficient coverage for their home. The three questions to ask yourself are:

  • Do I have enough insurance to protect my assets?
  • Do I have enough insurance to rebuild my home?
  • Do I have enough insurance to replace all my possessions?

Here’s some more information that will help you determine how much insurance is enough to meet your needs and ensure that your home is sufficiently protected.

 

Protect Your Assets

Make sure you have enough liability insurance to protect your assets in case of a lawsuit due to injury or property damage. Most homeowners insurance policies provide a minimum of $100,000 worth of liability coverage. With the increasingly higher costs of litigation and monetary compensation, many homeowners now purchase $300,000 or more in liability protection. If that sounds like a lot, consider that even a dog bite claim can easily be tens of thousands of dollars. Talk with your insurance agent about the best coverage for your situation.

 

Rebuild Your Home

You need enough insurance to finance the cost of rebuilding your home at current construction costs, which vary by area. Don’t confuse the amount of coverage you need with the market value of your home. You’re not insuring the land your home is built on, which makes up a significant portion of the overall value of your property.

The average policy is designed to cover the cost of rebuilding your home using today’s standard building materials and techniques. If you have an unusual, historical or custom-built home, you may want to contact a specialty insurer to ensure that you have sufficient coverage to replicate any special architectural elements. Those with older homes should consider additions to the policy that pay the cost of rebuilding their home to meet new building codes. Finally, if you’ve done any recent remodeling, make sure your insurance reflects the increased value of your home.

 

Replacing Your Valuables

If something happens to your home, chances are the items inside will be damaged or destroyed as well. Your coverage depends on the type of policy you have. A cost value policy pays the cost to replace your belongings minus depreciation. A replacement cost policy reimburses you for the cost to replace the items.

There are limits on the losses that can be claimed for expensive items, such as artwork, jewelry, and collectibles. You can get additional coverage for these types of items by purchasing supplemental premiums.

To determine if you have enough insurance, you need to have a good handle on the value of your personal items. Create a detailed home inventory file that keeps track of the items in your home and the cost to replace them.

 

Create a Home Inventory File

It takes time to inventory your possessions, but it’s time well spent. This extra preparation also helps to keep your mind at ease.  The best method for creating a home inventory list is to go through each room individually and record the items of significant value. You can also sweep through each room with a video or digital camera and document each of your belongings. Your home inventory file should include the following:

  • Item description and quantity
  • Manufacturer or brand name
  • Serial number or model number
  • Where the item was purchased
  • Receipt or other proof of purchase / photocopies of any appraisals—along with the name and address of the appraiser
  • Date of purchase (or age)
  • Current value
  • Replacement cost

Pay special attention to highly valuable items such as electronics, artwork, jewelry, and collectibles. Simple inventory lists are available online.

 

Storing Your Home Inventory List

Make sure your inventory list and images are safely stored in case your home is damaged or destroyed. Keep them in a safe deposit box, at the home of a friend or relative, or on an online storage site. Some insurance companies provide online storage for digital files. (Storing them on your home computer does you no good if your computer is stolen or damaged.) Once your inventory file is set up, be sure to update it as you make new purchases.

We invest a lot in our homes, so it’s important we take the necessary measures to safeguard against financial and emotional loss in the wake of a disaster. Homeowners insurance is that safeguard. Be sure you’re properly covered.

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National Homeownership Month – First-Time Buyers

In recognition of National Homeownership Month, we’re shining a spotlight on the home buying process. Each home buying journey is unique, as are the challenges that people face en route to becoming a homeowner. These three stories of first-time homebuyers showcase the importance of working closely with an agent to navigate the buying process and find the perfect home.

 

Maria and Alvaro – Windermere Agent Team: The Brazens

Being first-time homebuyers, Maria and Alvaro knew they would have to adjust to the changes in the market. They were among a large influx of buyers buying during the pandemic, so they were aware that sellers had high expectations when it came to accepting an offer. A confluence of factors, including the pandemic, low interest rates, and many buyers’ desire for homes with more space, were igniting bidding wars left and right, with houses often going well above asking price. This also drove up listing prices on comparable homes in the area. These factors forced Maria and Alvaro to be flexible when it came to location and what they had previously considered “must-haves” for their ideal home at the beginning of their search.

They worked closely with their agents Taylor Brazen Tagge and Randi Brazen of The Brazens—a family-led real estate team based in Bellevue, Washington—to find the right competitive balance in what they were able to offer before hitting the market. This meant, in some cases, adjusting their expectations about what the “perfect” home was for them and having the patience to wait until they found it. They knew that when they time came; they would have to be aggressive in their approach.

Maria and Alvaro relied on Taylor and Randi throughout the buying process. The Brazen team’s knowledge of the Bellevue area provided the guidance and advice they were looking for to help them make informed decisions. The Brazens met with them at several showings, walked them through neighborhoods, and made themselves available to answer any and all questions they had along the way. The trust they formed in the early stages of working together laid a foundation for a friendship that translated to a successful experience navigating the market. They eventually found the home of their dreams, and although Maria and Alvaro miss working with the Brazens, they are grateful for the ultimate success of their home buying journey.

For Maria and Alvaro, homeownership is not just a financial investment; it is the start of a new chapter that will eventually provide the means for them to grow their family. They encourage buyers to be patient in finding their perfect home. It may be challenging at times, but the reward is so worth it.

 

Jocelyn – Windermere Agent: Nick Odermann

During her yearlong home search, Jocelyn’s expectations were quickly replaced with the reality of the hot housing market amid the pandemic. While touring homes, she realized that many listings were in worse condition than the photos implied, so she adjusted her expectations to remain levelheaded through the process. She experienced the pandemic buying frenzy first-hand when she was outbid multiple times and saw several homes sell for significantly higher prices than what they were listed for.

Luckily, Jocelyn had a trustworthy agent at her side by the name of Nick Odermann, who is one half of the Odermann Brothers team in Lake Oswego, Oregon. Together with his brother Steve, Nick helped Jocelyn navigate the challenges of finding a home in a seller’s market. Jocelyn was living in Southern California at the time, so she relied heavily on Nick’s judgement as he toured homes on her behalf. She had a specific vision of her dream home and Nick stayed true to it, quickly pointing out which homes would not suffice. When Jocelyn began to lose hope, Nick stayed positive. He was sure the perfect home was out there—and he was right.

For Jocelyn, homeownership is her path to adulthood. Now that she has a home, she looks forward to growing her pet care business. Becoming a homeowner was a major life goal of hers, and now that she’s achieved it with the help of her Windermere agent, she couldn’t be happier.

 

Jake – Windermere Agent: Taylor Hinds

It’s common for first-time homebuyers to learn as they go through the process, and Jake quickly discovered that information was the key to overcoming challenges. For example, he had no idea what earnest money was or that it was something he had to factor in on top of his mortgage. Learning that helped him work with his Seattle-area agent, Taylor Hinds, to form a strategy for making an offer.

Like the buyers above, Jake was buying in a hot seller’s market during the pandemic. He was surprised by how cash-ready sellers expected buyers to be. Luckily, he had a team behind him who were communicative and transparent throughout the whole process. When it came time to write a competitive offer, he leaned on Taylor’s expertise and advice to make the offer as attractive as possible, which eventually made all the difference in securing a home.

To Jake, homeownership means having a place to call your own, a place to be proud of. He looks forward to creating memories in his new home and building equity over time.

 

To begin your own home buying journey, connect with an experienced Windermere Real Estate agent today:

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What Is Landlord Insurance and Why Do You Need It?

If you are a landlord, it’s important to take steps to properly protect yourself and your property before the renters move in. Landlord insurance helps fill in the gaps of coverage where homeowners insurance policies don’t apply and allows you to rest easy knowing your home is sufficiently covered while tenants occupy your property.

 

What is Landlord Insurance?

While homeowners insurance provides coverage for a home occupied by its owner(s), landlord insurance covers properties that are rented to short-term guests or long-term renters. If you plan on renting out a room while you stay in the home, your homeowners insurance policy may offer coverage, but it depends on factors like the number of renters and the length of their rental agreement(s), so check your policy first.

A typical landlord insurance policy will cover the following:

Property Damage

Property damage insurance ensures your home is protected against damage caused by natural disasters, fire, electrical mishaps, and more while your home is being rented. This typically covers the home itself, any detached structures on the rental property such as ADUs or garages, and any personal property you use to maintain the home.

 

Liability

If a renter or visitor suffers an injury on your property, your landlord insurance will help cover their medical costs and, if legal action is taken, legal costs. Liability costs can snowball quickly, and it’s important to have coverage in place to protect yourself from having to pay out a lump sum for hospital bills or a settlement. For example, if a renter steps through a floorboard while walking on the deck and hurts their leg, a court may decide that a lack of property maintenance was the cause of the injury, thus leaving you responsible. However unlikely the scenario may seem, having coverage in place is better than the alternative.

 

Rental Income Loss

Homes are prone to accidents and issues that can render them uninhabitable. If this happens at your rental, you won’t see rental income until the problem has been fixed. Most policies provide reimbursement for lost income during a time when you’re unable to rent out the property, as long the cause of the underlying issue is covered. For example—if you live in a climate that’s conducive to mold growth, a rapid spread of mold could put a halt on renting your property. Accordingly, you’d want to make sure your policy provides adequate coverage against damage caused by mold.

 

Why Do You Need Landlord Insurance?

In short, renting out your property and having landlord insurance go hand-in-hand. Because homeowners insurance is unlikely to provide sufficient coverage for your rental, you’ll need a separate policy that covers you specifically as a landlord. When shopping around for landlord insurance, make comparisons based on the needs of your rental property. For instance, if you have separate dwellings on the property, prioritize additional structures coverage when looking at different policies. If you’re looking to bundle your landlord insurance with your existing coverage, keep an eye out for bundling discounts.

 

For more information on managing your rental, read our article on how to Give Your Rental A Competitive Advantage.

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Where to Stay While You Sell Your Home

The time between selling a home and moving into a new one can be a challenging period for homeowners that leaves them with a basic question: Where should I live? In the interim, there are various housing options to choose from but picking the right one depends on your personal situation and the amount of time it will take until you move into your new home.

Once you know it’s time to sell your home, there are various factors that will have an influence on what housing is available to you. Your budget will help determine your options. For example, if you are already in contract with your new home, you might be looking to save some money in preparation for move-in costs. Seasonality plays a role as well. Talk to your agent about real estate trends in your local market to understand which housing options tend to be available at certain times of year.

 

Image Source: Getty Images

 

Where to Stay While You Sell Your Home

 

In Your Home

There is the option to stay in your home while you sell it. If your home is still on the market, understand that a fully staged home will be fundamentally different from the one you’re used to. Once you’ve sold your home, there are additional options for staying as well. By working closely with your agent, you can negotiate a longer closing period or a rent-back agreement with the new owners. A rent-back agreement is an agreement between the two parties in which the seller rents their old home from the buyer for an agreed-upon period of time before the new buyers move in, allowing for a smooth transition to take place. Depending on the buyer’s urgency to move in and the competitiveness of the market, a rent-back agreement may not be feasible, but in the right situation it presents a mutually beneficial solution.

 

Apartment or Condo

Renting an apartment or condo while you wait to get into your new home can help make the transition easier. To avoid unpacking all your belongings only to have to pack them back up when it’s time to move again, try to find furnished listings in your area, or search for units that offer furnishing at an added cost. Although paying rent is an added expense, this set-up can help you stay organized throughout the moving process.

 

Friends & Family

If you have friends or family nearby that have space to accommodate you, they may be open to the idea of taking you in until you’re able to move into your new home. In this scenario, you’ll likely need to store your household items elsewhere, which will come with an added cost. Of all the options, this is typically the least expensive.

 

Short-Term Rentals

The short-term rental market offers a flexible approach to finding somewhere to stay. Filtering your results by location will allow you to select a place that won’t disrupt your daily routine. If you won’t be moving into your new home for an extended period of time, you can choose a rental with amenities accommodate your longer-term needs. Keep in mind, the cost of short-term rentals can easily add up, and in some cases may be more expensive than renting an apartment or condo.

 

Hotel

Another popular option for riding out the interim period between houses is staying at an extended-stay hotel. These hotels usually offer amenities that accommodate long-term living like a kitchen, living space, laundry services, a refrigerator, internet, and more.

For more information on selling your home, visit the Selling Page on our blog. To get an idea of what your home is worth, try our free home value calculator at the link below:

 

What’s my home worth?

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Designing Your Backyard for BBQs

Summer is the season of spending long days and nights out in the backyard and making home-cooked meals on the barbecue. Whether classic BBQ dishes like ribs and hamburgers or skewered grilled vegetables are more your style, these tips will help get your backyard in prime shape for grilling season.

 

Designing Your Backyard for BBQs

Some homeowners may choose to make their barbecue the focal point of their backyard, while others view it as something to accentuate more central features like a deck, patio, or outdoor kitchen. The grill alone will take up significant space, not to mention the crowd it can attract. With that in mind, avoid situating it in areas of high foot traffic, such as near the stairs of your deck or along a main walking path. You should also provide ample room between the barbecue and your backyard seating.

A simple charcoal grill is ideal for small spaces. It also allows you to be flexible with your barbecue setup. If you are hosting a gathering, you can simply move the grill if need be and rearrange your backyard to accommodate the occasion. Built-in barbecues provide a more robust grilling setup, while freeing up space on the deck or patio. Though built-ins are typically more expensive than a standalone grill, they are a hub for outdoor entertainment. For homeowners who enjoy grilling in the shade, or those who live in climates where it sometimes rains in the summer, covered barbecues may be the way to go. Pergolas, canopies, and awnings are all popular options for providing cover. Outdoor kitchens are the most comprehensive grilling setup. With countertop space, a sink, and the barbecue all within reach, all the prep work for your cookout can be done outside, right next to the grill.

 

Image Source: Getty Images

 

Once you’ve chosen the best barbecue for your backyard, it’s time to start designing around it. The right combination of seating will add the social touch to your barbecuing setup. Bench seating is a popular option for barbecuing on the deck, while tables and chairs out in the backyard lawn create more of a picnic-style feel. Installing a fire pit will bring an added element to you outdoor entertaining, helping to make the transition from an afternoon or evening barbecue into a night spent under the stars. Experiment with different fire pit styles to match the surrounding elements of your backyard. For those with built-in barbecues and outdoor kitchens, consider matching your fire pit’s stonework to tie the backyard together.

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Matthew Gardner: What You Should Know About Today’s Real Estate Market

Understanding the housing market is a matter of analyzing its many data sets. In a recent piece for Inman News, Windermere Chief Economist Matthew Gardner offered his perspective on recent U.S. pending sales, new-home sales, and existing-home sales figures.

If you’re involved in the housing market, and I assume that most of you are, you know very well that this is a numbers business. All of us are surrounded by housing-related data day in and day out, and it can become a little overwhelming at times — even for an economist like myself.

Well, today I’d like to take a few minutes to talk about just a couple of the datasets that I think are particularly important to track and offer you my perspectives on them.

 

Housing

There’s no doubt that the ownership housing market really was a beacon of light as we moved through the pandemic period. Even though the market paused last spring as COVID-19 hit the nation, it snapped back remarkably quickly, unlike many other parts of the U.S. economy that are still suffering today.

This is important, as housing is a significant contributor to the broader economy. For example, last year, spending on the construction of new homes, residential remodeling and real estate brokers fees amounted to around $885 billion or 4.2 percent of gross domestic product.

But the real number is far greater than that when you add in all spending on all household services. The total amount of money spent on housing in aggregate was around $3.7 trillion or 17.5 percent of the country’s economy.

So, we know that the housing market is a very important part of our economy, but can that number continue to grow? Let’s take a look.

 

Inventory

The chart below shows the number of single-family homes for sale going back to 1983. As you can clearly see, there’s never been a time — at least since records were kept at the national level — where they were fewer homes for sale at any one time.

And this is a problem because the biggest issue the market faces today is that demand for homes is far exceeding supply.

A report I track very carefully — and I am sure that many of you do, too — is the National Association of Realtors pending home sales index, which is shown below.

Although it’s not a perfect indicator, as the survey only covers about 20 percent of all homes that go pending, it does give us a pretty good idea as to what the future may hold given that, all things being equal, about 80 percent of pending homes close within roughly two months, making it a leading indicator.

Line graph titled “Pending Home Sales Index” that shows the 12-month percentage change, seasonally adjusted. Along the x axis are months from January 2019 to March 2021. On the y axis is percentages from -40% to +30% with a line through the graph marking 0%. The line shows a significant decreased in April 2020 from 10% in February 2020 to -35% in April 2020, then a quick recover peaking around 25% in August 2020. Source NAR.

You can clearly see the massive pull back last spring because of the pandemic, but this was very quickly followed by a very significant surge.

It pulled back again last winter, but I would suggest that this was more a function of lack of homes for sale than anything else. However, look at the March spike.

Now, you might be thinking that this is a great number, but I would caution all of you not to pay too much attention to year-over-year changes, as they can be deceiving. You see, the index jumped because it was being compared with last March when the pandemic really started.

 

Closed sales

When we look at closed sales activity, it actually lines up pretty well with the pending home sales index, which fell in January and February. This is reflected in the contraction in closed sales that we saw this spring. And if the index is accurate, it suggests we may see closed sales activity pick up again over the next couple of months.

Line graph titled “Existing Home Sales” in millions seasonally adjusted. Along the x axis is months from January 2021 and April 2021. On the Y axis is numbers between 3.0 and 7.0, increasing by half points. The line shows a sharp decrease in April 2020 and a quick recover with a peak at 6.7 in October 2020. Source is NAR.

Of course, any time where housing demand exceeds supply, there is a solution — and that would be to build more homes.

But as you can see here, though more homes started to be built as we emerged from the financial crisis, the number today is essentially the same as it was two decades ago and has been declining for the past two years.

Two line graphs next to each other, the slide is titled “New Homes for Sale” on the left is Single Family New Homes for Sale in the US in thousands, seasonally adjusted. Along the x axis is years from 2000 to 2020 and on the y axis is numbers from 0 to 700 in increments of 100. This graph shows a peak between 2006 and 2008 just under 600, with a sharp decline after that, the lowest point in 2021. With some recover, the line peaks again in 2020 just above 300. On the right is New Homes for Sale by Stage of Construction. The light blue line is not-started, the green line is completed, and the navy blue line is under construction. Not-started is consistently the lowest number between 2000 and 2018, but in 2019 it rises above the green line. The navy blue line is consistently on the top of the graph, which a small dip that goes below the green line in 2009. Source: Census Bureau.

That’s significant, as the country has added over 12 million new households during the same period which has further fueled demand for housing. If there are no new homes to buy, well, that does one thing — and that’s to put more focus on the resale market, which has already led to very significant price increases.

 

New home market

But this particular report also offers some additional data sets, which I think give more clarity to the state of the new home market.

Before the housing market crashed, you can see that a majority of new homes that were on the market for sale were being built at that time, but — as the housing bubble was bursting — the market dropped, and the share of homes that were finished and for sale naturally rose.

But what I want you to look at is the far right of the chart above. You see the spike in the share of homes for sale that have not yet been started?

Well, given the massive increase in construction costs builders have, understandably, become far more cautious and are trying to sell more homes before they start to build them to mitigate some of the risk. It also tells me that they see demand that is not being met by the existing-home market and are looking to take it advantage of this.

When we look at new home sales, you can see that the trend, in essence, follows the number of homes for sale, but I would caution you on a couple of things.

Two graphs side by side, the slide is titled “New Home Sales” on the left is a line graph of us single family new home sales in thousands. On the x axis is dates from 2006 to 2020 and on the y axis is numbers from 0 to 1,600 in increments of 200. The line shows the peak in 2006 at 1,400 with a sharp decline afterwards until it bottoms out in 2010 at around 200. From there there’s a slow recover, with a peak in 2021 at around 1,000. On the right is a clustered column graph titled New Homes Sold by Stage of Construction. The green bars represent not started, the light blue columns represent under construction, and orange shows the completed projects. On the x axis is months from January 2020 to April 2021 and on the y axis I percentages from 20% to 45% in 5% increments. From Jan 2020 to July 2020 the orange bars representing completed are the highest bars, but from August 2020 to March 2021, the blue bars are the highest showing that homes under construction were the most common new homes purchased. Source: Census Bureau.

Firstly, these figures do not represent closed sales, as the Census Bureau, which prepares this dataset, considers a home sold once it has gone under contract. This makes sense, as a home can be sold before it has even broken ground. In essence, it’s more similar to NAR’s Pending Home Sales Index than anything else.

Look now at sales by stage of construction on the right. You can see that, as the pandemic was getting started, new homes that were ready to move into were what buyers wanted, and that accounted for over 42 percent of total new sales in April.

As the supply of finished homes dropped, homes that were being built took the lion’s share of sales — as they have done historically. However, look at April. The greatest share of sales — 37.7 percent — were homes that hadn’t yet been started.

Again, this supports the theory that builders remain cautious given ever-escalating costs, but it also shows that buyers’ needs are not being met by the resale market, so they were willing to wait, likely a considerable time, for their new home to be built.

Of course, the couple of datasets I’ve shared with you today are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the housing-related numbers you should all be tracking, as they can tell a story that can impact everyone involved in the development or sale of homes.

Mortgage rates

In addition to the data we have discussed today, you should be well versed in mortgage rate trends, demographic shifts, building permit activity and the economy in general — and you need to understand all these numbers at a local as well as national level.

For the vast majority of households, buying a home will be the most expensive thing that they will ever purchase in their lives. And given memories of the housing crash, as well as the significant increase in home prices that we’ve seen since last summer, it’s now more important than ever for you to be able to share your knowledge with your clients and be able to advise them accordingly.

 

Windermere’s Chief Economist, Matthew Gardner, often contributes to local and national publications with his insights to the housing market. Recently he offered his analysis of home sales numbers to Inman News, this is a repost of that video and article

For more market news and updates from Matthew Gardner,

visit our Market Update page.

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5 Mistakes to Avoid After Pre-Approval

Getting pre-approved is a great first step for buyers, but there can be a number of hurdles in the process. Here are a few cautionary steps that can be taken to make the experience as smooth and worry-free as possible.

 

Pre-Approval

Getting pre-approved has many benefits for buyers: it strengthens their buying power, assists in identifying their price range, helps communicate their preparedness to sellers, and, once their offer is accepted, helps to speed up the closing process.

Pre-approval is broken down into two steps: pre-qualification and pre-approval. During pre-qualification, buyers will share their financial information with their bank or lender to understand the approximate loan amount they can expect to qualify for. The pre-approval process is a little more involved, as the lender will conduct a thorough review of the buyer’s financial health to give them a more detailed picture of how much they can borrow, estimated monthly costs, and what interest rate they can expect on their loan.

 

Image Source: Getty Images

 

Mistakes to Avoid After Pre-Approval

Being pre-approved doesn’t mean buyers are all set. There are certain mistakes that can throw buyers off course, and in some cases, lead to a denial of financing. Here are five common mistakes that can do just that:

  1. Large Purchases

    Any large purchases—credit or cash—made after getting pre-approved can easily cause trouble for buyers. Making a large credit purchase equates to increasing debt, which raises a buyer’s debt-to-income ratio. Large cash purchases decrease a buyer’s cash-readiness from the time when they were pre-approved. In both scenarios, the lender may call into question a buyer’s ability to make their mortgage payments.

 

  1. Quitting or Changing Jobs

    Knowing that a buyer has a stable source of income is important to lenders. Accordingly, it is best for a buyer to wait until after the home loan process is complete before taking steps to change their employment. Not only could changing jobs potentially put their mortgage pre-approval at risk, but it could also delay their settlement, since it takes time to prove a new salary.

 

  1. Unpaid Bills

    Missing bill payments can be especially harmful to a buyer’s candidacy in the time between getting pre-approved and closing on the home. During pre-approval, lenders are using your ability to pay bills on time to help them paint a picture of your finances and it’s important to keep that picture consistent.

 

  1. New Credit

    Opening new credit accounts will likely change a buyer’s credit score, which may cause adjustments in their interest rate. Lenders, upon seeing a new line of credit, even a store credit card, may elect to review the buyer’s risk of non-payment.

 

  1. Paying Off Debt

    While most people would think paying off debt is a good thing, if a buyer pays off any significant loans or credit card debt after pre-approval, their lender will want to know where the money came from. The decrease in debt will also have an effect on the buyer’s debt-to-income ratio, which may alter their creditworthiness.

 

The period of time between pre-approval and closing on a home can be a tedious one for buyers. Before making any significant financial decisions, it’s helpful for buyers to speak with their lender to get an idea of how it may impact their financial standing. The complexities of this process also highlight the importance of working with an experienced agent.

For assistance planning a home purchase, connect with a Windermere Real Estate agent here: Connect With An Agent

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Preparing Your Equestrian Property for Sale

Selling a horse property is quite different to selling your typical single-family home and can present some unique challenges. Therefore, when marketing a property like this, there are certain things to consider in order to achieve a successful sale. Because equestrian properties aren’t usually located in heavily populated areas, when buyers take the time to visit your property, you need to do everything you can to make a lasting impression. Having an equestrian property is a major responsibility, but if you convey to interested buyers the value and joy it can bring, it will help with getting your property sold. Here are some ways you can prepare your equestrian property for sale.

Sell the Lifestyle

How your property is described and positioned in the marketing assets is key. You are selling a lifestyle, so it’s worthwhile to talk up the experience that comes from owning such a unique property. Elaborate on nearby vets, feed lots, co-ops and grocery stores. Describe the nearby trail rides and point out if there are neighborhood riding clubs.  Paint the picture of what a potential buyer’s life could look like when they buy your property. Will they be enjoying the sunset on the patio overlooking the pasture? Does a stream trickle by the patio creating a relaxing ambiance? Can you watch the horses play in the field from the bedroom window? These are the visuals images that can capture a buyer’s imagination.

Organize your Documents

There are certain legal documents and records that come with owning and operating an equestrian property. Make sure you have the title and any land surveys or improvement location certificates ready to go as you prepare the property for sale. In addition to legal documents, make sure your agricultural records are current and updated. This includes plant health analyses, well permits, water or mineral rights, grazing leases or anything relating to natural resources on your property. Many buyers will ask to see records of past water and utility bills as well. This will make the process that much easier when you know the logistics have been taken care of.

Stage for Buyers

More than likely, the buyers who are touring your property either own horses or have been around equestrian properties before. Therefore, you will want to make sure the property appeals to horse owners. This includes making sure your fencing is intact, locks are secure, the barn is clean, and the pastures are mowed to perfection. This will also show buyers that they too can make the property look exactly the way they envision.

The Price is Right

A major factor in attracting buyers is the listing price. It’s important to work closely with an Equestrian Advisor who specializes in selling horse properties to ensure that yours is priced accurately. When potential buyers see that your equestrian property is properly priced, they are more likely to view it as a good investment. If you plan to include any equipment like a tractor, mower or other large items in the sale, price those separately and do not include them in the list price of your home. This will ensure that your property is listed at an appropriate price and that buyers will pay the necessary sales tax on those items outside of closing.

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Selling a Home with Pets

For pet owners, it’s hard to imagine their home without a furry friend. However, when it comes time to sell, showcasing the qualities of a home should take precedence over the pets that live in it. This creates additional steps in the process of preparing your home for sale, but it makes all the difference in the minds of buyers.

 

Staging Your Home

A well-staged home makes it appealing to the widest variety of buyers and has significant ROI potential when it hits the market. However, having a pet can complicate the staging process. Buyers may lose interest in the home if they see traces of pets, so it’s a good idea to hide any and all signs of their presence.

It’s especially important to hide evidence of your pet in marketing photos. Prepare for your home’s listing photos by cleaning and vacuuming, making sure all pet stains are gone and any pet-related damage is repaired. Stow any pet carriers, cages, toys, food bowls, and other supplies that may hinder the photographer’s ability to capture the essence of a room.

 

Showing Your Home

Before inviting potential buyers inside, it’s best to give your home a deep clean to improve your home’s air quality, and to rid your carpets, flooring, and surfaces of pet odors and any dirt they may have tracked in over time. If you’re using your own furniture, vacuum and clean everything to extract as much fur and pet dander as possible. Talk to your agent to see if it’s a better idea to stage your home with rented furniture. If your pets have caused any damage in the home, make repairs or replacements as needed. After tending to your home’s interior, don’t forget to clean up after your pets in your yard as well. Fill in any holes in the lawn, freshen up your flower beds, and tidy up any areas of the landscaping where your pets may have dug.

After you’ve prepared your home for showings, there’s the question of what to do with your pets once buyers actually start taking tours. Ask a family member, friend, pet sitter, or neighbor to watch your pets while the showings take place. If you’re not able to find someone to watch them, form a strategy to temporarily relocate your pets during showings. If they must stay in the home, garage, or backyard during tours, it’s best to give buyers advanced notice that there are pets on the property. Talk to your agent about posting signage communicating their presence so that there are no surprises as guests make their way through the house.

Taking all these precautions will help to present your home in the best light without detracting certain buyers, for whom the signs of a pet may cause them to lose interest. On the other hand, if any buyers inquire about how the home can accommodate their pet, you and your agent will be more than ready to answer any questions they may have.

 

Selling Your Home

For more information on the process of selling your home, visit the Selling Page on our blog. To get an idea of what your home is worth, try our free home value calculator below:

What’s My Home Worth?

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7 Weekend Home Projects

So many projects, so little time. That tends to be the mantra for homeowners with an ever-growing to-do list and limited availability to accomplish their tasks. Fortunately, the weekend is an opportunity to dig into certain projects and see them to their completion by the time the weekdays come around again. These seven weekend home projects can be accomplished within a couple of days and will make a dent in your to-do list.

 

1. Upgrade Your Kitchen Cabinets

Giving your kitchen cabinets a facelift is a simple way to give your kitchen a makeover. When staining wood cabinets, begin by removing the cabinet doors and hardware, then wipe the doors to clear away and dust and dirt. After applying and removing wood stripper, sand the doors to get them primed and ready for a new stain. When painting cabinets, choose a color that works well with your appliances. As you pack up the contents of the cabinets keep your most frequently used items nearby so you can access them during your  project. To add a finishing touch to your weekend cabinet makeover, shop around for new hardware and drawer inserts.

Image Source: Getty Images

2. Refresh Your Front Entry

Your home’s front entry is the key to making a lasting first impression and helps to enhance your curb appeal. Make a statement by giving your front door a fresh coat of boldly colored paint, look for stylish house numbers, and add classic front entry elements like a sitting bench or swing for ultimate comfort.

 

3. Improve Your Home Office

Whether you work remotely or in person, much can be done in a weekend to improve the functionality of your home office. Creating an environment conducive to your productivity helps to separate your office from the rest of your home, maintaining a balance between your work life and your home life. Situate your desk near a window to attract natural light. If the room has no windows, orient your seating so you’re facing the open space of the room. Experiment with therapy lights, ergonomic chairs, and soothing décor to make your office as comfortable as can be.

 

4. Curate Your Bathroom

In one weekend your bathroom can be transformed into a sanctuary of self-care. Refinishing your tub is a cost-effective alternative to a replacement. Start by removing any and all hardware, then sand the whole surface, filling in any cracks or holes with putty. Once you’ve sanded down the putty, apply multiple layers of primer and topcoat following the manufacturer’s instructions and buff the surface. Replace your vanity’s cabinet hardware and drawer pulls, matching them with your shower rod, faucet and shower head to tie the room together. Switch out your shower curtain and carpets for bold colors to liven up the space or choose neutral tones to create an organic feel.

 

A bathroom with a dark blue vanity, white walls, and white tile.

Image Source: Getty Images

5. Organize Room-By-Room

Spending a weekend organizing each room of the house is sure to make a big difference in the look and feel of your home. Bookcases and coffee tables are magnets for clutter in the living room. Start by emptying everything and sort the items into three piles: keep, dispose, donate, (this method of organization will do wonders for your closets and bedroom as well), and invest in storage bins to keep the space tidy. In the bathroom, organize the medicine cabinet and vanity drawers first. Get rid of expired medication, makeup, and toiletries. Take the same approach to your shower. Once you’ve gone through everything, reassess your shower shelving to fit your newly organized inventory. After working your way through your kitchen cabinets, consider either a hanging or wall-mounted pot and pan rack to save space.

 

6. Fix Up Your Fence

Whether your fence needs a simple wash, a new sealant or stain, or repair, tending to it will freshen up your yard while also extending the life of your fence. Power washers are a helpful tool in getting your fence clean before re-staining, but a sprayer that’s too powerful could damage the wood. Let the fence dry for one to two days before applying the stain. As long as any damage that needs repair is contained to a section of the fence, a weekend should be plenty of time to get it fixed. To replace any damaged rails, pry them off their posts with a crowbar or cut the damaged section out with a handsaw. When repairing fence posts, be sure to remove any rails that are connected to it.

 

7. Build a Firepit

Common firepit materials include brick, stone, or cinder blocks. Outline your firepit before you start digging. Once the hole is dug six to eight inches deep, fill in the hole with gravel until it is level with the ground. Choose your materials, fix the stones into the ground, compact them together, and enjoy your time by the fire. Check for local burn bans or regulations.

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