If You Had a Do-Over…

If you’re like a lot of people, you learn by doing. When it comes to buying a home for the first time, a lot of learning takes place in the form of mistakes. Purchasing a home is a major investment, and first time buyers are more educated than ever thanks to the internet and other technology. Still, you don’t know what you don’t know, and first time buyers don’t always know the right questions to ask, sometimes causing home buying newbies to miss out on useful information. Here are a few tips from first time buyers who will do things differently next time.

First Time Buyers

Talk to a mortgage broker long before you are ready to buy. 

If you make great money, have cash in the bank and an excellent credit score, you are probably well on your way to buying that first home. If you aren’t sure of your credit score, whether you have enough credit, or whether your household income is sufficient to help you qualify for the type of home you’d really like to live in, talk to a mortgage pro now, before you need them. If buying a home is out of your grasp for any reason, a qualified, experienced mortgage professional can guide your next steps and help you gear up to qualify for a home loan; this beats finding out by surprise that you can’t buy a home 3 months down the road, even though your lease will be up and you’d really like to buy at that time.

Talking to a mortgage broker will help clarify items like:

  • How much money should you have in the bank?
  • Are your student loans in good standing?
  • Is your debt to income ratio acceptable? If not, how can you fix it?
  • Is your income adequate?
  • Do you have enough/too many lines of credit open?

If you’re on the fence, buy sooner – not later. 

In many cases, renting your home is akin to throwing money away; you are basically paying your landlord’s mortgage, and not getting anything more than shelter out of the deal. If you can buy, do it. Invest wisely, but don’t wait to buy if you know you’ll be in a particular area for 3-5 years or more. Many first time buyers wish they’d pulled the trigger sooner.

Get prequalified for a loan before you shop. 

Even if you are starting your home search online, as many buyers do, you’ll want to be prequalified before you begin searching in earnest for your first home. It is heartbreaking to find the perfect $350,000 home only to learn you qualify for a maximum loan of $275k. A realistic home search is the right home search for you, and you’ll enjoy the process more (and waste less time) when you know you are looking at homes in your price range. The key term is PREQUALIFIED, not preapproved. A preapproval letter is informal and doesn’t offer the official status of prequalification, which means you are qualified by a bank or other lending institution to borrow up to a certain amount.

Work with an experienced Realtor. 

An experienced Realtor will provide helpful tips on the search process, aides in negotiating the deal, and handles all the details of your transaction. Especially in a fast-moving marketplace, it is vital to have a professional representing your interests in the transaction. Even if you are planning a purchase a year or two from now, it doesn’t hurt to interview Realtors in your area to find the right professional to assist in your home search. Most Realtors can keep an eye out for homes that match your specifications and email you property matches on a regular basis so you can keep an eye on the marketplace as you prepare for your future purchase.

Conduct a home inspection – and ask a lot of questions. 

The home inspection is a chance to test drive your future home. Bring a notebook and a pen and don’t be afraid to ask the inspector questions or clarify anything he/she says during your inspection. Before the inspection, confirm whether the inspector will get up on the roof or go into the attic. Hire an experienced inspector, not a newbie and not the cheapest guy you can find. Home inspection is imperative for first time or 10th time buyers. Even if the seller is unlikely to make repairs, I wouldn’t recommend any buyer purchase a home (even new construction) without a detailed home inspection. Make notes about items you need to learn more about and improvements or repairs the inspector recommends, then follow through. You should receive a detailed report afterward; ask the inspector to include notes about recommendations he/she has made about systems within the home, landscaping concerns (such as improper soil grade away from the home for drainage), condition of electrical or plumbing, etc.

Purchasing a home is the most significant investment most people will make in a lifetime, and buying your first home is sure to be a meaningful transaction. Prepare thoughtfully for success and your diligence will pay off.

Jack Meyers

The Meyers Group
jackestate@aol.com 
303.263.3050
Twitter: @jackestate

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Home Improvement MISTAKES for Future Sellers

Mom & Pop may have lived their entire lives in the same cozy home in Pleasantville, but chances are good the home you live in now may not be your forever home. The average American will move 11.4 times in their lifetime (maybe that “.4” is just switching bedrooms!), although figures vary depending on age and income level. When you are considering a permanent update to your home (flooring, appliances, structural changes or additions, landscaping, etc.), you should consider not only your budget and preferences, but the likes and dislikes of future buyers. Not every improvement will net you a 100% return, and some renovations may even hurt your chances of a top-notch home sale down the road. Here are a few home improvement mistakes to avoid:

Home Renovation

  1. Painting over desirable vintage surfaces. If you’ve got ugly wood paneling from the seventies and can’t afford to replace it, by all means bring out the paint. If you have charming exposed brick, think long and hard before you paint if white for your preferred “shabby chic” look. Many people love the look of exposed brick, and paint is nearly impossible to remove from brick. If you will likely move in less than 10 years, consider leaving it alone and focus on other updates.
  2. Choosing a garish shade of paint or siding. There are ways to win the color war in terms of your home’s exterior. Brick red with crisp white shutters, sunny yellow in the right neighborhood, navy blue … these shades can be winners in the right settings, but in the long run your safest bet is neutral shades like taupe, gray or neutral greens.
  3. Covering up hardwood flooring. If your home has hardwood flooring in refinishable condition, consider going that route rather than covering it up with wall to wall carpeting. More than half of buyers prefer hard surface flooring to carpet, and a professional refinishing job will last for years. If you love the feel of carpet underfoot, buy the largest rug you can afford. You’ll enjoy the soft texture on your tootsies and protect your hardwood floor as well.
  4. Installing a backyard pool. Pools make for all kinds of family fun – but they also come with liability concerns and increased homeowners insurance. Buyers that are initially lured in by the cool factor may have second thoughts when they consider the upkeep and undesirable extras that can accompany poolside living. The same goes for hot tubs. A small percentage of buyers will see it as a bonus, but buyers with germaphobia (or small children) will only see it as a headache.
  5. Forgetting to let the light in. You may enjoy blackout darkness in your bedroom when the sun rises and you’re trying to catch a few more zzz’s, but prospective buyers will best picture themselves in a sunny, well lit home. Don’t neglect lighting in your interior projects. Include plenty of ambient and task lighting in the form of dimmable overhead lights, undercabinet lighting and lamps. When your house is on the market, lighten up window treatments if necessary and keep them open to let in as much natural light as possible.
  6. Go easy on accessibility. If you have outfitted your home with stairlifts, step-in bathtubs or entryway ramps to accommodate your own needs or those of a loved one, consider minimizing these elements at the time of sale. For individuals or families who don’t require or desire these items, they can be a distraction and add age to the feel of a home. In some cases these elements may be necessary to the safety or comfort of the people living in your home. If that’s the case, renovate as necessary – but do so knowing you may need to undo these changes at the time of sale or accept a longer period of time on the market or lower price at the closing table.
  7. Ignoring outdated fixtures. Gleaming brass is so 1989 – and not in a fun retro way, either! Replacing dated knobs and fixtures on doors, bathrooms and in kitchens can add up, but if you know you’ll sell in the future, pick a classic finish like polished chrome or satin nickel and replace your knobs and fixtures over time as you can afford to do so. Start with most-used spaces (master bedroom, public bathroom, kitchen faucet) and work your way through the home a room or space at a time.
  8. Splurging on high maintenance countertop materials. You may love high end carrera marble or soapstone countertops, but these materials have a high level of maintenance to match their hefty initial price tags. Consider instead engineered quartz or granite counters, or if you have your heart set on marble, use it as a bathroom tile backsplash rather than a kitchen counter that will see a lot of use. Future buyers will thank you for this wise decision.
  9. Nixing a bedroom in favor of a larger master suite. Three bedroom homes will almost always command a higher sales price than two bedroom homes of similar square footage. If you can afford to build the master suite of your dreams and can live without the additional bedroom, consider renovation options that will allow you to turn the additional space back into a bedroom for a future sale, such as adding a door without removing an entire wall to turn the guest room next door into a killer closet. You’ll likely save on reno costs and be glad you set yourself up for success when it is time to list.

If you have questions about buying or selling in Metro Denver, give me a ring. I’m here to help however I can, and I’ve been helping people buy, sell and invest in Denver for over 21 years.

Jack Meyers

The Meyers Group
jackestate@aol.com 
303.263.3050
Twitter: @jackestate

 

Should you Sell Your Own Home?

In a fast moving market like we’ve got in Denver, it can be tempting to skip the “middle man” and sell your own home. As a longtime agent in Metro Denver (21 years and counting) I get it: commission cuts into your bottom line, and when you know the house will probably sell, why pay someone else to assist the process? There are many good reasons to consult a licensed Realtor to ensure a successful sale, and most of them have to do with your bottom line, too.

FSBO sign

According to statistics compiled by the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the national median sales price for homes For Sale By Owner is $210,000. The national median sales price for homes sold with the assistance of an agent is $249,000 – nearly $40,000 more. (NAR, 2015 national home sales data)

If you are avoiding representation in a bid to save on commission, consider how much you are likely giving up in terms of sales price. An experienced Realtor is more than a paper pusher; I work hard to market each individual property // seller I represent, and statistics show having a pro by your side makes a big difference in the closing price.

Eighty-nine percent of all homes sold in 2015 were listed with the assistance of a professional. (NAR, 2015 national home sales data). 

If you are among the 11% of sellers flying solo in this challenging real estate market, your competition is more than the other homes on the block – it is the other homes on the block + the savvy professionals representing those listings. You owe it to yourself (and your home equity) to invest in quality, professional service in the sale of your home. 89% of the sellers in your community will tell you the same thing.

Beyond the statistics, I have seen increasing challenges from sign-to-sale in this marketplace. 

The paperwork and legal details surrounding a real estate transaction can be daunting, and when a deal moves forward only to crash and burn – well, disappointment hardly begins to cover it. Starting again from square one takes resilience, knowledge, and an ability to move forward quickly in order to regain positive momentum and (hopefully) close the next one. It is my job to handle challenges of this nature on behalf of clients and carry the deal forward – sometimes through more than one roadblock of this nature.

The truth? You can definitely sell your own home. You can download the necessary forms, put a sign in the yard, post your info several places for free and a few places for cheap and hold your own showings. But do you really want to? And when push comes to shove, do you want to pick up the pieces by yourself if a deal goes south?

If not, I’m here to help. No pressure – just call or email to chat and get answers to your questions, and if you aren’t ready to list or you still choose to go it alone, I wish you the very best of luck. If, however, you have visions of $40,000 going down the drain and you’d like to enlist my help, I’m here, ready to answer your call.

Jack Meyers

The Meyers Group
jackestate@aol.com 
303.263.3050
Twitter: @jackestate