A Beginner’s Guide To Finding & Buying A Home

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If you are contemplating buying a home in 2020, it’s important to understand the home buying process. It will take a lot more research than buying a new iPhone and a lot more consideration. A home will most likely be the largest purchase you make in a lifetime, but when you’re ready to begin, here are some simple steps to take.

Do Some Research

It may be a year or more down the road before you are actually ready to buy a home, but it’s never too early to start doing some research. A good place to start is by searching homes available in your desired area online. This will help you get an idea of what type of home you can get in your price range. Use this time to put together a list of priorities for your new home. You should group priorities into “must-haves” and “would like to haves.” It is not always possible to get everything you want at a price you can afford. Learn what you can and can’t live without.

Do the Math

Most people who are purchasing a home will need a mortgage loan. You need to know what you can afford and understand the types of loans available. Be realistic about your financial situation. Now is the time to get pre-approved, or even better yet pre-qualified, for your home purchase. Some prospective home buyers will need to work on repairing their credit score, or realize they need to save more money for a down payment. Use the next few months to address financial issues, get preapproved for a loan, and get ready to go shopping.

Find a REALTOR®

Many home buyers think they can find a home, negotiate for a home, and close on a home on their own. This would be a terrible mistake. Most of the time a REALTOR® does not cost a home buyer anything, and their knowledge, expertise, and negotiation skills will be invaluable to you as a buyer. Get referrals, research candidates, interview agents and request references if it will give you peace of mind, but most important, choose a REALTOR® that you will enjoy working with. Sometimes, finding the perfect home takes a while.

Start Looking

You now know what you can afford, what you must have, and have an experienced and trusted partner to help in your home search. Go to open houses, make appointments and see as many homes as you need. Don’t feel rushed and realize that a home search may take a while. Buying a home is a long-term investment, and a very special one. When your dream home comes along, you’ll know it!

Selling Your Home: The Importance of Cleaning

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If you’re contemplating selling your home, you know you want to make it the most appealing to the maximum amount of potential buyers. There are a number of things that you could and should do to ensure you get top dollar for your home. But did you know that according to most surveys, the most important factor when it comes to selling your home is much simpler? Cleanliness is ranked as the most effective way to make your home more appealing to buyers. It’s considered more important than décor, odors, furniture and architecture. It’s also one of the quickest and cheapest ways to add value to your home.

What is it about cleaning that makes it so important for selling your home? Well, think about it. Put yourself in the potential buyer’s shoes. It is vital for buyers to be able to visualize themselves living in a property. For them to do this, a home needs to be presented as a blank canvas. A buyer needs to see their possessions, furniture and lifestyle fitting into this canvas, not yours. In order to do this, a home needs to be thoroughly cleaned, clutter-free and ready to move-in to.

A clean home gives the right impression to a potential buyer. It shows your home is loved, well-cared for and properly maintained. The first step to a clean home is a de-cluttered home. This should be done in all rooms, to all surfaces, worktops and storage spaces (including closets and cabinets). Less stuff means more space and gives the illusion of a larger home and helps to create a more open and inviting living area.

After the clutter is gone, make the property itself as clean as possible. You want it to sparkle! This means everything inside and out and top to bottom. Use a cleaning checklist to make sure that every room is cleaned properly and that you don’t miss a thing. For a great sample checklist, visit here. If the idea of cleaning everything seems overwhelming, you could always hire a professional. When cleaning your home, don’t forget the outside. Lawns should be mowed, gardens weeded, walkways and homes pressure washed. You may even want to paint your front door and mailbox, upgrade your lighting and add some decorative planters and décor to make the porch more inviting. A clean home is a happy home and one that others will want to live in!

For other helpful tips on getting your home ready for sale or questions about the home selling process, give me a call. 

Fees You Should Know About When Buying A Home

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When it comes to home buying, everyone typically focuses on the cost of the house and the mortgage loan. While these costs are seemingly the most important, they aren’t the only expenses you’ll encounter. Some fees must be paid up front, while others can be rolled into your home loan. Below are some of the fees you can expect to pay when buying a home.

Down Payment
The down payment will more than likely be the biggest expense you’ll have. Although there are loans that don’t require a down payment, the majority of homebuyers will put down a minimum of 3% on conventional loans or 3.5% on FHA loans. On a $150,000 home purchase, this would be roughly $4,500 to $5,250. Keep in mind, that the larger the down payment you can afford, the less your monthly mortgage payment will be.

Lender Fees: Origination, Underwriting & Application Fees
What are these fees and why does a homebuyer need to pay them? The origination fee is a lender-based fee and charged for their services in creating the loan. The underwriting fee is another fee often charged by the lender, which covers the cost of preparing the loan and any associated paperwork. The application fee is a lender fee as well and charged for their time in processing a loan request.

Title-Based Fees
There are also a number of fees related to the title of your new home. These charges will typically include a title search, title settlement, title insurance binder, and title insurance. Many times, these fees will be rolled into the mortgage loan. These fees are extremely important in order to protect yourself and the lender to make sure that you are not only receiving marketable title from a seller but in the event that there are issues, you and the lender are protected.

Survey and Appraisal Fees
If an existing survey on the property you are purchasing cannot be obtained, a survey will have to be performed to determine the boundaries of the property. An appraisal on the property is also needed to make sure that the purchase price is in line with the value of the property. A lender will almost always require an appraisal to help justify lending a homebuyer money for a home. This is an upfront fee and costs somewhere between $300 and $400 in the state of South Carolina. An appraisal is not usually necessary for an all cash offer but is usually a good idea to protect a buyer from a bad investment.

State Recording Fees
In South Carolina, there is a fee for recording and holding information regarding a home sale with the county. The fees are $1.85 for each increment of $500 on the price of the home. For example, on a $500,000 home fees would be $1,850. A portion of this goes to the state ($1.30) and a portion (.55) to the county.

Prepaid Taxes & Homeowner’s Insurance
A homebuyer will owe money for property taxes and homeowner’s insurance at the time of closing.

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) Depending on what type of loan you have and how much money you are putting down, a homebuyer may be required to obtain PMI. Typically, this is required if you are putting less than 20% down on a conventional loan. This may be required as an upfront mortgage insurance premium as well as a monthly premium once you own the home.

Escrow Fees
During the closing process, an escrow agent will usually hold any money while the agreement is finalized. These agents charge fees for the handling and disbursement of money.

Additional Inspections: Pest and Mold
In older homes, additional inspections may be needed to check for things such as termites or mold. The inspections are done to protect you as the buyer against any unforeseen issues.

Agent Commissions
Although typically paid for by the seller, but there may be some rare instances where the fee will come out of your pocket. Make sure you understand your agent’s commission and ask questions if necessary.

HOA Costs
If the property your purchasing is in a subdivision with a homeowner’s association, you may have dues that need to be paid at the time of closing. This could also be a prorated cost if the seller has already paid them.

Home Inspection
This is a cost you should plan for in order to make sure you are making a wise purchase but won’t show up on any closing statements. The average cost in SC is $360.

Home Warranty
In the case where you want to purchase a home warranty, this is a fee that will be charged at closing. A home warranty is a plan purchased by some homeowners to cover the repair or replacement costs of important systems and appliances, such as HVAC, that breakdown over time.

Flood-Related Fees
If you live in a coastal or flood-plain area, flood insurance will be required. You may also need to pay for flood determination, certification and monitoring fees.

Although this seems like a lot of fees, not all of them will apply. Some may be waived by the lender or paid for by the seller. It is important to know ahead of time what fees may be required and who is responsible for the payment of them. Before you finalize a purchase, ask for an updated Loan Estimate or Preliminary Closing Disclosure. These forms can help you better prepare for Closing Day.

Why Listing Photos Matter

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Before the days of the internet, a buyer’s first impression of a home came from the “drive-by.” Today’s buyers are busier than ever and may not have an opportunity for those drive-bys before deciding if they want to schedule a visit to see a home. More and more potential buyers rely on the internet and photos to make their first impressions. With limited time and countless listings to review, buyers will move quickly past a house if photos do not show a home in a positive light.

The importance of pictures is no joke. Approximately 85% of potential buyers search the internet for their next new home. When buyers are looking at listings online, what do you think makes the greatest impact? PICTURES! Sadly, many listings have major problems, whether it be no pictures, not enough pictures, or terrible pictures. Keep in mind the old adage, “A picture is worth a thousand words.” People would rather see the proof in pictures than read all the fine print. Pictures alone will not sell your home, but they sure will get potential buyers in the front door!

Why are pictures so important? Pictures are used in a number of ways to market a listing. First, they are showcased on MLS for viewing by all licensed REALTORS® and prospective buyers in South Carolina. Second, these same photos will be used in any print advertising. And finally, the photos will be marketed through the internet – sites such as Zillow.com and Realtor.com, as well as social media sites including Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn.

Now, the big question…what makes a good photo? Properly lit, high-resolution photos are the only type of photos that should be used to market a listing. Smartphone pictures may be fine to send quick photos back and forth from an agent to a buyer but definitely do not measure up to quality pictures taken with a quality camera. Sellers and agents should spend as much time and energy on getting good photos as they do on staging and creating curb appeal. If a buyer does an internet search, and your home is listed without photos, there isn’t anything for a potential buyer to look at, buyers will move on, and likely will not come back. If you don’t have photos, don’t list until you do. Have your home fully cleaned and take photos when natural light is at its best. If you don’t have a good camera or any photography experience, consider hiring a professional. I know it’s an expense but will be well worth it!

As your REALTOR®, I will ALWAYS make sure your home puts its best foot forward with high-quality photos from a professional so that the first impression is a good impression. Contact me for a free market analysis today!

Best Burgers in the Midlands

“Hot Mess” Burger – Grill Marks

Whether you like your burger medium or well-done, fully loaded or cheese only, it’s near impossible to not LOVE a great burger! Whether you’re looking for a classic burger or something more gourmet, here are some of my top places around the Midlands for delicious burgers that are hard to resist!

The Root Cellar – Lexington, SC
The Root Cellar has something for everyone with a classic, pimento, or my personal favorite, “The Root Cellar,” a ground chuck burger with goat cheese and fried green tomato on a brioche bun. YUM!

Wayback Burgers – Lexington, SC
Wayback Burgers is a family-friendly franchise known for its made-to-order burgers and hand-dipped milkshakes. Whether you are looking for a taste of Texas with the “Rodeo” or something more Southern with the “Carolina,” burgers are sure to please. Restaurant also offers single and double “Craft Your Own.”

Grill Marks – Columbia, SC
Known for its “sophisticated” hamburgers, Grill Marks uses a blend of Certified Angus beef cuts to make fresh, chopped (not ground) made-to-order burgers with unique toppings on buns baked daily. Don’t forget the side of White Truffle Parmesan Fries! WOW!

Kingsman Restaurant – Cayce, SC
This long time Cayce favorite is known for its 10 oz Ribeye burgers, which are ground and formed daily. Order the “Palmetto,” topped with pimento cheese, bacon, and fried jalapeno, or be bolder with “The Big Cheese,” a burger between two bacon grilled cheese sandwiches.

Tombo Grille – Columbia, SC
In the heart of Forest Acres lies Tombo Grille, home of the Monday night “Burger and a Beer” special for just $10. Live music included.

Pawleys Front Porch – Columbia, SC
Pawleys Front Porch made a name for itself on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives for serving half-pound burgers named after South Carolina cities. Try the “Kiawah” with marinated portabella mushrooms, fire roasted peppers, red onions and melted brie, or the “Wadmalaw” with chipotle barbeque sauce, fried pickle chips, applewood smoked bacon and cheddar cheese. All burgers served with choice of hand-cut fries or coleslaw.

Steve’s Classic Burgers – Columbia, SC
Recognized as “the most Deliciously Cheap Burger in South Carolina,” the list would not be complete without Steve’s on it. Burgers are made from ground chuck with Steve’s special seasoning and cooked to order. Burgers are classics with choice of cheese and special add-ons such as pimento cheese, fried egg, grilled onions, bacon or mushrooms.

If you have a favorite that you think should have made my list, please let me know so it can be added! Happy hamburger eating!

Why Own vs Rent: The Financial Benefits

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Everyone wants to make smart choices financially that will help their future. Do these include buying a home? If not, it should. Here are 5 financial benefits to owning a home.

  1. Tax breaks: As a homeowner, you may qualify for tax benefits. These deductions can help offset other costs of homeownership. Potential deductions include the interest on your mortgage, property taxes, and home equity lines of credit. There are no tax breaks with renting.
  2. Stability: If you take out a fixed-rate mortgage, you’ll know what payments to expect for the life of the loan. Rent, on the other hand, often increases, sometimes even yearly. When you own a home, you also have more control over expenses such as utilities, so you can make choices that encourage efficiency and save money each month.
  3. Forced savings: Each month, as you pay down your mortgage, you are adding equity. This can be an excellent way to build wealth. In the future, you can sell the home for a profit or borrow against the equity to obtain needed funds. Medical emergencies, college tuition, and home repairs or renovations are common uses for these funds. You cannot build equity on a rental.
  4. Good health: A mortgage looks good on a credit report and can help you establish a healthy score. As you faithfully pay off the loan, your score can increase. This can prove helpful in obtaining lower insurance rates and qualifying for lower rates on future purchases.
  5. Final payment: When you buy a home, there will come a day when you no longer have to make a monthly mortgage payment. You will own your property, free and clear. This scenario is much different than paying rent, which will continue for a lifetime.

Are you wondering if a home purchase makes sense for your financial future? I’d be happy to discuss these and other benefits and help you determine if now is a good time for you to pursue homeownership.