Blog :: 12-2015

Happy Holidays and Wonderful New Years

We want to wish everyone a big Happy Holidays and wonderful New Years from our New England Landmark Realty family to yours. May your festivities be festive, food be filling, and the houses you celebrate in feel like home. We hope 2016 brings health, good fortune, and way too many laughs to count. 

<3 New England Landmark Realty Family

6 Tips For Selling Your Home This Winter

 

In Vermont, we know winter will, eventually, come. It's not always the most attractive time of year to be showing off your home, but since everyone is in this same boat, why not use the winter glum to your advantage! We found this article by Andrea Davis with 6 tips to make your house #1 on the market:

#1 Warmth is top priority.

Your home should always be warm when a realtor conducts a walkthrough with buyers. Set a timer on your thermostat so it's warm when they arrive. Also, make sure to check there are no leaks or problems with your ducts and vents, as this could make rooms cold during a walkthrough.

#2 Keep the house bright.

It's also important to ensure that your home is adequately lit in each room. You want buyers to feel welcome and impressed with the kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms of your home. If a room has dim lighting or a burned-out bulb, it could take away from the overall appeal of the room. You should also consider spending a little extra money to upgrade your lighting fixtures --installing recessed lighting in certain rooms will give your home a little extra "pop." Standing lamps are also a fantastic, affordable alternative to lighting additions

#3 Try to make your landscape appealing.

Although your yard will be mostly winterized during this time of year, there are several ways to spruce up your cold weather landscaping. Start by clearing your yard of any broken branches or large patches of fallen leaves. It's also important to ensure that any ice or snow on or near your home's walkway is removed. If needed, you can hire a weekly snow removal service to keep your home safe for buyer walkthroughs.

#4 Make the interior cozy.

In addition to keeping your house well-lit and warm, there are other ways to make your home cozy and welcoming to buyers. This includes:

  • Classical music (at a low volume)
  • Homemade treats (candy, cookies)
  • Holiday decorations (tinsel on the mantle, for example)

You want buyers to feel as though they already live in your home when they walk through the door. When you offer them a cozy setting, they will want to spend more time in your home and admire its features.

#5 Keep the fireplace lit.

While you should have the heat on during a walkthrough, another warm and cozy feature is the fireplace. If you've got a wood-burning model, this means you'll need to have coal or wood handy. You don't want to have multiple showings a day and a fireplace that roars for only half the visitors. This is especially important if the fireplace is close to the entrance (all of that cold air gets in!).

#6 Prepare for any storms.

Make sure there's an emergency kit on hand in your home in case your home suffers an outage during a winter storm. This should include items like:

  • Extra candles
  • Matches
  • Blankets
  • Car charger
  • Canned food
  • Flashlight
  • Water

While your realtor should be prepared for inclement weather, it's important that you be prepared to keep everyone safe should the worst happen during a showing. And don't forget to keep a secondary travel emergency kit to take when you're leaving for showings as well.

Feel free to ask us for any other tips and tricks (we have a few of them up our sleeves).

Click to see the original article at Realty Times.

Why Putting Up A little More May Cost You Less

Maurie Backman has excellent advice for home buyers. Sometimes paying a little more upfront could save you much more later.

You've worked. You've saved. You've scraped together enough for a down payment, and now it's your turn to get a piece of the good old American Dream in the form of your very own house. But before you bust out that bottle of celebratory champagne, be prepared to do a little extra number-crunching, because while your down payment is certainly a good start on the road to homeownership, there are other costs you'll need to account for as part of the process.

Making your down payment
Let's talk about that down payment for a second. Though you might get away with less, it's in your best interest to come up with 20% of your home's purchase price to avoid private mortgage insurance, or PMI. To minimize its risk, your lender will probably slap you with a PMI requirement if you fail to put down that sought-after 20%, in which case you could be looking at an extra 0.5% to 1% of your loan amount.

Say you take out a $200,000 loan and are hit with PMI at a cost of 1%. That's an extra $2,000 a year, or $166 per month on top of your regular mortgage payment. Plus, unlike regular mortgage interest, your PMI isn't even guaranteed to be tax-deductible. In other words, if you can come up with that 20% payment, you'll avoid what's essentially a penalty for not putting enough down. But even if you do manage to plunk down 20%, there are other up-front costs to consider.

Closing costs
There's a whole load of paperwork that goes into buying a house, and naturally, you'll pay for it. Your closing costs might include things like attorney fees, loan origination fees, recording fees, title fees, and survey fees. Is that enough fees for you? Closing costs typically encompass 2% to 5% of your home's purchase price. This means if you're buying a home for $220,000, you can expect to shell out anywhere from $4,400 to $11,000 in up-front fees. Now the good news is that your lender is required to provide a good faith estimate of what your closing costs will be so that you're not in total shock when those fees come in. The problem, however, is that your estimate can change by up to 10%, so you'd be wise to stash away a few extra thousand dollars to be on the safe side.

Prepaid escrow fees
Many lenders have a practice of escrowing money for real estate taxes and homeowners insurance. If your loan comes with an escrow provision, the upside is that your lender will make these scheduled payments for you so that you don't have to worry about them. The bad news is that since lenders generally aren't willing to take many chances, yours will likely require you to pad your escrow balance when you close on your loan. This could mean prepaying anywhere from two to six months or more of real estate taxes and homeowners insurance. Let's say your annual taxes and homeowners policy cost $6,000 and $1,000, respectively. If your lender requires a three-month deposit, you're looking at an additional $1,750 at closing.

On top of these costs, you'll need to think about things like home repairs and moving fees. Professional movers could cost several hundred to several thousand dollars depending on the amount of stuff you've got and the distance it needs to be hauled. Similarly, unless you're buying brand new construction, there's a good chance you'll need to tackle a few up-front repairs before settling into your home. While your home inspection should clue you in to the types of repairs you're looking at and their associated costs, you could be in for some surprises once you take ownership of your new abode. This is why it's crucial to set some funds aside to cover the unknowns of owning a house, many of which could rear their ugly heads from the get-go. So before you get ready to empty your savings account and convert that money into a down payment, make sure you've got enough cash on hand to cover the additional costs of buying a house. Otherwise that nice bottle of champagne may be the last one you'll crack open for quite some time.

The $15,978 Social Security bonus most retirees completely overlook 
If you're like most Americans, you're a few years (or more) behind on your retirement savings. But a handful of little-known “Social Security secrets” could help ensure a boost in your retirement income. In fact, one MarketWatch reporter argues that if more Americans knew about this, the government would have to shell out an extra $10 billion annually. For example: one easy, 17-minute trick could pay you as much as $15,978 more... each year! Once you learn how to take advantage of all these loopholes, we think you could retire confidently with the peace of mind we're all after.

View the full article here: http://www.fool.com/investing/general/2015/11/29/buying-a-house-why-your-down-payment-isnt-enough.aspx