How to Buy Real Estate without Losing Your Mind

My husband and I know how to buy real estate without losing our minds, and you can, too!

How to Buy Real Estate without Losing Your Mind

My husband and I know how to buy real estate without losing our minds, and you can, too!
After decades of experience, including as home buyers ourselves with my husband Josh, I know exactly what it takes to stay sane when buying real estate!

Listen, buying real estate can come with a lot of liability and risk. We all know that. But wise real estate purchases also have the power to positively shape your future! Real estate is my passion, and even more so it is my goal to make real estate as simple as possible. So here is my bullet-proof list of steps to take to buy real estate without losing your mind!

1. Analyze your goals

No one knows your circumstances better than you. What is it that you want from your real estate purchase, and what features do you need in a property? What is your budget? What are your communication expectations for and with your real estate agent, and what is your ideal timeline to complete your transaction? Honestly assess your answers to these questions, and use your answers to create a clear path forward in Step 2.

2. Create a custom strategy

Once you know what your overall goals are, how will you get there? What is your next action item? First and foremost, find a real estate professional you can trust to guide you through with transparency and strong ethics. They should be able to help you design the rest of your house-hunting strategy to give you the leverage to get what you want, where you want, for the price you want. “Hire a good agent!” is the absolute biggest tip I can give you to be able to buy real estate without losing your mind.Some points you will want to discuss with your agent before shopping are:

      • Your budget and how much room, if any, you have to wiggle on price
      • Your status in the mortgage approval process
      • Your target neighborhoods
      • Your target home style & specific features on which you will not compromise
      • Your timeline for purchasing

3. Execute and see results

After you have your strategy, this is where it gets real. Your agent will use the road map you designed in Step 2 to start curating properties to present to you. Once you have chosen a property on which to make an offer, your agent should go to bat for you to get you the home. Once an offer is accepted, they will coach you through the negotiations, inspections, and additional paperwork that may be required by your lender. 

Throughout the entire process, they should be available to consult with you at any point when (not if…) you have any questions about the buying process. Consider your agent to be your Real Estate Coach & Advocate.

CARMEN WILL HELP YOU:

1. Analyze your goals  2. Create a custom strategy  3. Execute the strategy so that you see results!

As you can tell, most of these steps boil down to one thing: hiring a great agent. With the right person on your side, you will be well on your way to buying real estate without losing your mind.

To learn more and start your real estate journey off on the right foot, request your free Buyer's Guide today!

All the best,

FREE BUYER'S GUIDE

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Secrets to Getting Your Deposit Back

Secrets to Getting Your Deposit Back

Hi! I'm Carmen, an experienced real estate agent and property manager dedicated to making real estate simple!

So, you’re buying a home for the first time. Congratulations! You’d probably like to find a way to maximize your cash on hand after forking over the down payment funds and closing fees, right? I get it. It can be a shock to even the most prepared among us to see that savings account balance drop. I mean you probably spent years squirreling away every spare penny to purchase a home. If you’re wondering how to start to rebuild that account balance quickly, getting your deposit back from your rental home can be a great start! 

First the not-so-great news: you cannot assume that you will receive back every deposit you paid at move-in. But there are some ways to ensure you get as much back as possible. The biggest source of information regarding all of these tips will be your actual lease or retail agreement, so have it handy as you read and let’s get going. 

Here are some keys to getting your deposit back:

Understand your deposits.

When you signed your rental agreement, you agreed to certain terms and conditions, and you handed over various fees and deposits. Some of these might be refundable and some might not be. Read through your lease to remind yourself what deposits you paid, and which of those payments are eligible for refund. Here are some common deposits you may have paid:

  • Damage deposit
  • Security deposit
  • Pet deposit 
  • Last month’s rent 

I cannot speak to the terms of your specific lease, but pet deposits, for instance, are generally nonrefundable; damage and security deposits, on the other hand, generally are--if specific conditions are met. Which leads me to my other tips…

Give proper notice.

Your lease should tell you the required minimum timeline and proper procedures you must follow when you move. Different jurisdictions have varying rules about the amount of time required to give notice, so I won’t speak to those here. 

However, if you are still under lease and you want to move early (commonly called “breaking a lease”) you will probably be responsible for paying for the remainder of that lease. You will need to discuss the specifics of your situation with your landlord.

If your lease is still active, you should make note of when it will expire. Also note if and how it renews or converts automatically to a month-to-month contract. If you are already in this month-to-month status, you will still need to adhere to the requirements for timely and proper notice, but you may have a little more flexibility in timing your move

The bottom line is that if you move out without proper notice or you break your lease, you risk not getting your deposits back. So know the terms of your lease and follow it to maximize your deposit refunds.

Honestly access the current condition.

A good rule of renting is to behave like a Girl Scout and “leave it better than you found it.” By better I mean leave the property cleaner and better maintained than you received it, with minimal to no new damage. Of course, normal wear and tear of a rental home is expected. For instance, foot traffic will wear down carpet, corners of cabinets and walls will get minor dings, and the shine and sheen of flooring will fade over time. 

However, if there is more than wear and tear, you will need to either repair it or pay for the repairs out of your deposit. For minor issues, you might be better off to take care of them yourself; however, you should look at your lease before embarking on any repairs--there may be restrictions on what, if any repairs, you are allowed to do on your own as a tenant.

One of the most important documents when you are a renter, second only to your actual lease, is your Move-in Walk Through form. Hopefully you have that, since it should itemize (and have pictures of) any damage that existed in the property when you moved in, and proves that you are not responsible for it. This includes appliances like the refrigerator and microwave. Use this document to make sure you are not putting time and energy into repairs that are not your problem. Knowledge is power! 

Clean it up.

If possible, try to build in a day or two at the end of your rental period before you hand over the keys to do a deep clean and complete yard clean up. Seriously, this elbow grease will pay off when it comes to getting back more of your deposit. Scrub or wipe every surface in the entire house, wipe down and/or degrease all appliances, wash hand prints and smudges from the walls, clean the windows and window tracks--I mean do a full-on, top-to-bottom cleaning. Making the place sparkle is one of the easiest ways (well, maybe not easy, but you know what I mean) and often overlooked tricks to getting your deposit back.

One note regarding cleaning: check your lease. There is likely some sort of stipulation regarding carpet cleaning. You may be required to pay for the service to be performed before you turn over the keys, or you may have paid a nonrefundable fee for the property manager to facilitate the move-out cleaning. Also look for mentions of requirements to clean the exterior windows, gutters, etc. Make sure you do everything required, or you can say goodbye to at least a portion of your deposit.

Show up for the move out inspection.

Not everyone does this, but you are entitled to attend. Request an appointment with your property manager to accompany them on the move-out inspection when you hand over your keys. That way if there are any questions about the condition of the property and whether or not you will be charged for specific issues, you can discuss those issues on the spot. But please be respectful. Most property managers are not there for a shake down, so to speak. They know that things happen, and if you are polite, have been a good tenant, and have done the other items on this list already, they may show some grace on the small stuff.

Bonus Pro Tip

Your refundable deposits will probably not be handed to you in exchange for the keys. The property manager or landlord has to do the move out inspection, compare the move-out to the move-in, and get bids for any needed repairs. That takes some time--and just like guidelines for giving notice, different cities, counties, or states have varying rules for how much time a landlord has to return money owed to you. And don’t forget to make sure to give them the best address for them to send the refund to you once it’s ready! 

Not all of us have security deposits to lean on but if you have a lease and paid deposits at move in, I’d encourage you to look closely at what steps you need to take to get your deposit.

If you are looking to go from renter status to home ownership status, check out my easy 6 easy steps to become a homeowner.

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6 STEPS TO BECOMING A HOMEOWNER

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Ultimate Mover’s Checklist

Mom plus baby equals growing family, and maybe a need for The Ultimate Mover’s Checklist

The Ultimate Mover’s Checklist

Mom plus baby equals growing family, and maybe a need for The Ultimate Mover’s Checklist

We've all been there before. Overwhelmed by all the Things. Maybe it's a tackling a big project at work, prepping for your partner's 40th surprise birthday party, or planning to help your parent's downsize from their long-term home. Maybe it's all of those at once! So what do we turn to when we need to make sure we don't miss a step when everything seems to matter? Checklists.

Checklists are my favorite memory trick.

Okay, maybe I shouldn't consider checklists to be a part of my memory...but I have found that using checklists keeps me on track so much better than relying on myself alone. A well flushed-out checklist for any task is priceless. I can ditch the checklists once the items have become habits, but with growing humans in my house I’m learning that all of us can benefit from a good ol’ fashioned list. 

With Americans moving an average of 11 times throughout their lifetime, I figure a mover's checklist is nice to have around when the time comes.   

You'll notice that my Mover's Checklist includes instructions on how to use my Listing Care Package. If you are selling your current place while prepping for your next move, this care package is an absolute must for you. Contact me today to get one in your hands and start you on the path to a stress free sale!

Download your Mover's Checklist here to ensure you have an easy move

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Learn which improvements will get you the highest return on your investment.

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3 Steps to Stay on Budget

My husband and me, seen here during a family photo shoot a few years back, have found that one of the keys to a strong marriage is our mutual commitment to stay on budget!

Stay on Budget with These 3 Steps!

My husband and me, seen here during a family photo shoot a few years back, have found that one of the keys to a strong marriage is our mutual commitment to stay on budget!

Ever wonder how some people seem to be able to stay on budget and make money multiply, while others can’t seem to save a dime? No matter your income or economic status, money is an important tool and resource. Just like any other tool or resource, it has to be used and managed properly for it to serve its purpose. 

If you have a goal to buy your first home, take a vacation, or learn to live within your means and get out of debt, your first step must be to live on a budget. I know, it’s hard! But here are my three steps to stay on budget and meet your personal finance goals.  

1. Track

Tracking your spending is the biggest piece of the budget puzzle. You have to know where your money is going, or you don’t have a budget. If you aren’t doing it already, track every single penny you spend for a month. 

The point of this exercise is to identify areas for improvement in your spending habits. Everyone has an area that seems to make their money evaporate more quickly than others. I have a friend that once had to ban herself from shopping at Target for a long while, because it became very clear to her after tracking her spending that she did not have the willpower to walk through the store and not overspend.

Once you have tracked for a full month, you should have a better idea of where your money is going. To stay on budget, you should continue to track and categorize your spending. However, instead of doing it to identify money drains, you will be doing it to be sure the right categories are being funded and maintained according to your goals.

2. Automate

The second step to stay on budget is to automate as much as you can. Put recurring bills on auto-pay. That way you don’t have to take the time to think about whether or not you forgot to pay something.

In addition to setting up bills on auto-pay, automate your savings, too. The classic advice to “pay yourself first” is a lot easier to follow if you set it up to happen automatically. If you are paid via direct deposit, most employers allow you to split your paycheck deposit between two accounts, so have some money going straight to savings. If you don’t have direct deposit, you should still be able to set up automatic transfers with your bank.

3. Optimize

The whole point of tracking and automating is to optimize your money. Basically, that’s just a fancy way of saying make it work for YOU! How do you do that?

Well, there are the obvious (and smart!) answers, like funding investment accounts. If you are lucky enough to have a retirement savings program at work with an employer match, that should be a no-brainer for you. Don’t leave free money on the table!

Real estate investing is, of course, another way to optimize your money. In the long run, real estate is a great way to build wealth, even if you never have any interest in being a landlord and just purchase your own home and position is to maximize appreciation. 

But to invest in mutual funds, stocks, real estate—even just buy your own home—all of that takes money up front and on a regular basis, right? So it all goes back to budgeting…

There are some great tools out there that help you stay on budget. I am not going to cover them all here, except to say to pick a tool/system and work it! This article has a great round up of current online programs and apps. When it comes to the logistics of managing money, what works for one person may not work for someone else. 

But what always works? Track. Automate. Optimize. Don’t work for money--make your money work for you!

Are you thinking about how to put your money to work by jumping into real estate by buying your first home or investment property? Download my Buyer’s Guide below, and contact me today to discuss how I can help you reach your goals!

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6 STEPS TO BECOMING A HOMEOWNER

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