First-Time Homeowner

first-time homeowner

First-Time Homeowner

first-time homeowner

The older I get, the faster time seems to go, am I right?

With housing being one of the most basic human needs it stands to reason that you’re going to be paying for housing one way or another. You can either give your hard-earned money to a landlord or you can become a first-time homeowner. Becoming a first-time homeowner is easier than you think and here are the essentials to becoming a first-time homeowner. Here are the essentials for first time home buyers broken down. 

Stop wasting money and start investing in your future

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Essential Real Estate Terms You Should Know

Essential Real Estate Terms You Should Know

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Every industry has its own acronym and real estate is no different. Real estate is full of jargon that can add confusion to an already elusive process. Whether you're selling or buying here are the essential real estate terms you should know.

Asking questions should not be intimidating. Would it help you to know that you’re not alone? Real estate is intimidating and overwhelming for most people. My goal is to make it as simple for you to navigate as possible. Let's dive in:

1) Pending

Once a residential buyer and seller have reached a mutual agreement on the terms of a sale, the property will then be moved from “Active” to “Pending” or “Pending Inspection”. The contract timelines are very important. 

2) Earnest Money (EM)

Once a buyer and seller have reached a mutual agreement on a contract, the buyer will then deposit a set amount into an escrow account. This earnest money (EM) shows the seller that the potential buyer is EARNEST about buying the property. When the property closes, the EM is then put towards the buyer’s down payment or returned.

3) Escrow

Escrow is a term that refers to a third party that is hired to handle the transaction, the exchange of money and any related documents. Placing Earnest Money, for example, into escrow means to place it in the hands of a third party until certain conditions are met; once the transaction has closed the escrow company will disburse the funds appropriately. 

4) Appraisal

An appraisal is an assessment done by a certified appraiser to determine the value of the property. The appraisal is usually based on an analysis of comparable sales of similar homes nearby. 

5) Dual Agency

Dual Agency is when one agent represents both the buyer and the seller, instead of just one or the other. Depending on state laws, real estate agents are able to represent both the buyer and the seller in the same transaction. There are some states that do not allow dual agency.

6) Bank Owned & Short Sale

When a property owner defaults on their mortgage, the lender will sometimes allow the seller to sell as a short sale. That means that the bank has agreed to let the home be sold for less than the balance on the current owner’s loan. A bank-owned property is when a  lender won’t agree to sell the property for less than what is currently owed on it, so the property has been foreclosed on and is now “Bank Owned.”

7) Comparative Market Analysis (CMA)

A CMA is an analytic report to help real estate agents strategize what the hyper-local market is doing in order to determine your property value. The analysis is conducted based on the active, pending, and sold values of similar properties in the same area within a specific time frame. The CMA report should help you in understanding what a realistic listing price is, and whether or not you’re buying a property for the right price.

8) Commission

Real Estate agents are paid on commission. This is an agreed-upon % of the sale price which is then divided between the selling and listing agent, it is typically 6%. Once a transaction closes, the seller will pay the originally agreed-upon percentage of the purchase price from the net proceeds of the sale. In Washington State, the seller pays 100% of the real estate commissions.

9) Equity

A property owner’s Equity is the difference between the fair market value of the property and the amount still owed on its mortgage or other liens. It is common for people to borrow against their equity to do property improvements. 

10) Encumbrance

An encumbrance is a claim against, limitation on, or liability against real property. Encumbrances can restrict the owner’s ability to transfer title to the property or lessen its value. Having an awkward conversation is worth it, guys.

Helping you understand real estate lingo is one of my favorite topics because it is SO important. If you have any Real Estate questions or pain points in your Real Estate journey, I would love to break it down into bite-sized pieces and serve you up a hot plate of awesome.

Leave a comment with any other terms or resources that you would find helpful!

All the best,

Carmen Neal Signature

 

 

 

P.S. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram if you don't already. Don't miss out on the tips, tricks, and sometimes just plain funny items I share on social media!

FREE SELLER'S CHECKLIST

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How to sell or buy real estate without losing your mind

How to buy or sell real estate without losing your mind

How to sell or buy real estate without losing your mind

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Selling or buying real estate can come with a lot of headaches. Those headaches can quickly turn into a real migraine once you start thinking about the laundry list of “To-Do’s”. I’m dedicated to guiding you through how to sell or buy real estate without losing your mind.

It IS a lot of work to get top dollar when selling. Knowing where to start can be super overwhelming if you don't do this every day... But we do. The truth is that overwhelm does not need to be apart of the process. I want to completely eliminate the overwhelm and frustration of selling your property and/or buying your new home. Let’s create a plan that will help you save thousands of dollars and eliminate the headache of reaching your goal.

Three steps to eliminating overwhelm: 

1- Analyze your goals

2- Create a custom strategy

3- Execute and see results

Analyze your goals

No one knows your circumstances better than you. What is it that you want? Ideally, where will you be once this transaction is done? Why are you wanting to make this move? How will you know which property is THE property? The general market affects the value of your real estate investment and your specific goals should be taken into consideration too. 

Understanding and writing down your needs and wants is the best way to assure you stay on track. There are a lot of questions to ask when selling and buying a new home so knowing how to filter through the questions to find which will actually move the needle is important.

Honestly assess your answers to these questions and use your answers to create a clear path forward in Step 2. If it’s difficult for you to answer those questions then I would suggest speaking to a licensed agent that you trust. 

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. A custom timeline that is created around your specific goals will give you the leverage to get what you want, where you want, and for the price you want. Here are some key prompts to creating your strategy:

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 walk with you through the paperwork.

Your real estate agent should be your advocate so working with someone you trust who can help guide you is so important. 

All the best,

Carmen Neal Signature

 

 

 

P.S. Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Instagram if you don't already. Don't miss out on the tips, tricks, and sometimes just plain funny items I share on social media!

FREE SELLER'S CHECKLIST

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Home Buying for Beginners

Home Buying for Beginners

Home Buying for Beginners

Are you familiar with the cooking concept of "mise en place"? Literally translated, it means to set in place. It means that before they start to cook, a good chef does all the prep work. They check their ingredients and cooking tools, and they know they have everything needed in the recipe. They take the time to properly thaw the meat, wash the produce, measure the seasonings, and dice the onions—all before the pan is ever put over the heat. A good chef understands that mise en place, or proper preparation, is key to getting the results they desire, and they don't skip ahead. They assess and prepare, and then they cook. Home buying for beginners should follow the same concept.

Preparation is the key to success when making your first investment in real estate. And one of the biggest ways to prepare is to educate yourself on the home buying process itself. Know the steps involved to purchase real estate before you start to shop.

So with that in mind, I'd like to walk you through the six basic steps of the home buying process.

1. Review your budget.

In the cooking analogy, reviewing your budget is sort of like checking the freezer and the pantry to see what you have to work with, before finalizing what you will cook. For instance, you can't make prime rib without a rib roast. So if all you find in the freezer is chicken, you will either need to head to the store for more supplies, or you will have to change your recipe.

Such is the budget in the home buying process. You need to review what is realistic for your real estate purchase based on your income, savings, and goals. I recommend you speak to a lender early in the process to see what you have to work with, and then move on to step 2.

2. Narrow down your list. 

Sit down and identify your top 5 needs and wants. Only you know what is a must-have for you in a property, and every situation is different. This step is a good time to talk with a trusted agent who specializes in properties in the neighborhood (as I do for the Fife-Milton-Edgewood area). They can guide you as you whittle down your list, based on your budget and specific situations. Once they know what you're looking for, your agent can begin to show you properties.

3. Submit and negotiate the offer.

After you've picked a property that you want, it's time to make an offer. The terms of the offer will vary, and your agent or attorney should walk you through all of the details. Don't be afraid to ask questions! It's also not uncommon for sellers to make a counter-offer, so some back and forth may occur. Once the buyer and seller agree on the terms, it's called "going mutual," and it means that you, my friend, are well on your way to buying a house. But wait, there's more!

4. Inspection day.

I recommended that buyers get an inspection on any property they are looking to purchase. Your agent can connect you with a local home inspector, so that you have a detailed report of the condition of the property. Your offer may or may not be contingent upon the inspection. Talk to your agent or attorney about how to proceed and utilize the inspection report, based upon the terms of your specific purchase and sale agreement.

5. Finalize contingencies.

Contingencies are the details in your agreement, like an inspection or selling another house to free up funds for a down payment, that may impact the terms of the agreement. Again, your agent or attorney should walk you through your specific contract, and again, ask questions! Once all contingencies are dealt with, the next step is to...

6. Close and get those keys!

Closing is when all of the i's are dotted and t's are crossed. Once everything is signed, you'll be handed the keys. Congratulations! You've just purchased your first real estate investment.

 

Real estate and housing choices shape our daily lives and future, and wise real estate purchases have the power to improve your future. Our team members are passionate about helping you leverage real estate to fulfill your current needs, in addition to building financial security for your future. Home buying for beginners can be overwhelming, so give us a call to help you cut through the confusion and meet your goals. And be sure to sign up to receive my FREE Buyers Guide below!

 

CARMEN WILL HELP YOU:

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

All the best,

FREE BUYER'S GUIDE

six steps to becoming a homeowner

6 STEPS TO BECOMING A HOMEOWNER

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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

six steps to becoming a homeowner

6 STEPS TO BECOMING A HOMEOWNER

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6 Questions Every First Time Home Buyer

6 Questions Every First Time Home Buyer Must Answer

You’ve been dreaming of a home of your own for a long time. You’ve stalked the online listing sites. You might have even popped into an open house or two to kill some time on a lazy Saturday afternoon. And now you think you are ready to join the first time home buyer ranks. Well, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work. Answer these six first time home buyer questions to make sure you are prepared.

 1. How much can we afford?

This is most important of the questions every first time home buyer should ask. I wish money weren’t an issue, and we all had everything we needed and maybe even wanted. But we don’t. Everyone comes to the table with a unique set of financial circumstances, so you have to figure out what you can realistically afford before you sign a representation agreement with a buyer’s agent. 

Don’t rely on online calculators. Meet with an experienced, ethical lender as soon as you think you might want to consider purchasing in the near future, even a year or more out. They will help you understand the expectations for credit scores, income requirements, and down payments. 

There is also more to buying a house than considering the mortgage payment. A good lender or financial advisor should guide you towards making a sound financial decision when it comes to making your first foray into real estate.

Don’t shop for a home until you’ve taken this step.

2. Do we qualify for VA, USDA, or FHA loan programs?

Often the down payment is the biggest hurdle to home ownership for a first time buyer. 

The same lender that you meet with to discuss your budget should also be able to explain the various types of loans available to you. In a nutshell, VA, USDA, and FHA loan programs are designed to make home ownership more accessible, generally through reduced down payments, for buyers in very specific situations. Each program has restrictions around income, credit scores, and even property location, so consulting a good lender is necessary to help you weed through them to see what options might be right for you if you are ready to buy but coming up short on the down payment. 

3. Do we have enough savings in case something goes wrong?

I know, I sound like a broken record, but truly, considering the financial aspects of home buying is really Step Zero on the path to home ownership. They have to be thought through, or you may find yourself in a bad situation down the road.

Look at your assets. After you hand over the down payment, will you have enough money in the bank to cover the expected and unexpected maintenance and repairs that come with home ownership? What about if you lose your job or someone in your family is diagnosed with a serious illness a few months after closing? Do you have the funds in savings to get through an emergency and stay current on your bills?

I have seen all of these situations, and more. Prepare for them before you buy. 

4. What are our priorities in a new home? 

So you have your financial ducks in a row. You know what you can afford to spend, what type of loan programs are best for you—and ideally have been pre-approved for a loan—and you know you will still have a cushion for emergencies. Now you can start shopping, right?

Nope, not so fast.

Before you set up viewing appointments with your agent, determine your needs and wants for a home. Prioritize them, and determine what you can compromise about and what is a deal breaker for you. No one else can tell you what’s best, so take some time to determine these before you start the hunt.

I’ve created a pretty printable for you to download. Use it to record your needs and wants in order of priority, and carry with you as you look at properties to keep your focus on what matters to you! 

5. Have the renovation expenses been well thought out?

Yep, I’m coming back to the money. Unless you are purchasing new construction, chances are you will want to make some changes to the property. Before you make an offer, you have to consider the expenses of renovating an older home, and if they work into your finances. Even if you plan to do the bulk of the work yourself, material costs may surprise you, and it is a rare project that doesn’t go over budget in some areas.

Don’t get yourself into a money-pit situation. Get an inspection (even on a brand new house!), talk to your agent and a reputable contractor about realistic budgets for the types of repairs and renovations the property may need, and don’t take on more than you can handle.

6. Do the terms of the purchase and sales agreement work for us?

The purchase and sales agreement (PSA)  is your contract with the seller. It specifies things like closing date, contingency timelines, and earnest money. The PSA can be written up a lot of ways, so you'll want to make sure your on the same page as the agent and lender. Go over this contract very carefully with your agent, and do not agree to anything that does not work for you or that you do not understand.

 

I hope this list of first time home buying questions helps you know what to think about before you step into the home buying process. If you have any questions about these topics, or anything else real estate related, contact me! I'm here to help.

 

All the best,

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5 Things No One Told You About Owning a Home

5 Things No One Told You About Owning a Home

 

Owning a home comes with a lot of responsibilities. Some are fun, while others...not so much. If you want to go from being a window shopper to being a homeowner, it’s time you get the real story about owning real estate. 

Down Payment or Disneyland?

Life is all about choices. Have you ever budgeted to go to Disneyland? It’s sometimes called The Happiest Place on Earth, and I absolutely agree. But the costs of tickets, flights, food, and hotels add up quickly. You could be faced with choosing between saving for a trip to Disneyland or saving for a down payment to invest in your own home. 

This isn’t to say that choosing Disneyland is a bad option. My own family has chosen the trip multiple times. But in order to afford the home you want, may have to choose which you want more. 

And it’s not just Disney. Really, this has to do with being intentional with spending, and setting priorities for your money. It may not be the Land of Mouse that pulls you away from your savings goals. Perhaps it’s cutting back on eating out, retail therapy, or driving a less expensive car. Whatever it is, saving for that down payment is rarely easy, and can happen only through intentional choices with your money.

The Crawl Space and Attic are Scary

It is a rare breed of human—a hero, really—that doesn’t mind crawling in tight and dark spaces. These heroes are typically skilled plumbers, electricians, and inspectors, although I’ve met plenty of people in those trades who don’t enjoy shimmying into those dark access holes, either!

Hopefully, this expedition will be a rare occurrence for you. But if you’re going to own a home, you should gather your courage, secure a headlamp, and check out the dark areas of your property at least a couple of times each year. 

The main things you want to look out for are cracked or blocked air vents, and signs of moisture. If you have any cracks in your attic or crawl space vents, you’ll want to seal those up ASAP so critters don’t move in. If vents are blocked on the outside by debris, clear it. Find the source of any debris on the inside and address it. Often this is from a critter or perhaps a faulty dryer vent. 

If you have an older roof you’ll probably want to climb into the attic and make sure you don't have any moisture spots on your sheathing (the layer of material attached to the structural frame of the roof).

If you do see any of these things, get a pro out immediately to take a closer look. 

Choosing a Paint Color is Stressful

For real! Have you ever chosen paint colors? Turns out paint isn’t cheap! And getting that just-right color is a challenge. If your property needs some paint protection, I highly suggest buying sample-sized containers. Use them to paint 24 x 24 inch squares on each side of your house. This can also be done for interior walls by painting some swatches on different walls in the rooms you want to repaint. 

Lighting can make all the difference in how a color appears.  Let the sample patches sit for a few days, or even weeks, to see how you like them in various lighting conditions at different times of the day. Then you’ll be much more prepared to dive into the big paint purchase with the peace of mind that you won’t be repeating the painting process—and the expense—for a while. 

Curb Appeal Fades

Some of us love new construction: the on-trend designer color for the front door, the fresh and perfectly placed plantings in the front flower beds, and even the allure of brand new toilets are really important to some. 

(Funny enough, I have heard some version of “I need to know that no one else’s butts have been on the toilets” from various clients multiple times now. By the way, you can replace toilet seats pretty easily…). 

Others want to build their homes themselves to completely customize it for their wants and needs. 

Regardless of whether you're buying new or existing construction, keep in mind that those once-new items will eventually age, and curb appeal typically needs to be refreshed or replaced. What? You mean I’m telling you that owning a home takes work and upkeep?!

Yes. That is exactly what I want you to remember.

It isn’t all a big chore, though. To keep my front porch fresh, for instance, I opted to make a statement with some big black metal planters. About twice a year I replace the fading annuals or past-their-prime perennials with new plantings. This simple change refreshes the entire porch. Other simple ways to freshen up your curb appeal might be to add some seating & accent pillows. 

Everything Costs At Least $1,000

Have you ever heard anyone complain about the expense of owning a boat? One boat-owning friend told me that the word boat is actually not just a simple word— it’s an acronym for Break Out Another Thousand. 

The same seems to be true for owning a home.

“Everything costs $1,000!” is a joke my husband, Josh, and I have going. Since we opted for a fixer upper we have found out why real estate is classified as an investment! Okay, so maybe some projects are less than $1k, but you can bet that most projects will cost more than you anticipated and will take longer than you wanted. 

To help keep projects and spending on track and prioritized, Josh and I have a “Honey Do” list that we share electronically with each other. We use it to track our upcoming tasks and wish list items for the house. Every time we learn the cost of something we’re considering we update the list. This helps us to budget appropriately and makes the process way more fun. 

Even if we had purchased brand new or built custom, eventually we would have projects or updates to do. Understanding up front at the time of purchase that home ownership costs more than just the down payment, monthly mortgage, and property taxes is super important. 

A good rule of thumb is to annually budget 1%-4% of the purchase price of your home for routine maintenance. On top of that, you need to consider the costs of any extra projects to update or upgrade items on your wish list. And the older the home is when you purchase it, the higher the amount you need to budget to spend.

But Fear Not...

I certainly hope none of this scares you away from owning a home. One of my values it keeping it real. I want to help people fulfill their home ownership dreams, but I also want to make sure they’re as prepared as possible.

Are you ready to dive in a little more deeply into seeing how ready you are, or explore the next steps to home ownership after Step Zero: Daydream? Download my helpful guide 6 Steps To Becoming A Homeowner and let’s get you on the path to home ownership!

All the best,

FREE BUYER'S GUIDE

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