We’re well into the fall season and winter is right around the corner. This is the time of year when it’s especially important to make sure your home is properly sealed. Air leaks can make it difficult to keep your home properly heated and can lead to high utility bills. Here’s quick guide to checking your home for air leaks.
Do an air pressure test. You can quickly check for air leaks with a simple test using household items. Seal your home by completely closing all doors, windows, and vents and turning off exhaust fans. Then pass a burning incense stick along the edges of all doors, windows, and other openings to the outside. If the smoke is forced into or away from an opening, you’ve found a leak.
Inspect doors and windows. To check for leaks near your windows, attempt to rattle the frame. This will reveal whether there are gaps along the edges. Also check for cracks in the frame, loose screws in locks, or gaps anywhere in the window.
Door hinges and thresholds are common places for air leaks. Deteriorated weather stripping can also lead to leaks and the door itself can develop cracks that allow air to pass through.
Skylights are a little trickier to test and examine, but you can still do it yourself. Check for water stains near your skylights, which is a dead giveaway of a leak. If you suspect there is one, you’ll have to get on the roof for a closer inspection. Look for loose shingles, cracked roofing cement, and debris.

Mortgage Pre-Approval


Getting your hopes set on the perfect home and then finding out that you are unable to afford it can be devastating. To avoid this from happening, only look at homes that are within your budget. One of the best ways to determine this is to obtain a mortgage pre-approval.

When you speak with a lender about a pre-approval, it is important to know your options. There are two types of rates and a few different options for loan terms.

You could opt for an adjustable or a fixed rate loan. Most adjustable rate mortgages (ARM) start with a period of one to ten years at a fixed-rate which is followed by a period of adjustable interest rates. The initial period has a lower interest rate than a fixed-rate loan. However, once this period is completed you may incur higher payments if the mortgage interest rate has risen. There is a cap on the amount the interest rate can increase and how often it may be adjusted.

The other option is a fixed rate mortgage. For the entire length of the loan, the interest rate will remain the same. With this option, you will be secure from rising interest rates; however, you will not be able to take advantage of lower interest rates unless you refinance your mortgage down the road.

Finally consider the loan terms. Generally, you will receive a lower interest rate for a shorter term loan. Similarly, the longer the term of the loan, the higher the interest rate is likely to be. What you want to keep in mind is that the longer period loans will decrease your monthly payments because you have a longer period to pay off the loan. Your lender can review these options with you so you can make an educated decision.

Downsizing your garage


Downsizing your closet may be a difficult task because you can easily persuade yourself that you will need one article of clothing in the future even though you haven’t worn it in a year or more. Depending on your situation, you may find downsizing your garage easier.

The first step with downsizing any portion of your house is to decide what things you use and need and what items you can do without. However, keep in mind the change in space between your current home and your future home. Are you going from a three-car garage to a two-car garage? Will you still have a garage, but you are moving to a community where the outdoor maintenance is taken care of for you?

These are important things to consider as you rummage through your garage and decide what to discard. If you will no longer have outdoor maintenance, you can likely get rid of your lawnmower, shovels, rakes and other similar tools.

Also consider where you are moving. For example, if you live in the north now, but are making a move to the south, you will have items you can sell or donate. Thinking through future needs for the tools, equipment and storage items in your garage will help you pare down your stuff.

The inside of your house is ready to show


The inside of your house is ready to show, but let’s not forget the first impression homebuyers have of your home. Now is the time to focus on the outside areas.

Tip #3: Curb Appeal

As with the interior of the home, it is important to remove clutter. For the outdoor areas of your home, that would include trimming bushes and flowers, and pulling weeds.

Use a pressure washer to clean decks, and dirty siding as well as driveways and sidewalks. Removing the dirt will brighten up the whole area.

Ensure all outside light fixtures are working. If these lights do not automatically turn on, ensure you turn them on before a potential buyer arrives for a showing. You can also highlight walkways and landscaping by adding solar light fixtures. These will be especially helpful for potential buyers who arrive in the evening after the sun goes down.

Take a good look at your home at different times of the day. Make a list of any repairs that should be completed. If you do not have a welcome mat or yours is worn, buy a new one. This is an inexpensive way to make your home inviting.

A bright and welcoming outside will set a positive tone for potential buyers as they enter your home.

When searching for your next home…


When searching for your next home, it is important to understand exactly what you need versus what you want.

For instance, you may want a four bedroom, three bathroom home, with a large kitchen with granite countertops, a basement, and a three car garage near your place of employment and the park you enjoy. We will certainly look for your ideal home, but understand that your budget constraints may not allow you to have all of your wants. So, it is important to know exactly what you need and what you may be able to live without.

It may be helpful to make a list of everything you want in your next home. Then go back through your list to determine exactly what you need and prioritize your want. With any home search, there is always compromise. Together, we will find a place you will be happy to call home

Get your credit in check

One of the most important steps to buying a house is ensuring you have your credit in order. Before you even start looking for homes, it is a good idea to know your credit history. If you have a good history of credit, maintain it, if you have a questionable history of credit, take the time to make it better before diving into the home buying process.

The first step is checking your credit. There are numerous web sites who claim to provide you with your credit report for free, but it is important that you receive a report from all three credit bureaus, Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. You can download a free copy of all three reports from once a year. These reports will show you current lines of credit you have open, your payment history and debt balances.

Once you have these reports, review them for any inaccuracies. If your credit is in good shape, maintain it. Do not open new lines of credit. Do not make any large purchases, such as a car. Continue to pay all of your bills on time every month.

You can also take steps to increase your credit. If you noticed any inaccuracies on your credit reports, contact the credit bureaus to have them verify the information. They can work with the credit company or companies in question to make appropriate updates.

If you have any unpaid bills that are with collections, work to pay those off first. Pay off debts that are close to the credit limit. It will take time to increase your credit score, but it will pay off in the long run.

Downsizing your closet

In a previous message, we discussed some general tips on downsizing. This time let’s take a deep dive into a specific area of your home: the closet.

One item many homebuyers are looking for in a new home is storage space. One of the best storage spaces in a home is the closet. Because closets are out of sight and behind closed doors, many items can be stored in these spaces.

Whether it is the coat closet, the linen closet or the bedroom closet, there are likely items in these storage spaces that you can purge. Every day or week, take time to decide what to keep and what to discard. During your scheduled time to declutter, pick a specific space to work on to avoid being sidetracked. Try to tackle an entire closet at once or at least commit to a section of a larger closet.

The first thing to do in a closet is to remove everything from it. Then sort the items into three piles. There should be a keep pile, a discard pile and a donate pile. For instance, when cleaning out your bedroom closet, place items you wear on a regular basis in one pile and items that you haven’t touched for years into either the discard or donate pile. Once you decide what you need to get rid of, complete the process. Take boxes to the trash or to where you plan to donate. Don’t hold on to them.

Staging and Depersonalization…

You have removed the clutter and your space is taking shape. Your next step is to look at what is left in your home and think like the buyer. You want all potential home buyers to see themselves in your home and this means removing objects that are personal to you and organizing furniture to display the highlights of the house.

Tip #2: Staging and Depersonalization

Remove pictures of you and your family especially in the main rooms of the home like the family room, kitchen and bathrooms.

When a potential buyer walks into a room, they should know the purpose. Using your extra bedroom as a storage room may have worked for you, but makes the buyer think there is no storage in the house. Set this room up as a bedroom or an office. Give it a purpose. The same idea will work for a bonus room.

Rearrange furniture to highlight exceptional features like a fireplace or amazing view. You want these features to be impressive and outweigh any minor issues with the home.

Light is important whether natural or artificial. A well-lit home will allow the potential buyer to see the space, especially if they are touring the house in the evening.

Your potential home buyer doesn’t want to imagine you living in this home, they want to envision their family living in this home. Depersonalization and staging will help this process.

Fixer-upper vs. Move-in Ready…

Now that you have a better understanding of the different types of selling situations we may encounter, let’s discuss more about the homes you will be looking at, specifically a fixer upper versus a move-in ready home.

Fixer upper: This generally refers to a home needing some tender loving care. Whether it needs to be updated from 70s decor or walls need to be removed to improve the flow of the space, there will be some need for hard work on these types of homes. The advantages to a fixer upper is you can usually buy it for a great price and with the right updates, you can improve the value of the home tremendously. Another advantage is you have the choice to decide what goes in the home. You can really make it your own. Of course, a fixer upper also comes with its own risks. As you begin remodeling you may run into unknown hazards costing you more money than you initially budgeted. You must also decide if your current life circumstances would allow for a renovation.

Move-in ready: On the flip side, you could purchase a move-in ready home, which means the home is ready for immediate occupancy. Don’t let the term fool you, however. Move-in ready does not mean that you may not choose to make some updates that are appropriate for your family. You may choose to paint the purple kids room a more neutral color and use it as a guest room. Similar minor changes may be needed throughout the home. This type of home generally comes with a higher price tag as well because the hard work is already completed.

Weigh the pros and cons of each type of home to decide which one will better suit your needs and budget.

Understanding the home buying process

You are thinking about or have made the decision to purchase a new home. It is your first time looking for a new home and it likely brings you a bit of anxiety. It can be stressful to commit to a large, long-term purchase like a house. Preparing yourself with information may help alleviate some concern. Let?s take a look at the home buying process.

Home Search: First you need to look at homes and decide on the one that will work best for your family. What is your budget? If you don’t know how much you can spend, I can help you. What amount of space do you need? How many bedrooms and baths? What things are you not willing to live without? What would you like to have, but they are not deal breakers if the home lacks them? The search may take time. Don’t expect the first home you look through to be the right one.

Offer: When your heart is set on one home, you are ready to put in an offer. I can provide you with comparisons of recently sold homes similar to the one you are looking at so you can make an appropriate offer. Keep in mind that there is more to the offer than the money. Other parts of the offer, such as contingencies on when closing can occur or who pays for closing costs, can be as important as the price you offer to pay for the home. My expertise will help as you walk through these options.

Negotiation: Everything is negotiable including the furniture in the home. Be prepared for some back and forth between you and the current owners. There is always a little give and take in the process and it may take a few counteroffers before both parties are in agreement.

Home Inspection: The home inspection is not required, but is an important step in the process to ensure the home you are buying is in good shape. The main purpose of a home inspection is to provide you, the buyer, with information about major repairs that may be needed on the home. These things aren’t always visible.

Closing: The final step of the home buying process is the closing. The lenders will prepare the paperwork. Having a pre-approval completed prior to your search will likely make this process smoother. Be prepared to sign many papers the day of closing. Don’t worry; we will review everything to ensure that all of your questions are answered. When it is all said and done, you will have keys to your very first home.

Buying a first home is a milestone. I am excited to work with you throughout this process!