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!

Downsizing – key tips and benefits

Changes in life may mean that you are downsizing the square footage of your new home in comparison to your current home. Moving is an ideal time to purge your house of items you no longer need or use. Don’t let downsizing cause unnecessary stress. Instead follow these tips to make downsizing a breeze.

1: Take inventory of items in your house and decide what you cannot live without. Think about the question, if you were on a deserted island, what five things would you want with you? Perhaps your list includes a family photo album, a book, your computer or a family heirloom. Regardless of what makes your list, make sure to keep these items safe for the move.

2: Do not wait until the last minute to get rid of excess items. The closer you are to the move, the more likely you might be to throw everything in a box and move it to the new home because you didn’t have time to decide whether or not to keep it. Schedule time every day or every week to make decisions on what you no longer need.

3: When you make a decision on an item, get it out of your house as soon as possible to avoid changing your mind. If you keep something around, you may subconsciously come up with a reason to keep it. However, if you dispose of it quickly, it is gone and you will not be reminded of it. As the saying goes, “out of sight, out of mind.”

4: Consider the type of home you are moving into when you downsize. Perhaps now you live in a home where you take care of the outdoor areas, but you are moving to a condo or townhome where you are paying for the outdoor maintenance to be done for you. In this case, you can depart with your lawn mower and gardening tools.

5: Avoid throwing items away in the garbage. Instead think about family members, neighbors, friends or co-workers who may benefit from the items you do not need or want. You can also donate items to a charity. Sometimes it’s easier to part with things when you know someone else will put them to good use.

One of the biggest decisions…

One of the biggest decisions you make in life is to sell a home. It can be a bit scary, but I will be guiding you through the entire journey. I will be sending you some tips on how to get your home ready for showing. If I can answer any questions, please let me know.

Tip #1: Declutter

When a potential homebuyer walks into your home, you want them to feel at home. Start by clearing the clutter.

Go room by room and pack up items you don’t use regularly. Take unused or no longer needed items to a donation center or throw them away. Keep in mind, if you haven’t used something in over a year, you probably no longer need it.

For items you will need, but not on a daily basis, ensure they are stored and organized in a hidden location such as a pantry, cabinet, closet or drawers. Store the items you packed for later somewhere off-site or arrange them in an orderly manner in the garage. Do your best to clear off countertops, tabletops, and shelves.

Removing the clutter will make it easier for prospective buyers to envision themselves in your home and also give you a head start for packing for your next move.

Buying a new home can be fun and stressful

Buying a home can be fun and stressful. Some of the stress is caused by the unknown. Whether you are a first time homebuyer or a seasoned buyer, arming yourself with information will ease some of the anxiety. Let’s take a look at the different types of selling situations we may encounter.

Traditional: A family has placed their home on the market at a set price. The challenge with this type of sale is the negotiation. The seller wants to receive the highest price while you will want the lowest price. One of the benefits of this sale is that the buyer is able to request updates to the home based on a home inspection.

Foreclosure: This is a lengthy process when the lender is attempting to recover the money loaned to the seller. Typically these homes will need work, whether it is buying all new appliances, fixing holes in walls, or replacing flooring, be advised that this option will likely come with some hard work. The benefit to buying a foreclosed home is that you may be able to purchase it for significantly less than market value.

Short Sale: The lender and seller have come to an agreement to sell the house for market value. If the home sells for less than what the owner owes the lender, the lender forgives the remainder of the debt. Unlike a foreclosed home, the homeowners are more likely to maintain the home and may possibly still be living in the home. However, because the lender must agree to the price of the home, the process to purchase a short sale can take longer.

New Construction: You always have the option to work with a home builder to have your dream home built. This allows you to choose your options and have a home that has finishes to your taste. However, be aware that when you walk through a model home, the highest quality features will be shown and these features may not be realistic in your budget.

As we view various homes, we can certainly discuss these different situations in more detail. In the meantime, please let me know if you have any questions.

Why It Pays to Be a Homeowner (Literally)

Why It Pays to Be a Homeowner
The classic buy vs. rent debate has been going on for ages. Is buying a home really a valuable investment, or are you better off renting and putting your money into other wealth-building avenues? While arguments can be made for both, and you should certainly never put all your eggs in one basket, the numbers speak for themselves when it comes to the financial benefits of owning a home. Let’s take a closer look at what they have to say.

Home values are going up, up, up. Between Q3 2016 and Q3 2017, U.S. house prices rose 6.5%, according to the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s (FHFA) House Price Index (HPI). On a home valued at $250,000, that’s a $16,250 bump in equity in one year alone! Adjusted for about 2% inflation, that number comes in around $11,000. Not too shabby!
Big cities are booming. It’s no secret that home values are rising faster in big cities, but just how fast? Of the 100 largest metro areas, the following saw the highest price increases from Q3 2016 to Q3 2017: Seattle-Tacoma, WA (13.8%), Stockton, CA (12%), Boise City, ID (11.2%), San Francisco, CA (11.2%), and Grand Rapids, MI (11%).
Income growth can’t keep up. Collectively, national house prices have risen about 34.6% over the last five years, which far outpaces inflation. On the flip side, the median household income has only risen about 10% from 2011-2016, according to the latest data. So what you may be lacking in higher wages, you could be making up in equity.
These numbers1 clearly illustrate that it pays to be a homeowner. Experts agree that these trends are likely to continue, making the case for homeownership even stronger.

Breaking It Down
If you already own a home, you can rest easy knowing you are increasing your net worth by building equity. But if you’re still renting — and some people have legitimate reasons to do so — you’re missing out on some awesome wealth-building opportunities. And the longer you wait, the more expensive it will be to start taking advantage of them. Bottom line: Make the smart decision to start building your wealth through homeownership. Either way, you’ll have a monthly payment. Why not make it work for you?

[1] All figures based on FHFA’s 2017 Q3 Purchase-Only Index.

Whether you’ve got equity you want to tap into or you’re ready to start taking advantage of the financial benefits of owning a home, let’s connect to find the right financing solutions for your situation.

This article was provided by:
Jason Harris
NMLS# 416892
Centier Bank
600 E 84th Avenue
Merrillville, IN 46410

4 Tips to Help Your Home Sell This Spring


The spring homebuying season is fast approaching. With more sellers on the market, it will mean more competition to sell your home quickly and for the right price. An experienced real estate agent is a valuable partner in this process, as they’ll handle things like marketing the property, holding open houses, helping you set a listing price, and negotiating with buyers. But you shouldn’t sit back and rely solely on your agent to get the job done. If you’re planning to list your home this spring, here are four ways you can better support your agent to help your home sell faster — and get the best deal possible.

Create a blank canvas. Your home may be immaculately decorated, but your décor is a reflection of your tastes and preferences — not those of prospective buyers. When selling, the goal is to enhance your home’s features and space in a way that helps buyers envision it as their own, which is why your agent will want to stage your home. To do this effectively, you have to remove the distractions (aka, your belongings) to create a blank canvas for the agent to work with. That not only means de-cluttering and making repairs, but it also involves taking down family pictures, putting worn or excess furniture into storage, and possibly even repainting in neutral colors. Don’t take it personally. Trust that your agent has your best interests in mind, and be willing to work with them so they can present your home in its best possible light.
Spruce up your curb appeal. First impressions are everything, which means your yard and front entrance should be well-kept and inviting in order to attract potential buyers. Your agent can help you identify areas where your curb appeal needs work, but as a general rule of thumb, be prepared to complete the following: trim shrubs and trees, plant seasonal flowers, cover dead grass with sod or grass seed, and install accent lighting to accentuate your landscaping. Also, jazz up your front porch with a new rug, an updated porch light, and a fresh coat of paint on your door. Bonus: Improving your curb appeal can increase your home’s value roughly 3% to 5%.
Get the word out. Your listing agent will handle a good deal of the marketing for your home, including taking professional real estate photos, putting a for-sale sign in the yard, and posting your home on the multiple listing service (MLS) and other online listing sites. But you can help by using your own circle of influence to get the word out. Share your listing with your followers on social media, and forward it to friends, family, and even neighbors. You’d be surprised how powerful word of mouth can be.
Price it right. More than a fresh coat of paint, the key to attracting buyers in a competitive market is to price your home right. Set the price too high, and you’ll deter interested buyers; price it too low, and you may leave money on the table. That’s why you should work with your agent closely to set the best asking price. Your agent will conduct a comparative market analysis of similar homes in your neighborhood that sold recently. These homes are called comps because they’re comparable in terms of size, features, and age, and will give you an idea of what people are willing to pay for homes similar to yours. Your agent should also compare listing versus sales price, as well as how long the homes were on the market. Homes that were initially priced high and stayed on the market longer are a good indicator not to set your asking price too high.