Tips for First Time Home Buyers

First time buying a home? Don’t panic! here are some tips to help you through this process:

  • Pay Down Debt, and Start Saving

When buying a home, you want to make sure you have money saved up for things like a down payment, inspection & closing costs, and any additional things you would like for your home (furnishings, décor, paint, or even just an emergency fund). It is also important to talk with a lender to help you determine what you can afford. They can prequalify you for that amount, so that when you find your dream home, you are ready to purchase.

  • Start Researching Neighborhoods/Areas of Interest

Where do you see yourself living? Consider what areas fit your needs and budget. Some things to consider are commute to work, school districts, price point, and personal taste. Think about your lifestyle – Do you want to be close to stores, restaurants, and entertainment or would you prefer a quiet rural area?

  • Find a Real Estate Agent to Help You

Realtors can help guide you through this whole process, by answering all of your questions and helping you find the home of your dreams. At Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Select Realty, we have many agents that serve a large area of Virginia, such as Fredericksburg, Colonial Beach, King George, Stafford, Dumfries, Woodbridge, and Richmond.

  • Have Fun With It

Buying a home can be overwhelming, but it is also exciting! Enjoy this process and find what makes you happy. There is no place like home.


Five Ways to Show Courtesy at Showings

A seller’s home is their private sanctum, and that should remain true even when it’s on the market. You’ll enjoy showings or open houses more as well as protect the seller’s home with these five courtesies.

  1. Sign in. Sellers and listing agents need to know who’s been in the home so they can ask for feedback. If you tour builder’s homes or open houses unaccompanied, be sure to include your Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Realty professional’s contact information so others know you’re already represented.
  2. Wear slip-ons. Especially during inclement weather, park your shoes at the front door to keep from dragging mud or other contaminants into the home.
  3. Establish rules for children. You may prefer to leave the kids at home for first and second viewings, but you’ll want to show them their next home eventually. Tell them to stay by your side, not to touch anything, and to refrain from running or horseplay.
  4. 4 Open closets, cabinets and drawers. Part of what you’re buying is storage and organization, so you have every right to open all closets, built-in cabinets and kitchen drawers. But if a piece of furniture is used instead of a built-in, such as a buffet table or china hutch, you should leave it alone.
  5. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer. You introduce or take away germs when you enter any home, so make sure your hands are clean before you touch anything as well as after the showing is over

Buying a Home On the Dip

In mid-March, borrowing rates were slashed to banks to nearly zero percent and announced it would buy at least $700 billion in government bond purchases, channeling about $200 billion of the stimulus into mortgage-related bonds. Not since 2008 has the central bank made such a dramatic move to stave off the effects of a pandemic economic recession.

What does that mean to home buyers like you? Opportunity.

The Fed doesn’t set mortgage interest rates, but it does influence short-term borrowing and adjustable mortgage rates because banks follow the federal funds rate. Fixed rate mortgages tend to move with long-term Treasury yields, according to Bankrate.com. As more investors pile into Treasury bonds, the yield lowers, which means fixed rate mortgages will cost less.

According to Reuters, mortgage interest rates should remain low for some time. For example, the monthly payment on a $350,000 home purchased with a 20% down at 4% interest would be about $1,850. At 3%, the same payment would be about $1,700, allowing borrowers to buy homes more affordably.

The National Association of REALTORS® recently reported that only three percent of home sellers took their homes off the market in March in response to the coronavirus quarantines, which means there will be plenty of homes to choose.

Economic uncertainty typically causes home buyers to move to the sidelines, which can cause inventories to grow and housing prices to fall as well. The time to act is now while the costs of buying a home are dipping.


DRIVING THE NEIGHBORHOOD

Whether you’re shopping for a home in a familiar location or a new neighborhood, remember that you’re buying more than a home. You’re also buying the neighborhood, so it helps to become familiar with your favorites, whether you drive them or walk them.

Why is that important? It’s the neighborhood that helps establish home values, which depend largely on location and local amenities (close to high-paying jobs, high-scoring schools, high-starring restaurants, etc.)

Neighborhoods can change over time, so look for signs of transition. Do you see reinvestment or decline? Homeowners reinvest by repainting, making repairs and refreshing their homes with updates. What kinds of stores and services do you see? Dollar stores or boutiques, payday loan shops or investment firms, fast food or upscale restaurants. Are you the right target demographic?

Visit the area at different times of the day and on weekends. What’s traffic like? How long is your commute?

As you drive, check a few home-buying apps. On our local Virginia community pages, you can see crime stats and amenities and save your favorites to show your Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Realty sales professional.

You’ll be happier if you pick the neighborhood first, then choose the home.


Portable Gardens for Curb Appeal

To make your home more attractive to homebuyers, you could plant fresh flowers or you could put plants in containers and take your garden with you when you sell your home!  

Containers can accent your home’s personality – like washtubs for a farmhouse look or colorful fired pottery for a bohemian vibe. They’re the perfect solution for styling a porch, entry or walkway.

Follow these easy tips to make sure your potted gardens thrive:

Pick the right container. A confined space means substituting what the plants would get if they were in the ground. You need to have enough space for plants to grow and proper drainage holes so your plants don’t become sodden.

Use fresh potting soil. Good potting soil doesn’t clump and allows roots to spread. It contains nutrients to give plants a good head start.

Group plants according to sun and water requirements. A mix of cascading plants, tall leafy plants and various flowers make a beautiful composition. You can even mix in edibles like vegetables and herbs, but make sure all the plants in one container require the same amount of sun and water.

Water frequently. Container gardens dry out quickly, especially smaller pots. Check that the container is draining properly and you don’t have to worry about overwatering. Water daily in warm weather.

Bigger is better. Larger containers hold more soil, allow plants to grow larger, offer more room for variety and require less frequent watering.


“Flaneur” the Way To Your Next Home

Have you ever taken the time to stroll the marketplace in your neighborhood or the city simply for the pleasure of observation? Then you might be what the French call a “flaneur.”  The flaneur was first described in the writings of 19th century poet Charles Baudelair as one who casually wanders, watches and chronicles the street life they observe. You could try the concept to help you find your next home.

You can wander neighborhoods you’re interested in by car, bus or train, but you can do so much more effectively by foot. Start at places with lots of activity, like shopping centers, business districts or city parks. Try to have no other agenda except to meander and let the sights, sounds and smells of the streets make their impressions on you. Go during the workday, on the weekend and at night. Find a coffee shop or café with outdoor seating so you can sit comfortably and take in the surroundings. Talk with a few residents or shopkeepers to learn more about the area.

Next, walk the neighborhoods that the commercial area serves. What are the homes like? Are they well kept? Are they within walking distance or a short drive to locations you would use, like a school, restaurant or fitness center? 

Your feelings should tell you a lot. Do you feel attracted to the area or indifferent? Do you feel safe, happy and at ease? You’ll soon know if this is a community you want to join.

To learn more about local Northern and Central Virginia communities visit our communities page and search by area, then contact a Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Realty sales professional to explore these communities in greater detail.


Prequalify, Preapprove – What’s the Difference?

Some mortgage terms can be confusing, none more so than the similarities and differences between prequalification and preapproval. The two terms are often used interchangeably, but they mean very different things to lenders, real estate professionals and home sellers.

Prequalifying is a rough-idea process that tells you how much money you’ll likely be able to borrow to buy a home. You can prequalify yourself on any banking or real estate-related website simply by putting your salary, type of loan you want, down payment amount and a ballpark home price into a mortgage calculator. You can talk with a lender, who will also give you a ballpark amount without a credit check.

When you apply for a mortgage loan, you’ll share your income records, the source and amount of your down payment, and your social security number so the lender can pull your credit. This is the key difference between prequalification and preapproval – when the lender is able to review your application and verify your credit standing to make a lending decision.

The lender will get back to you within three days or less with a preapproval letter stating the maximum amount of money you’re approved to borrow.

Preapproval gives you the real numbers so you know exactly how much you can spend on a home. It lends you credibility with real estate professionals and with sellers who will take you seriously as a buyer.

Prequalification becomes preapproval once you have a purchase contract on a home. Then, the preapproval is real.


FOUR THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU MOVE IN

You’re almost done! All that’s left to do is to pack up and move in to your first real home. Here are a few tips that will make your first day as a new homeowner easier.

  1. Sort your belongings. Moving can be more expensive when you cart along items you don’t really want or need. A great way to do it is to sort and pack at the same time. Think in terms of three piles – keep, donate, trash. Trash the trash and drop the donations off at the first opportunity. Put your “keep” pile into moving boxes labeled by room.
  2. Plan your storage options. Closets, attics and cabinets can fill up quickly, especially if you’re downsizing. Where will the out-of-season sports gear go? What about holiday decorations? What goes in the garage?
  3. Plan your trip. Pack your car with necessities, including first aid, drinks, and snacks. Let each family member choose their favorite items to bring, like blankets, pillows, games, books, and a change of clothes, just in case.
  4. Meet your neighbors. If possible, introduce yourselves to your neighbors before you move. You’ll have a greater sense of belonging on moving day.

Five Safe Strategies for Homebuying

With home prices rising, you may be wondering if now is the best time to buy a home. The answer is always yes but there are ways to buy wisely and safely.

Save for a down payment. The more money you can put down, the better borrowing terms you’ll get on your mortgage. Establish a firm budget. Limit credit card spending and pay down your debts. Put your next raise into savings.

Choose wisely. Your home should improve your lifestyle, but not cripple you with debt. It should serve your household’s needs for at least five to ten years, so consider location, neighborhood, commute times, size, number of bedrooms, amenities and condition.

Buy within your means. Your payment, including interest and taxes, should be no more than 28-30 percent of your gross income or 40-42 percent of your income including existing debt. As your income improves, you’ll be able to meet other life goals, such as growing your family, starting a business, or buying more property.

Buy for the long term. The longer you own your home, the more equity, or ownership, you have and the less you owe the bank. Think of equity like savings you’ll get back when you sell or rent the property some day.

Take care of your property. Keeping your home repaired and updated is the best thing you can do to protect your investment. A home in top condition always sells for more money than homes in less desirable condition.

It always a good idea to research our local communities to get an idea of where you want to live and the price point for the community, then consult with you Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Realty sales professional to map out a game plan.


THE FAIRYTALE TUDOR

Great Britain’s Tudor reign spanned 1485 and 1603 and was unprecedented in terms of prosperity. International trade led to a great expansion in free-thinking and in home design concepts, including new ideas like the decorative indoor fireplace with a mantle, hand-made rugs from the Orient as table coverings, and built-in cabinets and seating. 

Tudor style is down-to-earth and charming, and many urban homebuyers are enchanted by their asymmetrical designs, distinctive half-timber accents, deeply pitched roofs, leaded glass windows, gables, turrets, and brick or stone exteriors, accented by one or more large brick-patterned chimneys.  The entry is typically a plank style door with a rounded arch and iron hardware. 

Tudor interiors feature lots of wood – wide plank wood floors, wood beams on the ceiling, wood mantles and more. Timber beams on cathedral-style ceilings are usually stained dark in color. Interior walls are textured and painted off-white to mimic plaster. Due to their solid construction, these homes can be easy to update.

Lighten the interior with candlelight bulbs, natural stone floors, colorful rugs and minimal furniture bedecked in plush velvets, tapestries and brocades.

If you believe your home is your castle, the Tudor style will bring you years of comfort and delight.