Don’t Give Up Hope, Millennials!

It’s no secret that Millennials, ages 24 to 34, have been hit hard in 2020. The triple whammies of student loans, COVID-19 and record job losses are huge challenges to face. It would be easy to give up your dream of owning a home, but we say where there’s a will, there’s a way.

How you manage your expectations, resources and opportunities will make all the difference in achieving what you want out of life, including owning a home.

First, don’t give up. Your timeline may be busted for buying a home this summer, but you can still make it happen sooner than you think.

Look for ways to save money. Don’t buy stuff you don’t need. Make your own Starbucks coffee and take your Teva and a packed lunch to work. Take advantage of interest deferrals on your student loan. Open a high-yield savings account that pays compound interest.

Move to a less expensive apartment, get a roommate to share expenses or move back home temporarily. Pay your parents a reasonable rent for food and board and save the difference of what you’re paying now or use it to pay off debt.

Look for ways to make money. Do you have a hobby or skill that you could turn into a side hustle, like carpentry, quilting, baking or small business accounting?

Don’t worry about what others think. Instead, encourage each other. It will be worth it when you move into your own home.


Mortgage Guidance for the Self-Employed

Yes, you can get a mortgage if you’re self-employed, but it’s challenging in the age of Covid-19. Guidelines are changing monthly as the crisis continues, but the following requirements are generally true:

Work history: According to USnews.com, you’ll need a two-year employment history. Fluctuations in earnings are acceptable as long as you can show stable or increasing income. A shorter history may be okay if you’ve been employed in the same industry for a period of at least two years.

Down payments: You’ll likely need to put 20 percent down, which minimizes risk to both you and the lender, but you may be able to get away with as little as 10 percent down if you have a FICO score of 720 or above, says NJlenders.com

Cash reserves: If the worst happens and your business declines, you must show enough cash on hand to pay your mortgage regularly and on time.

Credit history: You’ll need a high credit score and an income to debt ratio of 43 percent or below, depending on guidelines. Lenders carefully check how you use revolving credit, other outstanding loans, and payment histories.   

Documentation: Supply your ID, your personal and business tax returns for two years, earnings and bank statements, business name verification plus evidence of business such as a web site, invoices, etc., license if applicable, list of debts and expenses, and payment verification for your home’s rent or mortgage.

Loan requirements are fluid, so contact your lender to learn the latest guidelines.


The Renewed Appeal of Suburbia

It’s typical for single-family home sales to surge in the spring and summer, but this year, there are some differences due to Covid-19. The pandemic is causing more urbanites to move out of the city say The New York TimesForbes.comNPR.org and other news services.

Many of the attractions that make city living attractive, such as theater, shopping and dining out, simply aren’t available, causing some homebuyers to feel pent-up in their small apartments. They’re questioning if there isn’t a better way to live.

The result is a notable increase in home searches and purchases for single-family homes in smaller towns, exurbs and suburbs as many city-dwellers, particularly millennials, decide to ditch living in close quarters, paying high rents and home prices, and settling for views of buildings instead of trees.

One factor that’s driving the decision to move out of the city is that many white-collar workers believe they will continue to work from home permanently. The Star Tribune reported that Ford Motor Company, for example, intends to make many telecommuting jobs permanent, partly due to worker polls in favor working from home.  

If you’re of like mind, what can you expect when you shop for a home in the ‘burbs? According to Realtor.com, on average, a suburban home costs $230,000 compared to $431,000 home in the city with 300 more square feet of living space. You may pay over list price or get into a bidding war, due to intensifying demand, but you’ll still save a bundle. 


Staged Homes Sell Faster

In a survey released this year, the National Association of REALTORS found that 83% of buyers’ agents reported that staging helps homebuyers visualize themselves living in the home and influences them enough to make higher offers. Sellers’ agents agreed that staged homes sell faster and for more money.

These are just a few of the advantages to staging your home, but there are other benefits for home sellers. 

Staging gives you a deadline. Getting your home ready to is a lot of work, but online photos and agent showings should showcase your home at its best – decluttered, freshly painted and staged with fresh new furniture and accessories.

Staging gives you great ideas. You’ll learn a lot about making rooms flow, creating focal points, increase and improve lighting, and how to use color.

Staging helps you decide what to keep or discard. If your furnishings are hand-me-downs, out of date, or not your taste, why take it all to your next home? Staging can help you separate what you love so you’ll have far less to move.

Ask your Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Agent more about staging, or even virtual staging options for your online photos.


Local VA Housing Market

Check out the local housing report prepared by the Fredericksburg Area Association of REALTORS®. 

Look at the graphic below (found at https://www.faarmembers.com/market/) showing the statistics for the month of July 2020. Data show that the number of units sold and home price for each local county are still increasing, while days on the market is decreasing, due to low inventory. Because of the lower inventory, homes are selling faster, and for a higher sales price. Many homes are getting multiple offers!

In our local area, the housing market is still going strong. While the number of listings is down from previous years, homes are still selling quickly and buyers are looking for properties. It is a seller’s market, which drives up the home sale prices. Now may be the perfect time to sell your home in Virginia!


Student Loans

Looking to buy a home, but worried that your student loan debt will prevent you? Here are some things you can do to help you purchase a home after college:

  1. Look at your Debt-to-Income Ratio: Pay down any debts you can, including student loans, credit card bills, and other debts you may have. Save up some money, and start paying down debts wherever possible.
  2. Look at your Credit Score: Make sure you pay all bills on time and get your score up. Your credit score makes a big impact on your home purchase, so it helps to keep your score high.
  3. Speak with a Lender: You are going to need a pre-approval letter to purchase a home. Talk with a lender to get pre-approved for a mortgage loan. Your lender can also help give you some advice on getting approved for the amount you are looking for, and they can give you tips for how to get where you’d like to be financially.
  4. Contact a Real Estate Agent: If you have any questions on the home buying process, speak with one of our Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Select Agents. They can help you in your home search process and answer any questions you may have.

If you are a recent college graduate, don’t let that student loan debt keep you from your dreams of owning a home. There are ways you can purchase a home, or plan for it in the near future. Speak with one of our agents for more information!


Virginia State Lighthouses

Virginia is full of history and scenic activities. Here are some of the lighthouses located in the state:

  1. Old Cape Henry Lighthouse – Built in 1792, this lighthouse is located on the Chesapeake Bay. It is one of the oldest standing lighthouses in the United Stated and has a lot of history.
  2. Assateague Lighthouse – This lighthouse was originally built in 1833 and was rebuilt in 1866. It is located on Assateague Island at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.
  3. Cape Charles Light – Located on Smith Island, this lighthouse is the tallest in the State of Virginia. It can be seen from the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, but is not fully open to the public.
  4. Jones Point – This is the only remaining river lighthouse in the state. It was built in 1855 near Old Town Alexandria. This lighthouse is also not fully open to the public but can be seen and photographed from outside.

For a complete list and map of Virginia’s Lighthouses, visit https://www.virginia.org/lighthouses/ . Be sure to check them out!


Tips for making your home stand out

If you are listing your home for sale, there is no doubt you want it to be noticed by potential buyers. Here are a few ways to improve your listing:

  1. Flower Beds or Potted Plants – A trimmed yard and kept up plants are a great way to help your curb appeal. If you do not have the time or green thumb to plant flower beds, get some potted plants for your porch or outside your windows.
  • Fresh Paint – Painting is an affordable and easy way to make your home look good as new. It will clean off the marks/dents from your family living there and overall look fresh and new!
  • Clear the Clutter – Nobody wants to look at photos of your listing and see the rooms full of stuff. Make sure your home stays tidy and take out what clutters up the room. This will make the rooms look cleaner and larger, and potential buyers can envision their own stuff in the home.

Talk to your Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Realtor for more ways to help your listing sell!


The home office is back in style in 2020

With COVID-19, more and more people were, or still are currently working from home. Never again overlook the importance of your home office. When thinking about your next move, you want to make sure the home you purchase has a space for your office. However small or large the room is, you can make it your own.

When choosing an office space, you want something with enough room for what you are using it for. Make sure there is room for storage, as well as your desk and computer supplies. Make your office as homey as possible, so you enjoy being there, even if you have work to do. Choose a comfy desk chair and decorate the room to match your personal style. A fun idea is to decorate with photos, so even when you are working, you can see your loved ones and your memories.

Check out some home office inspiration on Pinterest. There are a TON of organizational tips, design ideas, and ways to make your home office a place you want to work. Next time you think about purchasing a new home, keep your home office in mind. It is something many people do not consider, but now that everyone has been working from home, they are realizing that they may need a change.

When you decide to purchase your next home, keep your home office space in mind!


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.