What You Haven’t Considered About Owning a Vacation Home

tropical-vacationWouldn’t it be great to own a place at the beach, in the mountains, or by the lake? If you are seriously considering buying a vacation home, you have probably weighed many of the pros and cons already.

But you should carefully consider everything before you buy. Have you taken these additional costs and benefits into account?

The Overlooked Costs of Homeownership

As any experienced home buyer knows, there are additional annual costs that come with owning a home, such as property taxes, home insurance, and any association fees.

Make sure you consider maintenance costs, as well. If you decide to rent out your property, you might want to invest in housekeeping or property management services. MarketWatch outlines a few additional costs you may face.

Additional Fun: Resort-Style Amenities

golf course at sunriseIn popular vacation destinations, you can purchase a second home in a resort community. This gives you access to a range of amenities that can include a golf course, spa services, swimming pool, and dozens of events.

Just remember, you may have to pay additional fees for these amenities.

It’s a Good Investment, But Not a Guaranteed Money Maker

Many vacation homeowners rent their property out to other vacation-goers as a way to earn extra money.

But, as US News & World Report points out, you may not always make money with your vacation home.

Location is Crucial

picking a locationWhen buying any property, whether it’s a primary or second home, location is one of the most important factors in your decision. When choosing a vacation home, consider how much time it will take to get to your home, whether you will need to drive or fly, and if you will be able to visit as often as you want.

You should choose a home that is close to your favorite vacation features (such as a ski resort or private beach) and close to the grocery store, major roads or an airport, and fun things to do.

We Can Help You Weigh Your Options

Investing in a vacation home can be a great decision, but it should not be taken lightly. We can answer any questions you have about finding, buying, or renting out a vacation home. Call us and let’s talk.

3 Surprising Ways Public Schools Affect Your House Hunt

sharpened colored pencils in a circleIt’s back-to-school season. School supplies are front and center in the stores, back-to-school sales are everywhere, and school buses are becoming part of the morning commute.

Even if the public school district is not an important factor in your home search, the location of public schools can still have a significant impact on your home buying decision.

If you are looking for a home near a school, you may want to take these factors into consideration.

1. School Speed Zones

Pay attention to the speed limit around schools and times that the school zone speed is enforced. You may want to consider a home that has convenient alternate routes around the school zone.

the stop sign on the side of a bus2. School Bus Stops

Whether there is a bus route through your neighborhood or on a major thoroughfare, it can affect traffic around your home. Call the school district and ask if there is a bus that stops near your home to pick up students.

3. Morning and Afternoon Traffic

Traffic congestion near public schools may be an issue during the weekdays. Crowded carpool lanes and frequent bus stops can turn a short trip to the grocery store into a frustrating ordeal.

When you are searching for your home, visit the area during peak morning and afternoon hours. Again, you may want to consider a home that is farther from the school or has convenient alternate routes.

We Are Your Guide to the Area

Realtor showing a buyer a homeA school’s location can affect your decision to buy a home, especially if you are new to the area. But a real estate agent is your local expert, giving you everything you need to know about how the nearby schools will affect your morning commute or afternoon trip to the store.

We can help you find the best home in the best location. Call us and let’s talk about your home search.

The Final Word on the Best Time to Sell a Home

There are countless home selling articles online that seem to contradict each other.

In this Huffington Post article, the month of May is the best time to sell. But in this Washington Post article, any time between December and March is the optimal time. And in this NerdWallet article, the right time to sell is between May and August.

Is there a right answer? And if you are interested in selling your home soon, should you start preparing your home now or wait until the weather gets colder?

Why Home Sellers Choose to List in the Summer

Every season has its benefits for home sellers.

Spring has traditionally been the time that homeowners put their homes on the market, since the weather is ideal for showings and curb appeal. However, online home searching makes it even easier for today’s buyers to explore available listings (and high-quality photos) at any time.

Let’s say you wanted to sell your home right now. You may be able to sell quickly and for more money because:

  • Home buyers want to move before the new school year starts.
  • Home buyers have fewer properties to choose from than in the springtime.
  • Home buyers can schedule showings during the longer days.

What About the Other Seasons?

an agent showing a buyer a homeThere are equally good reasons that home sellers are able to reap the rewards during any other season.

In the spring, there is a chance that potential buyers will start a bidding war.

In the fall, the cooler autumn weather is ideal for home showings.

And in the winter, especially during the holidays, there are often more motivated buyers eager to settle down before the new year.

The Truth About Selling in the Summer

Is timing the secret to selling a home? Yes, but the optimal time depends on when you need to sell. You shouldn’t wait any longer than necessary.

The key to selling your home quickly and for more money is choosing the right real estate agent.

Have you considered selling your home this summer? We can give you more information about ways to increase your home’s value. Call us today and let’s talk about the next steps.

5 Easy Summer Decorating Ideas to Brighten Your Home

Summer is the perfect season for spending warm evenings outside, hosting get-togethers with friends, and enjoying the longer days. What better way to take advantage of the long days and abundant natural light than in your own home?

Here are 5 simple summer home décor tips that can instantly brighten and transform your living spaces.

a neutral kitchen with fruit on the center island1. Add Splashes of Bright Colors

Make a neutral room visually interesting by adding small, colorful details.

Try placing a bright flower arrangement on the coffee table, putting eye-catching throw pillows on the couch, or setting a bowl of oranges and bananas on the kitchen counter.

2. Swap Out Dark Furniture for White

Brown or black couches, tables, and other furnishings can make a room seem darker — and smaller. Open up your living spaces by adding white furniture. If you have curtains on your windows, consider replacing them with lighter sheer coverings to let in more natural light.

a dining room table with blue placemats3. Create a Stunning Table Settings

If you’re hosting a get-together at your home this summer, impress your guests with bright, summery place settings.

Consider placing brightly colored plates or napkins on the table, then adding a matching vase filled with fresh flowers or votives filled with unscented candles.

4. Bring Summer Blossoms Indoors

There’s no better way to welcome summer into your home than by bringing in freshly picked flowers. Place vibrant bouquets throughout your home, including end tables in the bedrooms or in the middle of a shelf, for a fresh look and pleasant smell.

a new welcome mat and open front door5. Set Out a New Welcome Mat

Setting a new doormat, or one that has a bright, summery theme, outside your front door is the perfect way to welcome guests into your home.

Helpful tip for home sellers: A new, clean welcome mat also creates a great first impression for potential home buyers.

Thinking of Selling Your Home? We Have You Covered

The goal of preparing your home for sale is to focus on the décor that will brighten your home and make the best use of space. These summer home decorating ideas are a great place to start.

If you are planning to sell your home this summer, we have even more tips that can help you get your home ready, as well as home selling resources that can allow you to sell for more money and as quickly as possible. Call us and let’s take the next steps.

Don’t Touch the A/C! 7 Tips to Stay Cool and Save Money

sunglasses laying in a grass fieldIt’s easy to just crank up the air conditioning during the hottest months of summer. Sure, the energy bill may be higher, but it’s worth the extra expense to keep your home cool — right? Or are there any sure-fire ways to save money and stay cool indoors?

Before you reach for the thermostat, try these DIY energy-saving tips to keep your home comfortable and keep you from breaking the bank.

1. Raise the A/C Temperature — Yes, Really

It’s better to keep the air conditioning down, but if you want to keep it on, raise the thermostat to a comfortable temperature. When you’re at home (or have buyers viewing your home), set the thermostat to 78 degrees Fahrenheit (25 Celsius). When you’re away, set the thermostat to 85 Fahrenheit (29 Celsius).

The trick is to find the temperature that’s comfortable, not too cold or too hot. This is crucial if you’re selling your during the summer. No buyer wants to step inside and still be sweating during a showing!

2. Wash Dishes and Do Laundry at Night

You’ll want to avoid using as many heat-generating appliances or lights as you can during the summer. Use your dishwasher, dryer, or oven only during the coolest parts of the day, either in the early morning or evening. You can even air-dry your dishes and use the stove or microwave instead of the oven.

3. Unplug Electronics When You’re Not Using Them

Did you know your appliances still use power when plugged in, even if they’re turned off? One way to reduce your energy bill during the summer is by unplugging anything that you’re not using.

4. Close the Blinds During the Day

living room with couch and sheer curtainsA little bit of sun can make a huge difference in your home’s indoor temperature. Cut down on the sunlight streaming in through your windows (east- and west-facing windows in particular) by closing the blinds and curtains and replacing heavier curtains with sheer ones.

During summer home showings, however, you still want to let in a little natural light to brighten up your home. Make it count.

5. Turn the Fans On

If your home has ceiling fans, use them. According to the US Department of Energy, using a ceiling fan will let you raise the thermostat by 4 degrees Fahrenheit without changing how comfortable your home feels indoors.

6. Replace Your Incandescent Light Bulbs

Incandescent bulbs give off a lot of heat compared with compact fluorescent lights and LED bulbs. A small but effective way to keep your home comfortable (and save some money in the process) is to replace any incandescent bulbs with more energy-efficient ones.

7. Find the Gaps and Close Them

How well is your home insulated? Is any heat getting in from a leaky door or window? Seal any cracks with caulk or weatherstripping to keep the cool air inside.

“Summerize” Your Home for Showings

staged and decluttered living roomWhen you’re selling your home during the summer, remember that home showings are all about brightening your home and making it look and feel comfortable. You don’t have to crank up the A/C for home buyers during a showing. You can use these energy-saving tips to make it cooler indoors without having to pay those higher energy bills.

We have plenty of other tips to help you sell your home. Call us and let’s talk.

7 Things You Must Do When Relocating

a person moving a stack of boxesAnytime you relocate to a new area, whether it’s a city just a few miles away or across the country, you face a unique set of challenges.

The housing market, the transit, and even the weather may not be what you’re used to. Planning your move can be difficult, too, since you need to coordinate when, where, and how you’ll be moving your belongings to a new area.

Because moving to a completely new area means learning about a new housing market and a new community, we wanted to share a few helpful relocation tips to make it a much easier experience for you.

1. Research Housing Costs

Home prices for similar properties can vary drastically from one city to another. Take some time to research the real estate market, and consider these questions when searching for your new home:

  • How much are local property taxes?
  • How large a home can you afford?
  • Is it cheaper to rent or buy a home?

2. Check the Weather

If you’re moving far away from your current home to relocate to a new area, you may want to consider the new weather conditions and adjust your wardrobe.

For instance, someone who relocates from Florida to Alaska will need more winter coats, snow boots, and blackout curtains for the longer summer days. That’s an extreme example, but it can give you an idea of what to consider when relocating to a new area and a new climate.

3. Research Healthcare Professionals

You will need to choose a new dentist, doctor, and optometrist when relocating. Check local recommendations for healthcare professionals around the area before moving. That way you’ll have one less thing to worry about when you get there.

4. Test Your Commute

Give yourself enough time to test your drive to work, to the grocery store, or to other points of interest after you move. Traffic varies at different times of the day and week, so you may need to spend some time driving along different roads to get an idea of what to expect.

5. Plan for Your Move

two people packing cardboard boxesStart packing now so you’ll be less stressed later. Make a detailed plan for how you are shipping your belongings, what day you will be moving, and how you will get to your new home. Consider these packing tricks:

  • label moving boxes by room
  • keep a list of items that are in each box
  • keep your most valuable possessions with you

6. Adjust Your Home Search Checklist

Moving to a new area means you may have to adjust your home search based on the housing market, weather conditions, and commute. If you need help, just ask. We’re here to help you in any way we can.

7. Take One Step at a Time

Relocating to a new area can seem overwhelming. We recommend setting small goals. Search for homes for just 20 minutes. Pack just one box for the move. Make a list of pros and cons for just one community. You’ll be ready to relocate in no time.

We’re Here to Make Your Relocation Easier

It’s much easier to move and adjust to a new area when you have a local guide to help you along the way. That’s why we’re here. We can give you all the information you need to know about relocating to our area, maybe even details you wouldn’t have thought about. Our ultimate goal is helping you find the property that is best for you.

But we also want you to love living here just as much as we do. There is so much to explore, and we want to make it easier for you to get here and start spending your time enjoying our area.

Call or email us for more relocation tips — we’re more than happy to help.

The 6 Resources You Must Use When Buying a Home

a couple searching on a computerScrolling through online listing photos, scouting for the best neighborhoods, and pondering décor in your new home is fun. But the home search itself is not the only enjoyable experience; the entire home buying process can be pleasant when you have access to the best tools.

Here are the top six resources you should use to make buying a home easier and enjoyable.

1. A Wants vs. Needs Checklist

First determine what price, location, size, and any special features your new home must have. Then you can hone in on your favorite properties by searching for additional features that you would prefer.

2. A Mortgage Payment Calculator

What do you want your monthly mortgage payments to be? We have an easy mortgage payment calculator you can use to find out how much you can afford for a home. This tool takes into account the length of the loan, the interest rate, and annual tax and insurance to calculate how much you will pay every month.

3. A Reliable Home Search Tool

a person holding a magnifying glass over a houseIf you are using national real estate sites to search for homes near you, keep in mind that you are not seeing all the homes that are for sale. HousingWire reported that websites such as Zillow show fewer listings than are available in many major cities, which means you could be missing out on the best home.

The best source for your home search is a real estate agent and a database of available properties called the Multiple Listing Service (MLS).

4. A Local Neighborhood Guide

Choosing the best home involves more than the property itself. It’s important to research areas and neighborhoods. Here are a few questions you may want to consider when researching communities:

  • Does the community offer amenities, such as a swimming pool or fitness center?
  • What are the parking options in the community?
  • Where is the nearest grocery store, gas station, or shopping area?
  • How is the local school district?

We have helpful information about neighborhoods and areas on our website that you can use when searching for a home.

5. A List of Recently Sold Homes

a line graph with a magnifying glassResearching the real estate market will also make your home search much easier.

If you are thinking of buying a home in a particular community, ask us for the Neighborhood Sold Report, which can help you determine whether the home is fairly priced.

You can always ask us about the real estate conditions in this area, too.

6. A Local Real Estate Expert

But your best resource for buying a home in this area is the local real estate expert. He or she will have all of the tools you will need, including sold data and an easy-to-use home search, to help you easily find the best home.

Are you ready to buy a home? Let us help! Contact us today and we can work with you to find your ideal home.

5 Simple Ideas for a Low-Maintenance Indoor Garden

a small potted plant on a living room tableMany homeowners find gardening is an enjoyable outdoor activity with several additional benefits: enhancing curb appeal, creating bright pops of color, and even providing homegrown ingredients for meals.

But outdoor plants need just the right amount of sunshine, space, fertile soil, and maintenance to be able to flourish.

You don’t need to abandon your dream of having a garden if you don’t have the space — bring the garden indoors! Here are a few ideas to spice up your home with easy-to-maintain indoor plants.

Grow Herbs on Your Kitchen Windowsill

Cooking can be a breeze when you have fresh herbs within easy reach. Choose a spot in your home with a lot of natural light, plant your favorite herbs in a container with great drainage, and you’ll be all set.

Make Your Own Terrarium

Transform an elegant glass container into a beautiful closed terrarium filled with succulents. Not only are succulents durable indoor plants that don’t require much water or sunlight, they come in a variety of colors and textures to enhance your home décor.

You can view step-by-step instructions for creating a terrarium on this HGTV guide.

flower on a living room tableFreshen a Table with Indoor Flowers

Place a brightly colored flower on the coffee table or dining room table to instantly add a focal point to the room. African violets and geraniums come in a variety of colors to match your decorations.

Create a Small Garden on a Tiered Stand

If you want to fill an empty space with color, place a variety of indoor plants or flowers on a multi-tiered stand. This small garden is a perfect addition to an empty corner or blank wall, or at the end of a hallway.

Choose Easy-to-Maintain Plant Varieties

The best indoor plants are durable and do not need much sunlight, warm soil, or water, making them the best choice for your low-maintenance indoor garden. Top picks for easy-to-maintain plants include:

  • Pothos
  • English Ivy
  • Peace Lily
  • Rubber Tree
  • Ficus

a leafy indoor plant in a potYou Can Use Plants During Your Home Staging

When you’re selling your home, you don’t have to get rid of your indoor plants to help your home sell. Placing a few simple plants or flowers in a room can make it feel fresh and look like home.

If you’re considering selling your home or are preparing to put your home on the market, we can help you decide which elements of your small indoor garden would be most effective during home staging. Just contact us; we would be happy to help.

Home Sales in Highlands Get Mixed (or Mixed-Up) Signals

4-14-16-homesale-pixabay
As we enter the spring selling season, it’s only natural to look for clues about what to expect for Highlands home sales. Normally, one of the principal barometers comes from the National Association of Realtors®. Their Pending Home Sales Index is a national compendium of hard data that can be useful for predicting home sales in Highlands. It is both “forward-looking” (an indicator of future activity) and part of a long-standing and continuous sample-gathering procedure.

When you take a wide sample of the same data for the better part of a decade (the PHSI has been recorded monthly for nine years now), you can chart the results, note when similar patterns repeat or diverge, and infer meaningful results. Further, when an acknowledged authority like NAR’s Chief Economist Dr. Lawrence Yun provides commentary in plain English that any Highlands homeowner can easily understand, the monthly published reports comprise perhaps the best basis there is to project how our own local market is likely to fare.

Last week’s release of the Pending Home Sales Index and commentary was every bit as authoritative as we have come to expect—backed up by the same rigorously collected data from across the country. As a tool for projecting how upcoming Highlands home sales are likely to fare, however, it’s fair to say its usefulness is…uh…less than usual.

It’s fair to say that because it is possible to read the entire 700-word document and emerge without a clue as to what you just read. It is, in a word, confusing. But in case it’s just me who is confused—and you are a typical Highlands homeowner who would appreciate information about how active our market is likely to be in the next few months—I think I should share a boiled-down version of the report’s key takeaways.

The Report’s headline is “Pending Home Sales Cool Down in January” (January’s data is the most recent). From this, we can gather that home sales activity is trending downward. Then, from the first paragraph: “…pending home sales…remained slightly higher than a year ago.” From this, we can gather that home sales activity is trending upward.

There follows an explanation about the first idea (home sales trending lower): it was partly to blame because of bad weather in January. A little later, there is a buoyant observation about the second idea (home sales trending higher): “Sales are now 11.0% higher than a year ago—the largest year-over-year gain since July 2013!” (exclamation point added by me, which seems appropriate, given that this is such good news).

More good news for Highlands homeowners readying to sell their homes dealt with prices: “Last month’s price increase was the largest since April and marks the 47th consecutive month of year-over-year gains!!” (I added the two exclamation points). This, however, was also miserable news: “Home prices ascending…aren’t healthy” because household incomes didn’t rise as fast. But good news would make that much less of a factor, because fixed-rate mortgage rates were really wonderful: “declining to 3.87%, the lowest since October 2015!!!” (exclamation points—oh, you know).

Because sales cooled down in January for the highest year-over-year gain in years, I think the report tells Highlands homeowners that they might well expect a hot-cold/falling-rising market! Or perhaps prudent homeowners should just forget about this report, get their homes ready to list, and call me…I promise not to share what’s in next month’s report!

Reduced Prices Attract Sapphire House Hunters

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When you are skimming through the Sapphire listings, now and then you come across attention-grabbing terms like “one of a kind” or “extremely motivated seller.” “Reduced” is another one.

After all, who doesn’t like a bargain? Especially when that bargain is associated with a major commitment, who wouldn’t think it’s worth looking into? Today’s listings may no longer be saturated with short sales, foreclosures, and scores of listings reduced by enormous percentages, but patient Sapphire house hunters can still strike pay dirt if they are diligent and methodical. Nevertheless, there are some tried-and-true cautions that need to be observed to ensure that the “penny-wise, pound foolish” saying doesn’t wind up describing the result.

Most of what is being written on the subject of real estate bargain hunting falls into the common sense category—for instance

⦁ Low-balling the offer seldom works. The hope that you can create a bargain just by making a shot-in-the-dark low-ball offer is much more likely to result in a resentful homeowner than a successful deal. As in most business transactions, success is more likely to develop when both sides understand the motives and goals of the other. Since any seller whose Sapphire property is on the market is assuredly quite well aware of the likely value of his offering, unless the seller is in desperate need of a deal, this tactic is counterproductive (and if the seller does really need to move on, odds are the property has already been reduced to reflect that).
⦁ ‘As-Is’ also means ‘Heads-Up!’ A home that’s been “reduced” simply means the market is suggesting that an asking price correction is needed. When “as-is” is appended, it could also indicate that the place probably needs work—maintenance work (and work from potential buyers to discover how costly that maintenance is likely to be). In some cases—when a home has been perfectly maintained—it could mean that some features that are expected in today’s Sapphire homes are missing. In any case, “as-is” means “heads-up.”

There is one more caution that isn’t usually written about, but which can be easy to overlook when an epic bargain looks to be within reach. Since the process of buying a house takes some time to accomplish, it’s one that often occurs before it’s too late, anyway—namely, it’s not a bargain if it’s not what you really want! It can happen that the asking price is so affordable for a home that has more (or better) features than you thought you could manage, that you are in danger of being charmed into making an offer on something that’s not a very good fit. When you discover a property that’s been reduced to bring it within your price range, it still needs to fit your family’s most important requirements. An Olympic-sized swimming pool can add an exciting and unexpected dimension, but if the place is one bedroom short, in the long run, it might not be such a bargain, after all.

This spring, many sensational offerings are out there for Sapphire home hunters. Give me a call when you are ready to take a tour of the ones that meet your requirements!