Bad Neighbor

You can pick your neighborhood, but you can’t pick your neighbors. We’ve all heard horror stories of conflicts that have started small but gotten wildly out of hand. Conflicts are sure to happen, but here’s how to make sure it doesn’t become a horror story.

Step 1: Speak to them—take this step before actions can spiral in order to come to an early compromise.

Step 2: If that doesn’t work, have another conversation. But it’s also time to start documenting and researching. Write down what happened, the dates and what conversations and actions took place. Research the kind of conflict you’re having and whether or not you have any legal standing. Calling the cops should be a last resort or for truly dangerous conflicts, as it is likely to escalate the situation.

Step 3: Retaliation is common and has likely taken place, but remember, the goal should be to come to a mutual solution, even if it means you offer to pay to resolve the problem.

Step 4: Professional mediation is cheaper and less likely to cause greater conflict than going to court. Some states offer free mediation for these types of conflicts, but also your homeowner’s association can be a service.

Neighbor conflicts are common, but they don’t have to get out of hand. Follow these steps to stay in control of a difficult situation.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Three Steps to Picking the Neighborhood That’s Right For You

You can change just about anything in a house. Carpet. Paint. Fixtures. Even the appearance on the outside of a house. Theoretically, you can bulldoze and start over. The only thing you can’t change about the house you buy is the location. So, what can you do to make sure a potential neighborhood is right for you?

Visit at variety of hours. A neighborhood can seem quiet and calm during the day, and change drastically into the evening. It’s important to visit at all hours—this gives you a chance to see anything the potential neighborhood might be hiding. Like the annoying dog next door who barks from 7pm-9pm.

Check the School district. Even if your only baby is a fur-baby, you want to make sure you buy in a highly-rated school district. Schools are one of the most looked at factors when people decide where to buy, keeping neighborhoods and housing values in good school districts stable. And while you’re checking on the public schools, look at the potential neighborhood’s proximity to the areas desirable private schools.

Test the Commute: The new commute may seem great, until the first week in the new place. By then, all you can do is sink into the couch, stare at your new living room and try to avoid the feeling of having made a fatal error. Save yourself the crisis and test out the new commute—both ways—before you buy.

With these tips, you’ll be able to make sure the neighborhood is right for you. Make sure to check out our Picking A Real Estate Agent that’s Right For You to help guide you through the process.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Four Steps to Get Ready to Buy

Buying a home in Charlotte’s real estate market can sometimes feel like watching the news footage on Black Friday sales. Homes are selling within hours and everyone else seems to know to run for the TV in the back, while you’re still trying to get through the door. Having a trusted voice to cut through the noise is the first thing you need, but here’s what else you need to know so you’re ready to buy in Charlotte.

  1. Save: We all know to save for a down payment. What you don’t know is that lenders are also looking for a prospective borrower who has several months’ mortgage payments saved up. A prospective borrower who is only looking for loans that will allow them to put as little down as possible, sometimes 3%, not the typical 20%, is not going to be as competitive as someone with a down payment and savings. Lenders will give a borrower a little wiggle room if they have a lot of savings, but not much for annual earnings or credit score.
  2. Check your credit score: The higher your credit score, the lower your down payment and/or monthly mortgage payments could be. Tips for improving your credit score? Hack away at credit card debt, don’t apply for any new lines of credit for a few months prior to your home purchase, and avoid closing out any accounts. Wait to make any large purchases like furniture, TVs, etc. until after the closing date of your home.
  3. Get pre-approved: Sellers are getting multiple offers nowadays, and this is a great way to set yourself apart from the competition. Get pre-approved, not simply pre-qualified. This means your loan officer will collect financial information, run a full credit report, and give you a clear price range based off a mortgage amount that won’t overextend you on a monthly basis.
  4. But before you buy:. You need to prepare to move on from your current situation. Do you need to sell a home before you can purchase your next property? If you need to sell your home first, you’ll need to get your property ready for the sale. Like yesterday. A real estate agent will help you through this process—see here for how to pick an agent that is the best fit for your situation. If you don’t currently own, is your lease term up in a few months? If so, how much time do you need to find a home? If you’re renting, does your lease convert to a month-to-month term at the end of the lease? If so, how much notice do you need to give your landlord or property manager?

Regardless of the situation, be prepared so you’re not left outside while everyone else manages to grab the good stuff.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21

Four Common Mistakes Sellers Make

When it comes to selling a house, one mistake can cost you thousands or tens of thousands of dollars—or, even worse, make you and your unsold house sit like milk left out on the counter. To keep from going bad, here are a few of the most common mistakes people make when selling a home.

Fudging the Photography. It’s tempting to get your cell-phone and take a few snaps of your house, expecting potential buyers to see the charm under the Christmas decorations, stack of mail you’ve been meaning to go through, and kid’s soccer gear. Over 44 percent of potential home buyers start searching for their next home online before contacting a real estate agent or loan professional. This means, photography delivers the first impression they’ll have of your home. Photography is what decides the list of houses they want to see. Don’t cut corners when it comes to pictures.

Not addressing deferred maintenance issues. That thing you’ve been meaning to fix, but don’t want to—the mold on that one wall in the basement, a cracked window—it’ll all come back to haunt you during the inspection process. It’s a good idea to go ahead and address any deferred maintenance issues before putting the property on the market, and be upfront about any issues you haven’t addressed yet. Concealing issues with the property will create a trust issue between the buyer and seller once both parties are in the escrow period and could derail the transaction.

Overpricing. Nothing keeps your house curdling on the counter longer than overpricing. It leads to a home being on the market for much longer than initially expected and ultimately selling for a lot less than if the home were priced properly from the beginning. In other words, it’s not a good idea to price the home higher than what your agent recommends just to test the market. This will come back to bite you in the end.

Working with a real estate agent you trust to sell your house can keep you from making these common mistakes. Like a mom sweeping in to put the milk in the fridge, find one who’s there to keep things from going bad.

Sources:

  1. National Association of Realtors, 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers

Five Steps to Financial Freedom

Quick. Right now. If something were to happen—a car breaks down, an unexpected vet bill, the Nordstrom Anniversary sale—would you be able to take care of it without using credit? If you are one of roughly 62% of American who have $1,000.00 or less in their savings account[1], you are probably already aware how difficult it can be to stretch for large purchases (including those shoes), unexpected bills, and let’s not even mention your retirement. To make matters worse, cost of living in Charlotte has increased. The average house in Charlotte now cost’s an average of $188,900[2], and our income growth has not kept pace. It’s enough to send anyone to the sale section for a consolation purchase. Can’t get a house, but check out my new whisky glasses.

But before you click over to Nordies, consider this: financial freedom is a game of small steps, not one big one. Much like any lifestyle change (inward groan), we have to make small movements for long term goals.

First step is simple: Know where your money is going. Separate out your fixed expenses (monthly debts combined with annual debts, divided into twelve months) from last month’s extra’s (the morning coffee, restaurants, and yes, those shoes). Combine the total expenses and compare that to your monthly income. How does that look? Frightening? Having heart trouble? Or about what you expected? Either way, you can take this information and….

Second: Set a budget. And not one in your head. Turns out, we’re really good at pretending to have a budget and then basically shoving it behind mental tasks like Candy Crush.[3] Reduce the impact of surprise bills and plan ahead for fun purchases, by making a budget and revisiting it regularly. A good rule of thumb is to revisit your previous month’s budget at the first of every month. This keeps your financial goals and how to get there, front and center.

Step three: Find ways to save. Here’s where you can get creative. Something as simple as turning out the lights when leaving a room can make a difference in those recurring monthly expenses. Other ideas include: changing all your lightbulbs to energy efficient ones, and turning off your HVAC and water heater if leaving for more than two days. Commit the projected savings to an emergency fund.

Four: Commit to automatic savings. In other words, pay yourself first. It is easy to forget to transfer money, so set up automatic savings and transfer any additional money on top of this amount.

Finally, Pay off debt. Barely half of Americans have enough cash saved to cover their credit card debt.[4] “Even though some debts like mortgage or student loan debts are considered “good” debt because they are investments, credit card debt is seen as a problem for many Charlotteans,” says _____ of _____.  (was uncertain of this quote)

Like any long-term change, where we are today decides much of where we will be tomorrow. Change your financial future by following these five steps today.

Sources:

[1] http://www.marketwatch.com/story/most-americans-have-less-than-1000-in-savings-2015-10-06

[2] https://www.zillow.com/charlotte-nc/home-values/

[3] http://time.com/3657285/task-americans-cant-do/

[4] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/51-percent-have-enough-cash-to-pay-off-credit-card-debt-study/

Three Phases of Selling Your Home

Like phases of the moon, the process of selling a home can be dark and mysterious, so I’ve broken down the process into three steps below.

  1. Pre-Listing: Putting your home on the market is like getting your property ready for a big party. You don’t want people to come to the house before its ready. Some easy steps.
    1. Declutter. Pack up all items you don’t think you’ll need until after you moving into your new home. Most buyers have difficult time seeing potential in a property when they’re shopping for a home, so it’s important to make your home “move-in ready.”
    2. Paint. As simple as it seems, walls in neutral colors, or bright white, prevent potential buyers from getting distracted when looking at a house they might want to buy.
    3. Maintenance. Schedule a maintenance visit with your HVAC specialist for the air conditioning and hot water heater.
    4. Maid. Hire a service to do a deep clean of your property. Don’t forget to have the windows cleaned inside and out. Potential buyers won’t be able to tell if your windows are clean, but they will definitely be able to spot windows that aren’t.
  2. On the Market: This phase begins with pricing the property right. I can prepare a competitive market analysis for you that takes a lot of factors into account, including: location, heated square footage, amenities nearby, condition, local market conditions, etc. Once showings begin you’ll want to leave your home while showings are being conducted. This is usually the most inconvenient part of the selling process. Request that you receive a certain amount of notice prior to the showing appointment so that you have enough time to get the dirty dishes in the dishwasher and all the clothes into the washing machine.
  3. Contracts & Closing: If you’ve done everything possible to make your property stand out from others who are also trying to sell their homes, you can expect to receive an offer. I’ll present you with the offer(s) and help you negotiate with the buyer’s agent. Deals most frequently fall apart during the appraisal and inspections phase of the transaction. I can help you get over both hurdles. You’ll receive a draft of the settlement statement a few days prior to the closing date that itemizes every debit and credit in the transaction. The house is still yours until the deed records at the register of deeds in the county courthouse.

If you’ve made it to key day, it’s time to celebrate!

Sources:

  1. National Association of Realtors, 2016 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers

Summer To-Do’s for a Year-Round Tidy Home

While nobody likes extra chores in the summer, it’s a little more than mowing lawns and slowly killing your garden by forgetting to water—it’s a time to keep on top of maintenance so you can kick back and enjoy your home year-round, without any repair surprises.

Outside:

  1. Weed the garden weekly—make a habit of grabbing a few weeds as you stroll through the yard and you’ll never have a choked bed
  2. Mowers should be set to the highest setting to protect the grass against the drought. Resist the temptation to mow short
  3. Water plants early in the day or around sunset to avoid frying your plants. Most plants prefer a good soaking a few times a week rather than a light shower every day. Porch ferns may need more watering as they are well-drained and often in sunshine
  4. Deadhead your flowers
  5. Use a lawn sprinkler once spring showers end. If yours are built in, check while in use for any issues
  6. Keep up on pool maintenance to avoid long days working on the pool. Keep the skimmer clean, clean the filter, check chemicals, scrub the pool sides weekly and keep it vacuumed
  7. If you plan on doing any exterior repairs, summer is the best time

Inside:

  1. Reverse your ceiling fans to counter clockwise to circulate cool air down
  2. Clean your air conditioning filters once a month
  3. Cover windows that get direct sunlight
  4. Check your emergency supplies—heat and storms can knock out power and you want to have first aid, water, batteries and flashlights, and battery powered radiator.
  5. Create or review your family emergency plan in case of bad weather
  6. Check for signs of bug or other infestations so you can address anything right away—don’t forget to check the attic
  7. If you’re planning any home improvement projects for the fall, now is the time to meet and schedule with contractors

Four Areas Your Real Estate Agent Should Be an Expert In

We’ve all heard the horror stories of friends who have used bad real estate agents. Whether it’s just general incompetence or shady ethics, it’s enough to make the thought of having to select a real estate agent a chore up there with cleaning up after your pet. So, why should you work with a real estate agent? And how do you pick the right person for the job? Here are four areas you need look at before hiring someone.

Local expertise: While it’s tempting to browse national real estate websites and think all there is to picking a house is finding one within your search parameters, the truth is real estate agents are knowledgeable about the community you’re moving to in a way no national website can compete with. A good real estate agent knows businesses and their impact on market value, local attractions, architectural styles, appliances, trendy furnishings/fixtures, and heating and cooling systems. Agents also know the market and what you get for the money in a neighborhood today, as compared to the past several years.

Negotiation expertise. A good agent is your Kenny Rogers Gambler. They know when to hold ‘em, they know when to fold ‘em. Whether you’re buying your first or tenth home, an agent will have you beat when it comes to experience with real estate transactions. How low can you start without upsetting the sellers to the point where they won’t write you off as a tire-kicker? Will you offend them and lose the house entirely? What are other homes selling for in this area at the end of the day? If there are other offers coming in, what will make your offer stand out for the others?

Contract expertise. Contracts is a forgotten abyss of annoyance, and the only guide through the abyss is a good agent. There are financial and legal obligations that must be met by both buyers and sellers and an agent’s experience will make the entire process seem like a piece of cake. It’s their job to make this look easy.

Referrals. When buying a home, you’ll need a team of professionals: mortgage professionals, lawyers, appraisers, home inspectors, contractors, radon remediation experts, landscapers, moisture specialists, etc. Good news, a good agent knows good people, and will line everything up for you. An agent needs to Concierge service and built-in advisor throughout the home buying process.

Asking friends how they felt with their real estate agents through these four areas, as well as listening to what a prospective agent has to say about them, will help steer you away from predatory or disappointing agents and into a great relationship.

 

Photo by Cody Hughes @clhughes21